Simple: the food

UnknownYesterday I talked about the book itself; today, the food. This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

I’ve tried a good enough variety from the book now to say that they are mostly simple recipes, in the sense of being straightforward. They’re not all fast (which isn’t something she claims for them, either, but what some might assume), but there are few complicated steps. I like variety that Henry is including in the recipes – taking advantage, as she says in the intro, of the new ingredients available relatively easily in Western shops or online.

Some of the things I’ve tried:

Huevos rotos: basically braised eggs with fried potato and seasoning. I am so in love with this idea.

Cumin-coriander roast carrots with pomegranates and avocado: like it says on the tin, also walnuts. Very very good.

Cool greens with hot Asian dressing: the Asian there should be “Asian” (lime, fish sauce, ginger, chilli, garlic – generic Asian), but this was very tasty: any green veg you like (avo, peas of various description, cucumber, leaves…) with the dressing. Very good with the roast lamb (see below).

Salad of chorizo, avocado, and peppers with sherry dressing: turns out I had no sherry but red wine vinegar was ok. Also, fried bread (basically croutons)! Excellent in a salad!

Lamb and bulgur pilaf with figs and preserved lemon: leftover roast lamb has rarely been this good. Chickpeas, walnuts, spice… also bulgur makes a great pilaf, will make again.

Orzo with lemon and parsley: I couldn’t find orzo but it was still fine. Very, very simple.

Turkish pasta with feta, yoghurt and dill: the only dish I haven’t loved. Caramelised onion, buttermilk and Greek yoghurt, topped with dill and feta. I think I just didn’t love the yoghurt with the onion. It was very easy though.

Bacon and egg risotto: yes, that’s right. So good.

Slow-cooked lamb with pomegranates and honey: this is the lamb I paired with the Asian salad. It was very tasty and, of course, easy, since you just whack it in the oven when it’s marinated a bit. I like the pomegranate molasses with the garlic. Served with Greek yoghurt it’s superb.

IMG_1851St Clements and rosemary posset with blackberries: yes, apparently posset is what you call it when babies return some milk. Pretty sure this came first though. It’s boiled and then steeped cream (with peel and rosemary) and then mixed with citrus juice and left to set. I served it with blueberries. It was very nice and straightforward, although I do wonder if there are more interesting things to do with cream.

There are still a LOT of recipes I want to make and haven’t had a chance to. I’m very much looking forward to using this book to death.

Luke Mangan’s Sharing Plates: the food

Unknown.jpegWhen you have friends coming over for dinner, it makes sense to experiment on them with recipes from a book called Sharing Plates (sent to me by the publisher, Murdoch Books, at no cost; discussion of the book itself).

Rosemary popovers: these are in the Bread section of the book. You make a batter of flour, eggs, milk and rosemary, and then pour it into a muffin pan to bake. These were ok; they popped right out of the muffin holes (maybe mine were deeper than the 60mL specified in the recipe), which was amusing. I found them a bit too eggy to really enjoy like a bread roll, which is what I was assuming they would be like. The recipe calls for it to be served with seaweed butter (adding dried seaweed); I neither have easy access to an Asian grocery nor the inclination to try seaweed this way at home. I put thyme into some butter instead, which is still in keeping with the book as it does say you’re allowed to experiment with other herbs. I made 8, so they certainly count as ‘sharing’ food.

Salad of roasted pumpkin, chorizo, chickpeas, quinoa and blue cheese: from the Snacks and Salads section. I’ll be upfront and say I am made a few alterations to this. I don’t like blue cheese so I used a very good Persian feta instead; I left out the roast capsicum because I couldn’t be bothered; and I didn’t make/use the cabernet sauvignon dressing because I thought the chorizo left enough oil to dress the quinoa, and the chorizo and seasoned pumpkin and feta together all seemed to add enough zing. I did like the combination here of using quinoa and a few chickpeas with the chorizo and roasted pumpkin; the walnuts on top added a good crunch, and the preserved lemon a piquant tang. In the past I have made similar salads with couscous; I think quinoa is a bit lighter, and I’ll tend towards it from now on (remembering to not let it burn in the pot…). I guess salad counts as a sharing food?

Chermoula lamb: I wanted to use the salad, above, so I mixed n matched with the Chermoula lamb with pumpkin couscous, from the Meat section. Perhaps you can buy chermoula somewhere in Australia as a marinade, but I’ve not noticed it. I assume this because the ingredients list says “30g chermoula; 6x80g lamb loins…”. I’ve used chermoula before so I was happy to go make it, but I was really surprised to see if referenced here as something you would just buy. The chermoula/lamb combo was fine. To be honest I don’t really see how this counts as a ‘sharing plate’ since there’s nothing more ‘sharing’ about this than with any other recipe that serves 4-6 people.

Bounty bars: from the Sweets section. I was pretty excited about making these – the ingredients are straightforward (butter, sugar, condensed milk (!!), coconut, chocolate) and I love a Bounty. And yes, they were very tasty, and of course licking the bowls was lovely. However the instruction that “Using two forks, dip a bar into the melted chocolate and roll to coat all sides. Use one fork to remove the bar from the chocolate and the other to wipe off the excess chocolate” (p213) is deceptive. That process was far more difficult than implied: the bars had been in the freezer, to solidify, so the chocolate just stuck to them really quickly – removing excess was hard. And just getting them into and out of the chocolate was a process. Perhaps I need to use a wider-mouthed bowl, but that’s not specified in the instructions. In the end, because of how annoying the process was and because of just how much chocolate was ending up on each bar, I gave up on covering the whole thing and went with fairly serious drizzling instead. This was far easier and still, I think, deposited a good amount of chocolate on the bar. Having learnt this trick I would be happy to make these again. I did indeed make the 15 suggested by the recipe… they do count as a ‘sharing’ plate in that respect, although given that they are meant to last for a week in an airtight container, you could just as easily not share them…

At other times

Sumac-spiced pork and vela meatballs with fontina mash: the meatballs were great, although I couldn’t pick up the sumac, which was sad and perhaps not surprising since you put in the same amount of ground coriander, and then some allspice, paprika, and pepper as well. The recipe calls for you to have bacon in the mix, which I think is intriguing, as well as pork back fat… which I couldn’t find, so I just left it out. Not sure what difference it would have made, of course; perhaps smoother texture? I thought they were fine, anyway. The tomato sauce had anchovy in it, which I like for the salt and umami flavour. The potato mash was intriguing – milk, cream, butter, parmesan, and fontina. I did not add cream, because I don’t tend to have it just sitting around, but I did go out and buy some fontina specifically. Fontina is not a cheese I would willingly eat, being much stinkier than I enjoy… but I was intrigued by its addition to the mash, and I quite liked it. Having said that, I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to source fontina for future mash: it’s not that easy to find, and it’s not particularly cheap, either. I’d be happy with either more buttery mash, or adding parmesan. The meatballs and the tomato sauce were very nice. Once again, unconvinced that this really deserves the moniker ‘sharing plate’; yes you can share it, yes it would be a nice cosy dinner party meal, but… it’s not something other than that.

Lamb empanadas: certainly count as sharing plates, and these were delightful. However, the info bar at the top said it made 10 empanadas; the ingredients list specifies 4 sheets of puff pastry; and the instructions say to use a coffee mug or glass to cut “10 rounds from each sheet”…

Things I haven’t cooked but give a sense of what the book is like: the first recipe is Quail eggs benedict with chilli kale on mini muffins; the final recipe is Soft Swiss meringue with berries and almond anglaise (actually the very last recipe, in the Basics section, is Wasabi Dressing).

Camping food

So we went camping for about ten days recently, and we managed to make dinner on the fire every night. Which was ace. We’d done a lot of prep beforehand, which stood us in good stead.

We did a few pretty normal things: eye fillet and lamb backstrap on the grill. A whole lot of roast potatoes. We’d marinated some lamb with onion, garlic, and ginger and then vac-sealed it; we cooked that with a tin of peas and it was quite good! We took many tins of vegetables – easier to transport, especially when our trip involved running the quarantine regulations of travel between Victoria and South Australia. We had some that were just boiled, and they were just… average. So I decided to change it up by warming them in a pan with some butter and herbs. Herbs were courtesy of a Gewurzhaus gift from a friend and they really lifted the veg.

In terms of dessert, we did two experiments. One, I discovered that you can buy packet mug cake! Which is so wrong but so awesome. And we decided to make them in the sandwich maker and they worked brilliantly. Two, we decided to try and make a proper cake too. My beloved was convinced that we could do it in a cast-iron cauldron. I thought we should put alfoil in the bottom. And… well, the bottom burnt, which was sad, but probably not a surprise. We still ate the cake, and it was ok – I mean, it was cake in the middle of the Flinders Ranges – but it did have a burnt tang. Which was sad. Next time we might try a pot-inside-a-pot… or just take a cake tin with us. Or, easiest, just rely on mug cake packets.

Breakfast was mostly pancakes and bacon and egg wraps. There was also a lot of tea and aeropress coffee. Lunch was wraps, or occasionally using the sandwich maker for its actual purpose.

The Saffron Tales #2

Yesterday I talked about the book itself; today, it’s the recipes.

UnknownThey, too, are great.

Sweets

Sour cherry and dark chocolate biscuits: the first time I made these I couldn’t find sour cherries; that has since been rectified. That first time I used dried blueberries, and they were ok. I really like them with sour cherries – these are some new favourites.

Persian love cake: even though I had no rose water, so I used orange blossom water, this was fantastic. And as Khan herself notes, the cake keeps quite well – I think we ate it over about five days and it didn’t go stale just under plastic wrap in the fridge.

Mains Continue reading “The Saffron Tales #2”

What’s for Dinner?

This book was provided by Allen&Unwin at no cost. Available from April 2016; RRP $34.99.

Unknown.jpeg The book itself

This is a book produced out of recipes from the website My Food Bag, which I hadn’t come across before receiving the book – so it is kinda one big ad. Despite that, I have come down in favour of the book.

The recipes are all designed for weeknight cooking, so there’s generally a minimum of fuss involved. The recipes come from a range of cuisines (harissa to haloumi to coconut rice to steak); there’s a variety of meat, seafood and vego dishes; they’re divided into seasons to help you figure out fruit and veg availability. Every recipe comes with a little circle indicating whether it will take less, medium, or more time, and also whether the recipe is gluten and/or dairy free (or how to make it so; the index also lists all dishes that are GF or DF, as a distinct category). Plus, each recipe also lists the amount of energy, carb, protein and fat in it (… if you follow the recipe…).

Each double page is nicely laid out with the recipe on one side and a picture of the dish on the other. The pictures aren’t too overwhelming – they’re mostly trying to look like they’re on the dinner table – although mine tended not to look like the perfectly plated dishes. Of course. Each dish that I have made was straightforward; I didn’t have to puzzle out any instructions.

One quibble: although this is an Australian book, it refers to kumara (sweet potato) and courgettes (zucchini). I find this really bizarre.

To be honest, this isn’t the sort of book that I buy any more; I’ve become more of a fan of the single-cuisine cookbook that I fall pretty hard for. That said,  I know exactly the sort of person I would give it to: someone who is straight out of home, and/or someone who is just starting to cook for themselves. The recipes aren’t intimidating and they do offer a variety of tastes, spices, and skill levels. If you know someone in that category, or want to revamp your own weekday cooking, this could be a good addition to your repertoire of recipes.

The recipes 

I treat this sort of cookbook a bit cavalierly. Sometimes I will follow a recipe to the letter, other times I will pick and choose bits to go together.

Thai pork patties with coconut rice: friends, I have now boiled rice FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFEI followed the instructions in the book about how to do it with coconut milk (3/4 coconut and 3/4 water to 1 cup water), valiantly resisted the urge to lift the lid, and it was excellent. These pork patties (with ginger, sesame oil, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and coriander) are also very tasty.

Herb-crusted lamb: unexpectedly good, and I didn’t even have the Dijon mustard to act as the initial layer.

Tomato and bean salad: meant to go with steak but I used it with something else; toss cherry tomatoes for a minute or so in a pan, add cannellini beans and add some chimchurri – or, if you’re me, a handful of herbs. DELISH.

Open lasagne of courgette (!), artichokes, goat’s cheese and pesto: OMG. This is green and fresh and so, so tasty. If you were intimidated by the idea of trying to stack everything you could easily just use pasta and use this as a stir-through sauce. Will be making again.

Haloumi in filo: where have you been all my life turns out there is something else you can do with haloumi HALOUMI IN FILO.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised and am happy to have this on my shelf.

It’s available from Fishpond. 

 

Roast lamb

UnknownRoast lamb is an important part of my culinary heritage… but that doesn’t mean it’s sacrosanct. On the contrary: I have been slowly but surely trying new and interesting recipes for the cooking of the perfect lamb for a long time now.

And I’ll come right out, now, and admit that I am definitely in the Boneless is Better camp. I understand the bone does… something… but for ease of eating and time cooking, there’s really no going back from boneless.

Anyway, one of my favourite ways of roasting the dear little animal is courtesy of the only Jamie Oliver book I own, which was a present from a dear friend a while back: Jamie does Several Basically Unrelated Countries and Has His Photo Taken looking either Pensive or Manic. It’s in the French section, and involves first stuffing as much garlic, thyme and rosemary as you can into the meat – well, that’s my interpretation anyway. The meat then goes direct on to an oven rack, while underneath it goes a tray with pre-sauteed onion, garlic, leeks, a couple tins of white beans and a mound of herbs (oh and stock – enough that it’s not going to boil dry… oops…). Leave alone for a while. Done. You can mash the leek and bean dish a bit at the end, if you want, and then serve the meat on top.

Seriously brilliant.

No pics because we ate it too fast.

A Middle Eastern Feast

UnknownOn Saturday night we decided to have friends over to play a rather obsession-making board game, and treat them to a Middle Eastern feast. They had lavished us with a beef bourguignon that left mine for dead and a delightful lemon tart last time, so it was only fair…

First course was a eggplant brushed with homemade chermoula, baked for 40 minutes, and topped with a burghul salad that included coriander, green olives, and nuts. It was fantastic although not actually as good as it could have been – I used those awesome long Lebanese eggplants, which were tasty but because they were skinny, didn’t get as mushy and baba ganoush-y as they would if they’d been fatter.Unknown

Next, my darling made him favourite dish – lamb and braised egg. We minced lamb eye fillet and cooked it with harissa, pistachios, preserved lemons and other good things, then braised eggs in it. Served with flat bread, it was utterly delightful. Both of these are from the fabulous Jerusalem, which is probably my favourite cook book ever.

Finally, Egyptian filo pudding, from Moorish. Cook filo sheets; break them into pieces and layer it with rosewater-soaked dried apricots and currants, and pistachios and almonds. Then cover the lot with boiling custard, basically, and cook… it was utterly, photoutterly delightful; more-ish, in fact. The picture does it no justice whatsoever.