Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Hunza Pie

I can't believe this recipe is not already here. It's such a stable, I assumed it had long ago joined the Billie Bites collection.

Searching it for the other day to remind myself of the quantities, I discovered the poor hunza pie had been overlooked.

This is reminiscent of my very popular Spinach Torte - definitely an established part of the Billie Bites scenery. The key differences are: The Hunza has pastry, silver beet, brown rice and cheddar. The Torte has arborio rice, Parmesan and no pastry.

Great straight from the oven. Best after it's cooled a little. Tasty cold the next day. Especially outside on a park bench overlooking the ocean.

This is adapted from a recipe by Steve Manfredi, published in the Sydney Morning Herald.


220g wholemeal flour
110g cold salted butter
cold water

1/2 cup brown rice
Bunch silver beet
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper

Place rice in small pot with 1 cup water. Bring to boil with lid on and then turn right down. Simmer until water absorbed - takes about 30 minutes total. Don't stir at all while cooking. Instead tip pot on angle to see how much water is left. Once done tip into large bowl to cool.

Meanwhile, make the pastry. If you have a food processor, place flour in food processor and drop lumps of butter in one at a time while pulsing. Once the mixture looks crumbly, gradually add a tablespoon or three of water while processing, until the mixture forms a ball.  If sans food processor, simply place flour and butter in bowl and use a knife to combine. Add the water gradually and finally use hands to knead into a ball. Wrap in cling film and place in fridge for 20-30 mins.

Preheat oven to medium high. 

Wash silver beet - keeping most of the stems. Place a chunk of butter in a large pot with the silver beet. Cook over medium-high heat for about five minutes. Shake the pot regularly and stir occasionally. Once fairly well wilted remove and cool on chopping board, before slicing up and adding to rice.

Roll out pastry on a floured bench and use it to line a well-greased flan tin. I use a ceramic one. Any pie dish will do though. Prick centre with a fork and place in oven to lightly cook the pastry shell - about ten minutes is enough.

Combine eggs and cheese with rice and silver beet. Salt and pepper to taste. Add grated nutmeg - a few pinches.

Pour into pastry shell and bake for about 25 minutes, until cooked through and crispy on top.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


A tomato-growing frenzy hit my office this week. Colleagues who have never grown a single vegetable are joining the club.
Better get this replanted, staked, watered and fed

Instead of filling the world with more chocolate bars, some clever local school fundraisers are selling mature-for-this-time-of-year tomato plants.

One green-fingered woman was ahead of the game and filled her greenhouse with hundreds of seedlings, spurned from a tried-and-tested Italian cherry tomato seed.

Luckily for Coogee Public School, they have the right contacts. My TV station colleague Jane has been shipping into our office as many tomato plants as she can carry. By lunchtime she's all sold out.

I'm trying to get a wee competition up - see which person in TV-land can grow the best crop of tomatoes. I'll even offer these tomato growing tips I recorded last summer.

A gardening columnist recommended planting tomato seeds a few months back, in order to have a crop in time for Christmas. Well, my babies only hit the dirt a few weeks back so I doubt I'll make the deadline.
My own very young tomato seedlings, planted a few weeks ago in egg cartons

 However,  thanks to Coogee's very smart school fundraising scheme, we may just get there.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Billie loves picnics. She wants every meal to be a picnic. Her teddy bears join her for imaginary picnics on the balcony. At the playground she insists first on settling on a park bench and 'having a picnic' of sultanas and crackers. Only then is it time for some slide action.

While I'm often tempted by cafes, I feel much better when I'm organised enough to pack some bits to munch on. The best is when I take the time to bake. You save on dough and it (usually) tastes better.

WHO HAS TIME TO BAKE?1 I hear you shout. One word: SCONES. Easy. Quick. Always impressive. And you can add all sorts of bits to create sweet or savory twists on the old fashioned classic. No need for jam and cream here.

It's been hard to plan picnics in Sydney of late as we wake up to wintry mornings that sometimes turn into summery afternoons. Last weekend Billie and I headed to a friend's in Darlinghurst, prepared for a picnic in the shelter of her studio.

How happy we were when our gamble to venture over to Elizabeth Bay paid off. We spread out in this gorgeous little oasis, complete with fish ponds and green slopes worth rolling down.

