Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cous Cous with Seared Beef, Feta and Orange Salad

 

Summer eats in two words:  BBQ and Salads.  Through the glorious months when the sun shines longer and the weather is warm I crave salads, warm or cold, and fresh food that can be made quickly, meaning more time for relaxing and beach going. 
I've said it before but creativity rules in the kitchen.  Often telling the BF to make a salad "with anything you can find" from the fridge and garden, couscous is a food that has turned many a meal from ordinary to extraordinary if you use a bit of imagination.
Couscous; the food so nice you say it twice, is a pasta of North African origin and is a finely ground semolina.  A must-have for busy people as it takes minutes to cook by steaming in boiled water before its ready to serve.  In the winter its the perfect accompaniment to curries and pasta, and is great for warm and cold salads.  Its an all-rounder that if you haven't cooked before you should try.

This is a throw together meal with only Beef to work with initially.  It came up trumps and the man-o-house thinks its one of the best meals I've made so far.  Like everything, you can make changes to suit your needs and that's the beauty of cooking.  Enjoy this light summery dish!

Ingredients (serves two)

1 cup uncooked Couscous
1 spring onion
Juice of 1 lemons
1/2 cup of chopped herbs (either basil, parsley or chives)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups Rocket

1 fillet of meat (can use chicken or fish)
1 juicy orange segmented
1/4 block of feta crumbled

Dressing
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 clove garlic crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbspns of olive oil
Salt/Pepper

Method
  1. Fill jug and boil.  Pour Couscous into a flat glass dish and pour over boiling water until the couscous is only just covered.  Cover with glad wrap to trap in the steam.  In 3 minutes fluff with a fork and re-cover.  Your couscous is now cooked and ready! So easy...
  2. Prepare your orange by carefully cutting away the skin and cutting out the segments as best possible.  Last time I made this I had a chef over, he put my previous efforts to shame, so do the best you can!  Practice makes perfect.  Once cut put back into the fridge to keep cold
  3. Combine all dressing ingredients, shake well and leave out
  4. Season your couscous with thinly sliced spring onion, lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, rocket salt and pepper and leave out
  5. Season and cook meat.  If using beef med rare to rare is best.  Alternatively fish is great as with chicken.  Once cooked thinly slice and set aside to rest for 5 minutes
  6. Assemble by piling couscous salad, beef slices, then orange segments and feta and pour the dressing being careful not to use too much as the orange and feta will give mini flavour bombs
The combo is sensational and a summer must!






read more "Cous Cous with Seared Beef, Feta and Orange Salad"

Monday, January 12, 2015

Choux Pastry - I have finally beaten you.



One of my cooking goals for 2015 was to finally tackle Choux Pastry and win.  I don't know if you remember my first attempt at trying to make it, here, but the sad deflated flat soggy pillows totally ruined my baking confidence.

After watching countless Croquembouche challenges on Masterchef, I felt like maybe, this year I might be ready to do this properly for myself.

Then fate seemed to align as my mother-in-law was coming to stay for two weeks and is well known for her chocolate eclairs.

She gave me this recipe, and showed me how to do it. I don't know why, but something that started off so incredibly complicated is actually easy peasy. Try it out today! For this recipe we used an easy chocolate icing and cream centre but you could fancy it up with chocolate ganache and creme patissiere.

Enjoy

Ingredients

50g butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup flour
a pinch of salt
2 eggs

Method


  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees (this is for a non fan bake oven).
  2. Add salt to the flour.
  3. Place Butter and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. As soon as all of the butter has melted remove from heat.
  4. Add flour and whip with a wooden spoon.
  5. Once it has come together and away from the sides of the saucepan add one egg
  6. Continue to whip until fully combined
  7. Add the second egg and stir until the batter becomes smooth and slightly shiny.
  8. Leave to cool completely. THIS STEP IS VERY IMPORTANT.  I have seen bakers etc whip with a mixer until it has gone cold. But if you have time just leave it.
  9.  Once cool, spoon onto a baking tray, this made 8 large eclairs, you could also pipe them if you wanted more smaller, profiterole style pastries.
  10. Place into the oven and turn down to 200 degrees celcius. This is the part that is tricky. My oven is very different to my mother in laws. So we started off at 200 degrees and then dropped to 180.  This wasn't high enough. Each oven is different so if it is the first time you are cooking these then monitor your profiteroles closely.
  11. Once they puff up and go brown on the outside, this took about 20 - 30 mins. Turn off oven and leave to cool, inside the oven.
  12. Cut eclairs in half keeping one part together, ice with chocolate icing and in the fridge.
  13. Once the icing has set, fill with cream and serve.

read more "Choux Pastry - I have finally beaten you."

Monday, December 22, 2014

BSKT Cafe - Nobby Beach, Queensland


Going on holiday always shows my obsessiveness when it comes to food. Before we leave I will spend hours trawling the internet, reading reviews, looking at pictures and basically dissecting top restaurants in an area, so I can make my holiday food plan.


I recently asked Nick what he wanted to do on our recent trip to the Gold Coast and he advised, "Just whatever you have sorted". He knows me well enough to know that we had a strict schedule with a list of restaurants or cafes that I wanted to try.


Unfortunately due to a very sick child and thunderstorms on the "sunny" Gold coast I only got to one of the restaurants that I wanted to try out and that was BSKT café.



On a great spot just behind the nobby beach surf club, this place is extremely busy on a Sunday morning. Be warned and book ahead. We were lucky to get a table as someone had just left, but most people who came in after us had reservations, something I would never have contemplated before.


The décor has the cool beach relaxed vibe and they have a great play area out the back for the kids.  The café focuses on healthy living and eating, and takes your everyday breakfast favourites and twists them to nutrient filled alternative. They serve breakfast lunch and dinner and I only wish I could have stayed longer and sampled some of their main meals that constantly flood their instagram.


BSKT café state "Our mission is to make you healthier every time you visit BSKT café through cutting-edge foods that use the highest quality, nutrient-rich, organic ingredients"


So let's get started on this review. As you know, out of Zen and I, I am not the healthy eater, and so I wanted to step a little out of my comfort zone and try something different and you know what I was pleasantly surprised.



We both started with coffees, Nick a latte, which was the perfect temperature and delicious bean roast, not bitter at all. While I had beetroot, carrot, apple and ginger juice, that was served up of course in a mason jar, and an espresso to jumpstart the heart. The drinks were great, I had never actually had a cold pressed vegetable juice before and I loved it, however not being my usual it definitely tasted better when accompanied with my food.



For the food I ordered a smoked, salmon, spinach and goats cheese omelette, the star being the salmon, which was beautiful and not that overly slimy cold smoked salmon found in most restaurants. The eggs still remaining the hero of the dish and served with a delicious super seed bread (reminded me of vogels YUM YUM YUM).


The hubby had a big breakfast, which actually had a steak on it (is that healthy, who cares!) He enjoyed it, but got a weirded out by the quinoa and pumpkin croquette (which little Leo loved and demolished instead)


The whole meal leaving us feeling great, grabbing some takeaway coffees and heading down to the beach to walk it off. I only wish I could get there more to sample their delightful fare.  I definitely recommend that you try it. it's worth it. Next time I might even venture to try their Kale version of hollandaise.




BSKT Cafe
4 Lavarack Road, Gold Coast QLD 4218
(07) 5526 6565
http://www.bskt.com.au/


BSKT Cafe on Urbanspoon
read more "BSKT Cafe - Nobby Beach, Queensland"

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Green Mango Salad with BBQ prawns




We have lived in our wonderful tropical home in Mackay for 5 years now. In the back corner of our garden we have a beautiful Mango tree, which fruits around this time of year. I however, the queen of allergies, have been unable to eat mango for years after an unfortunate "hive" incident. So we would pack up whatever we could of our mangos and give them away.


Recently I found out that I am not allergic to mangoes anymore (apparently you can grow out of allergies, who knew?) and so this year when our mango trees decided to ripen I wanted to make the most of it.


Green mango (unripe mango) has been used in Thai Salad dishes for a long time, it's sour tang is fantastic and goes well with Prawns or seafood. Before making this salad, test the sourness of your mango.  I have made the dressing very sweet to compensate for the sourness of my mango. You can even substitute some of the mango for red cabbage if your not a fan of the sour taste.


