Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Breast Cancer Awareness Month


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

For the whole of this month I am teaming up with the wonderful peeps from Shout for Good and the McGrath Foundation to try and raise as much money as we can.

For the entire month of October you will see a widget on the RHS of my blog that keeps a rolling tally of the money donated in the cheeky form of the word BOOBS. Bonds have agreed to match donations in batches of $8008.5 up to $50,000.

Most of us have been affected by Breast Cancer.
The statistics are alarming.

With the help of incredible nurses (yes I am looking at you my friend who will remain nameless), doctors, scientists, and everyday people like us we are helping to make in- roads in to the treatment of this horrid disease & helping support the families of those affected.

The money donated from this campaign will go to the McGrath Foundation, a charity that aims to see that every breast cancer patient in Australia has access to quality nursing care regardless of their financial situation.

If you want to support this amazing charity it just takes a simple click over on the right hand side of my blog.

And if you can share this post far and wide that will help too!
Let's all get involved and do what we can.
Because together we totally can make a difference.




Tuesday, 30 September 2014

FIVE ways to improve your cooking starting NOW.


Following is my quick list of FIVE simple ways that I believe will really help improve your cooking.
An easy step by step guide to success if you like!
There are countless things you can do to improve but this quick list is achievable for all cooks- whether you are a beginner or an established cook.
Not one of them involves buying expensive equipment or having a state of the art kitchen- I don't believe that is what makes anyone a good cook.


1.) READ the recipe.
By read it I mean to read it over and over. Each time you read it you will probably see a step you missed before.
Most of you will have watched cooking competition shows and seen time & time again the participants who miss vital parts to a recipe only to wonder what happened to their masterpiece. HEARTBREAKING.  A recipe is like a person holding your hand through the steps. Make use of it & let it be what takes away the stress.
It may help you to make some quick step by step notations of your own to have handy.
If you are unsure of a cooking term, then google it ahead of cooking to find out exactly what the instructions mean. Or ask me! I love to help people out in the kitchen- that is what this blog is ALL about!

2.) Be ORGANISED. 
Preparation is your best friend in the kitchen.
A cook who has a plan is a cook who will have more success.
That said, I love to fly by the seat of my pants but if you are a beginner having all of your food chopped and a plan of action you will find the whole cooking experience far more enjoyable. Once you have gained confidence you will be able to be more spontaneous and you will notice you get speedier at things too.

3.) Have SHARP knives.
There is NOTHING more frustrating to me than working with blunt knives.
It may be worth paying someone to professionally sharpen your knives to see the best result but let me tell you it is WORTH every penny!
Despite what you may think, you are LESS likely to cut yourself with a super sharp knife than you are with a blunt knife.

4.) Stop STIRRING.
This is a step that lots of beginners get wrong and that is ok! Most of us are starting out. This tip can be a total game changer for a LOT of people.
Our natural tendency in the kitchen is to stand over those pans and stir, stir, stir.
It's fun and it feels as though we are doing good things. Sometimes though we are not doing our cooking any favours by stirring. All in good time!
There is real value to be gained in terms of flavour by starting off at a high heat and leaving your meat still in the pan to develop a good brown coating.
YES it will spit and sound crayzee loud! This is all good stuff- (using a splatter guard may be helpful to you to achieve this!)
As the meat develops this lovely browned effect it will separate itself away from the pan,  naturally coming away from the surface so there is no need to stir. You can then turn it and repeat on the other side.
Stirring reduces the heat on the cooking surface and then the meat stews- not what we want.
Even if you are making a stew- start off by caramelising your meat by leaving it STILL.
There is a place for stirring but it is not all the time!

5.) PRACTISE, PRACTISE and PRACTISE some more.
None of us started of as brilliant cooks. Anyone who is a good cook has practised a LOT.
I started cooking for the family when I was TEN years old. That means I have had more than 30 years experience and countless failures along the way. Every single failure was a lesson learnt. TRUE! Failing is an important part of becoming a success.
Start with simple dishes and simple techniques and gain confidence in the small steps along the way before you venture to more difficult techniques. It is fine to have a small repertoire of dishes that you feel good about cooking before you broaden your horizons!

