Tuesday, July 31, 2012

hola chico's

The fun never stops with ice creams flavours, there truly are no rules. OK maybe the meat lovers was a step to far, as i'm often reminded but somebody had to do it.
AB loves Chicos, every birthday or christmas present is always accompanied by a couple of bags of Chicos, transaction complete.
Chico ice cream was the natural progression.
It follows the base ice cream recipe, with the addition of 3/4 of a bag of chicos stirred through when the custard is hot.

Ice cream base

·         6 egg yolks

·         ½ cups sugar

·         3 cups of milk

·         1/2 cup cream (optional)


·         In a heavy base saucepan add eggs, milk, sugar, cream and whisk.

·         Keep stirring over a low heat until the custard thickening enough to coat the back of a spoon.

·         Be careful not to overcook it or it will curdle.
·       Chill on ice or in the fridge overnight.

·         Put into ice cream machine as per manufactures instructions

·         And churn
A few sprinkles and topped with a Chico, must take picture before it melts or gets eaten.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

You say gelato I say gelati

My love affair with gelato started on my first trip to Rome and a dish of banana gelato. I had ordered lemon but either the waiter was a little hard of hearing or my Italian wasn’t what it is today, but I ended up with banana. Prior to this my experience of  banana ice-cream was that hideous artificial yellow chemical enhanced iced confection that has never been next to a real banana let alone be made of any.  In one Italian mouthful my world changed, banana, and very little else, real banana.
There are so many variations of the ice cream gelato base recipe; you just need to go with one that works for your tastes. Cream, no cream, whole eggs, just yolks, and the amount of sugar can vary by the cup load.
Christmas was at our house a couple of years ago so for dessert I did a gelato bar. This gave me plenty of practice to find the base I liked, as well as experimental flavours, the highlight was meat lovers!

Lemon lime and bitters gelato

·         6 egg yolks

·         ½ cups sugar

·         3 cups of milk

·         ½ cup lemon lime and bitters butter


·         In a heavy base saucepan add eggs, milk, sugar, and whisk.

·         Keep stirring over a low heat until the custard thickening enough to coat the back of a spoon.

·         Be careful not to overcook it or it will curdle.

·         Pass through a sieve and either chill on ice or in the fridge overnight.

·         Put into ice cream machine as per manufactures instructions

·         Add the lemon lime and bitters butter

·         And churn

Serve with blueberries or just as it is.

Lemon lime and bitters butter (say that 3 times drunk)

·         Juice of 2 lemons

·         Juice and zest of 1 lime

·         2 eggs

·         ½ cup sugar

·         100g chilled unsalted butter, chopped rough.

·         5-10 ml Angostura bitters (about 3-4 bottle shakes)


·         Add all except the bitters to a saucepan and stir over a low-medium heat.

·         Once the curd is at the thickness required take it off the heat and add the bitters.

·         Cool before adding to ice-cream.
It can also be used for toast or as cake filling. I’m not sure how long it will last, it’s never survived overnight in my house

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Most important meal of the day

As if there is an unimportant meal of the day or ever for that matter. I have a love hate relationship with porridge.  Done well it can be the most wonderful way to start the day, and healthy as well.  You may think that it is because of the layer of honey, golden syrup or brown sugar that is amassed on top it is such a comfort food.

Alas as I child I wasn’t allowed to have sugar on top as it would make me fat, well I dunno what happened, there must be some other explanation. I never add sugar to coffee or tea and would usually opt for a savoury plate rather than a sweet (unless it’s a crisp coconut biscuit), so there must be hidden sugar just waiting out there to get me.  

If I did some research it would probably freak me out to see all the hidden sugar there is and I’d end up just eating home grown mung beans, so best not research I say.

Done badly and porridge has us all thinking back to our school days and that bottle of Clag with the lid that didn’t make all the way back on.

My jaded past with porridge stems back to a hotel buffet breakfast, that had a great selection of delights but was poorly laid out. Who would put the chipolata sausages behind the porridge in the bain maire?? No really who would do that; you know where this is going.  

