Saturday, March 13, 2010

Recipe - Haloumi, fig & pomegranate salad

On the same page of the Donna Hay cookbook, Seasons, as the Fig & Goats Cheese Tarts, is this recipe for a haloumi, fig & pomegranate salad.


1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
250g haloumi, thinly sliced
1 cup mint leaves
100g rocket (or arugula if you're American)
8 green figs, halved (I used ripe lovely brown ones)
1 pomegranate, seeds & juice removed (Warning: wear an apron!! Pomegranate seeds jump further than beetroot)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (I used the fabulously delectable Italian vino cotto)
2 tbsp olive oil, extra


Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat.  Cook the haloumi for 2-3 minutes each side or until crispy.  Place the haloumi, mint, rocket, figs, pomegranate seeds & juice in a bowl, drizzle with vinegar and extra olive oil and toss to combine. Serves 4.

Recipe - fig and goats cheese tarts

 I reckon Eve was tempted not by an apple or a pomegranate, but a fig.  If Adam was waving one of those babies at me I'd think that original sin was a good idea too.  I love figs and I love goats cheese, so when I saw this recipe in Donna Hay's beautiful Seasons cookbook I had to make it.

All the ingredients are available at our wonderful farmers markets (bar the frozen pastry). Figs are in season NOW so make the most of their availability, I promise you won't regret it!


2 x 200g sheets store-bought shortcrust pastry.  I used puff and it worked just fine
125g goats cheese
4 black figs, halved
3 eggs
3/4 cup (185ml) single (pouring) cream: next time I will just use organic milk & see what happens
1 tbsp chopped chives
1/4 cup (20g) finely grated good quality parmesan cheese
sea salt & cracked black pepper


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (355F).  Cut each pastry sheet into 4 squares. Line 8 lightly greased 8cm-round, fluted tart tins with pastry.  I had a pie maker with ceramic tart cases so I used those instead.  If you have them, you should ensure they're dusted with flour so they don't stick.  I had to spear mine out with a sharp knife....

Trim excess pastry and lightly prick bases with a fork.  Divide the goat's curd and fig halves among the cases.  Place the eggs, cream, chives, parmesan, salt & pepper in a bowl and whisk until well combined.

Pour the egg mixture into the cases and bake for 25 minutes or until puffed and set.

 The recipe says to cool to room temperature, but I like them a little warm.  Makes 8.  Serve with rocket, parmesan and pine nut salad.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Recipe - Marshmallow cupcakes "for the kids"

I'm not sure if this recipe exists in its pure form somewhere (I assume it does), however today I achieved two momentous things:
  1. I successfully baked; and
  2. I created my own recipe, and it not only worked, but was damned delicious!
Nigella Lawson had a theory that you were one of two people: a baker or a cook and never the twain shall meet.  Well, until she mastered the art of baking.  So I figured if an international cook with a swag of cookbooks, TV shows and years of experience can do it, so can I.  Right ?!?!?!

I, like Nigella used to be (before she mastered both), regard myself as a cook.  I can taste something in a restaurant and pick the flavours and sometimes if I'm lucky enough (and the dish isn't too complicated or elaborate), I can cook it at home.

However, give me a shortbread recipe and I develop recipe dyslexia.  Huh?  How many grams of unsalted what?

So today, after having created these incredibly delicious and decadent baby cakes, I was so excited with my efforts I had to blog the recipe immediately.  After all, if I can bake it, anyone can.

I adapted the Taste Basic Cupcake Recipe. Click here for the cupcake recipe.  I also referred to the Exclusively Food Vanilla Cupcake Recipe and adaped the icing recipe. Click here for the icing recipe.

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 3 eggs- I brought them to room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup milk
  •  My addition: 1/4 to 1/2 packet marshmallows, quartered (with about 12 aside for icing). I am a cook after all, just throw in as many as you want!
  • 175g (1 1/4 cups) pure icing sugar, sifted
  • 5g (1 teaspoon) butter, softened
  • 22ml (1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon) boiling water
  • My addition: couple of drops of cochineal
  • My addition: couple of drops of strawberry essence (entirely optional as it is quite OTT)

Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced oven. This is the first time I've seen an alteration for a fan-forced oven.  No wonder I had been going wrong.  Line muffin or mini-muffin pans with paper cases.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter, vanilla and sugar in a small bowl, starting on low speed and increasing to high once the sugar is mixed in.  Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition (mixture will separate at this stage). Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in half the flour. Stir in half the milk. Repeat with remaining flour and milk until combined.  Add marshmallow pieces.

