Monday, December 28, 2015

Boxing Day, Birthdays and Leftovers...

Now if you believe social media and really who wouldn't believe such a credible source? Boxing Day is all about left overs!

Leftover cold meat on toast, leftover pavlova for breakfast, leftover wine when clearing the glasses from the table....too far?

Boxing Day isn't only about leftovers it's also about birthdays, well a birthday, mine!

People often comment that it must be awful to have a birthday so close to Christmas well in reality if it was the choice of that or not being born, I'm happy Jesus and I are neighbours.

I've never had a problem with the timing, I managed to avoid all bar 2 birthday parties as a kid (I've always been very social)

The biggest being a surprise party for my 18th and I'll try not to sound ungrateful but surprise parties are what you do to people you hate!

No good can come from a surprise party, the guest of honour has no input into venue, timing, guest list, food, or theme. 

Let's us travel back a few years....OK a few more...

I liked the idea of getting paid to walk so at 17 I'd deliver the junk mail around the neighborhood, crap money but at least I got some air. 

My 18th began as I arrived home from a delivery, sweaty, smelling and in a hideous yet appropriate walking outfit to be greeted by about 30 of my year 12 school "friends".

Sometimes wishing for death is not enough....

I learnt two important lessons that night 
  1. Alcohol can be a saviour to get you through such situations 
  2. Having West Coast Cooler as the only alcohol available is like throwing an ice cube on a fire
I thought this was going to be a lighthearted YAY birthdays post but I may have some issues I still need to work through......OK onto the food!

I've written about my ultimate birthday cake but this year I wanted to be totally on trend and challenged myself to do a leftovers cake!

While it is more a tart than a cake, it did have a candle, someone sang and I blow it out so it counts!

My Boxing Day Favourites Leftover Tart was a fly by the seat of your pants experimental tart so there isn't a recipe, but I'll talk you through what I did. 

Christmas is my Favourites time of the year and wouldn't be complete without chocolate money.
I'm sure you have one or 2 boxes in your house right now?

Leftover pastry from making mince tarts

Blind baked at 200°C for about 15 minutes 

The filled chocolates I chopped up and left the solid ones whole. 
I left the cherry ripe in even though I can't said it, I should have left it out...ewwww.

I added about 200ml of cream to the chocolate which would have been about 600g in total

I bake at 180°C for about 15-20 mins and then stirred to combine cream.

I had some leftover almonds and cashews from making the incredibly moreish spicy nuts from Annabel Crabb's Special Delivery that I was given for Christmas. 

They of course become praline.....salted naturally

Leftover cream, slices of a chocolate coin, wrapping paper, old streamers, candle and plaque and we are ready to get this party started.  

This is the an absolute die hard sweet tooth's dream, I get the feeling the diabetes won't be leftover but brand spanking new!

It's too sweet for me so next year i'm already planing to make my cake out of left over chicken nuggets....
Apart from the cherry ripe all the flavours and textures come together to create a tart that will have you bouncing till next Boxing day, you might even be on enough of a sugar high to enjoy a surprise party!*

*you won't because no good can ever come from a surprise party

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Chow Down to Eurovision 2015 - Israel

Shalom, the Chow Down to Eurovision 2015 now takes us to beautiful Israel.

Following on from the 2013 success of a Yotam Ottolengi inspired dish, Israel has again turned to Yotam for inspiration. I received a copy of Jerusalem one Christmas and it quickly joined the ranks of cookbooks that live on my bedside table along with those of Shane Delia and Dan Lepard, the type of food you want to be inspired by before you head to sleep....for hopefully tasty dreams!

While many will see an inviting array of farmers market vegetables most will hardly notice the poor kohlrabi in the corner. 

A vegetable that often gets purchased because it's purple and interesting but then without the courage or knowledge of how to use it, ends up being given to the chickens...or was that just me?

Kohlrabi also comes in green if purple isn't your colour.

Picking a new vegetable and then learning how to cook it is a great game, some would say sport and in a seamless segue that brings us to today's Eurovision hit from the past. 

In 1992 Dafna (accompanied by half the wiggles with microphones stuck down their tops) represented Israel with Ze Rak Sport (It's Just Sport). Dafna came 6th and then went on to host the Eurovision Song Contest when it came to Jerusalem in 1999. 

I really like the Kohlrabi salad featured in Jerusalem but not having all the ingredients on hand I went about with my own variation. 

Kohlrabi Salad
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 small lemon
  • 1-2 kohlrabi
  • 50g dried currant 
  • 100ml sour cream
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint leaves + garnish
  • Salt
  • Peel onion, cut in half vertically and finely slice
  • Add onions to a bowl and squeeze over the juice of a lemon, let sit for 30 minutes
  • Peel Kohlrabi, cut in half and slice thinly
  • Drain the juice from the onions and reserve
  • In a mixing bowl add kohlrabi, onions, currants, mints and sour cream
  • Combine and add pinch of salt and a splash of lemon juice
  • Serve with extra mint garnish
Kohlrabi is crisp, almost an apple of the vegetable world and is great sliced really fine into chips, grated into fritters and raw in a crunchy salad.

This year the Golden Boy from Israel was Nadav Guedj who managed to no only take Israel to the Eurovision finals after a 4 year absence, the king of fun placed 9th.

I caught up with Nadav in Vienna for a very quick unplanned interview about tattoos which didn't get awkward....OK it might have got a bit awkward discussing covering himself with tattoos?!?!

Previous Israel Chow Down to Eurovision:

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Chow Down to Eurovision 2015 - Czech Republic

Dobrý večer we have now (at last) arrived in the famously beautiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic and their exciting debut in the Chow Down to Eurovision.

This year as part of my Eurovision tour I was lucky enough to add Prague to the itinerary which of course was all in the name of research, such a tough gig! 

So many great recipe ideas and stories for next year's Chow Down to Eurovision. 

Prague lives up to the reputation of being an incredibly beautiful city but as the old and new town meet it becomes a mashup with jolts in to the present from billboards for Hooters, M&S and a veritable obstacle course of American tourists on segways coming at you in all directions. (though sadly not the direction the user was hoping they'll go)

Almost like being in a farmers market tracker beam I managed to stumble upon a mid week farmers market.....I think?  My Czech isn't what it could be if I'd actually learnt any Czech.

This inability to speak Czech proved hilarious if somewhat impractical when AB and I ran to make a river cruise just in time, only to find out we'd boarded the "Czech only" commentary boat. It really didn't matter we understood the view!

Any words I try to use to describe the aroma of this smoky ham blistering over the open fire won't even come close to how good it really was.

Not being a fan of huge chucks of hot ham I went for a massive sausage with a little bit of sauerkraut. So delicious, smoky and juicy and really who ever complains about a massive sausage??

So while I take a moment to get over the memory of that sausage we can all practice feeling like gypsies with the Aven Romale by 

In 2009 they scored Nul points (zero) and did not participate again until this year. 

This recipe idea came from a picture I saw thanks to google of ham baked into bread called "Prague ham" and I thought of yeah I can play with for an experiment but I might keep my bread and ham/bacon separate from now on. 

Experimental Prague Ham Loaf

  • 500g strong flour
  • 7g yeast
  • 7g salt
  • 300ml water
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 500g smoked belly
  • 2 tbsp. seeded mustard
  • 1tsp. brown sugar
  • Combine all dry and wet ingredients together and knead till elastic
  • Kneading by hand will take about 10-15 mins or 5 mins using a dough hook
  • Cover with plastic wrap in an oiled bowl and let prove for about 1 hour till double in size
  • Combine mustard and brown sugar
  • Coat the smoked belly with mustard and sugar
  • When dough is risen turn out onto a floured bench
  • Gently stretch the dough to a size that is able to wrap around the belly
  • Encase the belly and put loaf seam side down into a lined roasting pan (with lid) 
  • Score the loaf and bake lid on at 200°C for about 30 minutes 
  • Serve warm or store any left overs in the fridge
  • Served as toast it is an interesting variation to bacon and eggs
Bacon mmmmmmm

I really should have let it have a second prove but there was a food safety fear of leaving the meat out on the bench. 

Pass the pickles, just slice it thin!

2015 saw the return of the Czech republic and though they still did not qualify for the final they did manage to produce a score 33 points higher than their previous effort.

Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta scored 33 points with Hope Never Dies. I would have loved to see them in the final as they both looked like they were having the time of their lives with this big sing. 

It is worth noting that no matter what the problem, it can be solved by throwing off your uncomfortable shoes and having a big sing....unless the problem is trying to get to the Eurovision finals....

I had a quick chat with Václav on the red carpet where he said they love Australia, sometimes being loved is all you need....

This is the debut of Czech Republic in the Chow Down to Eurovision