Needless to say 1 pair of over heated tongs and the next thing there were sausages performing Olympic synchronized diving straight into the porridge.
Dilemma do I stay and fish them out or do I just walk away very quickly, you know we would all just work away quickly.  So to the vegetarian that only had the porridge to look forward to that morning, I am truly sorry.

Rest assured that each time I stay in a hotel now there is a sweep of the porridge to sausage location proximity just to see if I am able to proceed unaided.

2016 update: During my stay in Stockholm for Eurovision there was a concerning moment when I realised the porridge was right next the sausages again! 

Thankfully there are no international sausage related incidents to report on...

Date and Almond Porridge.
·         1 cup rolled oats
·         1.5 cups milk (full or light or non dairy)
·         ½ cup pitted dates (dried or fresh)
·         ¼ cup almonds (slivered, flaked, whole, choice is yours)
·         ¼ tsp. cinnamon

·         Add all ingredients to a large saucepan and simmer on medium heat till a soft porridge consistency, about 15 minutes
·         Add brown sugar/honey to taste (remember the childhood fat warning, or not and live a happy guilt free life)
To speed up the cooking time you can soak the oats in the milk/water, in the fridge overnight.

Some recipes say boil and then simmer, but I go for a slow simmer as porridge is very easy to catch on the pan. If that happens to make cleaning simpler, soak pan in a small layer of water and about half a cup of bi carb soda.

Just be wary of stray sausages in the porridge, if ever there is a life lesson to be learned it is to be wary of stray sausages!

Post updated with new photos July 2016

Monday, July 16, 2012

Going old school

I like to do a periodic clean-up, the one where you decide to empty the cupboards to throw out anything you don’t need, but spend the day going through the gems you thought you’d lost forever. This is followed by the several days of it all staying out because by the time you have reminisced with old items, you’re too tired to put it all away.

In the latest endeavour I discovered an old recipe book I had complied years ago, before the internet was on phones and just computers.  A few odds and ends, a Nigella salad recipe I had seen, a few magazine clippings but the prize was a Women’s Weekly recipe card.  

I’d had a complete set till they didn’t survive a clean-up about 100 years ago, then I managed to find a set at an op shop, I’m hoping they have survived but I’m too scared to look.  If all else fails there is always eBay!

The card was for a recipe I first started making when I was a child, crisp coconut biscuits.

This latest batch was a glorious trip down memory lane, and prompted the question “are you going to make the Georgie Parker cookies too?”  So named because she was on the cover of the Women’s Weekly that month, “yes I think I must” stay tuned.

Crisp coconut biscuits

·         125g butter

·         1 cup caster sugar (plus extra for topping)

·         1 egg

·         2 cups self-raising flour

·         Pinch of salt

·         1 cup coconut


·         Pre heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

·         Cream butter and sugar

·         Add egg, mix

·         Add flour salt and coconut, mix

·         Roll into balls and flatten slightly

·         Dip top in extra sugar

·         Place on greased oven tray, they will spread slightly

·         The size of the biscuit is up to you.

·         Bake in moderate oven for 10-15 mins

·         Cool on a cake rake, they will harden as they cook.

I also used this recipe in mini spring form cake tins as a pastry base.

This little treasure was the cake tin bases with cream and strawberry, all natural it's almost a health food???

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rain, kale or shine

I would love to be one of those food bloggers that has the urban farm with the chickens, organic vegetables and a few goats to milk for cheese making. Alas I don’t have enough room. I have a small veggie patch that is fun to see things grow, but as far as sustainability goes, if we were relying on the veggie patch we’d be very thin!
I’m not very patient and my garden philosophy is “stick it in and hope for the best”. Alright, alright tomorrow I will get the patch in order that is if it has stopped raining. The rain is fantastic for the garden but also for the weeds!!

One sure fire hit in my garden is cavalo nero, kale or as my local supermarket are selling it “Tuscan cabbage”.  It loves the leave it alone approach, I pick off the leaf I need and then more just grow to replace it. You need to be careful of the number of L's in cavalo as 1 L's is kale and 2 L's is a black horse, a slightly different pasta.  

