September 29, 2010

Beef Stroganoff

This was one of my all time favourite meals as a kid. I could smell it cooking from the local park and remember rubbing my fingers around the pan to get all the crusty bits off when dinner was all finished (I was one of those kids who ate and ate yet looked like a bean pole....until I hit my teens that is!).
I haven't made beef stroganoff in years, weird really, since I use to love it so much?

I'd been thinking of it this past week and decided to make some soon. As it happens, soon was tonight and surprise, surprise I was short of the most important ingredients- mushrooms and sour cream.
 I often wonder what goes through my head when I go shopping, I mean how can I forget the two main ingredients???......then I remembered, I didn't actually do the shopping this week. Nic and I swapped household duties; he shopped while I cleaned the house, so it all made sense why we didn't have the ingredients- I didn't actually tell him ( I does he live with me, right?).

While I popped on the rice, Nic kindly left for the shops.
 I was telling the boys how I loved this dish when I was a kid and they just looked at me blankly and nodded. Alex couldn't quite believe how anyone could love a dish with mushrooms in it and then declared he couldn't possibly eat them and to please leave it out of his dinner. Like that was going to happen, I continued on and thought I'd hedge my bets that he would love it.

Before I started making dinner I hopped onto the Internet to double check my memory for beef stroganoff. The first recipe I came across sounded more foreign to me than a mushroom passing Alex's lips on purpose!

I don't know about you, but when I have a flavour in mind I HATE getting it wrong. I wasn't going to take any chances and did the next best thing, I called my sister. She was still at work and was quite surprised when I rang asking her for a recipe.
Tarsh was the best person to call because she is so diligent and remembers everything! I knew she had made beef stroganoff recently and I also knew she would only make it the way we use to eat it as kids. She probably wrote down the recipe when she was ten and still uses the original today....I'm talking about a girl who once contacted mintie wrappers (lollie wrappers) because she just couldn't throw them away for god sake!

 I was right, Tarsh rattled off the ingredients to which I was short beef stock. No worries, I am sure mum use to make it with water some days?

My end result was pretty yummy. It still had the richness I remembered when mum made it; the creamy sour cream teamed with fresh parsley finished it off perfectly and I was pretty darn happy.
Alex told me he thought the sauce was very yummy but why did I have to ruin it with all the mushrooms?  Max managed to polish it all off and declared it would be fine if I made it again (thank the stars I got approval!).

 Beef Stroganoff
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
500grams beef strips , like sirloin
1 brown onion, diced (original recipe used green onions)
500grams mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper to  taste
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tin whole tomatoes (drained and diced)
1 tin water (or original recipe beef stock)
approx 1/3 cup sour cream
chopped parsley to serve

I used an electric frying pan just to make it all the more like my child hood but a large frying pan is fine.
Heat pan until very hot.
Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper then add oil and beef to pan and sear on both sides until browned.
Remove meat from frying pan and leave to rest.
Add mushrooms and onions to frying pan, then saute for 3-4 minutes.
Add tomato paste and garlic, stirring to combine and cook for 4 minutes.
Add water or stock, bring to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes with a lid on.
Add meat, simmer for another 5 minutes then turn off heat and add sour cream.
Serve on rice with a handful of fresh parsley

September 27, 2010

Super quick green salad

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best and this is why I share one of my favourite salads with you today. I don't know if you can really call it a recipe?

I make this when I need a heat fix, it's summertime, dinner on the fly, feeling like some veggies, something to go with a curry, peckish yet thinking of my figure........ are you getting my drift?

Sometimes you can over think food. You want to impress and try to find a 'new' dish so you keep plugging away at ideas until you think your on a winner (or is that just super competitive me?). Sometimes it works and other times you just go too far...... this is when I go back to basics and then wonder why I didn't just make this in the first place!

 I am ranting I know, but I thought I needed to share one of my favourites with you. When you next grill on the b.b.q or have a delicious chicken curry that needs an accompaniment I urge you to chop up a cucumber, peel and dice an avocado, slice a fresh jalapeno then throw it all into a bowl and douse with fresh lime juice, extra virgin olive oil and generous pinches of salt and pepper.

Simple, refreshing and very morish.

September 21, 2010

Baked apples with Agave and fennel

My kids love green apples, they'll choose them over golden delicious, pink lady's, galas etc....any day. I think it is the sweet/sour flavour that draws them in. I however am not that much of a fan. For me the pure sweetness of a pink lady is delicious, no to mention the sweet juices of a hand picked gala apple dripping down your face. I tend to reserve the greens for cooking (if the boys haven't eaten them all!).

Last night I pulled some pork chops out for dinner and was trying to think outside the box to make dinner a little more exciting yet healthy. Nic loves fruit with pork, so I started poking through the kitchen to see what I had. Prunes were first to show themselves, I thought about it but then decided against them. Alex and I love prunes and tend to eat most of the packet before they can get into a sauce.

I bought a big bag of Granny Smith apples and thought I'd introduce the boys to baked apples.
When they saw me grilling them in the beginning, they didn't seem to impressed so I decided to sweeten them up a little with agave nectar. I love this stuff, it is totally natural; produced from the blue agave plant. If you have never heard of it before, it is crossed between maple syrup and caramel. It is cheaper than pure maple in Australia and is seriously good.....even better it has fewer calories than sugar. It is really low in G.I. but high in fructose, so I think that means guilt free??

Anyway, once I cut the apples in half, took out the core (but left the bottoms in tact) and lightly grilled them; I then smashed some fennel seeds, sprinkled them on top of the apples along with some salt, then drizzled on some agave and popped them in the oven (temp 180) for about 25 minutes to soften.

I wasn't sure how they were going to work out, but that is half the fun. When I served them with a juicy pork chops smothered in seeded mustard and some greens, I was looking forward to our feast....the boys however were a big dubious!
'What is that?' was their first question, and the look on Max's face was pure disdain.

When I explained it was apple- green none the less, they didn't quite believe me so I had to put on my annoyed and irritated voice and say something like...
'Oh just try it, it is apple for goodness sake! and I baked it with syrup, what is there not to like?'

That seemed to do the trick, Max took the first bite and announced to the table that, actually it was pretty good (however you'd never know from the face he was pulling while swallowing his mouthful, I had to think of bad thoughts to stop myself from laughing!).

 I'm not so sure Max was sold on the baked apple part of his meal but he sure gnawed that pork bone down to splinters!

September 19, 2010

Berry and lemon pound cake

I know it has been an age since I last blogged but to tell you the truth, I haven't really felt like the last dozen meals we've eaten to be blog worthy. I'm in a rut you see. I seem to be on auto pilot making the 'no brainer' family meals and not being to impressed with the out come.

I mean they taste fine, it's just that I think I can do better, what I really need to do is get over this hump and start making interesting and delicious family meals again!

What better way to start my new food week with a delicious family favourite- the pound cake. 
It has been the first Sunday in a very long time that all four of us have been at home together.....for the whole day none the less. A game of Monopoly was on the cards. But before we started playing I decided to bake a cake so there was something to look forward to when the stakes were high and we started bulldozing one another. On this occasion we were all crushed by Nic. Max was the first to bail out while Alex kept on making money hand over fist while running around the lounge room pretending to be  Han Solo in his spare time and screaming at us to 'pay up' when we landed on his property (if he can only keep this skill when he is out in the real world!). 
I managed to hold on for a few more rounds until hotels went up on every corner......he got me bad. We only play Monopoly once in a blue moon and it always ends with one of us destroying the other three, to say we are a little competitive would be putting it mildly! The cake went down a treat and prevented tears of displeasure when knocked off the board.

Anyway here is to a new week with yummy meals and the Monopoly board packed away for another day.

Berry and lemon pound cake
175 grams (6oz) unsalted butter
1 cup castor sugar
3 eggs
1teaspoon vanilla essence
zest of one lemon
2 cups plain flour (all purpose) 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
2 tablespoon milk
1 cup mixed berries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 180 degree (350)
Cream butter and sugar then add eggs one at a time, beating well between each egg.
Add vanilla essence and lemon zest.
Fold through sifted flour and baking powder, followed by the milk.
Once just combined, place into a cake tin (approx 6 inch tin) and pour on mixed berries, slightly pushing into batter.
Pop in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
Cool and serve.

September 8, 2010

Dinner via the blogophere

I wasn't quite sure what we were having for dinner tonight. The boys had swimming which means we are always home later than usual. I started dinner hoping the rest would follow.
 Putting on a saucepan and adding olive oil, onion and garlic usually gets my senses going, then nine times out of ten the rest seems to come. By the time the onions were ready I had decided to make a quick black bean and corn saute, then serve it with the beef flank I saw in the fridge.
With my beans, tomato, corn, coriander and vinegar slowly melding together in the pot I thought I'd hop on line and see what my other fave bloggers have been up to seeing as I hadn't been on for a few days (due to a fabulous weekend away in Melbourne with my hubby to celebrate 10 years of wedded life- which meant loads of napping, movie watching and cocktail hour beginning right after lunch and wearing 'good' clothes during the day light hours).
Nic came home in the middle of me drooling over TKW's shrimp and sesame post and also to let me know that whatever was on the stove, it was sticking and what would I like him to do with it?
Thank god for water is all I can say. With the beans saved I went to get the flank out of the fridge only to find it was still frozen...bugger! I some how made my way over to the computer again only to pray for summer so I could make my own frozen tomato bowls and preserved lemons.
What's this I see on Bryan's blog, breakfast Chilaquiles, ooh they look good. Nic saw the picture too and agreed they looked yummy. This is where my quandary over dinner ended. With my beans already simmering and smelling fabulous I thought I could only do the next best thing and steal Bryan's idea (does that make me a bad blogger?)

