December 31, 2009

Last day of 2009

Happy New Year!!
Can you believe another year is coming to a grinding halt? A lot has happened for us this year and I am just trying to keep track of it all. The boys seemed to turn a corner and grew more inches than I'd like, thus my food bill also took a mighty hit. I also learnt I am now officially a tight a....! Yep, after my little shopping expedition last night and Nic questioning my thought pattern I am now in the running for a NYE resolution, maybe.....
I popped down the street last night to pick up some meat for dinner. The kids were eating leftovers from the night before so it was just Nic and I. We had a splash of wine in the fridge along with some yummy feta cheese, so I thought some lamb would be great.
As I was looking in the butcher's window I almost had a heart attack- lamb back strap $46.95 a kilo! "Wow" I said to the fresh faced young butcher looking for a sale "when did lamb become so expensive?" "Well, that IS the premium cut, miss"- for that price it would want to be!
It's about this stage a switch went on in my head without me knowing and I began vying for the best cut......or should I call it how it was and just say it....the cheapest cut, meaning the smallest.
'This is a lovely piece' said my fresh faced butcher 'It's only $16!'

In the end I bought a piece of lamb back strap for $10. Thinking I'd got a good price I marched on home to tell Nic the outrageous meat prices hoping to get a "good for you!"  All I was greeted with was a look on his face as if to say "what are you talking about?"
"$16 bucks isn't that much, I mean it is only $8 per person so that is pretty good"
Damn him and his common sense, he is right of course: I ended up buying us a piece of meat each for $5, however, we only ended up with about 100 grams each. He didn't laugh when I told him it was my weight watchers meal plan!
I screwed up, which is plain to see. I am still in the mind set that we have to watch every penny, we can't buy meat unless it is a bargain price but the reality is we have moved up in the finance world. We aren't living on a student stipend with two kids anymore, we actually have two full time jobs. I don't walk around the store with a calculator anymore, nor do I have to come up with 101 ways to cook with cauliflower and potatoes, so why do I feel the need to hunt for a deal?
I'm guessing it is pure habit and in my own defence a very good one.
For the New Year I have decided to embrace the life of a dual working family instead of looking at all the negative aspects and I have also decided to loosen the strings on the past. I will never stop hunting for a bargain but I will stop and think about the true value of things.
I am sorry Nic for building your hopes up on the beautiful lamb dinner and reverting to my old habit of putting a few slices of meat on the plate with lashings of potatoes. Next year I promise that if I am going to cook lamb I'll buy it for what it is, not what a great deal I got- this way you won't just remember the salad!

December 28, 2009

Roasted quail salad

All holiday guests have hopped on planes back home, the rain has settled in on Sydney and I think it is a perfect time to reminisce about our Christmas lunch. Of course it would of been better to blog on the evening of the 25th but that was not possible- one too many glasses of plonk, a tummy full of fabulous food, not to mention all the star wars lego that needed to be fixed and re built.
If I am cooking Christmas day Nic always likes to fix a course for us to start with. He usually makes a delicious salad of some sort and this year was no exception. He came across a recipe in Stephanie Alexander's 'Cooks Companion' for a pigeon and fig salad.
 "Why don't you see if you can pick up a pigeon while your down the street shopping".
 Sure I thought and perhaps if I can't manage to pick one up at the local butcher I'd shoot one from the sky, pluck it and have it ready for you to cook! This is when I suggested quail as a good substitute.
As Nic is accustom to my sarcasm he shot back with "what ever is easier for you".

I took Tarsh (my sister) along with me on the day before Christmas food shopping expedition as I thought it might get a bit ugly- people pulling and grabbing for the last punnet of strawberries, people standing on other peoples toes at the fish market vying for the best oysters, prawns and crayfish... I was happily surprised at how relaxed and normal everyone was. We were able to buy 90% of ingredients needed, managed to pick up a packet of fresh quail (a little disappointed I didn't get to knock off one of the rats from the sky myself) and make it home in time for a cuppa and a slice of December cake.

The beauty with Nic's version of Stephanie's salad was minimal prep allowing you to get it all ready while the quails are roasting in the oven. So we weren't without food for half a minute I whipped up some oysters Kilpatrick for Tarsh (she can't stand a-la-natural) and we began our Christmas feast with fresh prawns drizzled in lime, Sydney rock oysters and some pistachios while we waited for the quail to roast.

If you are wondering, my kids like many other kids and think oysters are disgusting! I have managed to get Max into eating prawns however Alex is still unsure and just likes to rip the heads off and make loud YUCK! noises as he is doing so. I am in no hurry for them to enjoy the delicate flavour of an oyster, it is bad enough I have to share the blue cheese with Alex, I don't think I could stand handing over an oyster seeing as I still only have them on special occasions.

Ok back to the salad, once quails have roasted on 210 degree for about 15 minutes they need to be 'rested' in foil. This is when you wash the baby endive, cut the fresh figs into halves or quarters and whip up your dressing. (Nic used a good red wine vinegar, e.v.olive oil with a good pinch of sea salt and cracked pepper).
Now the quails are rested and cooled a little you need to pick all the meat from their little bodies. When you have all the warm meat, toss it in with the baby endive and sprinkle with a little sea salt and cracked pepper followed with a good feta cheese. Drizzle on a bit of your dressing, toss and then place figs on each serving plate. Place quail mix in the middle and drizzle on a little extra dressing.

Such a simple and clean salad. The figs are a perfect match with the rich quail meat and creamy, salty  feta. Endive is quite bitter which is an acquired taste (one the kids decided rather quickly they didn't like) however when combined with everything else you just didn't want it to end. A perfect salad for summer and goes beautifully with a cold glass of semillon.
Nic set the bar high as per usual so I had a bit of sweat on the collar when it was my turn to head toward the kitchen and begin the next course, however I'll leave that for another day.

December 26, 2009

Boxing Day leftover brioche

Today, or should I say this evening (due to internet overload this has been the first time I've been able to get on!) is Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. I can't wait to share in the delights of our Christmas lunch with you all but I feel I have to tell you all about our traditional Christmas day berry brioche which really needs a whole page to itself.
From the time Nic and I got together 10+ years ago and I learn't how to make a really yummy brioche dough (thanks to my dear friend Ant) we have celebrated every Christmas morning with a batch of brioche and a bottle of bubbly. One of the best parts about making this recipe is the fact that we get to have 'leftovers' on Boxing day so this morning after a gruelling hill run (that would be me dragging my sister up and down the hills of North Sydney), we got to sit down for the second time and eat our wonderful, buttery delights.

