Friday, June 23, 2017

569/1038 - Pomegranate syrup - the real grenadine

I have decided that it is pomegranate week here in the challenge household! 

Our lovely fruitmonger at the Queen Vic Market had an explosion of pomegranates when we visited last week and so of course we came home with a small pile. We could have happily eaten them all, but while they are in season it just makes sense to knock off a few pomegranate recipes!

The pomegranate chapter did not appear until the second version of The Cook's Companion and consists of seven lovely recipes. I aim to cook three of those this week however this plan has the potential to be thwarted by my gorgeous fruit bat of a son. It is likely to be a race to see who can get to them first!  

Opening my little red fruit marathon was grenadine. Nice and easy and able to be made in the Thermomix. So very simple! I would share the temperatures and timings I used to create this lovely cordial but I was largely cooking by eye and did not record any details for future use. 

I will share my no-waste tip tough! Weirdly, the seeds end up very pale after soaking with the sugar overnight. The colour leeches right out of them and they are left looking quite pale and unappetising. Not to be put off, and supporting my intense loathing of  food waste, I used them in my sparkling water and enjoyed a sweet and crunchy pomegranate drink. 

This morning it was mocktail for breakfast! Orange juice, grenadine and sparkling water made for a lovely and refreshing start to the day x

Monday, June 19, 2017

568/1038 - Grilled spiced beef on rosemary skewers

We had a couple of wonderful gum trees on our property which were stunning to look at and created a soft edge to our home from all viewing directions. Unfortunately they were both planted ridiculously close to our house and between their leaves and roots, were starting to create problems that were only going to get worse over time. 

With heavy hearts, we realised we needed to have them both removed. The removal occurred and as well as having to mourn the loss of two beautiful trees, I had to mourn my beautiful rosemary bush which became collateral damage of the tree felling process. 

Rosemary bushes are hardy and so mine is still hanging on to life. Just. No longer a majestic sight to behold, it now resembles a sad, flat pile of twigs, only half of them still producing anything green. Needless to say, I was pleased to find ten pieces that could be turned into skewers for this lovely little dish. 

I used the tri-tip/bottom sirloin triangle cut of beef for this recipe. Simply blitzing the meat and the various spices in the Thermomix made the making of the flavoured meat paste a breeze. Given that I was uncharacteristically organised on this day, my gently constructed little sausages had a spell in the fridge for a few hours prior to dinner which probably helped them to hold together in neat little bundles. 

Not being much of a barbecuer, my sweet looking little skewers were fried in a pan on the stove top. Served with baby spinach, gently fried mushrooms and mashed potato flavoured with feta, these were another hit with the family.

A wonderful dinner and a timely reminder to myself to reposition our rosemary and get it flourishing again x

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

567/1038 - Jerusalem artichoke provençale

I adore Jerusalem artichokes and so was of course pleased when my husband brought home a huge bag of them; yet another gift from one of his lovely clients.

A right pain to peel, 500g saw me standing at the bench for more time than expected last night. The process was not helped by the fact that they were homegrown and so every groove was packed tight with dirt; still tricky to get out even when using two water baths. Given the unexpected delay, I decided to leave the tomatoes unpeeled and thought the result was still fabulous, regardless.

We have decided that this dish would be equally lovely if we were to substitute the hard to find Jerusalem artichokes with either potato or pumpkin. I do believe we will be trying this alternative very soon!

The reason I was keen to hasten our dinner last night was because I have other, much more interesting, things on my mind! The last little while has seen me holiday planning and I am feeling quite proud of myself for finally putting together a trip that will satisfy the needs of all four members of my family.

My family travel well. We enjoy one another's company and are open to new experiences. But, of course, we each look for slightly different things that will ensure a holiday is perceived as being truly special. If I had to summarise; my husband likes to see the popular sights, my eldest is turned on by sports, the little one enjoys connecting with local customs and for me, it is meeting new people. It is a given that we are all excited about the food! 

Our upcoming trip ticks every one of these boxes and even better, will see us catching up with seven very special friends along the way. Half of these friends were acquired on a previous holiday, and were the result of being seated together at a wonderful dinner under the stars. Within minutes of our meeting, I had invited our new friends to come to our home for a dinner party. 

I am not actually an impetuous person, rather I like to think I am simply a good judge of character. My instinct was proven correct; our second meeting was just as wonderful. This is why I am excited that in no time at all, and this time on their side of the world, we will be enjoying our third get together.

