Monday, March 27, 2006

Warm Salad of Roasted pumpkin, prosciutto & Pecorino

Tonight I cooked up this gorgeous salad for dinner, the mix of colors was very bright & appealing. The flavours were fantastic together & really hardly any work at all, basically just peeling & chopping the pumpkin & the rest is just banging it all on a plate, great for a tired Monday after work. Note of warning, the chilli I used had quite a bit of a kick so if you dont like it hot, maybe cut down on the chilli. The recipe is from Jamies Kitchen. When it comes to the recipe, peeling isnt specified, seeds should be left in & the pumpkin only cut into quarters. I ignored this as in my experience the bigger the pieces the longer the cooking time & I was very hungry, also didnt fancy the seeds or peel!

Warm Salad of Roasted pumpkin, prosciutto & Pecorino

Serves 4 (I halved the ingredients)

1 butternut pumpkin
olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 small dried red chilli
1 heaped teaspoon coriander seeds
20 slices prosciuto or parma ham
4 handfuls of rocket
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 small block pecorino or parmesan

Preheat your oven to 190c. Peel the pumpkin & chop in pieces, place in a baking tray & rub with olive oil. In a pestle & mortar pound up a flat teaspoon each of salt, pepper & your chilli & coriander seeds. Scatter this over the pumpkin & roast for half an hour or so until soft & golden.

Lay your prosciuto on 4 platess, sprinkle over the rocket, then pumpkin, then drizzle over the combined olive oil & balsamic & top with shaved pecorino.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Mushroom Risotto with Garlic, Thyme & Parsley

As mentioned in my olive bread post last night I cooked dinner for Michaels mum & sister Julie before we headed out to see The Lion King. Needed to do something quick, no elaborate dinner for tonight so I cooked up one of my favourite Jamie Oliver Risottos from The Naked Chef. I also added some chicken which is not called for in this recipe. It’s really tasty & filling & quite easy, just a bit tedious when you have to keep stirring while it’s cooking so keep that in mind.

Mushroom Risotto with Garlic, Thyme & Parsley

2 chicken breast fillets (if desired), chopped into bite size pieces
255g Mixed mushrooms (the choice is yours)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small handful of thyme, picked & chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 handful of parsley, roughly chopped
1 pinch of chilli powder
a squeeze of lemon juice
1 litre chicken, fish or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 finely chopped shallots or 2 medium onions
½ a head of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
400g risotto rice
100ml dry vermouth or dry white wine
70g butter
100g freshly grated parmesan cheese

Brown your chicken pieces in olive oil over high heat then remove from pan.

Slice or tear the mushrooms. In a very hot pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the mushrooms and thyme. Cook for about 1 minute, toss, then add the garlic & a pinch of salt. Cook for another couple of minutes then add parsley, chilli powder & lemon juice, toss again & taste, adjust seasoning if desired.

Heat the stock. Then in a separate pan, heat the olive oil, add the onions, celery & a pinch of salt, sweat the vegetables for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic & after another 2 minutes after the vegetables have softened, add the rice. Turn up the heat & don’t leave the pan! While slowly stirring continuously you are beginning to fry the rice. You don’t ant any colour s if the temperature seems a bit high, turn down a bit, you must keep the rice moving. After 2-3 minutes it will start to look translucent as it absorbs the flavours. Add the vermouth or wine, keep stirring & once absorbed, add your first ladle of stock & a pinch of salt (keep seasoning to taste as you go). Once absorbed add the chicken & mushrooms. Turn down the heat to a highish simmer – it is very important not to cook to fast or the liquid will evaporate before the rice is cooked. Keep adding stock, ladleful at a time, after each is absorbed. This will take about 15 minutes. Taste the rice & keep stirring until soft but with a slight bite, if extra stock required keep adding.

Remove from heat & add the butter & ¾ of cheese, stir gently until melted through. Serve immediately with extra parmesan on top.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rustic Olive Bread

Flicking through the latest Gourmet Traveller which I rec’d last night in the mail I noticed this recipe for Rustic Olive Bread & thought it would be great to give it a go. I haven’t baked much bread & love olive bread so thought it was about time I tried to make my own & it should go well with the risotto I’m making for Michael’s mum & sister Julie for dinner tonight.

The recipe is adapted from Stephanie Alexanders in the Cooks Companion so I grabbed that off the shelf & compared the differences. The ingredients are exactly the same & only the method is slightly different. Stephanie’s says to knead the dough on an oiled workbench & the magazine’s says floured. I ended up going with floured as the mixture was quite sticky & felt it needed the extra though as I said I really don’t have much experience so could be wrong. Apart from that Stephanie suggests different shapes you can bake it in, loaf or focaccia.

