Thursday, July 22, 2004

Pure Pumpkin Soup

Over a decade ago I was doing one of those Californian paradigm-shifty seminars in which they were actually trying to explain what a paradigm shift was.  We all had to come up with our own example of a paradigm to demonstrate we understood the concept (and could therefor use it when we explained it to others!). 

I declared that Soup Of The Day could be described as a paradigm.  Everyone wanted to know why - I was apparently being a little obtuse.  I explained that no matter what restaurant or cafe you went into in Sydney, if you ordered the Soup Of The Day, nine point nine times out of ten, you would be served pumpkin soup.  Therefore, everyone naturally knew Soup Of The Day to mean pumpkin soup - it wasn't in fact soup of the day, it was Soup Of Every Day. 

I further explained that Soup of The Day was in need of a major paradigm shift.  Pumpkin soup was available anywhere and everywhere and maybe people were sick of pumpkin soup?  Switching to say, broccoli soup, could be the catalyst for a major transformation in the way people see Soup Of The Day?

Are you with me?  My classmates weren't.  I was banned from using Soup Of The Day as an example of a paradigm.  But I still think it is one! Lol!

1 medium sized butternut pumpkin
1 onion
1 chicken stock cube
3 cherry tomatoes
30g low fat fetta cheese
2 tsp Shoyu soy sauce

1. Place a pot of water on the stove top and bring to boil. 

2. De-seed and skin pumpkin, then chop into one 2cm square cubes.

3. Peel onion and cut into quarters.

4. Drop pumpkin, onion and chicken stock cube into boiling water.  Reduce to simmer and allow to cook for 12 minutes.  The softer your pumpkin is, the better this soup will taste.

5. Remove pot from stovetop and rest on pot stand (or wooden chopping board).  Blend ingredients with a stick blender.  I have to say this is the best way to puree vegetables into soup.  In the past I've put soup into the blender and I never fail to splash boiling hot liquid everywhere and burn myself in the process.  The stick blender is totally no fuss.

6. Return to heat and bring soup to boil again.

7. To serve, place two ladles of soup in soup bowl.  Slice cherry tomatoes in half and float on surface of soup, neatly arranged in the middle.  Don't panic if they sink!  Sprinkle crumbled fetta cheese over top, drizzle Shoyu in decorative circles.  Season with freshly cracked pepper if desired.  And a slice of toast on the side never goes astray!

Note: This soup is virtually fat free and excellent for those watching calories.  Recipe yields five servings, which can be frozen and reheated later.  They'll keep in the freezer for up to four weeks. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Seared Prawns & Stir-fried vegetables

I am quite ashamed to admit there was a long period in my life when I didn’t eat prawns.  As a kid, I used to enjoy the king prawns my dad brought home from Hexham – we’d all sit at the kitchen bench peeling them then scoffing them on the spot, not bothering to ruin their delicious flavour with anything so silly as sauce!
But one day, when I was at home sick, and both Mum and Dad had the day off, I was treated to lunch at a local Chinese Restaurant.  Not having complex tastes at that stage, I naturally ordered fried rice.  I was happily chomping away until I encountered something hard and crunchy which just didn’t belong in that dish!  Like a good kid would, I immediately spat the offending item back onto my plate, much to my parent’s horror.  It was none other than an unshelled prawn!  

Thus began my prawn abstinence – I think it went on for close to 20 years!  That is, until the proliferation of Asian restaurants across Australia.  The best item on their menus was anything that included prawns.  I MADE myself get over my aversion just so I could enjoy chilli garlic prawns, honeyed king prawns and the best of all, Tom Yum.  I still haven’t regained the knack of peeling prawns – thank God the local fish shop does that for me!

1 dozen king prawns, peeled and de-veined (leave tails on if you like!)
1 tblsp olive oil or olive oil spray
1 handful snow peas
½ brown onion, sliced into wedges
1 carrot, cut into sticks
6 green beans, cut into thirds
1 handful fresh bean shoots
½ bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1 tblsp sweet chilli sauce
juice of one fresh lime
1. Heat a fry pan on stovetop and coat with olive oil.
2. Place prawns on one side in pan and allow to cook until they become white (about 90 seconds!).  Turn and cook on other side.  Prawns should be nicely browned.  Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Heat a wok on stovetop and spray with olive oil spray.  Combine snow peas, onion, carrot and beans in wok.  Stir-fry for two minutes, adding one or two tablespoons of water to assist cooking process.
4. Add bean shoots, coriander and prawns to wok, stirring to combine.  Pour chilli sauce and lime juice over stir-fry and heat through until all ingredients are combined.
5.  Serve immediately on a bed of rice, over steamed glass noodles or on its own for a low carb option.  Serves two.

