Barley Risotto with Mushrooms

I made this when we got home from a road trip on the week-end.  Whiling away the long hours  in the car, thinking about this and that. About how Jen had told me once how when the boys went camping they made risotto on the camp fire and substituted the stock with coconut milk…. it all got me thinking and creating when we got home.



Ready to eat!

it again tonight, I think I’ve fine tuned it enough to post it for everyone to use- this is a flavourful, richly delicious meal in one! Diary free- entirely vegan.  Also great served with a green salad on the side and some roasted vegetables: I did purple carrots and baby parsnips tonight. Dad, long adverse to mushrooms, ate a steak.



  • 1.5 cups barley , washed and drained in a colander
  • 1 x 400 ml can of light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups fresh button mushrooms
  • 3/4 to 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (flat leaf parsley or basil)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pepper and salt to taste


  1. In a heavy based pot, heat the oil and fry the garlic till golden. Take care not to burn.
  2. Add the drained barley to the garlic as it turns gold, and stir well for two minutes.
  3. The chopped button mushrooms are now ready to be added.
  4. On a separate burner, warm the coconut milk over a low flame. Add  400 ml of water to the coconut milk.
  5. As for a risotto, add a ladle full of the coconut milk to the barley, every 2 minutes or so, stirring constantly.
  6. Lower the heat to a simmer and as the milk is absorbed by the barley grains, add a little more milk.
  7. Continue the process, stirring constantly.
  8. Add the thoroughly softened porcini mushrooms to the pot together with the water it is soaking in, and season to taste.
  9. Test the tenderness of the grains. The barley should be firm but tender.
  10. This amount of liquid should bring the barley to a point of being cooked to a good al dente tenderness.
  11. If  it is not quite there, add small amounts of water and keep stirring till you get the desired consistency.
  12. Turn it out into a warmed bowl and sprinkle with the fresh herbs.



Dried porcini mushroom soaking in hot water.


Mid-way:cooking gently in coconut milk


Adding the porcini mushrooms gives it the deeper colour and a richer flavour.

Garlic and Chilli Pasta: Speedy Quick!


Everyone’s always got a plastic container in the fridge at some time with languishing left over spaghetti.  You know, the night before when your eyes were bigger than your tummy, all that.

Well, here’s a perfect delicious speedy quick left overs lunch (or dinner) to make with that cold pasta with virtually nothing- well, some salt and chilli flakes and garlic do the trick. A few parsley stalks would be a bonus.


  • 1 cereal bowl left over cooked spaghetti
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 2 level teaspoons chilli flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1/3 bunch flat leaf parsley (optional)
  • grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs (optional)


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a  large shallow fry pan.
  2. When oil is hot, add garlic and chilli flakes.
  3. Stir until flakes darken and garlic turns golden.
  4. Add spaghetti and toss well so that the flavoured oil coats all the strands well.
  5. Throw in the parsley and toss for long enough for the parsley to soften.
  6. Sprinkle with salt.
  7. Add the extra tablespoon of oil after you’ve removed the pasta from the stove and toss to coat well.


In another small fry pan with no oil, brown the breadcrumbs while stirring slowly until it changes colour to a golden brown.

Add the breadcrumbs at the very end and mix well before serving . Serves 1 for a meal or two for a snack.


Helpful hint:

If you are using more pasta, increase the other ingredients like oil, chilli, garlic, breadcrumbs, etc in half measures.







Guest Chef Dave Cooks A Killer Chilli


After a slew of exams, your cousin Dave decided it was time to de-stress in the kitchen and cook up a huge pot of his famous chilli. There was no resistance from the rest of the house hold.

Chilli con carne, or just plain chill as we call it these days, is not like many think, a Mexican dish. Texan maybe, and Chasen’s  Restaurant in Hollywood is famed for its chilli. Elizabeth Taylor was known to have had some of it packed in dry ice and sent to her while on set filming ‘Cleopatra’ in Rome. There are many legends surrounding chill and the ‘chilli cook off’

Anyway….. all afternoon came industrious sounds from the kitchen, including the clink of a few beer bottles to keep the chef company….

