Winter 2011

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Pantry essentials

Old Mother HubbardOld Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor doggie a bone,
When she got there
The cupboard was bare
So the poor little doggie had none.


Hello folks.  Remember that old nursery rhyme?  I do, but it always struck me as a bit silly. Why did Mrs H keep doggie bones in her cupboard?  They would have smelled rather woofie ... but we know that rhyme was written well before fridges were invented, so what’s an old girl to do with bones for her dog back in nursery rhyme days?

But what was really wrong with Mrs Hubbard’s kitchen?  Of course ... she had no food at all in her cupboard!

Today, all kitchens have proper food storage – a fridge, of course, for perishables (including doggie bones) and a cupboard or pantry for non-perishables. Most non-perishables, including canned food, have used-by dates stamped on them.

A well-managed pantry does not need to contain an excessive amount of food.

When stocking your pantry make sure the most used items are at eye level or slightly below. Be careful with what you store above head height – these items should be light and in easy-to-carry containers.

Make sure containers are properly sealed – especially those used for breakfast cereals.  You don’t want to crunch on ants first thing in the morning.

Two tips for making the best use of the space you have for storage:

• Square plastic containers (for pantry, fridge or freezer) are better than round ones.

• You can buy cheap metal racks to increase stacking capacity for cans and packets in the pantry.

Another tip – when storing onions and potatoes, don’t have them too close together. They go off that way.

Some of your pantry goodies, once opened, should be stored in the fridge – and check their shelf life on the label!

What goes on pantry shelves:

Vinegar – white wine, red wine, cider, malt
Oil – olive, peanut
Flour – plain, self-raising, corn
Sugar – white, brown
Rice – long grain
Pasta and noodles
Lentils – dried or canned
Tomato – cans, paste, sauce
Stock cubes – beef, chicken
Sauces – soya, worcestershire and whatever else takes your fancy!
Mustard – powder or prepared
Salt and pepper
Herbs and spices– don’t forget paprika
Custard powder
Canned fruits
Dried fruits – sultanas etc
Baked beans
(salt reduced, of course)

Great meals to warm up your winter

I have selected some easy-to-prepare, easy-on-the-budget main courses for cold days.  Some people call these meals comfort food. I call them YUM! The recipes come from as far away as Spain, Canada, Mexico, Italy and Ireland,  but they are very much at home in your kitchen.

All recipes are for four people.

Uncle Chris cooking toast

Bachelors toast

1-2 onions
1 clove garlic
Bunch of parsley
Fresh rosemary sprigs
600 g sausage meat
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
½ -1 teaspoon paprika

Pepper and salt (if sausage meat is not too salty already – ask your butcher).Chop the onions, garlic and herbs very small.

Mix all of the above with the sausage meat.

12 slices of old bread, lightly buttered. Pile the sausage meat mix on to the bread. Put on a tray and bake in a preheated 220 C oven for 15-20 minutes.

Serve hot with fresh garden salad.


Potato gratin

500 g raw potato
150 g grated cheese
100 g cubed ham or bacon


200 ml cream
100 ml milk
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
Pepper and nutmeg

Grate the potatoes; mix with the cheese and ham/bacon and spread ina buttered oven-proof dish.

Mix the cream, milk and eggs, add the spices and pour on the potatoes.

Preheat oven to 200 C and bake in the lower section for 45-50 minutes.

Serve with a fresh garden salad.  This is an inexpensive meal or you can serve it as a potato dish (omit ham/bacon) with roast meat.

Fish gratin

800 g fish (flake, ling, salmon, trout, etc). Cut in to 2½  cm cubes


2 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Mix together, pour over the cubed fish and rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

1 teaspoon salt is added to the fish.

Steam the fish in a large pan with only the liquid from the marinade for 10 minutes. Strain the fish, reserving the liquid.Place the fish in a buttered oven dish. Reduce the liquid in a small pan on the stove to about 2 tablespoons in volume. Reserve it in a measuring cup.

In a pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter, then add 250 g of still frozen peas and heat for 5 minutes. Chop a bunch of chives or parsley, add to the peas and pour it on the fish.

Add 200 ml cream to the reserved fish liquid and mix well.

If you have some dry vermouth, add 1 tablespoon of it to the liquid. Add salt and pepper to your taste, stir well, pour on to fish and bake in a 220 C oven for 10-15 minutes.

Serve with rice or boiled pink eye potatoes.


Baked macaroni and sausages

3½ litres salted water
250 g potatoes
300-350 g macaroni
50-100 g grated cheese
3-4 sliced kransky, bologna or other smoked sausage
2 large onions, finely sliced
2 tablespoons oil

Peel the potatoes and cut in to equal cubes and cook in the water for 5 minutes, then add the macaroni and cook to al dente (about 8-10 minutes).

Discard the water.

