The Need for Peas

Chicken In a Creamy White Wine Sauce

So, after having Friday off work thanks to this dreaded cold, I went in yesterday…and suffered!

The kids were quiet as they could tell I wasn’t well and they don’t like it when I’m angry. In fact no one likes me when I’m angry! I did however, keep in 3 boys at lunch time because they made my headache worse. No abuse of power here I promise. They were supposed to be working in groups and these three decided it would be funny to pick on the kid in the group who can’t read very well…result…half of their lunch time gone! Don’t mess with me when I’m sick.

My afternoon meeting also didn’t go down very well either. We were working in groups doing what we call a moderation task. This is where we swap essays from kids and mark each other’s work and then compare marks…keeps the marking process honest. Well apparently I’m a tough marker and the teacher didn’t agree that his student deserved such a low grade. Three of us marked it and two of us gave it a fairly average score and the third teacher gave it a much higher score. I was signalled out for an explanation…no depth…no voice…poorly constructed paragraphs….blah! blah! blah!

This process is fine when you are moderating with people who are reasonable but it was clear that this teacher wanted to jump the table and put my head through the wall. It’s not the first time I’ve had ‘words’ with him and he doesn’t like me very much. Of course when I get on my high horse I can come across as, how did another teacher put it? oh yeah! Intimidating and scary…anyway he took offense and I probably should have stayed home. Once my partners in crime and I got back to the sanctuary of our office we let rip about him… “he’s such a dick!”… “doesn’t know his arse from his elbow!” … “I just wanna punch him!” … (we spend way too much time with kids!) In fact it got ridiculous (I think ‘soft cock’ was mentioned) and we found ourselves laughing so hard, we couldn’t get in our cars to drive home especially after I came out with “Yeah! I wanna punch him…in the dick…with one of these…because I don’t really wanna touch him…”

I stayed home today…shouldn’t really be near people!

What does all this have to do with chicken? Nothing really apart from it was the only thing I got right yesterday. Except that I was so hungry that for the first time I forgot to take a photo…and it looked so damn good!

Chicken thigh fillets fried in oil and butter, in large pan until golden. Add fresh thyme sprigs and white wine and cook down. Toss in capers and place lid on so chicken cooks well. Remove chicken when it’s done and set aside. Add cream and wholegrain mustard to the pan and combine well with the white wine. Reduce a little then return chicken thighs and spoon over all the yumminess. Serve with salad or vegetables. I had a major craving for peas so I made a whole bag (peas being the only thing I buy that’s frozen) as well as some steamed baby carrots and corn cobs all drenched in some of the French butter I had left. So delicious and so sorry I didn’t get a pic…

Off to the doctor now and then back to bed 🙂


Thank Goodness for Bad Weather

Beef and Guinness Stew with Parmesan Cheese Dumplings

We are into our second month of Spring here in Melbourne but today you wouldn’t know it…it’s freezing!

Last week we were bathed in sunshine – beautiful mid to high 20’sC – not today however, with a top temp of only 13C. The sky is dark and the rain has been on and off for most of the day. Just as well really as I had a craving for a rich, dark and tasty stew with cheese dumplings.

It’s probably what I love most about my home town. I’ve written about this before. There are times when I just get a little tired of Summer food and can’t wait to settle down to a hearty stew or pumpkin soup and warm from the oven bread. There’s a dreamy quality to Winter for me.

Living in Melbourne gives me just what I need…when I’m sick of the unbearable stickiness of another 40C day, I’m happy in the knowledge that the sky will inevitably turn dark and the temperature will drop about 20C within 30 mins and the next few days will see us all digging out our Winter clothes and turning on the Central heating ( actually if you come from Melbourne, you never really put your winter clothes away!). No jokes, I had the cooling on one day last week and the central heating the next day.

Might sound just awful to you, but I find the unpredictability of Melbourne’s weather quite comforting. I also don’t really care much about what the weather does – can’t control it so don’t really worry about it…dress and eat accordingly…that is all!

With so many bloggers posting about cooking stews as the weather gets colder, I have been unable to get my mind off Winter food today. So I sent my man out to buy some Guinness and settled in for the day preparing the evening meal.

As my daughter is now 18 years old, it’s not often she hangs around for dinner at the weekend, but she did tonight and as my man was out visiting his father, it was a rare Saturday night at home with my girl.

We already had our pjs on by 3pm and it was so cosy and warm inside that I was positively radiating relaxation (any more relaxed and I would’ve been in a coma – or was that just the red wine I was drinking?)

Food – magnificent!

Company – lovely!

Pj’s and my awesome couch – heavenly!


  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1kg chuck steak, trimmed, cut into 3cm pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2 brown onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 200g Swiss brown mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 – 2 cups Guinness
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • thyme
  • cheese dumplings


  1.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pan over medium heat. Cook steak, in batches, for 3 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Heat remaining oil in pan over medium heat. Add leek, onion, carrot and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until tender.  Add flour and continue to cook for a minute or two. Add worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Cook, stirring, for a further 2 minutes.
  3. Gradually stir in Guinness. Add stock and bay leaves. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Return steak and any juices to pan. Cover and simmer for 1 – 2 hours.
  4. Remove lid. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until steak is tender. Remove bay leaves. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper.  *See below for dumpling instructions…Serve, eat and then nap on the couch for a while 🙂

 Cheese Dumplings

  • 4 oz/ 100g self raising flour
  • 2 oz / 50g shredded suet
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • chopped thyme and parsley
  • salt
  • cold water
  • In a large baking bowl mix the flour with the suet and a pinch of salt.
  • Add  grated parmesan, chopped thyme and parsley to the mixture
  • Add 3 tbsp cold water and stir. If the dough is dry add more water until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough.
  • Divide the dough into 8 and shape into balls with floured hands. Leave to one side.
  • After the stew has cooked for 2 hours, add the dumplings, cover with the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Bring on the Bourguignon Baby!

