• On a Clare Day – Beef cheeks in red wine

    On a Clare Day might be one of our favourite pun titles, but it’s also a wonderful book, and is launching today as part of the Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend. Jeni and Burt Surmon’s tale of leaving their city life to start a winery includes a number of delicious recipes, a few which of course incorporate some of their Mt Surmon wines! These beef cheeks sound like exactly the thing for an Autumn Sunday lunch.


    Beef (calf) cheeks in red wine

    Ingredients for 4 servings


    4 beef cheeks

    150 mL olive oil

    1 x 400 g tin of tomatoes

    2 tbs tomato paste

    1 onion, chopped

    1 red capsicum, chopped

    2 sticks celery, chopped

    5 cloves garlic, chopped

    handful of parsley, chopped

    2 springs of sage, chopped

    2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped

    4 sprigs of thyme, chopped

    salt, pepper, grated nutmeg

    250 mL beef stock

    half a bottle of Nebbiolo (Mt Surmon or otherwise!)

    Wash the cheeks well. Put half of the oil into a large saucepan and sauté the cheeks until brown on both sides. Remove the cheeks.

    Add the remaining oil, vegetables, tinned tomatoes and tomato paste to the pot, cook for a few minutes then add the garlic, spices and herbs, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop from sticking, in which case add a little stock.

    Now add the cheeks, stock and red wine. Reduce the heat, put the lid on and cook gently for 5 hours.

    Want to know what it’s like to start a winery? Find our more about On a Clare Day here.

  • Furry friends, deadly pests or tasty treats?

    The Easter Bunny may be cute and cuddly, but he’s a real pest in Australia (which is why we recommend the Haigh’s Easter Bilby instead – see below). A century ago Australia was home to 10 billion rabbits, thriving in their adopted home. Storyteller Bruce Munday finds the rabbit saga irresistible, and has collected it into his new book, Those Wild Rabbits. The book features this excerpt from the Age in 1925, including a recipe for baked rabbit with apple sauce.

    Rabbit, the Cheapest White Meat

    Visitors from England often express surprise that rabbits, which are a delicacy in Europe, are often despised here. They are the cheapest of the white meats with us, and if properly prepared, yield to none, in delicacy of flavor. White meats are both more digestible and freer from those deleterious substances which in beef and mutton contribute to the rise of blood pressure and all its attendant evils. During the winter months first-quality rabbits are difficult to obtain, but the young spring ones are just coming on to the market now, and lend themselves to varieties of tasty cooking. Part of the unpopularity of rabbit here is probably due to the fact that methods of preparation are stereotyped, but the following recipes will give dishes which are both economical and appetising.

    Baked Rabbit with Apple Sauce

    Before cooking always soak the rabbit in salt and water for 30 minutes.

    Take a moderate sized rabbit and spread over it slices of carrot, onions, lemon and bacon. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, mixed spices and a few cloves, enclose in greased paper and cook in a hot oven. Make the sauce from six apples, the juice and grated rind of an orange, sugar and a little water. Pour the sauce over the rabbit and serve hot as possible. N.B. – If preferred, the rabbit can be stuffed before baking with any ordinary forcemeat.

    (Age, 20 October 1925, p. 6)

    ‘Western Beach’ (SA), 1900 [State Library of South Australia]

    Find out more about Those Wild Rabbits here.

  • Anchovy Special (from your own brick oven)

    Quiet weekend ahead? How about building your own brick oven? Russell Jeavons channel his years of running a pizza restaurant on the Fluerieu Peninsula into his essential guide, Your Brick OvenAnd once the work is done, Russell provides plenty of delicious recipe suggestions, like this Anchovy Special.


    A version of the French Pissaladiere, this is how we deal with those kinky anchovy people. Anchovy haters should skip this one or leave the anchovies out. Anchovy lovers, read on. The sweet onions and salty olives and anchovies will bring out the best in your crisp white and sparkling wines. We use a fresh tin of anchovies for each pizza as they deteriorate very quickly after the tin is opened.

    1 large onion, sliced

    olive oil

    1 red capsicum

    1 zucchini, small to medium

    pepper and salt

    250 g prepared dough

    1/2 cup seeded black olive halves (good ones! with flavour!)

    1 x 25 g tin of anchovies in olive oil

    chopped parsley

    Sweeten the sliced onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a small pot over low heat. They should be soft, creamy and sweet, but not caramelised. Cut the four sides off the capsicum and slice the zucchini into 5 millimetre long ways strips. Toss the zucchini strips and capsicum in a bowl with a little oil and pepper and salt, then lay them on a roasting tray and cook fast over coals raked to the front of your oven. The aim is to use sufficient heat to colour them on both sides without overcooking. This is an essential brick-oven skill also used to cook vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, capsicums, pumpkin and fennel bulb. Tear the capsicum into strips1 centimetre wide.

