About us

We are two friends, one living in town and one in the country, who love to cook and entertain at home. We share a passion for our gardens and for the easy-going lifestyle of sub-tropical eastern Australia. And, yes, we both have garden ponds teaming with frogs.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Fingers of fish and other ideas...

It's been a while between blogs, lots of life going on between town and farm!


Use a bought pesto to make the herb crust, and this rather stunning finger food dish is quick and easy to prepare. Alternatively make you own fresh herb paste, which takes more time but, as always, fresh tastes best!

Use fillets of a lower-end-of-the-budget fish, with the skin on. The skin cooks to a crispy base and holds the cooked flesh together. (In the photos – ocean mullet, an oily, strong-flavoured fish that will take a strong-flavoured Asian-style herb crust).

Use four fillets of fish, lightly dusted on both sides with flour or cornflour.

Ingredients for the fish and herb paste:
4 fillets fish, skin on
2 tbs pesto
2 level tsps flour (or 1 teaspoon cornflour)
2 tbs olive oil

1. Combine pesto with flour. Press this mix to the flesh side of whole fillets. Then slice fish into serving size portions. Fry in hot pan in a little oil, skin side down for 3 minutes with the lid on to partly steam the paste.

2. Carefully turn the fish and flatten slightly. Cook further 2 -3 minutes until paste has browned to a light crust. Lift out and arrange on serving plate with sweet potato fingers and dipping sauce.

For the dipping sauce:

1. Combine equal parts light soy sauce with lime or lemon juice. Add chopped hot chilli or chopped shallot tops.

For the sweet potato fingers:

1. Peel and cut yellow sweet potato into 2cm fingers.
2. Lightly pan fry in a smear of olive oil until golden, turning once ( ≈ 5 minutes total cooking time).



Try the same herb crust idea on trimmed chicken drumsticks or wing drumettes.

1. Dust chicken with flour. Coat well with herb paste.

2. Cook on medium heat in frying pan for 10 minutes with lid on. Turn carefully, cook for 10 – 15 minutes more with lid off. Rest 10 minutes in pan to finish cooking in retained heat before serving.

Next: another fishy idea...

Monday, 4 November 2013


If you are out to impress with your table manners, don’t serve mussels in the shell. To really enjoy every drop of deliciousness, you must pick them up in your fingers and slurp!

Tangy Mussel Soup, Asian style

A bag of frozen New Zealand green-lipped mussels in the shell is a great standby to keep in the freezer. To thaw, tip them into the sink (empty) and leave for 15 minutes. Then remove any visible hairy beards by pulling firmly with your fingers. There is no need to rinse frozen mussels – you will just wash away flavour. Fresh mussels, however, need to be immersed in water to remove sand.

  • To keep mussel meat tender, do not overcook - 60 seconds max, whether steaming, simmering or barbecuing.
  • If feeling fainthearted about shells, use fresh or frozen mussel meat (though it is not nearly as much fun).
raw mussels, thawed and de-bearded

TANGY MUSSEL SOUP – Asian style with lime, chilli and fresh crisp vegetables (top photo)

A clear soup to serve over steamed rice or your favourite noodles. Excellent with bean thread or rice vermicelli.

Serves 2

Time: Five minutes preparation to cut vegetables; 10 minutes cooking.

You will need: Medium saucepan with lid; cutting board and sharp knife; lemon squeezer.

Small onion, peeled and chopped as for stir-fry (in strips, not diced)
medium carrot, cut into thin strips
handful of green vegetable (zucchini, beans, broccoli stem), cut into thin strips
2 cm piece fresh young ginger root, cut into strips
green leafy herbs to taste - could be Thai basil, sweet basil, coriander, Vietnamese mint
small red chilli, finely sliced
juice of 1 lime or small lemon, or 40 ml rice wine vinegar
¼ tsp salt or 20 ml fish sauce
fresh pepper
1½ cups (350 ml) water
splash cooking oil
≈ 1 kg NZ green-lipped mussels in the shell, with beards removed.

** Before beginning the soup, put rice on to steam, or prepare noodles.

1. In wide saucepan over medium heat, lightly fry onion in splash oil until transparent but not coloured.

2. Add all other ingredients except mussels (keep aside a few greens and chilli pieces for garnish), and bring pot to vigorous boil.

3. Drop all mussels in; shake pot to settle them into the liquid. When stock comes back up to the boil again, turn off the heat, put lid on pot and let sit on the stove for 5 minutes undisturbed.

4. Place prepared rice or noodles in base of deep bowls, and serve soup steaming hot on top.


Cut vegetables into pea-sided cubes rather than in Asian-style slivers, and use couscous or pre-cooked short-grain rice as the carbohydrate base.
Serves 2
Time: 5 minutes preparation; 10 minutes cooking
You will need: medium saucepan with lid; cutting board and knife; juicer

small onion, peeled and diced
≈ 1 cup diced fresh very ripe red tomato (or canned diced tomato)
medium carrot, cut into small cubes
green vegetable (zucchini, beans, broccoli stem), cut into small cubes
handful sweet basil and/or flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
small red chilli
juice 1 lime or small lemon
¼ tsp salt
fresh pepper
1 cup (240 ml) water
splash cooking oil
≈1 kg NZ green-lipped mussels in the shell, with beards removed

Optional: ½ cup small whole olives, or 2 teaspoons diced capers (and omit salt from recipe).

