Necks

Guest cook and blogger Mr P

I don’t often get to do much cooking these days and to try and find my knife skills again we decided to steal an idea from Masterchef. When we went to the local farmers market I had to pick an ingredient and use it to create dinner with whatever we had in the fridge or pantry. No more purpose bought ingredients and it was the last thing purchased. I don’t do the grocery shopping so I had absolutley no idea what was waiting for me at home to accompany my ingredient.

Lamb necks were $4.00 per kilo and came in approx 2 kilo portions. I turned the necks into chops and gathered some more ingredients from the pantry and fridge.

11am everything goes in the slow cooker

6 1/2 hours later dinner is served, but these leftovers never made it to the fridge

Served with some mashed potato this was a really winter meal that I only wished we could eat around a bonfire. Thank you to Beckas Kitchen for letting Mr P make a mess.

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Tart

Last night we had a small family gathering and that always means dessert.

I didn’t know what to make. Didn’t know what I felt like, so decided to try something different. As there had been a very recent birthday too, I wanted something that would cope with a couple of candles for the littlest munchkins to blow out.

And so I tried Donna Hay’s bitter chocolate and meringue tart.

It has a shortbread biscuit base, a rich dark chocolate centre and soft meringue on top. One of the easiest desserts I’ve ever made.

 

There’s one slice left. It shouted at me all night from the fridge. “EAT ME! You know you want to!”

But I resisted…..so now I have dessert for tonight too 😛

 

Market

Fridays and Saturdays are my food shopping days. Friday, I hit the fruit and veg farm, about a half hour drive from home and buy all our goodies from a wooden shed set up as a shop on a property. It’s great. It’s all fresh, all seasonal. I love that I can only get grapes there in summer, and get great cheap apples there through winter.

Friday’s shop wasn’t a huge one. I got potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli, apples, tomatoes and even a dozen eggs for a measly $20. From there, we hit the supermarket. Boring!

Saturday morning, we head off to the market. We usually go to Preston which is a massive food market (amongst other things). It’s well known in the northern suburbs. We have our favourite butcher, fishmonger and deli and always hit the same person for chicken too.

Yesterday was a little different.

We tried out a farmer’s market at Bundoora Park. We went with the plan that if we couldn’t find anything we were after, we’d head off to Preston. But the line of cars driving into the park left us feeling optimistic and we weren’t disappointed.

The stalls are set up in a square. In the middle of the square is the bacon and eggs stall, the aroma wafting out across the market. The stalls cover all varieties of food. Organic and grass fed beef and lamb. Free range chicken and pork. Fish and shellfish. Goat, pheasant, quail, duck and venison. Home grown fruit and vegetables. Deli meats. Fresh bread. Licorice and cakes. Herbs, both fresh and dried. Vegie and herb seedlings. Everything I wished for in a farmer’s market right at my fingertips.

So from this point forward, on the first Saturday of the month, you will find us at Bundoora Park’s Farmer’s Market 🙂

Stew

Here’s one for you to make yourself in your slow cooker! Tried this for the first time yesterday and the meat was just oh-so tender and I knew I had to share…

Beef Carbonnade

1.2kg chuck steak

3 onions, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 teaspoon soft brown sugar

357ml beer (bitter or stout)

2 bay leaves

4 thyme sprigs

2 tablespoons plain flour

1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Serves 4

Trim the beef of excess fat and cut into 4cm cubes. Put the beef, onion, garlic, brown sugar, beer, bay leaves, thyme and flour in the slow cooker and stir to combine. Season with some freshly ground black pepper. Cook on high for 4 hours, or until the beef is cooked through.

Season to taste with extra salt and pepper if desired and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve with green beans or zucchini.

YUM! We had ours with a bit of rice (to soak up that sauce) and some broccoli marinated with chilli and butter.

Going to be a favourite here, that’s for sure!

Bolognese

The staple meal in our household.

