Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cookbook Challenge - Rice - Haitian Chicken with Pumpkin Rice

I didn't even get to my cookbooks for inspiration this week- I was watching Carribean Food Made Easy on the Lifestyle Channel and loved the look of this - and now I think I've stumbled across a dish that may become a firm family favourite- its certainly the best roast cook I've ever made! You take a luscious free range chicken and do a delicious lime tangy bread crumb stuffing, but that goes under the skin- the cavity is filled with tomatoes, keeping the whole fabulously moist and a little cayenne on the outside for extra tang. Levi Roots then flambes the final product in rum- I skipped that bit- felt a bit extravagant for a Sunday night roast, could be a cool dinner party trick though...

We used tomatoes we got from the Collingwood Farmers Market last weekend- check out the colour- and the flavour was divine! We've saved some seeds- hope we can get these up next year!
The rice in the dish is certainly not the main attraction. It goes well with the tangy and tasty chicken, but is a tiny bit bland- don't think I would make it again.
I will definitely do the chook again- and give it old fashioned trimmings- roast potatoes, pumpkin and some nice greens.
For the roast chicken and gravy
1 x 1.6kg/3½lb whole chicken
15g/½oz butter
2 tsp cayenne pepper
350ml/12fl oz chicken stock
4 tbsp rum

For the bread stuffing
50g/1¾oz butter
½ onion, finely chopped
2 spring onions, trimmed, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3 slices white bread, crusts removed, made into breadcrumbs ( I used 2 slices of Auction Rooms sour dough bread and left the crusts on and just gave them a whizz- delicious)
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1 lime, zest and juice
2 tbsp rum
2 tsp brown sugar

For the tomato and plantain stuffing
15g/½oz butter
2 very ripe plantains, peeled and sliced - (I couldn't get these so didn't use- absolutely optional)
2 ripe plum tomatoes, cut into quarters
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pumpkin rice
550ml/1 pint cold water
400g/14oz pumpkin flesh, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
450g/1lb basmati rice, rinsed and drained twice to remove excess starch
15g/½oz butter

1. Gently ease the skin around the neck and breast of the chicken away from the meat using your fingers, reaching as far down the legs as possible. Set aside.
2. For the bread stuffing, heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until softened.
3. Add the spring onions and garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, or until softened.
4. Add the nutmeg and breadcrumbs and continue to fry until the breadcrumbs are crisp and golden-brown.
5. Add the thyme leaves, lime zest and juice, rum and sugar and stir well until combined. When the ingredients have warmed through and the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

6. When the bread stuffing mixture is cool enough to handle, push small handfuls of it under the loosened skin of the chicken, until all of the bread stuffing mixture has been used up. Tuck any loose neck skin into the cavity of the bird. Set aside.
7. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
8. Meanwhile, for the tomato and plantain stuffing, melt the butter in a separate frying pan over a medium heat. Add the plantain and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until tender.
9. Add the tomatoes and continue to fry for 4-5 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to break down and the sauce has thickened. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 10. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the tomato and plantain stuffing.
11. For the roast chicken, smear the butter over the skin of the stuffed chicken and sprinkle over the cayenne pepper. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
12. Place the chicken into a large roasting tin, then transfer to the oven and roast for 1½-1¾ hours, or until the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted into the chicken where the thigh meets the body.
13. Meanwhile, for the pumpkin rice, bring the water, pumpkin, two sprigs of thyme and salt to the boil in a large, covered pan, then reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender.
14. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs, then mash the pumpkin and cooking liquid together using a potato masher, until the pumpkin breaks down. (NB: The mixture does not have to be mashed until smooth.)
15. Add the rice to the pan with the pumpkin mixture in it and stir. The liquid should cover the rice by 2-2½cm/1-1¼in, so add more water as necessary.
16. Add the butter and stir until melted, then cover the pan with the lid and return the mixture to the boil. When the mixture is boiling, immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 18-20 minutes, without removing the lid, until the bottom of the rice has browned slightly and all of the rice is tender.
17. When the rice is cooked, add the remaining sprig of thyme, then turn off the heat and leave the pan on the residual heat for a further 3-4 minutes.
18. When the chicken has cooked through, transfer it to a warm plate and cover with aluminium foil.
19. For the gravy, add the chicken stock to the juices that collected in the roasting tray and bring to the boil, scraping up any browned bits up from the bottom of the tray using a wooden spoon. Simmer the gravy until it has thickened, then sieve, reserving the liquid.
20. Heat the rum in a frying pan over a high heat, then remove from the heat and set alight using a match. Allow the flames to flare up, then die down. (NB: keep flammable objects away from the flame.) Pour the rum over the roast chicken.
21. To serve, carve the roast chicken and divide it among six serving plates. Place a portion of the tomato and plantain stuffing on top of each serving. Spoon the pumpkin rice alongside. Drizzle over the gravy.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gluhwein Jam

