Friday, June 7, 2019

641/1038 - Damien's toasted almond rice

Two recipes in a matter of days - I wonder if anybody can tell I am on holidays?

This was another one of those absolute gems that we all fell in love with after the first bite. It was creamy, crunchy and had the most incredible flavour thanks to the toasted almonds, vanilla bean and perhaps also the coconut sugar I used in place of regular sugar. The coconut sugar was also responsible for turning the dessert a beautiful light brown colour and I am fairly sure also added to the incredible caramel smell that wafted up at me as the rice was almost finished cooking.

The mixture was supposed to be left to simmer but mine developed quite a decent lumpy skin after about fifteen minutes so I decided to stay and stir it until it was done. It was probably for this reason that it took a bit longer than thirty minutes to cook, maybe closer to thirty five. It's easy to know when the rice is ready because all of a sudden the mixture seems to thicken perfectly. 

As I am wont to do, I experienced a complete brain fade as I was finalising the recipe and instead of reserving half of the toasted almonds to scatter on top, the whole lot got tipped in and stirred through. Of course toasting more was not a problem and I was completely fine with the extra nuttiness. I never have flaked almonds in the house and so always replace them with slivered almonds which I love because they provide a fabulous crunch.

Either we are dainty eaters or this recipe is very generous. I halved it and so it should have served four but I could easily have fed six happy people with the amount it made. With a second night of this fabulous dessert looming, I am definitely not complaining! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

640/1038 - Queen of puddings

What better way to use up old crusts than in this wonderful pudding! 

We keep our bread in the freezer and because the boys don't love crusts in their sandwiches, we have many packets floating about with one or two crusts left in each. I was hoping to use more, but I think this recipe helped us to get rid of three or four which is a good start! 

Hiding under the gorgeous meringue is a layer of home-made apricot jam (yes we still have plenty!) and below that, a good amount of custardy pudding. It is a very sweet dessert so I am pleased I split  it into the recommended six serves rather than four. 

Study has finished for now (which means lots of cooking!) and so just for fun I thought I would share the top ten interesting things I learned this study period. 

1. Mugshots from the 1920s were infinitely more stylish than they are today.

2. The phrase “Reading the riot act” comes from old British law that made it illegal for twelve or more people to congregate in a public area. An official actually had to go out and read the act aloud to the group which included an order that they had one hour to disperse. Failure to do so resulted in a charge punishable by death. 

3. On the upside, prisoners who were sentenced to death were allowed to stop at the pub for one final drink on their way to the gallows. Seriously. 

4. The meaning of the phrase: “Rule of Thumb” actually has a pretty awful origin. It comes from a statement made by a judge that moderate beating of your wife was OK as long as the stick was less than the diameter of your thumb. Good to see they at least put limits on the accepted barbarity. 

5. Because Australia was the dumping ground for British convicts, there was a joke in England that the kangaroo’s pouch was designed by pickpockets. 

6. One of those convicts, Amelia Beard, had an amusing piece written about her in the newspaper after she assaulted a policeman. Apparently, she “commenced a volley of abusive language against him, accompanied with a pantomimic exhibition of talons and legs, which left most remarkable notice of her visitations upon his person.” So, she swore, kicked, scratched and left the policeman with visible injuries. Early 19th century was definitely a more interesting time, linguistically. 

7. Everybody knows that the gun laws in America are crazy and the police don’t seem to know how to keep their guns in their holsters. It’s quite the opposite in England where the police remain unarmed to this day. A couple of years ago there was a proposal to arm the police in London and the police voted against it, with 20% saying they would actually quit if they were forced to carry a gun. I am also a firm believer that guns beget guns so kudos to the British police. 

8. Jail as punishment wasn’t really a thing in Britain until the mid-19th century. There was a model prison built in 1842 which kept prisoners in their cells almost all day every day. When they did leave, they had their faces masked to ensure they could not interact with any other prisoners who might corrupt them. Not surprisingly, they found that “a disconcerting number of them were going insane”.

9. In the early 19th century the word prostitute was bandied about willy-nilly. If you were single and consorted with men, you were a prostitute. If you were single and co-habitated with a man, you were a prostitute. And, of course if you were a sex-worker you were also a prostitute. Of course, men were just called men no matter what they did. Not much has changed in this regard. 

