The third Tuesday Night Cook Book Club


With an election imminent it was political journalist and TV and media personallity Annabel Crabb who with her long time friend Wendy Sharpe have written two cookbooks with which we can choose a recipe to prepare and share this month.  ‘Special Delivery’ was followed by ‘Special Guest.’

Previously I have cooked several recipes from both books but wanted to choose a new one as this is what it is all about.  Cooking or baking something new or otherwise the purpose is defeated.  I have cooked her pea and mint tartlets several times but I needed something new too especially with a glut of pastry already on the menu.  There was the Salmon and Fennel Pie and Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese Tarte Tatin.  I chose a (OK yet another) Bundt cake.  This time a Cherry and Ricotta one and because I wanted to I made a Chocolate Cloud cake with rose petals and pomegranite because one of the group restricts her gluten intake.

The highlight of the night was the Harira Soup.  In fact I could have just eaten a big bowl of this and be very contented.  Certainly it was cooked with love and better than I have ever had in Morocco.

Another joyful dish and beautifully presented in a lovely Middle Eastern inspired bowl was the Winter Tabbouleh.  Freshly prepared and delicious!  There were Glass Potatoes.

Next month I will be away on food trips in Turkey, Greece and Portugal but have suggested Rick Stein’s INDIA will be our cookbook for the month especially as two of the group already have this book so sharing is easier.

With the popularity and pleasure of wanting to join our night of feasting I might have to revamp the club especially as I am planning a spice inspired winter menu with Moroccan and Turkish food and maybe even a start a  vegetarian club.

Happy Noshing!

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Tuesday Night Cookbook Club 2

Our second night for my newly established cooking club rolled around very quickly and I think we were all excited to be catching up again though there was a slight problem in choosing a dish from the three cookbooks from the Monday morning cookbook club as there were too many fascinating recipes.

Although I had cooked a lot of the recipes out of all three books I wanted a new recipe so chose the  Custard Chiffon cake.  No one else was doing a dessert and no one I was sure had the special cake tin required!  Who else but me would have it…the queen of cakes tins (and cook books!)  After all my tin and book collection borders on extravagant!  The tin by the way does not need to be buttered and floured as the mixture needs to stick to the tin (there are a lot of whisked egg whites which makes it a light and airy and delicious.  Then when the cake is baked the tin must be tipped up side down and wait till it is completely cold before you extract it! Not for the novice or amateur baker.

But first things first:

  • Cabbage Rolls
  • A pumpkin and sweet corn salad with a tahini dressing
  • A Zucchini and cheese gratin
  • A Eggplant and Lamb dish.
  • Mujadara : rice and lentils with onions

And to start we had some smoked salmon blinis with homegrown horseradish sauce.

One would never have known that these dishes would complement a smorgasbord so well.  There always seems to be leftovers so we can all take home something for lunch the next day or freeze.  I was happy to offer my gorgeous chiffon cake.  More cake is something I don’t need but was happy to freeze some cabbage rolls and enjoyed some of the salad, ri and eggplant & lamb to take for work the following day.

Then of course the discussion for next month’s dinner and as we have an election looming I suggested well known and loved Annabel Crabb who along with her friend  Wendy Sharpe have written ‘Special Guest’ and ‘Special Delivery.’  Annabel has fed and interviewed many of the nation’s politicians and they are great recipes and interesting reads.  Can’t wait!


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What to do in Castlemaine for 48 hours



20190228_201437When friends from California told us they were planning to visit after attending a wedding in the Philippines I went into overdrive, especially when their first point of call was my new home town.  This happens to be an hour and half from Melbourne and they are keen foodies!

Chance would have it they booked an Airbnb centrally and it actually belonged to a good friend of mine having turned down offers of accommodation with me or my friend.

I met Stacy and Perry on a food tour in Sri Lanka a few years ago.  A year or so later we went on another food trip in North India.  I managed to spend a day with  them in San Francisco after a trip to Mexico and Cuba.

