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.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Osso bucco the Aussie way - the perfect one-pot meal for family 'dunch'

Osso bucco in the pot ready to cook
Country Frog: Every year, as winter approaches, I am surprised anew by the shortness of the days and how few are the things one accomplishes when the sun rises at 7 am and sets at 5.30 pm. So, in winter, to maximise daylight hours and simplify life, I thoroughly recommend switching to two meals per day, especially when entertaining on weekends. These meals, naturally, would be BRUNCH and DUNCH.

Brunch is obviously sensible in winter when the bed is warmer than the air temperature until 10 in the morning. And, as an outdoors person, my internal-clock tells me to wind down and be tired as soon as the daylight ends - I’d be a hopeless loss to humankind if I lived any further from the Equator - so the idea of cooking a main meal after dark is just not attractive. Far better to eat a slow dunch somewhere between the normal time for lunch and dinner, and then have a sunset walk or dig in the garden before retiring to the cave.

Down on the farm, a winter dunch generally involves a fire - either for a barbecue or to build a bed of coals for a camp-oven roast or stew. The fire, of course, is not just for cooking. It becomes the focal point of any gathering of family and friends. And animals.

On the day Town Frog and family came down to the farm for dunch, I had everything set out on the outside table, ready to start preparing the minute the townies arrived (with Chooky and friends getting into the act as well). The plan was to cook the rich stew of sliced veal shank and vegetables in a pot in the coals, but down came the rain.

TOWN FROG WRITES: The skies opened as we drove into the farm. So, the group decision was to continue cooking in the house. We picked up the important things - the wallaby carried the carrot - and all trouped inside. Dunch at the farm is always a bag of surprises!

Here’s what we did, and it was surprisingly simple, leaving us plenty of time to put on our raincoats and go for a long walk.

Time: 2 hours including oven time
Serves: 4 - 6
You will need: Heavy saucepan with lid

1. In large, heavy pot over medium heat on the stovetop place 1.5 kg cross-cut veal shank (bone in), 2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped, and a selection of chopped seasonal vegetables (we used carrot, pumpkin, red capsicum, celery, small eggplant and a leek).

2. Add 800 gm can diced Australian tomatoes and a good handful of chives, rosemary and parsley. Simmer with the lid on 1½ - 2 hours until meat falls apart. Or oven cook 180° for 1 hour and rest in the oven for another 30 minutes before serving with pasta or rice.

Another version I like to do in the slow cooker (aka the Crock Pot) makes use of tropical herbs instead of the more traditional Italian flavours, and I use beef rather than veal to match the more robust background flavour.

Serves 4 - 6, with steamed rice.

You will need: Heavy saucepan with lid or slow cooker; cutting board and sharp knife; medium saucepan with lid or rice cooker to steam rice.

1.5 - 2 kg cross-cut beef shin, bone in
2 medium onions
1 stick celery, chopped
4 large under-ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 carrots, cubed
juice 2 limes
finely grated zest of 1 lime
twist of lemongrass leaves; or 1 base piece, bashed
several large sprigs coriander or Thai basil (lemon basil), shredded
½ - 1 tsp salt, or 1 tbs fish sauce
1 - 2 chopped hot red or green chillies
1 cup water

1. Place meat in base of pot or crock; cover with all other ingredients then add water.
2. Cook until meat falls apart. (Slow simmer for 2½ hours on stove top or 6-8 hours in slow cooker.)
3. Before serving tip the liquor from the pot into small deep bowl and lift away any fat using a deep soup ladle. Return the clear juices to the pot.

Eat heartily and enjoy!

Next: Two more easy one-pot winter warmers - pot roast veal, and shoulder pork, slow-cooked with orange and star-anise.

Written and compiled by two frogs.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Lamb on the barbecue (lunch with lizards)

It is a great privilege to live calmly and quietly close to nature. This evening, as I write, it is raining softly and the only sound is the trickle of water running in the roof gutters and into the tanks that feed the house and garden. It is the beginning of winter. Mild as winters are in our part of the world, the habits of the wildlife are still subject to seasonal cycles - so there is no cacophony of frogs and toads as there would have been with night-time rain a month ago. The little creatures have gone to bed; hibernating in leaf litter and hollow logs. Most of the snakes have gone to sleep as well, except for the Yellow-faced Whip Snake, which likes to stay out and about later than his friends if he can find a warm spot under an iron roof or among the rocks near the fish pond.

Yellow-faced Whip Snake

And, in the house, where it is warm, a few geckos are still poking around, hunting for moths. We do not (yet) have the introduced Asian House Geckos in residence here in the bush - this pale pink intruder tends to be the gecko most commonly seen in town. Ours are much more interesting, and rather distinctly Australian-looking. Most are Velvet Geckoes - Spotted Velvets, Clouded Velvet and the Robust Velvet Gecko. In my house, they are quietly territorial - silent, unlike the noisy Asian House Gecko - each with its own night-time hunting patch and daytime sleeping spot.

