Up all night

I've never been able to sleep during the day. I envy those who are able to take revitalising afternoon powernaps; these days I can barely sleep in past 8am. It's usually okay as there's always something to do (I include browsing food blogs and reading Dinosaur Comics in that), but as I attempt to reverse my sleep-wake cycle in anticipation of six weeks of night shifts it's inconvenient.

The nights themselves have been an interesting exercise in keeping myself occupied. Last night's entertainment included half a season of 30 Rock, trimming the fat from my music collection, and an early-morning visit to the supermarket. You would think that being alone in a supermarket at 3:30am would be peaceful, but take away the hum of shoppers and clutter of trolleys and the muzak becomes deafening. At one point I began to stare down one of the untouched, perfectly-stocked aisles and thought about the vast capitalist machine that has turned the simple joy of eating into a system where the drive to grow profits pushes quality right off the shelves, then I caught myself falling asleep standing up and realised I had no idea what day it was. I proceeded to the self-checkout with my items.

It'll be hard to cook and eat well while I'm on nights. I'm not even sure how meals work — if you wake up at 6pm do you eat cereal at dinner time? I'd like to think that I could be the guy who doesn't just scoff a box of barbecue shapes at 2am between respiratory arrests, but I'm not. What I've decided to do to keep the posts flowing is to gradually clear out the iPhoto archives. There are a number of meals that I have photographed without remembering to write down the recipe, so I'll post them here and leave it up to you as to whether you want me to make them again and post a recipe in a couple of weeks' time.

Basil gnocchi

The first is this basil & potato gnocchi. I usually serve gnocchi with a simple tomato and basil sauce, and wondered if it would be possible to get the basil flavour into the gnocchi themselves. Well it turns out that with enough basil it is possible. I blended one bunch of basil and chopped it through potato gnocchi made the usual way. I served them with Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce. You do know about Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce don't you?

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce


  • 2 cups of best-quality canned tomatoes
  • 1 onion, peeled & halved
  • 5 tbsp (75 g) butter
  • Salt to taste

1. Combine everything in a saucepan and simmer gently for 45 minutes.
2. Remove and discard the onion halves. Crush the tomatoes with the back of a fork (or blend quickly with a stick blender), adjust seasoning, and serve.

A potato salad for the rest of us

Indian potato salad

I love potatoes, and I love mayonnaise, but I just can't handle the combination. There's something about the standard creamy potato salad served at barbecues throughout summer that is too cloying, too much for me — I feel like one spoonful and I've exceeded my RDI of mayo three times over. It doesn't help that an alarming number of these potato salads also contain undercooked potatoes, so I tend to steer clear. I know I'm not alone: I was at a barbecue a few summers back when the topic seemed to hit a nerve in a friend's (now ex-) girlfriend who visibly annoyed asked, "Why are so many potato salads undercooked??" A voice offered charitably that maybe they're meant to be a little undercooked. "They're not okay, they're fucking not!"

Yeah, she was a psycho. But a psycho with a point.

Well you won't find any undercooked potatoes in this salad, and nor will you find mayonnaise. The salad itself is fresh and extremely simple to make, and tossed with a dressing that's tart and full of wonderful spices it's a refreshing change from the usual.

Indian potato salad

Ingredients (makes 1 generous serving, but doubles and triples easily):

  • 1 large desiree potato, boiled/steamed/microwaved with skin on
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1 tsp minced shallot
  • 1/2 cup of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 4 tsp vegetable oil (or any mostly flavourless oil)
  • 1 tsp spice mixture (recipe below)
  • 1/4 tsp tamarind concentrate1
  • Salt, to taste

1. Prepare the dressing by combining the oil, spice mixture, tamarind, and salt, and mixing well. Taste and adjust the sour/salty ratio as you like.
2. Chop the potato into medium chunks, and place in a bowl with the tomato, shallots, and half of the coriander. Pour over the dressing and toss to combine. Scatter the remaining coriander leaves over and serve.

Spice mixture

Used in the above recipe, this mixture also is a great base for a simple vegetarian curry.


  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 large dried chilli
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric

1. Toast the cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, and chilli. Cool and grind with the garam masala and turmeric, then store in a sealed container. For best flavour, use within a few days of grinding.

(1) This is a tricky one. There are so many different ways to get tamarind that unless your preparation is exactly the same a mine the balance of sourness will be different (mine is a very concentrated paste with the texture of molasses). Also, not everyone has easy access to tamarind in any form, so: If you have tamarind, use it to taste. Otherwise use lime or lemon juice, and I'd recommend about 1 tsp.

