When it all gets too much

5 Jun

I know, I know, I made a promise and I’ve broken it! I actually feel bad – how is that possible when you have a ‘virtual’ audience and you’re not actually sure if your page hits are from genuine readers or from friends and family checking out your blog to make you feel loved?!

Point is, I’ll make it up to you (I promise :))… with a recipe I have been torn over sharing since I started even thinking about blogging, forever ago!

This recipe is so good that everyone I’ve ever cooked it for has proceeded to call me the next day, begging for the recipe! Even my Mum called for the recipe, which was kind of a big deal!

It’s one of those recipes that you want to cook for everyone but keep all to yourself at the same time! It really challenges the ethics of recipe sharing. If it were in a multi-choice question it would read a little like this…

When someone calls the day after a dinner party asking for the recipe, do you

a) Share it with them.

b) Promise you’ll email it then pretend you’ve lost the recipe.

c) Give them the recipe and leave out a crucial element so they can never cook it quite as good as you did.

You’re probably reconsidering reading my blog now, vowing to delete it from your bookmarks & unsubscribe, but hear me out…I’m not a selfish person, I’m all about sharing! It’s just that this recipe is THAT GOOD!

Anyway, believe me or not, it’s coming; I’m just debating over which of the above options I’ll take 😉

When it all gets too much

My standard “Cheers to Friday” drink is wine, but when it all gets too much, my “I need a drink” drink is a good old-fashioned gin and tonic, an oral injection of housewives heroin!

Hail the humble G&T. I know some people think it tastes like metho (how do you know what metho tastes like?) but I love its refreshing, bitter flavour. The reason I’m sharing these intimate details with you is that I have discovered a tantalising twist on my standard gin, tonic & lime combo that I still do love so very much. This may not be a newy for all of you, so please bear with me, but I feel compelled to share it because it is a mix that no fellow gin lover should be missing out on!

So – here it is – are you ready?

Gin, tonic, a slice of cucumber & a splash of elderflower cordial.

Like I said, it’s not rocket science, but the next time it all gets too much, try it and let me know what you think.

Moroccan Apple Pies

What can I say, apple, custard, cinnamon & pastry – it was always going to be a winner!

I think my favourite thing about this dish is that I can still manage to convince myself that it fits very clearly into the healthy desserts category! I may be kidding myself but I just assume filo pasty is ‘healthy’ pastry because it doesn’t taste like butter (until you lather it with it)!

Anyway, this dessert gets a big tick from me, and my table of guinea pigs didn’t seem to mind it either.

So here is the recipe, slightly adapted from ‘delicious. More Please.’ By Valli Little.

It’s very simple and straightforward to whip up, but takes a little while, so maybe leave this one for a weekend dinner party. Alternatively, you can make the custard and apple mixtures in advance and just put it all together on the night.

Moroccan apple pies with rose custard (Makes 6)

  • 4 green apples, peeled, cored & cut into rough bite sized pieces
  • 1tsp lemon zest plus 2tbs juice
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & seeds scraped or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • ½ cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50g sultanas
  • 1tsp cornflour
  • 4 sheets fresh filo pastry
  • 80g butter melted & cooled
  • Icing sugar

Rose Custard

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cups pure thin cream (can be substituted wholly or partly with milk)
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence or 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
  • 2tbs rosewater *optional
  • Rose food colouring *optional

Preheat oven to 200 & grease muffin pan.

Put apple, lemon zest & juice, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, sultanas and 2 tbs of water in a pan over low heat. Cover & cook for 6-8 minutes or until apple is tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Mix cornflour with 2 teaspoons hot water, then when apples are cool, stir cornflour into the mixture.

In the meantime, make the rose crème anglaise. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until thick and pale. Place the cream/milk and vanilla in a pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the mixture is just below boiling point.Pour the cream/milk mixture over the egg mixture, whisking gently to combine.

