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.

Friday 23 November 2012

fennel, radish & apple salad

Yesterday was one huge Thanksgiving dinner, cooked by moi.

My sister Shamu and her man, Tombolina, came over and I spent the entire day preparing for the feast.

It was one of those cooking days where everything just fell into place. I cooked recipes simultaneously based on time and need, and managed to balance pie pastry with turkey brining, yam basting with dressing prep, cocktail making with vegetable slicing.

I even managed to completely clean the kitchen before Jonas got home and my guests arrived (Jonas was particularly pleased he dodged that bullet).

To be honest, it was the first time in my life when I managed to be so zen and organised when cooking a huge meal. I was very, very proud of myself.

Gold star please!

A “Spiced Scrumpy” cocktail kicked the evening off, then the menu combined Americana favourites, modern twists and some Thanksgiving classics:

Pear & Scallop Squash Soup
Texan BBQ Turkey Shanks
Sausage & Sage Dressing
Fennel, Apple & Radish Salad
Maple, Bourbon & Sesame Candied Yams
Greens Simmered in Chicken Stock w Onions & Garlic
Chocolate Pecan Pie & Vanilla Ice Cream

Every recipe was new – untried, untested – and every single one was a great success. I was so pleased with the way the food turned out.

Today I’m going to share with you one of the recipes: this autumnal salad of pretty pinkish hues and fresh, tangy flavours.

The original recipe used Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes), but I was unable to source them in the Sydney spring weather. Nonetheless, the salad added a perfect refreshing balance to some of the other heavier dishes.

Fennel, Radish & Apple Salad

Based on a recipe from The Flexitarian Table by Peter Berley. Serves 4-6 as part of a buffet.

4 radishes, trimmed
2 gala apples, peeled and cored
2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fennel fronds
Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar and lemon juice to make a smooth vinaigrette. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.

2. With a super sharp peeler or mandolin, shave radishes, apples and fennel into wafer thin slices.

3. Toss vegetables in vinaigrette then cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day, to allow the flavours to come together.

4. Just before serving, add in chives and fennel fronds. Taste, then season with salt and pepper as required.

Saturday 3 November 2012

oktapodi toursi (greek-style pickled octopus)

I adore pickles, and pickled seafood is high on my list. I like the sweet Lithuanian-style pickled fish but I adore boquerones (white anchovies) and any kind of pickled octopus.

When I think of octopus, I do think of Greek cuisine. They have a lot of interesting and flavoursome octopus recipes, whether it’s braised in red wine or barbecued after hours of marinating in lemon juice and garlic.

When I decided to make pickled octopus, I took the Greek herbs and spices for inspiration and flavoured my pickling liquor with oregano, bay and chilli.

The results are divine: soft, sour tentacles that satisfy my current cravings.

Oktapodi Toursi (Greek-Style Pickled Octopus)

Anna’s very own recipe. Makes one mezze to serve 2.


500g cleaned baby octopus
2 teaspoons peppercorns
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 dried bay leaves
½ teaspoon fresh parsley, very finely chopped
1 cup (250ml) white wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil, to finish
600ml sterilised preserve jar

1. In a small saucepan, bring ½ cup (125ml) cold water and the baby octopus to the boil. Reduce to simmer and braise for 20 minutes or until octopus is tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside to cool.

2. When cool, arrange octopus in the preserving jar. It’s easier to fit it all in if you place the tentacles against the glass with the heads gathered together in the centre of the jar. Sprinkle in fresh parsley.

3. In another saucepan, bring all other ingredients (peppercorns, chilli flakes, smoked paprika, dried oregano, sliced garlic cloves, dried bay leaves and white wine vinegar) to the boil.

4. Pour boiling vinegar over octopus then immediately top with olive oil to ensure no octopus parts stick out above the liquid.

5. Seal jar immediately, cool to room temperature then refrigerate for 1 week before eating.

6. Bring to room temperature again before opening jar and serving.

Sunday 7 October 2012

sockerkaka - swedish sponge cake

Sockerkaka translates to “sugar cake”, but really it’s a type of sponge cake without all the fuss.

