Monday, 13 July 2020

Sardinian deep fried peppers with anchovies and capers




We have just had an electricity black out for over three hours in our shop which was not fun and is always a challenge.


Customers still come in to view products and the back room has no windows. The back display room holds the most items but there is only light coming through from 3 doors, none of which are external doors.  So I do the best I can, bringing samples into the front room to display them with the outside light (of which there is very little as we have a continual drizzle of rain today and overhead clouds).


It just takes more effort, but customers always need to feel special and receive good customer service when they go out of their way to come in to look at what is offered in your shop for sale.

Luckily the power has been restored which means a;  a good cup of hot tea and b; I can take customers to samples and not vice versa.

The last time we had a black out during the evening was when everyone was home and we all played scrabble by candle light.  Now that was enjoyable.

Which leads me to think about food and dinner.


I recently purchased Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark, a story and recipe book about Sardinia.
This is a lovely book and I know I have more cookbooks than most people will ever need but who can resist a good story and recipe book in one?

This is just one of Letitia's recipes and one I am so glad to add to my cooking repertoire.
I also found the recipe online here.

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Deep fried peppers with anchovies and capers

500ml good quality olive oil
3 large red peppers (capsicums) deseeded and cut into eighths lengthways
8 anchovy fillets sliced lengthwise in half
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
sea salt
some fresh basil leaves to serve (I added a little pesto sauce to mix through instead)

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and fry the pieces of pepper in 3 batches until they are completely soft and just starting to colour.
Remove and drain on absorbent paper.
In a serving bowl place the anchovies, capers and vinegar as well as the peppers.  Mix through and taste before adding salt as capers can be quite salty.  Add a little cracked black pepper.
Stir well and allow to sit at room temperature for at least one hour (I was hort on time so only waited 30 mins) .  Add the basil leaves, or pesto if using and give a light toss before serving.

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How do you cope during power blackouts - do you enjoy the challenge or find it frustrating? 

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx










Wednesday, 17 June 2020

A simple but delicious Prawn and tomato Spaghetti

Driving to work this morning there was a dual utility with a cabin on the back.  I noticed first the driver, then the passenger opened and closed their doors, twice, before erratically pulling over to the kerbside.  As I passed it was obvious to see that they had left the rear door of the cabin open and upwards, luckily nothing had fallen out.

Isn't it funny how we often overlook the smallest of things and it is so lucky we have interior warning lights to let us know something is amiss with our car.      It should be the same with people.  A beeping from your ears emitting if your ear is blocked, or your pinkie finger erratically waving if you are about to have a heart attack etc ., that would take so much guess work away from the specialists.
Anyway I am glad they pulled over to close their back door before driving any further distance.

Many customers have commented how much money they have saved during the last 3 months by not eating out but cooking at home with the closure of restaurants and clubs.  A  prawn dish like this looks luxurious, tastes delicious and is a delight to enjoy with a fresh garden salad and nice crusty bread.

It is amazing how restrained we have all sensibly become these last few months, staying at home, limiting our movements to help protect us all.

I enjoy cooking in the evening after a day at work.  It is so relaxing and rewarding. 

It is always wonderful to keep frozen Australian green prawns in the freezer for nights when you just need to eat a simple but wholesome dinner.



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Spaghetti with Prawns Tomato and White Wine

500g green prawns, tail on
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
250g cherry tomatoes halved, or larger tomatoes chopped
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper
300g spaghetti
chopped parsley for garnish
also dried fresh chilli flakes for garnish (optional)

Bring a saucepan of water to boil, add 1 tablespoon salt and stir in spaghetti.  Cook boiling for 11 minutes or until al dente.
In a frying pan (I like to use a small wok for this recipe) heat up the olive oil over medium - high heat and add garlic, swirling until it is aromatic.  Add the shallots and tomatoes, tossing or stirring them for a few minutes over medium heat, you can crush the tomatoes as they soften, then add 1/2 cup of the white wine.  Keep cooking for a few minutes then turn up heat to high and add the prawns and 1/2 cup more of white wine with salt and pepper.
 Cook for approximately 5 minutes until the prawns are just cooked through.
Drain pasta, leaving the some water attached to the spaghetti and add into the prawn dish, tossing until combined.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and/or dried chilli flakes and serve with crusty white bread and a side green salad.
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What warning sign would you like your body to have for your safety?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Preserved Chilli - Preserving the Crop

We have had an abundance of Italian chillies, red, long and moderately hot.  These chilli bushes are producing for their second year and have been so prolific.  Even throughout the drought we managed to give them enough water to survive and flourish.

Gardening is always a pleasant hobby for hubby and myself .  Mind you he is so much faster with planting out seedlings or weeding and he does everything properly whereas I kind of pull at the weeds half heartedly and plant in the ground without preparing the bed properly. 

At the end of the day we both yield great results with what we plant and produce.

