Thyme for horsing around in Maryland?


In a recent post, I mentioned that, one month out from the start of Summer, we had experienced the coldest early-November conditions in decades. So, we cooked indoors, day after miserable day.

But there was a silver lining to the heavy clouds!

We took the opportunity to fine-tune our take on a recipe I had found while searching for an addition to our chicken maryland repertoire. As a two-person household, we often use these pieces for a quick roast dinner, as the meat retains its moisture better than do chicken breasts.

Part of the appeal of the recipe I put on our kitchen bench was that it featured two ingredients which grow profusely in our kitchen garden: thyme and horseradish.

We have prepared this dish three times in the last couple of months. Along the way, we have made numerous changes to both the method and the proportions of the ingredients. Here is our version of the recipe.


olive oil
4-6 kipfler potatoes, cut crossways into thick disks (about 1cm)
200-250g cauliflower, broken into florets of various sizes
1 purple (red) onion, peeled and cut into 6-8 wedges
2 large chicken marylands (about 700g)
160ml chicken stock
80ml dry white wine
several sprigs of thyme
15ml grated horseradish
15ml Dijon mustard


  1. Using a sharp, serrated knife, joint each maryland into two pieces, ie thigh and drumstick
  2. Place the stock, wine and thyme in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
  3. Remove the thyme from the pan and reserve. Once the liquid has cooled a little, combine it with the horseradish and mustard. (Use the pan if it is has a pouring lip; otherwise, use a pouring jug).
  4. Preheat oven to 170C.
  5. Heat about 30ml of olive oil in a flameproof roasting pan over medium heat. Add the pieces of potato and cook them for 3-4 minutes. Transfer potato to a warm dish.
  6. Add the cauliflower and onion to the roasting pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Transfer them to the dish with the potato.
  7. Cook the pieces of chicken in the roasting pan, turning once, until they begin to go a pale, golden brown; say, 5-6 minutes. Turn the heat off.
  8. Arrange the chicken pieces around the centre of the pan, skin-side up and then arrange the vegetables around the chicken. Scatter and tuck the reserved sprigs of thyme. Stir the liquid briefly and immediately pour over the chicken. (See photos below.)
  9. Place the roasting pan in the oven and cook for 45-50 minutes, casually turning the vegetables once or twice, until the liquid has evaporated and the chicken and vegetables are cooked, including some tasty caramelisation of some of the onion.
  10. Serve with a green side-dish, depending on what is in season, eg asparagus, beans, broccoli, salad leaves.

Some explanatory notes

1. If your marylands are small, use more and leave them in one piece each.
2. We heat the stock, wine and thyme both to extract flavour from the herb and to speed up the roasting process by having the liquids already warmed.
3. We leave a space in the centre of the roasting pan because it is the last spot to dry out during the roasting process – not suitable for roasting those vegetables!
4. To achieve a crispy skin, we cook the chicken for longer than we might normally do. This is because the evaporating liquid creates a ‘steamer’ effect for the first 20-25 minutes, ensuring the meat remains moist despite the longer cooking time.


About the weather: Yes, I do mention the weather quite regularly. Truth is, it’s a bit of an obsession here in Melbourne; other Australians say that we live in the city where you can have “four seasons in one day”!

Posted in Cooking | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Summertime, and the grilling is easy: verses 1 to 3

When Australians travel overseas, it is not uncommon for them to be asked to describe Australian cuisine. After all, the typical foods of most other countries are pretty well known; and businesses preparing these dishes can be found in most large cities around the world. Think Italian and Chinese, for starters! But how often have you seen a food establishment offering Australian dishes in, say, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo, or Istanbul? (London, yes, but that’s mainly to cater for homesick Aussies; or Singapore, but that’s in our neighbourhood.)

Providing an authentic answer to such a question is complicated by two general facts about Australia. Firstly, Australia occupies an entire continent, similar in size to the USA, with a great diversity of climates and geographical features. Secondly, a large proportion of the population are either immigrants or are descended from persons who migrated here less than 100 years ago; there has been little time to develop national or even regional culinary traditions.

