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The wonder and the majesty

This Mac N Cheese is a little bit extra, if I do say so myself. It’s not for the calorie counters, or the carb and dairy avoiders. Oh no: not for you. Not for you at all.

Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 cups of elbow macaroni (dried)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1-2 cup milk
  • 1 cup stock made up (I use vegeta vegetable stock)
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1/3 of a half round of Creamy Blue Castello, chopped (if you are wondering what to do with the rest of the round, make this amazing blue cheese dip)
  • 100gms provolone, finely grated (you could substitute a tasty cheddar)
  • 100gms parmesan, finely grated
  • 100gms gruyere, finely grated
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Olive Oil

Cook the curly macaroni in salted water and drain. Oil a large baking dish and pre-heat the oven to 170°C.

In a large saucepan (it needs to be large because you will be adding the macaroni to it), melt the butter and add the spring onions and when you can smell the cooked onions, add the flour (you’re now making a roux), stir while cooking. If it starts to stick add a tiny bit of olive oil (less than 1/2 tbsp) and keep stirring. and the roux is a nice golden colour, add 1/3 of the milk to it, turn the heat down to low-medium and stir until fully combined. Now add the rest of the cup of milk and stir until combined.

Turn the heat up to medium and add the pasta, and stir until covered in sauce (congratulations, you’ve just made pasta with white sauce). The sauce should be starting to thicken at this point, so turn down the heat to low-medium and then add your provolone, parmesan and gruyere cheese one at a time, stirring thoroughly when you do.

Once the cheese has melted into the white sauce, take off the heat. Tip out into your baking dish (you can freeze any surplus and microwave, it’s very nice). Tuck your pieces of Creamy Blue Castello into the pasta in the dish (making sure every part of the dish has a portion of goodness), top with panko breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of parmesan and/or gruyere and a drizzle of olive oil.

Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes (it’s already cooked, you are just heating the top and melting the cheese). Then serve…#yourewelcome

It’s pretty deluxe

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Left: hardcore version. Right: softcore version

I don’t particularly like blue cheese, but this dip has won me over. If you make it just before serving, it will be quite runny and you can use it as a salad dressing (great over cos lettuce halves). If you leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight, it will firm up and become more of a dip consistency.

In whatever form, it is great with hot and spicy chicken winglets, and celery. I cannot get enough of celery sticks dipped into this.

Warning: you will need a food processor (I have a mini stick food processor)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • Blue cheese:
    • Softcore version: use 1/4 to 1/3 of the White Castello soft cheese half round (Creamy White)
    • Hardcore version: use 1/4 to 1/3 of the Blue Castello soft cheese half round (Creamy Blue)
    • Extremely hardcore version: use 1/4 of the Creamy Blue and 1/4 of an actual hardcore blue
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Pop everything into your mini food processor and process until smooth. Pour into a lidded container and then either dress salad with it immediately, or leave in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up.

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Recipe: Garlic Salad Dressing

Dressed cos lettuce halves and radish quarters

You can thank the Countess Von Noodlestein for inspiring this: she drenches tomatoes and separately chopped iceberg lettuce in something similar. And it is divine. It’s also quite simple.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (aka EVOO)
  • 1 clove garlic (fresh garlic, mind)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Crush the fresh garlic into a dressing container, add the salt, mix and leave for about 20 minutes. Then add the EVOO and the pepper and whisk/shake until well combined. If you are serving this over tomatoes, dress the tomatoes in it an hour/so before so they have time to warm up, marinate and infuse (same with the chopped iceberg lettuce), otherwise drizzle over your cos lettuce halves, your radishes or whatever else you want to bath in luxurious, garlicky, olive oil warmness immediately before serving.

Dressed cos lettuce halves (2018 may be all about the cos lettuce halves) and tomato quarters

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Onion pudding with baby carrots and chicken gravy (It’s gravox).

