Saturday, August 31, 2013

282/984 - Pesto

Stephanie's pesto is quite light on pine nuts and I know that every time my Mum makes this she increases the quantity.

I always follow Stephanie's recipes, only adjusting if I feel it is absolutely necessary. In this case I did not feel the need to adjust anything; the pesto was tasty and smelled amazing, if a little garlicky! I was very careful not to eat too much of this on the nights before heading in to the office. 

We ate this pesto several ways, on pasta, on toast, on vegetables. We often added extra parmesan, which I grate by blitzing in the thermomix. It doesn't look as pretty as if we grated it by hand, but we eat so much parmesan in this house I would be forever grating if I didn't break it down the industrial way.

I was going to freeze the last of this lovely little basily treat, but in the end we managed to get through it all. Just another menu staple contained in my rainbow bible. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

280&281/984 - Mum's steak and kidney pie with home-made lard pastry

This was my first experience of cooking with ox kidney and I must say the smell did not thrill me at all. 

Stephanie suggested that soaking the kidney in warm water with either lemon juice or vinegar would reduce the smell and so in desperation I used both. I was not on my own, Trev kept walking through the kitchen with his nose screwed up and a pained look on his face. Not a good start for the kidney chapter!

Trimming and chopping the kidney didn't thrill me either and I was seriously worried that there was finally a chapter that was going to beat me. While the steak and kidney were cooking I kept tentatively lifting the lid, hoping that I would finally enjoy the aroma, but alas I was consistently disappointed. Needless to say, when the pies were cooked, I was thrilled that I actually enjoyed the taste. The terrible smell was worth it! 

The lard pastry was a revelation, coming together easily, although I did need to add a handful of flour because the mixture was so sticky it was difficult to work with. I ended up with a beautiful silky ball of pastry that was easy to roll after chilling for a spell in the fridge.

I decided to hang the pastry over the edge of my ramekins to allow for shrinkage, and was surprised to see that this pastry did not shrink at all. I think I love lard pastry! 

Another lovely dish, and not too challenging for my party of offal lovers.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

279/984 - Brain, mushroom and chicken croquettes

It was a brainy entrée for my guests last night.

These lovely little croquettes took a bit of preparation and I am glad I pre-read this recipe or I would have been in all sorts of trouble! There was a lot of peeling, trimming, soaking, poaching, blending, chilling and crumbing required which I am pleased to report was all done in plenty of time before people arrived. 

I decided that one croquette per person was sufficient for a first course, but cooked some extras so that I could test the centre to ensure the chicken was cooked correctly. Once plates had been cleaned, my guests were sniffing around for more so I was happy I had made extra! It's always a lovely compliment when a second serve is requested. 

I am a huge brain fan so absolutely loved these. The inclusion of the brains ensured the croquettes remained soft inside, and the lemon zest, porcini mushrooms and marsala all added to the wonderful flavour. 

Two courses in, I was feeling very happy about this offal night!

278/984 - Hungarian chopped chicken liver

What do you think this is, chopped liver? 

Last night was the occasion of the big offal dinner party and what an absolutely amazing, fabulous night it was!

Officially the third Cook's Companion mystery guest dinner, last night's table was made up of Trev's uncle and partner, my eldest son's teacher and lovely Rachael who I met on Twitter a couple of months ago. Inviting strangers to dine at my house might seem a little crazy, but meeting lovely people like Rachael and Wendy have been incredible experiences, and let's face it, 99% of the people in the world are interesting, friendly and worth meeting.

One of the intentions of last night's event was to dispel the myth that eating offal is disgusting. While the amazing people around my table were certainly not afraid to partake in nose-to-tail dining, it is my wider readership I am seeking to convince.

The plan for the amuse-bouche was originally Chinese-style glazed livers, but as I was preparing the dish I changed my mind and made chopped liver instead, mainly because I had already made the glazed livers and I was keen to try out something new. Even before I added the boiled egg and mustard, this liver fried in onion was amazing. For thermomix owners out there, you will be pleased to know that instead of passing this through a food mill I simply pulsed the mixture on speed four for a few seconds, careful not to turn it into a paste. 

Trev's uncle Gerry brought along a sweet wine to drink with this course and we all agreed that the combination was a good one. Thank you Gerry for enhancing our courses with your amazing wine knowledge! Sweet wine to start with, that's my kind of drinking style. 

A wonderful start to a wonderful night. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

277/984 - Coconut and caramel sauce

It's been a banana dessert kind of month! 

I often talk to my boys about the science in cooking, and the first step in this recipe fascinated me! Who knew that castor sugar in a saucepan over a moderate heat would turn into a gooey, yummy caramel? 

Stephanie was not kidding when she wrote that the caramel would "contort into solid lumps" when the coconut milk was added. Mine immediately went hard and spiky although melted again nicely when put back on the heat. I had some trouble getting my sauce to thicken and ended up just putting it in the fridge and hoping it would thicken as it cooled. It did.

As I prepared this dessert I was amused to watch my sister's face as I performed a trick I learned many years ago on the Curiosity Show. Poking my finger into the top of the banana I was able to divide it into neat thirds, and of course make the presentation more interesting! 

I tried grilling the skinned bananas but found that they simply went a bit hard and unappealing so I threw them in a pan with butter and loved the result! 

To finish off the plate I lightly toasted slivered almonds in a pan with some soft brown sugar for crunch; my version of a cheat's praline. So simple and ridiculously yummy.

Another dessert that made me very, very happy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

276/984 - Potato galettes

I decided to serve these galettes, which are really just very fancy hash browns, as an entrée to my guests last week, in the style recommended by Stephanie.

