Monthly Archives: May 2014

Apple, Blackberry Mini Pies

HP1B6152A few months ago my sister messaged me  in a bit of tizzy. She’d been assigned dessert to a party (again) and she wanted to do something different. She really wanted to make a tart, but like me pastry was not her friend. Perhaps its a family thing? Anyway, I was in love with Maggie Beer’s Sour Cream Pastry a the time and was effusive in my praise of it.

“You’ll love it!” I exclaimed, or wrote in my message with several exclamation marks. I’d used it in sweet and savoury recipes and even used it with Gluten Free flour with great success. I found it especially easy to roll.

My sister was convinced and set to making the pastry. Unfortunately a few hours later I received a picture of a wet sticky mess.

“This is the second batch” she wrote. So upset was she that even my mother complained to me on our Skype call later in the day.

I questioned her in detail. Was the butter cold? Was the flour accurately measured? Did you use the right kind of cream…Wait did you pour all the sour cream in at once?

And there it was, the problemo! My sister seemed perplexed, the recipe called for 125ml she said. So I explained to her the art of pastry. Or really, the deceptive nature of it. On hot days it behaves differently to cold, humidity puts it it in a tizzy . A dough that needs 1 cup of water on  rainy Monday, might need 1 and a 1/2 cups on sunnyTuesday. My dear sister seemed doubtful and deemed the recipe a flop.

Now a few months later she ran into Maggie herself at an industry event and, as you do, peppered her with questions about her pastry flop. Guess what Maggie told her? Add the sour cream a little at a time. So that’s what I’m going to advise you to do too.



  • 200g cold butter chopped
  • 250 g flour
  • 125ml sour cream
  • 3 green apples peeled and chopped finely
  • 2 cup of berries (I used  blackberries but any berries, fresh or frozen will work)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon


In the bowl of your stand mixer or food processor add the butter and flour and mix until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the sour cream, a little at a time until the dough starts coming together. Stop the mixer and knead the dough gently until it comes together into a nice ball. Wrap the ball in some cling wrap and place in the fridge for an hour.

For the filling mix together the apples, berries, brown sugar and cinnamon. Taste the mixture and adjust the spice and sweetness to your taste.


Take the pastry out of the fridge and flour your bench liberally. Roll the pastry out until thin. I find it easier to halve the pastry and do this in two lots. Once rolled I used a 10cm (4 inch) cutter to cut the bottom of the pies. A small tea saucer or bowl will work just as well.


Grease 2 muffin tins well. Use the large circles to line the base of the muffin tins.


Fill each hole with filling, compressing the filling well so that it’s compacted. Use a small circle to cover the top of the pie. Press the edges of the top and the base together to seal the filling in.


I did half this way and then finished the other half with a crumble topping


Crumble Topping

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup flour (or 1/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup almond meal)
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold and cubed

Place all the above ingredients in a bowl and gently rub together using your fingertips. Keep doing this until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs and no large pieces of butter remain. Press a generous table spoon of the mixture on top of the filling to cover.

Bake the pies in a 350F/180 C oven for 40-45 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling is warm and oozing berry. Taking these puppies out of the oven can be a bit of a challenge, cool them well and then run a knife around the edge and gently lever them out. I lost two in my removal.

Best served warm with lots of ice cream.



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Sweet Potato, Cauliflower and Coconut Soup



Cauliflower Soup-9Mr Firehouse and I are pretty good at meal planning. We have to be to avoid shopping every couple of days with a toddler who loves to run up and down the aisles. Especially one who is currently obsessed with doors. Guess where he runs to first?Go on, guess.  Anyway, there are times in the week where we plan a bit loosely and might buy something nice at the farmers market. So it was that I once ended up on a Friday afternoon with no meat in the fridge, a few sweet potatoes, cauliflower and some admittedly sad looking thai basil leaves that had been bought for something else. I scoured the internet for something that wasn’t a vegetarian green curry. The idea of red curry soup intrigued me but as I looked through the multitude of jars in my fridge, all I could find was green curry paste. Let’s just say I pretty much substituted everything in that recipe except for the onions and garlic….this happens pretty often. When the recipe said pumpkin, I heard sweet potato. When the recipe asked for red pepper, I was certain they had meant cauliflower. Kale, no worries, thai basil will do just fine.

