On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

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Sometimes it goes wrong – chalkboard cookies

Birthday bunting

Birthday bunting. I hand wrote and held my breath all the while.

Someone at work has a rather special birthday on Tuesday. Not that I’d given it much thought, but I decided on Saturday to make some cookies to take in. Dave has had his gallbladder removed so he wont be partaking of any cookies, cake or whatever else you might generally serve for such a celebration. But the rest of the team will be more than happy to have a cookie in his honour.

I made a blunder with the cookie dough, not paying attention. I ended up with twice the amount of white sugar than I should have. I knew that meant the dough would spread and spread it did. Given there’s no raising agents it spread big time. What I was left with was thinner cookies than I would have liked, and in turn that made giggling the cookies to get the royal icing to “melt” and settle in a nice even layer a bit tricky. One of the first cookies actually started to buckle in my hands.

Things were looking a bit funky.

Things were looking a bit funky.

This time I used a painters angled pallet knife type thing to spread the royal icing. Boy that’s a lot quicker than using a scribe took to push the icing out. It took no time to ice the cookies. Even before we went to bed I could see something odd going on with the black cookies. The black had quite a bit of cocoa powder in it to help deepen the colour, but it’s not a new trick for me.

Old wrinkly looking cookies

Old wrinkly looking cookies

This morning the first thing I did was check the cookies and I ended up with these wrinkly looking cookies. Boo. I wondered if it would be possible to scrape the icing off to salvage the cookies. But  before I decided whether to waste my time doing that, I wanted to know if the grey coloured cookies would still end up with a chalkboard type look. I got out my new click ‘n twist brush. It has quite a fat end and too fat to use on a small cookie. I decided to dab my paint brush into the paint that was pooling at the brush end. Phew. The cookie looked just fine. On that note I proceeded to scrape all the black royal icing off and re-ice the cookies with the grey.

Things were looking up. The chalkboard look was a go.

Things were looking up. The chalkboard look was a go.

Since the cookies were freshly iced I could use the “60” royal icing transfers I was doodling the night before. I let them drop and used the scribe tool to better position them, then push them into the icing a bit. I got carried away and decided to use some of the “eyes” as well. I’m going with a scene here, of people hiding in the dark to surprise Dave, shouting “Happy Birthday”. Yeah it looks odd but it’ll appeal to someone.

Practice makes perfect. Finally I had eyes. Not that I have a plan for them.

Practice makes perfect. Finally I had eyes. Not that I have a plan for them.

I decided that I might as well carry on puddling about and started to add little embellishments to the cookies. I’m hoping I haven’t made them a bit girly, but I’m sort of thinking black and white movie type era where they used lots of vintage type frames. Meanwhile I’m still trying to find the right font to use so that I can hand paint more messages onto the chalkboard cookies. I’ve also go some rugby balls and two scrolls in which to write a Happy Birthday message. The KopyKake will be used because the font will be a bit too fancy (not pretty, that’s different) for me to freehand.

Using this as a way to practice more piping.

Using this as a way to practice more piping.

I really like the cookies which have a bit of colour. I think being on a black background makes the colour stand more.

Hmm, capers. Maybe not next time.

Hmm, capers. Maybe not next time.

Plenty of spice in this tagine. Loved the dried apricots.

Plenty of spice in this tagine. Loved the dried apricots.

Anyway, aside from baking cookies I made another two Chelsea Winter recipes. Saturday night we had Chicken cacciatore and tonight the Lamb (but I used beef) slow-cooked tagine. Both were really good. That’s a lot of flavour in our weekend but both recipes got the thumbs up by Mr Fussy and he’ll be happy to have either meal again. Just not with the capers. It was the first time I’ve used capers and I can’t really say they wowed me. There was a hint of taste to them but nothing that made me think it really added something special to the meal. So no capers next time!

A bit more work to do but so far so good, given the rocky start to this project.

A bit more work to do but so far so good, given the rocky start to this project.

