Luscious Leeky Pasta

Loving Leeks with Pasta

It’s Monday and already the marking of papers for school has piled up. My senior kids had a practise written assessment task for English this afternoon and I must get them back to them by tomorrow so they can prepare for the actual graded task next week. It’s called a SAC – School Assessed Task – and they are pretty important as it is the SAC grades that they see on their mid year reports. The kids get pretty stressed and I get pretty stressed about marking them.

I still had to feed my family, my cat and my dog. I still had to help my daughter with her own studies as she is in her final year of high school and the pressure is incredible. She had her own English SAC today and she came home trying to work out how she went and I knew she was a little stressed. We all needed to be fed well but hours in the kitchen was not an option.

I do love pasta. Last week when I complained that I didn’t want to make pasta, it wasn’t because I didn’t like it, but that I had chicken and Leek pie stuck in my head. In fact it was the Leek I craved more than the chicken.

I love Leeks. They are versatile and taste wonderful and give any food you pair them with a great colour. Used with creme fraiche and stirred through any type of pasta is wonderful. Top with parsley and a good quality parmesan cheese and you have a wonderfully rich but easy Monday night meal.

This is a Gordon Ramsay recipe. I will post the recipe with Pancetta and mushrooms however tonight as I was unable to stop on the way home from work to buy pancetta, I left it out. When I got home I realised that I didn’t have enough of the same type of pasta left in the pantry and as I had chicken tenderloins in the fridge I added that instead to bulk up the meal.

This is why I love cooking. Recipes for me are a guide. If you don’t like a particular vegetable substitute it for something you do like. There is nothing more depressing than not making something because you don’t have a particular type of pasta or you prefer a tomato based sauce to a cream one. Just do what you like. Cooking is about eating what you love not being stressed out and not trying things and experimenting with food.

Ingredients

  • 300 g pasta shells conchiglie
  • Sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 125 g pancetta sliced
  • 2 medium Leeks trimmed and finely sliced
  • 250 g chestnut Mushrooms trimmed and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons crème fraiche
  • Flat-leaf parsley chopped
  • Shaved Parmesan Cheese to serve

Method

Add the pasta shells to a pot of boiling salted water and cook for 10–12 minutes, or until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the pancetta. Fry for a few minutes until it is golden brown, then add the leeks, mushrooms and a little salt and pepper. Stir over high heat for 6–8 minutes until the leeks are tender.

Drain the pasta and immediately toss with the pancetta, leeks and mushrooms. Stir in the crème fraîche and season with salt and pepper to taste. Scatter over the chopped parsley to serve.

Some Things Never Change

Sunday Roast Pork

My blog theme has changed three times over the weekend and for that I’m sorry. I’m a little fickle and get bored easily but I think I have found one that suits me.

Some things, however, never change and that is the pure joy I get from eating roast pork for lunch on a Sunday. It’s even better when someone else makes it for you. I must admit I am not great at making crackling so I’m quite happy to let someone who knows take over and all I need to do is pour the wine and enjoy.

The recipes today are for the Greek sweets we had after lunch. I seriously do not know how we fit it all in. I didn’t have any dinner and probably won’t be hungry again until sometime next week.

For dessert we had ‘Baklava’ and ‘Galaktoboureko’. They are extremely sweet and sticky with syrup but if you have the time you should give them a go as they are not that difficult to make and taste wonderful!

 

 

 

 

Baklava

Preparation Time

20 – 25 minutes

Cooking Time

70 minutes

Makes

20 pieces

Ingredients

  • 375g (1 packet) filo pastry
  • 180g butter, melted & cooled
  • 2 tsp water

Filling

  • 150g walnut pieces
  • 150g unsalted pistachios
  • 55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon

Honey Syrup

  • 1 375g jar honey
  • 165g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 250mls (1 cup) water
  • 1 lemon, rind finely grated and juiced

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C To make the filling, spread the walnuts on a baking tray and lightly toast in the preheated oven for 5-8 minutes or until aromatic. Cool.

Combine walnuts, pistachios, sugar and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor and process using the pulse button until they are finely chopped.

Remove the filo pastry from its packet and lie flat on the work bench. Cover with a dry tea towel and then a damp tea towel. (This will keep the filo from drying out while making the baklava.)

