A tiny slice of my life

This is a look at my life, and the many things I try to learn and do.

Friday, July 29, 2011

So So Sewing

Well there hasn't been much exciting cooking happening this week.

I have been trying to get some sewing done. I sew most of my quilts , table runners and small table cloths together by hand, then I quilt them on my new purpose built machine.

I soon discovered that trying to quilt a large bed quilt on a domestic sewing machine was a nightmare, so I made the decision to purchase a purpose built domestic sewing machine for quilting that has a large throat plate, which enables me to get a large amount of quilt between the foot and machine.

I bought a Brother QC 1000

Now I must finish and sell some quilts to help pay for the machine. I have several ready to quilt but the process of getting the 3 layers of the quilt together is quite daunting. So I decided this was the week that I was going to get at least one quilted.

So have I succeeded, no with interuptions from family members and getting the blessed washing done I am still trying to get the quilt together. Yesterday I ironed everything. So today is the day to put it all together.

So I must be off and get into it, if I stay on my laptop too long I will lose interest.

So until next time have a good weekend and forget about the boring chores do something enjoyable.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

On the road again ...

We are of on a little getaway overnight this weekend, on our motorbikes.

Now you may or may not know but I have a motorbike, not a very fast one being only 900cc, compared to Mr CLI's 1200cc motorbike. But it can go fast enough to scare the pants of me at times.

Now you may ask why would a sane person not only get their bike license but buy a motorbike and ride it.

Well if only you could feel what it is like to be on a bike on a warm evening and ride with your visor up and smell the smells that you miss in the car, mind you going past a farm is a smell that I wish I could miss. You would understand.

Now I must say riding a motorbike is far more tiring than driving a car, because you have to be so aware and alert to your surroundings. A little lump of dirt on the road that you would think nothing of driving over it with your car, could potentially send the bikes wheels out of control. The same thing could happen with potholes and bumps in the road.

So why did I get my bike, well I hadn't ridden a motorbike for 6 years due to a permanent back injury and Mr CLI had decided that he wanted me off the back of his bike, because when I get tired I was dragging my leg over his bike !

Now to some husbands this wouldn't be a problem, but think of a car nut who has his treasured car in the garage on carpet and only brings it out on fine days and dusts it. Then you will understand my husbands passion with his bike.

So on one of our trips to Adelaide we went to his favourite motorcycle shop Boltons Kawasaki. While there he showed me a cruiser, now I must admit that I am a cruiser gal, as I am not terribly tall so like to be able to get my feet to the ground rather quickly and easily.

Now picture this I am in long pants, luckily - when we test drove my first bike I was in a very fitted dress with saddles, try riding a bike in that outfit. I haven't ridden in 6 years we are in city traffic and Mr CLI says give this bike a try it is easy to ride, needless to say by the time I had ridden it in traffic stopping at lights before finally stopping my heart was pounding my legs were shaking and clothes were damp with perspiration.

BUT I had actual ridden it with any problems and not only that I had enjoyed it.

So back to the shop to work out the purchase of it.

Now what ensued on the day of picking it up could have come the movie planes,trains and automobiles. I left on the train with my cumbersome bike jacket, then took a bus to Tullamarine Airport. Now I went by Virgin and had purchased a ticket to the lounge, so I could sit in comfort prior to the plane departure, they do a nice selection of food.

Then a plane to Adelaide - which we didn't know at the time of boarding was also taking Princess Mary to Adelaide, but that story is for another day - then on landing a taxi to the bike shop. While I was doing all this, Mr CLI had headed of on his bike after taking me to the train station and ridden over to Adelaide.

I had time on arrival of the shop to sit for a minute before helmet on, leg over the seat and off I went into the city traffic on our way to Glenelg were we stayed overnight.

So in the morning off we went while everyone slept, on my first long ride since 2005. While starting to climb the hill out of Adelaide the rain come, in biblical proportions for the next 4 hours. So I didn't get a baptism of fire, but one of water.

