Sunday, October 31, 2010

Creamy Watercress Soup

Watercress has long been known as one of the 'superfoods' of the world, containing more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk and three times as much vitamin E as lettuce.

I think that's a pretty good reason to eat watercress!

One of my favourite books to cook from is the Australian Woman's weekly COOK! book. I find most of the recipes easy to cook and taste delicious. I also have the other big blue book called KITCHEN which I use a lot too. I am yet to get the BAKE one though, which I am sure has some great recipes in it also.

There are some really good soup recipes in this book. I want to make all of them! I have made a few, but the last one I made was for lunch one weekend. We had a heavy breakfast, so just wanted something light to carry us over until dinner. This soup was perfect and also provided us with more lunches for the week.

First gather all the ingredients together

Then saute the onion and leek

Add in the potatoes

Add in some stock - chicken or vegetable

Wait until it cools a bit and then process in batches in the blender

Serve with some crusty bread and a dash of EVOO!

Creamy Watercress Soup - adapted from Woman's Weekly COOK!

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Brown Onion
1 Leek, sliced thinly
3 Medium Potatoes (600g), chopped coarsely
1 litre chicken stock
350g Watercress, trimmed
1/3 cup sour cream (I didn't have any)

1. Heat oil in large saucepan; cook onion and leek, stirring over low heat, until vegetables soften. Add potato and stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer covered about 20 minutes or until potato is almost tender

2. Reserve 4 watercress sprigs; stir remaining watercress into pan. Simmer soup, uncovered about 5 minutes or until potato is tender

3. Blend or process soup, in batches, until smooth. Reheat soup in same pan then divide among serving bowls; top each with 1 tablespoon of the sour cream and then a reserved watercress sprig.

Serves 4

Chile Con Carne

One pot meals are my favourite thing to cook, if I haven't mentioned it already. I love it when you can chuck everything in a pot and leave it to cook until you are ready, and if you aren't ready then you can just leave it in there until you are.

This meal is nothing fancy, but it is very tasty, especially when you add some sour cream and avocado at the end.

I think next time I make it I will use chuck steak instead, so there are tender chunks of meat in the sauce.

Start off with some onion and garlic

Spices - Cayenne, Cumin and Coriander - the three C's

Some Beef Mince - this mince was really lean, which I didn't like. Make sure you get some juicy mince.

Throw in some tomato and kidney beans, and then add Jalapenos at the end. I love Jalapenos

Wait for a while

Then eat! Not the most glorious looking photo, I know. But it was very good.

Chile Con Carne

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 tbs peanut oil
1 brown onion, halved, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbs ground cumin
1 tbs ground coriander
2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
600g lean beef mince
1 x 400g can Italian diced tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste
1 x 300g can red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
2 tbs drained, chopped jalapeno chillies (Old El Paso brand) (optional)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 x 250g carton light sour cream
3 green shallots, ends trimmed, diagonally thinly sliced
2 tbs chopped fresh coriander leaves


1. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until onion softens. Add ground cumin, ground coriander and cayenne pepper (omit pepper if cooking for kids) and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

2. Add mince and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until it changes colour. Stir in diced tomato, tomato paste and kidney beans.

3. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in chilli (omit if cooking for kids). Taste and season with salt and pepper.

4. Meanwhile, combine the sour cream, three-quarters of the green shallots and the coriander leaves in a small bowl. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

5. Spoon chilli con carne into bowls. Top with a dollop of the sour cream mixture. Sprinkle with remaining green shallots. Serve immediately.

Ostratos Greek

There aren't too many Greek restaurants in Canberra, lets just say I can only think of 2 and one of them is really a seafood grill place. Coming from a suburb in Sydney where there are Greek butchers, bakeries, restaurants, grocers and takeaway joints on every corner, it's a bit of a difference.

Having been to quite a few Greek restaurants too that are just fantastic, I know when something isn't that good, which is unfortunately what Ostratos is...

I had high hopes as a few people I asked about the place said it was fantastic. So we headed out last Friday for some Greek!

Taramasalata is one of my favourite dips, well probably my favourite. Frankie has tried to make it before and it didn't turn out as expected, so I definitely like to order it at Greek places, cause it is always excellent. Here it is not. It had a really strange taste to it, like a lime essence. It just tasted bad. The bread was really nice though. Maybe their other dips are better...

