Moving on from March

Moving on from March

Moving on from March

And so here we are, another month down. Where is this year disappearing?

Another month of cooking fabulous, delicious things, without too many failings or freak outs!

Here’s a quick recap of the highlights:

Top 3 sweet treats

  1. Plum tray bake (Mar 2012, p. 66)
  2. White & dark chocolate jaffa swirl cake (Mar 2007, p.93)
  3. New York vanilla cheesecake with blueberries – COVER (Mar 2005, p. 25)

Top 3 easy weeknight dinners

  1. Stir-fried rice with chilli tuna (Mar 2004, p. 72)
  2. Beef and vegetable stir-fry (Mar 2006, p. 40)
  3. Chilli salmon noodle salad with lime & herbs – COVER (Mar 2009, p. 89)

Top 3 cheap and cheerful and vegetarian!!!

  1. Greek bean & silverbeet stew (Mar 2007, p. 138)
  2. Root vegetable & chickpea tagine (Mar 2012, p.70)
  3. Pasta puttanesca (Mar 2003, p. 146)

I feel like I am starting to get my groove on with this whole little challenge now. It feels really comfortable.

Some people have asked me how I go about choosing what I make so as I start a new month, I thought I might give you a brief insight into how I approach each month:

  • In the last week of the month prior, I pull out all of the magazines for the next month. (of which there are twelve)
  • Starting in 2002 I start looking through each magazine and tagging the recipes that catch my eye or appeal to my tastes. I do this fairly quickly, so as not to get too caught up in the stories or other bits and pieces in the magazine. (otherwise you can imagine this would take me a week!)
  • The next step is to write a list of all the recipes I have tagged and where they come from. I do this by year.
  • Once this is complete, this is the list I go to each week to create my menu plan. It is a quick glance system where I can choose a good balance of sweet or savoury, easy or difficult recipes to cook based on my time and other commitments that week. For example, I save complicated or time consuming recipes for the weekend when I have more time.

I hope that this gives you a little insight into how I find the time to cook my family a delicious meal every night.

I would really like to thank each and every one of you who have taken the time to read the blog, leave a comment or like what I am doing.

I am particularly chuffed by how many of you have already signed up to take part in the very first My Delicious Year cook-a-long. In case you are yet to sign up, the recipe and shopping list is out now. Head over to the My Delicious Year facebook page to be kept up to date with what is going on. And mark your calendar for Wednesday 1o April.

I look forward to continuing to share My Delicious Year with you!

X Bree

P.S You can find a full list of what I cooked during March here

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April cook-a-long: Recipe reveal

Hello friends,

Here is the moment you have all been waiting for. The details for the April cook-a-long are here.

I have chosen a recipe that I hope you will find easy, fast and affordable.

The possibilities are endless. If you are not particularly fond of prawns, feel free to swap them for something you enjoy. Try chicken or a firm fish fillet or even fried tofu.

Don’t forget that this month’s cook-a-long will take place on Wednesday 10 April.

Once you are finished cooking, take a moment and capture a photo your meal. Post your picture and comments on the My Delicious Year Facebook page or share it on instagram using the hashtag #cookalong and tag @mydeliciousyear.

I can’t wait to see how you all go.

X Bree

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Eat your vegies, please?!?!?!

As a mother of a 2 and 4 year old it is a constant battle to make sure my children are eating a balanced diet. When it comes to vegetables, that battle is far from won.

My children are very much routine kids. They like to know where we’re going, when we’re going, for how long and who else will be there. When it comes to dinner it’s pretty much the same. When is dinner? What’s for dinner? What’s for dessert?

We are almost at the start of month three of the My Delicious Year challenge. During the past two months I have abandoned all the tried and tested family favourites in lieu of cooking my way through the more than ten years of delicious. Magazines I have been collecting. This means the kids have been served something different for dinner every night for the past sixty days. For kids who love predictabilty, this has been a challenge. So of course there have been some highs and some lows. But I am regularly suprised by what they actually eat versus what I think they will eat.