It was worth the wait: we sat down to hearty bowls of rice and chilli and fresh made guacamole which cousin Tash whipped up after being on call all day….

Here’s Dave’s recipe which he kindly shares, but his emphasis is to tweak it to your preference:

2 large onions
4 cloves garlic
3  carrots
3 sticks celery
2 red chillies
olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon chilli powder
1 heaped tablespoon ground cumin
1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
sea salt,
ground black pepper
400 g tinned red kidney beans
2 x 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes
500 g minced beef
1 small bunch fresh coriander
4 cups Chianti
200 g good dark chocolate
I litre beef broth


In a fry pan, heat two tablespoons of olives oil, and in small batches, brown the mice well and set aside.
Peel and chop the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and chillies. Put a heavy based pot on a medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and all your chopped vegetables. Add the chilli powder, cumin and cinnamon with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until softened.

Add the drained kidney beans and the tinned tomatoes. Now add the minced beef. Pour in the beef broth, and the Chianti. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and turn the heat down to a simmer with a lid half on, stirring every now and again to stop it from sticking to the base. Let the pot cook for 1 to 2 hours, allowing the liquid to reduce. In the last half hour, stir in the pieces of chocolate. Adjust seasoning.

Serve the chilli with white rice, sour cream. guacamole, and a green salad. Plenty of lime wedges in a bowl for added zing!


Spicy Sticky Chicken For Chilly Nights (a tongue twister recipe)


It has been unusually cold in Sydney. But I  should really try to keep it all in perspective because only three years ago ‘cold’ for me was about five months long and much of it buried under lots of snow. I think you girls might have had it even colder in your cities  last week than us in Sydney- at least Aussie winters stay green and camellias just keep flowering like crazy!

Dad and I have been so pleased that we’ve seen you both quite regularly this year.  Tonight you are here in transit, about to embark on your study trip to New York. Exciting times ahead.  This morning CBiscuit headed back to her city to her job- you girls coming and going, I do love the revolving door with not too many long weeks between each visit.

Your aunty the Salsa Queen was in town recently for conferences….and dancing. We had the pleasure of sharing a meal with her.  I must put this recipe up as she thinks it will be one that her household will enjoy. I think it will work well for yours too. Easy, spicy and sweet and quick to make.Perhaps you can cook it one night for you new housemates in the East Village. We’ll miss you dearest Izzy, but have the BEST time!

Sticky Chicken

  • 1.5 kg chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large purple onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sambal olek
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar
  1. Place the chicken pieces in a plastic shopping bag and add the corn flour, paprika,  pepper and salt. Tie the bag up and shake well until the chicken is evenly coated.
  2. Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl except the onion and oil.
  3. Heat the oil in a large fry pan, and brown the chicken pieces in batches. Set aside.
  4. When all the chicken pieces are browned, add a little more oil to the pan, and stir in the onions. Cook until melted and soft.
  5. Add the browned chicken, and the sauce, and stir well.
  6. Cover with a lid, turn the heat down, and simmer for a further twenty minutes, until the sauce is thick and coats the chicken well.
  7. Serve with rice and some stir fried vegetables.

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Egg Curry and Sydney Dinner With The Barrs


This was a very quiet week-end in comparison to last! There were three young guys in the house last week-end with the ir parents, visiting us all the way from Toronto. On Sunday morning we all went to the zoo.

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Little C stayed home and baked cakes for dessert and prepped for the dinner party we were having that night at home. What a unique evening.  I kept looking around the room that night, savouring the sight of everyone there. How special that you girls could come and be part of the week-end.  We were TEN under one roof- just amazing! Thank goodness for blow up mattresses I say!

It was an eclectic menu of curry puffs, pork vindaloo (recipe coming one of these days), egg curry, a beautiful big salad made by your cousin, and rice.

I’m glad you enjoyed the egg curry, and it is a receipe that should be on the blog for you both. A nice alternative if you have vegetarian friends to feed. It is quick and easy, not expensive to make  and very satisfying.

The Barrs trip to Sydney was like a dream. I hear the patter of small feet on the floorboards, see the rows of shoes at the bottom of the stairs, and the beach towels hanging out to dry. The days sped by way too quickly.



