20 September 2010

Alex's Napoli Sauce

Yesterday we took the girls on the long drive to and from their grandparent's house and eventually arrived home late and hungry. This Napoli sauce is a favourite of Alex's to make and we had it last night with spaghetti and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese - a perfectly simple meal to end the day.
We often have it on home-made pizza as well and you can prepare it ahead and keep it in the fridge for a few days.



Napoli Sauce:


50ml oil
1 x onion
2 or 3 garlic cloves sliced (abt 30g)
500g tin of chopped tomato
a few stalks of basil
salt and pepper to taste


1.Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add garlic and cook for 30seconds.

2. Add the onion and seasoning  and cover.

3. Turn the heat to low (minimum) and cook covered for 5 minutes.

4. Add the tomato and basil stalks and cook until reduced by 1/4.

5. Take the basil out before serving.

15 September 2010

Rachael's Pumpkin and Bacon Tart

Oooh, another goodie from Rachael of http://www.mogantosh.blogspot.com/. Rach previously shared her spinach and coconut dahl recipe here.

Rach writes:  "This recipe dates back to when my sister, my Mum and I bought a cafĂ© together in the 90’s and ran it for 2 years. It was an intense and wonderful experience. Once Sam reached up into a high fridge and upturned a 2-kilo bucket of tinned beetroot onto her head during the lunch service. We often spoke in funny accents for days at a time, and we developed some very strange rituals. We had a tiny TV in the kitchen and at 12 noon every day we would switch it on and re-enact Kerri-Anne Kennerleys jaunty entrance dance onto her Midday Show set. Then we’d turn it off and manage the lunch rush. Good times."

Too funny! Thanks Rach.

Pumpkin and Bacon Tart
 Note: These measurements will make 2 family-sized tarts. Halve everything if you’re only making one. But this recipe is fairly fiddly, and it freezes well, so I always make 2 and stick one away. I’ve frozen this tart after step 8 and also after it’s been cooked - both have turned out fine.

Also, it's forgiving - you can forget the blind-baking, and the egg-separating, and sub milk for the cream, and it will still be yummy. But for the seriously delish version, I try and take the time to make it as outlined below.


4 cups steamed and mashed pumpkin

2 onions

2 cloves diced garlic

1 cup diced bacon

6 eggs

½ cup cream

2 cups grated tasty cheese


1. Fry up onion, garlic and bacon together until your onion caramelizes and the bacon is crispy and delicious.

2. Separate eggs.

3. Combine and mix egg yolks, cheese, cream, pumpkin and a good dash of salt and pepper.

4. Beat egg whites to soft peaks with a hand mixer.

5. Line tart tins with shortcrust pasty (you can make your own if you’re awesome but I just use ready-made slices from the freezer.)

6. Blind bake at 180 degrees (This colours and par-bakes the pastry, so line tins with baking paper and weight down with beans or oven-safe weights that you can save in a jar for next time.)

7. Fold the egg whites through the pumpkin mix. These whites will keep your tart fluffy so have a gentle hand. You don’t want to knock the air out.

8. Scatter the onion and bacon mix over the base of the tin, and then fill to the top with your pumpkin mix.

9. Bake at 180 for about 25 minutes, or until golden and firm on top.

10. Serve with a nice fresh salad.

10 September 2010

Melanie's Pumpkin, Basil and Split Pea Curry

I'm loving the dahl recipes being sent in. Who knew there could be so many variations of such a simple dish? After the success of Rach's coconut and spinach dahl, I'm keen to branch out and give this recipe a go too. And, it calls for basil - one of my all-time-favourite herbs.

Thanks Melanie!

Melanie's Pumpkin, Basil and Split Pea Curry

for 4-6 persons


200gms yellow split peas

pinch tumeric

3 bay leaves

4 star anise sections

1 small onion chopped

500ml water

1 kg pumpkin cut into 4cm cubes

1 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

250ml water

For spice butter:

6 tablespoons basil leaves, cut into 1/4 inch wide shreds

5 tablespoons ghee or 1/2 butter, 1/2 veg oil

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tablespoon fressh shredded ginger

2-4 hot green chillies, shredded (i use less)


1. Put split peas, tumeric, bay leaves, onion, star anise in deep saucepan with 500ml water and bring to boil. Cook over medium heat partially covered for 20mins.

2. Add pumpkin pieces along with 250ml water, sugar, salt and bring to boil again. Lower heat and continue cooking, covered for 20 more mins. Turn off heat, transfer to serving dish.

3.. Measure out all seasonings for butter and put next to stove. Heat butter/oil in small pan over high heat. When hot, add cumin seeds. when cumin turns dark brown (15 secs) add ginger and chillies. Reduce heat to low, sizzle for 30secs. Add basil let fry for 30 secs. Pour all over pumpkin mixture and mix with a fork to streak (like marbling).


