Monday, 24 December 2012

And So this is Christmas

The table is laid on my verandah ready for  lunch tomorrow

Santa is watching over

The tree is up

Santa ready to welcome visitors

Angels watching over the wine!

Santa watching over the glasses
Roses are ready for the table
The front courtyard ready for the onslaught
Santa waiting for the presents to arrive
The last batch of mince pies (click here for recipe) just coming out of the oven and then off to bed - its a busy day tomorrow.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to visit Magnolia Verandah this year - Merry Christmas to you all and wish you a fabulous 2013.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Gingerbread Men for Christmas

A little Master chef in the making?
Don't ask me why I only make gingerbread men at Christmas time because I do love them - my daughters whip them up for their children all year round as a morning treat or after kindergarten "stopper".  They are also lovely as a "take away" for guests at children's parties, iced and decorated, wrapped in cellophane bags and tied with pretty ribbon, as my son did for his daughter's birthday last week. Kids big and small just love them.

125g butter
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup
1 egg lightly beaten
2 + 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

What to do

Melt the butter in a bowl
Beat in the golden syrup and sugar
In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients
Add the egg and liquids and mix
Turn onto a floured board and knead gently to form a ball
Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 160 C.
Roll out the dough
Using a gingerbread man cutter - cut about 12 little men
Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
Buttons can be made from currents or anything you fancy - (we attached smarties with a little icing after they had cooled)
Bake for about 10 mins or until lightly brown
Leave on the baking tray for about 5 mins then using a palette knife transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.
Other decoration can be made with some royal icing or an icing pen. Or marked with a knife before they are put into the oven.
Store in an airtight container

I love this "angry business" man - all the gingerbread men that were given out at the end of the party all had different characters - this was mine! He went down very well with a cup of tea.

I am entering this in the Random Recipe Challenge for December over at Belleau Kitchen as this recipe is from a book given to me last   Christmas -a Reader's Digest composite "Like Grandma Used to Make" this book has struggled to come down off the bookshelf due to its very old fashioned style and photography, but it is certainly good for making these gingerbread men.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Fig Jam for Christmas

On a roll with my Christmas cooking now and yesterday picked the first of the organic figs (ie growing on the tree in the back yard) which looked very pale inside and I thought I would have to add some food colouring to perk it up (god forbid). Then miraculously the natural colour became richer and richer in the cooking- I couldn't believe it! This looks like a berry jam instead of fig it is so red all on its own!

I will package these two little beauties up to give away as gifts. This preserve is not only good on toast but great with cheese instead of quince and a nice alternative to have with the turkey instead of cranberries.
Click here for the recipe that I made in February this year.  Merry Christmas.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Coffee Shortbread Gift Jars

I have always been inspired by homemade gifts for Christmas and have normally cooked gifts from the heart - this time I thought I would prepare all the raw ingredients and package them up in pretty jars.  All that was left was to add the recipe tied with a bow.
Click here for the Coffee Shortbread Recipe that I made last Christmas.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Fish Pie

The Rockling has looked so lovely at the fishmonger's lately that I thought I would use it in a fish pie instead of salmon and haddock as recommended in Jamie Oliver's recipe from Jamie's Ministry of Food. It was simple to put together and the flavours not too fishy. It doesn't make the house smell either.

Serves 4-6 easily
1 kg potatoes peeled and chopped into chunks
1 grated carrot
2 sticks of celery grated (leave out the stringy bits)
150g cheddar cheese grated
1 lemon
1/2 fresh red chilli (optional)
4 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley
600g fish fillets chopped into bite size chunks (no skin or bones)
125g king prawns, raw, peeled
olive oil

What to do...
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6
Bring pot of salted water to the boil and add potatoes
Cook for 12 mins until soft
In a deep baking tray or dish (I dug out this old baking dish that I have had for about 37 years it is well used and not very pretty but it did the job!
Zest the lemon
Finely chop your chilli and parsley, including stalks.
Put zest, chilli, parsley, grated celery, carrot and cheese into the baking dish and mix together.
Put the fish and prawns into the baking dish and add the juice of the lemon, drizzle with olive oil and mix together well.
Drain and mash the potatoes
Add a couple of good lugs of olive oil and add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Mash until nice and smooth and spread evenly on top of the fish and grated veg.
Place in the preheated oven for around 40 minutes, or until cooked through and lovely and crispy and golden on top. Serve with veg or salad.  I will make this again!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Glazed Ling with Sweet and Sour Shallots

Ling with Sweet and Sour Shallots and snipped chives
A little bit of "Simply Red" to cook by 

The man felt like chinese food as he always does! And then as if he read my mind said 'Let's give the Random Challenge a go'. The book came down from the bookshelf,  being an April baby it was no. 4  - a Gordon Ramsay book "Healthy Appetite". I haven't cooked from this book much and I don't know why (well I do know why cos, I have a bit of a thing about Gordon, like some do about Nigella. His TV shows have been done to death, to the point where now I can hardly stand him). Having said that, each time I have cooked from this book the recipes have all been really well balanced, flavoursome, restaurant quality meals. How can I fault that. The man flicked open the book randomly.
Ling! .......Ling? what is Ling? A fish, but what fish?

We went to our local fishmonger to see what he could recommend.  The Rockling caught my eye immediately, it looked really lovely and fresh. I asked for Ling not realising that it was one and the same. How silly did I feel. Anyway its a nice firm white fish from the cod family, so if no Ling is   available cod or whiting can be easily substituted.