Potato Mash

Mashed potato was pretty much a staple food in our house when I was growing up.  We were very much a "meat and three veg" household - that is until Mum discovered Italian and Mexican cooking! 
I never regarded mashed potato as anything special, but about 10 years ago, MASH, as it became known, made a culinary comeback!  It was nothing like the lumpy, stodgey stuffed we were served when kids.  Loaded with butter and whole milk, it was smooth, flavoursome, and immediately pounced on whenever placed as a side dish on the restaurant table.  It never fails to amaze me at dinner parties, when friends dive on the mash, scooping great mountains of it onto their plates and savouring it with child-like delight.  If you want to make your dinner guests happy, always include mash on your menu!
4-6 washed potatoes (choose ones the size of a cake of soap - one potato per person is enough)
65g butter
2/3 cup whole milk
Pinch of salt
1. Peel potatoes, place in saucepan and cover with water.  Boil on high heat, partially covered with saucepan lid, for 10 mins or until soft when tested.
2. Remove from heat and drain off water.  Smash potatoes with potato masher.  Add butter and continue mashing until potatoes and butter are combined. 
3.  Scrape potato from masher and PUT THE MASHER DOWN!  Add milk and combine with a stick blender (also known as a Bamix) in short pulses until milk is combined and mash becomes very smooth.  Do not over blend!
4. Stir mash with a spoon to check consistency - if too thick, add a little more butter and milk.  There's almost no limit here - the mash at The Benelong has so much butter in it, it's positively yellow!  Do try to achieve a balance in flavour, ensuring your mash can hold a vague shape on the plate.
5. Either serve in a white presentation bowl, garnished with chopped parsely or chives.  Or use as bed for steak, fish or chicken.

Baked Ocean Trout

 When I was little my mum worked on weekends and left my sister and I in the company of our fishing-mad dad.  He would pack up his gear and us into the car on a Sunday morning and set out to fish off the rocks near the beaches of Newcastle.  While my sister and I messed around on the rocks, splashing through tide pools and generally getting each other wet, Dad would cast his line into the water and pull out some of the most boring fish I’ve ever seen – flathead, leather jacket… I simply couldn’t reconcile myself to these fish as gourmet delights.  He did land the odd bream in his endless quest for a snapper, and I remember getting in big trouble one time when I decided to constantly douse one of his catches with water.  Little did I know I was prolonging the poor thing’s agony instead of allowing it to die in peace!
Dad’s penchant for fresh fish never transferred to me.  When I grew up I had to train myself to enjoy dining on fish.  One flatmate showed me how to grill a piece of perch while a friend taught me how to mix tinned tuna with red onion and S&W whole egg mayonnaise to make what to me was a surprisingly tasty toasted sandwich.  I eventually braved the counter at the fish shop, learning that tuna steak was a sensation next to heaven, while salmon, carefully baked, could be equally as divine.
But my favourite, of all sea fare, is ocean trout.  I frequently serve this at dinner parties- it is so easy to make, and impresses beyond expectations.

