Saturday, September 22, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Steak with Mushroom Sauce

We interrupt the recent cake fest on my blog to bring you something savoury!!

It may be a bit hard to tell from all the cakes I have been posting lately but in theory we are still trying to eat a bit healthier. This is a recipe we have made a couple of times now so I wanted to save it somewhere we can find it!!

This week I am sharing a recipe that is not only delicious but it includes a fair amount of vegetables too. It comes from the last edition of Diabetic Living. I do still buy this magazine, I just haven't quite been cooking out of it constantly as I have been in the past. I possibly am paying the price for that weight wise, but never mind.

Steak with Mushroom Sauce


500g lean rump steak, trimmed of fat, cut into 4 pieces
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tspn olive oil
1 bunch broccolini, trimmed, diagonally halved
290g (2 cups) frozen peas
250g Swiss Brown mushrooms, sliced (or a selection of other mushrooms)
250ml (1 cup) salt-reduced beef stock or gluten-free stock
1 tbspn wholegrain mustard
2 tspn cornflour or gluten free cornflour
1 bunch baby carrots, trimmed, scrubbed, steamed, to serve
500g small potatoes, halved, steamed, to serve

Preheat over to 180C (fan forced). Rub steak with garlic and pepper. Heat oil in a large cast iron or stoveproof frying pan over medium-high heat. Add steak and broccolini. Cook for 2 minutes, turning steak once. Place peas around steak. Add pan to oven and cook for 5 minutes, or until steak is cooked to your liking.

Transfer meat and vegies to a platter. Cover with foil to keep warm. Add mushrooms to pan and cook over medium-high for 3 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft. Whisk stock, mustard and cornflour together. Stir into pan. Cook, stirring, until sauce comes to a simmer. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until sauce thickens.

Slice the steak. Return steak and peas to the pan. Sprinkle with pepper. Serve with the steamed carrots and potatoes

Serves 4

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

RIP XIII

Whilst I am not reading anywhere near as many books as I used to, things are much better than they have been over the last few years when it comes to reading. I think last year I read 12 books in total for the year. 12!! A few years ago, reading 12 books in a month would have been a bad month! At the moment, I am on track to read about 50 books for this year, which I am pretty happy with.

When I was on Instagram the other day I saw about RIPXIII - the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge that is hosted at Readers Imbibing Peril. This is a challenge that I used to look forward to every year, and that I participated in regularly. It is something of a shock to realise that I haven't participated in it for 5 years. When I was thinking about my previous participation in this challenge it has lead me to think about so many people who blogged but have now disappeared, including Carl who originally hosted this challenge. It pleased me to see that the challenge is still recognisable as the RIP reading challenge of old, but still moving forward as well.

When I looked at what I want to read over the next few weeks though, I realised that quite a few of the books I want to read fit the challenge criteria which is to read and enjoy books that are

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural

The books that I have in mind to read before the end of October include The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton and Lethal White by Robert Galbraith.  I am thinking that I am going to try and stretch myself to read one more and therefore meet the Peril the IVth level of participation. I have no idea if I will actually review any other books, but there's still fun to be had on Litsy, Instagram, Twitter etc even if that doesn't actually happen.

I actually finished listening to The Ruin yesterday and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. The audiobook was narrated by Aoife McMahon and she did a great job in telling the story. I wasn't always 100% convinced by her Irish-Australian accent, but I think that every Irish-Australian out there probably have different inflections in their accent anyway. I also swear that at one point the wrong name (Ella) was used for a character  (Emma) but I didn't end up trying to find it again to see if it really happened of it was just my hearing!

The story itself was interesting. It starts with a young police man being sent to a house where there has been a report of domestic violence but when he gets there he finds two kids who have been obviously neglected and abused, and their dead mother who has apparently died of a heroin overdose.

Fast forward 20 years and Cormac Reilly has just returned to Galway having lived in Dublin for many years and worked his way up into specialist units in the Garda. He has returned to Galway for personal reasons and finds himself ostracised from his colleagues, not knowing if he can trust some people he called friends, suspicious of some of the events that are happening within the station and only being allocated cold cases.

