July 20, 2016

What’s for dinner at your place? 

Posted in brisbane, cooking, food tagged , , at 7:02 pm by Margi Macdonald

We’re having kale and hot smoked trout and salmon salad, with lemon and seeds and green beans and puy lentils and Parmesan. It’s an easy, filling meal which is great for lunch the next day.

Still and all, it’s the jonquils in the kitchen which have me all captivated and distracted tonight.

What smells good in your kitchen right now? 


March 24, 2014

Plum relish… a little tango for your tastebuds

Posted in brisbane, cooking, food, health, life, music tagged , , , , , , at 4:29 pm by Margi Macdonald

The late summer stone fruits are with us, and being late in the season, are not as gorgeous as their earlier siblings.

So here’s a little dish which straddles late summer and early autumn, when the evenings are still warm, and the days humid.

Elegantly dice a couple of plums, and a couple of spring onions.

Place in a bowl, and add apple cider vinegar and some cold pressed, extra virgin nut or seed oil.
Usual ratio of oil : vinegar (or lemon or lime juice) is 2:1
Grind in some pepper. I think pink peppercorns would work beautifully here.

Add some chopped fresh dill.
At this point, decide (as I did) whether it needs a little seeded and diced cucumber.

Select some kind of greenery, which is perhaps a little bitter, and tender yet firm.
I used baby endive.
Roughly, yet kindly shred it.

Toss and serve.
Hey presto!
You have a cute little salad with piquant surprises in every mouthful.

It goes very well with a mackerel or salmon cutlet, and kipfler potatoes, boiled, sliced, and tossed in a little hot ghee and salt.

If your cardiologist faints at the thought of ghee, toss the potatoes in some very fine, “fruity” olive oil.

If you just want to make this as a fresh relish or salsa, add a little seeded, finely chopped chili, some freshly toasted ‘raw’ nuts, and some freshly picked coriander leaf (cilantro). You might like fresh lime juice here, instead of the apple cider vinegar. Fresh mint torn and tumbled through might be sublime.

I am hopeless at photographing cooked fish, so instead, here’s some excellent music; tight ensemble playing, fine musicians.


February 25, 2014

Zucchini slice… And it’s very very nice

Posted in brisbane, cooking, food, health tagged , , , , at 9:59 pm by Margi Macdonald


Adapted from Rena Patten’s recipe in Quinoa for Families

Rena notes you can also make muffins with the recipe

3 large zucchini (courgette)
1 onion
Flat leaf parsley and other herbs (you decide)
6 eggs
1/3 cup e.v. olive oil
1/3 -1/2 cup parmesan or similar cheese
Dried chilli flakes ( just a few or a lot, your choice) or 1-2 long red deseeded fresh chillies, finely chopped
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup puffed amaranth
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pine nuts

Grease an oven proof dish 20x30cm (8x12in)
Preheat oven to 180C (350F)
Coarsely grate the zucchini and onion
I left mine in a colander to drain for a little while
Mix eggs, oil, roughly chopped or shredded herbs, chilli flakes, salt and pepper in a good sized bowl
Add the zucchini and onion
Add dry ingredients, and stir well until all combined
Pour into oven dish
Sprinkle with pine nuts and extra grated cheese
Bake for 35-45 minutes


But “where’s the quinoa” you ask?!
The original recipe calls for 1 cup of quinoa flour.. Which I have never seen in my district.
I used the brown rice flour and puffed amaranth combination because I have both in my pantry.
You could use all brown rice flour.
I also soaked a little burghul (cracked wheat) in boiling water and once softened, it was ready to be tossed into the mix, because I can tolerate a little wheat, and wanted something a little chewy in there. A little left-over cooked brown rice would be great in here, or cooked quinoa.

Diary-free friends, what would you use instead of the cheese?

February 13, 2014

When life hands you grapes…

Posted in brisbane, cooking, food, life tagged , , , , , at 4:19 pm by Margi Macdonald

…make Grape Bavarian Cream

Adapted from Jane Grigson’s recipe

1/2 kg (1lb) green seedless grapes
125g (4oz /1/2 cup) caster sugar
(I used raw, golden Aussie castor sugar made from sugarcane, and I’m sure it added a delightful honey note)
4 leaves of gelatine
(lacto-ovo-vegetarians, let us know what you’d use. I found a so-called vegetarian gelatine, but it was made using the shells of some kind of beetle or bug, which kind of defeats the purpose, I reckon.)
Juice of half a lemon or lime ( I used lime)
1 scrunched up and smashed strip of fresh lemongrass
A sloosh of herbaceous, softly flavoured gin
(I used Hendricks, which was an unexpected, serendipitous flavour marriage. One day I’ll make this recipe with St Germain elderflower liqueur, which will probably summon fairies and elves to the bottom of the garden)
Obviously, the alcohol is optional
250ml (8 fl oz/ scant cup) pure cream, suitable for whipping

Remove grapes from their bunch, rinse well, and dry them off if you’re a bit fussy.
Jane Grigson opens her instructions by suggesting we “peel, halve and pip a quarter of the grapes”.
My servants all had the day off, so I skipped that step.
Put the remaining 3/4 of the grapes in a pan with the sugar.
Simmer gently until they soften and begin to burst.
Modern grapes have tough skins. This will take a while. Be patient. If you get bored, squish them a bit.
Impatient cooks will probably get stuck in with their potato mashers.
Once liquefying, add the citrus juice and lemongrass and simmer and stir gently for a little longer.

After a while, taste the molten grapey goodness, but be careful it’s hot!!
It will probably be far too sweet (modern grapes are bred for the sweet-toothed customer) so add more lime or lemon juice.
At this stage, you will definitely consider using less sugar next time.
When all liquefied, allow grape mixture to cool, then pass through a sieve or a mouli. Do not use a food processor or blender.
You want to have pure golden grape liquid, without any skins or pips.You should now have about 375g (or 12fl oz 11/2 cups).
Add a little water and/or more juice if needed.
Follow directions for your brand of gelatine.
Return grape liquid to the pan, and stir in the gin over a very low heat. This will help to reduce the alcohol content.
I added my soaked and squeezed gelatine leaves at this stage.
Move grape, gin and gelatine mix to the refrigerator, and leave until it’s the consistency of a fresh, raw egg white.
Whisk the cream until thick and light, with soft peaks.
I folded the grapey-runny-jelly into the cream, but Ms Grigson does it the other way round.
Set aside your prettiest grapes for decorating and stir the rest into the creamy lushness.
I placed a couple of grapes in the bottom of each serving glass, then gently poured the very lush cream into the glasses.
Cover each cup with cling-film (or you can use one “elegant dish” for the whole lot)
Place in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. Can definitely be made a day in advance.
Decorate before serving.
Serves 4
Or 8, if being delicate

Nutritional information
More sugar, cream and booze than is good for you, but heck, you’re only going to have this once every summer, so go for it!
It has been suggested by at least one dairy-free friend that coconut milk and coconut cream whipped together would be a lovely substitute for the dairy in this recipe. This has me thinking that the fruit base for this could be pureed mango, or pineapple, maybe with rum, and possibly passionfruit and toasted shredded coconut on top…you get the idea.
I’d really love to hear from vegetarian and vegan folk: what setting agent would you use, instead of gelatine?

January 20, 2014

Heatwave salad

Posted in food, health, life tagged , , , , , , , at 8:45 pm by Margi Macdonald

Too hot to think?
Too hot to move?
Need to feel cool and cleansed?
Too tired to read a recipe?

May I present… Easy carrot salad!!!




It goes well with other salads


And on cooler days and nights, is lovely with pan-fried haloumi or eggplant slices.
For added protein, throw in a handful of nuts.


Salad preparation and clean-up is easy, and almost carbon-neutral!


July 21, 2013

The day was kind…

Posted in brisbane, cooking, food, health, life tagged , , , at 8:16 pm by Margi Macdonald


We visited a market new-to-us today.
And we were happy.
How was your day?

March 19, 2012

Good for soup and symphonies…

Posted in cooking, food, health, music tagged , , , , , , at 3:35 pm by Margi Macdonald

Sometimes when we’re thinking about dinner, and the shift from summer to autumn, our thoughts turn to soup.

You know, soups made from scratch, with a foundation of homemade stock and that great soupy trinity of carrot, celery and onion (or leek).

Sometimes when we’re pottering about on locavore and sustainability websites, we come across a gem such as this.

Now…I’d love to know about your all-time favourite soup; why you like it, memories made while supping its nurturing deliciousness, super-soup ingredients… all of that. Please share with a comment!

Convinced soup-making is all together too time-consuming?  You need this.

January 17, 2012

Distilling orange blossom and rose petals

Posted in food, fragrance, life tagged , , , , , at 7:00 am by Margi Macdonald

It is in the dark kitchen that you must watch the working of the still, the brazier, the mass of red copper, the brightly dressed servant, the whiteness of orange blossom and the softness of rose petals which produce the intoxicating smell. The whole atmosphere is violent and mysterious, which is doubtless necessary for the distillation of these subtle perfumes.

A kanoun and a qettara are the essential equipment. The qettara or copper still is divided into three: the lower part an ordinary taoua in which the water is boiled; on top the kskas with holes in it, to hold the flowers, and finally the qettara, a receptacle with two tubes, one to take the steam from the water which has just come through the petals and let it cool, the other used for emptying the still when the water intended for the purpose of condensing into steam is reheated. In a bottle placed at the end of the first tube you will obtain 12 pints of this precious liquid, ready for use in the kitchen or as toilet water.

From Madame Guinaudeau’s Traditional Moroccan Cooking: Recipes from Fez, first published in 1958 as Fès vu par sa cuisine. Mme Guinaudeau, a Frenchwoman married to a doctor practicing in Fez, lived for more than three decades in the city where she researched and wrote the book.

January 13, 2012

Messing with pomegranates and rose water

Posted in brisbane, cooking, food, health, life tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:23 pm by Margi Macdonald

We are lucky to have fresh pomegranates available this summer.

A fan of the opulent colour, sweet-sour taste and reputed health benefits, I’ve been drinking prepared pomegranate juice for a while now.

Recently with time on my hands, and holiday-season catering in full-swing, the time was right to experiment with the fresh fruits.

Without pre-reading any recipes, I set about extracting the seeds and juice with a spoon. Violet-ruby juice splattered our kitchen and so too my white T-shirt. My daughter later told me that the most effective method is to place the pomegranate in a snap-lock plastic bag, and gently beat it with a rolling-pin until you feel the seeds popping inside the fruit. It’s then a simple matter of removing the fruit from the bag, slitting the skin with a knife, and gently squeezing the juice into a suitable receptacle.

I eventually made Pomegranate and Quince Relish to go with our summer feasts. Here’s how:

In a small, heavy-based saucepan sweat a thinly sliced, large red onion in a little water or olive oil until the onion is soft and translucent. Keep the heat low, as you don’t want browning or scorching. When onion is very soft, add a heaping teaspoon of quince paste and a tiny splash of water, and stir vigorously until the paste if fully dissolved. You may need a little extra water if the paste is not easily dissolving. Add the juice of half a lime – if no limes, you can use lemon juice or verjuice or white wine vinegar  – and keep stirring. Wooden or silicone spoons are the best tools for this job. When the quince paste is fully dissolved, add pomegranate seeds and juice of one fruit, and keep stirring until fully mixed. Sprinkle in a smidge of ground cinnamon and stir very well. A turn of the pepper mill with white pepper is probably a nice addition. Taste and see if you need to adjust sourness (add lime), sweetness (add quince paste) or spice. If too wet, keep stirring and cooking until the excess moisture has evaporated. Store in a pre-sterilized jar.**see below

This pomegranate relish is delightful to the eye and the taste buds. It’s a richly hued, sweet-sour accent to salty, smoked or cured meats and sausages, it’s fantastic over hot fresh haloumi on a bed of rocket leaves, and for all I know, it may even be nice with tempeh.

Pomegranate sherbet… the drink of love, or the great panacea for horribly hot days and nights?

Makes about 1.1 litres (2 pints)

2-3 large pomegranates

175 g (6 oz) sugar, or more

5 ml rose-flower water

Squeeze or press pomegranates all over until the fruit is quite pulpy and soft to the touch. Holding the pomegranate inside a deep bowl, carefully make a slit in the skin with a very sharp knife and carefully squeeze the juice – the juice will stain everything it touches. Squeeze gently to extract all juice. Dissolve the sugar in 600 ml (1 pint) of water, then add the juice. Taste to see if you need more sugar, as the sourness of this fruit is variable. Pour into a jug and chill well. Add ice, sprinkle on the rose-water and serve with more iced water if wished.

A wonderfully exotic, deep purple drink, popular in Persia and also Iraq….I love its bitter-sweet flavour. It also makes a spectacular jelly, Try to buy plump-looking pomegranates – dry wizened specimens will have no juice. Rosamond Man. The Complete Meze Table

Be sure to bookmark this page and come back, as the next post will explore not-quite-101-things to do with rose-water.

**Keeping it nice: We stored our relish in an old salsa jar which we ‘pre-sterilized’ by boiling in a big pot of water, being sure to include the lid of the jar. As the jar and lid must be dry and scrupulously clean before adding the relish, we dried them in the oven at low temperature with the fan on, and made sure we didn’t touch the inside of the jar or lid . Once you have all the relish safely stored, you may lick the spoon!

For some – unverified nutritional and other information about pomegranates, go here and here

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