Wednesday, August 26, 2020

9 years and a pause...


For personal reasons I have had to pause my beloved challenge. I will be back at some stage - hopefully later this year.

- Kate x

Sunday, June 14, 2020

683/1038 - Amaretti and coffee semifreddo

Ice-cream is a big deal in my house. We make it. We eat it. We love it. This particular variety - a semifreddo in fact - has been incredibly popular but has also been creating its fair share of angst. 

Some time ago, I realised that there are weeks that I have the energy and motivation to attempt a challenge recipe and weeks that I do not. After one particularly industrious week, I held back posting a few of the recipes and noticed that it reduced the pressure I sometimes feel to constantly move this challenge forward. So, after almost nine years, I have finally found a blog posting rhythm. And it is lovely. 

Which brings me to why this semifreddo has been causing angst! I must have made this a month ago but only got around to photographing it today. Which of course means that it has been sitting in the freezer and everybody has been extra conscious of leaving enough of it untouched so that I might get a decent photograph. Now that it is done, I think the last of it wil disappear pretty quickly.

I actually made the amaretti biscuits myself and so the entire process took a couple of days to complete. Apart from the biscuits it was a very simple dessert because semifreddo does not need to be churned - the step which separates semifreddo from ice-cream. I am not sure I got the consistency right because most of the filling appeared to sink to the bottom as it froze. Of course this was not a problem as long as one remembered to scoop to the very bottom to ensure maximum flavour. 

I did have a small serve of this when it was first made and can confirm that it is absolutely delicious and even better sprinkled with a crumbled amaretti biscuit. Definitely a good one to make for those who do not own an ice-cream machine. 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

682/1038 - Chocolate cream

Chocolate cream is a seriously easy recipe to make - the hardest part was deciding what to do with it! I ended up designing this flash little dessert for my boys which consisted of chocolate cream, whipped cream and smashed Oreos. 

I had to laugh at the reaction of my youngest when I deposited this dessert in front of him. If the intake of breath and the exclamation of surprise were not enough, my favourite thing by far was the fact that he felt the need to photograph it and send it to his friends before he got stuck in. 

I can also see this chocolate cream being fabulous stirred through vanilla ice-cream or as a filling in a plain sponge cake with or without a layer of strawberry jam. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

681/1038 - Quince paste

This recipe is not difficult but does take a number of hours to complete. I made a half batch which still produced quite a large amount that will take some months to get through. Thankfully quince paste lasts for a very long time!

The recipe states that a non-reactive saucepan should be used but what I didn't take into account was that the knife should also be non-reactive. I have a gorgeous knife that was made by a cowboy named Billy - an incredibly talented blacksmith who we met at New Mexico Farm & Ranch in the US.* The knife is not stainless steel and hence is very reactive! I didn't realise this until I started to see the quince turning black where the knife was touching it. Needless to say, I quickly switched to a stainless steel knife to complete the task. 

To ensure the paste will set, it is recommended that one quarter of the pips and core (home of the pectin) are left in the mixture. Rather than trimming each quince and then measuring a quarter of the off-cuts, I found it easier to hack up a quarter of the quinces and throw them in as they came - no coring required. Then I simply cored the rest. One quarter of pips and cores sorted! 

Something I was fascinated with was the look of the quince puree at the beginning of the process, which was so pale it looked more like apple puree. As the quince cooks it darkens and becomes the beautiful deep rose colour we all associate with cooked quince and the ever-popular quince paste. 

My family have been enjoying the paste on biscuits with oozy Camembert and below is my preferred method of eating; nice and simple on a slice of apple.

*While writing this post I got distracted and visited the Facebook page of the New Mexico Farm & Ranch and discovered that beautiful Billy is no longer with us. I would therefore like to dedicate this post to Billy who I will always think of fondly whenever I use his beautiful knife.

Lovely on a slice of apple!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

680/1038 - Quinces baked in honey

Apparently this recipe was originally published by Stephanie's Mum, a fact I find absolutely gorgeous. Imagine being able to carry on your Mum's beautiful work? 

This is one of the only challenge recipes in a little while I have actually been able to eat and so suffice to say, it got me very excited! This was actually my second attempt at photographing the result. I made a batch of these and was in the middle of taking a picture when Archie Roach came on TV - a performance I had been waiting for ALL DAY. I grabbed my quince and ran...and by the time I came back to photograph the others my family had eaten the lot. 

It was so good (and so simple) I absolutely did not mind making it again. Thanks to my own gorgeous Mum who donated the quinces for this recipe! 

Lovely synergy, indeed. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

679/1038 - Pickled cumquats

More cumquats!

This little pickle is very versatile and can be used in all sorts of ways to make savoury dishes taste good. I have used it three ways to date; in stuffing for a roast duck, in cumquat butter and in the slow cooker with some stewing lamb, tomatoes, white wine and cinnamon. Reports were that the lamb dish had the most beautiful and subtle citrus flavour throughout and that the combination was a big success. I had thrown both the juices and also two finely diced pickled cumquats in there - something I think I will be repeating again in the near future!

The cumquat butter recipe was also from The Cook's Companion and I made it specifically to pass on to my Mum for Mother's Day, assuming it would not be popular enough to be used quickly in my house. There are so many times I have made unusual foods and have been the only one ploughing through the leftovers. Of course, the one time I make something and give it away, my eldest (who did the taste test for me) has not stopped asking me to make more to satisfy his morning toast and cumquat butter cravings! Apparently it was that good and so a second batch of the butter is on my cooking list for today.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

678/1038 - Cumquat butter

What do give to your mum when you are self-isolating and don't want to go to the shops? A home made gift hamper of course! 

