Monday, December 28, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 7 - Soft

Well here is week 7's Cookbook Challenge number, sorry I never made it to part 2 of Christmas, I started out well & got a photo of my chocolate cupcakes & the fried, stuffed olives & from then on it was mayhem & it wasn't until the crackling was lifted off my fabulous roast pork & the turkey carved that I had a moment of 'Oh My I Forgot the bloody camera' or words to similar effect anyway.  Just to let you know, I used Jamie Oliver's recipe from Jamie's Italy for porchetta, I had a 4kg loin of pork & I have to say it was one of the best roasts I have ever made so if you are after a great recipe for roast pork, please go ahead & try this one.

This weeks theme was soft so I thought I would be a good mum & make some home made ice cream for Chloe, (good in that she would love me, not necessarily because it was any good for her!).  I gave her a couple of flavour options & she opted for cookies & cream.  The recipe was a standard custard base with lots of oreos mixed in half way through the churning process. Chloe very proudly did the crushing for me so I assumed she would be dying to try out the ice cream when it was ready, I mean normally she is begging us to let her have ice cream.  Today we broke it out of the freezer & as I went to scoop it, Chloe was adamant that she didnt want any & wanted some of her old ice cream, a massive tantrum followed with no ice cream consumed by Chloe though Michael & I dug in & loved it.  A few hours later she relented & gave it a go to find that surprise, surprise it was nice after all!  I think next time I will make ice cream to please me, ie alcholic or coffee flavoured or something like Green tea which I wouldnt think that kids would like but of course knowing Chloe she will surprise me.

Love home made ice cream & have again vowed to make lots of different flavours this summer as I do every summer, will see if I get past one this season.

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream from Iced - 180 very cool concoctions

375ml (1 1/2 cups) milk
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) pouring (whipping) cream
60g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
6 egg yolks
125g cream filled dark chocolate biscuits such as oreo's, crushed

Put the milk, cream & sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved and the milk is just about to boil.  Remove from the heat.

Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl.  Whisk in 60ml (1/4 cup) of the hot milk mixture until smooth.  Whisk in the remaining milk mixture, then return to a clean saucepan and stir constantly over low-medium heat for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  Do not allow to boil.  Cool slightly, then cover & refrigerate until cold.

Transfer to an ice cream machine & freeze according to manufacturer's instructions, adding the biscuits halfway through.  alternatively, transfer to a shallow metal tray & freeze, whisking every couple of hours until frozen & creamy, add the biscuits during the final beating.  Freeze for 5 hours or overnight.  Makes 1 liter.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 6 - Christmas - Part 1

For my first Christmas post I made a panforte which I have never made before.  For some strange, unknown reason I was dying to make one this year so even though I couldnt find a recipe in my gazillions of cookbooks I bent the rules a little & used a recipe from the Donna Hay Christmas magazine issue.  I am also hosting Christmas day for 20 adults plus a few kiddies so if I dont forget in all the mayhem to take photos I will write about my feast day too.

Back to the panforte, this version used dried apricots, almonds, hazelnuts & some mixed spice.  After looking at a few recipes it seems that most have figs which I love too so next time will have to try a fig version.  I really liked the combination of fruit & nuts in this recipe & enjoyed the panforte which so far has lasted 5 days between Michael, Chloe myself & a few guests too, the fact that it is so dense & chewy makes it perfect for resisting & sticking to only a small portion at a time.

Panforte - recipe from the 2009 Donna Hay Christmas issue

1/2 cup (75g) plain flour, sifted
2 tablespoons cocoa. sifted
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 cup (150g) chopped dried apricots
3/4 cup (120g) roasted almonds, halved
1 cup (140g) roasted hazelnuts, halved
200g dark chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup (230g) honey
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
1/4 cup (45g) brown sugar
icing sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 180c.  Place flour, cocoa, spice, apricot, almonds and hazelnuts in a bowl & mix to combine.  Place chocolate, honey, caster and brown sugars in a saucepan over low heat & stir until chocolate has melted.  Pour into the flour mixture and mix well to combine.  Press into a lightly greased 22cm round springform tin lined with non stick baking paper.  Cook for 30 minutes or until the centre is just firm.  Cool in the tin.  Cut into wedges & dust with icing sugar.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 5 - Greek

This weeks challenge was Greek.  Unfortunately I dont own any Greek cook books as yet though I know for a fact that I will be receiving George Calombaris' Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart which I am dying for, I have now been twice to Hellenic Republic, am going again for my mums birthday on xmas eve with the kids in tow & cant wait to start cooking some of my now favourite recipes.  So this weeks challenge is a bit early for me & so I stuck to a very simple Greek Salad from Bill Granger's Open Kitchen.  I know it's very boring for a challenge however with the craziness of Christmas in full swing this week I just dont have the time for anything more elaborate than a bit of chopping & grilling.  A lovely light salad with lots of fresh mint & parsley from the garden & to make it irresistible, lots of gorgeous grilled haloumi heaped on top.  The recipe can be found here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Apte's Banana & Coconut Bread with Honeyed Labne

If anyone has been to Apte in Alphington they will know about their heavenly Banana & Coconut bread.  I ate there quite a while ago when pregnant & was dying to try the famous dish, though on the day they were serving it with rhubarb which I had in my mind for some reason or another you are supposed to avoid when pregnant so had to give it a miss.  Instead I had the ricotta hotcakes which were impressive themselves.  Anyway I digress, the recipe for the banana bread ensemble appeared in a magazine at about the same time we visited, I'm pretty sure it was delicious so I kept a hold of it & finally made it last week.  I served mine with tinned blood plums rather than roasted fruit & it was perfect, it reminds me very much of my all time favourite Syrian style French toast, orange blossom syrup, honey labne, stewed rhubarb & pistachiosfrom Gingerlee in Brunswick. I love the banana bread which was really easy & to serve I just popped a slice in the toaster as needed & topped with all the extras, though next time I might even be tempted to try & make a french toast version with the labne, plums & pistachios & see how close to Gingerlee's I can get it too, it's not so easy to get out for brekky these days with 2 littlies underfoot so if I can replicate a recipe at home, even better.

