A table shared is a pleasure doubled

Whether it’s a ride in the country, an umbrella in the rain, or a heavy load to lift, a problem shared is a problem halved and a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled. A recent invite to come up to the hills for a swim and escape the temperature 41oC by some good friends was a true pleasure. The children had a great swim and us oldies enjoyed the cooler conditions and shared a sumptuous table.

Just nibbles the host said…. she had prepared feasts for Christmas and New Year’s gatherings and supposedly wasn’t going to prepare more!

Hah! I have heard that before!

In fact she had not one but two fantastic terrines accompanied by home-made pickled capsicum and onion relish, one a chicken watercress and tarragon beauty and the other liver and veal. Disappearing after a bit she returned with cassata …home-made ice-cream in the centre, fresh blue berries and raspberries…I always feel humbled in the her presence.

I had prepared a salad for everyone to share based on an old favourite from many years ago. It is a simple chicken mango avocado salad but the thing that sets it apart from the rest is the dressing.

Chicken salad with macadamia dressing and mango salsa

This is the original recipe; I have often taken many liberties and substituted or omitted several ingredients and maintained a measure of success.

3    cups good chicken stock
4    chicken breast fillets (see note)
1    tablespoon macadamia oil
1     handful of macadamias, roughly chopped
1    bunch of watercress, trimmed, washed well and broken into pieces.
Note: Baby spinach or any salad greens can be substituted for the watercress.
2    avocados, sliced
250g     sugar snap peas, blanched and refreshed

Dressing

1    tablespoon olive oil
1    onion, finely chopped
2    teaspoons curry powder
1    Tablespoon paw paw and mango chutney
1    tablespoon apricot jam
1/4     cup unsalted macadamias
2    tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2    tablespoons macadamia oil
2    tablespoons olive oil
1/2     cup whole-egg mayonnaise
1/4     cup thin cream

Salsa

2    ripe mangoes, finely diced
1    small Spanish onion, finely chopped
2    tablespoons light olive oil
2    tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2    tablespoons finely chopped mint
1    teaspoons honey
1     small fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
For salsa, combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover and set aside so flavours can blend and develop.

Bring chicken stock to the boil in a deep Frying pan.
Reduce heat and gently poach, chicken fillets for about 8 minutes, or until cooked through.
Remove from stock and set aside to cool.

Note:    I normally cook the chicken fillets on a grill pan instead of poaching.

For dressing, heat oil in a small saucepan, and cook onion over medium heat until translucent.
Add curry powder and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in chutney and jam and mix well.
Set aside to cool. Process macadamias in a food processor until, well chopped.
Add vinegar and oils, process until well combined.
Combine with the cooled onion mixture, mayonnaise and cream.
Mix well. Set aside.
Heat macadamia oil in a small frying pan and cook macadamias until lightly golden. Arrange watercress, sliced avocado and Peas on individual serving plates. Slice chicken fillets and arrange in centre of salad greens.
Spoon over some dressing. Add 2 tablespoons of salsa to each serving and sprinkle with macadamias.


Something yummy to start with…

Recently I had a conversation in which I claimed that I didn’t much care for smoked food, then I paused hmmm on reflection I could not think of something I didn’t enjoy that was smoked.

Consider: smoked oysters, smoked kippers, smoked ham, smoked bacon, smoked sausage, smoked chicken, smoked cheese… and there is probably many others that I have missed. So I guess (ahem) I must say that I am actually quite fond of smoked food (put your hand if you like smoked food too). So what was it …that I was thinking of when I said that I wasn’t keen?

The following nibbles I made several weeks ago (for a casual get together of work colleagues and friends). They are a good example of my love of smoked fish. I made little Rösti (a traditional Swiss dish of fried grated potatoes) a little like a hash brown and topped them with smoked salmon and smoked eel.

I grated the potato using the grating attachment of the food processor, you can do it by hand but it is a lot faster in the processor. Next I squeezed as much moisture out of the grated potato as I could, then shallow fried handfuls of the grated potato in a little butter.

