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

All killer, no filler

As I’m typing, it’s raining. This makes me extraordinarily happy. I might have wasted absolutely no time wriggling into a pair of track pants and a hoodie, though I’m having a little trouble finding my knitted socks. All in good time, I suppose. Of course, with the sudden influx of wet and cold comes the need for wintery foods. Cravings wait for no man, and I wasn’t really surprised when I discovered no less than 4 friends delving into soup territory in this same afternoon. Beetroot, pumpkin, pea and ham… My contribution to the souptivities, was carrot.

I know. Carrots, right? Possibly the least exciting of all the vegetables. They’re filler veggies, to bulk up salad or add colour, but not distract from the hero of the dish, whatever it may be. Who goes out of their way for carrots? No one. Why would you?

Here’s what happened. The downside to living in a share house is the double ups. Wade peered into the fridge last week and noted that between the three of us, we’d accumulated 3 kilos of carrots.  What the hell  do you do with three kilos of carrots? Admittedly, he made some amazing carrot muffins, but that only knocked it down to 2.5 kilos. Juicing? That got us down to 1.5 kilos. Hummus dippers took care of half a kilo. And so here we are. Sunday, and soup. Waste not, want not, right?

I know I ask you to trust me regularly. And you’re still here, so thank you for humoring me so far. But for old times sake, trust me on this. I know it looks like baby food, and probably as appetizing. Holy jeebus, this is really, really tasty. Cumin, turmeric and coriander are regularly seen kicking about in Indian recipes and they really shine here. The addition of chorizo is inspired, because who doesn’t love chorizo? All in all, you might just be looking at your new favourite winter soup. Yeah, I went there.

Carrot & Chorizo Soup

From Delicious Magazine

30g unsalted butter
1 tbs olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 tsp cumin seeds
1kg carrots, chopped
1.25L (5 cups) chicken stock
1 tbs lemon juice
150g chorizo, finely chopped
Handful of coriander leaves, to serve
 

Preheat your oven to 220*c. Roughly chop the carrots to even sized chunks. Place in a roasting pan, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes until softened.

IMG_6801

In a large saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter and oil together. Gently cook the onion and garlic until soft, then add the ground coriander, turmeric and 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds until fragrant.

IMG_6802

Add the carrot to the pot, stirring to coat with the spices. Pop on the lid and soften for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrot is soft.

IMG_6803

Once cooled slightly, blend with a stick blender. Stir in the lemon juice.

In a frying pan, add the chorizo and last of the cumin seeds, stirring until crisp. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the lemon while cooking.

Split the soup between bowls and top with chorizo and coriander.

IMG_6805

As an FYI, you don’t have to roast the carrots first, you can just throw them in raw if you don’t have time. But I like the sweeter flavour that you get from roasting first.

Getting toasty in Mexico

So, this whole Mexican food trend. It’s not going anywhere. Yay for us! There are fewer cuisines that are quicker, easier and more fun to eat and make.

For most of us, Old El Paso is pretty much about as Mexican as we know. I mean, taco night was always my favourite growing up, even though those taco shells snap clean in half at first bite, and the fragments are bloody sharp when they stab you in the gums. Am I the only person that has taco war wounds? Probably.

You can, of course, buy tortillas from the supermarket. I made my own, from here. It’s kinda like making pizza dough, and kind of fun. The original recipe is also completely vegan, so if that’s your thing, take a look.

Mushroom and Lime Sour Cream Tostadas

Adapted from Vegan Yum Yum

Six Corn Tortillas (use the mini tortillas)
Wild Mushroom Filling (recipe below)
Lime Sour Cream (recipe below)
1 Jalapeno Pepper, sliced thinly
Handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 cup grated cheese
Oil

Wild Mushroom Filling
340g mushrooms (I used oyster mushrooms)
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp oil
Fresh cracked pepper

Lime Sour Cream
8 Tbsp sour cream
1 Tbs fresh lime juice

Preheat the oven to 200*c

Finely dice the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to a fry pan over medium heat and after 3 or 4 minutes, add the salt, oregano and cumin, stirring constantly.

Once the moisture has evaporated from the pan, add the oil and mix. Set aside in a bowl.

Place the tortillas on a baking tray, and grease lightly. Bake for about 8 minutes, until slightly toasted.

Mix together the sour cream and lime juice, and keep in the fridge until ready.

Divide the mushrooms between the tortillas, then top with cheese. Place the tray in the oven and switch to grill. Cook until the  cheese melts into gooey cheesy amazingness.

Top each of the tostadas with a couple of slices of carrot, some jalapeño and coriander and a spoonful of lime sour cream. Enjoy!

