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Where have I been?

chicken kiev

I’ve been in 70s, researching the feasibility of pine as a material for constructing kitchen cupboards. Fortunately, an eddy in the space-time continuum opened up due to the Large Hadron Collider allowed me to return to the present. Anyway they’ve got these things called Chicken Kiev and if you mash up a couple finely minced garlic cloves with some sage thyme and parsley and a splash of tabasco into some butter and then insert it into a pocket made with a boning knife in a chicken breast, then dust, egg, and crumb; brown in a pan and finish in a hot oven – then you’ll have it.
Cook the veges in any leftover garlic butter.
We’re using panko.


First in a series of recipe cards from around the world - the souffle

Keith Floyd – he’s alive! ALIVE!! Sure we were curious as to what happened to that large boulder and were dead impressed when he offered us to pop our fingers in the wounds all the while casually emptying a couple of bottles of Pouilly Fume but really we were just happy to have him back. What we really liked about him (apart from being the only person apart from Mark Oliver Everett that can wear a bowtie and not look like a berk) was his humanity. A weakness for booze, rubbish at finances, and a deep and sincere need to be loved. He also had the improbably rock star name shared with greats such as Keith Richards, Keith Moon and Keith Urban.

So the Keith Floyd tribute dinner of Smoked Trout and Cucumber Souffle with Rice Pudding based on second-hand Cornish scuttlebutt was not so much a time for mourning but celebrating. He had, much more so than my souffle, risen. While the miracle of birth is one thing; forgetting what it was like being a kid and being genuinely surprised when you actually woke up is another; it’s to have, to lose and to get back that’s the real trick.

Here’s his Real Rice Pudding recipe – it’s simple so don’t skimp on the vanilla pod, the milk or the cream. It’s an unseemly luxury for its simplicity.

3tbs short-grain rice; 600ml full cream milk; 1 vanilla pod; 25gm caster sugar; 150ml of double cream – whipped until softly peaky

Bring all the ingredients, except for the cream, to the boil and then put in an ovenproof dish with a lid and cook at 150˚C for 2 hours. Remove the pod, allow to cool slightly and then fold in the cream.


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Cowboy Pie

cowboy pie

Sure it’s not your ‘Gordon Bleu’ but when Toni comes back at t minus three weeks and wants shepherds pie even though its in the mid- thirties, then it gets made. Unfortunately she bought beef mince which means its technically cowboy pie. Traditionally you would make it using leftover roast lamb or mutton and wiggle your eyebrows lasciviously every time you said ‘Shepherds Pie’.
There’s no particular magic in the recipe here – just the usual ragout principle of cooking the liquids out before adding new ones. Lightly brown the mince, then add some chopped mushrooms to soak up the liquids. Add some rosemary thyme and pepper. Then cook out a good splash of leftover white wine. Add some kidney beans and a jar of tomato cooking sauce and simmer until reduced. You want to be able to eat it with a fork but at the same time have some gravy to latch onto the mash. Season to taste.
Meanwhile boil the spuds, mash and then stir in a mixture of hot milk and butter. Spoon over the top of the ragout. I just used the cast iron pan I cooked the ragout in. If you use a spoon, you can tease up little peaks like on a meringue.
Brown off in the oven.
Don’t slack off on the salt – it likes it. Them’s good eatin’!

FOR TRAGICS: Name that cast iron pan.

OTHER SHEPHERD’S PIE THOUGHTS: If you get Supergrass’s “In it For The Money” Bonus CD there’s a bit that deadpans “A year’s supply of shepherd’s pie” which I just really like and it makes me laugh just thinking about it.
Funnily enough, in Zappa’s similarly titled “We’re Only in It for the Money” there’s also a deadpanned “Creamcheese”. Admittedly Creamcheese isn’t a pie but it does feature in cheesecake which is similar to pie. Did you know Lincoln was riding in a Kennedy?

pineapple holder

A lot of people underestimate the power of a little presentation to turn food, into an occasion, not me.