Today is my darling husband’s birthday and he requested I made him a sponge cake sandwiching strawberry jam and cream – for breakfast!

How could I say no?

Last weekend we bought almost 2kgs of strawberries for $9 and he’d asked me to turn them into jam, since strawberry is his favourite jam.

I’m glad I did, because nothing beats a sponge flavoured with homemade jam (see recipe below).

Although the recipe is very simple (and you can make it more so if you use 200ml milk and 100g butter instead of cream and buttermilk), the results are light, sweet and the perfect sponge substitute.

Sockerkaka (Swedish Sponge Cake)

Based on a recipe from Serves 10-12.

400ml (4dl) sugar
4 eggs
60g butter
125ml cream
125ml buttermilk
2 vanilla pods (or 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste)
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
600ml (6dl) flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
For filling/decoration
200ml cream, whipped
60ml (¼ cup) strawberry jam, slightly warmed  (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon icing sugar


1. Preheat oven to 175’C. Grease and line 2 x 20cm round baking tins.

2. Scrape out seeds from vanilla pods.

3. Melt butter with buttermilk, cream, lemon zest and vanilla pods and seeds. Remove from heat once butter is melted. Set aside.

4. In a new bowl, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until light, fluffy and doubled in size (at least 5 minutes).

5. After removing vanilla pods, beat milk mixture into the egg mixture.

6. In another bowl, combine the flour and baking powder.

7. Gently fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined.

8. Divide between tins and bake in oven for 35 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

9. Cool 5 minutes in tin, then turn out onto cooling rack. Cool completely.

10. To assemble cake, spread the strawberry jam on top of one cake, the spread over the whipped cream. Gently place the other cake on top then dust with icing sugar. Finish with strawberries.

Note: you can use 200ml milk and 100g butter if you don’t want to use cream and buttermilk. If you slightly warm the jam is goes a bit runny and soaks into the cake. But make sure it's not hot or it will melt the whipped cream.

Strawberry jam is quite difficult to get right because strawberries have little to no natural pectin and therefore making a jam that sets can be hard and takes longer than other fruits. I know I have trouble.

There are plenty of websites that offer fantastic advice on how to rescue jam that hasn’t set, even after you’ve put it in jars, so don’t let fear put you off trying. Besides, even if you end up with runny jam, it’s still going to taste amazing.

Strawberry Balsamic Jam
Anna’s very own recipe. Makes 6 x 250ml jars.

1.5 kg strawberries, washed and hulled
1kg caster sugar
300g raw sugar
50g jamsetta
100ml balsamic vinegar

1. Place a small saucer in the freezer. You’ll use this to test the jam.

2. Heat strawberries in a large pot with vinegar for about 5 minutes, stirring to release juices and prevent burning.

3. Meanwhile, warm sugar on a tray in the oven for around 5 minutes, being sure not to burn or dissolve it.

4. Add warm sugar and jamsetta to fruit purée, then heat and stir until sugar fully dissolves.

5. Bring to a gentle boil for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent burning.

6. To test the set of the jam, remove the saucer from the freezer and teaspoon on a little jam. Wait 30 seconds then run your finger through. If it crinkles and leaves a path, then the jam is ready. Otherwise continue cooking.

7. When ready, remove from heat and pour hot jam into sterilised jars. Seal immediately.

Sunday 23 September 2012

shopsin's pumpkin pancakes

These days I wake up very early and incredibly hungry. Instead of launching myself out of bed I take my trusty smart phone and flick through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see what I missed out on while I slept.

This morning I discovered three exciting things from Facebook:
1) one of my favourite work colleagues got engaged yesterday afternoon
2) Jonas’ beautiful cousin Camilla (also a food blogger!) married her equally wonderful boyfriend in a surprise wedding in Stockholm!!!
3) These super delicious pancakes, posted by Saveur

Since I couldn’t do much to celebrate the first two items, I decided to get up and make pancakes to celebrate all the love and happiness some of my favourite people must be feeling right now, and to spread some of that love to my husband.

