Showing posts from July, 2004

Pure Pumpkin Soup

Over a decade ago I was doing one of those Californian paradigm-shifty seminars in which they were actually trying to explain what a paradigm shift was.  We all had to come up with our own example of a paradigm to demonstrate we understood the concept (and could therefor use it when we explained it to others!). 

I declared that Soup Of The Day could be described as a paradigm.  Everyone wanted to know why - I was apparently being a little obtuse.  I explained that no matter what restaurant or cafe you went into in Sydney, if you ordered the Soup Of The Day, nine point nine times out of ten, you would be served pumpkin soup.  Therefore, everyone naturally knew Soup Of The Day to mean pumpkin soup - it wasn't in fact soup of the day, it was Soup Of Every Day. 

I further explained that Soup of The Day was in need of a major paradigm shift.  Pumpkin soup was available anywhere and everywhere and maybe people were sick of pumpkin soup?  Switching to say, broccoli soup, could be the c…

Seared Prawns & Stir-fried vegetables

I am quite ashamed to admit there was a long period in my life when I didn’t eat prawns.  As a kid, I used to enjoy the king prawns my dad brought home from Hexham – we’d all sit at the kitchen bench peeling them then scoffing them on the spot, not bothering to ruin their delicious flavour with anything so silly as sauce!

But one day, when I was at home sick, and both Mum and Dad had the day off, I was treated to lunch at a local Chinese Restaurant.  Not having complex tastes at that stage, I naturally ordered fried rice.  I was happily chomping away until I encountered something hard and crunchy which just didn’t belong in that dish!  Like a good kid would, I immediately spat the offending item back onto my plate, much to my parent’s horror.  It was none other than an unshelled prawn!  

Thus began my prawn abstinence – I think it went on for close to 20 years!  That is, until the proliferation of Asian restaurants across Australia.  The best item on their menus was anything that in…

Potato Mash

Mashed potato was pretty much a staple food in our house when I was growing up.  We were very much a "meat and three veg" household - that is until Mum discovered Italian and Mexican cooking! 

I never regarded mashed potato as anything special, but about 10 years ago, MASH, as it became known, made a culinary comeback!  It was nothing like the lumpy, stodgey stuffed we were served when kids.  Loaded with butter and whole milk, it was smooth, flavoursome, and immediately pounced on whenever placed as a side dish on the restaurant table.  It never fails to amaze me at dinner parties, when friends dive on the mash, scooping great mountains of it onto their plates and savouring it with child-like delight.  If you want to make your dinner guests happy, always include mash on your menu!

4-6 washed potatoes (choose ones the size of a cake of soap - one potato per person is enough)
65g butter
2/3 cup whole milk
Pinch of salt

1. Peel potatoes, place in saucepan and cover wi…

Baked Ocean Trout

When I was little my mum worked on weekends and left my sister and I in the company of our fishing-mad dad.  He would pack up his gear and us into the car on a Sunday morning and set out to fish off the rocks near the beaches of Newcastle.  While my sister and I messed around on the rocks, splashing through tide pools and generally getting each other wet, Dad would cast his line into the water and pull out some of the most boring fish I’ve ever seen – flathead, leather jacket… I simply couldn’t reconcile myself to these fish as gourmet delights.  He did land the odd bream in his endless quest for a snapper, and I remember getting in big trouble one time when I decided to constantly douse one of his catches with water.  Little did I know I was prolonging the poor thing’s agony instead of allowing it to die in peace!

Dad’s penchant for fresh fish never transferred to me.  When I grew up I had to train myself to enjoy dining on fish.  One flatmate showed me how to grill a piece of perch…

Chicken & Mango Focaccia

As a young PR consultant I used to spend my lunchtimes scouring the various shops of Paddington, looking for something delicious but cheap to eat. 

George in the corner shop on Underwood Street used to make a top tuna and onion sandwich for my very pedantic boss.  "Is it for her?" he used to asked in his gruff, heavily accented English.  I'd nod and he'd say "I know what she likes!".  He also sold extremely good caramel fudge, made by an old lady who brought it in fresh every Friday.  I used to line up for that stuff.  She died seven or so years later and I heard she bequeathed the fudge recipe along with her bowl and wooden spoon to the gay guys who ran to bread shop on the main drag.  I don't think they ever made the fudge though - they sold the shop not long after so I never got to ask them.

One of my favourite splurges for lunch was the chicken and mango focaccia at Anastasia's.  focaccia has not even peaked in popularity at that stage - it wa…

Mango Salad

When I was 15 years old, I am embarrassed to say the only way I could go to David Bowie concert was in the company of my mother.

It was my first major concert (not counting Air Supply at the Maitland show in 1978 and Red Gum at the Balmain Town Hall later that year) and I was desperate to see the Thin White Duke on his Serious Moonlight Tour.  The concert was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which is never the best place to see a band - you can get a great view up in the stands, only you're miles away from the stage.  Or you can rough it with the great unwashed down on the grounds, either working your way through the crowd to get squished behind the production tower, or perching yourself precariously on someone's shoulders.

I tried both, and eventually accepted that I should just stand alongside everybody else and crane my head, dancing occasionally, praying my mother wouldn't disgrace me by poking fun.  We found a relatively clear spot on which to stand.  Unfortunately, i…

Sunday Roast

There was a time in my life when the traditional Sunday Roast was a weekly event.  Looking back, I'm not sure it that's really correct - but I certainly remember my mother in the kitchen on many a Sunday, preparing the roast, then turning its juices into either Yorkshire Pudding or gravy. 

