Thursday, 29 December 2011


season's greetings..

and best wishes for peace and happiness in 2012

x jane

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

christmas decorating..

'tea with hazel' style..

kitchen window sills

dining table

sitting room

kitchen bench 

the cook 

Friday, 9 December 2011

panzaria salata, tzatziki kai psomi

i decided to go greek yesterday and make pantzaria salata (beetroot salad) and tzatziki (yoghurt dip) because i had five more well and truly pickable beetroot and i spied my first mature enough cucumber evading detection under a few leaves..and i made psomi (bread) too to dip into the tzatziki and olive oil and lemon dressing..

i made two separate salads with the with the beetroot themselves and the other with the beetroot leaves..

beetroot salad 1

4-5 medium beetroot
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/3rd cup of fresh orange juice
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

remove beetroot leaves and put aside for second salad
wash beetroot well and peel
cut into quarters or smaller if large
place in a baking dish and add remaining ingredients
cover with foil and bake at 200 deg c for about an hour or until done
remove to a serving dish and serve warm or cold

beetroot salad 2

beetroot leaves from 4-5 beetroot
1 garlic clive finely grated
olive oil
lemon juice
feta cheese

wash the leaves well until there are no traces of sand and dirt
remove the larger stalks and cut into approximately 8 cm batons
cut the leaves into large shred
put the stalks into a large saucepan and add boiling water just to cover
cook with the lid and simmer until the stems are just tender
drain and return to the saucepan and add the leaves
cook over moderate to high heat turning the leaves often until soft
add the garlic and the salt, lemon juice and olive oil to taste
remove to a serving dish and add cubes of feta
sprinkle with extra salt and drizzle with extra olive oil
serve warm or cold

i made a fresh 1 litre batch of yoghurt for the tzatziki 

tzatziki recipe

approximately 400 gms plain yoghurt
1 small cucumber grated (peel and/or deseed if necessary) squeezed of its juice (i drink it)
1 clove of garlic finely grated
olive oil
lemon juice

rinse a piece of muslin in boiling water
squeeze the water out and line a colander with the muslin
put the yoghurt in the lined colander over a bowl
place on a plate (to catch drips) and cover with clingfilm
place in the fridge for several hours or preferably overnight
when the yoghurt is ready place it in a bowl and add the cucumber, garlic, salt and lemon juice to taste and a tablespoon or so of olive oil and stir well
put into serving dish and drizzle with a little more oil and sprinkle with sumac

i keep the whey from draining the yoghurt for bread making

there are numerous variations for making tzatziki such as:
adding finely crumbled feta
adding finely cut dill
omitting the sumac
using kalamata olives for decoration instead of the sumac

i made my usual loaf of bread but i replaced half of the water in the final dough with 'little creatures' beer which i boiled before use to deactivate any live yeast and burn off the alcohol and i retarded the dough overnight in the fridge..i removed it from the fridge in the morning and because it was quite a warm day the dough was ready for its final shaping after 4 hours..and it was then ready to bake after 3 hours proving.. 

and dinner last night was a veritable greek feast..x 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

when i'm not quilting..

i've been reading a lot of fictional books..or truth be told i am re reading books that i read decades ago..most of them were by chaim potok, a jewish author, whom i admire a lot..but i also re read the 'outsider' by albert's been an unexpectedly satisfying much so that i've ordered half a dozen more books from my local library by authors such as tolstoy, satre and isaac beshevis singer..

novels and i didn't like each other much for many many years..i went from being an avid reader devouring a book a day type avidness to having no interest at all..the change in my reading appetite was a consequence of 10 consecutive years of study where my reading became polarised and i developed an unnatural liking for contorted neuronal gymnastics..but we're friends again novels and much so that it seems like we never grew apart..

i've been gardening too..a few weeks ago i pulled out all the past it's best stuff and planted tomatoes,


and climbing beans..

yesterday i harvested my garlic

 and i noticed that my three year old passionfruit is flowering and fruiting well

i've also planted celery, cucumber, rocket, lettuce, eggplant, basil and coriander..the feijoa has it's first offspring, the two year old pomegranate looks as if it might just bear fruit this year, the elderberry is smothered with flowers and rhubarb planted in winter is looking just like the one i pulled out thinking it was a green variety..i've since learned from a nursery person that rhubarb takes a few years to pink up..

i haven't been cooking anything of note lately except that i made christmas puddings about a month ago with a friend of mine..we have been making our puddings together for over 30 years and we haven't missed a year in all that time.. 

my maternal grandmother daphne's recipe

i made two smaller versions..
one for this christmas and one to have in winter
happy december everyone..x

