Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Big Ox

Remember the classic comedy Space Balls where the president would grab a can of Peri "air" from the drawer, opened it like a can of coke, and inhaled it through his nose.
Well the Americans have taken that idea one step comes in 4 different flavours!!

The Big Ox, I found advertising their flavoured oxygen on my favourite basketball home page.
It looks like a can of hair spray or deodorant only with a "horn-shaped" mouth piece that fits snuggly around your mouth. Advertised as containing 89% oxygen (we normally breathe under 21% oxygen) the Big Ox claim it helps relieve stress, headaches, jetlag, and hangovers among other benefits.

It comes in 3.5 or 4.4 gram cans with flavours of Tropical Breeze, Polar Rush, Mountain Mint, and Citrus Blast. Since YaYa has already fulfilled my dream of eating the worlds largest gummi bear I think BigOx is next on my list to try :)

Til next time ......we eat!!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shanks goes Canape

Having only a week to prepare the birthday menu, the W wanted something different for her big event. Something different to our usual gathering of a sausage sizzle and salad. After pondering for days looking at websites and my fellow blogger sites for inspiration I decided to do a canape menu.

D1: Pink Lemonade
First off...drinks...The W loves the colour pink so what better than pink lemonade. Fresh lemon and lime juice with a dash of cranberry juice and topped with lemonade and ice. I wasn't sure about adding the fresh mint leaves so left them out. I wanted more of a pastel pink colour (like what they served to Uncle Max in the Sound of Music). It ended up more of a flamingo pink/red. Anyhoo it was refreshing and quite a tasty concoction.

C1: Asparagus and Prosciutto stack with Balsamic Reduction
This ended up being quite simple to construct - asparagus spears cut into three and wrapped in prosciutto. At first I had trouble separating the paper-thin sheets of cured goodness and thought I'd never get a whole piece intact. The up-side to this was that I got to make sure each slice tasted ok by munching on the torn bits (nom nom nom!!) - You can't let good prosciutto go to waste ;-)

The Balsamic reduction was another adventure...Reducing two thirds (250mls) of Balsamic vinegar reduced me to tears...literally. The vapours coming out of this small simmering pot were toxic, plus, the whole house smelled like dog sweat for about 20mins.

It all turned out well... and tasted good too!! I decided to serve it on Chinese soup spoons to avoid any balsamic food fights and dribbles :)

C2: Homemade Lamb & Mint Mini Shepherds Pies

What an awesome idea...lamb with the mint already infused together (forget the mint jelly). Fresh lamb mince, fresh mint leaves, tomato paste beef stock all wrapped in a short crust pastry casing and topped with a mashed potato lid. For some reason I misread the recipe and instead of making "mini" pies, mine ended up in muffin tins and lets say it was bigger than your average "bite".

C3: Chicken "Phoenix" Gow Gees
Again another chinese soup spoon canape - I love this way of serving canapes!!
The W and I spent the night wrapping these in front of Grey's Anatomy. Chicken mince, shallots, water chestnuts, shitake mushrooms and peanuts mixed together in Hoisin sauce.
These were wrapped in gow gee wrappers in the traditional half-moon "gok". We left some of the mixture without peanuts (for the nut conscious) and wrapped them in money-bag style.
Dressing for these babies was Japanese light soy mixed with Sambel Olek.
Only issue I had with the soup spoons was that I didn't calculate the fact that the gow gees would swell so they didn't exactly fit in the spoons. Oh, and by the time I came round to taking a picture of our creations, they were all gone. :( I did manage to eat one though :)

C4: Mini Prosciutto Bruschetta
The W wanted to stop me eating all the torn off bits of prosciutto from the asparagus stacks so we added the left overs on these mini bites.... She also thought that making everything miniature would be cute. Mini toast, cherry tomatoes (unfortunately I couldn't find any miniature garlic, red onions or basil - but I chopped them up really fine so they looked miniature - he he he!!). The cherry tomatoes gave a surprisingly sweeter taste to a normal bruschetta made with Roma tomatoes.