10. There is good evidence that Ned Kelly did not actually say the words, “Such is life” prior to his hanging. Apparently, making stuff up to sell papers is not a new phenomenon. Who knew?

Saturday, May 11, 2019

638 & 639/1038 - Nut meringue cake with buttercream filling

Mother's Day is not a huge deal in our house, with me reminding the kids every year that I don't want or need a present. They are obliged, however, to hang out with me for at least part of the day and then I don't mind if we all go our separate ways. Such is life with independent teenage boys. 

So, tomorrow they will head over to my own Mum's place with me to enjoy a homemade lunch. As always, my effort goes into cooking rather than buying yet another present to add to the pile of things filling our already cluttered houses. Dessert will be this beautiful layered cake, complete with three nutty meringues stacked one on top of the other, filled and topped with the most incredibly decadent buttercream and topped with toasted almonds. 

It all sounds rather complicated but actually it was incredibly fast to make. Only one of the layers ended up with a slight split in it, but therein lies one of the joys of making a cake which will be completely hidden under a slathering of buttery goodness. 

Apparently making this cake the day before is a good thing, with the topping seeping it's way into the meringue layers and tasting its best on day two. Of course, this means that I have had to be content with staring at it longingly...and to appease my craving, helping myself to a couple of well sized spoonfuls of the leftover filling. Butter and sweet - what a combination. 

Exams are looming and so this is likely to be the last post for May, hence my desire to combine two recipes in one post.  

Until June! 

Monday, May 6, 2019

637/1038 - Irish stew

A warming stew is just what the doctor ordered after a disappointing and chilly night at the football. We adore lamb in our house and this recipe makes an incredibly tasty dish from what is quite an ordinary cut of meat. We did enjoy the stew as it came on Sunday (which was wonderful!) but my family will never say no to some home-made pastry and so these gorgeous pies were the result of our leftovers being made even more fabulous.

The cooking options for the stew were in the oven or on the stove top. I opted for stove top as I do like to check progress from time to time and lifting the lid is a whole lot easier than dragging a full rondeau in and out of the oven. Insert my awkwardness and the stove top was a very sensible option!

The recipe called for three cups of water (or stock, but lamb stock is hard to find!) but somehow my rondeau was completely full and so I put in much, much more in order to cover the ingredients. Because of this, I cooked it mostly lid off so that the excess water could evaporate. It also meant that I spent some time today reducing the juices so that the pies wouldn't run everywhere. But the taste was AMAZING and so I don't think my heavy handedness on the liquid pouring was too much of a problem.

Because I used (lots of) water and not stock, I had to adjust the flavour slightly, which I did with a good dash of hot sauce and a decent slurp of Worcestershire sauce.

Just fabulous. 
Irish stew as it comes

Friday, May 3, 2019

636/1038 - Quandong and berry sponge pudding

Quandongs really are a wonderful fruit and I am so pleased I have an enormous bag of the dried variety to play around with. This was the first time I have tried rehydrating them and while the flavour was still fabulous, it was a little more subdued. 

I decided to pair the quandongs with strawberries and was pleased to discover that they are a really lovely combination. The sponge topping was very simple, but if you are using a deeper dish with less width as I did, the cooking time will be much longer than what is recommended.

We are in the middle of about a million fabulous projects right now but I am also feeling supremely guilty for having slowed this challenge to only one recipe per month. I calculated my finish time based on this pace, realised the challenge would take more than thirty years to complete and promptly pulled The Cook's Companion off the shelf and searched for a recipe to make immediately. 

Feeling industrious, I also made two batches of ice-cream to serve with the pudding; one vanilla and one wattleseed which is pictured above in the shape of a slightly sad and melted scoop, suffering under the bright lights of our dining room. Even slightly melted, it paired beautifully with the pudding.

So there it is - the first recipe for May and completed only two days in. Hopefully more to come soon! 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

635/1038 - Sesame and coriander dukkah

This lovely dukkah represents my desperation to cook a challenge recipe before this crazy month is behind us. It has been a mad time in my house, with serious technical issues wreaking havoc on what was previously a very organised trimester of study. So, after completing my third assignment (again!), today was a day of rest, cooking and pottering. 

Every one of the spices was toasted before being ground and as a result the flavour of the dukkah was absolutely amazing. We have already eaten it with olive oil and Turkish bread and tonight's dinner was dukkah crusted chicken with baked brussels sprouts and guacamole.