So the moral of this story is even if you think you can't do something try, because you will probably surprise yourself and be able to do it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vegetable Spring Rolls

Now I have a saying in our house "I have had this (cookbook/ornament/kitchen utensil etc) longer than you. Now this statement is generally directed at Mr CLI. That statement goes for the cookbook that the spring roll recipe comes from.

I believe I purchased it not long after I started work, when I was about 17 or 18. Now I have cooked many things from it, but the spring roll recipe is one that I keep coming back to, time and again.

I have made many variations of springrolls over the years, ones with fine vermicelli noodles and raw vegetables. Ones with chow mein/chop suey meat and cabbage fillings. Also ones with meat and vegetables fillings, but I always go back to this recipe. All you have to do is slice/chop the vegies, spend about 7 minutes cooking them, then let them hang about in a colander to drain while cooling.

I always make my spring rolls, dim sums & wontons the day before I need them, not that it makes them taste any better, but so that I am not doing everything on the one day. I have done this before and by the time I sit down to eat the food I have no interest in eating.

This recipe is very flexible, you can delete an item, but you do need to replace it with another item, to keep the filling the same amount.

Now this filling has mushrooms and spring onions, both of which Miss Fish won't eat, but in these spring rolls she is happy to chomp them up.

I only make small spring rolls, enough for 2 mouth fulls. They cook quickly and are easy to eat.

Spring Rolls
1 packet spring roll wrappers, 1 x 250gm bag bean shoots, 1 bunch spring onions, 1 x 450 can bamboo shoot slices, 1 large carrot, 1 small punnet of pre sliced button mushrooms, 2 tsps brown sugar, 2 tbsps light soy sauce, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp shao xing wine/dry sherry

Slice the carrots, spring onions & bamboo shoots into thin julienne approx 5 - 7 cm long.

Vegetables all ready

Now I must admit that I julienne my carrots on a mandoline slicer - picture below, other wise slice them very thin then julienne the slices

In a wok or frypan heat 2 tbsps oil, add the carrots, spring onions & bamboo shoots. Stir fry approx 2 - 3 minutes or until starting to wilt, then add the mushrooms & bean shoots, stir 1 minute. Add soy sauce, salt, sugar & wine. Stir fry for 2 - 3 minutes or until the vegetables have started to soften.

Remove from heat and put into a colander placed over a large bowl, leave till cool. I give them a stir 2 or 3 times to ensure as much of the liquid drains as possible. I also leave the vegies in the colander while making the spring rolls. Soggy vegies = soggy spring rolls.

To make the spring rolls cut the spring roll wrappers in half in the diagonal, kitchen scissors are good for this.

With the cut side of the triangle facing you, place about 1 tbsp of the mixture in the middle along the edge.

Fold the long edge over the filling, away from you. Then fold over each side, tucking in the points.

The roll into a cigar shape rolling away from you. dip the point into water and fold over to secure. Place onto a baking/parchment paper lined tray/plate. Continue making spring rolls, I had enough filling to use all but 1 spring roll wrapper.

To cook, I shallow fry them in a frypan using about 1 cm of vegetable or peanut oil. Drain them on kitchen paper.

I serve them with a dipping sauce made from 1 tsp chilli sauce & 1/4 cup light soy sauce mixed together.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Now for those of you that don't know Pastitsio is the Greek version of lasagna. Except it only has 3 layers, pasta, meat sauce, pasta then topped with bechemal.

I had heard of it and seen it on T.V. shows but had never eaten it.

On one of our trips to Adelaide we took Miss Fish to - The Greek on Halifax - a Greek restaurant that Mr CLI & I had found on an earlier trip to Adelaide.

Now Miss Fish is the Chicken Parmigiana Queen of Victoria, so she was a bit disappointed when the restaurant didn't have any, but as luck would have it while explaining to her that this restaurant was Greek a waitress brought out the specials board. Now Miss Fish not only loves Chicken Parmigiana, but she also loves pasta. Once I explained what it was she was very happy to have it.

