Wednesday, February 25, 2009

pasta carbonara

much as i love pasta carbonara, i have never made a point of working out how i wanted my version of the dish to turn out...until now. miss c loves pasta with all the different sauces, but not miss k, so i don't often have pasta on the menu in our household. a few days ago, miss c was craving pasta and let me know on no uncertain terms that she was missing it. so i thought that i had better sort something out for miss k, lest she had another bowl of pasta unadorned. miss k doesn't like tomatoes. period. since most pasta sauce is derived from the tomato, it was a no go zone. but then miss k more recently let it be known that she did actually like pasta and wouldn't mind it with a sauce...perhaps a cream sauce... nothing with mushrooms....bacon would be good. ahhhh. carbonara, perhaps? sounds good (read: acceptable), mum.
so after some thought, i decided that if i ate carbonara, i'd want the sauce to be hot, but i wouldn't want my eggs dry and over cooked. so this is what i came up with.

2 eggs
1/4-1/2 cup cream
dry fried bacon, to taste
freshly ground pepper
sufficient pasta for one person, just cooked and drained

place the eggs, cream, bacon and pepper in a bowl a lightly mix together.
place the butter in a hot place and when bubbling, pour the eggs into the pan, followed by the very hot pasta. remove from the heat immediately.
stir the eggs through the pasta very quickly and into the serving dish.

for me, the essence of this dish is split second timing. have the pasta al dente the minute the eggs are in the pan and remove the pan off the heat immediately, so the eggs stay creamy and don't over cook. it's easy to get it wrong, but then by the same token, it's also easy to get it right. timing...timing...timing....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

jill dupleix's crash hot potatoes

jill is really on the pulse of things. she knows people crave delicious food, are time poor, may not all possess michelin star expertise and simply want ..... simple food..... so she gives it to us with two volumes - simple food and very simple food. she satisfies us on different levels and make us feel good about ourselves...that we can cook so we can have something good for us, which is delicious, which is simple. i feel like i'm raving. forgive me. i can't help it.
let me now rave on about the potatoes. these are a wonderful way to prepare potatoes. wonderful because they are simple and delicious. and on the night i made them, they also fitted in with someone's aversion to dairy. and they can be preboiled, ready to be roasted just before dinner is served....and....and..... i'm sure you'll be able to add to the list of great things this potato dish is about.

small potatoes
sea salt
olive oil
freshly ground pepper
your herbs of choice, eg, thyme, rosemary, sage

preheat the oven to 250 degrees celcius.
boil the unpeeled potatoes in salted water until tender.
place the drained potatoes on a oiled baking sheet and squash each potato with a potato masher until it is about 1-2 centimetres thick.
drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs.
roast the potatoes in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and crispy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

my current meat sauce for pasta

i daren't call this bolognese because i'm sure it isn't authentic. however, this is one meat sauce for pasta that i have been very happy with, so i thought i should put it down lest i forget.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
oregano, parsley
500 grams minced beef
500 grams italian sausage, casings removed
2 glasses wine, plus more to rinse out the passata jar
1 large jar passata
zucchini, capsicum, mushroom...whatever takes your fancy
freshly cooked pasta
fresh basil

heat the oil in a large stockpot. i like to use a large stockpot because it makes everything nice and easy to stir; this sauce will not fill the pot in any way.
add the onions and garlic and stir around to coat with oil and allow to soften. add the oregano and parsley, if using. add the mince and italian sausage and stir to break up the meat. stir in the wine and allow to bubble away for about 15 minutes to half an hour.
add the passata, rinse out the jar with more wine (you don't want to waste any passata...heh heh), stir and allow to bubble away. at this stage i also add the vegetables and allow to bubble away for as long as possible (up to 2 hours). remember to stir the pot every now and then to make sure it doesn't catch on the bottom. if for some reason the sauce does catch (forget to stir, flame too high), quickly tip the sauce into another saucepan so the burnt flavour doesn't contaminate the whole batch of sauce. you'll get away with a little smokiness in the fact, some people will think it make the sauce even more delicious because it adds another dimension.
at this stage, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. seasoning with pepper and nutmeg earlier is fine, but because there's so much bubbling and evaporation going on, it's much safer to salt at the end. very often i don't add salt because the passata and sausage are already plenty salty, as is the pasta, which should be cooked in well salted water.
that's about it. serve it with al dente pasta (please don't overcook the pasta if at all possible) and fresh basil.
buon appetito!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

salted water for boiling

i confess....this is not one of my recipes (to possess such genius, sheer bliss), but have found it invaluable. i first stumbled across it on epicurious, a veritable trasure trove of recipes and all things food. imagine my delight as i trawled through their archives and fell upon this. admittedly, it wasn't too hard to find as it was one of their highest rated recipes back when they had such a category (they don't have it anymore, i wonder why...).
without further ado, here it is.

when salting water for cooking, use 1 tablespoon of salt for every 4 quarts of water.

that's it. eloquent in its simplicity.

ps. i did review it, but i'm not trawling through the hundreds of reviews just to find what i wrote, but don't let me stop might get a bit of a chuckle out of it.

