Category Archives: Pork

Porkfest Cooking Class at Restaurant Atelier, Glebe

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.
You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Bilbo Baggins

That Lord of the Rings quote pops into my head when I pause the day for a moment, and realise we’re already at the start of August 2012. How did we get here so fast?! I feel like I’ve been swept through this year, and I need to press pause on the clock while I find my own feet.

The first half of this year has been so busy because, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned at least once, we moved into our apartment in March. Most other parts of my life took a backseat to the stress of exchanging contracts just days before last Christmas, waiting 3 months for settlement, finding our routine in mortgage world, and making our new place a home. But we are loving it here!

I have also been far more budget-conscious this year, and am therefore dining out less. However, I’ve still dined in some wonderful restaurants… I just haven’t blogged them. My mind has been focused on home, and I have been focused on recipe posts.

It was only after I’d looked back through my small number of blog posts this year, that I realised I’d only written one post about a restaurant. One restaurant post in six months, and that one post was about our anniversary from October last year. Shocking.

I’d like to amend this blogging oversight immediately, as I have experienced some wonderful dining out experiences lately; starting with a pork cooking class and lunch at Restaurant Atelier.

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Filed under Classes, Eating Out, Fine Dining, French, Pork, Recipes

Cooking with Sami’s Kitchen Spice Blends (and a Giveaway!)

As a food lover, and food blogger, it can be easy to get carried away with rich food, eating out, and generally consuming too many calories. Summer is fast approaching and I’m still finding my cake-loving way to a place of balance and self-control. Happily, I know that healthy food doesn’t have to be bland and boring.

Not every day is gourmet in our house – and nor is every meal worthy of photographing ;) . In fact our usual weekday dinners are quite simple really: grilled meat of some kind with salad or vegetables, rice or couscous, or on occasion we will have pasta, omelettes, soup etc.

Healthy and simple doesn’t have to mean tasteless though. One way to turn a potentially plain meal of grilled chicken and salad into a dinner to get excited about is, of course, by using fresh and dried spices and herbs.

I love using herbs and spices but find myself continually reaching for the same ones in my after-work-oh-so-hungry auto-pilot mode. The most used herb in my cupboard is thyme (I prefer it dried to fresh), accompanied by lemon and garlic. Thyme is my favourite herb and can find its way into most of my dinners: omelettes (it’s great on fried eggs too), chicken, salad, pasta sauce, roast vegetables… Once I even had a thyme, mandarin and dark chocolate rice pudding at Fifteen Melbourne.

Now I don’t think there is anything wrong with my constant use of thyme, though Paul might disagree, but it’s good to try new things.

Claire from Food Guru, the Sydney-based online gourmet food store, recently sent me two spice blends from the Sami’s Kitchen range to sample: Shish Tawook and Shawarma. Food Guru stocks the four Middle Eastern spice blends from Sami’s Kitchen which come in 82g packets ($6.95 each or all four for $22).

The Shish Tawook blend contains garlic, paprika, pimento, nutmeg and cinnamon (and may contain thyme!). It has a sweet fragrance and is perfect for use with chicken or fish.

The Shawarma blend contains pepper, pimento, mustard, cumin, ginger, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. It has an intense fragrance and matches well with red meat.

The spice blends are versatile and can be used across a range of meat, vegetable and grain dishes. So far I have tried both blends in a few different dishes, from simply marinating free range chicken breast in shish tawook, garlic, and lemon, to my below experiments. The spice blends are bold, heady but balanced, making it so easy, convenient and simple to create a delicious (and healthy!) dinner after getting home from work. I haven’t forgotten about my dear thyme, but we’re definitely enjoying the new flavours in our kitchen.

And now to share the love, I’m excited to announce my first giveaway!


Thanks to Food Guru one lucky Cats – Love – Cooking reader will win a pack of four Sami’s Kitchen Spice Blends!

The selection pack includes Shawarma blend (ideal for meat dishes), Shish Tawook blend (ideal for chicken dishes), Falafel blend (ideal for a vegetarian feast), and Zaatar blend (ideal for salads and as a bread dip).

For a chance to win simply leave a comment below letting me know what you would be inspired to cook with the Sami’s Kitchen range.

This competition is open to anyone in Australia, one entry per person, and ends at 12.00pm (AEST) on Friday 30 September 2011. The winner will be randomly selected and notified by email and announced on this blog.


Spiced Almond Crusted Fish
Serves 4

Baked fish is super healthy, and thanks to the almond and shish tawook crust this definitely isn’t lacking in flavour. This would be great with a thicker fish fillet, for appearances sake, but I only had thin morwong fillets. Serve with your choice of grains and vegies.

