Monday, October 31, 2005

A Good Jewish Lunch (not)

I heard somewhere that Nigella is Jewish, a fact I was reminded of as I stared into the huge pile of bacon and scallops I made for lunch today.

This then reminded me of this one time, when I had a really random encounter with a guy at a book shop. I went into the store to sell some textbooks, and gave the guy behind the counter my books and my details. He then looked me up and down and said "Sarah, huh? That's a Good Jewish name!" Er... ok? Do I look Jewish to you? My Jewish friends thought the story was hilarious.

And also, once I went to a Bed & Breakfast with my mate Al - he's Jewish but not Kosher, and occasionally eats bacon. For breakfast, he had some bacon and a glass of milk. "Aah...", he proclaimed proudly before digging in, "A Good Jewish Breakfast". Haha!

167. Scallops and Bacon (One & Two)
168. Roast-Sugar Sprinkled Peaches (Fast Food)

Today's lunch was based totally on the availability of ingredients at Box Hill market. I'd wanted to do red mullet, but there was no mullet... why is it that seafood that I see all the frikkin time suddenly disappears just when I want to cook with it? Grrr! Scallops and bacon, however, seem to be perenially available, thank goodness. But on a happier note, peaches are starting to appear back in the shops! They're still too sour to be eaten plain, so this was a perfect opportunity to try them cooked.

The peaches are halved, stoned and baked with butter and sugar (I used vanilla sugar). I think I ended up going a bit OTT on the butter, but it still tasted fine in the end.

Not yet roast peaches

I increased the quantities of scallops and bacon for three of us. They are simple to make - fry the bacon, then remove to a plate. Then in the same pan, fry floured scallops with some butter.

Floured Scallops - I chucked scallops and flour into a plastic bag, shook it up, and then shook off the excess flour in a sieve.

Then fry the corals for a very short while, and deglaze the pan with sherry.

Scallops and Bacon - lots of

Scallops and Bacon - one plate.

I had mine just with salad, but my parents chose to have bread with theirs. Either way, it is a very tasty meal! Thumbs up!

Roast Peaches

Peaches and Ice-cream

The peaches were nice as well. The soft texture is wonderful, and they were heaps sour, so the addition of sugar was welcome. But like I said before, I could have done with a lot less butter. Vanilla ice-cream from a tub is fabulous (just ordinary Peters in a 4L tub) - all melting and pristinely white and aerated and stabilised and xanthan gummed, I love it. As you will have noticed, I have recently been eating a lot of it.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Apple and Walnut Crumble

Sunday afternoon... very tired... I should be studying... the pantry is getting low again, everyone but me is out of the house and I can't drive... I have a busy week ahead and not much time to plough through the recipes... what can I make for dinner??

166. Apple and Walnut Crumble (One & Two)

Nigella says that this can be eaten as supper in its entirety for two people. Mum and I were the only ones at home tonight, and she said she was up for it, so why not? And after Wednesday night's orgasmic translucent apple tart, I was very excited at the prospect of another warm apple dessert.

Crumble topping, according to Nigella, is "pastry really, but without the fear factor". Now, even though I'm not scared of pastry, (risotti and custards, on the other hand, still give me nightmares), I was happy to find a reasurringly easy recipe.

To make the topping, rub butter into flour, add brown sugar and chopped walnuts, then stash in the deep freeze until baking time.

Crumble topping, pre-mixing

The filling is sliced apples, cooked with marsala-soaked sultanas and more sugar.


Crumble, pre-oven

Ok, so while the delicious smelling crumble was in the oven, I had a bit of a panic attack. As delicious and life-affirming as it may have been to have a just a pudding for dinner, (and thus, very Nigella-like), I realised that I just wouldn't be able to handle it. A nice little treat is one thing - wallowing self-indulgently in pure carby comfort is another. So I whipped up a more sensible and conventional small meal to eat prior to the crumble - Nigella's mushroom udon soup (Low Fat), which I can now make without a recipe! The udon soup takes about 15 minutes in total and is even easier to eat.

Mushroom Udon Soup - with added lettuce because we had it in the fridge. Goddamn I love udon. SLURP.