I make the dough the night before then after the boys have ripped into their santa stockings I roll in the berries and prove the dough while I make a quick dash for the shower. By the time the brioche have puffed and are ready to be baked we have opened presents, showered and are ready to pop the cork on the bubbly and tuck into the brioche.
Another plus for boxing day is the fact that they are all ready to go, all you need to do is to turn on the  oven and warm through. Tarsh thinks they taste even better on the second day however I am a purist and love the fist bite just after baking. I think the brioche is about the only thing my 4 year old eats on Christmas day. The excitement (not to mention all the chocolate they get to eat Christmas morning) is all to much for him (and I remember Max doing the same thing between the ages of 3-5) so he devours a brioche and  then basically nibbles at the rest of the daily feast. If he is anything like his brother, by the time he is 7 he'll be eating me out of prawns and turkey.......

Berry brioche
5 tablespoons warm water
pinch sugar
2 tablespoons dry yeast
60g sugar (approx. 3 tablespoons)
600g plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
6 eggs
350g unsalted cold butter, diced

1/3 cup extra sugar
2 cups frozen mixed berries

In a medium bowl add yeast and sugar to warm water, stir with wooden spoon then leave for 5 minutes to ferment.
In a mixing bowl add remaining sugar, flour and salt.
With dough hook slowly turning add fermented yeast then one egg at a time.
When all eggs are added, add cold butter cubes and mix until well combined.
Butter will still be in lumps but that is all OK.
Once well combined (after 3-4 minutes) remove dough hook, cover with glad wrap and pop in the fridge until needed. Minimum 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 180 (350), turn out dough, sprinkle flour on board and roll into a log. Cut into 12 equal parts, with a rolling pin, roll into discs, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of extra sugar then add mixed berries (approx. 2 tablespoons per disc).
Spray a muffin tin then add each folded brioche to tin.
Prove dough in a warm place for 20-30 minutes then bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
Serve warm.

December 23, 2009

Rocky road overload

I think I have gone to far......I didn't think it was possible to NEVER want to eat another piece of rocky road ever again but I am heading close to that level of chocolate and sweet overload!!
See, I can't even write a proper sentence. I made some last week for clients to wish them 'Merry Christmas' and thought I should make some for my own family.
 Last week I was to busy to eat a couple mallows as I was making the mixture.....last week I was to pre occupied to dip marshmallows in the warm chocolate and then shovel them into my mouth two, three at a time and last week I didn't think twice about eating the end bits of firm rocky road while trying to cut them into squares.
THIS WEEK I did all of the above and loved every minute of it UNTIL the choccy come down hit me and now I feel like a big nap and some Tums!
If you feel an urge to whip up a batch then I totally encourage you to try this rocky road with dried cranberries, mixed nuts and figs BUT I urge you to not fill up on the mellows and warm chocolate while in the process of making, otherwise by the time you feel like trying a piece of your own it will be to late because family and friends would of polished it off days ago and all you'll be left with is an empty container!

Rocky Road
1 pkt marshmallows
1/2 cup dried cranberries
6-8 dried figs roughly chopped
1 cup mixed nuts (unsalted or salted it is up to you)
350g chocolate, melted
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Line a 30 x 25 cm tray with wax paper and lightly spray with cooking spray then set aside.
In a large bowl add the first 4 ingredients and mix to combine.
Once chocolate has melted, pour all over ingredients in bowl and stir well.
Pour into pan, until all chocolate has covered ingredients.
Sprinkle with coconut and place in the fridge until hard (aprox. 2 hours)
Remove from tray, peel off wax paper and cut into squares. Store in an air tight container.

December 22, 2009

4 ingredients

Last night was my turn to make dinner. It was the end of a long day, I was tired and had no thoughts on what to cook. As Nic and I sat down for our evening beer to relax and unwind I asked what he fancied thinking it would be something Asian. "Pasta, I could eat some pasta" was his reply.
With that I finished my beer and headed for the kitchen, I knew we had bacon in the fridge so I was thinking maybe a spot of carbonara, then I spotted a chilli- nice a little heat to give it a kick, then I thought maybe I'll give this '4 ingredient' idea a go. (For all of you who haven't heard of the 4 ingredients- basically two ladies got together and wrote a cookbook using a maximum of 4 ingredients per recipe. They sold millions and millions of copies and haven't looked back).
So to start with I had my pasta, chilli and bacon that left me with the addition of only one more ingredient. I had to choose between onion and parmesan. I was stuck!
After a few moments of deliberation I decided to go with the parmesan, however as I open the fridge I spot a bunch of basil. Come on I mean you can't go wrong with bacon, chilli and basil but where were my veggies? I'm always telling the kids they MUST have salad or veggies with the evening meal so how was I going to fit it all in?
I think it took me all of 5 seconds to dump the idea of 4 ingredients and go with 4 x 4 plus a few more instead. The following recipe was mighty fine, took maybe 5 minutes longer than if I'd only used the original 3 ingredients and in my families opinion tasted AWESOME!
I take my hat off to the ladies who invented the concept but I'm going to have to take a pass on the concept until maybe Friday when my cupboards will be bare and I'll be rattling through the kitchen trying to find 4 ingredients!

 4 ingredient pasta- NOT
1 pkt spaghetti
1 tablespoon butter
3 rashers of bacon, finely shredded
1 medium onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 red birds eye chilli, finely sliced
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 4 cm pieces (about 1 inch)
3/4 cup frozen baby peas
1/2 cup shredded basil leaves
1/2 cup shaved parmesan

Pop on a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt.
Cut all ingredients and have them set out on a plate ready to go.
Melt butter in a large frying pan, once bubbles appear add bacon and stir.
Put pasta on to cook and add onion and garlic to bacon, saute on MEDIUM heat to soften onion.
Add chilli, asparagus and peas with a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper.
Saute for a few minutes then add about 1/3 cup of pasta water to make a sauce.
Drain pasta, turn off heat for sauce.
Add pasta, basil and parmesan- stir to combine then serve.

Note: the chilli really didn't have that much heat in it so the kids were fine, however if you don't want to add it, it will still taste fabulous!

December 21, 2009

Swedish candy & honey comb

OK so now it is time to admit I made a mistake in the kitchen- wow who would of thought right? (who am I kidding, it happens all the time and I just call it 'creating', that's my story and I am sticking to it!). However, this time round I couldn't blag my way out of it. You see the weather was not on my side and I don't know why for the life of me I decided to make honey comb and then coat it in chocolate on what was one of the hottest days in Sydney last week.
I started off in high confidence, I hadn't made honeycomb for about a year or so and I wanted to make sure I made it correctly. Sugar and glucose boiling away- all good, I even got the colouring almost perfect without a candy thermometer so I was feeling pretty happy despite the constant trickle of sweat running down my back.
The disaster happened when I started to cover the honey comb with chocolate. I kind of forgot I needed a 'controlled' temperate room! Despite my actions of popping the chocolate covered honey comb in front of a fan and then last resorts putting it in the fridge (big no,no but I was desperate) it was NOT firming up. Right at this critical point of me loosing it the boys just happen to walk into the kitchen asking for food and trying to stick their fingers in the melted chocolate which sent me on a 5 minute rant about god knows what. All I do know is they didn't wait around to see if mum had time to whip them up a light snack (I think psycho mummy popped out).
Anyway taking Nic's advice and moving right along, I decided to make the  delicious looking Swedish toffee I had been reading about in the latest Saveur magazine- which is a seriously good issue this month. The candy I am referring to is on page 59 and I am sure you can find it at . It is called Polkagriskola (peppermint caramels).

