Thursday, April 28, 2016

517/1038 - Michael's turnip dumplings

I do love it when several recipes are able to be combined. This little concoction was made up of turnip dumplings (obviously!), pumpkin soup, slow-cooked shallots and baby spinach. Leftovers are definitely not all bad! 

I do think turnips have a bad reputation. When I told my brother I was making these, his amusing response was, "Oh, so people actually eat turnips?"

My husband and I loved these, but the reactions from my children did amuse. My eldest claimed they were "disgusting", but I am fairly sure this was based on his mood (and lack of love for me) at the time. His empty plate provides further weight to this argument. The little one did like them, but was very disappointed that the dumplings did not look anything like the gyoza he was expecting. A note for next time to share information regarding the various types of dumplings that exist! 

I am batting slightly above my average this month, this being recipe number ten for April. At this cracking rate, I will be finished as early as 2020.

Goodness x

Friday, April 22, 2016

516/1038 - Olive oil and dessert wine cake

I thought I was pretty clever a few weeks ago; buying myself a beautiful looking bottle of French wine that I thought would satisfy my craving for a crisp glass of white. I will admit that I didn't really take too much notice of the variety, thinking that no matter what it was I was bound to like it. 

I like to drink my white with a few ice cubes in it, both to cool it down and also to dilute it ever so slightly. Imagine my surprise when I took my first sip and discovered that it was, in fact a VERY sweet wine. The colour threw me, being quite pale and not at all what I would expect from a sticky variety. 

...and this is where I went wrong for the second time! I thought I would use up as much of this wine as I could in this recipe...only to find as I was pouring it into the bowl that it was not a sticky at all; simply a very, very sweet, but quite light white. Whoops.

I decided to continue on and make the cake anyway. Unfortunately this meant that the cake ended up tasting OK, but perhaps a little bland. Of course I found a way to make it wonderful, covering it in cream, sugar and slivered almonds.

Cake (and reputation) saved x 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

515/1038 - Basil butter

Basil butter; a great way to use up a herb that would have otherwise gone limp and been fed to the chooks. Not deliberately of course, but it's what so often happens to my store bought herbs when I don't have a plan for the whole bunch! 

We first ate this fabulously green butter on steaks, fresh off the barbecue. I didn't photograph that instance because we had people over for dinner and to be honest I prefer not to get the camera out in front of people unless it is absolutely necessary.

This afternoon my eldest was searching for a way to fill his stomach and I whipped up this little snack for him; home made toast smeared with basil butter and topped with lovely Roma tomatoes. I am not always mother of the year, but was very popular on this occasion! 

If you are a regular sandwich maker like me, you probably noticed my very efficient laying of the tomato slices. I love this trick of slicing circles (of anything!) and laying the flat side to the edges so that the entire piece of bread is covered. As somebody who butters bread/toast meticulously to the edges, discovering this method has provided me with much satisfaction over the years. 

You hadn't heard of that method you say? You're very welcome x

Sunday, April 17, 2016

514/1038 - Tomato tarte tatin

This absolutely gorgeous looking tart was the highlight of last night's dinner. 

Given the ingredient list, it was fairly obvious this one was going to be good; the shallots slow cooked in red wine and port, and the tomatoes pre-baked with basil and oil.

I was ever so slightly concerned that I had not taken the caramel topping far enough, but decided that even if it remained a little runny, the taste would still be sensational.

Not having foil pie tins, I simply lined my mini pie dishes with foil to allow for easy displacement of the completed tarts. As the topping and pastry circles came out of the oven ready for assembly, I reaffirmed to myself one of the (many) reasons I would never apply to be a MasterChef contestant. Everything worked out perfectly in the end, but let's just say it would not have been appropriate for young children's ears to have been in my kitchen as the assembly was undertaken. A decent cook I am, Pollyanna I am not. 

My potty mouth aside, the sweetness of these tarts had us all begging for more and my husband has already requested a repeat performance for tomorrow night's dinner. 

Win x

Thursday, April 14, 2016

513/1038 - North Indian dhal

Over the years my "cooking eye" has been improving and a recent purchase gave this kitchen geek a surprising little jolt of happiness.

I bought some red lentils from a stall in the Vic market and knew I needed one and three quarters of a cup for this recipe. I scooped out what looked to be the right amount and was ridiculously thrilled when I got home and realised the amount I had guessed was pretty much spot on. It doesn't take much to get me excited nowadays...

The dhal was ridiculously easy to make, cooked in a saucepan with a range of spices until the lentils collapsed. Onions, curry leaves and cumin were fried separately and tipped over the top, to add a bit of crunch and extra flavour.

And that's it! Lovely dhal x

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

512/1038 - Angela's Chelsea butter buns

These butter buns were a bit too quick and easy to make; a waist expanding recipe if ever I saw one! 

Interestingly, my little one does not much care for dried fruit but he loved these buns. To be honest I am also not big on dried fruit when served on its own but I could definitely eat these ad infinitum. 

The wonderful thing about this recipe is that there is no need for kneading or proving and yet the dough comes out wonderfully firm and crisp. 

