Spring Rolls

So I made these a year ago and then promptly forgot I had ever done such a thing. Bizarrely last week Felix said, remember when you made spring rolls, and I was all, NEVER! Then, serendipitously I fell upon the very post where I talked about them.

Start of spring rolls for #everyfuckingnight
Start of spring rolls for #everyfuckingnight

These are easily vegetarian – just omit the chicken mince (derr) – or turned into a pork version by using pork instead of chicken mince (double derr).

Yes, rolling 40 spring rolls is painful but this is where having 100 kids becomes useful. Sure they might not look perfect (there are spring roll perfectionists who insist they must be tighly and very evenly rolled – no hanging over the edges – so they don’t absorb too much oil) but I only shallow fry them and they sure turned out a treat.

Chicken spring rolls for #everyfuckingnight!
Chicken spring rolls for #everyfuckingnight!
Spring Rolls with cucumber dipping sauce
Sensational spring rolls you can have with meat or vego
For the spring rolls
  • 10-15 shitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
  • 100g rice vermicelli noodles
  • 500g chicken or pork mince (optional)
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 4-5 Chinese wombok cabbage leaves, finely shredded
  • 2 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
For the cucumber dipping sauce
  • 160 ml water
  • 120 ml white vinegar
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 1 to 1½ large telegraph cucumber
  • 1 red chilli (optional)
  1. Cover the noodles with boiling water and sit for 6 minutes or until soft
  2. Drain really really well - you want to try and avoid a soggy filling
  3. Combine all the vegetable ingredients in a large bowl - mix it all together, have a taste, add some more mushrooms or carrot or cabbage if needed/desired
  4. Heat a wok, add a dash of oil and then fry the mince until browned and any liquid that cooks out of it has evaporated
  5. Add all the vegetables and sauces and stir until well combined and cooked through
  6. Let it cool a bit until it's easy to handle
  7. Take a spring roll sheet and then follow the instructions on the packet! (how's that for methodology!) There are also great you tube clips off it if needed.
  8. Heat about 1cm of oil in a frypan then cook in batches over a mod-high heat - they will only take about 3-4 mins
For the cucumber dipping sauce
  1. Bring the water, vinegar and sugar to the boil and the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat
  2. Cut the cucumber lengthways and scrape out the flesh the cut up into small dice
  3. Combine and leave to cool.

The Chef and I – Ben O’Donoghue’s twice cooked pork belly with bbq sauce

A delicious recipe of twice cooked pork belly spare ribs with a bbq sauce that has bite.

This week I’m finally getting to write about when I met chef Ben O’Donoghue a few months back. It was actually a PR event and the first I’d done in more than a year. Technically we were there to talk about how effective Fairy dishwashing liquid and dishwasher tablets but it provided the perfect opportunity to eat sweet, spicy, sticky pork for breakfast. 

I’ve loved Ben’s cooking from a lifetime ago when he did a series in the UK called The Best. He, along with Paul Merrett and Silvana Franco, would each cook to a certain theme – the best sandwich, tasty fish suppers, cool salads – then their dishes would be presented to a group of punters who’d choose their favourite dish. They did an Australian version, which Ben was also in, but it didn’t have the same vibe as the UK one.

Anyway, I love his style of cooking and he’s about to open new digs in BrisVegas so if you’re up that way you’ll need to go and check it out.

Things I did differently:

  • Ben uses 100gm of horseradish in the sauce – I felt it was way too much so just used a heaped tablespoon
  • I have made the sauce and left out the horseradish and rum and it is still a very tasty sauce
  • Play with the amount of chilli flakes but it does mellow. My non-spicy eating children love it. I’ve settled on using 2 teaspoons.


