Wednesday, August 26, 2020

9 years and a pause...

For personal reasons I have had to pause my beloved challenge. I will be back at some stage - hopefully later this year.

- Kate x

Sunday, June 14, 2020

683/1038 - Amaretti and coffee semifreddo

Ice-cream is a big deal in my house. We make it. We eat it. We love it. This particular variety - a semifreddo in fact - has been incredibly popular but has also been creating its fair share of angst. 

Some time ago, I realised that there are weeks that I have the energy and motivation to attempt a challenge recipe and weeks that I do not. After one particularly industrious week, I held back posting a few of the recipes and noticed that it reduced the pressure I sometimes feel to constantly move this challenge forward. So, after almost nine years, I have finally found a blog posting rhythm. And it is lovely. 

Which brings me to why this semifreddo has been causing angst! I must have made this a month ago but only got around to photographing it today. Which of course means that it has been sitting in the freezer and everybody has been extra conscious of leaving enough of it untouched so that I might get a decent photograph. Now that it is done, I think the last of it wil disappear pretty quickly.

I actually made the amaretti biscuits myself and so the entire process took a couple of days to complete. Apart from the biscuits it was a very simple dessert because semifreddo does not need to be churned - the step which separates semifreddo from ice-cream. I am not sure I got the consistency right because most of the filling appeared to sink to the bottom as it froze. Of course this was not a problem as long as one remembered to scoop to the very bottom to ensure maximum flavour. 

I did have a small serve of this when it was first made and can confirm that it is absolutely delicious and even better sprinkled with a crumbled amaretti biscuit. Definitely a good one to make for those who do not own an ice-cream machine. 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

682/1038 - Chocolate cream

Chocolate cream is a seriously easy recipe to make - the hardest part was deciding what to do with it! I ended up designing this flash little dessert for my boys which consisted of chocolate cream, whipped cream and smashed Oreos. 

I had to laugh at the reaction of my youngest when I deposited this dessert in front of him. If the intake of breath and the exclamation of surprise were not enough, my favourite thing by far was the fact that he felt the need to photograph it and send it to his friends before he got stuck in. 

I can also see this chocolate cream being fabulous stirred through vanilla ice-cream or as a filling in a plain sponge cake with or without a layer of strawberry jam. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

681/1038 - Quince paste

This recipe is not difficult but does take a number of hours to complete. I made a half batch which still produced quite a large amount that will take some months to get through. Thankfully quince paste lasts for a very long time!

The recipe states that a non-reactive saucepan should be used but what I didn't take into account was that the knife should also be non-reactive. I have a gorgeous knife that was made by a cowboy named Billy - an incredibly talented blacksmith who we met at New Mexico Farm & Ranch in the US.* The knife is not stainless steel and hence is very reactive! I didn't realise this until I started to see the quince turning black where the knife was touching it. Needless to say, I quickly switched to a stainless steel knife to complete the task. 

To ensure the paste will set, it is recommended that one quarter of the pips and core (home of the pectin) are left in the mixture. Rather than trimming each quince and then measuring a quarter of the off-cuts, I found it easier to hack up a quarter of the quinces and throw them in as they came - no coring required. Then I simply cored the rest. One quarter of pips and cores sorted! 

Something I was fascinated with was the look of the quince puree at the beginning of the process, which was so pale it looked more like apple puree. As the quince cooks it darkens and becomes the beautiful deep rose colour we all associate with cooked quince and the ever-popular quince paste. 

My family have been enjoying the paste on biscuits with oozy Camembert and below is my preferred method of eating; nice and simple on a slice of apple.

*While writing this post I got distracted and visited the Facebook page of the New Mexico Farm & Ranch and discovered that beautiful Billy is no longer with us. I would therefore like to dedicate this post to Billy who I will always think of fondly whenever I use his beautiful knife.

Lovely on a slice of apple!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

680/1038 - Quinces baked in honey

Apparently this recipe was originally published by Stephanie's Mum, a fact I find absolutely gorgeous. Imagine being able to carry on your Mum's beautiful work? 

