Archive for the ‘Evening Meal’ Category

From the backyard to the table

March 1, 2011

In my last blog post, I wrote about my desire to live completely independently, or at least semi-independently, on the food that I can grow in my back yard. Last night, albeit for only one meal, I achieved this!

I love gardeners. Especially vegetable gardeners. You can go up to pretty much any veggie gardener with a glut of produce, offer them something in exchange, and chances are you will be extremely well-received. I have arranged many swaps with my gardening friends in the past – corn for tomatoes, beans for radishes, potatoes for peaches, the list goes on. Last week however, I did a different kind of barter deal.

My friend Veronica from Sleepless Nights has a rather large property in the Southern Midlands of Tasmania, and on it she raises free-range ducks and chickens. A while ago she put the call out on Twitter if anyone was interested in purchasing some free-range, ethically-raised, happy and healthy ducks. There was only one caveat – the ducks had to be taken live!

The duck she reserved for me had several weeks before he was ready, so I had a while to get my head around this duck killing business. I did some research on the net of slicing their throat vs chopping their head off, and they both have their good & bad points but I won’t go into those here. My dad clearly stated he wanted nothing to do with the matter, though he was quite happy to eat my duck once it was cooked.

So, I was on my own.

On Friday (as in, 3 days ago) I drove out to Veronica’s place, my cat cage in the back of the ute, and my barter exchange on the set next to me. (If your wondering, I “bought” my duck with my home-grown potatoes and 4 different flavours of jam that I’d made, from my home-grown fruit or fruit collected from friends). We lured my duck in with some grain, and lots of flapping ensued until we managed to get him into my cage. Phew! Ducks are feisty, unlike chickens who can tolerate being picked up.

I took my duck home and collected my thoughts, changed my clothes and organised myself to do the deed.

Now I’m no softcore, but I admit I was pretty shaky after I killed my duck. Mostly because I wasn’t expecting the nerve flapping that results from severing the spinal cord. The flapping scared the crap outta me actually, and continued for long enough that I actually checked that YES the duck’s head IS completely off, and is in fact a metre or two away from me, so there’s no way this duck can be alive still!! My heart slowed down a bit after the nerve flapping stopped, and I could get on with it.

The plucking took ages, and I did it on the lawn which probably wasn’t the best idea because the feathers won’t come out…. Oh well! By the time I got it plucked it was pretty late so I shoved it into the fridge to worry about on Saturday. I didn’t eat dinner that night.

Saturday afternoon was dedicated to butchering my duck. I’d completely gotten over the shakiness from the day before, and got right down to the business of gutting and deboning my duck. This went relatively smoothly, as my knives are sharp and duck bones are smooth. All in all I got just over a kilo of meat, and 700 grams of bones, excluding the wings which I cut off (because the feathers were too hard to get out). I kept the bones for stock, kept the skin for the fat, and started planning what I wanted to do with the delicious-looking duck meat!!

For those of you who don’t know, duck meat is not white like chicken or turkey meat. It more like a deep purply-red colour, and, oddly, the breast meat is actually darker than the thigh & leg meat. Here’s a photo:

The thigh meat is laid over the breast meat in the photo, you can see the colour difference. The yellow specks are bits of fat; duck fat is deposited as a layer under the skin and this is where duck gets its reputation for being a rich and fatty meat. Prepared correctly however it is very lean, as almost all the fat comes off when you skin it. If cooking your duck with the skin on, prick the skin all over so the fat can escape through the holes; if the duck is being roasted the fat can then drip into the pan below.

So, here’s what I did with my deboned duck!

Here’s what I did: I made a stuffing of brown rice, almond meal, flaked almonds, finely chopped Australian apricots, an egg to bind it all together, and some nutmeg, salt & pepper. I laid the stuffing out on the meat (laid out like in the top photo) and rolled the meat around it. Then I wrapped the whole thing in bacon (YUM), tied it up, & put it into the oven on about 170 degrees Celsius for about…. 90 minutes? I wasn’t really keeping track (just like I wasn’t keeping track when making the stuffing how much of each ingredient I used; just wing it guys!).

