July 28, 2011
How are you at map reading Dear Readers?
When I use a map I've got the kind of mind that needs to feel out the route- this involves turning the map around and around and swaying in the direction indicated as I try and get a feel for it.
This annoys BigJ, he can take one quick look at the map, turn himself around 20 times until he's dizzy, point directly to magnetic north and be at the destination in record time avoiding all tolls and speed cameras along the way. He finds my map dance embarrassing and never lets me drive with him in the car- Or give him directions.
Now, I'm a bit obsessed with shoulders at the moment.
Mine is having issues and although I've googled and read, been to Doctors and had it explained, I still needed to 'see' it for myself. Looking in the mirror and wriggling my good shoulder didn't really help that much, I needed to see where things were and what they do inside. Hmmm... OK off to the markets, result- one lamb shoulder ready to go!
Now my butchery techniques are very basic and my knife skills aren't at their best with a bung shoulder so bear with me guys as we explore the mysteries that lie within.....
Ball and socket joint, very shallow in the shoulder.This seems to be having issues too.Very clunky and sticks :(
I know that my anatomy varies slightly from that of a sheep (well I hope anyway!)but that helps me understand things a bit better. I couldn't see some of the other bits that I'm having trouble with as well, but that seems to have covered most of them. Ultrasounds, CT scans, Xrays, and MRIs are all very well for the Surgeon- and he has all mine to go off, but I'm a chef and I understand food so much better! BigJ thinks that I'm totally strange doing this experiment, and I seem to have embarrassed him yet again, but I think he should be grateful I found a way to satisfy my curiosity!
Well, now that I've had my fun, I really need to do something with the lamb. Because of all those connective tissues and stuff we saw the best way to cook it is long and low, braising will be the perfect solution.
1 sachet/ 2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 bottle of Tomato Passata or tin of crushed tomatoes
Good glass of wine- I used white but red is good too
1 onion roughly chopped
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
Herbs of choice- thyme, rosemary
Salt and Pepper
Mix all these together and place in a pan big enough to fit the lamb, but small enough that they fit snugly.
Nestle in the pieces of meat, and make sure that they're mostly covered by the tomato mix. If you need some more liquid add in a bit more wine, or stock or even water.
Cover the dish closely with a lid or alfoil.
Bake in a 160* oven for about 3 hours. Turn them over about halfway through.
I enjoyed my meal of shoulder with some Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti... ;) and it was Delicious!
So Dear Readers, do you need to turn the map when you navigate and do a little map-dance like me?
July 24, 2011
Everybody needs to be able to cook,
even if you do have all your meals prepared by your own personal chef!
It's holiday time here in Canberra, and I've been giving littlej cooking lessons and she's done so well that I've even promoted her to the Shun knives.
I love to teach and explain the why of things, but didn't realise how it would sound to anyone else until the builders- yes, they're back, but new ones this time who do a good job- in the other room called out asking if this was an episode of MasterChef Master Class! I was in the middle of explaining how to hold the knives safely and how to angle the knife correctly, and how NOT to be afraid of them "use strong strong arm motions, knives can smell fear and know when you're not confident" and was a bit embarrased that they overheard, but I bought their silence with warm Brownies..men can be easily manipulated like that!
Although we have been having meals like Pork Terrine and Mango Sago Pudding, today is all about fun, littlej and her friend are up to their noses in flour, gelatine and noodles- thankfully not all in the one meal! Now they're tackling a self saucing pudding and I thought I would post it for posterity.
In my InBox recently was a yummy sounding recipe from Shirley at Gluten Free Easily http://glutenfreeeasily.com/amy-green-simply-sugar-and-gluten-free-cookbook-review-and-giveaway she adapted form Amy Greens new cookbook, Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. http://simplysugarandglutenfree.com/ This is my adaption of Shirley's adaption of Amy's original recipe! I'm sure the original is absolutely fantastic, but as I've said before, cooking is all about adapting to what you have in the cupboard and what you personally can or like to eat.
