I hope you enjoy the food!!!

Friday, December 31, 2010

And that was the year that was!!!

Here we are at the end of another year - where do they go, and why do they go so fast?  They say that they get faster as you get older - but is that true?  All I know is that it seems like only yesterday that we were saying goodbye to 2009.

So Dear Readers has it been a good year for you?

For me it has been a mixed bunch - we have had many ups and downs.

On the home front we have faced a long battle, having a portion of our home destroyed by a storm back in February.  The best part of 2010 was spent facing legal issues trying to fix it - I hope for a resolution next year - and a roof that doesn't leak when it rains!!!

On a personal level I have pushed myself to new boundaries and have done things I would probably never have done before.  I owe so much to my "BFF" Miss Twinkles - she has listened to me rant and rave this last year, and her friendship has given me so much support - thank you for listening to me, and coming along on the journey with me (willing or not!!)

The children have grown - one becoming an "adult",  one starting high school, and the other two now facing 2011 as their last year in primary school.  They grow up right before your eyes, blink and you might miss it.

So Dear Readers, what do hope and wish for in the New Year?

Is there a goal you hope to achieve, is there a trip you want to take, or a course you want to do?

I hope that each and every one of you achieve your goals.

I wish you all good health, and hope that 2011 is good to you all.

I have appreciated your company this year, and I hope that you will continue with me next year as my journey continues, who knows where a little food blog can take you........

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Basil Pesto Dip and Pumpkin and Spinach Risotto

Dips seem to be big on the hit list at the moment, and what with unexpected guests dropping by and parties to go to, why not?

 I was recently at the corner shop when a woman came rushing in, and wanting to purchase dips and cheeses - the proprietor smiled, and asked - unexpected guests?  Yes, the harried woman replied - we were gardening when the phone call came announcing the visit.  I smiled too (a smug little smile) -  I guess you are wondering why I smiled?  Well I was having the thought - if only this woman had a Thermomix - she wouldn't be spending over $28 at the local shop on crappy dips and cheeses - she would be whipping up a fresh little number in her own kitchen in a few seconds.  Smug aren't I?

True though - it is so easy to make a fresh and tasty dip when you have a Thermomix.  This little dip has been whizzed up a couple of times in the last couple of weeks.  You do not have to have a Thermomix to make this - but it makes it so much easier - just process in your food processor for the same results.

Basil Pesto Dip
From Everyday Cooking for every family

1 large clove of garlic
40g (approx a bunch) of fresh basil
small handful of fresh parsley
160g salted cashews
80g olive oil
2 tbs white wine vinegar
4 tbs parmesan cheese

Place all ingredients into TM bowl and set dial to closed lid position.

Pulse with Turbo button for 5-10 seconds (about 4 pulses) so that you have a rough, but even chopped mixture.

Voila!!! A tasty, easy dip.  I haven't tried it yet - but I think this would probably be really good mixed through hot pasta - and possibly with some prawns as well - just a thought - will have to give it a go a let you know!

While I am on the Thermomix thread just want to share the risotto we had last night.  Mr. CCC and "The Darlings" were out for the night - that just left two of us at home.  Didn't really feel like cooking - so decided to make a risotto in the TM.  Sooooo easy.  Really all I had to do was peel an onion, and a garlic clove.  Chop the pumpkin into cubes - and the TM did all the rest!

Pumpkin and Spinach Risotto
adapted from Everyday Food for every family

Serves 2-3

1 medium onion, pealed, quartered
1 clove garlic
25g olive oil
200g arborio rice
50g white wine
1 1/2 tbs TM vegetable stock concentrate
500g water
1/2 butternut pumpkin, pealed, cubed
100g baby spinach leaves

Grated parmesan cheese to serve

Place the onion and garlic in TM bowl and chop for 2-3 seconds on speed 6-7.

Add oil and saute for 2 minutes at 100C on speed 1 (with the measuring cup off).

Insert the butterfly.  Add the rice and wine into the TM bowl and saute for 2 minutes at 100C on Reverse  + speed soft.

Add stock, pumpkin and water and cook for 17 minutes at 100C on Reverse + speed soft.

Place the spinach leaves in the base of the Thermoserver.  Season the risotto with salt and freshly ground black pepper and pour on top of the spinach in the Thermoserver.  Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Stir the risotto to incorporate the spinach.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

I cannot stress enough how easy making risotto is in the Thermomix.

I know that I am only making really basic recipes with the TM at the moment - but it is kind of like when you learn to drive - you have to start out slowly until you are completely comfortable with the machine - I am itching to try some more exotic recipes - but I am taking it slowly.

Having the TM has made life so easy -  I am finding that I am using it several times a day.  The kids are loving having fresh juices, and I do find that having it on the bench within easy reach I am more inclined to use it more often.  I will whip up bread, pizza bases, and just use it for simple chopping jobs.  I do tend to find that once I use it for the first time I am washing it out several times in a row making something else!!  And yes - it is really easy to clean too!!!

It's like having a helper in the kitchen - it makes it all so simple!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vietnamese Beef Salad

I don't think we have gone particularly overboard in the food department this Christmas, but I was hankering for something nice and light and fresh last night for dinner.  The only trouble was the weather decided to take a change for the cold - but that wasn't going to deter me.

I have been making this beef salad for so long, I don't even remember where I got the recipe for it from now.  Anyway I am sure that I have added and changed the original concept over the years.

Here is my take on a Vietnamese Beef Salad.

Vietnamese Beef Salad

Serves 4

1kg rump steak
4 tbs fish sauce
2 tbs sweet chilli sauce
2 tbs chopped ginger
4 cloves crushed garlic
1 tbs sesame oil
1/2 punnet snow pea sprouts (approx 50g)
1 cup mint leaves, roughly torn
1 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cashews
1 - 2 punnets cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bag salad mix (approx 200g)

In a large ziploc bag combine the fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil.  Add the beef and allow to marinade for at least 1 hour - longer if possible.

