Category Archives: Recipes

Recipe: Aussie Pumpkin Soup.

It’s Winter here in Sydney and warm Pumpkin Soup is almost as Australian as Vegemite, Pavlova and Hugh Jackman. According to Australian Masterchef host, Matt Preston, Pumpkin is the most common type of soup Googled online. Preston has also found that our love affair with Pumpkin Soup, is uniquely Australian:

“As a nation we are rather unique in our love of pumpkin soup. The French cook it but it doesn’t feature as prominently in their kitchens as a bouillabaisse or a bisque. Americans do it too, but the soup is a poor cousin to the far more popular pumpkin pie. And the Korean hobakjuk is as much pumpkin porridge as soup.”

Before we proceed to the recipe, I have found it necessary to clarify what I’m actually calling “pumpkin”. Apparently, pumpkin by any other name does taste the same, but I’ve also found out that what is referred to as “pumpkin” in different parts of the world, isn’t what we Australians know as “pumpkin”.

Indeed, the butternut pumpkin I’ve used, is known as “squash” or “butternut squash” in other parts of the world.

However, to be sure to be sure to be sure, if whatever you call it comes in a tin, forget it. It’s not going to kill you to make this from scratch and some supermarkets do sell pumpkin pre-peeled and sliced so you can cheat without spoiling the soup.

This recipe is based on on a recipe by Margaret Fulton, who helped launch my cooking journey as a child. In 1968, she launched her first cookbook: Margaret Fulton’s Cookbook,  and it revolutionized Australian cooking. Along with the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, these were cooking Bibles in Australian homes and still are in many today.

Pumpkin soup after school

Our whole family loves this Pumpkin Soup and it literally evaporated off the plates . Indeed, it’s spoon licking good!

Pumpkin Soup

Thanks to the butternut pumpkin/squash, this soup has a deliciously sweet flavour and creamy smooth texture. Yum!

Ingredients

90g butter

4.5 cups butternut pumpkin/squash…peeled and diced

A sprinkling of salt.

½ chopped onion (one smallish onion)

2 cups water

3 tablespoons plain flour

1 cup milk

1 egg yolk

Optional Serving Ingredients:

Sour cream

Chives

Bread.

Cracked pepper

Directions

  • In a large, heavy frying pan, melt half of the butter (45g) on high heat.
  • Add diced pumpkin and onion, turning constantly.
  • Fry for about 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin has started to caramelise.
  • Add water.
  • Reduce to medium heat and simmer until pumpkin is very tender and falling apart.
  • Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. This produces a finer texture.
  • You need to puree this pumpkin mix. I usually do it in the blender, but this is quite messy and my ancient blender struggles a bit. A friend recommended using a stick blender, which would cut out a lot of mess and encourage me to make it more often. However you blend it, the texture needs to be very fine and creamy.
  • Melt butter in frying pan. If you have pureed the pumpkin mix in the frying pan, you will need to do this a separate, small frying pan.
  • Add flour to the melted butter and stir together.
  • Add a small amount of pumpkin soup to flour and melted butter and mix well, gradually adding the rest. Stir rigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Blend again if lumps develop.
  • Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Just before serving, combine egg yolk with a little of the pumpkin soup and then mix that in with the rest of the soup.
  • Serves four.
Floured Lady

The dogs are my ever-faithful companions whenever I cook. Sometimes, however, they can get caught in the cross-flour. 

Serving Recommendations

Pumpkin Soup is usually served with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives. I usually chop the chives with a pair of scissors over the top of the soup.

Bread is a natural accompaniment to Pumpkin Soup. It is often served with a crusty bread roll and butter. However, yesterday I diced up a day old baguette, and fried the pieces in a mix of melted butter and olive oil in the frying pan. These were scrumptiously delicious, even if they were a little naughty. Watch the bread closely as it can burn easily.

A word of encouragement. In my experience, it is hard to get this wrong.

That is, as long as you don’t heed the cardinal rule of cooking. Never turn your back on a hot stove.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

5th June, 2017.

Cooking Like A Masterchef.

As I’ve mentioned before, Australia’s First Masterchef, Julie Goodwin and her radio co-host “Rabbit”, arrived somewhat announced at my place with a meal last week… as well as a signed copy of Julie’s latest cookbook…Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook.

Naturally, I wanted to cook a meal from Julie’s cookbook.

Well, actually I wanted to bake a dessert (or two, or three!!!)

