I have had a lot of fun tinkering around with this site over the past couple of months. It has been fantastic cooking new recipes and taking photographs of the dishes – especially with my sister. I have been really touched to hear when recipes have been tried and were a success – and especially chuffed by Katrina’s mission to cook each recipe I post!!

Behind the scenes a renovation has been slowly rumbling though our house. I have decided to take a breather from Maggie Plum while we build a kitchen around my dream oven!

However, while all this is going on, I will work on a special Christmas post with ideas for the festive season. This will be up mid-December.

I am really looking forward to posting recipes once a week again in summer. Stay tuned!

There are lots of ways to play around with this dish – during the week I made it twice – once with steamed bok choy sprinkled with spring onions and tonight with brocollini and roasted peanuts. Both versions worked well. It would also be great served with rice.

2 sticks of lemongrass, outer leaves removed, tender pale middle section roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
generous thumb sized piece of ginger
2 birds exye chillies, seeded
4 shallots (pickling onions)
vegetable oil
800 grams chicken thigh fillet, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 packet fresh hokkien noodles
1 bunch brocollini, chopped in half lengthwise
4 tablespoons roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 bunch coriander, chopped

Roughly chop the lemongrass, garlic, ginger and onions and pop into the small bowl of the food processor along with the chilli. Process until finely chopped and set aside.

Chop chicken into bite sized pieces.

Boil water, pour over noodles.

Heat a wok until hot, add a dash of oil and fry together the lemongrass mixture for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Remove from the wok and set aside.

Cook chicken in a couple of batches (another splash of oil may be needed). At this stage the chicken needs to be browned but not cooked through.

Return all batches of chicken to the wok along with the lemongrass. Sprinkle in brown sugar and one teaspoon of salt cook for a couple of minutes while the chicken caramelises.

Meanwhile prepare brocollini by bringing a saucepan of water to the boil. Add a teaspoon of salt and the brocollini. Cool for about three minutes, or until the stalks are just tender. Drain and set aside.

Add the oyster sauce and one tablespoon of water to the chicken. Stir though then cover for about three minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce thickens a little. Drain noodles.

To serve – divide noodles into bowls top with brocollini and chicken. Scatter with peanuts and coriander.

Serves 4

Adapted from lemongrass chicken on rice vermicelli published in Gourmet Traveller – September 2001

This recipe had me at ‘parmesan cream’. If you can’t track down extra large pasta shells (from Italian delis like the Mediterranean Supermarket on Sydney Road in Melbourne) cook up small shells or spiral pasta and pour a layer of the lovely rich ragu over the top.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, finely diced
60 grams pancetta, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
500 grams pork mince
1 tablespoon plain flour
400g tomato passata
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt flakes and ground pepper
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
250 grams extra large pasta shells

Parmesan cream
150 mls thickened cream
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
freshly grated nutmeg
salt flakes and ground pepper

Finely dice the onion, pancetta, carrots, celery and garlic.

Heat a large saucepan add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter and add onion, pancetta, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook together for 10 minutes.

Add pork mince to the pan and cook until browned. Sprinkle flour over the mince, stir through and cook for 2 minutes.

Add passata, tomato paste, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper and 300 ml water. Stir through, then simmer over a low heat for 45 minutes to thicken the ragu. Stir fairly regularly to ensure the ragu doesn’t catch.

Meanwhile place in a small saucepan the cream, 1 cup of parmesan, lemon zest, salt and pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Set aside.

Half way through the ragu cooking time, boil pasta shells until they are just cooked through (around 15 minutes). Drain then drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Allow to cool a little.

Pre-heat oven to 180C.

Gently heat the small saucepan of parmesan cream until the mix is smooth.

Fill each pasta shell with the ragu then place in a baking dish. Spoon remainder of ragu over the shells. Drizzle with parmesan cream and sprinkle with remaining parmesan.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the golden.

Serves 4

Adapted from a recipe from Jill Dupleix published in Epicure Food and Wine Autumn 2011.


I tried a couple of recipes this week – but none passed the ‘blog worthy’ test – so I’ve shared the recipe for the cake I made recently for my sister’s birthday.

This is a terrific dessert – light in texture and elegantly flavoured. It is quick and easy to prepare and, as it doesn’t need to be served straight from the oven, may be made a couple of hours in advance.

Baked ricotta
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1kg ricotta
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated rind of an orange (juice this orange for the sauce)
60ml brandy
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup plain flour
icing sugar, for dusting

2 tablespoons caster sugar
40ml red wine
1 orange, juiced
250g strawberries, hulled and thickly sliced (you may wish to reserve a couple of strawberries to decorate the top of the cake).

Pre-heat oven to 170C.

Line an 18cm spring-form tin with baking paper. (Dot the inside of the tin with butter to keep the paper in place.)

Finely grate the rind of the orange. Set aside.