2 three-inch wide ocean trout steaks, cut in half
1cm chunk of fresh ginger
6 shallots
2 tblsp olive oil
3 tblsp white wine
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp light soy sauce
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. De-bone ocean trout steaks.  You do this with a pair of tweezers (ones especially designated for kitchen duty, thanks!).  Use your finger tip to feel down the side of the trout steak – you’ll find hard spots which, when inspected closely, are the ends of the fish bones.  Take hold of them with the tweezers and pull them out.  Keep feeling for bones and pulling them on both sides of the steak until none remain.  I find this makes for concern-free eating!
3. Lightly oil the bottom of a baking dish and place the trout steaks skin side down.  I don’t like skin on my fish, but I’ve given up trying to cut it off as once the fish comes out of the oven it simply lifts off!
4. In a 1 cup Fire King jug combine grated ginger, finely chopped shallots (including the green bits!), olive oil, white wine, salt and pepper.  Mix to combine, then pour over the trout steaks, arranging the shallots and ginger on top of each.
5. Cover baking dish with cling film and allow to marinate in fridge for 15 minutes – and no longer!  Fish easily takes on strong flavours like ginger and shallots.  We want a subtle flavour that doesn’t overwhelm the actual trout!
6.  Bake trout in oven for 12 minutes.  Make sure you use a timer, as over cooking will produce a very dry result.
7.  Serve trout on a bed of steamed baby spinach leaves with mashed potato on the side (I’ll post a recipe for this later). 
8. To prepare sauce, heat a fry pan on the stovetop.  Add olive oil then soy sauce, making sure you stand well back as the two will spit when they connect!  Stir quickly to combine and remove from heat immediately.  Left any longer, this sauce will reduce right down to a sticky tar.  Allow sizzling to subside then carefully spoon a little of the sauce over each trout steak.  Serve immediately!

Friday, July 16, 2004

Chicken & Mango Focaccia

As a young PR consultant I used to spend my lunchtimes scouring the various shops of Paddington, looking for something delicious but cheap to eat. 

George in the corner shop on Underwood Street used to make a top tuna and onion sandwich for my very pedantic boss.  "Is it for her?" he used to asked in his gruff, heavily accented English.  I'd nod and he'd say "I know what she likes!".  He also sold extremely good caramel fudge, made by an old lady who brought it in fresh every Friday.  I used to line up for that stuff.  She died seven or so years later and I heard she bequeathed the fudge recipe along with her bowl and wooden spoon to the gay guys who ran to bread shop on the main drag.  I don't think they ever made the fudge though - they sold the shop not long after so I never got to ask them.

One of my favourite splurges for lunch was the chicken and mango focaccia at Anastasia's.  focaccia has not even peaked in popularity at that stage - it was still 'special' bread.  Thick, fresh, they'd pile a heap of chicken swimming in seriously fattening sauce with strips of mango onto one side of the bread, warming in the grill, then toasting it on either side, slicing it and handing it over in exchange for five bucks.  Pricey!  For those days anyway.  I would race back to my office and scoff that sandwich, all the while fighting off Kevin the snow white samoid, who reckoned what was mine was his!

Last year I sat down to recreate that sandwich.  What I came up with was pretty close to the original.  I did try to exclude some of the calories.  I don't think I succeeded that well though!

400g chicken breast fillet
3 mangoes
2 tblsp olive oil
1 brown onion
1-2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 tblsp mango chutney
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup low fat plain yoghurt (choose a smooth one!)
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Slice chicken breast fillets in thin strips no more than 2 inches long.

2. Peel mangoes and cut all flesh off seed, then slice into thin strips about 6mm wide.  Set aside.

3. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a deep fry pan or wok and stir-fry chicken pieces until nicely browned.  You might want to do this in two or three lots so as not to overcrowd the pan.  Use a little extra olive oil if necessary.  Set chicken aside. 

4. Peel onion, cut in half then slice into thin crescents.  Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the
pan and cook onions until just transparent. Add spices and continue to cook for one minute on a medium heat.   Make sure you have the windows open for this part as cooking spices can often create a bit of smoke!  Be care not to allow your spice to burn! 

5. Return chicken to pan and blend with spices and onions.  Add yoghurt and sour cream to pan.  Stir until all ingredients are combined. 

6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add mango chutney and stir through. 

7. Finally, remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Gently fold through fresh mango slices.  Be very careful not to over mix as this will mash the ripe mango and turn it to mush.

8. Slice four inch square pieces of focaccia bread in half.  Lightly toast crusty sides in griller.  Remove and arrange on a plate.  Spoon chicken and mango mixture onto one half of focaccia.  Sandwich together with other half and cut on the diagonal.  Garnish with fresh coriander leaf.

Note: there are many types of mango chutney on the market - choose one that's thick, has large pieces of fruit in it and is translucent in appearance.  Avoid ones that are cloudy and overly sweet.

Mango Salad

When I was 15 years old, I am embarrassed to say the only way I could go to David Bowie concert was in the company of my mother. 