This was a total CWA moment for me...entering my jam in a competition- no matter how small. I had a kilo of plums from our last trip to the Yarra Valley and found this lovely recipe on for a jam with lots of spices and soem red wine. I added some peaches and cherries to the mix- and this jam reminds me so much of Gluhwein, that that's what I've decided to call it.
I had some trouble with setting, so had to add in the juice of another lemon and cooked the actual lemon with it for about half an hour over the times stated below. It's turned out very yummy (passed the husband test) and looks beautiful in the Quattro Stagione jars I bought- fingers crossed I win the Langham Masterclass tickets now.

The Recipe
Makes 7 cups
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp anise seeds
6 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 dried bay leaves, crumbled
2 cups dry red wine
1.25kg white sugar
1 kg plums , quartered, stoned
700g peaches stoned and chopped
300g pitted cherries
(or instead of mixing, just use 2 kg of plums as per the original recipe)
1/3 cup (80ml) lemon juice

Place spices, bay leaves, wine and 1 cup sugar in a large, wide, heavy-based saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave to cool. When cool, strain though a sieve over a bowl.
Return strained syrup to pan with 1 cup water and plums. Bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer over low-medium heat for 35 minutes.
Uncover pan. Add lemon juice and remaining sugar. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil then simmer, uncovered, over medium heat, skimming any scum from top, for 45-50 minutes or until jam jells when tested. To test, place a small spoonful on a chilled saucer then return to freezer for 1 minute. Run your finger through chilled jam; it should be the consistency of honey and wrinkle slightly when pushed. Once at this stage, pour into hot sterilised jars and seal.

Cooking Challenge: Noodles

Delicious Laksa
Sorry everyone, this blog post comes without photos- once this dish was ready to eat, there was no stopping for photographs, we just gobbled it up- truly delicious.
Laksa is definitely my favourite noodle dish- it would be a strong contender for my favourite food full stop. So I am very happy to have this recipe to make my own!
This recipe comes from the book "Spicery" by Ian and Elizabeth Hemphill. You may know Herbie's spices- Sydney based spice merchants who stand for great quality spices and often have hard to get spices unavailable elsewhere- well this is their book.
Each chapter is devoted to a different spice and outlines a bit about the plant it comes from and it's history and traditional uses as well as how to prepare, store and use and then around 3 recipes for each spice.
The Laksa recipe is in the Galangal chapter where I learned, for example, that in the Orient, powdered galangal was once used as snuff- so reknowned is it for its perk-me up qualities (maybe that's why I love a laksa as a hangover cure!).
The recipe for the laksa powder makes plenty for at least 3 laksa meals (each being for 2). Once the powder is made, throwing the soup together is super quick and there is no reason you couldn't make this after work.
The base of the laksa powder is a madras curry powder- also delicious- easy to cook up with meat, veges and a tin of tomatoes.

Madra Curry Powder
15 tsp ground coriander
6 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground yellow mustard seed
1 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp ground cinammon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground green cardamon seed
1/2 tsp chilli powder

Laksa Spice Mix
12 tsp Madras curry powder
3 tsp ground fennel seed
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground galangal
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sugar

(Both these mixes store well in an air tight jar)

Laksa (for 2)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
6 tsp Laksa Spice Mix
1/2 chopped onion
750ml chicken stock
1/2 tsp shrimp paste
400ml coconut cream
250 g chicken (or tofu or seafood), sliced
100g bean sprouts
200g hokkein noodles (cooked and drained)- warmed
1/2 tbsp. Vietnamese mint leaves
1/2 tbsp coriander leaves

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the Laksa Spice Mix.
Add the onion and stir for 2 minutes.
Add the stock and shrimp paste and bring to the boil.
Add coconut cream and chicken and simmer genly for 10 minutes (or until the chicken is cooked)
Prepare two bowls with half the noodles and bean sprouts.
Divide the soup between the two bowls and top with the mint and coriander.

