I finally prepared some garlic infused oil to dabble with. I have used a light olive oil instead of anything too fruity and strong. I plan to use the oil for salad dressings, marinating and bruschetta. I used an empty wine bottle. As I use the oil I will top it up. It is a quite an unusal dessert wine bottle and I will post a picture of it next.
Saturday night we were invited to our friend's J and C to see their new innercity home. We decided it would be sans children and had P's mother mind the children overnight - that's two Saturday evenings in a row we have come home to an empty house. We have been really enjoying it!
They prepared a dinner so lovely that we had to replicate the main course on Sunday to thank P's mother for minding the kiddies.
J uses the same cookbook that I have been for years, Mirrabella Food (Eating simply, eating well) by Guy Mirrabella. This time he prepared some very simply barbecued fish fillets, with a salsa verde and simple potato, onion and tomato bake.
Unfortunately he made an error with the fish - althought it was very tough, it was still very tasty I still managed to eat it all:) The recipe called for whole King George Whiting and he used Sweet Lip instead.
I was talking to my fish guy today and he said that it was probably not the best grade of fish and something that was being passed off as Sweet Lip. I ended up buying some whiting fillets and a piece of dory which my fish guy said that I should give a go. They were perfect, nice and tender.
J also prepared a rather complicated dessert which involved caramelised banana. I am not a huge fan of bananas in desserts, however this particular concocotion was an exception. He served the caramelised banana atop of ricotta mixed with lemon zest on a circle of puff pastry that had been baked earlier. There was also a citrus syrup and vanilla icecream on the side. Although we thought we were too full after the first two courses and the cheese we ate with our cocktails, we managed to fit it all in.
P and I both thought our mistake was that we gorged on the cheese J offered first up. A cheshire with a thread of blue, and a Organic Timboon soft cheese coated in pepper. They then served a pumpkin soup with delicious bread. So quite heavy to start really and we should have eaten less of the cheese, but all delicious and we couldn't help ourselves none the less.
Back to the menu we created for tonight. We decided to start with char-grilled vegetables and sour dough. I made a feta, garlic, ricotta, mint and lemon oil mixture that was stuffed into two yellow peppers and generously spread on the toast. Later I prepared the toast with different combinations, of the vegetables/ricotta mix/parmesan/basil.
We prepared the same main course but this time with whiting and dory. And for dessert I used my most useful reference another person's recipe - tried and true Nectarine Tart. I decided I had to use my blue cast iron skillet again and made a sweet short crust pastry and then added the custard and nectarines it could not have been any easier.
I thought I would share the recipe I use for the sweet short crust pastry as it is really so simple. It is time consuming mainly because of all the resting and blind baking. But I was doing lots of other things in between so it wasn't really too much of a hassle.
Sweet short crust pastry
2 cups of plain (all-purpose) flour 3/4 cup of icing sugar 175 grams of unsalted butter 2 egg yolks 1 - 2 tablespoon of ice cold water.
In a blender add chopped butter, egg yolks and dry ingredients. Begin to blend and add the water a bit at a time until the pastry begins to form on the blade. When the pastry has almost come together, remove from the bowl and knead lightly (do not over work) for 2 minutes and then wrap in plastic and leave in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Remove roll out pastry. I usually roll it out onto baking paper and then slide into the pan. Then I use the same baking paper for the blind baking. Bake the shell for 20 minutes at 180 degrees, then remove the rice and baking paper from the tin/skillet. Then brush with an egg yolk and bake for 10 minutes more.
Unfortunately my fan-force oven is a little strong and my crust got a little too dark, better luck next weekend when we prepare dinner for P's cousin and his wife and another couple who are mutual friends of P and his cousin - more dinner preparation decisions but at least I know what to do for dessert!
The rest of the tart recipe was exactly as explained via The Red Kitchen above.
Every Wednesday is turning into our pizza night. This is due to Wednesday evening turning into a mad rush whereby we have to pick up both the children return home before getting Elliot to soccer training by 6pm. By the time P and Elliot return it is 7.30pm so a dinner that doesn't involve lingering at the dinner table is best because it is a long, long day for Elzaman.
We make the pizzas on some bought bases and use the Bazzar brand wholemeal bases or wholemeal lebanese bread for a healthier option than take-away pizza. My sister introduced me to the joys of grilled vegetables on pizzas with walnut and basil pesto too - zucchini, sweet potato, pumpkin, eggplant, mozzarella lovely.
However Wednesday night is a standard night, some pepperoni, olives, and anything else that might be chilling in the fridge, red onion, pesto, anchovies, ham, bacon, semi dried tomato it may end up on our Wednesday night standard pizza.
The tomato base is just Dolmios or Raguletto. Sometimes we need some easy standards this happens to be one of them.
I don't think we have made this pasta for several months and Elliot began demanding its return about a week ago. I first tried this meal in Toronto many years ago and loved it so much it replaced spaghetti bolognaise as one of our staple meals. I tend to find with bolognaise that the meal itself is actually quite dry despite there being a sauce. With meatballs however, the meat itself is moist and combined with the luscious sauce means that I have no concerns for a dry pasta dish.