This is one of the only challenge recipes in a little while I have actually been able to eat and so suffice to say, it got me very excited! This was actually my second attempt at photographing the result. I made a batch of these and was in the middle of taking a picture when Archie Roach came on TV - a performance I had been waiting for ALL DAY. I grabbed my quince and ran...and by the time I came back to photograph the others my family had eaten the lot. 

It was so good (and so simple) I absolutely did not mind making it again. Thanks to my own gorgeous Mum who donated the quinces for this recipe! 

Lovely synergy, indeed. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

679/1038 - Pickled cumquats

More cumquats!

This little pickle is very versatile and can be used in all sorts of ways to make savoury dishes taste good. I have used it three ways to date; in stuffing for a roast duck, in cumquat butter and in the slow cooker with some stewing lamb, tomatoes, white wine and cinnamon. Reports were that the lamb dish had the most beautiful and subtle citrus flavour throughout and that the combination was a big success. I had thrown both the juices and also two finely diced pickled cumquats in there - something I think I will be repeating again in the near future!

The cumquat butter recipe was also from The Cook's Companion and I made it specifically to pass on to my Mum for Mother's Day, assuming it would not be popular enough to be used quickly in my house. There are so many times I have made unusual foods and have been the only one ploughing through the leftovers. Of course, the one time I make something and give it away, my eldest (who did the taste test for me) has not stopped asking me to make more to satisfy his morning toast and cumquat butter cravings! Apparently it was that good and so a second batch of the butter is on my cooking list for today.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

678/1038 - Cumquat butter

What do give to your mum when you are self-isolating and don't want to go to the shops? A home made gift hamper of course! 

I tested this beautiful cumquat butter on my family and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive! Flavoured butters are so very easy, with all of the ingredients simply being chopped and blitzed together. I sent a stick of it over to my Mum today, along with some cumquat marmalade, home-made amaretti, gorgeous organic wine and also our goofy dog to keep her and her partner amused for the next week or so. 

The wine is from a case I bought for myself. It is preservative free and tastes absolutely brilliant. But even better, I can drink it! I have been avoiding wine for years now (under much duress!) because I knew I was reacting to it but didn't understand why. It turns out the added preservative in wine increases the histamine levels which I now realise is a trigger for the majority of my health issues.*

Enter my new favourite wine distributor, Organic Wine! Theirs is the first website I have found that makes it ridiculously simple to find wines that are free from added preservatives. Not only that, but their range is very generous and the people who run the business are absolutely lovely. Win, win, win. So today I thought I'd share the organic, preservative free Sauvignon Blanc love with my Mum. 

A very happy Mother's Day to all, but mainly to my own lovely Mum who I am just dying to see and hug when this crazy time is over and done with.

*I just reread this and realised it made me sound like an alcoholic! To be clear, it's the histamine in all things which is a problem - not just in wine...

Home-made Mother's Day hamper and a goofy dog
 on loan for an isolated Mother's Day 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

677/1038 - Witlof in cheese sauce

It seems amazing that there are chapters I still haven't started after almost nine years, but here we are. With 125 chapters to explore, entering the witlof arena marked the 118th chapter officially underway. 

I halved this recipe, mainly because I only had two witlof to work with but also because I didn't want each serve to dominate the meal. I have mentioned before that there are only two types of cheese I am able to eat and so I replaced both the Gruyere and the Parmesan with mozzarella. Honestly, I think any type of cheese would be an acceptable substitute! As well as switching cheeses, I realised my home was completely devoid of breadcrumbs and so I made my own from home-made coconut bread I had stored in the freezer.

The dish I cooked this in is old, chipped and battered but it belonged to my grandmother and so is very special to me. She was one of the best cooks I have ever known and it was an amazing feeling to create dinner in the same dish she would have used to put food on the table for my dad and his four brothers. 

All in all, this was a beautiful and simple side dish, devoured and enjoyed by all. Even better was the amount of cheese sauce which stretched far enough to make the rest of the vegetables on our plates even tastier. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

676/1038 - Cumquat marmalade

Finally, the cumquat chapter has been started!

