Comfort Food

The trouble with being sick, in flu season, is it opens you up to being more sick….so last weeks adventure turned into a second, third and then fourth virus.

Of course, we turn to comfort food when we're feeling low, and one of my favourites is a home cooked roast chicken.

I have a preference for the recipe from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food. Although I'm greedy so I cooked a a MUCH BIGGER chicken, which of course changes the cooking time. The best thing is eating the sticky amazing sacrificial carrots from the bottom of the pan.

In so many ways this is better than chicken soup….and the leftovers can be turned into all kinds of good things….like Chicken and Leek Pie, which is what I did with mine.

Perfect Roast Chicken

from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food, page 196

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken (at least 1.6kg – mine was 2.7kg)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • a small bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary, bay or sage, or a mixture (I used everything but the sage)

To prepare your chicken

Take your chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before it goes into the oven. Preheat your oven to 240C. Chopped all the vegetables (unpeeled!) and break up the garlic bulb into cloves, leaving them unpeeled. Put all the vege and garlic into the middle of a large roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, rubbing it all over the bird. Carefully prick the lemon all over; using the tip of a sharp knife, and put in the chickens cavity with the bunch of herbs.

To cook your chicken

Place the chicken on top of the roast vege in the roasting tray and put into the preheated oven. Turn the heat down to 200C and cook as per the chickens size. Put your roast veggies in around an hour before your chicken is done. Take your chicken out when it's cooked, and let rest covered in foil for 15minsnwhile you make your gravy.

Slice, and serve with delicious veggies and gravy.

 

Strawberry Crumb Bars, to make a sick Cookie feel better

I flew home from Melbourne on the Friday evening, and to Sydney on Saturday lunch time. I know. I'm such a jet setter. Saturday night I worked, we do once a quarter, to test updates. Sunday, which was my free day in Sydney I woke up so ill I couldn't get out of bed. Thank god for room service.

Monday, believing I had flu I braved the walk to my office (5 minutes, with a pharmacy downstairs) and after that was packed back to the hotel by my manager, where I slept pretty much the entire day.

Tuesday was just awful. I rang in sick, I could barely get out of the bed….and my manager rang me back to say I'd been booked into the 1.30pm flight home. I knew fear. What I found out later that day (I got off a flight and was bundled into a doctors surgery by my mother in law), was that I had a throat and a sinus infection. The state of my ears had me frightened, and justifiably so. We won't talk about that flight.

I spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on my sisters couch. Our roof was being removed and replaced during this period, making me a sick, but non-contagious, couch surfer.

While I slept on Thursday (let's be honest, I did little BUT sleep) she made this Strawberry Crumb Bar with some of the 15 punnets of strawberries we bought between us…although she dropped out quite a lot of sugar. It was magic. I took a slice home for hubby and he loved it too.

So on Saturday afternoon, after a pretty good nap, I made it too. Baking, I think, is a pretty good sign you're on the mend….even if I was really too tired still to stand up for the time it took.

I made two alterations to the recipe as it reads. I halved the sugar. And I swapped 1 cup of flour for custard powder. I also gave it an extra five minutes in the oven because I know my oven. Make this when you can buy lots of strawberries cheap. It's very forgiving for bruised strawberries!

 

 

Melbourne and the burger dreams are made of

I recently spent a week in Melbourne for a project at work. It was pretty lonely, and I made a bit of a mistake on my hotel booking and ended up much further away from the office then I should have been. The only upside of this was twice a day, everyday, I walked past this little burger bar.

I hadn't given it a second thought, but my manager had suggested it, and knowing he'd ask if I tried it, on the Wednesday I got brave and went in on my own.

And so began my first experience of The Merrywell. It's part of the enormous Crown Casino complex, and upstairs I believe (I didn't look) is a bit of a fancy restaurant, but downstairs is burger bar, and normal bar.

I squeezed into a little two seater by the door, ordered a K.I.S.S Burger, a pint of beer, and the loaded fries.

