Saturday, July 14, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Dinner with Friends

One of the things that I am gradually learning with the sous chef* is that cooking for others need not be too stressful now that there are two of us to take care of things. Previously if I knew that others were coming for a meal I would get stressed about what to cook, about what time to start, about what would happen if they didn't like it, if the food was going to be at an acceptable standard and so much more. I don't think I have too many disasters so I am not sure why I think like that, but I always have done.

Last week we invited some of our friends around to have dinner with us. Maybe part of the reason for not feeling too stressed about it was that I knew weeks ago what I was going to cook for dessert so it was really only what we would have for mains that was undecided. In fact, what we were having for dessert came even before I knew they were coming. It was probably more that I knew I wanted to cook the next Bake It Box and therefore I invited people around!!

We were a bit undecided about what to cook during the week leading up to the meal. We debated about beef ribs, or some version of American barbecue but in the end we decided to go with pork belly. Now this meant there were some firsts for me. I've never actually cooked with pork belly before, let alone with kalettes or fennel which form part of the cooked vegetables in this dish. In fact, I'd never heard of kalettes until we watched Masterchef recently and they were included in a recipe. Part of the reason for choosing this recipe was because I had picked up the supermarket magazine for July and this was the cover recipe. It seemed like as good a recipe to try as any.

I will say that we do look forward to picking up the Coles magazine every month. There are always lots of recipes that we think we might try. Not bad for a free supermarket magazine. You can also find some of the recipes on Taste.

We did change the vegies from brussel sprouts (bleugh) to broccoli but other than that we kept pretty much to the recipe. In addition, we made some brioche buns to have with dinner (recipe coming soon). This dish was very, very tasty, although I'm not really sure about pork belly because there just isn't that much meat. I think if we were going to do this recipe again, we would use a normal pork roast but use the herb rub which was absolutely delicious.

Crispy Skin Pork Belly with Caramelised Apples

1.3kg Pork Belly Roast Boneless
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 brown onion, cut into wedges
1 fennel, trimmed, cut into wedges
1 cup (250ml) salt-reduced chicken stock
200g pkt Kalettes, trimmed
200g brussels sprouts, halved (we substituted broccoli cut into florets)
3 teaspoons brown sugar
3 small red apples, halved

Preheat oven to 140°C. Place pork on a clean work surface. Pat rind dry with paper towel. Brush rind with half the oil. Sprinkle with salt, fennel seeds and cumin seeds. Place the onion and fennel wedges in the base of a roasting pan. Place pork, rind-side up, over the onion mixture. Pour stock around the pork in the pan. Cover and roast for 2 hours or until pork is very tender.
Increase oven to 230°C. Uncover and roast for 30 mins or until rind is crackled. Cover and set aside for 15 mins to rest.
Meanwhile, combine the kalettes, brussels sprout, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and remaining oil in a roasting pan. Season. Sprinkle cut side of apple with remaining sugar. Add to kalette mixture in the pan. Roast at 230°C with pork, turning occasionally, for 20 mins or until tender.
Arrange the pork, onion mixture and kalette mixture on a large serving platter. Thickly slice the pork to serve.

So for dessert I made the April Bake it Box which was a Vanilla Custard Cake. This was a pretty clever cake. You make a single cake batter, but the magic is that the cake separates into a sponge top layer, a soft custard inside and a firm custard base. Very tasty! I am keen to try making it again at some point and maybe making it a chocolate flavoured custard cake.

We went from this:

To this:

This was when cake making felt a little bit like craft

The finished product

I'm very happy with how it turned out. Even my wafer paper flower didn't look too wonky, and it tasted great!

All in all a very successful evening.

* My boyfriend/partner/man have several things we enjoy doing together (no,.,I wasn't talking about anything like that!!). We enjoy cooking together. He is a much more organised cook than I am, but even so he doesn't mind cleaning up after me as I cook. He shall henceforth be known as the sous chef.

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, July 07, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake

I mentioned last week that I made salted caramel sauce for the first time ever and it was so delicious that now I am looking for any excuse to use it. In the end, my excuse came in the form of a dinner party with friends where I was nominated to bring dessert. After looking through many recipes trying to decide what to make I settled on Donna Hay's Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake. This recipe met two criteria for me. The first was the salted caramel element but the second was that I have been wanting to make a baked cheesecake for a long time - something I have never done before.

I did get in a bit of trouble from my friends. I decided to make this because I wanted to push myself to make something new and to learn a new technique. My friends expected that I would bring my go-to cheesecake which is a White Chocolate Cheesecake. There was some vocalised disappointment. I think they almost forgave me when they tasted this one. Almost, but not quite.