...and of course we are excited about the food! x

Friday, June 9, 2017

566/1038 - Beef donburi

This dish is dead simple and very, very tasty! 

The recipe is designed for one person and so I dutifully quadrupled it for my little family. Of course I completely forgot to factor in the teenage "eat your body weight in food" element of the equation and so the boys were rifling through the pantry looking for additional sustenance. 

Personally, I thought the amount was perfect and the flavour was incredible! The only change I made was to replace the mirin (none in the fridge) with a blend of red rice vinegar and plum vinegar. Given that both of these have quite strong flavours, I did reduce the amount by around one third. I also lined the wok with sesame oil before heating the vegetable oil just to add a little hint of one of my very favourite flavours. 

Happy, happy, happy x

Sunday, May 21, 2017

565/1038 - Chestnuts and mushrooms

More chestnut fabulousness! 

Over the years I have improved my vegetable based cooking considerably, ensuring flavour is key when putting a meat free meal on the table. I am one of those people who wishes animals did not have to die for my gastronomic enjoyment but I also like meat far too much to stop eating it altogether. The compromise I have made is to dramatically reduce the amount of meat we eat as a family. I try to serve up a minimum of two or three vegetarian meals per week and when I do cook meat it is generally a small amount (500-700 grams between four) with a lot of vegetable and grain padding. 

This meat free meal was made up of three components; chestnut stuffed mushrooms, edamame pasta with parmesan and parsley and freshly made guacamole (not pictured). 

When this meal was finished, we unanimously decided that chestnuts make everything better! Creamy, nutty (obviously) and with a sweet potato-like finish they are a fabulous addition to almost any dish.

Looking at the pile of chopped nuts that were to be piled on the mushrooms, I was convinced that there were far too many. I was wrong. This dish is incredible and should not be messed with! Honestly, this is the kind of recipe that makes meat-free eating so very easy.

I have decided that the only thing I don't like about chestnuts is that I can't buy them all year 'round. Expect to see more of this wonderful nut over the next couple of months before they disappear x

Thursday, May 18, 2017

564/1038 - Chestnut and bacon salad

Who says you don't make friends with salad? 

Chestnuts have become a new staple in our house since they have regularly been available at our favourite fruit stall. Although I am getting better at the peeling, the scoring has me beat. This session saw me sporting three new band-aids and at least one cut that just would. not. stop. bleeding. 

I blame the little chestnuts (I bought two sizes) and also the chunky ones devoid of a flat side. I have decided it would just be easier to cut them deeply rather than trying to gently score the skin. Particularly when they are going to be chopped anyway! I do believe my poor massacred fingers will thank me. 

Given the amount of calories in this salad, it is a bit scary how easy it was to put together. Apart from the chestnut peeling (kill me now) this really was a matter of simply chopping everything and then giving each ingredient a turn to baste in the fabulous bacon fat. Have I mentioned how much I love bacon fat? 

My husband declared this to be the best salad he had ever eaten and I think we all agreed that it was pretty spectacular. If it was a slimmers salad it would surely be on the menu every week. But seriously, how fat is this challenge going to make me?

I am not sure I want to know the answer to that question! x

Beautiful chestnuts from the Queen Vic market

Monday, May 15, 2017

563/1038 - Oyster spring rolls

I am not sure if I have mentioned that we have now passed our one year anniversary for weekly shopping trips at the Queen Victoria Market. If not, well we have! Shopping there certainly makes it easier to execute recipes such as this one, with oysters being plentiful and also quite reasonably priced. 

My family were sceptical of this recipe, and rightly so. Oysters are definitely not an ingredient we are used to tasting in our much loved spring rolls and each family member approached their first tasting with trepidation. As usual, I was the tasting guinea pig and I think the surprised and happy expression on my face as I chewed was the impetus the boys needed to take one for themselves. Once we realised just how good they were I think we all wished I had not halved the recipe. Yes, I only bought one zozen because, let's be honest, buying two dozen oysters for an untested recipe is a big investment! 

Did I mention I made the spring roll wrappers myself? I would make a big deal of this achievement but if I am honest my uninspiring first attempt at these was either the result of a dodgy internet recipe or terrible execution on my part. There were just enough good ones to cover a family sampling and then the rest (those with a hole or tear) were fed to our lucky chooks. Given that only a limited number of my wrappers were able to be fried, we also rolled a pile of rice paper rolls filled with raw vegetables. 

This is one of those recipes which, while unlikely to be recreated for another family dinner, may definitely come out as a decadent little dinner party entrée. 

...but I may buy pre-made wrappers next time! x

Friday, May 12, 2017

562/1038 - Buckwheat blini

The other day I used the term "absent minded professor" whilst talking to my eldest. He had no idea what I was talking about and thought it was some sort of insult. I consider myself an incredibly capable person but I swear this is how I feel so much of the time! Give me a big and complicated job and I am on it, dotting every i and crossing every t. Then, on a daily basis, this same capable person forgets the little things. Things like cooking dinner, picking my kids up from school and getting dressed. You might think that having the occasional pyjama day is not being absent minded - but it is if you don't realise you are doing it! I haven't quite left the house in my pj's but have made it all the way into the car with slippers on...

Occasionally my absent-mindedness makes its way into my cooking and this recipe was no exception. The first step of the recipe was to mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients and then to combine the two. The mixture was to sit and rise for an hour. So far, so good! 

Once the mixture had been left to rise I was to beat the egg whites to soft peaks and then fold this through the mixture....except that I had tossed in the eggs (whites and all) at the beginning! Oh...

I decided to forge ahead anyway and the result was still really lovely. Being fairly intolerant to wheat (a FODMAP rather than a gluten issue) I decided to make these with all buckwheat flour. The taste was very strong but it was nice to know I could eat as many as I liked without having to worry about adverse side effects.

Always looking for gluten free options for clients, I will definitely be trying these again. Let's see if I can remember to separate the eggs next time! x

Not to be confused with a blenny, which is what we have in our home aquarium.
 My son was appropriately mortified when he misheard what I was cooking…

Sunday, April 23, 2017

561/1038 - Chestnut soup

It has been almost a year since my youngest and I started doing our weekly shop at the Queen Victoria Market. We still adore our special morning together and still have our firm favourites when it comes to stall holders. We buy almost all of our fruit from Shane's Fruit and a couple of weeks ago he had the most beautiful looking chestnuts that I just could not resist. 

Chestnuts have such a wonderfully gentle flavour and I am sure I would eat them more often if it were not for the s-l-o-w peeling process! Chestnuts are the only nut which require cooking before being edible and so there is no getting away from some form of preparation. In the past I have always enjoyed them roasted and so this is the first time I have boiled and peeled half a kilo in one sitting. Not a fun prospect! 

I have a Thermomix on my bench which is largely used for grinding, blending and making dough. It is very rarely used to cook a meal but when making a soup that is to be blended, it just makes sense to dirty only one appliance! I will admit to omitting the sieving step when making this soup, being very happy with the texture the Thermomix created. 

I loved that my husband all but turned his nose up when I told him what I had made because I knew he would absolutely adore the taste. He did. 

Even better than the soup was pairing it with freshly baked home made bread which had been painted with olive oil and fried in a pan. 

Life is good. Fattening but good x

Friday, April 21, 2017

560/1038 - Imam Bayildi

My boys are pretty amazing with what they will eat. They have happily sat through dégustation menus that would make most adults baulk. Duck & calf tongues, liver on a stick, sea urchins,  air-dried emu, squid ink congee; they have devoured it all. 

Of course there are small gaps in their gastronomic repertoire. One of the favourite memories I have is of my youngest dining at Brae (brilliant, brilliant meal) and eating his way through their incredibly diverse and challenging dégustation. Until he got to the dessert where he ate his way around the berries. Seriously. Raw kangaroo not a problem at all. Berries? No thanks. My children are definitely not predictable! 

Eggplant continues to be a vegetable on the "not loving it so much" list and as such I put this meal together with some trepidation. In order to create a meal with balance (read: pairing it with something they would definitely eat) I decided to cook up some beef mince with capsicum and a pre-packaged sauce that one of the boys had chosen when we visited Casa Iberica on a recent Magical Mystery Tour*.  

The dinner was an absolute success, with both meat and eggplants being devoured happily. I adored this recipe and of course have to give some of the credit to our favourite vegetable vendor at the Queen Victoria Market. Everything we buy from them has a sweetness that you just don't find in old and long-stored vegetables from the supermarket. 

Another win and five recipes blogged this month. Not outstanding but better than last year! x

*Shameless plug! Magical Mystery Tours are a new service I have recently launched via my little business, a Fork for your Oyster - Words & Music. If you want to know more (and how you can win a free one before 1/5/17) you can find the info here.

We don't eat much pre-made food, but this was good!