Return the custard mixture to a clean pan and place over very low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon for 5-6 minutes until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Watch this step very carefully as you don’t want to scramble the eggs. Use your judgement to determine when the mix is ready – it should taste like beautiful sweet custard, without an eggy flavour.

Strain into a jug and cover surface with baking paper to prevent a skin forming.

Take filo sheets out of fridge and lay out on a board. Slice into 6 squares, approx 15cmx15cm. There should be 24 squares in total. Take 4 squares, covering the rest of the pastry with a damp tea towel. It’s important to work quickly with the pastry otherwise it will dry out and crisp up – get someone to help you with these steps!

Brush each square with melted butter then place in muffin hole, positioning each square at a slightly different angle, leaving the pastry overhanging at the edges. Repeat with remaining pastry, filling 6 muffin holes.

Spoon filling into pie cases then fold in the sides to enclose and cover the top of the pie. Brush tops of pies with the remaining butter then bake for 15-20 mins until the pastry is beautifully crisp and golden. Keep an eye on the pies to make sure they don’t brown on top too much!

Back to the crème anglaise – mix warm crème anglaise with rosewater and 1 drop of rose food colouring. *This step is optional*. I think the rosewater flavour is sensational, but the crème anglaise is just as nice as is. It’s up to you and your taste!

Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly, then transfer to serving plates and dust lightly with icing sugar. Serve with Rose Custard or vanilla bean ice cream.

* If you have any leftover apple mix, put in a container in the fridge and eat with ice cream or yoghurt for a simple weeknight dessert!!

And what about the next challenge?

I’m going round 2 with the duck. Chinese duck with pancakes this time…wish me luck!

Miss Piggie x

Duck 1 Piggie 0

18 May

The Challenge

Pan fried duck breast with vegetable wild rice.

The Verdict

A flop.

The Debrief

Firstly, I apologise to anyone who has been waiting patiently for the down-low on the duck. I imagine you were hoping for a raving post about the-most-uh-maaaaaaazing-duck-i’ve-ever-tasted. I know I was! Alas, it wasn’t to be.

To say it was a flop might be exaggerating a little but to be honest, the result was decidedly uninspiring!

The issue was it was one of those recipes that involved a lot of effort for an average outcome…not something I’d recommend for your first home-cooked duck experience!

In fact, the rice was probably the hero of the dish, which certainly wasn’t what I expected! I don’t think I’ve had wild rice since I was a kid, and I definitely wasn’t a fan back then {anything brown & nutty; or green or fishy for that matter, was on my ‘to be avoided’ list}, so I guess the one good thing to come out of my laborious and mediocre attempt at duck is that I now have renewed respect for the humble but nutritious grain that is wild rice!

Anyway, that’s enough from Negative Nancy! I have a few French cookbooks at home, so when I find a winner duck recipe I’ll be sure to post it!

This week’s challenge is not quite a ‘tear out’, rather it has been ear marked in my copy of Valli Little’s delicious. More Please since I got it!

The Challenge

Moroccan Apple Pies with Rosewater Custard – sounds as cutesy as it does delicious huh!? {Coincidentally, I have a team of 8 people coming for dinner this weekend, so they will no doubt end up as my guinea pigs for the challenge}

And how about a bit of mid-week inspiration….

In light of the dud duck result, I’ve decided to share a recipe I recreated at home after ordering it at Manly Wine one Sunday a few weeks ago…

In a bowl, this salad gives off that ‘I’ve put a whole lot of effort into this’ vibe, but I promise you, there is no more effort involved in creating this beauty than there is in putting together a pedestrian garden salad…I’m not bagging the garden variety, but combinations like this make eating salad a whole lot more tempting!

Orange, walnut & goats curd salad w roast chicken

This leafy bowl of goodness looks so incredible on the plate – it’s fresh and vibrant and tres chic.

  • 1 Orange separated into segments
  • Baby beets, halved
  • Rocket/baby spinach
  • Fresh goats curd
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Roast chicken {optional} – I had this for lunch and added left-over rosemary and salt & lemon roasted chicken breast.

