The slow cooker and I have a seasonal relationship. In early Autumn we greet one another like long lost friends and set about sharing some very productive times together. As winter descends our partnership strengthens as we work together ever more closely, exchanging smug glances and proudly patting one another on the back as each lovely braise, curry or soup develops. However, by September 1, we are so bored in each other’s company we cannot bear the sight of one another. If either of us has to deal with another diced onion or budget cut of meat we’ll shriek. We retreat to separate areas of the home, the cooker in the hall cupboard, me to the barbeque. Occasionally over the summer when the cupboard door opens, we catch sight of one another and glare, as not enough distance or time has elapsed to make our hearts grow fonder. Now as the leaves begin to colour and an extra layer overnight is required, we seek each other out with renewed interest to begin another industrious season in the kitchen together.

The secret to keeping things fresh with the slow cooker is to change it up a bit each year. Repeating old favourites is fine to point, but as cooks we evolve and as diners our palates change. There are certain staples the cooker is renowned for: lamb shanks, beef casserole, chicken curry and the like but if you want to keep this appliance relevant, it needs to move with your current dietary preferences. Today I have had a pork shoulder rubbed in paprika and coated with a mix of tomato, brown sugar, hot chilli sauce, apple cider vinegar and chilli flakes languishing in the cooker for 8 hours on low. A slaw of cucumber (current garden glut), carrot shred and coriander, dressed with apple cider vinegar, lime juice, honey and toasted sesame seeds, will sit nicely with this pulled pork inside some warmed wraps. I cannot think of a nicer Saturday evening dinner right now – and there will be plenty left for tomorrow.

My forward plan for the cooker this season includes gently cooked fish parcels and steamed dessert puddings. This is a way of using the cooker’s traditional technique, but for shorter periods, as these dishes will only take 2-3 hours at most. Using the cooker this way, frees up the oven for other food, or simply allows you to cook without constant supervision. I have never really considered using my cooker as a dessert oven and thoughts of a fruit pudding simmering away quietly in the background while the main meal is underway is quite appealing.

Of course, like so many households, ours is one of an ever-changing combination of occupants, who dine at various times around the clock. Having a pot of soup on hand and a lovely loaf will always cater for these out of hours diners. The slow cooker is perfect for this, and so I intend to broaden my soup repertoire this year. So to kick this off, spurred on by all of the current ‘research’ around the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and wanting to have a hearty soup underway, my oval partner and idea produced a delicious minestrone which we paired with some lovely seedy sourdough. Looks as though the relationship for 2017 is off to a great start.


2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1 potato, diced
1 zucchini, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 rashers bacon, diced
½ cup tomato paste
1 punnet cherry tomatoes or fresh chopped tomatoes
2 cups water
2 teaspoons chicken stock powder
410g can red kidney beans, drained
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and cracked black pepper
2 cups of cooked risoni or other small soup pasta

Put all ingredients in the slow cooker, except the pasta, and mix well. Season well with salt and cracked black pepper. Cook for 4 hours on high or 7 hours on low. 30 minutes before the soup is cooked, add the warmed cooked pasta and stir through, cooking for a further 30 minutes. Serve the soup with shaved parmesan and crusty bread – whenever

serves 6

This recipe is an adaptation of one from Sally Wise, who has written some fabulous slow cooker gems. This particular soup is from Slow Cooker – Easy and Delicious Recipes for all Seasons.




baked glazed ham

It’s heartening to observe the recent trend of repurposing old goods into workable, worthwhile objects of value and especially so, if you were the one responsible for the transformation. We have had the pleasure of watching Kirstie pick up furniture orphans from junk yards and resourcefully transform them into prized family members on her weekly program. Clothing, toys and linens have all been fair game for the passionate upcycler, with vintage and charity shopping now a popular pastime. So after a beautifully baked leg of ham had served its dinnertime purpose, but still boasted a plentiful supply of succulent meat to carve, it was time for some upcycling in our kitchen.

Being well out of the festive season, purchasing a leg of ham is very affordable – in fact quite a canny choice. Simple to prepare and quick to bake, this is an overlooked roasted ‘joint’ with the potential to be so many other meals.

