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Marche – Seattle, WA

30 May

Our first night in Seattle was a dreary, cold night – our need for a cozy restaurant and comfort food was paramount.

We were jet-lagged, cold, tired from walking, but had big eyes and big hearts drinking in the sights and sounds of the beautifully green and wet city we found ourselves in.

I am astounded at how much of American food is either deep fried, double fried, shallow fried, flash fried or fried fried… And how their salads are nearly opaque with creamy dressing – enough to make me gag and swear to be a freegan-vegan-fruitarian all the days of my life.

Alas, we were determined to eat fresh, local produce.

So we wandered down to the pier where we found this beautifully tucked away, stellar restaurant called Marche.

This is my handsome dinner partner.

We started with pomme frites and house made mayonnaise and a salade verde (butter lettuce, arugala, lemon, hazelnut oil and brique agour cheese)

We had the restaurant nearly to ourselves, sharing only with three other tables. Our waiter said that 8:00pm is too early for the local folk, and their dinner rush was at 10:00pm. Either he was lying and had a very quiet restaurant, or he was in for a looong shift!


I ordered the petite wagu New York strip steak, with roasted shallots and a fine herb butter. Was delish. I was so hungry I couldn’t even take a shot that was in focus before devouring this tasty morsel. Sorry focus aficionados.


Mark enjoyed the fish of the day, which was locally caught salmon fillet, on leeks (and I can’t remember the rest because it wasn’t written on the menu and American’s speak really fast.) But it was tres yummy.



Any place that has an arrangement of flowers this pretty on their front desk is a winner in my books. Spectacular.




Ruby Red Rhubarb

20 Oct

So I love living in the Hills District.

I have been known to refer to it as “God’s country” on more than one occasion.

I love the wide open spaces, the rolling hills, the paddocks with their horses and cows…

What I particularly love, is the abundance of fresh produce grown in the market gardens that are so prolific in this area. I love that at nearly every corner, one can find a little stall selling cut flowers, honey straight from the hive, fruit, vegetables or even cow manure if you so desire!

The other day I picked up a beautiful bunch of rhubarb for the grand total of $1!

I was so excited I bought the whole three bunches on offer and gave one to my mum, and one to my psudo-if-we-were-catholics-then-this-woman-would-be-my-God-mother friend.

I decided to stew my rhubarb, as I love anything stewed.

My brother Lee would disagree, as he would vehemently state “hot fruit is unnatural”

Alas, I began stewing.

Ruby Red Stewed Rhubarb

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of rhubarb, washed, chopped into 3-4cm pieces
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons water

Method

  • Add all ingredients to a saucepan and stir over low heat
  • Leave to simmer/stew for about 10 minutes
  • Eat hot or cold!

 

Swanky grilled cheese and posh tomato soup

4 Sep

One of my favourite things in the world is grilled cheese and tomato soup.

I am quite partial to canned tomato soup and white bread, but I reckon it would be fun to swank it up occasionally.

How cute are these toastie fingers and soup shots?

These would be beautiful made with a gorgeous sourdough and gruyere cheese…

My mouth is watering.

MasterChef – Mick Style

30 Jul

This post is dedicated to a dear friend of mine, Mick Were.

Mick is a great guy, very domesticated, often does a lot of the housework, much to his wife Tanya’s delight (Tanya of Curtis Stone’s Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup fame).

Although this one night Mick was quite the opposite of domesticated, and had us all in stiches as he uploaded the following series of photos to Facebook.

Enjoy : )

MasterChef Mick style.

Step 1: Remember wife is out tonight...hmm what to cook. Procrastinate for a while. Eat a few lollies each time you pass the kitchen to keep sugar levels up.

Step 2: Open up fridge and hope for something good. Pay special attention to tupperware in bottom levels..usually something good there.

Step 3: The cooking process. I like to use the "HIGH" setting for about 2 minutes. Maybe a piece of paper towel across the top to stop things getting messy in there.

Step 4: Left over Crust Pizza from last night - Mediterranean Lamb and Peri Peri Chicken. Mini Meat Pies from a previous party. Dinner sorted! Go back to lounge and devour. Try to beat cooking time.

Step 5: Find chocolate brownies. Dont worry about that "plating up" crap. Just eat straight from tupperware. Cop that MasterChef!!

Bill’s Individual Cheesecakes

28 Jul

My mum is a baker.

Well, that’s not technically true, she is actually a nurse – but she is a recreational baker.

