Medicinal Chocolate!

Hot Chocolate shots with Chocolate Port

I have been sick for about a week and haven’t done a lot of posting. My wonderful partner has been doing quite a bit of the cooking and for that I have been thankful.

I made choc chip muffins for a going away morning tea for work but that’s been about it.

Tonight I made us some hot chocolate shots…wonderful for my throat…tasted delicious.

My friend from Queensland visited a couple of months ago and bought me a bottle of Chocolate Port – totally awesome!

1 cup of milk

1 heaped tablespoon cocoa

dark chocolate chips (as many as you like)

shot glass of chocolate port (or any other alcohol you like)

heat everything in a small saucepan and pour into shot glasses…don’t down it in one go as it’s hot but sip and enjoy…enough for 2 shots each…very nice indeed!!!

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Shanks for the Medicine

Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Herbs

I’m sick!

I’ve caught the family cold…not that my family have been passing down a special type of cold over the years just your ordinary ‘my daughter caught a cold which was then passed on to my partner and then last but not least, given to me’ type of cold.

The house is full of low husky voices and the smell of eucalyptus (I quite like that smell) and I’m trying to decide whether tomorrow is a work day for me or a snuggle in bed day…usually no contest here but when teaching senior classes you are very careful about any days you take off work.

Last night’s meal was a poached chicken with loads of ginger and garlic, taking care of both the flavour and medicinal factor. Today, there was a need for lounging with the central heating on, a blanket and my couch. Slow cooked lamb shanks with loads of vegetables and half a bottle of red wine (because I couldn’t drink it) took no time to prepare and could be just placed in a low oven to do its magic whilst I slept…for hours!!!

I used to have a slow cooker…but I don’t any more. Every year I promise to get myself a new one but just never get around to it so I slow cook in the oven…there’s something comforting about the oven going on a cold and wet day!

Do I really need to provide a recipe for this? It’s really about putting in whatever you like to go with your lamb shanks. Sometimes I do Moroccan Spices and eat with cous cous…or…Italian spices and serve with mashed cannellini beans…or add preserved lemons and lots more citrus flavours with nuts and dried fruit and serve with rice and pistachios…there are just so many ways you can make this. This is the beauty of cooking…put in what you like and leave out what you don’t.

Today I made slits in each shank and placed some rosemary and garlic in each as I would if I was making a roast lamb. I just scattered in a whole head of unpeeled garlic cloves (love how they get sweet when you squish them out) and carrots, leeks, sweet red peppers, mushrooms and potatoes, half a bottle of red wine and a litre of vegetable stock. I usually mash the potatoes when I use these vegetables but as I was not feeling well, I wanted minimum effort, so halved baby potatoes were thrown in…then…

Sleep!!!

I slept for more than 2 hours and when I checked on the food it looked and smelt wonderful. In fact that is all I did today, sleep, wake, have a hot drink and then sleep again and all the while, magic was being created in my oven.

Yesterday I made my daughter’s favourite chocolate cake to celebrate the end of a long week of theatre production performances so that was dessert taken care of too.

Even when sick, I love life and good food 🙂

Dinner For Two

White – Cooked Chicken

Tonight is the last night of a five night, six show run of my daughter’s theatre studies play. She won’t be coming home tonight – after party and ‘sleeping’ over at a friend’s house. It’s been a big week. She has caught a cold and has almost lost her voice but ‘the show must go on.’ She’s been running purely on adrenalin. She’s a tough cookie, my girl!

I’ve cooked all her favourites every night over the past week but she has been too tired to eat them by the time she got home. I’ve had no trouble in keeping my promise to be nice to her all week as I haven’t seen her much. She did manage to have a large bowl of chicken soup today before it was time to leave for her matinee performance and for that I’m thankful. According to facebook, she checked in at Burger Culture with the rest of the cast for dinner and as I type this, she has been onstage for 30 mins…only an hour and a half to go!

So, it’s dinner for two tonight. She would have loved this meal but I have an even better meal planned for her tomorrow night.

Tonight I had a hankering for white – cooked chicken with a soy and ginger sauce. It’s a favourite in our house but I haven’t made it for a very long time. A delicious Chinese meal…served in a Thai style bowl…gotta love mixing ‘genres!’

