Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Red pesto in the rain.

As I write this, the sun is shining right on me. Even though it's raining and the trees are dancing in the breeze, the sun is warming my body and making me squint my eyes to see the computer screen. If you stand outside, in a sheltered and sunny spot, you'd hardly know it was the coldest day all September. You might even remember that it's supposed to be spring.

I like days like these because I don't feel guilty if I don't go outside. I could stay inside, lounging around, baking things, for days before I felt like I needed some fresh air and to speak to someone that wasn't Brent or Rooney. I'm happy on my own, and I'm not afraid to admit it. I think it's important to be able to enjoy your own company.

The only problem with being at home is that I feel guilty if I'm not studying. Studying is probably important if you're at uni. But there are ways to banish that guilt. To send it to some dark corner and forget about it. Like, for instance, by watching season upon season of some (possibly trashy) tv show that you love. Or by baking and cooking. Or you could do both at once, if you're that clever. Yesterday I felt guilty for not studying so I did three things: I made a batch of chocolate biscuits; I went to my friend's house for coffee and gossip; I made red pesto.

I always have red pesto when I go to my parents house. For some reason, they always have some in the fridge. I like to eat it on crackers, but I could totally just eat it straight out of the container. I've never made red pesto before, but it's super easy. This one has more basil in it than the one from the shop, but I like it that way. That's probably the best thing about making things at home, you can have them exactly how you want them. This red pesto is good anyway you like it. On pasta, on chicken, on crackers, on a finger straight from the bowl...

Adapted from Epicurean

1 Cup semi-dried tomatoes
1/2 Cup Pine nuts
2 Cups Fresh Basil
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
3 Garlic cloves
1/2 Cup Parmesan
salt & pepper to taste.

Put the tomatoes, basil and garlic in a food processor and blitz until roughly chopped.
Add the pine nuts, parmesan and some oil and mix.
Add the rest of the oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sausage rolls & an Australian tradition.

Ah, the AFL Grand Final day. A great Australian tradition. Meat pies, sausage rolls, drinking beer before 12o'clock. And some footy, thrown in for good measure. I've never really gotten into the footy before, and honestly, I've only watched the grand final once before. I'm not very patriotic, and I don't really know anything about footy. I started watching it because Brent really likes AFL (he's much more patriotic than I am), and I like any good reason to eat pies and drink beer.

I didn't actually make any pies this year, I made mini quiches instead. I only have one problem with mini quiches: they're not really meant for tomato sauce. I'm not going to give you a recipe for the mini quiches, because I'm sure you can work it out. All I did was cut up some bacon, mix 2 eggs with a splash of milk and pour it into the pastry circles, topped with cheese and paprika.
So grab a beer, grab a sausage roll and answer the all important question: Who do you barrack for?
Oven- 180

250g beef mince
250g sausage mince
1 carrot, grated
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp herbs
1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 sheets puff pastry, (ready rolled is fine) cut in half.

Fry the onion and the carrot until soft and starting to be translucent.
Put everything, including carrot and onion, into a bowl, and mix together (I like to use my hands here, but you could use a spoon, if you prefer).
Place a suasage shape of mince mix onto the top of one sheet of pastry, roll up and place on tray, sealed side down. Cut up into desired size, I like mine little.
Brush with egg wash.
Bake for 15-20 mins until golden brown.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pasta with bacon, lentils and silverbeet & a snow story.

At about 9:00 this morning, my Mum rang me to ask if I wanted to go to the snow. Of course I wanted too.
It snowed so much yesterday. It was the coldest September day ever. And here I was thinking it was spring. Silly me! And after a cold morning walking through the snow, all I wanted to do was eat pasta. (The above photo was taken on my phone, thats why its so baaad).

