Month: May 2014

Chicken stock to beat the winter blues

You can certainly feel the chill coming into the air here in Brisbane. With the chill has come the winter cold into our household. With two residents coughing, sniffling and generally feeling sorry for ourselves it was time to bring out the old cure all, chicken soup. One of the hardest working kitchen staples would have to be stock.

Chicken, vegetable, beef or fish, these are the staples of many sauces, soups and dishes of any chef’s repertoire. So why make one from scratch in your own home? A home made stock can yield much more than a flavourful broth. When I make my chicken stock I use either a whole chicken or chicken legs. Why? I hear you ask. To have the delicious yield of the meat and to further flavour the stock. By making your stock at home you can also add more vegetable and serve them with the meat and you know exactly what’s in the stock.

There are a few guidelines though that will help create a successful stock each time:

– Cleaver the whole chicken or legs through the meat just to the bone to allow the lovely bone marrow to release and flavour the stock. If just using chicken frames gently whack the frames with the back of a knife to achieve the same effect

-Cut your vegetables to serving size so you can spoon these out with the broth and flesh at the end    –

-Use a pressure cooker if you can – the quick cooking method keeps the flavour in and reduces stove time

– Add garlic for cold busting properties

– Parsley is added to stocks for a burst of flavour, if you are cooking a stock for two to three hours add the parsley towards the end to keep the freshness in

– Don’t boil your stock just simmer it – boiling clouds the stocks ad produces a scum which can be skimmed off but a gentle simmer allows the flavours to develop

– With a pressure cooker the stock will only take about half an hour, without one gently simmer your stock for about three to four hours

– The stripped chicken meat can be used in the stock, tossed into a salad or in a roll. It is cooked ready to go so enjoy!

Chicken stock and soup is just the basic starting point for meals. You can use it to create pureed soups such as pumpkin or corn or as a base for casseroles instead of water. In my next blog I will show you how to make no fuss pumpkin soup from left over roast pumpkins. Yum!

For a bit of a spicy kick you can also turn your stock into a Chinese master stock. Sounds impressive but it really is quite simple. The use of fragrant spices turns a simple stock into a complex broth just begging for silky noodles and shredded chicken. The best part of master stock is it can be kept for months in the fridge with a quick boil each week to ensure it doesn’t go off. I use my master stock as a quick meal as well by throwing a few dumplings in and slurping it down. Delicious!

So what’s the recipe? This one uses chicken drumsticks as a) they were on sale and b) if you’re not after a big yield of simmered chicken this is just right. The master stock follows below

 Simple Chicken Stock

Ingredients

6 chicken legs cleavered into bone

3 carrots peeled and cut into 3 cm circles 3 sticks of celery cut into small sections

4 garlic cloves

1 cup parsley stalks and leaves 1

onion cut into quarters  

Method

Place all the ingredients except the parsely into a stock pot

Top with water until covered with about 10cm of water

Bring to a simmer and leave for about an hour before adding parsely

Keep simmering for another two hours Remove chicken from pot, strip from bone

Keep vegetables (celery and carrot) and cut smaller if you like or keep chunky and rustic

Strain stock and cool in fridge if not eating straight away

If using for chicken soup, bring to simmer, add chicken meat and vegetables

Remove from heat, ladle into bowls and enjoy with generous chunks of fresh bread. Winter cold be gone!  

My version of Chinese master stock

NB  I use chicken as the base for this as I eat it with the broth and it gives it some depth. The addition of onion and carrot is also my variation as I like to eat the carrot as well and I feel onion is just delicious in any broth too. Not traditional ingredients but then it’s my version of the recipe so enjoy!

Ingredients

3 litres water

1 Whole chicken or 6 chicken drumsticks

1 brown onion

2 carrots cut into small pieces

½ cup light soy sauce

½ cup chinese cooking wine

¼ cup brown sugar or chinese rock sugar

50g fresh ginger (I sometimes put mine under the oven grill to bring out the flavour)  

Spice Bag – These spices are used to flavour the broth – for easy removal place in a muslin square and secure with string before adding to stock. If I am grilling my onion and ginger first I add the spices for a minute to bring out their flavour

5 garlic cloves

3 cardamom pods

2 cinnamon sticks

10 g (2 tsp) dried mandarin peel (available at most Asian grocers)

4 whole cloves

4 star anise

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 large red chilli  

Method

Place all ingredients into a large pot and cover with water If using pressure cooker, allow to come to steam and drop to simmer for about half an hour

If using stock pot, bring to gentle simmer and allow to cook for 2-3 hours

Remove from stove, discard spice bag, keep chicken meat and carrots, discard remaining ingredient and strain stock

If using as a base for marinades etc, bring to boil before storing in fridge in sealed container

Will keep for a long time (months) if boiled weekly If using as soup, bring to simmer with shredded chicken, carrots, cooked rice noodles and broccoli.Serve with a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of fish stock to taste.

