July 26, 2011

Chicken wings

 Another night was going to pass by with me thinking our evening meal was yet again not yummy enough to blog. Maybe that is the wrong thing to say because I knew it was going to be yummy......perhaps I should say, I thought chicken wings weren't glamorous enough to blog?

Glamorous or not, chicken wings would have to be one of my (and my families) favourite bone cracking, skin sucking sweet meats we love to eat. It doesn't matter what you put on them, they always seem to be finger lickin' good. A good grilling is how I prefer my wings. Sure you can pop them in the oven, however, you don't get those cindering looking wing tips that I love to crunch on. Nor do you get the blistering skin when you roast them in the oven.
Nope, the less fuss the better and that is why I quickly marinated our wings while the tile guy was hear finally fixing our bathroom floor and just before racing out to swim lessons.

A good hour marinated is something we should all have in the back or our minds and why should I spoil the simplicity of this meal with extravagant side dishes? Why indeed! this is why I always have a packet of dried udon noodles in the cupboard so I can whip up a quick veggie and noodle stir fry giving the  wings a lovely colourful bed to sit on.

With tile man gone, swimming lesson over and cheering from the boys when they saw the marinating wings, all we needed was Nic to walk through the door for dinner (...almost sounds like a family from the 50's-sadly you'll never catch me in 4 inch heels swanning around the kitchen in an evening dress with full makeup on!)

So dear readers, tonight's meal of marinated chicken wings and noodles took all of twenty minutes to throw together and was an absolute family pleaser...I was happy cracking my bones, Max loves eating the skin while Alex let's us know he would never eat the skin but loves the flesh (his words!). As for Nic, he was just happy to have a yummy dinner waiting for him (this pushes me into that 1950's era again- or maybe I have been watching to much MAD MEN on DVD?)

Point is, do yourself a favour crack open a beer, grill some wings for the family and give yourself a bit of a break, you won't be disappointed....actually Sara if your reading, I'm not sure you are ready for wings yet because they are a bit tricky with a knife and fork x

Super dooper quick wings marinade
2 large garlic cloves, minced on microplane
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
3-4 roots and stems of coriander (cilantro), chopped finely

Mix together, pour over chicken wings and leave for 1 hour to 24 hours before grilling

July 25, 2011

Potato and silverbeet gratin

July has been a bit of a slow blogging month for me. I'm not to sure why I feel I haven't been cooking blog worthy meals? maybe it has something to do with the ups and downs of work, school holidays and the rain. Let me tell all you non Sydney siders, it has rained for pretty much the entire month of July, it is official that last week was the wettest week in 50 years!

Along with the rain is the cold wind which makes me want to eat heart warming foods. My idea of heart warming foods is a little different from the boys as I found out. I have mentioned before that I LOVE silverbeet or any green leafy vegetable really. I'm not sure what it is about the green leafy veggie variety but I could honestly eat it everyday if it wasn't for the boys hacking every time they see a wilted green on their plate.
It is true I have been known to hide silverbeet in soups that the boys gobble down before realising how good it is for them and I have also braised the green leaf with lentils for a very positive reaction. Therefor it was a surprise to me when I combined silverbeet with potatoes and a white sauce for a delicious gratin to hear the groans and cries of despair when I placed this dish on the table.

"Ooh mum, why did you have to put that green stuff in? why can't we have potatoes like everyone else?" was Max's comment

"Disgusting, I'm not eating eat, even if ice cream is for dessert!" was Alex's response.

Hmmmm, fine with me! Not only did I get to gorge myself on creamy sliverbeet and potatoes I also go a bigger helping of ice cream.
For those of you who have a love of the greens, I implore you to throw some in with your next baked potato dish...you won't be able to stop eating, especially if you have some Gruyere cheese melted on top!

July 17, 2011

S'mores by the boys

It was Alex's birthday weekend. I can't believe my little one is turning 6 on Tuesday!
I also can't believe how busy I have been this week with work events. I am only saying this because I feel that I kind of ran out of time to cook up a storm for his birthday.  I felt terrible of course but I have to say the big bowl of lollies, endless array of chips, sushi (bought from my favourite sushi man) and fairy bread seemed to keep them all happy while the mini burgers I did manage to throw together were gobbled down by the parents.

A couple of days before the party I was reading a favourite blog of mine sweetiepetitti and Susie had just posted about s'mores- they looked delicious. When I read further to hear how easy they were to  make I asked for the recipe because I thought I'd whip up a batch for the party. Susie sent me the recipe in record speed- thank you! However, I didn't manage to get to them before the party...bad mummy.

