Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chicken paillards with rosemary and capers

So what’s a paillard? Don’t ask me would not have a clue, they tasted bloody awesome though. 

Around three o’clock this afternoon having had a busy day I took a moment to consider what we might have for dinner, as we had our nephew Luke coming over I wanted something reasonable, but being a work night wanted something easy too.  I had already decided to make an apple pie, it has been a week after all since we finished the last one and Luke is a growing lad, so then for the main I turned my attention to the ever faithful Gourmet Traveller site.  
The must be 2-3000 recipes on that site and they make it so easy, if you want to cook with an afghan melon all you need do is type in afghan melon and it returns everything with that ingredient, love it!  My search on chicken returned many good recipes which I have noted for future use, but for tonight I chose chicken paillards with rosemary and capers.  

This was an extremely easy recipe to follow and to cook, I roasted potato and sweet potato to go with it and added some fresh beans and Broccoli, the vegetables along with the caper sauce made this simple to make chicken dish outstanding.
The apple pie, as apple pies go, was better than the last, but aren’t they always?

Click on the photo to see larger image
Apple pie with cream and strawberry shortbread
Hope Luke enjoyed the meal as much as I did preparing it for him!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Breaded chicken tenderloins with leek potato mash and greens

Something quick and simple tonight, mainly due to a lack of planning and a busy day at work, not that I am too worried, because sometimes the simplest of meals can really hit the spot and this is comfort food and comfort food always hits the spot.


I did try something a little different tonight that I am happy to say worked out beautifully.  I had some leek I wanted to incorporate into the meal and I started out thinking I would fry it off for a while and then cook the chicken on top of it, only once I had cooked the leeks I realised it was not going to work.  I was considering  what to do when I noticed the potato I had boiling was ready to mash, so I took them off, mashed them and added the leek, along with a couple of knobs of butter and 50ml fresh cream, then seasoned with a little salt and pepper, it turned out great.  If Jo ever makes mash potato she always puts finely diced onions in the pot as she boils the spuds, and then mashes them, it tastes great but it is not something I have been able to master, so I am pleased my leek potato mash was so tasty might make up for where I’m lacking!

I have a visitor for dinner tomorrow night so I best put my thinking cap on before he gets here, don’t think I could get away with adlibbing two nights running!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kick arse lamb hot pot

Well the house smells so good right now, I have my favorite lamb hot pot in the oven and it is making my mouth water it smells so good, and I can't wait for it to be ready because I know it is going to taste fantastic.
This recipe came from Fast Ed's section of the Better Homes and Gardens, that screened early in the winter of 2009.  I watched the video of this so many times to get the recipe, writing down the instructions step by step, did a pretty good job too because I have just googled the recipe, it popped up straight away and there are very few minor differences, the title being the biggest difference, but I am sticking with mine because it describes the dish sooo much better.  The other major difference is that fast Ed uses stock cubes, I snicker and mumble "as if" as I pour my home made stock in, which I know is going to make the kick that much better.  I have passed this recipe on to so many people and from all reports everyone loves it, my niece Melanie has loved it so much, I have heard she has cooked it to death, what is it they say about too much of a good thing?  Not so in this household, well for this winter anyway, this may be the second time in 3 three months that I have cooked it, a little too long, so really looking forward to dinner.  I still have some yummy polenta left overs from last night, which is going to compliment the lamb so well, some crusty bread and we will be in heaven!
Preparing the kick
Here is the link to Fast Ed's recipe, just remember when you read the bit about stock cubes what Ed really means is use some of that liquid gold you made earlier, and it really will be Kick Arse Lamb Hot Pot.

Hot straight out of the oven
OMG that is without doubt the absolute best meal, the flavors are amazing and the polenta with it was outstanding, I think we will be having polenta every time we have this in the future.  The only thing I could find wrong with this meal tonight, I foolishly only put six chops in the pot, I think I am going to have to get a bigger pot!  
Honestly it was so good, Jo Girl is forever telling me off for giving her too much, not tonight, tonight she ate was on the plate, stood up and went to the kitchen bench and loaded her plate up again, now I have never ever seen her do that and what was even more unbelievable the second plate out did the first!  Can't say I can blame her though, but what am I going to have for lunch????
First Innings!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

coniglio in agrodolce

Had a great time cooking dinner tonight, not only for what was on the menu, but as I had my son Joel working alongside of me throughout and he did a great job, peeling and cutting up the veg and then later cooking the polenta, a tedious task at the best of times.

Dinner tonight came from an episode of Maeve O’Meara’s Italian Food Safari, which saw Guy Grossi out hunting wabbits with his chef Daniel Airo-Farula, I don’t have a big boom boom Beretta so I just made a trip down to the local IGA and picked a nice rabbit from there.

The only problem with taking a recipe from an episode of this show is you don’t get a recipe, so this is very much my version of the dish based on what I could learn from the episode, I wrote all the ingredients down and then improvised from there, forgot to put one ingredient in the shallots, which annoyed me no end but it turned out unreal all the same. The flavours in this dish were intense; the beautiful blend of fresh herbs gave it a lovely spiciness and the sweetness of the sultanas went so well with it. I served with polenta in which I had some butter and parmesan,  and a few slices of green olive ciabatta bread to soak up the juices. To say the dish was moorish, would be an understatement and after three servings I am not kidding and I am still enjoying the wonderful flavours swirling around on my palate some 30 minutes after dinner, who needs a recipe anyway? In case you do I have added my way to My Recipes.

I have the full DVD set of the Italian Food Safari, I watched every episode 4 times through now and I am a long way from sick of it yet! If you’d like to see how Daniel and Guy went about the job you can follow this link, enjoy http://www.sbs.com.au/podcasts/food/sbs-food/episode/86992/Coniglio-in-Agrodolce-Recipe-from-Italian-Food-Safari

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Malai Prawn (creamy prawn curry)

Tried something a little different tonight and so glad I did it was so scrumptious!

