Saturday, 22 December 2012


From time to time, there are moments when I reflect on how far I've come with my cooking in terms of general skill and confidence levels. Reading over my first posts from 6 months ago, I started GC really as a bit of laugh; mainly as a way to keep up my writing. But also because I thought it might be interesting to share my journey from amateur to domestic artiste. As such projects tend to fall by the wayside quickly, I'm genuinely suprised that I've managed to keep it up for this long...and how much I've learned along the way!

Anyway, consider this my first 'milestone' - tonight I made a very delicious soba noodle recipe that did not suck at all! I adore Japanese food but after some disastrous first attempts (one particularly ghastly fried rice that tasted like nothing but salt and soy sauce sticks in my mind - I knew the game was over when my boyfriend started searching for a tomato sauce bottle) I basically gave up. 

The tough part is balancing the delicate salty, sweet and sour flavours which make Japanese food so unique. My advice: find a credible recipe, follow it to an absolute tee, and you won't be disappointed. Instead of rice, I decided soba (buckwheat) noodles would make a nice change, and found a recipe for sesame-ginger soba noodles at Olives for Dinner.

So compared to OFD, my version looks a liiiiitle rough around the edges; but the most important part is that it wasn't too salty! What I loved was the light, fresh, gingery taste and that it can be served hot or cold. If you prefer things a little spicier, mix through a teaspoon of wasabi paste before serving.

Sesame - Ginger Soba Noodles (a la Olives for Dinner)
- 1 serving of soba noodles
- 2-3 sliced spring onions
- 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon of mirin
- 1/2 teasopoon of rice wine vinegar
- Steamed/raw vegetables of your choice (I used cucumber strips and pickled ginger)

Heat the sesame oil in a pan over low heat. Saute the spring onions for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high. When it has sizzled for about a minute, add the mirin then reduce heat back down to low. Add the soy sauce and vinegar and stir to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.

In another saucepan, bring plenty of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles for 4 minutes. When they're ready, strain and toss the sauce through the noodles.

Not complete without a liberal sprinkling of furikake (Japanese rice seasoning).

Thursday, 13 December 2012


When I win Lotto, I've decided that I'm opening up my own salad bar in the CBD. Watch your back Sumo Salad..

- Half a butternut pumpkin
- Baby spinach leaves
- Toasted walnuts (or pine nuts if you prefer)
- 50g raisins
- 100g feta (Danish or Greek)
- 1/4 spanish onion, chopped

For the dressing: A drizzle of olive oil, two teaspoons of dijon mustard and two tablespoons of honey (plus salt and pepper to season). Mix together well with a fork.

Peel and chop the pumpkin into small chunks. Boil for 5-7 minutes in a medium sized saucepan, until tender but not mushy. Drain and once cool, combine the remaining salad ingredients.



Due to an incredibly hectic schedule at this point in the year I've found it almost impossible to get in some blog time. I also went through some interesting issues with my laptop, which decided to get amnesia and wipe its own memory clean :( (lucky I'd already backed up my holiday photos) Still, now things have settled a little and I have a somewhat fixed computer, no more excuses! This is a Greek inspired plate which photographed beautifully and tasted even better. In the process I learned to execute a sweet new trick- how to candy (or is it candify?) walnuts.

- 1 brown onion, chopped
- 400g chicken mince
- 2 teaspooons harissa paste (a Middle Eastern chilli/spice blend, available at most gourmet/specialty stores)
- 2 teaspoons of crushed garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
- Salt and pepper
- Melted butter and lemon juice, to baste
- You'll also need some wooden skewers on hand

- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup raw brown sugar
- Baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 chopped red onion
- 1 red capsicum, cut into strips

- 200g natural unflavoured yogurt, mixed with 2 teaspoons of chopped mint

For the koftas (can be prepared early and left in the fridge until you're ready to grill):
First, soak your skewers in water so they won't burn later on. Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic together until soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Place the chicken mince a large bowl, then add in the garlic/onion mix. Season with salt and pepper, then add the harissa and cumin.
Next, start shaping small handfuls of the mixture into walnut sized balls. It's vital here to err on the side of caution and make them a tad smaller (as opposed to football sized) because you want them to grill nicely all the way through. Thread the balls onto a skewer.
Heat oil in a grill plan until very hot, then cook the skewered koftas for about 10 minutes, turning them over at intervals. Once they're golden brown, baste with the melted butter and lemon juice and continue to grill for another 5 minutes or so.

