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.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

More about chickpeas, chickpeas, chickpeas!

Down on the farm, we love chickpeas in dips, stews, casseroles, curries, soups and salads; or served crushed with garlic, olive oil and herbs as a side vegetable or sandwich spread. Chickpeas are a staple in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian and vegetarian cookery, with as many ways of using them as there are cooks.

Chickpea and roasted beetroot dip
One cup of dry chickpeas will give 2½ - 3 cups when soaked then cooked (for about ¼ the cost of the same amount of canned chickpeas). Cooking without soaking works, but takes an hour on the stove and the chickpeas wont be as plump. For a paler chickpea, add 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice to the soaking water. (For recipe, see previous post). 

PREPARING CHICKPEAS for salad, soups, stews and dips
Very, very easy.
You will need: Medium bowl for soaking; medium saucepan.

1 cup dried chickpeas
1 litre water
½ teaspoon salt
clove garlic, unpeeled and bashed (optional)
½ teaspoon ground pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon white vinegar (optional)

1. Place chickpeas and water in bowl. Soak 6-8 hours (or overnight).
2. To cook, drain chickpeas and place in saucepan; just cover with fresh water. 
3. Add other ingredients if desired. 
4. Bring to boil uncovered, then drop back to simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes or until peas are soft to bite, but still firm to the touch.
* * *

This easy recipe forms the base of as many dips as your imagination can come up with. It can be made with ½ cup tahini (sesame seed paste) as with traditional hummus, but I prefer to use olive oil for the more neutral flavour or light sour cream especially when adding other flavours such as eggplant, beetroot or herbs. As with hummus, chickpea dips are wonderful when made with freshly cooked hot chickpeas and served warm.

Very easy 
Makes 1½ cups

1 cup pre-cooked chickpeas (400gm can chickpeas will do, but the flavour is slightly different)
½ cup olive oil (or ¼ oil, ¼ cup light sour cream)
salt and fresh pepper
¼ fresh lemon juice
1 - 2 cloves garlic, peeled

1. Puree all together until smooth and thick. If too thick, add a little cooking water from the chickpeas as you continue to puree.

Try stirring in:

  • ½ cup diced pan-charred eggplant and 2 cloves roasted garlic
  • ½ cup diced fresh parsley and/or chives
  • ¼ cup finely diced red salad onion and ¼ cup shredded basil leaves
  • ½ cup chopped or pureed pan-charred fresh beetroot
  • diced black olives

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Country picnic

We had a fantastic time at the dam down in the valley - my froglets loved paddling and the storms coming made it more exciting. Lunch was delish: herbed chicken, beetroot and chickpea salads and fruit flan to finish... Town Frog


Serves: 6
Very easy. Cook ahead. Can be frozen.
Time: 10 minutes to prepare; 20 minutes to cook; 10 minutes resting time
Equipment: Sharp knife, cutting board, large plastic box with lid. Cook in oven or pan.
For a picnic, best prepared the day before and refrigerated overnight to ensure meat is well chilled.

12-18 chicken legs (and/or thighs)
1 cup diced fresh herbs (parsley, basil, chives or shallot greens)
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Grate lemon rind being careful not to go into white pith as this can be bitter. Combine with herbs and garlic. Juice the lemon.
2. Remove visible fat from chicken with sharp knife; or pull off all the fat and skin, if preferred. (Keep this in food wrap in freezer to make stock.) 3. Place the herb mix on the bottom of a frypan or deep-sided oven dish. Place chicken pieces in. Sprinkle over with lemon juice, then fresh ground pepper (omit pepper if for young children), then cover with remaining herbs. Seal dish with foil or a lid and let stand for 30 minutes.
4. Just before cooking, sprinkle with salt, then turn chicken pieces over and sprinkle again. If the chicken is skinless, cook covered in a moderate oven for 30 min, or in a stovetop frypan. If leaving skin on, cover for the first 15 min to partly poach, then remove lid to brown the skin.
5. After 30 min or when chicken begins to smell cooked, prod with a fork to see if flesh parts easily. A little pinkness against the bone is fine. Remove from heat but leave to sit undisturbed for half an hour or so in the cooling pan juices.
6. Drain most of the juice (freeze or use next day - makes wonderful stock for pasta, soup or risotto), arrange chicken in serving dish and spoon over remaining juice. Juice will turn to a delicious clear jelly once the dish has been chilled. Finish with a sprig or two of fresh parsley.


