Monday, November 28, 2005

I couldn't get a lardon

183. Linguine with Lardons (One & Two)

Linguine. Bacon. Oil. Garlic. Parsley.

Yeah baby, yeah!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Lunch party dinner

I had absolutely no idea what to cook for dinner tonight. Having free time to cook is one thing, having the energy to actually think of what to cook is another. Meal planning in the normal run of things is difficult enough, evidenced by the abundance of articles and cookbooks with such titles as "Midweek meals", "Tuesday Night Cooking", "Meals in Minutes," and so on. However, everyday meal planning within the self-imposed constraints of The Project is, to put it lightly, a bit of a challenge. When I plan in advance to do a special occasion meal, I have the luxury of time to think about the menu, to consider all possible outcomes, and to go searching for the ingredients. But for impromptu, everyday meals, I need a few guidelines.

Whenever I choose a recipe on the same day that I want to make it...

- it has to be something I haven't made before
- it can't be something I've earmarked for a future dinner party/occasion,
- it should preferably be seasonal (so the "Deeply Autumnal Dinner for 8" will have to wait until Autumn)
- it must contain accessible ingredients (something like pheasant or venison requires advance planning)
- I have to be able to face making it
- and most importantly, it has to be something that we actually want to eat!

Today, I was totally stuck, so I phoned-a-friend (well, emailed, actually) for advice.

Any ideas for what I could cook tomorrow for dinner? I think it's all four of us, or at least me and my parents. I don't mind cooking anything, is there HTE any recipe u particularly wanna see?
xox Sarah

Since you've already tackled Peter Rabbit in Mr. MacGregor's salad, AND Pig's Bum, by two revered, but never made by me, recipes, I had to go flip through the book and am hard pressed to top those!. So now I'm trying to think of things your family would enjoy! Okay, so how about the ceviche w/ hot garlic potatoes? p. 314 in my book. Or Sunday night chicken noodle? But, I also think it's time you do the proper English trifle.

P.S. Also, if you have time and want to get some recipes out quickly, the Proust's Madeleines are very quick & super-easy -- and delicious!! And the strawberries in dark syrup -- the same.

The thing that caught my eye on that list was the madeleines. I bought a madeleine tray years ago, but never got around to using it, despite my mother's insistent (and I do mean insistent)reminders. So there we go, dessert was settled.

As for my friend's other suggestions, I've already done the Sunday Night Chicken Noodle, I'm saving the Proper English Trifle for Uncle Mike (a Proper English Gentleman), and making ceviche would require a trip down to Prahran Market for extremely fresh fish. And I think that the market's closed on Sundays anyway.

In the late afternoon, Dad & I went to our regular Box Hill Market (still a good market, but not quite as well-stocked as Prahran with unusual ingredients) and had a look around for ingredients with which to make a nice dinner. I found baby spinach leaves, bacon, button mushrooms, and rainbow trout, and dinner was decided!

179. Spinach, Bacon and Raw Mushroom Salad (Weekend Lunch)
180. Baked Sea Bass with Rosemary
(Weekend Lunch)
181. Strawberries in Dark Syrup
182. Proust's Madeleines (Dinner)

First things first. The strawberries need a good three hours to macerate, so they need to be started first. This recipe is just the classic combination of strawberries sprinkled with castor sugar and balsamic vinegar. For some reason, Nigella says not to serve them with cream or any cream-like substance. However, I think that vanilla-scented mascarpone would be wonderful alongside, if you're not up for making madeleines.

Speaking of which, the madeleines also require a bit of time to sit. After making the batter, which involves beating eggs and sugar, then folding in flour, melted butter and honey, you need to let it rest in the fridge for an hour, then at room temperature for a further 30 minutes. So whilst the strawberries and madeleine batter were resting, I got on with the savoury part of dinner.

I used rainbow trout instead of sea bass. Firstly, and most importantly, I love rainbow trout. Secondly, sea bass in Australia is either unavailable or ridiculously expensive. Nigella says you could substitue sea bream for bass, but the bream I saw at the fishmonger didn't look amenable to this method - they were distinctly chode-like, that is, thick and short. You're supposed to get the fishmonger to remove the bones from the fish, but leave the head and tail on. Then you stuff the cavity with rosemary, and bake it in foil. So I figured it didn't matter which fish you used, because the important thing to take away from the recipe was the method. And it sounds easy, huh? Well, I forgot to get the fishmonger to bone the fish, and thus, I had to attempt to bone them myself.

Back in first year uni, I used to work as a sales assistant at a seafood shop. Sadly, I don't think I've retained any of the skills I picked up there. I got the sharpest knife I could find, and went to hack at the poor fishies' backbones. (I hope you're not squeamish...) So, I started with the head end, severing the backbone. And sadly, it wasn't a simple matter of sticking in a knife and pulling out the backbone and guts.

According to that episode of The Simpsons where they go to Japan...

"Knife goes in... guts come out... that's what Osaka fish concern is all about..."

Not true! They lied to me through song! I hate when people do that!

I had to loosen all the little fishbones which were attached to the backbone from the flesh (and there are hundreds, I soon realised) so that the backbone could be lifted up and cut away from the fish. It took about half an hour in total, with me cursing like a sailor the whole way through, and flicking fish flesh and bones all over the place. The poor fish, they looked a right mess.

