Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Life is a picnic

In Recipes on January 25, 2012 at 5:44 am

Fine weather in Melbourne last week made me think of picnics.  My first thought was of the bush or the beach but  not really having the time or the inclination to travel an hour or two to get there my thoughts turned, instead, to our beautiful inner city parks.  Recently my daughter and her friends discovered a lovely old park in Albert Park on St Vincents Place.  With its big old shady trees and green lawns I thought it was the perfect place to host a picnic.

For this picnic I thought I would make a classic picnic dish – pork and pistachio terrine.  This would be supplemented by a couple of caramelised onion and feta tarts, some chicken sandwiches and Stephanie’s English Curd Tart made by my excellent daughter.  Others brought salads, cheesecake and iced tea.  On the day the sunshine was a bit too intense but armed with food, ice, eskies and having found a big old shady tree, we were not too troubled by it.  A relaxing day was had by all.

Pork and Pistachio Terrine

Pork and Pistachio Terrine


600g good quality pork mince (get your butcher to mince it for you from the belly or shoulder)

2oog lean veal mince

250g chicken livers (trimmed and finely chopped)

15 thin slices flat pancetta

1 onion (finely diced)

200ml red wine

2 tbs cognac, brandy or port

1/2 tsp all spice

6 – 8 juniper berries (crushed)

3 – 4 tsp quatre epices*

3 – 4 tbs chopped fresh herbs (sage, thyme, parsley, marjoram, basil etc.)

60g pistachio kernels

sea salt

butter for greasing

1 terrine dish or loaf tin with about a 1kg capacity


Gently fry the onions in a little oil or butter until translucent, add red wine and reduce down until almost all the liquid has disappeared.   Set aside to cool.  Using clean hands, mix the meats, spices, herbs, cognac, onions and pistachios thoroughly.  Cover and refrigerate for  a couple of hours or longer if possible.  Grease your terrine dish or loaf tin, then line with the flat pancetta slices leaving the edges of the slices hanging over the sides to be folded over later.  Remove meat mixture from the refrigerator and gently press the meat mixture into the tin.  Place in a bain marie filled with the water to come halfway up the sides of the terrine dish or loaf tin.  Place in a pre-heated 200c oven for 20 mins.  Cover with foil and reduce heat to 170c and cook for a further 45 mins to an hour or until the juices run clear when pierced with a skewer.  Remove terrine from oven and bain marie, carefully pour off any fat or juices that have accumulated and let cool slightly.  Cover with baking paper, place a piece of cardboard on top and weight with three 400g cans from your cupboard.  Refrigerate overnight.  Turn terrine out onto a plate and serve with crusty bread and cornichons – a relish would be good too.

Stephanie’s English Curd Tart

A hazard of picnics and barbeques alike, the vital implement forgotten!  Naturally we forgot the cake slide so we could get the pieces out but  ‘necessity being the mother of invention’ we managed by sliding a large knife underneath each piece.

Pear, Parmesan and Rocket Salad

I usually use balsamic vinegar in the dressing but this one had red wine vinegar and it was just as good and didn’t discolour the pears as much.


A delicious and seriously naughty cheesecake

This cheesecake was incredibly sweet and rich.  Everything a cheesecake should be in fact.

Refreshing iced tea

A brilliant idea on a hot day.  Something adult, tasty and non-alcoholic.  I loved the addition of lychees.

* quatre epices (four spices)

2 tsp white peppercorns (crushed)

1 tsp grated nutmeg

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground ginger

Mix together

Roll up for norimaki!

In Recipes on January 16, 2012 at 3:17 am

Japanese restaurants were once few and far between in Melbourne.  Now there is a sushi bar on every corner and nori rolls or norimaki are a common alternative to the sandwich as a lunch option.  Availability does not, however, guarantee quality.  Freshness is very important when making norimaki.  This is not only for reasons of taste but also to ensure food safety.  So, how do you avoid a nasty case of food poisoning when buying your norimaki?  Firstly, choose a food outlet that sells Japanese food exclusively, this should (hopefully) mean that they know what they are doing.  Secondly, choose a place that has a high turnover – you can usually do this by observing how many customers are there at peak times. If the place is always crowded then you know the turnover will be fairly high and therefore your norimaki should be fresh.

Another way to make sure your norimaki are fresh is to make your own at home.  They are not difficult and the fillings are only limited by your imagination, although I would advise sticking to Japanese ingedients.  If using fresh fish make sure it is so fresh that it is virtually still swimming and that the rolls are eaten pretty much immediately.  Other fillings you can use are tuna mayonnaise, avocado, teriyaki chicken, cucumber and carrot strips.  If using prawns make sure you cook them first.  This time, because I couldn’t find any fish that was fresh enough I just made avocado rolls and tuna mayonnaise rolls.