Enjoy, I thought this was a great recipe!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Melbourne Preserves competition

I shouldn't be putting this up, as it will no doubt diminish my chances of winning, but thought there might be some interest out there...Aesop's Fitzroy store have gone all CWA and are having a competition for Langham Melbourne Masterclass tickets for the best fruit preserves- I love it, though a shame I'm not that good at making jam.

I'm going to give it a crack- I've bought a kilo of plums, now just need a good recipe.

Here the details from their email:
We have four single-day tickets to Langham Melbourne Masterclass at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, and would like to offer these to our customers.To secure a ticket, deliver a jar of your best homemade fruit preserve to Aesop Fitzroy by Tuesday 16 March and our jury of experts will sample your wares. Please be sure to label your jar, including all ingredients and your contact details.We will notify winners by Wednesday 17 March. Masterclasses are held on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 March. Each Masterclass consists of four sessions with some of Melbourne's best chefs. Further details can be found here.All fruit preserves are to be brought to:Aesop Fitzroy242 Gertrude Street Fitzroy 3065Tel: +61 3 9419 8356Open: Monday 11am - 5pm; Tuesday to Friday 10am - 6pm; Saturday 9am - 6pm; Sunday 11am - 5pm"

Good luck!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pluots and other organic goodness

As I mentioned in my muffin post, we were up in Marysville for a bike ride and went to Alexandra, and just on the outskirts of town, there was an amazing shop advertising PLUOTS- which are a cross of plums and apricots. No idea what the place is called, but if you're up that way, they have a small but fabulous range of organic veges (the tomatoes we bought were divine) and stone fruit with pluots, but also a few different plum varieties. If you're up that way, be sure and call in.
And if you're not leaving town this weekend, try the Veg Out Community Market
Where: Chaucer Street , St Kilda (just behind Acland St and Luna Park ) Melways ref 2P B9
Time: 8.30 am – 1.00 pm.
Wondering if anyone's tried the North Melbourne Farmers Market- have seen the sign, but not quite made it there yet...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Black Forest Muffins

The Cookbook Challenge: Muffins

Who knew muffins had this much oil in them? I've never been a huge muffin fan, but will certainly be wary of their oily goodness in future! Very keen to see if anyone has some low fat muffins that still work.
Enough with complaining- on to the muffins- that actually tasted really good and were lovely and light and fluffy. I made these for my bookclub girls and at the end, they were all gone- surely a good sign!

My recipe was based on the rhubarb muffins recipe in Stephanie Alexander's book "The Cook's Companion" which is an absolute stalwart at our house. I don't think I've ever made a dud out of it.
I just substituted the 2/3 cup of rhubarb for plums- as I bought some beautiful plums at a plum farm up near Alexandria last weekend (if you're driving up there, stop in - beautiful plums and other organic produce). Then I added in some grated dark chocolate to give it a little Black Forest feel.
This recipe is also incredibly simple- you could whip it up in a jiffy for unexpected guests!
It worked well- the basic recipe is nice and light and you could substitute in any fruit you have on hand.
220g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
125g sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup of chopped plums (or rhubarb)
2 tbs chopped dark chocolate (optional
Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease 12 muffin tins with oil.
Sift flour and baking powder and stir in sugar.
Mix milk, egg and oil together.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and beat in the liquid.
Mix in the plums and chocolate.
Spoon into muffin tins until 2/3 full and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.
If you like this, you might also want to try my plum and ricotta crumble cakes

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cookbook Challenge - Love

For this weeks challenge, everything revolved around Rusty. My first dish was a Black Sticky Rice Pudding, cause he loves it. My second was a Black Forest cake because, well I love him and its favourite cake.