Sunday, 6 November 2011

mango ice cream

in summer when mangoes are at their best and cheapest i indulge and buy a box of them every now and then..many are eaten as is..the cheeks are cut off and the flesh slashed to the skin forming easily dispatched cubes.. even with this method it's a messy business especially defleshing the seed which my less than salubrious self can be found doing, dripping mango juice down my chin and onto my clothes if i'm not careful, leaning over the kitchen sink..

before i came across these beauties yesterday i'd been contemplating sweet mango recipes and very few of the ideas i came up with appealed to me..i don't fancy mango in cake or cake with mango curd but when i thought of mango ice cream it definitely seemed very i looked online and found a recipe that i adapted today to suit what i had on hand and also because i like to play around with foody ideas..

i didn't have to buy anything to make the ice cream.. the lemons i have are home grown ones that i bought last week from an op shop for 0.20 cents each, i made yoghurt last night using a method recommended by brydie and my mint is rampant..and instead of glucose i used honey, and just to see the effect i replaced some of the yoghurt with coconut cream and i added the lemon zest because i love to come across bits of lemony zest goodness in ice cream..

8 large not too ripe mangoes for $12

mango icecream recipe


1 large or two small ripe mangoes peeled and flesh cut into medium dice
50 gms icing sugar
50 gms honey
juice and zest of 1 large or two small lemons
400 gms yoghurt 
100 gms coconut cream
1 tbs finely cut mint


put all ingredients except for lemon zest into a food processor and process until well pureed
add lemon zest
churn in an icecream maker according to the manufacturers instructions (i have a kitchen-aid ice cream making attachment)
remove ice cream from the churn and place it into a bowl, cover with foil and place in the freezer

at the same time as i bought the mangoes i bought 2 kgs of bananas for $ that might not sound that exciting to some of you..but to us aussies..well to this aussie it is great because i haven't bought bananas for months because they've been $15 per kg..the price increase was due to the devastation of 85 per cent of the $200 million industry by cyclone yasi early in the year..but the plantations are producing again after intensive redevelopment of the industry..

i think my banana buying frenzy was a tad over enthusiastic because i now have a dozen bananas that will ripen fast in the heat we've been experiencing in the last few days..i will freeze a few peeled bananas for smoothies and make banana ice cream using a similar recipe to the mango ice cream..hopefully that will take care of seems to be the story of my culinary life that i start fires in order to work out the best way to put them out :)   

the ice cream is good by the way..a nice balance of sweet, sour, creamy, minty and fruity mango flavour..i'll let you know how the banana ice cream goes..i rather fancy putting a praline through it or maybe making a butterscotch sauce to swirl through it after it's set a bit..i'll see at the time..

Friday, 4 November 2011

beer bread

on wednesday night this week my children were due to come to my place for our fortnightly meal together..i went for a long walk with a friend in the morning, shopped for the meal and and then i spent the rest of the day cooking the meal as well as ironing the tablecloth, setting the table and picking a small posy of flowers for the i was working i kept reminding myself to get the ladder so that i could get a few more bottles of beer from a high cupboard where i have them stored and to put them in the fridge because sometimes my children and i like a beer or two with certain meals..but i didn't get around to it.. 

when my children arrived i offered them a drink from the very limited selection i had on wine or beer..and they all wanted beer..fortunately there were enough bottles for us to have one tall son offered to get more out of storage when i told my children about my unfulfilled intention to put more in the fridge..when he put four more bottles in the freezer to hasten their drinkability i asked my children to remember that they were there because it's not uncommon for us to forget..and then i have a freezer cleaning job and wasted beer.. 

well..i did give away a small clue in my post title about what happened to those beer bottles so it's no surprise then when i tell you that the next day when i was cleaning up i had a light bulb moment that featured those beer bottles..upon opening the freezer i was surprised though to find that only one of the three bottles left in there had an escapage problem..the other two appeared what to do with the renegade bottle of beer since the bottle was almost entirely full..throw it away..or what?

i wasn't sure if it was another light bulb moment or not when i decided yesterday to make bread with some of the beer..but..having just tasted a slice i can confidently say that beer in bread makes a very fine loaf..   

since i started making sourdough bread i've not been particularly adventurous because i always use the same recipe that i adapted from one of joanna's recipes at zeb bakes..for this particular loaf i replaced the 200 mls of water with the equivalent amount of room temperature beer..

i've bought dan lepard's bread book 'the handmade loaf' but so far i haven't tried any of the recipes but i have looked at the kneading and shaping information in the after the initial three 2 minute kneading and 10 minute resting cycles i always use i applied his fold and turn method after the last resting cycle, after 30 minutes and after 1 hour..and in between the folding and turning cycles i put the bread in my oven on the dough proving setting..for the final prove i put the dough in a rye floured muslin lined colander for 2 hours and then the bread was cooked with steam for 20 minutes at 220 deg c and then for a further 20 minutes at the reduced temperature of 180 deg c..

if you've made beer bread i'd love to hear about your adventure..oh..and by the way i'm now thinking  about experimenting with stout in bread..

