Slow decent into madness| Pollo Con Salsa

And so begins the slow decent into end-of-year madness. There’s people to see, parties to attend, shopping to do, and nowhere near enough time to do it all. Why do we do it to ourselves?!

How do you handle this time of year?
Are you a list person?
Did you start buying Christmas presents in June?
Do you promise yourself every year that this will be the one where you’re organised, only to find yourself 3 days out from the big day having a meltdown in Myer? Yeah, no, me neither.

With all the demands on your time that come with this time of year, you’re going to want some recipes that aren’t too taxing on the effort front, right? Right.

This recipe comes from one of my favourite books this year – The Feast Goes On, from The Monday Morning Cooking Club. If you see it, pick up a copy. It’s so full of really comforting recipes, kind of like a food hug, that it will be a book that you go back to again and again. I’m waiting for an excuse to make the insanely magical but also filthy fried cheese pie.

You heard me.

Fried.

Cheese.

Pie.

But until that day, there’s this. A great, family friendly dinner, that’s ready in an hour. This is the kind of thing you’ll find yourself eating weekly for it’s sheer simplicity and adaptability. Throw in whatever’s in your fridge, you can’t go wrong. You’re welcome.

 

Pollo Con Salsa

From The Monday Morning Cooking Club

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large red capsicum, thinly sliced
8 skinless chicken thighs
500ml chicken stock
400g tin diced tomatoes
1 large handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

 

Heat the oil over medium heat. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, then add the onion and cook until soft, stirring, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and capsicum and continue to stir for a further 5 minutes, until the capsicum softens. Scrape from the pan and set aside. Add the chicken to the pan and brown well on both sides.

Add the onion and capsicum back to the pan, then add the stock. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Stir in the tomatoes and parsley, season, then cook for another 15 minutes until slightly thickened.

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Serve with your favourite carb.

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This would be great with rice or mash, but I couldn’t say no to Israeli couscous.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

Those summer nights

There are some days where it’s pure torture to drag yourself into the kitchen. Even food bloggers aren’t immune to this.

Maybe it’s 38* outside.
Maybe you’ve had to do a lot of cooking lately.
Maybe you’re just too damn tired, and flopping on the couch with a season of Vikings and a bottle of wine is a much better idea.
Maybe it’s all of these things on the same day (last Monday, if you wanted to know).

These are all perfectly legit reasons to eat from the instant/delivered section of the food pyramid. BUT, if you stay with me, I can present to you a dinner that takes less time and effort to cook than it takes for Chinese to appear on your doorstep, with the added bonus of being good for you. I promise.

Lamb Skewers with Mint Pea and Feta Salad

From Good Food

500g lamb rump
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
Sea salt and black pepper
300g frozen peas
1 bag mixed lettuce greens
1/3 cup torn mint leaves, chopped
1/3 cup parsley leaves, chopped
150g marinated Persian feta
Flatbread, to serve

Dice the lamb into bite size chunks. Toss together in a bowl with oregano, olive oil and salt and pepper, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 hours. Soak wooden skewers in cold water, if you’re using them, to prevent them from burning.

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When you’re ready to eat, cook the peas in a pot of boiling water until tender (5 minutes, or whatever the packet instructions say). Drain, and refresh in cold water. Add the peas, herbs, greens and feta together and toss to combine.

Heat a bbq or frying pan. Thread the lamb onto the skewers evenly. Grill the skewers for a couple of minutes each side, or until cooked to your liking.

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Serve lamb with salad and flatbread.

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I used the flatbread to make everything into little wraps, because everything tastes better in a wrap. Duh.

I’m trying to kill you

Today, I want to share with you a recipe that doesn’t belong here.

February, in all it’s summerbodycleaneatingpaleofreshseasonalhealthy glory, is not the place for what I’m about to present to you. But you know what? Bollocks to that. Some days are hard. While I believe that you should try and remove negative stuff from your life, you certainly can’t go around pretending everything is peachy. You’re tired, things go wrong, you’re unwell, whatever. If you’re having a particularly bad day, you’re allowed to feel it. Screw the positive mind-set rubbish, and go wallow.

I’m not going to lie, this dish is probably going to kill you. There is nothing even remotely good for you here, and that’s pretty much why I love it. Because if you’re having the kind of day where you hate life and everything in it, why the hell would you worry about where or not stuff is good for you?

If you’re not having the kind of day where you hate life, make this anyway. It’s comfort food central, made up of stuff that you probably have in your kitchen already. It’s super kid-friendly, wintery cold weather-friendly, Friday night and can’t be bothered-friendly. It’ comes together in 20 minutes, and is incredibly moreish. It is, as the new Cookie Monster says, definitely a sometimes food, but why can’t sometimes be today?

Cheesy Sausage Tortellini

From Kevin & Amanda

2 tbsp olive oil
450g sausage (I used kransky), sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 cup tomato pasta sauce
1/2 cup cream
250g tortellini
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan with deep sides until hot. Add the sliced sausage and cook for 4 minutes each side, or until browned. Add the garlic to the pan, and cook, stirring, until fragrant.

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2. Add the pasta sauce, stock, cream and pasta to the pan, and give a good stir to combine, then bring to a almost-boil.

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3. Cover the pan and simmer for 12 minutes on low, until the pasta are tender and plump. Serve with cracked black pepper. And maybe a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. I’m not going to judge you.

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Breaking Bread

So, this is Christmas. And what have you done? If you’re anything like me, you’ve been run off your feet with Christmas parties, shopping, wrapping, planning, cooking, shopping, drinking more shopping (what is with all these little last minute presents?!) and a million catch-ups.

