Spanish Fish Stew

My mum was coming to visit and I wanted to cook something new. My mother loves food, especially healthy food. Our childhood was devoid of junk food, but full of home cooked goodness, for which I am eternally grateful.

In true form, I had just acquired Bill Granger’s latest cookbook, Easy. For dinner last night I made Bill’s Spanish Fish Stew… and it was truly delicious, and easy. In fact, if Belinda, Alex, Deb or Elyse are reading this, you MUST make it because it is very much your kind of food.

I used ling fillets and they worked perfectly. The capsicum is a must as it adds sweetness. I added a pinch of sugar with the tomatoes as it cuts through the acidity, and I used chilli flakes instead of cayenne pepper purely because that was what I had on hand.  I’m sure this recipe will become a regular.

Spanish fish stew

from Bill Granger’s Easy

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 celery stick, diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon paprika

1 large capsicum, cut into strips

250ml (1 cup) white wine

400g tin diced tomatoes

pinch cayenne pepper

few saffron threads

400ml (1 2/3 cups) fish stock

600g firm white fish fillets, skinned and cut into chunks

400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

large handful flat-leaf parsely

lemon wedges

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy based pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, paprika and capsicum and cook, stirring for 3 minutes more, until fragrant and the pepper is starting to soften. Pour in the wine and continue cooking until reduced slightly.

Add the tomatoes, cayenne, saffron, fish stock and a pinch of sea salt and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the fish and simmer for 3 minutes, or until the fish is just tender. Add the chickpeas and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. serve in individual bowls with the parsley and lemon wedges.

Pear Tarte Tatin

I had time to cook, and think about cooking, this past weekend for the first time in about eight weeks. Life has been just a bit busy with family, work and university.

I have grand illusions when it comes to cooking Tarte Tatin. However, I made an apple tarte tatin earlier this year and it was a bit of a disaster. Never one to give up,on Sunday I made Pear Tarte Tatin from the July 2012 issue of NZ Cuisine. It was really good!

I cooked the pears a couple of hours before I needed them and left them in the pan. This meant there wasn’t much to do before putting the pan in the oven. Instead of serving the tart with zabaglione, I served vanilla bean custard. The recipe says it serves 6 but it serves 8 quite easily. I will definitely make this again – it was delicious.


Pear Tarte Tatin

from NZ Cuisine Issue 153

300g butter puff pastry

5-6 pears, peeled quartered and cored

juice of 2 lemons

50g honey

25g butter

Preheat the oven to 200C. Roll out the pastry to a 27cm-diameter circle, 5mm thick (or to a size that is big enough to overlap your frying pan). Refrigerate until required.

Toss the pear quarters together with the lemon juice.

Melt the honey and butter in a 25cm oven-proof frying pan then arrange the pears in the frying pan in a single layer, peeled skin side down. Add any juices from the pears then cook until any liquid disappears and the pears begin to turn golden brown. Put the pastry circle on top of the pears, tucking the pastry around the edge of the pears inside the frying pan.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes then turn out on a serving plate.

Serves 6-8

Comforting rice custard

My children went through a stage where their favourite breakfast was rice custard, usually accompanied by stewed fruit. I figured it was probably better for them than 90% of breakfast cereals – rice, milk, eggs and a small amount of sugar. It is still a favourite but not for breakfast.

A few Sundays ago I poached some pears and made some rice custard – it was a hit. The trick with this recipe is cooking the rice and milk mixture long enough, so the rice is well cooked. In the past five or so years I have been using arborio rice rather than the short grain white rice I had been using for years.


Rice custard

Makes about 1.25 litres

1/2 cup arborio rice

1 cup water

4 cups milk

I vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped.

1 teaspoon cornflour

2 eggs

3 tablespoons sugar

grated nutmeg


Combine the rice and water in a large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until water has been absorbed. Add the milk and stir every now again until the mixture starts to simmer. Add the vanilla bean. Turn the heat down and leave the mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens and the rice is cooked, 30-40 minutes.

