Thursday, 25 July 2013

Mom's Beef Stew

You know how you think stew is going to taste when you see it? That meaty, salty, comforting taste. This stew is purely that. It's almost nothing but beef itself, with potatoes added in the end. The flavour comes from the beef mixed with super super caramelised onion, with just a tiny bit of carrot. This is my mom's showstopper- the thing that always makes her kitchen a happy place, even when times are difficult.

I've realised something recently- I really really love this little blog of mine. I share the recipes close to my heart and, when I'm not too shy, I try to share some of my life and my crazy female mind with you. I'm so grateful for you. I love that you come here to read my my silly thoughts, find out about my insecurities and hopefully agree with my naive belief in happiness and love and relationships. I hope I'll start hearing more from you when you're ready too!

I've been missing all this while working and studying very hard, but I plan to come back with just crazy amounts of sweets, cakes, warm suppers, fancy breakfasts, delicious salads and pretty much anything you can use to treat well deserving loved ones in December. For now I'll keep posting once every couple of weeks- as often as I can find a moment in which I'm not much to tempted to sleep.

Mom's Beef Stew
From my mom

Serves 4

1 kg chuck beef
3 onions
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic
3 medium potatoes

1) Clean the meat, taking off the bones and cleaning off most sinew and fat.
2) Chop the onion finely.
3) Cut the carrot into batons (julienne but slightly thicker).
4) Heat up about half a tablespoon of butter and some olive oil in a cast iron pot on a medium-high heat.
5) Fry the beef until browned and caramelised.
6) Turn down the heat, and add the onions and carrots.
7) Once the onion is caramelised, turn the heat to low, add a bit of water to keep it from burning, and cover with a skewed lid.
8) Cook for 4 hours, stirring and adding bit of water as needed every 20 minutes or so. By this point it should be all saucy and irrisistible- keep sticky fingered husbands away, while you get the rest ready.
9) Dice the potatoes and add them, continuing with the water and stewing until they're tender.
10) Serve to now openly salivating loved ones. This stew goes down very well on cold winter nights.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Duck Breast with Green Peppercorns

I'm not a bit fan of the fancy. I have no time for men in suits and ties unless they have a redeeming feature, like messy hair or a tie with tiny ducks in a row. In my opinion whimsy is the only thing that can save the fancy. 

The same goes for restaurants. It can't be all show- ingredients that I don't recognise, used to think of as cute pets and frankly, scare me, just don't go down well for no good reason. As with men in suits, I have met too many fancy restaurants which are just fancy and nothing else. This has, sadly, tainted my relationship with duck. And duck, let me tell you, is absolutely wonderful.

My cake magician friend Erin chose this dish from the Larousse to make for her boyfriend for Valentines Day, and it was just so romantic and sweet, I had to try it for Ralph. Of course with Ralph he had to watch me make it, photograph it, and then eat it slightly colder than he would have liked. Poor Ralph..

I loved the flavours in this dish- and it's so rare to have such wonderful depth with such a simple cooking method. The sauce was memorably amazing, and I loved this method of cooking rice like a risotto- it made it so much more interesting and tempting than the usual lump of white. I'll definitely be trying it again.

Duck Breasts with Green Peppercorns on a Bed of Rice

2 x duck breasts
125 ml chicken stock
1/2 cup Basmati rice
500 ml- 1 litre chicken stock
1 tblsp green peppercorns
60 ml cream

1) Heat up a small knob of butter with some oil in a heavy-based saucepan on a medium-high heat. Once it's hot, place the duck breast on it, skin side down. Turn the heat down to medium.
2) Let the breast stay breast side down for as long as possible. You want to cook as much of the fat under the skin off as possible, without burning the skin.
3) Turn the breast over and brown the underside of the breast. Then add chicken stock and the peppercorns. Cook until the breast is not quite medium, then take off the heat, add the cream and keep warm.
4) To make the rice, melt a tablespoon of butter in a small pot on a medium heat, add the rice, and fry it for about 2-3 minutes, giving it a nice sizzle.
5) Add about a cup of chicken stock.Cook until the stock has been absorbed, then add another cup. Once the second cup is absorbed, taste the rice for doneness. Now you keep adding cups of stock until the rice is done. Season to taste.
6) Serve this rich caramelised duck on top of the rice and pour a spoonful of sauce over the finished dish.  Enjoy at a candle lit dinner with wine and the person you love the most in the whole world.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Chicken and Dumplings

I've been in need of some comfort lately. It's winter and I'm finding it difficult to stay cheerful. Although I'm running, the endorphins just don't seem to be making up for the tiredness, lack of light and general sense of ennui. This bowl did though, just for an evening.