As they had flown in from Manila to Melbourne I knew they might be exhausted  (having to get up for their flight at 3 am) so I offered to prepare a platter of local goodies to share when they arrived at their Airbnb.  I wanted to showcase local products too – bread from Sprout bakery, prosciutto,  terrine and rillets from Oakwood smallgoods, Holy Goat cheese – a prize winning local goats cheese and some homemade chicken liver pate, home grown cherry tomatoes, pickled cucumber and red peppers.  Some quince paste and a mushroom paste completed the platter.  And in case they were still hungry a chocolate and red wine bundt cake and some homemade fudge.

With the stiffling hot weather I had made use of the Airbnb’s frig and added a six pack of Aussie beer and a bottle of local processio.  This meant they could have share some food and wine whilst relaxing and go to sleep when tiredness took over.

One of the things Stacy requested was a visit to the local Botanical Gardens where I am a regular visitor with my retired and rescued greyhound on her daily walk.  But before that we had to showcase some essential Aussie items and introduce our friends to some dinky die pastries in the form of a meat pie!  That only meant Johnny Baker which is a local institution renowned for its quality sweet and savoury products and a short walk.

We caught up with our other travelling friend and took a town tour to the local Vistor Center housed in a former market building which is a beautiful restored establishment.   Then onto the old goal, railway station and other historical buildings which are in demand for film crews to shoot movies and historical events.

Onto a little hole in the wall which serves the best Vietnamese noodles, ban mi and my favourite boas around.  These are authentic and I am totally addicted to their fresh products with their locally grown organic herbs and friendly service.  I would like to keep it a secret but it is called Superhero!  Right next door is another of the towns charming venues where we sampled Ice Cresm Social’s homemade and exciting icecream.  Here the hardest choice was which flavour! apricot and earl gray, strawberry and basil or my choice of sticky date and walnut.  And the second best part is you could have a tiny cone so you didn’t feel you were being greedy.  These were delicious and already I felt I had gained a few kilos…but hey all that walking was beneficial!

Perry is a keen home beer brewer so I knew that on their last night in town we had to take him to the local craft beer venue which fortunately was just around the corner from their Airbnb.  As I am not a beer drinker I had to leave it up to him to choose his tasting plate…. a selection of locally brewed beers with everything from lime and coconut, to hemp flavoured, to raspberry and even coffee.  A  paddle of beers gives you a tasting of four different beers.  Local wine and cidar were on offer too and we were fortunate to have a local guitarist provide some entertainment.  Pizza was on offer too…excellent crisp base with a choice of meat, vegetarian, and vegan toppings.  Friendly staff…almost like your local pub with a difference.  I hoped they enjoyed it as much as I do.

How fortunate we are to have these great food options providing quality products  sourced locally whenever possible.  But we may to keep quiet about it! Our own secret.  We don’t want to taken over by city folks!

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Guildford Winery long lunch

A place always on the to-do list when family and friends come to visit is a lunch at the Guildford Winery.  This windery is situated just a few kilometers out of the small town of Guildford on the road to Daylesford.

Lunch in a vineyard is always special when it serves its own wine whilst enjoying the views across the wines, watching the lambs searching for food in competition with the kangaroos.

But I chose this winery to take our visiting American friends as they live close to the Sonoma wine area of California.  I love the venue as it is rustic and low key.  But we have come for the food and share plates are order of the day starting with freshly baked sourdough with local olive oil.  Labna with pickled beet, radish and cucumber and dukkah was a starter along with a humous served with caramelised onions, toasted sesame oil and seeds.  This was a great combination.  The fava slice was a particularly popular one with roasted coriander though my favourite was the thinly sliced beef cheek withh pickled red onion.  So rich and delicious.

And wait there is more.  The plates just kept on coming with chicken wrapped in chardonnay vine leaves and the best heirloom tomato salad with an accompanying roasted corn and bulgar salad and some dressed greens.  A salad with grilled banana chillies was so flavoursome with cucumber and rocket.

Dessert always a favourite of mine was a Persian love cake with pistachios and a roasted plum from the chef’s mothers garden and cream.  A perfect ending to an exciting lunch.

