Monday, November 28, 2011

86/1038 - Blueberry muffins

I am heading off on a sojourn on the Mornington Peninsula with my mum tomorrow and thought I would bake some blueberry muffins for the kids to eat while I am away. I would like to think this late night baking was driven by motherly love, however I am fairly sure it had more to do with guilt than I am willing to admit.

The recipe was fairly simple, however having never made blueberry muffins I was completely thrown by the instruction to halve the berries. At first I thought Stephanie was asking me to divide the berries into two lots, however reading further into the recipe I realised I was actually required to slice each berry in two. It makes sense when you think about it, but I was still very amused as I set about my task of cutting each tiny berry neatly down the middle.

It's late at night but I confess I have already eaten a muffin. They are so good I think the boys may even forgive me for deserting them for three days of heavenly eating, shopping and general mother-daughter bonding.  

85/1038 - Okra with tomatoes

Okra is not a vegetable I would generally use, but cooked with onion, garlic, tomato, lemon juice and ground coriander seeds, I have discovered that it really is a very tasty vegetable. The texture can be a little slimy and although this can be offputting, apparently it is very good for you. As a bonus, it can also help to thicken casseroles. 

My effort will be served alongside Stephanie's home-made lasagne tonight (made by the lovely Chas) which I think will work very nicely.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

84/1038 - Sweet potato cornbread (or corn pone)

A close friend of ours is American which means we are lucky enough to be invited each year to help his family celebrate Thanksgiving. It has come to be one of my favourite celebrations with everybody coming together for turkey and pumpkin pie and not a present in sight.

This year I was asked to bring a starter and so being the dedicated friend that I am, I googled Thanksgiving to check out what might be an appropriate dish to make. I was absolutely thrilled to find that cornbread was on the list, mainly because I knew there was a recipe for it in The Cook's Companion, but also because it is something I have always been curious to try.

I used golden sweet potato for this recipe, hence the lovely deep colour. I received the best compliment of the day from our American friend who told me it was "really good and very authentic."

A very happy Thanksgiving indeed!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

83/1038 - Chinese-style roast duck

There was never a doubt that when I finally got around to roasting a duck Chinese-style it would be served as Peking duck in lovely little home made pancakes.

After separating the skin from the breast, the duck was dipped three times into a pot of boiling water and hung to dry. It was then coated and left to swing beside a fan for a further 2-3 hours which at least gave me plenty of time to look for a suitable pancake recipe. If anybody had dropped in on me unexpectedly today they would no doubt have been disturbed by the unusual (and slightly creepy) sight of a duck carcass hanging from my stairs.

I am so pleased with how this turned out. The duck skin was shiny, crispy and incredibly tasty and the meat remained lovely and tender. The pancakes were fantastic and we all had a lot of fun rolling our own creations for dinner.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

82/1038 - Roast chicken (the all-time favourite!)

Tonight I made my first ever roast chook. Given all of the cooking I do, I know this will come as a shock to some people, and I must say I was quite surprised when I realised it myself. 

The reason for the delay in my roasting endeavours is simply because I am lucky enough to be married to the roasting king. Many (many, many) years ago, and long before I was particularly interested in cooking, my husband made a lamb roast which was so absolutely spectacular I decided to assign all roasting duties to him from that day on.

Not any more.  

With no offence to him intended, this was quite simply one of the best roast chickens I have ever eaten. The chicken was rubbed all over (inside and out) with lemon and then stuffed with lemon, garlic, butter and rosemary. The vegetables were tossed in oil and rosemary and then the same oil was massaged into the chicken. The bird was baked first on one side, then the other, and last of all breast side up which ensured the bird was beautifully browned all over.

The end result was simply stunning. The flavour of the smashed garlic and lemon had permeated the meat which was so tender it was falling off the bone as I carved. The sauce (made from pan juices and a good splash of Sauvignon blanc) was deeply flavoured and heavenly. The vegetables (fennel, beetroot, carrot, potatoes, pumpkin) were made even lovelier with the sauce drizzled over the top. 

As I took away the serving platter, my youngest actually chased me with a carrot, desperate to have one last dip. I am sure the roasting king will never actually hang up his crown, but I will no doubt be muscling in on his territory in future.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

81/1038 - Potato gratin

Who doesn't like potatoes baked with cream? Certainly nobody in my house that's for sure.

I was feeling a bit lazy and so I used my KitchenAid to slice the potatoes which meant they were cut a bit thinner than I would have liked. But how could I complain when the slicing was completed in a matter of minutes? The result was still great, it just meant I had to be more vigilant during the cooking process to ensure the top layer did not burn to a crisp.

In between the slices of potato were thin slices of garlic (my apologies in advance to anybody I see tomorrow), pepper, salt and freshly grated nutmeg.