Combine the salad mix with the coriander and mint in a large bowl.

Barbeque the steak for 4-5 minutes each side - but keep the centre pink.  Remove and allow to stand for a couple of minutes.  Slice thinly.

Add the sliced steak to the salad leaves, top with the cashews.

Serve with sweet chilli sauce, if desired.

This is a lovely fresh, light salad.  It is so easy to prepare as well.  This is also a great marinade to make and take away with you when you go on holidays.  You can always get a steak and salad fixings wherever you are!!  If you have the marinade prepared already it makes for a good quick (healthy) meal.

So Dear Readers are you on the healthy food now, after all the Christmas food, or are you still eating leftovers - and what is your favourite Christmas leftover?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ginger and Maple Glazed Ham

I know that I have given you a recipe already that I proclaimed was the best ham glaze ever but I decided to try something new this year.

Yesterday we went to my brother's house and had a lovely Christmas lunch, I got off very easily, all I had to make was the salads.  So today I have decided to make us a ham (it just isn't Christmas without a glazed ham in the fridge that you can pick at!!)

I saw this recipe in the December issue of MasterChef Magazine and thought that it had all the elements in it that we liked - maple syrup, apricot nectar and char sui sauce - we just love char sui sauce on pork - so why not give this a go!!

Ginger and Maple Glazed Ham
adapted from MasterChef Magazine - December Issue

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups apricot nectar *
2 tbs char sui sauce
1 tbs ground ginger
6 star anise, plus extra to decorate

Preheat oven to 160C.

To make glaze place maple syrup, sugar, apricot nectar, char sui sauce, ginger and star anise in a sacepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, or until slightly reduced.

Set aside until needed.

To prepare ham, gently prise the skin away from the meat by sliding your fingers under the skin (keep it for covering up the ham later).  Using a sharp knife score the fat at 3cm intervals in a diamond pattern.

Line a disposable foil tray with 2 layers of foil.  Place the ham on the top, and brush gently with the glaze.  Place the ham in the oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours.  Make sure to glaze the ham at least every 20 minutes.

Decorate with extra star anise, if desired.

*  I used a can of apricot nectar that only had 405ml in it - so unless you can use the extra - just buy the smaller can.

The recipe also stated to add cloves at the points of each diamond on the ham prior to baking - oops I forgot that - plus we are not keen on the cloves.  So add - or not - the choice is yours.

The verdict?  Well it was lovely, and if it is Asian style flavours you are looking for then this is the one for you - everyone agreed though - the tried and true that I make each year was the winner.  The resounding question at the table last night was why did you try a new ham glaze??

So what are we having to go with the ham??

I have decided to make a pasta chicken bake for "the Darlings" - I am using the principle of my 4 ingredient pasta -  pasta, cooked chicken meat, soup mix (in this case cream of chicken and mushroom), and grated cheese - too easy!!!

I have also made my own butter!!! Yes made my own butter using the Thermomix - I am amazed at how easy it was.

from Everyday cooking for every family

500 - 600g fresh chilled cream (it said not to use thickened - but that was all I had!)

Place butterfly in TM bowl.

Add cream and blend for 1-3 minutes to separate on speed 4.

Once separated, strain the buttermilk carefully.  (keep the buttermilk - we are using it in a minute to make bread!!)   Remove the butterfly.

Place 500g of cold water into the TM bowl along with the strained butter and mix for 5-10 seconds on speed 4.

Strain the liquid again through the basket and the end result is your butter.

What I did was squeeze it with my hands to remove any more liquid and then added it back into the TM bowl and added a little salt (yes I know - but I like my butter salted!!).

I then mixed it again for 5-10 seconds on speed 4.

Remove the butter from the bowl and shape in a container.  Place in the fridge until ready to use.

So of course now I need (no pun intended) to make bread!!

Buttermilk Bread
from Everyday cooking for every family

180g buttermilk (I had almost enough left over from the butter)
200g lukewarm water
20g fresh yeast
1 tsp salt
500g bakers flour
20g oil

Place all ingredients into the TM in the above order and mix for 5 seconds on speed 7.

Set dial to closed lid position.  Knead for 3 minutes on interval speed.

Rub a little oil into your hands and remove the dough from the bowl.  Place into a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover and set aside in a warm place to allow to prove for 30 minutes.

Knead slightly then shape dough into loaf form and set aside again until it has risen to double the size.

Place on a tray and bake in oven for 45 minutes at 200C.

You can increase the amount of buttermilk if you dont have enough left over with water.

I am thinking now that I probably need some kind of salad to go with our feast - so what not whip up a little coleslaw in the Thermomix - it will only take around 4 seconds!!!

Can you believe this took only seconds to make???


adapted from Everyday cooking for every family

200g cabbage, roughly cut
100g carrots, roughly cut
1 green apple, cut into quarters (no need to peel or deseed!)
2 green shallots
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs mayonnaise *

Place all ingredients into the TM bowl and chop for 2-3 seconds on speed 4 . Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and chop for an additional 2-3 seconds on speed 4 or until desired consistency.

* Mayonnaise made previously in Thermomix - or use prepared mayo.

So there you have it - our Boxing Day Feast fit for a king!!!

Can you see how amazingly easy having a Thermomix is - I mean here I sit typing away - my bread is proving, the ham is glazing - it is really all too easy!!  I don't want to scare off any readers that do not have the Thermomix - you can achieve all this without it - but believe me it does make it a whole lot easier!!

So Dear Readers did Santa bring you all that you wanted for Christmas?  Did you get any labour saving devices that you had been longing for?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Today's post is not a food blog - but it is my blog and I am allowed to have a little licence to deviate from the food path occasionally.  Today is a day to reflect on all that is good in your life.  So if you are looking for food - come back tomorrow.

Sometimes life throws you some unexpected detours in the journey of life.

Readers that have followed me for a while will know about my son Jack.  My path in life since he was born is so entirely different than what I could ever imagined it would be.

I was lucky enough recently to attend the presentation day ceremony at the school that he attends.  When I say lucky, I don't mean it glibly - I truly feel lucky to have wandered into this world that for the most part, is unknown to the general population.

Jack attends a special school.

There was a time when I would have shuddered at the thought of him attending a special school.  Now I am so thankful that we have become a part of this truly unique place.  Every time I attend events at the school I get a "catch" in the throat - and can feel tears trying to escape.  Such is the love in the air.

Presentation day was no exception.  Here is a school that is staffed by the most incredibly, supportive, dedicated teachers and support personnel you will ever wish to meet.  They love their job, and their job is by no means easy.  Yet they nurture and educate our children, give them encouragement and teach them all how uniquely special each and every one of them is.  If they do their job well, then our kids will leave school in year 12 and become a meaningful part of the community.

This day I saw 8 children graduate.  It was time for them to leave the nest that has nurtured them for the past 6 years.

This was my first time at a presentation ceremony, and I was filled with the truly wonderful sense of camaraderie that filled the hall.  Every single kid there belonged - they had friends, and not just their peers, but the teachers in so many ways are also their friends.  Friendship knows no boundaries at this school.  The cheers that they gave each other was like music to my ears - the hugs as they said goodbye to each other as they left school that day was heartfelt, they really meant it - it wasn't just a superficial slap on the back that you see so often at the end of the school year.

These kids know that they are unique, but not in they way you are probably thinking.  They all have a truly unique outlook on life - and it is not marred by our stereotypes.  They spread more love to people than some of us can ever do in a lifetime - and they want nothing more than to have that love returned.

There was not a child there that was anchored down with their disability - such is they way that they have been encouraged to live to their full extent by their amazing teachers.

They may never be rocket scientists, or discover a vaccine for a disease, but these people will all contribute in their own way to society.

Sometimes we all need to have a "reality check".  I have had 2 in the last couple of weeks.

As you celebrate the Christmas season, ponder on others.  No matter how bad we think our lives are, there is always someone else who is struggling more than we are.

Enjoy what you have, and be thankful for the good things in life.

Merry Christmas to all my readers.  I appreciate each and every one of you.  I love that you make comments, I love that you read my daily offerings.  I wish each and every one of you the happiest of holiday seasons and look forward to having your company again next year.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve at our house

My approach to Christmas is to do as much preparation as possible in advance and try and enjoy the day.  Each Christmas Eve there is usually a multitude of jars and small containers in the fridge - they  contain all the chopped up ingredients, sauces, dressings that will be needed the next day.  This year we are all heading to my brother's house for Christmas Lunch - so I have it easy - I only have to take the salads - and yes I have all the prep. done for those already - I want to be able to get up in the morning and enjoy the kids opening their presents.  Sure I still have a couple of things to do to get the salads ready - but the fiddly stuff is done.

Tonight I am making "our" Christmas - well really it is only for the grown ups - "The Darlings" will only partake of the salmon, and plain rice please, but that is the norm here anyway so it doesn't faze me at all.  Christmas just isn't Christmas to me unless we have prawns - so tonight we are having Coconut Prawns, to be followed with some lovely barbecued salmon tails.  I am using 2 large salmon tails - these are great to throw on the BBQ - they only have one bone in the middle - and they are cheaper than buying fillets.  These tails were only $17.99 per kilo which is a considerable saving.  Investigate at your local fish shop and see if you can get them - they are well worth it!!

Coconut Prawns with Chilli Lime Mayonnaise
From Taste.com.au The Ultimate Guide to Christmas

1 cup whole egg mayonnaise
1/4 cup lime juice
1 large red chilli, seeded, finely chopped
1 cup rice flour
3 eggs, lightly whisked
250g shredded coconut
1kg green prawns, peeled leaving tails intact, deveined
vegetable oil to deep fry

Combine the mayonnaise, lime juice and chilli in a small bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until needed.

Place the rice flour, egg and coconut in separate bowls.  Holding the prawns by the tails, dip them one at a time into the flour, shake off excess.   Dip into the egg, then press firmly into the coconut to evenly coat.  Transfer to a plate.

Add enough oil to a saucepan to reach a depth of 6cm.  Heat to 170C over medium high heat (you can test this with a cube of bread - it will turn golden in 20 seconds.)  Add several prawns at a time to the oil and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until golden.  Use a slotted spoon to remove from the oil, transfer to a plate that has been lined with a paper towel.  Repeat with remaining prawns, reheating oil between batches.

Serve prawns with Chilli Lime Mayonnaise.

Asian Style Salmon Tails

4cm piece of ginger, peeled
4 cloves garlic
1 large red chilli, seeded
1/2 bunch of coriander, including stems
1 pice of lemon grass - remove hard outer husk
1 tbs palm sugar
1 tbs fish sauce

2 x salmon tails that have had several sharp knife cuts placed over the skin.

In a food processor (or Thermomix bowl) place all the ingredients.  Process until a finely chopped consistency.  In Thermomix process for 20 seconds on Speed 7.

Place the marinade in a large ziploc bag along with the salmon tails.  Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour - longer if time permits.

Cook on the BBQ for approx. 20-25 minutes, turning once, or until cooked through.

Jewelled Rice Salad with Apricots and Almonds
From Good Taste Magazine - December issue

750ml hot water
1/2 tsp saffron threads
2 cups basmati rice
1 orange
3/4 cup flaked almonds
3/4 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped pistachios

Combine the water and saffron in a saucepan over high heat.  Bring to the boil.  Stir in the rice.  Reduce heat to low.  Cook covered, for 10 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.  Set aside, covered for 10 minutes to stand.  Use a fork to separate the grains.  Set aside for 30 minutes to cool completely.

Meanwhile use a zester, or a vegetable peeler and a small sharp knife to cut the orange rind into thin strips.

Cook the almonds in a dry frying pan for 1-2 minutes over medium high heat until golden.

Add the orange rind, almonds, apricots, and cranberries to the rice.  Stir until well combined.  Season with salt and pepper.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Summer Salmon Kedgeree

Being a food blogger is not as easy as it seems on the surface.  Sure you get to eat lots of great food, but there are the down sides.

You have to be extremely organised - you can't blog about the food unless you have a photo - herein the problem is twofold.  First of all you have had to cook the food to get the photo, and then comes the second part of the problem - you have to quickly take the photo before you can send the food to the starving masses at the table!!

There were so many recipes I wanted to share with you via this blog - but I just haven't got to cooking them all yet!!  Today's recipe is one that just can't go "unblogged" - it is too good - especially at this time of the year when there is entertaining to be done.

I came across this recipe many, many years ago - not sure where now,  but I seem to recall it was a Delicious magazine recipe.  Needless to say I have probably modified the recipe to suit me over the years, so here is my version of whatever that recipe was.

Summer Salmon Kedgeree

Serves 8-10

3 x 375ml fish stock
250ml dry white wine
4 fresh bay leaves
4 lemon slices
4 salmon pieces (approx 250g each)
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs medium heat curry paste
500g basmati rice
1tbs turmeric
125g sultanas
125g roasted salted cashews
2tbs coriander, finely chopped
2tbs continental parsley, finely chopped
4 hard boiled eggs, cut into quarters to garnish

Place stock, wine, bay leaves, lemon slices and into a deep frying pan.  Bring the liquid to the boil.  Reduce the heat to low, and add the salmon.  Simmer gently for 4-5 minutes.  Remove the salmon from the stock and set aside to cool.  Strain the stock mixture and reserve 4 cups.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Gently fry the onion and curry paste for 5 minutes.  Add the rice and turmeric, stir until the rice is glossy.  Add the reserved stock and bring to the boil.  Cover and then simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.

Skin and flake the salmon, discarding any bone.  Stir salmon into the rice mixture along with the sultanas, nuts and herbs.

Cover and set aside for 5 minutes to warm through all the ingredients.

Serve topped with the hard boiled egg quarters.

As an accompaniment I like to serve a form of raita - which is just plain yoghurt with chopped coriander, sweet chilli sauce and salt and pepper.

You also must serve with with a side dish of mango chutney.

This is really an incredibly easy dish - and perfect for entertaining on a warm summer's evening.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shortbread - old and new traditions!

I have been at it again today - I just can't help myself!  Started out to make only shortbread - but then it progressed again to a multitude of dishes.

So what did I make today?  Started off with some Red and Green Christmas Shortbread, then made a strawberry sauce (to go in the yoghurt I had setting overnight), "The Darlings" wanted a milkshake - not a problem - that took but a minute, then I thought I would try an old recipe that I have been making for years - but in the "Thermi" - my traditional choc chip shortbread.  To top it all off I made a fruit smoothie worthy of any juice bar!  One of the neighbourhood kids was in when the smoothies were on offer and I heard him mutter - "I looked for a Thermomix when I was out shopping today - but I couldn't find one" - even he wants one!!

Red and Green Christmas Shortbread
from Thermomix Festive Flavour Cookbook

40g white rice
60g sugar
300g plain flour
250g butter, cubed
100g shelled pistachios
100g craisins
150g white chocolate

Preheat oven to 150C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place rice and sugar into TM bowl and pulverise for 1 minute on speed 10 (do not be tempted to shortcut this, you need 1 minute to obtain the texture required for the shortbread).

Add flour and butter into the bowl and mix for 5 seconds on speed 5.

I cannot believe that while I was making the shortbread I actually uttered the word "wow" - I was amazed at how easy the shortbread was to make.

Set dial to closed lid position and knead mixture for 40 seconds on interval speed.

Add pistachios and cranberries and set dial to closed lid position and pulse Turbo button 2-3 times.  This will chop the fruit slightly - but that is OK.

Roll the mixture into a log shape using baking paper.  Place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes, to harden up.  Slice into oval shapes and lay on the lined baking tray.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden.

Allow the cooked shortbread to sit on the tray for 10 minutes before removing.

Place the white chocolate in the TM bowl and chop for 5 seconds on speed 8, then melt for 5 minutes at 50C on speed 1.

Dip half of each shortbread in the melted chocolate - lay on a lined baking sheet to set.

The beauty of cooking with the Thermomix is that you really don't have to have measuring cups and spoons everywhere - everything weighed - you just press the scale button to reset after each addition - too easy!

Strawberry Sauce
adapted from Everyday Cooking for Every Family

200g strawberries (I used frozen)
100g sugar
juice 1/2 lemon

Place all the ingredients in the TM bowl.  Crush for 20-30 seconds on speed 9.

Cook for 8 minutes at 80C on speed 4.

Remove from the TM bowl and allow to cool.

This sauce can be used for adding to yoghurt - a topping for ice cream, or used for flavouring milkshakes.

Choc Chip Shortbread
Makes approx 48.
adapted from Women's Weekly Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits

250g butter, cubed
60g raw sugar
45g cornflour
65g white sugar
250g choc chips
400g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 150C.

Place the raw sugar in the TM bowl grind on speed 9 for 15 seconds to turn into icing sugar.  Remove from the bowl.

Add the cubed butter.  Cook at 37C for 2 minutes on speed 4.

Add the cornflour, icing sugar, white sugar and vanilla extract.  Cook at 37C for 10 minutes on speed 4.

Add the flour and mix on speed 4 for 20 seconds.

Add the choc chips and mix on reverse speed 3 for 10 seconds.

Place teaspoon full amounts of the mixture into mini muffin tins - smooth down with the back of the spoon.  Sprinkle with a small amount of white sugar.

Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden around the edges.

Allow to cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes - the gently prise from the pans with a very sharp knife, and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Note:  For a non Thermomix version of this recipe go to the baking section - you will find this recipe labelled shortbread.

This is a great recipe - you can easily change the flavours - try chopped white chocolate and cranberry, macadamia and white chocolate, pistachio, lemon and poppy seeds - the combinations are endless!!!  These little shortbreads make a wonderful little gift.

Tonight I am going to try the mashed potatoes in the Thermomix - I have been told they are to die for - as good as the paris mash you will get at Guillaume's.

So Dear Readers what traditional recipes do you make for Christmas?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Santa arrived a little early to my house

You would be forgiven for thinking that we have gone on some sort of self imposed diet in this house.

There's been no posting of recipes for several days now, and there is a reason for this.  You see Santa stopped by my house last Thursday in the guise of Madame T, and delivered me my early christmas present from my darling husband.  You guessed it a Thermomix!!!!

I have been very busy testing out my new toy - so I have been cooking, but really just getting my "Thermo legs" and trying very basic things to start with - so I figured I wouldn't bore you with all the simple stuff - I would wait a little while, until I was really sure of what I was doing and then I would wow you all with what I could do.

The way I see it, the only problem with the Thermomix is that you just go into a cooking frenzy.  Once you make something you are just amazed at how easy and quick that was and you think, OK what else can I make???  

Yesterday we were having the neighbours over for drinks - I only had to make one dish - decided to make a dip - but did it stop there???  No - made a lovely basil pesto dip - that took all of about 8 seconds - so what next? Well why not may some citrus dill mayonnaise to go on top of the smoked salmon frittatas that I also made - did I stop there - no - then decided why not make some fresh bread to go with the pesto dip - but wait - there's more - why not make a cake???  Why not indeed - that only took a couple of minutes to produce a lovely light, moist chocolate cake - oh and the chocolate frosting to go with it.  Someone stop me now before I cook myself into oblivion!!!!

The kids are loving "Thermie" - they are making custard, juices, and today we have made pizza dough, another juice and we are currently making yoghurt (while I type!!!).  I think this is a great tool for teaching the kids to become a little self sufficient - there really is no reason why they cannot cook food with it.

Seeing a Thermomix demonstration and actually owning one are two totally different experiences.  I mean they show you - it looks easy - but they are doing it.  Let me tell you IT REALLY IS THAT EASY!!!!  The first night I had "Thermie" I made spag bol - I hear you saying - but spag bol is easy anyway - with "Thermie" you you pretty much put all the ingredients into the bowl - and walk away - it stirs and cooks, and then rings it's little bell when it is ready for you to serve!!! It's like having your own personal chef!!

Oh I could go on and on about my new love, but I wouldn't want to loose you with boredom!!  So stay tuned - recipes will follow - and I promise they all won't be Thermomix recipes!!!

I hope that Santa is as good to you as he was to me Dear Readers!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stuffed Squid in Napolitana Sauce

I guess by now you have all figured out that I have a little bit of a cooking magazine obsession.  Yesterday I had to have a bit of a cleanup and move the pile that has been accumulating on the kitchen bench down to the bookcase that groans under the weight of all that I have collected over the years.

The trouble with cookbook magazines is that when they arrive you flick through them and get entranced by all the lovely shiny photos.  Then if you are like me, you put little flags on the pages of the recipes that you want to make, but the problem is that then another magazine arrives and you get distracted by those recipes and forget to go back to the ones that were so interesting in the first one.  This is a never ending cycle with me!!  So it was good to revisit a book from last year this week - and I have now in fact made three recipes from this old magazine that I never got around to making a year ago!!

Finally last night I made the Stuffed Squid that I had vowed to make back in August last year.

Look how beautiful this looks - very festive looking (we have had a bit of a red and green theme happening her this week haven't we??)

I have made another recipe for stuffed squid before - but this was by far the best.  If you have ever made stuffed quid before you will know (as I do - but I still did it again!) - don't overstuff the squid - it all just bursts out during the cooking process.  This time it wasn't too bad as the risoni was precooked so it didn't expand too much.  * The recipe states 4 squid hoods - but depending on the size of the hoods I think you can probably fill 5 hoods with this amount of filling.

Stuffed Squid in Napolitana Sauce
Adapted from a recipe found in Woolworth's Fresh Magazine dated August 2009

Serves 4

1 cup risoni pasta
1/2 red onion, finely diced
200g peeled green prawns, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tbs currants
1/4 cup continental parsley, finely chopped
4-5 squid hoods *
1 tbs olive oil
700ml passata

Cook risoni in plenty of boiling salted water for 9 minutes.  Drain well.

Combine the risoni with the onion, prawns, pine nuts, currants and parsley.  Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stuff the squid with the risoni misture. (Don't overstuff!!!)  Close the tops of the squid and use toothpicks to secure.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the squid tubes, and brown well all over.  Pour over the tomato passata, bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve with a rocket, asparagus and cherry tomato salad topped with shavings of parmesan cheese.  I dressed this salad with my Special Balsamic Sauce (scroll down - it is with the Parmesan Chicken!!)

How Festive looking is that???

This was a lovely light meal - just a perfect summer's night!  It was really quite easy too - I know I say that about everything - but it really was.

So Dear Readers do you collect cookbook magazines like me?  If so do you remove the recipes you like, and discard the magazine, or are you like me and have a mountain of them??

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Best Ham Glaze Ever!!!

I know this is a little bit naughty of me - posting a recipe that I haven't just made - but if you wait for me to make it - it will be too late for you to try it!!!

I found this ham glaze back in 2003 and I have made it every year since then.  I have never written down the recipe and every year I have to go hunt it down - search through the 100's (and you know I do have 100's) of cooking magazines - I can remember the colour of the cover - so I just have to dig in and find it - but not anymore - it will be here on my blog for all to see!

So from the 2003/2004 edition of Super Food Ideas Magazine here is the best Ham Glaze ever!!

Lime and Macadamia Glazed Ham
Serves 12 with leftovers!!

7 to 8kg leg of ham
350g ginger, lemon and lime marmalade
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbs dijon mustard
2 tbs sweet chilli sauce
1 cup macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 150C.

Position oven shelf to lowest position in the oven.

Use a large disposable roasting pan.  Line with 2 sheets of baking paper.  Remove the rind from the ham.

Use a sharp knife to score the ham fat into a diamond pattern.  Make sure that you don't cut any deeper than about 5mm.  Place the ham into the roasting pan.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Spoon half the mixture over the surface of the ham.  Cook for 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and carefully spoon over the remaining glaze.  Cook for a further 45 minutes, or until golden.  (I actually find that a little longer is better - this way you get a lovely golden coating on the ham.  Make sure you keep spooning the glaze back onto the ham as well - otherwise you tend to loose all the macadamia nuts into the bottom of the pan!!)

This ham is so scrumptious - that you just cannot help yourself - every time you open the fridge after Christmas day you just have to sneak a little bit!!!  Go on - it's Christmas!!!!

A ham is so traditionally part of Christmas in this family - it doesn't matter what else we are having (and it is usually seafood) we just have to have a ham as well.  Then you have all those scrummy leftovers - you can take them away on holiday with you - make pizzas with it, ham sandwiches (which reminds me of a really out there but great sandwich - ham, mango and cashew nuts!!!).  When I was younger and lived at home we would have a fridge groaning with leftovers, and so on the days after Christmas you would make yourselves meals from these leftovers.  Cashews were always on the Christmas dinner table when we were kids - so it just seemed a natural thing to add them to the ham sandwich.  Try it - you might be surprised.  It is a taste of summer!!!!

So Dear Readers what is the strangest combination you have come up with using Christmas leftovers?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mexican Meatballs with Rice Salad

While last night's meal was by no means a gourmet affair - it was easy, colourful and tasty.

I was at a bit of a loose end as to what to make last night, and was walking the supermarket aisles waiting for something to call out to me - "make me, make me" - but alas that didn't happen!!  (I guess I have to explain - I had been wandering aimlessly around the shopping centre for several hours already doing the last of the Christmas Shopping - and enjoying my last day of freedom before all "the Darlings" are on school holiday - hence the stupor-like state I was in!!)

I vaguely remembered a recipe that I had seen in the Christmas edition of Super Food Ideas that was for meatballs on skewers with a rice salad - I was in no mood to deal with skewers, and I couldn't remember exactly what was in the recipe - so winging it - here is what I came up with.

Mexican Meatballs with Rice Salad

Serves 6

1kg lean beef mince
500g beef sausage mince
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 x 35g pkt taco seasoning

Place all the above ingredients in a large bowl - get your hands in and get dirty, and mix well!!!

Line a baking tray with foil.  Preheat oven to 180C.

Makes small "walnut" sized meatballs - place on the prepared tray.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes to ensure even browning.  Makes Approximately 80 meatballs.

Rice Salad

1 1/2 cup white rice
400g can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
130g can corn kernels, drained
2 tbs coriander, finely chopped
1/2 punnet of cherry tomatoes, quartered
juice of 1/2 lime

Cook rice according to directions on pack.  When cooked add the kidney beans, corn, coriander, tomatoes, and lime juice.  Mix well.

To Serve

sour cream
corn chips

Serve the rice topped with meatballs.  Garnish with avocado, sour cream, salsa and crushed corn chips.

So while the meatballs baked in the oven, and the rice cooked in the microwave, I bravely traversed the beans in our lounge room to hang the last of the Christmas lights.  I know should be feeling more merry - I don't know what it is - perhaps now that the house is festooned with lights the spirit will grow!!!

So Dear Readers are you ready for Christmas?  I still have the Christmas Eve job of wrapping all the presents to go - I think I am done shopping - but I always take one last peek, and then think I haven't bought enough and ...... yes go buy more!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Marinated Lamb Chops with Watermelon, Haloumi and Mint Salad

There have been lots of recipes going around for watermelon salads - lots of different combinations - some with feta, some with prawns, I was a little sceptical about having watermelon served alongside meat, but after trying it last night I am a convert!!  It was lovely, so light and refreshing - and it looked so festive too!!

So to the sound of Christmas carols in the air (we live by a big hospital that has Christmas carols and fireworks every year - which we can see and hear without even leaving home!!!) we had this lovely red and green salad.

Marinated Lamb Chops with Watermelon, Haloumi and Mint Salad
Adapted form a recipe found in Woolworth's Fresh magazine dated August 2009

Serves 4


1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves crushed garlic
4 tbs red wine vinegar
3 tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary
freshly ground black pepper

8 lamb steak/chops

Place all the marinade ingredients into a large ziploc bag.  Marinade for at least 30 minutes, longer if possible.

Watermelon Salad

1 tbs chopped capers
juice of 1 lemon (approx 2 1/2 tbs)
1/2 cup of mint leaves, shredded/torn into large pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbs olive oil
250g haloumi cheese
1kg seedles watermelon, cut into large cubes
1/4 red onion, finely sliced

Combine the capers, lemon juice, mint, salt and pepper and olive oil in a large screw top jar.  Shake to combine.

Place the cut watermelon pieces and red onion in a large bowl.

In a frypan over medium high heat cook the haloumi until golden on both sides (approx 2 minutes each side).  Add the haloumi to the watermelon, then pour over the dressing, toss to combine.

BBQ the lamb chops over medium high heat for 3 minutes each side (or until cooked to your liking).

Serve lamb chops with watermelon salad.

How festive does that look?  It is an absolutely beautiful meal to have on a hot summer's night!!

Dinner over, kids out playing in the backyard, and then the fireworks lit up the night sky!  Can you ask for anything better?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thai Chicken Meatballs and Caesar Salad with Dukkah Prawns

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!!!

I managed to get all the kids in one place this week for the annual Santa photo - yes of course there was lots of protests - but we finally got it done!  That makes 22 years of Santa photos now - it's so lovely to see how they have all grown over the years.  There are many protests that this tradition should stop - but I hope that it won't for a little while yet.

In the lead up to Christmas, Madame T and I decided that it was time to get together for a girls night in and a drink or two to celebrate "The Silly Season".  I fed "The Darlings" earlier and we settled in for a nice meal and a glass or two of white together.

We started off the night with.....

Thai Chicken Meatballs with Chilli Lime Dipping Sauce
Adapted from a recipe in Super Food Ideas December Issue

Makes 32

2 x 375g packets chicken sausages with lime and spices *
1 cup sesame seeds
3tbs finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 double kaffir lime leaf, finely shredded
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup sweet chilli sauce

Squeeze the meat from the sausages into a bowl.  Add 2 tbs of chopped coriander and the kaffir lime leaf.  Mix well.

Place the sesame seeds onto a plate.

Using 2 teaspoons make little meatballs out of the chicken mixture.  Drop into the sesame seeds.  Roll to coat well.  Repeat until all meat is used up.  Place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

To make the dipping sauce combine the lime juice, remaining tablespoon of coriander and sweet chilli sauce in a small bowl.

To cook the meatballs you can either shallow fry them in a little oil, or you can do what I did and bake them in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.  Cover a baking tray with baking paper - spray the paper with garlic infused olive oil spray.  Place the meatballs on the tray and spray them liberally with the garlic spray.  Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

Serve with the Chilli Lime Dipping Sauce.

Very yummy, and incredibly easy - so if you are asked to take a "plate" somewhere this is a really easy one.

* These sausage are prepacked with Lime and spices, (Peppercorn Ridge brand) but if you are unable to find them simply use plain chicken sausages and to the meat add some chilli, a little more chopped coriander and zest the rind of the lime into the mix and you will have a pretty fair approximation.

After the meatballs had gone down it was time for my salad.  I made this recipe last year and remembered it to be really good - but do you think I could find the recipe.  I searched high and low, even googled prawn caser salad - but still could not find it!!  Eventually it turned up - and the reason I couldn't find it was that it was called Caesar Salad with a Twist - well the "twist" today was going to be my own personal modifications to the recipe.

Caesar Salad with Dukkah Prawns
Adapted from a recipe in Woolworths' Fresh Magazine August 2009

Serves 4

Dukkah Mix

100g slivered almonds
70g sesame seeds
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Toast the almonds in a frypan over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes, or until golden.  Remove from pan and allow to cool.  Add the sesame seeds and toast for 3-5 minutes, or until golden.  Add the cumin and coriander and stir for approximately 1 minute, or until fragrant.  Remove from the pan.

Place the almonds in a food processor and "pulse" chop until they are cut up into small pieces - do not go too far - you don't want them as small as "meal".  Add the sesame seed mixture, salt and pepper, then "pulse" to combine.

Place in a shallow plate.

Now for the Salad...

800g green banana prawns, peeled and deveined, tails intact
1 cup greek style yoghurt
100g sliced prosciutto
2 x baby cos hearts, washed and torn
1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Caesar Dressing

1 cup whole egg mayonnaise
1-2 anchovy fillets, finely diced
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbs lemon juice
1 clove crushed garlic
1 1/2 tsp very finely grated parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the above ingredients in a small bowl, refrigerate until needed.

Place the prosciutto onto a paper lined plate and cook in the microwave, in 1-2 minute intervals, until the prosciutto is crisp.  Allow to cool, then tear into small pieces.

Place the torn up cos leaves in a large salad bowl.

Dip each prawn into the yoghurt, then press into the dukkah mix.  Place the prawns on a plate until all are coated in dukkah.  You can prepare these in advance and leave in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

Heat a large frypan and approximately 1cm of canola oil in a large frypan over medium high heat.  Cook the prawns several at a time in the oil for 2-3 minutes, or until the prawns are golden and cooked through.  The secret here is to have sufficient oil that they are going to cook quickly - if you don't have enough the coating will start to fall off.  Drain the prawns on a paper towel and continue until all prawns are cooked.

Place the cooled torn up pieces of prosciutto into the bowl with the lettuce, add enough dressing to coat the lettuce and toss to combine, add the prawns, toss lightly again, and then sprinkle the salad with the shaved parmesan cheese.

Now I can hear you asking how did we finish off this meal - with a little Mango Ice cream of course!!!  I still had some of the Mango and Toffee Macadamia Ice cream in the fridge so we treated ourselves to small helping of this just to round off our pleasant evening together.  (You will find the Mango Ice Cream recipe in the desserts section).

It was so pleasant to just sit and chat and enjoy a girls night in together, away from all the hustle and bustle that it out there at the moment in the lead up to Christmas.

So Dear Readers do you love to be out there in the thick of all the celebrations - or do you like to have a quite little get together at home where you can relax and let your hair down?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Balsamic Chicken and White Bean Salad

Those oppressive humid nights of summer seem to be with us at the moment.   Very sticky and uncomfortable, and the last thing you feel like doing is slaving over a hot stove cooking dinner.  It's time to send the men out to cook over an open fire!!!

This salad is one that I found many years ago in one of the magazines - it has since appeared on the Taste website - but I had modified it slightly over the years.  This is my take on a great, easy, tasty salad.