Both dishes were delicious and we ate the whole cake with the help of only one other person. The Black Sticky Rice keeps well in the fridge and we had it for desert a few nights running.

Sticky Rice is from my new Food Safari book- which is brilliant- I've already made a few things out of it. What I quite like about this book is that it seems to often be a bit loose with times and quantities- so it leaves a bit to the imagination. The recipe is wonderfully simple, though grating fresh coconut is a bit of a messy business and involved a whole new kitchen arsenal of a hammer and a screwdriver.

The Black Forest Cake recipe is from Gordon Ramsays Cooking for Friends which I borrowed from a friend. Although this is a rather complicated recipe, it is one of the simplest for Black Forest Cake that I've seen. The only thing I would change about the recipe would be to use normal fresh whipped cream instead of double cream to make it a little bit lighter and fluffier. My other recommendation would be to sprinkle the cherry juice generously to make this moist as!

Black Forest Cake

For the chocolate sponge:
125g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa powder
5 large eggs, separated
200g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
2 tbsp cooled espresso or strong coffee
100g dark chocolate (minimum 65% cocoa solids), melted in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water
For the filling and topping:
500g ripe cherries
60g caster sugar
75ml kirsch or cherry brandy
550ml double cream
1-2 tbsp icing sugar, to taste
4-5 tbsp good-quality cherry compote
Grated chocolate, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 150ºC

Butter, line and butter again the base and sides of a 23cm cake tin. Sieve the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder together and set aside.
In a large grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites to firm peaks using an electric beater. Beat the butter and sugar in another mixing bowl until pale and light.

Beat in the yolks one at a time, then fold the espresso through, followed by the melted chocolate.
In several batches, fold the sifted flour mixture and the beaten egg whites alternately into the butter mixture. Spread the combined batter over the base of the prepared tin and level with a spatula.
Bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake emerges clean. Cool for 5 minutes and then turn out on to a wire rack. Peel off the baking parchment.
Remove the stems and pit three-quarters of the cherries, leaving the stems on the remaining cherries to garnish. Put all the cherries, the sugar and kirsch in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the cherries are just soft, giving them an occasional stir. Tip the cherries and kirsch syrup into a bowl and leave to cool completely.
Meanwhile, whisk the cream and icing sugar into soft peaks.
Using a long, sharp knife, halve the cake horizontally. Drizzle each half with the kirsch syrup from the cherries to moisten. Place the bottom half on a cake stand and spread over half the whipped cream. Arrange the stemmed and pitted cherries over the cream, then spoon over a layer of cherry compote. Top with the upper half of the cake. Spread the remaining cream on top.

Sprinkle over a little grated chocolate, then garnish with the whole stemmed cherries.

Sticky Rice
Ingredients2 cups black sticky rice (soaked overnight)

5 cups water (this was probably a little too much water, next time I'll try with 3 or 4 cups)

2 cups sugar

Sweet Coconut Cream

1 cup coconut cream

2 tsp rice flour

½ tsp salt
Pinch of sugar

Caramelised Coconut

2 cups grated coconut

1 cup brown sugar


Wash the black sticky rice. Combine in a saucepan with water. Place over medium heat and boil until the rice is cooked through and split. Add the sugar, continue boiling until sugar dissolves.

Sweet Coconut Cream: Mix the coconut cream, rice flour, salt and sugar in a saucepan and cook over low heat until boiling. Remove from heat.

Caramelised Coconut: Mix the grated coconut and brown sugar in a saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until thick. Remove from heat.

To serve: spoon the black sticky rice into the serving bowl and top with some sweet coconut cream and caramelised coconut.