In the meanwhile I made some stock from the bones and carcass, to use in something else one day. I used some (with the pan drippings) for a delicious gravy that was delicious. Did I mention it was delicious? It really was delicious!

Along with my roast duck, I roasted some of my home-grown vegetables. Potatoes, Golden Nugget pumpkins, and brown onions, and I also steamed some green beans that I picked up from the Farm Gate Market this past Sunday. Here’s a (crappy iphone) photo of the final meal:

 

(The onions didn’t actually make it to the dinner table – they cooked much faster than the rest of the food so we had them as starters!)

So there you have it! My duck was extremely delicious and tender, not fatty at all, and now my mind is swimming with other possibilities of what to make with my future ducks (yes, I am considering getting some more from Veronica!). Any recipe suggestions are welcome (especially since I didn’t use a recipe for this dish…) Except for the bacon, and a few ingredients in the stuffing, the entire meal was raised or grown by myself and other Tasmanians, ethically, organically, and sustainably! I hope to have many many more meals like this in the future 🙂

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Miso soup with many ingredients

May 13, 2009

For some reason, I can’t remember now, I had an urge to make miso soup. So I went to my local Asian grocer, got the miso paste and firm tofu, but then I though, I want it to be a bit more substantial then just soup with tofu. So I got some flat rice noodles as well, but then I spied in the refrigerated section: Enoki mushrooms! I have always always wanted to try these & now was my chance. But would my miso soup be too crowded? I will risk it, I thought.

Mushrooms pack

The mushrooms were growing on what looked like a compressed block of shredded wood. Rather cool! I opened the pack & had a little taste: they were very mild, yet firm & buttery. Delicious!

Enoki

Taking photos of white things is so hard!

So, for the recipe, I prepared everything before starting the soup.

You will need:

Half a block of firm tofu, cut into half-inch cubes

2-3 tablespoons of miso paste (according to taste)

1 scallion, sliced into rings

The optional ingredients:

Enoki mushrooms

Pre-warmed noodles

Method (probably not very authentically prepared but it turned out great):

Heat up some water in a saucepan (depending on how many servings you want). Take miso paste & disolve in the water just before it reaches boiling point. Add pre-warmed noodles (I just poured some boiling water over mine), tofu and mushrooms, and simmer for a few minutes until everything is heated through. Serve into large bowls, sprinkle with the sliced scallion & enjoy 🙂

miso

As you can see I opted for more solid ingredients then soup!! But it was delicious and I will definitely make it again. Might just go for the simpler version next time, accompanied by some plain rice as a “diet dinner’ or something!

Crayfish Laksa

January 23, 2009

I haven’t done a proper cooking post in aaaaaages, and I have been looking for something awesome to make since the exitement of Christmas is over. My neighbour surprised me today with a whole crayfish, fresh off the boat today and she even cooked it for me. How exciting! I haven’t had cray in years. I rang my dad & told him and he said we can have a nice cray salad tonight for dinner. But I couldn’t help but thinking that was a bit boring for this literally-once-a-year opportunity. So I did a bit of internet surfing & found a few recipes for seafood laksa, and I thought what if I just use the cray meat, and added some more veggies to make the soup more substantial? What a great idea 🙂

cray

So I took a trip to the supermarket to pick up my supplies. I decided to use a bottled laksa paste because I was so unprepared and runing out of time. I picked up some snow peas, baby corn, a bottle each of ginger & garlic purees, fresh coriander, bean shoots, a stick of lemon grass and some fresh hokkien noodles and I was all set. On a side note, can I just say how much better supermarkets are then they used to be?? Several years ago you would have never found lemongrass, baby bok choi, rhubarb, sugersnap peas, black tomatoes or shiitake mushrooms. For a town that doesn’t really have farmer’s markets or greengrocer’s, this is so encouraging to me! I never really looked that hard at all the veggies before but I did today, and I was getting ideas on how I can use them all. But, I better just concentrate on the laksa for now.