Beaufort Street goodness.

Who’s excited for the Beaufort Street Festival? Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

It’s on November 17. Write it down. This year, they’re doing something a little different. Don’t worry! It’s still full of food, fun things, fantastic music and fortheloveofallthatsholypleasekeepthepettingzoo. Can I request that? ALWAYS HAVE A PETTING ZOO.

But this year, there is also a cook book. Yes! The book will be a compilation of recipes, along with stories from the community.

Recipes & Ramblings; A Food Journey from Beaufort Street and Beyond.”

I’ve been lucky enough to help out with recipe testing, feedback and last weekend, I cooked for the actual book. Yes, I cooked things (not my recipes) and they will be in the book. It was pretty fantastic, I can tell you that.

Of course, after a 9 hour day of cooking, I came home pretty damn knackered. But still, a girl’s gotta eat. And what does a girl eat when she can barely keep her eyes open? Something with minimal risk of injury, fire or death.

Luckily, I am exceptionally good at washing dishes.

Polenta is cruelly underrated. Creamy, easy and a great substitute for mashed potato – keep some in the pantry for a quick addition to meat or fish for dinner. I love this recipe for it’s ultimate comfort food status, plus it’s big on flavour, low on ingredients, effort and preparation. It’s all coming up Milhouse.

Mushroom Ragout with Polenta

From River Cottage Vege by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

2 tbsp olive oil
Large knob of butter
650g mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
Few sprigs of thyme, leaves only, chopped
150ml red wine
150ml vegetable or mushroom stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the polenta
400ml milk
1 bay leaf
Sprig of thyme
A few peppercorns
½ onion and/or 2 garlic cloves, bashed
150g quick-cook polenta
20g butter
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
20g parmesan, finely grated with extra to serve

To make the polenta, add milk, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns and onion and/or garlic with 400ml of water in a saucepan. Bring to a good simmer, then remove from heat and set aside to let the flavours come together, about 20 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and half your butter in a large pan. Season half the mushrooms with a good dose of salt and pepper, and then cook, stirring regularly until the juices have evaporated. Throw in half the garlic and thyme and cook for a further minute.  Set aside. Repeat with the remaining butter/shrooms/garlic/thyme.

Throw all the shrooms into the pan, adding the wine and stock. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the liquid reduces by half.

Scoop out the flavourings from the milk infusion, then bring to a simmer. Pour in the polenta, stirring until smooth. Cook for a minute, then remove from heat. Add the cheese, rosemary and butter, then season with salt and pepper. Go heavy on the salt (yes, you heard me right. Salt. Lots. Go.), it tastes amazing.

Serve the mushrooms on top of polenta, with lashings of extra cheese.

Baked happiness

Here’s the thing with this time of year. It’s cold (duh), wet (sometimes) and turns me into a bed dwelling house cat. Given that I’m generally opposed to exercise and anything resembling health food, I like my winter dinners to be a little… Indulgent.

This recipe serves two, and it took great restraint on my part not to eat the whole dish in one sitting. Seriously, I’m proud of myself as I get gently reminded regularly when faced with too much food that I actually don’t have to eat it all. I don’t really understand the point of that. It’s there, OF COURSE I have to eat it.

I know risotto is the dish of death on MasterChef, but to me it’s the dish of life. It’s good for the soul, it’s good for warming the body, and, if you throw in some roasted vegetables, maybe just a little bit good for you too. Roast whatever vege is in the fridge – it’s a great way to use up any leftovers. I had pumpkin, cherry tomatoes and capsicum, plus some spinach. ALWAYS add garlic, as the roasting process makes it sweeter, and at the same time a slightly salty taste that I can only describe as awesome. after that, it’s up to you.

I love the idea of Meat-Free Monday, and this is a quick, really easy weeknight meal which is about as effortless-yet-impressive-looking as you can get. Fact.

Roast Vegetable Baked Risotto

From Epicurious

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion or leek, finely chopped
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine (use more stock if you have none)
2 to 2 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 tsp salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tbsp unsalted butter
A handful of washed spinach
Vegetables. Whatever you want, as much as you want. Just dice them small for even roasting. If you need a recipe for that, check here

1) Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roast the vegetables in a roasting tray on the top rack of the oven.

2) Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion/leek and garlic and cook, stirring, until it is soft.

3) Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Stir in the wine and cook until the wine has evaporated, 1 minute more. Stir in 2 cups of stock water, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Place the rice in a oven proof dish, cover with foil and place in the oven. Bake on the bottom rack during the last 25 minutes of roasting time for the veggies. Most of the liquid should be absorbed and the rice just cooked.

4) Remove the risotto from the oven and stir in another 1/2 cup of stock and butter.

