I hope you enjoy the food!!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Vietnamese Style Caramel Pork

I am starting to worry - black cats are hanging around my house, and I think warts are developing on the end of my nose .....

Could it be all the simmering and bubbling that is going on here?

We had sport again last night - so dinner was another one pot, simmer, dinner winner!!!

Vietnamese Style Caramel Pork

Serve 6

1 tbs oil (I used rice bran)
2 red onions, halved and cut into thin wedges
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
900g diced pork (I used a scotch fillet piece and diced it up)
900g pork rashers, cut into 3cm pieces
1/3 cup fish sauce
2-3 long red chillies *
1/2 cup chicken stock
white pepper
1/2 cup chopped coriander
steamed jasmine rice to serve

Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the onion, and cook stirring for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are soft.  Transfer to a bowl.

Remove the pan from the heat and cool. (I actually ran the base of mine under cold water to cool it down.)

Add the sugar to the pan, and place it back over medium low heat.  The sugar will begin to melt after about 4-5 minutes.  BE PATIENT - it will happen!!!  Once the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan so that the sugar melts evenly.  Try to take care though that you don't end up with too much undissolved sugar around the edges.  DO NOT STIR!.  When the sugar is melted and golden (and it will turn quite quickly once it starts - so be warned) remove the pan from the heat source - CAREFULLY add the boiling water (watch out it will spit and it will turn some parts to toffee - but that's ok).  Stir until well combined and a rich sauce forms.

Add the pork, onions, fish sauce, chillies and stock to the caramel mixture.  Bring to the boil.  Stir well, making sure that any "toffee" parts are dissolving.  

Reduce the heat to low, and cook for 2-3 hours.  I cooked for 1 hour partially covered.  Then 1 1/2  hours covered, then around 30 minutes uncovered to reduce the sauce down.

Season with pepper, and add the chopped coriander.

Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

* with the chillies - I halved the chillies and removed the seeds (this reduces the hotness - so if you like it a little hotter leave them in) - I only used 2 chillies.  The dish was not spicy at all - and I even ate one of the whole pieces of chilli with my dish.  They sort of caramelise and loose their heat in the cooking.

This recipe was only to be cooked for an hour - but as I was going out it was left to "bubble, bubble" a lot longer, and you know, what I think it actually made it the dish better - the pork was meltingly soft, and the fat had all rendered down.  It is quite a rich dish (the sweetness and the fat) - but it is oh so yummy (in a very unhealthy way)!!

Ms. Twinkles this is one for you to try!!!  I know you have a pork lover in your house!!!  You may just need to up the number of chillies!!!

I promise we are not having another "cauldron dish" tonight!!

Tonight it's Mexican!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beef Ragu with Rag Pasta

Last night was a tricky night for meals here.  We were in and out with sport from 3:30 in the afternoon until about 8:30 at night.  What could I prepare that would be easy to eat in the shifts that we would all appear home?

I know a Ragu!!

So what is a Ragu you ask?   In America they have a brand of pasta sauce called Ragu - here we have one called Raguletto - so you are kind of on the right path.

Ragu is actually an Italian term for a meat based sauce that is usually served with pasta.  It is traditionally made by adding meat to  a "Soffritto" (a partially fried mixture of chopped onions, celery, carrots and seasonings), tomatoes are then added, and it is left to simmer away for several hours.  Perfect!!

So here is how I made my Ragu last night.

Beef Ragu with Rag Pasta

Serves 6

2 medium onions, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
3 cloves crushed garlic
100g pancetta, diced
1.5kg gravy beef, diced
2 x 400g tins of Italian cherry tomatoes *
2 cups of red wine
4 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs sage
olive oil
500g fresh pasta sheets
parmesan cheese to serve

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C (fan forced).

Pour a small amount of olive oil over the base of a heavy based oven proof casserole dish, heat over medium high heat.  Add the meat in batches, and brown very well.  Browning the meat well adds extra depth of flavour to your sauce.  Make sure you don't crowd the pan, as this will lead to "stewing" the meat as opposed to browning it!  Don't worry too much about any "caramelised" bits on the bottom.  Place the browned meat in a bowl.  I read a good tip recently that said if your meat sticks to the bottom of the pan while you are doing this, simply leave for another minute or so,  it's not ready yet - the pan will "release" it when it is done!!  Worked well yesterday!

In a small amount of olive lightly fry the pancetta, onions, celery, carrot, onions, and garlic until just soft.  The  liquid released from the vegetables will help lift the "caramelised" meat bits off the bottom of the pan, so scrape the base of the pan as you stir the vegetables.  

* If you can't find these, regular chopped tomatoes are fine!

Once the vegetables are softened, add the meat back into the pan.  Add the red wine, cherry tomatoes, rosemary, and sage.  Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Bring to the boil.  Cover, and place the casserole dish in the oven.  Bake covered for 3 hours.  After 3 hours, remove the lid, and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Just prior to serving check for seasonings.  At this time gently, with the back of a spoon, crush the meat, so that it breaks into very small pieces.

Now to make the Rag Pasta, all you do is tear pasta sheets into shreds.  Do not worry too much about the shapes - the more rustic the better.

Place the pasta into boiling salted water, and simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until the pasta is "al dente".

Place the pasta in a serving bowl, top with the ragu.  Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

You cannot really overcook this meal - so if you need to go out for 3 hours - it will gently simmer away in the oven and smell wonderful when you return home.