Likewise when we go shopping together, I will probably still be in the first aisle talking to a friend when he's already done the rounds of the supermarket, getting everything plus more than that was written on the shopping list.  I am still talking in the first aisle but now to another friend.

I think that one truly efficient person is all you need in a relationship ...

We all have different strengths and abilities.


I like to cook, and preserve.


These are preserved, fermented chillies 
which last for 12 months in the cupboard.
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Preserved Chilli


500g fresh whole chillies, chopped into halves.  Removing seeds is optional.
10 garlic cloves, peeled

Place into blender or food processor and pulse a few times, you want chunky pieces, not a puree.

Add 1 tablespoon salt 
250ml olive oil.

Blend lightly until combined at a low speed.
Pour into cooled sterilised jars and label.
Make sure the chilli is below the level of oil to preserve them.

Add a spoon to your completed dishes, or on top of fried eggs. Mix with yoghurt for a dipping sauce.

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Are you an avid gardener?  What are your best strength and weaknesses?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Thursday, 9 April 2020

DIY Hand Sanitiser with 70% Alchohol


We are all living in unusual circumstances with social distancing and the fear of covid19 abounds evrrywhere which has resulted in a shortage of hand sanitiser, disinfectants, latex gloves and toilet paper.   Modern history students 30 years from now will learn about the hardships we endured and the number of deaths sadly created by this disease.
Washing your hands with soap under running water is the best cleansing option but so too is a hand sanitiser with between 62 and 70% alchohol.

I denuded my parents aloe vera patch.  The cut stalks need to stand upright for 30 minutes to allow resin to drop out which can irritate your skin.  Then cut away the dark green skin tomexpose the gel like flesh inside.  This is then pureed to make an aloe vera gel.  This will store in the fridge, covered, for up for one week, you can add vitamin C powder to it to lengthen its shelf life or freeze it in ice cube blocks for up to 6 months
.
Then you need to procure alchohol, isopropyl or 95% pure alchohol which you can buy at the supermarket if you are lucky.

Hand Sanitiser

3.5 cups pure alchohol plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup Aloe vera gel
1 tablespoon vegetable
glycerin
1 tablespoon xanthum gum
12 drops tea tree or lavender essential oil

Mix the xanthum gum and vegetable glycerine with a little alchohol until it is blended.  Then add the remaining alchohol with the aloe vera gel and blend until smooth.  Add the essential oil of your choice and then pour into a dispenser pump or bottles of your choice.

I measured the ABV to be at 70% but the alcoholmeter is not 100% accurate when other materials are incorporated with the alchohol so gove or take 1 -2% which is still in the perfect zone.  I have brewed wine, sake and mead previously so have experience in this area.

Please everyone, stay safe, stay inside and stay well.
Let me know if you make your own hand sanitiser.
Kindest regards, Merryn xx

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Battered Onion Rings

After arriving at work this morning I opened the store then dutifully turned on the Nespresso machine for my morning's burst of delicious caffeine.  The red and yellow bins needed bringing in from the kerbside so I wheeled them to the rear whilst the coffee machine warmed up.
I self consicously touched my ears to make sure my earrings were in place to discover the right one was missing! 
Only another earring loving person could understand my dilemma ...


These earrings have been with me for over 15 years so I retraced my steps, walking upstairs to the fridge, then out to the car and finally started inspecting the grass where the bins had recently been resting but all to no avail.

A  sweet man walked by and asked me what I was looking for then he started looking closely at the grass as well, understanding my loss.   We had an impromptu conversation but after 15 minutes no earring came to light and I thanked him profusely before he continued walking into his day.



I can only hope that the missing earring is still inside my house and will find out later if this is right.
Situations like these lead to the need for comfort food.
Such as homely, classic battered onion rings.

Forget the air fryer, just go straight to the deep fryer for a burst of delicous batter and oil with the added goodness of onion.
You will instantly feel better when you snack on this feel good food.  You can think about calories later, after you have relocated 👀 your earring.
P.S. Hubby found my earring on the bedroom floor when he arrived home 👍
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Battered Onion Rings


1 large white onion
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Batter:
200g self raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarb soda (baking soda)
1 dessertspoon white vinegar
350ml water

Place the flour and sieved bicarb soda into a bowl.
Add 200ml water to the middle and whisk until incorporated then add the extra 150ml water and keep mixing until smooth.  You may add a little more water if you like a thinner batter.
Then stir in the vinegar, cover and rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Meanwhile peel and slice the onion into 4 -5mm round slices.
Heat up your oil to approx 180C and dip about 8 rings into the batter, removing each one and placing into the hot oil.

Deep fry for approximately 2 minutes in total, turning halfway.
Drain on absorbent paper and sprinkle with salt before serving.

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What is your favourite comforting food?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx


Friday, 14 February 2020

Air Fryer Potato Chips and Sweet Potato Chips

Okay I am so glad to have finally taken the plunge and bought an Air Fryer.  Our daughter is to thank as Ms G asked for an air fryer for her recent birthday.  Whilst reading reviews on this particular model which were a positive 5 out of 5 I started to think one could be beneficial in our home.




