Monday, November 26, 2018

624/1038 - Asparagus custards

It was election day on Saturday and for the first time in many years I actually headed to the polls with my husband, having foregone the opportunity to vote early due to his promise that we would head down together. I am not a big fan of waiting in line but have found I don't mind it nearly so much if I have company. 

The little polling booth we attended was sadly devoid of democracy sausages and so this was our special treat for the day instead. I do love asparagus and this custard was very lovely...and very rich! I couldn't help feeling that they would have gone very well with a big juicy steak and so this is probably what we will pair them with next time. On this occasion the pairing was with a lovely and crackly roast pork so I didn't hear too many complaints.

Of course it would have been more impressive to photograph a perfectly turned out custard but I tried a couple of times and they just didn't want to play ball. No matter, they tasted just as good straight from the moulds. 

...and just like that, another chapter is finished! That's twenty-four down now with a measly one hundred and one to go. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

623/1038 - Watermelon granita

The timing of this dessert couldn't have been better, providing me with a lovely sweet finish to my meal but at the same time keeping me (loosely) on track to being able to fit comfortably in my jeans some time in the foreseeable future. A concert with friends next week has provided extra motivation for this goal. 

Of course, this recipe was put on the list to assist with the project we are currently undertaking which we have affectionately named "operation watermelon". I have vowed that unless we demolish this entire fruit without any wastage it will be the last time I buy a watermelon in its entirety. With the aim of creating easy watermelon access, I spent some time on day one scooping all of the flesh into a container. So far so good.

I actually created this recipe in the manner described in the book, even though I have a whizz-bang ice-cream machine and could just as easily have churned it. But there is something about the texture that is created when granita is scraped with a fork that I do like very much. Sometimes the manual way really is the best. But of course the tray does take up an inordinate amount of space in our indoor freezer.

I type and type and have just realised I have not yet commented on the taste! This granita is simply perfect on its own, with the sweetness of the watermelon perfectly offsetting the tartness of the lime juice. Even better, I made a round of mojitos with the leftover sugar syrup (which were fabulous by the way!)

...and in the spirit of celebrating every possible milestone, this recipe represents sixty percent of the challenge complete! It only took seven and half years to get here...

Mojito made with the extra sugar syrup

Monday, November 19, 2018

622/1038 - Gelo di melone

In some language, somewhere, I am fairly sure that watermelon means summer...

With a hankering for a taste of my favourite summer juice, watermelon and pineapple, I lugged home an entire melon and then realised that we had enough for a LOT of juice! Expect to see at least one more watermelon recipe after this one. 

This dessert was very fast to make and tasted incredible but if I am honest, didn't quite set the way it should have. It didn't matter. The watermelon combined with rosewater was a heavenly combination and we all agreed that this would be fabulous with a bowl of homemade vanilla ice-cream. 

I quite liked the amount the recipe made, with just the right amount of sweetness in each serve. The pistachios were a lovely addition, too.

After what has been a relatively slow start to this eighth year of the challenge (from mid-July) November has been quite a productive month!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

621/1038 - Stephanie's chicken Proven├žale

When an animal dies for our culinary pleasure, it is only right that their little bodies be treated with respect. It was with this thought in mind that I experienced a flood of guilt as I jointed this poor little chicken, devoid of the deft skill required for such a delicate job. Massacring aside, I did ended up with my ten pieces and also a little sack of meaty bones ready to be made into stock. 

This dinner topped off a lovely day of catch ups, coffee and champagne and so of course that meant I was completely exhausted and in absolutely no state to post this until after a decent night's sleep. 

Possibly the most time-consuming element of this dish was taking the skin off the peppers. I usually trim the seeds and spines from the peppers before I put them under the grill but absent-mindedly skipped this step on this occasion which meant I had seeds EVERYWHERE as I removed the skins. Not ideal. Messy. Not to be repeated. 

Having said that, I do adore the sweet, sweet taste of a grilled pepper and this dish was a sensation because of it. Of course my home-cured olives also had a special part to play! 

There is something deeply satisfying about using an entire chicken and knowing that as well as saving money, every little bit of the bird has been used. I could be wrong, but I also think the various pieces taste better than when they are bought pre-cut. 

This was, quite simply, a sensational dish and I will be making it again (and again and again).

It is now breakfast time and I think there are some leftovers calling my name...

Saturday, November 10, 2018

620/1038 - Braised celery

With absolutely no inspiration regarding what to cook for dinner tonight, I employed a technique I like to call "the Masterchef method". It sounds fancy but in reality it is sending my husband out to the chest freezer and telling him to pick a cut of meat. Today's meat choice was a bag of pork ribs and so dinner ended up being pork rib soup and braised celery served with steamed rice. Everything was served in the same bowl but the soup didn't make the cut for the photograph due to it's quite ordinary brownish hue. 

My husband is not a celery fan but will eat it if it is sufficiently disguised or apparently, braised. This method of cooking celery is simply fabulous and reduces the strength of the flavour so that it becomes palatable even to non-celery fans.

I was keen to reduce the sauce but was a bit worried about overcooking the celery. After a short time on the stove top I took the celery out and sped up with the thickening process with a good pinch of cornflour. 

Dinner was lovely and I made a mountain of food so that's tomorrow night sorted, too. I do have to make dessert though as we polished off the last of the red velvet cupcakes I made in memory of a beautiful friend who was supposed to have enjoyed them this week for his birthday. Bittersweet, indeed.

With plenty of leftover cream cheese icing in the fridge, tomorrow is looking a lot like a carrot cake kind of day...

Super fluffy red velvet cupcakes

Thursday, November 8, 2018

619/1038 - Plum sauce marinade for lamb or pork

With a roast pork on hand, this plum sauce marinade couldn't have come at a better time. 

We LOVE a good roast pork and my husband and I have both reached the stage of creating consistently good crackle. Recently I was out of cooking circulation for almost a month as I wrestled with study/assignment/exam related matters. It appears I was out of the kitchen a touch too long because once things died down I put a beautifully crackled pork roast on the table (the one before this one) and the boys told me that it was fantastic and asked if their Dad had snuck home to cook it. I had to laugh but then reminded them that I CAN cook. How easily they forget...

So while I treated the skin side of tonight's roast with the regular oil and salt combo, every inch of the meat was slathered with this delectable marinade. I halved the mixture and still had plenty left over so I decided to cover the carrots in it too (which was a fabulous idea by the way!)

To complete the decadence of the meal, and to use up some leftover cream, I thought I would throw together some scalloped potatoes as well. This all sounds lovely but of course as I was creating all of this I completely forgot about the fact that since my prolonged swot period I still can't fit into my favourite jeans. This was made very clear to me as I attempted to get dressed to go out and see The Living End on Monday night (who were FABULOUS by the way) and had to pick my outfit based on what I thought I could get away with and also what would not spontaneously burst open on the night. 

Oh well. As they say, life is too short. Eat ALL of the food. 

As is evidenced by the dreadful photo above, as dinner came together everything seemed to happen at once and the ability to stop and take a decent photo escaped me. Life is just like that sometimes. 

But at least we ate all the food! Highly recommended and a great way to use up a bit more of last week's lovely plum sauce.  

Saturday, November 3, 2018

618/1038 - Plum sauce

Soooo...plum sauce! 

This beautiful meal was based around Stephanie's plum sauce which I just knew had to be used in Peking duck parcels. The sauce was made a week ago but had to be left to mature so I have been dying for today to arrive! 

I decided it would be prudent to third the recipe as two litres of plum sauce was likely to last us a lot longer than I was comfortable having to store it in my fridge. Only having a small amount of white wine vinegar on hand I thought it would also be a good idea to top up with a plum vinegar I had bought from the Asian grocer. Unfortunately the plum vinegar has a very strong and quite unusual taste and the final result just didn't taste quite right. Enter a few good handfuls of coconut sugar, a squeeze of vanilla paste and a decent splash of lemon juice and the flavour was absolutely perfect.

Move forward one week and it was Peking duck time! Yesterday morning started with the creation of a lovely little orange and carrot salad which was to be the healthy element of our special dinner. The salad was followed by the assembly of mandarin pancakes which are generally not a big deal to put together. Unfortunately I had something of a brain fade and decided to stack the raw pancakes on top of one another which of course stuck together in the most annoying way. I have made these so many times before and I have no idea what made me think that stacking them while raw would be a good idea. Fortunately only a couple of them had to be re-rolled so the disaster was not a major one.

After the  pancakes were made it was duck time! I rubbed the duck with a mix of Chinese 5-spice and salt and cooked it in a very hot oven, turning it regularly. Once it was cooked I had my lovely family helping to shred the meat from the bones which meant that in no time we were making our own little parcels filled with plum sauce, chives, cucumber, duck and even a little bit of the orange and carrot salad.

Just fabulous.

Carrot and orange salad