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

Monday, August 14, 2017

578/1038 - Classic apple pie

It's hard to believe it took 6 years and almost six hundred recipes for me to make a plain old apple pie - except that this apple pie is anything but plain.

It was the lard pastry which kept me from throwing this otherwise simple dessert together. I don't have anything against lard; it's just not something I generally keep in the fridge! I decided to give duck fat a whirl as a stronger tasting substitute and of course had already put the pie together by the time I did some research and discovered that the reason pig fat is the basis for lard is that it is largely tasteless. Unlike duck fat which tastes like, well, duck. Whoops.

Unperturbed, I baked my pie anyway, safe in the knowledge that apples go well with savoury dishes such as pizza and pork.

Persistence paid off! The pie was absolutely beautiful and looked stunning on the plates, filled with layers and layers of thinly sliced apples.

...and there it was! The apple chapter is now done and dusted. Nineteen down, one hundred and six to go. In order to speed this challenge along (because I am fairly sure none of us want to see this drag on for another ten years) I have decided to plan my next couple of recipes as soon as one is posted. All going well, we will see some yabby and tripe gracing the blog very soon.

Wish me luck! x

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

577/1038 - Jackie's mum's sponge cake

Friday night's dinner party also saw this lovely little dessert come out to play. 

I messed around with this recipe (with interesting results) because I just couldn't bring myself to buy custard powder! This was not because I am a purist (well that too) but also because my pantry is full to bursting and I just couldn't justify adding an item to the shelves that I just knew I wouldn't use. 

It turns out that messing about with baking ingredients doesn't always destroy the result. Granted, my sponge was so flat it couldn't be split even with the steadiest of hands, but somehow it was still beautifully light and fluffy. 

I broke the cake into pieces and served it drizzled with the passionfruit "icing" and beside a good dollop of whipped cream.

...and I didn't hear any complaints x

Saturday, August 5, 2017

576/1038 - Avocado and tomato salsa with macadamia oil

Last night we hosted a dinner party which was our first in quite some time. The premise of the evening was to share my pasta making skills with one of our friends who had a pasta maker gathering dust in her kitchen after purchasing it some seven years ago.

In keeping with the Italian theme, the first course was a simple bruschetta topped with this gorgeous little salsa. The only thing that had prevented me from making this in the past was a lack of macadamia oil in my pantry; an issue which has now been remedied. The salsa is still being consumed this morning on toast, on biscuits and amusingly, by the spoonful.

I didn't get organised and make the bread the day before the dinner party. Fresh bread is lovely but bruschetta loves day old bread. If I am completely honest, my baking delay was actually because the menu was not created until eight hours prior to the guests landing. Very unlike me but thankfully everything worked out beautifully.

The incredible pasta was rolled and cut by my very talented guests and I just adored having everybody buzzing about the kitchen and getting their hands dirty.

Definitely a dinner party model I will be replicating in future x

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Truly Madly Eatly


As my regular readers would be aware, a couple of years ago I quit my job and launched a little catering business. Catering other people's events is fun but I have decided to change things up a bit and host my own event! Guests will be treated to complimentary barefoot bowling and a degustation lunch which will feature items from our finger food menu. 

If you would like to come along (it would be lovely to meet you!) bookings can be made online at Truly Madly Eatly

I hope to see you there!

Kate x

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

575/1038 - Crumbed trotters with mustard mayonnaise

This is officially my favourite trotter recipe! Of course this is not a sentence you are likely to hear from many people given the squeamish nature of the majority of modern diners. 

I truly don't understand why people are averse to trying new things on their dinner plates. Using up as many parts of an animal just makes sense to me. If an animal needs to die for our dinner table, I believe it is our responsibility to use absolutely every morsel possible from that creature. People are getting better at understanding how we can reduce waste in other areas but I think have a long way to go with regard to the ethical use of animals as food. 

Pontificating aside, we absolutely adored this meal. While I forgot to get it in the picture, the mustard mayo was definitely a fabulous dipping sauce for these crunchy little feet and also for spreading on fresh bread at the end of the meal. I will admit to cheating with the mustard mayo and simply stirring some dijon through store bought mayonnaise. It was still wonderful. 

We actually shared two trotters between four of us which we felt was plenty of meat. The jellied meat was packed with flavour and dinner saw us all gnawing happily on the bones, groaning with delight as we inhaled the very crunchy crumb. 

As always, I will be continuing my war on waste by using the incredible stock in a tasty risotto for dinner tonight. 

How many times have I said this? Definitely another recipe I will be putting on repeat. I could have picked so many recipe books to cook my way through but I am so, so glad I picked this one x