Friday, December 30, 2016

542/1038 - Bruschetta

There is a lovely crossover happening in my kitchen life right now, with my a Fork for your Oyster catering clients requesting dishes which can occasionally be found in The Cook's Companion. A client request for bruschetta happened recently and of course I jumped at the chance to knock off one final blog recipe for 2016.

The bruschetta recipe is a basic one (grilled bread with a garlic rub, olive oil and salt) and is designed to be built upon. The topping is chef's choice! 

Of course I made my own lovely little bread sticks using my favourite Jamie Oliver bread recipe. I have always found it amusing that Jamie lists this recipe amount as making one loaf; I always get two good sized loaves out of this recipe or in this case, eight mini loaves. 

My client requested a topping of crumbled feta and I couldn't go past the opportunity to pair it with some gorgeous caramelised onion; one of my all time favourite things to eat. The result was sensational, with the fresh herbs used in the caramelised onions (thyme, rosemary, bay leaf) gently shining through. 

Let's hope 2017 is this tasty! x

Monday, December 26, 2016

541/1038 - Vegetable stock

I have some guilt regarding the number of recipes I have not cooked in recent times. In the first year of this challenge, an average of fourteen recipes were tested and blogged each month and this figure has dwindled to just three this year. I suppose it was inevitable that my energy would wane over time and an increased interest in a certain little catering business* has certainly exacerbated this issue. Given that we are more than five years into the challenge I do take some comfort in the fact that there is yet to be a month that I haven't blogged at least one recipe. 

This month it was all about vegetable stock. There are five stock recipes in The Cook's Companion; chicken, vegetable, fish, veal and rabbit. Reading back through my posts, I am reminded that it took three years for me to make my first stock (chicken) and now another two to whip up my second. Clearly home made stock is not a priority in my house!

This stock was served as a soup with black bean noodles and a medley of lightly steamed vegetables. Such a healthy and incredibly tasty dinner. 

Given my love of cooking, it is generally assumed that I cook everything from scratch. While this is true for most things, I just can't seem to get around to keeping enough homemade stock on hand to satisfy my cooking requirements. Having said that, this vegetable stock was so ridiculously tasty it has almost convinced me to ditch the premade stuff and add stock to the list of things I make myself. 

Almost, but not quite. 

*a Fork for your Oyster is my newish baby for anybody who is wondering! x

Monday, November 28, 2016

540/1038 - Traditional roast leg of pork

November has always been a mad month in our house and this year was not any different. As such, this month was ALMOST chalked up as the first since this challenge began without a recipe being tested and blogged. I am therefore, feeling rather proud of myself for sneaking this one in with two days to spare! 

A roast pork is an absolute favourite in this house. We love the meat, we love the vegetables which are roasted alongside and we ADORE the crackling! We have a family member celebrating a birthday this month and so I allowed him to dish the crackling out to the family. I was amused (but not surprised) to watch as he gave himself the largest and most fabulous piece, of course with a very cheeky smile on his face.

This recipe appears only in the first version of The Cook's Companion, which I can finally leave on the shelf when twelve more recipes have been completed. Refer to the Venn diagram below for a better explanation of how this works!

A slow November ending with a slow cooked very appropriate. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

539/1038 - Avocado bavarois

Our weekly market habit is in its seventh month and so it is unsurprising that we now have favourite stalls which we frequent on each trip. 

Shane's Fruit (from memory, stall B9-B12) is run by a lovely man (who we assume is Shane!) and each week we pick up our weekly load of unsprayed apples, bananas and whichever other goodies catch our eye. 

We have scored lovely avocados from Shane's Fruit a number of times, however they are generally consumed as a healthy mid afternoon snack. An avocado bavarois sounded like a fun change from my regular balsamic/cracked pepper combination and also a lovely complement to my planned chicken and vegetable dinner.

As ever, my family get nervous when I make a dish which is required to do something special such as ooze (think soft-centred puddings) or set. Gelatine is not always my friend, but I am pleased to say that on this occasion all turned out as hoped. As evidenced by the vertical indentations in the bavarois pictured, I had lined my moulds with baking paper, nervous that the avocado would stick. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The lovely little custards slid straight out on to the plates and became a gorgeous little topper for what might otherwise have been a fairly average meal.