For the salad:

Candied walnuts are absurdly simple, provided you're confident to work quickly with boiling sugar. First I break the walnuts up into smaller pieces and toast in the oven until done (check every few minutes to ensure they don't burn). The ratio is approximately 1/2 cup nuts to 1/4 cup of sugar, so if you want to make more then just double up the quantities. Pour the sugar into a medium sized saucepan with a thick bottom. Cook sugar on a medium heat, stirring continously until it's melted completely and amber coloured. When it hits this point, add in the toasted nuts. Stir vigorously to coat them, then once they're completely coated, tip the contents of the saucepan onto a pre-prepared tray linked with baking paper. The sugar will start to cool rapidly and harden. The final touch is a sprinkling of sea salt which lends a great salted caramel flavour.

The rest of the salad is very easy. Drizzle olive oil over the capsicum strips and roast in the oven on 180 degrees for about 35-40 minutes, until soft. Combine in a large salad bowl with the baby spinach, onion and garnish with the candied walnuts.

Serve up the salad, koftas, with yogurt dressing and cous cous.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


GC is back! After six weeks behind the (former) Iron Curtain, it seems a bit weird to start off with a Spanish themed post. but recently inspired by Caravan Dreams' recipe for potato and chorizo croquettes, and wanting to make the most of a summery October evening, I decided to put on a tapas night. it's great fun sharing a few tapas plates and some chilled rosé with friends, and it challenges you to go beyond the run-of-the-mill "snags and buns" barbie and think outside the box - the only limit is your enthusiasm and creative flair!

- Roasted beetroot dip
- Fried chickpea salad
- Potato and chorizo croquettes
- Chocolate dipped strawberries (made by the lovely Miss Margeaux)

And of course an assortment of hors d'oeuvres courtesy of Coles (to sustain myself with whilst cooking)


According to Google, there's 1001 different ways to make this but I kept it very simple and stuck to three basic ingredients:
- 4 medium sized beetroots
- Creme fraiche
- Dill

Set the oven to pre-heat on 180 degrees and while warming, peel and dice the beetroots into cubes. Transfer to a baking dish (lined with baking paper to avoid annoying beet stains) Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil and season well with sea salt. Roast the beets for 40 minutes, then remove from the oven to cool.
Once cooled to room temp, get your food processor and whizz up the beets (you may need to do this in batches) and some chopped dill. Transfer to a bowl. Mix through the creme fraiche until the beetroot is completely mixed through - and voila, your dip should now be flamingo pink! Garnish with sprigs of dill and chopped walnuts, to serve.


A very easy and tasty side salad.
- Spinach leaves
- Sun dried tomatoes
- Red onion
- Canned chickpeas (400g)
- Sea salt and smoked paprika

Drain the chickpeas and set aside in a colander to dry (or if you don't have time to wait, dry them between some paper towels) Combine the first three ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. When the chickpeas are completely dry in a large frying pan. VERY carefully transfer the chickpeas to the hot oil - at this point they may start popping like corn, and if this happens turn the heat down and move away. Oil burns are not fun :(
After 6-7 minutes in fryer remove the chickpeas with a slotted spoon to a plate. Season well with sea salt and smoked paprika, and once cooled off add them to the salad. A bit of balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top to finish and you're done!


You can find Caravan Dreams' recipe here!

And the rest...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


In one week, GC will be taking a break while the blog mistress heads overseas for some R&R.

Can you guess where I'm going?

That's right - Russia! Home of caviar, St Basil's cathedral and the iconic babushka doll.

What's not to love about a country where vodka is served by outrageously good looking people in fur hats?
Also featuring on the itinerary is Ukraine, Poland and the Czech Republic. I was quite excited to find out a cooking class is included during our stay in the Carpathian Mountains in the Ukraine.

I'm hoping it's as great as last year's lesson in Sarajevo. At the guesthouse we stayed in, the lady of the house taught us one evening to make dolma. I adore dolma! They're any vegetables you can stuff with filling- tomato, pepper, eggplant, onion, zucchini, vine leaves, squash...

It's simple - make the filling by mixing together mince, rice and spices.
Then stuff your chosen vegetables with the mix. Arrange in a baking dish, cover with warm water and olive oil, and simmer for 20 minutes.
(Obviously this is a simplified version, I suggest SBS Food's recipe if you intend making them)
No meal is truly complete without a cup of Bosnian coffee
View from my window <3 Sarajevo

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Inspired by a similar recipe on Gourmet Traveller and wanting to use up the maple syrup leftover from my "vegetarian roast" (recipe to come) I decided that over the weekend I would try making a pie. Now, I've never baked a pie or even made pastry dough before. So, for a virgin pie-maker, it was a fairly ambitious escapade. Here's why: making a decent dough is something that comes with a lot of practice, a lot of trial/error and (deep breath) a lot of patience. You will swear lots, possibly cry and consider throwing in the towel a number of times. Don't - perseverance pays off, and no matter how munted or lopsided the pie looks, it'll taste great, trust me! 