The warm hash browns where then topped with salmon or eel, from Harris, a family owned and operated smokehouse located in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. (I have mentioned them before here) a dollop of sour cream, capers / caper berries, a squeeze of lemon, a scattering of lemon zest or wedge of lemon and that is it.

The tricky bit is serving the them… the hash browns might have made it from plate to guest’s mouth but might just as easily broken up and made a mess. I used some muffin wraps (the sort that muffins in a café sometimes are sold in) to save the embarrassment.

Sephardic Flourless butter-less orange-and-almond cake

Pssst Can you keep a secret? Yes? Good…. now what I am about to tell you must NEVER be told to anyone that is not a cook. Here it is …the secret handshake of the food lovers fraternity…. we share recipes….yep its true …and we pass little jars of quince paste, capsicum relish, greens picked from a home garden, a slice of the best fruit cake you could dream of, super fresh eggs, figs and more…(by the way, thank you, you know who you are)… it’s like our secret motto, our handshake or symbol, it helps define who we are. So now that I have told you my secret, what has someone clandestinely slipped your way recently?… saying ‘try this’ or thanks for inviting me please have this little jar of something? hmmm go on tell us!.

The recipe for this cake was given to me recently on a little slip of paper… “really weird orange cake” it said, and it was a bit like Alice in Wonderlands bottle saying ‘drink me’ …except this recipe was whispering ‘bake me’. Now a cake recipe that has no wheat flour and no butter does sound weird so I did a little research. The recipe here is based on the Sephardic orange-and-almond cake in Claudia Roden’s comprehensive book A New Book of Middle Eastern Food (yes you may borrow it if you want). The recipe was originally Jewish and the cake was baked during Passover.

This cake is a winner for me for two reasons; firstly all the ingredients can be bunged ( is that a cooking term?) into the food processor, saving on washing up ( though if you do it properly it could just be that little bit nicer) and secondly because Claudia Roden says that the cake can never fail ( you have to like that). Claudia says that if the cake is not cooked enough, it is moist enough to became a pudding served with a dollop of cream or mascarpone, and the moistness helps prevent the cake becoming too dry if it is overcooked ( I proved this having not checked oven temp properly and it had been set too high)

I have found several variations to the ‘original’ recipe that you could try; Jill Dupleix separates the eggs, making a cake that is lighter, my good friend who gave me the recipe said that a heaped tablespoon of poppy seeds added to the batter was good, and I made mine with a sort of almond brittle topping.

So have a go and remember keep on sharing those recipes and other goodies, oh and thanks again Mr R.

Ingredients

2 large or 3 medium oranges

6 eggs

225g caster sugar (or make it sugarless too and use 3/4 cup honey)

200g ground almonds

1tsp baking powder

Method

Place the clean, whole and unpeeled fruit in a little water, and bring to the boil. Simmer for at least 1½ hours or until soft, adding more water when necessary.

Drain the oranges, cut into quarters, discard any major pips, and whiz (including peel) in the food-processor, then cool. Throw in the rest, egg*, sugar, almonds, and baking powder.

Heat the oven to 180C

*Jill Dupleix  says to just add the yolks then beat the egg whites until softly peaky and fold gently into the mixture.

Pour into a 23cm (9in) springform cake tin and bake for an hour, until firm to the touch (cover with a loose sheet of foil if over-browning). Cool in the tin and dust with icing sugar to serve.

Pea and Ham Soup

So.. I have finally made something from ‘Masterchef’….. You see I challenged myself to try the trickiest and most elaborate dish, one that will easily sort out the professionals from the pretenders the dish that requires great skill and care….. yeh right, not this little red caboose.

I was looking for a simple soup recipe and in my search stumbled on this one http://www.masterchef.com.au/pea-and-ham-soup.htm. I have added some extra vegetable with carrot, dropped the chili and used oil instead of butter a tradeoff between health and flavor.

A note of warning check the seasoning carefully, the ham hock I had was very salty and I did not need to add any more salt.