Well, after the noodles, we obviously couldn't eat the whole crumble - but we gave it a good go. We got about two thirds of the way through.

Baked Crumble

I do have to note here that this is a 24cm pie dish, and I have previously made crumble in it which was enough to feed 5 people. But, this crumble was very shallow, so I think the quantities Nigella specifies would be fine for 2 people as a meal, or 4 people as dessert.

Crumble with Vanilla Ice-cream - perhaps the most food-porn of my photos, don't you think?

What a wonderful crumble. The marsala-soaked sultanas and walnuts are a welcome addition to an already lovely dessert. The way I made it, (shallow dish, small apples) the crumble-to-filling ratio was quite high, just the way I like it. A touch of cinnamon in the crumble topping would have been nice too. Next time, next time...

Sunday Lunch

At about 3pm today, I started getting quite hungry and wanted lunch. I knew that there was sauce leftover from last night's Shepherd's Spaghetti, and was hoping to find some cooked rice in the fridge to go with. No such luck though, and I was forced to come up with my own carb. Would I bother to cook my own rice? Perhaps boil some pasta? And then, I remembered, in a bit of a eureka moment, the delicious children's couscous which I made for my lunch last week.

This time I only used peas (grating a carrot just seemed like too much effort), and 50 grams of couscous, with a quarter of a chicken stock cube and 100ml water.

CousCous and lamb - rather like Morocco, Lean Cuisine style

It looks nice all separated, but tastes far better all mooshed up and squidgily ferried in clumps from bowl to mouth. Very satisfying.

Shepherd's Spaghetti

The Shepherd's Pie recipe rocks. I used it as a spaghetti sauce last night, and it was wonderful.

I came home from work last night at 7pm , with no plans to cook, to discover my mother and brother hanging about at home, with no dinner on the table and no idea as to how to get it there. I really think I'm spoiling them with all this cooking. But not to worry, as long as I don't have to do the dishes, I don't give a shit.

I opened the fridge, and came across this huge chunk of lamb from Wednesday night's dinner...

Leftover lamb

I'd eaten some of it before , just microwaved... but after three nights in the fridge, it was no longer able to be eaten straight up. It was time for Shepherd's Pie.

I've made both of Nigella's shepherd's pie recipes before - she has one which you make from cooked meat, and one which you make from raw minced meat. I made them both with beef, and incorrectly still called them "Shepherd's Pie", when they should have been called "Cottage Pie", just because I think "Shepherd's Pie" sounds better. I also thought that I wouldn't have the time or opportunity to try the recipe with different meats so there'd be no point in being accurate with the naming. Silly Sarah! This is a Nigella book. Of course you're gonna end up with heaps of leftover cold roast meats in the fridge. Tsk tsk.

But being the anal-retentive that I am, I now sincerely regret the incorrect nomenclature. This is coming from the girl who pronounces Italian pasta dishes in the correct way at restaurants (spaghetti bo-lo-nies-eh, not "bolonaise"); says "foccace" instead of "focaccias"; who corrects bad grammar on memos from managers ("their" instead of "there" really gets my goat); and who stubbornly said all of the titles of the foreign films we showed at my last cinema in their original language, despite continued baffled looks from our patrons.

I probably won't be able to sleep tonight.

Anyway, back to the food. I whizzed up the vegetables (carrots, onion, garlic and parsley) very finely in a processor, and cooked them until soft in a pan, before mincing up the meat in the same processor and chucking that in the pan. Then, as per the recipe, I added semolina, tinned tomatoes and some milk. As it was simmering slowly, I took a quick shower, came back to the kitchen, cooked some pasta, and dinner was ready. I followed Nigella's tip (from the Lemon Linguine in Weekend Lunch) of getting the pasta water to the boil and then turning off the heat slightly in advance - i.e. before I took my shower. That way, when I came out the water took hardly any time to come to the boil again and dinner could be on the table faster!

Shepherd's Spaghetti

Served with grated pecorino, chilli oil and chilli flakes, this was the perfect reward for a tiring day.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Too tired to think of a title...

