Wednesday, March 30, 2011

party planning

After an extremely tough couple of days all I could think about today was getting home from work and having some downtime with myself and a glass of my favourite red wine... and of course, spending some time organising the table.

When I say organising the table, I mean that I had some time to plan what I am going to cook this weekend.  This Sunday I am having a group of work mates around for lunch and I have been charged with the responsibility of providing the food.  A lot of people from work have heard about my love of cooking so I think they are expecting big things! 

I turned to my cook book and magazine collection for some inspiration but in the end I think I am going to rely on some trustworthy family favourites... At this stage (things will more than likely change between now and Sunday) this is what I have come up with....

To pick at to start with:

cold cuts - salami / sopressa
homemade fetta / rocket dip
roasted cherry tomatoes with basil and olive oil
selection of cheeses
crusty bread / crackers

To dig into for main meal:

Marinated butterflied leg of lamb grilled on the BBQ (marinated in olive oil, garlic, rosemary and mint and served with lemon and apricot jam)
Salad of cabbage (red and green), celery, apple, walnuts, mint and a fetta / olive oil dressing [or we could have peas with mint and fetta, which is also a winner]
roast potatoes with chilli and onion
and a frittata for the vegos.

Desert - I have been told that I need to leave this to someone else (despite my insisting that I can manage to do all the food), so I am looking forward to what Kate and Emma decide to bring along....

I am excited for a much better end to the week and definitely can't wait for the weekend- so many fun and exciting things planned!

Happy eating!!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

things for the table

Last weekend I headed to the markets at Rocklea – a first for me.  What a place to find some inspiration… The quality of the fresh produce was v. impressive.  Amazing fruits that I never knew existed.  Freshly picked staples like beans, tomatoes and dutch carrots . Homemade jams and relishes.  Home marinated olives.  Freshly baked cakes.  Interesting sausage combinations.  Organic poultry and other meat.   The options were endless.  

Equally as impressive were the prices.  I think my bank balance would certainly be less depressing if I could organise myself and make my weekly food purchases here rather than at the gourmet ‘urban’ markets down the road.  It would be nice to be organised.  Maybe someday.

Anyway, knowing that I was heading to mum and dad’s place and knowing mum’s love of freshly cut flowers, I thought I would do some sucking up…. I bought her two large bunches of pink oriental lilies.  She was delighted with the surprise and within minutes of arriving they were in ginger jars on her table.   

It is always nice to have something new and exciting on the table to add some cheer…

Happy eating!!


crispy ciabatta salad

As promised in my post earlier this week, here's the recipe for the Crispy Ciabatta Salad...

You'll need this:

Half a loaf of ciabatta (you are better off using more as the kitchen scavengers will inevitably pick at this whilst you are waiting for the rest of the salad to cook.  If you are scavenger free, then half a loaf will do just fine)
3-4 cloves of garlic (finely diced)
2-3 large glugs of olive oil
1 red capsicum (sliced)
2 punnets of cherry or grape tomatoes
Freshly picked mixed salad leaves
1 red onion (sliced)
1 handful of green beans (optional extra)
White balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to season

You'll need to do this:-

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Tear ciabatta into small pieces and add to a baking tray.   Toss with the olive oil and garlic.  Roast in oven for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden and crispy. 

At the same time and in a separate baking tray, add capsicum, onion and tomatoes with a light splash of olive oil and roast for 20 - 25 minutes.  You may like to roast the tomatoes in a separate tray as they cook more quickly than the capsicum and onion.  You can also add some finely sliced basil if you like.  Once cooked, leave to cool.

Meanwhile, wash and dry salad leaves and blanch the beans in boiling water for a couple of minutes.  I think the beans need to remain their crunch for this salad.

Lightly toss cooked ingredients through the leaves and dress with a couple of splashes of white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

I hope you enjoy!

Happy eating!!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

homegrown produce

My sister is obsessed with her garden (I think mother is responsible for this...)  and has recently planted a veggie patch.  Even with the endless deliberations over what plant should go where, I am extremely excited as we are now enjoying the fruits of her labour. 

Last Saturday morning I was at mum and dad's when Anna made her entrance with a gift from her garden - we were confronted with the largest basket of freshly picked salad anyone could ever imagine.

I am not normally inspired by vegetarian food and I'm not sure what came over me on Saturday, but I was genuinely excited by this basket of greenery. I think it was the idea of eating something that was grown just metres from the kitchen that enthused me so much.  Despite being on a sizeable plot, I am not sure that a flock of sheep or a heard of cattle would go too well at the homestead so for now I guess I will have to settle for the lettuce and other greenery.

