Everyday Cooking

Friday, September 28, 2007

WTSIM.....Rhubarb and Pineapple Chutney

With the time I've been spending in the kitchen these days, I only need to be barefoot and pregnant to complete the picture of utter domesticity. Cue: little girl L screams and baby A cries simultaneously. There goes the idea of being pregnant again! At least the barefoot bit is not so improbable given that my shoe fetish has been usurped by produce mania. Now when the urge to shop hits, I come home with a basket full of fruit and vegetables instead of a pair or two of high heels. As is always the case with impulse buys, the loot then stares at me from the kitchen table and I'm left to wonder what to do with it.
It is very timely then that I came across the announcement for the latest round of 'Waiter! There's something in my...' event. The theme of savoury preserves gave me an idea before the pineapple and rhubarb in the fridge start feeling dejected.
That handsome hunk of a pineapple was winking at me at the fruit shop ( I swear!) and had to take it home, ignoring the fact that it made the pram basket drag on the floor from it sheer weight. Then some slender batons of rhubarb beckoned from a corner. Of course I had to pick up a few of these pretty little things. Half of the pineapple was eventually cut up and simply enjoyed. Then my sister comes around bearing gifts- a generous supply of vanilla eclairs from the Lindt coffee shop. The rest of the pineapple got banished to the back of the fridge and I knew that a rhubarb pie just won't get a look-in when these evil (and utterly delicious) eclairs are around.
So I made a chutney. A rhubarb and pineapple chutney. The left-over pineapple and few pieces of rhubarb only made a small bottle, which is a shame. This chutney turned out quite good and I can see such versatile uses for it. I've had it with curry, as a dip for pappadums and used it as a glaze for some oven-baked chicken. I believe it will also go well with cold meats in a sandwich, in place of mayo.

Rhubarb and Pineapple Chutney

200g rhubarb, cut into 1cm pieces
200g pineapple, cut into 1cm chunks
1tsp minced garlic
1tsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp black mustard seeds
150g brown sugar
250mL white vinegar
1tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Simmer in low heat, stirring frequently until that baby is thick and gooey, around 1hour. Put into a hot sterilised jar.

Can't wait for the WTSIM round-up by Johanna- thepassionatecook. I'm sure it will turn out a lot of delicious ideas to try next time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

HHDD#15 -, Tea for Two (Candied Lemon and Lime Tarts)

Motherhood, I'm finding, is all about taking in the simple moments and making them really special. Reading books together, singing along to tunes in the car, stopping to pick a flower during our walks-they're all little things that make the days I spend with my two babies precious.
A favourite activity with my little girl these days is to spread out a blanket on the deck and have mock picnics or morning tea. We enjoy pretending to be proper ladies, sipping from tea cups and eating tiny sandwiches or rice crackers. As a treat, we sometimes have proper 'tea' goodies like cupcakes and macaroons. Earlier this week, I made us some special tart-something citrusy to herald the definite arrival of sunshiny days.
This recipe for Candied Lemon and Lime Tarts is Donna Hay's as it appears in marie claire dining. The only change I made was in the size of the tarts. Instead of using 8x10cm tart tins, I made only two in that size. Then I made a large tart in a 20cm tin, to share with friends. The rest went into two muffin holes, producing tarts the perfect size for the little lady's tiny fingers.
For other tart recipes, be sure to watch out for the Hay Hay It's Donna Day#15 Round-up at TriniGourmet. Sarina's elegant Caramelised Onion and Ancovy Tart kicks-off this round of the fun and fabulous event started by the inspiring Barbara. Her blog, winosandfoodies is a treasure trove of information and recipes.
This is my first time submitting an entry to HHDD and I couldn't be more excited.

