Wednesday, October 31, 2012

211/656 - Jenny's caesar salad

Who doesn't love a caesar salad? 

This is a lovely version of what is a favourite salad for many people. I have only made this a few times, but each time I am thrilled with the taste, in particular the glorious dressing and the many interesting bits and pieces that are thrown in to ensure this is not a dieters meal! 

The dressing calls for a half cup of olive oil, however I have found a quarter of a cup to be plenty. Amusingly I ended up tipping the other quarter cup into the pan as I was frying my croutons as I seemed to run out of lovely fats as I was attempting to make them lovely and crisp. It was worth it, they were fabulous! 

Fried bacon bits, crispy croutons, gooey eggs, freshly grated parmesan (actually pulverised in the Thermomix!) and the list goes on! If you like a caesar salad I guarantee you will love this version.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

210/656 - Pork sausages with sage and tomato

Henry and I went on a bit of a food hunt yesterday and ended up at Cannings Free Range butchers in Hawthorn. I loved the store, very neat and well laid out, and of course they had an amazing array of meat. But my favourite element was the flat caps worn by the butchers which made me feel as if I had stepped back in time. This experience was beautifully topped off when I was handed my (rather heavy) paper bag of purchases. How fabulous, environmentally friendly and stylish to boot!   

Stephanie suggests pricking and parboiling sausages before they are fried and I thought I would give this a go, liking the idea that the insides might have a better chance of being cooked correctly if I followed this method. Trev was mildly mortified that I was going to prick them and it brought back memories of an article I once read in which the author was similarly devastated to discover that Stephanie was a pricker. Personally I don't see what all of the fuss is about, having no strong feelings on either side of the sausage preparation debate.  

After downing a particularly gorgeous salad for entrée (post to come later) I convinced Trev that we needed only one pork sausage each for our main course. I did cook four as the recipe suggested but of course everybody knows an odd number looks better in a photograph!  

Once parboiled, the sausages were cooked with sage leaves and tomatoes that had been seeded, peeled and chopped. The result was absolutely sensational and as well as loving the tomato sauce I suspect this had quite a bit to do with the wonderful quality of the meat.   

I am very pleased I had the foresight to buy additional sausages to freeze, and am very much looking forward to a second round of this dish in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I am interested to hear from anybody with particularly strong views on the art of sausage preparation!

Friday, October 26, 2012

209/656 - Mushroom tartlets

I do love an excuse to make some home made pastry. 

Last Sunday was baking day and I had picked up some lovely Swiss Browns at the Fairfield Farmers' Market the day before that I knew must be put to good use! To be honest I did plan the purchase in advance as I am on a mission to complete at least one recipe from each chapter (challenge within a challenge?) and surprisingly had not yet cooked a mushroom recipe. 83 chapters sampled, only 31 until I can say I have sampled them all! Hello tripe and kidneys...

The gorgeous mushrooms were sautéed with cream and spices, and then put inside lovely shortcrust pastry lined patty tins. Whilst I thought the flavour of these really lovely, I did find the pastry to mushroom ratio a bit off, with the pastry dominating just a little. I even had some pastry left over so if I made this again I think I would definitely double the mushroom mixture so I could stuff more of the little suckers in 

Overall a very nice recipe. But if you don't alter the quantities, just make sure your pastry is fabulous.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

208/656 - Trotters with velouté sauce

How timely to be talking about gorgeous free range pork as the Animals Australia "Make It Possible" campaign is in full swing. If you haven't already watched their campaign video on factory farming, do yourself a favour. On a much more positive note, I made a couple of purchases from Bundarra Berkshires on the weekend. I cannot rave enough about how wonderful and sweet their pork tastes and I am so pleased that my first go at cooking trotters was done with the feet of one of their very happy pigs.

The trotters needed to be cooked for four hours and so this recipe was a two day effort. So on Sunday night I was expecting a simple meal, having only to make the velouté sauce. What I didn't expect was the one man tug o'war that ensued as I attempted to pull the cooked trotters from the jellied stock. It was as I imagine a cowboy would feel, having to pull his horse from quicksand. 

I have no idea if the skin was supposed to be part of the plan, but one look and I decided I wasn't brave enough to eat it. Quite frankly I think I was brave cooking trotters in the first place! I gave the skin to our very happy dog and proceeded to pull every bit of meat I could from the bones. The chopped meat and velouté sauce were then popped into the oven to reheat for serving

Stephanie advised that this concoction would be fabulous on toast and I just happened to have a lovely fresh loaf available, not long out of the oven. I could not believe how much the kids enjoyed this! Plates were cleaned in record time and I even caught them scraping away at the gratin dish making sure there was not a skerrick left

With four trotters recipes left to make it's a lucky thing it was so popular.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

206&207/656 - Roast squab with Janni's barley stuffing & simple squab sauce

I am a huge advocate of meat eaters keeping in touch with the reality of where their food comes from, always acutely aware that a little living soul has died for my gastronomic pleasure. So I was quite surprised at how confronted I was when I realised my little raw pigeon still had it's head attached! I got through the beheading unscathed but for a brief moment I did re-evaluate my dietary choices.    

