Friday, August 26, 2011

Scotch Fillet with Salsa Verde Surprise and Fresh Spring Mashed Potatoes

Hi Folks,
I've been meaning all week to cook something worth putting up on the blog, but it's been a lazy cooking week.  Chicken salad and sweet potato fries are not exactly the most exciting of recipes to create or share (even if they are quite delicious).  So, today being Friday I decided it was time to create something fun and new.

To provide a setting for this meal I'll tell you that in Australia winter begins in June, and no, it's not quite as harsh as Canadian winters, but it's still cold, and instead of snow we get rain and hail and wind, and it calls for comfort foods.  Now, at the end of August, the weather is turning beautiful and it's feeling very much like spring time is just around the corner.  Or well, it feels like a Canadian summer :)  So I wanted to make something fresh and light that made me feel like springtime, and here you have it.

Scotch Fillet with Salsa Verde Surprise and Fresh Spring Mashed Potatoes
Salsa Verde Surprise
3-5 Fresh Strawberries
1 Avocado
1 Red Onion
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
a pinch white sugar
a pinch salt

Fresh Spring Mashed Potatoes
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped in large chunks
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 green onions, washed and roughly chopped
2 T butter
Lemon Juice - 1/4 lemon or maybe 1-2 T lemon juice

  1. Place 2 steaks on a plate and splash liberally with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with brown sugar, both sides.
  2. Allow steaks to sit at room temperature 10-15 minutes to absorb flavours.
  3. Barbecue steaks to desired level of 'done'ness.
Salsa Verde Surprise
  1. Heat frying pan to med-high with a splash of olive oil.
  2. Finely chop red onion and add to pan.
  3. Wash, hull and chop strawberries and place in a small bowl with 1-2T balsamic vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon white sugar, stir to combine.
  4. When onion is softened and beginning t change colour, add strawberry mixture to frying pan.
  5. Chop avocado into pieces similar in size to onion and strawberry.
  6. Remove strawberry and onion mixture from heat after ~5 minutes, combine in bowl with avocado, stir and add salt to taste.
Fresh Spring Mashed Potatoes
  1. Add peeled chopped potato to a large pot of cold water, add salt and bring to the boil.
  2. Boil potatoes for 15-20 or until soft.
  3. Heat oil in a pan, add garlic and green onion, cook until soft.
  4. Drain potatoes and put into a bowl, add butter in small chunks.
  5. Mash potatoes, add garlic, green onion, lemon juice and salt to taste.
Serve the avocado, strawberry and onion mixture on top of the steak.

Strawberries and avocadoes are both on sale here, which is awesome, because I love them and am always looking for excuses to buy them when they are in season.  The other day at the grocery store I saw scotch fillet steak on sale and I had a serious aha moment. While getting things ready for dinner I had some potatoes that needed eating and I was trying to figure out a way to make mashed potatoes that would suit the more fruity flavour of the steak and I remembered a clip from Masterchef a few years ago where they put spring onions into mashed potatoes and figured "Hey, I can maybe make something like that.... only less awesome."  So this is a completely original idea, that has been inspired by a whole bunch of other things.. so maybe not so original. I also found that we had a lot of leftover salsa verde... so these proportions could easily be used for 4 people. Or you could just eat the extra with a spoon :)  Also, I'm not entirely sure what salsa verde is, but it seemed the closest and easiest way to describe the 'mix of awesome' that I created.

The additional kick to this meal was two zucchini that I had chopped diagonally into ~1/4" thick slices and coated in olive oil and sprinkles with fresh sea salt and ground pepper and thrown on the barbecue. 

Turns out the whole meal was pretty awesome. The only complaint I have is that I tried to take pictures but the damn flash on my camera is broken so they look really unappealing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Southern Chicken Pizza


Since yesterday was Meat-Free Monday, we had homemade sweet potatoes fries and gourmet veg sandwiches, so you don't get a recipe. Because sandwiches do not require a g-d recipe.  It's bread. With stuff on it.

So your recipe for tonight's dinner is quite simple. I left boyfriend in charge of food for the evening.  So, the first step is 20 minutes of indecision.  Next, take one piece of laminated paper.  Read paper.  Order pizza. Order beer. Enjoy Pizza. Bring home leftovers.



