Roasted capsicums with breadcrumbs and olives

This simple dish comes courtesy of Rosa’s Farm, a lovely cookbook with recipes you would actually cook, and not just imagine cooking.  It can be served as part of an antipasto or as a side dish with a main course. In the recipe she suggests putting the capsicums on a baking tray; I put it in a baking oven-to-table dish so that I could prepare and serve all in one dish. I also upped the quantity of parsley


6-8 red capsicums
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3/4 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
1/3 cup chopped continental parsley

Making it
1. Preheat oven to 180C

2. Cut the capsicums, remove seeds and cut into strips. Place in a bowl, add oil and season to taste with salt and pepper, mixing well. Place on a baking tray or in a baking dish and cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes – stir them three or four times while cooking

3. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the olives and breadcrumbs, mix and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until capsicum are tender

4. To serve, sprinkle with parsley

Four years in

This week my friend Francesca over at Almost Italian posted about her three year “blogaversary”.  I realised that October is also my blogaversary, it has been four years!  As Francesca says, it is a complete mystery why some posts are so popular, or how people find them, while others languish at the bottom of the heap.

A friend at work actually started this blog for me, there is no way I would have done it.  So with a bit of help and a few YouTube videos I navigated my way around basic html and setting up links and the like.  I know that if I want to grow I should go down the path of “self hosted” and “plug ins” and Google Analytics.  But that was never the plan.  It’s a record, a keepsake, an easy place to find my own recipes rather than going through my scrap book and files, knowing that piece of paper with the ingredients list is somewhere in the pile. It has also been an unexpectedly great way to come across other like minded, delightful people, each with their own story.

So following in Francesca’s footsteps here are my most popular posts over the last four years. Surprisingly, at the top of the list is this one on Sydney’s Best Cannoli.  It is a rare day when someone doesn’t look at it.  Forget doughnuts and tella balls, cannoli is where its at.


More understandably popular is this post on Sydney Private Dining Rooms, which needs a bit of an update given restaurant closures and new openings.  In the lead up to Christmas in particular this one gets a lot of hits.

Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners S.r.l

It is very closely followed by Mamma Rosa’s lemon biscuits.  If you google “Italian lemon biscuits” somehow this one has made it to page one of Google.  I must make these again, the Marito loves them.

lemon biscuits (2)

Most months on the blog you’ll see an “In My Kitchen” post. The monthly IMK series was started by Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, and is a linkup of bloggers all around the world, showing, as the name suggests, what is going on in the kitchen.  Scour the posts of the global tribe of IMK’ers and you’ll see every manner of kitchen gadgets, ingredients, recipes, wedding and birthday preparations, and the occasional renovation. It’s good fun.  My most popular IMK post was when we left our very modern house of 13 years (which we built) and moved to a falling down heap with more space, which we adore.

imkdec15 (4)

And at the bottom of the pile is this Restaurant Dictionary.  Goodness knows we need one most times we dine out these days. But maybe only I do!


I never really expected to do this for four years. Will I do it for another four? I don’t know. But it is a nice change from the myriad of numbers I look at all day at my computer at work. Thanks so much to those who read and comment, I really do appreciate it.

Bistro Guillaume, Sydney


The Small People are not so small any more.  I blinked and another birthday had arrived. As has become custom, the four of us go out to dinner.  With the Marito being a vegacquarian and our home meals centring around that, our identical little carnivores like to go out for a good steak.  I knew that recently opened Bistro Guillaume’s steak frites would deliver, so off we went.  Guillaume is presiding that evening, in a kitchen that seems to be a remarkable oasis of calm.  He spots us playing a game of Uno at the table – a special birthday request of the Small People – and has a chuckle; I doubt its something he sees too often at his restaurants.

The restaurant itself is classic and spacious; dark floors, comfortable chairs, a smattering of banquettes. The staff are excellent, attentive and knowledgeable and we are very well looked after that evening.

We have our eyes on dessert so skip entrees that night and go straight to mains, though I do want to go back and try a few, in particular the steak tartare and the chicken liver parfait.  They also seemed to be doing a roaring trade in the charcuterie plate.

But first some lovely Iggy’s sourdough arrives at the table with some house butter. I also start with a refreshing Guillaume Spritzer.



