Spicy Mushroom “Ragù”

Posted by on 4 May, 2015 in Schmeckt Cooking: | 1 comment

Apologies to anyone of Italian heritage that comes across this post.

Firstly, I know that the common characteric of the many types of ragù is meat AND it’s served with pasta, we had neither of those. And I am pretty sure they would never add Sambal Oelek but I wasn’t sure what to call this.

I initially intended to serve it with pasta and wasn’t thinking about adding chilli at all but it just evolved and I decided to let it thicken and eat it as is. I wanted to give it a name that alluded to it’s heartiness and meatiness. So, a ragù it is!

I’ve always been better at cooking like this than I am at following a recipe so please forgive any inexact measurements.

Mushroom Ragu

Spicy Mushroom “Ragù”

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pan and add:
2 cloves of garlic (crushed or finely chopped)
Flat leaf parsely stems and leaves (finely chopped)
Basil leaves (finely chopped)
1 x brown onion (sliced)

Cook until onion starts to go translucent and then add:
1 x Red capsicum (diced)
Mushrooms – I used three very large portobellos (diced) and 2 large handfuls of button mushrooms (quarterd) – there’s no meat being added to this and I find that mushrooms tend to shrink when cooked so don’t be shy with your ‘shroom quota!

After the mushrooms had started to brown I added:
Slug of white wine* (maybe 1/3 cup),
6 diced small egg tomatoes
1 can of crushed tomatoes
**Half a teaspoon of vege stock (I use Vegeta) dissolved in 200 mls of hot water
*** 1 x finely diced fresh chilli or, 1 large teaspoon of Sambal Oelek (I used this)

Cook on a medium heat with regular stirring. Mine went quite dark from the portobello musrhooms and I left it for at least 30 minutes or so as I wanted to reduce the liquid.

Serve in a bowl with finely grated lemon zest, a dollop of smooth ricotta and some cracked pepper.

Tuck in!

Leftovers could easily be frozen or repurposed as a pasta sauce.

*Can be subsituted with red wine

**Can be subsituted with beef stock

***Omit if you’re not into spice!

If you’ve arrived here by googling mushroom ragu and you’re bitterly disappointed with my version here’s a delicious looking recipe you could try!

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Musings on the fashion of Met Ball 2014

Posted by on 6 May, 2014 in Just Schmeckt | 0 comments

I might update this photo with pics later, but then again, who am I kidding? I saw all the photos on Vogue and you can see them there too!

A few thoughts on the Met Ball:

  • Lupita Nyong’o & Margot Robbie both in bespoke Prada, both incredibly beautiful women and both dresses were incredibly HIDEOUS.
  • SJP looked like a Oscar de la Renta special edition Barbie
  • Kirsten Dunst in the Rodarte space dress – first comment on the Vogue site said it all “wtf”. I am unable to articulate anything positive about this dress.
  • Beyonce, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the veil
  • Blake Lively in Gucci Première – beyond perfection. The colour, the hair, the vavavoomness.
  • Cara Delevingne in Stella McCartney – I finally “got” Cara in this outfit. Loved it.
  • Charlize Theron – beautiful but the addition of the tuxedo jacket made her look like she was a cold wife on the way home from a ball
  • Marion Cotillard in a Dior Couture – loved the frock, loved the colour – a POX ON THOSE SHOES
  • WHO DID VICTORIA BECKHAM’S MAKEUP?! Not a fan at all. Would it kill them to use a different shade of brown eyeshadow/blush?
  • Kristen Stewart in Chanel , I feel very confused and tired all of a sudden, there is so much happening at once.
  • Michelle Williams in Louis Vuitton, the dress is sweet yet a little dull for the Met Ball but I really want to talk about her hair. I love the cut but the colour matches her legs and her arms – it’s all very, very pale…
  • Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Balmain – I love this outfit, it’s fierce and the colours are great on RHW but she almost looks too pretty to pull it off. I am not sure she’s got the fashion chops for this.
  • Reese Witherspoon in hot pink Stella McCartney – I love the colour and I love the bust line.
  • Alexa Chung in Nina Ricci –  this frock reminds me of one of those over-stuffed, over pleated round chintzy cushions that are incredibly hard to rest your head on.
  • You know when Blake Lively looks her hottest? Standing next to Ryan Reynolds dressed in Gucci.
  • Leighton Meester in Emilio Pucci & Suki Waterhouse in Burberry – I think both could be incredibly beautiful dresses but I can’t tell as they are BLENDING IN WITH THEIR SKIN, a little contrast would not go astray.
  • Katie Holmes in burnt-yellow Marchesa from the autumn/winter 2014 , part of me wants to like this, the colour contrasts nicely with her hair and she’s got an incredible warm tone to her skin but something about the whole thing looks.. mashy?
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal in spotted Valentino from the autumn/winter 2014 collection. I’ve seen the future and it all looks warm. That and, no.
  • Lily Allen in Chanel – again, I want to love this but she looks a little too much like the toilet roll doll, with a frock made from toilet paper. The colouring is beautiful but the hairs are too front heavy.
  • Karen Elson, I am not sure who the gown is by, it’s another skin-matcher but full points for her gorgeous hair
  • Lena Dunham in Giambattista Valli – I love Lena, her wit and smarts amuse me greatly. This dress almost works on her, maybe with her hair up?
  • Rachel McAdams in Ralph Lauren – skin or dress? Who can tell anymore. Yawn.
  • Anna Wintour in Chanel – seriously, what is she thinking?
  • Jessica Paré in Michael Kors, I do not know who this woman is but I want to drink goddamn cocktails with her and talk sass about men that we know
  • Imogen Poots in Proenza Schouler – love her, hate this dress. It is emotionally abusing her breasts.

