Ah, the humble lamington; stale sponge soaked in chocolate sauce then coated in coconut. Made by CWAs and Scouts for fundraisers across Australia and loved by all. This iconic treat is always served in this house on Australia Day. Since we’re a week out it’s time to make the sponge 😉
One of my favourite things to do with tomatoes that are a bit overripe is to turn them into a roasted tomato sauce. It’s the original tray bake as far as I’m concerned. You simply throw some tomatos, onion, garlic and red capiscum on a baking tray and whack it in the oven. The roasting caramelized all the natural sugars and you end up with a smoky sweet sauce.
This roasted tomato sauce is incredibly versatile. Use it in any recipe that calls for some passata. It also makes a great base for tortilla soup, just add equal parts of homemade chicken stock and garnish with strips of fried tortillas.
Better yet, it freezes really well, so make up batches when tomatoes are at their best. Enjoy my friends.
There are so many wonderful foods that both Stuart and I fell in love with while traveling through Greece. The simple joy of an approaching meal time and pulling into the next village’s taverna. Typically there was no menu, and if there was it would have all been Greek to us anyway. So the proprietor would march us into the kitchen and show us what was cooking in the pots. The smells were intoxicating, promising that whatever it was it would be amazing.
A dish we discovered on the island of Santorini was a simple hummus-like dip made not from chickpeas but dried yellow peas. Every evening the restaurants served up bowls of favas with crusty bread while you waited for your main dish. I became so addicted to favas that I would be waiting at 5 pm at the local restaurant to get a serve with some crusty bread. I would be there so early that the favas were still warm from cooking and I would scurry back to our patio with our sunset sustenance.
There’s a bit of a game going around and I wanted to play. OK, I was bored in the lead up to Christmas as I finished all my prep work for the upcoming holidays on Friday, go ahead hate me. Typical of Sydney weather it was going to be stinking hot on the 24th with a cool change making the temperature on the 25th more suitable for a roast dinner and warm desserts. So there I was trying to avoid the heat, reading through blogs about 2017 Recipe Redux Challenges.
It was really very simple. Pull out a cookbook, find a recipe on pages relating to 2017; such as 20, 17, 201, 217 etc., modernize the recipe, or in my case make it Migraine-friendly. Ooo, what fun I thought. I pulled out one of my “Ladies Groups” cookbooks. You know the ones that are just chock full of recipes contributed by the woman’s group of some organization. The thing with these books is that they are a bit of trash and treasure. Sometimes you hit the jackpot with Auntie Bess’s Banana Bread, but mostly the recipes are questionable.
The traditional food for me at Christmas is prawns. For Stuart it’s ham and I’ve written about finding a nitrate-free ham previously here. It’s a good Christmas story if you are looking for a light read. But back to me and my need for prawns on the table at Christmas.
Growing up we had steamed prawns on Christmas Eve. Small batches were lovingly steamed over beer with healthy lashings of Old Bay Seasoning. They were served up hot with traditional cocktail sauce for dipping. Luckily when I moved to Australia I discovered that prawns are a Christmas tradition here as well. Australians consume a massive 45,000 tonnes of prawns over the festive season.
The hunter gatherer in me prefers to dine on lots of little dishes. I find this method of cooking especially suited to the holidays since you can cook as much of any dish that you need. It’s great for when people just pop in for a visit only, you are enjoying their company so much that they stay for a meal too – a quick throw together because of all the other holiday activities.
One of my go to dishes are lamb cutlets. Racks of lamb ribs are individually cut and the bones Frenched for easy handling as finger food. This most tender and flavoursome meat is the most expensive cut, making it a special treat. Like a really special treat, especially if there are kids around who don’t appreciate how expensive they are, but do appreciate the taste. I used to sacrifice my portion to the youngest at the Christmas Tree Trimming Tapas. It’s nice now that everyone is big enough to share the dish evenly across all the guests. Keep on reading!
I learned to make meatballs from my Nonna. Her spaghetti and meatballs was my go to birthday dinner. It still is.
These are not my Nonna’s meatballs. My Nonna use to start making the meatballs after lunch. They would cook in a pot on the stove needing to be delicately stirred every 20 minutes or so, so that the sauce wouldn’t catch and burn. It required a lot of adult attention because little helpers ended up breaking the meatballs up into small bits. Mine get baked in the oven at a low temperature requiring no care once they go in the oven.
My Nonna’s meatballs also had a lot of ingredients. It took at least an hour to get the mince ready so you could brown the meatballs. Further, a lot of the ingredients are known migraine triggers. Mine has seven ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen right now and comes together in ten minutes. Keep on reading!
I fell in love with hot drinks as a child. Their warm sweetness welcomed me after an afternoon of playing in the snow. A fixture in our house on the weekends was the old Betty Crocker Crock Pot filled with apple cider (nonalcoholic) and left to stew with spices and lemons. The smell wafted through the house. So deep is this memory the smell of apples and spice warms me from the inside.
One December I found myself in Sweden where friends convinced me to try the traditional glögg, a warm spiced wine, at the local Julmarknad in Skansen instead of my beloved spiced cider-which was also on offer. It was a wonderful grown up version of my childhood spiced cider that made it the perfect drink on that evening. A light snow was falling as we wandered the stalls in total darkness at 5 pm, munching on reindeer that had been cooked over an open fire while admiring all the handcrafted goods. The setting was the definition of Christmas, everyone should get to spend a bit of Christmas in a Nordic city.
I love a sausage roll. Let me rephrase that, I have learned to love a sausage roll. These are quintessentially Australian, I’ve never encountered them on my global travels anywhere else. The closest thing that I ever had to one was a “pig in a blanket”. But those do not hold a candle to a well made sausage roll. Savoury, slightly sweet sausage mince is baked encased in pastry, either puff or a flakey short crust. The best ones are found at the local bakery and you should get there around 11 am to get them fresh from the oven. The worst are either the frozen nuggets doused in sauce (ketchup) served at kids birthday parties or the ones sold at the counter of the servo which have been sitting in the warmer for untold hours. You should just walk, no run, away from those. Keep on reading!
One weekend every couple of months we pull out our meat grinder and delve into a weekend of sausage making. It’s a family effort of grinding the meat, massaging the fat and spices through the mince before letting it rest overnight so that the flavours can mature. The next day we stuff our savoury meats into their casings-coils for the Sweet Italian, chipolatas for the Maple Breakfast and roll length links for the Pork and Apple. The kitchen is filled with the sounds of spices being pound, discussions about what flavour medley to try this time and laughter overtop of a soundtrack from the 80s. Keep on reading!