Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Rome’s Involtini di Manzo (Beef Rolls) from Tasting Rome.

This will be my last post before I enter into a blissful week of tropical summer where my hardest decisions will be whether I order a cocktail in a coconut or pineapple. I'm going on holidays!!! And I'm so excited. It's been 5 years since I've been on a proper 'hop-on-a-plane' holiday and the first time in 9 years going overseas with my other half. Thailand here we come baby!!

But before I disappear off cyber space for the next week I thought I'd share the dinner I made on Saturday night when the big chill decided to hit the east coast of Australia. My previous post must of jinxed it and Mother Nature thought 'I'll show her!' and let Jack Frost go mental on us all. So to warm our little footsies a hearty, carb filled, slow cooked dinner was on the cards with a glass of wine (or a bottle or two) for Saturday night.

Earlier in the week I read a blog post from 'Dinner: A Love Story' where guest blogger Katie Parla shared a recipe for Rome’s Involtini di Manzo (Beef Rolls) from her new book Tasting Rome who she wrote with Kristina Gill - I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy when I'm back. As soon as I read the post, I knew I had to make it this weekend, especially if it was going to be as cold as they were predicting. And it was. Jack Frost did not hold back although he didn't quite bring the snow to Sydney unfortunately.

Now I could tell you that the entire dinner went smoothly and I had no hiccups but then my nose would grow and quickly poke the laptop screen in front of me as I'd be telling you a fib. I blame the fact that there was a cheese plater and a bottle of really delicious bubbles that made me (kind of) forget about the involtino in tomato sauce blipping away that needed checking now and again to make sure it hadn't reduced too much or caught on the bottom. It was my nose that picked up on it before dinner ended up a total disaster. I could suddenly smell something and I instantly knew what it was, I've done this before you see. I had a 'Julie and Julia' moment when Julie Powell burns the stew... no no no no! I walked very quickly (I didn't want to cause alarm by running despite what instinct told me to do) over to the pot and lifted the lid. I had caught it just in time. I turned the heat off, didn't stir it and scooped the involtini out of the pan and the parts of the thick sauce which hadn't caught to the bottom of the pan yet and put it all in a new pot with about a cup of boiling water to save dinner. It worked...thank goodness!! Dinner was saved and even with my hiccup it tasted pretty darn delicious.

The recipe says 'cook once, eat twice' but I decided to serve the entire dish with spaghetti and serve it all together with the involtini sliced on top. It was delicious and the leftovers on Sunday night were just as good, if not even better.

I know I will make this again and again, I love pasta with tomato based sauces and any kind of slow cooked beef. Yum. It does take and hour and a half on the stove and YES it needs to be checked now and again to make sure it hasn't reduced too much or caught on the bottom of your pot. But then maybe don't try and consume half a bottle of bubbles and a cheese plate while cooking or at least set a timer if good wine and cheese distracts you as much as it does me.

It was a great way to spend a chilly Saturday night... great food and great company now bring on the cocktails and sun lounges. Laters!

Rome’s Involtini di Manzo (Beef Rolls)

Makes 6 involtini, plus about 2 cups sauce for pasta
From Tasting Rome, by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill

500g beef sizzle steaks or rump roast, cut into six equal thin slices
sea salt
6 thin slices prosciutto
1 carrot, julienned
1 celery stalk, julienned
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
800g can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper

- Lay the slices of beef flat on a chopping board and season with salt on both sides. Place 1 piece of prosciutto over each slice of meat, followed by 3 or 4 sticks each of carrot and celery at one short end of the meat. Roll the meat around the vegetables, forming a medium-tight involtino (roll). Using a couple of toothpicks inserted flush with the meat to keep the roll closed (or you can use kitchen twine).

- Heat the olive oil in a medium to small pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the involtini and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the rolls from the pan and set aside.

- Add the crushed garlic to the same pan and cook, stirring constantly until it just turns golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the canned tomatoes and wine and cook until the alcohol aroma dissipates, about a minute or two.

