Monday, 28 September 2020

Impromptu Spring Chicken, Tomato and Eggplant Traybake Surprise

 It was one of those rare days on the weekend when I hadn't planned what we were having for dinner. It was a beautiful Spring day, perfect for gardening, and that's what we did in the morning and the late afternoon until the sun was setting and it was Sundowner time. When I stepped into the kitchen, I knew I had 6 chicken thighs in the frig which needed cooking but beyond that I hadn't organised any specific ingredients to be on hand for cooking. Not like me at all. Does that sound familiar? I love a tasty traybake, and that is what I cooked in the end using ingredients on hand from the garden and the pantry and the frig.  So here it is my foodie friends, my impromptu Spring traybake and it was delicious. It's quite Mediterranean really. Zucchini could replace the eggplant, and capsicum could be added as well. It's a matter of what you have on hand.This photo wouldn't win any accolades on Instagram, but don't be fooled as this is one delicious meal. 

We have three cherry tomato bushes growing in our garden and the tomatoes are finally starting to ripen. I had optimistic visions of picking fully ripened whole trusses of this beautiful fruit but that hasn't happened. Instead we are picking individually ripened tomatoes, or half ripened ones which I am ripening on a sunny windowsill. I've tried putting a banana with them as well to hasten ripening but they seem to need to just take their own sweet time to ripen when they are ready. It's lovely to eat tomatoes which have ripened on the bush in preference to those that are artificially ripened, don't you think?

Talking of gardening, here a few photos of some Spring flowers in our cottage garden.

Our latest project of potting up some herbs and flowers, oregano and basil are in the outside pots.The pink flowering bush in the middle is supposed to be attracting the bees, only they don't know that.

Not a bee to be seen. This bush was full of bees at the plant nursery. Ours have had a better offer.

Tropical bougainvillea


Some potted Spring colour

Some of my flowering orchids below are putting on a show for Spring.











Let's cook:

This recipe serves 4 people with 8 chicken pieces. I was cooking this for the two of us, and I only had 6 chicken thighs and we had 2 meals from it. It is a very easy recipe to adjust the ingredients for.

Ingredients:

8 chicken thighs or legs, to line your baking tray

1 bunch of fresh basil, or you could use dried or even fresh oregano

2 handfuls of large ripe cherry tomatoes

1 cup of  black olives with stones removed

1 small loaf of sourdough rye bread, torn into pieces. I used some I had baked myself.

2 mild fresh chilli peppers

1 bulb of garlic

Olive oil

2 thickly sliced  Japanese eggplant, or any type of eggplant will do. Use more if you have it.

My Japanese eggplant look like these.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180 deg. C

Line a deep roasting tray with your chicken. Break the garlic into cloves with the skin still on.

Add the basil leaves, tomatoes, unpeeled garlic cloves, olives and eggplant to the chicken in the tray.

Add the torn up chunks of sourdough bread to the tray.

Drizzle some olive oil on the meat and traybake ingredients, and some salt and black pepper to season.

Toss the lot with your hands so that all of the ingredients are lightly coated with oil, and place the chicken pieces on top.

Bake for 30 minutes in a moderate oven and then turn the chicken over for another 30 minutes.

OPTION: At this stage you can other top the ingredients with slices of haloumi and cook until browned, or lay strips of streaky bacon over the top and cook for another 15 minutes. I didn't do either of these options but next time I will, when I am more organised.

Serve with a nice salad or a green vegetable such as broccolini.

Sunday was bread baking day, and this is my latest rye sourdough cob loaf. I'm experimenting with designs. This one looks a bit crazed but it was delicious.

Add caption

Happy cooking and I really hope you have an enjoyable week. I am feeling very thankful on a Monday. Thanks for dropping by,

Warmest wishes,

Pauline








Saturday, 19 September 2020

Tarte aux Fraises (Classic French Strawberry tart)


Spring is here, and the good news is that the strawberries are still sweet, unless you buy them from the supermarket. This traditional French dessert combines a buttery almond pastry crust, with juicy ripe strawberries and a parade of other seasonal fruits. Traditionally this tart is decorated just with strawberries, but with the bounty of other fresh fruits on hand at the moment, I decided to combine them with blueberries, mandarin segments, and kiwi fruit.

This is a no fuss tart that I have brushed with an apricot jam glaze on all of the fruits. Apricot jam is commonly used to glaze fruit tarts in France,  and this is what I used, as after baking my Apricot Almond Cake for Fathers' Day, I still have a lot of Apricot Jam left over. However other fruit based jams work just as well for glazing, such as peach jam, strawberry jam etc. I've also included a more traditional glaze recipe using potato flour and redcurrant jelly if you would like to try that. However they are not items that I keep on hand so I didn't try that glaze.

