I know my next post was meant to be on pies, and I seem to be forgetting my initial recipe book mission (I haven’t, but some other things are more pressing!) but my sister and I did a little project on ginger recently. Without publishing the whole article, which went to a magazine that unfortunately brings to mind a song about video killing the radio star…   I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what Hayley’s camera clicking digit is capable of! Well, as best as I can anyway in a tiny space.

And, a little bit about ginger…

I didn’t mind working at woollies as a teenager because I could waver boredom by sniffing herbs and spices as I whizzed them onto the scales. Whether  a delicious morsel of pickled ginger with a fresh piece of sashimi, dumplings with ginger and black vinegar in China Town or a piece of fruit cake slathered with butter, ginger is a universal flavour backbone.  Ironically, as perhaps the youngest of the colonies, Australia has become one of the world’s leading stars in ginger production with almost all of the crop hailing from near Buderim in Queensland. I quite like the revolting facts  like its properties working wonders to disguise the flavour of rotten meat. Watch out house guests!

My love of ginger started at Mullion Creek,  when I tasted the cloudy zing of alcoholic ginger beer from a brew my uncle made. I must have been young, because I was warned not to try it… Tasting it was naughty and perhaps my first introduction to ginger in its most head spinning form. More recently in India, a samosa, scooped straight from the hot oil of a street cart was thrown to me in a piece of newspaper. Behind the bubbling oil an old man pounded potatoes, ginger, spices and chillies onto a giant stone polished with years of samosa-filling-pounding and fragrant with spices. For an Indian,  these spices might have been like chops and mashed potato, but to me they were eye-poppingly amazing. Biting into the giant samosa dripping with sweet tamarind sauce, a filling of fluffy potato and a distinct hit of ginger, I realised this was perhaps why I visited India, for one messy bite. I would soon become the only Westerner to actually gain weight in India and get sick not from food, but from eating too many samosas then riding on a camel.

Here are the recipes we decided to cook on that lovely sisterly day. Clever wee Hayley gave me a serving for my last blog’s lack of photos, so here – feast your eyes.

Chai Mix

Indian Masala Chai

Masala Chai blend:
50g each (or equal quantities of)
50g Green cardamom pods
50g Black pepper
50g Nutmeg
50g Mace (nutmeg flower)
50g Freshly grated ginger
5 whole cloves

1 cup water
1 dessert spoon Masala Chai blend
3 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons black tea
3 cups milk

1. For Masala Chai tea blend, combine spices and grind in a spices grinder or pound well with a mortar and pestle. (Blend can be stored in an air tight container for a few months).
2. To make tea, pour water into a large saucepan and bring to the simmer.
3. Add Masala Chai, sugar and black tea and return to simmer for 1-2 minutes.
4. Pour in milk and bring to the boil. When boiling, take off stove top. Return to the boil and boil up and down five times.
5. Remove from heat filter into a cup or pot. Serve in little cups and sweeten with honey if desired.

Sweet potato ginger soup

Sweet potato, parsnip and ginger soup

Serves: 8

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
700g sweet potato, cubed
300g parsnips, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less if you don’t like your food spicy)
1L chicken stock
1 ½ cups coconut milk
salt and pepper
cashews for garnishing (optional)

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat then add potatoes, parsnip and onion until vegetables start to brown.
  2. Reduce heat to low and add butter, sugar and garlic and cook for a further ten minutes or until they begin to caramelise.
  3. Add spices and stir until fragrant. Increase heat to high, pour in stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until vegetables are soft. Add coconut milk and turn off heat when hot.
  4. Allow to cool a little then puree until smooth. Garnish with cashews.

Kofta CurryKofta CurryServes  4-6

Pork Koftas
1kg pork mince
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
Rind of one lemon
1 long red chilli, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint (plus extra for garnish)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander (plus extra for garnish)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon salt1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
1.5 teaspoon garam masala
1.5 teaspoon turmeric
1x 800g tin of tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt

1. For the koftas, preheat oven to 180°C and grease a large baking dish.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and shape into small balls. Place koftas in baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
3. For the sauce, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and sauté onions, garlic and ginger until golden. Add spices and stir until fragrant.
4. Add tomatoes and combine well then gently place koftas in sauce. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with rice and yoghurt and sprinkle with herbs and lemon juice.