The night we prepared this meal, we used a different meat to the ones we usually use. We prefer to use veal and pork mince however we prepared this one with beef, it was a pleasant change.
Our meatballs are very simply prepared, finely chopped italian parsley, a couple of cloves of finely crushed garlic, the finely grated rind of one lemon, some grated Parmesan, two slices of bread (which have been dampened with water and squeezed) one egg, salt and pepper, all mixed together and left in the fridge for several hours. Later, roll the meatball mixture into balls and saute in a frying pan till browned all over. It is not necessary to cook throughout as the meatballs can be finished in the tomato sauce.
For the sauce, finely dice one and a half brown onions and saute with 2 finely crushed pieces of garlic and finely diced 3 cm piece of ginger add one tin of tomatoes and one tin of tomato puree. Add some dried basil, thyme and rosemary and some freshly cracked pepper and salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar and a splash of red wine. Simmer gently for 20 minutes and then add the meatballs.
Serve meatballs with fettucine or spaghetti and freshly grated Parmesan.
Paul's favourite pasta dish: prosciutto, parsnip and parmesan
P can never go past a parsnip without wanting to make this pasta. Its a Jamie Oliver special really, the basis of the sauce is the prosciutto, finely sliced parsnip, lots of butter and handfuls of parmesan with some fresh linguine or fettucine. For some extra naughtiness we sometimes add a dash of cream.
We decided on bruschetta for starters, Peking Duck salad for entree, rack of lamb with a walnut and rosemary pesto served on potato rostis and broadbeans for main and the chocolate, pear and almond souffle for dessert.
Sorry no photographs, it was so much work getting it together and to the table in one hit there was just no time for one of us to stop for photographs.
We served the bruschetta with smoked trout on a coriander pesto and thinly sliced fillet of lamb on tapenade. Both were divine and very simply to prepare. I bought the ciabatta, pesto, tapenade and smoked trout from the Farmers' Markets that morning. We usually take a lamb back strap or lamb fillet and coat it in pepper and olive oil sear on a grill till it is left just pink inside.
I prepared the ciabatta traditionally (although not browned over an open flame) however I did slightly brown the slices of ciabatta under the grill and rub the toast with fresh garlic and brush olive oil over them before placing the toppings on.
The entree was extremely easy to prepare we bought one and a half ducks from China town and made sure they were not chopped up and removed the flesh in nice chunks. The salad consisted of chinese cabbage, shallots, Vietnamese mint, mint, coriander, bean sprouts, red chilli and toasted cashews and sesame seeds and fried Asian onions. We made a dressing with soy sauce, hoi sin sauce and honey. The duck was grilled just prior to serving on the salad.
Oh I forgot we didn't waste the bones of the duck, we put them in my big Le Crueset Dutch oven and covered them with water and simmered them for a couple of hours then strained off the stock. We served the stock as a consume in small espresso cups between entree and main. It was beautiful, the consume had hints of star of anise and a warm follow up contrast to the salad. With the left over stock I have frozen it and hope to make a Laksa in the next week or so.
This was a fantastic entree all the preparation done early and no cooking as such. If it were winter we may have made fresh pasta but I liked that it was so simple to throw together and still had great visual impact and duck, what can I say - who can resist duck, well P's bosses wife that's who dammit. She has the appetite of a flea so I am not surprised she didn't eat entree, half the main (of which she was already given less than the others) and less than a third of the dessert - Cest la vie.
I was so enamored of this salad I have made it a few more times since using thai fish cakes instead of duck.
For main, P finally settled on rack of lamb which he simply prepared for roasting, just some olive oil and salt and ground pepper. He made a rosemary and walnut pesto which he later coated the cooked racks with and they were served on sauteed broadbeans with dill. Loved the broadbeans would definitely do those vegetables again despite having to peel nearly 400 broadbeans in one afternoon. Dill was a lovely enhancement after sauteeing finely diced shallots and garlic then adding the broadbeans. P cooked the rostis as well, dill again, grated potato, egg and parmesan and shaped in egg rings then cooked in a frypan with some olive oil. P also prepared a red wine jus which I thought the dish needed for some additional complexity.
P got a little stressed during the serving of this dish. I think it's not uncommon to get a little stressed around this time, I have witnessed it in many commercial kitchens and when your endeavouring to give your best then that's what happens a little stress escapes in the pursuit of excellence. I told P later what happens during service stays in service.
Main was enjoyed by all, we had to account for one guest having their lamb very well done and everyone else having it rare, P cooked it according to our tastes.
Lately he has been disappointed with the outcome of his dishes, but I think that disappointment comes from the amount of preparation and time he has devoted to the task and his expectations being greater than they should have been. I thoroughly enjoyed the main course. I was let down a little by my dessert, not because of the way it turned out but that I wish I could have chosen another recipe version. P had already told them what they were having for dessert so I didn't feel as though I could change the recipe. I wanted to make a lighter chocolate souffle something without flour if possible.
A fairly successful night our guests said they enjoyed themselves, I know we put the effort in so it must have been okay!