Saturday, 23 June 2007

Egg bacon and bean pie

My take on the British classic of eggs bacon chips and beans. The magic of my version is that you can hold it in one hand, making it a mobile little tart of happiness.

About the beans. I know it is sacrilege in this country to suggest that there is anything wrong with tinned baked beans but think of this as an entirely different dish - a bit like tinned spaghetti and tinned asparagus - tasty in their own right but neither bear any resemblance to their non-tinned form.

I’m still experimenting with the bean recipe. This time I soaked and cooked the cannellini beans before baking them in the oven. Some recipes skip this step and put the soaked beans straight in the oven with all the other ingredients. This method has a longer continuous cooking time in the oven which means you're stuck in the house whereas you can stagger the cooking when you cook the beans first. I often put the beans in a pot with water to soak as I leave the house in the morning, cook them that night and then bake them the next day. It might sound like a palaver but it really isn’t and once you’ve tasted home cooked baked beans you’ll be serving them on toast at your next dinner party.


250g dried cannellini or haricot beans
1 onion spiked with 3 cloves
1 teaspoon mustard powder
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoons treacle (or tbls brown sugar)
1 x 400g tin peeled whole tomatoes (chopped)
4 slices of smoked bacon, streaky bacon or speck (about 75g) rind removed and chopped
1/2 large onion
bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped mint
salt and pepper


Soak the beans 6-8 hours or overnight in cold water. Discard the water and place drained beans in large pot. Cover with cold water. Simmer 1+1/2 hours until tender. Drain and discard onion and water.

Heat oven to 140 degrees. In a large lidded ovenproof casserole saute the chopped onion with the bacon and bay leaf.
In a bowl combine the mustard powder and a small amount of red wine vinegar to make a paste, then add treacle.
Add the chopped tin of tomatoes to the sauteed onions and bacon. Add the mustard and treacle mix and combine. Add salt and pepper then the cooked beans and 1 cup of cold water and mix well.
Place a tight fitting lid on the saucepan - or baking paper and then foil- and bake at 140C for 2 hours (stirring occasionally and adding more water if it starts to look too dry). Remove the lid and add the last tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
When beans are ready, add chopped mint and taste. Adjust with seasoning if needed. If beans are too sweet add some more red wine vinegar, and serve.

The Pastry
(Alternatively you could buy ready rolled short crust pastry, but again, home made tastes so much better and once you get over the fear of pastry making it is insanely easy).


240g plain flour
180g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1/4 cup water


Chop butter into smallish pieces and place in food processor with flour and salt. Process for about 5-8 seconds. Put mixture in a bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix and add the cold water. Using a fork, quickly stir the ingredients together and then use your hands to bring the dough together into a disc. Lightly dust with flour and wrap in cling film and place in fridge for 30 minutes. Roll out pastry on a bench top, dusting with flour as you go, to about 4-5mm thickness. I do this on a big sheet of baking paper so that it doesn't stick to the bench. Cut to fit 6 x 9inch pie tins. Lightly oil the pie tins and press pastry into the tins allowing the pastry to have a 5mm edge higher than the tin as the pastry will shrink. Prick bases with a fork and then chill or freeze cases for 20minutes or as long as you like. When ready to bake, line pastry with foil and fill with dried beans or rice to stop it from rising. Bake in preheated oven at 200 degrees for 15 minutes then remove foil and bake further 5 minutes or until light brown , remove from oven and brush with egg white when you remove from oven to seal.


Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Reheat the beans (apparently when you are putting a wet filling into cooked pastry cases if you heat the filling it is less likely to make the pastry go soggy). Fill the tart shells about 1/2 to 3/4 full with beans. Make a well in the centre of the beans and crack an egg into the hole. Bake it in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the egg is just set. Remove and grate some parmesan cheese on top. Eat in or take it away.

Saturday, 2 June 2007


Making muesli is one of the comforting rituals in my life, along with composting and watching the ABC's Gardening Australia at 6.30 on a Saturday night. Its a rock'n'roll lifestyle I've forsaken to pursue a dream in London. The ritual involves going to the Vic markets in North Melbourne to fill my bags (recycled paper bags in order to feel optimum smugness in the organic section) with oats, barley, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, mixing it all together with my hands in a big bowl then spreading it out on trays to slowly toast in the oven. The house smells like an Anzac cookie for hours (or burnt muesli if you become distracted and forget about it which I do with annoying frequency). Finally, and this is the best part, you tip the muesli into a big glass jar and sit it on your kitchen bench to admire: a breakfast of champions.

Now that I'm in London and don't have ready access to a good food market I do my gathering at the Spice Shop just off Portobello Rd in Nottinghill

and the new Wholefoods on High Street Kensington which, while lacking the earthiness of a food market, does have an impressive supply of muesli ingredients and more importantly, excellent people watching opportunities. This is where the beautiful residents of Nottinghill and Chelsea hand pick their organic free range eggs and select cheeses (cave matured?) for their fabulous dinner parties.

Here are a few of my recent experiments - still perfecting the ratio of nuts to fruit and grains and the different styles of raw, toasted, bircher or a combination of toasted and raw.

Muesli (Serves 6)

4 cups of rolled oats
2 cups rolled barley or rye flakes
1/2 cup wheatgerm
1 cup of almonds roughly chopped
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 cup or so of dried fruit (dates, sultanas, pawpaw, mango)

Mix all together. Serve with fresh fruit and yoghurt or milk.

Toasted Muesli (Granola)

Once you have made your base muesli (but before you add the dried fruit) you can make it sweet and toasty. There are a few ways to sweeten it; with fruit juice, sugar, honey or maple syrup. Most recipes use about 1/2 cup of oil when toasting the muesli but I don't think you really need to and I sometimes feel that you can taste the oil. So here's what I do.

In a saucepan, heat 1/2 cup apple or pear juice with 1 tbls sunflower oil, and half a cup of honey or maple syrup, few drops of vanilla extract and pinch of cinnamon. Bring to the boil and then pour over the muesli in a large bowl and mix together to make sure all the muesli is coated. If mixture is too wet, add more oats.

Spread out evenly on a couple of baking trays and bake in a slow oven (140 degrees) for about 1-1+1/2 hours. You really need to keep an eye on it and stir it every 15 minutes or so. It will be an even golden colour when its done. Allow to cool completely on the trays before adding dried fruit.

Bircher (Serves 4)

2 cups of rolled oats soaked in 1 cup apple or pear juice overnight.
1/2 cup yoghurt
1 apple or pear grated
2 tbls chopped almonds
pinch of ground Cinnamon
squeeze of lemon
small handful of raisins

Mix all ingredients together and serve.