Now it had been made with very long tubular noodles, think rigatoni but long like spaghetti. Now having seen this sort of pasta before, it now required another trip to the
Adelaide Central Markets, oh what we do in the name of food. lol.

I found the pasta at a stall that I regularly shop at.

Mezarri Number 11

Now when I made this I realised all too late that I didn't have enough of the tubular pasta for both layers, so I fossicked in the back of the shelf and got out my large pasta shells - another Adelaide market purchase - that I usually fill with a ricotta cheese mix and bake in a tomato sauce, so these became mt first layer of the dish.

Now you really don't have to go and purchase special pasta, for this dish. The only reason that I did was because I could buy it. Most recipes use rigatoni.

You can also use either beef or lamb mince, on this occasion I used lamb mince.

Meat sauce - 500 gms lamb or beef mince, 1/2 only finely diced, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp dried oregano, 2 tbsps tomato paste, 1/2 cup beef stock, 2 cups tomato passata

Bechamel - 3 tbsps butter, 1/4 cup plain flour, 4 cups milk, salt & pepper, 1 cup grated tasty cheese

Topping - 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 200.c. Bring enough water to the boil to cook noodles, cook the noodles until al dente. Drain

Meat sauce
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frypan or large saucepan, add onion cook 1-2 minutes or until starting to soften. Add mince, cook until all pinkness leaves the meat, ensuring that you break up any lumps while stirring. Make a hole in the centre of the meat add the tomato paste, cook for 1 minute, stir into the meat. Add the herbs, salt, pepper, stock & passata.

Cover and reduce the heat simmer for 25 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened, but some liquid remains. Remove from the heat.

Bechemal Sauce
Make this either in a saucepan on the stove top or a large jug in the microwave.

Melt the butter, add the flour, cook for 1 minute. Add the milk, whisk until thickened. In the microwave this will take approx 5 minutes on the stove top 7 - 10 minutes. Once thickened remove from the heat add the cheese, whisk till melted then season with salt and pepper.

In a large dish mine was approx 20 cm x 35 cm. Add half the noodles stir in about a cup of the bechemal sauce, flatten the noodles to make an even layer. top with all the meat sauce, spread evenly. Then top with the remaining noodles. Pour over remaining bechemal sauce. Top with the parmesan.
First layer of noodles awaiting the meat sauce.

All ready for the oven.

Bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the parmesan has melted and browned.

I served it with buttered french stick, if you wanted to you could serve it with a Greek salad, but I found the pastitsio and french stick was enough.

So try this dish it is quite simple and very tasty.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Adelaide Terraced Apartments - SA

Now we have had many trips to Adelaide over the years and stayed in both Glenelg and Adelaide CBD.

Now Adelaide is a City that I do stay in the CBD for a holiday, forget it if it is more than 1 night in Melbourne or Sydney for that matter.

Some people might say that Adelaide is a bit slow or backward, not I. I love the vibe from the different restaurants, is has true multi cultural vibe when you are looking for a restaurant to eat in.

If we could we would probably shift to Adelaide, but at the moment we are tied to Victoria.

Now on one of our trips to Adelaide Mr CLI, Miss Fish & I stayed at the Adelaide Terraced Apartments in Sturt St Adelaide.

Now for those of you that love nothing better than taking yourself to a food market and wandering this is a terrific place to stay, because you only have a leisurely 10 minute walk and you are at the Adelaide Central Market.

The Adelaide Central Market backs onto Gouger Street, which is one of the main streets for restaurants. so you can even walk to have a meal imbibe in a vino or 2 then walk back to your accommodation.

The accommodation we had was on the second floor and was 2 story, with the kitchen dining area in the front, which led onto a large terraced area that has PVC blinds to protect you from the sun, rain and wind. You washing line is also out here.

In the other half of the ground floor was the lounge room
Up the stairs was the 2 bedrooms and the main bathroom, both bedrooms were roomy. One had a queen sized bed, while the other had 2 single beds.

