Monthly Archives: April 2014

Restarting the New Year

This morning, the kids went back to school after the Easter break.

I don’t know about you but for me, the start of a new school term is like the beginning of a whole new year chock full of promises, vows, getting down humbly on both knees and begging for change. Although we all know that we’re still who we’ve always been and that nothing has miraculously changed, we still have faith. We believe…

Most of my frustrations with getting the kids off to school each morning aren’t rocket science. There’s no brain surgery involved. It’s all  Simple Simon stuff like brush your teeth, put on your shoes, make your bed. Yet, getting the kids to complete these basic tasks, which should be as automatic as breathing, is like extracting teeth and they head for the hills. Or, should I say, some form of electronic device if I haven’t got them under lock and key!

It is bad enough that the kids don’t do what they know they’re supposed to do but what I hate even more is my response. Of course, we all picture ourselves as the epitome of calm…the rational parent. However, we all know how quickly our good intentions disappear and all the words of wisdom we’ve extracted from the pile of parenting books beside the bed, soon evaporates. Suddenly, out of nowhere, you hear this very harsh, snappy voice in the room: “I’ve had enough!! I’m leaving!”

No! It’s not the kids threatening to run away. It’s you and this time you’re really and truly going and no cries of “Mummy! Mummy!” are going to bring you back. Oh no! At least, not until you’ve actually finished your cappuccino or skim chai latte and at least flicked through a magazine. I don’t know where runaway mothers go these days and whether people still join the Hari krishnas or move to Nimbin. However, if you’re going to runaway, you have to go somewhere exotic. You just can’t doss down in the local park!

Mummy escapes- Palm Beach

Mummy escapes- Palm Beach

Anyway, I’m not running away from home today because, as I said, it’s a new school term and we are a new family. The kids ticked all the boxes and we were even on time.

You see, miracles do happen!

The kids on school holidays...Pittwater, Palm Beach.

The kids on school holidays…Pittwater, Palm Beach.

However, I thought I’d recap a little so you could appreciate the huge Everest of obstacles we’ve had to overcome to get there.

Firstly, there’s “The Case of the Missing Shoe”. While technically not a serial killer because nobody is dead or at least nobody’s dead yet, trying to find that expletive missing shoe when we’re rushing out the door, is a killer. These days, after years of prolonged exposure, my nerves have been so completely and utterly frazzled and fried that at the mention of the word “shoe”, my entire being explodes in lurid panic. Our kids have a uniform so it’s not like they have to decide what they’re going to wear and which pair of shoes. It’s not a fashion parade. It’s school. One morning the impossible happened. I pulled up out the front of the school and my daughter piped up: “But Mummy. I haven’t got my shoes on!” I looked over into the backseat and there she was sitting there in her socks! Her brother has been no better. One morning he managed to get to school without his bag!

How hard can it be? Do I really want to find out?!!

While the case of the missing shoe has been a perpetual drama, an even more recurrent nightmare has been: “The Case of the Uneaten Lunch”. While the media harps on and on about childhood obesity, I’m lucky if my kids eat anything at all and my daughter in particular is living, breathing proof that children can survive on air alone without starving to death. The dog who is something like the size of an overweight hippo despite his diet, is further proof. I lovingly made those sandwiches with my own blood, sweat and tears each morning while desperately waiting for my coffee to kick in and that’s the appreciation I get… a wagging tail!

Just like bad luck runs in threes, so do bad habits…or at least our bad habits.

This brings me to our third and hopefully final fault although I’m sure there are more faults hiding under the carpet or perhaps its all the books stacked up on top of the carpet. Mind you, I can’t see how having lots of books could ever be a fault just like you can’t have too many friends.

Anyway, our third and final (yes!I said final!!) fault is running late for school.

As far as my husband is concerned, my struggles to get the kids off to school on time are a complete and utter mystery just like those other great mysteries of the world such as the creation of the universe, whether Santa, the Easter Bunny or even the tooth fairy exist and who built those huge, enormous statues at Easter Island. These are things that keep even the most mindful person tossing and turning at night, crazed by all sort of theories and possibilities but no definite proof.

