Thursday, September 29, 2005
Make the basic pancakes from HTE and squeeze some on - delicious! much like our loverboy Gael, seen here at the Cannes film festival this year.
How could I say no? So I reprised the pancakes from Basics etc. for breakfast this morning, incidentally with a cup of Fortnum and Mason's Breakfast Roast coffee, also sent to me by DG not too long ago.
Unfortunately, the tube seemed to have split in transit - but the majority of paste was, thankfully, still in the tube, and not all over Gael's beautiful face.
Mmm... delicious! And the pancakes were pretty good too.
Monday, September 26, 2005
I didn't really think this one through, did I? She's in Europe and I'm in Australia, so I guess I'll just have to eat them for her.
135. The Biscuits
These biscuits are the ones Nigella says (or said) she always bakes for her children's birthday parties. Interestingly, these are different from the birthday biscuits that appear in How to be a Domestic Goddess and reappear in Nigella Bites and Feast... who knows why? Maybe she replaced these ones with a superior version and just never looked back. I'll let you know which version I prefer once I get around to making the other one. (Next year, next year...)
You can make these biscuits by hand, in a KitchenAid or in a processor - I used the processor. Basically you just dump all the ingredients in the processor and whizz them up. The dough has a lovely rich smell thanks to the addition of cinnamon, light muscovado sugar and golden syrup. For rolling out purposes, the dough is very sticky - Nigella says that this is so you can keep rolling and cutting out and re-rolling without the dough going dry and tough.
The recipe says it will make approximately 60 biscuits, depending on shape and size of the cutters. For your information, I used the Living Kitchen cookie cutters, and got 88 biscuits in total...
4 x big hearts
13 x little hearts
2 x big circles
4 x little circles
6 x big stars
2 x little stars
2 x "2"
6 x "A"
2 x "B"
3 x "C"
4 x "D"
3 x "E"
1 x "F"
1 x "G"
4 x "H"
3 x "I"
1 x "J"
1 x "K"
1 x "L"
1 x "M"
1 x "N"
4 x "O"
2 x "P"
4 x "R"
3 x "S"
3 x "T"
1 x "U"
1 x "V"
1 x "W"
2 x "X"
2 x "Y"
It was a bit of a nightmare cutting out all the little letters from the sticky dough, but I persevered, and it got easier as I went on. It probably would have been easier to start with the larger shapes and then progress to the little letters as the dough got stiffer with more flouring and rolling, but I had to start with the letters to make sure I didn't run out of dough to write all the words I wanted to.
I made the biscuits whilst cooking last night's shepherds pie, and decorated them after dinner. I didn't decorate them all, however, because as adults, we prefer our biscuits unadorned with feral coloured icing. They were pretty though...
Happy Birthday DG!!
Sarah Discovers HTE
And then I spent a good hour making out funny words with my letters...
And finally, we sat down and ate them...
Plate of cookies
Plate of cookies
These cookies are fab! I love the cinnamon aroma, and they have a melting buttery texture! In fact, I might go and grab another one right now...
Nigella has two shepherd’s/cottage pie recipes in the Feeding Babies and Small Children chapter – one made, traditionally, with leftover cooked meat, and one made with raw mince.
Tonight I made the one with raw meat (minced beef). I doubled the amount of filling, and kept the same amount of potato (600grams) – and it was enough to fit in my oval Le Crueset dish, with a small bowl of meat leftover to have with rice or pasta tomorrow.
The filling pretty much your standard mince-and-tomato combo – onions, carrots, garlic and celery chopped up finely and cooked in oil, then mushrooms and meat added. Once it’s lost its raw pinkness, you add flour, apple juice, tinned tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce. Nigella suggests apple juice or Marsala – I would have rather used the alcohol, but I bought a bottle of cheap-ass P&N apple juice when I made marinated chicken drumsticks, and I want to get through it without actually having to drink it. It does smell revolting though; I can’t believe I used to drink it when I was a child.
So anyway, you let the meat mixture simmer until cooked and thickened, pour it into a dish, cover with mashed potato and grill until browned on top. This amount served four of us perfectly.
Dad: Sarah, you’re good at cooking. Not only does it taste good, but it looks good too!