Hubby of course was mortified, "Don't go ruining perfectly good shallow fried crispy chicken wings just because you have a new machine" he stated.

I replied "You know that you have to use a new machine every night for the first two weeks!"

Then I cooked beautifully crispy potato chips, one of his deep fried staple foods and he thought they were simply amazing.  He said "you can actually taste the potato and not the oil".



So safe to say we are now Air Fryer Converts 😊

Plus it's nice to have a new 'toy' in the kitchen one which will not only cook healthy fast food but also it is always stimulating to learn how to use a new cooking item.






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Air Fyer Potato Chips

Potato Chips
4 Medium Potatoes
4 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat your air fryer to 180 degrees C for 3 minutes
Peel your potatoes and cut them into fries.  
# Mine were sliced 1.5cm high x 1cm wide by the length of the potato approx 6 - 8cm
In a bowl, toss the fries in the oil.
Place them in your Air Fryer on a 180C.
Cook for two minutes and then shake them.
Cook for a further 8 minutes and shake again.
Cook for a further 15 minutes.
For golden fries cook for another 5 minutes on 200C.
Season with salt and pepper then serve.

Sweet Potato Chips
2 large sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil

Peel the sweet potatoes then slice them into chips. 
Try and keep as regular as possible so there is a consistent cooking time.
Preheat your air fryer to 180 degrees C for 3 minutes.
Put the sweet potatoes in a bowl with the olive oil and toss until well mixed.
Tip the sweet potatoes into the heated air fryer. Cook for 20 minutes, a little longer if the chips are thick.  Shake once in the middle of cooking.
Serve, with salt and pepper.

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Have you discovered the joys of an Air Fryer and if so what is your favourite air fried food?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx




Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Fritto Misto di Mare

I think Italians created Fritto Misto to be a stand by meal, one which is quick and very satisfying.  Add a good handful of capers, some lemon quarters and a lovely rich aioli and it becomes sublime.  Serve with a fresh green salad as well and your guests will be impressed.


Yesterday afternoon I had a Doctor's appointment at 4.30pm.  Being tied up at work I was running 10 minutes late by the time I arrived at the doctors surgery and almost phoned to apologise for my lateness.  When I arrived, luckily there was a convenient park close by to the building.
Located just before the receptionist's desk is a large monitor whereby you enter you name and date of birth to confirm that you have arrived for your appointment.   After I signed in I was informed that I was 5th in queue!  So much for the worry of keeping them waiting.
Needless to say by the time I saw the Doctor, departed, then went to the Chemist to get a prescription, popped the prescription back in the car to get shopping bags and proceeded to the supermarket it was already after 6pm.  After scanning my items, I realised there was no wallet in my handbag and that it was probably sitting on the back seat of the car with my prescription.  The lovely check out operator assured me she would set my shopping aside until I returned to pay for the items.
It was 6.30pm and I was quite frazzled by the time I arrived home, with the groceries.

I hadn't even unpacked the shopping before our two gorgeous adult sons waltzed in the door and even though they said they were coming home on this day, we hadn't heard from them so assumed they would arrive the next day instead.

It was too hot and late to cook lasagne on this 30C day.

One thing I always keep in the freezer is frozen green prawns, tail on and off, squid tubes, baby octopus and whitebait.  These all defrost well and you cannot buy them fresh in our town.  I always buy fresh fish as there is a good variety available.
This means that when you choose to you can always cook a seafood dish.
Hence, we had a quick version of fritto misto, complete with capers, fried red chilli and shallots with lemon.


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Fritto Misto di Mare

(Mixed Fried Seafood)

2 squid tubes,cleaned, scored and sliced into 1 x 2cm strips
400g prawns, shells removed but tails on and deveined
150g whitebait
200g baby octopus cleaned and cut into halves
handful of rinsed capers
lemon quarters
180g rice flour 
180g potato starch (can use cornflour instead)
salt and pepper
vegetable for deep frying

Mix the rice flour and potato starch together with salt and pepper.  
Heat the vegetable oil to 170C in a deep fryer.
Dip the pieces of seafood into the flour mix and drop about 10 pieces per time into the hot oil and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain on absorbent paper and keep warm whilst you fry the remaining seafood.
Fry chopped chilli and shallot in a separate small frying pan and sprinkle on top of the seafood with the capers. 
Serve with lemon quarters and a healthy green garden salad.
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Do you like to be on time for your appointments too?
What is your favourite deep fried seafood?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx


Sunday, 15 December 2019

A Christmas Breakfast - Eggs fried over top of grated cheese with herbs and chilli


A conversation with a friend the other day reminded me of a time when I was aged 9 and kept reading about kids getting their potty mouths washed out with soap in different novels.  We were a gentle non swearing family and I always wondered what it felt like getting your mouth washed out with soap because you were swearing and using foul language.  
One day I actually tried to wash out my own mouth with soap at the outside tap to see what it was like.  Needless to say it was vile!  After a little spit I kept rinsing and rinsing my mouth to get rid of the frothy taste and it actually took until the next day before my mouth returned to normal.  Everything tasted like soap.