And in case you’re curious about the rugby balls and aeroplanes, Dave is fond of his rugby and Monday mornings are spent with the lads discussing the various games that were played. He also flies his own remote controlled planes and when the weather is suitable that’s where you’ll find him during his weekend, at the local flying club.



Ham and Potato Bake

Early in February I got around to making yet another dish I’d found and pinned on Pinterest. I was keen to make this to use up some of the left over, frozen, Christmas ham.
The original recipe can be found on Exclusively Food, here.
Although I thought I was being careful not to overcook the potato, it still happened. A few of them had started to break apart when I got up to check. And the amount of potato stated in the recipe wasn’t sufficient. Thankfully I had some left over new potato from the previous night’s dinner. They were being saved for my MIL to have for a lunch during the week (waste not want not) but they were called upon to complete this dish. So while I was at it, I added the left over spring carrots as well.
The recipe says to cut the potato 1cm thick, perhaps mine were a bit too thick and that’s why I ran out. I was quite a bit short though. I think there were 4 potatos from the previous night that I used.
I tested my loose bottom 8″ cake pan and it leaked so I had to use my 8″ Fat Daddio cake tin to make dinner. Even though the base and sides were covered with baking paper the fat from the cheese leaked and that left odd stains on the cake tin that still remain. Boo.
I was somewhat nervous about getting the potato bake out of the tin but I recalled Nigella faced with the same problem and just as cool as a cucumber she tipped her thing out onto a plate and then used a plate on the other side (so the potato bake is like a filling between two plates) and tipped it back up the right way. If Nigella can pull it off, surely I could too. And I did.
I’m glad I’ve still got another package of Christmas ham left because I’m already planning on making this again. It was very tasty.

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Secret Sauce

I made another Chelsea Winter recipe this weekend. Well her Crispy Roast Potatos tonight, but other than a photo on my phone there’s nothing to show for it but a very satisfying meal.

Eat up

Prepare for more photos than you thought possible for the humble hamburger.

The Secret Sauce is part of the Cheeseburger recipe on Chelsea’s website.

The sauce has, wait for it, Gherkin in it. Now I’m with Mr Fussy on turning my nose up at this, but hand in hand we went to the Mediterranean Food Warehouse and purchased something I never thought we’d be paying for. On the very very odd occasion I’ve had a McDonald’s Cheeseburger, I’ve always pulled the gherkin out. Mr Fussy has never had gherkin, and his interest in having gherkin is less than zero. So it was quite the vision seeing us buying a jar (a rather large jar) of gherkins.

Special SauceWhile we were out we popped into St Martin’s New World and I bought some cheddar cheese from their speciality cheese section. It tasted a bit sharp before it was melted, but more sharp when melted. Is that possible?

I made the special sauce before the hamburgers. I took a very tentative spoonful of the sauce and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it. There was a small glimmer of hope Mr Fussy would not only try, but also like. Though he wasn’t at all interested in having a sample before his hamburger was made.

IngredientsSo here we are, the full hamburger. I didn’t use any red onion, but we did have a slice of bacon. The burgers cooked up really nicely and not only that, they didn’t ooze fat and other liquid, something that always has happened with my homemade burgers. I had nothing left on my plate but two crumbs. When I held my plate up to prove it, I was left with one crumb. Oops.

Patties Sizzling burgers Cheddar cheese With special sauce

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Oven Roasted Tomato Risotto

I’m make an effort to go back through my Pinterest boards and tick off a few recipes that I’ve pinned.

Creamy rissotoThis recipe was one of the early pins. What caught my eye was, first it was a Rissoto and second it had roasted cherry tomatos. Could there be anything better (other than caramel, orange chocolate and Neenish Tarts)?

Slow roasted tomatosI’m still fairly new to making Rissoto. I’ve made one from Jamie Oliver a couple of times, and also the Saffron Risotto from Annabel Langbein’s book. I had better success with the Saffron Risotto.

I used a different rice which I picked up from Mercato. The liquid absorbed really easily into this rice.

I altered the recipe, as I often do. I’ll post the link below and explain the changes I made.