However, being a parent and needing to role model nutritional and healthy eating, I launched off with a meal.

I don’t know about you, but choosing what to make for dinner every night causes me serious apoplexy. Indeed, my usual speedy, intelligent mind goes completely blank in what could only be described as “Cook’s Block”. Desperately seeking inspiration, I often end up staring through the butcher shop window like a starving mutt looking for the meaning of life, or at least dinner.

In the last week, this daily quest transferred to Julie’s cookbook. I really enjoyed reading the intro and picking up tips and feeling like I was still talking to Julie in my kitchen. However, I think it might’ve been the ghost of Rabbit coming back to haunt me. There was this loud chastising voice booming in my ear: “You’ve done enough reading. Stop talking. I’m hungry. Where’s dinner? Ten minutes to go…”

Actually, it wasn’t Rabbit. It was the kids. They were sick of staring at an empty plate!

Well, I finally decided on a recipe.

Last night, I made Julie’s Thai-Style Chicken Burgers (pg 75) for dinner, followed by her Apple Crumble Slice (pg 262) for dessert .

However, before I could power up the stove, I was off to the supermarket…ingredients.

supermarket trolley2

 

Due to my health issues, my husband usually does the big weekly shop. However, I set out to buy the ingredients for Julie’s meal all by myself. This wouldn’t have been an issue if I was sticking to the baking aisle. Fish sauce? Not an ingredient in your average chocolate cake. As for chilli…Don’t talk to me about chilli. Fresh chilli terrifies me after our local Thai takeaway redefined “mild”.  As for “Kewpie Mayonnaise”, I remember seeing Kewpie Dolls at the Royal Sydney Easter Show, but what did they have to do with mayonnaise? Not much.

I was pondering these challenges, when my phone rang. Lady, our Border Collie x Cavalier x Houdini had got out. That meant, a race through the supermarket and mad dash home.

That meant another trip back to the supermarket and Kewpie mayonnaise remained a mystery.

Kewpie Mayonnaise

While recipe books are pretty good with providing preparation times for meals, they don’t tell you how long it’s going to take you to find the ingredients. By this I’m not only talking about doing the shopping, but also delving through the flotsam and jetsam in the kitchen pantry. After all, most of us don’t have a “Tupperware Pantry”. Indeed, my pantry could well be described as a “mystery box” along with the fridge.

So, by the time I’d sorted the dog out, I was onto my fourth shop chasing ingredients. That’s not because I didn’t have a list and kept having to dash back again. It was just the usual thing of my day stop-starting and it wasn’t helped when the chicken shop had run out of chicken mince. The butcher came to my rescue again.

Swedish-Chef_Spring-Chickens

So after hunting down minced chicken and doing the Kewpie mayonnaise victory dance, I was back home. Time to get the show on the road. Not that I had any film crews filming me. I might be cooking from the Masterchef’s cookbook, but I’m not Julie Goodwin and no one’s filming yours truly in action. This could well be a good thing because I could get the Health Department closing my beloved kitchen down. As I’ve mentioned before, I cook like  the Swedish Chef from The Muppets and the inspectors don’t like seeing raw chicken flying around, even if the dogs do clean it up afterwards.

Actually, even I’m very careful cooking with this raw chicken mince and am wearing disposable gloves. There’s no way I could touch the raw chicken with my bare hands. For me, this is the equivalent of an arachnophobe trying to embrace incy wincy spider. Erk!

On that note, my daughter who has been chopping the coriander recoils at the smell of the fish sauce. As complication builds on complication, I wonder whether Julie faces any of these hurdles when she cooks at home. However, after listening to Julie on the radio, I know she’s very human and her family is real.

I’m mixing things together and I must admit I added half the red curry paste and sort of “forgot” to add the fresh chilli…just in case. Once you add heat to a dish, it’s impossible to extract. So, this being my first attempt at Julie’s Thai chicken burgers, I added half the stated amount of red curry paste, but will add the full amount next time. It seems Julie’s chilli-meter is well-calibrated and well-suited to my palate.

The only points I would add to Julie’s notes, is to be really careful cooking with raw chicken. With mixing multiple ingredients into the raw chicken mince, you can’t go touching other stuff.  You need to have everything else set up first. Indeed, in future I’ll put everything else in the bowl first and add the mince last next time. Being conscious of food safety issues, especially when using raw chicken, it’s not being mysophobic. It’s critical.