So much better than regular old bolognaise sauce, and if the truth be know - easier to make too!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Roast Potato, Cauliflower and Parmesan Soup with Almond & Blueberry Crumble Muffins

I saw this recipe in the latest edition of the MasterChef magazine and decided to give it a go.  The concept seemed good, roast the vegetables as opposed to boiling them in water, and diluting the flavour.

On tasting the soup last night I was a bit disappointed with it - I felt it lacked something.  I am eating it again now as I type and it does actually taste better today - perhaps the flavours have developed a little more.  I will say this though, it does have a strong cumin taste - so if cumin isn't your cup of tea - I wouldn't recommend this soup for you.

I am going to give you the recipe as it appears in the magazine - but at the end I will tell you what I would do differently next time.

Roast Potato, Cauliflower and Parmesan Soup

Serve 4-6

1.5kg (or 1 head of cauliflower), cut into florets
200g desiree or sebago potatoes, peeled, roughly chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.

Place the cauliflower, potatoes, onion, garlic and cumin in a roasting pan.  Drizzle with the olive oil, and toss to combine.  Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Remove approximately 3/4 cup of the cauliflower florets from the mixture (reserve these for garnishing).  Peel the garlic, then place all the vegetables in a food processor.  Add 2 cups of water and puree until smooth.

Transfer the pureed mixture to a large saucepan, add the milk and another 2 cups of water and bring to the boil.

Stir in the parmesan cheese until well combined.

Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls.  Top with the reserved cauliflower.  Drizzle with some olive oil and extra parmesan cheese.

Now here is what I would do differently:

Don't add the 2nd batch (2 cups) of water - I actually think it needs milk - saying that though ,I don't know if I would add 2 cups of milk - perhaps only one - I guess it depends on how thick you like your soup.

It definitely needs a lot of seasoning - you are really relying on the parmesan to give it flavour - which if you are watching your fat/calorie content is perhaps not a great thing.  What you could do is instead of the 2 cups of water that is added during the pureeing stage you could add chicken stock.

All that aside though, it is a nice soup.  Try it and see what you think.  For the purists that love cauliflower - it may be just what you love.  For me though, it needed a little bit more seasoning.

I you give this a try I would love to hear what you think.

Now to go along with the soup I made these lovely muffins.  They make fabulous dessert muffins!

Almond and Blueberry Crumble Muffins

Makes 12 - Texas Size muffins

2 1/2 cups self raising flour
3/4 cup (firmly packed) brown sugar
150g butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly whisked
220g frozen blueberries, thawed


3/4 cup plain flour
90g chilled butter, diced into small pieces
1/2 cup (firmly packed) brown sugar
1/2 cup slivered almonds 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (non fan forced)

Lightly spray or grease your muffin tin.

To make the crumble topping, place the butter, brown sugar and flour in a bowl, use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour and sugar.  The mixture should resemble coarse breadcrumbs.  Add the almonds.  Set to one side.

Place the flour and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the melted butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla, stir until well combined.

Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin tins (the mixture will be quite stiff - using 2 spoons works well).  Divide the blueberries evenly on the top of the mixture.  Then sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the crumble mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (make sure you don't get a blueberry!)

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes.

These are great served either warm or cold.  If serving as a dessert serve with warmed vanilla custard, or ice cream.  Yum!!

Note:  I did not use Texas muffin tins - I had recently won a 12 cup  Loose Base Dessert Pan.  This actually makes making muffins so easy - it has a removable base that you simply push up and the muffin pops out!!  So clever.  Worth looking into if you are a dessert of muffin baker!!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mini Salmon Frittatas with Dill Mayonnaise

A funny thing happened on the way to the cocktail party......

Recently we had to attend a school function where we all were asked to bring a plate.  Mine was to be cold finger food.  Not a problem!  At tennis socials I have a friend who always makes fabulous finger food - I will make her mini frittatas!!

We arrive at school, plate in hand.  I handed it in at the office, and proceeded to the classroom for the "meet the teacher" part of the night.

After the "business" part of the evening was over we assembled in the hall for the "social" part of the night.  We all talked about what we had brought, and were anxious to try each others food.  I looked around, couldn't see my plate anywhere!  Oh, well, it seemed that they were progressively bringing food out, it will come out soon.  Eventually it did - but not on the big plate I had brought, and .... there were only a few left???  Better grab one now before they were all gone.

When it came time to go to the kitchen to reclaim your plates I asked for mine - it seemed to be tucked away in the corner??  I was sheepishly told then that the reason my plate had not appeared out on the table was that the staff in charge of the food had thought that my mini frittatas looked pretty tempting, and that they perhaps had better try one before they put them out!  Well they all tried one, and low and behold before too long there didn't seem to be enough left on that big plate to put them out like that!  They had to find a much smaller plate to put them on now!!

So, if you are ever invited to a "do" where you need to "bring a plate" - make these they are a winner!!!

Mini Salmon Frittatas with Dill Mayonnaise

Makes 36 

8 eggs
1 cup of cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
200g smoked salmon finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste
36 baby spinach leaves
dill to garnish

Dill Mayonnaise
3/4 cup mayonnaise (use a whole egg mayo)
1 tablespoon chopped dill
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Grease 3 x 12 hole mini muffin pans.

Place a small amount of finely chopped salmon in the base of each prepared muffin hole.  Top the salmon with a small amount of parmesan cheese.

In a large jug, whisk together the eggs, cream, dill, garlic and salt and pepper.

