Sunday, July 29, 2012

180/656 - Sautéd silverbeet with olive oil, pine nuts and currants

This recipe is a perfect example of what The Cook's Companion is all about. 

A simple stir fry of silverbeet, pine nuts and currants and a basic vegetable is turned into a very tasty side dish. We ate this as a part of a simple mid-week meal with sausages and mash. A definite upgrade on the three veg that might have accompanied our meal otherwise.

Something to watch is that after a bit of a stint in the fridge I found the currants had grown some decent flavour legs and had increased the overall sweetness a bit too much for my liking. Of course flavour is a very personal thing and I was overwhelmingly outvoted when I mentioned this to my family who were loving the unexpected sugar hit! On the day it was made however the balance was perfect.

For anybody with fussy children who won't eat their greens, I can highly recommend this as a great way of sweetening them up! Just don't forget to plan a day or so ahead to let the currants do their thing. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

179/656 - Pine nut and meat pastries

I love cooking and it is a rare thing to hear me complain about a cooking process, no matter how time consuming or complicated it may be. But I must confess I have a particularly negative attitude when it comes to working with filo.

Filo has never been my friend. I am either busy ripping the sheets in half (not on purpose), or I get distracted while working and forget to cover it, letting piles go dry on the bench. My other filo party trick is to pull out a frozen pack of this evil pastry, and then unfold the sheets before they are ready, ripping the entire packs worth down the middle. And usually not even in a straight line. I realise that with more care I could avoid these issues. I am generally a very careful person, but for whatever reason filo continues to be my nemesis.   

Refusing to be beaten by a packet of paper thin pastry, I outsmarted my filo demons and made sure I had double the required quantity on hand before making this recipe. As I rolled up my little meaty triangles I smiled to myself each time I ripped a filo sheet in half, calmly selecting a new sheet from the massive pile I had on hand. Jules my little pastry monster was happy to assist with the digestive disposal of some of my accidents, and the happy chickens ended up with the rest

This cooking challenge will see me making shortcrust, lard and puff pastry but thankfully not filo. No doubt the challenge will throw up a few hurdles along the way but I am not sure I would have made it over that one unscathed. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

178/656 - Gazpacho

I realise tomatoes are technically no longer in season, but the beautiful red truss tomatoes I bought for this recipe looked so gorgeous I could not go past them

Even though it is winter and the weather is not anywhere near warm, my family have all enjoyed this fresh, vibrant cold soup. It has been such a lovely change from the heavy food we have been eating lately. One batch provided us with several nights of healthy entrée, made even more so because the ingredients have remained lovely and raw

As well as enjoying the taste, our colds (but probably not our friends) have been loving the amount of raw garlic this soup has had us consume this week. In the words of Lisa Simpson, "I made enough gazpacho for all!"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

177/656 - Patafla from Provence

Patafla from Provence (try saying that quickly three times!) is a lovely little picnic basket filler made by slicing a baguette in two, pulling out the insides, mixing it with all sorts of brightly coloured bits and then trying to stuff it all back in!  

I realise the job of stuffing would have been much simpler had I purchased a baguette of decent width (or indeed made it myself!) however sometimes we just need to work with what we have. 

Once full, the two pieces were put back together and bound tightly with cling film.  

Of course I took pictures before I wrapped mine up, knowing that it was entirely possible I would have nothing decent to photograph at the other end if it fell apart on opening!

The patafla is supposed to be refrigerated overnight, however for various reasons mine remained in the fridge, unloved and uncut for two nights. I don't think the extra night did it too much harm but there was definitely an extra sogginess to the bread which was probably not ideal. 

It was very edible and incredibly tasty but I will definitely stick to the recipe and make sure it is eaten the day after wrapping if I make this again. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

176/656 - Sweet marjoram and mozzarella fritters

Talk about a heart attack waiting to happen! 

Deep frying little balls of cheese is not something I would do on a regular basis, but my oh my what a decadent beer snack these turned out to be. The boys descended like a little pack of vultures on the finished product, each letting out a contented sigh after their first bite. Their excitement may well have been based on the fact that I never usually deep fry anything, however these fritters were so good I do believe they were worthy of said happy noises.

Crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, I will be making these fritters again for both party snacks and also as straight out bribes for my children when I have some particularly dirty jobs that need doing around the house. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

175/656 - Pea shoots with crab meat

Fried pea shoots. Definitely not a concept I would have thought of on my own.    

I found this little recipe in the pea chapter and was very keen to see what fried pea shoots tasted like, but was also interested in the gorgeous sounding crab concoction that was to be served on top.  

The fried shoots were great, the heat really bringing out their lovely flavour. And the crab...oh the crab. I think my eyeballs may have rolled back into my head just a little bit as I was eating this. The flavour was amazing with a capital A, and if anybody out there is planning to make this dish I have a very important amendment to make to this recipe. White pepper is not optional. If you have any on hand, don't even consider leaving it out.  

I promise you won't regret it.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

174/656 - Spicy hazelnut fingers

It was my sister's birthday last week. My sister is one of those people who not only remembers the birthday of every person she has ever met, but she also backs this up with well thought out presents and a birthday card that has been obviously hand-picked.   

I would like to say this attention to birthdays and special occasions runs in the family but sadly this is not the case.  I have been known to let the birthdays of my children sail by present-less when they were too small to know the difference (I can practically hear the gasps from new mothers), and regularly get caught out missing the birthdays of people that are close to me (again, sorry Emily). Luckily my friends and family are aware that this is entirely due to my drifting brain and nothing at all to do with how much I actually love them. Receiving a text from my brother reading, "Happy birthday to me" is now something of an expected event come August.  

So this year I made sure I was on the ball for my sister's birthday. We went to see Annie (fifth row from the front!) and ate a wonderful meal together complete with our mum for company and pink champagne to make it a perfect girls night out. The only problem with my plan was that this wonderful evening occurred four weeks before Jane's actual birthday. 

Hence this recipe! I decided that since I had delivered on a well thought out (although very early) birthday present, it was only fitting that my supplementary gift should be lovingly hand-made. Of course now I am a week late given the drawn out saga that was my candied lemon rind, but I know my efforts will be well received once Jane takes a bite of these glorious biscuits.  

I didn't use an icing piper to shape these little fingers as my mixture turned out a bit thicker than expected and I was able to simply roll the mixture into little sausages. The thick mixture was due to my double-dipped lemon rind that was so incredibly hard it would have taken me all day to chop it finely with a knife. Enter the thermomix and say hello to chopped, but also slightly ground candied rind.

Yummy home-made biscuits and a blog post dedicated to my lovely sister; I think I may have redeemed myself in the birthday stakes even if I am a week late. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

173/656 - Candied peel

I have a love/hate relationship with lemons. 

I love everything about the way lemons taste. I love their versatility and of course I love the ridiculous amount of ways in which lemons can enhance a dish. What I don't like about lemons is that I often have them given to me in large quantities and, whilst I do use a good number of them, the last handful always seem to go off and I am left pulling dusty green balls from the bottom of my crisper. Never a pleasant experience. 

My gorgeous friend Emily, who has an enormous lemon tree of which I am extremely envious, bestowed upon me a bulging bag of fruit and I made a vow to put every last lemon to good use. So last weekend I propped myself at the bench and juiced, zested and candied until I was spent. I now have a freezer stuffed with frozen blocks of juice and pre-grated zest and am feeling mighty organised and ever so pleased that no lemon was wasted in the process. 

The candied lemons were on the stove at the same time as my lovely gumbo, and so being slightly distracted and a bit dizzy due to hunger (see previous post) I think I took them off the heat a bit too soon.  After a day or two on the rack they had dried nicely but were nowhere near as sweet as I had hoped. Luckily I had kept the lemony sugar syrup they were cooked in (it was great on pancakes too!) and used it to give my rind a lovely, sugary second dip. 

A few days in the dehydrator later and my candied rind is finally dried, very sweet and ready to be baked inside something amazing.