The not so humble art of choko pickles​​

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1_Choko Pickles

Chokos are an old-time Aussie favourite, native to South America where it is known as chayote. The choko vine remains a feature of many backyards, growing over the chook pen or along a fence; bearing green, slightly spiky fruit with mild, white flesh. In Australia it was used as a pie or jam filler during the Depression years. Often in those days the vine adorned its contempory, the backyard dunny. Choko still graces modern dinner tables of its fans, in vegetable form -barbequed, fried or baked with white or cheese sauce.

3_Choko Pickles

In this household I’m the single fan of choko as a vegetable. The G.O. however, has a fondness for choko pickles: the speciality of many a nanna, mum, aunt or generous neighbour; omnipresent as a condiment; ubiquitous at fetes & market stalls; and useful as a bartering commodity.

7_Choko Pickles

Day 1

Use a long pole with a bent nail in the end to reach a baker’s dozen of the highest & biggest chokos on your neighbour’s vine because everyone else got there before you.

6_Choko Pickles

Peel, deseed & neatly dice chokos.

Wash your hands half a dozen times to get the choko sap off them… unsuccessfully.

Peel and neatly dice 16 medium brown onions.


11_Choko Pickles

Soak choko & onions in salted water overnight.

5_Choko Pickles

Hunt out jars from where they’ve been stashed in the shed.

Prepare jars by boiling for 30 minutes to sterilise.

4_Choko Pickles

Day 2

Open all the kitchen windows. Turn on ceiling fan.

Heft tub of soaking chokos & onion onto the sink, drain & rinse.

Transfer chokos & onion to large stockpot.

Add equal quantities white sugar & white vinegar, i.e. 12 cups each. 

Update shopping list to replenish white sugar & vinegar.

Add 6 teaspoons each of tumeric, ginger powder, white pepper, mustard powder & curry powder.

Stir to combine then bring to boil.

Reduce heat and simmer with lid on for approximately 1 hour.

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Panic that you haven’t sterilised enough jars.

Scour cupboards for more, wash, then microwave extra jars for 2 minutes.

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Put all jar lids in saucepan to sterilise… again, and boil for 10 minutes.

Put all jars on trays in oven on 120 Celsius for at least 30 minutes to sterilise… again.

Remove lid from stockpot, remembering not to stick face into spicy vinegar fumes. 

Reserve half cup of liquid in small bowl.

Firmly break up softened chokos & onions using potato masher.

Turn up heat, bring back to boil & reduce by half.

Mix 2 tablespoons of cornflour into cooled reserved liquid.

When contents of stockpot have reduced by half, lower heat & blend in cornflour mixture until contents thicken slightly.

If, like me, you prefer thick, caramelised pickles rather than liquidy-floury, use as little flour as possible, make smaller batches… and share judiciously.

2_Choko Pickles

Spoon mixture into hot jars leaving headspace at top. 

Sort through lids trying to figure out which belongs to what. 

Screw lids on tight. 

Wipe spillage off jars with damp cloth. 

Lick sticky residue off fingers… mmm… spicy… sweet.

Place jars on heat-proof surface to cool. 

Label jars with contents & date unless you plan, later, to play guess the mystery contents. 

Add to the label, in the spirit of optimism, a note asking for jar to be returned.

Listen for popping noises that indicate jars have achieved airtight seals.

Happy dance each time you hear a pop.

Pickles are best left to mature for at least a week, better a month. 

Store jars in cool cupboard. Refrigerate once opened.

If a not quite full jar remains, store in fridge and enjoy immediately.

Eat choko pickles with cheese & bread, as a side to eggs & meat dishes, as a condiment to curries and casseroles, add to rissole/meatball mix…

13_Choko Pickles

Many variations of choko pickle recipes can be found in old cookbooks and via Google. 

A basic, classic recipe is

If you want to learn more about chokos including how to grow your own, Jackie French: A Choko Needs to know its Place is a good start.

“Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson. Stout as she was, she roamed the scrubby banks of Norway Creek looking for fox grapes and goose plums, like a wild creature in search of prey. She made a yellow jam of the insipid ground cherries that grew on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel; and she made a sticky dark conserve of garden tomatoes. She had experimented even with the rank buffalo-pea, and she could not see a fine bronze cluster of them without shaking her head and murmuring, ‘What a pity!’ When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle.”  Willa Cather, ‘O Pioneers


In My Kitchen: a cereal discussion

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He likely hadn’t heard of Australia’s “muesli magnate” Narelle Plapp. The power of cereal isn’t to be underestimated. She went from selling from the back of her car to a $5 million business in a decade.

Her Food for Health brand’s Liver Cleansing muesli variety contains no sugar of any kind and is the only pre-packaged muesli I buy when my time and do-it-yourself muesli efforts run out. Thankfully it doesn’t happen much. This IMK month beyond making a batch of muesli from my pantry stash of dry goods, kitchen time has been non-newsworthy, so…

Food For Health muesli
food for health brand muesli

Myself, I’m quite enthusiastic on the topic, particularly when it’s about muesli, although inauspiciously defined by Urban Dictionary as “a clever ploy to sell hamster food to human beings”. That may technically be true… but muesli is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Muesli is truly an equal opportunity cereal. It can be fat free, sugar free, fruit free, gluten free, nut free, vegan… You can buy muesli in a multitude of pre-packaged permutations but I think the best and cheapest muesli is bespoke. My creations include only oats or oat bran, pepitas, sunflower seeds, coconut and raw nuts.