When it all came out I sent novelty text messages to my sister about my ability to over-order….the basket of fries was covered in liquid melty cheese and chopped bacon…..with a side of sour cream (why? I don't know!). The burger…..well….its a beef patty, ketchup, mustard, onions, pickles, mayo and cheddar. It was the most epic cheeseburger of my life. OF MY LIFE. Also very messy. I actually bailed up a guy trying to sit down at the next table to get him to fetch me napkins (he didn't). Then insisted that he and his fellow diner shared the loaded fries because 'look how ridiculous this is'. I was kinda glad I did when their Cherry Cola Floats turned up. I sadly only managed a quarter of the fries. But I'm glad I expended my energy on the burger. And equally glad of that long walk home.

The next night being Thursday, and knowing it was my last night in Melbourne with no plans to come back I went back. I know. I'm a greedy mare. This time I ordered the MerryWell, a beef patty, bacon, cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, onion, special sauce, ketchup, and mustard. It also comes with a much more sensible serve of normal fries. The waiter talked me out of ordering a thick shake as well….and he was probably right.

Look, the MerryWell burger was good, but it tasted much more like one I could replicate…..very similiar to what I already do. The K.I.S.S burger in my opinion was on another level. I also love that it didn't bother with token lettuce and tomato…..but that's probably just me.

If you're in Melbourne, staying around Crown…..I really do recommend it….I loved the food. A little lonely on your own, so take someone you're happy to share a loaded fries with…..

 

Happy Birthday!

Today marks the 12 month mark since I made my first post on this blog. Granted, timings have been a little hit and miss but I'm pretty pleased with the fact that we're 12 months in and I'm still blogging.

I didn't take a lot of photos of this cake, and none of the preparation. It was hard. There was SO MUCH batter, and I didn't really think things through, for example, the cake batter? 7 bowls people. 7. Try doing that in a kitchen that's been turned upside down. Which mine had. Bench space is hard to find in the first place but with the upside-downidness….even harder.

I made a smaller cake than the recipe called for and then filled up my 12 mini Bundt pan, and then filled up my 6 friand tray. Sadly upon turning out I lost (deliciously) 1 friand and possibly all but three of the bundts. I'm scared to look (I did look, we have a container full of delicious crumbs).

The recipe is dense and delicious and all of the chocolate, which I think every first birthday calls for. I didn't have enough semi-sweet chocolate so I used a big mix of white, semi and dark chocolate. I don't care, it's still delicious.

A five egg batter is huge. HUGE. So make sure you save your biggest electric mixer bowl for that bit. I didn't and had to do some tricky switching around.

Because I had no candles, I had sparkles. If doubt, ALWAYS wear sparkles.

 

 

Whats Up Doc?

Everyone always underestimates carrot cake. Even me. I hadn't even TRIED it till last year.

Turns out its one of my girlfriends favourites, and when I read THIS recipe I realised I like EVERYTHING IN IT (although, walnuts are iffy….so I've swapped them out PERMANENTLY for pecans).

So, I made it, and one loaf went to hubbys work and was demolished, and one loaf went to my work and I've never seen anything disappear so quickly, or have something asked for by hungry colleagues so often. My sister didn't believe it had a vegetable in it. Best compliment ever.

When a few weeks ago we decided to get serious about hubby having a packed lunch I pulled out this recipe again, and he loved it. Last week at my parents place (we had a two week break, but being poor people saving for a house deposit that means holidays are free trips to the parents up north) I made it for my Dads lunch box. And converted two more people who didn't think much of carrot cake until this recipe of awesomeness. Hubby requested it be made again yesterday. Four bakes, three different ovens, and I still haven't gone wrong with it.

Please, stop being disinterested in carrot cake, at least for the sake of this particular recipe. Its worth the hype.

And just to prove things go wrong…..I exploded custard all over my microwave this evening and sulked for half an hour while hubby fixed it.