I had work from 8am-5pm, for a corporate function. I got up at 6am!! 6am!! And my work involved long periods of standing around listening to shite-boring presentations, then frenzied food running, coffee-making, dishwashing, and opening beers for increasingly drunk businessmen. Without a bloody break!

Then I met some friends to play pool, and MISSED my bus home so spent half an hour sitting on a bench in the city waiting for the next one.

I am soo bloody tired now.

I came home, raided my fridge and gratefully inhaled some leftover lamb, cold ratatouille and a piece of re-hearted apple pie and vanilla ice-cream.


Time to sleep...

"Girl with a reputation?" - Part 2

Well, the very next day after Markii asked me how to make a gravy, I got a text message from my friend Frances, who is currently in Madrid.

cherie!wats a fail safe recipe4gravy? im goin2buy myself a hunk of meat&roast it! ;) Pat is goin2stay n madrid4 8 wks-shud b fun! gud luck w exam prep!

And she hadn't even read about Markii's asking me for gravy-advice. It was a sheer coincidence! So anyway, I messaged her back with a different gravy recipe (I had recommended Markii to make a red wine jus). I gave her the onion gravy that comes with the first roast beef in the Sunday Lunch section of the Weekend Lunch chapter. I haven't made it yet, but I'm planning on doing it shortly...

But did she like the gravy??

Check out the comment she left on the first "Girl with a reputation" post...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I love warm apple pie…

*Long Post Warning*... if you can't be arsed reading, then enjoy this lovely picture of tonight's apple pie!

For what seemed like the first time in a long time, not only did I have a night off work, but I also had no pressing assignments, and thus actually had the time to make a full menu for dinner.

With this evening off in mind, I chose the LATE-SUMMER LUNCH FOR 6, from the Weekend Lunch chapter, a few days ago. My decision was based on the fact that lamb is best in Spring, and that the ingredients were easily obtainable, so I could get my mum go out and buy them all. Also, it looked possible to cook all at once in the evening after uni… and the weather was right for it.

Nigella says this menu is “at its best” eaten with in late Summer, “the air still warm, the wind beginning to bluster limply”. It’s mid-Spring right now, but the weather is still only sporadically Spring-like – it is getting warmer, but there’s a cool wind about, and each day this week seems to be made up of ten minute patches alternating between sun and drizzle.

161. Roast shoulder of lamb (Weekend Lunch)
162. Ratatouille (Cooking in Advance)
163. Green salad with green beans (Weekend Lunch)
164. Sweet Pastry (Basics etc.)
165. Translucent apple tart (Weekend Lunch)

Needless to say, for the past couple of days, I’ve been quite excited at the prospect of cooking a full meal, and thoughts of how to organize the preparation of the whole meal have been occupying my mind.

For instance, today in our Agricultural Economics tutorial, we had a class debate, where we had to get into groups and represent the interests of a certain region (the US, the EU, the G10 countries etc) and then debate the technicalities of economic reform in the agricultural sector. I gave an impassioned (pre-prepared) speech, and spent the rest of the debate concentrating and dutifully writing “notes”. Here’s what I actually wrote…

I pretty much followed that list for making dinner.

Hunk of Meat - a lovely boned lamb shoulder.

Sweet Pastry - made in a KitchenAid. The sweet pastry is a bit harder to work with than the shortcrust, but it tastes so much better! It's softer, more delicate, and more cakey. I had to add extra flour because the mixture was a bit soggy, but luckily it came to no harm. And thence it went into the fridge whilst I continued with the cooking.

Ratatouille - it is a variety of chopped up vegetables, cooked in olive oil, with ground coriander and fresh parsley. It takes a while to chop and prepare all the vegetables, but once you get everything in the pan, you don't really have to worry about it. Just stir it every now and then to stop it from sticking. It took about an hour to cook in total, and is best at a lukewarm temperature.

Hunk of marinated meat - garlic, rosemary and olive oil.

Whilst the meat was cooking, I made the salad, which is a mixture of lettuces and blanched green beans, with a simple dressing.

