Tuesday, August 30, 2011

36/655 - Chilli con carne

I was a bit nervous about how this dish might turn out given that I fell short on borlotti beans by a third and had to make up the difference with cannellini. It turned out quite OK though. I think my decision to make this a day prior to eating definitely gave the flavour a chance to seep through.

Not a show stopper, but a good hearty meal that went beautifully with some steamed rice and a pile of veg.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

35/655 - Gratin of mussels

I am sure I say this every time I cook mussels, but this has to be the nicest mussel recipe I have ever tasted! No doubt helped by the fact that we were STARVING by the time I got this on the table due to some chocolate lettering I was spending a lot of time trying to perfect (see previous post). In fact we were in such a hurry to start eating that I completely forgot to add the parsley. I didn't notice until we got up from the table and I saw my forgotten little green mound sitting on the bench. As my Dad always said, "If that's the worst thing that happened to me today, I had a pretty good day."

The sauce was made of shallots (I used red onion), garlic, diced carrot (loved the carrot!), tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon zest and the wine and juices left over from the steaming of the mussels. This was topped with breadcrumbs and my best olive oil and put into the oven to cook.

We still have no idea who ate the little bonus crab we found inside one of the mussels. I will have to make this again, not only so that we can try it with parsley, but also to prove that we can eat it slowly and like a civilised family, and not one who appears to have not seen food for a month.

34/655 - Orange caramel syrup

I offered to be on cake duty for a party I am attending tomorrow and decided to buy the cake (chocolate mud, yum) and spruce it up with my own orange icing. I was not convinced that orange juice and icing sugar would produce a strong enough orange flavour so I thought I would experiment with using Stephanie's orange caramel syrup as the base flavour instead.

I am so glad I did.

The syrup is simply toffee (boiled water and sugar) mixed with orange juice to stop it from going hard. What you end up with is a rich syrup that tastes like intense orange and burnt toffee all mixed together. I mixed it with icing sugar for a lovely and glossy as well as intensely flavoured finish.

As I write this I am enjoying a bowl of orange quarters drizzled with the leftover syrup which is ridiculously yummy.

I didn't quite lick the bowl but came very, very close indeed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

32&33/655 - Pan-fried fish with browned butter sauce & Tomatoes provençale

My fabulous food day started with lunch at France-Soir in South Yarra, where I ate a week's worth of calories including a mouth-watering crème brûlée which I can never seem to resist at a French restaurant.

I was keen to continue my food journey this evening and so for dinner I thought I would team these two recipes together, fairly sure that they would complement one another. Success! The fish with lemony, butter sauce and capers went beautifully with the crunchy garlic and breadcrumbs on the fried tomatoes.

Probably a bit more oil and butter than I am used to having in one meal, but it tasted great so I didn't mind a bit.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

31/655 - Chocolate self-saucing pudding

It was off to a friend's place for a roast lunch today, and I was on dessert duty. I sat up in bed last night with the orange bible and worked out what I was going to make, going to sleep rather proud of myself for being so organised and not leaving the decision until the last minute.

I woke up this morning raring to go...until I realised that you actually need to have more than four dates in the fridge in order to make a sticky date pudding. This minor crisis was averted when I discovered this nice and easy self-saucing chocolate pudding recipe. All I needed to do was throw the ingredients in a bowl ready to cook at my friend's place, because the only way to serve a pudding like this is straight out of the oven and bubbling like crazy.

This pudding is very similar to those we have made in the past, except that Stephanie's version includes chopped walnuts, an addition I will definitely use again in future. The nuts were yummy and stopped the pudding from being overly sweet.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

30/655 - Buttered grated beetroot

After a tiring but fun day at my nephew's birthday party, tonight's dinner needed to be two things; quick and easy, and most importantly, full of vegetables to counterbalance the amount of fried and sweet party food the four of us consumed today.

What better way to eat a steak, than topped with a pile of bright and buttery beetroot. This recipe was as simple as putting grated beetroot in a saucepan with butter and cooking it for 8 minutes. The only downside is that I am now sporting a very pink right hand due to the fact that my stash of clean rubber gloves seems to have been depleted. 

I am already eyeing off the leftover beetroot which I know will be a lovely addition to my lunchtime salad. Very, very easy recipe but highly recommended.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

28&29/655 - Egg and bacon pie (with home-made shortcrust pastry)

Now that the weather is getting a bit warmer my chickens have moved into crazy egg laying mode. This recipe was on the menu tonight purely because it required 11 of them and I needed a way to bring down the egg count in the fridge. The thing I love most about these freshly laid eggs is the incredibly firm whites which don't run all over the place like older eggs tend to do.

