Thursday 27 September 2007

Want a free cook book AND Help charity???

Barilla Aust are donating $1 for every download of their PDF recipe book (35 pages) to

Children's Food Education Foundation

The Children’s Food Education Foundation is a charity established to promote an understanding of food, health, nutrition and healthy food choices by children and young people. Our goals encompass all Australian children and young people, however our main focus is directed toward those with chronic illness, disabilities, mental disorders and those who provide care for themselves or others. We believe gaining food expertise and knowledge can enhance a child’s wellbeing and life experience.

Here's the link for the download.


Good Karma and all of that.



Oh, and I recently used the Barilla Pomodoro e Ricotta sauce. And while I am not usually a fan or an advocate of prepared sauces, this one was a stand out sensation. The ricotta was creamy and pronounced, really well enhanced but not overwhelmed by the tomatoes. For a pre-packed sauce the don't come much better than this!!! I served it warmed, with pan fried field mushrooms and dill over penne and then also used it as a base for some pizzas with asparagus and walnuts. (pics next week!!!)


Wednesday 26 September 2007

Perfectly cooked steak.

Tip one: BUY GOOD STEAK. If you want a good end product, you have to start with good quality ingredients. Ok, this is a pic of Wagu steak, and not everybody can afford that, but go and talk to your Butcher. Develop a relationship with him/her. You can't buy 2.99kg oyster blade and expect to come out with a good end product.

My fave steak is a T-Bone. They've got a good ratio of fat to meat, the bone makes for a nice handle and I am just partial to them as they were a huge feature of the BBQ's of my childhood. The Pier Street butchers in Dromana has locally fed , raised and slaughtered meat and smells like a Butcher should. In town, we use Kerrie Road Butchers and the boys down there are always happy to help with advice and cooking time and special cuts.

As you can see from the pic, a good steak has a good ratio of fat marbling, and I must confess that I do like the nice crust of fat, seared to perfection that you get with a T-bone.

Now... the first trick is to let the steak come to room temp. If we're having a grilled steak, I like to buy it from the Butchers that day... defrosting steak, IMHO changes the structure of the muscle.

So get your steak and allow it to come to room temp. Do not rush it, just leave it on a plate, on the bench. Cooking a steak at room temp minimizes shrinkage, so you won't end up with a dry, tough tiny bit of leather. If you've paid good money for your meat, you want to do the best by it.

Marinade it, by all means, a bit of garlic and red wine, a splash of Worcestershire sauce.. whatever you like, but personally... for a good quality steak, I am all for letting the meat speak for itself. The key here is, even if you marinate it, let it come to room temp first.

Wipe the steak dry if you've marinated it before cooking.

Now.. if you're cooking inside, be prepared to have someone on hand with a long handled wooden spoon to turn off the smoke alarms. It's going to get smoky.

The option is, of course, cooking outside. It's pretty much up to you.

I use a cast iron skillet that is about 20 years old and very well seasoned. The key is to getting the pan SMOKING hot. I really mean it.

I don't usually add any oil or butter because my pan is so well seasoned, but you might like to give it a light wipe with olive oil.

Heat the skillet over the gas ring until it's smoking. Add the meat, one piece at a time and stand back.

Do not overcrowd the pan by trying to add more than one piece, especially if you're using a larger cut like a T-bone.

Now, if you're anything like Furry here's the important part....


Seriously.. just leave the damn thing alone.! At about a minute into the cooking, grab your mitt and give the pan a shake to loosen it from the skillet..and then leave the bugger be!!

I am a bit of a purist when it comes to steaks, and I like mine blue. That means nice and caramelized on the outside and bloody (but warmed thru) in the middle. (actually, I like it still moo-ing, but that's me)

Furry and I have negotiated and he no longer asks for his steak well done, and I don't threaten to put a pillow over his head while he's asleep. He does like it done a little more than mine.. probably med rare. So his steak gets 6 mins a side and mine gets 3.

The key to this is the heat.. I can't stress it enough. What you are after is a Maillard reaction which is a fancy name for the caramelization of the starches in the meat, which gives it that lovely brown caramelized crust. The same chemical reaction is what turns ordinary onions into sweet, delectable caramelized morsels of heavenly splendor.

So back to the meat.

