Thursday, July 24, 2008

Homemade Pizza

Last Friday night, I made homemade pizza. Now I make a mean homemade pizza base from scratch, but I would have needed to heat up the pizza stones in the electric oven we have here and I wasn't sure how that would go. I found out that pizza bases don't do too well in our turbo oven either, so I decided to cheat and get store bought ones that I could chuck into the turbo oven. I got the Bazaar Breads Gourmet Pizza bases (the single serve sizes, there are 3 in a pack) because they were a perfect fit for the turbo oven. I decided instead of doing the normal tomato paste + bbq sauce + herbs mixture I normally use for the pizza sauce, I would make a homemade version. I had half a jar of tomato passata leftover from when I had made a stew the day before. So I chopped half an onion, crushed a garlic clove, then sauteed lightly, poured in the leftover passata (about 300-400ml) and let it simmer (partially covered with a lid - it splattered a lot!) Seasoned it, added some dried italian herbs and then a squirt of bbq sauce and it was done and it was yum. I think it really made the pizza. Just had pretty standard toppings - ham, pepperoni, mushroom, capsicum, pineapple... then a mix of parmesan, cheddar and mozzerella cheese on top and there you go. I actually pre-baked the bases for about 5 minutes on each side to crisp up the base a bit before topping them and then letting them cook for 6-10 minutes... so it was nice and easy and the Bazaar Bread pizza bases were pretty yummy... I'd use them again! 3 pizzas was plenty for the 2 of us... we had some leftovers for lunch the next day... next time I might just do 2 pizzas and a bit of garlic bread on the side.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How to plan a bbq for 30+ people with minimal fuss...

We had Phan's bday catchup bbq yesterday... I had been thinking for a while about how to plan this with minimal effort on my behalf ... and with the help of my SIL and family and friends, it turns out, the old proverb "Many hands make light work" is very true... :)

This is what we did -

20 lamb chops (marinaded by a family friend)
40 good quality sausages (20 herb and garic bratwurst, 20 continental steak from Standom smallgoods)
8 bbq chooks, cut into 8ths (from Magill BBQ chickens... I should have only ordered 5 or 6... we have a tonne of leftovers!)

2 garden salads (lettuce, capsicum, mushrooms, cucumber - made by my SIL)
2 baby spinach and craisin salads (great recipe I found ages ago... I will post it at later date - made by my sister... just one probably would have been enough)
1 potato salad (baby potatos, quartered and mixed with basic store-bought potato salad dressing, jazzed up with chives - made by me)
1 pasta salad (pasta, sundried tomato pesto, sundried tomatos, roasted capsicum, basil and pinenuts - made by me)
Mini vegetarian quiche (for our vegetarian friends) (store bought)

1 fruit platter (made and assembed by a chef friend of ours)
1 9" square chocolate/baci cake decorated with a "Superman" emblem (made by Heidelberg cakes - it looked awesome!)

3 loaves of bread (2 would have done)

Tomato Sauce, BBQ Sauce, Salad Dressing, Margarine
Plastic plate, knives forks, napkins
1 pack of corn chips, 1 pack of chips, 1 pack strawberries and cream, 1 pack of penguins from the confectionary company.
6 bottles of softdrink

It was the most relaxed bbq I've ever planned... usually I do everything myself and as a result am very busy and frantically running around... but seeing as I couldn't do it all myself (I know when to admit, I need to have help) having the help of so many people really made it a breeze... all I had to do was make 2 salads and setup the house with decorations and stuff with my SIL.

It was a great night and lovely to catchup with so many of our friends and family...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dinner With Our Friends Koh and Vinnie

We had friends over for dinner on Friday... our menu went a little like this -

I used my new Maxwell Williams "Romance" 2 tiered stand (which looks like this) to present a casual, shared array of nibbles ... on the top layer, I arranged a simple antipasto of prosciutto, sundried tomatos, kalamata olives and baby bococcini cheese. On the bottom layer, we had lightly toasted turkish bread which had been cut into fingers and a garlic clove run over the hot surface and then lightly drizzled with olive oil and pan-fried prawn skewers (8 skewers, with 2 prawns (with their tails on) per skewer) which had marinaded in garlic, spring onion and chilli oil. I should have taken a photo, but I forgot... it looked really cool.