Fast-forwarding, we’ve squished our mince mix into patties, fried them on the stove, spread our mayonnaise mix on our brioche buns, sprinkled chopped coriander leaves over the patty and added the lettuce.

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An endangered species…the chicken patty was out of the frying pan and straight down the hatch.

It’s hard to describe how something tastes. A better indication is how much is leftover at the end of the meal and are there any scavengers (other than the dogs) chasing leftovers? My kids are very fussy eaters. It’s a rare that my daughter even finishes her meal, let alone asks for seconds and she was almost hoovering the chicken burger off her plate. She also polished off a small leftover patty. You couldn’t get a better endorsement.

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Meanwhile, after polishing off the burgers, I was peeling and chopping apples while watching Masterchef for Julie’s Apple Crumble Slice.

More yum!

All but straight out of the oven, I cut the slice into civilized squares, which were soon by-passed in preference for double-servings all round (except our daughter who’d filled up on the burger). This slice is deliciously moist with a scrumptious crunchy top. Moreover, with all that apple inside, you can appease your conscience. It’s healthy.

We’ll be doing this meal again next week, although I’ll be doubling the chicken burger mix.

You can never have too much of a good thing!

Have you ever tried making any of Julie Goodwin’s recipes? Even if you’re overseas, you can still check out her web site and try making something wherever you are. You too can cook and eat like an Australian.

xx Rowena

PS Oops! The Apple Crumble Slice mysteriously vanished before photographs could be taken. The photographer succumbed to temptation.

PPS I just had a phone call from my Mum. I sent her home with the last piece of Apple Crumble Slice. Here’s her verdict: “Never tasted anything quite like that. Quite perfect by itself. Unique. No idea how you’ve made it. Didn’t need anything with it…other than a cup of tea.

 

“Weekend” Coffee Share 15th May, 2017.

Greetings and Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s now Monday arvo here just North of Sydney, Australia and I’m having to get a wriggle on because the linky closes in one hour and nine minutes. Well, that nine minutes probably just dried up while I’ve been tweaking so I’d better hurry up.

Anything, I have much to celebrate this week and I’m not just talking about Mothers’ Day, although that’s a great place to get started. Why not go backwards through the week for a change?

So, Happy Mothers’ Day. I know it’s a bit late, but I hope you had a great day  or are enjoying the tail end of it. At the same time, I am mindful that Mothers’ Day is also a time of reflection, grief or even raw anger for many and my thoughts are particularly with you. I get how special days can really exacerbate those emotions.

We had a great Mothers’ Day, which was completely unplanned and spontaneous. The kids made us French Croissant Toast, where you slice croissants in half and dunk them in an egg and cream custard with a bit of added lemon zest and thyme. They were very scrumptious indeed (quite aside from the thrill of the kids cooking for us!!) Balloon Bag

I also had an unexpected surprise when my son launched a shopping bag with a Mothers’ Day card in it into the clouds, trying a bunch of helium balloons to the handle. The bag looked amazing as it flew steadily upwards, looking very much like a hot air balloon and gondola in miniature. I wonder if anyone found it?

Late afternoon, I spotted some striking clouds and headed down to the beach with my camera. I really enjoyed that short afternoon walk while mesmerizing over the clouds.

Yet, as I mentioned, we had an amazing week and Mothers’ Day was just the icing on the cake.

On Monday morning, the local radio station Star FM, turned up as my place as expected to give me my prize. I listen to their breakfast show every morning while driving the kids around, which is hosted by Rabbit and Australia’s first Masterchef, Julie Goodwin, who has recently put out a new cookbook. Their visit followed up a blogpost I wrote after they visited my daughter’s school. I am a serious Julie Goodwin fan and was unashamedly gushing when I presented her with my copy of her first cookbook for signing.

Anyway, I’d mentioned that Julie had never turned up at my place with a meal in that post and that’s why they were here on Monday. Julie had made me her Butter Chicken and we were off to the kitchen to make a salad together for the cameras.

They posted this video of their visit on their Facebook page, which has already had over 6,000 views: Rowena & the Masterchef

Anyway, I just received a phone call from my daughter’s school saying she’s sick and needs to be picked up. Humph! She goes to school 45 minutes away so that’s me gone for awhile. I’ll come back and tweak this later.

xx Rowena

Yum! Mothers’ Day Lunch.

This year, we decided to keep Mothers’ Day simple and have lunch at home. After all, when you have a couple of budding mini chefs in-house, you don’t need to outsource.

