Friday, February 29, 2008


I neglected to mention that when cooking frittata, to save me from tears, I always line the baking dish with paper first - saves washing up and breaking up... (and yes, I did just drag myself away from my desk to find out how to spell that darned word, sure, it's not spontaneous, but at least it's correct)

disco inferno

It's my daughter's school's family disco tonight, at the local surf club - complete with wild, windy seas. We're meant to take a picnic platter so I'm making an old fave - chorizo frittata (how is that word spelt?) Never mind the spelling, it's delish and contains a couple of ingredients that are so smoulderingly compatible it's almost x-rated. Here's how I will be doing it.

Slice 2 chorizo into 1cm slices
Slice 3 small potatoes really thinly
Slice 1 spanish onion, very thinly
Slice 1 red capsicum into strips
Saute each individually until chorizo and potatoes are golden on both cut sides, onion soft and caramelised (10-15 mins) and capsicum nice and soft.
Layer all these in a square or rectangular baking dish, sprinkle with smoked paprika, salt, pepper and some sprigs of fresh thyme. Beat 8-12 eggs (depends on the size of your dish) and throw in a tblsp of tomato paste and a splash of sweet chilli sauce. Mix it together well and pour over top of ingredients. There should be just enough to just cover the vegies and chorizo. Sprinkle with a nice, sharp, grated cheese and bake in a moderate oven till set (not wobbly when you wiggle it) and browned on the top (say 15 -20 mins). Remove from oven, let cool then slice into squares. Sprinkle with a little chopped, fresh parsley and serve with some aioli (or normal mayo with a couple of smooshed garlic cloves mixed through and graciously accept compliments.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

gone, but not forgotten

The petals may have fallen, but their memory still warms my heart. Honestly, is there anything prettier than pink roses in an old, green jug? Despite the number of rose bushes in our garden I'm always reluctant to cut them for vases. I'll always wait till they need to be pruned first. But these little beauties are from what has to be the most magnificent rose on the block - Duchess de Brabant. She's a grand old dame, born around 1852 I believe, but serves us well all year round with delicately-scented, nodding pink blooms. Plus, despite living only a few blocks from the ocean, she's never blighted with black spot or scale (touching wood frantically as I type!) and flowers nearly all year round.
She makes me happy...

Monday, February 25, 2008

how remiss of me

Titling a blog pink patent mary janes would lead the average reader to expect the odd post about shoes no? Well, um, yes. And gee, counting back, how many have I written. Um, that would be none... Until now when I write the ultimate shoe post - how to choose the perfect heel. Ta da!

Many gals are scared of heels, and no wonder, because a poorly designed or made shoe can make you feel like your feet are trapped inside an iron maiden. One of my gorgeous friends found what she thought were the perfect pair of heels for her hubby's birthday. Python print, silver and gold, with a peep-toe. Delightful. But no, torturous. As divine as these shoes looked, they had Gina reaching for her silver ballet pumps within the first hour of the party. So sad. Her pretty high arches were no match for the shoes, they didn't make contact anywhere on the inner sole, (my personal peeve with heels). Her balance was out of whack, with her body being thrust forward onto the ball of the foot, rather than being evenly spread out along the shoe. Now that's discomfort. But, to make it worse, the shoes were a little too pointed at the front, and too tight across the base of the toes - ouchy wowa. She looked gorgeously glam, but was living evidence that beauty hurts... but it doesn't need to. Here's what to look for when heel shopping.

1. Hold the shoe and look at it from all angles. You want it to be balanced, with a high heel preferably offset with a bit of a platform at the front. The angle of pitch from heel to toe should look realistic - not suitable for Barbie! Check from behind that the heels are sturdy and straight - if they're crooked on the shoe imagine what will happen when you put some weight into them. Give the heel a gentle wiggle, it should be solid and sturdy, not wriggly at all.

2. Try it on. Really try it on. Preferably in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest. Does it fit comfortably? Leather and suede do give, but not enormously. If it feels uncomfortable now chances are it always will, despite stretching sprays and coating the inside of your shoe with vaseline. Now, stand up. Is your weight evenly balanced between your heels, arches and balls of your feet? How do your toes feel, cramped or comfortable? If you feel like you're pitching forward and can't distribute your weight evenly between your heels and the balls of your feet, put them straight back on the shelf. Are your arches in total contact with the inner sole? If not, again, say your farewells and move on, this only leads to agony. 

3. All seems to be fitting well? Everything in contact and no little toe being strangled or stuffed awkwardly into a corner? Now walk around. How are the heels? Firm or wobbly? If you're teetering around on the heels they mightn't be strong enough and you should choose a wider heel - or even a wedge (high heels for those on a learner's permit!). If you can walk comfortably, and nothing's pinching, then these could be the shoes for you.

4. Final question. Do you love them? Will these shoes change your life? Will they bring a smile to your face every time you wear them? If so then dash to the counter and hand over the plastic. Give your shoes a wipe over with a clean cloth after every wear and store them in the original box, or a clear shoe box to keep the dust away. If you need to practice walking in shoes, take the advice from one of my fave books - How to Walk in High Heels by Camilla Morton - and practice while pushing a trolley at the supermarket. Sure, you'll look a bit glam for Coles, but you'll be sauntering like a dream on your next big night out!

easy being green

Dedication truly does have rewards. After deciding only a week or so ago to re-paint the living room we slopped on the paint and are utterly enchanted with the results. It's a grey old day in Merewether today, so not the best time to photograph, but already the room is glowing - and looks so much larger. The Laduree green was an inspired choice and makes everything we own look even perkier. I now smile when I enter the room, rather than sighing, frowning and turning on the light (a carbon-burning twelve light chandelier...). When the sun peaks out again I'll take some photos and post them. But for now, trust me, it looks divine and really did coordinate beautifully with the violet martinis Amanda and I shared last night (the boys' beers weren't so flash, but hey, they were watching the football!)

why french is so chic

I'm feeling a tad on the enervated side today so a little perking up was in order. Firstly, some nodding pale pink roses in a pale green jug to place just so on my desk. Fragrant and ever-so-pretty. Next, breakfast... oh my yes. A toasted piece of baguette spread with lurpac butter and the final scrapings of my violet jam. Served with a bowl of cafe au lait (what else?) I'm already feeling much more stylish and clever - that story I'm working on today just has to write itself really. Now, if only I could find a way to make the house clean itself...

Friday, February 22, 2008


When the stress and deadlines just get too much I'm going to stop and think about blowing bubbles...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

accidentally wonderful

whenever I set out to shop, with a theme in mind and a ready-to-be-maxed-out credit card in my wallet the only certainty is that the shop will be filled... with absolutely nothing I like or need. My shopping has to be spontaneous to be successful. Like today. Continuing on my month-long quest to find the perfect vintage champagne bowls, so I too can sip like Marie Antionette (preferably in laduree-coloured Manolos...) I ducked over to an op-shop a few suburbs away. Now, of course, the object of my desire was absent (only heavy, catering champagne bowls - not the delicate, etched ones of my dreams. Sigh). But I did spy some pretty, floral fabric across the room. Dashing over I found the cutest little a-line skirt, knee-length, perfect for seeing out the last of summer, and next to it, oh, be still heart thou art being so frantically... the most divine, floaty, floral, moss&spy skirt. IN MY SIZE. I snatch it up quickly (despite being the only person in the room) and make my way to the change room. Now, as I'm sauntering to the changing room, a jaunty song in my heart, my eyes are assaulted by another vision. THE most delectable 'french' black and white stripey dress. Oh, come on, it's too much. Liberating it from its rack I dive into the change room and throw off my dress. I start with the flirty a-line. Yep, cute as a box of buttons - that's a yes. The moss&spy? I'm not messing with your head but tears actually welled up as I zipped it up. Perfection. Oh, and the price, yes $7. Not $300 or whatever the retail is, but I'm an I'm almost ashamed to admit it $7. I was rolling with it so I went with the dress and ooh la la mon cherie, tres jolie. Divine. Black fishnets and my red suede peep toes? What else. 
I do believe my only option is to go lie down on my bed, hugging them and thanking the kind person who gifted them to the City Mission store. Bless you, you've made this little black duck very happy indeed!

