Monday, March 30, 2009


I swear I'm not obsessed. I just really, really like cookies!

Nigella's Breakfast Biscotti, with white chocolate and macadamia nuts. And American-style fluffy cappuccino!

I can get a bit grumpy when I haven't baked anything sweet and delicious for a while. (Or is that just sugar deprivation?) I can't be the only food-lover who starts to feel a bit meh when she hasn't made something delicious in a while, or who gets depressed eating fast & functional food during the working week. On Sunday I found myself with a few free hours and lots of leftover chocolate and nuts. That could only mean one thing. Cookie time!

First thing I made were Nigella's breakfast biscotti, from Feast. (Made previously here). I chose to make them under the pretence they'd be healthier than regular cookies, because they don't have butter in them. Hah - not when you eat half the batch at once! Oops. Instead of the suggested dark chocolate/almond combo, I went for white chocolate and macadamias, and used up all the macadamia nuts in my fridge. Success!

Biscotti - ready for 2nd baking. You start off by baking a big log of biscuit dough, then you slice it thinly before baking again to create super-crispy biscotti. You need to let the log cool a bit to firm up, and use a sharp knife, otherwise it just falls apart. (I speak from sad experience).

I also made a batch of The Rock's Favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies (what else?), as there is a very vocal supporter of these cookies in my house. Who am I to argue?

The recipe makes 4-5 dozen cookies (!), so I thought I'd halve it. However, I promptly stuffed up the recipe, putting the full amount of eggs in. This meant I just *had* to increase everything else to full quantities. I baked half of them, and froze the rest of the dough. I still had heaps of baked ones leftover, so I took them to work to share with my colleagues. Sugary treats make Mondays that little bit sweeter.

Now, y'all will know I rarely publish recipes, but I'm doing it now, because I realised the recipe is exactly the same as the urban legend $250 Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe. And that one is all over the internet. Apologies in advance for the American measurements - they do my head in, but I've gotten used to following the imperial recipe. (In fact, I've been baking versions of these since I was 15, before I realised there was even a difference between imperial & metric).

The Rock's Favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2.5 cups rolled oats, ground to a fine powder in a blender
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 an 8 oz. Hershey bar, grated
12 oz. chocolate chips
1.5 cups nuts (your choice)

Preheat oven to 180c.
Cream the butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, beat in well. Mix in flour, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Fold in grated Hershey bar, chocolate chips and nuts. Roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place them 5cm apart on a lined baking sheet, flattening slightly. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until browned to suit.

Makes 4-5 dozen rock-a-licious cookies

We don't get Hershey bars here (except at speciality USA candy stores), so I usually blend up whatever chocolate I've got lying around the house. As for the chocolate chips, I tend to use milk chocolate, (I heartbreakingly just finished my stash of milk lindt piccoli), and with the nuts it tends to be almonds, walnuts or macadamias. This time I used peanuts! Milk chocoalte + peanuts = happy times.

Mmm... crumbly...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Little Creatures Dining Hall

I really, really wanted to like Little Creatures Dining Hall... it totally seemed like my kind of place - looks nice, relaxed vibe.... but it was very disappointing. Anyone who's been reading my blog for a while will know that I don't like doing negative reviews - usually I'm like "Oh wow, delicious! Fabulous! Can't wait to come back!" - but it's important to be honest.

Little Creatures Dining Hall
222 Brunswick St
(03) 9417-5500

Let's start with the fit-out. The cavernous warehouse space looks very cool (and the natural sunlight makes it great for food photos, hehe), with an open kitchen at one end, and loads of large communal tables, and leather booths. On the walls are some funky diagrams about the beer-making process. I made a mental note to tell my home-brewing friend George to come here.

EDIT: Spoke to George - she's already been there and had an even worse experience than we did - oops.

We weren't thrilled by the order of service. We were asked to order beer THREE times before we'd even seen a menu - when we arrived and were told to wait at the bar (even though it was half-empty); at the bar itself; and when we were taken to the table. (Yes, I know it's a brewery, but it was 12:30 in the afternoon!)

Anyhoo, we finally got a menu and had a look. It was quite interesting - mussels, pizzas, pie - good beer food! Duh.

The waitstaff use those electronic PDA things to take your order, which do no-one any favours. They're slow, and they force the waiter to stare down and squint at the tiny screen rather than talking to the customers. I had to use one at a previous job, and they were horrible - we all gave up after the first couple of months and used pens and pads instead.