Friday, February 20, 2009


several years ago, mrs muntz was telling me that they would be going to the snow in july and i simply said, "oh, my poor deprived children have never seen snow, and i don't know when they ever will." she was very kind and invited us along, and we have been grateful ever since because there's nothing like it. we love it.

more recently, i have had the opportunity to make a barbie cake. when my children were little, i was very deprived. they weren't into barbies, so there were no barbie cakes to be made. until now, that is.
barbie cakes are actually quite a good cake to make - not only does the birthday girl get a cake, but a doll at the end of the party, as well.
now, all i need is the opportunity to make some cakes for boys......the wigs? are you reading this? hint, hint?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

AGSM's potato salad

back in the days when i was a uni student, i used to go to the AGSM's cafeteria for lunch and one of the vegetables served with one's meal was a potato salad. it was different to any of the other potato salads i had eaten in the past because it didn't have any mayonnaise.
to date, that was one of the best cafeterias i have ever been to - the chef there was genuinely a great cook with a fabulous repetoir. i guess the council at the AGSM felt they needed a cafeteria which matched the calibre of the students - AGSM at the time was the first of its kind, but others have since popped up - sydney university started their own graduate school not long after and macquarie uni has one as well.

1 kilogram potatoes
8 rashers bacon
2 green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

boil, steam or microwave the potatoes until tender and cut into 2cm cubes.
take the rind off the bacon and slice the bacon into strips and dry fry them until crisp.
slice the green onions.
place everything in a large bowl and toss gently so the potatoes are coated with the lemon juice and oil.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

french onion dip

i can't believe i'm adding this recipe, but add it i must because miss c went to nooms' place and had it and thought it was soooo good. miss c needs to know how to make it in case she has a craving for it one day and doesn't know what to do. isn't it ironic how miss k knows how to make this, but doesn't eat it (she's not into sour cream), while miss c has absolutely no idea about what's in it, let alone make it, but loves it?
this recipe is for the dried packet soup mix, as opposed to the french onion dip which requires onions to be cooked from scratch - i'll post that another day when i am inclined to do so.
laugh away, but this isn't bad for those occasions when you really only want junk, and you really don't want to buy ready made french onion dip, do you, when this is so easy to make yourself?
(hint: this might not be a bad addition to ones repertoire for when schoolies comes around)

1 packet french onion soup (salt reduced, because it's already soooo salty)
1 carton sour cream

combine both ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl with a small whisk until everything is nicely married together. pour into a serving dish, cover and chill until required.
serve with crackers, vegetable sticks or chippies (it's not too bad on baked potatoes either).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


ok, i give in.

the searing heat and drenching rain we have had lately has been good - at least you know your alive. however, the recent tragedy in victoria was not.

i've found that it's almost impossible to plan one's life too much - a spanner always comes along to muck things up. it's much better to go with the flow.

i really like my children; they're nice people to talk to, as are their friends.

i always expected to have children taller than me. that said, i always accepted that you didn't have any control over their level of intelligence or their looks, but i thought they would be taller than me, at the very least.....

i love children....and i guess, people, in general.

i love feeding children....and people....and animals, in general.

i have a facination with retro food...maybe it's a facination with retro per se. i love having warm food ready to feed my children when they come home from school. i know they and their friends humour me by eating all the daggy things i dish up. none of that nouvelle cuisine nonsense in our house.

i have an ulterior motive when i feed's so that i can cook/prepare more food.

i have trouble with "favourites"; i don't have a favourite child, i don't have a favourite nephew, i won't know what to order for my last meal because i love it all. i am amazed some people can so easily name the people who they will have at their last meal and what they want to eat.

the saddest thing to happen to me was to lose my dad. i miss him very much and think of him all the time. he was really good to talk to and i often still talk to him.

people don't change much, they just reveal more of themselves as they get older. the nice ones stay nice, and the awful ones get worse.

my life isn't perfect, but neither is anyone elses. i'm just content with my lot.

i would like to downsize but if i did, i'd have to get storage for all my bits and pieces (useless to everyone else, but all a part of me....)

i remember alot of things, mostly trivial, but sometimes useful.

