Wednesday, 30 July 2008

My Daring Bakers Birthday, Filberts and FFLWs


Would you believe it's one year since I became a member of the Baking Terrorists, uh I mean Daring Bakers? Indeed it is! I joined in July 2007 and this post means that this is my 13th Challenge completed. Well 14 actually since I did the Pretzel challenge too although it wasn't really a challenge since I did it much later so in essence it was a Past Challenge. So whatever, 13 or 14, who's really counting?

So to celebrate my First Birthday, the challenge for this month was provided by Chris who chose to challenge us with a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream.

Before I start on my experience with this months challenge, I think it is very, very important that I share the experience of my past year as a Daring Terrorist, umm I mean Daring Baker.

One year on and I’ve grown in so many ways, especially on my waist! I’ve conquered my fear of yeast and bread and I’ve accomplished things I never thought would be possible. I've made recipes that I would otherwise have simply dismissed as way too tedious or difficult. Best of all I’ve made so many new friends. This is all thanks to Lis and Ivonne who get a Big Huge Hug for starting up this group and for letting me join one year ago.

A Big Huge Hug also goes out to some of the other Daring Bakers that have also become close friends and who have been a constant source of support to spur me on to greater heights - you know who you are! It’s a wonder The Lovely Wife doesn’t mind me being surrounded by such lovely and talented women!! With the Daring Bakers now standing at more than 1000 members, I look forward to becoming friends with more of you.

Okay, so much for that. Lets keep our emotions in check. On to the challenge!



Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream huh?! Now I know that a Gateau is a fancy, schmancy French name for a cake. I also know that Praline is a mixture of caramel and nuts and I think everyone knows what Buttercream is - although there are many kinds of buttercream.

What stumped me though was FILBERT. What in damnations is a Filbert? Most words that start with ‘F’ for me are Four letter words – case in point with Four – get it? Four letters in four - just like there are four letters in that Other Four letter word – which is what was pouring out of my Foul mouth to rhyme with Filbert. See? Even Foul is a four letter word starting with F - doesn’t quite roll of the tongue like the other Foul Four Letter Word starting with F, if you get my drift?

For a moment I considered that Chris may have made a Typo and this cake was supposed to be an offering to Dilbert. That made sense to me as I could just picture Dilbert enjoying a Praline Buttercream cake together with Dogbert and some of the Elbonians. Still not with me? Oh never mind!

So what the “Foul Four Letter Word” is a Filbert then? Nothing more than a Hazelnut it would seem. So why the “Foul Four Letter Word” don’t you call it a Hazelnut Gateau then?? Foul Four Letter Word, Foul Four Letter Word, Foul Four Letter Word.

Don’t you like how my substitute for THE Foul Four Letter Word is made up of Four Words? Interesting isn’t it?!! Lets just shorten it to FFLW shall we? Note that the short form is Four letters starting with F too...

Filberts, or rather Hazelnuts are rather expensive in this part of the world. I’ve always known that and that is really not the problem. The problem is that when I did a check as to what Filberts are, I learnt that Hazelnuts have been cultivated in China for almost 5000 years while they are reputed to be native to Asia Minor – which would be the region of Turkey today. FFLW and Double FFLW. If Hazelnuts are cultivated in China then why the FFLW are they so FFLWing expensive??!!!

It just doesn’t make sense. But then again, I’m realising more and more these days that few things actually make sense. You would also have realised by now that the term Filbert and Hazelnut are interchangeable. And that doesn’t make much sense either.

So anyway, I got my supply of Filberts and just like any other Daring Baker Challenge, I read the recipe, re-read it, studied it even and proceeded to wake up early on a Saturday morning, the 19th of July to be precise, to do the Challenge.

Now I had spent so much time worrying about Filberts and how much they cost in China that I neglected to check how much butter I had in the fridge. I knew I had the unsalted butter for the buttercream and I ASSUMED that I had enough butter for the cake but I was wrong. No butter. FFLW! This was not a good start to the challenge.

I jumped into the car and headed out to the nearby provision shop but it was closed. Yeap. 7.30am in the morning is not when they usually open. FFLW!

Aaaahhh… what about the petrol station just 20 meters away? Yes! They had a stock of butter albeit about 20% more expensive but hey, I was in urgent need of butter. I was back in business!