Our waitress didn't seem to be listening to us either.

Me: I'll have the mussels and a pale ale.
Waitress: OK. Yeah, so what did you want to drink?
Me: Pale ale.
Waitress: Oh yeah, whoops.
Sandra: I'll have a kransky and a coke.
Waitress: OK. Yeah, so what did you want to drink?
Sandra: Er.... a coke?
Waitress: Oh yeah! Sorry, I'm really out of it today.

Or maybe she just kept asking us to repeat ourselves because it was so damn noisy in there and she couldn't hear us. The huge space, with its hardwood floors, amplifies the noise level. A lot. Like I said, it wasn't even that busy in there and we were struggling to hear each other. It would be totally deafening on a Saturday night when it'd be chockers. It doesn't help that the music they were playing was loud.

Anyway, the food and drinks came out without a hitch.
My beer (Haha, "pale ale"); organic cola; pipsqueak-sized cider for Su. The cider tasted a bit odd at first - very dry. But after the next sip I appreciated how refreshing it was, quite like a vinho verde. I'd definitely like to drink that on a hot day.

Then the food came out...
My mussels were good - very fresh and with a tasty sauce (white wine, garlic and fennel, I think). I liked the chargrilled bread that came with it too.

Su had a beef pie, which looked great but was massive. She said it was nice, but the one at Belgian Beer Garden is better. (Before any Melbourne foodies roll their eyes at me, I realise the BBG is hardly the trendiest foodie venue, but what they do, they do well).

Sandra ordered a kransky (you can take the girl out of Germany...)
The kransky was BURNT. So burnt that you couldn't taste the sausage anymore, just the burnt exterior. The sauerkraut, dissapointingly, didn't have caraway seeds in it, but that's a moot point.

Chips were good, the mayo was super garlicky and creamy. I liked that they left the skin on the potatoes.

Apart from the burnt kransky, the food was pretty good, but nothing to write home about. When she was clearing up our table, our waitress asked how our meal was. We said that everything was good, except that the sausage was burnt. Her response? "OK". It had been eaten, so of course we weren't expecting a refund or anything, but I figured she'd say sorry, or that she'd let the kitchen know. Or something. Whatever.

One more thing... check out the inside of our water jug.
Rusty water jug. FERAL.

So there you go. A disappointing experience. I wouldn't rush back, or recommend it to my friends. So far I haven't heard any glowingly positive reports on Little Creatures from my friends, colleagues or fellow bloggers. The main criticisms seem to be similar - the noisy atmosphere, the expense (sorry I forgot the prices! I personally found the price to be reasonable overall), and the attitude of the waitstaff/host who seats you.

Has anyone else tried the Little Creatures Dining Hall? What were your impressions?

Little Creatures Dining Hall on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nigella Lawson's Margarita Ice-Cream

Remember those cheap limes I bought? They found their way into a batch of Margarita Ice-Cream, courtesy of Nigella Express.

This recipe is a no-churn version of the margarita ice-cream in Forever Summer. Incidentally, that particular recipe was the first Nigella recipe I ever wanted to make - many years ago when I bought my first Nigella book, Forever Summer. I would have tried the original version, but I didn't want to use a recipe with 6 egg yolks, and I was waay too lazy to make a proper custard from scratch.

Just like the pomegranate ice-cream, this is one of the cream-whipped-with-sugar-and-juice no-churn ice-creams. It used 125ml of lime juice, perfect for using up my lime stash. And some tequila and grand marnier, of course. Just whisk it all up, and freeze it for a few hours. Before freezing, I tasted the mixture, and it was quite sour. Remembering that ice-creams get even more sour as they freeze, I added a good deal of sugar (maybe 3/4 cup?) to get it to the right level - still tangy, but not wincingly sour.

The result? Success. I love how the ice-cream is creamily soft and scoopable, straight out of the freezer. Must be all the alcohol in the mixture. Being primarily based on pure cream, it is quite rich, and best in small scoops. But the taste is light and refreshing, and perfect for a hot summer's day.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Black Bread

Walking past Bread Top in Melbourne Central... what did I see?
I had to stop, and did a double take. Is that... black bread?

Yup. The laminated sign confirmed it.