Greek bean & silverbeet stew

Last nights dinner, Greek bean & silverbeet stew was a good example. It ticked all the boxes for a meal the kids probably wouldn’t eat. It had:

  • green stuff (silverbeet and zucchini)
  • cannelini beans / lentils
  • everything was mixed together (my kids like things served separately which makes all the “yucky” stuff easily identifiable and avoidable)

Prepared for the usual bribery negotiations required to get the kids to even try it, I was surprised to watch B2 tuck in with absolutely no fuss at all, and ask for more! What the?

B4 on the other hand commenced his usual “ew it has green stuff” meltdown. Fortunately, being the Easter long weekend, we had an abundant supply of chocolate bribery available.

But before we bring out the chocolate, we put in place the “mouthfuls” rule.

What is it? Well it became very clear to us that our children are far smarter than what they make out. So we have implemented a “mouthfuls” rule for B4. As he is four years old, he needs to eat four mouthfuls of what is served before he can leave the table. The rules are:

  • you can’t say you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it
  • you can say you don’t like it if you have tried it
  • even if you don’t like it, you still  have to have your “mouthfuls” to try it (one for each year of their life)

Sound mean? Well in my defence, this approach has really worked on B4 who in the past has been stubborn, emotional and fussy when it comes to trying new foods, particularly vegetables. He understands numbers and what four means and now he understands the “mouthfuls” rule. More often than not he eats his four mouthfuls before complaining that he doesn’t like what he’s eating. And then, on the odd occasion, he turns to me with a look of surprise on his face and says “mummy this is actually yummy”. Small victories…

X Bree

Leave a comment to share what strategies you use to get your kids to eat their vegetables or to try new foods?

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Introducing the My Delicious Year monthly cook-a-long

What is it?

Join in for a once a month cook-a-long. On the first day of each month I will provide you with a recipe and shopping list. The recipe will be affordably priced and of easy to moderate difficulty.

When will it take place? 

The cook-a-long will take place on the second Wednesday of each month. An event will be created on the My Delicious Year Facebook page at the start of each month. Please join the group to stay up to date, and don’t forget to invite your friends to join in.

Where will the cook-a-long take place?

The idea is for you to cook the recipe in the comfort of your own home. Cook the selected recipe for your family, friends, neighbours or someone special. Once you are finished cooking, take a moment and capture a photo your meal. Post your picture and comments on the My Delicious Year Facebook page or share it on instagram using the hashtag #cookalong and tag @mydeliciousyear.

Why a cook-a-long?

One of the main goals I set when starting out on this blogging adventure was to inspire others to cook. The idea behind the cook-a-long is to encourage you to try a new recipe each month by making it accessible to all and as simple as possible. After the cook-a-long we can then come together as a group to talk about the recipe – like a virtual book club, but for recipes.

The first cook-a-long will take place on Wednesday 10 April.

I’d love to hear what you think about this idea and whether you will be participating.

X Bree

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Pizza + cake = amazing pizza cake!

“Oooooh, I love a bit of cake. Oooooh, cake. Oooooh, cake. Cake. Cake. Cake. Cake. I’m just one of these people. I come home and I need a piece of cake.”Marjorie Dawes, Little Britain.

There’s no secret, I do love a bit of cake. I do love a bit of Little Britain too. Eating cake while watching Little Britain? Now you’re talking.

I have been known to be a bit partial to all things sweet when it comes to cake.

  • Honey sponge roll (a classic from my late grandma)
  • Chocolate cake for a crowd (the cake I’d make most weekends when I still lived at home with my parents)
  • No-bake cheesecake (which I perfected, and then somehow forgot how to make, much to my father’s disappointment)

But now, the greatest invention to arise from my kitchen is the pizza cake, the savoury alternative. 