Candied Lemon and Lime Tarts
(original recipe)

1 quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (also made as per Donna Day's recipe)

2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 c lemon juice
1/3 c lime juice
1 c caster (superfine) sugar
2c cream

2c sugar
1 c water
2 lemons, sliced
3 limes, sliced

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is 3mm thick. Cut pastry to fit eight 10cm deep tart tins. Prick pastry shells with a fork and line each with paper. Fill shells with rice or baking weights and bake in a preheated 200deg C(400deg F) oven for 5 minutes. Remove weights or rice and paper, and return shells to oven for 5 minutes or until pastry is light golden.
To make topping, place sugar and water in a large saucepan over low heat and stir gently until sugar has dissolved. Simmer the sugar syrup for 1 minute. Add lemon and lime slices to the pan in one layer. Cook over very low heat for 20 minutes or until rinds are soft. Do not boil. Place slices on non-stick paper, and allow them to cool and set.
To make filling, combine eggs, lemon and lime juice, sugar and cream. Pour mixture into pastry shells and bake at 160deg C (315deg F) for 10minutes or until filling is beginning to set. Top tarts with slices of candied lemon and lime, and return to the oven. Bake a further 10 minutes or until filling is just set.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Joy of Eating#1

Sometimes I wish that I could go back to the time when I first experienced certain tastes.
Not just the ones I enjoyed but even the ones I didn't quite like at first.
I know that I didn't always like cheese but over the 5 or so years that I lived in Switzerland, I must have eaten my weight in cheese (post baby weight, too!). What changed?
I detested vegetables as a child and now I absolutely love them. Looking back, how I wish I had made a diary of foods I ate and liked for each year of my life.

L at 6 months, not sure about her apple and bilberry puree

When I look at my children, I get so excited for them knowing there's a whole new frontier of taste, texture and colour of food they are yet to experience. I just hope they will be blessed with the same joy I get from eating and cooking with loved ones.

A at 6 months, licking the last of the pumpkin mash

L, at 18 months, enjoys an ice cream cone

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sauteed Chokos with Prawns

They are not the prettiest of vegetables but chokos once helped sustain a generation during the Depression. In the temperate zones of Australia, the plant is evergreen and can produce abundantly for most part of the year. Apparently, chokos became a staple when times were hard and this humble vegetable was served up in various guises. It was also mainly used to bulk up dishes when traditional ingredients were too scarce or expensive. This,perhaps, is partly responsible for it being seen as an 'old-fashioned' vegetable now. Granted, it's not the tastiest of vegetables either but its very subtle flavour makes it more amenable to the influence of herbs and spices. The choko can be used in curries, stir-fries, mash and even pies.
Interestingly, there was a rumour that went around in Sydney (not sure if this was Australia-wide) that the McDonald's apple pie fillings were actually made from chokos! Of course, the company has went on to refute it. It would also have been improbable given that chokos are normally more expensive than Granny Smith apples.
*Hmm, this gives me a little project- use chokos as pie filling and see how it turns out...*

I actually grew up in the Philippines knowing this vegetable as sayote. Alternate names for it include chayote, christophene and mirliton. This is one of the few vegetables I actually liked as a little girl as there was no bitterness in it at all compared to other greens. Belonging to the gourd family, it has a pretty bland taste similar to cucumber or some melons. My Mum would usually put it in nilaga (literally 'boiled' meat with lots of vegetables like onion, potato, cabbage, carrots, etc) or as a substitute for green papaya in tinola (a gingery soup with chicken and pepper leaves). Mum tells me that the shoots and leaves also make for a popular Filipino dish although I don't recall ever having tried it. I first saw a choko plant soon after we moved to Australia where the hardy vine commonly swamp fences and outhouses. My dad and aunts also started growing chokos in their backyards and there's always too big a harvest for the family to eat. Chokos are most abundant from late summer to early autumn but it is not unusual for vines to fruit for most part of the year especially in warmer climates. A single vine can produce bucketloads of vegetable but you'd be lucky to find neighbours who would actually be glad to partake a share of the harvest. Chokos seem out of favour these days, which is a shame. They are high in fibre and low in calories, an important consideration in food ingredients considering current nutritional concerns.