I could eat it every night.

And yet, it’s never quite the same. A tweak here, a splash of something there. Makes it different every time. Tonight I went to spell the word for the heading and learned that the spelling is even different. I always thought that it was spelled “Bolognaise” but have learned that the French spell it that way; the Italian way is “Bolognese”. Interesting huh! Not really, so I’ll move on to the dish!

I made my spaghetti earlier today, using just flour and water and rolling it through the machine. I was pleased to find I could do it myself, thinking it may have been a two person job. I rolled it out on to a floured tray and put it in the freezer.

When I cook something without a recipe, I find it difficult to tell someone else my measurements, if they ask for my recipe. I just watch what the food is doing, see how it’s coming together. This is how my sauce is made. I can tell you my ingredients, I just can’t tell you the exact measurements of things. So when I’m asked for a recipe, unless I’ve used one for the dish I’ve made, it’s very much guesswork and personal taste.

My sauce is easy. Brown a brown onion and a clove of garlic, both diced up. Throw in the beef mince and brown it. A splash of red wine. Finely grated carrots, zucchini and chopped tomatoes. If tomatoes aren’t great fresh, then I use tinned tomatoes. Some beef stock goes in and I bring it all to the boil. Put in some tomato paste. If it needs to be thickened up, I add some cornflour. The final touch is some tarragon leaves, some basil and some flat-leaf parsley.

Some nights, I leave out the zucchini and carrot. Throw in some red capsicum, chilli, black or kalamata olives and mushrooms. Other nights I leave out the mince and use sausage instead. I cook my sauce with the attitude of  “anything goes” and we are yet to have a bad one.

So by the time the spaghetti is cooked, we’re desperate to put the delicious smelling sauce on top and into our bellies. Yum.

Minestrone

Last week I went into my old job and worked for a few days, so last Saturday, I got prepared and cooked a few feasts for the week. A stew was prepared for the slow cooker, lasagne was baked and frozen (with the best sauce I’ve made to date!) and bread was baked. There was plenty of leftovers too, except for a major brain snap on the night we had the stew…..we forgot to put the leftovers back in the fridge and found them too late the next morning. Doh!

With the slow cooker out, I made minestrone. We love it out of the slow cooker and it makes you feel great, all those tender vegies swimming in a tomato soup base. The smell drove us bananas! Threw in some macaroni, some fresh herbs and got out the freshly baked olive bread and all was ready. Yum. I’m not a big fan of soup, but there are a few that I adore. This is one of them.

 

 

 

 

Carbonara

Yesterday we replaced our long broken pasta machine, brought it home and gave it a whirl. We decided to try making fettuccine with wholemeal flour, instead of the traditional plain, curious to see what the flavour would be like, with the added extra of it being a little more on the healthy side.

I’d never used our old machine, so sat witness to Mr P (and the munchkin!) making the dough and rolling it out to the right size to feed through the machine. As Mr P rolled, munchkin picked up the little bits of flour and added them to the rolled out dough, with big grins all round!

Once the dough was right, we fed it through the machine and made our pasta. Rolled it out onto trays, added a little more flour and then into the freezer until dinner time.

My carbonara sauce is really simple. Three eggs. 300ml cream. Some parmesan cheese. Whisk it all together. Cook up some bacon, cut into strips and once it’s cooled, add it into the egg mixture. Sometimes I add some parsley too.

Once the sauce was ready, we got the pasta out of the freezer and threw it into a pot of boiling water that had a pinch of salt and about a teaspoon of olive oil. We used a fork to separate all the strands. Fresh pasta doesn’t take long to cook, so you need to watch it. Once cooked, drain it and then put it back into the pot. Pour in the sauce and over very low heat, warm it through. This is really quick – the eggs will scramble otherwise.

And then, tada! Serve it up.

 

And our verdict on the wholemeal flour? We needed to make the pasta thinner and then it would have been perfetto!