First I need to tell you a little bit about my uncle John, and when I first had this onion pudding. Uncle John has been my Uncle Roger’s partner since the early 80’s (maybe even the late 70’s), and in every way that counts: he’s family (although he doesn’t like to admit it). So he’s my uncle.

So…onion pudding? My sister and I went to the UK for Christmas in 95/96: it was the first time we had seen snow, the first time my sister (14) had traveled outside of Australia, the first time we had ever had a cold Christmas (our norm is 30°+ degrees Celsius, not 0°+ degrees Celsius) and seen how amazing Christmas is in the UK, and the first time we’d seen real holly (it doesn’t just come in plastic, you know.).

One of the enduring memories from that trip was the Christmas Tree and fireplace Mantle that my Uncle Roger decorated. Amazing. Seriously AMAZING. This was pre-smartphone era, so I don’t think I took any photos unfortunately. But I do photograph presents my Uncle sends me, and save the cards he sends me: for.a.reason.

Another enduring memory is the Christmas lunch Uncle Roger and John made, including this Onion Pudding. This Onion Pudding is a family Christmas tradition in Uncle John’s family, and he shared it with us. I had never had savoury pudding before, and IT.WAS.AMAZING.

That was 95/96. I asked him for the recipe when I went to the UK in 2014, and then serendipitously bought a pudding basin and pudding cloth on one of those flash sales sites earlier this year (in Summer, if I recall correctly). So it was fated that this year, in winter, I was going to make Uncle John’s Onion Pudding. 22 years after I ate it for the first and only time, I WAS going to make it. Or else.

Retro dinner party, with Uncle John’s Onion Pudding. And yes I am in Australia, and that is Union Jack bunting in the very background…what of it?

[For the record: you don’t need a pudding basin to make this pudding, and I knew that. But what can I say? It was a kitchenware sale, and I was on a roll. In other news: I’m now researching steamed pudding recipes.]

Ingredients

  • 250gm butter
  • 1.5 cups plain flour
  • 1 onion, diced (*if you have a food processor, I have a nifty additional tip I will share in the method)
  • Pudding cloth

Optional

  • 2 tsp dried/fresh herbs of your choice ( I went without, it’s nice as is)

Mix the flour and the butter until it’s at breadcrumb stage (I did this in the food processor, so quick, so amazing. Food processors may actually be a revelation). Add the onion (HOT TIP: I added my lazily diced onion while the flour/butter breadcrumb mix was still in the food processor and then pulsed it a couple of times to cut up the onion even more. AMAZING).

If you have a food processor, now you will need to tip everything into a large bowl. If you don’t have a food processor (and I was once like you before I found the light), then you’re probably already making this in a bowl bless your gorgeous heart 😉

Now: you need to stir in some water, but don’t go crazy. Stir in water one tablespoon at a time AND stir the batter with a knife (not a fork, not a spoon: a knife), I used a butter knife, if it helps. You’re aiming for a consistency that just binds together: the dough/batter should be firm but not wet.

Get your pudding cloth, dust it with flour, then shape your pudding into either a ball or a log shape (swiss roll was how it was described by Uncle John) on the pudding cloth . You can see from the pics I was aiming for a ball but did not tie my pudding cloth tight enough, so I ended up with a disc shaped pudding. Uncle John’s pudding was a round ball, FYI. I bow to his onion pudding making skillz.

Pop it in a saucepan with high sides, cover with water, bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer for an hour.

Serve your Onion Pudding with Chicken Gravy or Turkey Gravy (Poultry Gravy). Onion Pudding is a great accompaniment to a traditional Christmas dinner: turkey, peas, baby carrots, gravy, other amazing winter food stuff. And it is tradition in Uncle John’s family.

But this pudding could be eaten as the main focus: it’s that nice. Just remember the gravy and ENJOY!

