Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Babyfied Comfort Food

***Don't forget to post any questions you may have for me regarding the project here***

I found myself at home today, with not that much to do. At midday, the Nigella! program was screening on the Lifestyle Food channel. (Yes, that is Nigella! with an exclamation mark, which refers to her chat show). She had that Anthony Warrol Thompson dude on, she made these insanely rich chocolate chip cookies, and they guessed the prices of kaftans. It was quite entertaining. A really interesting fact though, is that Anthony Warrol Thompson was sent to boarding school at the age of three! THREE! How fucked up is that? I don't understand how kids that young could be sent to live away from their parents. Can they even talk properly at that age? Are they fully toilet trained? Who teaches them right from wrong, how to tie their shoelaces, how to eat politely at the table? Who gives them love??

Anyway, this spartan image of British boarding school, combined with the fact that I was still in my PJ's, really made me want comfort food.

259. Bread & Milk

This recipe, which is just a suggestion, really, opens the "Comfort Food" section of the One & Two chapter. Nigella describes it as "babyfied comfort food", rood to run to when you "lust for something soft and sweet". It's what she, following her mother, makes for herself to eat - white bread, torn up in a bowl, sprinkled with vanilla sugar and covered with hot milk.

I followed the instructions, and sat "in armchair, bowl on lap" to eat this. I was expecting warm vanilla scented fuginess, just like a hug in a bowl. But for some reason, it just tasted... wrong. It had some weird uninviting taste to it. Maybe it was the milk? Did I get it too hot? Or the bread? Too stale? Or maybe it was just the combination of ingredients that I didn't like.

Well, whatever. I only got about halfway through it before I couldn't handle any more and needed to get the taste out of my mouth, fast. So I went to the kitchen and got some McVitie's Chocolate Digestive Biscuits. They were good. Mmm'hmm.

No really, I am still here!

***Don't forget to post any questions you may have for me regarding the project here***

Don't worry, I am still here, still cooking, and not just wallowing in my own crapulence following the extremely exciting Australian Gourmet Traveller article.

I haven't cooked since Australia day because it was Chinese New Year on Sunday (and my mum is totally in charge of cooking for this one), and we've been working our way through the leftovers ever since. The Chinese New Year meal involved (as it always does) a lot of rice, thank God! This whole How to Eat project thing involves us having severely less rice than is usual. Which is a challenge for all concerned, especially my rice-addicted parents.

Honestly, I forget how good rice is until I eat some after long stretches of Western food. Mmm... rice.

Check me out in Australian Gourmet Traveller!!

Hey! This li'l ol' blog has been featured in this month's Australian Gourmet Traveller!

If you pick up this issue and turn to page 58 you will see a photo of yours truly with some fellow Melbournian food bloggers!

The article, entitled "Eat my words", was written by fellow food-blogger Ed Charles (of Tomato blog fame) and is all about the wonderful world of food blogs. Well done Ed! It's a very good read (irrespective of my being mentioned), so I recommend that y'all go out and buy the mag.

agt photo - By the way, I'm not sure if it's in breach of copyright or whatever for me to post this scanned photo up here... so if no-one says anything, I'll assume it's ok.


"Want to bag a top chef? Start a blog. Pim Techamuanvivit did. Now, thanks to her internationally famous blog, Chez Pim (chezpim.typepad.com), she's dating David Kinch, the chef and owner of... San Francisco's Manresa. I've also started a blog, but my wife won't let me date. I once met Karen Martini, though."

"The real stars of the food blogging scene are Asian women."

"Beyond the world of hip Asian women..." (Huh? There's a world beyond hip Asian women??)

Thursday, January 26, 2006


***Don't forget to post any questions you may have for me regarding the project here***

Australia Day is not, as many foreigners mistakenly believe, “the day you guys gained independence from England, yeah?”, but the day the first fleet from England arrived in Australia. We’re still part of the Commonwealth, and we’re still under the Queen.

And speaking of which… this morning, my family went to watch the first session of Brokeback Mountain, which was absolutely fantastic. I urge every single reader out there to go and see this magnificent film. It was very appropriate to watch this film on Australia Day, because it stars Australia’s very own Heath Ledger!

