Thursday, December 31, 2009

New years resolutions

Firstly I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and secondly I want to wish everyone a prosperous New Year. 2010 is upon us. I am not one for making new years resolutions as I never stick to them, but I am planning to to be a vegetarian for the month of January. I am definitely meated out (is that a word?). Well... when I say vegetarian I mean no meat but I will allow myself fish. Ian on the other hand could never give up meat that easily so he is going to stick with Chicken.

So my larder will be stocked with pulses, canned tomatoes and pasta and my fridge will be abudent with drawers of fresh fish, vegetables and cheese. I want to try and avoid loading myself up on bread, pastry and heavy carbs, I need to detox my body. (Maybe I should give up wine too? or is that too much to ask? Yes definatley!!!).

Ian and I have been off our food since Christmas, what with illness and over indulgence, so what better way to start the new year with a healthier diet? Hmm, lets see hey!! Tomorrow, roasted veg with hollandaise sauce and salmon with a herbed crust. Yum yum.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas

I am all prepared for the festivities, the baking is done, the hamper packed and the Christmas buffet preparations are complete. Now it is time to relax and enjoy the Christmas period.


I will see you in the New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Christmas Song

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas Lyrics

So I know this isn't related to food but I love this song. It cheers me up and turns me into a hyperactive child.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Plans

OK, so we have a week left to buy all our remaining gifts and of course do the marathon food shopping. This is a period that I absoutley adore, stocking up on all the treats and hunting for the perfect ingredients for the Christmas Dinner. Originally we had planned to do a full on Christmas dinner but we soon decided that we didn't want all the stress that  goes alongside especially as we are coming home on Christmas morning, so we have settled on having a buffet. I am going adapt some traditional Christmas dinner flavors into the buffet. I plan on making several small plates of appies.

Cranberry and Pistachio Bread
Cheese tray
Pigs in Blankets (Sausages wrapped in bacon)
Smoked Salmon
Shrimps with a Cilantro dip
Mini quiches (Asparagus & Smoked Turkey)
Basil pasta with Grape Tomatoes and Baby Mozzarella
Christmas Wardolf Salad
Christmas decorated chocolate cupcakes

Today I plan on making the mini quiches. These freeze well and the more food I can make ahead of time the better. They also thaw very quickly which is a bonus.

As we are on the subjects of buffets my works pot luck went down a treat. Everyone pulled together and the spread was amazing. My shortbreads were enjoyed and I received some lovely comments from  a couple of work colleagues. I also got to share some really nice recipes, one lady gave me her remaining homemade basil  pesto and another gave me the information to make a cilantro dip. I was amazed by the cilantro dip, initially I thought it would taste soapy but it was outstanding. It is one of those dips that you can dip anything into, hence the copious amouts of bread and raw veg that I ingested.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monkey Bread

Ok, so I had envisaged posting lots of photos of my Christmas baking, but got so excited in the spirit of Christmas that I wrapped them all up. Duh !!! I also blame this on the fact that I have been ultra organised with Christmas preparations as we are off to Whistler for Christmas. Whoop whoop!!! My Christmas hamper is beginning to fill up slowly, the shortbread is wrapped and the mulled wine spices are prepared. At present there are two monkey breads in the oven, one is for the hamper and the second is possibly for works pot luck tomorrow, that's if I don't demolish it first.

Not all my Christmas baking has turned out as well as I had anticipated. I tried to make these cheese and rosemary crackers which were advertised in a wine magazine, they smelt great even before baking, but once baked they tasted awful. All I could taste was flour, they were quickly passed into the trash can. Blah!!! But I guess you never know until you try.

Anyway, back to my monkey bread. I use the same recipe for the dough as the cinnamon rolls. Once the dough has risen I pinch off little clumps and roll them into balls before coating them in butter and rolling them around in cinnamon sugar before throwing them into a cake pan. These little balls all get baked together (for around 20-30 mins or until the bread turns golden brown)  and the sugar turns into a sticky goo holding the pieces together. When its time to eat you just pull off the dough balls. mmm mmm. This is going to be our breakfast for Christmas day.

Having started to write this post one hour ago. I can now tell you that the second monkey bread will not be going to work, due to the fact that it didn't come out of the pan in one piece. I failed to line it with parchment!!! I did eventually get it loose from the pan but it does not look to esthetically pleasing, tastes good though. Hey ho, more for Ian and I.

The 2nd collapsed bread

Which is now being devoured

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I am so excited about Christmas, Ian and I have booked to go to Whistler for 4 days. We can't wait, we go on the 22nd and come back on Christmas Day. Its going to be so much fun. We were very lucky this year in getting Christmas off work and even luckier to get a few days off together, so rather than just sitting at home doing nothing we decided to go away. It is our present to each other, Yay!!!. Being surrounded by snow makes Christmas feel so  magical and romantic. Roll on Christmas... only 15 days to go.

Normally during the Christmas period we have friends round for dinner and on Christmas eve we have a buffet that lasts all afternoon, this unfortunatley will not be happening this year, Sorry guys!!!. However I do plan on taking a Christmas Hamper to Whistler with us, so we can continue with some of our homely traditions. I love Christmas but I do like to plan ahead with menus as I want to make it as relaxing as possible and not be chained to the kitchen. To be honest Ian and I will probably eat out on most nights and we love to have breakfast at Ricks grill. They have the best eggs benedict ever, mmm mmm. Our hamper will basically consist of  picky foods, chocolates and alcohol. This  is what I am planning to make to add  to shop bought items that will make up our hamper.

Brandy Snaps
Monkey Bread
Mulled Wine Spice Sachet
Chocolate Bark

I made Brandy Snaps last year which turned out well but I added a little too much lemon juice, so this year I am trying a different recipe. I am going to test them out by taking them to my work Christmas potluck, if they go down well there a winner. Monkey bread is fantastic as it is so versatile, you can have it for breakfast or just to pick at during the day, it is basically sweet bread dough shaped into small balls and rolled in cinnamon  sugar and baked all together in a bundt tin. It is great to share as everyone can pick off the individual balls. Today I am going to share with you the ingredients needed to make mulled wine. I love mulled wine, especially after you come in from a cold night, it warms you right through and smells divine. (I can't wait till I make all these goodies... maybe next week!!... lets hope I don't eat them all though before our Christmas get a way!!!)

Mulled Wine Sachets
The original recipe includes orange peal. I found that if you were making the sachets in advance the peal was not dried and therefore spoilt, so I remove it and added more orange slices to the wine)

3-4" cinnamon stick (7-10cm)
30 cloves
20 allspice berries
3 cardamom pods
6" (15cm) square of cheese-cloth, muslin or other plain cotton fabric. 
Cotton thread to bind the sachet shut

This is so simple, tie up all the spices in the muslin and secure with the cotton thread. You will need to break the cinnamon stick in half so it will fit in the muslin.

To  make the mulled wine
Add the spice sachet, 3 Tbsp of sugar, and 750mL (one bottle) of red wine to a saucepan.  Slice a large orange into the saucepan too. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15min. Ladle into mugs and serve hot. Garnish with a slice of orange for a nice touch and enjoy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Narna Bread (Banana Bread)

I owe this recipe to my friend Carrie, she brought it to a picnic and everyone wanted the recipe. Thank you Carrie. Ever since I moved to Canada banana bread was everywhere and I can't get enough of it!! My mother used to make a fruit loaf with bran and even though this banana bread does not have any of the same ingredients, I feel like it is a modern version (I think mum would disagree). Banana bread is great to munch on when your feeling a little peckish. I decided to make it today on this very lazy Sunday as we had nothing to eat in the house. There was no milk for pancakes or bread for toast, there was however 3 battered and bruised bananas sitting in an ignored fruit bowl, so I took advantage.  It took me about 5 minutes to prepare the batter and the oven did the rest of the work in around 40 minutes, so my Sunday remained very lazy!!! I added a handful of chocolate chips to this banana bread, hence the blobs of chocolate shown in the photo.

Carrie's Banana Bread
1 1/4 cup of flour
2/3 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of oil
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
3 medium banana's

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a loaf pan. Add banana's to a mixing bowl and soften to mush. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake on the middle shelve for approx  40 minutes or until a knife blade comes out clean from the batter. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the loaf pan.

We polished off half the bread this afternoon and washed it down with two mugs of steaming hot fresh coffee. Mmm mmm.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Gifts

It is that time of year again, Fa la la la la la.... I love making gifts for people and sharing Christmas cheer, its sooooo much fun. Last year I made some biscottis and chocolate ganache candy. The biscottis were presented in cellophane bags and tied with a big Christmas ribbon and the chocolate ganache candies were decorated individually with coffee beans, blanched almonds, dried fruit and chocolate sprinkles and presented in a decorated Christmas box. They looked awesome and I know the chocolates went down well.

This year I have had  lots of ideas and have settled on two ideas. Unfortunately I can't share these with you as I know my friends will read this post. So today I am going to share with you my meringue snowmen, which I plan to take to work for our Christmas potluck. As for my Christmas Gifts I will share these with you once I have exchanged gifts!!!