Sorry to disappoint but this is just good old fashioned winter comfort food, dead easy, stick it on after lunch, let it simmer until just before dinner, no fuss, no stress, get yourself a bowlful, a chunk of bread and curl up by the fire… deeelish!


Ingredients

1 tbsp oil or 50g butter
2 onions, finely diced
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
2 tsp Thyme Leaves
1 tsp Oregano Leaves
1 smoked ham hock
300g green split peas
1 1/2 – 2 L low salt chicken stock
1 cup peas, frozen
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Method

1. Heat oil or butter in a large pot and fry onion for 3-4 minutes, add in garlic, thyme, chili and oregano then stir for a further 2 minutes.

2. Add in the ham hock and split peas with the stock and bring to the boil, turn down heat to low and let the soup gently simmer for 1 ½ hours.

3. Take the hock out of the pot and shred the meat.

4. Place the frozen peas into the soup for 5 minutes and then blend the soup until smooth.

5. Add in the shredded ham and heat five minutes before serving, and finish with parsley.

6. For a creamy soup add 2 tsp of yogurt to each bowl of soup.

Recipie from www.masterchef.com.au

 

Oh lard won’t you bake me a Cornish pasty

Hello and welcome to our hundredth blog post! Now isn’t that a milestone!

My apologies to Janice Joplin for the title and I couldn’t help slipping in the pun, I thought seeing as I haven’t had a food related blog post here for ages and ages you would forgive me!

Now I hate winter…absolutely can’t stand it! ….I whine and moan all the way through it…. but I do like being able to cook ‘wintery’ food.

Nothing beats the smell of a baking pastry and blows the winter blues away. As you can guess from the title I used a little lard in the pastry. The recipe had half and half, butter and lard but I was never going to put that much in. I used more like an 20/80 mix.

I guess there are purists out there that have very set ideas about what vegetables should be in a pasty. I simply used a colourful mix. I was going to make the filling vegetarian but to  really be a Cornish pasty they must have meat in the filling.

I had some parsley in the freezer so I threw that in to make the filling look bright and cheerful.

You might make note that the vegetables I used made roughly twice as much filling as the pastry so doubling the pastry quantity for next time would be just right.

My crimping style would not win any prizes! (Traditionally Cornish pasties are supposed to have around 20 crimps) but hey, these are rustic homemade pasties right!

The recipe carried on about glazing the pastry with egg… I didn’t… I rarely do… perhaps it makes the pastry colour more evenly or gives the finished pasty a bit of gloss, but for me they are as good without all that fuss and bother.

So they didn’t look professional they weren’t glazed I didn’t measure any of the ingredients but they all disappeared very fast and were delicious…now that’s what I like!

Short crust Pastry

220 g plain flour
55 g butter
55 g lard
2 tablespoons water

Filling

1 medium-sized potato
1 medium onion
1 medium swede
1 medium carrot
4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
300gms. minced meat
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Put the butter and lard in food processor with the flour. Pulse the mixture until the mixture is evenly crumbly with maybe the odd few larger lumps. Don’t overdo this mixing.. Sprinkle one tablespoon of water over the mixture and pulse until the mix comes together. Place the mix in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile put the chopped swede, carrot, potato, parsley, and onion in a bowl mix the lot together with your hands so that the ingredients are roughly spread evenly throughout the mixture. Add the minced meat some salt (¼ teaspoon depending on your taste) and a few grinds of pepper.

Take the pastry from the refrigerator and roll it out with a rolling-pin to about 5mm (⅛ inch) thick. Press a saucer over the rolled pastry and cut round it to leave a circle of pastry. There should be enough pastry for 6 circles. You may need to do three circles then reform and re-roll the pastry. Place some of the filling on each circle, fold up and crimp the edges.

Cook the pasties in the pre-heated oven on a greased baking tray for 55 minutes.


Oldies but goodies (Cornflake cookies)

Cornflake cookies must be THE most successful bit of marketing ever.. Surely the person who dreamed up the first marketing plan to recognize the potential of putting a recipe on the side of a box should get a noble peace prize (well it prevented a lot of nastiness in our house). Everyone knows that people do not communicate at breakfast… it is far more polite to read the cornflake packet and ignore your siblings, so this recipe must be the most read recipe of all time.

