Sunday, 31 August 2014

Jamie Oliver's Baked Pasta with Tomatoes & Mozzarella from Jamie's Italy cookbook.

Who doesn't love a good pasta bake? Pasta bake to me is complete comfort food and makes the most amazing leftovers, cold or reheated.

It was a stable food when I was in high school and had my girlfriends over on a friday night when my parents were out. Although the one we used to make in high school came from a jar and made very little mess but as 16 year olds the kitchen was covered in pasta sauce by the end of it. You added a whole packet of dried pasta, the contents of the jar, a few cups of water and baked it until the pasta had soaked up all the liquid and then topped it with grated frozen cheddar cheese or cheese slices (it depended on what was in the cheese drawer... yes my mum had a drawer just for cheese in the fridge) until it was bubbling and crunchy around the edges. I would eat so much of it until I was belly popping full and then go back for more when it had cooled down.

Jamie Oliver's Baked Pasta with Tomatoes & Mozzarella from Jamie's Italy cookbook.

I'll let you in on a secret... When I go past the jarred pasta sauce isles in the super market every week I still look for the jar of sauce we used back then but unfortunately they no longer make it. Or maybe its fortunate that they don't make it anymore or I'd still be eating the same pasta bake 9 years later. I will probably still look this week like always for the sauce and will come back empty handed.

So with no jarred sauce in hand I made Jamie Oliver's Pasta al Forno con Pomodori e Mozzarella (Baked pasta with tomatoes and mozzarella) from Jamie's Italy cookbook. This recipe called for dried orecchiette (little ears) pasta, it definitely could work with any pasta but I will take any excuse to try a new pasta shape and I will probably tell you that every pasta shape is good because lets be honest, I love every kind of pasta. These ones were thicker then other dried pasta I've had before and held all the sauce in the little curve making it a very hearty pasta bake. Great for sitting on the couch, curled up on a winters night with a big steaming bowl of rich tomatoey pasta bake. Mmmmmmm

There is probably hundreds of pasta bake recipes and I can tell you this will not be the only one I post about. I absolutely love them. Not only are they a comfort food to me, they are a dish that you can prepare, bung it in the oven then go and have a shower or do some of the washing up (or if your super lucky, load the dishwasher) so the kitchen doesn't look like a bomb has gone off in it and you can sit and enjoy dinner knowing that most of the cleaning is already done.

The kitchen definitely looked like a bomb had gone off in it after I made this. Jamie tells you to add some of the sauce to the pasta then layer the sauce, pasta and cheese in three lots so its all evenly throughout the baking dish. What a mess I made!! I feel I wasn't very organised when I made this but it could be less messy if you are more organised. I was scared to go back into the kitchen after we had finished eating... but it was worth it. It was so yummy! rich and tomatoey and they you got little pockets of stringy mozzarella.... mmmm so tasty!

Jamie Oliver's Baked Pasta with Tomatoes & Mozzarella from Jamie's Italy cookbook.

Jamie Oliver's Pasta al Forno con Pomodori e Mozzarella from Jamie's Italy.

(Baked Pasta with Tomatoes & Mozzarella.) 

recipe adapted - original recipe here.
serves 4

1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil (I used about 3 tbsp)
1 or 2 dried chillies, crumbled (I used chilli flakes, about 1/2 tsp)
3 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes (I used regular canned chopped tomatoes)
a large handful of fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (Jamie says this is optional but I used it)
400g dried orecchiette pasta
4 big handfuls of parmesan cheese, freshly grated
3 x 150g balls of fresh mozzarella (I used little balls of bocconcini mozzarella)

- Preheat your oven to 200 C or 400 F.

- Fry the onion, garlic and chilli in the olive oil over a medium heat until softened. Add your tomatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Blitz with a stick blender until smooth. Tear you basil leaves into the sauce and add the red wine vinegar (if using) then place back on the heat to keep warm. Taste and then season with salt and pepper.

- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain.

- Add half the sauce to the pasta and mix together with a handful of parmesan.

- Layer a third of the pasta in a baking tray, then some sauce, a ball of mozzarella torn up and a handful or parmesan. Keep layering in that order until all the ingredients are used up making sure you finish with a topping of cheese.

- Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until its golden, crispy edges and bubbling. Jamie says to eat this at room temperature but I had it piping hot from the oven then snacked on it when it was at room temperature and it was delicious both ways.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Nigella Lawson 's Italian Traybake from Nigellissima.

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again"
Remember that saying? Also remember my chicken tray bakes that take forever to cook and we end up eating at midnight or serving raw chicken to a dinner quest? Well... guess what?! I have not been put off by a chicken tray back. Nope. And all my efforts paid off!

SUCCESS!!! Wahhoooooooooo

This week I chose Nigella Lawson's Italian Traybake from Nigellissima. I was only serving two for dinner so halved the amount of meat in the recipe and made sure I didn't over fill my baking tray. No double layers, everything on a single layer. I pre-heated my oven as soon as I got in from work. And I left it in the oven for an hour, turning half way through. I cut my potatoes to the size the recipe told me to and butterflied my sausages. I was going to make this fail safe.

We had fluffy roast potatoes and chicken thighs that fell apart and sausages that had gnarly little crunchy bits on them. Soooo Delicious! Oh how I've missed fluffy roast potatoes. They were crunchy and soft and YUM!

I should have trusted Nigella first... She was one of my first true food hero's and her recipes always seem to impress! Her book 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' was the first Cookbook I stole from my mother and I still have that copy today. Oh I do love her and her dramatic and colourful ways of describing ingredients when she cooks.
Nigella Lawson 's Italian Traybake from Nigellissimia

 I found this recipe on her Nigellissima App....this weeks meal planning was pretty shocking. I worked an extra day this week and was totally not organised, so on my way home while I was stuck in traffic I meal planned. Yes I know... very illegal but I was a hungry woman who was stuck in a fogging up car in the pouring rain with a window half open getting a wet arm on a mission... who still had to face the supermarket. Most of the recipes I found online, knowing I had the books at home. There are so many good recipes online but I have thousands of pages sitting in my living room waiting to be cooked from and shared with you lovely readers. So I tried my best to find recipes that were from books I was yet to share with you. There are still so many recipes and meals and food I want to make and blog about. If time and money weren't an option I would eat like a king every meal (ok I defiantly want a dishwater too... or washing up wench). I would also probably be the size of a house...

I definitely recommend this meal as a mid week dinner you can quickly throw everything together in a baking dish, chuck it in the oven while you have a shower or get comfy and an hour later you have a mini roast dinner. The only addition I would add is some garlic cloves chucked in there in their skins so they get soft and mellow.
Nigella Lawson's Italian Traybake from Nigellissimia

Yay so excited a tray bake worked!! (photo looks like it was a little burnt but I swear I wasn't!).   It proves the saying right... keep trying (or traybaking) and eventually you'll get it right. Tristan was also pretty happy eating at a decent time and everything was cooked :)

Nigella Lawson's Italian Traybake from Nigellissimia.

serves 2
(recipe adapted slightly)

500g potatoes, cut into 2cm chunck
4 chicken thighs, deboned
3 italian sausages, butterflied
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 lemon, zest
Salt and Pepper
olive oil

PRHEAT YOUR OVEN! 220°C or 400°F.
(if your oven is fan forced you make not need it on so high)

- Line the very base of your baking tray with foil or baking paper.

- Arrange your chopped potatoes, chicken thighs sausages in your baking tray. Make sure nothing is overlapping or on top of each other. If it is, split everything between two baking trays.

