Saturday, 30 June 2007

In the bag, cooking the month of June

Did June just fly by?? In the bag, cooking the month of June included the seasonal delights of lamb, broad beans and new season potatoes. Hosted by the very lovely Cherry at Cherry's English Kitchen. Check out Cherry's blog for the final round up.

I completely ran out of time on this one, even though I did buy lamb, potatoes and broad beans. It grieved me to buy broad beans, when, had we been on top of the slugs we could have eaten more of our own.

It's hardly worth writing about. As you can see from the picture, we roasted the lamb and potatoes. I nuked the broad beans. I wouldn't do it again, it turns them wrinkly and sour! I made a gravy by de-glazing the pan (I think that's what you call it) then added honey and teriyaki sauce. So roasted, nuked, boiled, served, ate - delicious!

Broad Bean Shells produce a lot of waste so they're great for adding to the compost bin or wormery.

If I'd had more time I would have done the lamb in a pan with some garlic and rosemary. I'd have had the potatoes smothered in butter and fresh chopped mint and I'd have taken the the second skin off the broad beans to leave the sweeter greener inside as the lighter green outside is a little bitter, especially when you nuke them because you're being lazy! Nuke being to microwave...

One of my favourite meals is Roast Lamb with lots of Gravy and Mint Sauce. Roast Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes and loads of veggies... yummmmmy!

Little Foodies America

This weekend we'll be heading to America, or atleast the kitchen will be. We've chosen America because it's July 4th on Wednesday and any excuse for a celebration is a good one in our minds... We only have one American cookbook so any ideas greatly received for typical American food.

Little has been getting in to the swing of things by speaking with an American accent. Small has been trying to join in too. I'm thinking maybe they watch too much tv!! Strange how with the first you have all these good intentions of 'I wont ever allow my child to watch tv, they will only play with wooden toys, we will only listen to classical music and we will speak several languages at home so they grow up to be...' To be what? It didn't last and all credit to those who manage to keep it up for the duration... Nowadays - the TV is our friend which is probably why our children can speak at will with American accents.. Not sure what food we'll be eating... Off to read my cookbook and surf for inspiration.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Bagels, bagels and more bagels

The short version... I'm very excited to be part of the fantastic Daring Bakers. I made bagels following a recipe for my first DB Challenge and they were a rip roaring success - of sorts! Possibly the first time ever I've followed a recipe too and what can I say I'm very proud. We were still eating them toasted on the Sunday having made them on the Thursday so they can't have been that bad...

The long version... The Daring Bakers – June '07 Challenge and my very first one. I've always thought of the Daring Bakers as akin to extreme sports but a more gentile culinary arts version... Waffle, Piffle, you can end up with burns, cuts and any other untold injury being part of the DB's and all for the love of baking.... What can I say it's wonderful to be part of the Daring Bakers!

When it was made known that our challenge was going to be bagels I had mixed emotions. Firstly I always leave the bread making to my husband and children and they do a very good job of it, they also always use the Kitchen Aid and when I saw that it would be hand kneading I thought a rude word (I probably said it truth be told). But then I thought bagels? Surely easier than chocolate crepe cake or Gateau St Honore, surely? I cook and I bake cakes but those beauties would have seen me with my head in the oven.

I kept putting it to the back of my mind and then the day I made them I just thought halfway through the morning... Today is the day and then I felt sick...

I was so, so tempted to use the Kitchen Aid! I'm just being honest, but then I reminded myself why I joined the Daring Bakers which was to get some discipline in my cooking and for once follow someone else's recipe instead of always thinking that I know best. This is a common trait in all the women in my family when it comes to cooking, what am I saying some of the men are like it too and my 5 year old is already showing signs of turning out the same... Having all watched our mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers cooking since we were tiny we all feel that we know instinctively what's right and wrong. That goes for everything but bread with me. I have always failed miserably with bread and though I can't taste any of the other DB's bagels I think this time on the whole I actually achieved a really good result.

Anyway I wanted to make these myself without small children pitching in and wanting to have a go. Selfish I know but I do a lot of cooking with them and the DB's was for me. So I set them up in front of the TV, nice and loud and I set about the bagel making.

