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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

We have had a couple of family celebrations over the last two weeks, so our Saturday nights have been anniversary or birthday dinners and our Sunday nights have been the family eating in, regrouping for the week ahead. This also means high level negotiation about food preferences and what can realistically be prepared without completely undoing the weekends relaxation. Below is a photo of the kids and their partners at Olis Saturday night birthday celebration, on their way to various events.

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Last Sunday we had full agreement and everyone helping for pork chops with spice rub, homemade chunky apple sauce and baked Daphne potatoes, caramelised onions and stir fried brussells sprouts. It was all surprisingly easy.

Pork chops
Make a simple spice mix, 1tbsp paprika, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp mustard powder, 2 tsp brown sugar, 1/2tsp cayenne pepper, 1tsp oregano.
Coat chops in olive oil then massage spice mix in to chops. I then grilled them on a skillet on the cooktop, but they could just as easily be barbecued.

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Potatoes
Thinly slice potatoes, lay arrange in layers in a round oven proof dish, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a tiny pinch of nutmeg after each layer. I ignored the recipes asking for cream, and instead added enough low fat milk to come to the top of the potatoes but not completely cover them. Then sprinkled the top with cheese and baked in a moderate oven until the milk was absorbed and the potatoes brown and crisp on top.

Brussells sprouts were easy as well, as they are not a favorite menu item, I tried to make them look different. I steamed them for a couple of minutes in the microwave, then drained them, stir fried them in some butter, nutmeg, salt and black pepper for a few minutes.

Apple sauce was simply 3 Grannie Smith apples, peeled and cut into eighths. Stewed with 1tbsp sugar and 1tsp of cinnamon. We didn’t stew them for too long so they were served a bit chunky.

While everything was cooking I caramelised some onions by slow cooking onion rings in a bit of olive oil and adding a tsp of sugar and a splash of balsamic right at the very end.

(I don’t think I’ll try my luck with the brussell sprouts and serve them too often, I have a feeling it was novelty value only which got them over the line)

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All in all very little effort for a meal which everyone liked. I also think in our family the novelty value of any meal that we haven’t had before increases the appreciation. Like most mothers, once I find a meal that the whole family likes and is not too difficult to cook I tend to put it on the list of family regulars. We inevitably arrive at a night when I serve up this ‘family favorite’ looking forward to the grateful faces around the table and am very disappointed to hear murmurs of ‘not this again’ my defensive comment ‘but you love this’ is met with the rejoinder ‘no, we used to love it, before you cooked it so much, now we’re sick of it’ . I meditate on the future days when they are parents and experiencing these moments themselves.

A final note, I’m attempting to get back to blogging, but will never be a very regular contributor. If you would like to subscribe, then you will get an email when I put up something new.

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Post Christmas we all go down a half dozen notches and head to Aireys Inlet for our Summer break. Even here, although the pace is very slow, and what you don’t do today you can always do tomorrow, there are a few traditions.

Summer Pudding is one of our traditions, the secret to a good Summer Pudding is the bread. We buy a Pannetone, the type with sultanas only, no peel or jams. It is fragrant and sweet and flavours the whole pudding. The rest is pretty simple. Boil up 1 kg of mixed berries, I use a mixture of fresh and frozen, half a cup of sugar, a dessert spoon of pure vanilla extract or a vanilla bean. Slice the Pannetone into 1cm bread slices

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Line the sides of the bowl with Pannetone slices, layer the berries over the bread, then place a slice of bread over the berries, more berries, another slice of bread, until you finish with a layer of bread on top

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Place a plate on top of the layered bread and berries, weigh down with a heavy can ie baked beans on top of the plate, refrigerate for 24 hours. To serve, invert the bowl, dislodge the pudding, slice and serve with vanilla ice cream. Ours was a welcome break during a particularly intense game of Scrabble.

In addition to food when we are at Aireys it is the only time of year that we have enough down time to do something purely relaxing, art and craft. This year we are creating a montage of water colors and mosaics. My sister, the artist in our family is down for a couple of days to contribute the nicest pieces and give us a guiding hand. Each of us is contributing our own squares to add to the canvas. Even though none of us, except my sister, have any art training, we have come up with some ripper designs which we all love.

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I am also finishing my final sea glass mosaic for Nicki’s bedroom with the letters of her name. Now that we each have a sea glass and shell mosaic in our bedroom (and as Nic would say I have run out of words to mosaic) this artistic endeavor is over and it’s on to a watercolor project

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Tonight we are sitting on the deck eating barbecued snapper, surrounded by candles in a very balmy night. The mosquito coils are lit and the hot wind has finally turned cooler and southerly. It is the epitome of a perfect Aireys summer night.

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The whole snapper was cooked in foil on the barbeque with four chopped spring opinions, two dessert spoons of ginger, sprinkle of sesame oil, quarter cup of soy sauce. Served with a green salad, the perfect hot summer night meal.

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The past couple of months have seen some major milestones for us as a family. Nicola turned 21 and we celebrated that with a great party, which sold us completely on the idea of having a party at an external venue rather than home. It was a wonderful night and completely stress-free.

The night was testament to a long series of good decisions that Nicola has made in her life, choice of venue was the most recent of these good decisions. Her choice of friends, which is a much more significant decision, was very evident that night. Nicola’s friends are a wonderful group of men and women. She is well loved by both her family and her friends and clearly loves them.

The speeches were terrific, Tristan, Frankie, and Oliver found the perfect balance of humor and positive memory. More importantly all the speeches passed the ‘older relative appropriate’ test. For Mark and I it was a very emotional night. Nicola and Frankie first came in contact with each other when Janet and I met at the Health Centre as new mothers of our first babies. 21 years later we have two beautiful young women who have become best friends. It doesn’t seem that long ago.

Nicola is someone who Mark and I feel privileged to have in our lives. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside and her social conscience will drive her to do something truly wonderful with her life.

On a similar theme, Oliver has finished school. For good. He is about to embark on the next stage of his life and we have closed the chapter of having children at school. Although part of us is excited to be moving into life with our children as adults, part of us will always be a bit nostalgic for the Carey years and the Glenferrie Primary School years. Oliver is waiting to find out what his year 12 results will be and whether he will be accepted into the course that he has chosen. Whatever the outcome of these decisions Oliver will dive into his future with determination, persistence, optimism and his infectious laid back spirit. Case in point: the award he is clutching is the Carey Girls Softball Trophy which he tried to pass off as the ‘Carey Top Bloke Award’.

On a much more self indulgent note, myself and six close women friends had a wonderful girls weekend away at Aireys a few weeks ago. It reminded me that I don’t laugh nearly enough but we made up for it that weekend. There was lots of cooking, walking, laughing and Jan who has cooked 9 dinners over the course of 12 years cooked her very celebrated 10th! Below is the recipe for Moroccan Chicken Parcels, which was our dinner on night one. Sensational taste, all prepared the night before, which means you can sit around and have a drink and not spend too much time in the kitchen on the night you’re actually eating it.

Moroccan Chicken Parcels 

Recipe (makes 4 serves, increase in proportion to more chicken)
4 pieces of chicken. (I prefer marylands or chicken chops with a bone as
they are more moist)

Baking paper

Kitchen string

Juice and zest of 1 lime
1&1/2 tbsp pernod
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 clove chopped garlic
6 stalks coriander
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
3 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cummin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
80 ml olive oil
Salt
Fresh coriander to garnish

Place ingredients in food processor in sections beginning with the nuts
garlic and ginger.
Briefly mix/pulse a couple of times.Add coriander and repeat.
Then add other ingredients and mix again.It should be lumpy not a paste at
the end.
Place chicken in zip lock bag with the marinade. Keep in fridge for about 24
hours.
When you are ready to cook them, Place each piece of chicken in the centre
of a baking paper square. Bring up sides to seal as a parcel amd tie the top
with kitchen string.
Bake in a moderate oven for 45 mins.Garnish with fresh coriander serve with
cous cous or a freakah salad and greens.

Now that Nicola has encouraged me out of my laziness back into blogging I’m gearing up for Summer food, Christmas food, family times, art projects and New Years Resolutions. 

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On family and Mexican

Collection of stuff in Oli's room which perfectly sums up the weekend, football and Mexican.

On any night in our family when the question ‘what would you like for dinner’ is aired, there is a 50% chance that the response will be Mexican. If Oliver is in the room, there is a 95% chance that the response will be Mexican. This Sunday night we decided to do something a bit special with our Mexican because we had had a fairly special weekend of football and family. We lucked out on a combination of recipes that were simple and fantastic.

Our weekend has been a reminder of what is really important for us, my sister spent the weekend with us and it was lovely to feel like a slightly bigger family for the last few days. She is a constant reminder of what is important in life. We also spent Saturday with Trevor and Jan, who are members of our chosen extended family  and as such, can give our children advice on everything from haircuts to careers and it is well received (a little bit too well in Oli’s case from someone who spent a large part of his career with a pony tail- Trevor)

Oli's hairstyle experimentation

My sister, my daughter, my niece and I

We are rich in friendship with our chosen family and this weekend has been a reminder that through bad times and good the more time you spend with the people who you love the better your life. The start of our weekend, Friday night dinner with Nicola’s closest high school friend and her family was still another reminder of keeping connections, at this dinner we shared laughs, greek culture and learned an important lesson that chosing the sparkling mineral water can end up costing you $100 at the end of the night as they continue to fill you up- note to self for future, tap water is free!

Nic and Nat in their highschool days

Here is our Mole recipe, pieces pulled from all over the internet, super simplified, we popped it in the oven and went and saw The Help, came home to a Mexican feast!

Chicken Mole

2kg chicken pieces

3 onions (chopped)

1 cup orange juice

3 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/3 cup sultanas

4 cloves of garlic (crushed)

2 medium red chillis, seeded and chopped.

100gms dark chocolate, chopped (70% cocoa or more)

1 tbsp orange zest

2 tsp cocoa powder

4tsp cumin seeds

4tsp corriander seeds

1.5 tsp dried oregano

peanut oil

Brown chicken pieces in 2 tbsp peanut oil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.

In another pan, fry onions in 1tbsp oil with spices (cocoa, cumin, corriander, oregano) . Add chillis, sultanas, almonds and orange zest, and fry until onions are soft.

Transfer chicken, onion mixture and chocolate pieces, orange juice and stock into an ovenproof caserole dish with a lid. Stir.

Cook on 170 celsius for two hours (covered)  and watch the magical transformation into a thick, rich, mole.

We served this with a range of supporting characters; 

mexican rice, tomato salsa, guacamole, tortillas, Cholula hot sauce, refried beans

Then for dessert, the world’s best hot chocolate made with this

Fitting end to a jam packed, family weekend.

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Full mummy winter

All members of our family attended black tie functions on Saturday night, which meant we were all dressed to the nines for a rare formal family photo, and on the flip side needing a bit of quiet time and comfort food Sunday.

After all the Saturday night glamour, Sunday night was time for tracksuits and baking. I cooked Rockling with a pesto and breadcrumb crust, Italian greens, and rhubarb and apple crumble.

Dessert is rare in our family, where a couple of us are watching our waistlines, so the apple and rhubarb crumble was a special winter treat. Maybe because of being a dessert deprived family, we have got into the habit of eating our desserts with a teaspoon- to make it last!

Oli, Mark and I, about to attack the crumble with our teaspoons!

Recipes

Rockling with pesto crust.

This is a winner for people like Nic who don’t really like the taste of fish. Rockling is a very mild tasting white fish, and the crunchy topping is delicious. The topping is: 50% pesto paste (we make our own but you could buy) and 50% breadcrumbs (again we use fresh but bought would be fine). Mix the two together with a fork until fully combined. Cooking it couldn’t be simpler, put pieces of fish on baking paper on a flat tray, gently press topping onto each piece of fish, bake in 180 degree (c) oven, for around 15 minutes, or until fish is white.  Finish under grill for 30 seconds to give the topping extra crunch (optional).

Vegetables

Stir fry broccoli (or broccolini) in a bit of olive oil in a wok, add sliced mushrooms, splash of balsamic, sea salt, black pepper, handful of cherry tomatoes, sprinkling of chopped olives. Stir fry, place in vegetable dish, and top with shavings of parmesan cheese.

Crumble

Fruit

peel core and chop 1/2 dozen Granny Smith apples.

trim and chop a bunch of rhubarb.

place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water, and 1/4 cup of sugar.

Boil until fruit starts to soften, stirring regularly.

Tip fruit mixture into a baking dish, allowing plenty of space at the top, as the fruit can froth up during baking.

Topping

1 cup self raising flour

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/3 cup dessicated coconut

1/3 cup rolled oats

2 heaped tablespoons margarine (or butter)

Mix together dry ingredients with a fork, then fork through butter or margarine (do not melt) until margarine is completely mixed into dry ingredients. You may want to finish by rubbing it through with your fingertips.

Put topping loosely on top of fruit, bake for 25 min-1/2 hour on 180 degrees until top browns.

Serve with cream or vanilla ice-cream and teaspoons!

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This blog is a purpose designed entry for a colleague of mine, Kymberly. Kym is a PA at work who probably doesn’t fully realise how many people have a slightly better day because of her warm, helpful, smiling, efficient attitude . Even those of us who don’t spend a lot of time with her will always come away from an interaction with Kymberley with a smile.

Gorgeous Kymberley on her wedding day!

Kymberley has many strengths, it seems cooking is not one of them. We have talked about a perfect spag bol being a great meal, with friends, and a real people pleaser, you do it all beforehand so you can have a glass of wine with the guests, its true comfort food (and again my criteria of good for hungry boys is clearly fulfilled by this one, it was my first offer of food for Oli’s rugby team- until he convinced me that it was far too good for 16 men who would eat anything not nailed down, so I let Costco do the catering for that one!)

Burning those carbs and protein at rugby

I have a great spag-bol recipe, and in spite of the fact that I’m ‘writing my own reviews’ (as Nic would say) it has never dissapointed. (Except for the time I accidentally used the cat’s mince!) The recipe below is for 8 people as Kymberley I know is having 8 dinner guests (cut recipe down proportionally for less)

The two secrets of this recipe, like many others, is the quality of the ingredients and the cooking time.

Ingredients:

1kg good quality minced beef (I use Otway Prime ) and I often buy it direct from the farmer at Aireys Inlet Market

(you can substitute half of the mince for veal or pork if you want a slightly different, richer recipe)

Two brown onions, diced.

Four (average sized) cloves of garlic

1/2 dozen dutch carrots, in discs

1 large red capsicum (diced)

Two celery sticks (very finely sliced)

1 1/2 cup fulls of frozen peas (optional)

Handful of finely chopped mushrooms (optional)

820 gm tin of chopped tomatoes

4tbsp tomato paste

1 cup red wine

1/2 cup port

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 dozen sprigs fresh thyme

couple sprigs fresh rosemary

large handful of fresh basil

Olive Oil

1 piece of good quality parmesan cheese

pasta of your choice, cooked al dente.

Method

Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan, fry onions and meat, add garlic, stir vigorously and break meat up with a wooden spoon. Add carrots, celery, capsicum, mushrooms, thyme and rosemary, fry.

Lower heat, add tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, port, nutmeg mix thoroughly.

Cover and simmer on lowest heat for three hours. Check every now and then that it hasn’t got too dry and add a little more red wine or water if it has.

5 minutes before serving, add frozen peas. 1 minute before serving stir through fresh basil and a few good twists of fresh black pepper.

Serve with whatever pasta you like, preferably shells or spirals, or something that will hold the meat.

Top with gratings of good quality  parmesan cheese, drink with remaining good red wine.

Cam (Nicki’s friend who is living the eternal winter dream, snowboarding in the Northern Hemisphere) a bowl of this awaits you when you return to Aus!

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Godmother’s Birthday Feast

Before I get into food, my week at work has been peppered with examples of wonderful people who scan their everyday to work out what it is that they’re doing wrong.I wonder what it is that has led us to a point where we set our personal radar to only go ‘bip’ when we’re dissapointed in ourselves and not to recognise the times when we behave in a way which is consistent with the person we want to be.  You’ll probably find that this is a theme that I return to, as it is something that I have constantly encounted in 25 years of psychology.

This dinner was out of character for me, involved quite a bit of effort as it was a special dinner for a wonderful friend, and i was trying to make something that would equate to what she likes to eat when we go out. The fish was barbequed Atlantic Salmon, and for the side dishes I consulted my friend Janne.  (who is my number one consult for all things foody) She handed on her recipe for Freekah tabouleh and her Pea and Fetta Salad.It was a perfect dinner, and a great chance to use the freakish coconut sized lemon Nicki found growing on our tree

Lemons as big as coconuts!

Sue and her God-daughter, Nicki. Sue has been a friend since I met my husband. It is unusual to find a best friend among your husband’s uni friends, but this was an unexpected beginning of a great lifelong friendship. Sue is a special-ed teacher who could probably do a dozen other things, but the children she works with benefit from the fact that this is what she sees as her career. She is passionate, and clever and devoted and contentious and everything you’d want as a teacher of your children. She’s also a pretty great godmother, particularly as she can supply Nic with the gaps in my knowledge of style and product! ((I’m just now looking at Nicki’s perfect hands in the above picture, the use of moisturiser and nailcare is all Sue’s influence)

Recipe

Pea Salad

Vinagrette (makes extra) :

1.5 cloves garlic

pinch salt

teaspoon Dijon mustard

50ml red wine vinegar

50ml lemon juice

40ml extra virgin olive oil.

Crush garlic and mix with salt and mustard to form a paste. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add vinegar, lemon juice and oil, mix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salad

5-6 basil leaves (finely sliced)

5-6 mint leaves (finely sliced)

2 tbsp chives, snipped

4 eschalots, finely sliced

4 cups of peas (I use frozen, thawed  in some water)

50 g chevre or similar soft white cheese, crumbled.

Combine all ingredients except cheese with about 40ml of vinagrette in a  bowl, add salt and pepper to taste. crumble cheese through the salad, serve.

Freekah tabouleh

Place 250 g of freekeh (seems like a cross between burghul and barley) and 1.3 litres of water in a saucepan and simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook until tender, aprox 50 minutes. Add 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1/3 cup chopped corriander, 40g raisins and 1/4 preserved lemon finely chopped. Add juice of 1/2 lemon and 80ml olivr oil then season with sea salt.

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