Category Archives: recipes

Spinach sauce with savoury French Toast – a recipe

This is a very Hungarian meal and may not be to everyone’s liking but Mum made it for me all through my childhood and I still make it for The Offspring [and myself].

Spinach sauce

1 large bunch of English spinach

2 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons of plain [all purpose?] flour

2 tablespoon of Peanut or olive oil



Begin by stripping the spinach leaves off the stalks and washing them AT LEAST 3 times. This is the part I dislike because it takes time and patience but if you don’t get all the minute bits of grit or sand or whatever it is off the spinach leaves your sauce will crunch between your teeth – most unpleasant!

Once the spinach is clean put a small amount of water to boil in the bottom of a pot large enough to hold all the spinach. When the water is boiling throw the spinach into the pot, cover and let the spinach wilt for no more than 1 minute. As soon as the spinach collapses into a green ball remove from heat, strain through a colander and refresh with a quick rinse under cold water. Let it drain.

While the spinach is draining peel the garlic and mash it with a heavy knife. I find the easiest way to do this is to use the back of the knife to scrape away at the cloves until they break down into a paste. Garlic presses are no good because you end up with small bits of garlic that can be rather overpowering when you bite on them.

Once the garlic is mashed make a white roux with the oil and flour in a pot large enough to hold the finished spinach sauce.  To make the roux stir the flour and oil together over a gentle heat and keep stirring for about 2 minutes until the flour cooks. Do NOT let it go brown!

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mashed garlic. The roux can now sit for a little while.

Put the strained spinach onto a wooden chopping board and chop until very fine.

Add the chopped spinach to the roux and combine well until there are no lumps of white showing.

The next bit is a little hard to quantify but pour in at least 1 cup of cold milk and immediately stir into the spinach mixture. At this stage the sauce should be quite ‘wet’. If it looks too thick add a little more milk then return the pot to the heat and allow the sauce to come to a simmer. You must keep stirring [with a wooden spoon] until the sauce is completely cooked. Depending on quantities this could take ten minutes.

As the sauce simmers it will start to thicken and the spinach will ‘bleed’ that lovely green colour into the milk. The sauce is done when it has a nice overall green colour and has thickened to the point where you could almost eat it with a fork – so not runny but not like porridge either. Set aside while you make the french toast.

French Toast

The Hungarian version of french toast is called ‘Bundás kenyér’ and translates as ‘fur coated bread’ [bunda means fur coat. Don’t ask]. Each slice should be golden brown, slightly crunchy and sprinkled with salt, not sugar!

4 whole eggs

6 slices of bread – stale or fresh. [I allow roughly 1 egg to 1.5 slices of bread, depending on the size of the slices]

peanut oil for frying – should cover the bottom of the frying pan with a bit to spare but remember, you are not deep frying here.


I use a heavy cast iron frying pan so it needs to be heated ahead of time while I prepare the rest of the ingredients. Adjust to suit your own pan.

While the oil and pan are heating, crack the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork – just enough to mix the white and the yolk.

Cut each slice of bread in half and arrange bread and egg mix near the frying pan. Place a serving plate within reach of the pan.

Once the oil is hot [it should be radiating heat but not quite smoking] dip a piece of bread into the egg, flip it with a fork and immediately lift out of the egg. Let the excess egg drip back into the bowl and then gently place the bread into the hot oil.

[Note : you have to be quick getting the bread into and out of the egg because you don’t want it to get soggy. If it gets soggy it will not fry to a crisp finish.]

Fry the bread in batches until the bottoms go a nice golden colour. Turn, fry the other side and then place onto the serving plate. You can drain the bread on kitchen towel if you want but I rarely bother.

Once the bread is all done, sprinkle with a little salt and it is ready to serve. Reheat the spinach just a little bit and stir the slight ‘crust’ on top until it reintegrates with the sauce.

To serve

Arrange slices of golden bread in a fan shape on a plate and pour half a ladle of spinach sauce next to the bread. It should look rather pretty. Then spoon some of the sauce onto the bread and eat the two together to get the combination of smooth, garlicky sauce and crisp, eggy bread. Enjoy!

#Recipe – Stuffed Tomatoes

This is a superb, vegetarian dish by Maria Luisa Taglienti, dating back to 1955. I’m a committed carnivore and not a huge fan of cheese, but even I love this dish. And it’s not hard to make.

Ingredients for the tomatoes

  • 4 large tomatoes, the firmer the better
  • 1/4 cup of rice
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped continental parsley
  • 1/3 cup diced cream cheese [Neuchatel or Philadelphia]
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper [white]


Pre-head oven to moderate [just under 180C in a fan bake oven].