This is by no means an exhaustive list but five ways which will really help you in the kitchen to achieve success.

Happy cooking
xx
GG
(feel free to share this list around to as many people as you think need to read it).

Very soon you'll be a Master of the kitchen just like the Swedish Chef!

The last of Winter, the beginning of Spring

All around me are signs of change.
I wake early to an abundance of light.
My head is heavy with pollen.

There is laughter from children around me on school holidays.

In the veggie patch there is abundance of green.
The broad beans have begun to give their jewelled green pods.
The silverbeet is heaving, happy to be regularly trimmed to allow new stems to mature.

My legs are bare of coloured & patterned tights but there are still as always, clogs upon my feet.

The fire is no longer being lit.
It is the end of the Winter's season of giving & the beginning of the Spring bounty.
Changes of season are always a time of reflection for me. A noticing of things I enjoy and will miss.

Citrus are coming to an end & so I am eating the last of the Oranges, keen to savour every last mouthful of flavour.

Growing your own food gives an extra sense of the fragility of our food system, an understanding of how it ebbs and flows all the while relying on factors out of our control.

This morning I harvested a large armful of silverbeet keen to have a green brekky.
I had some bread that needed to be re-utilised (here as breadcrumbs) and some oranges I was keen to use. And so here is what I made.

It is so special being able to eat a meal that no more than 30 minutes before was growing in your yard.

SILVERBEET GRATIN with ORANGE GREMOLATA:
Gremolata is an Italian topping- probably most commonly known on top of the classic peasant dish OSSO BUCO.
It is a mix of Parsley, Lemon peel, and Garlic. I make mine the way I have always known according to the classic cook book by Ada Boni with the addition of Anchovies to add a salty richness to the mix. HEAVENLY.
Today though I didn't add anchovies and substituted the lemon for Orange rind.
A perfect match for the Silverbeet.

This is a delightful dish. Bold enough to stand on it's own or a perfect accompaniment for fish, eggs  or lamb.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:


  • a bunch of silver beet
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • a bunch of parsley
  • zest and juice of an orange
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  • 1 tspn cumin seeds
METHOD:
In a food processor blitz the garlic, orange zest & parsley till mixed together and chopped fine.
Add 4 tablespoons of the gremolata to the breadcrumbs and set aside.

Chop the silverbeet including the stems- there is no reason to waste them!
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan to a medium heat.
Add garlic and cumin seeds and fry gently for a minute.
Add the silverbeet stems and fry for another minute.
Now add the leaves and the reserved orange juice.
Cover and steam till silverbeet is wilted- this will only take a minute or two.

Place the silverbeet in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the breadcrumb/gremolata mix over the top.
Place under the grill until breadcrumb browns.
Serve immediately.





Thursday, 25 September 2014

Sausage rolls (Vego & Meat versions): The Perfect School Holiday food


We are enjoying the slow down that holidays bring on at our place.
Well to be honest- it is my kids who have slowed down and not me at all!
I have been working super hard the last few days to get my Clever Clogs Cooking Club mail orders delivered before the end of the month.
Yesterday I posted them all.
PHEW!

I really LOVE putting these together every month and sincerely hope my members are enjoying them too.
It has been an extra challenge doing it all with the kids (and their friends) around too- it certainly made me appreciate my 'alone' working time!

Invariably holidays also means that my life becomes one of Short Order chef also.
There are often extra (hungry) people to feed so cooking portions are often doubled to accomodate the extras (and frozen if not eaten, although that is rare!)

I have published both of these recipes before but I thought it would be helpful to have  them in one place as a reference.
I cooked both as we were accomodating both meat eaters and vegetarians yesterday, although one of my children (and I) prefer the vegetarian version of these- they are SOOOOO delicious!

Sausage rolls are quick to make & delicious to eat.
I don't know anyone who doesn't appreciate a good Sauso!

Like most things- home made ones are incomparable to the often nasty store bought ones.
They are easy enough that your kids could make them as well as eat them!

Ours are enjoyed with our homemade Tomato Sauce that we make in Tassie with our lovely friends- you can read all about the making of here.