The bavarois received a surprising four sets of thumbs up.

Nice x

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

538/1038 - Soft-centred chocolate puddings

My eldest quite randomly requested a mud cake last weekend and I decided that soft-centred chocolate puddings would be a close enough response. 

I have never made lava cake and so my anticipation of seeing oozy centres when we cut into our pretty little desserts was running way off the chart. 

Instead of six puddings, I decided to make only four. Largely to avoid the squabbles I just knew would ensue when my family of four had eaten their fill in the first sitting. Because I had messed with the pudding sizes, the required cooking time remained a bit of an unknown. The first pudding, which will forever be known as "failed test pudding", oozed in a splat on to the plate. As luck would have it, young boys quite like oozy, chocolatey sludge and so number one disappeared with said pudding and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. 

The remaining three went back into the oven and I promptly forgot about them. When I finally remembered to take them out, I was fairly sure I had overcooked them, but held on to a small glimmer of hope that the lava would still exist. The initial incision was videoed ... and let's just say the result was not at all worth sharing. 

The upside? The centres were only just cooked and so we got to eat the lightest, fluffiest, most wonderfully melt-in-the-mouth chocolate cakes we have eaten in a very long time. 

Even better was finding a use for the dehydrated strawberries I had made only a couple of days earlier. 

Win x 

(See, even a lose is a win!)

Monday, October 17, 2016

537/1038 - David's eggplant pickle

Pickling is not my favourite thing to do. When undertaking this recipe I discovered that I am definitely "waiting-for-pastry-to-chill" patient, but not "waiting for vegetables to pickle" patient! 

Sooooo....pickled eggplant. The pickling process was relatively easy, but I will confess to completing it in between many other tasks and leaving the red wine vinegar on the the eggplant for w-a-a-a-y too long. Unfortunately this meant that the final product was lovely, but slightly more "pickly" than I would have liked. 

I decided to serve the eggplant as a part of an antipasto spread for dinner, which was lovely in theory but actually ended up being a little rich for my taste. Too much oily fish, oily olives, oily eggplant and I ended up feeling full, but a little nauseous by the end. 

This is a really lovely recipe but I think the learnings for me were - 1) put a day aside and complete the pickling in an appropriate timeframe, and 2) When serving antipasto, add lots and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to the mix.

P.S - The family loved it so still calling this a win! x

Thursday, October 13, 2016

536/1038 - Blue cheese dressing for lettuce

My little family loves all food, but we have a special place in our hearts for cheese.

Blue cheese is certainly divisive in the general population, but I am pleased that of my family of four, 100% of us are firmly on the side of this smelly little delicacy. 

With a mid-week trek into the city to watch the socceroos planned, I thought a quick burger meal would be an appropriate pre-game option. 

This easy and fabulous blue cheese dressing was the perfect accompaniment to my home-made patties and incredibly peppery, garden-fresh rocket. An enormous pile of raw green beans were also consumed, each scooped heartily into this wonderful dressing. 

I halved the recipe and it still made a mountain! The small bowlful that is left will be added to the antipasto platter I plan to put together for dinner tonight. I am so organised food-wise at the moment I almost don't know myself x

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

535/1038 - Chinese crisp-roasted pork

Is it completely immodest to proclaim this the best pork belly I have ever eaten? 

I will admit I was sceptical. I have only ever created pork crackling one way and that is with olive oil and plenty of salt. This version has the belly boiled and dried before the skin is salted and the meat, marinated. It is then left uncovered in the fridge for a number of hours before being blasted in the oven. 

The only tiny thing I changed about the recipe was to turn my oven to full heat rather than 230°C for the first twenty minutes as we have found this the best way to get a great crispy crackle. 

Not only was the crackling UNBELIEVABLE, but the flavour of the meat was also mouth wateringly good. Soy sauce and garlic on pork; who knew? 

My husband is the master of crackle and my mini-chef has actually warned me that one bad crackle attempt and I will be immediately removed from pork duty! After serving this one up, I do believe I have earned his crackle related respect x

Saturday, September 10, 2016

534/1038 - Piña colada custard doughnuts

My mini chef unexpectedly picked out a pineapple as one of his market selections yesterday. It was an interesting choice given his rather intense dislike for most fruits! 