Potatoes, washed (allow 1 per person)
1 - 2 broccoli stems (the bit most people throw away)
Seeded mustard

1. Cut potato and broccoli into cubes (no need to peel either).
2. Place potato in small saucepan; just cover with water. Put broccoli on top; then lid on. Simmer/steam until potato is softening. Don't over cook, or it will crumble.
3. Drain off water. Let potato and brocolli cool slightly in pot for few minutes (they will continue to cook in contained heat).
4. Then carefully stir in 2 - 3 teaspoons seeded mustard and tip into serving dish.

(Instead of mustard: dress while warm with chopped parsley &/or chives and a splash of olive oil.)

Just three ingredients

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Let's go on a picnic

It’s a very hot week down here in The Valley. Perfect for a picnic. Would you and the froglets like to come to the big pond for lunch in the country? I’ll pack finger-food chicken and a salad (with fresh BEETROOT, of course), and you might like to try out the very easy FRYPAN FLAN recipe I sent previously. Maybe one of the froglets could make it. (Should one refer to pre-teens as ‘froglets’?) Country Frog.

Country Frog's FRYPAN FRUIT FLAN (made on the stovetop)
This simple low-fat dessert was trialled and tested by fire. I wanted a flan or tart that could be made over an open fire or on a barbecue plate, something to finish off a camp-fire lunch in the bush, and made from ingredients that could be carried in a pack without the need for ice. 

Serves 6, for morning tea or dessert.
Very easy.
Time: 10 minutes to prepare; 10 minutes to cook.

For the Base or Batter: You could use your favourite batter recipe - one you mix up for good fat pancakes - and youll need about 2 cups of mixture. Mix the batter first, and let it stand in the bowl while you prepare the fruit.
Utensils: Heavy-based frying pan (not a skillet), small sharp knife, mixing bowl, wooden spoon. 

Ingredients: Easy Batter
1¼ cups (280ml) cold skim milk
¼ cup white sugar
pinch of salt
¾ - 1 cup self-raising flour (or plain white flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder added)

Fruit topping
2 large fresh peaches, skin on (or pears, or 3 - 4 nectarines) 1 mango (or ½ cup red berries, or crushed walnuts)
2 teaspoons honey, or 2 tablespoons maple syrup
smear of oil for the pan 

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Fabulous beetroot

During a regular catch-up at a café in Smalltown, as we waited for coffee, we looked down at our bags beside our feet on the floor, and we laughed at the contrast that was an unintended summary of our lives and personal histories. 

Then, as we sipped coffee (one, a skinny latte; the other, black and strong) we shared stories of recent food and gardening successes, and came up with the idea for the Town and Country Frog Blog. 

For lunch that day, we shared a platter of finger food which the menu described as being local produce. Brown Frog, of course, gave the meal a cook’s critique, finishing with an emphatic, “There should have been beetroot!” - because we live in a farming district that grows more beetroot than any other place in the Universe.

Beetroot has to be one of the most versatile root vegetables:
  • Grated beetroot with a touch of orange zest;
  • plain boiled beetroot sliced and sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper; 
  • wedges of char-grilled beetroot doused in caramelised vinegar; 
  • rounds of beetroot with rosemary and raw onion rings; 
  • baked beetroot; beetroot and chickpea puree for dipping…

Beetroot bold or beetroot simple. So cheap, so fresh...

…so ugly! I bought these big boys at a roadside stall on my way home from the café, to serve pan-fried with a dressing of finely chopped rosemary and vinegar.

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