Leek and cheese pie


Leek and cheese pie

It’s been a very long time since I made a pie, but with winter approaching it’s time to bring it on. This feeds four. I have been unable to source a classic Pyrex pie dish and so for now, I’m doing without….


3 large leeks, white part, thinly sliced
a few shallots, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and diced fairly small
at least 50g butter
cheddar cheese coarsely grated
parmesan cheese grated
2 sheets of frozen shortcrust pastry defrosted


Preheat oven to whatever is right for your chosen pastry. For me it was 220C.

Fry the leeks, shallots and potato in the butter until somewhat softened, add the thyme, then water, going on for a cup. Bring to boil, put lid on and turn down to a vigorous simmer for around 15 minutes, but you might check after 10. You want the water to have evaporated. This mix will cook more in the oven, so it doesn’t have to be waving the white flag yet. Let it cool somewhat before taking out the thyme sprigs. Add the cheeses, mustard and cream to taste – I used a couple of teaspoons of very thick cream.

Put one sheet of pastry on baking paper on a baking tray. Pile the mixture into the centre leaving generous margins of pastry. Cover with the other sheet of pastry and press down at the sides, I use a fork. Trim the edges. Prick the top. Baste with milk.

Keep an eye on it in the oven, it might take around 30 minutes, but checking early avoids irredeemable errors. That is the voice of experience speaking there.

And now you have this:

Needless to say there are any number of variations on this. I didn’t add salt during the cooking because of the cheeses but next time I will add pepper. Ham will keep the meat eaters happy.




Salad by Two Raw Sisters

There is lots to irritate me in this template for salad making. It looks exceedingly repetitive, essentially lists of vegetables mixed and matched with a few base dressings. Added to this is the urging voice of the author that nothing is cast in stone, don’t have x, then stick y in. It’s part of the plot against authenticity, nothing is only itself.

Despite this, the fact is that I’ve tried four ideas – for these are ideas rather than recipes – and only one has been a dud. To me that represents good value even if I get nothing else from the collection. One fantastic recipe I might cook regularly is worth $45, several good ones ditto. The recipes are balanced, healthy and because none of them are really recipes, easy to make, because ingredients are never key. My notes on the pages are already quite detailed: used this dressing instead of that, lemon instead of lime, pecans instead of walnuts, this vegetable instead of that. Some of them are to my mind a counterintuitive combination of ingredients, but I might still try them. There is definitely a kitchen sink feeling to the book’s ideas.

Perhaps because this green bean salad has a slightly Asian take, as you can see from the sesame seeds, we have been eating it with plain steamed rice. Rice is a good accompaniment to lots of these salads, though a piece of grilled meat is the obvious ‘side’ to have with them.

It’s definitely a bonus that, as directed by the authors, the salads – at least the ones we’ve so far tried – last a few days in the fridge. Dividing the effort of making them by a few meals is encouraging.

Marinating Paste for Lamb

Marinating Paste for Lamb

I use this for rack of lamb, though it is sufficient for a leg.

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and then cover meat before roasting. The soy sauce, in particular, will ensure this goes a nice dark brown.

From Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion.

What to do with a bagel hole

Sorry, I’m not going to answer that. But now I have your attention…

Buy some good quality bagels. You can freeze them to good effect. I got spoiled living in parts of Melbourne where good bagels are normal. I haven’t had any good ones in Adelaide yet, and some I’ve tried have been dire.  I don’t often bag food in Adelaide, but dudes. Can’t we have some good bagels, how hard can it be? Go to Melbourne. See how they do it. Return.

Cut a bagel in half and toast it. While that’s happening peel and chop some avocado. Open a really nice packet of smoked salmon.

Butter the bagel, spread avocado over the two halves and top with the salmon. Lots of freshly ground black pepper.



Raan Masaledar Whole leg of lamb in spicy yoghurt sauce

This is lovely and I think you can turn the leftovers into pilaf. I’m sorry to say I don’t know what the source is of this version which I found online in the absence of my own cookbooks.

