Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Potato Gratin Boulanger

Along with a roast lamb and french style peas, I decided to make some sort of potatoes for dinner, but wasn't sure what! I looked in Stephane Reynauds book Roti, which is a book on roasting different cuts of meat and fish, with recipes for every day. There are also lots of accompaniments, and these potatoes are one of them!

They're really simple and a healthier alternative to a creamy potato bake! You really need to use homemade stock for this recipe, however I did use supermarket brand liquid stock, and it was really nice, however it would be SO much nicer with proper, high quality stock. 

Gratin de Pommes de Terre Boulanger (Potato Gratin Boulanger)

1.5kg potatoes, sliced thinly into rounds
6 onions, sliced thinly
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1L vegetable stock
Bay leaves

1) Preheat oven to 180C.

2) Butter a flameproof roasting tin, and start to layer the potatoes until the bottom is covered, then add some slices of onion and garlic, a bay leaf and some thyme sprigs. Repeat this until you fill the container to the top. Season between each layer - just be careful of the salt content if you're using a packaged stock.

3) Cover the potatoes with 1L of vegetable stock and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Pour over any meat roasting juices just before serving.

The potatoes were soft but held their shape and the stock gave a tasty broth, and added something extra to the tatties!

A potato dish doesn't get much easier than this. If you're cooking for a crowd this is really simple to scale up, especially if you have a slicer attachment of a mix master! Once we'd finished dinner, we had leftovers so I poured the excess stock into french peas to make a soup, and have used the rest of the potatoes to make a shepherds pie with the leftover meat! This is every day food, an easy family dish or low maintenance after work accompaniment to your meal - I'll be making this again for sure!

Petit Pois a la Francaise - Stèphane Reynaud

I made a bit of a feast tonight, and made a couple of recipes from Stèphane Reynauds book, Roti, which is a book all about roasting different cuts of meat and fish and different accompaniments - Roti is French for roast after all!

I ended up choosing 3 dishes to cook from it, all simple. This recipe for french style peas is a winner, and SO easy! Any leftovers can easily be made into soup - which I've done, and can confirm that it's totally delicious! Its such an easy accompaniment to a roast and a different way of serving peas, and very boy friendly - it has bacon. S told me they were the best peas he's ever had, "still peas....... but the best ones". Thats good enough for me.

Petit Pois à la Francaise (French Style Peas)

2kg fresh peas
200g piece of smoked streaky bacon, chopped
Heart of 1 lettuce, chopped
6 spring onions, chopped
1 bouquet garni
50g butter
Olive oil

1) Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy based pan, and add the onion and bacon and saute over a medium heat.
2) Add 2kg of peas, lettuce, 1 bouquet garni and 200ml of water.
3) Cover and cook over a low heat for 15minutes, stirring regularly.
4) Add butter to the thicken the juices, and season with salt and pepper

I did pretty much as the recipe called for, however I used 2 fresh bay leaves instead of a whole bouquet garni, and added a small amount of stock to the water. I halved the recipe and we had enough for 2 of us, with leftovers.

Its really important that you use smoked bacon for this recipe - it adds a depth of flavour that you wont get with regular supermarket bacon. The leftovers make a fantastic pea and smoked bacon soup - I added some of the crispy potatoes from the other dish I made, to thicken it up a bit and another layer of flavour. I cant wait to eat it with some good bread and butter! This is easy to scale up or down so its perfect for feeding a crowd and WAY more interesting than plain old peas!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Griddled lamb with chunky tomato salsa - Jamie Oliver

I rode 12km on my bike today. To those who bike all the time, I know thats not actually very much, especially on flat bike paths around a lake. But still, in 2011 I have massively overindulged and not exercised nearly enough so now is the time that I've decided to get in shape (even though round IS a shape...).

So, 12km later I get home, knackered with sore legs. Have a choice between dishes and cooking dinner - the choice is obvious. Cook! I had thumbed through Jamie Olivers Ministry of Food earlier in the day and found a super easy recipe for lamb with salsa, it looked great, we had everything the recipe required and it was fast. Its also low carb, low fat (depending on the cut of lamb you use - we used lean steaks) and you'll definitely get a chunk of your 5 a day! An everyday meal that will take you less than 30 minutes from chopping board to plate!

Griddled Lamb Chops with Chunky Salsa

1/2 - 1 whole chilli (to taste)
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 red pepper
a bunch of fresh basil (DONT skip this, it gives SO much flavour)
4-6 lamb chops (depending on size, we had 6 small steaks)
olive oil
sea salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
splash of red wine vinegar (I used white, ran out of red!)

1) Heat your griddle pan on high and let it get screaming hot. Meanwhile halve your chilli (deseed it if you like), chop tomatoes in half, deseed and chop the peppers, tear/chop the basil, and season your meat.

2) If you have fat on the edges of your cuts of lamb then put that side on the pan first to crisp it up (you'll have to hold it there) for about a minute, then lay the chops down, and press them down for a minute till brown and crispy. Cook the chops for 4-5 minutes in total, turning them every minute or so and pressing them each time. 