PS If you anyone can fabricate a bar-sized version of this – mail me with a quote.

got your prawn f*cking cocktail

1970’s Women’s Weekly Cookbook vs the Country Women’s Association cookbook in a battle royale for Saturday night’s dinner party. I only wished I’d dressed up for it.

Sheer flash of 70’s luxury item, the prawn cocktail, outmuscled by Jo’s simply amazing you will rarely have anything in your life this good CWA Lancashire hotpot. Brandied potatoes accompanied, as did a country loaf with knife on table.

lancashire hotpot

Fun had by all, mysterious new transitional dimension posited for Eurovision song contest between taking the piss and completely sincere. Difficult to grasp for most as both can’t simultaneously be conceived at the same time by anglophones.

Official Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook Cocktail Sauce

2 tbs of tomato sauce; 1 dessertspoon white vinegar; 1 dessertspoonful worcestshire sauce; few drops of tabasco; 1/2 teaspoon mustard; 2 tbs lightly whipped cream.

Also: I have the best cleaver ever. More later.

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Daddy, what does regret mean?
Well son, the funny thing about regret is,
It’s better to regret something you have done,
Than to regret something you haven’t done.
And by the way, if you see your mom this weekend,
Be sure and tell her, SATAN, SATAN, SATAN!!!

Sweatloaf. And from sweatloaf to meatloaf and from meatloaf to meatcake and from meatcake to, well it stopped there. A kilo of meat plus odds and ends was a bit much for my loaf tins so I thought I’d use my German cake tin that I’ve used for everything but german cakes – I’ve also used a camp (oooh I say) oven to catch sump oil and an eggbeater to impersonate a Dalek. Can’t remember its exact name, it’s kind of like a bundt cake tin but without the hole, which in itself is a kind of structural double negative – the absence of the presence of an absence. Regrettably, meatloaf both shrinks and, funnily enough, sweats when cooking, so there’s no ornate detailing of meat for you to marvel at. Ideally, you’d need a kind of meat that expands with heat and then contracts with cooling for easy removal. One for the boffins.

I make a good meatloaf and this is based upon scribbling down a recipe 15 years ago. The use of cream is the kicker but I was surprised how parsimoinous the herb amounts are. A tablespoon of fresh parsley, half a teaspoon of thyme and chilli powder – all in 1.5kg of meat. This is the princess and the pea territory.

500gm of beef mince, 500gm of pork mince, 1 cup of breadcrumbs, 1 onion and two cloves of garlic – finely chopped and sauteed, 1 cup of cream, 2 tbs of parsely, 1 tbs of basil, 1 tbs of thyme, splash of tabasco, and freshly ground pepper.

Mix it all together and place in a lightly greased hole-less bundt cake tin and pack tight. I’ve also placed two whole boiled eggs and some small button mushrooms for extra effect. Smooth over, place a couple of bay leaves on top, and cover with strips of bacon. Place in the baking tray filled with hot water and cook in a 180C oven for 90 minutes.

Serve with a creamy mushroom sauce and decorate with baby zucchini to resemble an ahm creamy corolla.

Delightful. And surplus amounts allow for that most excellent of treats, the cold meatloaf sandwich.


Sinful. Unless it refers to torturing chickens to save a few cents off the price of an egg (and I’m not sure that actually is a sin), it’s a naff word to use in regards to food. And if a supercreamy tapioca pudding is someone’s idea of a ticket to their own circle of hell then we all have much to worry about. Actually I’m sure the high point of my own stygian repose would be being able to listen to wails of “But Lord, it was but one Milky Bar!” as they reached up to a particularly smug group of lactose intolerants. The circles of dairy hell are:

low-fat milk
havarti cheese
cafe latte
prurient thoughts regarding milkmaids
600ml choc-milk
whipping cream
chocolate mousse
double cream
double brie
triple brie
Nestle Infant Formula

Anyway tapioca, in the hunt for a recipe sometimes you think it’d been invented by ‘Grandma’ who had a prediliction for jello and cool whip (They still talk about it in Normandy). The others involve eggs and I don’t remember tapioca involving eggs. Well there’s a recipe
here, that’s merged it with zabaglione,hence the marsala, and that made sense. I also learnt what ‘half and half’ is when it’s not half lager, half ale. I substituted vanilla and port for the marsala