The boys get their desired Steak Frites, which they pronounce to be up to standard.  The Bernaise, which we request on the side, is creamy with the right amount of vinegary tartness.


My confit of duck is on the small side compared to other mains but rich and delicious. The Small People, whose eyes tend to be bigger than their stomach, like it too.


The star is the whiting Colbert, Colbert being a French presentation technique. It is completely deboned, and there is some serious chef flair on display here. Totally delicious and the Marito generously hides his reluctance in letting us all try a bit.


Never ask Guillaume how much butter is in his Paris mash, he won’t tell you, just enjoy it.  And the beans come with a tasty pistachio pesto, though I did not expect them to be cold.


There are a few individual desserts on offer like the apple tart and the profiteroles, which one of the Small People opts for. The waiter goes to drizzle chocolate sauce on top but the boys have their own idea and hold onto it for later. The vanilla bean ice cream is fantastically vanillery (yes that is a made up word).


The rest of us only have eyes for the Dessert Trolley, which attracts saucer type eyes from surrounding guests when the waiter wheels it over.  For $25, you can try a bit of each, or as few or as many as you want. I say to our waiter, “So if I just want Paris brest and nothing else, would you just give me half of that wheel?”. “Pretty much”, he replies.

We opt for the lemon tart (the Marito says One.Of.The.Best.Ever), the Paris brest (gorgeously rich and with pronounced hazelnut cream, as it should be), Mille Feuille (wonderful pastry, but overall not as good as the one I had at Jacques Genin in Paris, but I’m being picky), and chocolate mousse (devoured by Small People, not my kind of thing).


No sweet tooth? Choose from the cheese trolley instead.


If you don’t want a sit down meal, on the side you can grab takeaway coffee, sandwiches, quiches, and tarts. There was also a rumour floating around that he is planning to air freight in croissants from Melbourne’s famed Lune – hope so, I’m lining up for the almond.

You wanted it to be a Taste of Paris, Guillaume? I think you’ve done better than that.

Bistro Guillaume Sydney, 259 George St, Sydney Ph 02 8622 9555

Bistro Guillaume Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Crispy Potato Roast

I loved the look of this dish by Martha Stewart, but even better it tastes fantastic. The recipe called for russet potatoes, I just used brushed potatoes. Unless you are a Knife Ninja, you’ll really need a mandoline (one of my key kitchen gadgets) for this, not only to get the potatoes super thin, but so that the slices are consistent. The thinnest setting on my mandoline is 0.75mm, so that is what I used.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2kg potatoes, peeled
4 French eschallots, thickly sliced lengthwise
8 Springs thyme

Making it
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees fan forced. In a small bowl, combine butter and olive oil. Brush the bottom and sides of a 22cm baking dish with the butter mixture and reserve the rest.

Using a mandoline, slice the potatoes as thinly as possible. Arrange the potato slices in the dish, then wedge the eschallots randomly amongst the potatoes.

Season well, getting some salt in between some of the slices, then brush over the potatoes all the remaining butter mixture.

Bake for an hour and fifteen minutes, then scatter over the springs of thyme, and bake for a further thirty minutes. Fabulous!

In My Kitchen, October 2016

October – a long weekend, warmer weather, the month the boys were born, the beginning of mango season, a thriving herb garden, what’s not to like?

With a new month, I felt like a little new inspiration in the kitchen and headed up to my local library – which has an amazing cookbook section – for a few ideas. Some good ones in these books which I’ll be trying. The best recipe in my kitchen, however, remains this one by Mamma Rosa.


In my kitchen are San Marzano tomatoes. I’ve been looking for these for a while; so many Italian pizza chefs that have opened up in Sydney in the last few years say they will only use these (I am probably a marketing sucker, but maybe not since they seem to be hard to get in Sydney, not even the Italian delis I go to have them). I stumbled across them on special at my local Woolworths, I have never seen them there before so not sure if it was a one off or if they will be regular stock. Like Champagne or Parmeggiano, the rules around name designation are very specific. They can only be called San Marzano if they come from a very particular area of Napoli near Mount Vesuvius. Next time I make pizza, I’ll let you know if I notice the difference!


In my kitchen are a myriad of colanders in multiple colours; I have accumulated them from all my purchases of fresh ricotta. Any ideas what to do with them all?


