Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sam's prawn curry

Our new Aussie friends Sam and Amanda live just down the road. Sam is convinced this great curry will prevent Alzheimer’s disease because it includes lots of brain food. Whether this is true or not, it is a delicious hearty curry that can be made with fish or prawns or both.


1lb king prawns or meaty white fish
1 medium red capsicum cut into large pieces
1 medium green capsicum cut into small pieces
½lb unpeeled sweet potatoes, cubed
½ pint chicken stock
A handful of semi-sundried tomatoes
2 teasp olive oil
1 medium chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped or minced
2 tablesp curry powder*
½ teasp sugar (optional)
A handful of chopped coriander

*instead of shop-bought curry powder I prefer to use the ingredients below, but either is OK:
1 teasp turmeric
1-2 teasp garam masala
2 cloves
2 cardamom pods
1-2 teasp chilli powder or 1 hot red chilli, chopped


In a medium saucepan, bring red capsicum, sweet potatoes and chicken stock to a boil over a medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the sweet potatoes are just tender (about 10-15 minutes).

Meanwhile in a large non-stick pan, heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Fry the onion and garlic until lightly browned. Add turmeric, garam masala, chilli, cloves and cardamom pods (or curry powder) and cook for about a minute. Remove from heat.

Reserving the stock, transfer the cooked sweet potatoes and capsicum to a food processor and blend until smooth (or just use a potato masher on it). Add to the onion mixture. Then add the rest of the stock, and ½ teasp sugar if needed, and mix well. Bring back to the boil.

Add the prawns/fish, the green capsicum and the sundried tomatoes, and cook until the prawns/fish are cooked. If you prefer, use your wooden spoon to break up the fish when cooked into bite-sized pieces.

Stir the coriander into the curry and serve with rice or naan bread.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

tortellini with creamy pesto and bacon

Mena and I went to the Melbourne Food and Wine Show and went to a cookery demonstration. This dish blew us away. The creamy rocket pesto is to die for.

625g packet of fresh spinach and ricotta tortellini
6 rashers of streaky bacon, rind removed, cut into strips
400g mushrooms sliced
100g semi-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
Shaved parmesan

½ bunch rocket, ends trimmed
½ cup (firmly packed) continental (flat leaf) parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves
½ cup shredded parmesan
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
125ml buttermilk


Blend first five sauce ingredients till finely chopped

With the blender running add the oil and lemon juice to form a smooth paste

Transfer to a large bowl

Stir in the buttermilk

Cook the tortellini, drain and return to the pan

Cook bacon and mushroom over a medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes until the bacon is crisp

Add the tomatoes and toss through

Combine the pesto, pasta and bacon mixture until well combined

Serve topped with fresh parmesan

Mummum's fairy cakes

My mum's recipe is really easy to remember and to increase or decrease according to how many you want. You can make them with just raisins in, or make them without raisins and decorate them with cream or jam and coconut or whatever you want.

Raisins 125g (optional)
Butter 125g
Caster sugar 125g
Self raising flour 125g
2 eggs beaten
1 teasp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk

Pre-heat oven to 190˚C

Beat butter and sugar till fluffy

Add egg a little at a time, whisking as you go

Add raisins (optional)

Beat in the vanilla

Stir in half the flour

Add milk and the rest of the flour

Fold until well combined

Spoon into cups and bake 10-12 minutes or until golden on top

Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack

Bajan sweet bread

Orlando's mum makes the best Bajan sweet bread. When I visited Barbados to meet her for the first time, she baked come fresh every day for my breakfast. Divine. Best eaten slightly warm, either on its own or with a little butter.

Desiccated coconut 200g
Melted butter 60g
Plain flour 475g
Margarine (or baking shortening) ½ tbsp
Baking powder ½ teasp
Salt ½ teasp
Sugar 90g
Raisins 120g
1 small egg
Evaporated milk 150ml
Almond essence ½ teasp

Grease the baking tin with the margarine

Pre-heat the oven to 350˚C

Mix the flour, baking powder, sale, coconut, sugar and raisins in a bowl

Add egg, evaporated milk, butter and almond essence and mix to a firm but wet dough

Fill baking tin

Mix 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp hot water and brush on top

Bake in centre of oven for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean

Cool in the baking dish

proper Irish scones

My mother makes the best scones on earth. When I was in university I lived at home, and I used to leave early on Thursdays to get home in time for the scones to be taken out of the oven. They are best eaten slightly warm with as much butter as your heart can handle. Not butter substitute, REAL butter.

