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 

Monday, February 27, 2017

547/1038 - Ritsa's Greek country salad

Undertaking a cookbook challenge which spans three editions can be, well, challenging. Each time I upgraded, I spent some time updating my complicated spreadsheet (yes, I was in heaven!). As well as brand new recipes, there were a few recipes which had been replaced/upgraded. In each instance I made the decision that if the change was significant I would add it to the challenge. Mad, I know. 

So this is the execution of Greek salad 2.0 aka Ritsa's Greek country salad.

I decided that my boy needed some time in the kitchen and so he was largely responsible for this salad, with me acting as his sous chef. I think our favourite part of the preparation was squeezing the tomato juice over the salad. Getting hands dirty in the kitchen is most welcome here! 

With the absence of green pepper and red onion noticable in my kitchen, I replaced them with a red pepper and spring onion. 

Still delicious x
My boy doing his thing

Thursday, February 16, 2017

546/1038 - Honey and sesame rings (well, hearts...)

Valentine's Day is just not a big thing in my household. For the many, many years my husband and I have been together, we have largely kept February 14th unromantic and uneventful. 

This year I decided to change things up a bit; perhaps because we have a special wedding anniversary coming up or perhaps because I am finally getting a bit mushy in my older years. Whatever the reason, Tuesday night's dinner was overwhelmingly heart inspired. 

The star of our main meal was to be a pie, filled with the meaty leftovers from the previous night. Given my husband's love of homemade pastry (and the fabulous flavour of our leftovers!), I knew this would be an enormous hit. It was as I was laying the pastry that I got the idea to mould it into a heart shape, using a heart shaped biscuit cutter wedged into the top of the pie and two ceramic spoons at the base. The result was wonky but effective.

Dessert was somewhat more spectacular. As I was trawling for an appropriately romantic dessert recipe, I was thrilled to discover these rings which I knew would be easily crafted into hearts. I was amused as my youngest, also known as our resident dough thief, ate a piece of the dough and exclaimed, "Mum, this is a bit heavy on the honey."

"It's OK", I told him. "It's not to make bread, it's for honey biscuits."

"Yes, but I am just letting you know that the honey flavour is very strong."

Thanks mate, got it.

The creation of the first tray load of biscuit hearts was successful, if a bit sticky. Thinking I was improving the process, I rolled the second half in a dash of flour to reduce the stickiness, which worked beautifully, but unfortunately meant that the sesame seeds did not have a chance of adhering. Live and learn!

Thankfully both versions (seed and no seed) were delicious x

My slightly weird looking heart pie

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

545/1038 - Fish stock (for tomato risotto)

School holidays are my favourite time of year. Life slows down and all of my boys are around for my enjoyment. The two larger boys joined mini chef and I on our market trip last week, which pleased and surprised me in equal measure. My surprise came from experiencing two teenagers rising so happily at 6am on school holidays. A couple of special little souls right there...or perhaps they were just in it for the doughnuts. Either way, I was thrilled. 

Our fish of choice purchased on our family market trip was barramundi; one of my very favourite tastes from the ocean. We ate it simply, cooked in foil and stuffed with lemon and herbs. Not wanting my barramundi enjoyment to end, I used the carcass to make this lovely fish stock.  

I am renowned for making stock and then forgetting it is in the fridge. With this in mind I planned a risotto for the following evening, making the recipe up as I went along. It turned out beautifully, with the stock creating the most fabulous base and the final flavour featuring homegrown tomatoes, lemon verbena and nasturtium leaves and finished with a dash of smoked salt for good measure.

Holidays taste good! x

Sunday, January 15, 2017

543 & 544/1038 - Profiteroles with Crème Pâtissière (Choux pastry & pastry cream)

Yesterday saw builders crawling all over our garage, working on the transformation of a boring little shell into a functional home gym. This new addition to our home is an absolute must given the ridiculous amount of food we like to consume on a daily basis!

Case in point; these little babies were created and practically devoured yesterday. Not one bit of goodness in there, these truly were little balls of heaven sent to make us all incredibly fat. 

This is not the first time I have made these, with the first attempt seeing lovely crispy profiteroles but sadly pastry cream (or Crème Pâtissière for the purists) which ended up way too thin to pipe. Delicious, but completely useless as a filling.  

I have no idea what I did wrong with the first batch and performed much internet research before the second lot was attempted. It was definitely worth my time, with my gorgeous second slab of thick custard turning out the perfect consistency. I had originally planned to whip some cream to mix with the custard to ensure a strong texture but am pleased to report that this was completely unnecessary! 

Receiving a lovely and unexpected dinner invitation last night, these were a perfect contribution to the dessert table at the end of the night....and let's face it; a reprieve from what would have otherwise been a profiterole gorging session in our own little kitchen. Bring on the home gym!