I found this fabulous recipe on (one of my fave recipe sites) for a lemon, zucchini and chicken pasta. I'd never made it before, but the flavours really appealed to me and seemed light and refreshing... and luckily, my hunch was right... it was a lovely fresh flavoured pasta. Highly recommend it... it's pretty quick to throw together and the only thing I changed was to go 3/4 butter, 1/4 olive oil... and sprinkle some toasted pine nuts in just before serving.

I made chocolate fondant based on a recipe from the latest delicious magazine (it's actually on the front cover). However, Phan had forgotten to tell me that our guests were bringing dessert, so we had what they had brought (a fabulous array of pastries from a high end bakery chain here called "French Twist")... So Phan and I had the chocolate fondants for dessert the following day.... and they were yummy... lovely cakey texture on the outside, moist and gooey on the inside... served with vanilla icecream... it was a sublime combination.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Simple Cheese and Corn Muffins

These muffins are sooo simple and very kid friendly - my almost 17 month old daughter helped me to make them and loves eating them.

Cheese and Corn Muffins
Source: Internet forums

1 tin of creamed corn (i used 425g Golden Circle creamed corn)
1 tin of self raising flour (use the empty tin that the creamed corn came in to measure)
1 tin of grated cheddar cheese.
Splash of milk if needed.

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Mix all ingredients together. Add a splash of milk if the mixture looks too dry.
3. Spoon mixture into a greased 12 cup muffin tin.
4. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
5. Leave to cool slightly before removing.

These are yummy served hot, with butter... but are equally as yum served cold as a snack. (Little B munched on one cold as a snack while we went shopping).

I can see this recipe being open to lots of variations
- to boost the vegetable intake - I plan to add zucchini and capsicum or carrot next time I make it. Or for something more gourmet - sundried tomatoes.
- just as a different flavour, add some parmesan or feta cheese.
- or just for some colour add some herbs like parsley or chives.
- add some ham, bacon or cooked chicken for a bit of protein and make it an all in one savoury muffin.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Best Roast Potatoes.... *ever*...

So I got a complaint from Bao the other day that I hadn't put any recipes on this blog... Well... okay... so I have neglected this blog a little... but have you seen how many posts I have been putting up on my main regular blog, complete with photos and slideshows?!!! Bao must think I am a blogging machine or something!

So... to appease my dear SIL, I am forgoing an entry on my main and putting up the recipe that she wanted for my roast potatoes... This really isn't worthy of having a recipe, it is so simple and easy... I learnt this recipe from my mum, who learnt it from watching a tv series by Delia Smith.

Best Roast Potatoes
Source: Delia Smith "How To Cook" Series

Potatoes (I like to use desirees, but this will work with any kind of potato)
Salt (preferably Maldon Sea Salt)
Pepper (preferably freshly ground black pepper)
Oil (preferably olive oil)

1.Preheat oven to 200-240 degrees celsius. (depends on your oven.. but make it pretty hot).
2. Boil a big pot of water with a big pinch of salt in it. Make sure your pot has a lid that fits tightly.
3. Peel potatos and cut them into equal sized piece (generally quarters are a good size). You need as many potatoes as will fit comfortably in a metal tray without overcrowding. You need a bit of space between the potatoes. I tend to peel and cut the potatoes and then put them in the tray I am going to be cooking them in as a I go... and I stop peeling and cutting when the tray is full... that way I know I have the perfect amount of potatoes.
4. When the water comes to the boil, put the potatoes in and boil for 7 minutes.(yes - very precise number... 7 minutes exactly... any more and the potatoes are mushy... any less and they potatoes aren't quite cooked enough).
5. Drain the potatoes, then return them to the pot they were cooked in and put the lid on. Vigorously shake the potatoes for 30 seconds or so... this will roughen up the outsides of the potatoes and make them all fluffy. This is important, because then when they roast, the fluffy bits go all crunchy.
6. Put the potatoes into a metal tray and season with salt and pepper and drizzle generously with olive oil. Shake the potatoes to coat them evenly in the oil.
7. Put the tray into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown... shaking once or twice during the cooking process to stop them from sticking to the pan.
8. They are done when they are golden brown... perfect served with a roast.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Best Brownie Recipe in the World...