Ingredients

  • 1 free range chicken
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1/3 cup finely sliced spring onion plus extra to garnish
  • ½ teaspoon cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely sliced ginger plus extra to garnish
  • 60 ml mushroom soy sauce

Stock

  • 6 litres cold water
  • 3 cups shao hsing wine OR dry sherry
  • 8 spring onions trimmed and cut in half crossways
  • 12 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1¼ cups sliced ginger
  • 1/3 cup sea salt

Method

  1. Rinse chicken under cold water.
  2. Trim away excess fat from inside and outside cavity, but keep neck, parson’s nose and winglets intact.
  3. Lower chicken, breast-side down, into simmering stock, ensuring it is fully submerged.
  4. Poach chicken gently for exactly 14 minutes.
  5. There should be no more than an occasional ripple breaking the surface; adjust the temperature, if necessary, to ensure stock does not reach simmering point again. Remove stockpot immediately from the stove and allow chicken to steep in the stock for 3-4 hours at room temperature to complete the cooking process.
  6. Using tongs, gently remove chicken from the stock, being careful not to tear the breast skin.
  7. Place chicken on a tray to drain and allow to cool.
  8. For dressing, combine all ingredients except for peanut oil in a heat-proof bowl. Heat peanut oil in a saucepan, then pour over dressing ingredients and stir to combine.
  9. With a large knife or cleaver, cut up the chicken Chinese, arrange on a platter and drizzle over the dressing.
  10. Garnish with extra spring onions, coriander and ginger. Serve immediately.

Stock

  1. Place all stock ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 40 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse.

Coconut Chicken Curry

A Lovely Chicken Curry

My daughter is in a play for her Theatre Studies subject at school. They have been rehearsing all year and it opens tonight. She’s nervous as it’s worth quite a bit of her overall mark in this subject at the end of the year.

Her teacher has lost the plot and has seemingly forgotten that the kids have another four subjects that they are studying. He has had them rehearsing all weekend and everyday after school, leaving very little time for study for her other subjects. She has those dreaded SAC’s (school assessed tasks) next week and the school has been quite bad in organising them. They should be spread out over five days (one on each day) but due to this play, her SAC’s have been squished in…so she has 3 on one day and 2 on another. This would NEVER happen at the school I teach!!!

She is so tired and quite stressed out as the play runs over 5 nights which means she won’t be finished until Saturday night and on Monday she has her first 2 SAC’s!!!

For this reason, I have resolved to be kind to her and turn a blind eye to her messy room and excuse her of her chores. I’m not going to yell at her about anything (not too hard as she won’t be around much). I have also decided to cook whatever she wants for dinner (even though she won’t be eating until she gets home well after 10pm each night).

Tonight she chose coconut chicken curry and rice for dinner. She loves curries and I hope that she will be awake enough to eat when she gets home.

I’m going to see the play tomorrow night, taking along another 7 people (close friends and family). I hope my mother will be OK with her grand daughter playing the part of a prostitute in the first act!!! Maybe wasn’t a good idea to invite dear old Greek Mumma Bear to this one!!!

Curry was great though!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
  • 750g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed, cut into thirds
  • 1 brown onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 lemongrass stem, trimmed, bruised, thinly sliced
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded, thinly sliced
  • 400ml can coconut milk
  • 10 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 cup coriander leaves
  • steamed jasmine rice, coriander sprigs and chopped tomato and cucumber to serve

Method

Heat 1 tablespoon oil or ghee in a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add half the chicken. Cook, turning occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining chickenReduce heat to medium-high.

Add remaining oil to wok. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add turmeric, curry paste, lemongrass and chilli. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until aromatic.Stir in coconut milk and curry leaves. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low.

Return chicken to wok. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is tender.  Spoon over rice and top with coriander sprigs. I chopped up cucumber and tomato and mixed in coriander and served that on the side with chapatis.

Chocolate Cheesecake

Dark & White Chocolate Cheesecake

Greek people celebrate ‘Name Days.’ Some are bigger celebrations than others. The 21st of May is St Konstantine and Eleni…so my dad and I celebrate this day with a family meal. It’s loud and a little on the crazy side.

When I was growing up, my mum would start preparing food and making sweets and then late in the afternoon people would just start showing up. No invitations were ever sent out but somehow by the end of the night there would have been around 50 people in our lounge room and a couple of times I even remember a small Greek band jammed in a corner with clarinet and bouzouki blasting and everyone would be dancing.

This doesn’t happen anymore but my brother, sister and all the grandkids gather at my parent’s place and we eat and usually make the same amount of noise as those 50 people (plus band!)

I cooked on Sunday so I could just come home from work and pick up the food and dessert and go straight to mum’s place. I knew that we needed something totally yummy so it was white and dark chocolate cheesecake for us. It really was divine!

The recipe calls for the dark chocolate on the bottom and the white chocolate on the top and topped with grated chocolate and dusted with cocoa but I did it the other way around and drizzled melted white chocolate over the top.

