Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Gluten Free Bread - Moist, flexible and delicious





I have been quiet lately and taking a break from blogging as life has been so busy.  With working long hours and helping my parents to move house the last few months have passed like clouds in the sky.

  Last night I stopped by my pottery class to pick up some items that had been previously glazed and fired, and watching all of the people working on different projects I realised that I have missed attending pottery classes.

So I have made a date to create a chorizo pot next Wednesday.

Just like pottery, I enjoy blogging so I will continue to 'blog' my happenings and share my love of cooking with you all.

 I decided to avoid eating products containing gluten for one month to see if I would feel any different.  The result is that yes that I do feel better for varied reasons and have decided to continue with my gluten free diet.

Gluten is contained in so many food items but is easy to avoid apart from bread.  The gluten free bread you can buy is generally heavy, thick and non appetising.

Gluten free fried garlic bread
After doing some research I amended the recipes to one that suited the ingredients that appealed to me and also that I had in my pantry.  This recipe is adapted from Quirky Cooking and also King Arthur fine gluten free bread creations.

The resulting loaf is lovely, light and flexible, tasty and desirable.  It is a great for and everyday loaf of bread.
It is also delicious brushed with a mixture of butter and crushed garlic and lightly fried for garlic bread to accompany a gluten free pasta dish.



Here is the dough, resting for 2 hours.
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Gorgeous Gluten Free Bread 

 Ingredients

2 Tablespoons chia seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons water

Dry Ingredients
. 300g gluten free flour (purchased from supermarkets or health food stores)
. 220g sorghum flour (found in health food shops)                                          
. 380g tapioca starch (tapioca flour)                                                                
. 2 Tablespoons instant yeast                                                                           
. 1 Tablespoon fine sea salt (you can use Himalayan to taste)                        
Moist Ingredients
4 large eggs
670g lukewarm water
70g light oil (eg. macadamia, grapeseed, sunflower)
30g honey
Method
Firstly, mix the chia seeds with the water and put aside.
In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix together.
In a separate bowl mix all of the wet ingredients together and add the chia seed mixture.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until combined.   The dough will look sticky but don't knead it, place a tea towel over the top and let rest at room temperature for 2 hours.
You can cook it now, line a loaf pan with baking paper, sprinkle with a little cornmeal (polenta) and pour enough mixture to come three quarters of the way up the sides and allow to rest, loosely covered for at least 40 mins. 
Make several slashes across the loaf at 2cm intervals.  Brush with a little water.

Preheat oven to 180C and place on lower shelf, bake for 35 minutes or until the sides of the bread leave the pan.
This is enough mixture to make 3 loaves of gluten free bread.
You can refrigerate the dough loosely covered for the next 7 days, although the flavour gets stronger each day.  If refrigerated the dough will need to rest for about an hour and a half, or even 2 hours before baking
 It will rise a little in this time, but it won't double like regular bread dough does.
Allow bread to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a rack to finish cooling.

This freezes beautifully, sliced and stored in a plastic bag.
You can refrigerate slices for a few days in the fridge in an air tight container.

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Have you ever tried a diet to specifically avoid certain food groups?
Did you notice a difference?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx



Thursday, 14 December 2017

Christmas Prawns


The best part of Summer is the ready supply of Seafood.
Living in a seafood town we have plenty of choice from the school prawns to the locally caught flat head and beautiful oysters.
Here is a simple prawn dish full of flavour and incorporating the Christmas colours of red and green which is sure to impress your guests.





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Christmas Prawns

1/4 cup olive oil
500 g fresh green prawns, shelled with tail intact
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
handful of continental parsley, chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Heat up a frypan or wok to medium high, add oil, garlic and chilli, fry for 1 minute or until garlic just starts to turn brown.
Add the prawns and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
Add lemon juice, wine and parsley then keep stirring for 2 more minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

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Happy Christmas to you and your family.  I hope you have a relaxing and festive break.
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Prawn Risotto for One

It's a usual day at work; customers, phone calls, paperwork, internet browsing, ordering and lunch. 
Lunch is definitely the highlight of the working day, a brief repose between the morning and afternoon. 



 A time for reflection, meditation and an opportunity to refuel your body.

I try to plan my lunch the evening before, or at least in the morning before leaving for work.

Last night was a late evening due to my monthly amateur beekeeping meeting, which is always a stimulating,
entertaining and educational evening.