Carefully pour the egg mixture over the salmon and parmesan cheese.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until they are set.  Leave in the pans for 10 minutes to cool, then carefully remove from the pan to cool completely.

Combine all the mayonnaise ingredients in a small bowl.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To serve arrange the frittatas on a serving plate.  Top each frittatas with a little mayonnaise, then top with a baby spinach leaf.  Place another dollop of mayonnaise on top of the spinach leaf, then garnish with a dill sprig.

These frittatas as delicious either hot or cold.  They can be made ahead of time, and kept in an airtight container in the fridge.

Another variation is to reduce the amount of smoked salmon to 100g and use approximately 100g of chopped artichoke with the salmon.

Which ever way you make them, guard them with your life, or you may not get to eat too many yourself!!!  They look and taste fabulous!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Salmon, Prawn and Mascarpone Lasagne

You know that question - if you were stuck on a deserted island what couldn't you live without?

Well I hope that my deserted island would have a bountiful supply of seafood (and if I could order specifically - salmon and prawns).  To me any meal with salmon is a great meal.  Last night's meal combined my two loves - salmon and prawns!  Heaven!!

If you are looking for a truly "special occasion" meal - or if you just want to celebrate that it is Friday - then try this - the flavours are wonderful!

Salmon, Prawn and Mascarpone Lasagne

Serves 4

olive oil
1 medium brown onion, diced finely
1 medium carrot, diced finely
1 large stick of celery, diced finely
3 medium sized tomatoes, skinned, seeded, diced finely *
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 x tail pieces of salmon (approximately 450-500g)
400g green prawns (shells on) - yields approx 200g or 14 large prawns
375ml fish stock
250g mascarpone
3 egg yolks
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 dill, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
fresh pasta sheets

* To skin tomatoes, cut a cross in the base of each tomato, put in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water for 3-5 minutes, or until you see the skin starting to loosen (don't leave too long as it starts to "cook" the tomato).  Drain from the hot water, then cover with cold water and ice cubes for 3-5 minutes.  Drain, and then peel the skin from the tomatoes - it will come off very easily now!!

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Heat a small amount of oil in a large heavy based saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery and tomato, and 3/4 of the garlic - cook, stirring for 2 minutes.  Push the vegetables to one side, and place the salmon in the pan.  Lightly fry the salmon for 2 minutes each side, then pour in the stock and cover the pan.  Simmer the salmon and the vegetables for approximately 3-4 minutes - you want the salmon to still be pink in the middle.

Remove the salmon onto a plate, and let the vegetables continue cooking until they are very soft, and the liquid has reduced (approximately 15-20 minutes).  Remove the pan from the heat.

While the vegetables are cooking heat a small amount of olive oil in a small frypan over medium high heat.  Add the remaining garlic and the prawns, quickly cook the prawns until they just change colour.  Remove from the pan and put with the salmon.

Whisk the mascarpone with the egg yolks, egg, lemon zest, dill and parmesan cheese in a bowl.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

When the vegetables are cooked strain the vegetables from the liquid, reserving the liquid.

Remove the skin from the salmon, and flake the meat into chunks.  Add the salmon and the prawns to the vegetables.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spray a large flat casserole dish with olive oil spray.  Pour approximately 2 tablespoons of the reserved vegetable cooking liquid onto the base of the dish to lightly cover the base.  Spread a pasta sheet over the liquid.  Put 1/3 of the salmon mixture onto the pasta, then a layer of the mascarpone mixture.  Top with a pasta sheet, and then repeat the layers.  (You don't need to get too technical with amounts - with 3 layers - it will even out!) Finish with a pasta sheet.  Top with a small amount of the mascarpone, the pour over a little of the cooking liquid - make sure you cover the corners so they don't burn.  Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden, and the centre is warmed through.

Serve with additional grated parmesan cheese and a lovely glass of cold white wine - sit back and celebrate life and it's beautiful bounty from the sea!!

If you love seafood as much as I do you will fall in love with this dish!

So Dear Readers what would you like to have in bountiful supply on your deserted island??  Now don't be cheeky!!!  I am talking food!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chicken Parmigiana, Smashed Potatoes & Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last night the request was for a "plain" meal - so I thought what about Chicken Parmigiana - nice and simple?  Always a winner!

Chicken Parmigiana

Serve 6

3 x single chicken breasts
plain flour
1 x egg
olive oil
1 x 450g bottle Leggos Italian Chicken Parmigiana Sauce
100g pancetta
100g mozzarella cheese
50g parmesan cheese

1kg baby new potatoes
garlic infused olive oil spray
100g parmesan cheese

Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally to give you 6 pieces.

Prepare 3 plates for the crumbing of the chicken.  The first plate with plain flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.  Second plate - an egg that has been beaten lightly with a couple of tablespoons of milk.  The third plate has breadcrumbs (cornflake crumbs give a lovely finish).

Cover the chicken in the flour, then coat in the egg mixture, then cover with breadcrumbs.  Repeat until all six pieces are coated in breadcrumbs.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Put your potatoes on to boil - boil them for approximately 10 minutes, or until you can insert a knife into them easily.

Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat - add a little olive oil.  Fry the chicken breasts until they are golden on both sides.  Drain on paper towel.  Repeat until all chicken is cooked.

Once the potatoes are cooked drain them well.  Place the potatoes onto a baking tray that has been lined with baking paper - then "smash" them.  They should look a little like this....