One of the dishes my Mum makes with chokos (and the only dish I know where this vegetable actually takes centre stage) is a simple sautee with garlic, onion and tomatoes. She would throw in some pork in there or sometimes, prawns. I tried recreating this dish with prawns, to coincide with this week's Weekend Herb Blogging. It is such a great event as it always proves to be a forum for discovering unusual ingredients. Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen started this event. You should check out her fabulous blog which highlights fresh, simple and healthy fare. This week's host is Myriam, owner of the creative apron behind Once Upon a Tart-home to decadent and delicious recipes.

Preparing the choko for cooking is easy. Cut the vegetable in half and then into segments. I use a potato peeler to take the skin and seed off. At this stage, I rinse the segments thoroughly as choko sap is quite slimey and tacky. Then cut up into desired size.

To make 2 servings of this dish, you will need:

1 large choko, cut into bite-size pieces
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
1 medium red onion, cut into crescents
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
300g prawns, shelled and de-veined
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper

In a wok or fry pan, heat up the oil. Add the garlic and onion and mix around until the onion is transluscent. Add the tomatoes, stir and then cover for two minutes or until very soft and the juices have turned into a thickish sauce.
Add the chokos and let cook until tender. Toss in the prawns and stir around until they turn pink (probably needs only a minute). Season with salt and a generous amount of pepper.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Whitebait Tempura on Eggplant

Any sensible homemaker will tell you to always have a list when you go out to do your shopping in order to save money, time and avoid unnecessary purchases. Well, I do go to the shops always armed with a list but sticking to it is totally a different matter. Going to the butchers, greengrocers and seafood markets are always a gamble and an adventure. My weekly menus usually go out the window when I see what's on offer. There's always something to tempt, interest, challenge anyone who enjoys cooking.

I was at the seafood shop on the weekend for some prawns when a tray of the cutest, tiniest fish (sorry guys, I guess Nemo beat you at the auditions) caught my eyes. Hmm, it seems almost sick to think of them cute and then have the intention to eat them :-(
Anyhow, I had to forgo the prawns this time in favour of whitebait, which I knew straightaway will be battered crisp and deep-fried. Whitebait refers to the young or fry of various fish species. In Europe (specifically the UK), it refers to young herring while in Australia and New Zealand, it predominantly refers to the young of some species of the Galaxias family. The fish would be on average, around 20-50mm in size and is eaten whole- head, guts and all.
There are strict regulations that apply to whitebait fishing in Australia and NZ to help conservation of native species so that alleviates my guilt a bit for feasting on these cute little creatures.

Whitebait dishes appear on many Australian restaurant menus but I've really only had them deep-fried and served with aioli. I wanted to try them with an Asian slant.

This recipe produced a plateful of fritters, enough for 4 people as a starter.

You will need:

300g whitebait, thoroughly washed and pat-dried
1 large eggplant, cut into 1 cm slices crossways
oil spray
oil for deep frying
a few sprigs of Thai basil

for the batter:
1 1/4 c self-raising flour
1/4 c corn flour
1 1/2 c cold soda water
4 ice cubes

for the sauce:
6 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
1 red chili, sliced thinly
2Tbsp soy sauce
1Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 c water
1tsp cornflour dissolved in 2Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 200deg C. Place eggplants on a lined baking tray and slightly coat with oil spray. Bake eggplant in the oven for around 10mins or until tender then set aside.

To make the batter, mix the flours together in a bowl with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Put the soda water in another bowl with the ice cubes. Tip the flour mix into the soda water in one go. Very lighty mix (I did this with a chopstick) leaving some lumps of flour (I believe this gives extra crunch). Drop the whitebait into the bowl and again, only lightly mix. If the batter is too runny, add a bit more self-raising flour.

Get the oil up to heat for deep-frying. Take spoonfuls of the battered whitebait and drop in the oil. Fry until golden.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by mixing all ingredients in a small sauce pan. Slowly bring to the boil and stir until the sauce is slightly thick.