In a large buttered dish put the macaroni and potatoes in layers with the grated cheese and keep warm.

Heat the oil in the pan, add the finely sliced sliced onions and fry till golden brown.  Add the sliced sausages, fry for a short time and pour over the macaroni.

Serve with a fresh garden salad.

Chinese noodle hotpot


1 large onion, chopped
2 capsicums (green & red), de-seeded and cubed
½ lettuce, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1-2 tablespoons oil

Heat the oil in a pan and fry onion and capsicums. Add lettuce and garlic to the pan, place on a dish and keep warm.


2 tablespoons oil
200 g sliced chicken
200 g sliced pork
100 g sliced chicken livers
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch curry powder
½ teaspoon sambal oelek or chilli
100 ml white wine

Heat the oil in the pan; add chicken, pork and chicken livers and fry, season with salt, curry and chilli. When cooked add a dash of white wine, then add the vegetables. Remove from stove, but but keep warm.


2-3 litres salted water
250-300 g fine noodles

Bring water to the boil, add noodles and cook al dente, strain and add to meat and vegetables, garnish with some coriander leaves and serve with a fresh garden salad.


Chicken curry

500 g sliced chicken
1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion coarsely grated
2 apples peeled and cubed
1-1½ teaspoon curry
100 ml white wine
500 ml chicken bouillon
175 g long grain rice
2 tablespoons sultanas
2 tablespoons pine nuts

Shredded coconut

Dry the chicken with paper towel, heat the oil in a pan and fry chicken in small portions and take out of pan.  Reduce the heat and fry grated onion in the pan and fry for 1-2 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and reduce by half. Add bouillon, then the rice and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes.

10 minutes before the end of cooking, add the chicken pieces, sultanas and pine nuts.

Sprinkle with shredded coconut and serve with a fresh garden salad.

Chicken one pot


1 tablespoon oil
1 chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 sprig rosemary leaves chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch of curry
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
100 ml white wine
100-200 ml bouillon
100-150 ml sour cream
1 tablespoon corn flour

Heat butter in a pan, then add onion and fry. Add the garlic, rosemary, paprika, curry and tomato sauce and fry with the onion.

Add the white wine and bouillon and slowly simmer. Mix the corn flour with the sour cream and add to the sauce. Season to taste.


500 g sliced raw chicken meat (thighs or breast)
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon dry marinade (equal measure of salt, paprika and pepper)

In a pan heat the oil and fry the chicken, then season it with the dry marinade.

Add the chicken to the sauce and serve with rice, pasta or vegetables.

Festive meatloaf

This will make two meatloaves – one can be spiced up with pineapple, the other with sweet corn
500 g sausage meat and 500 g minced beef, mixed together
200 g ham, cubed
200 g tongue, bought from deli and cubed
3-4 gherkins (not sweet) cubed

Mix all together and heat in frying pan with oil.

1 red pepper cubed
1 green pepper cubed
1 bunch parsley chopped
1 onion sliced

Add to meat and fry until glazed

2 eggs stirred
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce                                

Mix all the ingredients above.

Take half of the mix and add one can of chopped pineapple.  Add one can of sweet corn to the other half of the mix.

Put the two mixes into two well-oiled cake tins and bake in the middle of 200C oven for 50-60 minutes. Take out and rest for 10 minutes and serve with a potato salad and crusty bread.


Tree frogs

That’s what we used to call them when I was a kid!

1 cabbage
Salted water
300 g sausage meat
1-2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon oil
50 g ham
1 small onion
1 bunch parsley
1 carrot
Butter or margarine


½ litre béchamel (see recipe this page)
50 g grated cheese

Carefully separate the cabbage leaves and blanch them in the boiling salty water until soft. Rinse in cold water and let dry.

Chop ham and fry in oil until crisp. Add finely chopped onion, parsley and carrot to the ham in the pan and cook for 3 minutes. Let cool down.

Mix it all with the sausage meat and caraway.

Put about a tablespoon of the mix on two overlapping cabbage leaves, roll into neat packets and layer them in a buttered oven dish. Pour the bechamel over it, scatter the cheese on top and bake in the middle of the 200C heated oven until cooked through and golden on top.

Serve with potatoes or rice.

Macaroni bake

200 g macaroni
2 litres water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon oil
150 g cubed bacon
2 carrots cubed
1 stick celery cubed
100 g mushrooms
Juice of half a lemon
½ teaspoon curry

Cook macaroni in the boiling salted water and oil for 10-15 minutes, then strain in a colander or sieve.

In the frying pan cook the bacon until transparent, add the carrot and celery and cook for a short time, then add rest of ingredients and cook for 5 minutes. Add to macaroni and mix well.

Grease a casserole dish or an oven tray and put the macaroni mix in the dish/tray in an even layer.