 I fondly remember when we were in France, every boulangerie (bakery) had display cabinets full of enticing and colourful fruit tarts. Well we can't travel there now unfortunately, but we can eat their famous tarts. Instead of using the traditional "creme patissiere" in my Tarte, I have used a French Chantilly style whipped cream, with swirls of homemade lemon curd laced through it. However the lemon curd is optional, and the tart will still taste great without it.  I think lemon curd could be the secret ingredient though. The beauty of this confection is that you can prepare it a couple of hours ahead of serving, it will stay in tact for a few hours in the refrigerator,  yes I tested this out, or wait to assemble it at the last moment. My friends I'd suggest the former as honestly who wants to be assembling a tart like this while your family or guests are waiting for dessert, not the French or moi that's for sure. 

This tart serves 10 generously so there can be plenty of leftovers if you are making this for fewer people. It tastes great the next day as well. It might look complicated to make this dessert, and to be honest I felt a bit challenged by it, but it turned out to be much simpler than I thought. At the back of my mind I was thinking of contingencies for a dessert replacement in case it didn't work out. Thankfully it came together beautifully so no contingency plan needed. 

Anyway let's cook.

Equipment:

Use a flat Willow pizza tray, 28 cm across for these ingredients. Or for a 23cm tray use 1/3 less ingredients. Line with Glad Bake. The only round pizza trays that I own now have holes in the base so I lined the tray first with alfoil and then covered the alfoil with baking parchment. It worked well. I then very carefully transferred the cooked and chilled pastry base to a serving plate for decorating.

Pastry Ingredients:

1 cup plain flour
120 g softened butter
2 tablespoons icing sugar
60 g slivered almonds

Method:

Mix butter and icing sugar together. Add the flour.

Mix into a paste.


Refrigerate the dough overnight. Allow the dough to soften the next day (you should be able to push your thumb through the mixture.) Or you could make the pastry and chill it for 30 minutes before using.

Press into the tray lined with Glad Bake, and flatten to the edges.
Press the slivered almonds into the surface of the dough,

Place into a medium oven, 180 deg. F for 10-15 minutes until cooked.

Allow to cool on the bench until ready to use or refrigerate for 1/2 hour.




Chantilly Cream Topping with Lemon Curd:

Mix together  3/4 cup whipped cream, including 2 tablespoon caster sugar or less, and a few drops of vanilla essence. Mix 3 tablespoons of homemade lemon curd through the whipped cream.

Spread onto tart base.


Decorate the cream with a combination or fresh seasonal fruits, such as Strawberries, mandarin,  blueberries, or kiwi fruit, or just strawberries.

Apricot Jam Glaze for fruits

2 tablespoons apricot jam

Method:

Warm up apricot jam in the microwave for 15 seconds and pass through a fine mesh strainer to discard any fruit chunks. 

Gently brush jam over the strawberries and other fruits.

Chill tart on your serving plate for up to 3 hours before serving.

Optional Fruit Glaze instead of Apricot Jam:

1 teaspoon potato flour,
3 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly

Method:

Bring to the boil until slightly thickened. Cool before spreading over the fruit

We are buying strawberries every weekend now from our local farmer's truck at Fresh As Sweet As, enjoying their juicy sweetness while we can. These strawberries actually taste like strawberries and now that they are getting smaller as the end of the season is imminent there are more to a punnet. They were a good size for this tart.

Thanks for dropping by and I hope your are finding time to relax this weekend.

Warm wishes

Pauline

























Sunday, 13 September 2020

Showcasing In My Kitchen, September 2020



Sunday morning foraging has become part of our routine whilst the local farms still have beautiful produce before the heat of Summer takes it's toll. Most Sunday mornings we visit the farm truck of a local Mackay farm called Sweet As Fresh As, and indeed it is just that. This is what I bought yesterday, golden sweet corn, heritage cherry tomatoes (not in the photo), zucchinis, and strawberries. The pineapple is from a local pineapple farm and I purchased it from the corner shop near us. Pineapples are in season here at the moment and are very sweet. The strawberries are sweet and delicious and the corn hardly needs any cooking at all. It's nice and so easy here to bring home some fresh produce from local suppliers. It lasts much longer than what I buy at the supermarket,which travels a long way to get here. Buying what is locally in season and cooking with that is what I try to do.



The previous weekend, I purchased these, and at a very reasonable price.


