Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fond memories

I was listening to Rick Stein on the radio today and was interested to hear how he had been responsible in  instilling a desire to visit France for so many people after his series A French Odyssey.  For me also this series  prompted  us to venture to rural France, tasting tasting wonderful food while we cycled the Canal du Midi. He actually barged the canals which is an experience I look forward to doing one day also.  

The canal systems around France are amazing, the engineering involved, given these were all dug without the benefit of machinery, blows you away. 

Dotted along the canal are many small eateries providing local produce, duck cooked in a variety of ways spoils you for choice.  I was glad we were cycling, at least it burnt off a few of the calories.  There are very few hills so cycling is relatively easy, which is a great thing!   Every so often you will see a supply barge, which services the multitude of barges and noddy boats on the waterways.  The English, Germans and Dutch are keen on barging, some traveling down from Holland.  Holland apparently build fabulous barges and are keenly sought after.  It was astounding the amount of people, all nationalities actually living on the canal, their decks dotted with potted colour, bbq's of all shapes and sizes and various flags flying from the stern.  I look forward one day to flying an Australian flag and taking a very slow sail down one of the many canals, stopping as often as possible and trying new and delicious food, making new friends and soaking up all life has to offer.  Hope you enjoyed some of my memories.  Next blog, back to me actually cooking something and not waffling on!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Roasted pumpkin soup

   It' good to see my daughters on the ball adding a post here and there while I have been out of sorts, and her pizza looked great, less is always more with pizza, nothing worse than so many fillings on top it just ends up looking like a mess and the flavours just start to bind together, not allowing any one great ingredient to shine!


Yep, a picture of a pumpkin which I bought on special for 67cents a kilo, pretty good I thought.  I try to put recipes up here that are for the most part quick and easy, and this ticks those boxes.  First thing put your pumpkin in a baking dish and roast on 160 degrees until you can easily insert a skewer through it. Remove and cool slightly.  Gently fry three finely sliced onions, 3 cloves garlic, a good tsp of very finely chopped rosemary, until just beginning to brown.   Remove skin and seeds from pumpkin and all the flesh to the onion mixture, season well, add 2 litres of chicken or veg stock (unsalted) simmer over a low heat for about 30 mins, place in a blender and whiz till you are happy with the consistency.  Voila, I don't even put cream or milk in it, because using the whole pumpkin roasted gives it a lovely creamy texture, this way you can freeze what you don't use.  Throw and handful of finely chopped parsley over the top, and serve with some crunchy bread.Another tip is, fancy it a bit on the spicy side, add a tsp or two (taste after one) of red curry paste (I use Mai Ploy) garnish it with coriander instead of parsley and add a dash of coconut cream to the finish, instead of bread use roti to dip.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pizza Time

Hi Mum! I made these pizza's for a quick friday night dinner, they were delicious.

I made the dough when I got home from work it was a simple one which I found online to match the ingredients I had in the cupboard! No fancy flour here! I let it rest for just over an hour while I had a shower and glass of wine.

I made a quick Napoli. Fried 2 cloves of garlic added a tin of diced tomatoes, about a tablespoon of chopped oregano and salt and pepper, this simmered until I had a reasonably thick sauce.

I made a pizza bianca with taleggio cheese, pancetta and potatoes with onion and rosemary. For the potato I browned one onion before adding thin slices of potato, salt and rosemary. The other pizza was a simple Margherita topped with fresh prosciutto and basil.

Roast pork with apple cider & caramalised onions

This is an easy dish, a little time consuming because of the potatoes, but well worth the effort, as I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't like them!