Boned fish


The boning was the hard part, and the rest was easy. The fish needs to be baked for about 20 minutes, stuffed with rosemary and wrapped in foil. We've got a huge rosemary bush growing wild in our garden, which is wonderful. Whilst the fish was cooking, I made the salad - fried some bacon, finely sliced some mushrooms and tossed them through baby spinach leaves and dressed them in garlicky oil and lemon juice.

As soon as the fish came out of the oven, I speedily filled the madeleine tin and chucked it in there. And we could finally eat!

Fish - despite the boning ordeal they'd had only an hour before, they turned out beautiful. And there weren't any bones left in there, HAH!



Oh yes, I forgot to mention that at some time during the cooking process, I boiled some new potatoes and tossed them through butter and truffle oil. It was a fab accompaniment.

Sliced fish - once boned, you can slice and serve it easily!

This meal totally rocked! We hadn't had fish in ages, and my parents were well impressed. The salad was awesome, with its contrasting colours and flavours and textures. The fish was infused with a lovely rosemary scent and was moist and tender. Dad couldn't stop praising the meal!

Dessert - the madeleines were a bit browner than I'd intended, but that is because they cook very, very quickly, and the difference between 5 and 7 minutes can be a crucial one. Make sure you keep an eye on them. But who cares about the colour, they tasted amazing! And they perfectly complemented the jewel-red strawberries.

Mum: This is good, I love it!

Mum's not really a dessert person, so that simple phrase means a lot.

I've never actually read Proust, but I'm told that he bit into a madeline once and was instantly overwhelmed by a stream of memories, which went on... and on... and on... for 6 whole books. I didn't quite have an epiphany with my first bite, but I was overwhelmed by the amazing taste, texture and fragrance. I can't believe I was so silly as to halve the recipe (which makes 24) for the 3 of us. We scoffed our 12 madeleines in record time, and could have easily kept going... and going... and going...

Chicken Pie

As usual, I found myself home alone on Sunday lunchtime, with my parents out working. Daniel, however, was home, and I thought he might appreciate some lunch.

178. Chicken Pie (Feeding Babies and Small Children)

I do love a good pie, and chicken pie is one of my favourites. This recipe is a good way of using up leftover cooked chicken meat – Nigella says to use 200grams, which, funnily enough, was the exact amount left on the chicken carcass from Friday night’s fab boiled chicken! Back of the net!

In her (almost exactly the same) recipe for chicken pot pie in the Kiddiefeast chapter of Feast, Nigella, she says “I know these are quite a lot of trouble, but they are a real treat, and even such instinctive ingrates as children will truly appreciate it”.

It actually is a bit of trouble to make, but I found the process of making the pie to be an enjoyable way to while away a Sunday morning. For someone who loves cooking, this is great fun to make, but if you were looking for something to quickly and easily feed hungry children, you could probably do better. I could so see this recipe ending in tears for a frazzled and stressed out mum or babysitter!

I started off by making some pastry “as directed on page 42”, and realized, to my delight, that after having made Nigella pastry so many times, I no longer need the recipe! The quantities and ratios of flour/fat/liquid change with each recipe, but the method is the same. That is, freeze the cubed fat and flour in a shallow dish, pulse them in a food processor until crumbily combined, then slowly add liquid down the funnel until it just forms a ball. Stash it in the fridge for twenty minutes and it’s ready to roll!

I don’t mean to brag (or maybe I do), but I made the pastry at the same time as I was making the white sauce, and boiling peas for the filling. Pouring the liquid for the pastry into the processor with my left hand, stirring the white sauce on the heat with my right, and keeping a watchful eye on the peas the whole while.

The white sauce is an ordinary white sauce, but with half a crumbled stock cube added at the start. Once the white sauce is done, you stir through the cooked peas and shredded chicken meat, spread the mixture into a buttered dish and cover it with the pastry.

Pastry – Nigella’s recipe is fantastic, the pastry was wonderfully pliable.

Pie uncooked
And after half an hour in a 190 degree oven…

Cooked pie

My brother and I ate the pie, slathered in tomato sauce in front of the TV. It was the perfect meal for a quiet afternoon at home.


We didn’t finish the pie (Daniel’s appetite hasn’t totally returned yet), but ate about two thirds of it. Later on in the afternoon, when my Dad came home, he tried some too and loved it. I knew he would, he loves chicken pie, used to eat it all the time when he was a kid. Then I finished the rest for a small mid-afternoon snack.

Chicken with Egg and Lemon Sauce

My darling brother Daniel has been feeling a bit poorly lately. Well, luckily he’s better today, but the period of Wednesday through Friday was rough on him. The doctor said that he had some sort of stomach viral infection thingy. Thus he was obviously not eating very much at all, except for boring stuff like plain rice congee and… er… more plain rice congee.

For dinner on Friday night, I wanted to make something that was gentle enough for him to handle, but tasty enough for the rest of us to eat without wanting to hang ourselves.

177. Chicken with egg and lemon sauce

This recipe is a suggestion, hidden right at the end of the Dinner chapter, and, Nigella writes, is very special to her.

“The last suggestion in this section is less a recipe than, for me, a way of life: boiled chicken with rice and egg and lemon sauce. This is the food of my childhood, a taste that roots me in my past. When my brother, Dominic, and Rosa got married, this is what he asked me and my sisters to cook him the night before. For us, this is the most significant kitchen supper.”