There is, however, one method of cooking which is common to all parts of Australia, even if to varying extents according to climate: barbecuing on a grill, over flame or radiated heat, mostly outdoors but occasionally indoors, eg restaurants. In so doing, we have built on one of the main cooking methods of the original inhabitants and incorporated the preferred ingredients and flavours of each wave of immigrants.

We have recently entered the summer period in Australia. In Melbourne, this was preceded by an extended winter, so Maggie and I are making up for lost time by using our Weber Q barbecue to prepare the centrepiece of most of our main meals. And this season, we have set out to apply new flavours and methods to some of our favourite cuts of meat.

Here are three of the new items on our char-grilling menu, tested and modified to the point of complete dining pleasure.

Rump steak

Bought from a reputable butcher, this cut of beef has good flavour and, if given a good rest after it is cooked, won’t be too chewy. Beef rump steaks also cope quite well with being marinaded.

You can find the recipe that we took as our starting point here.

We have made two small changes to the recipe and, having just two mouths to feed, we have also halved the overall volume of marinade to produce enough for up to 700g or 1½ pounds of steak. So, our list of ingredients is:

3 cloves garlic, crushed or grated
1 tsp Dijon mustard
15ml Worcestershire sauce
15ml balsamic vinegar
15ml soy sauce
>¼ tsp black pepper
30ml olive oil

Marinade the meat overnight and turn it in the morning.

The balsamic vinegar helps to produce a good char on the meat but some people could find it a little too sweet; use just 10ml if that is the case. And you might feel that the soy sauce makes the end result a little too salty; again, use just 10ml.


Pork shoulder chops

As Martha Stewart alludes in her recipe, pork shoulder chops are suitable for chargrilling because there is more marbling in their meat. So, they don’t dry out too much. A pork loin chop, say, would become tough to eat when barbecued; not very wise when your teeth are as old as mine!

We have made some modifications to the original recipe and dispensed with the barbecue sauce element altogether.

We find that one large pork shoulder chop has enough meat for the two of us; we fill out the meal with such side dishes as a Waldorf salad or a fresh fennel and orange salad.

For that one chop, we slash the rind at 3cm intervals, to help reduce curling during the grilling process, and make the marinade paste from: 12 fresh sage leaves, shredded; 2-3 cloves of garlic, grated or crushed; 1 tsp salt; and 1 tsp olive oil. As instructed by Martha, we cover the chop with an everyday beer – no need to go boutique for this job – an hour before cooking the chop.

Once the grill is very hot, we cook the drained chop on one side for 8 minutes, then flip it and cook for a further 7 minutes. The end result is juicy and delicious.



Butterflied quail

The third recipe in our current repertoire of cooking in an Australian style was actually created by a local chef, leading chef/restaurateur Neil Perry.

You can read the original recipe here.

With our modifications, the list of ingredients is:

3 cloves garlic, grated
2 cm piece of ginger, grated
2 spring onions (white part), finely chopped
1 tsp sugar (in lieu of maltose)
30ml soy sauce (2 tbsp in Australia = 40ml)
30ml oyster sauce
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
2 tsp sesame oil

We have modified the cooking method too.  We prefer to cook the quail for 4 minutes skin-side up, 3 mins skin-side down, then a further 1 min skin-side up. In our Weber Q, this sequence ensures that the skin becomes attractively charred, with minimal loss of skin from sticking to the grill.


Quail isn’t everyone’s idea of an appealing food – it can be fiddly to get at the meat and it has a gamey flavour. However, we enjoy it on a regular basis and this recipe produces a delicious result during Australia’s barbecue season.

(In a subsequent post, I will share recipes for barbecuing veal escallops and sections of lamb leg.)

Title note: click here to hear Billie Holliday’s rendition of Summertime

Posted in Cooking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer time, and the grilling is easy: verses 4 and 5

In a recent post, I provided recipes for three methods Maggie and I have added to the repertoire for char-grilling on our Weber Q.

Here are two more: one for boneless pieces of lamb leg; the other for thin pieces of veal, marinated with fresh herbs from our garden.