Malai Prawn or creamy prawn curry if you prefer was a very easy recipe to follow and did not take long at all to put together, the longest part of it was the cooking of the rice, though I did spend a bit of time shelling the prawns as shelled prawns were not available today. The curry is a flavoursome curry more so than a hot curry, that could have had a little to do with the fact I only used the one chilli instead of the two listed, I will follow the recipe to the letter next time! The interesting thing whilst cooking this dish was the colours that it went through getting to the final product. The onions, chilli and tomatoes are blended together before cooking commences and that come out predominantly white, then changed to a green colour as the oils blended in and heated up and after a few minutes the red of the tomatoes started coming through, then you start adding the spices it becomes quite dark and then coconut milk and then cream lightening it up again. I’ll cook this again just to see that again, I found it so interesting.

Jo loved the flavour of the curry so much she has requested I make it again only with steak instead of prawns, she thinks that would be a real winner, such a dag!

I love dinners like this one, easy to cook, big on flavours and little mess to clean afterwards, and there will be plenty of room for a bit of apple pie a little later this evening!!

• 1 kg large prawns
• 2 large onions
• 3 tomatoes
• 2 green chillies
• 2 tbsps garlic paste
• 1 tbsp ginger paste
• 1 tbsp garam masala
• 2 tsps coriander powder
• 1 tsp cumin powder
• 2 cups coconut milk
• 3 tbsps single cream
• 3 tbsps vegetable/canola/sunflower cooking oil
• Salt to taste

• Grind the onions, tomatoes, 2 green chillies into a fine paste in a food processor.
• Heat the oil in a pan and add the paste to it. Fry for a minute.
• Add the ginger and garlic pastes and fry for another minute.
• Add the spices and brown masala till the oil begins to separate from it.
• Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste.
• Add the prawns and cook for another 2 minutes only.
• Turn off the cooker and stir in the cream.
• Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice.

I used 600g prawns, and the one chilli, it really needed the 2nd chilli though, and there was plenty of sauce for more prawns, I will be on my Pat Malone tomorrow night so the leftovers may find its way onto a nice fish fillet! If you love curries that are not spicy hot, you’ll love this curry.  I found the recipe in a blog by an Indian lady, see the new link in My Favorites below.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sausage and capsicum pappardelle

Found this recipe on Gourmet Traveller and it is a rather good one. I was especially attracted to this recipe because of the ingredients, firstly the pork sausage and then the roasted capsicum. I love anything with roasted capsicum in it and matching it with pork sausages was a big plus. I have not had pappardelle before, it is what I would call ribbon pasta, it is a bit like fettuccini but about twice as thick, apparently Pappardelle pasta origins are in the Tuscany region of Italy. I used the thick Italian sausages, I get them from our local IGA in Cedric St and they are the nicest sausages I have ever eaten, the flavour is awesome but not over the top as many seem to be, they went fantastic in this.  Will be looking forward to my lunch tomorrow!

You can find the recipe here http://gourmettraveller.com.au/sausage_and_capsicum_pappardelle.htm

Monday, August 23, 2010

Coq au vin

I love the smell of coq au vin cooking, the way it fills the house with beautiful aromas just makes me feel warm and cosy. The recipe I use is one I got from the TV series, Better Homes and Gardens last winter and I have cooked and enjoyed it many times since. On first read of the recipe it is a bit scary given there are 12 whole cloves of garlic used, but really the garlic is not that noticeable when eating and what you do get is very nice. This is a good hearty rustic style dish that goes great with steamed whole potato and beans. The sauce whilst cooking is rather thin, but the roux added at the end fixes that and you end up with very flavoursome gravy. I generally use chicken thighs with the bone in for this dish and I just chop through the thigh bone with a cleaver to make smaller pieces, but for tonight’s dish I used drumsticks, as they were on special for a couple of dollars per kilo. The most expensive ingredient was the wine, which cost me $6 for a litre and as the recipe only calls for 750ml the cook got to have a wee drink, you can’t complain about that! I have passed this recipe on to many people and they have all enjoyed the warming flavours, it really is a must have for your winter menu. Now I actually cooked this yesterday and had it in the fridge overnight, the advantages of this are, obviously not having to cook tonight, the flavours will be stronger and yummier and before reheating you can easily skim any fat off the top making it a healthier option!

Just finished eating dinner, the only problem with this dish is it was hard to leave room for some apple pie a little later, I don't think I am going to be able to manage it tonight now!

Find the recipe here http://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/better-homes-gardens/recipes/recipe/-/6847488/coq-au-vin/

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Roast pork, vegetables and apple sauce

Jo Girl had to work at a trade fair today, so I was home alone to fend for myself, with nothing but talk, talk, talk about the election or football on TV, I decided to keep myself busy in the kitchen. I started out cooking myself scrumptious bacon and egg with mushies and tomatoes for breakfast. The bacon I picked up yesterday at Drovers was so yum yum!

Once I had breakfast out of the way I cooked up something for tomorrow night’s dinner, so all I will need to do when I get home is prepare some vegies and place the casserole in the oven to warm up. I then decided on making an apple pie for desert to go with tonight’s dinner for which I had roast pork on the menu. I love making apple pie, I got the recipe from my Mum who in turn got it from her Mum, though I think she left some little thing out of the recipe because I can never get mine quite as good as hers, but we shall keep trying. One little thing I have taken to doing differently with Mum’s recipe is that I cover the base of the pie in a little apricot jam, which was something I prepared to do today but then forgot until the lid was on the pie, so I glazed the top with the jam instead, it actually worked pretty good and both Jo and my son Ryan seemed to like it.

The piece of pork I chose for the roast was a shoulder piece, I had not done a shoulder of pork before so I had some fun when it came to carving the meat, but I managed in the end and the meat itself was very nice and the crackling was oh so crunchy, Jo wished there had been more, actually I think we all did if I were honest! I had planned to do a cauliflower au gratin, but ran out of puff so I just steamed the cauliflower and made a béchamel sauce to go over the top, and of course roast pork wouldn’t be right without it, so I had to make an apple sauce to go with it.

Now I am well fed and well and truly ready for bed, goodnight!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fillet Mignon with rosemary butter, served with creamy mash 'n green beans

I should have guessed when I asked Jo what she wanted for dinner tonight she might say steak, after all it has been 2 weeks since she last had her favourite meal, and after the last steak I cooked her I am sort of happy to satisfy her taste buds. Given that, a trip down to Drovers was called for, I can always get just the steak I am after there and today was no exception, I picked up a couple of beautiful Scotch Fillets and some rather nice looking bacon, the bacon was a little more expensive than I would normally buy, but I do not cook Fillet Mignon everyday so what the heck!