Retro Dinner Party with onion pudding in the background

 

It’s also a great accompaniment to a Crown Roast (a la Robert Carrier), fish pie, tuna potato pie (long story) when you hold a Retro Dinner Party #justsaying

 

 

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Recipe: Zucchini Soup

Zucchini Soup Ready To Be Eaten

 

I’ve been trying out the 5:2 diet since May last year. It’s pretty cool: I’ve lost ~9 kilos so far, slow and steady. I am enjoying fitting back into some of my clothes again, and look forward to more fitting in the near future 🙂 That’s one reason I went on my Great Pot Noodle Experiment of 2016.

So I am on the lookout for low calorie (VERY low calorie) recipes I can meal-prep and eat on the fast days. This Zucchini Soup is a bit of a winner: when you blend the zucchinis, the soup becomes thicker and creamy looking so you could be fooled into thinking it’s richer and higher calorie than it is. I’ve worked it out as about 66-86 calories per serve (but I am not a qualified nutritionist, and am relying on online calorie calculators for quantities), and I get about 6 serves out of this.

You will need a blender or stick mixer to blend at the end.

Ingredients

  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 1 tsp diced garlic (I used diced garlic in a jar for convenience)
  • 1-2 Zucchini, diced
  • 4 sticks of celery, diced
  • 1-2 tsp Vegeta Stock Powder
  • 1-2 tsp Olive Oil for frying
  • 6-8 cups of boiling water (put your kettle on when you start this recipe)

Pop the olive oil in your soup pan, and heat. Add the onions and start cooking until they are translucent. Add the garlic and fry, then add your celery and fry for a while. The onions should never turn brown at any point, we’re aiming for softened, translucent vegetables so you will need to keep an eye on your pan, and keep stirring. Add the zucchini and fry for a while, still making sure veggies are being stirred regularly and nothing is sticking to the pan.

When the Zucchini has softened, add your boiling water and stock powder. Stir to combine and then simmer for 20-30 minutes on the stove until the vegetables are completely soft.

Take off the heat, and leave to cool. Then blend and portion out into your storage containers.

When I take this to work for lunch, I will pour the soup into a bowl and add a little bit of water (1tbsp) to the jar, shake and pour into the soup bowl to get the very last dregs.

It’s pretty delicious, and I am not sick of eating this yet (although I do have something different for dinner to ensure it doesn’t wear out its welcome).

66 Calories of Lunch 🙂

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Behold the deliciousness

I got a little inspired when I found a Yumsugar article on How to Make Chocolate Salami, and went down a google-hole to discover a recipe for Chocolate Salame by my good friend who I have never met (GFWIHNM) Nigella. The Yumsugar article mentioned a recipe that used raisins for chewiness, while my GFWIHNM’s recipe revolved around different nuts and amaretti biscuits, but had nothing for fruity “chewiness”.

I idly considered what I could add to my GFWIHNM’s recipe that would give me “chewiness” but which didn’t involve raisins or sultanas. A recipe that maybe had slightly less varieties of nuts too. And what goes better with dark chocolate, hazelnuts, and natural almonds than…glacé cherries!!!!??!!!!

I love, love, love glacé cherries. I can’t keep them in my house because I will eat them from the packet, with a spoon. So any excuse to legitimately purchase a packet of glacé cherries, where there is the possibility of leftovers to be eaten with a spoon is…appealing, to say the least.

Now before I get onto my recipe, there are a couple of stipulations about glacé cherries: they have to be the luminescent red glacé cherries in syrup. There can be no green glacé cherries in syrup. Not in MY house, not in THIS recipe. I don’t care if they taste the same. They are not.

And they most definitely can’t be those sad little lumps of dried, candied cherries available in irridescent crimson or emerald green – that are often also called glacé cherries and are mostly found in fruit cakes, or crying to themselves next to the currants and the dried peel in the baking aisle. Leave them on the shelf. THOSE cherries are an abomination, so don’t even…

I cannot emphasise this enough: you must, must, must use the luminescent red glacé cherries in syrup. They provide the perfect balance of flavour, chewiness and moistness for this chocolate salami. Plus they really are the “only” glacé cherries.