Mix ingredients in a serving bowl or on a large serving platter, with chicken pieces on top. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and/or olive oil. Serve as a side salad with grilled fish or with a Sunday roast chicken lunch!

One recommendation I can confidently make is to try it with a jug of ice-cold, fruity sangria…thank you Manly Wine 🙂

One other thing…I’m blaming my delayed post on the overindulgent weekend I just had in the Hunter Valley at Lovedale Long Lunch. One word – Sensational! It’s everything a wine, food, cheese, and good-time loving girl could hope for in a weekend! If you live in Sydney or within driving distance to the Hunter, I vehemently recommend you get there next year!

Til next time,

Miss Piggie x

Tonight is pizza night!

10 May

I have an embarrassing confession to make…the duck challenge remains unconquered…So much for my fantastic ‘one recipe per week’ idea! I started with the best intentions, but unfortunately  life got in the way and knocked me off track! (Deep, I know!)

On a positive note, the preparations are well underway. I’ve sourced the duck and translated the recipe (I think), I just have to lock in a night to cook it and someone to enjoy it with, after all, where’s the fun in cooking beautiful food when you don’t have anyone to share it with?

I do hope to have the Magret de Canard Rotis, Riz Sauté aux Legumes recipe cooked, critiqued and on the page by the end of the week (eeek!!) so I’ll say it again…watch this space…please!?!

Thankfully I haven’t been dining out and ordering takeaway ALL week, so I do have another update for you. As promised, I tried and tasted the mystery pizza dough recipe and can confirm that it was a huge success! You seriously won’t believe how easy it is until you try it yourself.

My must-have ‘impromptu gourmet pizza night’ recipe

  • 1 cup self-raising flour (I used wholemeal to make it a little healthier, but plain flour works just as well)
  • ½ cup of natural yoghurt

Sift the flour into a big bowl (re-add the husks if using wholemeal flour). Add the yoghurt and mix to form dough. Add a little bit more yoghurt, if needed, to incorporate all the flour and get the right dough consistency.

Divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this recipe makes enough for 2 large pizzas or 3 smaller sized ones.

Then all you have to do is roll the dough out into rough circles, of about 0.5cm thickness(on a lightly floured surface), and you’re done!

THAT’S IT!!!!

To make these the very best bases you’ve ever tried, you absolutely have to cook them on a pizza stone. If you don’t have one, get one. They’re only about $20 at kitchenware stores like Robins Kitchen and worth every cent, in my opinion.

In case this has inspired you to make pizza, and I very much hope it has, I’ve decided to throw in two recipes for the price of one today, and share with you a creation of my own! This one was largely put together out of what I had in the fridge at the time and it turned out to be fabulously, excellently superb!

Autumn Fig & Prosciutto Pizza

  • A couple of lovely ripe figs, sliced lengthways
  • Goat’s cheese
  • A few slices of prosciutto, roughly torn
  • Rosella jam (or any other not-so-sweet jam)
  • Dried thyme
  • Rocket
  • A handful of red grapes, halved (optional)

If using a pizza stone, preheat your oven to 200°C with the stone in the oven. Take the stone out when you’re ready to top the pizza & place your pizza base on the stone.

Brush your lovely thin base with a light covering of olive oil and sprinkle with dried thyme. Spread figs & grapes evenly over base (make sure grapes are cut-side up). Place torn prosciutto on top and then dollop half teaspoons of jam & goat’s cheese evenly around the pizza.

Cook pizza at 200°C for approx 10-15 minutes, until base is crispy and the prosciutto & cheese are lightly browned.

When the pizza is cooked, remove from the oven, slice and finish with fresh rocket. I recommend serving with a slightly chilled pinot noir 🙂

That’s it for now guys. Enjoy!

Oh, and please, don’t be a stranger…I’d love to hear from you! Suggest or request!