Lime and ginger dumplings

Caramel, Ginger and Lime Dumplings

Dumplings

1 ¼ cups self-raising flour
30g butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons lime zest, finely grated
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)

Sauce

30g butter
1 ½ cups brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
juice of half a lime
3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

  1. To make the dumplings, mix together the dry ingredients. Rub in butter until the consistency of breadcrumbs and add milk and vanilla. Roll into small balls.
  2. To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir to combine and bring to the boil over medium heat.
  3. Drop dumplings into the sauce and reduce the heat  to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, checking that the heat isn’t too high (caramel burns easily!).
  4. Dumplings should be soft and fluffy and cooked through the middle when broken apart.
  5. Serve with ice cream or cream.

I have always done things for the wrong reasons. In my early twenties when many of my friends were alive with the spirit of recreational drugs, I didn’t get involved. Why? Not because I thought I would die from a cocktail of ajax and horse tranquilisers, reasons drummed into our heads at school, but because my cousin told me about a friend of hers who arrived in London, took a pill and ended up humiliating herself in an unmentionable way potentially to do with the title ‘ecstacy’ in the line up to a club. The girl was so ashamed she returned back to Australia a few days later.

I never smoked because I was worried I’d get a little yellow peak between my two front teeth or that no surgeon would operate on me if I ever got a terrible case of incontinence. When my husband asked me to come and visit him in Condobolin, near to where he’s exploration drilling, I ummed and ahhed – it seemed far. When he mentioned the weather was so nice that “flies were buzzing around” I jumped at the chance. Besides, a road trip is usually where you find the best food… Then again, I’d never been to Condo on a Sunday. The last time I went visiting my miner was at Tottenham simply because the Tottenham Bowling Club purportedly had delicious crumbed cutlets. My trip was made worthwhile by Gail, the manager of the caravan park, who was warned of my arrival. When I opened the door of the cabin, the bed was littered with Tottenham flowers and next to it proudly stood a bottle of red accompanied by two glasses. The country folk know how to woo me!

So this weekend my drive to Condo was the quintessential Australian experience. As my Toyota Echo zoomed along the straight roads, I started pining for John Williamson to droll out an acoustic version mentioning Galleries of Pink Galahs. Until, of course, I almost drove into a flock of the stupid things who thought it was OK to peck about at grain that had fallen off a truck and then directly fly into my car’s path before flying away. It’s as if they play games of chicken, but a fatality is occasional. The fright for the unsuspecting driver caught in their Australian daydream is eminent … albeit not as frightening, I imagine, as the people who’d killed the multiple rotting kangaroos bloated with time by the side of the road.

Still, I was excited to see the bleached winter sky against pale grass covered in tufts of cotton, the red dirt under black asphalt and most of all, the lines of orange trees on the outskirts of Forbes. I imagined a BFG pounding fragrant orange flesh in a swimming pool sized mortar and pestle and me swimming through it with my mouth open. After he’d finished pounding, obviously. Pregnancy has done odd things to me – mostly my adulation of certain foods and abhorrence of others.  The local RSL, where I enjoyed a shandy (mostly lemonade with a dash of beer), had a milk crate full of local oranges ‘free’, their waxy green leaves still attached. I didn’t feel right taking them without being a local, so sulkily I left them in the crate and have not stopped thinking about them ever since.

I recall one of my biggest food regrets being not stopping at one of the many roadside shrimp houses on Hawaii’s island of Oahu. So, here in Oz, I stop at a few places. Always: Karuah on the old Pacific highway heading north up the coast for oysters (unshucked and brought home in a damp hessian bag to enjoy fresh for the next week with a cold beer), the back road from Kempsey to Hat Head for sweet corn, Griffith for salami, anywhere from Coffs Harbour for bananas,  anything healthy and delicious from Byron Bay (recipe below for Lennox Head breakfast) and Orange for apples and wine. My next post is about pies, so I will omit them for now. Pies deserve their own post.