Now this recipe is seemingly complicated. More so because there are so many parts to the creation of the Filbert Gateau. These are the main components to the cake as stated in the recipe:

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using




Filbert Genoise.
The recipe called for the hazelnuts to be toasted, skinned and then ground together with the flour. No real issue here although I wasn’t sure if the nuts were ground finely enough.
Next, the recipe called for clarified butter. I briefly considered using ready made clarified butter aka ghee but I thought I’d try to clarify my own butter – especially when other DB’s had shared that the use of normal butter didn’t seem to adversely affect the cake. I think I managed to clarify the butter pretty well by heating it and then skimming of the foam. The rest of the cake was fairly straight forward with the egg yolks and whites being whisked separately and then folded together with the with the nut meal and flour before adding the clarified butter and folding again.


The cake turned out rather well! The sugar syrup was a breeze to make as well especially since I omitted the alcohol.

Praline Buttercream
This was probably the most challenging part of the challenge. I didn’t have any problems with the buttercream but making the praline paste was a bit of a pain. The first step was to make a caramel – something I have never had a problem with. Next was to throw the nuts into the caramel and mix well before turning out onto a lined tray.

Again, no problems here and plenty of experience doing this. The trouble started with grinding the praline to a paste. My food processor seemed to be working on overdrive but the praline just refused to turn into a paste. After what seemed and eternity however, I could see some semblance of a paste starting to form. More processing saw the praline start to become more liquid but when I tasted it, there were still tiny bits of caramel and nuts that made the paste a little crunchy – or maybe gritty is the right word. No amount of processing seemed to help so I just let it be. It was a delicious paste though!


I set the paste aside and made the buttercream. No problems with that so I put it into the fridge as instructed. It was then time to mix the praline paste into the buttercream. I measured out the required amount but felt that the buttercream was still rather sweet and not praline-y enough. So I chucked the whole lot in. It wasn’t that much more than what was required anyhow. The mixing with the buttercream seemed to make the overall praline cream much smoother and it was hardly gritty anymore.



Whipping Cream and Glaze.
No issues at all here. I must admit I used 1 cup of whipping cream rather than the required ½ cup. The reason being that I couldn’t get any thickened cream and in order to get a proper consistency, I needed to whip a sufficient amount of cream – ½ a cup wouldn’t quite cut it!
For the glaze, I used Orange Marmalade rather than Apricot jam. It was simply what was available on hand you see.

The Assembly.
I’m glad I have a Wilton Cake Leveller that allows me to slice layers very easily. However, because of the amount of nuts in the cake and probably due to the fact that perhaps they weren’t ground finely enough, the cake tended to be slightly crumbly when cutting. I still managed to get very nice even layers though. I soaked the bottom layer with the sugar syrup before spreading the buttercream on. I found that the buttercream spread very nicely! I then spread half of the whipped cream over the buttercream and then slid another layer on top and positioned it neatly. Repeated the soaking, buttercream and whipped cream and then slid the top layer on before realising that I was supposed to soak the underside of the top layer too. Never mind. Small problem. I then covered the cake with glaze and chucked it in the fridge. It was now time to make the Ganache



Ganache.
No issue here either as my middle name is Chocolate. I have made Ganache many a time and there were no surprises here. I omitted the corn syrup simply because I had forgotten to buy my usual substitute of Liquid Glucose. No drama here as the Ganache poured very nicely over the cake and I stuck it in the fridge for a little while as I prepared my piping bag.



Decorating
I think this is the first DB challenge that I have actually really decorated nicely. I made a ring of stars in the centre of the cake and garnished it with hazelnuts and hazelnut chocolates slice in half. I then piped another ring of stars around the cake and piped shells at the base.



Judge and Jury
The Lovely Wife had taken my little princess for a birthday party and they got home at about 3pm. The Lovely Wife immediately asked if the cake was ready so I told her to go look in the fridge but not to lay her hands on it as it had to set for 3 hours. My son and daughter were also not impressed that they had to wait so long!

Later that night after dinner, we cut the cake. Both my son and daughter ADORED the cake and wanted seconds. The Lovely Wife declared that the cake was “Bee yoo tiful!” She also declared that this cake was too good to be enjoyed by ourselves. So the following night, we invited my daughters Godparents over for cake. There was still some left over as this cake is not something that you can eat a lot of so both the Lovely Wife and I took some to work to share with our friends.