After reading the recipe and then re reading it I decided I should be able to make it without freaking out and thinking I am totally useless. I am happy to report the recipe was a snap, I didn't have a thermometer but it didn't seem to matter, the results were wonderful. A delicious caramel toffee that was full of flavour and irresistible!
In the end I wrapped the caramels in cellophane and turned them into lollies for gifts. My honeycomb didn't make it I'm afraid, by the time the heat dropped and the chocolate had finally firmed up, my honey comb was tacky and sticky so I ditched the lot and decided to only make it in winter!

December 20, 2009

December cooking

I can't tell you how happy I am to be back on line again! In the past month since my online life was wiped out from under neath my fingertips I have kept up the kitchen frenzy in hopes of getting back to blogging before Chrissy was done and dusted.
I have learnt how to take photos on my iphone and have now downloaded them to our newly bolted down computer, so it is with great pleasure I bring you a photo update of my cooking festivities. Please note that the pictures are not that great but bare with me and they will get better -- I promise!
Ok so where do I start???? Oh, it must be with the good old Christmas cake, a favourite of Nic's. I will admit it was never something I looked forward to as the Holiday season approached, however, since being married to Nic I have come to love it.
 My favourite version comes from my wonderful friend Wendy who was making her Christmas cake one cool day in Lexington, VA this time a year (or was it two?) back. The smell was intoxicating and I just had to jump the fence to see what she was up to. When she told me I think I said something along the lines of 'Oh that's nice.....I can't stand glacĂ© cherries', with that she answered 'me too!' I quickly asked for the recipe, bought the 5 tonnes of dried fruit needed for it and proceeded my yearly tradition of a Christmas cake -- something Nic is very happy with.
This year I decided to give in to my husband's request and popped on some multi coloured glacé cherries (the boys seem to have the same love for the awful, sweet yet sour little balls of yuck!), I thought if I only pop them on the top layer then I am sure to see them before I take a far I have only bitten into two of them, two too many so guess who isn't putting them in next years cake!
Anyway to cut a long story short, cakes were made and then the boys helped me decorate them with royal icing, they managed to get green and red food colouring all over my wooden chopping board (I almost have it out) and then Alex suggested we call it a December cake because we are eating it before Christmas so it is silly to call it a Christmas cake.
Trust Alex to put that much thought into it, so as of December 09 the Bakers will now refer to it as December cake. Not that he eats it, Alex licks off the icing, sucks on the cherries and leaves the brandy soaked fruit on his plate which does nothing for mum and dad's waist line!
Well that is the story of our Christmas/December cake, I was going to fill you in on the honeycomb, Swedish lollies and rocky-road but I think I should save something for tomorrow.

It is fabulous to be back online and I wish you all HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

November 26, 2009

Remembering Thanksgiving

It is Thanksgiving today and I have no turkey to show for it which is really bad form on my part. I had all intentions of cooking turkey but when I rocked up to the store I was bitterly disappointed with the range on offer. I had memories of my heritage bird of last year. Vince and I took a ride down the south of Chicago to purchase our birds from our Italian 'sausage' butcher. The 45 minute drive was totally worth it, our birds were succulent, mouth watering and full of flavour.
 The turkey legs on offer at the store here looked like they had a bit of freezer burn and could of easily been leftovers from the previous year.
Australians don't eat turkey with as much passion and commitment like Americans do. To tell you the truth, I never really ate it before living in Chicago, it was always the white meat you might buy if the chicken was all gone, but more that likely you would of bought a packet of beef sausages and called it a day.
After 6 years of cooking a whole turkey I have come to love and appreciate the art of this big boned bird and it's part of American culture my family and I will always hold dear. My copy of this months Saveur magazine arrived yesterday with a golden brown bird sitting on the front cover again reminding me of the flavours we were missing out on, Nic even tried to read it before I turned the first dozen pages (totally uncool, I must be the first to devour all information! :)
Well I will dwell no longer, I hope you are all enjoying the madness of Thanksgiving, enjoying having family home for 24 hours and then feasting on the biggest meal eva! we sure as hell miss the festivities...I think I can hear Nic calling as the dal is ready to eat.

November 19, 2009

What the??

I wish I had a great food safari story to tell you all about. I also wish I had a few photos to show what I have been up in the past week since I blogged. Sadly I have to tell you the truth.
We were robbed last week folks, some little swine broke into my home in the middle of the day through the  front door and proceeded to walk out with all our computers, cameras and anything else we have of value.

I am angry, sad and annoyed to say the least. Not only did someone invade my home but they took with them precious memories of my family that I hadn't yet 'saved' onto the hard disc. Hours of writing, photos, you name it these lousy human beings have come and taken it all from me.
  I look forward to reading what you are all eating and playing when I can manage to steal a few minutes on a friends computer but until life is back to normal for this little blogger.......this is me taking very deep breaths and trying not to think extremely bad thoughts about our recent uninvited guests, I leave you with your own cooking devices.

November 9, 2009

Sardines and rocket

I love sardines, the fresher the better but I am not always that lucky so tinned it is for me 90% of the time. Some of the best sardines I have ever eaten were in Portugal. We were on our honeymoon eating our way through Europe. Nic and I came across this great little restaurant with a fantastic view of Porto so we asked for some fish. Out came the freshest sardines I have ever tasted. They were simply grilled on a bbq and served with raw slices of onion and green capsicum (pepper) that were warmed on the grill but still crunchy. You then added red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to suit your taste. A very simple meal but unbelievably good!

Back to the tinned variety.....I'll let you know right now the boys do not like the taste of sardines, one of the best gagging faces I have seen is when Alex thought I was feeding them to him, he was preparing for a full on melt down, alas I saved him the trouble and only tortured him with the rocket!
This recipe also works well with salmon, trout or any fish really, you just throw it in at the last 3-4 minutes to warm it through and there you have it a delicious quick and easy pasta that will be really good for you as well as filling. If you are cooking this for a family meal then simply take the kids portions out before adding sardines and change the amount of chili you add at the beginning. I still add crushed chilies when cooking for the family, it gets them use to the flavour and I have gradually increased the amount month by month, Alex is really building up his heat tolerance which is great, I think by the time he is 6 he'll be good to go with the regular amount so until then I simply have a side portion by me to add freely once served.

