Saturday, November 18, 2017

585/1038 - Kiwifruit sorbet

With some ageing kiwifruit in the fridge, I went to the supermarket specifically to buy some glucose syrup so that I could make this recipe. I will be honest, I was not excited. I have no idea why, but the thought of  kiwifruit sorbet just did not float my boat. 

Clearly, I have no idea. Kiwifruit sorbet is, quite simply, a revelation. Smooth, sweet and with just the tiniest hint of tang, it is now ranked in my top ten of desserts. It really was that good! I was not alone; my little family of four wolfed down the entire batch minutes after the churning was complete. It was almost not worth the effort I took to carefully freeze the kiwifruit shells to use as little bowls, but of course it made for a lovely photo even if that little touch was lost on those closest to me. 

This wonderful, wonderful recipe marks yet another chapter started, with only 14 chapters as yet untouched out of 125. 

It has been almost a month since my last blog post (goodness, it sounds as if I am in the confessional) and I will admit I have been suffering from a severe lack of interest in this challenge. I have no idea if my enthusiasm will return and so for now, I am simply glad that I managed to push out my self-imposed minimum of one recipe this month.  

Stay tuned. Hopefully a burst of challenge energy is coming my way. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

584/1038 - Black satin duck with egg noodles

Keeping up with this challenge continues to be challenging! 

My little catering business has been going gangbusters and yesterday turned out to be the absolute highlight of my new career to date.

A few months back, I decided it was time to begin hosting my own events. Not only would events create an opportunity to connect with my clients in a different way and showcase items from my catering menu, they would also enable me to utilise my currently dormant project management skills. Most of all, having command of every aspect of an event plays very well to my control freak tendencies. I quite comfortably embrace my inner control freak, knowing that it is generally used for good rather than evil. 

Announcing the first event was a nerve-wracking experience. Thankfully, the bookings rolled in and yesterday saw fifty five beautiful souls fill a room and enjoy my food. By far, the best outcome from the day was the good that was generated in the form of 60 lunch packs a Fork for your Oyster will be donating to people sleeping rough on the streets of Melbourne. A result I and my wonderful guests are very proud of. 

This duck recipe actually happened a couple of weeks ago, before madness struck. As I attempt to cast my weary mind back to this recipe, I am reminded of an incredibly flavoursome meal, which was much easier to put together than I had imagined it would be. 

I will be honest and admit that I forgot to add the flavouring to the noodles. It mattered not. The flavoured 'gel' encasing the duck was easily stirred through the noodles and the result was wonderful. 

Another one to love x

Friday, October 13, 2017

583/1038 - Melita's black olives

I received a wonderful gift of more than five kilograms of olives from my mum's neighbour, whose tree was practically drooping with the weight of so much luscious fruit. It was so laden that my mum also took over five kilograms and is also following this recipe as I write!

Remembering to change olive water every two days for a forty day period is a L-O-N-G time to be engaged with one project and so I am thankful my husband took over this part of the recipe. 

It was fascinating to taste an olive every now and then and to experience the gradual reduction in bitterness; a bit like salting and rinsing eggplant but in the slowest of motions. On day forty we were pleasantly surprised to find that they were ready perfectly on time...but of course on that particular day I seriously couldn't be bothered moving on to the bottling phase. 

Fast forward a couple of days and, having never pickled my own olives, I was surprised when the entire job took me less than thirty minutes. It was, of course, very handy that I had the most enormous jars on hand to encase my salty little treasures and also that I just happened to have a jar of preserved lemons ready and waiting to assist with the flavour enhancement. I didn't make much of an effort to ensure my bits and pieces were showing in the photo (lemon, thyme and garlic) but I suspect they will do their job most efficiently whilst nestled in the centre of the bottles.

I have a very special lunch event coming up (fifty odd guests, no biggie) and have decided to whip up some olive paste to accompany my ever popular flatbreads. Not a bad plan, as I imagine there are only so many olives a little family can eat! x 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

582/1038 - Black forest sour cherry crêpes

It has been a crazy time in our house lately; not least because the Richmond Football Club finally won themselves a premiership.  

Please excuse me while I hijack this post* to celebrate a win we thought might never come...

At the beginning of the year, the Tigers were not expected to perform at the highest level. Last year's performance was a bit flat and Tiger fans were feeling the same way. Undeterred, I made it my mission to attend as many games as possible this year, largely to ensure a strong connection was maintained with my oldest boy. Although we do converse regularly, there is only so much interest a teenage boy can maintain when it comes to political news and world events. 

It was time for me to reinvest heavily in football. 

The year turned out to be more enjoyable than we had hoped; the first five games going Richmond's way and in all, only a handful of heartbreaking losses to endure. My boy and I took to tagging one another in various football related posts and of course the will-he-won't-he discussions regarding the re-signing of Dustin Martin was a conversation which dominated our household for some time. My maternal instinct was strong and I was confident he would stay, having observed his incredible journey of personal growth at a club which clearly provided him with a support structure significantly more important to this young man than simply the provision of his salary. 

Frequently the subject of ridicule, I regularly referred to the extraordinary camaraderie amongst the Richmond players as being one of the keys to their success. I have worked in many environments throughout my career and have not once been a part of a high performing team which did not also include a very special personal connection between its members. Of course I felt vindicated when the coach professed to his players that they were the love of his life. I am willing to bet Mrs Hardwick had something to say about that particular revelation!  

But back to number 4. Whilst I realise some people are prone to judging Dustin Martin based on his haircuts and neck tattoos, I see a young man who inspires young players to behave admirably on-field. A young man who regularly gives his all and accepts questionable umpiring decisions with a grace that is beyond his years. I could not care if his entire body was just one big tattoo - I'll take him as a role model for my boys any day. Let's face it, we all loved Matthew Richardson (and still do - who's heart didn't melt when he came up on the big screen in tears?) but inbetween acts of football greatness, his behaviour towards the game's officials, and occasionally his teammates, left us wincing with discomfort. The current young side at Richmond show none of that, even in the face of humiliation (read: St Kilda trouncing, Round 16). I couldn't be more proud watching them than if they were my own boys.  

