Saturday, February 17, 2018

Weekend Cooking: A Profusion of Peaches

We recently went for lunch at a family member's house and they were talking about how productive their fruit trees were. As inevitably happens in such circumstances we were offered some to take home. Now, when she said would you like some peaches and a zucchini to take home, I kind of expected to get half a dozen or so, but instead we ended up with two full shopping bags of peaches, and a giant zucchini. We decided pretty early on to do stuffed zucchini but it did mean that suddenly we needed to find things to do with so many peaches.

Thank goodness for the internet as I found a recipe that I wanted to try pretty much straight away, but then when I was talking to someone at work they said how about grilling peaches, so today I am posting both recipes!

In the end, the ideas themselves were great but the peaches, whilst heading towards overripe, weren't all that sweet, but I am keen to try both recipes again, especially the grilled peach one.

Peach Clafoutis 

2cups peeled peach slices (about 4 peaches)
2⁄3 cup milk
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄ 4teaspoon nutmeg
1pinch salt
confectioners' sugar(optional)

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 9-inch pie plate. Arrange the peaches in a single layer.

Combine all other ingredients and mix well. Pour mixture over peaches.

Bake until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with confectioners sugar if desired. Cut into wedges.

Serve with ice cream or frozen yogurt, or in our case, it will always be cream and lots of it!!

1 peach per person
1 teaspoon neutral-flavoured cooking oil per peach
1 tablespoon brown sugar per peach, optional (approx measurement)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon per peach, optional (approx measurement)

Prepare a gas, barbecue or charcoal grill to medium heat.

Cut the peaches in half and pit them. If you want to add cinnamon and/or sugar, grill entire peach halves; otherwise, you can cut them into wedges, if you like. 

Lightly brush the the peaches with the oil, being particularly aware of coating the cut sides well.
Set the oiled peaches on the medium hot grill. 

Cook the peaches until grill marks form, turning as necessary to mark all cut sides for the best presentation. Turn the peach halves over, sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar, if using. Cook until the peaches are tender, but not falling apart, about 8 minutes total.

Serve grilled peaches hot, warm, or at room temperature.

I did also see a recipe where you mixed butter into the sugar and cinnamon and smeared that over the surface of the peach which could also have been good!

So, what would you have done with a profusion of peaches?

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, January 27, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Eton Mess

If the boyfriend has one fault it is that he doesn't like ice cream, or anything really cold.  I know right...shocking!! It's not all bad because it does mean that if we are out having dessert and it comes with a scoop of ice cream then I get to eat his and mine but no ice cream? What's that about? To be fair, I haven't had any for a while now and I don't particularly miss it.

Not all hope is lost though. He might not like ice cream but he does LOVE cream! The more cream the better! Around here he is known as the cream whipperer because he does like to whip it real good. And he also likes it when I make new recipes for him to try.

Not long ago we were talking about something and I mentioned a dessert called Eton Mess. He didn't know what that was but when I said that if was fruit (generally berries of some description), cream and pieces of meringue and his eyes lit up.

Now, I have made Eton Mess before but I used shop bought meringue and I am not alone there. When I was looking for the recipe even such accomplished chefs as Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver have recipes where they just tell you to buy pre-made meringue.It was actually easier to find a recipe with shop bought meringue than it was to find one where you had to make it yourself.

I had decided, however, that I wanted to try to make it myself, which I have never done before so I kept searching and I eventually found this one on Meringue is one of those things that I have wanted to try to make but I always had this idea that it was too hard, but it turned out it really wasn't, or at least not now that I have my stand mixer.

I may need to practice reading recipes though. After I had made the meringue mixture and smoothed it evenly over a tray, I realised that what the recipe was trying to say was that I was supposed to make little meringues by shaping them between two spoons, rather than just spreading over a tray using two spoons. Whoops!

For the mess itself, we only had strawberries and no liqueur so mine was all strawberry, but I did still make the puree but just with a little water to make it the right texture and it was all strawberry, all the way through.

We are now making variations on this on a regular basis, even if it is just the two of us, using shop bought meringue of course.