  • I made only ½ the recipe
  • Of the stock, which I used chicken, I replaced ¼ cup (1/2 if you’re making the full recipe) of stock for ¼ cup of dry white wine
  • I added the wine first and once this was absorbed began to add stock
  • I added the tasty cheese (I used Barry’s Bay) at the end of the cooking along with the butter
  • I added the stock a ladle full at a time and then gently stirred until most of the liquid had been absorbed
  • I had a few chicken tenderloins left over from Saturday’s nights dinner. I cut that up and added it the pot with about 5 minutes left
  • I found one part of the recipe a little confusing. It talks about 6 tablespoons of oil. It never says it’s “divided” but I think it is. There’s 4 tablespoons used in the balsamic vinegar “dressing” used on the cherry tomatos, so that leaves 2 tablespoons, but the recipe for the Risotto doesn’t clarify that the oil you add to the pot is the remaining 2 tablespoons, but that’s what I stuck to (1 Tbls for me, making ½ the recipe).

Oven Roasted Tomato Risotto by Pham Fatale

Bowl full of yumI was lucky enough to have some left over. I had to put some of my tomatos into it since I’d managed to scoop all of them into our portions for dinner. I can say that it still tasted as good today, but I should have added a little boiling water before re-heating it.

I think this is by far one of the nicer risotto recipes. I’m aware that it’s those roasted tomatos that packed it full of flavour. Love me some roasted tomatos.

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Hawaiian Glazed Chicken Thighs – by Chelsea Winter

Here’s another recipe I tried this weekend from a New Zealand site. This time it’s a Chelsea Winter recipe. This recipe is on Chelsea’s website.

This is Chelsea’s Hawaiian Glazed Chicken Thighs.

Dinner is served

Sadly I misread one of the instructions so my glaze looks watery and lacking in substance. I spent more than 45 minutes simmering the ingredients for the glaze and while it had thickened, I failed to read properly the instructions about the liquid reducing by ¾. I read it to be that it should reduce to ¾.


I hadn’t realised my mistake at the time I poured some over the chicken and popped it into the oven. I sort of expected that during cooking it would thicken up. But after having reapplied the glaze twice during cooking I knew it wasn’t going to thicken, and at that point I checked the recipe to see where I’d gone wrong.

1311_Making the glaze-2-2

Never mind, it still baked nicely and it earned a “yummy” approval from Mr Fussy. However while we were eating dinner I returned the remaining glaze to the element and let it boil away while we ate. It took more than 15 minutes more to reduce to the point where I now considered it would more or less stay on the chicken as it baked. Now we have some left for another meal this week.

1311_Preparing the chicken-2-2

I sampled the thickened glaze and have to say it has a more intense flavour than what tonight’s dinner had. It really packed a punch, but it wasn’t overpowering, it just had a nice savoury hit which I liked.

1311_Proper glaze-2-2

I never watched Masterchef so I didn’t actually know who Chelsea Winter was a few weeks back. Yeah I know, where have I been? What right do I have to blog about food when I don’t even know the food celebrities from my own country 😉

What strikes me most about Chelsea is how down to earth she is. Her Facebook page is where I came across her and she is as Kiwi as you can get. She’s not in the slightest bit pretentious, and she is so open about her food and recipes and shares them on her blog. And what’s more she encourages people to share photos of the food they make from her blog or book. She’s said she doesn’t care if it didn’t turn out, or if it’s half eaten or the lighting is bad or it’s not “presented”. But for all that I wont be showing off this photo 😉

So good on ya Chelsea, you get a thumbs up from me for getting Kiwis in the kitchen trying out new recipes.  And I’m afraid I’ve got one of Chelsea’s latest words “stodge” on my mind and have since used it several times (not to describe my food mind you ;-)) I read it (stodge) on Chelsea’s Facebook page as she described the food she’s been eating while in the States the past month.

Hope we don’t get suckered into the same “stodge” when we’re there a few days next year. I’m thinking more Italian food.  Oh and Cronuts. By then there’ll be another craze, but it’ll probably be the first time I get to try a Cronut.  Have you had one?



