July 29, 2010

Roast beef with honey and mustard

Nic and I are celebrating 10 years of wedlock this year, and in that time you know I have never made us roast beef. We have had plenty of roast chicken with lemon and herbs, a hand full of roast lamb legs stuffed with feta and olives or cooked in the Weber with garlic, black pepper and rosemary on the bone.....just no roast beef.

I didn't believe Nic when he first told me we had never had roast beef, I mean it is a 'family meal'. People eat roasts all the time! Looking back through my recipe/menu file in my mind he was right, I'd never done it. Is that terrible?

I think not, we do love beef and you all know Max our eldest adores meat, it's just that a few years back we flat out just couldn't afford to buy a rolled roast. A family living on a student stipend in American doesn't exactly conjure up meals of grandeur, in fact we were just happy to be able to afford chicken and turkey once a week on our shoestring budget let alone beef!

OK so after that little trip down memory lane, I am happy to say the student days are gone, as is the desire to eat turkey (unless of course it is Thanksgiving or Christmas).          Our butcher had a beautiful piece of organic beef rump waiting for me to turn into a delicious family favourite and that is exactly what I did.
When I was cooking the roast the smells were fantastic, a wonderful mixture of sweetness from the honey and garlic all combined with mustard and plenty of pepper- it rocked my world, not to mention Max's.
I even managed to introduce the boys to squash (not to sure what you call the yellow squash in the States?). Alex thought it delicious while Max didn't really care what was on his plate as long as it was covered in lashings of pan gravy and eaten with meat, hell, he was even eating his potatoes without complaint and that is one almighty step.
So without further a due I give you our new family favourite- roast beef.
I have a feeling Nic might even hang around for another 10 years to see what else I have kept hidden.

Roast beef

1.5 kg Yearling rump (your butcher should have these ready to go, no work needed)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons seeded mustard (heaped)
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Pre heat your oven to 220 degrees.
Place garlic, mustard, honey, pepper, salt and oil in a small bowl and stir to combine.
Place roast in roasting tray and score the top with a knife (so make about 4-5 1/2 inch cuts in the top of your roast).
Rub all your mixture on top of your roast, pushing it into the slits you have made. When roast is smothered, place in the oven and cook on 220 for 45minutes.
After 45 minutes, remove from the oven wrap in a double layer of foil to retain heat and leave to rest in a warm place for 30-40 minutes ( this is VERY important, so don't skimp here).
Once the veggies and gravy are ready, carve and serve.

NOTE: I cook my beef 10 minutes for every 500g. If you prefer it cooking a little less or more, just adjust your cooking TIME not your temperature.

July 24, 2010

Burramundi with Asian flavours

I've been meaning to blog about this meal I made last week. I can still remember the lovely textures and flavours it produced.  I had recently bought Kylie Kwong's  recipe book Simple Chinese Cooking. I love her food, restaurant and t.v stints so I thought I should also own one of her books.

The pictures are beautiful, enticing and vibrant and I was determined to make one of the dishes. Nic came home from work with fresh barramundi and that's when I started flicking through the pages. I finally settled on a steamed fish dish that sounded perfect for the family, however as I went through my fridge and pantry I discovered...
a) I don't have a steamer at home anymore (took it to work, just like everything else I have in the kitchen!)
b) I only had half the ingredients.

I decided to use the pictures in the book for ideas and then create something with my limited supply. I had decided to pan sear the fish and then spoon over a similar ginger and Chinese sherry sauce that Kwong was talking about in her fish recipe- I was getting excited. I'd chopped up the vegetables, pounded my ginger and coriander root; added the sherry, fish sauce etc... when I suddenly remembered I had a packet of Japanese panko bread crumbs in the cupboard. I could taste the dish before I'd made it. Soft, steamed rice with barramundi coated in a light layer of crisp bread crumbs soaking up a the rich Chinese sauce- yumm!
Our fish supper was a success, a beautiful blend of textures and flavours. It was one of those occasions when the table was quiet and all you could hear were the clicking of chopsticks and forks.
 When I eventually get my steamer back I'm going to following Kwong's recipe and see how far off I really was, however the next recipe I will be following in her book is the crispy-skin runny eggs with sweet and sour sauce......the photo is to die for!

July 21, 2010

Apple and rhubarb crumble

It's cold and rainy this side of the bridge.
 Rhubarb is looking young, tort and vibrant in Harris Farm (grocery store) so what is a girl to do but put two and two together and eat something totally divine and heart warming this winter. I topped our crumbles off with my all time favourite vanilla ice cream and then didn't hold back.

I love this recipe because you can whip it up on the fly. I don't pre cook my apples, I like the firm texture of the apple against the soft, tart/sweet rhubarb not to mention the way the crumble looks when you leave the apple skin on- rustic all the way!
You can make the crumble topping up before hand to cut down on the work load. It stores in the fridge for about 5 days in an air tight plastic bag.

Enjoy...I always do!

Apple and rhubarb crumble
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup wholemeal flour
6 tablespoons room temp. butter cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup almonds

Place the above ingredients into a food processor and blend for 60 seconds. When large chunks of the mix form, stop and remove to a bowl and leave in the fridge until needed.

1 bunch rhubarb- peeled and chopped into 5 cm pieces
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 lemon
50grams butter- cubed
4 green apples- thinly sliced and core removed
knob butter

Preheat oven to 180 degree.
In a medium bowl toss rhubarb, brown sugar and juice of half a lemon until combined.
Place on a baking tray with the cubed butter and pop in the oven for about 15-20 minutes (until rhubarb is soft but still whole).
Remove rhubarb from the oven, place into a large bowl with sliced apples and toss to combine.
Wipe out 6 crumble containers with extra butter before placing in mixture.
Divide mixture between containers, place a good handful of crumble topping on each crumble then place on a tray and place back in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top and bubbling sides.
Serve warm with ice cream, cream or both!

July 18, 2010

Alex turns 5 with a cooking party

Can my little baby really be turning 5?
I know he is because when I asked him that exact same question he looked at me, shook his head and in a 'what the hell' kind of tone answers "I am NOT a baby mum...geeeez!" and he is right, but when you know you are not going back for another I guess the last one will always be your sweet little one.

Alex decided he would like to have a cooking party this year. I'm guessing this is his was of supporting my new business? Anyway I was up for it and so were all his little friends. Alex also took the hard work out of wondering what to demonstrate. Alex being Alex, he knew exactly what he wanted
".....I want to learn how to make sushi mum and then we should decorate cupcakes..."
I couldn't believe he really wanted to make sushi so after asking a few more questions it was the nori rolls he loved and apparently only with carrot!
 On the day the kids did a brilliant job and the smiles on their faces when they finished rolling, decorating and dipping were well worth the work involved. I've put together a little photo collage so you can see for yourself how creative these 3, 4 and almost 5 year old's were.
When you see the sense of achievement on a child's face, you know you really should keep on pushing them to learn and create. As I have found out, they always excel if enjoyment is top of the list.
Happy Birthday my dear little Alex and welcome to the wonderful world of cooking xx

July 11, 2010

Brussel sprouts on the out

Max has been hounding me for the past week for some ribs. I popped into my butcher the other day and tried to pick up a few slabs, however he had them covered in a very dark, thick sauce and lets face it, I can be a bit of a food snob.  I declined and said I'd come back when he had plain ribs. He probably took offence but I just couldn't do it. We all LOVE ribs in our family and I couldn't just serve a 'she'll be right' marinade that I have no idea what is in it....... Max had to wait another week.
 I finally went back the following week and he had the plain variety ready and waiting, so dinner was a no brainer. I did however spot some beautiful little petite brussel sprouts at the veg store and thought they would be delicious smothered in butter and sea salt. It was quickly pointed out to me that I was a mean mummy for destroying the whole evening meal by adding those disgusting things to a perfectly awesome meal.
That's right, my brussel sprouts went down like a lead balloon. I pointed out that they were so small and succulent, they might be surprised to find them very yummy. Of course a heated argument started between me and my very opinionated 8 year old, with it all ending in the line..... "you'll at least try ONE!"
One it was, no more no less. My four year old went the path of lies and deceit. At first he told me he ate it first; to get it out of the way (which I believed), then taunted his brother with jabs of 'ha,ha you still have yours etc..."
It wasn't until after Max popped the singular sprout in his mouth and begun throat acrobatics to swallow the dam thing that Nic noticed the lone brussel sprout under Alex's chair! In true Alex fashion he stated that yes, it was his and there was no way he was ever going to eat it. He jumped down from the table, brushed his teeth and hid in his room!
Max on the other hand finally swallowed the sprout, came out in a hot sweat and vowed NEVER to eat another brussel sprout as long as he shall live. He then continued to gnaw on the rib bones for the next 10 minutes.
After 8 years of trying, I think I shall finally give up on the hope Max (and now Alex) will learn to appreciate brussel sprouts. I wonder if I'll ever see the green sprout pass across their lips again??