Sardines and Rocket Pasta
1 pkt long pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 green capsicum (approx. 3/4 cup)- diced
1 medium onion, diced
1/2-1 teaspoon crushed chili
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
2 cups rocket leaves (well packed)
1 tin sardines or fresh is you have them
salt and pepper
Boil water for pasta
Saute onion and capsicum in olive oil on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, the onions will become transparent and capsicum darker in colour.
Add chilli flakes, a good pinch of salt and saute for 1-2 minutes, stirring.
Cook pasta
Add rocket and lemon juice to capsicums and cook until rocket is bright green and wilted
Once pasta is boiling add 1/4 cup of pasta water to your sauce and reduce for a minute or so.
When pasta is cooked, drain then add lemon zest and sardines to your sauce followed with your pasta.
Combine ingredients, check seasoning, add freshly cracked pepper if needed then serve.

November 2, 2009

Max's NEW favorite food

As I was flicking through my food photo collection I didn't realize Max was standing behind me browsing along side of me.
"That one, oh I LOVED that one mum"
and with that he lept forward pointed his sticky finger at the screen and wished the lamb wrap would jump out at him.
Although I haven't been blogging as much as I'd like to, I have still been clicking away at meals eaten leaving the photos to sit and wait for me to write about. This is my new way of trying to stay on top of it all- getting to do all the things I love without all the stress.
These wraps were devoured when Nic was O/S and Grammie Pam was visiting. I had gotten home late one night, the kids were starving as were Pam and I. I remember looking into the fridge and thinking 'What can I whip up in under 20 minutes?'
I'd just made a really yummy cucumber dip at work that day and I was wishing I had brought some home so I could smear it on some of the lamb mince- that was when I spotted the pre bought hummus and taziki I had as 'back up' food while Pam was visiting (I didn't want to run out of food while my MIL was in town!).
Basically the meal we had that night was a mixture of the bits and bobs I have around the house like olives, cheese, jalapenos, hummus, wraps etc.... the food items I can't live without.
Carrot and garlic got thrown into the lamb mince purely because of the lack of veggies for a family meal, after all carrot seems to go with everything. While I was piling the toppings on the wraps the lamb was cooking and the smell of lamb, garlic and cumin was intoxicating!
A squeeze of lemon juice over the lamb while resting the meat really makes them extra special.
 I am happy Max's new favorite meal is so healthy and easy to make- lets just see how many of these bad boys he can put away this summer....

November 1, 2009

Corn pancakes with bacon

I had a request from a friend the other day for a red velvet cake. She was going to the christening of her new god son and wanted to have a magnificent cake to celebrate; what better way to show your affection than with a red velvet cake!
While flicking through my piles upon piles of Saveur mags I came across a Chicago issue and felt a little homesick. A corn pancake recipe caught my eye and with the leftover buttermilk I had in the fridge (from RVcake) I was able to make them and remember the flavours of our American life.   Now Australia and America have a lot of common food items but there are huge differences in ingredients used. For example, I'd forgotten how much oil I use to use in my 'American' cakes and batters. No wonder they turned out moist and delicious every time!
I didn't have cornmeal for my flapjacks/pancakes/hotcakes whatever you call them so I substituted polenta and they were really yummy. The recipe stated 'you must use lots of butter when serving and cooking'- I love that! You'd never see that in a modern Australian recipe, everyone is so conscious of weight, fat, calories etc so I found it very refreshing to read 'pile on the butter'.
Don't get me wrong, I am all for healthy living, good food and a healthy lifestyle BUT I am also aware that there are some foods that cannot be messed with and if some woman in the South side of Chicago who has been making these for the past twenty years tells me to serve her recipe of corn pancakes with lashings of butter then that is exactly what I am going to do........but hang on why stop there, bacon seems to be a good side for this meal so you know I topped it all off with rashers of bacon and then drizzled over maple syrup!
If your in the mood for a culture treat, whip up a batch of these corn pancakes, fry up your bacon and dig in. I probably wont be making them again for another month or so but that is alright, it gives my guilt time to stop messing with my brain!


3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup polenta (coarse)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
2 eggs

Place all dry ingredients into a medium size bowl and stir with a whisk to combine.
Place all wet ingredients into a large jug and whisk lightly to combine then pour into dry ingredients and stir to combine.
Do not over mix otherwise the batter will be over worked and cakes will be to heavy.
Melt butter in a medium hot frying pan and cook for to minutes on each side, place in a tea towel to keep warm until all the batter is cooked.
Serve with lashings of butter.

October 26, 2009

Truffled honey

I think I have written this blog at least twice in the past week but each time the photos take so long to download (I am not loving bloggers new layout) so I wonder off to do something else and forget to 'click' and publish. As I am looking through today I am stunned to find almost two weeks have flown by since I posted anything!
In a nut shell my mate Anna gave me a jar of truffle infused honey so I had a play!

I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it but I knew it would have to be with pork because I was having pork cravings. In the end I brought a beautiful piece of pork belly, seasoned it with fennel seeds, pepper, salt and smashed garlic then popped it in the oven to roast. I know you really don't roast pork belly but I have to say I love it roasted. Once it is in the oven you kind of forget about it, let the fat melt away, the skin turns crispy (only if you do a bit of an operation on the the fat directly underneath the skin, otherwise you will NOT get crispy skin- a lesson I learned through trial and error!) and you get time to help the kids with homework- happy days.
While the belly was roasting I managed to get myself some delicious in season broad beans and mixed the beans with cherry tomatoes and your every day garden variety green beans (for bulk). I came up with a tasty little salad where I could incorporate the honey. In the end I poured the truffle infused honey over the warm beans, sprinkled it with Malden sea salt and then pared the dish with a crispy potato rosti.
End result- really yummy! The pork was soft and sweet while the honey was mild yet enhancing the sweet broad beans. The potato rosti added a great texture to the dish.
As for the boys loved the pork, hated the broad beans but liked the regular green beans so I was happy to eat their left overs. The truffle infused honey was quite mild so the boys didn't really notice it- or at least didn't comment on the flavour.
Thanks Anna for the honey and forcing me to do something a little different for dinner, god only knows we all get stuck in the dinner rut, it makes me think I should buy a random ingredient once a week and see what I come up with, however after the week/weekend I have just had with work the only 'surprise' would be actually finding something on your plate!

October 17, 2009

I'm a finalist!

