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.

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.

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.


Brown sugar vanilla syrup cake

This is one of the most delicious cakes you will ever taste, no doubt about it.

When I was volunteered to make a cake for a good friend’s surprise 60th birthday dinner, I decided this was the cake for the job. I knew I’d be very short on time and wouldn’t be able to make a cake that required icing. As it turned out, I made the cake after work on Friday then drove the cake mixture, in the cake tin, to Irene’s home in the next suburb where we were having dinner, and cooked it in her oven. I had the syrup ingredients in a container, poured it into one of Irene’s saucepans and cooked it while the cake was cooking. Voila!

This is a slightly varied version of the recipe in flavours, published in 2000 when Donna Hay was food editor for marie claire. My version makes a larger cake and uses whole eggs instead of eggs and egg yolks. The quantities in the recipe below can be decreased by one quarter for a 20cm (8 inch) square cake.

Brown sugar vanilla syrup cake

adapted from marie claire’s flavours by Donna Hay

Serves 12-16

240 g unsalted butter

2 cups brown sugar

6 eggs(or 4 eggs and 4 egg yolks)

3 cups self-raising flour

1 cup milk

vanilla syrup

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 1/3 cups water

1 1/3 vanilla beans, split and scraped

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Add the eggs (or eggs and yolks) one at a time and beat well. Sift the flour over the butter mixture and fold through the milk.

Pour the mixture into a large greased kugelhopf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

While the cake is cooking, place the sugar, water and vanilla bean in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and allow the syrup to simmer for 6 minutes.Leave the cake in the pan for 5 minutes before unmoulding and placing on a serving plate. Slowly spoon three-quarters of the hot syrup over the hot cake. Serve with the remaining syrup and think cream.

Pear and almond tart

This is a terrific recipe from Donna Hay - very versatile, as well as being quick and easy. I made it with pears this week as they are in season and are good value at the moment. In summer I make it with nectarines, peaches or apricots. I served the tart with custard as we have a few custard fiends.

Alexander was absent from Sunday Dinner again this week – last exam for university this week so he was swatting. I packed him a take away meal and Jaime delivered it to him… he is a lucky boy!

Pear and almond tart

from Donna Hay Seasons

Serves 6

90 g softened butter

1/2 cup (90 g) brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup (120 g) ground almonds

1/4 cup (35 g) plain flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind

2 pears, peeled, cored and quartered

1/2 cup brown sugar, extra

raw sugar, for sprinkling

double (thick) cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 160C (320F).

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until just combined. Add the eggs, ground almonds, flour, baking powder and lemon rind and process until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased 9.5 cm x 33 cm loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin. Place the pear and extra brown sugar in a bowl and toss to coat. Press the pear into the tart mixture and bake for 35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Sprinkle with raw sugar and allow to cool in the tin.

Serve with cream.

Indian chicken with coconut rice

I was in Sydney this weekend catching up with friends and was fishing for ideas for Sunday Dinner at breakfast this morning at a great cafe in North Bondi. I was after a recipe that wasn’t too labour intensive, as I wouldn’t have much time. Gerri suggested this chicken dish from a recent Cuisine NZ magazine - it was delicious when she had cooked it a few weeks earlier.

Because I was pushed for time, I changed the recipe a bit – mainly by simplifying the method. I used chicken lovely legs instead of chicken thigh fillets (minimises the trimming of the chicken required with chicken thigh fillets); drumsticks would be just as good. I squeezed some lime juice over the dish – I like the sourness it adds. Plain yoghurt is a perfect accompaniment.

Indian chicken with coconut rice

Adapted from Fiona Smith’s recipe in Cuisine Issue #151

Serves: 4-5

2 tablespoon sunflower oil

10 chicken lovely legs (or drumsticks)

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

1 onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons curry paste (I used Chicken Tikka Masala paste)

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3 cm piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped

650ml chicken stock

200ml coconut cream

1 1⁄2 cups basmati rice, rinsed

1⁄4 cup curry leaves

1⁄4 cup coriander leaves, chopped

1 lime

250 g plain yoghurt to serve

Steamed green beans to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Heat a little of the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat then brown the chicken until golden. Transfer to a baking dish or large casserole.

Add the remaining oil to the pan. Fry the mustard seeds for a few seconds then add the onion and cook for 3 minutes until starting to colour. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a few minutes then stir in the turmeric, ground coriander, cumin and ginger and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook until grains are translucent.

Add the stock, followed by the coconut cream. Bring to a simmer then add the chicken. Cover with foil (and lid if using a casserole dish) and place in the oven. After 30 minutes, remove the chicken, add the curry leaves and stir the rice mixture then return the chicken to the dish and place back in the oven for a further 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5-10 minutes. Before serving scatter with the coriander and squeeze over lime juice.

