The dog’s breakfast

Lucy wrote a beautiful post recently about cooking for her dog. Another way to feed the dog something fancy is to get a new job that, while fabulous, leaves a lot less time and mental energy for cooking. Then the dog gets a bowl of stinking goat shoulder that would have been a curry had you remembered you bought it last week.

Coming soon, posts on “nutritious dinners the kids will love, and in only 15 minutes!” Just as soon as I work out how to do that.


Words to the wise from Dr Sister Outlaw

I am a quiche maker extraordinaire, and a dab hand at buttery shortcrust. The quiche I made for last night’s Earth Hour/40+something-too-big-to-tactfully-mention-any-more-party literally flew off the plate, with much ooing and aahing about my magic ingredients, which in this case included sage, oregano and thyme and a judiciously sliced preserved lemon quarter, in a mix of eggs and ricotta.

But before you go all funny about me blowing my own trumpet, I would like to share with you some of the learnings I have gleaned in the last week’s baking, during which I made three quiches, one successfully:

  1. Always check that one actually possesses a rolling pin before one makes the pastry. An old bottle of Cascade Ultra-C is not a worthy substitute. (Observant readers may recall that I have mentioned my rolling pin deficiency on this site already. You would think I would learn, but alas, I forgot I lacked a rolling pin twice in one week.)
  2. Olive oil is no substitute for butter in pastry, no matter how many foody websites insist that it produces a nice workable crust. On the other hand, if you actually want a biscuit crust that tastes like olive oil and falls away from the bottom of your quiche, go right ahead. Personally, I would just cut your losses and make frittata, but then maybe the rolling pin deficit is to blame?
  3. Silicon baking dishes are robust, but not robust enough to tolerate being set on top of a lit gas jet for some minutes.

Just in case you thought this was a blog restricted to people who are actually competent in the kitchen.

Pamela Faye: Eating in a North Westerly Direction


ETD 7 days…

As the day of my departure looms closer, signs of pre-trip anxiety are beginning to leak out of me and forebode a chaotic week ahead. As if irrational dreams and inexplicable tears are not enough, this morning I put my expensive Italian stove-top coffee maker in the microwave (instead of on the stove top where it rightly belongs). I zapped it on high for at least a minute before I realised what I had done. Amazingly only the plastic knob suffered, now resembling a charcoalled marshmallow.

The plums are rotting on the tree and the yard is beginning to smell like cheap Spanish wine. No time to jam myself (!), so I salvaged what I could and took them over to Mother to deal with.

Family farewell lunch today, during which I ate enough carbs to see me through to Alice Springs. This blog could be over before it even began. My contribution to lunch was a bakers dozen of some banana walnut muffins (no maple today, feeling a bit povo). They’ve come out rather nicely – good to know that even when all else goes to shit my muffins still rise to the occasion. Mother’s chocolate cake was delicious, if a little wobbly. And yes, those are Ken Done place mats…

(Click photos to embiggen)

Fishmonger talk

Them? They’re called bayla, love. The Aussies buy ’em for the shell and throw the meat away. The Chinese people bash through the shell to get to the meat.


We were talking about the one in the front at the bottom. I can’t find out anything much about them, other than that it seems to be a gastropod(!) May even have the name wrong – although I made him spell it out for me I didn’t write it down. Anyone ever eaten one?

How to cook like Bridget Jones

Do you remember in Bridget Jones’ Diary how her attempt to impress a boy with leek and potato soup failed when the string she’d used to tie the leeks dyed the whole soup a lurid blue? This is how Bridget would make a nice rice custard.

She’d follow the directions for Jill Dupleix’ excellent version down to the letter.* Just a minute or two before it was ready she’d have to rush out to pick up her son from kindy, so she’d put a piece of plastic film over the surface so it didn’t form a nasty skin. Being somewhat of an environmentalist, she’d spurn purchased plastic film and re-use a plastic bag. Because she is an utter nong she’d reuse a bag with lovely pink writing on it.

Bridget Jones' rice custard

I have made this a hundred times and I can still stuff it up. Never mind, scrape the pink shit off and top with lots of ground cinnamon.

So what’s the most stupid thing you’ve done in the kitchen lately?

* I have the hardback Old Food, since reprinted as a softcover called “Favourite Food: New Ways with the World’s Best Recipes“. I liked the old title better myself.

Learn from my failures: how not to make recipe substitutions

I nearly called this post “I can believe they’re not Nigella’s Breakfast Bars!”

Like the lipsmacking voluptuary, I’m not much of a morning eater. I also like the idea of yummy home-made snacky bars to shove down the throats of starving children. I remembered hearing that Lawson’s recipe was a good one, and a quick googlescout unearthed it here.

It involves mixing a large quantity of relatively healthy sounding muesli-ish things with a whopping great can of sweetened condensed milk. It didn’t say “sweetened” but I that’s the only kind, isn’t it? The dulce de leche kind? I had everything but in the cupboard, so I decided to make it up as I went along.

I had some evaporated (unsweetened, low-fat) milk, but it seemed utterly wrong. What I needed was a certain … an unctuousness, a delectable musky sweetness – as Nigella well might say and indeed probably has ; ) Best I could do was mixing up a bunch of fruity sugary sticky things and hoping like hell that would bind the oats, coconut, seeds, nuts and dried fruit:

nigella breakfast bar Not a can of sweetened condensed milk

3/4 C sliced dried figs
1 T apple juice concentrate
dried orange peel
1/2 C water

Bring all ingredients to the boil in a small saucepan then cover and turn the heat off. (That is if you use proper dried figs that are actually dry, not those odd “soft juicy figs” that have a weird cola aroma and no texture to speak of. If you’re using those ones just carry on and never mind waiting.)

Stabblender the cooled mix with half a cup of apricot jam, and then add water to make it up to 1 1/2 cups and stir it into your dry ingredients. Bake for an hour at 130 C, grateful that you sniffed something awry with the “250 degrees” the recipe stated on Northern hemisphere sites.

btw, THAT PICTURE IS EFFING LIES! The result was horribly crumbly – you could excavate a “bar” from the tin with some effort, but they were flaccid and unappetising. Even thought they were a complete failure in textural terms, they did turn out to be very tasty muesli once you’d properly crumbled them up. I’ve just made up a second batch for Owen at his request.

I used half (soaked) goji berries and half currants, a mixture of sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds and cashews in place of peanuts. To make the recipe again in the hope of making sturdier bars would require increasing the quantity of binding fluid. I’d still use the figgy mix but I’d add the sweetened condensed milk to make up the quantity (and perhaps a bit more) instead of the water I used here.