A side benefit of making this pie was that it required home-made shortcrust pastry which meant knocking off two recipes in one go. Pastry is fun to make if you have the time and I am very happy that I do! The result was incredible.

I am pleased to report that no yolks were broken in the making of this recipe as the eggs needed to be laid whole on the base of the pie. I learned a nifty way of cracking the perfect egg while reading a book written by one of my culinary heroes, Jacques Reymond. He advocates the cracking of eggs on a flat surface rather than the rim of a bowl, and since I have changed to this method I have successfully avoided those nasty little bits of splintered shell that used to plague my cooking. Trev has now been converted to this method, but not before smashing egg after egg on the table, telling me all the while that the method must be flawed. He has since learned to be a bit less heavy handed.

This was definitely another recipe I was thrilled to discover! I love this book even more now and just hope it doesn't fall apart before I complete the challenge. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

27/655 - Beef bourguignon

I have a certain level of respect for any recipe that takes up an entire page in this book. 

This was actually quite simple to put together, although slightly painful for me as I had to keep swapping everything from one pan to another due to my Le Chasseur not being electric stove top friendly, and my enormous frypan not being oven proof. Given that this recipe moves from the stove top, to the oven, then back to the stove top, my kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it by the time dinner was served.

It was worth it though! The sauce was so decadent, full of butter and bacon. We went through a good amount of bread after the meal as it would have been a crime to leave any of that lovely sauce on the plate.

Monday, August 15, 2011

26/655 - Quick apple cake

It's been one month to the day since I decided to get intimate with one of my largest cookbooks. I was going to say "my heaviest cookbook", but I have just discovered that The Silver Spoon tops it by around 600 grams. I know, I really do have too much time on my hands...

So with 26 recipes down, it appears I am on track to complete this challenge in a little over two years. I ever so briefly considered imposing a deadline on myself, however I am convinced that a deadline would only serve to add an element of stress and would most certainly remove some of the fun, so I will stick with my "moseying" strategy which I think is working well so far.

Today's recipe was the quick apple cake which smelled amazing coming out of the oven. I love the little chunks of apple which give the cake a lovely, surprising texture. I decided not to ice this one, so as to keep it fairly healthy for the kids (and Trev's) lunch boxes. To be honest, this cake is so nice it is probably best left plain anyway.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

25/655 - Baked beans

Such a yummy recipe I can’t believe this is only the third time I have made it. Actually I think I can safely blame this on the fact that the beans require soaking overnight, which I always forget to do.

The best part of today’s cooking adventure was that the beans required a four hour stint in the oven, which meant I got to use my beautiful cast iron pot that I sadly tucked away in a cupboard when we upgraded to a ceramic cooktop. Contentious I know, sometimes I feel like I am the only person in the universe who actually prefers electricity over gas on a stove top. 

Many hours after I began cooking the beans (borlotti if you were wondering), I was raving to the boys about how much they were going to love them. I was very surprised when they told me that the beans appeared to be lacking in flavour (or words to that effect), until I took a mouthful and realised I hadn’t completed the final step. These beans are just not the same until you add treacle! I am pleased to report that once the yummy treacle was added the comments around the table were much more enthusiastic.

If these beans did not take so long to cook (and require soaking the night before) they would certainly be a more regular addition to our dinner menu.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

24/655 - Pressed tongue

I promise this will be the last of the tongue dishes for a while! This recipe actually called for three tongues which was the reason for my multiple purchase last week. When I brought them home and realised each tongue was the size of a baby's leg, I decided to split them amongst three recipes rather than having a pressed tongue in the fridge that would serve a small army. My family have been very supportive but I suspect even they may have a tongue limit.

This third and final tongue required poaching and skinning like the first two. I must say I am becoming quite nifty with the skinning knife and only managed one small slash on my index finger this time. I wish I had a dollar for every time Trev walked into the kitchen with a stricken look on his face saying, "You will take a finger off one day!" I like to use the biggest, scariest looking knives for best effect.

The stock the tongues were poached in was supposed to "jelly" after cooking but mine didn't, so I added some gelatine to help the process along. The jelly, tongue and mounds of parsley, garlic and orange zest were forced together in a terrine press overnight. I sliced the tongue rather than putting it in whole, and must confess I completely forgot to add the ham as I was racing against the clock to get this finished before picking the the kids up from school. We had slices of the finished terrine with dinner tonight and I was surprised to find that the jelly was quite nice. Jules was not so sure and asked for his jelly to be scraped off. Given the amount of tongue he has put away this week, I could hardly complain.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

23/655 - Margaret's potted tongue

When I first took on this challenge (and before I decided to share my progress publicly) I could not decide if I would be prepared to cook every recipe in the book. There were at least five chapters that made me squirm at the thought of touching, cooking and eating the ingredients. I decided I would probably cook everything I liked the look of and then let the challenge peter out quietly. After all, nobody would know any different and my kids were hardly going to complain about missing out on the opportunity to experience tripe for the first time.

