Saturday, October 27, 2007

Toilet humour

I've often read many blogs that share their cookbook library with the world. I've thought of doing this, but I would need about 7 photos on the post to get them all in. I have them on shelves, in cupboards, in drawers, as well as copious food magazines that need to be reluctantly culled.

During the week, a replacement loo was installed whilst we are renovating our laundry and, yes, second "dunny". This water closet has always been referred to as The Library, even when I was a child. If we asked Mum where Dad was, most times the answer was "in the library", as there was always a newspaper tucked under the arm as he went in. One day he was so pressed for reading material, he took one of Mum's knitting patterns with him! We often joke about the knit one, pearl one escapade. Also, my husband and daughter have this genetic trait. Personally I could think of a million other, more pleasant places to sit and have a quiet read, but this appears to be a very difficult habit to break.

So when the plumber asked if I had some bricks or something heavy to level the pan, I immediately grabbed just two of my cookbooks, The Silver Spoon and Stephanie Alexander's Cooks Companion. Together they weigh the equivalent of at least a couple of bricks, perfectly accommodating the plumber's request. Improvisation at its best!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lamb shanks with broad beans and avgolemono

Our spring weather is so unpredictable, with wild winds, snow falls, unfortunately very little rain this year, sunshine, and right now searing temperatures in the 30's. All of this in the one week mind you. It's such a dilemma to decide what to wear, let alone what to eat each day. Just when you think it's time for an outdoor dinner or lunch the weather can turn downright nasty.

Spring lamb is now at it's best, so I've chosen a Greek inspired dish accompanied with avgolemono, which is a fresh tasting sauce made from egg, lemon and broth. It is better known as an egg and lemon soup, if more broth is added. Either way, it's delicious, and is a great accompaniment to any roasted meats. I slow roasted the shanks in the covered BBQ, until the wind whipped up again and kept blowing the gas out. I hate this horrible wind...sniffle, sneeze.

Susan, from The Well Seasoned Cook is the host of this first event (for the THIRD year) of Weekend Herb Blogging. Kalyn must be totally exhausted after compiling last weeks round up celebrating the two year anniversary of Doubly Delish. I'm still ploughing through all of the delicious recipes.


4 lamb shanks (about 4 pounds total), cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch -thick pieces by butcher
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup water
I kg broad beans, podded and peeled
1 large egg
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill


Preheat oven to 275°F.

In a heavy casserole large enough to hold lamb shanks in one layer without crowding arrange shanks and season with salt and pepper. Roast shanks in middle of oven, covered tightly, 3 hours, or until tender. (Meat will give off juices as it cooks.) Pour off pan juices, reserving about 1 cup, and skim fat. Keep shanks warm, covered.

In a small saucepan combine broth, reserved pan juices, water, and one-third broad beans and simmer 5 minutes, or until beans are tender.

In a blender purée broth mixture until smooth.

In a bowl whisk together egg and lemon juice and whisk in puréed broth mixture. Return mixture to pan and heat over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until thickened slightly (do not boil). Season avgolemono with salt and pepper and keep warm.

In a large non-stick skillet heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté remaining broad beans until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in dill and salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange shanks on a deep platter and scatter with broad beans. Drizzle shanks with some avgolemono and serve remaining sauce separately. Serve shanks with orzo or mashed potato

Monday, October 15, 2007

World Day of Bread 2007 - From Baps to Brioche

World Bread Day '07

Sadly I was too late to enter last year's World Day of Bread, but this is what I would have submitted.

Zorra from Kochtopf is hosting this prestigious event again this year, and going by the fabulous entries from last year, I'm sure there will be many hours of good reading as a result.

The Scottish bap bread is a soft roll, usually round, sometimes oval, sometimes square. It's a flat topped bread roll, dusted with flour, and an indented hole is in the middle to stop it from rising to a dome. It's best eaten fresh out of the oven first thing in the morning, sliced in two and enveloping fried bacon and eggs. Beware of flour on your lips and nose!! People may think you have been indulging in an illicit activity;)

The Recipe

175 ml (6 fl. oz) tepid milk
175 ml (6 fl. oz) water
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
500 g (1 lb) strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tblsp milk, to glaze

  • Combine the milk and water in a liquid measuring jug. Sprinkle the yeast and the sugar into 100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) of the milk and water mixture in a separate bowl. Leave for 5 minutes, stir to dissolve. Stir in half the remaining milk/water mixture.
  • Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeasted milk and water. Mix in the flour. Stir in the reserved milk and water as needed to form a sticky dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
  • Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until doubled, about an hour.
  • Knock back and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 8 pieces, and shape each piece into a flat oval, (or a round ball if you prefer) about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick. Place on a floured baking tray. Brush with milk and sift over a fairly heavy dusting of flour.
  • Leave to prove, uncovered, until doubled in size, about 30-35 minutes.
  • Again sift more flour over each bap. Use your thumb to make an impression in the centre of the baps, about 1/2 inch deep.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until risen and pale golden. Cover with a tea towel and leave on wire rack to cool.

Next is my first attempt at making brioche, so full of eggs and butter, that this is definitely not your everyday bread. I think our cholesterol levels would soon swell to dangerous heights if we indulge in this beautiful bread too often. Especially if you turn it into french toast, or even to have with cheese or pate and some wine. A little of this bread would need to go a long way. The top notch kind of exploded a bit, and I let it cook for perhaps 5 minutes too long, but it looks "tres bon", oui?

The recipe for this came from Peter Reinhart's famous Bread Bakers Apprentice, and it is the Rich Man's version (of course). The recipe can be found here. (I just love Google Books!!)

