Thursday, August 30, 2012

190/656 - Simple country terrine

Second out of the blocks for my requested recipes was the simple country terrine. Aptly named, this really was so very easy to put together. 

Henry has been obsessed with the liver chapter in this book for some time now. I have been hearing a lot of, "When will you be buying some liver Mum?" and, "Which liver recipe are you going to do first mum?" Needless to say Henry was THRILLED to learn that the terrine was to have a generous handful of chicken livers thrown in. So the new question last week was, "Are you sure we will be able to TASTE the liver in there Mum?" I know I say it a lot, but I am so proud of my gastronomically adventurous children! At least I can be fairly sure they won't be taking their girlfriends on a first date to Maccas.  

I had the choice between chicken and rabbit to put in this carnivores dream of a terrine (along with the chicken livers and pork belly) and I could not resist choosing rabbit, knowing the flavour would be so much richer.  Once the liver had been cooked (until it had just stiffened, who knew that was the gauge for nicely cooked liver?) and the onions stewed, I basically had to stuff everything together in my Nan's gorgeous terrine press. 

With piles of fatty, yummy meat inside, and a few other bits of course, the terrine was then baked in the oven in a dangerous little water bath*. Then it was on with the specially designed clamp and into the fridge for a night of cooling. 

How many ways can one eat a terrine? As a tasty (meaty) entrée, spread on a pizza or chopped up through a garden salad. You name it, I tried it. Every one was a winner, made especially wonderful due to the amazing taste of the liver! I am not sure if the success of this terrine will satisfy Henry's yearning for offal, or spark a flurry of new requests. 

Only time will tell.  

*Not dangerous to most but I fear it's only a matter of time before one of these ends up all over my legs on its way out of the oven. Creative I am, co-ordinated I am not.

This terrine press was made for my grandmother by a friend 
who worked in a foundry. We have never seen another one like it, and it has 
become one of those special heirlooms now treasured by the cooks in my family.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

189/656 - Springtime pea custards

This week I threw out a challenge, asking for suggestions as to which Stephanie recipe I should tackle next. The challenge was taken up by the lovely Jen from Off Her Block and so in very unorthodox Sunday night fashion I was busy making pea custards to go with tonight's dinner. 

Chervil was one of the ingredients required for this recipe, and so I went on a quest to see if any of my lovely local shops might have some. I knew I was in trouble when I was in my local hip and funky organic store, and the shop assistant actually thought I had asked if she stocked gerbils. Indeed. In the end I gave up and used parsley instead. 

I would have loved to post a picture of my gorgeous turned out little green custard, nestled between my rabbit and my vegetables. But alas each custard broke down the middle as I turned it out. It seems I greased the sides of the dishes very well but neglected the bottoms, to which my little custards clung for dear life as they were hung upside down and jiggled. Gently at first, and then more vigorously. And we will not even discuss my attempt at beurre blanc. Let's just say I will be posting a much more successful version of that when I am not in ridiculous Sunday night rush mode.

On the upside, the pea custards were fabulous and I enjoyed mine with both my rabbit and my steamed vegetables. I absolutely loved the creamy texture (double-sieved, of course it was creamy!) and nobody in my little family cared that they dropped on to the plates in two pieces. 

Jen made a second request this week which was the country terrine. This was also created in my kitchen today and is presently resting in the fridge waiting for its big unveiling tomorrow night. Fingers crossed it comes out in one piece. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

188/656 - Caramelised carrot

As mentioned in my last post it was a pizza kind of weekend for us.* I thought I would go out on a limb and whip up some caramelised carrot which may sound weird, but I added some chorizo to the equation which I am confident turned what could have been a slightly off the wall concept into a very acceptable pizza topping

Stephanie recommended mortadella sausage as an optional extra to the caramelised carrots, and I would have complied had I been inclined to leave the house. But I was feeling very, very lazy and we are a chorizo kind of family and rarely run out of the stuff, so chorizo it was. I was very happy with the outcome and it seems my guests were too! Only one pizza sitting was required to polish this lot off. 

Carrots on pizza. What on earth will I get away with next? 

*I guess I am now "outed" as to how long it takes me to post my achievements!  Although I assume people are not too surprised to hear that most of my cooking actually occurs on weekends...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

187/656 - Sweet and sour peppers

There are seven peppers in this recipe and I must admit I was tempted to halve this quantity. The only thing that stopped me was Stephanie's footnote that assured me the cooked peppers would last for 3-4 days in the fridge. I was very hopeful that we would figure out enough ways to use them in that time before they became scraps for the chooks. 