– soak 1/3 cup baby tapioca pearls for two hours, drain
– add to 2.5 cups of half cream and half milk and bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Stirring often with a whisk (or constantly if you can be bothered and you’ve got a heater and a telly in the kitchen)
– add 1 tsp vanilla essence and a shot of port. Simmer for another 20 minutes.
– whisk one egg and one egg yolk with 4 tbs of sugar until combined and light in colour.
– add 1/3 of the tapioca mix to the eggs, stirring constantly.
– return to the saucean and over a low heat, stir constantly for five minutes.
– pop in a glass and top with berries and whipped cream.

Sadly you can’t see the multi-coloured eyes of tapioca gazing out and the $1.50 ikea glass looks like a $1.50 ikea glass (and I didn’t iron the placemat) but it was independently assessed as ‘the yummiest tapioca ever…creamy and dreamy’ . So there you go.

Bonus pic is the Kylie Kwong steamed oysters that I had in a not very successful thai dinner. They tasted nowhere near as nice as they looked – largely due to a poor decision between Malaysian cooking wine and a four day old of bottle verdelho (it was fine on Tuesday before POTC). I chose the latter and as a further blow, the oysters weren’t steamed enough to be hot, but rather not quite cold.

steamed oysters

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chicken and mushroom quiche

Today is International Women’s Day. Spiceblog is well regarded as a leader in gender issues on the internet in Australia so I shouldn’t let this slip by. As is often said, where the mirror cannot be found, the dish will do. Last Friday I went to the outdoor movies and I made a quiche. For those around at the time, the quiche was a minor celebrity in the crisis of manhood in the early 80s – second only to the manbag. It managed to inspire a book “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” with the punchline being “they eat ham and egg pie”. Hoohoo indeed! I’m not sure where this animosity came from, I mean it’s not as if half our language isn’t French already or that manliness is derived from an earthy literalness that would have us saying that’s not a carburettor, it’s a device to regulate the flow of fuel and air into the cylinder. Possibly it was a kind of no-nonsense response that played into a myth of the fall. The fall being the defeat in 1066 by the Normans which destroyed the priveleged position of good honest monosyllables and all things Arthury or something. So ingrained in me was this that there was a moment of hope that since I didn’t have a quiche tin and had to use a cake tin, the lack of scalloped edge and the relative heightiness meant that it would be a pie. It wasn’t

Get yourself some short-crust pastry, butter a tin, cut a circle of pastry out, place it in the bottom. Cut some strips out to go around the edge. Seal up any gaps and blind bake for 10 minutes at 220C. If you haven’t done this before, it’s just to get it nice and crusty. Place some dried beans on the pastry to stop it puffing up. I disn’t have any beans so I used some ceramic hashioki. Just put a sheet of baking paper under them.

Mix was one chicken breast which I left to marinate for an hour in Ras al Hanout spices. Pan cooked and shredded. About a cup of chopped field mushrooms and then a third as much chopped spring onions and a third as much of that in chopped scallions all gently cooked in butter. Mix together with the chicken and a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley. Four whole eggs, half as much cream, and half again of cheddar I had. OK alright there’s maths here but are you going to have the same amount of spring onions as mushrooms? No. Half as much mushrooms as chicken maybe. I wanted mix with eggy bits just holding it together and I got it. How much cheese do you want? Make a decision. Salt and pepper. Cook at 180C until you dip a knife in it and it comes out clean and then take it out and cool it on a rack. You can then pop it back in the tin for easy transportation to said French film.

Film of which was French film The Story of My Life – dealing with thirthysomething doubt regarding artistry versus commerce versus success versus failure versus risk versus identity versus vulagarity versus the woman you have versus the woman you want all mixed together in a second act snarl up with comedic result and character switchovers.