Chargrilled marinated lamb leg

This is a great way to prepare lamb on the barbecue, because you produce a crunchy char on the outside of the meat whilst retaining plenty of moisture in the middle

The recipe we found and then modified is here. For the marinade we use the recommended ingredients in the following proportions:

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground black pepper
15ml lemon juice
30-40 ml olive oil

Once you have combined the ingredients in a bowl, you’ll have enough for a piece of lamb up to one kilogram in size. Because there are only the two of us, we buy a whole boned leg and divide it into four portions, each weighing between 500 and 700g. We freeze three of the pieces immediately; of these, the smallest one will eventually be minced for something like lamb kofta.

Once the remaining piece has been well coated with the marinade, we cover it with cling wrap, leave it in a cool place for half an our so and then refrigerate it overnight.


Our cooking method varies significantly from that in the original recipe. We remove the lamb a good hour before cooking and set up our Weber Q for roasting. Once the Weber has reached about 180C, we put the lamb in and roast it for about 30 minutes, for a 600g piece. We quickly reset the Weber for grilling, place the lamb skin-side down and cook it for about 6 minutes, turn it over and cook it for a further 3 to 4 minutes.

 Here is how it turns out!

If you wanted to use this recipe to feed a large group of friends or family, you could use a whole boned leg, butterflied; double the quantity of marinade, give or take; roast the lamb for about 35 to 40 minutes; and char it much as for a smaller piece.

Marinade for char-grilled veal escallops (about 250g, enough for two adults)

We are big fans of cooking with veal but veal is not your typical candidate for being chargrilled, especially by amateurs at home. However, inspired by a dining experience at a Turkish restaurant in our national capital, Canberra, we went looking for some tips on how to do it.

The recipe we began with is here. We have modified both the method and the relative quantities of the ingredients. The original recipe was from the USA and uses a cut of veal called ‘tenderloin’; I’m not sure what that is but it is probably similar to what is known in Australia as ‘escallops’ or ‘fillets’. These are mainly used to make dishes such as veal scallopini or, when coated with egg and breadcrumbs after being beaten thin, to prepare the classic wiener schnitzel.

Our list of ingredients for the marinade is:

10ml crushed garlic
20ml French shallots, finely chopped (or the white half of some spring/green onions)
15ml mixed chopped herbs (sage, parsley, thyme)
20ml white wine
20ml olive oil

This will make enough for about 300g of veal, give or take, which is plenty for two middle-aged adults!

The tricky part is ensuring that the veal pieces are thin enough that they won’t end up chewy in the middle, yet thick enough that the marinade ingredients have time to cook without the meat drying out too much. I can’t give you a specific thickness for this – and I still get it wrong half the time – but it is somewhere between the ideal thicknesses for veal scallopini and wiener schnitzel, respectively. My apologies for the imprecision!

We coat the meat in the marinade two hours prior to cooking, cover it and refrigerate it for 90 minutes, removing it from the fridge for the final 30 minutes.

Then you must get your grill to a very hot temperature, add the veal, cook it for exactly 4 minutes, flip it and cook for exactly 2 more minutes.

Happy grilling!
Rick Grounds


Posted in Cooking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Char-grilled pork belly cubes

Here in Melbourne, we are in the last week of the calendar’s Spring. After complaining about the cold weather and needing to heat our home for much of the first half of November – the coldest start to the month in decades – we are suddenly in the midst of our city’s longest end-of-Spring heatwave in recorded history. Go figure!

Naturally, we are now using our Weber Q to prepare the main elements of our evening meals. Until recently, the meats we char-grill on the Weber would usually be cuts from beef, lamb or chicken, as well as prawns or calamari from time to time. But over the last year or so, we have begun to add pork, veal and quail to the mix.

Last night, we cooked ourselves some cubes of pork belly, flavoured before grilling with a spicy paste. It was delicious and here is how we did it.

As you know, pork belly has a high fat content, so we render much of that fat and enhance the texture of the meat by simmering it in a flavoured stock for an hour or so. I have previously posted the recipe for this procedure.

Once the pork has cooled, we cut it into cubes, about 3cm x 3cm square. Then we apply the paste to the surfaces of each cube.You don’t have to do this very far in advance, as it is a superficial flavouring rather than a marinade; one hour is plenty.

We set up our Weber for grilling but we place an open trivet on top of the main grill, to make it easier to manage the cubes as we cook them. Once the temperature is quite high, say, 400C, we put the pieces of pork on the trivet, with one of the meaty sides facing down. After 5 minutes under the lid, we turn each piece, some of them going skin-side down, others as dictated by gravity!?