- When the sauce begins to simmer, add the involtini back to the pan. The meat should be mostly covered by the tomato sauce. Cook, covered, until the meat is fork-tender, about 1½ hours, checking occasionally (very important!!) to be sure the meat is at least two-thirds submerged and adding water if necessary.

- Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with spaghetti (like I did) or separately serving the sauce with pasta as an entree and the Involtini as a mail. Or allow the dish to rest in the refrigerator for up to three days to allow the flavours to develop - it's even better the next day!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Blondies - a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and a brownie.

Jack Frost has taken leave this winter in Sydney. I haven't had any icy mornings or crunchy grass and winter has been here for officially 3 weeks now. I think the weather is drunk. Crazy storms one weekend (like swimming pools falling in the ocean) and then humid the next. Where is winter?? Jack Frost where are you??

Since Mr Frost has taken leave I've not had any desire to cook wintery comfort food yet. Instead all I've thought about it blondies. What are blondies? They are like a poor mans brownie since they have a whole bunch less chocolate in them but still just as good or more traditionally, a vanilla version of brownies. They go perfect with a morning coffee, delicious heated up so the chocolate chunks go molten with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (in front of the fire - if you're lucky enough to get cold weather to warrant a fire) or if your a cookies and cold milk kind of foodie then these will blow your mind. To me they are a mixture between a really great chocolate chip cookie and a brownie.

Have I convinced you that you need these? I need them. If only there was more hours in the day and we were born with two stomachs, I could cook and eat everything I ever want in a day.

Instead, since it's the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, why not do some night time baking and enjoy a molten blondie with some vanilla ice cream on the couch snuggled up tonight. Fingers crossed it gets a little frosty in Sydney!

blondies | salt sugar and i

*photo fail but since it's like a cross between a brownie and chocolate chip cookie - thought this was appropriate. Or click here to get your fix of 'blondie' images.


adapted from Food52 & Cook's Illustrated 

100g macadamia nuts
215g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
170g butter, melted and cooled
290g brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
90g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate

- Preheat oven to 350F and move trays to bottom wrack. Spread macadamia nuts onto large baking tray and bake for about 10-15 minutes. Transfer nuts to chopping board to cool, roughly chop and set aside.

- While the nuts are toasting, line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan/tin with baking paper, making sure the edges come up a little higher so you can lift the blondie out once baked.

- Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

- Whisk melter butter and brown sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Fold in the dry ingredients using a rubber spatular, until just combined but do not over mix. Fold through chocolate and nuts then pour into prepared tin and smooth over the top making sure the batter is level on top.

- Bake for about 22-25 minutes, until top is shiny, cracked and lightly brown. Do not over bake! Cool on a wire wrack in the baking tin until room temperature (if you can last that long!). Remove from pan by using the overhanging baking paper and cut into squares and enjoy!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Homemade Monte Carlos + I heart Hunter Valley.

*warning. this biscuit recipe is so good. stop what you are doing and just skip to the recipe.

The weekend before last, I went away for a girls weekend to the Hunter Valley. It was filled with local wine, delicious and large amounts of cheese and of course, great company. Some of us drove down on the Friday listening to RnB Friday's, all on a giddy high from having the day off work... we were free!! (until Monday). And! we were heading to a farm that had a real fire place with logs of wood and chickens that laid eggs. To say we were slightly excited was an understatement.

I was a little too excited the night before and morning of and made two containers of baked goodies. Homemade Monte Carlos and Food 52's famous Blondies. I couldn't decide which one so ended up making both, I didn't think anyone would complain.

After we all survived the grocery shop and after everyone was still best of friends we arrived at our little farm house for the weekend and were greeted by cows and an over-friendly cat called 'Smudge'. I say over-friendly because he had a plan which we realised quite quickly; he was trying to butter us up to let him inside by the fire but after rolling in cow patties, eating a bird on our door step and strict instructions from the owners it best he stay outside. While it was still light we went to visit the chickens AND a mama cow and her calf. Ahhhhh we all squealed, you could tell we were not from the country. When the farm dogs tried to round us up like wondering cows we decided it was time to retreat inside and warm ourselves up with a cuppa and a Monte Carlo before we cracked open the champagne and cheese platter.

