Mandy Wrangles_2_tnMandy’s swooning over this recipe book!




Evans-Not Just Jam by Matthew EvansWarning: giving a balanced review of this little book without any of the oohing and ahhing it prompted upon landing in my hands will be almost impossible. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a beautifully presented book – whether it be a work of fiction or fact – and Not Just Jam is just that. I’m also a sucker for food preserving (ugh, I hate waste, and it’s a fun way to get the best out of a suburban veggie patch) with a special interest in long-lasting sauces and chutneys. Not only is Not Just Jam a sturdy hardcover with full-page colour photographs for every recipe, but it’s just the right size and weight to hang on to with one hand while you’re stirring a pot of delicious fruit or vegetables, ready to seal into sterilised jars. It’s the type of book that should last the ages (even with the inevitable sticky and stained page-corners) and be passed down to another generation, filled with recipes that evoke memories of ‘home’ and happy times.

Author Matthew Evans is known as Australia’s favourite tree-changer. As a former chef and food critic, he now lives and works in Tasmania as a smallholder, food writer and activist. He’s the star of the SBS TV series ‘Gourmet Farmers’ and has written 11 books including The Dirty Chef, Real Food Companion, Winter on the Farm and Summer on Fat Pig Farm. With credentials like those, obviously Evans knows his stuff. Not Just Jam is his latest offering, and along with the glorious presentation, Evans also proves he can come up with entertaining and super-simple recipes that will work for both those experienced in food preserving as well as absolute beginners.

The book starts out with some general tips on sterilisation and the science of preserving food, without being over-whelming or scary. Lots of books on preserves will recommend a hundred and one different pieces of ‘essential’ equipment, but Evans just gets right down to basics, proving how simple it can be to fill your pantry with jams, relishes and sauces without the need for expensive gear.

The first chapter does cover jam-making, and my favourite recipes have got to be The Quintessential Raspberry Jam (though our home-grown raspberries don’t often last long enough around children to gain the 1kg required) and the Chilli Jam, which is recommended to use with seafood such as mussels and prawns, as well as plain old fried eggs.

Mint Jelly will be the first recipe I’ll give a go, though. Even those with a black gardening thumb can grow wild mint, and we battle with it in our strawberry patch. There are literally four ingredients in this one, and it’s a great way to use up that crazy mint. Blueberry and Balsamic Jelly also sounds intriguing, especially when it’s recommended to swirl through icecream.

So far as actual fruit and veggie preserving goes, I’m looking forward to checking out the Cumquats in Brandy (because we also have a crazy cumquat tree) as well as the Dill Pickled Cucumbers. I’ve tried these a number of times before without much success, but this recipe looks like a winner. The Indian-Style Salted Lime Pickle and Beetroot Relish are more great examples of basic, yet mouth-watering recipes with only a few ingredients and little time needed to devote to something special.

For something a bit swish, try the Five-Spiced Pear Paste (served with cheese and crackers, oh my), or the passionfruit curd, which I wish I knew about six weeks ago when our passionfruit vine was dropping more fruit than we could eat or give away. There’s even recipes here for good old Worcestershire Sauce and a traditional Tomato Passata.

While I’d definitely recommend Not Just Jam for a Mother’s Day or birthday gift, at a RRP of just $35, it’s well-worth purchasing for anyone with even a passing interest in cooking or self-sufficiency. And did I mention it’s gorgeous?


Not Just Jam by Matthew Evans

Hardcover, 208 pages

Published by Murdoch Books

ISBN – 9781743365816


Mandy Wrangles_2_tnMy youngest son turned 8 in November. Birthdays are, of course, the biggest of big deals when you’re that age. Like all our sons, Asher is obsessed with skateboarding, so we promised him a skateboarding themed party at home with all his friends skating our backyard half-pipe.

It didn’t quite work out that way…


Moss cupcakes 1As life would have it, his birthday fell on the same day as one of the year’s biggest skateboarding events here in Melbourne – the annual MOSS jam. MOSS (Melbourne Old School Skate Sessions) are a group of guys who were, in their heyday, the pioneers of skateboarding in Australia. These days, they catch up regularly for social bowlriding sessions and as an extra bonus they raise money for clean water systems in Swaziland. Their big event of the year is the bowl jam, this year held at the brand new Noble Park Skatepark, an amazing venue designed by legendary skater Johnny (Primate) McGrath.

There was never any doubt in my little grom’s mind – party at home or at the jam? He figured (correctly) that he’d have waaay more people to celebrate his birthday with him at Noble Park. And so, we did. But then came my own dilemma…what would I do about a cake?

Cupcakes to the rescue! I asked permission from Rob (Wedge) Francis, the president of the MOSS Foundation if we could bring along some cupcakes to share on the day, and decided to make them in a MOSS theme. He kindly sent me over a few jpegs of designs I could use. And then it dawned on me…there would be hundreds of people at the event from all over Australia.

I’d need at least TWO HUNDRED CUPCAKES!

Moss cupcakes 4Logistically, how was I going to make that many cupcakes, decorate and transport them to the event? I also knew there would be a few kids attending who have nut allergies, so that had to be taken into consideration too.

