Tag Archives: yum yum yum

Stretching the pennies for a cheap weeknight dinner

I was surprised to receive a bit of backlash during the week about how much money (and time) people assumed I was spending feeding my family on this new “delicious” diet.

The thing is, from Monday through to Friday I am drawn to recipes that are quick and simple to prepare and only require a few ingredients. On the weekends, when I have a bit more time, I like to go all out and try out the more lavish recipes that require more time and more money. The weekend is also the time when I might bake something special for morning tea and try out something a bit extravagant for dessert.

Chicken dumplings in broth

Chicken dumplings in broth

Take for example last week’s Chicken Dumplings in Broth. The list of ingredients were:

250 gm chicken mince
1 garlic clove
1 tbs chopped coriander
1 eggwhite
4 tbs light soy sauce, plus extra to serve
1 L chicken stock
1 lemongrass stem
2.5cm piece ginger
2 small red chillies
2 star anise
2 tbs lime juice
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbs fish sauce
1 /2 bunch garlic chives (which I didn’t use)
chilli bean sauce, to serve

Out of everything on the list, the only things I didn’t already have  in the fridge or pantry was the chicken mince and lemongrass. A quick check of Coles online and 500g chicken mince is currently $5.90 (and you only need half of that) and one bunch of lemongrass is $2.48. I also threw in a few rice noodles to bulk out the meal which are very cheap at my local Asian store. So really, in order for me to put this meal together for the four us, it cost well under $10.

What i’m trying to say is that it doesn’t cost a lot to feed your family fresh, fancy looking food, if that is your thing. Looks can be very deceiving!

Maybe I have Instagram to thank for making my food look fancier than what it really is…

X Bree

P.S You can find the full recipe here.

Whats your family’s favourite cheap, but a little bit fancy, dinner?

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Filed under budget friendly, February, low fat

The cake that nearly broke me

Under normal circumstances I would never attempt a cake like the Summer layer cake, the cover recipe from the February 2012 issue of delicious. magazine. However, you may recall that when I started this little project, one of my “ground rules” was that I would cook every single cover recipe. This whole exercise was designed to push me out of my comfort zone and cook things I would ordinarily deem too hard.

The plan was to make the cake for my birthday, a Wednesday. But the night before, during a quick scan of the recipe to ensure I had all the necessary ingredients, I came across the dreaded words “Begin this recipe a day ahead”. I was not off to a particularly good start. There would be no birthday cake.

As it turns out, I got busy and I didn’t end up starting the cake until Friday.

The first stage was making the cake and berry mousse which would be sandwiched between each layer of cake. This stage was pretty straight forward, except that I don’t own two springform pans. And the one I borrowed from my mother was a different size to mine. This is kind of critical when you are making a multi layered cake that would set overnight in said pan. In the end I made do using three pans almost the same size and hoped for the best.

Having had a terrible incident with smoke and electricity (and a trip to the bin) with my own mixer late last year, I borrowed my mother’s beautiful vintage Sunbeam mixer. I would say it is over 40 years old, but it is still working as new. They certainly don’t make them like they used to.

My mother's vintage Sunbeam mixer

My mother’s vintage Sunbeam mixer

The cake is the usual cream butter and sugar blah blah. No drama there.

While the cake was baking I got on to making the berry mousse. It’s quite a simple process of mixing together strawberries, raspberries, cream and gelatine. The trick is to gently fold the whipped cream into the berry puree and keep the mixture light. This was so good. I could actually have eaten it on its own. No volunteers required for bowl licking here!

What came next was a whole lot of cutting, trimming, glad wrapping and finger crossing. I had to cut one cake in half and slice the top off the other two to make them all about the same size. I glad wrapped the cake pan I baked one of the cakes in and then put the first layer of cake into the bottom, topped it with a third of the berry mousse mixture and repeated to make four layers of cake and three layers of mousse. It was then sealed with more glad wrap and tucked up into bed in the fridge over night.

The next afternoon I finally got the courage to finish the cake off. In my eyes this was the hard part – making the marshmallow icing and assembly.

I have never come across a marshmallow icing recipe before, but this is a revelation. Since I made it I have been trying to come up with other uses for it (I’m thinking cup cakes!!!). It is a bit of a process to make it, but well worth it. Over a double boiler on the stove you whisk the egg white, sugar and cream of tartar until the mixture kind of doubles in size and becomes frothy. You then add the chopped up marshmallows and transfer it over to your mixer and beat it at top speed for about ten minutes until it becomes thick, pale, shiny, cool and DELICIOUS!!!

Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3

As for the final stage of assembly, well, um, it tasted good!

I wasn’t thrilled with how it looked in the end. It wasn’t anywhere near as pretty as the original in the delicious. magazine.

I think each of the layers were quite even, I was happy with that. I found that I had to work pretty quickly to get the marshmallow icing on as I noticed it starting to slide off the cake. I also failed to get the dessicated coconut onto the sides of the cake. Not sure how they managed that one…

Before the marshmallow icing

Before the marshmallow icing

The end result

So four days after originally planning to be eating cake, we finally sat down and tried it.

The cut

The cut

My piece!

My piece!

It may not have been that pretty. It may have taken two days. I may have had to adapt the recipe a little to fit in with the equipment I had. But I did it! It didn’t break me! But it was hard work!

I’ll leave it up to B2 to sum up for you how the cake actually tasted. A picture tells a thousand words…

Finger licking good

Finger licking good

X Bree

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Filed under cake, February, ground rules, special occasion

Pasta and Panna Cotta – A fancy Sunday night dinner

In our house Sunday night dinners are not flash. They usually consist of scrambled eggs or fridge leftovers. But since I embarked on this cooking extravaganza Sunday nights dinner have been a bit more fancy.

Tonight we took a trip back to 2002 and 2003 and enjoyed Ravioli with roasted pumpkin & herbs and Panna cotta with roasted plums. One word = yum!

I have made fresh pasta before, and in fact, the recipe calls for fresh, shop bought lasagne sheets a la Latina style. But I chose to make my own using my faithful Jamie Oliver basic pasta dough recipe. It’s a simple recipe – 100gm of strong “00” flour to each egg. Make as little or as much as you like. I use my food processor so it is whizzed together in a moment. I make enough for six so I can freeze half. Once you’ve made it a few times it is simple. The hardest part really is the rolling out and getting the texture smooth and silky.

Rolling out the fresh egg pasta

Rolling out the fresh egg pasta

The filling for the ravioli is a simple mix of roasted butternut pumpkin, ricotta, egg yolk, parmesan, toasted pine nuts, fresh herbs (I used sage, basil and thyme) and a pinch of nutmeg (which I forgot – whoops!). I’m not a fan of butternut pumpkin. I find it kind of stringy. I prefer the blue or jap and would probably use that next time. Any herbs will do. Whatever you like to eat. Fresh from your own garden is even better!

The ravioli filling

The ravioli filling

Next is the most difficult part – rolling and filling the ravioli. The secret is not to overfill the ravioli and to make sure that you get all of the air out before you seal each one. I made little round ones because that is the only cutter I had, but you could also cut them by hand into squares or use a fancy crimper cutter. Whatever…

Even little mounds are best

Even little mounds are best

Perfect little packages

Perfect little packages

While you are boiling your ravioli in salted water (4 or 5 minutes until they rise to the surface) you can make the sage flavoured oil by warming your extra virgin olive oil and dropping in a dozen sage leaves till they sizzle and crisp up.

The result is perfect little pillows with a sweet and savoury pumpkin and cheese filling. Really delicious. Give it a go!

The end result

The end result

Now for the panna cotta. Confession! This recipe is SO easy I actually whipped it up 15 minutes before I went to bed on Saturday night. I’m not sure why I thought it would be more difficult. Maybe it’s Masterchef’s fault. Or Matt Preston. You’ve got to get your “wobble” right. Miraculously, I did.

This recipe is NOT low-fat. It consists of cream, cream, vanilla, sugar and more cream. It is very rich, very sweet and very much a sometimes food! But so, so good.  You simply heat the two types of cream, vanilla bean and sugar in a pot and bring it to a simmer and switch it off. Let it cool for a few minutes then add your softened leaf gelatine. Strain it and pour it into little dariole moulds, or if you don’t have them, just pour it into whatever you want to serve it in. Leave them in the fridge over night to set. The recipe said it would make six. I made eight. Any bigger and I think I would have had a sugar convulsion (did I mention this recipe is rich?)

While I was cooking dinner last night I made the roasted plums, which is pretty much that. Plums, sugar, more vanilla bean roasted in a hot oven for about 20 minutes.

The trickiest part of this recipe is getting the panna cotta out of the dariole moulds. The easiest way I found was to run a knife around the edge of the mould to break the seal, dip the mould into warm water for a minute, turn it upside down onto the plate you want to serve it on and give it a little bang. Ta da! Magic! All the little seeds from the vanilla bean have now settled on top of your panna cotta which makes it look pretty. Add a couple of plums and you have a very good-looking dessert.