07 September 2010

Melbourne Epicure Cathie's Banana Bread

The sweet spices in this recipe are so aromatic... mmmm

Firstly, I must say I feel very privileged to be able to share this recipe with you because it has come from one of my all-time-favourite food bloggers; Cathie from Melbourne Epicure. If you are into cooking, or photography, you must treat yourself and visit Cathie's blog: http://www.melbourneepicure.blogspot.com/

Secondly, go get yourself a bunch of bananas and some walnuts and make this one today!! I've road-tested it twice now, and not suprisingly, since it's come from Cathie, this recipe is a Big Winner.

Cathie writes: "This is the second time I have made banana bread, first time was not so good, this time....success. Let me know if you try it, it's somewhat healthier than usual."

(May I add, not only healthy - it is yummy, easy to make and oh, so more-ish!) Thank you Cathie!

My first banana cake straight out of the oven

Banana Bread


•2 eggs

•250g (1 cup + 1 tablespoon) caster sugar

•100ml vegetable oil

•1 cup mashed banana (3 medium overripe bananas)

•1/2 cup sour cream

•dash of milk or cream

•100g crushed* walnuts

•270g (1 3/4 cups) self raising flour

•1 tsp bicarb soda

•1 tsp cinnamon

•1/2 tsp mixed spice


•1 tablespoon brown sugar

•50g (1/2 cup) crushed walnuts (Cathie crushes hers by hand)
•preheat oven to 160C, grease and line a loaf tin, I used 26cm, with baking paper

•beat the sugar and eggs on high until pale and thick, reduce speed and gradually add the vegetable oil

•add a dash of milk or cream to the sour cream to thin it and add to the egg mixture along with the mashed bananas and beat until just combined

•sift in the flour, bicarb soda and spices and add the walnuts and beat only until combined

•pour into prepared pan

•make topping by mixing crushed nuts and brown sugar together then sprinkle on top of batter
bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean
Enjoy this one folks!

06 September 2010

Journal Update

Despite the slowing down of blog-posts around these parts of late, the past couple of weeks have been busy-as-ever in my kitchen with a few more recipes tried and tested and successfully added to my skill-set.

Another wonky (but yummy) loaf of bread from the oven

The bread-baking continues, not every single day as hoped, but regularly enough that we seem to nearly always have the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the place – which may very well be my favourite part of this process. I am still experimenting with methods and ingredient quantities and this week I will change from baking it on a pizza-stone (as per the Artisan bread method) to letting the dough to rise in loaf tins in the hope of achieving higher, more square loaf-shaped bread for sandwich making. We’ll see how that goes.
Preparing a garden salad for a picnic

Dry-roasted sesame seeds to sprinkle over salads

Over the past few weeks I have returned several times to the recipe for coconut and spinach dahl sent in by Rachael. It’s a winner in our house and I’m so grateful you shared it with us, Rach. I even have lentils soaking in preparation for another dahl tonight – now that’s a first for me. Being prepared enough to soak lentils overnight – who would have thunk it!! All of this cooking practise is paying off.
Banana bread/cake was a hit at a recent gathering.

And, another success story – the recipe for which I shall share later today – is this delicious looking banana bread/cake. I can’t decide if it’s a cake or a bread – but either way it has been exciting to bake a cake from scratch with such great success. I’ve given this a whirl twice now and have both times proudly trotted off to a friend’s place bearing cake. Cooking tasty meals for my family is my aim, but to get to a point where I can confidently share my cooking with friends is an added achievement for me.

I’m also getting confident enough now to give recipes a go that I would never have tried, or even thought of, a couple of months ago. Last night, for Father’s Day, we had a roast dinner and I made caramelised onion gravy. Sounds fancy, huh? It is basically made by caramelising some onions, then adding a cup of vegetable stock and a dash of cornflour to thicken. It was so simple, but so good – worth a go as a vegetarian gravy alternative.

This week I’m planning to cook a new version of my usual vegetarian lasagne, more dahl, lots of bread and I’m going to attempt to make seaweed rice crackers for the girls. They love them and we buy packets and packets of them – quite expensive and a heap of wasted packaging involved. I have the rice flour ready, and the seaweed (some left-over nori sheets.) I’ll report back on the results.

Happy cooking!

31 August 2010

Lauren's Tasty Burritos

This easy-peasy family meal recipe (and cute photo) has been shared by Lauren of Sparkling Adventures. I think my family will love this one, Lauren- and it can be prepared ahead, even better for those busy days when a pre-prepared meal comes in handy.

Lauren writes: "You know when you want an easy recipe that will feed the whole family, freeze easily and can be heated in a flash? This is that recipe. And it tastes very good too!"

Tasty Burritos


1 kg minced meat (leave out for vegetarian versions)

2 tins refried beans

1 jar enchilada sauce (375g is what was available where I shopped)

1/2 c. water

1 small chopped onion

3 minced garlic cloves

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp dried oregano

500 g grated cheese (whatever kind/brand, low-fat or not)

(optional) one finely-chopped head of broccoli for extra vegie goodness

20 tortillas


1.If you’re not vegetarian, brown the meat in a frying pan. Drain the fat.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for about half an hour — until your cheese is melted through and the vegies are soft. (This is my kind of cooking! I love just throwing everything into a pot and pulling out a delicious meal!)

3. The burrito bean and meat mix, all cooked up and then cooled down is ready to scoop onto the tortillas.

4. Scoop some of the mixture onto the middle of a tortilla — not too much.

5. Start folding the tortilla over the short ends of the meat/bean mix first.

6. Wrap your burrito in a paper towel before sealing it in foil.

7. If you want to freeze these, seal the foil packets in a zip-locked bag so they’re airtight. When you bring them out to eat, you can either re-heat them in the oven or remove the foil and re-heat them in the microwave (with the paper-towel still wrapped around them). To go from fully frozen to edible, microwave one packet for one minute.

8. To serve, open them up part-ways and add the usual toppings — cucumber, tomato, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, etc. I find that the kids enjoy eating them as-is, which makes these even easier!

Thanks Lauren!

30 August 2010

Jasmine's Sushi Rolls

Here's a nice and easy recipe to start the week.   I was happy to recieve this recipe from Jasmine, from http://www.dardoandme.com/, because we're already big fans of nori rolls here- my 13-yr-old girl has introduced them to my 3-year-old who is now so keen on nori rolls she ask for them in her lunchbox. The photos here are from a session of nori-rolling that Miss 3 and I got up to last week. Messy, sticky fun it was! We used avocado as a filling, but I really like Jasmine's idea of the tuna and mayo - that could interest my little one in tuna... we'll give it a go next time. Thanks for the prompt Jasmine - it was a delicious (and healthy) lunch the kiddo and I enjoyed together.

Jasmine writes: "I lived in Japan for about three years and came home when I was seven months pregnant with my son. I'd never enjoyed seafood until I went to Japan, and even over there I didn't really take to eating huge amounts of it ... but seafood is such an integral part of their food in Japan that it's hard to avoid it. As such I started to develop, if not a taste for seafood, at least a tolerance for it - particularly the versions my Japanese friends would make for me (knowing I don't like raw fish!)

So here's a really basic, "friendly" recipe for those who aren't too keen to go eat raw fish but want to give sushi rolls a try."

Jasmine's Nori Rolls:

Nori/seawood sheets



Tuna (You can use strips of cooked chicken if you prefer!)


If you like, you can add some pickled ginger and Japanese soy sauce - you'll find the seaweed/nori, pickled ginger and Japanese soysauce in the foreign food section of your supermarket.


Cook your rice as per usual. Allow it to cool somewhat.

Take a piece of nori, spread the rice over the seaweed.

Mix your mayo with your drained tuna (I just used canned tuna - this is the quick and dirty version of sushi!) and spread across the rice.

Mash up your avocado and spread it down the middle of the tuna/rice/seawood mix. If you want, you can add your pickled ginger (small amounts depending on your tastes to the avocado)

Roll your sushi up and enjoy!

Thanks Jasmine!

25 August 2010

Katie's Creamy Chicken Pasta

This recipe was sent in by Katie and is one I'm sure Alex will love - anything creamy and rich is his style of cooking.

Katie writes: "Here is a Creamy Chicken Pasta meal that my whole family love (incuding children). Hope you like it too."

Thanks Katie!

Creamy Chicken Pasta


2 Chicken breast diced

200 grams sundried tomatoes diced

6 Short-cut bacon diced

1 Onion diced

2 Teaspoons crushed garlic

Approx 500ml cream

375 gram packet of fresh fettucini

Sweet chilli sauce enough for your personal taste.


1. Cook diced chicken in pan, whist cooking this cook fettucini in a pot - once these are cooked remove and drain.

2. Dice bacon, sundried tomatoes, onion and add to pan along with the garlic and cook till blended well and onion browned.

3. In large saucepan pour 300 ml of cream and add the bacon/onion/tomato mixture and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring slowly as you go on a medium heat.

4. Add pasta and chicken to the cream mixture, and then add the rest of the cream until you reach the thickness you like. Add sweet chilli cauce to taste, usually I add about 5 tablespoons.

All done and ready to serve. Reheats well.

Enjoy !!

20 August 2010

Chloe's Cookies (from Katy)

Today I have a wonderful sweet treat recipe to share that has been sent in from Katy who blogs at Katy I See You.  I think these would be just the thing for a rainy-day afternoon tea.

Katy writes: "This is a modified version of Anzac biscuits. I have a wonderful, imaginative three year old daughter who loves to have a cup of tea with a biscuit (as do I). The only issue we had was a lot of biscuits have so many preservatives, additives, etc and she would often be climbing the walls afterwards (yes she is a little food sensitive) so we created a simple, yet pretty healthy (I hope) version of ANZAC biscuits.

The recipe and the creation are so basic it is a great one to let little ones play chef with - just adults are need for the melting part. There is a little sugar so they are a bit of a sweet treat especially good for that 3pm burnout for parents!"

Thanks Katy - and Chloe!

Chloe's Cookies

1 cup of organic rolled oats

1 cup plain, organic w/meal flour

3/4 cup organic sugar

2 tablespoons of treacle

125g (roughly 4 tbsp) organic butter or butter alternative (nuttlex, etc)

1 tablespoon of boiling water

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

*optional extras can be 1 cup of organic sultanas, cranberries, etc and I usually add some LSA mix and a little bit of ginger*


1. Preheat oven to roughly 160 degrees

2. Put oats , flour, sugar in a bowl and combine.

3. Place butter and treacle in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the butter is melted.

4. Put water and bicarb in a small bowl and mix together.

5. Add it all into the oat mixture and stir to combine.

6. Grab your baking tray and cover with baking paper.

7. Either make small balls of mix or circles and put on tray (flatten a little)

8. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes and then cool them on tray.

9. Flick the kettle on by the time your cuppa is ready they should be good to go!

Makes about 25 -30 depending on the size you want.

18 August 2010

Carolyn's Cakes in Cones

Okay, being my birthday week, I'm continuing the sweet celebration theme today with this little gem from Carolyn, who blogs at Ordinary World.

Carolyn writes: "Here's a recipe that is quite successful at kids parties: I first made it for my nephew Mason's Baby Blessing (the Buddhist equivalent of a Christening), and I've made it several times since. I hope you like it!"

Cakes in Cones


10 ice cream cup cones

60g butter, at room temperature

70 (1/3 cup) caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

150g (1 cup) self-raising flour

2 tbs milk

90g (1/4 cup) Raspberry jam

hundreds and thousands to decorate


300g (2 cups) icing sugar mixture

1 1/2 tsp butter, at room temperature

2tbs water

2-3 drops pink food colouring


1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Divide the cones, base side down, among ten 80ml (1/3-cup) capacity muffin pans.

2. Use an electric beater to beat the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Stir in half the flour and half the milk. Repeat with remaining flour and remaining milk until well combined. Add the jam. Stir slightly to create a swirled effect.

3. Spoon the mixture into a sealable plastic bag. Use scissors to cut one corner form the bag to make a small hole. Pipe the mixture evenly among the cones. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

4. To make the icing, combine the icing sugar, butter and water in a heatproof bowl until a thick paste forms, adding a little extra water if necessary. Add the food colouring and stir until well combined. Place over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until warm.

5. Dip the patty cake cones into the icing. Sprinkle with hundreds and thousands, and top with a glace cherry (I omitted the cherry as I don't know any children who actually like them).

Set aside to set before serving.

Thanks Carolyn!

17 August 2010

Tracy's Boyo's Favourite :: The Easiest One Ingredient Ice-Cream Ever!

Did you know it's my birthday this week? No? Well, now you do! And, as a treat, I have decided to dedicate the rest of this week to ridiculously delicious and decadent sweet recipes. Today's double recipe comes from Tracy's six-year-old son - the boyo! Thanks little guy, I'm loving the look of this one.

Tracy writes: "The boyo wanted me to share this one. He likes to help me in the kitchen, though mainly for certain favourite recipes...like these. Personally, the boyo likes his One Ingredient IceCream served with crumbled Carob Spiral Cookies on top. Mmmmmm..."

The Easiest One Ingredient Ice-Cream Ever

Tracy notes: "Actually, when I say this is one ingredient, that's usually not strictly true, because I can never resist adding a couple of things to it. However, in its purest form that's what it is, and it is superb, healthy and soooooo easy. Quantities are strictly approximate and will depend on taste and the numbers you are feeding. This makes enough for a small serve for dessert for the boyo over several days."

1.Take two ripe bananas, and chop them up into 'coins'.

2. Freeze them for at least 2 hours - if you follow the original recipe I had, and freeze them in a single layer on a tray, 2 hours is enough.

3.If you do as I do these days and just bung them loosely in a freezer bag, you might need to leave them a little longer.

4. Place frozen banana 'coins' in food processor. Start whizzing. This is where the magic happens.

5.Add nothing at this stage. Stop and scrape sides every so often. Keep going. You think it's not going to work, but it will. All of a sudden...beautiful creamy icecreamy banana happens.

6. At this point, I usually stop and add a couple of things, and blend a little more. Boyo loves it made with a scoop of crunchy peanut butter, and a tsp of Milo (or sometimes I use a scoop of Nutella). You get the idea.

7. Go crazy. I've had conversations with grown-ups about nuts, chunks of chocolate, home-made honeycomb, liqueurs...you get the idea. Obviously, with the chunkier things you'd stir in rather than blend.

8.You can eat it like this, as 'soft-serve', or re-freeze for another day. Now, enjoy...


Carob Spiral Cookies


125 g Nuttelex margarine

2/3 cup caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

1 3/4 cups flour, sifted

1/4 cup carob powder


1. Cream Nuttelex, sugar & vanilla till light and creamy.

2. Add egg, and beat well till combined.

3. Divide mix into 2 equal portions in 2 separate bowls. Add 1 cup of the flour to one bowl, and the rest of the flour plus the carob to the other.

4. Mix each portion gently till it forms soft dough ball.

5. Using 2 sheets of greaseproof paper per ball, roll each portion out to form 20-30cm rectangle. Remove paper, and place one on top of each other.

6. Starting at the long edge roll it up into a long log, wrap well in gladwrap and refrigerate for about one hour. (You can freeze at this stage, too.)

7. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Cut into 5mm thick slices and place on baking-paper lined baking trays.

8. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until v. lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

At this point, boyo recommends crumbling 2-3 cookies over a bowl of One Ingredient Ice-Cream.

Yum. Thanks Tracy and boyo!

16 August 2010

From Megan: The Cheat’s guide to Ratatouille Pastries

Alex cooked Ratatouille last night and it was so very good. He used a recipe from Anthony Telford’s, The Basics: A Really Useful Cookbook (I’ve added a link to the book in the Amazon widget on the blog sidebar for those interested.) I bought this book for Alex last Father’s Day and it has proved a winner for all kinds of meals – mostly cooked by Alex, but lately I have used it too; to make vegetarian lasagne and a tea cake.

Alex cooked enough Ratatouille to have leftovers which I thought I’d turn into pastries – maybe the kids will like these in their lunchboxes? I got that idea from one of My Recipe Journal’s fans on Facebook, Eloise (thanks Eloise!)

And... because you may have realised by now I am a mad-keen op-shopper and vintage collector, I decided to test my latest find – an old “As Seen On TV! – Dough Magic pastry cutter. Never used with the pastry cutters still in their plastic sleeves.

The first lot turned out like little helium-filled pastry balloons (could that be because I forgot to prick the pastry first?) and the second lot I overcooked. I did warn you when I started of this blog that I was an L-Plate cook, didn’t I?

However, despite the fact the Ratatouille mixture may have been too lumpy for these little pastries, and the first lot nearly blew up in the oven and the next lot were nearly burnt... they tasted good! Phew.

Thumbs up to the “As seen on TV” pastry makers and definitely thumbs up to Alex’s Ratatouille.

(That’s not really a recipe, is it? I’ll be back with a “real” recipe next time.)

Happy cooking!



13 August 2010

The cost of bread and other notes...

Here's the bread I made from that new flour pictured in yesterday's journal update post. Thumbs up on this one. It tasted lovely and has a thickness to it that will really suit sandwiches (great for school lunches). I'm sure I'll improve upon the making of it as I go along.

I also worked out the costing on my bread: From a 10kg sack of flour that cost $20, I can probably make around 15 (or more) loaves this size... So, if my math is correct, each loaf would be costing me around $1.33.

Don't know about you, but I pay double that, or more,for bread from my local bakery - so that 's a significant saving. Plus, bread always tastes better fresh from the home oven, I reckon.


I'll be back here on Monday with more recipes. In the meantime I'm going to spruce up the blog a bit and do some forward-planning on how to present things around here. I'd really like to be working well in advance to give myself a chance to test out as many of the recipes as I can before putting them up on the blog.

Thank you everyone who has sent in recipes so far - I'm going to need you to keep them flowing in - maybe you could let your friends/sisters/mums know about My Recipe Journal too?!  I'm sure they have a favourite recipe that works for them - I'd love to share it here with everyone (and test it out in my kitchen, of course!)

Just a reminder, email recipes to: thebyronlife@live.com.au

One last bit of blog "house-keeping". I've added a "follow" badge up there too - for those bloggers among you who may want to follow through their Google reader. I'm thinking maybe I'll also add a blog list of all the bloggers who have sent in recipes - what do you think, would you like that?

If anyone has any ideas for other things they would like to see on the blog - please let me know. I want to keep it a fun space that we can all enjoy and learn from. Your input is so very welcome.
See you on Monday - have a great weekend!


12 August 2010

Journal Update

When I started this blog I wrote: “In my heart I aspire to grow my own organic food, learn to cook what's in season and feed my family well within a tight budget. Simple dreams.”

Each week I am sticking to this notion of keeping it simple and not try to advance too far ahead of myself. I’m not here to show off my food styling skills (which, ahem, I currently lack) or prove what a star I am by whipping-up a gourmet meal each night - although if, eventually, I got to that stage I will have your support and encouragement to thank for it!

It is interesting to me that in keeping it simple, and slowing myself down to really focus on the task at hand, I am finding myself actually achieving more than if I raced through it (my usual approach).

This week, for example, I went back to one of the first recipes I learned from this blog – Megan. B’s roasted pumpkin and feta risotto.

This time I made sure I had all the ingredients before starting it (no last-minute dashes to the store) and set about following the recipe again, slowly and carefully. It worked – another successful meal that everyone loved eating and one I felt so good about delivering.

Learning to cook from scratch is just the start. My kitchen is slowly starting to reflect my new commitment to a simpler, more organised approach.

I’m clearing and sorting out the pantry – learning what ingredients I will need in advance, learning how best to store them.

I’m looking at what equipment I have, what I need, and how to organise it so that the cooking process is easier.

I’m starting to meal-plan – your recipes are helping enormously with that. Each time I receive an emailed recipe I start thinking ahead: what will I need to cook this one? How will it fit into our week?

The ripple-effects from this cooking “project” are extending into other areas of my life.

This week I started, in earnest, to learn to sew thanks to an early birthday present – a new sewing machine! It is an equally big challenge – and requires me to take it slowly and be focused. I wrote today about the “baby steps” I’m taking in sewing over at my other blog The Byron Life.

I still have much to learn, but already much progress has been made.

Tonight I’m cooking the red curry recipe from Michele H. (without the chicken!!) I have all the ingredients ready, and, just as importantly, I have the enthusiasm to give it a go.

That’s a huge change in how I was approaching cooking just a few weeks ago.


About today’s photo: That was my kitchen bench this afternoon. My favourite, much-loved, mixing bowl. A 10kg of bread mix (have not tried it before, but it has unbleached flour, no GMOs and no artificial preservatives etc).  In the background is a huge retro-pot I thrifted last week. I think it will be just right for storing flour for baking.

11 August 2010

Michele H's Basic Red Curry Chicken

Today's recipe is from Michele H. I like the look of this one as it can be cooked as vegetarian, and rather than precise measurements, Michele advises to use the ingredients "to taste" - and that suits my way of cooking.

Michele writes: "I love Thai food and often cook a (bastardised) version at home. This is quick and easy and tastes fantastic. Very more-ish."

~ Thanks Michele.

Michele's Basic Red Curry Chicken
Notes from Michele - This is a vague recipe I know – a lot depends on taste and quantities, you can change it around ie can make for one or 6+ depending on how much chicken and liquid you add in. Great reheated for lunch or dinner the next day (if there is any left).


Olive oil

Sesame oil

About ½ to one chicken breast per person (or use thigh meat if prefer, apparently it tastes better), cut into thin slices

Red curry paste (find a good one you like, I buy from Asian section of Woolies – brand Hmmm I am not sure will get back to you on that \)

1-2 tins Coconut milk (can use half molk half coc cream or use lite c milk if you wish, or use some liquid chicken stock in place of coc milk but will be thinner consistency, or some people (not me) use evaporated milk with coc essence – I prefer the real deal although it is certainly not a low fat dish)

Pumpkin – peeled and cut evenly into thin slices

Green beans – tops and tailed and cut into med size lengths

Brown sugar or palm sugar

Vegeta/stock powder etc (if you wish – optional)

Fish sauce (optional)

Lime juice (optional)

Shaved/Shredded coconut (optional)

Coriander – pick leaves off

Rice – cooked to serve

Pappadums if you wish


1.Heat pan or wok with olive oil and splash of sesame oil (the sesame oil is a seasoning ie for flavour/taste not to use a base oil)

2.Brown chicken pieces

3. Sprinkle with a little powdered stock (ie Vegeta) if you wish (to taste – maybe half a tsp?)

4. Add the red curry paste and allow to cook through, stirring so doesn’t stick to base of pan and coats all the chicken pieces

5. Add tin (or 2 if cooking for more people) of coconut milk (or half coc milk half liquid chicken stock if using OR your evap milk/coc essence if using)

6. Add brown sugar or palm sugar to taste (a dessert spoon?)

7. Add few splashes of fish sauce/lime juice if wish

8. Can add shaved/shredded coconut if you wish

9. Add the thinly sliced pumpkin to the pan and allow to cook around 10 mins (it softens in the coc milk) and then add green beans

10. Do not let boil but cook/simmer until pumpkin and beans cooked through

11. Add coriander at the end of if you prefer spoon mix over rice and then garnish liberally with coriander. Definitely benefits from the coriander. Love love love the coriander.

12. Scoop onto pappadums.

13. Fight over the left overs the next day

14. Enjoy!

~ Thanks Michele!

09 August 2010

Kellie's Mum's Chocolate Cake

Now, I am certain my kids would like me to make this recipe for dinner!!! However, I'll save this one for a special time...

This recipe has been sent from Kellie at http://www.74limelane.com.au/ and as well as the recipe she has also shared a downloadable PDF of the recipe card - clever lady! You can download it here and print it out to add to your recipe journal.

Kelie writes: "Here's my mum's chocolate cake recipe ~ I use this for a simple cake, two cakes sandwiched together, and cupcakes. Brilliant."

Kellie's Mum's Chocolate Cake:


½ cup butter

1 cup sugar

few drops of vanilla essence

1 egg

2 cups self-raising flour

½ cup of milk*

2 tablespoons of cocoa*

1 small teaspoon of bicarbonate soda

½ cup of boiling water


Cream butter and sugar and vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

Add milk and flour alternately until mixed in. Add cocoa and finally soda dissolved in the boiling water. Mix in well. Bake in a moderate oven (180° Celsius) for 30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.

* I usually use 1 cup of milk and get a bit heavy-handed with the cocoa.

Vienna Cream (from the Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book):

125g butter
1½ cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Have butter and milk at room temperature, place butter in small bowl of electric mixer and beat until butter is as white as possible. Gradually add about half the sifted icing sugar mixture, beating constantly, add milk gradually. Then gradually beat in the remaining icing sugar. Mixture should be smooth and easy to spread with a spatula.

~ Thanks Kellie!

05 August 2010

Journal Update

Another busy week in my kitchen with a few new recipes under my belt.

I've tackled two new recipes this week, both sent in from Tracy: (I'm thinking maybe I should re-name this blog Tracy's Recipe Journal!)

The dried fruit mix soaking in honey and earl grey tea for the fruity polenta slice

1. The fruity polenta slice was delicious - even though I added the juice of one whole lemon instead of the required 2TBspoons! Speed-reading recipes again... doesn't work, must stop doing that. Luckily the mix handled the extra juice and it was super-moist, in a good way. Didn't take any pics of the finished slice... oh, well, I'll have to make it again (for documentation purposes, you understand).

The scones ready to go in the oven
The scones baked
2. Second recipe of Tracy's I tried was yesterday's minestrone with feta and pesto scones.
I've never attempted scones before, and I made two lots. They were quick and easy-enough for a new cook like me to make. The first were good, but I think I had the oven too high, so they were crisp on outside, but not cooked right through inside. I had another go this afternoon and I think I got it right. They certainly tasted delicious. The soup recipe I varied a bit - I took out the bacon and added a spoonful of pesto, since we had purchased a small tub of freshly made pesto for the scones.
My minestrone soup with feta and pesto scone - Yum!

3. Last week I mentioned I was going off to cook with a big group of women - well I did and it was fun! I've talked about it on Facebook already, but for those who missed that discussion I've also written at length about it here (on my other blog) as well.

At MamaBake chopping up pumpkin for my Moroccan stew
My cheeky baby having fun with the containers that would later be filled with takaway home-cooked meals
The idea is called MamaBake whereby a group of mums cook up a big batch of meals together then divide them up so everyone goes home with a variety of dinners to save them cooking for a few days. Such a clever idea. I cooked up a huge batch of chickpea Moroccan stew and for my efforts came home with a variety of Curry dishes that the other mums had cooked up. Gave me a rest from stressing about what to cook for dinner that night - for a few nights actually - and that was good.

Look at all the delicious meals I brought home with me!

You can get more info on MamaBake here: www.mamabake.com

5. Next week I might share a few pix of things that have changed around my kitchen since starting this cooking blog. I'm getting a lot more organised in there and starting to get a feel for what kind of pantry items I need to have always on hand. The more organised I get in the kitchen, the better.

Thanks again to everyone who has come over to the blog and joined the FB page (76 "likers" that's amazing to me!!)

Also, I really could do with a few new recipes sent in, so if you feel like sharing a favourite, please email me at: thebyronlife@live.com.au That's what this whole blog is dependant on - sharing our favourite recipes.


04 August 2010

Tracy's Minestrone Soup w' Pesto and Fetta Scones

Sorry for the delay in a new recipe - I've had a cold and it's been back to "help-yourself-folks" cooking around these parts. But this recipe looks like a winner, and nourishing too for recovering from illness. It's been sent in from Tracy whose Fruity Polenta Slice was the first recipe sent to My Recipe Journal. Thanks for this new one Tracy!

Tracy writes: "This is a very fluid recipe, in that quantities, choice of ingredients etc can be varied to suit your tastes (eg, remove the bacon and it can be totally vego). This is the one I usually make for boyo & I, and we can get at least two days' worth of meals out of it. Best thing is, it is always better the next day."


1 small or 1/2 large brown onion, finely chopped

1 - 1 1/2 rashers of bacon, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 carrot, diced

1/2 stick celery, diced

1 large potato, diced

1 440g tin diced Italian tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato paste

Approx. 6 cups stock/water (I use Massel 'chicken' stock, about 2/3 and the rest water)

Several sprigs of parsley

Approx. 1/2 cup pasta of choice (small shells, spirals, penne, macaroni are all good)

Approx. 1/2 tin four-bean mix (about 1 cup)

Celtic sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, finely chopped extra parsley & finely grated parmesan or romano cheese, to taste


Saute onion, garlic and bacon in saucepan over med. heat for 3-4 mins, add other diced veges (except tomatoes), and saute, stirring regularly, for another 2-3 mins. Add tomatoes, stock/water, tomato paste and parsley sprigs, bring to boil, then turn down to gentle simmer with lid just ajar for about 10-15 mins until potato still firm but nearly cooked. Add pasta, cook for another 5 mins, then add beans and cook until pasta is just cooked. Season to taste, and serve with chopped parley & cheese to sprinkle over top.

Mmmm. Beautiful served with Pesto & Feta Scones...

Pesto & Feta Buttermilk Scones

I love cooking with buttermilk - it adds a beautiful lightness to baked goods, perfect in these quick and rustic scones I like to serve with soup.


2 cups self-raising flour (I used 1/2 white, 1/2 wholemeal, just for the hell of it...;) )

1/2 tsp celtic sea salt

1 tbsp caster sugar

60g cold butter or marg ( I used Nuttelex margarine)

100g feta cheese, finely crumbled

1/4 cup finely grated romano/parmesan cheese

1 tbsp basil pesto

3/4 cup buttermilk


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line flat baking tray with baking paper.

Sift flour, salt and sugar together into large bowl, and rub in butter/marg until mixture has texture of fine breadcrumbs.

Add crumbled feta and grated romano/parmesan, and mix through.

Make well in centre of mix, put pesto in bottom and pour buttermilk in.

Using a flat-bladed knife or metal spoon, and working quickly, lightly cut and mix the wet & dry ingredients until they come together into a soft dough.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and very gently knead for a few turns, before patting into a flat disc shape and marking with a knife into 8 quadrants (don't cut all the way through).

Place on the baking sheet (I sometimes dust the top with flour, or throw a little more grated romano on top), and bake for 15-20 mins, or until lightly golden on top and hollow-sounding when tapped on bottom.

Makes 8 scones.

Serve warm and buttered with soup.
~ Thank you Tracy!

02 August 2010

Lisa's Mum's Chickpea, Pumpkin and Crispy Bacon Salad

Thank you Lisa for sending this recipe in. When I cooked up Megan. B's Roasted Pumpkin Risotto the other week I roasted a heap of extra pumpkin and I used it the next day in this recipe. (I re-heated the pumpkin when I made this one.) Being vegetarian, I left out the bacon and I used the salad leaves I had in the fridge already, which were lettuce rather than the suggested spinach leaves. Delicious!

CHICKPEA, PUMPKIN AND CRISPY BACON SALAD (GOOD EVEN WITHOUT THE BACON) you can also add some feta also and spinach leaves. Serves 8 - 10 as an accompaniment

This recipe is best made close to serving. The pumpkin can be cooked several hours ahead.


2kg butternut pumpkin, cut into 1.5cm cubes

1/4 cup olive oil

1 clove garlic, curshed

12 slices thin bacon or panchetta

2 x 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed drained

1 cup loosely packed coriander leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper


1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

put in jar and shake to combine


1. Preheat the oven to moderate 180c

2. Combine pumpkin oil and garlic in a medium bowl, toss gently transfer to a shalllow baking dish. roast, in a moderate oven for about 45 mins or until tender.

3. If using bacon lay it on a baking tray and cook until crispy, cool and break into pieces.

4. Combine the roasted pumpkin, bacon, chickpeas, coriander leaves, lemon and garlic dressing and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl, toss gently to combine.

5. Serve immediately

~ Thanks Lisa!

30 July 2010

Rachael's Coconut and Spinach Dahl

I'm on a dahl run at the moment: I'm cooking dahl, being sent recipes for dahl and having dahl cooked for me by others! South Coast mum, Rachael's recipe really appeals to me as I love coconut milk, and I hadn't thought of including it in a dahl before. Plus, I love her last instruction... that's reason enough to cook this one! You can read more about Rachael's life on her blog here.

Rachael writes: "I'm always on the lookout for meals that are good to freeze, so I can cook in bulk and stock some away. I clipped this dahl recipe from the paper and carted it around for about a year, decorating it it with coconut and spinach as it got more and more loved. The clipping is long-lost, but a bastardised version now lives in my head. It's is super-yummy and freezes really well."

Rachael's Coconut and Spinach Dahl:


1. Chop an onion, a garlic clove and a chunk of ginger and fry them up for a while. (I have a jar of ginger puree in the fridge for when I'm ingredient or time-poor.)

2. Fry them off for a few minutes and then add a teaspoon of curry powder and two drained cans of lentils (or a few handfuls of dry lentils). Fry these off for a few more minutes.

3. Next add about a cup of chicken stock and a can of coconut milk. Salt, pepper.

4. Simmer for about 45 minutes.

5.Get your brown rice on about fifteen minutes into the cooking time (it will take about half an hour.)

6. A few minutes before serving, stir through a big pile of chopped spinach so it just wilts in nicely and doesn't overcook.(You can freeze it with the spinach in, or freeze before this step and add fresh spinach when you defrost and cook later.)

7.Serve the dahl on rice with a big dollop of yogurt.

8. Feel healthy! Eat chocolate to celebrate.

~ Thanks Rachael!