To arrange the dish, take a piece of baked eggplant and drizzle with sauce. Stack 2 or 3 fritters on top. Garnish with a few leaves of Thai basil and enjoy.
Just don't think of Nemo while you eat;-)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Wild Rice and Broad Bean Salad

Two rice dish posts back to back. This after I made a pact with the husband to go low-carb for a little while to get rid of the love handles that have made our respective midriffs their home over winter. Well, it is Spring and spring being the time for new beginnings is not unlike New Year- sometimes a time for failed resolutions.
To redeem myself somewhat, I try and enjoy my carb quota in the form of healthy(ish), light(ish) salads. This simple salad is defined by two beautiful things- wild rice and broad (fava) beans. I have never prepared a dish using fresh broad beans before. I've always used tinned beans which have always gone in soups. However, Haalo's informative and very well-photographed entry to Weekend Herb Blogging a couple of weeks ago inspired me to make my acquaintance with these underrated gems in a pod. Check out her blog Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once for practical tips on preparing broad beans and her delectable bruschetta recipe.
As for wild rice, I have always loved it. Used in salads, stuffing or just mixed with plain rice as a side dish, it always makes a statement in a subtle way. It has a nuttiness that complements most ingredients without upstaging them, the firm texture it presents is usually a nice surprise. Wild rice (Zizania palustris L) is not technically classified as rice, although it has been used as grain food since prehistoric times. Wild rice is native to North America and has long been a staple for Native Americans not only as a food item but also as a feature in spiritual ceremonies.
No special methods are required to prepare this grain, cook as you would ordinary white rice. In my dishes, I usually use a proportion of 3 parts white rice, 1 part wild rice and then pop the mix in the rice cooker with water equal the total amount of the combined rice. I do like the wild rice quite firm to the bite as it tastes nuttier that way.

To prepare this salad:

3/4 c white rice
1/4 c wild rice
1 c prepared broad beans
rind from 1 orange
1/4c chopped mint

For the dressing:
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp minced garlic
2Tbsp orange juice
2Tbsp Lemon juice
salt and pepper

If using a rice cooker, cook the combined white rice and wild rice in 1 c of water. Alternatively, the combined rice can be cooked pot with 1 c of water. Bring to a rapid boil. Then turn the heat down to low and simmer until all the water has been absorbed. Fluff up the rice with a fork soon after cooking and let cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by mixing together the oil, garlic and juices.

In a bowl, mix the cooked rice, broad beans, mint and orange rind in a bowl. Pour the dressing in, add some salt and pepper and gently toss. Let sit for about an hour to let the flavours infuse.

This is lovely served with barbecued lamb cutlets.

This is my first entry to Weekend Herb Blogging. Being new to blogging, this is one of the first events I discovered which seem to always have a fabulous line-up. Founded by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen , the weekly offering is always informative and full of delicious dishes. I hope my contribution is up to scratch :-) Check out the rest of the dishes at Monday's round-up in Katerina's Daily Unadventures in Cooking.

Monday, September 10, 2007

'Cheat's' Saffron Risotto with Chorizo

Yep, it's still cold out there. The calendar says September but the body can't be fooled. It IS craving carbs. Risotto for me is an instinctive choice when hit with such a craving. It can be such a young-family-friendly dish (our little girl LOVES rice), which is always a plus. More often than not, though, I am put off by the ladling and stirring involved as espoused by classic recipes. Don't get me wrong. I am all for the slow lovemaking and caressing of ingredients to produce quality and great tasting fare. These days though, multi-tasking rules my life and cooking for sheer pleasure simply can not come first when my kids are around.