Mix the cornfour with a tablespoon of milk. Add eggs and whisk together. Add a cup of the hot milk mixture and whisk. Add the egg mixture to the saucepan off the heat and stir until the mixture thickens – this should happen quite quickly. Add the sugar and stir until incorporated.

Spoon mixture into serving dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon and leave to cool.

Serve with poached or stewed fruit or fresh berries.

Pretty little cakes

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity: my daughter’s 21st in Melbourne, a farewell afternoon tea party for her and a family dinner at home the weekend after (with a broken dishwasher to boot) as well as an exam for uni in the middle. Mim departed for her latest adventure – university in New York City for a year – last week and appears to have landed on her feet… Phew!

For the farewell afternoon tea party I made my absolute favourite – mini butterfly cakes with lemon curd. They look so pretty, are always a hit and are the perfect size – 2 bites and they are gone. I have used the lemon curd recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s the cook’s companion for many years, much to the delight of my friend Sue who is quite a fan. I cook the curd in a heatproof bowl over simmering water rather than in a saucepan directly on the heat, adding all the ingredients at once, purely because you can leave it and not worry about it curdling or burning. The cup cake recipe I use is from my 24 year old copy of The Australian Women’s Weekly  Cakes & Slices Cookbook.

Lemon mini-butterfly cakes

makes 48

48 mini cupcakes

1 cup lemon curd

1 cup whipped cream

icing sugar, to serve

When the cakes are cold, cut out a circle from the top, cutting down to a depth of about 1cm. Place a small amount of lemon curd in the cavity, top with a dollop of whipped cream then the “wings” made from the halved circles of cake. Dust with sifted icing sugar.

Lemon curd

from the cook’s companion by Stephanie Alexander

Makes 2 cups

2 large lemons

100 g unsalted butter

175 g sugar

3 eggs, whisked and strained

Finely grate zest and juice the lemons. In a heavy-based saucepan combine butter, lemon juice, zest and sugar. Stir constantly over heat until the sugar has dissolved . Add eggs off the heat and stir to mix well.

Cook over gentle heat, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened. Do not allow it to boil or it will curdle.

Pour straight into small, hot sterilised jars or into a bowl if using immediately.

Cup cakes

makes 48 mini cupcakes

125 g unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

3/4 cup caster sugar

 2 eggs

1 1/2 cups SR flour, sifted

1/2 cup milk

Cream butter, vanilla and sugar in a small bowl until light and fluffy; beat in eggs one at a time, beat until combined.

Stir in half the flour and half the milk, then stir in remaining flour and milk.

Spoon into mini patty pans and bake in 180C oven for 10 mins or until cooked. Cool on a cake rack.


Lemon tart

No Sunday Dinner this week – everybody except me and Toby were busy or working. Fortunately, I still have something to blog about as I went to dinner at my friend Irene’s last night and took dessert. I didn’t want to go to the shops so when I arrived home at 5:15 pm, the dessert I was going to make had to be from ingredients I had in the pantry as I was due at Irene’s at 7pm.

I love citrus desserts and thought a lemon tart would be a fine dessert to follow Irene’s spaghetti marinara (which was really delicious). The lemon tart from Bill Granger’s Bill’s Basics is a great recipe as it doesn’t require the hassle of pastry. This makes it a bit lighter than the usual tart too. I didn’t have quite enough lemon juice so added about 30ml of orange juice instead. I visited Andrea’s lemon tree this morning and topped up my stock! The only change I would make to this recipe is use slightly less butter – perhaps 100 grams rather than 125 grams.

Lemon tart

from Bill’s Basics by Bill Granger

Serves 6-8

3 eggs

75g (1/2 cup) plain flour

225g (1 cup) caster sugar

125g unsalted butter, melted

zest of 2 unwaxed lemons

150ml lemon juice

300ml cream

to serve:

Icing sugar

Cream or creme fraiche

Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 20cm round springform cake tin.

