Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Meringues and Eton Mess

On the weekend, I decided it was time to make to make meringues and Eton Mess again. Strawberries have started to increase in price and we wanted to make this yummy dessert once more before they become $4:00 a punnet.

First we needed to make the meringues.


makes 40

• 4 eggs (must be at room temperature)
• 115 grams caster sugar
• 115 grams icing sugar

Preheat oven to 100 degrees. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Put the egg whites into a large (very clean) glass or ceramic bowl. Beat the egg whites on medium speed with electric beaters until the mixture resembles a fluffy cloud and stands up in stiff peaks.

Increase the speed and add the caster sugar, one dessertspoonful at a time. Continue beating for 3-4 seconds between spoonful. It's important to add the sugar slowly, however, don't over-beat. The mixture should be thick and glossy.

Sift one third of the icing sugar over the mixture, and gently fold it in with a big metal spoon or rubber spatula. Continue to sift and fold in the remaining icing sugar a third at a time. Again, don't over-mix. The mixture should now look smooth and billowy, almost like a snow drift.

Using a dessertspoon, drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto the trays and bake for 1 1⁄2 - 1 3⁄4 hours. The meringues are ready when they are a pale coffee colour and sound crisp when tapped underneath. Leave to cool on the trays.

The meringues will keep in an airtight container for 2 weeks or frozen for a month.

This recipe is from here, it really is the ultimate recipe!

Chocolate and Coconut Meringues

Add 1 cup of chopped dark chocolate and 1 cup of toasted shredded coconut to the meringues after the sugars have been added.

My daughter first saw Hugh make Eton Mess on the River Cottage Everyday DVD months and months ago and she was smitten. She straight away announced that she would be having it for her birthday dinner, right in the height of strawberry season.

And we did. YUM!!

I think we might have started a new tradition.

Eton Mess

Serves 6 

• 250g strawberries (roughly chopped)
• 250g raspberries (I used frozen)
• 1 tablespoon caster sugar
• 350ml double cream (lightly whipped)
• 20 meringues (broken roughly) - this is half the quantity of the recipe above

Put the strawberries, raspberries and sugar into a large bowl. Roughly crush and squeeze a few of the berries with your hands so the juices start to run. Cover and leave to macerate in the fridge for at least an hour.

Set aside two tablespoons of the macerated fruit to go on top of the Eton Mess.

To assemble: Fold the meringues through the whipped cream. Then gently fold the remaining chilled fruit through the cream mixture, to give a rippled effect. Pile into serving glasses and top with the reserved fruit.

You can make Eton Mess an hour or so in advance, but not much more that that, or the meringue will go weepy in the cream.

This recipe is the River Cottage recipe taken from here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Duck Ragu

A few weeks ago I cooked this delicious duck ragu.

I had never cooked a duck before, although I have eaten it heaps and love it. I think I have just been a little scared if it. TV chefs talk about: twice cooking or pouring boiling water over the duck before cooking, they give tips on how to cook the perfect duck breast or how to get the perfect crispy skin. And don't get me started on confit!

You see, a little daunting.

But the old farmer that I bought my duck from at the growers market was not buying into all of that   chefy mumbo jumbo. He told me to put it into the oven with salt and pepper for 2 hours on 180 degrees. As simple as that. That was right after he told me that the duck I had just bought was walking around the farm quacking away (his words) only two days before.

In any case, in making this recipe I was let off the hook. It is stress free and foolproof. For a start you don't want the skin anyway, so you didn't need to worry about the crispiness.

I was so happy with my duck purchase and of my choice of recipe. By buying my duck from the growers market, I got a freshly killed, free range duck for $18.00 (the same price as a supermarket free-range chicken) From that duck, we have eaten two meals and there is still a small amount of ragu in the freezer. (It froze well) I also have a pot of duck fat in the fridge just waiting to saute some potatoes and the bones were made into a duck stock that has been put into the freezer. I have usually kept away from duck because of the price. Perhaps not anymore.

We took a batch of duck ragu from the freezer away with us on a recent mini break. Here is it in the photo served with rigatoni as that was all that was in the cupboard.

Do cook duck? If so do you have and tried and tested tips?

