I hope you enjoy the food!!!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Pizza again!!

The origin of the word pizza is unclear but it appears to have become a part of the medieval latin vernacular by 997.  It was originally a baker's tool - a dough that was used the verify the temperature of the oven.

During the 16th Century in Naples a flat Galette was referred to as a pizza.  It was considered a dish of the poor people and was sold on the street.  It was not considered a kitchen recipe for a long time.

The innovation that gave us the pizza as we know it today was the tomato.  Tomato was brought to Europe from the Americas in the 16th Century - Europeans were reluctant to try the tomato as they thought it was poisonous - (it belongs to the nightshade family of fruits - of which some are poisonous).  Prior to this pizza was traditionally covered with white sauce.

By 1889 we began to see the introduction of cheese and the beginnings of the pizza as we know it was born!

Today there are so many different varieties of pizza - where ever there is a flatbread you have a form of pizza - and the toppings - well you are only limited by your imagination!

Last night I made an Indian inspired Pizza

Chicken and Capsicum Naan Bread Pizza

1 red capsicum - roasted and skin removed - cut into thin strips
1 BBQ chicken - meat removed and shredded
Garlic and coriander naan bread
1/3 cup mango chutney
fresh coriander
natural yoghurt

Roast your capsicums under a grill until the skin blackens and blisters.  Leave to cool and then peel skin away.

Spread the naan bread with the chutney.  Top with chicken and capsicum strips.  Bake for 10 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Garnish with coriander leaves and dollops of natural yoghurt.

I thought it was pretty good - but the M.O.T.H (Man Of The House) thought is needed cheese!!

The second pizza was more traditional - although I used lebanese bread as the base.

Ham & Chicken Bocconcini Pizza

Lebanese bread
tomato paste (mixed with BBQ sauce)
Roasted cherry tomatoes - halved
mediterranean style marinated bocconcini cheese

The cherry tomatoes were grilled along side the capsicum until the skin was blistered and black.  They were placed cut side down then grilled.

Spread the lebanese bread base with the tomato paste and BBQ sauce.

Top with ham, chicken, cherry tomatoes, and bocconcini that has been pulled apart.  Top with a small amount of mozzarella.  Bake for 10 minutes or until crisp and golden.

And there you have it - another Sunday Pizza Night in our house!!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Honey Glazed Pork with Roasted Pear & Fennel and Raspberry Cake for Dessert!

Last night I used my favourite cut of meat again - the pork scotch fillet!!

Tonight it was baked with a honey soy marinade and teamed with roasted pear and fennel, pumpkin, and some "smashed" potatoes.  We had a feast fit for a king!!  The piece of pork I used was approximately 1.9kg and cost around $15 - when you consider that we fed 7 people with it last night - it worked out a very economical meal.

Honey Soy Glaze

1/2 cup of honey
3 tbs soy sauce
3 cloves crushed garlic
2 knobs of ginger finely chopped (a knob is approximately the size of the bottom joint on your thumb)

approximately 15 sage leaves (these you add during the last hour of cooking onto the top of the pork)

A really great way to marinade any kind of meat is to place all the marinade ingredients into a large ziploc bag.  This was a tip I picked up on a Jamie Oliver show years ago - and you know it is one of the best tips I have heard.  You can "knead" the marinade into the meat really easily and - the best part is you throw it away when you are finished!

So I let the pork marinade for around 5 hours - but if you are short of time 1 hour will do.  Longer is obviously better.

It was then placed it into an oven that had been preheated to 160 degrees C and it was roasted for 2 hours.  Make sure you baste and turn it frequently - approximately every 30 minutes - this ensures even browning.

Now during this first hour is the time to get all your veggies ready.  Tonight the major accompaniment was to be fennel and pear.  I trimmed the fennel of the bushy green parts (you can use this as garnish if you like) - cut the bottoms and remove the hard outer part.  Then cut each one into 4 pieces.  The pear was quartered, and the core removed.  I coated the pear and fennel in a splash of olive oil then put them onto a baking tray with a small amount of the marinade.

Our other side dish was to be "smashed potatoes" - now this is a great favourite with "the darlings".  I simply boil new potatoes until tender (with the skin on) - drain and then place on a baking tray that has been lined with baking paper - then "smash" them and coat them liberally with garlic olive oil spray.

Tonight pumpkin was added to all the other vegetables to be roasted.

Once the pork has been in the oven for an hour, it is time to add all your other vegetables.

As you are putting all the vegetables into the oven place the sage leaves on top of the pork.

When the pork is cooked to your liking it needs to rest for 15 minutes before you cut it!

During this 15 minutes  - pour a small amount of honey over the pear and fennel just to glaze them and sprinkle your "smashed" potatoes with a small amount of grated parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt.  Bake for a further 15 minutes.

You may like to add some greenery to the meal - we had baby asparagus and peas.

The result....

mmmm doesn't that look good?

They all said YES!!!

But wait, there's more..... we still had room for dessert!!

Raspberry Bundt Cake

1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
3 cups plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups caster sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1 tbs vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (not fan forced)

Grease and lightly flour the bundt pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt - set aside.

In a large bowl combine the sugar, oil, cranberry juice, vanilla and eggs.  Beat well until smooth.

On a plate lightly sprinkle the raspberries with a small amount of flour (this prevents them from sinking in the cake!)

With a large metal spoon stir the flour into the sugar and egg mixture.  Gently fold in the raspberries and the almonds.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 60-70 minutes - or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

This is a fairly dense cake - it reminded me a lot of steamed puddings that my mum used to made when I was young.

With a scoop of vanilla ice cream the night was finished on a sweet note.

So Dear Readers did you enjoy dinner at our house tonight???  There is nothing better in life than sharing good food with friends is there?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Choo Chee Prawns

If you are looking for a beautiful fresh, vibrantly flavoured Thai style dish that is as fast to make as getting a take away, then this is the dish for you!

So let's turn this......

Into this.....

Choo Chee Prawns

Now the recipes says it serves 4 - I am not going to lie to you - if this was served with another dish - maybe - but with approximately 24 prawns to the kilo - you do the math!!!

2 tsp sesame oil
1 onion, chopped finely
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 long red chilli, finely chopped
1kg green prawns peeled, tail left on
1 tbs sambal oelek
400ml coconut milk
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
20 fresh curry leaves
1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked
1 bunch thai basil, leaves picked

Jasmine rice to serve

Now here are your options:

If you like your Thai food hot - leave the seeds and the membrane in the chilli when you chop it up.
If you like it milder, remove the seeds and membrane.

To add more heat increase the amount of sambal oelek to 2 tablespoons.

The coconut milk can be either low fat or regular - depending on your taste.

Now to the easy part

Steam or boil your jasmine rice.  This will take longer than making the dish so get it started now.  While the rice is cooking do all your prep work - pick your leaves, chop your chilli etc.

When the rice is 5 minutes from being cooked you can start the dish.  Or you can let the rice just sit and steam for 5 minutes.

Heat the sesame oil in a wok over medium high heat.  Stir fry the onion, garlic, chilli and sambal oelek for 2-3 minutes, or until the onion has softened.  Now add the prawns, cook stirring constantly until they just change colour.

Add the coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce and oyster sauce.  Add all your "greens" - ie basil, coriander and curry leaves.  Bring the mixture to the boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for around 1 minute - making sure the prawns are cooked through.  Do not overcook, as the prawns will go tough.

Serve with your steamed jasmine rice and you have a meal as good as any you will get in a Thai restaurant!!!