My husband is the same. He says that’s why he’s turned grey and points to photos of when we first met and he indeed does look a very different man. I have also wondered who that young woman is next to him in the Austen Healey Sprite, a sports car which taught me that sports cars don’t always equate to romance (there was a certain trip to Byron Bay where we were diverted inland by the Grafton flood and we had to cross the Tenterfield Ranges. It was dark and the rain, as it is in those parts, was pouring down. Geoff and I were soaked despite wearing raincoats because the car was designed to leak and then the muffler got caught on a pothole and fell off. This was a frequent problem and Geoff was very good at reattaching the thing but you had to wait for it to cool down and it was always tricky, frustrating…incredibly unromantic!! )

Anyway, we have had a dreadful track record with running late for school and it really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

When Geoff leaves for work at 7.00am, the kids have usually had their breakfast and are dressed or almost dressed when he leaves and ideally they are starting to get stuck into their homework which isn’t much at their age. We have a list on the whiteboard and they, well there’s usually one of them who is having a good morning and the other one who has fallen off the rails and in the process of trying to keep track of the two of them while I very slowly eat my breakfast, drink my coffee and take what really does amount to two mouthfuls of tablets, that one somehow manages to slip through the net and usually finds some kind of electronic device.

I also have to confess that I am another source of early morning distraction.

Inspiration hits, usually some time after Geoff leaves and what starts out as a few quick lines, soon evolves into an epic poem something along the lines of the Iliad or a post for the blog and a thousand words have found their way on paper. How often does that inspiration hit on paper and not when I’m sitting at my computer screen and I can just type it straight in???!!!

To be fair to myself, too, I am doing this parenting thing while living with a high maintenance chronic disease and while I do get on with things and squeeze the marrow out of life, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a major impact on my daily life. It does. However, that said, we still need to live and that means getting the kids to school on time with both shoes firmly attached to their feet, lunches made and bags packed.

As I said, the start of each school term is like the launch of a whole new year and along with it the usual vows that things are going to be different even though we are still who we are and nothing much has really changed.

However, today is the first day of term and they were on time. Their shoes weren’t lost and if they’ve eaten their lunches, that will be a trifecta!

Wish me luck!

xx Ro

Anzac Biscuits- An ANZAC Day Tradition

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

For the fallen by Laurence Binyon (1869–1943)

ANZAC Day commemorates not only the first landing of Australian and New Zealand troops or ANZACS at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli on the 25th April 1914 but also honours service people who have served in all of our wars.

I didn’t really grow up with this sense that my family had served in the war even though my Great Uncle Jack had served in New Guinea in World War II and my grandfather had served as an Army Captain within Australia. Geoff, on the other hand, grew up with two uncles who had served in New Guinea and another who had served in Darwin and his Nanna who had lost a brother in France during World War I. Last year, we also found out that his father’s uncle had served at Gallipoli and went on to be part of the charge at Beersheba. So when it comes to ANZAC Day, our family has something personal and close to home to honour and respect. We have also seen the longer term impact of war on wives and children who experienced alcoholism, violence and depression. Not because they were bad men but because they had seen and experienced horrors that no one should experience and then they were simply sent home.

Watching the Canberra March on TV

Watching the Canberra March on TV

Geoff and I have been into the ANZAC Day march in the city only once but every year since I can remember, I have always watched the march on TV. In some respects, it is a solemn occasion where we remember and honour the dead but there is also so much to look at and I have always felt such a love and a fondness for the old men marching with their medals pinned to their hearts. I remember when these old men had been to WWI and slowly and surely they became the faces of World War II veterans and now even the Vietnam Veterans are looking well…old…and the WWI diggers have gone and WWII ones are thinning out.

Along with watching the march on TV, I have another time honoured tradition…making ANZAC Biscuits. Mothers, wives, girlfriends and anyone who cared, baked ANZAC Biscuits at home and sent them overseas to the men at the front. Such packages and letters from home were treasured, providing a much needed connection with their loved ones at home as well as breaking the monotony of military food.

Not unsurprisingly, making ANZAC Biscuits on ANZAC Day is as tradtional as the official Dawn Service and the march.

ANZAC Biscuits are really just an oatmeal biscuit and by modern standards are pretty plain. You can jazz them up with chopped nuts, ginger or even choc chips but for ANZAC Day, I always keep them plain and authentic. Their simplicity also serves to remind us of simpler times when austerity measures had been implemented, rationing had been in place and there wasn’t our modern over-abundance of just about everything. Things were scarce…even the basics like eggs.