Spray them well with garlic infused olive oil spray.  Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until they look a little like this....      ** see below

Spray the potatoes again with olive oil spray, sprinkle with a little salt, and top with grated parmesan cheese - put them back in the oven for approximately 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted (this is when you chicken will also go in).

** While the potatoes are baking assemble your chicken.  Onto a heatproof plate put the chicken breasts.
Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then place the pieces of pancetta on top of the sauce.  Top with the mozzarella cheese, then the parmesan cheese.

When you put the potatoes in the oven for the last 10 minutes - also put the chicken in.  Bake until the cheese is melted, and golden.

Serve with slow roasted cherry tomatoes and baby spinach.

Pure, simple comfort food!! What can be better.

It seems that "The Darlings" have been making themselves more popular in the playground by sharing around their cookies - and then god bless them telling the recipient after they have said how good they are that their mum should check out my blogspot for the recipe!!!  Thanks boys!!!  Anyway a request has come in for the current playground currency - Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes approximately 40 cookies

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
250g butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter (either creamy or crunchy)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
275g chocolate chips
extra sugar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. (non fan forced)

Combine the flour and baking soda in a small bowl.  Beat the peanut butter, both sugars and vanilla extract in a large mixer bowl until creamy.  Beat in the egg.  Gradually add the flour mixture.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop rounded tablespoon amounts of the cookie dough onto a baking sheet that has been lined with baking paper.  Lightly grease the bottom of a glass with butter and then coat in sugar.  Press down slightly with the glass onto the cookie mound to flatten out.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges are set, but the centres are still soft.  Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Watch the cookies very carefully - then "over brown" very quickly.

So now you know how to increase your child's popularity - make a batch of cookies and send them with some extra ones each day!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chinese Spag Bol

I had a hard time coming up with a name for last night's dinner - should it be Chinese Spag Bol or The Oliver Twist Special?? I can see your puzzled look - what is she on about?  Well -  all I heard last night was ... "can I have some more"? Admittedly there was no "please sir" - but it did have an Oliver Twist element to it!!

                      ps - this is not actually one of "the darlings"

One of "The Darlings" had three - yes 3!!! helpings - so it must have been a winner!

Chinese Spag Bol

Serves 6 (if you're lucky and get in fast!!)

1kg packet of fresh rice noodles *
1kg pork mince
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon (approximately a 3cm piece) of ginger, finely chopped
3 cloved crushed garlic
2 red onions, halved and cut into wedges
1/2 cup hoi sin sauce *
2 tablespoons ketchap manis *
2 tablespoons shao hsing cooking wine *
chopped coriander, mint  and bean sproouts to serve

* Available at Chinese Supermarkets.

Place the fresh rice noodles in a large heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them, leave for 5 minutes.  Make sure to stir the water to separate the noodles.  Drain well.

Heat the wok over medium high heat, add the sesame oil, then the onions, garlic and ginger.  Cook stirring constantly until the onions are nice and soft.  Remove from the wok.

Add the pork mince and cook quickly, breaking up the mince, until it is cooked completely.  At this point I like to remove the excess fat from the meat using paper towels.  Once you have removed the excess fat, add the onion mixture to the meat, then add the sauces.  Stir well to combine.  Add the rice noodles to the wok and toss gently to combine the meat with noodles.

Serve garnished with chopped coriander and mint and a handful of bean sprouts.

The judges all held up score cards of 9 or 10!!

There was not a scrap left over last night - their plates were practically licked clean!!!

So if you want a dead easy, delectable dinner - give this one a go - it sure went down a treat here last night!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lamb Shanks with Bacon & Mushrooms

I have got to admit that I am not a huge Lamb fan.  I will eat it, but it really isn't my first preference of meats to use.  When planning this weeks menu I asked for suggestions for meals - Lamb Shanks was an immediate response.  Really I asked, are you sure, what about.... and other suggestions were offered, but no, Lamb Shanks it was to be!  When I showed the photo on the front of this month's Good Taste Magazine the deal was sealed.  Yes, this is what was wanted!!!  Ooookay, I said Lamb Shanks it is then.

As usual though I have "tweaked" the recipe a little.  It actually said to cook on the stove top for 1 1/5 hours - but I wasn't able to get "frenched" shanks and hence I didn't have a pot to go on the top of the stove that was big enough - so I baked them in the oven for 3 hours.

Lamb Shanks with Bacon and Mushrooms

Serve 6

18 small French Shallots (see picture)
6 Lamb Shanks, french trimmed
300g button mushrooms, thickly sliced
250g bacon, rind removed, coarsely chopped
2 celery sticks, trimmed, thinly sliced
4 cloves crushed garlic
500ml (2 cups) beef stock
400g crushed tomatoes
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
120g baby spinach

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C (fan forced).

Use a sharp knife to make a small cut in the base of each shallot.  Put them all in a heatproof bowl and cover them with boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain and then peel them, leaving the bases intact.  You do this by starting at the top and just cutting the top off, then pulling the skin down to the base.  I then left them whole.

Heat a large non stick frypan over medium high heat.  Cook the shanks 2-3 at a time, turning to ensure that all sides are brown (even the ends).  Repeat until all the shanks are browned.  Place into the base of the baking dish once they are browned.

Reheat the frypan, add the shallots, mushrooms, bacon, celery and garlic.  Cook stirring for 5 minutes, or until the celery has softened.  Add the stock, tomato and rosemary.  Bring to the boil.  Pour over the shanks in the baking dish.  Cover the dish tightly with several layers of foil.

Bake in the oven for 3 hours.

I served this dish with cheese topped mashed potato.  At the 2 1/2 hour mark I placed the mashed potatoes in a casserole dish and topped them with grated cheese.  This was then placed in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese was golden on top.  At this time remove the shanks from the baking tray and put them on a plate, covered with foil, and return them to the oven.

Put the cooking sauce from the shanks into a large saucepan, and put on medium high heat.  You want to reduce the cooking liquid - so let it boil away for the next 20 minutes or so.  To thicken the liquid dissolve 2 teaspoons of cornflour in a little water and stir through the sauce until thickened.  Add the baby spinach, and stir through until the spinach has just wilted.

Serve with the cheesy mashed potato.

You know what - I actually enjoyed it.  "The Darlings" thought they looked like big chicken drumsticks!!  Of course they didn't eat the sauce - there were vegetables in there!!  Funny story - they play rugby and are on an "incentive" plan in regards to tackling - I am wondering if the same "incentive" plan can be used to "tackle a vegetable a week"??

So Dear Readers, is there something that you would not usually eat, but would consider it if there was some monetary gain to be had?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Char Sui Chicken with Asian Greens & Rice

Well Dear Readers were you watching MasterChef closely last night?  Did you see the guest appearance?  No I am not talking about Heston Blumenthal - but his little offsider!!  Heston obviously uses the Thermomix in his restaurants as it was used in the making of the Snail Porridge.  My guess is he has a few at his restaurant!!  What did I tell you about top chefs using it, but keeping it a secret!!

Very interesting food was produced last night - I would have to wonder though how much experience these "amateur" chefs really have - Heston commented that his dishes had never been made by anyone other than him or his chefs, but here were 8 lowly contestants on a reality game show able to produce these incredible dishes!!  Me smell something fishy - and it ain't "Sound of the Sea"!

Anyway, on to more realistic domestic achievements.  Last night's dinner was an absolute winner!!  The judges turned over score cards with 8's and 9's - there was not a scrap left on the plates (what every cook loves to see!!).  Even as one of "the Darlings" went to bed he told me that he loved his dinner.  Music to a mother's ears!

Was it hard? No!  Lots of ingredients? No!  What was it you ask??

Char Sui Chicken

Serves 6

1/2 cup Char Sui Sauce *
4 tbs honey
2 tbs Ketchap Manis *
2 tbs brown sugar
4 tsp sesame oil
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 kg chicken thighs (this gave around 8 pieces)

Into the trusty ziploc bag place all the marinade ingredients.  Give it a bit of a squish around to combine the ingredients - then add the chicken pieces.  Now I say the longer you can leave them there the better the flavour is going to be - I had mine in there for at least 3 hours.

Preheat your grill (I used the one in my oven).  To make life really simple for yourself use a couple of those disposable foil trays.  Put the chicken and the marinade in the trays - make sure the pieces of chicken are not crowded and that they are flat out in the sauce.  Gently grill the chicken until it is cooked through - when I say gently, I guess I mean carefully - the marinade has a high sugar content so it will burn easily.  Turn the chicken frequently so that you get a lovely golden brown caramelised coating on the outside.   This will probably take a good 15-20 minutes to make sure that the thickest parts of the chicken are cooked through.

Serve with steamed Jasmine rice and Asian Greens topped with a small amount of Ketchap Manis and sesame seeds.

All I can say is YUM!!!

 If you are unfamiliar with Char Sui Sauce and Ketchap Manis I have included a picture - you will find them in Asian supermarkets - they are much cheaper here than in the big supermarkets!!

Try this incredibly easy recipe - you will not be dissapointed!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cheese Fondue

Is it just me, or does there seem to be a bit of a retro thing happening with food lately?

First it was MasterChef where the challenge was "that 70's iconic Dinner Party dish" Beef Stroganoff, and now I see recipes for Fondue slipping back into the recipe books. Even the classic Prawn Cocktail has been given a makeover and is back in vogue again!!  My friend on the bike next to me at the gym on Friday was making a Fondue this weekend as well!!   Yes, it seems everything old is new again.

The Fondue started appearing in Switzerland during the 1950's.  Apparently a slowing cheese industry  discovered that if they promoted this warming, melted cheese dish - they could sell more cheese!  A person could easily eat half a pound of melted cheese in one sitting this way!!!  (Who said the Swiss weren't clever?)   Travelling Americans then brought the concept back to the States, and it slowly wormed it's way onto the dinner tables of many during the 60's.

So last night,  with nary a DeLorean in sight, and armed only with long handled forks - we headed "Back to the Future" to revisit the classic Cheese Fondue.  I was prepared for a rocky trip - the M.O.T.H. had already told me that "he didn't like fondues back then" - but I was undeterred.  You see I had won a fondue pot recently, and it just seemd rude to me not to use it!!

Swiss Cheese Fondue

Serves 8 (then why do they only give you 6 forks??)

1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup brandy
1 1/2 tbs cornflour
1 1/2 cups fruity wine (such as riesling)
1 tbs lemon juice
740g Swiss cheese, grated


Small steamed baby potatoes, halved or quartered
thin salami pieces
thin prosciutto slices
slices of cooked chorizo sausage
Cornichons (small baby pickles)
cubes of bread

Cut the garlic clove and rub the cut side around the base and sides of the fondue pot.

Place the brandy and cornflour in a bowl and stir until combined.  Combine the wine and lemon juice in a heavy based saucepan over medium high heat.  Bring to a simmer.  Add the cornflour and brandy mixture, and cook stirring until the mixture has boiled and thickened.

Reduce the heat.  Add a handful of the grated cheese and stir until combined.  Repeat until all the cheese has been added and the cheese has all melted and the mixture is smooth.

Heat the fondue pot over a low flame.  Spoon in the cheese mixture.  Serve with the accompaniments.

Now here is where the fondue ettiquette comes in.  It is a no-no to allow one's tongue or lips to touch the dipping fork.  No "double"dipping is allowed - (perhaps there should have been a Seinfled episode about it!!)  In Swiss tradition, if a chunk of bread is lost in the cheese by a man, he has to buy a bottle of wine - but if the same thing happens to a woman, she has to kiss the man on her left!!  What happens when "The Darlings" drop theirs???  I say they have to do the dishes!!!

So what was the verdict?  The "nuttiness" of the swiss cheese turned The Darlings' noses skyward - (perhaps Cheddar next time?) and well, The M.O.T.H. still doesn't like them, but that doesn't deter me - there is still the Chocolate Fondue to make!!!

So what to do with the leftovers?  Well today for my lunch I bought a gourmet pumpkin seed roll and some shaved turkey, and made a new version of Turkey, Swiss and Avocado on a roll.  I spread the cheese mixture on one side of the roll, some avocado on the other - in with the shaved turkey, salt and pepper and a great sandwich!!

A very loyal Dear Reader has sent out the gauntlet to me!  I have been sent a recipe for home made pasta.  Now the premise of this blog is that I must cook the recipe myself before I can share it - so I guess that means I have to attempt home made pasta now does it??  Or perhaps we may have to get into "duelling blog sites"?  Stayed tuned!

Banana, Berry, Nut Bread

When I was quite young my grandmother gave me a book called "A Book for Kids" by C.J. Dennis - in it there was a poem that I still can rememmber to this day called The Circus.

"Hey, there! Hoop-La! The Circus is in town!
Have you seen the elephant?
Have you seen the clown?
Have you seen the dappled horse gallop round the ring?....."

C.J. Dennis lived from 1876 - 1938.  It was a very different circus that he wrote about compared to the one that we saw on Saturday night.

What would Mr. Dennis say if he could see a circus now??

Would he be amazed at the Wheel of Death, where "The Brazil Brothers" walked, skipped, and ran high up in the big top on a "wheel" that rotated - or would he gaze in wonder at the Globe of Death - where 4 motorcyclists whizzed around in a space that was barely big enough for one rider, let alone 4!!  The only animal acts that you will see in the circus these days will be the Shetland ponies (with the old dude - who has probably been around since C.J. Dennis' time - guiding them around the ring).  This act by the way was voted by "The Darlings" as the "gayest" act of the night!!!  Yes, it's a very different circus now!

So what does this have to do with food you say????

Absolutely nothing!!!  But it's my blog, and I am allowed to indulge in a little whimsy every now and again aren't I?  I can't just sit here and type out recipes for you every day - we need a little entertainment don't we?

Enought of that then you say - we want food!

This is a lovely cake that I "tweaked" the recipe to yesterday.

Banana, Berry, Nut Bread

150g butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
2 eggs
2 ripe (approx 1 cup) bananas, peeled (dah!!), and mashed
2 cups self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk *
1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries **
50g slivered almonds  ***

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (not fan forced).  Grease the base and sides of a 7cm deep, 11cm x 21cm loaf tin (I actually used a 5cm deep, 23x 17cm tin - it's all that I had - you choose!).  Line with baking paper, allowing an overhang on the ends.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until it is pale.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg has been added.  

Remove from the mixer stand - the rest is by hand!!  Stir in the banana.  Sift the flour and baking powder over the banana mixture.  Add the milk, and stir with a spoon until just combined.

Carefully fold in the berries and the nuts.  If you are using frozen raspberries mix them with a very small amount of flour to prevent them from sinking in the mixture.  

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.  Smooth the surface.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

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

* I used buttermilk purely because I had some left in the fridge - and buttermilk is great when used in baking as it works with the self raising flour, or baking soda creating aeration, resulting in great tasting, light fluffy baking.  Saying that if you don't have any - just use regular milk.

**  I used Cranberries as I still had some left over from Christmas in the freezer - but you can use either raspberries or cranberries.  Don't use dried cranberries though as you will not get the same result!!  I thawed the berries slightly before adding to the mixture. 

*** I didn't actually measure - just used what was left over in a bag!!  

The cake can be cut into slices and individually wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks!  Perfect for school lunches!!  Or as a Dear Deader suggested today, heated up in the microwave and served with ice cream for dessert!

That kept "The Darlings" and the neighbour kid quiet yesterday afternoon.  I am quietly told that I cook better than his Mum!!  Told him perhaps I better give her my blog address!!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Well it has certainly been a quiet time in the kitchen this week.  There was no cooking for me again last night!!   I had a Thermomix demonstration and we had a veritable banquet prepared for us.

For all you true foodies out there that have been watching MasterChef closely you will have seen the mighty Thermomix in action.  Last Friday they used it in the preparation of a dessert.  

You may ask what is a Thermomix, and why haven't I heard about it?   I think if the truth be known it is a well kept secret that the chefs of our top restaurants are keeping to themselves (they don't want us cooking like them!).  George loves his Thermomix, and apparently has a bank of them in his restaurant!

So what does a Thermomix do?  It might actually be easier to say what it doesn't do!  It doesn't bake a roast dinner, it doesn't grill your cheese sandwich, and it doesn't toast your bread - but it does just about everything else you can think of!! Grind, knead, dice, cook, steam, weigh, time, the list goes on.....

The lovely Jan is just about to whip up a citrus sorbet in her trusty Thermomix!

Last night at our demonstration we had sorbet,  dip,  coleslaw, bread rolls,  risotto and a custard - and all made in the Thermomix in just under 2 hours.  The risotto itself took only 17 minutes - and it was made with no sirring involved - just put in the ingredients and leave the Thermomix it to it's own devices.  You see it can chop your ingredients, and then cook the dish for you.  Don't be fooled by the size - there was room enough for a risotto for 6 in that bowl!

After we had eaten our risotto we were treated to the most silky, delectable "jaffa" custard you have ever tasted.  The beauty of the Thermomix is that is stirs the whole time it is cooking (at it's preset temperature) - so you will never have lumpy custard again!

No I am not selling Thermomix - just an avid admirer.  No I don't have one YET, but I hope to soon.  You see the only stumbling block is they are a little $$'y.  But saying that if you are in the market for any new appliance for your kitchen they are well worth a look at.  It's a great little machine to have if you have any sort of food intolerances as it gives you complete control over what you add into you food, and allows you to easily make many of the foods that are comercially available.  You can even make your own yoghurt and butter in it!!

Watch MasterChef closely and I am sure you will see more of the Thermomix - the more that you see it, the more you will be amazed at what it can do.

Santa, if I am a really good girl can I please have one for Christmas???

So what am I cooking tonight?   Nothing again!!!  Hey there hoopla the circus is in town!  So I guess it's popcorn all round for dinner!!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Casserole

What a blogging tragic I have become.  One night this week I really didn't need to cook at all - I had some Spag Bol left over in the freezer that "The Darlings" would have quite happily eaten - but no, I had to cook a meal, just so I could tell you all about it the next day.  Big Mistake.  First of all I should have known that the meal I was about to make (Fettucini Carbonara) would have made them turn their "darling" little noses up.  But I guess I tried too hard, and the meal really wasn't even worth writing about!!  So there you have it - the reason it has been a slow (and disasterous week in this kitchen!)

So let's get over that and onto a success.

There is nothing that warms up your senses and the cockles of your heart more than a nice casserole.  You smell it cooking - the oven heats up the kitchen (which in my house is very much appreciated!) and then you get to sit down to a lovely hot dinner at the end of it.

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Casserole

Serves 6

1.2 kg chicken thighs (this will give you approx. 7 pieces)
2 medium leeks, trimmed, halved, washed, sliced
250g bacon, trimmed, chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tbs fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup plain flour
2 cups chicken stock
250g button mushrooms, quartered

Preheat the oven to 160 Degrees C (fan forced).  Heat a large heavy based, flameproof casserole dish over medium heat.  Add a small amount of olive oil, cook the chicken in batches, for 5-6 minutes, or until golden.  Transfer to a plate.  It may stick to the pan, don't worry - just scrape up the bits in between batches and put with the rest of the chicken.

Reheat the pan, and add the bacon, garlic, leek and thyme.  You really don't need any oil - the fat in the bacon should be sufficient.  Cook, stirring for around 3 minutes, or until the leek is soft.

Add the wine, bring to the boil, stir in the flour (make sure you sprinkle it evenly over the dish to prevent lumps).  Cook for 1 minute.  Slowly add the chicken stock, stirring constantly.

Add the chicken back into the casserole dish, and add the mushrooms.

Bring to the boil.  Cover, and transfer to the oven.  Bake for 1 hour.  Remove the lid, and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.

Serve with mashed potato and steamed green beans.

A lovely easy winter casserole.  What could be better?  Well Dear Readers I hope all have had a good week in the kitchen - I know a couple of readers have been very busy, and from all accounts their families are very happy too!!

Please don't be turned off by my photography - it tasted much better than this photo looks!  Perhaps I better go to Food Stylist school!?!?!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One Pot Sausage Hot Pot

You know I am not sure that I really like long weekends.  They lull you into a false sense of security.  You put off doing jobs because you know that you have three long days to do things in, as opposed to two, and then WHAMMO before you know it the third day is upon you and you have so much to do, how are you going to get it all done!! Then you have the old favourite day of the week "monday" which is actually Tuesday, and you are all confused.  You forget which day you are really on, what sport is on today, what day is it again???

So that brings me to Tuesday.... tennis night, gym night.  Home at 7'ish.  What to cook - something that can be consumed relatively easily so that MasterChef can be watched (you know that is NEVER going to happen don't you??).  I tried - why do they have to have a 30 minute show on Tuesday night - I barely saw the credits last night - thank god for the internet!!!  Will have to catch it sometime next weekend!

What did we have for dinner last night?  An all in one pot (well except for the pasta, which was actually an afterthought anyway as I was starving because I had only a banana for lunch - too busy catching up on all those jobs I missed out on during the weekend!!)

...One Pot Sausage Hot Pot

Serves 5

1kg extra lean beef chipolata sausages (I used the Peppercorn ones - they have hidden veggies in them!!)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
400g can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
800g can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup barbeque sauce
1 tbs brown sugar

Real easy - brown off the sausages - you don't need to cook them right through.  If you have a good non stick fry pan you wont need any oil.  Put the sausages to one side.  

