Wednesday, January 27, 2016

498/1038 - Marinated raw anchovies or sardines

Some of the incredible sardines purchased at the Queen Victoria Market recently were wheeled out as we entertained friends for a casual get together this week. 

I adore the sardine cleaning process, but confess I am not very good at it. Fillets turned out in my kitchen are generally in one piece, but if I am honest, a little ragged around the edges. This time around I decided to watch a tutorial video before I attacked the poor fish and the result was much improved. Who knew you could get the guts to come out as you removed the head? Ingenious. 

We purchased a kilo of sardines, which I have now prepared three different ways. Not bad for around five dollars! I always take joy in telling my husband that if we are ever on the breadline, I have all the food knowledge I need to ensure wonderful food is kept on the table. Feed a family of four for under ten dollars? Piece of cake. 

After eating the first fifteen fillets as a super-fast grilled dinner, the second batch was marinated in parsley, garlic and oil. Alongside a barbecue and gorgeous salad, these little fish were eaten on their own and also scooped up on biscuits. They tasted absolutely wonderful and the fact that they were marinated rather than cooked simply highlighted the wonderful sardine flavour.

The third batch of fillets are busy pickling in the fridge; stay tuned for another fishy blog post soon x

Monday, January 25, 2016

497/1038 - Panisses

I do love me a good, tasty chip and these certainly delivered! 

A little while ago I blitzed some chickpeas to flour in the Thermomix and ended up with leftovers which have sat in the cupboard for some time now. It would appear that chickpea flour is not something I use very often! 

The first stage of chickpea chips happens on the stove top, and rather than five minutes of whisking/stirring as the recipe specified, I found my mixture needed an additional ten or so minutes before I was comfortable that it was thick enough. I am wondering if this could have been due to the fact that my home-ground flour was a bit grainy and therefore took a little longer to absorb the water. I will be testing this theory out with my next batch, sure to be made with flour that is more finely ground. 

Interestingly, I also increased the time I left these in the oven, in the end probably doubling the recommended cooking time. I was determined to get some colour and crunch into my chips and so the extended baking time was an absolute necessity for me. Never mind the fact that we had already finished dinner when these came out of the oven. 

I adore butter, and I cannot believe I am saying this, but thought these could have done with a little less. This, from the woman who cuts SLICES of the yellow stuff to adorn her morning toast. But there it is. I did, however, think the suggested amount of cheese was sensational. 

All in all, these are a wonderful snack and all I could think as I ate them was how wonderfully they would work with a creamy blue cheese sauce. Oh yes, I am definitely making these again x

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

496/1038 - Marieke's nectarine or peach tart

I dragged my little family out of bed pre-7am yesterday morning and took them, mostly willingly, to the Queen Victoria Market. I adore the market (and if my family are honest, they absolutely love it too!) and have decided I will be frequenting it much more often. The sights, the smells and the fact that you can have a friendly word as you make each purchase are just some of the reasons this, and most farmers' markets, are some of my very favourite places. 

Blue swimmer crabs were always going to be on the shopping list and the entire neighbourhood was subjected to the smell of frying shrimp paste and then the most wonderful pepper crab as I cooked dinner last night. It was the second time I had made it and it was every bit as good as the first, the entire family swooning and covered in crab juice by the end of the meal.

I also purchased a pile of beautiful sardines and will be preparing them two ways later today - keep an eye out for some more posts very soon. Blogwise, it was an incredibly slow December but I am definitely making up for that this month!

Of course I also purchased some beautiful peaches at the market and turned them into this sensational tart. I have made many tarts in my time, some forgettable and some unbelievable. This one was definitely the latter. 

To truly understand the concept of dedication to a recipe, picture me sifting through a pile of cereal, scouting for macadamias. I only found around fifty grams worth and so topped this up with a pile of slivered almonds which were blitzed to form a part of the filling. The filling was amazing, full of flavour and where it met the pastry, created an almost chewy edge.

As I spent the day cooking (read: me in heaven), I was amused at my teenager's shock when he realised just how much we had achieved before eleven o'clock, the time he is often just crawling out of bed.

So many things to love about this day x

Saturday, January 16, 2016

495/1038 - Fig and caramelised onion pizza

We do love a good pizza in our house! 

Having purchased some beautiful looking figs, it was a no-brainer to decide to whip up a super fast buttermilk pizza base and try out this amazing sounding recipe. 

Not having any caramelised onions in the house, I threw together a super quick version, basically frying the onions, rosemary and bay leaf in the usual way, but on a much higher heat and stirring all the time to make sure it didn't burn. 

The chiminea was fired up and this pizza was the first to go in, which of course meant that it took FOREVER to cook! It went in and out a few times before I was satisfied that the crust was suitably crunchy. 

The result? Absolutely wonderful. Sadly the only ingredient we were lacking was the blue cheese, which would have been an unbelievable addition, but as it was we were still very happy with the flavour. The thickly sliced figs were so soft they melted in the mouth and the sweetness of the onion was a sensation. 

Bonus of the day: leftover pizza dough which will become garlic pizza to serve with dinner tonight.

Fig chapter - officially started x

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

494/1038 - Boil-and-bake fruit cake

A slightly belated blog post, this was another of the things I baked for our little Christmas gift packs.

The original plan was to include a full-sized fruit cake in two of the packs, but I decided it would be better to make mini cakes and share the love with more of our family. 

I was surprised (and delighted!) to learn that the spice mix in this recipe was similar to the mix used in a gingerbread recipe. The result of this was a cake with an incredibly interesting flavour, which is not something I would say of many fruit cakes I have tasted over the years. 

Another thing I adored about this recipe was that, in my opinion, the cake to fruit ratio is absolutely spot on; enough cake to appreciate the complexity of the spice mix and enough fruit to make each mouthful just a little bit chewy. 

We have not touched base with the recipients of this particular gift and so I have no idea how they were received. All I know is that I am thrilled to have been able to keep a few for myself, which will be enjoyed with many cups of Earl Grey tea and probably also some John Steinbeck, my current form of relaxation.

Loving 2016 so far x

Friday, January 8, 2016

493/1038 - Farro, potato and leafy greens soup (but with spelt)

Still trying to make up for the very bad eating I did over the Christmas/New Year period, tonight's dinner (yes I have eaten dinner already) was this fabulously healthy soup. 

We plucked a rather large chilli from the garden over a week ago and so of course I had to add the entire thing into the soup. It was mostly fine, only one VERY hot mouthful made my eyes water! 

I have spoken before of my overflowing pantry, and it was for this reason the farro/spelt substitution occurred. Having only ever used spelt in its ground form to make bread, boiling it and eating in it in a soup was a first for us. (For the record, it was lovely!) Given that it takes around an hour to soften, this step was undertaken yesterday as I ran lines with an actor friend; it's amazing we heard the alarm on the stove go off as we guffawed our way through some of the funnier segments of the play. 

One of my family's favourite little snacks, flatbreads, was my labour of love today. I just knew they would taste wonderful with this soup and so the effort to make them was well worth it. The dough is ridiculously fast to make, it's the cooking that takes ages! Always with two pans going at once, it still takes some time to knock twenty of these babies out.

All in all a lovely meal, and most importantly, filled with green! x

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

492/1038 - Green salad with walnuts, grapes and verjuice

This is the first time I have had a grape and walnut salad - and I am sold! 

With a couple of weeks of (very) bad eating behind me, I thought this salad looked like a lovely healthy option for dinner tonight. 

Feeling a bit lazy, I didn't boil the walnuts and rub at the skins...but I DID roast them with garlic. I can't believe I have never roasted walnuts before; what a wonderful way to intensify their fabulous flavour! Given that the garlic I used was locally grown and organic, I just couldn't bring myself to throw it away. Instead I chopped it up finely and tossed it into the vinaigrette. 

I had a feeling my walnut oil was a bit long in the tooth and unfortunately I was right. Tasting a bit too much like the tin in which it was stored, into the bin it had to go. I used a gorgeous fruity olive oil instead and can report that the result was still incredible. 

This recipe was the last in the small batch which appeared only in the second version of The Cook's Companion. Being the complicated little challenge that this is, it is easier to explain this in a diagram than in words, so see below for an explanation.

Another small milestone achieved x

...and did I mention that all of the lettuce was straight from the garden? Yummo.

Friday, January 1, 2016

491/1038 - Sally Clarke's oatmeal biscuits for cheddar cheese

For the second year in a row, I opted to make all of the Christmas presents for our families. This year, however, I decided to reduce the amount of sweet things in my packages, replacing them with a couple of new savoury elements I thought would be well received. 

The shining star of my gifts, in my opinion, were the chickpeas I roasted with honey, rosemary and chilli salt. I made more than I needed and confess that I ate the remainder in record time, so enamoured was I with them. 

Oatmeal biscuits were another of my savoury elements and I paired these with a small hunk each of Edam and Camembert. I have been enjoying these myself with tasty cheese, enjoying the fact that they are more oat than wheat, and therefore easier for my crazy body to digest. 

As much as my family love chocolate truffles and gingerbread, I think my sweet and savoury packages were a hit! 

Gifts made with love are definitely the best ones x

Roasted chickpeas with rosemary, honey and chilli salt. Delicious!