Despite their simplicity, ANZAC Biscuits with their dose of thick, sticky, sugary golden syrup are scrumptious.

If you are a connoisseur of ANZAC Biscuits and as strange as it may seem, these people do exist, you need to specify whether you like your ANZACS soft or hard, very much the same way people get quite picky about having their fried egg: “sunny side up”.

Personally, I have had great difficulty mastering the perfect ANZAC. Most of the time, I find the mixture doesn’t come together well and I’ve needed to add extra butter to bind it together. Moreover, as I only really make ANZACS once maybe twice a year, I haven’t managed to perfect the process and work out quite what makes them crunchy or chewy. We just get what we get and usually because I’m baking them with the kids, I’m just thankful for that.

If you have read my blog before, you will know that most of my cooking efforts with the kids have their dramas and I must admit that I’ve had a good think about why we have the kitchen of chaos instead of something approaching the scientific wonder of the Australian Women’s Weekly Test Kitchen. I mean, you can be sure that most of our antics could never be replicated by anybody anywhere no matter how hard they tried.

As usual, baking ANZAC Biscuits failed to disappoint and we had our usual range of hiccups.

The kids play games on the ipad waiting for the tin of oats to magically refill.

The kids play games on the ipad waiting for the tin of oats to magically refill.

The first thing that you have to keep in mind when baking ANZAC Biscuits, especially if you like me want to bake them while watching the march, is that you need to check that you have all your ingredients the day before because the shops are shut on ANZAC Day until after lunch. This is a very important word of warning and despite my best efforts, I keep getting caught. This year, we are staying at my parents’ house at the beach and it is not very well stocked so I brought everything with me including the metal biscuit tray. However, I’d brought everything except the main ingredient…the oats…because I’d bought this wonderful metal tin put out by Uncle Toby’s specifically to house your big box of oats and to keep the nasties out. Thinking I had about a 12 month supply, much to my horror, I didn’t check my supplies. The tin was completely empty without so much as a single oat left inside. Some horrific porridge-guzzling Goldilocks and her three bears had been guzzling my oats.  I scoured the cupboards optimistically.  Dad has his very healthy whole grain oat porridge “stuff” which looks like oats on the outside but also has other grains mixed in and as tempted as I was to use this instead, Geoff and I both agreed it was a bit of a gamble. We were all looking forward to our annual ANZAC Day indulgence and we didn’t want a “fail”. We had to wait.


So we watched the march and while waiting for the shops to open, we took the dog off for a walk along the mud flats and the kids and I squirted Neptune’s Beads at each other and at ourselves and had a bit of fun. It had rained heavily overnight and it was still overcast so not terribly pretty but it was fun sloshing through the mud even if we didn’t see any crabs. Miss, I must say was thrilled about that. She doesn’t like crabs. She doesn’t like them at all and the mud flats down here start crawling as thousands of them emerge out of their holes at certain times of day which as yet I haven’t managed to pin down.

By the time Geoff returned from the shops and I’d had a bit of a nap, it was late afternoon by the time we were making the ANZACS and beforehand we quickly whizzed up our pizza dough for dinner and set it aside to rise.

It is always gets tricking making anything with the kids after making the pizza dough. The kids love getting their hands into the dough, squishing it through their fingers and really giving it a good workout. They can’t resist! However, dough is dough and I wasn’t happy seeing Miss with her hands in the bowl mixing the oats with the other dry ingredients. “Get your fingers out of there! That’s what spoons are for!!”

When it came to mixing the dry ingredients, which I’d thought was relatively simple, even this proved challenging to the kids and I could feel my patience getting very thin, very thin indeed. When you are pouring a cup full of flour as an adult, or at least an adult who has been cooking all of your life, you just know where that magic, unwritten line is on a cup that measures a cup full of something. It’s not ¾ of a cup and it’s not a cup full with some kind of mountain peak stuck on top of it either. It’s a full cup with something like a finger space left empty at the top so your supposedly full cup of whatever, doesn’t spill. I’m sure it is actually possible to pour a cup full of something without spilling it on the bench too but I’m not sure if I’ve even pulled this one off. We’re all a bit careless around here.