Cook the rice in salted water for 10 minutes. It should still be a little hard in the middle. Drain.

Mix the rice with 4 tablespoons of butter, the two cheeses, parsley, salt and pepper. This is your ‘stuffing’.

Take out the core of each tomato, including the seeds/pulp, [and set aside if making the optional sauce]. You should now have 4 ‘cups’.

Sprinkle the inside of each cup with salt and pepper, then stuff with the cheese mix.

Butter a baking dish and place the stuffed tomatoes inside with a knob of butter on top of each one.

Bake for approx. 25 minutes or until golden on top.

Optional green beans and simple tomato sauce

While the tomatoes are baking, lightly fry a small, chopped onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic. When golden and aromatic, add 1 sachet of tomato paste [approx. 1 tablespoon] and the pulp taken from the inside of the tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt, stir and cook on a low heat until the stuffed tomatoes are done.

While the sauce is simmering, top and tail a handful of green beans per person and steam until cooked but still firm.

To serve

Serve the stuffed tomatoes with the steamed green beans, the red sauce and crusty white bread. Enjoy!


From disaster to a delicious biscuit

Okay, for my US friends, our biscuits are your cookies so this is a cross between a sweet lemon cakelet and a ‘cookie’. Ta dah….:

lemon biscuit recipe 001

The outside is lovely and crisp, but despite being so thin, the inside remains just a tiny bit soft and chewy:

lemon biscuit recipe 002

Before I write up the recipe I should explain that this started out as a kind of lemon tart cake that went very wrong. Cakes are not my forte, but I suspect the original recipe was at fault as it called for a tart base made from self-raising flour. Into this uncooked tart base went a very nice, cooked lemon filling and the whole lot was supposed to bake in the oven until it turned into a tart.

I don’t have a picture, but my lovely lemon tart turned into something resembling a soufle. It overflowed the baking dish like Vesuvius and made a sweet-smelling mess of my oven. What little I could salvage tasted like lemon toffee cake. I was not happy.

To cut a long story short, I had just enough unsalted butter left over to try the cake part of the recipe as a biscuit, and at last something worked! Here it is.


60 gm unsalted butter

1 cup self-raising flour

1/2 cup caster sugar

the rind of one lemon, finely grated

1 whole egg


Pre-heat the oven to 160 C [if using fan-bake] or 180 C if just using the ordinary oven setting [this is a moderate oven].

Line baking trays with baking paper. [You will need more than one tray as the biscuit mix spreads out quite a lot as it bakes so the biscuits have to be spaced fairly wide apart].

Toss the flour, sugar and grated lemon rind together [to spread the lemon flavour evenly]. Add the butter and cut it into small chunks with a knife, mixing into the flour as you go. Once the chunks are small enough, rub the flour mix and butter between your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Lightly beat the egg and add it to the butter mix until you get a fairly smooth ‘paste’.

Spoon heaped teaspoons of the paste onto the trays, leaving at least 2 inches between each one, and place in the oven. Baking time is approx. 10 minutes or until the biscuits are firm in the middle and slightly golden around the edges. Allow to cool on the tray if you can wait that long…-rolls eyes-…we didn’t.

The quantity given should make approximately 24 biscuits which sounds like quite a lot, but they are very moorish. If anyone manages to keep some for more than a few minutes I’d love to know how long they last. 🙂

Happy Sunday,



#recipe: Purple carrot cake

purple carrots 2

I owe this recipe to my sister-in-law, Victoria. Thank you!

The cake was delicious as Victoria first baked it, but I think my small changes have made it a fraction healthier. But then, who cares about healthy?

Where I have strayed slightly from the ingredients or quantities, I have given the original ingredients or quantities in brackets afterwards.

Let’s do it!


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup raw or caster sugar
  • ½ cup oil* – peanut or olive is fine [1 cup]
  • 1 cup self raising flour plus 1/3 cup almond meal [1/3 cup wholemeal flour]
  • 1/2 teaspoon Bi-carbonate of soda [1 1/3 teaspoons]
  • 1 tablespoon plain yoghurt [optional in the original recipe]
  • 1 1/3 teaspoons cinnamon – i.e. LOTS!
  • 2 cups peeled and grated purple carrots – about 3 big ones [approx. 2 big orange carrots]
  • [optional] ½ cup sultanas tossed in flour
  • [optional] 1 cup chopped walnuts

* 1/2 a cup of oil will result in a lighter, drier, fluffier carrot cake. If you like yours more traditional, experiment with the amount of oil you add, bearing in mind that 1 cup is probably the maximum, while 1/2 a cup is the minimum.