For the olives I used 2/3 kalamata from a jar that I bought at the supermarket & then when they ran out for the last third I used delicious herb & garlic kalamata olives by Nicolas of Dimboola, I picked these up at the Vic produce market last weekend.

I also kneaded by hand rather than using my electric mixer.

The end result was delicious & will definitely be playing with more bread again soon

Rustic Olive Bread

600gm unbleached ‘00’ (strong) flour
1 tablespoon instant dried yeast
150gm pitted black olives (such as Kalamata) roughly chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Sift flour, yeast & salt into a large bowl, stir through olives & rosemary, make a well in the centre & add combined oil & 300ml warm water. Stir to combine. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface & knead with oiled hands (or transfer to an electric mixer with bread hooks) for 15 minutes or until dough is smooth & elastic. Transfr to a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a clean tea towel and stand in a draught free palce for 15 minutes or until doubles in size.

Transfer dough to am oiled baking tray & flatten into a 2-3cm thick rectangle, scatter with sea salt flakes, drizzle with olive oil & rest for 30 minutes. Bake at 220c for 20 minutes or until brown & crisp.

Anzac Biscuits

To get into the Aussie Spirit for the Commonwealth games that are on here in Melbourne at the moment I thought I would whip up a batch of Anzac cookies. The recipe I used was from Bill Granger’s Sydney Food, would you believe I have never made these before so I’m not sure if the recipe is the same everywhere or not!

As the recipe says, these were said to have been devised for sending care packages to Australian & New Zealand Army corps soldiers serving in World War 1.

My hubby ate half the mixture before I cooked them as that is what he used to do as a kid & prefers the lovely mixture to the cooked bickie. I waited for the finished product myself & they were great.

Anzac Biscuits

1 cup plain flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
125g butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 teaspoons boiling water

Preheat oven to 160f. Place flour, coconut, sugar & oats in a bowl & mix well.

Place butter & golden syrup in a saucepan over medium heat & melt.

Place bicarbonate of soda in a small bowl & add water, stir to combine.

Add bicarb mix to saucepan & stir. Pour over oat mixture & stir all ingredients together.

Roll teaspoons of biscuit mixture into balls & place on a greased & lined baking tray, leaving room for spreading. Flatten each ball gently with a fork.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown at the edges. Allow to cool slightly on trays before transferring to a wore rack. Makes 20.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Vegetable Meme

Tankeduptaco tagged me for this vegetable meme, so here goes

Do you like vegetables?

Love vegetables & in my early 20’s I even had a couple of vegetarian years until I had an unbelievable craving for steak & never looked back after giving in, now I take my veggies alongside my meat though I do usually cook at least one vegetarian meal a week

Do you have a favourite vegetable?

This is a very difficult question as I love pretty much all veggies. I would have to say that strictly speaking the humble potato, probably the most boring though very versatile of veggies is my fave. As mentioned due to my peasant Polish/Lithuanian roots a lot of my favourite foods growing up were potato based, 2 of my all time favourites being potato pierogi served with sour cream (made by my Polish gran) & ‘meatballs’ (this was a dish my Lithuanian Nan used to cook up & I have no idea of the traditional name & have never seen or heard of it anywhere else & sadly don’t have the recipe, basically the filling was some sort of mince & was covered in a very fine potato mash mixture then boiled & served with a sauce of bacon cooked in cream- how bad can you get in the fat stakes?), would love to hear from any Lithuanians out there if they have eaten this or similar & if they have the recipe

Is there any vegetable that you think (or know) most people don't like, but you find great?



I don’t necessarily think most people don’t like it just a lot of people, think it may be the strong aniseed flavour that scares some people away. I on the other hand love it & have used it for many dishes including a lovely roast pork & a really simple bouillabaisse that I whip up often in winter, promise to make again soon & post

Is there any vegetable that you think (or know) most people find great, but you don't love that much.


What experiences did you have with it?

I used to have to make millions of them into little flowers for garnish in a pub bistro I worked in when I was still in my teens which was very, very boring. I haven’t had a bad experience with them, I just don’t get it, to me they are tasteless so what’s the point?What kind of vegetables are unusual to you?Daikon & Rhubarb, they seem to be everywhere yet I have never laid my hands on them, though I have eaten rhubarb out. Plan to try them out in my kitchen one of these days. Also Okra, have never cooked with or eaten this mysterious vegetable, in fact I don’t even know what it looks like, may have to try tankeduptaco’s recipe!

Name a couple of vegetables that you cook and eat.

Tomatoes – so versatile, one favourite way is cherry tomatoes (or any small tomatoes, grape, mini roma, etc), roasted in the oven with olive oil, garlic & basil & then thrown in salads. Or a simple Salad caprese with home grown tomatoes & basil is always a winner too.