Worst Blog Post Ever.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Slow-Cooked Lamb Rogan Josh

Another recipe I found from a food magazine, from the July 2011 issue of ABC's delicious magazine actually.  It was actually a full page advertisement for Patak's Rogan Josh, but either way it was easy and delicious.  Not to mention, slow cooker curry smells so incredibly good it makes me drool.  Another fun part of this recipe was discovering ingredients I've never used before, like curry leaves and cardamom pods.  I had never heard of curry leaves before!  As always, I had to reduce the recipe because my slow cooker is 'mini' sized.  I'll include the original recipe and my substitutions

Slow-Cooked Lamb Rogan Josh

2 T Sunflower oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
1.5kg diced lamb shoulder (I used.... ~700g cubed lamb)
2 onions (I used 1)
4 cm piece ginger, grated (I acutally used ~3t ginger paste)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup (150g) Patak's Rogan Josh Paste
2 T tomato paste
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 cup (250mL) beef stock (I always have veg stock cubes handy)
2 cinammon quills
6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
20 fresh curry leaves
200 g thick Greek-style yogurt
Steamed rice and naan bread, to serve. 

  1. Heat oil in pan over med-high heat, cook lamb for 3-4 minutes, turning until browned.  Put meat in slow cooker
  2. Cook onion, ginger and garlic in pan over med heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add Rogan Josh paste and tomato paste, cooking for ~1 minute.
  4. Add tomato and stock, bring to a simmer then pour into slow cooker. (Hey, this was a messy step!)
  5. Add spices and most of the curry leaves to the slow cooker, add S&P and/or other spices to taste. 
  6. Cook on low 6-8 hours (or high for 4) until reduced and thick.
  7. To serve: garnish with remaining curry leaves, serve with yogurt, rice and naan.  Serves 4?
Ok so some notes on this recipe. It was awesome, but because of the way I played with the recipe, it was a very strong tomato flavour (read: acidic) which is something to consider.  Also, the cardamom pods?  Don't eat them.  If you have the misfortune to chomp down on one... it tastes kind of like burning and lysol.  Yet, they add such a delightful flavour to the food.  Treat them like bay leaves and try to remove them before serving.

The great thing about this recipe is that, aside from the lamb, most of the ingredients are things I would have around the house anyways. Boyfriend loves curries, so we usually have at least one open and one unopened jar of some kind of curry paste, whether it's a Butter Chicken, a Rogan Josh, a Madras or whatever.  And yes, it's usually Patak's.  The curry leaves here are great;  I'm usually wary of buying 'exotic' ingredients because I never know what else to do with them, but I've been adding them to food here and there, and they have been sitting in the fridge for about a month now and don't look like they're going bad yet.  Which is a mighty bonus.   The leftover cinammon sticks I plan to use for mulled wine, so that's a win too.  I always like a recipe where the leftover ingredients can still be useful.

I suppose it's a bit weird to be posting all these slow cooker recipes in August, but it's winter where I am and these are great winter comfort foods.

Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chilli Ganache

I like weird recipes.  This is a true story.  From banana burgers to steak with balsamic strawberry glaze to double white chocolate and pretzel peanut butter cookies with sea salt. I really like weird recipes.  Especially things that combine sweet and savoury, or involve otherwise unusual flavour combinations.

To that effect, I was just so excited when I stumbled across a recipe for some "Sweet Heat" in the June 2011 issue of Super Food Ideas magazine, I was ecstatic.  It seemed to be the perfect baking idea for my weekly writing group.  I try to bring a new treat each week, so I asked around and borrowed a round cake pan (shock and horror, I don't own one!) and got to shopping.

I wish I had a photo of this cake, but it disappeared far too quickly. (Edit: hey, I found a photo. It's not very exciting, in fact... it's a cake on my desk covered in saran wrap. Anyway. It's a picture.)  However, the comments I got were very positive. People were surprised by the gentle heat of the ganache and the spices in the cake.  I also learned that 'ganache' means icing.  I learn something new every day.  Ok enough of the rambling, check out this cake recipe.

Mexican chocolate cake with chilli ganache

180g dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup sour cream
250g butter, softened
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
3 eggs
2 cups plain flour
1 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground cardamom
dark chocolate curls, to serve

Chilli Ganache
180 dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup sour cream
1 t honey
1/2 t ground chilli (hot)