3) Take the chops out and rest them on a plate. Turn the heat down a bit, and add the veges to the pan, and stir them for a minute, making sure you get all the brown caramelised goodness from the pan. Cook the veges until they soften and release some of their juices, and add in a splash of red wine vinegar (I used white wine vinegar because thats all I had in the house) and cook the salsa down until it's to a consistency that you like, and add the basil.

4) Pour the juices from the rested meat into the pan with the salsa, and stir to combine. Pour the salsa onto a plate and top with the lamb.

I crumbled some fetta onto my lamb and it was amazing - this is definitely going to be a regular meal at our place from now on. Its SO fast, really healthy, low fat, low carb, the lot! Proper everyday food! We had it with some leftover salad from last night and a couple of boiled potatoes, to soak up the rest of the sauce.

To make this even faster, I used garlic oil, and chilli oil. Super fast. Its not much to look at really, but the flavour is fantastic!

MAKE THIS! It's so tasty, fast, simple, healthy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mrs S - Maylands

A hot sunday morning, the day after a 12km ride around the Swan River seemed a great time to go out for breakfast. I'd been meaning to head over to Mrs S in Maylands for a long time but have just never gotten around to it... Today we remedied that! I went with S, and Carolanne (of Carolannes Kitchen) and her fella, Mr T.

We were well aware that we may have to wait for a table, as is apparently commonplace at Mrs S, but we were happy that our wait wasn't long, about 10 minutes max. The guy who looked after us was really friendly and nothing was too much trouble, though I found the service a bit slow - it was pretty busy though! We ended up with a table outside, which I thought was going to be too hot, but there was a really nice cross breeze and it was perfectly pleasant! The table was a bit wonky but the little bottles with a single flower were a cute touch.

We arrived just between the lunch and breakfast changeover - so we missed out on their scrummy breakfast options, but were there in time for their lunch menu, which was fine, it was 11:45 after all! We were bought out glasses with ice and a bottle of water which we went through really fast, I think in total we drank 3 bottles between the 4 of us, and each time the water was replaced quickly.

We got the menus, which are Little Golden Books from everyones childhood, with the menu pegged onto the pages. A cute idea, and a good one since where we were sat it was quite breezy, the pegs did their job! 

I was tossing up between the peach, hazelnut and ricotta salad, and the watermelon and halloumi salad. In the end, I went with the watermelon, looking forward to the crisp and refreshing watermelon paired with the salty halloumi. S, predictably ordered the manwich, a pulled pork and beetroot relish roll with pickled cucumber and rocket. I toyed with the idea of getting this, but thought that it might be a bit much, I wasnt THAT hungry and Im trying to eat a more appropriate amount of carbs for my activity levels, and a big roll wasn't going to get worked off on this scorching Perth sunday! CA ordered the Croque Madame, and Mr T got the Manwich too (its an obvious choice for the blokes!) - read on for more about their choices later!

Our flat whites came out first, and we all agreed, it was great coffee. Like I often say in this blog, coffees are sometimes not noticeable to me, I drink them and I don't think anything of it, its not great, its not bad, I just drink it without thinking about it. This coffee however, warranted all of us at some stage to say how good we found it. It was creamy and rich, and I got a hint of chocolate in there. Easy to drink and a good temp for such a hot day! All of us agreed we could have had another one (though we didnt!). Its worth mentioning as well, that everyone else had better latte art than me! Mine was the least impressive heart on the table! I thought mine looked more like a bum than a heart. S complained that he didn't get a car on his, rather than the feminine heart.

Our food came out about 10 minutes after our coffees were finished, and I was eager to dive into my salad! It was a good sized portion with about 4 or 5 good slices of grilled halloumi. There was loads of watermelon, which was sweet, and had that soft, crisp, freshness that you can only understand when you bite into it. The halloumi was unlike any I've had before, and was leaning strongly toward the goat cheese flavoured side of the spectrum. This wasn't ideal for me as I don't like goats cheese, however it was mild enough that I could still happily eat it. It was combined with sunflower seeds and rocket, the dressing was mild and complimented the elements really well - it wasn't overpowering at all, there wasnt too much of it to make the salad limp, even in the heat of being outside. It was a very well thought out salad in terms of flavour and construction! Afterwards I felt satisfied but not weighed down, it was a perfect summer salad and I'm looking forward to trying the others!

The Manwich came out about 5 minutes after Carolanne and I had gotten our meals (and we were waiting very patiently indeed!), and the boys wasted no time tucking in. I managed to sample some of it, and it was pretty tasty - though I thought that the pork was a little dry, it could have been amazing with a generous slather of aioli or a saucier relish. I love beetroot, but found the relish was a bit subtle for my tastes. I would have loved it to be punchier, have more tang, more of a pickled flavour to work against the rich pork, but it was very mellow. The bread was great though, it had a beautiful crust and gave a very satisfying crunch when you bit into it.

Heres what Carolanne had to say about her and Mr T's dishes...

A trip to Mrs. S Café had been on the cards for quite a while since it opened back in November.  At a cake date with Jacqui last week, we both expressed our need to eat in Mrs. S and so we set up a double date breakfast.  We arrived just in time for the lunch menu to begin at 12pm.  