Roasted veg, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnip, garlic, onions, carrots, etc all with some Rosemary thrown in – yum,

Any veggies in soups, ie a combo of squash, mushies, capsicum, onion, carrots, stock & some cous cous thrown in to thicken up or simple pumpkin soup – great winter warmers

Which vegetables do you want to know more about and bring into your kitchen?

Globe Artichokes & Rhubarb, 2 ingredients that for some reason I am not sure of the prep so always shy away from, plan to change that soonSome thoughts about vegetables.What can I say about veggies, well I think vegetables are fantastic either very simply cooked, ie bbq corn on the cob or dressed up to impress. The fact that they are good for you too is excellent as you can eat as much as you like unless of course cooked with loads of butter, cheese, etc in which case still eat loads & ignore the guilty feelings served up alongside, life is too short!

Name a great cookbook.

I don’t have any purely veggie cookbooks apart from a very old Women’s Weekly vegetarian book from my meat free days in my 20’s. Does have a few good recipes though including a great red lentil soup that I make many huge batches of every winter

Lastly I will tag The Apprentice Patissier, Sarah & Niki, again only if they have the time or inclination to share their thoughts

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mughlai Chicken

The other night I cooked up this delicious curry form my new Nigella ‘Feast’ book.
As Nigella says “there is an elegance and depth of flavour in this pale, mild, creamy braise that bowls me over every time.” I have to agree, to look at its not overly exciting & there is no fieriness to it yet the end result is perfect. It’s also suggested to cook the day before, I did it in the morning & seemed to soak up the flavours very nicely.

Mughlai Chicken

Serves 8-10

2.5cm fresh ginger, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon dried chilli
4 tablespoons ground almonds
125ml water
5 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1.5kg boned, skinned chicken thigh fillets, each cut in 2
2 onions
250ml Greek yoghurt
250ml chicken stock
125ml double cream
100g sultanas
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
75g flaked almonds, toasted

Put the ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander & chilli into a food processor & blend to a paste. Add the ground almonds & water, then blend again & set aside.

Put the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaves & cloves into a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a large pan & add the chicken pieces – in batches so they fry rather than stew – and cook just long enough to seal on both sides, then remove to a dish.

Tip the bowlful of spices & turn them in the oil. Peel & finely chop the onions, add to the pan of spices, & cook until softened & slightly browned, but keep the heat gentle & stir frequently to avoid sticking. Pur in the blended paste and cook everything until it begins to colour. Add the yoghurt, 125ml at a time, stirring it in to make a sauce. Then stir in the stock, cream & sultanas.

Put the chicken back in the pan along with any juices that have collected underneath. Sprinkle over the garam masala, salt & sugar. Cover & cook over a gentle heat for 20 minutes.

The suggestion is to cook a day ahead so at this stage take off the heat & cool until reheating next day. Serve with toasted almond flakes.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Banana Maple Syrup muffins

This morning I whipped up this batch of muffins from Marie Claire ‘Cooking’ for brekky, will take the leftovers in to work tomorrow for a morning treat for everyone. They were incredibly simple to make, really it was pretty much just measure & stir & the taste was really delicious, and as the bananas were chopped rather than mashed you could really taste their flavour when you bit into them.

Banana Maple Syrup Muffins

2 cups self raising flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup sugar
300g (10 oz) sour cream
1 egg
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 bananas, chopped

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together balance of ingredients in another bowl. Add the banana/wet mixture to the dry mix & mix until just combined. Spoon mixture into a greased ½ cup capacity muffin tins and bake in preheated 200c oven for 25-30 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Serve with extra maple syrup. Serves 12.

Sort of pasta carbonara

For dinner the other night (wasnt able to upload photos yesterday so my weekend posts are a bit late sorry) I whipped up this dish which is amazingly quick, probably about 10 minutes all up if you are lucky. It is something I grew up cooking at home which we called carbonara, now I know that it’s not traditional but to me this is how it will always be & as well as being extremely quick its really yummy. For the pasta last night I used ‘Passion Pasta, hand made beetroot fettuccine’, we picked this up in Lorne the other weekend, cooks in 4 minutes & almost tastes like fresh pasta, highly recommended. The mushies I bought from Ceres yesterday, they were huge & so fresh the taste was amazing.