Even though I have been beekeeping or 8 years there are always new ideas and methods to learn from other beekeepers.





When I opened the freezer door for ice cubes I saw a bag of cooked prawns with tail on and knew this was going to largely be my lunch today.
Grabbing an onion, a tomato, garlic and long grain rice (I know there is Arborio rice in the pantry - somewhere) I had already decided it would be prawn risotto lunch.
Such simple flavours but so delicious and healthy, this is a lunchtime treat which will keep you full of energy for the rest of the working day.


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Prawn and Tomato Risotto for One


12 large cooked prawns, tail on
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded (optional)
1/2 cup rice, preferably short grain, rinsed
1/3 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups hot vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste, dried chilli for garnish

In a rice cooker, or a non stick saucepan add the olive oil, onion and garlic, fry 1 minute,
Add the chilli and chopped tomato, fry 1 more minute.
Add rinsed rice and the white wine and fry for a further 1 minute.
Add the vegetable stock and black pepper then bring up to a simmer, cooking for approximately 10 minutes or until rice is just cooked.  Taste to see if it needs salt as vegetable stock is quite salty.
Add the cooked prawns and cook for another 4 minutes, or until heated through.

Serve, with some extra dried chilli sprinkled over top, or grated fresh parmesan if you have some.

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Is lunch a highlight of the day for you or is it just another meal?

Buon appetito, Enjoy, Merryn xx



Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Chickpea and Vegetable Curry in a Hurry

I decided it would be delightful to cook a Chickpea and Vegetable Curry for lunch and proceeded to chop the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli to start frying.


I have the most amazing Malaysian curry paste my friend gave me which is simply 1 cup blended spices, pureed lemon grass and onion cooked for 20 minutes with 1 cup water.  It is fat free with a purely wonderful flavour different to any other curry I have every enjoyed.    She won't give me the recipe but is happy to offer me Malaysian spices she brings from her home so I can make my own.
I reached into the fridge for my jar of curry paste only to discover it was vegetable stock paste and the special jar of Malaysian curry was still at home in that fridge!  Oh dear ....
Luckily my long suffering husband abandoned painting our daughter's bedroom just long enough to drive me down the curry paste but by this time I had given up on the idea of having a curry and had loaded so much garlic, ginger, chilli and sriracha into the pan thinking this would have to suffice that it was going to be a flavour overload.

He brought me red curry paste instead of the Malaysian one, but who was I to complain?
Needless to say, my curry was amazing and a welcome blend of fresh vegetables and legumes.

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Chickpea and Vegetable Curry in a Hurry

1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 chilli, seeds intact, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon Sriracha paste (optional)
2 Tablespoons Malaysian curry paste (or any other curry paste you have nearby)
400ml coconut milk
100ml water
400g fresh vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum, snow peas, beans or whatever is on hand
chopped into med-large pieces approx 5cm in length
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained 

Fry the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli in a little olive oil for 2 minutes in a saucepan.
Add the sriracha if using, the coconut milk and water then bring to a simmer.
Add the freshly chopped vegetables, bring back to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 4 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
Test to ensure the vegetables are soft.

Serve with extra sliced chilli if desired.

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Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Have you ever needed friends or family to come to your rescue with essential ingredients?


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Cumquat Wine Home Made

Anything is possible when you master the basics of home brewing.
With 5kg fresh cumquats picked from my friend Belinda's tree, 6kg sugar, 8g fruit yeast and 15 litres of cooled boiled water I have created this amazing Cumquat Wine.


This gorgeous cumquat wine is very pleasant to drink now but of course I will see how some ages in a cool room.
It's very drinkable and at 8% ABV - alchohol content
It is the perfect summer drink.


Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Mushroom Luncheon Surprise

What is Mushroom Luncheon Surprise (I hear you ask)

This is what is created when you take ingredients to work too cook a rich mushroom risotto only to find that the packet of rice you bought, less then 2 months ago, has weavils .... and you're hungry.
No I am not eating weavils, so into the bin goes the rice and I am left with a basic mushroom, onion and garlic stir fry.  Luckily there is a huge jar of braised artichokes in the fridge, and a block of parmesan cheese.  Dressed with a sprinkle of dried chillies and seasoning and it seems, we have lunch!


Follow this up with a plate of apricot, coconut logs and the meal is complete.


Let's just say, dinner tonight will be HUGE

Here is the recipe for these gorgeous apricot logs.

