Posts Tagged ‘home cooking’

Mums Apple Pie.jpgSince my unexpected arrival back in Australia 2 weeks ago, I have been bunkering down at my parents’ house.  It has always been a place that I feel at home, get taken care of and can take some time to get my head on straight. I was fortunate to have one of my Apples.jpgclosest friends K and her baby and husband come up the first weekend for Sunday lunch. This was a wonderful distraction and enjoyable afternoon, a great way to get my mind of my own troubles.

I managed to help Mum whip up some food, making a mushroom risotto and some fresh bread. However in my less than stellar state I let Ingredients.jpgMum cook dessert. Mum’s apple pie (that is actually her sister’s husband’s grandmother’s recipe… yes it is one of those recipes) is sweet, delicious and not like the apple pies you get in the US. It has a sweet shortcrust pastry rather than the more savoury kind you get in the US.Pastry.jpg

Firstly put on the apples to stew… Just peel and slice up some granny smith apples and add them to a pot with 2 tablespoons of sugar.

For the pastry, beat 125 grams of butter and ¾ cup of sugar together until creamy. Add in 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Next mix in 1 teaspoon of vanilla Rolling.jpgand a pinch of salt. Then gradually mix in 2 cups of self-raising flour, ½ cup of plain flour and ½ cup of cornflour. Mix this until everything is combined.

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The rest is simply rolling out the dough for the base and the top. Filling the pie with thecooled apples and then baking.

It bakes in a 180C oven for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. The great thing is that because the apples are cooked you’re Pie.jpgjust cooking the pastry until it is crispy.

This is now my new go to sweet choice for when I am down… not chocolate or icecream… Mum’s apple pie. Served with a dollop of icecream or fresh cream, it is just the perfect way to end a Sunday lunch or any lunch or dinner or breakfast… my new comfort food. Thankfully though it isn’t hard to make it is just time consuming enough for me not to make it too often… otherwise I could be in big trouble! Delicious, sweet and crispy… give it a try, it is guaranteed to help warm your heart!

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Panfried Scallops with Pomegranate Glaze.jpgI’m back from DC and still have more restaurants to blog about but I thought I would go back to some home cooking for an entry to keep things varied. As I mentioned last week, I made J. a three course meal as payment for a bet we had made. Although I started with dessert in my blog last week, I thought I would share the delicious first course we started our meal with.

J. had requested scallops… he hadn’t said anything about how he wanted them cooked or with what… just scallops. This left it open for me to try something new and a little different to how we would normally eat them. After looking through recipes and more recipes, I was inspire to mesh together a half dozen ideas to create my own Frankenstein of a dish. I shall call it “Pan-fried Scallops and Baby Spinach with Spiced Pomegranate Glaze.”

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I started on the glaze early so I could set it aside and concentrate on the main course but it was relatively quick and easy. In a small pan I combined 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice (use 100% juice for best flavor), 1 tablespoon of honey, a pinch or dried thyme, cinnamon and red chili flakes. I mixed this together and placed it on a medium heat to bring to a simmer.

While this was heating up in a cup I mixed together 1/2 teaspoon of cornflour and 1 tablespoon of lime juice. When the pomegranate mixture was boiling I poured in the lime mixture, stirring it in quickly. I then just left this to simmer for 15 minutes until it had reduced and become syrupy. Once syrupy I set it aside… that’s the hard part of this recipe done!

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A few minutes before we were ready to eat I cooked up the rest of the course.

I lightly oiled a pan and brought it up to heat. When the pan was nice and hot I added 6 large fresh scallops. I had seasoned these lightly with some freshly ground black pepper. I only cooked these for about 90 seconds on each side before removing them from the pan.

Into that same pan I put around 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach. As these cooked down I seasoned with salt and pepper. When the spinach was slightly wilted I turned off the heat and put together the dish.

Spinach in a small pile with the scallops on top and the glaze drizzled over the top… done!Baby Spinach.jpg

I was surprised by how delicious this was. I love scallops and could eat a plate of them with nothing else but salt and pepper. The pomegranate glaze really brought out the sweetness in the seafood which was amazing. This really was the perfect way to start the meal. Light, delicious and different. J. enjoyed them thoroughly which I guess is the most important thing but the fact that I loved the dish as well just makes it even better!

PeaandBaconBone.jpgI thought we would start back with an oldie but a goody! Pea and ham soup used to be one of my favorite winter dishes growing up… who would love the delicious combination that is the salty, savory flavor we get from split peas, ham bones, onion, potato… oh you get the idea.

Back in the colder months (seems so long ago since we have been averaging over 100F for what seems like eternity), I thought I would whip up this delight for J. He had never actually tried this before and he has an irrational aversion to peas… peas of any kind! I don’t understand the terror and disgust he feels when I suggest anything that could come even close to a pea!Carrot & Potato.jpg

Somehow I convince him he would like this since I puree up all the veggies and dried split peas aren’t anything like green peas!

Unfortunately we couldn’t find any ham bones and had to run the risk of using something I hadn’t tried before in bacon bones but I wasn’t too worried because it was bacon… bacon makes everything better! The night before I was going to cook this I soaked 500 grams of

Split Peas.jpggreen split peas in water. I just covered the peas with water and left them overnight.

The next day… I roughly chopped a large white onion, 4 large garlic cloves and 2 shallots. I softened these in some olive oil in our large soup pot. Once these had softened I added 3 diced potatoes, 3 chopped carrots and a bunch of celery. I recommend getting a large pot for this because it gets very full very fast!

I mixed all of those ingredients together and let them cook for a few minutes. While this was cooking away, I drained my The bones.jpgsoaked green split peas. Once I had got most of the water out of those I added them to the pot and mixed everything together. To this I added my ½ dozen large bacon bones and 1/2 cup of tomato paste.

I had tried to get some bones bits of meat still on them because I love getting those chunks when I am eating the soup.

I carefully mixed all of this together and then added 2 cups of chicken stock and then water until everything was just covered.  This just sat and bubbled away for 2 hours while we did whatever we did back then… we were probably watching football knowing how we usually spend our winters.

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When this had cooked for 2 hours I carefully removed all the bones, scraping off any meat that was still somehow clinging to the bones! With a stick blender I puréed everything together and it was ready!

We served up giant bowls of soup with some crusty bread and sat down to eat. J studied it carefully before tasting it slowly… then he took a second spoonful, and then another! Yay! I had him eating peas, even if it was mixed with bacon and puréed beyond recognition.

So even though it is over 100F here back home in Australia it is the perfect weather for something like this… and those of us lucky to be in summer will just have to keep for the colder weather… whenever that arrives!

Valentine's Dinner.jpgWe aren’t really ones to celebrate Valentine’s Day, even in the early days of our relationship we didn’t exchange gifts. The most we would do is wish each other happy Valentine’s Day.

So last night we didn’t do anything special… we headed to the gym because we knew it would be nice and quiet with everyone else celebrating the holiday. J. also got a new BBQ (read grill if American) delivered this week so he decided to cook me dinner and try that out.

He fired up his new Barbie and I sat down and watched… and drank a beer. We had some meaty lamb shoulder chops ready to thrown on. We eat a lot of these and our freezer tends to be well stocked with these chops. It is also one of the cheaper options here when it comes to lamb.

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Anyway, he cooked the lamb beautifully… the BBQ worked as it is meant to work and most importantly J. thoroughly enjoyed cooking on it.  He had prepared some quinoa earlier in the rice cooker so that was going to be our side dish. He had just sautéed some chillies and garlic and thrown that into the rice cooker with the quinoa. We have been eating a lot of quinoa instead of the mountains of rice we usually consume.

 

It was all very yummy and great that I didn’t have to cook! He even cleaned up. So even though we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day I still got that as a gift…. And really what more could I want besides love & lamb!

We are still getting over our Thanksgiving Day feast, so I am not ready to talk about what I cooked… I need my system to process it before I can even think about it again. I thought that I might share what I made J. and I for dinner Thanksgiving Eve instead.

Over the last couple of years we have started a tradition of having a seafood feast on Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving Eve to start our celebration early! This year we wanted to make Chilli Crab but unfortunately we couldn’t get any of the fresh crab we wanted. So I convinced J. that we should have chilli mussels instead. Only problem, I was going to be making this one up! We bought 2 1/4 pounds of cleaned mussels and headed home!

At home I set J. to work de-bearding the mussels while I prepared everything else. I finely minced 4 cloves garlic and 1 large shallot. I had 2 tablespoons of hot olive oil in a large pot heating and I added the shallot and garlic to the oil to sauté.

As these were softening I diced up 1 red jalapeno chilli and 2 thai chillies and then added these to the garlic and shallots. Lastly I finely chopped 1/2 a cup of parsley and added half to the pot. I let this cook for just a minute before I added the mussels. These of course had been beautifully de-bearded by J.

I mixed the mussels and the other ingredients so they were so evenly combined. Now it was time to add in all of the liquids. First I added 1 cup of white wine and let it deglaze the pot a little. Then I added 1 cup of chicken stock and mixed everything together again, being gentle so I didn’t crack the mussel shells. I let the liquid come up to a simmer and then covered everything to let the mussels steam.

It only took a couple of minutes for the mussels to open. Once they had I added 1/2 a cup of cream and the rest of the parsley. I gently mixed all of this together for another minute before serving it up in large bowls with some crusty bread on the side.

We sat to eat and it smelt fantastic. The combination of the tiniest bit of spice and the mussels was just perfect. J. was soooo happy with this. The broth was delicious and dipping the bread into it was perfect. I thought the mussels were cooked perfectly, still plump and juicy! The other good thing is that though we were both full at the end of dinner it wasn’t so heavy that we wouldn’t be full Thanksgiving Day.

I love to experiment and a lot of the time they don’t turn out the way I had imagined but this time around they were better than I could have hoped for!!!

I am seeking tastes from home, craving a little taste of Australia. One of my favourite things during summer on the weekend is to have a bit of a sausage sizzle. This is just plain bbq sausages bought from any butcher or supermarket on a bun or folded into a slice of bread. Often you can throw on some onions, some bbq (different from what is here in the US) or tomato sauce (ketchup).

Unfortunately one of the increasing number of things I can’t find here that I can find at home are these very basic, very simple sausages. Bratwursts seem to be the main type of sausage we can find here. Every type of bratwurst, italian sausage and so forth but no simple pork or beef sausage, besides hotdogs that is.

I decided a couple of months back to start a search for this type of sausage. Our area of Phoenix doesn’t really have “butchers” like at home, they are all part of grocery stores. So my search would have to start in the supermarkets. Unfortunately my attempts to describe what I am searching for to J. have just lead to frustration and confusion (we will eat some when we are back in Australia so he knows what I am talking about).

I got very excited when I walked by one section of Wholefoods a while back and saw an array of sausages. From my quick glance they looked like the ones I was seeking. I dragged J. there one weekend to get some to try and when I took a closer look I saw that they were a variety of Italian sausages ranging from plain to spicy and very hot.

Even though they weren’t what I was looking for J. and I decided we should try them just in case they were just named something different, and either way we like all kinds of sausages anyway. We decided we would try the spicy Italian and go from there.

These sausages were delicious with some caramelised onion on a crispy bun but I am sad to say I was disappointed. Yummy yes, what I was hoping for no! They were spicy and juicy as expected but not the type I am missing. Oh well the search will continue but it is good to know that while I look I have at least a yummy stand in!

P.S. All this talk of searching for sausages had me giggling! Innuendo makes me giggle – I am such a child.

I was trying to think of a sweet treat for J. that I hadn’t made before. Friday while he was at work I thought I would do some baking so he would have a sweet treat to eat over the weekend (and I wouldn’t have to bake this weekend). So Friday morning I hunted through my recipes to find something new to bake. I saw this recipe for chocolate shortbread and thought they looked easy and yummy.

If J. had his way I would only make Anzac Biscuits whenever I decided to bake cookies. Considering our very limited supply of golden syrup I feel we need to ration that and make something else.

In a large bowl cream 250 grams of butter until light. Gradually add 1 cup of sifted icing sugar (powdered sugar) and 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence. Make sure this is creamed thoroughly and the mixture is light and fluffy.

In another bowl I siftered 2 1/2 cups of plain flour and 1/4 cup of cocoa. I used a really good dutch cocoa because these have a really strong chocolate flavor and you want it to be the best flavor possibly.  Once this is all sifted together gradually add it to the butter mixture, beating it in thoroughly.

When both dry and wet ingredients have been combined press the dough into a ball. Sprinkle flour onto your kitchen bench and roll out the dough until it is about 5mm thick. I cut the dough into rectangles but you can cut into any shape you want. I put my cookies on a greased cookie tray, I pricked each cookie twice with a fork and then cooked them in a slow oven (150 C) for 20 minutes.

I serve these with a glass of cold milk. J. was very happy with his sweet treat, though they are incredibly addictive. They a crunchy but then melt in your mouth as all good shortbreads should. Even at the end of the weekend we have some left, this mixture will make about 50 cookies. I even packed up a few for J. to eat at work today!

I was doing some cooking today of things to freeze for dinners and lunches over the next couple of weeks. I had made and frozen some meatballs and thought with the remaining ground beef I would make some burgers for J. and I for dinner tonight. This was a great idea except I didn’t want to go out and buy bread rolls. I thought why not make my own!

Well the difficulty here comes when I realise I don’t actually have any yeast. This is going to limit what bread I can make. I have previously made soda bread and thought I could do this but make rolls instead of one big loaf. This is fast and easy and I really love the crunchy crust on the outside. It is a heavier bread inside though so I will have to see how it works with burgers.

The recipe I use for this is an adaption or amalgamation of several different recipes I have used over the years.

My oven is preheating to 425 F (it takes a while so I did this before I even started on the dough). I a large bowl I put 4 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of sugar and I whisk it all together. In another small bowl I beat an egg and then add 1 3/4 cups of milk and 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar.

I form a well in the dry ingredients and then add the wet. Using the whisk I start to bring the dough together. It is really difficult to combine so I always end up using my hands. It doesn’t have to be a completely smooth dough, it is rough and rustic looking which I also like.

When it has formed a dough I cut it into 4 even pieces (this will make 4 large rolls) and shape them so that they are roundish. I grease a square cake tin to bake them in. If I use a flat tray the dough will spread too much and won’t keep the shape I want. Into the oven then for 35 minutes. I turned them around after 20 just so that they browned evenly.

The smell in the house is fantastic when they come out of the oven and they are delicious with butter and honey while still hot. I haven’t made the burgers yet so I will do a post about them later, fingers crossed the rolls work. If J. happens to read the blog this afternoon before getting home I guess dinner won’t be a surprise anymore. Oh well… the bread will be yummy though, let’s hope the burgers are too!

A couple of weekends ago we had finished dinner and were both craving something sweet. I remembered a dessert that my mum would whip up really quickly for us when we were kids, caramel dumplings.

WARNING: These are delicious but ridiculously sweet!

First thing is to make the dumpling mixture. In a bowl I use my hands to crumble 2 tablespoons of butter throughout 1 1/4 flour. You don’t need to combine it completely just so that the flour becomes crumbly. After that I just add in 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/3 of a cup of milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix this altogether until completely combined and set it aside.

Sauce time!! In a deep fry pan or large saucepan combine 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 1/2 cups of firmly packed brown sugar and 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. Just a quick tip, use light brown sugar rather than dark. Mix all of this on medium heat until it comes to the boil. Lower heat so that it simmers gently.

Add heaped spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture to the simmering sauce. The mixture should make six large dumplings (try to make them a little more even than I did). Then it is simply covering and letting them simmer slowly for 20 minutes.

Because they are so rich and sweet you definitely need cream or ice cream with them to break up the sweetness. We didn’t have any but I would serve these hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top! Even without they were delicious and quenched the sweet craving J. and I had that night!

 

I had the day off on Monday and decided I would make something for J. that I had always been too lazy to make. Gnocchi is such a labor intensive project to take on and I thought I should make it before I was back at work full-time otherwise I would never make it. The entire meal took me a good part of the day but I think it was worth it.

I started with the gnocchi first because I like it to sit for a few hours before cooking. In a large pot I put 5 extra large potatoes (skin still on and whole) and boiled them until they were tender when prodded with a fork. While they were cooking in a really big bowl I mixed 2.5 cups of flours, 1 tablespoon of salt, about a teaspoon of pepper (I only had black but if you have white pepper it makes the gnocchi look better), 2 eggs and 1 cup of ricotta cheese. This doesn’t have to be combined completely, just a rough mix for now as you will add the potato mixture to this.

Once the potatoes have cooked I take them out and let them cool just enough so I can touch them. I use my hands to peel off the skin (if they are cooked correctly they should peel off very easily). If you have a ricer I would recommend using it in the next step but since I didn’t I had to use the old masher… In a bowl I mashed all 5 peeled potatoes until all large lumps were gone. Then added in the ricotta and flour mixture. Now it was time to get messy, using my hand I combined all the ingredients together. Don’t mix too long, a few minutes should be enough, because you want the mixture to stay light and fluffy.

Make sure you have a large flat surface to place the finished gnocchi on, as this makes a very large amount. (Note: pre-cooked gnocchi can be frozen. We froze half of this mixture).

Spread plenty of flour on the counter and roll a large handful of the mixture into a long rope about the thickness of a hotdog. If the rope gets to long just cut it into more manageable sizes. When it is the right thickness cut into inch long pieces. Traditionally people use a fork to shape the gnocchi but my mum has always just used her thumb and forefinger to gently pinch the gnocchi into pillows.

This is a long process but well worth it. I put the pinched gnocchi aside to dry a little while I make the sauce. We are currently trying to have one vegetarian dish a week so I thought I would make a mushroom sauce for the gnocchi.

In a large pan melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 2 tablespoon olive oil. When hot throw in 1 large shallot diced and 3 cloves of garlic finely minced, you can also add in your favorite herbs at this stage. I used 1 tablespoon dried basil and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. When the garlic starts to brown add 5 cups of sliced portobello mushrooms and mix.

After cooking the mushrooms for a couple of minutes I added 2 cups of chicken stock. I know this isn’t vegetarian but it was all I had on hand. Use vegetable stock if you want to go truly vegetarian. Bring sauce to a boil and then reduce heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until stock has reduced.

I added 1/2 a cup of cream when the stock had reduced, mixing until the sauce started to thicken. If it doesn’t thicken just add a small amount of corn flour (corn starch) to help it along. Once it had thickened slight I added 1 cup of parmesan cheese that had been grated. Stir until it has melted. I also season with salt and pepper at this stage.

While I was making the sauce I boiled a large pot of water for cooking the gnocchi. When the water is boiling I throw in about 10 gnocchi. The great thing about these is that they actually tell you when they are cooked by floating to the top. This usually only takes a couple of minutes. Make sure you remove them from the water as soon as they float because they will fall apart very quickly. Use a slotted spoon to remove and drain and then place them in a bowl. If I am doing a lot like this I will sprinkly some olive oil on them in the bowl just to stop them sticking while I cook the rest.

When I have cooked enough for the sauce I gently add the gnocchi to the sauce, stirring very gently to cover them all. Be gentle because you don’t want to break them up and get mashed potato. Serve in bowls with generous amounts of parmesan and some garlic bread for dipping in the sauce.

The sauce was creamy and delicious and should go with all kinds of other pasta too. Overall they turned out pretty well. I think I will make a half quantity next time because we have heaps left in the freezer to cook later and a weeks worth of lunches of leftover. J. seemed to enjoy it which is great, though I won’t be making them again anytime soon.