Ingredients

  • 200g plain chocolate biscuits
  • 80g butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup cold tap water
  • 5 teaspoons gelatine
  • 500g cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 150g white chocolate, melted
  • 150g dark chocolate, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups thickened cream, whipped
  • 100g milk chocolate, grated
  • cocoa powder, to serve (I melted white chocolate instead)

Method

  1. Grease and line a 24cm (base) springform pan. Process biscuits in a food processor to fine crumbs. Transfer to a bowl. Add melted butter. Stir until well combined. Use your fingertips to press into base of prepared pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm.
  2. Place water into a heatproof microwavesafe bowl. Sprinkle over gelatine. Stand for 1 minute. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH (100%) power for 20 to 40 seconds or until gelatine dissolves. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar and milk until smooth. Stir in gelatine. Divide cream cheese mixture between 2 bowls.
  4. Stir white chocolate into 1 cream cheese mixture. Stir dark chocolate into other.
  5. Fold half the cream through white chocolate mixture and half through dark chocolate mixture.
  6. Pour dark chocolate mixture over biscuit base. Freeze for 10 minutes or until firm to the touch. Carefully spread white chocolate mixture over dark. Cover. Refrigerate overnight. (Actually, I did it the other way around)
  7. Release sides of pan. Place cheesecake onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with grated milk chocolate. Dust with cocoa or melt white chocolate and drizzle over the top. Cut into slices with a warm knife. Serve.

Headaches and Chocolate

Chocolate Brownies

If you have been following, you will know that this week has been a tough one at work. My headaches have intensified over the last few days but as it’s now early Friday evening, they should begin to ease off.

I got home and thought immediately of chocolate. As soon as I started preparing the mixture for chocolate brownies, the world seemed like a much better place. As soon as the waft of cooking chocolate hit me, my headache disappeared.

We have heard about the medicinal benefits of herbs and garlic etc, but I truly believe that there is nothing like the wonderful qualities of great cocoa and chocolate to help heal and restore.

I worry about all the allergies and reactions people have to food these days and feel quite lucky that I haven’t ever experienced these myself. I’m pretty disgusted that preservatives and harmful additives as well as pesticides and who knows what else that goes into the food we eat has caused havoc with people’s health and well being.

None of my desserts are eggless, flourless or dairy free. I look for the best quality ingredients and end up paying a fortune. I guess this makes me angry in that supermarkets are more and more selling their ‘own brand’ stuff, caring very little for quality and what goes on our plates…but you already knew that right?

I can’t imagine a world without great chocolate and wonderful food full of flavour!!!

Ingredients

  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  •  250g butter, chopped
  •  1¾ cups (310g) brown sugar
  •  4 eggs
  •  ⅓ cup (35g) cocoa powder, sifted
  •  1¼ cups (185g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
  •  ¼ teaspoon baking powder

Method

Preheat oven to 160°C (325ºF). Place the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth. Allow to cool   slightly.

Place the sugar, eggs, cocoa, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and mix until combined. Pour into a 20cm-square slice tin lined with non-stick baking paper.

Bake for 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer withdraws clean. Allow to cool slightly in the tin before slicing. Serve warm or cold. Makes 16 slices.

Car Trouble and Nice dinners

Fillet Mignon and Fast Cars

I’ve been driving my partners car for a couple of years now. Mine died and my partner bought himself a new car and passed on his loud, revved up car to me. It’s been quite funny driving it as the engine roars and I feel like I’m in the Grand Prix every time I start it up. It’s set very low to the road and has all the add ons guys love.

The kids at school are always amused that this 5ft nothing teacher steps out of this hotted up machine, and apparently I have a following (at least my car has a following) of a group of young teenage boys who hang around after school just so they can hear the engine roar when I start it up.

It’s been the best car and has been well looked after but it’s 10 years old now and things have started to go wrong. Firstly as a direct result of bad workmanship during a routine car service earlier this year…it’s cost us more than $2000 over the last 3 months to fix a problem that wasn’t our fault…Oh Dear! This is a food blog not a car complaints forum!!! Anyway, for the second time this week I am getting a lift in to work so my partner can get the poor car towed back to the mechanic!

Just quietly, I think the car is reacting to the news that we were going to sell it and buy me a new one so it decided to make life difficult out of feeling rejected at being traded in for a newer model…I think I know how that feels!!!

This has nothing, of course, to do with the fillet mignon I made for dinner tonight. I don’t think that meal felt rejected at all!

Just as my car has been fancied up with extras to make it more appealing so has this steak fillet wrapped in bacon…My car may not be too classy right now but there’s no reason why dinner can’t be!