I tested this beautiful cumquat butter on my family and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive! Flavoured butters are so very easy, with all of the ingredients simply being chopped and blitzed together. I sent a stick of it over to my Mum today, along with some cumquat marmalade, home-made amaretti, gorgeous organic wine and also our goofy dog to keep her and her partner amused for the next week or so. 

The wine is from a case I bought for myself. It is preservative free and tastes absolutely brilliant. But even better, I can drink it! I have been avoiding wine for years now (under much duress!) because I knew I was reacting to it but didn't understand why. It turns out the added preservative in wine increases the histamine levels which I now realise is a trigger for the majority of my health issues.*

Enter my new favourite wine distributor, Organic Wine! Theirs is the first website I have found that makes it ridiculously simple to find wines that are free from added preservatives. Not only that, but their range is very generous and the people who run the business are absolutely lovely. Win, win, win. So today I thought I'd share the organic, preservative free Sauvignon Blanc love with my Mum. 

A very happy Mother's Day to all, but mainly to my own lovely Mum who I am just dying to see and hug when this crazy time is over and done with.

*I just reread this and realised it made me sound like an alcoholic! To be clear, it's the histamine in all things which is a problem - not just in wine...

Home-made Mother's Day hamper and a goofy dog
 on loan for an isolated Mother's Day 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

677/1038 - Witlof in cheese sauce

It seems amazing that there are chapters I still haven't started after almost nine years, but here we are. With 125 chapters to explore, entering the witlof arena marked the 118th chapter officially underway. 

I halved this recipe, mainly because I only had two witlof to work with but also because I didn't want each serve to dominate the meal. I have mentioned before that there are only two types of cheese I am able to eat and so I replaced both the Gruyere and the Parmesan with mozzarella. Honestly, I think any type of cheese would be an acceptable substitute! As well as switching cheeses, I realised my home was completely devoid of breadcrumbs and so I made my own from home-made coconut bread I had stored in the freezer.

The dish I cooked this in is old, chipped and battered but it belonged to my grandmother and so is very special to me. She was one of the best cooks I have ever known and it was an amazing feeling to create dinner in the same dish she would have used to put food on the table for my dad and his four brothers. 

All in all, this was a beautiful and simple side dish, devoured and enjoyed by all. Even better was the amount of cheese sauce which stretched far enough to make the rest of the vegetables on our plates even tastier. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

676/1038 - Cumquat marmalade

Finally, the cumquat chapter has been started!

I have two cumquat trees which were given to me by my eldest and my husband last Christmas. The gifts were a lovely reminder that my family do listen when I share my yearnings with them but course it was also an insight into how little they communicate with one another! Unfortunately neither tree has yet reached the fruiting stage and so I was absolutely thrilled when a friend shared five kilos of her own fruit with me. 

The process for making this marmalade was quite different to the Seville orange version which I made all the way back in 2013. Cumquat marmalade still requires two days to complete but rather than the peel being julienned, the fruit is simply cut into quarters. Looking at my marmalade, I am not sure if I did this or if I simply cut my fruit into halves. The pieces do appear to be rather large but because the peel ends up lovely and thin it is very edible and not at all unattractive. 

As is sometimes the case with marmalade, I had some trouble getting it to the correct consistency. Enter a handful of trusty chia seeds and my perfectly oozy creation was complete! We now have a ridiculously enormous jar of marmalade in the fridge and so I am fairly sure once the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted I will be gifting little jars of liquid gold left, right and centre. 

My own cumquat trees (and one lime)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

675/1038 - Rocket and oregano pizza

We love pizza night! 

There is nothing more fabulous than having a meal that can be tailored to the preference of each diner. In my family, we each like our pizza toppings to be applied differently but a common theme is definitely to ensure the amount of topping is not stingy - the more, the better! This rocket and oregano version was a brilliant example of a generously endowed pizza. 

Preparation began with me drying oregano for the first time, which I did in my trusty (and much loved) dehydrator. The taste of home-dried herb is quite incredible and much more flavourful than the store bought variety which I suspect is the result of two things. Firstly, there is the fact that dried herbs lose flavour over time and my little batch was only out of the ground for a day before it was eaten. Secondly, I think we get more than we bargain for in the store bought versions. I remember many years ago reading the results of testing that had been done on various packets of herbs and the percentage of the expected herb in the contents of the packets was disturbingly low. While I don't think this is necessarily a problem in every case, I have no doubt a good amount of stem also finds its way into even the most expensive varieties, whereas my stems were discarded after the gentle removal of the oregano leaves and flowers.  

The home-made tomato sauce was another fabulous element of this pizza which I made from gorgeous fruit from our own little garden. I didn't bother removing the seeds which is a good method if you have the patience to spend a bit of extra time boiling the additional liquid from the sauce. By the time mine was done, the tomatoes had collapsed on themselves so beautifully there was no need to mash it. I have made this recipe on numerous occasions and its fabulous smell gets me every time - which is why it was so very difficult to leave this pizza to the rest of my family to eat. As it turns out, tomatoes are one of the foods that make me sick. In fact, they are up there with one of the worst culprits. Which is a damn shame because I generally eat tomato (well, ATE tomato) in some form on most days, and so it is with a heavy heart that on this night I left the tasting, and reporting of said taste, to my family.  

As I built the pizza, the addition of the rocket before it was cooked made me nervous and I was very much anticipating the creation of a pile of little burnt leaves. Thankfully, the recipe included clear instructions to add the sauce after the rocket, which provided the all important clue that the sauce was to provide the required protection for the fragile leaves. I made sure to slather it liberally and evenly and was thrilled to see that the rocket survived the intense heat of the chiminea and even retained some of its beautiful colour. With the addition of a crisp red onion layer, this pizza included a medley of flavours that were always going to please. By all reports, the pizza was a roaring success and was one of the first to disappear from the dinner table.  