I have two cumquat trees which were given to me by my eldest and my husband last Christmas. The gifts were a lovely reminder that my family do listen when I share my yearnings with them but course it was also an insight into how little they communicate with one another! Unfortunately neither tree has yet reached the fruiting stage and so I was absolutely thrilled when a friend shared five kilos of her own fruit with me. 

The process for making this marmalade was quite different to the Seville orange version which I made all the way back in 2013. Cumquat marmalade still requires two days to complete but rather than the peel being julienned, the fruit is simply cut into quarters. Looking at my marmalade, I am not sure if I did this or if I simply cut my fruit into halves. The pieces do appear to be rather large but because the peel ends up lovely and thin it is very edible and not at all unattractive. 

As is sometimes the case with marmalade, I had some trouble getting it to the correct consistency. Enter a handful of trusty chia seeds and my perfectly oozy creation was complete! We now have a ridiculously enormous jar of marmalade in the fridge and so I am fairly sure once the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted I will be gifting little jars of liquid gold left, right and centre. 

My own cumquat trees (and one lime)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

675/1038 - Rocket and oregano pizza

We love pizza night! 

There is nothing more fabulous than having a meal that can be tailored to the preference of each diner. In my family, we each like our pizza toppings to be applied differently but a common theme is definitely to ensure the amount of topping is not stingy - the more, the better! This rocket and oregano version was a brilliant example of a generously endowed pizza. 

Preparation began with me drying oregano for the first time, which I did in my trusty (and much loved) dehydrator. The taste of home-dried herb is quite incredible and much more flavourful than the store bought variety which I suspect is the result of two things. Firstly, there is the fact that dried herbs lose flavour over time and my little batch was only out of the ground for a day before it was eaten. Secondly, I think we get more than we bargain for in the store bought versions. I remember many years ago reading the results of testing that had been done on various packets of herbs and the percentage of the expected herb in the contents of the packets was disturbingly low. While I don't think this is necessarily a problem in every case, I have no doubt a good amount of stem also finds its way into even the most expensive varieties, whereas my stems were discarded after the gentle removal of the oregano leaves and flowers.  

The home-made tomato sauce was another fabulous element of this pizza which I made from gorgeous fruit from our own little garden. I didn't bother removing the seeds which is a good method if you have the patience to spend a bit of extra time boiling the additional liquid from the sauce. By the time mine was done, the tomatoes had collapsed on themselves so beautifully there was no need to mash it. I have made this recipe on numerous occasions and its fabulous smell gets me every time - which is why it was so very difficult to leave this pizza to the rest of my family to eat. As it turns out, tomatoes are one of the foods that make me sick. In fact, they are up there with one of the worst culprits. Which is a damn shame because I generally eat tomato (well, ATE tomato) in some form on most days, and so it is with a heavy heart that on this night I left the tasting, and reporting of said taste, to my family.  

As I built the pizza, the addition of the rocket before it was cooked made me nervous and I was very much anticipating the creation of a pile of little burnt leaves. Thankfully, the recipe included clear instructions to add the sauce after the rocket, which provided the all important clue that the sauce was to provide the required protection for the fragile leaves. I made sure to slather it liberally and evenly and was thrilled to see that the rocket survived the intense heat of the chiminea and even retained some of its beautiful colour. With the addition of a crisp red onion layer, this pizza included a medley of flavours that were always going to please. By all reports, the pizza was a roaring success and was one of the first to disappear from the dinner table.  

Apparently the taste was made even better by the buttermilk crust - found in the basics chapter and a wonderful option for the impatient or time-poor cook. I am fairly sure not everybody was thrilled with our pizza dinner given the smoking our chiminea decided to do on this night, possibly due to the increased moisture in this particular batch of wood. A thick plume of smoke poured perfectly over the fence to where our neighbours were sitting and I am fairly sure the conversations dissipated not long after this began. Probably not a great way to maintain good neighbourly relations and definitely a good reminder to ensure our wood is well-dried in future.

To the next pizza night!

          Home-dried oregano                      A pizza I COULD eat 
                                                                 macadamia pesto, sweet potato,
                                                               mozzarella and oregano
                                                              with a buttermilk crust

Sunday, April 12, 2020

674/1038 - Rhubarb yeast cake

I was excited to harvest yet another lovely crop of rhubarb from our modest little edible garden and what a lovely smelling task that was! Rhubarb has a fabulous perfume that is difficult to describe and as I chopped my bounty into bite-sized pieces, I gained an enormous amount of pleasure from inhaling its heady aroma. 

While this cake took a bit of time to make, the majority of that was spent resting the dough. Dough based cakes done right are a pleasure to experience and eating this took me back to a time when I lived close to a bakery that sold a pretty fabulous version. The version they sold was a German cake called a Bienenstich, which translates to bee sting in English. Making (and eating) this rhubarb cake has inspired me to make my own Bienenstich and I absolutely cannot wait to see how it turns out. 

In the meantime, I have been gifted around 5kg of cumquats so to make I am planning to start (and possibly finish) the cumquat chapter in record time. The Bienenstich will happen but may just have to wait a little bit longer...

Sunday, April 5, 2020

673/1038 - Peach chutney

Before COVID-19, when our city was in a much more normal state, we received a lovely gift of a large bag of fresh peaches. Making chutney is something I have always wanted to try and this beautiful recipe satisfied this culinary itch very nicely.

We had the perfect number of peaches to make a half batch of this recipe, which meant the cooking time was reduced and I had a lovely chutney in under thirty minutes. The flavour was lovely and complex and we have enjoyed it on sandwiches and slathered on our meat and veg at dinner time. We also delivered a small container of chutney to the owner of the peach tree and as such, as I write this post I can confirm that our chutney stores are officially depleted. 

Given that this would have lasted for twelve months if stored correctly, chutney might just be that perfect kitchen distraction isolated people are seeking in this crazy, uncomfortable time. 

Stay well, everybody x

Sunday, March 29, 2020

672/1038 - Rabbit stock

A friend of my Mum's is doing his bit to reduce the rabbit population in Australia. He presented her with two pre-prepared little bunnies a little while ago and we were lucky enough to be gifted one of them. 

I decided to turn my rabbit into stock so as to use as much of it as possible. The first thing I did was to strip the meat from the carcass which I cooked separately and added to this incredibly flavourful risotto. Good stock, quite simply, makes good risotto. Rabbit stock is rich and full of flavour and so this one was a cracker.

Making different flavoured risotto is all about using a base recipe and then changing the ingredients that make it unique. This is the one I use.
  1. Melt 45g butter in a large frypan
  2. Add a large, finely chopped onion and fry gently until soft
  3. Add 1.5 cups arborio rice and stir through until the grains are coated
  4. With 6 cups of stock on hand, add a cup at a time and stir until mostly absorbed
  5. After 3 cups have been added, season to taste with salt and pepper and throw in your chosen flavours such as chopped vegetables or meat
  6. Continue to add the stock until all 6 cups have been added. 
  7. Stir through 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 30g butter.
  8. Enjoy!
If you don't have Parmesan, any other cheese will do in a pinch. I am unable to eat Parmesan right now and so we used mozzarella which worked surprisingly well. If you are watching your weight, you can skip step 7 if you like. The risotto will still be lovely, just not quite as rich.

I would love to hear of other flavour combinations! If you try this at home, please tell me via a comment here or post a pic on our Facebook page.

Stay well, everybody x

Sunday, March 22, 2020

671/1038 - Spanish ham and eggs

A little while ago I got VERY industrious in the kitchen and knocked out a number of challenge recipes. Conscious that this would not always be the case, I decided to hold off posting to the blog and instead have been adding one post per Sunday instead. My foresight appears to have been inspired given that we are now on the verge of a possible lock down and ingredients are no longer in abundant supply.