Suffice to say that it was a Hit! Everyone loved the cake!

If I was to make this again, I would grind the nuts a little finer as the Genoise was a little chunky. Still delicious but chunky nonetheless.

So yes, another challenge completed and I must say it was a lot of fun although a little tiring. Thanks once again Chris for a fabulous challenge and Happy First DB Birthday to me. Finally, did you notice that once I started on the cake, I didn't need to use any FFLWs at all. Not even once.

Previous Challenges:
June 2008 - Danish Braid
May 2008 - L'Opera
April 2008 - Cheesecake Pops
March 2008 - Perfect Party Cake
February 2008 - French Bread
January 2008 - Lemon Meringue Pie
December 2007 - Yule Log
November 2007 - Tender Potato Bread
October 2007 - Bostini Cream Pie
September 2007 - Cinnamon Buns
August 2007 - Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart
July 2007 - Strawberry Mirror Cake

and the Challenge done later - Pretzels

Monday, 28 July 2008

Cream of Broccoli Soup



I've said before that The Lovely Wife is the Queen of Soups. In all my years of cooking, I have never, ever made a soup - unless of course you count opening a can of Campbell's Soup and boiling it as making soup. Not quite the same. I have to admit that she makes a darned good soup too.


One of my wife's favourite soup recipe books is the Le Cordon Bleu Home Collection - Soups. This recipe is based on one from the book although the recipe is for a Cream of Cauliflower Soup. She didn't quite think Cream of Cauliflower would be as nice as Cream of Broccoli simply because we all know how delicious broccoli can be right! Anyway, i have never heard of Cream of Cauliflower before either... and somehow don't think it would be quite as delicious, let alone colourful. There IS something to be said for a greenish soup, don't you think?

This is the recipe with broccoli substituted for Cauliflower.

about 400g Broccoli, chopped
14 g butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 small leek, white part only, sliced thinly
15g plain flour
750ml milk
Salt
Pepper

Method
Place broccoli in a pan and cover with 100ml water. Bring to the boil then let simmer for 7 minutes or till soft. Puree the broccoli and liquid together in a processor until smooth.
In a medium pan, melt butter then add onion and leek. Cook until tender. Add the flour and cook for at least a minute, stirring continuously until pale blonde in colour. Remove from heat and stir in the milk until smooth. Return to heat and bring to the boil stirring continuously. Add the puree of broccoli to the pan and season to taste.



Rather delicious I must say! The kids love it when Mummy makes soup and this is a great way to get your kids to eat their vegetables. Although in all fairness to my kids, they don't have any problems eating their veges. I just want to set the record straight so they don't read this when they are older and say that Daddy is telling stories that aren't true!


This is also the kind of soup that is perfect for a light meal or to snuggle up with on a cold winters night. Seeing that we don't have winter in this part of the world, I reckon its still a good bet to make on one of those dark and stormy nights where its pouring rain outside - and a little cool indoors!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Quick Vegetable Quiche



The key word in this Quiche is Quick. Quick Quiche. Actually, not really so quick but quicker than normal. You see, a 'real' quiche would have a pastry crust and to bake a pastry crust would take some time. This version omits the crust but it just as delicious. This is one of The Lovely Wife's creations and as I said, one of the best things about this is how versatile it is. You can add some bacon or chicken pieces to make it more hearty or just stick to the basic vegetarian version.






The Lovely Wife likes to make this a little spicy as well by throwing in some chilli powder or sometimes curry powder. This is what she usually does:

Ingredients:
1 large carrot
2 zucchini
1 large onion
1/2 cup grated cheese
1 cup Self Raising Flour
1/4 cup oil
4 eggs - lightly beaten
Salt
Pepper
1 tsp Chilli Powder or Curry Powder or both if you want if more spicy!!

Method
Grate the carrot and zuchini thinly and chop the onion. Combine with all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix well to ensure everything is nicely incorporated. Pour into a pyrex bowl or similar container and bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 30 mins.



See? I told you it was really easy! The kids really love this dish but I think one of the best parts is how easy it is to whip up but how tasty it turns out.

Sometimes, she also adds some chopped spinach to the quiche for more substance. I think maybe I should try adding some mushrooms to it too!


Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Creamy Chicken, Brinjal, Mushroom and Spinach Pasta



For some reason, the kids just love their pasta. They can never get enough of it. Each time you ask them what they feel like having for lunch or dinner, their little eyes light up and they request for pasta - more often than not, creamy pasta.