Thursday, 27 October 2011

lemon and yoghurt cake

i needed a short reprieve today from the hand quilting i'd been doing so i decided to make a recipe choice was influenced by a large past it's use by date container of yoghurt sitting idle in my fridge and which i felt could only now be used in cooking..

i settled on this recipe after looking at several lemon and yoghurt cake recipes because i liked the sound of the ingredients..a lot of the recipes i looked at had a lemon and sugar syrup poured on the cake after cooking but, as much as i like that type of cake, i wanted to avoid a very sweet cake..

i didn't make any changes to the recipe but i did process my own almond meal from unblanched almonds and i left some pieces unprocessed so occasionally when eating a slice there's a nice little almond surprise..i cooked the cake in a slightly bigger tin than specified too so mine isn't quite as high as the one in the site photo but it cooked in the specified time given in the recipe..

after a few cups of tea and a slice of what turned out to be a delicious cake i returned to quilting my daughter's patchwork quilt..

the backing fabric

Monday, 24 October 2011

kali orexi*

pasticcio macaroni is one of my favourite greek dishes and i have fond memories of eating it in athenian tavernas as a 21 year's a traditional greek dish similar to lasagne with layers of a special uncut macaroni in a sweet spicy sauce and a creamy cheese bechamel sauce that is baked until it's bubbling and golden crusted..the flavour of pasticcio really shines though when it's served luke warm which is the typical way it would be eaten in greece..

it's a great dish that feeds many and can be reheated successfully (it's even better the next day)..i've adapted the recipe i've used over the years from the recipe in 'the best of greek cookery' by chrissa paradissis that was my first greek cookbook..the main changes i've made are the addition of cinnamon and allspice to the meat sauce which are traditionally used in pasticcio by some greek cooks..

pasticcio macaroni recipe
8-10 people

meat sauce ingredients
750 gms of minced beef or lamb
2 finely diced medium onions
1-2 cloves garlic finely cut
1 cup of white wine
750 gms tomato puree
2 tbs tomato paste
10 allspice
1/2 tbs cinnamon
1/2 tbs greek origano
1 tsp chilli flakes
2-3 tbs olive oil
2 egg whites

cheese sauce
60 gms butter
4 tbs plain flour
1 litre warm milk
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 cup of tasty cheese**
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

500 gms 6.3 mm hollow pasta (or macaroni or penne)
1 cup tasty cheese
olive oil
approx 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

meat sauce method
heat olive oil in a large frying pan and saute minced meat, onion and garlic until slightly browned
add remainder of ingredients except for egg whites, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes
cool and then stir in egg whites

cheese sauce method
melt butter in a heavy based saucepan, add the flour and cook stirring until smooth and gold in colour
add milk in stages stirring well between additions and cook until the mixture just boils
remove from the heat and add cheese, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste and then the eggs and egg yolks

cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente
drain and return to the pan and add 1/2 of the cheese and 2-3 soup ladles of the cheese sauce

brush a 30x38x6 cm baking dish with olive oil and distribute bread crumbs to cover the base and sides of the dish
add half the pasta, cover with the meat filling and then add remaining pasta
cover with the cheese sauce
sprinkle with remaining cheese and bread crumbs
bake in a moderate oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden and bubbling
leave for 20 minutes and then cut into squares to serve

a greek salad or a green salad are the usual accompaniments

 *  means good appetite
 **i often use a combination of cheeses such as tasty (or kefalograviera or kasseri),  parmesan (or mizithra) and feta..

i love the way the pasta on the top becomes a bit chewy

Monday, 17 October 2011

pumpkin bread

as i said in my last post i have a fridge full of's a bit less full since i've now cooked with it twice..the first time being my not very inspiring pasta and pumpkin dish that i cobbled together at the last minute because i had been sewing and not eating properly for days and i hadn't been shopping for i don't know how long actually..and yesterday i made pumpkin bread which is the topic of today's post..but there is still 5.7 kgs left..yes..i actually just weighed it because i didn't want to exaggerate for the sake of a good story! so don't be surprised if pumpkin features in my next few food related posts..