And speaking of which… we had a delicious Australian hunk of meat for lunch.

257. Braise-roasted lamb with Caper Sauce (Weekend Lunch)
258. A Summer Lemon-Meringue Pie (Weekend Lunch)

You really can’t not eat lamb on Australia day, but you know what? This is the last roast lamb recipe in the book! I couldn't believe it. The point of this recipe is the caper sauce, so it really doesn’t matter what flavourings (if any) you add to the lamb itself. Forgetting that butchers would be closed today, I had to get my meat from the supermarket, and was not confident enough to have it plain. So, I rubbed it with a garlic-rosemary-oil mixture, à la Nigella’s roast shoulder of lamb, before putting it in the oven at 250C (yes really!) for 15 minutes, then adding 400ml of water and half an onion to the tin. This liquid forms the base of the caper sauce.

halfway roasted

Then you turn the heat down to 200C for 16 minutes per 500 grams.

In the meantime, I decorated the summer lemon-meringue pie. This is basically a pavlova, (again, very Australia Day appropriate), covered with whipped cream, lemon curd and fresh raspberries. I made the shell last night whilst making the lemon curd, and it didn’t crack as much as my last attempt, but it was still cracked enough for me not to want to flip it over to decorate it. One day, I will develop the courage and skill to do so, but today was not that day.

less-cracked pav

Once the lamb is roasted, you can make the caper sauce. For this, you mix the water from the roasting tray with milk, and make a white sauce with it. Then add capers and freshly chopped parsley.


caper sauce

I served them with green beans because that is what I had in the freezer, generously dressed with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

green beans

sparse but delicious

That caper sauce is brilliant! I would never have thought to serve that type of sauce with roast meat, but it’s highly addictive - rich and tangy and cheesy and fresh all at once. I started off carefully drizzling sauce on the meat, then piling it on, then dunking the meat straight into the sauce bowl, and finally eating it by the spoonful. Normally whenever you make gravy or sauce or dip or whatever, it never gets finished. This one was gone in no time.

This pavlova was much improved on my last attempt, much more solid and presentable.

I love the rigid billowiness of the sides, piled with soft cream and lemon curd. With the sunny yellow topping and gleaming raspberries, it looks like some sort of offering to the pie gods. (Or would it be to the lamb gods? I’m not sure). All the elements of the pav-pie come together wonderfully – the sour tang of the raspberries and the lemon curd against the sweet meringue bass. What bliss!

One slice gone

While mum and I were getting second helpings, Daniel got up from the table and said,

Daniel: Sarah, I’m going to get some of that cherry pie. This one is good, no, it’s great, but this is fresher, so I should eat the rest of the cherry pie first.

Clever boy! One thing my brother and I share is an insatiable appetite for pie.

Happy Australia Day everybody!

Lemon Curd II

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This morning I decanted my lemon curd into jars. Nigella was right, the whole mixture only filled two jars (even though I thought it looked like a much vaster quantity in the bowl).

And for breakfast, I had some lemon curd spread thickly on fresh crusty sourdough bread. (Which I mentioned here in response to my friend, la guapa Frances).


Lemon Curd

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Today’s shift at work involved running around after 350 screaming children who were in for a party for some kid’s club. They came in to see a special screening of Chicken Little. They were pepped up on coke and popcorn and chocolate, and most of them were in chicken outfits. Getting them into the cinema was difficult enough, but getting them out and getting the cinema clean was a nightmare. We had to clean up all their feathers, food scraps, spilled drinks, and other disgusting liquids. It was insane, and I was buggered. I came home around 7:30pm, to find all members of my family out.

So do you know what I ate for dinner? I’m ashamed to admit it (Mark practically disowned me when I told him), but I was too tired to think of anything, and I had… a Lean Cuisine and a corona beer. Shh!

The point of that story is not to incite pity, but simply to illustrate that, sometimes, even the most die-hard wannabe domestic goddesses need a bit of time out.