These dumplings are like a hug from your mom. On a cold night all you need is a bowl of chicken and dumplings and a puzzle. Is it just boring old me that gets so much enjoyment out of nights at home? I find it really hard to make any other plans! Home is warm and has books and blankets. It's got good food and a lovely husband and movies. I feel so silly for almost never getting out, but absolutely no inclination to change anything. I'm going to give myself a break and stay borderline agoraphobic for now- basically until someone who loves me finally has me committed.

Chicken and Dumplings
From Annie's Eats

6 chicken thighs (medium)
1 large onion
2 medium carrots
1 stick of celery
1/4 cup Old Brown Sherry
6 cups chicken stock (if making from cubes- water down more than instructed)
500 g chicken wings

2 cups cake flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup cold buttermilk
60 g butter, melted and hot
1 extra-large egg white

1) Heat some oil in a large cast iron pot. Brown all the chicken thighs on both sides, seasoning with salt and pepper. Set them aside.
2) Remove most of the oil from the pot. Chop the onion, carrots and celery and fry until browned.
3) Add the sherry to deglaze the pot.
4) Add all the chicken stock, and the chicken thighs and wings. Turn down, cover and cook for about 45 minutes.
5) Now is the slightly annoying part- fish the chicken pieces out of the pot and remove the meat off the bone, cutting it into pieces. Add the meat back to the pot.
6) Mix the flour, sugar, salt and bicarb in a bowl.
7) In a separate bowl mix the cold buttermilk and hot butter until the butter forms lumps. Add the egg white.
8) Whisk the buttermilk mixture with the flour mixture until incorporated.
9) Place the pot on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Drop the dumpling dough in tablespoonfuls into the boiling liquid. Turn the heat down to low and cover the pot.
10) Simmer for about 15 minutes, until a tester inserted into the dumpling layer comes out clean.
11) Serve when it's cold out!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Improved Pumpkin Pancakes

I've made pumpkin pancakes before.. But they were nowhere as fun as these ones! This time it wasn't just the pancakes- I made honeyed nuts for them too. It felt so fancy and colourful and rich in flavours.. So much fun! I think they would go just wonderfully with a rhubarb mimosa.

I love it when Ralph and I have these quiet sleepy mornings. It's sunny outside, and he relaxes as I rush out of bed and start making an absurd mess in the kitchen. An hour or so later, I dig myself out of the chaos with two plates of (hopefully) delicious food, at which point he sprints out of bed and we spend way too much time on the couch eating and making fun of people on TV.

I love cooking something when it's light out. It almost never happens! I took these pancakes outside and took some photos and I just love their brightness!

Pumpkin Pancakes
From Food & Home Magazine

Honeyed Nuts:
1 1/2 cups salted pistachios
60 ml honey
2 tsp canola oil

250 g pumpkin, cubed
45 ml muscovado sugar
1 tblsp canola oil
5 ml vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1) Preheat the oven to 170 C.
2) While it's heating up, steam the pumpkin until tender, and mash.
3) Stir the nuts, honey and oil together. Spread out onto a baking sheet covered with a silicone mat.
4) Bake for about 15 minutes, careful not to burn, it should turn golden brown.
5) Place the pumpkin, sugar, oil and vanilla into a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
6) Add the rest of the ingredients, and whisk thoroughly.
7) Melt a bit of butter in a bit of canola oil in a pan on a medium heat.
8) Pour spoonfuls of batter into the pan, fry until bubbles form on the top and the bottom browns, then flip and fry until other side is browned.
9) To serve, break off some nuts and sprinkle on a stack of pancakes, and drizzle the dish with maple syrup.
10) These were sweet, soft and flavorful. The nuts go so nicely with the pancakes, and the maple syrup really goes so well with the pumpkin. 

I had these for breakfast the next day, and would have had them again but one of my colleagues (a picky one!) got his hands on them and finished them off! I can't wait to make some more..