Tag: Daring Kitchen

Mexican’t – Paul Wilson’s Cantina

Mexican was a recent selection at the Tasty Reads Book Club.  I chose Cantina by Paul Wilson for my book because it is food porny to rival Sabrina Ghayour’s Persiana

Cantina
Cantina

Take a look at these pictures from Cantina.

Pacific Oyster Cebiche with Melon Salsa. 

Dani made this as her bring along to the discussion and they are even more delicious in real life than the picture.

Cantina Cebiche
Cantina Cebiche

 

Ranchero Style Beef Broth With Bone Marrow Toasts

Personally, I’m not sure about eating the Bone Marrow Toasts but they LOOK amazing!

Cantina Ranchero Style Beef Broth
Cantina Ranchero Style Beef Broth

 Street Style Tostadas With Seared Tuna and Wood Grilled Vegetables.

Would it be wrong to say this just made me want to lick the page?

Cantina Street Style Tostadas
Cantina Street Style Tostadas

Gorgeous right?  However, as you may have spotted, this is not your typical bean and burrito Mexican.  There is not a yellow box in sight.  As a Mexican Dorothy might say, “We’re not in Chipotle anymore Toto”.  Cantina delivers high end, highly complex Mexican food.  For instance, those “Street Style” Tostadas? 

22 ingredients – minimum.  But you also need a base.  So depending on which of the bases you choose you can add another

  • 7 ingredients if you use the Jalopeno and Finger Lime Crema
  • 13 ingredients if you use the Veracruz Sauce
  • 8 ingredients if you make the Sesame Pipian.  But hold up.  One of the “ingredients”  of the Sesame Pipian is a Tomatillo Verde which in turn contains another 8 ingredients…so that would be another 15 ingredients. 

Thirty. Seven. Possible. Ingredients.  And up to three separate recipes.  For “street style” tostadas.  And ok, I get it, sometimes you need a lot of ingredients to get a depth of flavour and that alone would not necessarily be enough to put me off a recipe.  

However, these recipes were further complicated by a lot of the ingredients not being readily available in Australian supermarkets meaning a lot of ingredients having to be bought on the internet or having to drive across town to pick them up.  And then some could only be bought in bulk – hence the almost kilo of padron peppers sitting in my freezer!

Not to mention that cooking from Cantina was like going down the rabbit hole – one recipe lead to another which required another…it seemed never ending!  Here is a prime example.

 Heirloom Tomato Escabeche

I made this – it was one of the things I took to the Book Club Night.  It’s a salad.  It’s a fancy salad.  It’s maybe the BEST salad I have ever eaten.  But it’s a salad. 

However to make this salad, as per the recipe, you need to first have made the Mexican pickles.  And you also have to have made the Pasilla Chilli relish. 

Then you make a lime crema base…

THEN you make the salad. 

Then you collapse in a corner quietly sobbing…or….erm…you know….

 I did LOVE this, it was so pretty and also incredibly tasty.  But so much work for a salad.  Bear in mind this would usually be an accompaniment to something else – which probably also had multiple elements.  It was hard enough cooking one thing.  An entire meal would have sent me loopy!

Cantina Heirloom Salad Escabeche
Cantina Heirloom Salad Escabeche

 But to really demonstrate how this book just about sent my sanity to the edge and had a damn good crack at ruining my relationship you can go no further than….

Hanger Steak with Huitlacoche Mustard and Salsa Negra.

Cantina Hangar Steak
Cantina Hangar Steak

 That pictures looks pretty damn simple right?  It’s steak, salad and a condiment.  How hard could it be? 

Let me step you through the timeline of this one meal shall I?

 Week  -1:

Order Huitlacoche off internet.

Day of the Hangar Steak

6:30pm – Get home from work

6:45pm: Make my Latin Spice Rub.  This stuff is awesome.  Because you make much more of this than required, I have sprinkled this over everything since I made it and it makes everything – steak, chicken, fish, eggs, calamari – taste better.  Just beware it is hot, Hot, HOT so if you don’t like it spicy, go very easy!

Cantina Latin Spice Rub
Cantina Latin Spice Rub

6:55pm – Soak the dried porcinis

6:58pm – Chop onions and garlic.

7:03pm. Open can of huitlacoche.  What is in the tin looks like corn covered in snot.  Wonder if you have got a dodgy tin.

