vicki’s olive and pecan loaf

Vicki is a gluten-free baking guru, and this loaf tastes as good with or without wheat flour. Actually I might even say it’s better gluten-free!


325g (about 3 cups) plain flour

– to make gluten free, substitute gluten free flour (such as Orgran) and baking powder (such as Wards)

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp of mustard powder

Salt and pepper

70g freshly grated parmesan cheese

½ cup grated good quality tasty cheese

120g pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

80g pitted black olives, slivered

2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus extra for topping

2 tbs good quality extra virgin olive oil

2 large eggs beaten

1¼ cups (310ml) buttermilk

Glaze – 1 egg beaten, egg yolk and a little water beaten, butter or normal milk

Sea salt


1. Pre heat oven to 180 celsius.

2. Grease a large loaf pan and line with baking paper (6cm deep, 13x23cm).

3. Sift flour, baking powder, soda, mustard and 1tsp each of salt and pepper in a large bowl.

4. Add cheeses, nuts, olives and rosemary and mix well with a wooden spoon.

5. In a separate bowl/jug, whisk together the oil, eggs and buttermilk.

6. Make a well in the flour mixture, add oil mixture and stir to form a thickish batter.

7. Scrape into the loaf pan and smooth the top.

8. Brush with glaze and scatter with rosemary and sea salt.

9. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. If the loaf is browning too quickly, loosely cover with foil, dull side up.

10. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then cool on a rack. The loaf tastes better cooled rather than hot out of the oven.

Note:  As it has no preservatives, the bread is best refrigerated or frozen. Recommend slicing first before freezing and warm by toasting or heating in the oven.

at last… a homemade jerk seasoning recipe that works

For more than five years, we have been living in Australia, far away from the comfortingly-stocked shelves of our local Tesco in Brent Cross where the international food choices were staggering. With such a huge population in the area of West Indian descent, there was never any problem buying Orlando’s –and subsequently my – favourite West Indian foods and seasonings.

Ackee and saltfish was delicious, easy and cheap to make for dinner. If we needed more jerk seasoning or pepper sauce (a traditional Barbados favourite), we popped down the road either to Tesco or to any of our local groceries, and picked up a jar of Walkerswood or a bottle of Windmill.

Now we live in Australia, we have to remember to stock up if either one of us goes to London. Happily, our trip to Barbados afforded us the chance to send back some decent quantities of jerk seasoning, pepper sauce and tins of ackee.

But how to become more self-sufficient? A few of our West Indian acquaintances here in Australia make really decent home-made pepper sauce or jerk seasoning, but I have never been able to come close. Perhaps it was the fresh Bajan air, or the amazing assaults on my taste buds every evening at dinner, but upon my return this time I think I have cracked it.

The most important thing to get right is the fresh chillies. Australia-dwellers, this is important: you will not find the chillies you need in Safeway. What we really need are habanero chillies but they are not sold in this country. So you need to go down to the local market or your local Asian grocery and ask for the hottest fresh chillies you can find. I get mine from Bharat Traders here in West Footscray, tiny green ones that look like this (they are on a side plate if that gives you an idea of size). I used about 12 of these for one batch of seasoning (enough to season about 1 kg of meat) and to be honest I could have done with a bit more heat still. Deseed before you use if you wish – I didn’t bother.

The second important ingredient is all-spice. Many people think this is a mixture of spices used in baking, but that is mixed spices. All-spice is the fruit of the Jamaican pimiento tree and is a very specific ingredient. Happily, although you cannot get the pimiento berries themselves here in Australia, we can buy ground all-spice in most big supermarkets. It’s not the same but it does the job.

The third thing is the tool you use. You will need to get this mixture ground down as smooth as possible, so the best results will be obtained from a blender or from a pestle and mortar. I have only used a food processor so far, which chops very finely indeed but it is not enough to make the seasoning paste really sink into the meat.

So, here you go. Give it a try and roast your own jerk chicken for dinner this weekend.

Ingredients (enough to season about 1kg of chicken)
3-4 large scallions or spring onions
6-12 hot chillies
small bunch of fresh thyme
2-3 teaspoons of allspice powder
1-2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg or the freshly-ground equivalent
1-2 teaspoons sugar
juice of half a fresh lime
freshly-ground salt and black pepper

Other people add some ginger, or coriander. I am going to try and add some native Australian herbs and spices, like lemon myrtle or pepperberry, and see how that goes.

De-seed the chillies if you wish. Chop up the scallions and chillies as finely as you can. You can use onion if you are stuck, but I find the onion rather overpowers the balance of flavours too much.
Remove the leaves of the thyme from their woody stems by stripping each stalk backwards. Don’t worry about being too finicky with this.
Throw all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until as smooth as you can get it. If you don’t have a blender, start by chopping everything as small as possible and then use a pestle and mortar to crush the onions, chillies and thyme into as smooth a paste as you can manage. Update: having now used a pestle and mortar, a food processor and a blender, I would have to say the blender gives you by far the best results.