After only a 5 minute wait, we were seated outside on a perfect summer afternoon. Under the shade of Mrs. S’ awning it was a lunch I was very much looking forward to.  Mrs. S have a cutesy menu pegged into children’s Fairy Tale stories, mine was Snow White J The first thing that screamed out to me on the menu was ‘The Manwich’, a combination of pulled pork, beetroot pickle, cucumber slivers, rocket and mayo on a ciabatta roll.  ‘The Manwich’ was described by its muncher as a hearty meal consisting of a variety of contrasting but well matched flavours. Saying that, the pulled pork was a little dry and the beetroot could have been a tiny bit stronger. I opted for the Ooh la la ‘Croque Madame’, and for what is basically a cheese and ham toasty, it was quite lush. Paired with a fried egg, chives and tomato relish, it was no average toasty. The Çroque Madame’ is a bit heavier than a salad and not as filling as a Manwich.  Perfect for lunching on and paired with a flat white with an adorable heart shaped design.  Quite a moreish  coffee too, if only they were a little bigger.  In the future, however, I will definitely opt for one of their salads after ogling Jacqui’s Watermelon and Halloumi Salad with envious eyes.  Their menu has some irresistible sounding summer salads that would tickle anybody’s taste buds: Peach, Hazelnut and Ricotta Salad and Chickpea, apple and Pancetta Salad. I was informed that they had some supreme looking cakes inside, but on this occasion I had to resist taking a look for the risk of ordering one! Maybe next time to go with my salad ;)

The service in Mrs. S Café is really good. The wait staff were quirky, attentive and made sure we were all having a good meal. If you haven’t been to Mrs. S Café, put it in your diary!

I would love to come back to Mrs S and try more of their salads, and especially to get stuck into their breakfast menu! They had a delicious range of cakes to choose from at the counter, as well as fresh juices and great coffee. Next time, I'd like to get a table inside as it looks like a friendly, communal atmosphere, certainly different from being outside! If you haven't already tried Mrs S, then I think you should, it has an interesting menu, small range of dishes - but, I think, mostly well done. Just be prepared to wait for a table - its worth it though.

Mrs. S on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Paying with sausage rolls...

I really should be making lasagne rather than writing here. My cousin gave my bf and I Kings of Leon tickets because they couldn't use them, and as payment, she's requested lasagne instead of money. This suits me fine - I find handing over money really impersonal and a bit cold. If I'm at the supermarket or in a shop I obviously don't think twice, but I hate handing over money, or getting money from friends and family. I mean, it's an obvious trade most of the time, and most of the time money is just what people want when you take concert tickets or something, but I just feel awkward taking or giving money. I probably feel less awkward about GETTING money to be honest :P I often brush off the cost of things, if we go out for lunch or someone owes me a small amount of money, Im very likely to tell them not to worry about it, it'll even out next time. This does open me up for getting a bit taken advantage of, however I'd like to think that my friends don't do that. For some of them, I may have forgotten to pay them back for something in the past, so like I said, it all evens out in the end...

I realised that a lot of my transactions between family and friends are done in food. Well, they usually ask me for it. My cousin has requested lasagne, both meat and spinach/ricotta, as well as butter chicken curry, after a failed attempt to get some at lunch! 

No worries - Id much prefer to hand over food than cash. It costs less than the ticket, which suits me because I'm pretty broke at the moment. But I know it saves her time as she works alot, and what value does that have? It makes up for the deficit in monetary value anyway. Im time rich and cash poor, so this is a system that works for me. She bought it to my attention that this is how a lot of transactions with my family go.

Dad has just told my sister that if she makes him a bunch of sausage rolls, he'll do us a massive favour that we've been asking for. It's a bargain deal - Ill throw in some homemade rocky road (which he LOVES) to sweeten him up. It's all he needs, is sausage rolls and rocky road and he'll do anything. But its only family... Cos to be honest, our sausage rolls are the best, and I make a wicked rocky road - NO copha or dessicated coconut in sight!

Speaking of sausage rolls and rocky road, thats pretty much all Dad gets from us each time gift giving is required, such as birthday, Christmas and Fathers day. Same thing every year, he's horrible to shop for, but very easy to cook for! With Christmas just gone, there were some homemade gifts that were given out rather than the usual generic crap that gets thrown out - they're a little bit more personal, and if you're smart about it, they're also cheaper.

Is it just me or do other people keep the barter system alive this way? Whats your currency??

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Eating alone

This Christmas, ALL the gifts were food or wine related, and I got quite a few books! One of them was a book called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, a collection of essays edited by Jenni Ferrari-Alder. Its got the sub heading, "confessions of cooking for one and dining alone". My boyfriend gave it to me. I asked him what what this meant to mean? Why are you giving me a book about eating alone? What are you trying to say?! He just looked at me and said he thought Id like it. Well I started reading it and Im loving it. Still not finished yet, but really enjoying it.

Its reminded me of the pleasures of eating alone, and comforted me in that when I am alone, Im not alone. Its made me look back on the times I was alone and remember them fondly, its not a horrible thing to be alone. I say that now, living with my boyfriend. But at times I loved the fact that I would go home and not have to impress anyone, talk to anyone, dress in any way (or at all if I felt like it!), and I could eat what I wanted and watch what I wanted on the tele. Its a time to be totally selfish and figure out who you are and what you like.