Apparently the taste was made even better by the buttermilk crust - found in the basics chapter and a wonderful option for the impatient or time-poor cook. I am fairly sure not everybody was thrilled with our pizza dinner given the smoking our chiminea decided to do on this night, possibly due to the increased moisture in this particular batch of wood. A thick plume of smoke poured perfectly over the fence to where our neighbours were sitting and I am fairly sure the conversations dissipated not long after this began. Probably not a great way to maintain good neighbourly relations and definitely a good reminder to ensure our wood is well-dried in future.

To the next pizza night!

          Home-dried oregano                      A pizza I COULD eat 
                                                                 macadamia pesto, sweet potato,
                                                               mozzarella and oregano
                                                              with a buttermilk crust

Sunday, April 12, 2020

674/1038 - Rhubarb yeast cake

I was excited to harvest yet another lovely crop of rhubarb from our modest little edible garden and what a lovely smelling task that was! Rhubarb has a fabulous perfume that is difficult to describe and as I chopped my bounty into bite-sized pieces, I gained an enormous amount of pleasure from inhaling its heady aroma. 

While this cake took a bit of time to make, the majority of that was spent resting the dough. Dough based cakes done right are a pleasure to experience and eating this took me back to a time when I lived close to a bakery that sold a pretty fabulous version. The version they sold was a German cake called a Bienenstich, which translates to bee sting in English. Making (and eating) this rhubarb cake has inspired me to make my own Bienenstich and I absolutely cannot wait to see how it turns out. 

In the meantime, I have been gifted around 5kg of cumquats so to make I am planning to start (and possibly finish) the cumquat chapter in record time. The Bienenstich will happen but may just have to wait a little bit longer...

Sunday, April 5, 2020

673/1038 - Peach chutney

Before COVID-19, when our city was in a much more normal state, we received a lovely gift of a large bag of fresh peaches. Making chutney is something I have always wanted to try and this beautiful recipe satisfied this culinary itch very nicely.

We had the perfect number of peaches to make a half batch of this recipe, which meant the cooking time was reduced and I had a lovely chutney in under thirty minutes. The flavour was lovely and complex and we have enjoyed it on sandwiches and slathered on our meat and veg at dinner time. We also delivered a small container of chutney to the owner of the peach tree and as such, as I write this post I can confirm that our chutney stores are officially depleted. 

Given that this would have lasted for twelve months if stored correctly, chutney might just be that perfect kitchen distraction isolated people are seeking in this crazy, uncomfortable time. 

Stay well, everybody x

Sunday, March 29, 2020

672/1038 - Rabbit stock

A friend of my Mum's is doing his bit to reduce the rabbit population in Australia. He presented her with two pre-prepared little bunnies a little while ago and we were lucky enough to be gifted one of them. 

I decided to turn my rabbit into stock so as to use as much of it as possible. The first thing I did was to strip the meat from the carcass which I cooked separately and added to this incredibly flavourful risotto. Good stock, quite simply, makes good risotto. Rabbit stock is rich and full of flavour and so this one was a cracker.

Making different flavoured risotto is all about using a base recipe and then changing the ingredients that make it unique. This is the one I use.
  1. Melt 45g butter in a large frypan
  2. Add a large, finely chopped onion and fry gently until soft
  3. Add 1.5 cups arborio rice and stir through until the grains are coated
  4. With 6 cups of stock on hand, add a cup at a time and stir until mostly absorbed
  5. After 3 cups have been added, season to taste with salt and pepper and throw in your chosen flavours such as chopped vegetables or meat
  6. Continue to add the stock until all 6 cups have been added. 
  7. Stir through 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 30g butter.
  8. Enjoy!
If you don't have Parmesan, any other cheese will do in a pinch. I am unable to eat Parmesan right now and so we used mozzarella which worked surprisingly well. If you are watching your weight, you can skip step 7 if you like. The risotto will still be lovely, just not quite as rich.

I would love to hear of other flavour combinations! If you try this at home, please tell me via a comment here or post a pic on our Facebook page.

Stay well, everybody x

Sunday, March 22, 2020

671/1038 - Spanish ham and eggs

A little while ago I got VERY industrious in the kitchen and knocked out a number of challenge recipes. Conscious that this would not always be the case, I decided to hold off posting to the blog and instead have been adding one post per Sunday instead. My foresight appears to have been inspired given that we are now on the verge of a possible lock down and ingredients are no longer in abundant supply.

This recipe was packed full of flavour and probably also about a week's worth of calories. The inspiration came from a leg of ham that we were eating our way through and the realisation that I could easily carve out four quite generous slices. I didn't have a terracotta flame-proof dish to cook this in and so used my copper rondeau to cook two at a time and then transferred each portion to a plate.

In an attempt to alleviate some of the health challenges I have been dealing with, I am currently on a very restricted diet which absolutely does not include most of the ingredients in this recipe. Unfortunately for my adventurous palate the diet does seem to be working, with a noticeable reduction in symptoms when I am disciplined and significant flare ups when I deviate. Whilst this is wonderful news for my health, it does not bode well for the love affair I used to have with food. The fact that people around the world are getting sick and dying of course puts this very much into perspective so I am instead focussing on the positive, including the fact that there are still two types of cheese I am allowed to eat. When they finally reappear on the shelves I will be even more thrilled.

For now, I will simply revel in the fact that a little while ago I actually ate this little plate of flavours.

Stay well, everybody x

Sunday, March 15, 2020

670/1038 - Rhubarb and cinnamon cake

Rhubarb and cinnamon cake; a revelation in flavour!

