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.


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
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.


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.

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.

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.



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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Salt and Pepper Wok Fried Pork Slices

This is a super quick mid week meal to cook and it is so full of flavour.
Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to have an old and dear friend come to work for a coffee.  After she left a representative from a company we haven't dealt with before arrived at 4.20pm, I usually close at 4.30pm but we needed to discuss her company's products.   When I left, after 5pm I went directly to a local supermarket which was luckily on the way home and ran into a lady I haven't seen for nearly 10 years.  Hence, I didn't arrive home until well after 6pm so it was a challenge to get dinner on the table quickly.

On with the rice in the rice cooker, out with the pork rashers (those strips you get from pork belly) luckily they were rindless or else I would have removed the rind.  I sliced them into 1cm strips then 2.5cm slices.  The rice cooker beeped so I removed the cooked basmati rice to a double greaseproof lined tray to cool - this is a neat trick if you don't have time to refrigerate your rice before frying and one my eldest son taught me.

A quick chop of garlic, onion, spring onion, chilli, lap cheong and bacon ensued for both the pork and the fried rice dishes.
Then the pork was fried firstly and placed in a warm oven whilst I fried the rice.  I must share my fried rice recipe with you another time, it is foolproof.  Then some freshly rinsed bok choy was stir fried with garlic, oyster sauce, sesame oil and vegetable stock.
We like to eat well, even when pushed for time.
This recipe is adapted from Adam Liaw's cookbook 'Asian After Work'.


Salt and Pepper Wok Fried Pork Slices

650g pork rashers or pork belly
4 teaspoons sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, sliced
1 Spring onion chopped
1 1/2  tspn salt
1  tspn pepper
handful of coriander leaves for garnish

Slice the pork rashers, or pork belly roughly into slices 1cm thick x 2.5cm.

Heat your wok, or non stick saucepan over high heat, when ready add 2 teaspoons sesame oil and cook half of the pork, stirring continuously until it is lightly browned on all sides.   Remove pork to a plate and repeat with the remaining sesame oil and pork slices.  Place the browned pork with the first cooked pork.
Lower the wok heat and add the garlic, chilli and spring onion and cook until the garlic is just lightly browned.  Pour off the drained juices from the plate and return the dry pork to the pan.  Add the salt and pepper to taste and toss until well combined.
Serve onto a warmed platter and scatter with coriander leaves.


Do you have quick dishes on stand by for when time is short?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Chilli and Capsicum Jam / Relish - Full Flavoured

It's Monday morning, again.  After a busy weekend of
shopping, socialising, gardening and cooking.  This
weekend was incredibly full and I was frantically
melting wax from last week's honey extraction before
leaving for work.  Upon leaving I absentmindedly
reversed into the driveway in my 4 wheel drive and
felt resistance, thinking that I had reversed up the
kerb rather than the driveway it took me a full
30 seconds to remember that today was
bin collection morning.

Yes, you guessed it, I reversed into the incredibly 
full recycling bin and scattered it's entire contents 
down our driveway and halfway in front of the 
neighbour's house as well.

What a way to start the day!  Luckily I had a young man with me and we both burst out
laughing and proceeded to start picking up the scattered plastic juice bottles, glass bottles,
cans and miscellaneous recycling debris.    It was so funny, we continued to laugh through
the entire process, then put the bin back in place before washing up and starting out for work.

Okay, it's the second time I have done it, but that's over a 9 year period.

On Saturday afternoon I decided to make a chilli jam as we have picked so many red chillies during the last week.    We also have picked kilos of baby capsicum in  various red, yellow and black colours.  It seemed obvious to combine the two in a relish/jam suitable to accompany savoury dishes.

Yes, I did wear latex gloves, I learned that lesson many years ago when I first made a chilli sauce.  That very first time I didn't bother wearing latex gloves and my fingers were pink and stung for 3 days afterwards, so please wear gloves whilst you are deseeding and chopping chillies.


