Looking back… Lisbon, Portugal

As we are currently saving for a wedding, we won’t be traveling overseas before our honeymoon.  Thus we have been reminiscing about our past adventures, in particular our European holiday of 2009/10.

One of the surprise highlights of the trip was Lisbon, Portugal. Although we only had a few days to spend exploring the city we loved every minute of it. We fell in love with the cobbled streets, the winding alleyways, the sweeping views of burnt orange and terracotta rooftops, the famous yellow trams and the daily ritual of morning espressos and patisserie treats.

Although it is easy enough to discover Lisbon yourself, we highly recommend the guided walking tours around the city. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the city’s rich history and was able to show us many hidden parts of the city such as the “silent quarter” of Alfama where cars are noticeably absent along the narrow maze like streets, ladies shout to one another from their windows and the residents make the daily trek to the public baths to do their washing before draping it along the balconies of their terrace houses. After the tour, we were lucky enough to join the guide for lunch at one of the locals’ favourite lunchtime haunts.

Lisbon is one of those places we would love to return to one day (perhaps on our honeymoon!).

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2 minute Salad Dressing – try it!

Yes, this post is dedicated to nothing more than a salad dressing. There is no recipe adaption here, this is Jamie Oliver’s dressing from his 30 Minute Meals. Having said that, since making it a few times, we don’t worry about measuring quantities anymore and it still tastes amazing every time. It really does only take minutes to make and just makes any salad taste that much better. Common ingredients in our salads are rocket, baby spinach, feta, capsicum, apple, almonds…


  • Small bunch of fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1t dijon mustard
  • 2T natural yoghurt
  • 3T red wine vinegar
  • 3T Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender, add a splash of water and whiz until smooth.

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What we cooked – some 2011 favourites

It has been almost a year since our last post as we have been busy working, traveling, and getting engaged.

However, we have been enjoying cooking a range of different recipes. Here are a few of our favourites from 2011.

We hope not to leave it so long between posts.

Pea & Herb Risotto from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie Does.

Mushroom and baby spinach pizza inspired by a recipe from our most used cook book, Valli Little’s 5 of the Best.

Chickpea & Quinoa Pilaf

Steak Sandwich

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Out of the Blue

While enjoying her holidays Jess decided, out of the blue, to do some impromptu baking. This recipe adapted from Bill’s Basics was simple to follow without too many ingredients, all of which were already had in stock. The prep took less than 20 minutes and this yummy pudding was ready after half an hour in the oven. A perfect last minute desert when friends are over; this one went down very nicely with a healthy dose of cream.

Recipe (adapted from Bill Granger’s Bill’s Basics)
Serves 6

  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1t cornflour
  • 1 tin of peaches
  • ~125 blueberrys (we used frozen ones)
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1t vanilla exract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • cream, ice-cream and/or greek yoghurt to serve
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180oC and grease a ~1 litre baking dish
  2. Put the cornflour, peaches and 3T of the suger in the dish and toss to coat the fruit Spread the fruit evenly over the base and bake for 15 minutes until softened
  3. Sift the flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and stir in the remaining sugar
  4. Whisk the egg, milk, butter, vanilla and lemon zest together before pouring into a well in the flour, stir to combine
  5. When the peaches are out of the oven, pour in half the blueberries, then pour over the batter before scattering the remaining blueberrys over the top
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean
  7. Let cool for ~5 minutes before serving with cream, ice-cream and/or greek yoghurt
  8. Enjoy!

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Winter Warmer

The last couple of cold weekends we have been cooking large batches of soup. The week before we attempted a MasterChef minestrone soup; it was good, but nothing special. This weekend, we had a lot of the root veggies left over so thought we would try to create our own winter soup. It was delicious – loads better than the MasterChef soup! The addition of cayenne pepper and pureed canneloni beans greatly enhanced the flavour and texture of soup.