Anyway, last weekend's challenge - what to do with such fabulously fresh and tasty leaves.   The answer - crispy ciabatta salad, served with roast chickens.

The chickens were a perfect accompaniment to the salad.  I say this with all the respect in the world for the chickens as they were delicious in their own right, but this type of salad is definitely the hero of the meal.  It is so good and there is so much going on that you could probably have it on its own and be left feeling absolutely content.  I guess I (and the rest of the family for that matter) struggle coming to terms with not having some sort of meat on the table though, especially when roast chooks are on offer!

To me, this is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon - around the table on the deck at the homestead with a home cooked feast and a couple of glasses of vino.  I can't wait to do it again and I am waiting in anticipation for what Anna will harvest next.

Recipe for the salad to follow tomorrow.

Happy eating!!!


things for the table

Sunday, March 20, 2011

family favourites

Family Favourite # 2 - Jam Roly Poly

For as long as I can remember when asked what special dinner we would like for our birthday the answer was always - Jam Roly Poly!!  Forget the main course, this was the business.

Jam Roly Poly has always been a family favourite.  Lel, my grandmother, made it before I was born.  Mother has continued the tradition with us and it is now our turn...

Regardless of how many helpings you can get through, no one can ever get enough of it.  Even if there are some leftovers before we go to bed, we all know that there will be none left by the time we awake in the morning.

A word of warning - regardless of how much you enjoy your first two bowls, roly poly sicknes will inevitably be yours once you go back for the third [because regarldess of your inner strength, you will not be able to resist].

And so for the recipe.

You'll need this:

2 cups of self raising flour
1/4 cup of castor sugar
200g butter [use cold butter, not melted]
1 egg
1 cup of milk
1 cup of water
Sugar for dusting

You'll need to do this:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Mix flour, sugar and butter in a mix master.  Then gradually add the milk and egg and beat for another minute or two (you may need to add a little more flour).

Remove mixture from bowl and knead by hand until dough is smooth.  Roll dough into an oval with a rolling pin. 

Spread a full jar of strawberry jam (strawberry is the traditional version but you can use whatever type of jam you like, if you are from Australia, you must use Golden Circle brand) onto the dough and then roll into a log.  Place in a suitably sized baking dish, dust with sugar and cover with a cup of warm water (the more water you add the more sauce you will create).

Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve with vanilla ice cream.

It goes like this....

And ends up like this....

I know you will enjoy this dish and perhaps it may even become one of your family favourites!

Happy eating!!!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

we can dream

Today I spent my time staring at this....

But all I could think about was something like this....

Peels bar - New York City (source of photo unknown)

Or this...

(source of photo unknown)

I often dream about what it would be like to change direction and jump head first into a career in the food and wine industry.  What a magical experience it would be to put a smile on people's faces each day through the things you cook and the atmosphere you create.  Mother thinks I would struggle to cope with the constant criticism... Not sure where she gets that from!

Anyway, yesterday my sister and I indulged in the concept a little and we shared ideas.  As always, Anna had a couple of images at hand for the occassion....  Thanks for the inspiration again Bella.

Perhaps one day. 

Until then, I will continue to think about all the great things we could offer at the real life, Sam's Table.

Happy eating!!!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

mid-week sustenance

After much galavanting about last week, I think this week should be all about looking after myself.  I caught up with my brother over a v. quick lunch today and, acknowledging that he too is absolutely flat strap and therefore run down at the moment, we both agreed that we were in desperate need of a healthy home cooked meal. 

First thing that came to my mind when thinking about the natural pick me up we were both searching for - Omega 3. The best [and tastiest] source - Salmon!!! 

And so, we headed to the local market this afternoon after work and picked up some fresh salmon fillets (skin on - nothing better than some crispy skin on your salmon fillet).  Simply pan fried on the BBQ in some butter and with a sprinkle of chilli flakes, squeeze of lemon juice and seasoned with salt and pepper - absolutely perfect (for the diehards - it may appear that I have overcooked the salmon, but unlike my beef, I really don't like it to be too raw in the centre. Slightly rare will do me just fine).  Served with some trustworthy steamed broccolini and a generous serve of mother's roast potatoes with onion and capsicum and we both feel better already.

Nick didn't quite make it home and is now fast asleep on my floor in front of the tv... I must admit that I'm not too far away from hitting the wall myself.