Photo of the night comes from Lily Allen’s instagram 

Nappy change

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Schmeckt Cooking: Tuna, sour cream and chive dip

Posted by on 20 Dec, 2013 in Schmeckt Cooking: | 0 comments

This is a super easy-peasy dip that you can whip up when you’re expecting visitors or take to someone’s house for a barbie. Everyone I’ve served it to has loved it and I think the horseradish cream adds a nice little zing to it.

I prefer to serve it well chilled but quite often forget to factor this in. I have resorted to refrigerating the tuna when I buy it so it’s ready to go and/or stuck it in the freezer for 15 minutes!

*Tuna, sour cream and chive dip

125 gram packet of cream cheese, softened (I used low fat)

185 gram tuna chunks in olive oil, drained

1 tablespoon of horseradish cream

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

1/4 cup (60 grams) sour cream (I used low fat)

pinch caster sugar

2 tablespoons of freshly chopped chives

1/2 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest

cracked black pepper

  1. Blend or process cream cheese, tuna, horseradish, lemon juice, sour cream and sugar until smooth.
  2. Stir in chives, zest and pepper
  3. Sprinkle dip with extra chives, a twist of pepper and a little more lemon zest

Chill and serve with crusty bread, crackers or vegetable sticks.

* Adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly Picnics cookbook which looks like it has been discontinued. I love this book and recommend it for entertaining if you can get your hands on a cheap copy.

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Schmeckt Shopping: Last minute Christmas gifts – 2013 Edition

Posted by on 17 Dec, 2013 in Schmeckt Shopping: | 8 comments

Seriously. I would like to know where in the blazes does time go? This year has just WIZZED by in blur and BOOM. It’s Christmas again. We’re really down to the pointy end my friends, 8 days to go! I thought I’d dust off the old last minute gift guide after a bit of a lull in 2012. What with the moving house, changing jobs, moving cities, planning a wedding kerfuffle of the last year and a half I didn’t get around to it last year but there’s no time like the er.. present to get cracking!

Edible gifts

People like my Dad are notoriously hard to buy for, he’s got everything he needs and if he doesn’t he’s just about to buy it… in a particular colour and style. Last year my brother and I considered buying him a massive stick of butter.. because he loves butter and we were desperate… Why not expand on that theme, if you’ve got someone like my Dad in your life why not give them the gift of something delicious that can be shared with their nearest and dearest over the festive period? I’m pretty passionate about local produce, the recommendations below are mainly for Sydney but use this post as inspiration to find your own local suppliers. If you’re really stuck let me know and I’ll fossick up some ideas for you.