Ingredients
1 green mango
1/2 small red cabbage
1 carrot
1/2 long red chilli
handful of coriander and mint leaves
100g cashew nuts
20g red onion

Dressing
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar


Method:


  1. Simple really julienne all of the vegetables, chop the cashews and herbs and mix well.
  2. Just before serving the salad dress and toss, to make sure it coats the salad well.
  3. Serve with BBQ prawns.

read more "Green Mango Salad with BBQ prawns"

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thai Beef Salad


 
If your looking for a healthy Thai alternative with plenty of crunch and all the flavour to boot look no further.  At the moment this is one of my favourite recipes and I recently had friends over for dinner who raved about the intensity of flavours and freshness of this dish.

My idea of hosting an enjoyable dinner with friends means that I too get go socialise in the drinks, conversation and laughter.  I prepare the vegetables, dressing and peanuts in advance so that once guests arrive all  is left is searing the meat, preparing the noodles then assembling all of the elements. 

Summer to me is all about salads, grilled meat and fresh seafood.  Its easy though to get sick of the common green salad - often untouched at BBQs.  Dare to explore and you'll be pleasantly surprised what you can come up with! A couple of nights ago I went foraging into the depths of the veggie bin and in the end produced a salad of raw silver beet, steamed broccoli and asparagus, capsicums, peas from their pods, spring onions and blueberries. That with dressed in home made honey and balsamic vinaigrette alongside roasted pork was delicious.  This Thai Salad has the same principal.  Add as many veggies as you like, use chicken, fish or prawns or make it Vegetarian.  In the end the zesty complex flavours of the dressing with the meat, salad and vermicelli noodles is next level flavour bomb and you will have impressed your guests with something that is simple yet satisfying.

INGREDIENTS

Vegetables - 1/2 cup each of Julienne:
Cucumber
Carrot
Celery
Capsicums
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
Spring onions sliced
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 cup of bean sprouts

1 x rump steak (500gm = 3 serves)
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
1 pack vermicelli noodles boil for 3-5 minutes.  Drain and keep cool.

Dressing
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoon Fish Sauce
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce
2 tablespoons fresh Lime or Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon of palm sugar or raw sugar

Handful coriander
1/2 cup of chopped peanuts & sesame seeds toasted

METHOD
  1. Rub rump with fish oil and Chinese herb spice and set aside to marinate
  2. Prepare all your vegetables, mix in a bowl and set aside
  3. Toast your peanuts and sesame seeds at the same time and set aside
  4. Place all dressing ingredients into jar and shake till combined.  Chill in fridge
  5. Cook rump to your liking. I like to keep it nice and rare as it will be sliced to serve.  Make sure you rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing about 0.5cm thickness
  6. Cook noodles according to packet instructions, drain really well (you may need to pat it down with serviettes to draw the moisture out). Spread on the dish you will be serving on
  7. Top the noodles with the veggie mix and toss lightly
  8. Add cooked, sliced meat on top
  9. Pour over dressing
  10. Sprinkle with toasted nuts/seeds and coriander ands serve.





read more "Thai Beef Salad "

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Goodbye to Winter Osso Bucco





Not that we ever really experience a true winter in Mackay but this week truly was a farewell to winter. Which means no more slow cooker, and hello to bbqs and salads.

We cooked our last winter type meal on Sunday and had this beautiful Osso Bucco dish. The osso bucco, gives the sauce the thickness you will never get with other cuts of meat. A rich tomato sauce that you can spoon over mashed potatoes or scoop up with bread and butter.

Osso Bucco adapted from Julie Goodwin's recipes


Ingredients
4 pieces Osso Bucco
1 brown onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 stalks of celery diced
2 large cloves of garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
1.5 cups white wine
1.5 cups of beef or veal stock
1 can diced tomatoes
4 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves

Method

  1. Heat oil and 20 grams of butter in a heavy bottomed casserole dish.  Flour the Osso Bucco and brown on all sides and then remove from heat. Meanwhile heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.
  2. Fry the onion for five minutes until soft and then add the carrot, garlic and celery and cook for a further two to three minutes. 
  3. Add herbs, bay leaves, wine , stock, and canned tomatoes.
  4. Place osso bucco back in the dish and make sure the meat is covered. place lid on the dish and put into the oven. 
  5. Cook for 1 hour, turn meat and cook for another 1.5 hours. At this point check the meat, you want it to come away from the bone but still have some texture. You may need to cook for a further 30mins at this point.
  6. Serve with fresh green beans and a pumpkin and potato mash.
read more "Goodbye to Winter Osso Bucco"

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pork San Choy Bau


With Summer just around the corner there have been more salads around in my house.  San Choy Bau is a delicious, healthy way of eating Chinese food.  Every time I make this dish its always different.  It's entirely dependant on what's in the fridge and to me cooking should be versatile and creative.  I have fun with cooking and I love to build on my internal food data base.  Always learning.

