As I mentioned in this post about a Sirocco feast, I was pretty excited to be sent the book by the publisher – especially as I had no idea it even existed. I’m planning on cooking more from it this week, but I thought I would make some observations about how things are going so far…

UnknownSalads and vegetables:

Carrot, tahini and hazelnuts salad: made for Spit Roast #2; I subbed in almonds and pine nuts. I think next time I might steam the carrots, just a bit – having them raw was a bit surprising and I think it detracted from the flavours.

Prawn, broccoli, feta and almond salad: I accidentally put the dressing ingredients on the prawns – not THAT different from the marinade, I just had to add harissa, but it’s rather a measure of how my brain was going. I’ve also just realised I forgot the dill, so I’m feeling a bit annoyed. Nonetheless it was fine; prawns and broccolini was a bit odd, but not terrible.

Turmeric and spice-marinated cauliflower: it seemed to have heaps of spices on the cauliflower (turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, paprika)… and then to have a tomato sauce with it. I didn’t feel like you could taste the spices through the tomato, which made me sad. I liked frying the cauli though.

Crushed new potatoes: also made for Spit Roast #2. I blanched the spring onions too hard (shouldn’t have put the lid on for any of the two minutes), but overall this was excellent – roasted taters, spring onion, peas and and dill.


Chickpea, butternut, preserved lemon and harissa tagine: delish. Even if I did have a cold when I was making it so I may have over-compensated on the harissa, since I couldn’t actually smell it…. I also didn’t add nearly as many dried apricots because my beloved is not a huge fan.

Aubergine, pepper and tomato stew (aka eggplant, capsicum and tomato): whoa this was awesome. Really easy – it’s basically like ratatouille – and it really does get better over time. So easy. So easy to eat for a few days in a row.

Georgian chicken stew: I’ve already made this twice. Chicken thighs are a miracle meat with the way they react to cooking for two hours. Chicken, onion, garlic, tomato and some spices – cover with water, simmer for two hours. Ta dah.


This book is definitely staying with me and being used over and over. Ghayour says she hopes the book “will get covered in oil splatter and food stains and remain close to hand” – I mean I TRY to avoid the splatter, but sometimes it’s just not possible… .

Spit Roast Experiment #2

Spit Roast Experiment #1 was in aid of Spit Roast Experiment #2, because we’d invited people over for #2 on the basis that we’d get all our issues sorted out from one test run.


Aim: Produce a good outstanding (let’s be honest) meal for friends using the spit roast.


  1. Spit roast
  2. Nino’s and Joe’s honeymoon roast – lamb with N&J’s homemade pork sausage stuffing (this could be apparently be construed as A Bit Rude but I don’t know what you’re talking about because MY MIND DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT)
  3. Salads from Sabrina Ghayour’s Sirocco
  4. Tart from Andrew
  5. Friends


  1. Learn from previous attempt and start the chiminea fire a bit earlier.
  2. Attempt to put the roast over the fire tray… have a bit of an accident and destroy the fire tray, so use the fire pit instead.
  3. Occasionally move more coals from the chiminea over to the fire pit.
  4. Admire the roast. And the fire.
  5. Construct two salads:
    • Potato, pea and spring onion: roast the baby potatoes and then smash them a bit; add dill, blanched then grilled spring onions, and peas. (I over-blanched the spring IMG_3769.JPGonions which was a bit sad, but it was ok nonetheless.)
    • Carrots and tahini: carrot, red onion, mint and meant-to-be-hazelnuts (I used pine nuts and almonds, because I forgot) with a dressing of tahini, lemon and oil.
  6. Serve with two bottles of 2006 shiraz.
  7. Have excellent conversation.
  8. When everyone’s done with main, serve a tart made by Andrew – a variation on a frangipane with alternating pear and raspberry on top.
  9. Bask in the glow of having accomplished your Aim.


IMG_3773.JPGYep; hotter and longer is the key to spit roast. Good to know. Also this was an excellent piece of meat to do in this way and we could definitely fit two onto the spit. Also very good to know. The meat cooked for about 3.5 hours; J thought this was too long, I thought it was fine, he’ll do it a bit shorter next time anyway.

Spit Roast Experiment #1

Aim: to recreate our spit-roast experience from earlier in the year c/ camping friends


  1. A new spit-roast ensemble
  2. A Bannockburn chicken
  3. Masterfoods All-Purpose Seasoning
  4. Kipfler potatoes
  5. Chiminea
  6. Wood
  7. Shovel
  8. Meat thermometer


  1. Buy the spit-roast and have it delivered to your door and get VERY EXCITED.IMG_0969.JPG
  2. Buy all groceries.
  3. Start a fire in the chiminea to get coals.
  4. Season the chicken.
  5. Spike the chicken and put it onto the spit.
  6. Use the shovel to move coals over to the spit-roast tray, being careful not to burn yourself.
  7. Lower the chicken over the coals and turn on the rotisserie function.
  8. Wait. Drinking wine and staring dreamily into the fire are optional at this point.
  9. Having salted and oiled the potatoes, put them in the handy cage and place that on the spit too.
  10. image1.JPGMore waiting. Drinking wine becomes less optional at this point.
  11. Using the meat thermometer, check the chicken’s progress.
  12. Add more coals to the tray because it’s clearly not hot enough.
  13. Get impatient, figure it’s SURELY done by now, and take everything inside to carve and serve.