Perhaps a simple but delightful dish like this one may have cured my soap filled mouth and taste buds.

I do not know where I found this incredibly easy Fried Egg dish but it is certainly tasty and filling.
You simply grate a little mozzarella cheese into a non stick pan, (don't worry about greasing the pan,) sprinkle with a little fresh herb such as oregano or parsley and crack two eggs on top.  As they start sizzling sprinkle a little chopped chilli, salt and pepper on top whilst you toast your bread.


Delicious and special enough for serving up quickly on Christmas morning before you start to cook the Christmas lunch.

Try not to totally cover the cheese with the egg, you should leave a little crispy edge along the side.

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Tell me, did you ever have your mouth washed out with soap in your younger years?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 25 November 2019

Potatoes with Capsicum, Red Onion, Tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese


We have had a really tough time here lately.  Savage bush fires that have affected every one of us in the surrounding areas in one way or another.    Every one has a story to tell.  The town literally stopped for two weeks as we watched brave and heroic fire fighters control the huge flames that threatened our homes and livelihood.  The helicopters working in tandem filling their huge buckets to douse the flames while two yellow crop dusters also refilled and sprayed the area with water.  There has been one jet at times too spraying the areas with a pink fire retardent and we are very grateful and admiring that so many people and homes were saved.   It has had a draining effort on everyone.


Dealing with the white dusty smoke and embers every day, businesses closing early so that people can keep an eye on their own properties and volunteers helping to feed the evacuated people and house livestock.  Our community has always been one to pull together and this time was no exception.  People rallied to help house the homeless.  The local show grounds were a place where people could take their livestock too and also stay there themselves out of harms way.  Stock feed for animals and dinners were offered by volunteers to those that stayed to comfort their livestock/pets.



Now our water levels are getting low due to how much water was required to fight the fires and also the lack of rain.  This time last year we had twice as much rain fall as what we have received this year.  As well as the huge need for water to fight the fires, water restrictions have been brought into play and we are personally lucky that we have a huge rain tank to help us but we all have to be diligent with the usage of water.  Keeping a bucket in the shower with you to collect water and saving your clothes washing water are just some of many ideas suggested to use this 'grey' water for watering the garden.


At the end of each day however, we all still need to refuel our bodies with good wholesome fuel.
This is one of those classic dishes that compliment most meals or it can be the main star with crusty bread and a fresh green salad.  It is on the table in less than 20 minutes, perfect after a busy day.

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Potatoes with Capsicum, Red Onion, Tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese

1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, halved then each half cut into quarters
3 cloves garlic, chopped
500g white potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2 cm cubes
1 green capsicum, seeds removed and cut into 2cm cubes
3 whole tomatoes, washed chopped and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup wine
1/4 cup water, as needed
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
olive oil
salt and pepper
chopped continental parsley to garnish

Heat up a large frying pan over medium heat and add onion, potatoes, capsicum and garlic.  Fry for about 5 minutes then add the white wine.  Fry for a further 1 minute before adding chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Add a little water and when it comes to a simmer reduce to low and place the lid on for 10 minutes.  
Remove lid and check that the potatoes are tender.  If not replace lid for another 5 minutes.
Take off lid and add the parmesan cheese to heat through.
Serve, in the pan sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Optional, add 1 chopped chilli with the vegetables if you like your dishes spicy.

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Have you ever had bush fire close to you and do you like chilli with your vegetable dishes?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx


Monday, 28 October 2019

Grilled Quail with Pomegranate Molasses

I still remember the very first time that I was offered quail to eat .... they were braised in a tomato sauce and so tender and juicy.  I prefer to make a bird like these ones to be the star of the dish.

Of course, like many others I declared 'it's cruel to eat such tiny birds.'   My in-laws however convinced to my try them as they assured me that the birds were fully grown and at first bite, I fell in love with this tender yet delicate bird.    It has been a life long food passion ever since then.

On another occasion I was convinced to try Squab also simmered in a tomato sauce but these just didn't appeal to me the way the cute little quail did, so when I spy quail in a supermarket, they get popped into my grocery bag and head for home to become a gourmet delight.

They are wasted on our family who tolerate quail but would prefer chicken or duck so we eat them on the nights we are dining alone.


This last week has seen some bad bush fires nearby.  Our local and volunteer firefighters are to be commended, they fight so hard to preserve homes, people and bush land (not necessarily in that order) and work tirelessly heading into a fire while we stay protected at home. I want to commend all of our firefighters, rural fire service and special emergency services who work so diligently to protect our homes.   Thank you.

A telegraph pole caught alight on Saturday afternoon and we lost power at 4pm.
Luckily the power came back on at 5.30pm so oven grilled was to be the quails cooking method.