Now if you are interested in being able to walk to a terrific food market, wander as leisure to a wonderful restaurant and room to move in your accommodation, I would suggest you give the Adelaide Terraced Apartments a go.

One of the websites it is featured on.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lime Yoghurt Drizzle Cake

This morning while sitting at the kitchen table having my morning coffee, while Miss Fish ate her breakfast, I was looking at a bowl full of limes from my Dad's tree thinking I really need to use them, they are too good to waste. Then it came to me why not make my yoghurt cake that is flavoured with lemon or lime.

So up I jumped and started. Miss fish wandered in wanting me to knot her scarf, but she soon had it off the help stir the mixture, then lick the bowl before heading off to work.

Now this recipe was originally an Ina Garten one, but I have tinkered a little with it, to suit my tastes.

You can make it either in lemon or lime, you could even probably make it with oranges.

It couldn't be simpler you mix together the wet ingredients in a bowl add the dry ingredients, then the oil. Then pour it into a loaf tin and bake.

Now as you can see from the photo below, I bake it in a silicone loaf tin, if you have one this is excellent because you can leave it in the tin after you pour over the syrup, I even pull the sides of the tin away from the cake to allow the syrup to run down the sides. If you cook it in a metal paper lined loaf tine you will find that it can adhere to the sides after the syrup has been added.

Once it has cooled I remove it from the tin and make a drizzly consistency lime icing to drizzle over the cake. Now this cake will keep moist for a week, that's if it lasts that long.

Lime Yoghurt Drizzle Cake

1 1/2 cups plain flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 cup greek yogurt,1 cup caster sugar,

3 eggs, 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons), 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Glaze 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice & 1/3 cup caster sugar


Cook the lime juice and sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

For the Icing: 1 cup icing sugar, 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

When the cake is cold. Combine the icing sugar and lime juice and drizzle over the cake.

Preheat the oven to fan force 180.c . Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan. Or use a silicone pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, sugar, the eggs, lime zest, and vanilla.

Wet ingredients awaiting a good whisk

After a good whisk

Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

When the cake is done. Carefully place on a baking rack . Using a wooden satay skewer or fine metal skewer, poke the cake all over,then pour the glaze over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

Cake in all its glossy glory

When cold remove from tin and drizzle with the icing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chinese Banquet for a lazy Sunday

Now you might think that lazy Sunday and Chinese Banquet is a contradiction in terms, but for those of us that enjoy tinkering in the kitchen creating yummy food items it is exactly that.

Now Mr CLI & I were creating the food shopping list for this week when he asked about the weekends meals - beating Miss Fish who likes to have her meals well planned. I replied that I hadn't thought about it yet !

He replied "what about making some homemade dim sims and vegetables spring rolls". Now if I am going to make dim sims and spring rolls I might as well go the whole hog and have a banquet.

So what is going to be on the menu
Dim sims - peanut & pork wontons - vegetable spring rolls - fried rice - prawn crackers - and either gado gado or satay chicken skewers & vegetable stirfry.

Now I won't be creating everything on Sunday, but Miss Fish & I will potter on Saturday making dim sims, wontons & spring rolls. I will also cook the rice so that it is nice and dry on Sunday for the fried rice. I will also cut chicken & vegetables ready.

Now what is Mr CLI's contribution to this meal other than suggesting it and eating eat - cooking the springs rolls and wontons.

Now for dessert I normally have steamed custard buns in the freezer from a restaurant in Templestowe, but I don't at the moment so I might try one of the packets of custards/jelly I bought from a Chinese grocers in Adelaide on my last visit, this will be another job for Saturday.

Pork & Peanut wontons
250 grams pork mince, 2 tsps peanut butter, 1 spring onion - white & light green part chopped finely, 2 tsps oyster sauce, small pinch ground white pepper, wonton wrappers

Mix together all ingredients, except wrappers. Place 1 tsp of mixture on 1 1/2 of the wrapper on the angle. Moisten edges fold over to create a triangle, with the fold edge facing you twist and tuck the left and right corners under to create ears, or join the 2 corners like the photo below.

