Monday, September 12, 2011

Ben O'Donoghue's Lamb Kofta

Finally I have herbs hanging in our courtyard. After the high drama of moving we treated ourselves to pots and pots of herbs ready for picking and cooking. Luckily, my husband had spotted a recipe that needed stacks of fresh herbs - lamb kofta with quinoa tabouli in the July 2011 edition of Australian Men's Health.

The recipe was from Ben O'Donoghue and I have adapted it slightly. It was easily the best thing I have made this year and a great dish to try at the start of spring.

Kofta Mix
500grams lamb mince
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 onion finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
1 egg

Mix the ingredients until well combined. Shape into rectangles the size and shape of a Tim Tam and place in a roasting tin. Roast at 200 degrees for 45 minutes or until brown and cooked.

Quinoa Tabouli
1 cup quinoa
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped basil
4 roma chopped tomatoes
Juice of one large lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Rinse and cook quinoa. Towards the end of cooking time add the corn kernels to cook them. Drain the quinoa and corn and set aside to cool.

Mix the cooled quinoa, corn, garlic clove, parsley, basil, tomato, lemon juice and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve kofta and tabouli with wraps or other type of bread (gluten-free wraps make this a gluten-free meal), greek yoghurt and harissa sauce.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kylie Kwong's fried eggs and Terrific Trang in West End

So I've been back at work full-time (after over a year of maternity leave) and we are in the process of moving house. Everything is messy and I never seem to have the time or the ingredients that I used to during the stay-at-home housewife days.

This has resulted in quick food fixes. There is Kylie Kwong's egg recipe - simple (if you use chook eggs rather than duck). I add some stir fried greens to make this a well rounded meal and also drizzle lime juice over the end dish (obviously, the Toddler has her version sans the fresh chilli).

When any kind of cooking seems like to much trouble we have resorted to and old but wonderfully consistent haunt - Vietnamese at Trang in West End. We have a long history with this place - on the night my husband and I picked up my engagement ring we shared a half bottle of Moet over some of their do-it-yourself wrap-ups. Six years down the track I've been delighted to find out that the staff are very friendly to the Toddler and the Toddler loves the food. She has tried thick chicken noodle soup, the pho, shredded pork rolls and the vegetarian fried rice. They seem to have heaps of high chairs and the best thing is that the food arrives within minutes of placing the order (important if your Toddler is one hour past sleep time or is very hungry). The serves are so big that we have never had to order extra for the Toddler - she just eats a little of anything that we have ordered for ourselves and the cost never seems to be more than $28 for all three of us.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The year of living differently

So the carnival is over - I am about to return to work. The Toddler has spent the last year changing from of mysterious bundle to a larger-than-life personality full of giggles. I think I have changed too and am much better for it.

I have learnt that living life as if in a musical is no bad thing - randomly breaking into song in order to stop the crying is kind of uplifting and no longer caring whether people think I am crazy is quite liberating. There is also nothing like having an enthusiastic Toddler pumping the air with her fist as we sing about the Little Green Frog for the thousandth time.

I've also become pretty alternative - I've had the time to research and enjoy the challenge of building a cloth nappy 'stash' (as well as learning the lingo) and we have now switched to using soap nuts in our laundry rather than conventional soap powder or liquid. My cooking has expanded to include extra virgin coconut oil (heavenly), ghee (also amazing) and a wider range of organic grains (like millet and quinoa) in my never-ending quest to make the Toddler's food as healthy and delicious as possible.

The need to get out and about without a car (I don't drive) has also meant that I have become addicted to a daily walk with the pram and the Toddler. We've walked kilometres and kilometres singing and talking and I've learnt how to stack lots of groceries and other items onto the pram in a way never imagined by its makers.

I've become much more connected to what is going on in my corner of Brisbane. We've gone to free concerts and festivals and spent so much time in parks. I've discovered that parents should be a member of the library and that every afternoon you can find some other Toddler there to play with your Toddler (without needing to clean up the house or invite anyone over).

My time at home has let me make a special new friend who also has a Toddler and given me so much more to talk about with other friends who are going through motherhood at the same time.

Finally, this year has let me get to know the Toddler inside out and take the time to do whatever she wanted. We looked at the cat, we cuddled and we read books. We waved to strangers and we had picnics. I found out that walking into her room when she woke up from a sleep could feel like Christmas used to when I was a kid - that magic can happen in the ordinary everyday world.

Now it is her Dad's turn. I wish him all of the fun, love and magic that I had.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Instant Polenta (or Easy Cheesy Pleasey)

I'd cooked polenta before I had the Toddler but was never really in love with it. It was the 'proper' polenta that takes an age to cook on the stove top and which you have to stir carefully and I ended up thinking that the end result was not worth the effort (or the cleaning up afterwards). When the Toddler was first starting solids (at about 6 months) I tried her on some instant polenta and she loved it. As we introduced dairy products it took three minutes to make and a sprinkle of grated cheese and some leftover vegetables at the end turned it into a lovely rich mush (as pictured) that she was guaranteed to eat. The polenta can be simmered in water or can be made more healthy by cooking it in a chicken stock.

Instant polenta has become even more popular as the Toddler's consumption of finger foods has increased. The soft mush is placed in the fridge to set. You can add all sorts of things to the mush before it sets - diced cooked chicken, vegetables, fish (though the Toddler hates it with fish) or you can stick with plain old cheese.

