Only one cookbook?

Zeralda’s Diary is running a challenge asking us to post on “if you were limited for the rest of your life to one cookbook only, which would be your choice?”

My immediate answer would be The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander. It’s Australia’s answer to The Joy of Cooking. The book stop tome is hard to miss with its rainbow of carnival stripes on the cover. Even though there are no illustrations, the recipes work and they range from the classics to different cuisines, hard to easy.  The book is divided into over 100 chapters based on a type of ingredients. The index is easy to use and comprehensive. An ideal housewarming or wedding present.

It’s often mentioned as the favourite cookbook of many famous and not-so famous Australian chefs. Which one would you choose?


Australia isn’t known for it’s breads, but we do have damper. To make the traditional campfire bread more festive I’ve added some herbs from the garden, some left over semi-dried tomatoes and a heirloom tomato. The green and red flecks of colour make it ideal to serve at this time of the year. We prefer semi-dried tomatoes to the full sun-dried ones. I’m predicting that heirloom tomatoes will be trendy soon, just like sun-dried tomatoes were a few years ago.

A heirloom tomato was the second vegetable to be harvested. As our compost doesn’t get hot enough to kill the seeds, there are tomato plants dotted all around our garden.

2 cups of self-raising flour
30g butter
2 tbps chopped chives and basil
1 tomato
6 semi-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup milk

  1. Sift flour into a bowl and rub in butter with your fingertips.
  2. Add the herbs and chopped tomatoes and mix.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the mixture, add the combined water and milk in batches.
  4. Mix quickly to form a soft dough. Add more flour or water/milk, if required, to get the right consistency.
  5. Place on a tray lined with baking paper. Brush with milk.
  6. Bake at 220°C for 15-20 minutes.

Baked for Bread Baking Day #15: Festive Breads.

Last bed planted

We planted seeds in the last and fourth bed today. This bed took longer then the rest because we had to remove a papaw tree that was in the space. Papaws have shallow roots so it would have stolen water and nutrients from the vegetable bed. We also don’t care for the fruit and, as a result, it was an easy decision to remove it. Matt’s dad volunteered to chainsaw it down – a relatively easy job. Digging up the roots, however, was hot and painfully hard work. Each root burrowed a long way along from the base, making excavation a tedious process. We prepared the bed the same way we did the others – using the no-dig method and left it for a month to decompose.

Anyhow, back to the seeds. Today we planted:

Bed four:

  • Capsicum: Zorzi Quadrato d’asti x3; The Diggers Club mini sweet x 3
  • Tomato: Lost Seed Broad ripple yellow currant x2; Brandywine x 2; Green zebra x2
  • Pumpkin: The Diggers Club mini sweet delicata x1; Franchi Marina di chioggia x1
  • Cucumber: Eden’s Green gem x 1; Lost Seed’s Armenian x1
  • Zucchini: Lost Seed Black beauty x1; The Diggers Club black beauty x1

The rest of the vegetables beds are doing well….

Bed one:

  • The pink eye and kipfler potatoes are all up. About a third of the nicolas are also up. The king edwards are struggling with only about an eighth up.
  • There are 4 watermelons and 4 rockmelons up. I replanted the mixed rockmelon – I suspect one of the seed got washed over next to another plant, so I removed it because it was too close.
  • No strawberries yet.

Bed two:

  • We have not had much luck with lettuce in the past, so it came as no surprise to see only two little plants under a centimetre.
  • The golden bantam corn is going great guns (10 up), but on the flip side the bali corn is showing a dismal display with only one plant growing. I replanted the missing ones.
  • The beans are doing really well with 25 plants growing. Although three are looking a little worse for the wear – probably storm damage. They haven’t been staked yet.
  • I snuck in two seeds for The Diggers Club black russian tomatoes at the end of the bed.

Bed three:

  • The squash are our healthiest looking plants at the moment.
  • The beans here are also doing well with the majority of them up. A few stragglers.
  • The eggplants are disappointing with no shows of one type and the others have a few under a centimetre.
  • No sign of the rosellas yet.

Matt’s mum commented that is was probably the wrong time of year to be growing potatoes. Sweet potato might have been a better choice, although Matt’s not so keen on it. Matt thinks the rosellas aren’t growing because it might be the wrong type of soil for them.

Overall, we’re pretty happy with how things are progressing.

Storms and seedlings

Brisbane had a very wild night on Sunday. The thunder was intense and deafening. My heart was shaking so much and adrenaline surged through my body. Big M yelled at me to get away from the windows because he thought the pressure of the wind might blow them in. Then I saw a flash of lightening a mere metre away from the window and we both huddled into the centre of the house. I tried to reassure myself that, as our house is over fifty years old, if it has lasted this long, it would survive this storm.

An hour later the storm had passed and we went outside to assess the damage. It was the heaviest rain I’ve seen in a long time, and the wind was very destructive in our neighbourhood. Out the front a very large and once proud gum tree had its main limbs blown off. Luckily the branches fell across the road and missed all three houses on the other compass points. Our next door neighbour with the pesky ginger cats had a large tree completely uprooted. Down the road, fences were blown over and there was more tree carnage.

Fortunately, the vegetable beds look fine and the fruit trees all survived. The lattice holding up the sweet peas blew off and the native raspberry flapped its arms around aimlessly. The rain was very welcome and thoroughly soaked the soil in our beds. Our water tank was overflowing.

Surprisingly, we have spotted the first of our seeds sprouting up in the vegetable patches. Of course, it’s the beans and the squash.

Planting by the moon

Our seed potatoes went in on the weekend. I bought them months ago from The Lost Seed and they arrived in four neat brown paper bags. I was worried they’d gone bad or green in the back of the cupboard, and we really have missed the prime months for planting spuds. Matt declared himself in charge of the potatoes and he selected four of our local market favourites – Pink Eyes, King Edwards, Nicola and Kipfler. We shouldn’t have worried, the tubers were bursting with sprouting buds and more then ready to go in. Our only worry now is that perhaps we might have too many!

Today was the day before a full moon, and according to my “Astrological Calendar and Moon Planting Guide” by Thomas Zimmer, it’s a perfect time to sow “fruiting annuals – those vegetables which you want to produce abundant seed, or the seed bearing organ of the plant.”

We both got home early from work, and set about planting out our first three beds. The plantings were based on The Diggers Club article “The Mini-Plot“[PDF] and what in suitable for Brisbane’s climate in November.

Bed one:

Bed two:

Bed three:

  • Squash: White Scallop
  • Beans: Lost Seed Runner Scarlet Emperor x 12; Aqua Dulce Broad Bean x 12
  • Eggplant: The Diggers Club Listada Di Gandia x4
  • Rosella: Eden x 3
  • Eggplant: Cima Viola x 4

We ended up swapping the carrots for squash, beetroot for eggplant and rosella. In the perennial bed, we swapped the artichoke and asparagus (we don’t like either) for watermelon and rockmelon. The potatoes took up half the bed, but that’s ok because we’ve got two lots of rhubarb in pots.

In retrospect, we were thinking it might have been better to space out the timing of the plantings so that everything doesn’t come up at once. Oh the enthusiasm of naivety :-).

The Challenge

About a year and a half ago we bought a house and our interest in gardening blossomed. It was a natural progression that our love of food would lead to wanting to try to grow our own organic produce. Ultimately, we were interested in finding out how hard it would be to become self-sufficient without giving up our day jobs, moving to the country or growing dread-locks.

We wanted to know whether two amateur gardeners could grow enough fruit and vegetables to feed themselves within a year.

We wanted to follow The Diggers Club article on being self-sufficient in “Growing your Own Heirloom Vegetables”. It explains in perfect detail how to “Convert your lawn into a food garden” [PDF]. The author Clive Beazley claims you can grow 254kg of fruit and vegetables in just over 10 metres cubed. The average consumption of fruit and vegetables per person in Australia is 242kg (according to ABS).