This recipe was packed full of flavour and probably also about a week's worth of calories. The inspiration came from a leg of ham that we were eating our way through and the realisation that I could easily carve out four quite generous slices. I didn't have a terracotta flame-proof dish to cook this in and so used my copper rondeau to cook two at a time and then transferred each portion to a plate.

In an attempt to alleviate some of the health challenges I have been dealing with, I am currently on a very restricted diet which absolutely does not include most of the ingredients in this recipe. Unfortunately for my adventurous palate the diet does seem to be working, with a noticeable reduction in symptoms when I am disciplined and significant flare ups when I deviate. Whilst this is wonderful news for my health, it does not bode well for the love affair I used to have with food. The fact that people around the world are getting sick and dying of course puts this very much into perspective so I am instead focussing on the positive, including the fact that there are still two types of cheese I am allowed to eat. When they finally reappear on the shelves I will be even more thrilled.

For now, I will simply revel in the fact that a little while ago I actually ate this little plate of flavours.

Stay well, everybody x

Sunday, March 15, 2020

670/1038 - Rhubarb and cinnamon cake

Rhubarb and cinnamon cake; a revelation in flavour!

Honestly, the texture and taste of this cake was nothing short of fabulous and everybody who ate it had the same look of rapture on their face. The inside was pillowy and soft and the outside fabulously crunchy, helped along by some oh so pretty gold sugar that I couldn't help sprinkling across the top. The fact that I still have four rhubarb recipes to make is the only thing stopping me from banging out this cake again and again every time our rhubarb plant replenishes itself.

I am in a self-imposed semi-lock down at the moment and so there is sure to be plenty more cooking on the horizon. I am not one who is prone to panic, but my choice of confinement is based on two things. Firstly, I fully support the slowing of the coronavirus in Australia to ensure our health system remains able to cope. I have been watching the spread of this virus play out around the world for some time now and was quite shocked in particular to see Italy's infected number increase by a further 3,500 overnight even though they have been in lock down for some time.

The other reason for my self-quarantine is self-preservation. Whilst I don't think the virus is likely to kill me, there are some medical issues I have been dealing for many months now which for a number of reasons have affected my breathing. The thought of contracting an illness which will further exacerbate my ability to obtain oxygen doesn't fill me with joy.

Time to give our little edible garden some extra love! Stay well everybody x

Sunday, March 8, 2020

669/1038 - Japanese-style steamed crab custards

Given the drop off in our visits to the Queen Vic market of late, procuring crabs is not a task that is easily achieved. It is therefore with minimal embarrassment that I disclose that this recipe was made with picked crab meat from a tin. 

With the choice of hauling out the wok and bamboo steamer or simply throwing the custards in the oven, I opted for the latter. If I am honest, I spent very little time on this lovely simple recipe, instead throwing my energy into the accompanying Thai crab fried rice which was bloody sensational. 

I remember years ago being berated by a friend regarding the mixing of cuisines from two cultures and also my terribly low care factor for having committed this apparent culinary faux pas. Nowadays this is called fusion which I am fairly sure means (a) I committed no crime, and (b) I was ahead of my time!  

So this Thai/Japanese fusion meal was quite lovely, with the custards serving as a lovely light entrée and the fried rice filling the bellies of our teenagers nicely. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

668/1038 - Fennel braised with balsamic vinegar and honey

Fennel is one of my favourite things. If not for the pain that this lovely herb evoked in my crazy gut, I would surely serve it up more often.

I cooked this dish completely on the stove top, which is generally my preference when I have the choice between that and the oven. I have enough self awareness to realise that this is a control issue, but I am a very hands on cook and experience perhaps more pleasure through the cooking process than I do with the eating.

This particular recipe was decadent and sweet and very much appreciated around the table. And did I mention the pork and fabulous crackling?

Fennel chapter - officially done and dusted. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

667/1038 - Caldo verde

We have a leg of ham in the fridge and I have been enjoying finding different ways of turning it into a meal. This soup required bacon bones but instead I used a ham bone, some hunks of the meat and also some fried bacon for good measure.

Curly kale was the main ingredient in the soup and the stems were to be discarded. Of course I decided to rescue them and decided to turn them into a crunchy and salty topping for our soup. After blanching and roasting them with sea salt, the boys discovered how nice they were. Once they began to pilfer small handfuls I realised it was a wonder we had any left to sprinkle in the bowls. Admittedly they do look a bit like little twigs but they were really quite lovely and moreish.

A really lovely soup and packed full of kale-y goodness. That's what I call a win-win scenario.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

666/1038 - Devilled kidneys

Recipe 666 was always going to be a devil of a dish.

Our local butcher is just lovely (and ethical!) and stocks a vast array of meat and offal. Apparently lamb kidneys are a staple in their shop and who wouldn't want to buy them at sixty five cents each! An absolute bargain. I will be honest and admit that as I cleaned them I had absolutely no intention of eating any myself. The smell of raw kidneys is far from pleasant and I was finding it difficult to imagine the taste being any better. 

I made the baguettes especially for this recipe, frying slices of them in a pan which is hands down my favourite manner in which to eat good bread. The unbelievably peppery watercress was straight from our burgeoning garden which is going gangbusters with all of the heat and rain we have had lately. 

When the dish was done and the boys began to eat I couldn't believe the groans of pleasure I was hearing. Needless to say, I quickly made a kidney bruschetta for myself and was blown away by how absolutely fabulous it tasted.

You might even say it was devilishly good. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

665/1038 - Roasted duck legs with eggplant

Oh, how we love our duck! 

We always buy Luv-a-Duck because we know they use every single piece of their birds, including the feathers! Such a very impressive business model and their ducks are always lovely, too. Even better, if you require only the breast or legs you can purchase guilt free knowing the rest of the bird has not been wasted. We generally buy entire birds and so rather than just cooking the legs I decided to roast the whole thing and take it apart after it was done. 

This was a really lovely twist on how we would usually eat duck and I was even able to convince the boys to eat some of the eggplant. I did halve the eggplant element of the recipe because my boys are not big fans and I just knew we would not get through two of them. 

A rich meal that definitely needed to be followed by a lovely fresh salad. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

664/1038 - Cheesy bread-and-butter pudding

This fattening little dish was filled with cheese and eggs and made even richer by the extra yolks that needed using up. So very rich, this is the perfect meal to have in a very small portion with plenty of salad or vegetables alongside.

I made my own bread on this day so that I could cut it into nice chunky pieces. From memory I think I made baguettes which meant plenty of lovely chewy crust. I am sure any bread would work just as well, though. I did make the mistake of using American cheese (leftover from a round of Philly Cheesesteaks) which made the dish even heavier, if that is possible. Definitely not a meal to be eaten very often!

This little recipe was actually completed quite some time ago but life has simply been far too complicated and busy for this post to be written. With some new physical challenges to deal with I have decided to take a break from just about everything I was doing, including my study. The great news is that this means my blog will actually get some love.

With another old blog post still waiting in the wings and a rabbit thawing in the fridge, expect more action in this space very soon.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

663/1038 - Crème brûlée

My mum always makes a load of meringues for Christmas day and then passes an enormous container of egg yolks on to me. This year, well technically last year, they were turned into this lovely dessert and also some cheesy bread and butter pudding. 

Crème brûlée might seem a daunting recipe, I think it's the French name that puts people off, but it is actually quite simple to make. Possibly the trickiest part is ensuring the custard is cooked long enough to ensure it will set. I cannot stress enough that a candy thermometer is required for this step. Had I been gauging the thickness of the custard by eye, I would certainly have removed it from the heat before my thermometer confirmed that it had actually reached the required temperature. 

Pro tips: 
  • Stand the moulds together in a container for easy insertion/removal from the fridge 
  • Use soft brown sugar on top. It contains molasses and so burns beautifully and is delicious

As per Stephanie's suggestion, I created a double layer of burnt sugar on top. Not sure it gets any crunchier than that! Just brilliant.