Egg Curry

  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed and chopped fine
  • 1 red chilli chopped fine, or one heaped teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cummin seeds
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tub tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Place the eggs in a large pan of cold water and bring to the boil.
  2. Boil for five minutes, turn off the heat, and leave the eggs to cool completely.
  3. When eggs are cold, shell them carefully so whites remain smooth.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large fry pan. Add the turmeric powder when the oil is hot.  when the yellow spice sizzles, add the eggs.
  5. Stir around in the hot pan until the eggs are well coated in the turmeric and they begin to turn golden.
  6. Remove the eggs from the pan, and set aside in a dish.
  7. Return the pan to the fire, and add the rest of the oil.
  8. Throw in the cumin seeds and toss for a couple of seconds.
  9. Saute the onion, ginger, chilli and garlic in the oil, until the onion begins to melt.
  10. Add the crushed tomato and stir well, then add the tomato paste, half a cup of water and and the fish sauce.
  11. Bring the sauce to the boil, and then turn the heat down, and simmer for about ten minutes.
  12. Adjust seasoning, and make more spicy by adding more chill flakes if required.
  13. Now cut the eggs in half, and slide them gently into the sauce. Place a lid on the saucepan, and cook for an additional 5 to 8 minutes.
  14. Sprinkle with chopped coriander or mint.
  15. Serve with white rice or roti.

Coconut Biscuits And Remembering Our Gourmand Alice

You left us on a beautiful summer day this week-end. It was so special that Izzy and Little C were here to hug you and kiss you. The house was filled with flowers and candles, and oranges- all of which you adored. Little C baked a huge orange drizzle cake, and all your favourite people were here to share a slice.

Alice, you always found the flowers in the garden, where ever we lived, and would go over to stand near them. We have so many family snaps of you posing by the flowers…….


Alice amongst the flowers…..



Our Alice vigil



A candle for Alice


You also loved a good sausage, Dad maintains it was because of your German heritage. And croissants! Oh my! You knew exactly how many were on the table and what was left over, but  we always kept a portion for you….. Yes, you were a dog of good taste always, but your old age meant a much stricter diet. A far cry from early days in California where you started the day with a breakfast of cream cheese on toast,,,,

While I bake these coconut biscuits this evening, the kitchen is so quiet.  You usually make the rounds while I am in here, clattering through, nose to the ground, hovering any fallen crumb.  How I will miss your big, sweet presence, dearest Alice- you had a post at every home we lived in, where you could watch me in the kitchen. My true gourmand. May you start your mornings with a pile of croissants and eat many a fine sausage for dinner in doggie heaven. Adios, sweetest girl.


Our perfect sweet girl Alice


Comfort Coconut Biscuits

1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 egg
½ cup melted butter


  • Mix all ingredients together with a fork or wooden spoon.
  • Place teaspoons of the mixture onto buttered cookie sheet and bake for 12 mins at 180c depending on your oven.

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Shortbread Sunday

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I thought I’d stay on board the whole food processor easy biscuits thing, and add a recipe on the heels of the parmesan biscuits recently posted.

These are equally easy to make- and why would you ever buy a packet of shortbread when you can make them so easily? From a block of butter, some flour and icing sugar, you can make a wonderful gift too; the next time you are thinking of a present for a hard to buy friend, Izzy, make up a batch of these!

Saw the Chuck Close exhibition today- it was good being at the water on a sunny day with so many people about. There is a huge P&O ship parked next to the MCA-quite a sight in the middle of the city! I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to seeing these huge ships, right in town!



  • 100 grams icing sugar
  • 200 grams plain flour
  • 100 grams cornflour
    200 grams softened unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Put the icing sugar, plain flour and cornflour into the bowl of a food processor and give them a whirl.

Add the softened butter.

Process again until the soft mixture begins to form a ball, loosely clumping around the blade.

Turn this out on to a buttered cookie tin and press to form an even layer.

Using the tip of a sharp knife cut the pressed-out shortbread into fingers.

Using a fork, make little holes in each marked-out biscuit.

Put the tin into the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, by which time the shortbread will be pale still.

Remove the tin from the oven and cool for 10 minutes or so. Store the pieces in an airtight container.

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