In My Kitchen: May 2018

In my kitchen this month…it’s May…it’s Term 2…and things are getting crazy busy in our house…so much so that I’ve had to resort to making my own personalized family calendar for the term which is gracing the cupboard next to the fridge. It’s five A4 pages landscape taped together and I made it in Excel with a column for each of us plus a general family column and each day is a row. It’s also an electronic file that we can share when we’re not at home, but I find that we really need a centralized visible calendar to keep track of everything and this is the place where we write stuff in or cross stuff off so I know to update the electronic copy. So far no one has missed anything important…but it’s only week 1!

A hopeful sign of future sourdough posts – I’m finally attempting to rehydrate some sourdough starter I dried out about 6 months ago.

This peanut butter is the best! I’m in a bit of a panic that we’re on our last jar as it is quite expensive when not on sale given the amount our family of 6 goes through each week. #peanutbutteraddicts

Remember my daughter’s Belle drawing that was gracing my kitchen window last month?!! Well to it has been added another drawing of Harry Potter and his owl Hedwig. I need to buy some frames for these!

Friends of ours own a coffee business and this is our favorite blend that we’ve been brewing here at home for the past 6 months or so. And now that we have 4 coffee drinkers we’re going through a lot of it, thankfully our coffee machine isn’t on the fritz anymore.

I absolutely love cookie jars and have planned that my special gift to my kids when they move out of home is going to be a funky collectible cookie jar that reminds me of each of them…also something that I have an excuse to bake and fill when I come visit. This one, however, was a gift from Aaron’s sister a while back and since we didn’t have a specific use for it, it has become our dog Ridley’s biscuit jar. Ridley is named for Daisy Ridley who plays Rey in the new Star Wars movies. Our Riddles’ full name is Ridley Rey because my daughter and I both have Rae as our middle names. Anyhow, Darth Vader seemed like the perfect cookie jar for our beautiful doggy.

I’ve gotten my Mother’s Day present a little early because it was on sale on Bing Lee’s ebay store. I have been wanting a good quality portable bluetooth speaker for ages and Aaron bought two of these that can be paired together. Currently we have one in the lounge room and one in the kitchen and now my baking is accompanied by a lot of wacky dance moves. =)

My current cookbook “shelf” – paired down a bit, the kettle fits again, but only if I put the cookbooks that I own on top of the sadly empty fresh bread bin. That will be corrected this weekend though, I hope!

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!

Thanks to Sherry’s Pickings for hosting the In My Kitchen link up. To learn more, click on the logo on the right. 


Throwback Thursday: Shortbread from Tartine

Throwback again to September 2017 when Food52 Baking Club was baking from the Tartine Bakery cookbook. I found out my daughter loves shortbread recently and so happily obliged by making the simple 5 ingredients recipe from this book that I saw many in the Facebook group had tried.

I liked how this recipe called for cornflour as a means to softer shortbread because I like my cookies melt in your mouth texture. I also like how this recipe is cut into little logs rather than big wedges like traditional Scottish shortbread. I was concerned though that I didn’t have the right size baking pan, so I just used a standard Australian brownie/slice pan and it seemed to work fine. But there was no way this was going to cut into 60.  The picture in the book did not show bite size pieces. I cut mine into 3 rows of 11 and they were still quite small.

The recipe was so easy to put together. Cream the butter until it is super soft, then add salt, then the combined flour and cornflour, then lastly the sugar. Press it into the lined baking tin and bang it in the low temperature preheated oven (mine is 125C but it cooks hot – most would need 150C). Bake until lightly browned then sprinkle some sugar over the top to give it a nice coating. Cut into bars while still warm to the touch.

If you line the baking tin like I did then you avoid the hassle of removing and destroying the first piece of shortbread because you can lift the whole thing out on the baking paper.

My young girl was so impressed that Mommy made her shortbread and quickly sampled a piece, then another, and another. I read some complaints that the cornflour altered the taste of the shortbread but I didn’t find that at all. However I didn’t shake off the excess sugar on top so that may have masked the flavor in the end result. I am so glad to have a shortbread recipe and will be making these whenever I need a quick cookie for dessert.

