Friday, December 28, 2018

Warrigal Greens pappardelle

I have been fascinated by bush foods since our trek to Uluru a few years ago, having attended a bush foods masterclass with a couple of the locals. My lovely husband remembered this and bought me a huge pile of ingredients from Taste Australia Bush Food Shop for Christmas. 

Tonight was my first foray into bush food wonderland. 

It would have been difficult to decide what to cook first except that the Warrigal greens arrived fresh and so the choice was fairly obvious. It is always confronting when you realise that an ingredient you are about to use is quite toxic in its raw form. Some websites recommended blanching it for three minutes and The Cook's Companion recommended five. Given the possibility I could poison my family if I didn't cook it well enough, I opted for five and then rinsed it very, very well. The smell as it was cooking reminded me very much of silverbeet which was lovely and familiar. 

After having the life squeezed out of it to remove all moisture, I threw it in the thermomix and blended it well. The recipe in the Cook's Companion required only a half cup of fresh Warrigal greens but I decided I was not in the mood to cook two different things so I blended the entire bunch. I think I started with around 500 grams before the stems were removed. At this point I realised that I would be going "off-recipe" and threw in about four cups of flour. When blitzed, I was thrilled to realise that I had created my very own green flour. I am kicking myself now for not taking a picture! 

Having made pasta many, many times I added the eggs by eye; ending up with four or five eggs and another four yolks in the mixture before I was happy with the consistency. 

Running out of energy, the pasta ended up resting overnight instead of for the required hour. Honestly the best pasta making tip I think I could ever give is to rest the pasta in the fridge (sealed in cling film) for at least thirty minutes and if flavoured, at least an hour. It makes rolling it out a breeze. 

I hand cut the pappardelle which kept things nice and rustic. We were thrilled with the taste which was beautiful and fresh and the texture of the pasta was absolutely spot on which I did not expect given the amount of greens in there. 

Look out for some more bush food action over the coming weeks and months. 

Hanging out to dry

Sunday, December 23, 2018

627/1038 - Rouille

Well look at that, I slipped in another one before Christmas! 

Beautiful fish in the fridge plus needing to roast some peppers anyway equals an easy and tasty fish dinner. When I first tasted the rouille I was a bit worried as the taste of the potato was quite strong. I needn't have worried. Once it was paired with the fish (and the vegetables!) the flavour was absolutely perfect.

I absolutely love Stephanie's instruction to wrap the grilled peppers in a tea towels before they are peeled. They sweat perfectly and the peel comes straight off every time. There is nothing difficult about this recipe and even though rouille is actually supposed to be eaten in fish soup, it goes beautifully with just about everything else, too.

As well as having a lovely dinner to enjoy, tonight is a very special night for us. As I mentioned in my previous post, what is Christmas eve eve for everybody else is actually the night before Christmas for my little family. I am so very excited this year as I am completely organised present-wise and I even managed to hand in two law assignments in the midst of the madness. On top of that I am REALLY happy with the presents I have organised for everybody and even better than that I have had each of my family members tell me that I will love what they bought for me. 

How am I ever going to sleep tonight?

Ready for Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

626/1038 - Aunt Peggy's powder puffs

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! 

If I am honest, Christmas used to feel like a bit of a chore. It used to start with a ridiculously early start and opening presents with the kids (I loved that bit!) but then we undertook what felt like the never-ending trek from one house to another to satisfy all of our family commitments. It was simply exhausting. And on top of that, we had to disappoint our kids who just wanted to sit in their pyjamas and play with their new things. I was always a HUGE advocate for creating our own Christmas day but my husband would have none of it. Christmas was the 25th of December and that was that. 

Until it wasn't. 

I have no idea how I convinced him, but one year he agreed to try my idea and have our own Christmas day on the 24th. I have LOVED Christmas ever since! We play carols, drink egg nog, open our presents and sit around in our pyjamas all day playing with our new things. It is simply fabulous. And even better, there is one less day to wait to open our presents. Win, win!  

So with the house looking absolutely gorgeous, I am ready for this Christmas 2018 to come! Last night I thought I would do a bit of pre-festive cooking and had my first go at these powder puffs. I have always wondered what a powder puff would taste like and now I know it is kind of like a yoyo but much, much softer. Like having your own personal mini filled sponge.

One thing I DID learn the hard way was not to stack them away on top of one another because they have a tendency to stick to one another. A smarter way would have been to stack them away already sandwiched in pairs and with a small piece of baking paper in between each pair. Mine tasted fantastic but they didn't all look pretty like this one. As they say, looks are not everything.  

With an assignment due next Friday and plenty of Christmas shopping yet to do, I am wondering if this might be my final post for 2018. Just in case it is, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! 

May the rest of your year (and all of 2019) be wonderful x

Sunday, December 9, 2018

625/1038 - Persian sugar-pickled garlic

OK, so this picture is from BEFORE the garlic was pickled...but it looked much prettier this way! 

My mum buys her garlic from Patrice Newell's garlic farm and then very generously shares it with me. It is delicious and of course much, much better for you than garlic which is imported and sprayed. I decided to pickle some as it is so beautiful that I just hate the thought of not getting through it before it is no longer fresh. 

The smell of the garlic pickling has permeated my house (which I am completely OK with) but my husband thinks it smells as if I have cooked up a batch of pepper spray. While I don't agree with his assessment, I can confirm that catching an eyeful of the steam as it boiled caused a small amount of pain. Even so, I think the smell is quite lovely.

Apparently the pickled garlic will last as long as fifteen years so I am very pleased to report that this, unlike some other things I have made, will not go off in my fridge. I am not sure of the stats in Australia, but apparently American families throw out between 14 and 25 percent of the food they buy, which is nothing short of astonishing. While I am nowhere near that bad, I do feel a pang of guilt whenever I have to toss something that is past its date or has simply festered in my fridge or pantry for too long. 

