Monday, December 23, 2013

305/984 - Fast chocolate sauce

Last night's special little guest requested a banana split for dessert. Of course banana splits can take many forms and this one came complete with;
Banana (of course!)
French vanilla ice-cream (sadly not home-made)
Pink and white marshmallows
Chopped nuts
Salted caramel (my special secret recipe which I will share if pushed) 
Stephanie's fast chocolate sauce

Sadly I had to miss out on this special treat as I am recovering from a particularly traumatic root canal and am nervous to eat anything that doesn't dissolve in my mouth. 

The fast chocolate sauce really was that; you throw the ingredients into a saucepan and heat. That's it! I didn't even need to grate the chocolate as I buy bittersweet chocolate in bud form which melted in no time. 

The pièce de résistance was my lovely home-made salted caramel and there were squeaks of delight as the kids discovered it draped over their bananas. 

There it was. Dessert made in five minutes...and eaten in about three.

304/984 - Bocconcini, tomato and basil salad

When our little guest requested salad to go with dinner I felt fairly comfortable that the range of options available to me were quite broad. My boys LOVE bocconcini and the herb garden is going bananas at the moment so this salad, found in the basil chapter, ticked a couple of important boxes for me. 

This is a tasty and wonderfully healthy salad. The recipe includes a fair bit of olive oil which can be easily reduced if required (I didn't). I enjoyed using a mixture of tomatoes in my version which kept the taste interesting and also made the plate look very pretty, which is important!

This is a salad that is very easy to put together and according to my family and one special little guest, definitely a winner. 

Yet another photo of my beautiful
lasagna, loosely based on the one found
in The Cook's Companion. It's the
home-made pasta (and the bacon) that
makes it good. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

303/984 - Garlic butter

We have all been dying for it to be holiday time and I promised Jules he could have a friend over to stay once we had all had a moment to catch our breath after a fabulous, but quite busy year. Tonight was the night of the play date and I absolutely loved the menu selected by our little guest; 
garlic bread
banana split.
Not bad choices for a 10 year old! 

Of course I took the opportunity to make this a Stephanie based menu and was pleased to find a garlic butter recipe ready and waiting to be road tested. I started to pound this in the mortar and pestle but very quickly realised that the thermomix would do a much better job. 

I would have loved to have made the baguette myself but on this occasion I thought my energy was best spent focusing on the lasagne which always takes a bit of time to put together. 

The garlic bread was really lovely, only 12 minutes in the oven and the crust was crunchy and the butter beautifully melted. I halved the recipe which was exactly the amount I needed for one baguette. 

We may all be stinky tomorrow but it was absolutely worth it! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

302/984 - Bread sauce to serve with roast chicken

I have always been fascinated by the sound of this recipe, having never before eaten a sauce containing bread. I was not alone it seems; a couple of days after I made this I heard two radio presenters discussing the fact that they had not heard of it before and wondering how it was made.

We had another Yapunyah chicken to roast and so I made this beautiful sauce to serve with it (as per the recipe title!) It was very easy to make, simmering milk with a load of beautiful spices (including mace which I had not used before), a bay leaf and a shallot and then adding freshly made bread crumbs to soak up the liquid. The cream added at the end of course made this even more delicious! 

We had some left over sauce (it makes quite a lot!) and so the next night I fried up onion and garlic and then added leftover chicken, broccoli and capsicum. In went the rest of the bread sauce and a dash of extra cream to make a lovely pasta sauce for an easy dinner.

Wonderful leftovers!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

301/984 - Passionfruit shortbread biscuits

I joined the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap for the second time this year, which is an American run event run by Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen. Each cookie swap participant is provided with three sets of contact details and commits to baking three dozen biscuits to distribute. On the 11th December, participating bloggers around the world will be posting their cookie recipes and a round up of all pictures and blog posts will be posted on the websites of the administrators mentioned above. The event is a fundraiser for Cookies for kids cancer which means that the event is great fun and also doing great things!

