Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Broccoli and Macaroni

Broccoli with Pasta

I absolutely love quick lunches.  Something warm and comforting, completed in under 15 minutes.

Broccoli and pasta fits this description perfectly.  I adore healthy carbohydrates.  Many of my friends have opted, at times, for a low or no carbohydrate diet which I think is crazy.  Your body needs carbohydrates for energy.  These same girlfriends are often seen devouring a whole chocolate block to get enough energy to substitute for the carbs they are no longer getting in their diet.

So keep it lean, tasty, fresh and nutritious and your body will repay you for all good carbohydrates.

Our winter broccoli patch is almost producing broccoli florets.  I watch these gorgeous leafed plants growing and know a good broccoli supply is soon to happen.  Until then I purchase some at our green grocers to curb my winter broccoli desire.

Bring water to boil and add some olive oil.

 Pour in about 200 grams of pasta, I have used macaroni but it can be any pasta.
When it returns to the boil
add broccoli, about 8 big florets, each cut into half and bring to a gentle simmer with lid on.
When it is simmering, add 1 sliced clove garlic, another tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of dried oregano with freshly cracked black pepper.
Simmer for 15 minutes, until pasta is cooked
al dente and the broccoli is soft.

Here you can see it is cooked.
Pour off some of the liquid but you want a little remaining in the bottom of your bowl.
Shave some parmesan cheese over the top,
a little cracked pepper and my favourite
chopped dried red chilli (optional of course).
Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve.
This recipe serves 2 people generously.

The other serving was drained of liquid
and placed in a container for
my daughter's school lunch tomorrow.
This is why I used macaroni today!
We will add parmesan when it is cold
and possibly some fried bacon bits.

Simple but effective, a great lunch time offering in super quick time.
Buon appetito, if you enjoyed my post, please let me know.  Cheers Merryn :D 

Monday, 27 May 2013

Macadamia and Honey Cookies

Macadamia and Honey Cookies

A bonus of keeping bees is their gorgeous by-product - HONEY.  
Fresh honey extracted straight from the hive is incomparable in flavour, aroma and texture.
Combine this with macadamia nuts and you have a winner.

My mother recently returned from a holiday in northern New South Wales, bringing freshly picked macadamia nuts from a macadamia nut farm.  These were delicious and quickly sealed to keep in the freshness.  Some had been tossed in different seasonings from Italian to Australian bush flavourings, but all I wanted was the plain variety.  Along with the last of the honey harvest for the season, I was tingling with anticipation and reached for the flour and sugar to combine away.
I like to prepare biscuits, slices or cakes on the weekend.  As long as the cookie jar is filled every Sunday with a different offering - which usually lasts for about 3 days - I, and therefore the family, am happy.

Cookie baking is to be done quickly, as opposed to a gallant dessert which one can labour over for hours.

Beat butter, honey and  sugar until creamed.

Macadamia Honey Cookies 

125 butter, softened
2 large tablespoons honey
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/4 cups plain flour
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup macadamias, finely chopped
2 tablespoons raw sugar (for dipping) optional

Cream butter, honey and sugar in a bowl with electric mixer until well combined and smooth.
Stir in flour, sifted bicarbonate of soda, coconut and macadamia nuts.
Roll into small balls, flatten slightly and dip one side into the raw sugar if desired, 
before placing on a silicon or baking paper lined tray.  
Bake in moderate oven 180C for 10 minutes until lightly browned.
Cool on trays for a few minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.    Yield 35 biscuits.

Freshly baked biscuits.

Enjoy with a cappuccino, a cup of steaming black tea or a glass of milk.
Perfect for our Autumn weather when on some days, all you want to do is bake and cook.
Buon appetito, cheers Merryn

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Chocolate Snow Cookies

Chocolate Snow Cookies

These a feast for your eyes, delectable, attractive and delicious.
We were having tradesmen doing work on our house, from external painting through to woodwork.
The men were such cheerful souls, bustling in at 7.30am and working hard until they stopped for a cup of coffee and snack around 10.30am.  There were continual comings and goings through the house from the front to the rear.  These men were so happy, they obviously loved what they did and whistled while they worked.  I was so grateful the least I could do was to make them coffee and bake them a batch of cookies.