Miss Piggie x

I smell a physical challenge!

29 Apr

Is it just me, or are there others out there who have a habit of tearing sumptuous looking recipes out of newspapers and magazines, stacking them in the back of a once-very-organised recipe journal & forgetting about them until you’re searching for an old favourite and happen to stumble across a thick pile of glossy magazine pages, forgetting which recipe you actually fancied when you decided it was journal worthy *deep breath* ???

In all seriousness, I’d love to know if there are other tearers out there. Do you have a system? First in first cooked perhaps?

Anyway, in light of my ambitious recipe collecting, I’ve decided it’s time to stage an intervention.

I’m setting myself a challenge…not the Julie & Julia type, rather a proactive way of motivating myself to be a little more adventurous! I like to think of it as more of a weeding process…sorting the Harry Heroes from the Average Janes if you like!

THE CHALLENGE

Cross one recipe per week off my ‘to-cook’ list.

THE GAME PLAN

The plan is to flick through my recipe scrapbook each Sunday & choose one recipe to recreate in the coming week that I’ve never tried before!

Don’t worry, I don’t plan to bore you with anecdotes about every single recipe, but rest assured you will be the first to know when I stumble upon a winning dish or combo!

The mission for this week is Magret de Canard Rotis, Riz Sauté aux Legumes…That’s right, I’m starting with a ball breaker! Not only am I on debut with the recipe, I have never actually cooked with duck breast before, full stop (shame on me)!  And just to up the ante a touch more, I tore this little firecracker out of Elle Table magazine…the French version…ouch…talk about setting oneself up for failure!

I guess you’ll work out whether or not it was a success by the content of my next post. Stay tuned people!

On another note, I was introduced to a very interesting way of making pizza dough last weekend. It’s perrrfect for the time-poor, or anyone who has shied away from the seemingly laborious task of kneading, proving & rolling in the past!

The thing is, I’m not going to give you the recipe until I’ve tried it myself and can vouch for its excellence. Sorry folks, I feel like I’ve just cut to an ad break! Gotta keep you coming back though 😉

And what about Easter…?

I must admit, I was quite lazy this year. The Easter break is usually a great opportunity to get your hands dirty in the kitchen and cook lovely food for family and friends. I certainly planned to do that, but just didn’t quite get there.

The most creative I got was to make some Rocky Road, of which I’m not usually much of a fan, however this one was delectable and very more-ish (which may have had something to do with the puddles of rum I poured into it)!

This is a great recipe if you’re strapped for time or not much of a baker!

That’s it for this week friends! Lots to come…watch this space!!!

Miss Piggie xxx

Yummy Rummy Rocky Road

The main ingredients you’ll find in traditional Australian Rocky Road recipe are marshmallow, milk chocolate, glace cherries, coconut, peanuts and/or Turkish delight, however because I find a fair portion of these ingredients utterly repulsive, I decided to make up my own recipe with similar textures.

  • 150 g dark chocolate roughly chopped
  • 50 g milk chocolate roughly chopped
  • A touch of milk
  • 20 g unsalted butter
  • 50 g chopped hazelnuts
  • Marshmallows chopped
  • Sultanas
  • Shredded or desiccated coconut
  • 50 ml Dark rum (or to taste) – this could be substituted for many other spirits/liqueurs depending on what you have in the cupboard (ie. Baileys, Cointreau, Frangelico etc)

The method is super easy…

Place the two types of chocolate, rum, butter and a splash of milk in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water (making sure water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl). Allow to melt, stirring until smooth.

Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts, sultanas, coconut and marshmallows (add as much or little as you want, depending on whether you prefer are more chocolate or chunks in your rocky road!).

Remember, this isn’t like baking a cake. Chocolate will set regardless so play with the ingredients and add more or less of anything to suit your tastes!

Spread the mixture into a pan and chill for a couple of hours until firm.

All up this should only take you 10-15 minutes…quick and easy!