Heat about 1 cm of oil in a frypan or 4 cm in the bottom of a wok, heat to 170 c. or when a piece of wrapper turn golden slowly. Cook turning until wrappers crispy and centre cooked, approx 3 - 5 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Serve with a dipping sauce.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Scallop Potatoes - The easy way

Now scallop potatoes are one of Winters comfort foods. Warm, filling, cheesy and very delectable, but it can take a long time to cook if done by the traditional method with lots of layers of thinly sliced potato.

I can't be bothered waiting for up to an hour for my scallop potatoes to cook, so I do an easy version.

I first saw Nigella cook scallop potatoes in a similar way, many years ago and have tinkered with her idea until I have made it an easy version of the traditional scallop potatoes.

Now it only requires some peeling and slicing of potatoes, grating of cheese and garlic and grinding of salt & pepper. What could be more easier. Instead of 1 hour in the oven if you assemble and cook the scallop potatoes when the potato is hot it only takes 15 - 20 minutes in the oven, basically long enough to brown the top and make the potatoes bubble.

Scallop Potatoes
Enough potatoes when sliced in 1 - 1 1/2 cm slices and layered to fill you baking dish, now the potatoes are boiled in milk first - you can use a combination of half milk & half water or all milk or half milk & half homemade chicken stock the choice is yours. grated tasty cheese, for 4 layers of potatoes 3 -4 garlic cloves, salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 220c.

Peel and slice the potatoes place into a large saucepan, pour over enough liquid to cover the potatoes by at least 2 cms. Bring to the boil, simmer uncovered until the potatoes are just tender when tested with a knife point. Keep an eye of the potatoes as the milk has a tendency of evaporating quicker than water.

When cooked remove entire saucepan from the heat - DO NOT DRAIN - you need the liquid for the scallop potatoes.

Using a slotted spoon layer some potatoes in the base of you dish season with salt & pepper, grate some garlic over and sprinkle with grated cheese. Continue layering until all the potatoes are used, don't put garlic on the top layer.

Pour enough of the cooking liquid carefully over the potatoes to fill 3/4 of the baking dish. Cover generously with cheese. Place dish on a baking tray as sometimes it can bubble over. Bake in the oven until most of the liquid has evaporated and the cheese on top is brown and bubbly.

Remove from the oven serve and enjoy.

So next time you are trying to think of something warm and comforting think scallop potatoes. They only need a bit of looking after, then they are in the oven warming and crisping, getting ready for you to eat.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mashed Potato made using a Potato Ricer

Now I must admit that I have very few if any pieces of kitchen equipment that I don't use, but the potato ricer I bought 3 years was one.

I had bought it to make gnocchi, but buying the right potatoes turned out to be a nightmare, by the time I had consulted all the gnocchi recipes and worked out what were the right potatoes. Then visited the local supermarkets, only to find that the bags were labelled good for mashing. roasting. chips etc, but not by their type so I gave up on that endeavour.

Now they are mostly labelled by type, so I might try again.

Anyway back to the mashed potato, I pulled out my bag of potatoes only to find that they were quite small, too small to peel. so what was I going to do, ahh the light bulb went on why don't I user the potato ricer.

So I cut them small and boiled the pieces until soft, I then drained them and pressed them through the ricer. One thing to be aware when using a ricer hold it down and facing the bottom of the saucepan/bowl that you are using otherwise you will end up like I did with worms of potato all over the workbench and kitchen floor.

After all the potato had been pressed I put the saucepan back on the cooktop on low added a big lump of butter, which I slowly stirred into the potato as it melted.

I then added some milk, as it warmed I stirred it into the potato, I then added salt and pepper.

What was the result like, it was much more glutinous than normal mashed potato also very dense, but incredibly creamy and would make a lovely bed for a rich beef casserole or the moroccan meatballs that I make.

