If these hands could speak..Assyrian Biryani

IMG_1945.JPGIf these hands could speak what would they say..

..my Nan grew up in Baghdad, Iraq as a Christian. Fleeing persecution by Saddam, her family made their way to Australia. The older I get the more I cherish my heritage and want to preserve as many things from my grandparents as possible.. Last week I stood in my kitchen and documented my grandma making Assyrian Biryani.

As kids (and maybe adults) we made jokes about how, for our entire lives, we always ate the same 5 dishes when Nan cooked but you know what.. I am desperately trying to learn how to make those dishes so that when she passes on I can tell my girls that their grandma stood in a kitchen in Iraq and made this.. it’s something that will be with the women of this family for future generations.


Assyrian Biryani

Serves 4 people


4 thigh fillets

1/2 kg of gravy beef or beef fillet

120g Slivered Almonds

2 cups of basmati rice

2 large white potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes

2 white onions, chopped finely

2 cubes of powder chicken stock

2 tsp Turmeric

2 tsp Biryani Spice

2 tsp curry powder

Vegetable oil

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper

How To

..cook the Rice

  1. Soak the rice in cold water for 20 minutes. Wash the rice and drain.
  2. Heat a pot with olive oil (enough to fill the bottom) on medium heat, add chicken stock, turmeric, biryani spice and curry powder to the pot, stir to combine.
  3. Add 3 cups of water and bring to the boil. Once boiling add the rice, cover and cook until water is absorbed. Reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally until rice is cooked.

..cook the Chicken

  1. Place the thigh fillets in a pot on medium heat. When the juices of the chicken are gone place ½ cup of water into the pot, when the water is gone add another ½ cup of water etc until the chicken is cooked.
  2. Cut the chicken thighs into small pieces and place in a bowl.

..cook the Beef

  1. Place the beef in a pot on medium heat with a sprinkle of salt. When the juices of the beef are gone place ½ cup of water into the pot, when the water is gone add another ½ cup of water etc until the beef is cooked.
  2. Cut the beef into small pieces and place into a bowl.

..cook the Potatoes

  1. Wash the potatoes in cold water and drain well. Place on a paper towel and pat dry.
  2. Place enough vegetable oil in a pan to reach halfway up the potatoes and fry the potatoes on high heat until golden. Drain on absorbent paper. Once golden place the potatoes on top of the chicken pieces.
  3. Divide the oil from the potatoes into two seperate bowls.

..cook the Almonds

  1. Place the almonds into a pan with half the oil from the potatoes on medium heat and cook till golden.

..finish the Beef

  1. Place the other half of the potato oil into a deep pan- add the cooked beef and chopped onions. Fry on medium heat until the onions are softened. Set aside


  1. Combine everything except the almonds in a pot and stir to combine. Once heated serve warm sprinkled with almonds

Easy Weeknight Pasta

Here in Sydney, in our little mum tribe, we have collectively 15 little girls and 3 little boys! The most recent little baby is only 2 weeks old- she absolutely adorable! I whipped up this quick pasta dish to send over to her and thought I’d share it on here. It’s so simple but really flavourful! It’s also basic enough that you could add in other ingredients if you wanted to fancy it up a little!  The original recipe came from a close friend (who is also a pastry chef) about 15 years ago- i hope you enjoy! I call it the easy weeknight pasta because we all know that time is precious and fleeting most afternoons!