The reason I decided to write this post wasn’t to rant about the oddities of Australian travel and country towns, but to highlight a very special event that I was privileged enough to be involved with last year. As I drove through Forbes, about half an hour inland from Condobolin and about 6 hours west of Sydney, I was reminded of the first Forbes BBQ Society National Championships which were held last year (http://www.forbesbbqsociety.com.au/ press clipping here of the Sydney team who racked up the prizes  http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-news/a-couple-of-snags-on-the-way-to-aussie-bbq-glory/story-e6freuzi-1226179982363 ) . For me it was a day of sampling the various categories of meat (chicken, pork spare ribs, beef, lamb provided by the society) cooked in the competitors’ own barbeques and judged alongside other panel members. A delicious day it was! If a little bit filling. I still maintain that big mouthfuls are essential to judging a hunk of barbequed meat, so I stand by my meat inhalation.  Unless you’ve read the invitation, you perhaps wouldn’t be aware that teams can be up to four people and there’s a $4000 prize pool. I felt like calling dad and getting him to hot foot it out to Forbes with his BBQ and marinades and win some money. There are some pretty specific rules, eg marinades only, no garnishes etc. but it’s modelled on the Kansas, USA, barbeque championships, the biggest in the world.

The next National Championships are being held 20th October at the Forbes Rugby Clubhouse and I believe they coincide with a national hang gliding competition to be held in Forbes at the same time. Seriously, enter. These Sydney folk won so many prizes last year, I got jealous. Forbes NSW – what a happening place! Also, I found out today when I stopped at the Mezzanine coffee shop on my way home, it also has some pretty cute shops. I even bought a pair of second hand tap shoes at the café which I plan on entertaining my family with on my new deck in a routine on Christmas day. Given that the baby’s meant to arrive on New Year’s Eve, it could be frightening… lucky they love me.

My take on delicious breakfast sampled at a café in Lennox Head

For the pesto
1 bunch basil
2 cloves garlic
big hunk of parmesan (80grams or so)
salt
extra virgin olive oil
small packet pine nuts

1 avocado, sliced
2 slices rye or seedy bread
big handful rocket
sea salt
cracked pepper
big wedge lemon

Simple stuff, but blend the ingredients for the pesto (use as much olive oil and salt as for the consistency and flavour you want), then spread on toast. Place sliced avocado on toasted bread, top with rocket then season and squeeze over lemon. Mmmm. Use pesto for next few days when you’re addicted, tossed through pasta or on sandwiches.

Sometimes, when I drive past Holy trinity Church, I wind down the window and hover at the roundabout letting everyone past. The local bellringers (The Orange Pealers) are practising and I often wish I lived next door, just so I can hear their cheery clangs and imperfect timings. Last year I worked at the local paper (for a day and they never paid me), and wrote a story about the Orange Pealers. It made my day to see  people with interests outside of television, a feeling akin to when the vulnerable are shown kindness. But that usually makes me cry so I’d probably rather see a fight. The Orange Pealers, official in their matching colourful polo t-shirts, had some pending bellringing visitors from St Paul’s in London and I could sense they were going to be star struck… which I imagine they would have been if I found out, not having lasted more than a day at the local paper.

I only stumbled across the feeling of ‘star-struckedness’ for the first time when I sat next to Luke Nguyen for lunch a year after I  followed his food trail and stories around Vietnam. No, I lie, when I was seven I met Nigel Burley, a ballet dancer with the Australian Ballet, who kissed me on the cheek and I wanted to never wash my face again.

Anyway, I don’t appreciate bells when I hear them ringing anywhere else – I love imperfection and things that don’t quite match. I wish I could hear those out of time clanging, happy bells in the middle of the night as I sleep. It can be so quiet I hear my heart beating and mistake it for thudding footsteps down the wooden floor of the hallway. An idle mind is able to able to imagine these things, only realising it’s a heartbeat when it gets faster and faster and reality kicks in – as if a robber would start running down a hallway, making all that racket! And I suppose when you do have an idle mind, imagination kicks in by default to stop you from being dull. Or lonely – like Anne of Green Gables with her window friend Katie (as a kid I was convinced this was me and started carrying around my Jetset schoolbag like it was a ‘very old carpet bag’).