The galettes were cooked in advance, which made the serving of them relatively simple. It is such a wonderful thing to have a dish almost ready to go, rather than having to mess about too much once guests arrive. Once each of my guests had champagne in hand, I popped the galettes under the griller to reheat them and then added some blobs of goat's cheese to each one. Back under the griller they went until they were bubbling and smelling amazing. 

I topped the finished product with a mash of Spanish anchovies, garlic, parsley, butter and lemon. Guests were encouraged to spread the bubbling, soft goat's cheese all over the galette before eating and it was a recommendation I took on myself! 

I really liked this dish, and I especially loved the topping which Henry and I have since replicated on home-made seed bread. Not quite as fancy but still a tasty afternoon snack. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

275/984 - Satay marinade and sauce

When my sister came for dinner I tried to think of dishes that were yummy, but also a little bit healthy. Satay sauce was the decadent element of this Bang Bang chicken which I found as a margin recipe on page 300.

The satay sauce was a little thick, but I wasn't sure of the correct way to thin it: water? Coconut milk? Oil? I was enjoying my time with my sister too much and so didn't want to excuse myself to google the solution. Also it tasted good so I was not too concerned. I did google it the next day and found that hot water was the solution I was seeking. I heated the leftovers in a saucepan and drizzled in some boiling water which worked perfectly and even lightened the colour to where I think it should have been in the first place. 

I will admit I did use peanut butter instead of peanuts in the satay, due to being a bit tired from a very long day interstate the previous day. I wonder if this served to thicken the sauce more than it would have done if I had used peanuts. I guess I will find out next time I make this!

We have a friend that we know affectionately as the satay king. I am pleased to report that I think I gave the king a run for his money on this occasion and that we no longer have to wait for a visit from Arie to enjoy good satay at home. 

The following day I also made the other half of the recipe which was a satay marinade. The flavour of the marinade was incredible, and with some satay sauce on the side it was a dinner absolutely packed with flavour. My colleagues were not thrilled about the delightful smell that emanated when I heated the leftovers for my lunch and I was told that next time I brought something that smelled that good I was obligated to share. 

Fair enough too.  

Chicken cooked in the satay marinade, with a side of satay sauce. Oh yum.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

274/984 - Baked flaming bananas with butterscotch sauce

I am a bit behind on my blogging, with six recipes made that I am still to blog. I would normally blog my cooking in roughly the order in which it was made, but last night's dessert was such a revelation that I just could not wait to share it!

I had some colleagues over for dinner and thought I would try this dessert for the first time, even though there were elements that made me nervous. The butterscotch sauce was simple enough; cooking the sugar in the pan until it was runny and golden and then adding some water, more sugar and some cream. Possibly the yummiest sauce I have ever made, this one is destined to be remade and swirled through home made vanilla ice-cream.

As dessert time approached I lined the bananas up under the griller still in their skins. I left them in until they were quite black on both sides. It was amazing to slit the skins and discover the wonderfully soft banana inside, much easier than frying them in a pan! We quickly slit all of the bananas open and then lit the warm rum with a match. Once flamed (which was very dramatic!) the rum was poured over the bananas and then followed by the amazing butterscotch sauce.

The table went very quiet as my guests began to eat. My favourite moment of the night was when one of my guests took her first bite and said, "Oh Kate....mmm...there are no words!"

I think that says it all really. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

273/984 - Tomato and lemongrass broth

I had a very special dinner party with my sister on the weekend. With families of our own and busy jobs, it's hard to find the time to catch up for a quiet chat. Luckily for me my husband agreed to babysit her children so that Jane and I could have an evening together. What a nice man he is!

This broth was a lovely, light way to start the meal and once my sister reminded me to add the garnish of spring onions and coriander it looked very pretty! There were prawns in there too but they sank to the bottom and so unfortunately did not add any additional colour to the dish.

My youngest sat beside me quietly as we were eating and sipped happily at his own small bowl of soup. I was thrilled to hear that he loved it too.

I used the leftovers as a base for dinner tonight, throwing in prawns, gyoza and piles of vegetables. A completely different dish but what a beautiful base to work with. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

272/984 - Slow-roasted tomatoes

Last weekend I decided to try out a margin recipe: lamb burgers on page 534. 

The burger assembly was simple enough but there certainly was a bit of prep involved! As well as the lamb burgers, there were slow-roasted tomatoes and caramelised onions to be made, and of course never wanting to keep things simple, I decided to make my own Turkish bread too. 

The caramelised onions I have made before, to top Stephanie's famous steak sandwich no less, but the tomatoes were a recipe I was yet to try. Now that I have made them, and know how unbelievably good they are, I do believe they will become a common occurence in our house! 

The tomatoes are simply brushed with oil and topped with basil before being thrown in a slow oven. I cooked mine fan-forced and found that they were beautifully cooked in under three hours. 

The Turkish bread, sadly, was another story entirely. I used Greg Malouf's recipe which I found on the SBS website, and while the recipe was fabulous and the result exactly as I had hoped for, the length of the kneading and resting time involved meant that my Turkish bread was not finished until hours after dinner had been eaten. It was my fault of course, having not read the recipe through before I started. I think this is going to be my own self-mandated performance goal for this challenge; start pre-reading recipes!

I cooked more tomatoes than we needed and so have been enjoying them on toast, in sandwiches, straight from the jar...

My beautiful, but delayed,
Turkish bread
Lamb burger with caramelised onions,
slow-roasted tomatoes and
store bought Turkish bread