Ann’s Magic Muesli

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In my case it’s also scattered with muesli. I blame my dear friend Ann. When the Small Girl was born Ann used to leave food parcels and flowers on our doorstep on her way to work. Their contents would vary, but there were three absolute favourites – a zucchini and ham pie, a spicy apple cake and a huge Tupperware container of homemade muesli. We inhaled the pie and cake, but I swear there was a hole in the muesli container because we’d barely get it up the stairs before its contents vanished.

When some friends had a baby last weekend I thought I’d pass on the favour and make some muesli for them. But somehow we started eating it before the jar could be delivered and I fear the next batch will meet the same fate. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts…

Ann’s Muesli
This muesli is the closest thing I’ve found to the amazing granola they use in the granola parfaits at Le Pain Quotidien. Ann says the secret ingredients are dried pineapple and Brazil nuts – and the generous amount of oil and honey obviously doesn’t hurt either.

6 cups whole oats 

1 cup coconut

1 cup wheatgerm (Ann says she often leaves this out)

1 cup powdered milk

1 cup (at least) of chopped mixed nuts (Brazils included)

1 cup honey

1 cup oil (canola or sunflower, not olive)


2 cups dried fruit – sultanas, apricots, pineapple, cranberries, dates etc

Preheat the oven to 150C. Put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Melt the honey and oil together in a small pot, then pour over the dry ingredients. Mix well, using your hands if necessary. Tip into a large roasting dish and bake for one hour, stirring every 10 minutes.

When golden brown, remove from oven and cool. (Ann says: “I stir every 10 mins for the next 1/2 hour, otherwise it sticks together”.) Stir through the dried fruit. Store in an airtight (and padlocked) container when completely cold. 

Big Red: Braised Beef & Tomatoes

At this time of year there’s always lots of press extolling the virtues of slow cookers. Occasionally I wonder about getting one, then I remember that we have a giant slow cooker tucked into the corner of the kitchen. It’s called an oven. O-V-E-N. Set low, it also conveniently heats the room. Bet your benchtop slow cooker can’t do that…

Big Red Braised Beef
I’ve just taught the Boy Wonder how to make this, which is good, except I’m going to have to teach him something else really quickly lest we end up eating it all winter. It takes about 15 minutes prep on the stovetop, then you can put it in the oven and forget about it for a few hours. Quantities here are approximate – you can always stretch a smaller amount of meat with more vegetables and/or cooked beans.

2Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
3 sticks celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500-750g beef suitable for stewing (shin is my favourite), cut into 2cm cubes
2tsp smoked paprika and/or 1tsp dried chilli (less if you don’t like it hot)
2Tbsp flour
125ml red wine
2 tins tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 150C. Take a large, lidded, ovenproof, stoveproof pot (like a Le Creuset) and put it over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the onions, carrots, garlic and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the spices and fry for a minute or two, then add the beef and flour Turn up the heat and fry for another couple of minutes, stirring to try to brown it as much as possible. Add the wine and let it bubble up, then add the tomatoes. Stir well. Add enough water to barely cover the meat (you may not need any) and bring to the boil. Clamp the lid on and stick the pot in the oven. Cook for at least 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until the meat is so tender it falls apart when prodded. Taste for seasoning. If the sauce is too thin, let it cook with the lid off on the stovetop for 10 minutes to reduce. Eat then and there with crusty bread or mash and some sort of greens, or let cool and refrigerate/freeze.

Sweet sweet Friday: Apricot and Orange Blossom Teacake

My jet-setting in-laws flew in yesterday, fresh from a month in the northern hemisphere. I had high hopes of making them a welcoming afternoon tea but my timings were a bit off and this cake, which I’ve been making in my head for about a month, didn’t come out of the oven until they were airborne again and on their way home. Oh well. Any excuse to make it again…

Apricot and Almond Blossom Teacake

I started thinking about making this cake ages ago, after rediscovering the delights of (good quality) tinned apricots. If you’re in the northern hemisphere you could make it with the real thing, but the tinned stuff works just as well. If you use orange blossom water (which I confess I bought because I loved the bottle), don’t be heavy handed or the cake will taste like it was made in a department store beauty hall.

175g soft butter
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup ground almonds
2tsp baking powder
2tsp orange blossom water (or you could use 1/2-1tsp almond essence, or vanilla)
1/4 cup milk
Apricots – fresh or well-drained tinned ones

Preheat the oven to 175C and grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Don’t take fright if it curdles, all will be well. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix well, then add the milk, orange blossom water and ground almonds. Mix until combined, then scrape into the prepared tin. Arrange the apricot halves on top, pressing them lightly into the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake has risen and is golden brown on top. Let cool for 10 minutes before releasing from the tin. Lovely eaten warm on the spot or with a dollop of Greek yoghurt later.

Thank you all for your support and lovely comments about my dad. Hope you all have a sweet, sweet Friday and a happy weekend x

Loss adjustment

My dad died unexpectedly on June 11. He was 83, still working, still driving, still searching for the perfect glass of wine, still reciting Shakespeare, still living.

This line from the eulogy my brother gave says it best:

You were never in any doubt about what Dad thought about something, he would want to be remembered for what he was and what he did, and not for what he wasn’t, and I can almost hear him telling us to get on with life, to look after Mum, make sure the wine was good, and to enjoy life as richly as he did

I haven’t felt like blogging – or cooking, or even writing – but hopefully ‘normal’ service will resume soon. It will be the ‘new normal’, as they say in Christchurch as the ground roars under their feet. My dad dying feels like my own personal earthquake, but the only option is to pick up and keep going.