My recipe is just a little different from Shirleys, whose is just little bit different from Amy's, and I bet your's will be just a little bit different from mine too. Actually, I really hope your's is a LOT different, as littlej and her friend dumped in all the sugar at once and ours was really, really, really sweet!
One of the things I liked in this recipe is that it's cooked in a slow cooker. I know I've got a big oven and all, but sometimes I need it set to a higher or lower temperature for the main course that won't necesarily make for a happy dessert. I figured this type of pudding could tick away on the bench, keeping the oven free yet be hot and ready when wanted. One thing that I didn't take inot account though was that I have a REALLY OLD original crockpot from the 70's. I would loooove one of the new breed, or a fast/slow cooker, but this is what I've got and I think the newer models must work much more efficiently or at different temperatures, because my little crocky took nearly 3 1/2 hours instead of the 1-2 hrs suggested by the original recipe. It wasn't really a problem as I had plenty of time today, but trying to keep 2 excited girls from lifting the lid every 20mins was! Needless to say that a dessert that could have fed a family was devoured by the 2 of them as they declared it their reward for being patient all day.
Peanut Butter Choc Fudge Pudding
Recipe courtesy of Amy Green and Ulysses Press (And Shirley of Gluten Free Easily)
1/2 cup gluten-free flour
1/4 cup x 2 lots, raw sugar- I think brown would be better though
3/4 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1/2 tsp salt flakes
1/3 cup lactose free milk
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/4 cups coffee
Spray your slowcooker with cooking oil.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ¼ cup of the sugar- NOT both lots, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, and vanilla.
Heat the peanut butter for about 30 seconds, just until soft. Add the first bowl of wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the peanut butter. It's a pretty thick batter, but that's the way it's supposed to be.
Spread the batter evenly in the bottom of your slow cooker
Whisk the cocoa , other ¼ cup sugar, and coffee together. Ladle it carefully on top of the batter in the slow cooker so it doesn't leave holes by just pouring it in. Don't mix the two together as this is the sauce part of the self-saucing!
Cover and cook on high for 1 to 2 hours, checking after 1 hour. The pudding is ready when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. My puddingy bits were sticking out above the layer of sauce below and looked dry and a bit fluffy. The sauce part is supposed to be wet :)
My littlej and her friend R just love peanut butter and declared this pudding Yummm!
It was easy for them to make together without supervision (except for the sugar) and the fact that it was self saucing made them feel very clever indeed. I fear- due to the calorie content, not yumm content- that it will be added to littlej's regular list of recipes. She's also working on a PBJ version adapting the original yet again!
I hope you don't mind Amy!
July 20, 2011
What's on earth's that, you say?
Well let me explain....
I wanted to make some honeycomb that didn't actually contain honey. You see I've got a vegan dinner coming up and want something sweet to have with coffee at the end. I decided to use an old favourite instead, Golden Syrup. The flavour is slightly different than one made using honey, more 'Crunchie' than 'Violet Crumble' (Australian chocolate bars), but still yummy and exactly what I want. So to be true to my ingredients and for clarity, I've decided to name my confectionary Toffeecomb instead. You still get the general idea, and if not you can always ask :)
We grew up with golden syrup- my Dad always calls it Cockies Joy, thick spread on bread with butter, dripping down pancakes, and especially wonderful made into Golden Syrup Dumplings.... post coming soon!
Golden syrup is just water and sugar. No allergy issues or animal products here,thanks. I won't enter into the whole refined sugar debate etc,etc. Foods like this are 'sometimes' foods anyway and great for a bit of fun in the kitchen. It's great to make with the kiddies, as it has a cool science experiment vibe going once the bicarb is added and watching it foam up is really exciting!
1 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Golden Syrup
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons bicarb soda
First prepare a tray for your toffeecomb. Line a tray or pan with some baking paper and place it right next to the stove. Don't forget this step and remember just as you're ready to pour it into the dish or it will be messy and discouraging as all the fluffiness will be lost and you'll have to start again.
Place sugar, syrup, water and vinegar in a large saucepan.