Kellogg’s began in Michigan, USA and did not arrive in Sydney, Australia until 1924. The original source of the recipe, is unknown, but seems to have became popular, during the depression around the 1930s, in Australia the biscuits became more prominent in the 1970s and I guess with the arrival of American movies and serial TV shows like M*A*S*H, Australians gradually adopted American culture and biscuits became cookies.

Back when I was a boy… (Groan not again I hear the kids say) my mother being an Australian mum would have baked cornflake biscuits (and when I was big enough to see over the top of the kitchen bench, I did too) but things move on and times change so when I wanted to bake some cookies, I had to improvise and Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cookies were born. This particular cereal makes a great alternative to cornflakes they add a nutty flavor, sugar and crunch.

Now there is not much new that I can add to a recipe that has been doing the rounds of Doctors surgeries and other waiting rooms, featuring in Womens Weekly and Better Homes and the like for over 40 years, but I have two tips:

Tip 1… Forget two spoons. Using an ice cream scoop makes a near perfect sized scoop of biscuit dough (ooops showing my age)… ahem… cookie dough.

Some recipe variations crush the Cornflakes\Crunchy nut and mix it through the dough; we just rolled each scoop of the dough in the cereal to cover. I guess that’s RICF for the under 21 year olds and rolling in cornflakes for the rest of us.

Both little kids and big ones just love this sort of cooking; it is easy quick and best of all has only a small wash up.
Mr R joined me in making these and we had a ball (I can’t LOL because my mouth is full of Crunchy nut)

Tip 2: Make sure you get to eat at least one, before he gets his hands on them and they all disappear!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sifted plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 125g Butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • few drops vanilla essence
  • 2 cups Crunchy Nut/ Cornflakes

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together.
  • Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix well.
  • Mix in the egg, and vanilla.
    Gently roll scoops of dough in the Crunchy Nut/ Cornflakes
  • Place balls of coated mixture onto an un-greased baking tray
  • Bake for 12-15 mins. until firmed and slightly browned.
  • Makes 10 big ones.

Goats’ cheese, tomato and (don’t forget the) basil tart

When baking, follow directions.  When cooking, go by your own taste.  ~Laiko Bahrs

I think it odd sometimes that I have so many cookbooks and 100’s of food magazines and yet when I cook I almost never follow a recipe exactly. Don’t get me wrong when I bake I make sure I have a recipe and generally follow the ratio’s but often will change flavourings, nothing special here I bet most of you do that… go on put your hand up if you follow recipes to the letter…hmmm thought so…. I think most ingredients lists should just say… check the fridge… use 250gms of whatever is nearing its use by date, combine both of the half empty packets of stuff from the pantry and so on.

I have wanted to make a tart that combines cheese tomato and basil all summer and now that it is almost over I finally got around to it. The recipe that inspired me was a mixture of three cheeses 115gms coarse grated cheddar 85gms Swiss cheese and 30gms of feta with ham & cherry tomatoes on top (see cover story Australian Good-taste March 2011). Now as good as that sounded I made mine with goat’s cheese. I didn’t have any ham so I used prosciutto, my cherry tomatoes were a bit big but we managed. I had basil… (I had it but I didn’t use it…more about that later!) Lovely fresh home-grown basil, it is to me the smell and taste of summer… I love the combination of fresh cheese tomato and basil…




Saturday night the whole family went to a fund-raising activity for Miss F it was a twilight cinema so we had the perfect occasion to make and take a tart like this, pity in the rush of getting things ready the basil was forgotten. Now someone was to blame for that but who? ‘She Sews’ was left to pack the food as I had been ‘voluntered’ by Miss F to help out at the school…. now I am not saying it was her but….sigh guess it gives me an excuse to make another one.


