Sunday, 26 February 2012

Classic Salad Dressing - simply PERFECT!

I am on the "Perfect" roll at the moment and this salad dressing is just that - simple but perfect!

After soaring degrees in Melbourne over the last few days all we have done is swim in the pool and eat cold food!

Tonight we had rain, glorious rain, and a cool change blew threw, we opened up the house and took great delight in the southerly breeze.

All we wanted was steak and salad - when I went to the fridge we had run out of dressing - nothing for it but to whip some up and this Classic Vinaigrette from the Australian Women's Weekly "The Complete Book of Modern Classics".  It is sooooo good it makes you wonder why you even bother with "bought" dressings.

So I thought I would share - Prep time 5 mins - makes 2/3 cup:

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon djon mustard
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a screw top jar and shake to your heart's content - voila - salad dressing! Decant into an appropriate receptacle. Perfect in my mind.

 Threw together a simple salad of lettuce, (oops run out of lettuce - white cabbage shredded very finely came to the party) homegrown tomatoes (courtesy of next door neighbours - so in season and so sweet), cucumber, basil and mint, pour over the dressing and mix in a bowl.  Serve with rare steak and chilli caramelised onions.  PERFECT!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Perfect Shortcrust Pastry for a Peasant Pie

 We don't eat a lot of pastry and so I just keep some frozen pastry in the freezer for times when we fancy a quiche or pie.

However, I fancied some kind of egg and bacon pie and the freezer was looking grim.

I bought a lovely little book last year when I was visiting Books for Cooks at Notting Hill in the UK, called Pasties by Lindsey Bareham.  I have made a few pasties from this book and they hardly touch the plate and they are gone.  I put this mainly down to the melt in the mouth pastry.

So I turned to Lindsey's book for the right measurements to make perfect shortcrust pastry. This is a great little book with little stories and history about the origins of all the different pasties.

400g/14oz plain flour
pinch salt
100g/4oz lard
100g/4oz butter
4-6 tbsp ice cole water to mix

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.

Cut the lard and butter directly into the flour in small chunks and rub into flour until it becomes breadcrumbs.

Add water a little at a time using a rounded knife until it resembles a clump.

Knead a few times and pat into a ball, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6

Roll pastry out (not too thinly) to the size of your baking pan, mine was quite deep.

Peasant filling

4 eggs whisked
1 cup of full cream milk
4 large rashers of bacon
1 large onion
300g any cheese you like ( I used equal parts of cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella)

Add milk to eggs and whisk together
Chop onion and bacon
Grate cheese.

As this is a peasant pie you don't have to be too particular how you roll out the pastry, just keep your board well floured so it does not stick, and don't roll it too thinly.

Grease your tin and lay in the pastry.
Sprinkle cheese on the bottom of the pie followed by bacon and onions.
Pour over the eggs and milk mixture.

Pull the pastry over the contents roughly and brush with a little milk and sprinkle with pepper

Cook in a pre-heated oven 200C/400F/Gas 6 for 35mins or longer depending on your oven (insert a knife to see if inside is cooked - it should come out clean).

This feeds 6 hungry diners or 8 as an entrée and let me say it wont last long!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Figs for Fig Jam

Over the last 10 years or so it's been lovely to see the gradual return of the birdlife to the suburbs of Melbourne. Its probably due in some part, to the reinvigoration of gardens and the planting of natives and other bird attracting plants.  The return of the parrot, although lovely to see in all their colourful glory, they are a menace to my fruit trees, especially as mine are limited in number.

This week my fig guard dog "Max" warned me that they were about - with his constant barking (he is always on the lookout for birds) and the neighbours really love this warning too!! NOT.  In response to his emphatic barking I ventured out and there was my fig tree covered in parrots. That was it - time to pick! 

The first flush of figs earlier in the year were very dry, even the birds didn't want them, but these were ripe and ready to eat.  I picked a couple of kilos to make jam.

Birds love figs

Time to pick before they are all gone!

So this morning I set about making Fig Jam. Its a simple recipe. I like to peel the figs as some of the skins are not very attractive.


1kg peeled figs - chopped - stalks removed
1kg sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water

As is usual with making jam put two plates in the freezer.

Place the chopped figs, lemon juice and water in a large pan.

Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered for 20 mins or until the figs are soft.

Add sugar and stir over a medium heat without boiling for about 5 mins or until the sugar has dissolved.

Then bring to the boil and boil for 20 mins stirring often.  

Remove any scum from the surface with a slotted spoon.  

Add a little water if the mixture gets too thick.

When thick and pulpy, start testing for setting point.

Remove from the heat, place a little jam on one of the cold plates and put in the freezer for 30 seconds.  when setting point is reached, a skin will form on the surface and the jam will wrinkle when pushed with your finger.  Remove any scum from the surface.
I have a large old fashioned preserving pan that I like to boil my jars in, you can sterilise them with boiling water or you can put them in the dishwasher.

 Pour the jam immediately into clean, warm jars and seal.  Turn the jars upside down for 2 minutes, turn them back up the right way and leave to cool.  Label and date. This jam can be stored in a cool dark place for 6-12 months.  Refrigerate after opening for up to 6 weeks (if it lasts that long).

I am entering this in Ren Behan's  Simple in Season Blog Event for February

Max the fig guard dog
Max loves figs too!
A pair of parrots in the gum tree at the
back of the garden

Beef Bolar Blade Roast and Yorkshire Puddings

I am in the process of trying to clear out my freezer and dig out some things that have been in there a while and need to be cooked, you know what I mean, things that get pushed to the back, drop into cracks or you just can't be bothered to cook because of the preparation involved. This weekend out came a lump of beef with the label Beef Bolar Blade Roast.  To be honest I wasn't entirely sure what that was.  The man turned his nose up and said "sounds like cheap stewing steak to me".  I still  hesitated - the word "Roast" threw me, but not wanting to roast it and it be tough and get the "I told you so" looks, I thought maybe a pot roast might do the trick.  I looked through a few of my books before  Beef Pot Roast Provencal  took my fancy (sounds much better than Bolar Blade!) in Leanne Kitchen's book "The Butcher"! (It always makes me smile when people's names are synonymous with their profession).

So,  a quick scan of the ingredients confirmed I had everything (if not exactly - I could improvise) and as this was going to take at least two hours to cook I needed to get my skates on (and the air-conditioner). The meat had defrosted the night before so I was good to go.

3 tomatoes skins removed (I used a tin of crushed tomatoes)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 kg rolled beef brisket ( mine obviously was Bolar Blade and not quite 2 Kg)
3 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine 
3 tbsp brandy - no brandy in the house used Bundaberg Rum
2 onions quartered
3 cloves of garlic crushed
2 bay leaves
handful of parsley chopped
2 tbsp thyme
6 small carrots chopped
2 tbsp plain flour

Heat olive oil in a deep heavy-based saucepan or pan.  Add the beef  and cook over med-high heat turning to brown all over.
It was obvious my pan was not going to be deep enough to take my lump of meat so I buterflied it down the middle to open it up enabling it to lay flat in my pan.
When sealed on all sides add tomatoes, stock, wine, rum/brandy, onion, garlic, bay leaves, parsley and thyme. 
Cover and bring to a simmer. 
Cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hours.
Add carrots and cook for a further 30 mins.
Remove beef to a plate and cover with foil to rest for 10 mins.
Put flour in a small bowl and stir in enough water to make a smooth paste. 
Add the paste to the pan - stirring constantly over medium heat until it thickens - then cook for 3 mins.
The beef is then ready to carve although mine was so tender it practically fell apart and drizzled with the gravy it was yummy.

The real reason for wanting to make a roast was my $2.50 charity shop find on Friday!
I dropped in a bag of unwanted stuff and had a quick look at the china and glasswear.

I have had an eye out for a yorkshire pudding tin as mine had gone astray years ago (or poached by daughters) and have found them very difficult to find so I was quite excited when I saw this practically new tin and I just had to buy it.

So while the beef was cooking I mixed up the flour, milk and egg batter for the puds.

Greased the tray with lard and put it into the oven on high until the tray was smoking.

Batter mix = 125g plain flour, 2 eggs, 250ml milk,
good pinch of salt, mix until smooth consistency
pour into hot pudding tray, bake till brown and crisp.
Poured in the batter and cooked for 20mins.  After 10 mins the tops were looking browner than I would have liked so I flipped them over - hence they look more like buns than highly risen puddings.  This did not distract from the taste I can assure you and we managed to eat all 6 between the two of us!!

The house smelt unbelievably good, the man was satisfied, what more could I ask for!
Now what to make with the leftovers..........

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Strawberry and Passionfruit Jam... not yet!

Afternoon Tea!

A few weeks ago at our local street market I bought two strawberry plants and a passionfruit vine to plant up the back of the garden somewhere.

The two little strawberry plants (can't call them a bush yet) one showing several flowers and promising fruit the other nothing! And still nothing!

They live happily sandwiching the passionfruit that is going great guns climbing the trellis the man nailed to the fence as assistance.

On the weekend I picked our first strawberry (I couldn't risk leaving it for the birds).

So with great ceremony I washed and wiped it, put it on a plate and cut it in half for the man and me.......... delicious!

I think it might be a little while before jam is on offer though.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

I love Meatloaf ..............and roasted vegetables with gravy!

When my children were small I had this fabulous recipe for meatloaf and I am sure I cooked it every week -  the kids loved it.  It was great for hiding a whole host of vegetables that they turned their nose up at. Then I lost it! Don't ask me how.

