Sunday, December 29, 2019

662/1038 - Maggie's octopus salad

Last week I paid a visit to the Supreme Court, a requirement for a criminology assignment, and decided a quick trip to the Queen Victoria Market would make sense while I was in the city. My fish craving has not left me and so the seafood stall took the majority of my cash for prawns, flake, a slab of sushimi quality salmon and a couple of enormous octopus tentacles. 

In this weird little week between Christmas and New Year it was lovely to find a day to relax a bit and cook. It was almost the perfect day, until it wasn't. I have been a bit distracted lately and it was this lack of focus that almost spelled disaster for me today. Keen to retrieve a set of hand crafted bowls from the top of the cupboard, I climbed to the top of the step ladder and carefully removed the bowls. The next moment was surreal, with me somehow completely forgetting that I was on top of the ladder and simply turning to the side to step off. Bowls flew and I came crashing down, face and forearms first. Thankfully I only suffered a bit of a split and bump on my head where I smacked it on the floor and a very large, very sore purple index finger. My beautiful hand-made bowls did even better than me, without a mark to be seen. Small mercies, hey?

So clumsiness aside, it was a lot of fun working with the octopus. I left it to cook for a bit longer than I was supposed to but it didn't seem to do it any harm, with every piece lovely and soft and not rubbery at all. I had less octopus than the recipe actually required and so was able to use a mid-sized saucepan for the cook, with the tentacles swirling into a perfect spiral in the juices. I am kicking myself that I forgot to sprinkle some of my lovely chipotle dukkah over the top but it was still a really lovely salad and a beautiful way to eat one of my favourite things from the sea.

This recipe can only be found in the newest version of The Cook's Companion, and what a fabulous little addition it is. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

661/1038 - Herbed mustard sauce

I have been craving fish lately and am very much enjoying the fabulous sauces in The Cook's Companion. The best thing about them is that there is So. Much. Butter. This latest creation was full of lovely fresh herbs and is just as nice cold as it is warm. To make it even more fabulous, I used truffle mustard instead of dijon because everybody knows truffles make everything better. 

We ate asparagus the night before this and I couldn't work out why I was in so much pain. I searched asparagus on my trusty FODMAP app and couldn't believe I hadn't realised it was another one of my enemies, cleverly disguised in green. I was excited when I realised I could eat a small amount of asparagus...until I realised that the recommended portion size was half a spear. Seriously. Half. So obviously this plate arrangement was for blogging purposes only and shortly after this was taken I donated my second half spear to my asparagus loving son. On the upside, my oven baked half spear was lovely and didn't cause pain, so there's that. 

As usual, my home made chips were an enormous hit. I don't know why anybody would bother to deep fry potatoes when oven baked chips are seriously fabulous when done right. The trick, which is time consuming but worth it, is to dry every surface of every chip before they are oiled. And use lots of salt. Because what are potatoes without salt? 

Best fish and chips I have had in ages. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

660/1038 - Beurre blanc

A sauce this simple, this fattening and this good should come with a warning label.

Beurre blanc should be white (hence the name) but given that Australian butter is generally yellow, my sauce came out more like a beurre jaune. Either way, it was absolutely fantastic.

Making this was a last minute decision so I had to replace the shallots with finely chopped onion because shallots are not something I have in the house unless I have bought them for a specific purpose. I also swapped the wine for a combination of verjuice and apple cider vinegar, given my devastating intolerance of wine. 

To be honest, I was nervous trying verjuice for the first time given how similar it is to wine but I don't react to it at all which is just brilliant. I can't explain why I react to one and not the other, except to say that I also have an allergy to milk protein which does not fire if the milk is frothed. In that case, the milk proteins being stretched trick my body into thinking I am not allergic and the reaction doesn't happen. Gotta love science. 

But back to the sauce! Beurre blanc is pretty much butter sauce with a lovely acidic aftertaste. We are BIG fans. My youngest even stole some carrots off my plate to wipe up the last of his. 

I hereby declare this sauce to be our new quick fish dinner staple. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

659/1038 - Byessar (Moroccan broad bean dip)

I was handed an enormous pile of broad beans and, given the amount, decided the easiest thing to turn them into was this gorgeous dip. I planned to make the flatbreads too, but sometimes life gets in the way and the prospect of opening a packet is simply too good to ignore. 

The beans were already out of their pods when they came to me and search as I might, I could not find out what they would have weighed, unpodded. I decided to take an educated guess and it turns out that if a recipe calls for one kilogram of beans in pods, around 650g of podded beans is about right.

My husband was dubious regarding how this would taste, but he was pleasantly surprised (as was I) that the dip was full of flavour and not a whole lot like broad beans at all! More like a broad bean hummus which is just absolutely fine with us. We ate it for dinner tonight with chicken and a myriad of vegetables conducive to raw eating and dipping. 

This recipe also had the benefit of being easy to split in two so that I could hand half back to the grower of the beans. Because it is always nice to be able to say thank you with food. 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

658/1038 - Silverbeet and potato torte

More lovely garden produce! 

Our silverbeet looked ready to eat and so it was harvested and largely turned into an incredible dish with lemon, garlic and walnuts using a recipe from Taste. We had a huge amount of stems left over and so I decided this torte would be just as good with silverbeet stems as it would with leaves. (I was right).

I absolutely loved the oil pastry in this recipe which was soft and lovely to the touch. It also rolled easily and baked to a lovely crisp crust. A pastry recipe predicted to be used with many torte fillings in the future! 

As the picture shows, it was only halfway through the sealing process that I decided to twist the crust like the edge of a pasty. Apart from looking a bit lopsided, it was good to know that no matter how the edges were sealed, this pastry stayed together beautifully with no leaks. 

