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Dinner, Food for Big People, Food for Little People

On Honeymoon With a Superstar….Vietnamese Pork with Coconut Rice

August 18, 2012

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to hang out with Brad Pitt at a Brad Pitt Appreciation Convention, then you could simply take a blond haired, blue-eyed baby to Vietnam to get the gist of the mania. Luckily, we didn’t have twins or it would have been akin to traveling with the Beatles and I don’t know if I could handle having undies thrown at me on my honeymoon.

D Man had the honour of accompanying Mister H and I on our ‘month of honey’ when he was 9 months old. It was a little less like mead moon and a little more like Bia Hanoi but D Man refrained for the most part, sticking to breast milk, possibly occasionally tainted with a touch of said Hanoi nectar.

I had traveled in Thailand when I was a stinky backpacker, and I’d also been to many of the Indonesian islands but Vietnam had been high on my itinerary wish list for a rong rong time….it seemed the perfect time to go, as we were heading to Holland for a white Christmas and it was practically on the way……and it was OUR HONEYMOON.

It really was like traveling with a superstar. People would come running to touch him, grab him out of our arms, once even reefing him off my shoulders practically decapitating me in the process. The kid was a hit.
He was a bit of a reluctant hero though. I dare say the experience was somewhat overwhelming as ‘personal space’ is not a commonly used term in most not-quite-third world countries.

We tried to protect the little fellow from too much man-handling. We found him safest in his backpack, but a kid cannot spend an entire three weeks in a backpack. Besides, it squashed his nuts.

He was a brilliant travel companion, and I thoroughly recommend inviting your children to your honeymoon. If you don’t have children, don’t take someone else’s though because they do cramp your style somewhat (i.e. bonking romance is not the same with imminent squawking, or wakeful babies). Just a little warning.

The food in Vietnam was awesome. It not as chilli-burn-your-face-off as Thailand (although I do love that), and I just adore the big, fresh flavours.
This recipe was inspired by our trip, or more accurately, a desire to eat Vietnamese without taking off my slippers and getting a babysitter. It’s not totally authentic, because I made it up, and I’m not Vietnamese, but it hit the spot.
This would be awesome with a couple of birds-eye chillies chopped into the meat, but I was serving it to D Man – who enjoyed it considerably more than the kofte, thanks for asking.

Yield : 4 serves

You will need :

For pork -

  • 500g pork
  • 5 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemongrass, white part only chopped and bashed (I found a jar in the fridge and used that. If you don’t have it or can’t find it, use a little lemon zest, or omit. It’s not make or break.)
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shao Xing wine, or sherry
  • 1 handful chopped coriander
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

For coconut rice -

  • 1.5 cups Jasmine rice
  • 1.5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups coconut milk
  • 2 bunches Chinese greens, to serve

Put your rice on first as this will take half an hour to cook. Aim to get the rest done and cooked in that time…..or turn your rice off.
Throw rice ingredients into a heavy passed pot with a lid. You could chuck it into the oven on 180C for half and hour, or you can get it to the boil on the stove, then turn it right down and pop it on a diffuser if you need to….Do not stir. Just ignore it for half an hour, or until liquid is evaporated. Turn of an leave to sit, especially if it looks gluggy. Sitting will be good for it.

Throw all of your pork ingredients into a bowl and give it a good mix with your hands. Remove your wedding rings first cos getting this out of the grooves is not cool.
Using tablespoon sized portions, roll into balls and give them a little pat to flatten.
I cooked mine on the BBQ but you could pan fry or grill. Whatever floats your boat.

Steam your greens giving them a nice drizzle with oyster sauce, or soy, plus some sesame oil and maybe a squeeze of lemon.

Serve it all together and throw some of those tasty little fried onions that you get from the Asian supermarket. I bloody love those crunchy, little morsels.

Take a little walk down memory lane with me….I loved hunting these photos down. That’s the arse about hard drives. Pictures aren’t as present as they used to be.

Food for Big People, Snacks and other goodies

Because Chocolate is a Health Food, I Give You Triple Chocolate Semifreddo….. Get Healthy.

August 6, 2012

I just sat down to do some photos and stuff and stuff from my trip and then discovered that some bozo left their photo cable on their mother’s dining table…….doh.
Never fear though, sweet readers, as I made a delight a few weeks ago and took pictures. I promise I’ll get back to some down home family meals in a minute…..

We all know that eating chocolate is good for us, right? ‘Tis not just wishful thinking, it’s actually true.
Dark chocolate is in the same category as a blueberries and green tea in the antioxidant department and is also known to aid cardio-vascular health. I don’t know about you but I can kid myself, no problem, that an entire block of Lindt Intense Orange is practically a run around the block. My three Lindt favourites are the Intense Orange (dark chocolate with dried orange pieces and flaked almonds), Touch of Salt (as the name suggests) and their new Intense Strawberry (pieces of freeze-dried strawberry  – hello, can I kiss the dude that came up with that gem???).
Perhaps I could put on a unitard and bike helmet, eat a block of all three and call myself a triathlete.
(Ha, a triathlon joke. I must tell Mister H, he’ll think I’m positively hilarious. His training is going well though, thanks for asking. Only 12 weeks until the half-iron man. Nut job.)

I think if the Mayans and the Aztecs could see how far we’ve come with the cacao bean they’d have extended their calendar for shizz, or at least added some dedicated chocolate munching days.
From the humble beginnings of what, in hindsight, would have been a fairly ordinary drink (a far cry from Max Brenner’s thick, syrupy and rich death-by-chocolate hot chocolate), we now have all manner of chocolate goodness with which to stave of our PMT and stop us murdering our partners. I have been known, mid-toddler-tanty to walk straight to the cupboard and eat a piece of chocolate. I have to actually stand inside the pantry so he can’t see though as that would no doubt make everything worse because I ain’t sharing with no screaming kid.

(NB if you look closely at this photo you can see the reflection of my flouro track pants. That’s pure art!).

It is proven that eating chocolate releases happy-hormones, and it must be so because today’s recipes made me really, really (two reallys) happy. Then, when Mister H said it was the best ice-cream I’d ever made, I was extra really happy.
I’ve told you a couple of times that ice-cream takes me to my happy place so think about it. Three Chocolate Semifreddo.
Shut. The. Front. Door.
(I still can’t bring myself to drop the F bomb here cos I know my Nana reads it and she doesn’t know I have a filthy truckers vocabulary under my belt)

This is not my recipe, this is courtesy of one of Australia’s finest chefs, Neil Perry. This is in his ‘The Food I Love’ book which I adore. It’s simple food, and he talks about cooking principles too, not just recipes. It’s a really mix and match book which is so indicative of his passion for food.
The fine thing about semifreddo (fancy Italian for half-cold, which is weird because it’s totally frozen, but those Euros are a little odd) is you don’t need an ice-cream machine. Any old iced confectionary lover can make it.

Yield :

6-8 portions. Depends who’s serving!

You will need :

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons castor sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 70g good quality milk chocolate
  • 375ml pure whipping cream
  • 200g good quality white chocolate
  • 60g good quality dark chocolate

Take a rectangular loaf dish measuring about 20 x 10 x 7 cm and line the inside of it with a few layers of plastic wrap allowing some excess to hang over the edges. This will give you something to help you to get it out once it’s frozen.

Whisk the egg yolks in a medium stainless steel bowl with half of the sugar and the salt. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

Fill a saucepan one-third full of water and bring to a simmer. In a heavy based saucepan, heat your milk to just below boiling over a medium high heat but do not let it boil. Whisk the milk slowly into the egg yolks and sugar mixture. Set the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl fits snugly as you don’t want it to touch the water. The bowl mustn’t be too deep or the water level too high (I had to piss about with bowls here cos I got it all kinds of wrong. May I suggest you test the bowl to saucepan ratio before you begin?). Cook the mixture for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the bowl (you don’t want scrambled eggs forming) until it has thickened slightly.
Stir in vanilla extract.
Neil strains his through  sieve at this point but I just transfer into a bowl and stick it straight into the fridge and refrigerate until cold.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over hot water. Melt over low heat. Whisk until smooth. Slowly mix one-third of your custard base into the chocolate and allow to cool.
In a small bowl whip 125 ml of the cream with 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar until soft peaks form. Fold the cream into the chocolate mixture and pour into your prepared loaf tin. Place in freezer.

Prepare your white and dark chocolate mousses in the same way and put them into the fridge. When your milk chocolate layer is firm to touch spread on your white chocolate and stick it back in the freezer, waiting a further 50 mins or so until that layer is firm to touch before adding your third and final layer of chocolatey goodness.
Freeze for at least 4 hours until hard.
To serve, unmold the semifreddo and remove plastic wrap. Slice and eat. You’ll note that I was a little eager to layer up as my layers are not super distinct. Patience, Grasshopper.

So worth the effort……so worth the effort. (two times)

Food for Big People, Uncategorized

Winter To Do List, Numero Uno – Tagine in the Tagine

June 8, 2012

Of all of my travels, I really loved Morocco. It wasn’t my all time favourite, by any means but it certainly filled me with a wonderful sense of adventure. Maybe it was for the amazing scenery that I didn’t expect. I thought it would be arid, but it was lush and mountainous. Maybe it was the food, which was a feast for the senses at every meal….or maybe it was for the crazy ass misadventures I had with my best friend who was as clueless as I was about traveling in a country where every second person is out to rip you off, or sell you for camels. We were 21 and 22 respectively, and thought we knew everything. Man, we were dumb. We got into some very near scrapes in a place where you need to have your wits about you…..but jeez, we’ve laughed at our torrid tales since, and I wouldn’t change a single moment.

I’ve seriously had this beautiful, glossy red tagine for years. It was a gift from a dear friend who knows I’ve got a penchant for all things edible and she was a little shocked to hear recently that I’ve never actually used it…..well, I have, I’ve served in it regularly, but as I already said, I was terrified my tagine wouldn’t withstand the heat and would break and then my kitchen would be minus one beautiful red tagine. Kind of silly really.
So, I decided I was going to run the gauntlet and give it a crack. I was going to truly let my tagine let it’s Moroccan flag fly and live as it was meant to. It held up well. I think it may have deepened a little in colour but maybe it’s my imagination. If you don’t have a tagine you can either use a lidded casserole dish or a cast iron pot with lid that can go in the oven. Some people brown their meat and spices on the stove top first, before transferring to oven, but I skip that step as I love to cut a corner!

It’s not rocket science to make a tagine, it’s really just a stew with a different twist, but using the tagine was a bit of an experiment. I can proudly say that I can cross this one off my winter to do list, and hold my head high with the sweet smell of success. It’s delicious……like, really.

You could use lamb shoulder already cut off the bone if you wanted, but I bought a tasty little leg and boned it myself. I served this tagine with cous cous studded with pistachios and herbs, and a simple salad of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red capsicum, fetta, mint and coriander dressed with lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, a little sweet paprika, sesame seeds and sumac. The secret to perfect cous cous that many people don’t realise is that you need to steam it for 20 minutes after you’ve rehydrated it with boiling water. It makes your cous cous much fluffier and lighter. Add your nuts et al at the end.

Here we go….let us tagine.

Yield : 2 adults and 2 toddler portions

You will need :

  • 700g lamb, chopped into 2 inch cubes
  • 1 brown onion, cut into chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • a big handful of fat green olives
  • 1 preserved lemon (if you don’t have it you can use the zest of your lemon)
  • 1 lemon for squeezing over tagine at the end
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch Dutch carrots
  • 1 big handful each of parsley and coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (optional, I used it because I have it)
  • a slug of olive oil
  • cous cous and salad to serve

Preheat oven to 160C.
Mix all of your spices, salt and pepper together. Pop your lamb, garlic and onion into a bowl. Scoop then flesh out of your preserved lemon and cut the rind finely (if using normal lemon, finely grate zest). Add to meat. Throw in your spices and mix well to coat. Put a glug of oil in the bottom of your tagine or pot and lay your meat mix on top. Scatter your olives over the meat, and place your cinnamon on top. Add your stock. Meat should be just covered in liquid.

Place lid on and pop into the oven and forget about it for two hours. Take it out and give it a stir, and add your carrots, immersing them in the liquid. It was still very wet so I put it back in without the lid for an hour, stirring occasionally, by which time the meat was falling apart and the sauce was rich and thick. Take out of oven and throw your fresh herbs in and give it a generous squeeze of lemon. Do a final stir and you’re done!
Serve with cous cous and salad.

Food for Big People, Food for Little People, Snacks and other goodies, Snacks and other goodies

Love and Carrot Cupcakes

May 21, 2012

Saying goodbye to my parents was tough, but my sadness was sweetened somewhat by the arrival of one my oldest and dearest buddies, Kirsten. You have heard me bang on about her as she’s my friend who’s handy with a camera. I recommend everyone who’s a megalomaniac has a friend who is a great photographer. I never tire of Kirsten’s photos of myself or my family. Call me vain, and well, you’d be about right. Anyway, she’s not here for long so my sadness will only be put off for a couple of days but I will be left with much photographic evidence of how sweet my kids are and how huge my cleavage is.

Before Kirsten arrived, my little family ventured out for our first social outing as a foursome. We went to a BBQ and en route it began to rain, not a great start to our foray. Plan B was born and we had an indoor not-BBQ at our dear friends’ apartment. There were 4 toddler boys running around and KiKi was a hit with the other mum’s, who were super eager for a newborn hit. We were saying how lucky it is that we have a girl in the clan now so we have a lead singer for the band. I took a batch of cupcakes………..

Carrots are healthy, right? And ginger is awesome for gastrointestinal health and stuff ‘n’stuff……And cake is made from eggs and flour, that is also quite good for you……so by that rationale, Carrot and Ginger Cupcakes are a veritable health food, which means I’m in luck because I really love them. As does everyone whose lips these pass. The original recipe is the Best Ever Carrot Cake recipe from the Cake Mistress, but hers does not have the ginger and is a cake. I love the chewy, sticky ginger pieces, but you can leave them out if the original recipe is more your thang. My icing is also a little different from hers. Same vibe, less sugar (more butter, but who’s counting?).

Yeild : 12 cupcakes or one large cake

You will need :

For cupcakes – 

  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • Pinch Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Bicarb Soda
  • 2 cups Self Raising Flour
  • 2 cups finely grated Carrot (around 3 large carrots)
  • 1/2 cup Walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup crystalised ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Nutmeg

For icing – 

  • 150g Icing sugar
  • 125g Cream Cheese, cold
  • 100g Unsalted Butter, room temp

Heat oven to 180C degrees.
Beat your sugar and oil until thick, then add 1 egg at a time and keep beating for a few more minutes until it’s thick and luscious. Add salt, bicarb soda, carrots, flour, walnuts and spices and stir with a wooden spoon until all nicely combined.
Put batter into cupcake patties in a cupcake tin and pop into oven for 15-20 minutes. If you’re making a cake, line your cake tin and that will probably need to cook for more like 40 mins or until light golden and a skewer comes out clean. Baking time might vary depending on your personal oven.

For frosting beat the icing sugar and butter together with an electric mixer until well mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium high. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy. Garnish with a little sliver of crystallised ginger.

Guess who took these awesome shots of D Man and I? …… kirstencox.com

Dinner, Dinner, Food for Big People, Food for Little People

More for the Peasants – Sausages and French Lentils

May 5, 2012

There were many times during my childhood that we were not entirely cashed up. My Mama was a single mother but regardless of the funds situation she was always very aware of our nutrition and food. I was one of those ‘celery and cream cheese in the lunch box’ kids and although now I see it’s given me the tools to make better food choices as an adult, I was super jealous of the fun packs of Twisties other kids had. No one ever wants to swap celery and cream cheese. Now I give Dexter healthy snacks and lentils…….the apple does not fall far from the tree, it seems!

Lentils featured pretty highly on our family table, and I was always super embarrassed when Mum busted out Lentil Bolognaise for my friends. There are many tales of our school buddies coming for dinner and furrowing their brows at the plate and asking ‘What the hell is that?’. I guess not every family ate stinking lentil Bolognaise.

That said, now I have a very healthy respect for the musical fruit and we eat lentils quite regularly. They’re low fat, low GI and an awesome source protein…..not to mention versatile and tasty. I do not, however, mess with Bolognaise. Some things are sacrosanct. When you’re cooking lentils, don’t salt them until they’re tender and cooked. If you salt too early they turn into hard little bullets, and no one wants to eat bullets!

We love a sausage in my house, and the secret is a fine quality one from a good butcher. If you find a good sausage maker, hang onto them for dear life. The difference between a good sausage and an ordinary sausage is so very vast. I love a pork and fennel sauso with this meal but on this occasion I’ve used a good Italian sausage.