  1. Preheat oven to 150 C [Fanbake] or 300 – 325 F
  2. Lightly grease and flour a 19 cm ringform cake tin
  3. Break whole eggs into the mixing bowl and beat until frothy
  4. Continue beating as you add 1 cup of sugar to the eggs, a bit at a time. Beat well between each addition. The egg mixture should become light in colour, thick and fluffy.
  5. Continue beating as you add the oil.
  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the flour, bi-carb and cinnamon onto the egg mix.
  7. Fold in.
  8. Peel and grate the carrots just before adding them to the cake to stop them from going ‘greenish’ during cooking.
  9. Fold in the grated carrots
  10. Fold in the yoghurt
  11. Pour the cake mix into the prepared tin and sprinkle with almond flakes.
  12. Place in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for approx.. 1 hour.
  13. At the end of the hour [and not before!] test the cake with a skewer. The skewer should be a little greasy but not wet or sticky.
  14. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to stand in the tin for about 5 minutes.
  15. Turn the cake out onto a wire cooling rack.

Serve at room temperature with cream, ice cream or just plain. Or if you’re like us, eat as soon as it comes out of the pan to enjoy the sweet, slightly toffee-like crunch of the outer ‘skin’. Once the cake cools, the skin loses it’s crunch.

The Offspring and I found no difference in taste using purple vs orange carrots, and as you can see from the photo, the purple carrots do not turn the whole cake purple so you can serve it without your guests ever knowing it’s a ‘healthy’ option. 😉

Bon appetit!


Preserved #apricots and a #Wüsthof to grind

After the sadness of the Rickman and Bowie posts, I thought it would be nice to talk about joyful things for a change, and what could be more joyful than food and gadgets?

Before I begin though, let me tell you a little story. Back in the mists of time when The Offspring was but a twig, we lived in a leafy suburb of Melbourne called Heathmont. There I planted an apricot tree which flowered, fruited [abundantly] and sprouted a baby apricot tree of its own. When we sold the house, I potted up the baby apricot tree and it travelled with us for over fifteen years before we finally settled again in Warrandyte.

How that small, stunted apricot tree survived for so long in a pot I’ll never know, but it did, and more amazing still, it’s managed to survive and thrive in the not-so-welcoming soil of Warrandyte. But the proof of how special it is lies, as they say, in the eating, and boy are these apricots amazing. Store bought apricots may look luscious but the flavour is generally tart and ‘bland’. By contrast, the sun-warmed, sun-sweetened apricots from my little tree are incredibly sweet, even when they’re not completely ripe, and I’ve been eating them until they’re coming out of my ears!

Sadly, even my stomach has limits so this morning I stared long and hard at the 20 or so apricots left from the harvest. I tried drying the surplus last year, without much success, so what should I do with them this year?

I dismissed the idea of apricot jam without any hesitation; even I am not stupid enough to make that much of a mess for just 20 apricots. But what about compote? That would be quick and easy with minimal clean-up.

True, I thought, but compote will only last a couple of days in the fridge and I’m really sick of apricots….

Ah! But what about preserves? a sly little voice whispered in my ear.

Are you crazy? I scoffed. What do I know about preserving?

Nevertheless, a few minutes later I found myself typing ‘preserving apricots’ in Papa Google’s search box. That, eventually led to this:

apricot preserves

I’d like to say the process was simple and painless, but that would be a lie and I’m a nice girl. For starters, only one of the guides I read mentioned that it might be a good idea to have a specialist jar lifter on hand. For those not as au fait with this topic as moi -cough- a jar lifter looks like this:

jar lifter

As you can see, this nifty tool allows you to grip the lid of the boiling hot jar without burning yourself. The padded black bits on the feet [for want of a more technical term] stop the boiling hot glass from exploding when touched by a cold, metal implement.

Of course, I did not have a specialist jar lifter on hand, but I did know about hot glass and cold things, so I improvised with oven mitts like so:

apricots and oven mitts

[Don’t even think about doing this with multiple jars of preserves!]

I did manage to get the jar out of the boiling hot water without damaging it, or myself, but if I ever do this again, I will definitely invest in a jar lifter.

Another thing I might invest in is some proper, preserving equipment – like jars and lids. The jar I used originally contained Morello cherries, and I have no way of knowing if the seal still works. It looks as if it has worked as the lid has ‘sucked in’ a bit, but I still think we’ll be eating the apricots sooner rather than later. Just in case.

Once the jar was safely out of the pot, I wrapped it in a clean tea towel because another guide said to let the preserves cool down in a draft free place – again, to stop the temperature differences from damaging the jar…the kitchen…the cook….

And finally a word about the syrup. The first recipe I read called for a ratio of half-and-half for the syrup, i.e. half sugar, half water. Now to me, that would be unbearably sweet, and totally unnecessary as my home grown apricots are/were beautifully sweet already. That said, I wasn’t quite game to use plain water for the syrup, so I heated up 1/4 cup of organic demerara sugar with 2 cups of filtered water and let it boil for about a minute before taking it off the heat. As I was only preserving one jar of fruit, I ended up with about 1/3 of the syrup left over. I’ll update this post with the taste test once we’ve actually tried the preserves.:)

And now, as I’m still in a kitcheny mood, here’s an extra little bit about a wonderful gadget I was given as a gift by a foodie friend:

wusthof knife sharpener

Sorry to make you wait so long for an explanation of the title but I’m in a playful mood.

So. A knife sharpener, a German knife sharpener. What’s the big deal?

Let me start by saying that I have been sharpening kitchen knives since the days of the Wiltshire Staysharp scabbard – you know, the one where you sharpen the knife every time you push it into the scabbard, at least in theory. I also own one of those sharpening tools that butchers use. It looks good, but I’ve never used it because I don’t know how. More recently, The Offspring bought me a handy sharpener that actually does work, but I’m a little scared of sharpening myself with it so it doesn’t get used as often as it should. Net result: my knives spend most of their working lives being blunt.

Enter the Wüsthof.

I swear, I am not getting a commission or any kickbacks for this, but I have never used anything that worked as quickly and easily as this little beauty. The two grinding ‘wheels’ are labelled ‘coarse’ and ‘fine’ so I tried one of my kitchen knives on the coarse one first. I could feel the sharpener biting into the edge of the blade. After a couple of swipes I switched to the ‘fine’ grinding wheel and gave the knife a few more swipes. Then I tested it on a raw chicken drumstick.

Now I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to fillet a chicken drumstick, but it’s not easy. The shape is awkward and the meat lies snugly along the bone, making knife work difficult. But you should see how easy it is when you have a truly sharp knife! I’m just grateful I have a knife block in which to store my newly sharpened knife because I wouldn’t trust it loose in a drawer. Honestly, this thing is like a razor blade now!

So there you have it, some tips on preserving home-grown apricots [from a complete novice] and two gadgets that would be a welcome addition to any kitchen.





Caramelised belly pork with sour [Morello] cherries

With a heatwave forecast for the next three days, I thought it might be a good idea to cook dinner this morning, while everything was still nice and cool. So I did, and it turned out to be one of the yummiest recipes I’ve ever tried. Sadly I can’t post a photo because we ate it before I thought of taking one.

The idea for the recipe came from Aussie chef Kylie Kwong. She makes a delicious looking dish with bacon, red wine and cherries :

My version is a much simpler dish featuring fresh belly pork and sour cherries, two ingredients I almost always keep on hand.

Ingredients [for 2]

4 lean rashers of fresh belly pork :

belly pork

2 cups of sour, Morello cherries and [their] juice. They come in a jar like this and 2 cups will be approximately 2/3 of the jar :

morello cherries jar

1/4 cup raw sugar

2 cloves garlic [crushed]

1 fresh bay leaf or 2? dried ones

1/2 of a large white salad onion roughly sliced

salad onions

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1/2 teaspoon table salt


Mix all the ingredients of the ‘marinade’ in a baking dish just large enough to hold the meat. Arrange the pork in the marinade and spoon the cherries and onion mix over the top – i.e. you cook the pork in the marinade straight away.

Loosely cover the baking dish with foil and place in a moderate oven [approx 150 C] for about an hour.

[I don’t like the flavour of the bay leaf to be too overpowering so I removed it when I turned the meat – after about 1/2 an hour].

When the meat is tender, remove the foil and allow to bake for a further 1/2 an hour or until most of the juices have evaporated leaving a lovely, caramelised sauce over the meat.

Allow to stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving, or make ahead and refrigerate until needed.

[I made it ahead and heated it up for dinner…but only until the meat was just warm and the sauce sticky. Over cooking at this point could burn the whole dish].

The Offspring and I ate a small lettuce and avocado salad first, as a sort of entree. Then we ate the meat on its own. It was so rich we didn’t need anything else. I think this is going to become one of my favourite no-fuss dishes.








Paprikás krumpli betataster needed!

Hi guys. I’m just about to race off to work, but I thought I’d throw this at you before I go – can someone betataste this recipe for me please!