Lewis Road Creamery Butter–and a quiche

In my fridge I have about 5 blocks of unsalted Lewis Road Creamery butter, and one lightly salted. I bought that by accident, not paying attention to the label.

Despite having quite a bit of the butter, and having had it for some months now (some of the blocks) I’ve been put off trying it. It’s quite expensive.

I seem to have a thing for wanting the best quality ingredients and then becoming intimidated using them.

Ok, so the butter was secondary to making the quiche.

During the week I received a Pintrest notification saying someone had re-pinned a quiche recipe I’d pinned. I’d quite forgotten about it. But it seemed like a good plan for a weekend meal.

This morning I got to thinking about the pastry. I don’t know why. Anyway, I went looking on Pastry Chef Online’s website (I subscribe) to see if there had been a quiche recipe posted. Well there was, of sorts.

My idea for dinner became the pastry and “eggy custard” part from Jenni’s blog, and the filling inspiration from food day dreaming’s blog.

Filling ingredients

The pastry came together really quickly. I was worried through because the pinching and squishing of the butter was almost too easy, and I almost didn’t really need any water at all to achieve the texture/consistency that I was looking for. I never had any flaky flour crumbs. Everything was incorporated before considering adding the water. I wish I’d taken a photo at that stage, but I thought I might have done something wrong and wouldn’t be posting the recipe.

I checked and re-checked the measurement of the ingredients. Yes, I had the right amount of flour, yes I used the right amount of butter. But there were no dry bits of flour to be seen. The crumbs were crumbs, some larger than others, but not one dry speck to be seen.

I had visions of the pastry actually melting into a messy pool of butter within the first 2 minutes of being in the oven.

I did things a little different in the method, and I say that because the link for the eggy custard also had instructions on how to prepare and bake the pastry to the link on the pastry. It was a little confusing to say the least.

  • I rolled the dough between two sheets of baking paper into a disc the size I needed for my flan dish.
  • I put the pastry into the freezer for around 10 minutes.
  • Next I peeled off the paper from one side and placed the pastry over the top of the tin, then removed the other piece of baking paper.
  • After about 2 minutes I began to ease the pastry by coaxing the sides that were overhanging the tin, up, to prepare it for slipping down the side of the tin.
  • After the pastry was in the tin and pushed down the sides to get a nice 90deg angle at the base, I put the tin into the fridge for around 20 minutes.
  • I think because there was so much butter (well it seemed a lot when I couldn’t see any specks of flour) the pastry went quite firm again.
  • I used the very tip of a sharp vegetable knife to pierce the base of the pastry and then used the scrunched up – and laid flat – piece of baking paper (one of the pieces used to roll the pastry out) to line the tin and put in my baking balls.
  • I left the pastry in the oven for 20 minutes before lifting the baking paper and balls out of the shell.
  • Lastly I brushed the base and sides of the shell with an egg wash.
  • The pastry went back in for another 10 minutes.


As for the eggy custard. My pots aren’t designed to scald anything so what I ended up with was scrambled eggs forming on the bottom of the pot. Mr Fussy helped out while I strained the rest of the liquid, which I then blended in two batches as Jenni’s recipe says.

I poured half the liquid into the shell, spread the filling ingredients, and then poured as much as would fit over the filling. I didn’t use all of the eggy custard filling, perhaps only 2/3 of it.

It took the best part of 70 minutes to bake.

Filling the shell

Because I started the quiche closer to 5pm everyone was milling about waiting. The News had been and gone and still no food had been dished up. I was feeling a bit bad. Then the quiche was meant to rest. And it was meant to rest for a long time. Time we didn’t have.

I suggested everyone start in reverse order and eat the dessert, the Devil’s Dream Cake that I made yesterday. No takers. So traditional this lot Winking smile  I’d love it if someone suggested dessert first.

Now back to the butter. Oh my goodness. The pastry shell was so incredibly tasty. I don’t really know how to describe it. I’ve never had the butter on its own to know what it tastes like, but I do know the pastry tasted like the best pastry I’ve ever made, and I don’t think it was the method in which it was made. Other than it was a lovely tender flaky pastry. Yum yum.