Whisk the eggs and then gradually whisk in the flour. Add the sugar, butter, lemon zest and juice, cream and a pinch of sea salt and whisk well. Pour into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes, until lightly browned.

Leave in the tin to cool for 20 minutes before turning out and slicing. Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream, creme fraiche or ice cream.

Golden syrup puddings

I love golden syrup. One of our favourite desserts is steamed gold syrup pudding with custard. Unfortunately, when my daughter  returned to Melbourne in February I sent along with her my reserve pasta/stock pot. What I didn’t appreciate was that this is the only pot I have that fits the pudding basin. Needless to say, I haven’t made a steamed pudding since February.

Because the weather was a bit cold and bleak on Sunday, I really felt like golden syrup pudding. I was looking through my cookbooks and came across Golden Syrup Puddings in Bill Granger’s book Every Day. The ramekins I used have a  300 ml capacity which was just as well because the puddings grew as they cooked. I recommend cooking the puddings on a tray as the sauce bubbled over a bit.

These puddings were simple to make and delicious. Bill is definitely the king of self-saucing puddings.

Golden Syrup Puddings

from Every Day by Bill Granger

Serves 4

125 gm (1 cup) self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
95 gm (½ cup) soft brown sugar
60 gm unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
125 ml (1/2 cup) milk
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract

95 gm (1/2) soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
310 ml boiling water

Preheat oven to 190C. Lightly butter and flour 4 x 250 ml (1 cup) ovenproof dishes/ramekins. Mix the flour, ginger and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the melted butter, egg, milk, golden syrup and vanilla and stir until everything is well combined. Spoon into the dishes

For the sauce, mix all of the ingredients together and carefully using the back of a spoon; pour the sauce evenly over the batter into the dishes. Bake for 20 minutes or until the sponge is firm and golden.

Serve with good quality vanilla ice-cream.

Thai yellow pumpkin and seafood curry

My most regular dinner guest was away this past weekend so it was the ideal opportunity to cook something she doesn’t like, like fish. Nigella Lawson’s Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry from Nigella Bites was exactly what I felt like.

I first had this curry at my friend Debra’s house almost ten years ago. I raved about it so much she gavethe book to me for my birthday. The recipe is really easy and other than peeling and cleaning the prawns, is really quick to make.

Instead of salmon, I used 250 grams of jew fish and 250 grams of ocean trout. Yellow curry paste is not particularly hot so I used 2 tablespoons. The lime juice is important as it cuts through the creaminess of the coconut milk.

This curry was a hit: always happy when the guests come back for seconds!

Thai Yellow Pumpkin & Seafood Curry

from Nigella Bites

Serves 4-6


400ml tin coconut milk

1-2 tablespoons yellow (or red) Thai curry paste

350ml fish stock

3 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons palm sugar or caster sugar

3 lemongrass stalks, each cut into three and bruised with the flat of a knife

3 lime leaves, de-stalked and cut into strips

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1kg pumpkin (or butternut squash), peeled and cut into large-bite-sized chunks

500g salmon fillet, preferably organic, skinned and cut into large, bite-sized chunks

500g peeled raw prawns

Pak choi or any other green vegetables of your choice

Juice of 1/2-1 lime, to taste

Coriander, to serve


Skim the thick creamy top off the tin of coconut milk and put it, over medium heat, into a large saucepan or casserole with the curry paste. Let it sizzle and, using a fork, whisk or wooden spoon, beat milk and paste together until combined.

Still beating gently, add the rest of the coconut milk, fish stock, fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, lime leaves and turmeric. Bring to a boil and then add the pumpkin. Cook on a fast simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 15 minutes, although different sorts of pumpkins can vary enormously in the time they take to cook.

You can cook the curry up till this part in advance, leaving the pumpkin with a tiny bit of bite to it (it will soften and cook as the pan cools). Either way, when you’re about 5 minutes away from wanting to eat, get ready to cook the seafood.