The very best part about this recipe was testing out a new method I have discovered for peeling hazelnuts. Instead of roasting and rubbing, you simply blanch them in water with bi-carb soda and the skins peel off perfectly! For one third of a cup of hazelnuts, I used one and a half cups of water and two tablespoons of bi-carb. A revelation!

I am pleased that this recipe made plenty as I think it might be my go to snack for a little while. And I do believe there is a toast, avocado, boiled egg and dukkah breakfast awaiting me in the very near future.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

634/1038 - Wattleseed gnocchi

Finally...more bushfood!

I have made Roman style semolina gnocchi before, but this version has the incredible addition of roasted and ground wattleseed, which interestingly has a coffee-like smell. I was a bit worried that the gnocchi would taste like coffee but instead it simply added a lovely depth to the flavour. 

I will be honest and admit that it didn't appear to set perfectly and so rather than giving up on it, decided to bake it in one piece and to cut it once it was cooked. I am so pleased I did! Except for the minimum two hour resting time, this is a quick and fabulous dish that would make a lovely addition to a roast dinner.

Prior to making this gnocchi, cooking, and therefore challenge recipes, had come to a standstill in my kitchen. Early last week, I dislocated my extensor tendon and while the tendon is fine, it is the ruptured ligament, supposed to be holding said tendon in place, which is taking its sweet time to heal.

With many physical tasks unavailable to me, I amused myself instead with the different perspective my new-found one-handedness provided. Below are my top 10 observations.

1. The time taken to complete most tasks is doubled, but so is the joy in completing them. Putting my pants on without assistance is now an event to be recognised and celebrated.

2. When you find yourself partially incapacitated, you discover quite quickly if your family will step up. From taking on morning porridge duties to making sure all of the necessary jars are open in the morning (I use a lot of hair product), after initial resistance my family have impressed me with their willingness to help.

3. If you like your hands to be very dry after washing (including in-between fingers) doing this with a towel one-handed is quite difficult. Enter my trusty hairdryer which now resides on the bathroom sink acting as a very effective hand dryer.

4. When your second hand is also temporarily compromised, straws are your friend. I am not a fan of plastic straws and so have a set of the stainless variety. While they are a fabulous option for the environment, it is important they not be approached too quickly if you prefer your teeth intact. A lesson I learned very quickly!

5. Speaking of teeth, more can be done with teeth than you can imagine; from operating zips to tearing open band-aid packets. Not methods I would be likely to use in public, but perfectly acceptable in the privacy of my home.

6. Studying with one hand (provided your preferred hand is not affected) is still completely possible and in fact, is the task I am able to complete with minimal change. Needless to say, I am way ahead in my studies right now, and yes, my one-handed typing is becoming impressively fast.

7. For somebody who cuts their own hair (yes, I am aware this is weird), the lesson learned is not to put off a much-needed haircut! I am currently sporting an enormously bushy head of hair and still don’t trust a professional to touch it. It appears that public engagements will be cancelled for some time.

8. I have always run hands-free on the cross-trainer which amuses my husband no end. I like to run on the back end of the pedals which means that, being five foot two, there is no way I can reach the handles comfortably. This style of running hands-free has come in very handy this week, preventing me from becoming a complete couch potato.

9. Where there is a will there is a way. Although I am unable to hang washing on the line with pegs (I am determined, not a magician) I have today managed to hang an entire load one handed onto our very large washing rack, which I also assembled with one hand. Not much is impossible if you want it badly enough.

10. I discovered that if the onion/garlic/bacon chopping is done by someone else, a pretty fabulous bolognese can be made with one hand. The execution was not perfect; grated nutmeg was never going to happen and I did accidentally pull the thyme out of the ground with the roots attached (whoops) but otherwise the result was surprisingly good.

I almost managed this recipe on my own, requiring assistance for only a couple of small tasks which included pouring the semolina into the milk as I whisked and taking the tray of gnocchi out of the oven. Stay tuned for (hopefully) more one-handed recipes soon. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

633/1038 - Ajo blanco - white gazpacho from Malaga

I have spoken before of our friend with the incredible garden. He has previously provided us with herbs, fresh trout from his aquaponics set up and various vegetables which we have always put to good use. Yesterday's gift was these unbelievable wine grapes which smelled like nothing I have smelled before; almost as if they contained some kind of exotic perfume. I must have put these beautiful grapes to my nose at least twenty times to inhale the incredible aroma. 