The first challenge of the weekend was not who could finish their tea first and start on the bubbles but to light the fire and keep it going. We had wood, we had kindling and we had a match. Yes. One match. Luckily we had a ex-Scout with us and a couple of tea-lights to help.

*i thought i told you to skip straight to the recipe!

The next morning we were up at sparrows fart to get ready for our early shuttle bus pick-up. Over cooked eggs (I'm useless at cooking eggs), buttered toast, milky tea, face on, hair done and the realisation of my jacket still sitting at home but I was ready to start tasting what the Hunter Valley was made of. My favourites were definitely Ernest Hill and Draytons, they were also the first two we went to so that could also why I remember the wines better then the rest. The last stop was the Vodka Distillery which was more fun for the novelty of flavoured shots in test tubes then exactly tasty. The chilli vodka blew my head off! It was home after that to start our fire again and warm our feet, luckily our late addition to the girls weekend brought more matches with her late on Friday night. Farm/life saver!

Being back to the usual grind of Monday to Friday now for 2 weeks, I cannot wait to escape again this long weekend. But if I can recommend anything, it's to make these Monte Carlo Biscuits this weekend. They are seriously good.

#freakinamazing #sososodelicious #betterthentheoriginal #sorryarrnotts #homemadewinseverytime #yumyumyumyumyum #iusedhomemadejam #bestbiscuitever #justdoit #makethemnow #whatareyouwaitingfor!? so.... why are you still sitting reading this??

If your not an Aussie and weren't brought up licking the centre out of these chewy jam, cream filled biscuits then you probably have no clue what I'm talking about. The Monte Carlo is an iconic Australian biscuit made by Arnotts which has been around since 1926 and in my opinion, this homemade version is going to change your biscuit making/eating life forever.

The honey, golden syrup and coconut in the shortbread gives it a really great caramelised, nutty flavour while the sweet sugary buttercream on the inside is tongue tingling against the tart raspberry jam. I used my homemade raspberry jam that I made a few weeks ago so I am slightly bias and probably love them even more because of it but you could use a store bought jam and still make one of the best biscuits you'll ever make.

They go perfect with a cuppa or even a glass of bubbles.

Monte Carlo Biscuits

adapted from Paul West, River Cottage Australia.

makes about 30 sandwiched biscuits

for the biscuit.
180g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 cups plain flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup desiccated coconut

for the filling.
raspberry jam, homemade or store bought
70g butter, softened
1 cup icing mixture, sifted
1 teaspoon milk
dash of vanilla

for the biscuits.
- Preheat oven to 175C/350F and line as many baking trays as your have with baking paper.

- Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, honey and golden syrup and beat until really well combined.

- In a separate bowl mix together flour and baking powder (really well) using a whisk. Add the coconut and then combine all the dry ingredients with the butter mixture stirring until everything is evenly combined and a soft dough forms.

- Pinch off about a teaspoon (roughly 10g) of dough at a time and roll into a smooth ball. Place on your lined baking tray about 3 inches apart. When you have filled one tray, press each ball down to flatten it then using a wet (must be wet!) dessert spoon smooth over the top, flattening it more and forming it into an oval shape, about 5mm thick. Using a fork, rough up the tops to give them a more traditional 'Monte Carlo' biscuit look.

- Once you have done as many trays you have/fit in your oven, you can start baking.
(I had to make mine in batches as this recipe makes about 60 halves and I only own 2 baking trays and a tiny oven)

- These biscuits will take about 7-10 minutes, depending on your oven so keep an eye on your first tray to give you a guide for baking. They should come out of the oven golden brown and smelling of the golden syrup and honey.

- Allow to cool on trays for about 5 minutes then remove onto wire racks to cool completely.

- When all your biscuits are baked, start on your buttercream filling.

for the buttercream filling.
- Cream butter until pale a creamy then add your icing mixture then your vanilla and milk. Beat on high until the buttercream is pale and fluffy.

- You can now start to fill.

filling your biscuits.
- No one is perfect so not all your biscuits are going to be the same size. Match them up in pairs as best you can.

- Your can fill these two ways:

The first way, spread about a teaspoon of buttercream onto one side of a paired biscuit and spread about half a teaspoon of jam on the other and press gently sandwiching them together.