Honestly, the texture and taste of this cake was nothing short of fabulous and everybody who ate it had the same look of rapture on their face. The inside was pillowy and soft and the outside fabulously crunchy, helped along by some oh so pretty gold sugar that I couldn't help sprinkling across the top. The fact that I still have four rhubarb recipes to make is the only thing stopping me from banging out this cake again and again every time our rhubarb plant replenishes itself.

I am in a self-imposed semi-lock down at the moment and so there is sure to be plenty more cooking on the horizon. I am not one who is prone to panic, but my choice of confinement is based on two things. Firstly, I fully support the slowing of the coronavirus in Australia to ensure our health system remains able to cope. I have been watching the spread of this virus play out around the world for some time now and was quite shocked in particular to see Italy's infected number increase by a further 3,500 overnight even though they have been in lock down for some time.

The other reason for my self-quarantine is self-preservation. Whilst I don't think the virus is likely to kill me, there are some medical issues I have been dealing for many months now which for a number of reasons have affected my breathing. The thought of contracting an illness which will further exacerbate my ability to obtain oxygen doesn't fill me with joy.

Time to give our little edible garden some extra love! Stay well everybody x

Sunday, March 8, 2020

669/1038 - Japanese-style steamed crab custards

Given the drop off in our visits to the Queen Vic market of late, procuring crabs is not a task that is easily achieved. It is therefore with minimal embarrassment that I disclose that this recipe was made with picked crab meat from a tin. 

With the choice of hauling out the wok and bamboo steamer or simply throwing the custards in the oven, I opted for the latter. If I am honest, I spent very little time on this lovely simple recipe, instead throwing my energy into the accompanying Thai crab fried rice which was bloody sensational. 

I remember years ago being berated by a friend regarding the mixing of cuisines from two cultures and also my terribly low care factor for having committed this apparent culinary faux pas. Nowadays this is called fusion which I am fairly sure means (a) I committed no crime, and (b) I was ahead of my time!  

So this Thai/Japanese fusion meal was quite lovely, with the custards serving as a lovely light entrée and the fried rice filling the bellies of our teenagers nicely. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

668/1038 - Fennel braised with balsamic vinegar and honey

Fennel is one of my favourite things. If not for the pain that this lovely herb evoked in my crazy gut, I would surely serve it up more often.

I cooked this dish completely on the stove top, which is generally my preference when I have the choice between that and the oven. I have enough self awareness to realise that this is a control issue, but I am a very hands on cook and experience perhaps more pleasure through the cooking process than I do with the eating.

This particular recipe was decadent and sweet and very much appreciated around the table. And did I mention the pork and fabulous crackling?

Fennel chapter - officially done and dusted. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

667/1038 - Caldo verde

We have a leg of ham in the fridge and I have been enjoying finding different ways of turning it into a meal. This soup required bacon bones but instead I used a ham bone, some hunks of the meat and also some fried bacon for good measure.

Curly kale was the main ingredient in the soup and the stems were to be discarded. Of course I decided to rescue them and decided to turn them into a crunchy and salty topping for our soup. After blanching and roasting them with sea salt, the boys discovered how nice they were. Once they began to pilfer small handfuls I realised it was a wonder we had any left to sprinkle in the bowls. Admittedly they do look a bit like little twigs but they were really quite lovely and moreish.

A really lovely soup and packed full of kale-y goodness. That's what I call a win-win scenario.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

666/1038 - Devilled kidneys

Recipe 666 was always going to be a devil of a dish.

Our local butcher is just lovely (and ethical!) and stocks a vast array of meat and offal. Apparently lamb kidneys are a staple in their shop and who wouldn't want to buy them at sixty five cents each! An absolute bargain. I will be honest and admit that as I cleaned them I had absolutely no intention of eating any myself. The smell of raw kidneys is far from pleasant and I was finding it difficult to imagine the taste being any better. 

I made the baguettes especially for this recipe, frying slices of them in a pan which is hands down my favourite manner in which to eat good bread. The unbelievably peppery watercress was straight from our burgeoning garden which is going gangbusters with all of the heat and rain we have had lately. 

When the dish was done and the boys began to eat I couldn't believe the groans of pleasure I was hearing. Needless to say, I quickly made a kidney bruschetta for myself and was blown away by how absolutely fabulous it tasted.

You might even say it was devilishly good. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

665/1038 - Roasted duck legs with eggplant

Oh, how we love our duck! 

We always buy Luv-a-Duck because we know they use every single piece of their birds, including the feathers! Such a very impressive business model and their ducks are always lovely, too. Even better, if you require only the breast or legs you can purchase guilt free knowing the rest of the bird has not been wasted. We generally buy entire birds and so rather than just cooking the legs I decided to roast the whole thing and take it apart after it was done. 

This was a really lovely twist on how we would usually eat duck and I was even able to convince the boys to eat some of the eggplant. I did halve the eggplant element of the recipe because my boys are not big fans and I just knew we would not get through two of them. 

A rich meal that definitely needed to be followed by a lovely fresh salad. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

664/1038 - Cheesy bread-and-butter pudding

This fattening little dish was filled with cheese and eggs and made even richer by the extra yolks that needed using up. So very rich, this is the perfect meal to have in a very small portion with plenty of salad or vegetables alongside.

I made my own bread on this day so that I could cut it into nice chunky pieces. From memory I think I made baguettes which meant plenty of lovely chewy crust. I am sure any bread would work just as well, though. I did make the mistake of using American cheese (leftover from a round of Philly Cheesesteaks) which made the dish even heavier, if that is possible. Definitely not a meal to be eaten very often!

