September 27, 2013

Chocolate Shortbread


This is a short but sweet post - sweeeeet yes it is!  I am a lover of shortbread.  I have made a few variations over the years, but never full on chocolate.  I took as standard recipe, added some cocoa powder and choc chips, and voila, you have the perfect accompaniment to coffee.  These come together very quickly, so were a great thing to bake last weekend when I had a urge to bake, but little time.

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD
200g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 3/4 cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup dark choc chips

In a bowl, beat the butter and powdered sugar until smooth, and light and creamy.  Add the vanilla and salt, and continue beating.  Slowly add the cocoa powder and flour (sift if it is lumpy) and mix together well. Stir in the choc chips so they are evenly distributed.

Lay the dough on baking paper or cling wrap, and roll into a log.  The thickness of the log depends on how big you want the shortbread to be - I made roll about 6cm thick.  Place this in the fridge for 30 minutes, or the freezer for 15.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Line two trays with baking paper, then unroll the cold cookie dough log, and cut into 1 to 1.5 cm thick pieces with a bread knife.  Place the shortbread on the tray and bake for 15 - 20 minutes. If you made large ones, leave them in the oven longer.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 24 shortbread.

September 20, 2013

Short Break



There's a saying - life happens when your busy making plans - and that saying couldn't be more true for me right now.  I haven't done a post in almost two months, and it's not because I haven't been cooking, the complete opposite actually, but because so many things have been happening that I haven't had time to post.  I've been so busy with all life's plans, that days are passing so quickly.  What I thought was a few weeks, has turned into two months.  So sorry, if you continue to visit this blog and are constantly having to look at balls (my mum complained of this).

Things aren't going to slow down either.  In the last couple of months I have gone back to uni to finish my last unit - designing and printing on textiles.  I have been trying to finish off my home renovations (I tiled my own kitchen splash back which I am super proud of!).  And just recently my partner and I bought a house together.  So this means I will be packing up my little place and moving, not to mention the extra renovations that will need to happen to BOTH houses.

So it's busy times ahead.  But I am so determined to keep this space going, so hang in there!  I promise I will have some awesome recipes for you soon.  Some recipes are already half done, it's just the photo / editing part that holding them up (I think my camera has dust on it).

Tash x

July 23, 2013

Sugar-free Fruity Nutty Balls


July was supposed to be the month I cut out sugar - or at least tried to cut out sugar.  It started well.  I stopped having sugar in my tea and coffee, I resisted all urges to eat cake and sweets, I made stewed apples with Greek yogurt when I wanted something sweet.  I even baked an apple tart with no sugar - it didn't taste very good.  But then it hit - my birthday.  How could I not eat cake?!  In the last week my will to refrain from sugar passed, and I ate sweets.  And it was gooooooodd...

It got me thinking about these so called diets, which to me is when someone cuts out a food group/s for periods of time.  They never work because you know when the diet is over you will get to eat those foods again, so what's really going to change?  I've always been a firm believer in eating well as a lifestyle. Reducing my sugar intake is something I'm going to have to do slowly, and is something I've been consciously doing for a while.  For example, whenever I bake a recipe that calls for one cup of sugar, I'll halve it, or replace it with honey.  I won't make things that are heavily sugar based (except for marshmallows cos they are amaze-balls).  My tolerance for sugar has dropped as well - these days I find things too sweet.

I'm my efforts to not buy another bag of Mars bars and eat them all, I wanted to make a healthy snack that was good for me and involved NO SUGAR.  

These babies, they have no sugar, no gluten, no dairy, and no egg.  And, they're yummy!  Feel free to mix it up and use your favourite dried fruits or nuts (except keep the dates of course).  And if you can, try to use stuff already in your pantry, as these can get a little expensive if you have to go and buy everything!  When I made these, I only had to buy the apricots and cashews, everything else was randomly in my pantry.



FRUITY NUTTY BALLS
150g dried dates
1/2 cup water
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
100g cashews, roughly chopped
100g pistachios, roughly chopped
3/4 cup of shredded of flaked coconut (desiccated coconut tends to be too fine)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 160C.  Line a tray with baking paper.

In a small saucepan, add the dates and water, and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until they are soft and the water has been absorbed.  Use a wooden spoon to mash the dates up a little, then place the mix into a food processor and blend til smooth.  You might need to add a little more water to loosen it should the mix be too thick.  It should be the consistency of baby food.