Monday, February 18, 2008

i need a clematis... to hug my roses

pretty is

I'm pretty sure that meals taste better when they've come from a gorgeous cookbook which is why I'm now scouring Tessa Kiros's Apples for Jam for dinner ideas. No cover makes me smile wider, and I've cooked "The best EVER chocolate cake" (according to my daughter) and a too-scrummy lamb and green bean casserole from its delightful pages. I need a plate-ful of pretty tonight. It's gotta have child-appeal (not a stew), tasty and able to be put together with minimal time and ingredients... oh, who am I kidding? It's got to be Nigella's spaghetti carbonara tonight! I didn't take notes while watching her program so I may have left out an ingredient or two, but it's the simplicity that's so wonderful. I do like to add garlic sometimes, if I'm feeling energetic. But there is no cream, absolutely not a spec, and yet it's so decadent you'd swear it were drowning in the stuff. I served this up in our villa in tuscany on our Italian trip in 06 and totally felt like a native - particularly when washing it down with a local glass of red!

My version of Nigella's spaghetti carbonara 
Cook spaghetti in boiling, salted water. Meanwhile, dice up small chunks of pancetta or thick, streaky bacon - around 300g. Saute in a little olive oil, till golden. Drain spaghetti, reserving a little of the cooking liquid. Remove pan from heat and stir in spaghetti, coating it nicely with bacon and oil. Beat two eggs and pour over spaghetti (make sure it's off the heat!). Stir like a maniac till it's nice and creamy - add a little cooking liquid from spaghetti if it needs thinning. Throw in a handful of freshly grated parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper and serve. So easy it's almost enough to make you blush... but oh, it tastes soooo good. Make it look pretty by serving it up with the Donna Hay swirl.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

what makes me happy

It's time for a change. After two years of dramatic, rich red we've decided to paint our living room. The red was an experiment and while it looked quite amazing, particularly against a few key pieces of furniture, it tended to make the room a little too dark - not what you want for a main room.

So, we needed a new colour and it's going to be... Laduree Green. No, it's not officially a colour, but this pretty, pale green reminds me of one of the gorgeous places in my favourite city - macarons from Laduree in Paris. All we need now is a spare weekend to paint...

Friday, February 15, 2008


Aah, oh chorizo, how do I love thee... Yes, a recipe success. After my tasteless disaster the night before I knew that only one thing could save me, a spicy, spanish sausage. Here's what I did...
Spanish Chicken
6 skinless organic chicken thighs
2 chorizo sausages
1 spanish onion
2 Kipfler or similar waxy potatoes
1 red, yellow, and orange capsicum
six cloves of garlic
1 tsp or more smoked paprika
1 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvingon Blanc - it was open and in the fridge)
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
Italian, flat leaf parsley to serve

Cut chorizo and chicken into bite-sized chunks and arrange in the bottom of a lightly-oiled baking dish. Cut up 1/2 of the red, orange and yellow capsicum into 1 inch chunks, cut onion into quarters, and quarter the peeled potatoes. Arrange all ingredients artfully and sprinkle with smoked paprika. Pour over white wine and then squeeze lemon juice over the top. Dust with a good, generous pinch of salt (Maldon or Murray Pink Salt are my faves) and grind over plenty of black pepper. Cover with foil and bake in 180 degree fan-forced oven for 15 minutes, then remove foil and bake further 10 - 15 minutes until potatoes are nicely browned. Sprinkle with a good handful of roughly chopped parsley and serve with some steamed rice. A light spanish red would wash it down rather well I believe...

Thursday, February 14, 2008


falling off the horse

I so adore cooking. Coming up with something new, chopping, mixing, tasting, smelling - it's all good. Last night however, tragedy struck - I cooked a bad meal. What made it worse was that it started out well, tasted fine along the way... but came out of the oven a bland, tasteless mess. It's shattered my confidence now, but I'm determined to get back on the horse and not let it throw me again. I'm thinking spanish chicken with chorizo could be the meal to get me out of that funk. I'll make sure I spice it up with plenty of smoked paprika and garlic - and may well roast some red, yellow and orange capsicum to brighten my life. To serve? Garlic baby spinach and lemon roasted kipfler potatoes. 
Happy valentines!

fade to grey

I'm a huge fan of the Visage song, but when it comes to sky paint me blue any day. We've had pretty much unrelenting rain for the past few months - fine for the drought, bearable in winter, but hey, it's meant to be high summer in Aus. So instead of breathing in the frangipani, hanging lavender-scented sheets on the line to dry and wondering which jaunty colour to paint my toenails I'm drowning in an enormous to-do pile of laundry and grumping around in a huff.

Some things however, have made me smile. The exquisite smile of my darling goddaughter Harriet, the smell of her hair when she snuggled in for a 'huggle' after waking and then the news that her final words to her mother, before drifting off to sleep were "Ninny loves me". (yes, that would be me - Linda, Ninny, I'll answer by anything that comes from her adorable mouth). Love is...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

i'm loving

While I'm happy to have crazy, out-of-control curly hair, never pick up an iron unless absolutely forced and can quite happily only make the bed moments before hopping in again at night, there are a few things I'm a wee bit anal about.
1. I always use a bookmark, even if it's a receipt. I just love my books too much to deface them with dog ears or broken spines.
2. I always fold my washing as I bring it in (saves me from ironing...)
3. I like the inside of my Le Crueset french oven to be as close to shop pristine as possible.

Now, number three might be possible if I were to slavishly follow in the well-shod footsteps of Andy Warhol and deign to only eat white foods - but let's face it, slow-cooked foods call for rich red seasonings. Tomatoes, red wine... and for long, slow, bubbly cooking. Sigh. 

So, before yesterday I'd always follow a labourious, time-intensive procedure after polishing off the Coq au Vin. Soak pot overnight in soapy water. Wash and remove any bits with a soft scourer and very hot, soapy water. Then, a second soak, with a dishwasher tablet - overnight, again. Finally, I'd scrub the inside with a paste created from bi-carb. 

Then I discovered a product that made my heart swell and sing a little dance of joy. Gumption. This citrus-smelling white paste is miraculous. After only my first soaking and scrubbing I wiped a little of this stuff on, and then polished it off to uncover the most gloriously pristine ivory interior.

I think I'm a little bit in love...

Friday, February 08, 2008

what's for dinner?

there's beef bourguignon bubbling in the le crueset, potatoes to mash and crispy, organic green beans. does it get better? oh my, yes. there's an ever-so-lissome french red to accompany. a sourdough stick will make the night complete.

here's how you do it.
1kg of beef blade steak
750ml red wine (pref burgundy)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
bouquet garni
70g butter
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2tblsp flour
200g bacon cut into strips
300g french shallots, peeled and left whole
200g sm button mushrooms

Cut the meat into cubes and trim away excess fat. put the meat, wine, garlic and bouquet garni in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius (315 farenheit). Drain the meat and reserve marinade and bouquet garni. Dry meat on paper towels. Heat 30g butter in large casserole dish. Add onion, carrot and bouquet garni and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 mins. Remove from heat.

Heat 20g butter in lrg fypan over high heat. Fry meat in batches for about 5 mins or until well browned. Add to the casserole.

Pour reserved marinade into frypan and boil, stirring for 30 seconds to deglaze pan. Return casserole to high heat and sprinkle meat and veg with flour. Cook, stirring, until meat is well-coated with flour. Pour in marinade and stir well. Bring to boil, stirring, then cover and cook in oven two hours.

Heat remaining butter and cook bacon and shallots, stirring, for 8-10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until browned. Drain on paper towels. Add shallots, bacon and mushrooms to casserole.

Cover the casserole and return to oven for 30 minutes, or until the meat is soft and tender. Discard bouquet garni, season and serve.
From The Food of France: a journal for food lovers (murdoch books)


starting a blog is far more terrifying than writing any article. so i thought the best way to start is with a 'getting to know you (me)' list...
i adore: 
coffee in a bowl
peonies, roses and violets
giggling with my fabulous friends
slow-cooked food
creating scrummy meals for friends
my hubby and gorgeous girl

i abhor:
too much rain
4WD owners with an 'i'm more important than you' attitude
people who've been hit with the negative stick