Asian House Gecko

I have a favourite, Gregory Gecko. He has been here for several years, camping behind the bathroom mirror where he sometimes leaves his delicate pure white shed skin, like a perfect little present for us. We named him when he was barely 2 cm long, and he is now a monster of 10 cm - or he was until I accidentally shut his tail in the window. Alas, I thought I’d killed poor Greg. He skulked away looking very unwell, leaving his tail wriggling on the sill, and wasn’t seen again for 2 weeks. Then, one night, Gregory came back to his spot, sporting a rather odd new appendage. 

Australian Velvet Gecko (with new tail)

Because living calmly and quietly with nature is such a privilege, I want to share the experiences with friends and farm-stay visitors. Unfortunately, though, when two or more humans gather together, they make a lot of noise. So, no Whip Snake. No Gregory. Instead, we had to settle for lamb chops with barbecue stir-fry and the sound of ourselves! (Helped along by some serious glasses of Aussie red wine.)

Very easy
Time: half an hour
Serves 4 - 6.

The meat is best prepared several hours ahead, and refrigerated until 30 minutes before barbecuing or pan frying. The recipe will coat 4 - 6 lamb loin or BBQ chump chops.

½ cup dry couscous
¼ cup water
½ cup plain yoghurt
1 tbs shredded fresh mint (or coriander or rosemary)
1 small lemon, juiced, and 1 tsp grated rind
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp salt

1. Combine all ingredients in small bowl and let stand for 15 minutes until couscous has softened.
2. Coat lamb on either side, patting crust in place. Refrigerate several hours to allow crust to firm and flavours to infuse.
3. Cook on medium-hot, on well-oiled barbecue for 7 - 10 minutes on each side. Or pan fry. Or oven-bake on wire rack for around 30 minutes at 200° C.
4. Serve with salad or barbecue stir-fry.

Very easy
Time: 10 minutes
Serves 4 - 6.

Ingredients: 1 large onion, peeled, halved, then sliced lengthwise into straws
2 carrots, unpeeled, cut into straws
double handful of green beans, topped and tailed (or use any other seasonal vegetables)
slurp of cooking oil

1. When the lamb chops have been turned, toss oil and vegetables onto the hottest part of the barbecue plate.
2. Stir-fry, turning a few times with long-handled barbecue spatula or tongs.
3. Serve hot from the barbecue or add to a platter with the lamb to take to the table. 
Sand Goanna

The day was warm and sunny, almost sultry. T-shirt weather. After lunch we were lucky to spot another lizard. At more than 1 metre in length, ever-so-slightly larger than Gregory and friends, this goanna was literally ambling up a gumtree where he settled down for a snooze, well camouflaged on a branch. I expect he also had been indulging in a heavy lunch - raiding the hen house for a few fresh eggs, perhaps his last feed before he too finds a hollow log for the winter.

Next: Town Frog and family will be bringing an exchange student to the country for Sunday Dunch. Like brunch, DUNCH is a hybrid meal. It is eaten in the mid-afternoon and borrows the best bits from lunch and dinner. Afterward, around sunset, we will go walking in the bush. The Town Froglets, frequent visitors, know to talk in whispers as they pass lightly across the landscape.

Compiled and written by two frogs.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Bubble and squeak for breakfast

Bubble and Squeak. Bubble-and-Squeak. What a wonderful name for a dish concocted from of bits and pieces of left-over meat and veggies. Did some poor harassed mother turn from her smoky 1800’s stove and snap out the first words that came to her when her gaggle of half grown boys asked what was for breakfast? Had the oats run out? Was there a glut of potatoes or cabbage needing to be used up? “This lovely mess in the pan, boys, is a modern new breakfast from the city where they call it Bubble and Squeak.”

In my local supermarket, I was amazed recently to see bags of Bubble and Squeak in the freezer section. The photo on the packaging showed a flat yellow thing that looked to be a cross between a fast-food hash brown and a sad piece of crumbed fish - a far distant relative of a hearty country-kitchen fry-up. Traditionally, Bubble and Squeak was made from chopped cold meat fried in lard or butter with cooked potato, cabbage and any other old cooked vegetables, often with a few eggs cracked on top, and served on a big slab of bread, also fried in fat, with a good dollop of black sauce. Once upon a time, working as a pub cook in rural Britain, I made copious amounts of fatty Bubble and Squeak - called Stovies in Scotland - to serve up for breakfast to seedy-looking locals as their preferred hangover cure. 


Makes a generous (low-fat and healthy) weekend breakfast for 1 person, using fresh vegetables rather than left-overs.
Very easy.
You will need: frypan or skillet; small bowl; cutting board and knife; egg lifter. 

