Monday 28 July 2014

Jamie Oliver 's Sausage Fusilli with a Creamy Garden Salad from 15 Minute Meals.

Who doesn't love a Saturday night in?

I hadn't had a Saturday night in for a long time and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was raining all day Saturday and our plan to walk to the local bar for a cocktail got drowned out when we looked outside then compared it to the snuggly, cozy, warmth the couch provided.

If you've been keeping up with my meal plans this week I haven't done so well keeping to a schedule... Wednesday I finished late so Tristan cooked what he was going to cook on Friday then Friday night we were invited to a friends place for steak and salad so we didn't have to cook then and Sunday night we were spoilt rotten and were invited again for dinner and had a delicious roast pork, crackling and all!

But on Saturday I did cook and it was such a good winter couch dinner watching Sons of Anarchy Series 5. It was a quick dinner to make from Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals cookbook but the washing up probably took about the same amount of time as it did to cook it. Every time there is more than one cooking pot to wash up I wish I had a dishwasher. I never appreciated it while I had it, oh boy do I know how great they are now!

The recipe starts off by cooking the sausages butterflied on a griddle pan. We don't own a griddle pan because in an apartment which doesn't have a great exhaust fan it smokes the place u and the entire apartment smells like sausages for days... yes we have done this before. So instead of using a griddle pan I sent Tristan outside on the balcony to cook them on the BBQ with some fresh rosemary from my herb garden. You then put nearly all of the sauce ingredients in the food processor and pulse. Pour it into a pan, adding passata and thick balsamic and cook.

I threw the lettuce leaves in a bowl and tossed with some chopped spring onions. Made the dressing, which was hot. Not heat hot but spicy hot. I think I made a mistake here and misinterpreted the recipe because the recipe said use 2 tsp english mustard, now english mustard to me is hot english mustard but this made the salad burn... Has anyone made this recipe before? Does english mustard mean dijon mustard or hot english mustard? soooo spicy for a salad!

When the pasta is cooked you add it to the sauce and chop the cooked sausages and stir them through finishing it with a drizzle of balsamic.

It was a very herby pasta sauce having such strong herbs in it - fennel seeds and fresh rosemary. It was rich and warm which was perfect for our saturday night in. I will definitely not use hot mustard for the dressing but would make it again with dijon or seeded maybe.

AND the pasta was delicious cold the next day... maybe even better :)

Jamie Oliver's Sausage Fusilli and a Creamy Garden Salad from 15 Minute Meals.

Serves 4

Sausage Fusilli
4 beef sausages
olive oil
1 large red onion
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
4 jarred red peppers
4 sprigs of rosemary
4 garlic cloves
320g dried fusilli
3 tbsp thick balsamic vinegar, plus extra to serve
350g passata

Creamy Garden Salad
(Salad recipe adapted to fit what my local supermarket had)
1 baby cos lettuce
100g baby spinach
100g baby rocket
2 spring onions
2 tsp English mustard (NOT A HOT MUSTARD!)
1 lemon, juiced
3 tbsp light greek yogurt
1 bunch of fresh chives

- Split the sausage in half lengthways but not cutting all the way through, opening them out like a butterfly and either cook them on a griddle pan on high or BBQ like I did.

- Place peeled onion, fennel seeds, pepper and half the rosemary in a food processor and pulse until all finely chopped. Add some olive oil to a heavy bottom pan and add the processed mix, stirring.

- Put your pasta into salted boiling water. While the pasta is cooking add your balsamic and passata to the pan (I used a 400g tin of tomatoes blitz in the food processor, same thing!) and allow to simmer while the pasta is cooking. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the sauce.

- While everything is cooking away toss your salad leaves in a bowl, or on a lovely board like Jamie does if you are presenting this dish to guests and don't mind washing up. To make the dressing add the lemon juice, mustard, yoghurt and chives in a jar and give it a good shake. Pour the dressing over the salad before you sit down to eat to stop it going soggy.

- Once the sausages are done add them to the pasta, finish with a drizzly of balsamic and the remainder of the fresh chives. Enjoy it while snuggling on the couch and make sure you leave some for leftovers... Amazing cold the next day!