Add a small amount of oil to the pan and add the onions and garlic.  Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until the onion has softened.  Add the beans, tomaotes, barbeque sauce and sugar.  Mix well.  Return the sausages to the pan.  Cook on medium heat for approximately 25 minutes, or until the sausages are cooked, and the sauce has thickened.

Serve with risoni pasta and bread.

A meal that they will all eat, so easy to cook, and not much washing up!!!

So what is for Wednesday night's dinner.... always a dilemma.  Will have to ponder more on that as the day goes on!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Special Treat - No Cooking for Cate!!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to have the day off from cooking.  We had been invited out for lunch!!  What a glorious day it was too - and if you picked the right place in the sun you almost forgot it was winter!

My Brother, quite the experimental chef, was doing all the hard work - I didn't have to lift a finger!  So what did we have for lunch - a lovely BBQ'd shoulder of lamb, his version of my smashed potatoes, and another interesting dish "buggered beans"!?  Here are his recipes that he would like to share.

BBQ Shoulder of Lamb
This recipe was one that has been advertised in the Masterchef magazine, Julie's Fountain recipes.

Prep time: 10 minutes (plus marinating time - I marinated overnight and was happy with the results)
Cooking time: if BBQ'ing 30-45 minutes, I roasted then finished off bbqing.
Serves:- below serves 6 nicely

1 Tablespoon of fennel seeds
1 Tablespoon of coriander seeds
1 Tablespoon of cumin seeds
3 cloves of garlic, crushed ( I finely chopped, my preference as it chars off it becomes little nutty chunks)
1 Tablespoon of hot chilli sauce
2 Tablespoons of mustard sauce
1.5-2kg of deboned shoulder of lamb. (yesterday we had about 3kg). (So I went 1.5 times the amounts stated of the ingredients).

Place the spices into a dry frying pan and cook over medium heat for about a minute, until 
spices start to smell. Cool, then grind in mortar and pestle or processor. I went for a medium 
grind consistency. Combine with garlic, chilli sauce and mustard sauce and mix thoroughly.

Score meat and smear the marinade all over the meat, then place in a sealable plastic bag 
and refrigerate for desired time. a few hours is ok, but if you want the meat to fully infuxe the 
flavours, then overnight I reckon is best.  

Remove meat from the refrigerator about an hour before you want to cook, this allows the meat to   
normalise to room temperature. Preheat a covered BBQ to ~180C. Place meat on the grill and close the 
lid. I actually trussed the meat up, roasted it slowly for a couple of hours, then cut the strings and 
splayed it out to finish the centre (just to satisfy those who don't like their lamb still Baa'ing at them). 
The outside surface of the meat should have a nice dark colour to it almost like a crust. Abvously 
cooking time varies depending on how you like your meat and the technique you use. I cooked this 
way in total for 2.5 hours, but if I had BBQ'd only, time would hve been reduced to probably around 
an hour for the size of the meat I was cooking. Rest the meat for 10 minutes before carving into nice generous slices.

Cate's Smashed Potatoes - Stuart's Style Follow Cate's recipe, then: - 

Finely chop a few cloves of Garlic. nice and small 

Finely chop fresh thyme about 1 sprig, nice and fine is best (possibly dried would be ok?) 

Grated fresh parmesan cheese 

Spray potatoes with olive oil spray, sprinkle the garlic and thyme generously on spuds. 

I also placed in the tray some Grape Tomatoes and roasted these slowly, beautiful. towards the end, I 
sprinkled the parmesan to melt stlightly. 

Buggered Bean's why buggered beans? buggered if I can think of another name? 

1kg green beans, topped and tailed, cut into 5cm lengths roughly
1 tablespoon sesame oil
500g sliced mushrooms
200g unsalted cashews
pinch dried chilli flakes - fresh would be fine, but regulate for how much heat you like
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped Thyme

Blanch beans in boiling water for 3 minutes, just to soften slightly - drain and cool. 

Heat sesame oil in wok, and soften the mushrooms, keep them moving.

Add the garlic, chilli and thyme and heat through the mix before adding the beans. Keep the mix    
moving 3 minutes to heat through nicely. You want it all to be still slightly crunchy to the mouth when 
you eat.

Add the cashews and toss through to roast off the cashews slightly. Cashews should start to colour 
from pale to light honey colour, they just soften at this stage, but cruch to the bite. 

Serve, sit, pour a glass of your favourite wine or Ale. Relax and eat. Then.....

Stu's Apple Crumble (serves 4) 6 Granny Smith Apples
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sultanas
splash of cointreau (to your liking and taste)

Crumble Topping
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup white sugar
100g butter, softened

Preheat oven to 200C, slice the apples into thin wedges and place in a bowl with the sultanas, brown 
sugar and cinnamon. toss to combine evenly. 

Place apple mix into a 4 cup capacity baking dish, splash your preferred quantity of the cointreau over 
the mix, then cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. 

For the topping, place the flour, white sugar and butter in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips 
until the mixture resembels a course breadcrumb texture. 

Remove the foil from the dish and spread your crumble evenly over the apple mix. 

Bake for a further 20-25 minutes or until golden. Serve with ice cream or cream. 

And there you have it - a meal fit for a King or Queen!!  I tell you there wasn't much left over!!  Well done Bro, another success!!  Must run in the family....... 

Cate Can Cook, But So Can Stu!!!  

ps - I'm not changing the blog name - you can get your own and we can duel it out over a hot stove!!!