I hope you enjoy the food!!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lime Glazed Chicken with Spicy Salsa

This meal has been a long time coming.  It was featured as the cover recipe on Australian Good Food Magazine back in March!  I told you it was a long time coming.  Isn't there a saying though, something about all good things are waiting for?

Last night, even though the weather had taken a decided turn for the cold again we decided to have this lovely fresh springtime meal.  "Precious" had decided that she was making the meal so it was a real treat for me!

It was a lovely fresh, flavourful, easy dish to make, and the corn chips were the best I have had - they were lovely and crisp and would be great for nachos as they could hold up under pressure!!

We only slightly tweeked the recipe!!

Lime Glazed Chicken with Spicy Salsa

Serves 4

1 pkt corn tortillas (10 per pack)
1 tbs olive oil
juice of 2 limes, plus wedges to serve
dash tabasco sauce
1 tbs sweet chilli sauce 
4 x chicken breast fillets
2 large tomatoes, diced
2 avocados, chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup coriander, chopped
2 tbs basil, chopped
1 long red chilli, seeded, finely diced (or to taste)
garlic olive oil spray
sea salt

Preheat oven to 180C.  

To make the salsa place the tomato, avocado, herbs, onion and chilli with a small amount of oil in a bowl.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Set aside.

Place tortillas on a baking tray that has been lined with baking paper.  Spray the tortillas with the garlic olive oil spray - bake for 3-4 minutes, turn them, spray again, and dust with sea salt. Continue in this manner for another two to three times - spraying and lightly salting until they are lovely and golden and crisp.

Meanwhile heat a BBQ or chargrill on medium.  Whisk together olie oil, lime juice, tabasco, and sweet chilli sauce together.  Rub this mixture into the chicken.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cook chicken, turning every 5 minutes, for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through.

Slice the chicken and serve with the corn chips, salsa and lime wedges.

Tequilla optional!!!!

This dish is so easy - it is a perfect one for all those budding Junior MasterChefs to try!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Marshmallow Rice Bubble Slice

I am not going to make any excuses for the following recipe, other than to say it is school holidays!!!  All you mums out there know what that means.  Hungry tummies home all day, extra children over (I think I had six in total here yesterday!).  All you seem to hear is I'm hungry can I have something to eat?

So I raided the pantry trying to figure out what I could make quickly, trying to remember what someone had told me recently about making "homemade LCMs" - and here is what I did.

Marshmallow Rice Bubble Slice

6 cups rice bubbles
1 pkt marshmallows (125g) - plus I had a few random ones in a pack
65g butter
pink food colouring
100g chocolate

Lightly grease a lamington pan with butter, then line the base with baking paper.

Place the rice bubbles in a large bowl.

Put the marshmallows and butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Stir the mixture constantly until all the butter and marshmallows are melted.  Add a few drops of pink food colouring, until desired colour.

Pour the marshmallow mixture into the rice bubbles.  Mix quickly, making sure that all the rice bubbles are coated in the marshmallow mixture.

Place the mixture into the prepared tin.

Melt the chocolate over low heat, until all the chocolate is melted.

Using a spoon drizzle the chocolate over the marshmallow slice.

Put in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, or until set enough to cut into squares.

You are now ready for the next tummy rumble!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Slow Soy Braised Pork with Rice Noodles

Yes I know it is Spring time and my thoughts should be turning to the lighter things in life like salads and grills - but there was something about this recipe that just said "Make Me"!

Yes the recipe (in this month's Australian Good Taste) was for Beef, and it was served with pasta - but I could almost taste my version!!  What the heck, one last braise, there's always tomorrow night for the Spring time meal!

Dear Readers if you can just imagine the aromas that this dish made while slowly working it's magic in the oven for 3 1/2 hours - the citrus, soy, star anise and cinnamon smells - true heaven (I think I can still evoke the smell this morning)  There is something incredibly seductive and soothing about eating lovely soft melt in your mouth highly flavoured meat with smooth silky rice noodles!  You know I am right don't you?

Slow Soy Braised Pork with Rice Noodles
Serves 6

1.5kg pork scotch fillet, cut into thick slices
750ml light red wine (such as pinot noir)
4 cups chicken stock
3/4 light soy sauce
3/4 cup shaoxing wine
1/4 sweet sherry
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
50g fresh ginger, thinly sliced
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole star anise
3 strips of orange rind (cut from top to bottom, approx 4 cm wide) (I used blood orange)
2 tbs olive oil
1kg thick rice noodles
coriander to serve

Combine the wine, stock, soy sauce, sherry, shaoxing wine, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, star anise and orange rind in a large saucepan.  Bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 40 minutes, or until the liquid reduces by half.

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Heat the oil in a large frypan over high heat.  Cook the pork in batches, browning all the sides well.

Place the browned meat into the stock mixture.  Cover (I forgot to do this!!?) the surface with non-stick baking paper.  Cover with a lid, and bake for 3 hours, or until the meat is tender.  Remove the lid, and continue cooking for a further 30 minutes just to reduce the liquid down a little.

Remove the meat from the liquid, and gently smoosh with a fork to make the meat start falling apart.

You may like to at this point place the cooking liquid on the stove and reduce it down further - but if you are like me - you just got to start eating this lovely smelling concoction!!

Serve the meat over warmed up rice noodles, garnish with coriander sprigs.

What can I say, you can smell the aromas can't you?  mmm - I am so glad that "The Darlings" both went for sleep overs last night - now there are some delectable leftovers for me today!!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chimichurri Sauce

I have seen several recipes lately for Chimichurri Sauce.  What is it exactly?  It is, so they say, an essential part of the Argentinian parilla - but what is a parilla you ask?  The Argentinian version of the great Aussie BBQ!!  A smorgasbord of grilled meats!!  Carnivore's Heaven!!!

Due to circumstances beyond my control, and reasons that I will not divulge here, I actually made this Chimichurri sauce several days ago.  So my meat was well and truly marinated when the time came to BBQ it.  Some would say this is a good thing - several recipes I read said that preparing it at least a day in advance helped the flavours to develop!  Mine was certainly well developed!

While not wanting to totally overload on meats I did have a few different pieces going on with my parilla!  I had rump steak, a lovely piece of pork tenderloin, and the obligatory chorizo sausage.

Now Chimichurri sauce is both a marinade and accompaniment to the meat, and it seems that it is also open to many variations - you can modify it to suit your taste by changing the herbs, adding more chilli, more garlic, fresh chopped tomatoes.... but here is the version I started out with.  Add and modify to your hearts content Dear Readers!!

Chimichurri Sauce

2 cups (approx 1 bunch) fresh flat leaf parsley, remove the stems, using the leaves only
1 bunch of oregano, again leaves only
3-6 cloves of garlic (make sure your partner eats this too!!)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tbs lime juice
salt and red pepper flakes (to taste)

In a food processor pulse the garlic until finely chopped.

Add the parsley and the oregano, pulse until finely chopped.

Transfer the mixture to a separate bowl.  Add the olive oil, lime juice, and vinegar.  Stir to combine.  By adding the liquids outside of the food processor gives the sauce the correct consistency - you do not want the herbs completely pureed, just finely chopped.

Season to taste with sea salt flakes and red pepper flakes.

Use approximately half of the sauce as a marinade, and the remainder to accompany your grilled meats.

To go with the grilled meats I made a cos salad with grilled red capsicums, segments of blood orange, tomato, and olives.  The dressing I made for the salad consisted of:

Salad Dressing

2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp olive oil
the juice from the blood orange as I segmented it
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In case you have never made roasted capsicums before - they are really simple to do, and they are great to have on hand to add to pizzas, sandwiches, and of course salads!!

Halve the capsicums, and remove the seeds and inner membrane.  Place on a baking sheet (that you have lined with foil).  Spray lightly with garlic olive oil spray, and grill until the skin blisters and blackens.  This can take up to 15 minutes - don't worry - you really can't over cook these - the more blackening means more flavour!!

Allow to cool, then peel off the skin,  slice and add to your salad!

