Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eggplant and Beef Bolognese

I promise I love Tex-Mex :) I just cook Italian way more frequently.

Eggplant and Beef Bolognese
Donna Hay - Apr/May 2009

400g pappardelle pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 eggplant, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g beef mince
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup basil leaves
240g bocconcini, torn (oops)

Cook the pasta in a saucepan of salted, boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until al dente. Drain and keep warm.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the eggplant and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden. Add the beef and cook, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes or until browned. Add the tomato and cook for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add the pasta and toss to combine. Top with basil and bocconcini to serve. Serves 4.

My hand-picked olive oil from Hugo winery that I got this weekend in the Fleurieu. This is the most expensive bottle of oil I've sprung for since living in Italy, and it's fantastic! (Less than 20 dollars.) But I still have my gigantic EVOO for general cooking.
The bolognese.... mmm beef.

Finished product: I forgot to tear the cheese. I didn't like this basil at all... I got too used to my cinnamon basil from my herb garden, but the caterpillars are back so I had to use store bought. Ah well. Still delicious. This recipe makes quite a lot of pasta...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Living in Australia, a semi-ramble

so... I don't write much about this, on my blog anyway, but a recent reading of Susan's blog post this morning got me thinking today. (America vs. Australia.) Now obviously her post is just one quick observation about some differences in our cultures (ours referring to Australian and American, because Suz and I are two Yankee Doodles as my husband likes to say.) I'd venture to say as her and her commenter before that it does have a lot to do with geography. But from my experience people here do seem ever-ready for a chat. Grocery check-out people, the police man I went to see the other day, ladies I meet on the street, folks in Lush stores. It's different. Having said that, I've lived a large part of my life in foreign countries where the language escaped me most of the time so even if someone did try to chat with me, I usually was not fast enough to respond so just choose to make gestures to indicate "I have no idea what you're saying." Well, I could understand Italians, and they are ALWAYS ready to chat. (And by chat, I mean.... tell you how great you're looking haha... another story, another day.) But compared to the U.S. anyway, I do notice a difference. Especially compared to big cities. But I think it's completely understandable; it is much easier, cognitively, to just walk around and not consider any one else around you.

Anyway, I fear that I'm coming apon "the turn." Not meno, but the turn where after living in a country for a certain amount of time you finally start to settle a bit. For me, it's been a kicking and screaming thing for the past 15 months that I've lived here, but I think I'm starting to like it. I've gotten to the point where I'm not AS self-concious of being American as I was when I first moved here. I can more or less move about my day with no one asking me "hey... where's the accent from?" And when it does happen it's not bothersome, or embarassing anymore.

(Actually, this week an ambulance accidently came to my front door after 10 pm, and through the screen door that I wouldn't unlock [lest they were rapists dressed as Ambos like in the U.S.] the paramedic goes "that's a lovely accent you have! have a nice evening!" Never hurts to hear that!) (Does this reinforce Suz's point that Americans are scared of each other? haha, maybe, but I think it's safe practice to not open your screen door to anyone at night if you're home alone and you don't have your trusty rifle with you, because you left it in Texas. kidding...)

More importantly though, I kind of like to crap-talk the U.S. It's a little hobby of mine, and over here it's quite welcome. If I moved back to the U.S. it's hard to find people willing to have the same conversations. (And I use the phrase "crap-talk" in a completely patriotic way. Crap-talk as in, question our government because I love my country, and think it can do MUCH better than it has been doing, so why don't we talk about what's going wrong, so we can make it right?) Australians don't have a problem with questioning, protesting, or "crap-talking" anything at all. They're an easy going bunch, but, on the whole if they care about something, they'll let you know, and it's not considered unpatriotic!

I don't think I'd be thrilled to live the rest of my life in Adelaide because I really want to live in Europe (if possible) for at least a few more years (by a few I mean, till I'm 60, but whatever), and probably in the U.S. just to see what it's like to live "in the real world" (aka Past College) over there, but it's not so bad here. New American advertisting/tourism slogan for Australia? It's not so bad here!