Hunk of cooked meat

When the meat was resting, I made the pie filling and then put it into the oven.

Filled pie - melted sugar and butter, an egg, and two grated granny smiths. (I believe Bramleys are peculiar to England, because I've never seen one here!).


With regards to the lamb, Nigella says to cook it for "30 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes" but I didn't see the "plus 20 minutes" part and it came out undercooked and raw in the centre. We were starving by this stage, so we cut off the more cooked end pieces, and shoved the unrolled meat back into the oven, underneath the pie.

The lamb marinade is great, however! Properly cooked and charred on the outside, the lamb would have been perfect. The ratatouille's awesome - I love eggplants, and when cooked in olive oil the flavour is amazing. We also loved the salad; the blanched green beans add another, unexpected, texture.

Whilst the pie was cooling, we ate the delicious pastry offcuts. Mmm...

And finally, it was time for pie.

Slice of Pie

The pie was fantastic, amazing, gorgeous!! The buttery and biscuit-like pastry perfectly complemented the apple filling, which was both fresh-tasting (because of the grated apple) and warmly comforting. With a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, it was heaven!

Dad: Oh my god, this is amazing... this is great... this is really good... this is amazing...
Mum: What, are you about to ejaculate or something?

Trust me, my mum's response sounds much less crude in Hokkien. But I still pissed myself laughing.

This was a truly wonderful menu!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Quick lunch

Here's what I had for lunch today.

Recently I've been looking through How to Eat for quick storecupboard recipes to make when I have time to cook, but not to shop. But now, in my 5th month of the project, I've found that they've become thin on the ground. (I've pretty much done all the ones in Low Fat and One & Two)... But then I remembered the kids' chapter!! The first half of that chapter is devoted to things you can make quickly, with simple ingredients, to satisfy a hungry and whiny child - in this case, me!

160. Children's Couscous

To make this, you cook a grated carrot (an organic Dutch carrot, leftover from the bunch I bought for my bunny salad) in some stock, then sprinkle in couscous and let it sit for 10 minutes. I added a handful of baby peas (as per Nigella's suggestion) to the carrots, and added a bit of olive oil at the end. And for your information, I used 200ml water and 100g couscous, which turned out perfect.


When I started eating it, I noticed it was a bit bland, so I added soy sauce and a lot of tabasco. Also, I found a half-empty tin of Sirena Italian tuna in oil in the fridge (the only canned tuna I like), which itself is very flavoursome, so I added it to my couscous. Fantastic stuff.

Last night, when I came home starving after being at a nightclub, I was totally craving carby saltiness, but there were no leftovers. In my desperation, I microwaved a Lean Cuisine Beef Lasagne to eat - it took 12 minutes to cook, and tasted like crap. Never again. Especially when I can make something like this couscous with only marginally more fuss than the Lean Cuisine, and with infinitely better payoff.

Girl with a reputation?

I think I'm getting a bit of a reputation as a good cook, which is aided, in no small part, by my constant blabbering about food, recipes, what I'm cooking, what I'm eating, what I'm thinking I'll cook... That's right, the food obsession is not just limited to the on-line arena. And it's definitely escalated since I've started the Sarah Discovers How to Eat project - what with having to plan, to cook, to photograph and then write about food practically every day.

When I was younger, I used to be really coy about my interest in food, and wouldn't talk about it much to my friends. I guess I thought that people might find it lame and uncool to have such a weird pastime. But as I've grown older, I've become more confident and no longer feel the need to be apologising for myself. Lots of kids my age don't even know how to cook. Hmph.

By way of example, yesterday as I was coming home from work, I got a call from my friend Mark, (who CAN cook), with a food-related question. I met him about two months ago and he is a really, really lovely person.

Markii & Sarah

Sarah: Hello!
Mark: Hi!
Sarah: What's up?
Mark: So, if I were making a roast, how do I make gravy?

I think I said something like, "deglaze the roasting tray with wine, don't use cornflour, because cornflour thickened sauces aren't fabulous". Then about 5 minutes after we hung up, I messaged him with proper instructions -

Forgot to say, put 1 halved peeled onion, unpeeled garlic cloves and tomato slices to the pan when cooking. Use stock and wine when making gravy for more liquid.