Anyway super quick dinner, I poured my bean mix into an oven safe dish, cracked a few eggs in without cracking them (thanks for that tip Bryan), then covered it all with shredded cheddar and popped it in the oven while I steamed up some broccoli.

Dinner was ready in 10 minutes and it looked fabulous. I successfully made another vegetarian meal Max hoovered down before I finished piling pickled jalapenos on my plate!
Thank the heavens I live in the blogging world, otherwise it might of been a very different dinner and with loads more drama.

September 6, 2010

Rick Stein's coconut chicken.....the family friendly version

I'm sure you have all heard of Rick Stein. If not, he is a fantastic chef who is well renowned for his seafood cooking. Anyway, Rick had a documentary on telly a month or two ago about his trip around Asia. I was checking out one of my favourite kitchen shops the other week when I came across his book Rick Stein's far eastern odyssey. After flipping through it I just had to own it. The book is full of wonderful recipes that were on his show and a few extras for people like me who just want more!

After bringing the book home and drooling over the pages I came across a dish I thought I'd make for dinner. I had a whole chicken in the fridge, most of the ingredients needed and a lot of enthusiasm for anything delicious.

When I tell you I have most of the ingredients, what I should really say is I have a few of the ingredients that are similar to the ones asked for, and then a few I know I need but also know I can't use due to Alex and Max sharing the meal....that's right, the 2-3 tablespoons of three different chillies required were never going into this dish, so I figured I'd follow the recipe with what I had.
Another reason why I love buying and reading books from great chefs who really just care about flavour and happiness. Stein gives you two to three examples of other household ingredients you can substitute to get a great flavour instead of insisting you go and buy everything from a specialist shop. As a parent and working person, this is something I really appreciate!

So here is my interpretation of Rick Steins coconut chicken that is suitable for toddlers as well as grown ups and I have to say I didn't even reach for the chilli jar. I just loved the flavour this dish produced all on it's own. I defiantly recommend this dish to anyone who LOVES a flavour packed family meal.....

Balinese spice paste (mild version)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 heaped tablespoon salted peanuts
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
3 spring onions, sliced
4cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
bottom 2 inches of  lemongrass, roughly sliced
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
juice of half lime
Put peppercorns, nuts and sesame seeds into a spice grinder or mortor and pestel and grind to a fine powder.
Place into a large jug with remaining ingredients and blend with a stick blender until it turns into a very smooth paste.
Reserve until needed.

For the chicken
4 chicken thigh with bone in
2 drumstick and 1 breast cut into 3 pieces
1 quantity above spice paste
400ml coconut milk
1 lemon grass stalk, lightly bruised and knotted ( I used the remaining top piece of my lemongrass as I only had one)

Sprinkle the pieces of chicken with salt on both sides and let rest for 20 minutes
Put the spice mixture into a medium sized saucepan and add coconut milk, lemongrass stalk and 1 teaspoon salt.

Bring to the boil slowly, then add chicken pieces and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for one hour or until the chicken is cooked and tender and sauce has thickened.

Serve with steamed rice, fresh bean shoots and slices of cucumber drizzled in salt, lime juice and a splash of fish sauce.

I tell not a lie, my kids asked for seconds after they tasted it....when they first saw it, there were the usual noises of "dear god what is this green stuff mum?" but I told them it was this or bed...I think they would agree with me that they chose well and even got dessert!

September 1, 2010

Lemon slice....the best you've ever tasted

OK people, I have 25 minutes before my pilates class begins, so I'll be quick.
My mother-in-law gave me this recipe months ago, could even be a year by now, anyway. I know I asked for it, so I obviously tasted it, loved it and wanted to make it at home......this was before I decided to own two businesses and keep myself extremely busy!

It has been way to long since I baked anything for my family, so I thought I'd whip it up and see if I enjoyed it as much as I thought I did.

I was NOT disappointed!!

Firstly the preparation for this dish is very quick and easy, secondly it smells fantabulous when baking and thirdly- tastes like a bit of lemon heaven! I love lemon, the kids love lemon and Nic is also crazy about the stuff so when I pulled this little number off on Sunday I knew it wouldn't see us through the week.
I'll stop raving, load up some pics, write out the recipe and let you see for yourself. If there is one sweet treat you want to try....let it be this one, the lemon lover in you will not be disappointed, nor will your friends and/or family.

 Grammie Pam's Lemon Slice

180g butter
1 1/2 cups plain flour (all purpose)
3/4 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar)

Lemon curd:
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups caster sugar (super fine)
1 tablespoon plain flour
Juice of three lemons
grated zest of one lemon

1/4 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar)

Mix the pastry ingredients together with your fingers to get a smooth dough.
Press into rectangular baking pan (approx 23 x 28 cm) and bake in 190 oven for 20 min, or very lightly brown.

Meanwhile, beat together the eggs, caster sugar, flour, juice and zest (I put in the blender).
Pour over the hot pastry and return to the oven for 30 minutes more.
Remove from the oven, lightly sprinkle with half the icing sugar then cool thoroughly.
Cut into slices.