So how was the parilla?

Very yummy!!

The best part though, is that there are leftovers, and Dear Readers if you are a loyal follower, you know what that means - Parilla Pizza tonight!!!

This post does come with a warning though Dear Readers, you may need to stay away from people that have not consumed garlic, lest you offend!  This will definitely leave you with severe "Garlic Breath"!

Just as a post script - if you have any leftovers from your Parilla - they make a fantastic pizza.  I had the Carnivores Delight with Chimichurri Sauce last night!!!  YUM!!!

So Dear Readers what leftovers have you used to make a new meal out of the next night?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fish In A Bag

Let me preface this with saying that I have made this dish so many times I have lost count - and it has always been great!  That was not to be the case this time though!!

When I usually make this meal I use barramundi, but when I visited the fish shop I thought the price was a little too high, so I decided to try something a little cheaper.  For $10 per kilo cheaper they had some crimson snapper - it looked pretty much the same shape, size etc as the barramundi - that will do.  Never, never again!!  It was the toughest piece of fish that I have ever had!  After I had finished the meal - yes, I ate it - I hate wasting money, I did some research on crimson snapper on the internet.  Yes, it is apparently quite strong smelling, and quite "moderately firm" is how they put it - unless it is cooked with a lot of moisture.  Well you can't have more moisture than when you steam it can you?

I will give you the step by step way to make fish in a bag -just don't use crimson snapper!!

Fish In A Bag

Serves 1

Large handful of baby spinach
1/2 punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove crushed garlic
olive oil
1 lemon, sliced
1 piece of fish of choice

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Lay out a large cross of foil.  Into the middle of the cross place the baby spinach.

Place the piece of fish on top of the spinach, then top the fish with the lemon slices.

Place the halved cherry tomatoes in a bowl, toss with the garlic and a small amount of olive oil.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Place on top of the lemon slices.

Now, tightly enclose the fish with the foil.  Fold in the first layer, then the second layer of the foil.  If needed enclose the whole package in another layer of foil.

Place on a baking tray, and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your piece of fish.

After this time you should have a delectably soft, garlickly, lemony piece of fish!!

This is a lovely easy dish to make for one, or more!  Simply modify the amounts!

Just do not use crimson snapper!!!  Pay the extra for barramundi - it's worth it!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Slow Roasted Tomato Lamb

As you know I recently bought one of those internet deals - you know one of those "too good to be true" ones!!  Well it wasn't and I am still eating the "fall out" - it was a meat package!  In there was a leg of lamb - now I am past the winter roasts - so what would I do with it that was perhaps a little different?  I sat on the internet and came up with a recipe that I modified to suit.  It was a sport night, so I had lots of time to play with (by that I mean leave it in the oven!!)

Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb
Served 5 (with leftovers)

1 x leg of lamb (mine was almost 3 kg) it had the end shank of the bone removed
1 can tomato soup
2 onions, cut in half, then into wedges
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves of garlic sliced into thin pieces

Preheat oven to 150C.

With a sharp knife make slits in the lamb, place a sliver of garlic into each slit.

Heat a large saucepan (this saves the splatter mess a little) over high heat.  Brown all sides of the lamb.  Remove lamb, and place in a baking dish (I used a disposable foil one - saves on the mess later!)  Wipe out the sauce pan of the excess fat, and add the onions.  Cook gently for around 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are softened.

Place the onions over the top of the lamb.  Pour over the tomato soup.  Cover tightly with layers of foil, making sure it is very tightly enclosed.  Now because I had used a thin disposable foil tray I decided to put this tray into a larger baking dish - I then added around 1-2 cups of water to the baking dish, just enough so that it came half way up the sides of the disposable tray.  I did this so that during the long cooking process the bottom of the lamb didn't burn.

You could also it in a slow cooker (didn't fit in mine though) - or in a covered baking dish if you have one.  I just took the easy (less cleaning up method).  Aren't I nice to "The Darlings"?

Put in the oven, and walk away for 3-4 hours.

During the last 1 - 1 1/2 hours of cooking time you might like to add some vegetables (to another baking tray).  I baked some sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots and of course potato.  As the temperature of the oven is lower than usual the vegetables will take a little longer to bake.  Mine were in there for around 1 1/2 hours, and they were lovely and golden.

After 4 hours, the lamb was lovely and tender, almost falling off the bones!!  Take the lamb from the tray and keep warm.

Put the tomato and onion mixture into a saucepan, and simmer over medium high heat for 5 minutes, or until it has reduced slightly.

Serve the lamb with roasted vegetables, and the tomato gravy.

So Dear Readers have you ever purchased anything over the internet that seemed too good to be true?  If so what was it?

Peanut Crusted Chicken

If you are a regular reader you should know by now that I am always reading the cooking magazines looking for new ideas.  When I was glancing (is it still glancing the third and fourth time you look at a magazine for inspiration?) at the current edition of Super Food Ideas I came across a recipe for Peanut Crusted Chicken. The photo looked great, it was basically a "new version" of satay chicken.  "The Darlings" love peanut butter - what could be better?

Here is the recipe as it appears in the magazine

Peanut Crusted Chicken

Serves 4

1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp mild curry powder
600g chicken tenderloins
2 tbs peanut oil
1 medium brown onion, finely diced
1 clove crushed garlic
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
270ml lite coconut milk
1 tbs ketchap manis
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbs lime juice

Steamed rice and asian greens to serve

Process the nuts, salt and curry powder together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Press the chicken into the peanut mixture.

Heat half the oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat.  Cook the chicken in batches for 5 minutes each side, or until browned and cooked through.  Transfer to a plate.  Cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile heat the remaining oil in a saucepan overmedium heat.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook, stirring for 3 minutes, or until softened.

Add peanut butter, coconut milk, ketchap manis, sugar and lime juice.  Stir until smooth.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the mixture simmers.

Serve chicken with rice, steamed green vegetables and sauce.

Now here is what I did - I used around 1 kg of tenderloins - it served 5 people - with a little leftover (into the freezer for the next pizza night!) - saying that though "The Darlings" didn't eat very much, one was sick, the other claimed not to like it.  What I am trying to say is that 1kg gives you 5 generous serves.

Due to the fact that I had almost doubled the amount of chicken I doubled the amount of peanuts and curry powder.  All the rest of the ingredients I left the same.

I also didn't want to "fry" the chicken, so what I did was spray the chicken with garlic olive oil spray and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes (on pretty high - around 200C - with an occasional burst of "grill"), turning once, until they were lovely and golden.  This saved on the amount of oil that I used, and and was also heaps easier.  I am sorry,  but you cannot tell me that it only takes 1 tbs of oil to pan fry 600g of chicken tenderloins!!!

So what was the verdict?  Well, I was not feeling great that night - (still having tooth issues) - but Mr. CCC thought it was good.  When I make it next time I think I will add a splash (say 1tbs) of sweet chilli sauce to the peanut sauce, just to give it a little bit of a kick.  I guess if the kids are not keen on the "curry flavour" with the nuts you could make two batches - one with curry and one without.  I also think that using salted roasted peanuts would be better next time - just a little more flavour.

Try it Dear Readers, tell me what you think.  Let me know if you pan fry it, or bake it like me.  Which do you think is better?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Salmon with Lime Creme Fraiche and Citrus Couscous, and Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus

Any meal that has salmon in it is a great meal with me!!

I have been making this dish for many years now, and it always goes down a treat.  I started out using a packaged Ainsley Harriott Citrus Kick Couscous mix, but now make my own version of the couscous.  This is an incredibly easy dish - the hardest part is making the lime creme fraiche!!

If you are not familiar with creme fraiche, and have not seen it at your local supermarket, it is well worth scouting around for.  At my local supermarket it is hidden away with the gourmet cheeses - and any good deli will usually sell it.  It can be a little pricey - but the taste is worth it.  Creme fraiche is very similar to a good thick sour cream, it has a pretty high fat content (usually around the 30% mark) but because of this high fat content it can be whipped and used in place of cream, and is great for cooking as it doesn't curdle like some of the lesser fat content sour creams can.  It has a lovely rich, lush flavour, and once you try it you won't go back to sour cream again!!

Salmon with Lime Creme Fraiche, Citrus Couscous and Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus

Serves 4

4 Salmon Fillets

Lime Creme Fraiche

250g Creme Fraiche
1/2 bunch coriander leaves, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 small green shallots, very finely chopped
1 tbs honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Citrus Couscous

Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 bunch coriander leaves, chopped
1 tbs Moroccan seasoning
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
30g butter
1 cup couscous

Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus
100g prosciutto
50-100g grated parmesan cheese
garlic olive oil spray
freshly ground black pepper

To make the lime creme fraiche, place all ingredients in bowl, and combine.  Set aside while preparing the rest of the meal.

For the asparagus, remove the woody end of the asparagus by gently bending the woody end of the asparagus until the end snaps off (this way you will always have just the lovely fresh soft part of the asparagus.)

Preheat oven to 180C.

Depending on the number of slices of prosciutto, wrap a slice of prosciutto around 1-2 pieces of asparagus.  Place wrapped asparagus on a baking tray.  When all pieces of asparagus are wrapped, spray with a generous amount of garlic olive oil spray.  Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, and then a generous amount of parmesan cheese.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the asparagus is tender.  This is THE BEST way to eat fresh asparagus!!!

Place the chicken stock, lime juice and zest, coriander, and moroccan seasoning in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until the chicken stock comes to the boil.  Remove from the heat, stir in the couscous, place a lid on the saucepan and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes while you cook the salmon.  After 10 minutes, add the butter, and fluff up with a fork - gently combining the butter into the couscous.

Heat a frypan over high heat.  Add a small amount of olive oil to the pan.  Cook the salmon skin side down for approximately 4-5 minutes, or until the skin is lovely and crispy.  Turn over and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon, and how you like it done.  Remember that salmon is a lot like a good piece of steak - you still want a little pinkness in the middle - do not over cook!!

To serve place the couscous, salmon and several pieces of asparagus on a plate.  Serve the creme fraiche on the side.

This is an absolutely gorgeous, fresh spring meal.  It is also incredibly easy, so if you are entertaining, you can prepare the lime creme fraiche in advance, have the couscous all ready to go, have the asparagus pre-wrapped, then it's all only going to take a few minutes to cook.

To me this meal personifies Spring - you will see Asparagus crop up more and more in my meals during spring - especially this way!!!  So Dear Readers what meal do you love to make when the weather starts to warm up?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Coca Cola Pork Roast

I recently jumped on the bandwagon and purchased something from one of these "discount websites".  It was an offer to buy $200 worth of meat for $99!  Seemed like a good deal - they told what may be in the pack -it all looked good - stuff we would eat.  I reasoned that even if the meat was so-so, it was probably no worse than if I picked up something that was tough from were I currently purchase.

The pack arrived and it was not what may have been included.  When I looked on their website (at their inflated prices) I had only received about $100 worth of meat - so I was probably no better off than if I had purchased it myself (and picked it myself) - now had things that I may or may not want/need at the moment (like a leg of lamb!!).  Included n the pack though was a pork scotch fillet.  Now Dear Readers if you a keen follower of this blog you will know that this happens to be my favourite cut of meat!

What will I do with this scotch fillet?  I wanted to something a little different - so onto the interent I got.  I ended up on the Australian Pork website (www.pork.com.au).  There I found a recipe for Coca Cola Pork Roast.  Looked different - let's give that a go!  I cooked the recipe exactly as they stated, although they were a little ambiguous about what to do with the coca cola liquid after you had simmered the meat in it!!

Here is the recipe as it appears on the Australian Pork website.

Coca Cola Pork Roast

Serves 6

1.2 - 1.5kg pork scotch roast
1 tbs oil
1.2 litres coca cola
pinch all spice
1 tsp coffe ground (I used instant?!)
1 cup brown sugar

To Serve: Rocket Salad and Candied Walnuts (I didn't make the walnuts as I knew no one would eat them - did it change the recipe - nup!)