It was my first major concert (not counting Air Supply at the Maitland show in 1978 and Red Gum at the Balmain Town Hall later that year) and I was desperate to see the Thin White Duke on his Serious Moonlight Tour.  The concert was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which is never the best place to see a band - you can get a great view up in the stands, only you're miles away from the stage.  Or you can rough it with the great unwashed down on the grounds, either working your way through the crowd to get squished behind the production tower, or perching yourself precariously on someone's shoulders.
I tried both, and eventually accepted that I should just stand alongside everybody else and crane my head, dancing occasionally, praying my mother wouldn't disgrace me by poking fun.  We found a relatively clear spot on which to stand.  Unfortunately, in front of us was a non-stop dancing lunatic whom we dubbed 'Mango' because of his surfer singlet with a Mango logo printed on the back.  At the beginning of every song, Mango would throw his hands in the air and proceed to undulate furiously like a snake standing on it's tail - until Mum's friend sternly told him to "sit down you idiot!".  Mango would cut it out for a while, but start all over again when the next song cranked up.
Every time I hear the word mango I think of that guy and that show.  It has nothing to do with this fantastic recipe for salad, but I had to share the story anyway. 
1 ripe mango
12 cherry tomatoes
1/3 telegraph cucumber
1/4 Spanish (red) onion
1/2 bunch fresh coriander
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of fresh black pepper

1. Slice cherry tomatoes in half and place in salad bowl.

2. Peel Spanish onion, finely dice and add to tomatoes.

3. Cut cucumber in half and slice into thing crescents.  Add to bowl.

4. Peel mango and slice cheek from one side of the seed.  Thinly slice lengthwise then cut in half across the middle.  Add to other ingredients, making sure you pour any juice on the chopping board into the salad bowl as well.

5. Finely chop coriander leaves and add to bowl.

6. In a small plastic container with a lid, combine white wine vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Seal container with lid and shake until sugar has dissolved.  Pour over salad ingredients, then toss very gently - you don't want to mash your precious mango pieces.  Salad should be very wet.

7. Serve with anything you like - grilled chicken, naked fish, BBQd steak or fried tofu.  Serve 2-4 people.

Sunday Roast

There was a time in my life when the traditional Sunday Roast was a weekly event.  Looking back, I'm not sure it that's really correct - but I certainly remember my mother in the kitchen on many a Sunday, preparing the roast, then turning its juices into either Yorkshire Pudding or gravy. 

Then there are the times at my Nana's, when the Sunday Roast was left sizzling behind one of the many doors in the old slow combustion stove, while we were waltzed off to service at the Salvation Army Hall of Worship.  Upon our return to the house, we were always welcomed by the warm smell of roasting beef wafting down the hallway, carrying us into the kitchen, causing our mouths to salivate. 
When I gave up vegetarianism a couple of years back, it was a few months before I was able to face eating beef again.  Eventually I found myself craving the Sunday Roast of my childhood.  I went to the local butcher, procured the best piece of beef I could afford, and invited my mother and her brood to lunch.  The smell of the beef in the oven was intoxicating!  The dog was glued to the spot in front of the oven.  My mother became inexplicably animated in the kitchen, and my step-father, waiting (in front of the TV) in the loungeroom, kept calling out "Is it ready yet?". 
But the best thing of all was watching my little brother, who always argues about finishing his food, gobble down every single thing on his plate, then wipe up the gravy with his fingers, not wanting to leave anything behind.  When they went home, Mum said he raved about that lunch for days afterwards - he reckoned it was good tucker!
Here then, is my recipe for Sunday Roast, complete with roasted veggies.  Of course I served it all with Beef Jus, freshly mounted in butter, with a fair bit of the pans juices add for additional effect. 

