Feb 21- 29th- It’s MKR Season and a Cookbook gets Banished!

Sunday- Gozleme of lamb, mint, feta and spinach with lemonPete Evans’ My Table – I picked this dish because it’s MKR season.

MKR, also known as My Kitchen Rules, is an Australian TV show that’s somewhere between Come Dine with Me and Masterchef.  The premise is that 5 couples eat three course meals at each other’s houses and then score them accordingly.  There are also two celebrity guest chefs (well, four actually now but that’s a longer story) who are forced to eat and rank the meals as well.   The contestants have varying levels of both cooking skills and likability making the show both weird and watchable.  Continue reading

Hello Sweet ’16!

There are still just under 12 hours left in 2015, but I wanted to get in early with my greetings for a Happy 2016!

I’ve made my resolutions already and I’m busy preparing for a New Year’s Day brunch (as you do- or as I do really).  But mostly, I’m looking forward to 2016 and hope you are too.

Looking back on 2015, it was exactly the year that I needed.  The last 3 years have been full of the highest highs and the lowest low, so 2015 was a great year to just be.  I settled into a new job which I love (not as much as maybe winning the lottery and not working at all but….), visited three new countries that I’d never been to before (yes, I’m counting Dubai despite not leaving the airport), I tried to learn German (that did NOT go as well as I hoped) and kept doing many of the things that I love doing- cooking, pole dancing (despite breaking my toe early in the year), reading (32 books this year- just shy of my goal of 35), and of course, writing.  It was our first full year of marriage and a year that The Runner and I both learned a lot about ourselves- including resilience and patience (for me, more than him- he has the patience of the Saint of Patience).   I even had a surprise visit from The Mom.  Overall, it was a great year!

Tomorrow, we’ll start 2016 exactly how I hope it continues- with food and friends.  We’re hosting a New Year’s Day brunch filled with foods that will bring good luck and good fortune in the New Year (according to the internet!)

So, we’re having:

Whiskey, Marmalade and Mustard Glazed Ham– because in many cultures eating pork on New Year’s Day symbolizes progress, wealth and prosperity.

Manu Fieldel’s Lentil Salad– according to Italian tradition they look like coins and represent wealth.

Kale Salad– in the American tradition eating greens on New Year’s Day guarantees prosperity in the New Year.

Pete Evans’ Fig, basil, buffalo mozzarella, and balsamic salad– Eating many fruits are considered lucky and figs are a symbol of fertility

Dinner:  A Love Story’s Peanut Noodle Salad– Noodles in several Asian cultures represent long life.

Cornbread– its golden colour is said to bring gold (or wealth) in the New Year

Smitten Kitchen’s Tres Leches Cake– Tres leches cake because I’ve always wanted to make one, and a round cake because in many cultures round cakes represent the cyclical nature of life- I’m even going to bake a coin into it for extra good fortune for someone.

Nigella Lawson’s Pomegranate and Prosecco JellyPomegranate’s seeds are meant to signify abundance and prosperity

Smitten Kitchen’s Fairy Tale of New York for after- I made a double batch to take to a 2nd Christmas dinner that we never made it to, so we have a LOT to get through!

So fingers crossed, with this menu, set 2016 to be delicious, abundant, healthy, wealthy and fun!

Happy New Year Everyone!

 

 

Warning: Purple Carrots will turn your hands purple.

It’s challenge day and I’m up early preparing the pork.   I’m making the Slow Roasted Shoulder of Pork with Carrots and Crackling from Pete Evans’ My Kitchen Cookbook.

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I was really meant to do this last night but our “come over for a couple of quiet drinks” got a bit out of hand and turned into a mini dinner party.  I even roasted a chicken!

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I start the preparation by pounding garlic and fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle and smearing it all over the flesh of the pork.  It’s at this point that I realise that things have gone horribly wrong—I’ve bought a boneless pork shoulder not a bone in shoulder—not sure if it’s going to make a difference and with a cooking time of 6 hours according to the recipe, I know it’s going to be a while by the time I find out if it matters.

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This recipe is deceptively simple at first- rub the garlic-fennel mixture over the flesh of the pork and put it in the fridge flesh side up for a few hours.

I happily complete this first step and then turn my attention to dessert.  As you know, I was quite concerned about what dessert I would make but I decided on- my mother’s famous drunken Fruit Salad (fruit + Grand Marnier+ sugar= boozy AND healthy! WINNING!!!!!) and Suspiros—basically a Spanish take on a meringue –according to Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine.

