Wednesday, 27 June 2012

When life serves you lemons


The last 3 weeks have been yard yakka at Chez GG.

The real proper flu has struck.

Not man-flu.

Not a bad cold.

The real deal.

Fevers for a week.

Chills to the bone.

The littlest had convulsions from the fever.  So scary being taken back to a place we were at when he was 12mths old- I wrote about it here.

It was super scary. 

GourmetBoyfriend was overseas.  I was alone. Panicked by what was before me.

I flew my mumma over from Adelaide to help me, scared of the next few days on my own.

We got through.

Thankyou Mumma.

GourmetBoyfriend came home.

But the sickness continues.......nearly all 7 of us have had it.  

Enough now.

We MUST be limping towards the finish line.....I have to believe that.

In the meantime I am baking.

As I do when things are not great........
pic courtesy of Snorg tees


GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S LEMON RICOTTA CAKE
I'm not a huge cake baker.
I mean I do love a good cake but I have never loved baking them- although when I do they usually turn out great.
I am particularly partial to citrus cakes (my all time fave is Claudia Roden's Middle eastern Orange cake) - do you remember the Citrus Cheesecake I baked not so long ago, that was delish!!
I like cakes that are a bit out of the ordinary.
I usually always have Ricota in my fridge ready to make my Ricotta Gnocchi so I thought I might whizz out a ricotta based cake & use some of the gorgeous lemons we were gifted (thanks Luke)
I use lemons EVERY day.  A squeeze on my eggs, a bit on my pasta or noodles, some in my tea, or popped into whatever I am cooking, or to make a new batch of preserved lemons (my recipe for preserved lemons is here)- i just LOVE them. SO when we are offered lemons i NEVER say no...bring them on I say!
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 lemons zested & juice of one
  • 250g ricotta
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 125gSR flour
  • 1tsp baking powder


METHOD:
Heat oven to 180.

Grease & flour a 20cm springform tin.

Beat sugar & better till light & fluffy

Add eggs, lemon zest and juice, ricotta and mix

Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks, fold through.

Add flour, baking powder and mix well.

Spoon into greased tin.

Bake for 35mins or until firm & golden in colour.

Cool in tin for an hour before serving.


Here is a lovely little concert with some faves of ours ~ Kings of Convenience;  you can listen to it while you bake.....

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Art of Parenting.


Here are some of the things I know about the Art of Parenting~

  • that you will feel things that you never thought you would
  • that despite all those years of thinking your parents knew nothing they actually knew quite a lot
  • that learning to accept and embrace change is really really helpful
  • equally learning to embrace chaos is vital
  • that plans rarely work out as you intended
  • that sometimes unexpected outcomes are the best outcomes of all
  • or the worst
  • learning to accept that when people are giving you advice they are doing so with good intentions. Understanding that is sometimes better than listening to their advice. 
  • that when that lady in the British Museum who you thought was nuts as she said to you while walking around with your 1 week old first born "You'll be packing his school bag in no time" was actually the most sane & wise person on the planet
  • that not doing things for your children is sometimes the best thing you can do for them 
  • that letting your children know you still make mistakes as a grown up is one of the most valuable lessons.
  • letting them know that you learn from them is even better
  • that sometimes you don't get what you want no matter how hard you try or how much you deserve it
  • that just as you feel you have a grip on things the game changes & the rule book is nowhere in sight
  • that being a parent is often emotionally painful
  • that you never ever stop learning how to be a parent and that most of the time it feels as if you are fumbling in the dark
  • that finding a balance between work & life takes a lifetime to work out
  • that love and the showing of love is the most important part
But do you know what?

I think the most important thing I know is.....

  • that we will never ever know everything there is to know about parenting.
  • that what I don't know is just as important as what I do
  • and that trying to remember we are beginners is probably more beneficial than trying to be an expert

GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S VIETNAMESE BRAISED BEEF PHO:
Pho is a soup that originates from Hanoi in Northern Vietnam. It is pronounced as if you were saying FUR. It comes from the French word Feu~ which means Fire.
This is one of my absolute favourite things to eat.
The smoky clean flavours, the zing of the lemon, the chilli and the gorgeous vietnamese herbs.
There are lots of people that wouldn't bother making this at home & enjoy eating it out- especially as it is often very cheap and good!
But as I am at home with my little ones it has become something I cook or I would miss it too much!
It is relatively simple and relies on a really good broth made with quality ingredients with lots of fresh goodies added at the end to really make it great.
There are many variations to this classic Vietnamese soup. 
But most rely on the onion & ginger to be charred before adding to the stock. This is what imparts that unique smoky flavour & colour that makes Pho so special.
my kids adore it- I think they love the interactive nature of this soup, the way you add extra bits at the end according to what you like.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
For the soup broth:

  • 1 large marrow bone
  • 3 pieces (~300g) of shin beef (gravy beef)
  • 1 inch knob ginger, skin left on
  • 1 brown onion, skin left on
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 2 large brown cardamom pods (these are completely different to green cardamom and can be found at you Asian or Indian grocer)
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 4 large pieces Cassia bark
  • 1 pack flat rice noodles (bhan pho)
  • 5 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic whole
  • 2 litres of water
For topping the soup at the table:
  • lots of bean sprouts
  • a bunch of Vietnamese mint
  • a bunch of fresh coriander
  • lots of lemon wedges
  • lots of fresh red chilli, sliced finely
Using tongs hold onion in a set of tongs over the gas flame of your stove top. Hold it just far enough away so as it charrs but doesn't catch fire.
Turn so the entire surface fo the onion is charred.
Now do the same to the ginger.

In a large stock pot add the whole onion, the ginger, garlic, whole spices, the beef and marrow bone and water.

Bring to the boil and skim any impurities off the surface.

Now turn down and add the fish sauce and sugar and let simmer very gently for 2-3 hours.  Check flavour and add more fish sauce if required.

Strain the soup and remove the beef. Discard the ginger, garlic, whole spices and the bone.
Pull the meat apart into small chunks & place back into the broth.

In a a separate pot cook the rice noodles according to the instructions on the pack.

In each bowl add a little of the rice noodles, beef and pour over stock to cover.

Place the additional ingredients at the tabel for everyone to add as they like.
Add lots and lots of bean sprouts and herbs and squeeze generously with lemon juice. Add chilli as desired.

Enjoy!


I was loving this track last week. From a great album of covers that I hadn't listened to for a while. Love it when i revisit ol' faves and love them all over again.......

Monday, 18 June 2012

Bringing back KIND

Kindness.

I think it is one of my favourite words.

EVER.

I like to think I act with kindness and compassion in my daily life.

To act with kindness towards other humans for no other purpose than it is the RIGHT thing to do.

Being kind feels good.

The simple act of being kind can make my day.

To see a smile on a strangers face because you handed them a parking ticket with half an hour on it.

To hear from a friend that the gesture you made helped them through something difficult.

I think KIND is underrated nowadays.

It is easy to  feel so stressed and busy in our own life that it inhibits our ability to see outward.  To see beyond our own difficulties & pressures.

Maybe we need to take a deep breath and let ourselves fold outwards again.

Let our space be big enough to find others.

People are what matter.

Not things.

I want my kids to see that I live my life with compassion.  That compassion is important.  That taking time to notice others is of value.

Do you want to join me in bringing back KIND?

GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S VIETNAMESE CARAMELISED PORK~ THIT KHO TO:
My love for the Pig is no secret.
It is easily our family fave.
This recipe has very few ingredients with a spectacular end result.
Don't be scared off by the caramel part.
It is the most scrumptious flavour.
the toffee imparts the most heavenly flavour and gorgeous colour to the dish.
I have cooked this on many occasions. It is great done with small cubes of pork, whole shoulder (which I shredded) or in this case I used loin chops. All equally delicious.
I like to serve it with a fresh crunchy Vietnamese salad for freshness and texture.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 4 organic pork loin chops
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, sliced
  • 4 spring onions, left whole
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 2 dried Whole red chillies
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup chicken stock
METHOD:


Place the sugar and water in a large pot on medium heat.


Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.


Now STOP stirring.  This is very important or the sugar will crystallise.


The sugar will bubble away- you may jiggle the pan but DO NOT STIR.


You are watching for a lovely nutty colour.  


As soon as this has happened place the chops carefully onto the caramelised sugar and add all other ingredients.


The sugar will instantly turn into toffee.

DON'T PANIC!



This is exactly what you want to happen and it will all dissolve as the dish cooks leaving it's gorgeous flavour and imparting it's colour to the dish.


SO MUCH YUM!


Now cover and cook VERY gently for a couple of hours (or 3 if a whole shoulder)- checking every now and then to make sure there is enough liquid.


Serve with fluffy rice and the salad component of this dish on top.


Whoah can this gal belt out a tune!!! Nina would be PROUD!
I cried silent tears when I heard this for the first time.
Good ones.
The sort that fall when something amazing happens....
Do you LOVE this version too? Do you cry when music really grabs you?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Wintry days.....