That's just what happened one Saturday when my son Michael had to go to school for a replacement class due to a shchool holiday or event or something or other. The Lovely Wife had arranged to go with one of her friends on a shopping spree or event or something or other. Yes, sometimes I kinda lose the plot of who is going where for what reason. All I knew was that I had to send Mike to school and then take the opportunity to spend some quality time alone with Sarah.

I also had to cook lunch too! So Sarah and I had a fun time shopping for groceries at the local supermarket. I decided to do a simple creamy pasta but one that had a lot of flavour. That basically meant that I had no idea what I wanted to make!

As Sarah and I walked down the aisles, we picked up some Brinjal, some Mushroom (but of course!) and some Spinach. I then decided on some chicken mince simply because I had this idea of a creamy white looking pasta.
This is what I did.

Ingredients
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
300g Mince Chicken
200g white button Mushrooms
1 Brinjal
1 large bunch Fresh Spinach
Milk
2 tsp corn flour - for thickening
Salt
Black Pepper

Method
Chop the garlic and sautee with basil and oregano. Cut mushrooms thinly and dice brinjal. Cook the mince chicken until well done. Add in the mushrooms and brinjals and cook well. Meanwhile wash and clean the spinach. Blanch in hot water and then chop the spinace. Add to chicken mixture. Add in some milk and season with salt and pepper. If required, mix some cornflour with water and add to mixture to thicken it. Serve with your choice of pasta.


Mike was thrilled when I picked him up from school and mentioned that I had cooked lunch. Sarah promptly announced that she helped with the shopping and cooking too! After a quick shower, Michael sat down with Sarah and I for lunch as the Lovely Wife wasn't home yet.

I must say that there's nothing quite as satisfying as seeing two hungry children enjoying their lunch so much!

When the Lovely Wife returned about an hour later, she too wolfed down the pasta as she hadn't been able to have lunch due to having to line up for a long time at the sale. I've never quite figured out the logic of spending half a day at a sale to get a few items that you would not or may not normally buy anyway. But I'll save that argument for another day.


This Pasta Dish is also my entry for Presto Pasta Nights hosted this week by Kate at Thyme for Cooking

Monday, 21 July 2008

Lamb Sausage with Caramelised Onions and Potatoes



You ever have one of those days when you are just tired? Not a lazy tired kind of day but just tired. Not just physically tired but mentally too. You know, the ideas just dont seem to come and you're too tired to think about it too much coz well, your just tired.
I think you get the drift. The last week has been kinda like that. Just tired. I know tiredness is never an excuse for anything but I just wanted to vent that I felt tired. And I'm not going to apologise for it. So maybe that's why I fell short of posting last Friday. I had the intent, really I did. I even started writing something but then I started getting a block at every step so I just swore softly to myself and turned off the computer.

So anyway, now that I've vented, lets get on to food once again!

I love sausages, especially the nice meaty kind that's full of 'real' meat rather than all sorts of fillers. So when my mother called me some time ago and said that she had bought a whole bunch of Lamb Sausages and asked if I could make fry them up as part of a family meal, I happily said YES!

At first I considered just frying them whole. Then I thought of cutting them into rounds and just frying them. I reckoned that that would be kind of boring though so what I figured would be a good idea would be to fry the Sausages with Potatoes - kind of like an all in one Fry-Up.


No real recipe here but this is kind of what I did.

Ingredients
1kg lamb sausages
6 onions
2 cloves garlic
5 potatoes
fresh rosemary
Black Pepper
Chilli Flakes

Method
Slice the sausages into thick rounds. Slice onions and chop garlic. Peel and cut potatoes into large cubes. Fry the onions until they turn a nice brown. They are now caramelised and will tend to be slightly sweetish. Add in the garlic, rosemary, black pepper and chilli flakes and mix well together. Add in the sausages and cook well. Add in the potatoes and cook till tender. The oil from the sausages will flavour the potatoes as well. Season with more black pepper if desired.



This was a really satisfying dish although I must admit it was a tad fatty/oily. It went down really well with thick slices of french bread and was a firm favourite with the kids.

I mean really, who can complain about Sausages and Potatoes...?


Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Roasted Vegetables



If I had to eat my vegetables, I would always opt for a nice salad - preferably one with some meat thrown in. Other than salads though, I think my most favourite way to enjoy vegetables would be to roast them.

Somehow, roasting vegetables brings out more than just the flavours of the vegetables. They tend to get sweeter while still maintaining there colour and shape albeit a little withered.

Have you ever tried roasting garlic while it is still in its skin? You get something really sweet with just a hint of the garlic taste. Pumpkins end up even sweeter then normal and I love the tender yet still firm texture when you roast vegetables rather than having them all in a gooey mass which can sometime happen if you cook them, like in a stew.


I love roasting pumpkin, potatoes, kumara (sweet potato), carrots, capsicum and even eggplant. Of course the garlic is a must too. The beauty about roasting vegetables is that you just need to cut them up, toss them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and maybe some rosemary or other herbs and then stick the whole thing in the oven. Granted it takes a while to bake/roast but the vegetables turn out really, really delicious.

Sometimes, after roasting them, I toss the roasted veges with some some Sherry Vinegar to get a subtle flavour. I also understand that roasting vegetables is one of the best ways of preserving the natural nutrients as you tend to lose some of the nutrients with other methods of cooking.



Best of all though is that the kids love their Roasted Vegetables and will always eat more than their fair share!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Spicy Fish baked in Banana Leaf on Sesame Street



Hi Bert!
Hi Ernie!
Bert?
Yes Ernie?
Have you heard about the Royal Foodie Joust hosted by Jenn, The Leftover Queen?
Ummm... No Ernie.
Well Bert, it's this competition where each month 3 ingredients are chosen by the previous months winners.
Sounds interesting Ernie, but why are you telling me this?
Well Bert, this month the ingredients include Sesame
Ahhh Ernie! You're always so clever, if there's Sesame involved, then we just need to add a Street to get Sesame Street!

Well Done Bert!

Thanks Ernie!

The ingredients for this months RFJ were selected by my friend Peter M who of course won last months joust. With his choice of Seafood, Sesame and Coriander there would be no debate on whether to go savoury or sweet. I really couldn't think of anything to make that would be sweet using seafood and coriander. Then again, if you know the kind of talent that lurks around the Royal Food Joust, anything is possible!



Coriander is a spice that is easily available in Asia as is Sesame. The one thing I did learn though was that although we don’t differentiate between Coriander seeds and Coriander leaves, apparently in some parts of the world there is a difference. Coriander apparently refers to the spice from the seeds while Cilantro is what we, in Asia, call Coriander Leaves. Usually Coriander leaves are used as a garnish or sometimes diced up and thrown into a curry or soup for extra flavour.

For this joust, I decided on double usage of everything except the seafood. So I used Coriander Powder as well as Coriander Leaves and also Sesame Oil as well as Sesame Seeds. I had tossed up using prawns as well but since the wife has a slight allergy to prawns, I decided against it. This is what I did:

Spicy Fish Baked in Banana Leaf

1 kg mackerel
2 red chillies
8 dried chillies
1 large handful coriander leaves
4-5 pieces mint leaf
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp tomato sauce
Banana Leaves for wrapping


Method
Steam the mackerel and then remove the flesh. Set aside. Grind together onions, chillies, dried chillies, coriander leaves, mint leaves, garlic and ginger with soy sauce. Heat sesame oil and lightly fry the tsp of coriander together with some black pepper. Add in the ground mixture and fry well. Add in the fish and mix well. Add in the sugar and tomato sauce with a little water. Mix well until combined. Wash and dry banana leaves. Cut into 6-8inc pieces. Place two tablespoons of fish on each leaf and roll up completely. Fold the ends over and under to form a package or use toothpicks to fasten the edges. Bake for 20 mins in a 190C oven. Garnish with Sesame Seeds before serving.



There is a similar kind of dish in Malaysia called Otak-Otak. That dish uses fish paste and a bunch of different spices as well as coconut milk before being steamed or barbecued in banana leaves. The idea to wrap the fish in Banana Leaves of course comes from Otak Otak but the ingredients are rather different!



This dish was a lot of fun to think up and to make! I just wish I had done a better job of taking out all the small bones but nonetheless it was a rather tasty dish. Now excuse me while I sing...

Sunny day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Sesame Street...

How to get to Sesame Street

How to get to Sesame Street...