Ive lived alone quite a few times, as well as living in share houses, at boarding school and now with my lovely bf. When I think of the idea of living alone, I think back to the time when I lived in a country town not far from Perth for my first teaching job. I had a 3x1 house to myself with a huge jungle of a backyard. The backyard stayed a complete jungle as well, it was too much for me to maintain on my own, and this particular area had tiger snakes so there was no way I was going to be running about in the knee length weeds and grass trying to clean it up. It was that way when I got to the house and so that was how I was going to leave it. I'd spend all day trying to get kids who hated science, to not burn place down and be at least a little bit responsible in the classroom. Sometimes I was dying to get home to my little cave, cook myself something nourishing and turn the tele on. 

One night friday night I was stoked with the fact that I had a couple of magazines, a bottle of wine, a pot of cassoulet bubbling on the stove and no work the next day. I ate a steaming bowlful with potatoes, drank the whole bottle of red wine on the couch, read foodie mags and Julia Child, then watched a documentary. It was one of the best casseroles Id ever made and I remember being stoked about having it all to myself. 

It was here that I discovered the joys of greek yoghurt with honey, cassoulet, and the wide range of uses for frozen fruit. Fresh fruit didnt always get eaten, and I could only shop once a week really. The local IGA was really expensive and the food wasn't that fresh... I used to drive about 45 minutes to the northern suburbs of Perth to a pretty great place called Drovers, which had a fruit and veg shop, a fishmonger and a butcher. The meat area was pretty big and you could get almost anything. The fruit and veg shop played awesome music, and I often saw the staff dancing when they put the fruit on the shelves, which I loved. They had little bowls where you could sample the fruits, they had 5 or 6 different kinds of apples. They were very seasonal, and I loved shopping there. I discovered persimmon, which I sliced up and covered it in greek yoghurt, honey, and chopped almonds, cranberries and white chocolate. It was a simple pleasure and when I first ate it I was all on my own in the house with no one to share my discovery with. 

I used to make all kinds of things for myself, and I mostly tried to be somewhat healthy. I always cooked too much. Ive never been good at cooking for one, and now, Im no good at cooking for two. I was never wasteful though, and always froze whatever I had leftover to take to school. A frozen iceblock of soup, casserole or pasta defrosting on the windowsill next to my desk (which was never defrosted by lunchtime). I often went into the staff room to eat and people would regularly look over at me with a "ooo what have you got there?". One day it was slow roasted lamb shanks with hummus, pomegranite and a pita bread, which got a mix of raised eyebrows due to being impressed but also some who were confused. Some days it was soup - when I bought pea and ham in, I was told by an older colleague who was a known smartarse that she was the pea and ham soup queen. That was fine by me, if I were to choose to be the queen of anything, it wouldn't be that. The food that I cooked for myself at night, came with me to school the next day and quite often generated some conversation around the table.

I wasnt going gourmet every night.  There were plenty of nights I couldnt be arsed. The local Gull did pizzas, I went the full trash and got half hawaiian, half meatlovers or bbq chicken. Their garlic bread was the frozen stuff in the foil bag. I didnt care, I didnt have to cook. I also discovered additive free vegetarian indian meals that came in a little foil bag that you heated in hot water and I had them with rice. Trashbag central. I'd never serve that to anyone else, but for just me, alone, it fed me.

I'd be interested to know what everyone else ate when they were alone. Some say toast and beans or frozen pizzas, others make steak and asparagus and present it nicely for themselves. Why do you prepare the meals you do for yourself? 

What about dining out? Will you dine alone? What do you do while you're there? Do you avoid looking like you're on you're own, or chat up the staff? How do you find the service when you're on your own?

Ill write another post soon on dining alone - thats a whole different kettle of fish and I have dined alone many times when I've been travelling!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Flavoured Sugar Syrup

For Christmas, my little sister asked for cocktail booze - berry flavoured liqueur, amaretto etc. She loves making cocktails and works in a bar that makes pretty good mixes, so that's ended up being a bit of a hobby for her.

S and I went halves in buying her some cocktail goods - some French raspberry liqueur, and some flavoured sugar syrups. When you look at cocktail recipes, many of them call for sugar, or simple syrup. Its pretty much equal parts sugar and water boiled down to make a syrup you can use to quickly sweeten cocktails without having to deal with sugar having to be dissolved. The added bonus is that you can flavour them so you can add more complex flavours into your drink.

Flavoured sugar syrup (L-R); Peach, Strawberry and Orange

I made my sister 3 flavours, strawberry, orange and peach. They're ludicrously easy to make, and look gorgeous as a gift! All you  have to do is make sure you  have air tight bottles that have been sterilised (either put through a hot cycle on your dishwasher, or washed in hot soapy water and left to dry WITHOUT you touching the cap or the rim!), and a fine sieve.

My bottles (I got them from a home brewing shop for about $3AUD each) were quite small and held about 250ml each so I used about double that amount of water, and free poured a healthy amount of sugar in that looked like about half to me - you can obviously be a lot more accurate! This is the first step to any sugar syrup, must be done before you add any fruit to the pan - you'll see how I made each flavour below.

I used all the peaches we had in the house as they were looking a bit worse for wear and I didn't really want to eat them - so I used about 5 of them! Put them whole in the pan making sure they were mostly submerged. If they're not just pop in every now and again to move them around in the water. I used a fork to smoosh them up  to extract as much flavour as I could.