I just had to try one, and at just $2, how could I not?

I was nervous, staring at the spookily black roll - would it taste burnt? Was it even real bread? But my adventurous palate was rewarded - they were awesome! It just tasted like regular garlic bread, with a soft interior and crusty outside. Fantastic. After inhaling my roll, we went back inside to buy a couple more for home. You know what they say... once you go black....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Baking Brezels or "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson"

Duncan: Do you guys wanna pretzilfy at my house?
Me & Thanh: YES!

It's quite hard to get good pretzels here. The Brezel Biz wagon does quite good ones, but I only see them at festivals. They make sweet pretzels too - chocolate, cinnamon etc. The Germans I know would gasp in horror at the idea of a sweet pretzel. We asked the owner about it once, at the Dandenong Oktoberfest (which was just as awesome as it sounds - i.e. it wasn't), and she said she'd hardly have any business if she only sold proper salty ones here in Oz. They all taste good to me!

Anyhoo, when the good Herr Doktor Duncan invited us over to make pretzels on a Friday evening, I knew it would only be the most proper traditional salty pretzels. For the whole week beforehand I was salivating at the idea of freshly baked pretzels straight out of the oven..

Sandra and I rocked up on time, and were put straight to work making the dough. (Thanh arrived just in time to eat... he said a work meeting ran late. A likely story, Thanh! Hehe.)

Did you know you can make bread dough in a food processor? I never knew that. And it works really well.

Rolling the dough into sausage shapes is the hard part (or at least it was for me; I realised I am totally inept at rolling decent sausage shapes), especially under the watchful eyes of German Sandra and Macaron-Master Duncan. More than one of mine had to be re-rolled by more skilled hands. Haha!
"Leave the pretzels to rise in a warm place". Is that structurally sound?

Before baking, you're supposed to dip them in a very diluted solution of caustic soda (yes folks, that is the same chemical as drain cleaner), which gives the pretzels their distinctive colour and taste. Even though the liquid is diluted and food-grade, don't stick your hands in it, and keep it AWAY from your eyes! It can also react with aluminium or non-stick trays, so a couple of layers of baking paper is a good idea.

And... TA-DAH!

I brought luxury Lurpak Danish unsalted butter to go with the pretzels. Butter is sooooo good. The pretzels were even better than I thought they would be. Which was pretty amazing. Once I've stolen the recipe from Duncan I'll be making them myself at home. I can't believe we only made 12 pretzels. We could totally have eaten more.

Pretzels alone do not make a meal (although some people I know would beg to differ), and Duncan also made a fabulous stew, full of tender pork and red peppers, served with a big scoop of sour cream. YUMMMMM!

We'd been debating all week what to have for dessert, but it seems dessert was decided for us. Duncan happened to receive a massive bucket of peaches from his neighbour (I wish I had neighbours who were so generous with fresh fruit!), so we had peach crumble with home-made coconut ice-cream.

Thanks to Duncan and Thanh for a great night, and to Duncan for hosting!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy Birthday SU!

Choc-Chip Sponge with Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Cream

Just a few weeks ago was the birthday of our beloved Su, and her boyfriend (my brother) decided to organise a SU-per special surprise birthday for her. (God, I'm good).

Sandra and I had the responsibilities of baking the cake, and keeping the birthday girl occupied in the afternoon before the party so that Dan could get to Su's house and prepare with Su's mum.

The cake was adapted from a white-forest cake from from Neil Perry's Good Food, which itself is a pared-down version of black forest cake. I would have made a black forest cake, except Su doesn't like alcohol in her whipped cream, and you just can't have a black forest cake without kirsch in the cream!

The chocolate sponge cake ended up being a chocolate chip sponge because I was too lazy to process the chocolate until it was properly pulverised. We layered the cake with bucketloads of whipped cream (Su loves whipped cream), raspberries (couldn't find any decent cherries on short notice), and chocolate ganache. We topped it with yet more whipped cream and Dolfin 77% Cocoa hot chocolate flakes. (Whipped cream + chocolate flakes = WIN!) And I finally used my sahnesteif, brought back from Germany last year, which helped the cream to keep its shape.

The party was on a Monday night, so we picked Su up after work and we took her to Pancake Parlour for coffee... for 2 hours. Su totally knew something was up. I'm horrible at lying, and the only cover-story we could come up with on-the-spot was that Daniel wanted to make naked sushi for Su. (You know, like Samantha did in the Sex and the City movie). Wrong, wrong, wrong!!!