And to make a quick comment to Suzer: the only real difference I notice in Australian magazines is that in Cosmo here they usually have naked woman in them... and they don't in the U.S one. I wonder why my husband keeps buying me every months magazine? (But I don't read the yoga mags here... and I still <3 Oprah even though it can be semi-vapid in the sense that there is lots of stuff to buy, she covers great ideas and books.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Baby Back Ribs

For starters, this picture is not mine. It's from a blog called Black Tie, White Lie. I tried to roughly approximate what my ribs looked like, because unfortunately they were eaten before I could take any pictures. I will update with one of mine when I make them again.

This isn't really a recipe so much as a method....
time warning:it does involve overnight marinating

2 pounds pork baby back ribs
1 x 18 oz bottle barbecue sauce

1 kilo of American style ribs
500 ml bbq sauce

For the bbq on Saturday I doubled this recipe for 4 lbs (or 2 kilos) and that was 3 long strips of ribs. If I made it for just me and hubs I would do the 2 lb version.

I recommend the aluminum foil baking/bbqing dishes for this because it's very messy.

1. Trim the ribs if necessary.
2. Remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs. (The bone side.) Do this by taking a knife or other object and inserting underneath the membrane on one end of the ribs until a little bit comes lose. You should be able to grab hold of it and carefully peel off the whole membrane in one sheet. Apparently the membrane is impermeable to sauces, rubs, smoke, etc. and also becomes tough when cooked so it's best to remove it.
3. I would recommend a dry rub to add to your ribs before you sauce... but I skipped this step for my first time making ribs. Here is an example recipe, you can mix and match from these ingredients.
4. Slather with sauce! Don't use the whole bottle(s) because you'll want to re-sauce while baking and after. But be generous!

I used 2 sauces for my 3 strips.
From Chili Mojo's: Road House Original Recipe Bar-B-Que Sauce. 1 bottle in 18 oz size.
(150% recommended it was delicious and chunky!)
From Golden Grove Village fruit and veggie area: Beerenberg Smoky Bourbon Sauce & Marinade. (Good option as well nice smoky flavor.) I used 2 x 300 ml bottles of this.

5. Marinate at least 8 hours. I marinated overnight in aluminum dish covered tightly with foil.
6. Preheat oven to 300 F or 150C. You don't want your oven to be much hotter than this so watch it. :)
7. Bake ribs for 2.5 hours. After 1 hour I took them out, flipped the ribs, sauced the undersides, and baked upside down for 1 hour. Then I returned to meat-side-up for the last 30 minutes.
8. Take the aluminum foil off the top and put under the broiler/grill for 10 or so minutes to get a nice gooey crispy finish to the ribs.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Speechless (aka Blueberry and Plain Ricotta Hotcakes with Maple Butter)

Is five pictures worth 5,000 words?

Blueberry Ricotta Hotcakes with Maple Butter
Donna Hay Issue 44 Apr/May - cover recipe

1 1/2 cups (225g) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups (375ml) buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g ricotta, crumbled
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar, extra
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
maple syrup and lemon wedges, to serve
maple butter
80g butter
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

Best things I've ever made! I think that sums it up. Seriously, so so delicious. Better than most pancakes I've had at pancake houses. If I ever have a bed and breakfast this is the recipe I will use for my hotcakes. so good. (ok I'm done.)

To make the maple butter, place the butter and maple syrup in a bowl and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Place flour, sugar, egg YOLKS, buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl and mix to combine. Whisk the eggwhite until stiff peaks form and fold through the flour mixture with the ricotta.
Heat a lightly greased large non-stick frying pan over low heat. Cook 2 tablespoons of the mixture, in batches, for 3-4 minutes each side or until puffed and golden. Combine the extra sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the pancakes. Top with the maple butter, drizzle over the maple syrup and serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4.
For blueberry ricotta hotcakes, add 1 cup (150g) fresh or frozen blueberries to the flour mixture with the ricotta.