The Gastronomically Challenged Guide to Pecan and Maple Pie

4 eggs
150gm brown sugar
150gm chopped up pecans
200ml real maple syrup (no "maple flavoured' imitations)
60gm melted butter
about 1/3 cup flour
20ml Cointreau
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup of plain flour (sifted)
1/3 cup brown sugar
90gm cold butter
1 egg yolk
1 tsp sea salt

There's four steps to master: making the pastry, rolling it out, blind baking and filling.

Step one: process the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add butter and process until fine crumbs form. Add the egg yolk - at this point I felt that the dough was a bit dry so I added a splash of water to help it form. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form into a disc. I left it wrapped in plastic in the fridge overnight (apparently its OK to store this way for up to 3 days.) Otherwise let it rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours before baking.

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees. Grease a pie dish or tart tin with oil. Roll out the pastry - Gourmet Traveller suggested 3mm as a guideline. I kind of ignored this and rolled it to my own specifications. Big mistake. The pastry was WAY too thick.
You can either to roll it out on a floured surface or between sheets of cling wrap (which stops the roller from sticking). Typically,  my dough stuck to the cling film instead, but I managed to get it in the dish in (more or less) one piece. Trim any excess from the edges.
**NB: Put it back in the fridge to chill while making the filling. The last thing you want happening is for the butter to melt.

Whisk the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl, then whisk in the maple syrup, melted butter, flour, Cointreau, spices and vanilla essence and a pinch of salt. Stir in the pecans - now your filling is ready to go. 

Remember how earlier I stressed the importance of paper-thin dough? The next stage, blind baking, means you pre-bake the crust to a hard, crispy shell before adding the filling. To blind bake you need baking paper and some weights. Naturally the weights will prevent the pastry from rising. Pie weights (ceramic balls that serve literally no other purpose) are sold by most kitchenware suppliers but dry rice/beans work just fine. Make sure you put a circle of baking paper between the pastry and the weights.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the pastry is a light golden colour, then remove the weights and bake for a further 8-10 minutes.
Unfortunately for me, carelessness = partially cooked/partially raw dough :(. My pastry looked like this post-blind baking (after I literally landscaped out the chunky, uneven parts with a knife.) 
Reduce the oven to 160 degrees. Pour the filling into the pastry case. Bake at 160 degrees for 40 minutes until golden and set. Cool the pie (preferably on a window sill) and enjoy.

We ate the whole thing. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


They might have shown us that they can put on a cracking Olympics, but England isn't exactly the first place which springs to mind for having an appealing national cuisine. In terms of variety, flavour or health consciousness. If anything, they have an abysmal success rate on such lists.

But there are two things I LOVE about the Brit's and their attitude towards food. One: their liberal application of the term 'pudding' to a range of dishes both savoury and sweet (Yorkshire pudding, black pudding, bread pudding, et al) Two: thinly veiled sexual innuedo (spotted dick, toad in the hole and many others that SOUND dirty but actually aren't) - which is also a succinct description of British humour from the Edwardian era up to the present day. As both my parents hail from the land of the crisp sandwich, British food is something I've grown up with and as it were, over the years something I've become almost nostalgically fond of. It's heavy, stodgy and completely unpretentious.

In defence of British food, here is my personal recipe for a dessert which utterly typifies these three things. Actually, my version is a bit pretentious cos I use Cointreau and fancy dark chocolate. Eat yo heart out Nigella.

Prep time 20 minutes, baking 40 minutes

8 – 10 slices of raisin bread or fruit loaf
1/3 cup sultanas
dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
3 eggs
300 ml pouring (thin) cream
300 ml milk
1 orange (for zest)
Brown sugar

First, soak the sultanas in Cointreau for 15 minutes and preheat your oven to 170C. Then combine the eggs, cream, milk, orange zest, vanilla and a few tablespoons of Cointreau in a bowl. Whisk thoroughly and set aside.
Butter the bread, cut off the crusts and halve lengthways like you’re making sandwiches. Layer slices over an ovenproof baking dish, scattering sultanas and dark chocolate pieces between each layer. '
Pour mixture evenly over the bread slices and stand for 15 minutes, until the mixture is completely absorbed. Scatter brown sugar over top of the pudding and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven up to 180c and bake for an additional 10 minutes. 