My dearest wife decided to spend her day in her sewing room putting together one of her fashion statements, this one for my Goddaughters wedding in a few weeks time, given Drovers is a cut lunch away, I phoned my sister Bella to see if she would like to join me for the journey, which to my fortune she did and we had a lovely little shopping outing together, first time ever that I recall, so that was nice.

As always though, when I go to Drovers with my shopping list of three items, I walked out with enough meat to keep us going for the next fortnight, but that is not a bad thing when you are buying quality at an affordable price, and I did manage to pick up a few bargains today, so came home very happy. One of the bargains I got was some chicken cages for a mere $1/kilo, so I have a big pot of liquid gold ticking away at the moment on the stove and with plans for doing one of my favourite chicken casseroles in the near future the fresh batch of stock will come in nice and handy. Good thing I remembered that stock, just went to check it and it was ticking away a little quicker than I would like, the aromas are starting to fill the house and they are amazing, that will have Jo Girl singing out “how long before dinner Jack?” before I know it! So I might just leave this here and go and cook her dinner and come back and let you all know how it has gone after I have tidied up!

Well the funny thing is Jo Girl has got to go to work tomorrow for some sale convention thing where she’ll be working her butt off to flog the odd street map or seventeen, all I can say is she is going to have to be quick, because I do not think the customers will be hanging around for too long, poor old Gav her work mate is going to have a long day, you see the rosemary butter, which was very very very yummy on the steak, was also very very very full of fresh garlic and right now both of us are reeking of it!

That aside the overall meal was an absolute success, so full of yummy flavours and Jo Girl thought it was Christmas, thanks to a great big mound of mash potato on her plate, something she has not had for a couple of months now, one of the few things she has missed!

I really would not have a clue how close this meal was to a traditional Fillet Mignon, and quite frankly I really could not care less, because this rendition I created tonight was divine and that will do me!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pork fillet with mixed herb couscous

I asked Jo this afternoon to make a choice between meat and seafood as to what she wanted for dinner, Jo chose meat, I was a little sad as I had a great little seafood recipe to try out, but that can wait for another day. I was looking to do something easy peasy for a Friday night, so when Jo selected meat I turned to Donna Hay’s simple essentials beef, lamb & pork book, I have come to know Donna as a no fuss easy peasy kind of cook, that delivers great tasting food and tonight’s recipe was no exception to that.

I have often seen pork fillets in the meat section at the supermarkets, but have never actually tried one, after tonight I think I will be trying it more often, it really is lovely meat and it seems there are always fillets there just the right size for two people. The pork was accompanied with herb couscous which was really nice, the mint and coriander provided a lovely fresh taste to the meal, I was unsure about the yoghurt when I read the recipe, but it actually went really well, it did not compete with the flavours of the spices on the meat or the herbs in the couscous, so all in all a great dish for nights when you want to have dinner cooked and on the table with the minimal effort.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chicken stuffed with feta and eggplant chutney and wrapped in prosciutto

There you go, now that is a mouthful, if you can come up with something simpler I’d be happy to hear it!

When we were out at the Windy Creek winery the other day, the lady there gave us a bowl of eggplant and roasted capsicum chutney to try on some biscuit, it was so yummy I could not leave it alone and I had the worst stomach ache at the time, it was just so morrish.

Whilst I tasted the 17th wine of the day, the lady was telling me how she rolled chicken breast stuffed with some of the chutney and some feta cheese, she had my attention immediately and I promptly ordered a jar to take home.

Tonight I brought some chicken breast and feta on my way home to try her recipe out, then as I was driving home I was trying to figure how I was going to keep it all together, I decided the best way would be to wrap the rolled breast in prosciutto strips, so I stopped off at Balcatta Fresh to pick some up. I asked for long strips as I wanted the strips to overlap, because of this the girl gave me some cut from a leg imported from Italy. Apparently the meat of the imported stuff is not quite as salty and a little sweeter, it is also somewhat more expensive, but it was ideal for what I wanted.

The prosciutto did the job of keeping it all together beautifully, but more than this the flavour was amazing and went so well with the feta and chutney, it really was worth the effort. Just at the end of the roasting time some of the juices started oozing out into the pan, they were so full of flavour I added a tablespoon of flour and a cup of white wine to deglaze the pan, then a cup of chicken stock and I let that reduce by about half whilst the chicken rested, it made a very flavoursome sauce.

I served the meal with baked potato, julienne carrot, broccolini and brussel sprouts, Jo girl seems to think I have done Leonards out of a customer, bugger!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tempura seafood with salad and potato fries

It has been a sad day for my DIL Sherrilee today, as her mother Beryl passed away early this morning after a short illness. She was surrounded by her loved ones when she passed away, in her own bed at Mike and Shez’s home where she had resided through the past few months, she would have loved that, just as I know she would have loved having her gorgeous granddaughter Reggie singing songs for her in her last few hours on this earth, Rest In Peace Beryl, you have earned it.  We love you Sherrilee and we are very proud of the way you have cared for your dear Mum through her illness, you have been amazing, love Dad and Jo xx

I searched high and low today for a recipe featuring fish that I could put with a nice salad, but nothing I found really jumped out at me or took my interest enough to want to cook it, then I left work a little early as I wished to visit my son and his beautiful family, before I cooked, so I decide on something not to complicated.

I came up with tempura seafood with salad and potato fries, nothing overly exciting but tasty all the same and cooking it tonight took me back close to thirty years, when I ran a fish and chip shop, I don’t think what I produced back then was quite as nice as tonight’s meal and the fact this was cooked with vegetable oil over fat, it was probably a lot healthier too.

I used a tempura batter, as it is by far my favourite, nice and light and does not overpower the seafood. Back in the old days the fish and chips would have been smothered in salt and vinegar, and in fact salt and vinegar featured in this meal though not directly on the fish, instead I used white wine vinegar in the salad dressing and I accompanied the meal with some freshly baked Green Olive Ciabatta Bread which provided a little saltiness, this worked great and the meal was very enjoyable.