She often speaks about her desire to bake sweet treats and sell them in a specialty shop that also sells second hand books, flowers, coffee and has a facility to weigh babies (yes, weird I know, but that’s my mum!)

Last Friday night my mum and I made a big family dinner to celebrate the fact that all 6 of us were under one roof for a meal – something that rarely happens these days!

We baked these beautiful Bill Granger individual lime cheesecakes. They were lovely, plenty of lime tang, and just the right size. They were a hit with our four boys too!

Individual Cheesecakes

Ingredients
Base
  • 100g shortbread biscuits
  • 55g ground almonds
  • 50g unsalted butter
Filling
  • 400g cream cheese
  • 100mL sour cream
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 medium egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
  • strawberries or raspberries to top
 Method
  • Preheat the oven to 160’C
  • Line a 12 hole, 125mL capacity muffin tim with patty pans
  • Crush the biscuits to fine crumbs, using a food processor or rolling pin
  • Put the biscuit crumbs, ground almonds and melted butter into a bowl and combine
  • Press 1 tablespoon of the mixture inot the base of each patty pan
  • Refridgerate while you make the filling
  • To make the filling, beat the cream cheese, sour cream and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg first, then the egg yolk, vanilla and lime zest, beating well after each addition.
  • Spoon mixture over the bases, then sprinkle the berries evenly on top
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheesecakes are puffed and starting to colour.
  • Allow to cool, then refridgerate until ready to eat
  • Remove the cheesecakes from the patty pans
  • Top each one with fresh berries and dust with icing sugar to serve

 Being individual, these cheesecakes don’t need the overnight setting time a large one usually requires.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

9 Jul

I’m having my family over for dinner on Monday night because my Mum and Dad are finally coming home from their European holiday!

I wanted to make a swanky dessert that people would love – but I wanted to prepare it beforehand, so I could listen to their stories, and NOT be standing in the kitchen preparing dessert missing out on all the fun! Yes, I have FOMO (fear of missing out…)

So I decided to make a beautiful, rich and creamy vanilla bean panna cotta – who DOESN’T love panna cotta!

I trialled it yesterday, and oh my goodness -what a success! It was beautiful and so tasty!

Enjoy the recipe, I hope you can get much much much use out of it, and check out my pretty photos! Thanks to my husband for sourcing the foam core!

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups cream (may be lite)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (may be lite)
  • 1 vanilla bean pod
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons gelatine powder
  • Sliced strawberries to serve
Method
  • Place the cream and milk in a saucepan
  • Use a small sharp knife to split the vanilla bean lengthways, then scrape the seeds from inside the bean. Add the seeds and bean to the saucepan.
  • Slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes.
  • Discard bean from cream mixture.
  • Add sugar and return to a low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until sugar dissolves.
  • Place 2 tablespoons of boiling water in a small heatproof bowl. Sprinkle gelatine over water. Let stand.
  • Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Remove from heat. Sit the bowl of gelatine in the water and stir until dissolved. Cool slightly, then stir into the cream mixture.
  • Pour cream mixture into pretty glasses or ramekins.
  • Refrigerate for 4-6 hours
  •  Serve dish with fresh berries.

Serves 6

Tanya and Curtis’ Fennel and Potato Soup

6 Jul

My friend Tanya is gorgeous girl who likes fun times and yummy food – maybe that’s one reason why we’re friends!

Recently Tanya cooked Curtis Stone’s roasted fennel and potato soup, and I loved it. I knew there was something extra  in the soup, and that it wasn’t merely potato and leek, but I couldn’t quite pick the fennel taste, as it was very subtle, but definitely gave it a depth of flavour which was beautiful.

I made it for tea tonight, the perfect meal for a rainy, wintery night – complete with crusty ciabatta toast and pastrami – oh, and the ultimate luxury – warm pyjamas, MasterChef and my husband : )

Roasted Fennel and Potato Soup

Ingredients
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 leek, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 500g russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup lite cream (if you are like me, you can do without the cream, but I will use it when I have guests and want to impress!)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Chives to serve
Method
  • Preheat the oven to 180’C
  • Toss the fennel and onions with 1 tablespoon of oil on a large heavy baking tray to coat. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the fennel and onions are tender.
  • Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the leeks and sauté for 5 minutes, or until softened slightly.
  • Add the broth, potatoes, and roasted fennel mixture and bring to a simmer.
  • Continue simmering for 18 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender. Remove the soup from the heat and cool slightly.
  • Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth.
  •  Strain the soup into a clean large saucepan.
  • Add the cream to the soup and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls then garnish with the chives and serve.

