Tuesday, March 31, 2015

431/1038 - Bok choy with fermented black beans

This is the beautiful dish which inspired my first attempt at cooking cha-siu pork. 

To be honest, once the pork was organised, this dish was very quick to put together. I really liked the way the bok choy was cut into quarters, making it pretty to plate and also enabling the edges to char a little in the pan. The cubes of pork and black beans gave this dish a wonderful flavour and certainly made vegetables seem much more exciting to the boys!  

We all adore fermented black beans and given that I now have almost an entire packet stinking out one of my tupperware containers, I think I need to get cracking with some more black bean recipes.

Monday, March 30, 2015

430/1038 - Cha siu-style pork

I have had this recipe ear-marked for more than a week now but, due to a small misunderstanding, this is the first time I have actually had all of the required ingredients to hand.

After an incident with a rather large huntsman, lots of bug spray and a car door that was not closed properly, my adored little Smart car has been sitting idle for the past week with a flat battery. As such, I asked my husband to pick me up some red rice vinegar, the only ingredient I was lacking for this wonderful recipe. 

Apparently when you are only semi-listening, red rice vinegar sounds a lot like red rice...and so that's what he came home with! No matter, we had a lovely meal that evening with red rice the star, supported by steamed trout and steamed veg.

Today he came through with the goods, having spent quite some time searching at the local Chinese grocer. I excitedly threw together the cha-sui marinade and spent the next four hours intermittently rotating my pork and inhaling its wonderful aroma.

This was actually a very simple recipe, but one that created a lot of mess! Marinating dish, draining rack, oven rack and drip tray...there was a lot to clean up. Thankfully it was worth it. (Easily said given I was not on dishes duty!) It smelled so good the boys began tucking in almost the second it came out of the oven.

The actual reason I made this was to include it in my bok choy with fermented beans, which I also made for dinner tonight.

Post to come! x

Monday, March 23, 2015

429/1038 - Rice noodle soup with garlic chives and pressed bean curd

There has been quite a lot of blogging involving cabbage lately and so thought I would shake things up with this simple noodle soup.

Eating dinner tonight, I couldn't help but think of Kung Fu Panda as I struggled to capture slippery squares of silken tofu with my chopsticks. It was the, "You are free to eat" scene that came to mind and I was chuckling to myself thinking that somebody should create a chopsticks diet to encourage people to slow down their food intake. It's not a bad idea really, since it takes twenty minutes for the message that you are full to get from stomach to brain; and of course by the time it gets there it is usually too late! 

As she has done so many times in the past, Stephanie provided me with a recipe that is quite simply fast food at its best. So simple to put together, this soup was on the table in minutes and as a bonus, everybody loved it! I didn't have any black rice vinegar and so we topped this with a splash of dark mushroom soy. At a pinch, I am sure regular soy would also have worked to provide the dash of flavour this soup needed to make it truly fabulous. 

The obvious substitution I made was to use silken tofu instead of pressed bean curd, for no reason other than the fact that it was in the fridge and pressed bean curd was not. I also replaced the fresh chilli with a good dash of Darwin Chilli co. hot sauce. The smell of this, together with the fresh ginger in the pan was simply wonderful. 

I highly recommend this soup to anybody looking for a quick feed. Don't forget the chopsticks for a truly amusing experience. 

You are free to eat x

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

428/1038 - Sweet potato and prawn fritters

This recipe takes us way, way back to the original edition of The Cook's Companion and also represents my fourth chapter completed. I can imagine what you are thinking - almost four years into the challenge and only four chapters finished? In my defence, I do like to spread my cooking around and try to focus on the chapters with more recipes left to cook. This plan should also mean that I am not left with a multitude of recipes centred around the same ingredient at the end of the challenge. There is, as always, method in my madness. 

I will confess to messing about with this recipe a little, omitting the sugar and replacing the flours for coconut and a gluten free flour blend that I purchased recently from Pomona cafe. I also replaced some of the coconut milk with water, purely because I had trebled the recipe and didn't have enough. Last but not least, I used coconut oil for frying. My fritters were little oil suckers and I had to keep adding it to the pan as I fried. This upped the coconut flavour quite a bit, which of course was a fabulous outcome.

I really liked these, as did the family. We ate them on top of raw cabbage and carrot, to counteract the decadence of the fritters. A fabulous addition to our dinner was a drizzle of the fiery sweet chilli sauce recently purchased from Darwin chilli co. Such a fabulous taste, but wow did it blow our socks off!

I have quite a bit of fritter mixture left over, which I cooked up in a scrambled fashion in the pan. I confess this was mainly because I was tired of making patties! I imagine tonight's dinner will either be a crustless quiche or perhaps little home made pasties.

Leftovers really are one of my favourite things.

Darwin Chilli Co. sauces that recently landed on my very
lucky doorstep. Amazing product from a small family business.
(This enormous quantity was an order for my extended
family, we are not crazy chilli heads!)
Post Script! I made a beautiful oven bake from the leftovers with fresh corn, chorizo, egg and spring onion. 


I love leftovers!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

427/1038 - Cabbage salad with anchovy sauce

Calling all anchovy lovers...this recipe is fabulous! 

I had plenty of cabbage left over from the lion's head meatball recipe (it was enormous!) and so decided that this salad could be the basis of a lovely meal. I do try to sneak at least two vegetarian meals past my family each week and this one was absolutely wonderful. My reasons for doing this are threefold; health-based (a balanced diet must be a good thing!), environmental (read: less meat production) and ethical (I would much rather eat animals which are raised humanely, therefore it is logical that I should not expect to be able to eat meat every day). 

So for this dinner I started with potatoes, which I sliced, oiled, salted and baked. Next step was to put the salad together as it needed to sit for at least thirty minutes before eating. I used beautiful white anchovies instead of the grey, salted variety as their taste is quite mild and I tend to keep them on hand for recipes such as this. Oh and also for random snacking, which I do frequently. The salad literally took a couple of minutes to put together - my kind of salad! 

Once the salad was resting it was time to slice a pile of Swiss browns and pan fry them in lots of butter. My family adore mushrooms done this way and so I knew that no matter what the rest of dinner tasted like, I would be on to a winner. 

Last of all I lightly fried a thick piece of halloumi for each member of the family. I would normally do this in oil but given there was a fair amount of butter still in the pan I used that instead. Stacking it all together, I was conscious that a bit of colour might have been nice. Given that this was a Wednesday night dinner for my family (and not a fancy dinner party) I didn't bother to rectify this. 

The flavour combination of these elements was nothing short of fabulous! The sweetness of the buttery mushrooms was beautifully offset by the saltiness of the potatoes and halloumi, and the anchovy salad gave the dish a wonderful flavour burst.

Very happy with this one x

Monday, March 9, 2015

426/1038 - Lion's head meatballs with Chinese cabbage

I do love a recipe with a fabulous name! 

As my children so aptly described tonight's dinner, these meatballs are just like the inside of a delicious pork dumpling. Only of course it would need to be one big dumpling to fit these babies in! The meatballs are large, as big as a fist, and full of wonderful Asian flavours including soy sauce, rice wine and fresh ginger.

Simmering for two hours on the stove resulted in lovely light balls that I served smothered in Chinese cabbage with brown rice, steamed capsicum and plenty of the chicken stock they were cooked in. 

Having already added a good pinch of river salt to the pork mixture, I found that all my dinner needed was a good crack of pepper to finish it off. 

The family were big fans of this dish and everybody hurried back for seconds. Even so, we still have plenty left for tomorrow night which I am thinking I might extend with more liquid to make it more of a soupy affair. 

Options everywhere. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

425/1038 - Slow-cooked zucchini

This is the lovely looking little entrée I served to my dinner guests on Sunday evening.

Having decided that I would like to road test the recipe for slow-cooked zucchini, I simply added a few more layers and my dish was born. On the bottom was a home-made tomato sauce, slow cooked for several hours and flavoured with bay leaf and rosemary. The filling was the absolutely incredible zucchini which also spent a couple of hours on the stove top. It was the coriander seeds that made it fabulous! The zucchini leftovers ended up in a fabulous and very homely beef mince stir fry the following night.

On top was a small handful of Barossa Gypsy ham, which has the most wonderful onion and garlic coating. To finish things off I made mini garlic chips, which not only looked pretty but imparted a good crunch and great flavour to the dish.

These lovely layers were held together by circles of potato, which had been pan fried in coconut oil and then baked. I almost had a mini disaster on the day after I fried the potato and put it in the oven to be baked a bit closer to plating time. Completely forgetting they were there, I absent-mindedly pre-heated the oven in readiness for the bread, and after a few minutes wondered why I could smell potato cooking. I took them out without any damage done, but it did mean that the dish needed to be served cold as I was not keen to cook them a third time.

Last but not least, some lemon zest was grated over the top of my little stack, an addition I love to include in so many dishes, both sweet and savoury.

I was pleased with this entrée, but it was nowhere near my best work. Remembering to add the smoked salt and heating the potato just before plating might have elevated my rating of this dish. No matter, the guests were happy and on this night it ticked all of the required dietary boxes for my guests. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

424/1038 - Roman lamb stew

Do not let this fairly ordinary picture deceive you! Roman lamb stew is absolutely lovely and quite frankly deserved a much better effort on my part of photographing the result. In my defence it was served at a dinner party and so I was conscious of not spending too much time away from my guests, fiddling with the camera. 

I spent a bit of extra time designing the menu for this event as one of my fellow diners is on a restricted diet for medical reasons; abstaining from dairy, gluten and sugar. I found myself discarding recipe after recipe in search of the perfect menu but got there in the end with a range of dishes I was comfortable would complement one another nicely. 

Apart from cooking two separate loaves of bread, I was keen to ensure the menu was accessible to all, not wanting to serve up two different versions of a meal and make my friend feel different or uncomfortable.

As I generally do when putting the final touches on a meal, I hacked a rather large piece out of my finger while dissecting the lamb shoulder. After this incident I was not keen to go anywhere near the bone and so left that to the side for another day. About 15 band-aids later I stemmed the bleeding and rendered myself presentable enough to greet my guests. 

The resulting stew had the most beautiful flavour (minus any blood, I swear), with the lamb taking in the scent of the herbs and drawing flavour from the simple soffritto which spent some time in the pan first. The meat was also lovely and tender, falling away from itself easily.

My husband had made a Roman lamb stew many years ago, using the recipe from The Silver Spoon, another favourite cookbook of ours. It is probably a good thing that it was too long ago to say which version was better, although if memory serves his was every bit as good as this one.

Conclusion: All Roman stews are fabulous!

My special menu