Shepherd's Pie on the plate
This was a good pie. Honestly, I think that some of Nigella’s other stewed minced-meat recipes are better, but this was still a tasty and satisfying meal. And very, very easy to make.
Normally I would have made peas to go with, but I was feeling seriously apathetic today, and had just baked a huge batch of biscuits (new post to follow…).
Friday, September 23, 2005
I made the mousse yesterday night whilst making the butternut and pasta soup. I'm not really crazy for chocolate mousse in general - I must admit I only made this because we had milk chocolate, because it's easy, because I wanted to procrastinate, and because I wanted to get my recipe count up.
This is the only dessert in the children's chapter - Nigella says "we don't go in for them". But, she says she sometimes makes this mousse when "friends and their children come round for lunch and what I'm providing for the adults is too bitter, too rich, too alcoholic or otherwise unappealing for the children".
It's very easy to make, which would be a bonus if you needed to whip this up in addition to a complicated lunch/dinner party menu. You do have to let it chill for 6-hours or overnight though, so you need to start in advance.
To start, melt 100gm milk chocolate with 1tbs golden syrup and 1.5 tbs water in a bowl suspended over a pan simmering water. Nigella says to use Valrhona chocolate - yeah right! I just used a block of Lindt milk chocolate, my favourite milk chocolate, and not totally exorbitantly priced. Once melted and moussed-up, I suspect that children wouldn't be able to tell the difference - and most adults too, actually.
Once it's smooth and melted, it will look like this...
Then mix in 2 egg yolks, one at a time. Whisk up 2 egg whites until stiff, then slowly fold them into the chocolate mixture. Pour into serving dishes and chill overnight. I found that this amount, which Nigella says "makes enough for 4 small children", filled 3 champagne glasses.
By the way - we don't normally drink P&N juice, I just bought it to make marinated chicken drumsticks. And I don't eat Flora margarine - my parents and brother have it on their toast. For me, it's real butter, or nothing. (Usually nothing).
Today, when I finally finished my (God-awful) Japanese essay, I was suddenly, exuberantly, filled with the baking spirit and decided to make some biscuits to go with the mousse.
133. Langues de Chat
This is the first recipe I've done that actually used up some of my many frozen egg whites. Wahoo! The only problem was defrosting the little buggers. I was in a hurry, so rather than waiting for them to thaw naturally, I chucked them in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water. After 5 minutes or so, there were still frozen lumps in there, but little threads of opaque white started to appear around the edges. At this point I whipped them off the heat and stirred like crazy until it was all smooth and defrosted. Crisis averted.
To make these little biscuits you cream butter and sugar, then add the unbeaten egg whites, vanilla extract and flour. Then pipe them into small strips. I did most of the piping in the lounge room, on my mum's table, because my dad was stir-frying noodles, and I didn't want the smell to be absorbed into my delicate little biscuits.
Now, Nigella says "they spread enormously", but they don't really spread that much. I was being very cautious and piped them very small to begin with...
And after their 8 minutes baking, they turned out small! Brown and wizened and otherwise pathetic looking. See in the picture below - the first batch is on the left and subsequent, normal-looking batches on the right. I photographed them next to my How to Eat to give you an indication of their small size. I'm not the world's greatest piper either, hence their irregular shapes.
Children's Chocolate Mousse with nice-looking Langues de Chat
My parents and I shared one mousse this afternoon sitting outside on our deck. The mousse had a wonderfully milky chocolate taste to it, but a strange texture. I know this is indelicate of me to say, but it had a snot-like texture. As in, it was stringly gloopy and would slide off the spoon with a "plomp" sound.
I thought it was a bit sweet, but my mum thought it was perfect. My dad liked it too.
But actually, with regards to the biscuits, the small brown langues de chat were much, much nicer than the normal-sized ones. They were delightfully crunchy and buttery. As they say, it's not the size of the cookie that counts, it's the way it crumbles...
Thursday, September 22, 2005
131. Butternut and Pasta Soup (One & Two)
I made earlier today, at the same time as making the children's chocolate mousse that I wrote about in my last post. Simple, and not too time-consuming.
To make - cook onion in oil, add chopped pumpkin, then wine, stock and bayleaf. Cook for ten minutes. Add soup pasta (I used macaroni again), and simmer until cooked. Nigella says to serve it with parmesan. I'm out of parmesan, and used pecorino instead. Also I added chilli oil when eating. Great combo.