i lived in the same street for over 30 years.

i'm actually quite shy.

i love things which have been handed down from mothers to their children, probably because my mother has never handed anything to me; she prefers to give it to other people.

i never understood why some people loved buying crockery so much, but i'm starting to understand why now.

some old things are just beautiful, especially when there are signs of wear and tear. i like to think they are signs of having been useful and loved.

i think it's important for people to do what they really want to do because you never know where it will lead.

i wish i could spoil my children the way my dad spoilt me. this is not to say my children aren't spoilt, but they do hear me say "no" more often than i ever heard it said.

i am a perfectionist in some areas. i will persevere with some things until i get it just the way i want them to be. i am grateful that i am not a perfectionist with everything.

i like to trust my gut feeling on alot of things now, and it's a good feeling.

family is important. some members you bond with well and know you can rely on them.

friends are important. i'm lucky have some very good ones.

Monday, February 16, 2009

béchamel sauce

béchamel sauce is the posh name for good old white sauce. it's very useful and has many applications. lasagne, moussaka, mornays and croque monsieur include it in their composition....then, it also lends itself as a base for other sauces. one friend, doctor stewart, loves white sauce and its versatility, advised that i could change white sauce to pink sauce very simply by adding some tomato sauce. i haven't tried that yet, but, hey, there's got to be a first.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup plain flour
3 cups milk
a litlle freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground white pepper

in a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until blended but not coloured. gradually whisk in the milk and cook, whisking the whole time, until thickened, about 10 minutes. season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

that's it. very simple, but i can't emphasise enough that you have to whisk the whole time, that way, the sauce is silky smooth without any lumps. one friend swears by using the flat whisk; me? the balloon whisk is my thing. either way, just keep stirring with the whiskand make sure you get into the corners of the pot so everything mixes in.

Set aside. (May be made up to 24 hours ahead of time and stored, refrigerated, with a layer of plastic wrap placed directly on surface of sauce; gently reheat before serving.)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

corn dogs

my earlier post about lemonade, i mentioned corn dogs....well, this is the recipe. i don't make this often, less than once a year, but when we do have it, it's a bit of fun. it's much nicer than battered savs which are frankfurts dipped in regular batter like that use for the fish in fish and chips beacuse the batter isn't as greasy; just make sure your oil is hot so the batter seals and cooks rather than absorbs the oil, which happens when it isn't the right temperature.
an alternative we also like is cheese dipped in the batter instead of the frankfurt. very junky, but the grittiness of the cornmeal is what tempts miss k - ahhhh....less than once a year.....

2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 3/4 cups milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
10 regular sized frankfurts, or 20 cocoktail frankfurts
vegetable oil for deep frying

preheat oil 240 degrees celcius.
combine the flour, corn meal, sugar, salt and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl.
combine the milk and egg with the dry ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until batter is smooth.
dry the frankfurts with a paper towel.
when the oil is hot, tilt the bowl of batter so that you can completely coat each frankfurt with the batter.
place the battered frankfurt in the hot oil and cook for 5-6 minutes or until coating is golden brown, turning them so they cook evenly.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

dry "frying" bacon

dry frying bacon is really useful for a lazy cook such as myself; i trim the bacon of visible fat and cut it into cubes or thin strips, pop it in a pan and into the oven, very often whilst something else is in there or after something has finished baking to take advantage of the residual heat. i check it every 10 minutes or so to give it a bit of a stir and remove it when it has been done to my liking.
i find the bacon is much nicer than if i were to pan fry it, as in the oven, whatever fat not removed from the bacon renders out and the bacon cooks quite happily and evenly.
this is how i like to cook the bacon for my layered garden salad and stuffed potatoes. it's also handy to have some to already prepared in the refrigerator to sprinkle on anything you want to make a little special.

Friday, February 6, 2009

chicken salad

i loved chicken salad with fruit in it and a creamy dressing and this is the variation i made for miss c to bring to school.

2 cups cooked chicken, cut in 2cm dice; i used free range breast because i had it
1/2 cup dried cranberries or craisins - dried cranberries look more plump than craisins
1/2 cup raw almonds
1 apple, cut into 1cm dice
1/2 cup eggplant relish
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup cream
3 hard boiled eggs

place everything except the eggs into a large bowl and toss gently to combine. try not to overdo it because you don't want the chicken to disintergrate.
halve the eggs and place on top of each serving.
refrigerate any leftovers, if there are any.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

creamy pasta marinara

shirlene has been going on about seafood pasta everytime she sees my basil. she goes on about it, but we all have yet to see it materialise.....and if she wants to make it, she had better make it while there is still basil in the garden.
nevertheless, i should thank her for her suggestion, without which i might not have thought to cook this.
just a warning, this dish is mega rich and not for the fainthearted.

