Saturday, December 27, 2008

Blackberry Syrup

It is blackberry season and while these thorny brambles may be a noxious weed from an agricultural perspective, the small black gems that you have to fight your way in to retrieve are very nearly worth the trouble.

Mrs Grendel made two batches - the first had something go slightly wrong, but the second was delectable and will serve over icecream or even as part of an espresso based drink.

Fortunately I didn't have to dodge the thorns or brave the heat, I merely waited at home for Mrs Grendel to bring back the treasure chest of blackberries (from a secret location).

They are an impressive sight, and at around $10 per 150 grams in our local store the haul Mrs Grendel brought back was worth nearly $100.

The syrup we made can be poured straight over ice cream, used as a flavour base in an ice cream, gelati or sorbet or even as a cordial in a cocktail.

You can of course just eat the berries but then I'd have only an empty bowl and nothing to blog about.

  • 1 kilogram of Blackberries 
  • 250 grams of sugar
  • water
  • 1 vanilla bean


Wash the berries berry gently, slice down the length of the vanilla bean to halve it. Add with sugar to the saucepan. Add water and bring to a slow boil.

Once boiling reduce to a simmer for half an hour. Strain the berries and pour the hot syrup into sterilized preserving jars.

Seal and refrigerate.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Guacamole is a favourite in the Grendel residence. There was a little issue for a While as Junior Grendel Number Two was not only a double-dipper, but a tertiary dipper as well and bits of child-spit-soaked corn chip really are as unappetizing as they sound.

My recipe was one I developed while a teenager working in the Fruit and Vege section of the local Coles. On Saturdays we were allowed to place samples of the produce with the display's and this included a horrible packet based Guacamole mix to which you just added an avocado. It put me off the avocados so I made up my own recipe to better 'sell' their qualities.

The trick is to get really good quality avocados. I prefer to use the Haas variety and just at the point where they are soft to the touch but still green and pale yellow inside. Other varieties can be used but are often fibrous and don't mash cleanly.

Today is Christmas tree dressing day at the Grendel house so I made a small bowl to snack on while we hang the decorations.

  • 1 avocado
  • 100ml sour cream
  • 1 half lemon (juiced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • pinch of seasoning salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • dusting of paprika


Halve the avocado and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mash with a fork then finely chop or crush the garlic. Add the garlic and lemon juice. Season with the salt and the pepper - taste at this point and adjust seasoning. You may need to add more lemon if you are using very fresh garlic cloves as they often have a wonderful but powerful flavour.

Add the sour creme and mix well. Serve it with your preferred crunchy dipping item.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Sangria is a traditional Spanish summer red-wine punch. There are any number of recipes for sangria and generally with the basics of fruit juice and red wine to begin with you can improvise endlessly to find one you enjoy.

I made a jug today and have been enjoying it slowly through the evening.


1 Apple, diced
1 Orange, diced
1 lime, diced
60ml Triple Sec (Orange Liqueur)
100ml Port
500ml citrus juice (I used a lemon/lime/orange blend)
400ml red wine (you may increase or decrease this to your taste!)


Dice the fruit, pour the alcohol and fruit juice over the top (easy eh?)

Let it chill in the fridge - the fruit pieces soak up alcohol nicely.

Serve chilled over ice.

Pantry Tom Yum Soup

I know, soup is a strange one to be doing at the onset of summer. As I have recently (10 days ago) had gastric banding I am now at that stage where I can move from banana smoothies to pureed and slippy-down easy type foods. I am sure I now have 10 varieties of cup a soup in the pantry in the search of something with some flavour. This morning out in the back yard I spied our lemongrass and I knew then what I was having for lunch!

Everything apart from the tin of prawns came from the pantry so this isn't a truly authentic Tom Yum but a pantry Tom Yum suitable for someone with diminished capacity (for food that is)

Alli's pantry Tom Yum soup

  • 1 tin of prawns
  • 1 packet of two minute noodles (discard the flavourings)
  • lemongrass
  • 4 mushrooms (I had swiss browns)
  • garlic
  • chilli, fresh or dried
  • 1 lime
  • 2 spring onions
  • palm sugar
  • fish sauce (2 tblsp)
  • lime and chilli seasoning
  • chicken stock or booster


Boil some water and cook the two minute noodles, I broke them up into very small pieces.

In a pot sauté the mushies, I sliced these thinly then turned them and sliced them again, the garlic, chilli and lemon grass, add 500mls of water or stock (add your stock powder here), the fish sauce and palm sugar and simmer for 5 minutes.