See the glorious luminescent red glacé cherries in syrup?

Ingredients

Makes a shedload. Or about 2 x 30cm logs of chocolate salami.

  • 250gm of dark cooking chocolate
  • 250gm amaretti biscuits (the chewy ones) (crushed: I used my mortar and pestle)
  • 100gm soft butter
  • 150gm caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100gm raw almond flakes (crushed roughly in mortar and pestle)
  • 100gm hazelnuts (roughly chopped)
  • 150gm luminescent red glacé cherries in syrup (roughly chopped)
  • Icing sugar (to serve)
  • You will need clingwrap and alfoil to wrap in.

Melt the chocolate  and 50gm of the butter (in the microwave, or on a double boiler) until smooth, then set aside to cool.

Cream the rest of the butter and sugar in large bowl, beat in the eggs one by one (can look a little curdled at this point, don’t worry).

Sieve the cocoa powder into the chocolate (I guess cocoa and chocolate makes it a double chocolate salami, really), then stir until combined.

Beat the chocolate-cocoa mix into the butter-sugar-eggs mix, and ensure they are combined. Once smooth, switch to a large spoon and incorporate in the amaretti biscuits, hazelnuts, almond flakes and glacé cherries. Stir until combined, taste a spoonful and raise your eyes to the skies because it is g.l.o.r.i.o.u.s. (if you can’t see the skies, raising your eyes to the kitchen ceiling is also perfectly acceptable).

Pop your bowl into the fridge for about 20 minutes, NO LONGER. It needs to be malleable enough for you to form it into a roll.

While you are waiting, lay out about 45-50cm of clingwrap flat on your counter.

Once your mix is chilled, spoon a generous line of the mix onto one lengthwise edge of the clingwrap (start about 7cm from each short end), then roll the whole thing until it’s wrapped up in that first layer of clingwrap. Twist the ends of the clingwrap like a lolly until you have a vague log shape (each log will be about 4-5cm in diameter). Do the same with a second layer of clingwrap, then follow with a layer of alfoil. The alfoil will give your salami structure. Do the same for the second roll. Then pop them both on a flat space in your freezer. They will keep up to a month in the freezer like this, if you can leave them alone long enough.

When you want to serve, unwrap and slice in 1cm segments and serve with the rounds dusted with icing sugar.

Still life in danger of being eaten

 

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The horror and the glory

You may, or may not, know that I do like a retro cookbook. I have a vast and fantastic collection thanks to my mum’s collection, which I have posted about previously:

Marvel at the wonder, the glory…and the interesting food photos, people.

There are a couple of twitter accounts which celebrate the wonder and the horror that was the retro cookbook, and regular stories about them (when my friends find these stories, they often tag me in them so I can add to my collection):

Again: marvel at the wonder and the horror. I love it AAAAAALLLLLLLL.

My aunt also has (or shall I say “had”) a glorious cookbook collection, one that I explored when I lived at her house for a while. I have dropped hints over the year that they would find a good home in my collection…

…years passed, and the time came for her to rationalise her house in preparation for a new house. Yes, dear reader, she handed her amazing glorious cook book collection onto me. All of the wonder, all of the horror, all mine. My precious.

It’s a wide ranging collection, from classic Australian cookbooks, to celebrity chefs of the time, to curated cordon bleu cookbooks and more. I’ve taken photos of some of the more amazing recipes and books in the collection.

And I do plan to make recipes from this collection, even if they won’t visually be presented in the same way…or will they? Would you mess with the presentation of the Black Forest Bavarois?

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The 80s called, it says there’s not enough piped cream on this.

On the other hand, not so sure I will make a stuffed cabbage:

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Cabbage leaf rolls fine, stuff cabbage…not so fine?

