The Best Laid Plans…

COURTYARDI’ve decided I need to become more healthy, toned, in touch with my inner nature, and more spiritual. It’s not much to ask of your life, and today I got off to an exceptionally good start with a yoga class. After an hour of deep breathing, meditative movement, and all round pious good feelings, I was filled with determination to remain relaxed, and healthy for the rest of the day. That lasted ten minutes because I went to the Haigh’s Chocolate Factory to buy someone a present. Faced with an array of the most delicious chocolates in the world, I crumbled, and ate a salted caramel chockie.

Next came shopping for dinner at the supermarket, where I was ambushed by one of those people offering free tastes of food to passers by. Of course, if someone offers you ice cream with salted caramel sauce on it when you have only had a herb tea for breakfast, you are going to cave in. Next thing I knew, I had a jar of the bloody sauce in my trolley, along with a tub of ice cream to go with it. It was about then I realised my day of pious behaviour had come to a crashing halt, and with that in mind, I bought a meat pie for lunch, went home and watched Dr Phil, and decided to start anew tomorrow.

Luckily, I was still on a happy high from my latest experiment in the kitchen. I heard someone describing how they cooked a roast leg of lamb in their electric frying pan, so I decided to give it a go. I always get quite over excited at the thought of a new cooking technique, and this was no exception. So, even though I have crashed and burnt on all fronts today, yesterday was a rip snorting success in the kitchen, and to cheer myself up, I’m going to share the recipe with you!



1.6kg leg of lamb with bone

Various vegetables to roast ie. potatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin


Sprigs of Rosemary

Method: Make some small incisions in the meat, and push cut up pieces of garlic into the holes. Rub the leg with olive oil, sprinkle some salt over it, and set to one side. Next, cut the vegetables up into smallish pieces. You want them to cook through so, as you can see from my photos, smaller chunks are better. Set the frypan to its highest heat, add a little olive oil, and sear the meat on all sides. Remove from the frying pan, and turn it down to a lower setting. I used between 2 to 4 on mine.

imageReturn the meat to the pan, and surround the meat with the vegies and rosemary. Put the lid of the frying pan on, and leave the steam vent open. It took about 3 hours for my leg of lamb to cook, and I put the vegies in the oven for twenty minutes at the end, just to crisp them up a bit. When the meat is cooked, take it out and cover it in tinfoil, leaving it to sit for about fifteen minutes. I made a tasty gravy by putting 2 tablespoons of flour into some warm water (250mls approx), mixing it up to get rid of the lumps, then added it to the frying pan, with all the meat juices. I also threw in a few tablespoons of vermouth, a sprinkling of Lea and Perins sauce and some crushed black pepper. And there you have it! It didn’t heat up the house, the pan was easy to wash, the meat was tender, and my muse was happy. All in all, a damn fine experiment!


Goodbye to the Snake and hello to the Horse!

photo-86It’s Chinese New Year tomorrow, with the Year of the Snake on the way out. I think a lot of people found the Year of the Snake difficult. This coming year is the Year of the Wooden Horse, so here’s hoping this coming year will be a bit easier.

In honour of the Chinese New Year, I’m posting a recipe for a Chinese Chicken Hotpot. I make it in a slow cooker, but you could make it in a big pot on the stove, if you cooked it slowly. I’ve made the following recipe a few times and it was an instant favourite with my muse. It’s excellent to make in a heatwave, because when it feels like the gates of hell have opened above your city, then you don’t want to be cranking up the oven.

So here we go. The recipe is a big vague, because I have found that I like to adjust it to my taste. The ingredients are quite easy to find. I’ve pictured them above, so you know what you are looking for. Yummy!!