I hate to think how long it took to clean the dish

Raan Masaledar Whole leg of lamb in spicy yoghurt sauce

Serves 4—6:

A piece of lamb with bone: leg or shoulder, skinned.

For the paste:

2 oz (50g) blanched almonds
½ lb (225g) onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled
Four 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 fresh hot green chillies, coarsely chopped
20 fl oz (570m1) plain yoghurt
2 tablespoons ground cumin seeds
4 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon garam masala

6 tablespoons ghee/vegetable oil
½ teaspoon whole cloves
16 cardamom pods
A 2 inch (5cm) stick of cinnamon
10 black peppercorns

For garnishing:

4 tablespoons sultanas, 50g blanched, split or slivered almonds


Blend the 50g almonds, onions, garlic, ginger, green chillies, and 3 tablespoons of the yoghurt into the container of a food processor or blender and then add to the rest of the yoghurt, along with the dry spices. Mix thoroughly.

Make deep slashes in the meat and rub the spice paste all over the meat and push into the slits you have made. Spread all the paste on and around the lamb. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Take the baking dish with the meat out of the refrigerator, uncover, and let the meat come to room temperature. Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium flame. When hot, put in the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and peppercorns. When the cloves swell — this just takes a few seconds — pour the hot oil and spices over the leg of lamb.

Preheat oven to gas mark 6, 400F (200C).

Cover the baking dish tightly either with its own lid or with a large piece of aluminium foil. Bake, covered, for 1 hour 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Baste 3—4 times with the sauce during this period. Scatter, or arrange in a pattern, the sultanas and the ½ oz (15g) almonds over the top of the leg and bake for another 5—6 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and let it sit in a warm place for 15 minutes. Take the leg out of the pan and set it on a warm platter.


Lemon Pots de Creme from Patricia Wells


One of a couple of Patricia Wells’ desserts from At Home in Provence which always gets the thumbs up. This is taken directly from her book (which is packed away the other side of the world), but I found it online.

Serves 8

  • 125ml/4fl oz lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
  • 100g/312oz sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 375ml/13fl oz double cream

Preheat oven to 325F/160C/Gas 3.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and sugar and stir to dissolve. In a large bowl, gently whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the cream. Whisk in the lemon juice and sugar, combining thoroughly. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or several layers of cheesecloth. Let stand for two to three minutes, then remove any foam that rises to the top.

Place eight 125ml (4fl oz) ovenproof ramekins, custard cups, or petit pots in a baking pan large enough to hold them generously. Divide the cream evenly among the individual moulds, filling each about half full. Add enough hot tap water to the baking pan to reach about half the depth of the moulds. Cover the pan loosely with foil to prevent a skin forming. Place in the centre of the oven and bake until the creams are just set around the edges, but still trembling in the centre, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully remove the moulds from the water. Refrigerate, loosely covered, for at least two hours and up to 24 hours.

Serve the pots de creme chilled, without unmoulding.

Indian Mash

Indian mash loves trollops. It’s engraved on a tree somewhere.

Some potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
Coarsely chopped onion
Coriander chopped
Chilli sliced
Roasted cumin seeds, maybe crushed a little to release the flavour more

Boil the potatoes leaving a little oomph to them. Heat the frying pan and add cumin seeds, and stir: take them out quite quickly, when heated through and a trifle darker. They will burn before you know it. After you’ve taken out the cumin seeds and set aside in a little dish, heat the ghee and add the onion. Fry slowly to soften, on a moderate to low heat while the potato is cooking.

When the potato is just a trifle underdone, drain and add to the onion. Mix and break up the potato. The idea is to leave it lumpy, so nothing like the English idea of mash. Stir in the coriander, chilli and cumin while doing this.

It doesn’t keep well, so don’t make extra. Or figure out something to do with it other than reheating.

Oh, I forgot. Why does Indian mash love trollops? Because the potato hasn’t been overdone it is highly absorbent, so it has a real thing for saucy dishes.

Yeah, okay. You can stop groaning right now.

Gujarati-style green beans – Madhur Jaffrey Easy peasy…I mean beansy

This is a good way to get boys to eat greens.

