Monday, April 22, 2013

It's the finals!

Have you been watching My Kitchen Rules?

We are addicted and by we, I mean all of us. I really have been a bad mother and let my children stay up watching MKR most nights.

My son is so excited that the 'Tassie Boys' won Come Back Kitchen last night and will be returning to the competition tonight.

As for my daughter, she makes for a pretty good judge, with plenty to say about each meal. The other night she said: 

"That dish would be fine Mum, if you were cooking it for your family that love you, but not for the judges, they should never have served that!"

She is six.

And for me, I have just got to stop calling everyone 'Babe'

It is good to see the Queenslanders, Dan & Steph and Jake & Elle go straight through to the final. Go Queensland!

As you can see, there has been a lot of influence in own kitchen. Here is one of my son's creations.

 And my daughters.

And on St Patricks Day they took over the kitchen to present dessert. My son had been thinking about what he had wanted to create all afternoon. Here it is: my apple cake with piped whipped cream, blueberries and chocolate chips and two squares of white cooking chocolate.

Bless him.

No one ate the white cooking chocolate squares except him!

Are you addicted too? Who do you want to win?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dublin Coddle

Another Irish recipe today.

I actually hadn't made Dublin Coddle for a while but thought that it would be the preferred dish on St Patrick's Day for my kids. I was right, the kids loved it and so did everyone else. This recipe is a combination of a few that I found on the Internet.

Dublin Coddle

• 300 grams bacon rashers (cut in half)
• 600 grams pork sausages/chipolatas
• bacon fat or oil
• 2 large onions (sliced)
• 2 cloves garlic (smashed and left whole)
• 4 large potatoes (thickly sliced - about 2 cm wide)
• 2 carrots (thickly sliced - about 1-2 cm wide)
• 1 small bunch herbs (parsley, thyme and bay leaves - tied with string)
• salt and pepper
• 400 grams alcoholic cider
• 400 grams chicken stock

to serve

• finely chopped parsley

In a frying pan, fry the bacon rashers until crisp and transfer to a large heavy based casserole pot. Brown the sausages, add a little extra bacon fat or oil if required. Put the browned sausages on top of the bacon. Saute the onions and garlic until soft. Mix the onion mixture with the potatoes and carrots and add that to the pot last. Put the herbs deep in the middle of the vegetables and season to taste - watch the salt as the bacon could be salty. Pour over the cider and stock and put on to the stove top. Cover and bring to just under the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer at the lowest heat for 2-3 hours.

 Some notes:

• I didn't use a separate frying pan to cook my meat, as you will see in the photo's, it's up to you if you want to use the same pan or not. Next time I think I will cook it in the frying pan first, as I have written
I used old fashioned fat pork sausages and cut them in half after I had browned them, mainly for serving purposes. The last time I made this I used chipolatas.
I don't think I need to say this, but: use the very best pork sausages you can find.

Happy Cooking.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hearty Irish fare

I can't believe it is well over a week since St Patricks Day.

This year, there was eight for dinner. Everyone arrived wear something green - it was fun night. The kids were sooo excited to have their grandparents over for dinner. I realised it had been a while, we must do it again soon.

It was an Irish feast to be sure.

On one of our hottest days and a rare day of full sunshine, I was committed to the kitchen. I didn't mind, it is my favourite place to be. Here was the menu for the night.

Parmesan Cheese Biscuits (with drinks)

Beef Braised in Guinness
Dublin Coddle
Baked Onions
Steamed Broccoli and Asparagus
Soda Bread

Ballymaloe Apple Cake 
Spiced Apple and Walnut Cake 

Homemade Baileys

While I travelled through Ireland for over a month when I was in my twenties, I never got the chance to eat in an Irish home. However Grandma and Grandpa have visited Ireland many times and have stayed with their Irish relatives. My mother-in-law told me that there is always a big bowl of mashed potatoes on the table no matter what. Even if there is colcannon or champ or roasted potatoes or soda bread there is also, always a bowl of plain mashed potatoes. I guess I will be doing that next year.

My grandfather's father was Irish, he died in France in World War 1, not a lot (read: pretty much nothing) is known about his family. But I have always enjoyed celebrating St Patrick's Day, thinking about our unknown ancestors, the lives they lived and the foods they could have eaten.

I bought this book 15 years ago while living overseas, while I do vary my St Patricks Day dinners from year to year, a firm favourite are the recipes from this book, that I will share here today. This is the meal that I cooked for my husband on our very first St Patricks Day together, just us, in our first home, by candlelight, with way to much food for two. I remember the night like it was yesterday.

Beef Braised with Guinness

serves 6-8

• 200 grams prunes (pitted and left whole)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1.5 kilograms chuck beef (cut into 5cm cubes)
• 1 onion (diced)
• 450 grams carrots (cut into fingers)
• 6 garlic cloves (peeled but left whole)
• 2 tablespoons plain flour
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 750 ml Guinness
• 1 bouquet garni (3 bay leaves, 2 sprigs rosemary, thyme, parsley, and 3 strips of orange peel)
• salt and pepper

Start this recipe the day before. Soak the prunes in water overnight. Drain before using them in the casserole.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Heat the oil in a heavy based casserole and seal the meat on all sides. You may need to do this in two batches. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and let them begin to colour before sprinkling them with the flour. Add the tomato paste and then return the meat to the pot. Slowly pour in the Guinness, stirring as you do, allowing the liquid to thicken. Bury the bouquet garni in the liquid and bring to the boil. Season to taste and transfer into the oven. Cook for 1 1/2 hours. After this time, add the prunes and return to the oven. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. Remove the bouquet garni and serve immediately.


serves 6-8

• 1 kilogram green cabbage (finely shredded)
• 2 leeks (rinsed well and finely diced)
• 150-300 ml milk
• 1 kilogram potatoes (peeled and roughly chopped)
• salt and pepper
• a pinch of grated nutmeg
• 125 grams butter (melted)

Simmer the cabbage and leeks in just enough milk to cover. Cook until soft. Boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and mash them. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the cabbage, leek and milk mixture to the potatoes and mix well. Place the mixture into a deep serving bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the melted butter. Serve the vegetables with spoonfuls of butter.

I actually didn't know this, but according to my book the Irish make this with kale. Kale has only recently appeared on the shelves here in Queensland. I might try this again during the cooler months. I only discovered kale last year and I love it!

Baked Onions

• allow 1 large onion per person

to serve 

• butter
• salt

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Trim the bases of the onions, if necessary, so that they will stand upright, but do not peel them. Stand the onions in a roasting tin and pour in about 1 inch of hot water. Bake for 2 hours. Serve the onions in their skins with butter and salt.

This is the same time and temperature as the Beef Braised with Guinness. So if you are serving them together they are cooked at the same time.

I will post a few more recipes tomorrow. One of the apples cakes was not nice and I didn't end up serving it on the night. I can't put my finger on what went wrong. But I just didn't like it. How can apple cake not taste good? The other apple cake was this one, actually a dutch apple cake that has been baked at the Ballymaloe Cooking School in Ireland for years.

Do you celebrate St Patrick's Day? I'd love to know what you cook?

What is your favourite Irish food?

Monday, March 18, 2013

More chocolate cake

Remember the amazing cake on this 'Donna Hay Magazine - 50th Issue'. Well, last year, after already making the Celebration Chocolate Cake 3 times, when June and my birthday came around, I attempted Donna's cake. OK, so not exactly like the picture, but still a good effort I thought. This cake is made with buttermilk and was a lot lighter than the type of chocolate cakes I favour. I prefer dark, rich and fudgy. Having said that, after sharing it with friends and family on the night of my birthday, it was me who finished off the remaining cake that week. And when I say say me, I mean only me. I hid it at the back of the fridge and told the kids I had frozen it for another time. But no, all of that week, I sat each day before school pick up with a cup of coffee and indulged myself. My little secret.

Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake

serves 6-8

• 1 cup water
• 125 grams butter
• 1/3 cup cocoa
• 2 cups plain flour
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

chocolate cream cheese frosting

• 100 grams butter (softened)
• 500 grams cream cheese
• 2 cups icing sugar
• 1/2 cup cocoa

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Grease and flour two 18cm cake tins (I used 20cm tins as that's all I had, it didn't seem to alter the cooking time at all) 

Place the water, butter and cocoa in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the butter has melted. Sift the flour and bicarbonate soda into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar. Pour in the cocoa mixture and stir to combine. Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and mix well. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and bake for 40-45 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, before turning out on to wire racks to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the butter and cheese in a bowl and beat with electric beaters for 6-8 minutes until pale and creamy. Sifting in the icing sugar and cocoa and beat for a further 6-8 minutes or until light and fluffy. 

To assemble the cake, cut each cake in half horizontally. Place one layer on a plate and spread with one quarter of the frosting. Repeat with the remaining layers.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Celebration Chocolate Cake

(last years birthday cake for Daddy, topped with cream and decorated by the kids)

It was my husband's birthday on the weekend. The choice of cake was once again this Celebration Chocolate Cake from the beautiful book "Monday Morning Cooking Club". I made it for the first time for his birthday last year and then again about 6 other times during the year. It is delicious and ridiculously easy.

We were away for his birthday this year and served the cake simply, just as in the book, with ice-cream on the side. Last year we decorated the cake with whipped cream and smarties! And at other times I have sprinkled it with icing sugar and served it with a pile of fresh berries and dollop cream. This is my favourite way of eating it. You can never go wrong with chocolate, berries and cream.

Celebration Chocolate Cake 

serves 10

• 250 grams unsalted butter
• 200 grams dark chocolate (roughly chopped)
• 1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 1 1/2 cups hot water
• 2 cups caster sugar
• 1 1/4 cups self-raising flour
• 1/2 cup plain flour
• 1/4 cup dutch cocoa
• 2 eggs
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Grease and line the base and side of a 24 cm springform cake tin. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and add the chocolate, stirring to melt. Add the coffee/water mixture and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir to combine and pour into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Sift the flours and cocoa into the chocolate mixture and stir through. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine until smooth. 

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the cake is cooked through. This is a very moist cake. The top will be crusty and cracked, if you prefer a smoother top, cut a piece of baking paper the size of the cake top and place it on top of the mixture before baking.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Chinese New Year feast

This year we wanted to take the children down to Chinatown (Brisbane) to experience the Chinese New Year celebrations. However, what do you think?..... rain, rain and more very heavy rain.

So with just a day to prepare, we opted for a very simple menu and created a Chinese New Year feast at home. OK, not really a feast. After I had pulled a couple of Chinese cookbooks from the shelves I got really excited by the amazing dishes I could try if I was to make a proper Chinese feast. But it was lunch time and I had no intention of driving any further than my local IGA (remember - pouring rain) So the menu was simple:

Prawn Crackers
Spring Rolls with Sweet Chilli Sauce
Chinese Braised Spare Ribs
Steamed Jasmine Rice
Steamed Bok Choy with Sesame Oil
Fortune Cookies
Hello Panda Cookies

Lucky Beer
White Wine

The kids absolutely loved setting up the house for our Chinese New Year dinner. With some planning I think this could get pretty big next year. We love celebrating with food in this house, even if we are not Chinese, it was fun.

And a note on the Lucky beer, also know as Lucky Buddha. I do not like beer, at all. But I tried this beer with a few spring rolls - perfect! My husband only bought one, to get into the theme of the night. I tell you, he had a hard time getting me to give it back. In truth, I am really clueless about pairing wines or beer with the right food, it is something I'd love to know more about, because getting it right is really worth it. So even though I am claiming to lack this knowledge, I'm going to go right ahead and recommend that you try Lucky beer with your next Chinese meal.

Both the spring roll recipe and pork recipe had been handwritten into an old cooking notebook. I know that I kind of made up the spring roll recipe well over 10 years ago, when we had Asian friends coming for dinner, but where the braised spare ribs recipe comes from is anyone's guess, again, I have been cooking this dish for well over 10 years.

This time I served the spring rolls with homemade sweet chilli sauce, that was what we had, but there has been a request that I try and make the red sauce that they serve at our local Chinese restaurant next time. I'm not sure, what is that red stuff - really? Any idea??

Spring Rolls

(oven baked)

makes 12

• 1 tablespoon peanut oil
• 250 grams pork mince
• 1 clove garlic (crushed)
• 1 teaspoon ginger (grated)
• 4 shallots (sliced)
• 1 cup cabbage (finely diced)
• 1/2  cup mushrooms (finely diced)
• 1/2 cup carrot (grated)
• 1/2 cup bean sprouts (finely chopped)
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon sherry
• black pepper

• 12 spring roll wrappers (defrosted)

to serve

• sweet chilli sauce

Preheat oven to 220 degrees. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan and brown the pork mince over a high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for one minute. Add the shallots, cabbage, mushrooms, carrot and beans sprouts and continue to stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and sherry and cook for a further minute. Set aside and allow to cool.