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Faux-Filet Henri IV

This is straight offa page 266 of the Cordon Bleue at Home. It seemed like a nice idea at the time for Sunday dinner but it took forever because of poor planning and timing and a desire to keep the number of pots and pans to three. You’ll notice that the béarnaise sauce has de-emulsified because I had to reheat it and wasn’t paying attention – tsk.

The artichokes were prepared as per The Tart Heart of the Artichoke Folk and boiled in salted water for 20 minutes. The potatoes were parboiled and then roasted in a very hot oven in preheated vegetable oil and goosefat. The steak was scotch fillet and you can make the marks by cooking it on a very hot grill plate and then turning it 90 degrees and that’s it.

It’s actually called Coeur de Filet Henri IV. I would tell you what the name would be in French for using a scotch fillet but it was all too hard and frankly (if you’ll excuse the pun) Henry IV of France was much more interesting. Twice the man Henry VIII was and, in addition to helping end the religious war with admirable tolerance and dedicated to public works, was quoted as such:

Si Dieu me prête vie, je ferai qu’il n’y aura point de laboureur en mon royaume qui n’ait les moyens d’avoir le dimanche une poule dans son pot.
(If God allows me to live, I will see that there is not a single labourer in my kingdom who does not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday)

Sadly, killed by a loon.


A voice in my head said “make a pizza” on Friday night while driving home from Fremantle. It also said “make your own dough too“, “sleep no more” and “look out that car’s braking in front of you” as well as “mmm mmm black betty bambalam, mmm mmm black betty bambalam“.

I’m afraid you have to make your own pizza dough too. It’s not that hard: Basic Pizza Dough – Recipe Pizza Dough. It’s really good and you’ll never want for a prepared base again much less something on a piece of pita bread. Lovely little airy bits all the way through it. Make it nice and thin while you’re at it. Four a sauce I just used a jar of pasta sauce with some onion and garlic and marjoram. Toppings were mozzarella, basil, proscuitto, tomato, field mushrooms, eggplant, and anchovies in various combinations.

The trick, and this is why people use wood-fired ovens, is to get the base nice and crispy without overdoing the top. This requires a very hot base. What I do is use a cast iron bessemer pan that my Mum bought in the seventies from a woman that was convinced she was reincarnated from Mary the Queen of Scots that I get really hot* on a wok burner to get it crisp and then finish it off in the oven as hot as it goes.

Reviews are in: “delicious”

*the pan, not Mary Queen of Scots, or the woman.

Henry IV en admiration devant le blog de épice
lamb and risotto

This is post number 502. This would make number 500, me eating a frozen dinner. How auspicious, ah well. Doesn’t time fly.

Dinner for six on the Sunday was going to be a lasagne, being inspired by an emailed recipe from the Flute (been on the telly ya know). Not to be, I saw myself messing about with a pasta maker and settled for the thirty or so minutes of careful stirring of a risotto. It’s still seasonal for root vegetables and I’ve been impressed with celeriac of late, Brussel sprouts are also out and they were chosen for: I was shown how to remove and cook the leaves; they add a bit of colour; people don’t like them so I could set myself up for one of those magic “don’t usually like “X” but” moments and so huzzah!

Salmon Mousse:
Entree was a salmon mousse which I was happy with as it requires no gelatine, just whipping up some cream and then refrigeration.

1 salmon cutlet – the u-shaped one, fried or grilled until cooked. Let it cool and flake it apart, removing bones and skin. Add 4tbs of EVOO, juice of one lemon (actually have a bit of a taste on this and add as necessary, I may have overdone it a smidgen); a bit of rind scraping; a shake of chilli powder; and a dozen capers. Puree.

Take 300ml of chilled cream and before it sits out too long, whip it . Whip it good, until firm and then carefully fold in the salmon. At this stage I put it into 6 dariole molds but you don’t have to. I did it because I’ve just bought them. In reality they didn’t come out very cleanly so you could just make quenelle shapes with a couple of spoons. Or pop them in glasses maybe. Or serve them on a spoon. Or get yourself a fish mold. Anyway put it in the fridge for at least two hours. The flavours will mingle over time.