1.8kg whole chicken (or thereabouts)

500mls of chicken stock

Approximately 1/2 cup of Chinese cooking wine

1/2 cup of soya sauce

1/2 cup of oyster sauce

1/4 cup of brown sugar (or to taste. I don’t like it too sweet)

As many cloves of garlic as you like (I use about six)

6cm piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced into matchsticks

3 star anise

1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder

2 long red chillies, cut into pieces (I use about ten because I love chillies, and I use the super hot small chillies)

Chinese greens (ie. bok choy) I also put spring onions and coriander in the broth, and sometimes shitake mushrooms

Noodles (I use thin rice noodles)


Method: Wash the chicken and place it in the slow cooker along with the star anise, ginger and garlic cloves and dried shitake mushrooms if you are using them. In a big jug, mix together the liquid ingredients and the sugar and Chinese five spice powder. Have a taste and see if you want to adjust anything. The cooking wine is strong in taste, and a bit unusual, but it is lovely when heated. Remember that the broth will be flavoured by the chicken bones in the chicken too. Pour the liquid over the chicken, and cook on low for eight hours. I turn the chicken half way through, and top up with water if needed.


When the chicken is cooked, take it out of the broth and put to one side. When it has cooled enough, pull the meat from the bones and discard the carcass. Strain the broth into a big saucepan. I fish out the garlic cloves and shitake mushrooms from the seive, and put them back into the liquid. Cut up your vegies, and put them into the broth, letting them cook. Meanwhile, cook your noodles, and drain.

To assemble, put noodles in the bottom of a big soup bowl. Put the chicken in, then spoon over the vegies and broth, adding the chillies. I meant to take a photo of the finished dish, but forgot because I was so hungry. It was delicious!


Lessons Learnt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOkay, this photo is pretty radical. Clearly I am not in IKEA buying my dream bookcase.

“What’s happening Jane?” I hear you say. “Are you performing a tracheotomy in a restaurant on a dying person, has someone thrown up on you, or are you in pain from being shot in a hold up?” Well, it’s none of the above. It’s me in a Bali toilet (it’s a selfie!) God, I hate public toilets. It’s what puts me off traveling overseas. If I was one of those blessed creatures who don’t care about what goes on around them, then I would have been to Bhutan and back, several times. But I hate it. I hate plane toilets. I hate all toilets that are not my own. I have nightmares about going to the loo in public places.

So, what does this have to do about my blog? Nothing really. It’s 10pm and I’ve just scratched some chilli in my eye by mistake (where did that come from??), I have a 5am wake up call for a nursing shift a the hospital which may, or may not be available (ahhhh, the joys of being a casual worker), and I’m in the middle of editing my new book, which I am having a mini meltdown over (it’s crap. I am crap. My writing is crap.) So perhaps that’s why I posted a photo of me looking at some crap in a loo.

On a brighter note, here is a fabulous way to restore confidence in all areas of life, when one is doubting oneself (that might be the lesson learnt, because the title implies something wise and deep, which is not really going to happen!)


Okay, so forget about spending loads of money on skin exfoliation products. Just grab some castor sugar, pour it into a bowl, and add a good dash of a body lotion. I find sorbalene works wonderfully for this. Now hop in the shower, and rub it all over your body. Rinse off, et voila! A polished skin. You won’t be disappointed. (Public health warning: obviously, don’t rub so hard your skin comes off and don’t rub it on your face).


It was the night before Christmas…

photo-76The day before Christmas…

Today is the equivalent of going on a complicated overseas holiday, to a destination you are not entirely sure how you should pack for. You get to the immigration gate and you can no longer pack another pair of knickers, or some more sunblock. All the shops are closed, and suddenly it’s too late to post anymore Christmas cards, or buy anymore gifts.

That’s how I feel about Christmas. As for the food situation, I blame all the stupid Christmas specials they put on TV in Australia for the mess in my fridge.

Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson (OMG, what a year she’s had. Love her to bits), Gordon Ramsay and Rick Stein. I’m so confused… We don’t have snow in summer, so why are we roasting a chicken tomorrow, and boiling a pudding in a big pot on the stove?