I used a loin of pork, seared it in some olive oil and small amount of butter on all sides, I than added 3 small brown onions, thinly sliced, salt, pepper, garlic cloves (4) and about 1 1/2 cups apple cider, then popped into the oven on 160 degrees for about 1 hour, removing the meat wrapping in foil and allowing to rest, well as it was very tired :)

By this stage the onions have broken down, so it's simply a matter of reducing some of the liquid, thus browning and thickening the remaining sauce, tasting for seasoning and waiting until you are ready to put it all together on the plate.                                                                                                                                                                       

The potatoes need to be sliced thinly to ensure even cooking, I normally allocate 2 potatoes per person, be generous with these spuds, your guests will love you for it. Grease an oven proof dish and lay about two layers of potatoes down, season very well, drizzle with cream and complete layering in this order till all potatoes are used.  Apply another cream layer on top, ensuring you cover the whole area, remember to season between each layer.  Cover with baking paper, then foil and bake in a 160 oven for 2 1/2 hours, then turn it up to 190 for last 30min to brown on top.  This dish needs slow long cooking, nothing worse than undercooked spuds

After your sauce has reduced you will notice that the colour, texture and consistency has changed to form a really nice gravy, no flour, no mess and all in the one pan, you have to love that.

When cooked your potatoes should look as these do beautifully browned on top and soft and creamy on the inside.  If you really wanted to go overboard you could add some swiss cheese in between the layers. this also tastes sensational.   I served this meal with some steamed greens, and followed it with a stick date pudding, my guests told me they would roll home after dinner, but all looked forward to doing it again.  Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Happy cooking!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Boned & stuffed chicken

I must admit this was a bit fiddly, but the end result was worth it.  I boned out a size 16 chicken and removed the skin (in one piece).  I made up a stuffing by gently frying 2 finely diced small brown spanish onions, 4 rashers bacon, 3 cloves garlic, 125gram chopped pistachios and adding this to 1kg of minced chicken (from the thigh) one egg, 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, a good handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley, salt & pepper, combining the mixture well.  I then placed this mixture on top of my boned chicken, spreading it liberally and putting it in any gaps.  I then rolled the chicken up as firmly as I could and then rolled it back into the skin, placing a few sage leaves along one side, in between the skin & meat. (Place the bird on some kitchen paper, it makes it easier to roll) I then secured it by tying it firmly with kitchen string, it will look like a very large sausage by the time you are finished.  Next I seared the bird well in some olive oil on all sides till very brown and pretty.  Next into the oven for around one and a half hours.  After you remove the chicken you will see a great deal of juice left in the pan, a small squeeze of lemon juice is all I found that was needed to pour over the bird.  I served it with roast potatoes and greens.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce

There are countless recipes for this dessert and while I like mine dense and very pudding like, there are those that prefer a lighter more cake like texture.  This is my version. Place 125 grams chopped dates in a saucepan and just cover with water, bring to slow boil, simmer for about 8 minutes, cool slightly and add 1tsp bicarb soda, it will fizz madly for 30 seconds or so, this lightens the mixture. Cream 120grams butter with 1 cup brown sugar until light and creamy, add two eggs one at a time, beat well after each addition. Add half a tsp of good vanilla. To this add 1 cup sifted sr flour, mix through then add date mixture, it will be of a sloppy consistency.  Pour into greased lined baking dish and cook for about 1 hour, then test with skewer.  Given the amount of date to flour ratio in this pudding, it will collapse down to a flat finish, I did say it was dense.  Now for the sauce, and you need to be generous 250 ml cream, 100 grms butter, 2/3 cup brown sugar, all in together and gently heat in a heavy based saucepan.  The thing about this dessert, if it wasn't for the sauce, which is delicious it really isn't that calorie loaded, well that's my story anyway.  There you have it, slice pour over the sauce add some more cream if you dare or ice cream.  If you do like it a little more on the cake side, add an extra 1/2 cup of sr flour.  This pudding freezes well, so double the recipe make two and when you have guests whip it out of the freezer and make up some sauce, or if you are calorie counting just use low fat ice cream, yeah as if that's going to happen :) Happy cooking.

Mallorcan slow roasted lamb

While I have cooked other meats in beer before, I have never tried it with lamb. This is a Spanish peasant dish from an area called Mallorca (pronounced My- york- u) It is traditionally cooked in a wood fired oven.  This is a great dish if you want to throw it in the oven and forget about it for 3 hours.  I simply scored the lamb, seasoned it well, added some sprigs of fresh rosemary and added a basic miraqua  (carrots, celery, onion) I also added some whole garlic cloves.  One bottle of bear along with one and a half bottles of water over the meat, cover with baking paper and foil.  Slow oven 160 degrees, 2 1/2  hours, then 180 degrees for remaining  30 minutes, I served it with a garlic mash of potatoes and some steamed green vegetables.  Unfortunately no pic of final plated dish as my camera's battery died.  It was delicious and I will definitely cook it again, and make sure my battery is charged and ready for action.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's been cooking?