Unfortunately for impatient me, these sweet and smelly little cloves need to sit for a whole month before we can eat them. Once this wait time has elapsed, we will enjoy them as we do our pickled ginger; randomly scattered on meat and vegetables alike. 

Can. not. wait. 


Monday, November 26, 2018

624/1038 - Asparagus custards

It was election day on Saturday and for the first time in many years I actually headed to the polls with my husband, having foregone the opportunity to vote early due to his promise that we would head down together. I am not a big fan of waiting in line but have found I don't mind it nearly so much if I have company. 

The little polling booth we attended was sadly devoid of democracy sausages and so this was our special treat for the day instead. I do love asparagus and this custard was very lovely...and very rich! I couldn't help feeling that they would have gone very well with a big juicy steak and so this is probably what we will pair them with next time. On this occasion the pairing was with a lovely and crackly roast pork so I didn't hear too many complaints.

Of course it would have been more impressive to photograph a perfectly turned out custard but I tried a couple of times and they just didn't want to play ball. No matter, they tasted just as good straight from the moulds. 

...and just like that, another chapter is finished! That's twenty-four down now with a measly one hundred and one to go. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

623/1038 - Watermelon granita

The timing of this dessert couldn't have been better, providing me with a lovely sweet finish to my meal but at the same time keeping me (loosely) on track to being able to fit comfortably in my jeans some time in the foreseeable future. A concert with friends next week has provided extra motivation for this goal. 

Of course, this recipe was put on the list to assist with the project we are currently undertaking which we have affectionately named "operation watermelon". I have vowed that unless we demolish this entire fruit without any wastage it will be the last time I buy a watermelon in its entirety. With the aim of creating easy watermelon access, I spent some time on day one scooping all of the flesh into a container. So far so good.

I actually created this recipe in the manner described in the book, even though I have a whizz-bang ice-cream machine and could just as easily have churned it. But there is something about the texture that is created when granita is scraped with a fork that I do like very much. Sometimes the manual way really is the best. But of course the tray does take up an inordinate amount of space in our indoor freezer.

I type and type and have just realised I have not yet commented on the taste! This granita is simply perfect on its own, with the sweetness of the watermelon perfectly offsetting the tartness of the lime juice. Even better, I made a round of mojitos with the leftover sugar syrup (which were fabulous by the way!)

...and in the spirit of celebrating every possible milestone, this recipe represents sixty percent of the challenge complete! It only took seven and half years to get here...

Mojito made with the extra sugar syrup

Monday, November 19, 2018

622/1038 - Gelo di melone

In some language, somewhere, I am fairly sure that watermelon means summer...

With a hankering for a taste of my favourite summer juice, watermelon and pineapple, I lugged home an entire melon and then realised that we had enough for a LOT of juice! Expect to see at least one more watermelon recipe after this one. 

This dessert was very fast to make and tasted incredible but if I am honest, didn't quite set the way it should have. It didn't matter. The watermelon combined with rosewater was a heavenly combination and we all agreed that this would be fabulous with a bowl of homemade vanilla ice-cream. 

I quite liked the amount the recipe made, with just the right amount of sweetness in each serve. The pistachios were a lovely addition, too.

After what has been a relatively slow start to this eighth year of the challenge (from mid-July) November has been quite a productive month!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

621/1038 - Stephanie's chicken Provençale

When an animal dies for our culinary pleasure, it is only right that their little bodies be treated with respect. It was with this thought in mind that I experienced a flood of guilt as I jointed this poor little chicken, devoid of the deft skill required for such a delicate job. Massacring aside, I did ended up with my ten pieces and also a little sack of meaty bones ready to be made into stock. 

This dinner topped off a lovely day of catch ups, coffee and champagne and so of course that meant I was completely exhausted and in absolutely no state to post this until after a decent night's sleep. 

Possibly the most time-consuming element of this dish was taking the skin off the peppers. I usually trim the seeds and spines from the peppers before I put them under the grill but absent-mindedly skipped this step on this occasion which meant I had seeds EVERYWHERE as I removed the skins. Not ideal. Messy. Not to be repeated. 

Having said that, I do adore the sweet, sweet taste of a grilled pepper and this dish was a sensation because of it. Of course my home-cured olives also had a special part to play! 

There is something deeply satisfying about using an entire chicken and knowing that as well as saving money, every little bit of the bird has been used. I could be wrong, but I also think the various pieces taste better than when they are bought pre-cut. 

This was, quite simply, a sensational dish and I will be making it again (and again and again).

It is now breakfast time and I think there are some leftovers calling my name...

Saturday, November 10, 2018

620/1038 - Braised celery

With absolutely no inspiration regarding what to cook for dinner tonight, I employed a technique I like to call "the Masterchef method". It sounds fancy but in reality it is sending my husband out to the chest freezer and telling him to pick a cut of meat. Today's meat choice was a bag of pork ribs and so dinner ended up being pork rib soup and braised celery served with steamed rice. Everything was served in the same bowl but the soup didn't make the cut for the photograph due to it's quite ordinary brownish hue. 

My husband is not a celery fan but will eat it if it is sufficiently disguised or apparently, braised. This method of cooking celery is simply fabulous and reduces the strength of the flavour so that it becomes palatable even to non-celery fans.

I was keen to reduce the sauce but was a bit worried about overcooking the celery. After a short time on the stove top I took the celery out and sped up with the thickening process with a good pinch of cornflour. 

Dinner was lovely and I made a mountain of food so that's tomorrow night sorted, too. I do have to make dessert though as we polished off the last of the red velvet cupcakes I made in memory of a beautiful friend who was supposed to have enjoyed them this week for his birthday. Bittersweet, indeed.

With plenty of leftover cream cheese icing in the fridge, tomorrow is looking a lot like a carrot cake kind of day...

