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.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Sticky pork in chilli-plum sauce

Chilli-plum sticky pork
Down on the farm last weekend we had drop-in visitors who arrived just on meal time. It was a good excuse for a cook-up. After a bit of hunting in the freezer and gathering in the veggie patch, we rustled up a couple of thick-cut pork chops and enough cherry tomatoes to feed four. We found tiny taters in the spud drawer, and plum jam in the fridge.

STICKY PORK CHOPS with sweet cherry tomatoes

Time: 30 minutes to marinate; 30 minutes to cook on stovetop; 10 minutes on the barbecue.
Serves: 4 with vegetables, or crusty bread and salad

1 kg thick-cut leg or shoulder pork (4-5 cm thick)
250 gm or a double handful tiny tomatoes
1 quantity Chilli-Plum Marinade (see below)

1. Make small cuts into the edge of the pork at 6cm intervals so that it will stay flat in the pan during cooking. Slide the point of a sharp knife down beside any pieces of bone, as well, to separate flesh from the bone membrane to prevent curling.

2. Pour 1/3 marinate across bottom of a shallow baking dish or deep plastic tray. Lie the pork in, then pour over the remaining marinate. Cover and let stand at room temperature if using within the hour, or in the fridge for a longer soak.

3. Lift the pork from the marinade and place in a cold heavy-based pan (no need for oil). Cook on medium heat 10 minutes with lid on.

4. Turn the pork; pour on marinade; continue cooking with lid off to begin evaporating the liquid.

5. Turn pork again. Add tomatoes to the pan. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and continue to cook until the juices have the consistency of honey, about another 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the pork rest for 5 minutes before slicing to serve.

6. Meanwhile, between Steps 5 and 6, prepare vegetables or rice or salad to accompany the pork.

7. Cut into thin slices, on the diagonal, across the grain of the meat. Use a very sharp wide-bladed carving knife. Place the pork on a cutting board; hold the knife at a 45°angle and slice confidently. Arrange on a serving platter with tomatoes. Pour over any marinadte from the pan. If it has become too sticky, add a little water and reheat, stirring.

FROGBLOG TIP: If you have time, bring any marinated meat, fish or chicken that has been refrigerated back to room temperature before cooking to prevent “pan shock”. Those that know, say the flesh will be more tender this way.

Marinade for 1kg pork, either a single piece of shoulder, thick-cut leg steak, pork belly or ribs

40 ml light soy sauce (or 20 ml dark soy)
3 just rounded tablespoons plum jam (about 1/3 cup)
1 lemon, for juice and 2 teaspoons finely grated zest
2 cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed (»2 teaspoons)
1 small hot red chilli, finely chopped
Optional, but very good if you have it: 1 level tsp Chinese five spice.

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds to soften jam; mix well. (Or heat in small saucepan, until just warm). Do not boil, as you don’t want to cook the garlic or ginger before marinating the pork.

Coat both sides of pork. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes – 1 hour, but in the fridge for several hours or overnight is better.

1. Lift pork from the marinade and place meat on hot pre-heated solid barbecue plate (the sugar in the marinade will burn over grill bars).
2. Cook five minutes on each side.
3. Then coat top side with of the chops with marinade and turn to cook for further 1 minute. Repeat for second side (the marinade has had raw meat in it, so it must come to a ‘sizzle’).

Tuck in and enjoy!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Pasties, sausage rolls and sheep dogs

Country Frog: Hearty fare, and simple to make, our farm-style Aussie Pasties, like pies and pizzas, can be made with ingredients to hand, including left-overs, and with plenty of improvising from fridge or pantry. They are fun for children to make and, being Australian, of course they can be cooked on the barbeque.

Town Frog: Our version of pasties evolved over time. It all began once upon a few years ago when I dropped the children, who were quite small tadpoles back then, to the farm to spend the day with Country Frog while I drove to Brisbane to pick up a new dog. He was a two-year old male Australian Shepherd, and very gorgeous.

I had only ever seen one Australian Shepherd in the past, a liver/brindle naturally tail-less female. She was having a farm-stay break with CF while we were also staying there, and we immediately fell in love with her. She had looks and personality - everything a girl could want in a family pet.

The legend of the Aussie Shepherd runs like this… In the early 1800s when sheep were new to pioneering Australians, a few squatters shipped over flocks of Spanish sheep, and these merinos came with experienced sheep herders and their dogs. Then gold was discovered across the ocean in California and every man and his dog, literally in the case of the Spanish shepherds, set sail from Sydney Cove to join the 49er gold rush (that’s 1849). When they had recovered from gold fever, the sheep men and their dogs took up what they did best, sheep herding, and there, in America, the dogs came to be known as Australian Shepherds. The breed did not come back to Australia again for another 130 or so years.