Huitlacoche

7:05pm. Google huitlacoche.  Realise it’s supposed to look like that.  Wish you hadn’t bought it.

7:15pm. Heat oil and cook onions garlic and both types of mushrooms

7:20pm.  Add huitlacoche and porcini liquid. 

The recipe them says to cook for 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced to a glossy sauce. This never happened.  For a start it was way too chunky – bear in mind the recipe does not even tell you to chop your mushrooms (which I did) but what I had in my saucepan after ten minutes looked like chopped mushrooms and corn covered in snot. 

7:40pm.  “When are we eating?  I’m hungr….what on God’s green earth is THAT?

“It’s mustard”

“It looks like mushrooms and corn covered in snot.  Why are you making mustard? Can’t we just have Colman’s?”

“You can’t have Colman’s, we’re having Mexican.  It’s special Mexican mustard.”

“It looks revolting”.

It didn’t look great.  And I don’t want to be  pedantic (I so totally do) but surely…a major component of anything called mustard should actually be mustard? 

And don’t even get me started on the Apricot and Mescal Aioli that contained no mescal and was not any sort of aioli I ever had. 

7:45. I’m staring at a hot mess in a pan, thinking maybe if I blended it it would look a little bit more like the mixture in the picture.

7:55.  After some blending with the hand mixer, we now have something that looks pretty much like the picture in the book. Which is to say, like baby poo. 

I’ve now been cooking for an hour and have….a spice rub and some sort of condiment which probably should not be called mustard. Which he is refusing to eat and I’m losing interest in by the second.. 

Never mind. The rest is steak and salad.  Easy Peasy.

8:00pm.  Rub the steaks with the spice rub.  That can sit for a while because now, we need to turn to page 36 to make the Latin Vinaigrette for the garnish.  Yes.  Even the garnish requires you to move to a different page.

Latin Vinaigrette contains 10 ingredients.  Roll eyes, sigh.  Make Latin Vinaigrette.

8:10. Latin Vinaigrette Made.

8:15pm.  Start on the Salsa Negra. 

8:16pm Turn back to page 36 to make Salsa Mexicana for the Salsa Negra

8:17pm  Salsa Mexicana requires a Zesty Lime Dressing  found on page 37. Sigh, roll eyes start muttering swear words underbreath. 

8:20pm. : “When are we eating? ”

“Soon.  I just need to make the steak.  And the salad”

“I thought that’s what we were having”

“It is” This through gritted teeth. 

“But…you’ve been cooking for hours…why is there no steak?  Or salad?”

“Because it’s Mexican and it’s driving me insane.  I just need to make this dressing first.  And I really need you to be quiet.”

“I thought you just made dressing”

“I did. That was a different dressing”

“Right.  So you’ve been cooking for ages.  And you’ve made a mustard that isn’t even a mustard and two salad dressings? When will you cook the steak?  I’m starving!!!!”

“Just.  Don’t. Speak.  This Mexican is doing my head in and the  more I have to chitter chatter with you, the longer this is going to take.”

8:30pm Zesty Lime Dressing Made. 

8:40pm Salsa Mexicana made. 

2015-03-31 21.06.05

8:45pm “Where’s the can of black beans that we absolutely definitely had in the cupboard?”

“I ate them for lunch…”

“But….the salad is back bean salad.  How are are supposed to have black bean salad with no  black beans?”

“We have white beans”

“You can’t make black bean salad with white beans”

“Don’t be a bean racist”.

“Shut up”

We didn’t have white beans. By now I was slightly hysterical.  Two hours and no beans to make the bean salad. 

8:55pm “I’m hungry….when are we eating?”

“Shut up, I need to think”

“I’m going to have some cereal”

“Don’t eat cereal, we’re just about to have dinner”

“A likely story…”

9:05pm.  We had couscous in the fridge. I ended up making the black bean salad with couscous.

9:15pm.  The steak finally hits the grill.

9:30pm.  Nearly three hours later, we sit down to eat.  It was good.  It was really good.  The couscous was fine – maybe even better than black beans.  But it was steak and salad.  And it had taken nearly three hours to make. And i was in such a bad mood by the time it was ready I didn’t really enjoy it on the night.  Next day for lunch though?  Super!