Aah... I felt so grown up and authoratative.

Sarah & Markii

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Who loves bunnies?

I don’t mean to put you off your own dinner (or maybe I do), but thanks to some dodgy newspaper articles about a man in Sydney who loved rabbits a little too much, the theme of “rabbits” has become a bit of a running joke amongst my friends and I.

So my mates were pissing themselves laughing when I told them what I was planning for dinner.

158. Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGregor’s Salad (One & Two)
159. Pea Soup (Fast Food)

I bought the rabbit yesterday at Prahran Market (it's not available in supermarkets), and marinated the pieces this morning, in a mixture of yogurt, oil, vinegar, thyme and mustard. I cooked them in the evening when I came home from work. You have to brown them in a pan, and then cook them in a 200C oven for 25 minutes.

The salad is mixed lettuce, radish and baby carrots and the warm rabbit portions, tossed through an emulsified dressing of vinegar, oil and mustard.

Emulsified Dressing

While the rabbit was in the oven, I washed and sliced the vegetables, made the dressing, and made a pea soup.

The pea soup is simple as anything – 450g frozen peas in 500ml stock, simmered until tender and then blended.

Soup in blender

Pea Soup – served with pecorino cheese (we’re out of parmesan) and olive oil

Peter Rabbit in Mr MacGregor's Garden

As we were eating the pea soup, we were convinced that I’d made it before. I was pretty sure that I hadn’t, as it wasn’t crossed off on my list… but I couldn’t shake the feeling that we’d already eaten it. So after dinner I had a flip through my blog, and I indeed, have made a pea soup before, but not this pea soup. The previous soup I’d made was a Nigella-suggestion, not a recipe, of leftover mushy peas thinned out with stock to make a soup.

The salad was fabulous; I loved the way the flavour of the marinade really soaked into the rabbit. And with all the vegetables in the meal, we felt super-healthy and virtuous. I loved the salad so much that I would definitely make it again soon, and repeatedly, but perhaps with chicken instead of rabbit. It's not that I didn’t like the rabbit, (like I said, I loved it... a lot), but it’s just a lot of bother to go out and score it all the time.

Who loves bunnies? I love bunnies!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cena in Bianco

You’ll all be ecstatic to hear that I finished my marketing assignment today, and handed it in, giving me the afternoon and evening free to do whatever I wanted. So, I went to Prahran Market with the parentals, and finally got some clams, with the aim of making Nigella's linguine alle vongole. (And the clams I got were actually labelled "vongole", so I knew I was getting the right stuff... none of this "pippies" bullshit).

I made the white tiramisu last night whilst cooking the chicken and morels, as it has to sit in the fridge overnight. The white tiramisu, preceeded by the linguine alle vongole (served white, or in bianco, as Nigella insists) came together to form our dinner, our cena in bianco.

156. Linguine alle Vongole (One & Two)
157. White Tiramisu (Cooking in Advance)

The white tiramisu serves 4-6, so I halved the quantities (as per usual) for us. It goes in layers - savoiardi biscuits soaked in milk and Bacardi, then a mixture of mascarpone, sugar, egg yolks and whisked egg whites, some crushed meringues, more soaked biscuits, and finally more mascarpone mixture. Nigella says to save a third of the cream, only spreading it over when serving, along with some meringue coins. However, with my halved amounts, it was difficult enough to get two layers of cream (even in a small dish). So into the fridge it went last night, fully assembled except for the meringue coins.

Whilst the tiramisu is prepared in advance, the linguine has to be prepared at the last minute. The cooking process of the clams is pretty much the same as the moules marinière, except without onions, with some dried chilli peppers and, obviously, cooked pasta.

The recipe serves one, and Nigella suggests 150 grams of linguine - that's crazy talk, I tell you!! 100 grams of pasta per person is plenty (I know this from extensive experience of making Nigella pasta dishes). So I just doubled the recipe for myself and my parents. (My brother's at work, so he misses out on the pasta, the poor sod).

I love pot!

