The Romance of the Garden Bounty

It seemed like such a good idea at the time…

I’m always super enthusiastic about growing our own fruit and vegetables and when the first crops start coming through it’s very satisfying to be eating them hours or even minutes after they’ve been picked.  But as summer progresses and crops start to come in thick and fast, we suddenly have more courgettes/peaches/apples/rhubarb than we know what to do with; even after giving some away it can become a bit of a burden. This year was no exception and it became time to find some new ways of using the excess.

I found a couple of new courgette recipes this year; one savory and one sweet.  The savory recipe is based on a very simplified version of the Breakfast Fritter recipe in Donna Hay’s book “Life in Balance”.  I wanted a light batter for the fritter and this recipe achieves that by using egg whites and a small amount of rice flour.  It’s actually a great base for adding whatever vegetables that you want to.  On this occasion I added grated courgette and served them with lemon juice, plenty of salt and some Chevre cheese that I had in the fridge.  They’re great eaten fresh from the frying pan while the next one is cooking!

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The sweet courgette recipe is a stand out cake from Julie Le Clerc’s book “Made by Hand”.  It’s a chocolate courgette cake with walnuts, raisins and buckwheat flour.  It bakes to a gorgeously dark colour, uses up HEAPS of courgette and when it’s fresh, it’s crispy on the outside and moist in the middle…the way a good cake should be.  I’ve made this more than once and it’s definitely become a favourite.  I’m a bit lazy when it comes to icing and the great thing is that this cake doesn’t need it.  It’s got a gorgeous, deep, satisfying flavour.  I would like to say that because of this, one slice is enough *cough*; but really…is one slice of cake ever enough?!

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Blackboy peaches were the next big glut that needed dealing to.  Usually I just stew them or put them in crumbles (so good!) but they’re such nice peaches that I felt like I should try and do something more interesting with them for a change.  The first thing I did was make them into a Blackboy Peach and Raspberry Tart using the Peach Tart recipe from “Jane Grigson’s Fruit” book.  This is a great recipe that gives plenty of tips and techniques for preventing soggy pastry (which I’m happy to report that I achieved). The way the fruit is laid out looks absolutely stunning and the flavour is intense and beautifully offset by the cream.  As the icing on the cake, I glazed it with a homemade rhubarb and rose jam – to die for.

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The next peach recipe is by Emma Galloway – Peach, Rosemary and Yoghurt Cake from her book “My Darling Lemon Thyme: Recipes from my Real Food Kitchen”.  I don’t often use the harder herbs like rosemary in sweets so I’m always excited when the opportunity arises.  The batter is a mix of ground almonds and rice flour which gives it a lovely texture and the yoghurt and peaches help retain moisture in the cake.  Really really delicious and the rosemary adds a subtle piney flavour.  I’ve made this cake twice; on the second time around I didn’t put it in the fridge for a day or two – this was a big mistake because it went mouldy.  I was traumatised when I had to put it in the compost! *sob

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I know that looks like ash but it’s actually a mixture of rosemary and icing sugar 🙂

The last thing that I did with the blackboy peaches was to make a dessert from “Martin Bosley Cooks”.  This was also divine and a really straight-forward recipe.  Just crumble up amaretti biscuits and mix the crumbs with egg and brown sugar; spoon over the top of halved peaches and bake in the oven until tender and caramelised…drool.

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They’re topped with creme fraiche and mint

We tend to get a lot of rhubarb and raspberries in the garden as well (hence including the raspberries in my peach tart earlier).  We collect these with the intention of doing something delicious with them and then promptly forget about them/can’t be bothered…lucky compost (but poor us)!  I often put them into a clafoutis or a crumble (when I remember to) and this year I used them to make a Ricotta, Rhubarb and Raspberry Loaf using Annabel Langbein’s Miracle Cake recipe; this is from her book “Endless Summer”.  It’s so rustic looking and gets a gorgeous crispy top.  When my daughter bit into it it made her gasp which I think is a pretty good sign!  This one probably won’t get made as often as the others though because I don’t often have ricotta in the house and I don’t like to make special purchases for baking (is that weird?!).