Ingredients (serves 8 )

  • pastry (Shortcrust or puff) 2 sheets just thawed (use Careme if you can)
  • 230g goat’s cheese (Chevre)
  • 2 tbs. sour cream (optional)
  • 3 Slices of Prosciutto or ham or bacon
  • 1 x 240g pkts. cherry truss tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of Basil (don’t forget this!)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Cut pastry to fit the base of the tray. Cut remaining pastry into 2cm-wide strips. Place pastry strips on edges of pastry squares to create the sides.
  3. Combine the goat’s cheese & eggs ( add in the sour cream, a bit of feta ) in a bowl
  4. Spoon mixture into the centre of the pastry case. Top with prosciutto and tomatoes and season with pepper
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until set and golden.
  6. When tart has cooled garnish with the basil

Lime Coconut Cake

Limes are in season said the magazine, sure enough the greengrocer had them bagged up ready to go, shiny and green and cheaper than usual. The ones ‘on special ‘ were smaller than the ones I had been buying so I did a bit of research… seems the ones currently ‘in season’ were probably Mexican limes (there goes my cred for only using local ingredients) Mexican limes are small, with bright green skins and are harvested all year round (so always in season!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All you bakers (yes I am looking at you) will recognize this as a classic butter cake made the ‘easy’ way by adding melted butter to the dry ingredients. I like this method, it is fast and relatively foolproof, though many bakers remain unconvinced that the results are as good as creaming the butter and sugar or the rubbing in method, but what the heck I say… the cake soon disappears so it can’t be all that bad!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have used shredded coconut rather than desiccated because I think it gives a better finish to the cake, what do you think? Perhaps desiccated would make the cake look ‘finer’ like an afternoon tea cake rather than a desert style cake. The final result had a nice acid tang from the lime but to be honest was a bit dry ( I am a sucker for moist…almost gooey cakes). I would recommend pouring lime syrup over the cake especially if serving the cake as a desert. I have added a recipe for the syrup if you want to try it and you can spare the limes.

Ingredients (serves 10)

  • Melted butter (optional), for greasing
  • 150g unsalted butter, melted
  • 155g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cups desiccated (or shaved) coconut
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh lime juice (approx 3-4 limes)
  • 1 tbs finely grated lime rind

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line an 18cm square pan.
  2. Process flour, sugar, baking powder and 2/3 cup of coconut in a food processor for 20 seconds
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently until light and well combined.
  4. Spoon cake mixture into the cake pan and smooth surface with back of spoon. Sprinkle the remaining coconut over the top
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until cooked through and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Recipe from Australian good taste March 2011 pg29

To make lime syrup:

  • 4 limes
  • 165g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 185mls (3/4 cup) water

Peel rind from 2 limes with a vegetable peeler. Remove white pith from rind with a small, sharp knife and then cut rind into very thin strips. Juice all 4 limes.

Combine lime rind, 80mls (1/3 cup) of lime juice, sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, remove rind from syrup with a fork, set aside.

When cake is cooked, remove from oven and Stand in pan for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack. Place rack over a large plate or tray to catch any drips and pour hot syrup slowly and evenly over cake. Cool

Cheatcuterie and other cold cuts

Weekends ah don’t you just live for them… good weekends that is … weekends when you can…” Sleep ’til you’re hungry, and eat ’til you’re sleepy”. I love weekends when I get inspired and feel like cooking… you love those weekends too … yes you do admit it…you don’t look here for the sewing do you!

The problem with weekends is that they start on Friday night. At the end of a busy day at the end of a busy week which last Friday was at the end of a busy month, recognise those days??   yeh we all get them. Now why on earth would I choose to mention to ‘she sews’ that having one or two friends from work over would be a good idea? I am not sure; my therapist thinks it is something to do with an empty refrigerator in my childhood.

Somehow one or two friends often ends up being ten or more, and just a few nibbles ends up being several dishes, and come for drinks after work sometimes ends up as a party till 2am. It’s a progressive disease that has no cure.

Now Nigella or Jamie Oliver or Donna Hay will tell you to put on your (branded expensive ) apron and whip up some gourmet delights that will wow your guests, yeh right all I want is a cold drink in my hand and my feet up… in situations like this I unashamedly resort to Cheatcuterie.