To the robustly simmering pan, add the salmon and prawns (if you’re using the prawns from frozen they’ll need to go in before the salmon). When the salmon and prawns have cooked through, which shouldn’t take more than 3-4 minutes, stir in any green veg you’re using – sliced, chopped or shredded as suits – and tamp down with a wooden spoon.

When the pak choi’s wilted, squeeze in the juice of half a lime, stir and taste and add the juice of the remaining half if you feel it needs it. Take the pan off the heat or decant the curry into a large bowl, and sprinkle over the coriander; the point is that the coriander goes in just before serving.

Serve with more chopped coriander for people to add to their own bowls as they eat, and some plain Thai or basmati rice.

My Aunt

My Aunt celebrates a Big Birthday today – happy birthday and many happy returns! Not only has she been a wonderful aunt, she is also a terrific cook, something she emphatically denies every time we try to praise her. I can hear her now, saying “It’s just simple, it’s easy, it’s nothing” as our eyes feast upon a table groaning with food because without a doubt, the meal she prepares is guaranteed to be very generous.  That’s my aunt.

When it comes to cookbooks and food magazines, we are kindred spirits. If I decide to buy a new cookbook and guilt descends as I approach the sales counter, I can justify the purchase by thinking (a) my aunt would think I should buy it and (b) she probably has the book already. We also share (along with my mother… so perhaps it is genetic…) a love of small tongs - they are so handy – although I only have 4 pairs whereas my aunt probably has about 20 pairs.

With the plentiful supply of pears on offer at the markets this time of year, last week for Sunday Dinner I decided to make Dietmar Sawyer’s Pear Clafoutis for dessert, from this month’s Gourmet Traveller. The recipe fed 5 of us quite easily. I thought this dessert was really delicious – I will definitely make it again.

The hazelnuts on top really made it. I didn’t use the poire Williams eau de vie and I poached the pears cut in quarters rather than whole as I was short on time. As usual, my photography does not do it justice.

Happy birthday to my wonderful Aunt!

Pear and hazelnut clafoutis

from Dietmar Sawyer, Australian Gourmet Traveller July 2012

Serves 4

50 gm hazelnuts
120 gm softened unsalted butter
120 gm caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
100 gm (2/3 cup) plain flour
40 gm hazelnut meal
1 tsp baking powder
To serve: icing sugar
To serve: vanilla bean ice-cream
Poached pears
200 gm caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 ripe beurre Bosc pears
60 ml poire Williams eau de vie (optional)


1 For poached pears, stir sugar, vanilla bean and seeds and 400ml water in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, add pears and liqueur, weight with a plate and bring to the simmer. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce heat to low, simmer for 2 minutes, then cool pears completely in poaching liquid (1 hour). Drain pears and thinly slice.
2 Preheat oven to 180C. Spread hazelnuts on an oven tray and roast, shaking occasionally, until browned (8-10 minutes). Rub with a tea towel to remove skins, then coarsely crush with the flat of a chef’s knife and set aside.
3 Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and creamy (6-8 minutes), add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk, beat to combine, then sieve in flour, hazelnut meal and baking powder and fold to combine.
4 Spread a 1cm-thick layer of clafoutis mixture in four buttered 200ml 12cm-diameter ovenproof dishes, arrange sliced pear on top, scatter with crushed hazelnuts and bake until golden and just cooked through (15-20 minutes). Dust with icing sugar and serve hot with vanilla bean ice-cream.


French onion soup

I am running a week behind… Crazy last week of the financial year at work!

Last week for Sunday Dinner I made Dietmar Sawyer’s Onion Soup Gratinée from the July 2012 edition of Gourmet Traveller. I didn’t have any sherry vinegar so substituted the Sherry vinegar and Madeira with vino cotto which worked quite well. I should have cooked the onions for longer, so that they were more caremalised, but otherwise the soup was quite delicious. The next night I used the stock from the leftover soup to make risotto, adding the remaining onions and some peas towards the end, and stirring through some grated Fontina.

