Beef ragu

I’m reluctant to say how many this serves, as it completely depends how hungry everyone is, and it is quite moreish! But tonight it is feeding 2 adults and 2 children under 8 and we’ll have leftovers for lunch or dinner tomorrow with a salad on the side. If I was famished I could eat 3 bowls, so if you have teenage children or 4 adults I think it would do for one meal.

This is one of those chuck everything in the pot and let it do it’s thing for a few hours. It can then sit for a while until you’re ready to serve dinner when you can quickly cook the pasta and toss everything together. You could even make it a day or two in advance.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1kg beef chuck steak, patted dry with paper towel

1 brown onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, sliced

1 cup red wine

400ml passata (Mutti)

3 cloves garlic (whole, unpeeled)

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs thyme 

Pappardelle, broccoli florets, spinach/beetroot leaves, parsley

Parmigiano reggiano, finely grated, to serve


  1. Heat a heavy casserole with a lid. Add oil, add beef, no need to chop it, mine was in 2 large pieces. Leave it to brown, don’t move it around. Turn it after a minute or 2 after it has developed some colour.
  2. Add onion and celery and then wine, allow to bubble up for 30 seconds, add passata and fill jar with water, shake and add that too. Add garlic, bay and thyme, some black pepper and a little salt.
  3. Cover and cook on the stovetop on lowest heat for 2.5 hours until falling apart when prodded with a spoon. Check a few times to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. Add a little water if needed, but not much, it’s nice when the sauce thickens. Gently shred meat in the pan.
  4. Cook pasta in boiling salted water (1-2 tsp sea salt), drain, retaining a few tablespoons pasta water. Add broccoli in last minute of cooking time.
  5. Add drained pasta to ragu with leaves and parsley, check seasoning. Serve with reggiano

I’ve been reading a wonderful recipe book cover to cover, drinking it in and absorbing the culinary and social ideals of Hana Assifiri. It’s called Moroccan Soup Bar and contains the recipes from a restaurant in Melbourne that is adored by its many and varied patrons. The customer reviews scrawled on napkins and sprinkled throughout the book give great insight into the impact the restaurant has on the community. Hana has built a special space, a warm and inviting community for people to feel at home, or to feel something new, and have their mind opened to new ideas, but in a very nurturing and loving way, with humour, acceptance, spark.

The recipes are simple and I can tell just from reading them they will be delicious. I borrowed my copy from a neighbour who handled it with such care and stroked the pages so lovingly as she spoke of Hana I accepted the offer to borrow it for a few days with a promise to return it shortly. It didn’t take me long to decide I needed to own my own copy as I could tell this book would end up being pulled out often, and actually used and it is hard to keep something precious like that clean in a house with small children.

So this dish is not a recipe from the book, but a delicious meal nonetheless inspired by Hana and her food philosophy: celebrating vegetables and the many different textures that can be achieved through different cooking methods, with gentle spicing and layering of flavour.

Roasted cauliflower with cumin and chilli and a tahini dressing

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp cumin seeds

Tahini dressing

3 tbsp Tahini

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

1 clove garlic



1 cos lettuce, leaves washed and shaken dry, chopped

2 tablespoons sultanas

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 tablespoon vinocotto, to drizzle


  1. Preheat oven to 220C. Place cauliflower in a bowl with oil, salt, pepper, chill and cumin and toss to coat, spread over baking tray and roast for about 30 minutes or until very dark golden. the timing will vary on how hot your oven is and how small you cut the florets, shake the tray and cook until they have lots of colour. This gives flavour.
  2. Whisk tahini with lemon, garlic, salt and pepper and a few tablespoons water. It will thicken as you whisk. Whisk until smooth and adjust taste for seasoning and desired lemon. Add a little olive oil if desired. Thin with extra water if needed to drizzling consistency.
  3. Spread lettuce and celery over a large tray, top with cauliflower, then sprinkle with sultanas, drizzle with tahini dressing and then vinocotto to finish.

Tips: Cauliflower can be roasted ahead of time, but make sure to serve the cauliflower at room temperature or warm. Reheat in oven if required.



Today’s cake is inspired by Israeli food blogger Keren Agam who I discovered through my lovely friend Hagar who has been spoiling us with Rugelach and Challah and all manner of baked treats. If you want the English version of her recipes (and you will) go to her blog using Chrome and click translate. I added a little lemon juice/icing sugar drizzle after baking to add a bit more punch.

What is it about making cake that is therapeutic? 