Brush a shallow 18 x 28cm cake tin with some of the butter. Take 1/3 of the sheets of filo. Brush the top sheet generously with butter and fold into thirds to make a rectangle the size of the tin. Place in the base of the buttered tin and brush surface with butter.

Continue layering with the left over 1/3 of pastry. Spread 1/2 of the nut filling over the filo to cover. Layer 1/2 of the remaining filo sheets as before. Spread left over nut filling over filo and top with the remaining layered buttered filo sheets. Lightly brush top with remaining butter.

Using a sharp knife, cut a diamond pattern into the top layer of filo and sprinkle with the water. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cover with foil and cook for 45 minutes longer or until the filo layers are cooked through.

Meanwhile, to make the honey syrup, combine honey, sugar, water, lemon rind and juice in a saucepan and stir over high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and maintain over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the syrup has thickened slightly.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cooked, remove baklava from the oven and immediately pour the cooled syrup evenly over the surface. Stand to cool completely. Cover with foil and store at room temperature in the tin for up to 2 weeks.

Cut into diamond shapes to serve with espresso coffee.

Galaktoboureko (sweet milk custard dessert)

Preparation time

35 minutes

Cooking time

55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1L (4 cups) milk
  • 110g (1/2 cup) white sugar
  • 185g (1 cup) semolina
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 x 20g pkts vanilla sugar
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
  • 12 sheets filo pastry, halved crossways
  • 75g butter, melted

Sugar Syrup

  • 450g (2 cups) white sugar
  • 500ml (2 cups) water
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 x 7cm cinnamon stick
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 strip orange peel

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C. Bring milk and white sugar just to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add the semolina in a thin steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes or until mixture is smooth and thickens slightly. Remove from heat and set aside for 15-20 minutes to cool slightly. Gradually add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition until well combined. Add the vanilla sugar and lemon rind and stir until well combined.

Place the filo on a clean work surface. Cover with a clean tea towel, then a damp tea towel (this will prevent it drying out). Place 1 filo sheet in the base of a 24 x 30cm (base measurement) ovenproof dish and brush with a little melted butter. Top with another filo sheet and lightly brush with melted butter. Repeat with another 10 filo sheets and melted butter to make a 12-sheet stack.

Pour semolina mixture over the filo in dish. Continue layering with remaining filo sheets and half the remaining melted butter to make another 12-sheet stack on top of the semolina mixture. Use a small sharp knife to score top of galaktoboureko into 16 squares. Brush with the remaining melted butter. Bake in oven for 45 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile, to make sugar syrup, place the sugar, water, lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves and orange peel in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, without stirring, for 10 minutes or until syrup thickens slightly. Strain syrup and discard cinnamon, cloves and peel.

Cut through marked lines on top of galaktoboureko. Pour over the hot syrup and set aside for 30 minutes to stand. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

Kick Starting the Day!

I could eat anything for breakfast!

I guess breakfast food is my favourite food and I can eat it any time of the day or night. This is just as well as I can rarely stomach food before 9am on a weekday. As I am usually at work by 8:15 my morning usually consists of a strong coffee to kick start me. I know! I know! This is not good but I do make up for it at morning tea break at around 10:30.

Strangely enough, at the weekend I can eat anything for breakfast and most of the time it is way before 9am. I like to linger over my breakfast and coffee. I don’t like to rush it. I’m happy to get up at 7am and make from scratch pancakes and maple syrup with a side of bacon (and I’m not even American!) I love eggs done any way with toast. I’ve even been known to incorporate the previous night’s evening meal into breakfast.

Such was the case this morning when I made cheesy scrambled eggs with spring onions (is that scallion or green onion in The US?), coriander, cherry tomatoes and left over falafels from last night’s dinner. The cheese was a crumbly pickled onion flavour and made the scrambled eggs extremely rich so I left out the tahini dressing.

I’m very full and ready for my day. I only wish I had received that roast pork lunch invitation before I had all this for breakfast as I would have just had my wonderful vegemite toast (I know you all think it’s nasty stuff but I love it!).

Falafel Wraps

Falafel Feeding Frenzy

I am sometimes really surprised by my family. When I think they will absolutely love what I plan on making for dinner I am met with objections and groans. At other times when I’m convinced that they are going to turn their noses up, they do the opposite and devour and demand more.