Super fluffy red velvet cupcakes

Thursday, November 8, 2018

619/1038 - Plum sauce marinade for lamb or pork

With a roast pork on hand, this plum sauce marinade couldn't have come at a better time. 

We LOVE a good roast pork and my husband and I have both reached the stage of creating consistently good crackle. Recently I was out of cooking circulation for almost a month as I wrestled with study/assignment/exam related matters. It appears I was out of the kitchen a touch too long because once things died down I put a beautifully crackled pork roast on the table (the one before this one) and the boys told me that it was fantastic and asked if their Dad had snuck home to cook it. I had to laugh but then reminded them that I CAN cook. How easily they forget...

So while I treated the skin side of tonight's roast with the regular oil and salt combo, every inch of the meat was slathered with this delectable marinade. I halved the mixture and still had plenty left over so I decided to cover the carrots in it too (which was a fabulous idea by the way!)

To complete the decadence of the meal, and to use up some leftover cream, I thought I would throw together some scalloped potatoes as well. This all sounds lovely but of course as I was creating all of this I completely forgot about the fact that since my prolonged swot period I still can't fit into my favourite jeans. This was made very clear to me as I attempted to get dressed to go out and see The Living End on Monday night (who were FABULOUS by the way) and had to pick my outfit based on what I thought I could get away with and also what would not spontaneously burst open on the night. 

Oh well. As they say, life is too short. Eat ALL of the food. 

As is evidenced by the dreadful photo above, as dinner came together everything seemed to happen at once and the ability to stop and take a decent photo escaped me. Life is just like that sometimes. 

But at least we ate all the food! Highly recommended and a great way to use up a bit more of last week's lovely plum sauce.  

Saturday, November 3, 2018

618/1038 - Plum sauce

Soooo...plum sauce! 

This beautiful meal was based around Stephanie's plum sauce which I just knew had to be used in Peking duck parcels. The sauce was made a week ago but had to be left to mature so I have been dying for today to arrive! 

I decided it would be prudent to third the recipe as two litres of plum sauce was likely to last us a lot longer than I was comfortable having to store it in my fridge. Only having a small amount of white wine vinegar on hand I thought it would also be a good idea to top up with a plum vinegar I had bought from the Asian grocer. Unfortunately the plum vinegar has a very strong and quite unusual taste and the final result just didn't taste quite right. Enter a few good handfuls of coconut sugar, a squeeze of vanilla paste and a decent splash of lemon juice and the flavour was absolutely perfect.

Move forward one week and it was Peking duck time! Yesterday morning started with the creation of a lovely little orange and carrot salad which was to be the healthy element of our special dinner. The salad was followed by the assembly of mandarin pancakes which are generally not a big deal to put together. Unfortunately I had something of a brain fade and decided to stack the raw pancakes on top of one another which of course stuck together in the most annoying way. I have made these so many times before and I have no idea what made me think that stacking them while raw would be a good idea. Fortunately only a couple of them had to be re-rolled so the disaster was not a major one.

After the  pancakes were made it was duck time! I rubbed the duck with a mix of Chinese 5-spice and salt and cooked it in a very hot oven, turning it regularly. Once it was cooked I had my lovely family helping to shred the meat from the bones which meant that in no time we were making our own little parcels filled with plum sauce, chives, cucumber, duck and even a little bit of the orange and carrot salad.

Just fabulous.

Carrot and orange salad

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

617/1038 - Kitchen garden soup with tiny herb omelettes

Today has been a pretty ordinary day. 

Generally cooking and good food make me feel better, so I set about putting this beautiful soup together, all the while trying to convince myself that the culinary therapy was working. Sadly, it did not. 

There is a novel (and now also a movie) called 'Like Water for Chocolate'. The main character is a wonderful cook and loves to feed people. Somehow, perhaps magically, her moods are always transferred to her diners through her cooking. If she was feeling sad, the diners, after eating, would also feel sad. I do like to think my cooking is magical but given how incredibly wonderful this soup was, I am fairly sure I don't have the power to transfer my moods through food. 

The edible portion of my garden has recently been given a lot of love and so all of the herbs in the soup and the omelette were fresh and aromatic and imparted the most wonderful depth to the meal. I followed the recipe religiously, except for the part where I was supposed to strain the soup. Of course, anybody who follows my blog will know that this is largely due to the fact that I don't like waste but if I am honest is also because I am not always very good at doing what I am told. 

To ensure nobody got a mouthful of anything revolting, I removed the bay leaf and the strands of stripped thyme sprigs before I threw the soup in the blender. The result was an incredibly flavourful soup with plenty of tiny crunchy bits thanks to the pods from the sugar snap peas. 

The omelettes were also pretty fabulous, although the last couple were cooked on a heat that was a bit too high and so were a tiny bit raw in the middle. Nothing that a quick zap in the microwave couldn't fix! 

This was the second last recipe of the pea chapter and I am really not sure how it escaped my attention for so long. A lovely, lovely recipe and one I am very pleased I did not halve. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

616/1038 - Queen Mab's puddings

In amongst the madness that is our household I have implemented a range of systems and processes which ensure the place runs smoothly. By far one of my favourites is the fact that I make my youngest breakfast in bed every weekday. How on earth is that a system I hear you ask. Let me explain. 

Go back twelve months and you would see a teenager who sleeps so deeply that he doesn't even wake to the SONOS system blaring music into his contented little ears. Then add a mother who despises tardiness and so I would be up and down the stairs multiple times attempting to rouse my dreamy boy. To no avail. Enter the morning porridge routine. 

I realised that this boy loves his sleep but also that he loves food even more. So I tried making him porridge (which takes all of five minutes on the stove top) and waving it under his nose. Voila - a teenager who wakes on the first try. So now instead of going up and down the stairs multiple times I take up a steaming bowl of oats and my job is done. No raised voices, no wasted effort. Perfect.