The tempura batter is best made just before using, I was cooking for two and this made the perfect amount for 500g fish fillets and 10 prawns. Combine the following ingredients in a bowl, ¼ cup plain flour, ¼ cup cornflour, ½ teaspoon baking powder, then pour over ½ cup iced soda water, mix the soda in gently but don’t make too smooth leave a few floury lumps in it. The oil has to be at the right temperature, the best way to judge is to drop a drip of the batter into the oil, if it skates across the top real fast sizzling, the oil is too hot, add some fresh oil to cool it before trying again. If the batter sinks and stays sunk then slowly starts to bubble the oil is too cold, heat it a little longer. If the drip sinks then pops up a split second later and gently sizzles your oil is perfect, the fish will cook through and the batter will not burn. Tonight, I dusted the fish fillets in rice flour and then dipped into the batter, then straight into the hot oil, I just dipped the prawns in the batter and then into the oil, if I was to cook this again I would not dust the fish as I prefer the tempura a little thinner with crunchy bits and that is just as it was on the prawns.

For the salad dressing I combined a half teaspoon of French mustard with 3 teaspoons of white wine vinegar and 6 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, add a little salt and whisk, then spoon over the salad.

The only thing missing was a few sheets of the “Daily News” now that should keep anyone younger than 30 guessing!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Old fashioned roast chicken and vegetables, cooked in duck fat.

I cannot remember the last time I cooked roast chicken, the way my Mum use to do it. It is so easy today to run down to Chooks Fresh and grab a roast chook and put some roasted vegies with it.

I was actually going to do a lazy mans roast by bunging some chicken pieces in the oven, but when Jo went shopping the chicken pieces did not look much chop, so she brought a whole chicken for me to cut up. On seeing the chicken I decided to roast it whole, firstly because it looked great, and secondly, as I had a bucket of Luv a Duck, duck fat that I have been wanting to try out for roasting.

Just as soon as I started preparing the stuffing, Jo’s eyes lit up and a big smile came across her face, Jo loves her roasts!

For the stuffing I diced an onion, added a small fennel bulb also diced, 2 garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons of mixed dry herbs, 2 table spoons of butter and a cup and a half of breadcrumbs. After kneading the butter well into the other ingredients, I then stuffed it all into the chickens cavity as tightly as I could, ending up with a bread crust covering the back door to keep it all in place.

The pan went in the oven at 160c with the duck fat, as I had had it in the fridge and it was solid, it is not a bad idea to heat the fat before adding the vegies anyway. Before adding the chicken to the pan, I massaged some melted butter into the skin, then sprinkled salt evenly all round, then the same with pepper.

My oven is computerised, so all I had to do was push the buttons for the chicken roast program, I put the whole lot into the pan and off it went. The program worked somewhat differently than I had anticipated and the veg looked fantastic after 25 minutes of roasting, so I quickly whip them out, covered with foil and set aside, then basted the chook and closed the door. I am actually writing this as the chicken roasts, and with nine minutes to go it is looking fantastic, just put the veg in to reheat a little and boiled peas and corn, it is all coming together beautifully.
Once the cooking time was up I removed the chicken from the pan and it went back in the oven, which was now turned off, poured the fat into a dish for later use, it gets better every time it is used! I kept about a tablespoon of the pan juices and heated it on the hotplate, then added a couple of tablespoons of plain flour, baked that a few seconds before adding a cup of unsalted chicken stock and a cup of the water I had reserved from the peas, this made a beautiful gravy.

They say that the proof is in the eating, and not a truer word could be spoken of this meal, it was outstanding, I still don’t think I have achieved a chicken roast quite as good as my Mum’s, but when I see Jo eating the bones, I know I have cooked dam near the best chicken roast she has ever had! Jo just don’t do bones like that!

In my humble opinion, fennel is the most amazing ingredient, when used like this, so often when I tell people I have used fennel they turn their nose up, thinking it is going to taste like liquorice or ouzo, this could not be further from the truth. I have used fennel as a roasted vegetable, tonight as stated in the stuffing, finely sliced as a salad, with fish and chicken and it is the most delicate subtle flavouring, the stuffing tonight was close to the nicest I have tried, if not the nicest!

And as for the duck fat, duck fat has become very trendy of late, thanks largely to some smart marketing by Luv a Duck, the brand I used tonight, they have had it on countless cooking shows and have had stalls at shows such as the Good Food and Wine Show, and what did I think after my first use? Well I just can’t wait to use it again, because I know it is going to be so much better, it always is after the first use, and the first use was a winner!

Well, I almost forgot the wine, I matched this meal with the free bottle of Chenin Blanc Chardonnay the chap kindly gave us yesterday in the valley, at the time I could not understand why he would do such a thing, now I do, because I will making a trip back there to get some more, it was that good we both loved it and we rarely drink white wine, take my word for it, Henley Park 2008 Chenin Blanc Chardonay is worth taking a drive to the Swan Valley for, cheers! 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pinelli Wines and a Windy Creek in Swan Valley

The stomach is still not right, and have not had a thing to eat all day, other than a couple of black coffees, the old people say you shouldn’t lay down for illness, so this morning I got out into the sunshine and pulled a few weeds, mowed the lawn, did the edges and I was feeling so good I went next door and pulled some of their weeds!

Then I came to my senses and I said, Princess, I said, let’s go to the valley, pick up a couple of flagons of that Pinelli wine we like so much and relax a little. A few hours later and we are home now, I wasn’t feeling well enough to drive so I nominated Gorgeous to be skipper, it was really weird I couldn’t walk straight I was so dizzy, which now when I reflect back is really funny, because the dizziness has gone, but I still think I cannot walk to straight!

We headed straight up Morley Drive to Lord St, had a bit of a detour through one of Jo’s old neighbourhoods, the place where she had lived had been knocked over and a new place built in its place, but it was a priceless seeing the joy on her face as she came across things she remembered from her childhood, and as life goes, it is not always the destination we seek that makes life special, it is the little detours we make along the way.

From here we gunned the little Jazz to Bernara Rd and into Bennett St, 200m down and right into Pinelli’s place.