The lemon peel in these scones is sensational. Don't omit it. But you can skip the cranberries, or swap them for some currents, sultanas etc.

This recipe is adapted from my old favorite, Cynthia Lair's Feeding the Whole Family.


2 cups wholemeal flour
1/8 cup brown sugar 
 3 teaspoons baking powder
small pinch salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup dried cranberries, or currents etc
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup butter milk (or just grab another teaspoon lemon juice and stir through milk)
Extra butter for serving

Preheat oven to moderate, about 350f and 180c. Grease an oven tray.

Combine flour, sugar baking powder and salt together in large bowl. Mix the butter through with a butter knife, and then finish with your hands to create a crumbly mix. Stir through cranberries and zest. 

Make a well and pour in the buttermilk/lemon milk and the extra lemon juice. Mix gently but swiftly until you have a moist dough. You may have to add a few more drops (but only drops) of milk.

Place the dough on a floured bench/table/board and knead quickly and gently with your floured hands. Create an 8 inch circle and cut into eight wedges - like a pizza. Use a slice/spatula to carefully transfer scones onto the prepared oven tray. Bake for 20 mins or until just golden. Check them after 15 minutes if you have a hot oven. Cool on a wire rack, and eat as soon as possible.

If you are taking them out to eat, reheat them quickly in a nearby oven. They will stay warm during the walk to the park. Slice in half and spread with butter. (But they are fine eaten at room temp too.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I've been sitting on this post for a while, thinking muesli was perhaps not so worthy of an entry.

However, after watching a certain uninspiring food program on TV last night - where the host ate muesli at a cafe near my house and then met the home cook responsible for the cereal - I realised the world needs my muesli.

One problem I had with the recipe demonstrated last night was the unnecessary butter and sugar it was loaded with. This is also a problem, I think, with many commercial muesli and granola brands.

I'm all for putting butter and sugar where it belongs - on toast, in cakes and biscuits. But I don't need them in my breakfast cereal.

Muesli is Billie's No.1 food. She asks for it all day. And muesli bars, which I must learn to make.

Billie loves to help mama make the muesli. So does Big Teddy.

I should credit my folks with inspiring this recipe - I've adapted and made it my own but it's similar to the one my dad makes.


 Lately I've been keeping half of the raw dry ingredients aside in a jar to serve to Billie. Each morning I soak it in freshly squeezed orange juice and perhaps a bit of boiling water. Just for a few minutes, so the juice is still fresh with vitamin C. Raw muesli is easier to chew too.

If you are happy with a simpler, healthier muesli then omit the wet ingredients and just eat raw as above. You can soak with water, milk, yoghurt or juice for a few minutes before serving, or overnight if you want it really soft.

If you like a crunchy, slightly sweet, toasted muesli  - then go the whole hog with the recipe below.

'I want to pour it'

5 cups whole oats
1 cup wheatgerm
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
1 cup coconut (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 cup ground linseed (or LSA, but plain linseed if you can)
1 cup raw almonds, chopped quite finely

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil or rice bran oil or light cooking oil

 Place oil and honey in small pot over low heat and cook until just bubbling.

Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients - except almonds and linseed - together in large flat oven tray or baking dish.

Pour hot wet ingredients over muesli and quickly stir through. 

You can serve the muesli as is, without toasting, and this is good for little ones not up for lots of chewing.

But for the real tasty deal, place tray of muesli under grill and stir frequently, or place in medium oven and stir every five minutes - keep an eye on it as you don't really wanna burn it.

Add almonds and linseed (I believe you lose some of the goodness during cooking, especially with the super omega-packed linseed. But I may be wrong, so don't quote me.)

Once cooled place in airtight container. But you can eat it while it's still hot. Yum.

'I want to eat it'.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Corn fritters have already populated these pages. However, it's worth giving this version a whirl as they went down extremely well in our household.

 Not only Billie but also her dear Auntie Millicent scoffed back a stack. Millicent is now back in Chicago and wants the recipe so she can press replay.

Corn fritter recipes usually call for canned creamed corn. I prefer to stick with fresh, but it can be tricky to get the wet/dry ingredient ratio right. I think I succeeded perfectly here:


4-5 corn cobs (raw)
2 cups flour
2.5 teaspoons of baking powder
salt and pepper
6 eggs
large handful each of parsley and oregano, chopped fairly finely
3/4 cup milk

First slice the corn kernels off the cobs. The easiest way to do this is to place the cob horizontally on a chopping board and use a large knife to slice them off. Don't cook the corn before adding to fritter mixture.

Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl. Add milk, corn, herbs salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl and create a well in the centre. Pour rest of ingredients in and stir until combined.

Place a tablespoon of oil into a large heavy frying pan and heat on medium. Once hot drop two tablespoons of mixture into pan (to form one fritter) and repeat until pan full. Leave a few centimetres between so you can easily flip them. Turn once bubbles appearing all over. The other side won't need so long. Cook until lightly browned and place between paper towels on a plate. Eat as soon as possible.

Serve with a green salad and chutney or sweet chili sauce. 

Grandma Lenore, Auntie Millicent, Miles, Billie and Puppy Dog head to Manly

Sunday, September 25, 2011

VEGETARIAN BLOG: Cheesy Yoghurt Onion Olive Cakes

A few weeks back I made a promise. Now, after a few crazy weeks at work, I am delivering on that promise.

These are the little savory pies I served at Billie's second birthday party. This weekend I pressed replay for a friend Miream's shared lunch. They were devoured around a crowded kitchen as mountains of delicious food was served.

I have slightly adapted this vegetarian recipe from Julie Le Clerc's feta and olive pies in her Cafe@home book. Julie uses the mixture to make a few small pies. Instead I divided it into 12 muffin tins.

At Saturday's lunch we had some gluten-free folk so I swapped the regular flour for a gluten-free one. It worked just fine.

Unfortunately Billie's experience of these tasty pie/cakes was tainted by her false expectation that they were sweet muffins. She mistook the olives on top for dates...and we all know how her taste buds would have reacted.


3 onions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup self-raising flour, or 1 cup gluten-free flour and 1 tspn gluten-free baking powder/soda
 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup thick plain yoghurt
300g feta, cubed
1 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
black pepper
1/2 cup kalamata olives (remove pits, but avoid cutting in half, before using)

Saute onions in oil for ten minutes to soften well but not brown. Remove from pan to cool. Preheat oven to medium - about 180/350. Oil 12 muffin pans.

Sift flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour beaten eggs and yoghurt into the well and stir with a wooden spoon. Mix in onions, feta, Gruyere, dill and pepper. You don't need to add salt as the feta has plenty.

Pour into oiled muffin tins and place an olive or two on top of each. Bake for 30 minutes or until set and browning on top. Let them cool a little before removing one from the tins. If still quite wet and difficult to remove, pop them back in oven for few more minutes.

Cool on wire racks or serve immediately. Great fresh out of the oven, but at Billie's party they were cold and still delicious.


Saturday, September 3, 2011


Although she only turns two this week, Billie's build up to today's party was huge. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned she would be having a birthday party soon and she promptly said, 'Have birthday cake!'

Earlier this week I told her we would be having some of her favorite foods at her party. 'Have dates? Have raisins? Have prunes?' was her swift response. I didn't even know she knew what 'favorite' meant.

 So dried fruit are easy of course. In fact, after seeing my daughter barely stray from the large bowl of red raisins (yes, they are very good and don't have any added sugar like cranberries and sour cherries) I wondered why I had made all this other food.

Billie shares her 'favorite food' with Grandma Lenore
 Billie didn't even eat her birthday cake. After talking about the existence of one for 24hours before, she left her piece seemingly untouched. Perhaps she was overwhelmed and full of dried fruit and crisps (the only 'junk' food or even food form of packet that found it's way onto our picnic table).

Or maybe carrot cake with cream cheese icing isn't such a hit with toddlers. I would like to hear from our guests whether the cake ended up in the parent's mouths or their child'. All I know is the cake disappeared.

While crisps were the height of junk food and everything else was homemade, things have certainly changed since birthday No. 1 where the cake had two tablespoons of sugar or something equally purist. Today I served chocolate walnut cookies, blissful balls and a cake with two cups of sugar AND icing. And the kids were issued juice boxes.

Billie was far more interested in the red raisins and crisps than her new birthday bike

The new kid on the block that I would like to introduce you to, sadly went completely unphotographed today. But picture this: An eggy, cheesy base with yoghurt, onions, dill and a little flour baked in muffin tins and topped with olives. I took a risk as with only 12 I couldn't afford to taste test. Sliced in half they went a bit further and many came back for more. Stay tuned for the instructions next week.