In the spirit of keeping the peace, I made two of these little puddings fruit free, again for my youngest. He will eat a couple of fruits and almost every vegetable there is and so his dislike for dried fruit bothers me not.

To ensure his pudding was fruit free I simply added the fruit to the tins and then poured the custard on top. This is also the way I make mini savoury egg bites; filling first and then egg on top to make sure everybody gets their share of the good stuff!

And talking of good are these? Wobbly like a panna cotta and with the most beautiful dusky flavour from the bay leaves. I don't know if I took my custard far enough and so about five minutes after this picture was taken this beautiful little pudding split in half and collapsed on the plate. Of course this would not have happened if I had eaten it straight away and not spent an age trying to find the best photographic angle.

Chapter number twenty three, bay leaves, is now complete! What a lovely way to finish.

My tips for this beautiful recipe:

  • A small serving is ample. I halved the recipe and still split the mixture between 8 small moulds
  • If you don't have almond oil, any nut oil would probably do (I used macadamia)
  • As Stephanie suggests, it is lovely served with poached fruit (I opted for pear) 
  • If you don't have an hour to poach your pear, cut it into slices and it will be done in less than half the time

Sunday, September 2, 2018

615/1038 - Rosemary and garlic butter

It has been another crazy old month with plenty to keep me busy and no time at all to add to my bank of completed recipes. Four assignments in as many weeks sees me with more knowledge than I ever imagined possible regarding the rule of law, contracts, the legalisation of recreational cannabis  and the suspicious death of a philandering couple. 

So with an overloaded brain and a weary body, last night I decided to pick perhaps the easiest recipe left on the list simply to get another one on the board. I am going to fess up and admit that I completely omitted the step where the garlic is boiled three times. I just didn't have it in me. Look at me, only halfway through the challenge and cutting corners all over the place. The next thing you know I will be posting a picture of food I found on the internet and blogging about how much I would have liked to cook it myself. Well maybe not but I always harbour just a little bit of guilt when I don't follow a recipe properly. 

Anyway, lack of boiling aside, this butter was UNBELIEVABLE. Take a smoky beef roast cooked to perfection over hot coals and imagine a knob of butter oozing over the top, complete with rosemary, roasted garlic and just enough cracked pepper and smoked salt to send the flavour through the roof. The boys were beside themselves, digging in and slathering butter over everything on their plates.

After a serious bout of studying I tend to find myself in a state I like to refer to as "peak fatness" and so as well as planning many, many workouts in the gym, I also cleverly divided this recipe by five, making only 100 grams of this heavenly concoction lest it end up permanently residing on my hips.

But seriously, do yourself a favour and give this one a go if you want a roast dinner that blows minds.

You're welcome x

Thursday, August 2, 2018

614/1038 - Saltfish and avocado

What an unusual dinner! 

I had never heard of salted cod before reading through this recipe and to be honest, had no idea if I was ever going to find some. I did toy with the idea of salting the cod myself but with plenty on my plate, and the fact that I found it pre-made in my local Spanish deli, I decided it would be much easier to skip the do-it-yourself step on this occasion. 

Even after 24 hours of soaking, a water change and then a gentle boil and second soak, I still found the fish a tiny bit salty for my liking. Blame it on the fact that I went off the old NaCl* the first time I got pregnant and have never really eaten a lot of it since. As I write this I am guzzling an enormous mug of cordial in order to rehydrate and am pretty sure the boys are on the water at the moment, too. 

Having said that, dinner was an absolutely fabulous combination. The freshness of the capsicum and the buttery avocado were perfect companions for the fish and the fried bacon and onion were simply icing on the cake. 

*Sodium chloride for non-science geeks
Salted cod from Casa Iberica deli

Friday, July 20, 2018

613/1038 - Chocolate pithiviers

These gorgeous little pastries were made as a thank you gift for a person who recently did a lovely thing for my family. I wanted these to be fresh on delivery and so got up early in the morning to put them together. Because of the timing, I decided it would be a ridiculous notion to attempt to make the pastry and so (feeling very guilty) I made these from the packet variety. I have no idea why I felt guilty; even Stephanie has admitted to finding the making of puff pastry onerous! Puff pastry is definitely a recipe I will tick off my list when I have a day entirely to myself and am in need of a meditational task. 

Even though the pastry was not my own, I am thrilled to report that the pithiviers were simply wonderful. I generally judge the success of my recipes on the level of arguments that ensue between my boys. The level of pithivier angst was high (I still don't know who ate the last one) and whilst young people arguing is not my favourite thing, it assured me of the excellence of this gorgeous output from my kitchen. 

Because I planned to give at least six pithiviers away, I decided it would be prudent to double the chocolate filling. What I now know is that when you make mini pithiviers and double the filling, not only will you use up a kilogram of puff pastry, but you will also have enough filling left to make not one, but two chocolate tarts! Given how insanely nice the filling is, this is not a situation I was disappointed to find myself in.  

The first tart I made was chocolate with a layer of strawberries underneath. It was OK. The second tart on the other hand was a thing of beauty. Chocolate and pink peppercorns is a combination I will never tire of and the family agreed, scoffing this one in record time. 

Chocolatey heaven; that's my house right now.

Chocolate and pink peppercorn tart

Sunday, July 15, 2018

612/1038 - Pickled ginger

I assumed when I made pickled ginger that we would be eating it with sashimi and perhaps a couple of nori rolls. Instead, I stumbled across a suggestion on the internet that has made me a very happy woman indeed! 

The suggestion was in the form of a diner's recollection of a dish from a local restaurant. The dish included Brussels sprouts and pickled ginger and was topped with a combination of lime juice and fish sauce. We didn't have any Brussels sprouts on hand, so instead I created a dish with roast chicken, roast carrots, rice, cauliflower and broccoli. This lovely combination was topped with many slices of pickled ginger and the amazing fish sauce/lime juice combo.

I simply can not express how much I loved this dish! Yes, I will be purchasing some sashimi in the near future to enjoy with our quite substantial batch of pink-hued ginger (it really does go pink!) but I will also be replicating the above meal (or variations of said meal) ad nauseam.

We also plan to use this lovely (and easy to make) condiment in juices, soups and randomly sprinkled over steamed rice and vegetables. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

611/1038 - Sugar-coated grilled fish

Sometimes it's the simple things in life...

It has been a lovely slow week in our house with all four of us being on holidays at the same time. As such, there has been plenty of cooking going on (including many, many bagels!) and today will be no exception with more bagels (because I have teenagers) and perhaps a cake to munch on as we enjoy our final day of freedom together. 

We like fish in our house but only if it has a good amount of flavour; bland seafood definitely doesn't cut it with my family. It is slightly embarrassing, but I am not 100% sure what type of fish this was. An educated guess tells me it would have been monkfish which is lovely and one of our very favourites.

Of course including a sugar and citrus coating was always going to create an interesting flavour to our meal, but I think we were all blown away with just how much we enjoyed it. Probably not a recipe to do too often if you are watching your sugar intake but definitely a wonderful treat.

Simple recipes like this one might not excite my readers as much as fancy French desserts, but for me every recipe I make is exciting and one step closer to completing possibly the biggest task I have ever set for myself. I find myself amused that I am in the midst of completing a double degree and even that is likely to be finished in less than half the time that this challenge will take.

Let the next milestone approach...

Friday, July 6, 2018

610/1038 - Quince and nut cake

So here we are, showcasing my last little batch of poached quince. What a fabulous and sugary ride it has been! 

This cake was very, very simple to make and was by far the best cake I have made in a very long time. I am not sure that I was supposed to, but I mashed the quince rather than leaving it in slices. As such, the mixture was quite stiff and dry and I was dubious as to whether it would make a lovely cake - but make a lovely cake it did!

The nut choice was between almonds, walnuts and pecans and I used a mix of all three, with some candied pecans on top for a special little flourish. My oven is fan forced and so I only cooked this for forty minutes which turned out to be the perfect amount. The result was still moist, incredibly tasty and full of fabulous spice. We ate it with poached quince, poaching syrup and a good dollop of Greek yoghurt.

Just fabulous. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

609/1038 - Stephanie's quince and browned butter tart

This is the second last of my little run of quince recipes and it is an absolute ripper. And how could it not be? Combine home-made shortcrust pastry (which is a winner every time in my opinion), sensational poached fruit and a burnt butter topping that is so incredibly good it is going to be replicated in my kitchen ad infinitum.  

I am embarrassed to share just how much of this tart ended up in my belly. Let's just say my already snug jeans are relieved that the last piece has been devoured.   

My tips for this recipe:
  • If using a loose bottomed flan tin, set it on a tray in order to move it safely in and out of the oven. I learned this tip the hardest way a few years ago, sliding my hand under a flan tin as I picked it up and popping my uncooked crust and filling up, out and all over the floor. 
  • Don't worry too much about perfect placement of the quince; the topping covers it anyway. I just cut thick slices and squashed them together so that there were no gaps in between. 
  • As always, feel free to substitute the castor sugar for coconut sugar. I had a bit left over from the pancakes which was mixed with cinnamon so I tipped that in there too. Do your taste buds a favour and add a good dash of cinnamon. It is wonderful. 
  • I blind baked the pastry the night before and then ran out of motivation. Feel free to do the same and leave it in a sealed container overnight if required. It doesn't appear to do it any harm. 
  • As soon as your butter starts to brown, get it off the heat! It will continue to cook for a time and so you can swirl the pan off the heat for a minute or so more if required. As soon as you are happy with the colour (and that incredible smell that will emanate) start to tip it, whisking, into your egg mixture. 
Just. So. Good.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

New York Bagels (Not a challenge recipe)

We have developed a taste for bagels in my house which would not be such a bad thing if they were not so expensive! When I realised we were shelling out $1 per bagel I decided it was time to try making them for myself. I (ever so slightly) adapted the bagel recipe listed on Taste and was very happy with the result. Even better than the taste, they cost just under 10 cents each to make!

Ten bagels for the cost of one? I'll take that.

The centres of these incredible bagels are somehow light and fluffy but also wonderfully chewy. But the centres have nothing on the chewiness of the amazing crust. The only thing I need to improve on is making a bigger hole next time so that there is more crust to enjoy. The best feedback was from my eldest who said, "I like the ones we buy, but yours make me close my eyes when I eat them. So good."

If you are also a bagel lover, this recipe is one you must try! 

Fluffy & chewy New York bagel recipe

1.5 cups very warm water
3 tsp dried yeast 
1 tbsp castor sugar

600g plain flour
2 tsp salt

Oil for tray

2 litres water
1 tbsp castor sugar

1 egg (lightly beaten)
Seeds of your choice (Poppy, chia, linseed, sesame)
  • Combine the warm water, yeast and castor sugar in a bowl. Stir well and leave for 5 minutes or until frothy.
  • Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. (I used my KitchenAid bowl)
  • Pour wet yeast mixture into the flour and knead for 10 minutes by hand or around 5 minutes in the KitchenAid with a dough hook or until smooth and elastic.
  • Put dough in a bowl (or leave in the KitchenAid bowl), cover with a tea towel and prove in a warm place for 30 minutes
  • Oil a large oven tray
  • Divide dough into 10 x 100g pieces and roll into balls. Poke a hole in the middle of each one (make it a decent size) and place on oiled tray, flattening the bagel a little with your hand. Prove the shaped bagels on the tray under a tea towel in a warm place for 10 minutes.
  • Combine water and sugar for boiling in a large saucepan. Stir well and bring to the boil.
  • Boil bagels, 3 or 4 at a time, for 3 minutes each side (6 minutes total). Use a slotted spoon to move them in and out of the water and to flip them at the halfway point. Place bagels back on the oiled tray when they are done. 
  • (Optional) Brush with lightly whisked egg and top with seeds of your choice. I used poppy seed and linseed. 
  • Bake in a 180°C oven for 18-20 minutes. They should be golden on top and sound hollow when you knock on the underside. 
Cool on a wire rack and resist them for as long as you can!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

608/1038 - Quince pancakes for breakfast or brunch

The quince just keeps on coming...

This pancake mix does not need resting and so these are a FABULOUS idea for a fast breakfast; assuming you have poached quince on hand of course! The sugar in the poached quince caramelises as the pancakes cook and so the result is unbelievably sweet. Cream would definitely be too much for these beauties and we opted for a Greek yoghurt topping instead. I also added a tiny pile of poached quince and a sprinkling of coconut sugar and cinnamon which was a wonderful combination. In hindsight, a small pile of toasted almonds would have been lovely on top. Next time...

You need to be very careful making these as they cook quite differently to regular pancakes. Instead of waiting for bubbles to appear on top, keep an eye on the underside and turn them over as soon as they are quite brown. Medium heat is quite sufficient and I found that if the pan was even a little hot they cooked far too quickly. 

I have two teenage boys and this amount was still too much for the four of us. This is not a bad thing as they will make a wonderful snack for us throughout the day. 

I think I am in love with poached quince x

Monday, June 18, 2018

607/1038 - Gooseberry butter (but with raspberries)

This treat was made especially for a dear friend of mine. We have been close for more than 25 years and we have that kind of wonderful friendship that does not change, no matter how much time we spend apart. He is quite simply one of my favourite people in the world and so when I found out he loved raspberry, I just had to find a recipe that would fill my macarons and satisfy his penchant for this fabulous fruit. 

I feel some guilt for switching the fruit in this recipe but have decided that if I ever want to finish this challenge I need to make substitutions for ingredients which are difficult to find. This was a difficult mental hurdle for me to get over but now that I have decided that messing around with main ingredients is not the end of the world, there are more than a few recipes that no longer haunt my thoughts!

There is a reason behind my desire to make this particular friend smile and it is not a good one. While it is true that our friendship has never waned, in some ways it will never be the same as it was. There is a veil of sadness that covers us now when we meet and every day that I do not see him, he is not far from my thoughts. 

The truth is that my friend is not well. In fact we have no idea how much longer he will be able to eat and if I am honest, no idea how much longer he will be with us. My friend is battling the most hideous of all diseases, Motor Neuron Disease. His decline has been rapid and devastating. He still possesses his incredibly dashing good looks, sharp wit and beautiful and wise soul that is largely unmatched. But his body is failing him. He no longer has the full use of his hands and he has been wheelchair bound for some time now. His beautiful singing voice has also been taken from him. I could go on.

...and in this unwinnable situation, I do what I do best; show my love with food.

My tips for this recipe;
  • Castor sugar can be substituted for coconut sugar. It is one of my favourite sugars and so I generally do this when possible.
  • If you see tiny bits of egg in the mixture when you add it, don't panic! It disappears. Just keep stirring (and stirring, and stirring...)
  • I like texture (and hate waste) so didn't bother to strain the mixture. Instead I simply mashed the fruit with a wooden spoon as it broke down.
  • Given my example above, it appears that substituting gooseberries with another berry is a viable option. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

606/1038 - Eliza Acton's quince custard (with mini angel cakes)

Given the wide variety of foods that have been experimented with in my kitchen, people might be surprised to discover that this week's foray into the quince chapter is the first time I have worked with this fruit. 

Of course, anybody who is aware of my zillion different food allergies and intolerances would not be at all surprised. Quince is not really my friend and last night's gut ache confirmed that this is still the case. The pain was absolutely worth it though. This custard is beautifully sweet with a zingy finish thanks to the addition of lemon juice. The best thing about it was that it used up a stack of the quince poaching syrup and took only a few minutes to make. 

Pairing it with little mini angel cakes was a stroke of genius, creating a fabulous and fun little dessert and of course, using up the spare egg whites at the same time. I cooked the cakes in muffin tins, gently prising them out with a flexible spatula. They were like little bite sized pieces of heaven and, unlike me, very good friends with quince custard. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

605/1038 - Poached quince

It's quince season and I will be making the most of it this week.

First up (and first recipe cooked from the quince chapter) is a big batch of poached quince. One of the things I like best about cooking is that it is just one big science experiment. There is something deeply satisfying about putting creamy coloured fruit into the pot and pulling it out hours later a beautiful ruby red. 

I was a bit thrown when I tried to put everything in my beautiful copper pot and realised it was not going to fit! I decided to halve the ingredients and cook one batch in the oven and the other on the stove top. Interestingly they both took the same amount of time to cook which is great to know that I have options next time. 

My cooking tips for this recipe;
  • If you have a mesh bag for making nut milk or even the little mesh produce bags (I used one of each) they work perfectly as the holder of quince cores and pips. Admittedly they came out a little red but a bit of natural colouring can't hurt!  
  • A teaspoon of vanilla bean paste can be used in place of the vanilla bean. 
  • Be gentle when putting the pieces of quince into the sugar syrup or risk ending up with little sticky spots all over your table, floor and clothes. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I will be honest; we like poached fruit but we don't love it. With this (and efficiency) in mind, I will be turning this lovely red pile into a variety of different things this week. Why tick off one recipe when you can tick off several? 

Stay tuned for all things quince.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

604/1038 - Barbecued skewers of bay leaves and pork

I bought the pork fillet for this recipe weeks ago. It went from the fridge to the freezer about four times, oscillating between my good intentions and periods of slothful indifference. 