Once the polenta is set you can cut it into pieces to grill or bake in the oven. I've set it as a thin sheet and then cut shapes out of it with cookie cutters in order to make a gluten-free gnocchi that you can bake in the oven with cheese and a tomato sauce (this idea is stolen from 'Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant' by The Moosewood Collective and a meal that I had at a camp ground in Fiesole in Tuscany). Finally, I have also set the polenta very thin in a greased round quiche tray and then made a gluten-free pizza out of it once it had set. The possibilities are endless and this is the reason instant polenta has made it onto our hit parade at least once a week.

250 grams instant polenta
1 litre water/stock

Boil the water/stock and then add the polenta. You need to stir it the whole time it is cooking (which is three minutes or until it is thick and mushy). Add cheese or other items (so long as they are already cooked)after the polenta has cooked. Serve the mush straight up to a younger child or place in the fridge in a container to set. Two or three hours later you can remove the set polenta by turning it over on a board and slicing into pieces. If you set the polenta very thin (by using a larger container) you can cut the pieces out with a cookie cutter. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees until golden brown or crunchy (the polenta may be eaten softer than this or without being cooked again if it is easier for your Toddler).

* The hardest thing about instant polenta is finding it - I had to go to a health food store this time but in the past I have been able to get it from the larger supermarkets. It is a pretty cheap item no matter where you find it.
* You may want to brush your polenta pieces with olive oil before you bake them - particularly if you haven't put any cheese in them.
* Leftover bits of polenta sets like concrete - wash your saucepan and stirring spoon up as as soon as you have taken the polenta out of it. Alternatively, fill the saucepan up with water and place the spoon in it so it is easy to wash up later on.

Friday, July 1, 2011

T-Bone Soup

I know this sounds wrong but there are so many reasons why this is great food for a Toddler. The meat simmers until it is tender and easy for a small mouth (with few teeth) and you make a healthy stock out of the T-bone as the same time as cooking vegetables and meat. This is for the people who want to try their Toddler out on stock but don't want to stare at the vacant eyes of a fish head or wrestle with the skeleton of a chicken.

Olive oil or ghee
1 T-bone with meat sliced in small pieces
White part of 1 leek sliced (or half of one onion)
1 clove garlic
1 carrot
1 cup pumpkin or sweet potato
1/2 cup of greens of your choice

Fry the T-bone and meat in the oil or ghee until brown. Add all of the vegetables except the greens and fry gently for several minutes. Add enough water to cover all of the meat, vegetable and bone and let simmer for one hour. Put in more water if it sinks below the meat and vegetables.

After one hour add the greens and cook until they are tender. Serve the dish by giving the steak and vegetables as finger food and spooning the liquid stock straight into their mouth.

* One smallish T-Bone made 3 very beefy Toddler serves - you could make it less beefy and have more serves by adding potatoes, pasta or rice and adding more water.
* I enjoyed scraping the leftover meat off the bone. It wasn't as tasty as grilled steak but it was pretty good.
* Add one teaspoon of vinegar (preferably apple cider vinegar) to the stock to leach the maximum goodness out of the bones.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Neil Perry's (Dead Easy) Whiting Meuniere

Fish has always been a tough sell for the Toddler. She turned her nose up at my carefully constructed Leek and Salmon Pie and appeared to be revolted by my Polenta Whiting Fish Fingers. So I decided to get really, really simple and it worked. I don't have any pictures of the end product because I didn't think she would like it but if you imagine a Toddler waving a whiting fillet in each hand then you get the picture.

I know that whiting seems expensive when you see it in the shop for $40+ a kilo but you don't seem to need much - I bought $15 worth (about 300 grams) and it provided 4 adult serves and 2 toddler serves.

This recipe is adapted from Neil Perry's 'The Food that I Love' and it is particularly good for adults and Toddlers. I love not having to use eggs and crumbs to coat the fish because it seems much more messy and involved than the below process.

8 whiting fillets
Ghee (you could use olive oil but ghee is nicer and easily available from the supermarket - see previous post for more information)
About 1/2 cup milk poured into a bowl
About 1/2 cup cornflour poured onto a large plate
Lemon, butter (optional)

Dip each whiting fillet into the milk and then coat in the cornflour. Melt enough ghee in a frying pan to cover the bottom and then fry the fish on each side until slightly brown and the cornflour and milk has formed a nice crust.

At the end you can melt some butter in the pan and drizzle it over the fish along with some lemon juice but we opted just to have the lemon juice.

* Check for whiting bones before cooking each piece and then check again with each piece you give the Toddler.
* Lovely with roasted sweet potato chips on the side.

Top Quick Meals for Mummy and Daddy when Toddler is asleep

Shredded beef stir fried with sliced garlic, chilli and then so much broccoli and beans that you won't need to bother with rice. Finish by drizzling over a sauce of 1 part fish sauce, 2 parts lime, 1 part water and 1 part sugar. For the truly lime addicted add some lime zest to the sauce.

Potatoes baked in the oven with their skins on served with shredded raw cabbage, shredded carrot, red onion (which has been soaked in red wine vinegar for one hour to remove the acidity), stacks of shredded cheese, hot sauce and natural yoghurt.

Scrambled eggs cooked slowly in butter with fresh pepper at the end and no guilt about not eating a proper dinner.

Pasta drizzled with a sauce made out of olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan cheese. Rocket, baby spinach and/or canned tuna could also be added - just leave the whole lot on the heat long enough for the cheese to melt and the greenery to cook or the tuna to warm through.