Unfortunately we probably were a bit too impatient, and we probably didn’t have enough hot coals under the chicken and the potatoes for long enough. One end of the chicken IMG_3759.JPG(closest to the pole, in the picture) really didn’t cook at all. The breast meat was mostly fine but we were a bit leary of the thighs so most of the chicken has gone into the freezer to be made into stock whenever I’ve got time. The potatoes looked good but also weren’t as cooked as we had hoped and wanted. We didn’t realise that the cage thing came as part of the ensemble, and hadn’t intended to get it; when camping we’re more likely just to do them in the dutch oven in the coals proper. However, it was very pleasant to sit outside with the fire and this was, as stated, our first experiment.


More coals are needed. Next time we will probably do it over the fire pit rather than the tray to get a bit more heat happening. If it’s windy the coals needs more attention. The potato cage may not be worth it. We like fire.

A Sirocco Feast

Unknown.jpegWhen I got a copy of Sirocco from the publisher, I was incredibly excited. I adore Persiana, Sabrina Ghayour’s first cookbook, rather a lot: it’s like Jerusalem but slightly more work-a-day… and I think it’s a prettier book too, overall. I had no idea there was another one in the works, and there it suddenly was, on my doorstep!

I’ve cooked from it for the last week or so, but this weekend we had a friend coming over so I thought I’d go full Sirocco.

Main: roast chicken with vegetables.

The chicken has orange and lemon zest and za’atar slathered all over it. I just used the zester on the citrus; next time I would chop it a little finer, because it didn’t stay on the chicken quite as well as I’d hoped. But it was delicious, and I’ll be doing it like this from now on. I also put the zested lemon into the chicken cavity, as Nigella insists.

Souk-spiced root vegetables: turns out I had no cumin seed (?!), but in looking I discovered a jar of Moroccan souk spices that I’d forgotten which was basically what the recipe required. I used parsnip, potato, carrot and celeriac; it was my first time ever cooking (and, I think, eating) the last. Would do so again.

Beans: fried with mustard seeds, preserved lemon, garlic and some other spices. Was meant to have pickled chillies, too, but I couldn’t find what I thought were the right things.

Asparagus: just sat in boiling water for five minutes, then tossed with more preserved lemon, mint, and oil. Also meant to have preserved chillies. I didn’t use anywhere near the amount of preserved lemon suggested, and it was quite lemony enough; needed more mint but it was dark and cold when I went out foraging in the garden.

I think that this dinner will be made again.

Dessert: lime and basil cream

Not enough basil, sadly, but very tangy with the lime – zest and juice of two limes to 600mL of cream (2/3 of recipe). Was meant to be topped with a persimmon compote, but I didn’t realise it was persimmon season, so when I went to the shops and saw them I couldn’t recall how many I needed. Also, persimmons scary. So I did a little not-quite-compote with apples, lime and vanilla. It was very, very tasty; served in jars from Kate’s jams they looked amusingly bohemian. Because I didn’t think our martini glasses were big enough.


An average picture but a tasty meal.

It’s available from Fishpond. 

Consider the Fork

13587130.jpgWhen I listened to the first episode of Gastropod, I immediately decided I needed to read Bee Wilson’s Consider the Fork. And now I have, and I was not disappointed.

To start with the writing: Wilson writes beautifully. Her prose is clear, occasionally whimsical, sensible, and altogether a delight to read. It’s not that often that I read 280 pages of history in just over a day, even when I’m on holidays. In fact at one point I tried to put it away because I was worried I would finish it too quickly (I was away from my bookshelf; I was feeling a bit irrational, ok?). Her love of food and history and cooking come through clearly; she mingles the occasional personal anecdote with what’s clearly broad-ranging research. But she also doesn’t get bogged down in the research – she’s not aiming to construct a thorough, blow by blow account of the development of cooking or food technology. She’s writing for an educated but non-professional audience and she does it really well.

The chapters are organised around probably the most important aspects of cooking and its technology: pots and pans; knives; fire; measuring; grinding (I admit this one surprised me a little); eating; ice; and the kitchen itself. In each chapter she gives some of the current thinking about where and if possible how the technology began (in some instances in the Palaeolithic, in others more recently), and then – depending on the objects – skims through the ancient world, the medieval, and the early modern.