This birthday outfit from Darwin was never made for bike-riding - a few minutes later the skirt got tangled in the wheels

Much better - skirt-free and shoulders protected from the sun. Now I can ride...

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Black beans make a superb soup - but you have to prepare them from scratch. Cooking the beans creates a velvety, thick purple broth that you simply cannot recreate with tinned black beans.

 Don't worry - it ain't that hard to cook black beans. It just takes a bit of foresight. While you can soak them over night, they don't actually need that long. A few hours is fine. The longer you soak the less time they will take to cook. No more than 12 hours though and at least three hours is a good guide for black beans - also known as Brazilian or turtle beans.

Pumpkin makes a great mate for black beans. And this soup is actually pretty simple and easy. Team it with the coconut corn bread below.

Slightly adapted from Three Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery by Seppo Ed Farrey with Myochi nancy O'Hara


2 cups black beans, rinsed well and drained
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
About 2kg pumpkin, skinned and chopped into bite-sized cubes
1 tablespoon tamari - or soy sauce
black pepper
sour cream
fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped

Soak beans in 6 cups of water for about four hours. Rinse well.  Prepare pumpkin.

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat and saute onion with salt for a few minutes. Add garlic and saute few more minutes, stirring now and then.

Add 6 cups of water with pumpkin and beans and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer with lid on, stirring now and then, until beans are soft but not mushy. If looks like to much liquid remove lid for last 15 minutes so it will reduce down a bit. You want a reasonable amount of broth though.

Remove one cup of the solids and one cup of the broth and puree. Return to pot and add tamari and pepper. Simmer for a few more minutes.

Carefully ladle soup into bowls and add a decent dollop of good quality sour cream, with fresh coriander sprinkled on top. Serve with bread below or on its own.

FOR BABIES SIX MONTHS AND OVER: Scoop out some pumpkin once it is cooked and puree
FOR BABIES EIGHT MONTHS AND OLDER: Scoop out some cooked beans and pumpkin and mash a little (avoid the broth as it contains salt)
FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS ONE YEAR AND OLDER: Serve as is, or blend and serve

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


 If you don't already own a loaf tin I suggest you go forth and purchase. (Get a silicon one if you can as mine keeps sticking.)

You are about to experience a bit of a loaf/bread frenzy. Now when I say 'bread' I'm not talking kneading and rising. I'm not even necessarily talking savory. But don't worry, I won't be disguising cake as bread, and suggesting you eat it for breakfast.

Australians will be familiar with this trick - the ubiquitous banana bread served at every cafe. When I first moved to Sydney I actually fell for it, trusting this 'bread' was somehow an acceptable thing to eat for breakfast. But turns out to be banana cake sliced like bread, served toasted with butter. Imagine the looks if I were to eat chocolate cake, toasted and buttered, with my morning (decaf) coffee.

The loafs/breads you will find on these pages may have a little maple syrup (just a wee bit) but primarily they will be designed to eat with soup, stews and salads.

As you likely know by now, I am obsessed with a couple of North American cook books that I am still working my way through. Both have whole chapters devoted to breads of the loaf variety, often featuring ingredients hard to source outside of the US, so we will be doing a bit of adapting.

First off the rank is this yummy Coconut Corn Bread, which teamed perfectly with a tasty and easy pumpkin black bean soup. Stay tuned for the soup recipe later this week.

It was delicious eaten straight out of the oven with a little butter, but the next day, and the day after, it went well toasted with fresh ricotta and honey.

I have adapted this from Three Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery by Seppo Ed Farrey and Myochi Nancy O'Hara.


Dry Ingredients:
1 cup polenta
3/4 cup cornmeal (if you can't get it use half polenta/half regular flour)
3/4 cup wholemeal flour
3/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted in a dry fry pan over medium heat until just browning
2 teaspoons baking soda (if you only have baking powder just use an extra teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups unsweetened yoghurt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons of maple syrup (you could use golden syrup if no maple)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to medium hot. Line loaf tin or grease VERY well - unless you have a silicon one. 

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well.

Whisk the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. 

Add wet ingredients to the dry but mix carefully and swiftly - as few strokes as possible to avoid a tough bread.

Pour batter immediately into prepared tin and spread evenly with spatula. Bake for about 50 minutes or until browned and a skewer/toothpick/knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Turn out onto wire rack and cool for few minutes before slicing and eating.

Stay tuned for and Pumpkin Black Bean Soup instructions

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I rolled them in coconut last night, but ground almond works better

I've just realised that I don't have any photographic evidence of these delicious Blissed-Out Balls, despite making them twice. Oh well, I'll just have to whip some more up tonight for the camera. As good an excuse for sweeting (making sweet food that doesn't require baking) as any I would say.

Billie 'helped'  - taste-testing all the way
The inspiration for these came from: a) some balls marketed as Bliss that I purchased from our local health food store - no idea who makes them so I can't give any credit where it's due
and b) some recipes I used to make with high school friends on desperate Saturday nights when there wasn't any chocolate in the house.

One of those friends has been asking for my 'barfi' recipe lately - which is a bit different as I think it involved cooking up milk and setting it - but so far I haven't been able to locate it. So Kura, give this a whirl, it's more like the balls we used to make with butter and sultanas, only MUCH HEALTHIER.

No butter. No Sugar. No gluten. Just good old milk powder. The important ingredient to get sorted is COCONUT OIL. It's that translucent fat the consistency of ghee that you find in most health food shops these days. It shouldn't be expensive - although some will try it on cause it's newish and all.

I was a bit concerned these bliss balls may not meet everyone's taste. However, I made them for our office Food Club and they got the thumbs up from a variety of palettes. There was even a bit of discussion about who could have the last one. I think they passed the test.


1 teaspoon vanilla 
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
2 T sesame seeds
3/4 cup milk powder
3 T coconut oil
3 T honey
ground almonds for rolling (or use extra coconut)

Melt coconut oil and honey in small pot over gentle heat. Remove from heat and mix rest of ingredients through quickly. 

Wet your hands with hot water and roll in teaspoon-full balls, then coat with ground almonds, or coconut. It's worth rolling them into nice round smooth balls as they can look a bit weird with a rough job. Unless you're planning to eat them yourself right away.

Place on plates or tray in a single layer and place in fridge to set. Store in container or jar in fridge, but remove from fridge a few minutes before serving.

Yes, those are fingers you see: Billie was eating them faster than I could roll

Monday, August 15, 2011

Easy-Peasy Chocolate Oat Pecan Cookies

I've done my research on chocolate chip cookies. These are definitely the easiest ones around.

I had to do a crash-course in cookie baking when I was pregnant with Billie. During out anti-natal classes I discovered something new about Miles. When we were told to introduce ourselves with a brief fact, Miles announced he loved homemade cookies. I never knew. The poor man had been deprived.

So at the next class, when it was our turn to bring some supper, I dutifully made chocolate chip cookies. First I called on my fellow kitchen friend Hannah in New Zealand, who emailed me about 20 chocolate chip cookie recipes.  Aside from additions of various nuts, they were basically the same. Creaming butter and sugar was necessary, and they made about 50.

Yes, 50. Lucky I was taking them to an anti-natal class full of people with appetites. It also meant I could experiment with each tray that went into the oven in terms of size, to flatten or not to flatten, and whether to cook til crunchy, chewy or a little soft and under-done. Miles was a good taste-tester.

So I worked my way through a few recipes. Problem was, Miles and I wound up eating three large cookies each night. So cookie baking was banned from this house before Billie even made it into this world.

Until I found this recipe, which DOES NOT INVOLVE ANY CREAMING OF BUTTER, and uses maple syrup instead of sugar (yes, much healthier but I have swapped it for golden syrup if you're on a budget), and only gives you a dozen cookies to eat through. (Unless you double the recipe as I did in this pic, or make them small).

Credit to Cynthia Lair (once again) and claps for her book Feeding the Whole Family. I have only slightly adapted it.


1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup maple syrup (or golden syrup if want a cheaper option)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup chopped pecan nuts (Cynthia uses walnuts)
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to medium-hot. Grease a flat tray or cover with baking paper.

Combine flour and oats in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix syrup, melted butter and vanilla.  

Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Stir the nuts and chocolate through. 

Wet your hands under the hot tap and make into dessert spoon-sized balls. Place on tray and flatten slightly with back of spoon. These don't spread like other cookies so you can place all on one tray.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until just golden. Place cookies on wire rack to cool, and cover with tea towel to prevent them all being eaten before you return to the kitchen.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Zen Bake before it goes in the oven

 I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful woman called Dalia this year, who has since returned to the US - via Jordan where she is now visiting her family.

Dalia gave me a fantastic cook book  - 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery by Seppo Ed Farrey and Myochi Nancy O'Hara.  I've only dipped into it so far but it's clear they know what they're doing. Expect to see a fair bit of in these pages.

I adapted this delicious and very healthy recipe from the book, and cooked it for Dalia before she departed. I promised to post it so she can make it for her parents in Jordan, although I'm sure she's enjoying plenty of tasty Middle Eastern delights.

While this dish requires a few hours in the oven, it doesn't demand too much from the cook. It's extremely satisfying and nourishing and perfect for a cold winter weekend when you're pottering around at home in the afternooon.

The authors compare this to American Southern fare, particularly jambalaya. Miles assures me it's nothing like jambalaya, but I like that word so I wanted to use it. They used collard greens but I went for English spinach.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
1/2 tspn sea salt
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 bag English spinach or silverbeet
1 1/2 cups brown rice
1 cup black-eyed beans
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup tamari
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

If you have time, soak beans in 3 cups water for few hours, otherwise don't worry - they will still cook fine. Heat oven to moderate temperature. Place oil in large frying pan over medium heat and saute onion for few minutes. Add garlic and saute few more minutes. Stir in sweet potato and saute while you wash and pick the spinach. Place leaves in pan just long enough to wilt a little (they will cook plenty in the oven).

Place rice and beans in a large rectangle baking dish. Add the sweet potato etc and mix well. Stir cayenne, vinegar, tamari together in a small bowl and add one cup of the boiling water. Pour over beans etc and mix well but gently. Lastly pour rest of boiling water over, cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Rice and beans should be tender and most of the liquid absorbed. Serve hot. A little yoghurt on the side may be necessary for those sensitive to the pepper. 

It tastes soooo much better than it looks

Dalia and Luke join us for a 'farewell' dinner (we know they will be back)

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I didn't feel like leaving our house on Friday night, and didn't want to pay for a babysitter.

So instead to celebrate my birthday I opted to host a dinner. It was billed as 'intimate' but the term reflected the cosy nature of the seating arrangements, rather than the modest number of guests.

We squeezed 16 people around two dining tables pushed together in the middle of our living room.

I had never served a sit-down six-course dinner for 16. And let's just say I ah, felt like I was on Master Chef when I was plating up the polenta mushroom pie and a couple of helpful friends spurred me on with reminders that I couldn't really spare the time to fuss about how the pie was sitting on the plate.

Me looking like I've just cooked for 16
Get that pie plated up...

One thing I avoid when cooking for a group is experimenting with new recipes. So each course was tried and tested and has already been published on these pages. However, the mushroom polenta pie was so buried here that by the time I found it I realised no readers ever would have.

And after the response last night I think this particular pie deserves a re-print. Quote from my dear friend Emily Besser: "I don't think people would realise how good it would taste from looking at the recipe and pics." So take the plunge. Check out 'Perfect' Mushroom Polenta Pie and see pics below of the process.

Dalia follows my pedantic pie-assemble directions

Tofu Pecan Rolls awaiting the oven

Tips for assembling tofu pecan rolls

Looks just like a sausage roll...

I made a double batch of the popular Tofu Pecan 'Magic'' Rolls on Thursday night, along with two large pots of Brazilian Black Bean Soup with Red Pepper and Lime.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup
Dalia the fabulous sous chef

Garnishes for the black bean soup - don't forget sour cream

So on my birthday all I had to whip up were two mushroom polenta pies and a couple of spinach and rocket salads. Desert and birthday cake were taken care of by two very dear friends - Emily (tiramsu) and Miream (double chocolate layer cake).

Emily Besser's delicious Tiramsu

Miream's impressive, rich chocolate cake

My friends are very good wrappers 

Dalia was my invaluable sous chef on Friday, diligently cranking up the kitchen at 2pm and being a fabulous friend to Billie when she woke up. Jodie made the table look lovely, and read Billie not one, but three bedtime stories.

Thank you to my beautiful friends for making it a very special evening.

The Morning After: Billie and I show Dalia our local beach

Billie contemplates the large swell at Bronte