So if you have a piece of kitchen equipment that you haven't used perhaps think of another use for it and try to use it, so that you can then buy another piece of equipment with a clear conscience.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Parmesan Crumbed Lamb Cutlets

Now we had a bit of a treat for tea this week at the CLI household. Parmesan crumbed lamb cutlets.

While shopping this week I was perusing the meat dept. and noticed some lamb cutlets on special, so I scooped them up for tea. Now normally I don't buy them as they are so expensive, and Miss Fish could quite easily eat the meat of at least4 cutlets, but as it was only Mr CLI and I it worked out well.

Now I am very simple with my accompaniments with crumbed cutlets, creamy mashed potato, steamed vegetables and gravy. What I don't do simple is the coating.

It is best if you crumb the cutlets at least an hour before cooking them so that they can stay in the fridge for the crumbing to set, so that when they are cooked the coating doesn't fall off.

You can also use this coating for schnitzels.

Parmesan Crumbed Cutlets
lamb cutlets with most of the edge fat removed that have had the meat flattened with a meat mallet, coating for 8 cutlets - 2 cups dried breadcrumbs, 2 tbsps finely chopped fresh parsley or 2 tsps finely chopped thyme, 3 tbsps finely grated parmesan, 2 eggs, 3/4 - 1 cup plain flour, olive oil and butter for cooking

Place the flour on a plate, beat the eggs together with a fork in a dish large enough to dip the cutlets in. Mix together the breadcrumbs, herbs and parmesan on another plate.

Now line up your plates in order - flour - eggs - breadcrumbs. Also have handy another plate/tray to put the crumbed cutlets on. Place the cutlets in the flour lightly, then lift and gently shake them you only need a very light dusting of flour. You can do all the cutlets at this stage.

Next drag the cutlets through the egg, then place into the breadcrumbs. gather a handful of the crumbs and sprinkle thickly over the cutlet, then press down. Turn over the cutlet then press again, this ensures that the cutlet is coated in a thick coating of breadcrumbs.

Place onto clean plate/tray, continue until all the cutlets are coated. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

When ready to cook remove the cutlets from the fridge about 15 minutes beforehand to ensure they aren't to cold which delays the cooking process.

In a frypan heat approx 6 tbsps of olive oil & 2 tbsps butter until foaming slightly. Place the cutlets in, don't move them for at least 3- 4 minutes, this ensures that the coating has browned and won't stick to the bottom of you pan.Turn and cook the other side for approx 5 minutes. This should give you a slightly pink meat, which will be moist.

When cooked and browned on both sides remove to a paper towel lined plate, to absorb excess oil.

Serve with creamy mashed potato, steamed vegies and gravy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Forge Pizzeria - Ballarat VIC

On the way home from my Sister's house this week we stopped in Ballarat for tea.

As last time Mr CLI & I we were in Ballarat we wanted to try the pizzas from The Forge Pizzeria but sadly it was closed. So this time we thought we would check it out, and it was open so in we went and had a wonderful meal of wood fired pizzas.

Yes there is a bit of a theme on pizzas this week, but if you can try new places to eat you need to take up the challenge and if they both sell wood fired pizzas, well a girl has to do what a girl has to do, so she can report to others about fabulous places to eat.

The Force Pizzeria is in a group of shops in Alfredton which is on the main road leading out of Ballarat heading West.

You have 2 options either eat in or take away. They have 3 tables set for eat in customers, using quirky second hand furniture. We chose to eat in as I didn't fancy trying to eat pizzas in the dark in the car.

We got a hawaiian for Miss Fish as that is her all time favourite pizza, and a capriciosa for myself and Mr CLI to share.

The verdict - absolutely scrumptious, if we had more time I would have ordered another pizza. The bases were thing and crispy just the way I like them, the ham was sliced not the shredded stuff and the toppings were plentiful.

Not only are the pizzas wonderful, but the staff are very friendly and helpful.

