Thursday, November 27, 2014

392/1038 - Snapper in a salty meringue crust

With a newly updated version of The Cook's Companion on my bench, this was the first recipe I have tried that did not exist in this challenge just two weeks ago. 

We love fish in our house, and snapper is one of our favourites. I loved the idea of cooking it in a crust and sealing in all of those wonderful snapper juices. The fish was supposed to be 1.5kg and instead I used two that were around 1.5kg combined. Mine were not butterflied, but instead stuffed and cooked with the bones still inside. 

The stuffing was a lovely mix of tomato, olives, preserved lemons and herbs. 

The fish were covered with an egg white and salt mix.

Once the fish was cooked, the salt crust was cracked open. The fish inside was perfectly cooked after thirty minutes and oh so moist! We peeled off the crust and the skin and of course the boys couldn't help but try out the meringue crust. I wasn't game - it must have tasted like a block of salt!

This is definitely one of those recipes that sounds much more complicated than it actually is. Well worth doing...even if I am left without any table salt left in the cupboard.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

391/1038 - Hare pasta sauce

With a rabbit in my hot little hand, procured from a trip to the Queen Vic market, I decided to cheat and use it in this recipe for hare pasta sauce. 

On the day I made this we were heading across town to celebrate the first birthday of a little friend. Knowing we would not return home until late in the afternoon, I decided to begin this recipe in the morning, ready to be finished off for a quick and easy dinner when we returned home. 

Given that my rabbit was a wild one and a bit on the small side, I used the entire bunny in this recipe rather than just the hind legs. The baking took around ninety minutes and then the contents of the casserole dish were transferred to the fridge until we returned home. 

After the party I set to stripping the meat from the bones. The sauce was still a touch too thin, and so rather than boiling it down I heated it very gently and added enough cornflour to make a rich, thick sauce. 

The boys ate this with pasta but I was just not in the mood for it. Instead my bowl was filled with steamed vegetables and topped with the meat and this delicious sauce.

One little bunny, two handfuls of pasta and a bucket of steamed vegetables was plenty to satisfy this little family of four. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Supersize me...

I never thought I would buy the same book three times...and yet here we are.

With a wedding to attend on the weekend, I decided on The Cook's Companion as our gift to the happy couple. Mid-purchase, I realised I couldn't bear to buy the latest version of this book for somebody else and not for myself! Given the length of time between the second and third version, I am (reasonably) confident that this will be the last book I will need to buy in order to complete this challenge. Of course only time will tell.

Along with the prospect of a lengthier challenge came a couple of new chapters, amended chapter titles (mushrooms became mushrooms and truffles, rock lobsters became rock lobsters and scampi), tweaks and additions to recipes and a change to the colour of the ribbon markers. The colour change may seem insignificant to anybody else, but to someone who looks at this book on an almost daily basis, this is a welcome amendment! I very much approve of the green and purple.

Just to be tricky, there are quite a few recipes that have moved around. Some have moved chapters (cannoli has  moved from cheese to chocolate), some have slipped into the margin (e.g. slow roasted tomatoes) and some have been tweaked and given new names. Given that this is my challenge and I get to make up all of the rules, I decided to keep both versions of any recipes that have had significant change. Expect to see a slightly improved version of a Greek salad very soon...

So from an initial challenge with 656 984 with the purchase of the second book, the magic number is now 1,038. 

What's an additional 54 recipes? Only about a year of cooking. No biggie. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

390/984 - Spicy ginger clams

Seafood has been prominent in our house of late!

I was very excited to try this recipe which I have been eyeing off for some time. I am a bit of a ginger fiend, loving the gentle spicy flavour in savoury and sweet dishes alike. In fact I will take a dash of ginger syrup over a spoonful of sugar any time. 

With loads of onion and some lovely spices, this was a very nice meal. If I am honest, I would have liked for the ginger to be more prominent, but the family enjoyed it as it was. There was a major downside unfortunately, which was entirely my fault. As I threw the clams into the pan, a shell smashed and I must confess to finding several hard little bits of shell in my food. 


Shell notwithstanding, the clams were easily devoured. Luckily for me there was a small pile of sauce left over, which I ate for lunch the following day, along with leftover egg whites (a common occurrence in this ice-cream loving household!), chilli, bacon and Brussels sprouts. It was truly fabulous, and every bit as good as the original meal.

Leftover concoction

389/984 - Lemon roulade

With a lovely batch of fresh lemon curd in the fridge of course I had to make a lemon roulade!

This dessert was to be served to some lovely friends who came to dinner recently. I always get just a little bit nervous feeding people for the first time, but this dinner party went well; the only hiccup being that the roulade split as it was rolled. 

Of course things could have been much worse. Instead of a beautiful circular slice I ended up with a more linear effect. Pair that with some lovely home-made vanilla bean ice-cream and who is going to notice the shape of the roulade?

The base tasted absolutely wonderful and, apart from the rolling incident, was a resounding success. The texture was lovely and light and one of our guests, who professed to being very picky with desserts, requested a second serve. A lovely compliment indeed.

I will definitely make this again, perhaps in the same form, or perhaps as a light, unfilled cake served with fresh fruit and cream. 

Beautiful flowers from my guests

Sunday, November 16, 2014

388/984 - Kevin's pepper crab

My little one and I got up very early yesterday morning and took a trip together to the Queen Victoria market. Being particularly proud of both of my children this week, I allowed each of them to select a gourmet food of their choice for purchase. 

It was crayfish for my eldest, and of course thirty dollars didn't go far, buying us one little cray that was gobbled up by the family for a (very) light lunch. 

The blue swimmer crabs, however, were a different story! For a little over twenty dollars, we purchased four crabs that were destined to be the highlight of our day. I am kicking myself for not taking a picture prior to taking them apart, their wonderful blue shells so pretty to look at. 

Given that my youngest is only now developing his "chilli-mouth" as we call it in our house, I decided to include only three red chillies instead of four. I did, however, include the maximum amount of black peppercorns and I am so pleased that I did!

As per usual, I swapped the vegetable oil for coconut oil, and the smell of the crabs frying was nothing short of magical. 

As we ate this dish, the groans of pleasure around our dining table were truly amusing. Comments (in between mouthfuls) included;

“Mind-blowingly good!”
“Best thing you have ever cooked – by a mile”

After clearing our plates of crab, we all had a small serving of rice, doused in the amazing juices from the pan. With a small container left over (there was no way I was throwing it out!) I can see a wonderful stir-fry coming up for dinner tonight. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

387/984 - Lemon curd

Another dinner party (what a surprise!) and I decided to do some inventing.

As I began designing my amuse-bouche, I wrote down a list of ingredients I would like to put together. The list became:

  • Lemon curd
  • Coriander (fresh)
  • Cucumber
  • Chicken
  • Chilli
  • Coriander seeds
  • Coconut
Lemon curd is so ridiculously easy to make, and if it wasn't so moreish and simultaneously bad for the hips I would certainly make it more often. Only a 5-10 minute gig, the trickiest thing about this recipe is not eating it all straight from the container.

On the day of the dinner party I cut myself a couple of slices of cucumber, fried up some thinly sliced chicken and began to play around with the flavours. I fried the coconut to finish my concoction and included everything in the first tester except the coriander seeds. I liked the overall taste, but decided that the lemon curd and coconut definitely needed more of a savoury offset.

Into the pan went the coriander seeds, and then a quick bash in the mortar and pestle and I was ready to go.

I ended up serving this as an entrĂ©e, as I felt that all of this work was wasted on a mouthful that would be over in a moment. Each guest received three little serves and consensus was that the combination worked, lemon curd and all. 

...and of course they looked lovely too! x

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

386/984 - Potatoes in paper parcels

Almost four hundred recipes into this challenge, it is probably no surprise that I am starting to have a lot of trouble remembering which recipes I have actually cooked. I could have sworn I had already made this one, but looking through my records I realise it was the recipe for "mushroom en papillote" that I was remembering. 

I absolutely slathered my potatoes with butter and then added a few good pinches of river salt, cracked pepper and of course a few well placed cloves of garlic to the mix. Not trusting my folding abilities, I decided to tie up the bag with cooking twine. Possibly due to the double layer of paper, I found these needed an additional twenty minutes of cooking before they were sufficiently soft.

We ate these covered in a mound of parsley and what I loved best was the garlic flavour that had made its sneaky way into the potatoes. I wasn't game enough to chow down on a clove of garlic, but I live with a couple of brave people who did. I am told they were also fabulous.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

385/984 - Tabbouleh

Melbourne Cup Day means catching up with friends, a roaring barbecue and of course fabulous salads. 

We are lucky enough to have friends with a beautiful property that honestly makes me feel relaxed the minute I set foot in the back yard. Gazing around at the expanse of trees is incredibly calming...and of course also a wonderful backdrop for wine drinking, soccer playing and mud fights. 

Beautiful view, complete with chooks and horses
My contribution to our Cup Day table was a lovely fresh tabbouleh, one of my very favourite ways to use parsley. It takes only a few minutes to put together and is a colourful way to get the kids excited about their greens. It was one of several salads on offer, and so we ended up with plenty of leftovers to bring home and munch on over the next day or so. 

We did stop the festivities momentarily to watch the big race...but I am not sure our hearts were really in it. Mostly we were happy to be enjoying a day off together, making memories and enjoying the weather. 

Oh and just for the record, I participated in the wine drinking but left the mud flinging to the kids. Even I have my limits. 

Little mud monster