Baked and cooling

I guess I’ll be using the other blocks of butter pretty soon. I don’t think I’m quite there with replacing every day butter with it though. It is pricey, and I think it deserves to be left for special occasions. Having said that, I really need to try it in a recipe I’ve made before so I can tell, properly, how much of a flavour difference it makes.

And the Creamery in the name, yep, the butter was definitely very creamy. I only needed 226gm of the 250gm block. Mr Fussy has the rest covering about a 1” square of his bread. He loves his butter, and he has it thick!

Now about the quiche, I added a bit more mozzarella than was called for (but my tart tin was larger than 20cm) and it was a little on the rubbery side to cut. So don’t do that. I wished I’d added another cheese, it was a bit bland and I’m sure a tasty cheese would have just given it enough lift. I quite enjoyed the hint of nutmeg in the filling. None of the other flavours really came through though. Sun dried tomatos would have been a better addition, and perhaps it really needed a bit more basil too.

The pastry is definitely worth making again. Just need to switch up the filling ingredients. Bacon, that’s what it needed, a bit of bacon. Mr Fussy would be so happy to know I was typing that. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with a vegetarian meal.

dinner is served


Baked Lemon Chicken Pasta–from the Melbourne kitchen

Hello, we’ve been in Melbourne now for almost 5 days. That means we’re more than 1/2 way through our 8 day holiday here.

We’ve loved catching up with Cate and Brett and were looking forward to having Michael and Karen come over to the apartment we’ve rented for the week, for lunch.

I found a really great sounding recipe. But I’ve looked and looked for the instructions on how to make it. I thought I must have overlooked the directions, or there was a link that I just wasn’t seeing. But I’m convinced the recipe and photo have been posted without any indication as to how you’re to make it.

All these photos are taken from my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone. I didn’t bring the big camera with me.

Baked Lemon Chicken Pasta

The first thing I did when we arrived here at the apartment (we rented through AirBnB) was open all cupboards and drawers to see what we had. I’m afraid the owners (who live here part-time and their other property just outside Melbourne) aren’t cooks and bakers. And when we’re so close to Chapel Street and the plentiful restaurants of South Yarra you really don’t need to go far to find great food.

But we rented an apartment so that we didn’t have to eat out every night. We grew tired of it when travelling through Europe and the UK this time last year. Though we have gone out for dinner and really enjoyed it.

There are no measuring spoons or jugs, there’s no mixing bowls, no sifter, scales, grater or even a can opener. I was going to have to do things the old-fashioned way without the benefit of all the gadgets I’ve come to love and depend on at home.

And here are the ingredients, in 3 parts because. The area I had to work on is also pretty sparse, and my camera phone doesn’t have the same capability of the big camera.

Ingredients part 1

The chocolate was for dessert. I made the Lindt Chocolate pudding with the “new” Lindt Caramel chocolate. Whittaker’s chocolate bars here are 200gm, not 250gm as they are back home. But that was perfect, because that’s exactly how much I needed.

This was the first recipe I’ve made where I’ve used Evaporated Milk. And I liked it.

Ingredients part 2

I steamed all the veggies. While everything goes into the oven to get the “baked” bit of the recipe, I didn’t want to end up with mostly raw veggies. And since there were no instructions to the recipe I decided I could pretty much do what I wanted.

I think I used most pudding bowls in the making of this meal.

Cherry tomatos

The carrots were thinly sliced, well the recipe said Julienne but I wouldn’t say I did quite that. And the lemons were to be zested which would have been infinitely easier had there been a zester, even a grater. But alas none of those things. So I spent quite a bit of time carefully using a peeler to get just the zest and no white pith, then chopping it up finely.

When Mr Fussy saw me grab the broccoli at the supermarket it squawked. I knew he wouldn’t be eating it, but I also knew it would be really easy to pick it out, or dish it up and avoid adding any greens. He survived.

Since there was no grater we bought the cheeses already grated. They have a much larger selection of pre-grated cheese here, or at least in the Coles supermarket we bought from.