Besides getting pedantic about measurements which may or not matter in the overall scheme of things, kitchen safety became a serious issue when the kids were mucking around in the kitchen today. Consequently, we gave them more than a serious talking to especially about burns but also about knives. We told them that the kitchen is a workshop with dangerous tools and it needs to be respected. It is not a playground. The message wasn’t really sinking in so I opted for a bit of tough love and we looked up kids burns in Google went to images and showed them what some of these burns can look like. We also watched an educational presentation which you can link through to here:

I think that sank in although with kids you never know. I’d swear they have what my grandfather used to call “good forgettery” before his Alzheimer’s set in.

So after that very lengthy preamble, here is the recipe for ANZAC Biscuits. When we made it today, it produced a chewy, rather than crunchy biscuit and it was truly delicious!

Xx Ro

ANZAC Biscuits


2 cups rolled oats

1 cup plain flour

2/3 cup castor sugar

¾ cup coconut

1/3 cup Golden Syrup (5.5 metric tablespoons- easier to measure!!)

125g butter

1 teas bicarb soda

2 tablespoons hot water.



1)      Preheat oven to 160° C (325° F)

2)      Place the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a medium-sized bowl and mix together with a large wooden or stirring spoon (ie not fingers!!!)

3)      Take a small to medium saucepan. Measure out golden syrup using either a cup of measuring spoons. I actually have a series of cup measures and that’s ideal for measuring out the golden syrup. Being so thick and sticky, it’s not the easiest to measure out. Add butter. We always buy the 250g packets of butter for cooking and I have noticed that even when the kids do a relatively simple thing like cutting the butter in half, they usually push the knife through at a not insignificant angle which can significantly alter the quantity of butter. Of course, you can take more of a laissez-faire approach with the kids and have fun and it doesn’t matter how it turns out but that’s not teaching your kids how to cook. I do quite a lot of ad hoc cooking myself and rarely follow a recipe to a T but I have enough experience and instinct to be able to cook by feel. I generally know what the mixture is supposed to look like despite what the recipe says and will jiggle ingredients around until it looks right. That sounds like I am contradicting myself but it does make sense.

4)      Place saucepan on the hotplate at a medium to high heat stirring occasionally. It doesn’t need to be watched closely but don’t walk away either. Depending on the age and capabilities of your kids, decide yourself whether to let them manage the hot aspects of the recipe.

5)      While the butter and golden syrup are melting, you need to prepare the bicarb soda and water mix, which is what enables the biscuits to rise and I’ve always felt the way the melted butter and golden syrup mix rushes up like a volcano provides great entertainment. I remember my Mum introducing me to this mystery as a kid and I was in awe. It was absolutely fabulous.

6)      Remove golden syrup and butter mix from the stove. Have the bowl of dry ingredients nearby and add the bi-carb soda and add water mix to the saucepan. This can really froth up and get quite excited so you might have to move quickly to avoid spills. This is a job for big hands or kids aged 12+ considering the hot, sugary fat involved.

7)      Mix well. You might need to add extra butter to get the ingredients to mix together well. You don’t want the biscuits to be too greasy but the mixture also needs to hold together well without crumbling. We ended up grabbing handfuls of mixture and squishing it together a few times to shape flattened balls which stayed together. I don’t think I’ve had to do that with recipes I’ve made in the past but they had been more of a crunchy consistency where these biscuits were more chewy.

8)      Cover a metal biscuit tray in non-stick baking paper. In the past I’ve placed spoonfuls of mixture onto the tray but with this recipe, I needed to squish the mixture together a bit for it to hold together. You need to leave a bit of space between each biscuit to allow for expansion.

9)      Bake for 8-10 mins or until golden. Remove from oven. Leave on tray to cool down for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Simple and scrumptious and we can remember our fallen heroes as well!

Love & Blessings,

Ro xxoo





My two little mini chefs.

My two little mini chefs.

Australian Pavlova

I have always understood that the pavlova, named after the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, was created by Australian chef Bert Sachse from the Esplanade Hotel in Perth and prepared for her while on tour.

However, like most great things which are considered uniquely and indisputably Australian, there’s often a foreign element. Hey, even Vegemite and the Australian Women’s Weekly are foreign owned. So it also appears that the Kiwis (AKA New Zealanders) are trying to take claim to our pav. Is nothing sacred?!! That said, a pav just isn’t a pav without kiwi fruit on top so I reluctantly got to give the kiwis a bit of credit.