Pasta is my go-to meal when I want something quick and homey. This dish reminds me of something that Dad cooks - black-eyed peas with spinach and bacon. I love spinach and bacon together (I always forget that spinach and silverbeet are different things), they're a perfect couple. Like coffee and cake. This recipe had heaps of left-overs, which is perfect when you're studying, because you don't have to cook lunch. If you're like me, you'll just eat the cold leftover pasta straight out of the saucepan. What? You don't do that? My friend Leah and I used to do it all the time. We'd eat cold spaghetti straight out of the tin when she first moved out of home and none of us had jobs. I don't really eat tinned spaghetti any more, but I do still like to eat cold pasta.

serves 2 with leftovers
Adapted from delicious. Magazine

3 rashers of short cut bacon, diced
4 big leaves of silverbeet, chopped
1 250g tin brown lentils, rinsed and drained
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock
500g short pasta, i.e. penne
knob butter, optional
parmesan to serve

Cook the pasta in a big pot of boiling, salted water for 12-15 mins, until al dente.
In a fry pan, heat some olive oil and cook the onions, bacon and garlic until garlic is soft.
Add the silverbeet, lentils, tomato and stock and cook until spinach is wilted and soft.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Drain the cooked pasta and stir in the knob of butter.
Add pasta to the sauce, stir and serve with parmesan.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fight for your right to birthday party - Gin and Tonic Jelly.

I made this Jelly for Brent's sister, Kirby's Birthday. She likes gin a lot.
Unfortunately it didn't look as pretty as I'd hoped, but it tasted good and Kirby and her boyfriend, Arie, seemed to enjoy it.

Nigella Lawson suggested putting white currants around the jelly, but I've never seen a white currant before, let alone know where to buy them. I used cucumber instead because Kirby and Arie often put it into their gin and tonics, and it looked pretty.

I was so excited about the jelly when I was making it. I told everyone at work about it, and I was so excited to give it to Kirby instead of a regular cake. I waited until the very last minute to unmould it, because I didn't want it to collapse from sitting around for too long. Unfortunately, the jelly wasn't firm enough and after I put the jelly on a plate, one side of it slowly, ever so slowly, fell away. Like a cliff crumbling after a storm.
I thought this was the last of it, and I turned away to get the cucumber and lemon out of the fridge. When I came back, a little crack had appeared in the middle. As I watched, the crack got bigger until it had split the whole way across. Luckily this part didn't fall away from the rest, but it didn't look good, and golly I was worried.
I perservered and cut up thin slices of cucumber and lemon and lovingly arranged them, hoping to distract from all the cracks.
Birthday gin

The car ride over to Kirby's house was definately an interesting one. Brent thought it was hilarious that the jelly wobbled around so much. It looked like a little translucent squid, covered in cucumber. Thankfully he drove carefully and the jelly didn't crack any more.
In the end, I think I'd file this one away as a success and I'm planning to make lots of different flavours. Imagine the possibilities! Vodka and Cranberry! Rum and Coke! Martini! Man Panda!
I'm excited just thinking about it...

From Nigella Lawson's 'How to be a domestic goddess'.

300ml water
300g castor sugar
zest and juice of 2 lemons
400ml tonic water
250ml gin
8 sheets of leaf gelatine

Put water and sugar into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 mins.
Take off the heat and add lemon zest. Let sit for 15 mins.
Strain sugar syrup into a measuring jug. (If you don't strain the jelly, you'll get all those little zesty bits that are on the top of my jelly.)
Add lemon juice, gin and tonic. This should reach 1,200ml
Soak gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 mins.
Put 50ml water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
Take off the heat and whisk in the gelatine leaves (squeeze excess water off the leaves first).
Pour some of the gin mix into the sauce pan, then pour it all back into the jug.
Pour mix into a 1 1/4 L greased jelly mould and leave to set in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chunky Brownies & Madness.

I've got a confession to make.

I wasn't studying when I said I was. I wasn't even busy.

The truth is, I've been watching Mad Men. I'm sorry. I just got so tied up watching Joan, Peggy, Betty and all the boys, that I didn't want to be disturbed. Also, I'm a little bit behind the times. Mad Men has been out for ages and I've only just discovered it. (And Brent likes it too! Win).
And I know that the girls of Mad Men wouldn't eat brownies, because they'll make you 'stout', and if you're stout, then you'll never find a man. But honestly, I'm halfway to stout now, and I've already got a man, so I may as well keep eating brownies.