Or the second way, put your buttercream into a small piping bag or sandwich bag and cut about 5mm of the tip/corner off. Pipe around the edge of one of your paired biscuits and a swirl in the centre. Spoon half a teaspoon of jam on the inside of your buttercream piping edge and on top of the swirl and press gently sandwiching them together.

(I used the second method to fill them as it seems to hold the jam inside a little bit better and I didn't want the jam to leak out everywhere during the car trip. BUT both ways will taste just as delicious.)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Quintessential Raspberry Jam from Not Just Jam.

I've been meaning to write this post for a little while now. I made jam. And I feel totally accomplished.

I wish I had a romantic story and photos of me skipping through a berry farm swinging a woven basket full of hand picked berries but unfortunately I don't. In reality fresh berries in Sydney are stupid expense so unless you have the garden of my dreams, frozen berries are what you're left with. As long as their 'Australian grown' I think you're doing pretty alright. So instead of a romantic montage of photos, I have a really great jam recipe from a book that makes you wish for a pantry the size of a walk in wardrobe.

The last time I made jam was for my year 9 Food-Tech assignment where I successfully turned sugar and berries into toffee and the only way to get it out of the jar was to microwave it. To say I haven't been super confident to jump back in is an understatement. But then over the last long-weekend I read Michelle Crawford's book, 'A Table in the Orchard' and fell in love with her story, her garden, her kitchen and it was like jam called to me from it's pages. I wanted that homey feeling of warm toast, salty butter and sweet homemade jam with a steaming cup of tea. I wanted to stand over a stove and stir jam, pour it into jars and label them as my own. Recently on her blog, 'Hugo & Elsa' she wrote about a book she co-wrote with Matthew Evans, an ex-food critic turned farmer called 'Not Just Jam'. It had me at the name and when I found it in my local library I instantly put a hold on it and picked it up that Saturday morning. I never want to give it back. It's full of recipes that you wish you could grab a spoon and dig in straight from the jar. I was still a little hesitant to jump two feet first so instead of going for one of the more complex sounding recipes, lets me honest jam making still scared the pants off me, I went with 'The Quintessential Raspberry Jam'.

Having stirred about 1000 pots of bubbling sugar, it's second nature to be precaution but I still felt out of practice, it's been nearly 2 years. Was it going to bubble over? was my pot too small? do I need to roll my sleeves down? will it spit at me or splutter and cover the cooktop and me with sugary jam goop? Every type of bubbling sugar acts differently and I don't think you can classify my year 9 attempt as a successful jam making venture.

I don't know what I was nervous about!?

With my plate in the freezer and my jars sterilised, I stood in front of my pot of raspberries, sugar and lemon juice armed with a candy thermometer and spatular, I felt a buzz, this was exciting. I was making my own jam. I precariously watched the temperature climb, ready to ditch my stirrer any second and run to the freezer in a panic but it all happened so smoothly. I gave it the wrinkle test as well as making sure it came to the correct temperature and turned off the heat. Filled my jars with hot jam, screwed on the lids and I was done. A couple of hours later the lids had inverted and they were sealed, waiting to be labelled and stored. Ok one jar didn't get stored, it was instantly opened with a satisfying pop and toast happened. I had to make sure it has set right before I could give the rest as gifts right??

We've gone through one jar already and on to the second. I had grand plans to gift this first batch of jam but I don't know how much will make it out of our apartment, more likely to end up on our morning toast. Might just have to make another from this delicious book before I return it to the library.

The Quintessential Raspberry Jam 

Makes about 1.8kg
very very slightly adapted from 'Not Just Jam' by Matthew Evans and Michelle Crawford
(there are 2 different methods for making this jam, I have only put the one I used below)

1kg raspberries (if using frozen, thaw completely)
900g sugar, warmed gently in the oven
juice of 1 lemon, strained

- Wash and sterilise six 300ml jars (or equivalent capacity). **see notes below

- Place a small plate in the freezer to chill and warm your sugar in a moderate oven, in a heatproof dish until warm to the touch.