30 grams butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup cream
300 grams peeled, uncooked prawns
300 grams scallops
300 grams salmon, sliced
salt and pepper
500 grams pasta
chopped fresh herbs, such as, parsley or basil

heat butter in a large pan and cook the onion and garlic until soft. gradually stir in the wine and cream. allow to boil and thicken. add rinsed seafood and simmer uncovered until cooked through.
cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain.
pour the pasta into the pan of sauce and coat the pasta in the sauce. place in serving bowls and pour any remaining sauce over the pasta. sprinkle with the herbs.
serve 4

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

stuffed potatoes

if you think you're going to be having a baking day or that the oven will be on for a while, why not bake some potatoes? and stuff them....
these are seriously delicious comfort food, and you can make them as simple or as fancy as you like.

8 large potatoes
100 grams butter
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chopped, cooked bacon (you can pop the bacon into the oven to cook with the potatoes - i do)
1 onion diced and sweated (again, this can be cooked in the oven), or
1 cup of sliced green onions, which you can leave raw
1 cup grated cheese
freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated cheese, extra - optional

bake the potatoes for an hour at 200 degrees celcius or so until they are easily pierced with a skewer.
slice the potatoes in half when they are done and scoop out their centres into a large mixing bowl.
add the butter, bacon, sour cream,onion/green onion, cheese and pepper. and stir around with a knife. the potatoes will break up into chunks and blend with the other ingredients. if you want your potatoes smooth, go ahead and mash them smooth, but i like mine with chunks. the butter will also melt and be absorbed by the mixture.
when mixed to your liking, pile the mixture into the potato skins and sprinkle over extra cheese, if liked. return the potatoes to the oven to warm through and serve.
if you'd like the potatoes to be fancier, you can add celery seeds, capsicum, mushrooms, sweetcorn, chicken, leeks etc to the mixture. the world's your oyster.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

not a conventional steak sandwich

paul, the carpenter, has been jack hammering and sawing and generally ripping out my old laundry, so i thought it was important that he was fed meat - there used to be a commercial on television when i was young which encouraged people to feed the man meat.

600 grams rump steak, cut at least 2 1/2 centimetres thick, a generous 3 centimetres is better
seasoned salt
lemon pepper
1 large onion, sliced
more butter
250 grams mushrooms, sliced
more butter
more seasoned salt
4 large slices of sourdough bread
yes yes....more butter...again...
a few rocket leaves (i used home grown because i had it in the garden)
slices of tomato

sprinkle seasoned salt lightly over the rump steak on both sides, then sprinkle the lemon pepper over the steak a little more generously, again on both sides. set aside.
place 2 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron pan or non stick pan and heat until bubbling and add the onions leave the onions a little while to colour before flippling them over. repeat until the onions are soft. remove them from the pan and set aside.
place another 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan and heat until bubbling and add the mushrooms. sprinkle lightly with seasoned salt and leave them for a litlle while to colour before flipping over. repeat until the mushrooms are done to your liking. remove them from the pan and set aside with the onions.
place 2 tablespoons again of butter in the pan and heat until bubbling and ensure the pan is well and truly heated and add the steak. leave the steak alone in the pan for 3 minutes. don't be tempted to fiddle with it. once the three minutes has elapsed, turn the steak over and leave it alone for another 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak. if the steak is thin, 1 1/2 minutes might be best. remove the steak from the pan and allow it to rest.
butter the soughdough bread and toast the bread in the pan until golden.
slice the steak thinly, and hopefully, it will be rare, or at least rarish.
pile the steak onto 2 slices of bread generously. top with onions, mushrooms, rocket and tomato. place the 2 slices of bread remaining on top and serve.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

pei mei's green onion pies revisited

i'm a very itchy person....sometimes. there are some recipes i will use over and over and not even want to change it at all. then there are some where i will tweak here and there and not be content to leave alone. pei mei's green onion pies is such a recipe that i have not been able to leave alone......i've been tweaking.....
to date, i have tried different combinations of flour and water and the combination which has yielded a dough which is easy to work with is one which uses 9 cups of continental sharps flour to 5 cups of boiling water. continental sharps flour is a textured flour which is higher in protein than that popularly found on the supermarket shelves. i have found it in supermarkets, but you have to look for it - sometimes it's found in the deli section, other times, in the flour sections. probably the easiest is to ask a deli if they stock it.
all the other instructions are the same as for the original.