I wondered whether the pancakes would be a bit gimmicky, but they were amazing. Not too sweet, full of spicy oomph and subtle pumpkin flavour, and tiny flakes of salt that hit your tongue every now and then. They were hot, fluffy little pancakes and I will definitely make these again.

After reading over the Saveur website, and the reviews by people who had made these already at home, I decided to make a cranberry and maple sauce to go alongside it. They’d even go well with maple-sweetened mascarpone or cream cheese.

Shopsin's Pumpkin Pancakes w Cranberry-Maple Syrup

Recipe by Chef Kenny Shopsin from Shopsin’s in New York City’s Essex Street Market. Makes 12 pancakes.

Pumpkin Pancakes
1 cup plain flour
¾ cup wholemeal flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt flakes
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons canola oil, for frying
Butter, for serving
Cranberry-Maple Syrup
¼ cup dried cranberries
1 cup maple syrup


1. In a bowl, sift together flours, cinnamon, baking powder, cloves, ginger, salt, and allspice.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin purée, brown sugar, cream, milk, and eggs.

3. Combine with flour and spice and whisk until smooth.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.

5. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, pour batter into skillet to make three 3" pancakes.

6. Cook until bubbles begin to form on the edges, 1–2 minutes. Flip and cook until done, 1–2 minutes more.

7. Repeat with remaining oil and pancake batter and keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven.

8. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring maple syrup and dried cranberries to the boil until foaming, then remove from heat. The dried cranberries should plump up in the warm syrup.

9. Serve pancakes hot with butter and cranberry syrup.

Note: the original recipe uses only plain flour, regular sugar and ½ cup milk.

Sunday 9 September 2012

brussels sprouts, pancetta & lemon pasta

A few months ago, I met Tia Bicky for lunch and was lucky enough to get a plate of Luxe Bakery’s winter pasta special of shredded brussels sprouts and mandolin-thin slices of broccoli. They were tossed in buttery, lemon moisture and salted by a touch of crisped prosciutto. It was divine, meeting all my salty sour requirements.

I just had to make it at home.

The best part about this dish is that it uses fairly few and quite cheap ingredients, it’s perfect for a wintery lunch or dinner and it easily becomes vegetarian if required.

The brussels sprouts and lemon make a delightful flavour that made me think of a fresh sauerkraut and, if you have a mandolin, by all means add some wafer thin slices of just-blanched broccoli for texture and colour.

Brussels Sprouts, Pancetta & Lemon Pasta

Anna’s very own take on a Luxe special. Serves 4.


270g shredded brussels sprouts
70g pancetta, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
125ml chicken stock
1 knob of butter, for sauce
1 knob butter, for frying
1 dash olive oil, for frying
Pecorino, for serving
Salt and pepper
Pasta, for serving (I used troifie)


1. In a frying pan, fry pancetta until browned and just crispy. Set aside.

2. In the same frying pan, heat a little butter and olive oil for frying. When frothing, add shredded Brussels sprouts with salt and pepper. Sauté for 1 minute or so.

3. Add a dash of chicken stock and mix through. This will spread the heat and steam throughout the sprouts and help to soften them. Sauté the sprouts for another 5 minutes.

4. Now they might start to form browned edges and stick to the pan. Add another dash of chicken stock to deglaze and incorporate those browned bits. Cook until the sprouts are soft.

5. Once soft, add the lemon zest and reserved pancetta and heat through.

6. Next add the lemon juice, remaining chicken stock and the chopped up knob of butter, stirring through to create extra juices that will form a sauce around the pasta.

7. When the pasta is ready, toss the sprouts and juice through then topped with freshly ground pepper and grated pecorino cheese.

Note: if you want to make this vegetarian, use vegetable stock and instead of the pancetta consider tossing salty ricotta salata through the pasta before serving.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

milo cupcakes w condensed milk icing

I love Raspberri Cupcakes. It’s a colourful, whimsical blog that reminds me of falling down the rabbit hole and ending up in Wonderland.

Steph, the author, is brilliant. Such a young woman so dedicated to experimenting with her favourite sweet flavours and achieving perfection. It’s beyond impressive.

