The French. Is there anything the can’t do?

Is it any wonder that the rest of the world is in love with the French?

They own the term champagne. If you put ‘French’ in front of a product description, you can charge 700% for it (French butter? TAKE MY MONEY). Their accent is the stuff of dreams/fantasies. They don’t diet or need face-lifts (apparently), their children simultaneously eat everything and nothing (how else do you stay skinny?!), and if you believe the internet, French women basically invented style. Look, I may have to conceded that last point, I do own at least six Breton striped tops. That’s normal, right?

If none of that impresses you, the French are also responsible for the framework of modern cooking, so, you know, there’s that. I’m not going to lie to you, traditional French cooking isn’t something I know a hell of a lot about. It’s never been my scene, though I respectfully acknowledge its contribution to food.

However, when you live with someone who is all about all things Paris and it is their birthday (Happy birthday Lou!), you shut up and pull out Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Soupe à l’Oignon is a pretty excellent entry into French cooking. The recipe for French Onion soup is relatively effortless, but is still chic enough to serve at a dinner party. Impressionnant, non?

My advice to you, is this: as always with recipes with so few ingredients, the strength of your dish depends on the quality of those ingredients. Buy the best you can afford. and you can’t go wrong.
I also advise you to get your hands on a mandolin, because it will take you forever to thinly slice all those onions without one, unless you’re a pro with impeccable knife skills. They’re a pretty cheap bit of kit, and worth having in the cupboard for times like these. Make sure you buy one with a safety guard!

Also, even with a mandolin, I cried the whole time. Stupid onions.

20140708-214222-78142705.jpg

 

Soupe à l’Oignon (French Onion Soup)

From Smitten Kitchen

680 grams thinly sliced yellow onions (I sliced up 6 large onions)
42 grams unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons plain flour
8 cups or 2 litres beef stock
1/2 cup (118 ml) dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)

To finish (Optional)
1 to 2 cups grated cheese (I used Gruyere)
Thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard (2/3 toasts per person)

 

In a large, heavy based saucepan, melt the oil and butter together over low heat. Add the sliced onions and gently stir until coated in oil. Put the lid on the pot, and allow to gently cook for 15 minutes.

20140708-214221-78141182.jpg

Once this is done, ditch the lid, stir in the sugar and salt and raise the temperature ever so slightly. For the next 40 minutes, stir the onions frequently until they are a deep golden brown. This caramelisation process builds the soup’s flavour, so make sure you take care!

Once the onions are golden, add the flour and continue to stir for 3 minutes. Add the wine to the pot and scrape any delicious brown bits from the bottom. Add the first litre for stock, a little bit at a time, continuing to stir. Then add the second, and season with salt and pepper. If you’re adding the cheese later, go easy on the salt – it’s easier to add more at the end, but you can’t make it less salty if you add too much now! Add in the brandy or cognac and stir.

To finish, cover the toasted French rounds with Gruyere, and grill until golden and bubbly. Stir any leftover cheese into the soup, taste and season accordingly. Divide soup between bowls, and serve with toasts.

20140708-214223-78143964.jpg

 

Advertisements

Dinner in a brisket

I’m going through a phase. We all go through them. Sometimes it’s a black lipstick and creeper shoes-wearing thing. Or bad boys with leather jackets and motorbikes. Scuba diving. Knitting. Dance classes, because you marathoned all of the Step Up movies in a weekend, and you can totally do that.

At the moment, I’m obsessed with Jewish cook books. The transition into winter is probably the catalyst, following on from all the Lent-inspired recipes. Jewish cooking looks so comforting. If any kind of food felt like a warm hug, it’s definitely this. A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Monday Morning Cooking Club: The Feast Goes on. I liked it so much, I immediately picked up their other book. We’re going to come back and talk about this another day, but the important thing to note is: brisket. These books love brisket. I was immediately inspired.

Brisket, if you’ve never come across it before, is cut from the breast or lower chest of beef or veal. It’s a tough piece of meat which benefits from some super slow cooking to render it tender and melty. I picked mine up from the magical team at Gingin Beef at the Subi Farmers Markets. Ask your local butcher for it, because you won’t find it at Coles or Woolies.

Diagram-Of-Cuts-Of-Beef

Now I know what you’re thinking. This looks like a lot of work. I mean, brisket sounds fancy and complicated. But fear not! It’s incredibly simple, I promise. Would I lie to you?

The barbecue sauce is made up from stuff that you’ve probably got in your pantry. The spice rub is super easy to throw together, but if you’ve got a pre-made rub in the back of the cupboard, feel free to use it. Mac and cheese can be thrown together is 10 minutes. The recipe can even be doubled, or tripled, and divided up and frozen for future can’t-be-assed-cooking nights – and with the impending cold weather, we all know there are plenty of those comin’.