  • 4 white fish fillets
  • 80g almonds
  • 2 tablespoons shish tawook spice blend
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cooked couscous and salad, to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Process almonds in food processor until roughly chopped, but not too fine.
  3. Combine almonds and shish tawook, season with salt and pepper, and spread onto a plate.
  4. Brush top of fish fillets with egg then press, egg-side down, onto almond mix. Transfer to baking tray and bake until fish is cooked, around 15 minutes depending on the thickness. Serve with couscous and salad.

Stuffed Roast Capsicums
Serves 4

I invited my Mum and sister over for dinner recently to celebrate my sister’s new job, and decided to make stuffed capsicums because a. they look quite cool, b. they’re easy to prepare as both meat and vegetarian options, and c. I thought they’d go well with the shish tawook blend. I used free range pork mince for the meat stuffing, and for my Mum’s vegetarian variation I used chickpeas. The spice went well with both the pork and chickpeas, and was delicious paired with natural yoghurt, fresh coriander, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Try to find similar sized capsicums with a sturdy base – test their balance on a flat surface in the store first!

  • 500g free range pork mince
  • 2 tablespoons shish tawook spice blend
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 brown onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 red capsicums
  • Olive oil
  • Brown rice salad, natural yoghurt, lemon, and fresh coriander, to serve
  1. Finely chop the zucchini, onion and garlic in a food processor. Preheat oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Carefully cut the top of the capsicums off and keep aside, then remove the seeds. Heat the capsicums in the microwave for 2 minutes to soften slightly.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and saute zucchini, onion and garlic for 5 minutes or until soft. Add shish tawook and stir for 1 minute. If your frying pan is large enough, add pork mince and cook until browned. If it’s not big enough (like mine wasn’t), transfer zucchini mix to a bowl, add pork mince to the pan and cook until browned, then add the zucchini back in. Season with salt and pepper. You can add more shish tawook here if you feel it needs it.
  4. Fill capsicums with pork mixture, then top with their lids. Transfer to oven on the lined baking tray and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Serve with brown rice salad, lemon wedges, natural yoghurt and fresh coriander.

Vegetarian variation: Replace the pork mince with a 400g tin of drained chickpeas, follow the rest of the steps

Shawarma BBQ Asado Ribs

Asado De Tira, or short ribs, are an Argentinian cut of meat. Asado ribs are one of Paul’s favourite meats to BBQ, though not one of mine. It’s a very fatty cut of meat which tends to be chewy, and after a couple of ribs I usually leave the messy greasiness to him.

Despite my usual resistance towards asado ribs, we had some that needed to be cooked. Traditionally you would simply season the asado with salt before grilling, but I decided to marinate these ribs in the Shawarma spice blend to jazz them up a bit.

Following the packet suggestion, I mixed 2 tablespoons of Shawarma with extra virgin olive oil, a few splashes of red wine vinegar, and sea salt, then rubbed it into the ribs, leaving it to marinate in the fridge for the day. Paul cooked the ribs on the Weber coal BBQ, with the lid on to smoke it, and so the meat develops a nice crust. The scent of the Shawarma spices when the meat hit the grill was intensely fragrant, and flavour-wise worked really well with the meaty ribs.

BBQ, beer & ribs

Visit Sami’s Kitchen for more ideas to inspire your entry. Good luck! :-D



Filed under Beef, Healthy, Pork, Quick, Recipes, Seafood, Vegetarian

Short Bites: Serenity, Pork, Brussels Sprouts, and My New Favourite Snack

Would you look at that serenity?!

This glorious location is Wisemans Ferry along the Hawkesbury River, and it was the destination of our short break the weekend before last, with Amanda and her husband. Only an hour from Sydney, it felt like we were worlds away – it was perfect for some much needed R&R. So peaceful and quiet, with beautiful scenery and rows of trees with green, amber and gold leaves. I found a new appreciation for autumn’s beauty this weekend.

Over the 3 day stay we relaxed, the guys played golf, Amanda worked out, and I lazed around… We had an ordinary dinner at a restaurant on night 1 (which ended with a very small crème brûlée that we think used custard out of a carton), but a great pub meal on night 2. Bistros are so reliable! We also spent 4 hours fishing off a small boat, but despite our best efforts we came back empty-handed.

Pork & Brussels Sprouts

Following our ordinary dinner on the Friday night (which was over-cooked oven roasted pork) we felt the need to make amends with this fine meat, and purchased a few pork fillets for weeknight dinners.

Being the dork I am, I suggested we each cook pork for dinner in our own way over 2 nights – a His & Hers Mini-Porkfest if you will ;)

Alongside the pork on my night was the return of my most hated vegetable of my childhood: Brussels sprouts. The animosity felt towards this little green thing is unfair really. My colleague Emma said they remind her of shriveled Barbie heads! Can you believe that?! ;)

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Filed under He Cooks, Healthy, Pork, Short Bites