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Italian Bread

And just like that it’s May and it’s time for new cookbooks to cook from. Food52 Baking Club is spending the month with Peter Reinhart and his well known bread baking book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. For my first bake I made some Italian bread to accompany Spaghetti Bolognaise for dinner.

If you’re familiar with bread baking, this isn’t all that hard but it does take time to get to the finished product. You make a starter called a biga from flour, water and yeast and let it proof for a few hours before knocking it back and refrigerating it overnight. The next day you use this biga and make the dough proper with more flour, yeast and water plus some sugar and salt and olive oil. You proof it again until doubled, divide it in half and shape it into batards on a baking sheet. Leave it to rise again (mine was slightly overproofed thanks to school pickups) and then cut in some slashes with a sharp knife and bake in the oven until golden brown and cooked in the center (I use a thermometer to check). Then you torture yourself for an hour before you can slice it up and devour.

This was a really nice bread. I think it would’ve been better not overproofed and it would look prettier if I’d had the optional diastatic barley malt powder for the added color as this looks pretty pale rather than golden brown. I plan to make it again after I try a few different breads as we’re teaching our eldest to cook and he’ll be cooking Spaghetti Bolognaise weekly for the next little while. Quite convenient that this has landed during Bread Baker’s Apprentice month.

Aaron’s Green(ish) Breakfast Smoothie

We thought since the theme for this April’s Meatless Monday posts has accidentally become breakfast focused, what better way to end the month than with one last breakfast recipe, and it’s an Aaron specialty.

This is a pretty straightforward recipe – nothing too fancy, and pretty easy to make. I make it in a blender, so that has the added bonus of waking everyone in the house up, so they’re ready for their smoothies.

(I say green(ISH), because, well, it doesn’t look that green…)

Aaron’s Green Smoothie

Aaron's Green Smoothie

(Serves 2)

Handful of baby spinach (about 1 cup)

1 large banana

3/4 cup frozen blueberries

3/4 cup frozen raspberries

1 cup cold water (or more if needed)

Add the first four ingredients, plus about half of the water, to a blender and pulse until combined (should be the consistency of a thick shake) or the blade isn’t doing anything. If the blade isn’t doing anything, add a little more water to loosen the frozen berries up. Only add as much water as you need to get things moving until the smoothie reaches the consistency of a thick shake. Pour into glasses and enjoy!

What I Ate This Week – April School Holidays, part 2

This week was another very relaxed week food wise. We enjoyed a few more of our local favorites.

First up, in our opinion, the best takeaway pizzas – the Evatt Special (like an Aussie Bob with bacon & egg) and the Supreme pizza (with anchovies of course) from Evatt takeaway.

My beautiful 6 year old and I sported pink tipped hair to Tulips Cafe in Pialligo to meet up with some friends. She loved the fairy bread pinwheel and her caramel milkshake, while I enjoyed the Devonshire Tea which included a huge date scone with jam and cream (I’ve written of my love for date scones here). And it was so reasonably priced – it was less than $18!

And lastly, a sneaky lunch one day – Hayden’s honey roasted pumpkin, spinach and feta pie – you can find them at The Spence Grocer, delivered from Ulladulla daily.

Simple Thai Food: Pad Thai with Shrimp and book review

I have been looking forward to making this dish all month. My favorite noodle dish of all time: Pad Thai. And this did not disappoint. We don’t buy seafood that often so our first impression of this recipe was that it was rather expensive to feed our family, but that did not deter us because we don’t do this sort of thing much – usually our meals are very budget friendly.

The first thing you need to do is soak the noodles. This takes around 30-40 minutes which gives you plenty of time to prep the rest of the dish so that it all comes together in about 15 minutes. If only we’d noticed that ahead of time, dinner would have been ready much earlier. Once the noodles have soaked you fry them in some oil and then you add a sauce consisting of fish sauce, tamarind and brown sugar. While the noodles cook in this you shift it over to one side of the pan and put shallot, garlic and tofu on the other and cook it. Then you add the raw shrimp and continue to cook, make a well in the centre of the pan and scramble some eggs. Once all the elements are cooked you stir it together and add some bean sprouts and green onion. Then it’s time to plate up by finishing it off with some more bean sprouts, a lime wedge and some chopped peanuts.