- Finely chop half the rosemary leaves and sprinkle over the chicken. Place the other sprigs of rosemary around the tray.

 - Zest the lemon over everything and give it all a good helping of salt and pepper.

- Finally drizzle with some olive oil and bung it in the oven for 1 hour or until everything is cooked through and the potatoes have a fluffy centre. If your oven is an uneven cooker (like mine) turn it half way through.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ricotta Dumplings with Tomato and Basil Sauce from Two Greedy Italians Cookbook by Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio.

Have you ever made something that you are so proud of your self for that you keep telling you and who ever is around you over and over again and by the end of the day everyone is like 'Yeh we know, you made gnocchi'.

Yes that's right readers, I made gnocchi... from scratch. Ok if we're getting technical its not called gnocchi... its Ndundari (Ricotta Dumplings).

Making gnocchi (Ndundari) is something that I've wanted to do for a while but there is an element of unknown hanging around it because I've never made it before. This week I will not hide away from food, I will grow and make and - did I tell you I made gnocchi... from scratch!! Waahhoooo!

It was so damn good...
and fun...
and easy... believe it or not!

This recipe is from the cookbook Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo. It uses ricotta cheese for these deliciously little tasty dumplings, not potato. It's one of Gennaro's recipes and I've seen him make it on the TV show a few times. He makes it look so easy and you know what?!... it was just as easy to make as he makes it look. No hidden tricks or anything. This is straight up honest food made from scratch. I loved that I knew exactly what went into the gnocchi and it didn't consist of 20 ingredients like some of the vacuum packets do. This had 7 ingredients in it, thats all. Flour, egg yolks, ricotta, parmesan, ground nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Ricotta Dumplings with Tomato and Basil Sauce by Gennaro Contaldo from Two Greedy Italians Cookbook.

Just put all your ingredients in a bowl, give it a mix then turn it out onto a floured bench and knead until you have a smooth dough. Roll the dough into a sausage and cut small bits off. There it is... you have gnocchi!
Ricotta Dumplings with Tomato and Basil Sauce by Gennaro Contaldo from Two Greedy Italians Cookbook.

Ricotta Dumplings with Tomato and Basil Sauce by Gennaro Contaldo from Two Greedy Italians Cookbook.

Ricotta Dumplings with Tomato and Basil Sauce by Gennaro Contaldo from Two Greedy Italians Cookbook.



I felt like an Italian Mama. All I needed was a large family to yell at to get them all to come to the dinner table, instead I had Tristan waiting patiently and a cat who has decided he likes to drink out of everything (yes I mean everything!) apart from his water bowl.

Ricotta Dumplings with Tomato and Basil Sauce by Gennaro Contaldo from Two Greedy Italians Cookbook.

Ricotta Dumplings with Tomato and Basil Sauce by Gennaro Contaldo from Two Greedy Italians Cookbook.



The sauce that went with the gnocchi was so simple and full of flavour. Olive oil, canned tomatoes, garlic and basil. So simple and fresh! It would have been nice to use home grown basil but Mr Caterpillar has made the basil plant his buffet so there is no basil leaves at all on the poor thing.

I will definitely make this again... and again! I absolutely loved it!

"Why I cooking so good??!" -Gennaro Contaldo

Ricotta Dumplings with Tomato and Basil Sauce by Gennaro Contaldo from Two Greedy Italians Cookbook.

Ndundari Con Salsa Di Pomodoro e Basilico from Two Greedy Italians Cookbook by Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio.

(Ricotta Dumplings with Tomato and Basil Sauce)

serves 4 (or 2 very greedy people)

For the Ricotta Dumplings -
200g '00' Flour, plus extra for dusting
220g ricotta
3 egg yolks
20g freshly grated parmesan
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch sea salt
pinch cracked pepper

For the Tomato and Basil sauce -
700g tinned chopped tomatoes
a few fresh basil leaves
6 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, cut into thick slices

- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Give it a mix and turn out onto a floured work bench. Knead gently with the palm of your hand until the dough becomes smooth.

- Divide the dough into quarters and roll one of the quarters into a thin sausage shape. Cut pieces off about 2cm long and place on a tray. Do the same to the other 3 quarters. You may need to add a little more flour as you go, it depends on how wet your ricotta was or how big your egg yolks were. You don't want a dry dough but you don't want a sticky shaggy mess.

- Let dumplings sit on a tray while you make the sauce. Put a pot of boiling salted water on the stove, ready to go.

 - Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan (large enough to hold all the dumplings and sauce together) on a medium heat and add the garlic. Don't walk away! Once the garlic begins to colour add you tinned tomatoes straight away to stop the garlic from colouring anymore, you don't want a bitter taste. Add the basil leaves to the sauce and bring to a simmer while you cook your ricotta dumplings.

- Add your dumplings to the boiling salted water. Wait until they rise to the top and the cook for a further 2 minutes simmering. Check they are cooked (I pulled one out and tastes it - if it doesn't taste floury and its not stick they are done) then add them to your simmering sauce.

- Serve immediately with a little extra grated parmesan if you desire.

ps. THESE ARE SO DAMN YUMMY!!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Pasta Soup with Peas from 'The Art of Pasta' by Lucio Galletto & David Dale.

If you haven't worked it out by now ... I LOVE pasta. I've always thought I should have been born an Italian but no... born in Australia with a Swiss dad and an English mother. No Italian in me that I know of but I absolutely LOVE italian food. I eat alot of pasta... its quick to cook, a base for so many sauces and flavours and it comes in so many exciting shapes. Yes I get totally excited when I get to buy a new shape pasta each week! This Wednesday its was elbow shaped pasta. The recipe called for tubetti or ditalini but in the recipe photo it looks to me like elbow pasta. So I went with elbow pasta. They say you can use broken spaghetti for the recipe I chose or any miss-match broken pasta you may have in the bottom of your pasta jar.

Being still so chilly here I thought of making a pasta soup. Having a limited budget this week and also being a Wednesday, I finish work late, I needed a recipe that was quick and comforting. I went to a book that I often take off the shelf and flick through the pages, looking longingly at the food wishing I was having that for dinner. It's also a very beautiful book, a good coffee table book for a foodie. It's 'The Art of Pasta' by Lucio Galletto & David Dale. My copy is loosing the new book smell and not looking as pristine as it was when it first arrived home because I keep taking it out and admiring the photography and how delicious the recipes sound.
Pasta Soup with Peas from The Art of Pasta cookbook

Feeling like a soup I went to the 'Soups and Broths' chapter and it was like my prayers had been answered with the recipe 'Pasta soup with Peas'. It was exactly what I wanted and needed. Quick, not expensive, comforting and warm. BINGO! It's a bit like a one pan pasta because you cook the dried pasta in the broth which ends up being the soup part of the meal. Which is great for the washing up... only one pot!
Pasta Soup with Peas from The Art of Pasta cookbook

And it fulfils my love of frozen peas. I never ever thought I would say that. As a kid I hated peas. I didn't really hate much but peas were one of them and I hated them with a passion. The only time I had to eat them was a Ballet camp. Ballet camp was at an old boarding school in a small rural town in NSW run by nuns. It had a rule that everyone had to have a little bit of everything on their plate even if you didn't like it, but you still had to have the smallest serving of it. You also had to finish your entire plate of food and weren't allowed to waste, including dessert (which was never a problem for me). Lunch time meals were a fully fledged roast with the best roast potatoes I've ever eaten in my entire life along with meat and two veg. Every second day the veg was peas. I tried everything to escape eating them. I used to try knock them on the floor, hid them in a serviette or in my pockets... I even used to try swallow them hole but it was hard if everyone at your table had drunk all the water. I don't remember the specific moment when I suddenly started eating them but now I absolutely love them. Sweet and juicy and they can go with so many things. Such a handy thing to have in your freezer as a store cupboard staple and a versatile ingredient to add as an extra vegetable in something or into a salad or smashed with feta and mint or as the main attraction in the dish. So yummy! Pea's were defiantly the stand out ingredient in this pasta and everything went with it so well.
Pasta Soup with Peas from The Art of Pasta cookbook