Additional notes:

Thai basil and curry leaves can be found in the fresh herb section of your supermarket or green grocer store.

Sambal oelek can be found in the asian section of supermarkets or at asian specialty stores.

How easy was that Dear Readers??  So why would you go out for take away again?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chicken and Pork Cassoulet

What is a cassoulet?

Cassoulet is a dish that dates back to at least the 14th century, and originates from the south of France.

Typically it was made with a meat, either pork sausages, pork, goose or duck and was combined with white beans, traditionally haricot beans.  The dish is actually named after the vessel that it was cooked in the cassole which was a deep round earthenware pot with slanting sides.

Today the term cassoulet is applied to any hearty bean based casserole.

Last night I made a Chicken and Pork Cassoulet - a rustic, simple, but hearty winter warmer.

Chicken and Pork Cassoulet

Serves 6

1.5kg chicken drummettes (these are the little wing "drumsticks")
500g pork sausages - cut in to 4cm pieces
1 brown onion, chopped
1 leek, halved, washed, thinly sliced
150g bacon rashers, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 sprigs fresh thyme
400g can crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
400g cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

In a non stick frypan over medium high heat cook the sausages until browned on the outside.  Put aside in a large bowl.  Cook the chicken drumettes until golden on the outside - place in the bowl with the sausages.  You are only browning them - not cooking them.  I didn't use any oil for doing this - there was sufficient in the sausages and in the chicken skin.

Add a small amount of olive oil to the pan and add the onion, leek, bacon, garlic and thyme.  Cook, stirring for approximately 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.  Add the tomato, bay leaves, beans and stock. Bring to the boil.

Place the sausages and chicken in a large flat overproof dish (3L size).  Pour over the tomato mixture.

Top with the fresh breadcrumbs.  I then sprayed carefully with garlic spray to help crispen up the breadcrumbs.  This needs to be baked for approximately 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  You will need to keep an eye on this though.  If the breadcrumbs are cooking too quickly - cover lightly with foil.  Another idea is to cook for approximately 15-20 minutes then add the breadcrumb topping.  If you try this let me know how you go!!

Serve with steamed green beans.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spanish Style Chicken

There is a nineteenth century proverbial phase that was penned by Robert Browning in 1855 that quotes
"less is more".  This is a notion that simplicity and clarity lead to good design.

As I was browsing through the latest edition of Super Food Ideas I found a recipe that had only 6 ingredients.  I looked at the ingredients and thought to myself - there is nothing special there - chicken, onions, bottled pasta sauce..... will this recipe be any different to say a bolognaise?  Well you know me always looking for something that is quick to prepare, and won't offend "the darlings" with too many vegetables (or should I say, not take me too long to pick them out of their meals before I serve them!!)  I decided to give this recipe a try, and you know what I was rewarded with a lovely meal.

Spanish Style Chicken

Serves 5

1.2kg chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into cubes approx 4-5cm
1-2 tbs olive oil
2 red onions, halved and cut into wedges
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g jar tomato and basil pasta sauce (I used Raguletto)
100g artichoke hearts (in brine, not oil), drained (I used Sandhurst)
Kalamata olives - as many or as little as you like!!

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Cook the chicken in batches until golden.  Transfer to a plate.

Heat a little more olive oil in the pan, add the onion and garlic.  Cook for approximately 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is softened.

Return the chicken to the pan, add the pasta sauce, and simmer for around 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and tender.

Add the artichokes and olives to the sauce.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

This dish is great served over risoni pasta - but you could also serve it with rice.

So there you have it - a simple, tasty dish that has only 7 ingredients (I added garlic - you can't have a tomato based dish without garlic can you?)

I was pleasantly surprised by the flavours in this dish, and it proved to me that "less is more".

So Dear Readers do you have a "less is more" dish that you make??

I apologise for the smears on the plate - I realised afterwards (when there was no more food left to take another photo) that I hadn't "stylised" the plate!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


One of my Dear Readers told me that she was going to try the Double Choc Chip Oatmeal Cookie recipe that I made on the weekend - but commented that one of her children would like White Chocolate and Cranberry.  I told her that I have a recipe for shortbread that I make with these two ingredients in it.

This recipe is one that I have been making since the early 80's - and  in my usual manner I have adapted it to make it mine!!  It is my little "Christmas secret recipe" - every year I make several batches in various different flavours - they make great presents - you tie up several different varieties in clear cellophane with pretty ribbons and you have a gift that everyone loves.

Basic Shortbread Recipe

Makes approximately 1 1/2 dozen small shortbread.
You need to have "mini" muffin pans to make this "my way".

250g butter
1/3 cup icing sugar
1/3 cup cornflour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups plain flour.

Melt the butter and allow it to cool slightly.

Sift the icing sugar and cornflour into the bowl of a mixer.  Add the sugar.  Add the butter and vanilla, and beat the mixture until it is thick and creamy. (This can seem like it is never going to happen sometimes - be patient - it will happen!!)

Add the sifted flour and mix well.

At this point this is where your "options" take place


chocolate chips
white choc chips and chopped macadamias
white choc chips and dried cranberries
grated orange rind and poppy seeds
chopped hazlenuts

the options are only limited by your imagination!!

Mix in your options.

Press approximately a large teaspoon of mixture into the mini muffin tins - you want the tins to be 3/4 full.  Press the mixture down with the back of a teaspoon.  Sprinkle the top with a little sugar.

Bake at 180 degrees C for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are starting to turn slightly brown.

Leave in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then gently prize from the tins with a sharp knife.  Allow to cool completely on cooling racks.

There you have it - a fabulous little shortbread that really is so simple to make and appreciated so much by whoever receives it.

Creamy Cheesy Chicken Gnocchi

What is a recipe?

To some people a recipe is a set of instructions that must be followed to the letter in order to achieve perfect results.  To others it is a concept, something that can be adapted or modified to suit particular tastes, or needs.

This particular recipe I saw several years ago in a Good Taste magazine.  I made it the first couple of times according to the recipe, but over time I have adapted it to suit our particular family's needs (I have reduced the fat content).

Creamy Cheesy Chicken Gnocchi

Serves 6

2 x 500g shelf life gnocchi
1 tbs (or less - you really do not need much) olive oil
250g short cut bacon, chopped
1 leek, ends trimmed, halved lengthways, sliced thinly
1 BBQ chicken, meat shredded
200g green beans, cut into 1cm pieces
200g baby spinach
3 1/4 cups low fat milk
1/2 cup (40g) shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup grated low fat cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Cook the gnocchi according to the directions on the pack.

Heat the oil in a frypan over medium heat.  Add the bacon and the leek, cook stirring for 4-5 minutes, or until the leek has softened.  Add the chicken, beans and spinach and cook stirring for 1-2 minutes, or until the spinach has wilted.

Put 3 cups of milk into a saucepan.  Blend the cornflour with the remaining 1/4 cup of milk in a small cup, then add this to the milk in the saucepan.  Heat over medium heat, and stir constantly until the milk boils and thickens.  Remove from the heat.  Add the parmesan cheese, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add the chicken/bacon mixture to the parmesan/milk mixture.  Gently fold the gnocchi into this combined mix.

Spoon this mixture into a greased 3L capacity shallow ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle over the grated cheese.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is golden.

So Dear Readers, are you a follower or a "tweaker"?  I also pose the question when does a recipe become your own?   Some say that if you change one ingredient the recipe is yours!!  What do you think?