But of course it’s not actually called a pizza cake. It’s really a wonderful, easy, upside-down tomato & basil pie from the March 2007 delicious. magazine. A recipe from Belinda Jeffrey’s.

Clearly my taste buds have changed over time.  Back in 2007 when this recipe was printed, I was not drawn to it nor its author. But now, some six years later, I came across this recipe and knew I had to make it! It was something about the simplicity of the ingredients – tomatoes, basil, cheese. I instantly knew it would be a winner. But what I didn’t realise was how awesome it really was or the endless potential for this cake.

Let’s begin. This cake, in all its rustic beauty, is only as good as the ingredients you use. My suggestion is buy your tomatoes a couple of days before you are ready to use them and leave them on the bench to ripen further. Smell them. If they smell like tomato, use them. I also like to use organic tinned tomatoes. Don’t judge me. I think they are affordable and that you will taste the difference. As for the basil, grow your own. Or not. Basil. Yum. I can almost smell it while I am typing this.

Of course, in the pursuit of shortcuts in the kitchen, I broke all the rules, and chose to ignore Belinda’s carefully written instructions by placing all the “cake” ingredients into the food processor at once. No harm done. Amazing pizza cake!

Once you have carefully sliced your roma tomatoes and made a pretty pattern on the base of the pan you have chosen to use, carefully spoon the tinned tomatoes over the top. Next time I think I will actually mix the basil through the tinned tomatoes rather than sprinkling it on top. I think it will only improve the flavour.

When choosing your pan, don’t do what I did and use a springform pan. Big mistake. All the juicy goodness from the tomatoes kind of oozed out of the bottom of the pan and out into my oven. What a waste. Use a pie dish or something similar, but don’t forget to grease it and line the base with baking paper. Even if it is non-stick.

Spread the cake mixture over the tomatoes and bake in the oven as suggested. Check it after the cooking time is up to make sure it is completely cooked through. Bring it out of the oven, flip it onto your serving plate. Slice it up and devour! Amazing pizza cake!

After consuming more than our fair share of our newfound favourite amazing pizza cake, Mr Picky Palette and I slothed on the couch devising a list of the endless possibilities and potential for improving the already amazing pizza cake. Some of the combinations we thought of to stir through the cake mixture before baking included:

  • shredded ham and pineapple
  • shredded hot salami, sundried tomatoes and olives
  • jalapenos  (Mr Picky Palette’s idea, not for me thanks!)
  • small chunks of fetta and dried oregano
  • anchovies and oregano.

Let it be said that you will see this cake again this month.

When you make this cake it will be the most amazing, mind-blowing, wonderful, easy, amazing pizza cake you have ever tasted!

And I owe it all to Belinda Jeffrey’s. Thank you!

Eat it!

X Bree

Amazing pizza cake!!!

Amazing pizza cake!!!

A wonderful, easy, upside-down tomato & basil pie

Serves 6

delicious. magazine, (Mar 2007, p. 79)

This is one of my great stand-bys when I want something delicious that looks special but doesn’t take forever to make

800g can diced tomatoes
1 ½ cups (225g) self-raising flour
1 tsp dry mustard powder
100g parmesan, freshly grated
50g good cheddar, finely grated
125g cold unsalted butter, chopped
2 eggs
1/3 cup (80ml) milk
A couple of shakes of Tabasco sauce
6 ripe tomatoes (preferably roma), thinly sliced
1/3 cup finely shredded basil
Basil leaves, to serve

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcius. Butter a shallow 26cm round ovenproof dish and line the base with buttered baking paper. Set it aside.

Pour canned tomatoes into a sieve over a bowl. Leave to drain for 5-10 minutes. Give it a stir occasionally to make sure as much liquid seeps away as possible.

Meanwhile, whiz flour, mustard and 1 teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Add cheeses and whiz to just combine. Scatter butter over the top and process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. (if you don’t have a food processor, you can do this in a bowl and rub the butter in by hand.) Tip mixture into a bowl.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and Tabasco. Make a well in the cheese mixture and pour in the egg mixture then stir to make a fairly stiff batter.