Saturday 26 July 2014

Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding from Kitchen.

On Thursday night this week we had a dinner date. For dinner we had a choice of 'Steak and veggies or Lamb shanks? Ps. Pete makes pretty good Lamb Shanks :)' Well I think there was a clear winner even before we were given the choice, we were sold on lamb shanks. Not that there is anything wrong with steak and veggies but Lamb Shanks mid week, I was not passing that up!

Petes Lamb shanks

It was my job to bring pudding so thats exactly what I did. Travelling pudding.

Nigella Lawson Chocolate chip bread pudding from Kitchen

Now I LOVE bread and butter pudding but ew yuk to sultanas! I have an aversion to dried fruit in some things. They are allowed in a couple of things and thats it. Christmas Pudding, yes. Hot Cross buns, sometimes. Bread and Butter pudding, hell no! So when I saw Nigella Lawson 's Chocolate chip bread pudding from Kitchen, how could I resist? It was so easy to transport too and just put it all together when we got there and bung it in the oven for 45 min. The melted chocolate chips throughout it made it so decedent and rich. When it says it serves 4-6, it definitely can serve 6 unless your still hungry from dinner as its very filling. There was four of us and only a tiny bowl of left overs and we were all supporting food babies after.

All I kept thinking after making this is the endless possibilities which can be made with the simple custard mixture and bread... you can add frozen raspberries which would give a lovely sharp tang to the smooth vanilla flecked custard, or make Nutella sandwiches out of the bread and then drown it in custard, you could add chopped nuts on top to give more crunch, or zest lemons into the custard and fill the bread with lemon curd, or add cocoa powder to the custard and make a chocolate based custard, use brioche/ croissants/ hot cross buns or finger buns instead of plain bread... the variations are unlimited!

I substituted a few things in this recipe and added a vanilla pod and seeds because when there is an opportunity to add vanilla I jump on it. I also used 300mL of cream instead of 125mL as suggested because I didn't want half a carton of cream to sit in my fridge and go to waste, this made the custard richer than it should have been but I hate wastage. If I was to make it again and I knew the rest of the cream wasn't going to go to waste I would have followed the recipe exactly and only put in 125mL of cream and 500mL of milk.

Nigella Lawson Chocolate chip bread pudding from Kitchen

Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. (BYO Style).
(Recipe adapted)
Serves 4 hungry people or 6 for dessert

250g white bread, cubed (Nigella suggests to use stale bread but I just used plain bread from the freezer, thawed)
100g chocolate chips
3 eggs
40g brown sugar
2 tbs dark rum (I used a spiced rum called The Crackin')
300mL pure cream
325mL milk
1 vanilla pod, scraped
4 tsp raw sugar (Nigella uses demerara sugar but raw sugar is very similar and alot cheaper)

- Start by buttering the oven-proof dish your going to bake the pudding in (I used a 23cm diameter x 6cm deep dish) and put your cubed bread in there to sit while you make the custard.

- In a bowl, whisk the eggs, brown sugar, cream, milk and vanilla seeds and pod in a bowl until well combined. If you are making this to bake straight away add your rum now too. I added mine right before I put the pudding together in case it started to cook the eggs. (Pour into a leak-free container if taking this dessert BYO.)

- I scaled my rum in a jar, raw sugar in a little container and chocolate chips in a zip-lock bag. Covered my dish of bread, packed my pink enviro bag with everything and off we went.

- When I got there I added the rum to the custard mix, took the pod out, tossed the chocolate chips with the bread then poured the custard mix over the bread and chocolate chips. Let it sit for about 20min then put it in a preheated 170 degrees Celsius oven for 45 min.

- Allow it to sit for 10min. Then dig in! Be warned... VERY RICH!

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Nigella Lawson's Vietnamese Noodle Soup from Kitchen.

Nigella Lawson came visiting my kitchen tonight for dinner and it was so delicious!

Tonight I made Nigella Lawson's Vietnamese Noodle Soup from her book Kitchen. It was meant o be made with pork fillet but due to my massive debt I've accumulated throughout my apprenticeship my budget does not include pork fillet for dinner. I used chicken breast instead and it still tasted amazing!

