April 29, 2009

Pork shoulder

It is one of the cheapest cuts of meat you can buy. For years I didn't know who, why or how you would cook pork shoulder to make it tasty and delicious. It was one of those cuts of meat I'd look at and think- I must buy it one day and work it out. Well work it out I did and it only happened in need and necessity. We were a young family living on a single student stipend in the USA with a new bouncing boy to contend with and meat wasn't exactly on the budget. Our weekly meals consisted of cauliflower, potatoes and pasta......LOTS of pasta but that is a whole other story.
Americans have 100 and one fantastic ways to cook 'budget' cuts of meat and they do a mighty fine job. I was really looking forward to cooking pulled pork in my slow cooker because I knew it was made for this- lots of cooking in liquid on a very gentle heat. The results, a succulent piece of meat that melts in your mouth, and when cooking it with sweet barbecue flavours it is heavenly, especially when slapped between a big soft bun slathered in butter and served with the classic -coleslaw. 
I also love this cut of meat when used to feed a hoard of people meaning a little goes a long way!
 If any of this sounds tempting then check out my recipe on kidspot and make the decision for yourself. 

April 27, 2009

Autumn Veggies

I never thought it would happen but the summer heat is moving out of the Sydney area. No longer are the steel slides going to give your kids third degree burns when you take them for a 20 minute park run-a-round. Your two year old is now able to lick on his ice-cream without it running down his hand in 30 seconds flat (where you end up with it all over your clothes and body parts). I never thought I would be wearing jeans and a jumper (sweater) in Sydney. I didn't believe it was ever going to get cool.
Compared to Chicago winters and autumns (Fall) it is still balmy and fabulous however the difference between our two countries is this- Chicago is set up for the colder months. Heaters are set at soaring temperatures to keep the cold from nipping at your body parts. However here in Australia although the temperatures don't get down in the minuses for days, weeks, months at a time we don't have the intense heat in our houses, so at times it feels cooler than you think. Which brings me to my latest visit to the green grocer.
Root vegetables galore! I was so excited to race home  and chop them all  up into pieces, whack a bit of olive oil over them with some yummy flakey salt and freshly ground pepper then roast them in a very hot oven until they are crisp on the outside and soft and delicious on the inside. Root veggies are so versatile and CHEAP. You can buy a whole Jap pumpkin, roast a quarter of it for dinner, make soup out of the other half and finish off the other quarter with some potatoes and have it as a mash for dinner number three- what is there not to love about that! Honestly  when the cooler months come I live for soup, stews and curries. I load the kids up on veggies and they never complain....Ok so lets say seldom complain. 
I urge you to pop down to your local green grocer, grab some beetroots, turnips and pumpkin, throw them in the oven then toss with some wild rocket and goat cheese for a delicious lunch or dinner.

April 24, 2009

Rice Pudding

I entered a new (for me) realm of the food world the other week. I was asked to come up with some recipes for a slow cooker aka crock pot. Of course I knew about them I just hadn't ever been introduced to them until now. Growing up in the N.T (Darwin for all you non Australian readers) the last thing you wanted for dinner was a warm stew/casserole waiting for you on the counter or rice pudding for that matter. As far as I was concerned rice was for sopping up your curry sauce, for smearing with peanut sauce or using the leftovers for fried rice.

  I decided to treat the slow cooker as an oven , I could do that- no worries. The thing about an oven is you can have it on, know it is on and never have to look inside it until your alarm goes off or your nose detects an aroma- sometimes good sometimes bad, (like the time I burnt 150 biscuits in one go when I was a first year apprentice-that was bad!). 
I tried very hard to follow all the crock pot directions I read about in books and on the internet- DON'T LIFT THE LID, LEAVE IT ALONE!!
I couldn't do it, as much as I tried, every time I walked into the kitchen there it was sitting there. I mean I was trained to taste food at all stages of cooking. Add a little seasoning here, put some acid in there but never was I ever told to just leave it alone for 9 hours and 'she'll be apples'. For my first recipe it was a long 4 hours to wait!