Here’s how I did it:

For the cupcakes themselves, I baked almost every day the week before and then nervously froze them in batches of a dozen. I used pre-packaged cake mixes, because in cases like this, cheating is allowed. Betty Crocker were the only nut-free brand I could find in Woolworths (not ALL their recipes are nut-free. Always check the allergy warnings on the box) I double checked ingredient lists with the mums of the kids who are anaphylactic. I made half of them chocolate, the other half vanilla, into which I mixed some frozen raspberries.

For decoration:

Armed with my jpeg designs, my local cake decorating suppliers printed off pages and pages of edible images for me. Usually, you’d have them printed directly onto fondant, but due to the allergy issues, we went with rice paper instead. I cut the designs out by hand, then attached them with fondant glue to a special nut-free fondant I’d pre-rolled and cut into shape with a cookie-cutter. As long as they were kept moisture-free, the designs could be made up a few days prior, which is what I did. I used two different designs, one for the chocolate, one for the vanilla and raspberry.

I defrosted the cakes the evening before the event. They were fine. Great, in fact. Still soft, fluffy and delicious. Phew! Thank you, Betty Crocker!

moss cupcakes 2The morning of Asher’s birthday, I rose at stupid o’clock and, with help from my eleven year old son, got to work. For the frosting, I used another new product – RICH’S RICH N SMOOTH. Seriously, this stuff is AMAZING! It’s stored in the freezer, but won’t freeze. To use, you just whip it with an electric mixer for about ten minutes, and not only is it stable, ridiculously simple to work with, but also delicious. I piped – very quickly – a circle of frosting onto each, half in chocolate, half in vanilla. Mr Eleven years followed behind me, placing the rice paper/fondant designs on each. As each cupcake was completed, we placed them single layer into one of those plastic under-bed storage containers, the things we keep Lego in at our place. Each fit 110 cupcakes each. We did it!

The day was an enormous success. The sun shone, the vibe was electric, the skateboarding utterly spectacular, the venue and huge new bowl perfect. My little 8 year old was sung happy birthday to by a live rockabilly band and a few hundred of his closest friends, and all the cupcakes were polished off in a blink. But best of all, from that single day, a whole lot of money was raised, and now life-changing, permanent clean water schemes can be built for around 500 people.

A quick re-cap:
I used BETTY CROCKER cake mix, and RICH’S RICH N SMOOTH Frosting.
Use your local cake decorating shop. Pick their brains for advice on specialty products. Most will have the equipment to be able to print any design you choose on edible fondant or rice paper.
You can find the MOSS Foundation and more information about the amazing things they do on Facebook.

Mandy_HMandy Wrangles reviews Julie Goodwin’s cook book, and with her young family, it proves to be perfect.



goodwin-homemade-takeawayJulie Goodwin has become a familiar face in Australian cooking circles in the last few years. As the winner of the 2009 ‘Master Chef’ television show, she’s gone on to huge success writing for the Australian Women’s Weekly, appearing on TV, and as a bestselling cookbook author.

Her first cookbook, ‘Our Family Table’ was one of the highest selling cookbooks in Australian history. She recently opened ‘Julie’s Place’ on the NSW central coast where she hosts cookery classes, corporate team days and special events. What’s her secret to success? Well, I think it’s her normalness. Julie Goodwin is kind of an everybody. The sort of person you can imagine being friends with, the mum you met at a school fundraiser or the lady from the local shop. Her cooking style is realistic – sure, as we all learned watching her on Masterchef, she can pull out the big guns and whip up a spectacular, world-class meal without blinking – but she realises most of us just don’t have the time to undertake those kind of cooking challenges on a regular basis.

Making a call to the local takeaway shop is so much easier, if not expensive and, well, there’s always that guilt factor if you’re anything like me. Homemade is always best. It’s just not always possible. Goodwin’s latest cookbook, ‘Homemade Takeaway’ solves both those problems. With simple, easy to understand recipes that are actually achievable for the average home-cook, gorgeous photographs and a variety to please the fussiest family member, I think she’s on another winner.

‘Homemade Takeaway’ is broken into chapters such as Thai, Tex Mex, Lebanese, Corner Store and Chicken Shop. There’s a fab bakery section (the baked chocolate cheesecake, oh my!) and lots of quick tip recipes, such as pickled onions and burger sauce to add to your Aussie or American burger. The chapter on Chinese cooking gives us those timeless classics such as Sesame Prawn Toast, Mongolian Lamb and Chilli salt soft-shell crab, along with basics like Special Fried Rice.

For Italian, there’s pizza of course, pasta dough and Spaghetti and meatballs, but you can also check out something a little more special such as the Ricotta and spinach ravioli with burnt butter and sage (I’m SO cooking that one soon…will be back to you with the results). I’m expecting my family favourites to be the Lebanese flatbread and dip recipes, along with those burgers from the Corner Store and Tex Mex chapters.

