With both my mum and sister having ‘big’ birthday’s – 65 and 40 respectively, we all headed up to the family cabins on the Hawkesbury River for a weekend celebration. Six adults, four kids, two dogs and a cat. Friday was beautiful, and we only just made it in time for the sunset… always breathtaking as the colours cross the water, so a great start to the weekend. Dinner that night was mum’s special Moroccan styled Lamb and Pumpkin Soup with delicious sourdough breads and Pepe Saya Cultured Butter. Simple, clean, well developed flavours – you can never get her soup recipe though as she adds leftover ingredients to the soup through the week so it turns into something quite different from where it started, but always amazing. Anyway, that was the last of the beautiful weather, well actually, Seb and hubby got up for some early morning fishing. The weather was peaceful, Seb caught the first fish – a bream – everything was lovely, and then it all changed. The sun came up and brought with it the massive winds. The temperature dropped the winds were blowing a gale, and the skies were grey. There were fleeting moments of blue sky and sun (still windy as all hell) and the cousins would go back on the wharf for some more fishing. Continue Reading →
Red Pepper (Capsicum) Sauce… Bella and I both love to head to the bargain corner of the grocers hoping to get a great big stash of vegetables or fruit to make into a sauce, jam or some other condiment that takes our fancy. They are generally still firm and beautiful but get relegated to the back of the store after a week or so and sold off cheaply. Tomatoes, capsicum, passion fruits, leeks, cauliflower etc, it’s the grocery shop forage – you don’t now what you will get, if anything, but it’s the thrill of the hunt in the city.
So after a successful gathering session I came home with 10 big capsicums. I knew that I wanted something zingy and spicy with a big hit of heat, so I started looking through recipes online for the one that was going to be the perfect fit. A Roasted Red Pepper Sauce popped up and I knew straight away that this was the one. It’s from Bobby Flay’s Mesa Cookbook (this one will most definitely be added to my collection) and it’s just a stunning sauce! Bobby Flay apparently describes this sauce the ‘work horse’ of his restaurants, and I can see why as I have now used it to marinade chicken, eaten it as a dip and have basted fish on the BBQ with it!
Tonight I’m making Chicken Quesadilla’s with it… or maybe Mexican pizza’s?
Spinach & Bacon Tart, is there anything more delicious than a savoury tart? They are effortless to make and yet look like time and thought have been put into it. Like framed pictures of edible art.
Any ingredients can go into your tart but this one I have left simple, just two tasty ingredients… bacon (since it’s bacon week here in Australia), and silverbeet (any greens will do – kale, spinach etc) but let your imagination rule, you really can’t go wrong.
Enjoy! Blondie xx
Easy Prawn, Bug & Fish Pie is exactly that. It’s a basic velouté sauce with seafood and herbs topped with a perfectly crispy lid.
On our annual Easter getaway with our families, the Easter Friday Fish BBQ is where our feast begins. Bella and I head to the Sydney Fish markets and get a wheelbarrow load of delicious seafood. With eyes bigger than our stomachs we, without doubt have a great amount of seafood to use and it’s always nice to change it up a bit so you aren’t eating the same dish for 2-3 days… plus we have the massive lamb roast to dinner to do during that week also!
This can really be made with any seafood, it’s especially great to have this recipe on hand to use with leftover seafood. If you feel there isn’t enough seafood to use you can pad it out with vegetables and then you will have a delicious Seafood and Vegetable Pie.
This is a rough guide recipe, so long as you have the velouté sauce you can use as little or as much seafood as your bowl can take.
You want a great fish stock so don’t throw anything in the bin till you have made the stock. You want lots of fish heads and carcasses. It’s important not to over cook a fish stock, which unlike a bone broth where your aim is to extract as much vitamins, mineral and antioxidants and more importantly the amino acids, proline and glycine over days of simmering, a fish stock will go bitter if left more than 40 mins or so. 40 minutes is all that is needed to extract the goodies without losing the flavour.