Cookbook chellenge - Egg

Cookbook Challenge: Egg
From tapas to Meze is one of my favourite cookbooks- I've had it for ages, and it was very handy back in my vegetarian days, as it has quite a few good vego recipes that are quick and easy. Covering the mediterranean from Europe to the middle east, it also has fantastic variety.
Avgolemono is a recipe I've been meaning to make for a while. Avgo means egg, and lemon lemon in Greek- and this combination with a chicken stock and some light veal meatballs struck me as a nice combination for a summer meal.
This made a fantastic weekday meal as well as I made the chicken stock(a couple of chicken carcasses from the Vic markets, an onion, a carrot, some celery and water) and the meatballs on the weekend - they kept well in the fridge and were simple to make up on a weeknight.
Now the trick to this soup apparently is not to have the eggs curdle. This was not the case with my soup and the eggs curdled- oh well- it was still a lovely weekday meal and I would definitely make it again.
1/2 pound ground veal
1 clove garlic minced
1/3 cup grated yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons minced fresh mint
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup dry whole-wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
9 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup long-grain white rice
2 eggs
Juice of 1 to 2 lemons
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Chopped fresh mint
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
In bowl, mix veal, garlic, onion, lemon zest, mint, parsley and egg yolk.
Add bread crumbs and milk, and season with salt and pepper.
Mix well. Form into 3/4-inch meatballs. Place on an oiled baking sheet.
Bake 10 minutes.
Bring stock to boil in soup pot.
Reduce heat to medium-low; add rice, salt and pepper.
Simmer slowly 10 minutes.
Add meatballs and continue to simmer until rice is cooked, 10 minutes.
Beat eggs and juice of 1 lemon in bowl until light and frothy.
Add 1 small ladle boiling broth to egg mixture and beat vigorously.
Continue to add broth a ladle at a time, beating after each addition, until you have added 5 or 6 ladlefuls.
Pour mixture back into soup pot.
Taste and add additional lemon juice, salt and pepper, if needed.
Garnish with parsley and mint and serve immediately.
Do not reheat this soup to boiling point or it will curdle.
Servings: 6

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dumpling Love

I love Gingerboy.
I love dumplings.

These two things are coming together in a dumpling cooking class at Gingerboy with the Age Young Chef of the Year 2009 - Chris Donnellan.

Apparently Chris "will be sharing his secrets and techniques into dumpling making. There are two classes being held on Saturday June 12th, 2010. First class: 8.30am - 10.30amSecond class: 11.15am - 1.15pmCost: $125.00 per person"
I understand the 11.15 class is sold out.
Apparently the class will run for 1 hour and 30 minutes, then you will be able to sit down and eat the dumplings you have just made with a glass of champagne.
They will be making 3 different types of dumplings for the class
prawn and ginger dumplings
pork, garlic chive and chilli dumplings
steamed apple and vanilla dumplings with sweetened coconut cream

Please email for more information or bookings

Its a long way off, but should be awesome!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cookbook Challenge: Mixed

With the heat on the weekend, the only mixed up for consideration was a mixed drink! As suggested in my last entry, I am also going to raid some old Gourmet Travellers for recipes in the challenge- and I had one all lined up from the January Issue: Raspberry and Lemon Iced Tea.

This recipe was easy to make and absolutely delicious- 100% endorsed by my bookclub girls who sat out the 38 degree afternoon on Sunday with the help of this little refresher. I didn't take a pic of the finished product unfortunately, but it was perfectly colour matched to the rose we were drinking- absolutely beautiful.

300 gm white sugar
200 gm frozen raspberries
2 tsp loose leaf black tea (I used orange pekoe- perfect light flavour for an iced tea!)
4 lemons, juice only
To serve:
ice, mint leaves, lemon slices and soda water

Combine sugar and raspberries in a heatproof bowl, stir to combine, and cover with foil. Place over a saucepan of simmering water and cook until syrupy (2 hours). Strain through a fine sieve into a large jug (discard solids) and set aside.
Meanwhile, combine tea and 1 litre boiling water in a separate heatproof jug and cool. Strain through a fine sieve into raspberry mixture, add lemon juice and refrigerate in bottles until chilled.
To serve, fill glasses with ice, add lemon and raspberry tea to taste, top up with soda water, add mint and lemon slices and serve.
So easy! And so yummy!