This was the second Donna Hay dessert I had made over a couple of weeks. The first was a lemon tart that I will post about soon. It was kind of funny really. I have several Donna Hay cookbooks here, but there was at least one that I bought years ago and hadn't looked at ever since. I ended up being quite impressed by the recipes in the cookbook. I was left wondering why I hadn't cooked from it. before. This recipe, however, came from her website.

Anyway, I digress.

This recipe took a bit of time, but it wasn't too difficult. I ended with way too much of the base but I'm not sure why. If I had of used all of it, the base would have been way too thick.  As it was the filling went to the top of the tin rather than how the picture on the website showed, but I just put the cream on top when it was time to serve, Everyone was impressed. I thought it was totally delicious, and was impressed with how smooth the filling was. Sometimes baked cheesecake can be a bit stodgy and a bit dry, but this one wasn't at all. One of my friends even said that she was surprised that it was a baked cheesecake at all

Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake

500g plain sweet shortbread biscuits
½ cup (60g) almond meal (ground almonds)
150g butter, melted

350g ricotta
500g cream cheese
1 cup (175g) brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons golden syrup
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream layer
1 cup (250ml) single (pouring) cream
1 cup (240g) sour cream
1 tablespoon icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted
sea salt flakes, for sprinkling

Caramel sauce
1 cup (250ml) single (pouring) cream
60g butter, chopped
1 cup (175g) brown sugar

To make the caramel sauce, place the cream, butter and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, bring to the boil and cook for 5–7 minutes or until thickened. Set aside and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). \

Place the biscuits and almond meal in the bowl of a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add the butter and process to combine. Press the biscuit mixture into the base and sides of a lightly greased 22cm springform cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Place the ricotta and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 5–6 minutes or until smooth. Add the sugar and beat for 3–4 minutes or until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the golden syrup, table salt and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and beat until well combined. 
Spoon the mixture into the biscuit shell. Place the tin in a baking dish and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the tin. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove cheesecake from the baking dish and allow to cool in the tin. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until set. 

Place the cream, sour cream, icing sugar and remaining vanilla in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Top the cheesecake with the cream, drizzle with the caramel sauce and sprinkle with sea salt flakes to serve. Serves 8–10

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, June 30, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Sponge rolls

A couple of months ago I posted about my first Bake It Box adventure where I made a beautiful Red Velvet Cake with a mirror glaze finish. In that post I said something stupid along the lines of I am going to have to complete the boxes I had before I can buy more. I'm afraid I am hooked on buying these boxes, and I always have good intentions of making them, but I do now have multiple boxes here to make.

Today, I want to talk about one of the skills that I learned through making the last box that I actually did make. The May box was for a Pattern Swiss Roll Cake which was a vanilla sponge cake filled with salted caramel whipped cream. 

The salted caramel was delicious so now I need to work out what else we can do with it so I can make some more, but today I am going to focus more on the sponge roll itself. A while ago I made a Honey Log Roll which used this technique, but I hadn't done it since. Since making this one  (well technically the second attempt) I have now made several more and feel like I now have the sponge roll technique mostly down. There's always room for improvement, but they are pretty much turning out every time now.

So firstly,about the Bake it Box

The kit came with fuchsia food colouring but I had decided I was going to make it for my partner's birthday so I went and got green colouring instead. The instructions said to create dots for the pattern, and I was really happy with how it turned out, but then when I made the first sponge, I think my dodgy oven wasn't hot enough so instead of ending up with a light and fluffy sponge I ended up with flat, cooked eggs.

I was determined not to be defeated and I had plenty of the pattern mixture left, but what I didn't have was the pattern sheet, so instead of dots, we ended up with a squiggly kind of messy design (definitely not a pattern), but it tasted amazing, and he was happy with it, which is the main thing.

One thing that perplexes me is how this is a vanilla sponge cake given that there is no vanilla in, but that gives me something to ponder in the shower and other places that I do my deep thinking!!

Sponge Roll

1/2 cup (105g)caster sugar
 1/2 tbspn (5g) corn flour
1/2 cup (65g) plain flour
4 large eggs
2 1/2 tbspn (40ml) milk
Icing sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180c (160c fan forced)

Beat the eggs and sugar for at least 5-8 minutes or until it has turned pale and nearly doubled in volume

Sift in half the flours at and a time and fold in very carefully. Pour in the mile and gently fold until incorporated.

Pour the mixture into your greased and lined tray . Drop the tray a few times to burst any air bubbles. Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool for just a few minutes.

Lightly sprinkle icing sugar onto a sheet of baking paper. Whilst the sponge is still warm, run a knife along the edges and carefully flip it over the dusted sheet. Slowly peel the baking paper that you lined the tin with.