Eton Mess

1 punnet ripe strawberries
1 punnet raspberries
2 tbsp berry liqueur or Cointreau
2 tbsp icing sugar, plus more to serve
300ml thickened cream
100ml natural yoghurt
6 meringues

Meringue (makes 16)

4 egg whites (about 130g) at room temperature
pinch salt
180g castor sugar

For Meringue

1. Heat the oven to 120C. Use an electric hand-held mixer to beat the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, beating until just combined.  Once the sugar has been added, continue beating for two minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy. Using two teaspoons, spoon the mixture on to two trays lined with baking paper. Place in the oven and reduce the heat immediately to 100C, and bake for one hour and 15 minutes or until crisp underneath. Turn off the oven and leave to cool in the oven for three hours. Store in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

For Eton mess

1. Hull the strawberries and cut in half or quarters if large. Toss with one tablespoon of liqueur and one tablespoon of icing sugar and set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Whiz half the raspberries to a puree with one tablespoon of icing sugar and remaining liqueur.
3. Whip the cream lightly until just firm, fold in the yoghurt, and chill.
4. To serve, roughly crush the meringue, and layer it in dessert glasses or jars with the cream, strawberries and remaining raspberries. Drizzle with the berry puree, dust with icing sugar and serve.

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, January 07, 2018

2017 - My (non) reading year....again

It's no secret that I am really struggling to read at the moment and have been for the last couple of years. That doesn't mean to say that am not reading at all, just that the days of sitting down to start a book and finishing it a few hours later and then starting the next one are long gone.

And really, I don't have much to complain about because my 2017 was amazing. As in A-maz-ing. If, when I woke up on New Year's Day last year, you had of told me about everything that would happen I wouldn't have believed it. I met an amazing man, we've laughed and loved, cooked together, travelled (including to one of my bucket list destinations), my son has moved to America to play basketball, and more. Apart from work, which is .... average....but everything else! Fantastic.

In terms of reading, here is a list of the books that I did read this year:

The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O'Neal (audiobook) 3.5/5
Sylvester (or the Wicked Uncle) by Georgette Heyer (audiobook) 4.5/5
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarity 3/5
The Chocolate Tin by Fiona McIntosh 3.5/5
A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand 4/5
Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss 4.5/5
Ross Poldark by Winston Graham (audiobook) 3/5
The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George (audiobook) 4/5
The Secret Son by Jenny Ackland 3/5
A Letter from Italy by Pamela Hart 4/5
Trust Me by Laura Florand 3.5/5

I did start any number of books, even from some of my favourite authors, that I just put down at some point and didn't pick back up again.

I'm not sure that this year my reading will be any better but I hope so because I still love looking at books and talking about them and buying them and then not reading them. We'll see I guess.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Weekend Cooking: No Knead Bread

I have long been a fan of Great British Bake Off and by extension I now watch anything that Paul Hollywood is in. 

A couple of years ago now I was watching Paul Hollywood's City Bakes, and there was an episode set in New York. There were two segments that caught my attention. The first was when he mixed chocolate brownies and cheesecake together, which I do intend to try and make at some point in the future, and the second was when he learnt how to make no knead bread.

Now, I loved the idea of making bread, but it definitely feels like something that is too hard to do. All that kneading and having to get the gluten stretched to the right point, and rising. See, just thinking about it is challenging.

Anyway, not all that long ago I happened across that episode again and this time the BF was watching so it was agreed that we would try to make it. And, oh my goodness, it was good.

Now, to be fair, this isn't the kind of bread that you decide that you want to make now and eat later today. The most important ingredient is time. On the 3 occasions we have made it so far we have started it on Saturday morning and eaten it for Sunday brunch, but it is totally worth the time investment, because it looks and tastes amazing, and there is very little physical effort involved.

There is a video that you can watch from Paul Hollywood's show here (sorry can't embed it) but there is another video

We have recently found another version which apparently only takes 2 hours so we may well give that a try soon too.

 No Knead Bread

3 cups (400 grams) all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for the work surface
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons (8 grams) salt
1 3/8 cups (320 millilitres) water
Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed

1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and mix with your hand until you have a wet, sticky dough. This should take roughly 30 seconds. You want it to be really sticky.