 I laid the Ling out on the bench and cut it into four even steaks. Then set about putting together the sauce.  Funnily enough this has a definite asian feel but not too fishy or complicated and simple and easy to cook. So don't be afraid to give it a go.

4 skinless Ling fillets (Rockling) about 170g each
a little olive oil for oiling
60ml light soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
100ml white wine vinegar (I just used white vinegar)
50g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
3cm knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
400g small shallots peeled
75ml dry white wine
150ml fish stock (I had mine in a bottle)
small handful of chives snipped.

What to do.....
Lay the fish in a lightly oiled large baking dish - set aside
Put both soy sauces, vinegar and sugar in a pot and stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar
Increase the heat and and add crushed corriander, pepper and ginger

Boil for 8-10 minutes until liquid has reduced by half.
Leave to cool

Heat the oven to 180C
Blanch the shallots in a pot of boiling water for 10 mins until tender, then drain.

Pour the soy sauce mix over the fish in the baking dish and cook in the oven for 5 mins until the sauce begins to caramelise.
Add the shallots to the fish and add the white wine and fish stock.
Return to the oven and bake for another 6-8 minutes until the fish is just cooked through.

Transfer the fish to a warm plate and cover with tin foil to keep warm (approx 5-10mins).

Tip the remains of the baking dish, onions and sauce into a pot and boil for 10 mins until reduced to a sticky sauce.
Place the fish on warm plates and spoon over the shallots and sauce.

 Garnish with snipped chives.

It was yummy yummy!

I decided to serve this with some side dishes of steamed rice and quickly stir fried Pak Choy or chinese greens.

Stir fried Pak Choy
Heat a wok or frypan  - glaze with a little olive oil
Add a splash of hot water so that the wok sizzles
Throw in the Pak Choy and quickly stir fry, stirring continuously until the greens start to wilt.
Drizzle a little sesame oil just before you take the greens from the wok - easy and still a little crunchy.

I am entering this in Belleau Kitchens Random Recipe Challenge No. 22 random birthday numbers.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Pumpkin Choc Chip Muffins

After the Birthday Halloween Party there was so much pumpkin left that some serious pumpkin recipes needed to be sourced to rid us of all the vegetable.

A great way to get the children to eat that left over "Jack O Lantern" are these choc chip muffins.  Sugar and chocolate can be reduced as this recipe has both in abundance. Making them perfect for the lunchbox.  This recipe was from a purchase last year at the St. Kilda & Balaclava Kindergarten Fete - The Kinder Cook Book 2004  (see last year's post). Put together with donated recipes from the families of the kinder children of 2004.

1 2/3 cup plain flour
1 cup granulated sugar (less if you want them less sweet)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger in the ratio of 2:2:1:1)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup cooked mashed pumpkin (I put mine in the blender so it was lovely and smooth)
1/2 cup butter - melted
1/2 cup of choc chips

Drunken left over Party Pumpkin
Happy Birthday Wes - what a great 5th birthday party
What to do...
Yielded lots of vegetable
Grease 12 cup muffin tray (or use paper cases)
Combine dry ingredients thoroughly.
In a separate bowl whisk together eggs,
Add cooled pumpkin and cooled butter until well blended
Great costumes
Stir in choc chips,
Gently fold wet mixture into dry ingredients until mixed and moist.
Spoon evenly into muffin cases (nearly two tablespoons into each case)
Bake at 180C for 20-25mins.
Makes 12 good size muffins
They are much better if left to cool if you can wait that long! I had one for breakfast.
Birthday Cake
Birthday Boy
Oooh bats!
Cousins with the loot!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Polpette - Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Homemade meatballs and homemade pasta

A few years ago Rosa Mitchell joined the company where I worked to establish a restaurant during the day and then the  kitchen was used as a cooking school in the evening.  We would often enjoy her homemade food at lunchtime and she would cater for our Board meetings where she shared the love of her Sicilian cooking. I am happy to say I have a  signed copy of her book which I love, called My Cousin Rosa.  We have cooked many things from this book and she has since added a couple more to her collection. One of my favourite recipes from this book is Polpette or meatballs in tomato sauce.

I know what you are thinking, how different can meatballs be, meatballs are meatballs, everyone can make them, but these meatballs and sauce are so good I have made them again and again.

I have altered the meatball mix slightly by reducing the amount of breadcrumbs but this still feeds a large family easily, and is great when you are feeding my hungry hoards.

1kg coarsely minced topside beef
500g minced pork
160g fresh white breadcrumbs(I have used less than this)
150g grated parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
4 eggs
185 ml olive oil
2 onions chinely chopped
2.5kg tinned Italian chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves

How to do it
Mix together the meat, breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic, parsley and season with salt and pepper  - use your hands for this.
Add 3 lightly beaten eggs and mix again
The miture should come together, if it feels too dry add a little of the 4th egg but don't make it too wet or the meatballs will fall apart.
Start making your balls. The size is up to you, but roll firmly so they do not fall apart.
Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a pan that is large enough to later hold all the meatballs.
Fry the onions until soft, then add the tomatoes and cook over a low heat, siring occasionally.
Heat the rest of the oil in a non-stick frying pan and add some of the meatballs, don't overcrowd.  Brown on all sides until golden.
When browned add them to the tomato sauce pan.
When all the meatballs are added to the sauce, add the bay leaves, season and cover and simmer for about 1 hour.
This serves at least 6 very generously.
These freeze well.

Rosa says in an Italian home this would make two meals: the sauce would be served with pasta and the meatballs eaten as a main course with salad. To be honest I could eat them any way them come.