Recipe #114 – quick strawberry jam

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Hi, my wife and daughter forced me to let them do this guest post…

Robin has graciously allowed his wife and daughter to write a guest post. Every year, for the last 5 years, we have been going strawberry picking in the Glasshouse Mountains and come home and make jam.  This year, we substituted our JamSetta recipe for Stephanie’s grandmother’s quick strawberry jam. A bit scary.  I would hate to ruin any grandmother’s recipe. This year, my daughter, her friend and I went and collected 4 kilograms of beautiful strawberries with a wonderful picnic lunch alla Stephanie of course (see here, here and here).

IMG_0129Now, on to the jam making…the recipe was simple enough.  But we clearly need more experience in knowing when the setting stage is reached.  (We didn’t really read the recipe properly…so cannot blame that). I think that we overcooked the jam…not to the point of it being burnt, but the consistency wasn’t quite right.  Tastes great but we are back to the JamSetta recipe next year because we are traditionalists:)

Ratings for this recipe were mixed. One punter thought it tasted like fairy floss…and “there is nothing bad about fairy floss”

Recipe #113 – banana cake

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Over-ripe bananas are increasingly common in our house. The warmer weather means that the banana’s don’t seem to last as long before the yellow skins turn mottled and blacken. And no-one wants to snack on an over-ripe mushy banana. This is where banana cakes (muffins, ice-cream, bread) come in. In fact Huffington Post says that there are 19 things to do with a over-ripe mushy banana, although I think that they are under-selling the number of potential uses. Nevertheless, these dishes positively call for over-ripe bananas that can be mashed to within an inch of their lives and given a second life as some sort of baked good (or ice-cream). And like every good Australian cookbook, Stephanie’s includes a recipe for banana cake (or as I like to call it, “what are we going to do with all of these left over, over-ripe banana” cake).

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Now some people just don’t like bananas. Strange I know, but they exist. For those poor souls, this cake may seem like a cruel joke. But for everyone else, this cake was a warm and comforting, banana infused piece of goodness. Everyone who had some (and there were quite a few having taken it to two different workplaces) conveyed their amazement at the cake (several expressed their amazement at the fact that I made it!).

And it freezes! what could be better.

This cake is in the definite make again category.

Recipe #112 – stephanie’s chicken provencale

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Chicken provencale sounds so much better than chicken stew with capsicums and zucchini right. Of course it does. And as good as it sounds, it was even better to eat. At least so thought the diners at dinner when we had this delicious dish. In fact, we had it twice it was so good, the second time requiring re-heating for dinner the next night, breaking Stephanie’s admonition to eat it straight away. Better than throwing it out though.

Now in the notes to this dish, Stephanie points out that these slow cooked meals require a minimum of effort – put everything in the pot and put your feet up (or something like that). Let me tell you readers that this is not the case with this dish. There are several steps along the way that require your attention and chicken does not take that long to cook so there is barely time to finish the glass of red wine that I am presuming you have poured yourself before it is ready to serve at the table with a dish full of buttered new potatoes. Not that I am complaining. I am just saying, don’t expect to be putting you feet up and watching the latest episode of Masterchef while making this dish.

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Don’t let the effort put you off though. Its not that difficult to make and it is delicious (we had it twice remember). A definite make again rating was achieved from all in attendance (including the person who does not like zucchini).

Recipe #111 – hummus

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I used to make hummus (under chickpea in the book) all the time. Or more correctly, as Stephanie points out in her notes, I used to make hummus bu tahini all the time. The difference is that the hummus bi tahini includes, unsurprisingly, tahini – that viscous half paste, half liquid made from sesame seeds. As a result, this is the first time (I think) that I have made just hummus.

So the results. The dip is thicker than I usually make it. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the thicker consistency lent itself to the dipping sticks of carrot or celery to make a delicious afternoon snack. It also had a nice combination of lemon and heat – a result of the spicy paprika included in the hummus. All in all, a good dish and one that I would definitely make again.

Recipe #110 – violet oon’s chilli lobster

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Terrible picture I know, but this was one of the best meals I have eaten from Stephanie’s book. And my wife agreed stating that it was between this dish (under rock lobster) and the beef bourguignon as her favourite, would eat on a dessert island for the rest of her days, kind of cooking. High praise indeed! It was pretty good (which I put down to the recipe rather than my cooking of it, just to be clear).

Now I have never had singaporean chilli crab on which, I am presuming that this recipe is based, because well, firstly I have never been to Singapore (at least not outside of the airport) and secondly, I always thought crab as being a particularly bothersome food to eat – all that cracking of shell and digging out the meat with a tiny, tiny fork. But if this dish is anything to go by I am now a convert. I obviously did not realise that this dish was about the sauce more than the meat. And while the meat was good, the sauce was great. And easy to make. Needless to say, this dish was a definite make again (and soon according to my wife).

