Monday, February 11, 2008

what's for dinner tonight?

we are at msac.

young d and i are watching his 2 sisters in their swimming lesson.

young d asks me: what's for dinner tonight?

me: guess

young d [eye's lighting up]: pizza!

me: nope

young d [eye's still afire]: lasagne!

me [eye's getting twitchy]: no

young d: [still hopeful]: tacos!

me: no! i'll tell you... COUS-COUS!!!! [voice is very excited, kind of like "wow wouldn't that be the best thing ever that you would like to eat?"

young d: oh.

and note he says this not as "oh" as in simple disappointment; he also adds a twist of comedy to it, making it a comedic "oh", and that makes it worse than just a disappointed "oh".

[someone once told me ages ago, oh alright it was my ex-husband, that when he was less than complimentary about the food i cooked, i shouldn't take it personally.]


how can a woman who has cooked for her loved ones, and then had a nose turn up or similar, not take it personally?

i am sure i represent all women and/or cooks when i say this.

[insert little vignette here: princess just came in the room "ooh, something smells nice, what's for dinner...




princess: yum

me: and i left the carcass out there for you to strip

[princess makes sound of ravenous beast, does something dramatic with her arms, and runs to the kitchen. there are now the sounds of feasting from that direction, like some sort of stephen king monster.]


cous cous is really really easy if you get the instant cook sort. even though i am a purist when it comes to all things slow-food, i really think some things are ok. like tinned tomatoes, frozen peas and instant cous-cous. but everything else pretty much has to be traditional.

tonight i had some left-over chicken from a roasted one we bought on fitzroy street. it's the first pre-cooked chicken shop i've seen that does lilydale chickens, which are free-range.

woah, giddy-up, i said when i saw the sign.

so i got all the bits off, but leaving some for the beast.

i chopped mushrooms, spring onion and sauteed while boiling carrots. usually i would steam but i have a saucepan crisis in which the bottom part of the steamer is soaking after being encrusted with baked beans last night.

i put in some fresh rosemary also, along with salt and pepper. to the mushroom thing, then i added the chicken to heat through.

next, making the cous-cous. just follow the directions on the packet, but seriously it's about as hard as lifting a glass of nice chardonnay to your mouth.

now i am going to go and stir some beurre into the cous cous, and then toss the musroom, chicken, carrot and spring onion mix through it.

last word: i wouldn't have used carrots, i don't think they really match the other ingredients, but they were old, in the bottom of the fridge and needed to be used. i think tomatoes would have gone better with this ensemble.

now, chew slowly.

oh, almost forgot. a squeeze of lemon is very nice.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

hot food for hot day

i'm one of those people who doesn't find the need to somehow inversely match my food to the weather.

you know those people, who when you say in best cockney/manchester accent

cup o' tay, luv?

they say

are you insane? it's 36 degrees outside.

well maybe i am, but i tell you what, this bowl of rice and salmon i'm eating now is going down a treat.

this is how i worked it:

left over rice in fridge

tin of red salmon. you heard me. RED.

bok choy or another one of those types of leafy greens. chop thinly and wash well under water.

dill, cause i had some in the fridge. a little scrunch, finely chopped.

1 tomato, finely diced.

a little bit of red onion, finely diced too. you could put more in, as much as you like, but this one i've got going on here is really hot and spicey so i just put a little in.

fry in a little oil the onion and tomato, once it's going a bit (couple of minutes) pop in the leafy green. let that all wilt down, then put in the rice.


the rice is likely to make a mess as you get it out of the plastic container. it was probably still warm when you put it in there, and so is moulded a bit like a rice brick to that shape. it will resist being teased apart and then stubbornly hold on, hold on, hold on until it SPRAYS all around the kitchen.

once the rice is safely in the pan, gently nudge it down and apart. it's still dangerous at this point, be patient and light handed.

once it's all mixed in and heated through, tip in the drained salmon, and sprinkle with dill.

i put pepper in also.

toss in the pan a few times, for longer or lesser, depending on the height of the flame, then eat.

it really doesn't make you any hotter i don't think.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

you've just got to love chicken mince

made my chicken ball soup today. it sounds fowl, but it's really such a gorgeous soup.

this soup would make the person on the death bed get up and want to tango.

let me tell you how i made it today. it's so simple, you must try it. go on, you must. you know you want to.

chicken ball soup [bad title]
chicken soup with balls [even worse]
chicken soup, with mince floaties

hey, i need help with a suitable title that conveys the sheer deliciousness of this soup. if i ever meet you, any one of you, and want to feed you, then there's a good chance you'll get this soup. so, if you want to eat something other than "chicken ball soup", please come up with a name for it.

before we start, you should know i always use free range chicken.

what i had was some real chicken stock i'd made the other day. i made this by simmering two carcasses that i had frozen, which i'd stripped of meat. [insert creepy mick taylor "jaws" laugh here.]

in the water i also had some diced carrot, celery and onion. you know the drill.

i put in a few fronds of parsley. i like that. fronds.

some pepper i think. then simmered it until it was rich and fragrant.

i made some killer paella without seafood, but that's another story.