Cheatcuterie is the branch of cooking devoted to buying assorted meats and cheeses and arranging it on a plate. Cheatcuterie is derived from the term ‘cheat- cuit’, which translates to mean no stress for the host and happy guests. Cheatcuterie is considered by some to be an art form, the art and science of buying cooked meat preparations with special emphasis on saving time for the host.This ancient art, whose origins date back some 6,000 years, became popular during the Roman Empire when Cleopatra invited half of Egypt to Rome one Friday night.

Good cheatcuterie  is visually pleasing with enough variety and colour to make the offering tempting. Here are a couple I used last Friday…

Hot Smoked Ocean Trout from Harris. The Harris family has had 4th generations to perfect their smoking process they produce sensational smoked salmon and what’s more they are local. The Rainbow trout is hot smoked with blackening spice, the flavour is delightful.

This platter contains an assortment of cured meats, shaved, rolled or sliced & served with some antipasto goodies. No two platters are ever the same it all depends on what I fancy at the time.

Nothing special here just good quality produce put together. Remember “if it’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”  ~Julia Child

For the record we also had:  homemade sushi, sticky pork spare ribs, wedges with sour cream and sweet chilli served in bamboo cones, and a cheese plate and more … foodies we just can’t help ourselves!


They are sooo ‘chocolatey’ I could almost die

Ok all you people that are trying to lose the extra weight post Christmas…don’t even look…the following pictures are likely to cause you to throw your good intentions to the wind.

Everyone should have a signature dish and chocolate brownies are the one Miss F is famous for. Whenever we have a picnic or special occasion the cry goes up all over the household …Brownies… Brownies… Brownies… Brownies.
I am sure you get the idea. We love these brownies.…Soft and gooey in the middle, crusty on the top and very chocolatey.
The recipe is good with nuts but the raspberries provide that little extra ‘zing’ that makes these special.

Go make some you know you want to!

Chocolate brownies

115g dark chocolate
190g unsalted butter
160g plain four
20g (2 rounded tablespoons) cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
380 g brown sugar (or half and half with caster if you run out like we did last time)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125 g pecans or walnuts or frozen raspberries (all optional, all yummy)

Method:

1. Grease and line a 20 cm square tin. Preheat oven to 180 C
2. Melt the butter and the chocoalte (we use the microwave and melt them seperately- makes more dishes that way, and reduces the risk of the butter making the chocolate too hot, maybe..).
3. Allow chocolate and butter to cool.
4. Sieve the flour, baking powder and cocoa.
5. Beat the eggs lightly then add sugar and vanilla extract. Stir until just combined.
6. Fold the melted chocolate and butter into the beaten egg mixture. Then fold in the flour mixture (and nuts if you are adding them).
7. Spoon into the tin, smooth the top (and poke in frozen raspberries if you are using them), bake for 25 minutes (unless you’ve added frozen raspberries, and then you have to bake for longer. We added an extra 10 minutes, but it was still fairly wobbly in the middle when we pulled the tin out and the brownies are a bit too fudgy and gooey. Delicious but messy).
8. Allow to cool in tin before cutting into squares.

Recipe adapted from DK Childrens Cookbook, Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 2004

Trust me… we will be eating spit roast chicken…eventually

A BBQ is every man’s birthright… there I have said it. Some say all men need a shed and I believe it.. but the need to BBQ is in men’s genes.

Men who wouldn’t be seen dead in a kitchen practice the art of barbecue with single-minded devotion.

Now some men are content to slap a few snags or a bit of beef on the hot plate, let it char a bit and then pronounce it done. Others go to extremes.

The urge to cook on the BBQ overtook me recently and decided that I simply had to use a rotisserie that had lain in the bottom of the assorted kitchen bits drawer… (every kitchen has one of these drawers… go on, confess, you have one too!)

I assembled the spit, seasoned a couple of birds, showed off my skill in securing them tightly to the spit, and all looked good!

There were two problems. The first hitch was that the rotisserie had been purchased to suit a previous BBQ and the current BBQ did not have provision for a central portion of the grill to be removed.