** If using rice, cook before preparing soup. There is no pre-prep needed if using couscous.

1. In saucepan over medium heat, cook onion and fresh tomato in a little oil until onion is transparent and tomato mushy - about 5 minutes. If using canned tomato, cook onion first, then add tomato and cook hard for 1 more minute.

2. Add all other ingredients except mussels. Bring to the boil. Simmer 1 minute only.

3. Add mussels and shake pot to settle them into stock (doesn’t matter if not completely covered). Bring pot back to a hard boil.

4. Immediately stir in ½ cup dry couscous, or 1 cup cooked rice. Bring pot to the boil again.

5. Remove pot from the heat. Cover with lid and sit for another 5 minutes before serving.


Prepare as above, using the meat of 10 or 12 mussels, fresh or frozen.

Serve with shaved hard cheese.

This recipe is also a great way to cook white-fleshed fish such as cod, snapper or hoki. Cut fish into 3cm strips and add in Step 3.

FROGBLOG TIP – Plant rocket!

  • Homegrown ‘wild’ rocket is a great thing to plant in the garden as the weather warms up. It is fast-growing, usually pest free and is a great addition to salads, sandwiches, stir fry and as a substitute in any recipe that calls for basil and/flat-leaf parsley. 
  • Add in other salad greens and herbs that enjoy similar conditions – lots of sunshine, lots of water and a nitrogen-rich drink now and then to help with leaf production. In the tiny garden shown above (less than 3 feet square) are young plantings of parsley, rainbow silver beet, coriander, sweet basil, rocket in the middle, and shallots in front.
  • If you haven’t got a garden, a pot will do. But don’t waste the space, add in other herbs (with rocket in the salad pot, shown, are bunching shallot, curly parsley and silver beet).

Next: Rocket pesto crusted fish with sweet potato chips

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Simple octopus

Wild-caught octopus are slippery suckers but well worth the effort of wrestling with those tentacles. Slow cooked, they are tasty and tender. May be served chilled as finger food, bedded onto greens as warm salad, or as hot dish with a savoury-style rice.

For the dishes photographed, three octopus were used, each weighing about 300gm, and a simple fish stock. Chicken or vegetable stock can be substituted in, or lightly salted water. Preparing the octopus is a messy job but the recipe itself is very easy.

Cooking time: 1hour.
Serves 4 as a main dish; more for an entree.
You will need: deep frying pan or wide saucepan with lid; chopping board and knife; citrus squeezer; slotted spoon

Whole ocean octopus ≈ 1 kg total, prepared and washed (see below for preparation)
4 medium scrubbed potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stick celery &/or small red pepper , diced
¼ cup sun-dried tomato pieces, or ½ cup very ripe fresh tomato, diced
2 limes, juiced
large sprig fresh rosemary
1 tbsp diced parsley or sweet basil
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
500 ml fish or chicken stock (or 500 ml water with 1 small level tsp salt/10-15ml fish sauce)

1. Add all ingredients except octopus and potato to deep-sided frying pan or wide saucepan. Heat to simmering (prepare octopus while this heats).

2. Add prepared octopus to sauce ingredients. Over low heat, return to simmering point. Just maintain the sauce ticking over on a slow simmer for 30 minutes, with lid on. (Boiling will toughen the octopus.)

3. After 30 minutes, add cut potato in a layer across the top of the pan. Continue slow cooking for another 30 minutes.

To serve as a warm salad: Allow to cool 10 minutes in the sauce, then lift out octopus and potato with a slotted spoon. Arrange on a bed of lettuce and salad greens. Dress with a drizzle of pan juices.

Frogblog Tip: Freeze remaining pan juices in 100ml quantities to add to curry, risotto, pilau or congee as stock as needed. The flavor is strong and delicious, but use judiciously so as not to overwhelm other ingredients.

To prepare whole ocean octopus:

It’s a good idea to spread open a newspaper on the bench and place the cutting board on that to contain the mess. When the job is done, just wrap up all the unwanted bits in the paper. Have a large bowl to hand for the flesh as it is prepared.

1. Cut the tentacles from the body, just below the eyes.
2. Cut off the hood above the eyes. Discard the 1 cm piece that holds the eyes.
3. Cut through the flap to separate tentacles from one another taking care to remove the hard black 'beak' at the centre point. Put tentacles in the bowl.
4. Cut the hood lengthwise down the middle. Pull out the inner workings and ink. Discard.
5. Rinse the hood pieces well. Cut each in half again. This allows them to curl neatly during the cooking. Add to the bowl.
6. Wash the prepared octopus pieces under running water.

To make a simple fish stock: In a pan lightly fry 1 diced onion and ½ diced carrot. Add 2 cups water, ¼ teaspoon salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a fish frame. Simmer 10 minutes. Discard fish frame.