Serve with plain yoghurt as an accompaniment.

Saffron crème caramel

I love crème caramel; it is a childhood favourite. My paternal grandmother has never been particularly interested in cooking but she cooked a great Christmas pudding every year and she used to make fantastic crème caramel. Because Nanna knew how much I loved it, she regularly made it when we visited or brought it with her when she visited us. I can clearly remember the time my grandparents visited me at boarding school with a homemade crème caramel for me. I ate it outside so that I wouldn’t have to share it with anyone.

As I am fortunate enough to have a good store of saffron at the moment, I chose to make Saffron Crème Caramel with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds this Sunday, from Cook with Us by Gary Mehigan and George Colombaris. Unfortunately, I overcooked them a bit. The recipe said to cook them for 40 minutes at 170C; I cooked them for 40 minutes at 165C but I was distracted and should have checked them at the 35 minute mark. When I opened the oven door they were sizzled and I was quite sure they would be curdled and horrible. Needless to say, I quickly whipped the custards out of the baine-marie rather than leaving them to ‘cool’ and set.

I even made plans for a replacement dessert (on hold now until next week). However, I decided to test one after if had been in the fridge for a few hours and although it wasn’t perfect – there were definite indicators of over-cooking – they were delicious, and by no means a disaster. Because I was sure they were ruined, I didn’t buy the pumpkin seeds but they would be a nice addition.

I really liked this recipe, despite the over-cooking. The hint of orange was delicious.  I would happily make this recipe again.

Saffron Crème Caramel

Serves 8

50 grams pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

a large pinch saffron threads (about 30 threads)

500 ml milk

300 ml pouring cream

rind of 1 orange, in strips, white pith removed

6 eggs

1 cup (220 g) caster sugar


1 cup (220 g) caster sugar

1 cup (250 ml) water

  1. For the caramel, place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer until golden, about 10 minutes. Working quickly so the caramel doesn’t set, divide the caramel evenly among eight 175 ml-capacity ramekins.Roll the ramekins around to coat the base and sides with caramel. Place the ramekins in a roasting tin and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C fan-forced (190C conventional). Roast the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, soak the saffron in 1 tablespoon of the milk for 10 minutes.
  4. Heat the remaining milk, cream, orange rind and the saffron mixture in a saucepan over medium heat. Just before it comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.
  5. Lightly whisk the eggs and sugar together, taking care not to create too many bubbles. Gradually pour the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture and stir to combine.
  6. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large jug; this will catch any solids and egg white that is not mixed in well and remove any air bubbles. Divide the mixture evenly between among the prepared ramekins. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to comes two-thrids of the way up the side of the ramekins.
  7. Bake the custards for 40 minutes or until they just bobble; don’t worry as they will still be slightly wet in the centre and will set while they are cooling. Leave the crème caramels to cool and set in the water in the raosting pan.
  8. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan, then cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  9. To serve, run a knife around the edge of each ramekin and invert the crème caramels onto serving plates, then scatter with the roasted pumpkin seeds.

Sublime crème brûlée

Mim offered to make dessert for Sunday Dinner. Two years ago, Mim made crème brûlée for Sunday Dinner but although it tasted good it wasn’t a big success due to the fact we didn’t have a blowtorch so the custard melted and the top wasn’t crisp.She decided to try again, this time with a blowtorch. It was an absolute hit and quite definitely up there with the best crème brûlée I’ve ever had.

We found Guillaume Brahimi’s crème brûlée recipe on the internet. I would definitely use this recipe again. Mim used organic milk and really fresh eggs from friends’ chickens which were sure to have made a difference. The brûlées took a bit longer than 60 minutes to cook – more like 75-80 minutes.

All four of the usuals turned up for dinner, plus Mim as the special guest. Mim can be a bit accident prone so we were a bit concerned she may set the house on fire with the blowtorch. Under Elyse’s supervision, she did a great job.

This dessert was sublime. Not something you’d eat every day but an excellent treat. Thanks Mim!


Vanilla crème brûlée

By Guillaume Brahimi

Serves 4

300ml pure cream

200ml milk

2 vanilla beans, split, seeds scraped

100g egg yolks (from 5 eggs)

70g caster sugar

30g demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 130°C.

Place the cream, milk and vanilla seeds in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil and remove from heat.

Quickly whisk together the yolks and caster sugar in a large bowl until just combined. Pour the hot cream mixture over the top and whisk again until combined. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve then pour into 4 x 180ml ramekins.

Cover with foil and bake the brûlées in a bain marie for 60 minutes or until set but with a slight wobble. Remove and rest for 20 minutes at room temperature before refrigerating for 4 hours or until cold.

To serve, sprinkle each brûlée with demerara sugar and caramelise using a blowtorch.