After an immensely satisfying home and away season, we were lucky enough to score tickets to both the qualifying and the preliminary final. Sadly, I accidentally booked a catering gig for September 23rd (what was I thinking?) and so the night of the prelim saw me at a stove, on a boat, stirring risotto and watching the game on my iPad. If I couldn't be at the game, I was going to keep track of progress one way or another! 

Of course being the boss I didn't have anybody to tell me that watching the football as I worked in an open kitchen was not the most professional of looks but I was confident that Melbournites would understand. Given the number of times I heard the young guests singing the Richmond theme song throughout the night, I would say my assumption was correct. My husband tells me that multi-tasking is simply a way of doing two or more things simultaneously and at a sub-standard level. My perfectly finished mushroom risotto said otherwise, so I am calling that myth well and truly busted.

Since the final siren sounded on the last day of September (well actually, since some time late in the third quarter), my husband has been more at peace with himself than he has been in the twenty three years I have known him and my teenage boys can finally wear their AFL colours with pride. I will never forget a teary seven year old looking up at us and asking why he had to follow Richmond. We told him that being loyal to your chosen team, no matter how badly they were performing, was important and that their time would come. Of course we had our fingers crossed behind our backs as we said this, desperately hoping that we were speaking the truth.

But, given this is actually a cooking and not a football blog, I digress.  

It was a weekend of much jubilation and we felt a celebratory cake was in order. My very favourite cake is a black forest and so plans were made to put one together. I scanned 'The Cook's Companion' for a recipe and, once I realised these crepes existed, laziness kicked in and a new plan was hatched. 

Frustratingly, I made a mess of the first two. Proving the value of this blog, I took a look at what I had written when I first made crêpes and realised I needed to reduce the heat. Of course it makes sense that crepes require a much gentler heat than our regularly thrown together pikelets, the more robust member of the flat cake family.  

Only two of us are cherry fans and so the filling amount was duly quartered. I eagerly anticipated the result, only to take a bite and realise that the chocolate filling was a bit too rich for my taste. I am assuming my body is trying to give me the message that more fat is not required since I have added so many layers of it to my midriff over the last couple of months. No matter, the other cherry lover was in heaven and at the end of the day, we still have the premiership. 

Go Tiges x

*Apologies to my non-football readers x 

My first (and only) football jumper, complete
 with Nick Daffy signature, circa 1995 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

581/1038 - Bacon and mustard dressing for 'bitey' greens

It has been wonderfully crazy here lately and so this is me sneaking in a challenge recipe for September! 

Our rocket has gone a bit mad which made it perfect timing to give this simple recipe a try. We generally have bacon in the freezer and pleasingly it was of the smoky variety which is exactly what this recipe required. 

Whenever I make dressing I inevitably add less olive oil than is recommended. I adore my fats so it is not a dietary thing, more a response to my palate which has decided that excess olive oil obliterates the taste of other, more subtle, ingredients. Obviously I was not on the ball as I made this and I glugged in more olive oil than I would have liked. As expected, it killed off the taste of the bacon fat which I had very much been looking forward to! It must just be my issue though, as the boys complimented me on the salad. (Completely unprompted too - most unexpected!)

In this 39th week of the year, I am pleased to be posting my 39th recipe. Not a blazing year, but not a complete fizzer either x

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

580/1038 - Cath's sugar-cured duck legs

This week has seen me slowed with an ongoing injury and I have found myself requiring increased assistance from my little family. My teenagers are particularly lovely and wonderful helpers but they are not big fans of open ended assignments. If they are to be engaged willingly, I have learned that they prefer to know exactly what is expected of them and roughly how long tasks will take. 

It was to this end that I created a points system for all tasks which fell outside of the boys' regular household duties. The longer a task was expected to take, the higher the number of points the task was assigned. Yesterday I put together fourteen points worth of tasks and was blown away by how willingly the boys divided up the jobs and got stuck into getting everything done. Teenagers are easy if you can just unlock the teenage code! 

My eldest wound up with the majority of the cooking tasks and so was responsible for helping me get these lovely legs into the oven and also for creating the stock which will flavour our risotto tonight. It was fabulous to watch him moving about the kitchen, discovering the joys of turning a few elements into a tasty meal. 

After sitting in the fridge for a few days covered in sugar and salt and nestled with a couple of bay leaves, these home-butchered legs came out of the oven lovely and crispy and full of flavour. While butchering the duck and cooking the pieces three different ways took more effort than a single quick roast, it did mean that a 2kg duck became three meals instead of one. 

Three nights of beautiful duck meals from a single bird? Now that makes me happy x

Yesterday's assortment of tasks

Sunday, August 20, 2017

579/1038 - Grilled duck breast

I successfully butchered my first duck! Forgive me as I revel for a moment in what I consider to be a very special achievement. For what is life if not for celebrating the little things?

I have spoken before of my preference for buying animals in their entirety wherever possible. It is for this reason that the only duck recipes I have completed are those which require an entire bird. With yet another duck in the fridge and all roast duck recipes exhausted, I decided it was time to figure out how to take this baby apart.

After a bit of YouTube research and some nifty work with my lovely Aritsugu knife, I was rewarded with two beautiful fat breast fillets, a couple of lovely legs and some other bits and pieces destined for the stock pot.

The breasts were fried and then the beautiful fat was collected and used to saute the potatoes, mushrooms, garlic and parsley. I will confess to slicing the breasts after this picture was taken and giving them another quick fry in the pan as they were simply too pink for my liking. I quite like  my duck slightly medium rare and the second quick fry reduced the pink just enough for me to be comfortable serving it to my little family.

We split two breasts between the four of us and the family were HUGE fans of the duck being cooked this way. The pieces were simultaneously crispy, juicy and ridiculously tasty.