So if you are in Ballarat or are travelling thru make it your business to visit The Forge Pizzeria for a wonderful eating experience.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mouth Watering Pizzas at the Gisborne Winery Macedon Ranges VIC

Well I am back from visiting my Sister. On Sunday she suggested to go to the Gisborne Winery for lunch. As I have never been before it was a new place to visit and eat at.

What is my recommendation, if you are in the area, and love good food, go and enjoy yourself.

There isn't a lot on the menu a starter platter, 3 starters, pizzas, soup and desserts, but what they do produce is yummmmmy !

The photo above is from that actual wood fired pizza oven and the pizzas look just like that.

We started with the tasting platter which came with ciabatta bread hot straight from the oven, if you were only have this I would ask for more bread as there wasn't enough for the dips, we managed by resorting to using the carrot and celery sticks to eat the dips.

There were 3 dips a beetroot sweet but tasty, a spicy red capsicum, and another that tasted like cashews and dukkha, very mild but quite tasty. We also got a handful of mixed lettuce leaves, 4 slices of ham, about 10 slices of warm chorizo sausage, 8 - 10 small slices of smoked chicken, by the way it evaporated of the platter before I could taste it, it must have been very good to eat. A thick slice of cheese that was quite mild in flavour, another thick slice of cheese that was studded with chilli and a wedge of Camembert. A small bunch of grapes finished off the platter.

Within no time the platter was empty, whether it was the cold weather or we were very hungry, we didn't hang about we just ate.

We ordered 3 pizzas to share, a pineapple pizza, which they used sliced ham not the shredded stuff that you normally get. A BBQ chicken one, now I must admit I am not a fan of BBQ sauce on pizzas because they are normally swimming in it, but my sister persuaded me to try it and to my surprise it was very tasty. There was only a slight smear of the sauce so you get the flavour but not all the liquid that usually makes the pizza soggy. The third pizza was my favourite it was a basil pesto and prawn pizza. Instead of the usual tomato sauce they had used pesto on top of which they had placed several large prawns. then cheese. Once it was cooked they put a small mound of rocket on top. Now you may not like the thought of the rocket on the pizza, but try it because the peppery crunch of the rocket goes well with the warm and earthy flavours of the pizza.

Now you wouldn't think after that anyone would have room, but no it isn't a meal out with my family if dessert isn't consumed. Miss Fish choose a lemon meringue pie, which must have been delicious because she just sat and ate it, while the other 3 desserts rotated between my sister, my Mum and my niece. The had chosen a lemon meringue, a cookies and cream and a Mars bar slice.

We did share a bottle of wine between myself, my sister and my Dad, I didn't choose it but my Sister picked the unwooded chardonnay, it was very mellow and went well with the pizzas.

So if you are every in the Macedon Ranges, especially on a cold Winters day stop in a have something to eat and maybe even try a wine or two.

I would suggest to book for a meal as it filled up quite quickly, after we got there.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

How to jazz up packet mixes

I must admit that until recent times I would never use a cake mix, but times have changed and the quality of packet cake mixes has improved.

Yet they still can have a bit of jazzing up to make them even more special.

Plain muffins can be topped with a mixture of oats, peppitas, brown sugar, shredded coconut and about 2 tsps of soft butter mixed together and a generous portion put onto of the raw muffin mix.

Chocolate chip muffins can never have enough chocolate chips, try adding some white chocolate chips and/or dried cranberries.

Carrot cake make your own cream cheese frosting.

Cupcakes some of the extras you can add are chocolate chips, dried fruit, shredded coconut, grated carrot .

For the icing add cocoa or peppermint essence on top of the chocolate cupcake to make a choc peppermint one or coconut essence to the coconut cupcakes. The list is endless coffee essence, almond essence, rose or orange flower water.

So next time you look down upon a packet mix stop for a moment and think what you can add to make them even more special.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Vegetable Biryani

We don't eat a lot of meat, I try to cook meals with the bulk of the contents are vegetables. So I am always on the lookout for recipes that have a lot of flavour, but are also healthy.