1 1.5kg piece of roasting beef - choose whatever is best at the butcher's on the day
olive oil
salt and pepper
5 small washed potatoes (or one for each guest)
10 pieces of Jap pumpkin, skinned
5 small onions, peeled
olive oil
1-2 cups frozen baby peas
1. Pre heat the oven to 220 degrees celcius.
2. Coat a roasting pan with olive oil and position beef in centre of tray.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  (Note - you can add all sorts of fresh herbs and other things at this stage to add to the falvour, but I don't think it's THAT necessary.  The only thing I'd really be tempted to add is garlic - peeled, cut in half and wiped over the exterior of the beef).
3. Place pan on middle shelf in oven and roast for half an hour.  Turn oven temperature down to 180 degrees celcius.  Remove pan then add potatoes, pumpkin and onions, positioning around beef.  Drizzle with extra olive oil and return to oven for a further 60-90 minutes.  When cooked, remove beef from roasting pan and allow to rest on a serving plate for 15 minutes before carving.
4. Your vegetables may be ready before the beef is - just keep an eye on them.  Of course the potatoes should be golden brown and soft in the middle when tested with a skewer.  The pumpkin should be tending towards a caramelly black - I like my pumpkin burnt, but that's not everybody's taste!  The onions will shrivel and also caramelise - when the vegetables are roasted to your own satisfaction, take them out of the oven and set them aside, allowing the beef to continue to cook if needed. 

5. Place the peas in top of a steamer and cook for three minutes.  You could use fresh peas, shelling them yourself.  However, frozen peas are not a sin!  My childhood Sunday Roasts were served with Surprise Peas, and we regarded those as a special treat!
5. Carve your beef using a carving fork and a very sharp carving knfe - this will allow you to slice the beef sparingly (there has to be leftovers for Monday's roast beef sandwich!).  Arrange everything on a dinner plate, making the beef the focal point.  Drizzle with Beef Jus (see Beef Jus recipe in previous posts) and serve to your salivating guests.
Note: there is a general rule of thumb for how long to cook a piece of beef (15 minutes per half kilo), however, I say cook it until it's done!  Use your sense of smell to guide your intuition (yes - cooking is intuitive!).  But also get yourself a metal skewer - when the beef has roasted for a total of 90 minutes, insert the skewer into the middle of the beef and check the juices as they run out.  If they are clear, your piece of beef is cooked.  If not, continue roasting until the juices do eventually run clear when re-tested.  

Liqueur Variations

As I mentioned, you can use this recipe to make other fruit flavoured liqueurs.  The two variations I can highly recommend are shown below.
Cherry Liqueur
1. Choose plump black cherries at the height of summer - you'll need about a kilo of cherries.  Wash and remove stalks.
2. Layer whole cherries as per instructions for Strawberry liqueur.  The most important part of this recipe is the cherry seed - while the alcohol will take its colour from the cherry skin, it will derive its flavour from the actual cherry pit.
3. Leave for at least a year to get the best out of the variation.  I know it seems a long time, but trust me - it will make a difference!
Pear Liqueur
1. Choose fleshy yellow-skinned pears for this variation -  you'll need about six pears.  Wash, cut into quarters and remove core and seeds.
2. Layer pear pieces as per instructions for Strawberry Liqueur.  Leave a good two inches room at top of jar.  Pour in vodka, making sure all pears are completely covered.  Any pears left exposed will turn brown and will give the liqueur a flavour of rot - yuck!
3. Remove pears after one week - Liqueur should have developed a golden brown colour.  Unlike the other variants, Pear Liqueur can be consumed once filtration process is complete.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Strawberry Liqueur

How is it possible to create your own liqueur, I here you say? You know, it is so darned easy, anybody can do it. All you need is a few essential ingredients and a safe place to store your creation for as long as you possibly can.

I came across a recipe for cherry liqueur in one of Joanne Harris's novels. I was intrigued. I tried the recipe out and found it was not only extremely easy, but extremely successful. I used the biggest, blackest, sweetest summer cherries and was delighted to produce a dark liqueur that had a depth of flavour I found totally surprising. I wondered what other fruits could be used to create liqueur in the same way.

Of course strawberries were the most obvious choice. I've made this particular liqueur several times now. While the cherry liqueur is best left for one to two years, the strawberry variant can be ready to consume in as little as three months. If you can keep away from it that long, that is!

750gs fresh strawberries
1 cup castor sugar
750ml vodka (Absolut is best!)

1. Wash strawberries and shake to remove excess water.

2. Cut off green tops, slice in half and place in a 1.5 litre wide mouth jar - a Luminarc preserving jar is ideal.

3. When bottom of jar is covered with strawberries, sprinkle one third of the castor sugar over them. Then repeat layering fruit and sugar untiljar is full.

4. Pour the vodka into the jar, ensuring the strawberries are fully covered. Seal the jar and rotate several times to dissolve sugar. Retain the empty vodka bottle to decant the liqueur back into later.

5. Place sealed jar in cool, dark cupboard and leave for three months! Check daily during in the first week, turning the jar to continue dissolving the sugar.  The alcohol will leech the colour from the strawberry skins, taking on a rich pink by the fourth or fifth day.

6. At the end of the first week, taste liqueur to check the sweetness. If the flavour is predominantly vodka-ish, add one or two more tablespoons of castor sugar. Rotate jar until sugar dissolves. Then place back in cupboard and forget about it!

7. Retrieve jar from cupboard after three months. Remove fruit and prepare liqueur for filtration. Position a plastic funnel lined with a clean piece of muslin over a large, sterile glass jug.  Slowly pour contents of the jar into funnel. This may take several goes. Remove the fruit from the funnel on each round to make way for the next.  Don't hurry!

8. Once all the liqueur is transferred from the jar to the jug, place the jug in front of a window and examine for any impurities - look for strawberry seeds or fibres off the skin. If liqueur is free of debris, it's time to bottle!

9. Place clean funnel in mouth of Absolut bottle and slowly pour liqueur in! Now it's time to drink! You can serve your strawberry liqueur on its own in dessert wine glasses, or serve it suspended with fresh cream in a shot glass. Or, place 60ml of liqueur and 60ml of cream in blender half filled with ic.  Blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Fried Tofu

It always amazes me when I hear someone complaining that eating tofu is like having to swallow a kitchen sponge! Of course I realise they are talking about the kind of tofu frequently found in laska's or curries sold in Thai cafes across Australia.

In fact, the spongey tofu they're talking about is but one of the many varieties of tofu available, usually from your garden variety supermarket. There are soft tofus, often flavoured with coconut, mango or vanilla, that can double as custard (or junket for those who remember what that is!). Then there's tempeh, which is a more meaty type of tofu flavoured with spices and frequently used to make veggie burgers.

I like firm Silken tofu, which is excellent for scrambling. It's also good for cutting into cubes and frying to serve as the protein element on a "meat and three veg" dinner. Here's a simple recipe to show you how tasty tofu can be.

1 carton firm Silken Tofu
3 tblsp cornflour
1 egg white
olive oil
2 tblsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tblsp Shoyu soy sauce

1. Cut tofu into cubes - slice in half first, then quarters and work from there to make 16 cubes.

2. Heat fry pan on stovetop. Add enough olive oil to create shallow pool in bottom of pan.

3. Roll each cube of tofu in cornflour, then coat in egg white, drain excess then carefully drop into hot oil. Be careful not to over handle the cubes - the cornflour will stick to your fingers pulling away precious chunks of tofu which end up wasted. I always wash my hands after every second cube to cut down on the chance of this happening. It's time consuming, but it helps improve the quality of the final product.

4. Use a fork or even a pair of chopsticks to turn the tofu in the pan, frying on each side. When lightly browned, remove from pan and rest on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.

5. Serve immediately with sauces and vegetables of your choice. Serve sauces in small condiment dishes, pouring half the sweet chili sauce onto one side of the dish and flooding the other side with half of the Shoyu. Garnish with salad or vegetables of your choice. Serves two.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Beef Jus

Have you ever ordered a steak in a five star restaurant and had it presented to you swimming in an ocean of unbearably delectable thin brown sauce? That sauce is called 'jus'. I was fortunate enough to have such a meal at The Benelong in the Sydney Opera House, where I was dining with a top class chef.

"How do you make this stuff?" I asked him, slipping into raptures as the rich, complex flavour tantalised my taste buds.

"It's easy!" he said. "But it takes ages."

"I don't care how long it takes to make," I replied. "Tell me how to do it - I want to know!"

And that is how this recipe came into my hands. It does take ages to make - eight hours, in fact. But do try it! And when you serve it to your friends, watch their faces as their eyes light up with new found respect for your culinary talents!

1kg beef bones
1 squishy tomato
1 carrot
1 onion
2 sticks of celery
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground rock salt
Olive oil
1 bottle of red wine (plus some extra)
1 or 2 nobs of butter

1. Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Place the beef bones and all the vegetables in a roasting tray - no need to peel the veggies, skin on adds more flavour. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over everything, season with pepper and salt, then place on the middle shelf in the oven. Roast for two hours.

3. Transfer roasted beef bones and vegetables to a 15 litre stockpot. Pour entire bottle of wine into pot, then add water until everything is covered (this might not be possible as your bones might be poking out of the top of the pot. Bring to boil then reduce heat to medium and leave to simmer - FOR SIX HOURS!!!

4. As the jus simmers, fat from the bones will rise to the surface. Skim the fat from the surface and discard. This is important - it will have an effect on the quality of your final product. Also be aware, depending on the type of beef bones you use, there may be a darker element to the surface scum - this is marrow from the centre of the bones. Don't sweat if you can't skim all the marrow off, but do try.

5. Allow the liquid in the pot to gradually reduce over the six hours, then remove the bones and reduce the jus further if desired. Do not be surprised if you only yield 1 litre of jus once the bones are removed.

6. Allow to cool completely, then carefully pour into ice cube trays and freeze (if you're not using immediately). Your jus will keep in the freezer for up to a month.

7. Re-preparing the jus is simple. Take one or two nobs of butter. Melt them in a frying pan over a high heat. Add four to six jus cubes (I estimate you need two per person you’re serving) and bring to a rolling simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon until combined. Add a little splash of extra red wine to finish, then spoon over your roast beef or pour around a bed of mashed potato and position your beef steak at an angle on top.

Note: Those who have cats or dogs may find the smell of the jus as it cooks drives their animals mad! Do not be surprised if you have to constantly shoo four footed friends from the kitchen! Extra meaty beef bones may yield morsels of meat – stave off crazed animals with these morsels!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Egg White Omelette

I remember clearly the very first time I ever cracked an egg. I was about eight years old and I was in my Nana’s kitchen in her big old house up in Taree. We were making the pastry for a mulberry pie – the mulberries having been freshly picked by my sister and I from the tree in the backyard that morning. Nana needed to add an egg to the short crust pastry and I asked could I crack it? I was astounded when she said yes.

She placed a bowl on the bench top and showed me how to crack the egg against the lip of the bowl. I took the egg in my tiny hand, raised it gingerly in the air and brought it down hard against the bowl, rupturing the perfect shell, creating a rift around its girth. I forced my fingers into the rift and pried the egg open. But the delicate contents inside did not flow into the bowl as anticipated – instead, to my horror, they slipped onto the floor and lay there staring back at me in defiance!

I expected Nana to go scone-hot on me! Instead she placed her hands on her sturdy hips, threw her head back in the air and let out a loud cackle of amusement. I had never seen her laugh so hard!

“Never mind!” she said, sprinkling the fallen angel with flour and wiping up the mess. She handed me another egg, encouraging me to try again. And this time my egg cracking efforts were a success!

Here is a recipe for egg white omelette – not nearly as sinful as Nana’s mulberry pie, but high in protein and low in fat for those who want to avoid emulating Nana’s sturdy hips.

1 whole egg
2 extra egg whites
10g fat reduced grated tasty cheese
Olive oil spray

1. Heat a Teflon coated fry pan on the stovetop. Lightly coat with olive oil spray.

2. Crack the whole egg into a bowl – glass will do! Add the extra egg whites, then beat with a balloon whisk until the eggs become fluffy and aerated.

3. Pour the eggs into the hot pan, then sprinkle with the grated cheese. Allow to cook until the top is almost completely set.

4. Take an egg lifter and gently run it around the edges of the omelette, separating them from the pan. Then slide the lifter under one side of the omelette and flip it over onto the other to form a half circle shape. Flip the whole thing over onto its other side, and cook until all visible running bits are set.

5. Serve on a warm plate. This is very important, as a cold plate will cause your omelette to flop and turn rubbery. Serve with grilled tomato and lightly pan fried mushrooms.

Monday, July 12, 2004

The Kitchen Alchemy Design Diva Posted by Hello

Welcome to Kitchen Alchemy!

Welcome to Kitchen Alchemy, the weblog that helps you work some magic in your home kitchen!

On this page you'll find lots of really easy recipes for any occasion - dinner parties, special events, birthdays, or just any time when you really want something delicious to eat!

I'll try to include photos (when I figure out how it's done). But in the mean time I'd certainly enjoy hearing how your experience of working with my recipes turns out. And if you have any questions about the instructions, please do not hesitate to drop me a line!

Happy cooking, and more importantly, happy eating!