In a large bowl, add all the chopped fruit, nuts and seeds (all other ingredients!), then add the pureed date and mix well so it's all evenly incorporated.

Take a tablespoon of the mix, and using you hands, mould it into a ball, a bit smaller than a golf ball.  Place it on the baking tray.  When all balls are on the tray, place in the oven and cook for 20 - 30 minutes.  20 will give you chewy balls, 30 will produce a more crunchy ball (sorry, so many balls!)

Makes 30 balls.

Last ball reference, I promise.  Did I mention the nuts though?



July 1, 2013

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cupcakes



I'm not an emotional eater.  When I'm sad, I tend lose my appetite. When I'm stressed, I don't eat at all.  Lately though I've been a bit down, so I've been craving everything I shouldn't be eating - chocolate, cakes, lollies etc.  It's not been good.  In response to this over-indulgance I have decided to give up sugar during July.  It's day one, so I really don't know how long it will last.  I also have 9 cupcakes on my kitchen counter that need to be eaten. Dammit. I will freeze them, then eat them all in August!  Mwahahaha..


In the last couple of weeks I've been cooking quite a bit, but none of it amazing enough that I felt the need to share.  I've done two test trials of home-made marshmallows, that when I nail I will share with you.  I made these lemon and poppyseed cupcakes which were delicious, but I failed TWO lots of icing (I have no idea how it happened!), so didn't want to photograph them.  I also made a ciambella (Italian olive oil cake) which I over-cooked, plus a few others dishes.  

I wanted to make the lemon and poppyseed ones again because they were so yummy, even without an icing.  Once I started eating them it hit me that a simple lemon glaze would have been perfect!  So here we are...

Also, something I haven't shared yet.. my new KitchenAid!  I have wanted one of these for so long, that when the opportunity came up recently to get one, I jumped on it.


It was a bit of a shock the first time I used it at the power it had, and I had to keep an eye on my icing so I didn't over beat it.  I over beat it.  It split.  I learnt my lesson.


LEMON AND POPPY SEED CUPCAKES
125g butter, room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Lemon Glaze
1/2 cup icing sugar
Juice of half a lemon
Dash of milk

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Line a cupcake tin with paper cases.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time and vanilla extract and continue beating.  Add the lemon juice and zest and beat for a further minute.  Add the flour, baking powder, salt, milk, and poppy seeds, and slowly mix until all ingredients are incorporated.

Spoon the mixture into the cases, then place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when tested.

Allow cupcakes to cool before icing.

To make the icing, stir the icing sugar with the lemon juice, and add a little milk to thin it out. It should be runny, but also thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.

Slowly spoon over the icing, trying to cover as much of the cake as possible.  It will run straight down the cake, so take it slow.

Australian cupcake cases tend to be larger than American ones, so for me this mix made 10.


May 25, 2013

Beef & Guinness Pies


Perth summer has left, and winter is a few days away.  As much as I love summer, I do look forward to winter - the feeling of lying in bed all warm and snuggly while listening to rain fall outside (cheesy I know), hearty soups and stews, and most of all, the clothes!  I bought two coats off Asos a few months ago that were crazy cheap and so beautiful, and I'm so excited that I'm starting to wear them.  While I had a bit of free time a few weeks ago, I asked Colin what he wanted for dinner.  I got the usual "I don't mind, you decide..".  Knowing Colin's love for those hearty winter dishes, I suggested steak and Guinness pies.  How can a boy turn down a pie.  I think he did a little jump.



To be honest, this recipe has been sitting in my 'to-make' list for ages.  It was on Masterchef Australia episode maybe two years ago - Gary made them during a Masterclass - and I watched in awe, instantly wanting a pie.  I'm a big fan of pies - love my traditional steak pie.  And sauce...  oh.

These pies were an interesting one.  While the stew was amazing and rich and sweet from the onions, I found the pastry to have way to much butter.  I had never made shortcrust pastry before so I wasn't familiar with the quantity of ingredients needed.  If you have an awesome shortcrust pastry I suggest you use that.  I have edited this one so there is less butter.  With a rich stew, I don't think you need a rich pastry.  Also, a texas sized muffin tins is the perfect size for these pies!