You know I have always been scared to enter competitions. I remember my first culinary comp as an apprentice, I was working for the Sheraton group at the time and they thought apprentices should enter into the up and coming competitions in the culinary world. I decided I would put my best food forward as a 4th year apprentice and go into the Entree section. I was so proud of my dishes. My friend and fellow apprentice, Karena, worked along beside me. We worked solidly through the night to put out our dishes. My biggest mistake was thinking the judges were actually going to taste the food. I put all my efforts into making my dishes taste fantastic when I should of been putting all my efforts into making the dishes look AMAZING! ( the details you learn after the event.....or perhaps I should of read the rules??)- Anyway, I didn't win and not one of the judges tasted any of the four dishes I made. From that day forth I promised myself I would not put myself through the agony of culinary competitions and have stayed true to my word until now.....15 years later.
Pam, my mother-in law came to stay a few weeks ago and encouraged me to enter into Australia's ABC Healthy recipe competition. Now I thought it was a good idea but I really didn't think I'd do it.....thanks to Pam's insistence I entered my roast veggie and goat cheese recipe. Not thinking I'd actually get somewhere but of course secretly hoping I wouldn't fall flat for a second time- I was delighted, no thrilled, to receive a CONGRATULATIONS email from ABC saying I was one of the ten finalists and will now have my recipe rated and trialled by the public.
Thrilled, elated and totally amazed that I had pulled it off, I am now asking my readers to pop over to the site here, perhaps make the recipe and then rate it so I am in for a chance to go to the next level. What ever happens I am happy to have moved on from my fear of failure and excited to be chosen in the top ten.

October 10, 2009

My Little Cupcakes

Ever since I started work at Neutral Bay, I'd drive past the sweetest little shop called 'My Little Cupcakes' on Ben Boyde rd, Neutral Bay. The glimpses I got from the car always had me intrigued as to what was actually in the shop so today when Nic, Alex and I took a cruise around the area looking at houses etc.. we happened to drive by. I saw it was open and swerved off the road into the only parking spot left (must of been a sign!).
"Back in a minute" I shouted to Nic as I jumped out of the car and into the shop before he knew what hit him.
When you first walk into the shop the smell of vanilla hits you and you can't help but crave a little cup cake. At first I wasn't to sure if they were real or not. They looked fantastic and could of easily been a cool money box for a girls room or a toy keep safe box all dressed up to look like a real cupcake. If this had of been the case I would of been sorely disappointed, alas I put in an order for three of their finest and was happy to see they only had their large ones left. The girl behind the counter packaged them beautifully and then sent me off on my merry way.
I was so hoping they would taste good. It reminded me of the time cupcakes were a big deal in Chicago a few years back. I was dirt poor (hubby still a student, me part time chef with two little kids) and cupcake stores were popping up all over the place, the city was a buzz with these amazing little taste sensations. Anyway my very good friend Sara and I would talk about them and wonder what they were like.
Sara being the unbelievably generous person that she is decided we MUST try these cup cakes and see what all the fuss was about. I was so excited and decided I could surly afford one....or maybe half of one. We walked into the store and were giggling with excitement when we saw the rows upon rows of little cupcakes staring at us. Before I knew it Sara had bought 6 or so and paid for them before I had finished checking out the display. She simply looked at me and said something like "we couldn't possibly just eat one!" with that said we marched ourselves back to the car and said we would wait until we got home to try them......that lasted for all of about two seconds.
I have to say the cupcakes on that day did not blow us away. Don't get me wrong, they were very yummy but for the price I was expecting a taste sensation as was Sara. To this day Sara I have never bought another cupcake. So when I paid a fair price for the three above I felt like it was a huge leap of faith on my part. To avoid disappointment I kept the bag tightly wrapped until sleeping beauty in the back seat woke up, wiped the drool from his chin and Nic and I could make a cup of tea at home.

I was happy opening the bag and seeing the three little beauties sitting there. Biting into my cupcake I was delighted with the texture and sweetness.

It did not blow my mind but that is OK, after all it is only a cup cake and a very good one at that, so Sara (and I know your reading), when you finally make it over here to my side of the world I am going to take you to My Little Cakes and repay the favour......just don't leave it to long.

October 9, 2009

Banana Bread

I have had the same 4 bananas sitting patiently in my fruit bowl for the past dare I say it 7 days!!!
Alex spotted them and said "I am NOT eating those mum, no way" then tries to throw them out just in case I sneak one into his food (what kind of person does he think I am?). I quickly jumped in and promised him I'd make some banana bread with them and all would be OK. He gave me a look as if to say- you seriously are going to use them for cooking? your nuts!
As any good banana cake/bread/muffin cook knows, the browner (or in my case blacker) the banana the better. I figure they weren't yet oozing and had no mould so I was good to go.

One of my favorite bloggers is Thekitchwitch and recently she blogged about a white trash cookbook found in the bowels of her cookbook collection. She is a great writer who tells very funny stories about food, life and family. I decided to try out the white trash version of banana bread and see how it worked out. To be fair to the recipe I couldn't get buttermilk, for some reason the local Woolies had run out and an American friend of mine once told me you could substitute natural yogurt and milk if you are without buttermilk, which is what I did.

When I first pulled the bread out of the oven I was really impressed with the delicious sweet smell wafting through the house and couldn't wait to cut off a slice and try it- this is where I learned a valuable lesson......DO NOT DO THIS CAMILLA! It was so hot when I went to eat it I burnt the roof of my mouth and secondly it didn't taste as good as it smelled. I washed my disappointment down with a cuppa tea and then proceeded to follow the rest of the directions and pop it in the fridge.
Day two of the bread I was cutting slabs for afternoon tea for the boys and I, scraped on some butter (because that is what you do diet or not!) and proceeded to munch away. To my delight and surprise I was eating a full flavoured, delicious banana bread. It was perfect- denser than banana cake (as it should be), sweet yet not to sweet and more importantly tasted wonderful!

Thanks TKW for a yummy recipe, I have now learned a valuable lesson and will always keep my banana bread in the fridge and cold before devouring.
Below I have written down my version of the recipe but for the real deal click onto the link above or just click on the link if you want to read a funny well written blog with great recipes.

Banana Bread
1 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 large brown (or black) bananas, mashed
1/4 cup natural yogurt
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups + 2 tablespoon plain flour

Combine your yogurt and milk in a bowl and mix well then set aside until needed.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Line a loaf tin with baking paper and spray with cooking spray.
Mix ingredients in the order outlined above.
Pour into loaf tin and bake for 1 hour, remove from oven COOL and store in the fridge until all eaten!