My boys were less than thrilled to see my lovely spotty biscuits laid out, only to be told that they were about to be shipped away. However disappointment turned to glee as my three gorgeous packages arrived! 
From Giulia at Love at Every Bite
I have been lucky twice now, in both years receiving the most beautiful biscuits and also some lovely notes and messages too. The first biscuits I received were from the lovely Giulia from Love at Every Bite. There were two types of biscuits in the beautiful Christmas tin and the kids loved them both. I will definitely be heading to the websites of these lovely ladies to get the recipes and start replicating! 

The Kitchen & the Camera
Alicia from The Kitchen and the Camera sent some amazing shortbread which were so good I will not share how many of these I ate! And lastly, I received a beautiful Christmas case filled with individually wrapped gingerbread men, ladies, reindeer and candy canes from Traci at Cookie Queen Kitsch'n. I have saved a couple of these to share with my nieces and nephew on Christmas day because they were too cute to gobble up all at once!   
Cookie Queen Kitsch'n
The biscuits I decided to send this year were Stephanie's passionfruit shortbread biscuits. My tip for participants of the swap is to always make at least 37 so you can taste one before you send them! The recipe can be found in the traditional hard copy of The Cook's Companion or indeed in the recently launched Cook's Companion app

The only change I made was to halve the amount of icing. I have listed the full amount below just in case I am in the minority and people prefer a generous amount of icing!

Passionfruit Shortbread Biscuits
180g softened butter
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2/3 cup pure icing sugar
pulp of 3 passionfruit
100g cornflour, sifted
180g self-raising flour, sifted
50g butter
1 cup pure icing sugar
pulp of 2 passionfruit
  1. Cream butter, zest and icing sugar
  2. Mix in passionfruit pulp, cornflour and flour
  3. Chill for 20 minutes
  4. Preheat oven to 220°C (430°F)
  5. Pipe rounds or fingers of batter onto trays lined with baking paper (or make balls and flatten them as I did!)
  6. Bake until golden brown, approximately 5-8 minutes
  7. Cool on a wire rack before icing
  8. Melt butter and put icing sugar into a small bowl
  9. Add pulp to melted butter then stir into icing sugar
  10. Beat hard for 1-2 minutes over hot water until icing is really shiny.
  11. Dip or ice biscuits and dry on a wire rack. There will be less drips if you choose to halve the icing mixture as I did. 
And there we have it! Another completely enjoyable cookie swap done and dusted. Thanks again to Giulia, Alicia and Traci.

I am looking forward to next year already! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

300/984 - Black-eyed beans with coriander and capers

It is Thanksgiving time of year at the moment, which of course does not mean much to many Australians. We on the other hand, are privileged to be friends with a beautiful Australian-American family who celebrate Thanksgiving each year. No doubt I share this sentiment every November, but the Thanksgiving celebration is by far my favourite holiday. It is an amazing get together filled with food, laughter and games. The lack of presents means that the children are completely focused on having fun and not on what they are going to get from the incoming guests. 

Em puts on the meats (biggest turkey I have ever seen!) and desserts (pumpkin and pecan pies are staples) and each guest brings along a side dish. This year my contribution was this beautiful salad, complete with parsley and coriander from our thriving little herb garden. We served this with natural yoghurt and I am pleased to report that the feedback was unanimously positive. 

It was a wonderful day which was celebrated well into the night. And of course the most fabulous thing to report is that my side dish represented recipe number 300 of this challenge!


Friday, November 22, 2013

299/984 - Double chocolate brownies

My little boys participated in a swimming carnival this week. To congratulate them on a job well done I whipped up these ridiculously simple double chocolate brownies. 

This brownie recipe was quite different to the rum and macadamia brownies found in the original version of the Cook's Companion. It was quite a complicated task combining the recipes from both books and I was pleased to have a second brownie recipe to attempt! My creation of the original version can be found here.