Planning our meals this week, I realised I wanted something spicy and fresh one night but realised I didn't own any Vietnamese or Thai food cookbooks. I'm sure there are lots of recipes that I'm yet to still find hidden in the books on my bookshelf but none that solely focus on that specific cuisine. Yes, in my huge collection I found a hole... looks like I'll need to do some research to fill that gap. The latest books that are on my wish list are all French food based or American cuisine but it looks like I need to do some more research and maybe buy a new bookshelf at the same time.

This recipe in Nigella's Kitchen was in the Hurry up I'm Hungry! section which during the week quick meals work well for me and I assume others too. I read this recipe and it sounded perfect. Quick, spicy, soupy, noodles... mmmm yum!

Nigella Lawson's Vietnamese Noodle Soup from Kitchen

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup from Nigella Lawson - Kitchen.
(recipe adapted)
Serves 4 or 2 hungry people

1 large chicken breast, thinly sliced
2 Tbs lime juice
2 Tbs soy sauce
1/2 tsp paprika
2 Tbs fish sauce
270g ramen noodles
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, crushed,
6 spring onions, sliced
a thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
1 chilli, thinly sliced
1 L chicken stock (Nigella even says stock cubes are fine here so it was a green light to use them)
250g bean sprouts
1 bunch pak choi, roughly chopped
1 Tbs fresh corriander, leaves and stalks

- Place sliced chicken, lime juice, soy sauce, paprika and fish sauce in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

- Meanwhile cook the noodles as the packet instructions tell you to and refresh them in cold water.

- Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan and add garlic, ginger, coriander stalks and chilli and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken and all the juices to the pan and cook for a few minutes stirring until the chicken had cooked through. This wont take long if you have sliced it thinly.

- Add stock and bring to the boil. Add bean sprouts and pak choi and allow soup to come back to the boil. Taste the soup to see if it needs more seasoning and add extra soy sauce if needed.

- Serve noodles in each bowl, pouring over ladles of fragrant soup with the chicken and vegetables. Top with coriander leaves and a little extra splash of lime juice. Enjoy. I did :)

Monday 21 July 2014

Chicken in white wine with lemon potatoes from Donna Hay Magazine - Issue 76.

First off let me tell you that meat in general doesn't exactly photo very well on an iphone camera. A new camera is on my wish list and I've picked it out, its just in the works at the moment. So I start by apologising for my photos... and I don't think this will be the first time I apologise for my photos either.

I've done the meal planning again this week and I had no dramas at the supermarket...yeehaa!

Back home now and back to no dishwasher so a one pot dish was perfect for tonights dinner. I think it could have definitely gone for some sugar snap peas thrown in at the last few minutes of cooking to give a little crunch and sweetness... also might have given the dish a little colour. Yes I know some people hate that when herbs or vegetables are added 'just for colour' but this would have also improved the taste and texture not just the overall colour. And its easy for a food stylist or photographer to make a dish look better than someone like me who is cooking dinner at night with no natural light whatsoever or fancy flash that makes it look like there is no flash at all. I did my best with what I had (and yes I used a filter on my phone for a couple of them).

Oooo and lemon zest... I would zest my half a lemon and add it in somewhere while everything cooks.

The chicken was deliciously juicy and the potatoes soaked up all the lovely sauce. In the magazine it looks almost baked but mine turned out kind of poached even though I did as the recipe said and browned it in olive oil to start with. I would put it under the grill or in the oven next time to brown the top up and help evaporate some of the sauce as it ended up swimming in sauce on our plates.

A very tasty chicken dish and best of all, hardly any washing up!

Chicken in white wine with lemon potatoes from Donna Hay magazine Issue 76.
(recipe adapted)
Serves 4

1 tbs olive oil
4 chicken breasts, skin removed
salt & pepper
200g marinated artichokes
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
500g chat potatoes, sliced into 1cm thick
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
handful of fresh thyme
2 handfuls of sugar snap peas (optional- although I would add them!)
juice and zest of half a lemon
parmesan, to serve

- Heat olive oil in a heavy bottom oven proof pot. Salt and pepper the chicken breasts then add them to the hot oil, frying on each side until toasted brown.

- Once the chicken is browned on both sides remove it from the pan and add the garlic and artichokes and cook in the oil left in the pan until garlic is tender.

- Add the stock, wine, thyme, zest and potatoes to the artichokes and garlic and bring to the boil. Add the chicken back in the pot and place a tight fitting lid on top and cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and soft and the chicken is cooked through. If your adding sugar snap peas add them towards the end but don't over cook them, you still want them to have some crunch.

(If your chicken isn't very browned on top I would put the pot uncovered under the grill or in the oven for a bit to reduce the sauce and brown the chicken on top.)

- Squeeze the lemon juice over to finish and a sprinkling of parmesan.

Thursday 17 July 2014

Jamie Magazine - Issue 17: Spaghetti and Meatballs.

I found some mince! Whoooraaah!! So I've been craving spicy meatballs for a few days now and since our noodle date was cancelled it meant that my meal plan for this week was messed up so I scavenged and found!

Not having access to my normal expanding bookshelf at the moment (we're house and dog sitting) I feel lost.... I looked in all the books I had copies of here and then in a couple of others that weren't mine and all the meatball recipes had a combination of meats and or had a fancy ingredient I didn't have or weren't the right meatballs I wanted. I wanted Spaghetti and meatballs tonight. Plain and simple... but do you think I could find a recipe with what was in my fridge and store cupboard easily... I suppose I could have improvised but that defeats the purpose of this blog and trying new things.

I looked online knowing I had all the Jamie Magazines at home and found a recipe for Spaghetti and meatballs. Since Jamie is one of my biggest food inspirations, I love young Jamie in 'the naked chef'!! I'm doing another Jamie Oliver recipe. This recipe is in his Jamie Magazine but by a woman called Georgia Levy and not by Mr Oliver himself. I read through it and yes it was another recipe which called for two types of mince. I decided to settle that the best meatballs are probably made with two types of mince and I am just going to have to suck it up and make it with the beef mince I had. It also wasn't spicy but that was easy enough to fix with a teaspoon of crushed dried chilli's.

There was one thing... I had always had an aversion to making meatballs with soggy bread in them, why? I'm not really sure. Just didn't like the idea of soaking bread and letting it get all squidgy and mushy. Why not just put those dried breadcrumbs you buy in the supermarket in them like my mother does? Her spaghetti and meatballs taste delicious so why change it? But as I am venturing into new undiscovered recipe land I decided to give up my aversion of soaking stale bread and did as the recipe said. It wasn't bad at all! I had expected to hate making them because of the texture when rolling them and squeezing the liquid out of the bread but it proved for some really tasty, soft meatballs.

Hmm... these photo's... I definitely have room to improve with props, styling and photography. Anyone got any tips??

Spaghetti and Meatballs by Georgia Levy in Jamie Magazine, Issue 17.
Serves 4
(Recipe adapted)

2 Garlic cloves (one crushed and one thinly sliced)
Olive oil
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
500g Beef mince
1 egg
1 small handful of toasted pine nuts
2 tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
3 tbs grated parmesan
30g (approx.) of stale bread
400g spaghetti
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

- First soak your stale bread in some warm water for a couple of minutes. (If you have an aversion to this like I did, come join me and be a convert!)

- In a medium pot add the sliced garlic, dried chilli and some oil oil and cook till garlic is tender but not coloured. Add the canned chopped tomatoes and simmer on low.

- Squeeze the excess water out from your soaking bread and combine it with the crushed garlic clove, beef mince, egg, pine nuts, parsley, some salt and pepper. Mix it all up with your hands well and start shaping them into the size of a pingpong balls.

- Set a frying pan on medium heat with some olive oil and once the pan is hot add your meatballs and fry them until browned all over (do this in batches if you need to so you don't squash them too much).

- Once the meatballs are browned add them to the simmering sauce along with the sugar and cook for 10min.

- Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water till al dente.

- Taste the sauce and see if you need to salt and pepper it then serve piping hot meatballs and tomato sauce over your spaghetti and top with some extra parmesan cheese and freshly cracked pepper. mmmm yum!