Then there are the times at my Nana's, when the Sunday Roast was left sizzling behind one of the many doors in the old slow combustion stove, while we were waltzed off to service at the Salvation Army Hall of Worship.  Upon our return to the house, we were always welcomed by the warm smell of roasting beef wafting down the hallway, carrying us into the kitchen, causing our mouths to salivate. 

When I gave up vegetarianism a couple of years back, it was a few months before I was able to face eating beef again.  Eventually I found myself craving the Sunday Roast of my childhood.  I went to the local butcher, procured the best piece of beef I could afford, and invited my mother and her bro…

Liqueur Variations

As I mentioned, you can use this recipe to make other fruit flavoured liqueurs.  The two variations I can highly recommend are shown below.

Cherry Liqueur
1. Choose plump black cherries at the height of summer - you'll need about a kilo of cherries.  Wash and remove stalks.

2. Layer whole cherries as per instructions for Strawberry liqueur.  The most important part of this recipe is the cherry seed - while the alcohol will take its colour from the cherry skin, it will derive its flavour from the actual cherry pit.

3. Leave for at least a year to get the best out of the variation.  I know it seems a long time, but trust me - it will make a difference!

Pear Liqueur
1. Choose fleshy yellow-skinned pears for this variation -  you'll need about six pears.  Wash, cut into quarters and remove core and seeds.

2. Layer pear pieces as per instructions for Strawberry Liqueur.  Leave a good two inches room at top of jar.  Pour in vodka, making sure all pears are completely covered.  An…

Strawberry Liqueur

How is it possible to create your own liqueur, I here you say? You know, it is so darned easy, anybody can do it. All you need is a few essential ingredients and a safe place to store your creation for as long as you possibly can.

I came across a recipe for cherry liqueur in one of Joanne Harris's novels. I was intrigued. I tried the recipe out and found it was not only extremely easy, but extremely successful. I used the biggest, blackest, sweetest summer cherries and was delighted to produce a dark liqueur that had a depth of flavour I found totally surprising. I wondered what other fruits could be used to create liqueur in the same way.

Of course strawberries were the most obvious choice. I've made this particular liqueur several times now. While the cherry liqueur is best left for one to two years, the strawberry variant can be ready to consume in as little as three months. If you can keep away from it that long, that is!

750gs fresh strawberries
1 cup castor…

Fried Tofu

It always amazes me when I hear someone complaining that eating tofu is like having to swallow a kitchen sponge! Of course I realise they are talking about the kind of tofu frequently found in laska's or curries sold in Thai cafes across Australia.

In fact, the spongey tofu they're talking about is but one of the many varieties of tofu available, usually from your garden variety supermarket. There are soft tofus, often flavoured with coconut, mango or vanilla, that can double as custard (or junket for those who remember what that is!). Then there's tempeh, which is a more meaty type of tofu flavoured with spices and frequently used to make veggie burgers.

I like firm Silken tofu, which is excellent for scrambling. It's also good for cutting into cubes and frying to serve as the protein element on a "meat and three veg" dinner. Here's a simple recipe to show you how tasty tofu can be.

1 carton firm Silken Tofu
3 tblsp cornflour
1 egg white

Beef Jus

Have you ever ordered a steak in a five star restaurant and had it presented to you swimming in an ocean of unbearably delectable thin brown sauce? That sauce is called 'jus'. I was fortunate enough to have such a meal at The Benelong in the Sydney Opera House, where I was dining with a top class chef.

"How do you make this stuff?" I asked him, slipping into raptures as the rich, complex flavour tantalised my taste buds.

"It's easy!" he said. "But it takes ages."

"I don't care how long it takes to make," I replied. "Tell me how to do it - I want to know!"

And that is how this recipe came into my hands. It does take ages to make - eight hours, in fact. But do try it! And when you serve it to your friends, watch their faces as their eyes light up with new found respect for your culinary talents!

1kg beef bones
1 squishy tomato
1 carrot
1 onion
2 sticks of celery
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground …

Egg White Omelette

I remember clearly the very first time I ever cracked an egg. I was about eight years old and I was in my Nana’s kitchen in her big old house up in Taree. We were making the pastry for a mulberry pie – the mulberries having been freshly picked by my sister and I from the tree in the backyard that morning. Nana needed to add an egg to the short crust pastry and I asked could I crack it? I was astounded when she said yes.

She placed a bowl on the bench top and showed me how to crack the egg against the lip of the bowl. I took the egg in my tiny hand, raised it gingerly in the air and brought it down hard against the bowl, rupturing the perfect shell, creating a rift around its girth. I forced my fingers into the rift and pried the egg open. But the delicate contents inside did not flow into the bowl as anticipated – instead, to my horror, they slipped onto the floor and lay there staring back at me in defiance!

I expected Nana to go scone-hot on me! Instead she placed her hands …
The Kitchen Alchemy Design Diva

Welcome to Kitchen Alchemy!

Welcome to Kitchen Alchemy, the weblog that helps you work some magic in your home kitchen!

On this page you'll find lots of really easy recipes for any occasion - dinner parties, special events, birthdays, or just any time when you really want something delicious to eat!

I'll try to include photos (when I figure out how it's done). But in the mean time I'd certainly enjoy hearing how your experience of working with my recipes turns out. And if you have any questions about the instructions, please do not hesitate to drop me a line!

Happy cooking, and more importantly, happy eating!