I would have taken a picture of the inside but I was torn between using a sharp knife to remove the slices in a photogenic manner or using a more gentle method that would guarantee my pizza stone coming out of the process unscathed. I opted for the latter, hence the lack of a photo of the inside.   

You will just need to take my word that it was fabulous!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

657/1038 - Rhubarb muffins

Surprising as it may sound, today was the first time I have cooked with rhubarb. Keen to get a bit of vitamin D, I was wandering around our beautiful garden and found some ready to be picked. Having a whole chapter of recipes to choose from, I settled on rhubarb muffins, which are listed only in the original edition, although I think they may still exist as a margin recipe in the later editions. 

I had a bit more rhubarb than was required, but was fairly sure an extra quarter cup would distribute without much notice in twelve large muffins. The smell as I sliced it was amazing, no doubt due to its freshness. There is simply nothing like food picked straight from the garden! 

These babies came out of the oven like little pieces of heaven; slightly crunchy on the outside and ridiculously fluffy in the centre. I have no idea how I stopped at one. Now I cannot wait for our little rhubarb plant to sprout again so I can take a deeper dive into the chapter. 

Speaking of chapters, with rhubarb started, that leaves only nine chapters from one hundred and twenty five yet to be explored; chervil, chokos, cumquats, persimmons, tamarillos, tripe, venison, vinegar and witlof.

Getting there! 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

656/1038 - English curd tart

Last night we had a group of wonderful friends over for our first dinner party in ages. With plenty of other things going on, I decided to outsource the main meal to my husband and focus on bread and dessert. Given my recent foray into the wonderful world of sourdough, the bread was an olive sourdough which I served with olive oil and homemade dukkah. Not only did it taste fabulous, but it was actually purple inside - a result of the beautiful olive tapenade which was blended through the dough. 

Dessert however, was my favourite part of the night. Two of my guests were English and so I thought it only fitting to include an English item on the menu. Made with home-made cottage cheese and home-made pastry, the result was incredibly sweet and paired beautifully with lovely vanilla bean ice-cream. The only substitution I made was to include chopped raisins instead of currants which didn't look as pretty but tasted wonderful. One of my English guests was not familiar with the the idea of a curd tart, but as soon as he saw it, he told me that he was fairly sure his mum used to make him the same thing. Win! 

Because I made everything from scratch I estimate the entire cost of the tart to have been only a few dollars. Not bad considering it made enough to feed ten! 

My lovely (and slightly purple) olive sourdough.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

655/1038 - Traditional sage stuffing for goose, duck or turkey

We have a mad amount of sage in the garden at the moment so I thought it was time to try this lovely stuffing recipe from the original version of The Cook's Companion. 

Insanely fast to put together, this stuffing was not only fabulous to eat on its own, but also created the most wonderful flavour throughout the duck. I use a roasting method which requires the bird to be turned three times in the oven and so was a bit worried the stuffing would fall out mid-cook. A quick truss with some cooking twine alleviated my fears and held everything together nicely. I used an old frozen loaf of sourdough to make the breadcrumbs and also replaced the suet (because I have never had suet in my house in my life) with plain old olive oil which worked beautifully. 

Nobody was complaining about having roast duck on a Tuesday night and the stuffing was absolutely brilliant. We have quite a bit left over and so I am currently contemplating how I might use it in tomorrow night's meal. 

We are certainly doing our bit for the bees - as I was taking this photograph I was smiling to myself as I realised just how many bees I could hear buzzing around the sage flowers. It's very nice knowing my herbs are doing their bit for the environment! Sadly tonight's recipe only required four leaves and so I am pretty sure I can see fresh pasta with crispy sage in a burnt butter sauce on our dinner horizon very soon. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

654/1038 - Michael Boddy's sweet lime pickle

We have a decent sized load of limes in the fridge from a friend's tree and I have been using them in EVERYTHING! Noodle dishes, sweets, Coronas (my favourite). 

This weird little pickle smells quite lovely - simultaneously sweet, sour and spicy. I have no idea what it will be used for and plan to wait until it is finished to see what it tastes like although I am imagining both chicken and prawns will work very well with the flavours. The recipe can only be found in the original version of the book so if you can't find it you are probably not going mad. The strangest part of this recipe is that the jar needs to sit in the sun for an hour every second day. This photo is of my concoction on its first sunny outing. 

The making of this pickle marks yet another little milestone, October being the 100th month of my challenge. Perhaps it's just me, but 100 months sounds like a very long time! It is definitely a testament to the quality of The Cook's Companion that I am still enjoying myself and very much loving the discovery of so many new favourite recipes. 

If anybody was wondering, the gorgeous little wood cat in the background was a spontaneous gift from the artist who recently painted a mural in our backyard. He saw our woodpile and couldn't help leaving a doodle or two for us to find. What a lovely man. Imagine being responsible for leaving such lovely little bits of happiness in your wake...

Re the pickle - I will post an update when the waiting is over and the eating has begun!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

653/1038 - Slow-roasted leg of lamb with dried beans

Given how often I use my copies* of The Cook's Companion, I am a bit paranoid about keeping them in good condition. As a result of this paranoia, I generally transfer recipes onto a scrap of paper (in edited shorthand) which I refer to when I cook. I am not embarrassed to admit that every now and then this causes an issue. 

Somehow when I transcribed this recipe I neglected to include the amount of hot water the tomato paste needed to be mixed with and in my head, was assuming it was only a couple of tablespoons. Thankfully logic took over and I realised the beans would need hydrating as they baked. A quick check of the book confirmed that it was actually a litre of hot water I needed. Minor crisis, and likely a pile of rock hard beans, averted!