My time out lasted for about 2 hours, and then I got straight back into it.

I started by making part of the dessert for tomorrow’s lunch (check back tomorrow to find out what it is), and then made some lemon curd.

256. Lemon Curd (Basics etc.)

Lemon curd is similar to the Seville orange curd I made to fill a Seville Orange Curd Tart a while back. It’s not too difficult.

You put lemon zest, juice, butter, sugar, whole eggs and egg yolks in a heavy based pan, and stir over low heat until thickened. (Much like custard).

The recipe calls for 8 eggs and 4 lemons…


In the recipe, Nigella writes that the curd has a possibility of curdling and splitting (again, much like custard). This freaked me out so much (remember my custard problem?) that I was extremely timorous, and took it off the heat as soon as it started to thicken.


I left the kitchen, and went back to MSN chatting with DG. Upon telling her about my curd, she told me to stop being such a wuss and put it back on the heat until it was proper curd. I was still unsure, so I went back to the kitchen, and re-heated a half at a time. This way, if it curdled, I’d still have half the mixture to work with, and it wouldn’t all be ruined.

Anyway, she was right. It thickened easily and didn’t curdle at all.

half thick half thin

Then I finished cooking the remaining curd. Easy peasy.

Big bowl of sunny lemon

FYI, lemon curd tastes great on water crackers.

I’m going to let it cool down before putting them into dishwasher-cleaned jars.

Best Sandwich Ever!

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Hello deliciousness!

The best sandwich ever consists of two slices of lightly toasted sourdough bread, between which lie cold slices of ham-in-coca-cola, microwaved sweetcorn pudding, dijon mustard and cornichons.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Big Hunks o' Ham and Sweet Cherry Pie

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It happened! 8 months into the project and I’ve finally done my first ham. One of the main reasons (apart from my now almost forgotten pork-aversion) was the incredible difficulty in sourcing raw ham.

I got weird looks from the butchers at Rendinas when I asked for a raw ham, or gammon – “No love, you don’t need to cook it, we’ve already done it for you”, and no-one else had any idea what I was talking about. Imagine my delight then, when I heard recently that a fellow Melbournian on the Nigella.com forum had made this dish herself! So I immediately started posting messages asking what cut of meat she’d bought, where she’d bought it, how she’d cooked it and so on. What I needed to buy was a “pickled pork leg”, which was available at a butcher not 25 minutes away from my house! SCORE.

I called up the day before to ensure the availability of the pickled pork, and headed down there this morning, expecting it to be some expensive continental butchery. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a very cheap Vietnamese butcher with very helpful staff! It was only about $13. I got my “jus’ unda 2 kilos” boneless pickled pork leg, and as he was wrapping it up, he asked me “hey, dis one u, know how to cook it?”, to which mum replied to him in Cantonese. I don’t speak Cantonese, but I picked up a couple of things she said.

Mum: DON’T WORRY… something something…INTERNET…something something… FRIEND… something something… RECIPE!

We got home at about 11am, and I started cooking lunch.


254. Ham in Coca Cola
255. Cherry Pie

Served with: Sweetcorn Pudding from Nigella Bites

Ham in Coca Cola may be one of Nigella’s most famous recipes, but I had never, ever been tempted to make it. Even after 253 recipes from How to Eat, and a new-found understanding of flavours and meat cooking, I had no idea how the mixture of coke and raw ham (or better yet, pickled pork) could possibly be remotely palatable. Sorry to ruin the surprise, but I was so wrong. This ham ended up being one of the best things I have eaten in a long time. OINK!

Pickled pork

First step is to cover the ham in cold water, bring it to the boil and drain it. This removes the excess saltiness. Here is what it looks like when boiled.

boiled pork

Then you put it back in the pot, with a halved and peeled onion, pour a couple of bottles of coca cola over it, and let it boil for 2.5 hours. Needless to say, you have to use proper coke, not diet. Think about it, you want the sugar to infuse in the ham… and would boiling up a distinctly suspect (yet undeniably delicious and drinkable) combination of chemical sweeteners really produce anything edible?

ham in coke

It smells absolutely brilliant while it's cooking, just like Vietnamese soup noodles. (I'm not sure if proper gammon would smell the same though). While it was boiling, I made the corn pudding and the cherry pie.

corn pudding

The corn pudding is a mixture of tinned sweetcorn, creamed corn (oh how divine!), cream, milk, eggs, flour, baking powder and salt. It’s supposed to serve 8; I halved the quantities of all the ingredients except for the corn. Mmm, delicious corn.