Beef Bourguignon

I love to say ‘Boof Bourguignon’ a lot! I also love to make it and of course almost dive face first into it, if I didn’t care much to layers of my face peeling off in the process. I also enjoy watching the TV show ‘Food Safari’ although I never remember when it’s on so watch an episode every now and then online. It took me a long time to stop being annoyed with Maeve O’Meara’s “that’s yum/yummy” and “mmmmm’s” … I used my skill as a secondary school teacher to tune out the things I don’t want to hear and tune in to what I do…great skill to have let me tell you!

My favourite episode is the French one, where beef bourguignon is made. Maeve loved the dish “her knees were weak” and now I like her (although she is no Nigella – I love her – she’s my girl crush!). Beef Bourguignon sounds fancy but is not and making stews and casseroles is something I do often in Winter. It’s what I love about the Winter months. Looking back over these Winter months, I have realised that I haven’t made this classic dish and haven’t made any mashed potato at all!


I haven’t made Shepard’s Pie either come to think of it. Something is definitely amiss here. Must make a mental note that while Spring is here, the weather is still cool enough to make it…who am I kidding? I live in Melbourne there will be plenty of opportunities to make it! Such is the magic of Melbourne weather…”if you don’t like the weather in Melbourne, wait a minute!”

Back to Beef Bourguignon! It has been so cold, wet and windy this past week that I have been going to bed every night with this on my mind (no, there is nothing wrong with my relationship, but I do think about food – a lot!) and decided that Sunday was going to be a Beef Bourguignon dinner…and of course in true Melbourne style, it’s a beautiful day!

Don’t care! I’m making it!

Beef Bourguignon, mashed potato with so much butter I may keel over right after eating it, but what a way to go and great bread for mopping up!

This is the Food Safari recipe…love the carrot puree to thicken and sweeten the bourguignon.

Bon Appetit!


1kg beef, cut into large chunks
300g speck, cubed
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 carrots, peeled, halved and sliced
2 celery sticks- leaves intact, halved then sliced
1 leek, halved and sliced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
5 shallots – halved
10 sprigs of thyme
bay leaves 
1 bunch of parsley
½ litre red wine, brought to the boil and simmered to remove acidity
Salt & pepper to taste
300g button mushrooms

Carrot Puree
5 carrots, peeled and chopped

Mashed Potatoes
6 large desiree potatoes, skin on
100g butter
200ml milk

Sourdough bread – to serve


Heat oil in a pan over med-high heat.

Seal the beef in batches until golden brown then drain and set aside – reserve the oil.

Repeat until all beef is sealed – reserve oil.

Using the same pan and oil as the beef, add all vegetables except the mushrooms and cook for 5-8 minutes.

Place meat in a large casserole dish, top with the vegetables, bay leaves, thyme and speck. Stir to combine.

Pour red wine over the beef and vegetables, season with salt and pepper and cover with lid.

Place on the stove and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to very low and cook for 40 minutes.

While the bourguignon is cooking prepare the carrot puree and mash below.

Just before serving, add the carrot puree and mushrooms, stir through and cook for a further 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serve with mashed potatoes and bread.

Carrot puree
Add chopped carrots to a pot, cover with cold water and bring to the boil.

Add salt and cook until just soft.

Pass through tamis, fine sieve or hand blender.

Mashed potato
Place whole unpeeled potatoes into a pot of cold water.

Bring to the boil and add salt.

Cook until soft.

Peel while still hot.

Pass through a tamis, fine sieve or use a fork.

Heat milk in a saucepan until warm.

While the milk is heating, return the mashed potatoes to their pot and stir over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes to remove excess water (this will also add air to the potatoes and make them more light and fluffy).

Add warm milk in small amounts and stir in the butter – mix until combined.

Place cling wrap on top of the potatoes and set aside until ready to serve.

Chicken and Leek Pie

Friday Night Chicken and Leek Pie

Yesterday was our annual athletics day which meant herding hundreds of high school kids onto buses and driving out to a cold, bleak athletics track so most of the kids could just sit around and we could freeze our asses off. We don’t tend to take these things too seriously here so most schools are not equipped with their own tracks and so on.

To say that I would rather teach all day, plus have yard duty both recess and lunch time as well as have a meeting after school, is understating how I feel about these days. Having my eyes repeatedly stabbed with hot pokers would be less painful. However, we go and we chant for our houses and we have “fun”.

All I could think of was getting home and putting on my pj’s and fluffy slippers and drinking a hot and strong coffee. I also day dreamed about Friday night. Yes, the beginning of the weekend but my chance to come home and finally be able to make a chicken and leek pie.

I have been waiting all week for this but as I was so tired I decided on making the quick version. That is, make everything in one deep dish that can also be used in the oven and top the whole thing with pastry. It’s easy and quick and tastes wonderful.

I’m full and happy right now. Enjoy 🙂


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 20g butter
  • 750g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed, chopped
  • 2 medium leeks, trimmed, halved, washed, sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup pure cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 sheet frozen ready-rolled puff pastry, partially thawed.


Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Heat oil and butter in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken. Cook, stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes or until browned. Add leek. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until leek has softened. Add white wine. Bring to the boil. Add flour. Stir for 1 minute.

Add stock and cream. Bring to the boil. Remove from heat. Stir in thyme. Season with pepper.

Fill pie dish with chicken mixture.  Top with puff pastry. Trim excess. Press down edges with a fork to seal. Brush with egg. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Serve with a green salad.

Perfect for a Friday night when you are exhausted after a week at work but want something substantial and yummy!