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Canadian Pancakes



Most of you know that I try and get my children involved in the kitchen. I also try and expose them to all sorts of different foods. It was with this in mind that The Lovely Wife and I bought them two cookbooks from the Usbourne Childrens series.

When my son was in hospital recently for a minor lung infection, he was served pancakes for breakfast one day. He seemed to enjoy it tremendously although both The Lovely Wife and I found it a tad rubbery. Now both the kids have had pancakes before although we have never made it for them.

So one fine Saturday, The Lovely Wife decided she was going to make pancakes for the kids. I think she's getting a little bit of my 'disease' where she can't stand it if the kids like something other than homecooked food! She decided to get the kids involved as well by reading through the recipe with them. The recipe came from The Usbourne Little Round the World Cookbook - one of the very same books that I spoke about earlier.

The thing I like about the cookbook is that it not only provides the recipe but also some information about the country that the recipe represents. Now I am very, very sure that Canada has much more interesting Cuisine than Pancakes but at least the kids got to learn a little bit about Canada!




For instance, they learnt what maple leaves look like as well as learning that it is the National Emblem of Canada. They also learnt that maple syrup comes from the sap of the maple tree and that metal tubes are drilled into the tree to extract the sap. They also learnt about the Rockies and that Canada has "vast fields of wheat, mountains and huge lakes." Canadians often eat pancakes for breakfast too. I'm sure that's a generalisation but all in all, not a bad learning exercise

This is the recipe that makes about 8-10 pancakes although we made them small so we got a much larger quantity of pancakes. We also reduced the oil as we used a non stick pan.

145g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 egg
2 tbsp vegetable oil
300ml milk

Method
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Whisk the egg with two tbsp oil and milk. Beat the egg mixture into the flour a little at a time until smooth. Sppon the mixture onto a hot non stick pan and cook for about a minute. Pancakes will start to bubble. Turn over and cook the other side.

We served the pancakes with honey and nutella since we didnt have any maple syrup. A few days later though, we did get a bottle of maple flavoured pancake syrup since the pure maple syrup is just way, way too expensive over in this part of the world.


The kids loved the pancakes and they both scoffed them down like their was no tomorrow. It looks like pancakes are one of their favourite foods now!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Leeking Mushrooms


Fluellen: Your majesty says very true. If your majesties is remembered of it, the Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps; which, your majesty know, to this hour is an honourable badge of the service; and I do believe, your majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon Saint Tavy’s day.

King Henry: I wear it for a memorable honour; For I am Welsh, you know, good countryman

That is an excerpt from Act IV, Scene VII of William Shakespeare's King Henry V. Now I'm not Welsh, have never been to Monmouth let alone Wales but I do like my Leek.

Those of you familiar with this blog would know that I love mushrooms, in particular mushrooms that come from Monmouth in Wales. No, I jest. I just love mushrooms, regardless of where they come from. For the record, I've never ever had a Welsh mushroom, you know, never having been to Wales and all that...



Some time ago, I posted about my Leeking Garlic Prawns. This time its Leeking Mushrooms simply because I like the play on the word Leek! Related to the Garlic and the Onion, Leeks have a nice subtle flavour that doesn't overpower. Generally only the white and light green parts are eaten although sometimes I use the slightly darker parts as well. It still tastes good!

This is something that's really easy to throw together and doesn't really need a recipe. This is what I did though:

200g Swiss Brown mushrooms
2 leeks
3 cloves garlic
Black Pepper
Oregano
Basil
Olive Oil
Salt

Method
Quarter the mushrooms and clean the leek, slicing it thinly. Chop the garlic and sautee with oregano, basil and black pepper in a generous quantity of Olive Oil. Throw in the mushrooms and cook till tender. Add in the leeks and continue cooking, stirring well. Season with salt.


Very, very easy to do and a great accompaniment to any dish!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Vegetable Paella


I'm a meat man and to be honest, in all the years that I have been cooking, I have rarely ever bothered to make anything vegetarian. However, all that changed when we became very close friends with a Vegetarian! Although her husband is a meat-eater, like the rest of us, I now take special care to prepare Vegetarian dishes for her. More often than not, when we invite them over for dinner, I make everything vegetarian with just make a small meat dish as a side to assuage the meaty requirements of the rest of us! :)
That was what led me to make this Vegetable Paella.

