Friday, June 24, 2011

Crock Pot Crisis!

Coming home on a cold winter night to prepare dinner is hard enough! 
Coming home on a cold winter night when you're expecting to walk into the house to the delicious aroma of the slow cooker which has been bubbling away all day, only to find out that the timer for the slow cooker didn't go off is even harder......

Since we got our crock pot a few years ago, our trusty timer is set for midday so that the dish will automatically turn on while we're at work and do our cooking for us. It's a great feeling to come home after a hard day and have dinner prepared: meat falling off the bone, sauce reduced and scrumptious. The other day, however, we were sadly disappointed by timer failure and I had to had to improvise with an inferior but quick meatball dish!

Lemony Veal Stew with Chick Peas and Spinach
Fortunately, all was not lost and with a new functioning timer, we were able to enjoy two nights off cooking and two great dishes from my winter favourite cookbook, and a purchase my trip to Carmel, California a couple of years ago: Art of the Slow Cooker. The first dish was a hearty Lemony Veal Stew with Chick Peas and Spinach. A whole balanced meal in one pot!

After that, with confidence in the crock pot up, I attempted a US favourite, Spicy Pulled Pork which I prepared with Coleslaw and served in soft buns. Not the most attractive dish or healthiest, but it was so good! The spicy pork melted in the mouth with the crunchy coleslaw cooling the palate after a proper Tabasco kick. A fantastic reward after the earlier disappointment and I can't wait to get the crock pot out again!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Off the Wall!

Ritual Restaurant in Nelson Bay gave us a fantastic culinary experience last weekend. Their philosophy is "food is art" rather than "food is fuel" and the entire meal was inspired by the poem "My Country" by Dorothea Mackellar. The food journey was around 3 hours of tasty morsels, bites and taste sensations. To keep our tastebuds alert, a novel part of the experience was Ritual's Wall Art. The Wall Art consisted of 3 or 4 plaques on the wall with teaspoons slotted into the holes. On each spoon was a bite of a different flavour or texture combination.

Crispy Artichoke Shell being filled
with Artichoke Paste
Our first spoonful was two different types of artichoke: a crispy shell into which we squeezed a paste from a little tube we were served. I love artichoke and it was a really delicious bite full of intense artichoke flavour but crunchy and cream textures.

Wall Art at Ritual
The next spoonfuls came together later: "chicken sandwich," a rye crisp with crispy chicken skin, capers and cheese. It really did have the flavour of a full sandwich. And pork crackling which was crunchy with the salty recognisable flavour, but with zing of sour plum.

Strawberry Scent &
Celery Seed Rice Cracker
The Wall Art tastings were scattered throughout the meal, so after our entrée and before main, we had an interesting flavour pairing: celery crackers with a strawberry skoosh. It was one of the dishes that was most difficult to understand but at best the strawberry flavour is supposed to bring out the different notes in the celery. For me it was just a fun excuse to spray and crunch!

Next was the meatless bacon and eggs which really did have the flavour of meat despite just being a smoked and pickled quail egg.

Hunter Valley ‘Blumembert,’ Pineapple
Pillows with Lemon Basil 
The "cheese course" was a really interesting flavour combination. We are all familiar with the good old cheese and pineapple toothpicks, well it's a tried and tested combo which worked beautifully on the spoons. The Hunter Valley cheese was complimented by the pineapple "pillow."

Finally the dessert spoon was a really wonderful fudgy dark and white chocolate bite with pink peppercorns giving it a bit of a kick. It was a really unusual mix of flavours, creamy and peppery, and given my love of pepper, I found it delicious! Maybe even more so than the real dessert which followed!

It was a really innovative idea to keep us engaged between courses and to showcase some delicious fusions of flavour. A great addition to such a wonderful meal and in keeping with Ritual,'s food philosophy: fascinating and a lot of fun!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bringing home the Bacon & Eggs!

Eggs Benedict, Fingal Bay Longboat Cafe
A dish that Cam prepares perfectly every time and leaves me holding my breath when I order it at a cafe, is poached eggs and bacon. A classic that I'll never forget is when I was told that I didn't ask for my poached egg runny and that is why it came out practically hard boiled! This weekend I was pleasantly surprised to dodge the poached egg bullet, and experience a deliciously cooked Eggs Benedict that oozed out over the sour dough at a local beach side cafe!

