Category Archives: cooking

Traditional spaghetti alla marinara … in which Paolo reveals his mother’s secret ingredient

I learn something in the kitchen every time we visit these guys.

They are great cooks. Not flash chefs, just seriously good cooks, using the best of what’s on hand which in Liguria tends towards vegetables, seafood and salads.

In nine days at Sottovalle, we did 2700kms worth of day trips into the mountains and all along the coastline. Long, happy days filled with good food, big walks and plenty of laughter. But today was a rest day.

The boys had been sent down to Aquarta Scrivia earlier in the morning to get some seafood – any excuse to visit ‘The Office’ – read plane tree covered cafe spilling with pastries.

The recipe is below but I’m going to point out a few tips I learnt along the way …

It all starts with parsley and one and a half small cloves of garlic. Don’t overdo the garlic. Chop together finely and divide into two. One half is held back and added right at the end.


Now the secret ingredient…

2 anchovy fillets (under salt!) washed and rinsed three times under water.


chilli jar

Normally I would heat my pan and then add my first ingredients. But no!

Put them into a cold pan and VERY, VERY gently bring up the temperature and fry them off.

gently frying

If the garlic burns you MUST start again.

frying off parsley garlic anchovies chilli

Mussels, clams and prawns measured by the handful.

clams mussels prawns

Clams soaked in salt water to get rid of any muck.

Mussels steamed in a separate pan. Remove from their shells and don’t keep the juice. These guys regard it as dirty.

clams soaking


The squid is very gently fried and then the temperature turned off till we are ready with everything else.

frying off the squid

Get yourself a couple of handy prawn peelers.

steve and paolo peeling prawns


Back on the heat and the mussels and clams are added.

mussels added

clams added

Throw in the prawns, a few chopped tomatoes, a little glass of white wine and cover till the clam shells open.

tomatoes and parsley and garlic

table and garden

Meanwhile bring your pasta water to the boil and you know when they say “Add salt.”  Add salt!


When the pasta is cooked and stirred in with the seafood, that’s the moment to add your remaining garlic and parsley. It adds a note of freshness right at the end.



Find yourself a pretty setting and some good company.


And allora! Spaghetti alla marinara Forest View B&B style courtesy of Louise & Paolo and Paolo’s mama.

louise and paolo


Thanks for sharing lovelies.

Enjoy  xx


Spaghetti alla Marinara

1 and 1/2 cloves of garlic
A small handful of fresh parsley
2 anchovies (under salt!) washed and rinsed three times in fresh water
1 chopped, dried red chilli
Extra virgin olive oil

A handful of prawns (when peeled)
A handful of squid
2 handfuls of clams
2 handfuls of mussels

1 little glass of white wine, say …  half an Australian glass of white wine.

A handful of chopped fresh tomato.




1. Cover the base of a fry pan in extra virgin olive oil. No heat yet.

2. Chop the garlic and parsley finely and add half to the pan. Reserve the other half till the end.

3. Wash the anchovies three times under fresh water. Chop and add to pan.

4. Chop 1 dried red chilli and add to the pan.

5. Very gently bring the heat up and fry and stir till the anchovies dissolve into the mix. The mixture MUST NOT burn. If it does you MUST start again. It’s a very gentle process.

6. Add your chopped squid to the pan and fry gently.

7. Add the prawns and mussels. Stir gently.

8. Add the clams, tomatoes and white wine. 

9. Stir and cover till clam shells open.

10.Turn off heat till pasta is al dente.


Meanwhile …

11. Bring pasta water to boil. Add plenty of salt. Cook spaghetti till al dente.

12. Drain spaghetti. Pour into the seafood pan.

13. Add the remaining chopped parsley and garlic and toss gently.

13. Pour into a warmed platter and serve.


Paddock to plate … literally

Can I take you on a little food journey?

