24 September 2011

Choc chip cookies

Many years ago (we're talking back when we were teens and baking was a terrible mystery to me involving numbers, burning things & general fear) my mate Tina made amazing choc chip cookies and very kindly convinced me it was very simple and gave me her awesome recipe... which turned out to be a clipping from a magazine ad for choc chips!

The recipe I have written in my precious recipe folder goes something like this:

125g butter at room temperature
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup Baking Cocoa
1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup self raising flour
250g (one pack) choc chips

1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Cream butter, peanut butter and sugar. Beat in egg, mix well. Stir in sifted cocoa and flours. Add choc chips. Mix well.

3. Roll heaped teaspoonfuls (or dessert spoons for bigger cookies) of mixture into balls. Place on baking trays lined with baking paper. Press with a fork or fingers into cookie shapes.

4. Bake 12 minutes or until golden. Cool on tray.

By the power of the internets, I also found this more precise version for those dear readers who prefer to be new & improved!

After many years of various cookie recipes, I still go back to this one as it is seriously delicious. 9 out of 10 workmates agree! 1 in 10 workmates are trying to lose weight but still can't resist the deliciousness that is homemade choc chip cookies mwahahahaha. Also, you do need to warn nut allergy sufferers that it is forboden on account of the peanut butter!

Here is one of the most recent batches, made for nightshift and eaten prematurely whilst watching the rugby with the boy (yes, he was allowed to eat some too).

As for following recipes, per se... I use whichever (dark or milk) chocolate chips or just broken up bits of chocolate to be honest. Also I never have worked out how one is supposed to "measure out" peanut butter without making an almighty mess so I usually just scoop out "some" from the jar - no two batches have ever been the same, but that's the fun part!

19 September 2011

Coffee and Hazelnut Yorkshire Puddings

I had every intention of baking some mini-muffins the night before the picnic, both to inaugurate the long-forgotten brand new mini-muffin tray bought on a panic eyed grocery store late nighter, and to have, you know, mini-muffins to bring to the picnic.

Time got away from me during the (first) day (off I've had in ages), although I did get a chance to spot a nice recipe on page 26 of The Australian Women's Weekly mini-book aptly named "muffins" (reprinted by popular demand) for coffee hazelnut muffins - which had too many ingredients, including TWO types of flour AND hazelnut meal (pfft, guffaw). The hazelnut frosting - more ingredients! how?! - looked divine but I was struck with a case of the afternoon catnaps. I have way too many of those TAWW mini-books from aforementioned late night grocery store antics. They made a good nesty pillow. Groggy but determined, I managed to narrow down an internet search later that evening to a few recipe ideas, particularly liking the four-ingredient recipe at this very cool baking blog. I then fell asleep and didn't wake up until picnic o'clock the next day.


So in true style, half breakfasting/espresso machining and half baking/inventing I set about destroying a perfectly good egg by mixing it with (a large) half of a jar of nutella & an innocently tepid shot of espresso and creating cold fusion, erm, "caffeinated mixing bowl scrambled egg". With that revelation and an internal monologue deal to forfeit coiffing and making upping, I set about inventing and baking:

Coffee and Hazelnut Yorkshire Puddings
(or, Coffee and Hazelnut Mini-Muffin attempt #2)

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.

Beat an egg until light and fluffy.

Mix in an unmeasured (blast!) amount of nutella - say, two generous dessertspoonfuls with additional teaspoon/dessertspoon scrapings from the small nutella jar insides - until well combined and glossy.

In said residualated nutella jar, mix a teaspoon of instant coffee with a splish splosh (please, say it in a Flight of the Conchords voice) of tap water - re-lid and shake it, shake it (like a polaroid picture, ooh ooh) to dissolve all the jar-wall nutella into the liquid. Add this to the above mix and stir in well.

Ponder about the difference between imperial vs metric teaspoons (?) and then add one (metric) level teaspoonful after another of plain flour to the mix, mixing until you have added roughly 6 and a half metric teaspoons of flour or until you have what you think could possibly be muffin mix.

Add a handful of chocolate chips to taste.

Spray your mini-muffin tin with olive oil spray.