Carefully flip over the sponge and then using the peeled baking paper roll the sponge. Allow to cool completely and then fill with the filling of your choice. I have been doing strawberries and whipped cream

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, June 23, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Word of Mouth TV

I have soooo many Weekend Cooking posts in my head and have done for a couple of months, but the process of sitting down and writing one or more just hasn't happened. There was the post about eating while we were away in South Africa, the fact that I have become pretty good a making swiss roll style sponges in the last month or so, the fact that I made pastry from scratch, a few new recipes, the initial steps in an upcoming kitchen renovation and possibly more that I can't think of right now. Maybe some of those posts will still happen but probably not all of them.

Today, I want to post about Word of Mouth TV which is a relatively new Youtube TV show that has been put together by one of my favourite Australian authors, Kate Forsyth and her friend Sarah Mills (also an author).

The basic idea is to combine two loves, food and books, into one Youtube TV show. Each episode features an author guest who comes to eat delicious food but also to talk about their writing, their food loves, their favourite recent reads and favourite cookbooks.  The first episode featured husband and wife authors Graeme Simsion (author of The Rosie Project) and Anne Buist. Other guests have included Jennifer Egan, Richard Fidler and more.

On the Word of Mouth TV website, there are the recipes for the dishes that have been cooked for the show, plus details of the books that have been featured and by the authors that have been guests. There is a also a blog which includes a series of posts called  Iconic Literary Food Moments, which so far has included posts about Ernest Hemingway's Bellinis, fried green tomatoes (as in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg) and Charles Dickens' Sage and Onion Roast Goose

There already have been a couple of episodes that have inspired me to look for specific cookbooks, and to at least think about trying different authors.

In order to give you a taste of the type of thing you might see in this series I have included one of the Soundbites, a short video featuring author Kelly Rimmer recommending a cookbook that I have to get my hands on and soon!

My question to you all is..... if you could only recommend one cookbook that you own, which one would it be?

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.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thank goodness for audiobooks

As anyone who is still reading my blog knows I have had a long, long reading slump that has lasted years (no exaggeration). Whilst I am nowhere near reading as much as I did back in my hey day, I have rediscovered audiobooks this year, and so I am getting through a few books at least.

I thought that I would write a few words about the audiobooks I have listened to this year over a couple of posts. That's the plan anyway

The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick - It took me more than 4 years to read this book, which is actually a bit of a travesty because that makes it sound like I didn't really like it. I actually started reading the actual book in my pre slump days but put it down and never picked it up again. Then last year I started listening to the audiobook but then holidays and life got in the way, but finally I finished it.

Like all of Elizabeth Chadwick's books we get a great glimpse into the medieval life of her characters - in this case Alienor of Aquitaine, the only woman to be queen of both France and England. We follow her life from her marriage to Louis as a very young woman, through trials and tribulations, including plenty of scandals. Alienor is a strong woman who faces the challenges life throws at her the only way she knows - head first. There are two more books in the trilogy which I will get to eventually I'm sure. The narrator is Katie Scarfe. It took me a little while to get used to her somewhat breathy narration but I got there in the end

Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows - I have previously enjoyed reading Deborah Burrows' books that have been set in Australia during World War II. This time, the setting has moved to war time London, but still featuring an Australian as a main character. Lily Brennan is an ambulance officer in the Blitz, having to put herself in danger time and again as the bombs rain down. I liked Lily but there were times when I felt like her insecurities were overdone and got in the way. The narration was good from Penelope Freeman although I didn't think all the accents worked as well as it could. Like all of Burrow's previous books there was a mystery element to the book which was interesting s well as a romance. There is a a sequel to this book but unfortunately it isn't available on audio so who knows if I will get to it or not.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - I downloaded this book last year with the intention of listening to the book whilst on a road trip with the man. In the end, it ended up being just me listening to it on the commute. It was a complete change of pace to the books I had been listening to and it was a breath of fresh air. Whilst I have read lots of Pratchett books I haven't ever listened to one so I was very curious as to how this would work, and it was lots of fun. It starts when the Anti Christ is born, but unfortunately due to a case of mistaken identity he ends up living in England. When it is time for the end of the world, things don't quite work out as the gods and demons expect. I do think that the authors deserve an award for the most use of the word ineffable!

I did see that there is also a full cast performance available to listen to and then there is the TV adaptation that's coming next year as well.

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan- I actually wrote a full review of this. Shocking but true! There is a couple of more books featuring the same characters. I really should make an effort to listen to them.

