Monday, 30 July 2007

Winding the clock back..

In the excitement of departing for Finland, I have realised that I didn't tell you of my lovely afternoon with Corinne. Corinne is a foodblog friend; she doesn't keep a blog of her own, but is a self-confessed addict. I met her first at the foodblogger's picnic. We met again at a party recently, and she mentioned the magic words "home grown apricots". I LOOVE apricots but find the ones in the shops to be an absolute disappointment; flavourless and dull.

I was feeling rottenly sick, and Corinne seduced me to visit her with the lure of a relaxed afternoon and fresh apricots.

And indeed it was gorgeous sitting in the dappled shade, eating lovely chevre and bread:

What's more, Corinne came through for me and gave me these perfectly deliciously ripe apricots. Because of my trip to Finland I had to put them in the freezer, but watch this space for future cooking!

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Cloudberry obsession

Ok, so maybe I have a bit of an obsession with cloudberries - I guess its because they are a truly Finnish fruit and can't be just bought from the local fruit markets anywhere else.

Not sure that I am sold on the cloudberry liqueur though!

Friday, 27 July 2007

Culinary explorations continue

In Rovaniemi my friend Aida and I shared some salmon and salad served up on a slice of birch. A rather cool throw-away container, I rather liked the idea of taking some home, but decided I really could not fit any more into my bag! I was hefting around a kilo or so of chocolate, two bags of leckerli and a litre of Baileys Irish cream as gifts for my niece. I ended up buying a big ugly green canvas backpack to fit all my stuff. Thankfully now I have managed to offload the goodies to my happy niece... oops.. more room for shopping!

Culinary experience du jour: cloudberry cornetto

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Fun in Finland

I am currently in Finland on holidays. Culinary highlight so far... salmon, potatoes, beans and carrots with a lovely dill cream, eaten on the pier in Helsinki.

Culinary purchase - cloudberry jellies

More to come! (Haven't yet eaten any reindeer)

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Stuffed chicken leg

Wanting to make sure that I had not lost the knack of deboning chicken legs, tonight I made mushroom-stuffed chicken legs, served with a light redwine sauce and mushroom wildrice.

Mushroom stuffing
2 slices of stale bread
2 eggs
2 large mushrooms
herbs to taste

Finely chop the mushrooms and put in a bowl. Break/crumble the bread into the bowl. Season and then add the eggs and combine. Stuff into the cavity of the chicken leg, then place them into a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes in a preheated moderate oven. If there is left overs, you can put it in a twist of foil and pop it in the pan with the legs to cook.

Now I get to find out whether anyone is reading my blog! I can do step by step instructions on how to debone a chicken leg; let me know if you want me to!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

French toast and salad

Feeling horribly unwell so I stayed home from work. After sleeping lots, I dragged my sorry butt out of bed to face the kitchen and a complete lack of culinary inspiration. I wanted something to eat that would be healthy, to get me well, but really really quick and easy to make. Thus french toast and salad were born. Salad consisting of the only two fresh vegies I had in the fridge, cherry tomatoes and snow peas.

French toast? Cmon, do I really need to give you a recipe? Just in case there is a loyal fan out there who doesn't know how to make it, here 'tis. For most people french toast is purely sweet, but I actually like mine herby. You gotta love a dish which can be both main course and dessert!

3 slices of bread
1 egg
1 tablespoon cream
1 tablespoon water
(I used the mix of cream and water because I didn't have any milk in the fridge; you could use 2 tablespoons of milk instead)
1 tsp dried oregano

Put the cream and water in a small dish. Add the oregano and give it a few minutes to allow the herbs to soften. Add the egg, salt and pepper, and mix with a fork until well combined.

Take the sliced bread and run it through the egg mix, allowing it to coat the bread. Don't leave the bread in there for long, or it will go soggy. Pop straight into a lightly oiled and hot frypan. Cook one side until golden brown. Turn over and cook the other side. Serve piping hot.

For a sweet version, remove the herb, salt and pepper. Once cooked sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or icing sugar, or even drizzle with maple syrup.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Chicken soup for the soul... and everything else

ouI was sitting at my computer tonight thinking "what on earth can I post up on the foodblog today? I haven't cooked anything".