This is so funny, seriously, you have to laugh.
A mid week vegetarian luncheon creation.   It's serendipity!
Buon appetito, Merryn xx

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Chocolate Brownie Cookies

You know the saying 'when life hands you lemons - make lemonade' 
when you are handed chocolate, make chocolate brownie cookies.



We had the pleasure of dear friends from interstate recently visit us.  At times like these you have to offer home baked goodies for dessert.    My friend bakes amazing rhubarb cakes and muffins so I had to cook something just as homely.

Chester





It always rains when these friends visit and this time was no exception.     The temperature dropped and the rain came down.

Although it did clear up the day before they left and we managed a 3km walk with their dogs in the sunshine.



 These chocolate brownie cookies are delicious and moist and will be welcomed by all of your visitors.
You can find the original recipe by Thermobliss here.

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Chocolate Brownie Cookies

  • 115 g butter , chopped
  • 300 g dark chocolate melts
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup (240g) caster sugar
  • 2 tbs . cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp . vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp . salt
  • ½ tsp . baking powder
  • ¾ cup plain flour
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips/peanuts (or whatever you like!) 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. Line 2 flat cookie baking trays with baking paper and set aside.
  3. Place the chopped butter and chocolate melts into the TM bowl.
  4. Melt on Speed 2, 80 degrees for 3 minutes (or until melted) - you may need to scrape down the bowl partway through.
  5. Remove melted chocolate/butter and set aside.
  6. Place the eggs, caster sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla extract into the TM bowl (no need to clean it).
  7. Insert the butterfly and mix on Speed 4 for 2 minutes.
  8. Reduce to Speed 1 and slowly add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture through the MC hole.
  9. Increase to Speed 3 for 20 seconds.
  10. Reduce to Speed 1 and add the salt, baking powder and plain flour through the MC hole.
  11. Mix until just combined.
  12. Add the white chocolate chips/peanuts (or whatever add-ins you like) and fold through with a spatula.
  13. At this stage the mixture will be very thin (almost like a cake batter).
  14. Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared trays.
  15. The cookies will spread so make sure you leave a 3-4cm gap between each cookie.
  16. Bake for 12 minutes.
  17. Remove from the oven and leave on the baking trays for a further 10 minutes (they will continue to cook).
  18. Use a flat spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely


    Leo
    Conventional Method:
In a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together.
Let cool while you  beat the eggs with sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy in your mixer bowl.
Add cocoa powder.  Mix on low speed and pour in the melted chocolate and butter mixture.
Remove bowl and fold through flour, baking powder, salt and either white chocolate chips or nuts.
Fold until just combined.
Place heaped tablespoons onto the lined cookie trays leaving a 3-4cm gap for them to spread and bake for 12 mins at 180 degrees celsius.




Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 12 June 2017

Fried School Prawns in a Curry Coating


It was my friend Kathy's birthday last Wednesday and we usually get together each year to celebrate our birthdays.     This time we had a very busy day with work and thought we would pop around after dinner to wish Kathy a Happy Birthday rather than organising a mid week dinner.    I had purchased some local school prawns as they have been scarce this year due to the white spot disease with Australian prawns so whenever they are available I always make sure to buy some.   I had seen this recipe before and always meant to try it so this seemed like the perfect time to give them a coating and a quick fry before popping them into an insulated container so they arrived hot when we arrived at our friends house.

Trust me, these are delicious.  Much like deep fried white bait you eat them whole.   Shell, head and tail complete. They are crunchy and delightful.  Sprinkled with sea salt and a little lime juice, they are the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of white wine and some lively company.

We arrived, unannounced at around 6pm, in the pouring rain to find our homely friends all rugged up.... there was Kathy in her polar bear pyjamas which one son had bought her for Mothers Day and there was her husband with his beanie in place.  Luckily we were welcomed and the heater was blazing.  We all had an enjoyable evening and suitably celebrated another year on.  Mind you, I did feel a touch overdressed.

Next time you get some small school prawns, fry them like this, you will be pleasantly surprised 😊
Here is the original recipe by Billy Law from 'Man Food' and next time I might make the aioli as well but they were delicious served alone with a sprinkling of lime juice.