Stir gently until combined and sugar has started to dissolve a little. Be careful not to splash any on the sides of the pan or it might crystallise later and ruin the effect. If needed run a wet cloth/finger/pastry brush around the edges to wash any sugar crystals down.
Put on a medium heat and boil gently for about 8 mins or until it reaches hard crack stage.
Quickly whisk the bicarb soda evenly through the mix, it will immediately foam up dramatically, and pour it straight into the pan .
Don't keep stirring or bumping the mix or all the lovely little gas bubbles will collapse. If any kiddies or curious husbands are helping, they need to be very careful as this is just frothy toffee, and will give very nasty burns if it gets on you.
As a chef, I have recieved burns of various natures and degrees, including steam burns, oil burns, water scalds, open flame burns, contact burns from hot surfaces, reflected burns from cooking on the chargrill for 6 hrs at a time leaving sunburn type burns, and sugar burns. The sugar burn was by far the worst burn of all as it just keep burning through the layers and when I
Leave it to cool down in the pan, then break it up and enjoy!
If you like you can smear one side of it with chocolate, or to keep it vegan, use Sweet William Chocolate that's gluten, lactose, nut and vegan friendly. I must admit that I was so excited with my pan of toffeecomb goodness that I started smashing away as soon as it was cool and set. It's much more sensible to apply the chocolate BEFORE you do this. Trust me on this.
Serve this with coffee as an sfter dinner treat, or just as a treat in general! Yummm....
So Dear Readers,
do you have a favourtie sweet spread from your childhood, and have you ever had any nasty kitchen burns?
July 15, 2011
Sometimes you just need something yummy now.
No time to run out for special fresh ingredients, or long involved processes- just something whipped up out of the pantry guarenteed to be good.
I'm not much of a fan of pre-packaged stuff, but it always pays to have some basics and bits and pieces available to build on. A rat around in the cupbard revealed some corn kernels and a tin of crab. Hmmm.... Fritters!
OK corn, crab, egg, gfree crumbs, lemons-always in the fridge, and an extra treat of some yummy mayonaise from Heidi at Apples Under My Bed. What more could you ask for?
Of course these would be better with perfect fresh ingredients. Crab lump meat, roasted ears of corn, I might fancy these up next dinner party, but lunch for me and littlej these are juuuuust right.
First rat around in the pantry and gather your ingredients
Small tin of 170g or approx 1/2 a cup of drained crab meat
1/2 cup of tinned corn kernels
1/2 cup gfree rice crumbs
1 egg lightly beaten
zest of about 1/2 small lemon
Pop everything together into a bowl and mix gently.
Form into nice little fritters and shallow fry gently until they're golden brown and hot all the way through.
Serve them with some salad and some more mayonaise for dipping.
Easy Peasy and maybe 10mins from start to finish. School holiday lunch with style!
So Readers Dear, are you a fan of pre-packaged goods or do you prefer to cook from scratch?
July 9, 2011
When you go to a cafe, do you like to get a little treat on the side of your Lactose free-Weak-Decaf-Coffee?
I've come across tiny meringues, little chocolates, and of course- biscuits aka cookies. Now I think it's always exciting to look at, but of course I have to leave it there :(
However, the cafes certainly mean well, and at one cafe I worked at it was my job to make the little 'freebies', several hundred at a time. The biscuits had to be quick, cheap, easy, and of course yummy! After a bit of trial and error, I decided the best option was to use a cookie press.
I love having good quality InTolerant options available at the major supermarkets!
Cookie Press Cookies (3 dozen)
1/2 cup Castor Sugar
2 cups gluten free Plain Flour
1/2 teaspoon gfree baking powder
1 Tablespoon Lactose free Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Pinch of Salt
Cream the butter and sugar together.
Add in the egg and milk, and I like to put in the baking powder and salt now too as it mixes in evenly. Beat through for a second or two.
Add in the flour and mix on very low speed until combined.
Now is the time to divide the dough and add in any extra flavourings. I usually just knead it in by hand.
Bring the dough together and roll into a shape that will fit into the cylinder body of the cookie press. Let it rest for about 20mins just to firm up a little.
