November 24, 2010

Early Thanksgiving

Last Friday was the day we celebrated a favourite, adopted holiday of ours- Thanksgiving.
 Our first year back in Australia we didn't do anything. That is not to say we didn't want to, it's just
a) we didn't really know anyone and
b) Our house wasn't exactly the most inviting place. Our dining room was the size of a shoe box and the kitchen wasn't much better.
We decided somethings were better left as memories and toasted all our Thanksgiving memories with a beer and a bag of chips.

This year however was slightly different. Nic and I mentioned to friends (yes, we seemed to have made a few in the past year!) how we loved the American celebration of Thanksgiving and to our surprise we heard echoes of excitement . We compared drools when it came to pecan pies and stuffing so we put it out there to a few people and asked if they would like to join us in the turkey feast? To our excitement we had a few takers so the turkey was booked, brined and slowly cooked last Friday.
The day was set as close to the real Thanksgiving as possible, however, this being November I am booked out at the cooking school with dinners and classes so a week beforehand was as close as I could get!

Sadly we don't know any American folk here, however we have the pleasure of being friends with a wonderful Canadian man who was more than happy to come to dinner. John did educate us in the Thanksgiving celebrations held in Canada- after discussing why they celebrate it in Cananda we decided to forget about it and drink more wine! A great friend of mine, Catherine (a.k.a Schkinny) also jumped at the chance to chow down on turkey, stuffing and pecan pie, after all her twin sister is over in NY waiting her turn to be invited to someones house, living in hope of some turkey. Sadly I didn't give enough notice for other guests, so it was up to the four of us (plus the kids) to get the "meat sweats" and make our American friends proud.

The last time I cooked a whole turkey I brined it, so I followed suit again and wasn't disapointed. The white and dark meat was juicy and succulent while the stuffing was cooked to perfection. I choose to pop the stuffing in my bird and I have to say, it tastes fantastic every time so why have the choice? I say stuff that bird people!!

Perfect roast potatoes were served (soft and fluffy on the inside, while the outside was a golden crunch). Green beans were sauteed in butter with almonds and then finished with a good squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt and pepper just before serving.

Our last vegetable was roasted pumpkin that I lightly drizzled in agave syrup just before removing from the oven to give that a natural sweetness which complimented the Italian sausage, walnut and cranberry stuffing. Seriously, after all that food dessert just seems like a joke.....alas when I popped the pecan pie on the table everyone had their forks at the ready and all said yes to servings of double cream.

I am feeling full again just typing this! As you can see by the photos, we had a wonderful feast with wonderful friends. Nic and I are so happy we finally got to enjoy one of our favourite holidays again with new friends and memories of old, wonderful friends we hope to share another Thanksgiving with one day in the not to distant future.

November 18, 2010

Pork ribs- Family favourite

Do I really have to write anything?
 The kids faces say it all really. I could of put chopped liver and raw onion in the salad and I don't think they would of even noticed, just as long as there were enough ribs to go round!

 I can't say enough about how delicious pork ribs are (American style that is, you have to have American style here in Australia otherwise you automatically get Chinese style ribs and they are soooo different). American style have chunks of meat on the bone, you can pick them up like a lamb chop and gnaw until you have sucked that little beauty dry! Chinese style are more like short ribs, they have a lot more fat, you can't pick them up like a chop and the knuckle bone gets a bit chewy after a while but when cooked right, they are also to die for.

I think the reason I love American ribs so much is the fact they are so easy to prepare as a family meal, not to mention there a kick arse crowd pleaser every single time......With the left over sauce I treated the guys at work to ribs for lunch the following day and they were in heaven. As one of my friends said "these are the best meat sweats I've had in ages"- love it!

Ok, so ribs in the oven, happy days, cooking away while I make a yummy shaved fennel and broad (fava) bean salad with a few chunks of cucumber for crunch. Once you peel the beans, it's pretty much 1,2,3 and into the salad bowl. I gave the salad a light lemon dressing, I thought the tang of lemon would go great with the ribs not to mention the oven roasted chips.
All my dressings are the standard measurement of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts extra virgin olive oil and added to it I always smash a garlic clove to slowly release the oils into my vinagrette, add a pinch of salt and pepper then shake and leave to infuse.