July 5, 2010

Lamb shanks with polenta

It has been drizzling rain in Sydney all day today. The house has a chill about it and yet my kids insist on living in shorts and t-shirts all year round. I am wondering if this is usual for kids who are brought up in cold climates in their formative years?
Whatever the case maybe, I know Max will never wear those beautiful jeans I bought him months ago and I can pretty much guarantee Alex won't even try them on when he is big enough to fit into them. The art of shopping is lost on my boys!
Ok so kids clothing and lamb shanks really have no connection, they were just the two thoughts in my head as I listen to the rain outside while I sit and wait for inspiration, trying to block out my husband's rendition of a Bruce Springsteen song......blah,blah, blah, I'm on fire....".
That's right folks, we have just finished gnawing on those lamb bones, we are feeling fat, happy and relaxed; perhaps one shouldn't blog straight after a meal as thought patterns seem to crash into one another and random songs get stuck in between!

You can't really go wrong with lamb shanks, a bottle of red, fresh rosemary and lots of vegetables all cooking together in a moderate oven with a few hours to kill. I managed to potter around in the kitchen yesterday afternoon while Nic took the boys to the park- kind of like releasing the hounds and watching them run wild for an hour or so.
Once the shanks were browned, I then cooked off my onion, carrot, celery, capsicum, garlic and rosemary until the aroma tickled my nose hairs and that was when I added a big dollop of tomato paste, reduced the temperature and slowly cooked it with the vegetables to deepen the flavour. Once the tomato paste was sticking to the bottom of my pot and it had a sweet smell about it, I added the shanks and then proceeded to pour in what was  meant to be half a bottle of red, but instead got a bit carried away and only left enough for a glass and a half for the cook to drink. Never mind. I topped the liquid up with water so it was just covering the shanks and set it to boil. Once the pot was boiling, I skimmed away the foamy impurities that floated to the top, popped the lid on and put the whole lot in the oven on 180 (350) for 2 hours.
The smell was delicious I have to admit and I really didn't want to wait until today to eat them.
Thank god Nic was half way through cooking our dinner when I pulled them from the oven, otherwise it might of been a very different story!
There really is nothing so wonderful as coming home from work on a wet and dreary day, knowing you have a heart warming dinner awaiting you and all you have to prepare is some soft, thick and creamy polenta to help sop up the red wine sauce.
Did we enjoy our shanks? You betcha we did. Alex decided he isn't really a meat eater so ate the polenta with an extra helping of veggies and sauce, while his brother sitting across from him would of swallowed the whole bone if we hadn't removed it from him before he sucked all the marrow out!
Lamb shanks and soft polenta on a wet and dreary day are made for each other......

July 3, 2010

Lamb and haloumi winter salad

I had a few lamb chumps I needed to use up this week and I was trying to figure out the yummiest way I could feed the family. 
I was in the mood for anything really, so when I discovered I had some haloumi left over in the fridge I got really excited. How could the kids not get excited about pan fried cheese drizzled in lemon juice and then tossed through a warm salad of char grilled lamb, beans and peas?
 See, this is what I love about recipe books. If you flick through them long and often enough, you eventually start salivating over the pictures and then wondering why you don't have any duck breasts or truffles just waiting for you to work your magic.
I guess if I was still following a meal planner I would have all the ingredients at hand......but then if I did that I wouldn't be able to put one idea from one magazine together with another I found while flipping through a tatty old mag at the doctor's office the other day. 
I guess what I am trying to say in a long winded fashion is that sometimes you should let the recipe come to you because this was divine. The herb and garlic infused butter I served instead of a dressing was from a Sauveur mag about a year or two ago. It was jam packed with capers, mustard, garlic, and lemon rind so totally fitting for a lamb and haloumi salad.
The only part to this salad I forgot was a starch. Looking back now I should of whipped up a batch of potato rosti or even a side order of couscous, but if I was to be honest with you; by the time I fried off the haloumi, cooked the beans and peas, seared the lamb and made the butter the kids were screaming for dinner......I'm also thinking I should of made this when I had more time up my sleeve, then the rostis would of come out for sure.
Dear reader, I count this meal as a winner and loser. Flavour and appearance it scored 10 points hands down, but if measured in time and fulfilment it only rates a 5. I will have to go back to the drawing board on this one and work out a way to make it so the kids aren't chewing my leg off while waiting for the meat to rest- a work in progress!