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Fried Curry School Prawns

vegetable oil, for deep frying 
200 grams plain flour
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes, plus extra to dust over cooked prawns
1 egg white
500 grams small school prawns, shrimp (already cooked is fine)
lime halves to serve

Combine the flour, curry powder, cayenne pepper and salt in a large bowl.
Whisk the egg white and combine with the washed and drained prawns in another bowl.
Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan to 180C.
In batches, place some prawns into the flour, coat lightly and then dip into the hot oil.
Fry for 2 -3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
(The whiskers get dissolved so if they go in in a clump they will separate).
Remove and drain on paper towels whilst you cook the next batch.
Sprinkle with extra sea salt whilst still hot.
Serve hot with the lime halves to drizzle over.
 
(Please note I had 1kg school prawns and doubled the ingredients and used a whole egg.)

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Do your friends ever greet you in their pyjamas?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx










Sunday, 30 April 2017

Simple Seafood Paella

We have a council clean up happening in our area during the coming week.  We culled, sorted and dumped out the front so much 'stuff' it was quite liberating, but also very tiring.  Two old double beds, a few boxes of kitchen implements, more boxes of garage junk and we had quite a large assortment of household objects waiting for collection.  During council clean ups people drive around with their utes and trailers collecting items that other people don't want so it is also a good way of recycling goods within our community before the council comes to collect what is left behind.




What do you cook when you don't feel like cooking?  A lovely simple Seafood Paella (pronounced pay-ee-ya) that is always a family favourite.  I take out a portion of the rice mixture before adding the seafood and place it in small pan and add 2 chopped chicken thighs for my daughter who doesn't like seafood, except for smoked salmon (no I don't understand this choice either) but she has recently become a vegetarian so smoked salmon and chicken are now off the menu.


I was too tired to cook even this so we ordered home delivered pizza thus it was an easy night and the finale of My Kitchen Rules was on and there were no distractions in the kitchen.

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Simple Seafood Paella

1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small red capsicum, diced
2 chorizo, diced
2 tomatoes, also diced
1 cup peas
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3 1/2 cups hot chicken stock
Seafood of your choice; I used 700g white fish fillets cut into 2.5cm pieces
                                       1 squid tube cut into rings aprox 1/2cm wide 
                                       400g green prawns, vein removed, tail intact
Serves 6

Fry the onion for 5 minutes at a gentle heat, add garlic, capsicum and chorizo.  Fry for another 5 minutes then add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes have broken down, about 5 minutes.  Add the peas and rice, stir until the rice is well coated.  Add 1/2 cup white wine and cook for 2 minutes before adding the chicken stock.  Stir well and then leave untouched for 15 minutes, adding a little more stock if needed.
Then add the seafood, slightly pushing the pieces into the rice.
Cook for 5 more minutes, check seafood is cooked, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve in the pan in which it was cooked.
                                       
Optional;  some people like to shave fresh parmesan over the top or add some dried chilli flakes.

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Do you have a free council clean up in your area and do you take advantage of this by spring cleaning?

Buon appetito Enjoy Merryn xx

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Baked Custard Tart - a family tradition


When we were small children we had the occasional holiday at my Nana's (my Mother's Mother) home in Moorland.

There was a big swamp at the back and we would climb trees to try to get over it without walking through it and getting our feet wet. These were fantastic holidays as we had cousins who would come from near and far and my Great Aunt Betty lived across the road from Nana.  Playing hide and seek in the small town was an endless source of fun too, it was only a small group of houses in those days.


In season we would pick blackberries or macadamias and stay out until it was definitely dark.
Great Aunt Betty even had an outdoor toilet, it was so 'country'.  Even though a modern bathroom was installed inside during the 70's inside the house the good old 'thunder box' was quite a novelty.

The garden was filled with fruit trees which backed onto the forest and then the large swamp. My mother told me she had seen small fairies in the swamp when she was young so I was always keeping an eye out just in case I was lucky enough to see a fairy go flying by...



My wonderful Nana would alternate between cooking baked custard and creamed rice pudding for desserts when we visited her and it was always welcomed after a busy day playing outside.  Nana, her name was Doris Belle did not make a pasty case but baked the custard in a glass pie dish and it was amazing.  I think many of us can remember baked custard tarts from way back when we were young.

This is a modern twist on this classic family tradition.



On the left is the pastry case lined with baking paper and baking 'beans' (weights) to keep the pastry from rising during the initial bake.  To the right is the uncovered pastry case after 5 mins more of cooking.