Onion soup gratinée

from Australian Gourmet Traveller July 2012

Serves  4 as an entree  

30 g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped

6 large white onions, thinly sliced

50 ml sherry vinegar

50 ml Madeira

450 ml chicken stock

450 ml beef or veal stock

4 slices think baguette

50 g each coarsely grated Fontina and Gruyère

Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat, add onion and season to taste with sea salt. Cook slowly, stirring often, until the onion begins to wilt and release liquid (20-25 minutes). Increase heat to medium-high, stir occasionally until liquid reduces completely, then stir often to ensure it colours evenly and slowly to develop the flavour, until deeply caramelised (25-30 minutes). Add sherry vinegar and Madeira and reduce until almost evaporated (1-2 minutes). Add stocks, bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until well flavoured (1-1 1/2 hours). Season to taste, adding a few more drops of vinegar if necessary.
  2. Prehaet grill to high heat. Place baguette slices on an oven tray and toast, turning once, until golden (1-2 minutes each side).
  3. Divide onion soup among four deep ovenproof serving bowls and top each witha  toasted crouton. Combine cheeses in a separate bowl, scatter evenly over soup and place bowls on an oven tray. Grill until golden and bubbling and serve hot, scattered with parsley.

Note: If soup bowls don’t fit under the grill, preheat oven to 220C and bake soup until golden and bubbling (4-5 minutes).

Slow cooking

Some friends had a shank cooking competition on Sunday at lunch time. The shanks were really good. Geoffrey was the defending title holder; the meat absolutely melted, it was so tender, having been in the slow cooker for many hours in a tomato based sauce, the tastes very subtle. Bruce’s were cooked in the oven and were also delicious, with a richer tomato base and caramelised onions. Importantly, the mashed potato and the mashed sweet potato were also great. Strangely enough, the different versions of lamb shanks reflected the personalities of the cooks, to a degree.

I had not planned on taste testing for the competition and had cooked lamb shanks the night before, ready for Sunday Dinner. I decided to make Jamie Oliver’s shanks cooked in beer which I had cooked once before, after I saw Jamie cook them on television a while ago. They were pretty tasty, and a perfect way to end a pretty cold and bleak winter weekend. 


Jaime made dessert for Sunday Dinner this week – poached pears in vanilla bean syrup – and they were absolutely fantastic, perfectly cooked, and the flecks of vanilla bean in the syrup warmed the cockles of my heart! I am including a photo of the dessert because they looked so beautiful.

Jamie’s lamb shanks cooked in beer

Adapted from from Jamie’s Great Britain by Jamie Oliver

Serves 6


6 Lamb Shanks

3 Red onions, chopped

Olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

Handful of dried raisins

800ml chicken stock

3 Dessert spoons of chunky marmalade

1 Tablespoon of tomato sauce

2 Tbspns Worcestershire sauce

200ml Medium ale

8 stalks of Rosemary

To a large pot add 3 red onions, a glug of Olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Bring the pan to a low/medium heat and leave for 15 mins, stirring occasionally.

While the onions are cooking, season the Lamb shanks with salt & pepper and brown them in a hot pan, turning occasionally.

After 15 minutes add the following ingredients to the onions: a handful of dried raisins, a small cup of chicken stock, 3 dessert spoons of marmalade, a tablespoon of tomato sauce and 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.

Stir these ingredients together and leave to simmer for a couple of mins before adding 200ml of a medium Ale and a good pinch of sea salt.

Leave the sauce to simmer, add 5 stalks of Rosemary to the browning Lamb shanks and leave for 30 secs before taking off heat and placing them into the pot with the sauce.

Add the rest of the chicken stock to the pot, put the lid on and leave on a low simmer for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, lift the lid on the Lamb shanks pot and carefully remove them, placing them on a plate to one side.

While the shanks are resting, use a hand blender to turn the juices into a lovely rich consistent sauce, adding a final few sprinkles of Worcestershire sauce.