Hangar Steak Salad LeftoversAnd here in lies the what I feel is the dilemma of Cantina.   Two and a half hours of cooking is WAY to long for a weekday meal. Ok, you could make the rub and the dressings and the mustard before hand but that it still time spent somewhere.  And for me this is not a dinner party dish either.  It’s something…I’m just not sure what – it’s too complex for a casual meal but not fancy enough for a dinner party meal.

Oh, and that so called mustard?  I wouldn’t even bother with that.  I didn’t like the taste of it and there was  enough flavour in the rub and the dressings and the other bits and bobs so that you would not miss it. 
And finally…here it is:

2015-03-31 21.05.53Don’t get me wrong.  It was DELICIOUS.  Nothing I made from Cantina was bad.  Except for maybe that mustard. But you had to work hard for that goodness. 

Will I cook from Cantina again?  Hmmm….Possibly.  There are still a few recipes I really want to try.  But I would do it on a weekend.  Ideally a long weekend. 

Here is some of the other stuff I made:

Jalapeno and Finger Lime Crema

Jalapeno and Finger Lime Crema

Mexican Style Pickles

Loved them!

Mexican PicklesBaked Devilled Eggs with Sobrasado

I did a cheaty version of this in that I swapped in similar stuff I had for the listed ingredients such as barley wraps for the corn tortillas, pancetta and salami for the serrano ham and sobrasado, cheddar cheese for the Mahon…It was still awesome if not exactly remotely authentic.

 Baked Devilled Eggs With Sobrasata

 Chorizo with Apricot and (no) Mescal Aioli

Chorizo with apricot & mescal aïoliPumpkin Soup with Chorizo Migas

I had to buy achiote paste for this and didn’t like the flavour of it at all. 

I do enjoy saying Chorizo Migas in a very bad (a la Speedy Gonzales) Mexcan accent though.

Pumpkin Soup with Chorizos Migas

BBQ’ed Tuna Salad with Peruvian Salsa Criolla

Yummy!

 Barbecued tuna salad with peruvian salsa criollaDulce De Leche Ice Cream

So Good!  So, so good. Here it is with some French Apple Flan

French Apple Flan1
French Apple Flan1

 Sangrita

Your’re meant to drink this alternating with sips of a shot of tequila.  I just  put my tequila in the drink along with all the rest of the stuff.  Loved this!

Sangrita

Here is the recipe for the Spice Rub, direct from Cantina.  And also serves as my Spice Blend for a Daring Kitchen Challenge MONTHS ago.  And hey, I guess the Hangar Steaks cover off on their Grilling challenge! 

Latin Spice Rub
A Latin spice rub ideal for grilled meats (and fish and eggs and oysters and cheese). With the addition of rosemary it is especially good with lamb. This is great to make in advance as it stores well.
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Ingredients
  1. 50g finely chopped rosemary
  2. 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  3. 1 tbsp ground cumin
  4. 1 tbsp ground fennel
  5. 1 tbsp chilli powder
  6. 1 tbsp garlic powder
  7. 1 tbsp caster (super-fine) sugar
  8. 2 tsp cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.
  2. Keep for up to a month.
Retro Food For Modern Times http://www.retrofoodformoderntimes.com/
 I honestly feel like cooking from Cantina once a week which is what I try to do with the Tasty Read selections almost broke me.  And, if the end result hadn’t almost invariably been delicious I would have gladly tossed the book in the trash multiple times. Instead, it’s filed away in the bookshelf just waiting for the right occasion.  So, just know this.  If you ever come to my house and I make you Mexican food that looks lovely and casual, know that I must REALLY like you!  Because that stuff is hard!

Have a great week!

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Lets Get Chatty…Chatti Pathiri that is (Daring Kitchen)

Here is something you don’t know about me.  

Chatti Pathiri
Chatti Pathiri

You know how some people step up and excel under pressure?  I’m not one of them.  I warp.  I buckle.  I crumple and fold.  When the going gets tough you can usually find me sobbing in a corner.  And one of the things that really fazes me is cooking for other people – not so much for dinners but a bake sale?  Guaranteed disaster.  Last time?  Yes, that was me running into the 7-11 well after midnight, (after the first four attempts at cupcakes had failed) wild eyed, smeared with flour and frosting and slightly twitchy.  “Where’s your cake mix?  I need a box of cake mix.  And I need it now!!!!”  I was like a demented Betty Crocker junkie desperate for my fix…..

Chatting Pathiri

Sigh.