Taramasalata - $5

It wasn't cheap either for the amount we got. It came out in a small glass petrie dish. Luckily it wasn't that nice, otherwise I would have felt ripped off!

There was a meat platter on offer for $79, which I thought was a little steep, but it came with Greek salad and chips, so we decided to give it a go.

It wasn't bad, it just wasn't good. The meat felt like it had been cooked already and then just heated up. The salad was really good though and the chips were some of the best chips I have had.

Chicken and Lamb Kebabs

Meat patties of some sort

Lamb cutlets

Greek Salad - This was good

Ostratos Greek Taverna
9 Lonsdale Street
Braddon ACT

Ph: 6257 8200

Open Lunch - Tues to Fri - Noon to 2:30pm
Dinner - Tues - Sat - 6pm to 9:30pm

Organic Plants

Mum came around the other day and brought me a little present. How cool are these. Instead of having a chocolate fundraiser for a school, they were selling grow your own herbs and plants.

With the two herbs, all you do is cut off the top, sew the seeds (that come in a little plastic container) water and then wait for them to grow. The vegetables are done in a similar way, but once the seedlings are about 5 cm tall you are meant to replant them in the garden or a pot.

I have had them going for about a week now and haven't seen any growth, so we will wait and see...

Coriander Plant

Sweet Basil

Organic Lettuce

Organic Capsicums

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Home Made Granola

I always go through stages where I tend to eat the same breakfast for a while and then I get sick of it, so I move onto something else.

Granola is something I love to eat for breakfast as it's easy to bring along to work and it's very tasty and nutritious!

I have never made my own muesli before and I saw this recipe on Lorraine's site a while ago, from a Nigella Recipe, so thought it must be good if it was going to be endorsed by these two ladies.

The recipe turned out very well, although seeing as I haven't made muesli before, I didn't realise that the edges would burn a bit if you didn't move them around, so make sure you do this! That's alright though, as this recipe makes a large quantity, so if you have to discard a few burnt bits, there will still be heaps left over.

One thing I would change though would be the amount of sultanas in it. There seemed to be a lot, and as there is quite a bit of sweetness in there already, this overpowered it. Next I am going to try the chocolate version, with some berries yum!

The Group of Ingredients

Mixing it all together

Spreading it out to be baked in the oven

Ready to eat!

Andy's Fairfield Granola

Makes 2.5 litres


• 450g rolled oats
• 120g sunflower seeds
• 120g white sesame seeds
• 175ml apple sauce (I use apple juice)
• 2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp ginger
• 120g brown rice syrup or rice malt syrup or failing that golden syrup (I use golden syrup)
• 4 tablespoons runny honey
• 100g light brown sugar
• 250g whole natural almonds
• 1 tsp. sea salt
• 2 tbsp. sunflower oil
• 300grams raisins

1.Mix everything (except the raisins) together very well in a large mixing bowl. I use a couple of curved rigid spatulas; normally I’d be happy to use my hands but here it just leaves you covered with everything.

2.Spread this mixture on two baking tins (the sort that come with ovens and are about the width of a rack) and bake in a gas mark 3/170c oven turning over halfway through the baking and redistributing the granola evenly during the baking process. The object is to get it evenly golden without toasting too much in any one place. This should take anything from about 40 minutes. I use a gas oven, which doesn’t brown as fast as en electric one, so often leave it in up to an hour.

3.Once its baked, allow to cool and mix together with the raisins. Store airtight

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ottoman Cuisine Canberra

I always got excited when it was Frankie's birthday in Sydney as there were so many choices of fantastic restaurants to go to, but here in Canberra it's not quite the same. There are only a small selection of restaurants that are really good.

Ottoman Cuisine is one of two restaurants in Canberra that has one hat (Italian and Sons is the other, which is very very good). I had also heard lots of good reviews about the restaurant, so decided to go ahead and book it.

I had heard the degustation was very good value for money, but when the waiter told us about the special entrees, we decided to fore go the degustation and pick our own menus.

Whiting? with aioli and fennel and beetroot salad - $22

Not too sure exactly what type of fish this was, I am not too good with identifying different types of fish. This was really nice and had a perfect texture to it with the crunchiness of one side of it. I love anything with dill in it too. The salad complimented it very well also.