Pasta Soup with Peas from 'The Art of Pasta' by Lucio Galletto & David Dale.

serves 4 
(recipe adapted slightly in regards to cooking times)

90ml extra virgin olive oil
25g butter
1 small white onion, finely chopped
70g pancetta (I used streaky bacon)
400g fresh or frozen peas (I used frozen, of course!)
sea salt and black pepper
200g tubetti, ditalini or broken spaghetti (I used elbows)
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley
80g freshly grated parmesan
1 litre of water or stock (I used half and half)

- Place oil and butter into a large pot (big enough to fit all your ingredients) and heat until butter is melted. Add your onion and pancetta (or bacon) and fry until onions are soft, about 6 minutes.

- Add the peas, some salt and pepper and stir everything together and cook for a couple of minutes.

- Add your water or stock and bring everything to a boil, cook peas for a few minutes. Add the pasta and cook for the indicated time on the packet (mine was about 8 minutes). Stir every now and then to make sure the pasta doesn't sink to the bottom and stick.

- Once the pasta is cooked, stir in the parsley and top with parmesan cheese to serve. YUM YUM YUM.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Rachel Khoo's Creme Caramel from The Little Paris Kitchen.


Lets just say this dessert saved the day.

Last night for dinner we had a friend over. We're having Roast Chicken Marylands with potatoes, carrot and onions. Sounds great, right? It was in a red wine marinade and all baked in a tray.

There it is. Did you see it? "all baked in a tray" these recipes are around to try me. You'd think that I'd have given up by now but no. I'm still persisting but this disaster of a dinner may have just done the trick for a while. If it was just Tristan and I for dinner I wouldn't have worried too much and shrugged it off as a bad dinner and been happy with Vegemite on toast but we had a guest. Yes, you read this right. We had a guest for dinner and it was a DISASTER!

First the chicken had gizzards inside which I didn't expect. Now I'll admit I'm a little squeamish with offal but if I'm prepared for it I can handle it. This I was not prepared for.

The potatoes even said boil them for 2 minutes and I did thinking I'm super safe with this recipe, the potatoes will definitely be cooked. Nup. Crunchy potatoes anyone?

I'm terrible at time management. It wasn't until 8:30pm that I revealed this monstrosity of a dish which had huge hunks of chicken. That were raw. Long sticks of raw carrot. Yes some were still just as raw as when I snacked on them before I put them in the baking tray, raw onions and did I mention crunchy potatoes?! Oh and the chicken was raw... I think I said that but I'll repeat it again. I served raw chicken to a dinner guest. It was a DISASTER! I hung my head in shame and hardly ate a thing. I kept saying sorry and I could feel myself getting sheepish and what I wanted to do was hide. Hide and hang my head in shame.

One day I will be able to master a chicken tray bake. Goodness knows what will happen if I try roast a whole chicken... dear oh dear I might resuscitate it instead of cook it!

Rachel khoo's creme caramel from My Little Paris Kitchen

At least I had this amazing dessert I made the night before to finish the dinner off with... hopefully it left a better last mouthful of dinner and the horrible roast chicken was erased from everyones memories. Mine might be scared for a while.

Creme Caramel is my favourite dessert I think of all times. I can guarantee that I will post more than once a recipe or review on a creme caramel. I'm even caught sometimes buying the ones pre-made in the supermarket cold section... They remind me of going to the local leagues club with the family and having my favourite dinner of all time. Spaghetti bolognese and a creme caramel. I have so many variations of this classic dessert and I've tried a couple but always go back to the simplest ones.

The recipe I chose was from one of my favourite cookbooks and cooking TV shows...

Rachel Khoo's Creme Caramel (Vanilla Cream with Caramel Sauce) from The little Paris Kitchen is sooooooo good! Such simple ingredients cooked in a perfect way. It did take alot longer in my oven than it was meant to but I'm thinking I'm going to have to double the time on everything I put in the oven.
Does it get any simpler than milk, vanilla, eggs and sugar?

Vanilla milk

This recipe wasn't overly sweet like some are and you get that rich bitterness through the caramel sauce by melting the sugar in a dry saucepan rather than with a little water. The recipe also says to cook it until it looks like the colour of cola. I have a guilty hungover pleasure for coca cola and I definitely don't want my caramel to look like that. It would taste burnt. I've have cooked caramel to that colour before and smoked the place out. Maybe more of a crimson sunset colour I would say.

dry caramel

To make your caramel in a dry pan make sure you don't add all your sugar at once and start with a clean dry pan. (I have learnt the hard way when I first started working in a kitchen and I had to google how to make a dry caramel during service. Not a very fun memory. Lots of sticky, burnt, crystallised pots). Start by adding a sprinkle in the bottom of your pan and place on a medium heat. Once that starts to melt sprinkle over a little more. Never put a spoon in the caramel, as temping as it is. Swirl the sugar in the pan gently but never stir it. Gradually add more, a little at a time making sure the last bit of sugar has melted and continue adding it until you have added all your sugar. The sugar can burn very quickly so when I first started making it I would take it on and off the heat so that if I thought it was getting away from me I could control it and allow the sugar to melt in the residual heat. Sounds complicated but it's not. If you a little hesitant to make it this way you can alway add some water to the sugar and boil it till golden. The difference in flavour is that when you melt the sugar in a dry pan you get more rich intense flavour where as when you add water to start with it has a sweeter taste and far less intensity.

The rest is easy peasy. That was the hard bit.

Rachel khoo's creme caramel from My Little Paris Kitchen

Rachel Khoo's Creme Caramel from My Little Paris Kitchen.

serves 6 (or as many ramekins you own - I made 8 small ones in various sizes)
(recipe adapted slightly - no cola colour here!)

For the Custard -
500mL milk
1 vanilla pod, sliced in half lengthways and seeds scraped
60 grams of sugar
3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks

For the Caramel -
250g caster sugar
2tbsp water

Preheat your oven to 110 degrees celsius.

Start with the Caramel. 
- Melt the 250g caster sugar in a clean dry pan gradually (see above for more details) until it becomes a crimson sunset colour. Add your 2 tbsp of water and stand back. This will spit and splutter and might seize on you. Let it calm down and get your self a heat proof spoon/spatular and dive it a little stire. Because all your sugar is added and melted it is ok to stir now. Never before.

- Divide caramel up into the ramekins evenly.

For the Custard.
- Boil milk and vanilla pod and vanilla seeds together and let sit to infuse while you whisk the eggs, extra yolks and 60g sugar together in a bowl. Careful not to over mix or you will get bubbly creme caramel bottoms.

- Pick out the pod from the milk. Pour the milk into the egg mixture whisking as you go so you don't scramble your eggs. Make sure it is all combined and then divide between the ramekins.

- Place the ramekins in a roasting try with a thin tea towel on the bottom (I was taught this trick at TAFE to regulate the cooking and so they don't rattle around in your tray). Pour cold water into the baking tray until it comes half way up the sides of the ramekins. Place into the oven until the custard is set around the edges but it still has a sexy wobble going on. Rachel says 30-40 minutes but I'm coming to terms that in my oven you have to double the amount of time they are in the oven.

