June 29, 2010

Why you shouldn't watch Master chef with your kids!

It was Friday evening and I'd made an early dinner. The boys were all showered but not yet ready for bed so I decided to sit on the couch with them and flick on the box. For all you International readers, Australia is going through the Master Chef boom. It is massive here, we can't seem to get enough of the trials and tribulations of cooking for the cameras. I regularly get asked what I think of the show, do I like it and would I like to be on it??
To tell you the truth, I hadn't watched it at all in Australia. I remember seeing it in the States a few years ago but I just hadn't got around to watching the Australian version.....that was until now. Friday night is the night to watch. The judges and guest chefs/cooks whip up some tantalising dishes we all get to drool over. I was pulled in along with the other 10 million viewers; as were my kids.
After the rhubarb and blackberry souffle crumble was made, I told myself that I had to make that one day soon, perhaps when the next heat wave runs through town. The boys on the other hand were very taken with Donna Hays lesson in cake masking. As she was building her four layered cake with chocolate cream cheese icing, I could see the drool falling from their mouths. Alex blurts out "...I wanna eat that" while Max leans over to me and says "...mum your a chef, so why don't you make that for us?"
I laughed it off and told them to get ready for bed.
The next day I was making our regular family banana cake with the black bananas dominating the fruit bowl (this always happens when Nic is away, he is the only one that remembers to eat them), when Alex sees the cakes cooling on the wire rack and excitedly asks (or did he tell me?) was I going to layer them just like Master chef?
What was I to do? He had that look in his eye, you know the one you never want to crush with a thumping big NO.
That's right I did it. I whipped up a batch of lemon cream cheese icing, cut that banana cake into four and did as I was asked. Now I am no Donna Hay, this much I know but to my two little boys I was their Master Chef and that is all that really matters....extracting the mixing bowl was a bit of a mission, thank goodness I had some cake for an alternative!

June 27, 2010

Linseed and almond muffins

I had to do the unthinkable on Saturday- take both kids shopping!
Nic was due back from Italy late Saturday night and we had only scrapings of food left in the fridge so there really was no way around leaving the boys at home to fend for themselves (no matter how much they begged and pleaded).
The only way I can make shopping 'doable' for them and I, is if they stand in the toy section and stare at the lame selection our Coles (supermarket) has to offer, while I whizz around the aisles trying to grab everything I need.
Thankfully it wasn't much, just the basics so we managed to get in and out in under (just by the hair of our chin) 20 minutes.
Once we were in the car and heading out of the car park, I then informed them we just needed to pop into the fruit and veg store for a couple of things. Right about now I was smiling on the inside because this was met with wails of dispare and torture......
"...but boys, they ALWAYS have free samples to try.....you'll see"
This kept the silence for our 5 minute drive and I kept quietly praying there was at least a few pieces of mandarin they could nibble on!

To cut a long story short, I was lucky enough to get more than mandarin segments. Alex spotted her first and made a bee line right for her food stand. I think they thought all their Christmases had come at once; in two large silver bowls the boys were eye to eye with piles of creamy yogurt and macerated strawberries. They looked so good that I also grabbed a sample.
 Delicious, Alex was onto his second helping before I could drag him away. On top of the yogurt there was 100% milled linseed. It gave the yogurt an interesting texture and I was also taken in by all the health benefits linseed has to offer. To save face in front of the sales lady (Alex's smooching around for tester number three!!) I picked up a bag, grabbed the kids and drove home.

Sunday morning was here much earlier than I would of liked. Nic was sound asleep after that god awful flight back from Europe, thus, it was my turn to do the Sunday morning football run and this Sunday just so happened to be an 8am game and a 45 minute drive away. Max and I managed to eat a mouthful of cereal before heading out the door. Still wanting a little more than cereal on a Sunday morning I decided I'd be making some muffins on our return, after all it was bang on 9.30 when we got home which is right on time for our usual Sunday breakfast.
I followed the recipe on the back of the milled linseed packet and then decided to ad lib a little. I have made super healthy muffins before and I always think they taste a little dry, so I omitted some of the milk for cream (everyone knows a little bit of fat tastes soooo good!). I also added flaked almonds and was really happy with the end result.

Max saw me add the linseed and decided then and there they would be much too healthy for him so he opted for raisin toast. Alex on the other hand totally loved them, licked the bowl and then had three!!