I finally had an excuse good enough to spend 10 dollars on "real" maple syrup and go hunting for the ever elusive buttermilk. Turns out they hide the buttermilk right on top of the regular milk at my grocery store. I'd never seen it before because I buy lactose-free long-life milk that's kept on the regular shelves, not in the fridge section.
The syrup we had in the fridge is called "Maple Flavoured Syrup." So not cutting it for me.

Let's see... I had my husband beat the egg whites because as anyone who bakes knows, it can take a while to get them to form stiff peaks, and I knew he'd never beaten eggs before so I lured him with the fun promise that the eggs "turn white and start to look like the ocean.... yes just keep beating them... just a bit longer!" hehehe I've used fresh blueberries. Oh and the ricotta is so nice in the hotcakes, you'll find pockets of it. I found the sugar sprinkled on top to be a little excessive but hey... I made breakfast for dinner that's always a treat!

I just made these again this morning, I wasn't sure if the batter would keep overnight but they are still excellent.

the photos:
1. blueberry hotcake cut into
2. first plain hotcake before I added the blueberries to the batter
3. blueberry hotcakes
4. maple syrup
5. maple butter

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Prawn, Zucchini and Basil Rice
Donna Hay - Issue 44 Apr/May

I'm not going to reprint this recipe because I feel like I've been doing too many Donna Hay recipes. If you want it, go buy her mag, or call me :) I think you might also be able to find it on her website....

To the photos:

Basil... from my herb garden!! I should have taken a picture of this while it was still in the garden but I wasn't thinking. My cinnamon basil plant was getting ridiculously big and I needed to use it before the evil caterpillars came back
p.s. basil is my favourite herb.... I love it. a lot.

Part of the recipe involves combining 200 g long-grain rice (I've used basmati), 400 g diced canned tomatoes, and 1 1/2 cups chicken stock. Then you cover and let sit for 20 minutes. After I took off my aluminium foil and stuck the prawns in there, it quite resembled a paella, except no scary cray fish antlers/eye stalks sticking out.

Let the prawns cook for 6 minutes and then top with... 1 zucchini sliced thinly, basil, and parmesan. num num num num! Even Hubs liked the prawns, and he doesn't like prawns. I don't usually eat "raw" basil either, it's usually mashed into a pesto when I eat it, or covered in pasta sauce, but this variety was really nice and sweet eaten naturally.

Monday, April 6, 2009

An Ode to Autumn

It's cold today. Not freezing, but a bit blustery and I've turned the heater on for the first time this year. (And by heater I mean the Swedish heating pads we have in our ceiling.... that still miraculously work which is a damn good thing because I doubt there is anyone left around that knows how to repair these freaking things.) Anyway, I digress:

An Autumnal dessert, and some red meat.

Crunchy Baked Apple Stacks
Donna Hay -No Time to Cook

1/2 cup (80g) blanches almonds, finely chopped
1/4 cup (55g) sugar
pinch ground cinnamon
15g soft butter
2 red apples, cored and thickly sliced
double (heavy) cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C (355F). Place almonds, sugar, cinnamon and butter in a small bowl. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Place 2 slices of apple on the tray and top each slice with a spoonful of the almond mixture. Repeat with remaining almond mixture and apple slices. Bake stacks for 25 minutes or until apple is just soft. Serve with a dollop of double cream. Serves 2.

Coring and slicing the apples was easier than anticipated. I simply sliced them first, then cored each slice individually.

I used my trusty (but too small!) mortar and pestle to grind the almonds.

Ok the apple on the right is ridiculous, but on the way to the oven it fell over and two slices were "dissapeared" by the dog, so it became much more manageable.
All finished! As usual if I find something a little lackluster (as I did these apples), the husband loves them.... oh well :) They weren't bad, just not amazing.