I baked mine for about 60 - 70min but kept checking because I had a variety of sizes cooking toether. Ideally you want all the same sized ramekins.

- Remove from the water and allow them to rest in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours... I waited maybe an hour. Make sure you cover them in the fridge well or they will take on what ever your fridge smells of at the time... onion creme caramel isn't very tasty.

- To serve, run a knife around the edges and dip in hot water for about 30 seconds then invert onto a serving plate. Enjoy these delicious little morsels of custardy goodness!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Jamie Oliver's Shepherd's Pie vs Milkman's Pie from Jamie's Great Britain.

I don't think I'm having a good cooking week this week and it's only Tuesday.... I will explain in tomorrow's post... #dinnerpartynightmares eeekkk

Jamie Oliver's Shepherd's Pie vs Milkman's Pie from Jamie's Great Britain.

Last nights dinner was Slop pie... sorry I mean Shepherds Pie. My mum always made Shepherds pie when I was a kid and used her recipe of beef bolognese sauce and added mash potato on top. I was never a huge fan of mash, my dad always says potatoes give him a headache even though we all know he just doesn't like them, where as mum, LOVES mash potatoes. To her horror I would smother the entire shepherd pie in tomato sauce (ketchup) and sit there wishing I was having pasta for dinner.

It is cold and rainy at the moment in Sydney so I wanted something that meant the oven got to stay on for a while to warm the place up but also something that was cozy and homey.  Choosing from a book I haven't yet blogged about I went to trusty Jamie Oliver. I love his recipes and books! But I think you already guessed that one. I can't wait to make the honey and lavender shortbread from the book!

I thought... cold and rainy.... England is cold and rainy. (Sorry UK readers... I've only ever been to the UK in winter and thats all my mum ever says about England... She got rained out and moved to Australia and never looked back) But I do love a rainy night when you can hear the pitter patter on the roof as you drift off to sleep all rugged up in woollen blankets and sock tucked into your pants. So thats how I chose a recipe from Jamie's Great Britain. Shepherd's Pie vs Milkman's Pie. It was very different to what I would normally call a Shepherd's pie but in a good way. It was creamy and meaty with the soft mash potato on top and a surprise cheesy layer in the middle. Even better for lunch the next day reheated.
Jamie Oliver's Shepherd's Pie vs Milkman's Pie from Jamie's Great Britain.

But let me explain the slop pie... this is not dissing Jamie at all. When it was time to dollop the mash potato on top I hadn't let it reduce enough so the lovely creamy dollop of mash potato started to sink into the saucy filling which was then starting to rise and flow over the edges of my pie dish. I proceeded to continue dolloping the mash on top thinking it would be ok until it started to look like an upside down shepherd's pie on the verge of over flowing if I didn't stop what I was doing and pour some of the sauce out. As I poured some out, some of the potato came out with it, I had melted stringy cheese over the edges, sauce down the side of the dish, sauce slopped and splashed over the bench.... It was a HUGE MESS. A delicious mess but still huge and a lot of washing up. Given all that I still scraped the pan to not waste any and ate it as entree while my Slop... sorry Shepherd's/Milkman's Pie was cooking in the over.

Jamie Oliver's Shepherd's Pie vs Milkman's Pie from Jamie's Great Britain.

If I've got any tips.... Let it reduce properly... don't be impatient like me (I blame hunger) and get your self a dishwasher or washing up wench. My wench is still in a sling so he's only a bench wiper at the moment.

I would definitely make this again but would maybe rethink my pots and pans situation...hmmm...

Jamie Oliver's Shepherd's Pie vs Milkman's Pie from Jamie's Great Britain.

Jamie Oliver's Shepherd's Pie vs Milkman's Pie from Jamie's Great Britain.

serves 6
(recipe adapted slightly)

2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
olive oil
50g butter
salt and white pepper
8 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 bay leaves (I used dry but it says fresh)
500g veal mince
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1 lemon, zest only
1 chicken stock cube, crumbled
110mL Bitter (I used VB)
800g potatoes, peeled and quarted
splash of milk
150g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
200mL pure cream
50 cheddar cheese, grated

- Fry the onions, carrots, bay leaves, thyme, some salt and pepper in a pan with the olive oil and butter until vegetables have softened. Make sure you stir often so they don't catch and burn.

- Add the veal mince and break up with a wooden spoon while browning it. Add flour once the meat is broken up and the zest of the lemon. Cook it until the liquid which came out of the meat has cooked away.

- Once it it frying again, add the bitter and just enough water to cover the meat (don't add too much here.. I think this is also where I went wrong and added maybe a little too much water). Bring everything to a boil and then reduce heat and allow to simmer with the lid half on for 1 hour on a low heat.

- Meanwhile preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius and boil your potatoes until soft and almost falling apart. Drain the potatoes and allow to sit for a couple of minutes so that can steam off any excess liquid. I mashed them with a hand masher with a splash of milk, a dollop of butter and a generous serving of salt and pepper. For someone who doesn't like mash... mmmm mmm yum!

- Let mash sit until your sauce has had its 1 hour cooking then add your mushrooms and cream and simmer until the sauce has thicken considerably.

- Once it is no longer swimming in sauce, pour it into a baking dish and sprinkle over the grated cheddar cheese. Dollop your mash potato on top or use a fork to squash it down and as Jamie puts it - "make squiffs and quiffs".

- Place it in the oven for about 40 minutes or until golden on top and serve with some steamed broccoli or buttered peas.

So so tasty!!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Bill Granger's Baked Leek and Goat's cheese Risotto with Apple and Celery Salad from Easy.

I loved baked risotto's. It is a meal that feels like you have slaved over the stove but really while it was cooking you were having a hot shower and removing the glucose from your elbows and arm hairs that has been there since 7:15am. And when you don't own a heater the oven doubles as one during winter and warms the entire place up making it warm and cozy for when you hop out of the shower all fresh and clean. The only thing is you don't have as much control over the oozzy-ness of the rice and its easy to over cook it. On Thursday night Bill Granger's Baked Leek and Goats Cheese Risotto from his book Easy was a perfect choice. It's like winter has come late here in Sydney... It's FREEZING!! we even turned the oven on last night when we ordered take-away just to warm the place up a little. So being able to come hom from work after getting stuck in traffic and quickly putting dinner together, bunging it in the oven, having a quick HOT shower, throwing the salad together then sitting down to eat all in the space of 45 minutes is a pretty good achievement and perfect for a work night.


The risotto was very tasty with rosemary from my little herb garden and the sweet leeks and then little nuggets of goats cheese dotted throughout it. I overcooked it a little, I baked it for 25 minutes but should have checked earlier to see if the rice was done but a shower was more on my mind to defrost my toes.

The Apple and Celery Salad was so crunchy and fresh. The supermarket didn't have chicory so I used cos lettuce instead. I know they taste nothing like each other but it still worked and the celery had a bit of fridge sag. Fridge sag? You know when you buy celery and its crunchy and stands up straight, then after a day in your fridge it starts to go saggy and flop over when you hold it up? Well I have worked out a way to concur fridge sag when you still want to use it. Slice it up and place it in ice water for about 15 minutes and its refreshed and crunchy again. Genius!

Bill Granger Apple and celery salad

I've never been much of a fan of fruit in a salad... but here I am trying new things and it was actually really nice and worked well with everything else. The sweetness cut through the bitterness of the rocket and the savoury lemon dressing. The walnut also gave it an earthly-ness which was another element but I found them hard to keep on my fork and they fell to the bottom of the salad bowl making them hard to reach...first world problems when your walnuts fall to the bottom of the salad!

Bill Granger baked leek and goats cheese risotto

Baked Leek and Goats Cheese Risotto by Bill Granger from Easy.

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
25g unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 leeks, cut lengthways and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp chopped rosemary leaves, plus extra for garnish
250g arborio rice
850mL chicken stock, heated
120g soft goats cheese, rind removed and chopped
50g freshly grated parmesan cheese

- Set your oven to 200 degrees celsius.

- In a oven-proof saucepan heat the oil and butter until the butter has melted. Add the onion, leeks, garlic and salt and cook until vegetables are soft, stirring even now and then.

- Add the rosemary and rice and cook for a minute or two.

- Stir through the stock then remove pot from the heat and add all the cheese, stirring well to evenly distribute the goats cheese.

- Place a lid on the pot and put it in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Check after 15 or 20 to see if rice is al dente yet. Once al dente place under a hot drill to brown the top. (I don't have a grill so I skipped this step). Sprinkle remaining rosemary and serve.

Apple and Celery Salad by Bill Granger from Easy.

Serves 4
(recipe adapted)

100g rocket leaves
1 stick celery, sliced into small sticks (if your celery is saggy, place in some icy water while the risotto is cooking)
1 baby cos lettuce, sliced
1 red apple, cored and thinly sliced (slice at the very last minute or keep in some lemon water to stop it going brown)
handful of walnut pieces
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

- Combine rocket, celery, cos lettuce and walnuts together in a salad bowl.

- Whisk together lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and add some salt and pepper.

- Just before serving add your apple and dress with the dressing.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

donna hay's Grilled Chicken Schnitzel with Fennel Slaw from Fast, Fresh, Simple.

'What's that?'
'Fennel'
'How are you going to cook it?'
'I'm not'
'oh.'
'Whats wrong?'
'Doesn't fennel need to be cooked?'
'Nope, its a salad'
'It's very... aniseedy'
'It'll be nice, trust me'
'Hmm ok'

That was how dinner started off.

I decided this week to try baking a chicken dish for dinner that didn't take over an hour when it says it only takes 20 minutes. This one actually only took 20 minutes like the recipe said and it was so easy with minimal washing up. I chose donna hay's Grilled Chicken Schnitzel with Fennel Slaw from her book 'Fast, 'Fresh, Simple' it also has a great TV show to go with the cookbook showing how simple things really are to cook but look incredibly amazing. I love when a cookbook has a TV show to go along with it, I could watch cooking shows all day.

The fennel slaw was what caused all the questions. I kind of knew it would but thought that this whole blog is to try new things. I love fennel, raw or cooked but I knew Tristan had a little aversion to it raw but knowing donna's recipes I knew I was in good hands. And worse comes to worse I end up with all the salad... I wasn't complaining.

The chicken was super quick and easy. There was no flattening the chicken out, flouring it, dunking it in egg then breadcrumbs. It was as easy as put the slices of bread, butter, fresh thyme and some slat and pepper in a food processor and blitz. Top the chicken breasts with the mix and bake for 20min. This idea has me thinking. You could do so many combinations.... parsley, chilli, garlic, rosemary, parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon, crumbly feta, basil, pine nuts, peanuts, coriander... you could chop and change the ingredients around and come up with different bread crumb toppings and never have to fuss over chicken schnitzels again.

Donna Hay Chicken schnitzel and fennel slaw

I only wish mine looked like it did in the book, I really struggled with trying to give this justice... I need better light (no eco-friendly lights), a better camera (maybe one that isn't just my iphone), a new kitchen bench (bright blue is a little jarring in the back ground) and some knowledge on how to style properly. Other than that...

This is how the meal ended...

'This is really nice'
'I know'
'It's so fresh and the parsley works really well too'
'I told you it'd be nice'
'It's better than cabbage coleslaw...we can do this again'
'I know'

A success at trying something new.

It was exactly what the book said it would be. Fast, Fresh and Simple. Only missed off one word.... SCRUMPTIOUS!

(If you click the link on the recipe title you can see Donna make this dish on youtube)

Grilled Chicken Schnitzel with Fennel Slaw by Donna Hay from Fast, Fresh, Simple.

serves 2
(recipe adapted slightly)

For the Grilled Chicken Schnitzel:
3 slices of white bread, cubed
50g butter, cubed
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts
lemon wedges, to serve

- Put bread, butter, thyme leaves, salt and pepper in a food processor and blitz until it looks like crumbs.
- Arrange on top of chicken breasts on a baking tray and bake in a 180 degrees celsius for 20min or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with Fennel Slaw.

For the Fennel Slaw:
1 bulb fennel, finely sliced (I used a mandolin)
2 tbsp chives, chopped
1/4 flat leaf parsley leaves
2 tbsp mayonaise
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water

- Mix fennel, chives and parsley in a bowl together.
- To make dressing put mayonnaise, lemon juice and water in a small jar and give it a good shake until it's all combined.
- Pour over salad and combine well. Serve with Grilled Chicken Schnitzel.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers with Cucumber & Yoghurt sauce AND NY Street Vendor Salad from It's all Good.

Gobble Gobble!!

I have always prided myself on the fact that I was a good eater as a child. My first memories of turkey though tell a different story. One night when it was just me eating dinner at the kitchen bench, my mum tried to pass it up as chicken, now being the little cheeky know-it-all I was I knew it wasn't chicken. I refused to eat it and it's the one and only time I was made to sit there until I'd finished it all, normally my plate would be completely empty and I would ask for a piece of bread to mop up what was left.


This experience left me with a nasty taste for turkey for a fair few years. It has only been in the past couple that I now have learnt to love the funny looking bird that comes out mostly for celebrations or on a sandwich smothered with mayo and bursting with crunchy lettuce. I think Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson are to thank for bringing the idea of liking turkey back into my life with their Christmas TV shows. The idea of Christmas being celebrated during the cold months with everyone crowded around a full table of food with the turkey as the centre piece. Sounds like so much fun! oooo and there has to be an open fire and goblets of wine... ok the goblets may be a little over-kill.

In Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen's book It's all Good they cook with a lot of turkey and its simple recipes that don't require you to roast a whole bird. A whole roast turkey would be great for a special occasion or even the Sunday roast if you have a large family or love leftovers, saying that I have had one of the best turkey pies ever at a work team meeting in the past. I've heard some great reviews on the Turkey meatballs from this cookbook but never yet cooked anything from it. So what was I waiting for?

Turkey Burger mix

I chose to try the Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers with Cucumber & yoghurt sauce and when the little blurb at the top of the recipe says they are especially good alongside the NY Street Vendor salad how could I stop at only one recipe in this book?!

The burgers were super easy to make. Bung a whole load of ingredients in the food processor then mix them all together with the turkey mince. Shape into patties, let sit for a little bit while you prep the salad and sauce then get grilling! The cucumber and yoghurt sauce to go with it was pretty good too, very refreshing! I used greek yoghurt because it's what we had and a few less herbs... my mint is not doing so well. Mr Caterpillar has made it his new home.


The salad was pretty much like the normal green salad I make at home to go with dinner when the lettuce is on its last legs, but that the dressing was pretty kick-ass. I've never used tahini before and had no idea where to find it in the supermarket on Monday night. I'm walking up and down the supermarket isles looking for TAR-HEE-NEE... for what? TAR-HEE-NEE! Yes I have no idea how to say it and was pretty sure I was saying it very wrong walking up and down the isles talking loudly to Tristan who kept asking 'what are we looking for?' TAR-HEE-NEE I kept repeating back to him. Tahini is kept in the health food section. I should have know better after reading this cookbook that I would most probably find it there but I was too stubborn to ask for help.

It's all good turkey burgers and NY street vendor salad

I felt so healthy after dinner. Not over full or frumpy. It was such a fresh and scrumptious dinner for a cold night. And a great one handed dinner for my one armed patient at the moment. And it was great for lunch the next day! We ate it with a soft white bun but it would be great by itself with just the salad.

...terrible terrible photo's....

Middle Easter Turkey Burgers with Cucumber & Yoghurt sauce from It's all GoodBy Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen.

makes 4 burgers

For the burgers:
4 shallots, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp dried oregano
8 large basil leaves
3 handfuls of baby spinach
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
500g turkey mince
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 Soft white bread rolls (optional)

For the Sauce:
(recipe adapted)
1 cup greek yoghurt
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 english cucumber, peeled and diced
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely sliced
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped
1/2 tsp coarse salt

Burgers:
- Put shallots, garlic, oregano, basil, spinach, lemon zest, salt and pepper in the food processor and pulse until it becomes almost a paste. Pour into a bowl and add the turkey mince. Using a fork, mix everything together and form into 4 patties. Let sit in the fridge for about an hour (if possible).

- When ready to cook the patties, brush them with olive oil and grill on a medium heat until cooked through. Serve with the yoghurt sauce (on a soft white bun... optional).

Sauce:
-Mix everything together and keep in firdge until ready to serve.

NY Vendor Salad with Yoghurt-Tahini Dressing from It's all Good By Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen.
Serves 4
(recipe adapted)

1 baby cos lettuce, chopped
a cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 english cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/3 red onion, finely sliced
1x Yoghurt Tahini dressing recipe (below)

Arrange lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and onion on plate or in serving bowl and drizzle dressing over the top. It is quite rich so don't go too crazy with it. I'm a salad drowner through and through so I had to be careful with this dressing.

Yoghurt Tahini Dressing:
2 tbsp tahini
1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 small clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup greek yoghurt
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

- Whisk tahini and water together until completely combined. Add remaining ingredients, whisking everything together. Dress salad.. don't drown it!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Ragu alla Bolognese (Beef Ragu) from My Berlin Kitchen - A love story (with Recipes).

One of the best food memoirs I have read is My Berlin Kitchen - a love story (with Recipes) by Luisa Weiss from the blog The Wednesday Chef. It is heartfelt and honest and full of mouthwatering recipes that made you feel like you were on one of her secret Berlin weekends eating pizza on the balcony or rugged up in her Berlin kitchen through her first winter there.

My copy of her book is full of tabbed pages with recipes to try. I have even gone so far as looking up how to grow elderflower bushes in pots to make her elderflower cordial and where to buy them online. And the stories about fruit picking... I just love the idea of going fruit picking then making jams and compotes out of it to have for months after when the fruit is no longer in season but the memory of the times you had while picking are in that thick slather you put on toast or add to a pudding. Sounds so poetic. Oh and I adore the love story in it and the happy ending. I'm a sucker for a happy ending!


One of the worst things about the book is that it ended... I could have kept on reading more and more but thank goodness she has her blog, The Wednesday Chef. She started her blog to cook through her mountain of newspaper clippings she had collected.

I've been wanting to make a recipe from My Berlin Kitchen ever since I finished reading it to keep the story going and one of my favourite foods as a kid was Spaghetti bolognese. I have done my research and much more food educated now in that fact that in Italy, there is no such thing as spaghetti bolognese. The meat sauce needs a thicker pasta for the sauce to cling to as you twirl your fork full of pasta and fill your gob.  There was no way I could pass up the Ragu alla Bolognese (Beef Ragu) in the book on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. So few ingredients and so much trust needed not to add anything extra. And no I did not use spaghetti for those Italian's out there...I used fettuccini.


Now just a little about my childhood... The bolognese my mum cooked was always made in a microwave until I was about ten years old. Yes I said microwave. Microwave cooking was the height of technology in the 90's and my mum loved it! She could make bolognese, risotto, lamb chops, quiche, pasta, rice... you name it and my mum could cook it in a microwave. My sister and I never knew that the bolognese we were brought up on had a slight microwaved cooked meat smell and taste to it until we started having bolognese at other peoples houses and realised that mums tasted a little funny (at least she never put beans in hers!). One night we asked her, treading ever so carefully so we didn't hurt her feelings, if she could cook it on the stove tonight and she did. From that day on she never went back to the microwave (for bolognese) and I have never had a microwaved bolognese from that day onwards again.

Ragu alla Bolognese (Beef Ragu) from My Berlin Kitchen

Ragu alla Bolognese (Beef Ragu) from My Berlin Kitchen

Back to Luisa's Ragu... all I wanted to do was add some garlic or add a bay leaf or teaspoon of dried oregano but she specifically says - "don't follow the urge to add celery, a bay leaf or a dash of cinnamon. You'll be rewarded for your obedient focus with a meat sauce that truly tastes of Italy" - I trusted her. I did what she said and was I rewarded?... yes! An extra hour cooking and I'm sure I would be even more rewarded but time is of the essence and as much as I wish I was organised enough to start it 5 hours before we wanted to sit down and eat dinner, I'm just not that organised (yet). The sauce is as simple as beef mince, pork mince, carrot, onion, olive oil, butter, pureed tomatoes and some salt. Oh and some red wine but thats a given because you're already going to open a bottle, right?
Don't let these simple every day ingredients fool you. This combination will make you rethink your own bolognese ragu recipe.

So delicious served over steaming pasta with some freshly grated parmesan. Lip licking good!

Pretty excited that we have some leftovers in the freezer for a quick mid-week dinner.

Ragu alla Bolognese (Beef Ragu) from My Berlin Kitchen

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Jamie Oliver's Pork Meatloaf and Spaghetti sauce from Save with Jamie.

A little too hungry for our own good...I wasn't too sure if I should write about this recipe purely for the fact that we'd eaten nearly the entire dinner before I realised I hadn't taken a single photo. Ooops! Is it even worth taking a photo of half eaten dinner?? I wasn't sure but did anyway.

I love meatloaf and I love spaghetti so there wasn't anything not to love about Jamie Oliver's Pork Meatloaf with Spaghetti sauce from Save with Jamie. It was super easy too with not too many dishes at the end to clean up and the chilli's in it were great. As Jamie puts it 'The chillies add great depth to this sauce...' and they do. It's a nice surprise of heat when you think you've got a carrot and its half a chilli. I used the larger red chilli's, not the small birds eye... they might be a little too hot for my liking.

Jamie Oliver's Pork Meatloaf and Spaghetti sauce

This was a recipe that didn't require the entire kitchen cupboard contents plus the kitchen sink in the ingredient list like some of Jamie Oliver's recipes do. It was simple and easy, like his Naked Chef days. There was no funny ingredients, just good old weeknight cooking. Now I say 'good old' but lets be honest. This was not your average meatloaf and not your average spaghetti sauce. This was a kick ass recipe I would definitely do again and again. I added double the amount of feta, by accident because I'm starting to think I might need glasses but it worked and I would probably add double the amount again when I make it another time.

It would be a great meal to have everything ready to go if you have people over. It wont break the bank and it's a little different take on a couple of classics. If someone served me this up, I'd be well chuffed - as Mr Oliver would put it.

This recipe can be found on JamieOliver.com -
Jamie Oliver's Pork Meatloaf with Spaghetti Sauce from Save with Jamie.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Spicy Meat Gumbo from Jamie's America.

I'm writing this after watching a disturbing episode of Sons of Anarchy where someone bites their own tongue off. Have a completely grossed you out too? It's just like the awful fight scene in Game of Thrones where someones head get completely crushed and you get to see the whole thing. I saw that scene over and over for a couple of days in my head and I covered my eyes for half of it and now I'm having thought-mares again about the last thing I just watched. I want to re-watch something else that is all sunshine and rainbows and chocolate cake. So instead I'm going to try and think of cooking and food and Jamie's America cookbook.

This book has so many recipes I want to cook... deep-pan pizza...NYC Cheesecake...Velvet Cupcakes... Fiery Dan Dan Noodles (awesome name, right?)... Sher Ping Pancakes... Jewish Penicillin... Veal Parmigiana... NYC Vodka Arrabbiata... A killer mac 'n' Cheese... And thats just the New York chapter!!?! These recipes don't sound very adventurous compared to others in the book... Wild West Rice...Mountain Meatballs...Beer Butt Chicken...Hush Puppies...La Brea Salad...the list could go on. There are a few ingredients in this book I might find it hard to get a hold of in Australia such as Alligator and Cactus but Jamie does suggest other things instead. There is a couple of spices that I've never heard of as well but this allows me to do a little google research and online shopping. Who doesn't love online shopping?

Here's the thing, I find I am still cooking inside my comfort zone when it comes to choosing recipes each week. I'm avoiding doughs and dumplings and home-made pasta... I'm avoiding the raw meats and fish (I don't trust any butchers or fish shops in my area at the moment though) and I'm looking at the ingredient lists and if it looks overwhelming I'm flipping the page or if the amount of pots looks like too many then cya later to that recipe. I'm going to have to man up next week and branch out. Stretch my wings and attempt to fly... I guess it doesn't matter if I fail miserably. The local birds can always end up with my un-risen bread or Tristan can add a cracked egg to any disastrous dinners and have it for breakfast.

Last nights dinner was not a miserable disaster though, it was fantastic! With three types of meat in it, Tristan was in his element. I'd never had a Gumbo before but heard people talk about them and before I'd ever cooked one or eaten one they were this mystical american dish that was going to blow my mind. This was the first time cooking and eating and I was well impressed.

Smokey sausage and bacon with chicken shredded throughout, sweet potato falling apart and thickening the sauce, making it all come together nicely. It was kind of like a stew but not frumpy like some stews can get. This had fresh flavours and spices with the sweet potato flooding the entire dish with a subtle sweetness but enough spices that it was spicy and savory. There was nothing frumpy about this dinner!

Jamie Oliver Spicy Meat Gumbo

Jamie Oliver's Spicy Meat Gumbo from Jamie's America.

serves 6-8

4 chicken thighs
4 chicken drumsticks
1 tsp paprika
1tsp cayenne pepper
olive oil
400g smoked sausage, thickly sliced (I used fresh chorizo sausages)
4 rashes streaky smoked bacon, roughly chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
1 green capsicum, deseeded and chopped
1 yellow capsicum, deseeded and chopped
4 sticks of celery, finely diced
3 heaped tbsp plain flour
6 gloves garlic, finely chopped
1kg sweet potato, peeled and roughy chopped
6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
4 bay leaves
1.5L hot chicken stock
a small handful of fresh curly parsley, finely chopped
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced

- Combine chicken pieces, paprika cayenne pepper and olive oil in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Fry in a large pot along with the bacon and smoked sausage and cook for about 15 minutes until everything is browned all over. Remove from pan.

- Cook your onion, celery and capsicum in the pan with all the meat juices and oil until softened.

- Add the flour next and make sure you keep stirring. This roux is the important part of making a gumbo. Keep cooking the roux until it gets 'peanut butter' colour.

- Next add your garlic, sweet potato, thyme, bay leaves and browned meat then finely pour in the chicken stock. Bring everything to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes or until chicken falls apart.

- Remove the chicken from the pan and shred the meat off the bones and remove the skin. Add chicken back in pan and season with salt and pepper.

- Serve the gumbo on rice with the fresh spring onions and fresh parsley on top.

YUM YUM YUM YUM.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Yotam Ottolenghi 's Multi-vegetable Paella from PLENTY.

I do try and sneak in a vegetarian dinner at least one night of the week. Sometimes it goes unnoticed and other times I get a remark along the lines of 'Where's the meat?!' or 'Whats all this green stuff on my plate?' or I find him simply grilling a bit of fish or chicken on the BBQ (with enough garlic to kill a vampire) and get the polite question if I would like some too. Most of the time when the name of the dish has vegetable or vegetarian in the name then it definitely gets a reaction, just like last nights dinner.

Multi-vegetable Paella from Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook PLENTY. But this time it wasn't just him...throughout the entire meal we both kept imagining how good it would be with chicken and fish and calamari and prawns and mussels and baby clams and chorizo throughout it.
Yotam Ottolenghi 's Multi-vegetable Paella from Plenty

The Multi-vegetable Paella had a variety of vegetables in it but I couldn't help myself and did a little fridge empty in there. This dish would be great to do that with at the end of the week before the next grocery shop or have it as a store cupboard staple because there was a fair bit of frozen or jarred vegetables in it. And yet again this week, somehow I messed up the meal planning and there was no red capsicum in the fridge when I came to make this on Monday night but what I did have was left over jarred peppers in the fridge from Jamie's sausage fusilli I made the other weekend. YAY! I added some leftover baby spinach and a couple of carrots which are always floating around in the bottom of the fridge.

I actually own a paella pan and love any excuse to use it but after I had climbed on top of the kitchen cupboards and retrieved it and placed it on the stove it was total over-kill. It covered 90% of the cook top. I could almost have all four burners on at once and use it, so for two people it went straight back up to the top of the cupboard again and out came my trusty crock pot. You must think that I don't own any other pots but I do own the standard ikea set which does the job perfectly as well, I just have a soft spot for 'Bessey' my red crock pot.

PS. Happy Birthday big sister if you're reading this :)

Yotam Ottolenghi 's Multi-vegetable Paella from Plenty

Multi-vegetable Paella by Yotam Ottolenghi from PLENTY.
(serves 2 generously)

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 spanish onion, finely chopped
1 small capsicum, cut into strips (I used 3 jarred peppers instead)
1/2 fennel bulb, cut unto strips
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
150g aborio rice (or Calasparra)
100mL good-quality medium sherry
1 tsp saffron threads (if your a millionaire!... I used a pinch)
450mL boiling vegetable stock
200g shelled broad beans (I used frozen)
12 mini plum tomatoes, halved (I used a handful of cherry tomatoes)
5 small grilled artichokes in oil from a jar, quartered
15 pitted kalamata olives, halved
2 tbsp chopped parsley
4 lemon wedges
salt

- Fry onion for 5 minutes in olive oil over a medium heat. Add the capsicums (if using jarred like I did, save them till the end) and fennel and fry for a further few minutes until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes.

- Add bay leaves and spices stirring well. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes. De-glaze the pan with sherry and then add the saffron along with the stock. Season and then simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

- Make sure you remove the skin from the broad beans. To do this pour boiling water onto the beans and allow to sit for a couple of minutes then drain and allow to cool. Squeeze the broad beans from their skin, discarding the skin.

- When the rice is cook add the skinned broad beans, tomatoes, artichokes and olives (and jarred peppers if using them). Place the lid on and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

- Take the lid off, squeeze over the lemon juice and sprinkle the parsley and serve.