Recipe plans (and plans in general!) in this house are frequently adjusted. This week was supposed to be all about tripe and yabbies and instead we are in the midst of a duck fest. Breast last night, risotto tonight and tomorrow will see us devouring sugar-cured legs.

Colour me happy x

Monday, August 14, 2017

578/1038 - Classic apple pie

It's hard to believe it took 6 years and almost six hundred recipes for me to make a plain old apple pie - except that this apple pie is anything but plain.

It was the lard pastry which kept me from throwing this otherwise simple dessert together. I don't have anything against lard; it's just not something I generally keep in the fridge! I decided to give duck fat a whirl as a stronger tasting substitute and of course had already put the pie together by the time I did some research and discovered that the reason pig fat is the basis for lard is that it is largely tasteless. Unlike duck fat which tastes like, well, duck. Whoops.

Unperturbed, I baked my pie anyway, safe in the knowledge that apples go well with savoury dishes such as pizza and pork.

Persistence paid off! The pie was absolutely beautiful and looked stunning on the plates, filled with layers and layers of thinly sliced apples.

...and there it was! The apple chapter is now done and dusted. Nineteen down, one hundred and six to go. In order to speed this challenge along (because I am fairly sure none of us want to see this drag on for another ten years) I have decided to plan my next couple of recipes as soon as one is posted. All going well, we will see some yabby and tripe gracing the blog very soon.

Wish me luck! x

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

577/1038 - Jackie's mum's sponge cake

Friday night's dinner party also saw this lovely little dessert come out to play. 

I messed around with this recipe (with interesting results) because I just couldn't bring myself to buy custard powder! This was not because I am a purist (well that too) but also because my pantry is full to bursting and I just couldn't justify adding an item to the shelves that I just knew I wouldn't use. 

It turns out that messing about with baking ingredients doesn't always destroy the result. Granted, my sponge was so flat it couldn't be split even with the steadiest of hands, but somehow it was still beautifully light and fluffy. 

I broke the cake into pieces and served it drizzled with the passionfruit "icing" and beside a good dollop of whipped cream.

...and I didn't hear any complaints x

Saturday, August 5, 2017

576/1038 - Avocado and tomato salsa with macadamia oil

Last night we hosted a dinner party which was our first in quite some time. The premise of the evening was to share my pasta making skills with one of our friends who had a pasta maker gathering dust in her kitchen after purchasing it some seven years ago.

In keeping with the Italian theme, the first course was a simple bruschetta topped with this gorgeous little salsa. The only thing that had prevented me from making this in the past was a lack of macadamia oil in my pantry; an issue which has now been remedied. The salsa is still being consumed this morning on toast, on biscuits and amusingly, by the spoonful.

I was nowhere near as organised as I should have been and so didn't make bread the day before the dinner party as I had planned. Fresh bread is lovely but bruschetta loves day old bread. If I am completely honest, my baking delay was actually because the menu was not created until eight hours prior to the guests landing. Very unlike me, but thankfully everything worked out beautifully.

The incredible pasta was rolled and cut by my very talented guests and I just adored having everybody buzzing about the kitchen and getting their hands dirty.

Definitely a dinner party model I will be replicating in future x

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Truly Madly Eatly


As my regular readers would be aware, a couple of years ago I quit my job and launched a little catering business. Catering other people's events is fun but I have decided to change things up a bit and host my own event! Guests will be treated to complimentary barefoot bowling and a degustation lunch which will feature items from our finger food menu. 

If you would like to come along (it would be lovely to meet you!) bookings can be made online at Truly Madly Eatly

I hope to see you there!

Kate x

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

575/1038 - Crumbed trotters with mustard mayonnaise

This is officially my favourite trotter recipe! Of course this is not a sentence you are likely to hear from many people given the squeamish nature of the majority of modern diners. 

I truly don't understand why people are averse to trying new things on their dinner plates. Using up as many parts of an animal just makes sense to me. If an animal needs to die for our dinner table, I believe it is our responsibility to use absolutely every morsel possible from that creature. People are getting better at understanding how we can reduce waste in other areas but I think have a long way to go with regard to the ethical use of animals as food. 

Pontificating aside, we absolutely adored this meal. While I forgot to get it in the picture, the mustard mayo was definitely a fabulous dipping sauce for these crunchy little feet and also for spreading on fresh bread at the end of the meal. I will admit to cheating with the mustard mayo and simply stirring some dijon through store bought mayonnaise. It was still wonderful. 

We actually shared two trotters between four of us which we felt was plenty of meat. The jellied meat was packed with flavour and dinner saw us all gnawing happily on the bones, groaning with delight as we inhaled the very crunchy crumb. 

As always, I will be continuing my war on waste by using the incredible stock in a tasty risotto for dinner tonight. 

How many times have I said this? Definitely another recipe I will be putting on repeat. I could have picked so many recipe books to cook my way through but I am so, so glad I picked this one x

Sunday, July 16, 2017

574/1038 - Chocolate and caramel bread puddings

This recipe has been tantalising me for weeks now and having a friend over for dinner last night inspired me to finally put it on the menu. 

Crème caramel is a dish I have made many times and to date have never had an issue with the oozy caramel which covers the dessert as it is turned out of its mould. Sadly, my touch with oozy caramel came to an end last night, with a dig into this lovely little pudding revealing a layer of hard toffee which had hardened and did not want to budge. 

Thankfully the pudding was still lovely and of course my industrious and sugar hungry teenager still managed to eat his caramel, using the microwave and brute force to prise it out of the ramekin. 

I can hardly complain. 574 recipes and only a very small handful which have not turned out as expected. 

Not a bad strike rate x

Thursday, July 6, 2017

573/1038 - Jerusalem artichoke tart

Another lot of gorgeous Jerusalem artichokes and another wonderful recipe. 

My cleaning method has definitely improved (enter the plastic scrubbing brush!) but the preparation of this many Jerusalem artichokes still takes up a good amount of time. If you are like me though, and adore the taste of this nutty and sweet vegetable, the effort is definitely a labour of love. 

