December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas!

With three days to go, how's your Christmas planning going?  Presents bought?  Food shopping underway?  This year my family is trialling the 'secret santa' idea.  Instead of stressing and spending too money on presents for everyone, we spend a nice amount on just one person.  Weeks leading up to Christmas was interesting, seeing as no one knew what to get that one person, and with a spending limit, it was a little bit harder.  

Seeing as I still don't have a kitchen (four weeks today, 'over it' is an understatement), I'm going to do my cooking at my parents house.  This year it's a light lunch, with mainly fresh food, cutting down on the hot dishes.  Perth is expected to be around 39 degrees C on Christmas day, so I don't think people are going to want to sit down to a Christmas roast!

On the menu so far is a couple of these ideas..

Prosciutto and rockmelon to start.

Fresh made bread.
Cocktail prawns.
A couple of tarts: cherry tomato and asparagus.
A couple of salads: this one, and the all ever important Australian potato salad.
Traditional dishes like turkey (but a roll instead of a whole bird) and roast veges.
For dessert I'm thinking a pavlova like this one.
Plus, a cocktail!  Jamie Oliver made a prosecco and pomegrante drink on TV the other night that we may start with, then I'm thinking a variation of this cocktail which sounds perfect for a hot summer day!

At night, for our second Christmas feast, I'm taking my favourite Tiramisu.  

What's on your Christmas feast list?

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas, and a prosperous New Year!  See you all in 2013.

Tash x

December 3, 2012

Salad revisted: Pumpkin & Rocket Salad with Walnuts

Without a kitchen (still!) cooking has not been happening.  It's been take-away far to often, and the urge to eat healthy is kicking in.  My aim these next few weeks is to challenge myself to eat healthy without 'cooking' so to speak.  Seeing I have no oven or stove, and only a microwave it should be interesting.  

Salads are always a good thing, just need to figure out how to get the extra protein and carbohydrates without only eating veges and cous cous.

Yesterday I made a variation to my Roast Pumpkin and Rocket Salad for a picnic.  Using my other half's oven, I roasted the pumpkin the same, added rocket, feta, blanched asparagus and walnuts.  I finished the salad off with this Basil and Yoghurt Salad Dressing.  It was delicious!

November 27, 2012

Kitchen update: I have no kitchen!

It's gone.  Destroyed.  Empty room.  The initial feeling of destroying the ugly green room was exciting.  And then I got nervous - was this the right decision?  It's amazing how such a major change can make you question yourself. That moment when you take a step back and think "oh crap...  what have I done".  When reality hits, it's a bit of a shock.

But of course it was the right decision!  Major change is what makes life interesting and exciting.  It's good to challenge yourself too, like me, discovering I can use an electric drill, by myself!  Currently I'm up to plastering holes in the walls (as you can see above where the tiles previously were) and am ready to sand the plaster back.  Happy days!

November 19, 2012

Catch Up - The Past Month

Hello hello.  I’ve been MIA a lot lately, and every time I disappear then come back I have to say sorry.  If you follow my instagram you might notice that I’ve been moving around a lot.  A month ago I went to Sydney for a friends birthday, then a week being back I then hopped on a plane and went the Club Med Bintan, then Singapore.  In between this time, there has been no new cooking adventures.  

You might notice on instgram that I have also just started my kitchen renovations.  Yes, it’s all happening!  It’s going to be a bit of a slow process being that I bravely decided to build it myself, but it will be worth it in the end.  This weekend I built most of my cabinets, so next step is to disconnect the gas, demolish my existing kitchen, and place the new stuff in!  My new oven though is the single most exciting thing.  My current oven is horrible.  Most of the time things burn on the bottom, raw on top.  The temperature is lower than it should be, so I’ve had to do a lot of guess work when baking.  I wouldn’t dare cook pavlova in my current oven – yes it’s that’s bad.

So with all this going on, it’s going to be a slow posting end to the year. 

But I don’t want to leave you empty handed, so I’ll share a few photos with you..

Sydney.  I'm a Perth girl by heart, and have a major crush on Melbourne, so even though Sydney doesn't do much for me, I do love the Opera House.  Its smooth lines and unique shapes just draw me in.  And Bondi - Perth is pretty spoilt when it comes to beaches, but Bondi is pretty spectacular.

Club Med Bintan was awesome.  Pool, beaches, sun, sand, cocktails and endless food.  Not to mention the daily activities available (I didn't take full advantage of this, but my brother sure did!).  Plus the amazing staff!  Best relaxing holiday I've had in years.