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Baked Vanilla Custard

Pastry

200g plain flour
100g butter, cubed
1/2 tspn salt
50 - 60g iced water

Custard

4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1/3 cup castor sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Place flour, butter and salt into a food processor.  Whizz until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Then add the water with the motor running, until it comes together in a ball.
Knead lightly and place in a bowl, covered in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Turn your oven to 180C fan forced and line a pie dish with non stick baking paper.
Roll out pastry until 3mm thick and place in your lined pie dish with the pastry up the sides.
Place baking paper inside and fill with baking beans, then bake for 15 - 20 mins.  Remove paper and weights and cook for another 5 minutes.

While the pastry is baking prepare your custard filling.

Whisk 4 eggs with a 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste and 1/3 cup sugar. 
Slowly pour in 1 1/2 cups milk and keep whisking until combined.

Remove pastry tart from oven and carefully pour in the custard mixture.
Sprinkle with a little grated nutmeg and bake at 180C for 20 minutes or until just set.

Remove from oven and try to wait until it cools before cutting - well at least 10 minutes.

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Tell me, do you have fond memories of holidays with your grandparents?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Quick and Easy Jamu - a traditional medicinal drink from Bali

If you have ever been to Bali the chances are you have tried Jamu, a lovely turmeric and ginger infused drink that is good for your immunity and health.   Cafes and street stalls alike offer this refreshing and healthy turmeric based drink.

The weather is turning cooler in Australia. Although Autumn has just started soon there will be winter diseases spreading and the better equipped our bodies are to deal with germs the better off we will be.

This is the wikipedia explanation of jamu.  Here is my friend Karen's recipe for Jamu and she makes an excellent, delicious version.   This is absolutely beautiful but last night I wanted to make some and did not have any fresh turmeric on hand so I created an 'instant' version which is also amazing.

Karen's JAMU
200 – 250 grams grated or finely chopped fresh Tumeric
200 - 250 grams grated or finely chopped fresh Ginger
2 heaped Tablespoons Tamarind Paste – or if no Tamarind paste you can use lemon juice or lime juice. Probably juice of 3.
2 ½ ltrs water - approx
2 teaspoons or so of ground black pepper
2 heaped tablespoons of honey
Put it all except the honey into a large saucepan or boiler and Boil in pot for at least 30 mins – (I will do it for say 45mins.)
Cool then strain and stir in honey.

Bottle up and it keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge quite well.
(Tip – if you are grating –then wear some gloves – your fingers will be orange for at least a day otherwise)     Enjoy K


Just look at the beautiful colour of this turmeric and ginger Jamu drink.

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Quick Jamu

1 tablespoon organic dried turmeric
2 small knobs of fresh ginger about 5cm each, peeled and finely chopped
A few grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons tamarind puree
1/3 cup raw, organic honey
1 litre water

Place the turmeric, ginger, pepper and water into a pan and bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer with lid on for 15 minutes.    Add tamarind puree and cook for another 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and add honey to your taste - between 1/3 - 1/2 cup.
Let cool, then strain into a bottle and refrigerate.
This will last about a week in the fridge.  
Drink at least 150ml daily for maximum health benefits.

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What is your best defence against winter germs?
Do you have a go to tonic to boost your immunity?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Ricotta Gnocchi in tomato sauce with parmesan cheese

Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce and Parmesan Cheese
It is the simple things in life which often give us the most pleasure, like walking on the beach, singing along to music or watching a magnificent thunderstorm roll in ....

Eating Ricotta Gnocchi is like having a chat with an old friend who is comfortable and familiar.

We had a visit from some lovely friends who were visiting from France last Saturday night.  We dined at a local Thai Restaurant as they had never eaten Thai food before but thankfully they enjoyed the meal and not a grain of rice was left behind.

 
Then we went to our house for coffee, liquer shots and copious amounts of green tea.
  
Shortly after coffee a lightening storm came over accompanied by gentle drizzle of rain and our guests were so excited they kept taking videos and photographs as their storms are very different to our own storms.

It reminds me how we take the smallest things for granted which really give us great pleasure.


 

Whilst grocery shopping on the weekend I saw a 1 kilo tub of ricotta and immediately thought to have ricotta gnocchi.          

Although ricotta is easy enough to make yourself sometimes ready made is convenient and saves time.

This wholesome meal is always appreciated in our house.




