Saturday, November 27, 2010

Busy Week

It's been a busy week.  Tuesday night in Geelong, Wednesday night dinner for my mother-in-law's birthday, Thursday night in Robe, driving driving.  Thank god for talking books (this week The Distant Hours by Kate Morton).  It had been raining when I left home but when I got to Robe it was glorious sunshine and from my ailing parent's house we saw this tall ship:

It looked so majestic out there on the bay, it could have been a scene from Hornblower.

Back home to the rain and the news that my husband's grandmother had died.  She was 103 and died at home with the peaceful dignity with which she conducted her life.  A stylish woman to the end, at home she often wore a deer stalker hat, tweed trousers and a battered pair of desert boots, which made me love her even more.  To my children she was known as Very Old Gran (so not confuse her with their other, younger grans), and signed her letters to them thus.   One can only imagine what she has seen over the course of her life after having grown up in Toorak with a pony and a house cow at the bottom of the garden.  She loved roses, reading and racing, and I'm sure her interest in those things and the love of her large family of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren was what kept her going for so many years.

Vale VOG (she loved a good Just Joey)

Not much time for cooking but this is what I did for Susie's birthday on Wednesday:

Yummy smoked trout on toast (sorry, no photo)
Roast pork belly (I used the leftover fennel/orange zest/salt from the seafood kebabs to salt it....delicious)

Crunchy potatoes, roasted asparagus with vinocotto and a green salad with roasted beetroot and Udder Delights  Goat's Curd (may very nearly replace Meredith Dairy if it's not careful)
and grilled stone fruit with honey and brown sugar

Monday, November 22, 2010


Fifteen years ago last Thursday in this wee church at Mt Schank, built by my husband's great grandfather, we were married:

We had a lovely anniversary dinner on Thursday night.  It is easier to stay at home in the country, I wanted the kids to join us and it was a school night.  It was too cold to sit outside as planned so we had it in the kitchen.  The Little Princess (10) set the table:

I made the yummy Jamie Oliver Seafood kebabs, with some extra fish and home made chips:

We washed it down with some Crawford River Rose, which I think will be my preferred drink of the summer.  A perfect match for seafood.

For pudding we had Nigella's Chocolate and Raspberry Pavlova, which is a firm favourite in our house:

There is a section with no strawberries because the LP doesn't like them.

Here is how I made the seafood "spiedini":

I put prawns, a fillet of fish cut into chunks and some ciabatta bread (a few chunks) in a bowl with a crushed clove of garlic, chopped chilli, the zest of one orange and a good slug of olive oil.
I picked about 8 long stalks of rosemary and threaded on the fish, prawns and bread.  You need to have the top of the rosemary stalks in tact as it looks nice.  

Wrap the kebabs with some pancetta and cook over a hot flame on the barbeque.   I just put the pancetta over the top so that the prawns would cook properly underneath, then flipped the whole lot over to char the pancetta.  We cooked it with the lid down and this seemed to work.

Jamie then had a flavoured salt to sprinkle over the top, which was good but a squeeze of lemon would do:
Pound a teaspoon of fennel seeds and the zest of an orange in the mortar and pestle and add 1-2 tablespoons of sea salt.  
As usual from Jamie, really delicious.

And I was most surprised to receive an actual present:

Drum roll....

Yes, behold the His and Hers spades.  I was actually quite pleased as he always pinched my old one and then it broke.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jamie (and the fatted calf, part one)

I love Jamie Oliver.  Love him.  Love his beautiful food and love that he is a man with a social conscience who puts his money where his mouth is.  Love that he fully gets flavour.  I also love that he performed an experiment that I have always wanted to do but could never be bothered.  On his website I found a recipe for beef casserole and he says that he has tried both sealing the meat first and not sealing the meat and chucking it all in.  I am delighted to report that he says there is no difference in the end result.  

Sealing casserole meat before cooking is supposed to a) seal in the juices and b) create nice brown bits on the bottom to enhance the sauce.  Which it does, but the trouble is it is a bit of a pain if you are in a hurry, because to be effective you need to put only a few pieces in at a time otherwise they stew, which at that point you don't want to happen.

So I found a bag of stewing steak from the fatted calf in the freezer (it seems like there are a thousand in there so I thought I'd better get cracking), and vaguely followed his recipe:

Beef and Root Veg Casserole (Jamie calls it Jools Favourite or some such if you want look here: )

1 onion, peeled and chopped
handful of sage leaves (don't chop)
800g stewing steak, cut into cubes
salt & pepper, flour to dust
2 parsnips, peeled and quartered (or eighths if large)
4 carrots, peeled and quartered
(He had pumpkin and new potatoes in his as well, but I didn't have either, didn't matter)
2 tblsp tomato puree
1/2 bottle nice red wine
300ml beef stock

Heat the oven to 160C.
Heat a nice heavy pot on the stove and add a tablespoon of olive oil and a knob of butter.  Add onion and sage and cook gently for 3-4 minutes until softened.

