Monday, January 28, 2008

Happy Oz Day

In a mad long weekend of barbecues & lunches with family & friends, as well as a spot of beach cricket, the only cooking I got around to was a lovely lamb casserole for Chloe which I would be highly tempted to eat myself & some breakfast this morning before heading off. This was actually the first breakfast I have cooked in the new house if my memory serves me correct, over 1 month & we have been so busy getting organized that cooking just didn’t manage to make it onto the morning menu until now. Hopefully there will be more to come soon too as I love a leisurely weekend breakfast to start the day & usually get me through to dinner time too.
I chose Bill Grangers French toast with Fresh berry sauce from Bills Food which was divine & an absolute cinch to make too. I grew up on savoury French toast with grated cheese on top, though lately thanks to some excellent local cafes I have been switched on to the other sweet, luscious, side of this dish. This one starts off with thick slabs of panettone, a quick dunk in an egg & milk wash & into the frying pan before topping with some whizzed up berries, sugar & lemon juice. Try it, you will love it I swear.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Happy Housewarming to Michael, the beautiful Chloe & Me!

Last weekend I decided to host a housewarming just one month after we moved in, if you know me by now you would know that I love to throw a party so I was itching for the inaugural party at the new pad. We had a load of people coming, half with babies & most under 1 so lucky for that big backyard except for the last minute panic attack that was ‘Oh god there is no shade we have to buy a sail from Bunnings before everyone gets burnt to a crisp’ that with the first rain of the year on Saturday soon turned into ‘Oh god there is no cover how on Earth am I going to fit 40 people into my tiny house when there is nowhere undercover out the back for them’. Anyway to ease my mind we bought a sail & borrowed a waterproof gazebo so both angles were covered. In the end the rain held off & the sun mainly stayed away too so it was quite nice outside without any help.

For the food I kept it very simple this time, some snacks, wasabi peas, rice snacks, pretzels & a dip donated by my mum. For the main event 4 different types of sausages, 3 from the local butcher, lamb, beef tomato & basil & pork & fennel as well as some fabulous kransky (I never bbq without kransky) that everyone loved, some lamb chops & some chicken yakitori skewers that disappeared so quick that most people didn’t know they were there & I didn’t even get to taste them but apparently they were good, I will have to make them again some time soon so I can find out for myself. I also made lots of salads, a 3 bean salad that as well as tasting great, looked fab with the 3 different coloured beans, a couscous salad, greens & tomato salad & my mums famous potato salad (also made by her!). For the first time ever as each batch of meat came out it disappeared in minutes & for a moment there it looked like we would run out of food, luckily Michael kept it coming strong & we were even left with a few snags for Mondays dinner after all.

Desserts for me were the highlight, I decided on fridge food so I could do it all the night before which was a great idea until all of our power points went out at 11.00pm on Saturday night & we had to find a 24hour electrician before the food went off, great fun to be up til 1am (very late for us nowadays) the night before a big party. Anyway there were saved, number 1 was Nigella’s luscious & wicked Chocolate, cherry trifle from Feast – oh my god – everyone loved this one & it was so simple to make apart form the fact that I had to make a couple of packet chocolate cakes for the base as I couldn’t find anything premade that wasn’t iced or filled with cream. Anyway, chocolate cake, morello cherries, cherry brandy, chocolate custard & whipped cream, what more do I need to say! Number 2 were some champagne, berry & elderflower jellies from Jamie Oliver’s Happy days which were really great though with the cold weather were not too popular so guess what I have been eating since Sunday?

All in all, I was very happy with our first bash & am already planning the next one, Chloe’s big 1st birthday party in about 1 month. I might have a little rest after that, what do you think?

And here is the 3 bean salad recipe on request for Megan...

3 bean salad
1 can butter beans, rinsed & drained
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed & drained
500g frozen broad beans, thawed & peeled
1 tomato, chopped coarsley
1 red onion, chopped coarsley

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Combines all salad ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients & pour over salad, mix well

Very simple indeed

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Upside Down Plum Cake

Last night Michael & I went to the lovely Dr Megs for dinner. It was wonderful to actually go out at night time for a civilized sit down dinner, its not very often we do this nowadays as (a) our friends don’t invite us over for dinner anymore now that we have a baby, (b) up until recently it was just all too hard with the lovely young Chloe demanding 110% of our attention & (c) the whole restaurant scene is not very welcoming to people with prams although we do find that pubs are much more accommodating & we love a good dinner in a beer garden with Chloe now that it is daylight savings, The Edinburgh Castle in Brunswick, our new local has a great menu & atmosphere & Chloe loves to stand around babbling & just generally keeping anyone amused as long as you bribe her with a piece of bread or cheese first.