Banana & Coconut Bread with Honeyed Labne

You will  need to begin the labne a day in advance or try buying some from Middle Eastern food shops

2 cups (300g) self raising flour
1 1/2 cups (330g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups (135g) shredded coconut
400ml can coconut milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 small bananas, sliced
Roasted fruit (such as rhubarb or blood plums) & chopped unsalted pistachio kernels, to serve

Honeyed labne

1kg Natural yoghurt ( I only made about 250g worth & it lasted the whole loaf so I guess it depends on how much dollop you like on your bread)
1/2 cup (175g) honey (as above I only added about 1 tablespoon)

For the labne, line a mesh strainer with a piece of muslin or a clean chux cloth & set over a large bowl.  Place the yoghurt in the strainer, then gather the cloth up & secure with string or a rubber band.  Place in the fridge & allow to drain for at least 12 hours or overnight until thickened & creamy.  Remove from cloth & discard the liquid in the bowl.  Whisk in the honey until smooth, chill until needed.

Preheat oven to 160c.  Grease & line a 10cm x 30cm loaf pan.  Combine flour, sugar & coconut in a bowl.  Place the coconut milk, eggs & vanilla extract in a separate bowl & whisk to combine.  Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture & stir until just combined.  Fold in sliced banana, then pour into prepared tin,  Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool slightly in th epan, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Slice banana bread and serve plain or lightly toasted with the labne, fruit & pistachios.  The bread will keeep in the fridge for 3-4 days.  Reheat or toast before serving.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 4 - Beans

This weeks theme is beans.  Rather than trying to find a complete meal to make using beans I decided on a side.  I have so many recipes in my books focusing on wonderful sides which I normally ignore in favour of the more seductive looking main meals that I have decided to put in a big effort to make more sides. This Bean Salad recipe comes from my latest book, Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion, the book really does turn simple ingredients into special dishes.  The recipe uses green & yellow beans however I was away this weekend & didnt have time to hunt around so was stuck with last minute shopping & no yellow beans.  I cannot believe how simple this salad is, it just proves that if you use quality ingredients like fantastic marinated goat's cheese, olives & fresh herbs from the garden than that is all you sometimes have to do to impress.

Green & Yellow Bean Salad

1 tablesoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of your favourite olives
2 teaspoons small salted capers, soaked in water for 5 minutes, drained & patted dry (I omitted the patting)
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped chives
150g green beans, trimmed
150g yellow beans, trimmed
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
marinated goat's cheese, to serve

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil.  Meanwhile, put olive oil, olives, capers, parsley & choves into a mixing bowl.

Cook beans seperately in the water for 8 minutes each & drain, dont run cold water over them as this will leave them tasting of water rather than beans.  Add beans to the mixing bowl.  Mix well, taste & season with salt & pepper.  Arrane on a serving platter & top with goats cheese.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 3 - Hor d'oeuvres

This weeks them was Hor d'oeuvres.  I wasnt doing any entertaining for a change so Michael & I got the experiment for dinner which is good as after my first ever attempt of rice paper rolling I suck & need lots of practice.  This is a good things as a) the Vietnamese prawn rolls I made were absolutely delicious even though they were falling apart so I'd love to try them again and b) at least I didnt have the embarrassment of serving them up to people though I'm sure my close friends would have forgiven me.  My main problem it seems was that I just didnt chop my veggies small enough, you can see how chunky mine are in the photo so at least I can work on that, secondly I tried to stuff way too much of everything into each wrapper so a delicate perfect roll was never going to happen.  So the challenge is helping me to experiment so that next time I need to feed the masses I will have some tricks up my sleeve.  The rolls themselves were easy to get ready (apart from the assembly of course, just lots of peeling, chopping & picking of herbs from the garden.  The sauce was lovely, sweet & yet with a lovely tang thanks to the lime juice.  Cant wait for an excuse to try them out again.  Recipe from Small Food - snack sized bites to share with friends which I thought was a fitting book to choose this weeks recipe from.

Vietnamese Prawn Rolls

2/3 cup (170ml) lime juice)
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/3 cup (80ml) sweet chilli sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons grated palm sugar or soft brown sugar
12 x 15cm rice paper wrappers
12 cooked medium prawns, peeled & halved lengthways
1 small carrot, cut into 5cm long julienne strips
1 small lebanese cucumber, cut into 5cm batons
1/2 avocado, sliced
3 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves
2 tablespoons torn fresh Vietnamese mint
5 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Combine the lime juice, zest, sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce & sugar in a small bowl.

Working with one wrapper at a time, dip a wrapper in a bowl of warn water for 10 seconds to soften, then lay out on a flat surface.  Place 2 prawn halves and a little of each remaining ingredient at one end of the wrapper, then drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the sauce.  Fold in the sides & roll up tightly.  Serve with the remaining sauce for dipping

Makes 12

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 2 - Indian

The theme for week 2 of The Cookbook Challenge is Indian.  Following on from week 1 I made another recipe from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer,  Keralan Fish Curry.  Kerala is a state in South Western India & though Nigella admits it might not be entirely authentic I thought it fit the theme perfectly & it was meant to go with the rice I made for week 1 which I had stashed in the freezer so that part was out of the way at least.  The rice defrosted perfectly too so no issues in making ahead. I used some fresh yellow belly that my brother caught, & then generously scaled & filleted for me.  The curry is really light & fresh so perfect for a summer meal, hence the fact that it's in her Forever Summer book I guess.  The whole mellow yellow look & feel of the dish was exactly as it tasted, a good quick curry to whip up for a yummy mid week meal.