Monday, May 24, 2010


Last night on MasterChef the challenge was pizza!!  Have MasterChef been reading my blog and discovered that Sunday night is pizza night here too??

I tried to be inventive last night and make something a little different than our normal "left overs" pizza.  I had seen a recipe for a crab pizza recently and decided to give it a go.  So with this in mind I purposefully bought the ingredients for this particular pizza, but decided to "wing" the others - ie whatever I could find in the fridge.

My crab pizza went a little like this

Pizza base was covered with bechamel sauce, topped with a little parmesan.  On top of this went the crab, then mozzarella.  Caramelised onion, tomato slices then into the pizza oven.  When it came out it was topped with shredded mozzarella.

Not bad, but not the best pizza I have ever had.

Now to the "winged" one.  What was there in the fridge that I could use?

Some frozen green prawns, some pancetta, avocado ... mmmm that sounds ok.

So onto the base this time was a combination of tomato pizza sauce with a small amount of BBQ sauce (I find this gives it a bit more flavour).  The prawns were defrosted and pan fried until they just turned pink with a good amount of garlic.  Bung these onto the base, top with shreds of the pancetta, and now the secret ingredient - there was a  small amount of the becahmel sauce left over from the first pizza so small "dobs" of it were put over the pizza.  This was all topped with mozzarella - then into the oven.  When cooked it was topped with avocado slices.

And the winner was - the prawn and pancetta pizza!

Sometimes going with your instinct and "winging" it works best!!

Dear Readers what is your favourite pizza topping?

By the way I thought my pizzas were better than some I saw on MasterChef!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Double Choc Chip Oatmeal Cookies

On a wet Sunday afternoon what else is there to do but bake???

Having received my prize this week from Good Taste Magazine  (the Baker's Secret pack consisting of a cookie tray, bundt tin, and dessert moulds) I was inspired to bake.  My first thought was to make a bundt cake, but then settled on Chocolate Chip Cookies.  This recipe came to me via an email several years ago.  I can't quite remember the story - but it was one of those urban myth type emails about Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies.  Me being me, just went with the recipe!!  This recipe makes a serious amount of cookies - but if you have kids hanging around waiting for them to come out of the oven this won't be a problem!

Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Makes about 60 cookies!!

250g butter, softened
340g chocolate chips (milk or dark)
2 cups plain flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
250g white chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups blended oatmeal
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Note: You can also add 1 1/2 cup chopped nuts.  I personally don't add the nuts I think they are fine with just the chocolate chips.

In a food processor blend the oatmeal until finely ground.

In a mixer beat the butter and both sugars until creamy.

Add the eggs, vanilla, flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and bicarb soda.

Add the chocolate chips, (and nuts if you are using them) and mix well.

Roll approximately a dessertspoon of dough into a ball and place on a cookie tray that has been lined with baking paper - about 5cm apart.

Bake in the oven for approximately 10-15 minutes (check after 10 minutes and move the trays around so they brown evenly) they should be lovely and golden.

Cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer with a spatula to a cooling rack (and try and keep the vultures off them!!!)

And the verdict is .......

                                            Everyone is happy!!

PS - Check out the latest edition of Good Taste magazine - I am on the Reader Taste Testing Panel (I won a fondue set!!!) - I tried some good recipes - you might like to give them a go too!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pork and Capsicum Hotpot

Life's back to normal!!

Well the "darlings" are home and life is back to it's usual hectic pace - that means tennis until 7pm!  I just couldn't face another late dinner, so I thought ahead and put a meal in the crock pot - then all I had to do was the finishing touches when I came in - smart thinking 99!!

For tonight's meal I have used a whole pork scotch fillet.  If you are looking for a very reasonable meal you cannot go past this particular cut of meat.
sliced up pork scotch fillets

 It generally sells for around $7.99 per kilo and the pieces are in the range of 1.5 - 2kg each.  There are so many ways you can prepare a pork scotch fillet - you can bake it, BBQ it, or use it in a casserole style dish.  You will see that I use it quite frequently.

Tonight's dish ......

Pork and Capsicum Hotpot

1/4 cup plain flour
1.5kg piece of pork scotch fillet - sliced into 2cm slices
olive oil
3 chorizo sausages, cut into slices
2 red capsicums, cut into 3cm pieces
2 red onions, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp paprika*
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 x 400g diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock

* The paprika can be either sweet hungarian or smoky - depending on your taste.  It works well will with both.  If you are serving children, hungarian is the better option as the smoky can be a little overbearing for kids.

Put the flour into a clean plastic bag, season with salt and pepper.  Add the pork and shake well to coat the pork slices.  Shake off the excess flour.

Heat a large frypan, and cook the chorizo slices until golden.  There is no need to add any oil as they are quite fatty sausages and they can cook in their own fat.  After they are golden, remove from the pan, and drain on paper towels.  Remove the excess oil from the pan by wiping out with paper towels.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in the frypan and cook the pork slices until they are golden on each side (approximately 2-3 minutes). Remove from pan, and put aside until all pieces are cooked.  You may need to add a small amount of oil after each batch.  Make sure to reheat the pan between batches.

Wipe out the pan again, and heat a small amount of oil in the pan.  Add the combined capsicum, garlic, and onion to the pan.  Cook. stirring, for 5 minutes.  Add the paprika and saffron, and cook for around a minute, or until aromatic.  Stir in the tomato and stock.

Place the pork and chorizo into the crock pot.  Pour the tomato mixture over.

Cook in the crock pot for 8 hours on low.  I have made this recipe twice now and I have found both times that it tends to bubble over in the crock pot.  I simply remove some of the cooking liquid during cooking, reserve it in case you need it later.

Serve with creamy polenta.  You will find the recipe for polenta on the "Osso Bucco and Torta Caprese" blog.  Garnish with oregano leaves.


You can prepare this the day before if you are short of time on cooking day.  Simply put the mixture in a large bowl and cover it with cling wrap and put it in the fridge overnight.  Allow it to sit out of the fridge for an hour or so before putting it into the crock pot.  Put the crock pot on high for an hour to speed up the warming up of the dish - then put on low for the remainder of the time.  Don't put the crock pot bowl  in the fridge with the meat etc.  It takes too long to heat the "crock" and you run the risk of bacterial infection by doing this.

You can also cook this meal in the oven - increase the tomatoes to 800g, and reduce the chicken stock to 1/2 cup.  Put the mixture into a large casserole dish and bake at 180 degrees C for 1 1/2 hours, covered with foil.

Nothing beats walking into the house at 7:30 and smelling this beautiful dish bubbling away!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

BBQ Pork and Singapore Noodle Stir Fry

A "Precious" favourite!

What a lovely quiet week it has been.  It is amazing the how the chemistry changes in the house when you remove a few "free radicals"!  

With the "darlings" at camp we decided to go out and have a Thai meal last night, and enjoy the quiet while we could.   That got me to thinking about what recipe I could share with you today, when I hadn't actually cooked last night, (well technically I did as I was preparing the next night's dinner, but you will have to wait until tomorrow to hear about that one!).

This dish is a favourite in our house - in fact this is the dish that "precious" asks for as her birthday  dinner treat.

BBQ Pork and Singapore Noodle Stir Fry

Serves 4

Recipe is best made just before serving - but having said that the flavours develop and it tastes really good the next day!