The recipe instructed peeling and boiling the Jerusalem artichokes and then slicing them once soft. I thought I would be clever and as I cleaned and peeled, I also sliced each piece before putting them in the saucepan to boil. It was genius! Once soft, I simply turned the pot full of pieces out into a colander to drain, ready to be incorporated into the rest of the filling mixture.

It was dark when I got to the herb part of the recipe and I sent my eldest into the backyard with scissors and instructions to bring me some chives, a bay leaf and a good handful of parsley. Amusingly, he came in and handed me about four stems of parsley and had no idea why this didn't constitute a handful!

It goes without saying that the pastry was fabulous and seriously, how can you go wrong when you fill it with cream, herbs and one of your favourite vegetables?

Another happy evening of eating x

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

572/1038 - Rosemary and lemon panna cotta

I can not BELIEVE it has taken me this long to make panna cotta!

Such a simple recipe but so easy to get wrong. There is nothing worse than a panna cotta which is either flavourless or too firm. Being regular diners at lovely restaurants, sadly we have been on the wrong end of both of these disasters. 

The panna cotta recipe in The Cook's Companion (third version only) is absolutely foolproof and creates a perfectly wobbly dessert that has to be tasted to be believed.

The flavour choice is left completely up to the chef and I opted for lemon and rosemary because I still had some fresh rosemary sitting on my bench after creating rosemary skewers last week.

The reason I decided to make my panna cotta in glasses rather than moulds was due to a complete lack of any sweet oils in the pantry; required to ensure the panna cotta would slip easily from the moulds. If you are thinking coconut oil, forget it. Experience has taught me that this is a wonderful oil to use in cooking but is completely hopeless when used as a non stick agent.

For those seeking to make themselves a panna cotta treat for dessert tonight, this little beauty can be found hiding in the basics chapter.

Yum, yum and yum again x

Sunday, June 25, 2017

571/1038 - Greg's Lebanese pizzas with lamb, pine nuts and pomegranate

A funny thing happened in my kitchen last night...

Preparing to make this recipe, I pulled some lamb from the freezer and lamented the lack of a mincer in my cache of kitchen appliances. My husband gave me one of those looks that said, "For a very smart lady, you can be a bit vague sometimes..." and pulled my KitchenAid mincer attachment from the cupboard. 

Oh joy!!

Yes, little things make me VERY happy. 

This pizza was unbelievably good. Again, I used the grenadine I made earlier in the week in place of pomegranate molasses, adding just a dash of lemon juice to balance the sweetness. The addition of fresh pomegranate seeds and sliced nasturtium leaves was my own little twist on the pizza and they worked wonderfully. Of course, they also helped to make the photo look much prettier!

For those not into pizza, I would still highly recommend this recipe. The lamb mixture could be served with rice or on greens and would also make a great filling for a wrap. The flavour really is outstanding. 

LOVING my pomegranates right now x

Saturday, June 24, 2017

570/1038 - Duck with walnuts and pomegranate

Duck is a very big deal in our house! Barely a month would go by without a duck meal gracing our dining table and yet the appeal never dims. There are those who find duck a dish that is too fatty for the palate. If I am honest, the fat is probably what we like most about it! 

I will admit to changing this dish around a bit, which is probably obvious from the picture. Instead of one cup of stock, I threw in a litre as the recipe stated that the liquid should barely cover the duck and the bird I used was particularly enormous. Also, I opted to use the grenadine I had made instead of pomegranate juice which meant that the liquid in my concoction would have been a little short. 

Once the liquid was strained, the duck on our plates was topped with the most wonderful pomegranate and walnut mixture. The meat was incredibly moist and I am now wondering if we have a contender which just might be more popular than my standard Chinese-style roast duck; a regular in my duck repertoire. 

Of course the most exciting thing about making this dish was giving my brand new copper Mauviel Rondeau a run. This wonderful addition to my kitchen was an absolute extravagance but my husband didn't even blink when I said I wanted it. Honestly, you can keep your high fashion and expensive jewellery, just give me a fabulously decked out kitchen and I am one happy lady. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

569/1038 - Pomegranate syrup - the real grenadine

I have decided that it is pomegranate week here in the challenge household! 

Our lovely fruitmonger at the Queen Vic Market had an explosion of pomegranates when we visited last week and so of course we came home with a small pile. We could have happily eaten them all, but while they are in season it just makes sense to knock off a few pomegranate recipes!

The pomegranate chapter did not appear until the second version of The Cook's Companion and consists of seven lovely recipes. I aim to cook three of those this week however this plan has the potential to be thwarted by my gorgeous fruit bat of a son. It is likely to be a race to see who can get to them first!  

Opening my little red fruit marathon was grenadine. Nice and easy and able to be made in the Thermomix. So very simple! I would share the temperatures and timings I used to create this lovely cordial but I was largely cooking by eye and did not record any details for future use. 

I will share my no-waste tip though! Weirdly, the seeds end up very pale after soaking with the sugar overnight. The colour leeches right out of them and they are left looking quite pale and unappetising. Not to be put off, and supporting my intense loathing of  food waste, I used them in my sparkling water and enjoyed a sweet and crunchy pomegranate drink. 

This morning it was mocktail for breakfast! Orange juice, grenadine and sparkling water made for a lovely and refreshing start to the day x

Monday, June 19, 2017

568/1038 - Grilled spiced beef on rosemary skewers

We had a couple of wonderful gum trees on our property which were stunning to look at and created a soft edge to our home from all viewing directions. Unfortunately they were both planted ridiculously close to our house and between their leaves and roots, were starting to create problems that were only going to get worse over time. 

With heavy hearts, we realised we needed to have them both removed. The removal occurred and as well as having to mourn the loss of two beautiful trees, I had to mourn my beautiful rosemary bush which became collateral damage of the tree felling process. 

Rosemary bushes are hardy and so mine is still hanging on to life. Just. No longer a majestic sight to behold, it now resembles a sad, flat pile of twigs, only half of them still producing anything green. Needless to say, I was pleased to find ten pieces that could be turned into skewers for this lovely little dish. 