I notice though that the items in the baking section aren’t as great as back home and seem to be a bit more pricey which surprises me.  Actually we have found supermarket prices to be the same as back home. But with the exchange rate it makes them more expensive.

Ok, let’s bravely make this dish. Here’s the way I made it.

Baked Lemon Chicken Pasta



  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    1 teaspoon butter
    1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    One (12-ounce) can evaporated 2% milk
    1/2 cup grated mild chedder cheese
    1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (I used lemon thyme)
    zest and juice of 1 lemon
    salt and pepper, to taste
  • Main
    One 500gm box Barilla Spaghetti, cooked until al dente
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    2 medium cloves garlic, minced
    2 cups fresh broccoli florets
    1 large carrot, peeled and chopped or julienned
    1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped or sliced thinly
    2 cups cooked and chopped or shredded chicken breast
    1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
    salt and pepper, to taste


  • 1/2 cup grated mild chedder cheese
    1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
    1/2 lemon juiced



Heat a pan over medium heat and add the oil and butter. Swirl the pan while the butter melts. Don’t let the butter burn.

Add the flour and stir to combine. Then let the flour cook off for a minute or two, occasionally stir to prevent the mixture browning.

Slowly begin to add the evaporated milk. The mixture will be really thick and glugy. Just keep stirring while slowly adding the evaporated milk. Stop stirring every now and then to fully stir in the liquid, as you do the mixture will smooth out and thin.

Once all the evaporated milk has been added continuously stir the mixture until it begins to bubble. Allow the sauce to bubble for a few minutes then add in the cheeses thyme, zest and juice of the lemon.

Stir, or whisk, to combine all the ingredients then add salt and pepper to taste.

Let the sauce come back to a simmer and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.


Cook the chicken, or use a pre-cooked chicken, then shred or cut into bite sized pieces.

Steam the broccoli and carrots.

Cook the pasta according to the directions of the packet.

While the pasta is cooking, in a fry pan over medium heat add the oil. When the oil is hot add the garlic and peppers and gently fry being careful not to burn the garlic. If you prefer you can cook the broccoli and carrots at the same time rather than steam them.


Heat the oven to 200degrees Celsius.

Drain the cooked pasta.

Add 1/3 of the sauce to the bottom of a serving dish.

Add the pasta, chicken and all the cooked vegetables and the cherry tomatos.

Pour over the remaining sauce.

Gently mix the pasta and vegetables into the sauce. Use tongs and gently pick up the pasta to mix it through the sauce.

Sprinkle over the remaining cheeses.

Juice the lemon over the dish or juice the lemon and then pour the juice over the dish.

Put the baking dish into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until all the cheeses have melted and the cherry tomatos have softened.

Lunch is served

The recipe didn’t say how many serves you’d get. I assumed the 500gm packet of spaghetti would be enough for 5 adults, using the rule that 100gm of pasta per person. But this made a lot. The dish I used (the only one here) was the roasting dish. There is so much pasta left I don’t think we’ll need to eat out for any meal over the remaining 3 days.

Baked Lemon Chicken Pasta serving

Depending on what you’re serving the pasta with, it would pay to have the plates warmed. The pasta does cool down quite quickly. While it was being served I could see all the heat/steam coming off it, but it cooled quite quickly. However a hot plate with salad wouldn’t have made for a pleasant salad experience.

I loved the lemon flavour to this recipe. I really liked the sauce too. I doubled the recipe for the sauce. I’ve made a baked pasta before and found the sauce too sparse for the amount of pasta, and when you bake the pasta, the pasta tends to absorb the sauce leaving no noticeable sauce at all.

Given there were no measuring spoons I guessed what a tablespoon of flour was and possibly had a little too much (the “tablespoon” was really HUGE, lovely spoon, I’d like to take a few home, but of course wont Winking smile), I could have thinned the sauce a little more by adding some milk, or just added a little less flour. But I’m sure if anyone else is interested in making this recipe you wont be caught short like me.

How many serves would I estimate? There were 4 adults and we’re not quite1/2 way through the dish. You’d easily feed 8 adults.