AS I have said, 3 mins for blue, 6 for med rare... turn the steak and give the pan a wiggle to stop it sticking. At this point, I like to position the fatty edge of the steak against the side of the skillet, with the skillet itself off centre over the gas ring. This ensures that the lovely fatty edges comes in contact with a point of high heat and gets a heft dose of the ol' Maillard reaction. Apart from that, BACK AWAY FROM THE PAN. Do not go poking it.... ignore everything you've seen you hubbie/boyfriend/father do at a BBQ, poking every bloody bit of dead animal with his tongs.... just leave it alone for the required time.

Once it has cooked to your liking, remove the steak from the pan and here's the next important bit.

Let the meat rest. Use this time to top up your cab sav, whack a few salad greens on a plate, dollop some spuds with sour creme and chives... whatever, but leave the bloody steaks alone for at least 10 minutes. This allows the muscle to relax and to re-absorb any juices that may have leaked out.

I am not a huge one for sauces, like a marinade, I believe a good, well cooked piece of meat can stand up on it's own (that's figuratively, guys.. not literally).

Serve with mashed spuds, or boiled new potatoes with butter and parsley, a bit of salad greens and any pan juices poured back over the steak.

Tuesday 25 September 2007

Seared Salmon with wasabi mayo and wilted Asian greens

Seared Salmon with wasabi mayo and wilted Asian greens.

Fish. It's good for what ails you. Brain food and all of that.Omega 3's.

BUT, a lot of people are put off by it. here's an easy peasy recipe that any doofus can do and look like a pro.

First, buy the best quality, sashimi grade tuna or salmon fillets you can get you hands on. You can pay up to $10 a fillet, but believe me, it's worth it. Marinate in some light soy and some fried shallots (available in big buckets for next to nothing from an Asian gocer.

In a random bowl, mix some good quality mayo (I use Hellmans', Best Food's or Thomy.. as long as it's a good quality egg yolk mayo) and a goodly squirt of wasabi. Allow this to sit in the fridge for at least an hour, while your fish marinates...

While you're waiting, prep your greens. Today I used some baby bok and some snow pea sprouts and something that looked like broccolini.

Buy more greens than you think you need. They wilt down to almost nothing.

Add a goodly splash of sesame oil to your wok and get it smokin'.

Add the fish skin side down.

Fry off until the colour juuuuuust appears 1/2 way up the sides of the fillet. Flip.

Fry on this side for only a minute or two.

Set aside to rest.

Add a splash more sesame oil and re heat to smokin'

add greens and a good splash of soy or terriaki marinade.

Toss until wilted.... here's an action shot!!!

See... they wilt down to pretty much nothing in a few seconds...

run a packet of udon noodles under hot water in a colander. drain well and add to wok.

toss to combine...

Pile greens on plate.. top with salmon, dollop on wasabi..


Wednesday 19 September 2007

Hungarian Goulash

Good old Goulash.. it was popular in the 80's but fell out of fashion. I recently discovered a recipe in my Nanny's cook book for it.. and seriously... could ANYTHING be easier???

1.5-2kgs stewing steak, (such as chuck or oyster, best is the stringy meat from the muscular back part of the shank of the beef leg, or cut up a chuck roast.), diced
olive oil for frying
3 onions, chopped large
3 red capsicums, chopped medium-fine
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp paprika

(the addition of caraway seeds and marjoram apparently turns it into Austrian Goulash. You can also add kidney/garbanzo beans for a veggie version.)

Fry the meat in olive oil in a large saucepan, draining the cooking juices every now and then and reserving them in a bowl. When the meat is cooked through, add the onions and capsicum and fry till the vegetables are soft. Return the cooking juice to the pot, mixed with the tomato paste and paprika. Cook for another hour or until the meat is tender.

Serve with boiled new potatoes or rice (Nanny used to mound the rice in a ring and serve the goulash in the middle.. so very 70's!!!)

Goulash, properly prepared and stored in the refrigerator, keeps well. The flavors blend with cold storage. It is a perfect recipe to cook for guests a day or two before you entertain.

Bullboar sausages

I first tried these several years ago, when Furry and I honeymooned in Daylesford. They are an exquisite blend of beef, pork, garlic and spices, rich in marbled fat. (The ones we get are flavoured with rosemary). They are a local goldfields specialty and the recipe is closely guarded. They are out favourite snags, and the darling of the slow food movement. There was some controverst a few years ago, when a group of local school kids decided to make some for a local event. Read here for the details. Whenever Furry and I hear that anyone is heading up to Daylesford, we make a plea for them to grab us some and bring them home. Our fave supplier is

Danny Wanke
Albert Street Butchery
Shop 3/22 Albert Street
Daylesford VIC 3460
Tel: 03 5348 2679

Or see the Food Lovers Guide here...


We've eaten these sausages at the Farmers Arms, the "least pretentious eatery in a town full of foodie poseurs", where we had them with garlic mash and a rosemary reduction, and we've also tried them at Frango's and Frango's done with a tomato reduction, but we love to go up there on a day trip, or guilt friends into bringing them home and cooking them up ourselves.

Our dream is to one day try them at The Lake House.

**insert sounds of Heavenly Seraphim Choir, please**

My technique is to place the snags in cold water and to slowly bring them to a gentle simmer, skimming any froth off as I go. I simmer them until firm, sometimes up to 2 hours. Then I place them in a skillet with a knob of duck or bacon fat and brown them off.

Be careful, they're rich, and you only need one (or for Furry, two!) per person. I serve them ala Farmers Arms, with creamy mash and a brown onion gravy, or on a bed of buttery cous cous fragranced with orange zest (which accompanies the rosemary notes perfectly)

Umm... so if anyone has a trip to Daylesford planned, can you let me know, I'll slip you some $$$ and you can bring me back some.

I am planning Bullboar and bocconcini pizza this summer.

Monday 17 September 2007

Morrocan Lamb Casserole.

I've been very naughty and haven't posted a recipe for Aussie Farmers Direct lately. This is not because I haven't been cooking up a storm with their weekly veggie packs, but because I am a slacker and haven't got around to posting!!!! (Damn that pesky real life stuff)... So here is a little nosh that I whacked together last week, using their cabbage, onions, potato and oranges.

Brown 500g of minced lamb. Add a finely diced onion, the peel of 1/2 an orange, some Moroccan spice. (I used the Rasa el Hanout, probably about a tablespoon's worth)

sautée together until well cooked. Add some beef stock and some Arborio rice. Cook by absorption method until rice is al dente.

Line a casserole dish with some cabbage...

Here's a sneak peak at my new favorite secret ingredient...

Sprinkle cabbage liberally with secret ingredient (you poor chumps can just use normal sea salt, Maldon salt, Kosher salt)

Top with meat mix, more cabbage. another pinch of spice and seal the whole thing with a jar of Provisto Sugo (without the herbs)

Back at 180C for 3 hours and serve.


Thursday 13 September 2007

Ratatouille, the movie

As you know, Furry and I recently had some time off.. and we went down to our little holiday shack at Dromana... where there is one of the last remaining Drive In's in Melbourne!!! We decided to treat ourselves to a hot sexy date... and chose the new "kids" movie, "Ratatouille" (Furry and I have a long and pathetic history of watching kids movies. One of our very first dates was snuggling on the couch watching "Basil, the Great Mouse Detective", one of the truly great movies of ALL time, IMHO)

I can't wax lyrical about this movie enough!!! The scenes are rich and the characters are brill!!! I won't include any spoilers for those who haven't seen it, but I just gotta say, there is a scene, where a character eats something... and the flavours are so new and so marvelous, that the character is shown swooning.. the background behind the character changes, to swirls and colours and the music is that of a heavenly choir.

I grabbed Furry's arm and yelled "THAT'S IT!!!! THAT'S IT!!!! THAT'S WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE A FOODIE!!!!!!"

Seriously, if you've ever wondered why I, or other foodie friends go on and on and on about food in all it's myriad of orgasmic blisses, then see this movie.... That's what it's like for us!!!


I gotta have a big shout out to Dromana Drive In. I asked Paul, the manager, if I could take some photos for my bog and he was so obliging!!!

I have been going to Dromana Drive in for years... I remember the Summer holiday, when we'd leave the beach early, have a early dinner, get into our jammies and Mum and Dad would take us down. We'd play on the playground as the sun set, and then we'd snuggle in the front seat of the 1975 Valliant and watch a Disney flick.

Pure childhood heaven!!!!

The Drive In has changed somewhat since the '70's and is now fitted out as a 1950's style diner. It's really retro and fabulous!!!