So I went to India to look for inspiration. This vegetable biryani is a recipe that is very tasty yet quite easy to cook. A bit of chopping beforehand, then a bit of stirring, then into the oven to cook. What couldn't be easier.

I cooked it in a corningware dish in the oven. I have a double oven the smaller oven is 2/3 the size of the large oven which is great for single dishes. As it gets hotter quicker it also saves time and energy. This cooked in 15 minutes, if you where to use a normal sized oven I would check it after 15 minutes, it may need more liquid or time if it isn't cooked, possibly another 5 - 10 minutes.

This is the dish that I use.

This recipe comes from - Meena Pathak's Flavours of India - she married into the Pataks Indian sauce and spice business.

I have altered the recipe a bit as I was time short when I made this so I cooked this for shorter time periods at certain stages, but I don't believe this altered the flavour at all, in fact Mr CLI went back for seconds and said I could cook the dish again any time, as it was flavourful and filling as well as being good for him.

Vegetable Biryani
3 cups vegetables - I used 1 medium carrot cut into thin julienne, florets of brocolli & cauli cut quite small so that they would cook, 250 gm basmati rice, 1/4 - 1/2 onion finely sliced, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 3 cloves, 3 whole cardamom pods, 5 tbsps olive oil, 4 garlic cloves grated, 1 peive ginger 2 x 5 cms grated, 1/4 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp salt, boiling water to cover rice, fresh coriander leaves for garnish

Preheat the oven 200.c.

On the stove top heat the oil in your ovenproof casserole dish/frypan, add the cloves & cardamom, when popping/sizzling, add the onions stir until they are starting to soften, if sliced thinly this should only take 1 - 2 minutes.

Add garlic, ginger and remaining spices, stir. Add 2tbsps water, let bubble for 1 minute, add the tomato paste stir to combine, then add the vegetables and rice stir to cover with tomato/spice mix. Add enough boiling water to cover the rice by 1cm, stir in the salt. Bring to the boil, remove from heat.

Cover tightly with a double layer of tin foil, put on lid it you have one. Place into the oven cook for 15 minutes. Check if rice is tender, if is isn't you may need more time another 5 - 10 minutes. If the liquid has evaporated but the rice isn't cooked and another 1/2 - 1 cup.

When cooked check the seasoning it may need more salt. Serve with a dollop of greek yoghurt and pappodoms or naan bread.

I hope you try this recipe as it is quite easy, and you can alter the vegetables to suit your tastes.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Yummy Vol au Vents using 4 Ingredients

Now vol au vents were all the rage in the 70's, along with devilled eggs, tinned asparagus rolled in crustless white bread and little bits of food on dry biscuits.

Now I was a teenager and just flexing my cooking muscles in the 70's. So there was many a egg yolk that I have grated and mixed with other ingredients and piped back into the whites, or slices of orange twisted as decoration.

Luckily we have now moved away food that you have to fiddle with for hours before you eat it, and usually by the time you got to eat the fruits of your labours you were so over the food that you didn't eat it you just looked at it on your plate.

Now vol au vents are something that I revived in the 1980's and have created this recipe using only 4 ingredients including the vol au vent shells.

Vol au vents
large or small vol au vent shells. cooked chicken or drained tinned salmon or tuna, grated tasty cheese, tinned soup - now I use cream of chicken for the chicken and cream of celery for the tuna/salmon ones

Preheat the oven to 180.c

Place the shells on a baking/parchment paper lined trays. 3/4 fill with the chicken/tuna/salmon. Add approx 1 tsp for the small shells and 2 dessertspoons for the large shells of the undiluted soup mix. You need enough to nearly fill the shell cases. Top with a generous amount of cheese. Bake in the oven until the filling is bubbling and the cheese has melted. Approximately 10 -15 minutes for the small shells and 20 - 25 minutes for the large shells.

Now beware the filling will be very hot. If you create the small ones make more than you think you need as the are very moorish.