Another view of the fish

Scallops Moussaka - $22

These were just beautiful. I wish there were more of them on the plate! The perfectly cooked scallops sat atop a tender piece of eggplant with a tomato sauce of some kind. These should definitely be a regular on the menu.

Sish Tavuk - $29

Frankie went with the char grilled chicken with chickpea salad and yoghurt sauce. This was very nice, but nothing too different from something you can get at a Mediterranean restaurant.

Ordek - $33

Whenever there is duck on the menu I usually get it, as I love duck and hardly ever cook it at home. The duck was beautiful here and so tender that it fell off the bone. It was served with a celeriac puree and juniper berry jus.

Orange Semolina Cake

For dessert we got the orange semolina cake and baklava. I didn't think the desserts were that great actually. I found the cake to be a bit dry, I like my semolina cakes nice and syrupy and gooey.

At the end of the night as we were leaving we saw Peter Garrett leaving the restaurant too. Frankie wanted to get a photo with him, but he was quite rude and said that he was too busy and didn't have enough time :(

Ottoman Cuisine Canberra
Cnr of Broughton and Blackall Streets
Barton ACT 2600

Tel: 6273 6111

Open Lunch Tuesday - Friday 12 till 3pm
Dinner Tuesday - Saturday 6 - 10pm

Chocolate Cheesecake Raspberry Brownies

I have seen this recipe a couple of times on other sites and it always looked so good. I had just bought some nice organic frozen raspberries at the markets, so thought this would be a good time to use them.

I love brownies and I love cheesecake, so this was definitely a hit for me!

The photos were taken on my Iphone, as my camera had no battery left, so they are not the best quality.

First you make the cheesecake mixture

Then you make the brownie mixture

Weigh out the strawberries, then it's time for layering

Spread out 2/3 of the brownie mixture on the base

Put the whole of the cheesecake mixture on top of that, then drop spoonfuls of the brownie mixture and spread it around so it creates a marbling effect.

Put the raspberries on top of that and then bake it in the oven

Baked and ready to be cooled and then cut into pieces.

The final product! It was very yummy. You can serve it with cream, ice cream, or just have it plain.

Choc Cheesecake Raspberry Brownies


1 cup flour, sifted
2 cups sugar, divided
200g butter, cut into pieces
200g dark chocolate, chopped
150g raspberries, fresh or frozen
400g cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 eggs, room temperature

For the brownie batter:

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Butter a 8″x 12″ (20 x 30) baking tray. Line with baking paper.

Beat the softened butter with 1 cup of sugar until slightly fluffy. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in a microwave on 30 sec bursts). Let cool slightly. Stir into the butter and sugar mixture. Add the sieved flour and carefully fold it in.

For the cheesecake batter:

Put the cream cheese in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the 2 remaining eggs, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Beat until it’s a smooth, creamy mixture.

Putting it all together:

Spread 2/3 of the chocolate mix on the bottom of your baking tray. Pour the cream cheese on top and spread it out evenly. Now drop little pieces of chocolate mix on top of the cream cheese. Lightly work it in with a fork—like you’re marbling a cake. Push the raspberries into the cream cheese.

Bake at 350°F (180ºC) for 40 to 45 minutes or until the cake feels set when gently touched in the center. Let the brownies cool off completely, preferably overnight, before cutting them in squares.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Eggplant Chicken Parmigiana

I love Chicken Parmigiana, it's a bit time consuming and messy to put together, but it tastes so good and you can get it all ready to go and then just stick in the oven when you are just about to eat it.

I usually just have chicken, but this time I had some extra eggplant in the fridge, so decided to fry that up as well and stick it on top of the chicken. It was so yummy!

I served it with a roasted pumpkin salad, in which I cubed some butternut pumpkin and tossed it in olive oil and salt and roasted in the oven for about 45 mins at 180 degrees. I did this while I was preparing the parmigiana, so that it was done by the time I put the chicken in the oven. I let the pumpkin cool and then mixed it with some rocket and Caesar salad dressing just before serving.

Chicken on bottom, then eggplant and tomato sauce

Cross-section of dish

Ready to go in the oven!

Chicken Eggplant Parmigiana - Serves 2

1 Chicken Breast
Flour for Coating
1 Egg
Olive oil for Frying
Eggplant - Optional
1 Clove Garlic
1 small brown onion
Tin of Crushed Tomatoes
Red Wine Vinegar
Fresh Basil
Mozzarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese

1. First chop the onion and garlic and saute in olive oil until soft

2. Add the tin of tomatoes to the garlic and onion and let this simmer, while stirring occasionally, while you prepare everything else.