coriander

You will need:

1 large crayfish, shelled and pulled into chunks (or any seafood of your choice)

1 jar laksa paste (or make your own if you have time)

Vegetables of choice (bean shoots are traditional I believe, so I used those, and carrots, snowpeas & baby corn)

Fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1 Fresh red chili if desired, finely chopped

1 stick of lemongrass, cut into rings

1 onion, sliced

1 teaspoon each of crushed ginger & garlic

270mL coconut milk

270mL coconut cream

Hokkien noodles

Method:

I just made up my method for this recipe, so I apologize if it’s not all that traditional! In a medium pot, heat a little oil & fry the onions until tender. Add the laksa paste, and fry until fragrant. Add coconut milk & coconut cream, adding some water if it’s too thick. Bring to boil. Add the cray meat & vegetebles (but not the bean shoots), garlic, ginger & lemongrass, & salt & pepper to taste. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Meanwhile, prepare the hokkien according to the manufacturer’s directions. I always thought you just cooked the noodles with the soup but apparently not. When the soup is ready, strain the noodles & place in the soup bowls first. Add a handful of the bean shoots, and ladle the soup over them, with some of the cray & veggies. Sprinkle a generous serving of the coriander, breathe in the fragrance and enjoy the meal 🙂

cray-dish1

My Favourite Fish Dish

December 13, 2008

fish

My very underestimated neighbour, who gave me the broad beans the other day, also gave me a nice big fillet of Blue Eyed Trevalla fresh off her friend’s fishing boat. I was thrilled, because it costs $35 a kilo here, and I was holding about 800 grams! I knew exactly what I was going to make with it, and today’s weather only reaffirmed my choice (we had 8.4mm of rain in the last 24 hours).

Baked Fish with Cream & Mushroom

My family have been eating this dish ever since I can remember. In fact I can’t even remember learning how to make it, I’ve just akways known.

You will need:

750-1kg of firm-fleshed white fish

400-500 mL cream

4-5 mushrooms, sliced

1 packet powdered cream of mushroom soup

grated cheddar cheese, to cover

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Cut fish into serving sized portions, and arrange evenly in a square baking dish. Sprinkle over the powdered soup mix, and pour the cream evenly over the fish. Drop the mushrooms in around the fish pieces, and season generously with cracked pepper. Cover with a generous layer of grated cheese (who care about heart disease, right Tim?) and bake for 40-50 minutes, turning the dish around if needed, after 20 minutes.

cooked-fish

Serve with fluffy white rice, and you really need to slather it with the sauce, because, while the fish will be delicious, the sauce is absolutely to die for, and I would happily eat a bowl of just rice & sauce!! Can’t get enough sauce.

fish-dish

Pasta with Tuna & Spinach

November 25, 2008

spinach2

Since my spinach in the veggeie patch is getting gigantic (I blame the cool wet weather for the growth spurt) so I thought I better use some in tonight’s meal. I had a look around the kitchen….no chicken…no bacon…. what am I going to make! Then in the pantry I found two small tins of tuna, and I thought this might just work…

You will need:

Some tuna (I used chunks in springwater)

300 mL cream

1 onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup white wine

Some spinach, some pasta, and some pepper to taste.

Method:

Put your pasta on to cook, and while it’s cooking make the sauce.