I read a few rice pudding recipes and never being a fan of the stuff I thought they all sounded yucky. When I told Nic I was thinking of making rice pudding his eyes lit up and walked with a swing in is stride so with that reaction I was going to try extra hard to make it yummy. In the end I decided to treat it like making ice cream. Make a custard and add the flavour to the warm milk. As pastry chef at Campagnola while I was pregnant with Alex I taught myself patience with custards, panna cotta's and meringues. Before this I thought desserts quite tedious and avoided them like the plague (only because my success rate was dismal). Anyhow to cut a long winded story short, when I took the lid off the rice for the third time lets say 20 minutes before it was ready I thought I had it all wrong. It smelt great but the rice was no where near soft. I decided to leave it and see it through till the end. To my absolute delight and shock the rice transformed in those 20 minutes and when I left it for a further 15 minutes the liquid thickened and it actually looked good enough to try.
 I was hooked! It was rich and creamy, a lovely subtle flavour of lemon and vanilla to keep you eating. The rice was soft yet had a little bite to it. Nic agreed and proceeded to eat a hefty serving. Sadly I can't say the same for the boys (they must have my underdeveloped gene for  rice pudding) they wouldn't even try it, Max thought the whole concept 'dumb' "why would I eat sweet rice when I can have ice-cream?' I decided I wouldn't force it upon them but thank god my friend Megan came around with her two year old and he thought it wonderful- I sent her home with the leftovers!

April 22, 2009

Peeling with a three year old


I was making a vegetarian curry last night for dinner and Alex was wondering to and fro with an air of mischief about him. I decided to ask him if he'd like to help me peel the veggies for dinner. "Oh yes please" was his response. 
The last time I cooked with the boys was at least 3 months ago and that didn't go to well. I have control issues in the kitchen and having the boys measure out flour for cookies then proceeding to drop 40% of it on the way over to the bowl does not make me giddy with excitement or entice me to have them in the kitchen on a regular basis, so asking Alex to help me was something that does not come natural for me when I am in the kitchen. However, I thought peeling a spud is a little safer than dumping flour into a bowl (now I write this I see how silly it sounds- yes giving a kid a sharp object is sooo much safer than dumping flour Camilla!)
  I showed Alex what I was doing and encouraged him to follow suit. I asked him if he had peeled a vegetable before and he looked at me and said 'Uhmm, no but I can do it' and with that much enthusiasm I proceeded to direct him in the art of peeling. Within seconds I was told "I can do it mummy, I can do it"- in that three year old voice that is 10 times louder than your own. Surprisingly I got the message and continued to peel my own spud. 
A couple of minutes later I hear- 'It's not working mum......ohhh, NO, NO it's OK I have a better way' and with that said I see him stabbing at the potato. The peeler blade millimeter's from his tiny little fingers. With the amount of force he was stabbing I thought he would for sure stab himself! After removing the peeler from his tight grip I decided I'd give him one more try seeing how excited he was. I think Alex managed to peel one piece of skin before telling me my way was to hard and his way was much more fun!
In the end I finished off the potato, Alex got to keep all his fingers and I was quite pleased one of my kids left the kitchen feeling he 'helped' with dinner- couldn't of done it without you Alex.

April 20, 2009


I had to come up with eight recipes for party food a week or so ago and the number one request in my house from the kids would have to be RIBS! I am sure Max would say they are the best food to come out of America. We were spoilt, we had friends who loved to cook and were very good at it. They showed off their skills and the Baker family was always there to help them eat it! 
There are 100 and 1 ways to cook ribs from the BBQ to the oven. Personally I love popping them on the Weber and slowly cooking them, then in the last 30 minutes, smothering them with a homemade BBQ sauce to make them sticky, sweet and juicy. I always believed you had to boil the ribs first to get that 'fall off the bone' texture and that was what it was all about. How wrong I was. My dear friend Kathleen put me on the straight and narrow. She was and still is a firm believer in sticking them on the Weber and leaving them to themselves. Just before removing them you brush on the BBQ sauce. Your end result is a luscious, tender rib that still has a bite to it yet the meat is soft and tender. I like the fact that you have to chew it a little, it adds to the whole performance of eating ribs.
 Firstly, you go at then with glee, you can't get enough of the succulent meat then you put the first one down and work your way through another one, two, five, etc. Once you have finished you then go back and chew off all the sticky bits you missed the first time. That is how I enjoy eating ribs. Sadly Max is getting better at eating them and now doesn't leave the chewy bits for me to gnaw on!

The ribs recipe I concocted for kidspot is tasty and quite delicious, it is also a fast and easy way to have ribs without lighting the coals and waiting for it to heat up. Sadly I couldn't find my BBQ sauce recipe when I made these, but I substituted with a Chinese BBQ sauce and it worked very well. It wasn't as sweet as a lot of BBQ sauces and I think that worked in my favour. So if your in the mood for ribs but don't have a grill/Weber then give these ago and make sure you haven't got your Sunday best on!