Place the spring roll wrapper on a flat surface with one corner facing towards you. Cover the remaining wrappers with a damp tea towel. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water. Place about 1 tablespoon of the filling in one corner of the wrapper. Roll up from the corner, folding in the edges to enclose the filling. Repeat to make 12 spring rolls.

Place the spring rolls on a greased baking tray. Brush with oil. Bake for 20 minutes, after 10 minutes turn the spring rolls. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with sweet chilli sauce.

Chinese Braised Spare Ribs

serves 4-6

• 1 kilogram pork spare ribs

for the marinade

• 4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
• 3 tablespoons soy sauce
• 2 red chillies (chopped)
• 5 cm piece ginger (peeled and thinly sliced)
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 2 star anise
• 1 stick cinnamon (broken into pieces)
• 1 teaspoon sesame oil
• 2 tablespoon peanut oil
• 4 shallots (chopped)

to cook

• 2 teaspoons chinese five-spice
• 2 tablespoons honey

to serve

• 2 shallots or a small handful coriander leaves (chopped)

In a large bowl, combine all of the marinade ingredients and marinate the pork overnight.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Bring the meat to room temperature. Put the pork and the marinade into a roasting tray and cover with alfoil. Cook for 1 hour. Remove the foil and sprinkle with the Chinese five-spice and drizzle with honey. Return the ribs to the oven for 30-40 minutes. Turn the ribs half way through this time, they will become sticky, crispy and glossy brown. Arrange on a serving platter and sprinkle with shallots/coriander. Serve immediately

I would love to know your favourite Chinese recipe? Or maybe you have a different spring roll filling I could try? Do you like to celebrate other cultures and food this way?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Better than KFC

It's strange that I decided to post these two recipes here today. It was not intentional, I had intended to share some random recipes and then I realised - Kentucky Fried Chicken! Perhaps I should have tried making southern fried chicken again?

I haven't eaten KFC in well over 15 years, but if you do, here is a great alternative I am sure.

I don't actually like coleslaw very much, so I had never made it before.

A few months ago, I had a handful of cabbage leftover from cooking something else so I thought I would give it a try. This is a basic recipe that I am adding it to my repertoire, for those people who like coleslaw. I might play around with it a little more, but for now, if you come to my place, this is the coleslaw that you will be eating. I made it again for my son's birthday party on the weekend. Our table was decorated with some bright seventies melamine that had come from my childhood home. Imagine a hot pink pineapple shaped bowl, and bright orange and avocado coloured salad servers. It put me in a retro mood for the salads: potato salad, coleslaw and a rice salad.

The recipe origin? Was it Gwenyth? Or Donna? or maybe that Jewish cookbook that I had out from the library? It was only a few months ago, but I can't remember, all I know is that I had scribbled it hurriedly onto the back of an envelope. Here it is:


serves 4-6

• 300 grams cabbage (shredded)
• 1 carrot (grated)
• 1/2 cup mayonnaise  
• 2 teaspoons cider or white wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons caster sugar
• salt and pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together and serve. 


Sorry, no mashed potato photo, but you now what it looks like, right?

You are probably wondering, why a mashed potato recipe? I had been plodding along making mash potato with random quantities of potatoes, cream/milk and butter for years. But last winter when I was playing around with my bangers and mash recipe (watch this space) I wanted to get it right. I wanted mashed potatoes that were oozing creamy goodness every time that I made them. After consulting a few cookbooks (I think this one is from Jamie Oliver) this is what I came up with.

Every time I have made mashed potato since, they have been perfect. I usually use cream, and make this less often. As a child, mashed potato was on the plate with every evening meal. But now it is more of a treat, an indulgence, it has it be, I have been know it eat very large bowls of it. 

Mashed potato is pure comfort food. Enjoy.

Mashed Potatoes

serves 4-6

• 1 kilogram potatoes (peeled and cut into large pieces)
• 100 ml cream or milk
• 100 grams butter
• salt and pepper

Put the potatoes into a large saucepan of cold, salted water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer until tender. This will take about 30 minutes, depending on the size of the potato pieces.
When the potatoes are cooked, tip them into a colander to drain and leave for four minutes. Add the cream and butter to the hot saucepan and return to the heat. Warm the cream and butter over a low heat until the butter has melted. Push the hot potatoes through a potato ricer, straight onto the cream and butter. Beat with a spoon, then season to taste.

The recipe states that you use a potato ricer, I actually don't have one, so I just mash my potatoes, but I have written it this way, because if you do have a potato ricer, then I'm sure you potatoes would be all the more creamier.
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