Pasta Carbonara (my family style)

Any long pasta, eg spaghetti, fettuccine, tagliatelle, etc
4 rashers bacon, chopped
Approx 4-6 large mushrooms, sliced
1 egg
parmesan for serving

Firstly put your pasta pot of water on, when boiling cook the pasta as per instructions.
Meantime, fry the bacon in a little olive oil, then add the mushrooms & a little butter to the pan, salt the mushrooms while cooking. Drain the pasta when done & put back in the pot (off the heat), crack in an egg & stir while still hot, add the bacon & mushroom mix, a dash of cream & stir. Serve with parmesan

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Chilli Con Carne

Last night I was in the midst of a lovely cold so didn’t feel up to too much cooking, I whipped up a huge pot of Chilli Con Carne ala Jamie Oliver Happy Days. Can now live off of this for a couple of days at least between Michael & myself! This chilli isn’t that much different from a standard recipe apart from the fact that it has sun dried tomatoes as well as tinned tomatoes, the richness of these gives it a more intense sweet flavour that I like very much. I also strayed from the recipe slightly in that I used semi dried tomatoes with no oil & then added my left over garlic, chilli & olive oil combo from my marinated tomatoes the other day, these went into the food processor with the tomatoes to form the paste. Also I used dried red chilli (from my garden) as I didn’t have any fresh on hand. My only complaint was that it was not hot enough for me & I have to remember to add more chilli next time! Other than that it was pretty good easy comfort food to feed the cold.

Chilli Con Carne

Olive Oil
2 medium onions
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 level teaspoons chilli powder
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded & finely chopped
Salt & pepper
500g Fine grade Mince beef
2 x 400g tin tomatoes
2 x 400g red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
200g sun dried tomatoes in oil
½ stick of cinamon
1 wine glass of water

Finely chop the onions in a food processor & fry with garlic until soft. Add the chilli powder, fresh chilli, cumin & season with salt & pepper. Add the beef & fry until browned. Chop the sun dried tomatoes in a food processor & add some of the oil until a smooth paste forms. Add these with the tin tomatoes, cinnamon stick & water to the onions in the pan. Season to taste. Stir in & reduce to a low simmer for 1 ½ hours. Add the kidney beans 30 minutes before serving (these only need reheating not cooking)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Peppered Duck breast, poached balsamic figs & garlic crisps with Jus Gras

Tonight’s dinner was this recipe taken from Surfing the menu, it was a bit of an extravaganza for the amount of time & pots & pans needed. I try & do at least one fiddly dish a week if I have the time. Overall the flavour was fantastic though unless doing for a big group I would probably not bother with the whole assembly again though I would do bits & pieces & team them with other more simple sides, etc, a bit too much effort for just Michael & I I’m afraid. Also I used rocket instead of watercress & thought the flavour worked very well with this combo. The garlic crisps were probably my favourite part, delicious & a very subtle garlic flavour too. The figs were a problem as I couldn’t find any good fresh figs, a bit too late so I tried with semi dried but it just wasn’t the same I imagine. Also the Jus gave a lot of extra flavour & apart from having too cook for 2 hours was not too difficult, luckily I have some leftover to use again.

Peppered Duck breast, poached balsamic figs & garlic crisps with Jus Gras

3 tblspns coarsely ground black pepper
4 duck breasts
250ml vegetable oil
4 ripe figs
250ml balsamic vinegar
12 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 litre milk
2 cups watercress

Preheat oven to 200c. Place the pepper on a plate & firmly press the duck breast skin side down into it.

Heat 1 tbspn of the oil in a frying pan with heatproof handle. Fry the duck breast skin side down over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes until golden brown. They should be cooked only on the skin side to prevent them drying out. Transfer to the oven & bake for 5 minutes. Remove form oven & allow to rest for 3-5 minutes

Prick the figs with a skewer then place in a small saucepan with the balsamic, heat gently for 4-5 minutes then remove from heat.

Place the garlic in a small saucepan & add one third of the milk. Bring to the near boil, strain & return garlic to the pan, repeat this procedure twice. Pat the garlic dry with paper towel. Heat the remaining oil in a small pan & fry the garlic until golden brown, 4-5 minutes. Drain on paper towels & season with salt.

To serve, slice each breast into 5 medallions & arrange in a semi circle on four plates. Slice the figs in half & sit behind the duck. Place a small bunch of watercress & some garlic crisps on either side of the fig & drizzle a little jus over each breast.

Jus Gras (Yields about 150mls)

1kg chicken wins
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 litre chicken stock
75g shallots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed with the back of a knife
5 white peppercorns
1 sprig thyme
3 bay leaves

Chop each chicken wing into 3. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan & brown the wings over high heat, 4-5 minutes. Remove the wings, drain the oil & return the wings to the pan

Add the stock, shallots, garlic, peppercorns, thyme & bay leaves & slowly bring to the boil. Simmer over very low heat, uncovered for about 2 hours or until the stock is rich & reduced to about 2/3 of a cup.

Strain into a bowl. Place a heavy pan in top of the wings to squeeze out all the juice & leave for 30 minutes. Discard the bones. If necessary, get rid of the excess fat by chilling, the fat will solidify & can be easily taken off.