As such, I thought it best that I used some of said fruit in a recipe to prevent it from ending up in the chook bucket. Love, love loving the sound of piña colada custard, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and put it inside the doughnuts I had promised to make in lieu of the market variety. A promise borne from my dislike of waiting to be served almost every week...

I am aware that some people will question my spelling of the word doughnut, given that the more commonly used "donut" is more succinct and of course, easier to spell. There are two reasons I stick with the longer version of this word; 1) Given the choice I will always opt for the English, rather than the American spelling of words. Call it a nod to my ancestors. 2) Whilst the shorter form, "donut" has been around for some time, its popularity grew exponentially after the opening of Dunkin' Donuts in 1950. The fact that a massive fast food chain increased the popularity of this word is reason alone for me to avoid it at all costs! 

It was fortunate I searched for a doughnut recipe early in the day given that the batter required a minimum of six hours in the fridge...and that was before the 2+ hours of proving! 

It was Joanne Chang (of Flour Bakery in Boston) who provided me with the doughnut recipe and I liked it (they actually tasted like doughnuts) but think I will get a better result next time if I heat the milk a little before adding it to the yeast. I am kicking myself that I didn't go with my gut and do that this time but I am usually one to trust a recipe the first time I test it out. I can only assume that the yeast she uses is of better quality than mine which is why my doughnuts didn't quite prove to the expected height. 

I am pleased to report that we have leftover custard (hooray!) which will be used to enhance our fruity desserts over the next couple of days x

Our little market pineapple

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

533/1038 - Penne with truffles

We had dinner out with the family recently and as we were preparing to leave, my sister in law sidled over to me holding a very suspicious looking little package. Wrapped in glad wrap and with a layer of paper towel underneath, its strange appearance had me wondering. Once she shared with me the nature of its contents, she became one of my very favourite people. 

A truffle, given to them by a friend who owns a truffle farm, was now in my possession. My excitement could not be contained! 

Of course we did the obligatory "infuse the eggs with truffle" before we used it, storing two eggs in a container alongside our lovely little fungus for a couple of nights so as to get more bang for our buck, truffle wise. We poached the eggs and they were delicious, with just enough hint of truffle to make them a very special lunch indeed. 

That night it was truffle pasta for dinner, finished with a gorgeous melty gouda as I couldn't get my hands on a good Gruyere.

If you can get your hands on a truffle (or have a very generous sister in law), it is a highly recommended culinary experience. If not, try this recipe anyway with some lovely fresh mushrooms x

Truffle infused poached egg

Friday, September 2, 2016

532/1038 - Apple Charlotte

I am on a bit of a Spring roll with my posts at the moment... (See what I did there?)

With plenty of apples on hand and an overseas guest to impress, an Apple Charlotte was on the menu for a recent dinner party. 

I had made two loaves of bread that day and one of them turned nicely into the crust for this lovely dessert. I will be honest and admit I was too nervous to turn my Charlotte out on to a dish, instead serving a scoop to each guest with a serve of my husband's fabulous vanilla ice-cream. 

A tip for anybody else trying this recipe; coconut sugar is the bomb! I use it a lot and it was particularly wonderful with this dessert, adding a depth of flavour that was very well received. Our guest of honour does not readily hand out compliments, but this apple Charlotte received a big thumbs up. 

It MUST have been good! x

Thursday, September 1, 2016

531/1038 - Oxtail braised with black olives

More market fare...

Again it was the mini-chef's choice which has made it to the blog, but quite unintentionally! One of our favourite market butchers was telling us about his fabulous oxtail and my mini-chef was smitten, deciding then and there that oxtail was his must have for the week. 

It wasn't until we got home that I realised there was an entire chapter dedicated to these rather expensive little tails. So not wanting to waste one, it was straight into our first oxtail recipe, braised with black olives.

The recipe called for 6-8 tails to feed 6 people. I have no idea if we eat like birds or if the cow from which our tail was lopped was some kind of monster, but one tail was plenty for the four of us!

Dinner was sticky and delicious and we even had sauce and a few small pieces of tail left over for the following night. The leftovers were expanded by tipping the sauce and all of the lovely fat into a pan with a couple of tins of tomatoes and a huge pile of mushrooms and cauliflower.