Then last week I found a new Meatloaf recipe and it's was just yummy. Even though the kids are big now I am sure that would love it too.
My new best friend

I am on a Tessa Kiros "roll" at the moment and I am really enjoying her book Apples for Jam, although the formatting is a little difficult to read as the font is a light grey and the headings a light pink which is very pretty but not very practical, (and the ingredients could definitely be larger and bolder - sorry Tessa) especially when you need your glasses for the smallest task these days, and I had to move the book in all directions to catch the right light to read it properly. Apart from all that, I am enjoying it, its great.

Ingredients look a lot but in actual fact could be cut down if you just say vegetables for 6 as the meatloaf is enough for 6.

But Tessa suggests, 2 large carrots peeled, 2 zucchini (courgettes) trimmed, 1 large potato peeled,  1 red capsicum.
(which I found was only really enough for 2)

500g minced beef
80g white bread and 125ml (1/4 cup) milk
2 tbs chopped parsley
1 clove garlic chopped finely
1 heaped tbs grated parmesan cheese
1 egg lightly beaten
4 tabs olive oil, 1 flat teaspoon salt,
100g thinly sliced pancetta (I used bacon)
2 sage sprigs, 2 small rosemary sprigs, 2 garlic cloves unpealed,
1 tbs plain flour and 125 ml (1/4 cup) white wine.

Preheat oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4) I like the way this covers everybody's cookers.
Soak the bread in the milk for about 15 mins - squishing with fingers so it collapses.
Cut vegetables length ways in readiness.
Put meat, parsley, chopped garlic, cheese, egg, salt and soaked bread in a bowl and mix together until smooth. Then form a large loaf like a large egg.

  • Put half the olive oil in a roasting dish and put the meatloaf on top.
  • Cover with overlapping bacon rashers, tucking them in underneath. 
  • Scatter the vegetables all around and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil. 
  • Tuck the sage, rosemary and garlic under the veg. 
  • Bake for  1 1/4 hours turning veg over halfway through.
  • They should be golden and the bacon crispy.
  • Turn oven off and remove the meatloaf and veg to a warming platter, cover with foil and return to the oven. 
Put baking dish on the top of the stove over a high heat and sprinkle in the flour.
Cook, stirring constantly and scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the dish.  
Pour in the wine and stir until evaporated.
Add 250ml (1 cup) hot water season with salt and cook until the sauce becomes smooth and thickens.

Serve meatloaf cut into thick slices with the veg and drizzled with gravy.

As there is no longer a big family at home we had left overs cold for lunch too!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Baked Fish Nuggets

This morning my daughter who lives next door brought in some Flathead Tails that she had defrosted but was not going to be able to cook today, so I didn't have to think about was was for tea, this was it. 

 I hate the smell of fried food, especially fish in the house so I decided to bake them.  

I have recently discovered a book on my bookshelf
Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros
and found this recipe in it - perfect for my Tails - Baked Fish Fillets

It's a very simple recipe for so much reward!

1/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 small eggs
1 tbsp chopped parsley
500g fresh fish fillets chopped into chunks
3-4 tbsp olive oil
lemon wedges and salt to serve

Preheat oven to 210C (415F gas 6-7)
spread flour on a flatish plate and breadcrumbs on another
whisk the eggs and parsley and pinch of salt together in a bowl.
Put the fish into the flour, then dip in egg, then in the breadcrumbs, to coat thoroughly.
Put fish on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil turn and drizzle on the other side.
Bake in the oven for 10mins, turn and bake for a further 5mins or until fish is golden and crisp.

Serve sprinkled with salt and lemon wedges.  If you are not a real fish fan these are perfect. Perfect for me, and perfect bite size pieces for kids!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Pancakes for Breakfast

With whisk in hand we made a start
During school holidays my grandchildren have a sleepover at some stage.  My eldest son's children were over last week.  Somehow I unexpectedly found my kitchen cupboards bare!

What were we going to have for breakfast? We wanted something fun.

We had flour, eggs and milk, so pancakes it was!

My granddaughters are turning into nice little cooks and are always ready to help (if not take over).

1 cup of self raising flour, 1 egg, 1 cup milk

Add milk to the flour in a bowl or jug 

Add the egg 
Whisk all ingredients together until smooth

Nanny then heated some butter in the pan and ladled in the pancake mix
 They only take a few minutes each side and then dress with whatever topping you fancy.

 Some of the decoration was imaginative!
Yogurt and nuts did not look very attractive but rolled up they tasted yummy (or so I was told).

It was such a nice morning we sat on the front verandah

Oooooooooh lovely! My favourite -
Pancakes with banana drizzled with honey
I am entering this in the Breakfast Club for February- go to work on an egg -  hosted by Karen at Lavender and lovage and Helen at Fuss free flavours breakfast club