I decided to cook only one little pigeon for this meal as it was just the kids and I for dinner and we are usually happy with smallish meat portions alongside a truckload of vegetables. I didn't reduce the amount of stuffing  I made however, as I had an inkling it would be fabulous and I gave myself a little pat on the back as I added it to the next morning's omelette. It was a fabulous stuffing, rich with lemon and  butter and the smell emanating from my kitchen as it was slow cooking in the oven was out of this world.

The squab sauce was also incredible, rich and decadent and I poured the leftovers over the following nights roast chicken, with the family's eagle eyes making sure I doled it out evenly! It was definitely a lick the plate kind of sauce (no, I didn't) and one I am sure I will make again when I have some bird offcuts on hand.    

If you missed it before, I am still singing the song made famous by Bert on Sesame Street...

Doin' the (coo coo) p-i-geon
Dancing a little smidgeon 
Of the kind of ballet
Sweeps me away...

The little piles of extra stuffing were well received!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

205/656 - Fennel with simple cheese sauce

Isn't it wonderful when you put a dish on the table and everybody falls in love with it? I served a healthy helping of this decadent fennel bake to each of the boys and one by one they uttered a surprised little grunt and reached to the bowl for a second helping! 

It's ironic that cheese sauce is one of the first things my mother taught me to cook, and yet I almost managed to mess up this very simple version! I made a roux with the butter and flour and then added my warm milk. I felt that the result was a bit thin and so tried to add some more flour to the mix but inevitably ended up with a lumpy sauce! A quick sieve later and I had perfect (and slightly thicker) sauce once again. Once the beautiful Gruyère was added, the sauce was poured over blanched fennel and popped into the oven.  

This was not a difficult dish by any means, but sometimes it's the simple things that make my little family happy. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

204/656 - Pineapple and lime juice salsa

Pineapple salsa is yummy! 

We ate this warm little salsa with barbecued prawns, freshly baked bread and an enormous salad. Amongst all of that wonderful food it was still the absolute stand out dish on the table. It had a gentle bite to it, thanks to the sambal oelek, and the lime juice gave it lovely zing.  

It was so nice I ate the leftovers straight out of the container as a snack the next day. I had to laugh when I caught Henry rummaging through the fridge looking for it, and had to break the news that I got to it first 

Guilt has got the better of me and I will be making another batch this weekend.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

203/656 - Jerusalem artichoke soup

I love the fact that Jerusalem artichokes do not come from Jerusalem. Even more amusing is that they are not even artichokes. As the Food Companion International magazine did for kangaroo meat, I think there should be a competition calling for a new name for this long misrepresented tuber. 

Name aside, I have a soft spot for anything with a nutty flavour (including nuts) and so was looking forward to trying out this soup. It was simple enough but I confess I fell down a little when I reached the straining stage. I used a strainer that was clearly not adequate for the job so while the soup that passed through was creamy and amazing, some of the mash remained on the wrong side of the strainer, lumpy and defiant.  

It was evening and a work night so I must confess I gave in to the stubborn little pile of mash and decided to keep the unstrained portion aside, to be served the next evening alongside a lamb roast.  

There was option to use either stock or milk as the soup base and I opted for milk, which according to my youngest made the soup "creamy and delicious". Sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg and thyme (no chives on hand I am afraid) it was absolutely wonderful 

And the mash was great too. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

202/656 - Vietnamese chicken and mint salad

Seriously how many more fabulous recipes can there be in this book?!  

I am lucky enough to be married to a man who can put absolutely anything on the barbecue and make it taste delicious. The recipe required two cooked chicken breasts and so I sent Trev outside to work his magic while I put the rest of the salad and the dressing together.

I decided to forego the fried shallots, which were optional anyway, and also left off the coriander that was supposed to be sprinkled on top. The omission of the coriander was not intentional and can be blamed on the chutney of one post past, which used all of the coriander I had. 

Even sans coriander and shallots, I loved, loved, loved this salad! I highly recommend lovely charred chicken straight from the barbecue for extra flavour, but I suspect this salad would be sensational no matter how the chicken was cooked. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

201/656 - Mint and yoghurt chutney

A lovely big bunch of mint arrived with my weekly vegetable delivery and so of course I buried my nose in the mint chapter to see what I could find!      

This was the first of the two mint based recipes I decided would work beautifully with our weekend plans. Although technically a chutney, I actually made this with the idea of using it as a dip. It was absolutely fabulous and the coriander was a beautiful earthy offset to the significant pile of refreshing, freshly chopped mint. 

What a healthy and delightfully yummy little snack of raw vegetables, fresh herbs and lovely creamy Greek yoghurt. The boys put away their body weight in capsicum, celery and carrot thanks to this dip so I am calling it a definite winner.