- Heat the raspberries with the warm sugar and lemon juice in a wide-based pan over high heat. Stir every minute or so using a flat-edge heatproof spatular.

- After about 9 minutes start to test for a set. Dribble a little jam onto the saucer which has been chilling in the freezer and leave for 30 seconds. Run your finger across the drop of jam, if it wrinkles it has reached the setting point. Alternatively if you have a candy thermometer handy, it needs to reach 105C (220F).

- Once at setting point, remove the jam from the heat immediately, pour into warmed jars. If jars are not warm when filling them they can crack. Wipe down any messy edges with a clean cloth and seal the lid immediately.

The jam should keep well for up to 2 years in the pantry.
Once opened, store in the refrigerator.

** Sterilising jars.
If you have a dishwasher, this is the easiest way. Place jars and lids in a dishwasher on a hot cycle, remove them once done without touching the inside of the jars or inside of the lids. Make sure jars are still warm (but not wet) when filling them with hot jam.

Otherwise if you don't have dishwasher like me, wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Place rinsed jars on a tray in a preheated, low (120C) oven for about 30 minutes. Place the lids in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. I take the jars out of the oven just before I am about to fill them so they are still warm.

Or you can go to any home-brew shop and they sell sterilising chemicals which you can also use.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Rhubarb and Apple Galette with an all butter spelt pie crust.

Yossy Arefi from the blog 'Apt 2b Baking Co' recently released her first cookbook 'Sweeter off the Vine' but I am yet to get my hands on a copy (come on payday!). This hasn't stopped me drooling over the recipes and photos from it, you see I've turned into bit of a stalker. I've been reading all the reviews from other bloggers who have a copy and I have serious FOMO. So to try and fix my serious case of FOMO I decided to make a recipe from her blog instead to feel included in this online bake-a-long. Just to make you also have FOMO, you can see a trailer for the cookbook here and if you don't crave pie or blueberry cobbler after watching it, something is wrong with you.

Rhubarb and Apple Galette with an all butter spelt pie crust.

It was the perfect opportunity last weekend when I found a semi dodgy looking bunch of rhubarb (I think it was the last of the season) hiding in the bottom of our veg box. It was just asking to be turned into pie and when I saw the apple and rhubarb galette on Yossy's blog I was sold. A galette is a free formed tart where you pile the fruit in the centre of the rolled out pie crust and fold the edges over so a tart tin is not needed. It's rustic and in my opinion so much better than a traditional tart, you get more of the flaky pastry edges but not quite as much if you had made a pie so I think of galettes somehow in between a pie and a tart... kind of. Anyway, it definitely doesn't skimp on indulgence.

Rhubarb and Apple Galette with an all butter spelt pie crust.

The recipe starts with your favourite variety of all butter pie crust. I don't have a specific favourite so had a little search around for a recipe and found a rye pie crust from Food52 but couldn't find rye flour (I didn't try very hard) so decided to use spelt instead. Totally different flavours I know but I just went with it and I think I've found my favourite pie crust because boy oh boy was it good!

Rhubarb and Apple Galette with an all butter spelt pie crust.

You smoosh the cubed butter into fat discs so you end up with chunks of butter spotted throughout the dough, which when baked go all flaky and buttery and with the raw sugar sprinkled on top you get that sweet crunch. You can never go wrong with the combination of rhubarb and apple, it's always a perfect match. The tartness of the rhubarb works so well with the sweetness of the cooked apple and then the flaky buttery pastry... oh my! It is seriously good pie crust. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the warm galette and you've lost me to this dessert forever.

The pie crust recipe makes enough for two galettes (or one pie) so I have a disk in my freezer just waiting for me to roll it out, fill it with fruit and bake it. I know what I'll be baking and eating this weekend - and I highly suggest you make this too. As in, now.

Rhubarb and Apple Galette with an all butter spelt pie crust.

Rhubarb & Apple galette

makes 1x 9-inch tart/galette
adapted from Apt 2b Baking Co by Yossy Arefi

1/2 recipe of all butter spelt pie crust (see recipe below)
225g rhubarb
1 large baking apple or 2 small apples
1/2 lemon
4 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 vanilla bean
pinch salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon raw sugar

- Line a baking tray with baking paper and preheat your oven to 200C/400F.