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Jamie Oliver's Pea and Herb Risotto from Jamie Does.

Jamie Oliver's Pea and Herb Risotto from Jamie Does was on the menu for tonights dinner for two.

I always get such a satisfyingly domestic feeling when making risotto, maybe its because it needs constant caring and attention. Its a dish when you feel like pottering about in the kitchen but not slaving away. A labour of love...

It starts by browning the finely chopped onions in olive oil till translucent then adding the short stumpy rice grains and toasting them in the onion and olive oil mixture until you hear little crackles and they start to go as translucent as the onions. The sizzle and steam of the pan deglazing when you pour in your cup of wine, starting the little gems on their delicious journey to absorbing what ever home made stock you feed them ladle by ladle. Stirring frequently and giving it your undivided attention until the grains plump up and are ever so slightly al dente. Most importantly making sure it gets the rest it deserves by adding a knob of butter and a handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese and placing the lid on so everything rests and comes together. When you lift the lid and get a facial full of fragrant steam all your hard work has paid off.

Sounds romantic doesn't it?

The Risotto Bianco starts somewhat like that and to get the Pea and Herb variation you simmer frozen peas in butter, chopped fresh parsley, chopped fresh mint with a splash of hot water for a couple of minutes. Add everything to the risotto (of course adding more butter) just before closing the lid for its rest time.

Before serving, stir some crumbled goats cheese and parmesan through it so it starts to melt. I served a large bowl each with a simple rocket salad dressed in olive oil and lemon juice.


Jamie Oliver's Pea and Herb Risotto from Jamie Does.

...I do have to admit a few things though... there was no wine in our house (we drunk it on the weekend) so I used dry vermouth instead. I'd read a Nigella Lawson risotto recipe a while ago and she uses vermouth instead of opening a bottle of wine some of the time so I thought that was an easy substitute and I used stock powder... I had planned on buying some good quality stock during shopping but I blame the mince saga and was off my game. Even with my substitutes the rice still had a pleasant bite, the peas weren't over cooked and still popped in your mouth like flavour pockets, the goats cheese had started to melt and you got salty chunks every now and then and the mint and parsley livened up the dish making me think of Spring and not being in the mid of winter wearing a thousand layers with the heating on.

The only comment I had is that it needed meat (although he thinks everything veggie needs meat)...I thought it was delicious and perfect as it was.

Jamie Oliver's Pea and Herb Risotto from Jamie Does.

Jamie Oliver's Pea and Herb Risotto from Jamie Does.
Serves 4
(Recipe adapted)

1 litre of vegetable stock
1 tbs olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
300g risotto rice
125mL White wine (or vermouth)
a couple of knobs of butter
a small handful of parmesan cheese
300g frozen peas
handful of fresh mint, chopped
handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
100g goats cheese, crumbled leaving some bits in chunks

- Saute the onion, garlic and olive oil until onion is translucent but not coloured then add the rice. Cook the rice until it is covered in the oil and onion juice and starts to crackle. You want to almost toast the rice grains.

- Add the wine (or vermouth) and stir. Simmer until there is no liquid left then start adding your stock a ladle at a time stirring each addition and making sure the rice has soaked up the previous ladle of stock before adding more. This will give you a silky, creamy risotto.

- When you have added about three quarters of your stock to the rice, start on the herby peas.

- For the herby peas: Melt some butter in a small saucepan and add the peas and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the herbs and a splash of hot water and cook for another couple of minutes.

- Once you have added all the stock to the rice, taste the rice to see if is properly cooked, It should have a slight bite and still look saucy. Add the peas to the rice mixture and stir through. Finally add the knobs of butter and parmesan, turn the heat off, put a lid on it and let it all come together.

- Before serving, stir through the crumbles goats cheese and top with some freshly cracked pepper. Then dig in and enjoy!

Monday 14 July 2014

Maggie Beer's Pasta with Broccolini, Bacon, Goats Curd and Toasted Breadcrumbs.

What I had planned to make for dinner tonight was not what I actually cooked for dinner. I was rather disappointed to be honest. 