Put the dough in the press and cookie away! Now DON"T WORRY IF YOU DON"T HAVE A COOKIE PRESS, you can just roll out little balls of the dough and press it down gently with a fork. It works just as well, it's just not quite so fancy!
This is such a nice basic recipe and just about any extra flavourings can be added to change it up and various yummy things sprinkled on top before baking. About the only thing you can't put in a cookie press are chunks. They just won't fit through the holes. So no chocolate chips, or fruity bits, sorry, but cocoa and purees are fine for flavour.
Don't worry that you'll have hundreds of biscuits either, the dough freezes fantastically whether in a big lump, or carefully spritzed out on sheets ready to pop in the oven at a moments notice.
The basic recipe has a good shortbread style flavour with a nice crisp bite. It can even be dunked quickly into your coffee, win-win!
Here I've made 3 variations, the palest is just plain, the brown has cocoa powder added, and the one in the middle has spices. You can also give the raw biscuits a very light spray or brush with water, and top with pretty coloured sprinkles too.
Now while the little bit on the side of your coffee is cute and all, I have to admit I think it's not always so good for business- before you shout me down just think about it for a sec; while drinking your beverage of choice you might fancy a little something something, just to take the edge off your sweet tooth or to tide you over to lunch... that little biscuit is probably juuuuuust enough, and free! But now you won't look longingly across at the lovely array of cakes or bigger bikkies on the counter, be tempted and spend a couple more dollars. There's only so much you'll spend on a cup of coffee, so factoring in the price of a free cookie isn't really an option, even if it's low cost to produce; so an extra sale is always welcome. I would rather reward my customers by putting that money spent into a better quality coffee or lower prices over all.
This is the business side of me speaking, not the customer side though, just want to clear that up :)
So Dearest Readers,
would you travel further to a cafe just for the free little biscuit, or would you have a different cafe-choosing-criteria?
July 4, 2011
Hello My Lovelies, it's time for another 365 Challenge through
They have a great team working their way through Stephane Reynaud's '365 Good Reasons to Sit Down to Eat' Cookbook. A mix of all sorts of people who cook for fun.
In case you missed it, this was my previous challenge and I enjoyed it very much, it was loads of fun and always interesting to try something new.
This time around I got July 1st, Duck With Honey.
Now I don't mind a bit of sweetness with savoury foods, and this pairing of duck and honey seemed to make sense. Then I read the rest of the ingredients, and let's just say I had my doubts. It's good to stretch your culinary style sometimes, and I would hate to be thought narrow minded, so I threw caution to the winds and sallied forth into the world of sticky wine, sticky honey and sticky, sticky duck.
3 Tab Honey
1 Tab Armagnac
3 Duck breasts
1 Tab Herbes de Provence
Salt and Pepper
Cooking is all about adapting.
Sometimes the recipe in a book calls for items that are out of season, out of stock, or out of my price range!
As we are currently shivering our way through the middle of a cold Canberra winter, fresh peaches and apricots were mysteriously hard to find. Tinned ones? Not really the right posh-iness expected in French cooking, dried ones? Definitely a better choice.
Herbes de Provence were unaccountably not in the spice aisle at Woolies, but a quick Google search helped me mix up a blend of lavender, thyme and rosemary which at least gave a Gallic vibe that I hoped would not offend Stephane if he ever stumbled across this blog!
Sauternes and Armagnac were available at my local grog shop, but my purse-strings were astonishingly hard to loosen when confronted with the price. After a brief struggle, my purse and I reached a compromise and settled on a bottle of Botrytis Sticky and some Brandy that will hide in my cupboard until wanted at Christmas. After this, I felt so virtuous saving so much money I went and bought myself a nice new Hippy style blouse that I will wear in about a month- so I can truthfully say to my suspicious husband 'what, this old thing? I've had it for AGES.' My purse and I are good at that.
But back to the food ....
First I slashed the duck breasts as recommend in a diamond pattern. This allows the marinade to penetrate the meat and also helps the excess fat render from the skin.