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Grilled Quail with Pomegranate Molasses

6 quail, cut down the back bone to butterfly
1/3 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup fine salt and 250ml boiling water
750ml room temperate water
2 bay leaves (fresh if possible)
6 peppercorns


salt, pepper
3 cloves crushed fresh garlic
Pomegranate molasses
olive oil for greasing

Firstly pour the boiling water over the sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Stir to dissolve.
Add the remaining water to cool the liquid down.
Add the bay leaves and peppercorns and leave to marinade in the brine for at least 1 hour, up to 4 hours if possible stored in the refrigerator.

Heat your grill to 180C
Grease a baking tray with olive oil.
Press the quail down firmly to flatten them on the tray, with the breast facing up.
Sprinkle each quail with about 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic, salt, pepper and a drizzle of pomegrante molasses (about 1 dessertspoon per bird).  Spray with olive oil spray or brush lightly with olive oil.
Place under grill for approximately 10 minutes, rotating tray half way through.  
Check they are cooked to your liking and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Add your bottle of pomegranate molasses to the table in case you would like to drizzle with more molasses.

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Have you ever eaten quail, and do you enjoy them?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx



Sunday, 13 October 2019

Steamed Bao Buns with Peking Duck, Hoisin Sauce, Spring Onion and Cucumber


I told hubby this morning that last night 'I had a Dream'.

He asked me if I thought I was Martin Luther King.



This dream involved huge waves coming over nearby Burgess Beach all along the nearby cliffs, waves that just keep surging forward and everyone was trying to get to higher ground.
I was running to my parents house hoping to get them out in time, running with many others up the hill, then I woke up and it took me a long time to get back to sleep.   Luckily today is bright and sunny with a low swell, no huge surf in sight.

On a brighter note, we had chicken and leek individual pies recently and I commented that it is very English to have mushy peas and chips with your pies.  No. 2 son remarked 'I thought rain was very English to have with your pies', which is just classic, they do make you smile with these random comments.

We had a lovely Yum Cha dinner recently and these lovely light bao buns with Peking duck slices, curly spring onions, cucumber slices and hoisin sauce were on the menu. 
I just had to recreate them at home and they were a huge success.

I borrowed this recipe from Thermobliss and you can get the Thermomix instructions here.
I halved this bao bun recipe as there were only two of us eating and I cooked premarinated Luv-A-Duck peking flavoured duck breasts in a frying pan.
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Steamed Bao Buns

  • 250 g warm water
  • 60 g sugar
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 520 g plain flour
  • 60 g olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsps salt
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 500 g extra water
  • Peking duck slices, either prepurchased or marinate and cook your duck breasts before slicing
  • Sliced spring onion
  • Sliced Cucumbers
  • Hoisin sauce to serve
  1. To make the bun dough, place the water, sugar and yeast to activate. Allow to rest for 5 minutes or until the mixture has turned frothy. 
  2. Add the plain flour, olive oil, salt and baking powder into the  bowl and lightly mix to combine.
  3. Knead for 5 minutes until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Place the dough into a greased large bowl and set aside in a warm dry place to rise for 45 minutes. 
  5. Rip a piece of baking paper into strips and place over the 2 layers of the steaming trays (leaving gaps in between to allow the steam to escape). 
  6. Knead the dough on an oiled bench or board. Divide the dough into approximately 15 - 18 small pieces. Roll into balls and flatten down into a circle/oval shape. 
    Place small pieces of baking paper onto half of each flattened oval and fold over (so that the baking paper is in between. 
  7. Place the bao buns onto the lined steaming tray/s.
  8. Half Fill the steamer or steaming appliance with  hot water and place the buns on top, with a lid over top.  Allow to steam for approximately 30 minutes.
  9. Take the buns out (they will be quite wet and sticky) and serve immediately with the sliced duck, 2 pieces each of cucumber and spring onion and a spoonful of  hoisin sauce. 
  10. Sit back and take the praise of your guests.

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Do you have realistic scary dreams like this one?
Do you always wake up before anything bad happens?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn


Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Italian Wedding Cookies


We deal with customers through our business for weeks on end.  Currently we are dealing with a retired school teacher from the primary school where my children attended a few years ago.  I had asked this lovely lady previously if she had taught our children but she said that she had not taught them. Today when she called into our shop our eldest son was having lunch with me as he is home for 2 weeks.  She looked at him and said "Oh, I remember you".  


Then she immediately returned to school teacher 'mode' and mentioned some children she had taught and the lessons they learned.  I think it is an honour that she remembered him.

Then she told us a story of how she was recently eating out and  at a nearby table a 2 year old was dangerously standing in his high seat whilst the mother was busy and distracted with a baby in a pram.  She said she looked the 2 year old in the eye with 'that teacher look' and motioned for him to sit and he obediently did as she suggested, from over 20 feet away.   Once a teacher, possibly always a teacher.  This made me smile so much.

