Christmas in July Part Two – Roast Pork dinner & mini puddings

Santa, please stop here....

Santa, please stop here….

Firstly apologies for posting this right at the end of July, but it has been cold and the fire in the front room  has been too tempting, so the computer has been neglected.  Anyway, I cooked a lovely roast pork dinner the other night, with crackling, gravy, apple sauce, roast potatoes, roast beetroot, devilled carrots and peas.  I followed this up with mini puddings – Strawberry and White Chocolate.  Phew, did I need a nap afterwards!

Roast Pork with Gravy, Vegetables and Applesauce

Roast Pork and Trimmings

Roast Pork and Trimmings


I used an easy carve pork roast – it was all meat and fat (for crackling) – no bone.  I know the bone is supposed to add lots more flavour, but I hate carving, so it was an easy option.

I haven’t specified quantities for the meat and vegetables as this will depend on the size of the crowd you are feeding.  For five people I used a piece of pork that was 1.7kg, three whole beetroots, three small potatoes a person, four carrots and about two cups of potatoes.  We had some leftovers (although no potatoes – they always seem to go quickly!)


Preheat the oven so that it is really hot.  Try about 250 degrees celcius.  While it is heating, slash the rind on the pork a few times – about 3 – 4 cm apart.  Don’t cut too deeply, but you have to break through the skin.  Rub a good oil over the rind, I prefer olive, or extra virgin olive.  Then rub salt in all over the oiled surface.  You can then put the pork in a baking dish.  Sometimes I sprinkle herbs over the meat, sage is good with pork, it depends on what else I am cooking.  When the oven is hot, put the pork in, uncovered (if you cover the dish or put the pork in an oven bag, the rind will go rubbery).  Cook on high heat for about 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190 or 180 for fan forced.  You should then cook the pork for about 20-30 minutes for each 500g of meat.

With about and hour and a quarter to go until serving, put the beetroot in the oven – see below for method.

Check it at the earliest time by using a skewer and if the juices run clear, it will be cooked.  If the crackling is done at this point, you can cut it off and put it aside.

At this point you need to get the peas, carrots and apples prepared and start cooking them.  Once they are on, you should mix the puddings and get them ready.

After it is cooked, take it out of the oven, cut the crackling off if you haven’t already, cover it loosely and let it rest for at least half an hour.  Leave the baking dish aside with the pork fat in it, you will need this for the gravy.


Cut the crackling into bite sized pieces and hide from the family until you are ready to eat, or they will steal it every time they visit you in the kitchen offering “to help”.

Roast beetroot

Top and tail them, don’t peel them unless you want beetroot juice all over the baking dish.  Put a little oil in a second baking dish.  Bake for just over an hour.  After about half an hour put in some small potatoes whole (or halve larger ones), shake the dish well to move the beets around and coat the potatoes, then bake for the remaining 45 minutes.  Peel and halve to serve.

Some people sprinkle a little salt over their roasting vegetables, but there will be enough in the pork gravy, so you don’t need to do it this time.


Put the peas into a microwave safe container, just cover with water.  A trick my late mother in law taught me to keep peas green and make them soft is to add a little bicarbonate of soda (about half a teaspoon) and sugar (again, about half a teaspoon).  Cover and cook in microwave on high for 8 minutes.  While they are cooking, you can start the carrots.  When the peas are done, put them aside (you will be using the microwave again for the apple sauce) and they can be reheated for a minute when you are ready to serve.


Peel and chop the carrots into thin slices.  Put into a pot and just cover with lightly salted water.  Boil until just tender.  Then drain the water into a jug, reserving for later.  Then put the carrots back into the pot with two tablespoons of butter, and fry, stirring occassionally for five minutes.  Then add half a tablespoon of brown sugar, a pinch of mustard powder and three shakes of cayenne pepper.  Saute until well combined.  You can turn the heat off, leave them in the pot, and quickly reheat them when ready to serve.


Peel two large apples, core and chop into small cubes.  Put into a microwave safe container with enough water to cover and a teaspoon of brown sugar.  Most apple sauce recipes will tell you to use cinnamon, however when it is to go with pork I sometimes use a small sprig of sage instead.  Cook for 10 minutes, or until soft.  Mash.  Spoon into a small serving dish, this can be served cold, the microwave is now free to reheat the peas!