2. Cover the dough and bowl with a plate, towel, or plastic wrap and set aside to rest at warm room temperature for at least 12 hours and preferably about 18 hours until the dough is roughly double in size. You’ll know the dough is properly fermented and ready because its surface will be dotted with bubbles and take on a darkened appearance. This long, slow fermentation is what yields the bread’s rich flavor.

3. Flour your work surface. Turn the dough onto the surface in one blob. The dough will cling to the bowl in long, thread-like strands and it will be quite loose and sticky. This is exactly what you want. Do not add more flour. Instead use lightly floured hands to gently and quickly lift the edges of the dough in toward the centre, effectively folding the dough over onto itself. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round. You don’t knead the dough.

4. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal. Place the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust the surface with a little more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover the dough with another cotton towel and let it rise for about 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will hold the impression of your fingertip when you poke it lightly, making an indentation. If the dough readily springs back when you poke it, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

5. A half hour before the dough is done with its second rise, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Place a heavy pot and its lid (whether cast iron or enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. We use cast iron

6. When the dough is done with its second rise, carefully remove the pot from the oven and uncover it. Also uncover the dough. Lift up the dough and quickly but gently turn it over into the pot, seam side up, being very careful not to touch the pot. Cover the pot with its lid and bake for 30 minutes.

7. Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is beautifully browned, which take 15 to 30 minutes. Carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a wire rack to cool.  It should sound hollow when it is tapped on the bottom.

Try to resist eating it before it is cooled, but it will be tough as the bread smells amazing.

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, December 03, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Pineapple Fridge Tart

Pineapple Fridge Tart Recipe

Crust Ingredients:
1 packet of tennis biscuits ( crushed )
100g butter (melted)

Crush the biscuits or whiz them in a food processor until broken. Add the melted butter and blend very briefly until just mixed through.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared dish and spread out. Work the crumbs up the sides of the dish and flatten with the back of a tablespoon. Put in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to firm while you prepare the filling.

Filling Ingredients:
1 tin of condensed milk
125ml ( 1/2 cup lemon juice )
1 ( 400 gr ) tin ” crushed ” pineapple ( well drained )
300ml cream ( whipped until thick)

Mix the condensed milk and pineapple. Add the lemon juice

Fold in the cream

Pour over crust and decorated with pieces of fine tennis biscuits or pineapple pieces.

Put in the fridge for at least three hours or overnight

Recipe from

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, November 19, 2017

Weekend Cooking: A Taste of Tuscon

One of the things I really wanted to do when I was in New York was a food tour. There are so many interesting looking tours that are available - specific types of food, neighbourhoods and more - but we just didn't have time this time.

From New York we were flying to Tuscon to meet up with some friends for part of the weekend. I have known these girls online for many, many years since we originally met on the forums for author Sara Donati. There is a core group of about 10 of us who have stayed close over the years despite the fact that we are spread all over the world. There are members in the US and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and France. I have previously met two of them on my last trip to California, but the third girl was one I hadn't met which was very exciting.

Originally when they were planning their girls get together they asked if I want to come to America and I was very tempted but had to say no because, well, it's a long way to go for a weekend, but by getting our dates just right I was able to be there for at least a full day before we flew back to Australia.

Given that we did only have just over a day, we wanted to make sure that we used our time wisely. Robert already knew what he was going to do. Tuscon is home to the largest plane grave yard in the world so he was going off to look at planes and helicopters. In the course of looking for what we were going to do I came across a walking food tour of Tuscon, and also the fact that Tuscon was made a UNESCO City of Gastronomy a couple of years ago, so this is what we did for the afternoon.

In the end, there were the four of us and the tour guides, so it was almost like a personal tour, something that was emphasised at the end of the tour. I had been talking about how we hadn't been able to find any traditional American apple pie. The tour had ended when the guide came back and gave me a back containing an apple empanada. She apologised for it not being pie but hoped it would do as a substitute.

So first, a don't do before embarking on this tour!

