Tuesday, March 21, 2017

554/1038 - Rote grütze

Having realised that 2016 was my slowest cooking year to date, I am determined to ramp up the pace in 2017. Taking a quick look at my stats, It appears I averaged one recipe a week last year. Being roughly eleven weeks into 2017, I am pleased that I am at least on track to match these numbers.

This recipe turned out quite differently to what I had expected and I am fairly sure something went wrong in the process. I have worked with sago plenty of times, but this time it just did not appear to be cooking, remaining stubbornly white no matter how long I kept my rote grütze on the boil. I am starting to wonder if my sago had sat in the pantry just a little too long...

While the finished product was not supposed to be this firm, it actually tasted very good! We have been eating scoops of it smeared on bread and semi sweet biscuits, occasionally with a dollop of cream on top.

Interestingly, even though my sago refused to become transparent, it was not at all hard and quite pleasant to eat. I may well have discovered (accidentally) that grape paste is a "thing", perhaps an alternative to quince paste given the very limited quince season.    

It appears cooking mistakes CAN equal gastronomic invention x

Monday, March 13, 2017

553/1038 - Strawberry shortcake

Many moons ago, I was asked if I had experienced a recipe failure whilst undertaking this challenge. My answer was strawberry shortcake! Sadly, although the recipe appeared to be travelling well, everything fell to pieces in the cutting stage. I decided not to blog my failure (who wants to see a picture of smashed cake?) and so here is Strawberry Shortcake, version 2.0. 

As I made the dough on this second attempt, I found myself needing to increase the amount of milk in order to get everything to hold together. This does make me wonder if the recipe should have read two tablespoons of milk rather than two teaspoons. Either that or I have made the same measuring error of another ingredient twice! Anything is possible. 

The finished product was rather more biscuit-like than I expected and while we enjoyed eating our little strawberry towers (topped with piles of whipped cream no less!), it was not a dessert that anybody raved enough about for me to put on my repeat list. 

They can't all be my favourite! x

Saturday, March 11, 2017

552/1038 - Chris's pork pie

Confession time...I missed an entire step of this recipe! The shame of this was that in our post match (well, post dinner party) discussion, we agreed that the missing step would have made this dish taste twice as good as it did.

I had good reason for skipping the final step of this recipe; actually in truth I had two good reasons! The first was that in order to fill the completed pie with a gelatinous goop, the cooked pastry was meant to have sealed without any obvious holes. Given that I had attempted to squish twice the recommended filling amount into my pastry, it is fair to say that there was not much chance things were going to hold together. The sealed bottom actually spread quite some way from the filling as it baked and so once cooked there was absolutely no fixing my rather large mistake.

I put my pie in the fridge, knowing I had ruined any chance I had of creating a jellied seal between the pastry and the meat. As I read the recipe to see what I had missed, I discovered that the jelly was supposed to have been left overnight in the fridge to set anyway. Probably lucky for my guests I didn't go there!

Read. The. Recipe.

Great advice that clearly I am never going to learn to take. Thankfully the pie was fabulous anyway, served with onion jam and mustard fruit.

Looks like I dodged another recipe mis-read bullet! x 

Monday, March 6, 2017

551/1038 - Lablabi

If you are at all into chickpeas, you simply must make this soup! 

Chickpea soup does sound a little boring, and to be honest the soup itself is just nice...but when the rest of the ingredients are laid out in bowls and the soup poured on top...well it's what I call a ratatouille moment. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you must watch this little clip.

I will admit to playing with the recipe a bit because when I first had a taste all I was getting was chicken stock. This was of course my own fault as I was plum out of harissa and so substituted it with a handful of the ingredients used to make harissa. Yes, I was aware it would not quite be the same thing...but it was worth a try! 

So as well as very badly adding a harissa substitute, I also doubled the amount of chickpeas (largely because I had cooked too many...) and also blitzed the soup just enough so that around half of the chickpeas turned to mush. Needing a dash more flavour I also added a pinch of white pepper and a tiny splash of sesame oil. 

Even better than the taste of this soup, was the amusement it provided my husband and our sixteen year old guest who each giggled every time I said the name of the soup out loud. I still don't quite know what is funny about the word lablabi and when I asked my husband to explain, he dissolved into giggles so many times it took a good ten minutes for me to get a coherent response. It turns out they just like the way the word sounds...a but like blah blahbi. Indeed. 

I will definitely be making this again, but perhaps next time I will simply announce that I have made chickpea soup. 

Unless, of course, I need a good giggle x

Sunday, March 5, 2017

550/1038 - Banana tartlets with butterscotch sauce

Given my ridiculous sweet tooth, it's hardly surprising that I am showcasing this amazing dessert before I write about the equally wonderful pork and soup that I served up before this dish on Friday night. 

Making the bases for these tartlets in quite warm weather was challenging (read: lots of chilling in between handling) and for whatever reason I had a dreadful time getting the sugar to melt when making the sauce. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I persisted with both elements and ended up with a dessert that had my table full of guests smiling from ear to ear.  

With the pastry and sauce already made, assembly at dessert time was amazingly fast. Slice bananas, lay them on the bases, top with sugar and grill. With the tartlets left under the griller just long enough to melt the sugar and toast the banana, the butterscotch sauce was a decadence that took this dessert from fabulous to "oh my goodness!"

Paired with my husband's wonderful vanilla ice-cream (he pulls his weight for our dinner parties too!), this was an incredible way to finish our evening.

Love x

Saturday, March 4, 2017

549/1038 - Lime lover's punch

Presenting...the first mixed drink I have loved in years.

With gorgeous friends coming over for dinner, I decided it would be lovely to start the evening off with a special drink. Enter lime lover's punch! 

Not being much of a drinker, I really had no idea what was in our liquor cabinet (aka the cupboard above the fridge). I had purchased spiced rum for another recipe some time ago and just assumed the majority of the bottle would still be hanging around. Not so! It appears my husband likes a drink more than I do and had polished off the bottle over the years. 

Always one to improvise, I ended up including a mixture of Grand Marnier, Malibu (my goodness, how long has that one been in there?!), cognac and brandy. The result was spectacular! 

I will admit to only adding half of the recommended alcohol and for a lightweight in the drinking stakes, the balance was absolutely perfect. 

An absolutely brilliant start to what turned out to be a perfect evening x

The menu

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

548/1038 - Pumpkin and amaretto ravioli

With renewed vigour, I am pleased to be posting my second recipe for this week. Realising that my output has diminished dramatically over the past year or so, I am determined to increase the number of blog posts over the coming months. Of course I am secretly cursing February for having only twenty eight days as a well timed leap year would have seen February's total increase to a more respectable three. No matter; it appears this month will be an impressive one!  

Ravioli is a dish that I have recently discovered is easier to make than I thought. The fear of my hard work exploding in the pot stopped me from attempting ravioli for so many years but after my first successful attempt, I am now a ravioli fiend! I use a ravioli stamper (I have no idea if that's the real name for it) which both cuts the ravioli and also provides a fabulous seal. 

I will confess I made extra pasta dough (300g flour rather than 200g) as I knew I would be too nervous to roll the dough to the finest setting. I adore our beautiful pasta machine, which was a wedding gift and so has now been used and loved by us for twenty years. The only little quirk it has is that it tears the dough when the finest setting is used. It's no big deal, I get around this by rolling to the second last setting and then stretching the dough slightly with my hands. 

Playing to my fear of exploding ravioli, I may well have slightly underfilled each one and so ended up with a mountain of ravioli (hooray!) and also some leftover filling. 

Finished with a sage and burnt butter sauce (burnt butter makes everything good!) this was a very popular meal. My youngest particularly liked following his up with a ravioli breakfast and ravioli lunch the next day. 

Speaking of the "stamper", it was a very odd day in the kitchen as I rummaged through my kitchen drawer and found not one, but two stampers in there! I think I stood staring at them for a good five minutes, completely perplexed as to how the second one found its way into my home. Upon further investigation of the drawer, I continued to find items which had been inexplicably replicated. At this point I decided that either I was losing my memory or I was the butt of a practical joke. 

The house remains sufficiently amused. 

The mysteriously replicated utensils 

Monday, February 27, 2017

547/1038 - Ritsa's Greek country salad

Undertaking a cookbook challenge which spans three editions can be, well, challenging. Each time I upgraded, I spent some time updating my complicated spreadsheet (yes, I was in heaven!). As well as brand new recipes, there were a few recipes which had been replaced/upgraded. In each instance I made the decision that if the change was significant I would add it to the challenge. Mad, I know. 

So this is the execution of Greek salad 2.0 aka Ritsa's Greek country salad.

I decided that my boy needed some time in the kitchen and so he was largely responsible for this salad, with me acting as his sous chef. I think our favourite part of the preparation was squeezing the tomato juice over the salad. Getting hands dirty in the kitchen is most welcome here! 

With the absence of green pepper and red onion noticable in my kitchen, I replaced them with a red pepper and spring onion. 

Still delicious x
My boy doing his thing

Thursday, February 16, 2017

546/1038 - Honey and sesame rings (well, hearts...)

Valentine's Day is just not a big thing in my household. For the many, many years my husband and I have been together, we have largely kept February 14th unromantic and uneventful. 

This year I decided to change things up a bit; perhaps because we have a special wedding anniversary coming up or perhaps because I am finally getting a bit mushy in my older years. Whatever the reason, Tuesday night's dinner was overwhelmingly heart inspired. 

The star of our main meal was to be a pie, filled with the meaty leftovers from the previous night. Given my husband's love of homemade pastry (and the fabulous flavour of our leftovers!), I knew this would be an enormous hit. It was as I was laying the pastry that I got the idea to mould it into a heart shape, using a heart shaped biscuit cutter wedged into the top of the pie and two ceramic spoons at the base. The result was wonky but effective.

Dessert was somewhat more spectacular. As I was trawling for an appropriately romantic dessert recipe, I was thrilled to discover these rings which I knew would be easily crafted into hearts. I was amused as my youngest, also known as our resident dough thief, ate a piece of the dough and exclaimed, "Mum, this is a bit heavy on the honey."

"It's OK", I told him. "It's not to make bread, it's for honey biscuits."

"Yes, but I am just letting you know that the honey flavour is very strong."

Thanks mate, got it.

The creation of the first tray load of biscuit hearts was successful, if a bit sticky. Thinking I was improving the process, I rolled the second half in a dash of flour to reduce the stickiness, which worked beautifully, but unfortunately meant that the sesame seeds did not have a chance of adhering. Live and learn!

Thankfully both versions (seed and no seed) were delicious x

My slightly weird looking heart pie

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