I made this roast on Father's Day, mostly because I promised my husband a lazy day devoid of household duties. This was definitely a promise I was regretting as I stumbled around in the fog of a sleep cut very short at either end. We attended a party the night before (disco themed and fabulous) and so sleep did not begin until 2am and then was sadly cut short five hours later as car doors began to bang out in the street. Given the level of additional difficulty imposed on my cooking abilities, I was particularly thrilled with how everything turned out.

I cut the cooking time by a third for the meat as I always do when using a fan forced oven. Unfortunately this meant that by dinner time, the beans were not quite done. Given my self induced exhaustion, we decided to eat the roast with steamed vegetables, saving some to eat with the beans the following night. The lovely wrap pictured is the result of yesterday's much more impressive effort! Home made flatbreads were the perfect accompaniment for the lamb/beans combo and we also stacked freshly chopped tomato, capsicum and cucumber on top for freshness.

Anybody with the second or third edition of The Cook's Companion will be disappointed to know that this recipe appears only in the original version. The good news is that there are similar recipes on the internet for anybody keen to give it a go. Well worth a try.

*All three editions...upgrade, upgrade, upgrade!

Embracing the disco spirit

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

652/1038 - Maggie's slow-cooked fillet of beef

It really is amazing the number of different ways a cut of beef can be prepared.  

Slow cooking is not often a thing in my house, with me usually starting dinner preparations as the hunger pangs are threatening to set in. But on this day I had uncharacteristically planned ahead. A long, slow cook is definitely a great way to make a house smell sensational! 

The flavours in this marinade were spectacular and had I not slightly misjudged the cooking time for a larger cut, I do think the outcome would have been amazing. There were certainly some pieces which were perfect (see below) but the majority of the roast was a little on the dry side.

All in all, a good experiment with a little more care required on my part next time.

Friday, August 9, 2019

651/1038 - Belly pork in a piquant cream sauce

Oh. My. Goodness.

You know when you make something expecting it to be just OK and then it blows your mind? That happened last night. I had bought some pork fillet (yes, I cheated on the cut) and realised I had every ingredient for this recipe except the green peppercorns. I do, however, always have pink peppercorns on hand and knew they would go beautifully with the flavours in this recipe.

I have never boiled pork before and was interested to see if it would work with fillet. I reduced the cooking time quite a bit and took it out when a skewer passed through easily. I have no idea how long this took as I often just go on instinct when doing this sort of thing and just get a feeling when it's time to check. Once it was done, the pork was sliced, pan fried and then doused in this unbelievably fabulous, creamy sauce. 

The only downside to this dish is that it brings out the animal in diners, with everybody dying to lick their plate and not waste a drop of this incredible sauce.

A must try for all cooks. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

650/1038 - Spanish creams

This is an absolutely beautiful little dessert and even better, the recipe appears quite foolproof! Somehow the lemon infuses to a point where it tastes as if there is lemon curd in the custard, which of course makes for beautiful eating. 

A few things I learned while making this recipe;
  • If you run out of castor sugar, pure icing sugar works well. To break up the lumps, throw it in the blender and voila, a perfectly soft pile of icing sugar
  • If the whites are accidentally whipped to stiff rather than soft peaks, the recipe still works
  • The step of straining the custard can be successfully skipped. A good option if you like zest!
  • Well thickened custard means thick enough that it will coat the back of a wooden spoon. Test this by running your finger in a line through the custard on the back of the spoon. If the line keeps its shape, the custard is thick enough
  • I dutifully oiled six 100ml moulds...and still had an enormous amount of mixture after they were filled! I simply poured the rest into a large container and it set just as well as the small moulded versions (and was just as tasty!)
The day after I made the creams, I was lucky enough to have a wonderful artist working on a mural in our new hot tub and sauna area, now lovingly known as "the cedar precinct". I am not a day time dessert eater and so it was great to have somebody on hand to eat the plate I had styled for photographing. I don't think he minded much either! 

Another wonderful little recipe and with 650 recipes now complete, another small milestone reached. 

Our new cedar precinct with beautiful art by Barek

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

649/1038 - Potato gnocchi with Karen's leek and blue cheese sauce

Picture a kitchen completely covered in flour, cooking utensils and dirty dishes and you will get a sense of just how bad I am at making gnocchi. Thankfully it turned out completely edible and pillowy; apparently a texture gnocchi makers everywhere aspire to. 

Interestingly, I barely needed to add any flour before I reached the perfect texture with the gnocchi, leaving quite a bit sitting in the bowl unused. I was nervous that this would mean either little hard lumps of potato or potato confetti; either outcome a complete disaster. My youngest was completely amused by my concerns and proceeded to goad me into a wager regarding the success (or not) of the cooking stage. If my gnocchi exploded in the water apparently I had to take over his dishwasher duties. If they stayed together he offered a lengthy neck massage.

We both watched expectantly as the first batch was lowered into the water. A short time later, as they rose perfectly to the top ready to be scooped out, he looked at me with a pantomimic scowl and  cursed me for my good cooking skills. Of course not only was I thrilled that each gnoccho was in one piece and bouncy soft, but I had scored a neck massage to boot!

The leek sauce was incredibly easy to make, the only step that gave me trouble was when the sauce and gnocchi had to be stirred together. Terrified of mashing the gnocchi into one squishy pile, I opted instead for a rocking of the pan from side to side. I think this meant that some diners ended up with more leek than others, but everybody was happy with the result nonetheless. Given how rich the dish was, we had plenty of leftovers and I can vouch that it was even better the following day. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

648/1038 - Garlic and ginger dipping sauce

This lovely little recipe is actually from the yabbies and marron chapter. It is meant as a dipping sauce (hence the name) but I decided it would be lovely if I used it as a saucy little bath for freshly cooked prawns.