BEEF AND GUINNESS PIES
Recipe adapted slightly from Masterchef Australia
Filling:
Olive oil
2 onions, cut on half then sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Few sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons plain flour
1.2kg beef (chuck steak or a cut that requires slow cooking)
Sea salt and black pepper
1 large carrot, cut into cubes
440ml Guinness (1 can)
500ml beef stock
1 beaten egg
Pastry:
2 cups of plain flour
125g cold butter
1/2 cup sour cream
Pinch of sea salt


Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a large pot on a medium heat, add a good slug of olive oil, the sliced onions, garlic and thyme.  Cook for around 20 minutes with the lid on until they have become soft and caramelised.  Remove the onion mix from the pot and set aside.  

Turn the heat up slightly, add a bit more olive oil, then brown off the meat in batches (couple of minutes each batch).  Once nice and sealed, add the onion mix back the pot, along with the flour and stir well so the flour cooks off.  Add a good few pinches of sea salt and a generous grind of black pepper, then add the whole can of Guinness and the 500ml of stock, stir, and bring to the boil.  Cover the pot and place in the preheated oven for around 2 hours, or until the stew has become nice and thick.

Remove the stew from the pot and set aside to cool (you can put it in the fridge, you just don't want to put hot stew onto pastry as it will make it soggy).

To make the pastry, place the flour and butter into a food processor.  Pulse the mix until it has a crumb texture.  Add the sea salt and sour cream, then continue pulsing.  Pour the mix onto a clean counter, mould into a ball, cover and put in the fridge to chill.

When the stew has chilled, you can start moulding the pastry.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Roll out the pastry using a floured surface and rolling pin.  Using a circle shape the size of the texas muffin tin (or your choice of large muffin sized tin) and cut out 6 pie lids.  Put those to the side and roll out more pastry to make the bases.  Using the same circle cutter as a guide (I used a champagne cocktail glass by the way, so use anything that fits the size!), cut a circle around 2cm larger than the guide.  This will ensure you have enough pastry to fill the whole mould.  

Place the pastry bases into the tin, using your fingers to make sure it push it into shape and draw the pastry so it sits above the top of the mould.  Fill each with the beef stew, then brush a little water around the pastry edges and put the lid on top.  Press the edges with a fork to make sure they are sealed, then brush the tops with the beaten egg.

Place in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and flakey.  Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes before eating.

Serve with tomato sauce, if you like that is..  :)

Makes 6.

May 4, 2013

Pairing Food and Wine


I'm a sucker for infographics, as you might have noticed.  I came across this 'Pairing Food and Wine' infographic the other day and had to share it with you.  It was posted on Fast Co Design, but you can buy the print from Wine Folly here.

I can usually pick a good wine to match certain foods (red with meat, white with fish etc), but this helps clarify some specifics like types of seafood and meats, plus fresh veges vs roasted veges.  I'm going to keep this in mind when next cracking open a bottle with dinner.  Plus, it would just look so good in the kitchen.

Enjoy!

April 29, 2013

Slow Cooked Lamb and Mushroom Pasta


I mentioned not long ago that I jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon, and I am yet to look back.  It's such a great place for me to 'pin' ideas that I can refer back to professionally and for fun.  On food side of things, there are so many sweets and desserts getting pinned, which is great (not for my ass), but I'm really looking for some clean healthy recipes.  You see, you may have noticed, I'm not that big on processed and fatty/sugary ingredients.  On this blog you find the obvious sugar and butter, but I have these have little 'rules' about what I cook.  They are generally, if a recipe has corn syrup, condensed milk, abnormal amounts of sugar, etc, I avoid making it.  I don't do deep fried.  I will only cook with olive, grape seed and coconut oil.  I don't like ingredients that are considered a 'packet-food' (excluding pasta of course). So things like cheesecake are mostly a no.  It might seem a bit silly, but I just can't bring myself to make them. 



What do I make, well, you probably already know.  But I like fresh ingredients. I like ingredients that have no additives.  When I buy tinned tomatoes, I only buy the ones that are 100% tomatoes, no added salt or preservatives.  There are some things you can't avoid with this, such as Chinese sauces, like oyster sauce etc.  But that's ok.  It's life I guess, and as much as I'd love to only use 100% natural ingredients, well, I can't afford it.  And I don't have the time to make everything.  It's a battle a lot of people go through, but at the end of the day you have to go with what suits you.

Dishes like this lamb and mushroom pasta, they bring out the best in my love for natural ingredients.  Fresh ingredients cooked for a long time, that create the most amazing deep and warming flavours.