One Sunday afternoon the Marito and the boys wanted to make apple pie, to which they are rather partial. I heard a lot of clattering in the kitchen, but the end result looked pretty good. They were enormously proud of themselves, a lot of regular high fiving and commenting going on for the rest of the day, it was pretty entertaining.


We often don’t talk about our kitchen stuff ups on the IMK series. Well I have had a couple recently. I tried my hand at making my own tortillas. The boys like to have burritos (frankly I’m delighted that they eat kidney beans), but I find the supermarket packet ones taste just so processed and rather awful. I’ll need a few goes to get them right, it’s hard to get them thin and not sticking when you roll them out, even with a lot of flour, so when I lifted them after rolling into the pan they turned into a bit of a mess. The flavour was good though.


I also tried to make some ciambellini di ricotta – ricotta biscuits, which are meant to have a hole in the middle – but I underestimated how much they would grow, or used too much baking powder, and they didn’t look like ciambellini at all. They were soft and delicate though.


In my kitchen are macadamia nuts, courtesy of my sister’s rather prolific tree. Time to get cracking.


I bought some freeze dried raspberries for a Neil Perry recipe I want to try, will see how it goes.


And finally how cute are these teeny nutella’s? We saw them at the Italian deli and I couldn’t resist buying them for the boys.imkoct16-8

What’s happening in your kitchen? Thanks to Liz from Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things who has taken up hosting the monthly IMK link up of kitchens around the world.

Casarecce with asparagus and baked ricotta

With the arrival of Spring comes an abundance of Australian grown asparagus, rather than the wilted imported stuff we get a lot of the year.   Often I gently bake it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, but that evening I felt like throwing it in some pasta.  I chose casarecce, but any short pasta will work well.  The ricotta can be done a day ahead. Serves four.


250g fresh ricotta, well drained
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
3 bunches of asparagus, cut into 3cm length
500g casarecce, or pasta of your choice

Breadcrumb topping
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbps olive oil
Half a cup of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan
2 tbps finely graded lemon zest (optional, or to taste)

Making it
1. For the ricotta, add a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper and combine. Place in a mini cake tin or loaf pan sprayed with olive oil, and bake in a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool in tin then remove and refrigerate until ready to use.

2. For the breadcrumb topping, heat the olive oil in a small pan, and gently fry the bread crumbs until golden and crunchy. Place in a bowl and allow to cool. Add the parsley, parmesan and lemon zest and combine.

3. Blanch the asparagus for a minute in a pot of boiling water, remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside. You can then use this water to cook your pasta

4. While the pasta is cooking, in a frypan, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and fry the asparagus for 3 or so minutes. Add the drained cooked pasta once read, crumble in the baked ricotta, season and drizzle with a little more olive oil if desired, and serve. Top with the desired amount of the breadcrumb mix.

Mama’s Buoi, Crows Nest

Most cultures have a word or a phrase that means “mummy’s boy”.  In Italian it is mammone, in Greek mamakias.  And while “buoi” is actually the Vietnamese word for a type of grapefruit, the name of this traditional Vietnamese eatery is in fact a play on words by founder Bao Hoang, and a reflection of love and admiration for his mother, and recipes he learnt from her along the way.

I had often walked past its little corner in Crows Nest, seeing heads bent over steaming pho or munching on rice paper rolls.  The place doesn’t take bookings, but on a cold and wet Sunday night we are in luck and seats are free in the small indoor area, as most of the seating is outside.  I’m having a long overdue catch up with a lovely friend; like the Marito, she is a vegacquarian, so we stick to vegetables and a fish dish.  Everything that comes out is tasty, light and fragrant, and I would happily come back to try some of the meat dishes. The staff are friendly and attentive too.


We start with some fresh rice paper rolls with mushroom and tofu


Followed by this delicious dish of smoky eggplant with a slight hint of chilli. My friend, who has an ambivalent relationship with eggplant, loves it.


Mushroom and snow pea stir fry, simple and tasty


The barramundi, marinated in lemongrass and kaffir lime comes with a decent chill hit and is very fragrant, though the fish is a little overcooked


It is a pleasant and unfussy meal in a relaxed environment, just what we needed to cram in a few months worth of conversation.

For groups, there is a $49 banquet menu

Mama’s Buoi, 77 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest, Ph 02 9438 5005

Mama's Buoi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato