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