Pinelli’s is a place I have been wanting to visit for so many years now, I was fortunate enough to take Dan Pinelli one of the wine making brothers, away with me on one of my work trips many years ago, on our return Dan was kind enough to drop a box of home grown veg and a few bottles of plonk, all from the family home at my door, and it was all so delicious, I especially remember his Dad’s rockmelons, they were the biggest yummiest rockmelons I have ever tried, yummo.

Anyway we rocked up at Pinelli’s and they were so nice there, we already knew what we wanted, but it was like have you tried this wine, what about this you might like this one, good thing Jo Girl was driving! From here we ventured up West Swan Rd and found some little place on top of a hill, where we tried some magnificent Merlot, had to take a couple of those and as I did the guy tells me about some special he had on offer, that saw me walk out with a third bottle of wine, a Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay and I saved $3.00 on the deal, still can’t figure that one out but was happy all the same. We grabed a map of the valley from this guys bar also and looked up a winery we had been told about earlier, found it on the map and roared off in anticipation of finding a fine drop, and find a fine drop we did!

Windy Creek Estate is sort of out the back of Herne Hill, but well worth the effort to go off track a little, here they offered a choice of six whites, six reds and four fortified wines. I had started the day in on the reds, so I skipped the six whites and the first red, so I am going to have to go back soon, but... what I did try was amazing, and they got better and better as I got into each new wine. By the time I got to the fortified wines I was in heaven, they were absolutely outstanding! Whilst we were there the lady kept offering us biscuits and cheese, and then some homemade relishes her Mother had made, in the end I relented and tried an eggplant and capsicum relish, OH MY GOD! it was soooo good, we really, well I will rephrase that, I really did not want to leave, it was so much fun trying such beautiful wine and yummy eats, but we did have a home to return to, so I chose a few of my favourites and took them with me.

I have to tell you we picked up some bargains in the Valley today!

It is after days like today that you realise just how lucky we are here in Perth, we have such beautiful weather and we are all only minutes away from some of the most beautiful places to enjoy that sunshine, Swan Valley, for me rates as one of the best places on earth to do so on a day like today it doesn’t come any better!

Our Swan Valley bounty!

Veal parmigiana with pasta and salad

Saturday, August 14 2010

Was fortunate enough to be at the footy today thanks to Jo’s gorgeous cousin, we had great seats out of the sun and the game was entertaining, though we did lose it in the last few minutes we enjoyed the outing, so thanks Son and Rob for thinking of us.

I have not been feeling so well the past few days, though Friday I thought I was better and tucked into a yummy pizza which had oodles of blue cheese all over it, I am thinking it was not the brightest thing to have done now and I suffered a little during the day because of it.

Was unsure about the start time for the game @ 1:10 it was unusual time to start, I think it affected the crowd numbers too as there were lots of empty seats, but later when we were home and I had started preparing dinner by 4:30 I really appreciated that early start.

I love eating parmigiana, always have always will, I remember when I was a young fella having a meal at the pub meant having parmigiana, and it did not matter if it were chicken or veal or a tough bit of old shoe leather, so long as it had had the life pounded out of it and was then crumbed and fried, laden with tomato sauce and cheese I was happy. It is funny too, that on many of those nights when I was enjoying parmigiana I was out celebrating another win by the Mighty Royals, so you could almost say it was a traditional meal we enjoyed tonight.

Saying I enjoyed it may be pushing it a little too far though, I ate because I had too, but it was a struggle and I ate a lot less than I would normally when having parmigiana, that may have been a good thing though! Gorgeous enjoyed the meal, which was the most important thing, hopefully my stomach will be a little more accepting of food when I tuck into the leftovers later in the day!

As you can tell this post is appearing the morning after!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Night off

Yep had the night off tonight, have not cooked a thing all day, unless you count warming lunch in the microwave as cooking!

Went out to Leap Frogs Cafe for dinner, what a great little concept that is, beautiful home like backyard setting with the big wood fired pizza oven, live music playing in the background, ice cold beers, the hardest part of the night is deciding what to put on your pizza, everyone gets exactly what they want. I chose a very simple prosciutto, roasted capsicum and blue cheese combination, when delivered it had the traditional tomato sauce as a base and a scattering of fresh basil on top, bloody beautiful.

The last time I was there I took two of my sisters and my fiancé and that night Jay Weston was the entertainment, little did my gorgeous girl know at the time that the week before I had booked Jay to perform at our wedding, and she was totally unaware as I teased her that night about the guy singing and perhaps we should have him at our wedding! It is amazing just how fast the time goes though, we are coming up for our 2nd anniversary in a few months and it still feels like yesterday when we had last visited Leap Frogs, we really should go there more often it is a great way to start a weekend, good food, good company and good vino what more could you ask for?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chicken risotto with italian cacciatore sausage and sage

I woke this morning feeling less than ordinary and well and truly in need of more sleep, thanks to having to get up 3 times during the night, I felt ill so I ended up having a day at home, rugged up on the couch in front of the TV. I wonder if anyone has had the misfortune of having to sit and watch free to air TV all day on a Thursday, man o man if you have I pity you and I hope you stay at Graylands was not too long!
I got around this boredom by whacking in my favourite DVD and watching Maeve O’Meara’s Italian Food Safari, for the third time! And even though I really didn’t want to eat, it had my salvia glands working overtime. I was feeling pretty ordinary by day’s end though and ended up ringing my Mum for some sympathy, she gave me an age old cure and told me to drink a glass full of half port, half brandy and I must say after my third one I was feeling a lot better, thanks Mum.

Anyway, back to Maeve, one of the episodes had this big brute of a bloke, who looked and sounded more Russian than Italian, cooking a risotto dish.  Apparently he is a guru at cooking risotto so I paid close attention to him again and decided that I must put this knowledge to work, so I set about fixing some risotto for my gorgeous wife's dinner, whom I am sure would have looked after me a lot better had she not been so busy working!
The guy on the video cooked a sausage, red wine and pea risotto and whilst it looked good, I decided to cook with what I had at hand, and what I had was cacciatore sausage, to his pork, totally different, I also wanted to use the chicken breast which had been taken from the freezer earlier in the day. I did use some of his technique though, the most important one being not to stir the rice as it cooked, but rather to shake the pan and to heat the stock to a little higher than a slow simmer, the result was a very tasty dish, the sauce was smooth and creamy and the rice cooked beautifully with nice plump grains.
All the risotto’s I had cooked before tonight have been used to make arancini, and as such I had made the risotto sauce thicker which is ideal for arancini, so it was great to sit down and eat risotto for a meal on its own, something we will do more of in the future. If you would like to know how I went about cooking it check my recipes section, I will post it soon, otherwise check out the brutes method, see lnk below,
cheers Jack

Jack's Chicken Risotto with Italian Cacciatore and Sage
Link to Maeve O'Meara's Italian Food Safari Risotto segment  http://www.sbs.com.au/food/foodsafarirecipe/index/id/9787/n/Risotto_with_sausage_red_wine_and_peas

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Crumbed pork medallions with sautéed apples, potatoes and sage

As it was not such a nice day out, I stayed in at lunchtime today and had a quick look on Gourmet Traveller to see if I could find something which featured pork with apple sauce, I came across this recipe by Neil Perry http://gourmettraveller.com.au/crumbed_pork_cutlet_with_sauted_apples_potatoes_and_sage.htm, it was a different way of using the apples to what I am used to but it looked worth a try. I love crumbed pork, crumbed anything really, and I am so glad I did try it, whilst it looks a reasonably ho hum recipe, bit run of the mill, it was really, really, nice, the potato and apple combination went so well cooked like this. It was funny watching Jo though taking her first taste, she was not aware of apple being in it, and she was really thrown when she expected to tasted potato and it wasn’t. The recipe calls for pork cutlets, and they had some nice ones at the shop, with the medallions right alongside them and at $13 a kilo cheaper, they won! Did miss the bone to chew on though! I don’t think you’d be disappointed either if you tried this out, it really was yummo.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bitter greens and ricotta cannelloni

I was busy working away today at my desk when all of a sudden about a dozen emails came through from my sister Monica. Moonie I call her and she is the baby of the family, and hence the biggest attention seeker, so I thought what’s this all about this time then?

On opening the first email it became evident, Moonie had been perusing my favourite WebPages at the Gourmet Traveller site and she had decided to send through some of the ones she found to be interesting to her. Moonie loves her tucker, so much so in fact that when she eats we call her MMMMMMMMMMMMoonica, because MMMMMMMMMMM is the noise she makes with each bite of her food!

I chose to try bitter greens and ricotta cannelloni, simply because it had Cavolo Nero in it, something I have been wanting to try since getting Maggie Beers book “Maggies Harvest”, Maggie puts in a couple of pages about her love of the stuff. Unfortunately when Princess went shopping it was the only ingredient she could not find, no matter I pushed on and substituted it with purple cabbage. It actually turned out a very nice dish, especially given it is a vegetarian dish, it was very tasty, though I would have preferred to leave it to the weekend as it took a bit of time to prepare, but that aside it was a great dish and now an hour after eating, I feel it is time for some apple pie and I think it is gonna fit!

Now if you would like to try this recipe, it is a very easy one to do just follow the instructions as I did and you’ll be fine, I actually cut the recipe in half as it is for six people, that means I have one serve left over more than usual, so Moonie there is one here for you, if you’d like to come and get it!!
Ps Mon, when I cook I like to dress like a winner, that way the food comes out like a winner every time!!!
Moonie's lunch, Com N Getit

Now here’s that link for the recipe http://gourmettraveller.com.au/bitter-greens-and-ricotta-cannelloni.htm

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chicken with asparagus and other things

Tonight’s inspiration came from some of the beautiful asparagus we have been enjoying the past few weeks. Now asparagus seemed to be on my mind all day, so when I went for a haircut today at lunchtime, I ducked into Coles to grab a bundle of spears. Being limited for time it really was hit and run, which was fine until I got home and unpacked the shopping bag to find the asparagus was not the local product but some that was imported from Thailand. The colour was pale and the head was tiny compared to the stuff we have had lately, so I was somewhat disappointed with it, and after eating it probably a little more so, it did not have a lot of flavour.

The overall dish however was a totally different story, as I was eating each mouthful different flavours were exploding onto my taste buds, and whilst the asparagus wasn’t great for flavour it was great for the freshness of its crunchy stems.

My title for the dish was an easy way out, I get a little bored at restaurants when reading menu’s that seem to have chapters for each dish the titles are so long, anyway if you want to know what was in it you can always read the recipe!

All I know is that it was very yummy, I even surprised myself tonight and I for one am voting that I do it again, so now the recipe I shall write so I can do it again!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chicken with leek, prosciutto and mushroom in white wine sauce

The problem with taking a walk down memory lane especially when it involves food, the next day you end up craving for something! Such was the case today, all I could think about was Mum’s apple pie, so much so that when I walked into the fruit n veg shop and saw Granny Smith’s at 99 cents a kilo, I took it as an omen and swiftly grab a bag full. As I was cutting up the apples later in the day the phone rang and one of my gorgeous sisters in law was on the other end, enquiring what is for dinner tonight? I was a bit dumbfounded as I hadn’t really thought about dinner at all, I had taken some chicken breast out of the freezer to defrost but that was as far as I got, the pie had taken precedence over everything else. Anyway the pie turned out real nice, so much so I am now regretting the fact, as I could not help myself but to go back for seconds, it is still not as good as my Mum’s, but it is getting closer.

Once I had the apple pie in the oven, I did turn my attention to dinner and after taking a quick look in the fridge come up with chicken with leek, prosciutto and mushroom in white wine sauce, served with fettuccini and a salad. It actually turned out pretty good, Jo wanted to know which book the recipe had come from, so I was chuffed about that. Chicken with leek, prosciutto and mushroom in white wine sauce, is one of those meals that sort of happen according to what needs to be used up in the fridge. Both the leek and prosciutto were left over from something I did a couple of nights back and the mushies where there as Jo had brought them thinking they would come in handy somewhere, they did tonight.

1st or 2nd serve??? not sure now!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lemon and oregano roast lamb

After being hounded for weeks I have relented and cooked Jo a lamb roast, I chose a boned leg of lamb which I rolled with a lemon and oregano stuffing, my mouth started watering for this meal the moment I prepared the stuffing, it smelt so good. I combined a cup of breadcrumbs with a ¼ cup of chopped oregano, finely grated rind of a lemon, 4 finely chopped anchovy filets, 2 crushed garlic cloves and a 1/3 cup of olive, seasoned with salt and pepper. I spread he stuffing out evenly over the meat, leaving the skin side out, being a boned leg there was one lump thicker than the rest, so I made a pocket in that bit which I also stuffed it with the mixture, the meat was then rolled up and tied of with cooking twine.

I browned the lamb for a few minutes all round in my large pan, then transferred to a large roasting dish in which I had earlier placed potatoes which I had halved and tossed in a little oil, just resting the meat on top and then covered the pan with foil and into the oven which was preheated to 180C. Roast the meat like this for 90 minutes, then remove the foil and roast a further 30 minutes, when I removed the foil I added sweet potato and baby carrots to the pan.

Once the meat was cooked I removed it and the veg from the pan, covered the meat with foil and allowed it to rest for 10 minutes, during which time I steamed some broccoli and prepared gravy to serve.

I think everyone loves a good roast, whenever I have one I am taken back to my youth, going off to church on a Sunday morning with my brothers to come home an hour and a half later to find Mum putting the spuds in the roasting dish, then sitting around the table snatching a section of the Sunday Times from whoever happens to have it, reading the comics and trying out some of the puzzles printed for that day, whilst we waited for lunch. Then sneaking out to the kitchen when Mum starts to carve the meat, to sit, watch and wait for any wayward bits that would fall of the cutting board, I remember they did not have to fall too far before they were snap up and devoured! There were always potatoes, pumpkin, cauliflower and either beans or peas on the plate and the yummiest gravy, all beautifully cooked and piping hot. We always called it a lamb roast, but with so many mouths to feed it was usually hogget or mutton on the plate, but it was so tender it would melt in your mouth, thanks to hours of slow roasting in a wood fired oven. There were always sweets to follow too, usually the best apple pie I have ever tasted, the current one always tasting better than the last! Or an upside down self saucing pudding with custard, in summer it would be canned fruit and ice-cream, whatever it was there was always plenty and you left the table feeling like a stuffed pig! To finish the meal off everyone was served a cup of freshly brewed tea, and not a tea bag in sight! Funny I can always remember any visitors that happened to join us for Sunday lunch were surprised at the younger kids drinking tea, I think I was about 5 when I first had a cup to myself, before that it was usually a swig of Mum’s whilst sitting on her lap, those were the days!

At the end of the day, lemon and oregano roast lamb may not be your traditional lamb roast, but it was very very tasty, and I got to enjoy it with my gorgeous wife and youngest son Joel, with a little luck I have created a nice memory for them!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mums kitchen

I love this photo, it is a photo of my Mum stoking up the fire of her Metter’s No 2 stove, the stove she cooked on for her family of 12 children. This kitchen was, like so many homes the central core of our home. It is where Mum spent the majority of her time, and I never knew a day when Mum was not up at 5AM to light the fire, which continued to burn well into the night, come rain, hail or shine.

In the middle of winter it was a great place to park your bum to warm it up a bit, you normally had to push someone else aside to take your turn, but come summer it was so hot and there was no such thing as an air conditioner in those days, just leave as many doors and windows open as possible and pray for the Fremantle Doctor to come in!

Ours was a small house, especially given there were fourteen people under its roof when Monica, the baby of the family was brought home. To manage her kitchen in the mornings Mum would be up early, prepare a cooked breakfast for Dad and get him off to work, now when I think about it, I think both Mum and Dad would have cherished the mornings before anyone else was up, as it was the only time I remember that they had to themselves. With Dad off to work, Mum would then wake some of the older kids and get them on their way to work or school whatever the case may have been, and worked her way through till we had all parted for the day, I was usually amongst the last to go, virtually kicked out the door and told to hurry myself up!

Come the weekends I don’t think Mum actually left the kitchen, she was always busy cooking something, breakfast, lunch and dinner or preparing for the Sunday night feast, the one night when everyone sat down with their girlfriends, boyfriends, mates or whom ever happened to pass through to say hello. As the family grew and the older children married and had children of their own, these events got bigger and bigger and bigger, it was total mayhem, but Mum did not falter and the food she prepared was to die for. Every now and then, I will bump into mates I went to school with and so many of them will ask about Mum and then go on to speak of a cake or piece of apple pie or something they enjoyed so much at her table.

I feel it was in this kitchen that I developed my passion for food and for cooking, as a young child I would stay in the kitchen after the dinner dishes were done and help Mum with making lamingtons, dunking chunks of sponge cake into chocolate, putting it aside on a wire tray to let the excess chocolate drip off, then rolling them in coconut. There used to be major fights amongst us all over who was going to get the beaters when a cake was being made, or who had bagsed first the shank off a roast.

The kitchen was also the place where the girls would gather to tell Mum of their day, what had happened and of there plans for latter in the week. I would spend time sitting there listening, never saying much, with all those women I never seemed to get a chance anyway, and there was always a chance offering of a slice of meat as it was being carved, too good to miss out on, so it was a great place to be, I made myself scarce though when it was time to do the dishes, that was girls work and with 8 sisters, they really didn’t need me, did they!

Love you Mum xx

Steak ‘n veg

I hope tonight’s blog doesn’t disappoint too much, a very ordinary Friday night meal, nothing to get too excited about! I don’t do steak and veg that often, Jo Girl would have me cook it every night if I would, she likes her red meat, especially beef.

It was T-bone on the menu tonight, accompanied by roasted potato and carrot, steamed asparagus and finished with a red wine jus. First time I had done the red wine jus, it was very tasty, simple to make too, 1 tbl spn red wine vinegar, 2 tbl spn red wine and a tsp cracked black pepper heated on high heat for 2 minutes, then add ¾ cup beef stock and cook until reduced by half, easy as that, just before serving, I also added the juices from the steak after it had rested 5 minutes. The roasted spuds came up a treat too, I zapped them for 3 minutes in the micro wave, drizzled some oil over them, a shake of Moroccan spices and baked them for 25 minutes, just yummo, crunchy on the outside creamy smooth on the inside. If you like asparagus, the way I do them is so easy and they always come up perfect, after removing the woody bit at the bottom, peel them from about halfway down the stalk, then they go in a dish with a spoon of water and zapped for 1 minute on high in the microwave, leave them in the dish for a minute or so and they are done.