Keralan Fish Curry - From Nigella Lawson Forever Summer


1.25kg firm white fish
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, halved and cut into thin half-moons
2 long red chillies
4 cm piece fresh ginger
pinch ground cumin
400ml tin unsweetened coconut milk
1–2 tablespoons concentrated tamarind
1 tablespoon liquid fish stock


Cut the fish into bite-sized chunks, put them into a large bowl, and rub with a little salt and 1 teaspoon turmeric. Heat the oil in a large, shallow pan and peel and tip in your fine half-moons of onion; sprinkle them with a little salt to stop them browning and then cook, stirring, until they’ve softened; this should take scarcely 5 minutes.
Cut the whole, unseeded chillies into thin slices across (although if you really don’t want this at all hot, you can seed and then just chop them) and then toss them into the pan of softened onions. Peel the ginger and slice it, then cut the slices into straw-like strips and add them, too, along with the remaining teaspoon of turmeric and the cumin. Fry them with the onions for a few minutes.
Pour the can of coconut milk into a large glass measuring cup and add a tablespoon of tamarind paste and the fish stock, using boiling water from the kettle to bring the liquid up to the 4-cup mark. Pour it into the pan, stirring it in to make the delicate curry sauce. Taste and add more tamarind paste if you want to. And actually you can do all this hours in advance if it helps.
When you are absolutely ready to eat, add the fish to the hot sauce and heat for a couple of minutes until it’s cooked through, but still tender.

Serves 4-6

Fancy Weekend Breakfast

Here is a photo of the tarted up bircher muesli I served to Megan for breakfast on Sunday. Oats soaked in apple juice overnight, in the morning stir in some yoghurt, honey & crushed strawberries. Serve in a fancy glass with layers of blueberries & strawberries in between & piles of fruit on top. As I've mentioned before, bircher muesli is a favourite summertime weekend breakfast of mine & it can be varied with any fruit combo you can imagine & it's pretty much guilt free so you can go there whenever you want...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bill Granger cooking on a rainy Melbourne Sunday

Yesterday I had big plans to spend the whole day outdoors gardening, I have a lot of work to do before summer sets in.  I know the forecast was for rain but lets face it, when does it ever rain when the weather man says it will?  Anyhow it did rain so I was stuck indoors most of the day, to make the most of it I decided to do a bit of cooking. 

I started off by making Bill Granger's puffed apple pancake from Holiday for Michael & Chloe when they got back from the mornings swimming lesson.  The idea of making one giant pancake to share rather than standing over the stove making them one by one was appealing.  Mine doesnt quite look as appealing as Bill's did however I really loved it.  The caramelised apples were rich & buttery & surrounded by the batter with the yoghurt on top was a winning combination for me.

Next I whipped up Bill Granger's Easiest Chocolate Coconut Slice from Feed Me Now.  The in laws were coming over for a visit & I had a friend plus little ones coming over today so I needed something to serve with coffee.  The fact that this was the easiest slice I have ever made was also appealing & it came together very nicely. 

By this time I was noticing a pattern & then I decided on dinner & yep it was yet another recipe from Bill.  This was all unintentional mind you but I do find his recipes quick & easy so it's no surprise that I whipped up 3 in the one day.  Dinner was Grilled Chicken with Chickpea salad from Open Kitchen which took me a whole 14 minutes from start to serve, I kid you not.  The whole dish only took the time the chicken had to cook for.  I had to be at the cinemas at 6.15 to watch New Moon so again I really appreciated the quick & fresh dish.  Very healthy grilled chicken with a touch of olive oil added & a salad of raw ingredients dressed simply with olive oil & lemon juice.  Thanks Bill!  Maybe one day I will feel like I can take on some more elaborate recipes but for now simplicity works best.  Oh & I even managed to get in half an hour of gardening before being rained out

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 1 - Citrus

I decided to join in The Cookbook Challenge that Rilsta is holding over at My Food Trail.  The Challenge is to cook a recipe from your cookbooks each week, each week has a new theme, week 1's theme is citrus.  I usually use my cookbooks each week so I think the challenge for me will be the theme as it will force me to cook recipes from my books that I've previously ignored, it will also be good for me to have a project to concentrate on.  I've really been enjoying cooking lately so I am looking forward to getting stuck right in.

This weeks recipe comes from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer, a book I have had for quite a while & therefore tend to forget about, seeing that we are having a crazy hot November in Melbourne I thought it was appropriate to drag it off the shelf.  I decided to join in the challenge at the last minute so didnt have a lot of time to ponder this weeks theme.  Flicking through the book I came across this lemon rice which is suggested to go with a curry, as next weeks theme is Indian I thought I could be one step ahead & cook the rice now & also have some for next weeks curry, it will also be a test to see how well it freezes.  I like spiced rices & this one is very tasty, I love the crunch of the toasted mustard seeds thrown in at the end.

Lemon Rice

1 tblspn vegetable oil
250g basmati rice
1/2 tspn tumeric
1/2 tspn dried mint
juice & zest of 1 lemon
approx 500ml water
1/2 tspn salt (or more to taste)
1 tblspn black mustard seeds

Heat the oil gently in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid before adding the rice.  Stir until well coated with oil & add the turmeric & mint, stir to mix.  Squeeze in the lemon juice & add the water, so that it covers the rice by a good couple of centimeters.  Stir in the salt, put the lid on tightly, bring to the boil, then reduce & simmer until all of the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  While the rice is cooking, toast the mustard seeds by heating them for a couple of minutes in a dry frying pan.  Sprinkle over the rice with the lemon zest to serve.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Frozen Chocolate & Nougat Tartufo

Saturday night I had a couple of girlfriends over for dinner & with the threat of another stinking hot night I planned well in advance to make a frozen dessert, that way it was all done the morning before & no need to sweat or heat up the kitchen on Saturday. As it turned out it didnt up being that hot though no matter as this dessert was a stunner in my eyes & one to keep for the long hot summer ahead.