1 bunch chopped chives
2-3 tablespoons grated cheese

Prepare bechamel sauce (see this page). Season the bechamel and add the chives.  Pour the sauce over the macaroni. Sprinkle with some grated cheese and a few slices of butter, bake in the oven at 180c for 30-40 minutes. Serve with a fresh garden salad


100 g prawns
8-12 mussels
500g chicken wings
200 g sliced or cubed pork
4 tablespoons oil
2 onions chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 red and 1 green capsicum cut into strips
250 g rice (arborio or long grain)
Pinch of saffron if you have or a pinch of turmeric
700-800 ml beef bouillon or stock cubes dissolved in water
½ teaspoon salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper
12 black olives, pips removed
400 g can of peas or small pack of frozen peas, not defrosted!
3 tomatoes peeled and cut in quarters

Heat the oil in a large pan or pot. Fry the pork and chicken separately, then remove. Fry onions, garlic and capsicum in the same oil until glazed. 

Add the rice and stir for one minute, add saffron or turmeric and the bouillon, reduce the heat and add the chicken, season with salt, pepper and cayenne and add the black olives and cook covered for 8 minutes.

Add the pork, prawns, mussels, peas and tomatoes and simmer for another 15-20 minutes, and test that the rice is cooked.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

Bechamel sauce

Several of my recipes include bechamel sauce – named after a Frenchman of many years ago. He’s long dead, but his sauce, an essential in many recipes, lingers on!

2 tablespoons plain flour
2 tablespoons butter or margarine 350 ml milk
Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of white pepper

In a saucepan warm the butter/margarine, add flour and stir with a wooden spoon. The flour must not take any colour. Add milk all at once to the butter/flour mix and whisk while you bring it to the boil.

Reduce the heat and on low heat cook for about 10 minutes, whisking constantly. The sauce should have a consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Season and taste. You can add some parmesan cheese, finely grated, and/or a pinch of nutmeg – you be the judge; it depends on how the sauce is being used!

Canadian lentil hot pot

100 g cubed bacon
200 g cubed ham
2 kransky sausages (optional)
1 tablespoon oil
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 leek cut in rings
1 bunch of parsley chopped
250 g green or brown lentils
1 granny smith apple quartered and sliced
2 tablespoons sultanas
4 small potatoes peeled and quartered 500 ml white wine
400-500 ml bouillon
Salt, pepper and thyme
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch ground cloves
1⁄2 grated lemon rind
4 tablespoons sour cream

In a pot heat the oil and fry on the bacon and ham, reduce the heat and add the onion, garlic, leek and parsley. After a minute or two add the lentils and apple, then the sultanas and potatoes and moisten the lot with the white wine and simmer until nearly all the wine has been reduced. Add the bouillon, the lentils should be just about covered, season with the salt, pepper (black and cayenne), thyme, cloves and grated lemon rind and simmer covered with a lid for 50-60 minutes.

See if it is cooked and seasoned to your liking, then add the sour cream.

If you like, you can add some sliced kransky sausages to the lentils, 10-20 minutes before it reaches the end of the cooking time

Chilli con carne

400-500 g minced beef
2 tablespoons oil
1-2 tablespoons plain flour 2 chopped onions

2 chopped cloves garlic
1-2 teaspoons chilli powder 1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper
400 g can chopped tomatoes Small can baked beans
Small can red kidney beans

Loosen the meat with a fork before you fry it in a large pot with the oil. Sprinkle the flour over it and keep frying the meat without burning it. Add onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper and chilli powder, add the tomatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Add the beans and cook for another five minutes. Taste and season if necessary with more salt, pepper or chilli powder

Irish stew

600-700 g lamb shoulder or neck cut in small cubes
2 tablespoons oil
4 onions cut into rings
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 leeks cut into 5cm pieces
1⁄2 cabbage cut into 5cm pieces 2 carrots cut into 5cm pieces
1 stick celery cut into 5cm pieces
6 medium potatoes sliced 1cm thick Parsley for garnish
200-300 ml beef bouillon or dissolve a stock cube

Heat oil in large pan and fry the meat in small portions until brown, then take out and keep aside. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and glaze for a few minutes. Discard the oil, add the caraway, bay leaf and the chopped up carrots, leeks, celery and cabbage and toss in pan. Then add the meat and bouillon or stock to the pan, put on the lid and cook for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the potatoes, mix well and cook for another 35-40 minutes. Do not stir during that period.

Cut up parsley finely as a garnish and serve.


Spaghetti sugo 400 g spaghetti

200-250 g beef mince 1 tablespoon oil
2 onions chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped 2 slices ham cubed
1 small jar tomato paste
100 ml red wine
400 ml can chopped tomatoes
1⁄2 teaspoon salt and some freshly cracked pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
2 bay leaves
4 slices salami sliced in fine strips

Loosen the mince with a fork, then fry itonintheoilinapot.