After a further 4 to 5 minutes, with some attractive charring, the pork cubes are ready to be taken off the grill.

Here are some ‘before and after’ shots. We served them with two salads: shaved fennel & fresh orange segments with some vinaigrette dressing; and chunks of boiled, fresh beetroot dressed with a combination of sour cream, mayonnaise and grated horseradish.

Paste for flavouring pork belly to be char-grilled

5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp sea salt
3-4 cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1-1½ tbsp sherry (or red wine) vinegar

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Leftover paste can be stored in a well-sealed container in your freezer.

Posted in Cooking | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Not your typical variety of Australian national garden!

Here in Melbourne, we’ve had an atypical spring season. For much of September and October, the weather pattern was dominated by strong, cold winds, without the mitigating presence of good rainfall. Then, late in October, we had a short burst of warm days, quickly followed by a cold, showery beginning to November. The coldest in 23 years, in fact!

Finally, the showers eased and the temperature sputtered its way towards 20C, giving us a window of opportunity for an open-air outing. (Today we are being punished for our impatience, with a maximum of 33C or 91F.)

We decided to venture into a range of hills, known as the Dandenongs, which overlook the eastern half of Melbourne. Much of this range is covered with thick Australian native bush and tall forest trees, including some groves of temperate rainforest. However, our chosen destination was a garden largely devoid of Australian plants: the National Rhododendron Garden.

The soils and climate of the Dandenongs, with good winter rainfall and summer fogs, are well suited to growing rhododendrons and such related species as camellia and azalea. So, in 1960, a group of rhododendron enthusiasts persuaded the government of the day to set aside a large parcel of land which had already been stripped of most of its eucalypts and other native plants. Soon, they had begun to create a garden planted with rhododendrons from the diverse regions of the globe to which they are native.

More than half a century later, the garden has flourished to become a popular destination for both tourists and Melbourne residents. The garden is now managed by Parks Victoria and will soon be given the status of a botanical garden. You can learn more about the garden here.

The grounds of the National Rhododendron Garden also contain numerous picnic tables , garden bench-seats, a cafe and a gift shop. Here are some more photos from the pleasant hour or so we spent wandering along the well-made paths.





Posted in Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Aussie-flavoured pudding fit for festivities

In the 1960s and ’70s, when Maggie and I were growing up in Melbourne, the food that was served during festivities associated with Christmas Day reflected the predominantly British heritage of the Australian population. Yes, the mass migrations from southern and central Europe following the second world war meant that there were thousands of Australians who adhered to different festive-food traditions, but we were blissfully unaware of them and our anglocentric media did little to enlighten us.

So, despite our antipodean climate, with Christmas Day temperatures often above 30 degrees Celsius, we would sit down to meals in which the feature items included roast stuffed turkey, baked ham, steamed ‘Christmas’ pudding and brandy custard. The only Australian twist in the typical menu was a prawn cocktail. (Happily, contemporary festive menus are much more aligned with our climate.)

The pudding, packed with a variety of dried fruits, would be full of flavour but it could also feel uncomfortably heavy in the belly. This was especially the case when the pudding’s fat content was derived from the beef fat known as suet.

About 15 years ago, I twice made such puddings, ie using suet. It was a smelly exercise while the pudding was going through the hours of its initial cooking. However, it must have been an exceptional recipe, as I don’t have any other bad memories of it.

Then I came across a recipe in an autobiography written by Ian Parmenter, an Australian television producer who was also an excellent cook. Ian’s recipe included ground macadamia nuts, which was the only source of fat or oil in the pudding. His other innovation was to use dark beer, or stout, as the main source of moisture. In deference to the indigenous macadamia nut, as well as the local dried fruits, Ian called it an ‘Australian Christmas Pudding’.

Within weeks I had made two puddings using Ian’s recipe. I was enchanted at how pleasant it was to prepare and cook, and how light it was to eat, compared to a traditional pudding.

You can find the recipe here. The only changes I have made are to vary the spices – I use ½ tsp grated nutmeg, ½ tsp powdered ginger, ½ tsp powdered cinnamon; add the brandy to the pudding mix rather than flame it over the pudding before serving; and to cover the puddings with two sheets of aluminium foil rather than cloth.

