Tuesday, December 5, 2017

588/1038 - Hollandaise sauce

I made hollandaise sauce and it was FABULOUS!!!

Well of course it was. Being filled with butter and egg yolks it was bound to be pretty special, but of course I am excited because it was perfect! Silky smooth, perfectly seasoned (thank you white pepper!) and moreish to the nth degree. 

I halved the recipe because I am supremely conscious of the amount I have been eating lately and I just knew if it was good I would see an insane amount of said sauce end up on my breakfast, on my brunch toast, on my spoon..... 

A half measure was perfectly enough to serve a family of four and we ate it with a quirky little mix of raw beetroot, cucumber, leftover roast lamb, asparagus (obviously) and poached eggs. 

Sort of a clean-out-the-fridge type dinner, the hollandaise was my way of showing I had made some sort of effort. Also I figured if there was enough on the plate that excited the boys, they would swallow the pile of raw, grated beetroot without question. (It worked.)

There is a very good chance this will be my last post until next year as things are going to be completely mad until at least mid-January.

Until 2018! x

Sunday, November 26, 2017

587/1038 - Salad of grilled lamb

Simple, simple, simple! 

Everybody knows I love to cook, but I do still struggle to find wonderfully simple and tasty mid-week meals. This is definitely one of those! 

This was the first time I had attempted to create gorgeous cross-hatch grill marks on my meat and now I am kicking myself for not taking a picture before I sliced it up. With the digital timer running, I stuck to the one minute per position grilling time and was thrilled that all four fillets turned out perfectly. 

Given my utter focus on the meat and its constant need for attention, the best I could muster vegetable-wise was the recommended handfuls of baby spinach the meat was to be laid upon. Unlike me to have such little variety on the plate, even my eldest looked at his dinner plate and said, "Oh just spinach. OK."

Anybody out there with a lamb backstrap and no inspiration, this recipe is for you! x

Thursday, November 23, 2017

586/1038 - Pumpkin and amaretto tart

This is the second time I have made this pumpkin and amaretto filling. The first time it was as a filling for ravioli, which we absolutely loved...but as a tart filling it is even better! I am pretty sure this is because you get a much bigger mouthful of the stuff when it is not wrapped in pasta. 

I did meddle with the recipe just a bit, making the following changes;

  • Substituted the sage for fresh tarragon because my lovely sage plant has died! A project for the coming weeks, I think
  • Swapped amaretto for Sambucca. So good! 
  • Roasted, instead of steamed, the pumpkin. I think either way would work well
The trick to really making this tart special is to take the butter to a lovely burnt place when frying the sage, or in this case, tarragon. It should be dark and smell quite nutty when it is ready. My mouth is watering just thinking about this again.  

Because my pumpkin had SO many seeds, I felt bad throwing them in the compost. While the pastry was blind making in the oven, they were washed, dried and spread on an oven tray. They cooked at the same time as the tart which meant no wasted energy, and most importantly, less heat for my house in this warm weather. 

My last recipe signified the beginning of a new chapter (kiwifruit) and this recipe represents the twentieth chapter I can tick off my list! That's right, of one hundred and twenty five chapters, we can now officially say goodbye to;

Sweet potatoes
Asian greens
Kangaroo & Wallaby
Beans, dried
Pasta & noodles
...and now Pumpkins! 

Getting there x

Roasted pumpkin seeds with smoked salt. Mmmm...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

585/1038 - Kiwifruit sorbet

With some ageing kiwifruit in the fridge, I went to the supermarket specifically to buy some glucose syrup so that I could make this recipe. I will be honest, I was not excited. I have no idea why, but the thought of  kiwifruit sorbet just did not float my boat. 

Clearly, I have no idea. Kiwifruit sorbet is, quite simply, a revelation. Smooth, sweet and with just the tiniest hint of tang, it is now ranked in my top ten of desserts. It really was that good! I was not alone; my little family of four wolfed down the entire batch minutes after the churning was complete. It was almost not worth the effort I took to carefully freeze the kiwifruit shells to use as little bowls, but of course it made for a lovely photo even if that little touch was lost on those closest to me. 