Well I have had been busy this past week, stuffed & boned chicken, a Spanish style lamb slow cooked Mallorcan dish cooked in beer, yep there's a twist, was beautifully moist,  a close cousin to braised lamb shanks but in this dish the whole leg is used.  Away from my picture downloads for a couple of day so no doubt there will be lots of catching up on the weekend with blogging and uploading pics and talking about these hearty winter ideas.  As always love your feedback and hearing what types of foods interest you.  Happy cooking

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pasta fagioli-vegolicious

This dish ticks all the boxes

Just for the vegos out there, a pasta with beans and broccoli. This is easy, fast and economical. Fry an onion with 4 cloves garlic, 2 bay leaves, and 2tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary, and sauté till soft, add about 2 very ripe tomatoes, mash them up add one beans (tinned are fine, afte all we are in hurry) borlotti or white, either is fine fill the empty tin half full with water and add to sauce. Season, then turn down very low, and cook till it's start looking mushy, steam some small florets of broccoli, cook some pasta, grate some cheese, and you are there, 30 minutes should do it. Happy cooking :)

Spaghetti with mussels and scallops

I have had a busy week,  a wedding to cater and various other jobs, so needless to say I have a swag of recipes with accompanying pictures to blog about all of which will take a bit of time....so in the meantime I thought I would post a quickie on one of my family's favourites.
I blogged a couple of weeks ago on Victoria St, in Richmond a place that is very dear to my heart, as I happened to be there last week, just for a change, I noticed my fishmonger of choice had some lovely fresh mussels, so what better to whip up for dinner.  One of my daughters dropped in for dinner and upon seeing what we were having, invited herself for dinner, fortunately I still cook more than I need, scaling down after so many years is difficult.. 

A dish that looks difficult but fortunately isn't. I used 1 kg of fresh mussels (serves 4) 250 grms scallops, flat leaf parsley, 3 cloves garlic, 2 very ripe tomatoes chopped finely, 1 500 gm pasta, 1/2 cup white wine (sav blanc) salt & pepper, oh and 1/2 chill, seeds removed. Put a large pot of water on to cook pasta, do this first before cooking mussels. Clean your mussels, if any are slightly open, tap them and if healthy they should close completely, otherwise throw them away. In a heavy based pan sauté the garlic, do not brown, add clean mussels, wine & tomatoes and chilli, put on the lid and shake the pot to evenly cook mussels 4-5 minutes should do it. Grill your scallops quickly in a very hot pan, oil the scallops not the pan & season, 1 min each side. Pour in your drained pasta, scallops a good drizzle of olive and ahandful of flat leaf parsley into the mussel, combine well and serve with crusty bread. Happy cooking

Monday, May 3, 2010

So many recipes, so little time

Well I have been busy the last few days or so and as a result I have a swag of meals to blog about and pics to upload.  What to blog about first, check out the pics and let me know which one you would like to hear about first!

Sticky date pudding with  butterscotch sauce is incredibly dense, but not as dense as some, and is ideal now that the weather is getter cooler.  Then there pasta with beans, a vegetarian delight, that is quick, easy and economical.  Hard to go past a roasted pumpkin soup and crunchy rolls. Roast pork with scalloped  potatoes and apple cider and onion sauce, hmm great with a SDP!  Perhaps a beef ragu is more to your liking, or a quick and tasty pork and vegetable stir fry with hokkein noodles.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What's for dinner?