Cauliflower Soup-2


  • 1 small head of cauliflower roasted
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp. of green curry paste
  • 1 tin (400ml) coconut milk
  • 1 cup thai basic leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 tbsp. oil divided


In a medium saucepan fry the garlic and onions in a tbsp. of oil until just softened.

Add the cauliflower, sweet potatoes and stir until  well mixed. Add just enough water to cover the veg and place on a medium heat. When the pot comes to a boil turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer with the lid on until the vegetables are softened.

Cauliflower Soup-3

Transfer the soup to a blender and puree with the thai basil leaves.

In the same sauce fry the curry paste in the second tablespoon of oil until fragrant, add the coconut milk stir well and add the pureed soup. Bring the mixture to the boil and take off the heat.

Cauliflower Soup-5

Serve with a few extra basil leaves to garnish.



Filed under "Something" Free Cooking, Non-Sri Lankan Food, Soup, Vegetable Dishes

Easy Peasy Pancakes


When I happen upon other peoples blogs, I let me nosey side take over and  always spend an inordinate amount of time perusing the “about” section. I remember once reading a bio that listed the bloggers special skills as “can whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the 6 minutes it takes my oven to preheat”. That struck me as impressive, and somewhat unnecessary at the time.  As a mum, I totally get it now.

Mr C will wake up between 7 and 7:30 most mornings. We aim to have him sitting down to breakfast about 20 minutes later. Now Mr Firehouse and I rarely get out of bed before him on the weekends, which is usually when we make pancakes. So while he goes and gets the baby I have about 5 minutes to whip up pancakes. I can proudly say that with my easy peasy pancakes I can make a batch of pancake mix in the time it takes my non-stick pan to reheat. Take that chocolate chip cookie lady* . We make these at least once a week!


Yield: About 4 large pancakes Ingredients

  • 1 cup of self raising /rising flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tbsp oil/melted butter

Preparation Add all ingredients into a bowl and whisk until the batter is smooth and no large lumps remain.


Heat a medium non-stick pan on medium heat and pour 1/2 cup of batter into the middle of the pan. If you’re not using a non-stick pan, make sure you grease the pan well in between each pancake. Wait for the surface of the pancake to be covered with bubbles before using a spatula to flip.


Cook on the second side for about a minute before taking off the heat and repeating with the remaining mixture. Feel free to make these pancakes as big or as small as you’d like. I like using 1/2 a cup of batter to get through the mix quicker, but 1/4 cup would make lovely pikelets that you can top with a spread of jam and whipped cream. Serving suggestions

  • stewed berries
  • chopped strawberries and chocolate sauce
  • passionfruit pulp
  • maple syrup/golden syrup
  • bananas, caramel and nuts
  • fresh berries
  • whipped cream
  • jam
  • lemon curd

Berry Sauce HP1B9710 This is a simple berry sauce that we often make with these pancakes and any leftovers are amazing over plain vanilla ice cream!

  • 350 g frozen mixed berries
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. sugar (or to taste)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and place on medium heat. Cook until the berries are warmed through and slightly soft. The longer you leave it the more “jam-like” it will become.

* Dear chocolate chip cookie lady, I bear you no ill will,  it’s just an expression


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Mixed Berry Muffins


My first year of teaching, I taught a year 1 & 2 combined class. Come Mother’s Day, we decided to keep it simple. We asked the kids to draw pictures of themselves and their mothers and we cut and pasted cardboard frames. We were a government school and so had limited access to cardboard, a green sheet and a pink sheet were all we could scrounge up. On the day, we let the kids choose their own colours. Predictably, the gaggle of 6 & 7 years olds picked along gender lines. The girls all picked pink and the boys, despite it being Mother’s Day, insisted on green. Except for one lone male, he marched up bravely and asked for pink. When I asked him why, he quietly explained that he wanted pink because his mum was a girl and she would like pink. Bless.