Magnificent x

Sunday, August 28, 2016

530/1038 - Fennel-marinated fish

We are now four months into our Vic Market routine and still my favourite moment of each week is watching my mini chef select a new protein for us to cook. This gorgeous Kingfish was one such selection, and he gave it to me along with the instruction that it must be pan fried. 

I didn't mind at all, knowing that I would get to use my gorgeous filleting knife from Japan to take the fish apart. Smearing the fillets with fennel paste (blitzed in the Thermomix) was a wonderful idea and we all agreed that it definitely enhanced but did not overpower this beautiful fish. 

This recipe only appears in the original, orange-spined version of The Cook’s Companion, so my apologies for inspiring those who do not have access to the correct book!

One for you, Mum x

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

529/1038 - Gruyère tart

As I munch on the leftovers of this tart, it strikes me that this challenge has greatly enhanced the standard of food I serve up to my little family. This is not a result of the challenge teaching me to cook (although I am sure the extra practice has helped!) but instead, it is the number of recipes I aim to churn out on a monthly basis which has seen many weeknight dinners elevated from simple meat and three veg to fancy roasts and tarts. 

Something else this challenge has inspired is my love of making pastry. It is something I do now on a regular basis (sorry waistline) and I can't imagine wanting to buy frozen shortcrust ever again. Puff is another story of course...

According to my youngest, aka mini-chef, this tart was lovely but would have been better with bacon. Mind you, according to him, most things would be better with bacon! 

Another one down, nine cheese recipes to go x

Thursday, July 21, 2016

528/1038 - Molly cake

Given that one of my very favourite (but now deceased) pets was named Molly, making this cake was a little bit special for me. 

I opted to fill the majority of the tree fruit quota with dried figs, which turned out to be an outstanding choice. I also included chunks of dried apple and the leftovers of a packet of mixed peel for a touch of added sweetness. 

Molly cake is a bit like a regular fruit cake, but moist and very sweet. So far we have enjoyed it three ways; as is, with cream and also with ice-cream. I can confirm that each iteration was equally fabulous! x

My little Molly atop a VERY young version of my husband!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

527/1038 - Robert's beans

Two things happened when I cooked this recipe; I completed my sixteenth chapter (only 109 to go!) and I conquered artichokes.

Artichokes have always been a bit of a mystery to me and so I have largely avoided them. When I have cooked with them in the past, to be honest, I didn't really know what I was doing. A few You tube videos later and I was ready to give these little beasts another go.

I adored this recipe and the artichokes were an absolute hit with three quarters of my family. My teenager was not convinced about the taste or the texture but by the third serve of beans (this recipe makes quite a lot!) I noticed that he cleared his plate without question. 

For somebody who loves food as much as me it is amusing to think that I have only now added this crazy little thistle to my repertoire x

Monday, July 18, 2016

526/1038 - Chickpea salad with the remains of roast lamb

Is there anything better than leftovers and a game of chess? I think not! 

This lovely little dish became the central element of our dinner the night before the leftovers session pictured above. We cheated and did not serve the salad with leftover roast lamb, but instead actually baked a roast lamb for the sole purpose of serving it as leftovers. Crazy, hey?

The salad is lovely and sweet, as you would expect from a dish that is loaded with fabulous caramelised onions. It is also quite substantial and alongside said roast lamb, served four very comfortably for dinner.

Another great recipe and I won the chess game too. Double win x

Friday, July 8, 2016

525/1038 - Mussels in coconut-milk curry

This was another lovely catch from our most recent trip to the Queen Victoria market. It was mussels for dinner last night and my goodness, this recipe was delicious! 

I will confess to using red instead of green curry paste, purely because I could not justify buying more curry paste to add to my fridge collection. Red is a staple in this house and I am happy to report that the taste was still wonderful.

Sadly, due to the time of year, I could not add basil to the final dish and it was definitely missed. What a shame, we will just have to make this again in the summer months to see what the complete dish tastes like! x

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

524/1038 - Quick strawberry jam

My little one and I ventured in to the Queen Vic market again this morning; a gorgeous weekly ritual we have been undertaking since the end of April. We found some beautiful Queensland strawberries and, inspired by our weekly purchase of jam doughnuts, I decided to make a jam of my own. 

I am SO pleased to report that I have just checked on my jam and it looks as if it has set! I wasn't sure if my inclusion of coconut sugar (around 100g) was a good idea, but all seems to be well.

I couldn't wait to try it out and so enjoyed my bowl of yoghurt with a good dollop on top. I also have plans to make a big, fluffy loaf of bread today so we can enjoy PLENTY of jam on toast. I will be having mine with tasty cheese; a combination my dad introduced me to many years ago and one I adore to this day. We all like fruit on our cheese platter, so jam and cheese together makes sense if you think about it. 

After a very slow period of blogging, it appears I am back with a vengeance. More to come in July! x

Sunday, July 3, 2016

523/1038 - Date and chocolate cake

To finish off the world's most relaxed dinner party, this cake was not only ridiculously easy to make, but also a joy to eat.

Although a very simple recipe to execute, I must confess to a lapse in concentration which almost saw our dessert relegated to the scrapheap. 

Whisk egg whites with sugar - check
Add chocolates and dates - check
Bake and then leave to cool in the oven - check
Turn oven back on with the cake still inside - whoops...

Luckily I opened the oven within a couple of minutes of turning it on and rescued my already reheating cake. Crisis averted! 

The resulting cake/meringue was delightfully chewy and lovely served with cream and fresh strawberries. 

Definitely a go to recipe for a time poor host x

Saturday, July 2, 2016

522/1038 - Glazed onions

Many, many dinner parties have been hosted in our modest dining room. They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but last night I learned a new one! 

As I planned the menu, it occurred to me that it would be lovely if I didn't have to leave the table AT ALL during dinner. Crazy, hey?

Cooking like a demon throughout the day paid off and with my husband preparing the final dish, dinner was truly a relaxed affair. The menu was as follows;
  • Glazed onions
  • Slow cooked tomatoes with green beans and chorizo
  • Silverbeet and blue cheese tart (with melt-in-the-mouth homemade pastry)
  • Flatbreads
  • Beetroot and parsley dip
  • Baked potatoes and garlic
  • Date and chocolate meringue cake with strawberries and cream
...and champagne of course! 

These glazed onions were such a revelation that I simply can't believe I have always skipped over the recipe. The result of quite a simple cook was onions that were soft and sweet and worthy of eating on their own. 

There are a few left and I am thinking that they might go really well with my election sausage x

Sunday, June 26, 2016

521/1038 - Roux (used in a fabulous chicken soup!)

Winter is DEFINITELY here...and I can't believe I almost let a month go past without posting! 

The third edition of The Cook's Companion has some recipes listed separately for the first time; roux being added to the the basics chapter, bulking it out to a whopping forty four recipes. 

Looking for a simple dinner to make, I decided that a chicken soup was in order, and used the roux to turn it into a delicious and creamy concoction. 

One of my favourite memories from childhood is creamy chicken soup (yes, it was all about food even then!) but of course being the seventies, the version I loved was straight from a can; just add milk and heat. 

My palate has come quite some way since then and eating soup from a can is but a distant memory. My very simple version is full of wholesome ingredients and even better, is very quick to make! 

So there it was; the first (and possibly the only) post for this month.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

520/1038 - Country rabbit in a claypot

For the past four weeks or so, my youngest and I have been heading out in the wee hours of a Friday morning to the Queen Victoria market. It is such a lovely quiet time to shop and we very much enjoy the time we spend together browsing the aisles. The 5:30am wake up is certainly a shock to the system though and I do wonder how we will cope as the weather gets increasingly colder. 

Last week's market adventure brought us a lovely little rabbit which I turned into country rabbit in a claypot. The rabbit was quite small, some 500 grams, and so I made a soup for entrée to ensure our bellies would be full after what would otherwise have been quite a light meal. 

Gamey meat with bacon added in for extra flavour; this dish definitely has my vote x

Our little rabbit, fresh from the market 

Monday, May 2, 2016

519/1038 - Jamaican rice and 'peas' (and a halfway mark milestone!)

Well here we are at the halfway mark! I think it is worth stopping for a moment and celebrating the fact that this ridiculously fun hobby has reached its midpoint. As exciting as this is, it makes me just a little bit sad; in some ways I never want this crazy challenge to end. 