This recipe comes from Margaret Fulton who, now aged in her 90s, has to be considered “The Grandmother of Australian Cooking”. I grew up cooking from her cookbooks as a child and even though we have never met, she feels like some kind of surrogate cooking Supergran and I’m sure most Australian women would feel much the same. So much more than a name, she’s part of the family, albeit on the shelf.

This pavlova is my signature dish. It is relatively simple but I always receive gushing praise and have been lauded as the “Pavlova Queen”. With its crisp crunchy crust and soft marshmallow interior, it’s amazing and I find so many people truly love pavlova and nothing compares to the classic home made version. Somehow, it seems to make everybody deliriously happy.


6 egg whites at room temperature

Pinch of salt

2 cups caster sugar

1.5 teas vanilla

1.5 teas vinegar


  1. Pre-heat oven. There is quite a difference in settings depending on whether you are baking the pavlova in a gas or electric oven. If you are using electric, pre=heat the oven to a slow 150° C (300°F). If you are using gas, preheat it to a very hot 230°C (450°F).
  2. Grease tray. I use a pizza tray covered in foil and spray it with canola.
  3. Separate egg whites into glasses and transfer each egg white to the main bowl in case a bit of yolk slips through the net. You don’t want to waste the lot!
  4. Beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form.
  5. Add sugar one tablespoon at a time beating well after each addition.
  6. Stop beating after all the sugar has been incorporated.
  7. Fold in vanilla and vinegar.
  8. Pile mixture onto the tray and swirl it around creating attractive curls.
  9. Cooking instructions vary depending on what type of oven you have. If using an electric oven, put the pavlova in and bake for 45 minutes and then turn the oven off and leave it in there for 1 hour. If using a gas oven, turn heat to the lowest temperature. Put the pavlova in and bake 1.5 hours or until crisp on top and a pale straw colour.
  10. When pavlova is cooked, remove from the oven and cool completely.
  11. Now you essentially drown the pavlova in cream. You can either buy the tubs of very thick cream which you can pour straight onto the pavlova or you can whip some cream up yourself. We always add a bit of icing sugar and vanilla to our whipped cream. Just to make the pavlova healthy, despite all that sugar and cream.
  12. Top the cream with fresh fruit which is typically slices of kiwi fruit , banana and strawberries along with some passion fruit. My sister-in-law used frozen raspberries, defrosted of course, and these went very well with it as well. She actually put the raspberries underneath the cream and that looked very good.

Pavlova is best made the day before and it’s not something you can easily squeeze into the oven in between cooking other things what with juggling oven temperatures and it needing a slow oven. I have been making this pavlova for many years and haven’t had a flop until recently and I think that’s from trying to cook it straight after having the oven hot for something else.

Enjoy and just remember that when you serve the pavlova with fruit, that automatically makes it healthy cancelling out all the other stuff.

xx Ro


Irish Soda Bread

Just to recap, I made this bread for the first time last night as part of our Irish Night to celebrate the arrival of my Great Great Great something Grandfather John Curtin in Australia  160 years ago.

I’ve never tried authentic Irish Soda Bread so I have no idea what it’s supposed to be like. Unfortunately when I made this for our special Irish celebration last night, I was rushing to get the pavlova into the oven and as a result neither were cooked properly. When I sliced into the bread, it was still raw in the middle and because the pavlova was now cooking in a very slow oven, I had to use the microwave to finish the job off and nuked it for 5 minutes. No doubt, I would have been tried for murder in Ireland for committing such a crime but the bread seemed to recover and went well with our Irish stew. The family all enjoyed it whether it was authentic or not.

I should have been a bit more cautious about making this bread. The recipe came with all sorts of warnings and tricks and making it on the run while juggling the oven to get the pavlova baked before midnight, wasn’t a good idea. Moreover, when you are making something that is a tradition, you are stepping onto hallowed turf and you need to do it justice or at the very least show a little respect.

Obviously, I failed.

Moreover, I must confess that the loaf of bread featured in the photo above was actually my second attempt. You can see the original down below looking rather sorry for itself.

My quasi Irish Apprentice.

My quasi Irish Apprentice.

My other mistake was recruiting my 8 year old daughter to help make it. This recipe called for a very light touch and if you check my previous post about the kids making pizza, they love getting their hands into dough, coating their hands with the stuff and using it as play doh. I kept telling mix not to mangle it but she couldn’t resist.

I have to say that it is much easier just to buy a loaf of bread at the supermarket and with all those great advances in technology, it even comes sliced. If you really must bake your own bread, bread makers are wonderful machines. I just chuck everything in mine and it turns out a perfect loaf every time.

However, neither of these options are authentically Irish and I wanted to cook  the real deal. Have an authentic Irish meal albeit in Australia.

Although I haven’t tried the real thing, I did a Google search and found what looked like a fairly authentic recipe which had quite a preamble initiating the uninitiated into the fine art or is that complications of making the real deal. All these warnings and specifications did make me feel rather wary about taking on the great Irish Soda Bread challenge. There seemed to be so many things to go wrong and this dough really does seem very fussy and demanding compared to throwing everything into the breadmaker or simply buying a loaf of bread at the supermarket. But there’s nothing like making your own bread and wanting to have an authentic Irish night, I had to have a go.

There are a few things to watch out for:

1)      Irish flour is soft and low in gluten so the bread will have a different consistency when other flours are used.. If you can’t get Irish flour, use unbleached flour or Plain Flour. Do not use bread flour. It is very high in gluten and simply will not work in bread which do not use yeast.

2)      No kneading and only use a light touch to mix the dough ie use your fingers rather than your full hand to mix the dough.

3)      Work fast and get the dough into a hot oven the minute the dough is shaped. The reaction between the bi-carb and the buttermilk starts as soon as the two ingredients meet and you want that happening while the bread is cooking. Wait too long, and your bread won’t rise



This was my first attempt at the Irish Soda Bread which you could describe as a very “rustic” attempt.

Irish Soda Bread


4 cups Irish white flour or plain flour

½ teas Bicarb soda

½ teas Salt

2 cups unhomogenised Buttermilk


  1. Pre-heat oven to 230 degrees C . Wait until the oven is hot before you add the bread.
  2. Grease oven tray and have it ready to go.
  3. Sift flour, bicarb soda and salt into a large bowl and mix.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the milk. Quickly and with a light touch bring the flour in from the sides and mix with the milk, until all the ingredients come together into a dough. I initially used a knife to mix the milk into the dough and once it had formed some kind of ball, used my fingers. I didn’t really feel like getting my fingers wet.
  5. It is impossible to be exact about the amount of buttermilk needed, it will depend on the nature of the flour. The dough should not be sticky and should come together into one lump of of soft, slightly floppy dough. Keep adding flour until you get the consistency right.
  6. Once the dough had come together, do not knead it. Simply place it on a floured board and rub flour into your hands so they are perfectly dry and shape the dough into a flat round which is about 5 cm thick.
  7. Place on a baking tray. Dust the handle of a wooden spoon with flour and press into the dough to form a cross. This gives the bread its tradition cross-shape and also helps the bread to cook through more easily. I have also read that this lets the fairies out of the dough. This process should only take 5 minutes and you need to get the bread in the oven immediately. Quick. On your marks. Get set! Go!
  8. Set timer for 5 minutes. Turn the oven down to 200 degrees C.  The initial high temperature ensures a good crust. Set timer for a further 20 minutes and take the bread out and knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done. If not, pop it back in the oven for a further 5-10 minutes and check again. Mine sounded hollow but my sense of pitch must have been out and it was still raw in the middle. Worked better the second time round.
  9. This bread should be eaten on the day that it’s made. The next day it resembles something of a brick which could indeed inflict grievous bodily harm but did resuscitate to make good toast. I had a slice of it as toast with Vegemite on it this morning just to put my Australian stamp on the stuff. The leprechauns would be shaking in their boots.

I made the Irish Soda Bread again tonight and this time resisted calls for pavlova for dessert. I also made it myself without intervention from the kids. This time it was cooked right through and also looked more like the real thing with a proper cross through the middle. We all really enjoyed it and I can see it making regular appearances at our place all the way Down Under.

xx Rowena


Irish Soda Bread with Vegemite.

Irish Soda Bread with Vegemite.

Irish Stew

Just to recap a little, we made Irish Stew last night to commemorate the 160th anniversary of my Great Great Great Grandfather John Curtin’s arrival in Sydney, Australia from Cork City, Cork Ireland onboard the Scotia on 4th April, 1854.