Soup - 1 bowl
Soup and toast - the bread you can see is Phillipa's Olive Toscano and Corn Bread. They're bloody awesome!
The soup's ace. It's cold outside, and this is hearty and warming.
You see, as usual, after pouring the mixture into serving glasses, I licked the mixing bowl clean. The mixture in question was milk chocolate, water, golden syrup and beaten (raw) eggs. The eggs were fresh, free-range and everything... but I guess you can never be too careful.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Meatballs in tomato sauce
Beef and beans with pasta
But not only do I love the recipes, I also love the whole feel of the chapter – geared toward low-fuss, low-key, high-satisfaction meals. It’s tasty stuff you can make simply – not for special occasions; just good everyday cooking.
I don’t know how much help my cooking of this chapter will help any readers – seeing as I don’t have any kids, I won’t be able to confirm whether real children actually do like this food. And I’m sure as hell not planning on having some shipped in to cook for. (Or worse, to cook with). I suppose this is the place to admit that I’m not crazy about kids in general. I just don’t have the patience. I mean, I love the children in my own family (cousins, nieces, nephews, close family friends etc.), but I’m not desperate to have my own anytime soon. I think this is a result of two years working in cinemas – dealing with hundreds of screaming kids left there by their parents with a fifty-dollar-note, pepped up on sugar and candy, running around and messing things up. Yurgh.
Now, having said that, let me say this. I absolutely adore my niece and nephew, Cheryl and Darren, and I'd cook for them any day of the week. (Actually, Cheryl herself is turning into a fab little cook... she makes a mean zebra biscuit). They have big appetites and sophisticated palates - sashimi, abalone, steak, green tea ice-cream, that sort of thing. Just look at them, how could I not love them?
Cheryl and Darren in my garden last year - just look at his cheeky little grin!!
Unfortunately for me, however, they live in Malaysia. This is such a shame, because I know they absolutely loooove macaroni!
129. Marinated Chicken Drumsticks
130. Macaroni Cheese
Nigella suggests a few marinades for chicken drumsticks, which she says she sometimes makes when other children are coming to tea. This must be a popular idea, because I remember always eating chicken drumsticks and wings at endless family dinner parties. She suggests a few marinades - of which I chose two, the one she says she does the most routinely, and one which I tried out of pure curiousity.
1. The normal one - 100ml apple juice, 100ml natural yoghurt, 1 tbs honey, 1 tbs soy, 1 clove garlic
2. The feral-sounding one - creamed coconut, pineapple juice, peanut butter, soy, brown sugar
I made them up last night, marinating four drumsticks in each marinade. Surprisingly, the "feral-sounding one" smelled the most inviting, wheras the "normal one" honestly smelled like vomit.
The macaroni cheese is, intentionally, a simple dish. I used expensive cheese, but only because that was what I had lying in the fridge. I used UK cheddah bought at the Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder which I had served with gingerbread, and gruyère cheese from last night's pea soufflé.
It's cooked macaroni, stirred through a cheesy white sauce (I seem to have been doing a lot of white sauces recently), sprinkled with chese and breadcrumbs and grilled.
Mmm - ready to put in baking dish.
Dinner - I served the macaroni and chicken with peas.
Marinated Chicken Drumsticks - the "normal" ones on the left, and the "feral-sounding" ones on the right. The normal ones looks better, but the feral-sounding ones taste better.
Macaroni Cheese - I found that the cheese so well-flavoured that I didn't need to add any salt or spices. If you happen to use a crap cheese, (and next time, I probably would), then do as Nigella says and add mustard powder or cayenne. I doubled the quantity of macaroni cheese for us four and it was exactly the right quantity.
This was a gorgeously, comforting dinner. After a long day at work, I can think of nothing better than descending onto a plate like this.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Right now we're on a two-week break from classes - time which I should be spending writing my 1100-character Japanese essay, due this Friday, or perhaps my 2000 word essay in Agricultural Economics, due next week. So, as you might have expected me to do, today I got up at 11:30, watched some TV and just generally lazed around for a bit. And how crap - my brother ate my lunch! He ate my bloody lunch. I'd planned to eat our leftover rigatoni-with-random-sauce-from-a-bottle from last night's dinner, but my brother had beaten me too it. GRRRR. Anyway, I microwaved some frozen beef braised in beer, and cooked basmati rice for my own lunch. And Daniel and I both decided that he owes me a meal.