C5: Nacho Stacks
This was one of our first failures...One, was that we couldn't find Dorito Dippas - do you remember them?? they were made of white corn and were round (like Pringles) in shape made specifically for dipping into salsa - well we couldn't find them anywhere.
We resorted to using normal corn chips and hoped that the pack we bought would have full shaped triangles intact. Second road block which stuffed the whole dish up, was that the avocados I bought were firm on the outside and rotten on the inside - bleah!! I still attempted to make the guacamole mixture, but after the first taste it was in the bin - the avocado was too hard and woody.
Anyway, the idea behind the Nacho Stack was basically have all the nacho ingredients all on a bite-sized corn chip. Corn chip spread with re fried beans and Mexican spices, guacamole mixture on top with a slice of cherry tomato, basil leave and topped with sour cream. Oh well...R.I.P Nacho Stack.

C6: Peking Duck with pancakes
A last minute replacement for the Nacho Stacks. Mama and Papa Bear both helped out with this one. Momma Bear lined up at the Chinese butchers to get the fresh roast duck and Papa Bear happily helped carve up the succulence of el-quacko. The rest of us help make it disappear - in o

Served with Hoisin sauce, shallots, cucumber all wrapped in mini pancake (I cheated and used Naan bread cut in quarters), this dish didn't last long. Papa Bear wanted to savour the flavour and took the carcase home for roast duck congee.

C7: Ginger, Chili and Garlic Soba Noodles
Of course served on chinese soup spoons - he he!!. I love soba noodles, just so Japanese and the buckwheat makes them taste different to ordinary instant noodles - almost healthier. This dish nearly fell into strife too!! The recipe had measurements for all the ingredients.... for the dressing. The only problem is that is didn't say how many noodles it dresses. I ended up using the whole pack only to find out the next morning guessed it...there wasn't enough dressing for all the noodles. A little more soy and a touch of sesame oil save this dish. I never was a big fan of ginger but am beginning to appreciate it when you get subtle hits of ginger-zing in a dish like this. It was also fun twirling the noodles into the soup spoon - twirling twirling always twirling - ha ha ha !!

M1: BBQ Ribs

There are so many recipes out there on how to marinate ribs.

From using lemons, blueberries, cranberries, beers and ciders to - you name it!
This attempt I was going in blind...I had lost my previous recipe and was shot for time. I used cider vinegar, brown sugar, Hoisin sauce, BBQ sauce, garlic, honey and tabasco sauce. Didn't go as well as I expected, I think I over did it with the cider. When I tried to compensate the excess cider with honey, the ribs burnt faster which made them lose their bbq juiciness....still tasted ok!

M2: Chorizo & Oregano Meatball Skewers
Another probable disaster waiting to explode during my time of catering glory. Making these tasty skewers was a cinch. Alternating a slice of Choizo sausage and an oregano meat ball on the skewer. The problem arose when I tried to bbq them...the meatballs were falling apart and sticking to the grill - arrgh!! Thankfully good old Lobo used his noggin and unthreaded them all and pan fried them instead. So instead of skewers we offered them on toothpicks - but by this time everyone was mostly full and waiting for dessert...mmmm leftovers!! Oh, probably should have wiped the plate of it's greasy-goodness for the photo :)

M3: Afghan pizzas
Due to everyone suffering from "too much canapes make full stomach". I skipped the Afghan pizzas. I found these one day at the markets, 2 x huge (probably around 12-14" in diameter) discs of what looks like something between naan bread and lebanese bread. I recall finding them previously in the shape of surfboards (I wanted to use them as the table runner), but couldn't find them again and settled for the round shape. The W and I had it for dinner the other night with leftover chorizo, prosciutto, cherry tomato, mushroom and cheese. Lobo took the other one home which I hope he enjoyed it as much as we did - nom nom nom!!

D1: "No Filler" Fruit Salad
The W's Mama Bear made the best fruit salad. She calls it The Fruit Salad with "No Fillers". Basically the "fillers" are fruit like rockmelon, honeydew etc...the ones that I don't particularly like, that are used only to bulk up the fruit salad. Well this one had no "fillers" instead it was replaced with blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and huge cherrys. I think a bit of passionfruit would have made it the Ultimate Fruit Salad -Yay for No Fillers!!