October 6, 2009

Tom Yum

For Nic's first meal back in Australia I thought something Asian and spicy would do the trick. He was tired, jet lagged and not up for much so a quick easy meal was just the ticket. The boys ate earlier (actually Alex ate and Max slept-no fun having tonsilitis!) so I was free to dress it up as much as I liked.
To my delight our seafood shop had a great big sign in the window saying 'fresh squid'. I picked one up along with a few big prawns and headed to my Asian groccer for a bottle of quick and easy tom yum paste, a bag of fish balls, some tofu puffs, and noodles. For me going into this shop is like my kids walking into a toy store. I stroll up and down the aisles for hours and always come out with so much more than I really need (you can never have too many bottles of fish sauce or too many different varities of chilli paste!)
Back at home the water was running for the kids bath while Nic was trying desperately to stay awake, I followed the directions on my bottle of paste (2 spoonfuls of paste to 3 cups of boiling water) of course I always add more and then start adding my frozen fish balls along with the delicious shitaki mushrooms I picked up. I left the stock to simmer for 5 minutes while I cleaned and scored the squid and talked Alex out of the bath and into his P.J's then headed back into the kitchen to finish the meal.
Not much to do really but keep on adding to the broth. Tofu puffs go in so they can soak up the flavour along with some straw mushrooms (I just LOVE the texture of these little ones) and some English spinach leaves ( I know this isn't very Asian but I had a craving and thought it would be totally fine). About 3 minutes before I served the soup I added the squid and prawns, turned the heat off and then went about building my creation......

Noodles get doused in boiling water for a few minutes, strained then popped into serving bowls (I fill and boil the kettle then pour boiling water over the noodles and leave them for 5 minutes before straining).
Once noodles are added I scoop out the bulk ingredients from the broth and divide evenly between bowls (much easier to see we are getting the exact amount of seafood because I hate to miss out!)

Once served and portioned I then pour over the hot and sour broth and finish the meal with sliced scallions and chopped coriander (cilantro).

The Tom Yum was delicious, Nic was excited to have something other than pasta and I was ecstatic it only took me 25 minutes to throw together. I could make this for the kids I guess but I think I will save this one for when they are older and a little more adventurous and able to run their own bath!

October 5, 2009

Eating with a four year old

If it is just you and your four year old eating dinner would you ask them what they would like? I did and with no surprise he simply answered 'pasta'.
Alex's answer for every meal is pasta, whether he really wants it or not he will insist pasta with beans, parmesan and peas is all he ever wants in the world and he will not be happy with anything else.
I took this into consideration but really was looking for something with a little more flavour myself. Max was out of the picture as he wasn't feeling very well- a sore throat. I had no choice but to drag them off to the supermarket to pick something up due to the lack of food in the fridge. If any of you have shopped with kids you'll know my pain and if any of you have shopped with a sick 7 year old in tow you will also no it is impossible to 'quickly' zip up and down the aisles. The moment we walked into Woolies the tears started, Max's temperature soared and Alex pulls away to start munching on the pile of grapes he spotted.
To say it was a disaster would be an understatement. In the end all I managed to grab was a packet of pork and veal mince while dealing with Max's limp body and Alex's wondering mouth!
Back in the car 5 minutes later I was stumped as to what I'd create but one thing was for sure it was not going to be pasta. Back home with Max tucked up in bed, Alex and I headed into the kitchen to make dinner. I poured myself a long awaited glass of wine then laid out my choice of ingredients.

As you can see not a hell of a lot to work with but just enough. I popped some rice on to cook while Alex decides to pull his toy collection out of his room and into the dining room. I was thinking along the lines of a Thai salad, you know wrapped in lettuce leaves then dipped into a spicy dipping sauce. My version was minus lettuce leaves and dipping sauce due to lack of ingredients and present company!
Once I'd chopped the veggies and heated the wok (again I must state cooking on electric with a wok isn't the greatest for browning the meat but you do end up with a wee bit of colour if you leave it on the stove long enough to evaporate all liquid which usually takes about 5-7 minutes) it was only a matter of ten minutes before dinner was on the table. For best results I find if I add fish sauce to my simmering mince I get a deeper flavour with the meat.

Onion, garlic, ginger, frozen peas and capsicum (peppers) then go in and saute until the onion has softened. Just before pulling the meat off the heat I throw in some Chinese black vinegar along with grated carrot (I like it being a bit crunchy and my kids don't like cooked carrot) and chopped coriander (cilantro). Tossing it all through I then add some Kecap Manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) and rest it while I get the rice. I serve up Alex's then pop a little chilli in mine.

By this stage Alex is gaging at the bit for food, he comes in to investigate and mentions it is not pasta so he will just have plain rice- I then advise him if he wants any chance of getting ice cream (he missed out the night before because he didn't finish his dinner) he would have to eat the works.
Half way into the meal Alex is enjoying the meal and tells me he will finish it all as it isn't that bad- nice! I was thinking I'd save the rest for lunch tomorrow and then I could wrap it in lettuce leaves but Max reappeared and decided it smelt good enough to eat so devoured the lot. In the end dinner with my four year old wasn't half bad, just as long as I don't ask him what's for dinner!

I was however a little concerned about the guy floating in his green cup and what he did to deserve that?

October 4, 2009

Easy Peesie Tomato Soup

We have had beautiful days in Sydney the past month or two, a far cry from the cold and wintry days we experienced in Chicago this time last year. However lately we have had a bit of a cold snap. I don't know if I can really call it a cold snap when you need to kick off your thongs (and I don't mean the American variety, I'm talking flip flops, jandals etc, etc) and throw on a pair of socks or pull on a jumper (sweater) to stop the slight chill you are feeling when out walking.

Whenever I get cold I crave soup and lots of it. I bought a big bag of tomatoes the other day with the intention of making tomato confit. My tomatoes were still sitting on the bench top 4 days later and nowhere near being confied! Pam offered to peel the skin on the tomatoes while I was racing about doing something with the boys so with that offer on the table I thought it a perfect time to whip up a quick and easy tomato soup.
As a lot of you know my youngest Alex wont eat a tomato in a salad no matter what I do to it, however a great big bowl of bright red tomato soup tickles his fancy and will eat it with gusto?? My sister is the same, it must be some king of genetic hiccup that only applies to the blonde's in my family? Anyways once the tomatoes were peeled (thanks Pam) by tossing them in simmering water for a minute or two and then dropping them straight into cold water so they don't go soft, making the soup was a matter of chopping, sauteing, boiling and then blending thus all cooked served and eaten with in 30 minutes. Speed also had something to do with the fact it was gearing on to 1.30pm and we still hadn't eaten!
Tomato soup has 101 different spins on it, this one is a simple version due to me making it the day before my grocery shop with not much in the pantry so feel free to chock it with fresh herbs when blending, adding a dollop of sour cream or cream when serving or do as I do and squeeze in some lemon juice and grind on some chilli flakes to satisfy your hot, sour salty taste buds.

Easy Tomato Soup
50g butter
2 teaspoons ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large onion, roughly diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1.25kg fresh tomatoes (peeled and diced)
2 teaspoons salt (I use Malden sea salt)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon oregano
1 cup water

Melt butter over medium to high heat.
Add ginger, garlic and onion, saute until onion is transparent (approx 3-5 minutes).
Add tomato paste and fry until colour deepens, approx 3-4 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients, bring to the boil, stir then simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and process until thick and smooth.