The second was that the hood could not be put down with the rotisserie in place.

Some modification was obviously needed…

Don’t you just love men’s ingenuity… here is where the afore mentioned shed came in handy. He who cooks disappeared for a while then emerged from said shed with a patentable hood holder-upper…(several brass plumbing fittings screwed together).

The problem now was that the hood sat ajar and the temperature inside was too low… but He who cooks would not give up.

Some doubters offered to go and buy some precooked chicken… they set a time limit, putting intense pressure on He who cooks to perform miracles.

The chickens were rearranged on the spit so that they both rotated on one end of the spit, problem number one solved (sort of…more later)

Into the shed again… then an idea… He who cooks had used bricks to cook pizza on in the BBQ some time ago… He who cooks could use these to block the gap so the bricks were carefully arranged around the rim of the BBQ keeping the heat in…problem number two solved.

What can I say?…don’t try this at home kids!

So how did it all turn out? … Thankfully it was a pretty relaxed day and the doubters didn’t hold He who cooks to the deadline. The chicken eventually cooked. Though because of the offset placement in the BBQ they ranged from almost burnt one end to almost raw the other.

And the bricks… well they worked well…. except that checking the done-ness of the chicken meant a very slow process of removing hot bricks, narrowly avoiding having them drop on toes.

Aussie Burgers

Making your own homemade hamburgers is not rocket science, but you get to squish the mixture through your fingers so it is almost as much fun as making a rocket.

I love the tongue poking out in this picture…a sure sign of intense concentration!… serious business this!

Scoop out tennis ball sized portions and roll them in your hands until smooth.

Pat the burgers at least 50 times each (not my instruction but the sous chef seemed to think it was necessary)

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 750g beef mince
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp BBQ sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh continental parsley
  • 70g (1 cup) breadcrumbs, made from day-old bread
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • Salt & ground black pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Buy mince that is not too fatty because the excess fat comes out during cooking, causing the patties to shrink and toughen and makes the BBQ hard to control, but don’t buy mince that is too lean ( is that possible?) because the patties will then be dry with little flavour.
  2. Breadcrumbs are not usually included in the traditional burger patty mixture, but their addition to this recipe helps to give the cooked patties a lighter, tenderer texture.
  3. The egg acts as a binding ingredient so that the patties can be easily shaped. It also helps them hold together when cooked.
  4. Throw everything except the mince into a food processor and chop until it is fine. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Mix with your hands until evenly combined.
  6. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions (you can use a 125mls / 1/2 cup measuring cup if you like). Shape each portion with your hands into a patty about: 10cm in diameter and 1.5cm thick.
  7. Place the patties onto a tray lined with- greaseproof paper. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to rest. Chilling the patties will help them hold together when cooked. This also allows the flavours in the patties to blend and develop.

Paté pronto

Paté is one of my favourite starters. ‘She sews’ and I often order pate to share at a restaurant to start. I am surprised how easy it is to make… I must say that sometimes it works better than others, and some people might be horrified by the nonchalant way I approach the whole process. Cooking is a bit like that,… when I have plenty of time I take great care measuring, evenly dicing ingredients, cooking each ingredient separately, you know a slow lovely waltz… well this pate had nothing like that!… it was rock and roll baby… I had under half an hour from go to whoa and I chopped, fried and blended as fast as I could.

The quantity was enough to make 2 one cup ramekins plus some left over that we enjoyed whilst it was still warm.

Ingredients (serves 4)

600g chicken livers

40g butter plus a bit more you you love it!

1 medium brown onion, chopped, shallots are better but hey they are expensive!