Prosciutto-wrapped steaks with blue cheese
Donna Hay - No Time to Cook

2 x 220 g thick sirloin or eye fillet steaks, trimmed
2 field mushrooms, stalks trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon mustard
4 slices prosciutto
50 g baby spinach leaves
70g soft blue cheese

Brush steaks and mushrooms with the combined oil and balsamic, and sprinkle generously with pepper. Spread steaks with mustard, wrap in proscuitto. Preheat a char-grill pan (broiler) or barbecue to medium-high. Cook steaks and mushrooms for 5 minutes each side or until done to your liking. Divide spinach between serving plates and top with mushroom and steak. Finish with a wedge or cheese and allow to melt slightly before serving. Serves 2.

The eye fillets that I used for this were really thick so 9 minutes on each side resulted in a pretty rare result, which I loved but might be a little rare for some. I thought the mushroom was great, I didn't know I could simply put these under the broiler. I <3 blue cheese. Husband doesn't though, so I substituted plain goat cheese for his topping.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Listen hear, I like me some cookies. See below for pic of me enjoying a real, live, American oreo circa 1990. I wonder if they are double stuff? And yes, I had straight hair when I was little... random.

Now..... see below for picture of a THIN MINT that I bit into a few days ago. Here in Australia.

I've been on a hunt for these for a while since while I was trapped at college in the middle of nowhere, population 8,000, Illinois, I didn't exactly have girl scouts running around handing out boxes of cookies either. They are even more impossible to find overseas. Or so I thought. Enter: ebay. That's right. Apparently tons of Nanas bought a bajillion boxes to support Little Susie's girl scout troop and are selling them online for little profit (in most cases). So I'm finally able to enjoy some Thin Mints and Politically Correct Caramel Cocount Wonders or whatever they're calling Samoas now. thank god for the internet.

I was actually going to make some thin mint copies based off this recipe: Baking Bites Blog and I gathered all the ingredients but I couldn't be bothered to make and freeze cookies. I'll probably get around to trying them when my 2 boxes of thin mints run out. In any case, again, thank god for the internet and dupe recipes :)

Smoked Salmon

Two recipes today!

Both Donna Hay :) And yes, I do have other cook books, but... I'm on a Donna Hay kick. She pretty much just rocks. (Well her and her kitchen and staff!)

Creamy Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
Donna Hay Magazine - Issue 44 Apr/May 2009

4 free-range eggs
1/2 cup (125 ml) single (pouring) cream
sea salt and cracked black pepper
20 g butter
200 g sliced smoked salmon or trout
toasted sourdough or rye bread, to serve

Place the eggs, cream and salt in a bowl and whisk well to combine. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until just set. Serve with salmon and bread and sprinkle with pepper. Serves 4. For extra flavour add finely grated parmesan or fine herbs, such as dill or chives, to the egg mixture or drizzle over truffle oil to serve.

Wow this was yummy. I've never made scrambled eggs like this before (meaning with cream in the eggs, and butter in the pan.) I actually substituted thick cream and some milk instead of single cream. They were so delicious and creamy. Low in fat... they were not. But this is more of a treat than a healthy breakfast.

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Enchiladas
Donna Hay- No Time to Cook

4 small flour tortillas
1/3 cup (80g) sour cream
8 slices (200 g) smoked salmon
1/2 avocado, sliced
100g watercress sprigs
1/3 cup flatleaf parsley leaves
1/2 cucumber, sliced
2 green onions (scallions), sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice
sea salt and cracked black pepper

Warm tortillas in a warm oven, microwave or toaster until heated through. Spread with the sour cream and top with salmon. Toss together the avocado, watercress, parsley, cucumber, onion, lime juice, salt and pepper. Spoon the salad mixture over the salmon. Roll tortillas to enclose the filling and serve. Serves 2.

This was delicious! I was (as usual!) unsure about the smoked salmon. I can't recall ever trying it, but I just thought it might be a bit strange, probably because it's eaten cold/semi-room temp. It was actually really nice. The lime juice added an unexpected tang to the salad part, and I substitude a bag of washed mixed salad leaves for watercress since I couldn't find any. After I made this I had smoked salmon leftover the next day, thus the scrambled eggs from above. :) The avocado was perfectly ripe so I added almost all of it instead of half.