Somehow I had successfully overlooked the fact that I had just made a big pot of chicken soup for a friend of mine who has a nasty cold. How is that for domestic blindness? Anyway, here is Aunty Kiriel's quick, tasty and nutritious chicken soup recipe, which is a sure fire cure for colds and flus.

1/2 a pre-cooked bbq chicken
2 carrots, sliced thinly
1 zucchini, sliced (actually I tend to use broccoli stems, but there wasnt any broccoli in the shop)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 chicken stock cubes
250 grams mushrooms, quartered
100gms mangetout/snow peas 'topped and tailed'
2 litres of water

Strip the chicken off its bones. Put the bones (removing the cartilege) in a pot. Fill with water and bring to the boil. I also add the ends of carrots to the pot and any other vegetable ends that might be handy. Simmer for 45 minutes to make stock, adding any herbs you fancy (basil and oregano are my favourites).

Fry the onion on a medium heat in a separate pot with a little olive oil until it goes a little golden, add the chopped mushrooms. Brown the mushrooms a little. Strain the stock into this pot, discarding the solids.

Add the sliced carrots and the chicken meat, and bring the pot to a simmer. About 15 minutes later, add the sliced zucchini, and one stock cube. Taste, and add a second stock cube if needed.

Add the mangetout a minute before serving, so that it is still bright green and crisp.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Spinach and feta parcels

I can't really provide a recipe for these yummy little parcels, as I just kinda threw them together. They are made from frozen spinach, thawed in the microwave, and feta. Finished off with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg, the mix is made into little parcels with puff pastry and baked. You can make them small, as pre-dinner snacks, or big for a handy pasty-style lunch. I pop them in the freezer and just pull them out as wanted.

Main meal coleslaw

(dinner for one)
100g grated carrot and cabbage
1 apple, finely sliced and chopped
1 spring onion, finely sliced
4 rashers of swiss bacon (swiss rashers are about half the size of English/Australian bacon) cooked and crumbled up

Combine and eat. Easy huh? Sooo tasty, but it doesn't photograph well.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Cooking workshop for absolute beginners

Well, that was fun! I just took 3 absolute beginner cooks and 1 limited-repertoire cook shopping and then cooking. It was the first time I have taught a class like this (previously I have taught sushi-making and medieval cooking) and I think it went pretty well.

Our menu for the day was:

- honey, mustard and prosciutto palmiers
- and, since we had the pastry... pesto palmiers, and pesto and cheese twists
- San choi bau
- Toblerone Chocolate Mousse

I will type in the recipes soon I promise (I have them in electronic form from making the class notes, but they are on a different computer). As well as slicing and dicing techniques, I taught them in passing how to choose ripe pineapples and good apples, neither of which were on the menu, but we happened to walk past while shopping. We julienned, whipped, rolled and stirfried; the perfect recipe for a fun afternoon.

Two out of the four participants asked me if I had ever considered teaching cooking for a living, which I took as a real compliment, and everyone commented on how enthusiastic and passionate I am about cooking. I am absolutely chuffed!

There are things I will change for next time, but mostly only small tweaks.

San choi bau

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Yes and no game

A meme from my friend Drakey

The Yes and No Game

You can ONLY answer YES or NO!
You are NOT ALLOWED to explain ANYTHING unless someone comments and asks!

These are mine...
Do/Have you:
Kissed someone on your friends list? Yes
Had feelings for someone who didn't have them back? Yes
Been arrested? No
Kissed someone you didn't like? No
Slept in until 5pm? No
Fallen asleep at work/school? Yes
Ran a red light? Yes
Been suspended from school? No
Totalled your car/motorbike in an accident? No
Been fired from a job? Yes
Sang karaoke? Yes
Done something you told yourself you wouldn't? Yes
Laughed until something you were drinking came out your nose? No
Caught a snowflake on your tongue? Yes
Kissed in the rain? Yes
Sang in the shower? Yes
Sat on a rooftop? Yes
Been pushed into a pool with all your clothes? Yes
Broken a bone? No
Shaved your head? No
Blacked out from drinking? No
Played a prank on someone? Yes
Felt like killing someone? Yes
Made your girlfriend/boyfriend cry? Yes
Had Mexican jumping beans for pets? No
Been in a band? No
Shot a gun? No
Tripped on mushrooms? No
Donated Blood? Yes
Eaten crocodile meat? Yes
Eaten cheesecake? Yes
Still love someone you shouldn't? Yes
Think about the future? Yes
Believe in love? Yes
Sleep on a certain side of the bed? Yes
Ran around naked outside? Yes

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

What shall I make with these?