I would almost certainly be twice the size if we ate like this regularly but I do enjoy a decadent side dish such as this every now and then.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

80/1038 - A simple dressing

Whilst there are certainly some interesting recipes in this book, there are also some that appear to be aimed squarely at the beginner cook who is, perhaps, setting foot in the kitchen for the very first time. 

This is one of those recipes.

So, as boring as it may seem, my cooking accomplishment for today is a simple salad dressing. Simple, but made oh so fabulous with garlic infused olive oil and tarragon vinegar kindly donated by the lovely Stewart family. I did like Stephanie's method of mixing the dressing in the bottom of the bowl and tossing the salad in on top, so technically I did learn something new today.

Conclusion: Salad + kangaroo steaks on the barbie = one happy family and a house that stayed cool on a 30°C day.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

79/1038 - English rice pudding

The thing that surprised me the most about this pudding was that it contained only four tablespoons of rice. Doesn't seem much for a rice pudding does it?

Actually I think the restrained amount of rice was what made this pudding so good. It was rather like a beautiful baked custard with just enough rice to make it interesting. I particularly loved the bay leaf which I thought was a really interesting addition. Every time I opened the oven to check the pudding's progress it was the main thing I could smell!

This was not an overly sweet dessert, but the boys loved it. I am an absolute sucker for a rice pudding so it goes without saying that I was in pudding heaven tonight.  

78/1038 - Ham soufflé

I love a weekday meal that sounds just a little bit posh.

Lovely cubes of ham in cheese sauce, eggs and tabasco makes for a very nice soufflé indeed. I made them as individual portions and they were so light and airy you could almost forget the number of calories they actually contained.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

77/1038 - Fish balls

It was fish balls for dinner tonight - yummy little balls of whizzed up fish, herbs, spring onions and Asian flavours. This is definitely the type of recipe I enjoy, a long list of ingredients with no measurements provided. The only down side to this is that I had to stomach 3-4 spoonfuls of raw fish until I was comfortable with the balance of flavours.

Apart from the fact that the finished product looked more like a pile of pucks than little balls, I was very pleased with the outcome.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

76/1038 - Carrot salad with Thai seasoning

Tonight's dinner was a flavoursome fusion of Vietnamese and Thai food.

This Thai carrot salad was absolutely bursting with flavour and took only 5 minutes to make, mainly because I let my Thermomix do all of the work! I threw all of the ingredients except the carrot and the peanuts in first and blitzed the life out of them. I find lemongrass such a pain to cut up and so having a machine do it for me was an absolute godsend. Once that was done I threw in the carrots and peanuts and blitzed them just enough so that the pieces were fine but not completely massacred.

I served this up with some diced chicken that I marinated in nuoc cham. Nuoc cham is actually a dipping sauce but I had some left over and thought it might make a nice marinade. The recipe came from my Red Spice Road cookbook which contains recipes from a wonderful restaurant of the same name. I am pleased to say that it worked, and the chicken was delicious and very moist. 

Wrapped in iceberg lettuce leaves, this combination made for a very tasty dinner.

75/1038 - Leek and potato soup

I had a friend come over today to have lunch with me, and also to drop in my belated birthday present. This of course means I have officially stretched out my birthday celebrations for more than a month. That has to be some sort of record, even for me.

Lucy is well aware of my Stephanie challenge and so I was under strict instructions to make something for lunch that "did not wobble," no doubt with offal on her mind. I would never actually dream of serving brains or tongue to my guests...unless of course I was trying to ensure there would not be a return visit.

The leek and potato soup was perfect for lunch. Not too heavy, not too light.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

74/1038 - Salmoriglio (oregano sauce)

If you blink you are in danger of missing the very short chapter on oregano and marjoram which contains only three recipes.* This oregano sauce was fantastic on fish and I ended up eating about twice as much as is shown in the photo.

Apparently it is also a lovely sauce to serve with lamb which I will be more than happy to test out over the next couple of days.

*Three recipes in the original edition, four once the upgrade is complete! 

73/1038 - Peperonata

This is such a wonderfully sweet, caramelised dish that I do believe I could polish off the entire quantity myself if left to it. The stewed tomatoes help to create the thick sauce and some red wine vinegar added at the end works to take the edge off the sweetness.

Stephanie advised that my lovely Spanish potato and chorizo fry up would go wonderfully well with stewed sweet peppers. Of course she was right.

72/1038 - Spanish potato with chorizo

This was actually one of the first recipes I made after taking on this challenge. The shame is that I made it before I decided to share my progress with the world, therefore there is a distinct lack of photographic evidence of this first attempt.

Given the love affair my family have with chorizo, nobody complained about me having to redo this recipe. A fry up of so many of our favourite things - chorizo, potato, garlic and onion, it was always going to be a welcome addition to the dinner plate.

71/1038 - Candied sweet potato

This challenge occasionally requires me to cook things I would not ordinarily make, and this recipe is a fine example of this. In my opinion, the word candied should only be used in the titles of desserts and sweet treats and not married with a vegetable. Definitely a case of different strokes for different folks. 