Also, because we had extras at home through the week I tend to cook large family meals.
I have a tendency to add more salad dressing than any of our children would, and I had to laugh last night when the green salad was passed to our eldest son.   He smiled and stated 'This salad still has it's winter dressing on'.    Seriously....

Here is a consistently good recipe for memorable family moments.

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Italian Wedding Cookies

Dough
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp or vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt

Glaze/Icing

  • 2 cups icing (powdered) sugar
  • tsp or vanilla extract or almond flavour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3-4 Tbsp cream or milk, warmed

100s and 1000s, or other suitable sweet sprinkles

  1. Whisk together eggs, oil, sugar, and extract in a mixing bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Roll dough into three logs 20cm long. Chill rolls of dough for at least an hour, or freeze for 15-20 minutes.  Place cold dough logs on a chopping board and cut into 1.5cm long slices, roll roughly into balls and place on trays lined with baking paper.
  3. This makes approximately 30 cookies.
  4. Bake at 350° for about 9 minutes, or till tops are set. Bottoms will be lightly browned, but tops should still be white. Remove cookies to cooling racks and cool completely.
  5. For glaze, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk till smooth, adding enough warm cream to get a thin but creamy consistency.
  6. Dip tops of the cookies in the glaze, then top with 100s and 1000s sprinkles.
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I have always admired teachers, do you too appreciate their roles in our lives?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

My Bracciole in Tomato Sauce

We have a raging wooden combustion fire heating up our house every winter.
Hubby cuts the wood, carries the wood and keeps a beautifully warm heater burning from late afternoon until we go to bed every day over winter.  Some weekends he gets up to stoke the fire at 6am if it is going to be a cold day.  Hubby is a part time lumberjack during winter.  Last night he had to venture out so I checked the fire after one hour and dutifully added a log to the bright blaze.

When he returned he walked downstairs straight away asking if I had checked on the fire.
Proudly I replied that yes, I had added a log onto the top of the fire.
He came upstairs shaking his head and said I had extinguished the fire by placing the log on top as I actually smothered and put the fire out.  Then he laughed and said I would freeze if I lived by myself.

I replied that my star sign is a water sign so of course I am naturally good at putting out fires.

On nights like these a good warm, hearty winter dish is required, like this Bracciole,  a variation from my usual style but very delicious.  Each region in Italy has their own version of Bracciole and this one is a very pleasant option.

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My Bracciole in Tomato Sauce

500g pork schnitzels, sliced thinly

500g veal schnitzels, sliced thinly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
300g proscuitto slices
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese
freshly chopped parsley
toothpicks
2/3 cup red wine, a shiraz or cabernet sauvignon
1 litre of tomato passata
2 bay leaves
fresh basil leaves

Place your schnitzels on a chopping board, give them a little bash if they are too thick.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper then lay a thin slice of prosciutto on top.
Sprinkle with pine nuts, pecorino and parsley.
Roll up from the slim end, securing with a toothpick.
Turn a frying pan, large enough to fit the 10 rolls in one level, onto medium high.
Place the rolls inside and turn until they are all just browned.
Pour the red wine over top and let it simmer for one minute then add the tomato sauce, bay leaves and seasoning.  Place the lid on and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low so that it is just simmering and cook for 1.2 hours.  Test for tenderness, sprinkle with fresh basil leaves and serve with pasta, crunchy bread and a fresh garden salad.  Plus lashings of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Are you a good fire burner or like me, sadly hopeless and do you like hearty winter dishes?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx



Sunday, 11 August 2019

Preserved Limes in a Jar



On most weekends I take my Mother shopping for a few hours.  Sometimes we dine on lunch at different venues.  Yesterday, we were at our local shopping centre, had taken the items from one supermarket to the car and returned to another supermarket only to hear a fire alarm and a loud speaker message of "please evacuate the shopping centre".  Individual store owners started lugging items inside and closing up their shops.  Some took longer than others but were encouraged by a security guard to close up and take refuge outside.   One of the shop owners said that if it was a mere fire drill that this would have been announced over the PA system but that there must have been indeed a fire danger for them to evacuate on a sunny Sunday afternoon.   As we drove away there was a fire brigade truck towards the middle of the shopping centre on the outside, so I am glad we chose to leave instead of waiting around to see what had happened.    It was definitely too late to buy lunch today.

 None of my friends had ever heard of evacuating the shopping centre so it was kind of exciting.

At least I could go home and preserve some limes for future use.

Winter brings an abundance of limes/lemons/mandarins/ oranges/pears.   Especially this year, we have so many limes.
We already have lime juice in the freezer so this time I decided to preserve them in salt for future recipes.
Make sure you sterilize your glass jar first by placing a clean 1 litre jar into a cold oven then turn to 150°C.   When it reaches 150°C turn the oven off and let jar cool.  If the jar lid is metal pour boiling water over it.   Although this time I decided to spray the jar with a metabisulphite solution that I use to sterilise wine making equipment with, this works just as effectively to kill germs.  Spray the entire inside of the jar and lid, then shake to remove liquid.  Don't dry with a towel but rather let it air dry.