Wine was available by the glass or bottle.  I chose a sparkling rose whilst my friends enjoyed a shiraz and another a locally brewed beer.  Tea and Coffee were also available and wine could be purchased to take away.

A lovely way to spend a relaxing afternoon enjoying locally grown produce served beautifully.  Have already booked another lunch when another visitor is in town.  Cant wait!


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Situation Dining x Day’s Walk Farm x Cultivar Fine Wines


An invitation to an eight course degustation vegetarian lunch from Situation Dining with quality Chilean wine from Cultivar Fine Wines at Day’s Walk Farm near Keilor just outside Melbourne was just too hard to pass up.  And especially with a designated driver where busses, trains and Uber’s were too difficult to arrange.

Day’s Walk Farm is an organic farm with wonderful fertile soil and views across besutiful farming land.  So an hour and a half down the Calder freeway from Castlemaine we were greeted with a refreshing grappa with lemon and cucumber cocktail and delicious tomato gougeres with fromage frais and sourdough blini with zucchini blossom.  We were welcomed by Paul Miragliotta who showed us over the property and explained the growing method of the organics with his small scale farming.  I think we all had vegetable envy at the healthy plants especially the eggplant which happens to be a favourite of mine.  The tomatoes were perfect too.

Lunch was served outdoors at a lovely long table near beautiful gum trees beside the  Maribyrnong River and was prepared by former The Good Table chef and restaurateur, Alex Perry.  He now operates Situation Dining.  We were treated with:

Raw Zucchini Salad with Shallot Foam, Lemon, Shallot Chips

Tomato Souffle, Black Cherry Vinegar, Fennel Pollen

Rotolo of Pink Fur Apple Potatoes, Mint and Ricotto with Butter, Sage (my favourite.. I think I could have eaten  plate of this)

Lacto Fermented Beetroot, Garlic Puree, Brioche, Green Coriander Seed

Golden  Nugget Pumpkin,  Walnut and Sourdough Crumble, Artichoke Stamen Curd

Layered Eggplant Pie, Buffalo Mozzarella, Purslane Sauce.  Fresh sourdough was a great addition to mop up the juices and sauces.

and finally the amazing

Holy Goat and Clove Blancmange, Mulberry Curd, Anise Biscuit.

The wines were imported from Chile and were produced from vines some of which were over 200 years.  The reds were served slightly chilled which on a very warm day were especially pleasant.  I purchased a bottle of the 2018 Pipeno Pais to take interstate to celebrate the engagement of my eldest son. Need an excuse to visit Chile.  Think I have just found another one!

PS…During the lunch service I was also impressed with the care in which guests with special needs were treated.  Dairy free, gluten free, vegan and even a guest who was allergic to onion were treated with respect.  I take it for granted how fortunate I am that I can eat anything!

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Tuesday Night Cookbook Club

It was just an idea! To combine my monthly bookclub with my wine appreciation course!  Meet with like minded people who enjoy good food and meet once a month to bring a plate of home cooked food to share from a favourite cook book! 

Having moved from Sydney to Castlemaine a few years ago I missed those local cafes serving a variety of cuisines where one can meet up with family and friends any night of the week where one can pick up a bottle of wine at the bottle shop or if you are lucky enough your own personal cellar.

I chose ‘Simple’ from Ottolenghi and I asked around.  No money would change hands.  Bring a bottle of something to enjoy if wanted and I would supply chilled flavoured mineral water.  The only requirement ….the desire to try a new dish…a little out of ones comfort zone to bring and share with five other people.  Bring it warm or room temperature!

Finding five enthusiasts was easy and I chose a Tuesday night.  I checked to see we did not have five cheese cakes or three tomato salads.  We had two desserts and a brilliant array of dishes from ‘Simple’.  They were all vegetarian although this wasn’t a prerequisite and ranged from

  • Roasted baby carrots with harissa and pomegranate;
  • Burrata with grilled red grapes and basil;
  • Cauliflower, pomegranate and pistachio salad;
  • 5 spice peach and raspberry salad;
  • Baked rice with confit tomatoes and garlic.
  • There was beet, caraway and goat cheese bread.