Don't visit a craft market and stock up on various different flavours of pie with plans to eat them when you finish the tour. You will be waaayyyy too full to even contemplate anything for dinner except maybe some nibblies much later in the evening, preferably after a spell in the hot tub. Visit the craft market by all means. Contemplate buying lots of different pieces of jewellery all you like. You just won't need the pie.

We met in a lovely courtyard area called Mercado San Agustin where there are various different shops including a Mexican bakery, some kind of iced confectionery place (Sonoran Sno-cones) as well as the first of five stops on our tour, Agustin.

Here we tried some amazing food, including some of the best calamari I have ever tasted, goats cheese brulee that was to die for and a new to the menu kale salad. The chef came out and talked to us about why sustainability was so important in the food world right now which was very cool. He was very passionate about the food he had presented to us and about this subject.

The next stop is my kind of place - brunch. Again the chef came out to speak to us and when he heard I was from Australia he was very enthusiastic because brunch is really big here and cafes and restaurants are constantly trying to do interesting things with breakfasty type foods. He said that he followed a number of Australian chefs to get inspiration We got to taste 3 tasters, and I have to say the Cinnamon Griddle Cakes were amazing. The others were good too.

Next stop we had sliders at a sports bar type place. Not your normal beef or pulled pork, but this time it was duck, which I have never had on a burger before. It was so good, especially combined with the house coleslaw which was definitely identifiable as coleslaw but also had a different taste to it. It was really fresh and tangy and went with the sliders perfectly. One thing that was interesting about this place was that they had a lot of flavoured vodkas available, some that I can imagine drinking but a few that I couldn't. Roasted Garlic vodka? Green pepper vodka? Anyone, anyone?

We were all full now but still managed to find space for some wood fired pizza. The pizza was great but it was the salad that was the surprise. It was fresh and delicious and it would have been good to go back and just have the salad by itself, which in itself is something that I would never have expected to say about a pizza joint.

Last stop was the ice creamery which is all natural ingredients and some interesting flavour combinations. For example, there was a bourbon and bacon ice cream flavour. The bourbon ice cream was really good, the bacon not so much, but that's probably because I don't really get why you would mess around too much with bacon by doing things like covering it in chocolate, putting it in cupcakes or ice cream.

It wasn't all about the food though. During the course of the tour we were also introduced to some of the history of Tuscon, and to some of the interesting buildings in town, including the movie theatre and an old hotel, and also some of the many murals that have been painted in downtown Tuscon over recent years.

One fun thing was that because it was close to Halloween the movie theatre was having a free showing of Beetlejuice. As we walked past there was a guy there all dressed up as Beetlejuice in the full costume. A bit later in our tour, we came across the guy again, but this time he was out walking around town with his wife. He was dressed normally from the neck down but he was still full Beetlejuice from the neck up!!

The tour was well run, a good pace and it was a nice touch to include an all day trolley ticket so that we could continue to explore the city if we wanted to. We chose to head back to Le Augustin for a cocktail to round off our day nicely!

It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and one I would definitely recommend if you happen to find yourself in Tuscon with a few spare hours!

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, November 12, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Eating our way around America

In my last post I mentioned that my son has moved to Kansas to go and play junior college basketball. He has moved to a really small town in Kansas. It is only right that we make the effort to go and see where he is living now so that we can visualise where he lives, goes to school, trains and plays basketball etc. And, it's only fair that if we go to visit him, then should take the opportunity to go and visit a big city that we both (being the boyfriend and I) have previously said we wanted to visit. And finally it's only fair that we take the opportunity to catch up with friends as well. Given how fair that all sounds, we did it! And had a great time doing so.

We flew from Melbourne to Wichita via LA and Denver. This wasn't our original plan. Originally the plan was to fly to Kansas City via LA and San Francisco but there were issues in San Francisco so we ended up changing our flights. On landing in LA we had one of our stranger meals (deep fried ham and cheese sandwich on really sweet bread which was then served with jam/jelly. Having said that on the way home we had really great pizza in LAX and I also tried the Orange Chicken from Panda Express that my son loves there too. I may have also had my first and then last margarita in the airport, but there were also a few in between

Denver was where our food adventures started. I know that it is only airport food, but we had dinner in Denver at the Mexican restaurant and it was delicious!! I don't really know why but Mexican food and margaritas taste much better in the US than they do here. Maybe more authentic or less homogenised or something. I'm not really sure.