Now if the food wasn’t yummy enough, the wine we matched it with was! A 2006 Cab Sav Cab Franc Merlot by Wise winery, nicest red I have and in a long time, felt a bit guilty though as it was a gift given by a dinner guest, and on the night it sort of just got put aside, wish I had realised it was so good it would have been on the table that for sure, sorry aunty!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mackerel with red curry prawns, crushed potato and leek

I had a night out some years ago with my brother Pat, as any night out with Pat goes, it was bigger than Ben Hur. Amongst the places we visited to eat and drink that night, the most memorable was Mead's Fish House in Hay St, formerly known as The Vic Hotel. Whilst here we sat at the bar drinking Bloody Mary shooters which included a freshly shucked oyster, they were very good, so much so we had several. Pat also introduced me to Smoked Eel at that bar, which was heavenly, I can still taste the beautiful smokey fish flavour now, very nice. After we had washed down a few oysters for our entree we went and sat for a meal, where I enjoyed the magnificent special of the day, Swordfish with Red Curry Sauce and ever since that meal, if I have a yearning for cutlet style fish, red curry sauce is automatically on the menu!

I had such a yearning tonight, but as I was buying the fish I thought the cutlets looked a little small, so I ordered an extra one and then just to make sure I brought some green prawns to go with them. The red curry sauce then became red curry prawns, and once I told Jo what I had planned she asked I do kipfler potatoes and leek to go with it. I could not get the kipfler potatoes, instead made do with the ones I had in the pantry and they were just as good. I need not have worried about the size of the cutlets, they were bigger than I thought, so unfortunately for Jo she has some leftovers for lunch, poor girl, hope she enjoys it!

We enjoyed the meal very much, the prawns were nice and plump and they taste so good in red curry sauce, the cutlets were very nice too, quite thick and very fresh, as mackerel cutlets go they had a few bones but they are big so no real problem, the potato and leek went well with it all, though I probably over cooked them a little bit, the leeks had caramelised a little, but it was a nice way to have them.

Jo Girl's lunch

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chicken and lemon tagine with cracked green olives

Last night we were in Greece, tonight Morocco and a fascinating dish it was too had my doubts about this one though, right from the start and up until we actually sat down to eat, did not think we were going to enjoy this at all, but Jo and I, have both been pleasantly surprised, it was awesome!

The chicken was so tender and very yummy with olives and lemon flavouring, again fresh herbs, flat leaf parsley and coriander and on top of all that slivered almonds to give a little bit of crunch.
Click on photo to see bigger version!

The method of cooking the chicken was different, basically poaching it for most of the journey and then finishing off under a hot grill to crisp the skin up, it worked fantastically, the meat fell off the bone, yet was not dry at all. The other interesting part of the dish was the couscous, I have tried couscous before, but have never cooked it, nor had any idea how too, but it was as easy as boiling some stock and pouring it over the top. I used stock I prepared last week, it in itself adds heaps of flavour, but the couscous really come in to its own once the sauce from the casserole was spooned over it, very, very morrish! Fortunately for me Jo does not get into chewing her meat off the bone, which is fantastic for me because it really is the best bit!

This recipe was the other one I shopped for yesterday, I found it on the Gourmet Traveller site, see the link below if you would like to try it. I should mention though I think there is an error in the ingredients list, it states 900 grams of olives, I used 90 grams and that was more than enough for my liking.

I asked Jo which meal she preferred between this and George Calombaris’s Kotopoulo tava, surprisingly she chose tonight’s meal, whilst I went for George’s, but it was a very hard choice to make, I’d be more than happy to sit down to either again!

Should go to the effort of making this dish, I hope you enjoy as much as we did!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

George Calombaris - Kotopoulo tava

You have to love the internet, jumped on at lunch time today to have a look see what interested me on the Gourmet Traveller site, looking for something that would use up some stock I had in the fridge, and it had to have Chicken as its main ingredient, as Jo Girl decide she wanted a chicken casserole.
Now whilst I could have Googled “chicken casserole” and been offered a plethora of varieties in the world of chicken casseroles, I opted for a known and trusted source and yet again it came up with the goods!

In fact, I emailed links for three different options to the little lady, for her to peruse and make a choice. It left her a bit bewildered as she liked all three, so I shopped for two on my way home and in the end we decided to go with George Calombaris’s Kotopoulo Tava, as it seemed easy enough to prepare and sounded to have some interesting flavours.

I have been using my time wisely tonight and written the above whilst our dinner is in the oven cooking, it is looking good, can’t wait to see how it goes!

Well, I think this dish could have been a little bit better, but I only say that because I misread the recipe and added a little over 2 cups of stock, instead of the 200ml I should have added!
Besides this small misdemeanour, it truly was a wonderful dish, so full of flavour, from the coriander and cumin to the fried onion and lemon zest, not to mention the big punch provided by the fresh herbs, and roasted tomato, very, very yummy. I have been told I have to cook this again, and that I have to get it right next time!!

If you would like to try this dish, click on the link below, Jo and I both are happy to recommend it.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Italian sausage cacciatore with spaghetti

One of our favourite meals both for the wonderful flavours and simplicity is my Italian Sausage Cacciatore with Spaghetti, it is such an easy dish to prepare starting with your basic onion, capsicum and tomatoes for a sauce and some egg pasta and crusty bread to serve, and it really is a pleasurable dish. Add in a few olives and some garlic and fresh herbs to ramp the flavours up in the sauce, and let it cook away gently whilst you boil the water and then cook the pasta. Once you have served up, top it off with more fresh herbs, Basil and Parsley a couple of crunchy strips of baked Prosciutto and freshly grated Parmesan, now knock the top of a bottle of your favourite red and you are ready to mangiare mangiare! Enjoy!