I used the tri-tip/bottom sirloin triangle cut of beef for this recipe. Simply blitzing the meat and the various spices in the Thermomix made the making of the flavoured meat paste a breeze. Given that I was uncharacteristically organised on this day, my gently constructed little sausages had a spell in the fridge for a few hours prior to dinner which probably helped them to hold together in neat little bundles. 

Not being much of a barbecuer, my sweet looking little skewers were fried in a pan on the stove top. Served with baby spinach, gently fried mushrooms and mashed potato flavoured with feta, these were another hit with the family.

A wonderful dinner and a timely reminder to myself to reposition our rosemary and get it flourishing again x

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

567/1038 - Jerusalem artichoke provençale

I adore Jerusalem artichokes and so was of course pleased when my husband brought home a huge bag of them; yet another gift from one of his lovely clients.

A right pain to peel, 500g saw me standing at the bench for more time than expected last night. The process was not helped by the fact that they were homegrown and so every groove was packed tight with dirt; still tricky to get out even when using two water baths. Given the unexpected delay, I decided to leave the tomatoes unpeeled and thought the result was still fabulous, regardless.

We have decided that this dish would be equally lovely if we were to substitute the hard to find Jerusalem artichokes with either potato or pumpkin. I do believe we will be trying this alternative very soon!

The reason I was keen to hasten our dinner last night was because I have other, much more interesting, things on my mind! The last little while has seen me holiday planning and I am feeling quite proud of myself for finally putting together a trip that will satisfy the needs of all four members of my family.

My family travel well. We enjoy one another's company and are open to new experiences. But, of course, we each look for slightly different things that will ensure a holiday is perceived as being truly special. If I had to summarise; my husband likes to see the popular sights, my eldest is turned on by sports, the little one enjoys connecting with local customs and for me, it is meeting new people. It is a given that we are all excited about the food! 

Our upcoming trip ticks every one of these boxes and even better, will see us catching up with seven very special friends along the way. Half of these friends were acquired on a previous holiday, and were the result of being seated together at a wonderful dinner under the stars. Within minutes of our meeting, I had invited our new friends to come to our home for a dinner party. 

I am not actually an impetuous person, rather I like to think I am simply a good judge of character. My instinct was proven correct; our second meeting was just as wonderful. This is why I am excited that in no time at all, and this time on their side of the world, we will be enjoying our third get together.

...and of course we are excited about the food! x

Friday, June 9, 2017

566/1038 - Beef donburi

This dish is dead simple and very, very tasty! 

The recipe is designed for one person and so I dutifully quadrupled it for my little family. Of course I completely forgot to factor in the teenage "eat your body weight in food" element of the equation and so the boys were rifling through the pantry looking for additional sustenance. 

Personally, I thought the amount was perfect and the flavour was incredible! The only change I made was to replace the mirin (none in the fridge) with a blend of red rice vinegar and plum vinegar. Given that both of these have quite strong flavours, I did reduce the amount by around one third. I also lined the wok with sesame oil before heating the vegetable oil just to add a little hint of one of my very favourite flavours. 

Happy, happy, happy x

Sunday, May 21, 2017

565/1038 - Chestnuts and mushrooms

More chestnut fabulousness! 

Over the years I have improved my vegetable based cooking considerably, ensuring flavour is key when putting a meat free meal on the table. I am one of those people who wishes animals did not have to die for my gastronomic enjoyment but I also like meat far too much to stop eating it altogether. The compromise I have made is to dramatically reduce the amount of meat we eat as a family. I try to serve up a minimum of two or three vegetarian meals per week and when I do cook meat it is generally a small amount (500-700 grams between four) with a lot of vegetable and grain padding. 

This meat free meal was made up of three components; chestnut stuffed mushrooms, edamame pasta with parmesan and parsley and freshly made guacamole (not pictured). 

When this meal was finished, we unanimously decided that chestnuts make everything better! Creamy, nutty (obviously) and with a sweet potato-like finish they are a fabulous addition to almost any dish.

Looking at the pile of chopped nuts that were to be piled on the mushrooms, I was convinced that there were far too many. I was wrong. This dish is incredible and should not be messed with! Honestly, this is the kind of recipe that makes meat-free eating so very easy.

I have decided that the only thing I don't like about chestnuts is that I can't buy them all year 'round. Expect to see more of this wonderful nut over the next couple of months before they disappear x

Thursday, May 18, 2017

564/1038 - Chestnut and bacon salad

Who says you don't make friends with salad? 

Chestnuts have become a new staple in our house since they have regularly been available at our favourite fruit stall. Although I am getting better at the peeling, the scoring has me beat. This session saw me sporting three new band-aids and at least one cut that just would. not. stop. bleeding. 

I blame the little chestnuts (I bought two sizes) and also the chunky ones devoid of a flat side. I have decided it would just be easier to cut them deeply rather than trying to gently score the skin. Particularly when they are going to be chopped anyway! I do believe my poor massacred fingers will thank me. 

Given the amount of calories in this salad, it is a bit scary how easy it was to put together. Apart from the chestnut peeling (kill me now) this really was a matter of simply chopping everything and then giving each ingredient a turn to baste in the fabulous bacon fat. Have I mentioned how much I love bacon fat? 

My husband declared this to be the best salad he had ever eaten and I think we all agreed that it was pretty spectacular. If it was a slimmers salad it would surely be on the menu every week. But seriously, how fat is this challenge going to make me?

I am not sure I want to know the answer to that question! x

Beautiful chestnuts from the Queen Vic market

Monday, May 15, 2017

563/1038 - Oyster spring rolls

I am not sure if I have mentioned that we have now passed our one year anniversary for weekly shopping trips at the Queen Victoria Market. If not, well we have! Shopping there certainly makes it easier to execute recipes such as this one, with oysters being plentiful and also quite reasonably priced. 

