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Monday, December 29, 2008

Flower Ice Bowls

Flower ice bowls are very beautiful things and are the ultimate container for a very special occasion. If only they lasted more than 30 minutes! I have made individual bowls here today to serve chilled soup, but one large bowl looks very dramatic filled with prawns, sorbet or ice cream scoops – or anything that needs keeping cold.

I have used flat-bottomed jelly and pudding moulds to keep the job simple. Round moulds are more common but require an ice stand to prevent tipping (see below). Choose your favourite flowers and foliage BUT nothing poisonous, like Oleander! I used blue Plumbago and the turning leaves of our Manchurian Pear trees.


Two round bowls, one two thirds smaller than the other. An extra bowl for the stand, a sharp knife, crushed or shaved ice for joining.


* Two flat-bottom bowls, one two thirds smaller than the other

* Small flowers and foliage of your choice

* Ceramic baking beads or a heavy weight for the smaller bowl in the freezer

* Ice cubes to weigh the flowers and foliage down


Pour about a cup of water into the bottom of the larger bowl and freeze. Remove from freezer and place the smaller bowl on top of the frozen ice. Fill the small bowl with ceramic baking beads or something heavy to weigh it down. The tops of both bowls should be level with each other.

Pour a little cold water down between the sides of the two bowls, add some flowers and foliage, hold these in place with ice cubes to prevent them rising to the surface (you may have to smash the cubes to fit them down the sides). Put the two bowls back in the freezer.

Repeat the process in several stages (depending on the size of your bowl) until you have reached the top. Freeze for 24 hours until solid.

Round bottomed bowls need a stand:

Freeze about a cup (250ml) of water in an extra bowl, un-mould it, up-turn it and use the top as the base. Attach the stand to the bottom of the bowl by scratching the two surfaces with a sharp knife, dipped in boiling water then join them with some crushed or shaved ice.

To un-mould:

Lay out a large serving plate or individual plates with a napkin in the centre of each to soak up the water and provide stability. White linen would be very attractive and looks so much nicer than paper.

Remove the weight from the smaller bowl and pour a little warm water into it. It will lift out immediately – do not waste time here – you do not want your ice bowl to start melting! Dip the bottom of the large bowl into a dish of warm water and carefully prise it from the ice. Repeat with your stand (if applicable), slash with the knife and connect the two pieces with the crushed/shaved ice.

Check for cracks or thin ice before filling – just in case and particularly if you are using the bowl for soup! Serve immediately.

Note: line the ice bowl with a piece of foil if serving ice cream or sorbet scoops.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Weights, Measures & Temperatures

All my recipe measurements are in Metric with a tablespoon equivalent: 15ml (three teaspoons) and not the Australian tablespoon: 20ml (4 teaspoons)

Imperial liquid/dry measures to Metric liquid/dry measures:

2 fl oz = 60ml
3 fl oz = 80ml
4 fl oz = 125ml
5 fl oz/ = 160ml
6 fl oz = 180ml
8 fl oz = 250ml
10 fl oz = 310ml
12 fl oz = 375ml
14 fl oz = 425ml
16 fl oz = 500ml
20 fl oz = 625ml
32 fl oz = 1000ml/1 litre

Imperial to Metric dry measures:

½ oz = 15g
1 oz = 30g
2 oz = 60g
3 oz = 90g
4 oz = 120g
5 oz = 155g
6 oz = 185g
7 oz = 220g
8 oz = 250g
9 oz = 280g
10 oz = 315g
11oz = 375g
13 oz = 410g
14 oz = 440g
15 oz = 470g
16 oz = 500g
24 oz = 750g

Spoon measurements:

1 tablespoon = 15ml
1 dessert spoon = 10ml
1 teaspoon = 5ml
½ teaspoon = 2.5ml


It is safer to weigh ingredients especially if you are converting from metric to imperial. It is very easy to forget that ingredients vary in weight, i.e. one cup of sugar is not the same as 1 cup of flour!

(In baking, it is critical to weigh accurately no matter what system you use)

Ingredient conversions:

8 oz flour = 300g = 2 x (250ml) cup
8 oz sugar = 220g = 1 x (250ml) cup

1 oz flour = 30g = 3 x (15ml) tablespoons
1 oz sugar = 30g =2 x (15ml) tablespoons

1 0z butter = 30g * 8 oz butter = 250g

Conversions are pre-determined in my posted recipes. I have listed the above few for information only.

Ovens and temperatures:

I cook on Ilve, Gaggenau and Lacanche ranges – all three are superb cookers but despite their accuracy, I like to use an oven thermometer. This is especially important for the fan-forced oven when the stated temperature must drop by 25ºF or 20ºC.

Approximate temperature equivalents:

Very slow: 250ºF 120ºC
Slow: 300ºF 150ºC
Moderately Slow: 320ºF 160ºC
Moderate: 350ºF 180ºC
Moderately Hot: 375ºF 190ºC
Hot: 400ºF 200ºC
Very Hot: 450ºF 230ºC

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Terrine

Have a change from leftover turkey and ham and liven up your plate with this brightly coloured terrine! This is my adapation of a Donna Hay recipe published in her magazine, Celebrate.

Preheat oven: 180˚C
Equipment: 7x9x6 terrine lightly greased, baking pan, tea towel

475g coarse chicken mince
475g coarse pork mince
2 rashers bacon, rind removed and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves, chopped
1cup dried cranberries
½ cup raw pistachio nuts
½-tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoons Jamaican all spice
½-cup port
2 eggs

Line terrine with overlapping slices of proscuitto.

Place chicken, pork mince, bacon, garlic, tarragon, cranberries, pistachios, salt, allspice, port and eggs in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Press mixture into the terrine and close proscuitto flaps to cover.

Place a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the terrine then the lid (if there is one). Place a folded tea towel in the baking dish and place the terrine on top. Boil the kettle and fill baking dish with boiling water to about half way up to the sides of the terrine. Place in the pre-heated over.

Cook for 1.5 hours or until firm. Test after the first hour with a fine skewer to see how it is doing. Remove from the water bath, weigh down and refrigerate overnight. Unmould and slice with a hot knife to serve.

Serves: 8-10

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fennel and Oyster Soup

Hot or Cold Climate Soup…………

Come what may this sumptuous soup goes on my Christmas menu! It is simple and elegant and its smooth velvety texture compliments oysters superbly. Creamy Pacific’s from Tasmania would be perfect but they are very rich, two each would be adequate. Depending on your hemisphere serve this soup hot, the warmth of the soup takes the chill off the oysters, or icy cold, then sit back and enjoy the accolades!

Serves: 6

2-3 large fennel bulbs, finely chopped, cores removed, frond tips chopped and reserved for garnish
1-bunch spring onions, whites only, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1ooml olive oil
1.5L fish stock
Salt and white pepper
150ml double cream
50ml double cream for garnish
24 freshly shucked oysters or 12 if using Pacific’s


Heat oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté onions until translucent. Add fennel and garlic, toss to coat well with the oil, add fish stock and bring slowly to a simmer. Cook approximately twenty minutes until the fennel has softened. Purée stock and vegetables in a blender (this gives the soup a smoother finish than a food processor) then pass through a fine sieve to remove excess fibre. Return soup to a clean saucepan, season with salt and pepper and stir in double cream.

To Serve: ladle into hot/cold bowls, float two-four oysters on the top, swirl a little cream over them and garnish with fennel fronds.

* This is my adaptation of an original recipe published by Maggie Beer

Variation: Use scallops instead of oysters. Quickly sear them in a little oil, 1-2 minutes each side before adding to the soup

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Weekly Post!

Some good news if you live in Sydney from Stiggy who tells me the berry man at is fantastic for great deals on fresh/frozen berries (especially blueberries) and he home delivers!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Making Verjuice/Verjus

Today we had to drop a little fruit from our Sangiovese vines so I took the opportunity to make a quick batch of verjuice. It really is simple to make, finding the grapes may be less so!

You will need 1.5kg of green (unripened) grapes picked just before veraison (the stage at which the colour turns - generally 2 months before harvest).

Remove the berries from the storks, wash and drain them thoroughly.
Whiz in batches in a food processor then press through a fine sieve to remove the pulp and seeds. Pour extracted juice into a jug and fill ice-cube trays.

Try to get them into the freezer quickly to avoid oxidization. Defrost and use as required.

Yield: 700ml = 40 cubes

I mainly use verjuice to deglaze the pan after cooking fish or chicken or as an alternative to lemon juice but it has many other uses. It is both acidic and tart without being harsh and when heated it gets very sticky -great for an instant sheen! Verjuice is available commercially but it is fun to make your own if green grapes are available.

If you have ice-ball trays try freezing verjuice in those instead of cubes and use them as a garnish in Ajo Blanco (White Gazpacho). Do not serve ice-balls to children.
(recipe to be published under Soups)

Learn more about verjuice from Maggie Beer's facinating book: Cooking with Verjuice

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Advertising Links

The links on this blog are non-profit advertising. They are included as additional information for the reader. I am happy to mention your site/business link if applicable.

Pass it on....The Weekly Post

I thought it might be fun to have a food related, information exchange - a gossip box, on my blog.
The success of a recent email recipe exchange got me thinking about the value of sharing information. I made a mental list of all the people I know, around the world, who love to cook/talk/eat food and came up with almost too many to mention!

I would like to hear what you are up to in your food world.
Email me: with your news, name and where you are from. Here are a few subject ideas for starters.

hot tips
new products
cooking schools

Friday, December 5, 2008

Summer on a Plate - Risoni with Pancetta, Tomatoes and Fresh Herbs

Risoni came to my attention about a year ago after we had driven the 160km journey home from our weekly shopping trip! Packing my groceries away I discovered I had bought the wrong box of pasta. I shall be eternally grateful for my mistake however otherwise the following recipe would not have been born.

Mint stars here giving the dish a particularly fresh taste and an overwhelming feeling that summer has well and truly arrived!

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes


4L chicken stock or water
400g Risoni
1-tablespoon grape seed oil
20g butter
1 small onion (about half cup)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
100g pancetta, chopped
250g cherry or baby roma tomatoes, whole
375g peas, fresh or frozen
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Basil, purple or green, leaves only
Mint, leaves only,
Italian parsley, leaves only
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan, grated


Wash fresh herbs and spin dry. Put water or stock on to boil and cook risoni 7 minutes to al dente - strain and set aside. Cook fresh peas until tender in boiling salted water, strain and set aside.

Heat a large frying pan on medium heat, add butter and oil and cook onion and garlic until translucent. Add pancetta to the pan and heat through. Add cooked peas, cooked risoni, the lemon zest and juice. Mix gently making sure everything is well coated with oil. Add salt and pepper and turn off the heat.

Just before serving add all the herbs to the pan and thoroughly mix them through. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Baked pears in Sangiovese and Caramel

I often find myself wondering what to make for dessert and think by going shopping inspiration will come. I should know by now that usually it doesn't! Having gone about this same old routine year in year out I think it's time I had a better system! I should be able to remember or to check one of my umpteenth lists to remind myself that pears are it!

The beauty of this recipe apart from the magical combination of wine and caramel is its stretch ability factor! If unexpected visitors appear or you just fancy some extras, add another couple of pears to the pot - there always seems to be enough sauce!

I have adapted this from an original recipe published by the River Cafe (Book Two), London.

Preheat oven - 180˚C
Serves: 4-8
Preparation time: Pears 5 minutes - Caramel 15 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes


4-8 cooking pears, any variety in season
4-8 wide pieces lemon zest
Juice 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
200 ml Sangiovese – or any light red wine


300g caster sugar
120ml water


Wash pears and slice the bottom off each one, retain storks. Hollow out the cores using an apple corer. Put the vanilla seeds or a little vanilla paste into the cavity of each pear and close opening with lemon zest. Stand pears upright in an oven to table dish. Squeeze over lemon juice, cover with a piece of foil and place in the oven for 10 minutes.

Gently melt the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil without stirring. Boil on a low heat for 15 minutes. Critical point: the moment the sugar starts to darken and smells bitter remove it from the heat immediately. Take the saucepan to the sink for safety and add the wine - it will splutter furiously! Pour the caramel over the pears and return pears to the oven for 40 minutes. Baste pears half way through the cooking time. Remove pears from the oven, they will look all shriveled and crinkly and test if cooked with a fine skewer.

Cool pears down before serving. I love them served warm or cold when the caramel has thickened and the flavours have developed. They are quite delicious!


Vanilla paste is a new product and is a very good substitute for the real thing!

1 teaspoon = 1 vanilla pod - can’t be bad!