Our daughter arrived home as a big Father's Day surprise for Mr. HRK, which was on the 6th September here in Australia this year, although I knew she was driving down from Cairns. Mr. HRK didn't, so its been a lovely week with her home, and lots of home cooking and stories and laughter. It's so good when you can pull off a surprise isn't it? Delicious Spring Lamb is in the butcher shops  now at a very reasonable price, and when I baked a Leg of Lamb one night during the week flavoured with rosemary and garlic, I made this Cauliflower Cheese as one of the vegetable dishes to accompany the lamb. I always have lots of haloumi cheese in the refrigerator as Mr. HRK loves it and so I added haloumi slices around the circumference of the cauliflower cheese dish as I was a bit low on parmesan. It was really delicious, and the cheesier the better I reckon. By the way the cauliflower was also grown locally, and was so delicious I could also eat it raw.


A celebratory glass of champagne on Father's Day with our daughter was very nice. I made my
Tuna and Cannellini Bean Dip again as a snack to go with it and Shannon loved it. 


Of course there had to be a cake for Father's Day and Shannon's arrival. I've been wanting to make this one for ages, and my friends we just loved it. The flavour of apricot in cakes is one of my favourites, as we can very rarely buy nice apricots this far North. So here is Nigella Lawson's fragrant and delicious Apricot cake. If you can't quite come at using Rosewater in this, just leave it out.

Nigella's Apricot Almond Cake with Rosewater and Cardamon






Ingredients:


Serves 8-10

150 grams dried apricots
250 millilitres cold water
2 cardamon pods (cracked)
200 grams ground almonds
50 grams fine polenta (not instant)
1 teaspoon baking powder
150 grams caster sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon rosewater
nonstick spray or sunflower oil for greasing

For Decorating

2 teaspoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons very finely chopped pistachios

METHOD:

Grease and line a 1 x 20 cm/8-inch round spring form cake tin
  1. Put the dried apricots into a small saucepan, cover them with cold water and drop in the cracked cardamon pods, still containing the fragrant cardamon seeds. Bring to the boil, and keep it bubbling on the stove for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it as at the end of 10 minutes  the saucepan will be just about out of water but mustn't boil dry. The apricots will absorb more water as they cool. 
  2. Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the apricots to cool.
  3. Preheat your oven to 180 deg. C./160 deg. C. Fan, or Gas mark 4/350 deg. F.
  4. Remove 5 of the dried apricots and tear each in half, and set them aside on a plate for a while. Discard the cardamon husks, leaving the seeds in the pan.
  5. Pour and scrape out the sticky contents of the saucepan including the apricots into the bowl of a food processor. Add the ground almonds, polenta, baking powder, caster sugar and eggs, and give a good long blitz to combine.
  6. Open up the top of the food processor, scrape down the batter, and add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and the rosewater, and blitz again, then scrape into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface with a spatula. Arrange the apricot halves around the circumference of the tin.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes, however if the cake is browning  too early, cover it loosely with foil at the 30 minute mark. I didn't need to do this. When it's ready, the cake will be coming away from the edges of the tin, the top will feel firm, and a cake tester will come out with just one or two damp crumbs on it.
  8. Remove the cake to a wire rack. If you are using apricot jam to decorate and this gives a beautiful gloss and flavour to the cake, warm it up a little first to make it easier to spread. Stir a teaspoon of lemon juice into the jam and brush over the top of the cake. Then sprinkle with the pistachios and leave the cake to cool in its tin before releasing from the cake tin and removing to a serving plate.

With all of those very fresh zucchinis I bought, I just had to make Zucchini. Corn and Bacon Slice, a delicious family favourite. It was the week for our favourite foods.


Now I know I am cheating a little bit here, as this is supposed to be about My Kitchen, but I couldn't let the opportunity of my daughter visiting without us taking advantage of enjoying a High Tea  at the Fifth Floor Restaurant during the week. It is actually a hospitality training restaurant for Central Queensland University which merged with TAFE a few years ago and now teaches hospitality which was always the domain of TAFE. I used to work for CQU so I still keep my ear close to the ground about what happens there, and this High Tea was reasonably priced, delicious and located on the 5th floor of the inner city CQU building with nice surrounding views. The hospitality students waited on the tables and did a good job. They also cook and serve very nice lunches throughout the month.


The High Tea Menu. 


Spring is as much about gardening as cooking for us and we have been spending a lot of time gardening in the mornings. I collected a few bits and pieces form the garden to fill a vase to put on the bench in my kitchen, and the pretty pink leaves are from a Cordyline, which will strike shoots in a vase of water and can then easily be replanted. Cordylines bring very  nice colour to the tropical garden. We have a couple of garden projects going on at the moment, but I will write more about that later.


I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month. I'm a bit late with this, but it is still the 13th somewhere in the world:)  Or just head over to her blog and visit more kitchens.

Warm wishes everyone and have a lovely week wherever you are,

Pauline xx