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Preserved Limes in a Jar

1 kilo freshly picked limes, washed and air dried
100g sea salt
1 dried chilli
2 dried bay leaves
10 peppercorns
6 coriander seeds
1 sterilized 1 litre glass jar

Place a thin layer of salt onto the bottom of your jar.
Cut each lime into quarters lengthwise and place about 12 quarters in the jar.  Push down with a sterilized tamper or back of a wooden spoon.  Pour in a little more salt.  Add another layer of lime quarters, more salt, the chilli, bay leaves and peppercorns.  Keep pushing down, add more limes and salt.  As you push down the lime juice rises and covers the limes and salt.  Continue until your jar is full with about 1cm of head space at the top.  You may need to add more lime juice to completely cover the limes.
I use a ceramic disc on top of the limes to ensure that the limes are kept submerged.  Seal with the lid and store in a dark cupboard for 30 days.
These will keep for years if unopened.  
Some suggest to store in the fridge once opened but if you keep the limes below the level of the liquid and throw out any if they appear tainted then these last for ages in the cupboard.
When cooking with preserved limes, remove the required lime slices from the jar, rinse and dispose of the flesh, it is the chopped rind that you use whilst cooking.

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Have you ever had to evacuate a shopping centre?   Or taken place in a pre planned fire drill?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx


Monday, 5 August 2019

My Chicken Cordon Bleu Recipe


My daughter and I were on a mission.   One of our sons is going to be spending a few days at home each week now so we decided he should get some new bed sheets.   In our village we could only purchase 180 thread count, which was just not good enough.   We  had to drive to the nearest regional centre to make our puchases, which is always fun and a change of scenery.  The 1000 thread count pure cotton sheets we managed to procure are also a success with our 14 year old cat Chloe.  When he makes his bed, Chloe still manages to snuggle down underneath his doona to lay on the sheets.  She is indeed, a classy cat.   Chloe like to sleep a lot these days, the opposite to our dashing Tiger who recently decided to climb the ladder leaning against the avocado tree.

It is so lovely to have your children visit and they all look forward to good, wholesome home cooking.  It is also nice for me to have a larger audience that appreciate my cooking style.  One night during the latest semester break the Scrabble and Monopoly boards even had an airing. Fun family times.

I saw this recipe advertised in a soon to be released cook book and winged the recipe from the photograph shown.  Everyone loved this chicken cordon bleu even though we didn't eat until 8pm.

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My Chicken Cordon Bleu                 Serves 6   

1kg chicken breast fillets
200g sliced, smoked ham
salt and pepper
12 slices Swiss cheese, each sliced in half
3 eggs
1 cup flour
2 cups dried breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil to shallow fry
2 oven trays lined with baking paper


Preheat oven to 180°C
Pat chicken dry, then finely slice chicken fillets into lengthwise fillets.
I find it easier to lay them out on 3 chopping boards.
Pound to a thinner slice if required, then sprinkle each slice with salt and pepper.  Line with a thin piece of ham, then top with a half slice of Swiss cheese.  Roll up to form a parcel.
Dip firstly into flour, then egg and breadcrumb.
Line them all up on a plate then turn on a non stick frying pan to medium heat, add 1cm vegetable oil and fry in batches, just turning to lightly brown each side.  Add a little more vegetable oil between batches.  Remove and place on the baking tray lined with baking paper.  Place into hot oven and cook for 15 minutes, alternating trays on shelves.
While it is cooking, prepare your garlic, mustard sauce.

Garlic, Mustard Sauce


2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
90g butter
1 heaped tablespoon Dijon mustard
90g thickened cream
salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, fry the garlic gently with the butter over a low heat for 4 - 5 minutes, until it smells aromatic.  You don't want the garlic to burn.
Add the mustard, cream, a sprinkle of salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Continue to heat, stirring for about 4 minutes until it is just thick enough for a sauce.
Serve separately with the chicken cordon bleu.

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Do you like to guess a recipe as well?
Have you ever tried 1000 thread count cotton sheets?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx




Monday, 1 July 2019

Caponata with Eggplant, Fennel and Tomato

As I drove down our hill this morning I saw a man running uphill on the grass, chasing his small dog.  It made me smile and he in turn, returned my smile, and caught his dog at the same time.



I wanted a dog when I was a teenager but had to suffice with walking the neighbour's cattle dog called Pete.   Back before leashes became law and you could meander leisurely together at your own pace.    When we lived in Sydney in a townhouse a friend found a small stray dog of an  indiscriminate breed so I offered to take him in and tried to train him.   We called him Woofer and he escaped the back yard when we were working, so many times as we were renovating.   The fence although respectable was constructed of timber and somehow Woofer managed to escape through the tiniest of holes to go running wildly in nearby Queens Park.   After quite a few fines we decided we did not have the best backyard for a dog, or the funds to keep retrieving him from the Ranger so we gave him away to friends with a large backyard in Pagewood where he was free to run.