Well Jane, I hear you say, what’s so hard about that? What’s so bloody hard is that we just went through two days of the hottest temperatures in December ever on record – 43C degrees (110F). Sitting inside a house about to burst into flames from the sheer heat outside, while watching Jamie Oliver cooking in the snow (and everyone else mentioned above), is just wrong. I feel like I should be bounding out my front door, to carol singers, snow, and a hundred things roasting in the oven, while surrounded by loving family members, who never make you so angry you could murder them. Instead, we should all be at the beach, bounding out of the surf in our bikinis (another fantasy which won’t be happening,) drinking martinis and eating prawns with salad.

However, a gal and her Muse can make the best of any situation and we have a lovely Christmas day planned, with some friends, food which won’t need hours in the oven, and some bubbles in a glass (we can’t call it champagne anymore – Australian sparkling!)

On that note, I’m going to give the recipe for a lovely Christmas Day.

1. Forget your diet

2. Drink some nice bubbles

3. Hide when the cleaning up needs to be done

4. Listen to some Celine Dion

Have a great Christmas, and remember… the mince pies, Christmas pudding and brandy cream will all be gone for another year, this time next week, so enjoy.



Tribal Wives and Husbands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, I was watching Tribal Wives this evening, after making dinner for my Muse. For anyone who hasn’t seen this fab show, it involves plonking women from England, into a tribal setting in places like Africa, to see how they fare. They usually have a nervous breakdown.

I said “I think I should go on this show.” (Even though I’m an Australian, which makes us pretty tribal at the best of times).

“Why?” he asks.

“Because I’m in my forties, I don’t have children, I have issues with my mother, and I would probably cry a lot.” That makes good viewing for this particular show.

“They would send you home the next day. You are too neurotic, and you can’t stand the heat.”

I start thinking about my Muse. “Well, if they had a show for Tribal Husbands, they would send you home the next day, because you don’t do anything. They don’t have computers and sports channels in the tribes. You would be considered useless.”

After ten minutes of me laughing so hard I cried, my Muse stormed off to do the dinner dishes. But seriously. Let’s just get down to business and post a great recipe for the heat, which should descend on us any day now, considering it is summer in Australia. Having said that, it was 32 degrees today, and tomorrow it’s going to be 20 degrees. What the???? And by the way, that photo is of me, in 40 degrees of heat at 9pm on New Year’s Eve at a party, in a hotel where the air conditioning failed. I’m just saying, when it comes to survival in the tribe, I was the last one standing…

Gin and Tonic

Take a really big glass out of the cupboard and put it in the deep freeze.

Put your gin bottle in the deep freeze

Make sure there are ice cubes in the deep freeze


Tonic (in the fridge)

Method:  Place four ice cubes in your chilled glass. Pour yourself a sturdy measure of gin into said glass and top up the glass with tonic. Garnish with lemon.

Public Health Disclaimer: Don’t do this at breakfast. This is a strictly over the yard-arm drink.


It’s all in the timing…

Her Sister's Wedding Large I was over the moon to see my second book appear as an e-book this week. The lovely ladies at Decadent Publications have done an amazing job, so please check out their website (yes, there is decadence and sweet romance there) at There is some naughty and some nice stuff in there, but they are awesome. If you are thinking of getting a romance e-book published, check them out. They are going to be big.

So I was thinking about this book, and the fact I wrote it three years ago. Sometimes things take a long while to come to fruition. Lots of pieces have to fall into place. If there is one thing I have learnt in the last few years, it’s this: it’s all about the timing. People always talk about you getting your chance. I think you do. I think you have to realise when that chance is sitting in front of you, and then you have to take it. Don’t muck around, don’t make excuses. Go for it. The worst that can happen, is that you fail. Then you can go through your life with your head held high, saying “I gave it my best go.” There could be nothing worse than wanting to try, getting your chance then not grabbing it. So, in honour of fate, the powers that be, and that chance that comes your way, begging for you to say ‘yes’:


Barring that, cook yourself your favourite meal, hold your head high, and just remember; Celine Dion started her singing career on her kitchen table. xxx

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas!

imageIt’s December 2nd, which in Australia mean a few important things in my world.