If you’ve read my other recipes using stocks/broths you will know that I don’t like to over flavour them with lots of herbs and vegetables. Keep this one clean so as to have the fish and the dill as the main flavours.
A stunningly crispy pie top with a delicious seafood medley filling… Blondie :)
I am the type of person that loves to snack during the day be it on cheese sticks, cucumber sticks, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, mums pickles and the list goes on so in my quest to find a new super snack food I came across activated nuts. Uber cool and healthy.
Activated what? Yep, that’s what my hubby said and the work colleagues cracked a few jokes as well.
So what are they and why?
Whilst raw nuts are full of antioxidants, loaded with protein, healthy fats, fiber and minerals, they also contain natural inhibitors that can interfere with the absorption of the good nutrients and put a massive strain on our digestive system if they are not properly prepared.
The nuts are soaked in some filtered and slightly salted water for a lengthy period of time and slowly dehydrated, by doing so you imitate the sprouting process and decrease the levels of anti-nutrients.
Why salted water? The salt helps to activate the enzymes that deactivate the natural inhibitors that will interfere with absorption of the yummy goodness. Only a small amount of salted water is needed,
The activation process is a small labour of love so I would highly recommend that you make these over the weekend. Preparation takes a few minutes but it is the soaking and dehydrating that takes time. If you will be making these on a regular basis I would also recommend investing in a small dehydrator. You can also dry them at very low heat, approx 50-60 °C, but go on, treat yourself and get a dehydrator! The possibilities are endless!
Once activated I had mine with my yoghurt for brekkie, and always kept a small tub of them in my handbag for work.
Go on…get your nuts activating!
Olive Oil and Zucchini Chocolate Mini Cakes are a stunningly moist and slightly spiced chocolate cake that will certainly be enjoyed by all.
The original recipe is from Julie Le Clerc’s gorgeous cookbook, Little Café Cakes.
Needing a treat for the school lunch box lead me to this one but with what I had in the cupboard it turned out a little different. To start with I used Dutch processed cocoa powder, which you aren’t suppose to use with baking soda but since the recipe also asks for baking powder I took my chance. I used 2 large zucchini’s so there was A LOT of zucchini. I threw in dried cranberries and chocolate bits for extra sweetness as it wasn’t very sweet but the end result was surprisingly good. I have written the recipe to what Julie Le Clerc documented – adding the cranberries and chocolate bits… oh and using olive oil rather than canola, just to show you that you can mix up recipes a little and still end up with a great end result.
As I used so much zucchini I ended up with some extra mixture so poured it into a pie tin and made an extra large soft cookie that master M absolutely loved! More so than the actual cakes so I will remember to make more of the giant ‘cookie’ next time.
These are dark, moist and tasty – enjoy! Blondie
Chicken w/ Lap Cheong & Spinach is a deliciously juicy Chinese dish that can adapt to having whatever vegetables you want to use in it.
This is an adaption from a new cookbook I picked up from the library, Sweet Mandarin Cookbook by Helen & Lisa Tse. “Classic and contemporary Chinese recipes with gluten and dairy-free variations.” This is a book I will be adding to my collection, without doubt – so many great recipes and very simple.
I say adaption because I used a whole chicken broken down instead of the skinless chicken breast and English spinach instead of the Chinese cabbage, oh and sherry (which I personally prefer) instead of the Shaoxing rice wine. I didn’t need to thicken the sauce with cornflour but if you choose to use the chicken breast you may want to. Just add 2 tablespoons of cornflour or potato flour to 1 tablespoon of water, mix it well then pour in near the end and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring continually.
So delicious… Blondie
Sweet & Sour Sardines is a dish I served while we were all away over the Easter break for the Friday Fish BBQ.
Before we head off for the holidays, Bella and I go for a massive shop at the Sydney Fish Markets, truly, so much fun! Prawns, oysters (which I now know I have a severe reaction to, but that’s another story) barramundi, sardines, whiting and morton bay bugs… a true feast!