Bespoke Muesli: organic oats, coconut, pepitas, sunflower seeds and walnuts. Cost: approx $20 for 3 months supply
DIY muesli – oats, coconut, pepitas, sunflower seeds and walnuts. Cost: approx $20 for 3+ months supply.

Like Emeril Lagasse “I can’t tell you enough about cinnamon. Cinnamon is an awesome spice to use and it goes great with something like apples in the morning or in a mixture of fruit or in your oatmeal or even in your cereal”  my secret muesli ingredient is cinnamon, added with plain full fat yoghurt (preferably homemade) and a smattering of fruit -fresh, or frozen berries.

Muesli attracts cheap shots…

“Keating unleashes the lip on ‘muesli-chewing’ Moore… Former prime minister Paul Keating has labelled Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore a supporter of “sandal-wearing, muesli-chewing, bike-riding pedestrians” because she opposes the Barangaroo project.”

… and is often misunderstood.

“The [green] movement must look long and hard at itself and break out of the comfortable ‘muesli-belt’ if it is to truly reflect the views of the wider community.” Head honcho at Global Action Plan and friend of BusinessGreen Trewin Restorick says environmental campaigners must do more to support disadvantaged sections of society.

But it’s a cereal discussion worth having…

“Some candy bars had more protein than many cereals. [Jean] Mayer dubbed them “sugar-coated vitamin pills” and wrote, “I contend that these cereals containing over 50% sugar should be labeled imitation cereal or cereal confections, and they should be sold in the candy section rather than in the cereal section.” Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

“Rule 36: Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of your milk.” Michael Pollan

“Episode two tells the story of a modern marketing miracle: the story of the breakfast cereal. The Age of Plenty investigates the processing, marketing and advertising behind a breakfast that has singularly impacted the way we live. Breakfast cereal marks the birth of modern day “convenience food”, invented to make cheap and lifeless corn bits edible and easy to sell, and promoted through reverse psychology, cereal has transformed the way we eat and consequently the way we live. This series tracks the multi-billion dollar breakfast cereal industry, explaining the impact of television advertising on the promotion and sales of breakfast cereals, which endures to this day.” The Foods that Make Billions

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

In My Kitchen: a success-ion of small things

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As winter in Sydney oh so slowly relinquished its chilly grip I made the most of slow cooked food, the type we tend to eat only in the cooler months. And ticked off a few new-to-me ingredients I’ve wanted to try. Hence we’ve eaten slow braised ox-tail, lamb necks and a soupy-stew made with pearl barley.

Warming up wasn’t a problem… au contraire… when we sampled the G.O’s cousin’s home-grown & homemade chillies in the traditional manner of their Uncle Ernie.

Because life has been quiet otherwise, I’ve been enjoying Saturday morning ​expeditions to Eveleigh Famers Market, a chance to stretch my legs with a good walk and the reward of a nanna trolley load of fresh produce. I’m in love with fresh turmeric I add to scrambled eggs for breakfast and Australian blood limes which added to a glass of wine spritzer makes drinking it a summer cocktail experience. Both from Kiwi Down Under Farm at Bonville on the Coffs Coast, NSW.

Also because life has been quiet there’s been time to appreciate crystal rainbows in the kitchen on sunny Sunday mornings, and I’ve indulged in a little retail therapy; adding few -more- cook books to my collection, a retro rose thermos & rose tin, and a quirky skull sugar spoon for sweet tooth G.O. In return, to underline the point we’ll be traveling light when we embark on our caravanning adventures the G.O. bought us foldable spoon-fork-knife doohickeys.

In the last week of August the G.O. and I slipped away for a quick roadtrip to Taylors Arm via Tamworth to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, and picked up a few souvenirs along the way.

Best of all, In My Kitchen at Taylors Arm was blogger Kate from talltalesfromchiconia and her hubby who visited us while on a trip down south.

in my kitchen: me (left), Kate (right)
in my kitchen: me (left), Kate (right)

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

“For great things do not done (sic) just happen by impulse but are a succession of small things linked together.”
Vincent van Gogh explains what it takes to achieve great things in a letter to his brother Theo (October 1882).

In My Kitchen: not even half baked

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Late in June the oven in our apartment stopped with a pop; adjourning baking of the G.O.’s rain-checked sausages, bacon & onion gravy birthday dinner to the electric fry-pan.

Our relationship with the appliances in that apartment is uneasy. It’s coming up to 6 years old and the shiny appliances selected by the developers are more for show than go, rather than the domestic day-to-day use the G.O. and I put them to. We rent from my sister and in return for a not paying an arm and a leg we fix anything that goes wrong.

Even though I use it constantly I treat the oven cautiously since a couple of years ago I was wiping out the base when the door exploded into a storm of shattered glass that covered the expanse of the kitchen and then some. It took numerous telephone calls, 2 afternoons home from work and $600+ to realise the repairs. At the time I assumed something I did must have caused it but a later Google search for “smeg oven doors shattering” indicated probably not.

As we had enough food to keep us going for a few days and were reluctant to consider the unhappy subject of appliance repairers we took a leisurely approach to investigating the issue. A week or so later we tested and diagnosed a blown fan heating element as the problem. Once again I consulted Google, and found I could buy a replacement online. Which I did, from When it arrived the cardboard box went directly into the back of the wardrobe until the G.O. could get around to installing it… which took another week or so. 

In the meantime we had to eat.

Out came the slow cooker, for a pot of old fashioned pea and ham soup, onto the balcony because of its pungent cooking aroma habitually remarked on by the G.O. The ingredients -dried green split peas+soup veges+ham hock+Massel vegetable stock- cost about $12 and when cooked are so much more delicious than the sum of their parts. We it enjoyed for weekend dinners and there was enough leftovers for 5 containers of lunch soup for me.

old fashioned split pea and ham hock soup for lunch with a view
old fashioned split pea and ham hock soup for lunch with a view

Out stayed the slow cooker on the balcony and in went lamb shoulder, Buller’s Malmsey, Massel vegetable stock, onions, carrots, and potatoes for the making of Pulled Lamb Shepherds Pie… except I forgot I didn’t have a working oven to bake pie so it ended up being Deconstructed Pulled Lamb Shepherds Pie. The leftovers are slated to become ATMT’s Shepherds Piesties.

slow cooking deconstructed shepherds pie on the balcony
slow cooking deconstructed shepherds pie on the balcony

Out came the simmer mat I recently bought from Victoria’s Basement, and the big stainless pot. In went a piece of silverside, water, onions, carrots, celery, malt vinegar, mustard powder and brown sugar to transform into corned beef for the G.O.’s weekday lunches. On went slowly sautéed tomatoes.

corned beef and winter tomatoes
corned beef and winter tomatoes

Out came the retro pudding steamer I bought from Braidwood Markets and in went a suitably old-style recipe using pineapple & coconut jam also from Braidwood Markets. On that, later, went a new recipe for Perfect Custard made with leatherwood honey.

steamed pudding with pineapple & coconut jame and perfect custard
steamed pudding with pineapple & coconut jame and perfect custard

Out went our no supermarket biscuits rule guideline. In came ginger biscuits for the G.O.’s smoko. The Woolworths Select Stem Ginger Cookies are delicious but tooooo sweet. Far better are the Nairns Stem Ginger Oat Biscuits.

invaders... supermarket ginger biccies
invaders… supermarket ginger biccies

We survived several oven-less weeks but the last week of easy pasta and toast meals when imagination and time ebbed meant the other thing that’s gone out are our waistlines…

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back via comments on Celia’s August IMK post.

“But the kitchen will not come into its own again until it ceases to be a status symbol and becomes again a workshop. It may be pastel. It may be ginghamed as to curtains and shining with copper like a picture in a woman’s magazine. But you and I will know it chiefly by its fragrances and its clutter. At the back of the stove will sit a soup kettle, gently bubbling, one into which every day are popped leftover bones and vegetables to make stock for sauces or soup for the family. Carrots and leeks will sprawl on counters, greens in a basket. There will be something sweet-smelling twirling in a bowl and something savory baking in the oven. Cabinet doors will gape ajar and colored surfaces are likely to be littered with salt and pepper and flour and herbs and cheesecloth and pot holders and long-handled forks. It won’t be neat. It won’t even look efficient. but when you enter it you will feel the pulse of life throbbing from every corner. The heart of the home will have begun once again to beat.”Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)

In My Kitchen: birthday bits n’ pieces

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Having recovered from the flu lurgy that curtailed my Saturday morning farmers market expeditions I was desperate for farmers market eggs, fruit, vegetables, and meat. Despite stocking up there the previous Saturday, when Celia told me that Beth from Burrawong Gaian Poultry would have a stall at my local Eveleigh Farmers Market I didn’t hesitate in agreeing to meet her the next.

Even better, the G.O. took Saturday off work and came along as my porter and to select key ingredients for his traditional birthday dinner of sausages, onion gravy & mashed potato which he assured Celia you can live on.

IMK: Birthday bits n' pieces - flowers, apple rice meringue and Tojiro blades
IMK: The G.O’s birthday bits n’ pieces – roses “no-ones ever given me flowers before!”, apple rice meringue and Tojiro kitchen knives for his inner Samurai

The G.O. doesn’t get to the markets as much as I do but he’s familiar with and to the stallholders and has his favourites. So while Celia and I wandered around chatting to stallholders at Olsson’s Australian salt and Margin’s Mushrooms, the G.O. chatted to Mr Apples and Moobi Valley Meats. And came away with Pink Lady’s as well as Granny Smiths for his birthday sweet treat (my first attempt at this dessert made by his grandmother) plus sirloin steaks grown just up the road from where my grandparents had their farm when I was a kid.

The G.O. approved my selection of sausages and bacon from Linga Longa Farm’s stall and potatoes from Highland Gourmet Potatoes.

IMK: Traditional birthday dinner of the G.O.
IMK: Traditional birthday dinner of the G.O.

Did you know potatoes have a season? The guys that have this stall are lovely but we only see them from December to September. At the moment my go-to potatoes are Lustre for lustrous silky mashed potato, Emma for light crisp air-filled baked potatoes and Pink Kiss for old-fashioned tasty baked potatoes like my Nanna used to make.

IMK: Lustre, Emma and Pink Kiss
IMK: Lustre, Emma and Pink Kiss

Of course we caught up with Beth at her Burrawong Gaian Poultry stall and sampled her delicious pates and rillettes. The duck marylands were selling fast but I managed to buy 2 packs of 2 for Sunday night dinner.

IMK: Burrawong Gaian duck marylands 3 ways
IMK: Burrawong Gaian duck marylands 3 ways

By the time we left my nanna trolley was overflowing and my wallet empty. A few extras depleted my own funds and I had to borrow cash from the G.O. He’s not only handy as a porter but a mobile cash dispensing machine.

As I explained to Celia, how I make fresh food shopping at the farmers market viable is to use it all, and buy little other food for the rest of the week… and sometimes the week after… when freezer, fridge and pantry stock comprises the greater part of our eating.

IMK: Organic Australian oats, honey and salt
IMK: Organic Australian oats, honey and salt
  • Moobi Valley sirloin steak, baked Highland Gourmet potatoes, Muscat’s carrots & golden beetroot plus Darling Mills micro salad was Saturday night dinner.
  • Sunday breakfast was porridge made with organic Australian organic rolled oats and Highland Organics milk topped with Mr Apples compote, Nambucca MacNuts macadamias and R. Stephens Mole Creek Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey.
  • Linga Longa Farm bacon, Margins mushrooms, peas, pasta and cream sauce made from Highland Organics milk made a cosy lunch for a damp chilly Sunday.
  • Duck marylands slow roasted at 150 C in a bath of Massel chicken stock  and Buller Malmsey plus re-fried roast veges and steamed sugar snap peas was Sunday night dinner.
  • For Monday lunch the G.O. took half the leftover pasta, the other half went into the freezer. I took the leftover piece of cold sirloin and salad which I added to a fresh bread roll.
  • Monday dinner was noodle, vegetable and shredded duck Maryland stir-fry with puffy omelettes made with Thirlmere eggs, sesame oil and a dash of carbonated water.
  • Tuesday, the G.O.’s birthday, we headed out and enjoyed a lovely lunch of fish and chips at Watsons Bay so didn’t need to cook dinner. But we had room for birthday apple rice meringue made from Mr Apples’ Granny Smiths, Thirlmere eggs and Highland Organics milk.
  • Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the G.O. took apple rice meringue for smoko.
  • Wednesday I had an in-house work lunch and as there were no dinner leftovers the G.O. fended for himself.
  • Wednesday night I prepared the rain-checked birthday dinner of Linga Longa Farm sausages & bacon with Muscat’s onions and gravy made with Prickle Hill Worcestershire sauce from Coleambally and Tetsuya’s Wasabi Mustard, and mashed Highland Gourmet potatoes.
  • For Thursday lunch the G.O. took mashed potato, sausages and onion gravy for lunch. I took bits n’ pieces of leftover vege & duck noodles, omelette and baked veges.
  • Thursday night dinner was leftover mashed potato, sausages, bacon and onion gravy. The leftovers went into the freezer.

Note: We’re a 2 person household. We both work full-time. We live in a small city apartment and wish we had a vege garden and chooks. Maybe one day. For now, where possible I buy pastured/free range/organic produce and improvise using ingredients I have on hand. For us farmers markets an equitable option as if I can’t get there we spend the same money or more at supermarkets, takeaway food or eating out. My choices may not suit everyone –  it’s up to each of us to do what we think and best can. Corporate commodification of food, marketing, advertorials, profiteering and undue influence on our lives concerns me greatly. Shopping and eating mindfully is my antidote to that.

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too…” Kurt Vonnegut

IMK: Apple Rice Meringue from The Commonsense Cookery Book (Source -
IMK: Apple Rice Meringue from The Commonsense Cookery Book (Source –

no hard feelings . . .

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I’m not one to hold a grudge… fortunately, in regard to chickens. Despite an indelible experience I had as a kid with a rooster I still admire their kind. And care about what manner of lives they have before they grace my table.

I spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm up until age 9. One of my favourite things to do was collect the eggs. The chook yard was down the back away from the house near the gully. It was something I could manage myself but usually my Pa tagged along. Encountering a opportunistic snake or cranky hen was possible.

One day aged around 6, I tagged along with Pa as he checked the cows’ water reservoir halfway up the hill to the dairy. I wandered down toward the chook yard on my own. The chooks were let out, next thing I know there’s a feathered devil on my back and I’m running up the hill towards Pa screaming at the top of my little lungs. My hero grabbed the damned rooster by its scrawny neck, laid it on the nearby wood heap chopping block and took off its head with the axe. At which point the rest of it ran in circles before it dropped momentarily. Fascination quickly erased the terror I’d felt.

Like other chooks for the table the rooster was duly dunked in a kerosene tin of scalding water and plucked. I still remember the distinctive, not pleasant smell of scalded chicken feathers and guts. The rooster had a good long life so he was old and tough but waste not, edible enough. He was dinner.

Now that’s not so awful when you consider what goes on in a factory farm or CAFO. CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. Call me a coward but frankly I don’t want to see it. Even passing trucks packed with chickens and trailing white feathers along the highway, something that makes my sister cry, evidences the dreadful commodification of poultry and that’s why I buy ethically produced free range poultry and eggs.

Just because I can’t bear to see it doesn’t mean I don’t care. Factory farming makes me angry because how our food gets to us shouldn’t be shrouded, dependent on interpretation of the word ‘adequate’ or haggling over free range standards and scruples of a few with vested interests.

It might look like a roast chicken but it’s far more. I’d like us to do better but a properly free range life it’s the very least chickens are entitled to. It’s the very least we’re entitled to when we shop. Worth thinking about when buying poultry products or eggs.

Celia and I are very excited about ethical poultry farmers from the Mid North Coast of NSW Burrawong Gaian Poultry’s first appearance at my local Eveleigh Farmers Market on Saturday 20 June 2015, and won’t miss the opportunity to cheer them on in person.

Easy weekend food: Roast Free Range Thirlmere Chicken from Eveleigh Farmers Market

Despite food safety warnings I rinse whole raw chicken inside and out using cold water and paper towel to dry, then wash sink and hands with hot soapy water and wipe out with paper towel and vinegar spray. It’s up to you if you do this or not.

The G.O. loves stuffing. My usual recipe is: roughly chop several of slices of sourdough bread and a large onion. Combine in a bowl with an egg, ginger powder, salt and pepper, adding milk to moisten. In this case there was no milk so I substituted plain full fat homemade yoghurt which gave the stuffing a lovely rich slightly tart flavour. I have also been known to use sage, rosemary, hazelnut meal, chopped dried figs, garlic, lemon zest, a whole lemon or onion… none of which are favoured by the G.O.

If you make extra stuffing mixture, put it in a oiled small loaf pan sealed with foil or wrap it in oiled foil and bake for an hour or so.

After stuffing the bread mixture into the chicken, massage the outside with butter. Sit on a rack in a deep cast iron pot with lid over a bath of chicken stock and Malmsey (or other Madeira type wine) and slow roast on 150 – 160 degrees Celsius for about double the time you would pan roast. Turn up the heat to 180 C and take the lid off for the last 15 minutes. Remove the chicken to rest covered and cook the pan juices down on the stove top to make gravy.

Sometimes I put potatoes, onions and carrots in the roasting pan as well and they bake to a lovely tenderness.

This reasonable size chicken, 1.7 kg, gives us 2 nights of dinners, several lunches and chicken stock from the bones.

Note: Every day I eat. Every now and then I blog about food: I thought it only fair on occasion to share what passes as a recipe for something I’ve made. We’re a 2 person household. All quantities and times are approximate. Additions and substitutions may be made according to preference, taste and availability. Where possible I use pastured/free range/organic produce and improvise using ingredients I have on hand.

In My Kitchen: baby, it’s cold outside…

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Donna Hay's At My Table (1995), photography by Quentin Bacon
Donna Hay’s At My Table (1995), photography by Quentin Bacon

Over the past month the weather has gotten quite nippy here on the south east coast of Australia. It’s perfect for indoor enjoyments, warming our small apartment by turning the oven on, and comfort food.

At My Table
At My Table

Just as well, because the G.O. and I have spent the last three weekends keeping each other cosy company on the couch while fighting off our common cold/flu lurgy. Expeditions have been circumscribed. I haven’t been to the farmers market for over a month. We’ve been eating courtesy of our pantry-freezer stash and foraging at local shops.

Garlic /  Ginger Grater
Garlic / Ginger Grater

En route dashing to the shops I diverted to a garage sale and was rewarded, netting myself a ginger-garlic grater -perfect! fresh ginger for tea was on my shopping list- and yet another cookbook I couldn’t resist buying for a few dollars. One day rather than just browsing, I’ll make something… What attracted me to Donna Hay’s At My Table (1995) was the artistic photography by Quentin Bacon and the simple fresh recipes and ideas. “The photographs in At My Table have been taken as polaroid transfers. Each image is printed onto cotton paper and each is therefore an original work of art.”

Backyard feral chook eggs
Backyard feral chook eggs

When I can’t get to the markets what I miss most is proper free range eggs. The eggs at the local shop are labelled free range and they’re local from within a 100 km radius of Sydney but I can’t help thinking they’re not what I envision as really free range pastured eggs from farm chooks. I couldn’t have been more delighted to get a text from my bestie Mrs S. who was coming for a visit asking Do you want eggs? Yes. Half a dozen or a dozen? However many you can carry, was my response. Her husband has a band of what she calls not free range but feral range chooks in his Blue Mountains backyard.

Free Range (left) vs Backyard (right)
Free Range (left) vs Backyard (right)

As she hands the eggs over Mrs S. says to me. I don’t eat the eggs… those chooks will eat anything, bugs, food scraps, rubbish. My suggestion to not die and fall over in the back yard or they’ll eat you, didn’t comfort her. That’s why backyard eggs are better than shop eggs! You can see, Mr S.’s chook egg is the one on the right, with the lovely yellow yolk. The other egg is free range but grain fed, hence the orange yolk.

Pa's Rice Pudding
Pa’s Rice Pudding


Backyard eggs inspired me to cook rice pudding like my Pa used to make, as close as I can. The G.O., enigma that he is, won’t eat plain boiled rice in any form but will eat rice pudding. My grandfather’s rice pudding was my favourite dessert when I was a kid. He made it just like this in an old enamel dish, but in a wood burning oven. I can’t replicate that nor milk from his dairy cows, or home grown eggs usually. But it’s still good, and the G.O.’s current preferred sweets for Sunday afternoon tea and Monday smoko.

Pa's Rice Pudding Recipe
Pa’s Rice Pudding Recipe

The recipe is from my 1984 revised version of The Commonsense Cookery Book. Thumbing through it, refreshing my memory on rice pudding how-to I came across a recipe I’ve been seeking for a decade… The G.O.’s favourite sweet made by his grandmother was apple rice meringue… I’d never heard of it. But I have the recipe now. It’s his birthday in a few weeks. Stay tuned.

Best Pumpkin Soup Ever
Best Pumpkin Soup Ever

Pumpkin is the G.O.’s favourite soup. I love it because it’s the easiest to make. I saw Beck from In Search of Golden Pudding’s Roasted Pumpkin Soup and decided it was time to turn into soup the pumpkin given to us in April by a Taylors Arm neighbour. Similar to Beck, baking on a non stick tray pumpkin pieces skin on with whole unpeeled onions and garlic until golden. When cool, scraping/squeezing out the softened vegetables into a saucepan, I blend them with stock… by mistake I added 1 tub of chicken and another of beef stock… it was delicious… plus a generous glug of macadamia oil to give the soup weight and depth, and season only with white pepper. This time inspired by Beck I also scraped in the caramelised cooking juices off the bottom of the pan. Best Pumpkin Soup Ever.

Vacu Vin Wine Saver
Vacu Vin Wine Saver

During winter in particular my motto is “I love cooking with wine—sometimes I even put it in the food”, so I was pleased when I re-discovered untried in the bottom of a draw the wine saver my sister gave me for Christmas… a few years ago… I like a drop of red in a glass or in the pot but the G.O. doesn’t drink it. The wine saver works by swapping the screw cap/cork with the stopper then using the pump to vacuum out the air inside that will turn the wine if left for too long. Not that it happens much!

The quiet transition from autumn to winter is not a bad time at all. It’s a time for protecting and securing things and for making sure you’ve got in as many supplies as you can. It’s nice to gather together everything you possess as close to you as possible, to store up your warmth and your thoughts and burrow yourself into a deep hole inside, a core of safety where you can defend what is important and precious and your very own. Then the cold and the storms and the darkness can do their worst. They can grope their way up the walls looking for a way in, but they won’t find one, everything is shut, and you sit inside, laughing in your warmth and your solitude, for you have had foresight.Tove Jansson, Moominvalley in November 

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

the rebellion of a couch tomato

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I’d never thought of myself as a rebel. I’m a mutable Sagittarius. A fitter-inner. The G.O. looks sceptical when I say “I liked school”. The closest I came was my bestie Mrs S. says she thought I was cool when we met age 16 back in the early 1980’s because I wore desert boots. My stepmother certainly expressed her opinion that I wore too much eyeliner, and Dad considered I wore too much black. But that was fashion, not rebellion.

I never had reason to rebel. I grew up in a family, country and era where I had freedom to make my own choices, for better or worse. I chose to work, marry & divorce, repeat, not have children, buy a home and so on. My sister was the first rebel in our family, when she decided age 14 to become vegan. It rocked my family but for me it wasn’t an issue, whenever she spent time in my household, the food on our table was vegan too.

My particular rebellion came on slowly after I realized the most basic of my choices was being made for me in an artful manner by people I didn’t know. The food of my grandparents’ and parents’ kitchens was disappearing.

So armed with a nanna shopping trolley, most weekends I walk the walk of my rebellion to the farmers market. In supermarkets I opt for free range-organic-ethical-local. I wield the weapon of a wooden spoon with my shield the mixing bowl and bake biscuits. Of an evening, knife in hand I go into combat armed with pastured raised meat and organic veges for dinner. In the mornings I crack the shells of ethically produced eggs.

The other weapons in my arsenal are information and communication. I took the affront to my food rights quite personally. How dare they. I’m just one of many food rebels. Many who generously share their time, efforts and knowledge. They farm, garden, shop with awareness, cook, appear on TV, write articles, blogs & books.

Although I’m currently limited to espousing rebellion from my living room via a keyboard while sitting on the couch. I consider growing your food to be the ultimate act of rebellion. Living in a tiny apartment redeemed by a large a sunny balcony I’d love to grow tubs of vegetables as many apartment dwellers do. But it is in direct proximity to a grimy train line; only the hardiest of geraniums and succulents survive. The edible plants & herbs I attempt to grow exposed to railway track ballast struggle, and eating them doesn’t seem safe. I feel blessed when we receive a gift of tomatoes from a gardening friend and find basil growing in the apartment complex’s small herb garden down the back away from the tracks.

Easy weeknight food: Rebel garden sauce, meatballs and pasta ribbons

The rebellion of a couch tomato

Chop 4 large tomatoes such as those grown by the G.O.’s mate Trojan, with handful of basil leaves and 2 small sweet onions. Sauté using macadamia (or other nut/vegetable) oil. Add chopped leftover organic green beans, baked red capsicum, golden beetroot, black olives and beef meatballs from the freezer. Serve over left over strips of pasta made from leftover fresh lasagne sheets from the freezer, and top with grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Note: Every day I eat. Every now and then I blog about food: I thought it only fair on occasion to share what passes as a recipe for something I’ve made. We’re a 2 person household. All quantities and times are approximate. Additions and substitutions may be made according to preference, taste and availability. Where possible I use pastured/free range/organic produce and improvise using ingredients I have on hand.

I want to go back to Brazil, get married, have lots of kids, and just be a couch tomato. Ana Beatriz Barros

In My Kitchen: live love local

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Wiki describes Locavore as “a person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market. One common – but not universal – definition of “local” food is food grown within 100 miles (161 kilometres) of its point of purchase or consumption”.

Although not strictly a Locavore, I like to source food as locally as possible or know its provenance. Locavore is great in principle, but not always do-able in reality. Dividing our time between 2 locations 500 kilometres apart as the G.O. and I do is similarly great in principle, but not always in reality.

In the last six weeks the G.O. and I have made 4 trips north; first to the Hunter Valley for my youngest half-sister’s baby shower; last to meet my niece ( …first grandchild for my family) born on my half-brother’s 30th birthday. In between we’ve made 2 trips to our house at Taylors Arm for Easter and ANZAC Day.

In order to drive to Taylors Arm for ANZAC Day we had to get through areas of the Hunter Valley which experienced a deluge during that week. The G.O. had a skin cancer removed from his face and 3 layers of 15 stitches immediately prior to our departure and we were delayed in traffic for 2 hours but managed to get through before the highway was closed due to floodwater across it.

water, water everywhere...
water, water everywhere…

I wouldn’t describe our time at Taylors Arm as relaxing or recreational, rather productive but it gave me the opportunity to stock up on local Nambucca Valley produce. Knowing we were heading off to Taylors Arm my family had put in their orders for lemon myrtle soap and macadamias.

Gruber's Winery
Gruber’s Winery

It was great to visit and chat with Michelle & Peter from Perry’s Lemon Myrtle and Mariana from Gruber’s Winery just down the road. As well as using lemon myrtle soap bars in the shower; I grind the soap up, adding water & glycerine and heating in a saucepan to make liquid hand soap for the kitchen and bathroom.

Perry's Lemon Mrytle
Perry’s Lemon Mrytle

The G.O loves a visit to the MacNuts shop in Macksville and samples the flavoured varieties of macadamias thoroughly while he waits.

Nambucca MacNuts
Nambucca MacNuts

I also strolled down our main street to The Pub With No Beer and bought beef & eggs locally grown by the new managers, the Welsh’s who are the G.O.’s cousins, and local garlic grown on the village outskirts.

grocery shopping at The Pub With No Beer
grocery shopping at The Pub With No Beer

Best of all our RHS neighbours shared with us bananas they had been given that were grown nearby, some of which I exchanged for one of 3 pumpkins anonymously left on LHS neighbour’s doorstep.


There were also a few choko’s remaining on the vine along our RHS dividing fence, which I grabbed as I like them (a bit smaller preferably) and even though the G.O. detests them, he’ll cook them for me on the bbq.

We return to Sydney laden with products from our Mid North Coast home, and fortunately online shopping enables me to replenish at a few of my favourite places both local & non-local: Perry’s Lemon Myrtle; Nambucca MacNutsKombu Wholefoods; Daintree Tea, even if I’m not able to visit in person.

Other local Mid North Coast favourites also available further afield at farmers markets or via distributors are Burrawong Gaian PoultryAusbuff buffalo products, and Booma Boers who are at my local Sydney Eveleigh Farmers Market. Booma Boers goat products are also available at some Woolworths supermarkets.

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

“The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from the mere animal biology to an act of culture.” ― Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto


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Until a few years ago my food belief systems were stuck in the late 1960’s, where as a pre-schooler I shopped at the small country grocery store with my mother. There were only a few varieties of breakfast cereal. My grandparents provided us with milk and eggs. Fresh bread was delivered via a horse and cart. The modest amounts of cordial, ice-cream, packaged products bought were made by local companies not global conglomerates.

Baked Snow Gem potatoes
Baked Snow Gem potatoes

It became apparent things had changed. Food didn’t taste the way I remembered, and I’d begun experiencing health issues related to sugars, refined carbohydrates and additives. I considered what I was spending, and the value I was getting. I compared the taste of corporate-industrial products to quality fresh produce; and health, ethical and environmental costs vs. benefits.

Extracting myself from today’s food complex was daunting. I made the change gradually, exchanging bad for good; fresh white bread is still a treat, from a bakery not a supermarket. I found better options… I can take or leave supermarket potatoes but I love potatoes from the farmers market which when baked go crisp & caramelised, and taste so much better. Before I discovered farmers market potatoes I just thought I was terrible at baking potatoes.

And it seems I’ve come back to where I was in the late 1960’s. I manage by sticking to favourite products, buying in season, a stocked pantry, smaller portions of better quality, planning meals, cooking food at home rather than dining out or buying takeaway, taking homemade lunches to work, making meals from leftovers and putting them in the freezer… using every last skerrick.

Leftovers/freezer meals have increasingly become our equivalent of takeaway; quick & easy. Home cooked dinner made from good farmers market produce is better than a lot of restaurant offerings I’ve encountered… and I’m a simple everyday cook!

While we live in a small city apartment I’m unable to grow food but I am growing awareness. Akin to my passion for family history research I read books and blogs on food topics, Google search and follow a treasure map of links. It takes time and thought but it’s nothing compared with what consumers are against when it comes to marketing efforts by Big Food.

To give you an idea the top 3 companies of 2013 Food Sales from Food Processing’s Top 100 – 2014 are:

  1. Pepsico Inc.
  2. Tyson Foods Inc.
  3. Nestle

The world’s largest snack-food maker [Pepsico] may boost the advertising and marketing budget for its namesake cola and other drinks by as much as $600 million, or 50 percent, to $1.7 billion when it announces the results of a year-long business review Feb. 9, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg”

In 2012, Tyson Foods’ ad spend amounted to approximately 496 million U.S. dollars. Tyson Foods is a manufacturer of food products, mostly chicken, beef, and pork products.”

In 2013, Nestle spent 30.6 million U.S. dollars on internet advertising in the U.S.”

“I meant no harm I most truly did not, but I had to grow bigger so bigger I got.
I biggered my factory, I biggered my roads, I biggered the wagons,
I biggered the loads, of the Thneeds I shipped out
I was shipping them forth from the South, to the East, to the West.
To the North, I went right on biggering selling more thneeds.
And I biggered my money which everyone needs.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Note: Every day I eat. Every now and then I blog about food: I thought it only fair on occasion to share what passes as a recipe for something I’ve made. We’re a 2 person household. All quantities and times are approximate. Additions and substitutions may be made according to preference, taste and availability. Where possible I use pastured/free range/organic produce and improvise using ingredients I have on hand.

Easy weeknight food: Enchiladas made from freezer, pantry and fridge contents.

Combine in saucepan and heat through 1 medium size container of defrosted savoury ground beef mince* with 2 cans of drained & rinsed red kidney beans and a sachet of tomato paste (approx. 2 tablespoons).

Defrost small tub of chopped sautéed tomatoes and add approx. 3 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce.

Spray or brush a large shallow ovenproof dish with canola oil.

Spoon a line of the mince-bean mixture along the centre of 6 tortillas, folding and placing each in ovenproof dish.

Spoon tomato-sweet chilli sauce mix over the top.

Top with grated cheese.

Beef and Bean Enchiladas with Corn Salsa and Spiced Persian Yoghurt
Beef and Bean Enchiladas with Corn Salsa and Spiced Persian Yoghurt

Cover with foil and bake in pre-heated 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6 oven for 20 to 30 minutes, removing foil for last 5 to 10 minutes.

To make salsa combine 1 cup sweet corn kernels with 2 chopped tomatoes, a small red onion chopped, chopped red bull pepper, a handful of fresh basil, a drizzle each of olive oil and sweet chilli sauce.

Serve warm enchiladas with corn salsa and Spiced Persian Yoghurt -yoghurt, feta and fresh herbs, Greek yoghurt/crème fraiche/sour cream.

This is the first time I’ve made enchiladas but it won’t be the last. The G.O. said they were better than lasagne… but I’m not sure I agree but they’re as good as.

It made 2 night’s dinners and leftovers the G.O. took to work for lunch.

When I began incorporating beans into the savoury ground beef mince the G.O. wasn’t too keen but he’s become accustomed (it’s change he doesn’t like, I think) and enjoyed lasagne I made with beef & beans and layers of veges.

*There are always a few containers of savoury beef mince in our freezer. We eat it on toast, with mashed potato and veges, in spaghetti bolognaise, lasagne, nachos…

To make 4 containers of savoury beef mince for the freezer, in a large frypan saute 4 large chopped onions in canola oil with a sprinkle of white pepper. When translucent, add 1 kg ground beef mince stirring & breaking up until browned. Add a cup of beef stock, 2 tins chopped tomatoes, 1 sachet of tomato paste (approx. 2 tablespoons), a pinch each of dried rosemary & nutmeg and a squeeze of lemon juice. Simmer for approx. 15 minutes. Add 2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs and simmer for approx. 15 minutes. Can also be slow cooked in the oven in a heavy based casserole dish or using an electric slow cooker.