Put a generous tablespoon of the mix into each mini-muffin port, then top with whole coffee beans (I left some without in an attempt to be kid-friendly).

Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees for most, 185-190 for mine) for ten to fifteen minutes, or until you are dressed, have found your picnic rug and assembled some cheese, crackers and plastic plates in a bag.

Remove from oven and marvel at how you have unintentionally created coffee and hazelnut miniature yorkshire puddings, turn them out onto some kitchen paper on a rack and taste-test them, with validation from your significant other (who is employing some fine duck-and-cover in the other room, away from the "baking"). Find your sunnies, grab a water bottle then put the c-a-h yp's into a box, bring them to the park and enjoy sharing them with your friends in the impossible sunshine. Remark at how adorably bouncy your friend's 2-year-old angel becomes upon discovering her previously unrequited love of roasted whole coffee beans! Seriously cute!

Perhaps in future I will take the time to add another egg, tinker with self-raising flour, bother to chill a real espresso shot and consider adding milk to the mix. Experimental cooking is bliss! Bring on attempt #3...after I try some other new things out first...

ADDIT: Here's batch #3... getting better...

18 August 2011

Self saucing sausage rolls

So simple to make, yet so much loved by my workmates!

Buy 500g of good quality sausages - any kind will do - I always get mine from the markets, they're so much yummier. The best so far have been beef & red wine, but honey & rosemary lamb sausages were good too. Cut off the "skins" and place each sausage on a sheet of puff pastry (I use the square instant frozen stuff, but you could make your own) - if they don't quite fit just squish off a bit and reshape or add on extra bits. Then roll the pastry over the sausage circumference, then along the corner of where you're going to roll pastry on to pastry, use a teaspoon to dab a small line of tomato chutney (I use the Outback Spirit Bush Tomato Chutney) then continue the roll. Eggy wash the final join and then the entire roll. Place the cylindrical roll-up back in the freezer or fridge as you make each roll. Then take them back out and using a sharp knife cut each long roll into 1-2cm wide sausage rolls. Place them onto baking tray or sheet lined with baking paper and bake. I can't remember how long I bake mine for, usually I do them at 200 (210 in my oven) degrees for 15-20 minutes (or the time it takes to get ready for work) or until the pastry is golden and the meat is cooked through. Then when you nom them, biting into them unleashes a delicious self-saucing burst of tomatoey goodness. Bonus!

Give them a try, literally takes no time at all and is sure to cheer up everyone at work, or a party for those of you who have social lives!

17 August 2011

Last night's Lamb dinner

We've been watching a lot of The Hairy Bikers' Food Tour of Britain DVDs lately. Yesterday, we watched them in Wales(?) and they did a delicious trio of lamb, one of which was herb-crusted rack of lamb. I've never done a rack of lamb (I usually just do a mini-roast or leg roast), so here's what they inspired me to do...

Herb-crust Rack of Lamb
Sautéed Brussel Sprouts
Roast Potatoes
& a simple side of Cauliflower

Herb-crust Rack of Lamb:
The herb-crust I made in my trusty blender and it consisted of: a big handful of chopped up baguette to make the breadcrumbs; then a handful each of fresh rosemary & mint, a generous handful of flat/continental parsley; a dozen pistachios; a pinch each of salt, pepper; a small mound of grated parmesan and a splash of olive oil when my blender started making noises like it was about to blow up. I think next time I will need a higher breadcrumb to herb ratio. And remind me to add more salt.

I bought a supermarket frenched rack of lamb, let it rest at room temp then browned all the surfaces on a frying pan with some heated olive oil. Once browned I popped it on a board and made diagonal scores across the fatty surface on top, then smeared with some (mild) Australian-blend mustard.

I then spooned and hand-smooshed the crumby crust mixture all over and around the lamb rack, and it stuck to the mustard quite easily. Then a bit of foil around the bones and I put it in the oven at 190 degrees for 20 minutes. Whilst Mme Fulton's Encyclopaedia of Food assured me this was the perfect way to do a rack, this brought it to "blue", and fuelled suspicions that my oven is a tad under-calibrated, so a turn-up to 200 degrees, and another 10-15 minutes and it was then perfectly medium-rare.