Norimaki or nori rolls


2 cups sushi rice

3 cups water

5 tbs Japanese rice wine vinegar

1 tbs mirin (optional)

2 tbs sugar

1/2 tsp salt

nori sheets

4 tbs Japanese or whole egg mayonnaise

185g  tin good quality tuna

2 spring onions (just the green party finely sliced)

1 ripe avocado (cut into thick strips, squeeze a little lemon juice over them to prevent them going brown)

1 continental cucumber and 1 carrot (both cut into thin strips)

wasabi paste

pickled ginger


Rinse the rice once and place in a heavy based saucepan that has a well fitting lid.  Add 3 cups of water, cover and bring to the boil.  Reduce to a low simmer and cook covered for approx. 20 mins or until all the water has been absorbed.  Turn off heat, fluff with a fork and allow to stand for 10 mins.  Turn into a wooden or glass bowl, add rice wine vinegar, mirin, sugar and salt.  Gently fold these flavours through with a wooden or rubber spatula, mix well but try to avoid breaking the rice up too much.  When cooled to room temperature it is ready to use – if not using straight away cover with cling film and store in the refrigerator.  Try to use the rice on the day you made it.

To make the tuna mayonnaise mix the drained tuna with 2 tbs of the mayonnaise an the sliced spring onions.  To make wasbabi mayonnaise mix 1-2 tsp wasabi paste with 2 tbs mayonnaise.

To make your rolls you will need a bamboo sushi mat, a bowl of water your nori sheets, rice and filling.  Over a low gas flame gently pass your nori sheet over the jet once or twice, do not burn.  Place the sheet shiny side down on your bamboo mat.  Wet your hands and gently press a layer of rice onto the nori sheet leaving a 1cm edge on the part furthest from you.  Place chosen filling down the middle of the rice.

Place chosen ingredients down the middle of the rice

Gently begin to roll, tucking the filling in as you go, use the bamboo mat to help you.  Wet the 1cm edge of the nori and continue to roll until it has come together.  Apply gentle pressure with your hands around the bamboo mat until your roll is well melded – don’t press too hard or you will squeeze the filling out.

Your roll should look like this

To cut into even pieces cut in half, then quarters, then eighths.  Arrange on a plate and serve with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.

The finished norimaki

A taste of Spain

In Recipes on January 10, 2012 at 4:49 am

The other day I felt like making a stew.  In the refrigerator I had some veal chuck steak and a couple of chorizo sausages.  The obvious choice seemed to be a stew with Spanish flavours.  What I came up with is very similar to the goulash I make but I used chorizo instead of kransky sausages and smoked paprika instead of Hungarian sweet paprika.

Hearty and satisfying

Veal (or beef) and chorizo stew


750g veal or beef chuck steak (trimmed of sinew and cubed)

2 onions (finely chopped)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 red capsicum (deseeded and finely chopped)

2 chorizo sausages (diced)

2 tsp smoked paprika

pinch allspice

1/2 tsp dried thyme OR sprig of fresh thyme

1-2 bay leaves

1 tbs tomato paste

1 400g tin Italian diced tomatoes

2 tbs sunflower oil



Heat a heavy based saucepan, add a little of the oil and brown the meat.  Remove and set aside.  Add a little more oil and fry the chorizo sausage until it starts to render its own fat.  Add the onions and capsicum, fry gently, add the garlic and fry for a further 30 secs.  Add the smoked paprika, allspice bay leaves and thyme and fry gently until aromatic.  Add tomato paste and fry for 30 secs.  Add one tin of diced tomatoes and one tin of water.  Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours stirring occasionally.  Remove lid and reduce sauce gently for 30 mins.  Serve with something to soak up the sauce.

Currying f(l)avour

In Recipes on January 3, 2012 at 12:34 am

Due to the huge migrations of Indians around the world (often as indentured labourers or merchants) curry is eaten everywhere.  Each country has adapted curry to suit its own needs and the local ingredients.  There are Thai Massaman curry, Malaysian Beef Rendang and South African Bunny Chow (curried beans in a hollowed out loaf of bread).  In Britain curry – Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Korma, Butter Chicken – has arguably stolen the title of national dish from roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.  In Japan curry is classed with other dishes that have come from the West, as Yo-Shoku which literally means ‘Western food’.  This is because, lacking their own Indian migrants, the Japanese discovered curry via the West.  In India itself, curry varies from region to region – depending on the availability of ingredients and the dietary requirement of the various Indian religions – so a South Indian curry may be quite different from a North Indian one.

The curry recipe I give here doesn’t claim to be authentic Indian, nor does it use the flavours of any particular region.  It is just my own interpretation as I suspect many of the curries made by Indian cooks are also theirs.

Beef curry and chicken curry served with turmeric rice

My ‘Indian’ Curry


1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp chilli flakes

1/3 tsp asafoetida powder

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp black mustard seeds

a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

500g gravy beef OR 500g free range chicken legs

2 onions (thinly sliced)

1 tbs tomato paste

1/2 400g tin diced tomatoes

2 tbs sunflower oil

1 tbs unsalted butter

1 tsp tamarind concentrate

fresh mint or coriander


Heat a little of the oil in a heavy based saucepan.  Brown the meat on all sides and remove.  Add the rest of the oil and butter and fry the capsicum, onions, garlic and ginger gently.  Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds and fry for 1 min.  Add the ground spices and fry gently until aromatic (about 1 – 2 mins).  Add the tomato paste and fry for about 30 seconds.  Add the meat, tinned tomatoes, tamarind concentrate and a couple of cups of water or stock.  Simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours or until the beef is tender or the chicken is falling from the bone.  Finish with a handful of mint or coriander and serve with Basmati rice, yoghurt and lime pickle or mango chutney.

Mint adds some freshness to the beef curry