 

4 and 20 Blackbirds

I don't know about you, but I have a terrible habit of buying food magazines (and yes, books, lets be honest) and after flicking through them, NOT MAKING A SINGLE RECIPE.

Its had gotten so bad that the second last Donna Hay magazine I bought, I made myself recreate at least six of the recipes. Some of them more than once.

In the spirit of making sure I cook at least one recipe from each magazine I buy, I made this Black-and-Blue Berry Pie from the Womens Weekly Food magazine. It was pretty straightforward, and I will admit I only used frozen fruit because ITS SO MUCH CHEAPER. Worked just fine, so don't feel guilty if you have to do the same.

The big win from the for me was the custard pastry. Its brilliant, and I can't wait to incorporate it into other pies and tarts. I raved about it so much, that WITHOUT EVER TRYING IT my sister used it to make an apple pie. Which we had to bake in the BBQ because of stupid broken oven (which is no longer broken because my husband is brilliant). Apple Pie with custard pastry? Total win. Get on board this pastry.

Black-and-Blue Berry Pie

From the Womens Weekly Food magazine, issue 6, page 75

Ingredients

  • 400g frozen blackberries
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 250g fresh (frozen) blueberries
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 egg white

Custard pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 35g cornflour
  • 30g custard powder
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 125g cold butter, chopped coarsely
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon iced water, approximately

Method

  1. Make the custard pastry. Process flours, custard powder, icing sugar and butter until crumbly. Add egg yolk (but keep the white for the filling!) and enough of the water so that ingredients just come together. Knead pastry on a floured surface until smooth. Enclose in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Combine 1 cup of the blackberries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil. Blend cornflour with the water in a small jug. Sitr into berry mixture; stir over heat until mixture boils and thickens. Cool. Stir in remaining blackberries, blueberries, rind and spice.
  3. Roll two-thirds of the pastry between sheets of baking paper until large enough to line a 24cm round loose-based flan tin. Ease pastry into tin; trim edge. Reserve and refrigerate excess pastry. Refrigerate pastry case for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan.
  5. Spoon filling into pastry case. Brush edge with egg white. Roll reserved pastry between sheets of baking paper until large enough to cover pie. Cut into 10 x 1.5cm strips. Place strips over pie, weaving in and out to make a lattice pattern. Trim edges, pressing to seal; sprinkle with demerara sugar.
  6. Bake the pie for 50 minutes or until browned. Stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

Ladies Trip!

Ha! You thought I’d forgotten my blog again….BUT I HAVEN’T! I have instead spent this past weekend in Sydney on a girls trip with my Mum and twin sister. Which made THE BEST CHANGE from being there for work.

We flew down on Friday afternoon, and after checking into a hotel that was much fancier than we are, took my Mum straight down to The Rocks, so she could see the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House (this being her first ever visit to Sydney). We had the most amazing burgers (truly, dirty smashing experience), shared a bottle of wine before wending our way back to our room.

Saturday morning, after a sneaky coffee in bed (one of the best things about travelling with my Mum, she’s up first and gets the kettle on!) we headed into Darling Harbour for breakfast and a walk around the National Maritime Museum (they had a Shackleton exhibit on!) and my sister getting seasick on the Endeavour replica (it was at dock…..).

Then we headed across to the QVB, because its a beautiful building and I wanted Mum to see it. For the first time ever I found the Zumbo stall….and as you can see it was just amazing.

We bought a cronut, decorated fondant, and some macarons to share. The macarons we ate on the go, but the rest we saved for breakfast Sunday morning.

After a bout of Pitt St shopping we then had our absolute favourite food experience. A late lunch at jones the grocer. We ordered a charcuterie platter, a bowl of hot chips (because we’re human) and a bottle of fizz, which went immediately to our heads.

The pork and pistachio terrine, the mixed meats, the most delicious olives….it was tempting to sit there all evening, with a second platter and another bottle….but we headed out and later bought woodfire pizzas and cheap fizz to have in the hotel room in our pjs.