September 22, 2012

Braised Oxtail with Gnocchi

I’m assuming if you read this blog, you probably read other blogs, whether cooking, design, fashion, living, music.. anything really.  I follow heaps.  Like a ridiculous amount.  My morning and evening ritual usually requires opening Bloglovin and catching up on new posts.

I follow a crap load of blogs, a lot of food, but mainly fashion.  Right now, I have been following New York and London fashion week.  I get obsessed.  I watch Garance Dore’s videos like they are the current news.  I read Man Repeller everyday without fail.  My other half has never seen this side of me, and I don’t think he knows how utter obsessed I am with the industry.  I read these blogs and feel like I know these writers personally.  In a way, I feel like I’m there, at fashion week, only to soon realise that I’m stuck in little ol’ Perth where fashion in, well, how do I put it… I think I won’t comment. 

But reading these blogs, it makes me feel like I have these ‘friends’ all around the world.  I don’t know if it’s sad, or it’s this ‘blogging community’ people always talk about.  And the thing is, I don’t even care if they know me or not, it’s not even about that.  It’s the feeling that I’m putting something out there that people seem to like.  That’s a nice feeling.

So it pains me when it takes 4 weeks to put up a new post!  But sometimes that happens.  My laptop has been processing oh so slow, and the thought on having to use photoshop on it almost gives me a headache.

But enough of that gibberish story telling.  I give you an amazing winter dish that I made just before the weather started turning to spring.  I ate a similar dish at a local restaurant, West End Deli, on a freezing cold day, and it did everything to warm me up.  I took the idea of braised oxtail and gnocchi and came up with this baby.  The oxtail is rich and velvety, and the gnocchi a great starch to accompaniment to the sauce. 


Braised Ox Tail
900g oxtail (it should be cut into two inch thick pieces, if not ask your butcher to cut it for you)
1 brown onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
1 heaped tablespoon of tomato paste
½ cup red wine
3 cups beef stock
2 sprigs of thyme
Olive oil
Grated parmesan and chopped parsley to serve

Heat a good slug of olive oil in a heavy based pot.  Add the oxtail in batches (or as many as can fit in the pot, all touching the base) and brown slightly for a couple of minutes either side.  Remove from the pot and set aside.

Add a little more olive oil to the pot, then add the onion, carrot and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is slightly translucent and other veges have some colour.  Add the garlic and continue cooking for a few more minutes.  Add the tomato paste a stir well.  Place the oxtail back into the pot, add the red wine, beef stock and thyme.  Add a good pinch of sea salt, and give it a good stir.  Cut a piece of baking paper into a circle the size of the pot and make a little hole in the centre.  Place on top of the stew so it’s touching.  Place the lid on top and leave it on a gentle simmer for 2 hours. 

When the sauce is nice and thick, turn the heat off and let it cool slightly.  Take the oxtail out and pick out the meat (although messy, your hands are the best way of doing this).  Place the meat in a separate bowl and discard the bones and extra fat.

Strain the sauce in a fine sieve, so you have a nice rich, thick sauce yet.  Push on the oinion, carrot, celery and garlic so you get all the juices out.  Discard the rest.

Place the sauce back into the pot, and add the meat.  You can put this in the fridge if serving the next day, or set aside until your ready to serve.  Taste and add salt is needed.

1kg potatoes, any floury type
2 egg yolks
½ cup grated parmesan
1 cup flour
pinch sea salt

Place the potatoes (with skin on) on a tray, prick with a skewer, and bake in an oven at 200C for 1 hour, or until cooked in the centre (test with a skewer).  Remove and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, either mash the potatoes (remove the skin first) or use a ricer, which will give you really fluffy potatoes with no bits.  Add the parmesan, egg yolks, salt and half the flour.  Knead with your hands, adding more flour as you need.  You want the dough to be smooth, moist but not sticky.  If the dough sticks to your hands, add more flour.  It should be very soft and bounce back slightly when pushed. 

Divide the dough into 4 pieces, then roll out each one like a long skinny sausage, and cut 2cm to 1 inch pieces.  Set aside on paper towels  (it’s best to cook this straight away, fresh homemade gnocchi does not last in the fridge).

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, gently drop the gnocchi in and let them cook for a couple of minutes.  When they rise to the surface, test on by tasting.  They cook really quickly – don’t leave it too long otherwise they will overcook.  Remove with a slotted spoon.  Place the gnocchi in a bowl and top with the hot braised ox tail.  Top with grated cheese and parsley.

Serves 4.