250g dried thin egg noodles
2 tbs peanut oil
4 eggs, beaten lightly
1 medium brown onion, chopped finely
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tbs mild curry paste (red thai curry works well)
200g Chinese BBQ Pork, cut into thin slices
200g pork mince (chicken works well too)
200g small shelled cooked prawns
3 green onion (shallots), chopped coarsely
1/4 cup (60ml) light soy sauce
2 tbs oyster sauce
2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped (optional) or you may like to use sambal oelek (chilli paste)

Note:  If you like, you can use green prawns in this recipe as well - just add them after you have cooked the pork.  I actually like to use green prawns and I slice them in half so they are "thinner versions" of themselves - this way they go further and they curl up beautifully.

Cook the noodles in a large pan of boiling water, uncovered until tender, about 10 minutes - drain well.

Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a wok or large frying pan, add the beaten egg, swirl to make a thin omelette.  When the egg is just set, remove the omelette from the pan, roll it, and then cut into thin strips.  Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the wok, and fry the onion and garlic until the onion is softened, add the curry paste and stir-fry until fragrant.  At this time if you don't like "raw" shallots in your noodles add the shallots to the pan as well.

Add the mince to the wok and stir fry until the meat is browned.  Add the bbq pork, prawns, noodles, combined sauces and chillies.  Add half of the omelette strips to the pan, stir fry until it is all heated through.  If you haven't added the shallots - add them now.

Serve immediately topped with the remaining omelette.

This is a great dish to serve with other asian style dishes as part of dinner party.

So it is now time to batten down the hatches, and prepare for the onslaught that is due to arrive this afternoon - and then life goes back to it's usual hectic pace!!   I wonder how many loads of "stinking" washing I will be doing tonight???

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Corned Beef Hash


IF, and I do mean IF you have leftovers from your corned beef, what can you do with them???  Very rarely do we have leftovers in this house, those lovely pink morsels just seem to get "picked" at until...... hey, where did it all go?  Well, somehow we did have some leftovers, and they managed to survive the day in the fridge.  So what shall I make with them??  I could make a Rueben sandwich - corned beef, with swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and mustard on rye bread, or I could make Corned Beef Hash!!

Tonight faced with only 2 for dinner I decided to give Corned Beef Hash a go.  This is a meal that often features on American menus as a breakfast food, but who says it can't be a dinner food?  It has the two basic elements of a dinner - potato and meat, and with some added extras I think it fits the "easy dinner" criteria very well.

To make enough for 2 this is what I did.

Corned Beef Hash

3 medium sized new potatoes (with skin left on) - cubed
leftover corned beef, around 4 slices
1 small onion, diced
1/4 of red capsicum cut into small pieces
1 dessertspoon wholegrain honey mustard (to taste)
freshly ground black pepper

Placed the cubed potatoes into a saucepan and cover with water, add a small amount of salt.  Bring to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Drain really well in a colander.

In a frypan heat a small amount of olive oil and fry the onions until they start to soften.  Once they are softened, add the capsicum, cooking over high heat, stirring constantly.  Next add the cubed corned beef, and once that is starting to crisp up, add a small knob of butter.  When the butter has melted add the potato cubes.  Stir constantly over high heat, for a good 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are lovely and golden.  You will get some "sticking" to the pan - just scrape this up - this  adds to the wonderful crispy texture.  Add the mustard and pepper, and salt, if needed.

To serve you can top with a lightly poached egg - this gives it a "sauce" as you break open that beautiful gooey yellow centre.  You can also garnish with cherry tomatoes and steamed asparagus, to help get that veggie count up!  It doesn't seem so much like leftovers now does it??

So tell me Dear Readers do you have a "leftovers meal" you would like to share with us??

Old Fashioned Corned Beef

Fondest Childhood Food Memory

One of the first food challenges on MasterChef was to recreate a dish that conjured up the fondest childhood food memory.  After the challenge my mum asked me what I would have made?  I had to ponder on this and at first I couldn't think what I would have made.  A couple of dishes then came to mind - one was what we now endearingly refer to as "Spaghetti and Chicken" and the other dish was a good old fashioned comfort dish - corned beef, mashed potato, peas and mustard sauce!!!  Bet you can conjure up this in your own food memories can't you?

There are many ways to cook this dish - some cook it in a pressure cooker, some boil it in a saucepan.  I cook mine in a crock pot!!  I also have come to realise that there are many accompaniments to the good old corned beef.  Cabbage, Colcannon, boiled potatoes.... the list goes on.   Here is the recipe for my "Fondest Childhood Food Memory". (FCFM)

1- 2 kg piece of corned beef
2 carrots, diced into 3 large pieces each
1 onion, quartered
6 whole cloves
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tbs brown sugar

Into the crock pot place the carrots, onion, corned beef, cloves, brown sugar, and vinegar.  Cover with water.  Put the lid on the crock pot - put it on low.  Walk out the door - have fun, go to work..... and come back 6-8 hours later to the wonderful aromas, and a cooked piece of corned beef.

Now to serve my "FCFM" you must have mashed potatoes (and I know you all know how to make that so I won't bore you with the "how to").  Peas and carrots are our usual accompaniment.  Then there is the all important mustard sauce.  Now there are as many variations on this are there are families that eat this dish.  Some make a white parsley sauce, others a tangy mustard sauce, but  "the darlings" they like a sweet mustard sauce. Last night, as they were at camp, and I was trying to make a sauce that didn't use flour as a base I did it a little differently.

Into a saucepan I put one small chopped onion, covered this with approximately 1 1/2 cups of milk and gently simmered it for 5-10 minutes to impart the onion flavour to the milk.  I then strained this and added to the milk, chicken stock powder, mustard powder, ground pepper and a squeeze of honey mustard (just to give it a little sweet tang.  I thickened it with cornflour that had been mixed with a little milk.  Now as I have said, this is a very "personal taste" sauce - so you must add whatever component gives it the flavour that you like.

There you have it my "FCFM".

Dear Readers there is nothing better than coming home on a cold night to the smell of corned beef wafting through your house.  Tell me what smells do you love to come home to on a cold winter night?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crumbed Parmesan Chicken with Basil Sauce

Last night's dinner was a gluten free winner - and my mother-in-law even asked for the recipe!!!  I simply substituted the breadcrumbs with crushed cornflakes - and voila a crispy, tasty, crumbed chicken dish.

So the dish consisted of the Parmesan crumbed chicken, a salad of baby spinach with balsamic glazed cherry tomatoes, and golden roasted kipfler potatoes.  Now don't be scared, it is all really quite easy.  Let me lead the way!

Parmesan Chicken with a Creamy Basil Sauce

Serves 4

3 rashers of bacon, chopped finely
1 - 1/2 cup crushed cornflakes (this really depends on the size of the chicken breasts)
2 tbs chopped parsley
1/3 cup parmesan cheese (shredded)
100g butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
4 x chicken breasts

Creamy Basil Sauce

2/3 cup finely shredded basil (remember cut with scissors!!)
300ml light cooking cream
1 tbs olive oil
3 tsp malt vinegar
3 tsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed

Spinach Salad with Balsamic Tomatoes

1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
Baby Spinach Leaves.

Roasted Kipfler Potatoes
1 kg Kipfler potatoes, peeled, chopped into 3 cm pieces
Olive Oil

"Special Balsamic Sauce"
Equal measures of Maple Syrup and Balsamic Vinegar.

I usually make the sauce with 1/2 cup of each and always keep a bottle in the cupboard.  You will hear more about this sauce Dear Readers - I use it constantly - you will be amazed where you can use it!!