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Ricotta Gnocchi

500g fresh ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl mix everything together gently until combined.
Divide mixture into 4 rounds.
On a lightly floured surface take 1round and roll into a log shape 20cm long.
Cut into 2cm lengths and light press with a floured fork to make a light pattern.
Place onto lightly floured large plate.
When you have completed rolling all of the gnocchi dough cover and place in fridge for at least 1 hour.  You can leave overnight if you plan to cook it the next day.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and gently drop in about 1/4 of the mixture, cook for 3 -4 minutes.  They will rise to the top of the water.  Gently scoop out with a sieve and place in a warm serving bowl while you cook the remaining gnocchi.
Drizzle over your favourite freshly made tomato passata and sprinkle with sliced parmesan.
Serve with a fresh garden salad and a loaf of crusty bread.
Bellissimo!

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Tell me, what's your favourite homely meal and what are the simple pleasures that you really enjoy?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 23 January 2017

Spinach and Ricotta Polpettine in Tomato Passata

The temperature is between 25 and 30 Celsius at the moment and my spinach was looking a bit sad and droopy. 
I picked all that I could, washed it and cooked these delicious polpettine - a vegetarian delight.

This is a quick but delicious luncheon or entree dish that looks very impressive yet remains rustic.
 spinaci e ricotta polpettine di passata di Pomodoro



During the supermarket shop on Saturday morning I noticed 3  bottles of goats milk on sale. Because I make soap and cheese I always keep an eye out for milk specials and this was a great bonus!

I made some goats milk cheese, chevre which is basically a firm, moulded ricotta with a superb flavour.  While that was cooling in the fridge I proceeded to blanch the spinach to make the polpettine.


 I kept a few lovely polpettine aside planning to have them for lunch the next day.  One youngster came down for a midnight snack and told me the next morning that they were really nice.  "I felt a little ripped off when I realised they weren't meat balls Mum," he said " but they were good anyway".

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Spinach and Ricotta Polpettine

1 bunch of spinach, blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, then cooled and drained.
200g ricotta cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley 
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
375ml tomato puree (passata)
1/4 cup water 
salt and pepper to taste

 Extra grated parmesan for garnish



Squeeze the excess water out of the drained spinach and roughly chop before placing into a bowl.
Add the cheeses, egg, breadcrumbs, parsley and seasoning (remember that ricotta is salty so go easy with the salt).

Fry the onion in a pan in a little olive oil with the garlic and fry for about 5 minutes.  Add the tomato puree and water and bring to a light simmer.   

Roll small balls of spinach mixture lightly with your hands and place into the tomato sauce.  When they are all rolled and placed on top of the tomato mixture grind a little black pepper and a tiny sprinkle of salt over the top.    Gently spoon a little sauce over top of the balls.   Turn pan to very low, cover and let cook for about 8 minutes. 

Remove lid and let cook for 1 more minute for the excess water to evaporate (only if needed).
Sprinkle with extra grated fresh parmesan.

Serve with crusty bread and a fresh green salad.

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Does your family go searching in the refrigerator for the evening leftover food dishes?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx


Sunday, 15 January 2017

Sake - Cultured and Home Made

I have had so much fun creating the most amazing Sake in my pantry and then my laundry.
It is enjoyable producing products at home but even more so when you have to research the ingredients and method and still occasionally have to improvise to create perfection.
I wish I could attach a small cup of Sake to this post so you could enjoy the magnificent taste and aroma.


Every good idea starts with a dream or a need ... for example;

 I commented "oh darn it honey I'm out of sake"
followed by "I know you can't even buy it in our town".
"That's a shame "my very patient and long suffering husband replied
"can we pick some up in Newcastle next time?"
Knowing how keen I am to get ingredients when I need them, not in 3 months time.   I replied "surely we can make Sake?"



"Considering I brew wine, mead and limoncello and you make other alcohol surely between us we can make sake - what's the difference?"  I asked my now intrigued husband.

"Of course you can make sake" hubby replied, "we can do anything".




So here I am, the proud owner of 5 litres of divine home brewed Sake, well actually only 3 as I have already given away 2 litres of Sake.

As with all new recipes or hobbies you research the method and ingredients.  Luckily we have the internet and interest pages where we can talk to like minded people about our hobbies.
So I read on how to make sake.  It seemed all a bit too difficult, so I read some more, asked friends and ordered the one ingredient that seemed easier to order than to make at home called 'Koji'.
Koji looks very much like rice bubbles as I ordered it in the dried form as it was sent from interstate.

Koji is innoculated rice spores, an essential with which to make sake, miso or shubo miso.

I found the recipe for sake that I followed here;
http://homebrewsake.com/home/recipe/
and I will not reproduce it here, but the instructions are very involved and I treated this sake like a baby from start to finish.  Treating it with respect, dignity and ever so gently.

I stirred vigorously and measured the temperature of the liquid morning as well as night, adding a frozen ice brick underneath when it was time to cool the liquid down.  It went from bench top to laundry floor and then into the laundry sink at times and it was always covered by a towel in a darkened room to keep the light out.


This was truly a labour of love and I was so happy with the end result and when the ABV measured 17% alcohol with a pleasant rice flavour, I deemed it to be a huge success.

It is definitely best to make over winter in the cooler months.

My son brought back 2 expensive bottles of sake from Japan in December and although they are smoother than mine; my sake is still very acceptable and most pleasantly drinkable by comparison.

The liquid is so clear it could be mistaken for water.

You have a small amount in a kind of cupped saucer to drink for a quick pick-me-up.

By the way, I predominantly made this Sake to have on hand for cooking so it will last many years.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Simple but delicious Pork Sausage Rolls






It was my hubby's birthday recently and as we were going out for dinner that evening I suggested afternoon tea to family and friends to celebrate his day.  I made sausage rolls and red velvet cake as well as spending the previous afternoon cooking crostoli so there were all on the menu.
Afternoon tea was better than the meal out we had at a local restaurant in town (it happens) so I am glad we ate well beforehand.




Sometimes you hit onto a winner, simple comfort food that is perfect for parties or dinner with family.  Home made sausage rolls are amazing and even better when you use pure free range pork mince and add your own flavourings to create an amazing filling for the pastry.

I occasionally make my own puff pastry but the convenience of store bought frozen puff pastry is great and hard to pass up, especially in the heat of summer where you have to work quickly with pastry.

This recipe is a variation of the classic Bourke Street Bakery sausage rolls recipe but I have tweaked it to suit our taste.

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Pork, Vegetable and Fennel Sausage Rolls


This recipe will make 4 trays of sausage rolls, approximately 60 sausage rolls of 6cm lengths.

1 kilo pork mince, preferably free range
4 celery stalks. finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped or grated
2 rashers bacon, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 white or brown onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
4 teaspoons fennel seeds, whole
1 teaspoon dried, mixed herbs
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
6 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg mixed with a little milk for an egg wash.

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, celery, bacon, carrot and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion and carrots are softened.
Take off the heat and mix in the herbs, breadcrumbs and seasoning.
Let cool.
Mix the pork mince into this cooled mixture until well combined.
Heat oven to 200C
Place the thawed puff pastry sheets on your bench and cut each sheet in half so  you have 12 rectangles of roughly 15cm x 30cm.
Place mixture  in the middle third of each sheet using 2 spoons to spread a rough line in the middle of each sheet about 4 cm wide.  Roll one side of the pastry on top of mixture, brush with beaten egg and fold the other side of pastry on top to just overlap so you have your filling enclosed with pastry.
Cut each roll into 5 pieces and place onto baking paper lined baking tray.
Brush with egg wash and place into hot oven for about 15 - 20 minutes, rotating trays half way through until the sausage rolls are puffed and light golden brown.
Serve with sweet chilli sauce or tomato sauce.
These also freeze well and can be reheated from frozen in your oven for 45-50 minutes at 170C.

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Do you find occasionally that your home cooked meals can be better than restaurant dishes?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Friday, 4 November 2016

Galliano Gamberi - Prawns in a Creamy Galliano Sauce

It was Friday evening, I was looking forward to fresh local oysters and a lovely marinara risotto at one of our local clubs with hubby.   We showered, dressed and took a bottle of wine to drop by a friends' house for a pre-dinner drink on the way.



   When we arrived at the club an hour or so later there was barely a parking spot available.  It was certainly a very busy night for our usually subdued Friday night dinner and when we signed in at reception  I asked why it was so busy.    Apparently Kasey Chambers was performing in the auditorium that evening.  She is a well known, popular, Australian singer and songwriter.

We went around the corner to the bistro to see hundreds of people with about 50 waiting to be served.  So much for a quiet Friday evening dinner!  Then hubby said he wasn't feeling well anyway and really wanted to go  home and have soup with toast.