I topped a big punnet of strawberries that were on special and put them whole into the water. You'll notice after a while the strawberries will lose their colour. Once this has happened, take them out and continue to reduce the syrup until you're happy with the amount. 

I zested 2 oranges and then juiced them, and added it to the water. This was then boiled down until it was reduced by about half.

Once the water was reduced, I strained all the the mixes through a sieve a few times. Peach and strawberries need to be sieved a couple of times whereas orange you can get away with just doing it once. Use your judgement, some fruits are denser and fleshier than others at different times of the year, but you don't want seeds or pulp in your syrup! I added some of the orange zest to the bottle to keep the flavour going and it looks pretty as well!

Pour the syrup into a jug and then into your bottles - if you're lucky enough to have a funnel (I didn't!) use that - but sterilise it first! You have sterilised bottles you don't want your funnel from the back of the cupboard contaminating the bottle tops! 

Its important that you store these in the fridge - as they do contain alot of fruit and sugar. The plain version can be kept any old place, but fruity ones, in the fridge! You can see there is some seperation in the peach syrup - just make sure you give it a good shake before you use it!

These can also be used to give greek yoghurt an edge when serving it with cakes or on your museli in the morning, or added to soda water to make your own cordial. How delicious would it be to drizzle some orange syrup over a chocolate cake fresh from the oven? The sky is the limit with these sweet compact flavour bombs!

I'd love to know what else you can use these for aside from cocktails!

Urban Locavore Box

There aren't often moments in your week where you experience a random act of generosity and kindness. People are usually caught up in their own happenings to worry much about anyone else, at least never more than in passing. However I was lucky to experience an act of generosity recently from someone who I'd never even met yet.

One evening on Twitter, I was noticing everyone posting about how they were stoked about their Urban Locavore goodie box, and I mentioned that I was jealous and I wanted one! I'm a bit broke at the moment due to being a relief teacher and it being school holidays (so no pay) and my summer holiday job being so delayed that by the time I start working there, Ill be only 2 or 3 weeks away from working again. Anyway, I couldn't really afford one this month, due to Christmas among other things! Everyone had one a box but me, so I pouted. Urban Locavore posted on my behalf, asking who was going to play Santa?! Who was going to gift me a box full of WA foodie goodness?! I thought nothing of it and ended up watching a movie and going to bed, but before I went to bed I checked Twitter and it turned out that the lovely Strawberrythief had gifted me a box! She said that it was because of my fundraising efforts for the Breakfast with Benefits that I had done. Such a nice thing to do! So the next day, I got my personally delivered box! It was so generous of her to do that for someone she'd never met. Go and read her lovely blog!

But what is this Urban Locavore box anyway!? Who started it? This is taken from their website...

Each month, Urban Locavore hand picks 6 to 10 of Western Australia’s best products and delivers them directly to your door in the Perth metropolitan area. Some products you may have seen before, some will be unknown but we are sure you will love each one.
We are a team of passionate WA food lovers. We are not affiliated with any producer or company, the only bias we have is towards local. There is a great article in the Subiaco Post by Jona Turle which gives a background on the motivations behind Urban Locavore.
We are small part of a bigger movement which aims to reduce food miles and associated emissions, embrace seasonality and local produce and support smaller growers and producers who use organic or biodynamic methods in their production.

Small changes in buying habits can make big differences.

Our Mission:
To discover & share great food made by talented and passionate producers in Western Australia.
To promote & support producers who source most (or all) of their ingredients locally.
To encourage consumers to think about and question where their food comes from and how it is produced.

What is a Locavore?
Locavore is a word which was coined in San Francisco in 2005 during the World Environment Conference and has since been embraced as part of a movement towards championing a focus on reducing food miles and associated emissions, embracing seasonality and local produce and supporting smaller growers and producers who use organic or biodynamic methods in their production.

This was their first box, and it contained some really great West Australian stuff! Paul is the brains behind the operation, and we had a chat when he came round with the box and he's a cool guy. He got the idea from living in San Francisco and has bought it back here with a more local emphasis. The awesome local products that were included are as follows;

Rochelle Adonis - Rosepetal Barberry Pistachio

Now, I'm not a fan of nougat, its just too sweet. So I wasn't planning on being able to eat this on my own! Thank you Christmas parties! I got this out when we had friends over, and went to cut it into pieces - it was pretty crumbly rather than sticky. I was a bit concerned the rose petals would remind me of eating pot pourri and get stuck in my teeth. When I ate a little chunk I was pleased to see the rose flavour wasn't overpowering and the petals didn't feel I was chewing a dead flower. It was pretty nice, chewy (but not stuck in your teeth, pull your fillings out kinda chewy!), with a nice mild flavour. I'd definitely give this to someone as a gift!

Eden Gate - Blueberry Velvet

Not yet tried this one - but I want to! Ill put it in morning smoothies and on ice cream I think! When I start working again (which means I'll be making more of an effort to have a decent breakfast) Ill likely put this on yoghurt and museli for breakfast!

This is what I want for breakfast...

Holy Smoke! - Smoked Trout

Not tried this yet either, and not sure what to use it for! Ill be happy to take any recipe suggestions! Im thinking perhaps some potato cakes?