Sunday (after the cronut of awesome and half the decorated fondant, too rich to eat it all) we headed on the ferry out to Manly, which was just beautiful.

We had fish and chips by the water then headed back across the harbour, and took a bus to an outlet mall. Once we’d had our fill of shopping we headed back into town with thoughts of going back to jones the grocer, but as it was closed we had to settle for Jamie’s Italian. The Plank we had was great, but just not on the same level. (If you have to go and buy more cheap fizz and a packet of crisps after a meal there’s something wrong).

All in all it was a brilliant weekend away, and I’m now researching where to find the amazing olives and antipasti we had at jones the grocer….as well as looking for a pork and pistachio terrine recipe….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinnamon, Sugar and Scrolls

Remember the donuts I made with extra brioche dough? Yeah, the were epic. You should make those.

Anyway, the real reason I made the brioche dough was to make these. I have a soft spot for Cinnamon Scrolls. I think a few visits to the USA might have infected me with a love of all things Cinnamon. (Except Chai. I don't get this thing with Chai).

So I rolled out my dough, sprinkled my cinnamon and rolled up my lovely scrolls. It was a really easy one to follow, although, I have to admit I wasn't so good at the glaze, but to me, thats just a great excuse to try again.

 

 

July 4th….on the 5th

Living in Australia, we don't celebrate the American 4th July. Its not a long weekend, and its not our independence. Probably because we're still not independent. Thats ok. But this year, Hubby and I hosted my sister, her hubby and little girl for a 4th July BBQ.

To be honest, we just wanted an excuse to eat our own body weight in BBQ, and Thank You! America for providing it.

Of course, these things never seem to go quite to plan, so we had our BBQ on the 5th July. And the night before my oven broke. Which meant corn bread and apple pie were baked in our hooded BBQ.

So what did we eat? BBQ Brisket in bread rolls with coleslaw and cheese sauce, Chilli Dogs that were so Chilli no one but me could eat them, Corn Bread, and Corn Cobs, and then Apple Pie made by my sister with a custard pastry served with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Ice Cream made by me.

And the receipe I'm sharing here, is for the Jalapeno Poppers I made. Which were delicious and so close to the ones I had in Hawaii on honeymoon.

I found the receipe here, and the only thing we all agreed on was that something needs to be done (perhaps blanching?) to take away that 'raw chilli' element. When reheated they were amazing, so I'm thinking next time, cook them, then reheat in the oven when we want them…….I reckon they'd even freeze and reheat beautifully……

Thanks America, you star-spangled legend you.

 

Chewy, lemon and delicious

For my mums birthday, we got her a cookbook that looked vintagey and fun. So much so that my sister and I bought our own copies as well. Mum started cooking recipes from it, and to our relief, they worked.

Its taken me a while (we bought this in March!) but I finally made the chewy lemon squares that both my mum and sister had already made. I even got lucky and had two fresh lemons from my sisters tree to use.

They worked out perfectly, and cut into 16 squares, 15 of them were wrapped up and frozen to take to work for afternoon teas.

Its worked perfectly. I can't recommend this one enough (and being lemon, I don't have to share with hubby!).

Tangy Lemon Squares (from The Australian Women's Weekly 'Baking Day' pg 115)

Ingredients

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup (40g) icing sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups (185g) plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup (220g) caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons icing sugar, extra

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease a 23cm square pan, line with baking paper that extends about 5cm past the edges.

Beat butter and icing sugar together in a small bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the flour. Press the mixture evenly into the base of the pan.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until browned lightly.

Meanwhile, place eggs, caster sugar, remaining flour, rind and juice in the bowl. Whisk until combined. Pour the mixture of the hot base.

Bake for a further 20 minutes or until firm. Cool in pan before cutting. If you want, you can dust with the extra icing sugar. I didn't, because I didn't think it needed it.