To make the cherry pie, you start off making some pastry (this one includes two egg yolks, so would be described as a very rich shortcrust). Then you use it to line a pie tin, and fill the pie with morello cherries, and a paste made of the cherry syrup, sugar, melted butter and flour. My excessive love of pie, in all its forms, is no secret, (check out my pie section in my index for proof). However, this was my first time making a cherry pie, and I was having some issues with it. The pastry kept breaking on me and I basically had to end up wodging it in to the dish rather than neatly rolling it. And for the filling, I went by eye because I was too lazy to measure it, so I was afraid that my finished pie would taste weird.

Open cherry pie

One more thing, you have to roll out more pastry and cover up the pie – I forgot to “moisten the edges” of my pie, as Nigella instructs, and there was some embarrassing leakage out of the sides of the tin as it was baking. Whoops.

I cooked the pudding and the pie at the same time, and let them stand whilst I finished off the ham.

At the end of boiling.

Once it’s cooked, you need to remove the outer layers of fat, and press on a mixture of breadcrumbs, dark muscovado sugar, mustard and coke.

defatted ham

The strip of fat on this particular piece of meat was very narrow, but thick. After I pressed the crumb mixture onto it, I realized there wasn’t enough, so I got some of the bits of fat that I’d removed, pressed them back onto the ham, and then more crumb mixture. And how strange, 6 months ago I was a girl who could barely stomach looking at pig, and today I was gleefully and greedily adding more pig fat to my enormous ham. What can I say? Nigella has really turned me around.

re-fatted ham

Then it needs a 15 minute blitz in a hot oven and voilà! You have ham. (During this time I stirfried some leftover cabbage so that we'd have a proper vegetable too).

ham with sweetcorn pudding in the background

slices of ham

Me: while slicing... Nigella says that any leftovers are good in sandwiches...
Mum: I don't think there are going to be any leftovers!

plate - My dad and brother bizzarely had orange juice; I chose coke.

Hello Ham! It was absolutely, undeniably brilliant. Salty, tender, sweet and crunchy. It's no wonder Nigella republished the recipe in Nigella Bites, and that everyone raves about it. The whole family loved it. And the sweetcorn pudding is the perfect accompaniment. In How to Eat Nigella suggests potatoes as an accompaniment, but the sweetcorn pudding is better. The bland richness of the pudding is the perfect complement for the salty, salty ham. In fact, my dad loved the pudding a lot and suggested that it would be suitable for dessert, served with ice-cream. (Sweetcorn ice-cream is a very popular flavour in Malaysia). I agree with him.

sweet... cherry pie

Check out my pie! Despite the leakage, it still thought it looked very inviting, even if I do say so myself.

As for serving up the pie, Nigella makes two suggestions – “à la mode… or show Euro-cool by dolloping on some good and edgy and far more grown-up crème fraîche”. I had vanilla ice-cream in the freezer (correction: I ALWAYS have vanilla ice-cream in the freezer), and happened to have a tub of crème fraîche leftover from the green goddess dressing, so I put both on the table and let people choose.

As I said above, I was a bit worried about how my pie would taste (what with leakages, botchy pastry jobs and unmeasured filling), but I need not have worried - so far, every Nigella pie has been incredibly good, and this one was no exception. While I was still cutting and serving up the pie, my brother had already started on his and exclaimed, "Hey this is fantastic!". Phew.

Dan: Cherry Pie? This is a really American lunch!

As per usual, I was unable to decide on one accompaniment, (is it my indecisiveness, my desire for variety, my seemingly insatiable need to try everything...?), and I had my pie both ways.