Even the smallest piece of this would satisfy a sweet craving and so I am confident these will last for at least a couple of days. The "double chocolate" refers to the cocoa and also the very large pile of chopped chocolate that was stirred through just prior to baking.

Oh my. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

298/984 - Olive oil crispbread

I made an interesting soup for dinner tonight; pumpkin, bacon and pigs trotter. A bit random I know, but we like a bit of trotter action in our house and what better way to introduce even more piggy flavour into a soup! 

These crispbreads are lovely for dunking and made the soup just that little bit more fun to eat. And it took the boys' minds off the fact that they had to sift through their soup looking for the little porky bones that got missed in the first sift. 

I have also tried these crispbreads with cheese and dip and can confirm that they are fabulous eaten all three ways. I chose fennel seeds as the topping for this batch but am thinking it would be lovely to try them again with rosemary.

Yes, definitely a recipe worth repeating. 

Little raw crispbreads
With pumpkin, bacon and trotter soup

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

297/984 - Mushrooms à la grecque

Hit by a nasty little bug this week, I decided I needed to find a recipe that was ridiculously easy (energy stores are low!) and also vegetable based.

I had every intention of poaching myself an egg to eat with these lovely little mushrooms, but unfortunately my energy did not quite extend that far. Proud of myself for not eating yet another corn thin with peanut butter (that home-made stuff is really addictive!) I found this dish a warm and comforting snack after a third day of being wiped out and confined to the couch. 

I will confess to eating the entire 250g of mushrooms myself, although I did donate the last bit of the sauce to the thermomix chilli con carne being put together for dinner by my lovely little boys. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

296/984 - Waldorf salad

A waldorf salad with orange!

My mum used to make waldorf salad in the seventies and I remember loving the fact that it contained mayonnaise; one of my favourite things to eat! Stephanie's addition of orange segments worked beautifully with the other ingredients and I think I will continue to include it in this salad when I make it in future. 

We had a meat free dinner tonight and the halloumi skewers that Trev put together were lovely as usual. It is a simple recipe that we use, marinating the halloumi in lemon juice and olive oil and sprinkling it with dried basil. We used cherry tomatoes as the gap fillers tonight, but there is usually some zucchini wedged in there too. A quick barbecue dish that is ready in minutes.

Meat-free Tuesday. It doesn't quite have the same ring to it does it?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

295/984 - Buttermilk pizza crust

We promised the kids pizza tonight and so I thought I would try out Stephanie's super quick buttermilk crust.

In the past I have used a simple bread recipe to make my bases, which turns out a little thick but is still very tasty. At the other end of the thickness spectrum, we sometimes use pita or mountain bread as bases when we are looking for a thinner crust and a much quicker meal! 

This base was kneaded in the thermomix and then left to rest for half an hour. There is no yeast in the dough and so it didn't appear to rise, but when it was stretched out and cooked the result was incredibly pizza-like. I didn't have any buttermilk and instead used milk combined with a teaspoon of lemon juice. 

The first pizza I made was Henry's choice; a thin crust margherita, with tomato paste, basil, cheese and olive oil. So simple, but really, really good!

The second pizza with the thicker crust had a more unusual topping; tomato paste, zucchini, apple (yes apple!), cheese, basil, and mushrooms. 

I am actually not sure which one I liked better. They disappeared rather quickly and so I think the family agreed that they were equally good. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

294/984 - Gratin of artichokes

I have eaten many artichokes in my time, but have never before been inspired to cook one myself. Cruising the aisles of my local organic store recently, I saw these lovely artichokes and decided it was time I gave it a go.

Braving the art of artichoke preparation for the first time, I decided to third the recipe and cook just two rather than six. We like our vegetables baked, and quite frankly anything that includes oil and breadcrumbs is usually going to be enjoyed by my family, so I was fairly sure this would be a success. Even so, I reasoned that half an artichoke each was a reasonable starting point when asking the boys to try something new.

I made some acidulated water (water with vinegar) to sit the artichokes in once they had been cut, although I had some trouble keeping the artichokes under water! 

I really liked the finished product (including the trimmed stems!), although wondered if the artichokes could have done with a light boiling before they were baked. The boys were very excited about the fact that these looked more like aliens than vegetables and so were happy to give them a try.  

Another chapter discovered! There are five more artichoke and cardoon recipes so watch this space for more on this little thistle. 

Now where to find a cardoon??

Sunday, October 20, 2013

293/984 - Baked kale with potato, olives and garlic

I made this dish to serve alongside our Sunday night lasagne (which I have not started yet, must get on to that!) but it looked and smelled so amazing I have just polished off two bowls of it for my lunch.

I wasn't able to find curly kale but I found two bunches of the most beautiful cavolo nero which I was happy to use as a substitute. I have decided that the easiest way to remove the thickest part of the stem is to strip the leaves away with my hands, which allows me to feel when the stem is becoming less firm and to retain the softer thinner pieces towards the top of the leaf. As suggested I selected Nicola potatoes, which are waxy and a beautiful yellow colour.

The most difficult thing about this recipe turned out to be pitting the olives! I bought a jar of beautiful organic black olives and finally got the knack of pitting them neatly as I reached the end of the little pile I was working through. Of course it took a bit longer than expected due to the amount that were eaten as I pitted. 

I didn't add all of the olive oil at the end, maybe half of what the recipe suggested, and also left out the salt. I did add a big crack of pepper though which my family love! 

Another great dish and I am sure it will do my Sunday night lasagne proud. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

292/984 - Broccoli frittata

When I started this challenge I owned (and loved) the original orange version of The Cook's Companion. I was excited to share the news each time I completed a chapter of cooking, which occurred three times in the first 16 months, having cooked all of the bread, spinach and rabbit recipes. Upgrading to the new rainbow version of the book meant new and fabulous recipes, and the fact that I no longer had any completed chapters under my belt.

So today I am excited to announce (again!) that I have completed my first chapter of cooking!

The broccoli chapter has only three recipes and so it might not seem much of an achievement to some, but I am a firm believer of celebrating every milestone, no matter how small. Just ask my children who are often on the receiving end of high fives and whoops of excitement when they walk home from school for the first time or make a simple meal unassisted. 

We absolutely loved this frittata, which included kangaroo chorizo and ham as our chosen meats. I don't know why, but I was surprised to find pasta as an ingredient in this recipe. It was a fabulous addition and I think I may include pasta in my frittatas more often.

I promised to share a learning each time I complete a chapter and so here goes; Broccoli is notorious for harbouring small caterpillars and so it is recommended that the broccoli be soaked in salted water for ten minutes. I have never done this, which means my little family are likely to have consumed quite a bit of additional protein over the years!

So here we are again, one chapter down, only 122 to go.

My beloved and still treasured
original version of
The Cook's Companion

Sunday, October 13, 2013

291/984 - Poached eggs with yoghurt and garlic sauce

Another gorgeous breakfast recipe!

I found this buried in the yoghurt chapter and actually started the preparation yesterday when I put the yoghurt in a sieve lined with muslin to allow it to drain. The chooks were happy because I fed them the juice; they were in heaven, dipping their little beaks in to the container and shaking milky white drips all over the place. 

This morning the garlic and salt were pounded in the mortar and pestle and then mixed with chives and my lovely drained, thick yoghurt. Once the eggs were poached and laid on thick globs of yoghurt mixture, the butter was heated until bubbling and along with some parsley, was tipped over the top to finish.

My goodness, what a beautiful combination! The yoghurt gave each mouthful a wonderful creamy texture and the burnt butter added the most amazing flavour. I smell like raw garlic now (my apologies to the ladies I am catching up with today!) but it was well worth it. Loved by the whole family and even the little guest we had staying with us. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

290/984 - Savoury ricotta fritters

We had a mini family holiday this week, staying and dining at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld. Determined to try everything the restaurant had to offer, we ordered two omnivore degustations and two vegetarian, and then shared the dishes with one another. The food was spectacular and the matched wine was equally amazing. The highlight of my night was the first dessert (yes there were two!) which was based around the flavours of violet, lavender and honey. 