Ty has been lusting after this recipe... more so since I'm no longer in Adelaide to make them for him... :)... so here it is... so simple... so easy... so unhealthy... but soooo good! Mmmmm... enjoy!

Chocolate Chunk Brownies
Source: Epicure Chocolate Book (the best recipes over 20 years from the Epicure column of The Age newspaper)

1 cup self raising flour
(I always make my own sr flour because it rises better - Add 2 tsp of baking powder to 1 cup of plain flour)
½ cup dessicated coconut
(I use shredded coconut... I don't know think it makes much difference)
½ cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
(Good quality dutch cocoa makes it richer, but I've had perfectly wonderful results using cheap cocoa, either nestle or cadbury)
125 grams butter, melted
(I use unsalted)
1 tin condensed milk
100g dark choc, roughly chopped
(I use 1/2 a block of Nestle Plaistowe Dark Chocolate)
100g white choc, roughly chopped
(I use 1/2 a block of Nestle Plaistowe White Chocolate)
½ cup of chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, macadamias)
(I always use macadamias... the best nuts in the world!)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Mix together flour, coconut, sugar, cocoa, butter and condensed milk.
Pour mixture into a greased 22cm square tin.
Press chocolate and nuts into the top.
Bake for 25 min, it should still be chewy.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

This Blog is Dedicated to My Mother...

My mum was an amazing person - the best mum anyone could ask for... She passed away in March 2004, but she continues to be a shining light and an inspiration in my life.

Other than her love for her family, my mum's passion in life lay with cooking and with food. A chef by trade, cooking went beyond simply being a job for her... Cooking and food was a way of feeding and satifying hungry tummies... but it was also the foundation of our family home. She was always collecting recipes... loved watching random cooking shows on TV... She "collected" (perhaps a more accurate term would be "hoarded") spices and condiments like they were going out of fashion and she had possibly every kitchen gadget/utensil you could imagine. She could cook anything... from classic Vietnamese dishes, to South-East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Indian Cookery to European classics and cakes... Nothing was beyond her. And although she could pull out the professional finish to any meal with hand carved roses made from carrots and radishes ... most of the time, food for us was about being homely, simple and delicious... and most importantly sharing and expressing love.

My mum was a big believer in learning and sharing in the kitchen... and each of us kids always had a role to play... whether it was my youngest brother peeling carrots, my younger sister washing lettuce or me throwing stuff together in a wok... we all had an important role to play in preparing a meal. My mum was also a great believer in "building character"... and thus subjected all of us to many long tedious hours of bulk preparing and preserving some kind of food. It varied from year to year... One year we would be making tomato pasta sauce... another year it would be dried apricots... The next would be tomato sauce and jam... Regardless these tasks would inevitably involve some kind of laborious task of peeling/de-seeding/chopping some kind of fruit/vegetable to be made into some wonderful concoction to be used during the coming year... and although at the time we complained about spending our summer holidays doing some mundane cooking related task, I now look back on those times with a wonderful pleasure... of simple times shared together, working towards a common goal as a family...

I thought about incorporating my recipes and other cooking related entries into my main blog... but I decided that I would create a separate blog, so that it would be easier to navigate. This way I can have a separate place to remember my mum and share a little bit of what she taught me. I can't wait for my own little girl to get older and help me out in the kitchen, the same way I helped my mum in the kitchen.

So Mum - this blog is dedicated to your memory... I know you're always watching over us and I thank you for the beautiful memories I have of us cooking together, surrounded by love in the kitchen.