Well, after that "ordeal" I was obviously in no state to study, so I went with my dad to Box Hill to buy some ingredients, went to the gym, then came home, and cooked. And still no progress on either essay was made... oh well...
127. Tomato and Rice Soup (Fast Food)
128. Pea Soufflé (One & Two)
Now, the pea soufflé is "intended to be supper in its entirety" for two people, so for three of us, I didn't boost quantities, but served prosciutto alongside, and added a first course of soup.
The soufflé is a bit fiddly to make, in that there are a few stages. Firstly, cook some peas in butter and puree them with gruyère cheese. Then, make a white sauce. Then, whip up some eggwhites. Combine the white sauce, egg yolks and pea puree, before folding in the egg whites and baking them in a dish which has been greased and dusted with grated cheese.
Peas + White Sauce
I chose to do them in individual ramekins - simply because I don't own a "dish of about 600ml capacity", and to make it easier to serve. In fact, I don't seem to own a lot of these dishes that Nigella keeps using for this type of food - 600ml soufflé dishes, 1 litre china bowls and so on. Hmm... I dunno if I should bother investing in some, because I quite like the dinky individual ramekin thing.
So, while the soufflés were soufflé-ing, I made the soup. This one, from Fast Food is just a bottle of tomato sauce with a handful of basmati rice thrown in. I wasn't exactly sure what type of "tomato sauce" Nigella meant, because in Australia and in Malaysia, "tomato sauce" can mean tomato ketchup, it can mean that stuff that's used on pizzas, in pasta, or any number of things. I ended up using a bottle of cheap-ass, low rent "Dolmio Tomato Onion and Basil Chunky Bolognese Style Sauce". And it was fantastic.
And after 26 minutes of cooking - out came my puffy little Teenange-Mutant-Ninja-Turtle-green soufflés!
My mum actually bothered to tip hers out and wrapped prosciutto around it...
She still loves that restauranty presentation!
But my dad and I just dug straight in...
This soufflé rocks. I love the fresh taste of peas, and the gruyère cheese tastes and smells divine. The proscuitto is a perfect accompaniment, but if you choose to forgo the piggy accompaniment (and up to about a month ago, I would have), then you'll need more salt.
I'm not sure about you, but from the way it tastes and smells, I think of this dish more as rustic home cooking than fancy restaurant food. Think grandmère in the French countryside rather than Phillipe Mouchel.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
126. Steak au Poivre
I haven’t done heaps of recipes from One & Two (a.k.a. the masturbation chapter – read the introduction). This is mainly due to the fact that most of the recipes in there are surprisingly long and involved – which I know is the point; in the introduction Nigella writes about how you shouldn’t reserve special food only for company. However, when I’m eating alone, I usually haven’t had the time or inclination to plan for a complicated meal, and haven’t, for instance, marinated some quails, de-bearded a bunch of clams or soaked some beans. Thus I’ve sort of let this chapter fall by the wayside. I think perhaps I should start planning and doing advance preparation for special meals-for-one.
But today, I had the wherewithal for a lovely recipe from this chapter – I had one well-wrapped biodynamic and organic scotch fillet steak in the freezer (a remnant from my so-called Low Fat August), and decided to treat myself to something fancy.
This steak is like the piscine au poivre , but pointedly not low fat. I figure it's ok though, as it's low carb. And unlike chicken breasts, the steak didn't take long to defrost at all. You brush the steak on both sides with olive oil, and then press crushed black pepper (crushed in a mortar and pestle) on the sides, before frying in oil and a bit of butter.
Steak in pan
Once the steak's cooked, you deglaze the pan with brandy. As is suggested in the recipe, I substituted marsala for the alcohol. The only brandy we had at home was my dad's XO, and I wanted to go deluxe, not Posh&Becks style wasteful extravagance. Then you add salt, and a bit of cream. Nigella says the cream isn't strictly necessary, but we had a half-full tub sitting in the fridge, so why not?
I served it with some stirfried shredded cabbage (cooked whilst the steak was frying).