What I did not expect was how good these would be on top of a pizza! We entertained guests on both Saturday and Sunday night and unfortunately I was lacking the energy reserves required to pull off something fancy in the dinner stakes. So pizza it was, and this particular topping was very popular and was polished off quite early into the second pizza sitting. 

The recipe advises to adjust with more balsamic, sugar or salt once the cooking is complete and I found I needed to add quite a few splashes of extra balsamic to mine as the cooked peppers were very, very sweet. 

I would definitely recommend this for a pizza topping or simply as a lovely little side dish. And I guarantee they will not last 3-4 days, especially if you have friends over for pizza. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

186/656 - Twice-cooked zucchini soufflés

We have friends with whom we share a very special bond and in many ways they feel like an extended part of our little family. Given that we are too busy with our respective families to catch up on Christmas day, we decided to create a special day in the middle of the year that is completely focussed on our merged family of eight. It is not about presents (although amusingly we all spent the day wishing one another Merry Christmas!) but is definitely all about eating, laughing and bonding as only a made up family can. 

Zucchini soufflés were just one of my contributions to the table at this years celebration. I was able to perform the first cooking at home the night before which meant all I had to do on the day was douse my little puffy friends in cream and throw them back in the oven for a second cooking. A perfect dish that can be pre-prepared and so easily heated to perfection just as you need them! 

These were a winner for three reasons; They tasted creamy and wonderful, were a snap to make, and of course I just loved announcing the arrival of a twice-cooked soufflé because there is nothing better than a dish that impresses before it even hits the table. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

185/656 - Middle Eastern cauliflower fritters

I know I said I rarely deep fry...yet here we are again!

I had to laugh at the fact that the recipe for these fritters was very, very short and yet somehow I managed to take FOREVER to make these! I was feeling rather lazy and so I thermomixed, rather than grated the cauliflower. In my defence I doubled the recipe and so the thought of manually grating loads of cauliflower was way too much for me given that this was yet another late night cooking session. 

It's always difficult getting the amounts right for recipes such as these. I underestimated the size of my vegetables and used three heads of cauliflower instead of two, which turned out to be quite some way from being correct. In the end I left a pile of it out (Muff's soup anybody?) and added an additional egg to help bind my mixture together. When rolling the fritters I found there was a tricky little balance between a ball that was too wet, and one that was too dry and falling apart.  

Once my balls were rolled (not too wet, not too dry!) I decided they needed some time in the fridge so that I could be confident they would not break apart when fried. I left them in overnight and was thrilled to find that they were quite firm and fried perfectly the next day. As well as being a fabulously yummy little snack that was enjoyed by adults and children alike, I discovered they were also wonderful spread on hot toast.  

Another fabulous success but maybe the last of the fried food for just a little while. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

184/656 - Chocolate amaretti puddings

Now here's a recipe I don't think I will be doing again. I am still unsure if there was an error in the list of ingredients or if the problem was a user error given that I; a) had Trev assisting me (no offence Trev. It's just that too many cooks...) and b) was making these puddings quite late at night. 

To be fair, the end result was very yummy and I certainly did not hear any complaints from the dining party. I served these with Madagascan vanilla bean ice cream and the room went very quiet as dessert was consumed. 

The execution of this recipe was what left me unconvinced. One of the steps was to soak crumbled amaretti biscuits in milk and cream. The resulting mixture was very, very wet and not at all what I expected. It was the final step of folding the whipped egg whites through the chocolate mixture that convinced me there was something very wrong. How on earth do you fold egg whites through liquid? 

I continued to crumble amaretti biscuits into my chocolate mixture until I think I may have quadrupled the suggested amount, but at least ended up with a much thicker mixture that was able to accept the egg whites without killing the air in them completely.  

The finished puddings were very small and flat and I was even more concerned about this. Luckily I had made two extra puddings and so Trev and I fell on our swords and entered the uncharted area that was the pudding taste test.  

The puddings were actually really lovely, with a nice little bitter kick from the amaretti biscuits. Not surprising really given how many I added to my mixture! There was also a toffee base under the chocolate layer which  made the puddings quite interesting to eat.  