We all head to a beautiful property near Oberon, which is on the other side of the Blue Mountains. The kids have a ball with the zip line and the animals that are there, while Bella and I enjoy a week of cooking and mushroom foraging. The hubbies enjoy eating and golfing…so everyone is catered for.
This is a dish inspired by Feast magazine April 2014, the Venetian recipe of Sarde in Saor. If I were in my own kitchen I would have had all the ingredients but since not, there were a few alterations to the original recipe. I used bay leaves instead of thyme. I didn’t have raisins or white wine vinegar so used Dill Pickle juice and pickles to get the acidity and sweetness.
This recipe sings on the tongue, with each bite a delicious blend of sweet, sour and saltiness.
Enjoy the bounty… Blondie xx
White Chia Seed Banana Bread is a great way of incorporating the healthy goodness of chia seeds into your kids’ lunch boxes. Plus they are so fun to eat as they are little balls of popping seeds that all kids will love.
So in order to get back on track I have made an important decision, that is, I am allowed to be inspired by recipes within the books and magazines, hence this little gem of a recipe.
Vol.2 of Nourish magazine 2014 had a big article on chia seeds with some nice recipes, but I really needed something for the lunch box, which is where I chose to incorporate the seeds into my normal Banana Bread recipe. Voila, a popping banana bread that I know Seb is going to love.
Popping seeds of goodness… Blondie xx
Mushroom Yoghurt Pie w/ Spinach Crust is the recipe attached to the Spinach Pie Crust I posted a little while ago.
This recipe comes direct from one of my most favourite cookbooks, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen. Every page you turn to has a recipe you want to try – 289 pages of delicious vegetarian dishes that i’m slowly getting through. I’ve said it before, this book deserves to be in everyones cookbook collection.
This is a flavoursome pie with a simply stunning pie crust that I know you will make more than once. Every time you walk past a bunch of silverbeet or spinach, this pie base will pop into your head with an endless list of fillings to try it with.
Pork & Prawn Stir Fry w/ Zucchini Noodles & Sweet Potato Sticks is a simple stir fry dish that is flavoursome and textural, relying on great produce to make it a special meal. The only sauce addition is fish sauce and a pinch of sugar, everything else comes from the garden, pasture and ocean – love it!
If you haven’t got your vegetable slicer/noodle maker yet then what are you waiting for? It makes vegetables fun for kids but also opens up a whole new world in cooking. The zucchini noodles really do have a similar texture to normal noodles. They also do spirals, which are fantastic in salads!
Slop it up! Blondie xx
Come on, admit it, these chocolate brownies look good huh! Firm on the outside, rich, dark and gooey on the inside, a devilish treat if you ask me.
Did I slave over the oven with these? Definitely not.
A few weeks ago Imogen was in her ‘mum let’s bake some cup cakes mood’. This goes something like this…we head out to the shops, buy the packet mix and additional ingredients, get home and prepare everything and she suddenly disappears but some how reappears again when it is time to lick the spoon!
Having baked the same old velvet cup cakes over and over again I jumped at the opportunity to try something totally new. You won’t believe this but I have never made chocolate brownies before! Yup…never! I know…deprived childhood huh.
It was a Sunday, I was not the least bit interested in baking anything but Imogen found this mix at Thomas Dux…
The packet came with choc chips and all that I needed to add was 2 eggs and some melted butter, too easy!
I’m no expert at making chocolate brownies but these were pretty good! For $4.99, I highly recommend keeping a packet in your pantry for the ‘just in case’.
Crispy Thai Chicken Nuggets are so amazingly moreish you could quite possibly fall into a food coma if you made enough of them – hubby almost did!
With the last of my thai paste sitting idle in the freezer - there wasn’t quite enough left to make a family pot of thai curry, the next dream recipe that popped into my mind was deep fried chicken nuggets, and what an amazing lightbulb of a meal idea it was! These nuggets are so moist, so tender, full of amazing flavours and with the indulgent use of deep frying, deliciously naughty as well.