August 26, 2012

Lemon and White Chocolate Shortbread

I entered the housing market almost four years ago.  At 23 I did the scary (and not so popular thing for my age) house purchase.  I lived first with a friend, and then by myself.  Soon I will be giving up that ‘freedom’.  No longer will I have the private time to do those girly maintenance things that you wouldn’t be caught dead doing in front of a boy.  Who knows how I will deal with it, but I know that living on my own has been awesome, but the next stage of my life will be even better!

I love my house, I do, but there are so many things I want to change, and up until now, I’ve never had the funds to actually do anything (er-hrmm..  pro’s to being made redundant shining through).  This morning I went and officially planned my new kitchen.  I am excited beyond words.  Here’s why…

My current kitchen.  Well, it’s pale green and beige.  The green laminate bench top is stained, chipped, and peeling off.  The cabinets, draws and panty, gross.  Laminate is peeling everywhere!  My oven, oh my god..  whenever I write a baking recipe you might notice I have a variant of 10 – 30 minutes in baking times – that’s cos my oven takes forever to cook something!  Stovetop = rank.  Floors, even more rank.  Sink.  Not going to talk about it.  It’s bad.  I hate it.  And I seriously cannot wait to take a sledgehammer to it.  Now that’s exciting!

It’s going to be a slow process cos I’m actually going to build the kitchen myself (yeah, I know).  But it should be fun!

I leave you here with a delicious little shortbread recipe.  I initially wanted to make earl grey and lemon shortbread, but last minute decided to divide the dough and make some with white chocolate - so much yummier!  These are great little biscuits to have lying around, perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.  They last really well too, becoming softer the longer you leave them.

1 cup (225g) butter, softened
¾ cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
2 cups plain flour
1 cup white choc chips (mini ones if you can get a hold of them)
Icing sugar, for dusting

In a large bowl, cream the butter and lemon zest.  Add the vanilla and icing sugar and continue beating.  Add the flour and salt and beat gently, until the mixture resembles crumbles.  Add the choc chips, mix well, then pour the mixture onto a clean surface.  With your hands, bring the dough together until you have a nice firm disc.  Cover the dough with cling film and place in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.  You can either roll the dough into small golf ball size balls and flatten, or you can roll the dough out and use a cookie cutter.  If you have large choc chips, I advise rolling into balls as I found it difficult to get the cookie cutter through the chips.

Place the biscuits on a tray and bake for 20 minutes or until they form a very slight golden tinge.

Allow to cool on a baking tray before dusting with icing sugar.

Makes around 40 mini shortbread.

August 12, 2012

Pea and Ham Soup

I find that I’m constantly book-marking recipes, making lists, saving webpages.  And then forgetting about them.  It’s a bad habit I have.  To be honest, I have the worst short-term memory.  I need to constantly make little notes to myself in order to get things done.  It’s frustrating, but sometimes I find it humorous – at least I’m aware of it!

When it comes to seasonal cooking I tend to want to make things for winter when it’s summer, and summer things when it’s winter.  I have so many recipes put aside for peach / apricot / plum desserts, but it’s not stone fruit season.  I book-marked all these winter recipes months ago, that only now have found.  Pea and ham soup was one of them.

I’ve always been a fan of this soup, but never made it myself.  I came across this one in the slow food annual cook book from Gourmet Traveller.  The recipe is so simple and there are few ingredients – my type of recipe!  I altered the recipe slightly as my pot wouldn't fit 4 litres of water.  But I found that with less water is a thicker soup, which I like.  You can adjust the water amount to how you like it.

40g butter
olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 ham hocks (1.5kg total)
2 – 3 litres of water
500g dried split green peas
400g frozen green peas
Salt and pepper

In a large pot over a medium heat, add the butter, a splash of olive oil, and the chopped onion and garlic.  Saute for 10 minutes until soft.  Add the ham hocks and top up the pot with water (around 2-3 litres).  Simmer for 1 – 1 ½ hours until ham hock meat is tender.

Remove the ham hocks and set aside to cool slightly.  Shread the meat and discard the bones and fat.

Add the dired split peas to the pot and simmer for 45 minutes, or until soft.  Add the frozen peas and cook for a further 5 minutes.  When soft, puree the soup in batches.  Taste and add salt accordingly.

To serve, pour the soup into bowl, add the shredded meat and some fresh peas.

Serves 6.

August 4, 2012

Oats and Almond Milk Muesli

I’m not a big breakfast eater, as I may have mentioned in previous posts.  I don’t know, when I get up during the week, I prefer to hit snooze 15 times (literally too, my boyfriend gets irritated by this) than get up, make a healthy breakfast and then get ready.  In my head I think “hrrmm sleep in an extra 15 minutes or make breakfast??”.  Sleep wins every time.