Chilli and Capsicum Jam

  • Makes about 3 (250g) jars of jam
  • 600 g chillies, preferably red
  • 450 red pepper, capsicum
  • 1 kg white sugar
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons salt

  1. Deseed about half of the chillies, please wear latex or rubber gloves.  
  2. Deseed and chop the capsicums, roughly chopped them. 
  3. Place into food processor in batches and pulse until they are finely chopped
  4. but the seeds are still whole.  
  5. The above process will take 45 minutes - 1 hour.
Whilst you are still chopping then place the sugar and vinegars into 
a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.  
Cook for about 20 minutes, you want it to thicken slightly.
  1. Add the salt, chillies and capsicums then simmer for another 
  2. 30 to 45 minutes. Make the test with a cold saucer placed in the freezer.
  3. When you put a teaspoon onto the plate and let it sit for 2 minutes 
  4. it should crinkle and leave fine lines.  Then it is done.  
  5. If not cook for another 10 - 15 minutes.

  1. Whilst it is cooking, sterilise the jars. Wash them and place the jars into 
  2. a cold oven and turn it to 150C for 15 minutes.   It is important to keep the jars hot to prevent them from breaking when you fill them with the hot jam.   Pour boiling water over the lids and leave a few minutes just before they are 
  3. needed.

  4. When jam is done,  carefully pour the hot jam into the warm jars. 
  5. Add the lids, and seal.  This sauce will last for at least 1 year, once 
  6. opened, store in the refrigerator where it will last many months.


Please tell me, do you like a hot chilli sauce rather than a sweet
one and
have you ever knocked over a full rubbish bin?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 25 March 2019

Asian Pork and Noodle Soup

Autumn is finally here but the weather still thinks that it should be Summer.  Personally I am looking forward to cooler days when you can put a pot of soup on to warm you up, or a delicious slow cooked pull apart Meat dish that scents the whole house with it's seductive aromas.  

In the meantime I have to be content with quick cooking soups that do not heat up the house.  After I photographed this dish I reasoned that the picture looks like something a teenager would concoct after a long day of study with 2 minute noodles.    However, I assure you that this was not the case.

                                                                                                                        To complete the meal we had some freshly picked Dragonfruit (Pitaya) that grows rampantly along one side fence.   Prior to this year our Dragonfruit have always ripened in January, these ones are a bonus.                                            
There were a few ants running on the outside of the uncut fruit, these dispersed when I shook the Pitaya gently, but the small black seeds swam like running ants before my eyes, it was quite disconcerting.


Asian Pork and Noodle Soup

1 1/2 cup light soy sauce
700ml water
1 green shallot finely sliced
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped ginger (2cm knob)
1 clove chopped garlic
2 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon five spice
700g pork shoulder, loin, scotch fillet or pork belly chopped into 2cm cubes
1 bok choy or 1 bunch gai larn
2 dried whole chillies
Boiled eggs
1 packet thin hokkein noodles

Bring the stock ingredients to a boil then reduce to a simmer and add the chopped pork, cover and cook for 1 hour, testing for tenderness.  Add the bok choy and chillies then simmer for another 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl prepare noodles as per packet instructions.

Place noodles into serving bowls, add 1 or 2 boiled egg halves and pour over the soup.
I had some oven baked pork crackling so added that as well.

Have you ever eaten Dragonfruit?  Do you like It? 
It seems to be an unknown fruit outside of Asia.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Cucumber with Chilli, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper

Whenever I visit family I always learn something new.
Whether it is exciting new dishes, different methods of preparation or presentation. 
Sometimes it is the simplest of dishes that you can adapt to everyday dining that really impress you.

Recreating one of the simplest of dishes is still one of life's pleasures if it is welcomed and embraced by all.   This cucumber dish is one of those that is thrown together at the last minute before being added to a table already filled with antipasto, freshly sliced pecorino, olives, pasta, carne, insalata, other contorno and red wine.

Over time I have realised that some people do not like you to be able to recreate the dish they cooked as well as how they cooked it themselves.  These people will leave out crucial steps or important ingredients which leaves you puzzled when you cook it at home as to why it is different to theirs, which is why it is so important to "watch" a new dish being created.

This cucumber dish with chilli, olive oil, salt and pepper really needs no explanation at all.
Share it with your next meal however and experience the surprise of your guests when they realise how delicious this simple dish tastes.

Cucumber with Chilli, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper.
Cetriolo con Peperoncino, Oloio d'olia, Sale e Pepe

1 cucumber, washed and dried
1 - 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
fine sea salt - to taste
freshly cracked black pepper - to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Halve the cucumber in the middle.  Slice lengthwise each half into strips about 5mm thick.  Then slice into strips.
Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with the chilli flakes.
Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.