I added the water to the bowl and then I added the sugar, I swirled it with my fingers as suggested and then I added the yeast. I busied myself getting everything else ready. Washing up the big pan that was still dirty from the previous night's dinner, (It was steeping Mum!), that sort of thing. The yeast smelled beautiful and started to bubble away nicely. I then added the 3 cups of flour and got my hands well and truly stuck in. Gloopy, yet silky at the same time. I added more flour (I've recently purchased my first set of US measuring cups and I think I've bought the crappiest ones you can get, they're stainless steel but they're so thin they bend if you blow on them!). I kept kneading. I was alarmed to see 'don't make it too dry it shouldn't tear'. Mine was tearing! I plopped the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, damp tea towel over the top – I waited.

It only seemed to take minutes and it had doubled in size. So I tipped it out on to our floured kitchen table and began to punch the living daylights out of it! BIG MISTAKE! 'Mama! What are you doing? Oh! Can I help?” “Well, I was really hoping to do this myself darling.” I replied almost pleadingly. “I'll just wash my hands. You know I could help you!” He said this as though I really needed the help. I raised my eyes and he ran to the bathroom to wash his hands. So he then punched it down. I took the tip of splitting the dough and putting half in the fridge while we worked with the other half... Next thing... “Mama me do it! Me good at dough!” The 2 year old pipes in and proceeded to scream when I said no. So I gave him a tiny bit of dough to play with. “Thank you Mama me really good at dough, me lub you!” Heart softened we carried on.

We went for the hole centric method. The first lot I didn't leave in the boiling sugar water for long enough and I forgot to put cornmeal on the base of the pans for all of them but other than that I was doing well. They went in the oven and when I opened the oven door to check how they were doing, I couldn't help but grin because they looked like proper bagels... I closed the door and let them cook for the full 25 minutes. I then took the pans out and turned them over, or at least, tried to turn them over, some had stuck to the bottom of the pan and the ones in the blasted Pampered Chef pan had hardly cooked at all, though they were browning nicely on the outside, they still felt like soft dough when I tried to turn them over. After a further 10 mins cooking the other two tins came out, however the Pampered Chef pan had to go back in for a further lifetime before they were ready.

Apart from one that totally tore apart from being stuck on the pan we let the others cool. We ate the torn apart one AND IT TASTED GOOD! Great taste, texture more bread like than bagel like but not enough to be classed as bread, so still passable as a bagel. All in all feeling rather proud of myself! When the others cooled we ate one each plain, no butter, no nothing. My husband got home and said the house smelled lovely. We were still eating the bagels toasted on Sunday having made them on the Thursday so they must have been good. No exciting topping or fillings for us I'm afraid, when we did put anything on them it was when we toasted them and then it was only butter. I think the boys had marmite on them one day.

Thanks to Jenny and Freya our hosts for the month. The orginal recipe can be found here. You can check out all the other Daring Bakers by working your way through the bar on the right handside - they're all good!

I think I would make them again, just not yet - I like the males in the house making bread for me... Lazy toad!

I almost forgot when making the bagels my 5 year old went on to tell me about Challah Buns he'd made at school and a little history of Jewish food and the faith, which he'd also learned at school... So not only did I learn that I can do dough, I learned a lot more too...

Monday, 25 June 2007

Little Foodies Greece - Moussaka & Dolmas & Pastitso

Egg Custard? No... Moussaka! Excuse the poor pics! This is probably not at all authentic, I'm not sure you're supposed to put potatoes in it but it's how I make it and it gives you a full meal in one pot which I like a lot. Though I do like to have a nice salad with it or some steamed green veg sometimes. Children seem to like this if when you serve it to them you take out the aubergine (eggplant) or you mash it up with the mince so they don't know it's there.

1 kilo (2.2lbs) of good lamb mince
2 medium size aubergines (eggplants) sliced into 1cm rounds
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
large pinch of cinnamon
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
1 tin of tomatoes
2 large potatoes peeled and sliced into 1cm rounds.
Large handful of chopped fresh mint or 1 teaspoon of mint sauce
1 very large glass of red wine and same amount of water.
1 tablespoon of olive oil for frying onions and garlic
Half cup of olive oil for cooking the aubergines

Note: I don't bother to salt aubergines. Most people are of the opinion that it's not needed nowadays.
Pre-heat the oven to 170C / 325F / Gas Mark 3.
Oil the base of 2 trays then lay the aubergine over. Sprinkle with oil and put in the oven for 10 mins. Take out and turn them over. If any parts look a little dry then sprinkle with oil and put back in the oven for a further 5 to 10 minutes.
In the meantime, gently fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Then add the lamb and brown.
When the lamb mince is browned add the glass of red wine and cook on high for 2 mins.
Add the tomato puree and cook for a further 2 minutes. Then add the tin of tomatoes, water and mint and cook on a medium heat on the hob for 20-30 minutes. You want most of the liquid to have evaporated.
I cooked the potatoes in the micowave by layering them in a pyrex bowl with a little water in the bottom, covered and cooked on high for 5 minutes, then a further 5 minutes.
While that is all cooking you can make the white sauce.

