Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 in review

I admit that 2012 was an extremely slow blogging year. With only 40 posts in the year, it was by far the least I’ve written since I started the blog back in 2006. But I have some fairly decent excuses.

For starters, back in January I took on a new job turning a government policy into a practical plan and have been leading a global team to make it happen. It’s been challenging and amazingly rewarding. It’s also meant I've spent a fair bit of time on the road, domestically across Australia and also in Singapore and China. While I’ve experienced some amazing new foods, I just haven’t had the time to write about it.

And then later this year I had some health hiccups which left me quite lethargic. The good news is that I’ve overcome my fear of needles. I was so terrified of needles I’ve managed to avoid all blood tests and injections since 1994. That’s 18 years without a needle folks!

Well, since I’ve had about a zillion tests and injections in the past few months, I’m completely cured of this phobia and can now get all the vaccines I should have gotten before I headed off to Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam . . . . you get the picture.

And I’m feeling much, much better. The moral of the story being, get the damn blood test rather than spending four years getting sicker and sicker. Not clever.

On the positive side, I was pleased to discover my rapid weight gain over the last few years wasn't 100% due to my gluttonous disposition, and once the meds kicked in I managed to lose some weight. That's always a nice outcome, right?

So the personal front definitely overwhelmed my blogging, and unfortunately Morsels & Musings was the big loser of 2012, but here is my traditional year in review rundown nonetheless


• Alcohol – at first it was the big winner (lots of travel and networking) but with the health issues I ended up refraining to conserve some strength. I predict I will be happily reunited with my old friends bourbon, gin and tequila in 2013!

• Chilli – with a huge range of digestive issues at play, my best buddy chilli was no longer welcome at our dinner table. Jonas went through litres of sriracha, but my bottles of Louisiana hot sauce looked forlornly at me as I tried to ignore them.

• Thai food – I am a huge Thai fan, my favourite dishes being larb (spicy minced meat salad), khao mok gai (chicken poached in turmeric), som tum (green papaya salad) and the mysteriously named “boat soup” (a rich dark broth of chicken blood and spices). Thai food is super spicy, so for the same reasons I refrained from chilli, Thai was off the menu.


• Salsa verde – despite the chilli ban, I managed to sneak in some salsa verde loving. Being able to make it ourselves meant I could control the amount of chilli I used.

• Pickles – sour things have made a comeback for me this year. Boquerones, pickled octopus, pickled herring, gherkins, pickled cherries . . . you name it, I want it.

• Bread – we got a KitchenAid Stand Mixer and Jonas started making his own bread. I’ve never been a bread lover, but damn if his olive oil loaves aren’t delicious.

Some previous year’s winners also managed to stay high on the winners list, with caramel, pecans, capsicum and maple syrup being the most triumphant.

My favourite recipes of 2012:

Chocolate Prune Brownies

Cactus & Pineapple Salsa

Southern Peach Cobbler

Smoked Trout & Potato Salad w Horseradish-Crème Fraîche Dressing

Pollo en Salsa Verde (chicken in tomatillo sauce)
Smoky Chipotle Chicken Nachos

Daikon Braised in Mirin & Miso

Passionfruit Slice

Korean-Style Sticky Pork Spare Ribs

Smoked Apple & Chestnut Ravioli w Cinnamon Apple Butter

Brown Sugar Meringue w Verjuice Figs & Honey-Cinnamon Yoghurt
Brussels Sprouts, Pancetta & Lemon Pasta

Shopsin's Pumpkin Pancakes

Sockerkaka (Swedish sponge cake)
Fennel, Radish & Apple Salad

Tomorrow I will post my 2013 food challenges, in the meantime enjoy your New Year’s Eve celebrations!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

jamie oliver’s “new” mince pies

Merry Christmas!!!

Today Jonas was up early cooking a variety of Swedish delicacies for our Julbord (Christmas table):
  • vörtbröd (wort or beer bread)
  • smoked sausages
  • smoked mackerel
  • sillsallad (pickled herring with mayo, egg, herbs & potato)
  • meatballs with lingon jam
  • beetroot salad
  • bourbon-maple-mustard glazed ham
  • Janssons frestelse (potato & anchovy gratin)

My only contribution was these mince pies.

I know have slowed down my blogging lately, but I promise I have a really good excuse.

I’m not quite ready to share the reason just yet but suffice to say, if all goes according to plan, I will let you in on the secret in March. Until then, please be patient and I promise I won’t disappear completely.

I saw Jamie make these pies on a Christmas TV special and thought they looked a lot simpler and easier to make than traditional mince pies. I fancied mine up quite a bit with dried sour cherries, blueberries and dates, but you could use any dried fruits you have on hand.

They are quite sweet and intensely flavoured, so I recommend serving with sweetened crème fraîche, ice cream, custard or cream to balance it out a little.

Jamie Oliver’s “New” Mince Pies

My adaptation of Jamie Oliver's recipe. Makes 12.

¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup dried sour cherries
¼ cup dried dates, chopped
2 tablespoons dried blueberries
½ cup brandy
400g jar high quality fruit mince
30g glace orange rind, finely chopped
100g peeled, roasted chestnuts
2 sheets puff pastry
6 sheets of filo pastry
50g butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup flaked almonds
Icing sugar, to dust


1. The day before, combine the dried cranberries, sour cherries, dates, blueberries and brandy in a plastic container. Mix and seal overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Butter a muffin tray (for 12 muffins).

3. Spread the mincemeat over the two puff pastry sheets. Sprinkle over dried fruit mixture, glace rind and then crumble over chestnuts.

4. Tightly roll up the pastry, lengthways, like a Swiss roll, place it on a floured tray, and pop in the fridge to firm up.

5. Combine the melted butter and cinnamon.

6. On a flat surface, butter one layer of filo pastry. Top with another sheet and butter. Fold them in half to create a long thin strip then place over four holes of the muffin tray. Repeat two more times, covering all the muffin holes. Brush all with butter.

7. Take the puff pastry rolls out of the fridge and, with a sharp knife, cut each into 6 slices. Place each slice into a filo-lined hole, flat-side down so the spiral of fruit is displayed.

8. Brush with the egg and sprinkle a few flaked almonds on top of each little pie, then pop both trays in the oven for about 25 minutes, until cooked and golden brown.

9. Leave to cool, then crack the individual pies out of the trays. Dust with a little icing sugar before serving.

Note: You can freeze the cooked, cooled mince pies in their trays (just wrap the lot in cling film). Just reheat them in a hot oven straight from the freezer.

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