I picked up a lovely piece of eye fillet steak on my trip to Richmond ($22.99 per kilo) so what better than a roast for dinner.  This was a 1 1/2 kg piece, I chopped of the tail as it's a bit scrappy to roast, best save for a pasta sauce or the like.  I tied up the steak to keep its shape, rubbed it in oil, salt and stuffed in some rosemary.  I sealed it well on all sides, then deglazed with some red wine, threw in some garlic cloves and finished it off in the oven (about 25 minutes, I like it on the rare side). Remove the meat, wrap in foil and allow to rest,  Add some beef stock (unsalted, be in charge of your own seasoning) to the pan, then whisk in some cold cubes of butter to make a quick sauce.  The longer you cook the sauce the thicker it will become.  I served the steak with some rosti potatoes, which are just spuds that have been grated, liquid removed, seasoning added, formed into patties and shallow fried. See pics below.  This served five, so all in all reasonably priced for a nice dinner.  Happy cooking.

Grate potato place in a dry tea towel or muslin bag, and squeeze out the excess liquid, season well,  a small amount of grated garlic and onion could be added if desired.  Form into patties and shallow fry. Steam some greens and your done.

Finally the pictures.

I visit Victoria Street, at least once every two weeks, sometimes more depending on how much I am hanging out for egg noddle soup with bbq pork and wontons from Thanh Fong.   After nourishment I set about visiting my favourite places for meat, poultry, pantry items and veg.  I darted around from store to store terrifying some of the store holders with my camera, I even had one chap hide from me, perhaps I should have told him I was shooting for Cleo's next  bachelor :)  After some pensive looks, they all settled down after I explained in a fashion what the heck I was doing!  I have made an effort to photograph most of the items with the prices readable to emphasise the amount of savings that can be had, if you know where to go.  Pork being one of the most popular meats in Vietnamese cooking you are guaranteed great quality and price in Richmond, expect to pay at least a third less.  This can be said for eye fillet steak, other varieties of beef, rump, sirloin definitely worth a trip if you are near by.  Notice the great price on the very ripe tomatoes, a few kilo of these slow roasted in the oven with garlic (as per one of my previous blogs) ideal to have on hand to add a special something.   Duck one of my favourite things, a duck will set you back $22 cooked, bbq sweet pork $20, it comes with the sauce, so if you don't feel like cooking, some rice, bok choy @ 50cents a bunch, there's a take away a cut above the rest.  The hot bread shop is my favourite for great tasting bbq chicken, coriander and a mixture of other yummy Vietnamese condiments at $3.20 it's a great lunch.  French style bread is also available, perhaps one the  good things the French did while occupying Vietnam, taught the locals their bread baking skills.  
If you're planning some stir fry meals in the week ahead I would suggest you head down to your local Asian community area and have a wander around, not only will you save on the weekly shopping bill, but by asking you will gain knowledge about fruit, veg, sauces etc, etc that you probably haven't heard of.  It's a great way to get to know and embrace another wonderful part of the melting pot that is the Australian Culture!        

More photos, descriptions and prices on my facebook page, I hope you have found this helpful.  It would be great to get a permanent page going where other great shopping areas for interesting produce could be made available to any other people out there interested.  So if you have a special shopping place you thing may be of interest, send me the details and we can start getting it together

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Victoria Street, Richmond

I have always found Richmond a great place to buy pork, as it is a very popular meat in Vietnamese cooking, the quality and price is difficult to beat.

Only relevant pic I had that would download!

Well I had a great day in Richmond, starting off with lunch, which is always a foregone conclusion.  In between scaring local traders with my camera I managed to cover a number of areas ranging from best place to buy pork to good prices for bok choy.  Sadly technology is fighting with me and will not allow me upload the many pics I took.  Bear with me and hopefully I will have them uploaded asap, meanwhile if you are interested in my day out, click the link to my facebook page on the right hand side of the blog to see what I have been up to, as it would work there, go figure!

I have also been busy cooking some economical and tasty of meals, including pork and intend to blog about some slow cooking ideas, with pics of course, as we head into the colder months.  As always value your feedback. 

Monday, April 26, 2010


 As you can see my daughter has been busier than me over the last couple of days!   She told me she forgets about taking pictures of the end result, as everyone is too keen to eat :)

It's coming up to Mother's day and as a result I think of poached pears! When I was little I made mum poached pears for her mothers day breakfast, I may have been 11 or so (mum?) with dad watching that I didn't burn myself or the house. For mother's day I know anything kids do will be a winner but I think the mother hen was very happy the year I did pears!
I did these Nashi pears the other day as I couldn't find any nice looking pears while at the supermarket. They worked a treat and  kept their shape really nicely though don't have as good a figure as the standard pear!