On Friday night, we saw a recipe for French Croissant Toast on The Living Room and decided to run with it. Here’s the recipe and the cooks.

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Happy Mothers’ Day…a croissant smile.

The kids had some very enthusiastic helpers in the kitchen.

And even at the table…

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A Lady at the table…Naturally, I didn’t take this photo. It must’ve been Bilbo!

What a yummy lunch…and the day isn’t over yet!

Wishing you all a very Happy Mothers’ Day, whatever that means to you!

xx Rowena

Rowena & the Radio Stars.

Well, on Monday morning, I had a bit of fun trading places. Instead of being behind the lens looking out, I was being filmed, inspected and watched under the microscope.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our local radio station Star FM arrived at my place on Monday morning. While I was expecting breakfast radio host Rabbit to turn up, it was quite a surprise when his co-host, Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef, pulled up in our driveway in her gorgeously cute white mini.

Wow!

That wasn’t the only surprise.

Indeed, we were off to make a salad together in MY kitchen.

Cooking with Julie

Talking salad with Julie.

Phew! Thank goodness I was prepared. Geoff had anticipated something like this and warned me about the kitchen. So, when it was looking like I was going to need an orbital sander to remove the black ring around the hotplate, I persisted. Pulled out the big guns…Gumption, the green scourer and pure unadulterated elbow grease. Wow! My stove top could now appear in a commercial.

Or, indeed, on the radio station’s web site.

I also thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t wearing my pink, fluffy slippers.

The dogs are complaining bitterly about being left out. After going through the torturous bathing process, they feel a bit ripped off . Bilbo is particularly grumpy after trying so hard to be nice. (He’s seemingly forgotten, that he was barking so much, that he was removed from the opening scenes.)

Anyway, of course, I had to share this with you. No doubt, it will be quite weird for you to actually see me in person and hear my voice for the first time. I’d love to know what that’s like for you. After exchanging posts and comments with some of you for years without meeting, it’s actually rather exciting that you’re stepping into my real world, after being in my cyber one for so long.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

In case you’re wanting to follow this story through from start to finish…I wrote a post on my blog about meeting Rabbit and Julie Goodwin when Star 104.5 broadcast from my daughter’s school. In that post, I mentioned that as much as Julie had been there for me throughout the years, she’d never brought me a meal. That was until Monday morning when Julie pulled up in my driveway with butter chicken, rice and a salad for dinner. Go Julie! The radio station filmed the whole thing and posted the footage on their Facebook page tonight. It’s already had 964 views…amazing.

You can read more about their visit Here and Bilbo’s view of it all Here Bilbo had quite a lot to say.

I hope you enjoy it!

xx Rowena

Here’s a link to Julie’s recipe for Butter Chicken.

The Masterchef & the Rabbit.

Rabbits are usually the target, and not the decoy. However, this was no ordinary Rabbit.

This was Rabbit as in “Rabbit & Julie Goodwin” Star FM’s breakfast radio hosts. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by our local radio station. I was simply told that I’d won a prize and Rabbit would be at my house on Monday morning. Mia on the phone didn’t say much and was very adept at evading questions.

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Naturally, I had to do something for Rabbit’s visit. Create a bit of theatre. On Sunday night, I finally came up with the idea of Mad Hatters Tea Party…an Alice in Wonderland theme. After all, where is White Rabbit? I have quite a lot of Alice in Wonderland paraphernalia and it all came together very well….especially with some home-made, gluten free cupcakes which our daughter decorated. I also tied a scarf to the massive Norfolk Pine Tree in our front yard so they could find our house (as if they couldn‘t spot the crowd in the front yard and the tea party and don’t have GPS.) Well, my daughter and her friend were feeling “bored” and nabbed armfuls of my scarves and tied them to the tree. It looked fantastic, but very out there.

Suddenly, Rabbit and Mia arrived…along with a cameraman. Now, I should warn you that Rabbit knows how to keep a straight face and tell pure porky pies without flinching. Rabbit apologises that Julie couldn’t be there and presents me with a signed cookbook…Julie Goodwin: The Essential Cookbook.

As much as I appreciated the cookbook, I sensed there was more. That something else was up his sleeve. After all, they could’ve posted the book. AND, a radio station wouldn’t film someone who isn’t the author, presenting a book.

Then…  a dashing white mini convertible with “COOKING” on the number plate, pulls into our driveway and out steps Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef. She’d arrived at our place with a meal…butter chicken, rice with saffron and we were off to the kitchen to prepare the salad together…and for the cameras.