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer - As narrated by Richard Armitage - le sigh. Do I need to say anymore! I have listened to this maybe 3 or 4 times now and I love it every time. In fact, I think I only last listened to it last year (when I wrote a review). That's how much I love it.  I think that Mr Armitage has been busy recording lots of audiobooks including a romance, which I am definitely going to listen to at some stage. Listening to that voice whispering sweet nothings in my ear...mmm hmmm. Could be a bit awkward if someone else gets in the car with me.

Here's hoping for a follow up post to this one with the next few audiobooks

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Lasagne

Symply Too Good to be True - Annette Sym Used softcover low fat cookbook Book 1I am going to unashamedly admitting that I am posting this recipe for me, and for no one else. To be honest, I can't quite believe that I haven't posted it before as this is my go to lasagne recipe, mainly because I like to kid myself that it is a relatively healthy version that isn't too difficult to make and it tastes pretty dam good. I have been making it for a few years now after finding it in one of the Symply Too Good to be True cookbooks when I first bought them.

It is the kind of meal that I make a full 8 portions of, rather than scaling the recipe down, because I know that I can take some for lunch during the week, put some in the freezer and eat leftovers and it will still taste really, really good.

As I was typing this recipe up, I realised that I have become one of those people who make a recipe but then say, this recipe was really good, but I did this and this and this differently. At least I keep the key ingredients the same. I do find it amusing when you read a review of a recipe on a website, say for something raspberry and the commenter says I changed the raspberries for banana and this for that but it was really good. It may have been really good but it wasn't really the recipe that you are leaving a review of!! Anyway.....

For this, I always cook the onion and garlic first until it softens a little and then add the mince because I don't want to end up with not quite cooked onion. When it is all browned I just add all the other ingredients in and simmer. I also tend to add in basil as well as oregano.  I also cook the white sauce more thoroughly over the heat, stirring until it thickens rather than setting it to one side and hoping it thickens enough.



 Meat Sauce

750g very lean mince
Cooking spray
2x425g cans tomato puree
1x 140g can no-added-salt tomato paste
1 cup water
1 onion finely diced
2 tspn crushed garlic
2 tspn salt-reduced beef stock powder
2 tspn oregano
pepper to taste

White Sauce Mixture

1 tbspn light margarine
3 tbspn plain flour
2 1/2 cups skim milk
pepper to taste

8 instant lasagne sheets
1/4 cup reduced fat grated tasty cheese

To make meat sauce: Brown mince in a large saucepan that has been coated with cooking spray, drain well and remove to a plate. In same saucepan add all other ingredients, bring to boil, simmer 5 minutes. Return mince to pan, cook a further 5 minutes, leave to one side

To make white sauce: Melt margarine in a medium size saucepan, add flour, mix well with a whisk to avoid lumps. Slowly add milk, stir constantly until sauce boils, pepper to taste. Remove from heat, leave for a few minutes to allow sauce to thicken.

Preheat oven to 180C fan forced.

To assemble lasagne: Spoon 1/3 of meat sauce over base of lasagna dish, cover with 1/2 of white sauce. Top with 4 lasagne sheets. Spread 1/2 of meat sauce over lasagne, cover with remaining white sauce, top with remaining lasagne sheets. Spread with remainder of meat sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil (coat foil with cooking spray to stop cheese sticking). Bake 40-45 minutes, remove foil, cook a further 5-10 minutes until pasta is cooked and cheese is golden brown.

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, April 14, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Pork and Pineapple Thai Red Curry

We are now at the end of summer now and we have had our first cool autumn day. Such an occasion tends to retrospectiveness about the summer just gone. Somewhat strangely, I found myself having a summer of pineapple. I like pineapple most of the time but recently we have had a lot.

Just the other weekend I decided to make an old favourite recipe (Thai Pork Burgers with a Pineapple Chilli Relish) and found myself trying to find a recipe to use the rest of the fresh pineapple up. There were plenty of options ranging from cakes to tarts and more but in the end we found this recipe for a pork curry with a pineapple twist.

The good thing about this recipe was that it was quick and tasty, which makes it ideal for a mid week meal.

Pork and Pineapple Thai Red Curry

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
500g pork fillet, thickly sliced (see Notes)
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
270ml can coconut milk
1 cup Massel salt reduced chicken style liquid stock
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar, grated
1/4 small fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves
1/4 cup fried shallots
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Heat a large wok over high heat. Add oil. Swirl to coat. Add onion. Stir-fry for 3 minutes or until softened. Add pork. Stir-fry for 3 minutes or until browned. Add curry paste. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.

 Add coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until sauce thickens and pork is cooked through. Add fish sauce, palm sugar and pineapple. Simmer for 2 minutes or until heated through. Stir in lime juice.

 Spoon curry into serving bowls. Top with coriander and shallots. Serve with rice

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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