The tomato base can be made on the stove top or in the oven. I do love the taste of anything roasted and so opted for the oven even though I knew it would take a bit longer. The fresh ginger gave this sauce a lift that was absolutely fabulous with the prawns and the fresh rocket and capsicum turned my experiment into a complete meal.

I will be cooking up the leftover tomato seeds with some leftover egg whites for a healthy breakfast this morning after a bit too much fun and perhaps one too many beers last night.

Because it's all about balance. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

647/1038 - Tartare sauce

Home made tartare sauce, beautiful fresh flathead and a fresh salad...what more could a person want? 

As I selected the seasonings for the sauce, I was reminded of one of the reasons I have so many salt options in my pantry. A while ago, I took my boys down to the local bulk produce shop. It's a fabulous little place where everything is purchased by the scoop and sold in sustainable little paper bags. I told the boys they could each pick something to purchase that I could use in my cooking. Amusingly, they both ended up buying salt; Kosher and Himalayan. Including these two, I think I currently have a selection of around six or seven different varieties and perhaps surprisingly, have found a use for each of them. It is fortunate I have ample pantry space!

This lovely tartare sauce included a couple of pinches of Kosher salt which has a lovely gentle flavour to it. The sauce is based on a mayonnaise, with the addition of herbs, capers and chopped pickled cornichons (mini gherkins). I am not a huge fan of tasting the oil in mayonnaise and so balanced mine with quite a bit of fresh lemon juice.

The fats combined with the tang of pickled cornichons made this tartare sauce an absolutely brilliant match for the fish and also the salad. The recipe made quite a bit and I was shocked to see that we ate a good two thirds of it in one meal! Popular, indeed.

I am sure I have written this about a million times on this blog, but this recipe is highly recommended.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

646/1038 - Lemon syllabub

So this is a syllabub! Before today, a trivia question regarding what a syllabub was would have stumped me completely. 

When I was making it, my husband commented that it just looked like a bowl of cream and indicated that perhaps it might not be too appetising. Oh, how very wrong he was! Flavoured with a beautiful French sweet wine, French brandy and a stack of lemon juice and zest, this was an absolutely wonderful dessert that perfectly satisfied my after dinner sweet craving.  

Technically, I am not supposed to consume sweet wine but given that my reaction usually takes at least twelve hours to manifest, I managed to convince myself that a quarter of a quarter cup would not cause me any problems. Only time will tell if I was right...but in the meantime I am happy to live in blissful denial and simply revel in the fact that I got to eat this wonderful dessert. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

645/1038 - Yorkshire puddings

Yorkshire puddings are something I have never quite understood. First of all, because they are called puddings. And they are not sweet. Which is a little weird. Secondly, because they are random little rounds of pastry to be eaten with a roast dinner. Sorry, what? 

So last night was my very first experience with the humble Yorkshire pudding. They were dead simple to make so I wasn't too worried about the fact that I was unlikely to enjoy the experience. I was nonplussed. And then came the moment that I tried a little bit of pudding with a piece of roast beef. Oh, oh, oh I get it now!! One mouthful took me straight back to the Beef Wellington I made around ten years ago and everything about these little puddings finally made sense. 

Pastry and beef. Who knew? Well every person in England, obviously. 

And now me. 

Repeat performances guaranteed. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

644/1038 - Simple clear beetroot soup

Wonderful, wonderful soup! 

Something I learned while making this is that the inside of a freshly boiled beetroot is hotter than lava spewed from a volcano. My boys call me Khaleesi because I am generally able to handle heat that most people would find unbearable, but even I had to wait for the raging insides to cool down before I could handle them for any length of time. 

A lovely little mixture of sour cream and herbs is mixed into the soup before eating and as well as turning the concoction a gorgeous shade of light pink, the taste of the soup becomes sweet and incredibly moreish. I used fresh parsley and chives but confess to adding dried dill because it was all I had. I am so pleased I did though, because the dill was the best bit! 

The addition of the beetroot leaves was absolutely brilliant and I was surprised to discover that they taste just like silverbeet. Even though the names of both vegetables have beet in them. Still surprised. 

We all know I hate waste and so the strained beetroot was added to our pasta sauce tonight. I say pasta sauce, but in reality I was making soup. After blitzing the soup, I decided to add some pasta, added added a bit too much and then had to laugh as I watched it suck all of the liquid out of my soup as it cooked. So pasta sauce it was. Thankfully, it was incredibly delicious as well as just a little bit pink. 

How lovely.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

643/1038 - Roasted fillet of beef for a party

A mid-week roast dinner? Yes please! 

I had a backyard full of tradies today and so spent the day cooking so that I could keep an eye on what they were doing...hopefully without making it look too obvious!

My husband usually smokes our beef roasts outside on the chiminea (which taste amazing!) and so this is the first one I have cooked in some time. The recipe looks terribly complex but if you skip the making of the red wine sauce it is actually not too onerous. 

Interestingly, the mushrooms are boiled in buttery water; a method I have not tried before. They turned out beautifully so I now have a new way to prepare mushrooms other than roasting, steaming or frying in butter. Given that I didn't make the sauce, I decided to boil down the mushroomy, buttery water to a paste and add it to the meat juices. I used mirin to boil the meat juices from the pan and so the resulting sauce was full of flavour with a slight sweetness to it. Given that I can no longer drink red wine (yes, shattering) I found this concoction to be a wonderful alternative to the red wine sauce.