It's a frozen chocolate & nougat tarufo from the May 2008 issue of delicious & the recipe can be found here. Soft Italian Nougat was called for & what better place to source the best than Mediterranean Wholesalers on Sydney Rd where they had a whole display of different varieties, I chose pistachio which would have to be one of my favourite nuts. To assemble, there was lots of melting, whipping & blending, nothing too difficult & no ice cream maker to churn required, though I do have one of course! To serve a simple unmoulding & rolling in toasted coconut & you're done. Once again a lovely dessert for a hot night.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Accidental tomato patch

As well as my veggie patch out the back I have this incredible accidental patch out the front, as you can see it's already nearly as high as Chloe. What I mean by accidental is that all of these plants grew out of my compost. They are all thriving & we have so many little tomato's already starting to grow & they appear to be all different shapes & sizes so lets hope they do well & I have a bumper crop. Will be interesting to see what does better, the bought plants out the back or my self starters out the front.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This is a pasta dish I made the other night. It is orecchiette with cauliflower, mint, peas & breadcrumbs (panko) & the recipe can be found here. The recipe featured in a recent Delicious magazine & it came from Matt Moran. I liked the look of it's simplicity as well as the fact that it was a bit different from the usual pasta recipes I cook up. I didnt use any panko as I couldnt get my hands on any in the time I needed. I love orecchiete pasta, it's chewiness is really very tasty & it feels more substantial than say spaghetti or penne therefore I tend to eat less in a serve which is a great thing. A great dish for that occasional pasta indulgence.

Fabulous Broad Beans

The last few weeks I have been busy trying out new recipes with my fabulous broad bean patch. My firm favourite is still smashed beans on toast, where you smash them in a mortar & pestle with parmesan, oilive oil, salt & pepper & then heap them on top of grilled sourdough rubbed with garlic. The crop is dwindling & the bush looks a bit mangy so not many more beans for this season which is sad, I love them & in particular I love the shelling process, I find it quite relaxing & this year I've had a very interested little helper in Chloe which makes it even more fun. We sit at the bench with a big bowl in front of us & just go for it, it doesn't seem like a chore that way at all.

Anyway last night I made the above salad which I didnt have high hopes for yet it turned out a treat. It is a recipe from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Dinners - Moroccan Broad Bean salad with yoghurt & crunchy bits. It's basically beans double podded dressed with lemoin juice, olive oil, mint & salt & Pepper. These sit on a bed of yoghurt & are topped with fried red onion, cumin & breadcrumbs. Sounds a bit weird but the flavour combo was delicious. I served this along side some simple grilled chicken which I had marinated in olive oil, lemon juice & oregano. A fantastic meal for a warm pre-summers night.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Masterchef Masterclass at Home

Above is George Calombaris Open Beef Kofta from Season 1 of Masterchef. I made it for dinner a couple of weeks ago & loved it even though I now have a bit of an aversion to George himself thanks to his thoughts on food bloggers which I'm sure you are all aware of.

Not being a food stylist myself, you will note that my photo looks nothing like the photo on the website, the only thing I left out were the deep fried shallots to serve, let's face it who could be bothered when cooking a quick dinner after a hard days work in the garden.

Anyway as I said, this was delicious, light, tangy & yet enough to satisfy not just myself but Michael with the mans appetite & it will be made again. I will however pick on the recipe a bit. To start with the recipe states that it serves 2 & makes 1 kofta. It suggests using a 22cm round flat bread which then has 500g of mince loaded on top plus all the other bits & pieces & is only cooked briefly in the frying pan & then grilled for 4-5 minutes. Now if you ask me all of that mince piled on 1 pita bread would be mighty thick & unappealing to me & I cant see it cooking sufficiently in the time given. I actually made 5 pitta's with the above quantities & they fed the 2 of us for 2 nights & were perfect that way.

So tell me, has anyone else tried this recipe or what do you think of the recipe as is?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Court Jester Cafe Brunswick

A visit from Michael's sister Julie called for a visit to my favourite new cafe, Court Jester's in Breese st in Brunswick. The place can be found in a back street behind Sydney Rd opposite a huge construction site. In a warehouse you will find a big open space with one long communal table down the middle with old couches & computer ports scattered around the edges. As well as being a cafe serving fantastic Polish cuisine, the place doubles as an Art Gallery. The guys running the place use recipes handed down in their families to make delicious dishes such as pierogi which I absolutey love & miss oh so much since my Gran died (I am way too lazy to make them myself even though I watched her a thousand times), cabbage rolls, borscht & many others. They do brunch all day & lunch from 11am. I just love the fact that they are so close to me & serve food that is very rare to find out, especially around my area.

This weekend I fancied some eggs so had the poached eggs with marinated avocado, horseradish mayonaise, dench toast & a side of Polish sausgae, another old favourite - fantabulous! Coffee is great, prices are good & they seem to tolerate Chloe running around like a lunatic, there are even old colouring books & jars of textas to amuse the littlies.

Look the place up & pay them a visit, you wont be disappointed I promise.

Happy Birthday Maya

Saturday was Maya's 4th birthday party which was held at Quarries Park in Clifton Hill which I had never even heard of let alone been to before. Great park, HUGE playground that we will be visiting again very soon, Chloe loved it so much that she cried all the way home as she wanted to go back.