Vesuvio Pasta - Ravioli Ricotta & Spinach

This was something I knew wouldn't last long in the house! I served this with some homemade almond pesto with basil from my garden - it was delicious! The pasta is filling, and would serve 2 of us for a main course, and 3 or 4 for a starter. The pasta came frozen and takes about 10mins to cook which is really convenient and fast for families, busy workers, everyone! I would buy these again.

The cheese was mild but creamy, and would carry so many flavours really well. A discussion with The Food Pornographer had us both agreeing that this pasta would be fab with burnt butter and sage! A big winner!

Purely Mexican - Salsa Mexicana

My bfs eyes lit up at this one. He's a chilli fiend and was happy to see this one! We've used this as a dip to take on picnics, and I stirred some into smashed up avo to make a cheats guacamole. This is a really fresh, flavoursome sauce that is really versatile - if you don't mind the heat! The chilli comes and smacks you in the face but then the freshness of the other ingredients comes through. To use it in other things such as chilli con carne or beans would be really nice. We still have some left, so will see how we use it!
This is the kinda label you wanna see..
Turban Chopsticks - Thai Green Curry
I had this for dinner last night. When you look into the jar you can see the chunks and bits n pieces of all the fresh ingredients that go into this mix. Open the lid and it smells GREAT!

I cooked off the whole jar in a wok, added some diced free range turkey meat, then poured in a can of coconut milk. I added some homemade chicken stock as well that I had lurking in the freezer, just to add some flavour! I added baby corn, broccolini, and rice noodles to make a soupy bowl full of delicious! This made 4 good portions, and was tasty. Gluten/dairy free and totally vegetarian, this is certainly a crowd pleaser! I don't know how much these retail for but I'd consider buying another one to keep in the cupboard for times where you need a quick green curry fix!

Gluten Free Cookie Company - Quinzacs
Hm this one, I'll admit, I wasn't a fan of. The cookie was HARD, I couldnt bite into it with just my teeth, and I wasn't a fan of the flavour. Might have been the quinoa, not sure as I've never had it before so I cant say accurately! But I would use these cookies, blitzed up for a gluten/wheat/soy/lactose/egg free cheesecake base, or as a crumble topping, just not as a cookie.. I just realised I dont have a photo for this! Ooops!

I love this concept and have every intention of supporting it in the future!I cant wait to find out what the next box will bring! I would love to get one each month, it's a great surprise and gives you some variety each month. It also goes without saying that supporting local businesses is a fantastic and sustainable thing to do!

Others who have gotten one of these boxes and blogged about it are;
The Food Pornographer
Foodie Cravings (who freaks out at whole fish and got Paul to hide it from her!)

Next month - BUY ONE! They're awesome. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Years Resolutions

Everyones got new years resolutions, so I figured Id better get on the bandwagon and figure out how to make my life, which is already pretty good, better. Im not trying to change the world, just trying to make smaller adjustments in my life that I can keep up.

1) Eat healthier (thats a no brainer after xmas) - more specifically I plan to eat more good quality meat (free range, local, sustainable) but less often as its quite expensive, and focus on seasonal, local fruit n veg. Eat more seafood, try meat free mondays (dunno how S will take that one!). I cant afford to eat this brilliant quality meat every day, and its better for me, and for the environment to eat less of it. Portion sizes must go down as well!

2) Exercise more (also a no brainer!) - which doesnt mean paying for a gym membership and never going, but to make my lifestyle more active, to incorporate exercise without it always being a concious decision - Bike to the shops, go to the beach with a frisbee/football etc, go walk around the lake.

3) Get more balance in my life - do new things, meet new people, see the friends who WANT to see me, keep in touch with far away friends better, make more of an effort with making the house a home. Its easy for both S and I to rely on each other for company all the time, we do everything together and love each others company, but I need to make sure I have a life outside of the life I have with him. Ive let that slip in the last few months, and I need to fix that.

4) Manage my money better - Does this need explaining? Fritter less money away, Id like the money I have to be spent on better things than shit. Better quality wine, less often. Better quality clothes, less often. You get the idea...

5) Use my cookbooks more - I have bought so many... They need using! I have subscribed to Eat Your Books so I can actually find recipes in my little library, and Id like to cook a greater variety of meals using seasonal and different ingredients than I might be used to. As I said in #1, Id like to eat more fish, but I've never really cooked it before, so I'll be relying on my books to help me out!

How do these compare to your resolutions? Do you reckon new years resolutions are a total waste of time because you break them after a month anyway? More importantly, do you guys have any tips on whats worked for you in any of these areas? Love to hear what you have to say!

Ria Malaysian - Leederville

I was hungover, but pretending to be perky and upbeat. I had spent the entire afternoon handing out brochures and menus at the Beaufort St Festival, and was totally knackered and over being super nice and friendly. I didn't want to cook. I didn't want to face a mess in the kitchen. Thats it! Were going out for dinner! NOW! I was starving. I hadn't eaten since 10am.

I didn't know what I wanted to eat so S took  me to Ria Authentic Malaysian in Leederville, because its one of the only places there that we hadn't been to yet. Their doors were open, their tables were mostly set, but we couldn't go in because they didn't open for another 10 minutes. All I wanted to do, was sit and drink some water. 10 minutes and one short session of sitting on the pavement later, we were allowed in. We ordered quickly, having the Pork Rib Nibbles for a starter. How can you not order it with a name like that?! 