Follow the recipe for warm salad of octopus. Instead of potato, use ¾ cup long grain white rice.
Add at Step 3, and stir in gently. Cook at a low slow simmer with lid on for 30 minutes.

Next: Muscle up for mussels...

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Simple seafood...

Nothing can beat standing in a vegetable garden full of lovely leafy greens and ripening tomatoes, but the next best fresh-foodie thing a person can do is take a trip to a local seafood market and pick up a bundle of just-caught prawns and a few cleaned whole fish.

Goldband snapper

So, on a sunny Spring Sunday, Country Frog slipped down to the seashore to visit the seafood store, stopping to see the seagulls at Scarborough boat harbour where the fishing boats pull in with the fresh catch.


Serve with crusty bread, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. No need to mess around with fancy dressings – let the fresh produce shine all on its own.

On a bed of fresh salad greens, toss down a combination of roughly chopped tomato, cucumber, avocado and mango or pawpaw. Top with a finely sliced salad onion if desired then add a double handful of fresh unpeeled cooked prawns. (The photo shows mango slices that were frozen from last summer’s crop, and so are slightly softer than fresh mango slices but just as tasty.)

There is no simpler way to cook fresh whole fish.

Serves 2
Time: 5 minutes preparation; 10 minutes cooking; 5 minutes resting.
You will need: Large stovetop frying pan with lid; egg lifter

1kg(ish) fresh whole white-fleshed fish such as snapper or squire (young snapper), gutted and scaled
Juice of 1 fresh lemon, and slices of lemon skin
½ teaspoon salt
½ - 1 cup water

1. Heat water, juice, sliced lemon skin and salt in pan until simmering. Lower the fish into the liquid, return to a slow boil and cook five minutes with lid on.
2. Carefully turn fish using egg lifter. Cook covered further five minutes, with lid on.
3. Turn the heat off and leave fish undisturbed in hot liquor for further five minutes.

To serve: Turn the fish again, very carefully and lift the fillet from the back bone in one piece. Lift away the bone, and serve the second fillet. Eat piping hot with salad, salt and pepper.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS – This makes a lovely light seafood dish to serve with fluffy white rice.

1 small onion, finely sliced
1 stick celery cut into fine strips
1 small carrot cut into fine strips
3 – 4 whole green prawns per person
fresh herbs to taste (basil, parsley or coriander)

1. Add onion, celery and carrot to cold poaching liquor, as above, and bring to boil.
2. Cook fish on one side, as above, then after turning, add green prawns and herbs to the pan. Increase the heat to keep the liquor at a slow boil. Cook for further five minutes, and rest five minutes.
3. Serve fish, prawns and vegetables onto a bed of rice, adding a little of the seafood stock as sauce/juice to moisten the rice.

Tip: Leftover rice can be added to leftover liquor. In a small saucepan, simmer 15 minutes with extra vegetables to make an excellent fishy congee (rice soup).

Back home on the farm, inspired by fish galore at the market, I found a couple of interestingly shaped stumps in the wood pile and painted them up to be outdoor coffee/beer tables. You’ve just gotta smile when you see a happy fish!

Next: More spring-season seafood – octopus and mussels

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Koalas, tomatoes and a walk around the frogs' gardens

Spring has sprung. Almost overnight we have leapt from frosty nights to salad days; from fireside stews to picnics; from soup to seafood. Down on the farm last evening, a koala waddled across the lawn on his way to a spring-night tryst (a koala is very noisy when he is on a date with his mate).

It was too dark for a photo and I would never disturb a koala with business on the brain, but this leaf-eater is from the same colony, and they often venture quite close to the house, which is a dog-free zone.

In the town garden, bees are buzzing, birds are bathing, and the lavender is ready to be picked and dried for bathroom posies and to put between the towels in the linen cupboard.

In both gardens, town and country, self-grown cherry tomatoes are dripping from the vines.

FROGBLOG TIP: Become a tomato convert! If you are currently a tomato buyer rather than a tomato picker, take the fattest ripest cherry or heirloom tomato from the pack, cut it into four and pop each of the quarters into a scrape of earth in some sunny spot in the garden or in a balcony pot. No need to water. Wait for rain, or the next hosing. Cherry tomatoes are the easiest to grow, are generally pest free, and once you have one up and fruiting, you’ll have them for life. Let your vine sprawl and ramble, or tie it to a stake if neatness is your thing.


Take a double handful of pumpkin, peeled and cut into cubes, and fry in a little olive oil until golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add halved red cherry tomatoes and dress with fresh coriander leaves or parsley.

Serve warm or at room temperature, or turn it into a meal by stirring through some cooked warm pasta. Add olives and/or sliced red onion.

SLICED HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD with char-grilled red pepper

Slice tomatoes; lie on a bed of fresh salad greens; top with marinated red pepper. Serve simply, without dressing, or use the oil from the peppers. (These peppers were hot fire-smoked down on the farm – but that is a recipe for another time!)

Next: Springtime seafood in September – some shellfish, squid and snapper...
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