Now. The recipe that follows serves 6-8 people, so feel free to halve it all. The piece of brisket I used was 900g, which was a touch small for 4 people, so maybe aim for 1.2kg for 4 people.

Beef Brisket and Mac and Cheese

From Daily Life

Beef Brisket

A piece of brisket, about 5kg

Barbecue Sauce
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
500ml tomato sauce
100ml Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp malt vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tsp chopped thyme
Spice Rub
2 tbsp each chilli powder and mustard powder
1 tbsp each paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder, ground black pepper, castor sugar
1 bay leaf, crushed

To make the barbecue sauce, cook the onion and garlic in the oil, in a large fan over medium heat. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and blend with a food processor to form a smooth puree.

20140430-165451.jpg
Heat the oven to 150*c. Mix all of the spice rub ingredients together with a good pinch of salt, then rub all over the brisket.

20140430-165635.jpg

Add the sauce and two cups of water to a roasting tray, pop in the brisket, then cover tightly with baking paper and then foil. Place in the oven and roast for at least 4 hours (maybe 5 if it’s a big piece), until it’s fork-tender.

20140430-165510.jpg
Once it’s done in the oven, grill the brisket in a hot frypan for a couple of minutes each side, until lightly charred. Cut into thick slices and serve.

 

Mac and Cheese

500g macaroni
olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely diced
4 rashers streaky bacon, diced
600ml cream
150g grated aged cheddar
350g grated gruyere
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp seeded Dijon mustard
1 tsp smoked paprika
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley
100g  breadcrumbs

Place the pasta in a large pot boiling salted water, and cook according to packet instructions until al-dente. Drain well and set aside.

20140430-165500.jpg
Heat some oil in a saucepan over medium heat, then cool the onion and bacon until the onion is soft and the bacon is golden. Remove from the pan and leave to drain on a paper towel. Return the pan to high heat and add the cream, brining to a boil. Lower the heat and add the garlic, mustard, paprika and cheese.

20140430-165641.jpg

Simmer for 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and sauce thickens. Return the onion and bacon to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
In a large baking dish, add the pasta and sauce, stir until the pasta is coated, then top with the breadcrumbs and parsley. If you’re prepping the mac and cheese in advance, refrigerate until the brisket comes out of the oven, turn up the heat to 200* and cook until warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.

20140430-165534.jpg

In the interest of your arteries, serve with some kind of token salad. It definitely cancels out.

Better than IKEA

For very brief, fleeting moments this week, it actually felt like Autumn. As a firm lover of blankets, pajamas and generally looking like an Eskimo, you can bet your ass I was excited.

It’s a widely accepted truth that everyone loves IKEA. Even if you hate it, there’s a perverse pleasure of being there, hating everything and everyone and coming out with 14 bags of Diam (which, by the way, is like crack). I, for one, love IKEA, and am the kind of person that can’t go unsupervised. Mostly because I need someone to remind me that I don’t need coat hangers/toys/500 picture frames and a whole new book shelving unit.

Of course, IKEA is also famous for it’s food court. It’s the cheapest feed in the world, why wouldn’t you eat your body weight in meatballs and mousse while you’re there? You’re going to need all the energy you can get when you’re at home and 4 hours into the most confusing bed assembly in the universe. The problem is, you can’t really go there for a meatball fix, lest you come home with a shelving unit, the temptation is far too great.

So here we have it, folks. The recipe that’s going to make your life just that much better. It’s perfect winter comfort food, and it’s also pretty damn easy.
20140323-082323.jpg

Better Than IKEA Meatballs

Adapted from The Londoner and Jamie Oliver

a handful of mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley or chives
300g minced pork
300g minced beef
1 large egg
100ml milk
75g dried breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon ground allspice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1tbsp mustard
1-2tbsp Worcester sauce
1tsp honey
300ml double cream
Salt n pepper

Roughly chop the fresh herbs. Set aside a pinch for garnish, and then place the rest in a large, deep mixing bowl, big enough for you go get your hands in to. Add the mince, egg, milk, bread crumbs and all spice. Season with salt and pepper, then mix and scrunch together with your hands until thoroughly combined. Roll the mixture into meatballs, place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for an hour to firm up.

20140323-082150.jpg

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the meatballs to the pan and brown all over, about 10 -15 minutes. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a plate and set aside.

20140323-082205.jpg

Add the flour to the remaining oil in the pan and stir until it makes a smooth paste. Add the stock and simmer, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan (you want this, they are delicious). Leave to simmer and thicken for a couple of minutes, then add the Worcester Sauce, honey and mustard. Give a good stir, then add the cream. Stir again, then add the meatballs to the pan, and turn to coat. Simmer for a further 5 minutes.