These were pretty tasty, sticky bbq-y tasted just like they should, and the dipping sauce was nice - but I felt the size of the dish was on the small side, considering its $16.50. I also felt they didn't have loads of meat on them - now I know that a rib is a bone and that will constitute some part of the nibbles. However I felt that there was alot more bone than meat, and I've had really meat ribs before, but these ones weren't that meaty. Again, for $16.50 I thought we'd get more meat on the bone. I guess they weren't joking when they said they were nibbles!

For mains, S ordered the beef vindaloo (which is Portuguese in origin according to the menu), and I ordered Mums Loh Ak, braised caramalised duck, which had come recommended to me by a chef friend of mine who knows one of the Ria chefs. We also ordered Nasi Kunyit to share (yellow rice spiced with turmeric, star anise and cloves).  S asked the waitress what did "Portuguese in origin" mean in regards to a vindaloo. He orders the vindaloo ALL the time, so knows what he likes, and is well versed in the Indian version, but was curious about the Portuguese style of vindaloo. Our waitress couldn't tell us, and asked uncertainly if we'd like her to check with the chef - we said yes, and off she went. She came back and said they used Portuguese spices rather than Indian ones. Right, so were none the wiser on that front! 

However the lovely Yvonne of Red Hot Spatula Catering (@RHSpatula on Twitter!) has read the blog and has been able to clear up what a "Portuguese Vindaloo" actually means! She is a wealth of knowledge on Asian food and is often my go to person when I have questions!

"There is a big portuguese influence in Malaysian and Singaporean curries thanks to the hordes that migrated decades ago. The curries are now Portuguese influence or Eurasian Influenced (which is my heritage). So in some restaurants they will have vindaloos with beef (as Indian ones can't be done with beef) or other curries like Devil Curry, Prawn and Pineapple Curry etc..... which is all part of the Portugues OR Eurasian culture derived from Malaysia and Singapore.

Vindaloo in India is done with Lamb (as hindus can't eat beef). Vindaloo in Malaysia and Singapore are generally served using beef as the main protein and sometimes pork (more so in Singapore as pork won't be so popular in Malaysia due to the Muslim differences). From my taste comparisons Malaysian Vindaloo has a stronger vinegar taste to it, but that may be just the recipe. I personally would say that the main differences are the proteins used with a mild spice difference. Google Eurasian Vindaloo or Malaysian Vindaloo and it'll pop up predominantly beef and pork recipes while Indian Vindaloo pops up with Lamb."

This conversation has continued on Twitter with Jesse (@good_drop also has a great wine blog Good Drop), who is a self confessed curry nerd, telling me that Vindaloos originated in the Indian state of Goa, as it was colonised by the Portuguese and it was a variation on a dish made with pork, red wine vinegar and garlic. The Indians used pork, coconut vinegar, garlic and Kashmiri chillies. He speculates that it was usually made with fairly mild Kashmiri chillies, but when taken out of India, these chillies weren't as easily available and so regular HOT chillies were used instead, which is where it gets it's searing heat from. Interestingly, Goa is one of the only places in India that use pork! 

Thanks to all those who have been able to answer this question for me! I've learned so much since posting this!

S enjoyed his vindaloo, but mentioned that if we came back, he wouldn't order it again. There are plenty of places he said did a better one, and he'd try something else next time. In saying that, he finished it, and it was nice enough! I didn't taste it, so I cant comment personally on what it was like - that's something for you to judge for yourself!

My duck was nice, but not amazing. Like S, if I went back again I would order something else. It was very sticky and the flavour was dominated by spices, the sauce, thick and syrupy. I did enjoy it, maybe it just wasn't what I expected or felt like, I'm not sure, but it wasn't rave worthy. Not unpleasant, or untasty, or anything like that. It just didn't win me over.

The rice tasted how you expect it to taste, spiced, with a sweet bite of raisin every now and again. It was good to soak up the sauce from the vindaloo but I didn't really have much sauce, so mopping up of sauce wasn't happening on my side of the table! Was good rice, but Ive not often had a rice dish that wows me...

Overall, despite the fact we weren't wowed by Ria, I would go back. Alot of people have said good things about them, they are always  booked out, and I think I should try something that I would normally order so it could make a more accurate impression upon me. 

Other noteworthy blogs who have come here are; 

Juji Chews (what she ordered was far more to my liking!)
Foodie Cravings (seemed to have a similar experience to ours!)
Hold the Beef (ordered similar to us so worth comparing!) 

Ria Authentic Malaysian Food on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cranked, Leederville (Breakfast)

This morning, for no apparent reason other than I couldn't be arsed making breakfast, as well as me deciding I'm going to try and eat less carbs (and all we have in the house is bread for toast), we decided to head out for breakfast. Knowing its a public holiday for NYD, we weren't sure what would be open. The Cabin in Mt Hawthorn was our first pick as we like it there and haven't yet tried their breakfast, but it was shut... So onwards to Leederville, where we knew something would be open.

We've been to Sayers a few times, but it looked shut (though I didn't look that hard to be honest!), and Duende looked packed. S wasn't super keen on Duende, as he's a slightly fussy eater (I've come a VERY long way with him, he used to be REALLY fussy) and the breakfast menu there is small and doesn't offer the usual fare. Its a really interesting menu, but for someone who doesn't really get excited about breakfast, its not really the place for him. Thankfully though, Cranked was open, and BUSY! If we could get a table, we'd go there.

We weren't sure if we were meant to wait to be seated, or just grab a table, so we went to the counter and got ignored for 5mins, including getting bumped aside by a waitress, and having to listen to the stressed ramblings of 2 waitstaff passing food and cutlery between them and trying to figure out which table it belonged to. One waitress pushed past a customer who was waiting to pay without the bare minimum of manners, such as polite smile and an "excuse me, sorry". Just "scuse" reached over him, grabbed what she needed and carried on. She looked stressed, hot, and irritable. We decided to find ourselves a table... There was one table for 2, but we had to clear it ourselves and put the coffee cups from the previous diners on the table next to us, which became a dumping ground for the other dishes on tables that diners eventually had to clear themselves. It was clear that today, they were understaffed and stressed out. In saying this, a waitress did come and attend to use quickly, she did look a bit under the pump but she took our coffee order, and offered to come back when I had decided what I wanted. She bought us water, in glasses hot from the dishwasher, and with my glass only half full of water. Water that hadn't gone near the chill of a fridge. Not really that impressed. Its a hot day, some cool water, at least a cool glass, would have been appreciated. 

Is that all the water I get?

The breakfast menu at Cranked is good, there's a good variety of dishes, some really traditional and some with a few quirky twists. The mushroom bruschetta had sauteed shrooms, and strawberries, as well as being finished off with raspberry vinaigrette and fresh enokis. Interesting. I ended up choosing the 4 egg spinach and fetta omelette, with cranberry sauce on my choice of New Norcia toast (I chose the 7 grain sourdough), and S chose the bacon and egg toasty with horseradish aioli and bbq sauce. Please note that the link I provided for the breakfast menu is out of date, and about half the items have been changed.

Our food came out quickly, with our coffees coming out about 5mins later. I like my coffee to come out first but hey... they were stupidly under the pump, I saw the lineup the barista had on coffees, she was pumping them out as fast as she could so, no biggie.

I said I was going low carb... but its multigrain bread, and its just ONE slice, cmon...

My omelette looked good. It also tasted good, well cooked, there was definitely butter used in that pan! It was creamy and tasty. It was a little under seasoned though, and I could have done with some S&P, but our table had none. We looked around, one table had a S&P shaker, another table just had salt. I just let it go, I assumed that Id find the fetta soon enough and that would be enough salt. I found some fetta, which was delicious, but I only got 3 bits. Is that stingy? I dunno, it felt to me like there should be more in there... When I did get a little block of fetta, it was delicious. I would have liked more. The cranberry sauce on top was interesting, it went well with the fetta and spinach, and it actually tasted a little tomatoey, which is a traditional accompaniment to breakfast dishes. I'm not sure that I would put cranberry sauce on my eggs in the future, but it was a nice addition, I quite enjoyed it. I had to carefully remove the omelette to get to the toast to butter it which was a tricky operation, given I don't have the use of my left thumbtip (sliced off with a scanpan serrated tomato knife... ouch) which made for entertaining viewing by S. The toast was thickly sliced and tasty, if a little difficult to cut through. This was partially because of my thumb disability, partially because it was a bit tough. I enjoyed my omelette, it was filling, not over sickly (sometimes they do that to me, I don't know why), rich, creamy and tasty. Id order it again, hoping to get more fetta!

The toasty came unadorned with anything green, which I noticed but I doubt S did! He tucked straight in, and ate the lot. It was generously filled with egg, tomato and what S decided was the best bacon he'd tasted. He gave me a bit and it was indeed tasty! I dunno about the best ever, but it was definitely good! I asked him how it was, he said it was fine, But the bread was a bit too soft, it had been toasted on one side but it would have been better for the whole lot to be toasted. He enjoyed it but said it seemed to be slapped together. You can see the poor quality of the tomatoes, they're not ripe and the redness should stand out against the pink bacon but it doesn't. Using anemic tomatoes isn't going to win flavour points.

The coffee was fine. I mentioned to S that it wasn't the kinda coffee that I notice when I'm drinking, I don't mention its a good coffee, I don't mention that its a bad one. I just drink it. It was a little milky, but otherwise drinkable. The thing I did notice though was that they use those annoying cups you cant get your finger through the handle. Get a bigger cup.

Anyway, today was a very busy day at Cranked, with not much else open in Leederville, as such I'm not sure they were well equipped enough to deal with a packed house. The service was lacking for sure but there was only 2 waitstaff for the whole place, and we weren't left waiting. The kitchen stood up, albeit on slightly shaky legs. For breakfast choices in Leederville this will please the whole crowd you're with, as well as not being super expensive. Our bill was about $36, and we left well fed. I've had a better all round experience at Sayers and Duende, but if Cranked is an option, and its NOT packed out like it was today, Id give it another go. If Sayers and Duende were too busy...

Cranked Coffee on Urbanspoon