Two-way pie

I have to say, even though I expected the ice-cream to be better, the crème fraîche was the superior choice. The ice-cream, was firm and sweet, but I much preferred the tangy softness of the crème fraîche.

My pie was ecstatically received! Mum thought that the pastry in particular was fabulous (thank-you Nigella!), and we all had seconds. The pie was a bit soggy at the bottom, but no-one apart from me seemed to notice.

This lunch totally rocked. Nigella has 4 ham recipes in How to Eat, and I was actually planning on only making 2 (two are just variations), but now I want to make them all. And soon! Yee-hah.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Camp, and very much so, Dinner for 5

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Much like KC wrote in a comment on this very blog, I share the culinary credo, “In Nigella we Trust”. However, last night when I made How to Eat’s camp dinner, I made a few changes, and even went against direct instructions from Nigella herself. (Gasp!) However, I feel no sense of guilt or culinary cheating for having done so. If anyone has a firm grasp on kitsch & camp, it is I. And this is definitely one case where you can turn it up a notch. BAM! Besides, I knew that the five of us (Mum, Daniel, and our friends Mark and Sophie), would appreciate the food regardless.

250. Little Gems with Green Goddess Dressing (Dinner)
251. Young Grouse with Mascarpone and Thyme (One & Two)
252. Sweet and Sour Cabbage (Dinner)
253. Pavlova (Dinner)

Nigella’s original CAMP, BUT ONLY SLIGHTLY, DINNER FOR 6, consists of all the elements listed above, except for the young grouse. Her main dish of choice is pheasant with gin and it, which is basically an adaptation of the braised pheasant with mushroom and bacon, with different marinades and flavourings in it. You may remember that I made the original braised pheasant back in August, and was incredibly unimpressed. It was tough, the sauce was too watery, and the dish was generally unpleasant. And those pheasants were bloody expensive! There was no way I was going to make pheasant, in full quantity, for guests! So I substituted with the grouse recipe in the One & Two chapter, for which another substitution was required. You see, we cannot get grouse in Australia. Ever. I think it’s because we have no moors. But Nigella says that her idea for this dish was based on the “deeply fabulous” quail served at the River Café, so I felt that quail would be a more than adequate alternative to grouse. And anything described as “deeply fabulous” obviously meets the camp criteria.

With the quail/grouse replacing the pheasant dish, the whole menu is surprisingly easy to put together. I made the pavlova in the morning, and the rest of the elements à la minute.

I absolutely love to eat pavlova. It was my favourite cake growing up. I used to have it as my birthday cake every year until I turned 12, when the wonderful Pavlova Pantry sadly closed down. This is when I stopped eating it, almost entirely. None of the other store bought pavlovas ever measured up, and besides, I’ve been never very good at making meringue. The arrival of my KitchenAid mixer last year vastly increased my confidence in my meringue-making-ability, but before yesterday, I had yet to attempt a pavlova.

It is a simple procedure, but there is a lot of room for error. You have to start by whisking up egg whites until satiny and peaking. Then you gradually whisk in castor sugar, and then fold in cornflour, white wine vinegar and vanilla extract.


Then you spread the smooth, stiff mixture into an appropriately sized circle…

…and bake it for 1 ¼ hours at 150C. Nigella says to let it cool in the oven, as any sudden drop in temperature will cause it to crack. I did let it cool in the oven, and when I came to retrieve the pav from the cooling oven in the evening, the thing still cracked on me. Crap. I’m not quite sure where I went wrong.

Cracked like a biatch

This meant I couldn’t turn it upside down to decorate it, as Nigella (and Stephanie Alexander before her) suggest, because upside-down, it would be very unstable, and any weight on top would have caused it to collapse. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I just left it, right way up and put Mark on pav-decorating duty. I set up a bowl of whipped cream and some fruits, and when he arrived, I just told him to “make it beautiful”. Mark is a bit of a pav-decorating master; I’ve seen his previous attempt and it was just awesome. As soon as I find a photo of his, I’ll publish it here for your admiration. (And my own, not-quite-as-awesome-but-still-fabulous-pav will be revealed at the bottom of this post).

Following my setting up of the pav-decoration station, I made the green goddess dressing, and left it in the fridge until dinner time. The dressing is a thick, creamy mixture of pounded anchovies, milk, vinegar, crème fra­îche, olive oil, spring onion, parsley and tarragon. It smells deliciously pungent and herbaceous.

Next was the quail. To prepare it, you first remove the guts from each little quail, and then chop them up.


The chopped-up guts are mixed with red wine, mascarpone, lemon zest and fresh thyme, and then re-inserted into the quails’ little cavities.

biba-pink cream

This is the conversation I had with Mark as we were standing in the kitchen, him decorating the pavlova, me stuffing the quails.

Me: You know, I’m glad that you don’t mind eating quail.

Mark: Yeah! Of course. It’s just food!

Me: Yes I know, but some people get a bit precious around quails, because they’re all little and cute.

Mark: Oh whatever… I know this one guy who won’t eat meat if you can tell what animal it came from! He saw this photo of a pork roast I made, and was all like “Eww you can tell that came off the side of an animal, that’s gross”. He only eats meat in chicken nuggets or patties.

Me: That’s so wrong. I think it’s really important to understand the fact that an animal has died for you to eat it, and to treat the carcass with respect!

Of course, this was all going on as I was rudely stuffing a mascarpone-thyme-quail-gut mixture into each quail’s cavity with my fingers. Irony.

Uncooked quail in tray

Grouse are supposed to take 30-45 minutes in a 200C oven, but seeing as quail are so much smaller, I only put them in for about 25. They didn’t quite go as brown as I would have liked, but they still looked fine.

While they were in the oven, I shredded the cabbage for the sweet and sour cabbage and then dressed the salad and added cornichons. By this stage it was getting late, and the fact that Mark and I had been drinking Coronas whilst cooking was slowing me down even further. So we didn’t bother with a first and second course, but just plonked everything down on the table at once. The final stage was deglazing the roasting tray with wine and mascarpone, and stir-frying the cabbage with sugar, vinegar and salt.

Just before I get to the photos of the food, I thought I’d share with you some atmospheric aides. As you will have realized, I normally don’t go in for this sort of thing, but I do believe that tonight deserved a bit of extra effort.

Music Selection:

Madonna – Hung Up, Sorry, Vogue, Express Yourself
George Michael – Too Funky, Fastlove, Freek!, American Angel, I Want Your Sex, Amazing, Shoot the Dog, Spinning the Wheel, Flawless
Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go Go
Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls, Being Boring
Geri Halliwell – It’s Raining Men

We also dimmed the lights and had a red cone-shaped candle at the table.

Nigella includes the quail recipe in the One & Two chapter. She says that the scale is all wrong to feed quail to large numbers of people – “too many little bits”. I said bollocks to that and piled our 10 quails gloriously on the one platter.

Pile of quail – Not only does it look generous and abundant, but serving them in this way kills any whiff of pretentious cheffiness (which I don’t necessarily think is a serious problem, but I do know Nigella’s not a fan).



We ate, slowly, in air-conditioned comfort, enjoying the light and fresh tastes of the meal. The salad was awesome - so crunchy and tangy, and the cornichons were a nice addition. I was afraid they might be too astringent to eat by themselves (much like those Jewish pickles in cans for which I have yet to acquire the taste), but they were mild and added a good textural contrast to the salad.

The cabbage was absolutely compulsive! The crunchy cabbage had a very strong, sharp flavour and was like Pringles - once you pop, you can't stop. The quails were lovely too, very soft and tender and gently infused with the thyme flavour.

We started off politely with knifes and forks, and then progressed to using our hands and mouths to get off every last scrap of flesh.

And in the spirit of the evening, here’s something funny that my brother said upon eating the quail.

Dan: Man this is so good, I want to suck this bone dry!


Ok, so finally, here's the pavlova! In the recipe, Nigella says "don't be tempted to add other fruit" (she only stipulates passionfruit), but really, I felt it could go a lot bigger and brighter. So earlier in the evening, when I got Mark to decorate it, I gave him passionfruit, kiwi fruit and strawberries, and let him go nuts. He filled the crater with cream and carefully arranged the fruit on top. And here is the fruit of his labours.


Surprisingly, we were able to cut it without it totally collapsing on us. Despite the cracking, there was still a decent amount of soft, gooey filling within. And Mark's decorating job was fantastic, all the gaps in the pavlova were filled and despite my total crapness, it looked (almost) whole and stable. Good work!

one slice gone

halfway through

one piece w coffee

It was brilliant! Mum and I both had seconds, and Dad polished off the remainder when he came home late last night.

I can't believe I'd forgotten how good pavlova is! One bite of this delicious, creamy, sweet (but not too sweet) dessert and I was in sugar-paradise.

Absolutely fabulous, darling!

Q&A With Sarah

Hello all,

Seeing as I am now past the mid-way point of my project (in terms of time, and number of recipes), I thought I'd take this opportunity to do a little Question and Answer session.

I do get a lot of questions from people (both online and in "real" life) about the project, and it has been suggested to me that these questions and answers might make for interesting reading. The most common question I get is "What is your favourite recipe?". Hilariously, I also get the "So you like Nigella, eh?" and "Oh, so you like cooking?" questions a lot, mainly from non-foodies. (Yeah, no shit!)

Anyway, if anyone else has any questions that come to mind, even vaguely related to the book, the project, the blog or cooking, just post it as a comment to this post, and next week I'll compile the questions and answer them all too!

xox Sarah

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fishy Fish

249. Red Mullet with Garlic and Rosemary (Fast Food)

You will see, from my photos below, that I did not use red mullet, but rainbow trout. I knew we wouldn't be able to get red mullet, but when we went shopping this morning, all the white-fleshed-red-skinned fish looked slightly dodgy. "Red snapper", "red fish", "pinky"... I had no idea what they would taste like, so I took the safe route and got my favourite, rainbow trout.

I choose to accompany it with a pared-down version of the noodles with spring onions, shiitake mushrooms and mangetouts. (And by pared down, I mean I used regular onions in place of the spring onions, and omitted the mushrooms).

As for the fish, you start by heating up some orange zest, rosemary and garlic in a pan with oil (I chopped them up using a processor) until sizzling, then frying your fish fillets on both sides.


Then you remove the fillets to a warmed plate, and deglaze the pan with white wine or vermouth. Having neither white wine nor vermouth in the house, I used gin. Good old Beefeater gin. It worked a treat.

noodles + fish

Now, the fish didn't look too pretty because the garlic-orange-rosemary mixture went really brown in the pan. Perhaps this problem could be avoided if I were to use a non-stick pan instead of a cast iron one. The flavour was great, however. And the noodles were a great complement. Much like the rice in yesterday's lunch, we've been really missing noodles lately, and slurped them up like nobody's business.

Fish + noodles

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Awesome Breasts!

Now it’s really time for the culinary egomania. For lunch today, we enjoyed a dish that was named after me. Yup, that’s right, little old me! It happened like this.

About a month ago, I received an email from my friend Lisa in the States, saying that she’d created a dish which she’d named after me – “Awesome Aussie Sarah Chicken”.

yes, a dish I've named after our dish aussiesarah. It's chicken sprinkled w/Ranch dressing mix, roasted on rice, then sliced red peppers added and doused w/Tabasco at table. Ace!

You won’t believe how excited I was. When I showed Daniel, he was well impressed too. You see, I don't think he realised that people actually read my blog. I think he just thought I spent an inordinate amount of time at the computer. When he heard about the chicken dish, he started telling his friends things like, “Sarah’s got this blog that’s got international recognition. This woman in America, she created a dish after her!” He seemed so happy, I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was actually just a friend who created it, not some fan-cum-stalker. Shhh...

But I digress. Lisa’s a pretty special lady; she’s the one who introduced me to the totally drool-worthy ranch dressing. I emailed her a few days later to get proper instructions on how to cook it.