Dessert was

  • cake with hazelnut, peach and raspberries
  • and a delightful rhubarb and strawberry custard.

Yes!  All so delicious and I think as I was going to bed that I had eaten too much!

Next month we agreed that the Monday Morning Cooking Club books would be on the table and I am particularly excited as I have been to a cooking demonstration by these women.  They..I think they were six of them started meeting on a ….Monday morning to cook and bake recipes from their relatives to keep the food alive.  Then they started telling stories of how the food evolved all over the world.  So the books…there are now three with a fourth planned not only have recipes but have a history too.  And the fourth one is going to be on sweet things!  Until next month….goodbye from the first Tuesday Night cookbook club.

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Keeping it Simple

After the indulgances of December and baking like a mad woman I decided that for January I was not going to use the oven.  And with soaring temperatures over 40 degrees or 105 in Fahrenheit there was a good reason.  Keep it cool as well as simple.

And that meant salads and simple pasta and rice dishes.  Mostly vegetarian but with some small additions of bacon or anchovies to ramp up the flavour.  Some cheese of course..where would life be without cheese and lots of fresh herbs.  Fortunately my garden provides abundant herbs….parsley, mint, basil, rosemary, thyme, and sage.  If only I had a lemon tree I would be in heaven though fortunately cat sitting for my next door neighbour provides a supply from their profolic tree in the city.

The first one was a simple carrot salad from one of my Christmas gift cook books which came from ‘The little Swedish Kitchen’ from Rachel Khoo.  She has recently moved to Sweden after marrying a Swede.  I spent many months in Sweden in my more youthful days and was familiar with most of her ingredients.  The addition of dill …a firm favourite herb in Sweden and capers with a pickled red onion gave it a really nice kick.  I grated the carrot instead of making matchsticks.  This also keeps well and has a addition of feta or as I used goats cheese.  I have also made this with beetroot.  A marriage made in heaven with the dill and I have to say this keeps well and is quite filling and one feels so virtusous eating a large dose of colourful vegetables. I am looking forward to trying more of the salad recipes too Poached chicken with quickly picked strawberry salad’ sounds interesting and a more substantial one of Midsummer salad sounds heavenly.

This recipe came from The Age Good Food section of the Tuesday paper more recently.  Again simple and delicious.  It was actually in an article about cooking something really nice when you are on holiday or in an airbnb with limited cooking equipment.  Large handfuls of freshly cooked green beans with currants…I added some pomegranate molasses.  Ricotta salata or salted and preserved lemon finely chopped added flavour.

I borrowed a recipe from Lorraine Elliott’s blog (@notquitenigella) for a pasta recipe with canned tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, capers, olives, chilli.  Simple but delicious.  Freeze leftovers and serve with parmesan using whatever dried pasta you prefer.  Thank you Lorraine.  One could ramp it up with some chopped up chorizo and leftover sausuage pork and fennel sausage

Zucchini and ricotta is a great match especially with lemon rind, garlic and some chilli or spice and makes a healthy pasta dish.  Leftovers on toasted sourdough is delicious.

Some organic beetroot….both orange and the more traditional colour when grated makes a delicious addition to risotto especially with a dollop of creme fraise or ricotta. Perfect to take to work the next day for lunch too.  I like to use leek instead of onion in a risotto as it has a more delicate flavour and a generous glug of dry white leftover from the weekend.

I am slowly working through my way through some of the recipes from my newest cook book from Christmas ‘ Simple’ from Yotam Ottolenghi.  I could not believe how delicious how his hot roasted tomatoes with lemon flavoured chilled Greek yogurt could be.  Simply delicious.  And speaking of tomatoes as we are in the middle of summer I made the Tomatoes with sumac onions and pinenuts from Simple.  So  tasty and with my haul from the Castlemaine Farmers Market at the weekend I made a Courgette, thyme and walnut salad.

Recently I read that Ottolenghi would take lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper if he went to a desert island or simply staples!  A lemon actually is on the cover of his latest book.  I wonder what ingredients you would take to a desert island!


And so the salads of summer contnues….

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