One part nostalgia- there is something about the sense of smell that is one of our earliest and deepest memories. It is connected to our long term memory in ways we are not even conscious of. One of my favourite food memories is my mum making Chicken Everest by Charmaine Solomon, a roast chicken, covered in spices, fragrant yet delicate, cooked in a bag to contain the juices and keep it moist. I used to request it all the time.

My grandmother was also a fan of Charmaine Solomon, and I was surprised to discover that my grandmother’s famous Christmas cake recipe was actually from the pages of a Charmaine Solomon classic tome, first published in 1976, The Complete Asian Cookbook. Rich with eggs, spices, almonds, semolina and fruit, sticky with ginger, lemon zest, rosewater…truly delicious and unrelated to a dry fruitcake studded with sultanas alone.

One part scientist- whether it is the fascination of watching bicarb fizz in water, or a yeast mixture rise and turn bubbly or a cake grow and set in the oven, there is something exciting about watching and smelling these changes in the kitchen.

I’m often amazed when making a cake that one minute the kitchen will smell of nothing much, then the next it will smell slightly sweet and ‘cooked’ a little caramelised but in a good way, this is often when I know the cake is done, even if the timer hasn’t gone off yet. if you leave it to go longer (maybe you’re in the shower etc and don’t notice the smell) it will start to smell like a darker caramel and eventually burn (ask me how I know). As well as the colour of the cake and the time recommended it’s good to keep a nose out for this change in smell too.

Many people don’t realise most baking recipes are not written for a fan-forced oven so if you don’t have a non-fan setting (which is my preference for baking as it is more gentle and even) you should drop the temperature by 10-20C from say 180C to 170C. Using an oven thermometer would save many a cake from being dry and overcooked as some ovens run very hot.

One part greedy glutton- I’m just talking about myself here ok? One of the main joys of being able to make something at home is to have something fresh, warm, straight out of the oven, and exactly what you were craving- it is such a pleasure.

One part superfairy- there is something about being able to make something special for someone who you know will enjoy it and know it will make them feel appreciated and looked after. It doesn’t have to be sweet either, some of my favourite food gifts have been salty sour pickles to be eaten alongside a curry or a bag of lemons to be turned into lemon curd or preserved lemons, or an invitation to pick olives that will turn into treats for months.

So if the mood takes you take your nostalgia, scientific discovery, gluttony and super fairy powers into the kitchen, clear some time and space and enjoy making yourself or someone you like something delicious.



We just had a beautiful weekend at our friends’ property in Fosterton NSW, about 3 hours north of Sydney. The last time we visited they cooked for us, so it was time for us to return the favour.

Here’s the menu, I cooked the spanakopita and osso buco, D cooked the pancakes, crumpets and nasi goreng. He’s a keeper.

Friday night- Spanakopita (which is a meal in its own right but…a long drive and ravenous children mean the addition of pork and ginger sausages from Feather and Bone

Saturday morning- Sourdough ricotta pancakes served with extra ricotta, lemon curd and maple syrup

Sat lunch- Nasi goreng with prawns and bok choy

D usually makes it with lap cheung (Chinese sausage…delicious!) but I forgot to pack it so we used the leftover sausages from the night before

Sat night- Osso buco, broccoli, crisp rosemary and garlic potato chips

I cooked 3 times what I normally would so we’d have enough for all 8 of us plus leftovers for lunch the next day, we still had a bit extra so the scraps went in the freezer for puppy treats for next time.

It was interesting trying out the gas oven. Hagar had made rugelach last time and noticed it took a while to bake so I allowed extra time (I started making dinner at 2pm) and had plenty of time to leisurely get dinner on and then left it to do its thing. The potatoes would normally take an hour, but took 2 hours to really crisp up. It will take me some time to figure out this new oven but it did make really nicely crisp potato chips!

Sun am- Sourdough crumpets with butter and local honey

We were fighting over them at the end, and D had made 22! Everbody adored them, they were so moreish.

Sun lunch- leftover spanakopita and osso buco plus a nice salad by Hagar (queen of salads) of all the crisp veg in the fridge plus feta

After all that food we needed a big walk so we took a stroll down to a neighbours farm and (with permission of course) the kids played on the hay bales. It’s pretty fun taking a running leap up onto a hay bale.