We arrived back at home, hubby went to bed with headache tablets as he was suffering with a fever.  By this time I felt like  I was all dressed up with no place to go!

I remembered a dish I have enjoyed at an Italian restaurant and set about recreating it by firstly rinsing and putting some basmati rice on to cook.  Then I defrosted some large green  prawns and rinsed a little rocket to have on the side.


Here is my recreation of Galliano Gamberi ... an elegant dish for one.

Galliano Gamberi

200 grams large green prawns, with tail on
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 - 2 garlic cloves, crushed
Sat and pepper to taste
30ml Galliano
1/2 cup cream
Steamed rice to serve
Rocket rinsed to garnish

Crush the  garlic cloves and mix with the prawns and the sunflower oil in a small bowl.  Season with pepper and salt.  Let marinate for 15 minutes.
Rinse and cook your basmati rice.
Heat a medium sized pan to medium high, add the prawns and fry the prawns for 1 minute per side until they are just pink.  Add the Galliano and toss a few times until it is all bubbling and slightly reduced then lower the heat slightly and add the cream, cooking and tossing for about 3 minutes until it is all bubbling and combined.
Serve with rice, some rocket and crusty bread or a few pappadums on the side.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

N.B. hubby was fine this morning and I really enjoyed my dinner for one last night. Have you ever been looking forward to a night out but have to change your plans at short notice?  

Saturday, 29 October 2016

November Garden Share Collective

New beginnings ...
We have changes happening which is why I haven't shared my garden for a while but here are some photographs of a new and exciting under cover garden we have built.  It is designed to keep birds,  brush turkeys, possums  and rats out whilst still allowing the bees in to pollinate all of our precious flowers.

Tomatoes zucchinis celery bush beans and herbs.


Grape vines from cuttings taken last year predominantly Thompson Seedless grapes. 

Strawberries chillies lettuce capsicum tomatoes and hubby.


Our bee hives are thriving and multiplying.


You can see how busy we bave been and as always our efforts are rewarded by the wonderful produce we are already gathering to cook and enjoy.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Roasted Pumpkin with Yoghurt and Coriander



Sometimes you come across a recipe and think 'wow, this is turning a boring vegetable into something exotic'. Such as when I came across Adam Liaw's Roast Pumpkin with Coriander recipe in his cook book Adam's Big Pot.


We grew over 50 Kent and Queensland Blue pumpkins this last winter.  The Kent variety is my favourite pumpkin, colourful, moist and small so they can be easily chopped up with your cleaver.

Winter gardening is wonderful, although Spring and Summer are preferable.

My father is now in his 80's, he is a gorgeous, sweet and caring man who has gardened all of his life.
 I notice he has some eccentricities now that were not noticable before.

My hubby and my father get on very well but at times have this teasing kind of relationship.
One day my father asked my mother to chop down an apple tree that has never done well and hubby was thrilled as he could then plant a fig tree in that spot.  When hubby commented to Dad that he would chop down the apple tree, Father said "no, leave it there I want to keep it" so hubby had to bite his tongue and wait for a change of mood to cut down the tree.  I am sure Dad is having fun with him.

At the end of the day we all reap the benefits of gardening both in our garden and in my parents garden.  Hubby has taken the time to upgrade and net in their vegetable/fruit tree garden to keep the wildlife away from eating and digging up all that is planted which is a huge step forward and a pleasure for my parents.

We rotate yearly in growing pumpkins ... one vine is enough to feed many families.


Here are our two Himalayan cats,
Casper and Chloe,
waiting to come in for breakfast.
Which has nothing to do with pumpkins,
but I wanted to share this cute photograph with you.




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Roast Pumpkin with Coriander Recipe


1/2 Kent pumpkin, washed, seeds removed and sliced into wedges (leave the skin on)
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 long red chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt flakes

To serve:  1/2 cup thick Greek style yoghurt
                 Lime wedges
                 Fresh coriander leaves
                 Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 200˚C.  Place pumpkin slices onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Mix together the fish sauce, brown sugar, chilli, garlic and oil.  Pour this mixture over the pumpking, turning the pumpkin over to coat it well.
Bake for 30 minutes without turning, or until the pumpkin is very well carmelised.
Scatter the pumpkin with salt and serve with spoonfuls of yoghurt (optional) lime wedges and coriander leaves.  Grind over black pepper to serve.

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Do you have a favourite pumpkin recipe to share?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx