Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Home Made Ice Cream

Having just dissed the home-made curry powder, I am going to say totally the opposite about ice cream. Home-made is hard work, and takes a long time, but it is TOTALLY worth it.

This was a basic vanilla recipe, with coffee, strawberry and chocolate variants, so I made a double batch and divided it into four so I could do all four flavours. I'd be hard-pressed to tell you which one I liked most.

Not GI/dairy/anything friendly, really, though. My double batch involved 2 pints of milk, 2 pints of cream and a dozen egg yolks. You basically brew up a custard with the milk and eggs and some sugar. Don't let it boil, but stir it up. Throw it in a cooled container (or four in my case) after adding whatever flavour you're adding, and freeze for two hours. Stir in the cream (whipped) and freeze again for two hours. Take it out and mash it up a second time before freezing it again a final time.

It is REALLY good. Notably better than the average store bought stuff. The teen even admitted that the chocolate variant was the best he'd had all year. (!!)


Me: Enthusiastic thumbs up
Husband: Enthusiastic thumbs up
Teen: Enthusiastic thumbs up
Student: Enthusiastic thumbs up.

Home made curry powder

Out of a book devoted to curries, this was a straightforward mix of spices to make-your-own curry powder.

It was fun to do (ONCE!), and the powder is pretty authentic, though I would have liked it stronger. I don't remember the exact blend off-hand, but I remember the experience.

It involved roasting some of the spices, and then attacking them with a mortar and pestle till fine enough to go through a sieve. Then adding the non-roasted spices and mortar and pestle-ing them too. Then adding turmeric to colour the final result.

Really straightforward and simple, but HARD WORK. Grind grind. I have a new found respect for people who do these things from scratch themselves.

Quite honestly? I don't think the home made variety was any better than the pre-made stuff we get from the Indian supermarket in town. Sometimes going homemade is better. Not this time.

Don't bother. Just buy the bag of stuff from a decent Indian store and save your wrists. :)

Me: Meh.
Husband: Meh.

Green Panzanella with Blood Pudding

Wikipedia tells me that "panzanella" is: "a Florentine salad of bread and tomatoes popular in the summer. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar."

I had never heard of it before coming across this recipe, but it was amazing. VERY high maintenance, but delicious, despite my dislike of blood pudding.

High maintenance though. It took almost an hour to assemble.

You start by making croutons. Frying or grilling up small cubes of bread. Recipe asked for sourdough bread, but I just used what we had in the bread bin, which in this case was the husband's wholewheat homemade bread. Fried it with some salt and pepper and olive oil, till good and crispy. Put aside to cool.

Fry the blood pudding in slices. I am not a big fan of the stuff, and actually would probably have exchanged it for bacon if I hadn't been engaged in this project. Part of my agreement with myself when I started this was that I would try EVERYTHING, even the things I don't usually like. So far that has worked well, but I really wasn't keen on this. I think it would have been all right if I'd used significantly less, but I didn't, and I felt like it took over the salad a bit. In any case, if you like the stuff, it would probably work just fine. Husband liked it. :)

In any case, fry it up till crispy, break into chunks and set aside to cool.

Cook up some fresh broad beans in boiling water for about a minute. Sounds quick huh? Yeah, except we bought the still podded variety and I had to pod them all. Once they've been cooked in boiling water for a minute or two, pull them out, rinse them in cold water and then peel off the hard shells. You know, I am a big fan of skipping bits in high maintenance recipes, and this seems like a good opportunity, but it really is worth doing. The soft insides are not only much tastier and more succulent without their nasty casings, but they're also a brilliant emerald green colour which is really gorgeous. Set aside.

Mix in some salad greens in a large bowl. I used lettuce and rocket, but use whatever you like. Add some fresh herbs. The recipe said mint and basil, but I used various leafy things from our window box collection. Throw in the croutons, blood pudding and beans.

Finally, the vinaigrette: Throw two large tomatoes, a few anchovies, half a cup of good olive oil and a generous dash of red wine vinegar and a bit of salt and pepper into a food processor. Whirr till liquidy. Throw the lot over the salad. Toss it about.


It really is very good, and that vinaigrette is beautiful. But it did take a long time to assemble, and I am not sure it's THAT good. I'd have switched out the blood pudding for bacon, but to be honest, I probably won't make this again, just because of the effort involved. Unless I am really trying to impress someone.

Me: Meh. Not worth the time it took.
Husband: Meh. OK, but no great shakes.
(We both liked the vinaigrette though.)

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Summer berry trifle

This was pretty fantastic, but it does take quite a bit of faffing about in the kitchen.

Start off by making a sponge cake. I don't remember the exact recipe, but I had to make about a quarter of the size, because I was only cooking for me and husband, not for 10-12 people like the recipe suggested.

While that's baking, jelly and syrup the fruit. Basically, a little bit of water and sugar boiled up in a saucepan. Add some gelatine, then toss the fruit about in it. I used strawberries and raspberries.

REMEMBER TO PUT THE FROZEN RASPBERRIES BACK IN THE FREEZER. I put them in the fridge for some obscure reason, and will now be hunting for raspberry recipes so I can use them up.



Cut the sponge cake into cubes. Pop them in the bottom of two large wine glasses. Well, if you're trying to be fancy, like I was. Else, I suppose a bowl would do. ;)

Sprinkle with sherry. Nom.

Let it soak in for a bit. Then put half the fruit on top of that. Pour a layer of custard over the fruit. (I made it homemade, but I guess you could use a premade one, if you were so inclined.) Another layer of fruit, another layer of custard, then top with whipped cream.

Remember that sweetening whipped cream is a TRAVESTY. Don't do it. I'm not kidding.

Eat. Enjoy. NOM.

It was really awesome. I was expecting it to be really rich, but it turned out gorgeous. Probably because I didn't sweeten the cream! Or the custard, for that matter. So the only real sweetness was the fruit and the sherry.

Gorgeous. If fiddly.

Me: NOM yes thumbs up.
Husband: Thumbs up.

Mussel and Chorizo Stew

This was a WINNER.

Fried up some onions, garlic and chorizo. Threw in a tin of chopped tomatoes. Added some fresh parsley. Cooked for a bit. Threw in some green lipped mussels for long enough for them to open. Served on a bed of long grain rice.

Oh. My. Gods.

So simple. Deceptively simple. But the flavours married perfectly, and it was mouthwateringly awesome. I expect it would be even better if you could get really good spicy chorizo, which we struggle to find here in Dunedin, but it was truly delicious.

Would totally make again. Plus, ready in the time it takes to cook the rice. About 20 minutes. Awesome.

Me: Enthusiastic thumbs up.
Husband: Enthusiastic thumbs up.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Chicken and Prawn noodle broth

This one is more or less a "what it says on the can" thing. Though I played fast and loose with the recipe.

A bunch of chicken stock, some sliced chicken thighs (the recipe said breasts, but I like thighs). The recipe said throw in bok choi, but there was none at the shop, so I used some cabbage and spinach and bean sprouts because that's what we had in the fridge.

Simmer away for a bit, throw in some herbs (I used coriander), drop the prawns in once the chicken is basically done. Add some cooked egg noodles.


It was ok. It didn't blow my mind with it's amazingness but it was quite respectable.

Me: Thumbs up
Husband: Thumbs up

Friday, 2 December 2011

Sauted Apple with Syrup and Mascarpone

This might be one of the more decadent desserts I have made in a long while.

Basically, you make a syrup with butter, castor sugar, Marsala (I used sherry), cream and honey. It's like a sugar and fat party in a saucepan. Then you saute apples (cored, peeled and quartered) in olive oil till they're golden brown. Pour the sauce over them, dollop on some Mascarpone (cause obviously there wasn't enough fat in that syrup), and sprinkle with walnuts.

 It is completely bloody beautiful to eat. But I could physically feel the bad-for-me afterwards. But oh, the decadence!!

The syrup is amazing. The first taste just explodes in your mouth. It threatens to be too sweet (and the recipe definitely made too much), but the mascarpone undercuts it, and neutralises some of the sweet. The apples are perfect. The walnuts a mastershot.

If you're looking for something quick and simple that looks really complex and fancy, this is a good option.

Me: Thumbs up, though my pancreas disagrees.
Husband: Thumbs up
Student: Thumbs up
Fussy Teen: Thumbs down. (I guess dessert shouldn't have fruit in it. I dunno.)

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Tomato, garlic and basil pasta

We didn't know what to have for lunch today, so I said, "Hey, let's see what the next recipe is and whether it is lunch appropriate." It was!!

Really simple. Roast a head of garlic in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Put some pasta on to cook. The recipe said spaghetti, but we only had fettuccine, so that's what we used. Take the garlic out. Squeeze the edible bits out into a bowl. Mix with some olive oil, some pepper and salt, some tomatoes (I just used canned stuff, cos that's what we had, but I expect it would be awesome with fresh tomatoes too). Mix in the hot pasta, throw in some fresh basil leaves from the plant you're growing in your sunroom. Sprinkle some grated parmesan on top. And voila.

Simple, delicious, easy. Took maybe half an hour to make.

Extra points if, like us, you eat it while watching "The Godfather II". ;)


Me: Thumbs up. Good ingredients combined simply, what's not to like?

Husband: Thumbs up.

Steak with Green Peppercorn Sauce

Oh. My. Gods. This was AMAZING.

I will admit I played fast and loose with the recipe though. It called for some store bought beef jus, whereas I went online and found a recipe and made my own. I was supposed to make it like hours in advance, but I hadn't, so I improvised. It also called for port, but we didn't have any, so I used red wine.

The jus is just a cup of red wine, half a cup of beef stock and half a cup of chicken stock. In a perfect world, you'd have this stock in your freezer or fridge, because you're such a culinary genius that you keep some handy at all times. Yeah, I am not such a beast. So, I used the cube stock thingies. Add some garlic and some rosemary, and leave it simmering. It's supposed to simmer for like an hour and a half all told, or something. Mine didn't.

While its simmering away, tie a string round the steaks (though I have no idea why or what purpose that serves. Then you season, them, push a teaspoon of butter into each one and brown them in a very hot pan, starting butter side down, and just a minute a side. Take 'em off quick.

I then added the jus to the pan juices, and threw in three tablespoons of peppercorns. Recipe said green ones, but we couldn't find any, so I used mixed peppercorns. I was so not going to sit there sorting the green ones out of the mix.

Then I just let it simmer away until we were ready. I'm not sure how long it cooked for, maybe half an hour all told? There was feeding of the baby and putting him to sleep. The steaks we threw on the barbeque, 3.5 mins a side. They could have been a little rarer for my taste, but I like mine practically mooing still.

Guys. This sauce. Was frikkin' incredible. Rich and tasty and gorgeous. The peppercorns are amazing with the steak. It was an unqualified success. Awesome.

NOM. I have actually written what I did so that you can make it too, it was SO good.


Me: Absolutely thumbs up. Great.

Appreciative Husband: Enthusiastic Thumbs up.

Fussy Teen: Thumbs up.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Spinach and Goats Cheese Stuffed Lamb

So this one I was very much looking forward to. I have never been a huge fan of spinach, but even so. Look at that title! It sounds amazing.

And it was. But it was quite an adventure.

You see, what you're meant to do is get a rack of lamb ribs, gently cut the meat partially away from the bone, stuff it with the spinach and cheese mix, then coat it in a layer of bread crumbs, rosemary and butter. Roast, carve, TADA!

Only, we went shopping for this on a Sunday night. In Port Chalmers. Which meant there were no lamb ribs, so we bought barbeque chops. There was no goats cheese (wtf?), so we ended up getting goatsmilk feta. And we couldn't get sourdough bread, so I used what was left of the last loaf of Alec's Patented Homemade Bread.

So, I sliced the meat away from the chops, making little round holes in them, stuffed the holes full of the stuffing (which was just blanched spinach, the feta and lemon zest), pressed the breadcrumb mixture onto the meat part of the chops, and stuck it in the oven for 20 minutes. (This while juggling bathing the baby and putting him to bed. Yay for my husband, I say!)

Guys, I was sceptical. I didn't really think it was going to work very well. But Oh. My. Gods.

It came out golden brown and gorgeous. NOTHING like as pretty as the picture in the book, but nevertheless. The spinach, cheese and lemon combined BRILLIANTLY with the lamb. The rosemary got kind of lost in the breadcrumb mixture, but still. REALLY tasty.

Well, I thought so, and husband thought so too. Fussy teen hated it. I guess the spinach was too much.

I have to admit, I have never been a big fan of spinach, but this recipe may have changed my mind about it. I may have to give spinach more credit than I have in the past.

We served it with a fresh salad, and it rocked.


Me: Enthusiastic thumbs up. Best recipe so far in this experiment.

Appreciative Husband: Thumbs up.

Fussy Teen: Thumbs down. Bad spinach. No biscuit.

Next: Steak with green peppercorn sauce. Mmmmmmmm yum.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Salsa Vinagreta

Sounds fancy, huh? Yeaaaah, not so much.

This one came out of a Catalan book we have, and really just is a bog standard vinaigrette. Olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and white pepper. Mix. Pour. There.

But I did say I was doing every recipe, so I couldn't skip it.

I did make a pretty awesome salad to go with it. Home grown basil, coriander and rocket (very baby cos it's still growing), cherry tomatoes, boiled eggs, olives, green peppers. Full of yummy nutritious deliciousness.

Still, don't have a lot to say about this one. It was as you'd expect. Good, subtle, enhanced the salad without overblowing it. Standard vinaigrette stuff.

I honestly don't know why people buy these things pre-made from shops.


Next week's is exciting though - I am looking forward to making this: Spinach and Goat's Cheese Stuffed Lamb Rack. NOM.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Ginger, Tofu and noodle soup

This comes out of a book titled "Country Cooking". Which country? I don't know. Possibly it means "generalised peasant food", but it's hard to be sure.

I had my doubts about this one. I have never been a fan of tofu, and my experiences with bamboo shoots (for which the recipe called) has been mixed at best.

Still, we figured we'd give it as authentic a go as we could. Off we went to one of the Asian supermarkets in town to try and procure as close to the Real ingredients as is possible to get in Dunedin. We found sesame oil, which YUM. And tofu. And fresh (or close enough - vacuum packed in a fridge as opposed to in a can) bamboo shoots.

Those were the tipping point for this recipe for me.

I'm still unimpressed by tofu. It tastes like tasteless foamy rubber to me, and I just can't get on its side. Sorry.

But those bamboos! Oh my. WHAT a difference from the canned ones we've used in the past. They were succulent and tasty and amazing. And they turned this soup into a win for me.

In fact, despite my initial scepticism, this was a win all round. Everyone, even the fussy eater of the house, enjoyed it.

This is why I'm doing this. Because there's no way I would have even made it if it weren't for this little experiment. :) Now I know.

Of course, we couldn't agree on what would improve it. I said lose the tofu, add more veggies in general. (It pretty much only had the bamboo, celery and onion. And some basil.)

Fussy Teen wanted more noodles, and less bamboo.

Occasional Student wanted more. Just in general. More of everything. He was keen on the tofu though.

And husband liked it. :)

Generally, one I'd make again, though I would probably adjust the recipe. Lose the tofu. I'm the cook - my way wins!!


Me: Tentative thumbs up

Husband who loves food: Thumbs up

Incredibly fussy teen: Thumbs up

Occasional hungry student: Thumbs up

Monday, 24 October 2011

Almond and Roquefort Soup with Cheese Profiteroles

Today's recipe was from one of those generic all purpose cookbooks every house collects. I glanced at it and thought, oh yeah. That'll be a good lunch time dish. Looks kind of quick and easy.

LESSON ONE: Read the recipe properly!!

It was full of secret hurdles. Such as "Immeadiately and without hesitation stir in the cheese you obviously already grated due to being a mindreader! Follow it with rapidity and speed (yes! Both!) with the sesame seeds you already toasted for the same reason!!!" Um. I didn't read the recipe in advance. Bad Jax. Therefore there was significant swearing and cursing and rushing around in the kitchen to do these preparatory things which I should have done already.

LESSON TWO: Learn the non metric system. (Or only buy books that use metric in future.)

"Three ounces of cheese? AAAAALEC... How much is three ounces? Crap. Oh well, I'll just chuck it all in."

Ahem. I think maybe I put too much Roquefort in. Also, it wasn't actually Roquefort, it was some sort of New Zealand blue vein cheese, cos we couldn't find Roquefort in our little supermarket. It didn't end up being that strong though, so I guess it was alright.

LESSON THREE: There is no such thing as too much cayenne pepper, cheese or garlic.

No, really. I promise. I meant the profiteroles to have that chilli kick. Ahem.


This recipe is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for dieters, people with dairy issues, or probably anyone else who values health over taste. It's mostly cheese and milk. With some flour. And some spices. Pretty much all fat.

But, dude. DUDE. When that profiterole is melting and gooey in your mouth surrounded by the creamy wonder that is the almond and blue cheese soup, it is HEAVEN.

Heaven. In my mouth. For realz.


Thumbs up all round. (By which I mean me and the husband. No one else tried it)

Next up: I believe it is a tofu and ginger noodle soup. Hm. I have never been a fan of tofu, so we'll see how that goes.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Pea soup and Mercian Salad

*dusts off blog*

So, I finally got our cookbooks on a shelf in the kitchen where they belong. I also seem to have found my round tuits, with the help of a little Android App called Astrid which is the electronic to do list I have been searching for for years. /plug.

So, I am going to try and finally do this little cooking project I have been planning on for ages. What it entails is working my way through the books, and cooking everything in them. Starting with the first recipe in the first book, then the first recipe in the second book, and so on, till I get to the end of the shelf and cycle back around.

Yes, I realise this will take me a LONG time. We're aiming for one a week, but some weeks (like this one!) we might just achieve more than that.

The first book on the shelf is a "Best of Floyd", so you can imagine my surprise and disappointment when it didn't have even a smidge of alcohol in it! (I really hope you all know about Floyd, or that will make no sense.)

It's a mint and pea soup. Pretty basic, cream, stock, mint and peas. Some butter, some seasoning. I even made proper real stock from a chicken carcass from the night before, cos I was feeling all culinary. Very easy, very basic recipe.

I'm not sure I've ever actually had pea soup before. I was less than impressed at first. It wasn't as minty as I expected it to be (even though I used FRESH MINT! From the GARDEN! As instructed.), but it grew on me. Kind of delicate. I love peas, so that helps.

We ate the leftovers the following day and it had thickened up a bit and was much nicer. The recipe certainly didn't say "Let it rest for a day", but it seemed to have improved it.

Me: Tentative thumbs up
Husband who loves food: Thumbs up
Incredibly fussy teen: Meh
Occasional hungry student: Thumbs up

The Mercian Salad comes out of a Spanish cookbook, and was actually made by the husband and said occasional student, who was here for dinner. I was otherwise occupied with the baby.

It's basically a salad made of roasted veggies - eggplant, onion, red pepper, garlic. There is about a ton of olive oil involved and some lemon juice, I think.

It was very similar to a Catalan dish that the boys make when we barbeque, except instead of cooking the veg over a fire, they're roasted in the oven. So it wasn't as exotic to us as it might have been. Nevertheless, it is one of my favourite things. Roast veggie salad, eaten cold. NOMNOMNOM. Also, you know, Mediterranean food for the win.

Me: Thumbs up
Husband who loves food: Thumbs up
Incredible fussy teen: Thumbs down
Occasional hungry student: Thumbs up

Next up: Almond and Roquefort Soup with Cheese Profiteroles. Mmmmm.