Hectic while in the throws of cooking and multitasking but quite amazing for one pan on the cooktop. I really enjoyed this dish, but like most Pad Thai recipes I prefer it without the “meat” – whether it be chicken or fish. I let Aaron eat all but 3 of my prawns but happily devoured every last piece of tofu. Next time we’re going to try to find a better firmer tofu – that’s my only real disappointment – by the end it kind of scrambled into non existence. The dish still tasted fabulous, but I did miss getting a bite of tofu on its own.

I’m going to leave this book review short and sweet: it has been a fun month cooking through  Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu with Food52 Cookbook Club – the recipes have been relatively simple compared to what I expected from a Thai cookbook and all of them have been delicious. I didn’t feel compelled to buy ingredients that were unfamiliar as many were listed as optional and each meal we’ve made we would make again. I’m glad I stumbled across this book on sale for Kindle because it is definitely worth owning.

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below:

Throwback Thursday: ANZAC Biscuits from Dorie’s Cookies

Last minute on Tuesday night I realized I had no golden syrup in the house and so we hopped in the car with a mission to find some. And would you believe we had to go to more than one place before we found some?!? Why did we need it so desperately? To make ANZAC Biscuits of course!

But then comes the age old question: which recipe do I use? I’m not a huge ANZAC biscuit fan, mainly because my oatmeal cookies are to die for (note the not so humble brag) and most of the ANZAC bikkies that I’ve had are way too crunchy (I’m a soft cookie girl). I came to find out a few years back that the crunchy or soft thing is all about what sugar you use and to my surprise the white sugar yields the softer cookie and not the brown sugar. So to find the recipe that seemed most suitable to me I started flipping through several cookbooks until I noticed that Dorie’s Cookies (the book Food52 Baking Club did in its inaugural month) happens to have an ANZAC biscuit recipe, and lo and behold it uses white sugar! So that’s the recipe we went with.

ANZAC biscuits are very basic to put together, no mixer required. You melt some butter and golden syrup and stir in some bicarb that’s been dissolved in water. That’s added to the rest of your ingredients: flour, oats, coconut (Dorie uses sweetened shredded stuff), sugar and salt. Roll the dough into balls and flatten a bit onto lined cookie sheets and bake them. And Bob’s your uncle, as they say.

Dorie notes that she found her biscuits too sweet when she first made them and halved the amount of sugar. The sweetness in these were perfect but I didn’t like the texture of the sweetened shredded coconut. I will try these again with the desiccated variety and use the normal amount of sugar to see which I prefer. I hazard a guess that it’ll be the more traditional version, but I’m happy to base my forever recipe on this version with a few personal adaptations, given these by far have been my favorite ANZAC biscuit to date.

Simple Thai Food: Beef Matsaman Curry

This is certainly the closest I’ve come to recreating my favorite Thai curry at home and a second big hit from Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu – the book of the month for the Food52 Cookbook Club. It does take a long time (about 4 hours in total), but most of that is hands off.

To make the dish you cook off some mussaman curry paste with some coconut cream and a little vegetable oil and when it’s fragrant you add the diced beef, some coconut milk and enough water to cover the meat. Once it comes to a boil, you drop it down to a simmer and set it on the back burner for 3 hours. Seriously.

When it was 2 hours into the simmering time, I put the rice in the rice cooker and started it (we used brown jasmine rice so it takes about that long) and then I diced the potatoes and boiled them for 10 minutes. I also prepared the tamarind pulp and quartered 3 small onions and toasted some spices – cinnamon, cardamon and star anise. Then at the 3 hour mark we checked to see if the beef was done and added the onions, tamarind, the spices, a couple of bay leaves, some brown sugar and some fish sauce and let it simmer until the onions were cooked. Then we added the drained potatoes and some chopped peanuts, stirred them through and when the rice was done I fished out the spices and the bay leaves and we dished up.

It was so delicious and I actually never connected it before with Japanese Nikujaga (beef and potato stew) but this was very reminiscent of that with a few different flavor differences. Some of us (I’m not naming names, ahem Aaron) wanted to go back for 4ths! We have plenty of leftovers and I can’t believe the serving suggestion was for 4-6 people – they mustn’t be serving it with rice is the only explanation I have for that.

With two meals under my belt, I can’t wait to try our 3rd recipe for the month which is my absolute favorite Thai dish – Pad Thai!