Do you like simple salad dishes and do you always add chilli to a dish when possible?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Lobster and Prawn Tomato Linguine

Last weekend I was advised on Friday night that the two youngsters at home were going to Newcastle for the weekend and that hubby and I would have two nights dining, alone.  I was so excited which you would totally understand if you are usually cooking for between 2 - 6 adults.

So I pushed the 1 kilo of beef rump that had just been purchased to the back of the fridge and happily withdrew 2 cryovaced barramundi fillets for Friday night's dinner instead.  3 of the 4 young adults that periodically stay with us do not like fish, although they love oysters, prawns, lobster, squid and scallops so eating fish at home is quite a treat for hubby and myself.

Served with home made hollandaise sauce (so I could save some for eggs benedict the next morning), a fresh crispy salad and home made chips it was divine, and peaceful.

I heard afterwards that the youngsters had a great time in Newcastle as well, catching up with their friends, playing basketball, soccer and healthy outdoor activities for much of the time.  Surprisingly.

On Saturday it was as if we had a smorgasbord of opportunities for dinner but I opted to cook lobster linguine, filling our bowls with prawns as well.  This is a delightful, luxurious and decadent dish that makes you feel special.  Cook it and trust me, you will feel the same way.

I will try to replicate faithfully this amazing 'Dinner for 2'.
Serve it simply with some crusty bread, any salads you make will be ignored.

By the way, Mother's birthday present, aka the cute Ragdoll is now known as Kimba.


Lobster and Prawn Linguine

12 green prawns, tail on and deveined
Olive oil
4 green lobster tails
2 shallots (or half a white onion), chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
400ml can tomato pieces
125ml tomato passata
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Continental (Italian) parsley
Dried Linguine
More chopped fresh parsley for decoration
Crusty bread for a side dish

Mix the green prawns with 1 chopped clove garlic.
Remove the lobster from the shell and chop into 4cm slices.
Firstly heat your frypan to medium high heat, add a little olive oil and fry the prawns for about 4 minutes until they are just cooked, turning occasionally.  Remove and place in a bowl whilst you cook the rest.
Heat up a little olive oil in your frypan and cook the shallots for a minute before adding the remaining 2 cloves garlic and fry for 1 more minute.   Add the chopped lobster chunks and fry on each side, approximately 5 minutes you just want to seal in their flavour, not to cook them through.  Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.
Pour over the chopped tomato pieces, passata and water.   Bring to a simmer, do not boil or you can make the lobster pieces tough.  When simmering add the parsley, salt and pepper and continue at a low simmer for 20 minutes stirring gently, occasionally.
Whilst it is simmering place a saucepan of water to come to the boil and cook the linguine for approximately 10 minutes or as per packet instructions.  
Pour the cooked prawns back in the tomato mixture and cook until heated through, 3 - 4 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if required. 
Drain the linguine, reserving a little of the cooking water if needed to thin the sauce.  Pour the linguine over the tomato sauce and gently mix, adding a little pasta cooking water if needed.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve the lobster and prawn linguine in the pan onto a place mat directly onto the table.

The lobster tails cooking in white wine, shallots and garlic.

A nice glass of red wine, accompanied by the crusty bread loaf and dinner for 2 is served.

As mentioned, don't bother with a salad, you will be too busy enjoying this linguine.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 4 February 2019

Cream Cheese Cake

These past few weeks have been so busy.  Back to work after summer holidays, weekend catch-ups with friends, my mother's cataract operation as well as the search for the perfect pussy cat have all been time draining.   My Father wanted an adult cat so we fostered a one year old cat who then spent the next 5 days hiding under the leather recliners in the lounge room.  He wasn't right for them and the previous people who had him were happy to have him returned to them.  We looked at another older cat but he was also a little scared and by then Mum and I realised we had to get a kitten.  I saw on facebook there was a gorgeous 3 month old Ragdoll boy available.

It was a  5 hour round journey to go and pick up this gorgeous little cat but the whole family has fallen in love with him.  My father was totally surprised and my Mother is already under his spell.  I informed Mum that he was a 'people's cat' and needed to be around people so he couldn't be put in the laundry at night like their previous cats.  Last night, at 1am apparently Puss (as yet nameless) wanted to sleep on Mum's pillow with her, and heeding my warning, she put him outside her bedroom door, shutting the door and letting him have the run of the rest of the house.    This is one of the most adorable cats that ever existed.

