What’s on Your Plate?

We’re heading out for drinks tonight and need to take a plate. Generally I’d take something baked, sweet and chocolatey to enjoy at the end of the night. But in the search for a savoury alternative I came across the super simple recipe for one of my favourites, normally brought by someone else as their ‘plate’ – Bean Layer Dip.

Who doesn’t love a Mexican dip? Find the biggest corn chip and then dip through all of those layers to cram as much as you can on to that single chip. Next challenge – getting it all in your mouth without spilling a drop down your front!

The first layer – refried beans mixed with salsa.


Next – sour cream. I gave it a stir in the tub before turning it out on to the beans to make it a little more spreadable.


Then – guacamole, using whatever recipe you like. I’m thinking I went a little overboard with the cumin in mine tonight.


Finally, a sprinkle of cheese and green shallots.


Mmmmm, can’t wait to dip a great big corn chip into this.

So, what’s your favourite plate to take to a party?


A Little Mexican Delight

Beer…corn chips…GUACAMOLE…sweet chilli sauce


My sister gave me a stack of gorgeous farm fresh avocados so I used about three or four of these together with a handful of fresh coriander a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime.

It’s been an age since I made guacamole. Delicious! So…how do you make guacamole?

Craisin Jam…and Brie

I think I might have found the perfect accompaniment for brie…craisin jam. I’ve always loved quince paste and plum paste but I think this might be just a little more perfect. And, it’s simple and quite cost effective to make…especially in comparison to the cost of quince paste.

Craisin Jam
from www.oceanspray.com.au

Place 170g craisins and 125ml water into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for two minutes. Add 1 cup caster sugar and 60ml red wine vinegar and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for five minutes. Cool and serve with brie. Makes one and a half cups. Craisin jam can be made up to one week ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

The Dinner Party Starters

I love a dinner party!  Great company, delicious food, fine wines! One of my favourite parts is scouring through recipe books to create a great menu. I have piles of Donna Hay, Delicious, Vogue Entertaining and Gourmet Traveller magazines on top of my recipe book collection so it’s fun to flick through and find some little gems to cook up. 

Here are some of the gems I found to serve as starters for the dinner party we hosted last night.

Raspberry and Basil Mules
based on recipe from Donna Hay Issue 59

The 10th birthday issue of Donna Hay magazine has some fabulous celebration punches.  This one called for only 180ml of ginger beer. I increased this to 750ml as it seemed way too potent for my liking.  It indicated to the total volume should be 1.5 litres so I am suspicious that 180ml may have been a typo. Here’s the recipe with my adjustment.

125g fresh raspberries
1 cup lime juice
1 cup caster sugar
160ml vodka
750ml ginger beer
1 cup basil leaves, to serve

Place the raspberries in ice cube trays and fill with water. Freeze for four hours or until frozen. Place the lime and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Cook for two minutes or until thickened slightly. Allow to cool completely. Place the vodka, lime syrup, ginger beer, raspberry ice cubes and basil leaves in a 1.5 litre-capacity jug and stir to combine.

Please note, the photo above was taken this morning. The small amount left in the jug had changed from the usual ginger beer colour to hot pink due to the raspberry infusion. So…please don’t think that if you whip this up you’ll have a hot pink cocktail to present to your guests…unless of course you make it 12 hours in advance, which I wouldn’t recommend.

Rice Paper Rolls
from Donna Hay Issue 43

16 large dried rice paper rounds
1 cup Vietnamese mint leaves
1 bunch chives
100g snow pea shoots
Caramelised pork, sliced (see recipe below)
16 slices pickled cucumber (see recipe below)
Nuoc Cham sauce (see recipe below), to serve

Soften a rice paper round in warm water for 30 seconds. Place on a clean dry cloth. Top with the mint, chives, snow pea shoots, pork and cucumber. Fold over each end and roll to enclose filling. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve with dipping sauce. Makes 16.

85g caster sugar
200g pork fillet, trimmed and halved
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 green onion, sliced

Place the sugar in a saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring for 2 to 3 minutes or until caramelised. Add the pork and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until golden on all sides. Reduce the heat to low, add the fish sauce, garlic, oil and green onion and cook for 15 minutes or until cooked through and sauce is sticky.