Return to the baking dish that has the liquified pork fat in it.  Drain off all but a tablespoon.  Using gluten free cornflour, add enough to make a thick paste and mix well.  Use the water reserved from the carrots to make a thin gravy.  Put the baking dish on a medium heat and stir well.  Use caution – cornflour may go a bit starchy if you let it boil too much.  Keep stirring and adding the carrot water until the mixture appears to be a good, reasonably thick consistency.  If you run out of carrot water, you can steal some from the peas.

Now comes the really hectic part of the roast – the serving.  At this point you will need to take the beetroot out of the baking dish, and try to peel it.  If it is well cooked it should “rub off” with kitchen paper, but a pair of tongs and a small paring knife might help.  It will be hot, so you might burn your fingers if you aren’t careful.  You can use gloves, as there will be some juice coming out, but it will wash off reasonably easily.  If you can get someone else to carve while you do this, simultaneously reheating peas, carrots and keeping an eye on the gravy, it will be a big help.

Just as you are sitting down to dinner, put your prepared mini puddings in the oven after turning it down to 160 (fan forced), so they cook while you eat, and you get a little break between courses.

Put everything in serving bowls/plates and enjoy!


Strawberry and White Chocolate mini puddings – serves 4

Strawberry and White Chocolate mini puddings

Strawberry and White Chocolate mini puddings

1/3 cup strawberry jam

1/4 cup boiling water

50g butter, at room temperature

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

3/4 cup gluten free SR flour, sifted

2 tbsp milk

1/4 cup white chocolate bits

Whipped cream to serve

Grease four ramekins of half cup capacity (I spray with cooking spray).  Combine jam with boiling water and divide amongst the ramekins.  Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy, adding vanilla essence, then the egg until well combined.  Fold in half the flour, then the milk, then the remaining flour.  Gently stir in the choc bits.  Spoon into ramekins, tent each ramekin with some foil and place in a large baking dish.  Pour boiling water into dish until it comes half way up the sides of the ramekins then bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.  Rest for five minutes, then invert in a bowl.  You can spoon a little extra jam over the top if you want and then top with whipped cream (not shown in photo).

Raspberry is the traditional flavour combination with white chocolate, but I love strawberry jam so make it this way instead.  You can use raspberry if you prefer, or be wild and experiment with your favourite jam flavour to see how the combinations work for you.


Now my last word is – I know this isn’t really ‘lazy’ cooking, but Christmas doesn’t come around often does it? (I tend to do much for the real one!).  This was particularly hectic for a weeknight, and I was really happy to sit down with a nice cup of Earl Grey afterwards!

Christmas In July Part One – Chocolate biscuit ‘puddings’ with lime & macadamia fudge

Santa, please stop here....

Santa, please stop here….

As it is often so hot at Christmas time, the cold depths of July are a good time (excuse) for eating all that yummy, sugary, stodgy Christmas food.

I thought I would start off with some easy table snacks.  Both of these can be quickly made with few ingredients, and you can make them the night before (you will have to make the fudge the day before anyway).  You could save them for coffee after dinner, but who has the room for food after dinner?

Chocolate biscuit ‘puddings’ with lime & macadamia fudge.

Chocolate biscuit 'puddings' and lime & macadamia fudge

Chocolate biscuit ‘puddings’ and lime & macadamia fudge


One packet of chocolate royal biscuits (there should be twelve in the packet);

12 Jaffas;

6 spearmint leaves lollies;

Approximately 1/4 cup melted white chocolate.

Cut the spearmint leaves into half, and then half again.  Melt the white chocolate and let it cool slightly.  Pour over biscuits so that it looks like cream running down.  While still soft, press a jaffa onto the top of each biscuit, then two pieces of spearmint lolly.  Let this set.


400g can condensed milk;

500g white chocolate buttons, or chopped white cooking chocolate;

150g chopped macadamia nuts;

Finely grated zest of two limes.