- Cut the rhubarb into 1/4-inch by 3-inch batons and the apple into thin slices, no need to peel.

- Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Combine them with the 4 tablespoons of sugar and using your finger tips rub the sugar and vanilla seeds together to evenly disperse them.

- Roll out the pie crust till it's about 12-inches in diameter then transfer onto the lined baking tray. Sprinkle the flour and 1 tablespoon of the vanilla sugar over the top, leaving a 2-inch boarder around the edge. Arrange your rhubarb batons and apple slices in the centre, overlapping each other and keeping the 2-inch boarder. Sprinkle the remaining vanilla sugar along with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice over the top of the fruit.

- Fold your boarder of excess dough over the fruit and press gently to seal the fold. Put the whole thing in the freezer until the dough is firm, about 15 minutes. While the galette is in the freezer, whisk your egg up in a small bowl.

- After the galette has chilled, brush the edges of the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the raw sugar. Bake until deep golden brown, about 35-45 minutes.

all butter spelt pie crust

makes 1 pie or 2 tarts/galettes
adapted from Food52 article by Yossy Arefi

170g plain flour
170g spelt flour *
250g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
120ml ice water

- Combine flours and salt in a bowl. Using your fingers smoosh the cubed butter into smaller pieces, some the size of squashed peas and others the size of podded broad beans. Some of the butter will end up completely worked into the flour, thats ok but you want some chunks as this makes the pastry flaky - don't be afraid of the chunky butter bits, this is not shortcrust pastry remember.

- Combine the water and apple cider vinegar into a jug. Make a well in the centre of your flour and butter mixture and slowly pour about 6 tablespoonfuls of the water-vinegar into the dough while gently mixing. If the dough seems dry add a teaspoon more at a time (I added ended up adding all the liquid but this will depend on your flour). You have added enough water when you can pick up a handful of dough and squeeze it together easily without falling apart. Press the dough together then split into two discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least an hour (or overnight) in the fridge.

You can freeze the dough for up to one month wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil. You will need to thaw it in the fridge until completely defrosted before use.

*I found spelt flour in the health food section of my local supermarket. You can also use all plain flour in this recipe if you don't have spelt flour on hand.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Carbonara from 'It's all Easy' by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Raw egg. Some people have a huge aversion to it. Whether it's scrambled eggs which aren't cooked enough and still have the wobbly bits, a whole raw egg in a protein shake, stirring it through hot pasta or the eggs in desserts that haven't being heat treated. Everyone has their limits, mine being the egg in the protein shake. Younger me was very different, I'd cook scrambled eggs until they were dry and rubbery. Now I like them silky and soft and taken off the heat just before they are all the way done so the residual heat continues to cook them ever so slightly. I would never have made them like this when I was younger, I would have cooked the buggery out of them each and every time. Same goes for spaghetti carbonara, it was more like spaghetti with a side of scrambled eggs- it was awful!

Being older and wise now my egg murdering days are gone but not forgotten and that might be because I've steered clear of carbonara and mastered the scrambled eggs. But when I received Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook 'It's All Easy' last weekend I was instantly drawn to the pasta and noodle recipes, more specifically the carbonara recipe. It's in a chapter called 'in a pinch'. Ha! I thought, carbonara in a pinch!? She's got to be joking. Then I read the recipe and it dawned on me that I could probably make this 'in a pinch' but would I end up with scrambled eggs again? She said it's easy, I mean she even says in the notes that 'it's shockingly easy to make' and I had all the ingredients so why not? I was kind of scared. Yes thats right. Scared of carbonara.

I could have gone for any of the other recipes that also caught my eye such as the chicken and zucchini noodle pho, ramen 4 ways- miso, spring veggie, spicy prawn, roasted pork, or the poached asian chicken salad or even the grilled cheese and easy tomato soup. All of which look amazing and mind you, don't look like your average midweek dinner but until you get reading, they are actually quite simple dishes to put together. But I'd set myself a challenge at this point and I wasn't backing down. I was going to make carbonara, no side of scrambled eggs tonight. I mean we could always have cheese on toast for dinner if I botched it up real bad.

