Thursday, March 29, 2012

142/656 - Fennel-seed breadsticks

I have recently taken to making our bread from scratch on an almost daily basis (industrious I know!) and stumbled across this recipe whilst reading up on fennel. Very sneaky to hide additional bread recipes in a herb chapter!

I have a little pot of saffron threads which largely sits unused on my shelf and so I was excited that a pinch was required for this recipe. I actually love saffron but most of the time I forget it is there. A bit like my tin of moghrabieh. I love it but it’s not an ingredient that springs to mind when I am planning a meal.

Stephanie advised that this recipe would work equally well fashioned into either four breadsticks or 20 dainty grissini. I was very tempted to make grissini but just knew they would be a diet disaster waiting to happen. I would most certainly have polished off a mountain of them, convincing myself each time that “they are only small and so another one will not hurt”.

So breadsticks it had to be. Stumpy little breadsticks in this case.

We had a late night taste and the fennel seed has been declared a winner. And I thought I would be in trouble with grissini in the house...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

141/656 - Sponge topping

Henry was particularly helpful around the house last week which meant he was granted the opportunity to choose a special dinner or dessert. Completely out of the blue he requested sponge cake. 

Given I have only completed five out of twenty two recipes in the basics chapter (now six) I was pleased to be handed the opportunity to knock off another one. This sponge was supposed to be a topping for either poached or puréed fruit but having neither on hand I decided to use freshly diced peaches and plums instead.

The result? A lovely, light dessert that would have been even better with a dollop of cream or ice cream. Or if I had been more organised, some lovely home-made custard.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

140/656 - Fast red-wine sauce

Trev looked after the roast for dinner tonight while I whipped up this lovely little sauce.

Somehow between us we overlooked the steaming of the greens and so it was a decidedly red, brown and orange dinner tonight. My children are hardly on the brink of scurvy given the amount of vegetables we regularly force into them so I will forgive us both this oversight on this occasion.

The roast was extra tasty tonight, covered in basil, oil and oregano. My little sauce went down very well, although I could have reduced it a bit further. I tend to rush things when the family look as if they are about to chew their arms off from hunger. 

Thankfully I was not in such a rush that I forgot to add the rather large knob of butter to the finished sauce. What a lovely shine! What a lovely taste...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

139/656 - Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise, simple right? Not in my kitchen.

I have decided there is one thing that has taken me from being a cook who creates regular disasters to one who can accomplish almost anything in the kitchen (given enough time). That thing is the ability to rescue a failed dish.

I decided to third this recipe and so began using only one egg yolk, a waft of salt and a dash of champagne vinegar. In went the olive oil, but only half the recommended amount as I have found this recipe to be rather oily on past attempts. No disrespect to Stephanie intended, I am sure this comes down to personal taste. With the oil added, my mayonnaise seemed a tad runny so I decided to add an extra egg yolk. The result was very, very yellow but the consistency was much better.

I opted for white pepper to pep up the taste and also added more salt, some pepper and an extra dash of champagne vinegar to reduce the oily taste that I abhor in a mayonnaise. I was very pleased with the final result and my curried eggs tasted better than they ever have before.

Added bonus - I somehow managed to ignore the lovely bread I made last night and ate my eggs wrapped in lettuce leaves so a double win for me today!

Monday, March 19, 2012

138/656 - Mietta's chocolate cake

We had dinner at my mum's place tonight which in my opinion is always cause for celebration!

Mum loves to cook for people as much as I do and has bunches of people over what seems like every other week. It's fairly obvious where I inherited my love of entertaining! Tonight we were lucky enough to be treated to leftovers from yet another big lunch she hosted on Saturday.

Party leftovers/dinner tonight started with fried halloumi, figs cooked in red wine syrup and a drizzle of fig balsamic. Next were gorgeous garlic and herb toasts topped with buttery, herby chicken and home grown silverbeet on the side. If that was not fattening enough, I brought out this wonderful cake to finish with which was topped with chocolate and brandy butter cream. 

The cake needed something special to finish it off and the lovely Chas came through with some dried rose petals. Eaten with whipped cream (and in my case an extra handful of rose petals) this cake was rich and amazing. I think I had it in the oven for just a couple of minutes too long but I am a huge fan of a crusty edge on a cake so I was very happy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

137/656 - Vietnamese Mang Cua soup

I have a child that is obsessed with seafood. We were recently dining at Bokchoy Tang (which is fabulous by the way) and it took quite some effort to convince him that he could not order the live lobster. Apart from the astronomical price, we had a show to attend and did not have time to sit around while a lobster was killed for Henry's gastronomic enjoyment. 

So when he spied some lovely looking crab at the market, he asked if we might buy some to make up for the lack of lobster in his recent diet. First word problem #34...really I sometimes wish my children would understand what it really means to be deprived!

So tonight it was “so good you want to lick the bowl” Vietnamese Mang Cua soup. I was going to make the crab cakes but to be honest they sounded like slightly more effort than the soup and being a Sunday night I went for what appeared to be the easier option.

Being the slow cook that I am I was pleased that this really was a 10 minute "throw it all together and you are finished" kind of soup. The picking of the crab meat was another story of course and I will be pleased if I do not look at another crab leg in a very long time. 

Even better than satisfying Henry’s seafood craving, I was able to use a perfect little chilli from my garden tonight which I have been saving for something special. Warm fuzzies all 'round.

