There's No 'I' In Team (Australia)

Really?? That's the bring-us-all-together cry of the PM?? Operation Everything, where anything becomes a military campaign. If it is the old "if you're not with me, you're against me" then I am against you. Who knew?? I can be VERY contrary. Maybe it is the centenary of WWI that has brought all this military posturing out into the civilian arena. I don't think it sits well.

And so, onto what the PM would call Operation Quilt. Luckily it's not an on water operation so I can discuss it with you. There has been an awful lot of block making going on. When MrsReno laid out the blocks we had made this year I realised I should have sixteen: I always make two of each block.

Mrsreno Mr2

Oh dear. I didn't have sixteen at all. Yesterday I sewed quite a few blocks and made next week's blocks as well. I am missing four blocks, they are in a random bag somewhere. There are only three more blocks to sew, I'll make doubles and that's twenty-four and enough for a quilt. And I will have used up both my fat quarter sets as well.

Quilting  BOM catch up

My friends have finished some more blocks too. My favourite recently has been The Exploding Pineapple, of course: that's the pink once in the middle of the second row below. I haven't ironed or trimmed mine yet.

Other people's blocks

I kinneared Colleen Hewett, very unsuccessfully, at the supermarket the other say. I would be no good as a spy. As I was trying to take the unobtrusive photo, she said to the person on the other end of the phone: "A lady is just taking a photo of me". That's no lady, that was me!! Colleen was here to make a special appearance at a local College's production of Godspell. I do remember Colleen from my teenage years, and I reckon I could sing along to all her songs!! She's pretty fabulous and I told her so.

Colleen hewett

The BlackSpot of Doomlight(tm) had Vogue patterns on sale for $5 or $4-50 with their card. I bought two patterns, very restrained I know. I love the simple dress with the v-neck and flared skirt. View B takes less than 3 metres and I like the Princess Line construction, I find it easier to make a FBA. I have had my eye on the Vintage Vogue coat in the second pattern for a while. I don't actually need a warm coat, but it would be nice of an evening when I am coming home to have just an extra layer in the Winter. I think this will fit the bill perfectly.


And on the same topic, a new sewing machine will be arriving at our house soon. My Brother is just not solid enough and won't sew over more than two layers of material now. The GardyGardeners told me there was a sale on in town at the sewing machine shop and so I went in. I have some birthday money, and my tax return and a little put aside and so I can afford a nice sturdy and exciting machine; Janome DC 6030!!!

Come and live with me and be my machine

I am most excited about the Scissor Button. After you have ended off with the Knot Tying Button, the Scissor Button cuts off the threads close to your sewing and leaves long ends. Yay!! There is also a small 'table' which can be attached to the sewing machine. It sews very nicely and doesn't have a bazillion decorative stitches, which I never use anyway. Of course there wasn't a machine in the shop, so I am waiting for a phone call any minute now.

Twirly skirt

I used my current machine to sew a very, very belated Christmas skirt for MrsHouseOf. It is a very swirly peasant style skirt. I used this pattern as my guide, but I did make the layers longer as MrsHouseOf is nicely tall. It is a Two Hour skirt and that is not far off the mark.

We went to the vet 2014

And now to more important things: Peri and Gilly went to The Vet to see Dr Marion last week. They were both vaccinated and examined and pronounced thin and very healthy. Peri has a little arthritis in the leg that was operated on for cancer last year, but she's on the way to 13 and so it is to be expected. The cancer hasn't come back, so we are very grateful and pleased. Gilly was tied to the table and in her excitement she dragged it across the room!! Gilly is very well, and just has one waxy ear. Peri is allowed to be off the lead and wander about the consulting room. She likes to stand right next to The Vets and lean on them as they examine Gilly, and she looks in the rubbish bin.

The weather has been very warm, I had to turn the air-conditioner on in the car. It was 17*C the other day. The BOM said Winter has been up to two degrees warmer than average. Peri and Gilly enjoy the frosty mornings and sunny days.