So, here's a pic of the "snacks" we took, Viet rolls with peanut dipping sauce made by my very own Furry:

Here we are!!!

We stop by the diner to grab the traditional Choc Tops and some Popcorn..

Paul, very nicely lets me wander around and take some shots. her's one for Lunchy!!!

The promo for the movie and the back of the diner..

I had to take a photo of this... How disturbing is he???

Furry finds his Choc Top is Mint.. he's not happy!!!

We had such a wonderful night. If you're down the Peninsula, you simply HAVE to drop by Dromana Drive in. It's the quintessential Aussie summer experience. A Choc Top, some popcorn, a warm summers night and an outdoor movie....

**happy nostalgic sigh**



Wednesday 12 September 2007

Dead Sexy Bruschetta...

Hmmmmm... insert Homer drooling noise...... The Spring is sprung, and all of that, so it's time to get ready for Summer by practicing Bruschetta.

Bruschetta is actually a reference to the toasted bread, on which a topping sits... so you need to start of with a good, crusty Pasta Dura or something similar. For this one I used Turkish pide from the local baker. Cut the pide in 1/2, rub a cut clove of garlic over the surface of your pan and toast. I used a cast iron skillet, but you can go it on a grill, for the traditional grill marks. Once toasted and cripsy, rub the warm, crispy toast surface with the cut garlic again.

What you have now is actually "bruschetta" and wonderful to munch on in its own right, but here is a variation on a summer bruschetta topping.

Finely dice 1/2 a red onion. Cut the best quality baby Roma tomatoes you can get you hands on in 1/4's. Mix with some pesto.

I confess that I didn't have any pesto left from last Summer, so I bought some Always Fresh Basil and Parmesan Tapenade. This stuff is new, and is INSANELY good... I mean, I am a purist when it comes to pesto and the like, but when you got a jones on for tomatoes and basil, and it's the middle of winter, this stuff is second to none.

See!!!! How rich and yummy is that stuff... I'll never feel guilty about using the last of my home made pesto again!!!

Anyhoo... mix a goodly dollop of it on with your tommies and onion. No need to add any oil, as the tapenade is plenty oily enough.

I refrigerated my topping for an hour or so, and then made the toast, so I got the lovely warm, crispy bruschetta, with the cold, fragrant topping.

Stop licking the screen... it's weird....

Understandable, but weird... ;)

Oh... and the left over topping (if there is any)... bung some good quality pasta, like a bucatelli on to cook, and run the topping thru it.

Beyond divine, I tell you!!!!

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Caesar Salad, pg's way

As you can see from the pics, I recently purchased a fine example of the 4 major holiday food groups: Trashy Novels, Cask Wine, Protein (in the form of good quality anchovies) and Vegetables .

After getting engrossed in said trashy novels, I found myself with not much time left, and a hungry Furry incoming any second...

So, whip up a bit of mayo, boil a few random eggs, dice yesterday's left over Turkish pide up into croûtons and dry fry with garlic until toasted, dice that avocado that's in dire need of usage, some tommies from the neighbours garden, the 1/2 iceberg lettuce lurking at the bottom of the fridge and the 1/2 left over red onion from last night

Voila, Caesar Salad:

Oven brown some chicken schnitzel, and turn 1/2 way thru cooking. At this turn, place a piece of pancetta or bacon or prosciutto on top and allow to become crispy.

Cooking your bacon like this allows the fats to be absorbed into the chicken breast, and adds a complex flavour.

Slice schnitzels in 1/2 and serve atop the salad.

Voila, again!!!:

Monday 10 September 2007

Catty's Seduction Slice

I packet of Malt O’ Milk biscuits (or local equivalent)

I can sweetened condensed milk,

250 mls double cream.

Chocolate bar of choice (I use Cherry Ripe)

Lay biscuits flat in freezer-proof tray.

Combine milk and cream.

Pour over biscuits.

Grate/smash/break chocolate bar into bits.

Sprinkle on cream mix.

Lay another layer of biscuits over the top.

Freeze for several hours.

When serving, cut into biscuit-sized portions and top with chocolate or raspberry syrup.

(Serving tip… remove ice cream from freezer and allow to sit for approx 7 mins before cutting into serving slices)

Eat in bed, with champagne.

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Al little bit of everything, really...

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and then some..

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various spices...

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