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan (I like using a saucepan as the meat tends to spit a lot while you are browning it!).  Brown the roast well on all sides.

Pour over the coca cola, then stir in the all spice, coffee and brown sugar.  Mix well.  Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, making sure to turn the meat several times to coat well in the sauce.

Place the roast in a baking tray (disposable foil one is best as then there is no mess!!).  Bake for 1 hour.

Remove the roast from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes prior to slicing. 

Serve with rocket salad and smashed potatoes.  (Spoon over a little of the "cola" liquid)

Note:  You can replace the coca cola with Marsala or Sherry - but note they want 1.2 litres!!

There was a lot of liquid left over - I spooned small amounts regularly over the roast while it was cooking in the oven.

I think if I ever made this recipe again I would probably halve the amount of liquid.  Sure you would end up with a syrupy liquid - but that would probably be good - it would give the roast a good sweet coating.

Apricot Chicken

One could be excused for thinking that I may have fallen off the perch this week!  In fact one reader asked me "What's going on - aren't you eating??"  I'm glad someone notices if I don't post - it means there are people out there reading along!!  Thank you Dear Reader!!

Yes, it has been a very slow week in the kitchen this week.  We were away last weekend, and then this week has been marred by a cracked tooth - which made all other things go from my brain (especially the meal I had just eaten) - not that it had anything at all to do with the meal!

Then there were other, what I call "Crap" meals - which my reader asked again - "So what, we don't get to hear about the crap?"   When I say "Crap" I mean a meal pulled together from leftovers from the freezer (which was actually some of the pulled pork - remember that one? - Made into Burritos - Yum!!)  Then there was the other recipe that was not a huge success - but I think that had more to do with the meat than the recipe - that was Coca Cola pork.

Last night we went out for Greek food - so once again - no dinner cooked.  I must tell you about that meal.  It was what they termed a "claypot" dish - duck breast cooked with cinnamon and honey, with apricots and strawberries.  PLEASE, if one of you have a recipe for a meal like this I have to have it!!  I have googled and googled - but come up with nothing!!  I even asked them for the recipe last night - but to no avail.  Oh to describe the dish - succulent meat that was so tender it was falling apart in a deliciously sweet sauce.  Heaven!!  NQN - do you have a recipe???  It seems to be a regular on the menu at this restaurant, as it was several years ago that I had it, and it is still as good as I remembered! The restaurant (if you are interested) is The Claypot Restaurant at Gordon - so if anyone knows anyone who may be able to get the recipe - please do!!!

So in the interests of keeping up with "my postings" here are the recipes for this week.

Apricot Chicken
Serves 4
(Adapted from the CSIRO Cookbook)

2 tbs plain flour
1 tbs Moroccan Spice Mix
1.2 kg chicken thigh cutlets, trimmed, skin removed, cut into cubes
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves crushed garlic
4 springs fresh thyme
1 x 400ml apricot nectar
150g dried apricots, chopped
1/2 -1 cup chicken stock

Combine the flour and spice mix in a large bowl, then add the chicken cubes, and mix to coat the chicken with the flour and spice mix.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan over medium high heat and brown the chicken.  Remove from the pan and set aside. 

Add the garlic and the onion to the pan and stir for approximately 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.  Add the thyme, apricot nectar, apricots and half the stock.  Bring to a simmer.  Return the chicken to the pan and simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.  Add more chicken stock if the mixture become too dry.

Serve with rice and steamed vegetables.

So as you see nothing there to break a tooth over!!  Just have to put that down to "old age" I think!

This really was a lovely take on an old classic (remember the one that your Mum used to make with the Apricot Nectar and French Onion soup mix??)  This is so much better!!!  Not what you would call a world class meal - but good healthy "comfort food".  Try it - but if you do break a tooth don't blame me!!!!

So Dear Readers do you have slow weeks in the kitchen - weeks where you are just not motivated, where you just pull things together and hope for the best?  What do you feed people when you yourself don't feel like eating, but you know the hungry masses will revolt if you don't feed them?  Please tell.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I've got a secret, please don't tell!!

I made a chocolate cake for "The Darlings" yesterday - they loved it!!  The secret is that is has a vegetable in it!!!!  I hid the recipe, so they have no idea that the lovely moist chocolate cake they loved so much has zucchini in it (and no, it is not the recycled zucchini that I took out of their gnocchi the night before!!!)

I was at a loss yesterday afternoon, it was raining, I had cleaned the kitchen (and didn't feel like tackling any more cleaning projects) - so what else was there to do but bake!!  Trouble was Mr. CCC had taken my car, and the rain was coming down pretty hard, didn't want to venture out in it - so I had to make do with what I had in the pantry!!!  Scoured the recipe books and the internet, and finally decided on a chocolate zucchini cake - I've never made one before!!!  I looked at several recipes, and in my usual style (or should I say based on what ingredients I had on hand) I made up my own version.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

2 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bi carb soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
170g butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large zucchini, grated (you need approx. 2 cups)
1/2 cup milk


1 1/2 - 2 cups icing sugar
3 tbs milk (approx)
1 tbs cocoa

Preheat oven to 180 C (non fan).

Lightly grease and flour a bundt pan.  

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, bi carb soda, salt, and cinnamon into a bowl.  Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar until they are well blended.  Add the eggs to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.  

With a spoon, add the vanilla, and zucchini to the mixture.

Mix well.  Now alternately add the sifted dry ingredients and the milk, until all the the ingredients are combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin.

Bake in the oven for approximately 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, mix together the icing sugar and cocoa, then add the milk gradually until you have a thick, pouring consistency.  Drizzle the icing over the cake. When the icing is dry sift a little icing sugar over the cake for decoration.

Now whatever you do, do not, I repeat DO NOT tell "The Darlings" there is zucchini in there!!  It could scar them for life and they may never eat chocolate cake again!!! (as if!!!)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gnocchi with Meatballs and Brown Bread Ice Cream

We had a bit of a disjointed weekend this weekend - or should I say hectic.  I was watching one of "The Darlings" compete at an athletics carnival all day Friday and then we flew to Byron Bay for the weekend to celebrate a milestone birthday in the family.  So, not a lot was prepared in the food department this weekend, and not a lot of preparation (read grocery shopping) was done either!

Needless to say yesterday, although feeling a little wiped out from the weekend, I decided that a little time in the kitchen would fix that.  I had one of "The Dalrings" home yesterday - he too was wiped out!!  I asked him what he would like for dinner, and the response was gnocchi!!  What should I do - the usual spag bol type thing, or something creamy????  I had the gnocchi already, and most of the things to add whichever way I went - just needed to decide on the meat.  After wandering aimlessly in the meat department I stumbled upon these..

They were on special too - 2 packs for $8.00!!  Bargain.  So it was decided Gnocchi with meatballs.

This is the quantity that I made - it made a lot - enough for 6 with leftovers!!

Gnocchi with Meatballs

Serves 6

2 x 500g packets of sausages of choice 
1 x 500g bottle of good quality pasta sauce
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 x onion, finely chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
150g bacon, diced
1 large zucchini, quartered, then cut into chunks
3/4 cup of frozen peas
2 x 500g packets gnocchi (shelf kind or fresh)
150g grated cheese
100g grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 180 C.

Make a small cut in the end of the sausages, and squeeze out small amounts to make little meatballs.  Gently fry in a non stick frying pan over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes, or until cooked.  Remove from pan, and place on a plate that has been lined with a paper towel to remove any excess fat.  Repeat with remaining sausages, until all cooked.

Now cook the onion, bacon, garlic for approximately 3 minutes, or until the onion starts to soften, now add the zucchini and peas and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, or until the zucchini starts to soften, and the peas are no longer frozen.

Add the pasta sauce, tomatoes, and the sausages.  Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper, and any salt if needed.

Cook the gnocchi according to directions on the packet.  Drain.