I was flicking through my friend's rainbow version of this book yesterday hoping to get an answer to the mystery of my little flat puddings as I had read that there were some recipe adjustments made in the later version. To my surprise I could not find it listed in there at all. 

Happy to chalk this one up as one of life's little cooking mysteries then. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

183/656 - Quail with dried figs and olives

Number two recipe for my favourite little bird! 

There were a couple of cheats going on in the execution of this recipe. First of all I knew Trev was going to be away when I made this and so I decided to halve the quantities and cook only two quail. The bigger cheat though was that I did not soak my dried figs in wine overnight, but instead used pre-marinated baby figs (which was a decadent and wonderful choice by the way!)

I absolutely love working with little quail. It reminds me a lot of buying baby clothes for the first time and being fascinated by the impossibly small size of every piece. Similarly I love the miniature little legs and wings on quail, being so used to working with sturdy chickens with legs that fit in the palm of your hand rather than resting snugly on two fingers. 

This was a very simple recipe but with really gorgeous flavours. Although I did not need to pre-soak my figs I certainly still added the wine to the recipe. The resulting sauce was rich but not overly so. Cooking the quail in the sauce on the stove top and then in the oven meant that the flavours completely permeated the birds and so every bite of meat was nothing short of glorious.   

And what is it about me and parsley? As per usual I had a little pile of parsley chopped but forgot to scatter it over the top of the dish until after we had started to eat. We added it late (better than never!) and it was indeed a positive addition to this already very tasty meal.  

When cleaning the plates I noticed amongst the pile of ravaged bones a weeny little wishbone that was just crying out to be washed and wished upon. 

The boys made their respective wishes while clutching this fragile little bone, and when they pulled, the top broke off completely and flew across the room. We decided this meant that both of their wishes would come true. One of the few times in life when there was no winner and no loser. 

How very nice.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

182/656 - Italian black olive paste

I think that maybe Stephanie was ahead of her time when she wrote this book, correctly predicting the delight that whip-up concoctions such as this would provide to people in this modern era of instant gratification. 

Prior to making this paste I had baked a loaf of bread which, having made so many, I can now just about do with my eyes closed. On this occasion however I might have done well to open them just a little bit because my gorgeous, fluffy, seed-dotted loaf came out of the oven looking spectacular, but was in fact disastrously devoid of salt.

For those who have not had the misfortune of eating saltless bread, I have only one thing to say. Don't do it! Bland, bland, bland, even in the case of my gorgeous signature loaf which is packed with seeds and herbs. The shimmering silver lining to this little black tasteless cloud was gorgeously salty Italian black olive paste! Once the disastrous bread had been toasted and slathered with this tasty purple paste my little accident was rescued and my new favourite snack was born. 

As well as being great on toast, this would also be wonderful served on a cheese platter or atop a lovely bowl of pasta. 

Bellissimo indeed.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

181/656 - Lemon tart

Dead simple to prepare + impressive looking result = FABULOUS recipe! 

Of course I made the pastry for this tart (shortcrust is now my thing!) but if packet pastry were to be used, this is honestly such a fast recipe you could whip it up in between entrée and main and it would be baked and ready for dessert. 

I learned a very helpful pastry tip while making this. I decided to make a double batch of shortcrust on this day, with one lot to be put in the freezer ready for another day (and possibly also to be used as a prop for a photo shoot but that's another story). I split the pastry in half and was attempting to roll it out and get perfect coverage over my flan tin, and as usual I couldn't quite get the shape right and was pulling bits from here and there to even things up. Then I had the idea to add in a small handful of pastry from the second batch. 

Perfect! The pastry rolled out slightly too big and I was able to trim it and put the off cuts back from whence they came. For the life of me I can't work out why I have never thought of doing that before.  The added bonus of course being that I will always be left with a spare batch of pastry in the freezer.  

I wasn't sure if the lemons I used were big enough and so I added an extra two ice cubes of juice and a small handful of extra zest (from my pre-zested frozen stash!). I was so glad I did, we love a tart tart in my house and this definitely delivered. 

I did not sprinkle my lovely tart with icing sugar, worried it would detract from the wonderful zing. I did, however serve this with a good dollop of double cream. 

Some extra filling baked in a mini muffin tin. A great way to have
a taste of the finished product without cutting the tart!