Note: I have also been known to use leftover soup for a pasta sauce chocked with bacon, veggies and parmesan cheese- yumm!

October 3, 2009

Friday night dinner

I think I should re name my blog 'weekend blogger' as it seems to be the only time I get to hop online. Welcome to the world of full time work and parenting I hear some of you say, well your right. I am happy to say I have survived my first three weeks of my new world and I must say I couldn't of done it without the help of my mother-in-law, Pam.
Because my hubby had to pop off to Italy in the first week of me taking over the business I thought I should ask Pam if she could come and 'help out' with the kids. I assured her I'd be home in the afternoons to do school pick up and all she would really need to do was drop them off at school......Oh how wrong was I!
Nic has been away for almost 3 weeks and for the past two weeks I don't think I have been home earlier than 6.30 most evenings. Whatever happened to my perfect, child friendly new full time job I cannot say and if I was to be completely honest with you I'd have to say the Charcoal chicken I bought on my way home one night was a life saver, the pasta stores at home have dwindled down to nothing and anything that took more than 30 minutes to whip up was never seeing the light of day.
This is not to say we haven't been eating some yummy meals. Take last nights dinner- fish and chips. I'd come home early from work, Grammie was on her way back to Victoria and I actually felt like a decent meal. Fish was something I had told Pam 'I'll pick up one night', but as things go it never happened!
I asked the boys what they would like for dinner, mentioned the possibility of some fish and they both thought fish and chips an excellent idea. We all packed into the car before I changed my mind and headed for the fish shop. Flathead fillets were looking delicious so I grabbed a few and headed for home, on the way I dropped into the supermarket and picked up a bag of potato gems (something from my childhood I have fond memories of and know Nic would never eat).
By the time we got home time was ticking on, the boys started picking up all the toys they had left about the house (I might of threatened boiled peas and potatoes if they didn't!) while I started dinner. Because flathead is such a delicate fish with a subtle flavour I wanted to grill it and make a quick lemon butter sauce.
Looking into the fridge I discovered I didn't really have a hell of a lot of salad bits and bobs to go with dinner, this is when I had to get creative with the shape of veggies; carrots get turned into sticks, cucumber chopped into quarters and then sliced and tomatoes chopped small with seeds removed (Alex could be tricked into eating the flesh/skin if I am lucky enough). I also found some pickled asparagus lurking in the side door of the fridge so I decided to pop it in and see how it fairs (considering both boys HATE asparagus when it is lush and green I didn't like my chances).
With the potato gems almost golden brown, my salad macerating in a garlic and balsamic vinaigrette it was time to grill the fish. I lightly covered the fillets in seasoned flour then heated my frying pan with a good dollop of butter and a hint of olive oil to stop the butter from burning before the fish was cooked.
When cooking fish fillets like flathead, perch, orange roughy or ling you really only need a medium high heat to brown the fish without burning it. Once the flesh starts to look white gently flip the fillets over and cover the pan for 2-3 minutes to help the cooking process.
Remove from the heat squeeze in half a lemon, pop the lid back on and leave while you serve up your potatoes and salad. The fillets will be well rested and you should have a lovely citrus flavour coating the fish.
The boys and I really enjoyed this quick and simple meal, Alex spotted every bit of tomato and berated me for even thinking he would eat it, however success was had with the pickled asparagus, Max ate every last bit without the slightest idea so I was happy with 1 out of 2 attempts of introducing the boys to food they HATE!

September 27, 2009

Potatoes and lamb

I wondered down to my neglected compost heap yesterday, my dreams were big when I started my veggie garden. A friend of mine always told me I should really start with excellent soil and then I would have no problems when I came to building my garden. I even went on line to see the best way to go about composting and I have to say I started with gusto! Tossing through the heap yesterday I came to the conclusion I can follow directions well and found indeed I do have beautiful looking soil...I just needed to keep it going.
As will many things in life I have decided to put my green finger on hold until I am a little older and wiser and have more time! One very good aspect of the compost heap was my last batch of potatoes. I managed to dig up the remaining potatoes and am pleased to say I had enough to make a delicious dinner for four (is it wrong to use your compost heap for a veggie garden?)

Needing a decent meal I headed for the kitchen and started to rummage through the fridge and see what I could throw together. Lamb cutlets and broccoli were on the list and what better way to par my home grown potatoes! I once saw Rick Stein on telly picking potatoes out of a field and then preparing a delicious looking potato rosti, after watching him years ago I always had the urge to do the same and today was my opportunity because god only knows when I'll be feeding the compost heap again and growing my own potatoes!

After giving the pots a bit of a wash I grated them into a starchy mess. Potatoes that are this fresh actually have a smell of earth and dirt, something I have never noticed when grating my everyday store bought potatoes. After grating give the potatoes a good squeeze to remove a lot of the starch and moisture (this way you end up with a lovely crisp outer rosti).
Once squeezed I sprinkle on about a tablespoon of flour (I grated about 6 small/medium new pots), a good pinch of sea salt and grind of pepper then mix lightly to combine. Once mixed leave for about 5 minutes before you begin to cook your rosti. You will still have more moisture come out of the potato which is what you want because it combines with the flour creating a binding agent to hold it all in place when frying.

In a medium frying pan, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and heat on a medium/high temperature. Take a handful of potato press it together to form a disc and then gently place into your hot pan. Fry until golden brown then gently flip over and continue until the rosti is golden and crunchy. Remove to some paper towel to soak up the excess oil and continue with remaining potato.
While the potatoes were cooking I had another pot on with boiling salted water for my broccoli and I also had the lamb chops cooking under the grill (broiler). Because I wanted it to be really tasty I grabbed some mayo from the fridge, added a little warm water to thin it out, chopped up some parsley and mint, added a little lemon juice then left it until I was ready to serve. The whole dinner took no longer than 20 minutes because it was all cooking at the same time. My lamb rested in foil while I finished off the rostis. Once they were ready all I had to do was put it together on the plate.
We all loved this meal, the boys sucked their lamb chops dry, Alex managed to eat his broccoli with the help of the mayo dressing and I was left wanting more! I may not be doing it with home grown potatoes for a while but this was a great family meal that took less than 30 minutes to prepare- what is there not to love about that?

September 20, 2009

Sydney Corporate Catering

It has been far to long since I sat at my computer and delved into the running of my families food habits. We are all still alive and kicking, the boys are trying to eat their way through the weekly groceries and I am still cooking however I have taken on a new roll and as you have found out I haven't been keeping up with everything.....let me tell you what has been happening!