Took along some treats for the kids, cupcakes with a rosewater icing & sugar stars & chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing & smarties. Chloe did the smartie decorating & had an excellent time, apparently I am now 'the best' mum. Good fun in the kitchen now that she is interested & wants to help out all the time, let's hope she loves cooking as much as her mum. Anyway I thought all the little girls would go for the cute pink girly cakes but no, everyone pounced on the chocolate, in the end the pink ones were eaten mostly by adults, will keep in mind for the next kids party.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chocolate Ginger Chews & Strawberry Picking

Here is a photo of the lovely chocolate ginger chews from the latest issue of Donna Hay magazine, minus the sugar coating which I figured they would not need being sweet enough for my taste already. For anyone who loves a choc/ginger combo, these are a hit though the ginger is not all that strong which has some advantages in that little people like them too, disadvantage, little people like them too so less for me. Below is a pic of Chloe after eating a chew picking some fresh strawberries to wash it down with. You cant see our first 2 luscious red stawberries as they are hidden under the foliage, fingers crossed lots more to come. Actually my mum has just built me a strawberry patch by the back french doors with 7 strawberry plants, if that flourishes I will be very happy indeed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pearl Couscous 2 Ways

I was lucky enough to get my hands on some of the Blu Gourmet Pearl Couscous thanks to Liz over at Haystac. Also included were a bunch of recipes by Gabriel Gate who is endorsing the product. So I thought I would give a couple a go. I have eaten this large sized version of couscous before though have not bought it or cooked with it so was unsure how it would compare to the 'normal' small sized grain. I tried out the Couscous with Peas & Parmesan (above) to have as a side dish & also the Couscous & Vegetable cheesy bake (below) which I thought Chloe would appreciate seeing as that it contained a vegetable she actually loves & consents to eat & one of her favourite foods, cheese!

I loved both dishes & was impressed with the couscous, it had a lovely silky soft texture and it held all of the other ingredients together. In the veggie bake I was worried it would not be substantial enough as a meal on it's own as I would never serve the small couscous in this way yet the increase in size seems to deal with that entirely & it was a satisfying & delicious meal.

In comparing it to the normal couscous I use I would say that they are totally different, the texture, preparation required & even flavour as the smaller version seems to take on more of the flavours it is mixed with and the large seems to have a flavour all of it's own.

I will definitely buy it again & try out some more of the recipes as well as some of my own ideas though it wont replace it's little sister as I feel each has there own place on the menu.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Nice Surprise

Look what I was lucky enough to find in the mail this week. I had sent Michael the link as an idea for a future xmas or bday pressie, he figured he'd forget so bought it there & then for the discounted price of $89.99, yep thats right RRP is $125.00 I believe.

Two of my great loves all combined in the one book, cooking & the garden. The book is huge, over 700 pages full of useful tips on growing a whole lot of fruit & veg plus recipes to cook with each. It's not a book you can flick through from start to finish so I will have fun browsing for now & looking up all of my crop as I harvest & plant for some ideas & new info.

Very inspiring, just from reading the intro I now want to do so much more & a worm farm is now on my xmas list!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday lunch for 2

To end the week off I had a friend over for lunch today. We sometimes go out for lunch which is nice though sometimes I prefer to stay at home, both have their advantages. Going out with the kids means not having to worry about preparing lunch on a weekday with no help from Michael with the littlies, though I cant really relax fully when out with Chloe pestering me with questions & requests to dance or play with her the whole time! Staying home means that I can relax a little more once the guests arrive & I really do love to cook so even though it takes a very planned approach & nothing too difficult or time consuming in case someone wakes up screaming for a feed at a crucial moment, who says you cant still prepare something nice.

Today I started off early this morning cooking a Lemon Poppy Seed cake from the Hungry Girls cookbook. It's pretty much a butter/egg/sugar & yoghurt combo soaked with a lemon syrup while still hot & in the pan which makes for a very moist & lemony cake, I enjoyed this though would be tempted to add even more than the 3 teaspoons of poppy seeds in the recipe as I love them so much.

Then lunch was a warm potato salad with smoked trout from Bill Granger's Sydney Food. I have to say the potato salad was delicious even though I think the dressing could have stretched to double the potatoes which could then stretch it to feed the 4 people that the recipe actually suggests it feeds. We did get good serving sizes & I wont be needing much for dinner but there is no way the 500g of potatoes could stretch to feed any 4 people I know, which shows what sort of appetite all of my friends have, yes we all love our food!

Relaxing tonight & then off to a wedding tomorrow with hopefully a bit of football squeezed in between the long Greek Orthodox ceremony & the reception.

GO SAINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reasons not to bake in a hurry

Saturday night & to save myself some precious gardening time on Sunday I decided to quickly bake a batch of muffins while cooking dinner & trying to clean the kitchen which was upside down from a day of neglect. I only had about an hour as Michael was leaving me with the kids to go to the footy, (boo hoo, Collingwood lost)! I also had my brother & the inlaws milling about & chatting while I was trying to concentrate.

Once I got the first tray in the oven something clicked in my head & the batter didnt taste quite right when it suddenly dawned on me there was no sugar in the batter, quick scan of the recipe & of course there was sugar which I had stupidly not noticed. So I whipped them out of the oven, scraped them out of the paper cases & back into the bowl, added sugar, tried not to over stir, then back in the oven. Too late I realised I forgot to sprinkle the raw sugar on top (half of which by now was in the muffins anyway) & was so tired I thought stuff it!

The end result was a very moist, unbrowned, no crispy top muffin which amazingly tasted good even though it was missing the lovely crunchy top of a good one.

The recipe was Bourke Street Bakery's so it must be a good one to taste so delicious even though I completely stuffed it up, next time I hope to get it right & they will be perfect

Here is the recipe as requested

Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Muffins

2 2/3 cups (400g) plain flour
2 tspn baking powder
300g caster sugar (DONT FORGET)
310g unsalted butter
480ml buttermilk
3 eggs
225g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
225g raspberries (I used frozen)
1/4 cup (55g) raw sugar
icing sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 190c, Lightly grease 2 large 6 hole (or the normal 12 hole) muffin tins & line with paper cases

Sift flour & baking powder into a bowl & add sugar, mixing well to combine.

Melt the butter in a pan over low heat, then remove from the heat & stir in the buttermilk. Using a whisk, stir in the eggs to combine. Pour over the dry ingredients & whisk to combine. Use a large spoon to gently fold through the fruit & chocolate.

Spoon into muffin cases & sprinkle with raw sugar. Reduce oven to 180c & bake for 25-30 minutes. Dust with icing sugar once cooled

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Crispy Onion Rings

As I mentioned in my last post I do like to cook 'adult' food occasionally so when I was in the mood for a nice big juicy steak the other night (actually quite a rarity for me), I made a T-bone with potato wedges & crispy onion rings from Nigella Lawson's Feast. The t-bone I didnt actually enjoy all that much in the end & the potato wedges ended up a bit soggy though were a big hit with Chloe as is anything made with potato which comes a close second to chocolate on her list of foods she can't live without.

The onion rings however were really, really good! I have never made any type of onion ring before so didnt know what to expect. In fact apart from one lot my mum made the only onion rings I have ever eaten are Hungry Jacks & haven't gone there in years. The red onions are soaked in buttermilk overnight, then coated in flour & spices & fried. Rather than deep frying in vegetable shortening as the book suggests I shallow fried in sunflower oil for a fantastic result. They were crispy on the outside & tender on the inside as well as holding together nicely.

A wicked pleasure I will try not to make too often

Make me a cake please mum

Life has been pretty hectic lately, not exciting going to parties hectic but mundane running around after 2 little people hectic. Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying it & have had the occasional night out too, just saying that it's my excuse for being so long in between posts.

I have still been cooking & enjoying it greatly though the food mostly is somewhat adapted to suit our current lifestyle, ie dishes that are quick & easy to prepare, though slow cooking is always an option as I have a lot of time to sit around waiting for things to cook now, also mostly I try & cook food that I hope Chloe will enjoy without being too boring. I do have a stash of meals I have prepared earlier in the freezer for her for when I want to cook something more adult for Michael and I, ie lovely, juicy steaks, salads, curries, none of which I have managed to convince Chloe to eat yet. Also sadly when preparing cakes & desserts for now I am bypassing those recipes that include alcohol & am left to merely drink the stuff (in small quantities for now of course).

Anyway the other day Chloe got up from her afternoon nap & asked so sweetly 'Make me a cake please mum' (on thinking back there probably was no please actually), that even though I have been foregoing cakes lately in the so far unrealized dream of regaining my pre-pregnancy body, I gave in. Thinking quickly as to what I had in the cupboards I managed to scrape together the ingredients for this very moorish 'Apricot bar' slice of Bill Granger's from Simply Bill.

Normally Chloe is a pure chocolate girl & doesn't really fancy cakes without this magic of all ingredients. Sadly I had no chocolate in the house so I gave her some apricots to try which she liked & explained that this was the flavour cake we were making, she agreed & was happy with this & eagerly awaited the slices completion. So when it was all cooled down I sliced it up, she took one bite & declared that she didnt like it, the next day she attempted 2 more pieces without finishing one. What can I say, we loved them & luckily my family were over yesterday to help eat them too otherwise I would have polished off the lot on my own.

Here is the recipe for those who will eat a delicious apricot treat

Apricot bars

155g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour
95g (1/2 cup) soft brown sugar
115g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
2 pinches of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
175g unsalted butter, chilled & diced
130g (1 cup) rolled oats
90g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
450g (2 1/2 cups) chopped dried apricots
100g (1/3 cup) apricot jam
40g unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 180c. Mix the flour, sugars, salt baking powder & butter in a food processor until a dough forms. Mix in the oats & coconut. Reserve a cupful of dough and press the remainder evenly into a lightly greased and lined 20 x 30cm baking tin. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.

Meantime, put the apricots & 125ml (1/2 cup) water in a small pan over low heat & cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed. Cool slightly, then spoon over the dough base. Dot the jam over the apricots & crumble the reserved dough over the top. Spoon on the melted butter & bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden. Leave to cool completely in the tray. Slice into squares & sore in an airtight container.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Home made breakfast muesli

One thing I have kept up over the last few years with some lapses here & there is making my own muesli which I then alternate with oats for breakfast. I have a few recipes I swap between & am always on the lookout for new & different ones, they're all pretty similar so hard to come by.

This new recipe includes puffed corn which I've never used before & the fruit is baked with the cereal whereas normally it's added after the grains are cooked. The recipe is from the Marie Claire breakfast book & is one I will return too. Delicious & a lot lighter than my others thanks to the puffed corn, also the macadamias & a whole packet of LSA mix make it very special, one to try, here is the recipe. As always you can mix things up as much as you like...

Healthy Nut & Seed Muesli

100g puffed corn
150g rolled oats
100g pecans
160g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
100g flaked coconut
200g LSA mix
100g dried apples, chopped
200g dried apricots, chopped
125g dried pears, chopped
125ml maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180c. Combine all ingredients except the syrup & extract in a very large bowl & mix to combine. Place the syrup & exteact in a small saucepan over low heat for 3 minutes. Pur the syrup over nut mixture & toss lightly to coat.

Divide between 2 oven trays & bake for about 20 minutes, turning a couple of times, until golden brown. Allow to cool before transferring to an airtight container.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Winter Veggie Patch 2009

Life is a lot slower these days, lots of time spent feeding babies, playing with toddlers, taking long slow walks every day (slow by necessity not choice thanks to pushing a pram with 2 children in it), trying to catch up on sleep & if there is any energy left over then I try to get out into the garden. Amongst other things I am trying to get a veggie patch happening. Here is my new herb garden featuring sage (2 kinds), oregano, blueberry bush (I know it's not a herb!), mint, chives & yes a lot of weeds that I am constantly trying to keep on top of.
Veggie plot no. 1 - sugar snap or snow peas at the back (sorry cant remember which I planted so will have to wait until they grow), beetroots, carrots & Parsnips & silverbeets yet to rear their heads.
Veggie plot no. 2 - Broad beans, peas, lettuces, strawberry plant & the ever present weeds.

This weekend I have more seeds to sow & a lemon tree, blood orange tree & raspberry bush to plant - lets hope the weather holds up for me.

And yes I have been doing plenty of cooking, lots of cakes, cookies, kid friendly meals & even some adult fare, just havent had the time to do much posting of these dishes as yet, sure they will soon follow....