On the day that I collected our first Aussie Shepherd, I returned to the farm to find the tadpoles and Country Frog at the barbecue making sausage rolls - basically cooked sausages and fried onion wrapped in damper dough, and re-cooked on the hotplate until the dough was crisp all over. We called them Australian Shepherd Rolls in honour of our lovely new dog, and have been refining the recipes and techniques at every farm-stay break ever since. Now we have the Aussie Shepherd Pasty, and we think this is the best version with a combination of vegetables and minced meat, or vegetables and lentils. Curried Veg and Lamb is perhaps the favourite. So far.

Makes 4 generous pasties, enough for six serves

The filling for these pasties is a simple combination of pan-cooked diced vegetables and mince, or lentils for a vegetarian option, with flavours of your choice. We swing towards curry spices, but fresh herbs and tomato for an Italian accent are delicious as well.

For the filling you will need: Chopping board and sharp knife; frying pan or wide saucepan.

200gm mince – lamb, beef, pork or chicken
&/or ½ cup brown lentils soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 30 minutes
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup green seasonal vegetables (try diced fresh beans, peas, shredded cabbage, broccoli etc)
2 – 3 medium potatoes, washed or peeled and diced
2 tsp mild curry paste or good curry powder
½ tsp salt and ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
Splash of cooking oil

1. If using lentils, soak in hot water (to reduce cooking time).
2. Heat small amount oil in pan; add diced onion and cook until just coloured.
3. Add curry spices and pepper; mix up well.
4. Add minced meat/chicken and cook, stirring, until browned.
5. Add all other ingredients (add lentil and soaking water at this point). Stir up well; turn pan to medium-low heat; put the lid on and simmer ten minutes or until vegetables are soft.
6. Remove lid and continue to cook until the mix is fairly dry. Or if you prefer a gravy, sprinkle on 2 teaspoons plain flour or 1 teaspoon corn flour (use a fine sieve or tea strainer to sprinkle), and mix in well to thicken any liquid.
7. Set the pan aside with the lid off to cool slightly while making dough.

For the dough you will need: Medium mixing bowl; bread and butter knife for mixing; rolling pin or clean bottle for rolling.

2 cups self-raising flour (a mix of white and wholemeal flour works very well and makes a firmer dough)
¼ cup olive or other vegetable oil
¼ tspsalt
About ½ cup water at room temperature
Optional: 1 egg

1. Place flour, oil, egg and salt in bowl.
2. Make a hollow in the centre of the flour and pour in water. Mix with a knife, working from the centre out, to form a stiff dough. Add extra water if needed, but don’t worry if all the flour is not incorporated. Add extra flour if the dough is too soft.
3. Turn onto floured surface and knead lightly until fairly smooth.
4. Divide into four portions. Roll out each until the size of a bread and butter plate.
5. Place filling onto one half in a semicircle, keeping 1 cm of outer edge clear.
6. Damp that part of the edge with water (using your finger, to ensure edges will glue together), then carefully fold the bare half over. (If dough has stuck, use an egg lift). Press the edges with finger or fork to seal. 
7. Repeat for remaining dough. 

Frogblog Tip: Once filling has been added, the bottom of the pastie will become quite soft, so it is a good idea to lift it onto a lightly floured plate at this stage. When ready to cook, slide from the plate into the pan or onto the barbecue. If cooking in the oven, place onto the tray as soon as the pastie is filled, or place the rolled dough onto the tray and then put on the filling.

To cook:
In a fry pan – heat a heavy-based pan over medium heat with the lid on; place in two pasties, back to back. Replace lid immediately. Cook 7 minutes or until base has browned and turn over with egg lift to cook second side until brown (the filling is already cooked, and still warm, so will heat through nicely in that time).

On the barbecue hot plate – Pre-heat the plate to the temperature for cooking sausages (not as hot as for steak). Place pasties on back to back and cover with an upturned baking tray to form a mini oven. Flip when base is brown, and repeat for second side.

In the oven – Pre-heat oven to 200 C (moderately hot). Brush the top of the pasties with a little milk or cream. Cook 15 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Country Frog says that next time we make these we will do a version that honours the true history of the dogs now called Australian Shepherds, by adding finely chopped chorizo, crumbled sheep-milk feta and a handful of sliced black olives. We’ll call it Spanish Shepherd Traveller’s Pie.

Written and compiled by two frogs

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Pot roast veal and hot pot casserole of shoulder pork...

These two recipes are equally easy to prepare, both using the very old and failsafe cooking method of sear-and-simmer. Impossible to go wrong - as long as you allow the meat plenty of time in the pot. So, relax; unwind. You cannot rush slow cooking.

Frogblog Tip: For all stovetop slow cooking, use a saucepan with good heavy base and well-fitting lid. A saucepan of thin steel, such as a soup pot, makes it difficult to maintain a slow simmer necessary for tenderness. Match the pot to the size of the meat. Small piece of meat/small pot, so that less water is required, resulting in a richer fuller flavour for the finished dish. 