Yesterday was finally the day I defrosted it fully, made a batch of baguettes and then actually took the time to put this lovely dinner together. For anybody keen to try this recipe out, here are my tips for success! 
  • Use metal skewers. They are relatively inexpensive, don't need pre-soaking and are a good choice for the environment
  • A barbecue is great for those who are keen, but a barbecuer I am not. A griddle on the stovetop, or even a frypan if you don't have a griddle is a more than adequate alternative
  • Rashers of streaky bacon can be used instead of cubes. Simply fold them lengthwise and then in half a couple of times the other way so that you end of with a little folded cube
  • Use the thinnest baguette you can find otherwise risk the slices being so thick your pork won't get a look in on the hotplate. Alternatively, cut each slice in half. If you are a keen baker, simply make your own and roll one much thinner than the others
  • If you send your son into the yard to pick bay leaves, make sure your instructions are clear. Below is evidence of the variety of leaves mine brought in before he finally found the right tree
Finally, enjoy these beautiful skewers! They are packed with so much flavour thanks to the bay leaves and the inclusion of crusty bread was a revelation. Serve with piles of crunchy raw vegetables and you have an incredible and well balanced dinner on your hands.

Leaves from the passionfruit vine, a bunch from the olive tree
 and then finally, some bay leaves

Thursday, May 24, 2018

603/1038 - Braised fennel in meat juices with cheese

Vegetables do not have to be boring!

We adore fennel and this recipe was lovely served alongside a beautifully roasted pork shoulder. My husband looked after the pork on this night, reaffirming our longstanding tradition of making quite the formidable cooking team. Of course, I don't mean the kind of couple who should appear on My Kitchen Rules. More the kind that can produce beautiful and complementary dishes for the same meal whilst gently avoiding one another in the kitchen, ever mindful of not stepping on one another's toes, both physically and metaphorically.

My new, and already much revered, agreena wrap got another airing while cooking this recipe. Instead of using a sheet of baking paper to contain the moisture, I used a large wrap, careful to keep it away from the edges of my copper pot given the amount of heat it generates. 

The inclusion of parsley, fennel tops and a handful of parmesan at the last minute ensured this was another vegetarian winner.

No baking paper! Using my re-usable agreena wrap to keep the moisture in.  

Sunday, May 13, 2018

602/1038 - Scallops with Jerusalem artichokes

To spice things up a bit we have changed our weekly market trips from the Queen Victoria Market to our local Preston market. These beautiful scallops were officially our first Preston market seafood purchase and we were very happy with them indeed!

I have never baked scallops before and while I still prefer them fried, this was a lovely change and also incredibly fast to cook. 

As usual, the Jerusalem artichokes came from our regular neighbourly donor. Any future donations can be prepared in any which way because the Jerusalem artichoke chapter is done and dusted! 

That's 21 chapters finished now. Goodness, only 104 to go...

Saturday, April 28, 2018

601/1038 - Crumble topping

I am probably late to the party but Greek yoghurt on dessert is my new very favourite thing! 

Since making the syrup cake a couple of weeks ago and enjoying it with yoghurt, I have started putting it on top of everything and this crumble was another opportunity to indulge my new obsession.

This was possibly the nicest crumble I have ever made and I am putting it down to the fact that the fruit was puréed which meant that the flavours melded beautifully. From memory (I made this a few days ago!) I used pomelo, red grapes, banana, strawberries and blueberries and just a little bit of crystallised ginger because it is my go to snack and I buy it by the kilo. A sensational combination. 

There were two options for the crumble topping and I opted for the one which replaced some of the flour with rolled oats and loved the extra crunch it provided. 

I do love to cook desserts as individual portions and it was lucky I did or we might have been fighting over who got the larger serve. The Greek yoghurt was simply amazing on top; in my opinion much better than cream or ice-cream.

I am drooling as I write this and have decided I will whip this up again for dessert tonight.

Simple. Tasty. Fabulous. (...and better than my husband's!)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

600/1038 - Yoghurt and citrus syrup cake

It is so very hard to believe I have made it to 600 recipes! 

When I started this challenge almost seven years ago I had no idea how long it would hold my interest. As it turns out, it has become a lovely (and very productive) form of meditation for me in the midst of an otherwise busy life. 

This year will see less recipes cooked as I head back to university and get my head back around being a full time student. Seven weeks in and so far so good! This cake was the result of me needing to get my head out of the books for a minute so that my brain didn't explode.  

I used pomelo as the citrus in this cake which is very much like a grapefruit in taste. Of course I am drinking a smoothie as I write this filled with the pomelo pulp thinned out with almond milk. A healthy lead up to a very decadent dessert. We plan to eat this with honey flavoured Greek yoghurt as per Stephanie's suggestion and I might also try it with some ginger flavoured yoghurt too. Of course I have no problem trying multiple pieces in order to figure out which yoghurt works best!  

So hooray for 600 recipes...and now back to the books. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

599/1038 - Zabaglione with mascarpone

Italian desserts really are the bomb! 

We had some beautiful figs gifted to us from another neighbour of my husband's work and I just knew this recipe would be the perfect accompaniment to what is one of my very favourite fruits. As well as needing something to go with the fruit, I had opened a tub of marscapone to make icing for a cake (a green one for St Patrick's day no less!) and needed a way to use the rest of it up. I believe this is what is called a win-win scenario.

I made the amaretti myself and they were absolutely beautiful. If anybody needs a recipe, I used this one. Two of my boys don't like figs and so they ate this with extra crumbled amaretti instead. Personally, I thought the figs were what tipped this over into sensational territory and highly recommend their addition to this dish.

I halved the zabaglione recipe which not only turned out to be the perfect amount for four, but it meant that I used four yolks in the zabaglione and four whites in the amaretti mix. Perfect, no?

My oldest is off to camp today and so we ate this as his farewell dessert last night. Celebrate with food...who me?

I have assignments coming out of my ears and so I can't guarantee when the next recipe will happen but am assuming we will hit this wonderful milestone sometime in April. Exciting! x

Sunday, March 18, 2018

598/1038 - Prawn (in lieu of rock lobster) oil

Where has this fabulous concoction been all my life?

Loving this prawn oil so much has had me lamenting all of the prawn heads I have discarded over the years. Making it was so very easy and the number of meals we have eaten with the oil is still growing! My favourite was spaghetti, well coated with prawn oil and topped with loads of fresh tomato, rocket and freshly cracked black pepper. So very good. 

Of course this recipe actually comes from the rock lobster chapter but given how difficult it is to obtain green rock lobster heads, I opted to take Stephanie's suggestion of using prawn heads in their stead. 

As the heads cooked, my house was filled with the most incredible smell, which continued to make me hungry until the next day with the oil sitting out overnight to marinate. 

Quite simply, an absolutely wonderful recipe and very highly recommended! 

Simmering with the vegetables

Sunday, March 11, 2018

597/1038 - Prawns with ginger, spring onion and tomato

Look who found another prawn recipe hiding in the ginger chapter! 

We love seafood in our house and we especially love it fresh from the market. My youngest and I have swapped our weekly market day to Saturdays and so yesterday we happily brought home a kilo of prawns to enjoy. 

This is an interesting recipe in that the prawns, apart from the head & intestinal tract, are left intact. What I didn't expect is how fabulous they would taste, shell, legs, tail and all! The frying process (shallow, not deep-fried) makes the whole prawn edible which of course has the added bonus of reducing the smell in our bin the next day. Less shells, less smell...

The only change I made to the recipe was to fry in sesame rather than vegetable oil and also to use more prawns than was recommended. In hindsight I should probably also have increased the amount of topping, but the prawns were still flavourful so no harm done. We ate them with rocket and plain rice which meant minimal preparation and clean up. Perfect for a Saturday night! 

The motivation for our purchase was actually the prawn heads, which I will be turning into prawn oil today. I do love the smell of prawns cooking in the morning... 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

596/1038 - Chocolate macarons

The reason for making this lovely dessert was twofold; they will serve as a thank you present for the beautiful people who have been looking after my bonsai since December and will also be one of the dishes I am sharing with friends at a long overdue get together tomorrow.

I am not a huge chocolate fan myself (although I will clarify this unusual stance in a moment) so I would not have thought to make this flavour for myself. Give me a good salted caramel macaron any day or anything fruity (raspberry, lemon, strawberry...)

My dislike of chocolate desserts is a weird one. I adore chocolate but don't love it when it is served in other forms. Chocolate cake - bleugh. French pastries or churros dipped in chocolate - double bleugh. Death by chocolate desserts - kill me now. It is a heaviness issue that I have. If a chocolate dessert is paired with a fruity parfait or sauce I am good to go. I also quite like chocolate with something crunchy such as cannoli or lightened with lemon zest. Fussy I know. But it's OK because I am generally the maker of the dessert, so I can afford to be fussy!

I love making macarons but have generally opted to use the Italian meringue method. After cooking Stephanie's version, I am a convert! These were really easy to put together and came out beautifully smooth. The trick to the smoother mixture was to blitz the sugars and almond meal in the Thermomix which made them insanely easy to sift. Quite frankly, I can't believe I hadn't done that before. 

I haven't actually eaten one yet (partly self control and partly because they are chocolate) but I am told they are fabulous by my little family who couldn't wait. I personally think they are better the next day (or even two days after being put together) and straight out of the fridge so I will relent and test one out tomorrow.

Stephanie's macarons for the win! x

Friday, February 23, 2018

595/1038 - Crème caramel

Another year, another wedding anniversary...

I am sure I have said this before, but celebrating on prescribed dates and present giving could be banned tomorrow and I would not give it a second thought. Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day and the ever-divisive Australia Day could all disappear and I would be one happy camper. I do realise I am on my own with this one, but I am not ashamed to admit that most celebrations are completely lost on me. I am not religious, and in many ways not sentimental, so my feelings on this matter are not much of a surprise to those around me. 

I think I would like to keep birthdays and definitely the verbal recognition of anniversaries, but if presents are given I would prefer that they be home-made and usable. The fact that people already have more stuff than they need, coupled with the angst of reciprocal present giving, is the stuff of  my nightmares. 

So even though we don't always bother to celebrate another year of wedlock, today I decided to do a bit of cooking to commemorate the occasion. If I am honest, the date simply coincided with a desire  of mine to cook and hang out in the kitchen. But I am calling it romantic anyway... 

I have been DREADING this recipe for the most ridiculous reason. I have another crème caramel recipe which works perfectly every time and I just hated the thought of trying one that might not be as good. To add to the pressure, Stephanie's version is cooked in one dish and I have always divided the recipe into individual serves. My main thought today as this dish chilled in the fridge was, "Please come out in one piece!" 

I decided to listen to Stephanie's suggestion regarding orange zest, and steeped it in the milk for an hour before cooking, which was a really lovely addition to this simple dessert. I also threw some zest on top after it was turned out and served the dessert with slices of orange.

It feels good to have that monkey off my back! 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

594/1038 - Goat's cheese on salad leaves with an anchovy dressing

Fried goats cheese is my new best friend!

I used a jar of marinated goats cheese for this recipe, dabbing the oil from each piece of cheese with paper towel before the egging and crumbing stage. The great thing about goats cheese is that if it comes apart when sliced, it is easily squashed back into shape.  

This is not a super fast recipe but by George it's worth the effort! Admittedly I did make the breadstick from scratch so other (sane) people who simply head to the local baker for a store bought version will not spend anywhere near the time I spent in the kitchen yesterday.  

After a few nights without a substantial amount of red meat, I added some sliced and fried beef short ribs to the meal to appease the men in my house.  

This was SO much more than a salad. Very happy with this one.