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I haven’t mentioned the apples yet even though they’re actually our biggest crop. Luckily they’re great eating apples but we do get a lot of wind-fall ones that aren’t so good to eat.  You’d think this would call for copious amounts of apple crumbles but despite the number of desserts I’ve just mentioned, we don’t actually eat them often. We generally find that by the time we finish dinner we don’t have any room left for a heavy pudding. This year I used some to make Earl Grey Tea Jelly from Diana Henry’s book “Salt, Sugar, Smoke”.  I love Earl Grey tea (and I’m a bit of a tea addict in general) so I couldn’t resist this recipe.  It’s quite easy to make and also gave me the opportunity to use my jelly bag and boiling-water canner (small pleasures!).  I haven’t actually used this jelly since I made it but it tasted pretty damn good when I was licking the spoon!  The recipe suggests using it with ice cream or pannacotta (yum!) or with duck or game.  I imagine it would be pretty good on toast as well to be honest!

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And the final recipe from my garden glut is a bit of a cheat because it isn’t actually things from my own garden but just a build up of stuff in the fridge. Somehow we ended up with a huge number of carrots and a cauliflower from the market that had been sadly neglected.  Luckily I had just bought Nicola Galloway’s book “Homegrown Kitchen” which has a recipe for Crunchy Winter Vegetable Pickle using lacto-fermentation as the preserving method.  I love a bit of fermentation so couldn’t resist using said vegetables to make up a batch.  These I have tried since I made them and they’re delicious.  So far all I’ve done is eat them straight out of the jar…I need to up my game; the recipe suggests eating them with eggs or stirring them through rice with some herbs; sounds like excellent advice to me!

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So finally the garden has calmed down for the winter – I just picked our last courgettes yesterday – and the need to frantically use produce has passed.  Of course, next year I will have completely forgotten about the amount of work it takes and will once again romanticise the idea of bottling, preserving, baking and puddings and it’ll start all over again!  But to be honest…I love it really 🙂

(See, I’ve forgotten about the hard work already!).

Deliciously Italian

We’ve been eating quite a lot of Italian food during the last month…this coincided (not coincidentally) with the arrival of Rachel Roddy’s book in my letterbox – “Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome”.  This is such a good book; full of stories from her life and experiences living in Italy.  Details of food markets, local eating places, quirky characters and of course, her own cooking and learning. It makes me CRAVE a trip to Italy (I’m very impressionable) so that I can do all the things that she does!  But in lieu of that, I’m making full use of her book so that I can get that delicious Italian feeling.

The first time I used her book was following a trip to the Mediterranean Food Company -one of my favourite places to shop in Christchurch (just for the ambience if nothing else) – where we bought beautiful Italian wines, salami, cheeses and cured meats for a Saturday afternoon platter.  This was then to be followed by a large pot of Pasta and Potato Soup.

To go on the platter I made a batch of Rachel’s Marinated Olives which is incredibly easy but super delicious.  Olives are mixed with olive oil, shed loads of lemon and orange zest, chilli and herbs and it’s recommended that they’re left to sit for at least 3 hours. However…being slightly greedy and impatient, I put some of the olives and their marinade into a small pot after just a couple of hours and gently heated them to further infuse their flavours.  As an added bonus, they’re absolutely divine served warm.  I also didn’t realise until that moment just how great olives and citrus are together.

Following the platter we had a surprisingly satisfying pot of Pasta and Potato Soup.  It’s an incredibly simple soup to make; just cook up a soffritto (finely diced onion, celery & carrot) with some guanciale (cured pork cheek) then add finely diced potato, pasta and water.  As Rachel says in the introduction to the recipe, it sounds like it’ll be too heavy and slightly boring but it’s neither of those things.  On first tasting, it has a very delicate flavour, but after a few mouthfuls you start to fully appreciate the purity of the flavour coming through  – Rachel describes the soup as “pure-tasting, elemental even…” – I wholly agree with this comment.  I’m very much looking forward to making it again as it’s also quick and easy to prepare.  The perfect meal to follow a platter and to accompany copious amounts of wine.

Potato and Pasta Soup

In the vegetable section of the book is a “Recipe for Lentils”.  I’m a sucker for lentils and so decided to make this the central element of our dinner rather than a side dish.  I had some leftover guanciale from the Potato and Pasta soup so I added this to the lentils (fantastic decision if I do say so myself).  It’s basically lentils cooked with a soffrito which gives them a wonderful deep, savoury flavour.  The recipe suggests serving the lentils with sausages which would be delicious, but I served them with blanched fresh greens from the garden which I quickly fried in some of the fat from the guanciale.