To make it, you boil a boiling chicken in water with some aromatic vegetables until the chicken's almost cooked, then remove the vegetables and add some fresh ones, and keep simmering until everything is cooked and tender.

Ingredients – I asked my Dad to get the chicken, he asked the person at the poultry shop for a boiling chicken. She gave him a scragglier looking chicken than normal, but it wasn’t a proper scary boiling fowl (i.e. scrawny and ugly, head, beak and feet all still attached). So I took Nigella’s advice of adding a stock cube to the boiling water, as normal chickens are not nearly as flavoursome as boiling fowls.

After one and a half hours of simmering, I fished out the cooked vegetables and added some fresh batons of leeks and carrots. At this time I also put the rice cooker on and made the sauce. The sauce is kinda like a cross between hollandaise, and the avgolemono from Nigella’s lemon chicken, but a lot tastier. You need a double boiler and a mini-whisk to make it, but it’s not as hard or fiddly as that implies. Simply whisk up 2 egg yolks with saffron and pepper, and then slowly beat in cubes of softened butter until thick and yellow (Nigella doesn’t specify quantities, but I ended up using about 70 grams), then add a spoonful of stock from the chicken pot and whisk that in with a squeeze of lemon.

Soup and sauce


Chicken - check out the golden chicken broth. You just know it's got to be good for you!

I absolutely loved this dish! I loved the mellow golden colour and chickeney flavour of the broth, the uber-tender chicken meat, the gentle whiteness of the whole ensemble, the way the rice soaks up the broth, the rich-but-not-too-rich eggy lemon sauce!

Daniel: patting his stomach... I'm not going to be able to eat too much, I'm still sick.
Me: This is good for you, just drink the soup, chicken soup is good when you're sick.
Daniel: Ok. Thanks for making this, it's very thoughtful.

He ended up eating everything on his plate, rice, soup, chicken, vegetables, but no sauce. (I wouldn't let him, as I'm sure it would have wreaked havoc on his system). And despite him saying he wasn't going to be able to eat a lot, he had seconds, and today is back at work. It's the chicken soup that made him better, not the antacids and drugs. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Today we had a lunch of leftovers, which I boosted by making some frittate from the children's chapter.

176. Frittata

You can use zucchini too, but we only had peas. I made three little ones in a blini pan. I used a handful of peas, one egg, and a grating of parmesan cheese for each one - firstly cooking the peas in the pan, and cracking the beaten egg over with some parmesan. As each one cooked, I transferred them to a tray, and then set them under the grill to finish them off.


These were great!

With some leftover sushi for a small yet proper meal.

Peas, an egg, parmesan cheese. You don't get much more storecupboard than that!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Roast Leg of Lamb

Tonight's meal was based on what I could buy and put together easily. It's a surprisingly impressive meal, considering how simple it is. (I think it's the French name that makes it sound a lot fancier).

175. Gigot Boulangère

This recipe, for roast lamb, comes from the Weekend Lunch chapter. Nigella includes it in a menu with a Red Slump for dessert, but I got distracted with some fabulous Buttercup Bake Shop white cupcakes with chocolate chips and peanut butter icing, so decided to forgo the dessert for the time being.

I walked to Rendinas in the morning to buy the lamb. To my delight, David Bowie (sex god AND rock god extraordinaire) was playing on the radio in the butchers - definitely a sign that tonight's dinner was going to rock.

Ok, so Nigella's gigot boulangère is a boned lamb leg (boned by the butcher, not me; he's a much better boner than I am), which is roasted on top of thinly sliced potatoes.

To start, you peel and thinly slice some potatoes, blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes, let them dry, and then layer them in a buttered roasting tin with more butter, salt, pepper, and an onion-thyme-bayleaf mixture.

Potato layers

Then you pour water or lamb stock over, and bake them for half an hour. I didn't have any lamb stock, but luckily the butcher had given me his bones, so I simply put them on top of the potatoes, with some water. I wasn't sure if this would be effective in giving flavour to the dish, but after 5 minutes in the oven, the aroma wafting out told me that, indeed, the bones would be very flavour enhancing.

Potatoes and bones

Ok, now the lamb! Nigella instructs you to cut slits all over the meat and slide slivers of garlic cloves into the slits. Doing this reminded me of watching Ainsley Harriot's Barbecue Bible one Sunday morning, terribly hungover, during which the lovely and energetic Ainsley was lovingly and energetically shoving a herb paste into slits on a huge piece of meat with his enormous fingers, with the camera repeatedly going in for some disturbingly close-up close-ups.

But I digress. Once the potatoes have had their first 30 minutes, you sit the lamb on top of the potatoes, and cook it for another 1 and a half hours.


Then cover the leg in thyme and butter...

Buttered up

... and roast it!

Lamb roast

Sadly, the top layer of potatoes had blackened in the oven! Whoops, I really should have been checking that, but I was taking a power nap on the couch whilst the lamb was in the oven. But if you're cooking the lamb and potatoes together, and the potatoes go in first, then if they start blackening halfway through, you can't very well take out the potatoes from under the lamb and let the lamb continue cooking. I think that the next time I make this, I'll just chuck the lamb and potatoes all in at the same time.

The carnage - looks less tasty than it is. It's fantastic. So much better than the roast shoulder of lamb! The general response from the family was "chomp chomp chomp this is fantastic chomp chomp is there any more?"