I can't wait to get up in the morning and tackle another big day.  Nothing like some good home cooked food to get you back on the straight and narrow!

Happy eating!!!!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

simple saturday afternoon pasta

I have started the weekend at my parent's place trying to get some rest so that I can recouperate from my adventures in Hobart last week.  Feeling v. sluggish (and perhaps still a little bit hungover) I made a simple tomato, onion, basil and salami pasta.  This could not be easier.  There is no cooking required, apart from boiling the pasta. 

The process is very similar to the salad which accompanied the grilled spatchcocks, posted here on the Table earlier last month.  All you need to do is halve a couple of punnets of cherry tomatoes (or the grape variety, if you have a personal preference), finely dice a spanish onion and drizzle with a splash of white balsamic vinegar and a couple of large glugs of olive oil.  Leave this to allow the juices to befriend each other whilst you boil the spaghetti. 

And because I was cooking for Didds I, of course, made some chilli and garlic oil just for him.  Another very simple thing to do - chop up some chillies and smash some garlic; throw it all into a small pot of olive oil and cook on a very low heat for about 15 - 20 minutes.  Once cooked, leave to cool and serve a portion in a small dish at the table.  

Finally, just before the pasta is cooked, simply slice some good quality salami (I say good quality but really I just used what was left over in the fridge - had been there for a while but turned out just fine!) and a large bunch of basil.  Stir the basil and salami through the tomatoes with the now cooked pasta.   Finally, finish off with a drizzle of olive oil and serve with parmesan.

Now, the big question is - have you recognised the difference in the quality of these photos?  If you have, it is beacuse I have finally made the plunge and purchased a new camera.  If you haven't then I have wasted the small fortune I have invested.

My first impression is that it certainly does a better job than the camera in my phone.

I think I am going to become obsessed with it, if I haven't already done so.  My endless snapping around the house today has certainly worn thin with Mims and Didds.  

Happy eating!!!!


Friday, March 11, 2011

galavanting around like a freelance sailor...

This week I went to the historic town of Hobart and this is what I saw:

I stayed here:

We ate and drank a lot of this:

Travelled by boat...

To check out some art here.

Now I am home and this is exactly what I felt like for dinner.  A simple but hearty piece of veal.

I am completely exhausted and am in desperate need of a long night's sleep!

Hobart was a fantastic location to visit and I enjoyed my time there a great deal.  More details to come over the next week.

Happy eating!!!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

it's party time....

Things you need to know:

It all started one Christmas at Straddie. Not surprising I guess as many of our fondest family memories date back to the time spent together at Mum and Dad's beach house over at the Island.  It has now evolved into a yearly celebration.

"It's party time!!!" my Cousin (Ben) would bellow distinctively as he made his appearance, arms full with a mixed dozen (often red, but sometimes white), a gift for mum (he knows that the key to a good time is keeping mum onside) and not much else other than himself and his genuine love for life.  Oh, and if you ask the neighbours, his exceptionally loud voice.

The party that followed was always long lasting, full of laughter, interesting late night discussions, dancing in the rafters and above all else happy memories.     

And so, last weekend was 2011's installment of 'It's Party Time'.  The venue - Ben and Phoebe's beach house in northern NSW.

We ate Curries, inspired from the cookbook gifted to me by my brother for Christmas, and drank Pimms, wine, beer, margaritas - what else should one do when Jimmy Buffet starts doing his thing. 

Le Creuset pots were everywhere.  My brother and I actually gave one to Ben for his birthday (the white one).  They are such a perfect gift because they are something that you can use every day and something you will have for a lifetime. 

We cooked a lamb, a chicken and a prawn curry.  As you can see - the flat bread also made another appearance. 

Although the food was absolutely delicious, there aren't too many pictures of the end product as I haven't quite mastered the art of photographing curry just yet - the majority of the photos I took certainly weren't blog worthy.  Perhaps that was the curry's fault, perhaps it was the camera's or perhaps it was a by product of the couple too many margaritas.

Having now had the chance to reflect on the weekend with a clear head, 'It's Party Time 2011' was an absolute cracker!! We partook in the requisite late night (or early morning) conversations, table dancing (Ben's place doesn't have rafters - but like we often do, we improvised) and certainly shared what are now a whole heap of happy memories.  

Thanks guys for your fabulous hospitality - you have created a fantastic home down at South Golden Beach and we really enjoyed another great party.

Looking forward to the next one....

Happy eating!!!