It begins at The Zin House in Mudgee at their annual Farm Forage.

zin house farm forageWith pink peppercorns a plenty.

pink peppercorns at the zin house

Not so lucky though with the yabbies and farm prawns. They’re there, all three of them, heads and tails smashed and sautéed in butter and drizzled over scrambled eggs laid by the girls this morning. Pass some of Kim’s freshly baked bread please. So much yum in one little dish.

scrambled egg with yabbie and egg

Borage and chive flowers. Rocket. Freshly pulled onions pickled in a little vinegar and sugar. Local cheddar foraged from Kim’s fridge.

rocket and borage salad

Autumnal prettiness, Zin style.

scales and quinces

Brown Hound and Chief Raspberry Thief. Yes we’re on to you Louie.

brown hound

Roasted apples, crab apples, feta and hazelnuts washed down with a sangiovese rose – if I remember rightly – but please don’t quote me. The courses kept coming, six in all. And so did the wine. Say no more.

Crabapples, apples, feta and hazelnuts

Good mates and kiwis both. Kim Currie with Guest Chef and Chief Forager, Jared Ingersoll.

Kim Currie and Jared Ingersoll

Fast forward to Friday, to a Food Styling and Photography Workshop with 2013 Australian Blogger of the Year, Sney Roy of Cook Republic fame.

Who says you can’t play with your food?

Sney Roy Food Photography and Styling Workshop first exercise

I love these days. When you work by yourself so much, it’s wonderful to be surrounded by so many talented and inspiring girls, a number of them nutritionists setting out to get people on the right track with their food.

Sney Roy Food Photography and Styling workshop

Lots of playful exercises.


a Food Styling and Photography workshop.

And group. (I came home and did a bit of post on the shots I took and added some text just to see how it might play out.)

bok chou with writing

I’ll leave you with a little dash of wabi-sabi from Sneh’s kitchen to finish with. She wanted to fix it and I said no, I like it just as it is.

whatever you are, be a good one

What ever you dooo this week

have a good one.



Pat’s best ever tomato relish recipe

Oooooo you should smell the house at the moment. Our daughter Maddy has already bagzed a jar.

It’s tomato season and no-one made a better tomato relish than Steve’s mum, Pat. The extended family is salivating as I write. I can sense it. They’re dreaming of Aga stoves and cutlets cooked in lard, slathered in tomato relish.

Look at the windfall of tomatoes that landed on our doorstep during the week. Thank you Mr Jones.

home grown tomatoes

But before they go in the pot they have to be skinned. Just make a little cross on their bottom and dip them for a couple of minutes in a pot of boiling water.

how to skin tomatoes

It’s a bit fiddly, but if you let them cool, the skin should come away easily. In truth it’s a pain in the arse but once this bit’s done the rest is easy.

skinning the tomatoes

Get your spices together.

the spices for tomato relish

And don’t do what I did.
Read the recipe, and don’t put them all in at the same time.


Here’s how you’re meant to do it …


Pat’s Tomato Relish (I think this might actually come from the CWA cookbook. In fact I’m sure it does. I hope you don’t mind girls. As I write this I’m thinking Pat did more than her fair share of work for the CWA over the years, so I figure she’s probably entitled to nick a recipe or two)

6 lb (2.7 kg) tomatoes
2 lb (900 g) onions, halved and sliced thinly
1/2 cup salt


white vinegar to cover

1  & 1/2 lb (700 g) white sugar
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 dessertspoons dry mustard
3 tablespoons cornflour

1 t mace
1 t white pepper
1 t ground cloves
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 t ground ginger

Cut a small cross on the base of each tomato and place them into a pot of boiling hot water. Skin them. Chop them roughly, removing any hard pithy bits.

2. Place tomatoes in a big pot with the sliced onions and salt. Cover with water and allow to stand overnight.

3. Next morning, pour off the brine and almost cover the pulp with white vinegar. Bring to the boil.

4.  Add the sugar and stir well.

5. Mix the curry powder, mustard and cornflour into a smooth paste with a little cold vinegar.

6. Stir the paste into the boiling mixture until it thickens and allow to boil for 30 minutes to 1 hour. (Don’t do what I did and throw all the spices in at this point – not that it really matters) 

7. When the mixture has thickened up but is still juicy and liquidy, add all the spices. Stir in well and bottle.

8. Will keep for years. (Not in a Hogan house it won’t)


Absolutely delicious on Butch’s lamb cutlets.

tomato relish in the jar

Don’t you love how recipes and a kitchen filled with the delicious smells of the past can bring someone a little closer?

With love from our family to yours.

Enjoy x

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