This is how this all-in-one super quick food processor recipe came about.
You do not have to sift anything either as the food processor will do all the work for you.

Chocolate Snow Cookies
1 1/2  cups self raising flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
75 grams butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Extra:  1 cup icing sugar for coating dough balls, sifting is optional.

Put all dry ingredients into your food processor.  Lightly mix then add cubed butter and mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, add vanilla extract and mix until it comes together as a ball.
Remove and roll into small balls, then coat in icing sugar generously.  

Place on paper or silicon lined baking trays and bake at 180 C for approx 10 minutes.   
Yields about 35 cookies.

Roll dough balls in icing sugar before placing  on tray.

When cooked they literally crack and the icing sugar creates a beautiful snow like effect on the chocolate cookies.

The wonderful tradesmen were very appreciative of my efforts and tried extra hard to give us a good result for the house with minimal charge.  I think you get always back what you give :D

Please, if you have enjoyed my post, let me know.
Buon appetitio Merryn :D

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies

White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies

My son came bouncing into the room, he had just returned from a holiday with friends at Byron Bay.
 "I had a great time" he said, "we stayed across from the beach and had pancakes every day for breakfast with bacon and maple syrup.  We also had the best cookies I have ever had, here I brought you one" and promptly gave me a White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookie ceremoniously wrapped in a serviette. 
You can imagine, my heart somersaulted with love - and the cookie was good.

The cookie was so good I had to make my own.
That is, after we had pancakes - well crepes really but don't start me on what is a pancake or pikelet.
This is a much debated subject in our house.   My Other Half is convinced what I call a pancake is actually a pikelet, so I prefer to cook crepes and avoid the whole subject.  

We cooked crepes with crispy bacon rashers and maple syrup, topped with a  little sifted icing sugar -
apparently very Byron Bay.     After shopping for macadamias and white chocolate buttons I managed to contrive some White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies that were quite good.  In fact they were better than the original cookie after journeying 7 hours in a serviette to reach me.

I made two batches that day, each slightly different but totally acceptable. 
The orange rind helped soften the sweetness of the chocolate.

White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies
125g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 free range egg
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup white chocolate buttons or pieces
1/3 cup finely chopped macadamias

Beat butter, vanilla essence, orange rind, sugar and egg in a small bowl with electric mixer until smooth.  


Finely chop the macadamia nuts in a food processor 
or mortar and pestle.

Roughly chop the white chocolate buttons in the same food processor or mortar and pestle.

Stir flour, nuts and chocolate into the mixture.  Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls and place onto greased or baking paper lined baking trays placing them about 5cm apart.   Bake in a preheated moderate oven (180 C) for 15 minutes approximately or until firm and just starting to brown.  Cool on wire racks.

Store in an air tight container when cool.  They will last a week, if they are any remaining by then :D
White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies -  not just for kids.
Buon appetitio, Merryn.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Turkey Cannelloni

Cannelloni filled with Turkey

When I was 14 years old my best friend's parents decided to move over the border to Queensland.   We did so much together, from catching the bus to school to riding our horses every afternoon that were stabled in the same paddock.  Apart from being devastating it was also quite exciting.
We kept in touch often via phone calls or posted photographs and remained best friends.

 A few months later my mother dutifully put me on the Greyhound bus - at midnight of course - for the journey to visit my girlfriend in Queensland.   I was too excited to sleep - this was such a great adventure and I didn't want to miss a minute of it!   I noticed every bus stop and town along the way, all by streetlight.

The first day there we rode her horses and just enjoyed being together.
On the second day we were going to the newly opened Dreamworld.
I was full of anticipation and could hardly walk my legs were shaking so much.  That was the best day, a country girl riding high on the roller coaster and every fast moving ride on offer.
I have been back many times over the years, taking our children to experience all possible and they too have the love of the roller coaster and upside down rides.

