eat

The cheek of it all! – Morrocan style beef cheeks

The saying goes ask and you shall receive. My sister in law asked for beef cheeks and she received them – slow cooked with Moroccan style spices until fork tender and served with a side of roast cauliflower and chickpea salad. Clearly she knew who to ask! B;D

Braised meats are a delicious and simple way to create family favourite meals. Whilst they require time to cook, they are not in fact time consuming to prepare. After sealing the meat and creating the liquid for the beef to cook in, beef cheeks are a great meal that can be left to cook whilst you go about your day.

I have cooked beef cheeks a variety of ways over the years they have come back into vogue – from a carmelised sticky deliciousness as a result of being braised in stout beer to a lighter red wine braise to my version with the Moroccan style spices.

Beef cheeks become a beautiful braised meal when left to stew in their own juices – jokes aside, they do really benefit from a long slow cook as the muscle itself is quite tight and when braised whole keep their shape quite well for presentation. You can also use the cooked cheeks for a ravioli or cannelloni filling – just fork shred the tender meat, mix through some leftover braising liquid to moisten and stuff your cannelloni shells or fold into your silky pasta dough. Easy and delicious. If you’re not up to filling your pasta, just fork shred the beef, add some liquid as before and toss through some pappadelle pasta for a lovely ragu style sauce. Topped with some shaved pecorino (a hard goat’s cheese similar in style to Parmesan) it’s definitely a winner for entertaining guests or just enjoying at home.

The accompanying salad was inspired by some very delicious cauliflower combinations I have discovered in cafe’s and health food shops recently. I must admit cauliflower was a vegetable I studiously avoided for much of my adult life. As a child I absolutely hated it. No matter if mum tried to dress it up with creamy sauce and golden melted cheese – underneath was still the dreaded cauliflower florets. What I realised was I really don’t like boiled cauliflower unless it is then pureed into a soup. I tried cauliflower as an adult again in said salads and found myself really enjoying it. It was because the cauliflower was only lightly cooked and still had some crunch. Then I discovered roast cauliflower. Now we were talking. I didn’t assume this could be done – roast a vegetable that is usally steamed or boiled?! But you can and let me assure you, it is delicious.

You can coat the florets with some olive oil and salt and pepper to ensure a nice even golden colour and if you like a bit of spice, add some chilli powder to the salt blend before sprinkling on. The cauliflower takes about 30 mins at 170 degrees to cook to a tender but still firm texture. I popped some baby tomatoes I had rolling around the fridge in and a salad was born.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match salad ingredients to suit your tastebuds either. I added chickpeas, spinach, coriander and flaked almonds to the mix. The dressing? A lovely avocado dressing I found in the local fruit shop – something a bit different to the usual but you could easily whisk up some orange juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil and seasoning for this combo.The dressing just caught my eye so I decided to go with it!

Feel free to experiment and let me know how you you went with your own recipe variations and happy cooking!

 

 

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When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie!

Dean Martin, I am sorry for using your song as a blog title. Well, not really to be honest because I tragically love that song to death and can often be heard singing it at home. To myself. Shamelessly.

But really, who doesn’t love pizza? When friends are coming over it can be easy to become frantic and wonder what to cook that is easy and sociable at the same time. My solution? Home made pizza. With the abundance of decent pizza bases make your own at home can be a fun experience as you create a topping bar and each guest makes their own pizza ensuring they are happy with the topping and there is a sense of fun to the experience instead of just dialing a number and waiting for a delivery of usually sub average take away pizza.

The great thing about pizza is that the toppings are limited to what you have on hand or really enjoy. Of course, nothing beats tradition such as pepperoni, four cheeses, prosciutto and rocket or margarita but when you are cooking at home I will look the other way when you break the rules, don’t worry.! 😉  I like to keep it simple with my toppings with prosciutto, rocket and Parmesan being my simple go to. My partner is a fan of the everything possible school of pizza toppings but again, this is where compromise is a beautiful thing in that we both get to have pizza our way by making our own.

Home made pizza bases are very simple to make. You can even freeze the excess dough before proving it  to have a quick mid week meal without fuss. Just roll the dough into individual sized balls, wrap well in cling film and freeze for about a fortnight or so before use.