I first tried San Coy Bau in Melbourne.  Most know Victoria Street in Melbourne for the famous Queen Victoria Markets. These markets have been the hub of the Melbourne foodie scene for over a century and if you have been there you will know all about it.  If you haven't its highly recommended and used to be a highlight of my weekends for years. Be prepared for lots of hustle (literally), bustle, people of all walks, fragrant wafts and food you may have never seen before. Most of all take with you a pal to help carry all your beautiful produce home in return for a delicious fresh lunch.   But I digress...at the opposite end of Victoria Street past Fitzroy and on the edge of Richmond you will find a flurry of Asian foodstores and restaurants.  Now when I say restaurant I mean a couple of plastic tables, a few kids running around a woman that's potentially the great grandmother sitting in the corner playing cards.  This to me is where you find the goods.  Authentic people making authentic no fuss cuisine with all the right trimmings.  You will find each restaurant battling for the best Pho in town.  And oh how I tried them all!  But that's another blog!  So before I digress yet again here is my recipe for Pork San Choy Bau.  Its a go back meal for sure and great for having friends or family over if your wanting that casual eat with your fingers vibe. 

INGREDIENTS

1 iceberg lettuce
500g lean pork mince
1 tbspn peanut oil
1 small green onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 cm piece of ginger grated
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tspn chinese 5 spice
good pinch cayenne pepper
2 tspn cornflour

METHOD
  1. Trim the lettuce to create cups and soak the lettuce cups in cold water in the fridge to ensure the leaves are crisp
  2. Heat wok or pan over a high heat. Add the oil, onion, ginger and garlic and cook for 20 seconds
  3. Next add the pork mince and fry until it breaks up, approx. 2 to 3 minutes. Add the soy, oyster sauce, sesame oil, cayenne pepper and cook a further 30 seconds. Add the corn flour and cook mixing consistently for about about 5 minutes until everything thickens.  If it gets too thick you can add a bit of water to thin it out
  4. Divide the pork mince mixture between the lettuce cups
This is often served with rice and I like any of the following to add on top of the mince, Its up to you!
Fresh diced chilli
Bean sprouts
Sliced spring onions
Diced cucumber and tomato with lemon juice
Julienne carrots, cabbage or beans
Fresh coriander, basil or Vietnamese mint


YUM YUM YUM


Enjoy!!

read more "Pork San Choy Bau"

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Back to Basics: Pizza Dough



One of my favourite things to do with my family on a Saturday night is a big night in.  We make homemade pizzas, have a picnic on the floor and hopefully watch some sport. This weekend was an All black versus Wallabies test match. Which means matching all black jumpers (the ONLY time Nick allows us to wear matching anything...Sigh), trying to teach my son the haka and watching Nick pace backwards and forwards in front of the television, or if the game is really close, leaving the house with five minutes to go because he can't handle the pressure.

I have been making this Masterchef pizza dough recipe for years now. I try new ones every now and again but always come back to this one due to how easy it is, and the way it crisps up in the oven. 

We use ceramic pizza stones to cook them, which helps to distribute the heat evenly across the base. And use range of toppings depending on what is in the fridge and how we are feeling that day. Give this recipe a go, it is made alot easier if you have a mixer with a knead attachment. 