The next day we went driving to Surfer's Paradise.  Strolling around the shops and examining everything in  Ripley's Believe it or Not.  Then we had lunch at a not so little Italian Trattoria which is where I first had Cannelloni.   It's funny how you assimilate food with life experiences, remembering intricate details about what and where you ate at different times.  I can picture the open air Trattoria on the corner and the aroma of that amazing cannelloni.

Turkey breast has 35 calories and 1 gram of fat per 1oz (28gram) 
serving which makes it a healthy non-vegetarian version.

It is super quick to make, is great heated up the next day and excellent to freeze for another time.

Turkey Cannelloni Recipe

Turkey filling:
500g lean turkey breast, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1 bottle Tomato passata, fresh basil leaves and grated mozzarella for topping.

1 x 250gram packet purchased cannelloni shells

Mix all of the turkey filling ingredients together, stirring until well combined.
Place olive oil in 2 large dishes just to coat the bottom.
Take each cannelloni shell and literally stuff the filling into half way with your fingers, then turn over and stuff from the other side.   Place slightly apart on the baking dish to allow tomato passata to drip between each shell.

Pour over the passata straight from the bottle until the shells are just covered.  Place whole fresh basil leaves randomly on top then cover it all with grated mozzarella.

Cover tray with foil and place in 180C oven for 30 minutes.
Remove foil and cook for another 10  minutes until mozzarella is nicely browned.  Remove and serve with a green salad and fresh bread to mop up any tomato juices.

This will make approximately 21 filled cannelloni shells.

This is my modern version of Cannelloni which I hope you enjoy.  You can make it also with half turkey/half pork combination.  I am working at improving my food photography skills but the flavour and aroma are undeniably sensational.

If you have enjoyed my post, kindly comment or recommend it to your friends.  Buon appetito Merryn.

Monday, 6 May 2013



(Spinach and Feta Pie)

I was first introduced to Spanakopita by the wife of a Czechoslovakian ambassador in early 1990.  She is a gorgeous woman, full of life and she absolutely loves our good Australian beaches.  How she survives with her pale white skin after endless beach days is quite beyond me, perhaps she has always had 30+ sunblock.
I distinctly remember she put ingredients into a saucepan, sauteed the spinach, onion and (in her case, garlic) then removed it from the heat to add parsley, egg and breadcrumbs.    All of this completed whilst still in her bikini!  Now she is back in Czechoslovakia and not beach swimming regularly but I know memories of her Bondi summers sustain her through the coldest of Czechoslovakian winters.

There are so many versions of Spanakopita but this is one we enjoy and with the abundance of fennel fronds and spinach/silverbeet every pie tastes as good as the last.

It is Autumn in Australia, a beautiful season with great weather and a slow introduction to winter, including comfort food and warm, creamy delights.  Spinach, or it's neighbour silverbeet, grows in our mid north coast region all year around.  We love it, the chickens love it as well as the grubs and we have to grow plenty to make sure we all get our share.

 Luckily the turtles do not seem to eat spinach.  The turtles rescued from the middle of a nearby busy street should be appreciative for their lives, but no, they think any lettuce or kale plant in their path is worthy of a good feed by bypassing the guppies and greens in the pond in favour of lighter greens.  Ungrateful turtles.


We do not know where the turtles sleep, but we sure know what they eat!

There are so many versions of Spanakopita but this is one we enjoy and with the abundance of fennel fronds and spinach/silverbeet every pie tastes as good as the last.
Spanakopita is very versatile.  It is great for lunch as the star dish, served with a salad and crusty bread , or served as a side vegetable offering anytime.

You can use thawed frozen shortcrust pastry for the base and thawed frozen puff pastry  for the top of the pie. Filo pastry slathered with plenty of butter is a great pie pastry as well.  Brush either of these with an egg wash before baking.