My family were sceptical of this recipe, and rightly so. Oysters are definitely not an ingredient we are used to tasting in our much loved spring rolls and each family member approached their first tasting with trepidation. As usual, I was the tasting guinea pig and I think the surprised and happy expression on my face as I chewed was the impetus the boys needed to take one for themselves. Once we realised just how good they were I think we all wished I had not halved the recipe. Yes, I only bought one zozen because, let's be honest, buying two dozen oysters for an untested recipe is a big investment! 

Did I mention I made the spring roll wrappers myself? I would make a big deal of this achievement but if I am honest my uninspiring first attempt at these was either the result of a dodgy internet recipe or terrible execution on my part. There were just enough good ones to cover a family sampling and then the rest (those with a hole or tear) were fed to our lucky chooks. Given that only a limited number of my wrappers were able to be fried, we also rolled a pile of rice paper rolls filled with raw vegetables. 

This is one of those recipes which, while unlikely to be recreated for another family dinner, may definitely come out as a decadent little dinner party entrée. 

...but I may buy pre-made wrappers next time! x

Friday, May 12, 2017

562/1038 - Buckwheat blini

The other day I used the term "absent minded professor" whilst talking to my eldest. He had no idea what I was talking about and thought it was some sort of insult. I consider myself an incredibly capable person but I swear this is how I feel so much of the time! Give me a big and complicated job and I am on it, dotting every i and crossing every t. Then, on a daily basis, this same capable person forgets the little things. Things like cooking dinner, picking my kids up from school and getting dressed. You might think that having the occasional pyjama day is not being absent minded - but it is if you don't realise you are doing it! I haven't quite left the house in my pj's but have made it all the way into the car with slippers on...

Occasionally my absent-mindedness makes its way into my cooking and this recipe was no exception. The first step of the recipe was to mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients and then to combine the two. The mixture was to sit and rise for an hour. So far, so good! 

Once the mixture had been left to rise I was to beat the egg whites to soft peaks and then fold this through the mixture....except that I had tossed in the eggs (whites and all) at the beginning! Oh...

I decided to forge ahead anyway and the result was still really lovely. Being fairly intolerant to wheat (a FODMAP rather than a gluten issue) I decided to make these with all buckwheat flour. The taste was very strong but it was nice to know I could eat as many as I liked without having to worry about adverse side effects.

Always looking for gluten free options for clients, I will definitely be trying these again. Let's see if I can remember to separate the eggs next time! x

Not to be confused with a blenny, which is what we have in our home aquarium.
 My son was appropriately mortified when he misheard what I was cooking…

Sunday, April 23, 2017

561/1038 - Chestnut soup

It has been almost a year since my youngest and I started doing our weekly shop at the Queen Victoria Market. We still adore our special morning together and still have our firm favourites when it comes to stall holders. We buy almost all of our fruit from Shane's Fruit and a couple of weeks ago he had the most beautiful looking chestnuts that I just could not resist. 

Chestnuts have such a wonderfully gentle flavour and I am sure I would eat them more often if it were not for the s-l-o-w peeling process! Chestnuts are the only nut which require cooking before being edible and so there is no getting away from some form of preparation. In the past I have always enjoyed them roasted and so this is the first time I have boiled and peeled half a kilo in one sitting. Not a fun prospect! 

I have a Thermomix on my bench which is largely used for grinding, blending and making dough. It is very rarely used to cook a meal but when making a soup that is to be blended, it just makes sense to dirty only one appliance! I will admit to omitting the sieving step when making this soup, being very happy with the texture the Thermomix created. 

I loved that my husband all but turned his nose up when I told him what I had made because I knew he would absolutely adore the taste. He did. 

Even better than the soup was pairing it with freshly baked home made bread which had been painted with olive oil and fried in a pan. 

Life is good. Fattening but good x

Friday, April 21, 2017

560/1038 - Imam Bayildi

My boys are pretty amazing with what they will eat. They have happily sat through dégustation menus that would make most adults baulk. Duck & calf tongues, liver on a stick, sea urchins,  air-dried emu, squid ink congee; they have devoured it all. 

Of course there are small gaps in their gastronomic repertoire. One of the favourite memories I have is of my youngest dining at Brae (brilliant, brilliant meal) and eating his way through their incredibly diverse and challenging dégustation. Until he got to the dessert where he ate his way around the berries. Seriously. Raw kangaroo not a problem at all. Berries? No thanks. My children are definitely not predictable! 

Eggplant continues to be a vegetable on the "not loving it so much" list and as such I put this meal together with some trepidation. In order to create a meal with balance (read: pairing it with something they would definitely eat) I decided to cook up some beef mince with capsicum and a pre-packaged sauce that one of the boys had chosen when we visited Casa Iberica on a recent Magical Mystery Tour*.  

The dinner was an absolute success, with both meat and eggplants being devoured happily. I adored this recipe and of course have to give some of the credit to our favourite vegetable vendor at the Queen Victoria Market. Everything we buy from them has a sweetness that you just don't find in old and long-stored vegetables from the supermarket. 

Another win and five recipes blogged this month. Not outstanding but better than last year! x

*Shameless plug! Magical Mystery Tours are a new service I have recently launched via my little business, a Fork for your Oyster - Words & Music. If you want to know more (and how you can win a free one before 1/5/17) you can find the info here.

We don't eat much pre-made food, but this was good!

Monday, April 17, 2017

559/1038 - Salsa Romesco

This salsa is seriously good. So good, in fact, that I almost cried when the last little bit had been scooped from the bowl. 

There is something very special about the taste of smoky grilled vegetables and this salsa was all about dragging every bit of flavour from the chilli, peppers, tomato and garlic which were made fabulous via a stint under a very hot griller.

This sauce was first served at a dinner party with boiled eggs and flatbreads, alongside my signature dish, chorizo lasagne. It was also devoured as a dip and then finally used over the top of this very decadent breakfast of flatbread, poached eggs, crispy bacon, basil and nasturtium leaves.