Once again, I’m off the point. I meant to start this post with a big fat apology for four weeks of food writer’s block. Evidently, cooking out of a cookbook every night can be rather fattening, time consuming and expensive. But with imperfection, imagination and Anne’s bosom friend as the themes for the week, I chose the Ottolenghi the Cookbook. This book was given to me last year by my lovely friend Tina (see her blog http://www.sydneyfoodieblog.com/), an instant ‘bosom friend’ who I worked with at Junior Masterchef, who I think would be a possum if she were an animal and who loves my ‘best worst stories’. Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi of Ottolenghi in Notting Hill like imperfection too – “unfussiness and simplicity in food preparation are, for us, the only way to maintain freshness of a dish…”. They hate dishes that you “just knew had been touched a lot in the preparation” and have a philosophy that diets, health, provenance, morals and food miles take all the fun out of food. “How boring and what a mistake!” they say. I think we’d be bosom friends if we met!

The dishes I cooked out of this book surprised me – I’m guilty of loading ingredients in recipes so they pack more of a punch, so was refreshed in my restraint and stuck to the recipes to find the flavours balanced to perfection without losing a single nuance of their original qualities. Yotam has a column in the Guardian where he’s published a bunch of vegetarian dishes. Seriously – you should try them http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/series/thenewvegetarian .

Ottolenghi the Cookbook

Roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey – Mum and dad came around for dinner, mid Mother of the Bride diet, and I made this dish. It was so delicious, mum (not being allowed nuts or sugar in this diet) basically licked the plate clean and left a single piece of chicken in the baking dish, robbed of all its sauce and nuts. I liken it to a savoury version of baklava, with star ingredients being the hazelnuts, cinnamon and rosewater.

Cinnamon and hazelnut meringues – I made these when I had a migraine and I ate half of one which magically acted like Panadol. They are made with brown sugar and are the size of oranges. My two year old niece loved them and polished off the lot when I left. The same night I baked some Cranberry and White Chocolate Biscuits which my sister, in all her skinny glory and fresh from a wedding, gobbled down at 3am. With the ensuing hangover, she managed to get her three year old daughter to deliver her the rest of the biscuits as she lay in bed for the day.

Marinated aubergine with tahini and oregano this dish is zingy and moreish and lovely on a roll with cold lamb!

Unfortunately, that week, I didn’t get around to making the Sticky Chocolate Loaf (basically adult chocolate cake with prunes soaked in Armagnac) but I have promised my colleagues that I’ll make it soon. I’ve been talking about it for weeks though, as usual I’m talking a lot and under delivering.

Marbella Chicken

This is a default dish in my house because it’s delicious and it’s super easy. Please forgive my handwriting…

There’s a positive to having a hangover. On the second weekend of every month, the Farmer’s Markets are held in town, and coincidentally it’s usually the morning after I’ve had a lovely night eating and drinking with a little puddle of friends. It’s the red wine euphoria, when you get out of bed smiling and armed with an empty envirobag. You head to the market, a little scattered and a smidgen terrified about who you’ll run into and won’t be able to converse with properly, but you’re loving having the option. These are the wonderful few hours, before the afternoon low, when living in regional Australia is easy and sunny and fragrant and fresh.

In saying this, I don’t love the Farmer’s Markets. There’s a certain element of wankerism that I just can’t get past. I go because I love the neatly lined bunches of rhubarb, the handwritten signs, the dirty potatoes and white cheeses floating in olive oil. It’s a feast for the eyes, racked with potential for home, with Australian native flowers in white plastic buckets and packages of everything ‘pig’ kept cool from the summer sun in a container full of ice. The ‘foodie’ element of the market is what gets me, the part where it’s assumed that just because you’re shopping locally and organically, you should pay $3 for a knob of garlic. And you should wear a hat made of pink organic cotton and push a stroller around with a designer child munching on a sourdough baguette. Still, I have to admit the food tastes better…. Or is that my justification?

This morning I met a couple who epitomise what a farmer’s market should be. A cheery middle aged country couple, complete with muddy boots and tattered akubras, selling their preserves and farm eggs. I bought 24 of their duck and chicken eggs for under $10. When I remarked at how cheap they were (the stall adjacent was selling duck eggs for $10 a dozen), the woman told me she loves her chooks and her ducks and they just happen to lay too many eggs for them to eat. She only charges that price because of government regulations with regard to labelling.  Ridiculously, she felt she had to apologise that they weren’t clean enough, but apparently people turn their noses up at dirty eggs – like they eat the shell anyway.