The idea to cook risotto using the absorption method then came up out of necessity. I have been cooking rice with this method ever since I was 8 years old, no fancy rice steamers for this one until recently. So I thought why not try it with risotto. Hmm, I could almost hear the collective gasp of horror. Risotto? No stirring? Oh dear...
To be honest though, my plebeian palate could not detect any difference in this risotto's consistency compared to any other I've had in my life- nothing in terms of creaminess. The rice grains were separate and al-dente. It was good. But as I said- plebeian palate. So what do I know?If you'd like to try it yourself anyway, here's how I did it.

3Tbsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic, sliced thinly
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp saffron, soaked in 1Tbsp hot water
1 1/2c arborio rice
4 c chicken stock
25g butter, chopped into cubes
1/2 c grated parmesan
1 c baby spinach leaves
freshly cracked black pepper

300g chorizo, sliced on the diagonal

*i did not use wine in this recipe*

Heat olive oil in a pot and cook the garlic and onion. Fry until translucent then add the saffron (with the water).
Add the rice and stir until grains are well-coated in oil. Pour in the stock and cook on high until it reaches a rapid boil. Stir to make sure that the rice is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.Turn the heat to low and cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar to let the steam out. Leave to simmer until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed

Meanwhile, fry the chorizos until browned and keep warm while waiting for the risotto to cook.

Back to the risotto...Turn the heat off after around 15minutes. There will still be a thin film of stock. This is ok as it will get absorbed upon stirring. Add the butter and cheese and stir until both have melted. Then add the spinach leaves and stir until just wilted.

Top with the chorizos and sprinkle with black pepper.

I like to serve this with a wedge of lemon. The juice helps to cut through the richness and spiciness of the chorizo.

There you go...
In the 15 minutes that the risotto was cooking, I was able to play another game of 'Snap' with L and sing a couple of nursery rhymes with baby A. That's priceless.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Hearty Lentil and Sausage Soup with Pesto

I've been had. Got sucked right in along with most Sydneysiders. By the weather, that is. A whole week of blissfully blue skies, mid 20deg C temperatures. Of course I've already put away the thick doona, potted up some blooms, even took the bubs to the beach and stocked up on salad greens. Then brrrrr- the miserably cold and grey days are back.

I should really know by now. Every year it happens. Spring is such a tease, always full of promise but likes to take its time getting here. Not much I can do about the grey so I might as well embrace it. Very well then- the salad menus go back on file and out come the old, tried and tested soup recipes. Yes, they have to be old. Adventurous as I am with food, I like to rely on the familiar when eating for warmth and comfort. You see, I expect a lot from my soups. It may not be fair but I do. My soups not only have to warm but they also have to fill, heal, energise and satisfy. This concoction is one of the hardest-working and ever dependable soups I know.

Lentil soups seem very popular in many cultures. Moroccan harira, Indian dahl and the sausage and lentil combo is apparently 'very Dutch'. My version does not use any herbs while cooking but I like to add a dollop of pesto upon serving.

You will need:

2Tbsp olive oil
100g bacon, chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
1/2 c cooked chipolata, cut ito small cubes (any sausage of your choice will do, even cubed ham can be used. i just happened to have had left-over chipolatas from the previous night's dinner)
1/2 c chopped fennel bulb
1/2 chopped carrots
400g tin chopped plum tomatoes
1c green lentils (the sort I used did not require pre-soaking, check the label on packaging)
4c bacon stock
freshly cracked black pepper

basil pesto

Heat up the oil in a saucepan and add the bacon. When the bacon is brown and has rendered fat, add the garlic and onion. Stir around until the onion is transluscent. Add the sausage, fennel and carrots and let cook for a couple of minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, cover and leave for two minutes. Add the lentils and bacon stock. Let it simmer on medium heat until the lentil is soft (but not too mushy), around 20mins. Season with black pepper.

Ladle into bowls and top with a teaspoon of basil pesto.
Serves 4.