Carbonara from Its all Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow | salt sugar and i

I followed Gwyneth's instructions as if they were sacred. While the pasta cooked and my bacon pieces fried I cracked my eggs yolks and whole egg into a large mixing bowl and added grated one and a half cups of parmesan (I even measured it) and one teaspoon of freshly cracked pepper. After a slight moment of yelling at the book when the cracked pepper ended up everywhere other than on my teaspoon, I gave it a mix. I clung to every step and reread them about five times when it came time to assemble and tossed my hot pasta in the egg mixture and bacon pieces adding a tablespoon at a time of the 'hot' pasta water (mixing constantly) until I got the silky consistency a carbonara should have. I served it straight away with a simple green salad with a punchy lemon dressing.

And... it's one of the best carbonara's I've ever eaten. Yep, I said it. It was creamy and cheesy and not gluggy at all, the amount of black pepper was so delicious and bitey. I thought it was going to be too much and over powering but it matched the richness of the sauce and the saltiness of the bacon perfectly. In saying that though, if you don't like pepper I wouldn't put so much in but I loved it. And you know what? There wasn't one bit of scrambled egg in there at all. A perfect carbonara if you ask me... in a pinch and shockingly easy. YUM.

Carbonara from 'It's all Easy' by Gwyneth Paltrow.


ever-so slightly adapted from 'It's All Easy' by Gwyneth Paltrow
Serves 4 (or three greedy people)

120g of bacon or pancetta, cut into small dice
2 egg yolks (or 3 to make it extra creamy)
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
340g bucatini (tubular spaghetti)

- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil over high heat for the pasta.

- Fry the bacon in a pan over medium heat until crispy, 5-7 minutes.

- Combine egg yolks, egg, parmesan and pepper to a large bowl and mix well.

- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente reserving 1 cup of hot pasta water (the temperature is important because you are going to use this water to help cook the egg).

- Drain the pasta and add it immediately to the bowl with the cheese and eggs, tossing immediately to mix everything together.

- Add the bacon and any rendered fat from the pan to the bowl, toss to coat, and add the hot pasta water 1 tablespoons at a time until the sauce reaches a creamy consistency (this usually take about 1/4 cup)

- Taste and adjust with more cheese, pepper or salt.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan from A Kitchen in the Valley

After my sighting of the weevils a few weeks back I was only too pleased to be rid of them, until I realised...that when there is one... there are many or should I say thousands of the little critters, everywhere... I mean EVERYWHERE. Everything that was open, in a plastic container (yes they penetrated my containers) or in a paper bag was crawling with them which meant it all went in the bin, no discussion. Everything else that was sealed properly got a wipe down with hot soapy water and vinegar and sat on the kitchen counters for two days while I aired my newly washed and vinegar-ed cupboards out. After putting what was left after my cull back inside the cupboards I was only too happy to never go back in there again in fear of seeing another critter but then Sally Wise's new cookbook 'A Kitchen in the Valley' turned up on my doorstep and I took the dive and bought flour. I am still not game enough to put it in my cupboard and have stored it in my freezer just as google instructed me to. Supposedly it's to kill any un-hatched eggs and I'm keen to give anything a go.

But enough on my cupboard dramas and more on this cookbook you say? I agree. This new book of Sally Wise's is full of recipes using local produce found in the Derwent Valley, Tasmania where Sally lives. The recipes make you want to fill a long table full of food and invite everyone you know over just to feed them. Sally's home sounds picturesque with raspberry patches in the summer and a bed of giant rhubarb under the window and how can I forget Truffles the kitten?! The photography sets the feel for the book and although not every recipe has a photo, the titles of the recipes are tempting enough. There are some great sounding bread recipes in this book such as Tasty Breakfast Twirl which is a sort-of decadent stuffed breakfast bread, Raisin Bread and Turkish Breads with Spinach and Feta Stuffing or a Tomato and Bacon filling. Can you tell I have missed baking??