POT ROAST VEAL and VEGETABLES with lemon zest and spices

Serves 4 - 6.
Time: 10 minutes preparation; 1½ -2 hours stovetop; 6 hours slow cooker.
You will need: Heavy cooking pot with lid; cutting board and sharp knife; grater; lemon squeezer; wooden spoon.

1.5 - 2 kg piece of roasting veal (blade or rump)
2 large onions, roughly chopped
Double-handful cherry tomatoes or 400 gm can chopped tomato
1 red or green capsicum/bell pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp coarsely grated lemon rind
2 tsp garam masala, or 1 tsp Chinese 5-spice
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp salt (½ tsp if using canned tomato)
2 - 4 cloves garlic, crushed
Fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Enough root vegetable for as many people as you wish to feed (as a guide - ½ large carrot per person, medium potato per person, 1 piece parsnip/turnip … etc), roughly chopped into chunks.
Optional: 1 - 2 small hot chillies

Easy Method.
1. Add everything to the pot with enough water to come just under halfway up.
2. Bring to boil; reduce heat to simmer 2 - 2½ hours or until meat is tender. Serve.

Better Method.
1. Trim any excess fat from the meat.
2. Heat a good splash of olive oil in the pot and sear two sides of the meat on high heat until well browned (5 minutes at least before lifting or turning to the second side). If some fat remains on meat, place the fat-side down first.
3. While meat is browning, add roughly chopped onion and brown off as well.
4. Add garlic, pepper, spice and lemon zest; stir up with the browned onion.

Note: If using a slow cooker or cooking in the oven, do this in a stove-top frying pan first then transfer browned meat and onion to the crock.

5. Place root vegetables (except potato) around the meat. Add herbs, any other vegetables and tomato. Lastly, place quartered potatoes on top (so they will steam rather than boil and won’t be as mushy). Sprinkle with salt.
6. Add lemon juice and just enough water to come a little under halfway up the pot.
7. Turn the heat to low for a slow cook, with the lid on.
8. Check after 1 hour, and give the vegetables a bit of a push around with a wooden spoon. They should now be sitting well into the cooking juices. Continue to cook until meat pierces easily with a sharp knife.
9. Turn off the heat and let the pot sit for 10 - 15 minutes before carving the meat to serve with crusty bread, rice, pasta or soft polenta.


Serves 4 - 6 as a side dish.

In a medium saucepan, bring to boil 4 cups water with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon fresh pepper. Reduce heat to low and, while stirring the pot, slowly pour in ¾ cup dry polenta. Keep stirring until polenta thickens (a few minutes) then put the lid on and continue to cook over very low heat for a further 10 minutes, stirring now and then. Add a little chopped parsley or coriander just before serving.

HOTPOT OF SHOULDER PORK with orange wedges and star-anise

Star-anise and juicy sun-ripened oranges were made for each other. Aniseed and citrus. Add some red chilli, and that combination means you’ll just have to rush out and kill a pig (or slip to the butcher and ask for a lean piece of shoulder pork with the bone in and the skin scored).

Serves 4
Time: 10 minutes preparation; 2 - 2½ hours slow cooking
You will need: You will need: Heavy cooking pot with lid; cutting board and sharp knife; grater; lemon squeezer; slotted spoon; deep bowl to put hot stock.

1.5 - 2 kg shoulder pork, skin on (a flat piece is better than a chunk)
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 orange cut into thin wedges, skin on
+ juice of 1 orange
6 whole star-anise
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
2 rounded tsp sugar or honey
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 - 4 mild to hot red chillies, sliced into 4 lengthways
1 cup water

1. Trim excess fat from pork. If the fat under skin is thick, peel back the skin and remove fat, but keep the skin for the pot.
2. Heat pot over medium heat and add place pork in, flattest side down, to sear until well browned.
3. Add all other ingredients; turn pot to low and simmer 1 hour, lid on.
4. Carefully turn the pork after 1 hour, and continue to cook for further hour or until edge of meat easily pulls apart.
5. Lift pork from the pot to a plate, and drain most of the cooking liquor from the pot into a small deep bowl. Retain orange segments and onion to dress the pork when served.
6. Return pork to pot, with the heat off, to rest before carving.
7. Meanwhile, cook pasta or prepare couscous.
8. Carve or pull pork, according to your pork-eating tradition, and serve with crisp green vegetables.

Now, remember the cooking juices in the small deep bowl? Pop the bowl in the fridge to set the fat. Lift off and discard. The pork and orange jelly/aspic in the bowl can be served cold next day on a sandwich with sliced leftover meat. Or use as the liquor for a batch of aromatic couscous or steamed rice. Or - best of all - make…


1. Cook scrubbed unpeeled baby potatoes in the juice from the pork.
2. Cut potato into four pieces and simmer until soft.
3. To complete the dish, top with sliced hard boiled egg. Serve warm or cold.

Written and compiled by two frogs
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