Monday, November 21, 2005

I'm baaaaaack!

Hello all! I had my last exam today, thank God!! The plans for the 3 month holiday are simply to cook, blog, sleep and go out. Sounds good to me!

I haven't been blogging for the past two weeks, but I have kept track of what I've been cooking and eating. So, enjoy!

Thursday, 10th November

Ok, this is the first day of my break from How to Eat recipes. I've put the book on the shelf, I’m in front of the computer, and my Japanese essay is going to get done. I’ve informed my parents of my temporary break from cooking, and put them in charge of feeding us.

As an unexpected bonus, today I receive my three Magnolia Bakery cookbooks from I've got The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, More from Magnolia and The Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook. I'm superexcited, all these gorgeous little cakes!! But at the same time, it's just an extra hundred recipes to add onto my already long list...

Mum makes a nice spaghetti with asparagus and basil pesto (bought from Leo’s supermarket), which I eat alone in front of the computer, with a Nestlé Double Blend Hot Chocolate and my 8th Milo bar of the week.

Asparagus Pesto Pasta, Hot Chocolate and Milo Bar

Friday, 11th November

I was up till 3am last night, and woke up at 9:30 this morning to finish this goddamn essay off, which is due in at 5pm today. At 12:00 noon, though, I miraculously finish the fucker, print it out, and it’s time for lunch. Dad walks in at about this time, asking me what I want for lunch.

Me: Yeah whatever. I don’t care, I’ll eat anything.
Dad: Well I’ll go up to Rendinas and buy some meat ok?

Suddenly my mind, tired and worn out from not enough sleep and too much Japanese, goes into foodie mode…

Dad: Aren’t you tired? I can grill some steaks, it’s ok.
Me: NO NO NO buy some lamb racks it’s so easy and it will be delicious!
Dad: trying to avoid an argument with his deranged daughter... Yeah ok…

He comes back 20 minutes later, lamb racks in tow (but with some sausages as well, just in case I’ve had a change of heart in the meantime. Clever Dad). I get up from the computer chair, preheat the oven, paint the lamb with cinnamon and chilli oil, chuck them in the oven and make the couscous, without the recipe. It’s not exactly the same as in the book – I put couscous AND a tin of chickpeas into hot stock and leave it to sit, then once it’s cooked, fork through some barberries and pine nuts, which I’ve toasted. Whilst I'm preparing this, Dad grills the sausages, and boils some beans. When he sees me make the couscous, Dad says he doesn’t like couscous, but once it’s all done and on the table, he realizes that this is the only version of couscous that he does like, and has 3rd helpings.

Pretty impressive for something whipped up very impromptu and on very little sleep! I think the fact that I was able to make this without the recipe, and in a very short time frame, proves that this recipe indeed deserves its title as a "Hit" of the Fast Food chapter.

For dinner we go out, then I go out drinking with friends to celebrate the end of this god-awful Japanese subject.

Saturday, 12th November

The first thing I do when I wake up is soak some cannellini beans to make Nigella’s Bean and Pasta soup (Kiddie chapter). The rest of the morning is spent procrastinating, then in the afternoon I realise I have to start studying for next week’s exams.

For dinner, on the suggestion of the lovely Ilana from the forum, I make Nigella’s garlic mushrooms (Kiddie chapter) and pair it with pasta, butter and nutmeg (Fast Food). It only takes about 15 minutes in total, and Ilana was right – it is a perfect meal.

173. Garlic Mushrooms

Garlic Mushrooms + butter/nutmeg pasta

I eat it, with my mum, sitting in front of the TV… and guess what’s on!! NIGELLA BITES! And it’s an episode from the first series, where she makes recipes from How to Eat! SCORE! In this episode, the "Entertaining" episode, she makes chilli and garlic prawns, the mezze-style dinner party, sparkling wine with lime, vagina jelly,
loin of pork with bay leaves, guacamole and the Caesar salad. This is good, not only because I love watching the programs, but also because I was confused as to how to make the Caesar salad.

Late at night, I boil the soaked cannellini beans in preparation for making soup tomorrow.

Sunday, 13th November

174. Bean and Pasta Soup (Feeding Babies and Small Children)

When I wake up, I make the bean and pasta soup. However, at the last minute, I realise we again, have run out of tinned tomatoes. So I substitute with a jar of Dolmio basil and tomato pasta sauce, and hope to god that it doesn’t end up tasting like shit.

Bean & pasta soup

Luckily, it tastes fantastic. I have it with some Phillipa’s Corn Bread toast, whilst watching a hilarious episode of I’m Alan Partridge. I’ve forgotten how funny this show is, and remind myself that, one day, I will have Steve Coogan’s babies.

Monday 14th November

Whilst surfing the internet, I happen to stumble across a photo of this love-rat I used to be obsessed with, instantly feel totally depressed and decide that the only solution is ice-cream.

I forage the freezer, and end up with a bowl of Nigella’s World’s Best Chocolate Ice-cream, her Rhubarb Ice-cream and some Connoisseur Chocolate Honey-Nougat Ice-cream, with two Hobnob biscuits. It sounds like my idea of heaven in a bowl, but I'm just not feeling it.

Tuesday 15th November

I spend the entire day in the library with my best friend An, have lunch at about 12, then get back to the library. By 5pm, I haven't got hungry again, and realise something must be very wrong. Usually I get hungry every 3 hours. Usually I eat twice the amount An eats. Usually I spend the whole day dreaming about food. I don't know what's wrong. Maybe it's because I'm still thinking about that Love Rat. In the evening, I also happen to have a mini drama with someone else I was sort of involved with. Why does this shit always happen at the most inappropriate times?? Or maybe my lack of appetite is due to stress from exams. Either way, it's not good. I hope my appetite comes back tomorrow.

Wednesday 16th November

Having just barely recovered from seeing the Love Rat's photo and my other mini-drama, I somehow manage to study just enough to not totally screw myself for exams. Like yesterday, I spend all day in the library, buy food from a cafe on campus, come home for dinner (made by the parentals), study some more and then collapse in bed. For some reason, I'm still not thinking about food. This is starting to scare me. Sarah losing her appetite is worse than Samantha from Sex and the City losing her sex drive.

Thursday 17th November, Friday 18th November

I have exams on both these days. Don't talk to me.

Saturday 19th November

Two exams down, only one to go.


For dinner I feel like pasta, and want to make the garlic mushrooms again, but don’t wanna eat the exact same thing again. So, I make the garlic mushrooms, as per usual, but I decide toss the carbonara sauce (minus cream and bacon) through the pasta. I want to sprinkle it with parsley after it’s done, but the parsley which I bought prior to the exam period seems to have died a horrible horrible death in my fridge, so I leave it out.

Sauce, wine, minging parsley

Whilst I'm cooking the mushrooms, I accidentally knock the bottle of wine onto the floor. Thankfully, the bottle doesn't break, and only a little bit of wine is spilled. But as I smell the wine, I think sadly to myself what I'd give to just take a couple of gulps of that wine. Aaahh... but any dreams of drunkenness will have to wait until after exams...

Nigella says you don’t need cream, but I think she’s wrong. The egg sauce tastes, well, too eggy, and even though it’s delicious whilst I eat it, as soon as I’m done my mouth just tastes of egg, and I need buckets of water to wash out the taste.

Mushroom Carbonara - tastes infinitely better than it looks

Sunday 20th November

Come lunchtime, I feel like pasta again, so I make Nigella’s Spaghetti Aglio Olio, which I’m pretty sure I’ve made before, so doesn't count as a new recipe. I obviously haven’t had time to go and buy new parsley, so it ends up looking pretty boring. Tastes amazing though.

Spaghetti Aglio Olio

Come 7:30pm, marketing theories have fried my brain, and I can't think of food. I send Dad out to Colombo's to get some disgustingly greasy food - capriciossa pizza, a chicken parmigiana, and potato skins (aka soggy wedges) with sour cream, cheese and bacon.

Chicken Parma


Man, this stuff is greasy. But it tastes so good! Can't wait for tomorrow night, when all exams are done!

So that was my two weeks without blogging!! I'm definitely back now, with a venegeance! Get ready for heaps of posts!

xox Sarah

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sarah Discovers How to Eat hits 10,000!

Hello Peoples!

I'm taking a mini break from studying for my Agricultural Economics exam (nasty business, that bird flu, don't you think?). I was just quickly checking up on my blog, making sure everything was ok, that it hadn't imploded in my absence... and noticed my hit counter!! (On the right there, at the bottom of the grey column, just above the "I Power Blogger" symbol).

I've hit 10,000!

Wahooooo! Glad that people are enjoying reading the blog! I'll be back on the other side of these exams!

xox Sarah (never underestimate the power of clicking "refresh")

Thursday, November 10, 2005

OMG Si, are you serious?

Yeah I know I'm not supposed to be working on my blog (Bad Sarah!)... But I just had to share this with everyone.

Normally I don't go around telling everyone the details of my crazy obsessive project.

Stuff like... "Oh my God I'm so obsessed with Nigella Lawson and her recipes that I've decided to devote a whole year of my life to cooking all the recipes out of one of her books"... usually doesn't come out of my mouth.

The extent of my description of this project to people in real life is, "oh yeah so I'm cooking my way through this book which has a lot of really cool and interesting recipes in it".

Or simply: "I love to cook. Wanna come over and eat?"

My family and I look at the project as a whole series of Nigella recipes, to everyone else, it's just... well, food.

With that in mind, check out the hilarious comments my mate Si has been posting on the review of dinner on Sunday night.

And now... check out this exerpt from our MSN convo.

Sarah says:

si says:
wat up

Sarah says:
nothing much!
am working on assignment

si says:

Sarah says:
but one of my friends read your comment on my blog and she's like "WTF is that person going on about"

si says:
oohh can u link me
did they say nethin back
i mean link me as in to ur blog
url thingo

Sarah says:
oh right
2 secs

si says:
did they repli to me?

Sarah says:
oh no

si says:
aww waa

Sarah says:
we wuz jus chattin on msn and she's like yo i cudn understan a word he sed

but I replied

si says:
oh fo real?

He clicks on the link and reads my reply...

si says:
that was classic i red ur repli so funn i

Sarah says:
that like took me ages to write

si says:
serious? i thought itd take u less tym
cos its less typin

Sarah says:
na it takes ages cos theres heaps o differen rules n spellin n shyt
n i c i made mistakes but its k u get the gyst

si says:
ye man ther r no mistakes

Sarah says:
i said "totally" instead of "totalli"

si says:
k i added a new one

I go and read his reply...