250ml (1 cup) chicken stock

1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatine

45g (1/4 cup) drained green peppercorns ( or plain old black ones)

2 tsp finely grated orange rind

Pinch ground cinnamon

Salt & ground black pepper

2 tsp Grand Marnier

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until soft.
  2. Meanwhile trim any discoloured spots, fat and membrane from the livers.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and add the chicken livers. Cook, turning occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until the livers are lightly browned on the outside and slightly pink on the inside. I often add some Swiss brown mushrooms to add texture and natural MSG to the pate.
  4. When the livers are nearly done I flame them with the Grand Marnier, not sure if it really adds much in the way of flavour but hey it makes you feel like you are on “Masterchef” when the you shake the pan and see the flames!
  5. Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes to cool.
  6. Place the chicken liver mixture, in the bowl of a food processor. Add the orange rind and cinnamon, and season well with salt and pepper. I pulse the food processor and stop as soon as the mixture blends together. This gives a crumbly rustic finish to the paté, if you prefer your paté smooth just process until the mixture is smooth. Spoon the mixture into three 310ml (1 1/4-cup) ramekins and smooth the surface.
  7. Meanwhile, bring the stock just to the boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the gelatine over the stock. Use a fork to whisk until the gelatine dissolves.
  8. Sprinkle the peppercorns or thin slices of orange evenly on top of the pate in the ramekins. Carefully pour the remaining stock mixture evenly over each and place in the fridge overnight to set. Once set, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

Recipe by Jan Castorina Good Taste – December 1999, Page 93

Fruit mince tarts

I was having a conversation yesterday and I said “I have just popped some fruit mince pies in the oven…they better be good …with all the ingredients I don’t think I have saved much money”. I have to say these are not much better than good quality bought ones, I guess I used a jar of pre-prepared fruit mince for the filling so what do you expect?

I have done nothing out of the ordinary here… simply followed a recipe from Jonathan at allrecipies and as I said to my good friend… “I am just good at doing what I am told.” I wasn’t even going to blog them because… well mince tarts are mince tarts and my friend was right … they look like mince pies hey… there are millions of them out there…but she was right I did feel good having made my own.

Folklore has it that eating a pie on each of the 12 days of Christmas brings wealth and prosperity for the future 12 months. Whilst I am not certain that I believe that fairy tale, I can tell you that eating one of these each day with a coffee is sure to bring a smile to your face and an extra kilo or two to your Tum!

These were a practice batch to see if I want to make them for Christmas prezzies for ‘She Sews’ staff. I have traditionally made biscuits or puddings or Christmas cake but there seems to be a growing number of special dietary requirements now so might settle for something less home-baked this year.

Ingredients

Almond pastry

200g plain flour

25g ground almonds

100g butter

50g icing sugar

Finely grated rind of 1 lemon

1 egg yolk (large)

60ml (3 tbsp) milk

Filling

300g fruit mince

1 egg, beaten (to brush the tops)

Method

2. You can do this by hand but I used a food processor, put the flour, ground almonds, and sifted icing sugar, grated lemon rind and butter in the processor and whiz to crumbs. The secret (I think) is to just combine the ingredients without melting the butter… I pulse the mix and stop when there are still quite large lumps of butter showing. Turn out into mixing bowl.

3. Combine the egg yolk and milk and mix with a fork. Add to the dry ingredients and using a metal spoon or in mixer with beater, mix until the ingredients are evenly wet. (I needed to add an extra egg yolk) With floured fingers, draw the mixture together to make a rough dough in the bowl.

4. Turn out the pastry onto a lightly floured worktop and knead two or three times so that it is smooth. Allow the pastry to rest before 20 minutes before rolling.

5. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

6. Divide the dough into 2 and roll out half the dough thinly on the dusted surface and cut it out into 12 rounds with a fluted cutter to fit a muffin tin or similar.

7. Place a small tablespoon of the fruit mince in the centre of each pie – don’t overfill them or they will leak when cooking.

8. Roll out the remaining dough thinly and cut out 12 tops for the pies. You can cut round tops or cut out shapes such as stars and small Christmas trees a little smaller than the pastry rounds.

9. Brush around the edges of the pies with a little beaten egg and place the tops on. Brush the tops of the pies with a little beaten egg and sprinkle over some caster sugar.

10. Cook the pies in the pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Remove the pies from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes. Remove them from their tins and serve them hot or allow them to cool on a wire rack.

Recipe provided by: Allrecipes http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/581/fruit-mince-christmas-pies.aspx