Since Orange NSW feels like Europe at the moment (the leaves on my trees are already turning … at the beginning of February), and the produce that fares so well here features in a lot of British cooking, I chose my relatively new book Jamie’s Great Britain for this week’s theme.

Ploughman’s Lunch featuring Scotch Eggs and Worcestershire Beef Sarnie: Here I cheated and managed to combine three recipes in one. A Ploughman’s lunch is just a selection of whatever you have really, knocked into a meal for the worker. Seeing it in the book reminded of the last time I last had this meal. I was at the family property with my late grandfather Harry and uncle Chris, marking lambs for cash during one of my uni holidays. We moved the lambs down the road under the October sun shining through gums and willows and retired back to the house for lunch where we ate terrine, cheese and Harry’s own pickled walnuts*. My grandmother can’t believe she ever had children because before bed every night, Harry would wash down a cheese and onion sandwich with a glass of whiskey and finish with a smoke of his pipe. He had the right idea with this combination, so I copied.

The one I made had baby dill cucumbers, Mersey Valley cheese, English pickled onions, Scotch Eggs, wholegrain mustard and my tomato, fig and peach chutney (recipe below) and a crusty loaf of sourdough.  The star of the show was the Worcestershire Beef – cooked in a pot with 150ml of Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, rosemary, celery and onions for about 6 hours on low. It fell apart in delicious meaty strands.

Also, if you’ve never eaten a Scotch Egg, you’re missing out. Basically, it’s Cumberland sausage meat squeezed out of the casings, mixed with herbs, wrapped neatly around boiled eggs, crumbed and fried in a pan. Jamie uses quail eggs, but home grown chicken eggs were good enough for me. This was lunch for three days afterwards. Yum.

Banana and walnut loaf: This simple and delicious treat was made with my lovely duck eggs. I had already made some breakfast burritos with the eggs, but I was stunned that I found them too strong to eat alone. This, coming from the weirdo who eats eggplant pickle and anchovies from the jar. The recipe calls for six bananas, and aided by their lovely ‘nearly past their peak-edness’ caramel goodness, it threw a spanner in the works for getting rid of my pre-wedding fadoobadas.

My final attempt at cooking a lean meal this week, was ER’s Diamond Jubilee Chicken – a refresher on the old Coronation Chicken. I loved that this infused some flavours of the other cultures of Britain, with the chicken served with, nuts, chilli, limes and spices on a salad of pineapple and cucumber and dressed with coriander yoghurt. I boringly used breast, but the recipe calls for lovely bits of crispy thigh skin which would have been lovely but chicken skin is a habit I’m trying to kick.

I love all my Jamie Oliver books. I just can’t wait until I have a new oven so I can make more recipes from this one.

Tomato, fig and peach chutney (blend for tomato sauce)
Makes: about 15 small jars

3kg (or about 15) tomatoes, roughly chopped
5cm piece ginger, shredded
10 peaches, seeds removed, roughly chopped
1kg onions roughly chopped
375g dried figs, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic
450g sugar
60g salt
2 cups vinegar

Method: Place all ingredients in a pot and cook for around 1 hour. Transfer into sterilised jars. If you would prefer to make the sauce, allow to cool slightly before blending, then bring back to the boil.

*Harry’s pickled walnuts: I was teased for taking these black goodies wrapped in foil to my Montessori preschool until another kid from Hungary brought an onion to school for morning tea and ate it like an apple.

Harry’s Pickled Walnuts – a recipe for the dedicated!

In late November, walnuts are ready when a needle can be inserted into them without resistance. Pick from the tree and place in the sun (Harry did this on an old shearer’s wire bed frame) for about a week, or until black. Put gloves on and prick them all over with a pin and place in a large vessel. Pour brine over.

To make the brine, combine 2L water with 500g salt. Drain and change the brine in three days and again in another three days. Drain brine again and pour over spiced vinegar.

For the spiced vinegar: combine 2L vinegar with 2 cups sugar and 1 teaspoon each of cloves, mace, whole spice, fresh ginger, 4 bay leaves and 1 tablespoon whole black pepper. Bring to the boil.

Seal jars very tightly and eat in 9 months. They last unsealed for decades!