I am submitting this for the Second Annual Super Soup Challenge hosted by Tami. The photography/food styling in her blog Running with Tweezers are some of the most visually stunning, lip-licking food images I've seen. 'Food Porn' at its best ;-)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Cinnamon-Spiced Beef Phyllo Rolls

Flicking thru a finger-food recipe book the other day (still dreaming that we can go back to hosting regular cocktail/drinks parties once again-maybe when the kids move out in 20years!), I came across a scrumptious sounding recipe for phyllo pastry pillows filled with beef and dried figs. This presented a mini-mission: adapt the recipe for tonight's dinner.

Ok, that means something filling enough to have with just a bowl of salad for hubby and myself, and healthy and interesting enough for little girl L. As usual, the vegetable components started off as ingredients for baby A's dinner-grated zucchini and sweet potato that I was going to boil and puree.

I also wanted to keep the sweet/savoury combo that was in the original recipe so I used some pitted dates, which I already had in the cupboard, instead of the dried figs.

The result was quite delicious and we found the rolls very more-ish. I can see how the mini versions would be great with drinks. L absolutely loved them and I was pleased that she got her quota of vegies in, albeit with a bit of cheating and disguising.
This recipe makes around 12 x 5-inch rolls.

3Tbsp olive oil
500g lean beef mince
1 clove garlic, minced
1tsp ginger, minced
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2c chopped dates
1/2c grated zucchini
1/2c grated sweet potato
Salt and pepper

8 phyllo pastry sheets
cooking oil spray

To make the filling, heat the oil in a pan and add garlic, ginger,onion and cinnamon.
Stir around until the onion becomes transluscent. Add the beef and continue cooking until browned. Stir in the dates, zucchini and sweet potato. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook for a further 2 minutes.
Allow the filling to cool completely before wrapping.

When ready to wrap, preheat the oven to 200deg C and line trays withs baking paper.

Take 2 sheets of phyllo pastry. Spray one with cooking oil spray, top with the second sheet and spray again with oil. Cut crossways into 3 even strips.

Take one strip and place 2Tbsp of the beef mixture along the bottom of one narrow edge. Roll the end of the pastry over the filling until covered. Fold in the long sides to enclose the beef mixture and continue rolling until your reach the end of the strip.
Repeat the process with the rest of the filling.

Place the rolls on the lined trays and spray lightly with oil. Bake in the oven until golden (around 15 minutes).

Changes I will try next time:
*Add pistachio nuts and chopped mint in the filling.
*Serve with a yogurt dip

Monday, September 3, 2007

Father's Day Breakfast

I reckon Dads get the short end of the stick when it comes to being properly acknowledged and celebrated with a special day in their honour. For all the hoo-hah, overpriced flowers and elaborate lunches that come with Mothers Day, Father's Day seems to come and go with hardly any fanfare.

So I wanted to fuss a little bit over our favourite man on Father's Day to say thank you (on behalf of L and A) for making bath time so much fun, for having the patience to play the same game over and over (even when Top Gear is on) and for giving the best cuddles ever. I decided to make him Greek tomato fritters for breakfast as a change from our usual toast or bowl of cereal eaten at the break of dawn when our kids get up. Hubby loved the domatokeftedes we were served daily for breakfast during our honeymoon in Santorini. The tasty tomatoes grown on the volcanic soils of the island made these fritters really special.
My version uses Roma tomatoes.

1 1/2c finely chopped Roma tomatoes
1/4 c finely chopped red onion
1 c self-raising flour
2 eggs
1/2c milk
1tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1Tbsp chopped mint
1tsp dried thyme
olive oil for frying

Beat the eggs into the milk. Add the sifted flour, salt and sugar and mix well. The batter will be quite stiff. Add the tomatoes, onion, herbs and then season with pepper.
Let the mixture stand for an hour.

Pour around 2Tbsp of olive oil into a non-stick pan on medium heat. Ladle some of the batter into the pan . Cook for around 2 minutes or until the underside is brown. Turn the fritter over and cook on the other side. This makes around 4 pancake size fritters.

I served these topped with some baby rocket and crumbled feta cheese.