quinoa anzacs


Thought I'd fly in today and blow away the tumbleweeds on this blog.  For those who have been playing along on Instagram and Facebook you would have already heard the super exciting news - two weeks ago THBH and I welcomed into the World our precious and ridiculously cute daughter, Marlo Anya (aka THBB - The Hungry Babushka Baby)!

I am underwhelmed to report that all the cliche things they say about parenthood are true.  Apologies to those who were waiting for some ground-breaking news in this department - I am tired beyond words, barely know what day of the week it is anymore and my most proud achievement in the last week is that I can now change a nappy in under 30 seconds (poonami nappies, give or take an extra 15 seconds).  It's tough, but every day gets a little easier, and we keep learning and fine-tuning until we finally have a square centimeter in our kitchen that isn't covered with bottles, boob milk and steralising equipment where I can attempt to bake something that I really should have "scheduled" about a week ago.  Oh well, if anyone is wanting to make gluten-free, vegan Anzac biscuits at 5pm on Anzac Day you've come to the right place.

Thanks for hanging in there while I navigate my new life and add yet another job title of Mum to the ever-growing CV.  Yes, yes if I was a legit, hardcore blogger I would have got my sh!t together and scheduled posts to tide you guys over but I have always felt uneasy creating content in advance, kind of like I'd be lying to you guys and putting up this Superwoman front while in reality I haven't got out of my pyjamas for three days straight and I'm sympathising with all the dairy cows out there.  I'm just here keeping it real, and if you're along for the ride I might just surprise you every now and then with a new blog post, and I promise it won't even be lactation cookies...

quinoa anzacs
Makes 18

1 cup rolled oats 
1 cup quinoa flour 
1/2 cup white quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar       
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 tsp bicarb soda    
1/4 tsp sea salt    
2/3 cup (liquid) coconut oil   
1/4 cup water  
2 tbsp dark agave nectar

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 140ºC.

Mix oats, quinoa, flour, sugar, coconut, bicarb and salt in a large bowl.  Stir in the coconut oil, water and agave syrup until well blended.

Divide mixture into 18 golf-ball sized portions.  Roll into balls and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper (leave about 3cm between each ball).  Press balls down gently with a fork to flatten.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.  Let the biscuits cool on the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool completely.  

curry hummus fishcakes


If nesting became an Olympic sport, I'm not going to lie, I'd be taking out the gold medal.  Things are getting a bit out of control at our house - our spice cupboard is alphabetised and short of ironing THBH's undies we've signed up for Netflix in a futile attempt to matchmake my arse and our couch.  So far it's taken me 4 days to watch Frozen (there are 3 year olds with a greater attention span than me - sad, but true).

Speaking of frozen, I've cleaned out our spare freezer - you know, the one in your garage that could very well contain half a cow from 3 years ago that you completely forgot about (but highly unlikely to contain forgotten ice-cream or anything actually useful when you're 38 weeks pregnant) and found some real gems including two random fish fillets, one of which I am confident is salmon and the other just a pot-luck white fish.  THBH currently abhors fish (despite happily ordering it from a fish and chip shop just last week) so I did what any self-respecting parent would do and disguised it in something he loves.  Unfortunately, my plan failed which resulted in me having fish cakes for lunch for the next 2 days and THBH eating Vegemite Saladas for dinner.  Them's the breaks!

curry hummus fishcakes
Makes 4

250g fillet Atlantic salmon, skin on
200g fillet mild, white fish, skin on
150g milk
2 dried bay leaves
80g hummus
300g potatoes, peeled, cubed
1 tbsp Kewpie (Japanese) mayonnaise
1/2 tsp lemon zest
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 cup plain flour
1 egg, lightly whisked
Fresh curry leaves
Rice bran oil, to fry
Lemon and tartare sauce, to serve

Place fish, skin side down, into a small saucepan.  Cover with milk and 150ml water, add bay leaves.  Cover, bring to the boil over a high heat then immediately drop heat to very low and allow to simmer for 5 mins before removing from heat and leaving to sit for 10 mins (covered) to gently poach.  Remove fish from poaching liquid, dry on paper towel and then use a fork to break up into large flakes (discard skin).

Put potatoes into a small saucepan, cover with boiling water then place over a high heat until water comes back to a boil, drop heat to low and allow to simmer for 10 mins or until potato is soft when poked with a fork.  Drain, then return to saucepan and cook over a very low heat to remove excess water.  Mash roughly with a fork then stir through hummus, mayo and lemon zest.  Season with salt and pepper.  Fold through fish flakes (be gentle as you want the fish flakes to stay large and not break up too much).  Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and form into 2cm-thick patties.  

Dust each patty with flour, dip in egg then roll in breadcrumbs.  Place onto a plate and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours (this will harden the patties and prevent them from crumbling apart when frying).

Pour oil into a deep saucepan (you want the oil to be about 2cm deep).  Heat over a high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, throw in about 3 curry leaf stalks (about 36 leaves) and cook for 2 mins to let curry flavours infuse into oil.  Add fishcakes and cook for about 5 mins on each side or until light golden in colour and heated through.  Drain on paper towel and serve with lemon and tartare sauce.

steak sandwich with kiwiberry chutney


If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll probably know that I'm totally OBSESSED with new and unusual ingredients.  Fellow foodies have been peppering my Instagram feed with heavily stylised pics of a curious, little fruit known as the kiwiberry, so I simply couldn't resist picking up a few punnets at the market this week to experiment.

Think of a teensy, little kiwifruit without the bodily hair.  That's right - the tantalising, tropical flavour of kiwi without the fuss of the fuzz, just pop it straight into your gob.  A little more tart than their hairier cousin, my idea was to work the berries into a tomato-based chutney with a hint of vanilla to compliment a big, beefy steak sandwich.

If you have any leftover chutney it would also work really well on a simple, ham sandwich.  Enjoy!

steak sandwich with kiwiberry chutney
Serves 2

2 scotch fillet steaks, at room temperature
1 ciabatta loaf
2 vine tomatoes, thickly sliced
Cos lettuce leaves
Gruyere cheese, sliced
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

800g vine tomatoes, diced
250g kiwiberries, halved
1 brown onion, diced
70g caster sugar
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod reserved
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Juice from 1 lemon

To make chutney, add all ingredients (including scraped vanilla pod) to a medium sized saucepan over a high heat.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to super low and allow to simmer, stirring regularly, for about 3 hours or until fruit breaks down and liquid evaporates.  Set aside.

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 80ºC.  Heat ciabatta in the oven until ready to serve.