This is one "dee-licious" way to cook a steak. The crust had a sweet and smoky taste to it, thanks to the marsala, which I loved, and the crunchy crust was a fantastic contrast for the meat within.
Steak au poivre...
It was quite greasy however, and immediately after I needed to eat an orange to cut through all the butter. (That's why they give you orange slices in Chinese restaurants).
By the way, this is exactly the kind of dish my brother would love. I made a point of showing it to my brother before I wolfed it down, secretly thinking, "Enjoy your noodles, sucker." Obviously, I didn't share any. Muahaha.
Friday, September 16, 2005
I had a long, tiring day at work - it was absolutely dead. No customers. At all. It was excruciating. After work, I came home and made dinner.
125. Tarragon French Roast Chicken (Weekend Lunch)
Some of you may remember that I attempted to make this chicken last month, for a dinner for my friends, but was foiled by the total unavailability of tarragon. I did end up making the entire menu (leeks, rice, lemon pie), including the chicken, but without tarragon. However, earlier this week I found some tarragon in Safeway, and immediately bought it.
I decided to serve the chicken with silverbeet, as my mum's friend had given her a bunch from her garden, which was sitting on the bench. And instead of rice or potatoes, I used this Brazillian wheat thing called Farofa Pronta, which DG (aka domesticgoddess) kindly sent to me a little while ago, and which I was super-excited about using.
I'd never made silverbeet before, so treated it like spinach and stirfried the silverbeet and added olive oil, sumac and dried chilli. And for the farofa, you just have to turn it in some sizzling buter in a pan and heat it through. Too easy.
Tarragon French Roast Chicken
Farofa in front, deglazed pan juices in little bowl, silverbeet in background
Ok, so the verdict. The chicken was fine. Great, in fact. Juicy, crunchy, flavoursome, just what you'd expect from a Nigella roast chicken. But the silverbeet was FERAL. Remember how I said we don't like beetroot? Especially the feral beet greens? Well, silverbeet is evidently related to beetroot - and it has the same feral taste. The farofa is really cool too, but it was totally different to what I expected - I was expecting a comforting bland blanket of carb to offset the chicken, but it had a really strong flavour to it, which I think clashed with the chicken.
So in total it wasn't a satisfying meal - bad vegetable, and a clash between the meat and carb.
Waah. I'm almost embarassed to admit this, but I just didn't feel right after dinner. Many girls have their self-esteem tied to their appearance, their weight, their career, or their lovelife. After this dinner, I realised that my self-esteem is directly tied to the quality of what I produce in the kitchen. How terribly Bree Vandercamp! Shh...
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I ate quite healthily during the day - fruit salad for breakfast, roast beef focaccia for lunch, a diet coke, a couple of coffees, some fruit. I fell asleep after coming home from uni and (gasp!) left the cooking to mum. She made an ace chicken curry, which we ate with spinach and rice.
Dad: Hey Sarah, did you want me to drive you to the gym?
Me: Nah, it's ok, I'm too tired.
Dad: Ok then.
Me: suddenly remembering the tarte in the freezer and the custard in the fridge... Actually, YES!!! Let's go!
So I changed, went to the gym, and spent 45 minutes on the X-trainer, aided by some fab choooons on Channel [V]. (It was a hip-hop countdown, yay!) Then I came home, had a shower, and it was time for a tarte...
Carton with leftover tarte slices
Individually foil wrapped slices for easier defrosting
I microwaved three (unwrapped) slices at once, for my parents and myself. On high power, it took four minutes, and I swapped around the slices halfway through because they weren't defrosting evenly.
My slice with a cup of tea and some custard.
Actually, I lie... here's how I really ate it...
Bring on the custard!
I emailed him a couple of days ago...
Subject: Wine tasting and Fish Pie
Hi Uncle Mike,
Dad tells me that you and my parents are going to a wine tasting on Tuesday.
Unfortunately I can't attend (university, you see), but if you're free, would you like to come over for dinner afterwards? I was thinking of making a fish pie and possibly a crumble.
He replied the next day…
Yes, I would love to partake.
Helen says that like you she will not be going to the wine tasting
But wonders if she is asked to the fish pie and crumble tasting?
Sweet, Aunty Helen wanted to come over for my pie too. She must have liked my steak and kidney pie when she ate it.