When I was little I used a recipe, I'm not sure where it is but all I could remember is that it had red wine and cinnamon! As a result this is what I did. Roughly removed the core of my 4 Nashi pears and placed them in a pot, filled with water about 3/4 of the way up, add a splash of red wine (about half a cup) a splash of brandy (1/4 cup) quarter of a cup of sugar, 2 lemon wedges, a mandarin quartered and one cinnamon stick. Cooked on a slow steady simmer for an hour or so until nice and soft.

After removing the pears I reduced the liquid by about half (taste and add extra sugar if necessary). The consistency is a watery syrup which is not too sweet so you can serve your pear in a bit of the soup and vanilla ice cream. You can reduce the juice with extra sugar if you prefer a rich syrup to serve with your Nashi.

Ring a Roast

 Another recipe idea from a special blogger, my daughter!

A few times I have made a roast to take over to the boyfriends house, we have called it 'ring a roast' perhaps I should start a business! The oven at his place not only in need of a clean also takes many many hours to cook and as a result doesn't do a lot of roasting, take away roast it is.

I made this chook the other day. I used free range chickens and give them a quick clean with running cold water inside and out before drying lightly with paper towel and placing on baking paper. Gently lift the skin away from the flesh on the breast for the herb rub. I stuffed each carcass with half a lemon which I squeezed on the way in and a fat sprig of rosemary. In a bowl I mixed a very decent handful of roughly chopped mixed herbs (rosemary, oregano, parsley and sage) with a tablespoon of lemon zest, 50g softened butter, 2 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper. The butter binds all the herbs and makes it easy to rub under the skin of the chicken. With any extra herb butter on your hands rub over the outside of the chicken adding a bit of oil if you run out of butter. Season the outside of the chook with s&p.

These chooks took just over 2 hours cooking together on 180 degrees.  Just after half way I turned them both over to make sure the bottom browned.  The roasting juices from the chook make a delicious lemony gravy. Serve with nice garlic baked potatoes, pumpkin and green beans.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Red Peppers, stuff 'em

The only time when stuffing up is a good thing!                                                                               There are lots of ways you can enjoy capsicum they are not only restricted to slicing and adding to a salad.  Here is one I enjoy at this time of year as they are plentiful and less expensive which is always the key!  Prepare the peppers by removing the tops with a sharp knife and with your hand pull out as many as the seeds as possible without breaking the flesh, as you want it to remain in tact making a nice little vessel for cooking the stuffing.  Give them a quick rinse and pat dry.

Tip This dish has a tomato style sauce to pour over the top, so while you are chopping do a little extra,  one more onion, 3 more garlic and some fresh herbs, saves starting all over again with the chopping when you have cleaned up!

The stuffing consists of 700 grams minced veal (pork or lamb also works well) 2 cups cooked rice, 2 medium onions finely chopped, 4 cloves garlic finely chopped, 2tsp mixed herbs, half handful of continental parsley, 1tsp fresh rosemary, and because lemon goes well with veal I put in 1tsp of fresh lemon thyme, (sage would also be really nice) 1 egg, salt & pepper (be generous)  I have made this a number of times so it usually tastes as I envisaged, but for the first time take a small ball of the mixture, a mini mini pattie, fry it, taste it and if it needs more seasoning, add it easy as that.

Next fill each of the peppers, (I made three as there were four of us for dinner) and really stuff the mixture down firmly, so that when you cut them you have nice slices, nothing worse than not enough meat and they fall apart.  All that's left now is onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, a splash of evoo, s & p and bake on a 150 degree oven for about 11/2 hours.  I don't like them to blacken them for this recipe that's why the lower heat.  Turn them over about half way.  When they are soft to the touch you are there.
Left:  This how its looks to start 

Below:  After about 1 + hours, voila
Now for the sauce which is a basic Napoli easy as.  First evoo into the frying pan, heat gently then add onions,  sauté, followed by garlic, dried mixed herbs, a couple of pinches of chilli, adds depth to the flavour, colour slightly then add two tins (410gm ea) whole tomatoes, stir and break the tomatoes up with your spoon, add a 1/4 tsp sugar this cuts the acidity in the tomatoes.  Finally add two tins of water, (I use the tins the tomatoes came from) and bring to a slow boil, turn down, add the fresh herbs and simmer for at least 1- 1/1/2 hours topping up with extra water from time to time, the consistency needs to be thick, but not like paste.  Add salt & pepper, remember to taste after seasoning. It sounds like a long time to cook but the depth of flavour develops with the cooking process, not cooking it long enough usually results in a watery nuff nuff sauce.                                           

A drizzle of evoo to the sauce, some fresh parsley and voila you are there, just pour over your peppers. The best thing about this is, not only is this dinner sorted you will have enough sauce to freeze or refrigerate and use on a pasta, a pizza combine it with some white beans (make your own style baked beans ) also good with a vegetarian ravioli, it's only limited by your imagination:)  Let me know what you think, happy cooking.

Accompaniments:  This dish is pretty well balanced, vegetables, protein and carbs all in the one package, I usually serve a green salad or wilted spinach with this, but I actually found some brussel sprouts $2 for a tray, and yes I love a bargain,  so I braised them, first sauté a very small onion with one slice of bacon or prosciutto till brown in a little evoo and butter, add the sprouts, gently toss till you have a little colour, then add about 1 cup water bring to slow boil, reduce heat and cover.  What will happen is that your sprouts will be soft but you will have an excess quantity of stock in the bottom of the pan (see pic)  now what you do is remove sprouts to a warm place, turn up the heat and reduce till a gravy like texture appears or "jus" if you want to be a bit cheffy :)  this can now be poured over your sprouts 

The two bottom pics show the before and after.  By turning up the heat for about 4 or so minutes you can reduce a nuff nuff excess of stock into an accompanying sauce without much effort!                              

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bogged down!

I'm bogged down in not knowing what to blog about first!  In the next couple of weeks I will be talking about baby food, if you havn't picked up on it already good nutrition for children is one of my hobby horses.

  In the coming weeks I am going to take a trip down to one of my favourite streets in Melbourne, Victoria Street try and take some pics of my suppliers with smiling faces and give those of you interested an idea of how, what and where when it comes to buying Asian supplies.

I try to make meals out of ingredients that are in season, and no doubt you have heard all this before, the celebrity chefs wax lyrical about seasonal produce continually.  The thing is if you know where to go, in season ingredients are less expensive and they do taste better.  To cut to the chase I bought red peppers $3.87 per kilo, so today I am going to stuff them with a veal  & rice mixture and make a tomato sauce to accompany.  Well that's solved today's recipe blog, all going well it should be on later tonight.

As always would really love some more feedback, the reason I am venturing into Victoria Street is because someone out there in the vortex has requested it, happy to accommodate!  Any excuse for me to stop for a while and have lunch :)

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with what I have been talking about, but why let the content get in the way of a good picture. I found it while searching and remember eating it and it bought back great memories, so why not share.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kids in the kitchen

I had a great dinner with my sister a couple of days ago, and she was telling me how my nieces enjoy watching the lifestyle cooking channel.  Now, every Saturday they have a cooking day with their mum, so I thought a recipe for them would be appropriate.  This is for you girls, let me know how they taste!

I use a sausage mince from my butcher as I prefer it over the supermarket options.  Check with your butcher, I'm sure he will be able to help.

In a large bowl add 1kg sausage mince, 2 medium onions, one diced and raw, one diced and gently fried, this adds both sweetness by the cooking process and texture with the raw.  Two medium grated carrots, 3tsp mixed herbs, one handful of finely chopped Italian parsley, one egg, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1tsp sambal olek (optional, so little of this is used it does not make the mixture hot at all, just adds an extra level of depth to the end flavour) salt & pepper (be generous)  Mix well, I use my hands, it's the only way to distribute all the ingredients evenly.   I have made these generous in size, but for little mouths they may need to be a little smaller.   Roll your mixture into sausage lengths in some seasoned flour, place in 1/2 sheet puff pastry, roll then brush with beaten egg and bake until golden brown.  These freeze well so can be on hand for a quick snack.  Happy cooking :)