Easy Weeknight Pasta

Ingredients Needed

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Chorizo Sausage
  • 5 rashes of Bacon
  • Pasta (cooked as per the instructions)- for the number of people you are serving (this recipe is based on 4)
  • 1 jar of Red Pasta Sauce (I normally buy whatever is on special)
  • 2-3 cloves of crushed Garlic (I use the jar garlic)
  • 1/2 cup Thickened Cream
  • 1 cup Mozarella Cheese (Or any cheese you have on hand grated)

How To

  • In a pan fry the bacon till lightly cooked. Once cooked place the bacon on a paper towel on a plate to drain the excess oil. Wipe out some of the oil with a paper towel from the pan.
  • In the same pan cook the Chorizo till lightly cooked. Once cooked place the chorizo on a paper towel on a plate to drain the excess oil. Wipe out most of the oil with a paper towel from the pan.
  • Cook the garlic in the pan for a few seconds (this will burn super quick if you’re not careful)
  • Add in the entire pasta jar contents and stir to combine.
  • Add in the thickened cream and cheese and stir to combine
  • Put on low heat till the sauce is bubbling
  • If everyone is able to eat Chorizo and Bacon (If you’re breastfeeding you may want to skip the Chorizo) add in the Chorizo and Bacon to the sauce.
  • Spoon the sauce on top of the pasta and enjoy!

Serves 4

Maltese Macaroni

One day I’ll go into the history of my own family, but until then, this is a little glimpse into my dad’s side of the family.

My dad, though born here in Sydney, is 100% Maltese. I grew up going to my Nanoo and Nana’s house every Thursday night for dinner and games. My dad’s entire family can build you a house, brick lay your driveway, fix your car or pretty much fix anything else that may be broken- they are incredible, and they are 100% Maltese. Our surname is Grech (in Malta this is their version of the last name Smith!)

My Nanoo passed away a few years ago, but my Nana is still with us- thankfully. I remember over the years my Nana slaving away in the kitchen- she would make a rotation of meals- Marinated Pork Neck, Macaroni, Ravioli, Handmade Canoli’s and every so often Rabbit Stew.

You never really think your grandparents won’t be with you forever, especially as a child.. and then one day they are gone. They leave behind memories, and material things but you’ll never get to have that conversation with them again.. or hear them laugh.. or hear their accents (years of living in Australia hasn’t change my Nana’s accent one bit). Often Greg will call my dads name with the same inflections that my Nana says his name, rolling the f’s like she came from Malta yesterday! Her voice is a dear memory I have, saved away for those moments I know will come when she is no longer with us.

Before Nana was bound to a wheelchair, and lost the main function in her hands, I sat with her at her vinyl covered dinner table and took the recipes down for her Macaroni and Marinated Pork Neck. I remember her telling me the recipe out of order- as she remembered it. It was brought with her from Malta, and I don’t think she had ever made a point to write it down.


I hope this recipe continues to live on with Ava, and her children.

stockmen.pngNana’s Macaroni

Serves: 4-6


1/2 Brown Onion

2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

340g Tomato Puree (Passata)

2-3 Tbsp Tomato Paste

250g of each Pork and Veal Mince (Picture below of the one I use)

2-3 Tbsp Vegeta

1/2 tsp raw sugar

1/2 cup cup grated Parmesan (I use mozzarella sometimes)

2 eggs

250ml thickened cream

600g Rigatoni Pasta

How to

Pre-heat your oven to 180 Celcius

1. Cook the pasta as per the instructions, drain and set aside.


2. Place the Olive Oil in a large frypan/pot and heat

3. Fry the onions and garlic

636350594628963337_Afterlight_Edit4. Once they are softened add the mince, passata and tomato paste. Leave it to cook until the oil rises (approx 10-12 min)


5. Add the sugar and vegeta and stir to combine

6. Beat the eggs and cream in a jug

Now it’s assembly time!

7. Get your baking dish (you can use any size, you just may need to use multiple dishes), lightly grease the dish and line with baking paper. I line the dish with baking paper so the cheese and passata doesn’t harden and become impossible to clean afterwards!

You are going to layer the macaroni as follows:

1st layer- tomato meat layer

2nd layer- pasta

3rd layer – cream/egg mix

4th layer- cheese

Repeat until all the meat is finished (ensuring that the top layer is cheese)


8. Place in the oven to bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the top of the macaroni is golden.


*This is the pork/beef mince I use!