I immediately took a look to see which recipe would inform our dinner and am so pleased I found this one! Gazpacho is served cold and so putting it together was a breeze...if you don't count the disclocated thumb I suffered when I closed the lid of the thermomix. But that's another, and completely boring, story.

Thinking I would need to purchase the Spanish sherry vinegar, I was surprised to find this bottle at the back of my pantry, amusingly propping up a shelf which had lost one of those annoying little pegs which plug into the wall holding it up. Sometimes I think perhaps I do have too many specialty ingredients in my house! 

As much as I adored the flavour of this soup, unfortunately it contained a ridiculous amount of ingredients to which I am intolerant. It has been a very long time since I have ingested milk in its natural form and was taken by surprise when I began nodding off as I attempted to create this blog post last night. I was absolutely kicking myself that I didn't think to froth the milk before I included it as the frothing process stretches the protein in the milk and stops me from having a sleepy reaction. No matter. One strong coffee later I was at least able to stay awake for the rest of the evening and revel in the fact that this soup was absolutely fabulous. 

The most incredible smelling wine grapes

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

632/1038 - Cream dressing for strongly flavoured firm salad leaves

I have no idea if I have mentioned it before (memory is not what it used to be!) but Monday night is burger night in our house. No matter how quiet our weekends have been I always seem to be exhausted on a Monday. It is therefore probably no surprise that my husband's offer to make burgers for us on a weekly basis was music to my ears!

Two of our family members eat burgers the traditional way; inside a bun and piled as high as a large mouth will accommodate. The other half eat them deconstructed and sans bun. This dressed cos was the perfect accompaniment to the beautiful but rich beefy patty topped with fried egg, cheese and fried onion.

This was the first night in a long while I have allowed cheese on my burger given that cheese is one of the foods which provokes an unwanted reaction. The main problem with cheese is that it completely saps my energy (weird, I know!) but because I did not have any study planned this was not an issue. Of course I did need to go to bed shortly after dinner but the fabulous taste was more than worth it.

The dressing included an incredible combination of cream, red wine vinegar, dijon, lots of crushed garlic, olive oil and, because I am now in love with the flavour, mountain pepper. Too often we eat our vegetables and salad undressed (because it's good for you!) but last night saw my little family devour almost two heads of cos due to the wonderful taste of the dressing. A mammoth effort and a tribute to this wonderful little recipe. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

631/1038 - Bunya nut and pumpkin soup

Realising I finally had a moment to myself, I decided to crack out another of my bush foods; this time the humble bunya nut. 

The bunya nut comes from the bunya pine and drops to the ground encased in an enormous green cone, along with many, many kilograms of its buddies. The pods inside are peeled to reveal the bunya nut which, like chestnuts, needs to be boiled or roasted and then peeled. Enter my trusty Stanley knife! After a thirty minute boil the flesh came away easily from the skin which was a huge relief given that I had thawed exactly the required amount.

Bunya nuts before they are peeled
I decided to roast the pumpkin instead of boiling it as I wanted to make sure the soup had plenty of flavour. Because of this, I decided that the soup boil time was not necessary and decided to simply sauté and blend the firm ingredients, add the water (half of the recommended amount) and adjust the seasoning after only a few minutes on the heat.

Some beautiful mountain pepper which had been gathered by my gorgeous in-laws was finally dry enough to grind and so a good pinch of this was added for flavour along with a tiny handful of dried saltbush.

Of course some roasted pumpkin seeds never go astray and I couldn't resist harvesting them as I dissected the pumpkin. My trusty dehydrator is so handy for getting rid of the excess moisture from the seeds before roasting but this process can also be done in a very low oven or simply by leaving them to air-dry if time is not an issue.

We were unexpectedly invited to a dinner party last night and so this soup was shared with more people than expected. I was quietly pleased when one of the diners asked if the soup was based on a lovely chicken stock, knowing that no stock had been used and that all of the flavour came from the beautiful batch of ingredients.

With a huge bag of bunya nuts in the freezer, this fabulous soup will definitely be on the repeat list. Meanwhile, today will see the rest of the roast pumpkin turned into mini pumpkin cupcakes.

Thanks be to an incredible cultivar!

Roasted pumpkin seeds for topping