2013 in review

Wow – 6,300 hits on my food blog in 2013. Thanks for all your support! I promise more in 2014.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,300 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

chorizo and tomato salad

>Serves four as a light meal, or six as a meal accompaniment


1 raw chorizo sausage (approx. 225g), roughly sliced
Olive oil
3 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 handfuls (270g) of cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
Sea salt and black pepper
Sherry vinegar
Small bunch of parsley, basil or mint leaves, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

Bread to serve

Optional: goat’s cheese or manchego cheese and pata negra or parma ham


Fry the sliced chorizo in a pan over a medium heat with a lug of olive oil. Stir it with a wooden spoon occasionally while you prepare your tomatoes and spring onions. Put them in a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, a lug of olive oil and a splash of sherry vinegar. Sprinkle over the chopped leaves, toss everything together, then set aside.

By now your chorizo should be getting crispy. Add the sliced garlic to the pan and keep it moving around. Before the garlic starts to burn take the pan off the heat and pour in a small splash of sherry vinegar. Stir, then spoon the chorizo and some of the flavoured oil over the salad.

Toss the salad and serve immediately with bread, cheese and ham on the side.

winter hibernation food

>Charmaine and I were out for our Indian Food Odyssey a couple of weeks ago when we got onto the perennial subject of hibernation food. The temperature goes down, the days get shorter, and even before real winter kicks in many of us seem to lose our healthy eating initiative and dive headlong into stodge.

It got me thinking that there has to be a way to avoid this by making a few changes to our diets early enough to second-guess our bodies. I’m thinking we have to make these changes in early May (or October for the northern hemisphere) so our good habits remain intact when hibernation mode seriously kicks in.

The first rule that springs to mind is seasonal produce. There may be no science behind this, but surely eating the fruit and vegetables which are naturally occurring at each time of year must be good for us? We are better at heeding this lesson in spring and summer, when asparagus, strawberries or green beans start sprouting from our kitchen gardens (or the aisles in Queen Victoria Market). So perhaps embracing those apples, pears, pomegranates, nuts and pineapples will help – think of the traditional Hallowe’en party. And those wonderful autumn and winter vegetables will be a joy to cook with in all those hearty stews and curries – think beetroot, pumpkins, kale, turnip and of course tiny sweet brussels sprouts.

The second rule is something about the type of carbs we eat. When hibernation mode kicks in, we tend to carb-load and often get it seriously wrong. Again, I’ve nothing but instinct to suggest that if we tend towards really high-quality carbs early enough, we will stave off that craving. Think pulses, high-fibre options like brown rice, squashes and whole-grain anything.

This year I am on a mission to find the rules to help us all pre-empt those winter blues by healthy and delicious eating before our stodge-fests kick in- so that this year will be the last time I get to winter solstice feeling unhealthy and lethargic.

Anybody got any ideas for more winter food rules, or ways to keep motivated to do even a little exercise once the autumn equinox has been and gone?

it’s pancake tuesday!

>The day before Lent begins means a stack of pancakes for lunch and more after dinner. Or that was how it was when I was a child.

I would come home from school for lunch and Mum would have made a big stack of pancakes, frying-pan sized, made from freshly-mixed homemade batter. Simple: flour, eggs, milk, beaten until smooth then poured into a frying pan spoonful by spoonful.

The first one was always less than average. The frying pan was never hot enough, and the skill of pouring just exactly enough batter to make a thin pancake forgotten since last year. The second one was always better.

A perfect pancake was extra-thin, it filled the whole frying pan and it was cooked just long enough to give it dark brown grooves of caramelised loveliness on each side.

There was no messing about with exotic toppings in our house. This was a pre-Lent ritual, designed to get all the flour, eggs, sugar and butter used up before the fasting began. Each pancake would be spread with butter, sprinkled with a liberal amount of sugar and finished off with a good squirt of lemon juice. The three toppings would mingle into a sweet-and-sour liquid of perfect viscosity.

Mum always stacked the pancakes one by one, topped individually as described above, then when the whole stack was done she would slice them into wedges like a cake. Personally I always preferred to eat my pancakes whole, rolled up, with butter, sugar and lemon juice added fresh each time. This is how I do it myself when I make pancakes in my own house.

Anybody else doing Pancake Tuesday? Anybody got any other family rituals you want to share?

five memorable meals – are you in?

>At dinner a few weeks ago with Sam, Amanda and Mena, our conversation revolved around food and its significance in our lives. We recalled memorable meals with family or friends, favourite restaurants, unusual or particularly good food in far-flung places when travelling.

Our conversation sparked further thoughts in my head about how food has such a strong place in our memories, connecting us with significant events, people or moments in our lives.

So I would like you to have a think about the five (or so) most memorable meals you have had in your life, and why you think they hold such a special place in your memory. It could be a simple rustic lunch of bread and cheese on a park bench on the side of the road in France, or your first Michelin-starred dinner as a proper grown-up. It could be alone when travelling on business, or in the heart of your family at Christmas or on a birthday. It could be home-cooked, shop-bought or served in an eatery. The link is its significance to you.

I think the trick might be not to think too much about it. What are the first images (or aromas, or tastes) that go through your head when you think about this? These are probably the places to start.

I shall deliberate upon my own list this week and share with you here on this blog. In the meantime have a think about your list, then either write a post on your own blog, or a note on your Facebook page, and make sure you share a link with me so I can collate all the responses. Or email me if you wish and I can add your list to my blog.

Just jot down a few words about when and where the meal took place, who you were with (if anybody), what you ate (which can be in detail or very brief, depending on how you are remembering it) and why you think this particular event is so memorable to you. Be as brief or as lengthy as you can: it’s the stories you are telling that I am interested in.


Eileen’s Quick Bouillabaisse

>Serves 4
WeightWatchers: 4.5 points per serve
Prep: 10-15 mins
Cooking: 10 mins

Saffron threads ½ tsp
Leek 1 finely sliced
Potato 1 (120g) cut into 1com cubles
Chicken stock 1 litre (4 cups)
Diced Italian tomatoes 800g can
Lemon juice 2 tbs
Seafood marinara mix 750g
Mussels 12, cleaned
Flat-leaf parsley 1/3 cup roughly chopped
Fresh red chilli (optional) 1 red finely chopped

Combine saffron and 1 tbs hot water in a small bowl. Stand for 5 mins.

Spray a large deep non-stick saucepan with oil and place over medium heat. Add leek and potato. Cook, stirring for 3 mins or until softened. Increase heat to high.

Add saffron, stock, tomatoes and lemon juice. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes to infuse the flavours.

Add marinara mix (you might want to separate out the different types of seafood and add them according to how long you want them to cook). Last, place mussels on top of bouillabaisse. Return to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 3 mins or until mussels open. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into deep bowls and sprinkle with parsley. Serve.