Monday, January 25, 2010


Añada was recommended to us sometime ago by a waitress at the Panama Dining Room- who seeing how much we love the PDR pork belly, suggested we might like Anada's. Well she was right, we loved the Añada pork belly, meaty, sweet and with a crisp lining of crackling, on a bed of smoky eggplant. But that wasn't all we liked.
Food is served tapas style- they have a broad range of tapas and "raciones- larger dishes also designed to share. If choosing is too hard, they also have 2 Banquets and chef does the choosing for you. The couple next to us were doing the banquet and the dishes were a great selection (and included the pork belly!)
We had a 4 different tapas and 4 Raciones to share- every dish was a delight!
Pork empanadilla- crispy on the outside and soft on the inside with a deliciously Asian feel to the flavours
Manchego and quince- which essentially is what it is- but was served at a perfect room temperatures that gave the flavours full flight
Roasted quail was crispy and served on a bed of the most divine tabbouleh I have ever tasted- using more grain than herb and incorporating pomeranate seeds for quick bursts of tart flavour.
Moving on to the raciones, as well as the pork belly, we had the vine wrapped sardine- a crumbling delight of flavours with pistachios in the sauce- divine- this happened to come out with the heirloom tomato salad whose sweetness and basil flavours complemented the sardine beautifully.
Our absolute favourite though was the Crispy Goat- it was indeed very crispy with the strong goaty flavour really coming through and served on a lovely rustic hommos.
For desert, we shared Lavender Curd and honeyed figs- the lavender curd was different to anything I've tried before- perfect for anyone who doesn't like deserts too sweet, it had the delicate flavour of lavender and was served with perfectly ripe figs drizzled in honey- divine!
Coffee was great as well. Fantastic wine list with lots of Spanish and Portugese wines to try- we enjoyed a Crawford River rose with dinner. I then had a tempranillo- which was, like all their reds according the menu, served at 15%- the perfect temperature for a warm Melbourne evening!
I loved the buzz of it- the place was packed and it is not the biggest space. It would have been nicer though to have had the opportunity to spread out just a little more perhaps. The wait staff were efficient, friendly but not too in your face.
Value wise, to my mind its more of a special occasion budget- for the 2 of us including wine, coffee and desert, we paid just over $140.
Anada do 2 sittings a night 6pm and 8.30pm- bookings highly recommended!
Añada has certainly gone into my Top 5 favourites in Melbourne!
(03) 9415 6101
197 Gertrude St
Fitzroy, 3065

Añada on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Cool Cooking Challenge

Cooking Challenge:

Cool - yummy gazpacho
Initially we thought that the "Cool" challenge was perfectly time- the 40 degree days of last week were perfect inspiration for a cooling meal- and the family picnic planned for Saturday was the perfect opportunity to serve up some cool dishes.

Well, as it so often does, Melbourne turned the cool itself and our picnic was held ona 23 degree day with intermittent rain- despite this, we soldiered on and had a lovely cool recipes went down a treat!

Again, I used Charmaine Solomon- I just love her recipes- and actually doing this challenge, I'm realising I don't have that many cookbooks- I may have to buy some more to add variety- or start using my Gourmet Travellers for the challenge- hope nobody minds!
Anyway, the dishes I selected were a gazpacho and a strawberry soup.

Both these dishes demand the best and tastiest ingredients, but if you choose good strawberries and good tomatoes, you will be richly rewarded, both recipes are delicious!



1 kg ripe tomatoes

2 green cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced

2 small onions, peeled and finely chopped

1 green and 1 red capsicum, finely chopped

1 tsp finely chopped garlic

1 cup fine white breadcrumbs made from crusty bread

3 cups cold water

3 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

tsp salt (or to taste)

1 tsp sugar

3 hard-boiled eggs

olive oil spray to fry croutons

1 cup finely diced bread

Put aside 1 cup of the tomatoes diced, 1 cup of cucumber and half the chopped onion and capsicum for garnish.

Peel, seed and chop the remaining tomatoes. Combine in a food processor with the remaining cucumber, capsicum onions plus the garlic and the breadcrumbs and process till smooth.

Turn into a bowl and mix in the water, vinegar, olive oil and seasonings. Taste the mixture and add sugar if necessary.

Dice the eggs and put in another garnish bowl.

Use some olive oil spray in a pan, and lightly fry the diced bread until golden (we used a mix of white and black rye bread to add interest) and put in a bowl. Drain on absorbent paper.