I have never seen Alex eat so may ribs in all my life, I think he must of been on a growth spurt or eating for all the days he missed last week when he was sick.
 I did think on my feet however and only let him eat his second lot of ribs if he ate some salad first...this stratigy worked wonders and I don't think he even knew he was eating fennel, or at least he did make his usual noises of  'what is this stuff you are trying to make me eat?'
As for Max....well he was in a meat heaven, we didn't hear much from him.

November 14, 2010

Blueberry pancakes

It was a beautiful, sunny morning here in Sydney this morning. I awoke to a quiet house. The boys were still sleeping and my tummy was grumbling. When I first wake up and the only thing that pops into my mind is food, there is no way I can lounge around and try to go back to sleep.

Pancakes were calling me. Because I have been working the last 3-4 weekends, we haven't been able to have our regular weekend family breakfast where we knock around in our jarmies until mid morning (Nic doesn't, he thinks we are all quite mad and can't understand why we don't want to jump in the shower, dress and then eat). Sunday for me is all about relaxing and part of my relaxing is having a shower when I feel like's not my fault the boys followed suit.

Anyway, back to pancakes. I have a great recipe for fruit pancakes, the mixture is a lot thicker than my regular pancake recipe and I make it with a mixture of Greek style yogurt and milk. Being almost summer, I have blueberries and mangoes greeting me every time I open the fridge, so this morning was time to devour that sweet, succulent fruit.

As you can see the recipe is pretty easy, you just need to fold the mixture instead of stirring, for a lovely fluffy pancake. I add the blueberries to the mixture and then drop them into a frying pan, they explode into the pancake and you end up with lovely bubbling juice sticking to your doesn't get better than that.
Both Alex and Max adore mangoes, whenever I cut one up I always hear one of them slurping away on the stone, sucking every ounce out of it. Waking up to the smell of blueberry pancakes and then seeing it served with mango, I didn't hear any complaints about 'boring old breakfast' this morning. As you can see by the picture, nothing but sweet, sweet happiness on these faces.

Blueberry pancakes
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup natural Greek yogurt
1 cup milk (you might need to adjust this, add the milk and yogurt together to get no more than 1 1/4 cup of liquid)
11/2 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon bi-carb
pinch salt
1/4 cup melted butter
1 punnet blueberries

In a medium size bowl, combine the liquids and stir to mix.
Add dry ingredients to above, folding to combine.
Once well combined add butter and blueberries, fold to combine and then begin to cook.
On medium heat, add four spoonfuls to the frying pan and spread out a little with your spoon. Place a lid on and cook until they begin to puff slightly.
Turn over and cook until done.

November 11, 2010

Spring lamb for dinner

I was walking through the fruit and veg shop the other day and put a container of marjoram in my trolley instead of oregano. They do look very similar at a glance and I have to confess I never buy marjoram. I have a problem with the after taste and the bitterness that creeps up on you. Anyway, once I was home it was to late to exchange so I decided to give it one last go.
I love fresh oregano with lamb; a little part of me wishes I grew up on a Greek Island helping Nonna in the kitchen.
In my twenties I toured around Turkey and then Island hopped over to Crete with my last 50 pounds in my pocket. My friend Sophie was a dreamer and insisted we would have a fabulous summer in Greece instead of flying back to wet old London. It was kinda hard to argue the point with the sun shining, a cool drink in my hand and over looking the blue stretch of ocean with Greece just over the horizon.

 Once caution was thrown to the wind and we boarded the ferry, it would be 3 glorious months of summer for the two of us. I have to say, that 50 pounds went a long way, however, my days spent walking along the beaches, scooting up to remote bakery's because we were told they make unbelievable spanakopita, and watching old fisherman smash freshly caught octopus on the jetty 100 times to tenderise it, were coming to an end.
 For us to stay and eat our weight in Greek salads, gyros, lamb and anything else we could afford Soph and I needed a job. My first thought was to scout around the kitchens, but I soon got told women don't work in the kitchens (young women that is) and that we should go and see the man up the street. Well the man (and yes his name was George) owned a club and needed English speaking servers so thus began our life as a server/bar attendant in a club called the Cinema club. I can tell you one thing, I would of preferred the kitchens any old day, however, Sophie was made of the job!

Right, bit if a side track but right back to our spring lamb.......My favourite way to eat lamb is as a chop. They are tender, juicy and succulent. I always do a very basic marinade of smashed garlic, lemon rind, black pepper and fresh oregano with a good drizzle of olive oil. Left to infuse, I find these flavours really compliment the lamb and allow me to make a yummy side dish bursting with flavour. If we had managed to buy a grill yet, then I would of been in complete lamb heaven, however that is a Christmas gift Nic and I are giving each other this year so I need to be patient for a few more months...or should I say weeks!