I stumbled across this Provencal Pastry recipe from Peter of Souvlaki for the Soul http://souvlakiforthesoul.com/2009/12/kohlrabi-and-greens-pie and have been using it for my Spanokopita ever since as it is easy, light and does not require blind baking.

Provencal Pastry ingredients

2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tepid water
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor until they form a ball.   Remove it from the bowl, smooth it out, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for about 1 hour-I find 40 minutes is enough.

Spanakopita Ingredients

 300g Spinach or Silverbeet, washed and finely chopped
100g Feta, crumbled
1/3 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
 4 green shallots, finely sliced
1/2 cup fresh fennel fronds, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Method:  Place all ingredients into a large bowl and mix together.  I do not add salt as the feta is salty enough, but check for seasoning, you may want to add salt.

Preheat oven to 180 Celsius fan forced.
Take your pastry that has been rested and roll out to fit a 20cm square baking tin.  Spray the tin with olive oil.  Divide pastry into thirds, roll two thirds out to cover base and sides of tin.  Press gently into corners.
Place the filling inside, smoothing it out evenly.
Roll remaining third of pastry and place on top.
Prick all over with a fork and brush or spray with olive oil.
Cook for 25 minutes, it will be a pale golden brown and crisp when ready.

Buon appetito!
If  you have enjoyed this post,  kindly let me know. Regards Merryn :D

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Smoked Salt

  Backyard Smoked Salt

I had considered getting a backyard smoker for a while.   I scoured web sites, read reviews from smoking forums, researched smoker recipes and finally took the plunge and purchased a smoker.
Everyone likes a new kitchen gadget and this is an exciting addition to my cooking collection.

After arriving at the designated shop I dutifully wrestled the three tiered smoker into the back of my car from a trolley.  Driving home I was exhilarated thinking of all the smoked goodies I would be cooking that evening.


Driving to the rear of our home I was still excited.   After pulling up as close as possible to the back door, I took the huge box out of my car and struggled to carry the smoker.  The box said it weighed less than 30kg, I am almost positive that weight statement is incorrect but maybe it was purely the bulky shape that was so awkward.

Nevertheless I finally arrived at the back door manhandling it beautifully into position where I set about constructing it.  Actually, first I asked MOH (my other half) if he would do it but he grinned and said 'you wanted it - you put it together'.   So I did.  I painfully took out everything and checked it was all there, then screwed the sides and back together.  Putting the gas burning unit together was a little more tricky but 1 hour later and it was assembled (the burner/ignition box that is) but the bottom box did not want to unite with the top smoker unit!

I was comparing the whole episode to a funny renovating novel where everything took longer than expected.  After being quite confident till this point, I called for a teenager to help and he turned the bottom box upside down and had it connected quickly.  On with the front door, shelves, temperature gauge, vent and then it was connected with the house gas outlet.  Yay!  One small achievement for womankind.

Hickory chips that have been soaked in half water/half white wine for one hour to infuse a lovely aroma into the smoked food.    Drain and let dry before putting into your wood chip box.

You can use any type of wood chips, the choice of variety will influence the flavour of your smoked food.

* Take one cup of coarse rock salt, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and two chopped chillies.

Place into a suitable container (I used stainless steel) or onto a baking tray and place onto the top shelf of your smoker when it has started smoking and reached temperature, in this case, 160celsius.

The herbs with the smoked salt are very satisfying, intensely smoky and delectable. 
The aroma is amazing.  I am now used to smelling like a fire while smoking food, and don't mind it at all.

Remove from the smoker with gloves after 30 minutes and let cool.  When cooled store in a glass jar or a
pepper grinder so you can freshly grind the aromatic salt as required. 

Add to cooked meat or vegetables or grind over fish, chicken or red meat prior to baking.

You will be amazed at how good this salt tastes and the superb addition of it to any recipe.

Please, if you have read this and enjoyed my smoked salt story, let me know as I appreciate all feedback.   Thank you, Merryn :D