The day I embarked upon this task was the day I took Fred the staffy to the vet for his 12 week vaccinations. He reclined sheepishly on the stainless steel bench as the vet shoved a pill down his throat, squirted an injection up his nose, pricked a needle in his back and checked his temperature with a thermometer up his bottom – all in around 20 seconds. The vet asked me if he’d just eaten because he was a bit plump and was unimpressed when I told her he eats from the compost heap – apples, rotting coriander, banana skins and egg shells. Seeing her look, I omitted that I had quietly given him the skin off the barbecue chicken this morning because if he didn’t eat it, I would. Fred’s on a diet.

With health kicks in mind, Bill’s Everyday Asian would be the first book to try. What amazed me about eating these recipes was my perception of ‘Asian’. To me, they taste like Sydney. Not taking anything away from them (they taste very similar to dishes in Vietnam and Thailand) but somehow, my grannyesque 60s kitchen with a vase of pink hydrangeas on a laminex table contributed to a taste I didn’t associate with Asia. The freshly cut grass wafting through the fly screened window and the buzzing of the whipper snipper next door wasn’t the same as rain falling on rice paddies in Hoi An and bursts of sulphur and squawks of noisy bartering echoing from Thailand’s canals.

I was amazed that this food journey took me to Sydney. How far we’ve come from chops and mashed potato! I love Australia – we are allowed to mess with tradition and tweak here and there to make food the way we like to eat it. We have fresh and delicious produce and enough cultural diversity to know what to grow for authenticity.

This was a great week for food, aided somewhat by the smug thrill of using loads of coriander and basil from my herb garden. However, I’m considering buying some really tiny red plastic chairs to put around my coffee table and set out on the footpath for when I do Luke Nguyen’s books.

Bill’s Everday Asian has a select few recipes available on the net if you want to try them. I always trust Bill’s recipes because they’re so easy to make and taste delicious. Here are a few: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/recipes/8718246/Chef-Bill-Grangers-favourite-Asian-recipes.html

Vietnamese Chicken Salad: I noticed a fair bit of julienne in this recipe, so I ducked down to The Essential Ingredient. Lazily I used the ‘great new grater’ with a julienne side, now just ‘the grater’ since the recipe mentioned nothing about julienne of thumb. I also learned a lesson about being stingy, as I bought regular cabbage instead of the Asian variety. Not so nice.

Barbecued pork fillet with Vietnamese caramel sauce (aka ah-mazing): followed to the last note. Probably why it was so great. Make sure your pork fillet is lovely and medium rare – there’s no need for dry old pork any more. Buy this book just for this recipe!

Salt and Pepper Whiting with Pink Grapefruit Salad: http://www.livewithilve.com/salt-pepper-whiting/   I used fresh snapper. Fresh and simple – a serving for four went three ways: dinner for two and a nice little breakfast for me!

Classic stir-fry chicken: A staple at home, I cheated in cooking this one. It takes 20 minutes at the most to make and it’s salty, delicious and cheap.

PICK Bibimbap: I have never made something so simple and I’ve never made a Korean dish. My sister thought it was bland when she made it, but I had some tasty fresh eggs from my aunty’s farm (sometimes I don’t trust them as they occasionally rattle if you know what I mean). Also, I used my own chilli jam, added some bean sprouts and used lots more steak than called for, just for my western protein addiction. Arrogantly, I’ve put my chilli jam in this space.

At the end of the week, I weighed myself thinking that surely I’d be a stick insect by now with all these light and zingy dinners. Alas they taste too good and I didn’t cut the recipes down to allow for two people… two people eating a recipe made for four in one sitting has to be a good omen for Bill Granger. Maybe not for me.

Chilli sauce or jam

Makes about 10 little jars

500g chillies (I got a large bag of birdseye chillies from the Windsor fruit market)

6 cups brown sugar

750g raisins

1.5L apple cider vinegar

16 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons  salt

2 tablespoons ginger, grated

Method

Simmer, cook for about 30 minutes until syrupy, puree. If it’s too runny (because it’s hard to judge when the chillies are whole) simmer for another 10 minutes or so. This is great for adding heat to curries or just to slop on anything really.

