Saturday, May 26, 2007

Mushy Madness

The 1st of June marks the start of Mushroom Mania here in Australia. This event is a food service campaign to help the restaurant and food industry sell more mushroom dishes. After much welcomed recent rain falls in this part of the our parched country, wild field mushrooms are in abundance here. I even have a regular crop growing on my front lawn, which up until 2 weeks ago, was a dust bowl.

Whilst my "crop" could be more abundant, I try and pick them before the slugs, worms and snails steal them. If you're wondering whether they are safe to eat, perform the scratch test. Scratch the skin and if there is any yellowing, reject it. You probably have picked Agaricus xanthodermus, which is commonly known as "yellow-stainer", and it is poisonous.

I have chosen a recipe from here, as my entry into Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Ellie from Kitchen Wench, which ends today, so I had better get my tail moving. (For someone that entered her first event only Thursday, I'm obsessed already!). As time is very limited, this recipe calls for ingredients I have growing here in my own backyard, apart from the mushies from the frontyard. Does this class me as an organic producer?

Sage that has survived the drought

Rocket which has come up from the dropped seeds only after the rain


Serves 4

12 small flat mushrooms

2 tbs olive oil

salt and ground black pepper to taste

8 thin rindless bacon rashers, finely chopped

2 tbs chopped fresh sage leaves

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 cup freshly grated parmesan

baby rocket leaves to serve.

Preheat oven to 200 C (392 farenheit if you want to be exact). Line tray with baking paper

Brush both sides of mushrooms with oil & season with salt and pepper. Bake for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a medium frypan over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, or until crisp. Add sage and breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan.

Remove mushrooms from oven and top evely with breadcrumb mixture. Return to oven and bake for 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve with rocket leaves, drizzled with olive oil.

The verdict? Delicious, but try to get the meatiest flat mushrooms available. The topping overpowers the mushroom bite otherwise, but who am I to complain when they are a gift from nature?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Seize the salad

I think it's time I dipped my big toe into the pool of blogging events. There are so many going on each week or month, that to be involved in merely half of them, I would have to give up my day job or even worse, heaven forbid, my social life.

Hay Hay it's Donna Day this month is hosted by Katie of Other Peoples Food and the theme is Caesar's salad. Even though we are staring Winter down the barrel here, a Caesar is always welcome at any time of the year.

My eldest daughter especially loves a Chicken Caesar salad, which she orders everytime we eat out at a restaurant...except she specifies "no bacon, no egg and definitely no anchovies"! The waiter/waitress usually raises their eyebrows at this request, so I put them at ease and say "just a chicken and lettuce salad please" $27 for a plate of lettuce, a few morsels of chicken and a couple of croutons...ouch.

Here is my version, with a few minor alterations to the original, depending on what ingredients I have on hand


3 eggs
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 anchovy fillets (I use the ones in tins covered in oil...there isn't much more than 3 in the tin)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
185 ml (3/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
3 slices of white bread (I didn't have any so sliced up one of these* that I had in the freezer)
20 g butter
1 tablespoon oil (extra)
3 rashers of bacon (I used prosciutto instead)
Cos lettuce leaves (I only had a butter lettuce on hand, not as crispy as the Cos sadly)
75 g (3/4 cup) shaved Parmesan cheese

Process the eggs, garlic, anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice and mustard in a food processor until smooth. With motor running, add the oil in a thin, consistent stream until a creamy dressing is produced. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Cut the crusts of the bread (in my case, slice it first), then cut into cubes. Heat the butter and extra oil in frypan over medium heat, add the bread and cook till golden, then remove from the pan. Add the bacon (or prosciutto) to same pan and cook until crispy, then break into bite size pieces.

Toss the lettuce leaves with the dressing, then stir through the bacon and croutons, topped with parmesan cheese.

* Marie from Breadbasketcase made the same loaves last weekend, and was clever enough to take a photo of hers. However her photo links are down at the moment, but should hopefully be back soon. My kids call this snail bread.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A monster in the making?

This dough was supposed to have a SLOW retarded overnight rise in the fridge. I'd hate to think what it would have looked like if left to rise at room temperature, unattended. I can't remember how the loaf turned out, but I'm sure it was one of my better ones.

NOTE TO SELF - write down your *%@# passwords

I've been really ignoring you blog, not intentionally, just through my own lack of organisational skills. You see, I forgot my logon and password, and even though I made several half hearted attempts to remember it in the past few months, I thought "what's the point?", nobody reads it anyway. But today I have time on my hands, for a change, and I actually DID remember your logon.

I'll fill you in on what's been happening in the last 5 or so months. Lots of cooking of course, but a memorable moment was being introduced to
Bunny Chow by my dear friend Yogie from South Africa, now residing in Australia. Bunny Chow is a loaf of bread, with the middle scooped out, and filled with a curry of any type. Yogie's curries are notoriously hot, hot, hot due to her Indian ancestry, but for the sake of avoiding tongue transplants, I need to tame mine down a bit to suit the family. When I first witnessed a couple eating one of Yogie's Bunny Chows, the guy had beads of perspiration pouring out of his forehead and his face was as red as a tomato. I thought he was going to breath flames.

Any shape loaf can be used, but I made a round pipe loaf for my first attempt at a Bunny.

Any favourite curry recipe can be used, but a lamb curry is preferable.

This is one from Recipezaar #27864

700 gms or 1.5 lb diced lamb or chicken, trimmed of fat and cut into 1" pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 bay leaves
1 black cardamom pod
1 10 cm or 2" cinnamon stick
10 peppercorns
4 whole cloves
1 1/2 large onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger paste
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 green chile pepper, chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons corriander powder
1 teaspoon cayene pepper (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/3 cup plain yoghurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro/corriander leaves

Heat oil in large pan; add bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and cloves.
When leaves begin to sizzle and fragrance starts to release, add onions and saute until light golden, about 12-15 minutes, stirring frequently.
Stir in the ginger paste, garlic, chile pepper, and lamb.
Season the lamb with salt; continue cooking, stirring mix, for about 20 minutes more, adding a little water if necessary to keep food from sticking.
Add turmeric, coriander powder, cayenne, and garam masala; stir for 5 minutes, adding 2 tbsp water.
Add diced tomatoes, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Then add 4 cups of water and simmer for 15 minutes, or until meat is getting tender.
Lower heat.
Whisk the yogurt with a fork; and add to the pot slowly.
Then cook until meat is done to your liking and sauce is thickened. Slice pipe loaf in half and scoop out inside. Reserve this part for dipping. Add curry and garnish with fresh coriander.