In a medium frying pan, cook the onion in a little butter until tender & slightly browned. Add tuna & white wine, breaking up the tuna chunks as it simmers. Reduce until there is almost no liquid left, and then add the cream and grind a good amount of pepper to season. Drain cooked pasta, and transfer back into the pot. Pour sauce onto pasta and stir through. Roughly tear spinach into managable pieces, and stir through the pasta (you may need to turn the heat on low). Cook until spinach is wilted. Serve & enjoy!

spinach-pasta

Sesame Bok Choi

November 12, 2008

You would have seen from yesterday’s post that my bok choi plants were starting to get rather large. Well I thought I better pick some & eat it today, because it grows back pretty fast.

bok-choi-leaves

I decided to fry it rather then steaming it this time, just for something different. I looked in the cupboard & spotted my sesame oil & raw sesame seeds, and a lightbulb went off in my head. Ah hah! What a perfect flavour combination.

You will need:

A bunch of bok choi

Few tablespoons of sesame oil

Raw sesame seeds

Method:

Use a wok, or a large frying pan (I couldn’t be bothered getting my wok out today). Gas is ideal, as you need the wok really hot.

Wash your bok choi thoroughly, as sand in your dish really don’t go down well (talking from past experience!). Roughly chop the stem from the leaf, and chop the stems into halves or thirds to make them easier to handle. You can chop the leaves into ribbons if you like but I left mine as is.

Over high heat, heat up the dry wok or pan. Pour in about a tablespoon of the raw sesame seeds, and toss until they toast to a nice golden colour. Add the oil & let that heat up. Add the bok choi stems only, and toss to cover in oil. Fry rapidly until the stems are tender & the outsides brown very slightly. Add the leaves, and toss until they wilt. Bok choi has a very high water content & this may make the oil spit so be careful.

bok-choi-sesame

That’s it! Scoop out into a bowl & enjoy. I couldn’t find my chop sticks, but I do have some somwhere.

This could be used as a base for a stirfry or noodle dish. Add some soy sauce & flat rice noodles, thinly sliced beef or tofu and you’ll have a really substantial meal.

Second harvest!

November 6, 2008

Did you know that you can harvest bok choi piece-by-piece as it grows?? I didn’t! I’ve been waiting for the whole plant to get big like you buy in stores. But I did a search, and came across this site (which is an awesome-sounding Perth-based vegetable gardening business) which has advice on what to look for when you think your crops are ready. And they said you can harvest individual bok choi leaves like you can for looseleaf lettuces, simply break the stems off at the base, but leaving enough leaf mass to sustain the plant. I wonder how long I can harvest like this for? So, here is my bundle of veggies today:

second-harvest

I also pulled the last of the radishes from that sowing, as I didn’t want to eave them in any longer, as they have been growing for almost 6 weeks no and they tend to get slightly ‘spongey’ inside & lose flavour. So, I made my family a big salad to use up all the radishes, and I steamed my lovely bok choi for 4-5 minutes in my rice cooker/steamer machine. Such a nutritious meal!

Lauren’s Lazy Lasagna

October 21, 2008

After a day of wind rain & hail (yes, hail!) I could think of nothing better then a big plate of spaghetti bolognese for dinner tonight. But. lasagna would be really yummy too wouldn’t it?? But I just couldn’t be bothered with all the layers etc… So I settled for something in between a lasagna & a bolognese. I call it my lazy lasagna!!

Bolognese Sauce:

You can make up the bolognese sauce in advance and freeze it. The amount of sauce in this recipe is too much, but you can always freeze it for another day (in fact the more you make the better, it’s like a staple food around my house. Freeze it in portions that are easy to use).

You will need:

2 kgs beef mince

2 brown onions, finely chopped

2 cans crushed tomatoes (or for those who are clever enough to bottle their own tomato purree, 2 jars!)

1/2 cup tomato paste

1 cup fruit chutney (absolutely necessary – gives a wonderful sweetness to the sauce & a gorgeous deep red colour as well)

Fresh seasonal vegetables, finely chopped (totally your choice – I have been known to use carrots, celery, mushrooms & capsicum at different times in my sauces)

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Fresh or dried herbs to taste (today I used basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley & oregano)

4-5 Bay leaves

Splash of red wine if desired

Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat up a good amount of olive oil. Fry mince meat until cooked through, making sure to break up any chunks of mince. Boil off meat juices, and then add onion & cook until soft. Add rest of ingredients except for the garlic, and simmer on low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic in the last ten minutes, and take a taste test, add anything else you think the sauce needs.