Big bowl of vongole

Bowl of linguine - take note of the Living Kitchen salt pig in the background

I really don't need to describe the linguine - just know that everything Nigella writes about it is absolutely true, and that you must make it as soon as possible.

- How to Eat, One & Two, p. 137
- Forever Summer, First Course, p. 44
- Feast, Ultimate Feasts, p. 346

And here is my, terribly clumsily "decorated" white tiramisu. The recipe says to use 2cm meringue coins - and I was using these big 10cm meringue nests from a packet. (Leftovers from the Quickly-scaled Mont Blanc.) I probably could have broken them up finer, thus making them look less like a 2-year old's art project, but meh, we wanted to eat it straight away.

White Tiramisu - Are we totally loving the 1970's bowl?

Halfway through - I'd say it's more yellow than white, but whatever.

One serving.

Oh wow!! This tiramisu is amazing!! It's so easy, and serious dinner party material. (But only if decorated less stupidly). We loved it, and it was a genuine struggle saving a portion for my brother. Ordinarily, my parents are very self-sacrificing, saying things like "oh no, you kids go ahead", but tonight, I had to forcibly remove the tiramisu from the table to prevent my parents from eating it all and leaving none for my brother.

On an aside, my cousin Ricky’s specialty is spaghetti alle vongole. I've never tried his version, (he lives in Malaysia), but I've heard good things, especially from my niece and nephew, Darren & Cheryl. I remember once, Dad gave Darren and Cheryl's mum a phone call when Ricky happened to be making his spaghetti alle vongole for them...

ring ring...
Darren: Hello!
Dad: Hello, is this Darren?
Darren: Hello koo kong! (Koo kong = Grand-uncle in Hokkien)
Dad: How are you? What are you doing?
Darren: Uncle Ricky's cooking!
Dad: Ooh, is he cooking spaghetti vongole?
Darren: No, spaghetti clam!

Dad, his nephew Ricky, and his nephew Darren - Together in Kuala Lumpur last year

Darren! Awww....

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Smashing Mushrooms

Tonight, mum and I were home alone for dinner together, so it was time to pull something storecupboard, yet special, out of the One & Two chapter. Actually, I'm quite in the mood for luxury - I'm in the midst of writing a marketing assignment on Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), which is the world's largest luxury products group. They control such fabulous brands as Louis Vuitton, TAG Heuer, Fendi, Cloudy Bay, Emilio Pucci, Kenzo, Chateau d'Yquem, Veuve Cliquot, Marc Jacobs and so on. So whilst I'm only dreaming about products that are most certainly out of my reach (unless I become maitresse to the CEO, that Bernard Arnault guy... don't laugh, it could happen!), at least my dinner had a touch of luxury to it.

155. Chicken with Morels (One & Two)

This is the ingredient that makes it luxurious - the morels. I got them a couple of months ago, at the post-apocalyptic price of $18.60 for 15 grams, at The Essential Ingredient.

Here they are, aren't they cute in their little plastic container? (By the way, I'm not a total unco, I took the photo in focus, but the blogger photo upload program resizes pictures, thus fuzzing this one up. But it's ok, you get the gist of it). Yeah, so the container is cute, until you try to open the bugger - it was tight as anything! I tried teatowels, rubber gloves, and hot water to try and open it, but it was staying firmly shut.

So in frustration, I just turned it over and (gently, yet passionately) whacked it with a pestle.

Smashed open

I then very, very carefully picked out all the bits of plastic, and put the morels in a jug, as per the recipe.

Morels in a jug - they look like slugs, huh?

You have to soak these in hot water for about thirty minutes before using them. In the meantime, the recipe instructs you to brown the skin of the chicken thigh pieces, and leave them aside on a plate. Then you cook onion and garlic in the same pot, and add the drained morels, chicken pieces, Marsala and the morel soaking liquid, to which you add 1/3 mushroom stock cube. Let it simmer until cooked, remove the chicken, and boil down the sauce to a suitable consistency. Then, add a spoon of mascarpone (more luxury, see), stir it in. Serve the chicken with the sauce and morels poured over, and sprinkled with parsley. We had it with rice, and wedges of iceberg lettuce (Nigella says to eat it with "a pale, crisp and astringent green salad").