Preparing the Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan-forced (~350F).
  2. Grease 8 1/2" (22cm) round cake pan, line base and sides with baking paper.
  3. Put chocolate and sour cream in heat proof, microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on MED-HI (75%) for 2 mins, stirring with a metal spoon ever 30s or until smooth.  Set aside to cool slightly.
  4. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add 1 egg at a time, beating well.
  5. Add chocolate mixture, beat until just combined (~1 minute).
  6. Combine dry ingredients and add to butter mixture gradually, stirring with a wooden spoon until just combined.
  7. Pour into pan and smooth top.
  8. Bake for 1 hour 25 minutes or until skewer comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it.  Allow to cool in pan (~10 minutes) before turning out onto wire rack.
  1. Combine all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on MED-HI (75%) for 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds with a metal spoon or until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, or until spreadable.  Spread on cake. Top with curls.
My cake came out pretty lumpy on top, which is pretty typical. Our oven rack sits on a slant and our oven distributes heat unevenly.  These things happen.  I'm told that to counteract this, you should simply take a sharp knife and slice off the 'wobbly bits' on top.  I didn't think to try that until after I'd spread the ganache on.  Or, to prevent it, turn your oven down.  I'm told turning it down by 25F should 'eliminate the hump' (thanks Jen, excellent terminology).  Apparently this is what them fancy professional-type bakers will do.

A few side notes to this recipe:  
First - oh my god this is good and I don't even like chocolate cake all that much, or cake in general.  
Second - I didn't add the chocolate curls, mostly because I'm lazy, but also because I was sharing it at the office so the garnish seemed silly.  I don't do garnish. My cooking is not very pretty.
Third - don't be afraid of the chilli.  The amount of hot chilli called for in the recipe does not make it 'spicy', it gives it a slow and smoky burn that is completely tolerable (and pleasant) even to people who have no tolerance for spicy foods. I know the next time I make this recipe, I will probably double the chilli, but I couldn't tell you how that will work out, yet.  If you're using regular chilli powder, I would suggest using maybe 3/4 t instead of 1/2 t.... By the way, "t" is teaspoon, "T" is tablespoon. 

Enjoy :)

McCormick Beef & Red Wine Casserole

There is nothing quite as delicious smelling as, well, anything in a slow cooker.  A month or two ago, boyfriend and I purchased our first slow cooker at Target. It's a tiny little thing, only makes 2-4 servings (depending on how hungry you are), but that's just fine for the two of us.  I've had a lot of fun figuring things out with it, with moderate successes.  I found that ad-libbing things in the slow cooker can have mixed results.  The curries were good, but the vegetable soup I tried was not so much.

To this effect, yesterday I decided to try a packaged sauce for slow cooker foods.  McCormick's Beef & Red Wine casserole.  I can't even begin to describe how delicious it smelled, and despite making some considerable modifications to the recipe, it tasted amazing.  I'm sorry, but I can't stand cooked celery... so I made some substitutions.  Here's the recipe I made, based on the package recipe.

McCormick Slow Cookers Beef & Red Wine Casserole

~600 g cubed beef (chuck or blade)
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
6-8 button mushrooms, rinsed and thickly sliced
1x400g  sachet McCormick Slow Cookers Beef & Red Wine Sauce
1 cup red wine (I used a Wyndham Estate Bin 999 Merlot, it was on sale)
a splash water, for extra liquid
1-2 bay leaves, rinsed
Potatoes, peeled and cubed (to serve casserole on)

  1. Brown beef on high, put in slow cooker.
  2. Sautee onions until clear and soft, add to slow cooker
  3. Add carrots, mushrooms, garlic to slow cooker
  4. In measuring cup (or glass of any sort I suppose) mix wine and sauce sachet, pour into slow cooker, stir to combine all ingredients. 
  5. Add bay leaves.
  6. Cook on high 4 hours or low 6-8 hours.
To serve

  1. Add peeled and cubed potatoes to sauce pan full of cold water
  2. Bring to boil, cook 15-20 minutes, until texture is as desired.
Serve casserole over warm potatoes.  I highly recommend having the rest of the wine with your dinner, but boyfriend also enjoyed a warm Porter (beer) with his.  The texture of this, while having more liquid (and less beef, onions, carrot) than the recipe called for was excellent, there was a bit of sauce, but it wasn't 'liquidy'.

Make Me A Damn Sandwich

Hey, you know what I don't have recipes for? Sandwiches.  Who the hell needs a recipe to make a sandwich?  Take bread or bread substitute. Add fillling. Put in mouth. Done.

Boyfriend just made fun of me here saying "You just gave someone a recipe for making a sandwich".  Then he laughed at me.

Sarcasm aside, this little blog simply provides a place for me to share some new and old recipes of mine with you lovely people on the internets.

Enjoy, share, comment, eat, whatever.

Fun fact: yes, there will actually be recipes of sandwiches. Because they're fun.