The books are a fantastic document of food presentation and techniques of the time, including artful platters of fish with grapes on top (Sole Veronique) or piping (Fish in Spinach Sauce):

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Savoury piping is a lost art.

Delia does Sole Veronique differently now. And these days Fish in Spinach sauce comes without the fancy piping and artfully placed toppings.

How could you not marvel at the glory of endives, radishes, and a starburst of white asparagus (probably canned white asparagus)? It is majestic:

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Majestic or Bombastic, To-MAH-To To-May-To.

And then there’s the wonder of some sort of spinach mould, filled with baby potatoes:

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If that was a chocolate cake, and those were chocolate easter eggs I would be like HELLS YEAH HAPPY EASTER. When it’s spinach mould and baby potatoes, my enthusiams are more moderated.

While we are still on the savouries, can I get a holler for the chicken and peanut butter stew…ye satay chicken from ye olden days:

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I plan to make this. You’ve been warned.

And then there’s the variant on beef wellington, which involves stuffing a loin of lamb into a home-made loaf of brioche:

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Note the cold veal pie to the right with the immaculate hard boiled egg in the middle of it. This cookbook is about stuffing foods, into other foods. And I applaud it.

If we leave aside the savouries, there’s always the desserts. Like the Nectarine Cream Mousse, which is now a life goal:

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Who wouldn’t want a jelly mould that’s this fantastical? I ask you!

Then a confection of evaporated milk, lemon jelly and glace cherries, served on a bed of EVEN MORE glace cherries:

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I do like a glace cherry.

While we’re on the subject of mousse, gin and lime mousse anyone?

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An epic of piping.

Then from the Australian Women’s Weekly classics, there’s the children’s cake book. Featuring cakes in shapes and sizes to suit every child…as long as they still make the lollies and chocolates used for decoration. If not, find a suitable alternative or risk making a child cry on their birthday, and no one wants to do that, do they?

Cricket pitch (it’s summer in Australia after all):

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The most boring game on earth, slightly more interesting in cake form. Sorry cricket lovers, I am at best a disinterested party, at worst (when it’s put on the tv in my workplace): a hater.

Soccer pitch (also called football, if you’re not Australian):

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I particularly like the recycled netting used for the goals. Find that in your fruit & veggie compartment if you’re old skool.

Lest we forget, the covers and graphic design of these glorious tomes:

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If the bubble print gets larger on each line, people will know this book is about PARTIES.

Another Australian Women’s Weekly classic, The Big Book Of Beautiful Biscuits:

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Apparently Beauty is in the eye of AWW, and NOT the beholder. Someone tell Margaret Wolfe Hungerford.

I’ve now got two versions of this glorious Cordon Bleu cooking series, one from my mother and one from my aunt (one appears to be the abridged version):

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They’re slightly different. So I can’t part with either.

And then lastly, the glorious recipe that started it all. Frosted Green Cheese Mould. This is the photo that was my epiphany about retro cookbooks and recipe. If you want to blame anything or anyone, blame Hudson and Halls and THIS:

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Check out the milk glass goblets, the painting and the turquoise stoppered bottle. I have home decor envy.

If you’re getting a sense of deja vu, you’ve seen this shape earlier in this post: the spinach mould with baby potatoes. Apparently in the 80s everyone was big on the ring shape, with various fillings piled in artfully. And if that’s kale on the right, Hudson and Halls were well ahead of the kale trend of the 2010s. If it’s curly parsley…it’s bang on their era. Perhaps we could update the recipe with kale?

Let me introduce you to Hudson and Halls, TV chefs from New Zealand who made it big in the UK. FYI: They were actually a couple, and were known for the quote “are we gay – well we’re certainly merry”. Love ’em:

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When I grow up, I want to have a trifle bowl that I fill with Iceberg Lettuce, just like Hudson and Halls.

There’s a documentary about them: Hudson and Halls: A Love Story.

 

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