  • Artisan cheeses – include some quince paste, grapes and crackers
  • A fresh pasta pack including some bottle sauces – here in Sydney I can recommend Pasta Emilia (their Truffle Cream is mindblowing)
  • A kilo of prawns – include some fresh lemons and some delicious homemade seafood sauce
  • A tray of mangoes – Who doesn’t love mangoes? Come sit next to me, I’ll have yours! Mangoes are so amazing that all you need is a bright bow to set those babies off!
  • A beautiful leg of ham – include some locally made chutneys, pickles or mustards
  • A beautiful loaf of locally baked bread with a couple of jams and a fancy butter from somewhere like Pepe Saya
  • A Masterchef inspired mystery box! A few years ago I gave Mick a bamboo steamer crammed with a rice mat, rice paddle, sushi rice, sushi seasoning, a tube of wasabi, and a packet of pickled ginger

Most of these items need to be refrigerated so you can use a cooler bag which they can then reuse for picnics. You do need to be a little organised when giving food gifts; double check for any food allergies,  find out when they’re home over the holidays (dead easy if you’re spending it with them) and make sure you’re not doubling up. No one needs that MUCH ham.


Now, I’m not talking about a gift voucher for JB Hifi or Westfield (though these are extremely handy for those that are far away) but vouchers for experiences in the local area. Do a little research and find out what they love, you can give them something they can enjoy in their own time which is also easy to post or email to them.

  • Learn to cook at the Sydney Fish Markets, Canberra’s 3 Seeds Cooking School or Salt, Meat, Cheese in Alexandria
  • Home Barista training from Vargabar Espresso in Newtown 
  • A gift voucher for Young Henry’s brewery in Newtown – or bundle up some of their beers and ciders for a sampler pack
  • A gift voucher for the local outdoor cinema in your area – here in Sydney you can get great couples packages for the Sunset Cinema at North Sydney which include backrests, delicious Maggie Beer grazing hampers and a couple of drinks. Awesome! The vouchers for this package is posted out and you’ve really only got a day to order for guaranteed delivery – otherwise look for the General Admission, Movie Buff, Family Pass, Star Class vouchers which are delivered via email
  • Pampering – Think your Mum needs a new do? Your bestie needs a little time out from her kids? Why not search for a local provider to give them the gift of pampering and relaxation this Christmas. Esstudio Galleria in Chippendale currently has some brilliant packages starting at $50 and the recipient can choose what combo they would like to indulge in. If you’re gifting it to someone with kids include a handmade voucher for your superb babysitting skillz
  • Let them choose their gift with a gift card for Hardtofind.com.au. I love this site, we were blessed enough to receive a gift card as a wedding gift and now my only issue is what to splurge on! There’s something for everyone on there. Luxe jewellery from Mischka Boutique, personalised art for kid’s rooms and even seeds to plant in their garden from Sow ‘n’ sow 

I’d also like to give a wee plug to a brand spanking new kid’s clothing label called Little Emperor. The current Summer collection has been designed in a range of fresh and vibrant prints and has been made for boys, girls but mostly made for fun! Little Emperor are passionate about the environment and aim to create clothes that live on long after their wearer has grown out of them.

If you’d like to read our earlier gift guides you can access them on the links below, some of the information is a little out of date but there’s still plenty of inspiration to be had!

Last minute Christmas gifts – 2010 Edition
Last minute Christmas gifts – 2011 Edition

Merry Christmas friends, wherever you are and whatever you celebrate I hope that you take this time to have plenty of laughs with your loved ones; eat mangoes, drink egg-nog, make snowmen, swim in the surf and get ready for 2014! (Please do not attempt to do all those things at once, maybe just a 2 or 3 this season…)

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On being Human

Posted by on 22 Feb, 2013 in Lovely Places: To visit, Schmeckt Places: to visit | 2 comments

I mentioned in my last post that we recently moved from Canberra to Sydney. Although I was born in Canberra, the past four years was the first time I had lived there as an adult, I got to know a different side to the city which is often derided for it’s lack of entertainment and soul. Canberra has so much more to offer than pot, porn and politics – and it’s not fireworks (the sale of which is now illegal) or the roundabouts (they’re not really that exciting..)

So, I was thrilled to be invited by ACT Tourism to be one of the humans on the Food and Wine stream for their Human Brochure campaign. As far as tourism campaigns go I think engaging 500 humans to visit a city and giving them carte blanche to write whatever they felt and thought about the experience is a pretty groundbreaking and brave idea.

I know that some had concerns that the treatment we got as “humans” was pretty exceptional and out of the ordinary for the average tourist.

Yes, we were treated exceptionally well and had access to engaging and charming hosts, tables groaning with beautiful food and a never empty wine glass. Yet, having lived in Canberra previously and visited some of the same places (Poachers Pantry, Realm Hotel, Museum of Democracy, the War Memorial) under my own steam I can honestly say that the service and quality of products I have paid for myself is very comparable to what I was lucky enough to experience on the #HumanBrochure weekend.