3. Cut the chicken breast in half and then place the halves between glad wrap and smash it with a mallet, or rolling pin, or whatever you fancy

4. Place the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper, whisk the egg in a wide shallow bowl, and put the bread crumbs on a different plate

5. Grab the flattened chicken breasts and dip in the flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Put them on a plate and place in the fridge while you fry the eggplant

6. Slice the eggplant in 1/2 cm slices, put some oil in a pan and get it nice and hot. Once the oil is hot, fry the eggplant until it is nice and soft. You could do this on a grill pan, but I don't have one of those....yet. Once they are done put them on a plate lined with kitchen towel to absorb the extra oil. Eggplant needs a lot of oil..

7. Once the eggplant is done, you can now fry the chicken. Use the same pan, and you will need to add more oil if your eggplant hasn't soaked it up already. Fry the chicken breasts on each side until they are nice and golden.

8. The tomato sauce should be ready now, splash in about 1/2 tbs red wine vinegar and mix through some fresh basil leaves. Taste and check for seasoning. I sometimes add a bit of sugar to my sauce as well.

9. It's time now for layering the dish. In an oven proof dish put the chicken breasts, then layer the eggplant, then spread the tomato sauce all over it. Then grate or slice your mozzarella on top and shave the Parmesan over that. I don't specify any cheese quantities, as it's up to you what you think is enough.

10. Place in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese are melted and turning brown.

I usually serve this with a salad as I find it is quite filling. Hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bella Vedere - Yarra Valley

So I have been away for a while... Since moving to Canberra I haven't been excited to eat out and photograph food as much as I had in Sydney. There are some great places in Canberra, but there are a lot more places that aren't great as well.. It is also so much more expensive to eat out here than Sydney as well, which means I have been cooking a lot more than going out.

So my blog now will probably have more entries of my cooking than my eating out. So lets see how we go this time!

Firstly I will take you back to a couple of months ago when Frankie and I went on a week's trip to the Yarra Valley. I had never been there before, so wasn't sure which place to book for a nice dinner. I had a booking at Mt Rael, but they were doing some renovations so I had to change our venue. So I looked at what had Chef's hats in the region and Bella Vedere was close to where we were staying and had some good reviews, so I booked us in there.

They have an a la carte menu, but on Friday and Saturday nights they have a set menu of 5 courses for $95. Everyone is asked to be seated by 7:30pm so they can get everyone's drinks underway in preparation for the announcement of the menu!

Tonight's menu is heavily based on cheese and ends up being too rich for me in the end and didn't get to try the dessert. We also got matching wines with each course, and they give you very full glasses!!

We started off with an amuse bouche of risotto balls. Can't remember exactly what was in it besides rice and cheese, but it was very tasty.

This was a smoked trout soup which had a quinelle of marscapone or some type of cheese. This was so beautiful. Although the serving bowls weren't the easiest to eat soup out of being wide and shallow.

The second course was a three cheese risotto with a hazelnut and rocket salad. The risotto was cooked perfectly and very satisfying. I shouldn't have eaten all of it, maybe then I could have fit in a bit of dessert...

Next up was slow cooked lamb. I think it was cooked for 24 hours or something and then rested it by the open fire. It was so good. I love roasted lamb and this was melt in your mouth. I would have preferred a bit more salad though..

The final savoury dish of the evening was a grapefruit, mandarin, Persian feta and hazelnuts. This was a combination I hadn't had before, but it all worked so well together. I was doing well up until this point and then I had a bit more of the feta and it just pushed me over the edge.

The dessert was a bombe alaska type dessert and when they brought the dessert to the table, they poured over some type of liqueur and lit it up. It was very cool.

All the wines were from around the region and were perfectly matched. We hadn't done much wine tasting yet, so it was good to get a taste of the wines before we tried to visit every winery in the yarra valley!



Bella Vedere Cucina
Badgers Brook Estate
874 Maroondah Highway
Coldstream VIC

Ph: 03 5962 6161

Breakfast and Lunch served Wed - Sun from 8:30am
Dinner Friday and Saturday from 7:30pm