2 oz butter
1lb self-raising flour
4 oz caster sugar
4 oz sultanas
½ pint fresh milk
Beaten egg to glaze

Rub four, sugar and butter together

Rub in sultanas

Bind with milk

Knead and roll to 3/4 inch thick

Cut into scones with a glass and glaze with the beaten egg

Bake 20-25 minutes at 200˚C

Cool on a wire rack

Italian tomato sauce

1kg ripe red tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
12 large leaves fresh basil
Salt and black pepper

Skin the tomatoes (pour boiling water on, leave one minute, drain and peel when cool).

Keep three tomatoes back.

Cook onion and garlic until soft.

Add chopped tomatoes and 1/3 of the basil.

Add salt and pepper and simmer for 1.5 – 1.75 hours.

Chop and stir in the reserved tomatoes and basil.

pork meatballs with spaghetti

My brother and his wife make the best meatballs and spaghetti in the world, but this is an acceptable alternative using pork (more authentic I guess).

225g minced pork
1 dessertsp chopped fresh sage
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
75g white bread, no crust, soaked in milk
1 large egg
A little grated nutmeg
Salt and black pepper

Oil for frying
Tomato sauce (jar or fresh)
Parmesan cheese

Mix top ingredients, make into walnut-shaped balls, chill for 30 minutes, then shallow fry 4-5 minutes.

Heat the tomato sauce and simmer the meatballs for 10 minutes.

Serve with spaghetti, parmesan and fresh basil.

sunblush tomatoes from the oven

When I first came to visit Australia, I was staying with my sister. I had no money and no job, so I contributed to the household by going to the market, buying cheap seasonal vegetables and making homemade soup and other dishes. This was one of mymore successful experiments.

Core and half the tomatoes, sprinkle on some chopped garlic, dried thyme, salt and pepper.

Put on a baking sheet and drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil.

Leave in the over after you have finished cooking twice or three times, or alternatively roast slowly at the lowest setting for about 16 hours.

When they are finished they will be about 25% of their raw size.

Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Friday, August 18, 2006

curried goat

One of the great things about living in London and having so many Caribbean friends is the food. Curried goat is by far my favourite dish and even though it is fairly easy to make, it always seems to taste better if someone else makes it.

Aletha is the one who makes the best curried goat in my opinion!

2 lbs goat meat
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Half tsp cayenne pepper
1 spring onion, finely chopped
Half tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3 tblsp curry powder (medium, yellow-coloured curry powder)
2 cups water
2 tbsp desiccated coconut (optional)


Cut the goat meat into bite-sized pieces and place in a large dish.

Mix the seasoning, herbs, garlic and onion together and rub into the meat, then cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.

Boil the water in a large, heavy saucepan, add the seasoned meat and remains of marinade, and mix together.

Cover the pot and cook slowly over a medium heat until the meat browns, adding water if necessary.

Simmer for 1 ½ -2 hours until the meat is tender.

chickpea and spinach curry

This is proper fast food - delicious, healthy and ready in about 15 minutes.

1. Fry one medium-sized diced onion

2. Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and cook in

3. Add a teaspoonful of harissa and one can chopped tomatoes

4. Add one can of chick peas and cook 10 mins

5. Add spinach and cook 5 mins

6. Add 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala

7. If the curry is too sweet from the tomatoes, add 1/2 teaspoon of instant coffee to tone it down

8. Serve with yoghurt, naan or rice

pork vindalho

Pork vindalho is a Goan dish with a distinctive hot and sour flavour. It has its roots in Portugese cooking but has strong Indian influences too. It is unusual to see pork in Indian cooking but as many Goans are Catholics, it is quite popular in this small state.

This is one of my favourite Indian dishes and is well worth the effort to make it. If you cannot find genuine vindalho masala in your local Indian grocery, use the ingredients below to make the paste.

