Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's for dinner?

I am always interested in what people have for dinner, regular people in their homes who have to dream up something to cook every night. I think it's fascinating what people consider to be "normal" - often because their mother made it when they were young.
Getting married has been fun in this regard. Husband comes from a family where nachos are a dinner food with mince and beans and sauce. At my house if they appeared at all they were just melted cheese on corn chips and were a special treat snack. It's taken a while for me to consider them to be a meal at all.
Equally he was surprised that I would make a roast mid-week (I make those little mini-roasts) because he's from a big family, roast was a special occasion weekend thing and quite a big deal - it was at my house too, but I've discovered it's actually a really quick prep dinner for us during the working week.

Last night's dinner was marinated grilled chicken breast - I just pop them in a bag with honey, tamari (or soy) and garlic, give them a flattening bash with the rolling pin to tenderise and stick them under the grill after a little stint in the fridge.

The real treat is one of my favourite salads. It's a version of a salad my lovely friend Rachel once made a group of us for lunch. I tasted it and immediately added it to the repetoire!

A bag of salad leaves
Small pieces of oven roasted pumpkin - sprinkled with oil, salt and pepper and roasted in a 200C oven for half an hour
pan fried chopped chorizo
grape tomatoes
feta cheese
sliced red onion soaked briefly in balsamic vinegar.

add some olive oil to the leftover balsamic and spritz over the salad.

It's delicious and filling - a meal in itself really!

So tell me, what did you have for dinner tonight?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Baby Chocolate Souffle

The first time I made these souffles was about ten years ago. I think it's the first proper recipe I ever felt a passion to master and to be honest it's taken be about this long to get it working - not because I'm quite that hopeless a cook but more that I've recently discovered that I've been reading the recipe wrong for ten years (!!) and souffles require a bit of a delicate balance - the misreading of tsp for tbsp threw the sugar amounts WAY out. It's always tasted good but never quite rose properly. As you can see from the photograph this one certainly didn't have that problem.

I'm not just a glutton for punishment. I think souffle to 21 year old me was what macarons are to me now, a niggling challenge that I don't mind trying over and over as they generally taste good anyway and the small improvements give me a bit of a confidence boost!

Really this souffle is nothing to be scared of. It is very simple and the result is a much more impressive pay off than the effort - which is always a winner in my book!

The only thing is that they will sink after 10 mins or so - every time. So they absolutely must be served immediately.

Proof of the age of this recipe is where I got it from - an instyle magazine from around the year 2000 that states it to be Sarah Michelle Gellar's (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) favourite dessert from LA's Bistro Garden.
To be honest, that fact that she liked it is probably what made me try it at the time and I'm glad I did however dated and embarrassing! Be encouraged that it was apparently also adored by Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor, some decidedly more classy options if Buffy is not quite yours.

Preheat the oven to 200C, rub 2 small ramekins with butter and sprinkle the sides and bottom with sugar to coat, tapping out the excess.

Separate an egg in preparation for later.

in a small saucepan combine-

2 Tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons cocoa
1 Tablespoon plain flour
1/4 cup milk

Cook carefully over a low heat until mixture boils and is smooth and thickened - this doesn't take long at all!
Remove from heat and stir in a teaspoon of vanilla (I use vanilla bean paste). Set aside

Beat the egg white until foamy and slowly add 2 Tablespoons of sugar until sugar is dissolved and soft peaks form.

Stir egg yolk into chocolate base and then fold the base into the egg whites gently.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins to about 3/4 full.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Important Stepford Secrets I've discovered!

- Get your measurements correct
- Grease and sugar the top rim of the ramekin for better rising
- don't be afraid to check your souffle after 10 mins.

(In my fan forced powerhouse of a gas oven the souffle's were actually ready at 10 mins but I have notes scrawled around the recipe that say at previous homes 15mins was perfect.)

- make sure the centres are still wobbly
- Bake them on a tray for ease of getting in and out of the oven.
- Dust with icing sugar to hide any imperfections.

An added bonus is that it is a very easy one to make dairy-free. Replacing the regular milk with soy seems to make no difference at all (honestly I think it's just a moisture thing and even water would work) and I grease the pots with home brand woolies margarine which has the bonus of being inexpensive as well as dairy free.

I'd love to say that this was a romantic dessert for 2 but the lovely husband was on a night shift so I'm afraid I had to do him a favour and eat his too. But don't think too badly of me, the original recipe is for souffle for one in a 280g ramekin. So technically I only ate a single portion - well that's what I'll continue to tell myself...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Knitted Pink Donut

Well I didn't bake it, or deep fry it for that matter, but it was still made by my hands and knitting seems like an awfully Stepford kind of thing to do.

I'm not generally a successful knitter. I blame it on my poor mathematics and propensity for distraction. Plain and stocking stitch scarves are about all I can muster when I get a bout of knitting fever - usually when it's cold outside. Counting rows and stitches is just too tricky and patterns just go out the window when there is something good on DVD to watch, but this time I was inspired.

The original inspiration came from where they sell Lark Knitted Gifts. I saw the cutest little pink donut on sale and wanted to buy it for my brand new niece but they were out of stock and as they are hand knitted in Bangladesh I didn't think it was likely they'd be back in store anytime soon.

So I gave myself a lecture about building some skills that actually require focus and concentration and had a hunt for a pattern. I found a free one on and decided to have a go. It has a pretty pink icing with embroidery thread sprinkles and a lovely caramel donut colour underneath (in case you can't see it in the picture!)

It was my first go of knitting in the round with double pointed needles and it wasn't too hard, with encouragement from my lovely workmate Kate who said something like "Just keep at it, the first few rows feel like you're wrestling an octopus but persevere and it gets easier". She was right.

This one is for little Zahra, but she'll have to wait until I find a pattern to make a little something for her sister too!

In the meantime the next project is a "hope bear" - this one is for a lovely charity that gives the bears to cancer patients in hospitals all over the place, if you're a knitter and you're keen send me a message and I'll forward on the details to get their patterns. Here is an article about their Coffs Harbour operation but my mum tells me there is a pick up in the Shire too. Trust me the pattern is so simple even I can manage it!! Albeit more slowly that mum who is pumping them out in their dozens!

Have a nice day everyone x S