1. In omelette pan or frypan, lightly fry in a little olive oil,1 small onion, diced, 1 small zucchini, finely sliced
and 6-10 cherry tomatoes, halved.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix with a fork, 1 egg, 1/3 cup self-raising or plain flour, ½ cup milk or water, sprinkle of salt and a good few grinds of fresh black pepper.
3. When onion is transparent and zucchini beginning to colour, spread vegetables evenly across the pan and pour batter over. Cook 5 minutes or until batter has set and edges are browning.
4. On one half, sprinkle small amount of grated cheese and a little diced parsley or sweet basil.
5. To serve, cut the batter twice to make 4 quarter circles. Flip one quarter over the top of its cheese-covered opposite mate, browned-side up, to sandwich the melting cheese between the two pieces.
Serve with toast or crusty bread (+ a rasher of bacon if a cooked breakfast is not complete for you without it), a good cup of fresh coffee and the morning newspaper.

In our family (with English grandmothers on both sides) Bubble and Squeak sometimes appeared at the table on weekends, tipped from the pan onto wholemeal toast. And it was delicious, setting energetic youngsters up for a day of sport and play. As we grew up, we made our own versions, some better than others. Some best forgotten - Beetroot Bubble and Squeak, made by an unsupervised nine-year old, is definitely not to be recommended. But, by process of experimentation, we soon mastered our definitive version - ‘The Magnificent Bubble-and-Squeak Omelette!’


This recipe uses last night’s leftover vegetables.
Ingredients: As above, for Bubble & Squeak Fritter, but using diced or roughly smashed left-overs instead of fresh vegetables. ( I used cold cooked potato, carrot, broccoli and some fresh celery.)
1. In pan or skillet, lightly fry diced or smashed vegetables in a little olive oil.
2. Pour batter evenly over vegetables; cook until edges are browning.
3. Sprinkle with cheese. Unlike a serious omelette with several eggs, this version won't fold, so as with the fritter, cut into quarters and sandwich pieces with cheese between.

Next: Bush BBQ (lunch with lizards)

Written and compiled by two frogs

Monday, 10 June 2013

Breakfast with birds

In Eastern Australia, whether in town or country, early winter is the time of year for enjoying lingering breakfasts in a sunny corner of the garden or on a north-facing verandah. If there are flowering native shrubs and trees in the neighbourhood, the chances are pretty good for sharing your breakfast time with a few nectar-feeding birds.

Rainbow lorikeets

Down on the farm, grevilleas, banksias, casuarinas and melaleucas are all flowering furiously, and the lorikeets have arrived. Rainbow lorikeets are the great clowns of the dawn, performing aerial gymnastics as they work their way around the grevilleas, siphoning up the night’s new nectar before it dries in the sun. Later in the day, they’ll return and be less mannerly in their feeding, competing with their slightly smaller, but just as noisy cousins, the Scaly-breasted lorikeets. Both species use those heavy beaks to tear flowers apart and break open seeds. (Having raised and released orphans, believe me, that beak is also very good at drawing blood.)

Scaly breasted lorikeet

Lorikeets are semi-nomadic, following the flowering and fruiting seasons of various native plant species. They play a role in cross-pollination, seed gemination, and pest eradication. The human tendency to put out seed or honey-soaked bread to keep these beautiful birds in the garden is understandable, but this can stop the birds from moving on at the end of normal span of the flowers’ season, and disrupts age-old patterns and processes vital to the welfare of bushland, other bird species and to the lorikeets themselves. We are better to enjoy them when they come, and let them go when nature tells them to.

Candlestick banksia

The gardening gurus tell us that, if planting a bird-attracting garden, we should use flowering shrubs local to the area so that, at the right time, at the end of the flowering period, the birds will move on according to their normal cycle of travel. Then, when they return, there will be the renewed pleasure in the novelty of watching their antics.


Quick to make, this scrumptious but uncomplicated breakfast is just right for mornings when you want to laze about with an extra cup of tea and watch the visiting birdlife.

Note: Make pancake batter first, then prepare filling while batter rests, then cook pancakes and assemble.
You will need: Bowl and whisk or fork; cutting board and knife; small frypan or skillet and egg lift.
Time: 5 minutes to prepare; 5 minutes to cook filling; 2 minutes for each pancake.
Serves: 2

Pancake batter

1. In a bowl, place ½ cup milk, ½ cup water, 20 ml olive or other vegetable oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, ± 1 egg.
2. Add enough self-raising flour to make a thin batter (¾ cup should do). Beat with a fork or whisk. A few lumps won’t matter. Then rest the batter while onions and mushrooms cook.