Sarah says:
haha u funni

si says:
r u gonan repli?
or shud i close that window
sorri to fk up ur blog btw

Sarah says:
do u want me to reply
that's not fuckin up my blog it's cool

si says:
oh ok
well onli if u wanna

si says:
whoz ya frend
that cudnt read?

Sarah says:
this girl in england - cooking nut like me

si says:
oh wow
hey u kno whos hot
nigella lawson
the english chiki

Sarah says:
how do u know her? did u click the link on my blog?

si says:
na man i watched her shows on abc

Sarah says:

si says:
lol i'm a cookin nut too memba
maybe not so hardcore lyk u
but close enuf

Sarah says:
ok did you know my blog "Sarah Discovers How To Eat" is a Nigella Lawson project!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

si says:
lol wat do u mean?

Sarah says:
How To Eat is a Nigella book.

si says:
i thought u just blogged stuff u eat
i.e the dinner and the nyt out wit sandy

Sarah says:
nup. i'm cooking my way through the book

si says:
haha i didnt kno that

Sarah says:
yup it's huge
that's what the blog's about

si says:
ohhh wow thats pretti awsum

Sarah says:
yea totalli

I go and write another reply and Si reads it...

si says:
ur clasic

Sarah says:

si says:
wow i'm gona b famous..shiat i better watch ma spellin for them peeps

Monday, November 07, 2005

So I'll just run into a closet, hide under a big pile of coats, and everything will turn out fine...?

Hello all.

I just had my first hardcore day of study, in preparation for my upcoming exams. I've barely been to half my lectures this semester, and have been doing the bare minimum to pass subject requirements, without actually absorbing any of the information we were supposed to be learning. And looking over all my notes and lecture slides and books today, I came to a very profound realisation - I am fucked.

I'm so terribly behind. If I don't get cracking, this will become the Sarah Discovers How to Fail Her Exams blog. So, I've made the tough decision of taking a cooking and blogging break for the next two weeks, until my last exam on the 21st November. My How to Eat is going back on the shelf for the first time in 6 months, whilst I bury my head in the books, the dubbed-in-Japanese Korean DVDs, and the Microsoft Powerpoint lecture print-outs. I've also severely reduced my shifts at work. I'm getting back into my usual exam-time routine off all-day study in the library and all-night essay writing on my computer at home.

Bring on the sugar-free Red Bull!

xox Sarah

ps And oh shit, I just realised that the end of December isn't the midpoint for my project, the end of November is. So when I said in my last progress report that I want to have done 200 recipes by the midpoint, I technically should be up to at least 200 recipes by the end of November. I'm only up to 172 now. It's not going to happen. Arse, damn, hell, crap.

You can't have a dinner party without a melon baller!

I had a slightly impromptu dinner with three mates from work tonight. It was “slightly impromptu” because we’d sorta kept the night free for a potential dinner but hadn’t actually made concrete arrangements. And some people are decidedly difficult to get in contact with thanks to their shitty phone reception! It took a whole day of MSN Messenger chats, missed calls, voicemails and text messages to tell them, "Meet at my house at 7:30pm for dinner!". But by this stage it was 6:20pm... and I hadn't been food shopping yet!

I'd planned a repeat of the lemon linguine and the gooey chocolate puddings from the Fast Food chapter, based on the fact that two of my mates don't eat meat or alcohol, and that everybody seems to like chocolate. But stepping out of the house at 6:25pm into the sweltering heat, I realised that a 30 degree day is no day for hot chocolate puddings. So I changed it to a tropical fruit salad, which Nigella suggests serving with butterscotch sauce, from the Weekend Lunch chapter.

172. Butterscotch Sauce

When Dad and I got to Coles, I decided to only put good fruits into my fruit salad - mango, rockmelon, strawberries, pineapple and kiwi fruit. For too many years I've suffered the crap fruit salad - chock full of oranges and apples, with just a couple of strawberry halves for decoration. No longer! I wanted each bite to be filled with deliciousness, and no disappointing filler.

When I came home, I cut up all the fruits and stashed them in the fridge to get super cold. While cutting them up, I put the water on to boil for the pasta. Then I made the sauce, for which you just lazily stir everything together, before tossing it through the pasta.

Pasta on patio

It was such a lovely night that we ate outside... which was great, until we got devoured by mosquitos! Argh!

So we moved inside while I made the butterscotch sauce, and stayed there to eat the dessert. The butterscotch sauce is brown and caster sugars, golden syrup and butter, simmered for 5 minutes, then with cream and vanilla extract added. It smells great but is so super sweet! It was nice, but probably unnecessary, especially considering that my fruit salad was quite fantastic.

Fruit Salad and butterscotch sauce

Fruit Salad, vanilla ice-cream and butterscotch sauce

Best... Fruit Salad... Ever!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I dream of Blini

Welcome to a romantic dinner, Nigella style.

Not that you necessarily need to make this with lurve in mind. You could just as easily, in my opinion, make it for a friend or family member - anyone you're trying to impress, I suppose. I think it translates sucessfully to non-romantic situations as well.

Nigella's actual seduction dinner, her "perfect, dream dinner" (from the One & Two chapter, if you're interested) consists of blini, roast chicken and zabaione.

However, remembering Nigella's words of wisdom from the Valentine's Day chapter in Feast...

“You don’t want a meal so huge that you’re both left in a torpor of post-prandial bloat”...

... I decided to forgo the roast chicken and focus on the blini. They are the most fiddly, expensive, and impressive element of the menu, after all. I also decided to forgo the zabaione. Zabaione, unfortunately, has to be made at the last minute, and necessitates standing at the stove for 15 minutes with an electric handheld mixer. Not gonna happen! Nigella, however, concedes this point - "Celestial though it is, it is not suitable for a seduction dinner. You don't want to have to stand up and start whirring away at a double boiler on the stove for a quarter of an hour at the end of dinner". For such situations, I felt that something smooth, creamy and individually portioned in pretty glasses would be the best dessert... and flicking through the Fast Food chapter, I found exactly what I was looking for - mascarpone, rum and lime cream. Nigella says it has the "creamy tartness, the taste, of cheesecake, but with the whipped lightness of mousse". Could that be anything less than perfection?

170. Blini
171. Mascarpone, Rum and Lime Cream

I did as much pre-preparation as I could in the morning, at my house. Then in the afternoon, I carefully packed and ferried the food across town to my friend's house and finished the cooking there.

Blini are like mini pancakes, made from a yeasted batter. On Nigella's advice, I made the batter in the morning and let it rise in the fridge. To steal Nigella's words again, "It rose beautifully; they were the best blini ever". The batter actually is quite easy to make - and this is coming from a girl who is petrified of cooking with yeast! You just stir everything together and leave it in the fridge.

Not yet risen.

Then I made the mascarpone, rum and lime cream. This one's even easier. It's just a case of mixing, whisking, stirring and decanting into glasses. One thing about this recipe though, the quantities are ginormous! The recipe was supposed to make enough for 4 people, but I found that it made 5 generous servings! See the wine glasses below? They're really big! Normally I put mousses into those wide, flat, "Marie Antoinette's boobs" champagne glasses, which are about half the size.

Rum Mascarpone and Lime cream

Well, at least there were heaps of leftovers for my family. By the way, here's the verdict from my dad, sent to me via text message later that night...

Hi. Mum n i r having ur dessert. It is so yummy. Luv dad


I took two of the glasses and carefully covered the tops in gladwrap in order to transport them safely across town. I carried those in my hands, whilst in a shopping bag I had dill, caviar, smoked salmon, sour cream, an egg flip, a whisk, a blini pan and some biscuits. The blini batter sat in the jug, on my lap.

And at 8pm on Saturday night...

The batter was well risen and aerated! Thank God! I was so petrified nothing would happen. Before frying, you have to whisk up an eggwhite and fold it in.

Nigella says to use an American 1/4 cup to measure out the batter, which I did, but now that I have my How to Eat in front of me, I also see that she said to only fill it up halfway each time. Last night I filled the cup the whole way. WHOOPS. I didn't have my book on me last night... no wonder we ended up with only 8 blini. And they were thick too. But not to worry, they tasted amazing. When the yeasted batter hits the hot pan, the smell is incredible!


Blini pan!

2 blini - topped with sour cream, smoked salmon and caviar. (Only $6 for that small tub, pretty good value, I think).

Cooking - on the right we have the un-topped blini.

Blini & Champagne!

There was so much blini, we were so stuffed! But still managed to find room for dessert...

Speaking of dessert, do you know what happened? After my careful and stressful transport of the wine glasses, and their safe arrival at my friend's fridge - the little fuckers broke on me! I'd put them in the fridge door shelf when I arrived, and when I went to open the fridge later, they toppled out and the smashed on the floor! ARGH!!!!!!!!!! Luckily though, it was only the stems that had broken off the glasses, whilst the mousse was still safely contained inside the cups (good thing I'd cunningly gladwrapped them in the morning, hey?). So I tipped them out into slightly-less-glamorous bowls and they were saved.

Rum Mascarpone & Lime Cream – saved

We ate them with fabulous store-bought langue de chat biscuits. But you know what, these supermarket langue de chat were so much better than the ones I made! When I made them, they were all thin and airy and slightly soggy (which I blame purely on my ineptitude - perhaps I shall have another go at making them later on), but these ones were crunchy and cakey and just perfect.

However, a word or warning. If you were, purely theoretically, making the blini and mascarpone cream for a romantic and/or seduction dinner, be aware of the huge quantities and the potential for turgid post-prandial bloat... which is kinda what happened to us. I'd recommend only cooking three quarters of the blini batter, and putting the mousse in much smaller glasses - go for the Marie Antoinette boob glasses, they're the right size for a romantic meal. You could probably get 8 servings out of it.

So, there it is, I've warned you. Don't blame me if you and your partner descend into a carb-induced stupor and fall asleep on the couch.

Can I get a hand clap?

This Tenderest Chicken must be pretty damn fantastic, four days on and I've made it again. Check it.

We ate it on the deck for lunch today, enjoying the lovely weather, with some cos lettuce dressed in fab ranch dressing - made up properly thick this time, with half mayo half buttermilk. It's so, so so so good! I want to have its babies!

Ooh and can you see the two little bottles of hot sauce next to the salt pig? The little one is ordinary Tobasco sauce, and the large one is Pure Louisiana Crystal Hot Sauce, sent to me from my friend Lisa in America. They're both fabulous, but I actually think I prefer the taste of the Crystal. Lisa asked my father and I to do a side-by-side taste comparison, to see which one's hotter. No contest there, the Tobasco's waaaay hotter! It even comes in a smaller bottle with a teensy hole at the end, so you can't let too much out at once. It's potent!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Word of Advice...