This dish was a part of our little dinner party on Saturday night and as we speak, the leftovers are being turned into a lovely rice, black-eyed pea and prawn soup. The only additional ingredients required were green beans, stock, prawns and a dash of soy sauce for added flavour.

We liked the original version and loved the upgrade. It's always fun to play around with a recipe and see what else it can do! 

So there it is folks; the top of the mountain. Look forward to keeping you all on board as we head down the other side x

Sunday, May 1, 2016

518/1038 - Macadamia fish curry

Last night's dinner was a bit of a melting pot of cuisines which ended up working quite well together. This fish curry was teamed with Jamaican rice and black-eyed peas, buckwheat flatbreads and a North Indian dhal. Quirky, but effective. 

I used beautiful rockling for this recipe, which I purchased at the Queen Vic market this week. Given that it only takes a few minutes to cook, I left it until the very last minute to put together. Of course this meant that as I was in the throes of finalising multiple things simultaneously, I needed my lovely sous chef husband to search the fridge for the remaining ingredients; namely shrimp paste and chilli paste. 

He said he couldn't find them and quite frankly I didn't have time to question him! Instead I opted to grab my trusty jar of Thai red curry paste to flavour the curry instead. In my opinion, red curry paste is the bees knees and adds flavour to so many different dishes. I always, always keep a jar in my fridge! 

What's the best thing about hosting a dinner party? Well obviously it is the wonderful company and good feeling it generates...but after that it is the leftovers. 

Definitely the leftovers x

Thursday, April 28, 2016

517/1038 - Michael's turnip dumplings

I do love it when several recipes are able to be combined. This little concoction was made up of turnip dumplings (obviously!), pumpkin soup, slow-cooked shallots and baby spinach. Leftovers are definitely not all bad! 

I do think turnips have a bad reputation. When I told my brother I was making these, his amusing response was, "Oh, so people actually eat turnips?"

My husband and I loved these, but the reactions from my children did amuse. My eldest claimed they were "disgusting", but I am fairly sure this was based on his mood (and lack of love for me) at the time. His empty plate provides further weight to this argument. The little one did like them, but was very disappointed that the dumplings did not look anything like the gyoza he was expecting. A note for next time to share information regarding the various types of dumplings that exist! 

I am batting slightly above my average this month, this being recipe number ten for April. At this cracking rate, I will be finished as early as 2020.

Goodness x

Friday, April 22, 2016

516/1038 - Olive oil and dessert wine cake

I thought I was pretty clever a few weeks ago; buying myself a beautiful looking bottle of French wine that I thought would satisfy my craving for a crisp glass of white. I will admit that I didn't really take too much notice of the variety, thinking that no matter what it was I was bound to like it. 

I like to drink my white with a few ice cubes in it, both to cool it down and also to dilute it ever so slightly. Imagine my surprise when I took my first sip and discovered that it was, in fact a VERY sweet wine. The colour threw me, being quite pale and not at all what I would expect from a sticky variety. 

...and this is where I went wrong for the second time! I thought I would use up as much of this wine as I could in this recipe...only to find as I was pouring it into the bowl that it was not a sticky at all; simply a very, very sweet, but quite light white. Whoops.

I decided to continue on and make the cake anyway. Unfortunately this meant that the cake ended up tasting OK, but perhaps a little bland. Of course I found a way to make it wonderful, covering it in cream, sugar and slivered almonds.

Cake (and reputation) saved x 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

515/1038 - Basil butter

Basil butter; a great way to use up a herb that would have otherwise gone limp and been fed to the chooks. Not deliberately of course, but it's what so often happens to my store bought herbs when I don't have a plan for the whole bunch! 

We first ate this fabulously green butter on steaks, fresh off the barbecue. I didn't photograph that instance because we had people over for dinner and to be honest I prefer not to get the camera out in front of people unless it is absolutely necessary.

This afternoon my eldest was searching for a way to fill his stomach and I whipped up this little snack for him; home made toast smeared with basil butter and topped with lovely Roma tomatoes. I am not always mother of the year, but was very popular on this occasion! 

If you are a regular sandwich maker like me, you probably noticed my very efficient laying of the tomato slices. I love this trick of slicing circles (of anything!) and laying the flat side to the edges so that the entire piece of bread is covered. As somebody who butters bread/toast meticulously to the edges, discovering this method has provided me with much satisfaction over the years. 

You hadn't heard of that method you say? You're very welcome x

Sunday, April 17, 2016

514/1038 - Tomato tarte tatin

This absolutely gorgeous looking tart was the highlight of last night's dinner. 

Given the ingredient list, it was fairly obvious this one was going to be good; the shallots slow cooked in red wine and port, and the tomatoes pre-baked with basil and oil.

I was ever so slightly concerned that I had not taken the caramel topping far enough, but decided that even if it remained a little runny, the taste would still be sensational.

Not having foil pie tins, I simply lined my mini pie dishes with foil to allow for easy displacement of the completed tarts. As the topping and pastry circles came out of the oven ready for assembly, I reaffirmed to myself one of the (many) reasons I would never apply to be a MasterChef contestant. Everything worked out perfectly in the end, but let's just say it would not have been appropriate for young children's ears to have been in my kitchen as the assembly was undertaken. A decent cook I am, Pollyanna I am not. 

My potty mouth aside, the sweetness of these tarts had us all begging for more and my husband has already requested a repeat performance for tomorrow night's dinner. 

Win x

Thursday, April 14, 2016

513/1038 - North Indian dhal

Over the years my "cooking eye" has been improving and a recent purchase gave this kitchen geek a surprising little jolt of happiness.

I bought some red lentils from a stall in the Vic market and knew I needed one and three quarters of a cup for this recipe. I scooped out what looked to be the right amount and was ridiculously thrilled when I got home and realised the amount I had guessed was pretty much spot on. It doesn't take much to get me excited nowadays...

The dhal was ridiculously easy to make, cooked in a saucepan with a range of spices until the lentils collapsed. Onions, curry leaves and cumin were fried separately and tipped over the top, to add a bit of crunch and extra flavour.

And that's it! Lovely dhal x

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

512/1038 - Angela's Chelsea butter buns

These butter buns were a bit too quick and easy to make; a waist expanding recipe if ever I saw one! 

Interestingly, my little one does not much care for dried fruit but he loved these buns. To be honest I am also not big on dried fruit when served on its own but I could definitely eat these ad infinitum. 

The wonderful thing about this recipe is that there is no need for kneading or proving and yet the dough comes out wonderfully firm and crisp. 

We ate these a couple of nights running for dessert, two of us preferring them plain and two enjoying them slathered in cream. I adore cream but just couldn't bring myself to mess with the perfection that was the flavour of these buns! 

Every family member has requested that I repeat this recipe regularly and I am happy to oblige given the excitement they created. I confess I have no idea how I am going to restrain myself and might have to impose a one-a-day bun limit...which of course I expect to break on a regular basis x

Sunday, April 10, 2016

511/1038 - Twice-cooked wallaby shanks with young ginger

We have started to frequent the Vic Market on a more regular basis again and this lovely dish was one of the best outcomes of this week's visit.  

We bought the wallaby shanks at The Chicken Pantry which is located in the deli section and is home to all sorts of wonderful meats including venison, kangaroo and possum. Yes, possum! We didn't partake in possum this week but have not ruled out trying it in the near future. 

This dish was on the menu for last night's dinner but of course once I realised the shanks needed to be marinated for four hours and then cooked for another few I realised I had left my start too late. 

After an unexpected sleep-in this morning (hooray for me!), I had the shanks prepared and marinating before eleven am. The marinade smelled divine and my youngest was asking if he could dip his finger in to have a taste. Given that it was quite alcoholic I didn't let him, but I could see where he was coming from! 

After a LONG time marinating, it was into the bamboo steamer for three and a half hours until the meat was falling from the bone. Just to up the wow factor, the meat was then deep fried and my, did it taste good! 

Served with a dense, syrupy juice, Vietnamese mint, spring onion and a good squeeze of lime, this one knocked our taste buds out of the park. 

Oh and that's another chapter finished. On a serious roll here x

Thursday, April 7, 2016

510/1038 - Takoyaki with tempura batter

Japanese food; my new obsession! 

Kuromon Ichiba was the number one place I wanted to visit on our recent visit to Osaka. As we entered the market, the very first thing we stumbled upon was a stall making and serving octopus balls, or takoyaki. Soft on the outside and with a crispy outer skin, they are absolutely wonderful and incredibly moreish! To be honest I think we could have quite happily sat all day and eaten these lovely little things. 

Of course I was keen to try them out in my own kitchen as soon as we got home and I snaffled my Mum's antique cast iron gem scone tray, which I thought would be a great substitute for a proper takoyaki tray. I won't outline everything that didn't quite work as it should have; suffice to say, these are the only two balls I produced. After these two (and a couple of burnt fingers) I decided to make what my husband called, "deconstructed takoyaki". 

Essentially this means that I tipped the entire dough mix and fillings (boiled octopus, spring onions, pickled ginger and many tiny pieces of tempura batter) into the fry pan and stirred it around until it broke up and became many tiny little pieces of takoyaki! It was quite delicious, but definitely not as photogenic as these two little beauties x

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

509/1038 - Cucumber, lime and mint agua fresca

I have been taking a look at my challenge stats lately and was surprised to find that the last time I completed a chapter was back in October. 

This prompted me to have a look at the sixteen chapters which are all on the brink of completion and I decided that this recipe, literally 'fresh water' in Spanish, was the easiest one to tick off the list. 

We had everything on hand except the limes, which was remedied by a quick visit to the local shops. Halving the recipe meant that we only ended up with a couple of glasses worth, but that was plenty given that after quite a close-quartered family holiday, our children had disappeared to the far corners of our property. 

I really liked this drink, my husband was not so sure. The only thing I struggled with (because I am the waste queen) was what to do with the strained vegetables. Whilst I could have given them to the chooks, I decided that would be too easy. I decided instead to include them in the dumplings I was making for dinner, which ended up being a concoction of vegetables, sauces, spices and cheese. Yes, cheese! Seriously, don't knock it until you have tried it.

As well as being refreshed by my lovely agua fresca, I am also pleased to report the completion of chapter number thirteen, mint.

Officially 10% of chapters wrapped up x

Monday, April 4, 2016

508/1038 - Falafel

My little family undertook some wonderful travelling over the last couple of weeks and of course that means my cooking came to a standstill! 

We spent ten days in Japan, exploring the cities and of course partaking in the fabulous food which was on offer. The most incredible experiences were to be found at the three markets we visited; Nishiki market in Kyoto, Kuromon Ichiba in Osaka and Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

Market food in Japan
Although we enjoyed Japanese food very much, we ate out the entire time we were away and so were craving fresh vegetables on our return! Falafel with some home-made flatbreads and fresh carrot and cucumber hit the spot for us last night, the falafel of course full of wonderful fresh herbs from the garden. As usual I used Vietnamese mint instead of coriander and am pleased to say that it worked very well indeed. The trick is to use just a little less as the flavour of the mint can be quite strong.

My youngest had a little guest over for dinner last night and when I told him we would be spreading hummus on the flatbread, he exclaimed, "Chickpea on chickpea!". I was impressed that a boy of 11 would know what both hummus and falafel were made of! 

Even after ten days of eating incredible food, I was pleased that my family were still very complimentary about my cooking. 

Phew! x

Friday, March 18, 2016

507/1038 - Bread-and-butter pudding

It's "clear out the fridge and pantry" time in my house, and this fabulous dessert was one of the outputs of this productive endeavour. 

If we are going to nitpick, the truth is that my execution technically turned out a cake-and-butter pudding rather than a bread-and-butter pudding...but really, sultana brioche (which is the "bread" listed in the recipe) is practically cake too, so I am calling this the same thing.

My mum made a sultana cake the other day and my stepfather deemed it too dry and wouldn't eat it. This was good news for me as it meant she had plenty to give away!

Apart from the brioche/cake substitute, the only changes I made to this recipe was to substitute all sugar for coconut sugar and to use vanilla paste instead of extract.

While it looks like you have WAY too much liquid when this goes in the oven, I promise it all turns into a thick and lovely custard.

This was yum, yum, yum. Amusingly, the boys turned up their noses at the title of the recipe, but of course loved the taste.

...and now my fridge/pantry is devoid of cream and cake. Win, win, win!