Sunny day dogs

Peri Naughty and Miss Lorelai Gilmore are very well behaved. There was a little argument between the boy dogs on our walk, and The Girls were quite confused. There is never any growling or fighting at our house, The Labradors always get on very well together. Sandy decided that he would grab hold of Rafa's lead and drag him along. Rafa was not happy and there was some growling and rolling of eyes. They are friends now, but Rafa stays well away from Sandy when he has his lead on. Peri and Gilly couldn't give two hoots when he does it to them. Peri gives him her Paddington Hard Stare and he soon stops.

We don't talk about walk club

This month's Better Homes and Gardens magazine from Woolworths, or Roelf Vos as I still call it, comes with a 'free' bar tin. It is a long rectangular bar tin. I have an old one like it and when I tried to buy a new one last year it was going to cost about $30, so I went back and bought another magazine. $7-20 is so cheap. There is a very good recipe booklet and I shall be cooking lots of cakes and slices in bar tins. MrsDrWho has just suggested I should buy a third, just in case...

Bar tin

MrsDrWho, MrsHouseOf, a Young HouseOf and I went to see Doctor Who Deep Breath at the cinema. It was pretty great, there was a special extra beginning and a making of at the end. I heard a hipster looking man outside pooh-poohing people paying $25 to go and see it, but I think it is four cups of trendy coffee and anyway, I just like Doctor Who. There is something special about watching it when you are with a like minded audience. I am looking forward to more Who next week. Peter Capaldi will be an excellent Doctor, and a Scottish one at that!!!

Christmas Cooking: Easy Chocolate Fudge

This is my take on Nigella's Chocolate Pistachio Fudge. You really can't be having a fudge that must be kept in the freezer when Christmas is in Summer. I am just going right ahead and saying Christmas now. I don't care.

Basically, in 5 or 6 minutes you make a caramel and then, importantly, you allow it to cool down from a bubbling molten lava temperature, and stir in the chocolate. It sets nicely and can be kept in the fridge and safely transported about the place. Within reason.

You can add whatever extras you like: nuts, dried fruits, flavours, and make it your own.

 Easy Chocolate Fudge (that doesn't have to be kept in the freezer)

Makes 12 slices or 24 smaller squares.

  • 1 x 395g tin of condensed milk
  • 350g good dark or milk chocolate
  • 30g butter
  • tspn vanilla extract
  • optional extras: 1 tbspn golden syrup, 1 tbspn brown sugar

Pour the condensed milk into a good microwave proof bowl. I use a glass bowl. Add the butter and the sugar and golden syrup if desired. Microwave for two minutes and then stir very well. It may look lumpy, but with vigorous stirring it becomes smooth.

First Melting
A glass bowl will get very hot, but regardless, the mixture itself is extremely hot, so be very careful.

Microwave again for one minute each time, stirring carefully. Mine took 6 minutes in all.

Now the important part. Wait 5-10 minutes and then add the chocolate and vanilla and anything else you fancy and mix till combined. The chocolate will melt through the mixture.

Pour into a bar tin lined with baking paper and smooth down the top. Really you can use any quadrilateral container. I like my bar tin which is 25 x 7.5 x 4cm. Refrigerate for an hour or so and then turn out and cut with a serrated knife dipped into hot water. I can cut 12 slices or 24 smaller squares.


A bar of fudge
Pop in a cellophane bag and tie with a ribbon, or give a whole boxful to your friends!!!

Fudge in a bag

Tuesday's Letters Eat 41: 'Z' is for Zebra Biscuits

And so here I am at the end of my alphabetical cooking for 2011. It's been fun to wander through the alphabet with you. There have not been 52 recipes, because I was sick at the start of the year and then some letters are just really tricky. This way it leaves some time for Christmas cooking!! (Or requests)

These biscuits are made from dough, half vanilla and half chocolate. The dough is rolled out, cut into smaller pieces and then layered. It is refrigerated and then slices cut across the layers and then zebras, or any other shapes, can be made.

It was a warm day, so the dough took an hour or so to be firm enough to roll into shape, and then I left it overnight to set the layers. I can highly recommend pressing down to make sure the layers meld.