Stir through the spinach until wilted. Serve topped with roasted vegetables and parmesan.

No rest for the wicked. Instead: Eggs

Team, there’s something I need to confess to. Sit down, this is a safe place, right?

Ok, so we’ve well established that I love breakfast. Good.
There’s this thing.
On weekends, I’m rarely awake early enough to eat it. Left to its own devices, my body will naturally sleep through until 11am, no problems.
Unless.
I’ve had a little to drink. I can’t sleep when I’ve been drinking; it just doesn’t sit well. I wake up every hour, wander around, spend forever trying to settle back into whatever restless doze takes over.

Last Saturday night… Well, this happened.

The short version of the story is: I’m no good at card games. I’m not sure how that’s possible as it’s a game of chance. Regardless, I lost; those shots were two of five, and I didn’t sleep a wink.

On the plus side, you should always invite me to parties. I wake up at the crack of dawn, and make breakfast.

Eggs always make me feel better. Plain and simple, or dressed up however you like, they’re always exactly what you need. This recipe is really simple, really fast and has some serious flavour. Perfect on an upset stomach.

Greek Baked Eggs

From Salted and Styled

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream
5 large eggs
5 Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

1) Preheat oven to 180*c. Add the butter and cream to the bottom of a heavy based, oven proof pan. Place in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes, until the butter and cream mixture is hot and bubbles.

2) Place chopped herbs, garlic and olives in a small bowl.

3) Once the butter and cream have bubbled, quickly but carefully crack the eggs into the pan. Evenly sprinkle herb mix. Top with crumbled feta, cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt.

4) Place the pan back in the oven and cook for about 5 minutes, until the whites are almost set. Eggs continue to cook once you take them off/out of heat, so be careful not to overcook them. Let them sit out of the oven for a minute before serving. Probably with Turkish bread. Everything tastes better with Turkish bread. True story.

P.S. That beautiful goat feta from Urban Locavore I talked about last Friday? Tastes like heaven when used in baked eggs.

Turning over a new leaf. Again.

And so comes January.

The promises to:
get fit
give up smoking
learn a new language
Stop eating ice cream from the tub
Get out of bed before 1pm on Sundays

And before you know it (or January 2nd, whatever comes first), you’ve fallen off the wagon. But it’s ok, because it’s not your fault. Something happened, you’re totally going to start again on Monday. Next Monday. Next next Monday.

If you’ve seemingly managing to actually hold true this time, well, good for you!

After last week’s epic binge out on decadent dinners and desserts, here’s where we’re at.
Jeans are no longer our friends.
That noise you hear when you ‘run’? That’s body parts slapping together that usually wouldn’t.
You’re starting to imagine people are talking about food, when they’re not. That’s just me? Oh. Well, this just got awkward. I could have sworn you just said cheeseburger.

In the interest of attempting to rectify last week’s binge session, I present to you, roasted chickpea fajitas.
Because as the boys I used to live with used to tell me, everything tastes better in wrap from.
I’m still warming to this idea of meals without meat. But this recipe, I swear on my collection of dinosaurs, you don’t notice meat is missing. It’s filling, the spices smell ah-may-zing while cooking, and I was completely satisfied afterwards in a way that salad normally fails me.

Of course, if you really need meat (and there’s nothing wrong with that), thin beef strips thrown in the pan with vegetables would come up beautifully.
But before you do that, promise me you’ll try. Puhleaaaaase?

Roasted Chickpea Fajitas

Adapted from twopeasandtheirpod
Serves 4

To make the Roasted Chickpeas:
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp water
400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

For the Fajitas:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red capsicum, sliced
200g sliced mushrooms
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
Juice of 1 large lime
1/3 cup chopped coriander

For serving:
Flour tortillas
Diced tomatoes
Grated cheese
Avocado slices
Sour cream
Lime wedges

1. To roast the chickpeas: preheat an oven to 200*c. In a medium bowl, combine chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt, lime juice and water. Stir in chickpeas. Place seasoned chickpeas in a baking tray that has been lined with foil. Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring once during cooking, until chickpeas are slightly crispy.

2. While the chickpeas are roasting, in a large pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic, capsicum, and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes.

3. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and lime juice. Pour mixture over vegetables and cook for another 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Stir in the roasted chickpeas and fresh coriander.

4. Spoon roasted chickpea and vegetable mixture evenly down the centers of warm tortillas, and garnish with tomatoes, cheese, and sour cream. Roll up tortillas, and serve immediately.

I ate the leftovers at work the next day, thrown in the sandwich press, and they were still delicious. Food win.

The boys were right, everything does taste better in wrap form.