Mix the wine, brandy and honey. Dip the breasts in the mix and sprinkle with the herbs as suggested, or pop the herbs in along with the meat, and marinate overnight.
Prepare the eggplant. I decided to leave the peices larger than the cubes recommended, as I thought it would present better on the plate. What with the fruit and the nuts, there already seemed a lot of fussiness going on. I sprinkled the larger pieces with salt and left them for about 20 mins to disgorge any bitterness, then patted them dry and adding them to the pan with the duck breasts.
Place the duck skin side down in a dry, cold pan. This is really good to remember, having the pan cold to start will help the fat render and the skin to crisp better without the meat over cooking. And there’s really no need at all for oiling the pan as the duck will generously supply more than enough of its own.
Be really watchful at this point as the sugars from the wine and honey will burn easily. There’s a fine line between burnished and burnt! The eggplant will go gorgeously silky and brown from all the ducky goodness in the pan, and have an amazing flavour- but don’t consider this the healthy part of the dinner as it sponges up plenty of that rendered fat.
Once the duck is cooked to your liking, pull it and the eggplant out of the pan and let it rest somewhere warm.
Drain out the fat, and place the marinade, fruit and nuts in the pan back on the heat. To plump the fruit nicely, cover the pan with a lid and they’ll steam away while absorbing lots of the flavour. I loved how the herby earthiness of the lavender and thyme managed to penetrate the fruit. Once they’re fat and juicy, take the lid off and let the liquid reduce down to a sauce consistency. At this point I added a tablespoon of butter to add some gloss and richness and any juices that released from the resting duck. They are the ‘essence’ of the meat after all, and it’s such a shame to let them go to waste.
To present, I chose a rectangle plate that would follow the line of the eggplant and the shape of the duck breast. A bigger one would have been better, but I had to work with what I’ve got. I placed a slice of eggplant in the middle of the plate, then sliced my duck at an angle and fanned it over the eggplant. This way it showed off both the crispy skin and the pink blush inside as well. I arranged some of the fruit over the meat without covering it all, and placed on a few nuts for extra interest and shape contrast. The sauce would be nice presented in a little jug at the table so each diner could add their own, but I drizzled it around the arrangement of food and it worked OK too. A piece of lavender and thyme on top would have been the finishing touch and reinforced the flavour profile- you’ll just have to imagine it this time!
What did I think of this dish?
Personally I prefer Asian style flavours and don't cook much French inspired food- unless it's dessert. Unfortunetly this recipe was just way too sweet for me and could almost be counted as dessert itself! The duck played second fiddle to the cloying syrup surrounding it. Fresh fruit would have added a much needed touch of tartness, but I still don't think it would be enough.
I mentioned earlier adapting a dish.
In this case, I would adapt the flavours to my palate by halving or even chopping the amount of honey by a third and swapping out the sticky wine for a dry white. A touch of stock or jus in the sauce would also tone it down a little. I think this way the lovely nuances of the lavender, the savoury notes of the thyme and lovely brown bits on the duck skin would all blend into a harmonious whole, instead of being a one-man-band of sticky sweetness.
A bit of further adaptation and I think I could make this into a dish that would appeal more to my taste, and be one I would happily share with friends for dinner.
Sorry Stephane, I hope you don’t mind!
Well Readers, what do you think of sweet sauce for a savoury dish? And what flavour profile do you like the most?
Now to the interesting bit Lovelies- another give away!
This time it's a SCANPAN, Soft Touch Spectrum,Santoku Knife. A funky bright green colour to liven up your kitchen and a cool sheaf to keep it nicely covered over when not in use and sitting in your drawer. Not too big, it's just the right size for preparing the evenings veggies, or taking on a picnic to chop the salad or slice the sausages.
To go in draw, just leave a comment- can't make it any simpler can I? The winner shall be chosen yet again by my patented and highly envied Cat Raffle Method. See this post for details, http://intolerantchef.blogspot.com/2011/06/beautilicious-blueberry-souffle.html
I distance myself from any feline fancies, but wish you the best. May the Fur be with you!