Chicken with Morels

Chicken with Morels, Salad, Rice

We absolutely loved it. My mum adores mushrooms, and I adore marsala (what self-respecting Nigella-fan doesn't?). I'd never had morels before, but I thought they were very nice - not as strongly flavoured as porcini or shiitake, but with their own delicious, mushroom flavour, and a soft but non-sluglike texture. The dish as a whole was quite rich, but the plain steamed rice and salad counterbalance this. The chicken thighs were quite big, so we managed to save one for my dad to try as well.

But of course, as much as she loved them, I didn't actually tell Mum how much the mushrooms cost. I didn't want to ruin her dinner. Don't forget, she's the one who couldn't bring herself to spend $8.50 for six passionfruit. I guess this means I should also give up hope of her buying me a bottle of Veuve Cliquot for our next dinner party...

So I bought a new cookbook today...

Because of the way bus timetables, uni timetables, and work rosters are all set up, I seem to have a lot of time to spend wondering around Borders. There's one near uni, and there's one in the same shopping centre as my cinema. I usually have, like, twenty minutes between classes finishing and buses arriving each day. And obviously, in that time, I head straight for the cookbooks. I've now developed a huge list of books I want to buy...

1. Nigel Slater's Appetite (actually, all his books, I love his writing so much)
2. All the Magnolia Bakery cookbooks
3. All of Anthony Bourdain's ones
4. Bill Granger's Sydney Food
5. PIE (I don't remember who this one's by, but it's devoted soley to pie recipes, and it's thicker even than How to Eat... sounds like heaven)

Today, I indulged, and using a 20% off voucher I had, I bought Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, which I've had my eye on for aaages. I opened it up on the bus home, started reading the introduction, and couldn't put it down! It's soooo awesome, Anthony has a really engaging, passionate style - it's immensely readable. And that's before you get to the recipes! Ooh, the recipes!

It's all big, hearty, French, bistro-style food. And after having made lots of fantastic, big hearty stew-type recipes from How to Eat, I am sooo ready to be tucking into these meaty dishes. I'm inspired... I want to devote my weekends to making up huge pots of demi-glace, preparing duck confit, making fatty-as-all-hell rillettes to share with my family around a big wooden table. And despite the horrible four months that was my-life-as-a-cook-in-a-restaurant-kitchen, I'm almost inspired to get all angry and anal-retentive during cooking, shouting out shit like "Hold your knife properly, you useless screwhead!". (But I don't think my mum would like that).

But obviously I can't... dreams of turning my kitchen into an idyllic reconstruction of French peasantry are all on hold, whilst I continue to work my way through (the still much-loved) How to Eat. I barely have enough time to keep up with all the recipes in this book, let alone do new ones.

I don't know what it is, but I seem to be afflicted with the condition of obsessing over what I can't have. This must explain my fixation with other cookbooks...

...and why I keep buying food magazines, and collecting other recipes...

...why I get really obsessed with reading How to be a Domestic Goddess when I'm on a low-carb diet...

...why I constantly browse through shops whose clothes I can't afford, like Miss Sixty, Pierucci and so on...

...and why I always hang out with gay boys.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"I love a really fruitful mopping-up exercise" (Lawson, p. 150)

After last night's dinner, not content with having finished a tub of cream and a packet of burghal, I decided to make turkey stuffing, thereby using up the tin of chestnut purée from Sunday night's Quickly-Scaled Mont Blanc, and my panko breadcrumbs from a dinner party in April. It might seem ridiculously early to be making things for Christmas, but I've already started seeing Christmas puddings and mince pies in the shops...

154. Lidgate's Chestnut Stuffing (Basics etc.)

This recipe is not a Nigella-creation, but rather comes from her butcher, Lidgate's in London. To start off, you cook shallots with bacon and butter, and add it to a mixture of tinned chestnut purée, eggs, breadcrumbs, whole vacuum-packed chestnuts, parsley and nutmeg. I used panko breadcrumbs, but didn't have enough to make up 200g, so I added... er... toast (Wonder White Bread, in the pink plastic packet), which I de-crusted, toasted and ripped up myself.