Recipe #109 – passionfruit shortbread biscuits

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Stephanie says that these biscuits (under passionfruit) store well, but that is not really a problem when they taste as good as these do did.

When I was growing up, many households in Brisbane had either a choko vine or a passionfruit vine growing in the back-yard. My family was strongly on the side of passionfruit and we had a vine that covered the entire roof of the back deck.

That’s why I find it so hard to buy them from the fruit and veg shop down the road. Luckily, I don’t have to anymore because a couple of years ago, I planted a yellow passionfruit next to trellis to stop the dogs trampling the side garden. Now that passionfruit vine has invaded the next door neighbour’s kids trampoline and is rapidly racing along the lillypillies down the side of the house. Most importantly though, it has provided several crops of delicious passionfruit without any requirement to put my hand in my pocket.

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The recipe is a reasonably basic shortbread recipe with the addition of the passionfruit pulp. It is delicious though and wonderfully short. It certainly received good raps from the variety of punters who tried some, including some clients that I was working closely with this week. All in all, I would say this was a definite make again recipe – next year, when the passionfruit is ready to give up its crop and I don’t have to pay the grocer for the delicious pulp.

Recipe #108 – spinach ricotta terrine with pear dressing

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Part 2 of the strawberry picking day picnic was this terrine (under spinach, page 681). This terrine was the epitome of vegetarian goodness (and by goodness, I mean tasty cheese and lots of eggs). So maybe if you are watching your cholesterol, not so fabulous, but otherwise full of vegetarian goodness. It is sort of like a spinach pie or spanikopita but without the pastry, and softer – much harder to pick up by hand (as I found out when trying to serve some to a family friend who dropped by. In fact, in that case, dropped was the operative word. All over the floor!

The recipe pairs the spinach terrine with a pear dressing – all made in a blender so easy as. It is a strange experience though eating what is sort of pear / sort of salad dressing. Its hard to know what to make of it. The pear dressing did go well though with the salad greens that I picked from the garden so no need to make a second dressing. Every cloud has a silver lining I suppose.

Would I make it again. Maybe – if I had massive amounts of spinach in the garden that I needed to use up and some of my vegetarian friends were coming over for a light lunch. Under these circumstances, I might prefer a steak but I would choose this to cook because, you know, I’m just that sort of guy.

Ratings – would eat it again.

P.S. – the other good thing about this dish is that it uses 8 eggs which if you have backyard chickens can be an extremely useful thing

Recipe #107 – pumpkin scones

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Pumpkin scones have a bit of a history in Queensland. Even since Flo took a batch down to the Kingaroy primary school election cake stall, people in Queensland have been making pumpkin scones. And why not? They are easy to make. They taste good. And they use up all those pumpkins left lying around the farm. OK, I don’t have a farm but then you have to move with the times people. I mean the Country Womens’ Association has a facebook page. And it includes a recipe for pumpkin scones. If they can do it, then so can I.

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Actually, probably so could anybody. Do it, I mean. These are pretty easy to cook. And so when I embarked yesterday on a ‘make some picnic food for the annual strawberry picking trip to the glasshouse mountains’ (more about that in a later post), I decided pumpkin scones were the way to go. Not that they all lasted until the strawberry picking. Some of them, together with some raspberry jam and some double cream, provided a nice little afternoon tea break.

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Ratings: A definite, definitely make again.

Recipe #106 – sweetcorn soup with spiced butter

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This recipe’s name is in that ‘the name says it all’ category of recipe names. Nothing cryptic here. Sweetcorn soup plus some butter with spices added at the end. Personally, I was not a huge fan of this soup. I thought it was a bit thin (too little corn or too much water perhaps) and as a result, it didn’t have that thickness that I think a puree needs. Nor did it have that rich taste you can get with some corn soups when they are made with stock – even a vegetable stock would have added something to the soup I think. Not that it was bad. Don’t get me wrong. It was rated a ‘would eat again’ by the punters at dinner. Its just that it was was, well, slightly boring. Probably good for me, but boring nonetheless.

Recipe #105 – Sue’s meringues

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This dish (under eggs, page 294) was an impromptu response to having two egg whites left over from the potato and chive cake that preceded this dessert. After all, whats a man to do with two leftover egg whites but make some meringue. And even better if you happen to have a passion-fruit vine in the back yard, as well as some leftover raspberry sauce in the freezer.

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This is a fairly vanilla (get it) recipe for meringue but its all about chemistry right so you don’t go around changing proportions when making something like this. And as for ratings, meringue is always a definite make again option when you have some left over egg whites. I mean, what else are you going to do with them – pavlova?