We ate these a couple of nights running for dessert, two of us preferring them plain and two enjoying them slathered in cream. I adore cream but just couldn't bring myself to mess with the perfection that was the flavour of these buns! 

Every family member has requested that I repeat this recipe regularly and I am happy to oblige given the excitement they created. I confess I have no idea how I am going to restrain myself and might have to impose a one-a-day bun limit...which of course I expect to break on a regular basis x

Sunday, April 10, 2016

511/1038 - Twice-cooked wallaby shanks with young ginger

We have started to frequent the Vic Market on a more regular basis again and this lovely dish was one of the best outcomes of this week's visit.  

We bought the wallaby shanks at The Chicken Pantry which is located in the deli section and is home to all sorts of wonderful meats including venison, kangaroo and possum. Yes, possum! We didn't partake in possum this week but have not ruled out trying it in the near future. 

This dish was on the menu for last night's dinner but of course once I realised the shanks needed to be marinated for four hours and then cooked for another few I realised I had left my start too late. 

After an unexpected sleep-in this morning (hooray for me!), I had the shanks prepared and marinating before eleven am. The marinade smelled divine and my youngest was asking if he could dip his finger in to have a taste. Given that it was quite alcoholic I didn't let him, but I could see where he was coming from! 

After a LONG time marinating, it was into the bamboo steamer for three and a half hours until the meat was falling from the bone. Just to up the wow factor, the meat was then deep fried and my, did it taste good! 

Served with a dense, syrupy juice, Vietnamese mint, spring onion and a good squeeze of lime, this one knocked our taste buds out of the park. 

Oh and that's another chapter finished. On a serious roll here x

Thursday, April 7, 2016

510/1038 - Takoyaki with tempura batter

Japanese food; my new obsession! 

Kuromon Ichiba was the number one place I wanted to visit on our recent visit to Osaka. As we entered the market, the very first thing we stumbled upon was a stall making and serving octopus balls, or takoyaki. Soft on the outside and with a crispy outer skin, they are absolutely wonderful and incredibly moreish! To be honest I think we could have quite happily sat all day and eaten these lovely little things. 

Of course I was keen to try them out in my own kitchen as soon as we got home and I snaffled my Mum's antique cast iron gem scone tray, which I thought would be a great substitute for a proper takoyaki tray. I won't outline everything that didn't quite work as it should have; suffice to say, these are the only two balls I produced. After these two (and a couple of burnt fingers) I decided to make what my husband called, "deconstructed takoyaki". 

Essentially this means that I tipped the entire dough mix and fillings (boiled octopus, spring onions, pickled ginger and many tiny pieces of tempura batter) into the fry pan and stirred it around until it broke up and became many tiny little pieces of takoyaki! It was quite delicious, but definitely not as photogenic as these two little beauties x

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

509/1038 - Cucumber, lime and mint agua fresca

I have been taking a look at my challenge stats lately and was surprised to find that the last time I completed a chapter was back in October. 

This prompted me to have a look at the sixteen chapters which are all on the brink of completion and I decided that this recipe, literally 'fresh water' in Spanish, was the easiest one to tick off the list. 

We had everything on hand except the limes, which was remedied by a quick visit to the local shops. Halving the recipe meant that we only ended up with a couple of glasses worth, but that was plenty given that after quite a close-quartered family holiday, our children had disappeared to the far corners of our property. 

I really liked this drink, my husband was not so sure. The only thing I struggled with (because I am the waste queen) was what to do with the strained vegetables. Whilst I could have given them to the chooks, I decided that would be too easy. I decided instead to include them in the dumplings I was making for dinner, which ended up being a concoction of vegetables, sauces, spices and cheese. Yes, cheese! Seriously, don't knock it until you have tried it.

As well as being refreshed by my lovely agua fresca, I am also pleased to report the completion of chapter number thirteen, mint.

Officially 10% of chapters wrapped up x

Monday, April 4, 2016

508/1038 - Falafel

My little family undertook some wonderful travelling over the last couple of weeks and of course that means my cooking came to a standstill! 

We spent ten days in Japan, exploring the cities and of course partaking in the fabulous food which was on offer. The most incredible experiences were to be found at the three markets we visited; Nishiki market in Kyoto, Kuromon Ichiba in Osaka and Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

Market food in Japan
Although we enjoyed Japanese food very much, we ate out the entire time we were away and so were craving fresh vegetables on our return! Falafel with some home-made flatbreads and fresh carrot and cucumber hit the spot for us last night, the falafel of course full of wonderful fresh herbs from the garden. As usual I used Vietnamese mint instead of coriander and am pleased to say that it worked very well indeed. The trick is to use just a little less as the flavour of the mint can be quite strong.

My youngest had a little guest over for dinner last night and when I told him we would be spreading hummus on the flatbread, he exclaimed, "Chickpea on chickpea!". I was impressed that a boy of 11 would know what both hummus and falafel were made of! 

Even after ten days of eating incredible food, I was pleased that my family were still very complimentary about my cooking. 

Phew! x