Wednesday, October 29, 2014

384/984 - Scots' shortbread with ground rice

Oh shortbread, how it beckons!

I absolutely adore a good shortbread and have had a difficult time restraining myself while this batch has resided in my biscuit tin. 

If I make this again I will seriously consider a small, dainty shape as opposed to mega-finger sized. A whole shortbread finger is a lot to consume and it takes a bit of work to convince the boys to break them in half. If I am honest, making these smaller would benefit me too! When it comes to sugary treats willpower is not one of my strong suits.

As per my post for chestnut Mont Blanc, I broke up some of this wonderful shortbread to add to a  recent dinner party dessert. 

Such a versatile little biscuit x 

Chestnut Mont Blanc with shortbread, double chocolate
cake and chestnut praline.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

383/984 - Quiche Lorraine

I do love a good quiche and when it is complete with home-made pastry, I am transported temporarily to gastronomic heaven.

Of course quiches do not get more decadent than this one. Filled with bacon, cream and egg yolks (with a smidge of whites) this is not a meal for the faint of heart. 

I had grand ideas of a lovely high side to my quiche, but was slightly too ambitious (in the vertical sense) and instead ended up with a marvellously folded over crust. It was certainly not intentional but I have to admit id did look quite lovely draped over the tin. Of course the extra pastry gave my little family more crust to devour, and being a particularly good version (read: melt in the mouth) it evoked additional groans of pleasure around the table. 

I am almost scared to say it, given my awareness of an updated version of the Cook's Companion having been published, but I will make this announcement anyway. With all four bacon recipes under my belt, I have now officially completed my third chapter of ingredients. For the record, the completed chapters are 1) Broccoli 2) Prawns and now 3) Bacon.

There is a very good chance I will upgrade to the next version of the book and who knows how many additional bacon recipes there might be! But for now, here we are. Three chapters down, only one hundred and twenty to go. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

382/984 - Chestnut Mont Blanc

A chestnut Mont Blanc sounded like a lovely way to finish a dinner party. I couldn't help but play around with the plating and textures, adding a couple of additional elements to the traditional dessert of chestnut puree and cream.

My final selection of flavours included:
  • Chestnut puree
  • Whipped cream 
  • Double chocolate friendship cake
  • Shortbread
  • Sugared chestnuts
I do not have much patience for peeling chestnuts and so was seeking some that I could buy pre-peeled and frozen. Unfortunately I left my shopping until the day of the dinner party and so didn't leave myself enough time to head to Leo's in Kew, and had to make do with a very expensive tinned version instead. No matter, the result was still fabulous and I was able to create a consistency that could be piped, albeit a bit awkwardly.

The friendship cake is standard fare in my house, with my starter now more than five months old. This was my double choc version, with cocoa and bittersweet choc bits making it an irresistible dessert. I usually add orange zest as well to create a lovely jaffa flavour, but left it out on this occasion.

The shortbread was home-made and will feature in my next blog post, so no need to go on about it here!

Lastly, I covered broken chestnuts with sugar and baked them in the oven, finishing them off with extra sugar and a blast with the blowtorch.

I really liked this dessert, with a bit of crunch here and there and plenty of gentle flavours that worked nicely together. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

381/984 - Roasted leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic and all the trimmings

Roast lamb as a main course is surely always a winner!

I adore lamb and this leg was particularly fabulous, bound with rosemary and stuffed with cloves of garlic. It was cooked directly on the oven rack with the potatoes, with a dish of water and oil below to catch the drips. I hacked off as much fat as I dared and then slathered the entire leg in olive oil.

This was a two kilo beauty and so was in the oven for exactly one hour, followed by a twenty minute rest. The potatoes and vegetables (which were in the dish with the water) were perfectly cooked and carried just enough lamb flavour to make them fabulous.

Not much else to say - roasts are always amazing in my book! 

379&380/984- Garlic croutons and garlic and goat's cheese custards

The only thing better than home-made bread is home-made bread turned into croutons!

With a roast lamb for main course, it was only fitting that some wonderful sides were added to the menu. I decided to go garlic mad and the outcome was these two lovely little morsels. 

There was a mini crisis with the custards, the test custard plopping onto the plate as a rather unset sauce. They eventually started to thicken up, but I got impatient and decided to serve them still in their tins, which actually looked rather sweet on the plate.

They tasted lovely and with a little extra cooking time, would have been a sight to behold! 

The only shame was the rather unfortunate garlic breath we were all sporting the following day...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

378/984 - Cauliflower polonaise

This little dish was the entrée for last night's dinner party, selected for it's ability to lead us gently into a rather heavy main course. 

I was a bit naughty and increased the amount of butter in the fry up, knowing that if the topping was too dry it would not be very tasty. I waited until the very moment the butter turned nut brown and then mixed all of the elements together and sprinkled my pre-fried capers on top.

Even my little one loved this dish, and I must confess I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it too. It was incredibly tasty and had a range of wonderful textures, including fabulously crunchy breadcrumbs made from my very own seed loaf. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

377/984 - Coriander and mint sauce

The evolution of this sauce was certainly an amusing insight into the way I cook!

I made this to go with lamb shanks and we all agreed that the flavour was amazingly intense (in a good way) and that we loved the wonderful, bright green colour. It was later in the evening, once the dinner plates had been stacked away, that I realised I had not added the yoghurt! 

The problem was that the recipe said to blend everything together, bar the yoghurt and salt. If only I had a dollar for every time I forgot to perform the final step of a recipe, I would be a very rich lady indeed! Parsley that is chopped and not sprinkled, coriander that is forgotten at the last name it, I have done it. 

So I decided to add the yoghurt to see what the sauce was supposed to taste like - and it was fabulous! I ate some raw capsicum with it and found that it was mild enough to be used as a dip. Last night I steamed some rainbow trout for dinner, and added the sauce to the rice, along with a dash of chilli sauce and soy. Yum! 

Lessons learned - 1) read recipes to the end, and 2) Enjoy the different variations that come from these funny little mistakes. 

POST SCRIPT! This sauce is also fabulous as one element of my newly created amuse-bouche, complete with mini coconut pancakes and a prawn on top. Loved these!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

375&376/984 - Florentines and pears caramelised with honey

I love putting two, or even three recipes together to create a jaw-dropping dessert. This particular combination was selected as the final course for a recent dinner party with a group of people we have not known for very long at all! 

We recently holidayed at Uluru, which was a very special experience and one I would highly recommend. One of the events we attended was a dinner under the stars and we were lucky enough to be seated on the same table as two couples travelling together from America.

We immediately hit it off and the evening passed very quickly. The boys spoke to our new acquaintances more than to us and were both thrilled when I told them that our newest friends would be joining us for dinner when they passed through Melbourne. 

Dinner was a fun affair, and I was thrilled that my very favourite course was a success. Poached and caramelised pears seemed like a good idea, as the pears could be poached and cooled in advance, and the final caramelising and assembly was relatively straightforward. The florentines were not difficult to make, with a simple caramel binding the nuts and dried fruits and then a slather of chocolate painted to the underside once they were cool.

When I served them up together, as hoped, the chocolate melted and combined with the heated poaching syrup. For the sake of my waistline I will not be repeating this recipe any time soon but I do believe the memory of it will stay with me for some time. 

The dinner table

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

374/984 - Aunt Elva's apple cake

Trev's grandpa requested an apple dessert for his special lunch and with only three recipes left in the apple chapter the choice was not difficult to make!

As the name of the recipe suggests, this was supposed to be a cake, but my version didn't quite work out that way. I found the "dough" to be quite wet and was concerned that it wouldn't hold together. Also as I spread it on the base I decided that I wouldn't have enough to split it in half and create a top for the pie, so I used the entire amount on the base instead.

I baked this as instructed but then left it in the oven as long as I dared to ensure my slightly thicker base was cooked through. The taste was quite nice, but as anticipated, did not hold together very well. Thankfully I had also whipped up some vanilla ice-cream which meant that the dessert was quite lovely, although perhaps more crumble than cake. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

373/984 - Beetroot and avocado salad with baby spinach

With grandparents coming over for lunch I needed to find a salad that would complement the lamb shanks requested by our special guests. 

The lamb shank recipe was a slow cooked one, with tomato, chilli and honey being the main flavours. The result of the dish is a rich, thick pile of decadence and so a fresh, light salad was definitely required. 

My favourite thing about this salad was the lightly sautéed red onion, which added a lovely sweetness to the dish.

With a white linen tablecloth, I instructed Trev to serve up everybody's salad just in case! Thankfully there were no accidents and our lovely linen setting remained intact for our next special event.

The lunch table

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

372/984 - Chicken stock

Three years in and this is the first stock I have made in this challenge! This is mostly due to the fact that I usually make thermomix stock paste and so don't have a need to make a liquid version. 

I made this stock with the chicken carcass leftover from Sunday night's congee, which makes this the third meal derived from the one chicken (the second night was chicken soup). Not a bad effort for one little bird. 

I had to make a couple of substitutes to the recipe as I didn't have any mushrooms and our parsley has gone to a better place. Instead of these two ingredients I added a big pile of fennel stalks and swapped the leek for spring onion as it was all I had in the fridge. 

The house smelled wonderful as this cooked and my eldest commented on the aroma as he arrived home today, seeking whatever it was that smelled so good! 

So tonight's dinner was a risotto made from this wonderful stock, with brussels sprouts and capsicum and lots of wonderful butter and parmesan.

Lovely x

Sunday, October 5, 2014

371/984 - Chicken congee

Technically my rice could have been a bit mushier in this congee, but this dinner was so incredibly fabulous I didn't mind a bit!

Such a simple meal to put together, the chicken is poached in stock and then the stock (and a bit of wonderful fresh ginger) is used to cook the rice until it is wonderfully soft and mushy. 

Throw the chicken in bowls, top with the congee, some spring onions, chilli and the most INCREDIBLE sauce and you have one very happy family. I served this with a plate of steamed choi sum, carrots and capsicum which were all fabulous dipped in the juices and sauce. 

The best bit though, is that I have enough leftovers to serve again tomorrow night, and chicken bones to make stock for day three. How great is that? 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

370/984 - Green herb pilaf

This was the final recipe from The Cook's Companion that featured in our recent dinner party.

I must have had the heat too low in the simmer phase as the rice was still not cooked after twenty minutes. I left it a bit longer and added a dash more water and things seemed to turn out OK. Instead of serving this hot, I opted to stir the butter, herbs and cheese into the rice and refrigerate it until dinner time. 

All of the green elements - spring onions, parsley, coriander and spinach - were lovely in this dish. I would be interested to try this again one day and to serve it hot as per Stephanie's suggestion. 

What a great excuse to have to make this again!