Chicken skewers: Moroccan-style marinade

Makes: 12 skewers

For Nat’s birthday, we got an awesome, portable, charcoal grill from Everdure, a company Heston Blumenthal has been promoting.

The idea was inspired by some Phillipino pork skewers we had cooked over a traditional hibachi grill at a market a few weeks prior; though a sensible, all-in-one charcoal grill versus a not so sensible, not so portable hibachi grill steered us in the Heston direction.

Anyway, we have loved the grill and the many skewers we’ve made with the boys and friends.

There is something neat about cooking your own meat over a super hot grill. Cold beer, sizzling meat, some dipping sauces… doesn’t get much better.

This marinade we have done twice and it has been really popular.

Make it the day ahead and marinate the chicken in a big ziplock bag. When cutting the meat, keep it small and consistent. Small cubes, not big off cuts.

If you can find chicken thigh with the skin on, even better… though however you do it, get the surface chargrilled and enjoy the taste of charcoal BBQ.


1.2kg chicken thighs


1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp honey
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt flakes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper


  1. Cube the chicken into 2cm cubes, retaining the fat.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients with a few cracks of pepper. Marinate the chicken cubes with the marinate, ideally overnight, refrigerated.
  3. Soak bamboo skewers in a shallow dish of cold water for 30 minutes and then drain.
  4. Skewer the chicken tightly. Heat the grill on high. And cook those puppies, marinating with the remaining marinade as you go.

Thai Basil Beef

Serves: 4

Looking back on it, every blog here that is mince based, starts with something like: mince is the best, mince is our favourite, mince is our last meal, etc.

Because its true.

Any which way, we love it and Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai minces are up there as our favourite weeknight meals.

You’ve been at work, it’s raining, it’s on Monday and yet… you’re having spicy mince for dinner!

This Thai Basil Mince is super easy and you can’t overdo it on the basil front.

It is also healthy, even if you do have it with a cup of boiled Jasmine rice which… because it is Monday… you should.



1 tbsp sunflower oil
500gm ground beef mince
2 shallots, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 birds eye chillies, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 lime, juice and zest
1 cup basil (Thai basil if you can)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced, to garnish
Chopped peanuts and crispy fried shallots to garnish
Jasmine rice to serve


  1. Heat the oil over a medium-high heat in a heavy saucepan or wok and cook the beef mince and shallots until the meat is cooked and browning; about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the capsicum, garlic and chillies and cook until fragrant; another 2 – 3 minutes
  3. Add the fish sauce, sugar, lime and basil and cook until the basil starts to wilt; about a minute. Taste test to make sure the balance of salty, sweet and sour is right.
  4. Garnish with the sliced spring onions, chopped peanuts and fried shallots. Serve with rice.

Matt Preston’s Cheat’s Lamb Pide

Serves: 4 (2 of you in reality)

One of our favourite pastimes comes in three parts:

  1. Long, lunch with a few bottles of wine
  2. A few more drinks at home, music, laughter, talking shit
  3. Making the sort of dinner you want after 1. and 2.

Point 3. of course requires planning because you can’t just decide on a whim to cook something wonderful and outrageous on the couch at home. You not only need the ingredients to be in the fridge, you likely need to have made a start on it… because nobody feels like cooking a fresh meal at 7pm on a Saturday night after a few wines.

We spent a few nights up in Newcastle last year leading up to NYE.

We love a place up there – Parry Street Garage – which serves great pizza and pasta, great wines and beers and more great wine. And it was within walking distance of our AirBNB.

Fast-forward a few hours, the music is on and we commence Matt Preston’s Cheat’s Lamb Pide.

Fast forward another hour or so and we have the best, Saturday-night – still drinking wine – dinner, in Merewether.

Do this the next time you have your own long lunch and finish (or start) the night right!


2 tbsp olive oil
600gm lamb mince
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
1/4 cup un-roasted pistachio kernels, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 oval-shaped rolls or small baguettes
1/3 cup Greek-style yoghurt (full fat!)


  1. Preheat the oven to 160c.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the lamb mince; cook, breaking up the mince for 10 minutes until well browned and crisping.
  3. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika and cinnamon and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato and cook for 4 minutes until the tomato starts to break down. Season.
  4. Time for a red wine: pour one glass and enjoy. Turn the music up.
  5. Combine the pomegranate seeds, chopped pistachios, parsley, mint, lemon juice and remaining oil in a bowl.
  6. Cut a long slit along the top of each bread roll, ensuring that you do not cut all the way through. Open the roll slightly and scoop out a little of the bread. Spoon in the lamb mixture into the rolls to fill. Place on a baking tray and bake for 5 – 10 minutes until warmed through and the rolls are crisp and crunchy on the outside.
  7. Top the rolls with yoghurt and sprinkle with the pomegranate mixture.
  8. Tequila time!

Adam Liaw’s Chicken Veloute Stew

Serves: 4

I am a big fan of Adam Liaw.

Since Masterchef fame, he has stepped it up big-time.

His Twitter account is very funny, he writes recipes for Fairfax Media and others, he travels extensively to cook and he serves up some really good dishes.

His food is obtainable and he writes ordinarily (in a good way) about it so that mugs like us can really feel his sentiment towards it… and the background to it.

This recipe is a really comfortable one and you only need to glance down the ingredients to know why.