I was planning to pull out my smoker to add an extra bit of hickory flavour to the sauce but it disappeared before I got around to it. Something for next time...and there will definitely be a next time! x

Friday, April 14, 2017

558/1038 - Yoghurt and pistachio cake with rosewater ice-cream

This cake is fabulous!!

It's a shame this picture doesn't accurately capture the gentle "green-ness" of this lovely little pistachio flavoured dessert. Such a simple cake to make and the egg white (which I clearly didn't blend completely!) lifted the cake to a lightness which saw each mouthful dissolving as it was eaten. 

We ate this cake with friends at the end of another fabulous dinner party. Trev made the ice-cream and I asked his permission to add some rosewater to the mixture, knowing it would work beautifully with the pistachio. It may seem odd that I asked permission but I firmly believe in respecting other people's kitchen endeavours. You just don't outsource the ice-cream making and then play with the flavour willy-nilly! 

The rosewater was an inspired addition and of course I couldn't help adding just a drop or two of pink food colouring to the mix. Pretty, no? 

I have said it before but will say it again. If you don't have this book, you simply MUST rush out and buy it. So many fabulous recipes and this was yet another one that I can't wait to make again x

Saturday, April 8, 2017

557/1038 - Saffron pears

My husband's clients often surprise him with treats and little bits and pieces. A couple of weeks ago he brought home a gorgeous pile of apples and pears fresh from the orchard. Needless to say, they didn't last long! The last three pears were crying out to be poached and we are now all BIG fans of this style of cooking. 

If I am honest, the pears had gone a little soft by the time I made this and so I was thrilled to see that they were able to hold up throughout this long, although gentle, cooking process.  

It was wins all around with this recipe. With an enormous lemon verbena plant in my herb garden, I loved finding yet another use for its lovely, fragrant leaves. 

Incredibly, all four of us enjoyed these poached pears. Two were never in doubt, but the surprises of the day were my youngest (not a pear fan) and the fact that my usual intolerance to pears appeared to be mitigated by the poaching process. 

Love, love, love x

Sunday, April 2, 2017

556/1038 - Chicken curry puffs

This recipe took D-A-A-A-Y-S to complete. Not because it's particularly complicated, but because I made the pastry, put it in the fridge to chill overnight and then took forever to get around to making the filling. There was one day that the filling almost happened and then I realised I was out of onions and so the little puffs were further delayed. 

I don't know if it was the three days chilling, but whatever the reason, this pastry was FABULOUS! It had peanut butter in it (weird, I know!) and it had the most incredibly wonderful peanutty aftertaste as well as being quite firm and not at all flaky. While I do realise this pastry was designed to be deep fried, I am just coming off a two month shoulder injury and quite frankly, my newly rounded waistline was crying out for me to oven bake them instead. 

I may have rolled the pastry a bit thin (I made eighteen rather than twelve) but it still held together beautifully. It may well have been a different story had I dropped them in hot oil...

Another recipe to love and I will definitely be making this pastry over and over again x

Sunday, March 26, 2017

555/1038 - Braised pork neck with cider

We picked up a pork neck at the market last week, with the vague notion that we had seen a recipe for this particular cut in The Cook's Companion. It turns out our suspicions were correct.

We had all of the required ingredients with the exception of veal stock, which I substituted with some incredible lamb stock I had made and frozen the week before. Using an unusual combination of brandy and kiwifruit cider (which happened to be the only alcoholic cider in the house) I can now say that I have found yet another way to fall in love with pork. 

While the result was fabulous, the execution almost caused me quite serious harm. When the pork was taken out of the oven, I inadvertently touched the (very hot) side of the pot. I threw my hands up in shock and unfortunately one of them was holding the serving spoon which was dipped in the boiling stock. A good amount ended up on my face but thankfully after thirty minutes of ice pack application, the redness subsided and a crisis was averted.

After a little bit of preparation and eighty minutes in the oven, this neck was unbelievably tender and so very tasty.

Pork neck - who knew? x

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

554/1038 - Rote grütze

Having realised that 2016 was my slowest cooking year to date, I am determined to ramp up the pace in 2017. Taking a quick look at my stats, It appears I averaged one recipe a week last year. Being roughly eleven weeks into 2017, I am pleased that I am at least on track to match these numbers.

This recipe turned out quite differently to what I had expected and I am fairly sure something went wrong in the process. I have worked with sago plenty of times, but this time it just did not appear to be cooking, remaining stubbornly white no matter how long I kept my rote grütze on the boil. I am starting to wonder if my sago had sat in the pantry just a little too long...

While the finished product was not supposed to be this firm, it actually tasted very good! We have been eating scoops of it smeared on bread and semi sweet biscuits, occasionally with a dollop of cream on top.

Interestingly, even though my sago refused to become transparent, it was not at all hard and quite pleasant to eat. I may well have discovered (accidentally) that grape paste is a "thing", perhaps an alternative to quince paste given the very limited quince season.    

It appears cooking mistakes CAN equal gastronomic invention x

Monday, March 13, 2017

553/1038 - Strawberry shortcake

Many moons ago, I was asked if I had experienced a recipe failure whilst undertaking this challenge. My answer was strawberry shortcake! Sadly, although the recipe appeared to be travelling well, everything fell to pieces in the cutting stage. I decided not to blog my failure (who wants to see a picture of smashed cake?) and so here is Strawberry Shortcake, version 2.0. 

As I made the dough on this second attempt, I found myself needing to increase the amount of milk in order to get everything to hold together. This does make me wonder if the recipe should have read two tablespoons of milk rather than two teaspoons. Either that or I have made the same measuring error of another ingredient twice! Anything is possible. 

The finished product was rather more biscuit-like than I expected and while we enjoyed eating our little strawberry towers (topped with piles of whipped cream no less!), it was not a dessert that anybody raved enough about for me to put on my repeat list. 

They can't all be my favourite! x

Saturday, March 11, 2017

552/1038 - Chris's pork pie

Confession time...I missed an entire step of this recipe! The shame of this was that in our post match (well, post dinner party) discussion, we agreed that the missing step would have made this dish taste twice as good as it did.