In the past two weeks, I lost both my Uncle Gav and Grandfather to cancer. While searching through emails for photos of them, I found a recipe Gav sent me some time ago (I have inserted it at the bottom of this page in his honour… and because it’s a damn delicious curry).

Some people stop eating in times of grief, yet my hunger grows exponentially. I’m starting to feel like Fred the staffy pup – 12 weeks old and his collar is on its last hole, strangling him. Food for me is comfort, though every self-help and diet book in the world would encourage otherwise. So I picked a book off the shelf and decided to cook and I remembered how much I loved it. I made chilli jam and pate, terrine and Cumberland sauce and it made me feel good giving away little jars and watching people enjoy the essential task of eating in a time that’s been rather crap.

I have a great collection of cookbooks…don’t ask me how The Thorn Birds got in there. Some I have never even cooked from. With Peter Walsh and his strict rules on decluttering in mind, my mission became even more clear – justify their space in my house or give them away. Give them away. Are you kidding? My comfort and friends? At least once a day I gaze at the top shelf… the beautiful colours, the lovely names that conjure colours and scents in their very existence, the overwhelming knowledge that there’s too many wonderful recipes that can be made (that I’ll never manage in a lifetime) and shared in those very pages. That while travel isn’t available to me right now, a journey at the kitchen table is.  

Occasionally, I open one up and carefully turn the pages, smoothing over the quality paper with the braille of little food splatters that makes them even more valuable to me. I remember when they got there, who they were for. These books have been loved – and if I cook from them, they love me back. Oooh I sound like a creep for the world-wide web to see…

With all this in mind, and at the risk of emulating a done-to-death Julia and Julia idea, I am cooking five meals a week from each one. Yes only five out of, in some, a potential 600. I’m also doing it in a way that their authors might want to stab me for. Kate, the lazy cook way. Where I can take short cuts, I will. Where I can save food from rotting in my fridge, I will. Bear with!

Gav’s Chicken Curry

Katie,

I will briefly outline basics to this recipe and you can add or subtract.

Boil chicken in approx.. 6 cups water, with flavour eg carrots, bay leaf, peppercorns, salt, whatever. Let it boil steadily until it cooks, or when easy to remove meat from bones – about 30-40 mins. Remove, let cool and strip chicken from bones, discard skin and keep stock. You can do this the day before if you like but keep chicken in sealed container or it will dry out. Skim stock and strain, just so you have liquid.

Execution. Put 1/2 to 1 tablespoon butter in saucepan, dash of olive oil, only smidgen (stops butter burning) add chopped onion and soften, over heat, add 2 tablespoons or 1 and half of plain flour, remove from heat, stirring to form a roux (french for doughy shit).

Add 1 tablespoon of curry powder, mix in, you can also add chillies with onion. Make sure it is all moist. You don’t want white flour anywhere or it will cause lumps. You can then add some stock, and mix make it fairly watery, or if you prefer a creamier texture use little stock and a can of coconut milk. Put on heat and stir until it boils, like making gravy. After stirring as soon as it starts to boil add more stock or water if it is too thick ( you want it fairly viscous,i.e. runny).

Crumble 2 chicken stock cubes,1 medium tablespoon of brown Sucre,(that’s French for sugar) mix in, maybe a tad of sweet chilli sauce, 1 peeled green apple grated, 1 banana, scrunched or grated, put all chicken in, and put lid on and slowly cook stirring every time you go to fridge for drink.

You don’t want it to boil rapidly as little heat as to simmer and cook. Remove lid after, say, 4 drinks and simmer without lid. Wash rice 4 times until water runs clear. Cover rice with water and cook in mico 10 mins stirring once. If too gluggy give it longer or until it has reached the desired eatability. Remove scum from kitchen and from the top of curry.

The hard part is eating it, but then if you have guests you don’t have to, you can pretend you’re busy in kitchen.  Place rice on plate and spoon curry adjacent too rice. If rice isn’t brilliant spoon over rice. Cooking is all about applying heat, if in doubt take it off stove and assess the situation. The old saying is if you can’t handle the heat baby don’t go in the kitchen.

Ring me if you have any probs and I will get Jason’s Kitchen to deliver take away.

Also if you have a lot of people to feed you double everything,eg 2 chooks, 2 apples etc

Good Luck.

Love Uncle Gav

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