Thai coconut chicken and noodle salad

Thai chicken noodle salad

 

Even though I enjoy cooking and count it as one of my hobbies/passions I, like everyone else, have days where I just really don’t feel like cooking. Whether it has been a long day at work, my neck is playing up (which has been the case for the last few weeks), or it is just a stinking hot day (which we get quite a few of here in Perth), there are days where I just don’t want to spend much time (if any) in the kitchen.

So I love finding recipes like this one that are full of flavour but require very little time or effort in the kitchen. This is a great recipe for summer when it is hot and you don’t want to warm the house up by using the oven/stove top for too long (you can use the bbq instead if you want). You can even ‘cheat’ and use bought roast/bbq chicken or leftover chicken. I have made this recipe both ways and it was just as tasty with bought roast/bbq chicken as it was marinading and cooking the chicken myself. Although the marinaded chicken is beautifully moist and tender.

I have adapted the recipe to add some green vegetables, but you can omit them or replace them with any you prefer. I also like adding a small amount of the coconut milk to the dressing, however this wasn’t in the original recipe and you can omit it if you prefer.

This is a great, flavoursome recipe. Filling while also being light and refreshing. Best of all, it takes hardly any time or effort to make. 

Click here for the recipe

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Meat free Monday – Mushroom Quinotto

mushroom quinotto 3

Risotto is one of my favourite dishes, especially in winter. I actually find the process of cooking a risotto (the repetitive action of adding the stock and stirring) quite relaxing, almost meditative. However, because Jerome doesn’t like risotto, I rarely cook it at home anymore and I usually only get to eat it at restaurants.

I was looking for a recipe to cook at a friend’s house this week for a cooking/DVD night when I found this recipe for mushroom quinotto. Although the method of cooking is quite different, the end result is reminiscent of a risotto, although the nutty quinoa adds a completely different flavour.

As usual, I changed the recipe quite a bit. My friend doesn’t like parmesan so we used goat’s cheese instead. I love mushrooms so I doubled the amount of mushrooms as well as adding in baby spinach for some more green. We also found we needed to add more liquid so we added some chicken stock as well.

The end result was surprising, satisfying and delicious. It was also great the next day for lunch. The creamy goat’s cheese went really well with the nutty quinoa. I will definitely be making it again.

Click here for the recipe

My failed cookbook challenge and a meat free Monday recipe – Mushrooms and Pearl Barley with Macadamia Bread Sauce

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

The Great Australian Bake Off Technical Challenge – Week 4 Quiche with Layered Pastry

Quiche

As I posted last weekend, for some silly reason I decided to try to recreate the Week 3 (Brandy Snaps) and Week 4 (Quiche) GABO technical challenges at the same time. As I’ve said previously, all was going well until I started to get a migraine.

Normally when I make quiche, I use a shortcrust pastry, so I was intrigued with the idea of using rough puff pastry instead. Quiche is a great portable meal, perfect for work lunches or picnics, and great for using up leftovers from the fridge. You don’t have to stick to the fillings in this recipe. I used to make a cheat’s all in one quiche, without making the pastry (you just add pastry mix in with the filling, and it forms a base – I will post it in the future), but in more recent times I have always made it with the short crust pastry, as previously posted here.

The rough puff pastry worked quite well and was a nice change to the shortcrust, but required a lot more effort and I think is more at risk of the dreaded “soggy bottom”. You do have to make it by hand though. This isn’t a pastry you can make in the food processor. I also found mine needed a bit longer cooking time, as the very centre of the pastry was not quite cooked enough.

I had planned to take step by step photos of the pastry making process and folding, unfortunately when I went to use my camera its battery was flat, so there is only the finished photo. Sorry, I’ll try again next time.

On the whole, the fact that I managed to finish a reasonable quiche while fighting a migraine (and without burning or cutting myself) I think was an achievement, although the edges of the pastry were a bit rustic. It still tasted nice and provided a great lunch/dinner on the run before rehearsals. However, I don’t plan on making it with this pastry again if I’m making a large sized quiche. I might try it with canapé sized ones next time though.

Next technical challenge? Coffee scrolls.

Click here for the recipe

My cookbook library – Minestrone verde

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

Beetroot, pumpkin and caramelised onion tarte tartin

tarte tartin

Time for another meat free Monday recipe. I have never made a tarte tartin before, and instead of trying the normal sweet variety, I decided I wanted to make a beetroot and pumpkin one. I looked at a few different recipes, but couldn’t find what I wanted. So I made this one up as I went. I did cheat and used bought puff pastry. I’m not quite up to home made puff pastry, but I’m almost there. I made a great rough puff in class the other week (which I will post about next).

I was very happy with the end result flavour wise. The balsamic vinegar is a great match for the earthiness of the beetroot, and there is a nice savoury sweetness from the caramelised onions and roast butternut pumpkin. And of course the crisp puff pastry and ‘caramel’ (in this case reduced balsamic and brown sugar). Unfortunately I didn’t quite cook my pastry enough when I made this for the first time, however the next day when it was cooked for an extra ten minutes it was perfect, so I have adjusted this recipe to give the pastry that extra ten minutes.

CLick here for the recipe