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The first pasta dish I made from this book was selected on the basis that we have lots of courgettes in the garden at this time of year…in future this recipe will be selected because it is sooo so tasty.  The recipe is Linguine with Courgettes, Egg and Parmesan (Linguine con Zucchine) – basically a vegetable version of Carbonara.  To look at the finished dish with its basic ingredients, it’s hard to imagine that it would have flavour to match a more typical carbonara, but looks can be very deceiving!  My husband looked particularly skeptical but on tasting it we were all blown away.  I have found that this is typical of the recipes in this book – a few basic ingredients which deliver a purity of flavour that has me licking my plate (…I know).

Courgette Pasta

Not surprisingly, the next recipe also contains courgettes, although this was a slight adjustment to the recipe on my part.  The recipe is Bucatini with Tomato & Cured Pork Sauce but in this case I substituted courgette spaghetti for the bucatini.  The sauce was absolutely to die for, and I have to admit that it would have been better with traditional pasta rather than courgettes.  It’s another very basic looking recipe (only 5 ingredients) that delivers big flavour – primarily just tomatoes, wine and cured meat cooked until their flavours intensify, seasoned with a healthy dose of pecorino romano (as tends to be the case with a lot of these recipes) and then…scoffed.

The final recipe consists of very slow roasted tomatoes and spaghetti.  This was intensely easy to make and intensely delicious to eat.  Simply put 1kg of small tomatoes in a roasting tray, add a generous amount of olive oil and salt, then roast for about an hour until they are sticky and sitting in a thick sauce made up of their juices and the oil.  Tip cooked spaghetti directly into the roasting tray with a bit of pasta water, mix well and serve.  Too too easy…too too tasty 🙂

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So this is the beginning of my foray into Rachel Roddy’s book “Five Quarters” and I feel that it is the only the start of what I am sure will become a long and meaningful relationship.  In fact, I’m already looking forward to cooking Sweet Pepper and Tomato Stew tomorrow night with the tomatoes I have sitting on the bench from the garden…and while I eat it I will revel in that delicious Italian feeling 🙂

 

Totally Addicted to Persia

…and Sabrina Ghayour

I have been on a Persian binge recently, I can’t get enough of it; the more I cook it the more I want it…you can see how this could easily get out of control (and it has).  I have quite a few recipe books of that ilk (see my Cookbook Library for the full list) which I’ve used on and off over the last few years; but it’s Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour (see post here) that has set me off on my binge.  After loving Persiana so much I couldn’t resist buying her new book Sirocco and it hasn’t let me down – oh no – It. Has. Not.

The first meal I made out of Sirocco was Citrus & Za’atar Roast Chicken with a Date, Orange, Almond and Rocket Salad and a Maftoul Salad.  The chicken is pretty straight forward – just smother the chicken in a rub made of spices and zest and bung it in the oven for a while. One thing I did find a challenge was not letting the spice rub burn; you can see in the image below that it got pretty dark (but luckily in a good way).  I turned the chicken over a few times while it was roasting and next time I’ll put it on a rack so that the skin stays crisp on all sides.  I ended up taking the chicken out of the oven early (thanks to my trusty instant read thermometer telling me it was cooked) but if I’d left it in there for any longer I would have had to cover it in tin foil to stop it colouring further.

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What a gorgeous looking bird 🙂

To go with the chicken I made a Maftoul Salad which is basically just Palestinian couscous mixed with lots of other tasty morsels and a gorgeous citrus-y dressing.  I’d had some black garlic in the cupboard for quite a while and I recently bought a jar of sour cherries so I couldn’t resist making this salad just so I could use both of those ingredients!

I also couldn’t resist the Date, Orange, Almond and Watercress Salad because it looks so beautiful.  In this case I couldn’t find watercress so I used rocket which worked well.  The dressing on this salad contains honey and red wine vinegar and it is ab-so-lutely delicious. One of the great things about all of these recipes is that they are very straight forward to put together and they make a great alternative to the western-style Sunday roast.

 

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YUM!

The next meal I cooked from Sirocco was Rose Harissa Seared Lamb Steak (was meant to be beef but I wanted lamb) with Turmeric & Spice-Marinated Cauliflower and Asparagus with Preserved lemon & Pickled Chilli.  This was actually a pretty quick meal.  I did do one thing in advance that you wouldn’t normally need to do, but because I was going out on the night that I wanted to cook this I made the spice paste the night before and left the cauliflower to marinate in the fridge. That meant that when I got home from work all I needed to do was make a quick tomato sauce and fry the cauliflower (another adjustment – the cauli was actually supposed to be deep-fried but I shallow fried it).