Place the sausage, tomato mixture into a large ovenproof dish.  Cover with the gnocchi, then top with the grated cheeses.  Bake in the oven for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until the golden on top.

There you have it a really easy meal.  Of course "The Darlings" picked out the green things - but oh well, such is life!!!  I am resigned to the fact that they will never eat a green thing!!!

And for dessert ........

Brown Bread Ice Cream

2 litres of good quality vanilla ice cream 
150g fresh brown/wholemeal bread (approx 3 slices)
150g brown sugar
50g caster sugar

Leave the ice cream out of the freezer for approximately 30 minutes, depending on weather - or until/ soft enough to incorporate mixture with a spoon.

Preheat oven to 200 C.

Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Process the bread into breadcrumbs.  Lay out on the baking paper.  Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the breadcrumbs, making sure that there is sugar all over the crumbs.

Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the sugar starts to caramelise.  Now be very careful here - it may take a little longer - but once the sugar starts to caramelise it turns very fast.  Mine actually "caught" around the edges - but that's ok - just take the middle bits - there are heaps of crumbs!

Allow the crumbs to cool.  Break apart into small chunks.  Place the ice cream into a large bowl, and carefully incorporate the crumbs into the ice cream, working fast so that you don't end up with a sloppy milk mixture!!

Put the ice cream back into the container, and freeze for several hours (at least 6).

Serve with fresh strawberries.

You really must try this.  It doesn't taste anything like what you think it will.  The brown bread turns into crunchy toffee - and unless you are told, you would probably never guess it was actually bread in there!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chilli Con Queso Dip

Recently I was reminded about a recipe that I used to make a long time ago, when I lived in California, and I was experimenting with Mexican Food.

It got me to thinking about how food has evolved, and in particular the recipes that we used say 20-30 years ago.  The cookbooks were quite different to the ones we use today.  My mum bought me the Women's Weekly Recipe Card Collection when they first came out - gosh they were a new and exciting way of getting recipes at the time.  Glossy cards with a picture on each one!!

I had my well worn favourites - The Devil's Food Cake of course - what teenager doesn't love making chocolate cake!??!  Quiche Lorraine was also a favourite along with onion pancakes (can't quite remember what the fascination was with those!!!)  After pulling them out to have a look at I had a few chuckles over the recipes - they were all so trendy and new back then - but would we make them now?  Perhaps with some whizz bang food styling the old tired favourites could have some new life put back into them??  Mmmm maybe not.  Our food is so much fresher, using what is in season as opposed to what we had in the pantry.  Look at all the new ingredients that we have learned about - kaffir lime leaves, galangal, fish sauce the list goes on....

The recipe in question that lead me down memory lane was .......

Chilli Con Queso Dip

500g sausage mince
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 red chilli, finely diced (or to taste)
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
500g Kraft Cheese (the shelf kind) cut into cubes

Corn Chips to serve.

Add a small amount of olive oil to a frypan that has been heated over medium heat.  Gently saute the onions and garlic for approximately 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.  Add the sausage mince, breaking it up as it cooks.  When all the sausage mince has cooked through, and has browned, remove the excess oil from the pan with paper towels.

Add the tomatoes, and mix well.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until heated through.

Now here you can do one of two things - I like to put the mixture in the crockpot - then serve the warm dip straight from there - or you can put it in a heatproof bowl and melt the cheese in the microwave.

So whichever way - place the tomato mixture into the "bowl" add the cubes of cheese, mix well and either heat gently (in 1 minute intervals - stirring in between) in the microwave - or in the crockpot on low for a couple of hours.  Stir frequently so that it doesn't start to brown around the edges.

Now I am sure there are ways we could bring this recipe into the 2000's - but you know what it actually tasted pretty good.  It is a great dip to have when you have a large crowd - simply add a little more cheese and more tomatoes and you could feed the whole football team!!!

So Dear Readers what was your first cookbook - and what was your favourite thing to make as you started to learn how to cook?  (I can tell you my dishes certainly didn't look anything like what those kids made on MasterChef Junior last night!!!)  In fact my dad used to regularly ask me if I had read the recipe at all!