Balance out the meal with some steamed vegetables such as garlic beans and a stir fried zucchini noodle dish and you won’t feel so bad indulging in these bite size morsels of flavoursome chicken nuggets.
Tip: Don’t be tempted to make this dish a little ‘healthier’ by using chicken breast, as you need the fuller flavour of the chicken thighs as well as the moist meat that the thigh fillets have to successfully make these nuggets.
Make, indulge and enjoy… Blondie
This is insanely good Roti Canai using my ‘Best Ever Pizza Dough’ recipe – That’s right, pizza dough for roti!
I knew this dough was good but I am truly surprised at how adaptable it really is. I generally have a portion of this dough in the fridge at any given moment – Seb loves a pizza, but it was only when I went to use it after it had been there for a few days that I realised just how supple it had become…
While the FinSki gal’s were taking a short break with the families in Kangaroo Valley, I chose to try my hand at roti. The dough was amazingly supple and had an incredible stretch but the end result wasn’t too great. But I will never forget the feel and texture of that dough.
When I came across this similar texture in the pizza dough my first thought was the roti dough, which is why we are now here!
What makes this just so amazing is that you have a dough that has so many uses. You don’t feel like you are making an effort for a dish that you will only make once or twice, you will be able to make it whenever you want knowing that some of it can go to making pizza bases or flat bread.
I made two styles of this, one is the circular one and the other is a rectangular one. The rectangular shaped one can also have a filling of your choice,
Roti is alot of fun to make and if you are so inclined you could use the proper technique of flipping – that will be my next challenge!
Bolognese w/ Beef Liver is a fantastic way to get liver into your diet. If you haven’t had it since you were a kid then now’s the time to try it again!
With two beef livers taking up valuable real estate in my freezer I needed some recipes. My most favourite recipe for liver is the one I had at La Grande Bouffe, which is Sauteed Calves Liver w/ Pomme Puree, Balsamic Jus and Caramelised Onion … Just soooo GOOD!
Then there is the ever so popular Liver with Caramelised Onions and Bacon. Looking for inspiration online didn’t really result in anything fantastic so here is my bolognese with the addition of finely chopped liver. Surprisingly I didn’t find one recipe that uses beef liver in bolognese, they all used chicken liver… it would certainly be a milder flavour, but I feel it can handle the more robust flavour of beef liver.
Again, if it’s been forever since you’ve had liver then give this one a go. Start with just 250g of liver and build yourself up, You’ll love it!
Have you got your mother’s day gift and day sorted yet? Better hurry! It’s mother’s day this Sunday 11th May.
I love mother’s day, not because of the gifts (they do help tho…wink…wink…nudge…nudge hubby if you are reading this!) but because I love seeing my daughter’s face the night before when she schemes up complicated breakfasts for my husband and her to cook in the morning. I generally wake up to clatter and bang noises in the kitchen and then have an amazing breakfast waiting for me down stairs. Post breakfast there is no time to rest though because it’s time to get cooking for the family mother’s day lunch which has been hosted at our place for the last few years.
Mum always brings dessert however two years ago I surprised her with this fantastic dessert – a chocolate sachertort.
I attempted my first sachertort about 3 years ago when my husbands mum, Heather bought me a baking book. It’s fair to say that I don’t particularly have a sweet tooth but this recipe is divine!
I am proud to say that I can now make it with my eyes closed; well almost!
It’s the perfect after dinner dessert, rich, gooey and yummy!
PS…HAPPY ‘late’ MOTHERS DAY to all the mums!
Spinach Pie Crust – Vegetable Pie Crust is a fantastic recipe for when you want to mix it up a little.
This is an adaptation from one of my most favourite cookbooks, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen. I haven’t strayed too far away from the original but I HIGHLY recommend getting a copy of this book if you want more stunningly beautiful and simple recipes.
I will be making the mushroom and yoghurt pie from this book using this pie base, as suggested, but through pot luck I had about 1/2 cup of mixture left over so decided to make some savoury biscuits… Stunning! and a great addition to cheese board or Charcuterie platter.