Pan Toasted Sandwich with Tomato & Fontina

Well finally I have a cheese sandwich to blog. This is from Bills Sydney Food. As he is so famous for his brekky thought I would start trying out his recipes. This sandwich is described as perfect hangover food, sorry can’t confirm or deny as last night was a dry night for me. The recipe was devised by Harry’s bar in Venice. I used an olive & rosemary bread that I bought over at Ceres on the weekend & substituted gruyere for the fontina, (Michael was set to do the shopping & couldn’t find any fontina). I halved the ingredients & still had heaps of oil leftover which I have saved & still managed to make 4 sandwiches, the loaf was a smallish size. Also Bill says that if you don’t have 2 hours to hang around & wait for the tomatoes too marinate, 5 minutes will do, mine were done for about 1.5 hours & the flavours of garlic & chilli really came through, a really tasty brekky sandwich & of course the variations are limitless, add prosciutto, rocket, etc.

Pan Toasted Sandwich with Tomato & Fontina

100ml extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 tomatoes, cut into 1/2cm thick slices
8 large thick slices wholemeal bread
75g fontina cheese, finely sliced
16 basil leaves
50g butter

Place, oil, garlic, chilli, salt & pepper in a shallow dish & mix well, add tomatoes & marinate for 2 hours. Brush one side of each slice of bread with the oil from the tomatoes. Place the cheese evenly on top of half the bread slices on the oiled sides. Top with basil, tomatoes & a 2nd slice of bread, oil side down.

Melt half the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat & add the sandwiches, cover with a plate & weigh down with some cans. Cook until golden brown, flip & repeat.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Pasta with garlic prawns

Today the temperature soared to 37 degrees so needed to whip up something quick for dinner, no slaving over a hot stove tonight. Whipped up this simple pasta dish from the Delicious 2006 diary, very, very tasty version of garlic prawns, the lemon juice & capers really lifted the flavour. Now I’m upstairs sweating over the computer in the hottest room of the house, I must be crazy.

Pasta with Garlic Prawns

500g pasta (short pasta recommended though I used spaghetti)
1 tblspn olive oil, plus extra to toss
3 garlic cloves, crushed
20 green prawns, peeled, deveined, tails intact
¼ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
2 tblspns chopped fresh parsley
juice & zest of 1 large lemon
1 cup (250ml) white wine
100g unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1 tbspn baby capers, drained

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain, return to the pan & toss with a little olive oil, set aside & keep warm.

Place remaining oil & garlic in a frypan & heat gently over low heat. When the oil is hot, add the prawns, chilli & half the parsley, increase heat to high & cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove the prawns & set aside, then add the lemon juice & wine to the pan & allow to bubble & reduce for 2 minutes. Briefly stir in the cold butter, lemon zest & capers until you have a smooth sauce. Return the prawns to the pan to heat through, then add the pasta. Toss together & serve garnished with remaining parsley.

Fragrant Peach Tart

This weekends sweet cooking is for Michaels mum & dad again as it’s a very hot day so we thought we could pop into their place for a swim. For the tart I got to use my new food processor for the first time & it’s fantastic, I used to have one with a teeny tiny bowl that you could not fit anything in, this one is huge & industrial strength & I love it, thanks mum! The tart looks beautiful, I was a bit disappointed with the taste though, the peaches I used didn’t seem to have that much flavour & you definitely need something with a strong flavour, so I would use apricots or much sweeter peaches if making it again. The recipe is from the Marie Claire Luscious book

Fragrant Peach Tart

6-7 small ripe peaches
Tart Case (see instructions below)
2 eggs
115g (4oz/1/2 cup) caster sugar
4 tbpsns plain flour
½ teaspoon rose water
110g unsalted butter
double cream to serve

Preheat the oven to 180c. Slice the peaches in half & remove the stones. Slice the flesh into think wedges & arrange in the base of the tart case, cut sides up. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and beat with electric beaters until pale & fluffy. Fold in the flour & rosewater. Heat the butter in a saucepan over high heat. When it begins to froth & turn pale golden brown, pour it into the egg mixture & beat for 1 minute. Pour the filling over the peaches & bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the filling has set. Allow to cool & serve with cream.