This little recipe was actually completed quite some time ago but life has simply been far too complicated and busy for this post to be written. With some new physical challenges to deal with I have decided to take a break from just about everything I was doing, including my study. The great news is that this means my blog will actually get some love.

With another old blog post still waiting in the wings and a rabbit thawing in the fridge, expect more action in this space very soon.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

663/1038 - Crème brûlée

My mum always makes a load of meringues for Christmas day and then passes an enormous container of egg yolks on to me. This year, well technically last year, they were turned into this lovely dessert and also some cheesy bread and butter pudding. 

Crème brûlée might seem a daunting recipe, I think it's the French name that puts people off, but it is actually quite simple to make. Possibly the trickiest part is ensuring the custard is cooked long enough to ensure it will set. I cannot stress enough that a candy thermometer is required for this step. Had I been gauging the thickness of the custard by eye, I would certainly have removed it from the heat before my thermometer confirmed that it had actually reached the required temperature. 

Pro tips: 
  • Stand the moulds together in a container for easy insertion/removal from the fridge 
  • Use soft brown sugar on top. It contains molasses and so burns beautifully and is delicious

As per Stephanie's suggestion, I created a double layer of burnt sugar on top. Not sure it gets any crunchier than that! Just brilliant. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

662/1038 - Maggie's octopus salad

Last week I paid a visit to the Supreme Court, a requirement for a criminology assignment, and decided a quick trip to the Queen Victoria Market would make sense while I was in the city. My fish craving has not left me and so the seafood stall took the majority of my cash for prawns, flake, a slab of sushimi quality salmon and a couple of enormous octopus tentacles. 

In this weird little week between Christmas and New Year it was lovely to find a day to relax a bit and cook. It was almost the perfect day, until it wasn't. I have been a bit distracted lately and it was this lack of focus that almost spelled disaster for me today. Keen to retrieve a set of hand crafted bowls from the top of the cupboard, I climbed to the top of the step ladder and carefully removed the bowls. The next moment was surreal, with me somehow completely forgetting that I was on top of the ladder and simply turning to the side to step off. Bowls flew and I came crashing down, face and forearms first. Thankfully I only suffered a bit of a split and bump on my head where I smacked it on the floor and a very large, very sore purple index finger. My beautiful hand-made bowls did even better than me, without a mark to be seen. Small mercies, hey?

So clumsiness aside, it was a lot of fun working with the octopus. I left it to cook for a bit longer than I was supposed to but it didn't seem to do it any harm, with every piece lovely and soft and not rubbery at all. I had less octopus than the recipe actually required and so was able to use a mid-sized saucepan for the cook, with the tentacles swirling into a perfect spiral in the juices. I am kicking myself that I forgot to sprinkle some of my lovely chipotle dukkah over the top but it was still a really lovely salad and a beautiful way to eat one of my favourite things from the sea.

This recipe can only be found in the newest version of The Cook's Companion, and what a fabulous little addition it is. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

661/1038 - Herbed mustard sauce

I have been craving fish lately and am very much enjoying the fabulous sauces in The Cook's Companion. The best thing about them is that there is So. Much. Butter. This latest creation was full of lovely fresh herbs and is just as nice cold as it is warm. To make it even more fabulous, I used truffle mustard instead of dijon because everybody knows truffles make everything better. 

We ate asparagus the night before this and I couldn't work out why I was in so much pain. I searched asparagus on my trusty FODMAP app and couldn't believe I hadn't realised it was another one of my enemies, cleverly disguised in green. I was excited when I realised I could eat a small amount of asparagus...until I realised that the recommended portion size was half a spear. Seriously. Half. So obviously this plate arrangement was for blogging purposes only and shortly after this was taken I donated my second half spear to my asparagus loving son. On the upside, my oven baked half spear was lovely and didn't cause pain, so there's that. 

As usual, my home made chips were an enormous hit. I don't know why anybody would bother to deep fry potatoes when oven baked chips are seriously fabulous when done right. The trick, which is time consuming but worth it, is to dry every surface of every chip before they are oiled. And use lots of salt. Because what are potatoes without salt? 

Best fish and chips I have had in ages. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

660/1038 - Beurre blanc

A sauce this simple, this fattening and this good should come with a warning label.

Beurre blanc should be white (hence the name) but given that Australian butter is generally yellow, my sauce came out more like a beurre jaune. Either way, it was absolutely fantastic.

Making this was a last minute decision so I had to replace the shallots with finely chopped onion because shallots are not something I have in the house unless I have bought them for a specific purpose. I also swapped the wine for a combination of verjuice and apple cider vinegar, given my devastating intolerance of wine. 

To be honest, I was nervous trying verjuice for the first time given how similar it is to wine but I don't react to it at all which is just brilliant. I can't explain why I react to one and not the other, except to say that I also have an allergy to milk protein which does not fire if the milk is frothed. In that case, the milk proteins being stretched trick my body into thinking I am not allergic and the reaction doesn't happen. Gotta love science. 

But back to the sauce! Beurre blanc is pretty much butter sauce with a lovely acidic aftertaste. We are BIG fans. My youngest even stole some carrots off my plate to wipe up the last of his. 

I hereby declare this sauce to be our new quick fish dinner staple. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

659/1038 - Byessar (Moroccan broad bean dip)

I was handed an enormous pile of broad beans and, given the amount, decided the easiest thing to turn them into was this gorgeous dip. I planned to make the flatbreads too, but sometimes life gets in the way and the prospect of opening a packet is simply too good to ignore. 

The beans were already out of their pods when they came to me and search as I might, I could not find out what they would have weighed, unpodded. I decided to take an educated guess and it turns out that if a recipe calls for one kilogram of beans in pods, around 650g of podded beans is about right.