A sweet sweet start to the day…

14 Apr

This is a big call to make, but I reckon breakfast is my all-time favourite repast of the day. Everyday.

Seriously though, I could wake up at 1pm on the weekend (it doesn’t happen often, I swear) and still feel the need to have breakfast. How people skip or forget it has me in a quandary!

I think the most wonderful thing about the concept of breakfast is that it can be hot or cold; sweet or savoury; wicked or nutritious. The options are endless. Sweet is my personal favourite… like a morning dessert! Yum!

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve got my point…In my humble opinion, breakfast is the SHIZ-NIZZLE!!! And in light of that, I thought I would share with you my Thursday morning sweet, warm breakfast delight.

Seems a little extravagant for an ordinary Thursday morning, I know, but life’s far too short for Weetbix I say!

I don’t think this one needs a recipe as such, just a list of the delicious elements that make up this stack of goodness!

– 2 slices of bread – I used Ancient Grains Sourdough Rye Fruit Nut & Seed bread from Thomas Dux – possibly the best fruit loaf I have ever tasted, but you could use any type of bread – plain sourdough would be delicious, or even just a couple of thick slices of wholegrain or wholemeal bread…

– Fresh ricotta or natural yoghurt to spread on the toast. Either is amazing. I know the idea of yoghurt on toast perplexes some, but trust me on this one…the tartness of the natural yoghurt contrasts beautifully with the sweet, soft figs.

– A couple of perfectly ripe figs

– a generous drizzle of honey

Toast the bread in a toaster, add ricotta/yoghurt, figs & honey then pop it under the grill for a minute or two to warm up the figs and honey for the best result!

Et voila, breakfast indulgence at its finest!

My figalicious fruit toast

NOTE: Put this one on top of your ‘to make’ pile because fig season won’t last too much longer!

Bonne weekend,

Miss Piggie x

I think the most wonderful thing about the concept of breakfast is that it can be hot or cold, sweet  or savoury and big or small. The options are endless. Just as an offside, sweet is my personal favourite… like a morning dessert! Mmmmmyummmmmm!

A fire starter…

12 Apr

A little something I read today that I found incredibly inspiring…

I think it’s nice to read things like this sometimes, whether you need to reignite the fire that once burned hot in your belly, or just need a kick up the bum to stop thinking and start doing…as the infamous Lennon quote goes, ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans…’

http://www.thecoolhunter.com.au/article/detail/1919/if-its-important-youll-find-a-way.-if-it-isnt-youll-find-an-excuse

Hope this helps get you back on your path to greatness!

Miss Piggie xx

Remember your first time?

6 Apr

Well it certainly was a weekend of debuts for me…I’m actually feeling quite accomplished this week; proud even. Proud enough to do a little shameless boasting anyway! That was your warning people!

Most notably, I participated in my first (mini) triathlon! It was surprisingly fun, though I must admit I was decidedly terrified pre-race!

On the cooking front, I made fresh egg pasta for the first time (in preparation for my impending triathlon debut), baked my first loaf of fruit bread and whipped up my first ever batch of fruity, buttery scones! In hindsight, I possibly went a little overboard with the whole carbo-loading thing; nonetheless I had a great excuse!

Why scones you ask? No I haven’t joined the CWA; in fact, I had a perfectly good reason for baking a batch of the good ol’ fashion high tea favourites. JAM! More on this later.

As promised, today’s download is all about last weekend’s road trip…

Destination: Blue Mountains

We got on the road bright and early Saturday morning to make the most of the day. Unfortunately I hadn’t quite packed appropriately for the chilly weather we encountered on arrival, so a good portion of our morning was taken up by emergency shoe shopping (needless to say, I wasn’t complaining)!

After a yummy macchiato at Stockmarket Cafe in Leura (regretfully we didn’t get to try their much-lauded & scrumptious looking breakfast menu) and a whip around the local shops and markets, we headed for Katoomba. We couldn’t visit the Blue Mountains without a trip to the famous 3 Sisters so we picked up a few picnic goodies and made the pilgrimage!