    Press out your dough and spread on the sliced onions. Place the vegetable strips with kinks and the olives pushed down into the onion. Open the tin of anchovies and lay them around. Season with salt and pepper. After cooking, sprinkle with chopped parsley for the essential fresh finish.

    Brick oven and pizza dough, both under construction.

    Hungry? Inspired? Find out more about Your Brick Oven here.

  • The real health benefits of almonds

    Do you eat your almonds raw or ‘activated’? Do you swear by them as a hangover cure? In her book Willunga Almonds Helen Bennetts discusses some of the real and imagined health benefits of almonds over the years. We’ve also included her delicious recipe for Smoked trout, almond and potato salad. Perfection!

    Willunga Almonds by Helen Bennetts

    Since ancient times various health benefits have been attributed to almonds. Greek physician Hippocrates and his followers used almonds to treat coughs, as an aphrodisiac and for weight gain.

    Along with other medicinal uses of almonds inherited from the Greeks, the Romans believed that bitter almonds could counteract the effects of wine. Plutarch wrote of a well-known heavy drinker who would eat five or six bitter almonds and avoid drunkenness. This was attributed to the bitterness of the almonds that ‘dries the inside of the body and keeps the veins from being overcharged’.

    An ancient Chinese medical text, Materia Dietetica, lists many uses for almonds including bringing down Qi, relieving coughing, reducing acute pain in the heart and lungs and removing intestinal blockages.

    More recent studies claim that almonds help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes and to reduce cholesterol, facilitate weight loss and inhibit cancer cell growth – little wonder that they are promoted as a ‘superfood’.

    Almonds contain protein, carbohydrate and concentrations of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, as well as vitamins from groups B and E. They also have a high content of fat (both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and the highest fibre content of any nut or seed. In the last decade the connection between almonds and health has been an important aspect of the promotion of almonds and has been linked to a dramatic increase in consumption, and plantings, of almonds.

    Almonds are included in many specialised diets. They are a source of protein for vegetarians and vegans; almond meal and almond flour can replace wheat flour in gluten-free diets for coeliacs and people who wish to avoid gluten; and almond milk is a common substitute for cow’s milk for people who are lactose intolerant.

    Almonds have a low glycaemic index (GI) and are often recommended for people with type 2 diabetes, or who want to control their weight. Studies have shown that snacking on raw almonds can help control blood sugar levels and moderate appetite. This may be because of their crunchiness and the need to chew them well but also because almonds are a rich source of magnesium, which is important for carbohydrate metabolism.

    The so-called Paleolithic diet popularised the idea of ‘activated’ almonds – almonds soaked in water for at least 12 hours and then dehydrated. Proponents say this process removes phytates and allows nutrients to be absorbed. Others maintain there is no basis for this claim and that phytates have anti-cancer and anti-oxidant properties that are lost in the process. Debate and research continues.

    Despite their health benefits, some people are allergic to almonds. There has been an unexplained growth in the number of allergic reactions to different foods in the last 20 years. Allergic reactions to tree nuts (a group that includes almonds) are not as common as reactions to peanuts. However, care should be exercised when introducing almonds to young children and they should be avoided by people who have experienced severe reactions to peanuts and other tree nuts.

    Smoked trout, almond and potato salad

    Trout and almonds are a classic combination made famous through the French dish Trout Amandine: pan-fried trout garnished with flaked almonds browned in butter. This salad is a delicious combination for lunch when the weather warms up.

    Serves 4–6

    8 waxy potatoes (such as Bintje or Nicola), cut into chunks

    1 smoked trout, skin and bones removed and flaked into pieces

    1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

    2 spring onions, finely chopped

    1 clove garlic, crushed

    1 tbsp capers

    Zest and juice of 1 lemon

    2 tbsp olive oil

    Salt and pepper

    3 radishes, finely sliced

    80 g chopped almonds

    Place chopped potatoes in saucepan of boiling water and simmer until just cooked. Set aside to cool.

    In a bowl place flaked pieces of trout, parsley, spring onions, garlic and capers. Mix through potatoes, oil and lemon zest and juice and season to taste.

    Garnish with radish slices and chopped almonds.

    For more about the health benefits of almonds and more delicious recipes, check out Willunga Almonds here.