Vanilla panna cotta with roasted plums

Vanilla panna cotta with roasted plums

These two recipes were published in delicious. magazine more than ten years ago, yet they have not dated a bit. If you want to impress somebody, without going to a whole lot of trouble, you must give them both a go.

However, after such a decadent dinner last night we are one fruit and salad today! Until dinner of course, where I am planning on using the rest of my fresh egg pasta to make another delicious dinner!

X Bree

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Filed under February, special occasion

A delicious breakfast

I am so thankful to have such a wonderfully supportive family.

When I first toyed with the idea of starting a blog, they were the ones who encouraged me to take a leap of faith, providing me with the confidence I needed to get started.

However, when my older sister asked me to cater her boardroom breakfast last Friday morning, my initial gut reaction was to say “no”. But if there is one thing I have learnt since starting this blog, it is that every time I post something here I am forcing myself out of my comfort zone. And that is why I actually said “yes”!

For the purposes of keeping it simple but still delicious, I ventured a little bit outside of “February” in order to come up with my menu. Please forgive me for breaking “the rules”.

A Delicious Breakfast

A Delicious Breakfast

Here it  is :

I spent Thursday shopping and preparing for Friday morning. The omelette’s and fruit salad I would need to make fresh on Friday morning before delivery, however the rest I made in advance.

This was the first time I had cooked rhubarb. I was a little bit nervous. I found that the rhubarb needed to be cooked twice as long as what the recipe said. In the end, it didn’t hold its shape well, but it was sweet and cinnamony with a jammy consistency. Allowing the flavours to infuse overnight certainly didn’t do any harm. 

The bircher muesli was simple. Combine the oats with the freshly squeezed oj. Add the yoghurt and grated apple in the morning and spoon into the jam jars. I cannot believe how creamy and lush the end result was, with only the use of greek yoghurt. It tasted far naughtier! As for the sweet dukkah. Yum! Yum! Yum! I still have a little secret stash and have been trying to find excuses to sprinkle it on everything! You must try it. Even if you don’t make the bircher muesli. Sprinkle it on yoghurt, fresh fruit, poached fruit. Put a spoonful onto sweet muffins before you bake them. Whatever you can find. It is just so yummy. This will become a staple in my pantry.

For the fruit salad I just went out and bought the best seasonal fruit I could find – green grapes, red paw paw, raspberries, blueberries, passionfruit, pineapple, yellow nectarines, bananas, freshly squeezed orange juice. The result? Summer in a cup. I served it with more of the plain greek yoghurt and of course, sweet dukkah. The secret was to select perfectly ripe fruit. I am one of those weird people who sniff my fruit before I buy it. It has to have the smell of what you’re buying. If it doesn’t, don’t bother.

Ginger and almond slice

Ginger and almond slice

The ginger and almond slice was very easy. Except…I am currently without a mixer. My last one smoked up before Christmas and since then I have been avoiding all recipes that include “cream butter and sugar”. I don’t know what I was thinking when I emailed the confirmed menu through to my sister, but once I read the recipe properly and saw those four words “cream butter and sugar”, I panicked! So with nothing to lose (I had all the ingredients and I wasn’t about to change recipes) I made it in my food processor with the pastry blade. Surprise, surprise it turned out great. It rose like it should. It browned like it should. It tasted oh so good. Chewy, gingery goodness.

I can’t remember the last time I voluntarily got up at 4:30am in the morning. In actual fact I was awake at 3:30am! I was excited and nervous. I was about to cook something I had never cooked before for eight strangers. That’s how much confidence I had in the recipes in delicious. magazine.

I cooked the individual potato and chive omelette in muffin pans which meant they cooked quickly but would still be warm when I got to the venue. I sliced all the fruit and placed it in a bowl, ready for gentle tossing when I arrived.

Individual potato and chive breakfast omelette served with smoked salmon and crème fraiche

Individual potato and chive breakfast omelette served with smoked salmon and crème fraiche

In some kind of miracle I packed my esky, without actually forgetting anything, and headed off to Chelmer at 6:00am.

When I arrived I quickly assembled everything and presented it on the boardroom table, leaving quickly before all the guests arrived.

Success!

If there is one thing I learned out of this exercise it is to push myself more often this year. Say yes more often. When my gut says no (because it could be too hard or because I might fail or embarrass myself), say yes and just do my best. Because my best can be good enough!

X Bree

What is your favourite special breakfast recipe?

When was the last time you forced yourself out of your comfort zone and achieved success?

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Filed under February, ground rules