Serves 6-8 (or 2 + plenty of frozen leftovers)

  • 1-2 onions, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • half a swede, diced
  • half a celeriac, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1 tin cannellini beans, drained and pureed
  • 1 tin borlotti beans, drained
  • 1 cup fagioli pasta
  • ~1L chicken of vegetable stock
  • 1T tomato paste
  • 1-2t cayenne pepper
  • a few stems of thyme and rosmary
  • a handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • handful of baby spinach
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan cheese, to serve
  1. In a large heavy based pot, heat some olive oil and add the onions and garlic
  2. Add the swede, celeriac, carrot, potato (and/or any other root veggies you have) and continually stir for a few minutes
  3. Stir in the tomato paste and cayenne pepper
  4. Add the stock, rosemary and thyme and and simmer for 10-20 minutes
  5. Stir in the pureed cannellini beans and simmer over a low heat until nearly ready to serve (10-60 minutes)
  6. Add the pasta and borlotti beans
  7. Once the pasta is cooked stir in the baby spinach and parsley
  8. Taste and season as required
  9. Serve and top each bowl with parmesan cheese.

Any leftovers can be frozen

Note, a soup like this is very forgiving. The specific ingredients and amount of each really don’t matter, we just keep adding until the pot is full. Add or replace any of these veggies with celery, zucchini, beans… If you want it to go further then add more stock. If you want it thicker, add an extra tin of pureed beans (cannellini or other). The time it cooks for also really doesn’t matter, as long as the potatoes and pasta are sufficiently cooked it will taste great.

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South African Rusks a Must

Last year Craig traveled to South Africa for the World Cup and discovered rusks! They are a hard dry biscuit that you have with your tea or coffee. They are not very exciting on their own, but are great when dunked into tea or coffee and surprisingly addictive. You wouldn’t always want a tea or coffee when offered, but then realised if you did have one, you could have a rusk!

We have both only recently started to enjoy coffee, but so much so we bought a Moka pot to great coffee (go buy one!), so it was a perfect time to bake some rusks.

A friend from work, Charléne, is from South Africa, so Craig asked her about rusks, and she said her Mum is always baking large batches of them. So with a bit of persuasion, Charléne got her mum to translate their family recipe for us (Craig and Jess, not Olive Juice!); thanks Charléne!  It was relatively easy to make, the only issue was Charléne’s Mum bakes them in the oven at a low temperature over night, however our oven requires the timer to be on to operate, and the timer only goes up to 2 hours! So we had to pick a Sunday where we were home all day to keep resetting the timer. It was worth it though, with the first batch almost gone already.

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(Another) Spanish Feast

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A friend of ours hosted a Spanish themed night where we all brought a Spanish dish to share. It was awesome! There were Spanish tapas of course, a chorizo and tomato salad, raisin stuffed pork, sangria and due to a lack of communication, 2 attempts at crème brûlée. Craig brought the sangria and the second beset crème brûlée of the night (aka the unsuccessful one!). We all agreed the night was a great success, and decided the next themed dinner would be Japanese, which neither Jess or I have tried cooking, and hardly ever eaten before either. Craig’s crème brûlée did not work out, it was far too runny and no matter how long he fired the blow torch at it, the top would not caramelise. The sangria, on the other hand, was a success and one we can recommend everyone tries.

Sangria Recipe
Makes ~2 Litres

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1/3 cup sweet sherry
  • 1 green apple, diced
  • 1 orange, diced
  • 2 peaches diced
  • 1L of mineral water, or soda water or lemonade
  1. Combine all ingredients except the mineral water and let stand for at least a few hours, preferably overnight
  2. When ready to serve, add the soda water and serve.
  3. Disfrutar! (Enjoy!)
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Winter Salad

We made this winter salad from Jamie At Home for both of our mums for Mother’s Day this year. Went well with our roast lamb and is a nice change from your standard roast veggies. Although it doesn’t look that different to other salads, this recipe has an interesting combination of ingredients like roasted and spiced carrots, ciabatta bread, avocados and sesame seeds. It takes a little bit of prep but is worth it, especially if you want to liven up a traditional roast and impress your Mum!