This is what happened when I first made falafels and wrapped them in pita bread with lettuce, tomato and tahini. I thought to myself “there’s no way they are going to eat these!”

I was pleasantly surprised when they scoffed all of them, wrapping and filling one pita bread after another. They were a hit and have become a regular for lunch or dinner ever since.

I would love to say that I make the falafels from scratch myself but that would be a lie. I have read many recipes on line and the feedback has always been so negative that I have been really put off. I also own quite a few Middle Eastern/Lebanese cookbooks and falafels are never mentioned as they are considered fast food, so I buy a pre mixed bag and add water and let stand for twenty minutes and then shallow fry them.

Is this cheating? I think that some things are not always worth the hassle especially when the quality of the pre mixed bag is as authentic as I’m going to get. I buy this from a local Middle Eastern store and the ingredients do not contain any added preservatives or additives and they always turn out beautifully. However, I will post the recipe for the creamy tahini dressing as it is simple to make and just delicious.

Creamy Tahini Dressing

1 clove of garlic, crushed with 1/4 teaspoon salt

125ml (41/2 fl oz) tahini, well stirred

80ml (3 fl oz) lemon juice

cold water

Stir the Tahini into the garlic paste, then gradually mix in the lemon juice and enough cold water to thin the sauce to the consistency of pouring cream.

Use the tahini sauce with falafel wraps or other Middle Eastern dishes. It’s just wonderful!

To store, pour into a sealable jar and store in the fridge. It will keep for up to 7 days.


Eat well = Live Well

Mid Week Madness.

My daughter is in her final year of high school, which translates to “I am in my last year of high school.”  Whatever pain and stress she feels, I feel it too.

I’m a high school teacher so our house is full of books and the conversation rarely strays from what a particular author really meant when he/she wrote blah, blah, blah! Metaphors, symbolism, structuring paragraphs and embedding quotes is the usual after dinner conversation as I don’t allow these conversations to take place at the dinner table.

We all need to have a bit of a laugh and I love it when this happens whilst we eat. No matter how tired I am, dinner is always a priority. This never means spending hours in the kitchen slaving away. It is more than possible to eat good hearty meals without it having to kill you.

I’ve spent a lot of time stocking my pantry and freezer in order to have all the herbs, spices, sauces, meat and packet stuff handy to make cooking after a hard day effortless. Shopping for everything is what takes the biggest effort and as I love shopping for the pantry and freezer, it really isn’t much effort at all.

We love steak and fries in our house and one of the best things I saw Nigella Lawson do was shallow fry gnocchi. Instead of peeling potatoes to go with our steak and salad, frying up gnocchi takes 5 mins and there’s no peeling or cutting potatoes or deep frying involved. Simply open a packet of gnocchi and shallow fry. They are crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Perfect for any night of the week.

It took 10 mins to make this meal for 3 people. It’s a favourite in our house.

There’s no recipe just make your steak and salad as you like it and shallow fry the gnocchi. I add a bit of mayonnaise and mustard and topped it all off with coriander.

*A side note…my friend at work made these and said they popped all over her kitchen like popcorn and she spent the rest of the night cleaning up splattered oil and looking for lost gnocchi. She wasn’t happy with me at all!

We worked out that she used too much oil in a saucepan and used fresh gnocchi straight from the fridge. I used the vacuum sealed packs of gnocchi that can be stored in the pantry and enough oil to coat the bottom of a wide heavy based frying pan. If you are using fresh fridge stored gnocchi make sure they have dried out a little as the moisture in them apparently makes them go nuts when frying!

The Urge To Bake A Sponge Cake

When I started baking

During winter last year I woke up one day and had this urge to start baking. I’ve mentioned before that baking wasn’t my thing and was quite happy to cook anything you could think up but baking made me break out in a sweat.

Not only did I have the urge to bake but it had to be a sponge cake. At the time I didn’t know whether sponge cakes were meant to be easy or difficult to bake so I watched a few youtube videos and chose a recipe I thought looked good.

The result was wonderful and there and then began a new love for baking. I have baked many things since June last year and have had a couple of disasters but not many…like the time I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses and mistook 1/2 cup of sugar for 1 1/2 cups and boy did those jam drops just spread and spread and turn into one big sugary mess!

