Archives for category: Cookbooks

Rigatoni 3

I’m back!

My little boy is now eight months old and is a lovely, friendly smiling little boy most of the time (though we are teething at the moment so we have a lot of Jekyll/Hyde moments). I’ve recently found myself doing quite a lot of cooking that then gets pureed or mashed and frozen for him, but not so much cooking that involves trying new recipes for me.

However, I have been taking part in a cookbook club that I started with a few friends after we were inspired by this article (click here to read). What is a cookbook club? It is a group of friends (or a group of people who love to cook and/or eat) who meet up regularly to share food they have cooked. At each meeting, everyone brings along a dish cooked from the same cookbook (chosen in advance so you don’t replicate dishes). It is a great opportunity to try dishes you might otherwise not have cooked, as well as using the cookbooks you own (or discovering new ones). You also get to meet new people (friends of friends) who you already know have a shared interest in food, cooking and eating! click here to read more

 

Meatballs alla normaI just realised it has been a month since my last post! Where has the time gone? In my defence, when I haven’t been at work for most of the last month I’ve either been at rehearsal, travelling to rehearsal, working on my songs and lines or trying to recover from rehearsals for the local musical I am currently involved with that opens in a week and a half. It is the most challenging role I have played in my 15 years of involvement in community theatre and it has taken up a lot of my spare time. It is just as well Jerome is currently visiting his family in France as I haven’t been home much.

Before Jerome left for his trip, I was looking through one of my books by Jamie Oliver, Save with Jamie and his Meatballs alla Norma recipe caught my eye for three reasons:

  • it was quite stormy that night so I wanted to cook something warm and comforting;
  • I had never actually cooked with polenta before; and
  • I don’t cook a lot of eggplant and was looking for different recipes to use it in.

I have to admit that I didn’t really like this recipe. I found that there were too many fennel seeds in it for me (I don’t really like aniseed flavours), however Jerome really liked it so it wasn’t a failure. It was just that the aniseed flavours dominated a bit too much for me. The recipe also uses three different pans so it makes a bit of washing up. If I made it again I would make and cook the meatballs first, then reuse the same pan to make the sauce to save on a bit of washing up.

 

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 Crepes with rhubarb and raspberry compote 3

Here is my contribution for pancake day, although they are crepes not pancakes.

I still remember a few years ago when I decided to cook brunch at my parent’s house for my Dad for Father’s day. I told Jerome I was making crepes (very thin, usually quite large) and he kept insisting that I was making pancakes (thicker and fluffy). Once I cooked them and he saw the final product, he had to admit that I did actually know what I was talking about and that I had made crepes.

For my birthday last year I was looking for somewhere new to have brunch and I found Toast in East Perth. As soon as I saw crepes with rhubarb and raspberry compote on the menu I was sold. It is now one of my favourite places for breakfast/brunch and they also make a great juice called the ‘beach bear’ (pineapple, apple, ginger and mint). I’m honestly thinking about getting a juice maker at home just so I can try to make that juice!

So, inspired by my favourite crepes at Toast, I decided to see if I could replicate the flavours at home and make my own rhubarb and raspberry compote. I have to say that the final result exceeded my expectation. I was so happy with the compote that I could happily eat just that. I like very tart sweets, so you may want to add more sugar if you prefer things a bit sweeter. I’ve also included the crepe recipe that I have used for years, from The Beginner’s Cookbook by Family Circle.

Click here for the recipe

 lemon curd mousse

A belated happy New Year all. I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday season. I had a lovely Christmas with my family. Christmas really is one of my favourite times of the year. However, between all the Christmas cooking/baking, an old neck injury playing up again (ouch) and the fact that I was still working over the holiday period, I needed to take a holiday from something…so I took a couple of weeks off from my blog.

But my break is over and it is now time to get back to the baking and blogging, and what better recipe to start the year with than one of my all-time favourite desserts. I first tried this recipe from Gary Mehigan’s book Comfort Food a few years ago after meeting him and getting a signed copy of his book at a food show. This recipe includes my favourite lemon curd recipe that I often make on its own (it makes a great gift) and have written about previously. I’ve wanted to make the mousse for my blog for some time, but have been waiting for a reason to make it. I knew if I made it solely for the blog that I would end up eating too much of it myself! So when I was invited to a friend’s pre-Christmas dinner, I offered to bring dessert and knew it was time for this dish to make an appearance again. After all, the spicy gingernut crumble is reminiscent of ginger bread so that makes it Christmassy, right?

The gingernut crumble is quite easy to make, however you could always replace it with crushed bought ginger biscuits if you want to skip a step. The original recipe called for ground star anise, but I don’t like aniseed flavours so I have replaced it with mixed spice. Like most desserts I cook for dinner parties, this can be made ahead. The curd is best made at least the day before (or the morning) you want to use it so it has time to cool. The crumble can also be made a day or two ahead of serving. I have made the mousse up to a day before serving and it has still been great. It is always good to know you have dessert ready to go on the night with no stress.

This recipe is a cross between a mousse and a cheesecake. The tartness of the lemon cuts through the richness of the cream cheese and the sweetness from the condensed milk, with the crumble adding great spice and texture. It really is one of my favourite desserts.

Click here for the recipe

The books I have bought in the last 6 months

The books I have bought in the last 6 months

I have a confession to make. In April this year I set myself the challenge of not buying a new cookbook until I had cooked a recipe from five of my current cookbooks. It was going quite well for a few months and I also discovered the huge cookbook collection at the library next to my work, so I could borrow and look through as many cookbooks as I wanted, without buying them.

Then a couple of things happened. First, I went to France in June, and told myself a couple of very small regional cookbooks in French didn’t count as they were “souvenirs”. But that was only the beginning.

Then I went to the Perth Good Food and Wine Show in July, and I just couldn’t resist the chance to meet the cooks/chefs there and get a book personally signed (I owned some that I could get signed, but there were a few I didn’t have). Plus there were a few books on sale at the show (I mean, $10.00 instead of $50.00! What would you do?). And you never know what might happen, a few words with Maggie Beer about music/singing while she was signing my book (thanks Mum) and the next thing you know, she is calling up “Sarah who sings” to cook with her on-stage an hour later, and sending me home with a big box of her products!

Thanks Maggie!

Thanks Maggie!

I bought a few books over the next few months (always on sale), and then came the Margaret River Gourmet Escape a couple of weeks ago, where there was the opportunity to meet more incredibly inspiring and creative chefs, including Heston Blumenthal (who’s book I actually won in a competition a few months back, or I would have been buying one of his books too – you should have seen how excited I was when I found out I’d won a cookbook! Then actually getting it signed by Heston!!!).

So I have to admit that I failed my challenge completely. But I do now have another eleven signed cookbooks in my collection, more inspiration and hundreds of new recipes to try, as well as the memories of meeting these amazing Australian and international cooks and chefs that inspire me.

But moving on, it is time to try again. I think I have bought enough cookbooks to last me quite a while, so let’s see if I can cook through five of them before I even think about buying another cookbook. I can do this. After all, it’s almost Christmas and it doesn’t count if it’s a present…right?

So back to cooking. This is the recipe that convinced me to buy The Blue Ducks cookbook. By 5pm on the Saturday at the Gourmet Escape, I was starting to fade after a day in the sun, but looking through this book again (which was the last book signing of the day), I gave in and bought it. This recipe for Mushrooms and Pearl Barley with Macadamia Bread Sauce just jumped out at me and I had to try it. I have since found the recipe is on the SBS website here. But having discovered other recipes in the book I also want to try, I have no regrets.

I’m not sure about the bread sauce, I found it a bit too heavy and if I was to make it again, I would thin it down even more. But I liked using pearl barley instead of rice or couscous for a change, it was very filling and had a nice nutty flavour. I think I’ll try using it more in salads for work lunches.

pearl barley and mushrooms

Click here for the recipe

Minestrone verde

I have to admit I don’t deal with summer heat well. I much prefer cold weather as I find it is so much easier to get warm than it is to stay cool. I love rugging up on the couch in the middle of a thunder storm, with a cup of tea (and maybe a nice baked item) and a good book. Plus winter is great soup weather.

Soups are also great meals on the run, whether at work or between work and racing off to rehearsals when I’m in a show. I like to try new soups in winter so that I keep things interesting and don’t get sick of one soup.  So when I was looking for my latest ‘my cookbook library’ recipe, this new soup fit the bill.

I like this recipe as it is very simply to make, full of vegetables but filling with the addition of the butter beans. This makes a huge pot full and I have placed a few serves of it in the freezer. I will update this post once I’ve tried it after freezing. This recipe could easily be made vegetarian by omitting the pancetta and using only vegetable stock. Cut the vegetables as fine or large as you like (however the larger you slice them, the longer they will take to cook). Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. Once everything is chopped, the actual cooking of the soup is easy and only a few steps.

Book recipe number: 4

Number of cookbooks owned: 200+ (I didn’t cheat, I got given two by my lovely French teacher as she couldn’t use them any more as she no longer eats meat)

New book credit: 0.8 (1 more to go before I am allowed to buy another cookbook)

Click here for the recipe

Lemon curd

If you have read any of my past posts, you will know that I love anything citrus based. Tart desserts are my favourite and I will always go for a citrus or berry dessert, rather than chocolate. I think my love of all things tart must come from my Nanna. I remember hearing tales of how, when she was a young girl,  she would get sent to the shop with the vinegar bottle to fill it up, and by the time she was home it was half empty because she had been drinking it on the way home!

So it will come as no surprise that lemon curd (or lemon butter) is a favourite of mine. Unfortunately, I find almost all of the lemon curd you can buy in shops tastes overly sweet and artificial, and doesn’t have that lovely tartness that I expect in lemon curd. So it is something that I much prefer to make myself. And with this recipe, it is easy to make at home.