Season steaks generously with salt and pepper.  Heat a chargrill pan to super hot.  Cook steaks to your liking, about 2-3 mins each side (for medium rare).  Remove from pan and allow to rest for 2 mins (save juices) before slicing very thinly and tossing steak strips in their juices.  

Cut ciabatta loaf in half widthways, then lengthways to make two sandwiches.  Spread the bottom layers of the bread generously with kiwiberry chutney then top with steak strips, cheese, lettuce and tomato finished with the top slice of ciabatta. 

honey cumin chestnut ravioli


Every birthday, Easter, Christmas or pretty much any occasion in our family is celebrated with a huge batch of a traditional Ukrainian dish called varenyky (if you have Polish friends you may have also heard them called perogies - same same).  The fundamentals of varenyky are simple - carbs wrapped in carbs, boiled (and fried, if you're feeling indulgent) covered in lard-fried bacon and a huge dollop of tart sour cream to balance out all that richness.  Absolutely nothing fancy, just potatoes, pasta and fried bacon and onion.  Cheap as chips to make, but like any good, rustic food usually requires a pretty hefty effort on the chefs part.  All that dough rolling, cutting and filling is mega time consuming, so this gargantuan task is usually broken down into a family production line.  A solid day of manufacturing usually results in a substantial yield which, inevitably, will be gobbled up by the rest of the family in about 5 seconds flat.

A few years ago Mum discovered a shortcut, and although my Bubcha would most definitely not approve, we have found that using wonton wrappers produces an almost identical result and can cut production time down to almost one quarter.  

I've often fantasised about giving this peasant dish a posh makeover - perhaps spiking the potato filling with a bit of truffle or draping smoked salmon, or something equally luxe, all over the crispy little parcels.  Today's gloomy, Melbourne weather has inspired me to use a hearty, Autumn ingredient that is so underrated here in Australia (hell, I even forgot it had its own emoji) - the chestnut.  Pureed with potato, cumin-infused oil for warmth and honey to bring out that beautiful sweetness, I spoon the filling between wonton sheets (and ignore Bubcha tsk tsking in my subconscious) and then gently boil them before spooning over some crispy bacon lardons and caramelised onion.  Let's agree to call these ravioli, as not to upset my ancestors ;-)

honey cumin chestnut ravioli
Makes 15 ravioli

1 cup roasted chestnut flesh, cooled
1 cup mashed potato, cooled
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
35g butter
1/2 cup quark (European style cottage cheese), crumbled
30 wonton wrappers
3 middle rashers bacon, cut into very thin strips
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

In a large bowl mix together chestnut flesh, mashed potato and honey.  Melt butter in a small frypan then add cumin and fry for about 2-3 minutes or until butter just begins to brown.  Pour into potato/chestnut mixture and mix well.  Allow to cool, then fold through the quark.  Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the ravioli place a wonton wrapper on a clean surface.  Dip your finger into water and trace the edge of the wrapper (this will help seal the ravioli).  Place a heaped tablespoon of the filling into the centre of the pastry, then top with another wonton wrapper, pressing the edges to seal (ensure there are no air pockets around the filling).  Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling (stop the completed ravioli from drying out by placing them onto a baking paper-lined tray and cover with a damp tea-towel).  

Once you have finished assembling the ravioli, bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil.  Season with salt.  Once the water is bubbling, add about 3 ravioli at a time and allow to boil for about 3-4 mins or until ravioli float the the surface.  Carefully remove from water, drain.

While you are cooking the ravioli, heat oil in a medium frypan over medium heat.  Add bacon and fry for about 3 mins, then add the onion and fry for a further 3-5 mins or until onion is caramelised and bacon is crispy.  

Serve boiled ravioli topped with a generous mountain of fried bacon and onion.  

white choc blueberry hot cross buns with pedro ximenez glaze


One a penny, two a penny...

white choc blueberry hot cross buns with pedro ximenez glaze
Makes 12

1 tbsp dry yeast
110g caster sugar
375ml lukewarm milk
635g flour, sifted
1 tbsp Milo 
50g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
75g dried blueberries
125g white chocolate chip
75g plain flour, extra
80ml water

2 tbsp hot water
1 tsp gelatine powder
60ml Pedro Ximenez (sherry)
40ml water, extra

Combine yeast, 2 tsp sugar and milk in a large bowl.  Set aside in a warm spot for 5 mins for yeast to activate.

Add flour, Milo, butter, egg, blueberries, white chocolate and remaining sugar and mix well.  The dough should come together but be quite sticky.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8-10 mins or until smooth and elastic.

Place dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and pop into a warm spot to allow to rise to double the size (about 1 hour).  

Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Arrange the dough balls in a lightly greased 22x18cm rectangular baking tin.  Cover with a damp tea towel and set aside in a warm place for another 30 minutes.

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 175ºC.  Whisk together the extra flour and water to form a thick paste then use a pastry brush to paint a cross shape roughly across the top of each bun.  Bake for 30 mins - when ready buns will be golden and spring back a little when pressed.  

To make the glaze, place 2 tbsp hot water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine.  Whisk together to dissolve gelatine, then combine with Pedro Ximenez and extra water and whisk well to combine.  Generously brush over hot cross buns as soon as they come out of the oven.    

mandarin duck with brussels slaw


For 5 minutes of absolute hilarity, try waddling into Dan Murphy's, heavily-pregnant and juggling a bottle of Cointreau and three bottles of wine.  The horrified looks on shoppers faces' is an endless source of entertainment, with people looking around for some kind of hidden-camera like the whole stunt was set up for Punk'd or something.  Before you go all Pete Evans on my ass, you should probably know that the Cointreau was for this dish and the wine was for guests at a party we hosted on the weekend.  I was tempted to buy a carton of ciggies just to top it off but frankly it was a rather costly stunt for someone who doesn't smoke and I'd rather spend the $200 on my latest addiction, Bonds onesies.  

As my bump started growing, I was super self-conscious to be seen doing anything that couldn't be considered "motherly" ie. buying alcohol, wearing a rave promo t-shirt in public, even showing my tattoos made me somewhat uncomfortable.  I would send THBH in to buy beer for me (again, for cooking, refer Boozy Chicken) and even donated my prized collection of scarfs with skull prints on them to Vinnies.  I've pretty much gone from Lindsay Lohan to Noni Hazelhurst in 9 months flat.    