Our makeshift picnic lunch was hands down the most enjoyable dining experience of the weekend. Simple but delicious! The two standout ingredients were the near-authentic, super crusty demi-baguettes from Hominy Bakery in Katoomba and the morning’s market bought chutneys.

There’s just one other place I feel compelled to recommend to anyone who’s planning a visit to the Blue Mountains, Station Bar & Woodfired Pizza. It’s the perfect wintery watering hole…exactly what you need in a place like Katoomba!

We stumbled across this charming bar on our way to the pub for a pre-dinner tipple. The decor at Station Bar & Woodfired Pizza is oh-so-warm and inviting and the temperature inside, much the same. And though I can’t attest to the quality of their wood-fired pizzas, I can say that the few I saw and smelt nearly tempted me to cancel our dinner plans and settle in for the night!

Wood-fired pizzas; cocooning decor; a long and inventive cocktail list; live music and a sensational array of beers on tap and by the bottle…have I sold it to you yet? Get there!

I thought I might share a recipe with you this week. This one was inspired by my trip away…

So I have to confess, I’m a victim for a market (thanks Mum)!! I used to be found hanging around the bead and jewellery stalls but these days, for sure and certain, you’ll find me somewhere near the food, especially if there’s a sample to be had! So naturally I hunted down the local markets in the Blue Mountains area as soon as I knew our destination.

Et voila, success! Thanks to the weekend away my fridge is now laden with delicious chutneys and yummy jams!

In fact I came across rosella jam at the Penrith High St Markets on our way back to Sydney and couldn’t resist stocking up as it’s not so easy to find.

This was the inspiration for my introduction to the art of scone-making…ones of a healthy(er) disposition! See, I told you there was a good reason for it!

The following recipe is a combination of a few recipes that I liked – I’m not sure I’ve nailed it yet, but according to those who sampled the finished product, they weren’t half bad!!!

Please let me know if you have any tips or tricks for scone making!

Fig & Walnut Scones with a healthy(er) disposition

  • 165g cold butter, cubed
  • 3 cups flour or wholemeal flour if you like ’em really healthy!
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked for a wash
  • 2 tbs sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon for dusting

Cinnamon Greek yoghurt

  • Small tub of plain Greek yoghurt or Greek style natural yoghurt
  • A couple of drops of vanilla essence
  • Sugar and cinnamon mix

Preheat oven to 220 deg Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the baking powder, soda, and sugar. Mix.

Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers, forming crumbs. Continue until the mixture is approximately uniform without letting the butter get too warm. Stir in the figs and walnuts.

Add the buttermilk and work it into the dough. Add more if needed to moisten the whole mixture. Be careful not to overwork the dough or it will create tough and chewy scones – not CWA approved!

Once the dough is mostly uniform, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Pat each half into a circle or rectangle about 1 inch thick. Cut into relatively even wedges with a sharp knife.

Place wedges on the baking tray relatively close together to help the scones rise and avoid spreading. Brush each wedge with the egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Reserve any leftover cinnamon sugar for the Greek yoghurt.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the wedges are golden brown and smell irresistible!

And for the finishing touches… Cinnamon Greek yoghurt & rosella jam

Call me a killjoy, but I‘m always looking for ways to make sweet treats a little healthier without compromising on taste or decadence.

I’m not much of a cream girl (boring I know) so I created a substitute that will never make you miss cream on your scone again!

Whilst the scones are busy getting golden and delicious, mix some of the leftover cinnamon and sugar blend with a few tablespoons of Greek yoghurt (or Greek style natural yoghurt). Add a few drops of vanilla essence to taste. Once the yoghurt mixture is sweet enough for your liking, lightly whip with a fork or whisk to add some air to the mixture (if you wish).

Spoon into a bowl and serve with warm scones and jam of your choice!

Miss Piggie xx