This seasoning will keep in the fridge in a sterilised container for a week or two if you don’t use it all at once. If you add a little white vinegar to the mix at the end of the blend, this will help with longevity.Rub a small amount of the seasoning onto each joint of meat – I use no more than 2-3 teaspoons per chicken joint or breast. Make sure you get into every nook and cranny. Then cover and leave for as long as you can – overnight if possible, but at least an hour if you are in a hurry.

Roast slowly and enjoy the beautiful aromas coming from the kitchen!

Serve with rice and peas: soak 2-3 tablespoonfuls of black beans, black-eyed peas or similar overnight. Alternatively use azuki beans which are easily found in Asian markets, and don’t need soaking. Bring to the boil and cook slowly in plenty of water until cooked. DO NOT THROW AWAY THE WATER. Add your white rice and a dash of salt to the cooked peas in the same water (this makes the rice turn a different colour and adds flavour). Stir occasionally until cooked through, then strain the last of the water away and serve up.

mairead’s killer chicken curry


500g chicken breast or thigh fillets, whichever you prefer, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1-3 large green chillies, fresh, chopped
1/2 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 star anise broken into pods
2-3 cardamom pods
2-3 cloves
1 piece cinnamon, broken up (optional)
1/2 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp other meat masala (if available from Indian shops)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped finely (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
1-2 potatoes, chopped (optional)


Heat the oil in a large stove-top pot.
Throw in the black mustard seeds and cook until they just start popping.
Throw in the chillies and cook for 2-3 minutes until pungent.
Add the star anise, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric and both masalas. Stir vigorously and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add a little more olive oil to moisten if necessary.
Add the garlic and chopped onion, stir into the mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened and beginning to brown.
Add the chicken pieces, stir in well and cook for 3-4 minutes or so.
Add the carrots (and potatoes if you wish) and enough water to just cover all ingredients. Stir well.
Cook slowly over a very low heat – or transfer to a low heat in the oven – for about an hour. Check occasionally, adding more water as necessary to make the curry have as much or as little gravy as you wish.

The longer you cook this curry, and the older the pot you cook it in, the better it will taste. Works pretty well in a slow-cooker too, but you have to cook all the spices manually first (method up as far as adding the chicken) as laid out above, then you can leave to simmer in the slow cooker if you wish.

ricky’s curried goat

>Try this for a good curried goat – thanks Ricky for the seasoning advice!

Ingredients for seasoning
3 kinds of chilli peppers (or whatever your taste is) – Ricky used scotch bonnets, bullet and home grown killer peppers
3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
4 spring onions
1″ ginger root
whole black peppers
2 tbsp curry powder
west indian season-all powder
A little water

Blend together and marinate the meat overnight. Best to use fresh goat on the bone, but if youare unadventurous or goat is unavailable, some cubed lamb works well too.

Dice one potato, and a carrot or two if you wish, and add to the mix. Add a little water and cook very slowly for as many hours as you can manage.

Serve with rice and black-eyed/pigeon/gunga peas.

vicki’s no-bake cheesecake

>The lovely Vicki at work made me this divine cheesecake for a birthday morning tea. It’s the nicest cheesecake I’ve had in years.

250g sweet biscuits
125g butter, melted
375g cream cheese, softened
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup lemon juice
400g tin condensed milk

1. Grease and line a 20cm spring form tin.
2. Place biscuits in food processor and finely crush. Add butter and process until mixed.
3. Press half of the mix into the base of the tin, and press the remainder around the sides, using a glass to firm it into place. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.
4. Beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add lemon rind and vanilla and beat. Add the condensed milk and lemon juice gradually, and beat until smooth and the volume has increased.
5. Pour into the tin and refrigerate overnight.
6. Decorate with diced strawberries and icing sugar, or as desired

1. To make gluten free, substitute gluten free biscuits for the base. I use Arnott’s Rice Cookies (supermarket biscuit aisle) and use approximately 90g of butter as these biscuits are shortbread-like and don’t require much butter to bind.
2. Recommend using 500g of cream cheese if making as per the recipe above.
3. Use 375g of cream cheese if adding melted chocolate (150, maybe 200g?).
4. I substitute vanilla paste or bean for the vanilla essence.

mmmm pizza


Late home from work, I rustle up a quick home-made pizza in less time than it takes to order from Pizza Hut.

Half a garlic Afghan bread, a squirt of pizza sauce, a few chopped-up mushrooms pan-fried to dry them out a little, quarter of an onion finely chopped and barely sweated in the pan, one green chilli and one tomato, a good handful of Weight Watchers grated cheese and a generous swirl of Ischian herbs from the Bay of Naples.

Into the oven, out 15 minutes later, Bob’s your uncle. The perfect comfort food, and all for less than 6 Weight Watchers points (if that means anything to you).
A glass of Rutherglen durif and House on the TV, and that’s a perfect Wednesday evening for me.