December 10, mint spelled h-o-m-a-g-e

Everywhere my family lived, all around Australia, our Mum ended up with mint going feral around the tap in the back yard.  No surprise, then, that a mix of Philly style cream cheese, crushed pineapple and piles of mint was her go-to dip for short notice visitors.  Always on a tight budget, she managed to…

December 9 – vanilla

Today I’m thinking about one of the deep mysteries of being a cook – what the heck does vanilla add to the mix?  Particularly at Christmas, vanilla seems to be in everything but the bath (and there too sometimes!) – but it remains a cooking mystery to me.  The amount in any given recipe is…

December 8 – raisins

After this week waxing lyrical (as much as I ever do) about how I don’t really have a cook’s habit of making slices, I am about to share another slice recipe!  To be fair, this one has a slight identity crisis – in North America this would probably be close to a brownie, and it…

December 7 – custard

This custard slice (or vanilla slice) Advent treat is a practice run for making custard that is up to scratch when, no question, hot custard goes with hot pudding at Christmas, even if it is 40°C and we can hardly move for the humidity! It also continues my theme from yesterday – ‘hacks-for-the-pastry-challeged’ cook –…

December 6 – fruit mince

For the 2017 Advent-ure, this is me taking my own advice, to follow these maxims –  plucked from amongst those by which I have worked for decades: Cook’s rule #127 – don’t be afraid to try new things for fear of failure – everyone has to eat every day, and cooking the same couple of…

December 5 – gingerbread

Gingerbread may not be an ingredient per se, but stick with this one and you’ll see why it qualifies in this Advent cook-a-rama. No question, I owe my high school German teacher a great deal – suffice it to say that after a lapse of more than 30 years when I finally went to Germany…

December 4 – cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of those things that to me always seems a bit magical.  I really associate with the special things our Mum often only made at Christmas – she used it sparingly then, but now spices from all over the world have become more available and more reasonably priced, all year round I throw it…

December 3 – rosewater

After a first foray today into the Christmas shopping scrum, feeling a bit too worn out for real cooking, so thinking snack dinner (looks a lot like brunch items such as eggie muffins or bread pizza).  Years of assessing appetites by the look in the eyes of the men of the house, though, made me…

December 2 – Granma’s secret ingredient

Back when I was just starting to morph from the resident wild child into the aunty who makes the cakes for Christmases, weddings and birthdays, I approached my first effort at a traditional Christmas cake with some serious trepidation – my mum was going to be sharing it, so the pressure was really on! The…

December 1 – chocolate fruit cake

For a year in which we are less than overflowing with Christmas cheer, for any old time when exhausted parental elves need to be buoyed up to make it through wrapping those last few presents, this is the answer. On other high days and holidays, it’s also the answer for reviving visitors arriving late at…

Biscotti – my way!

My biscotti never lasts long on the plate, despite having a distinctly gnarly style – I love it dunked in coffee so I slice it up to a centimetre thick, which makes it a bit challenging to bite without the coffee bath.  If you want to go thinner, my sister Roslyn recommends using an electric…

What was the Advent-ure 2012?

In 2012, our last two festive seasons had been a little short on Christmas cheer, largely as my mum died just a couple of days after Christmas 2010 and 2011 was more than a bit flat as a result.  Our kids, Alan and Andrew, have always loved the whole Advent calendar thing, but by then…

Advent-ure 2.0

How can a mum have fun in the festive season when the kids are a bit past opening the “windows” on an Advent calendar? Since I (really) like cooking and the men of the house like eating, in 2012 we put it together for a novel approach! In 2017, I am planning to reprise the…