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Macaroons the easy way

I caught a bit of Master chef the other week when they were all recreating a dessert dish which featured macaroons. The contestants seemed to be freaking out over the macaroons & most of their results were disastrous in the end too.

Now I have never cooked a macaroon before but have read lots of blogs & they seem to be fairly common so of course I just had to try some myself. I picked out a recipe for Almond & White Chocolate Macaroons from Donna Hay - celebrate issue, read through it & it seemed pretty straight forward to me. Basically it was whisked egg whites with some caster sugar thrown in, then some icing sugar & almond meal folded through. This mixture was dropped onto baking sheets with a teaspoon, left to rest for 10 minutes & then cooked & left to cool on the trays. (Note I finally used both my ovens at the same time, ie I had 4 trays to cook & instead of waiting for one batch to finish until the next got to go in, I cooked them all at the same time, for me this was very exciting indeed!). Once cooled they were filled with a white chocolate & cream mixture. From what I could gather on the tele, their recipe was a hell of a lot more complicated. I was a bit distracted by Chloe who never lets me watch anything properly while she was awake but from what I remember there were bits that had to be brought up to an exact temperature, liquid mixes added to the egg whites which made some of the mixtures too runny & all other sorts of nonsense. I like my recipe much better & they turned out beautiful, with a delicate & thin crisp outer sheel & nice & moist on the inside.

Now that I have made my first batch I am keen to experiment with more recipes & flavour combinations.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Baking for 2 year olds

Now that I am home every day of the week, with a baby & a 2 and a bit year old to keep happy all day long I have had to get creative to keep everyone busy & to stop us from going stir crazy. We try & get out for a walk to the shops & park each day (Melbourne Winter weather permitting) which still leaves a lot of the day to fill. As I love cooking, what better way to get Chloe interested than to get her involved, up until now she has had a bit of stirring involvement & lots of spoon licking but thats about it. So this week I started with Nigella Lawson’s Cheesy Feet from Feast. I didn't have any feet though so just pulled out whatever cookie cutters I could find. The variety was more fun for Chloe anyway than boring old feet. She loved the rolling & cutting out process even though she didnt end up loving or eating the biscuits. Michael & I loved them though so we are happy to let her help out whenver she wants so we can have them again.

The next day Chloe wanted to make more biscuits and as it was the process & not the end result she was after I made my first ever batch of playdough & now we spend hours each day making 'biscuits.' I have even finally managed to get the green food coloring off my hands which is a relief. Any other suggestions for 2 year olds more than welcome.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pumpkin Filo Pies

On the weekend, Michael was kind enough to take Chloe off my hands for a few hours. He decided to take her to the footy to see if she liked it any better this year than last year. Unfortunately, the men making big noises (cheering) was a bit too much for her & she was scared and not impressed at all so that's it for footy this season & we will try again next year. Fortunately for Michael The Mighty Magpies won & with some help from his parents he even got to see some of the game.

I, on the other hand didn't know what to do with myself, all that time to myself, sleeping baby, what to do, bake of course? I made these pumpkin filo pies from Gourmet Traveller and have been eating the leftovers ever since, I'm in love with them. As the magazine states, it might sound weird to combine pumpkin, feta & cinnamon but it works amazingly well. Go on and try it for yourself.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Some Good News & Some Delicious Baking

Its between a while in between posts and this time I have a very good excuse. Joshua decided he was ready to join us on the outside 5 weeks early, taking me (and everyone else) by surprise at the Good Food & Wine show when my waters decided to break just as I walked out the show door on the Queens birthday, I hadn't even left the building yet, must have been too much eating, drinking & carrying around too many goodies. Since then it's been a hectic 3 weeks as life started out in the special care nursery. The little man got to come home last Sunday & we are one happy family again, all together at last. So welcome Joshua & looking forward to all of the love, laughter & tears you are sure to bring us!

Michael has been home this past week so as well as finally getting things ready for a new baby, I've actually had time to do some cooking too, did I mention that so far (touch wood), Josh is a good sleeper during the day at least. Today I made this Apricot & Raisin Bran Loaf from the Marie Claire breakfast book. What can I say, but yummo, healthy, quick & Chloe even liked it! Highly recomended....

Now will see how I cope with 2 little ones with Michael back at work next week, so far I'm thinking this second child business is easy peasy so I hope I'm not in for a rude shock when he finally wakes up & starts to let us know he's around.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Quick Lunch Time Treat

Today I had the urge to bake for lunch, I also had the urge for something sweet so my lunch was a couple of these very quick Golden Syrup scones from Donna Hay Magazine. Very Naughty I know. The method is much the same as your everyday scone recipe though there is no butter, just a combo of butter, cream & golden syrup. They were very nice straight from the oven smeared with some butter. Mmm, what can I bake tomorrow....

Friday, May 29, 2009

Choc Brownie Cupcakes & more

Ok so am starting to get a bit tired & slowing down a bit though the kitchen is still managing to produce lots of goodies. Today I made these fantastic Choc brownie cupcakes, recipe by Curtis Stone, featired in delicious magazine, recipe can be found here, just add strawberries on top.

I like brownies however I find they can be a bit boring, these however have all the gooey fudginess of a brownie with the added bonus of a delicious chocolate, cream cheese frosting & to top it off a juicy sweet strawberry on top, yum & none of the kids or mums who came over to eat them today complained too hard either. When they came out of the oven I was a bot worried as they had spread over the top & collapsed a bit. I just plonked the broken pieces on top & covered with the frosting & all was solved.

Also this week I was inspired by Master chef Australia to make a souffle. I have been sort of watching the show & while I dont think its a great cooking competition & is really more of a personality contest, I still enjoy the cooking bits like the master classes where I have actually picked up a tip or 2. Anyway instead of sticking to a simple chocolate souffle I chose a mango/choc souffle from my Green & Black's chocolate cookbook. It was nice but after all of the effort I had to put in, including burning out one pot as I left the room while the syrup was boiling down & forgot about it (that would be the pregnancy absent mindedness kicking in) until I smelt something suspicious & smoky coming from the kitchen, using the kitchen aid, food processor plus several pots & pans not to mention the souffle ramekins, I dont think I will be rushing to make this again. It was fun to allow myself the luxury of making something more complicated & messy for a change though as with Chloe this doesnt happen very often these days.

On the dinner front I have cooked everything from a lovely veal osso bucco, a quick tuna pasta bake and some surprisingly nice chicken, pumpkin & carrot rice balls from a kids book to try & entice Chloe into eating something other than bread, dairy & fruit - it worked so I was impressed.

Dinner tonight will be a simple chicken & spinach soup - food for the soul.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Old vs New & Friends for lunch

I just remember that I have now been back in my home for a few weeks now & haven’t shown you the photos of the new kitchen. So I thought I would show you not only my beautiful fresh, crisp, sparkly new & very workable white kitchen , but also what I was working with before the extension, my very old, sorta cute, grey & pink very unuser friendly kitchen, so here they are.

The new kitchen has inspired me to invite many people over for lunches, coffee, dinner & you name it as I cant do enough cooking now it seems. This week a few of the girls plus their kiddies came over for lunch. To start with I whipped up Nigella’s smoked trout pate which I have made previously & cant seem to get enough of. This was followed by a very simple yet delicious Onion & Feta Cheese Tart from by new book, Bill Granger’s Open Kitchen, as you can see I still cant seem to get away from tarts for lunch, I have a big thing for pastry at the moment & this was another good one, the hardest part being slicing up 1kg of onions! To top it off a nice autumn Pear & Hazelnut torta from Delicious magazine, I think it was the previous issue, April’s? Just the sort of cake I am loving at the moment, lots of gorgeous ripe fruit & a nut base so not too sickly or cakey.

I still have plans for lots more cooking & entertaining at least until my energy dries up before No 2 comes along in early July, so fingers crossed it doesn’t happen too soon.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A week of birthday baking & celebrations

This week started off with Michael’s birthday on Saturday, so what better way to start off a weekend/birthday than with a special breakfast. Michael wanted a nice manly dish so no pancakes or anything sweet & ‘girly’, I’m afraid. So I made these scrumptious Potato & Feta Pancakes from Bill Granger’s Sydney Food. As I have said before I love his breakfast recipes in particular even though if I watch him on the tele I find him a bit off putting & cheesy, which is good as Michael just bought me another one of his books full of new brekky’s to try for my birthday. Anyway I have a thing for hash browns, even (shock horror) the Macca’s fake kind though I need to be hungover or pregnant before I allow myself to indulge in that particular variety. So this recipe was a treat, the addition of feta, which every other mouthful melted through the golden crispy potatoey goodness was sensational. To top off the mans breakfast I had to of course include meat, bacon, ottway free range bacon & no less. Even Chloe loved the pancakes so the celebrations stared off a success.

Lunch at the Fairfield boathouse on a beautiful sunny autumn afternoon followed by a bit of row, row, row your boating & duck feeding was a nice way to relax away the afternoon. Dinner I’m ashamed to say was simply cake – Nigella’s Chcocolate Orange Cake from Feast which contained 2 whole oranges, 6 eggs, almond meal, no flour, was very moist & almost a meal in itself. Some candles and a quick rendition of Happy Birthday was all this needed to be served with.

Sunday we had a day of pottering around the house, getting the vegetable gardens ready for planting out, painting some cupboards, etc & working off all of Saturdays indulgences. I did bake a batch of blueberry & raspberry friends to take to work for my birthday though – I love a friend & as they are made with nut meal (in this case almond) I find they stay fresher longer than say your traditional muffin, if making them advance. Sorry about the blurry photo but for the life of me I cant work out how to take a photo of anything covered in icing sugar that doesn’t blur, any suggestions? They went down a treat even though I couldn’t convince most of the guys that a friend was in fact any different to a muffin & not just a fancy name.

Today it was my birthday & even though a) I had to work & b) I am really a bit over cake by now, I decided I couldn’t let the day go by without making myself a quick cake to celebrate. As I had to whip it up before work I made Nigella’s Retro Cherry cheesecake from Express & no kidding I have made easy cheesecakes before but this was incredible, I almost felt like I hadn’t made it, it was so easy! Very, very delicious too.

Off to dinner at L’osteria on Nicholson st in North Fiztroy for a quiet dinner with the family tonight, they do some lovely home cooked Italian food & seem to accept kids running around too so will be a nice way to top off the celebrations & then bring on Mothers day this Sunday!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Lunching & more baking

Well I promised more baking & here it is. Today I had Megan & Thomas over for a relaxing lunch, my first lunch invitees in the new place. For lunch I threw together some bacon, egg & feta tarts, the recipe is in the latest Delicious mag. I used South Cape Persian feta which I absolutely adore, has anyone out there tired it, I love it & could go through buckets of the stuff if it weren’t so expensive? In fact the best way to eat it, I believe is simply smothered on some fresh bread, thanks to Megan (another Megan) for introducing us! Anyway back to the tarts, really easy & I loved them, it was basically some puff pastry filled with crisp bacon, feta, an egg & topped with parmesan all baked in the oven for a short time. I served it with a roast cherry tomato, basil & rocket salad.

For desert I made a Sour Lemon Cake from the latest Donna Hay, the cake was delicious & moist though it did need patching together with the icing as it stuck to the tin, suspect this is the old crappy tin’s fault & not my favourite new oven’s. Again I made the cake with traditional bake function & baked the tarts with fan forced which seemed to do the trick, I think that fan forced just cooks too quick for cakes & you can sometimes end up with the end result being a little overcooked & dry.

A lovely way to spend a sunny autumn day & it is so cute to see the kids finally playing together a bit though there are still a lot of snatches & tears to get through yet. At least now they kiss & make up.

More baking to follow soon & I might even cook something on the stove top too!