Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Feedback, How exciting!

There's someone out there reading my blog. I'm thrilled. (Okay, she works for me, but that shouldn't count). My friend Babs (not her real name, but pretty close) made the corned beef and loved it. But better than that, I get this in an email:

"Was left with the lovely gravy I made from the apple cider and honey stock. Heated
it up in a saucepan last night and poached a couple of eggs in it, and
plopped the whole lot on toast, and then Bob the Dog got to lick the plate.

Babs has requested photos of it all as well, so it looks like I'll be setting a place for the digi camera at the table.

Nothing if not inconsistent

This is what happens when one gives up smoking. I say this with some embarrassment, as there's a Winfield Red in my hand. However, there wasn't the week I made these. From left:

Preserved Lemons
Hot Indian Lime PIckle
Pickled Plums
Spiced Peaches

The Pub Pickled Onions are discussed elsewhere, and may crack a photo if Stage 2 works.

S.O. just arrived home from work and announced that Sunday Night's duck "didn't make him happy." I'd say that's the last word on the subject. Except to say, it wasn't the duck's fault, and I stand by Cornucopia's meat and poultry.

So 'Date Night' was Pizza Night

Too shattered to do anything but guzzle pizza on Friday night. An early one. Saturday saw a long drive out to the west with my Mum, who's paying a flying visit.

On return I decided to make the picked onions, pub style. (whatever that means) However the recipe was wrong. Although list of ingredients called for salt, the process called for sugar. That took some time to get my head around. And took a lot of other books out to work out which it should be. I settled on the salt in the end. It's a two step process, with the second step being Friday, then 3 weeks in the jar.

If they're any good, I'll post the recipe, but I am going to dob in Penguin for allowing a mispint like that in their book. (Syd Pemberton 'Jams & Preserves') It makes me kind of nervous to try the Roasted Red Onions in Balsamic Vinegar with Thyme Sprigs, but hell, I'll give it a go. The nice differential about this recipe is it takes 3 months for them to do whatever they do before using. They do call for white balsamic vinegar (what, I hear you say), but yes, there is such a thing, and I found some at my favourite shop Fratelli Fresh in Danks Street, Waterloo. Anything Italian, and the very best fruit and veg in town.

S.O. made his sublime ricotta gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. It's evil but good, marvellous comfort food that you can feel clogging up the arteries. It's a Stefano de Pietri recipe from 'A Gondola On The Murray'. We're planning a trip on a houseboat on the Murray in the depths of winter -- we must be mad -- but the trip includes a mandatory stop at Stefano's restaurant at the Grand Hotel in Mildura. One of those pilgrimages one must make.

Sunday and that duck really had to be cooked. I kind of screwed it up by messing with two recipes, which culminated in neither one being given its due. My apologies to both Kylie Kwong and Iain Hewitson.

So really by Monday night we all needed to check into a spa and eat lettuce. I did the next best thing and had a goat cheese and parsley omelette. S.O. went off to by mineral water, but got distracted by a mate and drank Hollandia beer instead.

Things were going kind of well for me until I realised -- not having had a ciggie all day -- that I needed something sweet. Bingo, in the ad breaks of 'Desperate Housewives' was created Julie le Clerc's Semolina, Orange and Yoghurt Cake, with the Orange Honey Syrup. Lovely. Light with a good crust. And I swear I only had the one piece. Not too rich. (Julie le Clerc 'Feast @ Home'

I'm really hoping to up the Pilates to three, or God forbid, maybe four times a week.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Day After the Night Before

We are both feeling a little seedy this morning after S.O.'s birthday dinner.

The duck is still in the fridge, so must be cooked this weekend. What we did instead was: Fennel Sausages in a Tomato Ragu, Braised Fennel with Garlic and Onions, accompanied by Grilled Polenta and Olive Bread for those who needed extra carbs. Followed by the ever trusty affogatos. It was a little warm to be stirring polenta for 40 minutes yesterday, but I think I sweated so much I cleaned out all the toxins in my skin. Eeeugh!

Far too much wine drunk for a school night, and much detritus in the kitchen this morning. And please, don't talk about cigarettes. Pilates will not be pleasant today.

The Fennel was something I'd never done before, but was a winner:

Slice Baby Fennel bulbs in half, removing the feathery bits. Brown slightly them in olive oil and butter, add quartered red onions and brown them too.

Add a good slurp of wine -- I used white last night, but I think red would be fine too -- and some chicken stock.

Throw in a many peel garlic cloves as you wish, they go delightfully benign when braised. Pop in a few sprigs of time and a bit of the feathery fennel bits and throw it in the oven on 180 degrees centrigrade (350 Farenheit) for about half an hour, until the fennel and onion are soft.

I have to say it was really yummy. Great with anything porky.

It's a rainy stormy day in Sydney, but still humid. The sky tells you that you want soup, but the temperature says make sure it's gazpacho.

I can't yet contemplate what to have this evening. It's what we call 'Date Night' in this house. Usually means we stay home. Perhaps there's enough leftovers... though a curry would be good... or...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It's Wrong, Wrong, Wrong...

But somehow trawling through the recipe books is even better with a cigarette and a glass of wine. Patch is off. There'll be a couple of ciggies tonight, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it. Because there's all those others I didn't smoke today.

Sydney is very, very slightly autumnal this evening. Still humid, but -- as they say -- the days are drawing in. I can't wait to get the lastest Amazon.com order. 'All About Braising' and 'On the Bone'. Both wintery meat books. They'll have to be pretty good to be better than Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall's 'The Meat Book', our particular favourite.

Over in our local dog park, the talk turns to food. My English friend -- mother of Fred and Barney, the two West Highland Whites -- gives me her corned beef recipe again. Here tis:

If corned beef very salty, soak for a couple of hours.

Put corned beef into roasting pan with either apple juice or cider to about 1.5 inches up meat. Drizzle with honey and throw about 12 cloves into liquid.

Cook very, very slowly -- a couple of hours or more.

When you're about an hour out from serving throw in some peeled onions and baste. They will slurp up the juices.

It's gorgeous.

And I can highly recommend for Sydney residents that they visit Cornucopia meats at the local markets. His Biodynamic Corned Beef is a thing made in heaven. And not overly expensive.

However, that doesn't decide what we're having for His birthday.

A Happy New Year

This blog has coincided with another attempt to give away the fags. Within hours the palate is zinging away looking for another taste sensation to relieve its boredom. This morning, after whacking on the first nicotine patch, instead of imbibing three cigarettes, we ingested the following: A not bad slice of toasted sourdough with a four berry jam. Delicious. Have run out of the caffineated coffee and have had to resort to the decaf that we bought to use for the affogatos.

The affogatos have come into our lives because my friend Paris lent me his ice cream maker -- one of those fab ones with its own internal freezing unit. It's just too easy. Nothing nicer. Homemade ice cream with a shot of espresso. Trouble was, we couldn't stop at one, and then were still awake at 3 in the morning. Hence the decaf.

And the 'simple' ice cream recipe is just marvellous: 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 300 ml of the best cream you can get your hands on, vanilla extract. Whip it all together and churn.

However, back to today.

The toast and coffee kept me going until my return from Pilates. And fantastic, there's a bit of last night's Pumpkin & Smoked Chicken Risotto left. I had been thinking about rolling it into little balls stuffed with mozarella and then crumbed and fried, but I'm just going to reheat and scoff.

The risotto is a breeze to make too. None of that stirring for 40 minutes.

1 cup arborio rice
2.5 cups stock (chicken or veg)
60 g butter
350 g jap or butternut pumpkin diced,
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp chopped italian parsley
1 smoked chicken breast

Preheat oven to 190 degrees.
Put rice, stock, butter and pumpkin into ovenproof dish and cover tightly with lid or foil.
Bake for 30 minutes or until rice is soft.
Stir through cheese, salt and pepper, and diced chicken.

Dinner tonight will be the Significant Other's (henceforeward S.O.) ricotta gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. Rich but marvellous. He's got a very light hand, I'm sure if I tried to make it, it'd turn out like porridge.

Really must get out of chair and go and get some nice mixed leaves to have with it.

Tomorrow is the S.O.'s birthday. There's some duck in the fridge.