You keep layering the vegetables and in the end, you have a whole dinner, starting with your chicken and ending with your broccoli and beans.

It is a Sunday-night sort of thing and with a bottle of red, some music and the lights down, it really is a great way to end the weekend.

Nat and I speak from experience!

(Note: the original recipe called for chicken wings… we are a breast and thigh family only, so I have updated the instructions below to reflect how we did it. Plus a few small changes to how the vegetables were prepped.)


8 chicken thighs, sliced
100gm butter
2 cups button mushrooms, halved
4 thick rasher bacon, cut into lardons
1 brown onion, sliced
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 liters chicken stocks
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
1/2 small cabbage, roughly shredded
3 carrots, chopped
1/2 head broccoli, separated into florets
Handful of green beans, tailed
100ml pouring cream


  1. Heat a little of the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-heat. Fry the chicken thighs until well browned though not yet cooked through; set aside. In the same saucepan, fry the mushrooms until well browned and set aside.
  2. Add the bacon and fry until browned, then add the onion and remaining butter and cook until the onions soften.
  3. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 3 minutes until a roux forms. Add the wine and chicken stock, a little at a time, stirring constantly to remove any lumps from the roux until you have a thick sauce. Season with salt and (white) pepper. Add the bay leaves, thyme, cabbage and carrots, reduce the heat to a simmer, then cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced chicken thighs to one section of the pot. Add the mushrooms to another section. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the broccoli and beans in their own sections. Simmer for a further minute and then taste and adjust for seasoning.
  5. Pour the cream over the stew and serve.

Martha Stewart’s Poached-Chicken-Salad Sandwiches

Serves: 4

This is a pretty classic, Martha Stewart sandwich and one I’ve done plenty of times.

Just add a well buttered baguette – toasted if you can – butter lettuce and avocado.


2 chicken breasts
1 small yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp raisins
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
Baguette, halved lengthways, toasted and buttered
Butter lettuce pieces


  1. In a pot, cover chicken breast and yellow onion with water by 2cm; season generously with salt. Bring to a boil over a high-heat; cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the pit from the heat and let stand, covered for 12 – 14 minutes until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the water and let cool completely.
  3. Shred the chicken, then mix with walnuts, raisins, celery, red onion, mayonnaise, yogurt and tarragon.
  4. Assemble the sandwiches with the toasted baguette, chicken mixture, lettuce and avocado.

Matt Preston’s Classic Ragu with Polenta Dumplings

Serves: 4 – 6

We’ve typed up a few ragus and slow braises and we have reached a point where unless there is something radical about the dish, it wont make the cut.

This Matt Preston ragu makes the cut.

It is from his book, Yummy Easy Quick, a Christmas gift from Nat.

I’ve never had a failed Matt Preston dish and really admire his wholesome, no-holding-back cooking.

Despite the name of the book, his book – and this recipe – isn’t some sort of magazine aisle ‘I don’t have time to cook’ publication: the book is is just great recipes that are easy enough and certainly fun enough for any night of the week.

Specifically for this ragu, it is the ragu itself and especially the fun of the polenta dumplings that makes the whole thing really work.

Complex it is not, tasty, ragu amazing it is.

We had this the night before NYE 2017 with our friends Woodles and Billy.

It was fabulous and ticked all the boxes.

Happy 2018.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg gravy beef, cut into 4cm pieces
100gm pancetta or bacon, coarsely chopped
2 anchovy fillets
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 fresh or dry bay leaves
1/2 cup red wine
1 x 400gm can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups passata
1 cup chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Polenta Dumplings

1 cup self-raising flour
2/3 cup polenta
1/2 cup shredded Pecorino or Parmesan, plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten


  1. Heat the over to 160c.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil over a medium-high heat in a large, oven-proof saucepan. Cook the beef until browned, in batches if necessary. Set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in the saucepan over a medium heat. Add the pancetta and anchovies. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the celery, onion, garlic and bay leaves and cook until soft. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.
  4. Add the beef, tomatoes, stock and passata. Cover and bake for 2 hours; taste and season well.
  5. 15 minutes prior to this, make the dumplings: combine the flour, polenta and cheese in a bowl. Add the milk and eggs and stir until well combined. When the ragu comes out, scoop 1/4 cups of dumpling mixture on the ragu like golf balls. Sprinkle the dumplings with extra cheese.
  6. Return the dish, covered, to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!

Ashes Family Brandy Sauce

Serves: an entire pudding and then some

Christmas pudding wasn’t one of my family’s Christmas traditions growing up.

I recall that puddings were purchased and even cooked, though Christmas pudding was a sideshow at best and one attempted some hours after the main meal had come and gone.

In the Ashes Family – Nat’s family – Christmas pudding is a load-bearing part of their tradition.

Served with “Grandma’s” brandy sauce.

This sauce is a sort of dial-it-to-11 sort of sauce. A Christmas special.

Your heart would stop if you had this every day for a week.

Thank God then there is just one Christmas Day and this sauce.

I didn’t know you well, though thank you Nat’s Grandma. I like tradition and your tradition is now part of mine.


30gm butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup water
50 mls cream
2 tbsp brandy


  1. Heat the butter, browned sugar, water over a low heat heat and combine.
  2. Add cornflour to thicken as necessary.
  3. Once thickened, add the cream and brandy. Whisk until combined and thickened. (And more brandy as you feel fit:)
  4. Enjoy… it’s Christmas!