Line a 18ch square baking pan with greased cling wrap.  Melt condensed milk & chocolate together (I prefer to do this in a bowl over a pan of boiling water, but you can do this in the microwave.  If desired, put the two ingredients in a microwave safe bowl, and cook for 30 seconds at a time, stirring well between each.  If you don’t do it in short bursts, the chocolate will sieze and you will have to throw it out).  Add nuts & zest, mix well.  Pour into pan and refridgerate overnight before cutting into small squares (it is fairly rich, so small squares will be sufficient).


Merry Not-Christmas.

Beef Stew

Winter is truly here.  Night-time temperatures are dropping and even during the day it is cold and damp.  Visually it is attractive, but apart from doing what is necessary (chopping wood for the fire!!) it is the sort of weather where you want to be indoors, and comfort food is what you want.

Fog in our valley - taken at 11am!

Fog in our valley – taken at 11am!

Many years ago, (too many to WANT to remember) I was given a cookbook at my kitchen tea prior to my wedding.  It was very basic and handy and in the early days I tried many recipes from it.  Over the years dishes have evolved as I have added or subtracted, played around with quantities, and discovered new products.  One of my favourite changes is deleting the flour that a cook traditionally coats meat with prior to browning.  The addition of flour is for the dual purpose of coating the meat to enable good browning, and to thicken the gravy later.  As an alternative, instead of the flour, I just brown the meat as is, and then add some LSA mix (depends on quantities of meat) which adds a slightly nutty flavour, and thickens the gravy.  The only ‘downside’ to it is that it doesn’t dissolve like flour, so you do get a slightly grainy texture.  If that doesn’t bother you, give this a try.

You can also vary this recipe by changing the regular potatoes for sweet potatoes, or adding winter root vegetables like turnips, but this is the basic recipe. (In the photo I have used mixed potatoes and sweet potatoes – cut the sweet potatoes a little bigger than the regular potatoes as due to their higher water content they cook more quickly.  Or you could add them a few minutes later than the others).

I cook my beef stew on the stovetop, or in a large electric frypan, this recipe I don’t do in the oven as a casserole.  I have other recipes that I cook that way, but not this one.

The convenience of this recipe is that you can part cook this meal and put it aside for later.  So you could cook it to the point where you are ready to add the vegetables, then let it cool and put it in the fridge (you could even freeze it if you want).  Then, when you are ready to eat it, you can heat it up again, then proceed from adding the vegetables.  This way you could have the dinner part cooked in the fridge, and have it on the table in little more than half an hour.

Beef Stew (to serve four).

Beef Stew

Beef Stew

750g gravy beef (I prefer this to chuck steak as it is easier to trim fat from outside, it has enough fat to make a moist dish but less than chuck);

1 tbsp oil;

1 onion, chopped;

1 large or two small cloves of garlic, chopped;

1/4 cup of LSA mix (Linseed, Sunflower and Almond – available in the health food aisle of the supermarket or in a health food shop);

1 tbsp gluten free worchestershire sauce;

1 tsp salt;

3 shakes pepper;

Sufficient stock – should use about 1 litre, but might use more or less, depends on the mixture and how frequently it boils (you can top up with water if necessary);

Six large potatoes;

3 large carrots;

1 cup frozen peas.

Dice the meat and fry over a medium heat until just browned.  Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and put on a plate.  Fry the onion and garlic until just soft, then return the meat.  Add the worchestershire sauce, salt, pepper and LSA mix and stir.  Add a little stock, stirring, and then add enough to cover the meat, reserving any remaining for later.  Bring to the boil, then turn down to a slow simmer.  Simmer for 2 to 2.5 hours, checking constantly and topping up liquid if necessary.  (Poke or taste the meat at 2 hours and see if it is soft enough or still a bit chewy). Peel and chop potatoes and carrots into fork sized pieces, and add to mixture.  Bring to just under a boil, and cook a further half hour.  Add frozen peas, turn off heat and leave for five minutes.  As your carbs are included in the meal, you don’t need to add any further but can serve with bread to mop up gravy if you like.

Microwave Thai Coconut Rice

Recently I discovered these yummy Thai Chicken Sausages.  Talking to a friend about “What’s for dinner tonight” (you know who you are!) I was musing on what I could serve with them.  My friend suggested coconut rice and steamed asian greens.  Brilliant idea (thank you!!).  I like to microwave my rice, and I also like to use Basmati Rice after being told by a dietician that it has a lower GI than Jasmine rice, so I played around with some standard recipes until I came up with this one.  I put some bok choy in the microwave too (I have a microwave steamer, thank you Tupperware for that idea) and the picture below shows you the result.  Four of us ate, we even had a little rice (and unfortunately some greens – bad family!) left over.

