All posts filed under “spreads & condiments

Radish Pickles

I love pickles. I’m the kid who used to actually eat and relish the pickles in a McDonald’s hamburger…back when I still consumed Maccas, (oh youth!). Anyhoo, I guess it’s the mix of briny, sweet and tart which makes my tastebuds go absolutely nuts. I guess it’s not a coincidence that pickles in many cuisines are served to wet the appetite. Unfortunately for people like me, my appetite tends to demolish the pickles on the table rather than ready itself for the main course.

Radish Still Life

Every time I walk past a bunch of radishes at my local market I’m too struck by their beauty to think of what to do with then. At home I’m more likely to use Daikon radishes to cook with but fortunately both are great for pickling! It’s also a good workout for not-used-very-much mandolin V-Slicer.

Standard pickle brine is so easy to make. And you can embellish the following with mustard seeds, chillies, or other herbs and spices.

Pickled Radishes

Pickled Radishes

(makes 1 large Jar)

1 Bunch of Radishes
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup boiled then cooled water (or filter water)
1 1/2 tablespoons Salt
2 1/2 tablespoons Sugar

Wash, de-leaf and trim the radish heads. Slice finely (either mandolin or knife will do)

In a large mason jar pack in the sliced radish.

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a bowl, mix well until sugar and salt dissolve.

Poor the liquid into the jar covering the sliced radish.

Pickles will keep in the fridge for about 1-2 weeks. They can keep for much longer if you sterilise your jars.

Pickled Radishes
Pickled Radishes

Dulce de Leche

I used to be a massive fan of taking shortcuts when cooking. I even have a cookbook titled Faking It. You know sometimes it’s much easier buying the ingredients, doing less cooking and more rearranging on a plate. However more recently when I’ve had the time and energy to devote an afternoon or a late night to cooking, sometimes I’d like to take up the challenge of doing something from scratch.

Which brings me to the…Ah yes… the ubiquitous South American Caramel, Dulce de Leche, or Manjar Blanco as some would call it. Both names I can’t pronounce very well but I do know it’s damn tasty. On toast, with fruit, as cake filling, it’s multipurposefulness is a natural extension of its caramel moreishness.

But the most common way that people make it at home is by boiling a can of condensed milk.  I think that’s kinda cheating a little. So this is the pure way, the long way, the way that needs utmost Zen and patience, because you’ll be at the stovetop stirring this concoction for the better part of an hour.  Play some music, watch a film, think of it as cooking led meditation.

Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche

Dulce de Leche

Adapted from SBS Food Safari

(makes around 750ml)

1 litre full cream milk
200g sugar
40g brown sugar
30g glucose syrup (or corn syrup)
1/2 tablespoon salt
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate soda (aka Baking Soda)

In a medium pot add the butter, 1 cup of the milk, sugar, bicarb soda and the vanilla. Over medium heat bring the mixture to a boil stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

When the mixture turns a caramel colour add another cup of milk and the brown sugar. Continue stirring. When the mixture thickens and darkens again add another cup of milk.

Once thickened again add the rest of the milk, salt and the glucose syrup. Reduce the heat to low and continue stirring until the mixture is thick and custardy.

Leave to cool before pouring into a bowl or jar.

Try and keep your hands off it for it to last a couple of months in the fridge.

Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche



I had an interesting conversation in the office this week on the merits of cooking, and wanting to cook. For those who didn’t see a point in cooking, the reason came down to, it’s just food, it’s transient, we eat for energy we poop it out the other end, there’s nothing more to it. Sure it tastes good for like 10 min, but that’s about it. We have eat every day to survive but in our busy lives, cooking has become somewhat of a tedious chore. It’s an interesting train of thought, one which I don’t subscribe to but one which intrigues me nonetheless.. For me however, and I think for a lot of others, food is intrinsically tied to family…to culture…to daily habits. But I do sometimes wish I could just approach food just as an energy source, I think my waistline would thank me profusely in return.

From the casual chat to mum while she prepares dinner to the ultimate focus and concentration whilst practising my chopping skills, for me the preparation of meals is also a time for reflection, relaxation and a bit of meditation.

But you can buy the food, and still enjoy the meal which saves you the arduous task of cooking it. But in the end someone has to cook right? It means someone enjoys the merits of cooking enough to sell the produce to others, whether it’s for money, a livelihood or for the actual love of it… or until Soylent Green becomes real…

Making your own condiments, sauces and spreads is pretty much the ultimate in kitchen prep meditation. They take a shitload of time to prep and make and the end result is a jar of something you can pick up for around $3 at the supermarket. But paradoxically they’re also some of the most rewarding items to make as they form the foundations of so many other recipes. For example, this harissa recipe (another from the Weekend in Canberra at Hannahs) forms the bases for another recipe to come this week.  Luckily jars of stuff do keep for a good chunk of time in the fridge, so make it on a lazy weekend and use it during the week.



(from Bourke St Bakery Book, Makes around 500g)

5 red capsicums, seeded, membranes removed and finely chopped
350g brown onions, chopped finely
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small red chilli finely chopped seeds included
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
15g smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
100ml water

Put all the ingredients in a large heavy based saucepan. On low-medium heat, simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 10-20min making sure the sauce doesn’t stick.

You can cook the mixture for less or longer time depending on whether you want chunkish harissa or a paste (Hannah has kept it quite chunky here). You can also blitz in a food processor once cool if you want something a little smoother.

Good to keep in the fridge for at least a week.


Homemade Nutella (Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spread)

Homemade Nutella

I feel like the older you get, the younger you actually become. Having had the privilege of experiencing new things you keep coming back to what is most familiar and when it comes to food, the tastes you grew up with.

Now I didn’t grow up incredibly rich, and at the big weekly shop at the local supermarket I was only ever allowed 1 treat, which usually was a Mars bar. And If I braved the monthly drive out to the farmers markets, I’d get lucky and be offered a Dagwood dog (aka Pluto pup/corndog). So these 2 simple food items will forever be associated with those childhood memories.

Being an adult now means I get to do my own grocery shopping. So often I come to these items which had populated my childhood, Space food sticks, roll-ups, Le Snacks, Chomp, Party Pies, icey poles etc and I’d often stop to play out this internal dialogue.

Weird Part of Brain: Go on, you’re alone, no one’s going to judge you if you by that. They’ll just think you have kids
Me: That’s not a very good reason is it? And oh…ewww, I’m old enough to have kids?
Brain: Well there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Me: Yeah but…they’re not really healthy are they?
Brain: Hey…hey…everything in moderation. And guess what??? YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO ASK YOUR PARENTS IF YOU CAN!!!
Me: So does that mean you’re giving me the permission Brain?
Brain: Yes…
Me: Okay, cool…in the trolley she goes…

It’s weird that the act of asking for permission is so ingrained from childhood. I guess we still have to ask for permission at work all the time, but in other facets of life I still find it hard to accept that, oh wait, I don’t actually have to ask for permission or justify things to other people. It’s a massive step into adulthood I guess…and back to childhood tastes.

Getting back to childhood tastes actually, Nutella, gee whizz, that shit was the bomb right? (and still is!) On bread, on fruit, on anything…by itself. It was like eating childhood itself; sweet, nutty and full of sunshine. I remember I used to swap my Nutella sandwiches in 3rd grade with this kid called Jeff. To the envy of the rest of us, he was lucky enough to have a lunch order every day, be it a sausage rolls, a pie or canteen pizza etc. But he LOVED Nutella, and to my downfall I could never say no to a sausage roll and tomato sauce. So I would swap half my Nutella sandwich with half his sausage roll. I always thought I had the better end of the bargain, I mean what is the cost of half a Nutella Sandwich with white bread? Significantly less than a school canteen sausage roll I gather but then again for someone who doesn’t have access to Nutella, maybe it means more?

So without any real adults saying No, as you get older a Jar of Nutella goes straight to the waistline…because you don’t have to justify it with bread anymore… just a spoon. But occasionally the cloying sweetness can get a bit too much…or really a bit too dangerous actually.
So here’s a darker, richer, healthier and a bit more adult version of a childhood favourite. You know all that dark chocolate you bought to convince yourself that should you consume chocolate it’s better to eat the dark version…but since then it’s just been sitting in the pantry whilst you and everyone around you consume every other type of chocolate? (Yeah even the Turkish delight in a box of Cadbury Favourites)…well you finally have a use for it.

Homemade Nutella
Homemade Nutella

Homemade Nutella

(Makes about 450ml)

160g hazelnuts
100g Dark 70% cocoa chocolate
2 tablespoon cocoa
30g butter
80g sugar
3 tablespoon milk powder dissolved in 125ml hot water
50ml whole milk

Roast the hazelnuts in the oven till brown. Using a tea towel peel whilst still warm.

Melt chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Once well incorporated, mix in the cocoa, sugar, milk powder mixture and milk.

In a food processor, blitz the hazelnuts until it becomes a paste. Depending on your processor and how smooth you want the paste, this can take between 5-15min. Always stop and start, allowing the motor to rest. Add in the liquid mixture into the food processor with the hazelnut paste and blitz until well mixed and smooth.

Pour into sterilised jars and keep in the fridge. The Spread will set harder once in the fridge, and can be kept up to 3 weeks. (Ha but try and make it last that long)

Homemade Nutella
Homemade Nutella
Homemade Nutella