 

Seasonal Fruit – Apple Recipes

Autumns and winter aren’t exactly synonymous with luscious fruits. The cool temperatures aren’t the best of friends with warmth dependent fruits such as peaches, mangoes and berries. Their delicate skins can’t withstand chilly frost. Apples, pears and citrus though are winter’s best friend. Their tougher skins don’t mind a little chill so they happily ripen on the trees without the need for a scarf or beanie unlike their human counterparts! This brings us to the second installment of market fresh, seasonal eating how to.

Nothing is more delightful (to me anyway!) than the crisp crunch of an apple. Luckily in my local market I am able to buy waxed fruits which are another delight unto themselves. The surprisingly rough skin allows for an even more earthy delight when biting in. So what to do with surplus apples in the cooler months?

The obvious choices are apple pies or crumbles. But what if you’re after something different? This week I tried my hand at some baking. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy baking but my oven is a bit temperamental. But this week I had access to a far superior oven at Wandering Cooks so I gave some cupcakes and cookies a whirl.

The cupcakes featured apples peeled and diced small whilst the cookies I adapted myself to include an apple puree in place of some of the sugar. The result? Delightful sweet treats which are a little different to the usual offering.

Another idea is to preserve your apples. How? Either through slicing finely and drying in a food drier (mine is a hand me down from Mum but sunbeam has one on the market), or making your own apple puree and bottling it. Apple puree can be used to replace eggs or sugar in some recipes, as a sauce with pork or stirred through porridge. As you can see, apples are very hard workers in the kitchen!

Speaking of porridge, the cookies feature quick oats, another easy kitchen staple. Have your apples and oats as porridge in the morning or as cookies for afternoon tea. Mix the puree through with some larger cooked diced apples, spoon into a dish and make some crumble from the oats and there is your simple dessert. Using your pantry is easy when you have some ideas up your sleeve.

Moral of the story? Sweet or savoury eating in the seasons doesn’t need to be a chore when you can plan ahead or store your recipes according to ingredient. Please feel free to print these recipes and file them so when you have a market trip you know exactly what to do when you get home. Happy shopping!

Recipe One – Apple cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

The apple cupcakes are from food.com. As I followed the recipe verbatim (always a good idea with pastry in my opinion) I’ll just paste the recipe below but the original link is here: http://www.food.com/recipe/apple-cupcakes-41260

The frosting and garnish is mine though 🙂

Ingredients

2 cups apples, skin on, grated

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

1 cup butter

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

3 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line muffin tins with cupcake papers.

Put the grated apples, sugar, water, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves into a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

Cool; add flour and soda.

Fill paper lined cupcake tins 2/3 full.

Bake until cupcakes spring back when touched in the center.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Ingredients:

250g cream cheese

2 tbsp apple puree

¼ cup icing sugar

Pinch of cinnamon

Splash of vanilla essence

Method:

1/ Whip cream cheese and icing sugar together until softened and combined

2/ Add cinnamon and vanilla and mix well

3/ Swirl through apple sauce for streaky effect

4/ Spoon generously over cupcakes and top with dried apple

5/ Dig in

Recipe Two – Apple and oat cookies

Ingredients 

250g butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup apple puree

2 eggs (large)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½  cups plain flour

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

Pinch of salt

3 cups quick oats

Method:

  1. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in eggs and vanilla.
  2. In a bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt; gradually add flour mix to creamed mixture and combine well.
  3. Stir in the oats and apple puree
  4. Form into small balls about 1 tbsp in size. Place on baking tray lined with baking paper about 3 cm apart.
  5. Bake at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes until golden. Cool on wire rack and serve for afternoon tea. Or just eat off the tray. That’s what I did 😉

Recipe Three – Preserved apple puree

Ingredients

2 kg apples peeled, cored and diced small

500ml apple juice (preference is to juice your own but otherwise try and source fresh apple juice from the cold section as these shouldn’t have as many preservatives and sugar. Check the different brand for exact quantities)

Method

1/ Bring the apple juice to a simmer, add the apples and reduce heat

2/ Allow to cook over low heat until softened and remove from heat

3/ Allow to cool for ten minutes to blend safely in food processor or with stick blender

4/ Sterilise jars by covering with boiling water for at least ten minutes in a large pot. Remove from pot carefully with tongs and set onto surface to pour apples into.

5/ Return the apple puree to heat and bring to boil, pour carefully into hot jars and seal lids. Place in pot with tea towel on bottom, cover with boiling water and simmer for half an hour. Allow to cool in water. Test seal has vacuumed down. Store in cool dry area for about 2 months.

Buying a large vegetable – how to make the most of a whole cabbage

Admit it. We have all done it. Impulsed shopped when we are hungry, rushed or just out of ideas. A mad scramble in the vegetable section and you have done your shopping only to come home, unpack the grocery bags and think, now what do I do with all this food?

Routine, stress and busy day can dampen our desire to try something new and think outside outside the square to create dinner. It doesn’t need to be that stressful though. After many years cooking at home and professionally I do have quire  repertoire of recipes and ideas of what to do with certain ingredients. But I am always open to discovering new flavours, new techniques and ideas about creating with food.

One of the most creative aspects of my professional chef years has been any aspect of menu planning. Creating dishes from ingredients that are seasonal, affordable and appeal to the general public can be quite a challenge. It is easy to create a fanciful menu when you don’t need to consider the time it will take to make the recipe, how quickly it can be made on a busy night and how long it will last. There is no point creating a dish that takes two days to prepare, an hour to make it to the plate and only yields a few serves if you a small suburban restaurant as opposed to a fine dining city one.

The same applies to choosing and making recipes at home. Unless you are in the mood for a whole day of cooking or are able to buy daily serves of fruit and vegetables a little bit of meal planning or at least a few ideas of what to do with certain ingredients can go a long way to ensuring you don’t through out half of your produce at the end of the week.

When I shop I usually have ideas in mind of what I will do with the produce I buy. Tomatoes are almost always destined for salad or sliced on a cruskit as a quick snack. most fruits I eat as is and vegetables will be either roasted, steamed or chopped for salad. But what if you’re sick of the same old preparation? Over the next few weeks I am going to endeavor to bring to you a couple of different quick and easy ways to enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables. Winter is coming (that’s a very Game of Thrones reference I know, apologies!) and with it a smaller selection of seasonal fruits and a change in the variety of vegetables. Fear not though, with a little tweak your grocery list can reflect a combination of staples and surprises to keep dinner time fun and enjoyable. Who wants to eat boring? Certainly not me!

Last weekend I took a trip to the farmers markets to restock our fridge after a few weeks away. As I mentioned the seasonal vegetables for Autumn and Winter are very different to Summer and Spring. The cooler weather heralds the arrival of Broccoli, Cauliflower, Dark leafy greens and Root vegetables. Melons, citrus, apples and pears bring the fruit to the table. In Australia we do have some fruits and vegetables available year round but if you ever wonder why some months the same produce is considerably cheaper than others it is because when they are in season there will be a large availability of them thus the cheaper price. Makes sense doesn’t it?

So what to cook when the weather outside turns cold?

This week it’s all about the humble cabbage. I don’t know about you but my earliest memories of cabbage is the smell of my grandparents house as we came over for Sunday lunch and they were cooking Golabki, a Polish stuffed cabbage dish. They certainly tasted better than they smelt but for a long time I just assumed that was how cabbage was prepared. Either that or shredded and coated in mayonnaise for coleslaw.

So what to do if you’re not a fan of either? Don’t despair and don’t pass over out little cabbage friend. Coleslaw doesn’t need to be synonymous with the sickly sweet mayonnaise laden version you get from the supermarket deli. Nor is that the only way to use a cabbage. Below are three easy recipes with cabbage all set to reintroduce you to this hearty friend and warm your winter bellies. Feel free to adjust as you like with herbs, spices or seasoning as you desire. These are just some simple suggestions so the next time you find a cabbage rolling around your fridge you have some idea of what to do with it. Bon Appetit!

Recipe One: Asian Style Coleslaw

Ingredients (for two)

1/2 sugarloaf cabbage

1/2 cup of picked coriander leaves torn up

1/2 cucumber grated

1/2 carrot grated

1/2 cup mayonaise

2-3 tbsp of thai seasoning mix (Gourmet garden brand)

2-3 tbsp chilli sauce

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Sprinkle of fried shallots (available in Asian food aisle of most supermarkets)

Method

1/ Grate carrot and cucumber on large side

2/ Finely slice cabbage either by hand or on a mandolin

3/ Combine mayonnaise, seasoning and chilli in a bowl. Mix well and adjust seasoning to taste. Add lemon juice and stir

4/ Combine all ingredients in a bowl, coat with dressing and serve as an accompaniment to grilled prawns or chicken as desired. For extra crunch sprinkle with fried shallots or crunchy noodles

Recipe Two: Colcannon (Serves Two)

This Irish potato based dish is delicious with stews or casseroles or with a hearty grilled steak and gravy. Whichever way you like it, it’s sure to warm your belly on a cold night.

