Saturday, February 04, 2006

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Friday night desertion: I don't drink-and-food-process

(picture above - I've given up battling Picasa and Blogger to join a photo to a story tonight)

Ok - babe, I can rise to the occasion because, yes, for two food-obsessed, cook-til-you-drop-and-beyond, chronicling over-achievers, we have shamefully neglected this little sister site of ours.

Tonight, oh shit, tonight is a bad night for me to start because Chris and I just said fuck it and got fish and chips... albeit from an uber-UNtrendy F&C shop on the southern end of King Street that lets you (get this) ring ahead to order!

However, last night I was unexpectedly alone with three children and no desire for take-away and, while I fed the littlies leftover pasta and salad the big one came home late from Guides and had eaten nothing. So as the Prof partied on down at the head teacher farewell at the Marrickville Tennis Club, I made the big girl (and me, half-cut) this:

Non-food processor Shortcrust Pastry Quiche

are you wondering yet what the secret is to non-food processor pastry? Could it be ice cubes around the mixing bowl? Pre-buttered fingers? A dash of cornflour?

As Eliza Doolittle would say: "Gaaaarrrn!!"

1 sheet Pampas extra large shortcrust pastry
7 eggs
5 slices pancetta
100g nice thick ricotta, Brancourts by preference
fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to about 200 C and let the pastry defrost on the benchtop while the oven heats.

Oil a pastry dish: my current favourite is rectangular with an oval cut out for the base.

Squoosh in the pastry sheet, cutting and pressing as required.

Blind bake: this can obviously be a pain but I have a jar of coup mix beans that I have been using for this purpose for at least eight years. Throw something similar on top of baking paper or some kind of greaseproof paper and stick it in the oven until the corners of the pastry start to brown.

Remove pastry from oven

Mix eggs. If you're not sure how many eggs your favourite dish can take, mix 2 or 3 first and tip them in to get a sense of proportion.

Neil Perry says don't add your salt and pepper to the eggs before cooking as it toughens them, and my own experience backs this up, so throw in a stack of herbs like fresh thyme (oregano, marjoram, basil, parsley, chives etc) to soak through the eggs while cooking.

Pour enough eggs into the par-cooked pastry to cover the base, then spread out the pancetta and top it with big crumbly bits of ricotta (and, if I hadn't been cooking for the Pea Princess, semi-dried tomatoes) and top up with more beaten eggs.

Bake until set and golden brown on top.


Day 5 - Gooey chocolate biscuits

Today we had Felix's best friend over from 7.30am until 6pm as his mum is o/s at a conference and his Dad had to work. It rained nearly all day. Not hard rain, just that weird mist that eventually, they just ignored and played in as seriously, enough of inside already.

I made these to appease the restless monkeys. It's from
Jamie Oliver's Happy Days with the Naked Chef.

Gooey Chocolate Biscuits
140g butter
140g caster sugar

2 egg yolks
255g SR flour

30g cocoa powder

30 squares of chocolate

Cream butter and sugar

beat in egg yolks

add flour and cocoa powder
knead slightly then refrigerate for a while

Preheat oven to 190C.
Roll out one third of the dough until it's quite thin.

This was a bit fiddly, the dough is sort of crumbly and breaks a bit, but as it came to room temperature it became easier to work with. You still need to fridge it as it would be too sticky otherwise.

Use a smallish cookie cutter - I used a 5.5cm one as it was what I had, and stamp out shapes - I got about 25 but the aim is 30 (Jamie used a 4cm cutter, but using the squares of Cadbury chocolate and Nestle white melts I used, they wouldn't have fitted on that size).
Place on a lined baking tray. They don't spread much so can be quite close together.

Place a piece of chocolate on each disc.

Roll the rest of the dough out quite thinly, use a bigger cutter (I used 6.5cm) and cut out the same number of discs.
Put over the top of the other discs and chocolate, press gently around the edge to seal and keep the chocolate in.

They crumble a bit and look a bit rough and ready. Jamie assures this is what they're meant to look like, and they do work. See:

Bake for 10 minutes. Eat hot from the oven (they fall apart a bit but the chocolate is moltenly divine) or cold (it's sort of gooey).
they were a BIG hit.
Felix's friend: These are even better than the biscuits your mum made last time!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Day 4 - Chocolate sludge

This comes from my friend Sook and the worst part about it is that it takes 40 minutes to cook.

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup milk
1 tblsp melted butter
3/4 cup pecans

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 160C
Grease a small ceramic baking dish
Combine dry ingredients
Make a well in the centre of dry ingredients and add the milk, butter and nuts
Stir - it will come together as a very thick batter
Tip into baking dish
Scatter over sugar and cocoa
Pour over boiling water
Bake for 40-45 minutes

You will get a dark crusty pudding top with luscious chocolate sauce underneath. Sublime with Cookies 'n Cream icecream or even better a berry icecream.

Day 4 - Lasagne

Lasagne is a favourite food in this house. Personally, I don't like it that much, but I still make it because I know I do it well and it is loved like a baby. This was tonight's version, quite different from usual because we've got no money until next week so I had to work with what I had

4 onions
1 large carrot
6 gloves garlic, crushed/chopped
170g tomato paste (a small Homebrand tin)
1 big glass Shiraz (tonight it was a 2002 Audrey Wilkinson - very nice)
1kg mince (I used decent hamburger mince from Bert's, our legend butcher)
1 tin crushed tomatoes
1 punnet cherry tomatoes

parmesan cheese

Heat a little oil in a big saucepan
Add the onions and carrot and sweat off slowly. I'm talking 20 minutes at least.
Add the garlic about half way through.
Keep it quite wet, if it dries out add some water
Then add the tomato paste and cook it out for a minute or so
Add the wine and cook off the alcohol
Add the mince, brown and break it up as you do so. I hate big chunks of mince, they make me gag.
Add the tomatoes, tinned tomatoes and enough stock that it gets good boiling/simmering movement.
Cook for about 2 hours, 'pop' the cherry tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon against the side of the saucepan if they don't do so themselves.
Near the end of cooking I added a big handful of fresh basil from the garden (covered attractively with chookwire to stop the possums eating it), some sage leaves from the garden (which the possums don't touch) and a fresh bayleaf (from the garden, which today I noticed has something that looks suspiciously like miele bug on it...).

To make the bechamel
Melt two hefty tablespoons of butter
Add enough flour that it goes crumbly
Cook for a while until it gets a bit of colour
Add boiling water with a whisk to make a paste, then keep adding - for that amount of flour/water I use about a litre. (normally I use milk, but we were all out)
Bring to the boil but whisk fairly constantly.
Season with salt and pepper
Add a shitload of shredded parmesan (I used the crap pre-shredded stuff as it was all we had)

Cook lasagne sheets. I don't care what you say, the sheets you have to cook taste so much better in the end product. I use this awesome brand La Lavigna or something - its a red and white clear packet from Livoti's, my Italian deli haven in Dee Why.

Layer as follows
ricotta (a 500g tub)
pasta bechamel

That's right people - LOTS of layers. This is important. As important as a slow long cooked sauce.

Even though I used water in the bechamel rather than milk, it tasted OK. Weird huh.

Day 3 - Pasta with stuff

Think no money until next payday because of multiple bills and direct debits all going out at once. And then the quarterly health insurance going out too. Ouch. It becomes a what is in the cupboard dinner.

Take one packet of Barilla Tortollini (big penne)

Put a large saucepan full of water on the stove and bring to the boil.
In a frypan heat a little olive oil
Add a red onion, finely chopped, two cloves of garlic, finely chopped/crushed* and the stalks of one bunch of broccolini, chopped.
Saute until soft and the onion starting to colour.
Add a glass of white wine and reduce a little.
Add some finely chopped mushrooms and two tomatoes, seeded and chopped.
Add 1 300ml carton of pouring cream, salt, pepper and torn up basil leaves
Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer
Cook pasta
Three minutes before it's done, add the tops of the broccolini
Drain pasta and broccolini
Add to sauce, let sit covered in the saucepan for a minute or three


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Day 2 - Vietnamese Spring Rolls

It was hot (again) today and is meant to be even hotter tomorrow (which is actually today as I forgot to post this last night), so that means finding dinner options that don't involve turning the stove on.

This was a bit of a hybrid version of these rolls but they were scoffed with Felix saying words to the effect of , "my God woman, you are the best cook in the whole world, these are awesome."

I had a pork fillet which I drizzled some Worchestershire Sauce, Soy Sauce and sesame oil on before searing in a skillet. It was cooked beautifully with 4 minutes on either side. Nice seared lines and pink inside. Anyway, after resting it I sliced it quite thinly.

I finely sliced cucumber, shallots (our shallots, not the little sweet onions we call eschalots or the ones with onions attached to the green stems that we call spring onions), carrot, capsicum and snow peas. There were mint leaves from the garden and coriander. And Felix's favourite ingredient of all, rice vermicilli noodles, soaked for a few minutes and then rinsed under cold water.

For the dipping sauce I simply provided soy for the boys and soy mixed with sweet chilli for us. See, nowhere good as a sauce made with lime juice, palm sugar, fish sauce and soy, but there you go.

Then it was all in the centre of the table for people to make their own rolls. Delish, light, very healthy and no oven required!
And then,

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Day 1 - Scones

The first day back at school. Oscar at a new school in Year 2 and in a mainstream class. Felix in Year 1.

2006 is pretty darn exciting for all of us. What with the boys above, I return to work and Jasper starts 3 days of daycare at a wonderful centre in three weeks. But the biggest adventure of all is Chef opening his own restaurant. This is due to happen by the beginning of March. A monumental thing of excitement to say the least.

Anyway, back to the first exciting thing, the first day of school. I thought it would be nice for a fancy afternoon tea. So I made scones. Not that fancy, but delicious and very moreish.

I have a recipe from my Nan, but this recipe is from a very productive couple in Melbourne - Allan Campion and Michele Curtis - and their book that is one of my kitchen bibles, Campion & Curtis in the Kitchen


300g self raising flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp caster sugar
125 ml cream
125ml milk

Preheat the oven to 200C
Mix together the SR flour, salt and sugar
Make a well in the centre, pour in the liquids, then mix using a palate knife until just combined
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and push mixture out to a 2cm thickness
Use a cutter or a small glass (like the small vegemite jar glass you used to get) and cut out rounds
Place on a lined baking sheet, touching each other
Brush with a little cream
Bake for 12-15 minutes - they should sound hollow when tapped
Remove from oven, cover with a tea towel until cool - if they last that long.

Whip the remainder of the carton of cream with a tsp of brown sugar
Serve scones with jam and cream.

Makes about a dozen, depending on your cutter.


I decided to up the ante here.

Each and every day I have to write something here about what I ate, what I feel like eating, ideally include a recipe and if feeling particularly energetic, a photo.

So there.