Anyway, the countdown is on now and Little Miss is free to make her appearance anytime from tomorrow onwards.  If anyone ever broke into our house and checked our freezer one could easy be mistaken for thinking I am preparing for the apocalypse - I have enough homemade chicken stock in there that you could fill a bath with the stuff and about 20 other pre-made dinners that I have not labelled and will no-doubt forget what they are when I find them in the back of the freezer in 6 months time.  For any future dinner guests rest assured, I will be politely declining taking my placenta home for smoothies.

mandarin duck with brussels slaw
Serves 4
You will need to begin this recipe 8 hours before

4 duck breasts, skin on
100ml light olive oil
Juice of 2 mandarins
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp Cointreau
1 tbsp Angostura Bitters
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 wombok (Chinese cabbage), finely shredded
8 brussel sprouts, finely shredded
3 mandarins, segments peeled
2 shallots (green onions), finely sliced
4 tbsp Kewpie mayonnaise
Juice from 1 mandarin
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

To make marinade for the duck, in a small jug whisk together oil, mandarin juice, garlic, Cointreau, Angostura Bitters and cardamom.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour into a shallow container (with lid) then place duck breasts, skin-side up, into the mixture.  You ideally want the skin to be sitting on top of the marinade so it doesn't get wet.  Cover with lid and pop into the fridge to marinate for 6-8 hours.

After duck has marinated, carefully remove from the marinade making sure the skin doesn't get wet.  Pat dry with paper towel then score skin lightly with a very sharp knife and rub in a little extra sea salt flakes.  Preheat a fan-forced oven to 200ºC.  

Place duck breasts skin-side down into a cold, non-stick frypan (do NOT add any oil to the pan!).  Place pan over medium-high heat and set timer for 7 mins, draining off any excess oil that is rendered from the breasts (you will need to pour out the oil every 2 mins or so - there will be a LOT of it coming out).  After 7 mins of cooking flip the breasts over and fry on the other side for 1 minute only to seal.

Line a baking tray with foil then place a baking rack on top.  Place duck breasts, skin-side down, on the rack and roast for 6 minutes or until cooked through but still pale pink inside.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 mins.

To prepare the brussels slaw, combine mayo, mandarin and lemon juice and mustard in a small jar and shake well to emulsify.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss the cabbage, sprouts, mandarin segments and shallots in a large bowl then dress just before serving with the sliced duck breast.

beef rendang burger


Cricket-watching fuel...

beef rendang burger
Makes 4

600g beef mince
1 egg
1 tbsp coconut oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
4 x hamburger buns
Sliced tomato, to serve
Sliced cucumber, to serve
Sliced red onion, to serve

1/2 tbsp tamarind puree
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
3 long, red chillies, roughly chopped
1 cup shredded coconut, lightly toasted
1 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly toasted
2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted
40g fresh ginger
30g fresh galangal
30g fresh turmeric (*WARNING - use gloves, unless you like the Bart Simpson look!)
6 red eschalots, peeled
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 stalks lemongrass, inner white section only 
1/2 tbsp palm sugar

To make rendang paste, combine all ingredients in mini food processor (or blender) and blitz on high speed until a thick paste forms.  

In a large bowl combine mince with egg and 2 tbsp of the rendang paste (reserve excess paste for another recipe).  Season with salt and pepper.  Mix well using clean hands.  Divide into 4 equal portions, form into patties then pop into the fridge for about an hour to rest (this will help patties hold their shape when frying).  

Add coconut oil to a large frypan and melt over a high heat.  Reduce heat to low and add beef patties, cooking for 4 mins each side or until cooked through.  

To serve, assemble each burger with a patty, sliced tomato, sliced cucumber and red onion rings. 

pistachio crusted leg of lamb with espresso gravy


Hey everybody!  EXCITING NEWS - I'm officially on maternity leave which means my only job for the next 4 weeks is keeping your bellies full before I embark on a lifetime journey of keeping my child's belly full.  

I've been lurking in the background for the last 2 weeks, tidying up a few things on the blog.  I'm putting my obsessive "fixer-upping" down to selective nesting, but THBH probably wishes it would extend to cleaning the house - it looks like Hiroshima around here lately as things get dumped everywhere any anywhere with the intention of tidying up just as soon as I've edited this image/watched Bold and Beautiful/alphabetised my entire spice cupboard...

Meanwhile, I've been quietly observing the goings on in the foodie World and was quite happy to take a sideline on the whole "Flushing coffee up my bum daily cured my cancer.  Oh wait, no it didn't, I'm dead" and "Eating a truckload of kale every day cured my cancer.  Oh wait, no it didn't, I never had cancer in the first place".  I was happy to chime in on the Pete Evens bashing though, we all know I love a good Pete Evans bash.  There also seems to be no slowing down on the waffle obsession, with a bunch of recipe developers throwing random shit into a waffle iron to see what works and what doesn't.  Please excuse me while I go pour a bowl of cereal into my toaster #onestepahead #nextfoodiefad #darwinawards.

Sarcasm aside, I am happy to report that last night I had a breakthrough with a recipe I've been trying to perfect for a while.  On my third attempt (that's a lot for me, I have a very short attention span) I nailed this pistachio crusted leg of lamb, which seems simple but trust me, getting the meat super soft and the nut crust not burnt and just enough pan drippings to make a successful gravy is no walk in the park.  Gravy is my arch nemesis.

I hope you guys love this one as much as we did x

pistachio crusted leg of lamb with espresso gravy
Serves 4-6

2kg leg of lamb, bone in
3 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced into thin slithers
60g stale sourdough bread
90g pistachio kernels
A few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
2 onions, skin on, quartered
1 head garlic, skin on, halved horizontally
2 tbsp dijon mustard
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

1 shot expresso
2 tbsp plain flour, sifted
Pan juices from roast (about 2 cups)

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 200ºC.  Stab lamb repeatedly with a small, sharp knife and insert garlic slithers into each puncture wound.  Pop lamb into a deep roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil then season generously with salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 mins then remove from oven, reduce heat to 100ºC fan.  Arrange onion wedges and garlic around the lamb, cover pan with about 6 layers of foil, ensuring edges are tucked in to form a seal.  Put lamb back into the oven and roast for a further 6 hours.  

Meanwhile, add sourdough, pistachios and parsley leaves to a food processor and blitz until a course crumb.  Season with salt and pepper.  Watch Bold and Beautiful, alphabetise your spice cupboard... hell, you've got a spare 6 hours, do whatever you want ;-)

Once lamb is done, remove from oven.  Increase heat to 150ºC fan.  Carefully take lamb out of the tray and discard onion and garlic.  Pour pan juices through a fine sieve into a jug.  Set aside.  Pop lamb back into the pan and spread with mustard.  Press pistachio mixture all over the surface of the lamb then return to oven to roast, uncovered, for a further 1 hour.

To make espresso gravy, carefully skim fat layer from the top of your pan juices.  Add to a large frypan and heat over low heat.  Whisk in the flour to create a roux, cooking until the flour becomes a light golden colour.  Gradually add the pan juices, whisking with each addition to ensure no lumps.  Once you have added all the pan juices, whisk in the espresso then season to taste, then allow to simmer on a low heat for a few minutes until sauce has thickened (if your gravy is lumpy you can strain it through a fine sieve at the end).  Keep warm.

Once lamb is done, remove from oven and allow to rest for about 20 mins before carving and serving with the espresso gravy.

walnut pesto tuna farfalle with crispy sage


It's been a bit of a slow news week in the kitchen of The Hungry Babushka.  What started out as an epic menu with Crispy Cointreau Pork Belly Bao quickly descended into a run of crappy flavour combos and half-arsed presentation which I simply put down to being utterly exhausted and reaching my breaking point of trying to maintain life at the same pace as before, pushing aside the minor detail that I'm now just 6 weeks away from having a real, human baby.  By Wednesday I was begging THBH to take me out for fish and chips after I almost had a nervous breakdown after spending in excess of 2 hours and 300 shots trying (and failing) to make a beef rendeng burger look pretty for the camera.  A word of warning to any aspiring food stylists out there - burgers really are the Steve Buscemi's of the food world.

In the best interests of preserving my sanity, next week I'm taking off my Willy Wonka hat and taking some time out from recipe creation.  THBH, if you are reading this don't panic, I'm not going to let you starve to death.  I have decided to re-visit some of my favourite oldies and will be sharing them over on Instagram (@thehungrybabushka) and Facebook for you all.  Peace out and we'll see you on the flip side ;-) x

walnut pesto tuna farfalle with crispy sage
Serves 4

500g farfalle pasta
2 x 185g good-quality tuna chunks in spring water (I use Sirena), drained
250g punnet cherry tomatoes
2 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic
2/3 cup rice bran oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
24 sage leaves
60g butter
3 tbsp rice bran oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 160ºC.  Line a baking tray with foil, pour tomatoes onto foil and drizzle with 1 tbsp rice bran oil.  Season with salt and pepper then bake for 10 mins or until just starting to collapse.  Leave in warm oven.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.  Cook pasta according to packet instructions, drain.  Set aside (keep warm).

To make walnut pesto, combine basil, walnuts and garlic in a mortar or mini food processor.  If using mortar and pestle, bash the crap out of the mixture until it is paste-like, then gradually stir through the olive oil.  If using a food processor, blitz basil, nuts and garlic until a paste then gradually add oil in a very slow and thin stream while the motor is running.  Stir through lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Heat butter and remaining 2 tbsp oil in a small frypan over medium heat.  Once the butter is frothing, throw in the sage leaves and toast for about 2 mins or until leaves start to curl and become crispy.  Remove from heat.

To serve, toss tuna chunks and pesto through pasta to coat.  Divide into three bowls with roasted cherry tomatoes and topped with crispy sage leaves.  Season with a little extra salt, if you like.

crispy cointreau pork belly bao


One of the things they don't tell you about pregnancy is that your body starts preparing you for the joys of waking up all night BEFORE you've even had the baby.  

For a creative mind this is absolutely killer as you wake up at 3am for a wee (the 6th time since you went to bed) and you end up laying in bed, wide awake, thinking about bao puns until 5am.  

Wonderbao, Belly Bao, Bao Now and Bao Stop have all embraced the bao craze in Australia, it has even been deemed the Asian kebab, and if I wasn't heavily pregnant I sure as hell could smash several of these after a boozy night out (instead I just smashed several of these with a glass of ice-cold milk while watching Better Homes and Gardens).

crispy cointreau pork belly bao
Makes approx 8 
You will need to begin this recipe the night before

1kg piece pork belly
125ml Cointreau
150ml malt vinegar
250g brown sugar
5 cloves garlic, bruised
175g maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
3 fresh bay leaves
Sea salt flakes
8 frozen bao buns (available from Asian supermarkets)
6 large iceberg lettuce leaves
1 large carrot, julienned
2 large Lebanese cubumbers, seeds removed, julienned
2 spring onions, julienned
1/2 cup coriander leaves

The night before: prepare pork by using a stanley knife (or super sharp kitchen knife) to score a cross-hatch pattern (cuts about 2cm apart) into the pork rind.  Be very careful not the press to hard - you don't want to cut down into the flesh, just enough pressure to score the surface.  Place the pork belly, skin side up, on top of a cooling rack and place into the sink.  Pour about 1L of boiling water all over the pork.  You should notice the cuts opening up - this is good!  Remove pork from sink, pat down with paper towel to dry thoroughly then pop the pork (still on the rack) into a deep roasting tray, making sure the skin side of the pork is up.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt flakes, ensuring the entire surface of the skin is covered, then pop into the fridge, uncovered, overnight (at least 12 hours).  The salt helps draw out all of the moisture from the skin and will give you an amazing, crispy crackling.

When you are ready to cook:  Preheat a fan-forced oven to 230ºC.  Brush salt off the pork, then use paper towel to pat the pork belly all over, making sure it is really dry.  Place pork, skin side up, in a deep roasting tray (you want the piece of pork to be nestled in without too much room around it so try and use the smallest size tray possible) and pop into the oven for 30 mins.

Meanwhile, combine Cointreau, vinegar, sugar, garlic, maple syrup, bay leaves and cinnamon stick in a medium-sized saucepan.  Heat over a high heat until boiling, then cook for a further 2-3 mins.  Remove from heat.  

Once pork is done, use tongs to carefully remove from the pan.  Pour the Cointreau mixture into the tray and then gently place the pork, skin side up, back into the tray.  The liquid should not touch the pork skin (if it looks like the liquid will be too deep and cover the skin, just pour less in.  Any liquid touching the skin will result in soggy skin and no lovely, crispy crackling - loserbao!).  Reduce oven temperature to 150ºC fan then carefully place tray back in oven and allow to cook for 2 hours.  

When you have about 30 mins of cooking time left:  Fill a large saucepan with steamer attachment 1/3 full with water and bring to the boil.  Line the steamer insert with lettuce leaves (this will stop the bao sticking and also help seal in moisture) and place frozen bao buns on top.  Cover with lid and allow to steam for 10-12 mins or until buns are light and fluffy.  

To serve, remove crispy pork skin from belly and use a cleaver to cut into smaller pieces.  Cut/shred pork flesh and mix together in a bowl with the crispy skin.  Add 1/2 cup of the Cointreau liquid from the roasting tray and toss to coat.  Stuff the steamed bao buns with pork, carrot, cucumber and spring onion and a sprinkle of coriander leaves.

broccoli and gruyere puff twists


It's got broccoli, it's healthy...

broccoli and gruyere puff twists
Makes 48 sticks

4 puff pastry sheets, defrosted
100g broccoli florets (no big stalks), processed in food processor to resemble breadcrumbs
150g gruyere cheese, grated
1 tbsp currants
Zest from 1 lemon (use a microplane to get it super fine)
1 egg, lightly whisked
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a fan forced oven to 190ºC.

Brush each pastry sheet lightly with egg wash.  Sprinkle broccoli crumbs, cheese, currants and lemon zest evenly over the four sheets.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place a piece of baking paper over each pastry sheet and use a rolling pin to very gently press the toppings into the pastry.  Remove baking paper.

Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut each pastry sheet into 12 even strips.  Twist each strip and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, making sure there is a bit of space between each twist as the pastry will puff up when baked (you may need to do this in batches, I used 4 baking trays).  

Bake for 12-15 mins or until golden and crispy.  Allow to cool to room temperature before serving as a very classy snack with some alcoholic beverages.

salted golden gaytime dulce de leche cheesecake


Somewhere in the depths of my iPhone, hidden away in the millions of reminders I make for myself is a little note called RECIPE with the little lightbulb emoji beside it.  Whenever a random food-related idea pops into my head I rush to this note and jot down whatever it is in my mind.  Some of the ideas have been sitting on the list for a while as I can't quite work out how to translate them into a recipe (eg. lemonade and goat's cheese, anyone?) and sometimes the ideas are just so friggin' do-able they never stay on the list for long.  Salted Golden Gaytime was one of those ideas.  

When developing this recipe I started off with a no-fail cheesecake base recipe that my family has been using for years.  The basics are all there - cream cheese, gelatin etc. but I started subbing in the bits and bobs I wanted like softened Golden Gaytime ice-creams and sea salt flakes.  I was going to leave it like this but when I tasted the mixture it still needed a bit more sweetness so I folded through a few tablespoons of dulce de leche and this multicultural little cheesecake was born.

I'd like to think I was witty enough to come up with this in time for Mardi Gras, but alas no, it was only an afterthought.  It's hard to have a Gaytime on your own.  

salted golden gaytime dulce de leche cheesecake
Serves 12

220g Malt-o-Milk biscuits
75g unsalted butter, melted
500g Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
4 Golden Gaytime ice-creams left out at room temperature for 10 mins, plus 3 extra to decorate
3 tbsp dulce de leche
2 tsp gelatine, dissolved in 60ml boiling water
1 cup whipped cream
1 tsp sea salt flakes

To make base, blitz biscuits in food processor until a fine crumb.  Add melted butter and blitz until combined.  Pour mixture into the bottom of a 22cm springform pan and use the bottom of a jar or drinking glass to compact the crumbs into an even layer.  Pop into fridge while you make the filling.

To make the filling, in a large bowl combine Philadelphia cream cheese, Gaytime ice-creams and dulce de leche.  Use an electric beater on high speed to beat until cream cheese is smooth.  It won't look super smooth like a normal cheesecake mixture due to the little bits of biscuit crumbs in the ice-cream, but keep keep beating away until you can't see any little white bits of cream cheese.  Stir through the gelatine mixture then when completely combined, fold through the whipped cream and sea salt flakes.  Spoon mixture on top of the biscuit base, smooth the top then pop into the fridge for at least 3 hours or set (preferably overnight, if you can wait that long).

To serve, cut up extra Golden Gaytimes into pieces (throw the sticks away) and serve on top of cheesecake slices.  

lemon salt chicken wings with carrot and toasted wild rice salad


While we were up in Brisbane I visited foodie heaven The Standard Market Co.  May I just say, this place is anything BUT standard.  With an endless selection of gourmet goodies at our fingertips, it takes a lot to excite a Melbourne foodie but when I enter the doors of this magical mecca I am pretty much reduced to repeating "Oh my God, Oh my God" over and over for the entire 3 hours I'm there before surrendering my credit card to pay for a grocery bill so high I get a call from AMEX to make sure my card hasn't been stolen.

This trip my bounty of treasures included:

Raw Materials Lemon Sea Salt
Valrhona Poudre De Cacao (cocoa powder, for those who aren't fluent in Wanker)
Chimbote Dulce De Leche
Giuliano Tartufi (truffle flavoured millefiore honey)
Some other tasty things that I've already devoured and long forgotten about

Things I resisted included Vegemite-flavoured macarons (it was Australia Day) and a miniscule jar of veal glace which reduced me to happy tears when I spotted it but I am still battling the irrepressible inner wog voice that says I could just make it myself.

Yesterday I decided to test out the lemon sea salt, using it to make a simple marinade of complimenting flavours of cumin and coriander seed.  The result was friggin' delicious and the refreshing and dead-easy salad was a great accompaniment.  Don't slack off and skip the toasted wild rice sprinkle, the nutty flavour really finishes the dish off nicely.

lemon salt chicken wings with carrot and toasted wild rice salad
Serves 4
You will need to begin this recipe the night before

1.2kg chicken wings
1/2 cup light olive oil
1 tbsp lemon sea salt (I used Raw Materials brand)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, squashed
1 1/2 cups plain flour
Oil, for deep frying

3 large carrots, peeled into thin strips
2/3 cup coriander leaves
2 tbsp black wild rice
1/4 cup rice bran oil
1/8 cup lime juice
Sea salt flakes

To make marinade, combine lemon sea salt, coriander and cumin seeds in a mortar.  Crush with the pestle until all ingredients are well ground up.  Pour into a large, non-reactive container (glass or plastic) then add olive oil and garlic and mix to combine.  Add chicken wings and toss well to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and pop into fridge to marinate for at least 12 hours.

Remove chicken from marinade, toss in flour to lightly coat, dusting off any excess flour.  Preheat oil in deep fryer to 210ºC.  In batches of 4 at a time, fry chicken wings for 3-4 mins or until golden and cooked through.  Drain on absorbent towel.

To make salad, whisk together rice bran oil, lime juice and a pinch of salt.  Combine carrot strips and coriander in a bowl, toss to mix.  Dress with half the dressing first, tasting and adding more if you like.

Heat a small frypan over high heat, then add rice and immediately drop heat to medium, stirring rice regularly until it becomes fragrant and starts to pop (about 2-3 mins).  Pour toasted rice into a mortar and crush with pestle until roughly ground. 

To serve, divide salad onto 4 plates.  Sprinkle with ground, toasted rice.  Serve with fried chicken wings.

maple carrot and pecan croquettes with smokey baconnaise


You guys know my feelings towards Pete Evans and his paleo posse.  It's just really shitting me to tears lately, I think I've become paleophobic.  Dairy free, sugar free, gluten free, nut free brownies... basically, it's just air.  Air brownies.  Dates are NOT chocolate - you're not fooling anybody.

So when you Google baconnaise it has an almost cult-like paleo following because of course we're using animal fat instead of processed fat, so I like to take this idea and f*ck it up really good and proper for them by pairing their beloved mayo-hybrid with white death panko-crumbed, deep-fried, white potatoey goodness.  Oh, and maple syrup.  Don't forget the maple syrup.

Bon appétit.

maple carrot and pecan croquettes with smokey baconnaise
Makes 12 croquettes

1.1kg potatoes, peeled, quartered
250g carrots, peeled, cut into 4cm long chunks
40g plain flour
60ml maple syrup
30g butter
80g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
80g panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, whisked together with a splash of milk, plus one extra egg yolk
450g middle bacon rashers
60ml rice bran oil, plus extra for deep frying
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp white vinegar
Liquid smoke
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Add potato and carrot to a medium sized saucepan.  Cover with cold water and season with salt.  Bring to the boil, then allow to cook for 20-25 mins or until potato and carrot is soft.  Drain well.

Combine boiled potato, carrot, maple syrup and butter in a large bowl.  Use a stick blender to puree the ingredients, then stir though flour and pecans and season to taste.  Pop into the fridge for about 2 hours, uncovered, to harden.

Heat rice bran oil in a large frypan over high heat.  Add the bacon rashers and fry until super crispy.  Remove bacon from the pan (for this recipe we're only using the bacon fat, so feel free to save the bacon for something else or just eat it all like I did).  Strain the reserved bacon oil through a fine sieve then set aside to cool at room temperature.

To make smokey baconnaise, add onn egg yolk to a small bowl with lemon juice.  Whisk well to combine.  Very slowly, drizzle a tiny bit of the cooled bacon oil into the yolk, whisking really well until the oil has become completely incorporated into the yolk.  Slowly add oil, whisking well between each addition until the mixture becomes thick and creamy and all the oil has been added.  Whisk in the vinegar and about 4-5 drops of liquid smoke right at the end, then season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Preheat oil in deep fryer to 200ºC.

Remove the potato mixture from the fridge.  Use an ice-cream to form the mixture into 12 equal-sized balls.  Dip each ball into the egg wash, then roll in panko breadcrumbs.  Deep fry in batches, 3 croquettes at a time, for about 3-4 mins or until golden and heated through.  Drain on paper towel.

Serve croquettes with smokey baconnaise.

persian love salad


So it's no secret that desserts aren't really my forté.  When it comes to eating them, I am the authority on all things saccharine, but ask me to create something and although I will jump in with as much enthusiasm and creativity as I give any kitchen task (except dishes), instead of looking like a Bowdry creation it always ends up looking more like a Bower Bird one.

I probably should seek professional help about the amount of time I spend scrolling through Instagram accounts of dessert divas such as Anna Polyviou and Kirsten Tibballs but instead I will redirect my energies into something I can actually ace - savoury.

This dish was inspired by another one of my all-time girl crushes, teacher by weekday, baker by weekend - Katherine Sabbath.  Katherine's signature dessert would have to be her Persian Love Cake - do yourself a favour and go to the website to check out the description of this bad boy.  I'm not going to repeat it here, it's borderline pornographic and will probably result in diabetes just reading it.

I've paired together a classic combo of sweet beets and creamy feta but added in a few unsuspecting characters such as exotic rose water and punchy pickle juice.  I intended to serve this salad as an accompaniment to some grilled lamb chops but naturally it stole the limelight, so I left the poor chops out of the shot even though I do recommend serving some lamb as a side.

persian love salad
Serves 4

2 large, Lebanese cucumbers, sliced
6 whole, cooked beetroots, each cut into 8 wedges (you can use ones from a can)
1/2 small brown onion, finely sliced
2 pickles (gherkins), finely diced
120g Persian feta
1/2 cup oil from Persian feta jar
2 tbsp pickle juice (from pickle jar)
1 tsp rosewater
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
60g pistachios, roughly crushed

In a large bowl combine cucumber, beetroot, onion and pickles.  Toss to combine.

To make dressing, in a separate bowl combine feta, pickle juice, rosewater and half the oil.  Whisk well until the ingredients become emulsified.  Gradually add the remaining oil, whisking as you go.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pour dressing over the vegetables, tossing to coat.  Serve salad topped with crushed pistachios.

chicken and camomile broth with prawn and crab wontons


Sometimes the simplest meals are the best.  Back to basics with a super simple chicken stock recipe that can be adapted to any meal.  Here I've added some strong camomile tea which is a great partner to chicken flavours, not to mention super soothing on a cranky tummy (which mine always seems to be these days with my little womb raider on board).  

I like to use chicken necks when I make my stock as they release a lot of gelatin, resulting in a really flavoursome stock.  After a few hours in the fridge you'll notice that the stock has transformed into a wobbly jelly, don't freak out, this is a very, very good thing!  Once you heat the stock gently it will return to it's liquid, non-snot-like state and be the tastiest stock you've ever eaten, I promise ;-)

chicken and camomile broth with prawn and crab wontons
Serves 4
You will need to begin this recipe the night before

1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
8 camomile tea bags
20g fresh ginger, finely sliced
Juice of 1 lime
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
Chinese greens (I used 6 small bunches of bok choy)
Soy sauce, to serve
Small, red chilli, finely sliced, to serve

2.6kg chicken necks
6 celery sticks, coarsely chopped
4 large carrots, coarsely chopped
2 large brown onions, unpeeled, quartered
2 leeks, white section only, thickly sliced
6 dried bay leaves
12 stalks parsley
8 stalks thyme
24 black peppercorns
2 tsps sea salt flakes

160g cooked sandcrab meat (from about 3 sandcrabs)
300g green prawns, peeled, deveined, flesh finely chopped (minced)
Wonton skins (about 40)
1 egg white
1 tsp finely zested lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp finely chopped chives
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

To make broth, add chicken necks to a large saucepan and cover with 6L cold water.  Bring to the boil, using a fine sieve to skim off any scum that floats to the surface.  

Add celery, carrot, onion, leek, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for about 4-6 hours.  You will need to skim the surface every 30 mins or so to remove scum.  

Create a bouquet garni by tying parsley stalks and thyme together in a tight bunch using kitchen string.  Add to the broth and continue to cook for an additional 30 mins.  

Strain broth through a sieve lined with muslin cloth.  Discard all solids and pour broth into an airtight container.  Refrigerate overnight.  In the morning you may notice that a thin film of fat has hardened on top of the soup.  Carefully scrape this off and discard, store broth in the fridge until ready to use.

To make the wontons, combine cooked crab meat and green prawn meat in a bowl with egg white and lemon zest and juice.  Mix well to combine, then stir through chives and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the wontons, place 1 tsp of the seafood mixture into the centre of each wonton wrapper and fold into a nun's hat shape (a good video showing how to do this is here).  You should be able to make around 40 from the amount of filling made.

Meanwhile, steep camomile tea bags in 1L boiling water for 5 mins.  Remove tea bags, set aside tea.  To a large saucepan add 2L of the chicken broth, lemongrass and ginger.  Gently bring to the boil, covered, over a medium heat, then add the camomile tea and lime juice and bring back to the boil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook wontons in the broth, in batches of 10 at a time, for about 3-4 mins.  Throw in some Chinese greens in the last 2 mins of cooking, just enough to lightly cook through.  Serve broth with Chinese greens and wontons and a splash of soy sauce and chilli, if you like it hot!

chorizo oil prawn linguine


Let's not beat around the bush here, quite simply, chorizo is the best thing ever.  I'm not going to make any ridiculous food bloggeresque claim here (eg. BETTER THAN SEX!!!  Come on, it's not 50 Shades of Deli Goods) because like any good thing it does have its downsides, for example, why take something so heavenly and wrap it in the finest, most irritatingly impossible to remove film of fine paper that takes what is seemingly a lifetime to pick off, that by the time you finally get to the insides you forgot what the point was.  Either that or you just roll with it and eat the paper.  A little bit of extra fibre never hurt anybody.

I wanted to find a way to add a bit of that celestial, smokey flavour to other dishes and some research (aka. Googling) turned up the idea of chorizo oil.  Basically, it's as simple as bathing some sliced chorizo in oil, popping it all into the oven and letting it bubble away for 20 mins or so to release the flavoursome chorizo oils.  Stand for around half an hour, strain into a bottle and TA DA - liquid gold.

I'm planning on using my extra oil to give my morning scrambled eggs a spicy kick in the pants.  What would you douse in chorizo oil?

chorizo oil prawn linguine
Serves 4

500g linguine pasta
800g green prawns, peeled (tail left on) and deveined
1/2 brown onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 long, red chilli, finely chopped
Juice and finely grated zest from 1/2 lemon
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Chopped flat leaf parsley and shaved parmesan, to serve

350g hot Spanish chorizo, sliced into 1cm thick rounds
500ml light olive oil

Preheat a fan forced oven to 160ºC.  Lay chorizo slices in the bottom of a deep roasting pan and cover with oil.  Choose a pan small enough that the chorizo are completely submerged but large enough so that they are in a single layer.  Pop into the oven for 20 mins.  When done, remove from oven and allow to stand at room temperature for half an hour before straining oil through a fine sieve.  Reserve 1 cup of the oil.  Pour the remaining oil into a steralised glass bottle or jar then let this sit for about an hour or two with no lid, just to let the oil cool down completely so that no condensation forms inside the bottle.  You can throw the chorizo slices into a pan and crisp up to use in other dishes, if you like, but for this recipe we'll just be needing the oil.

Cook linguine according to packet instructions.  Set aside.

Heat reserved cup of chorizo oil in a large  frypan over low heat.  Add onion, garlic, chilli and lemon zest and gently saute until onion is just soft.  Throw in the prawns and cook, stirring, until they just turn opaque (about 1-2 mins).  Add the lemon juice and cooked linguine and toss to coat the pasta well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper then serve with a generous amount of chopped parsley and shaved parmesan.

blueberry espresso toasted muesli


In food blogging circles there's a bit of a hierarchy and when it comes to saccharine sweets The Sugar Hit is Queen Bee.  Yup, I've been totally fangirling over this chick for quite some time now so I was pretty chuffed to finally meet her last week and tried to keep my shit together, only managing to spill a Turkish coffee all over her but stopping short of asking her to autograph my boobies.

The Sugar Hit, or Sarah Coates as the real-World knows her, single-handedly (no pun intended) made hand-in-frame food photos a thing, a serious thing which, up until this point, I have avoided as I shoot without a tripod and holding a heavy camera while trying to pornographically pour maple syrup onto a stack of pancakes is not as easy as it seems.  I also bite my nails pretty bad.

This morning I decided to give it a go and I think for a first-time attempt I've not done a bad job, even managing to get a cheeky, little milk splash in.  Trés sexual.  

After reading about a company's attempt at blueberry coffee I've had this flavour pairing in the back of my mind.  I don't know about you but my mornings often start with fruit and always start with coffee, so I've taken the stress out of it for you and rolled them all into one tasty breakfast-hybrid for you.  

blueberry espresso toasted muesli
Makes about 12 serves

500g rolled oats
1 cup Rice Bubbles
40g whole hazelnuts
45g flaked coconut
160g brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp instant coffee
Fresh blueberries and/or strawberries, to serve
Milk, to serve

250g blueberries
1 cup caster sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 150ºC.  Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Pop blueberries and caster sugar into a small, heavy based saucepan with 1 cup water and lemon juice.  Bring to the boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer about 20 mins or until slightly thickened.  Strain into a jog, reserving the liquid and discarding solids.  Return liquid to the saucepan then pop back over a low heat and simmer until it becomes syrupy.  You want to reduce down to 1/2 cup of syrup.  Set aside.

Combine oats, Rice Bubbles, hazelnuts and coconut in a large bowl.  Mix well.  

Add brown sugar to a medium sized, heavy based saucepan along with 2/3 cup water and pop over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then allowing to simmer for 1 min.  Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder, coconut oil, instant coffee and the blueberry syrup.  

Pour liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well with your hands to coat.  Divide mixture between two baking trays and pop into the oven for 30 mins.  Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving with additional fresh blueberries or strawberries and milk.

pork meatballs with sweet and sour peach


As a food blogger, every now and then you come across a food that's absolutely impossible to make look good (eg. baby poo satay sauce or soup that looks like you stuck the entire Simpsons family into a blender, just to name a few).  This causes a bit of a problem because our job is to visually sell our recipes to you and that can be a seemingly impossible task when your dinner looks like a giant rabbit took multiple dumps in some regurgitated chutney.  You could just declare it "rustic" but I've always considered that to be a bit of a cop out.  Kind of like a shithouse paint job = shabby chic and burnt toast = charred.  

Ironically, like female comedians, the ugliest foods are often the most satisfying.  The only advice I have when working with these diva foods is to break down the dish into each of its elements and try to make the layout as visually striking as possible.  This acts as a bit of a diversion and spreads the focus all over (think Tori Spelling's boobs).

Fellow foodies, what buttaface foods do you find near-impossible to dolly up?

pork meatballs with sweet and sour peach
Serves 4-6

1kg pork mince
2 eggs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 brown onions, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp seeded mustard
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Plain flour, to dust
1/2 cup rice bran oil
Cooked brown rice, to serve
Finely chopped coriander leaves, to serve

2 yellow peaches, peeled, seeds removed, diced
3 vine tomatoes, diced
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp tamarind puree
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

To make meatballs, combine all ingredients except oil and flour.  Mix well, use your hands, get in there - don't be afraid!  Divide into 24 even-sized portions and roll into balls then pop into fridge while you prepare the peach sauce.

For the sauce, heat oil in a medium sized saucepan over low-medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until onion has just become soft and opaque.  Make sure not to brown the onion.  Add all of the other ingredients and stir well to combine.  Bring to the boil then immediately reduce heat to low and allow to bubble away for about 25-20 mins or until the liquids have cooked off and sauce has thickened.  Set aside.

Remove meatballs from fridge.  Roll in flour, dusting off any excess.  Heat rice bran oil in a large frypan over low-medium heat.  In two batches, fry meatballs, turning often so that all sides are evenly browned, until cooked through (about 8-10 mins).  

Serve meatballs atop of a mountain of brown rice and topped with peace sauce and chopped coriander. 

brown sugar chipotle lamb with black garlic mash


This week has been pretty frickin' inspiring for me.  On Wednesday night I was lucky to attend a talk at the Fitzroy Reading Room by food writer/God Richard Cornish.  Richard is a senior food writer for The Age Epicure and SMH Good Living, and if that's not enough, he's worked with some of the country's finest foodies including Frank Camorra (Movida) and Phillippa Grogan (Phillippa's).  

Now, let me just say that it takes a lot to recover from inviting a heavily pregnant woman to a talk where you're waving free wine and a 5kg hunk of jamón ibérico under her face for 2 hours straight, but as Richard spoke fervently about the chemistry of flavours my heart skipped a beat and I wondered if it could be that George Calombaris was about to be swiftly stepped aside as my all-time-favourite foodie-crush.  If there's nothing that gets me going more than food, it's talking about the science of food.

Which brings me to this very special recipe featuring one of my favourite ingredients EVER:  black garlic.  We all bang on about sweet, salty and if you really know your shit, umami, but I think one of the most essential qualities of an ingredient is recall.  Where have a tasted this before?  What does the smell remind me of?  When we can match-make two ingredients together it can have a very powerful impact, putting us right back to the first ever time we ripped open a butcher's paper parcel of steaming-hot chips doused in salt and vinegar and the tsunami of emotions that come with those precious memories.

The first time I ever smelt black garlic I was immediately transported back to the schoolyard, sitting on the cold, concrete floor and pigging out on an ant-sized fun pack of Burger Rings (seriously parents, what's fun about 4 measley Burger Rings?  Stop being so stingey on the snackage).  Black garlic is produced by popping whole heads of raw garlic into a special, fermenting oven where the temperature and humidity is carefully monitored for one month.  This process converts the sugars and amino acids naturally found in raw garlic into melanin, which transforms the cloves to a rather mysterious pitch black.  The flesh becomes soft and the skin paper thin but the flavour, OH THE FLAVOUR, can only be described as the perfect balance of savoury and sweet, think the lovechild of tamarind and aged balsamic vinegar.  It's absolutely no surprise that when we study the ingredients in Burger Rings that yeast extract, onion and garlic are right up there.

I've paired these pungent flavours with chipotle (for heat and smokiness), paprika (for heat and sweetness), brown sugar (for caramelisation) and just a tad of lemon juice to pull all of those big, bold flavours into line.

brown sugar chipotle lamb with black garlic mash
Serves 6
You will need to begin this recipe 8 hours before

2.3kg leg lamb
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chipotle chillies in adobo, finely chopped
2 tsp hot paprika
60g brown sugar
680g passata
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
10-12 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
3 x brown onions, peeled, cut into wedges

10 medium size potatoes, peeled, quartered
80g butter
1/3 cup thickened cream
4 cloves black garlic, mashed with a fork
Sea salt flakes

Preheat a fan forced oven to 200ºC.  In a large saucepan add chipotle, paprika, brown sugar, passata and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place over a high heat, bring to the boil then drop heat to low and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 15 mins or until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat.

Use a small, sharp knife to repeatedly stab the lamb leg all over, poking a slither of garlic into each puncture wound.  Line a roasting tray with 3 layers of foil, pop the lamb on top and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and use your hands to massage it all in.  Pour 1/3 of the tomato mixture over the top of the lamb then pop into the oven for 30 mins.  

Remove lamb from oven.  Reduce heat to 100ºC (fan forced).  Place onion wedges around the lamb, pour 1 cup of boiling water into the bottom of the tray then layer three layers of foil over the top of the lamb and tuck in to create a seal.  Pop the lamb back into the oven for 6 hours, taking out every 2 hours to spoon more of the tomato mixture over the top, making sure the parcel is sealed tightly each time.  After 6 hours, remove foil and allow lamb to roast, uncovered, for a further hour.

Meanwhile, add potatoes to a large saucepan of cold water.  Season with a generous amount of salt.  Bring to the boil, then allow to cook for 25-30 mins or until potatoes are very soft when poked with a fork.  Drain immediately.  Return drained potatoes to the saucepan, add butter and mash very well (you can also use a stick blender or mouli if you want a smoother consistency but I kind of like a more rustic mash with this dish).  Stir through cream and black garlic, then season to taste with extra salt. 

Once lamb is finished, remove from oven and shred with two forks.  Serve on top of a generous dollop of black garlic mash, spoon over caramelised onions and juices from the bottom of the roasting pan.