20140323-082235.jpg

Serve meatballs and sauce over your favourite carb – this is amazing with pasta, mashed potatoes, couscous or polenta. Sprinkle with reserved herbs.

20140323-082244.jpg

If you’re a little on the lazy side, or pushed for time, you can use your favourite flavoured sausages – just remove the meat from their casings, and roll into balls. The flavouring is already in the meat, so you’re good to go!

Everything you see, I owe to pasta.

I mean, who’s going to argue with Sophia Loren?

There is no magic in this world quite like pasta. A staple of the family dinner table; the quickest dinner in any of our repertoires; the first thing we learn to cook. For something so simple (eggs, flour, salt, traditionally), you could go your whole life without making the same recipe twice.

Although I eat very little pasta in my day to day life, I get a kick out of making it when cooking for others. I weirdly feel the need to prove myself, that I can make more than mac and cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with mac and cheese!), or fusilli with a jar of pasta sauce and tinned tuna; my go-to uni student meal.

This is total restaurant quality stuff. It’s incredibly flavourful and moorish, and a great thing to plate up when you’re wanting to impress someone. Yeah, I’m calling it. Date food. Write it down.

Beef Short Rib & Mushroom Orecchiette

From Delicious

20g dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup sunflower oil
2.5kg beef short ribs (I only used 1.5kg)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme leaves, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef stock
2 bay leaves
400g orecchiette
20g butter
200g swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
Parmesan, to serve

Heat the oven to 180*c.

Soak the porcini mushrooms in 2/3 cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, keeping the liquid, and halve the mushrooms if they’re large.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large flame proof and oven proof dish. Season the ribs really well with salt and pepper, then add to the dish and cook for 12 minutes, turning until well browned. Place the ribs on a plate and set aside.

IMG_7994

Add the carrot, celery and onion to the dish and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until soft.  Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic and thyme. Cook for a minute, stirring, until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste, cooking for a minute.

IMG_7997Add the wine, stock, bay leaves, porcini and the reserved liquid. Add the ribs and resting juices to the dish, then bring to a simmer. Cover the dish and place it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.

IMG_7998

Remove the dish from the oven, and remove the ribs. Leave them to one side to cool slightly. Place the dish over medium high heat and bring the liquid to a simmer for 5 minutes until it thickens a little.

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions in a pan of salted water. Drain.

In a large frypan, heat the butter, then add the mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes until golden.

Remove the meat from the ribs, throwing away the cartilage and bones. Tear up the meat into small pieces, then add the meat and mushrooms to the sauce, along with the pasta. Toss together thoroughly, then season with salt and pepper.


IMG_8005

My favourite sin

There seems to be a direct link between the declining temperature, and my willingness to do stuff. In short, it gets cold, I become a sloth.

It’s not my fault, really. I mean, what incentive is there to break free from the incredible cosy warmth of my bed/fort and endless tv, to venture out into the cold harsh world? There is none.

(Yes, I’m aware that Real Winter doesn’t start until next month. I’m a sook, ok?)

Necessity is the mother of invention, and it is with this that I’ve discovered the genius of slow cooking. You toss everything into a pan, throw it in the oven for a couple of hours, and once you wake up from your nap – DINNER! How good is that?!

This recipe went straight to the top of my to-do list. With its wholesome, filling lentils, delicious wintery vegetables (which I chopped in a blender because I was feeling really lazy) and beef that honestly, literally falls off the bone; it’s the perfect Sunday recipe.

Sloth + Gluttony = Happy Bri, even if it makes me a sinner. Hell will totally be worth it.

I used beef ribs from Gingin Beef, because look at that picture. Can you see that marbled fat? That my friend, is a very, very good thing. When slow cooking, fat is your friend, adding flavour and preventing the meat from drying out. Embrace it.

Braised beef short rib with moghrabieh and green lentils

From Delicious Magazine

1tbs olive oil
2.5kg beef short ribs
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup red wine
1L beef stock
5 cardamom pods, lightly bruised
1 cinnamon quill
5 cloves
1 cup moghrabieh (pearl or giant couscous)
1 cup green lentils
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

Heat the oven to 170*C. Heat the oil in a roasting pan, then add the ribs, browning thoroughly on all sides. Set aside.

IMG_7002

Over medium heat, add the carrots, celery and onion to the pan and stir for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and continue to stir until fragrant. Add the wine to the pan and cook until the wine reduces by half, 3-4 minutes. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and stock, then simmer.

Nestle the ribs back in the pan, cover with baking paper and the foil. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 3 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone. Remove the ribs, shred the meat and discard the bones. Reserve the juices from the pan.

Cook the lentils and the moghrabieh in separate pans of salted water. Each pan should take around 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

Over medium heat, skim the fat from the roasting pan and then cook until slightly thickened, 5 minutes or so. Combine all the ingredients, and serve with yoghurt.