I had to roll my slices to make them a little larger so the zebra (horse) biscuit cutter would fit. I rolled the leftovers together, rolled them out again and made some  B&W crazy biscuits.

The recipe says it makes 18, but that depends on your fine motor control when cutting slices.


Zebra Biscuits  makes 18

  • 1 1/4 cups softened butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tspn vanilla
  • 3 cups plain flour, sifted
  • 1/3 cup cocoa

Using  a smaller bowl, if you have one, cream the butter and sugars until they are pale, light and fluffy. You can see the change of colour in the photos. Then add the egg and vanilla beat a little more.

Pale and light
Sift the flour into a larger bowl, add the creamed mixture, and oops, I forgot to add the vanilla till now. Then beat on a low speed till the flour is combined, increasing the speed as you go. I brought the dough together with my hands.

Halve the dough and add the cocoa to one half, mixing well to make sure it is chocolate coloured all the way through. Then refrigerate till firm enough to roll out. I kneaded the dough a little before I rolled it.

Cocoa dough
On a large piece of baking paper, draw a square 24 x 24cm, divided into half, and then sixths, each 12 x 8 cm. Place another piece of baking paper on the bench, then the dough and then top with the gridded paper. Roll the dough out to the proper dimensions and then trim to shape. Do this with each dough.

Squaring up the dough
Stack the doughs, alternating the vanilla and chocolate, and then press together, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Dough layers
Preheat the oven to 190*C and line biscuit trays with baking paper. Using a sharp knife, slice down through the layers and lay the dough flat. Roll out a little larger if necessary. Cut out the shapes, place them on the tray and then bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the dough and the size of the shape you use. The biscuits are cooked when they are golden around the edges. Remove from the tray and cool on a rack.

Cutting out the zebras
(Cue music) Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Equus Zebras. Their ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no biscuit has gone before........

 Zebras in Space

Tuesday's Letters Eat 40: 'Y' is for Yoghurt Icy-poles or Pops

In the warmer weather (31*C on Sunday)  a cook's thoughts turn to ice. Frozen something or other any way.

Frozen yoghurt.

MoldsI bought a cute set of six green icy-pole molds and away I went. Quite a few of the recipes called for caster sugar, but I substituted some local honey. In all the excitement I am not sure if I used four or five thirds of a cup, but each of the molds held one third precisely, including the gap for freezing expansion.

You can use the fruit you like, or that is in season. I'm thinking banana!!!

I'm also thinking about just using fresh fruit whizzed up in the blender. I see a lot of home-made icy-poles in my future this Summer.


Yoghurt Icy-poles: Raspberry and Passionfruit   Makes 9

  • 1 1/3 cups plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar ( I used honey)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • pulp of 4 passionfruit

Measure the yoghurt and sugar into a bowl and then mix in the fruit.

That's it.

Making the pops
Spoon or pour the mixture into the molds and then freeze for at least 4 hours.

Into the freezer
The trickiest part is de-molding the 'pops'. I twirled it under the hot water from the recently boiled kettle and it released quite quickly. 

And here it is, in all its icy-pole glory!!!

Yoghurt 'pop'

Tuesday's Letters Eat 39: 'X' is for Xavier Soup

Best laid plans... There was going to be another 'W' last week, and then there just wasn't. And so to 'X': Zuppa di Xavier or Xavier Soup. Named for Francis Xavier. I am not certain if the soup is eaten on a special day, but you'd certainly need some time to make the proper version. Mine is not the proper version. I cheated and used some nice, prepared chicken stock. I enhanced it with some extra flavours. I only made one third of the dumpling mixture and I stopped at 80 pea-sized dumplings. I think the whole mixture might run to 400 or 500.

Xavier Soup   serves 4

  • 1 litre of good chicken stock
  • optional extras: chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic
  • 2 tspn cornflour
  • 2 tbspn cold water
  • chopped parsley


  • 150g plain flour
  • 150g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 80g butter
  • 100ml cream
  • 1/2 tspn ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tspn grated nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk extra

To make the dumplings, put the cheese, flour and butter in a saucepan over a low heat and mix until the butter melts and a dough is formed. Remove from the heat.