One of the cold cases he is allocated to reinvestigate is the death of the mother, and he is taken back in time to the case that he has thought of many times over the years. But when the young boy, now grown, is found dead in a suspected suicide, things get complicated.

I enjoyed the narrative a lot, and I like that this is the first in a series. I particularly like that there are still threads of the story that I suspect will flow into the next book. I think we got to know just enough about Cormac in this book to keep me reading, without having his whole backstory overwhelm the storyline of the book.

Dervla McTiernan is an Irish born author who moved to Australia a few years ago. It's a long standing Aussie tradition to claim anyone with this kind of background as an Aussie, and I am therefore counting this towards the Australian Women Writers Challenge.
I never really wrote a post declaring that I was participating in the challenge this year, but I would say at least half of the books I am reading at the moment are by Australian women writers, so my participation in this challenge over the last five or six years has definitely left a lasting impact on my reading choices.
Rating 4.5/5

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Caramel Banana Upside Down Cake

It seems that baking has become my thing. I think it is partially because it is nice to have an appreciative audience. The SC is always happy to eat what I cook. His theory regarding cooking is that it doesn't really matter if it's not quite perfect because you can eat your mistakes. Previously, if I made something new my son would be unlikely to even try it. Actually, that still hasn't changed.

I have posted before about the Bake it Boxes that I have been doing, but the other thing I have done is joined a Facebook club called Queen Baking Club. Queen is a brand of baking products such as vanilla extract, food colouring etc here. The idea is that every fortnight, the good bakers at Queen set a challenge and then anyone who wants to can attempt to make it. They also have a better baking newsletter as well where they send out some hints on how to bake better. From this I made a raspberry roulade with an amazing cream cheese filling.

Back to the baking club. So far, there have been four challenges. The first one was for Vanilla Slice. I haven't actually done that one yet, but I will eventually. The third was for cupcakes that included unicorn and mermaid flavouring. Whilst I am keen to try the meringue frosting, I am not sure what unicorn and mermaid taste like so I am thinking I am going to give that one a miss. The fourth one was a Chocolate Sour Cream Cake with Ganache. Oh my goodness. So good! I will probably post that recipe soon. Wait, there was Chocolate Coconut Custard Layer cake too that I did make too.

The eagle eyed amongst you may notice that I missed the second one which was a Caramel Banana Upside Down Cake which is the recipe I am posting today. I made this for my son's last family dinner before he went back to America to college a few weeks ago.

I think I had the oven a fraction hot (still getting used to the new oven) so it might be a fraction dark, but everyone enjoyed it, and it was delicious with whipped cream (as whipped by the sous chef who also goes by the moniker of the cream whipperer!)

Caramel Banana Upside Down Cake

Ingredients
  1. 125g butter, at room temperature
  2. ¾ cup, firmly packed (165g) brown sugar
  3. 2 tsp Queen Cinnamon Baking Paste
  4. 1 tsp Queen Natural Organic Vanilla Extract
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 275g (1 cup) mashed very ripe banana
  7. 185g (1 ¼ cups) plain flour
  8. 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  9. ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Topping
  1. 150g (¾ cup, softly packed) brown sugar
  2. 75g butter, diced
  3. 4 medium (about 170g each, with skin) ripe bananas, peeled and cut lengthways

For the Topping

1. Preheat oven to 160°C (fan-forced). Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.

2. Combine sugar and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves and starts to bubble. Simmer for 15 sec without stirring. Pour into prepared tin, spread to cover base then set aside to cool slightly.

3.Arrange  bananas in tin over sugar mixture, cutting to fit when necessary.

For the Cake

1.Beat butter, sugar, Cinnamon Baking Paste, and Vanilla until pale and creamy, scraping down sides when necessary. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until well combined.

2. Use a fork to mash bananas on a plate. Add to butter mixture and beat on low to combine. Sift together flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Add to banana mixture and beat on lowest speed until just combined.

3. Spoon mixture into prepared tin and smooth surface with back of a metal spoon, making a shallow well in centre.

4. Bake for 70 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Stand in tin for at least 10 minutes before turning onto a serving plate or cake stand with a lip.