Linseed and Almond muffins
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups milled linseed
3/4 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1 egg
1/3 cup raw flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line a muffin tray with patty cake liners.
Place dry ingredients into a medium bowl and then add wet ingredients.
Stir to mix well (mixture will be quite wet), then fill your patty cake liners 3/4 full, sprinkle with almonds then pop into the oven for 25 minutes.
Remove, cool and dust with a little icing sugar and serve.

June 16, 2010

Vegetarian hot pot

It's been a hard week to say the least!
Hubby flew out to Italy on Friday morning for some archive digging, by Friday afternoon I get a phone call from Alex's daycare telling me he isn't to well and if I could come early that would be great. Friday was also the first day of our cooking school kitchen install- a very exciting day and one I really didn't want to miss.
I managed to see the unravelling of the benches, listen to a few choice words from the builder and then decide I really wasn't going to miss anything today so off I went to get Alex.
He had a bout of Gastro which managed to stay for a few days longer than usual; he then happily passed it on to his brother, all before Grammie stepped off the plane to come and help me out for the next two weeks.
Poor Grammie, I have been starting work at 5am these past few mornings so I have left her in charge of to sick little boys and not much else. Tonight I am happy to say has been the first night everyone has kept their food down and temperatures low...it is the small achievements in life I get excited about these days.

Because the boys are still eating dried toast with Vegemite or stewed apples, I thought I had better pull out a delicious meal for G and I, after all I wanted/needed to keep us healthy and germ free!
As usual I had forgotten to go to the butcher, so it was to be a vegetarian meal which G didn't mind at all. I decided on a curry but when I went to the fridge all I could find were bunches of mint, coriander (cilantro) and ginger. Not really the curry flavour I was heading toward but then I remembered the chilli paste I had left over from my mussel dish I made a few weeks ago and thought I'd use that as a base.

I decided to grind up the ginger, garlic, mint and coriander leaves with a bit of fish sauce and pop that in after the cooking process (that was my Indian inspired curry idea put to use!).
As a result of the ingredients in my fridge and a quick twist of fate, I made a beautiful potato, corn and broccollini dish served with steamed rice and finished with bean shoots and fried onion flakes. The end result was pretty dam tasty. Of course the depth of flavour came from lightly cooking the chilli paste with shallots and pre cooked potato, then once the potato was nicely coated with paste I added some fresh tomato and corn. I had some chicken stock left over so I added that and reduced it all down to a lovely thick sauce. Just before serving I added the broccollini to lightly steam through as I like it a bit crunchy.

Last but not least, I took it off the heat, poured in my mint and ginger concoction, stirred it and rested the dish for a few minutes before adding the fresh bean shoots.
It's dishes like this that keep me going back to the kitchen and playing around with herbs and spices from all over the world. If I didn't think of an Indian curry for dinner, then I would never of come up with this  delicious Thai/Malay inspired dish.

June 10, 2010

Chargrilled baby octopus

I love seafood. Every time I eat it, I wonder why I don't eat more of it. We use to eat fish at least once a week but I am afraid we have whittled it down to once every three weeks, or when I remember to change directions and walk down the hill to the fish monger instead of up the hill to the butcher, baker (and candle stick maker!).
 I mean lets face it we are creatures of habit, and as I have read, habits are hard to break. Thank god for divine interventions I say!
My Tapas class last week was a great excuse for us to change our eating habits and also remind 95% of my family how much they really do love octopus.
Dinners have been a bit all over the place lately, Nic teaches late, I have a class or am running out the door for something, so sitting down to the same meal at the same time of night has been very hard. I have managed to only cook one meal each night, however I did make an exception on octopus night and let Alex have a ham, pickle and mayo sandwich seeing as he ate two big serves of fried rice at school and couldn't bare to put a tentacle in his mouth....he has a few years to go unlike his brother.
I placed a big plate of octopus in front of Max and watched as he gobbled it up within minutes, I ate mine on the fly and Nic got his as it came flying out of the pan just before I ran out the door. This was a  week I am hoping won't repeat itself for a while.
If you'd like to give this a try, please do. I love the simplicity of this dish and the flavours the char grill bring to the end result are wonderful.

Char grilled baby octopus
Preparation for octopus:
500g baby octopus
4 chat potatoes, pre boiled and cut into ¼’s
Remove beak and set aside.
Bring 2 litres of water to the boil and add the juice and whole skin of a lemon.
Once water has boiled place octopus in a bowl and pour over boiling water, leave for 60 seconds and then strain off water.
Add lemon pieces to octopus in strainer then continue to pour over boiling water for a further 30 seconds.
Leave to cool in the strainer while you prepare the garnish and cook your potatoes.