(Sorry for the blurry pic, I was having camera troubles)
Toss the meat in seasoned flour.  I do this in a plastic bag.  One tablespoon of flour should be enough.

Add meat to the pan with all the vegetables, puree, wine and stock.  Mix it all together gently.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Bring to the boil, put on the lid and cook in the oven 2-3 hours until the meat is tender.  Beautiful with mashed potatoes.  Jamie made a gremolata of chopped rosemary,  lemon zest and garlic which would have finished if off nicely.  It was utterly delicious and I suddenly realised why: grass-fed beef has such superior flavour to grain-fed.  All the more satisfying to know it is home grown too.  Always buy grass-fed beef if you can.  Worth every penny.

And since it is our 15th (gasp) wedding anniversary today I am cooking a slap-up dinner for the family, starting with some yummy looking seafood spiedini (on rosemary stalks) that Jamie did in the last issue of delicious magazine.  I'll let you know if it works.  He's a clever boy...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spring beef

The "Malus walk" is looking magnificent this year:

Malus ioensis or Betchel crab apple would have to be in my top five favourite trees.  So pretty and not too big.

But that is just a distraction, there are weeds out there, appearing overnight like the triffids, and the lawns need a weekly mow.    A cow has also ended up in my freezer.  Actually, it is a steer, and the freezer is absolutely chocker block, to the point that even if I take something out I have to repack it all so it fits back in.

Since there is also a couple of lambs in there, I'm guessing I won't have to go to the butcher for a while.  Carnivore though I am, I feel quite daunted about all that red meat.  After all, we are trying to eat less of it, although I have a husband and a son who wouldn't care if there was nothing else on the plate.  There are only two eye fillets and two scotch fillets, and I did ask for a wing rib, which you don't see around much these days, big treat.  Otherwise there is loads of corned beef, stewing steak, mince, sausages and topside roasts (which I'm not sure what to do with).  I will let you know as I progress..

Most farmer's wives are confronted with the same problem:  how to have lamb or beef three nights a week and still keep it interesting.  We can't just buzz to the shops to pick up something for dinner at the last minute so forward planning is essential.  First you  have to get the meat out of the freezer in time for it to thaw out (bone in can take up to 24 hours out of the fridge if the weather is cool).  Roasted legs of lamb are a fantastic family dinner and it is good to have the cold meat for sandwiches and salads.  What I really love to do though, is bone out the leg, marinate it, then cook it on the barbeque.

I am totally self-taught in the art of boning a leg of lamb, and although it's a bit rough, I can usually do it in about ten minutes.  This is a skill everyone who has a home grown meat supply should have as it is a classic, very easy, do-ahead dish (vegetarians and butchers please look away):

I have butterflied this leg and I then marinated it in olive oil, lemon juice, chopped garlic, a couple of chopped anchovies, rosemary and oregano for 12 hours.  I cooked it straight on the bbq, turning once for 45 minutes, allowing it to rest for 15 minutes.  All you need with it is some crispy potatoes and a leafy green salad.  I don't have a photo as I had had a couple of glasses of wine by then and forgot..

The dogs are very happy too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Spring lamb

It has occurred to me that lamb is supposed to be my thing and yet I haven't posted any lamb recipes yet.  This year's spring lamb is just starting to hit the markets (or in our case landed in my freezer) so I thought I should share a couple of our favourite lamb dishes.


This is a good way to groove up some chops and a good one for summer.  This amount should do about 8 chops.

2 tblsp crab apple or quince jelly
2 tblsp homemade tomato sauce
2 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp brown sugar
1 tblsp dry mustard (or you can use dijon)
1 dessp Worcestershire sauce

Put the chops in a large dish.  Mix all marinade ingredients together and pour over chops.

Leave in the fridge for as long as possible, half an hour is about the minimum, all day is good.
Cook on the barbeque.


I usually slow cook lamb legs or shoulders that have been in the freezer, or are somewhat older than what could be classed as "lamb".  You really need a bit of moisture in the pan when slow cooking.  This recipe is similar to the one Maggie Beer adapted from Skye Gyngell.

1 leg or shoulder of lamb
olive oil
4 cloves garlic (left whole)
3 shallots
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 1/2 cups white wine
either 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or 3 tblsp balsamic and 1 teasp sugar (the balsamic gives a much deeper and richer flavour)
 s & p

Heat the oven to 150c.  Trim the lamb and season well.

Heat a heavy roasting pan over a medium heat and when hot add a tablespoon of olive oil and put in the lamb.  Brown well on all sides.

Take the lamb out and return the pan to the heat, turn it down.  Add the garlic and shallots to the pan and soften gently, then add the rosemary.  Pour over the wine and bubble away, reducing slightly.  Add whichever vinegar you prefer and put the lamb back.  Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 3-4 hours. If it is drying out, add a slosh of water.  Take the foil off for the last hour or so. 

Carve the lamb and pour over the remaining juices.