The April Daring Cooks Challenge was brought to us by Joanne from What’s On The List. She taught us all about Pathiri and challenged us to create our own version of this inspirational Indian dish! 

Challenge was right, I felt the first stirrings of panic rising even as I read the recipe….

Chatting Pathiri 2

So, let’s take a step back before I start hyperventilating (again) and look at this dish called Chatti Pathiri.  For those of you, who, like me had never heard of Chatti Pathiri, the best way to explain is that it’s kinda, sorta like an Indian Lasagne where crepes step in for the pasta sheet and, in my case a spicy chicken and chickpea curry acts as the filling.

Chatti Pathiri 3

Yeah, you heard it….yummy, yummy crepes and delicious chicken and chickpea curry.  And after you layer these two bits of deliciosuness, you slather them in coconut milk and bake it all together. And mark my words….It’s all good. 

So why the fear?  Why the cold hand of dread on my spine I hear you ask?  Not because of the recipe, that was awesome!!!  But because I kind of know Joanne.  She reads this.  She comments.  She’s a lovely, friendly delightful person.  And she has entrusted me (and yes,  ok thousands of other people on the Daring Kitchen) with a recipe that is obviously very special to her.  

And what if I took her delicious recipe and totally screwed it up? 

Arrrgggghhhhhh!!! 

The pressure….

(I know.  Such a Drama Queen.  Feel free to roll your eyes.  I would be.)

Luckily for me, Joanne’s recipe proved to be idiot proof!!!  And super delicious!!!! You can find it here.

I added a little bit more chilli and a can of chickpeas into the chicken mix but apart from that I used Joanne’s recipe as is.  

Chatti Pathiri
Chatti Pathiri

I served my version of Chatti Pathiri with a coconut and coriander sambol and some cherry tomatoes drizzled with a little bit of pomegranate molasses.

Coriander and Coconut Sambol
Serves 4
A spicy and refreshing side dish, perfect for eating with your Chatti Pathiri or any other indian dish
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 tbsp coriander leaves
  2. 75g coconut (freshly grated is best, I used dessicated)
  3. 3 green chillies, deseeded
  4. 1 clove of garlic
  5. 2.5 cm piece of ginger
  6. 2 tsp mint leaves
  7. 1 tsp sugar
  8. Salt and freshly squeezed lime juice to taste
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients, except lime and salt in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
  2. Add salt and lime juice to taste.
  3. Serve as an accompaniment to curries
Retro Food For Modern Times http://www.retrofoodformoderntimes.com/
 The sambol will last in the fridge for about a week if you seal it up.  Which is perfect because the Chatti Pathiri is also pretty good reheated on the second day!!!

Joanne, if you’re reading this,  thank you very much for the recipe.  I loved making it and I loved eating it even more.  I hope I have done your recipe and you proud!!!

If this has piqued your interest in Pathiri and /or you would like to see how other Daring Kitchen members interpreted the challenge, you can see some of the completed dishes on Joanne’s blog here.

Or just head over and have a read, you won’t be disappointed!

And speaking of reading, I joined the Goodreads Food and Fiction book.  And here’s another thing you may not know about me – my first venture into blogging was trying to match food to the books I was reading.  It’s an idea I return to every now and again and I may start adding in one or two of those in the not too distant.  In the meantime, if, like me you love food and you love fiction…the Goodreads group may be something for you! You can find a link over on the right.

Have a great week!!!!

And if you want to get chatty, leave a comment!!!!

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Dressing For Success: 1971 vs 2013

For March’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge, (yes, I know I’m a little behind the times) Ruth, Shelley and Sawsan asked us to totally veg out! We made salads and dressings, letting the sky be the limit as we created new flavors and combinations that reflect our own unique tastes.

My own unique tastes huh? Oh boy. Who smells trouble? With a capital T.

Vanilla Horseradish Dressing with Roast Beef Salad
Vanilla Horseradish Dressing with Roast Beef Salad

 The salad dressing challenge actually came at a good time as I had just started on “Salads For All Seasons” and the 1971 recipe comes directly from that. 

Remember a few posts ago when I mentioned that the word “Surprise” when contained in a vintage recipe generally denotes something dubious? Well here’s another instalment of words to strike fear into the heart of any retro cooker.  Beware words denoting parsimony of any description – Pennywise, Frugal, Thrifty.  Even more than the “Surprise” these should best be avoided.