Starting dumplings
Add the cream a tablespoon at a time, aiming for a thick custard consistency. Add the egg, extra yolk, pepper and nutmeg and whisk well.

Almost dumplings
Place in a piping bag, or a ziplock bag with the end snipped off, and pipe pea-sized dumplings onto baking paper. Leave to set for 30 minutes or so.

Ta da-umplings
While the dumplings are standing, you may enhanced the chicken stock by adding the chopped onion, carrot, garlic and celery and simmering for 30 minutes.

Enhancing stock
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Add extra water, if needed, to bring it back to the 1 litre mark and return to the heat. Mix the cornflour and cold water so it is smooth, add to the stock, bring back to the boil and mix for one minute. Set aside.

Thickening the soup
Bring another saucepan of salted water to the boil and then add the dumplings. Mine 'set' , but I did roll them to a nice pea shape. It didn't really seem to matter. Boil for 5 minute and then remove.

Dumplings done
Pour the hot soup into the dish, add the dumplings and some finely chopped parsley. It is a delicately flavoured soup, a bit posh really. Not something for a hearty meal, but I think if you added some diced chicken it would be more substantial.

Xavier souppe

Tuesday's Letters Eat 38: 'W' is for Watermelon, Feta and Black Olive Salad

I noticed the temperature in Perth, WA was 36*C last week and it is 26*C on the West Coast here, so when MrsDrWho suggested Nigella's Watermelon Salad I thought it very appropriate.

This is as easy as pie and the different flavours compliment each other so well. It is very moreish.

I bought a wedge that was about one quarter of a melon.

That's it really, gather your supplies and whip this up in a few minutes!!! You can make and serve the salad in the same dish.

NB I only made half the recipe here.


Watermelon, Feta and Black Olive Salad    serves 8

  • a small red onion, thickly sliced
  • 2-4 fresh limes or lime juice in a lime shaped bottle (I used that)
  • 1.5kg of watermelon, I bought seedless
  • 250g feta cheese
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch mint, chopped
  • 3-4 tbspn olive oil
  • 100g black olives, pitted
  • freshly ground black pepper


Put the sliced onion in a small dish and and enough lime juice to cover it. Set aside.

Onion and watermelon

Cut the watermelon flesh into 4cm chunks, and de-seed it if you can't buy a seedless melon.

Similarly, cut the feta cheese into chunks, I favour triangles, and add to the melon.

Collating the salad
Pick off the parsley leaves and add them to the salad just as you would any salad greens. Next the mint, olives and the onions and lime juice- the juice should have taken on a pinkish hue.

Mix gently together with your hands and then dress with the olive oil and pepper.

Watermelon salad

Tuesday's Letters Eat 37: 'V' is for Vegemite and Cheese Scrolls

Vegemite is greatly misunderstood by people who aren't Australian. It is to be used sparingly, and not slathered on like other spreads.

I prefer my Vegemite on lightly toasted white bread (mini white loaf from the bakery at the corner) which is then buttered and lightly spread with Vegemite. I like small triangles or soldiers. I never have Vegemite soldiers with a boiled egg. It is just plain wrong!!

The Vegemite and Cheese scrolls are great, because if you can't find any Vegemite, you can substitute chutney or chopped ham, for example. In fact, the Vegemite was really difficult to spread on the soft scone dough. Perhaps I should have tried My First Vegemite???!!! There is also Vegemite CheesyBite but I have always given that a wide berth as a marketing exercise and not Vegemite canon.

I only made half the recipe, and it worked very well, as would doubling the amount.


Vegemite and Cheese Scrolls  makes 20-24

  • 2 1/4 cups self raising flour, sifted
  • 30g butter, cubed
  • salt and pepper if desired
  • 1 cup milk
  • Vegemite
  • 1/2 cup grated tasty cheese

Preheat the oven to 200*C and grease and line a tray.