IMG_7006

Turns out, I didn’t have all of those whole spices like I thought I did. Overzealous pantry cleaning, coupled with a forgetful brain. Always replace the stuff you throw out, kids. I used 1/2 tsp of ground cloves, and 1 tsp ground cardamom instead. Also, I only had 1.8kg of ribs, and it all worked beautifully.

Get steaked

March.

Is anyone else really looking forward to this month?

  • First things first, there’s the cool weather change which I’m welcoming with open arms. Jumpers! Knee socks! 
  • The State Election. March 9, AKA this weekend. VOTE. 
  • Eat Drink Perth – A spectacular Perth food festival. Check here, herehere and here for details
  • The return of not only Doctor Who, but also Game of Thrones (nerd alert!)
  • EASTER. The festival of chocolate and long weekends!
  • St Patrick’s Day! WEAR ALL THE GREEN!

Writing all these things down makes me realise just how busy I’m going to be… Ugh. I love all the things that I have on, but I’m a bit of an introvert so I don’t always love being run off my feet.

I’m a known lover of comfort food, and this is one of my current favourites. This is a really easy way to level up what is essentially steak and salad. Throw in some crusty bread to mop up the oil and juices, and hell, you can eat without cutlery. Who doesn’t love less dishes?

I know the oil stuff sounds a little fiddly. It’s not, really. You could also just steep the garlic and rosemary in oil for a couple of hours, tasting occasionally. Alternatively, you can buy flavoured oils from good food stores, which pretty much takes out all of the work. I see no problem with this.

Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes

From BBC Food

400g cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves , chopped finely
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar 

Heat the oven to 180C.

Cut a cross into the bottom of each tomato. Toss the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar together in a small roasting dish. Roast for 20-25 minutes.

IMG_4477

 

Garlic-Rosemary Steak

From Bon Appetit

3/4 cup plus 7 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/4 cup rosemary sprigs
4 steaks
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
6 large garlic cloves, sliced

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat 3/4 cup of oil and the rosemary for a couple of minutes or until it bubbles. Set aside to steep for a couple of hours, then strain and discard the rosemary. Set aside.

IMG_4476

Rub the steak with 1 tbsp oil, and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan over high heat, and quickly sear the steaks on both sides then set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Add the remaining 4 tbsp oil and garlic to the pan, turning to cook until the garlic is brown but not burnt. Strain the oil into a bowl and discard the garlic.

Slice the steaks against the grain. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp garlic oil in the pan until it shimmers. Add half of the steak and turn once, cooking until done to your liking. Add 1 tbsp of the rosemary oil and toss. Set aside. Repeat with the remaining oil.

Season the steak with sea salt and more oil if you like.  Serve on a platter with the roasted tomatoes and crusty bread.


IMG_4484 IMG_4482 IMG_4483

Learning to juggle

I take my hat off to multi taskers. I know there’s supposed to be a female genetic requirement for me to be able to juggle several things at once, but I can’t.

First of all, I can’t juggle. It’s far to advanced for my very basic coordination levels. I barely manage patting my head and rubbing my tummy. Second, I have a short attention span, and a goldfish-like short term memory. I get distracted by the second task, then forget the first one all together. Cue things burning, overflowing and just generally going to crap. I’m not kidding, I wanted to add roasted tomatoes to this recipe. Put them in the oven, set about preparing the rest of the meal. Promptly forgot about the tomatoes.

This happened.

I threw out the baking dish.

So when I stumbled upon a recipe that is both delicious and healthy, I couldn’t help but give it a whirl. There is no way to lose with this recipe. It’s steak. It’s salad. It’s yummy. It’s sneakily good for you. It’s easy. It’s fast. IT’S EVERYTHING I COULD EVER ASK FOR. I find straight-up salads so unsatisfying, so if there’s a way you can make one that fills me up, I tip my hat to you. Use it to trick your men folk! Children! Ok, perhaps chorizo isn’t terribly good for you, but given the rest is, I figure it balances out… Right? Guys?

Balsamic Beef & Chickpea Salad

From Donna Hay

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon horseradish cream
2 1/1 tablespoons olive oil
2 chorizo, sliced
800g beef fillet steak
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
100g baby spinach leaveds
1 cup mint leaves

Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, horseradish and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat half a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the chorizo and cook until golden, a couple of minutes each side. Set aside on kitchen paper.

Season the steak on both sides and cook, turning frequently, for 15 minutes or cooked to your liking. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then slice.

Add the chickpeas to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes until golden.

Toss together the chickpeas, chorizo, spinach and mint. Add balsamic dressing and toss to coat.

Serve with sliced steak on top of salad.