Microwave Thai Coconut Rice

Microwave Thai Coconut Rice

Microwave Thai Coconut Rice

2 cups Basmati Rice (you can of course use Jasmine, which is fragrant but apparently goes straight to sugar in your bloodstream);

400ml tin coconut milk;

1 tin water (fill the tin with water after you empty the milk out and swish it around to get the last bits of milk out);

2 tsp white sugar;

2 tsp lemongrass paste;

Squeeze of lime juice;

Pinch of salt.

Combine all ingredients in a 3 litre microwave safe dish with lid, stir. (I have a stacker dish, I can stack another dish on top so for some of the cooking period this is covered, for some it isn’t).

To stack another dish on top: Cook uncovered for 14 minutes  if you are stacking a steamer for greens, cook for two additional minutes with steamer on it.

If you aren’t stacking, put the lid on for the last two minutes of cooking time (16 minutes in total).

Stand for two minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Decorate with kaffir lime leaf cut into shreds, or coriander leaves.

Nb:  In the photo, I used two bok choy which I steamed, then put the rice in the middle of the dish, surrounded with the greens, then placed the thai chicken sausages on top.

“Green” chicken curry

My sauce really isn’t all that green – I have to confess a loathing of seafood.  I can’t bring myself to use fish sauce in Thai food (yes I know there is shellfish in the curry paste, but I choose to ignore that but cannot get past fish sauce) so instead of fish sauce, I reason that the salt is what the recipe needs, so I substitute soy sauce.  This does colour the sauce a little, but not a lot.  As you can now buy gluten free soy sauce, and the curry paste should be gluten free anyway (check to be sure) this is a gluten free dish.

I also have a slow cooker version, which is very similar, but you use less liquid in a slow cooker, so have to be careful adding vegetables as you don’t want to use ones which will release their water and make your sauce too runny.

It is also my favourite dish in all the world.  A couple of years ago I went on a cruise on P&Os Pacific Pearl.  On the lunch menu in the restaurant, green curry chicken was there.  I realised that I would probably order it every day, and it was probably good that they rotated the menu after a few days and changed it, as clearly I did not have the strength to resist this offering so had to be “made” to order something different.

There you go, a bit of useless trivia for you.

Green Chicken Curry.

Green chicken curry

Green chicken curry

Should take less than an hour from start to finish.  Serves 4 (or just me if I hide it away from everyone else).

1 tbsp olive oil,

500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into fork friendly pieces (you can of course make this with chicken breast, but you have to be careful as this can dry out due to the fact it doesn’t have any fat – thighs do work better here),

1/2 bunch spring onions, cut into 1cm lengths,

1 carrot, diced finely,

1 celery stick,

1 tbsp lemongrass paste,

1 tbsp green curry paste (use more if you like it hot, but my husband is a wimp),

1 tbsp soy sauce,

1 tbsp lime juice and a kaffir lime leaf if you have them (see hint below),

1 tsp brown sugar,

1 400g can coconut milk,

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables, or fresh if you have them,

Cooked rice, to serve.

Heat oil in a heavy based pan on medium to high heat (depending on the tolerance of your pan) and fry onion, celery and carrot for a minute.  Stir through lemongrass paste and green curry paste and fry for two minutes.  Add chicken and brown.  Add coconut milk, sugar, juice, soy sauce and mix well.  Depending on the thickness of the vegetables, you may need to add them now, or if very finely chopped (no cauliflower or broccoli) you can add them closer to the end.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Decorate with extra lime leaves or coriander and serve with lots of rice to soak up all that yummy sauce.


Tip:  Kaffir lime leaves aren’t always the easiest item to source.  But you can freeze them without any preparation and they take virtually no time to defrost once you take them out.  I buy them a handful at a time at Victoria Market, I am sure they will be available at your local market.  Just seal the bag well or put in a well sealed plastic container before you put them in the freezer.