I looked at lots of brownie recipes before I decided on this one. I didn't want a recipe that was too fancy, and I didn't want a recipe that had lots of chocolate in it, because I didn't have very much and I didn't want to stop watching Mad Men to walk to the shop.

The recipe that I decided on, one by Stephanie Alexander, fitted the bill perfectly. I halved the recipe (because I don't want to get too stout), and I made the whole thing in one bowl. Or rather, one saucepan.
First you melt the butter, and then you mix all the other ingredients in, one by one. These brownies are fudgy and richly decadent (the photo doesn't really do them justice). You can use all plain flour, or all whole wheat flour, or half and half. I've made them all and they are all delicious. If you make the full recipe and bake it in a small tin, you get big fat squares of brownie that are hard to fit in your mouth, but taste extra fudgy (If you do this, you'll have to bake the brownies for an extra 5-10 mins. Remember: the smaller the tin, the longer the baking time.) But if you bake the brownies in a bigger tin, you get good, regular sized brownies, they just don't seem to be quite so fudgy. Whatever you choose, be sure to be richly rewarded for such little work.

This recipe reminds me of one that I used to make with my best friend in high school, Courtney. Courtney lived up the road from me, and we used to make brownies at one of our houses, leave all the mess, then walk to the other person's house to watch movies and eat brownies (Usually we'd watch the movie Camp. Did you ever see that? It's pretty good).

So go on, eat some brownies, watch some Mad Men, and think about high school a little bit (but not too much).

Adapted from Stephanie Alexander's 'The Cooks Companion'.
Here is the full recipe, but halve it, like I did, if you like.
Oven - 160C

180g butter
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
4 eggs
100g plain flour or whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup choc chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts)
pinch of salt

Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, sugar and vanilla and stir. Then add the eggs.
Add everything else, stir, and pour into a lined baking tin.
(Remember, the smaller the tin, the longer the cooking time).
Bake 20-25 mins, until cooked but still a bit gooey.
If you can, wait until the brownies are cooled before cutting them.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I write this while lying next to Brent, as he sleeps. Shhh, try not to make too much noise.
We had these burgers for dinner. Just as they were (I thought about making chips, too, but... shrug). I had decided in the morning, that burger's were what we would have for dinner. I thought about them all day. What would I put in them? How would I make the bun recipe? What kind of meat would I use for the patties? Do I obsess about food too much?
But you know what? I think it's fine to think about food. It doesn't mean that I'm eating food all the time (although, I probably could...). It just means that I like to think about what sort of food I'm putting into my body.
I know that burgers don't seem like the healthiest thing ever. But if you make them yourself, they're not completely unhealthy. As the cookie monster says, "they're a sometimes food." So just remember that, kids.
But really, I thought these little burgers were perfect. They weren't very big, and damn, they were tasty.
I'm allowed to say that, right?
Anywho, this was my first time making bread, and I think it turned out alright. And it was super fun and really easy too. If you haven't, you should try it. Go on, I dare you.
I'll leave you with the recipe now, so that we don't wake Brent up with our chatting.

Bun Recipe:
Adapted from

I quartered this recipe, because I didn't want to make too many buns, and there's no room in the freezer for freezing bread. But I'll give you the whole recipe, and you can decide and divide for yourself.

Oven- 200C

325g strong '00' flour
300g wholemeal flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsps salt
1 tbsp dried yeast
50g butter, room temp.
1 1/2 cups cold water

Mix flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl.
Rub the butter into the flour.
Make a well in the flour and add the water.
Flip the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for 20 mins.
Pour a little bit of oil onto the dough, and put the dough back into the bowl.
Cover, and leave in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled.
Form dough into rolls. Place onto greased baking tray and cover again. Leave for another 45mins.
Bake for 12 mins, until golden.

