Beef and Vegetable Ragoût

Beef and Vegetable Ragout

Beef and Vegetable Ragout

There is a distinct nip in the evening air now. The trees have dressed themselves in Autumn finery and it’s time for me to mulch the garden, prune the perennials and cover frost sensitive shoots in preparation for the months ahead. Time to clean the heater and unpack woolly jumpers. Thoughts are turning from beach barbeques and fruit salads to the warm comfort of soups and stews.

Don’t let the name fool you, ragoût is just braised beef thinly disguised with a beret and a put-on accent. “‘Allo. Je swee ze ‘andsome Ragoût not ze borink stew. Vraiment”

Makes an awesome cottage pie though .. and you’d be surprised with how many kids Ragout is welcome, whilst stew is not 😉

Anzac Biscuit (and variations)

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac Biscuits

Let’s get something straight right from the beginning, an Anzac is a biscuit, occasionally a crisp, but never, ever a cookie. According to tradition, they were baked in their thousands by Aussie womenfolk during World War 1, bringing a tiny mote of comfort to the boys in the Hell-on-Earth that was Gallipoli and the Western Front. Golden Syrup imparts a unique flavour to the crisp, crunchy originals. In our family they are spiced, be-fruited and rather plumper than their country cousins, which will get you a disdainful sniff at CWA competitions. It might be delicious, but is it really an Anzac? With Anzac Day upon us I set out on a quest to find the perfect (traditional) Anzac Biscuit.

It took very little searching before I discovered that there were regional, seasonal and personal variations (ahah!! Gran’s bikkies are an authentic family variation!!). Some had coconut, others omitted it. Some had tartar to make them crunchier, others had more syrup and less sugar. All of them have enough oats to make great dunking biscuits .. and give your colon a good clean out. You’ve been warned 😉

Passion Stack

Passion Stack

Passion Stack

Many dishes come into being as improvisations, necessity being the Mother that it is. This one was born in particularly dramatic style when preparations for an Easter barbecue were interrupted by a panicked “OH MY GOD!!! MU-UU-UM!!!” in tones that froze my blood. I had just enough presence of mind to turn off the custard I was stirring before racing to find a weeping Artist cradling Captain Earbeard. I am thinking of re-naming this cat “Don Quixote” in honour of his valiant .. and doomed .. challenges to the neighbourhood bullies. He often sports the feline equivalent of a black eye and split lip, however on this occasion a large part of his chin was torn and hanging.

On the way to the vet I surveyed the wreckage of my dessert plans. You see this was no ordinary barbecue as we were to finally meet Brother’s mysterious Lady, and I wanted her to feel welcome. St Francis had given me the idea to make a vanilla slice, or at least my take on the traditional pastry. Simple and sure to impress 🙂 Unfortunately it really needs a smooth, fairly dense custard to slice nicely. Mine was certainly neither when I returned, nor did I have time or ingredients to start from scratch. Bother. A quick reccy through my pantry yielded some Italian biscuits and a tin of passionfruit, as well as strawberries and cream intended for after dinner cocktails. Oh well, let them drink wine 😉

Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay

It is not a great exaggeration to say that I was obliged to take this photo one-handed as I vigorously defended the plate with the other. Cooking smells had summoned hungry family from all corners of the house, so there I was, surrounded by circling sharks waiting for their opening, while I tried to catch fading daylight.

The origins of this dish lie somewhere in the Javanese region of Indonesia where it was discovered by 17th century Dutch spice traders who liked it so much they took it along with them wherever they went. As a result regional variations of the basic meat-on-a-stick in spicy peanut sauce can be found all over South East Asia. They even took it back to Europe .. although for a couple of hundred years only the very wealthy could afford the exotic spices to make it. In Malaysia this dish is known as saté or satai. In Indonesia it’s sate.