1kg/2¼lb boneless pork from the shoulder, cut into 5cm/2in cubes
1½ tsp salt
6tbsp red wine vinegar

For the Spice Paste: (or use vindalho masala)

4-10 dried hot red chillies
1 tbsp bright red paprika
½ tsp cumin seeds
6cm/3in cinnamon stick, broken up into smaller pieces
10-15 cloves
½ tsp black peppercorns
5-6 cardamom pods
10-12 garlic cloves, peeled
2.5cm/1in piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsley chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric

You also need:
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
3 meduim-sized onions (250g/9oz), peeled and finely sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped
6 fresh hot green chillies, sliced lengthways in half
1 tsp sugar

1. Sprinkle the pork with 1 tsp of the salt. Add 3 tbsp of the vinegar. Rub in well and set aside for 2-3 hours.

2. Make the spice paste: Combine the red chillies, paprika, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and cardamom pods in a clean coffee grinder and grind as finely as possible. Put the 10-12 garlic cloves and the ginger in the container of an electric blender a;long with 2 tbsp of the vinegar and the turmeric. Blend well. Add the dry ground spices to the garlic mixture and blend again to mix. Rub the pork cubes with half of the spice paste, Cover and refrigerate overnight. Cover and refrigerate the remaining spice paste.

3. Heat the 3 tbsp oil in a wide, preferably non-stick pan over meduim-high heat. When hot, put in the 3-4 garlic cloves. Stir and fry until they begin to pick up a little colour. Put in the onions and continue to fry until browned. Now add the tomatoes and 3 of the green chillies. Stir for a minute. Add the remaining spice paste, the sugar and the remaining 1 tbsp vinegar. Stir and fry until the paste begins to marinate the meat and all the spice paste clinging to it. Turn the heat to a meduim-low and cook, stirring, until the pork begins to exclude its own liquid. Add 300ml/10fl oz/1¼ cups water and the remaining salt and bring to the boil. Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer gently until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened somewhat, about 40 minutes.

4. If necessary, raise the heat to reduce the sauce to a meduim-thick consistency towards the end. Add the remaining 3 green chillies and stir once.

Mummum's tea brack

Mummum's tea brack is one of my mother's specialities. She is a plain cook but a wonderful baker. This traditional Irish cake is not too sweet and - unsurprisingly - uses tea to moisten it. It would often be served sliced like bread and buttered.

1 lb of sultanas or raisins
1 cup of cold tea
1 egg
3/4 lb flour

1. Steep fruit in tea for at least one hour (preferably overnight).

2. Add egg and swirl around.

3. Sieve in flour and mix well.

4. Pour into 9 inch square tin.

5. Put in oven in middle shelf at Gas Mark 4 for 45 minutes.

6. Cover with tin foil and cook for a further 45 minutes and Gas Mark 3.

7. Test with a knife to make sure centre is cooked.

Fill Up On Bread

My mother was raised in a fairly poor family in a small town in County Dublin, but there was always enough to eat. Vegetables grew in the back garden, there was lots of floury potatoes, fish on Fridays and maybe some Hafner's sausages as a treat on Saturdays.

In our family food and love are interchangeable. As a result most of what we eat, and who serves it, is laden with symbolism.

The rituals of Christmas included the formal post-mortem of the turkey/ham/Christmas cake/Christmas pudding of other family members: my mother and our Auntie Molly being the two main culprits:

"Maggie, your ham is much nicer than mine. Mine is very salty."
"No, Molly, mine is very dry. Yours is better. And your cake is beautiful."
"Yes but the pudding didn't come out very well."
"Ah, Molly, your pudding is gorgeous. Give us another bit."

Christmas dinners were rushed to make sure we had enough time to sit down again at six o'clock for tea. It wasn't much different the rest of the year, and even when the food being served was more modest than Christmas dinner, there was always the exhortion to "fill up on bread". For the families of post-war children, it was always important to "eat loads".

My mother has served the same dishes for dinner since she got married. Now, 52 years later, I can tell you which she will have for dinner this week:

left-over roast meat from Sunday with a salad

Egg and chips (she used to serve us mince, beans and chips but we didn't notice for years that she didn't eat the meat herself)

Beef stew, except for Lent and summertime when fried fish, mashed potatoes and white sauce is served

Pork chops, gravy, boiled potatoes and turnip

Fish and chips and peas

A mixed grill

Traditional roast dinner - chicken, beef, pork or lamb
Corned beef or boiled bacon, cabbage and boiled potatoes

Over the years, and miles from home now, food still conjures up many emotions and associations.

My mother lists reading restaurant menus as one of her more serious hobbies, and it is always a big highlight to have as many family members around the table for dinner - difficult when we are spread across two continents.

This blog is an attempt to pull together all the recipes from my lifetime, food served to me with love by family, friends and strangers.

Many have a story attached and some speak for themselves.