Duck Ragu with Pappardelle

serves 4-6

• 1 large duck (washed, dried and trimmed of excess fat)
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• salt and pepper
• 4 rashers of pancetta or bacon (finely diced)
• 1 onion (finely diced)
• 2 carrots (finely diced)
• 2 stalks celery (finely diced)
• 5 cloves garlic (finely diced)
• 2 x 12cm stalks of rosemary leaves only or 4 leaves of sage (finely chopped)
• 3 x 400 gram tinned tomatoes
• 1/2 cup chicken or duck stock or water
• 250 ml red wine
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 450 grams pappardelle

to serve

the gremolata breadcrumbs

• 1 tablespoon fresh breadcrumbs (toasted)
• 1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
• the zest of 2 lemons (finely chopped)
• 2 tablespoons parsley
•  a pinch of salt

• grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Rub the duck with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, both inside and out. Roast for 2 hours, turning the duck every half and hour. Once cooked, remove from the roasting pan and set aside until the duck is cool enough to handle. Reserve the duck fat for another use (roast potatoes - yum)

While the duck is roasting, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to medium high heat, in a heavy based pan. Cook the bacon for 5 minutes or until starting to crisp. Stir occasionally. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic and herbs and reduce the heat to low. Cook slowly for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Stir occasionally. Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, wine, tomato paste and season to taste. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Once the duck has cooled, remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin and bones (re-use the bones to make stock) Shred the meat and add it to the ragu. Cook over a very low heat for 2 hours. (Gywneth says 1-4 hours - uncovered) adding splashes of water it the sauce becomes to dry.

To make the gremolata, mix all of the ingredients together and set aside.

Cook the pappadelle and serve the ragu over the top of the pasta. Sprinkle each serving with gremolata and put the parmesan on the table.

This recipe was adapted only slightly from Notes from My Kitchen Table.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A good day for soup

We have been away for a few days and I can't tell you how happy we were to get home and to our own beds. We had a great time away but the kids had a hard time settling at night. It was hot because we needed to close all of the windows to block out the sound of crashing waves (Mum! too noisy!) and both children woke at least 3 times every night. Each night I swapped beds with my son at about 2.00am because he wasn't sleeping well in his single bed. Needless say our nights were not the most restful.

So it was a lovely night last night, home and in my comfy old bed with fresh cotton sheets and fluffy doona. I drifted off to sleep to the sound of heavy rain. Just perfect - it was still raining this morning, I awoke to a dark and cold morning. I absolutely love days like this, usually rainy days in Queensland are hot and humid and not enjoyable, but today was fresh - cardigan weather. A good day for soup.

We put on our beanies and jumpers and ate our Sunday morning pancakes outside. Then, with family coming and going all day, I put on a couple of pots of soup. I really wanted to make about five pots of soup, but I thought that was just a little bit ridiculous.

Have I mentioned, I love soup!

It has been a great day, staying cozy and sharing soup made from homemade stock and vegetables picked from our garden, just moments before going into the pot. There was many cups of tea consumed and perhaps a few too many pieces of baklava (I'll post my recipe soon) The kids are in a bubble bath now and my husband is reheating some soup, buttering some sourdough and pouring a nice glass of red.

I hope it rains again tomorrow.

Irish Spinach Broth 

serves 6

• 4 tablespoons butter
• 2 onions (finely diced)
• 2 carrots (finely diced)
• 2 sticks celery (finely diced)
• 4 tablespoons plain flour
• 9 cups chicken stock
• 4 tablespoons oatmeal
• 230 grams spinach (roughly chopped)
• 4 tablespoons cream
• 1 tablespoons parsley (finely chopped)
• salt/pepper

In a large stock pot, melt the butter and gently sauté the onion, carrot and celery until soft. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the oatmeal and spinach and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes. Stir through the cream and  parsley and season to taste. Gently heat through and serve with crusty rye bread.

I have been making this recipe for years and have no idea where it originally came from.

I know, I know, all that butter, but please don't substitute it, the soup just won't be the same. The recipe states that you use oatmeal, but I have always used normal oats, as I always have oats at hand and it turns out perfectly.

I remember the first time I ever made this Potato, Bacon and Dill soup. I had only been in London for 2 weeks and I cooked this for lunch for my friend and our two Greek flatmates. It was a day not unlike today, although, a lot colder of course, it was typical February weather, very grey and very wet. This was the perfect food to warm our bones, after a morning of sightseeing. The recipe has been adapted from this book. I had bought the book from Jerry's Home Store a few days earlier.