It makes a thick, sturdy mixture, for which a KitchenAid is the best option.

It made enough to fill a plastic container which previously held 1 kilo of muesli...

I snuck a little taste. It's good stuff. Now it's in the freezer, just waiting for Christmas and one very lucky turkey.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Lamb with Garlicky Tahina, Passionfruit Fool

152. Lamb with Garlicky Tahina
153. Passionfruit Fool

Tonight's dinner came by way of Nigella's Fast Food chapter, and was chosen, mainly, because it enabled me to use up the half-tub of cream in my fridge from Quickly-Scaled Mont Blanc. It sounds strange, but I find it immensely satisfying to finish off half-empty cartons of food before they have a chance to go mouldy and die on me.

I got the lamb from Rendinas butchery, after uni today, and asked my mother to go to the supermarket to get the rest of the stuff. To tell you the truth, I was considering a short-term boycott of Rendinas following their selling my dad mince instead of topside last week. However, in my agricultural economics lecture today, we learnt about the outbreaks of BSE (aka Mad Cow Disease) in Europe, the UK, Canada and so on... Which sent me running back to Rendinas, who have organic, biodynamic meat, and who get their beef from people who grow them in proper pastures, feeding them normal things and not MINCED UP BITS OF GODDAMNED BEEF! How fucked up is that?!

But, in all fairness, I have no idea if the meat farmers who supply Australian supermarkets engage in this feral practice... I should probably look into it. At any rate, I am a huge fan of the lamb from Rendinas, and prefer it, taste-wise, to supermarket lamb. (FYI, Coles lamb chops are particularly disgusting).

So, the lamb. Nigella says to use noisettes. I don't know what that means, but I've seen her make this on the first series of Nigella Bites, so I figure she means individual slices from a rack of lamb. I tried making these once before, after seeing her make it on the show, last year sometime, but they sucked... I think the main problem was that I used bloody Coles lamb chops, which were stringy and smelly and just generally feral. Yurgh.

Tonight, no such problem occured, thankfully.

Burghul, Lamb, Plate of spinach, Garlicky Tahina

The lamb is marinated in oil, onion, lemon zest and cumin, then seared on either side and baked for 10 minutes. The sauce is tahini (sesame paste), mixed with garlic, salt, lemon juice and water to form a runny paste. Nigella suggests serving it with "a plate of lemony spinach" and some burghal. Ooh, I just remembered that I finished off a half-full packet of burghal for tonight's dinner. Score!!

I've read a few negative reports on the forum about the tahini sauce - that it's too gluggy, too sticky, too rich. You're all crazy, I say!! We loved it, absolutely loved it. But we eat heaps of tahini regularly, so we knew what to expect. We have it on toast all the time, and my mother, in particular, is enamoured with its nutty, oily taste, and the liam liam (Hokkien for "sticky") way it sticks to the roof of your mouth. She puts it on absolutely everything.

The sauce is particularly fantastic in the way it brings all the elements of the meal together, deliciously.

One plate

The quantities specified for dessert are intended to feed 4 people. The recipe is originally from Stephen Saunders' Shorts (sic) Cuts, and he uses the same amount of fool to feed 6, but Nigella says that it's so good there's no point downsizing. I halved the quantities for 3 of us, and they did make quite meagre servings.

It has to be put together at the last minute (or so Nigella says), but it's nothing to stress over. Simply whip some cream, and fold in icing sugar, Cointreau, lemon juice and passionfruit pulp. I have to admit to using tinned passionfruit, because fresh passionfruit were extortionately expensive ($1.25 each!), and we needed six. It still tasted fab though, and we could easily have eaten more. So it's probably a good thing that I only made a small amount, seeing as I'm trying to restrict calories right now.

Passionfruit fool - served with savoiardi biscuits

We loved it! This dinner was wonderful - all the flavours and textures matched really well, and was it satisfying, but not bloating. It's a very good menu, and easy to put together. Highly recommended!