Ever fearful of running out of food (as if we could have!!) I had brought with me a tray of nutella brownies and a tray of lemon slice just in case anyone was hungry! The brownies got demolished by the kids, cramming them into their little mouths with gusto. I prefer the sweet tartness of the lemon bars…so I’m happy to have some leftover 🙂


Chewy on the outside, tender in the middle. These delicious friands are best served warm straight out of the oven, but will keep for several days…


180g salted butter, plus extra to grease

6 egg whites

240g pure icing sugar, sifted

120g almond meal (finely ground almonds)

75g plain flour

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest 

80g lemon curd


  1. Preheat oven to 200C (not fan forced). if you only have fan-forced as an option, set it to 180C fan forced)
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan, you can let it go a little bit brown, it will add a nice nutty flavour. Don’t let it burn though.
  3. In a large bowl add egg whites and stir in sugar. Add melted butter in a thin stream whisking as you mix. Add almond meal, flour and lemon zest.
  4.  Grease a 12 hole friand tin (oval shaped), or muffin tin with extra melted butter and divide mixture evenly between holes. Mixture will be runny. Drop one teaspoon lemon curd into the centre of each friand.
  5.  Bake for 25 minutes, friands will be deeply golden. Use a butter knife of palette knife to run around the edge of each friand and remove gently to a cooling rack. Serve warm.


  • Icing sugar goes hard over time, buy fresh icing sugar to make sieving easy. Or give yourself extra time to sieve old lumpy icing sugar!
  • Almond meal goes rancid over time so store in the fridge or freezer and use within the best before date


I have been making these for years, but think I got the original quantities from the Australian Women’s Weekly website. 

My favourite comfort food – rabbit and pasta. The ragu is from Stephanie Alexander, it’s her ‘hare pasta sauce’ but made with rabbit.

The pasta is saffron linguine from Marrickville markets. Parsley, thyme and bay from the garden. The wine to deglaze the pan and relax the chef is a McLeish Estate cabernet sauvignon/merlot.

So, it seems I’ve jumped on the apple cider bandwagon. Those who know me will smile at yet another new found food addiction. I started with Magners (Irish), late last year, which is refreshing with ice, but I now have others which I prefer, given the choice. I’ve been enjoying Monteith’s (NZ) which has a crisp, sweet finish, and Dirty Granny (Matilda Bay, WA) which has a drier finish, which, growing up drinking dry white wine on special occasions suits my palate. I also like the name. 🙂
I quite like 5 Seeds cloudy apple cider, and they are doing a lot of advertising at the moment. I’ve tried the pricey Rekordorlig Strawberry Lime and the Pear. I haven’t tried the Apple yet. I found both of the ones I’ve tried to be delicious but too sweet for my taste to drink a whole bottle. Also the price seems exorbitant for buying while out, $12 at our local, almost $6 a bottle at big name booze stores.
I don’t mind pear cider – I think the Monteith’s is less sweet than the apple, which can be nice to have a drier drink with food – but I prefer the apple if drinking it on its own. I’m looking forward to trying the apple and pear blend.
Bilpin ciderThe newest kid on the block is Bilpin original cider, bought today at Marrickville markets. They were $4 each, and after chilling all afternoon in the fridge it’s going down beautifully while my spatchcock chicken marinates in Chris Manfield’s recipe for Spicy roast chicken. Freshly made garam masala, ground ginger, chilli, garlic, turmeric and yoghurt. Can’t wait to roast it up and eat it with some BBQ corn. Might do the corn Mexican style with a little chilli jam and grated parmesan to finish.
Where was I? Cider. Drink some. Is nice.

I’d been looking forward to a week at home, starting each day with a coffee from my Rancilio Sylvia before venturing out into the world; and then Sylvia went and got sick and I had to take her to the vet.
While at the ‘vet’- Dibartoli coffee centre in Bondi Junction, we got to chatting about great cafes near St Peters and one of the guys there recommended Coffee Alchemy, a coffee house in Marrickville who roast their own beans. I went there the next day and had a delicious coffee and was determined to go back. I did read on their website that they close at 2pm but somehow in my caffeine deprived state the next day, I forgot. So I found myself coffee-less. Luckily I took a wrong turn on the way home and found the Petty Cash Cafe, whose coffee rivals that of Coffee Alchemy, or was that just to do with the sunshine on Enmore park and the balmy smell of summer in the air? Either way, I’ve found just two of what I’m sure are many more great local cafes to discover…
Oh yeah, and Sylvia is all better too 🙂

I seem to be living off beef pho at the moment, and my favourite right now is phd Vietnamese restaurant at Marrickville, only $9 for a delicious takeaway dinner, yum. I’m also hoping to try Yen For Viet a few doors down soon as every time I walk past they’re packed. We tried to get in one night without a booking and they were fully booked, so will have to plan ahead for that one.