Dip bonus round: Feta ghanoush & grilled pita

Feta ghanoush

Peeking in through the bottom-right corner of my hummus post was another dip, one I like to call feta ghanoush. The inspiration was born out of a surplus of spoilable pantry items before a short trip out of town, but I owe the name to Ivy and her tasty-looking Fetatziki. Think of the possibilities! Olive fetapenade! Baked fetato skins! Umm... Fetarte tatin?

Other than the addition of marinated feta & honey, this doesn't deviate far from a standard baba ghanoush. Grilling the eggplant couldn't be easier if you have a gas stove — poke a few holes in the eggplant skin and set it directly over a medium-low flame for 10 minutes, turning once. It will hiss, spit, become wrinkled and smell of smoke (like your Mum!), but once cooked the skin comes off easily and you can use it in dips, or seasoned and mashed as a simple side for grilled meat.

Baba ghanoush and hummus are traditionally served with some kind of flatbread such as pita. It could be total heresy for all I know, but I like to grill one side of the pita quickly under a very hot broiler, so one side is crisp and smokey while the other is chewy and warm. If that's wrong then I don't wanna be right.

Feta ghanoush


  • 1 roasted eggplant, skin removed
  • 150g marinated feta1
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt & black pepper, to taste

1. Combine everything in a blender and blitz until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste, then serve drizzled with olive oil.

(1) Mine was marinated in pepper, Greek oregano, parsley, and olive oil, but really it doesn't have to be with anything in particular or marinated at all.

To whom it may concern,


We drank wine from McLaren Vale, bought cheese from the central markets, played beach cricket at Henley, danced to Curtis Mayfield at Supermild. You went off to explore Australia and when you came back you stayed with me while looking for a house. I'd come home from work to find you lounging around on the couches like a pride of lions and I would cook you dinner. When you found a cute cottage in Gilberton we went out for pizza to celebrate — Andy in that green jacket looking like you'd won the PGA masters, Daphne and Maggie looking beautiful as always.

Daphne, Andy, and Maggie, this post is for you. Although we've only had a year together, what an amazing year it's been. I'll miss you guys, but I understand that you are needed by your respective countries to solve all of their problems with your awesomeness.

See you in Greece,


P.S. Dapho, Here's that hummus recipe I forgot to give you.



  • 400g of cooked chickpeas1
  • 1.5 tbsp of tahini
  • 3 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 2 clove of garlics, minced
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • Salt, to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil & smoked paprika to garnish

1. Combine all but the last 2 items on the ingredient list in a food processor and blend until smooth. Salt to taste, and if necessary adjust the tahini and lemon juice to taste.
2. Drizzled with extra virgin olive oil & dust with some smoked paprika. Serve alongside warm toasted pita breads.

(1) My name's Tim and I use Savings brand canned chickpeas for my hummus (Hi Tim). Those of you from other countries or, god forbid, other hemispheres who don't know Savings brand would be familiar with its international equivalents. Savings brand is Coles supermarket's budget range. It inhabits the brand sub-basement far below their (respectable) "You'll Love Coles" range, on the bottom shelf where its sparse, Soviet-inspired labels are mostly hidden from view. I was brought up in a "Oh don't be silly, it all comes from the same factory" household, but let me put it this way: with Savings brand, you get what you pay for.

But you know what? Good on Coles for cutting corners and passing the savings on to you (me). Their chickpeas — cooked enough to taste good but not enough to be considered done — have exactly the right amount of inferiority for hummus. We're not talking about hard here, just a slight bite that gives the puréed hummus a rustic mouthfeel. Trust me on this.

(Slightly undercooking chickpeas from dry should give similar results)

Feta crumble II: Electric boogaloo

Stuffed eggplant with feta crumble

Spoiler alert! This was awesome.

You might recall from the recent pork entry that I was unsatisfied with the feta crumble. The flavours were all there, but the crumble's texture was stodgy and lacked any of the satisfying bite I was expecting. I intended not to follow that exact recipe again, but the promise that drew me to try it in the first place was still there. The seed was planted, and I was determined to make a satisfying feta crumble.

This time though, I used the crumble as a filling for stuffed eggplant. I have Peter's stuffed eggplants to thank for the inspiration and rough idea of how to cook the thing. I'm sure he won't mind that I bastardised his recipe, because this turned out really, really well. The eggplant's skin could have been more tender (not entirely sure how to make this happen), and I can see this becoming a staple side dish in the second pancake household.

The changes made to the crumble were minor, and more or less along the lines of what my gut told me the first time I was making it. Rather than mix the crumble ingredients into the beans I baked the eggplant stuffed with the beans and scattered the crumble over the cooked eggplant for a final blast under the grill before serving.

