Pretend Paella

Posted October 18, 2007 by mrsbadcrumble
Categories: Fruits of the sea, Pasta and Risotto


I love seafood and I love chorizo sausages so why it took me so long to make a paella is a bit of a mystery. My sister moved to Valencia in Spain last year and when my parents returned from visiting her last Christmas they brought back a paella pan and some rice. I had no excuse for not learning how to do it so I started looking for recipes on the internet- a few weeks later I stumbled across one in Donna Hay magazine that looked good but was really more of a risotto than a paella. I am no expert on paella but I believe that one of the important things about it is that it should not be stirred while it is cooking on the stove. It should be left to simmer and the bottom sticks to the pan a little bit. This recipe not only instructed you to stir whilst cooking but also to make it in a saucepan rather than a paella dish.

 So I did a little bit of a spin on the recipe using the same ingredients but adapting it to fit my idea of what a paella was. It still isn’t an authentic paella (hence the title of this post) but I really like it. The good thing about it is that it doesn’t really take long to make and then you can just leave it on the stove, bubbling away, while you go and do something else. It is even better in the summer when tomatoes are in season and you don’t want to stand at the hot stove stirring. For a rice-based dish it isn’t too heavy, I usually make a green salad with rocket, tomatoes and/or avocado and a light dressing to serve alongside.

Pretend Prawn Paella

(adapted from Donna Hay magazine issue 30, Dec 06/Jan07)

Approx. 1L Chicken stock
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 large red chilli, finely sliced
200 g chorizo sausage (about 2 med sized sausages), peeled and sliced
1 cup arborio or similar short-grained rice
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 tblsp tomato paste
3/4  cup white wine
handful of prawn meat (tails on or off, whatever you like)
sea salt and black pepper
handful of flat-leaved parsley
2 lemons, cut into wedges

Heat the oil in a paella pan (or frying pan) over med heat. Add onion, garlic, chilli and chorizo and cook until golden. Stir in the rice, tomatoes, tomato paste, wine and cook for a couple of minutes then add the stock so that it comes to the brim of the paella pan (or about 2 cm above the rice if you are using a normal frying pan). Don’t stir it, just bring it to the boil before turning the heat down low. Leave it in the pan for approx 15 minutes or until the rice has soaked up almost all of the stock. Check the rice to make sure that it is almost done- if it is a little bit too crunchy, add some more stock and wait another 5 minutes or so until the same point is reached. Tuck the prawns gently into the rice and cook another 5-10 minutes or until the prawns are cooked and there is no residual stock. Sprinkle with parsley and squeeze one of the lemons over the pan. Serve with lemon wedges on the side and with a salad.


Gingernut love

Posted September 11, 2007 by mrsbadcrumble
Categories: Cookies, The most important course

gingernut heroin biscuits 

I acknowledge that I am a little bit quirky when it comes to ginger. Due to an unfortunate experience in my adolescence involving Dehli Belly, a plane and a piece of cake filled with crystallised ginger I swore off it for many years of my life. Even just thinking about that piece of ginger makes me feel a little bit peaky.

I am pleased to say that I got over my phobia (at least as regards fresh and ground varieties of ginger) and recently I have been rediscovering my childhood love for gingernut biscuits. My grandma used to buy Arnotts gingernut biscuits and I loved them. They used to be so hard that it would take all of my strength as a little girl to bite into them, but that was all part of the fun. Since Arnotts changed their recipe, the biscuits are no longer hard and the taste is not the same but I have found something a lot better-  Hot Gingernut biscuits from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The many little meals of Rose Bakery. While they are not as hard as the Arnotts ones, they are infinitely better- the kick from the cayenne is optional in the recipe but I personally think it’s mandatory.

Hot Gingernut Biscuits

From Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: the many little meals of Rose Bakery

200g butter softened

440g self-raising flour

150g Caster Sugar

3 tblsp (yes, I do mean tablespoons- seems like a lot but these are really ginger-y biscuits)

pinch of cayenne

1 1/2 tblsp bicarbonate of soda

240g golden syrup (warmed)

40g treacle

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius

If you are using a food processor (and I’m lazy so I do) process the dry ingredients with the butter. If you are doing it by hand then just rub the butter through the dry ingredients. Either way, you will end up with a mix resembling breadcrumbs. Then mix (using a spoon or the processor) in the golden syrup and the treacle until a dough forms. Roll tablespoons of mixture between your palms and flatten on a baking tray (leave a good gap between them, these babies spreeeeaaaad). Bake 10-15 minutes in the oven or until they are starting to look a bit brown around the edges. Cool for 5 minutes on the tray and then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

A note of warning: If you do make these and find yourself at 2am in your pyjamas with one hand in the biscuit tin and the other stuffing biscuits in your mouth a la the cookie monster (like I did the other night), I will not be held responsible.

Pear Cake for a Happy Birthday

Posted September 7, 2007 by mrsbadcrumble
Categories: Uncategorized

Pear and Hazelnut Cake 

Funny how the months seem to be slipping away from me lately. Things have been pretty hectic around here and I had a look at the blog and realised I hadn’t updated for (gasp!) two months. Plus, I forgot to post about the cake I made for my sister’s birthday- on the 19th of August. However, despite the apparent tardiness of my wishes for my sister’s happiness on her birthday, I still think it is worth posting anyway due to the absolute magnificence of the cake.

This cake uses a classic combination of pears and hazelnuts with one important difference- the pears are poached in marsala prior to making the cake. This small but important step takes this cake from the really good to the extraordinary in my opinion. I have had this recipe in my “to make” folder on my computer for many months just waiting for pears to come into season and when they did… boy was it worth the wait. The recipe is from Melissa at the Travellers Lunchbox (her picture is a lot better than mine, but that is to be expected- her pictures are always wonderful).

The daily onion

Posted July 20, 2007 by mrsbadcrumble
Categories: Uncategorized

Sometimes despite all of my attempts to be original, I end up making two versions of the same thing within weeks of one another. This morning when I was uploading my food photos from the weekend I noticed that I already had a photo called ‘onion tart’ and that I had uploaded it a mere 2 weeks ago. ‘Impossible’, I thought, ‘I only made it on Sunday’. So I looked at the photo and lo and behold I had made something very similar about a fortnight ago. Early onset Alzheimers you ask? Possibly.

 So here they are- Onion tart (the original) from Clotilde’s new cookbook– Clotilde calls it ‘Onion and Cumin quiche’.

Onion quiche

And Onion tart: the sequel, from Bill’s Open Kitchen

Onion tart 2

Onion Tart: The Sequel

4 tblsp olive oil 

1 kg brown onions, finely sliced

2 tblsp balsamic vinegar

1 tblsp brown sugar

1 packet puff pastry

70g parmesan cheese

100 g Fetta cheese

1 sprig oregano

Heat the oil in a frying pan with a lid- and add the onions. Replace the lid and turn the heat down to medium. Fry for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally so that they cook evenly. They should be a golden colour, with brown bits (not black). Add the balsamic vinegar and the sugar and cook a further 10 minutes until caramelised.

Meanwhile roll the pastry out to a large square and score the edges with a knife- 1 cm inside the perimeter of the pastry square. Grate the parmesan cheese finely and sprinkle it along the pastry between the scored line and the edge. Add the onions to the middle of the pastry inside the parmesan edges. Put it in the oven for 15 minutes until brown.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with Fetta cheese and oregano leaves and serve immediately.

It is better to love and to have lost…

Posted July 12, 2007 by mrsbadcrumble
Categories: All souped up

I have a confession to make… until Autumn this year, I had never eaten a chestnut. Not being a huge nut person (insert the obvious joke here), I assumed that I wouldn’t like them – it just goes to show how wrong you can be. From the first taste of this soup, I was hooked and since then I have eaten them in salads, cakes and just by themselves. I just can’t get enough and it makes me so sad to think that I have missed 25 chestnut seasons and never knew. To add insult to injury, this year the season was only about a quarter of the usual length because of the drought so I didn’t have the chance to make much with them. Mind you, what I did make was soup- and LOTS of it.