Anyhoo.. at the appointed time, we whisked the birthday girl to the appointed location... and everyone yelled out SURPRISE! Daniel really outdid himself - apart from organising all the invitees, he'd gotten heaps of beer, drinks, balloons, a photo slideshow of Su, Guitar Hero, snacks, and all sorts of fun things!

1 dozen original glazed, 1 dozen mixed... y'all know it was me who brought the donuts!

Su's mum (and family) made an awesome spread of food. Su's mum is a professional!
Fried Wontons; Chicken Wings; Dan & Su
Brie rolls (there were also peking duck rolls, yummy!); Bread and dips; Guacamole made by Mexican Oscar

The cake was nice - moist and not overly sweet. I found the whole combo a bit too intense though. With that much chocolate in the cake, I'd have been better off using a lighter dark chocolate.. maybe around 55% instead of 70%.


Sunday, March 15, 2009


Does anyone remember this little beauty? You very well might. According to StatCounter, the original "How to season a black iron / carbon steel frypan" is the most-viewed page in the four year and ten month history of Sarah Cooks! So there you go.

I use the pan about 2-3 times a week, and definitely every time I cook something oily - bacon, sausages, kassler and so on. As for cleaning, I never use detergent (although I suspect my mum might have used detergent once by accident), but wipe it clean with paper towel. If there's a lot of crap stuck to the pan, I'll pour water in it and boil it so that the crap lifts off. It's important to keep the pan dry, so after pouring the water out, I'll leave it on the heat for a minute or so until it's dry. Then I rub it with a thin layer of canola oil. (Either use a thick wadding of paper towel or let the pan cool first!)

This morning, the pan was used to make me a surprise pancake breakfast. I've never cooked anything sweet on the pan myself, as I was afraid whatever we cook on it would taste bacony. But no, they tasted like proper (delicious) pancakes.

I'm keen to try making Yorkshire pudding (sweet and savoury versions) in the pan. In Jamie's Ministry of Food, he suggests keeping a muffin tray soley for the purpose of making Yorkshire puddings so that the tray gets seasoned and develops a non-stick coating.

I noticed that the bottom of the pan is now quite smooth! Wahoo! Previously there's always been bits of crud on it, but now it looks like there's a smooth black layer. As you can see, it's not completely black and wok-like, but it's definitely getting closer.

The test will be when I can fry an egg on it without oil and have it slide off easily.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Koliba Czech & Slovak Restaurant

"The only Czech and Slovak restaurant in Melbourne", proclaims the chalkboard outside the restaurant. Yay! I adore the food of Mitteleuropa, and was so happy to find a dedicated Czech/Slovak restaurant in my 'hood.

(For further proof of my unending passion for central European food: Remember my visits to Prague, Croatia and Germany during my trip to Europe in 2006... and of course my trip to Germany on 2007/08.) Driving to Collingwood is a lot faster, and you don't need to pay for the airfare.

Koliba Czech and Slovak Restaurant
11 Johnston St
Collingwood Vic 3066
(03) 9417-3797

I'd driven past Koliba a few times, and was very excited: "They might have goulash...! They might have dumplings...! They might have roast duck with 2 types of cabbage...!"

I wasn't sure how good it would be, as I couldn't find any information online, and whenever we passed the place, it always seemed dark and closed. However, the craving for dumplings is a strong one. So, after verifying the opening times when we drove by one day, (5:00-10:00pm, every day except Monday) we took a chance and rocked up on Sunday night.

It was pleasantly busy, but not too crowded, and we didn't have a problem getting a table. It was full of white people - a good sign? (Joke!) When was the last time you read a blogpost or review about a Chinese restaurant that didn't mention how many Asians were dining there? Hehehe. The space looked very 70's to me, and felt homey and comfortable. After chatting to our friendly and fantastic waiter, we learnt that Koliba has only been open for 3 weeks - a-hah! No wonder it always looked closed before. It probably was!

We started off with some Krušovice beers. Did you know that the Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other country in the world?

When it comes to this type of food, my eyes are invariably bigger than my stomach, and we order way too much. In the interest of avoiding indigestion, (especially the day after the bloggers' banquet!), we shared 2 starters between the 4 of us. I've copied and pasted the descriptions directly from the menus, in what I think are the Czech and Slovak languages. (If you thought German umlauts were cool... wait until you see the amount of accents on these Czech/Slovak words!)