Wintry days are for:

  • staying inside
  • wearing PJ's all day
  • laughing
  • watching old movies
  • finding rainbows
  • soaking in hot baths
  • wearing a different pair of tights from my collection every day
  • cuddling someone you love
  • reading in bed
  • cooking soup



GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S CAULIFLOWER & FENNEL SOUP:
Soup is so hard to beat as the ultimate Winter comfort food.
Soup fills your tummy and gives your body a great big squeezy hug.
I love Cauliflower.
I think it gets a hard time as a vegetable though.
Lots of people think it is a little bland.
I LOVE to roast it and serve it with a generous squeeze of lemon & loads of parsley.
But another great way to serve it is as Soup.
This one is SUPER EASY & has another of my fave flavours added to it for a bit of pizzazz- Fennel.
I love to make a big batch of soup for the kids to come home to after school on these Wintry days  and then they pack it in a Thermos for lunch at school the next day too!
I topped mine with a Chorizo & Sourdough crumble (instructions at end of recipe) but you can omit this to make it entirely Vego.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets (don't waste the stalk, chop that too!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 30g butter
  • 1 litre of stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • S & P
  • 1/2 cup of cream
METHOD:

Heat a pan on stovetop to medium.

Add butter, shallots & garlic.  Fry for a couple of minutes until translucent.   Then add the ground Fennel.

Now add the cauliflower florets & the stock and bring to boil.

Cook till Cauliflower is soft.

Take off heat and add cream.

Check seasoning & blitz till creamy and smooth.

Serve with crusty Sourdough toast.

(NB: I added a crunchy Sourdough & Chorizo crumble to mine. To make this finely chop 1/4 chorizo sausage & a slice of sourdough bread-crusts removed. Add to a dry nonstick frypan on a medium heat. The oils in the Chorizo will release and the bread will soak them up and crisp up at the same time. Fry for about 6-7minutes or until crunchy and smelling Gorgeous! OMG YUM!!!!)



As the air goes cold....and the trees unfold.....

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A letter to my best friend

To my very Best Friend,

We have been friends now for a very long time.

We celebrated getting married in our tenth year together.

Our wedding was 15 years ago.

Me dressed in Red.

You in your sartorial magnificence.

Driven to our beach wedding in a gorgeous old Mercedes by my gorgeous Sister & Brother in Law who had decorated their vintage Merc resplendent with Red ribbon to match my dress.

This week we celebrate our 25th year together.

I read that and I think WOW!

How lucky I am.

How many 17yo girls find a mate that will still be their loyal companion 25 years later?

One with such steadfast integrity, loyalty, sharp intellect, dry humour & sizzling good looks.

I won the lottery when I won your heart.

We have moved to a lot of places, seen a lot of stuff, had some tough times, but way more great times, collected way more than we can fit into our little house, created five amazing boys, lived a great life.

The thing I love most about you is that you are my best friend.

How is it even possible that I love you more now than I did then?

I never thought that would or could be possible.

Here's lookin at you kid!

And US.

May it last a whole lot longer.

Thanks for helping make my life a Taco (that will make sense after you watch the video below).

Lots of big LOVE,

from your Best friend.



GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S CAVALO NERO, CARAMELISED ONION, PEA & RICOTTA TART.
Life's a pie.....
Do you love pies?
I do!
Tarts & Pies are a great way to feed a vegetarian meal to meat eating people who may be a little "Dude where is the Meat?" when you serve Vego food.
I make quite a few pies, some with tops some without. Some sweet, some savoury.
This one has no top & is a bit of a mix of sweet AND savoury.
I love the unctuous rich flavour of Caramelised onion. They give this pie a lovely sweetness.
You could change the vegies around-  replace the Cavalo Nero with roast pumpkin.
So many options! 
I LOVE Cavalo Nero.....- I talked about it on my Facebook page this week. What a great veg!
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 1 bunch Cavalo Nero (tuscan kale), chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 large onions, sliced into halves then sliced fine
  • puff pastry
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 100g Ricotta
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • butter
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Raw sugar (or Brown)
  • a little water
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • S & P
Preheat oven to 180C


Heat a non stick to medium. 


Add butter and sliced onions.


Cook gently till edges are browning and the onion is translucent. 
Add sugar and water and cook for another few minutes till the onions are slippery and have a sweet aroma.


Add garlic, Cavalo Nero & stir till the kale takes on it's gorgeous luminous green and is just soft.
Add peas.


Stir through and take off heat.
Grease a Pie dish and line with Puff pastry.
Add the Cavalo Nero mix & spread evenly over the pastry.


Dot the mix with chunks of Ricotta.


In a small bowl mix the eggs and cream together.
Use a pastry brush and brush the edges of the pastry with this mix then pour remainder evenly over the top of the veg.
Pop into the oven for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is Golden Brown.