Showing posts from 2004

Red Currant Turkey Sauce

I was living in Hong Kong the first time I ever spent Christmas away from my family. I had only been there for about four months, so I decided to stay in HK - it's the only time I've enjoyed northern hemisphere winter weather on Christmas Day.

I lived with my boyfriend and a girl named Jessie in a five hundred square foot apartment in Wan Chai. We had a kitchen but it was not fully equipped - there was no oven, only a portable gas cook top and grill. So I approached a friend who was a chef at a nearby brasserie and asked her if she would consider roasting a turkey for me on Christmas Eve. She agreed, keen, I know, to get in the Christmas spirit herself.

I set off the to Welcome Supermarket and acquired the biggest frozen turkey I could lay my hands on. I didn't care that I was only feeding three people - I was happy to eat turkey sandwiches for a week afterwards if need be. Anyway, frozen turkeys take about three days to defrost. The one I'd bought was sealed in…

The Design Diva Is Back!

It's been such a long time since I wrote, but it's Christmas - one of my most favourite cooking seasons, and I have lots of Christmas stories and recipes to celebrate the occassion.

Although I'm not Christian, I would like to remind everyone that Jesus is the reason for the season! So lets rejoice the tradition one man has spawned! Lets eat, drink, spend lots of money, fret about being broke, and breathe a heavy sigh of relief until we do it all again next year!

Coconut Roughs

As a little kid, my one true passion in life was the pursuit of lollies (that's candy to all the folks in America).

When either of my parents paid a visit to the corner shop in the evenings, my sister and I always hoped they would return with a little extra something for us. Quite often they did, but there were also times when they did not. These were very disappointing occasions indeed!

Control over my lollie supply became a reality when my mother began paying my sister and I pocket money. I was paid a grand some of twenty cents a week (I do believe my sister got fifty cents, which after a couple of years of protest, I was awarded as well). With that twenty cent piece in my hand, my first thought was what lollie I could get for my money? My favourite chocolate bar at the time was Chokito - a very expensive proposition, at twenty five cents a bar - and certainly out of my price range.

The more attractive option for me was a Golden Rough - at twelve cents each, I was left with eigh…

Chili Garlic Spirali

There have certainly been times in my life where funds were less then adequate and I've really had to put my thinking cap on where food is concerned. Back in the late eighties, being the exuberant and perhaps a little impetuous young woman I was, I up and quit my job without bothering to find another one to go to first. Not the best approach to maintaining a stable life. Never the less, in the weeks it took me to get myself gainfully re-employed, I concocted a number of meals that could be made out of the supplies I already had in my kitchen cupboard.

The first was pancakes - easily done, thanks to a good supply of flour, eggs and milk. I had these for breakfast virtually every day (feeding a number of friends, also out of work at that time), served with maple syrup (until that ran out) or honey (until that ran out too). In those days I still drank orange juice, so I'd splurge the two dollars to buy a litre of Daily Juice - everyone started the day happy with a full belly.


Old Fashioned Hot Cakes

It is a sorry fact that the age old tradition of afternoon tea has fallen by the wayside. Thanks to the proliferation of cafes, restaurants, brasseries and even pubs, not too many people entertain for afternoon tea anymore.

Yet is was something that used to happen in our house all the time when I was a kid. An aunty and a bunch of cousins would call to say they were coming over for afternoon tea, and my mum would quickly get to the kitchen, whipping up any one of her classic afternoon tea favourite - sponge cake and cream, a batch of scones or even some humble old pikelets. Whatever it was, it came together quickly, and was on the table in time for the arrival of the guests, served up with a big fresh pot of tea.

That's POT - not mug. We actually used to make tea from leaves, a fine art, I must say, which I spent my childhood developing, that seems to also have fallen by the wayside. There is nothing like a cup of tea poured from the pot - the water is boiled fresh (as opposed to r…

Triple Chocolate Cookies

On the first day of High School, my father took me to the school hall, and much to my horror, he left me there by myself! Never the less, I was thrilled to be at high school - my last year of primary school had sucked big time, thanks to a last minute switch of horses (so to speak). High school was my chance to start over - a whole new bunch of kids, some from my old school, but many from other schools besides. I was thrilled when no one from my sixth grade class landed in my Year Seven class leaving the way clear for me to make a whole new group of friends.

Standing alone amongst the crowd was one girl, Kathy Dent. She seemed odd, which was attractive to me because I felt odd. We latched on to each other like castaways adrift in the sea, and pretty much stayed friends for the rest of high school.

Kathy was actually a super-brainy kid. I considered myself to be 'smart', but Kathy was intelligent. My quintessential failing was maths and science, whereas Kathy excelled in those …

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

I've only had two dogs in my life - Derek, my current canine and love of my life, and Tina, aka Scrunch, the dog of my childhood, whom we treated like people.

When Scrunch arrived on the scene, I would have been three years old. She was a little black and tan bundle, supposedly my mother's dog, but absolutely devoted to my dad. Scrunch had a pretty good life as a dog - she first took up residence with us in Newcastle and then in Penrith, both houses having fairly decent back yards for a dog to roam around in. She didn't necessarily do much of that - her thing was sun baking. Scrunch wore a small round patch in the grass near the clothesline where she curled up to catch some rays every day while we were off at work, school or whatever.

Our yard in Newcastle had a vegetable garden in it, in which Mum liked to grow all manner of things. I mostly remember the fresh mint, parsley and chives because I was often sent out to pick a bunch of one or the other (or all three) to add t…

Warm Ride

When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I was lucky to land myself a job in a brasserie called Post 97. It was part of a group of three food and beverage outlets on Lan Kwai Fong, the main nightclub district on Hong Kong Island.

I took up working as a waitress to keep the cash flowing while adjusted to my new way of living (squished in with six million other people on a rock hardly big enough to swing a cat). During day shift we had no bar tender, so the two waiting staff (there were rarely more at that time of the day) had to prepare drinks as well as serve customers. Having a fully stocked bar at my disposal made me feel like Queen of my little dung-heap for some strange reason. Believe me when I say there is immense satisfaction in pulling a beer!

At night the bar was managed by Alan, a prize winning cocktail maker, no less. His winning drink - vodka martini. He made it for me one time when I'd finished a Friday night shift. I was totally unprepared for the fire that raged all …

Refreshing Pineapple Crush

When I was about fourteen years old, the greatest thing happened: my dad was awarded a prize for being the number one salesman at the transport company he worked for. The prize was redeemable in overseas travel, and having just returned from a sales conference in Singapore (Dad's first ever trip overseas), my father was keen for the rest of the family to take a trip on a plane. He decided it was time for a family holiday.

There was much debate over what our destination would be. My mother was keen on America, but the budget wouldn't stretch that far. I was keen on London, mainly because I was stark raving bonkers about Duran Duran at the time. I can't remember what my sister's preference was, but I think Dad was seriously considering New Zealand at one point. I don't know what made him about face, but one night, he finally announced that we were heading to Fiji.

The flight there was absolutely shocking. Nobody told me they airconditioned the cabins to the same tem…

Humming Bird Cake

In my final year of high school there was a ten day period before exams called Stu-Vac. This was a very important time in an Aussie student's life - it was either spent catching up on study that had slipped through the cracks throughout the year, or it was spent bunking off in full knowledge that there was no chance of ever hoping to catch up.

One thing I was particularly good at in school was exams - it was everything to do with strategy, which in my opinion had to include eight hours sleep, eight hours study and eight hours play. Unfortunately for me, at the beginning of my Stu-Vac my sister's boyfriend decided he should move house. At the time his household included Lady the snooty Australian Terrier who was heavily pregnant, Ben the big dopey bloodhound who had been rescued from starvation, and a cockatoo (if he had a name I don't remember it) who enjoyed providing a running commentary on the goings on of both dogs.

My bedroom was at the back of our house, my window lo…

Marinaded Barbequed Chicken

Barbeques. They are at the heart of every good Australian family's social activities.

According to some, barbeques are just an excuse for men to drink beer and light fires. This, to some extent, is absolutely true. Certainly, barbies are the realm of men - women may prepare the food and may bring it to the fireside, but they may not put it on the grill, or take it off, for that matter. Nor should they stand in close proximity and give instructions on what to turn and when. Never mind that Aussie men cook no other meals at any time throughout the year! Once the fire is lit, they are the Kings of the Outdoor Kitchen!

When I was little there was a period in my life when there was a barbeque in our backyard every Sunday - not because we were devotees of crispy chared sausages and over cooked onions - it was because there was a serial on the radio called the Story of Elvis which played weekly after Sunday lunch. My Dad loved that radio series. Those Sunday barbeques were organi…

Tuna Pasta

If memory serves me correctly, the first dinner party I ever attended as a bonafide grown up was one put on by my friends, Neil and Bruce.

Bruce was a big fan of baked dinners. I'd mentioned to him once that I loved a good baked dinner but hadn't really had one since I'd left home (I was nineteen at the time and had only left home that year so I wasn't THAT deprived!). Bruce decided he would put on a dinner, the feature being his very special roast lamb. It never ocurred to me that there'd be more than one course for the meal, so when I arrived to find the place settings decked out with cutlery for not one but THREE courses, I was absolutely delighted.

It was the late eighties and the whole low fat fashion hadn't totally taken over our dinner tables or tastebuds yet, so it was still open slather on cheese and cream. I asked Bruce what was for entree and he said pasta. No problem - that was something I could easily enjoy. But when Bruce presented the first c…

Chocolate Tart

When I was about eight years old a miraculous thing happened at the local Flemmings supermarket: they introduced a weekly serial of recipe cards published by the Australian Women's Weekly.

These recipe cards couldn't have arrived at a better time in my life - or my mother's for that matter. It was right when Mum was discovering international cuisine, and I was demanding to be taught how to cook. Every week when we did the grocery shopping, Mum faithfully purchased a new set of cards - about twenty-four in all, which covered everything from Favourite Cakes to Light n' Lovely Cool Desserts to Traditional Roasts. I would pour over the glossy cards, admiring the pictures, as Mum created delight after culinary delight in our kitchen.

Amongst those cards featured a plethora of flavour revelations: they contained the original chocolate caramel slice which in the twenty-five years since has been worshipped by many a cafe goer, yet hardly ever reproduced in a fashion faithful to …

Carrot, Coconut & Beetroot Salad

When the Olympics were on in 2000, for some strange reason we all believed it would be a major debacle. So many of us made plans to leave town to avoid the chaos we thought would be foisted upon us.

My destination of choice was the Vipassana Meditation Retreat located at Black Heath in the Blue Mountains. The hysterical thing about my choice was that it was totally the opposite to the Olympics - a 12 day retreat where one takes a vow of silence for 10 days and does nothing but meditate for something eleven hours a day! I thought this was a great idea, mainly because I wanted to lose some weight and get a big bliss out. Boy was I there for all the wrong reasons!

Despite my natural talkative nature, I found undertaking the vow of silence was easy. I discovered human beings say an awful lot when sometimes saying nothing is far superior. I also discovered that I could live without a soy latte and almond friand every day. And I was completely happy to hand the responsibility for my food ov…

Chicken Rice Wrap Rolls

In my early twenties I lived in an illegal structure on the top of a building in the middle of downtown Lan Kwai Fong, Central Hong Kong.

I will never forget the night I arrived in Hong Kong - I was wearing a navy blue suit and the minute I stepped out of Kai Tak airport into the humid summer night I began to swelter. I peeled my jacket off, got into a red taxi cab and proceeded to head from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. The radio blarred "Thieves In The Temple" by Prince as we sped past the walled city, which has since been knocked down. My eyes were assalted everywhere I looked by neon lights, and to my great surprise, the majority of the signs illuminated the virtues of smoking! Cigarette advertising had long since been banned in Australia, and it was bizarre to be accosted by it again, even if I was in a foreign place.

My apartment was in the middle of the night club district in Central Hong Kong. In the bottom of my building were two very popular restaurants - one which …

Tasty Tuna Sandwich

I've already told the story some weeks ago about my fish issues and how they stem from my dad's maniacal fishing obsession... but what I haven't talked about is how I got over my aversion.

It was back in 1994 when I was on a well being program which involved hiring a personal trainer. Guy was his name - he had me on a high protein diet which helped me reduce body fat and gain muscle mass. It was a great time in my life, training with Guy. Not only did I peel off stacks of kilos, I also started to look like Miss Hard Body 1994. I don't ever remember feeling that well or that physically capable before or since!

But what I didn't like was the amount of beef Guy's eating program had me consume. I had to eat 125g of animal protein a day. I actually think I ate twice that, which would explain why I was able to lift 125kgs on the leg press! I went Guy and told him that I thought I was eating too much beef. I was also eating chicken, turkey and eggs, but no fis…

Delicious Doggy Dinner

Just briefly, I've had my recipe for dog food published on the Australian Woman's Day website. You can check it out here:

Sultana Scones

Update - March, 2019
I was making scones for a high tea on the weekend, and checked my own recipe to see how to make them.  I was horrified by what I published.  If you have previously attempted to make scones based on the recipe I published, I apologise.  I'm sure they would have turned out like horrible soapy nuggets.  I have corrected the recipe and I hope you can forgive me for leading you astray!


My Grandmother was a prize winning scone maker.  I've been told this from a very early age, and for some strange reason I have felt that this should have ordained me as a prize winning scone maker too. Unfortunately, every time I go to make scones I always have to ring my mother and be reminded of the darned recipe. "What's in scones again?" I ask her. Well you know what? I've decided I don't care what was in Nana's scones or Mum's scones for that matter. Despite my impeccable scone…

Grilled Chicken & Crazy Salad

In the early nineties I was very fortunate to live with a girl called Kristina who taught me a thing or two about the joy of urban living. We lived in a big old apartment in Edgecliff, and when we first moved in Kristina declared we would paint the place from top to bottom in nothing but white. I had never painted a darned thing at that stage of my life. I'd certainly watched my mum do it often enough. But I had always been relegated to the role of chief snack provider, serving my mother copious cups of tea accompanied by all manner of cakes, biscuits or slices.

The first weekend of painting with Kristina, I assumed my normal role, pumping out savoury scones and pots of coffee while Kristina transformed the lounge into a white wonderland.

"When are you going to start your room?" she asked me on the Sunday afternoon.

"Um," I said, stunned that my game was up.

"Look, here's what you do," she said. "You put some paint in a tray, you dip th…

Cheesey Vegetable Pie

I remember the exact moment when my mother acquired a French cookbook. I was in my early teens, and had already been enjoying the benefits of Mum's various forays into international cuisine for some years by that stage.

It was the eighties, and God bless her, she couldn't help but be attracted to the recipe for quiche Lorraine. Quiche was incredibly popular in then - it was available on the menu of every cafe worth it's weight in salt, and was even adopted by the Queen of the supermarket freezer section, Sara Lee. But Quiche Lorraine, the genuine article in Mum's French cookbook, was unlike any quiche I've ever tasted. It was loaded with full fat cheese - and not just one cheese, it had four different kinds of cheese! Add to that was full fat cream and delicious chunks of bacon, all of which were included with every last skeric of their fat left on! And this paradise for the palate sat in a pastry that was to die for. If you've ever been to France you…

Red Velvet Hearts

Several years ago I met a guy from Miami on the internet via a dating website. He seemed like a really decent guy, and according to his profile, was planning to visit Australia the following month. With the intention of meeting him on his trip, I struck up an email correspondence with him, in which I asked him what his favourite kind of cake was. He told me he preferred Red Velvet Cake above all others.

I'd never heard such a thing! So I set about digging up a recipe for this mythical beast on the internet (oh, great library of cyberspace!). I came across several different instructionals but struck one that seemed quite reasonable. I discovered that red velvet cake was a chocolaty-butter cake which was coloured a deep red by no less than seven fluid ounces of red food dye.

Red food colouring, in my opinion (and the opinion of many scientists) can set off an episode of hyperactivity in normally sedate kids. That's why people with ADD kids should keep them away from raspberry cord…

Roasted Beetroot

When I was a kid my nana came to stay quite often. At least once a year - which was often enough for me, since it was always me who had to give up my bed to accommodate her.

Nana was a salad nut in those days (she still might be, but I'm not sure what's on the daily menu at the place where she lives). And the essential ingredient to any salad, as far as Nana was concerned, was beetroot. Now, any sensible Australian know beetroot definitely belongs on a good hamburger. But in salad? Sliced or whole, the beetroot invariably wees it's red juice on everything it touches.

I never bent to Nana's love of beetroot in salad. Never the less, I'm aware that beetroot is somewhat of a superfood. Toss a fresh beetroot into your juicer with a carrot and an apple and you've got a veritable feast, albeit in a glass. But it seems to me that the best thing to do with a beetroot is roast it. Looks impressive on the plate, tastes delicious on the palate!

fresh beetroots …

Chicken Pot Roast

As a teenager there were three major periods when my dad was in between jobs. The first one came at a time when I was very used to cooking the family meal every night, therefore guaranteeing I got to eat something I would enjoy. But when Dad was home, for some reason, he decided he should take over kitchen duty, making major - er - discoveries during each sojourn, which we were subjected to five nights a week until he started his next job.

The first time round, Dad discovered Maggi Cook-in-the-Pot. This was basically a packet mix which you added to your pot roast - albeit it beef, chicken, lamb or whatever (thank God it was never tripe!). At the time I loathed pot roast because all too often it turned out like stew and I simply couldn't abide by the indiscriminate way ingredients blended in stew. I like the foods on my plate to be clearly defined. I wouldn't go so far as to demand that nothing touches on the plate - but I do want to know what's what.

Dad and his darned Mag…

Beautiful Beef Burger

When I was on holidays in Cairns last year, I ate out with my hosts quite a lot. Often I found the most uncomplicated thing on a restaurant or cafe menu was the beef burger. Having become an expert in making beef burgers myself, I frequently chose the beef burger, convinced that the restaurant version would be as tasty and healthy as my own. Instead I was shocked at how many times I was presented with a catering disaster that wasn't fit to feed my dog.

Time after time, burgers came out with oversized, under toasted buns, tough and tastless buns. Sandwiched between the two bits of miserable bun was a rissole - not a burger - made of poor quality (dare I say porky-tasting) beef which sat two inches high, yet failed to reach the edges of the bread. If I asked for cheese on the burger, more often than not I got a greasy piece of tasty cheese caked onto either the top or the bottom of the bun, smeared with tomato sauce, or plastered to a piece of limp lettuce.

Shameful! And I said so e…

Apple Crumble

When I was a kid my mother's culinary speciality, in my opinion, was dessert. She was raised on the Common Sense Cookery Book, which featured such traditional delights as bread and butter pudding, cottage pudding and baked custard. There were also travesties like junket, tapioca pudding and sago pudding amongst her repertoire, which I refused to eat point blank. Blech!

But my favourite of all was apple crumble. There is something altogether comforting about the fragrance of fresh Granny Smith apples, their green skin peeled off in one continuous snake-like coil, sliced, cored then tossed into a pot to stew with three or four whole cloves.

Indeed apple crumble holds a special place in other people's hearts too, as I discovered one time at a dinner party I held a couple of years ago. It was my grandest effort ever - dinner for nine, with chocolate almond cake as dessert. Only my best friend, Jeannette doesn't eat chocolate. So I made a single-size apple crumble especially fo…

Fettucine Bosciaola

Back in the 80s, creamy sauces reigned supreme! I had a friend named Mark who dared to open his own cafe, The Workshop, in Darlinghurst, which featured numerous dishes swimming in creamy sauces. It was in this cafe that I first tasted fettucine bosciaola. What a taste sensation! Having been raised on spaghetti bolognese, I never knew pasta could taste so good.

The Workshop Cafe became a regular hangout for me and my dance party-loving cronies. We congregated there several nights a week, whether it was to dine or simply to grab a coffee and listen to the latest house music release. We were still buying records then - and by that I mean twelve inch wide pieces of shiny black vinyl with little grooves going round and round in concentric circles. We'd snap up the latest dance floor hit down at Central Station Records, dub it onto cassette at home, then arrive at The Workshop, commandeer the tape deck and pump up the volume regardless of whether there were regular customers in the plac…