April 17, 2009

Peanut sauce

In this day and age of nut free, lactose intolerant, minimal this, no to that- I was craving something you don't see around much anymore. Whenever you brought a satay stick at a take away joint or family fun day at the local show when I was growing up you were offered satay sauce and it was a give in you'd have it- I mean why not, that is half the meal right there! 
You'd have to lick you hand because it would be running down, the delicious creamy, nutty flavour combining with your favorite beef/chicken or pork satay is the best fete, show or holiday snack ever in my opinion.
I was down at the shops the other day with Max picking up some lemons and fresh fish for my fish & chip craving I was having (and I am talking full on, beer battered fish, not grilled- full fat indulgence, ohhh it was good!).

 There is a great little whole in the wall Asian food place I couldn't resist so I picked up a couple of chicken skewers expecting to be offered satay sauce. To my shock and horror it was naked! No sign of sauce anywhere and defiantly no 'can I get you something to go with that' coming from the friendly gentleman behind the counter.
Granted the skewer was delicious and Max and I were well impressed with the size and flavour, but I couldn't help think it was missing something. I understand there are so many people out there allergic to nuts and I also understand there are even more people allergic to dairy, garlic (I don't understand this one?) soy, blah,blah,blah BUT I was just thinking, what about all the people out there who are denied the luxuries of the 80's and 90's when it was all about flavour and culture?
 This quick and easy recipe is for all people out there like me who if they decide they want to indulge in a childhood memory then memory they shall get! This satay sauce it a great standby to have in the fridge and trust me it is easier to make than you think and 100 times yummier than the bottled variety you buy at the shops. 
Next time you are cooking up some satay's on the BBQ or purchasing them from your local, remember the satay sauce- if you can eat it without keeling over that is.

April 9, 2009

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns on Foodista

With Good Friday right around the corner I was looking forward to trying out my hot cross bun recipe I devised last year. One of the things I really missed while living in the States was the fact I couldn't pop down to the local supermarket and grab a packet of hot cross buns.
Yes Americans celebrate Easter and have a fabulous array of chocolates (mind you I could never get use to Hershies no matter how hard I tried), but they lacked in the sweet bun section. I could of gone to Whole Foods and paid a small fortune for some average buns or I could make my own. After looking through recipe books and on line I was getting the same message, make the dough a day in advance. I was in the mood to bake then and there, who would know if I was going to feel like it the next day.
I decided to combine a few methods, hurry up the proving process and see what happens. I figured the worse that could happen was they would be terrible, I wouldn't be able to give them away and the boys and I would be stuck eating crappy buns for the next week.
I was ecstatic to find at the end of my playing around that in fact the buns were delicious and were probably the best buns I had made. So with this memory at hand yesterday I began looking for the piece paper I wrote the recipe down on. At this point I really needed to give myself a good kick up the bum for only partly writing out the recipe. For some reason I seem to think I'll remember ALL my recipes for the next time and never write them down in a legible hand- you'd think I'd learn after being at this for over a decade!
Anyway this batch came out pretty darn well except my oven is a piece of c..... and the bottoms were a little too brown for me to show them off, so looks like the boys and I are taking our hot cross buns on our camping trip- YIPPEE!!


Camilla's Easter buns
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons dried yeast (a lot I know)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
11/2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
4 eggs
5 cups plain flour (all purpose)
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped

Warm milk and sprinkle with yeast, use 1 teaspoon on your sugar and add to milk, stir then rest for five minutes.

In a large bowl add remaining sugar, salt, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and eggs.
Stir with a wooden spoon to mix thoroughly.
Pour in milk mixture (making sure it is foamy) and gradually add flour.
When you have formed a dough ball, sprinkle bench with a little flour and knead for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle clean bowl with flour and place the dough in and cover. Place in a warm spot and rest for one hour (or until it doubles in size).
Remove plastic, punch dough, add dried fruit and knead again for 5-8 minutes.
Cut dough in half and then half again and then each piece of dough into six, making a total of 24 small pieces.
Roll each piece into a ball shape, place on a large oven tray lined with a baking mat, allowing 1-cm between each ball for a bit of rising action.
When all the ball are on the tray, cover again an place back in warm area. Allow to double in size approx 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 200 degree
Before popping the tray into oven, make a cross on each ball with a sharp knife.
Cook for ten minutes the drop the temperature to 180 and cook for a further 10-15 minutes.
Remove from oven, Make your cross glaze (1 1/4 cups icing sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons milk, stir to combine well) and drizzle on the top of buns in a cross figure.
Just before you leave them alone, make a simple syrup of 2 tablespoons boiling water and 2 tablespoons of sugar, mix until dissolved then brush the tops of buns.
They should look like the once above.