Lightly whisk the eggs. Set aside.

Mix sugar and marmalade in a food processor until a paste is formed. Add ricotta, vanilla, orange rind, brandy and eggs and process until mixture is well combined and smooth. Fold through flour.

Pour mixture into tin. Bake for an hour.

After an hour it will be slightly wobbly in the centre. Turn the oven off.  Leave baked ricotta in the oven, with the door ajar, until room temperature, by which time the middle will have firmed.

Strawberry sauce – Juice the orange. Combine sugar, wine and juice in a small saucepan. Stir over a medium heat for three minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add strawberries, turn down the heat a little, and cook until they are soft (around 20 minutes). Blend mixture in a food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust the flavour if required.

To serve, dust the baked ricotta with icing sugar (top with strawberries if desired) and accompany with a small jug of strawberry sauce.

Serves 8

From Gourmet Traveller Simple

Thanks to Wendy – the birthday girl – for taking this picture.

A pot of chilli con carne will have a couple of meals sorted for the week ahead. It is a versatile dish which can be served with salsa and rice, rolled in a wrap and turned into nachos.

The more chilli adventurous will no doubt be keen to up the ante on the jalapinos and spice. Keep taste testing until you hit the right note.

olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 green capsicum, finely diced
600g minced beef
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli (increase if you prefer a spicy dish)
1 teaspoon pickled jalapeno pepper, diced (up the jalapeno to suit your taste)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
400g can chopped tomatoes
400g can kidney beans, drained
salt and papper
sour cream

1 avocado, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1 bunch coriander
1/2 bunch spring onions, sliced
salt and pepper

Steamed rice
1 1/2 cups rice

Dice onion, garlic, capsicum and jalapeno peppers – set each ingredient aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan, add onion and cook for around 5 minutes until the onion has softened.

Stir in garlic, capsicum and minced beef. Cook together over a fairly high heat for about 10 minutes, by which time the beef will be browned.

Add cumin, jalapeno peppers, dried chilli and sugar. Stir through.

Add red wine, bring to the oil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add tomato paste, canned tomatoes, the drained kidney beans and salt and pepper. Cook together over a low to medium heat for about 30 minutes. Check seasoning, add more chilli and jalapenos if required.

Rice – place rice in a saucepan add water to the level of the first joint in your index finger. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until the water is absorbed and small holes appear on the surface of the rice. Cover. Reduce heat to very low and steam for about 20 minutes.

Salsa – chop all the ingredients, add lemon juice and mix together. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with salsa with a side of rice and of course a big dollop of sour cream.

Serves 4 (with leftovers)

From Jill Dupleix’s chilli con carne recipe published in The Age Epicure, 6 September 2011.

Soy beef salad

Light, bright and packed full of flavour. The type of meal you feel all the better for having consumed.

700g piece of eye fillet
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, skin removed, finely diced
2 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
1 bunch coriander
2 red chillies, sliced
fried shallots (from Asian supermarkets)
cooked rice, to serve

4 tablespoons oysters sauce
2 lemons, juiced
1 teaspoon caster sugar

Halve the beef fillet lengthwise. Marinate in soy sauce anywhere from 5 minutes to overnight – depending on the amount of time you have.

Prepare dressing – mix together the oyster sauce, lemon juice and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Taste and adjust flavours if necessary.

Thinly slice beef – around 5mm thick. Finely dice ginger.

Heat a frypan over a high heat, add olive oil. Throw beef in the pan sprinkle with ginger. Sear beef for a minute or so each side.

To serve, place a serving of rice and a handful of baby spinach leaves. Add beef, sprinkle with chopped chilli and coriander. Drizzle with sauce then top with fried shallots.

Serves 4

Adapted from Soy beef with tatsoi salad published in delicious. magazine March 2007.

This is essentially an interesting twist on meat and three veg. Really well peppered steak works nicely with the salty pancetta and the spring vegetable medley.

2 bunches asparagus
olive oil
150g thinly sliced pancetta, roughly diced
1 onion, halved lengthways and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 tablespoons water
12 marinated artichoke hearts
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 tablespoon butter
4 pieces steak
1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Cook asparagus until it is just cooked through (about 3 minutes for thin stalks and a couple of minutes extra for larger asparagus).

Roughly dice the pancetta. Finely slice the onion and dice the garlic. Chop artichoke.

Heat a frypan, add a dash of olive oil. Fry pancetta for a couple of minutes, until it starts to become crisp. Add onion and garlic, cook for about 6 minutes until the onion has softened.

Add water, artichoke, peas, asparagus and butter, stir. Just before serving, sprinkle with parsley.

Grind fresh pepper over steaks. Cook on the barbecue or in a frypan until the meat is to your liking.

Serve the peppered steaks over the spring vegetables.

Serves 4.

Adapted from September 2011 Gourmet Traveller.

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