Shortcrust Tart Case

200g (7oz/1 2/3 cups) plain flour
100g (3 ½ oz) chilled unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chilled water

Put the flour, butter & a pinch of salt in a food processor & process for 1 minute. Add the chilled water & process until the mixture comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Grease a 25cm tart tin or 6 8cm tartlet tins. Roll the pastry out as thinly as possible between 2 layers of plastic wrap, then use it to line the prepared tin(s). Chill for a further 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180c. Using a fork, prick the pastry case(s) over the base, line with crumpled baking paper & fill with rice or baking weights. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry looks dry. Remove from the oven & allow to cool.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Goats Cheese tart

Tonight we’re off to an engagement party so though I would cook up a tart for a late lunch/early dinner, the party starts quite early & don’t want to be standing around on a full tummy from too much dinner too late. The outcome was very nice though dare I say I think there may have been just a little too much goats cheese & I even ended up making 2 tarts with the list of ingredients below. Pretty good though my fave is the leek & cheese tart I have made heaps of time & is listed under my savoury recipes

This recipe is from delicious magazine. Supposed to serve 6 so I only made a little salad for Michael & I & froze the leftovers for a ‘too busy to cook’ day

Goats Cheese tart

50ml olive oil
8 red onions sliced
2 pinches white sugar
2 pinches fresh thyme leaves
200g shortcrust pastry
350g goats cheese
1/3 cup (80ml) milk
1/3 cup (80ml) thin cream
3 eggs
a pinch paprika
ground nutmeg

Tomato salad

4 vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, quartered
2 ox hart or similar type of tomatoes, quartered
1 punnet yellow teardrop tomatoes, halved
1 punnet cheery tomatoes, halved
2 tblspns extra virgin olive oil
5-6 basil leaves

Heat the olive oil in a pan over low heat. Add the onions & sugar & stir continuously for about 20 minutes, until brown & very sweet to taste. Add the thyme leaves, stir, remove from heat & leave to cool.

Preheat oven to 190c. Grease a 26cm loose bottomed tart pan.

Line the tart pan with pastry rolled out 2mm thick. Half fill the pastry with the caramelised onions & top with slices of fresh goats cheese.

Combine milk, cream, eggs, paprika, nutmeg, salt & pepper. Mix well, then pur over the top of the tart. Bake in the oven for abt 40 minutes, until the base of the tart is golden brown & the mixture has set. Cool slightly on a metal rack, before cutting into slices for serving.

To make the salad, toss all ingredients together with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Friday, March 10, 2006

BBM4 Finally arrives

Sarah from Cooking with the headhunter sent me my wonderful BBM4 package which I rec'd today.

Sarah with the help of her kids went to a huge effort putting this together. The theme being music, Sarah put together 9 discs for me, each disc representing a different genre of music, in Sarah words we have, 80’s new wave, Old school punk/Hardcore, Alternative-ish, Guilty pleasures from modern rock, Classical, New Agey, Techo/Trance & lastly Electronica/Dance. The reason for so many discs is that she is a huge music fan & couldn’t narrow it down to 1 or 2 songs from each genre. Scanning through I probably know about half the songs or bands so really looking forward to listening to them all properly.

On the food front I rec’d a box of home made jellies & Jams, pinot grigio jelly made by Sarah & mint jelly, Gooseberry jam & blueberry jam made by her mum, have never tried gooseberry jam or pinot grigio jelly so cant wait for the tasting & sure they will all be wonderful. Also rec’d were some South Bend Chocolate co., chocolate in milk & dark, & some Claeys old fashioned hard candies in root beer & horesehound flavour, can someone please tell me what horsehound is??? Something I have never seen in Australia. Tried one of the horse flavoured ones last night & it was very nice, not too sweet with a lovely subtle flavour (nothing like horse at all J). A jar of local blueberry honey was also included & some Jones soda, these look fantastic, they are all natural juices with vitamins, without added preservatives, flavours or colors, the labels are so cute & the flavours I got were Bada Bing – Natural Cherry & loganberry, D’Peach mode – natural peach & tangelo & Berry white – strawberry, cherry & grapefruit, how good do they sound? Also inc was a bag of rolled barley, some home made decorations, a Paula Deen magazine & a home made pistachio-apricot blondie which is delicious.

Thank you so much Sarah & kids for the huge effort & looking fwd to trying it all out!

Rathdowne Tavern, Carlton - Nances Dinner

Last night a few of the Nances (my netball team) got together for a bit of a meal at the Rathdown Tavern on Rathdowne street in Carlton.

We have been here a couple of times now as this is where our Finals prizes gift voucher dictates where we dine.
I really like it here, the bar where we start off with a drink is very nice & friendly, and then the restaurant where we are seated is quite cozy, 2 edges of the table lined with wall seat/couches of which I am always a big fan of, find it much more comfy that sitting in a chair. I skipped an entrée tonight opting instead to save room for dessert.