The stem ginger gingerbread is delicious eaten straight out of the freezer (for some reason it doesn't freeze hard) with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Two months on and it's still fabulous.

Sarah Discovers How to Eat – Progress Report #5 [October]

Facts & Figures

It’s been 153 days… and I’ve done 168 recipes. This means I’m doing 1.09 recipes a day.

But you know what, I just realized that my recipe rate, the figure on which I’d been basing my progress, is all bullshit. See on the sidebar on the right-hand side of the screen, the “About” section? I’ve written “385 recipes in 365 days”… meaning I’d need to do 1.05 recipes per day in order to get through them in time. So, as long as I do more than 1.05 recipes a day, I’m fine. When I started the project, I counted 385 recipes in the book, but as I’m going through it I keep discovering new recipes, hidden in sidebars, as suggestions and so on. So the actual number of recipes in the book is probably closer to 400. Which would mean I’ve probably fallen behind… ah crap.

Well, if I’ve done at least 200 by the mid-point (i.e. end of December), then I figure I should be fine. I hope.


Fairycakes (Feeding Babies and Small Children)
Beef Stroganoff (Fast Food)
New Potatoes with Truffle Oil (Weekend Lunch)

Rice Pudding (Weekend Lunch)
Lamb with Garlicky Tahina (Fast Food)
Chicken with Morels (One & Two)
Linguine alle Vongole (One & Two)

White Tiramisu (Cooking in Advance)
Children's Couscous (Feeding Babies and Small Children)
Ratatouille (Cooking in Advance)

Translucent apple tart (Weekend Lunch)
Apple and Walnut Crumble (One & Two)
Scallops and Bacon (One & Two)


Er… if I had to chose a “miss” it’d probably be the pea orzotto – but that’s only because the stock I used sucked balls. Massel stock cubes rock, but their liquid stocks obviously suck. The orzotto itself was fine.

My progress

So those 5 kilos I gained still haven't gone anywhere... not that I'm getting any complaints, thank-you very much. Mmm'hmm. But I just had a flick through my older posts and realised that I bitch about my weight / exercise / lack of motivation quite a lot. In fact, I think I'm almost starting to sort of sound like a Bridget Jones type of character - YUCK. There's nothing I hate more than that self-obsessive, microanalysing chick-lit bullshit, which is so pointless and never actually gets anywhere. So, I've decided to stop bitching about that kinda stuff here and just get on with it.

In terms of cooking, I realised that I still haven't totally overcome my pork aversion. I'm fine with bacon, but I've yet to cook any of Nigella's hams or pork roasts. There are four hams and three roast porks in the book. I have to get cracking on them if I don't want to arrive at May next year, with one week left on the project and seven pigs to slay.

I also want to entertain a lot in the next few months to get through more recipes (and because entertaining is fun!). Exams finish on the 21st of November (thank God!) and then I have 3 months of freedom, in which I am just gonna cook cook and cook! If you want a special Nigella-meal made for you, book in early!

xox Sarah

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Can I get a yee-hah?

Happy Cup Day! I'm not even into horses, but I love Cup Day... I worked a 4.75 hour shift today with DOUBLE PAY! And because Cup Day's a public holiday, we hardly had any customers... so I got to have a good chat with my workmates. Sweet as.

169. The Tenderest Chicken

This chicken needs overnight marination - thus the recipe involves advance preparation... which usually results in my total avoidance of the recipe. But I got all the ingredients yesterday when I went shopping for the Scallops and Bacon, and marinated them with a view to using them tonight. They're part of a fab-sounding menu - oysters and sausages, the chicken, and a chocolate raspberry pudding cake for dessert. I was thinking of saving this chicken recipe until I had an opportunity to make the whole menu, but I have no idea when that might be. And the chicken seems simple enough to be repeated at a later date, should I elect to do the menu in its entirety.

You marinate the chicken overnight in a mixture of buttermilk, garlic, dijon mustard and soy sauce, then wipe the pieces dry, brush them with melted butter and bake them.

It turned out to be mega-hot today, like 30 degrees, so I decided to have the chicken with just a salad, which I Americanized (see photo below) with some fab accompaniments that my friend, the lovely Lisa sent me!

The salad is just cos lettuce with radish (leftover from the bunny salad), which I dressed with Ranch Dressing. I'd never had it before, but according to Lisa, "Americans are like, obsessive about it, I think. Especially Californians". It's a flavoured powder sachet, which you mix with milk and mayo. On Lisa's advice, I mixed it with milk and buttermilk (cunningly leftover from the chicken marinade). According to the packet it's supposed to thicken up but mine was quite runny - probably because I used too much milk. But whatever, it tasted fabulous, and there's heaps left for the next few days.

Ranched up salad

We also served the chicken with Crystal Hot Sauce (like tobasco), which tasted wonderful, but in my opinion, not as hot as ordinary tobasco. I think I might actually prefer it to tobasco!

The chicken itself is totally ace. The buttermilk really tenderises the meat and juicifies it, whilst the garlic, mustard and soy sauce give the meat heaps of flavour. And it's so easy! I could totally see myself making this again, repeatedly.