It’s well documented that I’m a grinch, however, I can’t hate everything about this time of year. I mean, it’s the best time to get out and try all the places that you never got to during the year, under the guise of merriment and quality time with friends and family!

The one place I still haven’t gotten to is Fremantle’s Bread in Common. The brain child of Nic Trimboli (you might of heard of him – his other ventures include Balthazar, Duende, Gordon St Garage – oh, and a little place called Little Creatures) is buzzing on Packenham Street, away from the myriad of fairly average cappuccino and pizza/pasta tourist pleasers that has rendered Fremantle a culinary wasteland for far too long.

The hero dish (aside from the bread) that I’m dying to try are the mint lamb ribs with black garlic; there is nothing about that dish that doesn’t sound amazing to me. Luckily, I happened across the recipe in the current Delicious Magazine, and was ecstatic that I don’t have to wait to try them!

Lamb ribs are all kinds of fantastic. They’ve been living in the shadows of the more popular pork and beef ribs; but are increasingly taking centre stage on restaurant menus. The good news is, lamb ribs are a ridiculously cheap cut of meat (unlike pork and beef), and you can buy a kilo of ribs for around $10, making this a great dish to make for a group of people, or maybe even leave out for Santa! Actually, don’t do that. If you leave meat out overnight for Santa, you might just kill him.

Black Garlic & Herb Lamb Ribs

From Delicious Magazine

1.2kg Macabee Dorper lamb ribs
3tbsp peanut oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1tbsp chopped thyme and rosemary
375ml white wine
1/2 bunch mint, chopped
6 cloves black garlic
1 long red chilli, seeds removed, chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/4 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
Coriander leaves, to serve
Marinade
1/2 bunch each of mint, rosemary and flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 long green chillies
2 tsp each coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and whole black peppercorns
3 garlic cloves
Blitz the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor with 2 tsp salt until coarsely chopped.

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Rub the marinade into the ribs, then place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight if time allows.

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Heat your oven to 140*C. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium heat in a roasting pan. Add the carrot and onion to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Add the ribs, thyme, rosemary and wine to the pan, then add enough hot water to cover the ribs. Bring the pan to a simmer, then remove from heat and cover with baking paper and foil and place in the oven for 3 hours or until the meat is tender.

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For the dressing, mix together mint, black garlic, chilli, sugar, vinegar and last 2 tbsp oil until combined.
Remove the ribs from the roasting pan, and discard the liquid. Season the ribs and char-grill in a pan over high heat, for 6 minutes or until golden.

Place the ribs on a plate and serve with dressing and coriander.

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Black garlic can be bought in tubs from supermarkets, and is simply fermented garlic cloves. They’re sweeter, less pungent than regular garlic and the dramatic colour adds interest to the plate. If you can’t find it, substitute roasted garlic cloves.

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Classy as f*ck

Sometimes, you just want a fucking taco.

Make no mistake. The weekend that I just spent in Margaret River was unbelievable.

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I ate marron and truffle in a chandelier lit marquee on the not-out-of-place-in-an-English-palace gardens of Voyager Estate, listening to the wisdom of the chef one of the world’s best chefs.

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I ate marron on the shores of one of Yallingup’s most secluded and spectacular beaches, served by two of Australia’s best young chefs and was served wine by one of Australia’s most prominent wine makers. Actually, I ate more marron that weekend than I have in my whole life to date. It was a tiny bit amazing. Super fancy. Why couldn’t every day be like that?

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After a weekend of pure excess, I spent the drive home asking myself the kinds of important questions about my new life as a purveyor of the finer things. Wagu? Oysters? Where does one get Russian caviar in Perth on a Monday afternoon? Do I own a champagne flute? (the answer to that is no)

As I aimlessly wandered through the supermarket, I happened across pâté. Yes. Fancy people love pâté! I then considered what to have with said pâté. Crisp bread? Cheese? And then BAM. Lightning. Banh mi was the only answer.

Pâté belongs in a roll with pickled vegetables, coriander, some kind of protein and cheap, fluffy white bread. It’s just pure mouth magic. It’s French, it’s Vietnamese, it’s easy, it’s street food. There is nothing fancy about it, and I realised that there is very little fancy about me. I love street food. Probably too much, which is why there’s a lack of truffle in my diet. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

And so home I went. I cooked. My boyfriend, housemate and I ate off a chopping board on the floor of my lounge room with our hands. And it was equally, if not more perfect than anything else I’d eaten that weekend, because sometimes, you just want a fucking taco. And I was happy.

Lemongrass Pork Banh Mi Taco

Adapted from Gourmet Traveller

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 red chillies, thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, thinly sliced
¼ cup fish sauce
40 gm grated palm sugar or brown sugar
800 gm piece of skinless pork neck, cut into 6cm thick pieces

Good quality pâté
Pickled carrots
Coriander leaves
Sliced jalapenos
Japanese Mayo
Sriracha

Blitz the garlic, chili and lemongrass in a food processor until a paste forms. In a large bowl, combine the fish sauce and sugar, add the lemongrass paste, stir to combine, then add the pork and coat with marinade. Refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.

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Heat some oil in a fry pan over medium high heat and cook the pork in batches until cooked through.

When you’re ready to serve, spread a tortilla with pâté, then top with pork, pickles, coriander, mayo and sriracha, and a squeeze of lime.

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Notes: Banh mi is traditionally made as a roll, however, due to the lack of appropriate bread at my local supermarket, I went with the tiny tortilla option, which was pretty damn fantastic.

The pickled carrot recipe is so stupidly easy, that I have to insist that you give it a go. If you can’t be bothered, julienne carrots are fine, but it’s really worth the extra step. Promise.