For main I chose the fresh papardelle with a brasied duck in red wine sauce, you can see from my yet again blurry photo (too much wine I think), that the sauce was very rich & meaty, let me tell you this was really delicious, in fact several people ordered this & we were all impressed. The sides for the table were also delicious, rosemary & garlic roast potatoes, crunchy potato pieces, huge chunks of beautifully roasted garlic & lots of lots of rosemary, steamed greens & a tomato salad, thin slices of tomato with olive oil, herbs, etc - very nice

For dessert I had Sfoglitella Santa Rossa, which was a fine pastry filled with macerated cherries & crème patissiere, served with a cherry sauce & ice cream, this was fabulous, I was sharing with Michael & really wished I had the whole dish to myself.
Others on the table had the Gianduia Chocolate tart with candied orange - had a try & very good also, the tart was made with bittersweet chocolate so not too sickly as it could have a tendency to be

The staff were very quick & helpful all night also which made for a perfect night

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Tobie Puttock - QV Market Cooking School

Tuesday night Michael & I went along to the Queen Vic Market Cooking School to see Tobi Puttock whip up some pasta magic. Michael bought me some gift vouchers to this for xmas so he was dragged along to try it out too. Tobi was fantastic, making preparing your own pasta look like the easiest thing in the world which I beleive it is not from my prior disastrous attempts.

Anyway in the 2 -3 hours we were there he managed to make up Fresh Tagliatelle with a quick sausage ragu (pictured), was sensational, Rotolo di spinach, (also pic), very yum, Trofie with Pesto, green beans & potato, so easy I think this is the first dish I will attempy myself & equally delicious to the rest, potato gnocchi with an asparagus, lemon butter sauce, (pic) & also delicious, Super light ricotta gnocchi, yum, & zucchini raviolo with a zucchini flower sauce, this was really very good & looked sensational too. Can you believe how much he whipped up, cant believe how quick it all was & how tasty, I will definitely be trying these out myself in the coming weeks & showing you the results. For some reason, pasta is one of the things I am a bit intimated by & shy away from trying after a couple of very bad attempts, will ahve to be my new resoluton to master the art!

Michael enjoyed himself too though was still very hungry by the time we got home, forgot to mention that you only get tasting portions & not a whole meal!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Wedding Anniversary picnic, Lorne

For our 1st wedding anniversary today Michael planned a nice romantic picnic, we picked a spot just off the Great Ocean Road in Lorne, overlooking the waves crashing onto the shore. To celebrate Michael finally put the bottle of 1995 Dom Perignon on ice, it was gorgeous, there is definitely something special about good French champagne, I mean just the thought of it is romantic so luckily it tastes bloody good too!

To go with the champas we had a fine selection of produce that we picked out from the local deli/fruit & veg shop, Yarra Valley fig & Almond paste, Maffra longhorn vintage cheddar, some lovely Cobram estate Olive oil & Malouf’s Classic Egyptian dukkah, dips, kalamata olives, olive bread & a crusty French stick from the bakery, roast chicken, crackers, tomatoes, rocket, grapes, strawberries, chocolate coated apricots, really it was a feast fit for a Queen & no expense was spared. This all made for a luscious romantic day out with my love in a gorgeous setting, Thank you Michael!

A La Grecque – Aireys Inlet

Sunday night I took Michael to this new restaurant in Aireys inlet which is run by Kosta Talimanidis, the guy who used to run the famous Koasta’s in Lorne, this is his new venture which I have heard much talk & praise about so couldn’t wait. Nothing disappointed form the moment we walked in, the décor is very bright, with white walls, painted with colourful murals here & there & bright bulbs hanging down around the bar area. The staff were very friendly, helpful & quick.

To start with we shared 2 entrees, 1st grilled soutzouk which for those of you who do not know what this is, is a spicy Turkish sausage, served with an eggplant jam, fantastic flavours that were perfect together. 2nd was some Kalimari in a light batter served simply with rocket & aioli, scrumptious.

For mains I had a roast pork shoulder (sorry abt the blurry photo), served with baked apples, pancetta & sage & Michael had some Grilled blue eye with a dill sauce & some greek salad. We also had some potatoes & a beetroot, rocket & yoghurt salad. I loved every mouthful of each dish. And of course we had to finish up with dessert, there was no way I was leaving without it! I went all traditional & had the almond, hazelnut & rosewater baklava which was huge & I’d have to say the best I’ve had & Michael had the slow roasted peaches with ottway ranges honey & Meredith sheeps milk yoghurt, again divine.

This is definitely one of those places I will have to visit again as would love to try every single item on the menu. Well done!

Marks Restaurant - Lorne

We finally arrived & spent a gorgeous day in Lorne, the temp was about 30 degrees, we had a lovely long walk along the beach, a big swim for Michael, a half swim for me (I only went in to about my waist – the water was just a wee bit cold for me & I am a big wuss as everyone knows). We then had some relax time in our gorgeous Balinese style bungalow before heading out to dinner. I chose Marks on the main street, Mountjoy parade as had recently read good things about it in a gourmet traveller & also a food lovers guide to the Great Ocean Road. Luckily we booked in in the afternoon as we nearly didn’t get in, we did manage to nab a table at 8.30 though.