Let cool in the pot for a few minutes, before tranferring it to your containers for fridge and/or freezer.

Putting together your lazy lasagna:

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Put a large pot of water on to boil; you will need to select a pasta type with large holes or spaces with which to catch the sauce with., such as Conchiglie (large shells), Fusilli (large spirals) or Rigatoni which is what I used tonight. While pasta is cooking, you will need to make a batch of white sauce, which I’ve already detailed here.

Drain pasta once it’s al dente, and return it to the now-empty pot, and stir in a good amount of your bolognese sauce to coat all the pasta (the sauce will need to be warmish to do this; if you try to do it with sauce straight out of the fridge you’ll rip your pasta apart trying to stir the sauce through). Pour pasta mix into a baking dish, leaving some space for the white sauce. Spread pasta out evenly & then gently pour the white sauce onto the pasta so it forms an even layer over the pasta mix. Top with grated cheese if desired, and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Serve & warm yourself on a cold Wintery night!

New BBQ

October 13, 2008

Just quickly, I thought I would show you all a photo of my new gas BBQ! It is such a pleasure to cook on, because just like gas in the kitchen, the BBQs temperature is so much easier to controll. With our other home-made BBQ, which uses coals to cook on, it was usually way too hot (especially for something like the marinated chicken wings we had on Saturday) so we used to raise the grate up off the body of the BBQ which was quite a risky thing to do… One wrong move & there goes all the food! So overall, very satisfied & can’t wait to use it again!

Mango Chicken without a Recipe

September 29, 2008

I had an idea while at university today. What about making Mango Chicken from scratch? I’ve always used bottled mango chicken sauces, which are okay enough, but I could always imagine it being better. I didn’t have a recipe for this, and I didn’t look for one. How hard can it be, I thought. Turns out, not very!

I had some mango leftover from yesterday’s post, and since it was already purreed & ready to go, all I needed was some chicken. A quick trip to the shops and I was ready to go.

You will need:

4 Chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 Mangos, purreed or finely chopped

2 Teaspoons white vinegar

1/2 Cup tomato paste

1/2 Cup fruit chutney

1 Onion, chopped

2-3 Cloves garlic, crushed

2-3 Carrots, peeled & sliced

1 cup Green beans

2 Tablespoons mustard seeds (I used both dark & light varieties)

Other spices to taste (I used turmeric, coriander & cumin)

Salt & pepper to taste

White rice, to serve

Method:

Heat up a large frying pan with a little olive oil. Brown the chicken pieces, and add the onion. Add the mustard seeds and crushed garlic, and cook until the onions are soft (you might want to do this step with the lid on, as the mustard seeds tend to go Pop out of the pan!). Add carrots and fry for a further few minutes.

Add mango purree, chutney & tomato paste, and some water if the sauce is too thick. Add the vinegar and the other spices, and simmer on low heat while the rice is cooking. A few minutes before the rice is ready, add the beans to let them cook through.

Serve with fluffy white rice.

Since I have a tendancy to forget to taste my dishes when I am preparing them, and I sat down at the dinner table to eat with my family I really had no idea what I had made. It smelled wonderful, as all the spices & flavours seemed to work really well together. So I had a taste.

It was delicious!! I will definitely be making this again. The mustard seeds add a lovely aroma to the sauce and seem to make mini exposions in your mouth. I’m glad I added the vinegar, otherwise it would have been too sweet with the mango & the chutney. If you wanted a spicier variation you could add a teaspoon of sambal oelek to the sauce, or some freshly chopped chilli. It could easily be made vegitarian (vegan, even) with potatoes instead of the chicken, and some added zuccini and eggplant. I am really pleased my ‘made-up’ mango chicken worked out so well.