I was casually sharing this thought with Trev and he responded with, "Surely Stephanie would not include recipes in her book that did not taste good." I spent a good amount of time pondering this information, whilst at the same time wondering when the role of rational, wise advisor had passed from myself to my husband. I went back to Trev and told him I thought he was absolutely right and that I would be completing the challenge in it's entirety after all. He was of course over the moon. Not about the challenge of course, it is just such a rare occasion that I tell him he is absolutely right about anything. I think he may have even written down the date.

So this brings me to today's recipe, potted tongue. I started off by poaching the pickled tongue (reminds me of a tongue twister, pardon the pun), and then whizzed it up with the ingredients you would expect to be married with pickled meat - mustard, butter, ginger, nutmeg, worcestershire sauce, cloves and of course a dash of cayenne pepper. Very yummy indeed and great on toast.

In my wildest dreams I did not imagine I would ever make potted meat of any kind, except possibly when I was young and into anything written by Enid Blyton. I am fairly sure Dick, Fanny, Jo and Bessie packed potted meat into their picnic basket on a number of occasions.

I think these old fashioned characters were on to something.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

22/655 - Afternoon tea orange cake

With friends coming over for afternoon tea, this cake seemed the perfect choice for a sweet snack.

It was really light and yummy and best served warm which I discovered quite by accident. I misread the recipe and added the orange zest to the cake mix instead of the icing but it was a happy accident which only enhanced the flavour of the cake.

After one sitting there are only 2 small pieces left, and given there are four in our family, I am already anticipating the mad scramble to the cake tin after dinner. I am still quite a lot bigger than my children so I should be a shoo-in for a second piece.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

21/655 - Braised tongue with madeira sauce

Yes you heard right, we had tongue for dinner tonight!!

It tasted a lot like corned beef and as long as I kept my mind off what I was actually eating it was really very pleasant. We had a lot of fun poking the raw tongue and grossing each other out before I thought I should start acting like an adult and actually cook the thing.

I covered the tongue in stock and cooked it in the oven for a couple of hours. Once it was cooked and the skin had been removed it looked a lot more appealing and a lot less like a hairy, bumpy tongue. The madeira sauce was absolutely divine, although technically not a madeira sauce as I used port instead, which Stephanie suggested as an acceptable alternative. I thickened the sauce with some cornflour which made it rather like a winey mushroom gravy.

I was so proud of my family for eating this, and couldn't believe it when Jules told me that we must have tongue again! Lucky for him I had the butcher pickle three tongues for me this week so expect to see me working my way through the tongue chapter over the next couple of days.

19&20/655 - Mexican ceviche (with fresh tomato sauce)

I am sure ceviches were invented with the lazy cook in mind. Chop up the fish, tip it in a bowl of lime juice and throw it in the fridge for a couple of hours until it is "cooked". Drain, toss in a few more ingredients, and voilà you have a meal! It was almost that simple tonight, except that one of the ingredients in this version is Stephanie's fresh tomato sauce, so I had to use the oven after all. 

I was true to the recipe except for swapping mild chillies for Jalapeños to give it a bit of extra kick. To my amazement the boys ate every bit and there were no complaints about the heat or the number of tomatoes on their plate.

The bonus of the night was the left over tomato sauce which I plan to slather over a poached egg or two in the morning.

Friday, August 5, 2011

18/655 - Sweet and sour lamb

On the menu tonight - a simple dinner that would not require a trip to the shops. I confess I did have to dash to my mum's place for a handful of raisins (and a coffee of course!) but other than that I had everything I needed for this yummy sounding dish. 

I decided to tip some moghrabieh (Lebanese couscous) in with the lamb while it was cooking so it could soak up all the lovely flavours. The moghrabieh are quite large, about the size of the little balls you find inside a beanbag, and so I needed to add quite a lot of extra stock as I went.

It was a good call - the result was absolutely delicious.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

17/655 - Carrot soup with orange

Living in the "house of flu" this last couple of weeks has had me craving healthy food and lots of vegetables. This could well be the brightest, happiest looking meal in the book! It certainly made everybody smile when I served it up.

I have made this soup before but I don't remember it tasting this fresh and sweet. Given that I do not always have leeks in the fridge, I may have substituted the leek for an onion last time, which I will never make the mistake of doing again! 

I finished the soup off as Stephanie suggested, topped with orange zest, carrot tops (very interesting flavour!) and a splash of beautiful extra virgin olive oil. Fingers crossed it chases the last of the flu germs away.