I had good reason for skipping the final step of this recipe; actually in truth I had two good reasons! The first was that in order to fill the completed pie with a gelatinous goop, the cooked pastry was meant to have sealed without any obvious holes. Given that I had attempted to squish twice the recommended filling amount into my pastry, it is fair to say that there was not much chance things were going to hold together. The sealed bottom actually spread quite some way from the filling as it baked and so once cooked there was absolutely no fixing my rather large mistake.

I put my pie in the fridge, knowing I had ruined any chance I had of creating a jellied seal between the pastry and the meat. As I read the recipe to see what I had missed, I discovered that the jelly was supposed to have been left overnight in the fridge to set anyway. Probably lucky for my guests I didn't go there!

Read. The. Recipe.

Great advice that clearly I am never going to learn to take. Thankfully the pie was fabulous anyway, served with onion jam and mustard fruit.

Looks like I dodged another recipe mis-read bullet! x 

Monday, March 6, 2017

551/1038 - Lablabi

If you are at all into chickpeas, you simply must make this soup! 

Chickpea soup does sound a little boring, and to be honest the soup itself is just nice...but when the rest of the ingredients are laid out in bowls and the soup poured on top...well it's what I call a ratatouille moment. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you must watch this little clip.

I will admit to playing with the recipe a bit because when I first had a taste all I was getting was chicken stock. This was of course my own fault as I was plum out of harissa and so substituted it with a handful of the ingredients used to make harissa. Yes, I was aware it would not quite be the same thing...but it was worth a try! 

So as well as very badly adding a harissa substitute, I also doubled the amount of chickpeas (largely because I had cooked too many...) and also blitzed the soup just enough so that around half of the chickpeas turned to mush. Needing a dash more flavour I also added a pinch of white pepper and a tiny splash of sesame oil. 

Even better than the taste of this soup, was the amusement it provided my husband and our sixteen year old guest who each giggled every time I said the name of the soup out loud. I still don't quite know what is funny about the word lablabi and when I asked my husband to explain, he dissolved into giggles so many times it took a good ten minutes for me to get a coherent response. It turns out they just like the way the word sounds...a but like blah blahbi. Indeed. 

I will definitely be making this again, but perhaps next time I will simply announce that I have made chickpea soup. 

Unless, of course, I need a good giggle x

Sunday, March 5, 2017

550/1038 - Banana tartlets with butterscotch sauce

Given my ridiculous sweet tooth, it's hardly surprising that I am showcasing this amazing dessert before I write about the equally wonderful pork and soup that I served up before this dish on Friday night. 

Making the bases for these tartlets in quite warm weather was challenging (read: lots of chilling in between handling) and for whatever reason I had a dreadful time getting the sugar to melt when making the sauce. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I persisted with both elements and ended up with a dessert that had my table full of guests smiling from ear to ear.  

With the pastry and sauce already made, assembly at dessert time was amazingly fast. Slice bananas, lay them on the bases, top with sugar and grill. With the tartlets left under the griller just long enough to melt the sugar and toast the banana, the butterscotch sauce was a decadence that took this dessert from fabulous to "oh my goodness!"

Paired with my husband's wonderful vanilla ice-cream (he pulls his weight for our dinner parties too!), this was an incredible way to finish our evening.

Love x

Saturday, March 4, 2017

549/1038 - Lime lover's punch

Presenting...the first mixed drink I have loved in years.

With gorgeous friends coming over for dinner, I decided it would be lovely to start the evening off with a special drink. Enter lime lover's punch! 

Not being much of a drinker, I really had no idea what was in our liquor cabinet (aka the cupboard above the fridge). I had purchased spiced rum for another recipe some time ago and just assumed the majority of the bottle would still be hanging around. Not so! It appears my husband likes a drink more than I do and had polished off the bottle over the years. 

Always one to improvise, I ended up including a mixture of Grand Marnier, Malibu (my goodness, how long has that one been in there?!), cognac and brandy. The result was spectacular! 

I will admit to only adding half of the recommended alcohol and for a lightweight in the drinking stakes, the balance was absolutely perfect. 

An absolutely brilliant start to what turned out to be a perfect evening x

The menu

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

548/1038 - Pumpkin and amaretto ravioli

With renewed vigour, I am pleased to be posting my second recipe for this week. Realising that my output has diminished dramatically over the past year or so, I am determined to increase the number of blog posts over the coming months. Of course I am secretly cursing February for having only twenty eight days as a well timed leap year would have seen February's total increase to a more respectable three. No matter; it appears this month will be an impressive one!  

Ravioli is a dish that I have recently discovered is easier to make than I thought. The fear of my hard work exploding in the pot stopped me from attempting ravioli for so many years but after my first successful attempt, I am now a ravioli fiend! I use a ravioli stamper (I have no idea if that's the real name for it) which both cuts the ravioli and also provides a fabulous seal. 

I will confess I made extra pasta dough (300g flour rather than 200g) as I knew I would be too nervous to roll the dough to the finest setting. I adore our beautiful pasta machine, which was a wedding gift and so has now been used and loved by us for twenty years. The only little quirk it has is that it tears the dough when the finest setting is used. It's no big deal, I get around this by rolling to the second last setting and then stretching the dough slightly with my hands. 

Playing to my fear of exploding ravioli, I may well have slightly underfilled each one and so ended up with a mountain of ravioli (hooray!) and also some leftover filling. 

Finished with a sage and burnt butter sauce (burnt butter makes everything good!) this was a very popular meal. My youngest particularly liked following his up with a ravioli breakfast and ravioli lunch the next day. 

Speaking of the "stamper", it was a very odd day in the kitchen as I rummaged through my kitchen drawer and found not one, but two stampers in there! I think I stood staring at them for a good five minutes, completely perplexed as to how the second one found its way into my home. Upon further investigation of the drawer, I continued to find items which had been inexplicably replicated. At this point I decided that either I was losing my memory or I was the butt of a practical joke. 

The house remains sufficiently amused. 

The mysteriously replicated utensils