Apart from the carrots, everything in the picture is a part of the recipe, with the spinach being cooked down in a knob of fabulous parsley butter (a method I highly recommend) and the potatoes simply scrubbed, oiled and roasted.  

The tradies are back tomorrow which means another day of cooking. On the menu? Chicken liver pâté, kale chips, chicken san choy bau and vanilla ice-cream. Not to be served together. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

642/1038 - Patrizia's castagnaccio (but with bunya nuts)

Given that castagna means chestnut I did feel a little guilty substituting the chestnut flour for Bunya nut flour in this recipe. What a lovely way to use up the bunya nuts, though!

I was recently reading the diary of Governor Hunter, written around the time of the landing of  the first fleet, and he described what could have only been a bunya nut.

"There is likewise a nut, which had violent effects on those who ate it unprepared: the natives soak it in water for seven or eight days, changing the water every day; and at the expiration of that time they roast it in the embers; but the kernel is taken out of the hard shell with which it is enclosed, previous to its being put into the water: it is nearly equal to the chestnut in goodness."

Interesting, no?

Apart from the fact that I made the flour from scratch (read: boiling, peeling, dehydrating, blitzing) the castagnaccio was very fast to make. It was interesting that I needed to add quite a bit of extra water and still didn't quite get the mixture to a porridge like state. I can only assume that the properties of bunya nut flour are quite different to that of chestnut flour even if they do taste practically the same.   

The only thing I would change if I made this again is to increase the number of raisins I threw in (we didn't have sultanas) as they add a really beautiful sweetness to the slice. We have discovered, however, that the castagnaccio is sensational with a drizzle of honey, therefore slight lack of sweetness crisis averted! 

After a weekend of partying (yes, me!) this gentle bout of cooking was a lovely way to finish a fun but quite exhausting weekend. 

Beautiful bunya nuts

Friday, June 7, 2019

641/1038 - Damien's toasted almond rice

Two recipes in a matter of days - I wonder if anybody can tell I am on holidays?

This was another one of those absolute gems that we all fell in love with after the first bite. It was creamy, crunchy and had the most incredible flavour thanks to the toasted almonds, vanilla bean and perhaps also the coconut sugar I used in place of regular sugar. The coconut sugar was also responsible for turning the dessert a beautiful light brown colour and I am fairly sure also added to the incredible caramel smell that wafted up at me as the rice was almost finished cooking.

The mixture was supposed to be left to simmer but mine developed quite a decent lumpy skin after about fifteen minutes so I decided to stay and stir it until it was done. It was probably for this reason that it took a bit longer than thirty minutes to cook, maybe closer to thirty five. It's easy to know when the rice is ready because all of a sudden the mixture seems to thicken perfectly. 

As I am wont to do, I experienced a complete brain fade as I was finalising the recipe and instead of reserving half of the toasted almonds to scatter on top, the whole lot got tipped in and stirred through. Of course toasting more was not a problem and I was completely fine with the extra nuttiness. I never have flaked almonds in the house and so always replace them with slivered almonds which I love because they provide a fabulous crunch.

Either we are dainty eaters or this recipe is very generous. I halved it and so it should have served four but I could easily have fed six happy people with the amount it made. With a second night of this fabulous dessert looming, I am definitely not complaining! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

640/1038 - Queen of puddings

What better way to use up old crusts than in this wonderful pudding! 

We keep our bread in the freezer and because the boys don't love crusts in their sandwiches, we have many packets floating about with one or two crusts left in each. I was hoping to use more, but I think this recipe helped us to get rid of three or four which is a good start! 

Hiding under the gorgeous meringue is a layer of home-made apricot jam (yes we still have plenty!) and below that, a good amount of custardy pudding. It is a very sweet dessert so I am pleased I split  it into the recommended six serves rather than four. 

Study has finished for now (which means lots of cooking!) and so just for fun I thought I would share the top ten interesting things I learned this study period. 

1. Mugshots from the 1920s were infinitely more stylish than they are today.

2. The phrase “Reading the riot act” comes from old British law that made it illegal for twelve or more people to congregate in a public area. An official actually had to go out and read the act aloud to the group which included an order that they had one hour to disperse. Failure to do so resulted in a charge punishable by death. 

3. On the upside, prisoners who were sentenced to death were allowed to stop at the pub for one final drink on their way to the gallows. Seriously. 

4. The meaning of the phrase: “Rule of Thumb” actually has a pretty awful origin. It comes from a statement made by a judge that moderate beating of your wife was OK as long as the stick was less than the diameter of your thumb. Good to see they at least put limits on the accepted barbarity. 

5. Because Australia was the dumping ground for British convicts, there was a joke in England that the kangaroo’s pouch was designed by pickpockets. 

6. One of those convicts, Amelia Beard, had an amusing piece written about her in the newspaper after she assaulted a policeman. Apparently, she “commenced a volley of abusive language against him, accompanied with a pantomimic exhibition of talons and legs, which left most remarkable notice of her visitations upon his person.” So, she swore, kicked, scratched and left the policeman with visible injuries. Early 19th century was definitely a more interesting time, linguistically. 

7. Everybody knows that the gun laws in America are crazy and the police don’t seem to know how to keep their guns in their holsters. It’s quite the opposite in England where the police remain unarmed to this day. A couple of years ago there was a proposal to arm the police in London and the police voted against it, with 20% saying they would actually quit if they were forced to carry a gun. I am also a firm believer that guns beget guns so kudos to the British police. 

8. Jail as punishment wasn’t really a thing in Britain until the mid-19th century. There was a model prison built in 1842 which kept prisoners in their cells almost all day every day. When they did leave, they had their faces masked to ensure they could not interact with any other prisoners who might corrupt them. Not surprisingly, they found that “a disconcerting number of them were going insane”.

9. In the early 19th century the word prostitute was bandied about willy-nilly. If you were single and consorted with men, you were a prostitute. If you were single and co-habitated with a man, you were a prostitute. And, of course if you were a sex-worker you were also a prostitute. Of course, men were just called men no matter what they did. Not much has changed in this regard. 

10. There is good evidence that Ned Kelly did not actually say the words, “Such is life” prior to his hanging. Apparently, making stuff up to sell papers is not a new phenomenon. Who knew?

Saturday, May 11, 2019

638 & 639/1038 - Nut meringue cake with buttercream filling

Mother's Day is not a huge deal in our house, with me reminding the kids every year that I don't want or need a present. They are obliged, however, to hang out with me for at least part of the day and then I don't mind if we all go our separate ways. Such is life with independent teenage boys. 

So, tomorrow they will head over to my own Mum's place with me to enjoy a homemade lunch. As always, my effort goes into cooking rather than buying yet another present to add to the pile of things filling our already cluttered houses. Dessert will be this beautiful layered cake, complete with three nutty meringues stacked one on top of the other, filled and topped with the most incredibly decadent buttercream and topped with toasted almonds. 

It all sounds rather complicated but actually it was incredibly fast to make. Only one of the layers ended up with a slight split in it, but therein lies one of the joys of making a cake which will be completely hidden under a slathering of buttery goodness. 

Apparently making this cake the day before is a good thing, with the topping seeping it's way into the meringue layers and tasting its best on day two. Of course, this means that I have had to be content with staring at it longingly...and to appease my craving, helping myself to a couple of well sized spoonfuls of the leftover filling. Butter and sweet - what a combination. 

Exams are looming and so this is likely to be the last post for May, hence my desire to combine two recipes in one post.  

Until June! 

Monday, May 6, 2019

637/1038 - Irish stew

A warming stew is just what the doctor ordered after a disappointing and chilly night at the football. We adore lamb in our house and this recipe makes an incredibly tasty dish from what is quite an ordinary cut of meat. We did enjoy the stew as it came on Sunday (which was wonderful!) but my family will never say no to some home-made pastry and so these gorgeous pies were the result of our leftovers being made even more fabulous.

The cooking options for the stew were in the oven or on the stove top. I opted for stove top as I do like to check progress from time to time and lifting the lid is a whole lot easier than dragging a full rondeau in and out of the oven. Insert my awkwardness and the stove top was a very sensible option!

The recipe called for three cups of water (or stock, but lamb stock is hard to find!) but somehow my rondeau was completely full and so I put in much, much more in order to cover the ingredients. Because of this, I cooked it mostly lid off so that the excess water could evaporate. It also meant that I spent some time today reducing the juices so that the pies wouldn't run everywhere. But the taste was AMAZING and so I don't think my heavy handedness on the liquid pouring was too much of a problem.

Because I used (lots of) water and not stock, I had to adjust the flavour slightly, which I did with a good dash of hot sauce and a decent slurp of Worcestershire sauce.

Just fabulous. 
Irish stew as it comes

Friday, May 3, 2019

636/1038 - Quandong and berry sponge pudding

Quandongs really are a wonderful fruit and I am so pleased I have an enormous bag of the dried variety to play around with. This was the first time I have tried rehydrating them and while the flavour was still fabulous, it was a little more subdued. 

I decided to pair the quandongs with strawberries and was pleased to discover that they are a really lovely combination. The sponge topping was very simple, but if you are using a deeper dish with less width as I did, the cooking time will be much longer than what is recommended.

We are in the middle of about a million fabulous projects right now but I am also feeling supremely guilty for having slowed this challenge to only one recipe per month. I calculated my finish time based on this pace, realised the challenge would take more than thirty years to complete and promptly pulled The Cook's Companion off the shelf and searched for a recipe to make immediately. 

Feeling industrious, I also made two batches of ice-cream to serve with the pudding; one vanilla and one wattleseed which is pictured above in the shape of a slightly sad and melted scoop, suffering under the bright lights of our dining room. Even slightly melted, it paired beautifully with the pudding.

So there it is - the first recipe for May and completed only two days in. Hopefully more to come soon! 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

635/1038 - Sesame and coriander dukkah

This lovely dukkah represents my desperation to cook a challenge recipe before this crazy month is behind us. It has been a mad time in my house, with serious technical issues wreaking havoc on what was previously a very organised trimester of study. So, after completing my third assignment (again!), today was a day of rest, cooking and pottering. 

Every one of the spices was toasted before being ground and as a result the flavour of the dukkah was absolutely amazing. We have already eaten it with olive oil and Turkish bread and tonight's dinner was dukkah crusted chicken with baked brussels sprouts and guacamole.

The very best part about this recipe was testing out a new method I have discovered for peeling hazelnuts. Instead of roasting and rubbing, you simply blanch them in water with bi-carb soda and the skins peel off perfectly! For one third of a cup of hazelnuts, I used one and a half cups of water and two tablespoons of bi-carb. A revelation!

I am pleased that this recipe made plenty as I think it might be my go to snack for a little while. And I do believe there is a toast, avocado, boiled egg and dukkah breakfast awaiting me in the very near future.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

634/1038 - Wattleseed gnocchi

Finally...more bushfood!

I have made Roman style semolina gnocchi before, but this version has the incredible addition of roasted and ground wattleseed, which interestingly has a coffee-like smell. I was a bit worried that the gnocchi would taste like coffee but instead it simply added a lovely depth to the flavour. 

I will be honest and admit that it didn't appear to set perfectly and so rather than giving up on it, decided to bake it in one piece and to cut it once it was cooked. I am so pleased I did! Except for the minimum two hour resting time, this is a quick and fabulous dish that would make a lovely addition to a roast dinner.

Prior to making this gnocchi, cooking, and therefore challenge recipes, had come to a standstill in my kitchen. Early last week, I dislocated my extensor tendon and while the tendon is fine, it is the ruptured ligament, supposed to be holding said tendon in place, which is taking its sweet time to heal.

With many physical tasks unavailable to me, I amused myself instead with the different perspective my new-found one-handedness provided. Below are my top 10 observations.

1. The time taken to complete most tasks is doubled, but so is the joy in completing them. Putting my pants on without assistance is now an event to be recognised and celebrated.

2. When you find yourself partially incapacitated, you discover quite quickly if your family will step up. From taking on morning porridge duties to making sure all of the necessary jars are open in the morning (I use a lot of hair product), after initial resistance my family have impressed me with their willingness to help.

3. If you like your hands to be very dry after washing (including in-between fingers) doing this with a towel one-handed is quite difficult. Enter my trusty hairdryer which now resides on the bathroom sink acting as a very effective hand dryer.

4. When your second hand is also temporarily compromised, straws are your friend. I am not a fan of plastic straws and so have a set of the stainless variety. While they are a fabulous option for the environment, it is important they not be approached too quickly if you prefer your teeth intact. A lesson I learned very quickly!

5. Speaking of teeth, more can be done with teeth than you can imagine; from operating zips to tearing open band-aid packets. Not methods I would be likely to use in public, but perfectly acceptable in the privacy of my home.

6. Studying with one hand (provided your preferred hand is not affected) is still completely possible and in fact, is the task I am able to complete with minimal change. Needless to say, I am way ahead in my studies right now, and yes, my one-handed typing is becoming impressively fast.

7. For somebody who cuts their own hair (yes, I am aware this is weird), the lesson learned is not to put off a much-needed haircut! I am currently sporting an enormously bushy head of hair and still don’t trust a professional to touch it. It appears that public engagements will be cancelled for some time.

8. I have always run hands-free on the cross-trainer which amuses my husband no end. I like to run on the back end of the pedals which means that, being five foot two, there is no way I can reach the handles comfortably. This style of running hands-free has come in very handy this week, preventing me from becoming a complete couch potato.

9. Where there is a will there is a way. Although I am unable to hang washing on the line with pegs (I am determined, not a magician) I have today managed to hang an entire load one handed onto our very large washing rack, which I also assembled with one hand. Not much is impossible if you want it badly enough.

10. I discovered that if the onion/garlic/bacon chopping is done by someone else, a pretty fabulous bolognese can be made with one hand. The execution was not perfect; grated nutmeg was never going to happen and I did accidentally pull the thyme out of the ground with the roots attached (whoops) but otherwise the result was surprisingly good.

I almost managed this recipe on my own, requiring assistance for only a couple of small tasks which included pouring the semolina into the milk as I whisked and taking the tray of gnocchi out of the oven. Stay tuned for (hopefully) more one-handed recipes soon. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

633/1038 - Ajo blanco - white gazpacho from Malaga

I have spoken before of our friend with the incredible garden. He has previously provided us with herbs, fresh trout from his aquaponics set up and various vegetables which we have always put to good use. Yesterday's gift was these unbelievable wine grapes which smelled like nothing I have smelled before; almost as if they contained some kind of exotic perfume. I must have put these beautiful grapes to my nose at least twenty times to inhale the incredible aroma. 

I immediately took a look to see which recipe would inform our dinner and am so pleased I found this one! Gazpacho is served cold and so putting it together was a breeze...if you don't count the disclocated thumb I suffered when I closed the lid of the thermomix. But that's another, and completely boring, story.

Thinking I would need to purchase the Spanish sherry vinegar, I was surprised to find this bottle at the back of my pantry, amusingly propping up a shelf which had lost one of those annoying little pegs which plug into the wall holding it up. Sometimes I think perhaps I do have too many specialty ingredients in my house! 

As much as I adored the flavour of this soup, unfortunately it contained a ridiculous amount of ingredients to which I am intolerant. It has been a very long time since I have ingested milk in its natural form and was taken by surprise when I began nodding off as I attempted to create this blog post last night. I was absolutely kicking myself that I didn't think to froth the milk before I included it as the frothing process stretches the protein in the milk and stops me from having a sleepy reaction. No matter. One strong coffee later I was at least able to stay awake for the rest of the evening and revel in the fact that this soup was absolutely fabulous. 

The most incredible smelling wine grapes

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

632/1038 - Cream dressing for strongly flavoured firm salad leaves

I have no idea if I have mentioned it before (memory is not what it used to be!) but Monday night is burger night in our house. No matter how quiet our weekends have been I always seem to be exhausted on a Monday. It is therefore probably no surprise that my husband's offer to make burgers for us on a weekly basis was music to my ears!

Two of our family members eat burgers the traditional way; inside a bun and piled as high as a large mouth will accommodate. The other half eat them deconstructed and sans bun. This dressed cos was the perfect accompaniment to the beautiful but rich beefy patty topped with fried egg, cheese and fried onion.

This was the first night in a long while I have allowed cheese on my burger given that cheese is one of the foods which provokes an unwanted reaction. The main problem with cheese is that it completely saps my energy (weird, I know!) but because I did not have any study planned this was not an issue. Of course I did need to go to bed shortly after dinner but the fabulous taste was more than worth it.