My last blog entry was Father's day as you all know. The day after Father's day I went halves in a business. Monday the 7th was the first day I walked into Sydney corporate catering and this was when my life changed as I knew it. Basically I am running the business, something I am very excited about but also still trying to wrap my head around. Brett, my business partner asked me to go in with him a few months back and I was at a lull in my career wanting something more. The boys were happy, settled and so independent that I thought why not? I wasn't thinking about starting back at full time work until Alex was in kindergarten but as life happens, things don't always go according to plan. With a family 'talk' and weighting up the plus and minuses (more Nic and I than the kids!) I decided to go for it and see what happens.
I vowed to keep the blog up and to keep running.......... Ha, haa after writing that I now realize I had no idea what I was saying good bye to as a full time mum and part time worker.

I have been in the business two weeks now and I have to say my feet are starting to come back down to the ground. My head feels like it as been jam packed with information and I am struggling to keep it all in, usually I have to just maintain the drivel about Ben 10 or the latest footy scores while pushing a trolley around the supermarket isle!
I am loving the new role but also missing the casual, free life I had before. To throw a spanner in the works my start date coincided with Nic's trip to Italia, so as of last Tuesday I am single parenting, working full time and trying to make it to swim lessons, blog, shop blah, blah.... so far I have managed to turn up to work on time, get the kids off to Megan's house so she can drop them at school (the most fabulous friend I could ask for), pack school lunches and do a third of the shopping. I don't know how mum's and dad's who work full time do it, I still have my learner plates on and don't see them coming off any time soon. My sister popped in for a visit Thursday which was great and now my mother-in-law has graciously offered to fly in and help with the boys for the next two weeks so I think I should be able to wrap my head around this new venture.....if not then she might be putting in an urgent S.O.S call to Italy!

I will stop making excuses avid readers and I thank you for hanging in there. I am back and cooking so stay tuned for ultra easy family meals that I prepare after a hectic day at work- we could all be in for a big surprise! But until then (tomorrow- promise) here are a few shots of the food I have been making at work.

Fruit platters for our corporate offices

A sweet and slices platter I am working on..

September 6, 2009

Father's Day French Toast

Today is Father's Day this side of the world- Happy Father's Day to all the dads in Australia!

Nic doesn't really celebrate Father's day but I do so I will always try to make it a day where the boys at least have a smile on their dial for dad and treat him with kindness and goodwill for the first part of the morning. Being at such a young age it really isn't that hard, it also helps when they have ready made school cards to give dad.
Alex was bursting at the seams waiting to give Nic his homemade tie card, while Max casually throws Nic his 'give a hand' card trying not to exert to much emotion (you really get so cool when your 7 and I believe it doesn't change until your late twenties!)
After Nic was well wished and the cards tossed to him the boys told us of their deathly hunger pains and asked when were we going to get up and make breakfast??
I simply replied "Your making breakfast for your dad".

Alex was totally amped and wanted to race into the kitchen and use every sharp knife available, while Max was deep in thought wondering what it was that he and Alex could make. I suggested French toast seeing as that was one of their dad's favorite breakfasts. Alex cheered and screamed something at us in full volume while Max told me they needed an adult to help. I agreed and told them we'd meet in the kitchen in 5.
Sadly I wasn't over organized so I didn't have any delicious homemade bread left, instead I had a stack of wholemeal sliced bread that would have to do. To add to my yummy father's day breakfast I'd run out of maple syrup and of course there was no bacon in the house (Can you tell I have just gone back to full time work not to mention my own business?).
Not to worry, I decided to make an Australian French toast with oranges and golden syrup!

The boys were great at cracking the eggs into the container; brilliant at measuring in the milk, and sprinkling in the cinnamon, Max even buttered the bread while Alex zested the orange with glee but when it was time to actually cook the toast there were no boys in sight. After calling for help I was simply told I could do the rest because the good stuff was all done and they were really hungry so could I please just cook it already!
With that said who was I to argue? Even though it was store bought bread and I only had a third of the ingredients we managed to make a really tasty brekky and Max told me we should make french toast like this all the time so if your looking for something a little different you should give this a go as it works a treat.

French toast- Australia style
8 slices wholemeal bread (buttered both sides with butter)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
zest one orange
2 teaspoons orange juice
a sprinkle of cinnamon
pinch salt
50g butter
golden syrup
1 orange, peeled and cut into slices

In a long container (one big enough to hold two slices of bread) crack in the eggs.
Add milk, zest, orange juice, cinnamon and pinch of salt.
Gently whisk with a fork until well combined.
Add two slices of bread at a time to mixture and leave to soak for 2-3 minutes.
Heat a frying pan on medium heat and add 1/3 of the butter.
Once butter has melted remove bread from mixture, drain slightly and fry until golden in colour, flip over and repeat.
Place toast into warm oven and repeat process with remaining slices of bread.
To serve place on orange slices and drizzle with golden syrup.
Serve warm

August 30, 2009

Grandma's scones

Scones, jam and cream remind me of country Australia. A steaming hot cup of tea served in the morning or afternoon with freshly made scones; raspberry, blackberry or strawberry jam and lashings of cream.
Last week at work we needed to cover a shift or two in the kitchen and our server Jess stepped up to the plate. Now Jess being a country girl from Victoria knew her way around a kitchen and I had a feeling she wouldn't let us down. I was delighted when I rocked up to work and found she had rang her mum for the family's fabulous scone recipe because she couldn't find my muffin recipe (could of had something to do with the fact that I store it in my head).
Our customers didn't realize the treat they were in for, Jess's grandma's recipe is one to turn to every time you want to whip up a batch of scones and when paired with homemade jam you just can't go wrong.
The dough is a lot wetter than I am use to but the end result is a delicious moist, fluffy scone. After tasting Jess's batch at work I decided to bring the recipe home and see if my boys would enjoy an afternoon treat. To prove to you these were a huge success I have decided pictures speak louder than words...

The first bite......yummmm

By the look on his face I was wondering if he was enjoying the scone?

Hang on, he has thrown his head back for full shoveling action

Yep a clear favorite, the scone was devoured in under ten seconds with only fingers to lick as an end result. I always knew he'd use those cheeks for storing food!

Awesome scones, a big thanks to Jess and her Gran for sharing. I'll now be popping this one into my battered and well flipped through recipe book for years to come.

Jess's Grandma's Scone Recipe
2 cups self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1 egg
Preheat oven to 200°C (400).
In a medium bowl combine all dry ingredients and set aside.
In a large measuring jug combine all wet ingredients and whisk lightly to combine (I do this with a fork).
With a gentle touch add wet ingredients to dry and cut with a blunt knife to combine.
Once combined (at this stage it will look lumpy and wet but that is good), lightly flour your bench and turn out mixture onto floured surface.
Gently knead to form dough, lightly flatten into a disc shape and cut out scones.
Place scones onto a lightly floured tray, brush tops with a little milk and pop in the oven for ten minutes.
Remove from oven, let stand for 5 minutes then serve warm

Note: The secret to really light and fluffy scones is in the mixing, a very gentle touch and minimal handling will get you fabulous scones every time.