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!

Monday, April 17, 2017

559/1038 - Salsa Romesco

This salsa is seriously good. So good, in fact, that I almost cried when the last little bit had been scooped from the bowl. 

There is something very special about the taste of smoky grilled vegetables and this salsa was all about dragging every bit of flavour from the chilli, peppers, tomato and garlic which were made fabulous via a stint under a very hot griller.

This sauce was first served at a dinner party with boiled eggs and flatbreads, alongside my signature dish, chorizo lasagne. It was also devoured as a dip and then finally used over the top of this very decadent breakfast of flatbread, poached eggs, crispy bacon, basil and nasturtium leaves.

I was planning to pull out my smoker to add an extra bit of hickory flavour to the sauce but it disappeared before I got around to it. Something for next time...and there will definitely be a next time! x

Friday, April 14, 2017

558/1038 - Yoghurt and pistachio cake with rosewater ice-cream

This cake is fabulous!!

It's a shame this picture doesn't accurately capture the gentle "green-ness" of this lovely little pistachio flavoured dessert. Such a simple cake to make and the egg white (which I clearly didn't blend completely!) lifted the cake to a lightness which saw each mouthful dissolving as it was eaten. 

We ate this cake with friends at the end of another fabulous dinner party. Trev made the ice-cream and I asked his permission to add some rosewater to the mixture, knowing it would work beautifully with the pistachio. It may seem odd that I asked permission but I firmly believe in respecting other people's kitchen endeavours. You just don't outsource the ice-cream making and then play with the flavour willy-nilly! 

The rosewater was an inspired addition and of course I couldn't help adding just a drop or two of pink food colouring to the mix. Pretty, no? 

I have said it before but will say it again. If you don't have this book, you simply MUST rush out and buy it. So many fabulous recipes and this was yet another one that I can't wait to make again x

Saturday, April 8, 2017

557/1038 - Saffron pears

My husband's clients often surprise him with treats and little bits and pieces. A couple of weeks ago he brought home a gorgeous pile of apples and pears fresh from the orchard. Needless to say, they didn't last long! The last three pears were crying out to be poached and we are now all BIG fans of this style of cooking. 

If I am honest, the pears had gone a little soft by the time I made this and so I was thrilled to see that they were able to hold up throughout this long, although gentle, cooking process.  

It was wins all around with this recipe. With an enormous lemon verbena plant in my herb garden, I loved finding yet another use for its lovely, fragrant leaves. 

Incredibly, all four of us enjoyed these poached pears. Two were never in doubt, but the surprises of the day were my youngest (not a pear fan) and the fact that my usual intolerance to pears appeared to be mitigated by the poaching process. 

Love, love, love x

Sunday, April 2, 2017

556/1038 - Chicken curry puffs

This recipe took D-A-A-A-Y-S to complete. Not because it's particularly complicated, but because I made the pastry, put it in the fridge to chill overnight and then took forever to get around to making the filling. There was one day that the filling almost happened and then I realised I was out of onions and so the little puffs were further delayed. 

I don't know if it was the three days chilling, but whatever the reason, this pastry was FABULOUS! It had peanut butter in it (weird, I know!) and it had the most incredibly wonderful peanutty aftertaste as well as being quite firm and not at all flaky. While I do realise this pastry was designed to be deep fried, I am just coming off a two month shoulder injury and quite frankly, my newly rounded waistline was crying out for me to oven bake them instead. 

I may have rolled the pastry a bit thin (I made eighteen rather than twelve) but it still held together beautifully. It may well have been a different story had I dropped them in hot oil...

Another recipe to love and I will definitely be making this pastry over and over again x