Add onions, garlic, ham and tomato paste, keep frying, then slowly add the red wine. Add the chopped tomatoes and herbs and spices and slowly simmer for 45-60 minutes. The sauce needs to be thick, not runny.

When ready, add the strips of salami, mix into the sauce and serve with freshly cooked spaghetti.

Remember, always cook pasta in the biggest pot available, salt the water, taste the water for flavour and add the pasta when boiling. Cook to al dente (not overcooked; offers some resistance to the bite).


Let the juice flow ... microwave a lemon or lime for 30 seconds to make the juice flow freer (of course you don’t cut into it before microwaving!)

Over-salted the water? ... reduce the saltiness by adding a couple of potatoes – they absorb the salt.

Anchovies too salty? ... soak them in milk for 20 minutes before using.

Avocadoes like rocks? ... ripen them by wrapping in dry newspaper, then leave them in a warm place.

Stop the splatter ... to prevent bacon from splattering fat when cooking, dust both sides with flour.

Like your biscuits crunchy? ... keep them fresh by placing paper toweling in the bottom of the biscuit tin.

No yolk! ... when poaching eggs add a teaspoon of vinegar to stop eggs from breaking.

Prepare now for great vegies

Bottle green houseThe sky might be bleak, the days short and conditions chilly ... but don’t to go into hibernation like a grizzly old bear. This is the time when great kitchen gardens are created.

Get your vegie beds set up now and you’ll be laughing come spring and summer, with fresh produce that tastes superb and saves you heaps.

As days lengthen and soils warm, so your kitchen garden will bloom.

Now is the time to be building up vegie beds with decayed manures (sheep, cow and chicken are ideal). If you can get your hands on some free, regard it as gold.

Work in composted autumn leaves and you have the ideal growing mix.

But don’t think winter is all about vegie planning. As June moves into July and then August, there is much you can plant.

Right for planting over winter are asparagus (crowns), broadbeans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chives, garlic, leeks, lettuce, early potatoes, rhubarb (divisions), jerusalem artichokes, shallots, spring onions and spinach.

cabbage-400You can sow cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli seeds under glass to beat the cold. No, that doesn’t mean an expensive glasshouse. A good trick is to make a mini glasshouse of plastic sheeting over a makeshift frame. Or, cut off the bottoms of plastic softdrink bottles and use these to protect young seedlings You’ll need to lift them when watering.

Or invest in a mini greenhouse (they’re as cheap as they have ever been; some less than $20) from one of the large hardware chains.

If drainage or soil is a problem, pile potting mix in old tyres and use them as raised beds for vegies, flowers or herbs.

Once into August, planting out can go up a gear – for spring is just around the corner.

Frost watch
While many vegetables cope in the cold,

it’s often frost that gets them. Southern Tasmania can experience frosts up to late October – so be prepared. Often all that is needed are a few shelters fashioned from clear plastic.

Or plant in sheltered suntrap areas that avoid the worst of the frosts.

Berry best idea

Rich in vitamin C and cancer-fighting antioxidants, berries are a recognised super food – and berries thrive in the fresh-food paradise of southern Tasmania with its cool conditions.

Two great favourites to go into the garden as bare-root plants over winter

are raspberries and boysenberries (a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry). They do best in humus-rich soil that drains well – but need a trellis (a couple of wires stretched between posts is ideal, or even a wire fence) to support plants.

Check with a local nursery for best varieties.

As canes grow, tie them with string to the wires

Thin out canes a little to encourage bushiness and, near the end of winter,

cut off about 30cm from the end of canes (this promotes spring growth). Net against birds during fruiting.

Then there are strawberries, a Tassie garden must. Plant into rich (sheep manure and blood and bone are ideal additives) raised beds about 15-20cm high by 70cm wide.

Strawberries hate clay soils but they appreciate being mulched. Straw is a good option. Or use black plastic sheeting. Spread it out over raised beds, tucked in under soil at the sides – and cut slits in plastic to plant strawberry runners.

Water and fertilise individual plants regularly, and watch for snails and slugs.

If your strawberry needs aren’t great, grow some in large pots or tubs (they’re easier to look after) – or even those ornate strawberry pots that come with growing holes in the side.

Take the tomato challenge

Tomatoes, being sub-tropical plants, loathe icy soils but if you play it smart, you can get them going come late August. Sow seeds in a pot inside on a windowsill.

Or, rather than pots, use the bottom half of old milk cartons.

Keep them slightly moist and resist the urge to fertilise (tomatoes like to be treated mean early on). Transplant plants into individual pots/containers as they develop.

Once plants get established and outside soils have warmed, transplant into a vegie bed (not where tomatoes have been grown for the previous three seasons). The time to start fertilising is when flowers appear.