My partner (bless him) insisted on eating them until I couldn’t cope any longer and threw them out. I have made them since and they were great. I never make the same mistake twice as I always find a new mistake to make.

This, however, has been my favourite (apart from the pavlova, which I’m still really proud of) dessert so far. My mum made wonderful sponge cakes when I was a kid and they bring back really lovely memories.

Ingredients

1/3 cup (50g) cornflour
1/3 cup (50g) plain flour
1/3 cup (50g) self-raising flour
4 x eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
pinch of salt

Method

Sift all the flour and salt together. Sift about 5 times. This ensures it is incorporated and aerated.

In another bowl add eggs and sugar and mix at high speed with an electric mixer for about 6 mins. This mixture will triple in size.

Using a flat rubber spatula, add the flour to the egg mixture, gently folding it in.

Gently pour batter into springform cake tin and bake in pre heated oven at 180C for approx 20 mins.

Let cake stand in tin for 5 mins then remove and cool completely on cooling rack.

Using a serrated knife slice cake in half and cover the bottom half with strawberry jam and whipped cream. Place the top of the cake over the jam and cream and dust with icing sugar.

*You can use this recipe to make ‘lamingtons’. You would then bake it in a square or rectangular tin and store it in an air tight container for 24 hours then cut the sponge into squares. Melt dark chocolate and using a fork dip each square into the melted chocolate and then roll each chocolate coated square sponge piece in coconut. These are delicious and when I get around to making them again I will post pictures.

Chicken and Leek Pie

Friday Night Chicken and Leek Pie

Yesterday was our annual athletics day which meant herding hundreds of high school kids onto buses and driving out to a cold, bleak athletics track so most of the kids could just sit around and we could freeze our asses off. We don’t tend to take these things too seriously here so most schools are not equipped with their own tracks and so on.

To say that I would rather teach all day, plus have yard duty both recess and lunch time as well as have a meeting after school, is understating how I feel about these days. Having my eyes repeatedly stabbed with hot pokers would be less painful. However, we go and we chant for our houses and we have “fun”.

All I could think of was getting home and putting on my pj’s and fluffy slippers and drinking a hot and strong coffee. I also day dreamed about Friday night. Yes, the beginning of the weekend but my chance to come home and finally be able to make a chicken and leek pie.

I have been waiting all week for this but as I was so tired I decided on making the quick version. That is, make everything in one deep dish that can also be used in the oven and top the whole thing with pastry. It’s easy and quick and tastes wonderful.

I’m full and happy right now. Enjoy 🙂

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 20g butter
  • 750g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed, chopped
  • 2 medium leeks, trimmed, halved, washed, sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup pure cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 sheet frozen ready-rolled puff pastry, partially thawed.

Method

Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Heat oil and butter in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken. Cook, stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes or until browned. Add leek. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until leek has softened. Add white wine. Bring to the boil. Add flour. Stir for 1 minute.

Add stock and cream. Bring to the boil. Remove from heat. Stir in thyme. Season with pepper.

Fill pie dish with chicken mixture.  Top with puff pastry. Trim excess. Press down edges with a fork to seal. Brush with egg. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Serve with a green salad.

Perfect for a Friday night when you are exhausted after a week at work but want something substantial and yummy!

Thank You

A very warm THANK YOU to my followers!

I’ve been at this blogging deal for 2 weeks now and it has helped me de stress from work and enjoy some great reading.

A very big thank you to the following bloggers who have visited, liked and followed.

I’m loving this!

The Ranting Chef

thingsmybellylikes

Yogi Cahyana

domestic diva, MD

stellamarr

Lots of fun times ahead!

 

Reluctant Pasta Night

I have to make Pasta and I don’t want to!

Monday night’s dinner was a wonderful Sirloin steak, cauliflower and broccolini baked with creme fraiche and just because I felt like it, I added Yorkshire Puddings with gravy. I also had lots of ‘Tsoureki’ (Greek Easter Bread) left over so I made a bread and butter pudding with it and we had that for dessert with cream.  It was cold and for once I was home early enough from work to make a substantial Monday night dinner. It really was delicious and also meant I was able to have a steak sandwich for lunch the next day.

Now, for the past week I have had a bit of a craving for Chicken and Leek Pie and was determined to make that tonight. My Tuesday night meeting had been cancelled and would once again be home with enough time on my hands to relax with a coffee, put on my pj’s and make this wonderful pie.