1oz/50g butter, 1oz/50g flour, 3/4 pint of milk, 1oz cheddar grated, 1oz parmesan grated, 4 tablespoons of plain Greek Yogurt
Melt the butter in a pan. Add the flour and cook for a minute. Add the milk a little at a time and whisk to get rid of any lumps. When all of the milk is incorporated add the cheese. When the cheese had melted add the greek yogurt, stir and it's ready for use.

You can then layer your moussaka. Start with a layer of aubergine, then a layer of meat sauce, then a layer of aubergine, then a layer of meat sauce, then a layer of potato, then the creamy sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in the oven on about 170C / 325F / Gas Mark 3 for about 45 minutes. Take it out and let it rest for a few minutes then serve.

Stuffed Vine Leaves
I've made stuffed vine leaves (Dolmas) before but I couldn't get hold of any vine leaves this time. Saying that, as I type I realise that we have Denbies, a vineyard about 3 miles away. Now I'm sure they could have spared me some vine leaves but I think they have to have something done to them first.. Oh I don't know. Anyway I didn't make my own. I bought two different tins of them and thought they'd probably be disgusting but Elle suggested we try them with extra lemon juice. I'm so glad she did as they were delicious! The children didn't like them but that left all the more for us and we soon polished them off. We had the tin on the left and we will have the tin on the right soon.

A special note of a personal nature as I like to say thank you and it is relevant to Greek Food. After school today we headed back over to near where we used to live to visit friends. My friend C and I both have 2 boys, The first two born within one month of each other and the second two born within a week of each other. The second two we like to joke were a bet made when we'd had one too many gin and tonics late one summer. I think it was just fate! Anyway I'm digressing, I'd like to say a huge thank you because without knowing we've been doing Greek food she'd made Pastitso from the Australian Women's Weekly Greek Food Book. Just another example of how friends can invade each others brain space without speaking! It was delicious, I didn't have a camera on me but believe me it will be made again. The children gobbled it all up. Thanks C! Wonderful food and really lovely to see you all. Also love to D (who was AWOL, well not quite, just out earning the pennies!)

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Little Foodies Greece - Souvlaki

Souvlaki - little kebabs, traditionally made with meat. Apparently there is a famous little cafe in Athens that sells lots of different varieties and is the best place in the world to eat Souvlaki. We chose pork and halloumi to make ours and I'm sure they were as good as those served in Athens.

Pork Souvlaki
The pork I got from the butcher and asked him to cut into cubes. I marinated it in a bowl with the juice from one lemon and 2 cloves of crushed garlic some salt and pepper. Threaded onto wooden skewers. I then cooked it on a very hot griddle and put the extractor fan on full as things got a little smokey.

Halloumi Souvlaki
One packet of beautiful salty halloumi, hard cheese, perfect for grilling. Cut into cubes and threaded on to wooden skewers. No messing, just as they are and cooked on a hot griddle, turning regularly so they don't stick and lose the scrummy caramelised outside.

Served with warmed pitta breads, a little cucumber, cherry tomatoes, some greek yogurt and for hubby and I, the last of the jar of Belazu Rose Harissa... This got a very big thumbs up.

What's that coming over the hill is it a monster, is it a monster???!!!! Monster by The Automatic - Sorry this is belting out in my ears while I type, as the boys (all 3, young and old) are bouncing round the kitchen, playing air guitar and pretending to be rock stars.... Boys - LOVE THEM!

Friday, 22 June 2007

Little Foodies Veg Patch First Harvest

What better veg could you have than freshly picked from the garden. Cooked straight away and served.

This was our rather poor harvest of broad beans. I did have grand plans for what we would do with our broad beans but as the sum total gave us about 8 beans each, those plans were canned! The slugs had been having a field day, literally over night, despite our best efforts to keep them at bay. There wasn't enough for one meal let alone to feed a family of four. However, that said, the beauty of watching my husband and the boys pick them was unmissable. They brought them into the kitchen, where we shelled them together. My husband then lightly steamed them for a couple of minutes. We devoured our 8 broad beans each. They were delicious and next year we know to plant more and to stay well ahead of the slugs. Our beer traps will be a lot more elaborate and sneeky, we will outsmart those beasties!

This is our rather paltry entry for this month's Heart of the Matter event, which is vegetables. Heart of the Matter is a great blog which Joanna at Joanna's Food and Ilva at Lucullian Delights began. It has lots of heart healthy recipes and is worth a look even if you don't have any heart issues. Heart healthy food is good for a lot of things, including watching your weight... Go and take a look...

Another great dish using Broad Beans is Broad Bean Soup
(This would serve 2 adults and 2 small children or 4 adults as a tiny snack in cups.)
500g of Broad Beans
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
One pint of boiling hot vegetable stock
Half a pint of skimmed milk
1 Tablespoon of olive or sunflower oil

Lightly fry the onion and garlic in a tbspn of sunflower or olive oil or less oil if you have a good non-stick pan which we don't.
Add the broad beans and a little of the stock and cook on a high heat for 2 minutes.
Add the rest of the stock and the skimmed milk and cook for 5-10 minutes.
Blitz with a hand held stick blender to the consistency that you prefer and serve.
It may need seasoning with pepper only to make it heart healthy.

Broad Beans are also great cooked with some chunks of Jamon Serrano (Spanish Ham like Italian Parma Ham) . But I don't think that's really heart healthy... Infact I know it's not, as my father in law had a major heart issue a couple of years back and he shouldn't eat it. But he does!

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Mid week pasta and using up the leftovers

When I first started blogging I stumbled across Ruth's Once Upon A Feast, she had recently moved and mentioned something called pulled pork which had me intrigued. I asked Ruth what it was and she told me it's from the rear of the pig, you cook it slowly so it becomes meltingly tender. Anyway I've dipped in and out since then.

I have meant to join in with the Presto Pasta Nights as we eat pasta atleast once a week. I know very few families who don't. It's quick, you can rustle up a sauce from very little if you need to and voila you have a family dish that will keep everyone happy and if they're not happy they can always go to bed hungry - like they'd let that happen...

I started to cook enough pasta for everyone and while it cooked I did the following.
Stripped chicken from the last few pieces that were leftover from Sunday.
Started to fry the chicken in a tablespoon of olive oil.
After a few minutes added 2 chopped garlic cloves, half a chopped fresh red chilli, one tin of chopped tomatoes, a handful of leftover black olives. Then added half a pot of leftover double cream. Cooked on high for 5 minutes by which time the pasta was ready. Drained pasta and mixed it all together with the sauce and it was a hey presto pasta night! I added tabasco to mine - I have a real thing for chilli at the moment!

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Little Foodies Greece - Beef Stifado (Stew)

Beef stew.... Not something I cook very often, Greek or otherwise. Something my husband and children will eat lots of and yet I still don't cook it that often. It's just that I don't really like too much red meat. I love the taste and especially the gravy that it produces. It's the texture I don't like too much of. Anyway this stifado was great and one I will make again. The boys, both big and small loved it, I ate my fair share too!

It can be made with any meat, it's just typical in Greece to have it with beef. If I'm having red meat then lamb would normally be my first choice. Anyway, I decided to use half a bottle of red wine and herbs from the garden. There are lots of versions available on-line but I think you just have to cook what you want to. This was our version served with boiled new potatoes...

Beef Stifado (Greek Stew) - Serves 6-8 or 4 plus leftovers!
1 kilo Stewing steak
1 kilo shallots, peeled and cut in half if big
Half a bottle of red wine
Half a cup of plain flour
2 tins of whole plum tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Stripped leaves of rosemary from 1 small twig, 2 bay leaves
half a small handful of thyme and oregano or marjoram, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 beef stock cube
boiling water in both empty tins of tomatoes

Take the beef out of the fridge a little while before you're going to use it.
Put the oven on a low to medium heat, approx 160C.
Put the flour in a bowl and tip the cubes of beef in. Roll it around to evenly coat each piece.
In a large ovenproof pan (I used my trusty Le Creuset), add the olive oil and over a low heat cook the shallots for about 5-10 minutes.
Tip the onions into a bowl and then brown the beef in the pan.
Put the onions back in and add the tomatoes, sugar, herbs, stock cube and water and cook on high for 10 minutes.
Then place in the oven and cook for approximately 2 hours, by which time your beef should be meltingly soft. You should give it a stir half way through cooking too.

On Sunday, we had a lovely Greek Salad for lunch with Warmed Pitta Breads sliced into 2cm pieces. We served it with a really nice houmous made by Sabra, it had pine nuts in it too which gave it a different flavour. We also had a tub of very pink taramasalata. The sort that you expect to glow in the dark if you turn the lights off. I was the only one who liked the taramaslata. I've always loved it and the cheaper the better. Weird how some things just hit the spot!

I was reminded of something when my mum left a comment on my last post. Something I probably didn't say thank you enough for at the time. My mum and stepdad arranged and paid for me to have my 18th birthday party at a great little Greek Restaurant in Palmers Green (a long time ago now). It was such a great evening and something different to most of my friends 18th's. For a start I don't remember anyone being sick which was pretty unique. It was particularly great because I didn't live with my Mum and Malcolm and it was a real treat for all of my friends to go and visit with me. It was normal to take one friend with me when I visited but not all of them at the same time. We completely took over their house and it was such a special weekend. Not sure if the restaurant is still there as I haven't been in that neck of the woods for a long time. M&M moved back to the North East soon after my 18th. Anyway, THANK YOU M&M. It was a great 18th birthday and I have really fond memories, some great pics too. x

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Little Foodies Greece & Happy Father's Day

After a fantastic two weeks doing Australia, today we are heading for Greece. I suggested Italy, Hubby suggested Greece, Little suggested Germany and Small didn't pass comment. As it's Father's Day we decided to go with the Daddy's choice.

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads!

We had Bill's scrambled eggs for breakfast before hubby heads off for a 2 hour bike ride with my cousin. They'll be tearing up Leith Hill in the name of 'time off for good behaviour'. Sounds more like torture to me!

Off the top of my head and without looking up the cuisine of Greece I know that this week we'll definitely be having: Moussaka, Greek Meze, Greek Salad and Souvlaki... oooh and stuffed vine leaves, there's so much choice.

I have a chicken cut into 8 pieces in the fridge. I need to go and find some Greek recipes for it. I also need to look up Greek words, some historical facts, draw the flag, you know the usual things you have to do when you're finding out about a country.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Australians Women's Weekly read by Little Foodies

After reading a post by the lovely Kelly-Jane at Cooking the Books who did a quick curry with real spices a la Nigel Slater, I wanted a quick curry (most definitely using a jar of paste though). The boys had already eaten as we'd had a lovely impromptu afternoon at a friends house, (Thank you K for the lovely cold glass of white, nice chat and feeding the boys.) This was after I'd had a fantastic lunch with some very old friends (Thank you C & M). After such a lovely day I didn't want to COOK cook so I googled Australian Curry and was led to this article. The Australians Women's Weekly - Inspired but still unable to follow a recipe, I then did my own thing.

Lazy Girls Prawn and Spinach Curry
One bag of uncooked frozen king prawns (rinsed in water but still frozen)
Half a large onion which was lurking in the fridge - finely chopped
1 sachet of Bart's creamed coconut (Now selling them in 4 x handy 50g sachets)
Half a carton of cream (left over from Bill's scrambled eggs)
3 tablespoons of Patak's mild curry paste
3 huge handfuls of young spinach leaves
Big punch of parsley (didn't have any coriander) - finely chopped (& obviously I meant bunch)
Tablespoon of sunflower oil
Half a mug of boiling water

Fried the onions in the oil until nicely browned. Added the boiling water to get the brown bits off the bottom of the pan (for flavour and it would have made a mess of the pan).
Added the curry paste, cream and coconut milk. Warmed through until coconut milk had melted then added prawns, cooked for 2 minutes, then added spinach leaves, put a lid on and cooked for a further 5 minutes. Hubby and I decided it was the best curry we've had in ages.

Cooking under the influence - food to drink to by Ben Canaider and Greg Duncan Powell. This book is great. I've had it for ages, but again never cooked anything from it. I thought I wouldn't cook anything from it while we did Australia but the more I look at it, the more I'm compelled to try something. The writing is fun and I love the drinking notes. No snobby wine critic offerings just plain fun suggestions. Lots of the recipes also have a tips + tricks + tabletalk bit to the side. Some of which are very funny indeed. It's a good book! They probably behave a bit 'men behaving badly' but I reckon it would be a fun evening to have dinner with the writers and their ladies.

Sooner than I thought... Little Foodies Australia

That was a quick one... the males in the house woke up feeling fit, healthy and very hungry. I can quite honestly see myself and my husband with a business and several jobs on the side just to feed them when they're older. After they'd performed their 'plague of locusts have been in the fridge trick' I decided to cook Bill Granger's famous scrambled eggs. I wish I hadn't they are superb.

The recipe is widely available in books, old magazines or for free at the UKTV Food website but suggests you use 2 eggs, 80ml/2 1/2 fl oz/1/3 cup pouring cream, pinch of salt and 10g/1/4 oz butter. You whisk everything but the butter together in a bowl and melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. You then pour the whisked egg mix into the frying pan and cook gently, slowly bringing the outside into the middle as it cooks. He suggests that you fold the eggs not scramble them. I have to say I'm not a big scrambled egg fan, until today. Now though, I could eat Bill's scrambled eggs every day, especially with the additional slices of fresh red chilli that I had on mine.... Mmmmm! A hit with Little, Small said he wanted my scrambled eggs. He's been disagreeable about a lot of things today so we'll try it this way again.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Little Foodies Australia & The Daily Tiffin

We're sticking with Australia for a little bit longer. Various reasons, all too boring to go into but include a sickness bug and a very bruised stubbed toe. Besides we're rather taken with Australia and as we're not having to cancel flights for real it's something we can do easily. I'll post in a day or two when things are back to normal.

Added later at 8.30pm -I almost forgot, well actually I didn't, it's just being a little english I'm sometimes a bit hesitant about coming forward. The lovely Meeta of 'What's for lunch, honey?' very kindly asked if I would like to be involved with The Daily Tiffin. I didn't have to think for more than a few seconds and was honoured to accept. I just did my first post today (it was my down time away from ill children and husband. I know they were ill only last month, it's the terrible food I serve them!!). Please do head over to the Daily Tiffin and take a look. As well as Meeta there are several other fantastic ladies who write for the DT, their blogs include: FitSugar, Humble Pie, Lunch in a Box, Malabar Spices, Saffron Trail, Tartelette and Were Rabbits.

Back soon...

Friday, 8 June 2007

Little Foodies Australia and the TIM TAM SLAM

It wasn't difficult to find recipes this week. Australia after all is now noted for its amazing food scene. We could argue that many countries are right there next to them and were there well before, but we wont. For this week we'll allow them pole position. The food and recipes coming out of Australia include influences from cuisines all over the world, particularly Asia, so sometimes it can be familiar, simple, other times complex and new. With labels like fusion food, which often gets called pretentious but really it's not.

The children have loved Australia week, and want to visit again soon. I guess the food is not that different to what we usually eat but they've loved all the details about Australia, the fact we have family there, the different animals, they speak the same but have some very funny slang words, the Aborigine people and their history. I would truly love to take them there for real.

I'll post about the exact food we've eaten over the weekend but I have two books that I referred to a lot this week.

the accidental foodie by Neale Whitaker which includes recipes from both Australian and British chefs & food writers, among the Australians (not necessarily born in Oz or still living there) are Joan Campbell, Bill Granger, Jill Dupleix and Terry Durack, Cherry Ripe, Donna Hay, Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander. This is a very beautiful and cool book, with fabulous pictures and a nice read. Neale's own story makes good reading, alongside his choice of chefs' in the book that he calls his food heroes. Until this week, it had just been a picture book for me. I'd dipped in and out, read a few paragraphs but I will now read the whole thing and I will certainly be cooking more recipes from it. I bought it for £8.00 in our local discount book shop but it's definitely worth the £12.99 that Amazon are currently asking for it, I'd even stick my neck on the line and say it's worth the full RRP of £25.00.

Wholefood by Jude Blereau who co-founded the Earth Market, a wholefood store and cafe in Perth, Australia. She also started the Whole Food Cooking School. The book quotes 'Wholefood celebrates food that has the ability to heal, nourish and delight.' It's a lovely book with a dark plum coloured cover. Inside there are simple recipes and pictures, right through the book it's very muted and calming, you do feel that anything you cook from it is going to be really good for you. So far I haven't, but I will.

For today I wanted to leave you with the Australian delight of Arnott's Chocolate Tim Tams and what you do with them, sometimes referred to as the Tim Tam Slam, among other things.

Tim Tams are a chocolate biscuit (a little like Penguins but totally different if you understand). They're made by Arnott's in Australia and the Australians' do a peculiar thing with them. Not sure if it's frowned upon as it's not exactly polite, but my best friend introduced me to the practice fairly recently when she saw them for sale in Sainsbury's and she'd remembered doing it in Australia (You can buy them in Sainsbury's at the moment for £1.39 a packet). If you're not dieting and you have the willpower not to become addicted I urge you to get some and try it.
First make yourself a hot drink. (My choice is coffee). Make sure it's cool enough not to burn you. Bite one corner off each end (alternate corners). Then dip one bitten end in the drink and suck through the other bitten end, as soon as you start to feel the liquid you need to flip the whole thing into your mouth and eat. The taste and sensation is fantastic. As my boys don't drink tea or coffee and I'm not about to encourage them to do so, they did theirs with warm milk. It can make an almighty mess - but great fun! Go on - you know you want to! Makes me feel about 10 years old again - great!

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Little Foodies Australia - Vegemite V Marmite

There are all sorts of things to consider when choosing your yeast extract spread. Mainly taste and spreadability. But then there's the decision English or Australian?

Being English we tend to have marmite in the house and although we don't seem to follow the love it, hate it theme, we do like it. We don't have it often, possibly once a month, and when we do, we like it on toast or soft sliced bread (brown or white). I also like it with peanut butter. About as far away as you can get from a peanut butter jelly sandwich. (Sorry Culinary Cowgirl, see link on left as I can't get it to work here.)

Every so often I see a jar of vegemite and I buy it. I can't fathom why as having marmite in the house anyway it tends to sit there, get used once or twice and then goes out of date. It's not that we don't like it, we're just not massive yeast extract eaters, although for the first time I've just noticed on the side of the vegemite jar a recipe for honey and vegemite chicken fillets. Not entirely sure I'd like them but it may just be worth a try - for the experience you know.

For the purpose of this debate, test, debarcle, the following people were included. Me - Age 36, Little - Age 5, Small - Age 2 (Hubby was probably thanking his lucky stars that he was at work and would most undoubtably think it not very important to compare the difference between marmite and vegemite. He'd much prefer to argue about the health benefits of red wine or some other more exciting topic.)

Anyway... Marmite versus Vegemite. The jars are very different. Little preferred the vegemite jar "because its shape is more like a jam jar and I love jam." Small and I preferred the marmite jar, it's squat and cute looking.

Both jars have yellow lids. The logos are not that different to each other both having the colours - red and yellow. Little again preferred the vegemite jar, saying it looked more veg like but the marmite looked meaty (I think it's the picture of a pot on the front??)

On to texture and spreadability. The vegemite is much thicker but so long as you have enough butter on the bread or toast it seems to spread easily enough. Marmite is more runny and so long as it's not very cold spreads easily.

Now for taste. We couldn't decide which we liked best. They're both good. We came to the conclusion that marmite has a more meaty taste and the vegemite is slightly blander (my word). Little just said not so strong. So no debate conclusion really. We could live with either and we could also live without both.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Little Foodies Australia & Something Seasonal & English

The Little Foodies are loving Australia... and I'm hardly surprised.

I worked for this company for many years. It's where I met my husband, it also allowed me to travel the world staying in luxury hotels all in the name of work. (Something I probably would never have been able to do otherwise - the luxury bit that is!). One of my trips was Australia. It was a whistlestop tour - in 10 days, I visited, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Kangaroo Island and Sydney. It was a tiring trip and left me feeling that I'd somehow missed something. Being a work trip I had to see all the tourist sights, visit all the hotels and fit in many meals hosted by various restaurants and hotels. All of which were delicious and this was before the whole Australian food scene thing had taken off.

One of the best bits about my trip was meeting one of my distant cousins. It was his 30th birthday and he came to collect me from my hotel in Sydney. He had a small party in his apartment and it was so lovely to be included in that. I think the reason I felt I'd missed something was because it was all at such a frenetic pace. I didn't have time to stop and just take it all in. I was there and then I was home again, so I'm enjoying this week learning all about the Australia I missed.

So far we've learned about kangaroos, koalas, possums, wombats, tasmanian devils, dingos, wallabies, emus, kookaburrahs, barramundi, sea lions, fur seals and of course the very cute fairy penguins. We've also learned about sheilas and tinnies, the didgeridoo and not forgetting the Aboriginal people. We've talked about Kylie and Australian soaps. We've done tourist sites and I've shown them about 1000 photos from my own little tour.

We really are loving our virtual trip to Australia and with all the bbq'g we haven't felt the need yet to sample any of the other great recipes on offer from famous Australian chefs like Bill Granger and all... I also have a book with a great title. Cooking under the influence, by Ben Canaider & Greg Duncan Powell. There are some fun recipes in there but as this is really for the children we wont be going down that route. I have a whole pile of stuff I want to cook this week. Bill Granger seems to be my favourite, recipe wise, don't know how anybody else feels..?

This picture is the dinner that Little assembled for himself... with the minty lamb burgers that his Daddy cooked this evening. Look at all that lovely salad. (Boring as anything without dressing and I couldn't eat it like that, but good for him!)

Something not so Australian but seasonal and English. I made this up today and I really like it. It's not too sweet, it's quite moist and it's gone down very well with the house.
Rhubarb and Elderflower Syrup Cake
125m sunflower oil
225g light muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
225g self raising flour
150ml natural yogurt (I used organic fat free live bio)

5 big stalks of rhubarb
80ml/third of a cup elderflower syrup

Wash and chop the rhubarb into 2cm /1 inch pieces. Put in a pan with the elderflower syrup and cook on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until the rhubarb breaks down. Leave to one side to cool down. You could make less but I wanted to serve some with the cake, as shown.
In a large bowl add the sugar and oil. Mix with a whisk for a few minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time and whisk each time you add one.
Add the flour and fold in gently so as not to make it too tough (A bit like you would for muffins).
Then add 1 cup of the cooled rhubarb & elderflower syrup mix and the 150ml yogurt and fold in. It will look all gloopy - that's fine.
Pour into a greased tin or silicone ware. I used a 12 inch silicone round.
Bake for 1 hour at180C/Gas Mark 4
Leave to cool before turning out.

I was reminded of the elderflower syrup from Joanna's food. She also wrote of elderflower champagne. Yes, we know, we can't call it champagne, we know that champagne is French so we could call it Eldeflower Cava, Elderflower bubbly, whatever, it's good!

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Farewell Russia - A cup of Borscht

Russia has been fun but the sun is shining and to celebrate Little Foodies are off to Australia tomorrow, well actually this afternoon. For many reasons, firstly we're bbq'g with our lovely neighbours today. Also because there are many wonderful Australian chefs that we can choose from, for lots of clean, fresh tastes which are going to be perfect for this weeks weather.. See the power of positive thinking... Also my grandfather's brother went to Australia on the £10 tickets many, many years ago, so I'll be thinking of all my relatives.

Farewell Russia with a celebratory cup of Borscht. (Can you guess my favourite thing about the picture... The sun glinting off the spoon. The soup looks cloudy but the sunshine is there in that spoon!!)

Borscht (Russian Beetroot Soup)
I found so many recipes for this it was really hard to choose one but I got the general idea that you needed a heap of beetroot and other root veg and then you made a soup. I think you could play with this recipe a lot.

I got a bunch of beetroot (about 6 pieces) and roasted them in the oven for 1 hour. Let them cool, peeled them and chopped into chunks.
I then chopped and peeled a small swede, 2 carrots, a parsnip, 3 medium potatoes, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic and a small handful of chopped dill and curly parsley as it's what we had lying around (definitely not authentic).
I threw all of this in a pan with approx three quarters of a pint of chicken stock and simmered for 25 minutes. I then blitzed with my stick blender. Poured into cups, then topped with soured cream mixed with chopped dill.

We didn't get round to making the zyriniki but I think we'll head back to Russia again when the weather is cold. For now the sun is shining and I have a real need to be cooking and eating outside. It's the perfect remedy for madness brought on by cabin fever.


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