Anyway back to dinner, as always when invited to dinner or lunch or just anywhere that I have the opportunity I stuck my hand up & volunteered dessert, another chance to test the new oven. I tried out this upside down cake from Bill Grangers, Simply Bill. As I have mentioned before, I love plums & am always trying out new recipes featuring them when they are in season. I didn’t read the recipe properly so was surprised when I came to make it that it was actually cooked much in the same way as a tarte tartin, ie making a caramel with the fruit in a frying pan first, then pouring over the cake mixture & baking in the frypan in the oven before turning out onto a serving plate, the difference being that it was a cake mixture & not pastry. The oven did really well with this cake, I cranked it up about 30c higher than the recipe asked to try & get the temp in my oven right for & it was cooked perfectly in the right amount of time, I think the fact that it was in an already hot frypan helped. I really need to buy me a thermometer of some sort to test out my ovens temp, sure you must be able to buy them in kitchen stores.

As I made this very early in the morning when Miss Chloe was sleeping I couldn’t serve hot out of the oven as suggested, instead serving at room temp with some double cream. Everyone had 2 big helpings which I think was a pretty good indication that it was a hit, the recipe is definitely a repeater & as always Bill didn’t let me down with this cake, soft cooked plums, sugary caramel on the top with a beautiful moist cake underneath & mmm of course I woke up wishing I hadn’t left the rest of the cake with Megan, though my body is thanking me. And a huge thanks to Megan & Andrew for a fantastic dinner, especially their first ever fresh pasta making effort of salmon filled ravioli - a big winner.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Well it seems like only yesterday that I was in my old place with my pristine kitchen fitted out with all the mod cons, ie lovely fan forced oven & dishwasher! To say the last couple of weeks have been hectic is an understatement. We moved into the new house on 21st December, worked day & night to unpack most of our stuff in a few days then had my family over on Christmas Eve for my mums birthday. So for my first opportunity to entertain we decided on mainly using the bbq just in case the stove & oven didn’t work. To start with I made some lovely bruschetta & dips, my favourite topping had to be the cannellini bean, rosemary & garlic, it was fantastic & definitely something I will be making again & again. So first thing to check off the list was that the stove top worked & even though it is very, very old it is gas so just perfect. The one bad thing about my last house was the electric hotplate which in my opinion is never as nice to cook on as a gas flame.

Next we did some white fish (so long ago I cant remember what), salmon & prawns on the bbq with some dipping sauces teppanyaki style, great idea & nice & light before getting into the man sized meat course. The main course was lamb chops, some fantastic kransky & some snags, along with an old fashioned potato salad courtesy of my mum, a green bean salad & a Capri salad with some Shaw River Buffalo mozzarella which as most of you would know is a dream when you can get your hands on it, unfortunately my parents thought it a bit bland! To finish off I tested out the oven by baking a chocolate pecan pie from the Green & Black cookbook which was delicious though a bit oozy, I’ve since found out that if I up the temp just a bit & cook for a few minutes longer, I have better results with my baking. I haven’t experimented all that much with the oven yet as its been stinking hot every other day & the new kitchen heats up a beauty. Hopefully I can get to know it well & be cooking up a storm very soon as in the old days.

As you can imagine, even though all of this food was spaced out over a long day, we were stuffed silly by the end & nearly falling asleep on the couch before everyone even went home, I didn’t even feel like eating all that much Christmas day so luckily for the main event we just had a simple lunch on at Michaels parents. Chloe had a nice first Christmas even though she didn’t have a clue what was going on, think next year will be much more exciting for her.

So anyway with xmas over & done with, Michael went off to the cricket on boxing day while I had a bit of a break with a couple of friends over for lunch. Since then it has been a whirlwind of shopping, lots of ikea assembling, some gardening & trying to get a bit more organized before we have our housewarming next weekend, please God don’t let it be too hot as we have practically NO SHADE in our backyard. I have picked the site for my veggie patch & cant wait to dig it all up & start planting so I have some excellent produce to cook with soon.

A couple of questions for you readers out there, does anyone know where you can buy stem/candied ginger in Melbourne, and ditto for a wide variety of miniature fruit trees, think blood plum, apricot, apple????

Hope to have some proper cooking blogging up & running again soon