Despite the pain in the neck factor, I would urge you to buy whole chestnuts and peel them yourself. But don’t do this unless you have a lot of time (and a pair of gloves) on your hands. I have found that boiling them is easier than roasting them as a means of getting the skins off although this is just a personal preference- and really it is never easy to get the skins off so just do what you are comfortable with. Luckily this soup is worth all of that soaking, peeling and swearing, it has a lovely buttery, complex flavour and it’s texture is not at all grainy.  For the sake of my sanity (and my fingernails) it is probably best this madness only happens once a year. 

Chestnut Soup

Based on Stephanie Alexander’s soup from The Cooks’ Companion (if you are ever going to spend a hundred dollars on a book, let it be this one)

25 grams butter

1 large (or two small) onion, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

500g Chestnuts

1 litre (4 cups) chicken stock (I make my own but a good bought stock is fine)

First peel the chestnuts- leave yourself at least half an hour to do this- to do this, you need to cut a small cross in the side of the outer skin of the chestnut (do NOT miss this step or you could have a small explosion in your kitchen) then you can either boil them in hot water for 15mins or roast them at 180 degrees for 30mins. Once you have done this, you need to peel both the outer and inner skins off leaving just the beige inner nut. Believe me, once you have done this, it is all downhill.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent but not brown. Add the chestnuts and the stock and bring to the boil. Add some salt here if you like (particularly if your stock is homemade- mine tends to be a lot less salty than the ones you buy from the shop). Lower the heat to medium and put the lid on. Cook for 20 mins or until the chestnuts are soft, adjust the seasoning and then pour it into a blender and whiz until smooth, or you could use a stick blender in the pot if you have one.

You can serve this straight away or it will keep in the fridge for a day or two if you are making it ahead. I can vouch for it being a particularly good lunch on a cold day.

The Salad Days of Winter

Posted July 5, 2007 by mrsbadcrumble
Categories: Healthy stuff, Salads


Strangely enough, lately I have been really craving salad. This is strange because, well, it’s the middle of winter. In the last few days as the temperature has dropped to the low ‘teens, I have been munching cold green leaves and enjoying it. My favourite salad of the minute is a bastardised version of a Jill Duplex salad that I found in a back issue of Delicious magazine (October 2006 I think). I usually make it to go with Salmon and Soba noodles (which is from Donna Hay magazine but can also be found here) as I find that the tastes marry very well together:

 Avocado and Watercress salad

There actually is no real recipe for this salad- it changes slightly every time I make it. So play with it- use what you have in the fridge, try different combinations.


1 Avocado, cubed

a handful of watercress, leaves picked

2-3 Radishes or the equivalent in Daikon Radish, sliced very thinly

3 or 4 handfuls of baby spinach or rocket (argula) or a mixture of both


2 tsp rice wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)

1 tblsp sesame oil

1 tblsp olive oil

1 tsp nigella (black cumin) seeds

Make the dressing by shaking all of the ingredients in a jar (or whisking them in a bowl) until combined.

Toss the salad ingredients together in a bowl with the dressing and eat.

Singing the praises of the humble rolled oat

Posted June 22, 2007 by mrsbadcrumble
Categories: Chocalicious, Cookies

Oatmeal cookies

I love rolled oats- they are the epitome of comfort food and they are the principle ingredients in so many fantastic foods- granola (my favourite recipe is Clotilde’s but I eat it over yoghurt rather than for breakfast as it’s pretty sweet), bircher muesli, plum porridge…. I could go on but I won’t because I want to tell you about my very favourite thing to make with rolled oats at the moment- Oatmeal, Choc chip cookies! Now, full disclosure- I don’t actually like choc chip cookies in general, particularly not the kind that you make from batter that is found in a tube in the refrigerator section of the supermarket. But these are actually really good- they aren’t too sweet or too soft (soft cookies are bad cookies in my humble opinion) and they last an age in the biscuit tin. They are also, most importantly, really yummy.

This is from Bill Granger’s book Bill’s Food which I would highly recommend- the recipes are quick, easy and inspired. It was one of the first cookbooks that I bought and I still use it all the time.

Recipe after the jump…

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