I served our lamb chops with wholemeal couscous flavoured with orange and lemon rind then complimented it with brocollini and asparagus, steamed and lightly tossed in aioli. For us, a perfect way to welcome spring into our home.
You might be wondering about all the garlic? we have been all suffering the dreaded colds and fevers here so I thought we needed a good dose of natural love.

I didn't really set out to write about 90% of what I have down, but that's OK. I will tell you however that the marjoram wasn't so bad after all and that I could very well finish the remaining leaves off in another dish during the week, so here's to revisiting old dislikes and having a pleasant surprise.

November 4, 2010

Thermomix comes home for the night

I am not to sure if I have blogged about Thermomix before? I'd like to call it my new toy, however,  we have had it at work for a few months now so it doesn't really seem all that new.
For those of you who are asking what the hell am I talking about, this little baby does it all and adds a 'fun' element into the kitchen not to mention speed! We have made loads of sorbet at work, blended beetroots in seconds and then heated and pureed them until the beetroot is as smooth as a baby's bottom. It makes perfect icing sugar from raw sugar in a matter of seconds and last but by no means least, it makes the BEST margaritas this side of Mexico!

The reason I brought it home was to see if it really did make good gluten free bread and also to see how it really did help me when it came to family meal I really need one at home as well as work? (At $2000 a pop, this research was necessary!)

Gluten free bread, why am I making it? well I am starting to know quite a few people who need to restrict their diets, plus we are getting more and more people asking about gluten free classes at the cooking school. It was high time I got my head out of the sand and started to find a good GF bread recipe, because if you've ever eaten GF bread you'll know there are a lot of hideous ones out there.
I had heard the gluten free thermomix cookbook makes one of the best breads, so that was my mission. In true Camilla style I was at the supermarket without the recipe, bought all the wrong flours needed and forgot to get powdered milk!
Feeling a little defeated but still wanting to make it, I decided to make up my own, using the method of another bread recipe from the thermomix book and following half of a recipe from the back of the Xan...... gum packet (I can't remember how to spell it??)


I know it all sounds pretty terrible but I have to say the bread turned out really well. I served it with dinner on the night and it was well received, especially by Alex.
My gluten free staff member seemed to like it the next day when I took it to work and gave it to her toasted, so I think for a first time effort and without a recipe I was very impressed with my effort. Especially when it only took about 5 minutes to throw together, kneed and then left to rise in the traditional way.

With the bread rising in my warm oven, I then set out to make some tomato, basil and garlic Italian beans to go with the chicken schnitzels I had in the fridge. I chopped my onion, garlic and fresh tomatoes in the Thermomix for about 20 seconds, turned on the heat, added a little olive oil, salt and pepper and then left it for 10 minutes to make a sauce while I helped Max with his homework while trying desperately to get Alex in the bath. After ten minutes my sauce was smelling fantastic so I then added a dash of red wine vinegar, reversed the blades so when I added the fat Italian beans they wouldn't be chopped into a million pieces, then left it to cook for a further 15 minutes on 100 degrees while I started cooking the schnitzels.
 I have to tell you by this stage I was feeling very confident indeed. Not only had I made a loaf of bread that was baking in the oven while I was kicking on with dinner, I also found a chocolate cake recipe in my Thermomix booklet that insisted it's the quickest and easiest recipe EVER! Well, I just had to try it... My chicken was just about done, Nic was finally home so I popped the beans into a bowl, gave the TM a quick rinse out and began throwing all the chocolate cake ingredients in, as I wanted it to be cooking while we were having dinner (I was going for the 1950's housewife of the year effect).

Ladies and gentlemen it was achieved!!!

I pulled the bread out of the oven, served up dinner and had dessert cooking as we ate....the kids thought me a saint when I pulled the chocolate cake out of the oven and sweetly yelled 'who wants dessert?'

Oh how I love thee thermomix! I do believe I will get one for the home eventually, I just need to be at home more so I get to use it. I am dying to try the yogurt recipes, steaming fish and couscous while cooking soup.....not to mention perfect steamed puddings and risotto's.
Just before I go, I do need to say that the chocolate cake was moist, rich and superb and very quick to make.....nice one Thermomix.