Maggie and I made a batch of the puddings ahead of the recent lunch we hosted for the 70th birthday of one of my cousins. Victoria is a vegetarian and we wanted to give her one of the puddings as a birthday present.

Last week we decided to heat up one of the two remaining puddings – the mix had stretched to three bowls – and enjoy it with friends who were coming for dinner before heading overseas for a month. To heat the pudding, I suggest you take it out of your fridge at least one hour beforehand and then heat just as if you were cooking it for the first time, ie in boiling water that comes at least half way up the outside of the bowl, for about 2 hours.

We served it with some low-fat ice-cream and a good quality commercial vanilla-bean custard. It was delicious, as it has proven to be on three further occasions – it reheats readily in a microwave oven – but you do need to have some sweetness in the bowl to complement the tang of the fruit and the bitter edge of the beer.


Posted in Cooking | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Birthday beetroot blush

My late father’s father, who died well before I was born, was the oldest of four brothers. The youngest of those brothers, a renowned architect of the post-war era, had just the one child, a daughter Victoria, who was born in 1947. So, although Victoria is of my father’s generation, she is actually much closer in age to me.

If you do the maths, you will find that Victoria has a special birthday this year; quite recently as it turns out. So, Maggie and I invited her and some other members of the extended Grounds family living in and around Melbourne to come to our home for a celebratory lunch, held last Sunday.

Now, Victoria is a vegetarian, which is not a frequent category of dish in our household, especially when Maggie is sitting at the dinner table. However, we do have a favourite dish of open lasagne featuring cauliflower, mushrooms and hazelnuts. So we decided to prepare eight individual ones and make the pasta ourselves. And I proposed that we make a starter of beetroot & feta terrine, using a recipe which I had road-tested when Maggie spent a few days with her son and his family a few weeks ago. Everyone else undertook to prepare either a salad or a dessert, to round out the menu.

I found the original recipe, for beetroot and feta soufflés, on the internet.  I made some changes from the outset, Maggie and I made further modifications in the lead up to the lunch and I have also formalised the various elements of the recipe. Here it is, followed by some photos which show some of the key steps, followed by the finished product, as served to our guests.


400g beetroot (300g for soufflé), dirt and roots removed
15ml olive oil
½ tsp each of salt, cumin seeds and fennels seeds
4-6 sprigs of thyme
40ml vegetable stock (30ml for soufflé)
25g butter
40g flour
125ml milk
generous pinches of nutmeg and ground black pepper
75g feta cheese, crumbles
15g grated parmesan or pecorino
3 x 67g eggs, separated


  1. Preheat oven to 170C
  2. Cut beetroots into 6-8 wedges, depending on size
  3. Toss beetroot wedges in olive oil, salt, seeds and thyme sprigs and transfer to baking dish lined with baking paper. Roast for about 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes, until they test just tender to a fork.
  4. When the beetroot wedges have cooled, process them with the vegetable stock. For the terrine, process only briefly to produce a blend that includes plenty of visible small chunks
  5. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the flour and stir to cook for a minute. Off the heat, add the milk gradually; this is a thick sauce, so it will take a bit of work to make it smooth. Return to the heat and stir constantly until it has thickened.
  6. Preheat oven to 180C
  7. In a bowl, mix the sauce, nutmeg, pepper and processed beetroot together. Add the cheeses and the egg yolks and mix well to combine.
  8. Grease four 1 cup ramekins (three for soufflés), dust with plain flour and shake out any excess.
  9. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and gently fold them into the beetroot mixture in 2 or 4 batches.
  10. Divide the mixture evenly between the ramekins and bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
  11. To serve as a terrine, place cooled ramekins in refrigerator for at least two hours, carefully remove the ‘soufflés’ and slice into wedges, about 10 per ramekin.

The following five photos relate to steps 3, 4, 7, 9 and 10 of the method.



Here are the cooked soufflés, fresh out of the oven.

And here is how we served them at my cousin’s birthday lunch, with a refreshing salad garnish of shaved baby fennel, segments of peeled blood orange, a dash of vinaigrette dressing and a fennel frond. Quite pretty, and very delicious.

Posted in Cooking, Home life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment