how to

Well, I think the title about says it all.

All countries have their food specialities. But this beef dish from those commies in Russia has become famous on an international scale. It is excellent food to include in your menu if you’re giving a party: noodles or rice are usual accompaniments.

To be honest I was holding out hope for this one.

Here’s what you need:

  • 750g fillet steak (I used some weiner schnitzel)
  • 125g butter
  • 1 medium onion
  • 500g small (button) mushrooms
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 beef stock cubes (I swapped this and the water for 1/2 cup beef stock)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 300ml sour cream
  • 1tsp cornflour

And that’s all she wrote. This recipe is a doddle, so let’s get into it. (more…)

Well, this is an interesting one.

“Chasseur” means a sauce containing mushrooms and shallots. it can be a sauce for many meats. Here we have allied it to chicken for a dish with rich, superb flavour. Serve with hot rice or mashed potatoes, crusty bread and separate green salad. Serves four.

In French chasseur means ‘hunter’, and this makes sense when the most important ingredient in this dish is actually mushrooms. I think that means you could likely make a vegetarian version by dropping the meat and adding beans, or perhaps paneer.

Anyhow, the list!

  • 1.5kg chicken or similar
  • 30g butter
  • 2 tbsps oil
  • 250g mushrooms
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon tarragon (I had none, so substituted sage from the garden)
  • 2 large ripe tomato (I used a tin of Italian tomatoes)
  • 6 shallots (or use the pre-prepared fried Asian ones, they’re pretty good)
  • 2 tbsps chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsps tomato paste

For the brown sauce

  • 125g butter(!!)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 chicken stock cubes (I just used 3 cups of chicken stock for this and the previous ingredient)
  • salt, pepper.

We made an executive decision after the tedium of the Beggars’ Chicken to get a little creative with the ingredients. I’m trying to stay true to the recipes in the book, but we need to actually be able to eat these things! I’ll admit that this may also have been prompted by Second Chef asking, “Why are all these recipes soooo boring?”


Masala potatoes are a dish I’m making a lot these days to accompany a curry I take to work for lunch. I had to cut bread out of my diet, and needed something starchy, but not too starchy to keep me awake during the afternoon. These are basically just ghee, spices, and par-boiled spuds, so they’re an easy something to whip up on sunday night before the week starts.

So, you’ll need:

  • some parboiled small or new season spuds
  • a couple of tablespoons of ghee (or just plain old butter if it’s all you have)
  • tbsp of tumeric
  • 2-3cm of ginger
  • tbsp-ish of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of chilli powder, or a couple of fresh chillis
  • a pinch of asafoetida

From here it’s easy (more…)

This recipe isn’t in the Aussie cookbook, but is something we make pretty regularly here. The idea was initially to save a little money, but over time it’s mostly become about making a meal that isn’t jam-packed full of sugar. Plus, oats! What’s not to like.

You’ll need:

Oats, maybe four cups

Dried fruits, pretty much whatever you’re into (and won’t break the bank)

Dried coconut

Seeds; pumpkin, sesame, sunflower. You get the picture

Vegetable oil

A sweetener. We use a golden syrup, but you could use honey (if it wasn’t so damn expensive), or malt. Even brown sugar could do.

So this recipe is pretty straightforward. Toast the oats in the oven, toast the seeds on the stovetop, and chop the fruits. Here we go. (more…)

And here in the first of the ‘How to cook from an 80s cookbook’ series is Beggar’s chicken. To be honest I’m surprised they didn’t call this something dodgy, but there you go. Apparently PC was alive an well as early as the mid-80s. And so we begin:

This is one of the renowed dishes of the Orient. The chicken was originally wrapped in lotus leaves, then in clay, then thrown into a hot fire. Supply chopsticks for four lucky people.

You’ll need:

1.5kg chicken

3 shallots (I used a small onion, which was probably a mistake)

2.5cm piece green ginger

1 tsp sugar

3 tbsps soy sauce

2 tbsps dry sherry

1 tbsp water

1/4 tsp five spice powder

2 extra tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsps oil

extra oil

1kg cooking salt (!!)

4 cups plain flour

1 1/2 cups water (approx)

The recipe itself is pretty simple, the first thing to do is to mix all the dough, then stuff the chicken with the surprisingly limited amount of spices, wrap the whole shebang in foil and dough, and cook that thing for a total of FOUR HOURS. You’ll need to pay attention to that last bit.


A recent post on Public Address had someone comment that they thought I should be putting up foodie posts to the new blog Russell is setting up. Well, for reasons, I’m unlikely to be invited, but I mentioned that I might be encouraged to start posting here again in the old “How to” series of cooking.

And because serendipity is what it is, this morning at David White on Able Smith St Second Chef uncovered this:

This is the cover of a cookbook we once owned in Mount Maungaui. I remember frequently opening it and wishing we had the means to afford half the things this book said we could make. The How-To series is in point of fact modelled on the pictures contained in this book, and much of my cooking history has been an effort to learn how to make recipes I remember drooling over. And yes, this does count as Food Prn.

And so now, because I am older, wiser, and more financially able, I will proceed to cook every single recipe in this book, and post them for you right here – a la Julie and Julia.

So you’d best be prepared for exotic dishes from the mid-1980s including:

“Chinese Fish”


“Rum-Caramel Pineapple”

and “Chips”.