When you bring your ham home, carefully run the knife around the narrow end and gently work off the outer skin, leaving the fat underneath in place. Once the skin is peeled away, score the fat in a cross-hatch fashion. Warm a small jar of marmalade and brush this over the ham generously. Poke a whole clove into the centre of each diamond shape. Sit your decorated leg in a large baking tray and bake in a moderate oven (ie 180 degrees celsius) for 45 minutes or until it is nicely browned. Your ham is ready to carve.

My carnivorous family barely makes a dent on a baked ham in one sitting, so throughout the week rolls are filled, grills are served and finally I unwrap a calico covered shape that begins to resemble a bone. Still well covered, this joint is upcycled once again – pea and ham soup.

Traditional Pea and Ham soup

A plentiful soup can be produced by plonking the bone holus-bolus into the pot and using this recipe  (which I discovered on the back of my McKenzie’s Green Split Peas packet). Put your ham bone in, follow McKenzie’s steps and lunch/after school feeding frenzies are covered for the rest of the week.

As your ham leg makes its way through all of its various mealtime identities, it can be stored very effectively in the refrigerator in a calico ham bag. No ham bag? No problem – because you too are a resourceful upcycler, a dampened tea towel repurposes wonderfully.

Traditional Pea and Ham soup

Postscript: and just when you thought the upcycling was complete, the long simmered soup bone, after cooling on the bench, became a happy dog’s chew on a sunny afternoon.




Apart from providing glamorous pre-midnight transportation to royal balls, pumpkins are a wonderful kitchen staple. Restaurants are incredibly inventive with them, delivering burnished coulis, sorbet, and ravioli to their anticipative patrons.  At our place, these orange stalwarts typically convert to soups, scones or roasted accompaniments – and are equally appreciated.

It was the perfect squat shape and the speckled skin, rather than shopping list requirement that ensured this weighty vegetable’s place in the trolley this week. There’s something quite reassuring about the sight of a big pumpkin on the kitchen bench. Perhaps it is the promise of soup and scones to come, or simply the rustic, homely image. Definitely those, but also something quite intangible yet equally significant. With the ever-increasing availability of pre-cut, prepackaged green grocery these days, the uniqueness of bringing home an uncut, unwrapped vegetable is so gratifying. And like a trophy for the wholesome shopper, worthy of proud display.

This week, haul your prize home, position it prominently and allow at least a day or two of solid admiration before applying your sharpest blade to provide your family with the spoils.

2 kg pumpkin cut into wedges with skin on
6 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
fresh coriander

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Place pumpkin in roasting dish and bake for up to an hour until soft and skin begins to crisp.
  3. Remove flesh from skin and place half in a blender with one cup of the stock. Blend until smooth and repeat with remaining flesh.
  4. Put all of the soup in a large pot with remaining stock, honey and mustard. Simmer for 10 minutes until heated through.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into bowls and garnish with coriander leaves.

Pumpkin scones

and for the scones….

2 cups SR flour
pinch salt
50g butter, chopped
1/4 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin
1 egg, beaten lightly
milk for brushing

  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees celsius. Grease baking tray.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter.
  3. Add the pumpkin and egg.
  4. Mix into a dough then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. A little extra flour may be required.
  5. Pat out into a round and cut with scone cutter. Place on prepared tray and brush tops with milk.
  6. Bake for 2o minutes or until risen and golden.

Postscript: we all have our ways with pumpkin soup and pumpkin scones. For me, it is to roast the pumpkin off before pureeing into soup, for depth of flavour. For the scones, as they are to be paired with the soup, sugar is deliberately omitted.

gardening · recipes


broad beans

Every year I raise a patch of broad beans – and not because I am a broad who loves beans – but rather because I enjoy presiding over a vigorous leafy crop laden with produce. A thick forest of tall growth bursting with fat pods does wonders for the soul.

Invest in a packet of seed and plant yourself some rows when next you are given some sunny moments of alone time on a future weekend. If the soil is moist, there is not much else to do but wait for a few weeks to see your bean shoots appear. Once established, rather than deep watering, broad beans love a good spray. Soon white flowers with black spots will appear – the forerunner to your pods. During this period, as your crop develops, make regular visits and marvel at the dense growth.

Other than a gentle watering, these beans will ask nothing of you, will not notice if you’re sporting gumboots with pencil skirt and will stand silently by you as your strategy for dealing with an aberrant child is formulated.