Potato, Bacon and Dill Soup

serves 4

• 125 grams bacon (diced)
• 1 onion (diced)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 tablespoons plain flour
• 2 tomatoes (diced)
• 3 tablespoons dill (finely chopped)
• 6 cups chicken stock
• 3 potatoes (peeled and diced)
• salt/pepper

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and gently sauté the bacon and onion. Stir in the flour and cook the flour for a few minutes until lightly browned. Stir in the tomatoes and dill and cook for a further few minutes. Gradually stir in the stock 1 cup at a time, making sure there are no lumps. Add the potatoes and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pork Spare Ribs braised in Maple Syrup

I mentioned in my last post that the weather here has been very hot and already, most of our meals have been cooked on the barbecue. Last week I bought some spare ribs to make this recipe, but when we woke to find the day quiet cool, I did a quick Google search for an alternative way to cook my ribs for dinner.

While searching for a recipe I became a little confused. I had it in my mind that I wanted to make something like an American barbecue sauce to braise the ribs in and yes, there are a lot of recipes for this type of thing. That wasn't the confusing part. I realised something, I hadn't realised before (talk about the dumb girl in the class)

Spare ribs aren't ribs!

Thanks Jamie! After about an hour on the computer, I found this Jamie Oliver recipe that I cooked below and a bit of information about 'ribs'.  At my local Australian butcher we call the cut I used 'spare ribs', my butcher also sometimes sells 'american ribs' - these really are ribs! Confused yet?

In Australia, we call this cut of meat 'spare ribs' and in American they call the same cut of meat 'country ribs'. That should help you with own your Google searches in the future.

I was intrigued by this recipe and to be honest wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. It turned out to be a hit. Declared, "the best meal you've ever cooked" by my daughter.

We served these ribs with mashed potatoes and steamed greens (asparagus, beans, zucchini and snow peas). I think this was the perfect accompaniment. The photo above was taken the next night, when the leftovers were turned into a meal, with fried rice, zucchini slice and 'help yourself' salad.

Pork Spare Ribs braised in Maple Syrup

serves 8

• 1.5kg pork spare ribs (cut in half)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 onions (finely diced)
• 3 garlic cloves (crushed)
• salt and pepper
• 120ml maple syrup
• 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 480ml chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Heat the oil in an ovenproof casserole dish to medium-high and brown the ribs in two batches. Set aside. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion begins to soften. Season to taste. Add the maple syrup and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook until the bubbles become slow and thick. Add the vinegar and cook for about 3 minutes, until well reduced. Add the chicken stock and ribs to the pan and bring to the boil. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for a total of 2 hours. Cook for 1 hour, then turn the ribs. Cook for another 30 minutes, then remove the lid. Cook for a further 30 minutes until the ribs are tender and flake with a fork.

Jamie says to check the ribs regularly to make sure the pan has enough liquid, adding 50ml water at a time to keep the juices from running dry or burning. I didn't find that I needed to do this, I guess it depends on your oven.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Weekday dinners in our house have been kept fairly simple over the last couple of weeks. 

With the weather already very warm (summers here!), and a garden overflowing with fresh salad greens, there has been limited cooking. A lot of grilled chicken, barbecued meat or quiches all served with a giant 'help yourself salad' salad. 

Last night I made another old favourite, pastitso (pah-STEET-see-oh), a good alternative to lasagne or moussaka. Served again with a big salad, picked fresh from the garden while the sun set. 

And great news, I don't have to cook at all tonight - there are heaps of leftovers!


serves 8  

• 500 grams penne  
• 4 tablespoons olive oil  
• 1 onion (diced)
• 2 cloves garlic (crushed)  
• 750 grams lamb or beef mince  
• 1 x 445 gram tinned tomatoes
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 1/2 cup white wine  
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano  
• 1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

bechamel sauce

• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1/2 cup flour
• 3 cups milk
• pinch of nutmeg  
• 1 egg (lightly beaten)

• 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
• 3/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease a large (24x38cm) baking dish. Cook the penne in boiling water until just cooked. While this is cooking, make the meat sauce. 

In a large pot gently sauté the onion and garlic. Add the meat and cook on a high heat until the meat has browned. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, white wine, cinnamon, oregano, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2o minutes. 

To make the bechamel sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Gradually add the milk, and stir slowly until thickened. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. When the sauce has cooled slightly, stir through the beaten egg. 

To assemble the pastitsio, sprinkle the bottom of the baking dish with the breadcrumbs. Spread over half of the penne and cover with the meat sauce. Then spread over the remaining penne and cover with the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 45- 50 minutes. Leave to sit for 10 minutes before cutting.

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