Traditional Potato Pancake ,,BRAMBORAK,, Served with Sweet and Sour Braised Cabbage
Bramborové placky se sladko kyselým zelím
Zemiakové placky so sladko-kyslou kapustou

Beneath the sweet-sour cabbage were 2 crispy potato pancakes - lovely!

Traditional Style ,,Devil,, Toasts with Minced Beef and Cheese
Ïábelské pikantní topinky
Diabolské pikantné topinky

We loved the Devil toasts too. They tasted very homey: toasted bread topped with a spicy mixture of minced beef and chopped vegetables, and cheese.

We were off to a great start. In fact, we liked the starters so much we wished we'd ordered more! The other selections on the menu looked inviting too. Think things like marinated sausages or fried garlic bread with marinated capsicum and cream cheese. Next time, next time.

Onto the mains. I couldn't resist the roast pork with cabbage (more of that tasty sweet-sour cabbage) and bread dumplings.

Czech National Dish - Roast Pork with Braised Cabbage and Home Made Bread Dumplings
Vepøo knedlo zelo

The dish looked quite monotone, but believe me, it didn't taste that way. The pork was so moist and juicy, the cabbage had a perfect balance between sour and sweet, and the dumplings were so superlight and fluffy. Similar in texture, come to think of it, to a char siu pau (roast pork bun from Yum Cha).

2 of our group went for the goulash.

Traditional Beef Goulash with Bread Dumplings
Tradièní hovìzí guláš s houskovým knedlíkem
Tradièný hovädzí guláš s knedl'ami

As you can see, the serving was massive - yet the 2 lovely ladies enjoying their goulashes wiped their plates clean. (And yes, that was one goulash each). Respect.

My dad chose the pork schnitzel.
Crumbed Pork Schnitzel Served with Mashed Potatoes or Boiled Potatoes
Smažený vepøový øízek s bramborovou kaší nebo vaøenými bramborami
Vysmážaný bravèový rezeò so zemiakovou kašou alebo varenými zemiakmi

Verdict: the meat tasted good, but the dish overall was too dry. You'll see from the menu description that the schnitzel is supposed to be served with mashed or boiled potatoes, but Dad asked for dumplings instead because he wanted to try them. (If we'd realised how massive the dumplings would be, we'd have just shared ours with him, rather than substituting). Dad came to the conclusion that it would have been better with mashed potatoes.

And you'd think there wouldn't be any more room... but there's always room for apple strudel. Just one... to be shared.
Apple Strudel with Walnuts and Whipped Cream
Jableèný závin s vlašskými oøechy a šlehaèkou
Jablkový závin s valašskými orechami a šlahaèkou

It came with ice-cream, not whipped cream as the menu states, but y'all know that hot apple strudel and vanilla ice-cream is a match made in heaven. So, we were happy. The strudel was warm and slightly crispy, with surprise walnuts and sultanas inside.

Koliba was a fabulous find, and I'm so happy we took the chance to try it out. There were some minor problems, but these seem to be teething issues, rather than anything serious. For example, there was a long wait for food to be brought out, and our food almost went to the wrong table. Not a huge drama, especially considering how nice our waiter was and how good the food was. I've encountered worse problems at restaurants that have been around for a lot longer than 3 weeks.

Oh, another small problem was that we weren't told about the specials. Only as we left did I see the specials board. They had "beef tenderloin with creamy vegetables and bread dumplings" - how good does that sound?! Only one thing to do - we'll have to come back.

Koliba Czech&Slovak restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bloggers' Banquet Round-Up

Hello hello! Our delayed Bloggers' Banquet was happily rescheduled for today. We had it in the courtyard of The Commoner on Johnston St, which, apart from being more resistant to Melbourne's changeable weather, had the added benefit of having a woodfired oven!

The Oven; Duncan trying out the awesome ray-gun-thermometer thingo

At first I was going to make German potato salad, but seeing as our get-together was more of a nibbles-and-drinks-thang than a BBQ, I decided to take advantage of the wood-fired oven and try out some Flammkuchen!
I made the dough for the bases in the morning, and layered them up with baking paper in a plastic tupperware container, and brought all the toppings (chopped red onions, bacon pieces and sour cream mixed with thyme) in separate little containers. And once the oven was ready, I assembled them and we cooked them in the awesome oven. It was so cool! And the results were so much better than my domestic oven. I totally want a woodfired oven when I'm grown up.