Here is a soup derived from a recipe in my new soup bible, a tome that will be seeing me well through Winter 2013 and beyond. (Many of my favourite food people have had a hand in this book: Sophie Grigson, Monty Don and Sarah Raven, so it was impossible not to own a copy.)

1 tbsp olive oil
3 onions sliced
1 leek sliced
1.5 kg shelled broad beans
4 garlic cloves crushed
4 new potatoes, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper
flat leaf parsley
parmesan cheese

  1. Heat oil in a large pan over a medium heat.
  2. Add onions and leek. Soften for 10 minutes stirring often.
  3. Add the beans, garlic, and potatoes. Stir then pour in 3 litres of water. Season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Increase heat and bring to the boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes. Cool and then process with stick blender.
  5. Serve with parsley scattered over and some parmesan cheese on top.

broad beans growingPostscript: People originating from distant parts prefer to eat the beans freshly from the pod, with a glass of arak to see them down. Therefore, my beans rarely make it to the cooking pot, with often only a pile of vacated skins left abandoned on the counter top as evidence that they ever were.



soup vegetables

There comes a point where it is time to literally take stock, and when I reach this juncture, this is the soup I turn to. It ticks all boxes: nutritious, economical, substantial, simple, and when a dietary line must be drawn in the sand, it is always the first meal that kicks off the new regime.

One of the fastest ways to churn through dollars and ingest large portions of energy dense food, is to buy lunch. If the decision regarding what to eat is made minutes before consumption, it is heavily influenced by raging hunger hormones and low blood sugar. All rational thought will evaporate when a large roast pork roll with gravy at $10 a pop looms. By the end of the week, $50 has also evaporated, and 500 grams has cleverly attached itself in its place – except not to the wallet but rather the waistline.

The best way I have discovered to sidestep this scenario, it to have a pot of soup on hand. Dished swiftly into a soup mug or bowl in the morning, a quick zap at lunchtime and a nice lunch is available. No purses opened, no lipids stored.
1 tbspn olive oil
1 onion sliced
1 leek sliced
3 sticks celery chopped
2 medium carrots chopped
1 litre chicken stock
salt and pepper
1/2 cup rice
1 can chick peas or butter beans
handful of shredded cooked chicken

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil on a medium heat and gently cook the onion, leek, celery and carrots, until the onion has softened.
  2. Add the stock and season with salt and pepper. Increase the heat and add rice.
  3. Once the soup has reached the boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for 15-20 mins, or until rice is cooked.
  4. Add the chickpeas/beans and shredded chicken and simmer for a further  10 minutes.
  5. Serve with parsley scattered over and fresh bread on the side.

vegetable, chicken and rice soup

Postscript: This is the kind of soup that can be added to or subtracted from. Check your refrigerator or your preferences and make the necessary changes.

gardening · recipes



Just the appearance of a bunch of silverbeet radiates clues to its goodness. The squeaky, glossy generous foliage spells out in no uncertain terms, the abundance of goodness it contains. Alive with little packets of chloroplasts, the bunch almost seems to vibrate before your eyes.

Silverbeet is a pleasure to grow in the vegetable patch. Looking lustrous and leafy, the gardener’s horticultural self-esteem is given a hefty boost. Stalks can be sliced off at will, without the need to remove the entire plant leaving an ugly bald spot behind. New leaves will continue to sprout and according to ‘silverbeet experts’ these are the finest for culinary purposes. I let mine over grow for effect.

silverbeet patch

This week, a large bunch was harvested and sent across to a willing neighbour. To my delight, this is what we received in return, still warm.



While the crop is plentiful, it’s nice to seek out new ways to incorporate silverbeet into our weekly intake. This year, I happened upon this simple soup, which is light enough for lunch in the warmer weather.

olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 rashers of bacon, diced
bunch of silverbeet, stems removed and greenery shredded
1 litre chicken stock
salt and pepper to season

  1. Heat oil in large pot and gently fry off onion, garlic, ginger and bacon until cooked through.
  2. Add silverbeet and cook down for about 5-10 minutes until wilted.
  3. Pour over chicken stock and bring to the boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Puree with stick blender.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.

silverbeet soupPostscript: Always happy to learn new ways with these leaves. If you have tips, please share!