It was a bit lemony so I thought a tomato and basil sauce would be nice. Skin (hold the tomato over a flame) and deseed (scrape out) two tomatoes. Puree with a handful of basil and enough EVOO. To get it nice and runny. If you’re going to pour it in a piping bag, be sure to close the other end and ensure that end isn’t near an opened drawer.

Good good good. Creamy, fishy, tarty, and sweet.

Celeriac and Brussel Sprout Risotto with Lamb
Make some chicken stock – it’ll be better than anything you can buy. Go on make some. This weekend. It’ll take you 30 minutes of messing around, tops. Then you can freeze it. The kitchen will smell nice. Here’s a recipe, you might want to chuck a bit of white wine in there too. Free range chicken wings are a cheap way of adding more meatiness to the bones as well. You can use the celeriac stems instead of celery as an aromatic. They are a bit stronger so do lessen the amount accordingly.

Cooking: 1 cup of finely chopped leek, eschallot, and onion. Sautee in EVOO until soft, add 500gm of aborio rice and stir until it’s starts to go a little golden. Pour in a glass of white wine, and stir until absorbed, add another glass of white wine and stir until absored, add a glass of red wine and stir until absorbed, and then move on to the stock a cup at a time until the rice is cooked. It should still have a little bit of bite. This slow process coats the rice and makes it creamy.

Additions: Chop the ends off a dozen brussel sprouts and remove the leave. The outermost leaves are the bitterest so you can get rid of them, and you can toss the white bits too. Soften a little in a frypan with some oil. Reserve some of the leaves for garnish.

Peel one celeriac and chop into small cubes. Parboil then roast until soft. Mash a little. You want some mashy bits and some pieces.

Add these in about 5-10 minutes before the risotto is ready.

The lamb chops were in a rack and it’s lovely way of doing them. There’s a really nice feeling as you slice through it when it’s done. Shame mine weren’t as pink as I like them but, well, guests. Simply done. Marinated in some chopped rosemary, red wine, EVOO, and garlic and roasted on a couple of rounds of leek. Rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Stir a large dab of butter through the risotto, top with a chop, garnish with some brussel sprout leaves and serve.

Very nice. I had wanted to add walnuts but celeriac already had that nutty taste so not necessary.

That’s it. Just make sure if your jeans are a bit low, to bend at the knees when reaching down for the warming tray in the oven.


And: hello and welcome to the good people of Sadly, No!

Also – how does it feel? A waffly defence of this dish in the moral realm to prove why I don’t write about these issues much – Veganism and civilisation

cheese and gherkin delight

Sometimes the difference between party food, and exceptional party food is just a few minutes of care and attention.

Take a jar of sweet gherkins . Select a couple of suitably well shaped gherkins and slice to 5mm thickness, much thicker and the gherkin taste will be overly dominant. You may need to adjust as the gherkin thins (overly thin parts can later be added to a gherkin dip). Cut a block of processed cheese, mild cheddar or colby, to a similar thickness but you may vary the shape. Guests can then select according to their preference to cheese. Aim to achieves a rough balance of dimensions with the gherkin piece. Choose a well coloured and nicely shaped orange and cut off a third to provide a base. Doing this will prevent the orange toppling over during service. To assemble place a piece of cheese (centred) on top of a piece of gherkin and then pierce in the middle with a toothpick. Some cooks will place the cheese and gherkin on the toothpick, but I find this can lead to “running through”, not only unsightly but a source of potential injury. Place the toothpicks, food outwards in a radiating fashion until the orange is filled. Be careful not to crowd the orange as it will not only ruin the effect but make the toothpicks more difficult to remove for guests. While the pattern is pretty, I feel there is a need for a dominant central statement and this I’ve done with the top 4/5th of a gherkin placed proudly on a satay stick.

Enjoy, but be quick.

run! it's failed conceptual food project

For those at home: 2 litres of water, 1 cup of sherry, 1 teaspoon of salt, 4 tablespoons of gelatine, 12 jellybabies, and one snake.