The other speciality cuisine of Cam's that I have to avoid when eating out is Italian. My Aussie hubbie could have come from Italy with his tasty pizza - made completely from scratch dough and all - and his non traditional spaghetti bolognese with a little heat from jalapeño chillies and full of fresh veggies - mushrooms, eggplant and tomatoes.

Cam's Honey Soy Steak
My husband's signature dish is Honey Soy Steak with mash, honey carrots and broccoli. He has cooked this dish for me for as long as I've known him, and it's a favourite in our household. It's the one dish that our student home-stay guests request as their last supper when they're about to leave us and it is a consistent winner as a winter warmer comfort food. Cam always cooks my steak so perfectly that I rarely order steak when we go out, afraid that it won't be up to my standard - we even wrote it into our vows at our wedding "Do you promise to continue BBQing her steak just the way she likes it" ;-)

I'm a very spoilt wife with a great husband who came with his very own yummy kitchen repertoire!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Food for Thought

In my one of my "other" lives I am doing my part time Masters so when crunch time comes (and not from a delicious pork crackling) I need to be on my game and alert to juggle studies, work and my other commitments. I leafed through my June MasterChef Magazine and out jumped Curtis Stone... (I wish).. 's quick and healthy recipes - perfect brain food for a time poor exam cramming foodie like me! The key ingredients in the recipes I picked to keep my brain and energy levels high were two relative newbies to my repertoire but well known for their nutritional value: brown rice and turkey. They also both had so many veggies that I got my 5 serves in 1 meal!

Turkey Pot Pie
I prepared the Turkey Pot Pie first. Celeriac is on my "food of the season" list at the moment. I love the creaminess of celeriac mash, with the fragrant flavour. The pie was a hearty combo of the lean but tasty meat, which I have only ever used in a Christmas roast, with some pantry staple veggies and was perfect for the chilly Sydney evening.

Cumin Spiced Lamb
The Cumin Spiced Lamb with Ratatouille Brown Rice was another fabulous nutritional feast to keep my brain ticking over. The nutty low gi rice worked well as the base of the dish and because of the mounds of veggies in the ratatouille, we only needed a few slices of the pink lamb to feel full and refueled!

I loved the healthy, heartiness of both dishes preventing me from munching on snacks, that I could make plenty for lunch leftovers (giving me extra time to study instead of making up sandwiches) and that they kept my brain ticking!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Food with Flares

Cheese Fondue
When it came to celebrating my husband's 40th a 70's "disco" party was the obvious choice. It ticked all the boxes - excuse to dress up in psychadelic gear and flares: check, dance around listening to cheesy disco music: check, justify purchase of a mirror ball: check and of course, delicious nostalgic 70's hors d'oeuvres (as they used to call them!): check!

Beef Wellington
It was with this last item on the party list that I was most excited! Being a food blogger and showing my food off to the world via the blog has it's disadvantages. All the guests somehow had high expectations of the feast that I would be presenting so my original idea of cheese cubes and tinned pineapple on toothpicks skewered into a half grapefruit, with a bowl of twiglets, just wasn't going to cut it. I had to think a bit more adventurous and impressive!

 Vol au Vents
Friends were guessing what they might taste, and all of them were looking forward to prawn cocktail, expertly prepared by our chef friend Neil, who lent a hand in the kitchen, and devils on horseback (juicy prunes wrapped in bacon  and grilled)! Cam prepared a chicken liver pate, and we had some prosciutto wrapped melon, reminiscent of our family favourite starters! Most guests also guessed the appearance of a 70's classic, a gruyere cheese fondue, which was as popular as it was in its heyday!

The Cake(s)
The chicken and mushroom vol au vents were a hit, and we really tucked into Gary from Masterchef's delicious Beef Wellington - perhaps not quite meant for canapes but fabulous tasting, and worth licking your fingers for!

Finally, we had black forest cup-gateaux and Cam's favourite - individual Margarita Lime Cheesecakes, courtesy of LivLife's fantastic recipe!

 Food fit for a fortieth with flare(s)!
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