2 tbsp caster subar
60ml lime juice
60ml rice vinegar
1 telegraph cucumber, thinly sliced

Place the sugar, lime juice and vinegar in a non-metallic bowl and stir until dissolved. Add the cucumber and toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

125ml fish sauce
110g caster sugar
2 tablespoons water
60ml lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 small red chillies, sliced

Place the fish sauce, sugar, water, lemon juice, garlic and chilli in a non-metallic bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Makes 1.5 cups. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Duck in Crisp Wonton Cups
from Australian Women’s Weekly

24 wonton wrappers
cooking oil spray
1 Chinese barbecued duck
1 tablespoon hoi sin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons coarsely
chopped fresh coriander
2 green onions (green shallots), chopped coarsely
2 green onions, extra, sliced thinly
NOTE: Wonton cases can be made a day ahead; store in an airtight container. The filling can be prepared several hours ahead. Assemble close to serving.
Preheat the oven to moderate (180°C/160°C fan-forced). Grease 24 mini muffin pans. Press wonton wrappers into pans to form a cup shape; spray lightly with oil. Bake in a moderate oven for about 8 minutes until browned lightly. Remove from muffin pans, cool.Remove flesh and skin from duck, slice thinly, discard fat. Place duck on an oven tray, cover with foil, heat in a moderate oven for 10 minutes.Combine duck with sauces, coriander and onions in a medium bowl; mix well.Spoon duck mixture into wonton cases, top with extra onions.

New Year’s Eve Party Confetti

My preparations have begun for tonight’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. We are having quite a small affair with my sister, her husband, and her little boy.  But – it is new year’s eve so I still want to create a party atmosphere with some balloons, party hats, noise makers and confetti.

I few years back I saw a gorgeous idea for creating your own very personalised confetti on Martha Stewart. It is so simple and your guests will get a real kick out of this.

Simply find a photo of each of your guests (and the hosts). Insert the image into a Word document and crop it down to create a close up of the face only.  These faces are going to be cut out using a hole punch. I used a standard sized hole punch as well as a larger craft hole punch.  For the standard size hole punch you will need to reduce the size of the image to be just under 1cm by 1cm. For my larger hole punch I made the images 2cm by 2cm. You may need to play around with this a little to get the images to be just the right size.

Next use the hole punch to start cutting out the faces.  Take the back off the punch so you can easily see where you want to cut. You may need to cut the photos into strips to make it easier to punch the holes.

Voila.  Personalised confetti.

Add some confetti punched from coloured paper and some glitter and you will have a lovely mix to scatter on your table.


Pink Ribbon Lunch

Every year in October I host a function for a small group of friends to raise money for breast cancer. In the past I have had breakfasts and morning teas and this year I held a lunch. It was such a lovely day – a group of gorgeous girls, a glass or two of bubbles and some yummy food…and we raised $240. 

We kicked off the morning with a glass of gelati champagne – a brilliant idea from the wonderful Jill Dupleix. Add a teaspoon of your favourite gelati (we had berry) then top carefully with champagne.  Yum!

And, for the non-drinkers – Pom-Ade, a refreshing pomegranate drink with lemonade and soda.

For starters I served a melon, proscuitto and bocconcini salad from the new Women’s Weekly 12 Days of Christmas cook book.

For main I served a Rocket Quiche and Peppery Lemon Chicken (both from the WW 12 Days of Christmas cookbook), Spinach Salad with Bosc Pears, Cranberries, Red Onion and Toasted Hazelnuts and Daikon Salad (a recipe from my sister that I think may be from Jill Dupleix).

Rocket Quiche

Peppery Lemon Chicken

Spinach Salad

Daikon Salad

And then for dessert, an idea I got from the new magazine, The Outdoor Room – brownies with berries and cream.  I used the Brownie recipe from Epicurious.

What a wonderful day – I wish I could do that every Friday.  Thank you to my gorgeous friends for your generous donations.