My main quibble with the book is its European preponderance, but I do wonder whether I’m being overly sensitive about that. There’s a wonderful section about the Chinese knife, the tou; and a discussion about the difference in fork+knife vs chopsticks; some about the differences in wok cooking opposed to more European methods; and other mentions as well. I wonder if there’s more history done on this from a European perspective – or that’s translated into English anyway. Although if that’s the case I would have liked a mention of the dearth of literature.

Another small quibble is that sometimes her language implies that the changes in cooking technology were things that the population had just been waiting for. While that might be true for can openers (invented FIFTY YEARS after the invention of the tin, I kid you not), sometimes it grated a little: to whit: “At last, these people [the ancient Greeks] had discovered the joy of cooking with pots and pans” (12). I get what she means but it grated a little.

Anyway. A few gems include ideas for future ice cream experiments (burnt almond, orange flower water, cinnamon, apricot, quince; bitter cherry; muscat pear…), the history of the refrigerator and freezer and how they show differences between the English and Americans post-WW2, and developments from coal to gas to electricity in terms of stoves. Also the thing about the tin opener. SO WEIRD.

Overall this is a joyous book that I highly recommend if you’re into food and history, especially both at the same time. Her writing really is marvellous, you might learn something, and it re-inspired me to get into my kitchen and make something. (Which was annoying because I was on holidays, but whatevs.)

Orange and almond cupcakes

IMG_0961.JPGThe full recipe makes 12, you say? I say your cupcakes must be a lot smaller than mine, because this is a half batch and as you can see, they are hardly overflowing.

Gluten free cupcakes! I had no potato flour as the recipe required and little likely use for it in future. So I consulted my Gluten Free Guru (my sister) and she told me to substitute in rice flour, which I had because shortbread. So I did. Not sure what it will have done to the texture because as you can see, Bob, there were NO EXTRAS for taste testing. The batter seemed ok.

Also they’re not quite as pretty as the cookbook illustration because I had no slivered almonds so I chopped up some dry-roasted whole almonds. Taste should make up for ordinariness of appearance, I hope.

What’s for Dinner?

This book was provided by Allen&Unwin at no cost. Available from April 2016; RRP $34.99.

Unknown.jpeg The book itself

This is a book produced out of recipes from the website My Food Bag, which I hadn’t come across before receiving the book – so it is kinda one big ad. Despite that, I have come down in favour of the book.

The recipes are all designed for weeknight cooking, so there’s generally a minimum of fuss involved. The recipes come from a range of cuisines (harissa to haloumi to coconut rice to steak); there’s a variety of meat, seafood and vego dishes; they’re divided into seasons to help you figure out fruit and veg availability. Every recipe comes with a little circle indicating whether it will take less, medium, or more time, and also whether the recipe is gluten and/or dairy free (or how to make it so; the index also lists all dishes that are GF or DF, as a distinct category). Plus, each recipe also lists the amount of energy, carb, protein and fat in it (… if you follow the recipe…).

Each double page is nicely laid out with the recipe on one side and a picture of the dish on the other. The pictures aren’t too overwhelming – they’re mostly trying to look like they’re on the dinner table – although mine tended not to look like the perfectly plated dishes. Of course. Each dish that I have made was straightforward; I didn’t have to puzzle out any instructions.

One quibble: although this is an Australian book, it refers to kumara (sweet potato) and courgettes (zucchini). I find this really bizarre.

To be honest, this isn’t the sort of book that I buy any more; I’ve become more of a fan of the single-cuisine cookbook that I fall pretty hard for. That said,  I know exactly the sort of person I would give it to: someone who is straight out of home, and/or someone who is just starting to cook for themselves. The recipes aren’t intimidating and they do offer a variety of tastes, spices, and skill levels. If you know someone in that category, or want to revamp your own weekday cooking, this could be a good addition to your repertoire of recipes.

The recipes 

I treat this sort of cookbook a bit cavalierly. Sometimes I will follow a recipe to the letter, other times I will pick and choose bits to go together.

Thai pork patties with coconut rice: friends, I have now boiled rice FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFEI followed the instructions in the book about how to do it with coconut milk (3/4 coconut and 3/4 water to 1 cup water), valiantly resisted the urge to lift the lid, and it was excellent. These pork patties (with ginger, sesame oil, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and coriander) are also very tasty.

Herb-crusted lamb: unexpectedly good, and I didn’t even have the Dijon mustard to act as the initial layer.

Tomato and bean salad: meant to go with steak but I used it with something else; toss cherry tomatoes for a minute or so in a pan, add cannellini beans and add some chimchurri – or, if you’re me, a handful of herbs. DELISH.

Open lasagne of courgette (!), artichokes, goat’s cheese and pesto: OMG. This is green and fresh and so, so tasty. If you were intimidated by the idea of trying to stack everything you could easily just use pasta and use this as a stir-through sauce. Will be making again.

Haloumi in filo: where have you been all my life turns out there is something else you can do with haloumi HALOUMI IN FILO.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised and am happy to have this on my shelf.

It’s available from Fishpond.