Roast potatoes:
I started this well before the rack of lamb - just put three whole potatoes in the microwave and set "jacket potato x3", once cooked chopped into quarters, put them in a freezer bag and poured in some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper and then "bashed" them around for a bit to make rough surfaces for better browning. That went into the 190 degree oven just after the making of the herb crust but before the handling of the lamb.

Brussel sprouts:
I boiled these in very salted water until soft. Whilst boiling I put the lamb-browning pan back on the heat and added a knob of butter then whatever was left of the breadcrumb/herb-crust mix from the blender and a handful of thinly sliced ham (didn't have any bacon, apparently) until these had browned, then tossed in the drained brussel sprouts until they were coated and golden.

The cauliflower was just boiled in the brussel sprout pot.

Et voila! A delicious lamb dinner, inspired by those cheeky Hairy Bikers. Wa-hey!

19 July 2011

Braised Tuscan Kale

I had potted some Tuscan Kale seedlings on the balcony which did very well until the plague of white butterfly caterpillars pillaged them to the stem. As is my way, I chopped off their heads and left them there to see what would happen. Lo and behold each stalk bore two new mini-kale heads, but unfortunately, mini is where it stopped as the winter frost and lack of sun stunted their growth to a rather sad point.

The first time I ever had Tuscan Kale was on a photography camp, where one of the lecturers happened to also be an amazing cook, and he made a dahl/curry/chickpea/tuscan kale extravaganza one night that will always be stuck in my head.

Margaret Fulton's Encyclopedia of Food has a pretty good generic recipe for dealing with all the leafy greens (which I will have to dig out to post here) which I vaguely remembered and re-used:

Melt butter in a pan
Add (tiny half cm squares) chopped onion and garlic, heat until onion is translucent
Add thinly sliced bacon, heat until cooked
Add sliced tuscan kale, heat until wilted and cooked through
Add pinenuts

Unfortunately with such a tiny harvest (both in leaf size and number) I got the ratios a bit wrong as you can see, but was a good excuse to have an excessively buttery bacony side dish to go with the bangers and mash Chris was making!

17 July 2011

Osso Bucco / braised shanks

I always love love loved Osso Bucco when eating out but had no idea how to even approach the idea... until the day I saw a recipe for Braised Veal Shanks by Neil Perry in one of those free Qantas inflight magazines (those recipes are amazing, remind me to show you my version of his Spaghetti Vongole too one day). I've searched and searched online for a link but I can't find it, so hopefully they won't mind me popping a quick pic of the clipping (which lives in my little recipe clipping folder on top of the fridge) on here as the original inspiration (you know me, I never truly follow a recipe):

The first time I made this, it was "four for ten dollars" lamb shank season at my local markets, so I made the recipe with lamb shanks, which I asked the butcher to slice into halves or thirds to resemble the classic "Osso Bucco" veal shank cut. Works a treat! This time I did it the proper way with the correct cut.

So basically I use "some shanks", toss in plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper, then brown all over in a heavy based pan in olive oil. I use an onion, half a garlic clove, three carrots and three celery sticks as I love all the trimmings just as much as the meat. Once cooked and softened I then add Kalamata olives, pitted and halved lengthways; a squeeze portion of tomato paste (you know you get those four to a box tinfoil jobbies from the supermarket?); 2 cups of wine & 2 cups of chicken stock from a box. I still use bay leaves and thyme and sometimes I add greek oregano/marjoram/parsley or rosemary in case of lamb, just depending on what's growing riot on the balcony. I usually forget to get the citrus fruits proper but I always have that bottle lemon juice in the fridge so I just squirt in some of that (and definitely leave out the orange if you're using lamb) and add back the shank slices. I must admit the lemon zest definitely gives the dish a great kick, as does a snifter of chili if you are so inclined. Then for the simmering uncovered, to be honest I have gotten away with 20-30 mins of a "generous" simmer (ie boil down) in a rush, but 45-60 mins of a gentle simmer is ideal for that perfect melt in your mouth meat heaven with bonus goopy bone marrow joy - as well as a helping to fragrance the house for the next day or two!