Drain and chop the prawns (if you are operating on diminished capacity feel free to leave them whole!), juice the lime and finally chop the spring onion

Taste your broth, should be nice and flavoursome and very lemony, season to your taste and turn the temperature right down. Throw in the prawns and noodles and finish it with the spring onions and lime juice and serve!

Traditionally this soup have kafir lime leaves and coriander, I'm not big on coriander so I leave it out on purpose. It doesn't have noodles either but I like to make it as meal and the two minute noodles are going down ok right now.

Monday, December 8, 2008


My mother has a book of recipes that she put together from recipes of her own, old family recipes, ones from friends and neighbours and weird concoctions we picked up while travelling.

Everything in our house was made by hand so as kids we learned to make most of the things in the recipe book and some I still remember today.

We used to make Rum Balls every Christmas in vast quantities that would be placed into jars and given to everyone. I don't like chunks of orange peel in anything other than marmalade so my Mother's Rum Ball recipe suited me just fine.

  • 12 crushed weetbix
  • 2 tins of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 200ml of Dark Rum
  • 4 Tablespoons of cocoa (I'll be using West African Red)
  • Dessicated Coconut for rolling


Soak the raisins in 100ml of the rum. The longer the better - sometimes we left them to soak overnight.

Crush the weetbix into fine pieces (this was always my job) and add the cocoa powder - mix well.

Add one tin of condensed milk and work this into the mix. The consistency you are looking for is firm but pliable like a pastry dough - you may need to open and add all or part of the second tin.

Add the raisins and work them in gently (they'll be quite soft, what with all the rum they've drunk already. . .)

Taste the mixture - is it rummy enough? If not add a little more rum.

Use a teaspoon to measure out enough for each ball and roll the balls, dropping them into a tray of dessicated coconut - roll them in this then place into jars - best refridgerated for storage but removed an hour or so before eating.

Drink the remaining rum (this was always Grandad's favourite bit).

In fact, my Grandfather had a slightly different method that involved a swig of rum between each step. Seemed effective as his rumballs were famous.


For the last few years, Mrs Grendel and I have been making biscuits for little Christmas gifts. The most popular have been the Florentines.

While our recipe may not be traditional, it has the virtue of simplicity. 

It is also very delicious! 

As a simple recipe, it should pretty much work perfectly every time.


  • 6 Cups of Corn Flakes
  • 2 Cups of sultanas
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of flaked almonds
  • 1 cup of red glace cherries
  • 1/2 cup of green glace cherries
  • 1 tin of sweetened condensed milk


Chop the glace cherries and mix all ingredients well.

You'll also need some chocolate for the bottom of the Florentines - get 300g-400g of the best courvature you can find for this (the 300-400g range is essential as some 'product testing' may be required).

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 160 degrees (Celsius) in a fan-forced oven. Cool the biscuits on a rack. 

While the Florentines cool, gently melt the chocolate in a glass or stoneware bowl. 

Use the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate then place back on the rack to cool.

Try not to eat too many at this point.

Share and enjoy.


I've been reading about coffee based foods and while Tiramisu has been a favourite for some time I have never taken the effort to learn how to make it.

Last week I made my first one - and it was good. Saturday I made a second one. It was also good.

So tonight I made a third - and remembered to keep the camera around.

And thus I now present - The Tiramisu at the end of the Universe!

Forgive me the dramatic photo - I'm pretty chuffed about the way these have been working out and I have been using that particularly fine Nicaraguan coffee that I mentioned at the beginning of the month as part of the base liquor.

The recipe I chose seems to be a fairly traditional one:

  • 250g of mascarpone
  • 4 eggs (separated)
  • 5 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 cup of marsala
  • 3 shots of espresso
  • 5 savoiardi (lady finger biscuits)
  • cocoa or drinking chocolate for dusting.

Measure out the marsala and pour into a flat dish with the espresso. Place the savoiardi into the flat dish to soak up the liquor, turn the biscuits as required then list them carefully into a 2-litre deep dish. You may double the number of savoiardi if you wish but after my first tiramisu (which had double the number) Mrs Grendel gave strict instructions that SHE prefers more marcarpone and less savoiardi.

I'll leave you to guess what I prefer. . .

Separate the egg yolks and whites. Beat the whites until they are still and form peaks. In another bowl, cream the egg yolks and the sugar together before adding the marscarpone. Beat until smooth. Fold the egg whites into the marscarpone mix and then pour this over the savoiardi.

Dust liberally with cocoa/drinking chocolate then chill for 2-3 hours.

Like trifle this gets better on day two, but has rarely made it that far in our house.

Sweet Potato Chips

My garden is producing sweet potatoes very well this year and I have a good crop of the golden ones at the right size now and a crop of the purple white-fleshed ones to follow in a few weeks.

I was peckish this afternoon and made myself a quick snack of sweet potato chips.

This was the easiest snack food and they were terrific - OK, not all of them were, but the third batch were pretty fine indeed.

I had to play to get the oil to the right temperature but once it was there they went along well.

I probably should have taken some photos, but they didn't last long enough.

Very easy, very enjoyable and I knew exactly what went into them.

To make them yourself get a good fresh sweet potato, wash and dry it (drying is important to stop oil splattering), slice it thinly - you can use a broad bladed grater or a vegetable peeler to get nice regular slices.

Heat up some good frying oil - canola, sunflower and other light oils seem to work the best.

Scatter a good handful of slices across the oil and whip them out as soon as they get a nice toasty colour.

Drain and season with some salt and ground pepper.

It takes a little work but the result is much nicer than chips from the supermarket.

(For the record I and Mrs Grendel consider 'Pringles' and their ilk to be an abomination and the creators of the same shall be condemned to an everlasting hell of peeling potatoes while standing hip deep in a vat of boiling chilli seed oil while listening to Mariah Carey)

Sweet Spiced Beer Sauce

Mrs Grendel was away - and she had the car. So the boys were enjoying a 'Curious George' marathon, before Junior Grendel Number One decided to battle the forces of evil in Command and Conqueor while Junior Grendel Number Two watched Seasame Street for the 3rd time today.

I've had a loaf of bread in the oven and for some reason decided to make spiced beer sauce.

I have no idea what it is for. It is one of those things I make up from time to time and I have been thinking about it since we went to make our latest batch of beer (and added a stick of cinnamon).

I used a 500ml can of India Pale Ale, 1 cup of brown sugar, two sticks of cinnamon and some chopped fresh ginger. I reduced this over a low heat for half an hour. I then filtered the sauce before adding the ginger pieces and cinnamon sticks back into the jar.

A deep bronze colour while in the saucepan it is a dark treacle now and tastes great!

Now what? Beer sauce on ice cream? perhaps beer thickshakes, baked ham with beer baste, pears in beer sauce - the possibilities are endless!


Pancake day is always a big deal in the Grendel House.

Both junior grendels like to help me mix the batter (my own secret recipe!) and then have to receive monogram pancakes as their reward (for some reason they taste even better as a letter.

It is always messy and sticky, but the added bonus of a big batch of pikelets to take to school/kindy the next day makes it very worthwhile.

This particular batter goes very with with a spicy coffee!

Now the Secret recipe (which is a secret no more):

  • 1.5 cups of SR Flour
  • half a cup of castor sugar
  • 1 egg
  • teaspoon of baking powder
  • 70g of butter
  • vanilla
  • salt
  • milk


Sift the dry indgredients into a mixing bowl then make a well in the centre. Place the egg softened butter into the well and add a dash of vanilla and half a cup of whole milk.

Mix and add more milk as required to get a smooth thick batter. Let settle for 5 minutes while the pan heats.

Heat the pan to a medium heat.

I find pouring batter from a jug the easiest way to make lots of pancakes with the least mess.

Test the pan with a pour of batter - If it rises nicely then you've got it.

Incidentally - we cook ours on a flat-based sandwich press, these are the most amazing things to cook pancakes on although you do have to make it level by placing something underneath. A bigger press is better - I can do 5 pancakes at a time on ours.

Zucchini and Sweet Corn Fritters

I'm cheating a little because this is Mrs Grendel's skills on display, but I will claim credit for the homegrown (organic as well) heirloom tomatoes (Green Zebras and Tigers), zucchini and herbs that were used in the fritters.

This recipe uses polenta to add and extra element and nicely supports the fresh corn flavours. The zucchini are all young, with much more flavour than many of the sad tired examples you find for sale.

Served with mushrooms and bacon and a little fetta crumbled over the top to finish it off.

Not that long ago I was not a fan of Zucchini, but lately I have really been enjoying these ones. 

Freshness makes a big difference with some vegetables and the plant's habit also make them a big hit with the camelia's along the back wall, providing a nice low shade to keep the soil moist and cool. 

The zucchinis have also survived against the slaters that ravaged this year's cucumber and watermelon plants. I'm beginning to wonder if adding my coffee grounds to the garden might by hyping the little buggers up too much.

Our lime tree has been working over time on its very first fruit (there is only one!) but I couldn't bring myself to sacrifice it just yet, so the slice of lime sporting on the edge of my home brew, is regrettably as yet, a bought one.