What inspired this post, however, was the buffet breakfast at the hotel, which included the most amazing house-smoked salmon which I ate on toast with house-made ricotta. The lovely lady who was looking after us asked the chef how the ricotta was made and kindly shared the recipe with me, which of course I had to try!

It really is ridiculously easy and I will never buy another tub of ricotta while I have milk and lemons on hand. All you have to do is to gently warm 2 cups of milk to eighty degrees Celcius and then remove it from the heat and gently stir in 1/3 cup of either lemon juice or vinegar. I added a good pinch of salt to mine too. Leave to stand until curds have formed and then strain through a piece of muslin. The curds end up on top and the beautiful whey is caught in the bowl below. Given that I used beautiful Schulz organic milk in my recipe I was not going to waste a drop! I replaced the water in my bread recipe for whey and then used the rest in scrambled eggs, which turned out to be the creamiest eggs I have ever made. 

But on to the fritters! I left my ricotta a bit wet, which would have been fabulous if I was spreading it on toast, but not so fabulous when trying to roll it into little balls. Needless to say, my fritters ended up a bit flat, but the shape certainly didn't alter the taste. I used organic pecorino as the second cheese in these little fried balls from heaven, and possibly a bit more garlic than the recipe actually called for. I overdid the herb elements too, probably to appease the guilt of eating fried food. I did however only use a small amount of oil in the pan and was pleased to see that the final products were beautifully crispy on the outside and still squishy in the middle.

Inhaled by the boys in no time. No surprises there!

Whey based bread
Scrambled eggs with whey
Beautiful whey

Sunday, September 29, 2013

289/984 - Pikelets

As a child I only knew of pikelets that came in a packet. They were sweet and I loved them, but now that I think back they had an unusually fake, rubbery feel to them that makes me wonder just how many preservatives and nasty things I was consuming as an added bonus!

The basics chapter in the Cook's Companion contains thirty seven recipes and so I am always quite keen to tick another one off the list. I was very pleased to see that the pikelet mixture did not need to rest and so before we knew it I had whipped them up and watched them disappear into the mouths of my ever hungry family. 

I was left with only one pikelet (honestly the boys inhaled these so quickly I was thrilled they left me one!) and I enjoyed it with grated apple and a spoonful of full fat natural yoghurt which was delicious. I obviously made them a little bigger than I should have because the recipe advised that we would have twenty four pikelets and we ended up with around eight. Apparently I made mega-pikelets!

A quick family breakfast that made me popular for a good couple of hours.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

288/984 - Bircher muesli

I still remember the first time I discovered bircher muesli in the spread of a hotel buffet, and wondering where that little bowl of deliciousness had been all my life. 

Every time we stay at a hotel, my family run straight for the sausages and hash browns and I find myself drawn to my own hotel buffet staple, each time swearing I will make some for myself when I get home. 

Fast forward many years, and I have finally made my own bircher muesli! Stephanie's version is absolutely beautiful, with still enough crunch and texture to be interesting, and so full of slivered almonds it's like my own little bowl of heaven. 

Having been wiped out all week with fluey aches and pains I threw this together hoping it would speed my recovery. Two bowls later I am sure it is starting to work its magic, no doubt helped by the wonderful pot set natural yoghurt that my family devours by the truckload. 

For something different I am thinking that next time I might replace the strawberries with slices of poached pear. In fact I can see the bircher being included in a dessert medley very soon. Imagine this with a ginger ice-cream and some rhubarb compote...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

287/984 - Baghdad eggs

Our chooks are in fine form at the moment and we have more eggs than we can poke a stick at. So in order to reduce the stockpile, Baghdad eggs were on the menu for my lunch the other day. I cooked them as the chefs do on TV; preparing all of my ingredients beforehand and then making my lunch in a matter of minutes.

I always find it easier to break my eggs into a glass before tipping them into a pan as it is much easier to spot stray pieces of shell when done this way.

Even though my boys said they were not hungry when I was cooking, the two of them were like a pair of baby birds with their mouths open as I ate this. They liked these so much I had to make a second batch for Henry, although I did instruct him to grind his own cumin. Even slaves have limits!

I was disappointed to discover that my mint in the garden had died and so will have to make these again when I resurrect the plant, just to see what these decadent eggs taste like with something green on top. With more butter than was strictly necessary, a good amount of garlic, a dash of lemon juice and finished with cumin, salt and pepper, I give this dish two thumbs up.

My tip for maximum enjoyment however, is to eat it far away from ravenous children. Or simply triple the recipe just in case.
My beautiful Slovenian salt

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

286/984 - Brain salad with celery and mustard cream sauce

Look away now if you do not like brains!

I have committed to cooking every recipe in the book and this dish, while it was not my favourite, was loved by the family. I was not particularly well on the day I made this and so was more squeamish than usual. Having to handle and prepare the brains when I was not well meant that by the time we sat down to lunch I struggled to look at the brains, let alone eat them. Lucky for me I have three boys who will eat ANYTHING and so nothing was wasted.

Earlier in this challenge, when I was still cooking from the orange edition, I was proud to have completed three chapters. Since the upgrade I do not have any chapters complete, but amusingly, the brain chapter is one of the few with only a single recipe remaining. 

For the sake of the squeamish readers, I will hold off on attacking the last brain recipe for a little while. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

285/984 - Sticky toffee pudding

My blogging is all over the place at the moment! This is the dessert I served up to my offal crowd a couple of weeks ago. 

I left the dates to soak while we ate the main course and then threw everything together at the last minute for baking. In my opinion, the reason this pudding tasted so good was because it was put back in the oven once the sauce had been poured on top, and it came out soaked through and bubbling. The double cream spooned over the top didn't hurt either.  

My guests were equally impressed and I was feeling quite proud of myself until we headed out to Josie Bones a week later and the boys informed me, in very serious tones, that while my sticky date pudding was lovely, Josie Bones made a better one. I was offended until I tasted theirs and realised the boys were right. I think mine came in at a very close second though. 

I absolutely LOVED this dessert and it was made doubly special with the Pedro Ximenez sherry brought along by Trev's very generous Uncle. 

A match made in heaven to be sure.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

284/984 - Harira

I made this lovely soup for a group of colleagues recently. I don't know what went wrong, but my harira was a bit watery and lacking in flavour. After throwing in some additional bits and pieces including a tin of tomatoes and some coriander root, the soup was absolutely lovely and ready to serve!

This soup was served with chopped, boiled eggs which I sprinkled with salt and roasted cumin. A lovely, and quite traditional, accompaniment. I also served some individual flat breads because they are so easy to make and I love them! Of course I feel spoiled that my thermomix kneads the dough for me but I still have to roll and cook them. 

So here we are, I can't believe there are only 700 recipes to go. It sounds like a lot, but with 284 behind me I am confident I will make it through. 


Sunday, September 1, 2013

283/984 - Lamb shanks with couscous

What better way to say goodbye to winter than with a meal of slow cooked lamb shanks?

I messed about with the recipe a bit and used Lebanese couscous, or moghrabieh, which is a much larger version and very much loved by my family. Rather than cooking it separately, I threw in my moghrabieh at the beginning of the recipe so that it could soak up the lovely juices. 

Rather than using 400g as directed, I think I should have reduced the amount because my moghrabieh swelled beautifully and we ended up eating this dish for days, both for lunch and dinner! Not the lamb shanks of course, they were inhaled at the first sitting. I will admit that by the final night of eating the stew, we needed a change and so added chorizo and a pile of extra vegetables so that we could pretend we were tasting something new.

Goodbye winter and hello spring!