In all, this is one of the most well-presented everyday cookbooks I’ve come across in a long time. It’s practical as well as beautiful and nothing about it screams too hard or fiddly. Best of all, Goodwin gives us alternatives to buying takeaway, using healthy, locally sourced and easy to find ingredients. She also gives tips on how to make a dish more economical – for example using water instead of buttermilk to poach chicken pieces that will later be fried for Southern Fried Chicken (another must-make, it looks amazing).

I recommend ‘Homemade Takeaway’ for anyone who loves to cook, but is practical and realistic about what is achievable in a home kitchen. It would make a fantastic Christmas gift for anyone who enjoys feeding their family and friends the timeless favourites – and for fussy kids who prefer takeaway to Mum’s cooking…it’s a super-win!

Homemade Takeaway by Julie Goodwin

Published by Hachette Australia

Paperback (re-enforced, glossy) 273 pages

ISBN – 978-0-7336-3213-6


Alison Mather_HThe recipe is from the ‘ABC Delicious – Simply the Best’ cookbook, by Valli Little. It’s simple but time-consuming, so best to start a day or so ahead. It’s done in three stages, with cooling and setting time between, so the labour can be split up. To make the recipe lactose and gluten-free for those that need it, I used LF versions of the milk, cream, cream cheese, GF arrowroot cookies and Nuttelex in the base. It worked fine ~ A. V. Mather



300 g shortbread of digestive biscuits

¼ cup (25g) cocoa, sifted

80g unsalted butter, melted

8 gold-strength gelatine leaves (I have no idea what these are, I just used regular)

1kg cream cheese at room temperature

1 ¼ cups (275g) castor sugar

1/3 cup (80ml) milk

300ml thickened cream

¼ cup (60ml) rosewater

2x250g punnets strawberries, hulled and halved


Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Grease a 22cm springform cake pan.

Place the biscuits and cocoa in a food processor and whiz until fine crumbs. Add the butter and pulse to combine. Press mixture into the base of the cake pan. Place in the oven for 10-15 mins, cool on counter, and then place in the fridge to chill.

Soak 5 gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place cream cheese and ¾ cup (165g) sugar in cleaned food processor and whiz until smooth. Place the milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to just below boiling point. Squeeze excess water from the gelatine, then add the gelatine to the milk, stirring until the gelatine has dissolved. Cool slightly, then add to the cream cheese mixture in the food processor and whiz to combine. Transfer to a bowl.

Beat the cream with electric beaters until soft peaks form, then fold into the cream cheese mixture with 1 tablespoon rosewater. Pour the filling over the biscuit base and gently tap the pan on the bench to dispel any pockets. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours or until filling is set.

Meanwhile, place the strawberries and remaining ½ cup (110g) of sugar in a large bowl with ½ cup (125ml) of water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover the bowl tightly with foil and place over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water). Simmer for 20 minutes, topping up the pan with more water if needed, until the strawberries are very soft.

Soak the remaining 3 gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.

Pass the strawberry mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl – don’t press down on the fruit, or the jelly will be cloudy. While the juice is warm, squeeze excess water from the gelatine, then stir the gelatine into the juice until dissolved. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons rosewater. Cool completely, then place in the fridge for 15 minutes until just starting to thicken. Pour the strawberry jelly over the cheesecake, then return to the fridge for 3-4 hours until the top has completely set.

Mandy Wrangles_2_tnWith Father’s Day imminent here in Australia, I thought I’d make one of my own Dad’s favourites for this month’s Cook Club – Mum’s Sponge Kisses. Now, mine didn’t turn out quite as soft and fluffy as Mum’s (what IS that phenomenon that makes your mother’s cooking better than anything, ever?) and they did collapse a little as they cooled…but hey, it was my first go and my family still gobbled them up, so I’m going to take small successes where I can.

Sponge Kisses are basically two small rounds of sponge cake sandwiched together with jam (any flavour. You pick) and whipped cream, then dusted with icing sugar. Kind of an old-fashioned treat, I guess. They’re quick, easy and make minimal mess in the kitchen.
sponge kissesWHAT YOU NEED:

1/2 cup plain flour

1/2 cup corn flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs, separated

3/4 cup caster sugar

Whipped cream and jam to fill

Icing sugar to dust



Pre heat oven to 200c, line oven trays with baking paper

With your electric mixer, whip egg whites until they have stiff peaks. Gradually add caster sugar, then egg yolks one at a time.

In a separate bowl, sift plain and corn flours together, along with the baking powder. Gently fold this mix through the egg mix.

Cooking in batches, spoon heaped teaspoons of mix onto lined trays allowing room for them to spread. They only take 4-5 minutes, or until you notice them beginning to change colour. Remove carefully using a spatula – they’ll still be very soft – and place on a rack to cool.

Sandwich together using jam and whipped cream (or just cream if you prefer). Some people like to add the Kisses to the fridge at this stage for a couple of hours to soften up. Personally, I prefer to serve immediately after adding the filling, with a generous dusting of icing sugar. If needed, you can store the unfilled Kisses in a sealed container until serving time.

Next time, I might try tweaking the recipe a little by adding a touch more plain flour and baking powder.


Bel answers the challenge:

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