My husband was dubious regarding how this would taste, but he was pleasantly surprised (as was I) that the dip was full of flavour and not a whole lot like broad beans at all! More like a broad bean hummus which is just absolutely fine with us. We ate it for dinner tonight with chicken and a myriad of vegetables conducive to raw eating and dipping. 

This recipe also had the benefit of being easy to split in two so that I could hand half back to the grower of the beans. Because it is always nice to be able to say thank you with food. 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

658/1038 - Silverbeet and potato torte

More lovely garden produce! 

Our silverbeet looked ready to eat and so it was harvested and largely turned into an incredible dish with lemon, garlic and walnuts using a recipe from Taste. We had a huge amount of stems left over and so I decided this torte would be just as good with silverbeet stems as it would with leaves. (I was right).

I absolutely loved the oil pastry in this recipe which was soft and lovely to the touch. It also rolled easily and baked to a lovely crisp crust. A pastry recipe predicted to be used with many torte fillings in the future! 

As the picture shows, it was only halfway through the sealing process that I decided to twist the crust like the edge of a pasty. Apart from looking a bit lopsided, it was good to know that no matter how the edges were sealed, this pastry stayed together beautifully with no leaks. 

I would have taken a picture of the inside but I was torn between using a sharp knife to remove the slices in a photogenic manner or using a more gentle method that would guarantee my pizza stone coming out of the process unscathed. I opted for the latter, hence the lack of a photo of the inside.   

You will just need to take my word that it was fabulous!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

657/1038 - Rhubarb muffins

Surprising as it may sound, today was the first time I have cooked with rhubarb. Keen to get a bit of vitamin D, I was wandering around our beautiful garden and found some ready to be picked. Having a whole chapter of recipes to choose from, I settled on rhubarb muffins, which are listed only in the original edition, although I think they may still exist as a margin recipe in the later editions. 

I had a bit more rhubarb than was required, but was fairly sure an extra quarter cup would distribute without much notice in twelve large muffins. The smell as I sliced it was amazing, no doubt due to its freshness. There is simply nothing like food picked straight from the garden! 

These babies came out of the oven like little pieces of heaven; slightly crunchy on the outside and ridiculously fluffy in the centre. I have no idea how I stopped at one. Now I cannot wait for our little rhubarb plant to sprout again so I can take a deeper dive into the chapter. 

Speaking of chapters, with rhubarb started, that leaves only nine chapters from one hundred and twenty five yet to be explored; chervil, chokos, cumquats, persimmons, tamarillos, tripe, venison, vinegar and witlof.

Getting there! 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

656/1038 - English curd tart

Last night we had a group of wonderful friends over for our first dinner party in ages. With plenty of other things going on, I decided to outsource the main meal to my husband and focus on bread and dessert. Given my recent foray into the wonderful world of sourdough, the bread was an olive sourdough which I served with olive oil and homemade dukkah. Not only did it taste fabulous, but it was actually purple inside - a result of the beautiful olive tapenade which was blended through the dough. 

Dessert however, was my favourite part of the night. Two of my guests were English and so I thought it only fitting to include an English item on the menu. Made with home-made cottage cheese and home-made pastry, the result was incredibly sweet and paired beautifully with lovely vanilla bean ice-cream. The only substitution I made was to include chopped raisins instead of currants which didn't look as pretty but tasted wonderful. One of my English guests was not familiar with the the idea of a curd tart, but as soon as he saw it, he told me that he was fairly sure his mum used to make him the same thing. Win! 

Because I made everything from scratch I estimate the entire cost of the tart to have been only a few dollars. Not bad considering it made enough to feed ten! 

My lovely (and slightly purple) olive sourdough.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

655/1038 - Traditional sage stuffing for goose, duck or turkey

We have a mad amount of sage in the garden at the moment so I thought it was time to try this lovely stuffing recipe from the original version of The Cook's Companion. 

Insanely fast to put together, this stuffing was not only fabulous to eat on its own, but also created the most wonderful flavour throughout the duck. I use a roasting method which requires the bird to be turned three times in the oven and so was a bit worried the stuffing would fall out mid-cook. A quick truss with some cooking twine alleviated my fears and held everything together nicely. I used an old frozen loaf of sourdough to make the breadcrumbs and also replaced the suet (because I have never had suet in my house in my life) with plain old olive oil which worked beautifully. 

Nobody was complaining about having roast duck on a Tuesday night and the stuffing was absolutely brilliant. We have quite a bit left over and so I am currently contemplating how I might use it in tomorrow night's meal. 

We are certainly doing our bit for the bees - as I was taking this photograph I was smiling to myself as I realised just how many bees I could hear buzzing around the sage flowers. It's very nice knowing my herbs are doing their bit for the environment! Sadly tonight's recipe only required four leaves and so I am pretty sure I can see fresh pasta with crispy sage in a burnt butter sauce on our dinner horizon very soon. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

654/1038 - Michael Boddy's sweet lime pickle

We have a decent sized load of limes in the fridge from a friend's tree and I have been using them in EVERYTHING! Noodle dishes, sweets, Coronas (my favourite). 

This weird little pickle smells quite lovely - simultaneously sweet, sour and spicy. I have no idea what it will be used for and plan to wait until it is finished to see what it tastes like although I am imagining both chicken and prawns will work very well with the flavours. The recipe can only be found in the original version of the book so if you can't find it you are probably not going mad. The strangest part of this recipe is that the jar needs to sit in the sun for an hour every second day. This photo is of my concoction on its first sunny outing. 

The making of this pickle marks yet another little milestone, October being the 100th month of my challenge. Perhaps it's just me, but 100 months sounds like a very long time! It is definitely a testament to the quality of The Cook's Companion that I am still enjoying myself and very much loving the discovery of so many new favourite recipes. 