This dish is in the true cuccina povera style, whatever is on hand, make it into dinner. I am hopping by the end of the year to have chickens so not only will the eggs in the pasta be free-range they will be very, very local.

Zafferano pappardelle con cavolo nero  (saffron pasta with kale)

The pasta:

·         Put a pinch of saffron into an espresso glass (60ml) and fill with hot water, let seep for 20mins.

·         400g doppio zero 00 flour

·         4 large eggs (free-range, think of the poor ugly caged birds)

·         It has been many years since I have kneaded pasta by hand so I’d recommend doing it in either the food processor or kitchen mixer.

·         Combine ingredients and knead to a soft ball, a little more flour may be needed.

·         Let rest for 30 mins

·         Roll out as per pasta machine instructions and cut into 1.5 cm wide and 15 cm long strips.

The sauce:

·         40ml extra virgin olive oil

·         100g flat pancetta thinly sliced

·         1 clove of garlic finely diced.

·         1 bunch cavolo nero, chopped

·         1tbs verjuice

·         Season with salt and pepper

·         A big hand full of grated pecorino.


·         Boil pasta till al dente but 1 minute before it is ready put in the chopped kale.

·         While the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce

·         Heat the oil in a pan, add garlic and pancetta. The pancetta will crisp up and flavour the oil.

·         Add the verjuice.

·         Drain the pasta and cavalo nero and add to the sauce.

·         Add the pecorino, leaving a little bit for garnish.

·         Serve and enjoy

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Especially the beans

In the June edition of Feast magazine there was a Brazilian recipe Feijoada (a shredded pork stew in a cast iron pot) where the picture looked so enticing I wanted to lick the page. The list of ingredients included pig’s tail and salt dried beef and smoked sausage. I’m all for exotic ingredients if I can get them, but it has to be with minimal e.g. zero effort. I’m not one for ordering from the butcher, or green grocer, if it’s on the self I’ll take it, if not we are playing a game of substitution. One day I’ll remake this stew and post my understudy version which was page licking good, anyway one of the main ingredients was black beans.
Having left over black beans I started thinking of what could become of them and of course black bean sauce was the natural option. Slight hiccup, black bean sauce uses fermented black beans not their sober cousin, oh well quick trip to the Asian grocers because I was having black bean sauce come hell or high water. The smell of the fermented beans was amazing, so pungent and salty. I’m sure that the other drivers were a pit perplexed as I sat sniffing the bag at the traffic lights. There are numerous recipes for black bean sauce on the internet so just combined the best bits of all of them to suit my taste.

Black bean sauce

·         250g fermented black beans (soaked in water for 20 mins)

·         5 cloves garlic finely diced

·         5cm knob ginger grated

·         2 red chillies finely chopped

·         2 tbsp. spoon soy sauce

·         2 tbsp. Chinese cooking wine

·         1 cup vegetable oil


·         Drain beans and slightly mash

·         Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat on medium.

·         I cooked it for about 10 minutes till all the flavours were combined.

·         The oil will split from the sauce but that can be drained off when using sauce.

I used the sauce to cook some seafood in and also marinated some chicken and had that with broccoli noodles. With some of the un-fermented black beans I had soaked I added these to the rice on the seafood stir fry which added nicely to the texture. The stir fry was very fancy with spring onion cake and a marbled egg, perhaps i an watching too much Master Chef.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pie eyed

This morning I woke up feeling like my I’d partied like it was 1999. The thing that annoys me most of all is that all I’d drunk was blood orange soft-drink, not the 8 bottles my head was carrying on like. I tried water to relieve it, the pressure point hippy method and then resorted to pills. As I lay on the lounge dying as only a bloke can, all I could think about was bacon and eggs. There is something strange about the way the body craves salt and grease after it has rejected anything else you consumed prior.