Paprikás krumpli [Literally potatoes with paprika]

This is probably one of my favourite examples of poor man’s food because it is so tasty and satisfying – and so cheap to make.
The basic recipe requires only chopped onion, oil [or lard], sweet paprika powder and potatoes. I usually dress it up a little with either bacon or chorizo, or both, but essentially the flavour just gets better the more you add. Just do not add tomatoes. That would take this dish right over into the realms of Italian food.

Basic Ingredients

1 medium onion
1 chorizo [optional]
3 tablespoons of good quality sweet paprika powder
3 large potatoes peeled and cut in 6ths [i.e. big but not too big]
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
3-4 tablespoons of peanut oil [or oil of your choice]
3 cups COI chicken soup [optional] or water


– Chop the onions, and cut the chorizo in bite-sized chunks. Gently saute both in the oil until the onion is translucent.
– Add the paprika powder, mix in and allow to cook for about 1 minute on low heat.

Before the liquid is added

Before the liquid is added

– Add the potatoes, stirring to coat each piece in the paprika mix. Allow to cook very gently for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. This step is important to get the flavour into the potato before it’s diluted with the liquid.
– Sprinkle with salt and add the soup or water. The liquid should just cover the potatoes.
– Stir and bring to the boil, then cover and lower the heat.
– Simmer until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened a little, and is a rich red in colour.

Serve this dish on its own with fresh crusty bread and a simple salad [traditional], or serve as the accompaniment to a ‘dry’, fairly bland meat.

Many thanks


Does my crepe look fat in this?

-grin- Sorry, couldn’t resist. However, I do genuinely want to know which of the following is the best picture of a crepe! I’ve just written up the crepe recipe for ‘How to eat well on $9.04’ and I want to include a picture of how my crepes turn out. And yes, I do apologise for the poor quality of the photos; I’m a cook not a photographer. 😦

Picture 1

crepes 1 smallPicture 2

crepes 2 smallPicture 3

crepes 3 small


I’m trying to show :

a)  How thin the crepes are,

b)  How you roll them up, and

c)  The ‘golden’ colour

And of course I’m aiming to do all that as clearly as possible. Please tell me which pic you think works best in comments. 

Thanks in advance, guys




Butterless, eggless chocolate cake – DELICIOUS!

One of the ladies I help teach brought in a chocolate cake today, and it was so moist and delicious we all asked for the recipe. I’m going to try it out on the weekend but I thought you guys might like to get the recipe now.

1 1/2 cup self raising flour (do not sift)
1/3 cup baking cocoa powder
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 teasp salt
Mix the above
Make a well, add
1 teasp vanilla essence
1 tabsp vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
Then gradually add a cup of water and mix gently till all is mixed.
Do NOT over mix.
Bake in a preheated oven 190 degrees celsius for 1/2 hour.
Do NOT over bake to maintain its moistness.

Nanki sprinkled icing sugar over the top and we had it for morning tea today. I kid you not, it was wonderful.



Lentil stew – a quick, home-alone recipe

The Daughter is away this weekend, so last night I indulged myself by cooking a lentil stew she hates! If there are other lentil haters out there, turn away now. 😀


1 plain Kransky sausage [or Chorizo or salami or even just a couple of rashers of bacon]

1 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 or 2 sad, leftover fresh tomatoes [optional]

1 x tin lentils

a pinch of cayenne [hot and optional]

1 tablespoon of oil [I use peanut or olive]


Slice the smoked whatever and gently saute in the oil.

While the meat is sautee-ing, finely chop the onion and add to the meat.

Allow the onions to cook for 5 minutes before adding the finely chopped garlic.

Allow the meat mixture to cook for another 5 minutes before stirring in the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes [if using] and the cayenne. Do NOT add salt as the cured meats are salty enough already.

Empty the tin of lentils into a colander and rinse under cold water before adding to the meat mix. Stir, add about 1/4 cup of water and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. If the stew gets too dry, or looks as if it might burn, add a little more water, but remember – this is a stew not a soup!

The longer you leave the stew simmering the better the flavour becomes, but if you’re very hungry you can serve up as soon as the fresh tomatoes have softened. Last night, total cooking time was about 1/2 an hour.

You can make steamed rice to go with the stew, or even mashed potatoes, but I just ate my quick stew with fresh, crusty white bread. It was delicious, and I had the added satisfaction of knowing I had well and truly had my fibre for the day. Better still, it was faster than getting takeaway, and cost next to nothing as I keep most of the ingredients on hand at all times. If you had to buy in the ingredients this stew might cost $6 – 7, tops.

Lentil stew will never be mistaken for haute cuisine, but if you don’t mind lentils, it will provide a hearty, delicious meal in a hurry.



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