I was met with objections from every direction. I was astounded! HOW and WHY does one turn down pie?

Both my partner and daughter want pasta for dinner! I don’t get it! I’m prepared to come home and bake a scrumptious pie for them and they want the plainest pasta you could ever ask for.

Do they want Bolognese? No! Do they want Cabonara? No! Marinara maybe? Stop It! No!

They want spaghetti with a burnt butter and plain old tomato paste sauce – well, it’s not even a sauce, it’s more like a coating.

My mum used to make this for me a lot when I was a kid. Once your Spaghetti is done, you place a couple of tablespoons of butter in a pan and wait for it to turn a beautiful nutty colour. Then you add a heaped tablespoon of tomato paste and swirl through the butter for about a minute, just enough to get rid of that raw tomato paste taste. Pour into the spaghetti pot and stir through. It just coats the spaghetti with a buttery/tomato flavour. Top it with a good parmesan cheese and shovel in.

It is wonderful but I still want pie!

In protest I am posting the photo of last night’s dinner and dessert instead!

Went out for hair dye…Came home with CousCous

Went out for hair dye…Came home with CousCous!


Yesterday was an interesting day. I was tired, not having slept much at all the night before, and decided that the most I could cope with was colouring my hair. I thought it was best to just stay indoors and not face the public considering I looked and felt awful. I was all set to dye my hair when I encountered my first problem of the day…I didn’t have any hair dye.

Ever had one of those mad dashes to the supermarket (or as I like to call it, ‘the stupidmarket!), dressed in what could pass for pyjama bottoms, scruffy T.Shirt, unwashed and unkept and hope no one notices?…No?…Just me then!!!

Of course, I saw everyone I knew, but kept my head down and pretended not to see nor hear anyone or anything around me. This obviously had some strange effect on me. It caused a strange chemical reaction that altered my hold on reality. Somewhere between the car park and the check out I had totally forgotten why I had left the sanctuary of my home in the first place.

When I pulled up in my driveway, I was relieved that I was once again home and could get on with the business of colouring my hair…except, that wasn’t going to happen, as I hadn’t bought any hair dye but came home with a bag of Moroccan Spiced CousCous instead!

Now, to be honest, it’s not entirely unusual for me to drive to the supermarket for something quite specific and totally forget what it was by the time I got there. Lists don’t necessarily help either as by the time I get there I even manage to forget that I have made a list. What was really unusual about this was the couscous itself…no one in my family except me, eats couscous and I never buy it! I was, however, in the supermarket, calling and texting my friend to find out which aisle that Moroccan Spiced CousCous I had at her place a few weeks back was in. I have no idea how my mind went from hair dye to CousCous but it did and there you have it.

As I had already organised dinner for that night, the CousCous was put on the family dinner menu for tonight. I didn’t care that nobody like it…they were going to eat it..because I had bought it. I also didn’t care that the bag of CousCous said it was great with lamb…we were having it with roasted pork belly and that was final.

So tonight’s dinner was Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Moroccan Spiced CousCous tossed through a green salad. My partner loved it and my daughter picked out each individual lettuce leaf and shook the CousCous off it sending it flying everywhere. I’m sure I saw some bits enter her mouth though so I was ok with that. Although sitting in bed typing this right now, I have picked CousCous out of my hair, which I’m not ok with…

Slow Roasted Pork Belly

Pork Belly

Garam Masala Mix

Olive oil

Salt

Get butcher to score pork belly or if you have a sharp enough knife, do it yourself.

Pre heat oven to 220C

Mix Garam Masala, salt and olive oil together and rub into pork rind making sure you get in between the scored rind. Let pork stand for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Place in oven and cook at 220C for 20 – 30 mins then reduce temp to 170C and roast for 3 hours or until the meat is very tender and the rind has formed a great crackling.

Let rest for at least 10 mins.

Moroccan Spiced CousCous

As this came from a pre packed bag with the spices already in it, there really isn’t a recipe for it.

Place CousCous in a bowl, pour 150ml boiling water over the top and stir.

Let it sit for 5 mins and fluff it up with a fork and tip over large bowl of green lettuce mix.

I don’t think it’s cheating as it tasted wonderful and that’s all that matters to me!