I guess that’s the thing about Mother’s Day, it doesn’t matter whether you buy your mum a diamond ring or make her a cardboard picture frame, as long as as it’s something SHE will like.

I like these muffins because you can make them your own. Choose whichever berries you like, add some cinnamon or even add some chopped nuts if that’s what your mum likes!

If you want to make these for mum on Sunday morning, have the dry ingredients measured out on the bench and the wet ingredients mixed in the fridge. Have the muffin cases all ready in the pan. In the morning, add the berries, mix the wet and dry and spoon into the cases!



  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup / 125ml canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 3/4 cups whole meal flour
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
  • raw sugar, for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 375 F/ 190 C. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper baking cups.

Combine the yogurt, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and brown sugar into a large bowl. Gently stir the frozen berries and lemon zest into the flour mixture. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour and stir until combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle muffins generously with the raw sugar.

Place muffin tin on the middle rack of the preheated oven.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.


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Filed under Cake, Snacks and Sides, Sweet Treats

Chocolate Eclairs


 Eclairs are my mum’s favourite dessert. Not exactly these ones. Her weakness are the sickly sweet ones from Perera & Sons Bakers in Sri Lanka, filled not with custard cream but the oh-so-sickly sweet chocolate buttercream!

Anyway, this recipe is dedicated to my mum and all the other awesome mums out there. I hope Mother’s Day brings the simple pleasure we are all in search of. A meal cooked by someone else, even Ronald McDonald or the Colonel might suffice. A house cleaned by a stranger and the chance to wake up when we choose to, or not to, if we so choose.

I know your mum will love these beauties. Admittedly they are a lot of work, but they’ll make your mum feel like a million bucks.




  • 3/4 cup of plain flour (sifted)
  • 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup milk mixed together
  • 1.5 tbsp. butter
  • 2 eggs

Cream filling

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn flour
  • 2 tbsp. cold butter


  • 100 g chocolate


Preheat oven to 400F/205C.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, add the sifted flour and a pinch of salt.

In a small saucepan melt the butter with the milk and water mixture. When it comes to the boil pour into the flour and salt mixture and turn the mixer on low speed. Mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan, usually a  couple of minutes. The dough can look a little scary when you first add the liquid, just keep mixing. Trust me, if you’ve measured correctly, it’ll come together.


Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and with the mixer on low add one at a time. Wait for the first one to be fully incorporated before adding the next. The mixture will become wetter but should still be able to hold it’s shape.


At this point you’ll need a piping bag or a ziploc bag with a corner cut out. Place the mixture into the bag and pipe onto a lined baking tray leaving about a cm between each. I made mine about 5 cm/2 inch long, the size is really up to you.


I used a 1 cm nozzle on my piping bag, it was a cheap plastic one that has been extremely useful.


One of my favourite piping bag tricks is to sit the bag in a tall glass with the top of the bag draped over the sides. Then you can simply spoon the mixture in and the top stays clean to close and twist, ready to pipe.

Place the tray of eclairs in the oven and leave for 10 minutes before turning the heat down to 350F/175 C and leave for a further 15  minutes or until golden brown. The cooking time will vary, based on how big your eclairs are. Just keep an eye on them. You’re after a nice golden brown.


Leave the eclairs to cool . When cooled use a skewer inserted into the side to centre push the dough against the sides of the eclair. This makes more room for the custard to go in! Be gentle when doing this, the pastries are still quite fragile.


For the custard

In a medium saucepan add the milk and the vanilla bean and bring nearly to the boil. Just as it’s boiling turn the heat off and leave the mixture to cool and infuse.

Mix the cornflour, egg yolks and sugar together in a medium bowl until smooth.


Add 1/2 a cup of the warm milk mixture to the sugar and yolks  to acclimatise them. Then add the rest of the milk before mixing and placing all of the custard mix back into the saucepan. Place on a medium heat and stir continuously until the mixture thickens. I turn the heat to low once the mixture is thick as it can go from thick to lumpy very quickly.


Once the mixture is thick and smooth, take off the heat and add the butter. Stir, place in an airtight container and place in the fridge to cool.

Melting the chocolate

Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and warm in 20 second bursts, stirring between each, until melted.

Putting it all together

I used a piping bag with a small metal tip. Fill the bag with custard and use the metal tip to insert into the bottom of the eclair, then squeeze until the eclair is full.


If you don’t have a piping bag and tip, use a serrated knife to slice in half and then spread the custard inside.

Spread the melted chocolate on top and place in the fridge until cool and set. Will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.



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Jamie’s Mexican Beef Chilli

HP1B6339 Mr Firehouse’s choice of food is usually meat, spice and more meat. So chilli or more correctly chilli con carne, really fits the bill. When a couple of dear friends from Australia visited us last year, he decided he wanted to make them the quintessentially American “chilli”.

He found a recipe in a blokey cookbook of his and set about collecting ingredients. It had the typical beef, beans and tomato, all fairly accessible. But it also called for masa harina (white corn flour) and chipotle (smoked jalapeño) chillis in adobo sauce. He took it upon himself to find the ingredients and took a trip out to a fairly big supermarket in the area. He came home with not the 4 tbsp. of masa the recipe called for, but a 4 lb (nearly 2 kg) bag. It’s still sitting in the cupboard, begging to be used. He also called me in distress from the supermarket claiming there was no chipotle chillis in sight. Since most stores here have a Hispanic food aisle, I made sure he’d checked that aisle specifically. He had! I said not to worry, we still had a week and I was  sure I could find the chillis. Maybe a trip to a Mexican grocery store was in order?

A few days later I received an email from Mr Firehouse detailing the address of a Latino grocery store, about 15 minutes drive away. I took the trip, braving the drive into unknown territory, a venture into an impossibly small store with a large stroller and the even the tumbleweeds that littered the otherwise abandoned strip mall. We finally had all the ingredients and the resulting chilli was delicious!

Now for the good bit. I was walking through the aisles of our relatively small local supermarket and what should I find but can upon can of chipotle chillis in adobo sauce. Mr Firehouse was mortified, and I always point them out when I see them as we’re shopping.

Jamie’s recipe calls for oven baking, but I did mine on the stove. He also uses beef shin which I didn’t have accessed so I used a cheap stewing beef. Feel free to use whatever cut of beef you prefer. Stick to cheap, well marbled cuts and bone in is preferred through not essential.  Simply adjust the cooking times, to cook until the meat “falls” off.



  • 2 red onions chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 chipotle chillis in adobo sauce ( or substitute with red chillis)
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 kg beef stewing meat, chopped into largish chunks
  • 2 x 400 g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of beans (chickpeas, cannelini, red kidney or a mix)
  • 1 red capsicum chopped


In a large heavy based saucepan or casserole dish add the oil and chopped onion and garlic. At this point also add the finely chopped stalks of the coriander. When the onions have softened add all the spices, including the bay leaves and cook until the spices have lost their “raw” quality.
Season the meat and add to the pan and coat well in spices. When the meat it coated add the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to the boil, turn the heat town and put the lid own.

Cook until the the meat is falling apart (about 2-3 hours), checking every 1/2 an hour or so to make sure that the pan is not catching at the bottom. At this point, remove the lid and add the capsicum and beans. Stir and leave to simmer and thicken. Add the coriander leaves just before serving,

Serve with salsa, sour cream and some fresh guacamole.


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Filed under Beef, Meat/Fish Dishes, Uncategorized