You can use the recipe for bok choy or any of those Chinese greens too. Has the advantage that they take seconds to cook. On the other hand, if using them with green beans, you can par cook the beans, the first step here, ahead of time.

Gujarati-style green beans – Madhur Jaffrey

500g fresh green beans
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon whole black mustard seeds
4 cloves garlic — peeled and minced
1 hot, dried red chili coarsely crushed in mortar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
freshly ground black pepper

Trim the beans and cut them into 1-inch lengths. Blanch the beans by dropping them into a pot of boiling water and boiling rapidly for 3-4 minutes or until they are just tender. Drain immediately in a colander and rinse under cold, running water. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium flame. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, put in the garlic. Stir the garlic pieces around until they turn light brown. Put in the crushed red chili and stir for a few seconds. Put in the green beans, salt, and sugar. Stir to mix. Turn the heat to medium-low. Stir and cook the beans for 7-8 minutes or until they have absorbed the flavor of the spices. Add the black pepper, mix, and serve.

So says Madhur. I generally simply cook these beans in the Indian way without parboiling them first. Maybe that depends on how you like your beans….

Green beans with ginger and tomato

Another Madhur Jaffrey winner. This one freezes not too badly.

750g fresh green beans
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
A piece of fresh ginger, about 1 inch square, coarsely chopped
1 medium-sized tomato, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
10 tablespoons vegetable oil. Do I need to say that I use ghee?
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
chilli salt and lemon juice to taste to taste
Garnish with fresh coriander

Top and tail the beans and slice into rounds.

Put the onion, garlic, ginger, tomato and turmeric in a blender and blend into a smooth paste.

Put 6 tablespoons of the ghee in a deep frying pan and heat it on medium. Pour in mixture from blender and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring all the time, adding a teaspoon of warm water if and when it starts to stick to the bottom. Now put in the coriander and cumin and continue frying another 5 minutes, again adding a teaspoon of warm water if necessary to prevent sticking.

Heat the rest of the ghee on medium heat. When very hot, put in the whole cumin and mustard seeds. Add green beans as soon as mustard seeds start popping. Also add chilli now if using. Stir and add the prepared mixture to the beans. Fry on medium flame for 5 minutes, stirring all the time. Turn heat to very low, add the salt and lemon juice, cover and let cook until they are tender or to taste. Check them now and then, and add a little water if necessary to stop sticking if it dries out too quickly.

Can be cooked in advance and reheated.

Spicy Baked Chicken Masaledar Murghi, from Madhur Jaffrey

I wrote this years ago and didn’t post it. But in fact I made it again recently, in Oz….and again in the oven.

I’ve made this many times in my life, always on a BBQ until this week. A wood or coal fire is obviously best. Use thin cuts of meat: chicken ribs if you are in Australia, maybe the stick bit of the wing in other places which don’t seem to do the ‘rib’, more’s the pity; boneless thigh cut into small chunks and put on skewers

In Geneva I can not get the cuts I would prefer to use: boneless thigh doesn’t seem to exist and as for the rib, forget it. Not to mention being BBQless. In an electric oven, I suggest thighs – I found them more successful than the drumstick, maybe because they permit more even cooking. I covered them with foil at a point where I wanted to cook them a bit more without having them burn. Not perfect by any means, but it worked.

Spicy Baked Chicken Masaledar Murghi
Oven: 210C
Preparation: 30 mins
Marinating: 3 hours
Cooking: 60 mins


1.5 kgs chicken pieces
6 tblsp lemon juice
2-3 garlic cloves, mashed
3 tblsps veg oil
1 tblsp cumin
1 ” paprika
1 ” tumeric
1 1/2 teasp cayenne
1 1/2 teasp black pepper

1. Mix all ingredients less chicken and oil in bowl.

2. Rub well over chicken pieces pushing into flaps and into slits along drumsticks.

3. Spread on baking tray, set aside for 3 hours.

4. Brush top of chicken with oil. Bake in preheated oven for 30 mins each side, baste occasionally.