D2: Baklava
Even if you were stuffed to the brim and you couldn't think of food for the next week, who could go past baklava. Thin layers of filo pastry in a variety of shapes with filling of pistachio nuts, peanuts and soaked in a rosewater honey syrup - just the word baklava makes me drool! The W's Mama Bear stepped up on this one for us as well, by picking them up at Granville. I could only go two due to the sweetness, but as we ordered 2kg of these sweet delicate morsels they were given homes to some in the form of doggy bags. In my opinion, they actually taste better frozen, and slightly thawed :)

D3: Sweet sweet Birthday butter cupcakes
And finally the moment of the day...The birthday cake. I've finally picked up on the whole cupcake fad that's going around. Boutique cupcake stalls are opening up everywhere, you can even take lessons on baking them.
I found a small (walked past the store 4 times before I found it) store in Drummoyne that specialised in event cupcakes. They sold 3 different types of cupcakes, standard - which are butter cakes with frosting of choice and decorations, mini - smaller bite-sized cupcakes, and Indulgent. All were beautifully decorated with a mixture of assorted sugar flowers and silver balls. The Indulgent cupcakes had either Malteasers, Lindt or Ferrero Rocher. The minis (for the weight conscious) had sugar butterflies - All very tasty, but too much frosting for my liking.

Till the next time.....we eat!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Last Night's Dinner - Mushroom and baby spinach omelette

No carbs and lots of veggies!

Stirfry baby spinach in a pan with some olive oil and garlic and a little butter until the spinach wilts, add the chopped up mushrooms and keep cooking until all the liquid disappears, salt and pepper to taste, set aside.

Heat nonstick frying pan, spray with a little olive oil if you like.

Beat eggs with a little water and a little salt and pour into hot pan, turn down heat to moderate.

Sprinkle chopped chives and a little grated cheese over the centre, moving the liquid egg underneath to cook the bulk of the liquid.

When the surface of the omelette is almost set, spoon the mushroom spinach mixture onto half of the omelette and using a spatula fold it over itself and slide onto a plate to serve.

(Okay, I did have a couple of slices of a new loaf of homemade bread with it, it was a new recipe combination, Maggie Beer's Verjuice instead of vinegar and more Beez Neez beer this time, still no honey flavour in the bread but too much salt this time. Back to the drawing board.)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

No Knead Bread - My Attempt

This method has been making its way around the food world for several years now, I'd cut out the recipe when it was published in the SMH but did not attempt it until recently - during the hottest month this year of course, because now I have a functioning oven!

Here is a link to the original article: Mark Bittman's Minimalist Column in the New York Times

It's been tweaked several times since its original publication, with bloggers recommending methods for improving the flavour, reducing the rising time, even removing the need to preheat the covered cookware.

I followed the traditional recipe mostly, just upping the salt a little and was very please with the results. The only scary part was heating the oven to 230c, I used the Cook's Illustrated method of using baking paper to do the second rising instead of using a tea towel (I used white polenta to sprinkle over the paper) and you can drop the whole thing straight into the pot which is safer as that preheated pot and its lid is REALLY hot!

I was worried that the paper would catch fire, but as you can see, it barely browned. This is the nicest loaf of bread I've ever produced and I plan to experiment more with the technique.

This is the dough after the second rise

The bread after the first 30 minutes of baking with the lid on

And the delightful result!
You must let the bread rest for about 30 minutes before eating as the moisture is still working its way through the crumb
Postscript: Tried an updated version of the recipe today - another hot day - by substituting some of the water with honey flavoured beer and 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and made 1 cup of flour ordinary instead of bread flour. No discernable difference except a slightly pleasant sourness to the bread but barely any hint of the beer, might have to add more next time or a bit of real honey.
PPS: 4 days later and the bread is still moist and tasty. It also toasts up a treat!
15 Feb: Third loaf and got a flavour I was happy with!
3 cups bread flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups liquid made up of:

1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp verjuice
3/4 cup honey beer
the rest of the amount made up with filtered water
a big drizzle of honey

Then follow rest of no knead bread technique

Last Night's Dinner - Saffron angel hair pasta with Swiss brown mushrooms and garlic

No particular recipe, just ingredients that were at hand.

  • Pastabilities fresh saffron pasta
  • Swiss brown mushrooms
  • crushed garlic
  • garlic butter
  • olive oil
  • chopped flat-leafed parsley
  • grated parmesan
I don't measure anything, cook as much pasta as you would like, drain.

Slice the mushrooms.

You can use the same pot to heat some olive oil and some garlic butter, throw in the crushed garlic add the mushrooms, cook until adequate for your tastes, throw in the pasta and stir, sprinkle with parsley, add pepper and grated parmesan to taste and enjoy!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Tokyo Ramen, Hornsby

As promised, the famous negimiso ramen as reviewed by GrabYourFork !

Garlicky roast pork with chili and shallots in a thick miso soup, the noodles were a bit undercooked but the flavour was outstanding.