I bought some cherry tomatoes today. Then as I sat on the bus, it occurred to me that I had no idea what I was going to do with them. Hmmm... what to do with them? I have a basil plant, so that is an obvious match. I have some cheese in the fridge that has moved into the melted stage so really should be used.

The solution became very clear; risotto!

Firstly I quartered the cherry tomatoes and popped them in the oven to bake, having drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled with Murray River salt flakes.

Then it was time to rummage out my rice, dried mushrooms, some white wine and a clove of garlic.

I fried the diced garlic in olive oil, added the rice and stirred it for a bit. Poured boiling water over the dried mushrooms to re-hydrate them, and added some to the rice. Allowed the rice to sizzle, and, stirring regularly, added water bit by bit as the water absorbed and rice cooked. A decent splash of wine and the re-hydrated mushrooms, as well as a spoonful of stockpowder and dinner was almost ready.

I broke up the cheese with my hands and stirred it into the pot, allowing it to melt. After stirring in the oven-baked tomatoes and fresh basil it was time to eat! Not bad at all.

Fourth of July

I am not American, but when I was invited to the US Ambassador's place to celebrate the 4th of July, how could I resist? I was very curious about what fare would be offered to the masses; it's a big event and I was one of hundreds braving the rainy weather to enjoy the hospitality.

So... I bet you are as curious as I, so I won't keep you hanging.
  • Jack Daniel BBQ ribs (good; nice and spicy)
  • Buffalo Wings (always wondered why they were called that - its because they are from Buffalo, not because they are formed out of the animal!)
  • Corn on the cob (a dish that the Swiss simply can't get their heads around; but then they are not very keen on food eaten with your hands)
  • Potato Salad
  • Green Salad with blue cheese dressing (the first time I had ever eaten blue cheese dressing; tasty!)
  • Hot dogs - I didn't get time to stand in the queue for these, and didn't really have room to eat them anyway
  • Chocolate Brownies - looked good, didn't get to taste
  • Ben and Jerry's icecream (My first ever B&Js - Vanilla Toffee Crunch. To be truthful I wasn't impressed; not very creamy or vanilla-y and the line on the side describing the toffee as being covered in a 'chocolatey coating' meant that the chocolate was dubious at best! But, to give them credit, I am a bit spoilt at the moment, having a tub of home-made 6 egg yolk, pure cream real vanilla icecream in my freezer.)
It was kind of the Ambassadors to host the event and I did have a nice time - hope I can swing an invite to next years!

Monday, 2 July 2007

Brown sugar baked pineapple with home made vanilla icecream

Brown sugar baked pineapple

1 pineapple
125g brown sugar
100g butter
30mls water

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C

Peel the pineapple and slice into 1cm slices and remove the core. Heat 1/2 the butter in a frypan until foaming. Add the pineapple slices and fry, adding more butter when needed, until the pineapple is lightly coloured. Remove the pineapple from the pan and put in a roasting dish.

In the meantime, put the brown sugar in a saucepan and cook for 4 minutes.

Turn down the temperature on the frypan, but before the pan has cooled, add the water and brownsugar mix - be careful as the syrup will bubble. Simmer briefly, and pour over the pineapple.

Put in the oven for around 20 minutes basting occasionally until a rich golden brown. Serve while warm with vanilla icecream.

Goat's cheese omelette

3 egg whites (left over from making ice-cream)
2 whole eggs
splash of cream (also left over from making ice-cream)
large pinch of mixed herbs
50g feta
salt & pepper

Combine eggs, herbs & seasonings. Whisk until the mixture is light, adding a splash of cream just before the end. Pour into lightly oiled warm frypan. Allow to cook until the edges are set, then chop up the feta and sprinkle over the omelette. Once the egg is lightly set, fold in half and serve.