Monday, 4 August 2014

Bucatini all' Amatriciana from Light of Lucia by Luciana Sampogna.

It was a cold Sunday yesterday. The past week it has felt like winter had come and gone very quickly, only really having a couple of weeks that were very cold. We were having warm sunny days of 24 degrees celsius last week then Sunday it all changed. It was FREEZING again. Ok for all of you living somewhere where it snows i'll admit it probably wasn't that cold but our tiny apartment does not keep the cold out. The thin windows may as well be fly screens for all the use they do to keep the cold out. So a warm rich pasta dish was exactly what I felt like and I had a few options from last weeks meal planning that never really happened.

Light of Lucia is a cookbook that you can take to bed and read. I love the photography and chapter stories of Luciana's life and how each recipe has a little back ground behind it. I love it when recipes do that not just a plain recipe on a page, I like to know who cooked it and what memories it brings back for the author. I feel like I'm sharing someone with them and with who ever I cook it for too. She runs a cooking school in both Sydney and Venice, how amazing to go to and do a cooking class in Venice!


'My father imprinted the aroma of this dish into our souls and with that he reassured us of his love for us. '
- Luciana Sampogna from Light of Lucia.

Gives you the warm and fuzzies doesn't it?

Bucatini all' Amatriciana is a rich spice tomato sauce which uses 'guanciale' which is pork cheek cured for 3 weeks in salt, pepper and sometimes chilli. It is similar to pancetta but stronger in flavour. I am going to admit I did not use guanciale or pancetta because it was crazy expensive so I chose what I thought would be the closest within our budget. If your Italian reading this or Ms Sampogna herself you will probably all tell me that streaky bacon is nothing like it but streaky bacon it was and it was still delicious in my opinion.

Bucatini is the type of pasta used. I had to google image this and find out what is was called in english and see if my local supermarket had a variation and they did thankfully. It is tubular spaghetti.
Bucatini pasta

It was so much fun cooking and trying the new pasta shape. Small pleasures made me so excited and happy. I felt like a kid again and looked forward to eating this pasta all week so when Sunday finally came around thats all I kept talking about was the new shape of pasta we were having for dinner. Tristan was not as excited as I was but looked interested even if it was only for my amusement.


The sauce stuck around the thick pasta and went inside the spaghetti. The only thing is that I kept trying to slurp the spaghetti and because it has a hole in the centre I just kept sucking air. Guess I shouldn't be slurping my pasta then, where are my manners?!



Bucatini all' Amatriciana from Light of Lucia by Luciana Sampogna.

serves 4

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
200g streaky bacon, chopped (if you can afford pancetta or guanciale, use it)
400g tinned tomatoes, pureed
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1/3 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to how hot you like your sauce)
500g Bucatini (tubular spaghetti)
freshly grated parmesan, to serve

- In a heavy bottomed frying pan heat the oil on medium and add the onion and cook until onion has softened but not browned.

- Next add your bacon (or what ever type of cured meat you have decided to use) and fry until the fat on the bacon is translucent.

- Add our chilli and tinned tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes on a low heat to allow to thicken. Taste the sauce and see how hot it is with the fresh chilli and add as much cayenne pepper as you want. We had this quite spicy.

- Cook your bucatini (tubular spaghetti) until al dente then add it to the sauce and stir until all the pasta is coated in the rich tomato sauce.

- Serve with some freshly grated parmesan cheese over the top and dig in

Bucatini all' Amatriciana from Light of Lucia by Luciana Sampogna.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Karen Martini 's Roast Chicken with green olives, almonds and oregano.

This week has been a bit of a busy shamozzle.

Monday night I had planned to cook... grocery shopping didn't finish until after 7pm and the thought of cooking and having to wash up was so daunting that when Tristan offered to buy us pizza I jumped at it.

Tuesday night I cooked Karen Martini's Roast Chicken with green olives, almonds and oregano but instead of it taking about 30 minutes in the oven like the recipe said it took about an hour which meant we didn't eat dinner till about 8:30pm and then still had the washing up to do so blogging didn't happen.

Wednesday night I had team meeting at work and we are spoilt and get fed dinner during the meeting. We had a delicious vegetarian Nepalese Feast which also made up my lunch on Thursday.

Thursday night I finished work later than normal and Tristan had cooked chicken taco's for dinner and cleaned up too (spoilt rotten!).

Friday night went pear shape after I popped my car tyre trying to turn around in our street to park and hit the gutter and ended up in a flood of tears sitting in my car after a stressful day. That then meant we were going out for a strong drink and pub dinner.

Saturday was kind of productive... feeling a little sorry for myself after too many $5 vodkas the night before I made a red velvet cake for my sister's birthday BBQ that night, a mexican layer dip and burnt toasted sandwiches. I barely had time to recover before I was handed a glass of champagne and Saturday night shenanigans started - which were very chilled out after the Friday night we had.

Lets get back on track with Tuesday's dinner. Karen Martini's Roast Chicken with green olives, almonds and oregano from Where the Heart is. It was soooooo tasty but it also could have been the fact that my stomach was eating itself because we were so hungry by the time it was ready and so over hearing my iphone timer going off every 15min while I checked if the potatoes were done or not. I think my down fall was that I put it all into a dish that was deep so it took longer for the potatoes to cook rather than if I had spread it out in a shallow baking dish or it could have been our oven... it isn't fan forced and things do take a little longer in there and 90% of the time I get the conversion of celsius to fahrenheit wrong.

Karen Martini 's Roast Chicken with green olives, almonds and oregano

Tristan didn't seem too keen that there was almonds in the dinner when I started cooking it but I added them in there anyway and I got no complaints when I served it. My photo's of the final result aren't crash hot so I haven't uploaded them considering I had the hunger grumps when it was finally ready. I would defiantly make it again but allow more time to cook it and put in a different tray. It would be a great recipe to double and make for a dinner party because you can have everything ready before and just bung it in the oven. Not your average one pot roast chicken thats for sure!

Karen Martini 's Roast Chicken with green olives, almonds and oregano

Roast Chicken with green olives, almonds and oregano by Karen Martini (from Where the Heart is).

serves 4

1 cup of blanched almonds, roughly chopped
80g pitted green olives, chopped
1 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 bunch oregano leaves, finely chopped
2 green chilli's, sliced
100mL extra virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper
2 red chilli's, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 lemon, juice and zest
salt flakes
1.5 tbsp dijon mustard
4 free range chicken marylands (I used 'lovely-legs' instead)
3 desiree potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
2 red onions, sliced into rings
1/2 cup water (125mL)
1/2 cup white wine (125mL)

- Turn oven on to 200 degrees celsius.

- Put your almonds, olives, parsley, oregano, and green chilli's and some of the olive oil in a bowl and season with black cracked pepper.

- In a separate bowl, mix together the red chilli, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and mustard then season with salt flakes and cracked pepper. Coat the chicken pieces in this mixture and let sit for 10min to absorb the flavours of the marinade.

- Add the remainder of the olive oil to a frying pan on high heat and brown chicken pieces until golden on all sides. Once all the chicken is browned add it to the almond mixture and mix together.

- Add potato and onion to a greased oven proof dish then top with the chicken pieces and all the marinade misture. Pour over the wine and water. Cover with foil.

- The recipe says to bake it for 15min covered then 10-15 min uncovered but it depends on when your potatoes are cooked. Check how they are doing after the first 15min and you may need longer if you stuffed everything in a dish too small (I baked this fro about 1 hour total). Enjoy.