a very flexible pumpkin bread recipe

a few spoons of starter that i wanted to use up
1 tsp yeast
a couple of spoons of yoghurt because i felt like it
about 50 mls of whey from yoghurt draining that i wanted to use up
1 tsp honey
1 1/2 tbs salt flakes (less if using processed salt)
400 gms white bread flour
100 gms whole wheat flour
tepid filtered water
approximately 500 gms pumpkin-half cut into large chunks and the remainder cut into small dice
1 red capsicum finely diced
1 onion finely diced
about 12 sage leaves chopped finely
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
pepper to taste
extra salt to taste
olive oil 
pumpkin seeds

dough method
first steam the large chunks of pumpkin until soft and then mash roughly leaving a few chunks
put the starter, yeast and honey into a mixing bowl and add about 100 mls of tepid water and mix
add yoghurt, whey and mashed pumpkin and flours and then while mixing, either by hand or with a mixer, start adding enough tepid water to achieve a soft slightly sticky dough
mix for 2 minutes, rest for 10 minutes 
repeat 3 times adding the salt on the third mixing
cover with greased clingfilm and leave until the dough is well risen

filling method
add a tablespoon or so of the olive oil to a frying pan and saute the onion and capsicum until well softened
steam the small pumpkin cubes until soft
put the onion and capsicum, pumpkin cubes, cheese and sage in a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste 

when the dough has risen remove the dough from the bowl and knead it for a minute or so and then shape it into a large rectangle approximately 15cms x 30cms..evenly distribute the filling over the dough pressing the ingredients into the dough a little and then roll into a log shape..mine tore a bit at this stage..put the log onto a baking paper lined tray and when well risen sprinkle with pumpkin seeds pressing them in if needed..i baked the pumpkin bread on the bread setting function of my oven at 220 deg c with steam for the first 20 minutes and then i reduced the heat to 180 degrees c and continued baking it for a further 20 minutes by which stage it was nicely browned.. 

my breakfast

this bread was delicious warm last night and almost even better this morning when i had it for's a recipe i think i will make often because i think it suits both winter and winter it would be good with a warming bowl of soup and in summer it would make a quick and healthy lunch with a green salad..and i'm imagining the next loaf with other ingredients in the mix such as tasty cheese, cooked bacon or bits of cooked chorizo or a loaf with spinach, dill, spring onions and fetta..the list is endless..but the non pumpkin ideas will have to wait..

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

don't have time

lately i've been waking up in the morning with urgent sewing my daughter's quilt showering, teeth brushing and all that stuff we do to make ourselves presentable to the world has been irking i've found myself doing the bare minimum and doing a pretty good job of convincing myself that i just look like i've been painting when i throw on the faded paint spattered tracksuit pants..and i often don't eat breakfast..don't have time..lunch is a hit and miss affair where if i've made bread..i seem to find time for that..i will have a slice or three with butter and vegemite..and dinner has often been weird random grazing over a few hours..sultanas..celery sticks..another piece of time to toast apple..yoghurt..well, you get the idea..  

last night i had one of those little chats i have with myself about the state of affairs..the outcome was that i thought i'd better cook dinner..i wasn't surprised when i looked in the fridge to find a paucity of culinary time for shopping either..but i managed to mentally cobble together an embryonic idea that started with the over abundance of pumpkin that's residing in said fridge..i bought the pumpkin a few months ago because it was so beautiful and i had it sitting on my kitchen bench for ages to enjoy it's pumpkiny loveliness..i sometimes do things like that rather than livening up the domain only with flowers..

anyway getting on with cooking dinner bit of the story..i cut up a whole lot of pumpkin into smallish cook quickly chunks and put them in a roasting pan along with a couple of onions roughly cut the same size, a few unpeeled garlic cloves, a bit of dried home grown chilli and some fresh sage leaves, popped in some bacon fat i had sojourning in the fridge and the usual suspects like salt and pepper and oil..towards the end i added some roughly hewn bits of home made sour dough the meantime i boiled some twirly type pasta with a bit of rocket thrown in at the end of the cooking time..i mixed it together and served it with freshly grated parmesan..

ok..i agree it's not that exciting to look at but it tasted quite good and it was better than the crazy grazing alternative..and by the way i've made huge progress on the quilt..tomorrow it will be ready for me to start the hand quilting..