I know I should eat breakfast.  On those odd occasions that I do, I usually feel better.  To try and overcome this I have bought cereal, taken it into work and ate it at my desk.  Seeing I can’t really do this anymore, I have found another solution.

A couple of weeks ago my wonderful friend Anj made breakfast for me for my birthday.  Well, when I got to her house it turns out her mum had cooked, and put on a feast!  We started with this oat dish that after one mouthful I knew this was my new breakfast.  It was so yummy and slightly sweet, only from honey and almond milk, and healthy that it was ideal!

Lorraine, Anj’s mum had put this little beauty up on her blog, so after getting a hold of the recipe I made it one night, left it in the fridge overnight, and since then have been eating it every morning. 

You can mix it up, add different nuts and dried fruit.  You could add some flaxseeds to the mix to make it super healthy!  Actually, I’m going to add that to my next batch.

It lasts the week in the fridge, and makes around 8 – 10 servings.  You don’t need a big serving cos this guy fills you up quickly!

3 cups plain oats
1 cup shredded coconut
3 cups almond milk
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Serve with
A large spoonful of Greek yoghurt
Dried almonds
Dried cranberries
Drizzle of honey
Sliced banana

In a large container with a lid, add the oats, coconut, almond milk, honey, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Give it a really good stir so all ingredients are well combined.  Place the lid on and leave in the fridge overnight.  

When serving, add about one cup of the muesli to a bowl, and top with your favourite healthy toppings, be it banana, dried fruit, nuts, honey and flaxseeds.

Serves 8 - 10.

July 23, 2012

Cool graphics: Grill Master

How cool is this poster!!?  I won't lie, I'm a massive sucker for infographics.  I could look at them all day.  I even wrote a paper about infographics.  It was only a draft report, as uni is now on hold.

I for one get worried about cooking things like pork and chicken, cos I always second guess myself on cooking times.  I especially like the seafood cooking time recommendations.  If only it were in metric!

I'm definitely going to hang a copy of this in my kitchen.  The infographic is by Column Five Media, and you can get a large pdf version here.

July 22, 2012

Lemon and Ricotta Cake

My parents have the most amazing lemon trees.  When I was growing up we used to joke about how lame the two trees as the lemons were always thick skinned and dry on the inside.  They were also the strangest shape ever!  10 years later, the trees are huge, full of juice, and still the strangest shape.  I pulled one off the tree the other day that looked like a pear.  Yeah.

Whenever I bring a bag of lemons home from their house, I start thinking of what to make.  I’m not a big fan of cheesecakes so that’s out, but I do love a good lemon and ricotta cake.  I search around the net and found this recipe.   It was simple, my type of cake.  You could probably go all the way and take out the flour completely and use more almond meal.

I picked up another bag of lemons yesterday so am thinking of making a lemon syrup cake (like the one Julie made of Masterchef the other night…  drool).

Oh and one more note, you might wonder why I’m so quiet lately, well it’s cos of a couple of things.  First, it’s winter, and taking photos without proper lighting is a nightmare.  Secondly, my spare time is being taken up with design work for a small business.  Thirdly, my mind is completely distracted from my kitchen renovation plans!!  So freakin’ excited.  I will keep you updated on this, cos after all, it’s the place all these recipes come from.

Update:  Totally forgot, FOURTHLY, it was my birthday on Wednesday, so you know, lots of dinners, being distracted and allowing myself to be lazy.  In a second year of tradition, I made these birthday scones again.  The perfect work birthday morning tea!

175g butter, soft
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup honey
3 lemons, grated and zested
3 eggs, separated
1 cup (250g) smooth ricotta, drained
2/3 cup sr flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
Icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Line a 20cm baking tin with baking paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  When pale and creamy, add the honey and lemon zest and beat until incorporated.  Add the egg yolks one at a time and continue beating.   Make sure there all the excess water is drained for the ricotta and stir through.  Add the lemon juice and stir though.  Sift the flour, almond meal and baking powder into the batter and fold through.  (You may have a lot of lemon juice depending on the size of the lemons.  At a bit at a time, and if the mixture needs a bit of loosening, add the rest of the lemon juice)

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until light and fluffy.  Add one heaped spoonful into the batter and fold gently.  Add the rest and fold until all incorporated.   Pout the batter into the baking tin and place in the oven for 45 minutes.  Place a skewer in the centre of the cake to test whether it’s cooked – it should come out clean.  This is a really moist cake so you might notice moisture on the skewer but this is ok.

Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack before serving.  Serve with cream.

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