Recipe (adapted from Jamie At Home)
serves 4

  • ~500g carrots
  • 2t cumin
  • 1-2 small chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 3-4 slices of ciabatta (or similar) bread
  • 2 handfuls of salad leaves
  • sour cream to serve
  • 4T sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 punnet cress (optional – as we couldn’t find it!)
  • Olive Oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 180oC
  2. Parboil the carrots in boiling salted water for 10 minutes until nearly cooked, then drain and put into a roasting tray
  3. In a mortar and pestle, smash up the cumin, chillies, salt and pepper, garlic and thyme until it resembles a paste. Add enough olive oil to cover the paste and a swig of vinegar and mix
  4. Pour the mixture over the carrots and coat them well
  5. Add the orange and lemon halves to the tray, cut side down and put in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the carrots are golden
  6. While the carrots are roasting, peel the avocados and slice into wedges and add to large salad bowl
  7. When the carrots are done, add them to the avocados. Using tongs, squeeze the roasted orange and lemon into a bowl and add the same amount of olive oil and some red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. Pour this dressing over the carrots and avocados and carrots
  8. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan
  9. Toast the bread on a griddle pan, then tear it into small pieces and add to the bowl along with the salad leaves and cress
  10. Add a generous spoonful of sour cream over the salad and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and finally drizzle over some olive oil
  11. Enjoy!
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Thai Chicken with Lime and Black Beans

This is a recipe from another new cookbook (Yes, Craig has bought another cookbook!) Essentially Thai featuring recipes from the chefs of the Spirit House restaurant in the Noosa hinterland, Queensland.Despite the long list of ingredients there is nothing difficult about creating this dish (which Craig did while Jess vegged out on the couch!).
Thai cooking has become one of our favourites cuisines because of the simplicity of many of the recipes and the fresh, zingy flavour of Thai ingredients – especially lime, chilli and coriander.

adapted from Essentially Thai
Serves 2-3

  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1T ginger grated
  • 2T salted black beans*, rinsed
  • 4T lime juice and 1/2 lime cut into slices
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2t palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • pinch of chilli powder
  • coriander to garnish (optional)
    * We found salted black beans in a local Chinese supermarket. They come in a packet, but are different to black turtle beans which need to be soaked overnight.
  1. Heat the oil in a fry pan and gently fry the chicken until almost cooked, remove and set aside
  2. Start to cook the rice as desired (1 cup of rice will make ~3 cups of cooked rice)
  3. Add to the same chicken pan the garlic, shallots and ginger and fry for a few minutes
  4. Add the black beans, lime juice, soy sauce, palm sugar, stock, chilli powder and lime slices
  5. Bring to the boil and simmer for ~5 minutes
  6. Add the chicken and simmer for a few more minutes
  7. Serve the rice topped with the chicken and sauce
  8. Enjoy!
    Any remaining sauce and rice can be combined for some tasty leftovers
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Chickpea salad

Jess spotted Tessa Kiros’ beautiful colelction of family recipes, Falling Cloudberries, earlier this year in a small but well stocked bookstore in Port Fairy. Craig ordered it online and we were looking forward to its delivery – unfortunately our new puppy Beth found it before us and enjoyed taking a hefty chunk from the front cover and nibbling the spine. So we bought another copy and donated the worse for wear copy to a good home. We’ve only ever used chickpeas in curries or pilafs but thought this Greek salad looked like a healthy option that stands out from our normal leafy green salads. We both really enjoyed this salad (and the recipe for Finnish meatballs which Craig’s mum cooked for us). It won’t be long before we attempt other recipes from this stunningly photographed collection of recipes.

Recipe (adapted from Tessa Kiros’ Falling Cloudberries)
Serves 6-8 as a side (or 2 dinners + 2 leftover lunches)

  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
  • ~200g feta, crumbled
  • ~100g kalamata olives
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • a bunch of parsley, chopped
  • half a bunch of coriander, chopped
  • 1-2 chargrilled red capsicums, choppped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  1. Heat ~3T of olive oil and fry the red onion until cooked through
  2. Add the garlic and chilli and cook just for a few seconds until you can smell the garlic. remove from the pan and let cool
  3. In a large salad bowl, add all the ingredients including the olive oil from the pan and another tablespoon or two of olive oil
  4. Season with salt and pepper
  5. Enjoy!
    We chose to have this during the week as our whole dinner, it made enough for one large bowl each, and two smaller leftover serves for lunch. However it would make enough as a side for 6-8 people
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