Ingredients

  • 2 (8-ounce) filet mignon steaks
  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bacon strips
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound assorted mushrooms, such as shiitake, crimini, and chanterelle, stemmed and halved
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 cups Pinot Noir
  • 2 tablespoons prepared demi-glaze
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Method

Season both sides of the filet mignon generously with salt and pepper. Wrap a piece of bacon around the sides of each steak and secure with tooth picks.

In a large heavy, ovenproof pan/skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Place the steaks in the hot pan and cook until well seared on 1 side, about 3 minutes. Turn the steaks over, there should be a nice crust on top. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and rosemary; give everything a good stir. Transfer the pan to the oven. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes or until the steaks are cooked medium-rare.

Remove the steaks, mushrooms, and rosemary to a platter; cover to keep warm. Return the pan to the stove over medium-high heat. Deglaze with the wine, scraping up all the yummy bits in the bottom of the pan. Mix in the demi-glaze, stirring to combine. Put the steaks and mushrooms back in the pan and coat in the pan sauce.

Finish with a couple of tablespoons of butter to make it rich. Pour the wine sauce on top and garnish each plate and serve with baby potatoes or whatever vegetable you like.

Me? I served mine with cauliflower and cheese and I had to have yorkshire puddings to mop up.

Cookie Week

Peanut Butter Choc Chip Cookies

Yes, I baked tonight. After the mini meatloaf pastries, I was definitely in the mood for more kitchen action. Nothing too strenuous and nothing I had to really think about. I was in desperate need for coffee and as I had made choc chip cookies a couple of nights ago, I felt that more cookies were needed to go with my coffee.

Checked the pantry and it was well stocked. A full jar of peanut butter was staring back at me and the decision had been made. Peanut butter with dark choc chip cookies…comforting, delicious and 5 mins in the oven…what more could one ask for?

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (260g) crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup (200g) brown sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (185g) dark choc bits

Method

Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease two baking trays and line with non-stick baking paper. Combine peanut butter, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and egg in a bowl. Stir in choc bits.

Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place on the prepared tray. Press lightly with a fork. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until light golden. Leave to cool on the trays then place into an airtight container.

Mid Week Brain Mush

Mini Meatloaves In Pastry

Mid week is always tough and today was no exception. On top of a big day of teaching, the administration decided to have an evacuation drill during my only  free period. I had to hold up a sign and wait for instructions…banged my knee on the corner of the wooden bench seat which really hurt and the weather was cold!

By the end of the day my brain felt like mush and the thought of making dinner just did not appeal to me at all. I’m always going on about how cooking relaxes me and is the best cure after a long tiring day…today I wanted to forget all that and just get take away.

However, for some reason the thought of my brain being mush made me think of minced meat and the idea of mini meatloaves in pastry for dinner made me anxious to get home to cook. A simple recipe topped with a tangy BBQ sauce was all it took to bring a smile to my face…now I’m wondering if I should also bake tonight…such is the pleasure I get from my kitchen 🙂

Ingredients

  • 2 small carrots, peeled
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 550g lean beef mince
  • 70g (1 cup) breadcrumbs made from day-old bread
  • 1/2 small brown onion, coarsely grated
  • 2 1/2 tbs tomato chutney
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • puff pastry

Method

Use the coarse side of a grater to grate the carrots and zucchini. Use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place the carrot and zucchini in a large bowl. Add the beef mince, breadcrumbs, onion, tomato chutney and egg, and use your hands to mix until well combined.

Divide mixture evenly and shape into loaves and wrap in foil that has been sprayed with olive oil.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes and then unwrap from foil and cook for a further 15 mins or until browned nicely.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Glaze each loaf with warmed tangy (or spicy) BBQ sauce and wrap in pastry. Brush pastry with milk or beaten egg and cook in very hot oven until pastry is puffy and golden. Top with more BBQ sauce.

Serve with mash and steamed vegetables.

I Really Don’t Eat A Lot Of Pasta!

Pasta over the last two months

It’s odd because I always tell people that I don’t eat a lot of pasta. I then went back and had a look through my photos and pasta dishes just kept popping out at me. I live with an Italian and he does love his pasta but I don’t eat it very often…well I didn’t until we moved in together.

I have introduced him to a lot of different food and have challenged him with food he swore he hated and would never eat…now he asks for them! In return I have to make the pasta dish of his choice.

This post is a tribute to the pasta dishes we have eaten over the last two months or so. No recipes although I have posted some of these previously. There are also some pasta dishes we had where the photos didn’t come out clear enough and haven’t been included here. You can also include a couple of trays of lasagne that I was unable to photograph!