My next encounter with a dog was when we built our house 9 years ago and we didn't have an Eastern boundary fence as the land there was vacant.  The Western side neighbours had a dog called DJ - or it might have been deejay, I'm not really sure.  He was a glossy caramel staffy and was allowed to wonder freely every afternoon for a walk.  As my husband and I are keen gardeners we would dig our compost into the garden and DJ would come around the next day and dig it all up looking for a tasty tidbit.   We decided to buy a plastic compost bin, DJ was quite disappointed but the garden flourished.    I was actually disappointed when the neighbours moved away as DJ was such a friendly dog.

We now have two cats, a 14 year old Himalayan and a 1.5 year old Himalayan/Ragdoll who thinks he is a bunny rabbit, as well as 3 chirping budgerigars.   We do not have to walk any of them.

We presently have an abundance of eggplant (aubergine) so I am always looking for different ways to cook these lovely vegetables.

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A Type of Caponata

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large eggplant, chopped into 2cm pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb,finely sliced
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon capers
1/3 cup pitted olives, black or green
salt and pepper to taste
basil leaves and pine puts to garnish

Heat up a large pan, add olive oil, onion, eggplant and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the fennel and stir well to combine.  Add the tomatoes, red wine vinegar and water, salt and pepper, cover with lid, turn pan to low and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove lid, stir and check for softness.  When the fennel and eggplant are soft add the capers and olives, stirring and heating for 2 minutes.
Serve, garnished with chopped basil leaves and toasted pine nuts.  Grated parmesan is optional but nice as well.
Serve with pasta and/or a crusty loaf of bread and a green salad.

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Are you a dog person or a cat person, or both?  
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Cannellini Beans with Spinach and Garlic

We recently had a day trip to the beautiful Port Macquarie in mid New South Wales.    It is a lovely coastal area, with delightful beaches, plenty of sunshine and diverse shopping.  They have the biggest vegetable seedling selection I have seen around here at one department store, so needless to say I collected quite a few punnets to bring home to plant some more delicious vegetables in the garden.


We also went to another shop to pick up some supplies but as our time was limited and we had so much to do, I didn't query the total of these goods, although I thought it was a bit pricey at the time.  After dinner that evening hubby unpacked our purchases and as I folded up the plastic bags I reached for the receipt to keep for warranty and realised that I had been overcharged $50!  I normally check before paying for anything but this was a reputable store and one we have dealt with many times so I had no reason to doubt them.
The next morning I phoned the store and explained that we were overcharged on this item and the owner didn't blink an eyelid but replied "oh is that what it scanned at"?   Causing me to think she realised it was an overcharge at the time, but nonetheless she immediately agreed to a refund but I said that I don't go to Port Macquarie very often and then she offered a gift card for that amount and suggested I pick it up when next in town.  I suggested that she post it to me for the cost of one dollar, so my gift card is on its way.  It makes me sad that people in some stores do overcharge and people, particularly the elderly or those from non English speaking backgrounds are the ones most likely to be taken advantage of  by careless business owners.

Dinner this night was a a selection of seafood, lightly floured and deep fried (fritto misto) accompanied by a healthy garden salad and a side dish of Canellini Beans with Spinach and Garlic.

This is a delicious, healthy and tasty side dish to accompany most meals.  Or have it alone with some crusty bread, or tossed through cooked pasta with a little pasta cooking water and a generous grating of Parmesan cheese.  I must thank my Mother in Law for sharing this recipe, many years ago, it is a staple dish and one which is always welcome on our table.

Sizzling Garlic
Until recently we had to soak the dried beans for at least 4 hours.  Now you can buy canned, cooked beans and just need to rinse them before using in various recipes. 
Hint# You can quick soak them by bringing the dried, rinsed beans to a boil for 2 mins.  Turn off heat, leave lid on and let sit for 1 hour.  After the hour, rinse and refresh water, bring back to a boil and boil for the required time, approx 40 mins for cannellini beans before draining and using in recipes.  Dried, soaked and cooked taste better than canned varieties, but in these busy days, beans are beans.

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Cannellini Beans with Spinach and Garlic

1 x 400g tin cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or butter or northern beans instead)
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 bunch fresh spinach, rinsed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper
parsley chopped, to garnish
1 dried red chilli, chopped, as a garnish (optional)

Heat up a small non stick frypan and add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, add the garlic and stir until the garlic is just turning brown.
Add the spinach and combine, then add the tin of drained and rinsed beans.  Toss together and add more olive oil and a little water (about 4 tablespoons water), salt and pepper to taste.
Cook for about 10 minutes in total, until the beans have slightly softened and the water has evaporated.
Serve, with chopped parsley for garnish and/or chopped dried chilli with extra olive oil if so desired.

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Do you cheat with tinned beans too to cut down on your preparation time?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx