I know I’m a nuisance but for a variety of reasons, I have moved through cyberspace and come to rest elsewhere. So all future kitchen playground posts will be found at….drum roll please…

All previous posts, comments and so on have been moved over to their new home. The Bread Winner kindly tried to organise for this site to automatically redirect to the new site but sadly it’s an impossibility.

Please don’t desert me though. I really enjoy your company. It will only take a moment to bookmark the new site or subscribe to the RSS feed and I’ll do my best to make it worth your while.

If there is anything you have been wanting to see on this site, let me know on the new site and I’ll do my best to oblige. I have a bit more flexibility now I’ve moved off wordpress.

At some point in the next week, I plan to run a small competition to celebrate the opening of the new kitchen playground. Because I’m excited and because I can.

Thit Heo Kho

Finally the cool change has come. Just in the nick of time too. Lil Miss arose at 3.30 this morning. For the day. We are not amused. I have two seriously whingy Ankle Biters today. But all is well, tonight is cool and we’re eating comfort food, Vietnamese style.

Thit Heo Kho to be precise.

Falafel Salad

It’s still very hot in Melbourne. Really hot. It’s unusual to get a heatwave this long lasting here. I’ll miss it when it’s done. Perfect salad weather. Which is lucky because as usual on a Monday, I’m quite rushed between kinder, work, food shopping, laundry and so on. I found some falafel mix in the freezer this morning so I’ve decided to use that as the bas for tonight’s dinner. Falafel in one of those things that it is worth making big batches of because it freezes beautifully.

I use the Nourishing Traditions falafel recipe and I’ll include it here just in case you don’t have any lurking in your freezer.

2 cups chickpeas
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups parsley
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup lard or rice bran oil

Soak chickpeas overnight in water and lemon juice. Drain and repeat or boil in fresh water until cooked. Place all ingredients except lard or oil in thermomix or food processor (in batches if necessary) and process until finely ground enough to hold together when squeezed into a ball. It should be roughly coarse paste consistency. Foolishly I didn’t note down what speed or for how long I did it when I made this batch. I would guess about speed 6 for up to a minute. I am guessing though.
Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Roll into small balls and saute in lard or oil.

Now for the salad…

Falafel Salad

1/2 wombok, shredded
1 cucumber, julienned
1 carrot, grated
1 green capsicum,sliced
1 red capsicum, sliced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
2 slices sorj bread
spray on olive oil
2 bunches parsley, finely chopped
1 large tomato, finely diced
half red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup bulghur soaked for at least 2 hours
big slurp olive oil
juice 4 lemons
1/4 cup tahini

Combine parsley, diced tomato, red onion and bulghur. Dress with olive oil and half the lemon juice. Set aside. That’s tabouleh.
In a large bowl, combine combine wombok, cucumber, capsicum, carrot and cherry tomatoes. Fold tabouleh through. Mix tabouleh balls through. Dress with combined tahini and lemon juice.
Turn oven up high. Spray both sides of sorj bread with oil and place directly onto oven racks. Leave them in there for a couple of minutes until they turn golden. Break into pieces and scatter over salad.

This was even more delicious than the Bread Winner or I anticipated. Perfect for a steamy night.

So I thought I’d interview the Ankle Biters about food today. Surely with me for a mother they are budding gourmands with sophisticated likes, right? Let’s find out.

Son and Heir. Age 4. His answers italicised.
What is your favourite snack?
Sultanas and bananas

What is your favourite breakfast?
Mmm, porridge. Just porridge.

What is your favourite lunch
Um. I don’t know what we eat for lunch. What do we eat for lunch? Can you tell me?

No. What is your favourite lunch?

We never have pizza for lunch.
Oh. I don’t know what we eat for lunch. We have wraps sometimes.

What do you like in wraps?
Cheese. Nothing else. That’s all I like. And I like tuna and avocado. Prawns. I really, really love prawns. But I need help taking the skin and head off.

What is your favourite dinner.
Pasta and pizza. And avocado.

What pasta sauce do you like?
Tomato with meat.

What do you like on your pizza?
Just cheese and just tomato. I do like ham and olives.

What’s your very favourite food in the whole world.
Sultanas (the last answer was given with a mouthful of sultanas. Primacy and recency in action)

Why did the chicken cross the road?
I don’t know. I can’t remember. Leave me alone.

Lil Miss. Age 2. Answers in italics.
What is your favourite snack?

What is your favourite breakfast?

What do you like on your toast?

What is your favourite lunch?
Sandwich and trampoline (?!?)

What do you like on your sandwich?
Toast and butter

What is your favourite dinner?

What do you like on your pasta?
Toast and pasta

What pasta sauce do you like?

What else do you like to eat?
Toast with butter
And more fruit toast. With pasta.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Oh yeah. I’m doing a great job. Yay me, super Mumma creating mini-gourmet-maestros. I rock. At least it explains why I bake so much bread.

The last couple of days have been hot, hot, hot in Melbourne. Which I love but no one else seems too jiggy with it. Having this sudden heat wave in March is, for me, a delicious reprieve from the cooler weather that surely approaches. I don’t do cold.

Yesterday was 42 degrees I believe, so hot by any standard. It was also my In Laws last day in the country before returning to the US. So I had Pa and Ma In Law, Brother in Law, Sister in Law, Niece and my folks over for dinner. All up that’s eight adults and three ankle biters. Even with our air conditioning, that many people was going to heat up the house too much. Serving outside worked perfectly as the Ankle Biters all played happily and a lovely southerly breeze came wandering through the pergola providing some relief to the normal folk who don’t like intense heat.

Cooking was going to heat up the house too much. We’ve done a lot of the chops and vegies thing on the barbecue lately though and I felt like making something a bit more fancy schmancy. Actually I had a few recipes up my sleeve I’d been dying to try so this was a good excuse. I did a little bit of precooking in side. Mostly the day before when it was only 39 degrees. The rest I finished on the barbecue using a paella pan and wok. Our barbecue has a wok burner and it’s the best gosh darned thing ever.

My only other hurdle is my Dad. Bless his cotton socks, he’s a wonderful guy but his taste buds run to bland. He is Mr Meat and Potatoes. Never fear. Nothing a piece of steak on the barbecue, a baked potato and side of the World’s Most Boring Salad didn’t fix. Strange, I’ve always refused to cook different meals to cater to kids taste but I’ll happily do it for my dear old Dad.

So, all hurdles successfully crossed, this is what we ate…

Moqueca De Peixe.

I served this with steamed rice. I ran out of time to make the pirao. To save time and mucking around, I chopped all the sauce ingredients in the thermomix and added the stock earlier in the day. Shortly before I wanted to serve, I heated the sauce in the wok on the barbecue and then added the marinated seafood. Rather than using fish or prawns, I used a kilo of the super fresh, extra-delicious marinara mix from my local fishmonger. This dish is seriously divine. I can see it will become a regular feature around Chez Mad House.

I should mention that I had every intention of taking photos when these dishes were fresh and beautifully presented in my favourite mother of pearl salad dishes. But I forgot and everyone got stuck straight in so you get to see the half eaten remains instead. Nice huh?

Chinese Roast Duck Salad
adapted from Tossed Up by Jane Lawson
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons muscovado
1 Chinese roast duck, cut into bite size pieces
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 tablespoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 bunch chopped watercress
1 handful chopped mixed lettuce leaves

Combine dressing in ingredients in a jar, shake and set aside.
Combine all other ingredients and gently toss. Dress immediately before serving.
This was the absolute star of the salads.

Turkey, Fig and Chicken Liver Salad
adapted from the Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook 2007
I did the cooking part of this in a paella pan out on the barbecue at the last minute. Everything else was already combined in a serving dish.
2 tablespoons olive oil
100g mild pancetta cut into strips
250g free range chicken livers, trimmed
30ml brandy
30ml red wine vinegar
45ml walnut oil
8 figs, cut into wedges
2 cups spinach leaves
1 cup watercress
1 turkey chop, roasted, cooled and shredded
1 cup walnut pieces
Combine spinach, watercress, turkey and figs in large serving dish.
Heat oil in pan, add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally until golden and crisp. Remove from pan and set aside to drain. Add livers to the pan. Season to taste and cook for a couple of minutes per side until brown and medium rare. Remove from pan.
Deglaze pan with brandy, then add vinegar, then walnut oil. Swirl to combine, season to taste and remove from heat.
Toss pancetta and livers through salad. Scatter walnuts throughout. Dress with liquid from pan. Serve immediately.
Beware, wasps will want to attack the figs despite having a mesh cover over the top.

Finally, for dessert, in honour of the weather. I served Fruity Dream for dessert. Fruity Dream is a divine little number from the Australian Thermomix Cook Book. I made 2 batches, 1 of kiwi fruit and 1 of strawberry and served each person a good sized dollop of each side by side. A perfect finish.

Fruity Dream
300g frozen fruit
60g caster sugar
1 egg white
Chop sugar and fruit together for 10 seconds on speed 8. Insert butterfly and egg white. Blend for 45 seconds on speed 4.

No idea how you would make this conventionally. I suspect you would need a super duper kitchen maid with the big butterfly like attachment and some strong chopping blades. My old food processor and blender certainly would not have done the trick. The end result is light and fluffy and somewhere between ice cream and sorbet.

The Bread Winner gets back late tonight. I know he doesn’t like fruit in salads. Tough. Tonight he’s getting it. Next time maybe he won’t confuse his flight times and have me believe he’ll be home early. So there.

Garlic prawn and wombok salad
1 baby wombok, shredded
1 carrot, grated
1 red capsicum, julienned
1 cup bean sprouts
handful snow peas cut into strips
sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
500g green prawns
1 mango, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 dobs butter
1/2 teaspoon rapadura
3 tablespons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey

Place one dob of butter in a fry pan. Add garlic and prawns and stir unti prawns are cooked through. Remove and cool. Add mango, sesame seeds, remaining butter and rapadura to pan. Cook until mango starts to fall apart. Remove and cool. Combine prawns, mango and other ingredients in large bowl.
Combine olive oil, lemon juice and honey and dress salad immediately before serving.

This is a great way of getting lots of vegies serves into the family with minimum complaints. Good anti-cancer vegetables that practically everyone needs to eat more of too. You could leave the chicken out if you are vegetarian, I’d probably add another leek in that case.

Chicken, broccoli and cauliflower soup

1 free range or organic chicken
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
2 heads broccoli, roughly chopped, stem included
1/2 head cauliflower, roughly chopped, stem included
2 zucchini, roughly chopped
head garlic
red onion, quartered
3 roma tomatoes, sliced longways

Simmer chicken, leek, carrot and celery for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, place remaining vegetables on baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and make in a preheated, moderate oven until starting to colour.
Remove vegetables from oven, squeeze garlic from skin and discard skins. Add all roasted vegetables to soup pot and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Scoop out vegetables and blend in thermomix for 20 seconds on speed 6. This should take two batches. Or use a food processor until thoroughly pureed.
Remove chicken with large slotted spoon. Shred meat off bones. Discard bones. Return vegetable puree and shredded chicken to remaining stock. Stir to combine and season to taste.


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