Thursday, 6 October 2011

cupcake anyone?

on tuesday i was hanging washing on the line when my newish neighbour whom i hadn't met before called out to ask me if i wanted some lemons from her tree which i surely did thankyou very much indeed..i wanted to ask her if she had psychic powers when she gave them to me because i'd had my lustful eye on that burgeoning tree so full of delicious looking lemony goldenness for a's not as if i can't buy lemons but for me a home grown lemon is so much better and these home grown lemons are truly beautiful..they are large with bright yellow unblemished flesh with just the right amount of pith and juice..

i never tire of cupcakes even though i've been making them since my children were little and 
despite the fact that they are in danger of taking over the world..and because i wanted to use those luscious lemons and because i needed to make a sweet for dinner last night i decided to make lemon curd cupcakes..i make all sorts of different cupcake batters and the one that gets an airing depends on my mood at the time..but yesterday i decided to try a new cake batter and it's success means that the other batters are in serious danger of being served with a recipe folder eviction notice..

cupcake batter
155 gms self raising flour sifted
155 gms castor sugar
155 gms unsalted butter
2 eggs
75 mls milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
cream butter and castor sugar until pale and fluffy
beat in eggs one at a time 
add flour, milk and vanilla and beat until mixture is smooth
place in 12 cupcake cases and bake at 180 deg c for approximately 15 minutes or until golden and cooked in the centre 

lemon curd*
2/3 cup castor sugar
60 gms unsalted butter
yolks 4 eggs
100 mls lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon zest
beat sugar and egg yolks until well incorporated
place in saucepan with other ingredients and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until just simmering and thickened
cool before use

once the cupcakes are cooled cut a large deep circle from the top of each cake, fill with a teaspoon or so of organic double cream and a generous teaspoon of lemon curd, put the circle back on and then dust with icing sugar..

and then eat one..or two..

* lemon curd recipe from 'the cook's companion' by stephanie alexander

edit note 17 october 2011: since my original post i've made these cupcakes again and i increased the sugar in the lemon curd from 2/3 to 3/4 of a cup (unusual for me because i usually find i need to decrease the sugar in recipes) and i cooked the curd in a double boiler to prevent it catching on the bottom which it did last time..

Thursday, 29 September 2011

quilt guilt

in the last couple of weeks i've put all my projects on vegetable garden, cupboard and door stripping, sanding and painting, vintage sheet and spare room quilts, shed rearranging, card and tea towel making and so on..except for a quilt that i've been making for my daughter alexandra that was due to be completed for her 30th birthday in may..i didn't finish it because i found it tedious..for one thing i made the mistake of starting it too soon..what happened was that i started one for my eldest daughter katerina for her 30th in 2009 and i got so carried away with how much fun it was choosing the fabric with her that i thought i might be fun to get alex's fabric too and then i thought it might be nice to do just a little bit of alex's so that we could sort of see what the finished product would look like..i think there was too much of the not right sort of thinking going on!

by the time i finished katerina's quilt for her birthday, with the completion date and my initials embroidered on it and all, i had a few (understatement) quilty ideas that needed expression so i started three called 'kitchen scraps' (photo below) made mainly with vintage aprons that i'd been collecting for years, one made with vintage embroidered table linen (photo below) and one with vintage sheets (photo below)..and i got carried away with them at the expense of alex's quilt..i mentioned earlier that i found alex's quilt tedious because i started it too early but it was also tedious because she'd chosen the same design as katerina who'd chosen the same design as one i'd made for myself (photo below) by the time i was due to get seriously stuck into alex's quilt i found myself struggling to get excited by the design because i was now making it for the third time..and while i didn't find the fabric she'd chosen particularly inspiring either it was when she commented that she might have liked one like the vintage sheet quilt that she saw me making that i lost the alex quilt plot completely..

anyway i had a bit of a talk with myself recently and what i had to say to myself convinced me that a loving mother puts her daughter's quilt ahead of all other projects and, as well, she overcomes mental roadblocks in the form of excuses..i have to report that the talk i had with myself went well because i've only got two more rows of hexagons left before i finish piecing the main part of the quilt top (photo below)..then all i need to do is make half hexagons to fill in two sides of the quilt, hand sew the border on to the pieced top, sandwich the top, batting and backing fabric together and then i can get onto the hand quilting followed by the binding and the embroidery of my initials and date of completion..and i'm determined, above all else, to have it done before the end of the year..

and just as well i had that chat because my son nicholas turns 30 in two years and i have a brother who turns 50 in 3 years and they both want and have been promised quilts..

'kitchen scraps' quilt
vintage embroidered linen quilt
vintage sheets quilt
my 'sweet cherry dreams' quilt
alexandra's quilt