I discovered this recipe a few years back when making Gary Mehigan’s Lemon Curd Mousse with Gingernut Crumble (a great dessert that I will have to make and post soon). This lemon curd  is actually made in the microwave (although you could do it in a bowl over a pan of simmering water if you prefer, however you need to stir it constantly if you cook it this way). It is a much quicker and easier than other recipes I have tried, and doesn’t need the constant stirring of the usual method. The end result is the best lemon curd I have ever made, beautifully tart with a wonderful creamy, glossy texture. The other thing I like about this recipe is that it specifies the volume of lemon juice you need. The amount of juice in lemons can vary so much, that I prefer having the volume specified in a recipe such as this where you are relying on the lemon as your main flavour. When I have tried other recipes, I  found I had to keep adding more, trying as I went, to get the right tart lemon flavour (not something I encourage you to do with raw eggs!). This recipe removes the trial and error  and I get the same result each time I make it.

Of course, if you prefer your lemon curd a bit sweeter, just add more sugar. That is the joy of making your own, you can make it just the way you like it.

Lemon curd

Click here for the recipe

The last book I bought before my self imposed ban on buying a new cookbook until I had cooked (and posted) something from 5 of the books I own was Rena Patten’s Cooking With Quinoa: the Supergrain. I like quinoa  but had only used it in a few dishes, so I wanted to learn more ways to use it

I liked the sound of this recipe, as it was fresh and light, used ingredients that I already had and sounded delicious and filling. I also thought it would be great the next day for lunch. It was quite time consuming grilling the vegetables, as I only have a small grill pan. I think next time I’ll cook them on the bbq. But the result was flavourful and filling, with the chilli adding a hint of heat, freshness from the basil and zucchini, saltiness from the pancetta and the wonderful earthy mushrooms and nutty quinoa. For a vegetarian option, just leave out the pancetta. It was great the next day cold as well. Yum.

pancetta, mushroom and zucchini salad

Book recipe number: 3

Number of cookbooks owned: 198+

New book credit: 0.6 (2 more to go before I am allowed to buy another cookbook)

Click here for the recipe

This post is a double up, being my second recipe from ‘My Cookbook Library’ as well as a vegetarian ‘Meat Free Monday’ dish. Jerome has decided that the ‘My Cookbook Library’ posts (cooking my way through all my cookbooks, one recipe from one book at a time) should be renamed ‘Jerome’s pick’, as he quite enjoyed being given the cookbook index (on eat your books) and getting to pick what I cooked.

The second book I chose to cook from is Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen: 120 Simple But Classic French Recipes. I love this cookbook and related cooking series. After studying patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Rachel started testing recipes for a cookbook in her tiny apartment with just a mini oven and two gas rings.  She also opened the smallest restaurant in Paris in her apartment, serving just two people for dinner. This is one of those rare books where when I look through it, I want to try at least every second recipe. If you want to give French food a try, I certainly recommend this book. If Rachel can cook these recipes in her tiny apartment with limited equipment, I think most of us should be able to replicate them in our own kitchens. I certainly try to remember what Rachel cooked with whenever I start complaining about my own kitchen!

This is a very light dish, and would make a nice light lunch or side salad at dinner. Dill isn’t my favourite herb, but it went quite well against the earthiness of the beetroot and lentils and the creaminess of the cheese. We had the salad as a light dinner with some crusty baguette. Simple, only a few ingredients, but they all work well together.

Beetroot and goats cheese salad with lentils

Book recipe number: 2

Number of cookbooks owned: 198+ (198 now logged in my eat your books library, however there were quite a few that weren’t in their database that I now have to count)

New book credit: 0.4 (3 more to go before I am allowed to buy another cookbook)

Click here for the recipe

I am a fan of pineapple as an ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes. I’m not ashamed to admit that my favourite pizza topping is simply ham, cheese and pineapple, and any sweet and sour dish has to have pineapple in it for me.

So when I saw this recipe, I instantly wanted to try it. Added to that, my freezer is starting to fill up again with overripe bananas, so it was a great way to use up a few of those. The recipe also uses oil instead of butter, which I prefer as I find cakes cooked with oil are always moist without any buttery aftertaste.

I liked the idea of the coconut crust on top. However, it made the cakes a bit too sweet for me. Next time I think I will put only a very small amount on top to retain the texture element, but reduce the sweetness.  Although on tasting these again the next day, they tasted less sweet so it may have just been because they were a bit warm, and I prefered these the day after cooking. This is a very moist cake, due to the bananas, pineapple and oil, with a caramel sweetness from the brown sugar both in the cupcakes as well as on top and a hint of spice from the ginger and cinnamon. There wasn’t quite enough pineapple evident in the final cake for me, so I may add some pineapple pieces next time rather than just crushed pineapple.

Hummingbird cake with coconut crust

Click here for the recipe

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