And for a double whammy, check out Erica’s great post on Retro Recipes for “Thrifty Drumstick Surprise”.

Yeah…See what I mean?

Then brace yourselves, because today we are taste-testing Rosemary Mayne-Wilson’s recipe for….

ECONOMICAL MAYONNAISE

On page 23 of  Salads For All Seasons“, Rosemary Mayne-Wilson describes mayo as

“A process of forcing egg yolks to absorb oil and to hold them in an emulsion, thick and creamy”

And ok, not the most romantic of descriptions but technically correct. 

I can only assume that somewhere between writing page 23 and page 24 she was possessed by the devil.  It’s the only way to explain the eggless, oilless monstrosity that is the economical mayonnaise.

Economical Mayonnaise Recipe

 A lot of the time, if I think something is going to be awful, I don’t make it because I hate to see food wasted.  However, by its own definition this is economical.  So I thought I would give it a try.  So, I made it.  And it was…

Drumroll please….

 Absolutely fucking horrible.

Economical Mayonnnaise

The best thing you could say about it was that it looked like mayonnaise. And that it tasted like condensed milk mixed with vinegar.

Yeah, I know normally that wouldn’t be a plus.  Believe me, I’m scrambling for positives here.

The worst was….

Have you ever bought berry scented nail polish remover? This tasted like how that smells – there was an initial sickly sweetness followed by a throat catching, eye watering sharpness…it was really bad. And not one iota like lovely, gorgeous, creamy, delicious mayonnaise.

However, I wanted to be fair to the recipe and it’s not every day you eat mayo straight off the spoon – which is what provoked the above reaction.  And here at Retro Foods For Modern Times we are nothing if not scientific – so I had the idea to do a blind taste testing of the Economical Mayo vs a normal mayo. And what better item to test this on but what is fast becoming this blog’s favourite ingredient, the humble egg.

 The Egg Experiment

The Egg Experiment

I wanted to keep this very plain so the flavours of the mayo would be “pure” so I found a very simple recipe for Stuffed Eggs – pretty much just egg yolk and mayo. The idea was to make up two identical mixes, one with a bought mayo and one with the Economical, then mix up the egg halves so it was impossible to tell the difference between them – and blind taste test them. If I couldn’t tell them apart…then any snarkiness on my part was utterly due to my own prejudices and not fact.

That didn’t work. 

Primarily because the two versions looked completely different to each other. It was utterly impossible not to tell them apart:

Stuffed Eggs
Stuffed Eggs

 Even though the recipe was too heavy on the mayo, the bought mayonnaise behaved as it should when mixed with egg yolk and formed a rounded dome. Mixing the boiled egg yolks with the economical mayonnaise just made a yellow runny “mayonnaise”. It was so runny that when I bit into it, the mixture ran out of the egg all over my hand which was gross. The egg did temper some of the sharpness of the vinegar but in this instance – Epic Fail for 1971!!!

 So, after the disaster of the Economical Mayo, I was a little apprehensive about trying the modern recipe for salad dressing which also mixed a sweet ingredient with something quite pungent.  

The following is based on a recipe for Vanilla Horseradish dressing which I found in “500 Paleo Recipes” by Dana Carpender. 

I would have through cavemen would have been too busy trying to survive to be pfaffing about with vanilla beans.  Then again, my entire knowledge of the paleolithic era is based on B grade movies where scantily clad cavewomen and dinosaurs co-exist. So what do I know?

 

Vanilla Horseradish Dressing
Vanilla and Horseradish liven up a Vinaigrette!
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup vinegar – I used white wine, the original recipe calls for white balsamic
  2. 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  3. ¼ tsp white pepper
  4. ¼ tsp salt
  5. ¾ cup (175 ml) olive oil
  6. ¼ tsp mustard powder
  7. 2 tbsp horseradish
Instructions
  1. Put all of the ingredients into a blender and mix together until it looks creamy – around 30 seconds.
Notes
  1. If you can lay your hands on fresh horseradish, it would be good to finely grate your own. I used bought horseradish sauce from the supermarket
Adapted from 500 Paleo Recipes by Dana Carpender
Adapted from 500 Paleo Recipes by Dana Carpender
Retro Food For Modern Times http://www.retrofoodformoderntimes.com/
This was awesome!!! Really, really good. I had this on a salad I made with some left over roast beef which was rather dry. By the time I came to eat this at lunch time, the beef was gorgeously, melt in your mouth tender – I suspect this was some action of the horseradish or maybe the vanilla.  Either way, it was delicious!!!

