Monthly Archives: August 2012

Coconut Sugar Brownies


When I was little my mom used to make me brownies for my birthday.  This might not sound like a big deal, but for a long time this was the one day in the year that white flour, white sugar and chocolate made an appearance in our kitchen.  Those brownies gave my birthdays some moments of pure bliss!

My sister, Salsa, has a big birthday coming up and she would love some brownies, but she doesn’t eat cane sugar.  So I have been doing some homework in preparation. I discovered a number of brownie recipes using coconut sugar, which seems to be an acceptable sugar for Salsa.  This recipe has been adapted from: (this blog is worth a look, it’s got some good stuff!).

The brownies were sublime!  With a bunch of boys in the house getting ready for soccer training, the entire pan was consumed within minutes.  Will definitely double the recipe next time.


  • 1 1/4 c coconut sugar (I used the Power Super Foods brand)
  • 3/4 c cocoa powder
  • 2 T honey
  • 200 g butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3/4 c flour (I used organic spelt)
  • 1 t baking powder

Line 8 x 8 baking pan with baking paper.  Preheat oven to 175C.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter and sugar together, stirring constantly.  Add honey and cocoa powder and keep stirring until mixture is smooth and slightly shiny.  Set aside to cool.

(I use the Woolworths home brand cocoa because it is strong and dark.)

Sift flour and baking powder into large bowl. Whisk eggs and vanilla until slightly frothy, and stir into cocoa mixture.  Pour into flour bowl and stir until well mixed.  Pour into pan.  Cook for 25 minutes or until skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Moist and dark and chocolatey! YUM!

A Legacy of Chicken


 My mother discovered Chinatown when I was about 10.  We hadn’t been in Sydney very long at that point, and Chinatown was the most amazing place to a little girl from Bloomington Indiana.  I loved going there.  My mom and I would wander around the stores jam packed full of food and dishes and clothes and toys – all of it completely different from anything we’d even seen before.  The supermarkets were the best: small and cramped, but stacked high with all sorts of new and interesting foods to try.   Sometimes as we would gaze wonderingly at some unknown ingredient, a shopkeeper would come up to us and give us an on-the-spot lesson in how to cook with whatever we were looking at. Thus began a long tradition of Chinese-inspired and wok cooked meals. I still have the first wok that she bought back then.

This was around the same time that she gave up eating red meat; the first stage in a series of dietary shifts that I refer to as the little ‘b’ bohemian phase of our family food tradition.  The main meat that we ate then was chicken.  Most meals were vegetarian, and sometimes we would have fish, but chicken featured often. We had quite a repertoire of chicken meals, but much of the time we would just stir fry chicken and vegetables.

This recipe was my Mom’s favourite way to cook chicken because it is delicious and so easy.  Everyone who knew her has had this chicken – she made it a lot.  I haven’t cooked this recipe in many years.  I couldn’t – who would have thought the memories brought by a recipe could evoke such strong emotions?  I must admit that I shed a tear when I made it.  I cooked it in the matching pot that she gave me, as she did, and served it with a huge green salad.

A real walk down memory lane and an important reminder that there are far more imporant legacies than houses and money!


  • 1 chicken (1.8 – 2.0 kg) I used a Coles Brand RSPCA chicken
  • 5 T water
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 6 T light soy sauce
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 t grated fresh ginger
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t 5 spice powder

Pour water into a large roasting pot and place chicken in breast side down. Spread all other ingredients over the chicken.

Place uncovered in oven at 100C.  Cook for 3 hours, basting every30-40 minutes. Turn heat up to 170C and cook until chicken is cooked. Baste frequently.  Cooked slowly and breast side down, the white meat will be tender and juicy, and won’t overcook.

Serve with stir fried vegetables or lots of fresh green salad.

Crispy King Prawns with Honey Garlic Sauce


On sunny weekends, when nothing else is on, we often make a trip to the Sydney Fish Market  to pickup some seafood for a decadent and indulgent lunch.  There are always so many fabulous seafood options to choose from.  I try to have a plan before I get there, or I am become too overwhelmed to choose!

Whatever else we buy, we almost always come home from the fish market with prawns. Everyone in our house loves prawns – so much so that there is pretty much no bad way to serve them.  However, when I say everyone loves them, that includes the cats. So if we are going to eat them, we have to be prepared to deal with the feline Jekyll to Hyde transformation that occurs as they pick up the scent.  The crazed caterwauling is horrendous. The claws come out as they reach upwards in the hope of snagging that loose tail.  They will haul themselves up our legs to get closer. They are relentless.

So in order to prepare prawns and enjoy eating them we must ban our furry friends from the house,  and play some music to drown out the howling and scratching against glass doors.

This recipe is another inspired by Kylie Kwong. Aside from the process of peeling the prawns it is very quick and easy to prepare, and is really tasty.


  • 1 kg green king prawns
  • 3 t cornflour
  • 2 T water
  • 2 T light soy sauce
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 T finely chopped coriander
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • vegetable oil for frying

Honey Garlic Sauce

  • 2 T honey
  • 2 T shao hsing wine or dry sherry
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 T light soy sauce

Peel and de-vein prawns, leaving tails intact. In small bowl, mix ingredients for Honey Garlic Sauce and set aside.

Mix cornflour and water in a medium-sized bowl.  Add prawns, soy sauce, egg and sesame oil and mix well.  In wok or frying pan heat oil until the surface seems to shimmer.  Fry the prawns in batches for 1 minute. Drain on kitchen paper.

Drain oil and reheat wok until moderately hot.  Return prawns to it with the sauce and cook for 30 seconds.

Arrange on platter and serve immediately.

Adapted from Simple Chinese Cooking / Kylie Kwong. Camberwell : Lantern, 2006.

Strawberry Coconut Bread


When I was a kid strawberries were a real treat. I am not sure why. Maybe they were really expensive back then. Whatever the reason, when a punnet appeared in the house (if it survived the car trip back from the markets) it would be pounced upon by everyone home, as if our very lives depended on it. So it was a particularly rare event that strawberries were used in a recipe of any kind.  Occasionally my mom would hide some to sneak into a fruit salad but that was it.

Nowadays, with Sprog 2 totally addicted to them, strawberries are a staple in our house.  They are still pounced upon immediately, and she can eat a whole punnet by herself in moments, but I follow my mother’s example and hide them whenever I have a particular purpose in mind.

I have tinkered a little with a recipe found on a blog that I like, (you should have a look, she has some great ideas).  I love to make bread with berries, but it hadn’t crossed my mind to try strawberries.

The bread is lovely and moist, and not too sweet.  The coconut gives it a wonderful texture, while the strawberries give it lift and freshness.  Really yummy.  Thanks for the inspiration Leah!


  • 125 g melted butter
  • 1 c dessicated coconut
  • 1 c milk
  • 2/3 c light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 c flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 c diced strawberries
  • 1 t vanilla essence

Wash and dry strawberries, setting a couple aside for decoration. Pre-heat over to 180C. Line loaf pan with baking paper.

Melt butter and blend with sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, milk and coconut and stir until well mixed. Add flour and baking powder in batches to create a batter.

Spoon a layer of batter evenly into the pan and then layer half of the strawberries on top.  Gently mix remaining strawberries into the batter and spread into pan.  Slice set aside strawberries and decorate the top of the loaf.

Cook 35-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Cool before slicing.

It’s delicious on its own or with butter, and is fabulous toasted.

Fresh Pea Soup


I love peas.  Not those boiled to a pulp soggy sad things that used to accompany your average meat and three veg meals of years past.  Fresh plump juicy peas. Fresh peas are especially good raw.  They are sweet and crunchy, and great in salads or even just on their own as a snack. The other bonus is that they are really healthy: full of protein and fibre, and they help to lower cholesterol.

This is a wonderful rich tasting and satisfying soup, that is very quick to prepare.  With the high protein content of the peas it is also a great meat free option.


  • 2 T butter
  • 1 small brown onion, finely diced
  • 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 800 g fresh shelled peas (or high quality frozen peas)
  • 2 small potatoes, washed but not peeled, and finely chopped
  • 1/2 t dried mixed herbs
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 4 T sour cream
  • 4 T finely chopped fresh parsley, with extra to serve

In large saucepan, saute onion in butter until becoming translucent. Add celery and cook for 2 minutes. Add peas, potatoes, herbs and stock and cook until vegetables are soft. Remove from heat.  Once cool enough, blend the soup in batches, adding some of the sour cream each time. Return to pan and add parsely. Gently re-heat until ready to serve.

Serve with a loaf of warm sour dough bread, and some parsley sprinkled over the soup.

Coffee Ice Cream


Since I was a little kid I have always loved coffee flavoured ice cream.  It was and is always a special treat because it’s not a flavour that is readily available.   To buy it you have to go to an ice cream parlour or find it somewhere that sells boutique brands. Or you can make your own…

This recipe is very rich, so a single scoop is easily enough to satisfy.


  • 1/3 c very strong espresso coffee
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 c thickened cream
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 1/2 t vanilla

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk hot coffee and sugar together until sugar has dissolved.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover the bowl and refridgerate for at least 2 hours.

Mix in ice cream maker as per manufacturer’s instructions. (I use a Cuisinart which I love.  It is easy to use and easy to clean, and I keep the bowl in a freezer so that I can whip up a batch whenever the mood grabs me.)

To serve I create a base from Butternut Snap cookies (microwave a couple at a time for about 20-30 seconds, flatten out a bit with a rolling pin and set in a muffin pan), and top the ice cream with ground coffee.

Double Choc Muffins


When I enrolled my kids in school it never occured to me that I had just embarked on a twelve year journey into the world of fund raising.  Our school P&C funds a wide range of resources, services and facilities for the school.  What we do requires large sums of money, and enormous  amounts of effort to raise it.

Our school’s next fundraising event is a trivia night.  This is a big one the fund raising calendar: there’s always a lot of people, and they always raise a lot of money.   It is also a parents only event, with food and alcohol served: the perfect recipe to encourage everyone to dig deep and spend. One of the key money spinners is the silent auction, and the key to the success of the auction is having a decent range of items available to bid for. With this in mind, a friend of mine has come up with the brilliant idea that we should team up and offer up a catering service for a child’s birthday party. Well I guess we’ll find out how brilliant the idea is after the event!

Since agreeing to this plan I have been experimenting a bit with some ideas.  I’ve started with the idea that for most of the kids I know there is nothing like mixing chocolate with more chocolate.  These muffins are adapted from one of my grandmothers recipes.

Double Chocolate Muffins

  • 2 c plain self-raising flour
  • 4 T cocoa powder
  • 1 c brown sugar, packed
  • 100 g dark chocolate bits
  • 2 T cherry brandy (optional)
  • ½ t ground cloves
  • 2/3 c milk
  • 100 g butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 100 g dark chocolate extra

Grease 12 hole muffin pan (1/3 c capacity) or line with muffin cups.  Preheat oven to 180C.

Place flour, cocoa, sugar and 100g choc bits in large bowl and mix together.  Separately whisk milk, butter and eggs together.  Pour into the flour mixture and stir with large metal spoon until just combined.  Spoon into muffin tray. Bake for about 20 minutes or until skewer inserted in to the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Once muffins are cooked, melt remaining chocolate and spread over muffins. Decorate as desired.

Cooking class with Kylie Kwong


Yesterday was a day for cooking inspiration. A small group of lucky foodies were treated to a cooking lesson from Kylie Kwong, courtesy of the Harris Farm Market at Boronia Park.  Kylie Kwong is one of Australia’s most successful and most loved chefs.  For those not familiar with Kylie Kwong, she has a restaurant called Billy Kwong in Sydney, a cooking show on TV, and many cookbooks to her name. Kylie is of Cantonese heritage, and bases her recipes on traditional Cantonese food, as well as asian twists on foods from elsewhere around the world.

As a chef, Kylie is very appealing.  Her focus is on fresh quality ingredients, with an emphasis on organic and fair trade products.  She is a strong advocate of sustainable food and ethical eating. At Billy Kwong she uses locally grown organic and biodynamic produce. She has been an Australian ambassador for Fair Trade for six years.

Kylie does eat meat, but not a great deal.  She identifies with a vegetarian diet and has many gorgeous recipes in her repertoire for vegetarians. Her mastery of tofu is amazing! She has a very light touch in her cooking – her food isn’t heavy or gluggy, and it never has that “same dish, different meat” thing that average Chinese restaurants so often offer.  She demonstrates how very broad real Chinese cuisine is.

Kylie is also very appealing as a person.  Her cooking shows are fabulous, partly due to her great food, but also because of who she is.   She exudes warmth, and friendliness.  She tells many stories about her life and her family.  Her mum makes frequent appearances on the show.  You just feel good listening to her chat about life in general while she cooks up a storm!

Yesterday was part of a promotional tour for Kylie’s latest cookbook – which of course I HAD to buy (it is gorgeous!).  Kylie  cooked 4 dishes. As she cooked she talked – about all sorts of things: the benefits of freshness and quality in the ingredients, stories about dishes she has enjoyed in China, the role and importance of family in her life, the passing on of cooking traditions through the generations, and of course, things to think about when cooking each dish. She talked a lot about Chinese food being easy to cook, as long as you focus on the balance between sweet, sour, salt and acidity. She also talked about the importance of tasting as you cook. Clearly a sensitive palate is a big part of knowing when you have a dish just right!

Wal wanted a barbecue last night, so I marinated pork chops in sweet soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, shallots and ginger, and made the salad that Kylie made,  The two surprise ingredients for me in this salad were the raw bok choy (I am pretty sure I have only ever seen recipes for it cooked) and tomatoes (which I just never associate with Chinese cuisine).  This salad is as delicious and refreshing as it is healthy.


  • 270 g Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 spring onions, cut into fine julienne strips
  • 1 bok choy, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 1 small bulb fennel
  • 1/2 bunch of mint
  • 1/2 red capsicum,  cut into fine julienne strips
  • 1 lebanese cucumber, seeded,  cut into fine julienne strips
  • pinch salt and pepper (Kylie uses Sichuan Pepper)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Toss with dressing immediately before serving.

Tomato Dressing

  • 2 T light soy sauce
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 grapeseed oil
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, finely diced

Combine soy sauce, brown sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved.  Continue whisking as you slowly drizzle in the oil until it is all incorporated.  Add tomatoes and stir to combine.

Recipe adapted from Kylie Kwong / Simple Chinese Cooking Class. Sydney : Lantern, 2012.