I forgot to mention earlier that we are all fighting off chest infections and given my low-immunity status, we are wearing masks around the house. Well, we couldn’t eat with the masks on so we probably undid all our protective precautions. I must say these masks feel very uncomfortable. Your face heats up. Geoff’s glasses fog up. Then there’s just the whole psychological aversion to wearing a mask and feeling rather freakish. I’m not some kind of germophobe. At least, I never used to be. This is my new way of life perhaps.. at least, in winter. Need to find myself some fancy versions so I can poke a bit of fun at this stupid device. That said, just because you need to do something that doesn’t mean I need to like it!

Anyway, back to the Irish Stew.

Irish Tears

Irish Tears

While frying up the onions, I found out why the Irish are crying. My goodness! Those vapours really got to me!

Mister cooking the chops with face mask on.

Mister cooking the chops with face mask on.

This recipe provided enough stew to feed our family for two nights and once I’d recovered from peeling all those potatoes, was a pretty easy meal to cook. Just left it on the stove to cook itself.

We will definitely be eating this stew on a regular basis from now on.

xx Rowena

Irish Stew=adding the veggies to the meat.

Irish Stew=adding the veggies to the meat.

Irish Stew

Based on a recipe from

¼ Cup plain flour

1.25kg lamb chops, trim off fat.

¼ cup olive oil

1 brown onion finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

2 carrots, sliced

1 kg desiree potatoes, cut into 2 cm pieces

6 cups of beef stock

Thyme sprigs to serve



1)    Wash, peel and dice potatoes and wash and slice carrots and put aside.

2)    Finely cut onion.

3)    Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy frying pan on medium heat and when bubbling add onion and thyme leaves. Cook stirring for 3 or 4 minutes or until tender and transfer to a bowl.

4)    Place flour and chops in a bag. Shake until chops are coated.

5)    Increase heat to high. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in pan. Add half the chops. Cook for two minutes on each side and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining oil and chops.

6)    Leave half the chops on the bottom and cover with half the onion mix, half the potatoes and carrots and then cover with the remaining chops and cover these with the remaining onion mix, potatoes and carrots.

7)    Pour over stock.

8)    Bring to the boil, skimming off fat where necessary. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes.

9)    Remove lid and simmer until sauce has thickened to desired consistency. I ended up simmering it for at least an hour and the sauce became more of a gravy, which we preferred to a watery soup.

10)  Serve with buttered slices of Irish soda bread straight from the oven.


An Irish feast

An Irish feast


A Brief Trip to Ireland

Last night our family celebrated what I’ll call a brief trip to Ireland.
Unfortunately, we were still very much at home in Australia. However, we did the next best thing. We cooked ourselves an Irish Stew and some Irish Soda Bread, listened to Riverdance and instead of our usual grace, we said an Irish Blessing. We even had green serviettes.
While it wasn’t St Patrick’s Day, we had a special Irish celebration of our own. You see, yesterday marked the 160th anniversary of the arrival of the first Curtin in Australia. His name was John Curtin and he was my Great Grandfather’s Grandfather. John Curtin came from Cork City, County Cork and he was an Able Seaman arriving in Sydney on board the Scotia on the 4th April, 1854.
As I’ve never been to Cork City, County Cork, I did the next best thing and went their online via Kieran McCarthy’s blog. I recommend you pop over for a quick visit yourself. Like me, you might find out it extends into quite an extended sojourn!

Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a picture of John Curtin or the Scotia but the Scotia was one of those beautiful Tall Ships with white sails like tea towels billowing in the wind. These were the sorts of sailors who no doubt shared many, many yarns about their time at sea, especially stories about “Crossing the Line”, which referred to crossing the equator for the first time. These ceremonies were quite theatrical and sailors dressed up as King Neptune and his bride and the unfortunate initiates called “Johnny Raws”, were usually shaved with a very nasty, rusty implement and dunked. I will elaborate more on these ceremonies in a subsequent post. It is no wonder I’ve been so lost in my research. It’s riveting stuff!
Of course, the journey itself wasn’t my only entertainment. Their arrival in Sydney didn’t go unnoticed by the local water police.
On the 10th April 1854, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that John Eatough, Edward Wall, William Ferris, Stephen Malone, Henry Franklin, and John Grur, six seamen belonging to the Scotia, were charged with obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty. It appeared from the evidence, that constable Cassidy, of the Water Police, went on board the Scotia, at the request of the captain, for the purpose of apprehending a man on the charge of drunkenness, and that whilst so engaged the prisoners combined to prevent him from executing his duty, that several of them struck him, tore his clothes, and otherwise ill-used him.
At the trial, it appeared from the evidence of Captain Strickland that the assault was a most cowardly and unprovoked one, nearly the whole of the men having assaulted and ill-used the constable, who at the time was endeavouring to perform his duty in the most inoffensive way possible, and who was not in a position to command assistance. As there was no material evidence against Eatough and Greer, they were discharged, and the others were sentenced to pay a fine of 20s, each, or be imprisoned for fourteen days.
This wasn’t the only incident which ended up in court. On the 29th May 1854, The Sydney Morning Herald on page 5 again reports:
Daniel Carlos, a Portuguese seaman, belonging to the Scotia, was charged with desertion. The evidence showed that he had been apprehended on board the American vessel Revenue, on board which he had managed to obtain an engagement through the Shipping Master’s office by means of a false discharge. This document represented him as being a man lately discharged from the Jane. Captain Strickland stated that the prisoner had shipped as an able seaman on board his vessel some months previously, but that he had since been disrated for incompetency. The pri denied, amid much laughter, that he either knew Captain Strickland or his vessel. The case was ultimately remanded until Monday (this day), for the production of the articles, &c.
Another man, belonging to the Scotia, named Engine Depouta, was also charged with desertion. Like his shipmate, Daniel Carlos, he was discovered with a false discharge in his possession, bearing the name of Robert Ripley. Having pleaded guilty, he was sentenced to 12 weeks’ imprisonment with hard labour, his Worship remarking that he considered this a case in which the full term of punishment ought to be inflicted, in consequence of the aggravation which the offence received from the possession of a false discharge.
Never a dull moment, there was even a death onboard the Scotia:
SUDDEN DEATH.-Yesterday morning a very melancholy and unexpected occurrence took place on board the Scotia, whilst that vessel was being drawn off from the wharf, for the purpose of being placed in a position to proceed to sea. The business was entrusted to the management of Captain Barnett, one of the harbour pilots, au old and respected public servant connected with this port. Whilst releasing the vessel from the wharf, Captain Barnett was one of the most active in hauling on the ropes, and it is feared that he exerted his physical strength to an undue extent, for in about two minutes after he had relinquished his hold of the rope, he fell down on the deck and expired instantly. Medical aid was immediately sent for, but, unfortunately, too late. It appears that the deceased gentleman had been suffering for some time past from a disease which had worked very perceptibly on his frame, and which was generally attended with spitting of blood. The immediate cause of death appears to be the rupture of a blood-vessel[1] SMH Tuesday 30 May 1854 pg 2

So while we do not have a great many details about John Curtin himself, we are slowly putting together some kind of jigsaw of his life or milieu.

After looking at a selection of paintings depicting Cork Harbour and Sydney around 1854, we had our dessert. I thought it was only fitting for us to finish our trip to Ireland with an Australian pavlova oozing with cream and topped with sumptuous kiwi fruit, strawberries and banana. After all, although John Curtin wasn’t born in Australia, he did become an Australian. Actually, he wasn’t technically an Australian because he died in 1882 and that was 18 years before Federation. Let’s just say that he was an Australian before his time who still had a chunk of Ireland lodged in his heart.
I really recommend you do something similar to share your cultural heritage with your family. Bring some of your assorted ancestors out of the closet and celebrate who they were and indeed what is a part of ourselves our very flesh and blood. You never quite know who you will meet once you start digging beneath the surface.
I have posted the recipes separately to make them easier to print out.
Just one note about this menu. It is best to make the pavlova the day before. This allows the pavlova to cool properly and it also allows you to juggle the use of your oven better if you only have a single oven. Pavlova is fairly quick and easy to make but it does need that hour to rest in the oven after cooking and can tie your oven up if you are trying to bake the bread.
I don’t know how to wish you a Bon Appetit in Gaelic but there’s always 2,4,6,8 bog in, don’t wait!
Xx Rowena

An Irish feast

An Irish feast