Enjoy the greenery… Blondie
Coq Au Vin aka Chicken in Wine Casserole… This is a classic french dish that is so full of flavour and character, and although it may appear to have lots of steps they kind of all fall onto each other so the actual process is really quite fast and uncomplicated.
It requires a 12 hour marinating time to fully marry the flavours with the chicken but if you were really pressed for time I’m sure you could get away with just a couple.
If it’s been a while since you have enjoyed this beautiful casserole then maybe it’s time to bring it back!
I am not afraid of letting the world know that I would love to go on one of those cooking shows and wow the judging panel with the national dish of Poland! What frightens the heck out of me is presenting this dish on a plate!I can see the comments now…”Bella you have created a warm and hearty stew, full of flavour and intensity, however what has really let you down is your presentation”.
The Italian’s have Pasta, the English have Fish & Chips (as I have just recently learned from Blondie!) the Hungarian’s have Goulash and the Poles have, Hunter’s Stew a.k.a Bigos.
Let’s face it, this isn’t the most appealing dish to photograph. I have countless hours this week surfing the net for presentation ideas to ensure that it does not look like slop on a plate, however where presentation fails somewhat, taste sensation sets in! And let me tell you that this dish will warm the heart on a cold winter’s day!
Bigos has been eaten by the Poles for many centuries, it is approximately 700 years old. When speaking to dad about its meaning he said the word bigos signified a combination or mixture of ingredients similar to a mess… success! I have created a mess.
As a child I have fond memories of family gatherings where bigos was one of the feature dishes. I would eagerly await for my bowl and dip mum’s rye bread into the rich and flavoursome sauce.
Whilst there are basic components like sauerkraut, onion, mushrooms and meat, there is no right way of making bigos and you will see that it varies from family to family. My mum’s bigos has evolved over the last 30 years from adding tomato paste to not adding it, from making it a runny stew to making it a dry stew and the changes go on.
When I got mum’s new recipe I thought to myself…I will just make enough for the blog / photos… mission impossible! The dish is best made to a large consistency, after all it taste so much better with time. Yes you can eat it within 3 hours of cooking it however the taste develops as it stands. I would normally give it 1-2 days, although it never lasts that long!
My tips for making this dish:
1) use good quality sauerkraut and to me nothing beats Krakus Sauerkraut! I tried making my own a few months back – failed miserably but that is a story for another day!
2) don’t over liquid the cooking process. Remember that this is a dry stew so its not meant to be covered in water.
3) best eaten on the 2nd day!
4) eat it over rye or sourdough bread with a bottle of Zywiec!
Low & Slow Beef Ribs - Picture this… Thick pieces of beef cooked slowly and oh so low till it can no longer hold firm to it’s supporting centre, finally, succumbing to the heat and relinquishing it’s grip, falling languishingly off the bone…
Anyway, back to business. This weekend in Sydney is going to be cold and a bit rainy, finally! And of course I don’t have any warm jackets. I left my favourite one in New Zealand late last year, which I will be picking up later this year, and then left my new replacement one in Canberra a couple of weekends ago. Not impressed!
After hankering for something slow and luxurious for this weekends cold snap I decided to go with one of my most favourite cuts, and that is ribs. The beef ones especially as they have a good amount of meat surrounding the bone and just fall apart when eaten.
This weekend will be spent cooking and it only just occurred to me that although there really isn’t that much difference between an oven and a slow cooker, the number one biggest benefit for me is that the slow cooker frees up the oven. With my beef ribs slowly cooking in the cooker on my bench top, I will be able to have several different dishes going in and out of the oven throughout the day. Not at all possible if my ribs were occupying it for 7 hours or so.
This dish is best served the next day as quite a lot of fat comes out of the meat. The best way to get rid of it is to let the fat harden in the fridge and then just skim it off with a knife in one big chunk – that being said, it’s impossible not to eat it on the day it’s cooked after having the smell wafting through the house all day!
Happiness is a cold weekend… Blondie :)