thing is, i had some stock left over. the stock was in the fridge, chilled. it had a lot of fat in it, which i scooped out. started heating it up, popped in some more carrot (in thin circles this time), mushrooms thinly sliced, and some more celery.

after about 10 mins simmering, i added the balls. for these, i mixed 500g chicken mince with chopped parsley, freshly-ground pepper and a sprinkling of corn flour to bind. i usually just shape them in my hands, and then drop them in the stock. this time i used a soup spoon, which didn't really make much difference, to tell the truth.

dropped them in. then right at the end, after i'd eaten one to make sure it was cooked through, i dropped in some cold cooked rice from last night.

so. maybe the name could be chicken and rice soup, with balls. nope. still doesn't cut it.

i'd like to hear any ideas on the name for this most delectable of dishes. the more outlandish the better.

Monday, July 03, 2006

breakfast faux-risotto

take some leftover rice.* put it into a heated saucepan/frying pan (non-stick is better, cause this faux-risotto is a bitch to cook without sticking it to the pan and losing like 40% of your grains.)

a little oil heated is good too.

fry it through so it's heated up. toss in two eggs, stir through. and throw in whatever else. leftover veg. half a tin of red** salmon. some chopped spring onion,*** a bit of cheese.

* be very careful with leftover rice. if you don't refrigerate it properly, and soon after cooking, it can grow some really nasty bacteria that will have you hurling your faux-risotto, or lovely rice salad in a flash.

** not pink you cheapskate!

*** though you might have different views to me regarding spring onions in the morning. make it mid-morning. ok. let's call it brunch faux-risotto.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

the coffee smells good

i have just had breakfast and read the paper. i'm not sure how long i will be able to enjoy such a relaxed start to my day, as i will probably have to get a job. make that definitely.

i have been limiting my coffee intake severely recently, after i had to spend a day in bed withdrawing. i don't drink a lot but i find even one a day, every day means i get a thumper of a headache when i don't have a coffee for a couple of days.

we have been without ground coffee in the pantry for more than a month, now. we have got instant - eeek [for those guests who don't care] and we have got fancy schmancy for the espresso makina, which i don't know how to use, andwhich, truth be told, i don't like.

i like cafe coffee, ie a skinny latte, or at home i like plunger coffee.

i have two pots like this. one is small, good for cafe a deux. the other makes up to 6 cups.

at the prahran market on saturday i bought half a kilo of nicaraguan coffee. the girl said it was velvety, and the cup and a half i just drank now were indeed velvety.

went very nicely with my two round crumpets with slabs of BUTTER and honey on top.

i didn't feel guilty indulging because i had earlier done a big walk with the gigi. first time out with my ipod, which i am affectionately calling mypod, i strode out with alot more enthusiasm than usual.

so happy things about today: velvety coffee, crumpets and honey and mypod. and the gigi.

Friday, May 05, 2006

lamb and barley soup

ok, the cold snap is coming, if you're in melbourne. melbourne gets windy and while it doesn't have the sub-zero temperatures of other cities around the world, we have the wind chill factor. this is the time of year when you need a beanie, a scarf and a belly full of soup.

i cooked this last weekend for the fam, when they came over for lunch.

when i was a kid, campbell's had a soup called stock pot. i remember it for its lamb pieces and barley. it was my favourite soup when i was about 7.

so i tried to recreate it and think i did a fine job.

three general tips for cooking soup.

1. start with cold water. don't pour boiling or heated water into the pot.

2. don't add too many ingredients. then you end up with stew. which is fine, if it's stew. but when you want soup, you don't want stew.

3. don't boil the soup. gently bring it to the boil at the beginning, then let it simmer.


Lamb and barley soup

1 small leg of lamb
2 carrots
2 sticks celery
1 large onion
2 cups pearled barley, soaked as per instructions on packet
peas [frozen or dried ok]

Cut fat off lamb as much as possible. Cut meat off bone in one chunk so you have two pieces.

Barley – once it’s been soaked it needs to be cooked in water. Follow instructions on packet.

Gently saute the onion, carrots and celery. Once they are softened, about 5-10 minutes, put in the lamb pieces, fry gently then cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then simmer half-covered gently for several hours.

When the meat is tender, remove and shred. Put back in the pot.
When the barley is ready, add to pot.

When almost ready to serve, add the peas.


we ate this with crusty bread and butter. and you know my feelings about margarine etc.

go the butter.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

dumplings or WONTONS

i made wontons the other day. without one of those little machines that everyone is raving about, and of which i am not yet the proud owner.

inside my wontons i put some finely diced spring onion, some chicken mince and i think that was it. i sealed the wontons (round ones, bought from the supermarket) with a cornflour and water paste.

i cooked them in the soup, which just had some standard vegetables, ie carrot, onion, some green beans cut up and tossed in.

when they cooked in the soup they contracted prettily and turned out like REAL WONTONS.

i was proud of myself.

right now i'm cooking up a beef bourgignon type thing without red wine. it's bubbling away, but i have to turn it off in a minute and put it in the fridge while i go and get the kids, then take them all to the dentist.

it's cold, windy and rainy.