If anybody was wondering, the gorgeous little wood cat in the background was a spontaneous gift from the artist who recently painted a mural in our backyard. He saw our woodpile and couldn't help leaving a doodle or two for us to find. What a lovely man. Imagine being responsible for leaving such lovely little bits of happiness in your wake...

Re the pickle - I will post an update when the waiting is over and the eating has begun!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

653/1038 - Slow-roasted leg of lamb with dried beans

Given how often I use my copies* of The Cook's Companion, I am a bit paranoid about keeping them in good condition. As a result of this paranoia, I generally transfer recipes onto a scrap of paper (in edited shorthand) which I refer to when I cook. I am not embarrassed to admit that every now and then this causes an issue. 

Somehow when I transcribed this recipe I neglected to include the amount of hot water the tomato paste needed to be mixed with and in my head, was assuming it was only a couple of tablespoons. Thankfully logic took over and I realised the beans would need hydrating as they baked. A quick check of the book confirmed that it was actually a litre of hot water I needed. Minor crisis, and likely a pile of rock hard beans, averted!

I made this roast on Father's Day, mostly because I promised my husband a lazy day devoid of household duties. This was definitely a promise I was regretting as I stumbled around in the fog of a sleep cut very short at either end. We attended a party the night before (disco themed and fabulous) and so sleep did not begin until 2am and then was sadly cut short five hours later as car doors began to bang out in the street. Given the level of additional difficulty imposed on my cooking abilities, I was particularly thrilled with how everything turned out.

I cut the cooking time by a third for the meat as I always do when using a fan forced oven. Unfortunately this meant that by dinner time, the beans were not quite done. Given my self induced exhaustion, we decided to eat the roast with steamed vegetables, saving some to eat with the beans the following night. The lovely wrap pictured is the result of yesterday's much more impressive effort! Home made flatbreads were the perfect accompaniment for the lamb/beans combo and we also stacked freshly chopped tomato, capsicum and cucumber on top for freshness.

Anybody with the second or third edition of The Cook's Companion will be disappointed to know that this recipe appears only in the original version. The good news is that there are similar recipes on the internet for anybody keen to give it a go. Well worth a try.

*All three editions...upgrade, upgrade, upgrade!

Embracing the disco spirit

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

652/1038 - Maggie's slow-cooked fillet of beef

It really is amazing the number of different ways a cut of beef can be prepared.  

Slow cooking is not often a thing in my house, with me usually starting dinner preparations as the hunger pangs are threatening to set in. But on this day I had uncharacteristically planned ahead. A long, slow cook is definitely a great way to make a house smell sensational! 

The flavours in this marinade were spectacular and had I not slightly misjudged the cooking time for a larger cut, I do think the outcome would have been amazing. There were certainly some pieces which were perfect (see below) but the majority of the roast was a little on the dry side.

All in all, a good experiment with a little more care required on my part next time.

Friday, August 9, 2019

651/1038 - Belly pork in a piquant cream sauce

Oh. My. Goodness.

You know when you make something expecting it to be just OK and then it blows your mind? That happened last night. I had bought some pork fillet (yes, I cheated on the cut) and realised I had every ingredient for this recipe except the green peppercorns. I do, however, always have pink peppercorns on hand and knew they would go beautifully with the flavours in this recipe.

I have never boiled pork before and was interested to see if it would work with fillet. I reduced the cooking time quite a bit and took it out when a skewer passed through easily. I have no idea how long this took as I often just go on instinct when doing this sort of thing and just get a feeling when it's time to check. Once it was done, the pork was sliced, pan fried and then doused in this unbelievably fabulous, creamy sauce. 

The only downside to this dish is that it brings out the animal in diners, with everybody dying to lick their plate and not waste a drop of this incredible sauce.

A must try for all cooks. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

650/1038 - Spanish creams

This is an absolutely beautiful little dessert and even better, the recipe appears quite foolproof! Somehow the lemon infuses to a point where it tastes as if there is lemon curd in the custard, which of course makes for beautiful eating. 

A few things I learned while making this recipe;
  • If you run out of castor sugar, pure icing sugar works well. To break up the lumps, throw it in the blender and voila, a perfectly soft pile of icing sugar
  • If the whites are accidentally whipped to stiff rather than soft peaks, the recipe still works
  • The step of straining the custard can be successfully skipped. A good option if you like zest!
  • Well thickened custard means thick enough that it will coat the back of a wooden spoon. Test this by running your finger in a line through the custard on the back of the spoon. If the line keeps its shape, the custard is thick enough
  • I dutifully oiled six 100ml moulds...and still had an enormous amount of mixture after they were filled! I simply poured the rest into a large container and it set just as well as the small moulded versions (and was just as tasty!)
The day after I made the creams, I was lucky enough to have a wonderful artist working on a mural in our new hot tub and sauna area, now lovingly known as "the cedar precinct". I am not a day time dessert eater and so it was great to have somebody on hand to eat the plate I had styled for photographing. I don't think he minded much either! 

Another wonderful little recipe and with 650 recipes now complete, another small milestone reached. 

Our new cedar precinct with beautiful art by Barek

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

649/1038 - Potato gnocchi with Karen's leek and blue cheese sauce

Picture a kitchen completely covered in flour, cooking utensils and dirty dishes and you will get a sense of just how bad I am at making gnocchi. Thankfully it turned out completely edible and pillowy; apparently a texture gnocchi makers everywhere aspire to. 