Ingredients 
3 potatoes  suitable for mash (desiree potatoes are a good all rounder) peeled and cut into large chunks
1/4 finely sliced sugar loaf cabbage or curly kale as desired
1/4 cup of finely sliced chives or shallot onions (use the green of the shallots as well)
1 cup milk or cream
2 Tbsp butter

Method

1. Put the potatoes into a pot, cover with water and season the water with salt. Place on stove and bring to a steady simmer and allow to cook until fork tender. Usually 15 minutes

2. Drain the potatoes and reuse the pot and return to the stove. Add the butter to the pot and saute the cabbage until softened, season with salt and pepper. Add the shallots or chives, stir through. Fork crush the potatoes in a bowl for a more rustic texture or crush with a masher until at desired consistency.

3. Add the milk or cream, mix well, and add the potatoes. Mix well and add more butter if desired. Check seasoning and adjust if desired. Serve and enjoy

Recipe Three: Braised Red Cabbage 

Braised red cabbage can take on a sweet flavour with the addition of red wine and little brown sugar. It’s a lovely accompaniment to gamey red meat such as duck or kangaroo.

Ingredients: (serves about 4) 

1 medium brown onion, thinly sliced
1 Small head of red cabbage finely sliced
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup red wine
1 cup water
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 Granny smith apple grated on large side

Method

1. Heat a medium saucepan, add oil and stir in onion. Sweat the onion until translucent. Add the cabbage  and wet ingredients to the pan and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium-high, cover, and cook  for 5 minutes.

2. Reduce the heat continue to cook the cabbage covered, stirring occasionally. Leave to simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir the apple into cabbage and cook, covered, until cabbage and apples are tender, approximately another 25 to 35 minutes. When the cabbage and apple are tender, remove from heat and allow to sit for about five minutes before serving. 

When life gives you lemons you can make more than lemonade!!

According to the old saying, lemonade is the prominent use of lemons when youre handed a glut of them. I personally dont mind freshly squeezed lemon juice but there are many and varied ways to utilise seasonal fruits and vegetables.

I recently held a class showing attendees how to make their own tomato passata. Simple enough for sure, but being able to create your own base for dishes and knowing what to do with fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables can become the skill set your kitchen has been missing.

Why preserve food items I hear you ask? Can’t you just buy products off the shelf already done? Well yes, of course. I tackled this question in my class as I showed my students the different between store bought pasta and home made passata cooked up with onions and garlic. It does not compare. The depth of flavour and the freshness you can taste from your own bottled items doesn’t compared to the chemical and preservative laden varieties found in a supermarket.

This coming class is all about preserving your own lemons. Why bother? I hear you ask. Preserved lemons in salt can add a delicious and surprising texture to simple sauces, dressings and dishes without fuss. It’s addition to Moroccan style dishes is prevalent and for good reason. It tastes delicious. As for the sweet tooth’s amongst us, who doesn’t enjoy a lemon meringue pie? Getting that buttery tart centre right is simpler than you think. Don’t believe me? Book a ticket to the class and you will never wish to crack open a supermarket jar again. Unless you’re desperate. Which you would have to be. Because my lemon curd recipe is amazing 😉

Preserving food in the height of it’s seasonality makes sense. It’s cheaper, riper, tastier and available. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t each peaches. Not fresh ones, I understand but bottling your own means you can crack open a jar and slice up delicious peaches and serve with ice-cream. Friends coming around and you need a dessert? Bake some sweet pastry in a tart shell, crack open you jar of lemon curd and serve with whipped cream and entertaining has never been so easy.

Cooking classes with me are created to be fun and informative. This in not high school home economics. You will not be quizzed to see if you are paying attention, you won’t have to answer questions and most importantly you are invited to taste everything as I cook it. This is your class. Does you body love to cook but your brain keeps over thinking it all? Book your ticket today and the only decision you will have to make next is what to cook from what you learnt!

Come join me as I teach you how to preserve the seasons and it may just change the way you cook in your kitchen. At the very least you will sample some tasty recipes!

The nitty gritty:

Price: $60pp

Where: Wandering Cooks, 1 Fish Lane, South Brisbane

When: Wednesday 21st May 2014, 6.30-8pm

How to book?: Click here: events and follow the paypal prompts or email [email protected] to reserve your spot and pay via direct deposit or on the door