Twice cooked pork with bbq sauce

Adapted from Ben O’Dohoghue

The Chef and I - Ben O'Donoghue's twice cooked pork belly with bbq sauce
Succulent pork with a bbq sauce with bite
The pork
  • 1.2kg pork belly spare ribs (also called rashers)
  • enough coca cola to cover
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ bunch coriander
  • 1 long green chilli
The BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup malt vinegar
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 50g creamed horseradish
  • 100ml rum
For the pork's first cook
  1. Put the pork into a baking dish and pour enough coke over it to cover it
  2. Add the star anise and cinnamon stick and bake at 180C for about 1½ hours, turn it half way through
  3. Once it's cooked pull it out of the oven and leave it to cool slightly. You can leave it in the cooking liquid but then discard it once you move onto the next step.
For the bbq sauce
  1. Combine the sugar, vinegar, saucem cinnamon stick and chilli flakes in a saucepan
  2. Bring it to the boil and simmer into really quite thick
  3. Add the horseradish and rum and cook for another five minutes or so
For the pork's second cook
  1. Liberally smear the bbq sauce all over the pork
  2. Heat a chargrill pan or you can grill them in the oven
  3. Cook them long enough that the marinade is caramelised - some burnt pits are fine! - then turn them over and do the same.
  4. Serve with rice or even an Asian-style coleslaw
  5. You should have a bit of the bbq sauce left for next time or to smear on sandwiches












Dumpling Dipping Sauce

I could basically mainline this, it is that good. For Spring Onion Pancakes, for dumplings, for rice, it doesn’t matter. It is salty, sour and spicy. Get in my belly.

Nothing not to love.

Dumpling Dipping Sauce

  • 1/3 cup Chinkiang vinegar (black rice vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2tbsp shredded ginger
  • 1tsp very finely chopped garlic
  • Chilli oil to taste (or one birds-eye chilli thinly sliced)

Combine in a dish and take a moment to look at how beauty comes with simplicity.


in the gravy

I love a roast. I am not convinced of the whole ‘a roast is so easy! Just pop it in the oven and off you go!’ – maybe because of the number of mouths I’m feeding, maybe because of all the Big Pan washing up afterwards, maybe because sometimes, in this house, a roast can be devoured and other times its just pushed around the plate. But when it works, and is devoured, hoooboy am I on a winner.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve returned to having a chicken roast – I archived it as a dinner option after one too many half eaten dinners and Felix complaining that chicken tasted too chickeny (I believe this was not long after the lamb tasting too lamby) – and it has been demolished, DEMOLISHED as a dinner option.

I believe that a roast dinner falls into the same category as bolognaise sauce and lasagne – everyone has their own recipe, their own version, their own secret tricks and tips – so this is merely mine, take from it what you will.

Chooks ready for roasting. Butter under the skin, one of these has homemade stuffing in it, the other some herbs from the garden (sage and rosemary) shoved up its clacker.

My stuffing is a varied beast, changing every single time I make it. Basically it starts with breadcrumbs made from either stale bread or some random loaf I’ve found in the freezer that’s been there for an indeterminate time. I tend to make a lot and then freeze whatever doesn’t fit in the bird – handy.

Then, in a food processor, blitz an onion, a garlic clove, finely grated lemon rind, herbs and a very generous pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Sometimes I blitz the lot at once, ie the bread and all the above, just because I can.

Mix the breadcrumbs and onion mix together – have a bit of a taste to check for seasoning. IF I have it – and I know many of you gastronomes will shake your head at this revelation – I shake in a good dose of Masterfoods Chicken Seasoning (instead of the salt and pepper). It is a childhood thing ok? Mum’s stuffing would be an onion, breadcrumbs and a shitload of that seasoning, then all moistened with a little water. I still could eat that until my head fell off.

Shove the stuffing into the cleaned cavity of the bird (I just hold my bird under the faucet and run cold water through it, giving a bit of a gouge while I’m there, and then pat dry with a paper towel) but not too densely. Something to do with internal temperatures, food poisoning and the like.

Squeeze some lemon juice over the bird, jam wedges of the lemon into the leg joint and the arse end of the bird, rub generous amounts of salt and pepper into the skin, drizzle with oil and bung in the oven on 200C. Now I tend to follow the Maggie Beer rule of 20 minutes for each side of the bird, ie 1hr 20 minutes but I never bother turning the bird as she advises. Who could be bothered?