Interestingly, I barely needed to add any flour before I reached the perfect texture with the gnocchi, leaving quite a bit sitting in the bowl unused. I was nervous that this would mean either little hard lumps of potato or potato confetti; either outcome a complete disaster. My youngest was completely amused by my concerns and proceeded to goad me into a wager regarding the success (or not) of the cooking stage. If my gnocchi exploded in the water apparently I had to take over his dishwasher duties. If they stayed together he offered a lengthy neck massage.

We both watched expectantly as the first batch was lowered into the water. A short time later, as they rose perfectly to the top ready to be scooped out, he looked at me with a pantomimic scowl and  cursed me for my good cooking skills. Of course not only was I thrilled that each gnoccho was in one piece and bouncy soft, but I had scored a neck massage to boot!

The leek sauce was incredibly easy to make, the only step that gave me trouble was when the sauce and gnocchi had to be stirred together. Terrified of mashing the gnocchi into one squishy pile, I opted instead for a rocking of the pan from side to side. I think this meant that some diners ended up with more leek than others, but everybody was happy with the result nonetheless. Given how rich the dish was, we had plenty of leftovers and I can vouch that it was even better the following day. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

648/1038 - Garlic and ginger dipping sauce

This lovely little recipe is actually from the yabbies and marron chapter. It is meant as a dipping sauce (hence the name) but I decided it would be lovely if I used it as a saucy little bath for freshly cooked prawns.

The tomato base can be made on the stove top or in the oven. I do love the taste of anything roasted and so opted for the oven even though I knew it would take a bit longer. The fresh ginger gave this sauce a lift that was absolutely fabulous with the prawns and the fresh rocket and capsicum turned my experiment into a complete meal.

I will be cooking up the leftover tomato seeds with some leftover egg whites for a healthy breakfast this morning after a bit too much fun and perhaps one too many beers last night.

Because it's all about balance. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

647/1038 - Tartare sauce

Home made tartare sauce, beautiful fresh flathead and a fresh salad...what more could a person want? 

As I selected the seasonings for the sauce, I was reminded of one of the reasons I have so many salt options in my pantry. A while ago, I took my boys down to the local bulk produce shop. It's a fabulous little place where everything is purchased by the scoop and sold in sustainable little paper bags. I told the boys they could each pick something to purchase that I could use in my cooking. Amusingly, they both ended up buying salt; Kosher and Himalayan. Including these two, I think I currently have a selection of around six or seven different varieties and perhaps surprisingly, have found a use for each of them. It is fortunate I have ample pantry space!

This lovely tartare sauce included a couple of pinches of Kosher salt which has a lovely gentle flavour to it. The sauce is based on a mayonnaise, with the addition of herbs, capers and chopped pickled cornichons (mini gherkins). I am not a huge fan of tasting the oil in mayonnaise and so balanced mine with quite a bit of fresh lemon juice.

The fats combined with the tang of pickled cornichons made this tartare sauce an absolutely brilliant match for the fish and also the salad. The recipe made quite a bit and I was shocked to see that we ate a good two thirds of it in one meal! Popular, indeed.

I am sure I have written this about a million times on this blog, but this recipe is highly recommended.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

646/1038 - Lemon syllabub

So this is a syllabub! Before today, a trivia question regarding what a syllabub was would have stumped me completely. 

When I was making it, my husband commented that it just looked like a bowl of cream and indicated that perhaps it might not be too appetising. Oh, how very wrong he was! Flavoured with a beautiful French sweet wine, French brandy and a stack of lemon juice and zest, this was an absolutely wonderful dessert that perfectly satisfied my after dinner sweet craving.  

Technically, I am not supposed to consume sweet wine but given that my reaction usually takes at least twelve hours to manifest, I managed to convince myself that a quarter of a quarter cup would not cause me any problems. Only time will tell if I was right...but in the meantime I am happy to live in blissful denial and simply revel in the fact that I got to eat this wonderful dessert. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

645/1038 - Yorkshire puddings

Yorkshire puddings are something I have never quite understood. First of all, because they are called puddings. And they are not sweet. Which is a little weird. Secondly, because they are random little rounds of pastry to be eaten with a roast dinner. Sorry, what? 

So last night was my very first experience with the humble Yorkshire pudding. They were dead simple to make so I wasn't too worried about the fact that I was unlikely to enjoy the experience. I was nonplussed. And then came the moment that I tried a little bit of pudding with a piece of roast beef. Oh, oh, oh I get it now!! One mouthful took me straight back to the Beef Wellington I made around ten years ago and everything about these little puddings finally made sense. 

Pastry and beef. Who knew? Well every person in England, obviously. 

And now me. 

Repeat performances guaranteed. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

644/1038 - Simple clear beetroot soup

Wonderful, wonderful soup! 

Something I learned while making this is that the inside of a freshly boiled beetroot is hotter than lava spewed from a volcano. My boys call me Khaleesi because I am generally able to handle heat that most people would find unbearable, but even I had to wait for the raging insides to cool down before I could handle them for any length of time. 

A lovely little mixture of sour cream and herbs is mixed into the soup before eating and as well as turning the concoction a gorgeous shade of light pink, the taste of the soup becomes sweet and incredibly moreish. I used fresh parsley and chives but confess to adding dried dill because it was all I had. I am so pleased I did though, because the dill was the best bit! 

The addition of the beetroot leaves was absolutely brilliant and I was surprised to discover that they taste just like silverbeet. Even though the names of both vegetables have beet in them. Still surprised. 

We all know I hate waste and so the strained beetroot was added to our pasta sauce tonight. I say pasta sauce, but in reality I was making soup. After blitzing the soup, I decided to add some pasta, added added a bit too much and then had to laugh as I watched it suck all of the liquid out of my soup as it cooked. So pasta sauce it was. Thankfully, it was incredibly delicious as well as just a little bit pink. 

How lovely.