To make myself feel better I bought the ingredients to make them this weekend so Alex could have a little something special on his actual birthday. As I started the process late yesterday afternoon Max decided he would like to help and ended up taking control which I was thoroughly happy about. Of course Alex saw knives being used and decided he MUST help too! I am not quite at the stage of letting Alex loose with a sharp knife so I decided to give him scissors instead and that did the trick.

As you can see by the photos below, the boys had a brilliant time making their treat while all the adults (My sister and The-D man are here for a birthday visit) enjoyed eating them.

Max enjoys seeing the melted chocolate poured all over the scotch finger biscuit base I prepared earlier (we don't have graham crackers in Australia so these were a good substitute).

That's me standing on the side telling him to 'scrape the side and get it all!'

Alex (or is it Harry?) jumps in to help cut the marshmallows, however, I think a few might of gone in his mouth while Max was concentrating on his slicing

Well done boys- a great looking s'mores bar!

July 10, 2011


I was going through my cookbook shelves this morning, looking for a recipe I use to make quite a bit when I was the dessert chef at Campagnola- Tiramisu.

I remember when I first made this recipe for the owner and head chef to try. I'd spent all morning preparing it then brought it down to the main kitchen to watch it disappear within seconds while the kitchen boys were left with moustaches of cream and sticky fingers to lick. I managed to save a couple of slivers for Steve and Vince to try and to get the go-ahead. I think it was a restaurant favourite but not quite as popular as the sticky date....but what is?

I was first shown this tiramisu recipe when working for the restaurant Zartowa, in Melbourne. Anthony was Head chef and always loved teaching new dishes to anyone who showed an interest. From the first time I made this I have never made tiramisu any other way. I know it works beautifully, looks insanely good when plated and tastes fantastic so why change?

OK so I have given you a bit of history with this dessert. I have made it hundreds of times, so when I came to finding my very first book of recipes
 (as you can see from the picture it has had a lot of use- Nic seems to think it rich of me to even call it a book!) and opening up to the page where the recipe was waiting for me I could of kicked myself.

It is pretty typical for a chef to write, scribble or jot down words and numbers and call it a recipe. If it's a recipe used often then nine times out of ten you are just trying to jog your memory looking at the chicken scratch I happened to call a recipe all those years ago!
I have this ridiculous idea that I never need to write recipes in full when they're for my eyes only. I think to myself 'I make this all the time, I'll remember....how could I forget?'

Yeah well, news flash! My memory isn't what it use to be!
What was the temperature? How long do I bake it for? Method......??????
Damn you brain! Anyway I decided to try a bit of memory power and figuring out if it was a 2 or a 5 I wrote down all those years ago.

I am happy to report I think I did OK.

I have always been a hopeless theoretical person. Terrible at any type of exam, hopeless at spelling and couldn't remember a sequence of numbers five minutes after being told. I am however, very good at remembering movements, tactile events, flavours and faces of interest.
Once I weighed out the ingredients and started whisking the egg yolks and sugar over a pot of water, I instinctively started preparing the tray and other ingredients for the next steps. I went with my gut feeling and it paid off! The oven temp was a guess and I didn't set a timer for the sponge and was pretty happy with the outcome

OK so confidence was high but I was a bit annoyed at myself for putting it in a thin tray. After pulling it out of the oven I couldn't remember the sponge being this high before. I soon got over my annoyance when I started soaking it in a couple shots of coffee, thick chocolate sauce and Frangelico for a flavour sensation!

Leaving it to soak, I started to get my marscapone and icing sugar ready. A quick beat with the mixer and I had a perfect consistency for spreading on top of the hazelnut sponge. The thickness of the sponge came in handy when spreading the marscapone because I remember the sponge use to tear when thinner with all the extra flavours being added so all happy there....

Once the marscapone is added I was home and hosed, all I needed to do was roll it up into a log. Because my sponge was thicker than usual it didn't roll as I would of liked but all was not lost. It still looked like a log so I tightened the end of the greaseproof paper and popped it in the fridge for half an hour to let it set and firm up while I finally took a shower (surely I am not the only person to get up early and start baking in my dressing gown?).

Just before I put the final layer on (cream), I took the grease proof paper off and placed it on a platter long enough to hold the tiramisu in one piece. The log feels firm, stable and ready for the whipped cream. I lightly sprinkled on some cocoa powder, cover it with glad wrap and pop it in the fridge until our guest arrive for our lazy Sunday Italian lunch and guess what...dessert is done!

I am now thinking after a successful and very easy Italian family lunch I should start teaching Sunday lunch classes- Italian style so you too can have a plate of tiramisu!