My sister in law recently gifted me some blocks of Philadelphia cream cheese and I remembered seeing this gorgeous cake on a friend's website which I had filed for future use.  It is simple to make when you are short on time, inspiration and energy.  Perfect for post-cat searching days.

Thank you Angie for sharing this beautiful Gateau au fromage .

I will share with you the new pussy cat's name as soon as he has been named.


Weekend Cream Cheese Cake

500 g cream cheese
100 g white sugar
4 eggs, separated
100 g of cornstarch
1 tsp of vanilla extract

Crack the eggs, separating the whites from the yolks and placing the yolks into your mixing bowl.
Whisk the yolks with the sugar and vanilla extract until it is creamy and starts to whiten.
Add the cornstarch, mix lightly, then add the cream cheese and beat for 2 minutes, until well combined and fluffy.
 Set aside into a large bowl.  Clean and dry your mixing bowl then add the egg whites and beat approximately 4 minutes until stiff.
Gently fold the whites into the cheese mixture.
Preheat oven to 200 ° C.
Grease and flour the mold of 20 cm cake pan.
Pour the mixture place into the middle of your oven and bake for 20 to 25 min.


Are you a cat person or a dog person?  What would you name this little cutie?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Ga Kho Vietnamese Caramelised Chicken

We have had the best Summer Holiday, visiting family and friends in South Australia and driving through the most beautiful countryside including Shepparton, Bendigo, Dubbo, Halls Gap, Port MacDonnell and Mount Gambier.

Our family made sure we ate magnificently whilst we were away. From the beautiful flake cooked in Port MacDonnell to the perfectly barbecued beef eye fillet in Mount Gambier, also Fagoli (bean soup), vegetable + meatball lasagne as well as the surprisingly good Chinese we had in Hay we certainly ate well every step of our journey.   Hubby stated that the vanilla slice he had in Halls Gap was the best he had eaten since childhood.  Slow, cooked lunches on lazy vacation days are incredible and always well remembered.  Arriving home though, I was craving some nice Asian food.

So we enjoyed an amazing and full flavoured Ga Kho with Thai basil rice and broccolini in oyster sauce.  The Ga Kho (Vietnamese Caramelised Chicken) recipe comes from The Ravenous Couple.

I cooked this dish with chicken thigh fillets as they are quick and always tender.
You could use chicken thigh cutlets or drumsticks but increase the cooking time to 30 minutes and check they are cooked before taking off the heat.


  Caramelised Chicken - Ga Kho
  • 1 kilo chicken thigh fillets
  • 2 tbs fish sauce for marinade
  • 1 tbs brown sugar for marinade
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 tbs grated/finely minced ginger
  • 2 shallots minced (you can substitute a small onion)
  • 2 jalapenos thinly sliced (or other hot chillies)
  • 2 shallots (green onions) sliced in 1 cm slices
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • sesame seeds for garnish
Marinade the chicken with 2 tbs of fish sauce and 1 tbs brown sugar for about at least1/2 hr, 2 hours is better. Whilst it is marinating in the fridge, in a small bowl make the sauce by combining 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup water, rice vinegar, and fish sauce and mix until dissolve. Add the ginger, shallots, and garlic and set aside.

Heat a large pan on high with cooking oil and add the chicken. Allow to sear without touching them for a minute or so and then pour in about 1/4 of the sauce. Try not to move around the chicken as you want the chicken to sear and caramelise. The sauce will start to thicken and the chicken will brown after a few minutes. Check to see if it's nicely caramelised, then turn the pieces of chicken over and pour in the rest of the sauce. Continue to cook until sauce is reduced to a nice thick consistency (approx 15- 20 minutes) and just before you turn off the heat, toss in the chillies and spring onions. Transfer to serving platter and generously top with sesame seeds and fresh cracked pepper.


Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 10 December 2018

Tarelli - a classic Italian snack

It is nearly Christmas time again, a time for celebrating, relaxing and being with family and friends.                                                                                                                                  We will be travelling interstate to see family and this time will take the time to drive, stopping along the way at different destinations.    We must work out our itinerary soon and decide along which route we will journey.  We always come back the quickest way possible, keen to get back and see how our garden has fared over Summer and to hug our darling pets who we will miss each day.                                                                                                                                                    You can always enjoy different shopping in another town.  On our last visit we stocked up on gorgeous cheese mounds the morning that we left, placing them in an esky with ice bricks and buying fresh ice for them the next morning of our journey.  