Good Luck, they are well worth the effort.
Gradually add flour

April 7, 2009

Cucumber and Melons

Alex and I share a great love for cucumbers. They have a crisp, watery flavour that goes with just about any salad combo I know. If Alex asks for a 'salad' he usually means cucumber rounds, carrot and olives. When I tell him a salad usually has some type of lettuce in it he reassures me I am completely wrong and not to speak of lettuce again!
 With Sydney's fantastic weather 90% of the time my taste buds with the Mexican flare suit this climate very well. When cooking in summer at Campagnola you'd get hot, when working on the grill section your body would boil. Many a night servers (waiters) would ask me if I was OK due to the redness in my face and sweat running down my back. As uncomfortable as it got at times I wouldn't swap it for any other spot in the kitchen. Working the grill was one of the best parts about a restaurant kitchen. If you were having a good night, the whole restaurant was running well, if you started to go down then you'd pull the whole restaurant with you- yep it is all about the control factor!
Anyway I am getting side tracked- on summer nights the prep guy would usually have a few spare minutes before or after service and would peel and scrape out cucumbers 2-4 at a time then soak them in lime juice, chilli flakes, lots of salt and then we would all dig in. It was such a refreshing snack; reviving you while leaving a refreshing flavour in your mouth. 
I started this at home and the family hasn't looked back. Along with cucumbers, any melon gets a good going over with lime/lemon juice and a shake or two of chilli. It's a bit like eating peanut butter- very nice on it's own but when spread with jam (jelly) it is just delicious!
For a family friendly recipe visit kidspot

April 5, 2009

Fish tacos

Nic went away to L.A on business last week and his mum popped up for a visit and to help me with the boys (or should I say have them all to herself). Pam is a great cook and she always spoils us when we go to visit- I don't cook a thing! My in-laws live on the coast so they eat plenty of fresh seafood and are used to freshness and flavour. Having spent many years inland we didn't eat as much fresh fish in the States so it was very exciting to find my local fish shop with oodles to choose from. 
Traditionally when cooking fish tacos you usually dredge the fish in milk and flour then fry it in oil; totally delicious and always has you craving for more. When I was thinking about adding fish tacos to my Mexican week on Kidspot I wanted to make them as user friendly as possible and that also means healthy for busy families. Whipping up a quick marinade and then roasting, pan frying or grilling the fillets was the best option I came up with. The following recipe was a great success with young and old. Grammie thought them a treat (hopefully for the flavour and not just the fact she didn't have to cook) while Alex inhaled every last bite and came back for seconds which is a rare sight with him these days. The fact that we all got to build our own allowed the boys to have whatever they wanted. Max loaded up on tomatoes lettuce and cucumber while Alex filled his with corn and fish and lets not forget the lashings of lime mayo they spread on top. 
If this has captured your attention then follow this kidspot link to the recipe and taste test it for yourself.

April 3, 2009

The Great Mexican Bite

The day has finally come when my recipes land on the kidspot site. Sadly we had some tech problems and my name doesn't appear, however this will all be fixed shortly-  be rest assured these are my recipes and I'm there to stay.
For my introduction I was given a Mexican theme and I couldn't of been happier. Since moving back from Chicago just over 4 months ago the family has been hankering for a good dose of jalapenos, salsa and beans. I think Alex grew up on 100 and one ways to serve beans when he was a baby.
 I did try to make a few items in the beginning but had trouble getting some of the basic Mexican ingredients we'd come to love, like jalapenos, cactus paddles and corn tortillas just to name a few.
One to never back away from a challenge I chose a few family favorites of ours and made them 'Australian family friendly'. I have to say we were all pretty happy with the outcome. The quickest would have to of been my take on a Mexican sandwich. At work just after we had had a really busy service(in the States). The guys (Mexicans I worked with) use to make these wonderful sandwiches or 'pizzas' for all of us to devour once all the customers were fed. I was bringing those memories to life again with a sandwich I know would of stopped even the biggest appetite in it's tracks.
As with all sandwiches you make them to your liking. I pile pickled jalapenos on mine, Nic has a mild layering, Max goes for one but pulls it out just before he inhales, and Alex has a fit if I even think of putting any greenery on or near his! His 'Mexican sandwich consists of re fried beans, crumbed chicken, feta cheese, mayo and then a few carrot sticks on the side. I don't mind as long as I only make one meal and we all eat it.
For a detailed copy of the recipe follow this link kidspot  and enjoy my version of a Mexican sandwich!