123. Blakean Fish Pie (Dinner)
124. Rhubarb Crumble with custard, damn straight (Basics etc.)
Look at this menu, all about reverting to Uncle Mike’s English childhood. I certainly didn’t have one!
I was excited about making this fish pie, because I tasted fish pie (Nigella’s Fish and Porcini) for the first time in June, and absolutely loved it.
“Blakean” because of its yellow interior (it’s a literary reference, apparently), the pie has three elements – seafood, a white sauce tinted yellow with saffron, and a mashed potato topping. Nigella says to use salmon, prawns, cod and haddock. I used salmon, prawns, flake and dory (all from the supermarket). I figured that once they were drowned in white sauce and covered with potato, it really wouldn’t matter what fish you used.
To begin, I made the crumble topping and stashed it in the freezer. Then I started the fish pie - boiling the potatoes for the topping. Whilst they were cooking, I poached the fish in Noilly Prat, carrot, water and a bouquet garni, then made a white sauce using flour, butter and the drained poaching liquid mixed with cream. I used random proportions of double cream, single cream and water to get up to the required 450ml mark. And I finally got to break open my packet of Italian 00 flour, (a.k.a. farina tipo “00”).
And on a random note, I remember seeing a commis chef at my old work making a white sauce once. She sucked balls, it was all lumpy and feral. To make conversation, I asked her what she was making, and she very patronizingly explained to me that it was “called a roux” to make a “white sauce, do you know what is a white sauce?”. HRMPH. As if I didn’t know! She was a qualified chef, and her white sauce looked like vomit. I know she had a million things to make at once, and in very little time, but a professional chef really should be able to handle pressure. (You may think me a bitch, but do we remember how crap my old job was??)
Anyway, here’s my smooth white sauce. I made it, relaxed, in the peace and quiet of my own kitchen, away from screaming chefs.
Add a generous pinch of saffron powder ($14.70 for 2 grams) and it becomes…
Blakean sauce - How sunnily cheerful!
After doing this I mashed up the now-cooked potatoes and made the custard to go with dessert.
I had started cooking, leisurely, in the afternoon, with the expectation that my dad would call me when the wine tasting finished. This way I’d have enough time to whack the pie in the oven, and have it ready when they arrived home. Well, at seven o’clock, on the dot, with no prior warning, three wine-soused adults rocked up to my house whilst I still had all my pie parts sitting in random pots around the kitchen. ARGH! I’d almost had enough time to recover when Aunty Helen arrived too. (Breathe Sarah, breathe!)
So, as I rapidly put the seafood, the sauce and the potatoes in the dish, and chucked the pie in the oven. I then gave them a bottle of chardonnay, and poured myself a glass as well. Luckily, no-one was rushed or super-hungry, so it was all good.
And 34 minutes later…
After pulling out the fish pie, I chucked the crumble in. (The fruit had been cut up last night.)
Rhubarb – with light muscovado and vanilla sugars, and orange zest
Ok, so with the crumble in the oven, we could relax and get back to my fish pie…
Peas and a generous serve of fish pie. Nothing better. (Except if you add ketchup - heaven!)
Like the fish and porcini pie, this one is fab too. It’s not strongly flavoured, (I would have preferred a fishier taste, actually) so be prepared to add quite a bit of salt.
Aunty Helen: Your mashed potato looks wonderful. What's the secret, lots of butter?
And a little bit after dinner was finished, the crumble was ready.
Served with my custard (yeah baby, yeah), it was fabulous. Cold custard + hot crumble = dessert heaven. I love making custard now. I don't even need the recipe any more!
The crumble tasted great - the rhubarb was fruitily fragrant, and the crumble topping was light and crumbly (duh). The only problem was that some of the thicker rhubarb pieces weren't cooked fully!! How annoying! Like the recipe says to do, I'd cut the rhubarb into 5cm pieces, but I should have cut them lengthways as well. Ah well... we just avoided all the hard pieces when scooping it out and took all the good and mushy ones.
Uncle Mike's – the man obviously loves custard
Uncle Mike (that's Aunty Helen's shoulder in the background)
Even though it's Spring, the weather was freezing today, like 16 degrees, so this menu was very appropriate.
Oh God, this post took me sooo much longer than I expected. Well, there’s a warning for you kiddies, don’t drink and blog.