Another time I had found a gorgeous craft shop in town and stocked up on kits to make my own rag doll and beads to make very classy beaded baubles with for the Christmas tree.

I distinctly remember one year when my mother-in-law brought up a kilo block of Pecorino on the plane, with no refrigeration.  It tasted delicious but the strong smell it had gained during the journey totally deterred me from eating Pecorino for many years afterwards.

A few years ago on a visit to see my in-laws in South Australia I discovered Tarelli, which are a type of rusk, a crispy, tasty bread snack with fennel seeds.  Delicious and crispy they last for weeks (apparently, but they don't last that long in our house).  These are the perfect appetiser to crunch on with a strong appertif; a campari with soda or a sambucca.  They are equally delightful to snack with a cappuccino for a quick breakfast on at any time during the day.

I especially love to keep the traditions alive, from bottling tomatoes over summer, to frying Crostoli for Easter and making tiramisu for family gatherings.  Now, Tarelli is another family favourite.


This is when the Tarelli have been dipped into boiling water.

See the fennel seeds peeking through the dough.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Preserved and Fermented Spiced Limes

One of the things I love about going out for dinner to a restaurant or cafe is that you can discreetly observe other people.  Hubby knows I always have to look 'into' the room whereas he gets to either face the window, the view or a wall behind me.   It's interesting how different people behave whilst out and about.  Some are dressed as if going to the Opera House, others look they have just been gardening but couldn't be bothered changing their clothes before eating and the remainder usually dress casually, in decent, presentable clothes with leather shoes and smiles to match.

Even when dining at a waterfront restaurant I prefer to sit a few rows back to observe the people in front of the gorgeous water view, so you have the best of both worlds.  A story is people moving through time and space which is also the same for an individual, a couple or a family dining at a food establishment during any time of the day.  Their actions are telling a story.

We dined recently at my favourite Indian restaurant where a large table stretched across the entire front of the restaurant and this was taken by an extended family.  At the pride of place, not at the head but rather in the middle of the table sat Father, who wore a bright blue turban denoting that he was a Sikh Guru and his wife wore a colourful, matching headscarf also in a beautiful blue, quality silk cloth embroidered with gold thread.  Their clothing was also a pleasurable and bright.  There were adult children, also colourfully adorned in bold coloured clothing and grandchildren present.  Their table was filled with many aromatic and varied Indian dishes, bowls of rice with cumin seeds, pappadums, yoghurt, raita and other vegetable preserves.  The young grandchildren snacked predominantly on naan bread, leaving the rich curries for their elders.  It must have been an important occasion for the family to celebrate and I was mesmerized by observing  these colourful characters.

We also enjoyed the delicious, authentic Indian meal stretched out before us on our simple, single table.

I love all things spicy and am known for my preference of chilli dishes.

This is a wonderful Preserved Lime dish, worthy of being on the Sikh family's table.  It is fiery and full of flavour, enhancing the freshness of limes with the bold flavours of chili and spices.


Preserved Spiced Limes

1 kilo limes, washed
5 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced 
3 fresh cayenne chilies, finely sliced
4–6 cloves garlic, minced 
3 tablespoons unrefined sea salt 
2 tablespoons sugar 
1 tablespoon coriander seeds 
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds, lightly crushed 
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger 
2 teaspoons ground turmeric 
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin 

Rinse the limes in cold water and scrub the skins. With a stainless steel knife, quarter the limes and remove the seeds; place in a large bowl and mix in the tomatoes, chilies, garlic, salt, sugar, coriander, fenugreek, ginger, turmeric, and cumin. 

Press the mixture into a jar or crock. More brine will release at this stage, and you should see brine above the mixture. Top the ferment with a ceramic or glass weight or fill a 500ml ziplock bag with water and use this to press down on the vegetables, keeping them submerged, under the liquid. 

Set aside to ferment, somewhere nearby, out of direct sunlight, and cool, for 1 to 6 months. Check periodically to make sure the limes stay submerged. 

You can start to test the ferment on day 30 but I prefer to leave it to ferment for 60 days.

When it is ready the flavours of garlic and spices come through and the limes are no longer acidic.  Transfer to jars and  tamper (push) down the relish leaving little air space.  These fermented limes will keep for at least 18 months stored in the fridge.


Do you also like to discreetly observe other people when dining at restaurants?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx