I hope you enjoy the food!!!

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year In Review

New years eve is the time to look back and reflect on the year that was!

This year has been a year of incredible highs and lows for me.

I got to do my ultimate trip to Italy. I got to experience all that I had dreamed about for so long. The trip was everything I had hoped for and more. It also gave me a chance to be "me" again, and not be Mum for 2 weeks! 

Looking back though that was to be sum total of "highs" for me for the year!

The morning I landed back home, I landed with a thud! Within 3 hours of arriving home I was at the vet's having the family dog put to sleep. I guess they wanted me to be the one to do the dastardly deed. Putting this dog to sleep was so much more than putting the family pet to sleep. This dog was my son who has special needs' best and probably only friend. He was distraught, and it led him into a downward spiral of behavioral problems.

After 6 weeks, I succumbed and got the family a new dog! A rescue dog, I'm not sure exactly why he was surrendered, but he was a very emotional young "teenager" when he joined our family.
Looking back on Milo's entry into our home, I can see this is where the year went all pear shaped. Jack loved this dog, sure not as much as the other one, but it was still early days. He took him for walks, and that is when the bottom fell out of our world!

Those of you that have been followers for a while will know that Jack has Prader Willi Syndrome. This syndrome is a cruel one, and has many unfortunate characteristics, one of which is a high pain threshold. While out walking Milo (who happens to be an incredibly strong dog for such a medium sized animal) Jack managed to slip his femur out of the socket! A normal person would be screaming in agony, he simply complained of a pain in his hamstring. We rubbed, and went to doctors and physios, but there didn't seem to anything glaringly obvious wrong. Three weeks later, after my savior of many occasions in the months to come saw Jack, and pondered this strange set of symptoms, he suggested we should get a hip x ray done.

A six hour Emergency surgery followed, the blood supply was dead, and Jack was to be in a wheelchair for 12 months!

The worst however, was still yet to come. As I have said Prader Willi Syndrome has many issues, most we learn about along the way as we travel the journey. Four days post surgery, Jack slipped into a psychotic/delerium state. My seemingly "normal" 14 year old was little more than a baby again. I have since learnt that people with PWS can slip into these psychotic states, Jack was the youngest to have ever done this. The prognosis was not great - this state could last anyway from days, to weeks, to months!

Fortunately, we only visited "la-la land"for 35 days.

After 3 months in hospital, it was time to face the next hurdle - how to care for this child who already was more than I could handle, but now had all these new issues to deal with?

After much soul searching and tears, a decision was made to place him in "out of home" care. This is by no means an easy decision to make. I always wanted to take care of him, and to find a suitable place in the future, so that he could lead a relatively happy, normal, independent lifestyle. This was all so much more earlier than we had anticipated. Unfortunately services and facilities for adolescents with special needs are few and far between.

So while I used to write a daily blog, I now started putting all those words to good use. I started to writing to anybody who I thought would listen to me. I think nearly every politician in the state knows about Jack now!

It seems though that my words found listening ears. I now have a real chance to try and make a difference to the lives of young people with PWS. I am stepping into the new year fighting a battle that is for me a personal battle , but I am fighting not only for me, and my child. I aim to raise the level of awareness about PWS, and I am determined to get housing built so that our young adults with PWS can live meaningful, productive lives.

So Dear Readers, while I might not have been blogging, I have certainly been busy. I have often wondered if anyone has even missed me? We have still eaten, for many months though it was certainly not up to our usual calibre, but it was sustenance (and often times it was provided by good hearted samaritans!)

So I leave you here, at the end of a year I would sooner rather forget with a beautiful roasted pork belly.
I'm not going to give you the recipe, other than to say - it's all about simplicity.

8 Hour Slow Roasted Pork Belly

Score your pork belly rind. Place it on a rack in the sink, and pour over a kettle of boiling water. Dry well with paper towels. Rub oil and salt into the rind.

Turn the oven onto 100 degrees C.

Place the rack in a roasting pan. Carefully pour in a cup of cold water into the base of the roasting pan. Roast for 8 hours, checking that there is still water in the pan every couple of hours.

After 8 hours, turn the oven up to 220 degrees, roast for 20-25 minutes, or until you have perfectly crispy crackling!

Serve with whatever sauce you desire - port and cherry sauce, or as I did a caramelized peanut salsa.
Is there anything better than the crunch of pork crackling? I think not!

So Dear Readers I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year. I hope that 2013 holds good things for everyone (someone told me that its the years with the even numbers that are the bad ones) - so let's hope 13 is good because it's odd!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Exceptional Jasmine Thai Salmon

"That smells disgusting" says one, "That smells really bad" mutters another.

Not great words to hear, as you are rushing to prepare dinner, two hours later than normal, after the day from hell.  The mood that I was in this late in the evening, and before the first glass of wine had had a chance to mellow me out - well my response was - "that's too bad, it's dinner - eat it or not!!!!"

Silently I am hoping that it wasn't going to be as bad as they thought it would be, that it was just the underlying smell (the one that they all dislike) of fish sauce, and that once they got over the smell, and tasted the dish, everything would be fine.

Saying that though, this recipe did have a rather unusual element to it - jasmine tea leaves!!  Now this is when I began doubting myself, and thinking that the way that this day had unfolded, the meal would probably be a disaster too!!!

Calm down, take another sip / gulp of wine, and keep on cooking......

Given that I was running so late getting this dinner underway, the saving grace of this meal was how incredibly simple, and quick it was to make.

I found the recipe in a little supplemental cook book that came with a Delicious magazine several months ago.  In it was an advertisement for Dilmah Teas - entitled Tea Gastronomy.  The picture below shows the tea bags used in the recipe.

I did make a couple of changes - I will highlight what I have done.

Exception Jasmine Thai Salmon
From an advertisement for Dilmah Teas in a Cookbook called Seasonal Flavours - from Delicious Magazine

Serves 4

2 x Dilmah Fragrant Jasmine Green Real Leaf Tea bags
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup fish sauce
2 tbs lime juice
2 tbs sweet chilli sauce
2 tbs oil
1 tbs brown sugar
4 x salmon fillets
1/3 cup roughly chopped cashews

snow peas, finely shredded
english spinach leaves
lebanese cucumber slices

Sesame oil drizzled over the salad.

Coconut rice to serve

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Tear the teabags open and sprinkle the tea leaves into a frying pan.  Stir in the water, fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce, lime juice, oil and brown sugar.  Bring to the boil over medium high heat.  Simmer for 1 minute. *

Add the salmon and cook each side for 30 seconds.  Transfer the salmon and liquid to a baking dish and bake for 5 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. **

Combine the salad ingredients, drizzle with sesame oil.  Serve with the salmon.  Sprinkle with the chopped cashews.

* I actually simmered the liquid for several minutes - I did wonder if I was in fact stewing the tea, but it worked out OK.  I wanted to get the sauce to a little thicker consistency.

I didn't put the liquid with the salmon in the oven - basically because I wasn't reading the recipe correctly.  Cooking for 5 minutes still left the middle of the salmon quite raw, so if you like it cooked through - cook for a few (say 3) minutes longer.  While the salmon was in the oven I left the sauce simmering on the stove top.  When I served the meal, I poured a little of the sauce over the top of the salmon, and served the rest alongside the dish in a little jug.

The end result, after all those exclamations of disgust at the beginning of the cooking???

This was a beautiful, light, refreshing, healthy meal!!!  Loved by all who ate it!!!

Definitely one to make again - perhaps I will plug their noses next time!!!

So Dear Readers is there a particular ingredient that you use that people dislike the smell of, but once in the meal all complaints are gone?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thai Inspired Risotto with Salt and Pepper Seafood

Since coming back from Italy I have been making all manner of Italian food - which has meant lots and lots of pasta.  "The Darlings" love it, so I figure why not?  Sometimes its best to take the road of least resistance, when it comes to meal times.

Last night though I craved something like a thai curry but with an underlying urge for seafood.  Mmmm what should I make?  I have always wanted to make an Asian style Risotto, so I decided to give it a go!

So while last night's dish may have had its origins in Italy, it has travelled a completely different path.

I used all the basic principles of a true Italian risotto, I just altered the flavour combinations.

Instead of my "soffritto" having onion and garlic, I used garlic and lemon grass with a dollop of thai red curry paste.

I still added the white wine to coat the rice, but instead of the usual chicken stock I used fish stock and coconut milk - this resulted in a lovely creamy texture.  While it may not win the MasterChef Risotto challenge, it certainly won our taste buds over.

I have used the Thermomix to make this risotto, but if you use the basic principles of cooking a traditional risotto - adding hot stock slowly, and stirring, stirring, stirring - you will end up with the same results.

Thai Inspired Risotto with Salt and Pepper Seafood

Serves 4

3 cloves garlic
1 stem lemongrass, white part only
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
30g olive oil
400g arborio rice
100g white wine
375ml fish stock
400ml coconut milk
water (to make up 1000g or 1 litre)
1 piece (approx 300g) salmon fillet, skin removed, and pin boned - cut into thin strips
3 squid hoods, scored, and sliced into 3cm strips
500g green prawns. shells removed - tails intact on 16
salt to taste
100g white rice *
2 tsp rock salt
1 tsp mixed peppercorns

chopped red chilli, for garnish

oil for frying

Firstly make your coating for the salt and pepper seafood.  Place 100g white rice, the rock salt and peppercorns in the TM bowl.  Mill on speed 9 for 1 minute.  Remove from bowl and keep to one side.

* If you do not have a thermomix - simply use rice flour, and sea salt flakes, and freshly ground black pepper.

Place garlic and lemongrass into TM bowl, process on speed 7 for 3 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the olive oil and the red curry paste.  Saute for 2 minutes at 100 degrees on speed 1 with the MC off.

Insert the butterfly.  Add the rice and the wine to the TM bowl, and saute for 2 minutes at 100 degrees and Reverse and Speed Soft.

Add the coconut milk and fish stock, and enough water to equal 1000g.  Add 3/4 of the shredded kaffir lime leaves.  Cook for 14 minutes at 100 degrees on Reverse and Speed Soft.

Add the prawns that have the tails removed, and 3/4 of each of the salmon slices and squid strips.  Season to taste with salt.

Cook for an additional 3 minutes at 100 degrees and Reverse and Speed Soft.

Remove from the TM bowl and place in a Thermoserver, or large bowl and keep warm.

Meanwhile in a large ziploc bag add the rice and salt and pepper mixture, and the reserved seafood.

Shake well to coat the seafood in the rice mixture.

Heat 2-3cms of oil in a wok, or large frypan over high heat.  Cook the seafood in batches, until all cooked, and crisp - 2-3 minutes.

Serve the risotto topped with a selection of the salt and pepper seafood, reserved kaffir lime leaves, and chopped red chilli.

The verdict was split on this - Mr. CCC loved it the way it was, but I loved the addition of a slurp of ketchap manis.  I leave this totally up to you.

The flavours in the meal were just what I was looking for.  You have the punch of the curry, the zip of the salt and pepper seafood, and the lovely creaminess of the rice in the risotto!!!

Just what the doctor ordered!

So Dear Readers, what basic recipes have you tweaked to travel on a totally different path?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Calamari all'amatriciana

On our first night in Rome, after our twilight, highlights of Rome from a bus tour, we were treated to a meal at a local trattoria.  One of the pasta dishes we tried that night was bucatini all'amatriciana.  This dish was soon to become one of our favourites as we travelled around the different areas of Italy.  Of course, as with anything there were variations at each place that we tried it.

Amatriciana is a classic dish, and one of simplicity.  Traditionally it is made only with smoked pork (guanciale), tomatoes (oh how I loved those sweet Italian tomatoes!), a kick of chilli, and then topped off with some grated pecorino cheese.  A purist would argue that onions and garlic have no place in this dish!

The Romans claim this dish is theirs, but there are others who claim it originates from the town of Amatrice - a tiny town in the mountains bordering Abruzzo (more than 100 miles from Rome!) Wherever it comes from, it is a truly wonderful dish.

Since coming home I have made this dish several times, but this version I think nails it on the head, the flavours that I loved while in Italy.  While not claiming this is a traditional version, it is one that my whole family enjoys.

When you are out and about in real Italian food shops, you find some lovely interesting shapes in the pasta that is on offer on offer.  In Italy we found some very interesting shapes (and colours) of pasta!!

On a recent trip to Haberfield I ran across a shape called "calamari" - it reminded me of the shape of the pasta that I had at our favourite restaurant "Scirocco" - so this was the pasta I used tonight!

Calamari all'amatriciana
from trial and error, and several recipes!!

Serves 6

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
250g speck, cut into batons
crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, minced finely
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 x 400g cans whole peeled italian tomatoes
500g pasta  *
grated pecorino cheese

Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium high heat.  Add the speck, and saute until crisp, and golden. Drain the excess fat from the pan.  Add the onion and garlic, cook stirring until the onion softens - approximately 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, crushing slightly with a fork or a potato masher.  Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

Meanwhile bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Add the pasta a cook until 3 minutes before al dente.

(In Italy the pasta is served very chewy, almost with a breadlike consistency - the worst crime you can commit is to serve watery gluggy pasta!!)

* I have found that it is worth paying a little more and buying "real" italian pasta - the "al dente" texture is much easier to replicate.  The cheap local stuff goes far too gluggy!!!

Drain the pasta, but retain the cooking water.

Add the drained pasta to the tomato sauce, toss to incorporate the sauce well.  Add 1 cup of reserved cooking water.  Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.  Add more cooking water if needed.

Stir in approximately 1/4 cup of grated pecorino cheese.

Serve topped with grated pecorino cheese.

So while this isn't the traditional amatriciana recipe - it certainly went down a treat in our house the other night!!!  No leftovers tonight!!!!

Buon Appetito!!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Osso Buco Milanese

During a cooking class on my recent trip to Italy, Chef Raffaele gave us some sound advice.  "if you don't have access to fresh, vine ripened tomatoes, use canned!". Looking at the insipid, flavourless offerings that are available at the  moment, I heeded his advice when making this meal!

On my recent shopping spree in Haberfield I picked up some lovely looking veal osso  buco, and some lamb shanks (amongst many other wonderful offers!).  After a cold, wet time at the rugby yesterday, where we watched the game from the protection of an overhanging rock cliff, I gave DH the choice, of either Osso Buco with Parmesan Polenta, or Tunisian Style Lamb Shanks for dinner.  Osso Buco won!

In the current edition of Good Taste Magazine, Tobie Puttock shows us his version of this famous Milanese dish.  Everyone tweaks it just a little, and calls it their own version, but the base ingredients pretty much stay the same.  Although Wikipedia does state that Osso Buco comes in two varieties - the  modern version which is based on a tomato sauce, with the obligatory soffritto as it's base, or the old version which is bianco or "white", with no tomatoes and is flavored with cinnamon, bay leaves and gremolata.

Tonight's version is the modern take.

Osso Buco Milanese 
Adapted from recipe found  in Good Taste Magazine, by Tobie Puttock 

Serves 4-6 

3/4 cup plain flour
8 pieces veal osso buco
Extra virgin olive oil
2 small brown onions, finely chopped
2 small carrots, peeled, finely chopped
2 large sticks celery, finely chopped 
6 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 x 400g cans cherry tomatoes 
100g pancetta, chopped
12 fresh sage leaves
3 springs fresh rosemary
2-3 dried bay leaves (depending on size)
2/3 cup white wine
1 cup vegetable stock


Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt to taste
1 clove garlic, finely grated

Parmesan Polenta 

2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 cup polenta
40g butter
60g grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 220 degrees.  

 Place the flour on a large flat plate, season with salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Add the veal, and turn to coat, shaking off the excess.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish over high heat. Cook the veal,  in batches, for 2-3 minutes each side, or until browned.  Transfer to a plate.

Heat 1 tbs of olive oil over medium heat.  Cook the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic for 5-10 minutes, or until soft.  Stir in the pancetta, tomatoes, sage, rosemary, and bay leaves.  Stir for 5 minutes, or until aromatic. Add the veal, and the wine. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the stock and bring to the boil.  Cover, and bake for 1 hour.  After 1 hour, check.  At this stage if there is a lot of liquid, you may want to cook for the next 30 minutes uncovered, make sure it doesn't burn on top though!

To make the gremolata, combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Reserve.

To make the polenta, bring the water and chicken stock to the boil in a medium sized saucepan.  While stirring the liquid, add the polenta to the pan in a thin stream, while continuously stirring.

Stir the mixture for 5-10 minutes, or until thickened and the grains are soft.

Quickly add the butter and Parmesan cheese.  Stir to incorporate well.

To serve place a small amount of polenta on a serving plate.  Top with a piece of osso buco, some sauce, and then a sprinkling of gremolata.

Nothing warms soul more that a beautiful, flavourful casserole!

This meal certainly had us slurping at the bones to get out that rich marrow!

Good choice DH!  Guess that means lamb shanks next week!  That's something to look forward to!

So Dear Readers what is the best piece of cooking advice you have been given? Chef Raffaele also told us that when basil is bountiful, place it, unwashed in a large glass jar, and keep in the fridge.  I have had great success with this one - it lasts for at least 2 weeks!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Little Bowl of Tuscany!

On a cold wet, winter night is there anything better than having dinner in front of a log fire?  I think not!!!

I was feeling a little homesick for Italy the other day, so I took myself off for a shopping trip to Haberfield.  Now, it's not quite like shopping at the market place in Italy, but it was the best I was going to get here in Australia!

I wandered up one side of Ramsay Street, and back down the other, peering into all the shops, and making a mental shopping list as I travelled form shop to shop - menu plans were formulating!

One thing that I have been craving since getting back, is Mozzarella di Bufala (Buffalo Mozzarella), so a trip to Paesanella Cheese Shop was a prerequisite on this trip!  There they were - my beautiful little lovelies, sitting in their milky looking brine!!  There were two varieties on offer - the true Italian one, and the ones that they make themselves.  After being told in Italy, that they should never be refrigerated, I decided to go for the local ones, who knows how long the imported ones have been refrigerated on their trip here!

There were so many lovely looking things on display in the cabinet, it was very hard to choose.  I limited myself with what I though we would consume in the next few days.  Some speck, provolone, and pecorino, but the carciofi (artichokes) looked tempting too, and also the caramelised tomatoes.  A tasting plate was forming in my mind.

Onwards I travelled, some beautiful proscuitto was procured, along with a lot of beautiful looking meats (osso bucco, lamb shanks, Italian sausage, lamb kebabs).  Next some pasta, and then various other vegetables, including some tuscan cabbage were added to the growing mountain of food in my boot!!!

It was very tiring work, all this shopping, so a rest was required - lunch stop was at  Pasticceria Papa for a cappuccino and a panini.

A few more stops, and I had enough food to feed the family for the week!!!

What fun it was, so much better that going to the local iridescently lit shopping mall,  and offending supermarket!!!  Sure it wasn't a market place, but it was different to how I usually shop. The only thing I wasn't able to get were those beautiful Italian tomatoes, but then it is the wrong season!!!  Me thinks a return visit in summer is in order!!!

So what were we going to have for our meal in front of the fire?

Our tasting plate consisted of some rustic bread, which we topped with the Buffalo Mozzarella, Artichokes, Bruscetta, caramelised tomatoes, and dolmades (yes, I know they are not Italian, but we do like them!!).

After being at a night game of rugby we really needed to warm ourselves up - so some soup was in order.  Remember the Tuscan Cabbage?

I just had to make the recipe for Ribollita  from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, that I recently won from the lovely Not Quite Nigella.  Thank you Lorraine!!!  There's a bowl waiting here for you in front of the fire!

From The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes & Edward Mayes

Serves 15!

500g dried cannellini beans *
1 tsp salt
2 brown onions, diced
6 carrots, diced
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 celery stalks, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp pepper
1 bunch tuscan cabbage, finely chopped
8-10 tomatoes, or 1 x 800g can whole tomatoes, chopped
the heel of a wedge of parmigiano reggiano
2 litres of vegetable, chicken, or meat stock
2 cups cubed, day old bread
generous handful of combined flat leaf parsley,  torn basil and thyme leaves

grated parmigiano reggiano cheese and olive oil to serve

* you can use dried cannellini beans if you have the time, but you will need to soak them for 5 hours though! I used 2 x 400g cans of cannellini beans, drained.

In a large stockpot over low heat, sauté the onions and carrots in the olive oil. After 3-4 minutes, add the celery, garlic and the salt, pepper and the Tuscan Cabbage. Add more olive oil if needed. Cook,
for 10 minutes, or until the cabbage is wilted, then add the tomatoes, and the heel of the Parmesan. Add enough stock to cover. Bring to the boil, and then simmer, covered for 1 hour to blend the flavours.

Make sure you stir now and then.

After about 50 minutes add the drained cannellini beans. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the bread cubes and herbs. Heat through.

Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some grated Parmesan cheese.


This soup was sooooo good. The best part is that I now have a huge container left for lunches, and easy meals for the rest if the week!

This meal took me back to the night we arrived in Florence. My traveling buddy, Barb, had this as her starters (no we didn't follow protocol that night by having antipasti, primi, secondi and contorni!) We introduced ourselves to Florence that night, by eating at a little trattoria just off the Ponte Vecchio!

I don't know what her's was like that night, but mine last night really hit the spot!

 Ahhh.... Food memories... Don't you love them! So Dear Readers do you make meals to remind you of places you have visited?

Me, I'm on a bit of Italy revisited at the moment.... Osso Bucco tonight!!!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lamb Meatballs with Chickpea and Potato Mash and Tomato Sauce

Finally, finally, finally, a meal to get me out of the blogging doldrums!

You see it's not so much that I haven't been cooking, it's just that the meals that I have been cooking haven't really been up to blogging standard.

There was the home made ravioli that still needs a little tweaking.  We won't even mention the mozzarella that lived it's days under the aspersion that it was ricotta!  Then there was the sad, sad pork belly that just did not pass muster.  I was so pinning all my hopes on that one too!  It was a Maggie Beer recipe that I diligently copied to my phone as I sat at the chiropractor's office last week.  That one held so much promise, I mean when does pork belly ever go wrong?  When you are hoping to use it as a comeback recipe that's when!  I don't know what went wrong with that one, but to me it seemed like it needed at least another 3 hours of cooking (that would be 6 in total!).  It did redeem itself though as a comeback queen in the next night's pizza topping!  I did, however, make a pasta all'amatriciana that was good, but I forgot to take a photo of it!

So when last night's dinner had a resounding Yum! I thought I just better get straight onto it, and blog about it!

 Lamb Meatballs with Chickpea and Potato Mash and Tomato Sauce
Adapted from recipe found in MasterChef Magazine, June edition 

Serves 4-6


1.2 kg lamb mince
6 shallots (green onions) finely chopped
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves, finely chopped
1 cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200g feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, and with your hands mix well.  Roll into golf ball size meatballs, and place on a tray.  Cover and allow to sit in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.

When ready to cook place on baking dish, and bake at 200 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, or until golden, and cooked through.  Make sure you turn at least once during cooking.

Now to start on the mash....

Chickpea Potato Mash 

 kg potatoes, peeled, cut into 2cm pieces
4 cloves garlic
400g can chickpeas
1-2 tbs sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Drain the chickpeas, leaving a small amount of liquid with them.  Place the potatoes, chickpeas and garlic into a large saucepan of salted water.  Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.  Drain.

Mash the potatoes with a potato masher (or fork).  Add the sour cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Don't add too much sour cream, you don't want the mixture too sloppy!

While the potatoes are cooking, it's time to get onto the tomato sauce....

Tomato Sauce 

1 red onion, finely chopped
400g can of diced tomatoes
4 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the onion in a medium sized saucepan with a little olive oil.  Sauté gently for 5 minutes, or until softened, and starting to turn golden.  Add the chicken stock, and bring to the boil.  Simmer until reduced slightly.

Add the canned and fresh tomatoes, and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until thickened slightly.

Add balsamic vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Place the mash on the bottom of a serving dish.  Top with the meatballs, then top with the tomato sauce.

As a friend of mine would say "Yumbo Scrumbo!"

And so now I am back in the game!  Let's see if I can continue!

OK, so I must apologise with the photos - I am using my iphone (yeah I know!!)  I will get back into the swing of things here I promise!!!

Just to keep me honest - tonights dinner is Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu - stay tuned if it's a success I will post (fingers crossed!)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Back to Earth!


I know that it has been quite some time since I last posted, and lots has happened in the time that I have been away.

I have been back home for two weeks, and my recent trip to Italy almost feels just like a dream now. I have spend the last two weeks updating my blog with photos (I was plagued with technical issues while I was away, so the blog was just posted as is, but I have now gone through and edited it, and added photos!)

If you would like to check out my adventure pop over to......


Anyone heading to Rome I can highly recommend the tour we did there - we ate our way around Rome for about 4 hours - oh the food we tried!!!

So now its back to reality, with a big thud!

Life goes on, meals need to be cooked, and blogged about.  I Just wish there was something worth blogging about!!!

I attempted to make Mozzarella Cheese on Friday, but that was a dismal failure.  I now have a heap of "ricotta" which I may attempt to turn into something today, perhaps make some pasta and turn it into cannelloni? I have of course made Pasta alla' amatriciana several times since I have been back, but alas no photos.

Life seems to be more hectic than usual at the moment.  Or is it just me, with my laid back new attitude.... life is a little slower in Italia!!  In course I will get back on track and start telling you about my cooking adventures.  So please bear with me, I will get back into it!!!

Here's me making Lemon Risotto, under the watchful eye of Marilu (our chef) and another "pupil" Scott.

PS: If anyone is interested I am trying to put together a tour to Italy next year - Rome (Walking, Eating Tour), Florence (shopping) and Positano (Cooing!).  I would love to have some company!!!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In The Air

We finally made it!


April 21st has arrived! It always seemed so far in the future, and never really seemed real. A dream even, somthing that prrhaps wasn't quite real. Even today as I got up at 2.30 in the morning (yes 2.30!!!), i mean who gets up at 2.30 in the morning? The only people up at that time are people on the move. People who are coming home from a night out, or people who are going somewhere. On the way to the airport we pass countless people on their way home from pubs and clubs - so that must make us the ones going somewhere!


All holidays have to start with a funny story. So what's ours?


As you know, I was up early, and those of you that know me well, know that I always like to be ready early. Barb told me that she would pick me up between 3 and 3.15. So rather than cool my jets in the house, I decided to wait at the top of the driveway. 3 o'clock came and went, so did 3.15, pretty soon it was 3.30. Where was she? I decided to text her. No response (I later found out she had left her phone at home on the kitchen bench!) As we waited, we looked up in the night sky and commented that we couldn't see any stars, not particularly unusual we thought,probably just cloudy!


Eventually Barb and Bruce arrive, so I ask them ummmm, did you forget to set the alarm? The answer they gave me was totally unexpected. It seems that the river was so totally shrouded in fog, that as they left their jetty to cross the river, they took off in the opposite direction, they ended up doing three circles just trying to get their bearings. Apparently they even paid a visit to a houseboat along the way! Reason finally prevailed and Barb insisted they go home to find a torch! Now you can imagine the scene can't you. Two people whomhave had little sleep, up very early, and navigating their way across the river in a boat. Add getting bamboozled and frustrated with the fog into the equation! I believe there were countless swear words, and numerous instructions given on how to hold a torch properly! Eventually they made it safely to the other side!! They have lived on the river for 14 years, and have crossed it so many times it probably doesn't bear counting, but tonight of all nights, a simple crossing was not in the cards!


All's well that ends well though, and finally the International airport is in sight.


It still doesn't seem real though. It is only now, as we sit here 6 hours into the flight, 2 movies later, and we have finally watched the little plane leave the continent of Australia, that we look at each other and say "we're on our way to Italy!"


The adventure begins!


Out flight is very monotonous, but is made slightly more exciting by the fact that I am suddenly hit with a case of the runs! Call it Delhi belly, Bali belly, whatever you like, but halfway through a flight, I can tell you it is not fun. I did have the foresight to buy some Imodium before we left, but I thought I had packed them in my bag, not anticipating to need them so soon into the trip! No pun intended but shit, this flight was now looking like pure hell. Barb convinced me to ask the attendant for something, and thank god she did, I was as right as rain again quick smart.


Dubai is finally in sight! We arrive to a dirty dusty looking city. It seems that they are in the midst of a sand storm. The part of town we are staying in, the buildings are all fairly typical of any Asian city. It wasn't until we ventured out after a shower and a change of clothes that the building scape took a change for something completely different! Not your typical buildings here! To say that in Dubain they do everything bigger and better is probably a little bit of an understatement! Our first stop of the evening (and by this time it is around 9 pm Sydney time) is the Dubai Mall! Wow! That is all I can say! The place is enormous, and filled to the brim with high end, glitzy glamour, and beautiful shiny, bright colorful things! Jimmy Choo shoes in all the colours of the rainbow. We make our way to the water feature, where every half hour there is a light, and water spectacular! Better than fireworks, the display is set to a backdrop of music such as thriller! Amazing - but that is not all this mall holds! There is also an ice skating rink, countless water features, and an absolutely amazing aquarium, which has a huge glass wall within the mall, to try and entice you in. But wait, there is more - there is also an old fashioned themed gold souk market place. All themarble and the decorations, it is mind blowing! In one section there must be a million butterflies suspended from the ceiling!


I am not sure how far we walked, but we went from one end of the mall to the other, with many side diversions in betwee!! It would be very easy to get lost in that mall im sure! Even though our brains were pretty well addled at this stage, we managed to get out alive, and in one piece. Finally our body clock tells us that it is probably time to call it a night, so we make our way to the taxi rank! Again, more than you could possibly imagine. Think of the guy that stands on the Tarmac directing planes, but here he is directing 50 or more taxis, are you are starting to get the picture! Don't get in the wrong taxi, they don't like it, there is a definite order that must be adhered to (plus if you get in the wrong taxi, the meter is ticking while you are in a holding pattern!)


Home, and bed has never felt better. We have an early start in the morning, so we ask for an early morning wake up call at 5.45am. We really need not have bothered, as we were both wide awake at around 2am and watching tv! You see that was wake up time back home! I decide that I might as well have a shower, but really I should have just stayed in bed, as we both fell asleep again, but we were thankfully woken up with a start when the phone rang.


Off to the airport. As with most airports, there is a coming, and a going side to the place. The arriving side, while still,very impressive didn't give us even a hint as to what the departure side would look like. I could easily see Tom Hanks live in that airport for a very long time! We check the board for our departure gate - gate 121 - the board tells us that it is a 25 minute walk from where we are! 25 minutes, filled with people everywhere, and duty free shop after duty free shop. Architecturally and aesthetically it doesn't disappoint, there are fountains and lifts that are pure works of art! They love their water, and their fairy lights in Dubai! In fact on our flight yesterday, the ceiling was twinkling the whole way with "stars".


The impatient side of me wants to get heading down to gate 121. I reason that we can wait somewhere down there, there will still be plenty to do. We pass Irish pubs and snooze cubes, that sure got our attention! We are at this stage thinking that we have more than enough time to get to the gate. There's gate 121, and flashing up on the board - final boarding call! Toilet stop? No madam, sorry, you need to just get aboard! Oh, and by the way happy upcoming birthday!


Rome here we come!


As this is my first time flying in this region I am amazed at the views from the window. Flying over the desert is not at all like flying over our desert. Ours is a rich red colour, below us all you see is sand. Even the clouds look a sandy colour. As we head over Beirut, there are many strange formations, they look like dried up rivers, cracked, and parched, giving the appearance of snakes in somthing like an aboriginal painting! There are pockets of civilization here and there, and then out of the barren flat lands you see a lone mountain top peeking through the clouds! Further along there are mountain ranges, that have colour variations that look like snow with underlying vegetation, but I think in reality it is just vegetation and more sand!


Not long now and then we must try and navigate the Italian train system and find our way to the hotel!




Friday, April 20, 2012

Italy Here I Come!!

Finally the day has come!!!  All those days of eating non blog worthy food with the goal of shedding a few kilos for my trip to Italy has paid off!!!

I take off tomorrow morning in the wee small hours!  Am I excited??? Yes, just a tad!!!

If you would like to see what we get up to, then come along for the ride, and visit Italy with us.....


I promise to come back and write about all the wonderful Italian Food that I have learned to cook while I am away!!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Two Great Salads

A meal is never set in concrete until it actually hits the table here! Take last night for example, I had planned to make sweet and sour pork chops, with the associated trimmings, that was until I received the phone call from DH at the 11th hour telling me that he was going to play tennis that evening.  He was playing, then he wasn't, and now of course because I had a meal organised it was back on again!!!!

That then cast an entirely different view on the meal. Had to be quick and light, and prepared early (which given that we had just turned back the clocks to end daylight savings was not a problem. Is it just me, or do you get yourself out of kilter for a couple of days when the clocks change?).

Normally I wouldn't blog about side dishes, but these two were punchy little numbers that deserve some attention. With the Easter holidays coming up, and many people entertaining these would make a great addition to any table.

The first one is a new take on the old Thermomix Beetroot salad. Everyone who has been to a Thermomix demo will have tasted their version of a fresh Beetroot salad. This recipe was given to me by a customer, so I am unsure exactly of its origins. The flavours in this salad are amazing. It combines the freshness of the raw beetroot and carrot with a punchy little dressing of pomegranate molasses and orange juice. Wow! Try it - you have to!

Beetroot Salad
Adapted from a recipe found in a book I believe is called Ripe Recipes, possibly of NZ origin

500g fresh Beetroot, peeled
600g carrot
1/2 bunch fresh mint
30g Sunflower seeds, toasted
30g pumpkin seeds, toasted
80g raisins

2 tbs Pomegranate molasses
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup Olive oil
1 tbs honey
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Now this recipe says to have the carrot and beetroot grated, and the mint chopped. What I did was make it the same way as I make the Thermomix version. I bunged the mint, carrots and beetroot in the bowl and gave them a chop on speed 5. Just make sure that you move it around with the spatula, as there is quite a lot of veggies in the bowl!

To make the dressing, simply place all the ingredients in a screw top jar. Shake to combine.

Place beetroot, carrot, mint, pumpkin seeds, raisins and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Toss through the dressing. Make sure you toss again prior to serving so you get all those lovely flavours mixed through.

The next salad combines two of my favorites - haloumi cheese and quinoa. I just love quinoa, and like to use it now in place of couscous. It's one of natures super foods, low in GI, high in protein and with a great flavour to boot!

Warm Quinoa Salad with Haloumi
Recipe from Good Food Magazine April edition

2 tbs olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
270g jar chargrilled red capsicum, thickly sliced
200g quinoa, rinsed, drained
2 cups vegetable stock *
1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
250g haloumi, sliced

* I used 1 tbs concentrated tm vegetable stock, and 2 cups of water

Heat 1 tbs of the oil in a medium saucepan, on medium high heat. Cook the onion and capsicum, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, or until the onion softens. Add the quinoa and cook for 3 minutes. Add the stock, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa has softened and all of the liquid is absorbed. Stir through half of the parsley.
Mix the sugar, lemon zest and juice with the remaining oil and parsey.
Heat a frypan over medium high heat. Cook the haloumi slices 3-4 minutes each side, or until golden and crisp.

Toss the dressing and the haloumi through the quinoa.

 I apologise for the photos - I am experimenting with the iphone camera so that I can use it when I am blogging on the run in Italy!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chinese Braised Beef

A pinch and a punch for the first of the month!

Today marks several things!

It's April Fools Day, and it's also the end of daylight savings for us down here in the southern hemisphere. The days will now start to get shorter, and colder. For me though, the most important thing about today is that it's the start of the countdown to my trip! Only 20 days to go!!

After the horrible summer (or should I say lack of summer) that we have had here in Sydney, it's hard to believe looking out the window at the glorious sunny day we have today, that winter is just around the corner. So good bye summer, thanks for nothing!

It's time to turn our thoughts to autumn. Our meals will start to change, the BBQs will become less frequent, and soups and stews will start making appearances at our table. I made this stew just recently, and it was a lovely change from the usual. The flavours were fantastic. In fact it was so good, that "The Darlings" gobbled it all up, and left none for DH (who was late home this particular night - that will teach him!).

So if you are looking for something a little different from your usual beef stew, give this a try - you will not be disappointed.

Chinese Braised Beef
Recipe by Valli Little

Serves 4
2 tbs plain flour
1 tsp five spice
1kg chuck steak, cut into 5cm pieces *
1/4 cup peanut or sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3cm piece of ginger, peeled, grated
1/2 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
1 long red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
50g Chinese rock sugar, or brown sugar
1/4 cup shaohsing Chinese rice wine
1 cinnamon quill
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1 liter beef stock
2 tbs peanut butter
2 tbs hoi sin sauce
Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Combine the flour and five spice powder with 1 teaspoon of salt. Coat the beef in the flour mixture, shaking off and reserving any excess flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons on the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish over medium high heat. In batches, cook the beef, turning for 3-4 minutes until browned all over. Remove for the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook the onion, stirring for 1-2 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, ginger, spring onions and chilli, then cook, stirring for a further minute. Stir in the reserved flour mixture with the sugar, rice wine, cinnamon, soy sauce, beef stock, peanut butter and hoi sin sauce. Return the beef to the pan, then increase the heat to medium high and bring to the boil. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for 2 hours, or until the beef is tender.

Serve with steamed asian greens, and rice.

* I actually increased the beef to about 1.5kg and there was plenty of sauce even with extra meat.

The smell of this dish is wonderful. Make sure you get in quick, because I can guarantee you there will be no leftovers!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Krungthup Crab Cakes with Coconut

Yes, I know it has been a LONG time since I have posted, but I do have my excuses ready.

First of all I have been on a diet, and hence the food has really not been all that blog worthy. It has been worth it though. I have managed to lose around 9 kilos!

What have I learnt while on this diet? I have learnt that you can make a low carb approximation of rice by placing the florets of cauliflower in the Thermomix and processing them on reverse, and low,and behold they kind of look like rice - steam it and use it just like rice, or use them as a topping instead of mashed potato on a shepherd's pie! You can also make a low carb "bread" and I use that term very loosely, from whipped egg whites, and a mixture of the yolks and cream cheese. Bake them, and use them in place of bread?! All I can say is that if you are hungry enough you will eat anything!

More importantly the main reason for my extended absence has been that any spare time I have had has been spent poring over all things Italian in anticipation of my upcoming trip. Yes, we are on the countdown now, only days to go! For those of you that want to follow my adventures I will post the address of my travel blog in the next few days.

So in amongst all that diet food I did make a few little treats along the way to relieve the boredom. For me this meal was a breath of fresh air, vibrant and zingy. For DH, not so impressive. The recipe came from "my partner in crime" and she and her husband couldn't understand why, but each to their own I say!

Krungthup Crab and Coconut Cakes
Recipe from Ainsley Harriot

Serves 4

350g white crab meat, squeezed to remove any excess liquid
150g firm white fish, skinned and boned
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs oyster sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium egg, beaten
25g unsweetened shredded coconut
1 red long , seeded and thinly sliced
4 shallots (spring onions)
3 tbs chopped coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying

Chiang-Mai Thai Dipping Sauce to serve

Cut the fish into chunks, and check that there are no bones. Place the fish into a food processor with the fish sauce, oyster sauce, garlic and a a small amount of salt and pepper. Process for a few seconds, until a rough paste has formed.

Add the crab meat and the egg, and process for a seconds or two, until well blended.

Scrape the mixture into a bowl and mix in the coconut, chilli, shallots, and coriander.

Using oiled egg rings, shape the mixture into patties. Spray the, lightly with cooking spray, and cook in a frypan that has been heated to medium high. Note that these patties will be quite sloppy, but they will firm up as,they cook. Cook the patties for 3-4 minutes each side, or until golden brown, and cooked through.

Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

Chiang-Mai Dipping Sauce

6 tbs rice wine vinegar
4 tbs caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove of garlic, very finely chopped
2 red Birdseye chillies, thinly sliced
1 tsp chopped coriander
1 shallot, trimmed and very finely sliced

Mix together the vinegar and the sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Stir in the remaining ingredients. Mix well.

I did serve these with a small serving of garlic chilli prawns. Yum! Make them and you be the judge!

So now back to diet food. A couple more weeks and a couple more kilos to go!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Miso Glazed Salmon with Asian Vegetables

It was a hung verdict on this meal.  One of us (me) loved it - the other (DH) hated it!  I guess sometimes we just have to agree to disagree!!!

Personally, being on a low carb meal I loved the dish -  but then I am eating so many vegetables at the moment I am worried that I may start and sprout roots soon!! Particularly given this unusually wet weather that we seem to be experiencing here in Sydney!

The only thing I would comment about this meal is that making it the way it was stated in the recipe tended to be a little lack lustre and bland.  So I will give my recommendations of how I think the sauce that accompanies the vegetables should be.

Miso Glazed Salmon with Asian Vegetables
Adapted from Curtis Stone's Recipe found in MasterChef Magazine - March edition

Serves 2

1/2 cup white miso
2 tbs caster sugar
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs mirin * plus extra
1 tbs sake
1 tbs soy sauce * plus extra
2 x tail pieces salmon
5g instant dashi powder
1 clove garlic, bruised
1 tsp sesame oil

1 bunch bok choy, cut into pieces
200g shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, sliced on the diagonal
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
1 bunch broccolini

Place the miso, sugars, mirin, sake and soy sauce in a large ziploc bag.  Combine well.  Add the salmon, and allow to marinate for at least 4 hours, or longer if possible.

To make the dashi, place 1 cup of water in a sauce pan.  Add the dashi powder, and bruised clove of garlic.  Bring to a simmer.  Simmer gently for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil, 1 tbs extra mirin, and 2 tsp extra soy sauce.  Keep warm.

Preheat the oven grill to 220 degrees.  Line an oven tray with foil. Drain the salmon from the marinade.  Place skin side down on the oven tray.  Grill for 4 minutes on the top shelf, or until caramelised.  Transfer tray to lower shelf and bake for 3-4 minutes, or until cooked to your liking.

Meanwhile place the  vegetables into a large frypan/wok.  Heat over high heat, add a little water, and water fry the vegetables until they are just cooked.

Place the vegetables in a serving dish.  Spoon over the dashi liquid.  Top with the salmon.

The dashi liquid was way too bland for my liking - the recipe wanted you to make it up with 1/2 tsp of dashi powder and 2 cups of water.  This was so weak in flavour it wasn't worth the effort.  You may have to tweak with the flavours yourself until you get it to your liking.

I loved the sweet caramelised coating the white miso gave to the salmon.  Just be careful you don't over cook the fish - there is nothing worse than dry salmon!!!

For those not on a low carb diet I would suggest you add some steamed rice to the meal.

I'm getting pretty bored with all these vegetables - and a bit de-motivated with the diet!!!  While the first 4 weeks were good, and the weight was dropping off, I seem to have plateaued!  Finding it very hard to keep going!  Can't wait to eat inItaly!!!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Delivery Hero

Growing up in the 60's we watched a futuristic cartoon called the Jetsons.  Life in the future (2062) was going to be fantastic - robots like Rosie to do the cleaning for us, zipping around the sky in jet powered vehicles, and the ultimate luxury - sitting down to dinner and ordering from a computerised menu!!!

While we haven't made it to 2062 yet, and technology isn't quite as they envisaged it might be, we do have a lot of great stuff at our fingertips that we could have only dreamed about 50 years ago.

After having a pretty hectic week on the Thermomix trail this past week, I was feeling very uninspired about making dinner last night (well that and the absolute starvation from "the diet" that was addling my brain!!)  Lucky for me I had the answer but a few keystrokes away!

The lovely Kate at  Delivery Hero had been asking me for quite some time to write a guest blog for one of their sites, but of late I have barely had enough time to write my own posts, let alone anyone else's!  She was not to be deterred however by my lack of writing, and she kindly offered me a coupon to use towards a meal on their Delivery Hero Home Takeaway and Delivery Service.

You know the old saying - "don't look a gifthorse in the mouth"?

Well, I hate to speak badly of something that has been given to me, but in all fairness I think I need to tell you the difficulties that I had in ordering from Delivery Hero.

I made my first attempt last weekend.  The first attempt to order was via the iPad - there were problems with redeeming the voucher I was given, so I then attempted to complete the order on my main computer, but still with no success.

I then figured I would go the "old fashioned" route and use the phone to place my order, this would have to work!  Still no success in redeeming the voucher!  Although the friendly customer service person tried to help me, they told me that they couldn't honour the value of the voucher I had been given in one transaction.  At this point I gave up - no home delivery tonight folks! The family then jumped in the car, and off we headed to the local pub for dinner instead.  On our return home, I sent an email advising Kate of what had happened, she said there could have been a little hiccup in the system, but to please try again and all should be good.

Bring on next weekend and attempt #2!

This time I wasn't going to go the iPad route - straight to the main computer (and low and behold - my order from last week was still sitting there!!)  However, there was still no success in redeeming the coupon! It just told me that I was already an existing customer, and that this voucher was only for first time users!!!  If only I was an existing customer!!!!  Back to the phone, and some personal service.  After a minute or so of holding, they gave me a new voucher code, which funnily enough had an apology in there - but hey, who cares it eventually worked.  The next hiccup, however, was in paying for my meal.  I entered that I wanted to pay via visa - but no, this particular restaurant wanted immediate payment - so this meant I had to use either cash or paypal!  Paypal it will have to be then!

Now, I know it was a Saturday night, but....... we waited almost an hour (55 minutes to be exact) for the delivery to arrive.  Neither at point of entry, nor mid way through the waiting time, did we receive an email or notification of any kind telling us what the anticipated wait time would be.  Finally though after what seemed like a lifetime, and after I was just about to chew my arm off and eat it, our dinner arrived!!!

The next part has nothing at all to do with Delivery Hero - but - my plastic carry bag was full of the liquid that had escaped from my Jungle Curry, and all of the food was lukewarm at best.  So while my rumbling tummy was satiated, it wasn't the greatest of experiences all round.

So the end verdict?

I think Delivery Hero is a great concept, and probably in an area other than mine (Wahroonga - where there is little in the way of restaurant choices) it would be a fantastic tool to have at your fingertips.  I am sure that if there weren't the issues in redeeming the discount voucher, the procedure to order would be very quick and simple.  Would I try it again?  Yes, I probably would.  I have ordered from a competitor before and had success - so on a level playing field I can't see why Delivery Hero cannot be just as good.

I would like to thank the lovely people (Kate) at Delivery Hero for giving me the opportunity to try their service, and for giving me a discount voucher to use towards the purchase of our meal.

I would love to hear from any readers who have tried this service before, and what their experience was.

So will we ever see the lifestyle that they predicted in the Jetsons for the year 2062? Me, I am not likely to find out, not unless they add jet powered wheelchairs to their modes of transport!!!!

One thing they didn't predict too well - our almost cashless society!!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Salmon with Roasted Tomato Salsa, Creamed Corn and Virtual Bacon Dust

When we use the term "virtual" what exactly do we mean?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary gives the following definitions for virtual:

- being such in essence or effect though not formally recognized or admitted

- of, or relating to, or using virtual memory

- being on or simulated on a computer or computer network......

Wikipedia gives a definition that I like:

Virtuality, the quality of having the attributes of something without sharing its (real or imagined) physical form.

So bearing this all in mind, I kind of felt that in order to prepare last night's meal I should perhaps be donning a lab coat and protective eyewear, rather than the usual apron!

Virtual Bacon Dust???  What exactly is it?  What is it made of?  We have been bouncing the term around a little in Thermomix circles of late, as it is a recipe that is featured in the new Dani Valent Cookbook.  What exactly is it though?  I must say my interest was piqued when Madame T mentioned to me that we might be able to make it in an upcoming cooking class.  My hand shot up immediately!!  I'll make that!!!  As it turned out, it wasn't allowed for the that particular menu, but I was not to be deterred.  I decided I would add it to my own personal menu for the weekend!

The ingredients came as a little bit of a surprise, as did the results.

I am going to give you the recipe as it is printed.

Virtual Bacon Dust
Recipe by George Calombaris, printed in In The Mix Cookbook, by Dani Valent

100g brown sugar
100g sesame seeds
100g dashi

Preheat the grill - if you have a temperature setting - to 150 degrees

In a bowl combine the brown sugar, sesame seeds and dashi powder.

Line a baking sheet with baking paper.  Spread the mixture evenly over the prepared tray.

Place under the grill, stirring whenever it starts to caramelise.  After each stir, spread the ingredients as thin as possible to ensure they cook evenly.

When the mixture has caramelised, set aside to cool completely.

When cool place in the Thermomix bowl and blend for 20 seconds on speed 10.

Note:  This caramelises very quickly.  You need to stay close by, and stir often.

Unless you are catering for "The Press Club" or plan to eat this with "virtually" everything for the next 6 months, I highly recommend halving the recipe!!!

What I found amazing was the transformation that occurred with these ingredients.  I wish I had taken a before and after shot.  On the baking tray you had this mixture which looked like - what it was - sesame seeds and bits of burnt sugar, but after processing - it changed colour - to a, well, cooked bacon colour!  I took the lid off and exclaimed - WOW!  Stuck my finger in, tasted it, and said OMG - it tastes like bacon!!!

So what would you use this on?  A garnish for soups - such as pumpkin, cauliflower.  Sprinkled on scrambled eggs, caesar salads, green salads.  Grilled chicken - for that BLT flavour.....I guess the list is endless.  George pairs it with a decadent pumpkin soup.

I chose to make my own creamed corn, and of course garnished it with the virtual bacon dust.

Creamed Corn
Adapted from recipe found in Good Food Magazine, March Edition

Serves 4-6

6 corn cobs, husks and silks removed
100g light cooking cream
15g butter
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the corn cobs in a large saucepan of boiling water for 20 minutes.  Drain, and cool the corn until it is cool enough to handle.  Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels from the cobs.  Place the kernels in the TM bowl.  Add the cream, butter and salt and pepper.  Process on speed 9 for 20 seconds, or until creamed to desired consistency.

To heat up, cook for 9 minutes at 100 degrees on Reverse Speed 1.

Roasted Tomato Salsa
Adapted from recipe found in Good Food Magazine, March Edition

400g tomato medley mix, large tomatoes, halved
250g cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt flakes

Preheat oven to 200 degrees (fan forced).

Combine all the above ingredients in a disposable foil baking tray.  Roast the tomato mixture in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the tomatoes are nice and soft, and split, when slight pressure is applied.

For the salmon, I am going to suggest an alternate method than what was offered in the magazine.  I found that the salmon cooked their way, was too dry for my liking.  I think that I would almost rather pan fry the fish totally.  Cooking skin side down first for 3-4 minutes, or until the skin is brown and crispy.  Then flip over and cook the other side for 3-4 minutes, or until cooked to your liking.

This however, is what they suggested:

Pat the salmon dry with paper towels. Rub with oil, and season.  Heat a frying pan on high.  Cook skin side down for 3-4 minutes, until skin is brown and crispy.  Turn and cook for 1 minute.  Transfer salmon, skin side up to a baking tray that has been lined with baking paper.  Cool slightly.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

When you place the tomato salsa in the oven place the salsa on the bottom shelf, and the salmon on the top shelf.  Cook for 10 minutes.

I found that the 10 minutes was not enough for the tomato mixture, and too much for the salmon!  You decide your method of cooking - but I know what I will do next time around!!!

So how was it??  Well the creamed corn with the bacon dust was great - in fact it would make an excellent breakfast food, alongside a lovely poached egg, and some homemade toast.  How smug would you feel about that!!

The salsa and the salmon - a lovely combination.  So all in all, a wining combination!!!

While it did look like a big meal, with components that were a little on the naughty side - the scales still dropped this morning!!!!  So it couldn't have been too bad!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chicken Cacciatore in the Thermomix

Sometimes all you need is a little pat on the back to give you the motivation you need to keep on going.

This week was the annual pilgrimage out to the Children's Hospital for the usual pokes, prods, and WEIGH IN for "The Child Who Cannot Be Filled!". The words the doctors uttered were not so much the pat on the back I needed, although I was told that all things considered we were traveling very well along the bumpy road of Prader Willi Syndrome. It was more the look of utter disbelief that I encountered when I met up with a doctor, and please excuse me if that is it not your actual title, you probably are a Professor now! But anyway, when I ran across this particular medical professional in the stairwell, as we travelled between appointments, to say that she literally had to pick up her jaw up off the floor would be a little bit of an understatement. She could not believe that this child that had been given the sentence of "PWS" 14 years ago, was the same child/young man that stood/towered above her now!

The look on her face, was the pat on the back that I needed to say "hey you are doing a great job". It made it seem like all the hard, hard work that I have put into the last 14 years have not been in vain.

As you face these hurdles in life, you often belittle the hardships and challenges you face? Do you take it all in your stride, buckle down and just get on with the job at hand? Do you say to yourself, it's not that bad, it could be worse, what am I complaining about? Sometimes though, inevitably, you leave to take stock, and you realize that what you are actually doing is in fact something out of the norm.

So as I face the week with a renewed sense of self. I pat myself on the back and say "good work, you are doing ok!"

After we came back from the hospital "The Child Who Cannot Be Filled" was also feeling pretty good about himself, so we sat down to a meal that night without a challenge. He seemed to understand (maybe) the reasons why the meals etc are the way they are. He accepted that he could have a massive plate full of food, if it was the right kind meal! So we had a beautiful Chicken Cacciatore, with a mega serve of vegetables!  Everybody was happy!

Chicken Cacciatore
Original Recipe by CateCanCook

Serves 6

1kg Chicken Breast, sliced into 2cm thick pieces
1 onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic
100g pancetta, roughly chopped
1kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 carrots, sliced thickly
10g oregano leaves
1tbs TM concentrated vegetable stock
100g white wine
200g swiss brown mushrooms, quartered
olives (if desired)

Place the pancetta into the TM bowl, pulse on turbo twice (1 second each).  Remove from bowl, set aside.  Place the onion and garlic in the TM bowl, chop on speed 7 for 3 seconds.  Add a small amount of olive oil.  Saute for 2 minutes at 100 degrees on speed 1 (with the MC off).  Add the pancetta, and saute for an additional 2 minutes at 100 degrees on speed 1.

Add the roughly chopped tomatoes, stock concentrate, oregano leaves and wine, and cook for 20 minutes at 100 degrees on Reverse, Speed Soft, with the basket over the lid to stop any splatters.

Place the sliced chicken in the varoma tray and receptacle, making sure you don't cover all the holes.

Add the carrots and mushrooms to the tomato mixture in the TM bowl.  Place the varoma on top of the TM bowl.

Cook for 45 minutes at varoma temperature on Reverse, Speed Soft.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Place the tomato mixture into a prewarmed (put boiling water in it for 5-10 minutes).  Add the chicken and mix through.

At this point you could either then steam your vegetables in the varoma, by putting 1 litre of boiling water into the TM bowl, and cooking for 30 minutes at varoma temperature on speed 4.  OR you may just wish to steam your vegetables separately.

If you are not on a low carb diet, serve with some steamed rice.

This was an incredibly satisfying meal, and you really did not feel deprived by not having the rice with it.  The best part though - the scales continued to decline in numbers the next day too!!!

So another pat on the back!!!

So Dear Readers how do you face those tough obstacles in life?  Do you buckle down, or buckle in?  It's OK either way!