We’re aiming for 236kg* of fruit and vegetables on one tank, for one couple in one year.

We’re going to loosely follow the The Diggers Club instructions, substituting fruit and vegetables for ones suited to Brisbane’s climate and our tastes. We hope to inspire others to dig for dinner.

Oh, Mr Darcy

Bridget Jones’s Diary inspired my entry in Dispensing Happiness’ blog party #15. The challenge was to create an appetizer and cocktail from our favourite book. You may recall from Bridget’s diary entries she starts the year off with Bloody Mary’s. They didn’t appeal, but I had to attempt the retro pineapple and cheese entree……


The hedgehog was apparently big in the 60’s – you can use an orange or grapefruit cut in half, with cheese and pineapple cubes on cocktail sticks stuck in it! To make it look posh you could even cover the orange with foil (if only it was that easy to impress your guest these days!) To make it a little more modern, I’ve used Charles Sturt’s Bidgee Cheese with Native Mint which is a lovely match to the (dare I admit) tinned pineapple rings.

Mr Darcy

Mr Darcy

Mr Darcy is a cocktail I think Bridget would enjoy drinking! It is based on Pimms a popular summer drink in England, particularly around Wimbledon time. The most popular way to drink it is to mix a nip with lemonade.  Mr Darcy is made with two nips of Pimms and topped in a tall glass with ginger ale (since Mr Darcy is tall, dark and handsome!) Garnish with a strawberry to give a hint of Englishness about it, and you have to eat it last, because you know the drink (story) will end on a sweet note! And lastly, don’t forget Mr Darcy is a proper gentlemen and would always have a big umbrella on hand for the notorious English rain.

Try to drink in moderation. Hiccup.

Heart shaped corn fritters

Heart shaped corn fritters, with oven roasted tomatoes and crispy bacon strips. This is an easy recipe to remember and is perfect for a lazy Sunday morning.

Corn Fritters
310g can of corn kernels, rinsed and drained
2 eggs, lightly whisked
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
2 tbs plain flour
vegetable oil

  1. Place the corn, egg, parsley and flour in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. To create the heart shaped fritters I used a cookie cutter that had been coated in a little butter so the fritter would fall out easily. You can,  of course, spoon a tablespoon of batter straight into the pan.
  3. Repeat to make 3 more fritters, leaving about 2cms apart, and cook for 2 minutes each side, or until golden and cooked through. Repeat until the batter is all gone.
  4. Meanwhile, cut tomatoes in half, and grill the wrong side for 2 minutes. Turn over to the cut half, and sprinkle with finely chopped garlic and parsley or other herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over olive oil. Grill for a further 6 minutes.
  5. Cook strips of bacon as usual, and serve together with fritters and tomatoes. Preferably to a loved one in bed!

Serves 2.

Written for the latest Donna Hay Challenge.

Hay hay it’s bruschetta


Bruschetta is basically toasted bread, and is sometimes confused with the tomato topping, (which can vary). It is usually served as an appetizer, or you can have two or three slices with a salad for a light lunch. Smaller entre size pieces are called crostini.

Silver Spoon’s Bruschetta Recipe
Toast the slices of bread on both sides under the grill or a barbeque. Rub them with garlic while they are still hot and put them back under the grill for a moment. Arrange toppings on the bread. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Caprese Bruschetta (left)
Layer on the bruschetta, slices of mozzarella cheese (buffalo* preferred), slices of cherry tomatoes, and whole or torn (not cut) fresh basil leaves.
*for the creamy taste

Oliveade Bruschetta (right)
Combine in a food processor approximately 20 pitted, black olives, 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, dash of lemon juice, half a clove of garlic (coarsely chopped) and a pinch of thyme. Vary these measurements according to personal taste. Spread on the bruschetta and top with strips of roasted capsicum (red peppers).

Oliveade is tapenade minus the capers and anchovies.

An easy lunch for the weekend. We loved it.