Monthly Archives: April 2012

Orange Date Muffins


When I was young my mother, who I called B, was a fabulous cook, in much the same style as my grandmother.  She regularly cooked meals from the Bohemian family repertoire and so many people would happen to drop by our house at dinner time that she always made enough food to cater for at least a couple of unexpected guests.

However, as the bohemian influence began to outstrip the Bohemian heritage, B’s cooking started to deteriorate. In her efforts to make things healthier she would substitute ingredients.  Initially her substitutions were ok – wholemeal flour instead of white, 4 eggs instead of 5…  She could get away with that.  But eventually the subsitutions got out of hand.  There would be the change in flour, honey instead of sugar, powdered skim milk and water instead of full cream milk, oil instead of butter (not even sure she could claim a health benefit there), 2 eggs instead of 5 etc etc.  The result was most often what we’d call a ‘sod’.  Sods were flat, damp, hard, sad pans of disappointment, laid on the table in exchange for dessert.

Now there is nothing wrong with B’s healthy intentions, nor the ingredients she used.  The problem was that she used those ingredients in recipes not designed for them.  So eventually, whenever some family friend would serve us something tasty, I would ask them for the recipe so that I could hopefully offer some inspiration to go with our pantry offerings.  Of course the outcome was that B happily retreated from the kitchen and encouraged me to experiment with new culinary ideas.

This recipe was one of the first recipes I was given during this time. These muffins are so light and airy you won’t believe they use wholemeal flour.


  • 125 g butter
  • 3/4 c caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 whole pureed orange (peel and all)
  • 125 ml orange juice
  • 1 1/2 c wholemeal flour
  • 1 t bicarb soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 c chopped dried dates

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and pale. Beat in egg. Beat in puree and juice. Fold in dry ingredients. Add dates. Spoon into lined muffin tins or 1 loaf tin. Bake 20 minutes at 175C (or 35-40 mins for loaf) or until skewer comes out clean. Makes 10 standard muffins or 1 loaf.

Coconut Chicken Curry


This afternoon the sprogs demanded chicken curry for dinner.  Soccer training was looming and so another late meal was on the cards, so they knew they would want something warm and filling.


  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 cm ginger
  • 1 1/2 t cumin
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1 t tumeric
  • 5 T olive oil
  • 8 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 3/4 c desiccated coconut
  • 3 T almond meal
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 t salt
  • 3/4 c water
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 T tamarind paste
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped into florets

In a mortar and pestle grind garlic, onion, ginger, cumin, coriander, tumeric and 2 T oil into a rough paste.

Using a heavy based pot, saute paste in remaining oil for 2 minutes.  Add chicken and saute gently until all pieces are browned.  Add remaining ingredients except for broccoli and simmer gently for 40 minutes.  Add broccoli about 5 minutes before serving, and raise heat to medium.

 Serve with steamed jasmine rice.  Serves 4.

This recipe adapted from Australian Good Taste January 2012, p77.

Raspberry Coconut Bread


The holidays are over. Back to school means making lunches in the mornings for Wal and the sprogs, and lunches need treats for recess.   I realise that the treat is the most important feature of the lunch so I try to ensure a bit of variety. A small piece of this bread will fill them up but the raspberries give it a lightness. And in the morning panic (mornings are frightful in our house, no matter how early everyone gets up…) it is quick and easy to slice and wrap and slip into the lunchbox. Of course the coconut bread is also good for breakfast, afternoon tea, or any other time you want to pull out something yummy to get you going or to enjoy with tea or coffee.


  • 290 g softened butter
  • 180 g sugar
  • 140 g self raising flour
  • 280 g plain flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 60 g almond meal
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1 c fresh or frozen raspberries, plus a few extra for decorating.

Beat butter and sugar until light and pale in colour. Add sifted flour, baking powder and cinnamon 1/3 at a time and mix well. Fold in almond meal and buttermilk and mix til well combined. Add raspberries and mix in carefully. Pour into lined loaf and decorate generously with extra raspberries. Cook at 170C for 50-60 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean. Serve with or without butter. The bread is lovely toasted too.

The Quarterdeck at Narooma


Narooma is on the far south coast of New South Wales, around 350-ish km south of Sydney.   Narooma is a tourist town, once a fishing village, and boasts a large ocean fed lake.  It is famous in fishing circles for deep sea sports fishing.  Narooma is the closest point on the coast to the continental shelf, where all those impressive game fish like marlin and swordfish can be found.

The first thing you notice when you arrive in Narooma from the north (on a sunny day!) is the spectacular azure blue waters of Narooma lake as you cross the bridge into town.  Dolphins and seals are often seen around the breakwater heading from the lake out to the ocean.

  Seals also hang around the fishing charter boats in the hopes of a hand out. They come right up to shore and look friendly, but they can be quite aggressive.  This particular seal is known for being very bad tempered.

The Quarterdeck is a cafe on the Wagonga Inlet (ie on the lake).

Its decor is ‘fishing kitsch’ – it is fun and welcoming,

and it also has a killer views over the lake.

The staff at the Quarterdeck are unfailingly cheerful and attentive. The owner is friendly and he has the biggest collection of Hawaiian shirts I have ever seen (outside of Hawaii perhaps) – and they are fabulous!

  The food

 These days I often buy a main meal for the sprogs to share, because the quality of what is offered on kids’ menus can be terrible.  At the Quarterdeck the kids meals are good – especially the calamari and chips.  The calamari is always very fresh, and is perfectly cooked.


Wal and I shared an appetiser of Lemon Pepper Squid.  It was absolutely lovely.  The pepper was in the right proportion and the lemon gave a nice but subtle tang and it was cooked just right.  The best thing, however, was the super-light barely there batter – just enough to hold the flavours together.

For a main I had the Prawn Salad with Aioli. The salad had a good variety of greens and other vegetables, the prawns were fresh, plump and cooked exactly right, and the salad dressing was tasty but not overdone.  It had a lovely hint of coconut in the background. Even on a cool and overcast day, the room temperature salad filled with warm prawns was filling and satisfying.

 They keep the menu at the Quarterdeck simple, but the specials of the day are where they show their imagination and offer interesting variety.  If you find yourself venturing near Narooma,I think this cafe is well worth trying.

The Quarterdeck is open for breakfast and lunch Thursday to Monday from 8.00. and is fully licensed.  Riverside Drive, Narooma, 02 44762723.

Asian-style Quick Chicken Noodle Soup


Soccer is a very big deal in our house, and so the end of summer is heralded with great joy in anticipation of the soccer season.  The games really are fun to  watch, but for Wal and me, the soccer season also represents long treks out to the middle of nowhere at the crack of dawn on freezing cold winter mornings, and multiple training sessions each week, running well into the evening.  This means that several nights per week I need to come up with a warm healthy and filling meal very quickly to feed our cold ravenous soccer player and team manager Wal. 



This recipe is very quick but extremely healthy and satisfying.  It works best with a homemade chicken stock, but store bought will still give a good result. I have fed this soup to kids that don’t eat vegetables, and who gag at the mention of cottage cheese, and they have eaten every bite!


  • 2 large chicken thighs, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely cubed
  • 2 T peanut oil
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 1 T freshly grated ginger
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into small cubes
  • 4 c chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • generous handful fresh spinach
  • generous handful fresh flat leaf parsley
  • chinese egg (or rice) noodles and cottage cheese to serve

Saute chicken, onion and celery in oils and soy sauce.  Add ginger. Add a little stock if needed. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add remaining stock and zucchini, and season to taste. Add water if more liquid is required. Cook for 15-20 minutes. While soup is cooking boil water for noodles and cook until just tender. When noodles are close to cooked, add spinach and parsley to soup, put a lid on the pot and turn the heat off.  When noodles are ready, serve with the soup, adding a tablespoon of cottage cheese to the bowl before ladelling in the soup.

Coconut Cauliflower


Cauliflower is super healthy.  It is full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory substances, fiber, protein and other good stuff.  So it is good to eat cauliflower reasonably often. This dish is quite rich, so I cook it when I am entertaining, or on vegetarian nights.


  • 1 sm cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/4 Kent pumpkin or 1/2 butternut pumpkin, cut into cubes to match florets in size
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 3/4 t ground tumeric
  • 3/4 t ground coriander
  • 3 T macadamia oil
  • 5 T almond meal
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 1 T parsley, finely chopped

Steam or boil cauliflower and pumpkin separately until just soft.  Be careful not to overcook. Using a mortar and pestle, grind onion, spices, 2 T oil and almond meal into a paste.  It doesn’t matter if the onion remains a little chunky.  Gently fry paste in remaining oil for 1 minute, then add coconut milk and cook over low heat without boiling until mixture starts to thicken.  Add cauliflower and pumpkin and cook until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Devilled Eggs


Now that Easter is over, the chocolate supplies are dwindling, and the roast and all those other ‘just for Easter’ treats are gone – all except for those colourful boiled eggs the sprogs dyed during a holiday afternoon.  We included boiled eggs in the chocolate baskets, but for some reason, the chocolate was eaten and most of the eggs remained…

What do you do with a dozen left over hard boiled eggs? Well here is one idea – Devilled Eggs.  My great-grandmother made Devilled Eggs with eggs from her own chickens, so this recipe has been around for generations and has been a family favourate forever.


  • 12 hard boiled eggs, peeled
  • 1/3 red capsicum, diced very finely
  • 1/2 spring onion, chopped finely
  • 2 T egg mayonnaise
  • 2 T sour cream
  • 1 t fresh lime juice
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • 1 t non-seeded mustard
  • salt to taste
  • sweet paprika

Cut eggs lengthways. Carefully remove yolks and place in mixing bowl. Mash eggs with sour cream and mayonnaise with fork and stir until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients except paprika and mix well.  Arrange egg whites on a tray and carefully fill cavities with the egg mixture.  Sprinkle with the paprika.