Vanilla Horseradish Dressin
Vanilla Horseradish Dressing

The vanilla is quite subtle, initially providing more of an aroma and only the teeniest undercurrent of flavour. You know, it’s of those times where, if you didn’t know what it was, you wouldn’t know what it was. But it would drive you mad trying to pinpoint what exactly it was.  

I also had this on a few other salads and it was good every time!

I would caution against adding more vanilla into the mix as I found that the longer I kept this in the fridge, and I had it in there for close to a week, the stronger the taste of vanilla became.  My vivid imagination? Possibly. 

I  would love to know what other people think of this recipe and if they noticed the same thing. Please let me know if you make it!!!

 Oh, and just in case you thought I meant a different kind of dressing for success, lets take a peek at what the cool kids were wearing in 1971.

For the ladies, it was definitely the year of the hotpant…

Hotpants

 Whereas for the gentlemen, it ranged from the high necked and tightly belted straightlaced work attire….

Men's Fashion

  To the “manly gown”   which was both smart and comfy for lazing in.

Toupé and soap on a rope optional extras. Sold separately.

Men's Fashion3

And then there was the downright bizarre….hang on…isn’t this the same guy from the first photo? Is this what he’s wearing under that tightly belted turtleneck? 

Men's Fashion 1971 4Eww…I’m going to go before this gets creepy…or should that be any creepier?

Have a fabulous week!

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Get Me To The Greek – Spanakopita – Daring Kitchen

God Bless the Greeks.  They invented democracy, philosophy and some damn fine food.  Including fried cheese.  How good is that stuff?  You take cheese…which is one of my all time best ever foods to begin with…and fry it.  That;’s not even eleven.  That’s twelve! Possibly thirteen.  But, I digress, yeah, I know opening paragraph…and we’re already off track, because today we’re talking about the second wonder of the Greek cuisine pantheon…(or should that be Parthenon?) the cheese and spinach pie, also more formally known as the Spanakopita.

Spanakopita 1
Spanakopita 1

I live in Melbourne, which as anyone in Melbourne will tell you has the largest population of Greek people outside of Athens.  I have no idea if this is actually true or just one of those urban myths about the city you live in.  Regardless of numbers, there are a lot of Greek people and hence a lot of super delicious Greek food.  In fact, just as much as some families have the local Chinese or Indian restaurant, my family would go Greek.

No, not like that you bunch of perverts….I meant we would celebrate family occasions at the local  Greek restaurant.

Spanakopita Ingredients
Spanakopita Ingredients

Mind you, this did come after a debacle at the local Chinese.  You know the classic tale of the gauche family who drink the fingerbowls?  Not that old chestnut for my family.  No way.  Uh huh.

We’re a much classier lot.

So when, towards the end of our meal, the waiter delivered some small bowls of water to our table we dutifully dipped and dunked and positively soaked our fingers revelling in our (sub) urban/e sophistication.  He then reappeared with a plate of…I can best describe them as  caramel coated sweet dumplings.  The idea being that you dipped your caramel dumpling into the icy cold water thereby changing the caramel from a hot liquid to a crispy shell. We all looked to our now slightly grubby bowls of warmish water and the thought of dessert suddenly didn’t seem so good.

Now, I can’t speak a word of Mandarin, but believe me, that wasn’t a prerequisite to  understand what our waiter was muttering as he swished away the original bowls.  There is a certain tone people adopt when they say “You people are morons” that is pretty much universal.

We celebrated with Greek food from then on.

Spanakopita Ingredients - pre massage
Spanakopita Ingredients – pre massage

The February Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Audax of Audax Artifex. The challenge brought us to Greece with a delicious, flaky spanakopita – a spinach pie in a phyllo pastry shell.  I had thought I was au fait with the cooking of this particular dish as it is something I make fairly regularly.  However Audax’s version had a few curve balls.

First there was massaging the ingredients.  It made me think about those Wagyu cows…

Spanakopita 2
Spanakopita 2

Then post the massage there was the squeeze….this was both kind of disgusting and a shit ton of fun.

Squeezing...kind of gross.
Squeezing…kind of gross.
Squeezed Spinach (and my abnormally large man hands)
Squeezed Spinach (and my abnormally large man hands)

Post the squeeze, you end up with two bowls.  Once containing a dry mixture, one containing a milky green liquid.

Post Squeeze Spanakopita
Post Squeeze Spanakopita

It is at this point that I would diverge from the recipe as given by Audax and add some more cheese into the dry mixture.  I don’t know what happened to the cheese but somewhere during the massage or the squeeze it kind of disappeared, leaving a less cheesy spanakopita than I  would normally have.  For me, it’s all about the cheese.

Anyhow, then you add some couscous to the liquid and let it soak it all up.  This is utter brilliance.  The couscous bulks up the mixture so you can have a higher pie and it stops the bottom pastry getting soggy.

Spinach Juice and Couscous
Spinach Juice and Couscous

Another brilliant idea?  Cutting the squares before baking.  Stroke of genius!

Pre-Baked Spanakopita
Pre-Baked Spanakopita

 

Spanakopita - hot from the oven
Spanakopita – hot from the oven

You can find the recipe here.

Huh, I just realised I’ve mentioned fried Greek cheese in at least two out of the last three posts.  I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something.

I’m going to be spending my week having at least one trip to the Paradise of Lindos to partake of some plate smashing, some haloumi and maybe even a little bit of this…

ZorbaZorba

Have a great week whatever you get up to!

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Rolling, Rolling Rolling…Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Daring Kitchen & Spice Peddler recipe)

I’ve been doing some wicked multitasking over the last few weeks – moving house has taken up just about all the time, energy, patience  and sanity I had left…which, particularly in the case of the last two was not a huge amount to begin with.

So, how to get through the move, life in general,  and a couple of cooking challenges for the month? Multitasking is how.  November’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge had us on a roll! Olga from http://www.effortnesslessly.blogspot.com/ challenged us to make stuffed cabbage rolls using her Ukrainian heritage to inspire us. Filled with meat, fish or vegetables, flexibility and creativity were the name of the game to get us rolling!

The Spice Peddlers this month sent their Big 5 Pepper Steak Rub which consists of black, green, white, pink, Szechuan and Tasmanian pepper plus cardamom, garlic salt, nutmeg and cloves.  This is a delicious blend which should by no means be limited to Pepper Steaks…although, having said that, it would be pretty great used like that.

Cabbage Rolls 2

So, the basic recipe for the cabbage rolls can be found here along with a vegetarian and a fish version which I am just itching to try!

I made some changes to the original recipe.  I’m not a huge fan of pork so I used lamb mince as my meat of choice.  I also added a teaspoon of the Big 5 Pepper Steak rub into the lamb mixture.

DSC00278When I made my rolls, I had a quite a bit of the meat mix left so I made up some meatballs and lightly fried them up before adding them to the pan with the rolls.  As I was frying them up, I also sprinkled more of the Pepper Mix into the pan so the meatballs picked up the pepper mix and got a kind of crunchy peppery coating on them.  Delish!!!

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Then into the oven with tomato sauce, another light sprinkle of the Pepper Mix and some salt to finish and a lovely hearty meal was had by all.

Perfect timing too because, whilst Melbourne’s weather cannot compare with the Ukraine, it has been an unusually cold summer and the cabbage rolls and a glass of red were the perfect accompaniment to a chilly night where we had to put the fire on!  The warming spices in the Big 5 Pepper Rub were a perfect blend for this hearty and warming dish.

Stufffed Cabbage Rolls
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

This wasn’t the quickest of things to make as it has many moving parts – pre-cooking the cabbage, and the rice, making the filling and the tomato sauce, then the baking all takes time.  However, no single  part is difficult and it is delicious and was as good, if not better when re-heated for lunch the following day

Also, I used half the quantity in the given recipe and, as you can see, it made a huge amount….

Meantime, i was inspired by this recipe’s Ukrainian heritage to have a look at some of the great old posters produced in the Eastern bloc…

I think this is the one that insprisred the Franz Ferdinand cd cover:

1920’s Communist Poster
Franz Ferdinand

These are some awesome Polish movie posters:

Polish Movie Posters

And this is apparently an anti-drinking message…yep, I’ve had mornings where my head felt like that too…

Last month’s Bloody Mary was kind of a hit so I’m going to be spending the new few days thinking about how I can incorporate the Big 5 Pepper Steak Rub into a cocktail…stay tuned!

Have a great week!

Signature 1 Vintage Valentine Quick as Wink2

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