Serves 6

Note: I cheated a bit with this recipe. I was in need of a quick to make dinner, so skipped a few steps, and the recipe was still beautiful! I softened the fennel, leek and potato in the bottom of the pot with a little bit of garlic and olive oil. To that I added my stock and let simmer until tender. I then Bamixed the mixture, then added the cream, then served. Voila!

Donna’s Pavlova

23 Jun

My mother-in-law is crazy.

I would go so far as to say that she is insane.

Crazy loud, crazy busy, insanely loving, and insanely generous.

I was watching MasterChef one night, and it was the episode where they had to make Donna Hay’s pavlova. As I often do, I thought out loud via my Facebook status, and typed something along the lines of “MasterChef is makes me want a mix-master!”

The next week at Sabbath lunch, my sister-in-law Linzi said to me “What colour mixer do you want?”  

Helene was at it again. Crazy and insanely generous.  

So, disguised as a present for Mother’s Day, Helene bought Linzi and I a Kenwood Mixer each – yep, a present for her daughters, on Mother’s Day – go figure!  

  

The combination of a  very new, very shiny, very cool mixer and nightly MasterChef viewing, has inspired me to make several (many) pavlovas from scratch.  

They really ARE the easiest of easy desserts. And they are cheap too.  

I use the Donna Hay recipe off the official MasterChef website.  

Donna Hay’s Pavlova

Ingredients
  • 150ml egg white (approximately 4 eggs)
  • 1 cup (220g) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn flour (corn starch), sifted
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar

NB: I usually double the recipe. When Linzi makes hers, she follows Donna’s exact amounts. Both our pavs are marvellous!  

 Method
  • Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F).
  • Place the egg white in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, whisking well, until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Add the corn flour and vinegar and whisk until just combined. Shape the mixture into an 18cm round on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.
  • Reduce oven to 120°C (250°F) and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven.
  • Decorate with your desired toppings.

  

Linzi's magnificent pavlova! Definately the prettiest thus far!

   

My very first pavlova - not the prettiest, but my favourite!

 

  

What not to do - Do not let your husband lick the perfect stiff peaks!

 
 

Linzi's beautiful pavlova waiting to be dressed

 My top tips for a successful pavlova
  • Use room temperature eggs
  • Make sure you get your eggwhites to STIFF PEAKS before adding any sugar, otherwise you just end up with royal icing
  • GRADUALLY add the sugar, don’t rush this part
  • Allow to cool SLOWLY
  • Top with the most decadent of toppings!

   

   

   

  

The Diva of the Kitchen

13 Jun

Last night was a cold, wintery night here in Sydney, and after having our lovely friends Vanessa and Marcus over for lunch (see Vanessa’s fab blog here http://vanessajanephotography.wordpress.com) Mark and I found ourselves with a quiet night ahead! While Mark was happy playing PS3, I decided to tackle what I like to call the Diva of the Kitchen, the macaroon.

Now, to be honest, I didn’t find her to be too much of a prima-donna, but she definitely has that reputation, so I learned whilst pouring over the hundreds of recipes on the internet! There were basic recipes, variants on basic recipes, lists of what to do, lists of what NOT to do, discussions on how long to age egg whites, how long to let rest before baking, what special mats to bake them on – I got tired of reading – so I just decided to give it a go!

My friend Tamara came over and helped me with my mission (see Tamara’s pretty blog here http://tamarabell11.wordpress.com) When we returned from Woolworths with the ingredients, I realised that I had made the same mistake I always make – I had not read the recipe from start to finish before beginning to bake! I learned that I should have separated my egg whites and had them resting at room temperature DAYS AGO, and I needed to have at least 3 hours up my sleeve for resting time! I had not aged my egg whites, nor did I have hours up my sleeve – and they still worked! So don’t be scared, fellow bakers, just give them a go!

 

French Almond Macaroons

Ingredients
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 125g almond meal
  • 110g egg whites aged overnight or longer, at room temperature
  • 30g white sugar
  • Pinch of salt
Method
  • Use a pencil to draw golf-ball sized circles about 4cm apart onto a piece of baking paper. 

(Note: You only have to draw circles on the baking paper if you want absolutely even-sized macaroons. If you’re skilled with piping and don’t mind eyeballing the amount of batter per biscuit, skip this step).