Lay the sliced tomatoes in overlapping circles in the base of the buttered dish so the bottom is completely covered. Spread drained tomatoes evenly over the top and sprinkle with the shredded basil. Dollop spoonfuls of the batter over the tomatoes, then, with lightly floured hands,pat it out with your fingers to spread it evenly. (Don’t worry if there are a few little gaps – they will fill out as the pie cooks.) Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the pie is risen and golden. (The time will vary a bit depending on how thick your dish is.)

Test it by inserting a fine skewere into the pie, if it comes out clean the pie is ready. Remove teh pie from the oven and leave it to settle in the dish for 5 minutes before inverting it onto a warm serving platter. Mop up any juices that seep out onto the platter and scatter over basil leaves.

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The versatile chickpea

Who would have thought it. Chickpeas in a cake. Well actually James Reeson did. James who, you ask? Well back in 2002 he was the “celebrity chef” featured in the March delicious. magazine. Famous for his pony tail and a show called “Alive & Cooking“. No, still don’t remember??? Not so much a celebrity anymore. But he did come up with this genius idea to combine chickpeas and apricots into a cake. The combination intrigued me so I had to give it a go.

The chickpeas are blended with dried apricots and apricot nector so you can’t really pick up on their flavour. In fact, if I did a blind tasting with you I am sure that you wouldn’t even know that there was chickpeas in the cake.

The end result is a very mild tasting, beautifully moist cake. The next time I make it (and I will definitely make it again!) I might pimp it up a bit and add the zest of an orange and maybe replace the apricot nectar with fresh orange juice to reduce the amount of sugar in the cake.

Chickpeas are so incredibly versatile. Adding them to a cake was just a genius idea!

X Bree

Chickpea & apricot cake

Chickpea & apricot cake

chickpea & apricot cake

Serves 6-8

delicious. magazine, (Mar 2002, p. 127)

125g dried apricots
350ml apricot nectar
2 cups cooked chickpeas (canned are fine)
3/4 cup brown sugar
250g self raising flour, sifted
100g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
50ml olive oil (coconut oil would be nice too!)
4 egg whites
Icing sugar, to dust
Thick greek yoghurt and honey, optional, to serve

Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius. Grease and line base of a 10 x 23cm loaf pan.

Place apricots and nectar in a bowl and set aside for 30 minutes to soak. Transfer to a saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Place in a food processor and blend until a smooth puree. Add the sugar and blend for a few more seconds. Tip into a bowl and fold in the flour, coconut and a pinch of salt. Add the oil and 100ml water and stir to make a smooth batter.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into batter until combined. Pour in the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. (If it browns too quickly, cover with foil.) Turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Dust with icing sugar and serve with thick yoghurt and a drizzle of honey, if desired.

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This little piggy went in my oven…

Pork. Not something I cook often. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I cooked it. Maybe a bit of mince in a spag bol or a chop to appease Mr Picky Palette’s demands for a taste of his youth. But here I go – pushing my culinary boundaries.

I confess to being a little bit confronted by the 1.5kg of pork shoulder, on the bone, which I purchased from my local meat man. I was a little bit overwhelmed by that kind of porky smell that pork has (funny that!). Fortunately, the recipe I had chosen to make, Katie Quinn Davies Slow-roasted pork & red wine ragu with pappardelle from the March 2013 issue of delicious. magazine, required very little preparation. A good season with salt and pepper. Pop it on a rack. Underneath, in a roasting tray, place a couple of roughly chopped onions, a whole head of peeled garlic, a cup of water and half a bottle of red wine (preferably shiraz). It then goes into a slow oven (140 degrees celcius) for six hours!

This is a recipe you definately want to get started first thing in the morning if you want to eat your dinner sometime before midnight!

