Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Beautiful Blogging-by-Mail Bounty

As I've said before in my little blog, life is *never* boring for a food blogger. This month, the fun factor was taken up a notch by the dispenser of happiness herself, Stephanie at the The Happiness Sorceress, with the Blogging by Mail Holiday Edition!

I can't begin to tell you how excited I was to pick up my box (! Yes, a box!) from the USA. I collected it from the post office on my last day at work before the holidays, and although I had great intentions to wait until I got home to my proper camera to open it, the excitement was too much. My colleagues were slightly bemused by the concept and were soon sharing the joy (and hiding any customs documentation that might give the contents away). The parcel came from Jen Stewart in Melrose, Massachusetts:

And what fab parcel it was!

Thank you very much Jen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cookies were the first to go. :-D

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Herbed Roast for the Weekend

Ahhh Friday night... Usual modus operandi for the evening is to eat whatever leftovers are still floating around the fridge or grab whatever take out I can muster up the energy to collect. But this week I've been inspired to actually cook dinner, perhaps because it's time for Weekend Herb Blogging and I'm enjoying the exuse to buy fresh herbs. WHB this week is being hosted by Haalo who is Cooking (almost) anything once down in Sunny Melbourne. Hello to everyone linking from the roundup!!

This week I thought I'd use fresh thyme from the lovely plant sitting on my window sill. It's been very hot, dry and windy weather here in Sydney this week, but since I've embraced the "one for the cook, one for the pot plant" approach to water intake, the thyme has received regular watering and is happy hand green. Hooray! Now for the recipes....

Slashed Roast Lamb
(adapted from Very Simple Food by the wonderful Jill Dupleix.

1 small boneless leg of lamb, approx 1 kg
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp minced chilli
1 tbsp thyme sprigs
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 220C. Flatten the lamb and slash at 2.5 cm intervals, approx. 1 cm deep.

In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients to make a paste. Push the paste between the slashes in the lamb. Tie the lamb with sting, place in an oiled baking dish.

Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 190C and bake for another 45 minutes or until cooked. Remove from oven and rest under foil for about 10 minutes.

To serve, remove string and carve. Spoon juices over the top.

Drunken Potatoes (and sweet potato and pumpkin!)
(also adapted from Very Simple Food by Jill Dupleix)

2 large, long potatoes (around 750 g)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250 mL dry white wine
1 tbsp thyme sprigs
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 190C. Peel the potatoes. The recipe says to cut into thin slices, but I prefer them cut into quarters and then cut Hassleback style across the top.

Toss the potatos in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lightly oil a baking tray. Scatter the potatoes over the base (along with any other roast-worthy chopped vegies). Pour over wine and sprinkle with thyme then bake for 40 minutes or until golden. Lift out of the pan with a spatula.

Both the lamb and the vegies were fantastic. So simple yet so yummy. They were even better as leftovers on Saturday!


Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Weekend Blog about Herbs

Goodness, another post, another food blogging event! This time I'm trying out Weekend Herb Blogging, a weekly ode to herbs sponsored by Kaylyn's Kitchen. This week's host is Nandita, whose blog saffron Trail comes to us from sunny Mumbai, India. Since I *love* Indian food, and have a husband who loves chili, I grabbed my well-used copy of Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking in search of a recipe full of fresh herbs.

"Fish in a Green Sauce" doesn't sound too appealing, but as the green comes primarily from cilantro, it's actually quite good. As I come from Australia, I'm more familiar with the name coriander and particularly coriander seeds which features in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. I'd previously associated fresh coriander only with Asian and Mexican cooking, so to use it in fresh form in an Indian dish was rather exciting.

Madhur Jaffrey's Fish in a Green Sauce

Prepare the Fish
2 good-sized fish steaks eg salmon or kingfish (about 300 g each, I used ocean trout fillets)
Rub with salt, pepper, 1/8 tsp ground tumeric and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper.

Leave for about 10 minutes. Heat 3 tbs vegetable oil in a nonstick frying over high heat. Brown fish quickly on both sides without letting it cook through. Remove and set aside.

Prepare the Green Sauce
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 medium-sized tomato, finely chopped
2-3 fresh hot green chilies (I assumed they were also to be chopped, although the recipe didn't specify this)
1 tsp grated ginger
t tbs lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garam masala

Fry the onion and garlic until the onion starts to brown. Add cilantro, tomato, green chilies, ginger, lemon juice and salt. Fry and stir until the cilantro and tomato have completely wilted.

Putting it all together
Spread the green sauce evenly around the pan and lay the fish over the top. Spoon a little green sauce over the fish. Sprinkle the fish with the cayenne pepper and garam masala. Bring to a simmer. Cover, lower the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, until fish is cooked through.

I served the fish with cumin-fried potatoes garnished with chopped cilantro. The green sauce was lovely - fresh and spicy without overpowering the fish. This is definately one to make again!


Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Blog Party Take-Out

The lovely Stephanie over at The Happy Socrceress hosts regular cocktail parties that look like a whole lotta fun. The theme for Party # 16 is Take Out, and the aim is to recreate bite-sized version of your fave take away food. How cool is that?!

In deciding what to make, I was initially torn between the wonderful Thai green chicken curry at Pent Thai at Macquarie Centre in North Ryde and my favourite pizza from Pizza Messina (the self-confessed pizza king) on Blaxland St in Ryde. Just to confuse matters, my choice of an obligitory cocktail, a simple-but-dangerous sangria, didn't really lend itself to either. So I through caution to the wind (of which there has been *plenty* in Sydney today!) and made the lot. And yes, since take out (ie prepared-by-someone-else) was the theme, I figured it was ok to use sauces from a bottle!

Here are the details:

Green Curry Chicken Wingettes
1 tablespoon store-bought green chicken curry paste
2/3 cup light coconut cream
750 g chicken wingettes (or 1 kg chicken wings, cut through the joints into three pieces, discard the wing tip section).

Mix the curry paste and coconut cream in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and mix well to coat. Marinate for at least hour (overnight is better!). Drain chicken pieces (reserving marinade) and place them in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake at 180C for 30 minutes. While chicken pieces are baking, cook reserved marinade for about 2 minutes in the microwave and pour over the chicken pieces when done!

Pizza King Bites
Turkish bread
Bottle stir through pasta sauce (I used tomato with chilli)
Boccoccini cheese (thinly sliced)
Salami (sliced into strips)
Eggplant (thinly sliced)
Tasty chedder cheese (grated)

Spread the turkish bread with pasta sauce. Top with boccoccini, salami and eggplant. Sprinkle with grated chedder cheese. Bake at 180C until cheese melts. Cut into small squares and serve!

Simple-but-dangerous Sangria
Equal quantities of (chilled):
Cheap red wine (I used a cleanskin Cabernet Merlot)
Lemonade (a cheap sparkling white wine is also acceptable!)
Fruit juice (I used a lovely Berry, Banana and Apple mix)

Mix together and serve in a tall glass. Chopped stone fruit (peaches or nectarines) are a lovely addition if you happen to have them in the house!

Mmmmmmmm........ food blogging parties are fun!


Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Retro Recipe to warm the heart

One of the great joys of the web is that inspiration is never really very far away. Although I've cooked a lot over the last few months (heck, I took five cookbooks and a pressure cooker on my honeymoon!), I've lacked any motivation (and to be honest, a fully charged and ready-to-roll camera) to post. So when I stumbled on Laura's Retro Recipe Challege #4 website, I knew I'd found a special place. What better way to rediscover the joy of food blogging than by taking part in a blogging challenge?!

The theme for this event is "Fall Favorites" ("Favourites" if you come from my part of the world). Now technically it's spring here and not really the time for hot and hearty meals. But it's been so damned cold for the past few weeks that the winter thermals, hats, gloves and scarves are still very much in use. Brrr... I figure if anyone needs a good, warming Fall favourite, it's those of us unexpectedly shivering through November. And nothing warms the heart, sometimes literally, than a good Beef Bourguignonne (Beef in Red Wine).

My mother, like so many women of her generation, learnt to cook from the original Margaret Fulton Cookbook published in 1968. And I, like so many daughters of those mothers, was handed this book when I expressed an interest learning to cook. Indeed, my first attempts at cakes, pikelets (gridle cakes) and biscuits (cookies) used the recipes in this book. The book has recently been updated and expanded. Aside from the extra recipes, new layout and updated ingredients, the most obvious change is the move from imperial to metric measurements (Australia began metrification in 1970). My mother still has the original book, and although it's fallen apart and covered in food stains, she was able to give me the original recipe. I've included the updated version in brackets:

Beef Bourguignonne

2 1/2 lb topside steak (1.25 kg stewing beef eg topside, chuck or blade - see Note 1)
4 oz pickled pork (125 g pancetta or speck)
1 tbs beef dripping (1 tbs olive oil)
1 oz butter (30 g butter)
2 dozen small white or spring onions (24 small white onions)
1 onion finely chopped (1 onion finely chopped)
1 tbs plain flour (1 tbs plain flour)
1 1/2 cups burgundy (2 cups red wine)
water to cover (about 1 cup beef stock or water)
salt & pepper to taste (salt & pepper to taste)
1 large sprig thyme (bouquet garni)
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic (1 clove garlic)
8 oz button mushrooms cooked in butter (10 button mushrooms)
croutons to garnish (freshly chopped parsley)

Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C). Cut beef into large cubes and the pickled pork (or pancetta / speck) into thin strips. Heat beef dripping (oil and butter) in a flameproof casserole dish (I used a Le Chasseur dish). Brown the small onions and set aside. Brown the beef cubes in several lots and remove. Cook the pickled pork and chopped onion until softened and lightly coloured. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add wine, stirring. Return the beef to the casserole dish, and add enough water (or beef stock) to cover. Season with salt and pepper. Add thyme, bay leaf (bouquet garni) and garlic. Bring slowly to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for about 2 hours. Add onions and mushrooms for the last 30 minutes of cooking (see Note 2). Scatter with croutons (parsley) to serve.

Mum always uses rump steak, and after consultation with her I did the same. The meat ends up flavourful but rather dry, which is exactly how I remember it. Next time I plan to try something like gravy beef, which becomes meltingly tender after a few hours of cooking.

I followed the instructions printed in the new addition, which, after you place the casserole in the oven, direct you to saute the mushrooms in a little extra butter until lightly cooked. It doesn't go on to say what you do with the mushrooms - they're not mentioned again. I've yet checked back on the original recipe (Mum & Dad are too busy renovating!), but for the sake of convenience, I added the mushrooms with the onions for the last 30 minutes cooking.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Small Kitchen

Our new home is a two bedroom apartment in Sunny North-West Sydney. Actually two bedrooms isn't entirely correct. The smaller of the rooms is now the Data Centre, Communications Room or Technology Hub, depending on the day. All well and good, except that the newest technology aquisitions, namely an ADSL Router, Wireless Router and VoIP Adapter, are occupying significant space on the small table that has become my desk. I don't mind - I mean, I've never had so many flashing lights in one place since, well, since ever - but it does cramp my blogger style a little. You know, when I'm needing all the space I can get to type plus hook up my camera, mobile and other USB essentials at the same time.

But the real downer is the kitchen. It's small. Very small. The total bench space is less than a square meter. That's less than ONE metre by ONE metre. And that includes the small strip next to the sink on which only the kettle will fit! This is certainly going to take some getting used to. I think I'll go back and read The Julia / Julia Project . She knows *all* about cooking in small kitchens!.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A New Normal

Welcome to my new life. Married life. Living with a boy. Cooking for two. Domestic bliss. Just me and my Hot German Husband (HGH). I love it!!! Yes, we are very, very happy. :-)

Stephen Jones of Arana Photography took the awesome photos. Thank you!