1) I am going to have to wear shorts, tee shirts and a bathing suit in the next few weeks as it is getting super hot.

2) Christmas mince pies are on sale in the supermarkets. They are friggin delicious, and will only be around for another month, so I’m giving myself the excuse to go for it, bearing in mind I have to get into shorts, tee shirts and a bathing suit.

3)  The Christmas tree is up, and fully decorated (it’s been up for a month, in fact).

Having said that about my Christmas tree, I feel like every year, Christmas pounces on me out of nowhere. Already, it is impossible to find a park at shopping malls, as they are filled with stampeding people from 9am onwards. People get so stressed before Christmas, and then from Christmas to the New Year, it’s like a ghost town.

At Christmas, I hardly have any family around (in fact I have no family apart from my muse and the ferrets this year), and I have no permanent job, being a writer and a casual nurse. So that cuts out two very important aspects of the lead up to Christmas: family meltdowns and the office Christmas party.

All that aside it’s a magical time of year, and to celebrate the magic I’m going to share an easy to make, tasty and nutritious soup that will get you through any mad herd of crazed shoppers, any family meltdown, and any hangover if you disgrace yourself at the office Christmas party.

It’s also vegan (if you make it with vegetable stock,), gluten free and just about every other label you can stick on a food that sounds good.



1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

2 cups chopped carrots

1-1/2 cups of dried yellow split peas

6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

Method: In a big saucepan, heat up the olive oil, then add the onion and chopped carrot, and cook for about eight minutes until softened. Chuck in the lentils with the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about forty minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils go soft and start to break up. Puree with a blender, adding a bit more water if it is too thick in consistency, then add salt and black pepper to taste. Yum!

An Epic Leap Forward

photo-66 I think there are moments in your life, which equate with giant leaps forward in your personal development, and vision of who you can be. I had such a moment today, in IKEA. I recently got an iPhone. Wow, I hear you say, how cool! I had a really strange phone for the last two years that no one could show me how to work. I don’t know why I got it – I think at the time I liked it’s cute little keyboard thingie, which broke after six months. I digress. So I’m in IKEA, and my muse rings me on Facetime. He’s discovered this little item on his iPhone, so there I am, sprung at IKEA, instead of home cleaning (today is cleaning day).

And by the way, can I say there are three things in life you should never let slip. Your weight, your fitness levels and your housework. The amount of time it takes to get back to normal levels, if you let any of these slide, is appalling.

Back to IKEA. I showed him a little bookcase I had my eye on, for my writing room. After he had showed me the factory he was visiting, we hung up. This is where it gets exciting/dangerous. I realised I could get on the internet, as I sat on a display chair in the bookcase department. I kind of wish my first internet experience on my phone (eva) had been something to do with Celine, but it wasn’t. I transferred some money so I could buy the damn bookcase. What a day!!

I feel like I’m living in Star Trek episode.

We watched Casino Royale last night on DVD. Gosh, could you be any cooler Jane, I hear you thinking. The reason I mention this, is that the movie heavily favours my favourite drink; a Vesper Martini. Daniel Craig isn’t too bad either. So, to celebrate my arrival into the world of the internet via the iPhone, here is the recipe for a Vesper. Yum (and drink in moderation. Don’t have six in one sitting like he does in Quantum of Solace, or you will end up being sick in the loo. I’m just saying).


  • 3 measures of Gordon’s Gin
  • 1 measure of vodka
  • 1/2 measure Kina Lillet
  • lemon peel for garnish


The Vesper according to Ian Fleming and James Bond: “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”

What A Show!