Mushroom filling

1 medium onion, finely sliced
good double-handful roughly chopped uncooked mushrooms (field, flat, button or Swiss brown mushrooms are all fine for this recipe)
fresh black pepper
juice of ½ lemon
clove garlic, crushed

1. Lightly fry sliced onion in splash of olive oil until just starting to colour.
2. Add crushed garlic, lemon juice and pepper then place chopped mushrooms on top of onion and put the lid on the pan.
3. Steam/cook on moderate heat undisturbed for 2 -3 minutes, or until heated through.

4. Tip mushrooms from pan into a bowl and cover to keep warm.
5. In the same frypan, still on moderate heat, slowly pour scant 1/3 cup batter onto the centre spot of the pan and let spread out in an even circle. (No need for any more oil.) Bubbles will form firstly around the edge, then in the centre. Wait until some central bubbles have broken - about 40 seconds - before you flip the pancake. The underside should be an even golden brown.

6. Repeat until batter is used - you should get six saucer-sized pancakes - assembling pancake stacks as you go. (Shown, below, with chopped shallot, low-fat yoghurt and peppery rocket leaves).

  • Don’t peel mushrooms - that is a waste of good flavour. Wipe the caps lightly with a damp cloth if you feel you have to.
  • Pancake batter should rest 10 minutes or so before being cooked, allowing flour to swell and the mix to thicken slightly.
  • All batter rises better with a touch of salt in the recipe.
  • Egg is not an essential ingredient, making an easy menu option for camping or hiking. (The pancakes photographed were made without eggs).
  • For dairy-free, substitute water for milk and add an egg for flavour and texture.
  • For a gluten-free option, serve the mushrooms with soft or fried polenta, or on top of a good thick slice of gluten-free toast.

A LITTLE MORE ABOUT BIRDS. The other morning, not too early, I was drinking tea in the garden when this handsome fellow flew down beside me. At some stage in his nomadic circuit, he has become used to people. When I went in for my camera, he hopped over to investigate the cup and saucer I left behind.

Mr Handsome - (male) King parrot
This is another species that follows the flowers, ripening seeds and berries. Normally a wary bird, greed overrides the native caution when humans put seed-mix out for them. Fortunately for Mr Handsome, I have no cats, but when he flies on to the next farmhouse looking for seed, he may not be so lucky.

Next: Bubble and squeak for breakfast

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A walk around the garden... to look at mint

Not spearmint, or chocolate mint, or anything else with a fancy name - just old-fashioned garden mint.

Unlike rosemary, mint loves to get its feet into a bit of water now and then. Like rosemary, though, it is tough once established and will go on and on - and all through the garden, if not contained. So, for this gardener’s peace of mind and the mint’s good health, I keep it a pot. Big pot, sitting in a deep bowl that can be partly filled with water if the gardener is going away for a few days. Recently I forgot to do that, and the mint looked rather sad when I came home (ie dead). But I gave it a haircut and a dose of ¼-strength seaweed emulsion, and within a week it was shooting away again.

Mint and rosemary, both strong and aromatic, can be used interchangeably in recipes for sweets and meats, but with quite a different end effect on flavour. Think roast lamb; yoghurt marinated lamb chops; fruit salad; garden salad - each with a touch of mint or hint of rosemary. Both work. I love mint because the smell reminds me of my grandmother. One of my earliest memories is of watching her make mint sauce, rocking the knife back and forth across the mint which she had covered with sugar so the leaves would bruise and crush, releasing maximum flavour.


Strip leaves from several sprigs of garden mint and place on a chopping board. Add 1- 2 teaspoons sugar, and chop the mint through the sugar until finely shredded and bruised. Put this sticky, minty mix into a small jug with ¼ teaspoon salt, and cover with 20 ml boiling water. Stir until sugar has dissolved and top up with ¼ -½ cup brown or malt vinegar. Taste. Add more salt if needed. Will keep indefinitely in fridge, but mint sauce takes only a minute to do and tastes best when freshly made.


This is a quick-and-easy idea for adding zest to a pair of BBQ stalwarts - the good ol’ Aussie lamb chop and fillet of chicken breast, both of which can easily become a tad dry when done on the barbecue. Plan ahead and marinate overnight if possible, or for a few hours on the morning of feasting. When barbecued (grilled or pan-fried), the marinade forms a crispy crust. Also excellent for oven-baking, and makes enough for 6 portions.

To 1 cup plain yoghurt add 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, 1 or 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper, 2 teaspoons plain flour and as much roughly chopped garden mint as you wish. Mix well. Spread generously over both sides of lamb or chicken. Place in single layer and refrigerate until 30 minutes before cooking.


Very easy. As above, without the flour (and minus the meat, of course). Great to take on a picnic with a crusty loaf.

Next: We'll be down on the farm for breakfast with birds 

Written and compiled by two frogs.
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