Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mushroom and Spinach Pasta

This is a quick, easy, low calorie pasta dish that can be thrown together in under twenty minutes. Great for a quick after work meal.    

The addition of Dijon mustard gives this pasta heaps of taste and pulls all the flavours together.  It is a nice alternative to a tomato based sauce or a cream sauce which of course should be avoided if you are trying to watch your weight! 

Finely chop an onion and saute in a pan with good olive oil.  At the same time boil water, add some salt and add your pasta.  Cook according to package instructions.

Add finely chopped red capsicum, mushrooms, chili flakes, garlic and lots of cracked black pepper to the onion mix.  Chopped bacon is a nice addition if you have it.  Once soft, add a good dollop of Dijon mustard and a ladle full of the pasta water.  Stir to combine. 

When your pasta is nearly ready add spinach leaves to mushroom mix.  Be generous with the spinach as it wilts down a lot.  Add a bit more of the pasta water if required.

Once the pasta is ready add it to the sauce and combine.

Serve as is or with a shaving of parmesan cheese.

Another nice option is to serve it with fresh low fat ricotta cheese.


Monday, July 16, 2012

A little piece of history ..

My cookbook collection is large and varied with titles from Neil Perry’s "Balance and Harmony" to "Cooking with F•R•I•E•N•D•S". Stay tuned for Joey’s Walnut Scones!

The oldest cookbook in my collection is the "New Standard Cookery Illustrated", edited by Elizabeth Craig, first published in England in the early 1930's.  It was my mothers and I believe it belonged to her mother before that so it is very special to me.

It is not only a cookbook but also a manual for running a house and it provides a fascinating snapshot of life at that time.  One of my favourite chapters is "Household Management”, which includes such topics as  “Between Mistress and Maid” and "Entertaining without a maid"!! Imagine!  Very Downton Abbey.

There is even a chapter for the colonies - "The Australian Kitchen",  Recipes include Kangaroo Tail Soup and Stewed Bandicoot!  Might give those a miss...

Instead I thought I would try something a little easier with ingredients I recognised!  

Spiced Oatmeal Crisps


  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1.5 cups oatmeal
  • .5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 level teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter  (250 grams)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped raisins 


  1. Cream the butter and sugar
  2. Stir in the beaten eggs and oatmeal (as quickly as possible)
  3. Stir in the raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, coconut and the baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon of boiling water
  4. Place teaspoons of the mixture on a greased baking tray and bake in a hot oven until brown  (I used baking paper)
  5. Let the crisps cool on the baking tray before transferring to a plate

I must say I had some trouble with this 'easy' recipe but then I rarely make biscuits so it is not second nature to me. I made them twice and whilst the second batch was better I wouldn't say they were a standout success. In keeping with the age of the recipe I attempted to cream the butter and sugar by hand.  Hmm, let's just say grandma's generation had better arm muscles than me!  Also, I guessed a hot oven to be 200 degrees which was far too hot.  In the end around 180 degrees was high enough and they cooked very quickly. - not more than 10 minutes.   The crisps themselves were very tasty though not the prettiest and some didn't crisp up - but I am sure that is the fault of the cook and not the recipe.  I think a more experienced baker would have no problems obtaining a great result.

I thought it appropriate to enjoy the crisps with a cup of tea in the tea set my mother was given as a wedding present 55 years ago.

The illustrated part of this book is 3 colour and about 50 black and white images like the one below.  Given there are nearly 1000 pages in the book it is very different to today's cookbooks but I suspect quite progressive for the time.

And at the back of the book I discovered gold!  Gorgeous hand written recipes, presumably written by my grandmother.  This is a very special book indeed. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


551-553 Mt Alexander Rd
Moonee Ponds3039

I had been looking forward to eating at Philhellene for a long time.  I had heard good reviews about this Greek restaurant and really expected to love it, but unfortunately I was disappointed.  It's not that the food was bad.  Overall the food was fine but I felt it was just lacking that little extra.  That little something that makes you want to return again and again. 

The restaurant itself is lovely - cosy and with a warm ambience.  I loved the lights over the bar.  We were seated near an open fire and on this cold winter night it was toasty.  The staff were lovely, very efficient and attentive despite being very busy.

For entree we shared a Meze platter.  The zucchini flowers were definitely the highlight.  The ricotta pastries were lovely but the small sausages and marinated calamari were not very appetising and I really didn't enjoy their flavours. The dips were fine. 

Meze Platter for two

The accompanying pita bread was very nice, warm and crispy.

For mains we shared Baked, Stuffed Calamari and Chicken Souvlaki. I liked the chicken more than the calamari but it was quite plain and uninteresting.  The couscous and potato were tasty.  The calamari was from the specials board and was a bit rubbery and the flavours just didn't seem to work. Normally I love rice dishes but I didn't enjoy the accompanying rice.  The salad was fine.

We finished with coffee and Loukoumades.  A very generous serve, they were ok, nice and hot and sticky with honey, walnuts and cinnamon but a little bit doughy.  

Having read a few of the reviews on Urbanspoon it is obvious that Philhellene is a very popular restaurant.  If I do return I will definitely try the Moussaka which seems to be quite popular.

Philhellene on Urbanspoon