The asparagus was also super quick and easy to prepare and is deliciously crisp, has a lovely freshness from the mint, a salty tang from the preserved lemons and heat from the chilli (in this case I didn’t have pickled chillis so I just used chilli flakes).  Sooo good!

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For the lamb, I don’t have rose harissa so I crushed up some edible rose petals and mixed those in with the standard harissa that I have in the fridge.  After rubbing that all over the steaks I gave them a quick hot fry and Bob was my Uncle – dinner was ready!  Such a nice combination of flavours, looks super fancy and is quick enough for a week night – I had it cooked and eaten in plenty of time for me to lounge around for a while before I went out – win, win and win 🙂

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It’s funny but I didn’t realise how often I was making slight changes to the recipes until I was writing this post and it reminded me of something that Sabrina Guyour wrote in her introduction to this book:

“…many people feel the pressure to follow recipes to the letter, but Middle Eastern cookery just isn’t rigid in that way.”

I can certainly vouch for that.

A busy week!

We had a 3 day weekend last week and as a result I seem to have done an awful lot of cooking!  I didn’t realise just how much until I began uploading all the photos…brace yourself for a long post…!

First up I needed to find a way to use some of my beetroot.  I chopped the large ones into chunks and roasted them with some white wine vinegar, oil, salt and pepper using the instructions from the “Root to Leaf” cookbook by Steven Satterfield.  I liked the fact that this method didn’t have any sugar in it (I usually roast beetroot in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar!).  These roasted up really well and I stored them in the fridge to be made into beetroot salads.

The smaller, red beetroot I sliced really thinly with my mandolin and pickled them in a korean-style pickling liquid from the “Momofuku” cookbook by David Chang.  It is a very basic recipe – the beetroot isn’t cooked, it’s just packed into a jar and the cold pickling liquid of rice wine vinegar, salt and sugar is poured over the top..so quick and easy and can be used for lots of different vegetables.

I also had a bit of pizza practice during the weekend…this time I focused on learning the tomato sauce recipe and trying to make the bases and toppings from memory.  Tomato sauce is my focus recipe for this month; it’s an easy recipe to learn – just oil, garlic, tomatoes, sugar and salt – but the next step is learning how to use it as a base for other meals…another step towards my goal of learning to cook without recipes!  (the pizzas were delicious by the way 🙂 )

On Sunday we had some family round for afternoon tea so it seemed like an excellent opportunity to make some tasty treats.  I’m still trying to keep to healthy(er) food so I chose a cake recipe from a book called “Whole Food Slow Cooked” by Olivia Andrews.  The Orange and Poppy Seed Cake is topped with candied oranges (or in my case, mandarins because I ran out of oranges!) in syrup.  I used a mixture of almond meal and buckwheat flour, the fat comes from olive oil and the sweetness comes from honey. The mandarin slices are candied in a mixture of honey and orange juice which is poured over the cake when it comes out of the oven.  It was a beautifully moist cake with the lovely texture that comes from poppy seeds and the occasional gorgeous sweetness from the mandarin slices.

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The savoury treats of the day were Cheese Straws; this is a recipe that my gran used to make for every tea party that she hosted.  It was the first time I’ve made them and they are so incredibly quick and easy…and moreish!  These weren’t quite so virtuous as the cake…white flour, butter, salt, cayenne pepper and shed loads of tasty cheese…drool…

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The final treat I made for the afternoon was home made, dairy free chocolate.  I found this recipe online and if you’re interested in trying them (and I really recommend them!) you can find them at this link: http://www.quirkycooking.com.au/2010/11/dairy-free-raw-chocolate/.  The ingredients are very simple – cocoa butter, cacao powder, vanilla essence, salt and some sweetner – I used honey but other sweetners can also be used.  I don’t have a thermomix so I didn’t make mine raw – I just melted the cocoa butter in a double-boiler, chucked in the other ingredients, stirred them around for a while and then called them done!  I poured some into a tray to chop up later and poured the rest into mini cupcake wrappers with some flavourings.  I made some with sea salt, some with cocao nibs and some with chopped roasted almonds.  These worked out so nicely, I was super happy with them!  They have to set in the freezer which made the bottoms of them marbled (see below) but when they come out of the wrappers the top is lovely and dark and gorgeous looking.