Tip: Pack the bananas as tightly as possible in the base of the tin for the best visual effect

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Jolly Good Food by Allegra McEvedy

A while ago now I mentioned a Youtube TV series called Word of Mouth which seeks to combine a love of books and a love of food into one delicious package. In the course of one of the episodes one of the guest authors mentioned this book and I just had to go and get it from the library.

I have posted a couple of times over the year about how much I loved the Enid Blyton books, especially the Magic Faraway Tree books and the Wishing Chair books. I wasn't as fond of the Famous Five and never read the Malory Towers books, but those books where the children found adventures in other lands were amazing to me. Such good memories.\

I am not really the target audience for this book. It is really a children's cookbook, and the recipes reflect that, but it has been fun for me to take a look at as an adult.

The book is broken into six parts and each part includes a small snippet from the relevant books. There is Breakfast with the Naughtiest Girl, Elevenses in the Secret Seven's Shed, Picnicking with the Famous Five, Teatime Treats up the Faraway Tree, Suppers on the Secret Island and Midnight Feasts at Mallory Towers.

My favourite chapter was the teatime treats of course. Why wouldn't it be when the treats include Google Buns (back before google was google), Mother's Macaroons, Silky's Pop Tarts, Toffee for Moon Face, Clementine Treacle Tart and Raspberry and Vanilla Water Ice.

Below is a video of the author making Google Buns with her daughter



I thought though that I would share a page which is the recipe for the pop cakes so you can see the style of the book and the sheer fun of the illustrations

Silky was pleased. She sat there brushing her beautiful golden hair and ate sandwiches with them. She brought out a tin of Pop cakes, which were lovely. As soon as you bit into them they went pop! an you suddenly found your mouth filled with new honey from the middle of the little cakes. Frannie took seven, one after another, for she was rather greedy. 

Beth stopped her. "You'll go pop if you eat any more!"



As an aside, do you ever find yourself reading your own old blog posts. I do it with Weekend Cooking posts, but when I do find myself looking back at some of my old content I realise that I wasn't too bad at this book blogging thing back in the day. Not now, but never mind.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Raspberry-flecked Sour Cream Cake

A few weeks ago now I posted a Nigella Lawson recipe that I got from Masterchef Australia of Walnut, Ginger and Carrot Cake. As a result of how delicious that cake was I thought I would take a look at some of her other recipes.

Nigella Lawson must be one of the most famous food names in the world. Whilst I obviously know who she is and have watched the occasional episode of her TV shows I wouldn't really call myself a fan. I certainly can't remember cooking any of her recipes before.

Having borrowed At My Table from the library, I took a leisurely look through all the recipes and found several that I am interested in making. I must say I really enjoyed reading the intros to each of her recipes. There are warnings to not even think of substituting light coconut milk for full cream coconut milk, or my favourite one which is the introduction to a Brussels Sprouts with Preserved Lemons and Pomegranate. The paragraph starts "There is a vociferous anti-sprout brigade, but I have no time for the Brussels bashing bigotry." As an anti-sprouter I laughed!

There's a number of recipes I want to try. Some of the recipes that I want to try are Chicken and Pea Tray Bake, and the Chocolate Olive Oil Mousse. There's also a White Chocolate Cheesecake that I am tempted to try so that I can compare it to the one that I have been making to great acclaim for several years.

My first recipe to try though was this one, mainly because I wanted to try out the freeze dried raspberries but also because it looks really pretty and not too difficult. In the intro to this recipe it advises that you shouldn't substitute fresh raspberries, and that if you don't have a savarin ring, which I don't, then you can make this in a 1lb (450g) loaf tin.

Raspberry-flecked Sour Cream Cake


175g plain flour
1/2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda
175ml sour cream, room temperature
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tspn vanilla extract
125ml vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing the tin
2 x 15ml tbspns freeze-dried raspberries, plus more for sprinkling

Icing

125g icing sugar
1-2 x 15ml tbspns freshly boiled water

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan-forced. Grease your 22cm savarin ring generously with oil using a pastry brush., and leave the tin upside down over a piece of newspaper or baking parchment while you get on with making the cake batter. Or line a loaf tin.

Mix the flour, baking powder and bicarb in a bowl. Put the sour cream into a large measuring jug, add the caster sugar, eggs, vanilla and oil and whisk to mix.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and beat until you've got a smooth batter. Fold in the freeze-dried raspberries, then pour the mixture into the prepared mould (or loaf tin) and bake for 30-35 minutes (or 45-50 minutes if using a loaf tin) until the cake is risen and golden brown and a cake tester pronged into two parts of the cake comes out clean. Sit the cake in its tin on a wire rack until cool before turning out, easing it gently with a small spatula first.

Once the cake's completely cold, transfer to a cake stand or plate. Mix the icing sugar with the freshly boiled water, adding 1 tspn at a time, until you have a thick but still pourable consistency: around 4 teaspoons of water generally does it. Make sure there  are no lumps before you spoon it all over the top of the cake and sprinkle immediately with freeze dried raspberries.


Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.



Saturday, August 25, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Food through history

I find series that look back through time at food history totally fascinating. Over the years I have watched a few of them, including the funny British show Supersizers Go where the hosts go back to a particular time and eat as people would have done, and then look at what the effect on their bodies has been. Another one I enjoyed was a series set in Italy looking at the role of food in Italian history, including where pasta comes from and the humble origins of pizza. So fascinating.

Recently we have been watching an Australian series called Back in Time for Dinner. The premise is that a family has the living areas of their home restyled to show what life was like in each decade starting in the 1950's, moving through to the 2000's and beyond into the future. In each episode the family learned what food was like, what their individual roles would have been in the family structure, with particular emphasis on the slowly changing roles of women across the last 70 or so years, important historical events and the rapidly changing role of technology. The kids were very excited when the 80s came and they got a home computer.

The episodes from the 1980's on were probably the most interesting for us, because that is the era that we grew up in, and there were many times through these episodes where there was something that we remembered or that prompted conversations about how we lived and worked and ate.

There were some truly awful food things presented. The modern kids were not at all impressed with their first meal in the 1950s which was tripe in white sauce, but some of the other lowlights included a liver sausage sculpted into the shape of a pineapple, complete with a yellow coloured mayonnaise to complete the illusion, as well as food from the future which has been transformed into small gummy shapes. It may kind of taste like meat and 3 veg but it just doesn't sound very tasty or appetising.

It was very interesting to look at the way that food has changed over the years. In the 1950's the food was all fresh, but as they progressed through the decades we saw how food changed with the advent of frozen meals and microwave convenience meals but now, it seems as though we are coming full circle with the focus moving back towards fresh, and preferably local, ingredients.

The other thing that was interesting was how waves of immigrants slowly changed the food landscape here, from the first spaghetti bolognaise recipe in the Australian Women's Weekly, to the coming of Chinese food, to Thai and beyond. It was a fun series to watch.

I haven't read as much food history, but when I do I find it just as interesting. Over the last few weeks I have been browsing through A Timeline of Australian Food; From Mutton to Masterchef. It is actually a similar premise to the TV series. Each chapter is a new decade starting from the 1860's through to 2009.

This book doesn't have a narrative as such, but rather has paragraph sized snippets about the food that we were eating, the technology at the time, historical events, the origins of many of the brand names and advertising slogans (like Yoplait is French for Yoghurt) that are Australian icons and so much more.

I found it very interesting because there were plenty of snippets which I could feel a connection with. Having spent a lot of time growing up in Adelaide and in the Salvation Army, I found the fact that the first 'fair trade' tea was sold by the Salvation Army in 1888, the same year that the site the company that became Western Star began producing butter. The Adelaide Central Market opened in 1869, which is a good 9 years before the Queen Victoria Markets opened here in Melbourne.

There were some quintessentially Australian facts. For example,  there is a story about how Queen Victoria's son Prince Albert was visiting the country, so there was a big catered picnic organised, but the Prince was running late and so the crowd became rambunctious and ended up raiding all the catering. There were also strikes to protest against the early closing of pubs or when they tried unsuccessfully to change the name of Vegemite to Parwill. About 10 years ago, the makers of Vegemite tried to change things up a bit and launched a version of Vegemite that was called iSnack 2.0 which unsurprisingly was not particularly successful, but I had no idea that it wasn't the first time that there had been a spectacular marketing disaster involving Vegemite. Doesn't really matter what it is called, I am not going to be eating it! Bleugh!

A couple of other interesting facts...whilst peanut butter originally came from the U.S,  the first commercially produced versions were actually produced here in Australia in 1898. There is a brand of tomato paste here made by a company called Leggos. I would have sworn black and blue that this was a company with Italian origins but it actually was founded by a Welsh man named Leggo. In the 1970s the company even hired Gina Lollobrigida to promote the brand.

One interesting story was about one of the most iconically Australian songs - Waltzing Matilda. I had no idea that the words were changed in 1903 to be used as a theme song for a Tea company, and this is the version that we know now. Apparently the swagman wasn't originally jolly or didn't need to wait until his billy boiled!!

This was the perfect book to browse through at night, a decade at a time, and there were lots of fascinating new to me facts!

I am also linking this review to Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.






Saturday, August 18, 2018

Weekend Cooking:The Great Kitchen Reno of 2018

When I first moved into this house nearly 13 years ago, I knew that at some stage I would have to do some updating because it is a very 1970's house. You can tell this by the mission brown skirting boards and door frames, the green kitchen, the bright green bathroom benchtop. I've even got a chocolate brown toilet in the ensuite.  In fact, the only thing missing from the classic 1970s colour palette was really the bright orange, but luckily I bought that with me in the shape of orange vinyl dining chairs.

When I started seeing the sous chef, we talked a bit about plans, but it was more pipe dream kind of plans. Earlier this year though it became a serious conversation. We had a kitchen planner come in and give us some idea (and then he quoted a fortune to do the installation so we didn't go ahead). Gradually though, we took all of our ideas, SC did some research because he loves that kind of thing and so we arrived at the point where the cupboards, oven, etc had been purchased and it was time to actually get this done.

The SC is actually very handy. He loves any excuse to buy new tools and to use them, to research things, to think about how to fix a problem. He's been very good for me as well as very good for my house. I think in a way this reno process has also been good for my son. He's had to spend some time not locked up in his bedroom playing Xbox and doing some handyman things that he would otherwise not have had exposure to.

It's funny. I never really thought my kitchen bothered me, but the closer we got to getting a new kitchen the more I realised that there were things that were kind of annoying. Lets hope I don't find that gradually with the new kitchen as well.

I did decide to make one last cake on Friday night, but I think the oven must have caught wind of the fact that it's days were numbered as it took me 5 attempts to get it started. But I did get it going in due course, and then 3 hours later it was disconnected and then the next day out on the back lawn!

One of the things that we didn't expect was finding out that we have to get all our gas pipes replaced. It's not really part of the reno but the timing means that it happens to fit nicely in to get the gas plumber in to connect the oven, redo all the pipes to the cooktop, the hot water system and the underfloor heating.

I must say a kitchen reno feels like a very grown up thing to do. I mean, what next? Buying a set of matching glasses instead of just using the old jam jar glasses and freebies from Macdonalds?

We are not quite done yet. After we have recovered from the unexpected expense of replacing the pipes we will put new flooring throughout the house but for now, the kitchen is done and I am super happy with it. There are some cool little things like lighting in the cutlery drawers, and the under cupboard lighting, I love the drawers instead of cupboards, and I LOVE the benchtops. You can't see it in the photos but there are little specks of silver embedded in the stone so that it catches the light as you move around the room. So cool, and I don't think it will ever get old.

One of the interesting things we did was used adhesive peel and stick tiles instead of tiling and grouting. We think they look great, but the test will be in how they stand up to regular kitchen use. They cost a fraction of getting tiling done, so if they last a few years it will be worth it, and then later we can do a glass splashback or proper tiling or whatever we decide.

Here are some before, during and after pictures

















Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

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