OMG!!! Obviously, I’ve never been the mild-mannered reporter type, but I was uber-excited. I was so happy, that I all but burst into song. Julie was here!

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Well, you might ask why Julie Goodwin came here. After all, our place is hardly Masterchef Central.

Well, that’s a long story.

As I said, I received a message from the radio station a few weeks ago saying I’d won a prize. I suspected this was in response to a post I’d written after Rabbit and Julie Goodwin hosted the breakfast show on Star FM at our daughter’s school. I’ve been a mad Julie Goodwin fan ever since I first saw her battling it out on Masterchef eight years ago.

When I heard that Julie and Rabbit were going to be at my daughter’s school, I drove the 45 minutes up the freeway along with her cookbook and my heart was almost palpitating. Once I saw her on air, I was absolutely transfixed and I found it so hard to pull myself back and harder still to watch her leave… “Julie! Julie!”

Pathetic, I know! Yet, there was just something about Julie, which made me feel home. There was something about her which calmed a raging sea I didn’t understand. I was having a wonderful day and yet something inside me was drowning. The waves were crashing overhead and yet there were blue skies and things were the best they’d been in a long time. Indeed, I’d even become a believer in miracles.

rowena-amelia-with-rabbit-julie

My daughter and I with Rabbit and Julie at her school.

Anyway,  when I wrote about meeting Julie, I made a tongue-in-cheek remark about how Julie’s never dropped around here with a meal. Of course, I’d never expected that, but around the time season one of Masterchef went to air, I’d been diagnosed with a life-threatening acute auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis, where your muscles attack themselves causing debilitating weakness. Although I’d improved, I wasn’t out of the woods. Our kids were aged 5 and 3 at the time and with Mummy being an endangered species, it wasn’t uncommon for Church or friends to drop in a meal. It’s what you do.

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Dinner with Julie (she’s the cookbook at the end of the table).

Now, I’ve not only received a meal from Julie. I also have another of her cookbooks and it’s time for me to share the love. Pass it forward…at least to my own family.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

PS You might also enjoy reading Bilbo’s account of events. I must admit he did write quite a lot about himself: The Queen of the Kitchen.

Yummy Marshmallow Mud Toastie.

Easter is the perfect time for experimenting with marshmallows and chocolate. The oozier the better.

While I’m not sure whether Isaac Newton would agree, that placing marshmallows and chocolate in between two slices of brioche and applying heat and pressure constitutes a scientific experiment.

However, although he’s obviously not around to ask, I’m sure he’d be licking his fingers and declaring the results: “scrumidillyumptious”!

As for myself, I concluded that further experimentation is required.

marshmallow mud toastie

Ingredients

2 slices of brioche loaf (I get mine from Aldi)

Chocolate (I chose Cadbury Dairy Milk)

Marshmallows (I chose pink).

Here are the Basic Directions:

Place a single slice of brioche in the sandwich press for each person.

Arrange pink marshmallows and your choice of chocolate as desired on top of the brioche. You will observe in the photo below that I prefer a rather oozy, messy outcome. On the other hand, our daughter wanted to minimise the ooze and even placed hers in the fridge for a bit to firm it up a bit.

Cover with a second slice of Brioche (the lid) and close the sandwich press.

Remove toastie using lifter when golden brown and contents have melted. Watch out for hot melted contents  and the risk of burns.

I started out by simply melting Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate in between two slices of brioche.

That was just begging for a few marshmallows.

Finding that combination rather sweet, I added a few blueberries for a bit of tang.

I’m now planning to try a rocky road version with nuts and glace cherries to balance out the very sweet chocolate and marshmallows.

Personally, I can see the Marshmallow Mud Toastie satisfying those late night chocolate cravings without creating a huge mess.

Well, let’s just say the mess is contained to your face and fingers.

Of course, I understand that these innocent  Marshmallow Mud Toasties will have their critics. That puritanical do-gooder wowsers, will shoot them down. Slam their insane sugar and calorie content and the evils of “food therapy”.

However, personally I believe scoffing one of these oozy treats, is a hell of a lot better for you than some other cures for depression or a rough trot.

Therefore, I don’t believe I’m stretching the truth too far, to say these scrummy treats are actually “healthy”.

What do you think?

xx Rowena

 

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“Healthy” is all a matter of perspective and while they have their critics, retail and food therapy can be a lot better for you than some of the alternatives.