The town that the boy lives in is really small but it has some fast food options which keeps a teenage boy happy. The best thing we had there was at the sports bar where we had a philly cheese steak sandwich. So delicious!

We were also able to have soda's at an old fashioned soda fountain.

That was quickly surpassed though by what was probably the best meal we had in the US on this trip. One of the things we wanted to try was Kansas BBQ and we had it on the Sunday night we were in Wichita. Oh. my. goodness. The pork ribs were sooooo good.

On the not so good scale were the donuts we had there. They were advertised as one of the best places to get donuts in the city. If they were the best, I am concerned because I would much rather eat the donuts from the place about 10 minutes from my house. I was a little bit brave at the donut shop and tried to the pumpkin donut with spiced cream cheese frosting. The frosting was amazing. The donut...not so much. I know that at this time of the year the whole country goes crazy for pumpkin flavoured pies, coffee, and lots of other things, but it was really a bit of a no no to this Aussie who eats her pumpkin roasted or in soup.

We were hoping to go to the home of the first ever Pizza Hut but the building was in the process of being moved and so we couldn't find it! We did, however, get to drive through the university grounds.

We really enjoyed our time in Kansas and I hope to do another post to talk about the non food related highlights at some point, but we'll see!!

Our next stop was New York, the Big Apple!! And of course we had to do all the touristy stuff. For both of us it was our first time in the city and it was somewhere we had both wanted to go for a long time. With only a few days we wanted to see the sights, but also allow ourselves enough time to spend time in specific places as well.

First foodie stop.... cheesecake!! And the Red Velvet Cheesecake did not disappoint. Robert had an apple crumble cheesecake which was also really good. Whilst we were in New York, of course we had to have a hot dog (didn't really live up to expectations), we had pizza at Lombardi's, fresh bagels for breakfast, cinnamon scrolls, cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery (oh that frosting) and more.

 Our final stop after 3 and a bit hectic days in New York was Tuscon in Arizona. Talk about a contrast to New York! Tuscon is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy which was surprising, and we (my friends and I did a foodie walking tour which gave me some insight into why. I am planning to write a specific post about the Taste of Tuscon tour, but let's just say we had some really good food!!

The reason we went to Tuscon is because 3 people I have been friends with online for over 10 years had organised a girls weekend months ago. At the time, they asked me to go and had said that I couldn't because, well, it's a long way from Australia to Tuscon just for the weekend but the timing worked out well because we were in the country at the same time as the weekend, so I could go.

We spent time at a craft market where there were some interesting looking displays including a guy selling all different types of pies etc. We did get some to try but we ended up eating so much on the walking tour that I forgot to eat it! Oh well. Next time.

For breakfast on the first morning my friend cooked biscuits and gravy which was a first for us. The second morning we did bacon and eggs. A little more normal for us but still tasty.

One of my friends bought these delicious little morsels and I could easily have eaten the whole bag by myself. Instead a bought a few handfuls home and tried to ration myself to only a few a day but I wasn't totally successful.

You would think that being on our way home would be the end of our foodie adventures in America for this trip, but you would be wrong. In order to get from Tuscon we had to fly via San Francisco. The next flight was delayed (there's a pattern here!!) and so we had a few hours to kill so we ended up having clam chowder in sourdough bread which was really good, and just a taster for when we get to spend time in the city proper.

Our final foodie stop was at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in LAX where we had a delicious pizza. Happy eating at the airport indeed!

We don't need to talk about the plane food because it was suitably average but the airport food was pretty darned good.

The only thing that we had been really looking forward to that we didn't get to do was to have down town apple pie from a diner, piled high with whipped cream, but for some reason that was harder to find than we expected. It's on the to do list for next time. In the mean time, we are on a quest to find a really good American style apple pie. I tried a new recipe last week that was good without being amazing so watch this space as we continue this quest.

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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