Tips for enjoying a visit to Canberra

  • Forget your preconceptions and visit with an open mind
  • Ask a local for advice on where to go and what to do or check out the Visit Canberra website
  • Stay in a central location so that you can walk to most of the cultural attractions or make sure you have access to some transport if you are off the main drag
  • Don’t compare Canberra to Sydney, Melbourne or even Brisbane – don’t even compare them to each other – they are all so different, you’ll go a bit potty doing that
  • Revel in the architecture, the seemingly endless blue skies, the access to so many cultural institutions, the fact that you are in a small city with big city attractions

More posts on the food, food, food, wine, wine, wine to follow!


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Schmeckt Cooking: Steakon Chilli Con Carne

Posted by on 28 Jul, 2012 in Schmeckt Cooking: | 0 comments

Cooking with the Meat’…

It’s Mick’s birthday on Monday so we had family over to celebrate. Mick loves Mexican food and meat so I decided to adapt a Chilli Con Carne recipe for the slow cooker so it would be ready to serve up when everyone arrived. The original recipe (which comes from the chunky Hot Food cookbook uses minced (or ground) beef but I used chuck steak and bacon, hence “Steakon”.

I had over a kilo of chuck steak so I doubled the quantities below but we had enough leftover to freeze a large container.

Steakon Chilli Con Carne

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
1-2 teaspoons of chilli powder
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (I did not double this)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 small chillies, seeded and finely chopped (Optional – I omitted these because of the guest list)
500 grams of chuck steak, cut into large cubes
2 full rashers of bacon, rind removed and sliced into strips
400 g (14 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
425 g (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
250 ml (1 cup of beef stock)
1 teaspoon of sugar

Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat and dry-fry the cumin, allspice, chilli and paprika for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Remove from the pan.

In a large pan heat the oil over a medium heat and cook the onion for 2-3 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for 1 minutes. Add the chuck steak, browning the cubes on each side. Add the bacon and let it cook for 4-5 minutes. Place this in your stockpot dish and add the tomatoes, tomato paste, kidney beans, stock, sugar and spice. Stir to ensure it is all mixed thoroughly.

I completed my prep the night before and then stored my whole slow cooker dish in the fridge. I cooked it on a low heat from 7.30am – 4.30pm or 9 hours. When I got home from work I used a large spoon to remove the fat on top and then stirred it thoroughly. The meat was still in chunks and a little dry at this stage so I cooked it for an additional hour on high without the lid and stirring it occasionally. By the time I served it up the steak had broken down so it was like a shredded meat and the flavours were amazing. I could definitely work on refining the cooking time but as I was cooking a double batch it was a little hard to ascertain what would work.

We served this with tortilla wraps, tacos, and a host of different toppings including guacamole, fresh coriander, diced tomato, diced Spanish onion, hot sauce, salsa and sliced spring onions.


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Schmeckt Cooking: Banana and Oat Muffins

Posted by on 23 Jul, 2012 in Schmeckt Cooking: | 3 comments

Finally, a fairly successful baking story! Whenever I’ve got a couple of overripe bananas lying around I’ve been making this Banana, Oat and Date Muffin recipe from Her Canberra but Mick’s doesn’t really like dates and real maple syrup is so expensive. Also, the muffins end up a little sweeter than I prefer. I had some natural yoghurt that needed using and I am a total convert to using yoghurt in my baking. It makes muffins and cakes so FLUFFY!

So, I actually experimented with a baking recipe and it actually worked. Praise the baking Gods!

Banana and oat muffins

Banana and Oat Muffins – many thanks to Her Canberra for the original inspiration
50 grams of butter – softened
1/2 cup of *brown sugar
*I upped this to 3/4’s as I was worried that it wouldn’t be sweet enough once I removed the dates and the syrup but after tasting them I think I would prefer them to be a little less sweeter
2 eggs
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 cup of rolled oats
1 cup of *self raising wholemeal flour – sifted
*if you only have regular wholemeal flour add two teaspoons of baking powder to the flour and sift well twice to mix them together
2 large overripe bananas halved lengthways, halved again lengthways and then cut into 1 cm slices
1 Tbs of honey
3/4 of a cup of natural yoghurt

Preheat oven to 180 degrees (my fan forced oven was on 160)
Cream butter, sugar and cinnamon
Add eggs and yoghurt and mix well
Add oats, flour, banana and honey and gently combine

Spoon mixture into muffin cases and sprinkle a few extra oats on top.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Absolutely delicious

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