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What a tasty spread!

Last weekend was also the weekend that I bottled my Kombucha – black tea which is fermented with the assistance of an organism called a scoby (the thing in the jar that looks like a sea-creature in the images below!).  I flavoured the Kombucha with boysenberries which was then left to sit on the bench for 3 days before being transferred to the fridge to slow the fermentation process.  I opened my first bottle the second I was able to and it was delicious and tart and fizzy…so thrilled!  My next batch is already on the brew 🙂

And of course, given that it was a long weekend, I had to do some slow cooking somewhere along the line and what better than two large lamb shanks?! I used a recipe from “The River Cafe Cookbook” which slow cooks the lamb in balsamic vinegar and red wine.  These became gorgeous and gnarly and produced a rich, onion sauce to serve alongside.  As a side dish I chargrilled some courgettes and dressed them in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and marjoram…this was from the same cookbook and was a nice fresh accompaniment to the lamb shanks…

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…and what could be better after a meal of lamb shanks than a delightful plum clafoutis made from the shiro plums from our tree?! Usually I use Julia Child’s clafoutis recipe but this time I used a recipe from “Root to Leaf” which had a slightly different technique.  The result was almost like a thick sweet omelette and the tart plums were delicious with a bit of sweet ice cream on the side…mmm…so tasty!

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Finally…a friend has lent me a book called “Deliciously Ella” by Ella Woodward so I decided to try one of her recipes right away.  The recipe I started with is called Lentil Bolognaise which contains (among other things) lentils (obviously!), tomatoes, tomato paste (lots!), sun-dried tomatoes (lots!) and carrot…however in my case I didn’t have any carrots so instead I used a lovely red cylindra beetroot.  This gave the dish an even deeper red colouring and provided a similar sweet earthy flavour that would have come from the carrots.

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The grated beetroot look so bright and luscious and match my glass of boysenberry Kombucha beautifully!

So quite a busy food week!  And I haven’t done too badly in sticking to healthy(er) options.  One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that I’ve also had a go at smoking some food on my stovetop…that’s the cooking technique I’m learning for February.  I will share my experiences and resources with you in a later post but let me say now that it was really easy and devine!

Happy cooking (and eating) and I look forward to writing to you again soon 🙂

Happy, Healthy Eating

I’m trying to eat healthier this year.  Part of this is the result of my buying “The Unbakery” cookbook by Megan May (a book of raw recipes) and part of this is from visiting my aunty recently who is brewing kombucha, has done a course on fermentation and is increasing her intake of raw food…in fact I bought The Unbakery at Lynne’s recommendation so you could say that my healthy eating is all thanks to her!  Thanks Lynne 🙂

The Unbakery has some interesting information in it that I didn’t know.  For example, most nuts and seeds need to be activated (soaked in water for a period of time) to make them more digestible.  It also contains information about sprouting…information that I have embraced!  I began by attempting to sprout quinoa (didn’t work) and buckwheat (it worked – yay!).  I have now moved on to sprouting alphalfa and red lentils, both of which have worked very successfully…very exciting and they were both sprouted within a day (although they needed another day to fill out properly).

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Quinoa and Buckwheat at the early stages

 

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Alfalfa and Red Lentils in the later stages – nice and plump and tasty

I have also finally planted my microgreen seeds that I’ve had for about a year now.  I accidentally bought a microwave steamer at a second hand shop because it was labelled as a bean sprouter!  So as a back up plan I decided this would be the perfect thing to plant my microgreens in…and I was right 🙂  They’re deliciously hot and peppery and were ready to eat within 5 days.  I’m looking forward to putting them in a sandwich or a salad or basically just sprinkling them on everything!

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Aside from the sprouts, another delicious recipe that I’ve tried out of The Unbakery is a Coconut Chia Pudding…this is very tasty, really easy and makes me feel super virtuous and healthy while I eat it!  You just mix chia seeds with coconut milk (although you could use any type of milk), some vanilla essence, sweetener (I used date syrup but you could use honey etc) and a pinch of salt.  You leave it to sit for 30 minutes and voila! the chia seeds absorb all of the liquid – it’s amazing!  You then top it with fresh fruit and anything else you like…scrum.

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So beautiful!