Balsamic Chicken and White Bean Salad
Adapted from a recipe on Taste.com.au

Serves 4

1kg skinless chicken thigh fillets
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 tbs honey wholegrain mustard
4 tbs balsamic vinegar
400g cannellini beans, drained
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
200g feta cheese, crumbled
120g baby spinach leaves
1 avocado, cut unti cubes

In a large glass bowl place the garlic, mustard and vinegar.  Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper and mix well.  Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes, longer if time permits.

In a large salad bowl combine the spinach leaves, beans, and tomato.

Preheat the BBQ to medium high heat.  Remove the chicken from the marinade.  Cook the chicken for 6-8 minutes each side, or until cooked through.  Transfer to a plate.  Cover and stand for 5 minutes.

Slice the chicken.  To the salad bowl add the avocado, crumbled feta, and chicken slices.  Toss to combine.

How easy was that - the salad doesn't need a dressing, the marinade from the chicken, the feta and avocado all combine to give it a wonderful dressing all of it's own.

Balmy summer night, beautiful salad, and a chilled glass of wine, what more can you ask for??

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BBQ Mexican Fajitas with Chimichurri Sauce

They don't call this the "silly season" for nothing.  Even since the calendar turned over to December I seem to have hit the floor running.  So many things happening with the kids at school.  School presentations, concerts, dances... the list goes on and on.  Such a flurry of activity - and then..... school holidays - oh how I look forward to that.  Feeding and entertaining "the Darlings" for 6 weeks!!!  Still, it is a break from routine - let's just hope it doesn't rain the whole time!!

Last night was another crazy night so I took any easy option for dinner.  I found these pre marinated fajita steaks at Woolworths, and a little recipe booklet to go with them (thank you!! - you know how I love new recipes!!!)  It was a super easy dinner, and very, very tasty (thanks to the Chimichurri Sauce!!)

BBQ Mexican Fajitas with Chimichurri Sauce

Serves 4

1pkt beef fajitas steaks - Mexican Style (Woolworths)  
2 red onions, peeled, thinly sliced into wedges
1 ripe tomato, thinly sliced in wedges
1 red capsicum, halved, char-grilled
1 ripe avocado
flour tortillas

Chimichurri Sauce

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems removed, finely chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 bunch fresh oregano, leaves only, finely chopped
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients for the chimichurri sauce in a bowl.  Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes for the flavours to develop.

To char grill the capsicum - cut in half,  Place the cut halves on a pan and spray liberally with olive oil spray.  Place under the grill for 15 minutes, or until the skin is blistered and black.  Allow to cool, then peel the skin away.  Cut into thin slices.

In a frypan heat a small amount of olive oil, and gently fry the onion wedges for approximately 5 minutes, or until soft.  Keep warm.

Heat the BBQ to moderate high heat.  Add the steak pieces and cook for 3-4 minutes each side, or until done to your liking.  Transfer to a chopping board, and cut thinly across the grain.

You may like to lightly brush a tortilla with olive oil and place on the BBQ for 30 seconds each side - but you really don't have to.

To assemble, place a tortilla on a plate, top with steak, onion, tomato, chargrilled capsicum, lashings of chimichurri sauce and avocado.

This was such a lovely fresh meal to eat outside last night in the warm summer air, and so easy too.

If you can't find the Fajitas steak, just buy some steak and marinate in a little olive oil, garlic, paprika, chilli, salt and pepper (or if you want to make it real easy get a packet of taco seasoning, add garlic and olive oil and rub over the steak!!!)  Sometimes life is about simplicity!!!

So Dear Reader what short cuts do you take when time is running short around meal times??

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Moroccan Ocean Trout with Cranberry and Almond Couscous

I don't know what it is with men - they are fixated with fire!!!

I had just purchased some ocean trout to have for dinner, and the first words out of Mr. CCC's mouth were "are you going to barbecue that?"  I very rarely cook fish on the BBQ - not that I don't like it on there - but he tends to "overcook" it and I prefer having the control of it in the kitchen (yes - I know, that's the control freak in me coming out!!).

Anyway getting back to the BBQ question I told him "no, I am going to give it a dukkah crust and serve it with couscous".  You should have seen the look on his face - he thought I said something about the dog and the "puss puss" (must get his hearing checked after Christmas!!!)

I saw this recipe in the latest MasterChef Magazine it just looks so festive - all red and green and golden!!  I was unable to get salmon (well I could - but it was too expensive for the five of us to have, so I substituted Ocean Trout instead).

Moroccan Ocean Trout with Cranberry and Almond Couscous
Adapted from recipe in MasterChef Magazine December issue

Serves 4

40g Dukkah *
4 x 150g pieces of ocean trout, pin boned (skin on or off - personal choice)
1 tbs olive oil


2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups couscous
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
3/4 cup torn mint leaves
1 orange, segmented
1/4 cup lemon juice
50g butter

"Toast" the almonds by putting them in a non stick frypan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, for approximately 5 minutes, or until they are golden.  They will continue to cook until they cool - so make sure you turn off the heat before they are too brown.  Remove from the pan immediately and allow to cool on a plate.

To make the couscous, bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan. (Make sure the saucepan is large enough to accomodate the couscous once it expands - you also need enough room to fluff through the other ingredients!!)  Remove from the heat, stir in the couscous.  Stand, covered, for 5 minutes.  Fluff the couscous with a fork.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To make the Moroccan Fish, place the dukkah on a plate.  One at a time, add the fish and turn to coat. Scatter the remaining dukkah over the top of the fish.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the fish and cook for 3 minutes each side, for medium, or until cooked to your liking.

Divide the couscous among the serving plates.  Top with the fish, and serve with extra mint leaves and lemon wedges.

* There are several types of Dukkah available (in the spice section of your supermarket) - I chose to use Pistachio Dukkah.

Although you can't see the cranberries that well - it was a lovely festive looking dish with the red of the cranberries and the green of the mint.

So Dear Readers are you starting to plan your Christmas feast - what will it be - the traditional - or something easy and more modern?