The dressing included an incredible combination of cream, red wine vinegar, dijon, lots of crushed garlic, olive oil and, because I am now in love with the flavour, mountain pepper. Too often we eat our vegetables and salad undressed (because it's good for you!) but last night saw my little family devour almost two heads of cos due to the wonderful taste of the dressing. A mammoth effort and a tribute to this wonderful little recipe. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

631/1038 - Bunya nut and pumpkin soup

Realising I finally had a moment to myself, I decided to crack out another of my bush foods; this time the humble bunya nut. 

The bunya nut comes from the bunya pine and drops to the ground encased in an enormous green cone, along with many, many kilograms of its buddies. The pods inside are peeled to reveal the bunya nut which, like chestnuts, needs to be boiled or roasted and then peeled. Enter my trusty Stanley knife! After a thirty minute boil the flesh came away easily from the skin which was a huge relief given that I had thawed exactly the required amount.

Bunya nuts before they are peeled
I decided to roast the pumpkin instead of boiling it as I wanted to make sure the soup had plenty of flavour. Because of this, I decided that the soup boil time was not necessary and decided to simply sauté and blend the firm ingredients, add the water (half of the recommended amount) and adjust the seasoning after only a few minutes on the heat.

Some beautiful mountain pepper which had been gathered by my gorgeous in-laws was finally dry enough to grind and so a good pinch of this was added for flavour along with a tiny handful of dried saltbush.

Of course some roasted pumpkin seeds never go astray and I couldn't resist harvesting them as I dissected the pumpkin. My trusty dehydrator is so handy for getting rid of the excess moisture from the seeds before roasting but this process can also be done in a very low oven or simply by leaving them to air-dry if time is not an issue.

We were unexpectedly invited to a dinner party last night and so this soup was shared with more people than expected. I was quietly pleased when one of the diners asked if the soup was based on a lovely chicken stock, knowing that no stock had been used and that all of the flavour came from the beautiful batch of ingredients.

With a huge bag of bunya nuts in the freezer, this fabulous soup will definitely be on the repeat list. Meanwhile, today will see the rest of the roast pumpkin turned into mini pumpkin cupcakes.

Thanks be to an incredible cultivar!

Roasted pumpkin seeds for topping 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

630/1038 - Poached apricots

It appears I have started and finished the apricot chapter in record time. 

As well as an absolute ton of the best jam I have ever made, we now also have an enormous jar of poached apricots in the fridge. I actually made them last month but have only just pulled my head up from my study to write this post. (Last exam was yesterday, hurrah!)

Poached fruit is so very versatile and so far I have eaten it with ice-cream, alongside my fresh apricot tart and now as an addition to my morning smoothie. This particular concoction had a strawberry, banana and soy milk base and was topped with dried quandong, coconut, poached apricot and a sprinkle of chia seeds. Of course it was absolutely delicious! 

With the addition of  a (large-ish) splash of French brandy in the apricots, I had to warn my son regarding eating apricots before driving as he is on a 00 blood alcohol restriction right now. The brandy is a necessary addition though, providing the most wonderful, and slightly surprising, flavour.

That's 26 of 125 chapters DONE! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

629/1038 - Fresh apricot tart

Of course we did more with my friend's apricots than simply make jam!

In addition to the incredible fresh apricots used in this tart, there is also a good amount of the jam included which was used to glaze the fruit. 

Given how easy this was to make it would almost have been criminal not to take the time to make it with fresh pastry. We also ate it with some home-made vanilla ice-cream to round out the completely made from scratch theme of this lovely dessert. Caramelised, sweet, delicious and eaten less than 24 hours after the fruit was picked. I am not sure dessert gets any better than this!  

As always, I am in the midst of playing mad catch up with my study due to a fabulous Christmas holidays spent with my little family. Mini-breaks, mini-renovations and lots of relaxing has been the order of this holiday period...and I am paying for this joy with some serious cramming at my desk. As well as neglecting my study, I have also been relatively absent from my beloved kitchen which should change in a couple of weeks time. Bush foods here we come! In the meantime, I thought I should at least stop for a moment to give my blog a little bit of (rushed) love.  

If you can get your hands on some apricots fresh from the tree, I highly recommend making this beautiful tart. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

628/1038 - Apricot jam

Oh, the hardship of having to help a friend use up her ripe apricots!

Incredibly, this is the first apricot recipe I have made. Actually, it should not be too much of a surprise for others who have severe FODMAP intolerances as apricots are definitely not my body's best friend. Eaten when cooked and in small quantities the reaction is not too bad but downing an entire fresh apricot would unfortunately have me in more pain than the enjoyment of eating it was worth.

But this jam!

This jam now represents happiness for me each morning. The flavour of the fruit, which was still on the tree less than a day prior to becoming a preserve, is simply marvellous. Stephanie advised that the flavour would be compromised if the jam was made in large batches due to the increased cooking time and so although I doubled the recipe, I divided the ingredients into two pots. It was very interesting to observe the far superior performance of my beautiful copper pot, which takes any concoction to a very high heat in record time. 

Given the lowish level of pectin in apricots, turning them into a lovely, goopy jam can be tricky. The thickening method generally employed for apricot jam is to add a good amount of apricot kernels to the pot. The fact that the kernels contain cyanide makes me appropriately wary and so I was only comfortable throwing in the ones I didn't accidentally split with the mallet. I did add the split kernels, but they were constrained in a mesh bag which I hung on the side of the pot. To make absolutely sure my jam would thicken to the required consistency, I also added a handful of chia seeds to each pot as they are renowned for their gelling quality. The resulting thickness was absolutely spot on. 

Doubling the recipe made us a LOT of jam and so it appears I will have many, many days of breakfast happiness ahead.