I'll let you in on a secret - I didn't actually make this - Colin did.  I advised him on what to add and the quantities, but he did the rest.  So ladies, this is a dish for the boys to cook!

Update - apparently my mention of Colin cooking this dish wasn't enough, and seeing as I'm trying to encourage him to cook more often, I would like to add that he did an amazing job and is actually a pretty good cook.  Is that better Colin?  :)



SLOW COOKED LAMB AND MUSHROOM PASTA
Recipe adapted from The Living Room
Olive oil
500g lamb shoulder or leg, cut into cubes
1 brown onion, diced
1 leek, white/pale green part diced
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 field mushrooms, diced
Handful of porcini mushrooms
Bunch of thyme
500ml beef stock
Sea salt
Black pepper
Fresh chopped parsley
400g pasta (tagliatelle or a thick ribbon pasta works well)
Parmesan, to serve


In a large pot over a medium heat, add a good slug of olive oil, then add the onion, leek and garlic.  Cook until translucent and slightly caramelised.  Remove from the pot and set aside.

Add a bit more oil, then add the lamb in batches until they are a little brown and sealed.  Add the onion mix back into the pot, then add the field and porcini mushroom, the thyme and stock, then bring to boil.  If the stock doesn't cover all the meat, add a little water.  Turn to a simmer then leave to cook for two hours (lid on half the time) or until the sauce has thickened and the lamb is tender.  Add a handful or chopped parsley and stir through.

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.  Drain, then add the sauce and mix well.  Serve with grated parmesan, and a nice glass of red (cos they are perfect together).

Fresh pasta would also work amazing with this.  Recipe here.



April 25, 2013

Anzac Biscuits


Today in Australia it's Anzac Day, a day where we remember those who have served and died in war, in particular, Australians and New Zealanders who fought in Gallipoli during World War 1.  It's always been a public holiday I haven't known much about, and I can probably bring that down to two things - pretty poor schooling systems that didn't seem to teach kids too much about history, and the fact I was never interested in history growing up.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't want to know, I hate not knowing world history, I sometimes feel left out.  Art history, on the other hand, that I know lots about, and others generally don't.  So it comes down to me doing my own research, reading books and such, which for me is a mission seeing I have a low attention span.  Currently I've been trying to read graphic design books to learn more, something I love, but even that's proving difficult.


Anyway, I went off track.  When I was in school Anzac Day was always about Anzac biscuits.  We would make them at the school or bring them to school. I have never known the link between the two - actually, I'm just going to google it...


... so the link is the biscuits were apparently made by the wives and transported to the soldiers because the biscuits could keep for a long time without going off.  Well, there you have it.  

I love these biscuits because, yes, the do keep for ages, but because they also such a strong chilhood memory.  Plus they are delicious!


ANZAC BISCUITS
1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 cup desiccated coconut
3/4 cup caster sugar
125g butter
3 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarbonate baking soda


Preheat your oven to 160C.  Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Place the flour, oats, coconut and suagr in a large bowl. 

Melt the butter, and add the golden syrup and bicarb.  Mix well, then pour into the oat mix.  Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, then using a tablespoon, scoop up the mixture and using your hands, mould into a ball.  Place on the tray and press slightly with the back of the tablespoon.  Continue until you have them all done.

Place the tray into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden.  The biscuits will harden slightly when cooling.

Makes around 22.

March 24, 2013

Lemon and Blueberry Cupcakes


It's be a while since I've made a cake or cupcakes (well not entirely true, I whipped up some chocolate cupcakes for my brothers birthday in January).  I haven't really had the spare time to cook for 'fun', lately it's been cooking cos a girls gotta eat!  I miss those days of having spare time to bake.  Ahh baking..  it's so relaxing to bake something simple, and then even better when you get to feed it to the people you love most.

I've had this cake book-marked for a very long time.  I'm a big fan of blueberries, and the thought of blueberries and lemon got me all excited.  I wanted to make it last year for my mum's birthday but never got around to it.  And then next opportunity to make it never came.  So this weekend when I should have been doing homework I thought I would make it.  But, it's kind of a celebration cake, the cake you make and don't have leftovers.  So next best thing, turn it into cupcakes.  I can freeze cupcakes (oh yeah, if you haven't heard, cupcakes freeze well! You just have to let them thaw slowly it room temperature) so it means I don't have to eat it all at once.