Well, the Show is over for another year and it didn’t disappoint. We had a ball, and quite a few gross things to eat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In fact, I had an epic evening. I ate two meat pies. Not both at the same time, but over the course of the night. I’ve never let myself eat two meat pies before, and let me tell you, it was damn tasty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMind you, it was hard not to have the thought of pies put into your subconscious. They even had a pie baking context at the show.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong with some gingerbread houses, which seemed a little worse for wear…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are loads of animals at the Show, and lots of people from the country areas. Here I am at the horse stables. I always wanted a horse when I was a kid, but my parents never got me one. How selfish! Now I’m old enough to have my own horse, I don’t want one. I’m scared of heights and scared of being thrown off the horse. I still love them though.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATalking of being scared of heights – I went on this ride with my muse and nearly died of fright. Not too sure what I was thinking when I made that decision (we could all say that at times).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, that’s it for another year, and in honour of the great time which was had by all, here is my meat pie recipe. It’s easy to make your own meat pies, but not quite as much fun as just munching one straight out of a bag.



2 tablespoons oil

500g beef mince

2 onions finely chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons tomato sauce

1 tablespoon cornflour

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon of Vegemite (for non-Australians, this is a black, thick savoury spread we use so you can omit it)

1/2 cup of boiling water

Black pepper to taste

Beef stock cube

Shortcrust pastry

Puff pastry

Method: Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and onions. Stir until they have softened (usually about ten minutes). Add the beef mince, and break up any lumps with your spoon. I like to stir in the beef stock cube at this point. When the mince has browned, combine the tomato sauce, cornflour, Worcestershire sauce, Vegemite and boiling water, and add it to your mince. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then set aside to cool.

When the mixture has cooled, instead of lovingly making pastry, I pull out my pre-purchased packets (which I buy at the supermarket) from the deep freeze. I get my pie tins, and cut out the shape to line the bottom of each pie tin from the shortcrust pasty. I use non-stick pie tins. I fill the pastry-lined pot with the cold beef mince mixture, then make a lid out of the puff pastry and seal in the pie filling. When that’s all done, I put them in the oven at 180 C (350 F) and cook them for about 40 minutes. Of course, you can add other things to the mixture, like peas, bacon, and line the top with cheese before putting the pastry lid on. Yummmmmm. Enjoy!

It’s Show Time!

photo-65Here’s a photo of me wondering if Celine Dion would drink three glasses of wine in quick succession on a hot night, when it is her husband’s birthday (and your sister has joined you as a partner in crime). It was my muse’s birthday last night, so we headed to his favourite haunt (Cork Wine Cafe, Adelaide) for a bevvie or four.

Anywhoooo, I’ve got off track because it’s show time! We live right opposite the show grounds of our city, and once a year, we have The Royal Show. What that entails is endless traffic jams, no parking spaces in the hood, the smell of cows in the air, people fighting outside our house (we are just the right distance away), fireworks every night at 9pm which scare the shit out of the ferrets, rubbish everywhere, screaming children, people renting out their front lawns as parking lots, and finally, an excuse to eat disgusting food.

Every year, my muse and I make our way over to see the animals, have a fairground ride, look at the Country Women’s Association Baking Competition, and eat things on a stick that should not be sold for human consumption. Frankly, my favourite is a meat pie (my death row meal, should I ever find myself in that situation), and a hot bucket of chips with loads of chicken salt.

I do have a great recipe for meat pies, but I’ll leave that for my next post (she says, intending to take fascinating photos of the fair for her blog). So instead, here is a fab chips recipe. Easy, cheap and oh so tasty!



Quite a few large potatoes

Olive oil


Method: Cut the potatoes into chip shapes. Put them in a saucepan of cold water, which covers them. Bring it to the boil, and when the chips are barely tender, drain from the water. Next, spread them out on a baking tray, pour some olive oil and salt over them, and bake in a really hot oven until they are crisp. So yummy!!