This wonderful, wonderful recipe marks yet another chapter started, with only 14 chapters as yet untouched out of 125. 

It has been almost a month since my last blog post (goodness, it sounds as if I am in the confessional) and I will admit I have been suffering from a severe lack of interest in this challenge. I have no idea if my enthusiasm will return and so for now, I am simply glad that I managed to push out my self-imposed minimum of one recipe this month.  

Stay tuned. Hopefully a burst of challenge energy is coming my way. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

584/1038 - Black satin duck with egg noodles

Keeping up with this challenge continues to be challenging! 

My little catering business has been going gangbusters and yesterday turned out to be the absolute highlight of my new career to date.

A few months back, I decided it was time to begin hosting my own events. Not only would events create an opportunity to connect with my clients in a different way and showcase items from my catering menu, they would also enable me to utilise my currently dormant project management skills. Most of all, having command of every aspect of an event plays very well to my control freak tendencies. I quite comfortably embrace my inner control freak, knowing that it is generally used for good rather than evil. 

Announcing the first event was a nerve-wracking experience. Thankfully, the bookings rolled in and yesterday saw fifty five beautiful souls fill a room and enjoy my food. By far, the best outcome from the day was the good that was generated in the form of 60 lunch packs a Fork for your Oyster will be donating to people sleeping rough on the streets of Melbourne. A result I and my wonderful guests are very proud of. 

This duck recipe actually happened a couple of weeks ago, before madness struck. As I attempt to cast my weary mind back to this recipe, I am reminded of an incredibly flavoursome meal, which was much easier to put together than I had imagined it would be. 

I will be honest and admit that I forgot to add the flavouring to the noodles. It mattered not. The flavoured 'gel' encasing the duck was easily stirred through the noodles and the result was wonderful. 

Another one to love x

Friday, October 13, 2017

583/1038 - Melita's black olives

I received a wonderful gift of more than five kilograms of olives from my mum's neighbour, whose tree was practically drooping with the weight of so much luscious fruit. It was so laden that my mum also took over five kilograms and is also following this recipe as I write!

Remembering to change olive water every two days for a forty day period is a L-O-N-G time to be engaged with one project and so I am thankful my husband took over this part of the recipe. 

It was fascinating to taste an olive every now and then and to experience the gradual reduction in bitterness; a bit like salting and rinsing eggplant but in the slowest of motions. On day forty we were pleasantly surprised to find that they were ready perfectly on time...but of course on that particular day I seriously couldn't be bothered moving on to the bottling phase. 

Fast forward a couple of days and, having never pickled my own olives, I was surprised when the entire job took me less than thirty minutes. It was, of course, very handy that I had the most enormous jars on hand to encase my salty little treasures and also that I just happened to have a jar of preserved lemons ready and waiting to assist with the flavour enhancement. I didn't make much of an effort to ensure my bits and pieces were showing in the photo (lemon, thyme and garlic) but I suspect they will do their job most efficiently whilst nestled in the centre of the bottles.

I have a very special lunch event coming up (fifty odd guests, no biggie) and have decided to whip up some olive paste to accompany my ever popular flatbreads. Not a bad plan, as I imagine there are only so many olives a little family can eat! x 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

582/1038 - Black forest sour cherry crêpes

It has been a crazy time in our house lately; not least because the Richmond Football Club finally won themselves a premiership.  

Please excuse me while I hijack this post* to celebrate a win we thought might never come...

At the beginning of the year, the Tigers were not expected to perform at the highest level. Last year's performance was a bit flat and Tiger fans were feeling the same way. Undeterred, I made it my mission to attend as many games as possible this year, largely to ensure a strong connection was maintained with my oldest boy. Although we do converse regularly, there is only so much interest a teenage boy can maintain when it comes to political news and world events. 

It was time for me to reinvest heavily in football. 

The year turned out to be more enjoyable than we had hoped; the first five games going Richmond's way and in all, only a handful of heartbreaking losses to endure. My boy and I took to tagging one another in various football related posts and of course the will-he-won't-he discussions regarding the re-signing of Dustin Martin was a conversation which dominated our household for some time. My maternal instinct was strong and I was confident he would stay, having observed his incredible journey of personal growth at a club which clearly provided him with a support structure significantly more important to this young man than simply the provision of his salary. 

Frequently the subject of ridicule, I regularly referred to the extraordinary camaraderie amongst the Richmond players as being one of the keys to their success. I have worked in many environments throughout my career and have not once been a part of a high performing team which did not also include a very special personal connection between its members. Of course I felt vindicated when the coach professed to his players that they were the love of his life. I am willing to bet Mrs Hardwick had something to say about that particular revelation!  

But back to number 4. Whilst I realise some people are prone to judging Dustin Martin based on his haircuts and neck tattoos, I see a young man who inspires young players to behave admirably on-field. A young man who regularly gives his all and accepts questionable umpiring decisions with a grace that is beyond his years. I could not care if his entire body was just one big tattoo - I'll take him as a role model for my boys any day. Let's face it, we all loved Matthew Richardson (and still do - who's heart didn't melt when he came up on the big screen in tears?) but inbetween acts of football greatness, his behaviour towards the game's officials, and occasionally his teammates, left us wincing with discomfort. The current young side at Richmond show none of that, even in the face of humiliation (read: St Kilda trouncing, Round 16). I couldn't be more proud watching them than if they were my own boys.  

After an immensely satisfying home and away season, we were lucky enough to score tickets to both the qualifying and the preliminary final. Sadly, I accidentally booked a catering gig for September 23rd (what was I thinking?) and so the night of the prelim saw me at a stove, on a boat, stirring risotto and watching the game on my iPad. If I couldn't be at the game, I was going to keep track of progress one way or another! 

Of course being the boss I didn't have anybody to tell me that watching the football as I worked in an open kitchen was not the most professional of looks but I was confident that Melbournites would understand. Given the number of times I heard the young guests singing the Richmond theme song throughout the night, I would say my assumption was correct. My husband tells me that multi-tasking is simply a way of doing two or more things simultaneously and at a sub-standard level. My perfectly finished mushroom risotto said otherwise, so I am calling that myth well and truly busted.

Since the final siren sounded on the last day of September (well actually, since some time late in the third quarter), my husband has been more at peace with himself than he has been in the twenty three years I have known him and my teenage boys can finally wear their AFL colours with pride. I will never forget a teary seven year old looking up at us and asking why he had to follow Richmond. We told him that being loyal to your chosen team, no matter how badly they were performing, was important and that their time would come. Of course we had our fingers crossed behind our backs as we said this, desperately hoping that we were speaking the truth.

But, given this is actually a cooking and not a football blog, I digress.  

It was a weekend of much jubilation and we felt a celebratory cake was in order. My very favourite cake is a black forest and so plans were made to put one together. I scanned 'The Cook's Companion' for a recipe and, once I realised these crepes existed, laziness kicked in and a new plan was hatched. 

Frustratingly, I made a mess of the first two. Proving the value of this blog, I took a look at what I had written when I first made crêpes and realised I needed to reduce the heat. Of course it makes sense that crepes require a much gentler heat than our regularly thrown together pikelets, the more robust member of the flat cake family.  

Only two of us are cherry fans and so the filling amount was duly quartered. I eagerly anticipated the result, only to take a bite and realise that the chocolate filling was a bit too rich for my taste. I am assuming my body is trying to give me the message that more fat is not required since I have added so many layers of it to my midriff over the last couple of months. No matter, the other cherry lover was in heaven and at the end of the day, we still have the premiership. 

Go Tiges x

*Apologies to my non-football readers x 

My first (and only) football jumper, complete
 with Nick Daffy signature, circa 1995 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

581/1038 - Bacon and mustard dressing for 'bitey' greens

It has been wonderfully crazy here lately and so this is me sneaking in a challenge recipe for September! 

Our rocket has gone a bit mad which made it perfect timing to give this simple recipe a try. We generally have bacon in the freezer and pleasingly it was of the smoky variety which is exactly what this recipe required. 

Whenever I make dressing I inevitably add less olive oil than is recommended. I adore my fats so it is not a dietary thing, more a response to my palate which has decided that excess olive oil obliterates the taste of other, more subtle, ingredients. Obviously I was not on the ball as I made this and I glugged in more olive oil than I would have liked. As expected, it killed off the taste of the bacon fat which I had very much been looking forward to! It must just be my issue though, as the boys complimented me on the salad. (Completely unprompted too - most unexpected!)

In this 39th week of the year, I am pleased to be posting my 39th recipe. Not a blazing year, but not a complete fizzer either x

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

580/1038 - Cath's sugar-cured duck legs

This week has seen me slowed with an ongoing injury and I have found myself requiring increased assistance from my little family. My teenagers are particularly lovely and wonderful helpers but they are not big fans of open ended assignments. If they are to be engaged willingly, I have learned that they prefer to know exactly what is expected of them and roughly how long tasks will take. 

It was to this end that I created a points system for all tasks which fell outside of the boys' regular household duties. The longer a task was expected to take, the higher the number of points the task was assigned. Yesterday I put together fourteen points worth of tasks and was blown away by how willingly the boys divided up the jobs and got stuck into getting everything done. Teenagers are easy if you can just unlock the teenage code! 

My eldest wound up with the majority of the cooking tasks and so was responsible for helping me get these lovely legs into the oven and also for creating the stock which will flavour our risotto tonight. It was fabulous to watch him moving about the kitchen, discovering the joys of turning a few elements into a tasty meal. 

After sitting in the fridge for a few days covered in sugar and salt and nestled with a couple of bay leaves, these home-butchered legs came out of the oven lovely and crispy and full of flavour. While butchering the duck and cooking the pieces three different ways took more effort than a single quick roast, it did mean that a 2kg duck became three meals instead of one. 

Three nights of beautiful duck meals from a single bird? Now that makes me happy x

Yesterday's assortment of tasks

Sunday, August 20, 2017

579/1038 - Grilled duck breast

I successfully butchered my first duck! Forgive me as I revel for a moment in what I consider to be a very special achievement. For what is life if not for celebrating the little things?

I have spoken before of my preference for buying animals in their entirety wherever possible. It is for this reason that the only duck recipes I have completed are those which require an entire bird. With yet another duck in the fridge and all roast duck recipes exhausted, I decided it was time to figure out how to take this baby apart.

After a bit of YouTube research and some nifty work with my lovely Aritsugu knife, I was rewarded with two beautiful fat breast fillets, a couple of lovely legs and some other bits and pieces destined for the stock pot.

The breasts were fried and then the beautiful fat was collected and used to saute the potatoes, mushrooms, garlic and parsley. I will confess to slicing the breasts after this picture was taken and giving them another quick fry in the pan as they were simply too pink for my liking. I quite like  my duck slightly medium rare and the second quick fry reduced the pink just enough for me to be comfortable serving it to my little family.

We split two breasts between the four of us and the family were HUGE fans of the duck being cooked this way. The pieces were simultaneously crispy, juicy and ridiculously tasty.

Recipe plans (and plans in general!) in this house are frequently adjusted. This week was supposed to be all about tripe and yabbies and instead we are in the midst of a duck fest. Breast last night, risotto tonight and tomorrow will see us devouring sugar-cured legs.

Colour me happy x