I think most of her creations have made it onto my Pinterest account. And who can blame me with offerings like Pretzel and M&M Chocolate Cheesecake, Shamrock Macarons with Baileys Chocolate Ganache, Popcorn Fudge, Balsamic Toffee Strawberries and the spectacular Purple Ombre Sprinkles Cake.

One of the things I love about her blog is that she experiments with Australian candies and cookies, including my all time milk flavouring, Milo.

Milo is a malted chocolate powder and it is wonderful. Amazing. Life changing even.

This recipe of Steph’s was great. The maltiness came through in the cake and the frosting was decadently sweet and almost caramel from the addition of condensed milk. Heaven.

Milo Cupcakes w Condensed Milk Icing

Steph’s brilliant recipe. Makes 10-12 cupcakes.


200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
100g Milo (add more to taste)
1 tsp vanilla extract
180g sour cream
170g unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs

150g slightly salted butter (or unsalted + a pinch of salt), softened
300g icing sugar, sifted
5 tbsp sweetened condensed milk


1. Preheat oven to 180’C. Grease or fill cupcake tray with liners.

2. Sift flour, bicarb and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.

3. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer in a large mixing bowl and then beat in eggs one at a time until combine.

4. Add sour cream, vanilla and milo and beat until just combined.

5. Add flour mixture and beat on low until just combined.

6. Fill cupcake liners until 3/4 full and bake for approx 15-20 mins or a skewer inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. For the best texture, the cakes should be dark golden brown on top and firm to the touch and after cooling for 1 minute out of the oven.

7. Cool on a wire rack.

8. To make the icing, remove butter from the fridge 30 mins ahead of time.

9. Beat butter until light and fluffy and then beat in icing sugar until combined.

10. Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until combined.

11. Pipe or spoon over the top of cupcakes when they are cooled and drizzle some extra condensed milk over the top. Finish with a sprinkle of Milo.

Note: Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.

Sunday 19 August 2012

snapper ceviche - ceviche de pargo

 Ceviche de Pargo

Ceviche is a dish I often crave because it combines some of my favourites things: sour citrus, spicy chilli and seafood.

It hails from the coastal countries of Central and South America with the Peruvians claiming to be the originators, spreading the word from their busy port-town of Lima. There’s also evidence that ancient Peruvians (Incans) made similar dishes from fermented liquors prior to the arrival of Europeans, who brought with them the precious citrus.

Polynesians also have their own ceviche, often including coconut milk, which seemed to evolve independently of the South Americans.

To make ceviche, I prefer to use firm white fleshed fish like snapper, swordfish or ling. If that’s not your thing, you can always use tuna, salmon or ocean trout.

Just make sure you use the freshest fish possible. Ask your fishmonger for very fresh fish (tell them what you're using it for) and make the ceviche on the same day you buy it.

Many recipes call for leaving the fish in the lime juice for hours, but I think this makes the fish quite tough. To ensure the fish is firm but still soft under your teeth, don’t “cook” it in the lime juice for any more than an hour.

The milky liquor that the fish has marinated in is called leche de tigre (tiger milk) or leche de pantera (panther milk) and in Peru it’s drunk in shot glasses as an appetiser. It’s rumoured to be a natural Viagra. I’m a bit sceptical about that claim, but it certainly tastes good so don’t throw it away.

Ceviche de Pargo (Snapper Ceviche)

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4 as a small starter.

300g snapper fillets, deboned
½ cup of fresh lime juice (about 3 large juicy limes)
½ small red onion, finely diced
1 tomato, deseeded & chopped into small pieces
1 small jalapeño chilli, finely sliced

To serve:
Chifles (plantain chips) or tostados (tortilla chips)
Fresh coriander, chopped
Fresh jalapeño chilli, sliced
Avocado, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Cube the fish into 3cm pieces.

2. In a non-reactive dish (plastic or ceramic), mix the raw fish pieces with the lime juice, jalapeño, red onion and tomato pieces.

3. Ensure all the fish is covered in lime juice and refrigerate for up to one hour before serving.

4. At this point you can either drain away the liquid to serve separately, or just keep them together.

5. Serve with fresh coriander, slices of avocado and jalapeño chillies.

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