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.  The first thing you want to do is slow roast the cherry tomatoes.  Place the halved cherry tomatoes on a foil lined baking tray.  Spray with garlic olive oil spray and then dot liberally with crushed garlic.  You want to roast these until they have "collapsed" slightly and have a lovely roasted look.  This should take about 40-45 minutes.  At this time I want you to pour over a small amount of the "Special Balsamic Sauce" onto each tomato. Cook for an additional 5 minutes - this will give the tomatoes a lovely sweet taste.

Cook the bacon in a frypan, stirring constantly until lovely and crisp.  Drain well on a paper towel.  (Dear Reader the bacon was actually supposed to be incorporated into the crumb mixture - and I forgot - but you know what I think my way worked out better!!)

Now you want to crumb the chicken.  Combine cornflake crumbs, parmesan and parsley on a large plate.  Combine the butter, garlic and worcestershire sauce and mustard in a bowl.  With a pastry brush liberally paint the chicken with the butter mixture.  Then you need to coat the chicken with the cornflake mixture.  Place the crumbed chicken onto a baking tray that has been lined with baking paper.  I then sprayed the chicken with olive oil spray (be careful or you may blow off your crumbs!!!)

After the tomatoes are done - turn up the oven to 180 degrees C (fan forced)

Place the peeled, cubed kipfler potatoes in a bowl and pour in a small amount of olive oil and garlic, mix to cover well.  Place to potatoes on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Bake for approximately 40 minutes.

The chicken will take approximately 30 minutes - depending on the thickness of the breasts.  When the chicken is nearly done (around the 20-25 minute stage) top the pieces with the cooked bacon.

Now to the Sauce.

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan on high heat.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, or until thickened slightly.

To Serve place a small amount of spinach leaves and roasted cherry tomatoes on the plate, then chicken and potatoes.  Serve with the sauce on the side.

Good enough for the in-laws!!!

Monday, May 17, 2010


Food Safari - Bibimbap - Click on this link to view the video and see the recipe.

Cute to say, even better to taste.  

For lunch today I had Bibimbap!!  

A wonderfully tasty Korean dish.  There are apparently many variations on this dish - meat, or seafood, raw or cooked. With or without the egg, but what I loved most of all about this dish was the way it was served.  It came to the table with several little side dishes - crunchy cabbage with chilli, a dried shrimp dish (that I said I wouldn't eat) - but was delicious, a shredded noodle and crab meat salad, pumpkin soup and a bowl of miso.  If that was not enough, the actual Bibimbap was served in a stone bowl that was extremely hot - and what it did was continue to cook the rice so that as you stirred all the wonderful ingredients together you got little morsels of crispy "fried" rice.  The ingredients for the Bibimbap was a bottom layer of rice, topped with several kinds of vegetables, and  then topped with deliciously sweet BBQ beef (called Bulgogi).  

Dear Reader I said I would try all the recipes before I posted them, but well .... sometimes you just have to share the love of something!  I searched the internet for a recipe and I found one from Maeve O'Meara's Food Safari.  Watch the video - you will want to try one too!!

If you can't be bothered making this, then I urge you to find a Korean Restaurant and try it (ps - I think I would steer clear of some of the more commercial variations - try and find a real restaurant for your first time.)  I will actually give you the heads up here - I went to Soban Korean Cuisine in Hornsby, NSW - If you are in the area - I urge you to give it a try!   To top off this wonderful dining experience, it was a Lunch Special so all this came for the tiny price of $10.90!!  What a bargain.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Best Darn Ribs Ever!

Dear Readers have you ever wondered what the secret is to getting those perfect melt in your mouth BBQ pork ribs that you order in a restaurant?  Well the answer is twofold.

The first secret is having the perfect sauce (and really sometimes that is a personal taste thing - but once you have the basis of a good sauce you can tweak it to suit you perfectly).  The second secret is "par cooking" the ribs before baking them.  I am now going to share with you a recipe that I think makes the best BBQ Pork ribs!

Barbecue Sauce

2 x 400g cans of diced tomatoes
1 tbs oil
1 brown onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbs sea salt
125ml tomato sauce (ketchup)
60ml worcestershire sauce
2 tbs honey
185ml red wine vinegar
140g (3/4 cup) soft brown sugar
1 tbs paprika
2 tsp chili powder (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
125ml orange juice.

- Now here is the personal taste part

If you don't like the sauce too sweet, don't add as much sugar and honey.
The paprika can be either sweet hungarian, or smoky.
Leave out the chilli powder if you don't like it hot.
If you are an astute "foodie" and can lay your hands on some Liquid Smoke - this will add a lovely smoky flavour to the sauce.  You can find this more readily now in gourmet food shops and it is either called Hickory Smoke or Liquid smoke and it is great for adding to sauces like this.

Now to make the sauce....

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, garlic and sea salt.  Sweat over a low heat for 5 minutes until the onion is soft.  Add the tomatoes and all the remaining ingredients.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, or until lovely and thick.  Allow it to cool slightly and then puree with a stick blender, or food processor.  This will give you about 500ml of sauce which if you don't use all of it, will last in the fridge for about 3 weeks.

Now to the other secret ......

You can either leave the ribs in "slabs", or you can cut them into individual ribs.  Either way is good - Last night I cut them into individual ribs - you get more sauce on them that way, and you don't have to continually clean up to cut them with a knife!!

Place the ribs in a large pan of salted water.  Poach them gently for 1 hour.  Make sure you scoop the "scum" from the top of the water frequently.  After an hour drain them well in a colander.

Ater they have cooled slather them in the sauce and allow them to marinate for at least an hour - the longer the better.

Bake in a moderate oven for approximately 1 hour - basting frequently with the sauce.

Finger Lickin Good!!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas

A Family Favourite!

I haven't thought about this particular recipe for a long time, but my sister in law, after reading my blog,  reminded me about a recipe that I gave her many years ago.  Over the years this recipe has become a firm favourite with her family.  Perhaps as her daughter thinks about preparing meals now, this recipe may become one that she makes.  I guess this is how family favourites are made. 

Chicken Enchiladas

Serves 4

1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup sliced black olives (optional)
1 x green chilli, chopped (optional)
250g sour cream
420g cream of chicken soup
1 BBQ chicken, bones removed, chopped
1 cup grated cheese
8 corn tortillas
1/2 cup milk

For Serving:
extra sour cream
chopped tomatoes
chopped shallots
shredded lettuce

In a non stick frypan heat a small amount of oil, saute the onion and garlic until tender.  To the onion mixture add 1/4 cup olives, chillies, sour cream and soup.  Mix well.

Reserve approximately 3/4 cup of this mixture, and set aside.

To the remaining sauce mix add the chopped chicken, and 1/2 cup of the grated cheese.

Place the tortillas in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds to loosen them, then spread them out on the bench.  Divide the chicken mixture evenly among the tortillas, roll the tortillas up.  Place the enchiladas either in individual gratin dishes, or place them all in a greased baking dish.

To the reserved sauce mixture add the milk and mix well.  Spoon this sauce mixture over the tortillas.  Top with the remaining grated cheese.

Bake at 180 degrees C for 30-35 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

To serve top with sour cream, reserved olives, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, and shallots.  Add Salsa to taste.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can also modify it to make seafood enchiladas - replace the chicken with crabmeat, or prawns.  Yum - nothing better than Crab Enchiladas!

So I ask you Dear Readers is there a recipe you have given to someone that has become a family favourite with them?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pork and Mandarine Pot Roast

Another One Pot Dinner Winner!!

Against all odds last night's dinner was a success!!

Last night was one of those nights when even though you had planned it all perfectly, there was that inevitable "spanner" that came hurtling in threatening to ruin it all.

I had read the recipe, recalculated the cooking time based on the size of meat I was using, adjusted the liquid level to account for the larger piece of meat, had planned it around a scheduled appointment (and this is where it all went pear shaped) - the appointment was late, then later again, and then stayed too long. Even after all this, the meal was still beautiful, tender, and tasty!

Pork and Mandarine Pot Roast

Serves 6

Cooking time - 2 + hours

2 tsp oil
1.9kg whole pork scotch fillet
1 medium leek, sliced
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
5cm pice of ginger, chopped finely
3 medium mandarins
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
2/3 cups Shao Hsing Cooking Wine
1/2 cup light soy
3 tbs honey
1 bunch bok choy
1 bunch broccolini
1kg hokkien noodles (use what ever suits but between 500g-1kg)

Slice the leek, and wash well to make sure there is no grit in between the layers, drain well.

Grate the rind from the mandarins, be careful the skin in a lot thinner than an orange!!

Heat the oil in a large pan, brown the pork on all sides. You want to have a lovely golden, brown "sealing coat" all over the piece of meat. Don't worry if it tends to stick a little, just scrape the little bits off later. Remove the pork from the pan. Remove any excess oil from the pan - you only need about 1 teaspoon left. Add the leek, garlic and ginger to the pan, and cook stirring until the leek is soft.

Return to pork to the pan with the leek etc, add the stock, water, wine, soy sauce and the grated mandarin rind. Bring to the boil, and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours, check it occasionally to make sure it is not boiling too fast, you may want to turn it if you feel the meat is not completely covered with the liquid.

After this time add the honey to the pan, and cook for a further 30 minutes, or until the pork is tender. Remove the pork from the pan and cover it to keep warm - put in a pre warmed oven (but don't keep the oven "on".)

Boil the stock mixture for about 20 minutes, or until it has thickened slightly.

While you are simmering, place the hokkien noodles in colander and pour boiling water over them to separate them. Drain them well.

Now place the noodles, the mandarin segments, the bok choy and broccolini into the boiling stock mixture. Stir well to make sure the veggies are in the liquid. Put the lid on and simmer (you will want to turn the temperature down) for 5 minutes, or until the veggies are just tender.

Slice the pork, and serve on top of the noodles and vegetables. There you have a lovely, soupy, noodle, pot roast.

So tell me Dear Readers has there been a meal that has worked for you against all odds?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Corn Chowder

Baby it's cold outside!

Faced with the prospect of coming in tonight after sport and feeling quite chilled to the bone I decided that some soup was in order - nothing warms you like a bowl of steaming soup!!

I have been making this recipe for more years than I care to mention - but I have "tweaked" it a little today - I have taken out the butter that you soften the vegetables in, and cooked them in chicken stock instead. A much healthier option than adding the unnecessary saturated fat!

Corn Chowder

4 x cobs of corn
2 x carrots, diced
1 x onion, finely diced
4 x potatoes, diced
2 x rashers of bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 x can Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 cup milk

Place the cobs of corn in a saucepan of water and bring to the boil. Boil for a few minutes, just to take the crispness off them. Drain and cool slightly. When they are cool enough to handle slice the individual kernels from the cobs. The original recipe called for canned corn - but why would you when fresh corn is so lovely and sweet??

Into the pan add the diced onions and the chopped bacon and fry over medium high heat until the onion softens. There is no need to add any oil - the small amount of the fat in the bacon is all you need. Cook until the onion and bacon run out of their own juices - you will see - it will start to stick to the pan.

Add to the pan the remaining diced vegetables and pour in just enough chicken stock to cover them. Cook the vegetables for approximately 2-3 minutes or until they start to soften, stirring constantly.

Add the can of chicken soup and the remaining chicken stock. Simmer gently until the vegetables are soft, around 10-15 minutes. Make sure you stir regularly as the vegetables tend to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Season to taste with salt and some freshly ground pepper. Add the milk and heat through.

So tell me Dear Readers, is there a favourite recipe that you have "tweaked" over the years to make it a little "healthier"?

You know nothing makes me feel happier than to hear from one of you that you have tried one of my recipes, or that you are about to try one.

The best compliment I have received was today when one of my Dear Readers told me that I had inspired her!! Sometimes all we need is a little bit of "inspiration" to change the mundane boring job of producing a meal each night into... well, maybe an "adventure". To be enticed to try something a little bit different, something that we may not have thought about trying before. Or perhaps it is being told about something that is just so easy to prepare that it makes your life a whole lot easier.

So thank you Dear Reader - I love you!!!! I do sooo love to hear when I have helped make your meal preparations a little easier.

Sticky Asian Pork Belly

To market, to market to buy a fat pig....

It is the season when thoughts start to wander toward the warmer things in life. What could be more warming than a lovely piece of succulent pork belly?

Sticky Asian Pork Belly

Serves 6 (unless you are little piggies!!)

4 x cloves of crushed garlic
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
1/4 cup (60ml) Hoisin Sauce
1 cup Shao Hsing (Chinese cooking wine) - you can use sherry also
1/4 cup (45g) Brown Sugar
2 tbs Ketchap Manis
1 kg Pork Belly (ask your butcher for a whole piece)

Place the pork skin side down in a baking dish (I use the disposable foil ones - then there is no washing up!!!) Combine the remaining ingredients and pour the mixture over the pork. Cover tightly with foil, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour - longer is even better!

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Cook for 2 hours, remove the foil, and then roast for a further 30 minutes, or until the pork is cooked and the marinade is lovely and sticky.

Serve with an upturned timbale of steamed rice, and steamed asian greens.

There is nothing better!!!

Tell me Dear Readers, do you have a favourite winter warmer recipe??

Monday, May 10, 2010

Burritos/Chilli Con Carne

How to cook a meal without lifting a finger!!

Well almost!!

Tonight I made Burritos/Chilli - you decide. It was so easy I don't even feel like I did anything - except smell the delicious aromas all day while I cleaned the house!!

So what did I do?

Burritos / Chilli Con Carne

1 kg diced Casserole beef
1 x 415g can tomato soup
1 x onion, diced finely
2 x gloves crushed garlic

Put it all in the crock pot, mix well. Bung on the lid and leave for 8 hours at the lowest setting. (you really cannot cook this for too long!!) At about 8 hours drain a can (400g) of kidney beans. Add to the meat mixture. At this time if the mixture is too watery, add 2 tsp of cornflour that has been mixed with approx. 1 tbs of water. Stir well, and increase the heat to the highest setting for about 1 hour. Stir after about 30 minutes to make sure it is not congealing on the sides and bottom!

The meat is now ready to eat.

You have a couple of options now!

1. Serve with tortillas, lettuce, tomato, avocado, sour cream etc. etc as a burrito
2. Serve in a bowl as chilli con carne, either with rice or just topped with grated cheese and sour cream.

Oh, too easy.

Did I really cook dinner tonight?

Please share with me Dear Readers some of your easy, peasy dinner options.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Osso Bucco & Torta Caprese

Saturdays can be quite hectic in this house - sport is often late in the afternoon - lunch is after sport and then what to do about dinner?? This week I got it sorted! I prepared the Osso Bucco in the morning, covered it with foil and put it in the fridge for cooking when we got home. Too easy!!! I then got to relax and smell the beautiful aromas of dinner cooking, while having a glass of wine by the fire! This would also be a great meal to pop in the oven as you are leaving for an evening of sports training - all cooked when you walk back in the door!

Osso Bucco

Olive oil
2 x onions, chopped
2 x carrots, finely chopped
3 x celery sticks, finely chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
3 x 4cm long pieces of lemon rind (use a vegetable peeler, being careful not to get any white pith) remaining rind to be used in the gremolata
several springs fresh thyme and rosemary (approximately 4-5 each see photo)
3 dried bay leaves
1/4 cup plain flour
8-9 pieces of osso bucco
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
400g can diced tomatoes

Shredded basil leaves
remainder of lemon rind, finely grated
salt, freshly ground black pepper

If you are making this to eat straight away - preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.

In a large frying pan heat a little olive oil. Cook the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until softened. Stir in the strips of lemon rind. Transfer this mixture to a large 3.5L casserole dish - a large flat type is best.

Place the flour on a large plate, season with salt and pepper. Add the veal pieces to the flour, coat, shake off excess flour. Heat a small amount of olive oil in the frying pan over medium high heat. Cook the veal pieces for approximately 3 minutes each side - or until they are lightly browned. Transfer to a plate while cooking the remaining pieces. You may need to add a little more oil each time you cook a new batch - make sure to reheat the pan each time.

Arrange the browned pieces of veal on top of the vegetables in the casserole dish.

Add the wine to the frying pan, making sure you scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan (these add to the flavour!) Cook for about 1 minute. Add the stock and the tomato. Bring the mixture to the boil. Pour this mixture over the veal, making sure that the meat is covered with liquid. If not, add a little more stock. Cover the pan tightly with foil.

At this point you can put the dish in the fridge for later cooking, or you may like to even freeze for later use. Before putting the dish in the oven make sure you let the pan sit out of the fridge for about an hour before putting in the oven. If you have frozen the dish, thaw overnight in the fridge, reheat - then bake.

Bake for 2 1/2 hours, or until the veal is very tender. Set aside for 10 minutes to rest after cooked.

To make the gremolata, mix together the shredded basil and lemon rind, season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve the Osso Bucco on top of Creamy Polenta, topped with a small amount of gremolata.

Creamy Polenta

3 cups chicken stock
1 cup polenta
300ml cream (I used light cooking cream)
50g butter
1/3 cup grated parmesan

Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. Once boiling, add the polenta in a slow steady stream (do not add too quickly). Continue stirring the mixture for about 15-20 minutes (a balloon wisk works well for doing this), until the polenta is cooked and no longer crunchy. When cooked, add the butter, cream and the parmesan, to taste. I have found the best parmesan to use for this is the type that you can buy on the shelf in the pasta section of the supermarket. It doesn't go too sticky like the fresh type.

Now if you still have room after that here is dessert!!

Torta Caprese

210g pecans
180g 70% dark chocolate, broken into squares
4 eggs, separated
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
220g unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (buy the best you can afford - it is worth it!)
Icing sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Place the pecans on a baking tray lined with baking paper, and roast for approximately 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them - they can burn quite quickly - check at 8 minutes to see how they are going. Cool down.

Grease and line the base and sides of a 24cm springform cake pan, then dust lightly with flour.

Place the pecans and chocolate in a food processor and grind them in short, sharp bursts until they are finely ground. Be careful not to grind it too much and turn it into a paste!! Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar with an electric beater for around 4 minutes, or until they are thick, creamy and pale. Gently mix in the cooled butter and vanilla. Now stir in the pecan mixture until thoroughly combined.

In a separate bowl (make sure it is dry and clean) whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are fluffy and hold their shape - do not make them overly stiff. Whisk 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold the remaining egg whites in. Make sure the mix is thoroughly combined, but do not stir too much or you will loose the air in your whites!!

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, jiggle it to make sure it is settled evenly in the pan.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the edges pull away from the pan and it feels firm when you place the palm of your hand on the surface and wobble it gently.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a rack to cool completely.

To serve, dust with icing sugar. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Did you enjoy your trip to Italy???

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Limoncello Trifle

What is a Mum?

I have an apron which I think sums this up quite nicely.

Miracle worker

Mother's Day is all about memories. Some good, some not so good. I want to share with you a recipe from a Mother's Day Lunch I had several years ago. The memories are good for me because it was a time I remember my brother being with us, and he asked for the recipe - I don't know if he ever made it - but here's to you Burt!!  Love you and miss you!

Limoncello Trifle

1 cup (220g) caster sugar
100ml Limoncello
300g Blueberries
1/2 tsp cornflour
5 eggs, seperated
250g Mascapone
1/3 cup (4 tbs) Lemon Curd
Panettone Cake, or Madeira Cake, cut into 2cm thick slices
Whipped Cream
Toasted almonds

Place 100g of the caster sugar in a saucepan with 300ml water and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove 1/3 cup (80ml) of the syrup and place in a bowl with the Limoncello, stirring to combine. Set aside. Add the blueberries to the remaining sugar syrup and cook for about 2 minutes over low heat until they just begin to release their juice.

Meanwhile, combine the cornflour and 2 tbs of water and stir until smooth. Add to the blueberries and cook, stirring for a further minute until thickened. Set aside and allow to cool.

Place the egg yolks and remaining 120g caster sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and thick. Beat in the mascapone and lemon curd.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gently fold them into the mascarpone and lemon curd mixture.

Place a layer of cake in the base of a 1.5 litre bowl, brush with some of the Limoncello syrup, then spread with a third of the mascarpone mixture. Drizzle with 1/3 of the blueberries and their syrup. Repeat the layers, then top with a final layer of cake. Brush with the syrup and top with the remaining mascarpone. Reserve the remaining blueberries for garnishing the top.

Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight if possible, to allow the flavours to develop.

Just before serving, top with whipped cream, scatter over the reserved blueberries and the flaked almonds.

Sweet memories!!

Have a lovely Mother's Day to all you Mothers out there.

PS. As I type the wafting aromoa of Osso Bucco is coming from the kitchen. I have also made a Torta Caprese. I will share these recipes with you tomorrow when I have "tested/tasted" them!!

Calamari Ragu

Well Dear Readers did you miss me? I would like to think that you did. I had a few days R & R and didn't have to cook a single meal!!! I did get withdrawal symptoms (especially from my blog space!!)

While I was away I bought some beautiful tomatoes - they are a cross between cherry tomatoes and roma tomatoes (can't remember their specific name) they are just beautiful. So red and plump, and they smell divine. What to do with these little beauties??

I had seen a recipe recently for a Calamari Ragu. Interesting concept. Calamari can be a food that is often quite chewy - how does one go about "stewing" it for 30 minutes without turning it into rubber? Well luckily I happen to be quite friendly with my local fish shop proprietor - (I want to say fish monger - but she is a girl and I don't think it seems quite appropriate to call her that - for those of you in the know - I shop at Seafood@ Hornsby and Irene and her crew will always look after you!!). Anyway Irene gave me the "tip" to this dish.

I have modified this recipe to use cherry tomatoes as the base for the sauce, rather than using canned tomatoes. For those of you following - you will notice this base is very similar to the crab pasta last week (when you are on a good thing - stick to it!!)