  • Double sift almond meal and icing sugar. Mix the almond meal and icing sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  • In a large, clean, dry bowl whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip until stiff, firm and shiny peaks form.

(Note: If you choose to colour your macaroons, add food colouring at this stage. Take care not to over-beat eggs and lose the peaks in the process).

  • With a flexible spatula, gently fold in almond and icing sugar mixture into egg whites until completely incorporated. The mixture should be shiny and ‘flow like magma.’ When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing.
  • Using a piping bag, pipe the batter onto the baking sheets onto the previously drawn circles. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove any air bubbles. Let dry at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours to allow skins to form.

(Note: When making these myself, I baked half of the biscuits straight away, and let half of them rest for one hour. They both worked, and tasted fabulous, although the ones that I allowed to rest, definitely had better ‘feet’).

  • Bake in a 160’C fan forced oven for 10 to 11 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar, and rotate the baking sheet after 5 minutes for even baking.
  • Remove macaroons from oven and transfer on the baking paper to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a knife underneath the macaroon to carefully remove from paper.
  • Pair macaroons of similar size, and pipe your filling of choice onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macaroons, and refrigerate to allow flavors to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
A Few Tips
  •  Sift your dry ingredients at least twice – multiple times if necessary. You want your ground nuts to be powdery, no lumps. Almond meal and icing sugar mixture may be pulsed in a food processor to make finer.
  • Use old egg whites. Everywhere I read said to leave them out for three days at room temperature if you don’t mind waiting for that long. Using fresh egg whites is more likely to result in macaroons that are too fragile and flat.

(Note: My egg whites were fresh, and I bought them that night straight out of the fridge at Woolies. I brought them down in temperature by letting them sit in a bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes to remove the chill of the fridge).

  • The final macaron batter should have the consistency of magma. What’s the consistency of magma? Not too liquidy, nor too stiff. If you form a peak, it should slowly and completely sink back into the batter.
  • If the cookies form peaks on their tops after piping, flatten them with a wet fingertip.
  • Prevent your macarons from burning by using a double layered baking sheet (stack two sheets on top of each other) and by propping the oven door open with a wooden spoon for the entire baking period.

I ran out of time to make a proper ganache filling – I must admit that! I used Betty Crocker frosting – which was nice, but WAY too sweet for my liking. There are a million ganache filling recipes online that I am dying to try. The first one being white chocolate and raspberry! But that will come – another day, another blog post!

 Here are my pretty macaroons, photographed by my beautiful husband!

 

Cooking for Love

11 Jun

I am a family girl.

Family is the most important thing in my universe.

In November I was blessed with a second family to call my own. When I married my beautiful husband Mark, I inherited his Mum and Dad (Helene and Gerald), two older brothers (Brett and Peter), and sister in law (Linzi). Since then, the magnificant little Lily Josephine has joined our family, and enriched it beyond imagination.

Today is a sad day for Linzi and Brett, they are attending the funeral of Linzi’s dear friend’s mother. Funerals are exhausting things, I always leave them feeling incredibly flat and making dinner is often the last thing I feel like. And I don’t have a 3 month old baby either!

I am fortunate enough to have four days off work over the long weekend, and because i’m oh-so-organised (!) I had my housework all done quite early today, so I turned my attention to making Linzi and Brett (and baby Lily) a comforting, wintery, home made meal. I think cooking for someone is such an easy, but pleasureable thing to do. It is something we can ALL do, meaning that we can’t take the sadness of a friend dying away, we can’t make a baby sleep through the night, we can’t make a mother’s exhaustion disappear, but we can make food. 

My Mum often cooks this recipe, and I feel warm and cozy whenever I eat it.

Ultimate comfort food!

Cottage Cheese Loaf

Ingredients
  • 500g lite cottage cheese
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 large finely chopped brown onion
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vegemite
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Sprinkle of mixed herbs
Method
  • Simply mix ingredients together using your (freshly washed, ringless) hands
  • Spread mixture into a greased oven proof dish
  • Bake for 40 minutes at 200’C
  • Serve with any vegetables your heart desires!

I would serve this with boiled baby potatos with butter and chives, lovely green asparagus and anything else I had in the fridge! 

A little tip on boiling potatoes – or anything starchy! If you add a splash of olive oil to your water, you won’t get that horrible starchy foam which boils over and makes your stove look dirty!