Friday, March 16, 2012

136/656 - Brown lentil salad

Let’s face it, lentils do not have a great reputation. My family will eat them but there is certainly not much excitement displayed when they are presented at the dinner table.

With this in mind, I halved this recipe remembering all too well the times I have been the only person ploughing through lentil leftovers. Well actually it’s me and the chickens, who inevitably end up with the final scoop or two that I can’t quite get through.

Something I didn’t see coming was the salad being almost completely demolished during the writing of this post. I am sure the boys will be thrilled.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

135/656 - Barbecued chicken wings

Let it be said that the boys in this family like chicken. I mean they REALLY like chicken. So tonight's dinner was seen as an extra special treat that will keep me on the family pedestal for many days to come. Of course it also means happy boys and lots of hugs for me so a win-win situation!

The wings were actually cooked in the oven, tucked in a dish and slathered in a heavenly mixture of oil, hoisin, soy, sambal oelek, tomato paste, garlic, ginger and stock.  

I was literally playing with fire as they cooked, leaning into the oven with the tongs and turning them every so often. The oven was so incredibly hot I was actually yelping as I did it until my (wise) 8 year old advised that I “really should be wearing an oven mitt to do that job.” Smart kid I have there.

I was very well behaved and only ate one wing, although I think I could have happily devoured a plateful. The boys managed two each and I have been smothered in kisses since the plates were stacked so hooray for Stephanie yet again.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

134/656 - Sweetcorn brunch fritters

I used these corny fritters as another interesting way to serve up a vegetable with our dinner tonight.

The first job was to grate the corn cobs and I was thrilled that I managed, after recently surviving three quite decent knife cuts, to complete this task without a scratch. Unfortunately for me there was still some collateral damage with my hair and walls ending up spattered in bright yellow corn juice. At least I know the corn was fresh!

They were cooked in the same fashion as pancakes, turning them over when little bubbles appeared on the surface. Response from the family was positive but not overwhelming. Next time I will make sure we have some maple syrup and bacon on hand to make eating these a truly special experience. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

133/656 - Asparagus with coddled eggs

Coddled eggs in our house are usually served with salt, pepper and sage (me) or heaped with freshly grated parmesan (Jules). Henry is an experimenter and tends to change the contents of his around a bit. But after today I have a new favourite combination!

Much better than boiled eggs, the coddled variety have extra ingredients added to them prior to cooking which means plenty of flavour in the eating. Coddled eggs à la Stephanie are AMAZING! A spear of asparagus is dipped into the egg and then rolled in herbs and toasted, buttery breadcrumbs. And did I mention the dash of cream that was added to the cooked egg?

I said goodbye (temporarily) to my healthy eating regime whilst consuming this mid-afternoon snack...but it was worth it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

132/656 - Wilted cucumber salad


This book is crammed full of hidden, healthy treasures if you know where to look.

I am on day two of a healthy eating regime and am feeling quite pleased with my progress so far. I know it seems a little early to be patting myself on the back but willpower is not one of my strong points and so I have learned to celebrate every victory no matter how small.

After eating a bowl of left over pumpkin soup for lunch I made myself this healthy salad as I was craving something with crunch. I didn’t have any borage flowers on hand but my herbs are amazingly bushy after all the sunshine and rain we have been having so I happily tossed in a large handful.

Mid-way through demolishing the salad I decided to add a sprinkle of Spanish paprika which was mind-blowingly hot but just the bit of added flavour I was seeking. Given that it was too late to take a picture of the salad with paprika on top I thought I would add one of the paprika tin instead.
        

Wouldn't supermarket shopping be more enjoyable if there was more of this fabulously daggy, James Bond-esqe packaging to be found on the supermarket shelves?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

131/656 - Herb and pumpkin soup

After overloading on way too much food over the last few months I am on a mission to cook myself light, healthy carb-free meals. Only for a short while of course, and only until I shrink down to my regular size, pre eating frenzy.

Stephanie's herb and pumpkin soup was the first healthy cab off the rank. This recipe produced a HUGE quantity which should cover me for a few days worth of lunches and snacks. Don't be fooled by the drool-worthy garlic croutons you see in the picture. They were made for my boys who are definitely not watching what they are eating and would be devastated if I removed carbs from their dinner menu.

When I blend my soups I like to leave at least some texture remaining to keep things interesting, and so as we ate tonight there were still lovely little pieces of potato to be found. Now if only I could figure out a way to keep my mind off that garlic bread.

Monday, March 5, 2012

130/656 - Onion and cheese tart

I love it when I cook something and the result is quite unexpectedly wonderful!

The pastry for this tart was made from scratch and I am pleased to report that it turned out perfectly - all buttery and soft and melt-in-your mouth good. But the filling! So soft and light with lovely, sweet onions and the gorgonzola creating just enough bite so as to be tasty but not overpowering.

I was chatting to one of my friends about Stephanie and we both agreed that she must be at least a little bit French. All that butter and cream she uses – it is really quite amazing how much of it we have gone through in this house since this challenge began. 

The only downside to this challenge is that my rapidly expanding repertoire in the kitchen is slowly being matched by my rapidly expanding waistline! Time to seek out some more of those healthy vegetarian recipes that I just know are hiding in the book somewhere.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

129/656 - Dill pickles

I happened upon some lovely little cucumbers this week and picked them up with this recipe in mind. I have loved dill pickles since I was small and so I am particularly excited to see how these turn out.

It will be two weeks until the cucumbers are properly pickled and so now we wait...