27 June 2012

...and now for something completely nutty...

BASE! This is not something I cooked, obviously, but it will help me to bounce around the kitchen like the old days and inspire some mad cooking sessions...

Just try not to dance (and laugh out loud), I dare you!

06 June 2012

Macauliflower Cheese

A blog post in honour of my friend Emma who is fearlessly blogging her cooking adventures here, the first two of which have been care of Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals (please click this link to see Jamie's very very helpful tips and techniques videos and search recipes).

Recently in Oz we were treated to the TV series Jamie's 30 minute meals, which was conveniently aired on Channel Ten at early tea-time so I would have it on while I was cooking (by which you now know I mean "throwing random ingredients at cookware and hoping something turned into food") dinner.

I was inspired by his great idea to combine two old favourites, Macaroni Cheese and Cauliflower Cheese into one big cheesy easy love-in.

Now the first time I made this, I followed the recipe from the book fairly precisely (it just looked so delicious on the telly that I thought for once I'd give the recipe some obedience)
- which was awesome, except for the fact that Jamie obviously has a kitchen made for GIANTS and I ended up needing to use TWO baking dishes

and, like Emma, had leftover pasta for days on end. Not that that's a bad thing, but I was a tad overwhelmed! I don't have a food processor for "waz"ing up food, but I do have a blender which, with a bit of persistence and jiggling, works just fine for the breadcrumb mix.

The second time dosen't really count as I "made" this, I was actually a little bit unwell and staying at a lovely mate's house and she was very kindly babysitting me (watching rubbish daytime TV with me and feeding me - for which I later was able to return the favour, thank goodness). She also had a copy of Jamie's 30 Minute Meals, and an even unholier love of Mac and Cheese than me, so she cooked up a lovely batch of this dish for us to eat for dinner. Even though she reduced the amount, there was still HEAPS left!

Third time was the other night I decided to do a half-amount... turned out pretty well. Although this time I couldn't be bothered with the bread/crumbs and blender, so I just hand crumbled the prosciutto and grated some Gruyere on top... Big nom!

So, here's the sort-of recipe:

Macauliflower Cheese

4 rashers of pancetta or prosciutto
1/2 a large head of cauliflower
250g dried macaroni
125g of grated cheese
(I used Gruyere leftover from the Eurovision wine & cheese viewing that just kept on giving; Jamie suggests mature Cheddar)
2 thick slices of country bread or a large handful of breadcrumbs
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary (or a sprinkle of dried is fine)
1-2 cloves of garlic
Most of a 200g tub of crème fraîche
Salt, pepper
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese to serve (optional)

Lay the pancetta/prosciutto in a baking paper lined roasting dish and put on top shelf of oven set to 220°

Tear off any dried out outer leaves from the cauliflower, trim off the tough end of the stalk. Then cut the half-head in half or thirds. Chuck it into a large saucepan core down, with the pasta, onto stove set to high heat. Cover these with boiling water from the kettle (you may need a 2nd boiled kettleful to cover). Season with a generous pinch of salt, a splash of olive oil, then stir and cook for the amount of time on the macaroni packet instructions (mine was 13 minutes - this makes for soggy cauli, if you want al dente cauli maybe withhold it until the pasta's really bubbling away then add it 2nd?) leave the saucepan lid on half-on-half-off or wedge open with a wooden spoon to prevent volcanic eruptions.

Remove the pancetta/prosciutto from the oven (leave the oven on), pop it into the food processor/blender with the bread, rosemary, a drizzle of olive oil and pepper and "waz" it up until it is a coarse breadcrumb consistency.

Strain the cauli/pasta mix over a bowl or jug to collect the cooking water.

Tip the strained cauli & pasta into the roasting tray that had the porky rashers in it. Add 200mL/a small mugful of the cooking water, crush in the garlic cloves, mix in the crème fraîche and the grated cheese, gently stirring and smooshing up the cauliflower with your tongs or spoon or implement. Season to taste. If the mix is not nice and loose when you give the dish a shake, add another splash of the cooking water until it is. Give it a shake/spread it evenly in the dish; then scatter over the breadcrumb mix.

Put the dish in the top shelf of the oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

Shave or grate parmesan over the top once cooked/upon removing from oven to serve. Omnomnomnom.

04 June 2012

Zucchini and corn fritters

So I had one of those "THERE'S NO FOOD IN THE HOUSE!" panics yesterday, but the inertia of the pyjamas and the disconcerting cold outside (of the slap-me-in-the-cheeks-with-a-frozen-fish-and-I'd-feel-warmer) led me to scrounge around and find some great stuff kicking around in the fridge and pantry, namely zucchini, a tin of corn and some out of date flour. A quick look in my friendly recipe file (in my early twenties, trying to get fancy with the cooking living out of home for the first time I religiously collected recipes and cut and pasted them into it, which has paid off in spades... well dishes...). It was about that time that I was a little bit obsessed with fritters and patties. So after some recipe melding and inventionation (my love of crêpes has given me some clues about batter consistency), I give you:

Zucchini and Corn Fritters:

1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Half teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk or olive oil
420g can corn kernels, drained
300g (2 medium or 3 small) zucchini, coarsely grated
Half an onion, finely grated
Salt & pepper
Olive oil for frying

Sift flour, baking powder & cayenne into a bowl. Whisk eggs with milk/olive oil then add to flour mixture - stir to form a thick pancake-like batter. Add corn, zucchini, onions and season with salt & pepper. Stir until just combined (I used a fork, it helps).

Pour a thin layer of oil into a large non-stick frying pan and place on medium to high heat.

Add large spoonfuls of mixture to pan, flattening slightly to form shapely, even fritters. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through.

Drain on a paper towel on a ceramic plate, which you can rest on top of a bowl of boiling water to keep them warm whilst you continue cooking (also an excellent crêpe trick).

I was eating them for dinner, so I decided to bulk it up with some meat - Coppa was on special for $4.99 for 100g last time I was out shopping so I have a stockpile in the back of the fridge. A perfect dinner and happy to avoid a supermarket dash in my jarmies in the dark for another night!

Note to self - Potato Bread Recipe

Potato Bread recipe to try in the near future... mmm, potato + bread = 2 favourite things at once...

01 June 2012

Fuztastic Fennel

...and a handsome fellow he is too...

So, it's only in recent history that I've discovered how much I like fennel. The first time I cooked it was an absolute disaster. To this day I still have no idea if it was hideously undercooked or a bad specimen. I had had such delicious fennel dishes (or usually as a side salad, often with orange) that I persisted with trial and error.

I now know it is delicious both raw (snap off some of the smaller inner pieces as a pretty and delicious fingerfood addition to an antipasto plate; or shave/slice thinly and dress for a fast and delicious salad) or roasted. You can eat all the parts - the fluffy leafies can be used as a very similar replacement for dill; the stalks and bulbs are crunchalicious and the seeds are (as Simon on The Cook and The Chef reminds us) the cause of the distinctive Italian pork and fennel sausages.

After lots of trial and error, my preferred method for roasting is as follows:

Roasted Fennel / Warm Fennel Salad

Line a large roasting pan with baking paper; and spray some olive oil on. Preheat oven.

Wash two large fennel bulbs (usually sold with about 3 inches of stalks and leaves poking out in a very mohawky style). Tear off the fluffy leaves and place into the roasting pan. Slice off the stalks from the bulb, slice off and discard top dried out portion, then slice stalks thinly and chuck into roasting pan. Cut the bulbs in half and slice very thinly. Try not to nibble on ALL the inner "petals" as chef's privileges whilst doing so, I challenge you! Place slices into roasting pan.

Drain (and -optional- cut in half) a small jar (or half a large jar) of pitted kalamata olives.

Mix fennel, a splash or spray of olive oil and a splash of white wine (or if you're detoxing water will do).

Cut a whole dwarf meyer lemon (or if you don't grow these on your balcony, half a regular lemon) in half lengthways, squeeze juice over contents of roasting pan then very very exquisitely (but don't cut yourself - lemon juice! ouchie!) thinly slice the lemon rind/flesh and put into the roasting pan on top (so people can opt to pick it off if they can't hack it).

Basically I tailor this to whatever else is in the oven. For al dente - if you want a quick cook go for 200° and 30-45 minutes (consider adding aluminium foil cover to prevent burning; if doing a roast or bake at 180° at the same time it will take you 45-75 minutes; slow roasting meat as well at 160°, will take approx 90 minutes - just keep checking back and taste for consistency, and mix occasionally to avoid too many top burnt bits.

Serve as a side dish or a large salad. Goes particularly well with the roast chicken a la Mediterranean that I have previously described.

To be honest, I hadn't blogged sooner about this mainstay of my vegie repertoire because it all seemed too simple. However, the simple things in life are often the most delicious. The other day I had heaps of this dish leftover, and a huge bag of Imperial mandarins - all good things to take advantage of in winter - and I had an epiphany - reheat this dish and top with thin (half a centimetre) slices of mandarin and hey presto - heaven is a place on earth in winter! Enjoy!