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A magazine I stopped my subscription to after realising that their recipes are way too complicated, and the ingredients way too weird—oh and that I don’t have the income to support jaunting off to the Mediterranean’s finest 6 star resorts every week.  It’s a VERY aspirational magazine….  Do you know they actually had the nerve to include a recipe that called for “Female pork belly”?  What The Fudge?  One, who cares if it’s male or female; two, how would you know unless you killed the pig yourself; and three, where would you find it—my local butcher doesn’t even stock Pork Belly regularly let alone Female Pork Belly.  That and the number of recipes that require you to start them a day ahead meant the end of me and Australian Gourmet Traveller.  We had a lovely relationship for a couple of years and I did tear out a few hundred recipes that I thought I might cook but never have.  In an effort to de-clutter before The Runner gets even more exasperated over the number of recipes and cookbooks in the house, I have been purging some of my magazine recipes especially the “dream” recipes.  And they’re “dream” recipes because I was clearly drunk or dreaming when I tore them out of the magazine and thought I would ever cook them.   Things like Banh Mi with homemade bread and make your own XO sauce for stir fry prawns…. Seriously, what was I thinking???   So that’s how I came across Susspiros.  They’re very easy.  Pretty much they’re meringues with vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate.  Yum.  But of course they take 2-3 hours to cook in the oven so figuring out the timing of 6 hours of pork and 3 hours of meringue—yup, it’s 10:30 in the morning and I’m already behind on our 7:30 dinner.  OH well…..

I trod off to the store and get distracted in Dan Murphy’s looking for red dessert wine for the peaches I was going to make to go with the susspiros.  I couldn’t find it, but that didn’t stop me from wasting more time in Dan Murphy’s buying wine to have with dinner—plus some Guinness for The Runner.  Of course, the actual grocery shopping takes longer than expected and by the time I get home, I realise dinner will officially be very very very late.  But that’s ok, I don’t have to work tomorrow.

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The pork goes in the oven about 2:30 after I cut up carrots (the purple ones turn my hand quite a shade of purple) and pour warm chicken stock and warm water over the carrots and the pork.

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I cover the dish with 3 sheets of tin foil and sit and relax for 6 hours… well not quite but I do get to sit for a bit.

Also for dessert is drunken fruit salad- this is the fruit salad which we always made on Christmas morning.  Really, it may have just been a way to legitimize alcohol before 8am but it’s tasty and a family tradition that no one questions.   And people like it at dinner parties.  I definitely take after my mother and can be a bit heavy handed with the Grand Marnier (or so I’ve been told) so I resist the urge to add a little more in and just leave it to sit.

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The pork itself does take forever— probably because I’m also too nervous to unwrap the foil to check to see how it’s cooking.  But after about 5 hours I can’t take the suspense any longer and I check the pork.  Two things:  1, purple carrots don’t just turn hands purple, they actually turn everything purple and 2, all that liquid in the beginning means even more liquid at the end- which makes the roasting tray both heavy and splashy.  So great, now there’s purple juice on the floor.  I wrap the pork back up and stick in the oven for another 30 minutes.

Eventually, the timer goes off again and I take the purple pork out.  The next instruction is to peel off the rind and crank up the oven to make the crackling.  I follow the instructions to the t but the crackling does not crackle.  Very very very disappointing but after waiting and waiting and waiting, I give up on the crackling.

The pork is super juicy and super tender- I literally use two forks to shred it and it just falls apart.  YUM!  I strain the juices and pour them over the pork and voila!  Slow roasted pork with crackling and carrots served with slow roasted potatoes and blanched asparagus.

A Challenge!!!!!

So….. we’re having Sunday Dinner tomorrow night with 6 friends.  (I’m making Pete Evan’s Roast Pork Shoulder from his My Kitchen cookbook- FYI).  

But the question is– what to make for dessert?  Excuse me, sorry- what dairy free treat can I make for dessert?

As it turns out, most desserts– or at least most yummy desserts have cream, milk, or butter in them.  Ok, not all clearly but LOTS do.    I’ll give you a minute to think, but seriously, can you name a dessert that doesn’t include dairy in some way- either in the preparation or in serving?  Remember- no milk, butter, cream (whipped or pouring or ice) or yoghurt even.  

Exactly.  Very difficult.    So, that’s my challenge for today- find a delicious, dairy free dessert for tomorrow night.  I do have a cookbook of Vegan desserts but I think I need to do a trial run before unleashing them on non-vegans and non special diet followers.

Any advice or thoughts on dairy free dessert?

Wish me luck!