Masterchef Pizza Dough Recipe

Ingredients

400ml lukewarm water 
14g fresh yeast or 1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast 
15g caster sugar 
700g "00" flour, plus extra for dusting 
30g table salt 
60ml extra virgin olive oil 
50ml milk

Method

  1. Add a small amount of water to the yeast and sugar and mix together and wait till bubble start to form. 
  2. Place flour into a mixer with a knead attachment and make a well. 
  3. Add the rest of the water to the yeast mixture and pour into the mixer.
  4. Start mixing the dough and when it starts to come together add the oil and milk.
  5. Knead for about five minutes until it starts to look smooth and then turn out onto a floured surface. 
  6. Place into an oiled bowl cover with a tea towel and leave to sit for 10-15 minutes. 
  7. Divide into 120g portions knead until smooth and place aside covered with a tea towel for a further 30 minutes. 
  8. Roll out your bases, we like a thin crust in our household. 
  9. Once rolled to shape, prick all over the base with a fork (this prevents the big air bubbles in the base) and then flip over and add your favourite toppings. 
  10. Tonight we had a tomato base with sopresso salami, boccocini, cheese, basil and chili flakes. 
read more "Back to Basics: Pizza Dough"

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Jamie Oliver Fish Pie





Here is the fish pie recipe that I mentioned last week that I cook regularly from the Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food Cookbook. I love it because it is packed full of flavour without overpowering the fish and I don't have to make a white sauce to go with it!  Jamie advised that if you would like a creamier option to add 2 tablespoons of crème fraiche to the fish mixture. I didn't have any so added thickened cream instead.

By the way, I never know how to take a pretty picture of fish pie, the photos just do not do it justice!

Ingredients
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 kg potatoes
1 carrot
2 sticks celery
150 g good-quality Cheddar cheese
1 lemon
½ fresh red chilli
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
300 g salmon fillets, skin off and bones removed
300 g undyed smoked haddock fillets, from sustainable sources, ask your fishmonger, skin off and bones removed (I couldn't get smoked fish so we went without)
125 g raw peeled king prawns
olive oil

Optional (and I didn't use either of these)
1 good handful spinach, chopped, optional
2 ripe tomatoes, quartered, optional


Method
  1. Bring the oven to 200 degree celcuis and boil a large pot of salted water for your potatoes.
  2. Peel potatoes, chop, add to the water and cook for 12-15 minutes until soft.
  3. While the potatoes are boiling, grate celery, carrot, lemon rind, chili and cheese, add finely chopped parsley into a large casserole dish.
  4. Chop up seafood into 1-2cm chunks and mix with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.
  5. Add thicken cream or crème fraiche and stir everything together in the casserole dish

  6. By this point your potatoes should be soft, drain from water and mash with some butter, milk, salt and pepper.
  7. Place on top of fish mixture and spread evenly.
  8. Put into the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are crispy and the fish mixture is cooked underneath.

read more "Jamie Oliver Fish Pie"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Recipe Book Review: Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food



Walking into a cookbook section of the bookstore can be one of the most overwhelming experiences ever.  It's hard making a decision on a quick flick through the book, while the bookstore owner eyes you wearily, making sure you aren't secretly jotting down recipes to avoid paying hard cash.

I have a plethora of cookbooks in my kitchen.  I sit in my lounge on Sunday afternoon looking at them, asking them to bring me inspiration to the everyday boredom of weekday cooking. I must admit however that I have only really cooked from about 5 of the 30 or so cookbooks that I have.

So how do you know if a cookbook is "good" or not. Well it really depends on your taste, but this cookbook would have to be the one that I use most frequently in my house.  It's accessible for all cooks, especially beginners. The recipes aren't too complicated, the ingredients are easy to find. 

Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food cookbook is based on the premise that food should be easy, approachable and fun. It's the kind of book you would give to your child when they move out of home. Claiming to teach you how to cook in just 24 hours, I believe it does just that.  Jamie encourages you to learn a recipe out of the book and teach it to 3 other people. Creating a world wide food community of handing down recipes.



It's filled with classics, no complicated techniques, in fact recipes that you should be able to get first time every time. Every recipe has an image, I am one of those people who will not cook a recipe if I cannot see the finished product, and you can usually purchase this book on special for around $20- $30 dollars if you know where to look.

With simple classics like spaghetti bolognaise and Jamie's curry sauce, something a little more special with the Parmesan Chicken Breasts. This book is the perfect starter for those that want to begin their recipe collection.

He also has many "buildable" or alternative recipes, where he takes a base and then makes small changes to show you variations.


My next post I will be an adaption of Jamie's Fish Pie from the Ministry of Food. So make sure you check it out.









read more "Recipe Book Review: Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food"