Tuesday, January 17, 2017

545/1038 - Fish stock (for tomato risotto)

School holidays are my favourite time of year. Life slows down and all of my boys are around for my enjoyment. The two larger boys joined mini chef and I on our market trip last week, which pleased and surprised me in equal measure. My surprise came from experiencing two teenagers rising so happily at 6am on school holidays. A couple of special little souls right there...or perhaps they were just in it for the doughnuts. Either way, I was thrilled. 

Our fish of choice purchased on our family market trip was barramundi; one of my very favourite tastes from the ocean. We ate it simply, cooked in foil and stuffed with lemon and herbs. Not wanting my barramundi enjoyment to end, I used the carcass to make this lovely fish stock.  

I am renowned for making stock and then forgetting it is in the fridge. With this in mind I planned a risotto for the following evening, making the recipe up as I went along. It turned out beautifully, with the stock creating the most fabulous base and the final flavour featuring homegrown tomatoes, lemon verbena and nasturtium leaves and finished with a dash of smoked salt for good measure.

Holidays taste good! x

Sunday, January 15, 2017

543 & 544/1038 - Profiteroles with Crème Pâtissière (Choux pastry & pastry cream)

Yesterday saw builders crawling all over our garage, working on the transformation of a boring little shell into a functional home gym. This new addition to our home is an absolute must given the ridiculous amount of food we like to consume on a daily basis!

Case in point; these little babies were created and practically devoured yesterday. Not one bit of goodness in there, these truly were little balls of heaven sent to make us all incredibly fat. 

This is not the first time I have made these, with the first attempt seeing lovely crispy profiteroles but sadly pastry cream (or Crème Pâtissière for the purists) which ended up way too thin to pipe. Delicious, but completely useless as a filling.  

I have no idea what I did wrong with the first batch and performed much internet research before the second lot was attempted. It was definitely worth my time, with my gorgeous second slab of thick custard turning out the perfect consistency. I had originally planned to whip some cream to mix with the custard to ensure a strong texture but am pleased to report that this was completely unnecessary! 

Receiving a lovely and unexpected dinner invitation last night, these were a perfect contribution to the dessert table at the end of the night....and let's face it; a reprieve from what would have otherwise been a profiterole gorging session in our own little kitchen. Bring on the home gym! 

Friday, December 30, 2016

542/1038 - Bruschetta

There is a lovely crossover happening in my kitchen life right now, with my a Fork for your Oyster catering clients requesting dishes which can occasionally be found in The Cook's Companion. A client request for bruschetta happened recently and of course I jumped at the chance to knock off one final blog recipe for 2016.

The bruschetta recipe is a basic one (grilled bread with a garlic rub, olive oil and salt) and is designed to be built upon. The topping is chef's choice! 

Of course I made my own lovely little bread sticks using my favourite Jamie Oliver bread recipe. I have always found it amusing that Jamie lists this recipe amount as making one loaf; I always get two good sized loaves out of this recipe or in this case, eight mini loaves. 

My client requested a topping of crumbled feta and I couldn't go past the opportunity to pair it with some gorgeous caramelised onion; one of my all time favourite things to eat. The result was sensational, with the fresh herbs used in the caramelised onions (thyme, rosemary, bay leaf) gently shining through. 

Let's hope 2017 is this tasty! x

Monday, December 26, 2016

541/1038 - Vegetable stock

I have some guilt regarding the number of recipes I have not cooked in recent times. In the first year of this challenge, an average of fourteen recipes were tested and blogged each month and this figure has dwindled to just three this year. I suppose it was inevitable that my energy would wane over time and an increased interest in a certain little catering business* has certainly exacerbated this issue. Given that we are more than five years into the challenge I do take some comfort in the fact that there is yet to be a month that I haven't blogged at least one recipe. 

This month it was all about vegetable stock. There are five stock recipes in The Cook's Companion; chicken, vegetable, fish, veal and rabbit. Reading back through my posts, I am reminded that it took three years for me to make my first stock (chicken) and now another two to whip up my second. Clearly home made stock is not a priority in my house!

This stock was served as a soup with black bean noodles and a medley of lightly steamed vegetables. Such a healthy and incredibly tasty dinner. 

Given my love of cooking, it is generally assumed that I cook everything from scratch. While this is true for most things, I just can't seem to get around to keeping enough homemade stock on hand to satisfy my cooking requirements. Having said that, this vegetable stock was so ridiculously tasty it has almost convinced me to ditch the premade stuff and add stock to the list of things I make myself. 

Almost, but not quite. 

*a Fork for your Oyster is my newish baby for anybody who is wondering! x

Monday, November 28, 2016

540/1038 - Traditional roast leg of pork

November has always been a mad month in our house and this year was not any different. As such, this month was ALMOST chalked up as the first since this challenge began without a recipe being tested and blogged. I am therefore, feeling rather proud of myself for sneaking this one in with two days to spare! 

A roast pork is an absolute favourite in this house. We love the meat, we love the vegetables which are roasted alongside and we ADORE the crackling! We have a family member celebrating a birthday this month and so I allowed him to dish the crackling out to the family. I was amused (but not surprised) to watch as he gave himself the largest and most fabulous piece, of course with a very cheeky smile on his face.

This recipe appears only in the first version of The Cook's Companion, which I can finally leave on the shelf when twelve more recipes have been completed. Refer to the Venn diagram below for a better explanation of how this works!

A slow November ending with a slow cooked roast....how very appropriate. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

539/1038 - Avocado bavarois

Our weekly market habit is in its seventh month and so it is unsurprising that we now have favourite stalls which we frequent on each trip. 

Shane's Fruit (from memory, stall B9-B12) is run by a lovely man (who we assume is Shane!) and each week we pick up our weekly load of unsprayed apples, bananas and whichever other goodies catch our eye. 

We have scored lovely avocados from Shane's Fruit a number of times, however they are generally consumed as a healthy mid afternoon snack. An avocado bavarois sounded like a fun change from my regular balsamic/cracked pepper combination and also a lovely complement to my planned chicken and vegetable dinner.

As ever, my family get nervous when I make a dish which is required to do something special such as ooze (think soft-centred puddings) or set. Gelatine is not always my friend, but I am pleased to say that on this occasion all turned out as hoped. As evidenced by the vertical indentations in the bavarois pictured, I had lined my moulds with baking paper, nervous that the avocado would stick. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The lovely little custards slid straight out on to the plates and became a gorgeous little topper for what might otherwise have been a fairly average meal.

The bavarois received a surprising four sets of thumbs up.

Nice x

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

538/1038 - Soft-centred chocolate puddings

My eldest quite randomly requested a mud cake last weekend and I decided that soft-centred chocolate puddings would be a close enough response. 

I have never made lava cake and so my anticipation of seeing oozy centres when we cut into our pretty little desserts was running way off the chart. 

Instead of six puddings, I decided to make only four. Largely to avoid the squabbles I just knew would ensue when my family of four had eaten their fill in the first sitting. Because I had messed with the pudding sizes, the required cooking time remained a bit of an unknown. The first pudding, which will forever be known as "failed test pudding", oozed in a splat on to the plate. As luck would have it, young boys quite like oozy, chocolatey sludge and so number one disappeared with said pudding and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. 

The remaining three went back into the oven and I promptly forgot about them. When I finally remembered to take them out, I was fairly sure I had overcooked them, but held on to a small glimmer of hope that the lava would still exist. The initial incision was videoed ... and let's just say the result was not at all worth sharing. 

The upside? The centres were only just cooked and so we got to eat the lightest, fluffiest, most wonderfully melt-in-the-mouth chocolate cakes we have eaten in a very long time. 

Even better was finding a use for the dehydrated strawberries I had made only a couple of days earlier. 

Win x 

(See, even a lose is a win!)

Monday, October 17, 2016

537/1038 - David's eggplant pickle

Pickling is not my favourite thing to do. When undertaking this recipe I discovered that I am definitely "waiting-for-pastry-to-chill" patient, but not "waiting for vegetables to pickle" patient! 

Sooooo....pickled eggplant. The pickling process was relatively easy, but I will confess to completing it in between many other tasks and leaving the red wine vinegar on the the eggplant for w-a-a-a-y too long. Unfortunately this meant that the final product was lovely, but slightly more "pickly" than I would have liked. 

I decided to serve the eggplant as a part of an antipasto spread for dinner, which was lovely in theory but actually ended up being a little rich for my taste. Too much oily fish, oily olives, oily eggplant and I ended up feeling full, but a little nauseous by the end. 

This is a really lovely recipe but I think the learnings for me were - 1) put a day aside and complete the pickling in an appropriate timeframe, and 2) When serving antipasto, add lots and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to the mix.

P.S - The family loved it so still calling this a win! x

Thursday, October 13, 2016

536/1038 - Blue cheese dressing for lettuce

My little family loves all food, but we have a special place in our hearts for cheese.

Blue cheese is certainly divisive in the general population, but I am pleased that of my family of four, 100% of us are firmly on the side of this smelly little delicacy. 

With a mid-week trek into the city to watch the socceroos planned, I thought a quick burger meal would be an appropriate pre-game option. 

This easy and fabulous blue cheese dressing was the perfect accompaniment to my home-made patties and incredibly peppery, garden-fresh rocket. An enormous pile of raw green beans were also consumed, each scooped heartily into this wonderful dressing. 

I halved the recipe and it still made a mountain! The small bowlful that is left will be added to the antipasto platter I plan to put together for dinner tonight. I am so organised food-wise at the moment I almost don't know myself x

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

535/1038 - Chinese crisp-roasted pork

Is it completely immodest to proclaim this the best pork belly I have ever eaten? 

I will admit I was sceptical. I have only ever created pork crackling one way and that is with olive oil and plenty of salt. This version has the belly boiled and dried before the skin is salted and the meat, marinated. It is then left uncovered in the fridge for a number of hours before being blasted in the oven. 

The only tiny thing I changed about the recipe was to turn my oven to full heat rather than 230°C for the first twenty minutes as we have found this the best way to get a great crispy crackle. 

Not only was the crackling UNBELIEVABLE, but the flavour of the meat was also mouth wateringly good. Soy sauce and garlic on pork; who knew? 

My husband is the master of crackle and my mini-chef has actually warned me that one bad crackle attempt and I will be immediately removed from pork duty! After serving this one up, I do believe I have earned his crackle related respect x