I used the golden variety of sweet potato which was boiled and then tossed in a bubbling mixture of butter and sugar. A splash of balsamic to finish and I had my first candied sweet potato. It wasn't as ghastly as I had expected, however it certainly did leave me with the feeling that I had skipped main course and headed straight for dessert.

Not my favourite, but highly recommended for those with a particularly sweet tooth.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

70/1038 - Squid stuffed with pork and prawns

My husband, being the nice fellow that he is, was out mowing the entire street's nature strips today and one of our neighbours caught him at it. To say thank you, he brought over some squid he caught on a recent fishing trip. So, thanks to our generous neighbour, I have just completed my first recipe from the squid, calamari, cuttlefish & octopus chapter.

The base of the stuffing is minced tentacles, pork and prawns. This step gave me quite a ridiculous amount of pleasure. I never seem to tire of watching my KitchenAid mincer in action, creating masses of wiggly worms. Apparently it doesn't take much to amuse me. Actually there was quite a lot of enjoyment going on in my kitchen today, with not two but three boys inking themselves silly during the squid cleaning process.

Once the squid were cleaned, stuffed and briefly sautéd, they went into the oven with some tomatoes, chilli and wine. The end result was definitely worth the insane amount of mess we managed to create whilst making this dish.

69/1038 - Parsley salad

Stephanie's parsley salad 'recipe' is not a recipe as such, but rather a list of suggested ingredients that could be added to a huge pile of parsley to make a lovely big salad.

I decided to use some fresh herbs (coriander, mint and oregano) as well as shitake mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, rocket, radishes and feta. If that wasn't enough fabulousness, it was finished with some lovely garlic infused olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar. A lovely, healthy salad that went beautifully with dinner.

Dinner post to come...

68/1038 - Bacon muffins

Bacon muffins, as in little muffins filled with baconey goodness, are perfect for a lazy Sunday morning breakfast. I ate mine with tomato paste, a poached egg and some perennial basil. It was definitely much more interesting than plain old toast!

Although plain old toast is not always just that. My husband has been making a bread lately that is specifically designed to make wonderful toast and it is amazing. But of course that is another story...

Friday, November 4, 2011

67/1038 - Simple banana cake

This is a recipe I have made too many times to count. 

Stephanie's banana cake is hands down one of the best banana cakes I have ever tasted. Incredibly fluffy and light, it has just the right amount of sweetness. This cake is also quite fabulous with the addition of chopped walnuts or pecans. There is absolutely no need to ice it as the texture of the cake is brilliant as is.

I can't see this one lasting longer than the weekend.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

66/1038 - Quick orange cordial

Halfway through this recipe I officially reached the 10% mark of this challenge.*

I think I might celebrate with a glass of cordial.

*When the challenge was only 656 recipes! Upgrading to the second and third edition has increased the number of recipes significantly.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

65/1038 - Pappa al pomodoro

I needed day old bread for this recipe and so I cut a few slices from the olive bread I made earlier and threw them in the oven for a few minutes to "age" them. The resulting soup was tasty but perhaps a bit breadier than I would have liked. I think this could have been due to one or more of the following reasons;
  1. This recipe was not designed to be halved
  2. Having been off carbs, the bread was a bit of a shock to the system
  3. It's just not my type of soup (Husband loved it)
  4. You really shouldn't fake day old bread
Whatever the reason, this is the first recipe I don't think I will make again. That's pretty good odds given that I have loved 64 out of 65 recipes so far.

64/1038 - Olive bread

It was a special day of cooking for me today as I have recently acquired a second copy of The Cook's Companion. My original version is now all but completely destroyed, covered in food spatters and hanging precariously from it's spine. My new addition is in near perfect condition and belonged to a dear friend of mine. I will continue to use my old version for cooking but will take great pleasure in gently handling my new, treasured version as I scan the book for prospective dinners and treats.

We have been watching our carb intake over the past two weeks in the lead up to a friend's wedding, and so bread was always destined to be on the menu today. I used the Thermomix for kneading but think I may have had it on the wrong setting. Rather than kneading my dough, it chopped up all of my lovely pieces of olive which created a bit of a disaster as the juices were released into the dough. A few handfuls of flour later I had rescued my dough and set it in a bowl to prove. A special thank you to Craig and Kate for the lovely Milawa olives!

Once proved, the bread had to be shaped and then laid in a tea towel to allow it to rise again. Another near disaster ensued as I rolled the dough from the tea towel onto the oven tray, which had to be in the oven and heated through before the bread was put in. As I rolled the bread in, I knocked the tray off the oven shelf, not once but three times. It's fair to say that the innocent ears of my children may have been slightly tainted today.

All's well that ends well. The bread is really lovely and I can feel a "pappa al pomodoro" coming on for dinner.