Serve soup with all the different garnishes.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas Cooking

The Cookbook Challenge Week 6
This year, we volunteered to cook Christmas lunch for Rusty's family- 13 people, no pressure... With Rusty's mum doing the pudd, we could concentrate on entrees and mains- plus something to nibble between present opening and lunch proper. We were so lucky with the weather- at around 22 degrees it was perfect for a hot lunch with all the trimmings.

The cool thing was cooking it in my sister-in-laws kitchen- its large with a gigantic stove- an absolute dream/ fantasy for us!

The menu
Nibble: blue cheese and onion tart
Entree: Vitello Tonnato
Main: Roast Pork Belly, Baked Ham, Roasted Vegetables and Potato and Onion Croquettes with Pear and Fennel Mustard
The onion tart is the cookbook challenge piece for this week- all the other recipes were either made up, or sourced off the internet.
The critical part was getting the right ingredients and letting them do the talking. Saturday prior to Christmas was the Lancefield Farmers Markets- here we sourced the lovely vegetables from local suppliers. We also bought the cheese for the tart from Goldfields Farmhouse who sell at the markets - their delicious Welshman's Reef - a delicate mild blue stilton style cheese- we bought one block foreating and one for the tart - YUM! (Check them out at alot of the regional farmers markets, on their website or apparently at Provincial Fine Food Store & Café, 16 Grantham St., Brunswick West.

Luckily Rusty was able to take the 23rd off- and used this opportunity to get down to the Queen Vic markes before the mayhem to source the meat and some extra veg for the meal.
And a personal highlight for us were the roasted beetroots - the beets for which were harvested from our garden on the 24th.

Onion and Blue Cheese Tart
This was perfect for Christmas- as it virtually makes itself while you're preparing everything else (like peeling potatoes for 13 people!) and is a real crowd pleaser!
3 sheets of ready-prepared puff pastry

2 tbsp olive oil
4 brown onions, sliced
1 tsp grated lemon rind
200g soft bitey blue cheese
85g small olives
2 tbsp fresh thyme
black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Grease the baking tray and place the pastry on the tray to fit
To make the filling, caramelse the onions in the oil with the grated lemons- for a minimum of 20 mins over low - medium heat- I left mine on for an hour- they were so sweet!
Allow onions to cool.
Sprinkle the tart with the bue cheese.
Top with onions, olives, thyme and pepper.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden.

For the ham, Rusty used Stephanie Alexander's recipe off the Epicure website
Stephanie Alexander's Glaze for a baked ham
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup brown sugarcloves
1/2 cup white wine
Preheat oven to 180C and line a baking dish with foil. Mix zest, juice, mustard and sugar in a bowl. Remove skin (rind) from ham and score fat in a diamond pattern. Press a clove into the middle of each diamond
Spread half the glaze over ham. Place ham in baking dish and pour in wine to prevent ham sticking. Bake for about 40 minutes, basting once or twice with the rest of the glaze, until a rich shiny colour.
It was Rusty's touch to use a rosemary twig as the basting brush. Looked particularly cool!

The Vitello Tonnato recipe was courtesy of the Italian Made website (

2 lbs. butt tenderloin
3 cups white wine
1 celery stalk
1 carrot
1 small onion
2 cloves
7 oz. tuna in oil
6 anchovy fillets
2 egg yolks, hard-boiled
2 lemons
1 squeezed
1 thinly sliced
2 cup oil
2 tbs. capers
1 tbs. white vinegar
Let the meat marinate in the wine, celery, carrot, chopped onion and cloves for one day. Remove the meat from the marinade, wrap and tie tightly in a cheesecloth and place in an oval pan just large enough to hold it together. Put back in the marinade and cook slowly for about one hour. Remove from heat and let the meat cool in its cooking juice.
De-grease and filter the cooking liquid. Blend the liquid in a food mill with the tuna, anchovies, 1 tbs. capers and egg yolks. Dilute the sauce with lemon juice, and vinegar, and whisk in the oil in a steady stream till you get a velvety sauce similar to mayonnaise. Slice the veal and arrange in a serving platter in the following manner: Spread a few tablespoons of the sauce on the platter. Add the veal a layer at a time, with sauce covering each layer. Sprinkle capers over and decorate the rim of the platter with the sliced lemon. Serve.