Meringue Snowmen

2 Egg Whites (room temperature)
3/4 Cup Sifted Icing Sugar
Small pinch Cream of Tartar

It is best to get all the ingredients ready prior to starting the recipe and preheat the oven to 200 degrees. In a large clean mixing bowl add the egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk (electric whisks are the best) on a medium speed until the eggs become a little frothy. At this stage spoon in the icing sugar over a two minute period. Continue to whisk the eggs white mixture until it is shiny and forming stiff peaks. Try not to stop the whisk , it should take about 10 -15 minutes to get the right texture. Fill a piping bag with the meringue, the best way to do this is to put the piping bag into a large glass and roll the excess piping bag over the sides of the glass. Squeeze the meringue down into the piping bag by rolling down the top.

Pipe the meringue in circles onto a a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can make as many snowmen as you wish.. Bake on the middle shelf for an hour then 30 minutes with the door ajar (wedge a wooden spoon between the door and the oven) then turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool to room temperature whilst remaining in the oven. You can decorate them and give them eyes with the addition of Chocolate chips. If you want to make snowballs you can sandwich two meringues together with whipped cream, or melted chocolates.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Supposedly Confit Duck

Firstly I have to get something of my chest, I feel like I have ignored the content of the blog. Yes I know there is only a few days between each entry however what once was a daily homage has had to be reduced due to TIME, therefore I apologize. My blog posts can take me up to an hour to assemble and then there is the organisation that takes place behind the scenes, making the dishes, taking, downloading and cataloging the photos. I have been taking most of the photos for the blog and although my better half has taught me how to compose a photo, I can honestly say I am not a very good student!! But I do try!!! I also do not want to just share any old recipe with you. I want to share home cooked tasty recipes with you which are slightly different than just plain old food. Although Ian and I eat well there are some days where we just gorge on junk and those days where I am experimenting with food can turn out pretty grim if the dish doesn't work out as well as anticipated. More often than not we like the dish but would make some small changes if made again. Ian is a great critique and I takes his comments seriously. I know if he really enjoys a dish because he goes back for seconds and completely cleans his plate. Once all the recipes have been perfected I then share them with all of you.

Todays recipe originally started a duck confit, however I couldn't find the main ingredients (that being the duck and the duck fat, typical!!!) at my local supermarket so I am trying it with chicken a lard .Sounds gross doesn't it.  At this point I'm thinking of Julia Child's quote " Fat gives things flavor". When I was researching the recipe many cooks had said that they use lard to top up the duck fat if there wasn't enough and another recipe used chicken, so I thought I'd substitute the two ingredients.Confit is a way of preserving food too, as the first process salts the meat drawing out excess water preventing spoilage and once finished it can be kept for 2-6 months if kept in a cold dark place.

Making this confit was fun but scary. I loved the way the fat swirled in the pan once melted, it was almost mesmerizing. The calm memorizing swirl soon turned into a harsh sizzle once the meat was added, I kept thinking the more meat I add the more it will sizzle. I was envisaging the pan going up in flames, so for this reason I kept the fat on a low heat until all the meat was in the pan and then I adjusted the heat until it began to simmer gently. My nerves had been calmed. It then sat happily simmering away on the stove sending whiffs of roasted meat, in my case chicken. Once cooked the flesh was tender to touch and the taste (yes I sneaked a taste) was awesome. So Chicken in Lard does work.

Duck Confit

4 Duck Legs
Duck Fat
3 Tbsp Salt
Bay Leaves

Coat the duck legs in salt and marinate with the herbs and peppercorns for 12 hours minimum. Once marinated rinse the legs and dry. Melt the fat in a pan over a low heat and add the duck legs ensuring the fat covers all of the meat. If not top up the fat with some lard. Gently simmer for 2 hours and turn the duck legs over half way through the cooking process. (Some recipes state that you can bake them in an oven at 225 degrees for 2 hours. I prefer to simmer on the stove but both turn out well). Remove the duck legs and put in a glass container. Skim of any scum from the top of the fat and then pour the fat over the duck and cover fully. Allow to cool, cover and then refrigerate. It is best to leave the meat for a minimum of 2 weeks before using to allow flavor to enhance.

To cook the confit after it has been set in the fat, remove the legs and fry skin side down until golden brown and then flip to brown the other side. Discard excess fat from the frying pan. Duck/Chicken confit can be used in many ways in salads or served alongside baked potatoes. I plan to use mine in another French dish called Cassoulet.