Paella is actually the name of the vessel used to cook the dish. Apparently, Paella is the Valencian name for Frying Pan and also has roots in Latin, French, Italian as well as Mexican Spanish. A true Paella is made with Saffron. The meat, vegetables or seafood is cooked and then water added to which the rice is added and then cooked. That anyway is how I have read it is supposed to be made.

I cheat of course. I think it is too complicated to boil rice to get a nice consistency. So this is what I do.

First, I make the rice in the rice cooker, but I reduce some of the water to make sure the rice is really, really grainy - and maybe a little undercooked. I usually use Basmati rice to get extra flavour and fragrance.

Then I stir fry carrots, capsicum, , eggplant, celery and mushrooms with lots of garlic, oregano and rosemary. I add in some water and let everything cook up nicely, extracting the flavours from the vegetables.

Add in the cooked rice and mix well, allowing it to 'steep' in the juices and absorb all the flavours. Keep adding enough rice till the mixture is grainy and not mushy.



And there you have a Vegetarian Paella. Maybe not the true way it is supposed to be made but it turns out great anyway!


Friday, 4 July 2008

All Day Breakfast!


Ever had a craving for a full blown breakfast? You know, the one with bacon, sausages, eggs, toast, mushrooms, tomatoes and everything else? Ever had the craving when it's way past breakfast time?

I'm one of those that loves places that serve all day breakfasts. I remember many years ago when I went to the US on work. There was this restaurant, I think it was Denny's, that was near the hotel that I stayed in. One evening after work, one of my colleagues and I walked across the road to Denny's for dinner. We were both immediately taken by their All Day Breakfast and we ordered the Lot! Complete with pancakes. Most satisfying I must say!



The best breakfast I’ve probably had was when my wife and I visited South Africa. We stayed at a small, quaint hotel that offered a buffet breakfast as part of the package. The best part about it was that the hot breakfast – meaning the bacon and eggs – was cooked individually and not thrown in a warmer as is the trend in other hotels.

On our first morning, we walked bleary-eyed to the restaurant and were welcomed by a charming elderly waiter who escorted us to our table. He had a thick South African accent and spoke rather fast too. The conversation went something like this:



Waiter: “Good morning Ma’am, Sir, and how are you today?”
Us: “Morning.”
Waiter: “Today we have the buffet and also you can order the hot
breakfast. For you, Ma’am, Eggs and Bacon?”
Wife: “Yes, please.”
Waiter: “How many eggs Ma’am?”
Wife: “Two please.”
Waiter: “Sunny side up, scrambled, hard boiled or poached, Ma’am?
Wife: “Scrambled please.”
Waiter: “Perhaps some sausages, Ma’am?”
Wife: “ Mmm…okay”
Waiter: “Some mushrooms, tomatoes and potatoes, Ma’am?”


By this stage my wife was quite flabbergasted and could only grunt her assent! I was thankful that etiquette dictated that my wife was asked for her order first, enabling me to act cool and dignified by saying, “Two eggs, sunny side up with everything, thank you!”

Needless to say, the spread that arrived was huge. Three large strips of bacon, two extremely tasty sausages, a large serving of sautéed mushrooms, one baked tomato, stir-fried potato cubes in herbs and spices, and of course the eggs and toast. Absolutely delicious!

So one night, I decided to treat the family to an All Day Breakfast. Large Meaty Sausages, Sauteed Mushrooms, Scrambled Eggs and Toast. Personally, I prefer my eggs sunny side up with the yolks a little runny. The Lovely Wife and the kids prefer their eggs scrambled so I followed the majority and just made scrambled eggs.




Yeap! Whos says you can only have breakfast in the morning? I think Sausages and Eggs qualify as a meal at any time of the day. We all loved it especially the meaty sausages with liberal doses of mustard!

I guess that's why All Day Breakfasts are so popular all over the world, any time of the day!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Daily Tiffin - A Fathers Day Story

Can you believe its already July? Well, I guess it's fitting that my first post for July coincides with my turn to post over that Daily Tiffin!

This time I talk a little about how we celebrated Father's Day this year. But really, its not so much about the celebration of a Commercially Oriented Day but about how thoughtful little ones can be. If you think I'm only talking about the I Love Daddy Cookies that I posted about a few weeks ago, then you are Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! That was only part of the story. So why dont you head on over to the Daily Tiffin for for the whole story and nothing but the whole story!

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