I could not believe how much food there was...
Savoury table; Sweet Table

Olives courtesy of The Commoner
Totally fabulous cheese courtesy of Will Studd, by way of Ed (the cheddar was aweeeesome!)
Really delicious chicken wings from Agnes
Little pieces of flammkuchen on a funky silver plate

I didn't get close-up pics of all the food... but hopefully some others will be blogging this shortly???

From memory, other delicious contributions were...

A plate of fresh figs from Joel's garden
Bread, walnuts and cheese-friendly fruit from Jackie
Tzatziki and red capsicum and walnut (omg so yum) dip from Fiona
Super-smoky baba ganouj, hommus and Turkish bread from Brian
Dip, capsicum and crackers from Cath
Pissaladiere from Jess
Skewers from Michael

Apologies if I assigned the wrong food to the wrong person or missed anyone out - there were lots of people and lots of food - give me a heads up in the comments and I can fix any mistakes.

The sweets!
The Rock's Favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies (from me!)
Macarons from Duncan - subtle cinnamon and peach; chocolate and passionfruit (yay!!) and vaguely violet
Buttery passionfruit biscuits from Claire
Supercute pink marshmallows from Christy
Blondies from Thanh
Salted caramels from Asti
Salted caramel and dark chocolate tart from Jess

Carrot cake from Thanh

I was on a total sugar high after all those sweets. I especially loved the cinnamon and peach macarons (filled with white chocolate), yum! Thanh seemed to think his blondies were slightly burnt, but they tasted totally fine to me!

And look what we found as we were packing up... GASP!
Someone didn't finish a violet macaron! *FAINTS*

Thanks to everyone for coming, and bringing delicious food. It was great to see some familiar faces, and meet some new ones. Thanks so much to Jo from The Commoner for hosting!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Bargain of the week

Check out these two lovely dishes I picked up on the weekend! I love these Spanish Graupera terracotta dishes, and just had to treat myself to 2 more when I saw them on super-crazy-awesome sale at Minimax in Camberwell. They were doing a "10% off the reduced price", and these 2 dishes cost me a tidy $26.95. BARGAIN!

You may remember my other Graupera dishes from such posts as The Ultimate Mac and Cheese, and Soup. Or "How to get warm without pudding". Apart from making great serving dishes, you can use them in the oven, the microwave and on the stove (only on the lowest of low heats), and they're easily cleaned in the dishwasher. They do need to be seasoned before use, but this isn't nearly as complicated as seasoning a black iron/carbon steel pan. Nope, to season one of these Grauperas, you just need to soak it in water overnight.

The limes, I picked up during a completely unrelated yet equally fortuitous shopping expedition to Safeway. They were only $1.98 a kilo! They were gorgeously bright green, and remembering all the shrivelled little limes usually sold at much higher prices, I had to buy a rather insane amount.

Mojitos and caipiriñas for all!

Any other ideas for how to use up some limes?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Ultimate Sunday Dinner of Beef and Potatoes

It's not a lie.

Tyler's Ultimate is one of my favourite cookbooks in my collection, and his ultimate Sunday dinner of beef and potatoes was definitely a winner. It was so easy to make - just brown the meat (biodynamic sirloin, thank-you very much) in a pot, add onions, thyme, beef stock and red wine, and cook in a medium oven for 2.5 hours until tender. It makes your whole house smell wonderful, and requires very little effort.

While it was cooking, I made some French-style peas (cooked with sliced cos lettuce, spring onions and chicken stock).

And some decadent creamy mashed potatoes. (Added to the potatoes were hot milk, a touch of cream, and more butter than I care to recall).

Butter is the key.

Now that I'm working 9-5, I don't get the time to cook slow, special meals as often as I used to, and I was soo pleased with this one. The only change I'd make next time is to make sure I use more liquid - during its time in the oven, most of the liquid cooked away, leaving the beef a bit dry and sauceless. I used a big mama 28cm Le Creuset to cook the meat; next time something narrower would probably work better, so that I don't have to use litres and litres of wine to cover the meat completely.