Strap yourself in!

The title of this post could more accurately be titled, “what I did with my holidays!”

Discovering that our house here in Newlands is at times damp, we’ve put aside enough money to get some ventilation put in. The big job is getting a hood over the cooker (it has to be vented through the roof – a DIY I’m not willing to take on), but the bathroom was simple enough.

When we lived in Cuba Street we had vents continuously pushing air into the bathroom and toilet, and no extractor fans. Sometimes when the weather really packed in these vents would stop working and the bathroom would get very humid. “Odd”, I thought, “conventional wisdom says always extract”. Upon discovering that putting an extractor into the bathroom would be a BIG DEAL, I remembered Cuba Street and resolved to use a similar fix up here.

Now, Newlands is a strange place. We’re very high up, so at times what appears to be fog rolls across the property and past the house. I say ‘appears’ because it’s actually low cloud. Awesome.

When said cloud wafts across the house it also enters it, making the place slightly humid once it departs, which is best remedied by opening the windows (and if possible, doors). This usually dries the house out quite a bit, but the bathroom is a little difficult because of it’s location. So, realising that the dampness in the house is not a problem with the house itself (it isn’t humidity from groundwater for example), I thought that decent ventilation could be brought in, and while it might only push the water to another room, those rooms can be easily vented outside.

And that’s where all this stuff comes in

Bits for a postive pressure system


Just you wait to see what I do, with this..


She’s been a long time between drinks of water here in the food front, but so many people refer to Second Chef and I as “foodies” I thought I’d better not let the side down. To be honest, this recipe was shot before Chef Du Plunge was even born! The evidence is the use of asparagus, which has been out of season for many, many months.

But we can’t disappoint, and here it is.

Oyster Sauce is a wonderful ingredient you should be able to buy at your local supermarket. If you can’t, then any self-respecting Asian market will have it. The great thing about it is that it’s so easy to use, as we’ll see. Basically you just add it to your dish at the right stage, and heat it.

And what could be easier?

I’ve also flagged this as a vegetarian meal (even though oyster sauce contains “oyster extracts” – whatever the hell that means), because the chicken is entirely optional. I like it, but you can just as well survive using a decent firm tofu.

So here’s what you’ll need.

  • The aforementioned oyster sauce
  • Vegetables, preferably seasonal. When we photographed this recipe asparagus and capiscums where in, and good old broccoli too. You can and should also use Asian vegetables like bok choy, not for the authenticity, but because they’re relatively cheap and very nutritious.
  • Dried fungus, or, fresh mushrooms. They go well with the oyster sauce. Dried fungus or mushrooms can also be bought cheaply at your local Asian grocer. They’re a good dry food to store in case of emergency.
  • Egg noodles, as above.
  • Chicken, tofu, or neither.
  • A wok. A frying pan just doesn’t cut it.

And we’re off! (more…)

In the grumpiness stakes there is nothing that annoys me quite as much as not calling things what they actually are, for fear of upsetting someone.

Listener has easily achieved the ringing of the annoying bell with the following page, from the March 21-27 edition of the “current affairs magazine”.

The list purports to display 25 “Secrets and Shortcuts of good cooks”.

The trouble is, only a few are actually for cooks, and the majority of these things are actually secrets of good husbandry, or what they call in the vernacular, house-wifery.

But instead of getting picky about why or why not this is husbandry and not cooking, I thought I’d run over a few secret of cooks.

  1. Keep your knives are sharp as possible. Dull knives are more dangerous, and will give worse cuts
  2. Keep your implements handy. If you’re freaking out looking for a spatula in the drawer while something starts to burn, you’ll end up with no spatula and no dish
  3. Read a recipe before you start cooking. You should only be referring to it to remember the tricky bits while you cook
  4. Practice new or strange recipes on willing victims before plating it up for guests (god knows how many times I haven’t followed my own advice on this one). Hungry dishwashers are easy to replace if you poison one
  5. Switch on the oven as a first step. If you’re waiting for that thing to get to 180 while your batter starts to split, you’re sunk
  6. No kitchen is ever too small. If you’ve run out of space you’re either too ambitious, or too messy
  7. Speaking of which, clean up after yourself as you go. That way, when things fall to pieces at least you know which bits of the meal you can actually save (and not have to decide if the mess the roast has fallen into has made it inedible)
  8. Plan how you’re going to assemble a meal before you even start. There will be a sequence you need to follow to make it efficient, hassle-free, and delicious
  9. Too many cooks spoil the broth, unless you have rapport
  10. Mise en Place, or “Prep”, is the most important thing you’ll ever do. Carefully lay out each part of the meal as you intend to cook it. Cut vegetables and keep them in separate bowls for example. DO NOT start cutting or peeling garlic after you’ve put the onion in the pan…
  11. Fresh is always best
  12. Chopping boards, keep them wood. Wooden boards have the right amount of give, and hardly ever turn a knife like those awful plastic ones
  13. Chopping boards, never ever wash them in detergent. A strong blast of very hot water and a metal scrubber (like a goldilocks) is all you’ll need. Plastic boards are proven to harbour all kinds of bacteria, while a good wooden board, treated right, is relatively sterile
  14. There is a difference between social, and obsessive or gourmet cooking. Make sure you own up to which you’re practising.

And that is the world according to Che (will add more when I remember them…, or when people point them out.)

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