To start with I ordered the Tomato based local mussel & whiting soup, this was nice though I was expecting more of a tomato base with mussels in the shell & chunks of whiting with some bread to mop it all up. Was very surprised then when it came out as a puree, the flavours were all there & still nice though would much have preferred it to come out as imagined, you know what it is like when you picture something, if different it is usually a disappointment to some degree. I did however still get some delicious bread roll son the side to mop it all up as imagined. Michael ordered the Crispy local whitebait with saffron & chilly mayonnaise, as you can see form the photo the serving was huge, really nice flavours though could have been a bit more on the ‘crispy’ side. Our mains took quite a while to arrive, we even had to ask where they were at one stage, not a good sign especially as the steak I ordered was only supposed to be medium. Anyway the dishes finally arrived & my Chargrilled eye fillet steak was pretty good though on the more ‘well’ than ‘medium’ side of cooked. The fried polenta was excellent & have made a mental note to definitely learn how to cook this up myself soon, to finish it off the caramelised onion & red wine glaze was a perfect addition. On the side we had some steamed veges, serving was big & they came in the cutest little basket too. After the big night we were recovering from we skipped dessert, the long wait for the mains had put us to sleep so needed to get to bed in a hurry. All in all was a good meal in a lovely location.

Hungry Jacks - times of desperation

Friday nights party at Jane's for her birthday was a bit bigger than planned, lots of champagne & a very late bedtime meant that I accidently slept in on Saturday which was not the plan as we were supposed to get up extra early to drive to Lorne for our first wedding anniversary!

Not too worry, we did manage to get up in the end though not much time for packing let alone eating so we did the unthinkable & stopped at Hungry Jacks somewhere along the way to Geelong. My stomach was craving grease & boy did I feed it what it wanted. This was the first in a long time that I have eaten this stuff & from memory it was much better the last time. As usual I regretted it as soon as it was down, oh well, will have to remember for future reference & try a better grease option next time, maybe some good old fish & chips instead! The picture does look much better than the taste though dont you think?

Blonde Mocha Layer Cake

Made this cake Thursday night for Janes birthday from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer book. The cake was delicious though I don’t think it looked all that appealing, the icing was very hard to spread & mine did not end up with a very smooth consistency at all, tasted yum though. Even Nigella doesn’t have a photo of this one in her book so maybe it looks the same for her too! If making this again I would definitely not making the icing first as suggested as it then just hardens in the fridge & you have to leave it out for a while again before spreading, think a lot of time would be saved making it while the cake itself is baking. Also I had nearly the same amount of icing left over as I used on the cake so you could almost halve the quantities unless you like it really, really thick. The cake itself had a very strong coffee flavour which I loved, a lot of mocha recipes are a bit weak I find, this also went really well with the white icing as suggested, here is the recipe

Blonde Mocha Layer Cake


225g self raising flour
225g very soft unsalted butter, plus more for greasing tins
225g caster sugar
4 teaspoons instant espresso
4 large eggs
approx. 4 tablespoons full-fat milk

for the icing

250g white chocolate
90g very soft unsalted butter
300ml crème fraiche
250g icing sugar, sieved

Preheat the oven to 180c and butter and flour two sandwich tins of 21cm diameter (and just under 5cm deep). But it’s probably best, if it’s at all warm out, to make the icing first and then stash it in the fridge till needed.

So: melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over some simmering water of else in the microwave. Remove to cool a little, then add the crème fraiche – which you do need rather than ordinary cream, to undercut the otherwise oversweetness of the white chocolate – before gradually beating in the icing sugar. Put the icing in the fridge to set a little.

Now get on with making the cake. The easiest way is just to put the flour, butter, sugar, coffee and eggs is a processor and then, when fully incorporated, pour the milk – processing, again after a little bowl-scraping with a rubber spatula – down the funnel to make a soft, pouring consistency, adding more milk if needed but starting off just with a couple of tablespoons.

Remove the double-bladed knife, then pour and scrape the cake batter into the prepared tins and bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester (or piece of raw spaghetti) comes out clean and the cakes are beginning to shrink away from the sides. Let them stand in their tines on a wire rack for 10 minutes then turn them out and leave them there till completely cool.

Now, cut out four strips of baking parchment and make a square with them on a cake-plate. Put one of the cakes on top, and add a good dollop of icing, spreading it almost, but not quite, to the sides and then cover with the remaining cake and spread the top and sides generously with the soft, rich, buttery icing. When it’s all done, whip away the pieces of parchment, but not so roughly as to smear the icing over the plate, which would rather defeat the whole exercise.

Depending on the weather, you may want to put the assembled cake back in the fridge for 10 minutes or so before cutting.

Serves 8, or 7 seven if my husband is around.