I’ve also decided to make better use of my Moosewood cookbooks.  I’ve got two of them, Moosewood Simple Suppers and the original Moosewood Cookbook.  Last night I made a Vegetable Saute with a Tamari-Ginger Sauce from the original Moosewood.  This was an excellent way to use up excess vegetables (both in the fridge and in the garden) and get masses of vitamins all wrapped up in delicious flavour. If you wanted to you could add slivers of meat to this but it really doesn’t need it.

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Served on bulghur wheat…very satisfying!

Another healthy meal I’ve made this week is a Kale-Quinoa Bowl from a recipe I found online.  If you want to try it you can follow this link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/emofly/easy-and-delicious-kale-quinoa-bowl#.ytY6wd34Z. I made this to take to work for my lunch.  It was slightly time-consuming to make but it made enough for 3 lunches.  My husband took one but he didn’t like it; he thought there was too much kale and he could be right about that, I might reduce it a bit next time but I still enjoyed mine.  It has a nice texture from the nuts and I put a few of my buckwheat sprouts in it too.  You also get a delicious salty creaminess from the feta…another virtuous meal!

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Our garden has been very overgrown this summer due to a lack of maintenance on our part.  As a result, I forgot about the large volume of beetroot that I planted near the rhubarb and now they are ginormous!  In an attempt to make use of some of these I made a Harvest Salad of Beetroot, Walnuts and Blue Cheese.  The salad I made is a version of a recipe by Annabel Langbein from her cookbook “Great Food for Busy Lives”.  I’ve made this a few times now; its very very nice and very easy to modify to suit.  To make it, beetroot, red onions and pears (or in this most recent case, apples) are roasted in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and brown sugar then dished up with cheese such as feta or blue, some salad greens (sometimes) and some toasted walnuts.  In this instance I served the salad with Fennel Pork Belly Strips from “Nigellissima” where pork strips are rubbed with oil, salt and fennel seeds then roasted until crispy.  I particularly wanted crispy skin and I decided to sacrifice the tenderness of the meat to achieve it…some may say that’s crazy but sometimes crispy skin is the most important thing…in this case the skin and the pork were crunchy…this did of course make it a challenge to locate the bones…but everyone likes a challenge don’t they?!

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A close up of one of my home-grown chioggia beetroot…so beautiful!

And that as they say is that!  A weeks good eating and already looking forward to the next. Happy healthy eating everyone 🙂 Although I sense that my healthy eating may be about to take a turn for the worse…I feel a bout of baking coming on… xx

Joints and Pizza…

I’ve started working on my pizza making skills this week because as a general rule…my pizzas are pretty average.  I want to perfect the base as well as the toppings so for these pizzas I used Jamie Oliver’s pizza base recipe from his book “Jamie at Home”.  This uses a mix of Tipo 00 flour and semolina flour which I haven’t used for pizza before; it was a really nice dough to work with and it made a lovely crisp (but not dry) base.  The next key element I made was my own tomato sauce rather than using tomato paste. I made the Neopolitana Sauce recipe from the “Southern Italian Home Cooking” book which is delicious.  It added a real lusciousness to the pizzas which my home made ones are often lacking.

For the first pizza topping I used Jamie’s Marguerita Pizza and So Much More recipe also from Jamie at Home.  This goes into the oven topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil and when it comes out of the oven thinly sliced prosciutto, fresh rocket and parmesan cheese are scattered over the top.  This was a really nice pizza and the rocket was a nice fresh contrast to the richness of the other ingredients.  The prosciutto and parmesan added a nice salty, tangy hit.

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My second pizza is a Quattro Stagioni from “The Food of Italy”.  The beauty of this recipe is that there are four different toppings in each quarter so I got to try lots of variations all at once.  As much as I liked Jamie’s pizza, this one was my favourite, hands down.  To start with the base is covered in a generous layer of tomato sauce and parmesan cheese; the four toppings are then as follows:

  1. Mozzarella cheese, prosciutto
  2. Marinated artichoke hearts
  3. Mozzarella cheese, finely sliced tomato
  4. Finely sliced mushrooms

As well as the tomato sauce, I think what really makes this pizza special is that the toppings are basic and heavily applied giving you the full, concentrated flavour of each ingredient and a thickness which is satisfying to eat…really good.

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The other skill I’ve been working on for January is jointing a chicken…however…I don’t just want to be able to joint a chicken, I want to be able to do it quickly and effectively and easily so that I don’t even think twice about doing it any time that I want chicken pieces.  So on Sunday I had my first practice at this skill.  I didn’t do too badly but there’s still room for improvement (see my post later in the month where I will talk about this in more depth and provide some resources).

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I transformed this well jointed bird into a lovely batch of Jerk Chicken.  I partially used Nigella’s instructions from her “Kitchen” cookbook except that I used a Jerk paste that we bought at a food show last year.  I have to say that I much prefer Nigella’s paste but this was certainly good in terms of speed and it has to be said…it does look good…look at that skin!

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I served this with a courgette salad that I made with my new spiralizer (only the second time I’ve used it – exciting!).  I just happened to see this recipe on a blog by Chez Chloe on the same day that I was cooking the chicken and I realised it would be perfect for dinner.  As it turned out I was right; it was a lovely fresh contrast to the spicyness of the Jerk Chicken and even provided leftovers for lunch the next day – result!

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For Monday night’s dinner…low and behold, we had leftover chicken!  To go with this chicken I made a “Jamie’s 15 Minute Meal” of Herby Vegetable Couscous salad with Yoghurt Tzatziki.  This was another really nice fresh dish consisting of capsicums, spring onions, feta, chilli and olives.  I didn’t actually have any cucumber so my dressing was more of a minty, lemony, yoghurty number.  Very tasty though 🙂

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Well, this is my last post for the next week or so because we’re off on holiday at 5am tomorrow morning.  We’re going to Torrent Bay in the Abel Tasman where there is no power, no internet and no cell phone coverage…idyllic!  Oh…and I forgot to mention…plenty of good food and wine as well 🙂

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Outside our bach
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Looking down at the bay

 

Delicious December Dinners

Over the last month we’ve had a range of delicious dinners to keep us going through the hectic Christmas period.  I bought a new cookbook called SPQR which is the cookbook from a restaurant and bar in Auckland.  The very first night I had it I cooked their Chicken Fettuccine recipe.  This was a fairly quick, basic recipe making it perfect for a weeknight but also a bit decadent with plenty of cream and white wine in the sauce.  It’s also a great way to use some of the spinach and sorrel in the garden.

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During this month I also bought myself a vegetable spiralizer which was very exciting!  To test it out I made Rachel Khoo’s Courgette Linguine with Tomato, Olive and Caper Sauce.  This was really fun to make (thanks to the spiralizer!) and a very satisfying alternative to pasta which can sometimes feel a bit stodgy.  I’m looking forward to getting more courgettes from the garden so I can spiralize to my hearts content!IMG_0111

Another quick weekday meal that we had during December was Market Chicken Fried Noodles from the “Dumpling Sisters” cookbook.  All the recipes that I’ve made from this book so far have been lovely and flavoursome and quick to make.  An interesting tip is that they use a small amount of baking soda in their marinades which they say helps to soften the proteins in the meat and make it more tender – good tip!

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For the last few weeks we’ve had a big chunk of prosciutto in the fridge that needed to be used by the 28th December.  As such, on the 27th December I thought I better use it!  A lot of recipes I looked at only used a smallish amount of prosciutto but eventually I found a recipe called Orecchiette with Roast Tomatoes and Pecorino Cream Sauce in my book “What Katie Ate”.  This was a recipe of large quantities…lots of prosciutto, lots of cream and lots of cheese.  I cut the cream down by a third and halved the cheese which didn’t do any harm as far as I could tell.  The tomatoes are roasted with fresh herbs, plenty of salt and pepper and olive oil and are served on top of the pasta.  It was delicious and comforting; we all agreed that it tasted like an upmarket version of macaroni cheese!

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To go with the pasta I made a Mixed Leaf Salad with Mozzarella, Mint, Peach and Prosciutto from “The Return of the Naked Chef” by Jamie Oliver.  This was a lovely refreshing salad that consisted of fresh peaches, fresh mozzarella, rocket and mint dressed in olive oil and lemon juice…this was a lovely contrast to the richness of the pasta dish.IMG_0152

Last night we were feeling lazy so we had a quick meal of leftover pasta, leftover egg salad and some sliced steak served with a Broad Bean and Mint Salsa Verde.  The salsa verde recipe came from a book called “A Cooks Tour of Scotland” by Sue Lawrence and was pretty quick to whip together.  I doubled the amount of horseradish in the recipe because it didn’t come through enough for me and it went very nicely with the steak.

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All in all, a satisfying month of meals and it’s not over yet!