Preparing garnish:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
chilli flakes
½ tomato, seeded and diced into chunks
2 sprigs of spring onions, cut into 3cm pieces
3 olives, halved
To serve:
Heat char grill, place octopus and potato into a bowl with a splash of olive oil, season and then place on char gill and leave to colour, turning only when coloured on the sides.
Whilst octopus is grilling, warm extra virgin olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
Add garlic and chilli flakes, wait until garlic starts to sizzle then add tomato, spring onions and olive halves.
Toss to combine and sauté for 60 seconds.
Add octopus and potato, toss to combine then remove from the heat and serve with a wedge of lemon.

June 7, 2010

I've been upstaged

It's been a busy catering week folks! I think I have made my weight in mini quiche, lamb pies and sandwiches.....oh so many sandwiches!
Anyway, enough about that. I have also been doing a lot of yummy dishes and teaching a few classes of late. Last Saturday I spent the evening teaching a class some quick and delicious tapas dishes. A really fun night and the group I taught were loads of fun and really loved food. I was practicing all week on a few dishes as it had been a while since I made the baby octopus and I kinda made up a few recipes on the fly, so before I taught a class of eager students I thought I had better give all the recipes a trial run.
Now I WAS going to blog about my dishes today but I have to leave them for a day longer to do a bit of a 'show and tell'.
You see I rang my parents yesterday to have a chat, talk kids, weekends, food and more food. I mentioned how much Max loved the octopus I made the other day when mum casually tells me they went for lunch over the weekend, paid a stupendous amount for a very average meal. To pick their (meaning mum and dad) spirits up they decided to make themselves a 'Master chef' inspired dinner.
I just got sent the photos and thought I would share them with you.
I also have to tell you that growing up my dad rarely ventured into the kitchen. One very memorable kitchen experience was to do with rabbit, however I can't really say meal because by the time it was 'ready' my sister and I were half asleep and the rabbit was too tough to be eaten. I think dad took this as his leave from the kitchen for many a year. He stuck to what he knew best and that was omelette's. Dad can make a killer omelet to blow your mind and eyes (great height), but everything else kind of got left to mum, who whipped up feasts right before our eyes.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photos as much I as did. I'm thinking I might even give the pasta a go this weekend.......whats the recipe with the pork mum?

 This is dad cutting his pappradelle, I think he has become the master of pasta!

Say no more! The freshly cooked pappardelle . . . note the chlorophyll texture and colour. . .

Now on goes mum's roast pork belly, followed by the caramel vinegar sauce and broccolini  sprinkled with fresh chopped chilli . . .

. . . then topped with a squiggly potato crisp ( just for the crunch) Served with a lovely pinot.

As you can see.....how do I compete with that??
Well done mum and dad, we can't wait to taste it on our next trip down.

June 1, 2010

Quick shortbread Kerrygold style

I think it was in our last few weeks left in Chicago that I first tasted this delicious shortbread. I'd invited myself around to my friend Roisin's house for a cuppa on a brutally cold morning. Roisin had/has a magnificent kitchen and it was pure pleasure to just hang out in there and talk while admiring the beauty around me.
Not only does Roisin have a fabulous kitchen, but she also knows how to use it and was regularly knocking out great dishes that would make your mouth water. As it happens on this particular day, she popped this shortbread in the oven before taking the kids off to school (domestic goddess springs to mind...) I was unaware of this little surprise until we stepped inside and I instantly smelled the butter and sugar baking in the oven.
Before I was offered a slice of shortbread I think I scoffed down a piece of her soda bread with lashings of butter and cheese -nothing but the finest Kerrygold of course!. What a gluten I am for fresh bread, butter and cheese on top. I didn't know if I could really fit anymore food in until I was confronted with the sweet slice of home made short bread. With another cup of tea and plenty of time on my hands I dutifully took a slice, fell in love and then ate one more.

This memory came flooding back to me today as I looked out the window and saw nothing but the cold wet clouds of winter roll over Sydney. I told myself I wasn't going to cooking anything today- having a day off from the kitchen.....but what's the point of that when I had time on my hands, a cold miserable day outside and nothing but fond memories filling my head?

This is a very quick and easy recipe that much is true, but I have to tell you it isn't the same without the creamy, salty taste of Kerrygold butter. I might have to plan a holiday to Ireland, loose about 5 kilos before hand and then eat myself into a stupor to kill the craving.
If your interested in this recipe pop on over to the Kerrygold website and whip up your own batch....Oh and while your there you should try my sticky date recipe for utter indulgence.