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan from A Kitchen in the Valley | salt sugar and i

There are also some classic afternoon-tea treats that would make a great home-made high tea like Neenish Tarts which I remember from the local bakery as a kid and the Raspberry and Cream Cheesecake Slice...yum. But what caught my eye for dinner was the recipe for Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan. There was no fancy curry pastes to make in advance and no ingredients which you need a whole day to find and a trip to every supermarket in your area, everything was in my pantry (expect the flour which is still in my freezer).

I started my making the naan bread so it had time to rise before starting the curry which surprised me as I have this idea that a curry is a long slow cooking process and this relatively quick. I made one slight change in the naan bread and used full cream milk instead of coconut milk as I have a thing about opening a can and not using the whole thing and I was already using a whole can of coconut milk in the curry so happily used regular milk instead and it worked just fine. However I will say this, these naan breads are not your traditional restaurant naans which have the gnarly black bits with bubbles of dense dough, these are light and almost fluffy. I'm not sure if this was just me or if they were meant to do this (there is no photo for this recipe) but mine turned into a kind of pocket when I baked them which was great to fill with the curry and chutney and although sometimes you want those naan breads with the black gnarly bits, these were just as delicious and much lighter which meant you could eat more of them. Always a positive.

Spices | salt sugar and i

And for the chicken tikka and chutney. Wow. Tristan said, quote and quote 'this is one of the best curries I've ever eaten'. He didn't say it was the best but I'll take that compliment anyway and I had to agree with him. It is a much lighter curry then anything I've had from the local Indian restaurant and although I say it was light, it was packed full of flavour and didn't have that layer of oil which you sometimes get from using the store-bought curry pastes. I was a little worried about the sauce being quite liquid but the recipe says you can thicken it by making a cornflour slurry but I let it simmer away for a little longer instead as I have a slight aversion with cornflour and curries together...just reduce it I say. With lighter naan breads, the fresh mint chutney, I served it with some steamed rice and roasted cauliflower (how good is cauliflower in curry?!) and just so you know, it got even better the next day.

Overall it was a pretty damn delicious dinner which we gorged ourselves on a huge bowl each while watching the new StarWars movie on the couch. A perfect date night in if you ask me.

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan from A Kitchen in the Valley | salt sugar and i

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan

Adapted from 'A Kitchen in the Valley' by Sally Wise.

For the naan.
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
125ml warm coconut milk (regular milk also works)
125ml plain yoghurt
1 egg
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the chicken.
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1kg chicken breast fillets, sliced (or half the chicken and add extra veggies)
2 onions, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (jarred works great too)
2 long red chilli's, finely sliced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
400ml can coconut milk
250ml chicken stock (stock cube is fine)

For the chutney.
60g fresh mint leaves (roughly half bunch)
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (regular sugar works too)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
180ml plain yoghurt

For the naan.
- Starting with the naan breads, place flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder and one teaspoon salt in a medium bowl and mix well. Whisk together the coconut milk (or regular milk), yoghurt, egg, olive oil and lemon juice. Pour into the dry mixture and mix using a wooden spoon until well combined. This is a wet mixture so don't be alarmed that this looks more like a mess than a dough. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

- Line two baking trays with baking paper and preheat your oven to 200C.

-Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured bench and knead for 2-3 minutes or until smooth. Cut into 4-6 pieces and dust each lightly with flour. Roll each piece into an oval about 12-15cm long and 8-10cm wide. Place on lined trays, covered with a tea towel to rise for 15 minutes.

- Bake the naan for 15 minutes or until cooked through and golden on top.

For the chicken.
- Meanwhile start on your chicken. To make the tikka chicken, heat the coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté the chicken until it changes colour. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the spices along with 1 teaspoon of salt and stir to coat everything in the pan. Lastly, stir in the coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

- Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes until the chicken is tender. If your sauce needs thickening, simmer for 10 minutes longer or thicken with a cornflour slurry (3 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons water).

For the chutney.
- Place all the ingredients except the yoghurt into a small food processor and process until smooth. Stir the yoghurt into the paste. Taste and season with pepper and a little salt if necessary.

Serve the curry with the naan, steamed rice and mint chutney.