In my state there was no way I was going to be about to leave the lounge long enough to stand at the stove to make bacon and eggs (I know a whole 10 minutes), so I made a pie. An old favourite the egg and bacon pie or fancier pizza rustica as it is known in Italy. There was nothing fancy about my pie; it could have been on an anti-binge drinking commercial, “how will you feel tomorrow, if your baking looked like this?”
It was thrown together with what I had in the fridge. While nothing fancy it was dead simple and could be put together in ad breaks of the Ted Danson movie knights of the South Bronx, nothing better than an underdog movie when you are feeling poorly.

Ad break egg and bacon pie

·         400g bacon rind removed

·         2 red onions

·         A few sprigs of parsley

·         10 eggs

·         200ml cream

·         Salt and pepper to taste

·         Puff pastry 3-4 sheets (taken out of freezer in first ad break)


·         Line greased cake tin with pastry (2 add breaks later, thawing time)

·         Put all remaining ingredients in the food processor and blend for 45 seconds. (3rd ad break)

·         Pour into pastry lined cake tin

·         Cover with another a sheet of pastry, it doesn’t have to be pretty. It can be as rough as I felt.

·         Add a knob of butter to top and bake at 200 degrees for about 45-55 or till golden and firm, usually just before the underdogs come good and win the tournament.

You could do this all in one go without stopping to watch TV and it would probably take 5 minutes to prepare.

It hit the spot a treat and feeling much better for it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

For the love of garlic...

I adore garlic; it would be my all-time favourite ingredient. Garlic is one of the must have items whenever I think about the ingredients I would take to a deserted island, along with parmesan, basil, flour and eggs…worst case scenario you could live of a pesto type pasta. 

Some would say it goes back to my Italian heritage but having come from English and Irish convict stock, the closet I come is that they may have stolen some pasta to earn their passage down under. Like all good stereotypes every Italian I know doesn't actually like garlic that much.

Now that winter is upon us it is time for warming soups. Potato and garlic is beyond simple and on a cold night is just like a big bowl of cuddles.

Potato and garlic soup

·         8 Desiree potatoes quartered skin on (or any potato you can get, I just like the purple)

·         3 brown onions chopped

·         1 head of garlic peeled

·         200g bacon bones or diced bacon

·         3 sprigs of thyme

·         200ml light cream

  • Add a splash of olive oil to a pot.
  • Sauté onions till just soft.
  • Add remaining ingredients (except cream) and cover with water or chicken stock.
  • Simmer until potatoes are soft approx. 30 mins.
  • If using bacon bones remove from soup and strip off any meat and put the meat back in the soup
  • Remove thyme
  • Add cream and blend till smooth.
Garnish with a swirl of cream and eat with toasted ciabatta

Sunday, July 1, 2012

To top it off

With all the excitement of bread I needed something to top it. I had a pineapple in the fridge with screamed at me “make me into jam”.
I’ve only made few jams but the concept is pretty simple, fruit, sugar and a setting agent (juice of a lemon) you then just let if simmer away till it is soft and will set when cooled. I’ve never made it in batches big enough to keep to worry about it going off or the need to wax the top of the jar.

I remember a dinner with my partner's parents where we had some a bread roll or scone (see the memory is going) and his dad asked if we had any jam, “no but I can make some”. Frozen blueberries, a squeeze of lemon, sugar, 20mins and hey presto jam.

Minted Pineapple Jam

·         1 small pineapple about 300grams, peeled, cored and finally chopped.

·         150grams sugar

·         Juice of 1 small lemon

·         60ml water

·         2 large sprigs of mint

I just added this all together and simmered on low for about 45-55mins.

The mint was added for the last 10 minutes and then taken out.

The pineapple will soften and it will be ready once it thickens and set on a plate when cooled.

If it just to be eaten fresh, it doesn’t really need to set. Next time i mignt wiz 1/4 of the pineapple in the food processer to change the texture.
Hmmm it would be nice over ice cream or a pancake.

Most jam recipes have equal amounts of sugar to fruit but I have learnt from my best friend who is the queen of jams that half sugar is much nicer. This will of course depend on how sweet your tooth is, I don’t mind the odd tart every now and again.