Yeild – 2 adult and 2 toddler serves

You will need – 

  • as many sausages as everyone wants
  • 1 cup Du Puy lentils (or just green or brown if that what you have)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1.5 cups stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 handfuls parsley, chopped
  • a glug of good olive oil
In a heavy based saucepan, heat a little olive oil and cook your onions until they’re translucent. Add your carrot and celery and give it a little sweat. Add your lentils and stir through the vegetables. Add your stock and bay leaves, and enough boiling water to just cover the lentils. Pop a lid on your saucepan and have a cup of tea.
Check the lentils occasionally. The water will absorb, which is good, add a little more if needed – you don’t want it to be soupy though. Cook your sausages, and when your lentils are tender, turn them off, add your parsley and a glug of olive oil. Season to taste and serve it up and speak all night in a French accent.
Left over lentils are great thrown through a salad with fetta and celery hearts the next day if that floats your boat.

Breakfast, Breakfast, Lunch, Lunch

Our Daily Bread – No Knead Sourdough

April 9, 2012

I promise I’m not a bum-licky, over achieving show off. Ok, I don’t promise, but I’m fairly sure I’m not. I do, however, like to make our bread whenever possible. It’s much easier than you think. It takes 5 minutes to throw it together, and then you ignore it for 18 hours, turn it out, ignore for another two hours, then you cook it. So, I guess when you think about it, it takes time, but it certainly doesn’t take much effort once you’ve perfected the art of ignoring. If you think it sounds like a ball ache, maybe save it for the weekend, but it is totally worth it.

I began making our bread because we like really yummy artisan type loaves and I have an objection to paying between $7 and $8 dollars for our daily bread….remember, my husband is Dutch and they have no fear of the carbohydrate! Now that have moved to the burbs, I can barely even find the bread we love. Whenever I go passed a Bourke Street Bakery I must stop in and grab a loaf, even to freeze, just because there is a shortage of great sourdough in the Wilds of the Deep South……ok, perhaps I also pick up a little Pork and Fennel Sausage Roll, and maybe a little Ginger Brûlée tart but who’s counting. Dang, those Bourke Street kids know how to bake though, huh? I bought my dear girlfriend, also an avid gastronome and chef, the recipe book and their bread starter requires some serious farting about. I cannot be arsed with that behaviour. No feeding starter for weeks on end, just a little /14 of a teaspoon of yeast and some cold shoulder.

My Mama first gave me this recipe after is was published in the New York Times back in about 2007. At the time, I was not bothered about making my bread regularly, but it became quite routine for me once I moved in with the Dutchman. These days I’m not as regular as I once was, but I still maintain that it is my boys’ favourite bread, and my fruit loaves are to die for. Modesty is for chumps.

I use these loaves as gifts, or thank you’s, and they are always well received. There is no end to the different ways you can make them. Different flours, different fruit and nuts (cranberry/walnut – hello?), seeds and spices (don’t be shy about experimenting. I’ve had great success with caraway, fennel and nigella seeds).

Here ’tis –

No Knead Sourdough Bread

Yeild – 1 delicious loaf

  • 3 cups flour (all purpose is fine although I like to mix it up with wholemeal, rye and spelt. Remember the more complex the flour, the heavier the bread. I find as long as whatever the combo is at least one cup is plain flour it doesn’t become a brick)
  • Slightly less than 2 cups, slightly luke warm, water
  • 1/4 tsp powdered yeast
  • Two good pinches sea salt
  • Then, I like to add a variety of seeds. Sesame, poppy, linseed, pepitas, sunflower seeds.
  • You can do fruit (then I add cinnamon also- 1/2 tsp), or roast garlic and rosemary……..only limited by your imagination.

Cover loosely with glad wrap and leave somewhere warm for 18 hours. In winter, in the oven (not turned on), near heater….in summer just the counter top is fine.
Then on a well floured surface, turn bread out (it’ll be sticky and stringy. My mama calls it ‘leggy’. Some loaves are leggier than others), fold the sides into the middle and sprinkle with more seed (I like oats too at this point) and flour generously on top before gently and loosely laying the glad wrap back over for two hours.

This next part is very important……

Every loaf needs either a kiss or a pat with kind words put into it. This way the people eating the bread will taste the love.

Pre-heat oven to 230C. Place clay pot, or cast iron pot with lid in oven to heat up (or you can use a loaf tin which you’ll cover with foil when you bake). Pop dough into pot with lid on for half and hour, then take the lid off for half an hour.

Voila!!! Homemade, super dooper, deliciousioso sourdough, made with love!