SPINACH AND CHEESE SAUSAGE ROLLS:
I have published this recipe before here.
Yesterday I substituted the fetta for a tub of Cottage cheese & added a touch of chilli. They were totally scrumptious!

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
  • 1 x 250g packet frozen spinach
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 150g grated cheese
  • 150g crumbled fetta cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs (reserve a little bit for basting the pastry)
  • S& P
METHOD:
Preheat oven to 200C.

Mix all ingredients (not the puff pastry!) in a large bowl.

Cut the puff pastry sheets in half.

Spoon mixture into the centre of each pastry sheet, roll over and tuck in so all of the stuffing is tucked in nicely.

Place baking paper onto an oven tray.

Turn over so the joint seam is on the bottom & lay the rolls onto the baking paper.
Brush with egg wash & sprinkle with sesame seeds if you are feeling fancy!

Bake for 25-30 mins or until nicely browned.

Remove and eat or cool and freeze ready to pop out for emergency meals!

PORK AND CHORIZO SAUSAGE ROLLS:
 I have published this recipe before here.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 500g Pork mince
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 slices stale sourdough, crusts removed and cut into large chunks
  • 2 chorizo sausage, skin peeled off and cut into chunks
  • rind of half a lemon
  • a good handful of Italian parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon Smoked Spanish Paprika (regular sweet will work if you don't have the Spanish variety)
  • 1 large red chilli, seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons good tomato sauce (I use our homemade one- use tomato relish rather than bought sauce if you can, it will give a better flavour)
  • 4 sheets puff pastry, sliced in half
  • egg wash
METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Add the bread, chorizo, garlic, parsley, lemon rind, & chilli to a food processor and blitz till the ingredients are a crumb.

 Remove and add to a large mixing bowl.

Now add the pork mince to the food processor and blitz (pulse mode) till almost a paste but still with a little texture.

Add to the other ingredients and add the tomato sauce.  Mix with your hands till all ingredients are mixed well.

Add the mince mix to the middle of the halved sheet of puff and roll over the ends.

Slice to desired size and place on baking paper.

Brush with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes or until browned.

We have been playing this song super loud. 
Such a happy making toon from a fave band!
Enjoy!

Monday, 22 September 2014

How to make a Date, Carrot & Walnut Cake

It's school holidays here.

My favourite time.

Sleeping past alarms, breakfast at lunchtime and a revolving door of people coming and going.

I like to have a cake baked to offer with coffee when friends drop by.

Yesterday I baked a carrot and walnut cake and although it was delicious it wasn't as moist and fluffy as I would have hoped. I used this recipe.
Although I have to admit that any cake slathered in Cream Cheese frosting has to be a winner to some degree right?

Today I made up my own recipe and unbelievably it worked ( I am a pretty intuitive cook with savoury food but I am not usually as successful with baking- soooo many rules!)

It turned out exactly as I wanted yesterdays attempt to.

So happy.

Even better as it is a one bowl wonder- the BEST kind.

I hope you make it and love it as much as I do!

It will definitely be getting made again.


DATE, CARROT & WALNUT CAKE:
I loved the amount of walnuts in yesterdays cake - they add delicious bite- but it needed extra fluff and moisture and the dates are what provided that.
I also snuck in some shredded coconut for a bit of added texture and bite. 

I am also a big fan of cakes that use olive oil. I only had extra virgin in the pantry - I was worried that the flavour might ruin the cake but there was no hint of it.
A very forgiving cake it seems!

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:


1 cup chopped dates
3 grated carrots
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 eggs
3/4 cup oil
1 cup SR flour
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 tsp Bi carb
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder

150g cream cheese
130g icing sugar
50g butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest & juice of a lemon

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 175C.

Place all ingredients in bowl, mix through & place into greased and lined 23cm springform tin.

Place in oven for an hour or until skewer comes out clean.

Let completely cool before spreading cream cheese frosting.(made by mixing icing sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon zest & juice together).


This song is getting a lot of airplay in our kitchen by my big kids at the moment.
Also.....look out for the Pikachu plane- I didn't even know that existed!
HOW AWESOME!!! *faints*