When you crave meatballs in a spicy sauce over hot pasta on a cold rainy night and you go to the supermarket with meal plan and shopping list in hand and there is no beef mince, that carefully written shopping list goes out the window. Run out of beef mince!? are you kidding me?? the only time I plan my meals and I'm stuck, lost in the fridge isle with a boyfriend calling me annoying because I'm taking too long staring blankly at the empty section where the mince is normally kept. 

I had to improvise. Quick smart. We were both hungry and impatient with everyone else hovering in the cold section looking for the beef mince too, trolleys too heavy to move out of the way quick enough for our liking. All domestic hell was about the break out in the fridge section of the supermarket if I didn't jump with two feet over this hurdle.

Thank-goodness for modern technology and apps. I quickly zip out my iphone and go straight to my newest app and the one I have been excited to use but not found a chance to make anything from yet (hence the purpose of my blog). 'The best of Maggie Beer' . I knew we felt like pasta so the Pasta with broccolini, Bacon, Goats curd and Toasted breadcrumbs was an easy choice. Quickly back tracking into the veggie section and grabbing some broccoli (unfortunately there was no broccolini so plain jane broccoli was going to have to do) and scribbling the remainder of the ingredients on my now scarred shopping list, we were off again with a vengeance.

Home after nearly biting each others heads off, I headed straight for the kitchen and started on dinner. 

This recipe calls for stale wood-fired bread crumbs. For good reasons you can't buy stale bread at the supermarket although all these trendy recipes asking for stale bread it might just be a hole in the market no one has ventured into yet. Bread doesn't last that long with us or we use modern technology and freeze it. So how does one turn fresh bread into stale bread then into bread crumbs? well I gave it a go.

I sliced half the load of sourdough up into cubes and toasted them in the oven for 10 min then let them cool. Blitzed them in a processor (which the cat proceeded to act like we were murdering his ear drums) and viola... breadcrumbs! These were then toasted in the oven again with olive oil, lemon zest and chopped parsley.

It was a simple dish. Fry the bacon, lightly boil the broccoli, cube the goats curd, cook the pasta till al dente then toss it all together adding olive oil, salt and lemon juice. But... yes there is a but... I think I had high expectations or maybe it was the fact that I had lost my craving for dinner when my finely tuned shopping list went off the rails and hunger got the better of me in the needed a little tweaking... who knows, maybe if my bread was stale and I had used broccolini I would be raving on about it. Definitely more parsley, more lemon juice and crumble the goats cheese so that its evenly spread throughout next time. It was all in all quite delicious but still not spicy meatballs...

Sunday 13 July 2014

Yes, another food blog.

All for the love of Vanilla. It began with a a greedy desire for food and eating which lead to a love of cooking. And it was my love of baking and adding those tiny specs of vanilla seed to everything to give it a touch of luxury that sent me on the food journey I have been on for the past three and a half years.

Yes this is another food blog out in the endless cyber space but it is my journey through my ever expanding recipe collection. I have a cookbook collection which had a clean out 6 months ago of books I never cooked from and had to think rationally if I ever would. This made me seriously look at the books I had decided to keep as I still had alot which I had not made a single thing out of. They have been read cover to cover and yes I've planned to cook huge banquets and fine dinning dinner parties but thats the person I want to be and not the person I am. I'm sick of eating and cooking the same recipes I know from the top of my head or trying to cook the last vegetable in the crisper before the entire thing is no longer edible from not planning my weekly meals and just going around the supermarket getting sucked into those little bright yellow 'special' signs. 

I've had enough. Yes in times of comfort I will always turn to those recipes that give you that warm cozy feeling but I need to be challenged and my cooking skills need a workout.

Given that our one bedroom apartment won't let me have huge banquet dinner parties and my budget probably wont accommodate the fine dinning dinners I would love to eat and savour every mouthful one slither of truffle at a time. This blog will challenge me to cook outside my comfort (no I will not be making aspic... Julie and Julia can keep that one for themselves), allow me to grow (hopefully not outwards) and hopefully bring people together with the common love of food, cooking and eating.

So here goes... bring on the recipes, the cooking and best of all, the eating.

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