When it’s ready, the pudding should be golden and the custard firm. Serve warm with ice cream.  

Friday, 10 August 2012


It's no secret that the humble chickpea is popular all over the world. I'd call them nature's 'blank canvas' because they're incredibly versatile and with a bit of creativity can make an outstanding curry, stew, soup, salad or dip. Traditionally served in pita bread and sold as street food, felafel is the Middle Eastern term for ground and deep fried chickpeas. These burgers are a protein-filled, vego-friendly dinner/BBQ option. Better still, for the pantry hoarders out there (you know who you are) you now have a reason to use those "emergency" canned beans before they expire after months of collecting dust.

Makes 4

400g chickpeas
50g toasted pine nuts
1 onion, diced very finely
1 carrot, grated
1/2 lime (zest and juice)
2 tspoons of cumin
2 tspoons of grounder coriander
salt and pepper

Drain the chickpeas and whizz through a food processor to a fine, crumbly paste. Set aside in a large bowl and repeat step #1 with the toasted pine nuts.

Mix in the vegetables, seasoning, lime zest and juice.
It should now look like this: 
Whisk an egg and add a few spoonfuls. The purpose of this step is to add "bind" to the dry mix so you can form patties. A few recipes I came across didn't mention adding egg, but without some element of stickiness you will have a hard time stopping the burgers from falling apart in the frying pan.

Now, by hand you can form the mix into burgers. Dust them with flour.
Heat 1cm of oil in a pan and fry on each side for 4-5 minutes.
Assembly of burger:

Monday, 6 August 2012


Spectacular is a word I don't throw around lightly, but this is one of those rare instances where it's almost an understatement. Meeka Restaurant, tucked away on a quiet Subi corner, is a Perth 'must-try'. I'm almost annoyed at myself for not having found it sooner!
Meeka have really nailed their niche, and there was nothing on the Saturday evening we dined there that that could fault the experience. Like, at all. The food is a Middle Eastern/Moroccan-Australian fusion, with a section of the menu devoted to tajines - spice enriched stews. The menu is quite diverse but we finally settled on the stuffed dates and duck pastries to start, before moving on to baked eggplant and a lamb tajine for mains.
Everything was presented beautifully and executed with finesse. Patterned crockery and ceramic tajines were a nice flourish, without that kitschy/contrived feeling you sometimes get at 'themed' establishments.

Dates stuffed with cheese and almonds
Duck pastries
Tajine vessel
Baked eggplant stuffed with cheese, nuts and prunes

I have to compliment the staff on the service - it was attentive and helpful but not overbearing. The eggplant was cooked to perfection - I love eggplant and the balance of the creamy house-made cheese and candied walnuts was delectable. It's obvious that someone has put a lot of thought and consideration into every menu item.
Even at restaurants normally I skip dessert, but so far highly impressed, decided to give Meeka the benefit of the doubt..

We were not disappointed.

Turkish delight stuffed doughnuts - pistchio ice cream - fairy floss
Dark chocolate mulberry tart with a gold leaf garnish
Meeka seems like a great place to go with friends and share a few plates/tajines - enough variety here to satisfy customers of all palates, from the cautious to the intrepid. There's even a glossary in the menu to help patrons decipher traditional ingredients like za'tar and kataifi.

Meeka Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, 3 August 2012


No recipe this time, but a question: what’s the strangest/most adventurous/outlandish food you've tried?
Offal (which is confusingly also called ‘sweetbreads’) generally takes out first place on the oddity radar in Australia, where prime cuts are a national obsession and the average Aussie probably consumes all the leftover parts blissfully unaware, in bakery items disguised heavily with sauce.

I'm on to you, Mrs Mac.
Anyway, I didn’t start this just to slag off our cultural icons (though I did learn that the Food Standards code requires a pie to be at least 25 percent meat to be legally sold as such). My memorable offal moment happened earlier this year when Greenhouse were serving ‘brain nuggets’ – a.k.a deep fried lamb’s brains. My boyfriend, along for the ride as always, gamely choked one down. The burghul they came with helped texturally, but the best description I could use to describe how they tasted is grey. And soft. And well..brainy.

Definitely not something I’d be hurrying back to again, though well worth the experience for sh*ts and giggles (as they say), also to pat ourselves on the back later for sampling brains.

Entrails, intestines, pate, blood pudding you rate them as gourmet or garbage?