Calamari Ragu

Serves 2-3

2 x punnets of cherry tomatoes
1 tbs Olive oil
20g butter
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
1 cup white wine
pinch crushed dried chillies (optional)
1 1/2 cups fish stock
600g calamari hoods
300g dried fettucini
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbs sour cream
2 tbs shredded basil

With the calamari (buy the cleaned hoods - much easier and less mess!!) - slit the hood down the side to open it out into one piece. Gently score the inside in a criss cross manner. Slice it into pieces approximately 2cm x 5cm long. Now pay attention dear reader here is the tip! Put the pieces into a saucepan - cover with water and bring it to the boil. Once the water is boiling turn the heat off - place the saucepan lid on, and leave it for at least 20 minutes. I had to go out to sport - so mine sat there for over 2 hours!! When it has finished sitting drain the calamari well.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a fry pan over medium high heat. Gently fry the pieces of calamari in batches until they are lightly golden - this should only take a few minutes - do not over cook - put them aside on a plate.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a frypan. Add the garlic and the tomatoes and gently fry them (stirring constantly) until they start to pop. Once they start popping give them a gentle push to help them release all their juices. Once they have all popped add the wine, simmer for a minute or 2 and then add the fish stock. (At this point if you are adding the chilii flakes - add them now.) Simmer this for about 10 minutes or until the sauce starts to reduce. Add the calamari and simmer for 30 minutes.

Put the pan of water on to to boil for the pasta, and when you have 10 minutes cooking time left, cook your fettucini.

When the pasta is cooked drain and set aside. To the calamari mixture add the sour cream and basil. Stir gently to heat through.

Plate up your fettucini, placing a generous serving of the ragu over the pasta.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Not rubbery at all!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Crab Pasta

Heaven on a Plate!

Although I did not cook this last night I am going to share with you a recipe that I made a couple of weeks ago that is just too good not to share.

I haven't given it a name - at our house it just goes by the name of

Crab Pasta

2 x punnets of cherry or grape tomatoes
olive oil
250ml white wine
300ml cream
basil - that has been shredded by cutting with scissors - a good half bunch is best.
Phillips "fresh" canned crab meat - 1 can
500g Maccheroni al Ferretto
Fresh grated parmesan to serve

Now this is incredibly easy, and very impressive - so if you are having guests or if there is someone you want to impress this is the recipe! The above quantities serve 4 - but unfortunately it doesn't seem to go that far in this house.

In a frypan gently heat a good splash of olive oil with approximately 50g of butter (no need to get too technical). Once the butter has melted and it is starting to foam add in the two punnets of cherry tomatoes and a good generous amount of chopped garlic (I always used the bottled type and just pour it in - really can you ever have too much garlic in a pasta dish??)

Gently saute the tomatoes until their skin starts to split. Once the skin starts splitting gently crush the tomatoes with the back of a spoon to release all their wonderful juices. To this I want you to add a good 250ml of white wine - more or less, depends on how juicy the tomatoes are. Now gently cook this concoction down until you have a beautiful syrupy sauce.

At this time bring your pan of water to the boil for the pasta. Leave this just sitting until you are ready for it. The sauce will take a good 20-25 minutes to reduce down - be patient. Once you can see that the sauce is reducing put your pasta on to cook. Good Italian pasta takes a little longer to cook so make sure you give yourself a good 15 minutes to cook the pasta. So rule of thumb is to add the pasta to the boiling water after the sauce has been cooking for about 10 minutes.

Back to the sauce. When the pasta is cooked drain it - but not so much that all the cooking water is gone - it is ok if there is still a little in the folds of the pasta, this will make your sauce go a little further! Place it back into the saucepan.

To the sauce add the crab meat, a good generous amount of cracked black pepper and the cream (I use the light cooking cream). Give it a gentle stir, taking care not to break up the crabmeat too much. Heat through. Once it has heated through add the shredded basil. Now add this sauce to the pot of pasta.

Ladle out into bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese.

I can taste it now, heaven!!!

TIPS: Dear reader let me tell you a little tip that I picked up several years ago. I use it all the time when chopping up herbs. Using scissors will give you a lovely uniform shredded shape to your herbs - in particular basil, and kaffir lime leaves. When you chop basil on a chopping board the basil oxidises and goes a dark colour - using scissors means the basil stays lovely and green.

The Machceroni al Ferretto I have used is a beautiful authentic Italian style pasta that holds this rich delectable sauce so beautifully. You will find it in the Gourmet section of your supermarket. See the picture above. If you cannot find this pasta just use one that will hold onto all the lovely sauce.

The Philips Crab will be found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket where you find smoked salmon etc. It is technically a can - but it is "fresh" crab meat.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mixed blessings!

Dear Readers it is with sadness and happiness that I write this post.

Tonight I was to make Osso Bucco and Torta Caprese!!! Have planned this meal - salivated over this meal - and then at the last minute the carpet was swept from under my feet. I feel like a game show contestant that has been voted off the island!!!

The "family" decided to go out tonight - but one was unwell so I was left at home with a sick child! You know how that is - they do not want to eat!!! No fun there.

I had to console myself with trawling food websites and watching Nigella - her show tonight - eating for one!!! How appropriate! So now I am making myself a laksa for 2 - but more than likely really only for one! One can never get enough!! Red Curry paste, broccolini, carrots, zucchini, egg noodles, coconut milk, some frozen green prawns (and a few secret ingredients)- a meal fit for a "foodie queen"!!!! When you have a "foodie" in the house you can always count on a meal in times of adversity!!!

....On the happiness side I have just had a "dear reader" contact me to tell me of her joy and happiness with the success of her Pulled Pork Burritos. I do so love to hear of your successes with my recipes.

Please do tell me how you go when you try something........ even if it "wasn't to your liking".

I sometimes ask myself is there anyone out there reading what I write?

So until tomorrow..... Pizza Night!

Salmon With Warm Vegetable Salad

Food with memories!

Often times when we prepare, or eat a meal, we are reminded of events that have happened in our lives.

Last night was no exception. The first time that I made this dish was after a particularly tragic event that had touched the lives of a family that lives in our sleepy little hollow. As I sat down to eat last night I realised unwittingly that I had prepared this meal on the anniversary of this event. Funny how things happen.

The upside to this story is that many years later, I believe I have now perfected this recipe. So I now hand down my perfected version of a recipe that goes back many years.

Salmon with Warm Vegetable Salad

Serves 4

4 x Salmon Fillets (tail pieces are preferable as they have no bones)
4 x new potatoes (skin on)
2 x carrots
2 x zucchini
1 x red onion, chopped.
1 cup peas (lightly steamed)
The zest of 1 lemon
Basil Pesto

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celcius

Cut the potatoes into small cubes, approximately 2 cm in size. Put into a bowl and mix with a generous amount of olive oil and garlic. Spread the coated potatoes on a baking dish lined with baking paper and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes (or until golden and crispy). Halfway through the cooking time turn the potatoes and give them a generous spray with garlic cooking spray.

Dice the carrots and zucchini into similar sized cubes.

When the potatoes are nearing perfection, heat some olive oil in a frypan and toss the carrots, zucchini and onion (and a crushed clove or two of garlic) until they are crispy and cooked through. At this point add the peas.

In a second frypan heat a small amount of olive oil. Once the pan is hot add the salmon, skin side down, and cook until the skin is crispy. This should take approximately 2-3 minutes. Turn the salmon over.

Now back to the veggies it is time to add in those perfectly crisped pieces of potato, and the zest of a lemon. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.

At this point the salmon should be cooked. The secret to perfectly cooked salmon is to not to cook it too long - like a good steak salmon should be slightly "rare" in the middle.

To plate up, place your beautifully cooked vegetable salad in the middle of the plate - place the salmon on top of the vegetables. Garnish the salmon with a teaspoon of basil pesto and voila! You have a beautiful meal!

Time to create your own memories with this dish.