    Willunga Almonds cover.6 CE.indd

  • An easy cupcake recipe for friends with allergies

    It can be difficult finding recipes for friends or family with allergies, which is where Linda Bosnic’s wonderful One Bowl Allergy Free Baking is such a help. She explains the reasons for the book best – or just bake the chocolate cupcakes and see for yourself!

    One Bowl Allergy Free Baking, perfect for friends or children with allergies

    All of the recipes in this book are nut-free, dairy-free and egg-free and there are also many recipes suited to those with a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance. I hope One Bowl Allergy-free Baking will encourage people (whether affected by allergies or not) back into the kitchen so no one need miss the delights of freshly baked treats warm from the oven.

    Chocolate cupcakes

    This simple but decadent ‘wet and dry’ recipe is always a hit. The gluten-free version makes denser muffin-like cakes, best baked on the day of serving.

    Preparation time: 15 minutes
    Servings: About 10–12 cupcakes

    1 and a 14 cups SR flour (or gluten-free SR flour)
    12 cup caster sugar
    14 cup cocoa
    12 cup dairy-free, nut-free chocolate chips
    13 cup vegetable oil
    23 cup water
    1 teaspoon vanilla essence

    Preheat oven to 170ºC and grease and line a 12-hole cupcake/muffin tray with paper cases.

    1. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.

    2. Make a well in centre of dry ingredients and add wet ingredients.

    3. Mix together until they form a batter (not too much mixing).

    4. Spoon into prepared pan, filling close to the top of each case.

    5. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into cupcake comes out clean.

    6. Cool in tray for 5 minutes before turning out onto wire rack.

    7. Once cold, ice with chocolate icing (see below) and decorate as desired.

    Chocolate icing

    Preparation time: 5 minutes

    1 and a 12 cups icing sugar (or gluten-free icing sugar)
    2 tablespoons cocoa
    2 to 2 and a 12 tablespoons boiling water

    1. Place icing sugar and cocoa into a medium bowl and mix.

    2. Add water and stir until smooth and well combined.

    3. If icing is too watery, add more icing sugar. If icing is too firm, add more water.

    For more recipes perfect for those with allergies (or anyone who likes baking), read more about One Bowl Allergy Free Baking here.

  • The Bennetts, a brand new Christmas drink

    The weather reports are in and it’s going to be a stinking hot Christmas right across Australia, with SA copping the worst of it. But never fear! Our wonderful new author Helen Bennetts has the perfect Christmas day solution. Introducing the Bennetts,* a brand new cocktail that’s a mix of almond granita and prosecco. Intrigued? We were serving them at the launch of Helen’s book Willunga Almonds and everyone was raving!

    First you’ll need almond granita, and the recipe is provided in Willunga Almonds:

    Serves 4

    Mix 4 cups of almond milk [WP: Helen provides a recipe to make your own, but store bought works fine too] with cup of sugar until sugar dissolves. Either put mixture in an ice-cream maker and freeze or put in the freezer, removing every 20 minutes or so to stir and break up crystals.

    Once the granita is ready, put two tablespoons of granita in a glass then top up with prosecco (we suggest Coriole prosecco, of course). Be careful, it will fizz up. And voilà, the Bennetts is served. Cool, refreshing, and perfect to get you through another hot Aussie Christmas.


    Willunga Almonds the Bennetts cocktailFor Helen’s almond granita and more fabulous almond recipes and stories, pick up your copy of Willunga Almonds here.

    If you’re still hoping to grab a copy of this or any of our other titles before Christmas, our Mile End store will be open from 9 am to 5 pm today and tomorrow, and from 10 am to 4 pm on Christmas Eve. If you can’t make it to our shop, please check all good bookstores.

    Thank you all for your support this Christmas season!

    *Wakefield tested and approved.

  • The Only Christmas Cake Recipe You’ll Need

    For a reliable Christmas Cake that will please everyone, the South Australian Country Women’s Association have you covered. Actually, they have you covered for any type of cake you could possibly think of (in their Calendar of Cakes) but it’s Christmas so let’s just stick to the Christmas cake for the moment. Plenty of time to try all the rest in the new year!

    Good Christmas Cake, Calendar of Cakes

    Preparation time: 40 minutes and soaking time

    Cooking time: 2.5 hours and half an hour with oven off

    Serves: 60

    Equipment: 2 x 23 cm round or square cake tins, or 1 large cake (28 cm round) and 2 smaller cakes (1 x 16 cm round and 1 x 13 cm round)


    450 g currants
    450 g sultanas
    450 g raisins
    1 tablespoon glacé ginger, chopped
    1/2 cup (125 mL) brandy or port
    450 g unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups packed dark brown sugar
    2 teaspoons ground allspice
    1 teaspoon ground mace
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    2 tablespoons golden syrup
    9 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten
    1 heaped cup plain flour
    1 heaped cup self-raising flour
    Pinch of salt
    1.5 cups blanched almonds, to garnish


    Place dried fruit and brandy together in a large non-metallic mixing bowl, stirring to combine. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

    Preheat oven to 200°C (180°C fan-forced) and lightly grease 2 x 23 cm cake tins or 28 cm, 16 cm and 13 cm round tins and line with a double thickness of baking paper.

    Place softened butter, sugar, allspice, mace, cinnamon, nutmeg and golden syrup together in a large mixing bowl. Using electric beaters, beat the mixture until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

    Gradually add the soaked fruit, flours and salt to the butter mixture, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until well combined.

    Spoon mixture into prepared cake tins and smooth the tops. Decorate the cakes with blanched almonds and place tins in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 140°C (120°C fan-forced) for 1.5 hours for small cakes, 2.5 hours for 23 cm cakes and 3 hours for 28 cm cake or until a skewer comes out of the centre of each cake clean.

    Turn the oven off and leave large cakes to cool in the oven for a further 30 minutes. For the smaller cakes, remove from oven and cover with foil to cool for 30 minutes. Leave cakes to cool in tins. Remove cooled cakes from tins and peel off baking paper. Wrap in clean baking paper and foil, and keep in airtight containers until ready to eat.

    Gorgeous cake pic by Jacqui Way

  • How to make Coke Chicken

    We can’t believe that we helped bring Dean Lahn’s Beat Heat Eat recipes to the public. Coke chicken?? Really??! What’s even worse is that the damn thing tastes delicious …

    Dean Lahn's Beat Heat Eat

    You’re not going to find this dish in any self-respecting kitchen – that’s why you are going to make it in yours. Give in to the Dark Side.


    (A) 1 litre Coke
    (B) tomato sauce (optional)
    (C) 4 chicken breasts
    (or similar quantity of drumsticks and/or wings)

    Pork chops can be cooked in the same way.

    SERVES: 4

    PREP TIME: 5 minutes

    COOK TIME: Somewhere between 45 minutes and 1 hour


    (1) 1 large pot


    Mix together the Coke and tomato sauce in a large pot. Use 2 glugs of sauce for each chicken breast or 1 glug for each wing or drumstick. And 1 for good luck.

    Dean Lahn's monstrous cooking: Coke Chicken from Beat Heat Eat

    Heat this on the stove top on high until it bubbles, then turn it down to low.

    Throw in the chook and poke it about to cover it in the liquid.

    Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

    Don’t worry about this being soupy at first. The Coke thickens as it cooks.

    For this and more abominable recipes from Dean’s kitchen, grab a copy of Beat Heat Eat here.

  • Paul Hansen’s Orange Cake

    One of the many great stories in Liz Harfull’s The Blue Ribbon Cookbook comes from Paul Hansen, and his delicious orange cake:

    You would be hard-pushed to describe Paul Hansen as a typical show cook. Born and bred at historic Kulcurna Station near Lake Victoria, Paul counts taxidermy, song writing and photography among his many skills. He also makes a mean orange cake. Although he has been known to whip up a six-course dinner party for 80 people to raise money for the local gun club, his training for the task was far from conventional. ‘I work away a lot in mustering camps and I am normally head cook and bottle washer for eight to ten people, but there is not a lot of cake cooking,’ he says.

    Paul Hansen with his orange cake

    Like many country show towns, Renmark has introduced a men’s only cake competition in recent years to generate fresh interest in cookery. The contest is fierce in this Riverland version, which celebrates local produce by insisting the blokes make an orange cake using a recipe provided. Paul won first prize in 2007 with a cake decorated by torchlight on the bonnet of his ute; he had to do it at the last minute after being held up organising entries for the wool section, which he convenes. ‘I don’t take it too seriously. I just came in after work one evening, threw everything into a bowl, mixed it up, put it in the oven and off we went,’ he says. ‘I just did what they said I had to do in the show book.’

    Paul has also been known to enter taxidermy in the craft section. He studied the relatively lost art by correspondence about eighteen years ago, and has sometimes been asked by wildlife services to help preserve animals and birds for display. ‘I don’t know what got me into it,’ he confesses. ‘But I don’t do heads on walls. I am more interested in preservation.’

    Through his volunteering and competing at the show, Paul is following a long-standing family tradition. His great grandfather exhibited at the very first Renmark Show, and the society is due to hold its 100th event in 2010. It comes at a time when the show society is gaining a new lease of life, winning a Community Event of the Year award and drawing more patrons. Among the most popular attractions are the vintage tractor and stationery engine displays, a ute muster, native animal displays, and a giant sandpit for the children.

    Orange Cake from Liz Harfull's Blue Ribbon Cookbook blue_ribbon_cookbook_image_p143b blue_ribbon_cookbook_image_p143c

    Paul Hansen’s Orange Cake

    85 g butter (or margarine), softened
    3 eggs (50 g each)
    114 cups SR flour, sifted
    12 cup castor sugar
    90 ml orange juice
    grated rind of one navel orange

    Preheat the oven to moderate (180 ºC in a conventional electric oven).

    Grease a 20 cm round cake pan, and line the base.

    Put the butter, eggs, flour, sugar, orange juice and rind in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch.

  • Baked Stuffed Sardines

    Victoria Cosford’s Amore and Amaretti is a food-lover’s delight: a romance, an escape and a tribute to Italian cooking all in one.

    Here, she describes old widower Annunzio, with whom she had to share a flat at Portoferraio while they were both working at the same restaurant. At first she is daunted by the old man, but soon she finds comfort in his gentleness and eccentricity, not to mention his baked stuff sardines …


    Annunzio soaks his underwear in Omino Bianco bleach; returning to our apartment, I see the line of large, blindingly white square underpants and billowing singlets which marks his bedroom window. Each evening before work, he and I pause briefly for a spumantino at the same bar.

    At night after Annunzio and I have scrubbed the kitchen down, we set up a small table and two chairs out the back of the kitchen and have our dinners. I only ever eat two things, which I alternate: char-grilled swordfish with Annunzio’s lemon-olive oil emulsion drizzled over the top, or bulgy buffalo mozzarella sliced with ovals of sweet San Marzano tomatoes and spicy basil. This too is Annunzio’s favourite meal, the tomatoes at their peak of ripeness, their glossy egg shapes sliced vertically and arranged over the cheese.

    All Annunzio’s movements are ponderous. He rotates his thick fingers slowly over the plate, salt and pepper scattering. The basil leaves, the new green olive oil, and then the slow messy business of eating – teeth clicking, oil spraying, bread sopping up the juices and gumming his conversation. We both eat too much bread and drink too much wine, and then wander, two unlikely friends, down to Bar Roma at the water’s edge to sit watching the boats. Annunzio tells me stories from his life over his baby whisky; I spoon pistachio-green gelato into my mouth from a silver dish and feel safe and very young.

    Annunzio’s stories all follow the same pattern: past restaurants he has owned or managed, which failed, leaving him jobless, defeated, disillusioned and desperately poor. People he had trusted who had turned their backs; countries he had lived in, whose languages he had learned, which had finally disenchanted  him. The woman he should have married and whom he still loves instead of the sick woman who was his wife. His huge yellow teeth seem to bite something – perhaps the air – as he speaks. The clicking boats with lives of their own, their rhythmic nodding, canvas clapping, are like some massive beast slumbering restlessly. That he can make me feel like this – sweet somehow, and pure, and uncorrupted – is one of the best reasons for loving him.

    Annunzio’s blunt fingers press mixture into splayed sardines. L’impasto consists of bread soaked in milk, finely chopped parsley and garlic, ground mortadella, grated parmesan, sultanas and pine nuts. He shows me how to pinch up the sides of the sardines and place them in neat rows in a baking tray, slipping a bay leaf in between each. Then he splashes white wine over the top and bakes them for about fifteen minutes.

    Sarde al Beccafico

    (Baked stuffed sardines)

    2 slices day-old rustic bread
    2 tablespoons sultanas
    2 tablespoons pine nuts
    80–100 grams mortadella, as finely chopped as possible
    2 tablespoons grana or parmesan, freshly grated
    Grated rind 1 lemon
    2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
    2/3 bunch parsley, finely chopped
    Salt and pepper
    750 grams fresh sardines, filleted and butterflied
    Bay leaves
    White wine
    Olive oil

    Preheat oven to 200 °C. Soak bread in milk briefly, then squeeze dry. Place in a bowl together with sultanas, pine nuts, mortadella, cheese, lemon rind, garlic and parsley, season with salt and pepper and combine well. Place about a teaspoon of mixture in the middle of each sardine and arrange on baking tray with a bay leaf between each. Sprinkle wine over the top and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve as part of an antipasto.

    Amore and Amaretti, where you can find Annunzio's recipe for Baked Stuffed Sardines