I had chicken on my mind for dinner, and I thought, you know, how good would Ranch dressing be on that chicken? Good! And since meeting you, I've become a rice addict, so of course that was my selected side. But being the lazy person I am, I'm a one-potter gal, so I shook the chicken up with the Ranch dip mix, I put a cup of basmati in the pan, then two cups of water on top, and then I put the chicken breasts on top of that, with a pat of butter on each, and put it in the 400F oven for like 20 minutes. Then I put the red peppers in so they would be just tender-crisp, and baked it for about 10 more minutes. It was awesome! Of course, to top it off, I had to add the Tabasco (fresh parsley, too). It all worked.

Obviously I wanted to make the AussieSarah Chicken as soon as possible, despite it not being a How to Eat recipe, so when I made it today, I chose a pudding from How to Eat to go with it. I went for an American-style pudding, in honour of Lisa.

248. Red Slump (Weekend Lunch)

A slump, as far as I can gather, is one of those American desserts in the realm of cobblers, grunts and so on – a fruity filling, topped with some sort of sweet flour mixture and baked. Nigella says that her recipe will make enough for 6 (or will stretch to 8), so I figured that halving the recipe would make 4 generous servings for us.

The filling is a 500g packet of frozen red berries (fresh is do-able too, but there’s no way I’m paying $7 for a 150g punnet of raspberries!), covered with sugar and alcohol. You could use any appropriate berry or orange based alcohol, so I used cointreau.

Frosty berries – I love the snow-kissed look of berries covered in sugar.

You then cover it with foil, and bake it until it gets hot and bubbly (about 35 minutes). I put it in underneath the chicken as it was cooking.

Making the dumplings is just like making pastry, crumble topping, or anything of that ilk. Mix flour, sugar and almond meal with butter to make a crumbly mixture, and then add enough milk to bind. The full quantity of slump topping should make 24 small dumplings, so appropriately enough, I got 12 out of my halved quantity.


It did look like a very meagre amount of dumplings, and I was almost temped to make another half batch, but I thought that they might expand significantly upon baking.

Once the filling is piping hot, you dollop the dumplings on top, cover it again with foil, and bake it for another 15 minutes. I took the chicken out at the same time as the filling, and let the dumpling-topped filling cook while we were eating the chicken.

Ready for oven

Awesome Aussie Sarah Chicken

Check my other cooking blog for more details on the Aussie Sarah Chicken, but Lisa was right – it’s awesome! And so easy to make too. Since starting the How to Eat project, my whole family has been suffering some serious rice cravings. We descended upon the delicious ranch-dressing-infused rice and chicken like a pack of hungry wolves.

Here is the cooked red slump.

red slump

One thing I have to learn, is that frozen berries are very sour. I’m always very sparing with sugar in general, but when it comes to frozen berries, I need to learn to let go of my sugar-phobia. Even at my old job as a cook, I couldn’t bring myself to dump the necessary amount sugar on the berries when I did crepes flambées, much to the chagrin of my (really cool) Chef. “Sarah sweetie, you need to put more sugar on the crepes… the frozen berries themselves are very sour, and the tannins in the preservatives make them quite sour too… also because you cook them in butter, you need sugar to counteract it”. Judging from the taste of the red slump today, I still haven't learnt my lesson. I'm lucky that my family (myself included), prefer our desserts not to be too sweet, but for more normal people, make sure you increase the sugar content if you use frozen berries!

Dan: Woah… that’s strong.
Me: Is it too sour? You want sugar?
Dan: Nah… it’s good… it’s very strong… the flavour hits you like a bitch. It’s very good.
Me: …totally confused… So do you want sugar or not?
Dad: No, no don’t worry, it's good! And the ice-cream balances it out.
Dan: Yeah, no sugar. But you need more of these things. ...points at dumplings

He was so right about the dumplings, they were brilliant. They soaked up the delicious berry-juices, and were soft and fragrant on their own merits as well. I'd have preferred the slump to be covered in dumplings, rather than sparsely dotted.

Mmmm... tasty berries.