So crack out the mixing bowl and roll up your sleeves to knead as you create you own pizza bases and have a great night in!

Home made pizza base

Ingredients

600g  of flour

1 teasp salt

1 sachet of dried yeast

1 teasp caster sugar

60ml olive oil

375ml lukewarm water

Method

1. Combine salt and flour in mixing bowl

2. Empty yeast sachet into warm water with sugar and mix. Allow to sit for about 5 mins or until mix is foamy and yeast is activated

3. Add olive oil to yeast mix and create well in middle of flour

4. Pour in liquid mix and using a knife cut the flour into the mix until well combined

5. Place rough dough onto floured bench and knead for about ten minutes until the dough is smooth and firm. Alternatively if you have a mixer with a dough hook, place inside and knead on low speed for ten minutes

6. Remove from bowl and place in large clean bowl with oiled sides. Place in warm area and cover with cling film

7. Allow to rise and prove for about 30min – 1 hour until doubled in size

8. Knock back and knead again, separate mix into appropriate size to cover your tray. Usually about 100g of mix will cover a 20cm round tray thinly which is how I like my bases

9. Top with your favourite ingredients and bake at about 180-200 degrees for 10-15 minutes until the base is golden

10. Cut up and enjoy!

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In a pickle!

Two of my favourite vegetables to buy and forget about are fennel and radishes. I see them in bunches at markets and cant but grab them for a mid week salad. Except I forget about them or couldn’t be bothered slicing them up so they inevitably wilt and become sad specimens in my crisper. So my solution? Pickle them! I adore pickled vegetables and when done at home they can be a great addition to a quick salad and can be complimented easily with many other ingredients.

So how do you pickle at home? It’s as simple as creating a pickle brine, bringing it to the boil and immersing the cut vegetables into it, placing them in a jar and a day or two later you are good to go! When it is this easy it is definitely a great solution to throwing out your produce. Of course, fresh produce is always lovely but a bit of a pickle never hurt now and again!

Another great pickled veg mix is the Italian Giardiniera mix. Carrots, capsicum, cauliflower and zucchini are all floreted and sliced to create a colourful combination great as an anti-pasto compliment or just on the table before a meal. Buono!  The old school mix sometimes slices the carrots with a serrated slicer or includes beans but I like to julienne them on a mandolin just for presentation on the other side of the jar. But do what takes your fancy and enjoy!

What do you eat your pickled vegetables with?

Pickled fennel loves: orange segments, fresh grated beetroot and apple, green beans and prosciutto

Pickled radish loves: lettuce and tomato in a salad, a peppery touch to salad sandwhiches or with ham

Giardiniera mix loves: salamis and prosciutto, grilled vegetables or just tossed through a lettuce salad

These are just my favourites, by all means experiment and enjoy! Just try and make them last once they are in the fridge. I can often be found with a fork in hand eating them from the jar standing in front of the open fridge door. But shhh….don’t tell anyone!

Basic Pickle Mix (makes approx 2 litres, enough to pickle all the vegetable mixes)

1l white wine

1l white vinegar (you can use apple cider or brown malt vinegar if it takes your taste buds fancy)

1 cup of white sugar

1 tbsp salt

1-2 bay leaves

2-3 dried chillis (optional if you like a little spice – I didn’t have them in the mixes below)

Method

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves

Remove from heat and pour over vegetables

Allow the vegetables to steep and add to jars, these will keep in fridge for about 2 weeks if you use utensils to remove from jars, avoid the temptation of wandering fingers!

NB: Sterilise jars in boiling water to ensure freshness and to keep the pickles for longer

Pickled Fennel

1-2 Large fennel bulbs sliced finely on a mandolin and steeped in mix above

Giardiniera Mix

3 Carrots

1 capsicum

3 small zucchini

½ cauliflower

Julienne all vegetables, keeping zucchini to the side, cut cauliflower into small florets

Steep in hot liquid, add the zucchini when cooled to keep the green colour

Pickled Radish

Remove green from whole radishes, cut in half for small and quarters for large, steep in mix above

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