Burger Recipe:
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, grated
1 egg
500g mince
1 tbsp tomato sauce, or paste
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

Lightly fry the onion and the carrot in some olive oil, until soft.
Mix everything together, including the carrot and onion.
Form into patties the size of the buns and dust in flour.
Fry in a non-stick pan until brown and cooked through.

p.s this is the song I woke up to this morning.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Vanilla Sugar Biscuits

Can you think of a better way to spend a rainy Saturday, than by making lots of biscuits? I can't. So here we go. I got the recipe out of this 70's baking book that I got from the op-shop. They were meant to be Danish Vanilla Wreaths. But the piping kit that I have is actually an icing kit, so the biscuits were too small to be piped out and I ended up rolling them into balls. The recipe didn't have enough sugar in it, so I had to add (a lot) more. It also called for almond meal, which I'd run out of, so I used cornflour instead. Maybe that's where my problem started! Not to mention the fact that my scales are a bit dodgy (they're also from the op-shop). Boooring!

But anyway, they worked out well in the end. I'm not sure what you'd call them exactly. They're not shortbread, and they're definately not Danish Vanilla Wreaths. But it doesn't matter that they don't have a name. They actually taste really good. I'm even going to take them to work tonight, to help us get through a busy, rainy, Saturday night (not only that, but there's only so many biscuits you can eat before you start to feel sick, and sorry for yourself). I made some mini biscuits and some regular sized biscuits. I haven't decided which ones I like better yet, but decide for yourself. I also had some choc-chips left over, and some dried cranberries, so I pressed these onto the tops of the biscuits before I cooked them. I think it added an extra special something. Win!

Adapted fom "The Complete Book of Home Baking"

Oven- 180

250g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
190g butter
150g sugar, plus more for sprinking
50g cornflour
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg, beaten
few drops of milk
chocolate chips, or dried cranberries, optional

Mix everything together, except the chocolate chips and the milk. I used my hands to rub the butter in, but if you prefer, you could just use electric mixers. If the mix is too thick, add some milk, to thin it out.
Put the bowl into the fridge for about 20mins, to chill.
Roll the mixture into teaspoon sized balls and put onto a lined baking tray (I made some that were this size, and some that were half a teaspoon, for mini biscuits).
If not using chocolate chips, flatten the balls slightly with a wet fork, otherwise, put the chips in the middle of the biscuits.
Bake for 10-12 mins, until golden around the edge, and bottom, but not all over. If you make mini biscuits, the cooking time will be shorter.
Sprinkle with white sugar while still warm. When dry, shake off extra sugar.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fish with parsely butter sauce.

Spring finally arrived today. Everything was extra vivid, like someone turned up the brightness/contrast on the colours of the trees and the sky, until they were at their all time brightest. So I think it's time to celebrate this season, with some lovely fish that has some bright colours, too.

In our house, there are certain things that Brent makes me cook, and certain things that I make him cook. He prefers it when I cook hollandaise and poached eggs, and I think he's better at cooking steak and fish.
Last night, though, I cooked the fish. I took it out of the pan, put it on the plates, then decided that it wasn't cooked, and had to heat the pan back up and put the fish back in for another couple of minutes. This wasn't a huge disaster, it just meant that it took a little bit longer to do. But, I mean, it's good practice, right?

When I made this, in my haste to get dinner out, I forgot an ingredient. One whole ingredient! When we finally got to eat, I knew there was something missing, but I couldn't work out what. It wasn't until after, when I was cleaning up, that I noticed the bright little lemon, sitting all alone on the bench, that I remembered what it was that was missing from the sauce. So when you're making the parsley butter sauce, remember to put some lemon in.

Adapted from Tessa Kiros' Apples for Jam
2 fish fillets (We used Ling)
25g butter, divided, one pat much bigger than the other
big handful parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and squished
1 tbsp olive oil
wholemeal flour, for dusting the fish
salt and pepper
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Dust the fish in the wholemeal flour.
Heat a non-stick frypan and put the oil and smaller pat of butter in.
When this is hot, add the fish. Cook until crispy and brown and cooked through (this will depend on the thickness of your fish).
Meanwhile, In another saucepan, put the bigger pat of butter, the parsley, lemon zest and juice and the garlic. Add some salt and pepper to taste.
Allow to melt, but not to brown or (heaven forbid) to burn. Keep on a low heat while the fish is cooking.
When the fish is done, plate up and pour the sauce over.