I serve on top of herbed (yes more herbs) cous cous - I just use the dry box stuff and pour over 1:1 boiling water with lots of chopped herbs, a tiny squeeze of lemon and fluff it with a fork. I don't personally love polenta that much, and I find the cous cous soaks up the flavour really well. Just remember though it seems to keep swelling up in your tummy, so be careful not to scarf down too much in the first go!

If you happen to have some nice olive sourdough or crusty bread for on the side, then so be it! Best comfort food ever for a nice snuggle on the couch on a cold winter's day...
...and if you don't have any cous cous, pasta is pretty good too!

16 July 2011

Watercress... it's the best!

(Backdated entry)

I've been going to the exact same fruit'n'veg stall at the markets since forever. A scavenge and a scrounge recently unearthed the fact that they don't stock watercress! Disaster. My balcony used to be my sole supplier of watercress for my many salads, soups and sandwiches cravings... in fact, I need to get my Dadsy's Chinese Watercress Soup, that reminds me...

Anyway, a walk across the way and I suddenly discovered the neighbouring stall, previously overlooked, has watercress in abundance! At only 1.99 per large box!

If you've never used watercress before, it's a peppery, crunchy treat raw in salads and sandwiches - in particular the tender baby leaves; or a beautiful, tender treat in soups and stews with a milder, robust "Chinese vegie" nommage to its stems and base leaves.

The markets that day had the most luscious looking rare roast beef I've ever seen just down "meat alley" as the other half calls it, as well as the standard olive bread, so here's what became of that (slathered with Philly cream cheese):

My all-time favourite is smoked trout, watercress, boiled potato & goat cheese salad. Here was my first attempt, well before the great balcony aphid plague of 2010:

Let me know if you have any other inspired watercress recipes!

10 July 2011

Kangaroo Ragoo

{First official bignomslittlenoms blogpost}

I learnt something new with this one, namely that Ragu is Italian for Ragout (French, from ragoûter). Given that I was using Kanga Bangas (yes, that is what they are called), I've decided that it's Roo Ragoo.

Loosely based on my first port of call for most ideas, a quick search on taste.com.au, and the fact that I am on 13 hour shifts and only had some Kanga Bangas in the fridge to start with, I decided to construct my late night dinner (after Iron Chef of course).

The process went something like this:

Pull kanga bangas out of fridge (500g packet) to rest.

Boil water in kettle, pour into saucepan, salt liberally, chuck saucepan on stove on high heat.

Wash and finely chop broccoli - I quartered the florets and diced the stalk to 1cm cubes. Pop in microwave, set for "fresh vegetables 0.3kg".

(Sing along to Kasey Chambers and hubby's country-banjo infused duet version of Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out of My Head).

Put handful of dried pasta into saucepan - I used wide curly fettucine, because there was an open packet of it in a jar in the pantry. Note time, sort of, and mentally remind self what the time will be in 14 minutes - because that is what the packet told me was the "cooks in..." time.

Get another larger pan, pour olive oil in.

(Be grateful nowhere near as large and emotionally distressed as US Biggest Loser contestants).

Roughly chop garlic and chuck onto olive oil. Wonder why there are no onions anywhere in the house. Separate kanga banga sausage meat from skins (slice lengthways, unwrap) and smoosh with hands into oil in big bits. Best to wet hands first so meat doesn't stick. Meh. Wash hands.

(Tsk tsk at the Black Team for using their luxury prize to booze with its thousands of calories, and get on the gaspers!!!)

Liberally apply dried thyme, oregano, chili flakes, black pepper and then also freshly grind on fresh black pepper. Go nuts with the wooden spoon to break up all the bits of meat into little chunks. Give up on wooden spoon and switch to mega-spatula, which does the trick nicely. Splash some light soy sauce and balsamic vinegar over the mix.

Suddenly remember to attend to pasta which is boiling over, stir and unlid.
Open microwave because it is shouting at me regards the broccoli.

Back to the mix. Meat is browned, add a sort of cupful of water from the still-hot kettle, add a beef stock cube. Mix for a bit, allow to simmer while wrestling with pasta sauce jar lid (chunky tomato and herb a la that was the brand on discount du jour). Plop whole jar of pasta sauce in, with extra hot water into jar (quarter jarful-ish) to shake out all the claggy bits stuck to the insides of the jar and add that to the mix. Chuck in the broccoli bits, stir well, put lid on.

It's probably been 14 minutes and the pasta seems done, so turn gas burner off, pour into strainer. Curse self for forgetting to keep some of the starchy water to add to mix a la Jamie Oliver - next time. Keep warm over saucepan with lid on. Live in fear of bacillus cereus spores popping open at room temperature in grain foods.

Mix is boiling and looks a bit pale. Decide to add tinned tomatoes, same trick with hot water to get all the gooey goodness out of can. Pop out to balcony, freeze tits off, pluck a handful of flat leaf parsley, consider marjoram but hands are numb so back inside and shut the door! Wash and chop parsley, sprinkle some on pasta, some on mix. Be glad stirring boiling mix is warming my hands up. Grab jar of olives, rinse about half the jarful. Halve some, bivalve some and leave the rest intact and add to mix. Add a heap of grated parmesan (like, two big handfuls) and watch mix start to take form.

Give up on perfect consistency of "Ragoo" and decide to eat now as "Pasta Sauce" consistency. Refresh pasta with a pour of boiling water through the strainer. Serve pasta with generous spoonfuls of Roogoo atop, toss to serve and sit on couch to watch next segment of Biggest Loser. Decide to put rest of pasta in fridge, and get more black pepper for my bowl whilst I am up. Leave mix on stove on simmer to further consolidate into "Ragoo". Pop that into separate box in fridge after having finished my delicious dinner. Nom.

(Be glad I have had a balanced healthy meal that is hearty and delicious without whining or being SHOUTIER THAN A MICROWAVE AT A CELEBRITY PERSONAL TRAINER WHO IS REALLY JUST THERE TO HELP or concerned about my Blue or Black top or being weighed on national television).

Time for bed.

- There were requests on fbook for a picture, but despite being delicious it is not really a pretty sort of meal! I am reheating some today for lunch at work, if I can make it presentable I will take a photo for you...

17 January 2011

Creamy broccoli pasta: the photo that launched a thousand blog posts

**backdated post

This is the photo that started it all. Prior to the Kangaroo Ragout, this humble photo of my crazy-eyed, hunger-fuelled, put-it-all-in-a-wok experimentation for dinner was posted on F&c^book and someone asked for the "recipe" at work and I didn't really have one. In fact I then commented on the photo with: "Papardelle with (Latina fresh/cheat's) creamy carbonara sauce with shredded butter & lemon burnt chicken, smooshy broccoli, chili, pine nuts, pancetta strips and approx half a block of Parmesan. In a wok."

A similar (blurry, hypoglycaemically framed) photo was also greeted with enthusiasm by friends and workmates:

I've always loved a creamy broccoli pasta dish, inspired by my very beautiful local Italian restaurant which is a blink-and-you-miss-it hole in the wall which just so happens to be in the Good Food Guide, and was the site of my very beautiful thirtieth birthday party. Their dish is usually long pasta or orecchiette with creamy broccoli sauce or just a simple olive oil, chilli and broccholi quilt for the pasta. (They don't have a set menu, just specials for the day that update throughout the day according to freshness and the chef's creativity.)

So here we go, a beautiful but basic broccoli bite for a home cooked dinner:

Boil broccoli pieces and pasta (wide long and flat is good eg papardelle, fettucini, linguine or even use lasagne sheets and slice them into extra wide noodley strips) in a big pot of salted water.

Meanwhile heat up another pan (or wok) - toast some pine nuts on the surface as it heats up. Then add a generous amount of butter and/or olive oil with lots of lemon juice and dried chilli flakes & cracked pepper. In this mix, brown some chopped up chicken, with optional chopped onion. By now the broccoli and pasta should be cooked - drain and add them to the chicken pan. Pour over some store-bought creamy sauce (eg Latina Fresh or jar-fresh) over and mix. Grate or slice over a huge mountain of Parmesan. Top with optional roasted crispy pancetta (or proscuitto) strips. Fresh herbs on top as you wish and hey presto, a substantial almost-one-pot wonder (if you cooked in serial instead of parallel you could just use one pot). For vego just omit the chicken (and pancetta).