But don't overmix, just combine.

For 1/3 cup-capacity muffin pans use 2 level tablespoons of mixture. Of course, I was liberal with my spoon measurements. I just kind of plonked it in. Almost to the top but not bursting. More of a respectable fill.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes. Alternatively, for 1 tablespoon-capacity mini muffin pans use 1 tablespoon mixture. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

If you filled your cupcake cases as much as I did, some of the marshmallow near the top will have oozed out over the edges.  It becomes very sticky and toffee-like, so you should hoik them out of the muffin tins asap.  Try not to squish them too much.  Hoiking them out is a fine art. 

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. You can see that I am sprung.  I hedged my bets by halving the mix & making choc-chip cupakes as well.


Stir icing sugar, butter, cochineal, strawberry essence and boiling water together in a small bowl until smooth.  Ice immediately, adding a marshmallow on top.  If you're like me, you'll need to add the occasional extra teaspoon of boiling water if the mixture sets mid-glazing.

Happy baking, from a newly crowned baker ;-)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Recipe - Vietnamese chicken salad

I was watching the Lifestyle Channel the other night & stumbled across one of Bill Grangers cooking shows. It was perfect timing, really.  He made his Vietnamese Chicken Salad which is exactly what me & Mr YourLocalMarkets needed after what seemed like a few too many successive nights of red meat.

The recipe was pretty basic (important for this pretend cook!) so I decided to make it the next night. And the best thing is that there was a lot of food, mostly raw, crunchy & light and I felt great after I ate it. And the next morning I had loads of energy in my spin class. Yey!

Chicken Salad

  • 3 pieces 200g chicken breast fillets
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • sea salt
  • White pepper use black if that is all you have
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cup Vietnamese mint leaf
  • 1 cup Asian basil leaf or basil leaves
  • 4 cups Chinese cabbages finely shredded (I used about 1/4 chinese cabbage & this was HEAPS)
  • 1 cup carrot peeled and finely julienned
I also added some crushed peanuts to sprinkle at the end.

  • 60 ml Lime juice
  • 60 ml Fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 2 very finely chopped Garlic Cloves optional ( I used 1)
  • 3 finely sliced red Asian shallots or 1/2 red onion (I only used 1 shallot)
  • 2 small very finely chopped Red chilli's remove the seeds if you don't like the heat (I only used 1 chilli & it was hot enough, but I'm a woos sometimes)

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7).
  • Heat a frying pan over a high heat, and while the pan is heating, brush the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the chicken skin-side down and sear for 2 minutes, turn and sear for another minute.
  • Put the chicken on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Shred the chicken into thin strips with your hands and place in a large bowl.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Serves 4.  If making it for 2, don't dress the whole salad, just serve it into bowls or onto plates & dress separately & you'll have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Recipe - Sage roasted free range pork belly

I bought some free range pork from the delightful folk at Ormiston Free Range Pork who are based in Mudgee but we do have lovely free range meats at Your Local Markets on the Gold Coast in Queensland that you can use for this recipe.

This recipe is courtesy of Donna Hay's beautiful "Seasons" cookbook.  I've also added a homemade apple sauce to go with the pork.


2 heads of garlic (I used one)
1/4 cup olive oil
2.3 kg pork belly, on the bone (I used a kilo as there were only 2 of us)
1/3 cup sea salt flakes
4 bunches sage

Apple sauce
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into thin slices
1 cup water
3 tbs caster sugar
squeeze lemon juice
sprinkle of ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (350F).  Arrange the garlic over the base of a baking dish.  Rub the olive oil all over the pork and rub the salt into the skin.  Place skin side down on top of the garlic and cook for 3 hours.

While the pork is cooking, drop the apples, water, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon into a saucepan.

Simmer over a low heat until water reduces significantly (so that you can just see the water amongst the apple pieces).  Cool and then blend or spoon into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Or you can leave it a little chunky if you like it like that. I blended mine into a smooth apple sauce.

Back to the pork: Increase the heat to 180C (355F).  Turn over the pork, add the sage.  and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the skin is golden and crunchy.


This was truly-ruly, voted by 2 roast pork piglets as "the best roast pork ever cooked in our house".

Serves 4-6, depending on how hungry and piggy your guest are ;-)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Recipe - Chinese roast duck salad & pineapple with cashew nuts & chilli lime dressing

This recipe comes courtesy of Neil Perry's "Good Food" cookbook.  The chinese ducks are available roasted from any good chinese barbeque shop.  I would not even attempt to roast one myself, even if my chef brother has assured me it is easy.

I also added lychees.  Because they're yet another thing I'm obsessed with.

1 Chinese roast duck, flesh and skin sliced (you can ask them to do it for you)
1 sweet pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into bite sized chunks
About 10 lychees, with the seed removed and torn into a few bits
2 lebanese cucumbers, halved lengthways and sliced on the diagonal
10 cherry tomatoes (I always add more)
4 French shallots, halved and thinly sliced (although for non-onion fans, it does not lose anything if you omit like I did)
90g (3 1/4 oz/1 cup) bean sprouts
1 handful coriander (cilantro) leaves
1 small handful mint leaves
2 spring onions (scallions) sliced on the diagonal (same comment applies to the shallots)
sea salt
100g (3 1/2 oz/ 2/3 cup) cashew nuts, roasted until golden, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove
3 wild green chillis, roughly chopped (I used 1 small red chilli)
sea salt
1 tbs caster sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
juice of 2 limes

Serves 4


Prepare the dressing first.  In a mortar, place the garlic, chilli and a pinch of salt and pound with a pestle until a paste forms.

Add the sugar, fish sauce and lime juice to taste and stir to combine.

For the salad, put all the ingredients except the cashew nuts in a bowl, add dressing and mix well.

Divide the salad among four large plates or bowls and sprinkle with the cashews.

Recipe - Grilled zucchini with caprese salad and pesto (Meatless Monday)

This recipe comes courtesy of the March 2010 edition of Delicious Magazine.  However I substituted freshly made pesto for the rocket salsa.  If you're interested in the original recipe, click here.

Searching high and low for some interesting "Meatless Monday" dishes I stumbled across this in the March 2010 edition of Delicious Magazine and decided to give it a whirl.  The recipe recommends serving with a meat-based dish, which of course you can do, but this served 2 of us (with a big salad) for Meatless Monday.  It was so good this will form part of my repetoire until Mr Your Local Markets gives me the old nudge to let me know (gently) that he's sick of it.


4 zucchini, very thinly sliced lengthways
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeds removed, chopped. I used beautiful grape cherry tomatoes for their flavour.
2 x 120g buffalo mozzarella balls*, drained, chopped. I substituted this for Mudgee Persian Fetta.
1/2 cup basil leaves

Pesto Sauce

1 cup basil leaves, stems removed
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Handful good quality parmesan cheese or Grana Padano
1/2 cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs lightly toasted pine nuts
Salt to season


For pesto, combine all dry ingredients in blender or food processor and blend, drizzling oil in as you go.  Feel free to use less or more oil, as I don't measure, I guess quantities ;-)  This is why I am a lousy baker.

Preheat char grill or barbecue to medium-high. Brush zucchini with oil and grill, turning once, for 5 minutes until lightly charred. Arrange zucchini on a platter and top with tomato and mozzarella/fetta. Season, then drizzle with pesto and garnish with basil leaves.

Recipe - Paprika spatchcock with tabbouleh, rocket salad and yoghurt

This recipe comes courtesy of the March 2010 edition of Delicious Magazine.  This was my first attempt at cooking spatchcock, so I wanted it to be yummy.  I searched around for a suitable spatchcock recipe and when I couldn't find one, I found inspiration in the Delicious Magazine I had bought the previous day.

I substituted chicken for these free-range Thirlmere spatchcock from Urban Food Market.  I also substituted quinoa with cracked wheat, but a chunky variety, just because it looked a little different.


1 cup (200 g) cracked wheat or quinoa
1 bunch flat leaf parsely, leaves picked, finely chopped
2 tbs finely chopped mint or coriander (I used mint, and used more)
8 cherry tomatoes, however don't restrict yourself.  Feel free to bump up the raw food intake in all meals!
3 spring onions (I only used one - not a huge fan - and sliced it really finely)
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin oilive oil (I reduced the amount because it felt like A LOT of oil!)
2 tbs lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp paprika, plus extra to sprinkle
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp caster sugar
100g low fat thick greek yoghurt
1 tbs olive oil
Few handfuls of rocket
pine nuts
oil & lemon juice for rocket salad

Prepare the cracked wheat or quinoa according to the packet directions.  Allow to cool after cooking. Add herbs, tomato and spring onions and toss to combine.

Combine oil, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp paprika (warning, not all of it like I did), cumin, cayenne pepper and sugar, then season.

Place yoghurt in a bowl and drizzle over 2 tsp dressing, then sprinkle with some paprika.  Toss cracked wheat or quinoa salad in remaining dressing.

Toss rocket, pine nuts, oil and lemon.

Preheat grill or barbeque to medium-high.  Mix oil and remaining paprika, season, then brush over spatchcock.  Grill until cooked (ensure flesh is not pink, but cooked through). Ours took around 20 mins.

Serve with cracked wheat or quinoa salad, rocket salad and yoghurt.

Recipe - Moroccan Dinner Party: Saffron scented fresh figs with cinnamon and honey

This recipe is courtesy of

If fresh figs are in season, this is your lucky day.  This dish is incredibly quick, simple and delicious.  You will receive "oohs" and "ahhs" and the great thing is that it actually looks and tastes impressive.


50 g white sugar, I used castor sugar
saffron (1 large pinch)
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons honey
8 fresh figs, cut in half lengthways (or 2 figs per person)
150 g thick sweetened Greek yogurt, to serve
Gound cinnamon to serve


Place 300ml cold water, the sugar, saffron, cinnamon stick and honey in a large pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Bring to the boil gently and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the syrup has reduced slightly.

You will see that the syrup will turn a beautiful amber colour and you'll be able to smell the saffron and hints of cinnamon.

Add the figs and simmer for a further 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick.

Serve the figs warm with the yogurt and drizzled with the saffron syrup. I also sprinkled some ground cinnamon over the top.

Recipe - Moroccan Dinner Party: Couscous salad with dried apricots and mint

This recipe is also courtesy of and is the copyright of Readers Digest.

I can't believe I didn't take any photos of this dish.  Actually, yes I can.  I totally forgot to photograph all the final dishes, but I did take a photo of the left overs the night after, and you can see the "gourmet cous cous" I used (being Gabriel Gate's Couscous Pearls):


1 cup couscous (I used the "gourmet" variety for something different, which was fun)
½ cup dried apricots, diced
⅓ cup currants
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 garlic clove, crushed
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 spring onions, chopped
⅓ cup chopped fresh mint
⅓ cup toasted pine nuts, or shelled, chopped pistachios (I used pine nuts because I am pine nut obsessed)

If using the gourmet pearly-type couscous (which I think is actually pasta), follow the instructions on the pack.  Place couscous, apricots and currants in a heatproof bowl. Pour over 1 cup boiling water, stir, cover and stand for 5 minutes.  Fluff up with a fork.  Cool.

Combine oil, orange juice, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon, garlic and pepper in a medium bowl or a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Whisk or shake to blend.

Combine couscous, spring onions and mint in a large bowl.  Add orange juice dressing and toss to coat well.  Just before serving, sprinkle with nuts.  The salad will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a day.

Recipe - Moroccan Dinner Party: Butternut pumpkin with honey and raisins

This recipe also comes courtesy of and is the copyright of Readers Digest.


1 butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
100 ml vegetable stock, hot
2 teaspoons Moroccan seasoning or Middle Eastern spice blend (such as harissa)
⅓ cup raisins (although as an American recipe I think they mean sultanas.  I used sultanas mainly because I couldn't find raisins)
2 teaspoons honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few fresh chives to garnish


Put the pumpkin, onions and garlic in a saucepan, pour over the stock, then cover and cook gently for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle the vegetables with the seasoning or spice blend and add the raisins and honey.

Season with salt and pepper, stir well, then cover and cook gently for a further 10–15 minutes until the pumpkin is tender and the stock has evaporated.

Scoop the pumpkin mixture into a serving dish and garnish with fresh chives.  You will find that the pumpkin will be very soft and squashy.  I quite liked it like that, but if you like your pumpkin firmer, reduce the overall cooking time by at least 10 minutes, and test as you go.

Recipe - Moroccan Dinner Party: Braised Snapper with chermoula

So I got it in my head that I wanted to do a Moroccan themed dinner party, then realised I didn't have any Moroccan cookbooks. D'oh.

However, having had great success with Google previously, I googled "Moroccan Recipes" and chose the simple and most appropriate recipes to cook.

This recipe comes from (copyright of Readers Digest) and the dinner party menu was as follows:

  • Braised Whole Snapper with Chermoula
  • Butternut pumpkin with honey and raisins
  • Couscous salad with dried apricots & mint
  • Saffron scented fresh figs with cinnamon and honey

This recipe called for whole sea bass, but there was none available and so I substituted whole snapper instead. Always use what is in season!


1 whole sea bass or snapper, salmon, jewfish or firm white fish (about 1kg)
4 garlic cloves
1 small red chilli, seeded
40 g fresh coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
1 lemon, juiced
175 g thin green beans, halved
600 g floury potatoes, peeled
2 spring onions, finely chopped (I'm not a huge fan of onions & sping onions, so I just popped 2 whole ones in with the fish)
250 g grape or cherry tomatoes - I used beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes from the markets for their colour & size differences
⅓ cup (50 g) pitted black olives
300 ml diluted or homemade fish stock, hot


Cut about six deep, diagonal slashes in the flesh on each side of the fish. Place it in a wide, non-metallic dish.  

Put the garlic, chilli, coriander, paprika, cumin, oil and lemon juice in a food processor and process until blended finely.  Season to taste.  Spread about half of the chermoula inside the fish and into the slashes. 

Cover the fish and the remaining chermoula, and leave in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to marinate.  

Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Drop the beans into a saucepan of boiling water and blanch for 1 minute, then drain and refresh in cold water.  Thinly slice the potatoes and spread in a shallow layer with the spring onions in a wide, deep ovenproof dish.  Scatter the beans, tomatoes and olives over the top.  

Pour the stock over the vegetables and place the fish on top. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 40–50 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.  

Serve the whole fish with the vegetables on a platter, with the reserved chermoula as a sauce.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Recipe - Lip-smacking, low fat mango icecream

In December 09 I went to my hubby's work Christmas dinner. It was held at his colleagues' place - Sam and John's, to be precise - in Bondi, overlooking the beach.  They served the most beautiful organic food and then at the end of the meal, when I thought I couldn't eat any more, they presented us with this irresistable mango icecream.

I am the kind of person who will put mango in just about any kind of salad, and during the peak of the mango season have been known to just eat it for lunch with avocado & balsamic vinegar.  Or I buy a whole box, take a photo and then plough my way through them.

So naturally after I hoovered this dessert and heard that Sam & John had made it themselves, I hassled them mercilessly for the recipe.  And I'm not really a dessert maker.  More a dessert eater.  Since then I've made this recipe 4 times.

Sam's mum Sian was the keeper of the recipe and the delightful Sam and John graciously passed it on to me!

This is one of the world's easiest recipes - and its like eating pure, frozen, sweet mango. AND its much lower in fat than other icecreams.  There's no cream in this and if you use reduced fat evaporated milk, there is barely any fat at all.  So basically, it's like eating mango air ;-)

Sian's Mango Icecream Recipe

4-6 Mangoes
1/2 – 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
1 unbeaten egg white
1 large cup of low fat (carnation) evaporated milk. Not sure what this means??  A cup is a cup! Maybe be heavy handed in your measuring

Melt sugar in water (on stove) and cool.  Or if you're impatient like me, pop the saucepan in your freezer.  It will cool very quickly!

Put mango pulp in blender with lemon juice & pureè.



Add dissolved sugar, carnation milk, unbeaten egg white & mix well.

Pour into plastic container & place in freezer.

Take out when partly frozen and beat well. I used an electic beater and whipped it quite well.  Place back in freezer and freeze for several hours.  Its common sense, but it freezes more quickly if you put it in a big, flat container and the mixture is only about 5cms high.

To serve

Take out of freezer and place in ordinary fridge for approximately 1-1/2 hours before serving.  Or if you're somewhere hot, just take it out of the freezer for half an hour.  Use an icecream scoop for a professional looking ball of icecream and serve with fresh berries.

I don't mind admitting that I just ate a little of this icecream with berries for breakfast - the dangers of a mid-morning photo shoot ;-)  Ahh, not bad work if you can get it.


Recipe - Nanna's Famous Shortbread

My beautiful nanna, Joan, died just before Christmas 2009.  She was 93 when she died suddently and was an amazing woman.  Educated, opinionated, feminist and smart.  Definitely before her time. Or maybe not.  She set a fabulous example for her children, grand children and great-grand children.

Every Christmas (until a year or two ago) she would make her famous, and utterly delicious, perfectly buttery, dry melt-in-your mouth shortbread for family members.  The gift became highly prized and around my family, the jar of Christmas shortbread became something to be protected from sibling five-finger-discounts.  We took our eyes off the prize at our peril - because they'd miraculously disappear...

In honour of Joan, I tried to make some of her shortbread.  Tried, being the operative word here.  I tried at least 3 times.  I discovered not only that I am a cook (intuitive) rather than a baker (precise) and that the baking of shortbread is more complicated than I thought.

Or perhaps I'm just a domestic ditz....

I discovered, quite quickly, that too much beating of the mixture, especially during a hot summer, will make the biscuits crunchy on the bottom and they won't hold their shape once they're in the oven and kind of become blob-like instead of the desired pert little bikkies. You also shouldn't handle them any more than is necessary.  There's no need to aim for a perfect little round ball that will become a perfectly round shortbread.  It seems the oven takes care of proportions and shapes quite nicely, thank you.

And another tip.  My cousin, who annoyingly made the shortbread perfectly first go, said she beat the whole mixture with a wooden spoon (and with my Poppa by her side).  So the key here could also be not to overmix.  Repeat after me.  Do not overmix.  Do not overmix.

But don't let this put you off!  Give it a go and see whether you can conquer this culinary Everest.  Even the dodgey ones will still taste DELICIOUS.  Ironically I still had no shortage of guinea pig relatives willing to risk health and happiness to sample my shortblobs.

Nanna's shortbread recipe

250g butter, softened
125g icing sugar (sifted)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
250g plain flour & 30g corn flour (mix these together and sift).

Cream butter & icing sugar until well-mixed.  Add vanilla & salt. Add plain flour/cornflour mix until mixed together. Do this with a wooden spoon rather than a beater.  Stir until just mixed.

Scoop teaspoons of the mixture with 2 teaspoons (otherwise the mixture gets too gooey and this effects the end result, believe me). Roll quickly in a ball and flatten slightly with a fork and make a cross shape with the prongs.


Cook in 180 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until very light brown.  Remove after 5-10 minutes and place on wire racks to cool.

For an authentic nanna look, place baked biscuits in a Moccona  jar & add a circle of Christmas fabric with a rubber band & red or green ribbon.  I put mine in some fancy-schmancy trays with red cellophane.  A word of warning about red cellophane.  The colour will come off on the shortbread. I learned this the hard way, so I recommend clear cellophane if you are inclined to use it ;-)

Recipe - Roasted Roma Tomatoes

As best I can remember from my dusty culinary memory, in her first cookbook, Donna Hay included a recipe for roasted roma tomatoes.  They weren't any ordinary tomatoes, no siree.  They have sugar in the mixture.  The sugar brings out the flavour in the tomatoes and just add that extra zing you need (and transforms a salad or pasta dish).

The recipe is easy-peasy.  I cook these every week and my tomatoes encourage me to eat salads day in, day out.  So even though they've got sugar in them, I figure eating salads most day is good for me, no?  Plus cooked tomatoes contain lycopene, which is a great antioxidant and prevents cancer.

Donna Hay's famous roasted tomatoes


Bag of roma tomatoes, the riper the better
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed down hard
2 tablespoons olive oil.


Cut roma tomatoes in half length-wise and place face down in tray. Combine all ingredients. Pour over tomatoes.  Easy, huh?


Bake in oven 180 degrees centigrade for between an hour & an hour & a half, until mixture thickens and goes a bit gooey/toffey-like.

These can be used in any tomato-based pasta dish, like the Pancetta & Tomato Pasta Recipe on our blog.  Or, if you find salads boring, these will entice you into serial salad territory on a regular basis (think rocket, goats cheese, pine nuts....).

Warning - you will become addicted!