Ready to go into the over for 6 hours

Ready to go into the over for six hours

After four hours of cooking, the recipe asks you to put eight large roma tomatoes onto a separate tray in the oven with the pork. My little oven wouldn’t fit another tray so I just added them to the onions and garlic underneath the pork. No harm done. One less tray to wash up though! Win!

I was surprised by how crispy the outside of the pork got even from being cooked at a very low heat. Not sure if this was supposed to happen. Fortunately, a special friend of mine (hello Leo!) had coincidently cooked this same recipe the day before me, so a quick text to her to find out that she too had ended up with crispy pork. Good.

Crispy skinned pork...

Crispy skinned pork…

When the six hours is up, everything comes out of the oven.

The tomatoes, onion and garlic get blitzed in a food processor along with the basil (which I didn’t have – oops! I replaced it with a handful of parsley.) I admit that basil would have tasted better though. Tomato and basil are meant to be together! This tomatoey mixture then goes into a clean saucepan with two tins of canned tomatoes, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, the zest of one lemon, two tablespoons of chopped oregano (from the garden of course!) and the other half of the bottle of wine. It gets simmered for 45 minutes until the sauce is thick.

Once the shoulder of pork is cool enough to handle, shred the meat and discard any skin, fat or bones. I also put aside any meat that was too crispy for a sneaky treat for Mr Picky Palette later. Best wife ever, right?

Pulled pork

Pulled pork

Once the sauce is nice and thick, all the pork goes into the saucepan for a few minutes to heat through.

Red wine ragu ready for the pasta

Red wine ragu ready for the pasta

The recipe called for packet pappardelle. You know me. I made my own pasta using my fool-proof Jamie Oliver basic egg pasta recipe which I’ve shared with you before. There is something about fresh pasta. It just tastes so much better. Do it! Do it! Do it!

Once you’ve cooked the pasta, stir it through the sauce and serve it up with freshly grated parmesan. Delicious!

The finished product

The finished product

But you know the whole time I was shredding the pork all I could think of was crusty bread and creamy coleslaw.

Note to self: next time one decides to spend the whole day with the oven on roasting a shoulder of pork, save some for a sandwich!

X Bree

P.S I lied – I actually have cooked pork before. I just remembered. I roasted a ham last Christmas and the one before that. Obviously not memorable!

slow-roasted pork  & red wine ragu with pappardelle

Serves 6-8

delicious. magazine, (Mar 2013, p. 94)

2 onions, quartered
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated, peeled
1.5kg pork shoulder (bone in)
Olive oil, to drizzle
750ml bottle shiraz
8 large roma tomatoes, halved
1 cup (80g) basil leaves
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs finely grated lemon rind
2 tbs chopped oregano leaves
600g pappardelle* MAKE YOUR OWN! YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!
Grated parmesan, to serve

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees celcius.

Scatter the onion and garlic over the base of a large roasting pan. Sit a roasting rack over vegetables and place the pork on the rack. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Pour half of the wine (375ml) and 1 cup (250ml) of water into the base of the pan, over the onion and garlic.

Slow-roast for 6 hours, checking every hour to make sure that the liquid doesn’t fully evaporate (if necessary, add extra water to the pan). I needed to a couple of times.

Place the tomatoes on a baking tray, then season and drizzle with olive oil. Roast with the pork for the final 2 hours of cooking time.

Remove roasting pan and tomatoes from the oven. Place the tomatoes, onion and garlic cloves in a blender, along with the basil. Whiz until a smooth sauce. Place tomato sauce in a large saucepan, along with canned tomatoes, vinegar, lemon zest, oregano and remaining 375ml wine. Season and simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes or until well reduced.

Shred the pork, discarding the skin, fat and bones. Add the meat to the saucepan and cook for a further 15 minutes or until reduced and thick.

Meanwhile, cook pappardelle according to packet instructions. Drain and divide pasta among serving bowls. Ladle pork over pasta and scatter with parmesan before serving.

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