My other excuse was this awesome new set of pipping bags and tips.  I've never really been into decorating cakes (I usually bake the simple cakes with fruit on top).  But I noticed everyone always made these beautiful looking rose-shaped icing onto of theirs, and well, I wanted to do it too!  So don't laugh at my icing attempt - it was my first time!  I'm hoping to get a little more practice.


LEMON AND BLUEBERRY CUPCAKES
Recipe slightly altered from Sweetapolita
Cake:
1 cup + 3 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sour cream (60ml)
3 tablespoons milk (60 ml)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries (use fresh if you can)

Icing:
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
2 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk
Pinch salt
Tiny bit of yellow food colouring (put in a little at a time, can be intense!)


Preheat the oven to 180C.  Line a 12 hole cupcake tin with paper cases.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, mix well and set aside.

In another bowl, add the sour cream, milk, vanilla extract and lemon zest, stir and set aside.

In a large bowl, add the butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well incorporated.

Add the sour cream mix and half of the flour mix, and continue beating slowly and gently, adding more of the flour mix as you go.  Fold in the blueberries gently, then spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake for 25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow cupcakes to cool completely before icing.

To make the icing, place all ingredients into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the colouring (if desired) a bit at a time.  Place the icing into a pipping bag, and ice away!

Makes 12 cupcakes.


March 18, 2013

Google Reader update

In case you hadn't heard yet, Google Reader is saying sayonara.  If you follow this blog through Google Reader, and you'd like to continue following it, jump over to Bloglovin' where all my posts are. I'm a big fan of Bloglovin' as pretty much all blogs are on it, and clearly displays new posts.  I also like how you can now categorise blogs for your own blog roll.  You can also find my recipes on Pinterest.  All links are here and on the right.

A little pic cos I didn't know what to put here.

March 17, 2013

Grilled Zucchini Salad


I have a few dishes that are a regular - roast potatoes, grilled asparagus, grilled corn (I grill a lot), cucumber salsa, and yoghurt salsa.  These are the things I make when I cook a simple steak, chicken or fish.  One thing I make all the time but have never blogged is my grilled zucchini salad.  I make this dish a lot, and even though I have attempted to photograph it, it has always come out looking blah.  And because I'm telling you about one of my favourite dishes I don't want it to look blah. I don't want you to think "yeah.. looks oh-kayyy..".



So today for lunch I made this salad.  It's beautiful outside and there's plenty of light so I photographed it with no problem.  And of course it's a beautiful day outside and I'm stuck inside doing homework (yeah I went back to uni again, one of the reasons why I don't post as much - lack of time!).



This salad is a little time consuming, only because when you grill it you can't walk away - it only takes about 20 seconds to cook each side.  If use a BBQ you'll probably find this to be quicker, and my god does this dish go well with a BBQ steak!  It retains a slightly crunch but is also soft and juicy.  When I first made this dish maybe a year ago, I decided this was the only way to cook zucchini (besides a frittata!)

In terms of how many people this feeds, I could esaily eat the whole thing, but when making it along with other sides it could feed up to 4 (get a really large zucchini to be safe).  But for this particular one I'm going to say its a side dish for a two hungry people.



GRILLED ZUCCHINI SALAD
1 large zucchini, peeled into ribbons using a potato peeler
A large handful of rocket (arugula)
Two tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
Crumbed feta
Few basil leaves torn
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Dash of vinegar (red wine or apple cider works best)


On a hot grill pan or BBQ, evenly lay the zucchini strips so none are overlapping (I don't use oil in this step, but if you find it is sticking to the grill spray a little oil on the grill, it shouldn't stick when the grill is hot).  When grill marks appear (20/30 or so seconds) turn over and grill the other side. Place in a bowl and continue cooking the rest.  Toss the grilled zucchini in the bowl a couple of times as you cook so the heat is evenly distributed (the retained heat will soften them lightly and make them juicy).

When all the zucchini is grilled, add good couple of pinches of sea salt, and a good slug of olive oil, and toss well.  When room temperature, add the rocket, basil, crumbled feta, pine nuts and dash of vinegar, and toss lightly.

Serve room temperature or slightly cooled.



March 2, 2013

Pinterest


I succumbed.  I finally did it.  I got Pinterest.

I'm not that big on social media, which is weird seeing I studied and worked in Marketing for so long.  As much I agree Facebook and Twitter etc is great for businesses (not all though) and big corporations, the thought of me tweeting random crap and people having to waste their time reading it seems pointless.  And even though I say this, yes I have a twitter account.  I have never tweeted.  I don't even remember my login details.  I don't even remember the last time I logged in!

Pinterest was one social media I never thought I'd get into.  It would always pop up on my blog stats and I'd click and go "oh that's nice, some pinned my recipe!".  But then recently, Pinterest blocked my ability to see this.  I had to login.  It got me thinking about Pinterest and why I avoided it for so long.  So I joined, thinking if it's balls I'll delete it (yeah I said balls, and it's the balls you're thinking, correct). I had a look around, turned everything to private, and gasp, I pinned something!  Pinterest told me I'm only allowed to have three private boards and even then people can kinda seem them.  Ahhh screw it.  If I'm going to do this I'm going to commit.

Hi, my name is Natashia Bevilacqua and I am a Pinterest addict.

I thought there's no point in having this if I can share my pins (the idea still seems a little strange) and I pin off others - we're all here to get ideas after all!  I've included my little button on the right (and below), and you can have a look and see if you'd like to follow me, or, whatever, stalk (we alllllll do it).


Follow Me on Pinterest


February 21, 2013

Lemon, Mustard and Thyme Roast Chicken with French Lentils



So kitchen update - all cabinets and bench tops are in, the sink is in, the oven's amazing, and I'm in the cooking mood again!  There's still a bit to do, such as the splash back, fixing the doors onto the cabinets, installing power points and range hood and the kick board.  But these things aren't preventing me from spending time in the kitchen so I'm happy!

I can't believe it's actaully taken me around 3 months to do.  Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong during the process has gone wrong.  You can't really plan for them to happen either because for me it was a trial and error sort situation.  I had never done anything like before, so I didn't know what to expect.  I guess it will make it easier when I go to renovate my bathroom next!



So onto cooking.  I'm trying to keep dinners simple these days.  One main dish, usually a protein, and one good side dish, sometimes a third but keeping that really simple.  It makes life a little easier if you can go to the shops and have a plan of only buying a couple of key ingredients.  I shop as I need as opposed to doing a big weekly shop, so it gives me more flexibility to eat what I'm in the mood for.

The other day I spent the day on the couch with a sore neck, so I watched a whole heap of recorded episodes of French Food Safari.  I've never really been into French food, I think it took a bit of research to realise it has the same concepts as Italian cooking - simple, rustic dishes with a heap of flavour, simple ingredients, and different from town to town.  I like this idea, and have started really enjoying French food.  After watching about 5 episodes, I had a craving for roast chicken and lentils.  I went to the shops, picked up a couple of ingredients and made this.

Enjoy.

Serves 4 - 6


LEMON, MUSTARD AND THYME ROAST CHICKEN
1.6 - 1.8 kg whole free range chicken
1 tablespoon French mustard
1 lemon, cut into quarters
3 garlic cloves
8 sprigs of thyme
Sea salt
Cracked pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Rinse the chicken with water to wash, then pat dry.  Place the chicken on a roasting tray lined with baking paper.  Rub the mustard all over the chicken, the sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Squeeze half the lemon juice over the chicken and stuff the lemon pieces (including the half squeezed) along with the garlic and half the thyme into the cavity of the bird.  Sprinkle the rest of the thyme over the top of the chicken, along with a good slug of olive oil.  Place the chicken in the oven and drop the temperature to 160C.  Cook for 1 1/2 hoursTo check if the chicken is cooked, place a skewer into the breast, and when removed clear juices should run outYou can also test with a thermometre - the breast should be 75C.

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes.


FRENCH STYLE LENTILS
1 cup French lentils
3 cups of water
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
4 button mushrooms, finely diced
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Few springs of thyme
Olive oil
Sea salt   
Balsamic vinegar


Cook the lentils according to the packet instructions (or 1 cup of lentils, 3 cups of water, bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minute or until cooked through).  Strain.

In a large pan, fry off the carrot, celery, mushrooms, shallots, garlic and thyme in a good slug of olive oil.  When carrots and celery and soft but still have a little bite, turn the heat off, add the lentils, a couple of pinches of salt, another slug of olive oil and a tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar.  Mix well and taste - you may need more salt, oil or vinegar.

Serve with roast chicken.


   
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