So then, onto the spuds.

Take one large metal bowl and lace with olive oil, herbs, lashings of salt and pepper. Set aside

Peel your vegetables for roasting. I, on occasion, don’t peel but really I just can’t abide by it. Roasted veggies need peeling.

Place in a saucepan with water and a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Cook for 5-10 minutes depending on how big (or small) you’ve cut them up. You want there to be a bit of give on the outer edges but not soft the whole way through.

As the potatoes come to the boil put your baking tray in the oven with a few lugs of olive oil.

Drain thoroughly. Like, drain and then try draining again. Put the lid back on, hold the lid onto saucepan with layered up tea-towels and give a really god shake to make all the outer edges of the taties smooshy.

Topple into the metal bowl and toss with the herbs and oil and then spread them around on the baking tray you put into the oven with the now hot olive oil. (This is why my oven door is never ever clean) Give them all a good roll around to ensure they’re all covered in some oil. Then bake, giving a toss every so often until they’re beautifully golden and crispy.

(Now if you’re not cooking for 500 people like I am, you can always just pop these into the baking tray with the chicken.)

Timewise, this should all tie in  to the chook being done but it’s no biggy if they take longer or are done sooner. I learnt this trick from Nigella Lawson – pretty much everything in a roast dinner can be luke warm so long as the gravy is piping hot. Sorted.

So, here we are at the pointy end. Making gravy. No roast is allowed in this house without it. Yes, it can be scary but with my little trick put your fear back on the shelf and get stirring.  

Take the chooks out of the baking dish, drain off most of the fat but leave the good crunchy, crispy, burnt bits. Put the baking pan over a flame on your stove-top. Add a couple of heaped tablespoons of plain flour and smoosh around the pan, scraping up all the burnt bits. What you’re doing is browning the flour, cooking out the floury taste. Meanwhile boil your kettle or get your stock ready (seriously, I just use a litre of Campbell’s here).

My mum used to say to me that you could tell a good cook by whether they could make gravy or not. Following that theory I am a crap cook because try as I might no matter how I try, it is virtually impossible for me to make non-lumpy gravy the traditional way – ie, browning your flour, adding water or stock and stirring like hell. Chef offered up the valuable tip of adding like temperature to like temperature so adding hot/boiling water instead of cold but even so, still lumpy. Not inedibley lumpy but lumpy all the same. So now, once I’ve browned the flour, I scrape it all up, tip it into a canister like the one above, add some stock and stick-blend it. THEN I return it to the pan, stirring all the time and add more liquid until it’s the right consistency (thick but pourable).

Smooth, tasty gravy with none of the ‘there’s lumps, LUMPS! Can’t stir any faster!’ panic.

 Dinner. Sorted.


Sweet Potato & Chickpea Loaf with mint raita

This is the kind of dish I can eat all day long. The type of dish which tastes good but also seems to nourish your soul. And that, my friends is a good meal.

Sweet Potato & Chickpea Loaf with mint raita

Womens Weekly magazine, issue unknown, 2011

  • 1kg kumara, peeled & chopped
  • 3 slices stale multigrain bread
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews, toasted
  • 400g chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • 1/2 cup coriander, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 eggs
  • 3tsp yellow mustard seeds

Preheat oven to 180C and line an 11x25cm loaf pan

Blend/process the cashews and bread until coarsely chopped

Steam the sweet potato until tender and cool for 10 minutes

Heat the mustard seeds in a frypan until they pop

Mix all the ingredients together and spoon into the pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until firm to touch, stand for ten minutes then cut into thick slices and serve with raita and a salad.


  • 1 cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1tbsp fresh mint
  • 1tsp grated lemon rind
  1. Mix together and season


With any leftovers I find a very tasty way to consume is to heat a frypan and gently reheat the slices in the pan. They get a nice crispy edge to them. Quite lovely.