Stuffed eggplants with feta crumble


  • 1 medium-sized eggplant
  • 1 cup of baked beans
  • 1/2 cup of fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of crumbled Greek feta
  • 1/4 tsp dried Greek oregano
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for finishing
  • Salt & black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF).
2. Cut the eggplant in half lengthways and scoop most of the flesh out of both halves. Roughly chop the eggplant flesh, salt it well, and set aside on top of a piece of cheesecloth for 5-10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the crumble: combine the feta, bread crumbs, oregano, and some cracked black pepper in a bowl.
3. Bring the baked beans a 2/3 cup of water to a simmer. Take the eggplant pulp, fold the edges of the cheesecloth up and wring out all of the excess water from the eggplant. Add this pulp to the simmering beans and cook until reduced by 3/4 (the mixture should be quite wet but not soupy).
4. Pile the baked beans mixture into the shelled-out eggplants and place on a baking tray in the oven. Cook for 50 minutes.
5. When the eggplant is cooked through, remove the tray and turn on the grill (broiler). While it heaps up, generously scatted the crumble mixture over the eggplants. Drizzle with olive oil and place under the grill for 5 minutes or until browned. Serve drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.

My intestines, they hurt

Jerusalem artichoke soup

Oh God, kill me now. As I write this I sit gripped with pain, dreading the inevitability that the loud contortions of my small bowel are heralding. Apparently it's the inulin. I take small comfort in the words of John Goodyer who understands my predicament:

Written in 1621 of Jerusalem artichokes, "Which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men."

And yet a part of me is looking forward to the leftovers. A small percentage of people are intolerant of inulin-rich ingredients such as Jerusalem artichokes, and it bugs the hell out of me that there's a food I can't eat — even moreso that it's a delicious food.

Prior to making this soup, my only experience with Jerusalem artichokes was of buying one years ago by mistake and wondering what the hell was wrong with my ginger. While they might look like ginger, these tubers actually have an earthy taste, and a marvellously creamy texture when boiled for a soup. I could see them pairing very well with mushrooms, and while I'm against arbitrary truffing in an effort to make thing fancier a drizzle of truffle oil would pair quite nicely with that earthiness.

This is a delicious and extremely simple soup to make, and rest assured that only a small number can't handle the hardcore taste sensation that is Jerusalem artichoke.

Jerusalem artichoke soup

Ingredients (makes 2 generous servings):

  • 500g Jerusalem artichokes peeled and sliced
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 a small celery stick, finely diced
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • Splash of white wine
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp of butter for cooking plus a further tbsp to finish
  • 500ml chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • Healthy grating of nutmeg
  • Salt & white pepper

1. Cook the shallots, celery, and garlic in 2 tbsp of butter over a low heat until translucent, careful not to brown them. Add a splash of white wine and turn the heat up, simmering for 1 minute.
2. Add the sliced Jerusalem artichokes, mustard, nutmeg, chicken stock, and 500 ml of water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for for 20 minutes or until everything is tender, then puree with a stick blender and (optional) strain through a fine mesh sieve.
3. To finish, stir in the cream and remaining butter over gentle heat and season to taste. Drizzle with a grassy extra-virgin olive oil.

George Calombaris' baked beans

This is a quick entry to post a baked beans recipe from George Calombaris' book The Press Club that I'm using in a couple of upcoming posts. While it won't take you to baked beans heaven — it's not even baked — it's a fairly solid recipe that can be made in bulk and frozen, eaten on its own with a chunk of bread or used to accompany pretty much anything.

George Calombaris' baked beans


  • 1kg dried cannellini beans
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 4 sticks of celery, finely diced
  • 2 brown onions, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup tomato ketchup
  • 4 cups passata (puréed tomatoes)
  • 1.25 cups sherry vinegar
  • 4 cups of brown chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • Olive oil

1. Soak the cannellini beans overnight submerged in water.
2. Sweat the diced vegetables over a medium heat in 3 tbsp of olive oil under translucent.
3. Add the remaining ingredients (except the beans) and bring to a simmer.
4. Strain the beans and add them to the pot. Cook for 5 hours or until the beans are just tender and have absorbed the stock.

Greek village salad

Greek village salad

As I was embarking on the long walk home at 8 o'clock this morning after a huge night out (so much for being busy with work), I thought about simplicity. I watched the the non-hungover public go about their Saturday morning routines — jogging club with old friends, bacon & eggs at a café, walking the dog by the river. It was nice. Why complicate things?

A good village salad is crisp, fresh, cool, and bright. It has the salty intensity of feta and olives, and the sharp tang of vinegar but is never harsh and overwhelming. It's great by itself, with some fresh bread, or if you're really keen a slab of tender, slow roasted lamb.

Greek village salad

This is less of a recipe and more of an ingredient list.


  • Cucumber
  • Tomato
  • Shallot, halved then very thinly sliced
  • Kalamata olives, pitted
  • Greek feta
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Dried greek oregano2
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Cracked black pepper

1. Chop the cucumber and tomato into medium-sized chunks. Chop or crumble the feta into 1 cm pieces. Place the cucumber, tomato, olives, feta, and shallots in a large bowl.
2. Sprinkle with a little pepper and a little oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar (I use roughly a 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar). Toss to combine, serve.

1. It should go without saying to use the best ingredients. A ripe tomato, fresh feta, and the best olive oil you can find.
2. This is different from most of the dried oregano you find in supermarkets, it's fragrant and intense. Find it at ethnic delis, it comes as a large bunch, dried whole, stalk and all. To use break of what you need and rub it between your fingers to separate the herb from the twigs.

Chilli & onion jam


One thing that bugs me about jam is the amount of fruit needed. TV cooks act like acquiring 1kg of fresh blueberries is as trivial as picking up a carton of milk, but have you bought fresh berries lately? Those things are pricey. Cooking your own is a great way to make it just the way you like it — I find most store-bought jams too sweet — but the stingy angel on my shoulder won't allow me to buy $20 of summer's finest fruit only to boil it to a pulp.

That's why savory jam is so good. Also known as relish or chutney (although technically a chutney isn't made to keep, says Wikipedia), savory jams are cheap to make and packed with flavour. My favourite way to use savory jams is to spread them on a sandwich to sneak in spices and aromatics that you otherwise wouldn't be able to easily serve between two slices of bread. I made the chilli and onion jam below to spread on a lamb burger (recipe to come), but it really hit the spot on Saturday, on toast underneath a generous serving of scrambled eggs.

While I've given some amounts below, the ratio of ingredients you use is totally dependent on your own tastes. Scale back the chilli for a sweeter, less spicy result, or use milder chillies in greater amounts for more of a capsicum flavour. Also up to you is the seasoning. I tinker with the ratio of sugar/salt/vinegar until the result tastes good to me, and so should you.

Chilli & onion jam


  • 2 onions, diced
  • 5 medium-sized chillies, deseeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • Salt, to taste
  • Brown sugar, to taste
  • Red wine vinegar, to taste

1. Add the oil and spices to a saucepan and bring to a medium heat. Stir in the diced onion and chilli with a sprinkling of salt and cook over a low-medium heat until the onion softens and starts to turn golden without browning.
2. Cover with just enough water, then reduce the heat to as low as it will go and cook slowly for about an hour. If it's looking dry, top up with a little more water so that everything cooks until soft.
4. Adjust seasoning with salt, brown sugar, and red wine vinegar. Cook for another 10 minutes over a medium heat then transfer to a jar.

Eggs on the weekend

Scrambled eggs

There are a lot of great things about the weekend, but eating eggs would have to be in the top five. Make no mistake, eating eggs is thoroughly mundane — you won't be recalling your egg eating to your friends on Monday at work ("Dude, I was out last night and picked up this totally sweet carton of eggs, took them back to my place and just ate the shit out of them!") — but what it lacks in excitement it more than makes up in purity and simplicity.

A creamy yolk, a firm but yielding white. Full of fat and protein yet not the slightest bit overwhelming. If you're eating eggs on a Sunday morning, you know that life's pretty good. It's hard to stay mad, tired, or hungover when you're eating eggs. And that's why I eat eggs on the weekend.

Scrambled eggs

Ingredients (serves 1):

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp cracked black or white pepper
  • 1.5 tbsp crème fraîche
  • Salt, to taste1

1. Whisk together the eggs and pepper in a small saucepan, then add the butter and place over a medium heat.
2. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon, scraping egg off the bottom and sides and bottom of the saucepan as it sets. As the pan gets hotter you'll have to stir more frequently. Keep going until the eggs are creamy and done to your preference2.
3. As soon as the eggs are done, remove from the heat and add the creme fraiche. Beat this in well, then season with salt and serve immediately over thick buttered toast. Be aware that although the crème fraîche will drop the temperature, the eggs will continue to cook in the pan.

(1) Add the salt after the eggs are cooked — adding it at the beginning will produce a watery rather than creamy consistency.
(2) My preference is eggs that are only just set, with the consistency of a thick porridge. If your breakfast can support a fork skewered upright into it, you've gone too far. Way too far.