Butter and seasoning
Rub the butter into the flour and add salt and pepper if desired. I just added pepper.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk, mix lightly to a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and then roll out to a rectangle, about 35 x 40cm. Trim if necessary. I patched a hole with some left over dough.

Topping and rolling
Spread the Vegemite over the dough and then add the grated cheese, sprinkled evenly but leaving the ends cheese free. Start rolling from one end, quite tightly.

Rolling and cutting
Continue to roll until you reach the cheese free end. I brushed a little water on the dough and pinched the end into the roll to seal it. Trim the ends and then cut into 2cm slices.

Tray and cooking
Place on the tray, spiral side up and bake for 15-18 minutes. My scrolls took 16 minutes.

Serve right away. Or, keep in an airtight container for a day or two. Delicious!!

Vegemite and cheese scrolls

Tuesday's Letters Eat 36: 'U' is for Upside Down Cakes

Have I made an Upside Down Cake this year?? I can't remember and I am beastly careless. I am cooking a plain and ordinary Upside Down Pineapple Cake, and some muffin sized individual cakes: pumpkin and cherry, golden kiwifruit and vanilla, pear and ginger, raspberry and orange and lemon. You will see I also attempted a chocolate pecan cake, but I broke it trying to remove it from the tin.

I had hoped to use bananas, but they were all quite green and so I was thwarted.

I used Stephanie Alexander's recipe, but I used brown sugar instead of caster for the small cakes. At the end of the post I'll write about the small cakes.


Upside Down Pineapple Cake   serves 6-8

  • 175g softened butter
  • 150g caster sugar - or brown
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tspn extra baking powder
  • 1 tbspn coconut or almond meal.

For the Caramel:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 40g butter
  • 1 tin pineapple rings, drained, or a real pineapple

Preheat the oven to 180*C and grease and line a 26cm round tin. My tin was a 26 x 18cm rectangle.

Cream the butter and sugar. It will be light, pale and creamy.

Add the eggs and beat briefly.

Sift the dry ingredients together and then fold into the batter.

Make the caramel by putting the sugar and water in a heavy based pan. Bring slowly to the boil, and then do not stir at all. It will gradually turn golden brown. Then it is ready. It needs a close eye. Quickly stir through the butter. 

Pineapple and caramel
Pour into the base of the cake tin. Put the pineapple rings onto some kitchen paper, and then pat dry. Arrange the pineapple rings on top.

Finishing off
Spoon in the cake batter. There always seems to be less than I think there is and so I use a large spoon, dipped in a cup of boiling water, to smooth the cake evenly into the tin.

Bake for about 50 minutes. The cake will be quite brown on top. Cool in the tin a little and then turn out onto a plate. The cake will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator. (This cake was off to be eaten by The Dutches)

Upside down Pineapple cake
I made another batter for the small cakes, which I cooked in a muffin tin. I lined the base and poured the caramel in, if needed. They took about 25 minutes to cook. I used two ice cream scoops of the batter and flavoured them. That made two little cakes. You may, of course, adapt any of these to one large cake.

Little cakes in progress
Lemon: melt a tablespoon each of butter and sugar in a small pan. When bubbling, add two thin lemon slices and cook for a minute. Place in the bottom of the muffin place.  Add some grated lemon rind and a squeeze of juice to the batter, mix and then scoop on top of the lemon slices.

Raspberry and Orange: Pour some caramel into the muffin pan base and top with some raspberries. Add some orange rind and a squeeze of juice to the batter, mix and then scoop on top of the berries.

Pear and Ginger: Pour caramel into the base of the tin and then add some pear slices. Mix a little ground ginger, or even grate some fresh, and mix well, and then scoop on top of the pear.

Pumpkin and Cherry: Spoon some cherry conserve into the two muffin bases. Microwave a little butternut pumpkin till soft. Mash with a little butter and cinnamon or nutmeg.(No pumpkin spice here!!) Mix the pumpkin into the cake batter and then spoon over the cherry conserve.

Golden Kiwifruit and Vanilla: Pour some caramel into the base and top with a thick round of golden kiwifruit. Mix two scoops of batter with some vanilla seeds from half a vanilla pod and then spoon onto the kiwifruit.

Ta da!!!

Individual USD Cakes

Tuesday's Letters Eat 35: 'T' is for Tomato Mustard Tart

This is Stephanie Alexander's tart recipe.  Tomatoes are not at their best here, but I think this will be a nice tart to add to my repertoire. And I am using frozen puff pastry so it is easy as well.

The recipe asks for the tomatoes to be seeded, but the variety I bought was not very seeded or moist. If they were otherwise, I would have made the effort as the extra juice could make the pastry soggy.

I used spring onions, or green onions, and not proper shallots. There is a lot of debate here about the difference between shallots and spring onions: I say use whatever you like best.

I did wonder how this would taste, but it's delicious and moreish. The mustard has a slightly sweet undertone which goes perfectly with the slightly acid tomatoes and the fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. This is very quick and it looks as if you have gone to much more trouble than you really have. I will be taking this to my Sewing group for supper. Yum!!!


 Tomato and Mustard Tart  

  • 10-12 slices of tomato, seeded
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 tbspn Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbspn finely chopped shallots
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 tbspn fresh basil leaves, chopped

Drain the tomato on kitchen paper for an hour.

You say tomato
Preheat oven to 220*C.

Say mustard
Cut a 20cm circle from the pastry and place on a lined tray. Prick all over with a fork.

Spread pastry with mustard and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and scatter over the shallots. Arrange the tomato slices, season and drizzle with the olive oil.

I say tomato
Bake for a further 10 minutes. Top with the chopped basil leaves.

Tomato and Mustard Tart

Tuesday's Letters Eat 34: 'T' is for Thai Red Prawn Curry

I went out this morning and spared not a thought for my recipe before I left, so a visit to the Library was called for. This Thai curry is inspired by one of Gordon Ramsay's recipe. It is definitely a curry for when you are in a hurry. He used lobster tails: I used some fresh prawns from Australia. It cost $2-50 for 6, so $10 worth would make a proper meal for four. You could substitute some chicken, pork or extra vegetables in place of the lobster tails. There were no Kaffir Lime leaves to be had today in any shops, so I just missed them out altogether.

Once you have assembled all the ingredients, there is hardly any preparation and the curry is ready in the time it takes to cook the rice.

I made some quick Asian greens to go with the curry and rice. It is a perfect and speedy recipe!!

NB An Australian tablespoon is 20ml.

Thai Red Prawn Curry  serves 4

  • 2 tbspn vegetable oil
  • 3 tbspn red curry paste
  • 5 Kaffir Lime leaves
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbspn fish sauce
  • 800g raw prawns (or whatever you choose as a substitute)
  • 200g beanshoots
  • 1 tspn lime juice
  • 1 tspn caster sugar (or palm sugar)
  • 1 1/2 cups rice

For the Asian Greens

  • 1 tbspn vegetable oil
  • 1 tspn sesame oil
  • 400-600g bok choy or similar greens
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced
  • 2 tbspn soy sauce
  • 1 tbspn oyster sauce
  • water

Get ready

Assemble everything you need. Cook the rice by whichever method you prefer. I used my rice cooker. You may want to prepare the prawns now if you have more than 6. I de-head and de-tail, take off the shell and then clean out the little black line at the back.

Frying paste

To make the curry, heat a large pan or frypan and add the oil and the curry paste and cook for 2 minutes.

Cooking paste etc

Then pour in the coconut milk, fish sauce and add the Kaffir Lime leaves if you have any. Bring to the boil.

Prawns and beanshoots

Add the beanshoots, prawns, fish sauce and sugar and cook for 5 minutes, stirring if necessary.


While the curry is finishing off, make the Asian greens by first washing and slicing the greens lengthwise. Heat the oils in a hot pan and add the greens and garlic. Cook for a minute then add the soy and oyster sauce and a splash of water. Turn a few times until the greens are all coated and wilted.

Stir the lime juice into the curry and serve with the rice and Asian greens.

Thai red prawn curry