Showing posts from July, 2020

Japanese style chicken broth

Inspired by a lunch dish Johanna had in Maleny a couple of days ago, I decided to have a crack at a style of chicken soup a bit different to my 'go to' traditional chicken soup. The lighter tasting broth seasoned with some soy sauce and the pickled ginger make this a flavoursome and deeply satisfying soup. Very happy.

Servings 2 (generous) 
Time about 2 hours. 
Equipment I used (main) Pan (with simmer pad)Saucepan (for rice)Chopping boards and knifetongs and ladle for servingMeasuring 'cup'Bowls (for chopped ingredients)

Ingredients Sesame oil, couple of glugs½ onion, diced2x garlic cloves, slicedChicken thighs (1 per person / serving)Vegetable stock (500mls)Water (1 litre)Soy sauce (couple of splashes)Vegetables (I used 6x brussel sprouts, finely sliced because I had some, but soem finely sliced cabbage would be perfect too; and some baby broccoli, cut / sliced into match stick size) Rice (I used brown jasmine, ½ cup)Pickled ginger (Japanese style, I used a few slices per ser…


Maria doesn't drink hot drinks very often, so the coffee and tea caper in our van is usually a 1 person affair; hence the small plunger and tea pot.

Coffee tastes better when you grind it yourself. I've had this coffee grinder since we had our first caravan, when my habit was to get up early and do some work before others started the day. Maria and Johanna joke that whenever I grind my coffee (most mornings in the caravan unless we buy one from a cafe) it reminds them of those early years laying in bed trying to sleep while I sat outside and ground away.
Some friends and I visited Marvel Street Coffee for some tasting mornings and Nico kindly gave me one of his cups, just the right size for my morning brew.


I've recently become a convert to rooibos tea, a red tea from South Africa that has the qualities of green tea but more like a black tea to drink. I love this organic blend that I get from GoVita. A couple of months ago Maria found this perfect little van tea pot.…

Fried chickpea and halloumi curry

We bought some fresh halloumi from a local producer at the New Brighton Farmers Market earlier in the week so decided it was time to find a good use for it. We were going to concoct some halloumi burgers but ended up having bagels and a burger from Elwood Cafe for lunch, so needed an alternative. We haven't done much with halloumi before so had to ask the internet. The recipe below is an adaption from Half Baked Harvest which had some great looking food. As always, we used the veggies we had in the fridge.

Servings 2 (generous) 
Time Time to chop and prepare ingredients, then about 30 mins cooking time. 
Equipment I used (main) PanSimmer pad & saucepan (for rice)Chopping boards and knifeWooden spoonStrainerGraterMeasuring 'cup'Bowls (for chopped ingredients)
Ingredients Olive oil150g halloumi, chopped into 1cm cubes1x 400 can of chickpeas1x onion, diced4x garlic cloves, finely choppedGinger (I used 1½  tablespoon of minced)Veggies: I used 1 cup of each of kale, zucchini, eggpl…

Banana split

Don't you love it when shopping for fresh food creates a creative dilemma; what to do with your hoard. After we filled our bag at the New Brighton Farmers' Market a couple of days ago, Maria was pretty sure she knew what to do with the passionfruit and lady finger bananas. 
Meanwhile, I did ice cream and honeycomb from the IGA with raisins from Fundies and a decent splash of Sailor Jerry!

Lamb and chickpea soup

I first made a variation of this for a family gathering when we lived in Launceston about 5 years ago. There was something about the rich deep flavours and the spice mix that left my mouth singing. It has been a favourite ever since although it varies naturally depending on what is available. Tonight I have decided to experiment by adding some cardamon to the 'usual suspects'. (Yep, it was a successful experiment. It'll be a staple from now on.) There is no doubt that the spices are the stars of this show!

Servings 4  (2 for now and 2 to give away or for the freezer)
Time Time to chop and prepare ingredients, then about 2- 2½ hours cooking time. (could do with less, but it takes that time for the lamb to get really soft)
Equipment (main) Cast iron enamel potSimmer padChopping boards and knifeWooden spoonMeasuring jugStrainer
Ingredients olive oil1x onion, diced (I used 2x small ones tonight)4x garlic cloves, finely chopped~500g diced lamb. (I used 3x leg chops I got from a local pr…

Simmer pad

Until I got one of these, my attempts at paella with good socarrat were always foiled. I couldn't get our gas stove to go low enough to stop it burning rice in the thin paella dish. I could give up on the authentic paella pan, or keep trying. We could have got the gas flow adjusted to the stove, but that would have created other problems. 
I went into Chef's Essential in Geelong looking for something I could use to lift the pot above the flame, a wok frame or something. When I explained what I was trying to do, the helpful women said, "I think you need one of these!". As well as the one we have in the van, we now have three at home for when we are doing paella for a crowd, and Maria uses them regularly for reheating etc. We even stack a couple on top of each other if we want an even slower burn.


Perhaps the equipment post of all ... toaster, kettle and blender. The blender joined the set when the weather cooled and we needed to puree soups, but as well as that, it comes in handy for other functions such as whipping the potatoes for this dish.
Our kitchen as a nice little kink in the bench which facilitates a space behind the sink where we can leave our toaster and kettle permanently out.


There are few things that frustrate me more in cooking than blunt knives. You don't need many but this set of four work really well for us. I have threatened to buy a peeler, but at this stage have held off and just used the small kitchen knife.

The star of the show is my Wüsthof, 20cm chefs knife. Beautiful piece of equipment that I use every day. We started off with this and the small kitchen knife from another set, and quickly added the bread knife because I love cutting my own bread. Buying sourdough from farmers markets or bakeries is our much preferred option.
We picked up the small cerated one by accident ... in fact I am still not sure where it came from, but it is really useful when a cerated edge is better. It's a keeper.
Space is a premium so the knives get put into the drawers alongside other utensils. To protect them, we've got a set of Baccarat knife sleeves. And to complete the kit, a couple of diamond sharpeners which I picked up from Bunnings after searching …

Cooking equipment

What do you include in your little kitchen tool cupboard? Here's what I have chosen. 'Will likely add to it along the way, but every new item will be carefully selected so as not to clutter the space. Each item must add value, and even better if it can do more than one thing!
This is kinda boring, but I geek out on this stuff. I'd love to know what you find necessary in a little kitchen. What are you hacks? What is that implement you just can't do without?

Chopping boards There have been times when we've had other heavier boards, purchased from markets or the one I made when I was in grade 7. But we find this set of three lighter weight cheap board are really versatile and work well for us.
Mixing bowls There is another one not pictured that we use as a fruit bowl. These get used everyday for chopped dinner ingredients, nuts and nibblies, or even small dessert bowls. Great purchase.
Grater Not sure how you'd do without one; outs gets used most often for parmesan, carr…

Smoked mushrooms

We first heard of these from our friends and fellow foodies Gav and Jules. A container of these little beauties will fill a meal with flavour. We used them today as the star ingredient in a risotto. Farmer's markets are a great opportunity to meet the growers, but the Wollumbin Gourmet Mushrooms man doesn't stop at that. He offers workshops and sells kits to help you grow your own.
If you are in the Northern Rivers on a Tuesday (new Brighton) or Wednesday (Murwillumbah), you won't regret grabbing a container of these flavour gems.

New Brighton Farmers Market

Farmer's markets are fabulous. They are community events and facilitate a real connection between the people who grow the food and those who eat it. That's why we try to check out the farmer's markets where ever we are.
Last year when we were with a group of friends at Clark's Beach, our good friends and fellow foodies Gav and Jules told is about the smoked mushroom sold at New Brighton Farmers Market. We were keen to try them and instantly loved this little village nook. We happened to be short of a shopping bag when we were there so got ourselves a New Brighton Farmers Market branded reusable bag and have carried it in the van ever since. This was also the place that Maria discovered elderflower cordial, and even though the stuff she has found down south was not the same, it has been her cold drink of choice when at home ever since.
So today we enthusiastically headed over to get some supplies. After the obligatory coffee and pastry (we didn't have breakfast before…

Fruit toast

It's not often that there is cause to celebrate the products associated with / branded by the big supermarkets. This is an exception. I am a fan of fruit toast, or good fruit toast at least. I'm not talking about the loaves you buy in the bread section, I'm talking about spice rich bread filled with real fruit (and sometimes nuts too). The so-called Rich Fruit Loaf from Woollies' bakery section is the best we've ever bought and is as good as anything you'll get in a cafe for breakfast.
I have been devastated that since we arrived in the North Rivers 6 weeks ago, none of the Woollies I've been in to have stocked it. I've questioned bakers working at the ovens in the bakery section and had been informed that they don't stock this line. Today we had to pick up some arborio rice for dinner, and I could help myself, I had to check the bakery even though I knew "they don't stock that line". I couldn't believe my luck to see a little sign s…

(Smoked) mushroom risotto

Today was New Brighton Farmers Market day which meant we had a little container of smoked mushrooms from Wollumbin Gourmet Mushroom. Time for some mushroom risotto we reckoned. Of course you don't need these special mushrooms to make this recipe, but if you are lucky enough to be able to jag some, then they will add a stack of flavour to this simple but layered risotto. Thanks Gav & Jules for the tip to try these mushrooms when we were here last year.
As is becoming our custom, we wandered out along the breakwall before dinner and were treated to a gorgeous sunset. We had been awake early this morning and decided to get to the beach to see the sunrise, but were foiled by the clouds - all was forgiven. It was nice walking back to the van, starting to think about this dish and anticipating the smells and tastes. 
Servings 2
Time Time to chop and prepare ingredients, then ~ ½ hour cooking time.
Equipment (main) Deep panLarge saucepan (for stock)Chopping boards and knifeSpatula and woode…

Baked veggies with spinach and hummus

This is one of our go-to easy meals. Simple to prepare (chop veggies) but with a little bit of flavour tweaking it is one of my favourites. There are some meals that in Maria's domain ... this is typically one of hers :-). If we are feeling devoid of creativity, one of us will say, "Let's just do baked veggies".
Servings 2 (or as many as you need; just vary the amount of veggies you add, but in a van your oven will be small, so try not to stack the pieces too high in the baking dish as it results in uneven cooking.)
Time About 15 minutes to chop the veggies, then about 40-45 minutes in the oven.
Equipment (main) Knife and chopping boardBaking dish(baking paper - optional) Ingredients

Whatever veggies you have. A variety of colours and textures helps make it interesting. It can be easy (for me) to over cater with this one, so you might find you have to be conservative with how much of each veggie you put in. Tonight we have: Brussel sprouts (purple)Corn cob, cut into pieces ab…

Tagliatelle with wood smoked ocean trout

We had been exploring the coastline between Ballina and Evan Head by driving along the beach. It was going to be late afternoon by the time we got home so we needed something simple and quick for dinner.
We knew there was some ocean trout in the fridge and we also had a packet of fresh lasagna sheets, so we figured if we called into the IGA on the way back for some cherry tomatoes we'd be set. It was a winner.
Servings 2
Time Really quick, a few minutes to prepare and then once the water is boiling, less than 5 minutes to cook.
Equipment (main) Deep panLarge saucepan (for pasta)Colander Chopping boards and knifeTongs (I find tongs are the best utensil to manage pasta such as spaghetti, linguini etc.)

Pasta (instead of tagliatelle, I cut the lasagna sheets into strips. Rule of thumb is 100g of pasta per person, the lasagna packet was 375g so I used half and saved the rest for another meal.)Salt (for pasta water)Oil, a generous glug (for sautéing tomatoes)Half a punnet of whole c…

Risotto with Italian sausages, capsicum, kale and mushroom

Risotto is comfort food and is a go-to favourite for us in the van. It's easy to make, ingredients can be flexible depending on what is in the fridge, and it can taste so good, especially when the weather is cool.
Servings 2
Time Time to chop and prepare ingredients, then ~ ½ hour cooking time.
Equipment (main) Deep panLarge saucepan (for stock)Chopping boards and knifeSpatula and wooden spoon (I find I use two stirrers with risotto because the rice tends to stick.)


olive oil1x small onion, diced½ red capsicum, chopped¾ cup arborio ricecup of cheap wine winechicken stock, ~700ml (2 x cubes)handful of mushrooms, choppedgood bunch of kale, de-stalked and chopped2x Italian sausages, cut into piecesparmesan, small pile grated (for a bit of punch)butter, 2 x knobs (for creaminess)pepper to taste
Method Cooking risotto requires continual attention, so I prepare all the ingredients beforehand. Once everything has been gathered and chopped ...
Bring the stock to the boil while you are ch…

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