Below is a pictorial of some of the breads I have baked, and actually taken photos of, over the past year.
On the left is ciabatta accompanied by apricot and sunflower kernel bread.

Partybrot infused with roasted garlic.

More ciabatta!

The famous "no knead" loaf

No Knead loaf baking in camp oven in my outdoor pizza oven.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

WHB #104 - Asparagus Custard, Herbed Goats cheese and a Parmesan Wafer on top

Firstly, congratulations Kalyn for "inventing" and nurturing this wonderful event for the past two years. You must feel very proud. Head over to Kalyn's Kitchen for the round-up of this event, which I'm sure will be overwhelming.

The challenge for this weekend is to prepare a dish with at least one herb and one vegetable. As we are coming into the warmer weather here, asparagus is abundant, and it's also one of my favourite veges to eat. My herbs are starting to take hold in the garden, and I've planted some chervil this year for the first time.

In the time of King Louis XIV asparagus was dubbed ‘The King of Vegetables’, and in my opinion it still is. It is a member of the lily family, surprisingly, which has relatives such as onion, garlic, leeks, turnips, lilies and gladioli. It is a natural diuretic and laxative with a beneficial effect on the kidneys, liver and bowel. Specifically, asparagus is rich in vitamins C & E, folate, dietary fibre and potassium. It is also free of fat and cholesterol. (So just ignore the cream component in this recipe if you possibly can).

Olive oil
4 shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced or chopped
3 bunches asparagus, woody ends removed, sliced thinly
1 cup cream
Salt & pepper
2 eggs, beaten
200g grated parmesan cheese
Goat’s cheese
Freshly chopped herbs (I used chervil, parsley and garlic chives)


  1. Sweat off the sliced shallots and garlic in olive oil, taking care not to colour them.
  2. Add the prepared asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the cream, salt and pepper and cook until the asparagus is soft.
  4. Using a food processor, puree the asparagus until smooth, then pass the mixture through a fine strainer to remove any fibres that haven’t broken down. Add the beaten eggs to the asparagus mixture.
  5. Arrange 4 ramekin dishes in a baking dish with 1cm water. Divide the asparagus mixture between the ramekins. Cook in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Once cooked, allow the custards to cool slightly, then run a small knife around the inside of each ramekin and turn out onto a serving plate.
  7. Combine the goat’s cheese with a little cream and freshly chopped herbs.
  8. Sprinkle 50g of grated parmesan onto a baking tray in four circles and cook for 3-4 minutes at 180°C
  9. Once cooled slightly, place a Parmesan Wafer on top of each asparagus custard. Finish with a spoonful of goat’s cheese mixture and serve warm.

Perfect for an al fresco lunch.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

WHB #103 - Creamy mushroom and chicken fettucine

Haalo, from Cook (almost) least once is the host for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging event number 103, has been so lucky travelling around Italy for the past few weeks, tasting the freshest Italian cheeses and indulging in fine wine and food, that she has made me green with envy. I was in Italy 3 years ago, but sadly I didn't have the appreciation for food back then, as I do now. Just another good reason to go back there, yes?

Pasta is on the menu this weekend. However it isn't the traditional Italian tomato sauce base, but more of a French inspired creamy chicken, mushroom and tarragon sauce. French tarragon has a hint of aniseed to it's flavour, not as distinctive as fennel though, and when tasted raw, it leaves your tongue slightly numb, which is a sure indicator that it is really French tarragon, and not it's lesser cousin, the Russian tarragon.

Ingredients for two servings
500 g mixed mushrooms (wild and cultivated)
2 large chicken breasts (no skin), cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of cream or creme fraiche (or half and half of both)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tblsp chopped fresh tarragon
2 cloves of minced garlic
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
Fettucine pasta

While pasta is cooking, heat oil in large pan and fry chicken until golden and tender. Remove from pan. Add garlic, then mushrooms and cook until nearly done. Return chicken to pan, then add the cream, herbs and seasonings. Bring to low simmer until cream thickens into a rich sauce. Drain pasta, saving some of the pasta water (if sauce is too thick), add pasta to chicken and mushroom mixture. Extra herbs, or in my daughter's case, freshly grated Parmesan, can be used as a garnish for serving.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Impulsive, madcap, throw to the back of the cupboard purchase

When will I ever learn? I feel I need help. My family KNOW I need help. I have to admit it. I'm an impulsive buyer of any kitchen related gadgets, utensils and gourmet food items. If there is a new product on the market, you can bet I already have it, and if I don't, then I will soon. This all comes from reading too many food related collection is embarrasingly taking over my house. This purchase is my latest attempt to justify the cost of an ice-cream maker that I "just had to have". I've certainly used the ice-cream maker, not everyday of course, but when I spotted this ice-cream cone maker in the "reduced" basket at K-Mart the other day, for a mere $12, I thought this item would ultimately save me money from not purchasing the expensive Belgium Waffle Cones from the supermarket. Do I sound convincing enough yet? My husband doesn't think so.

Honest verdict? Making my own cones was a lot of mucking around, it created a huge mess and was very ridiculously time consuming. I'm sure there is a definite knack to the method, but I'm not too keen on perfecting it in the near future. The $4 cones from the supermarket are much more attractive now.

I think a submission to Ebay is on the drawing board, along with some very pre-loved food magazines, a potato chip maker, an onion chopper....the list goes on. Then I'll have lots of room to buy more things!!

This ice-cream is from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, Butterscotch and Pecan Icecream, which literally contains butter AND scotch...who would have thought. You can sneak a preview of the recipe here at Google Books.