Recipe #81 – cream dressing for strongly flavoured firm salad leaves

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Stephanie noted that the chicken breasts with sage should be served with a green salad, buttered pasta or steamed zucchini. Now because many of the punters at dinner are not the biggest fans of zucchini and because it takes an age for water to boil to make pasta, but mainly because the salad leaves in the backyard vege patch were growing like mad after the recent rain, I chose option – the green salad.

And not just any green salad, this was to be a green salad covered with a cream dressing flavoured with garlic and dijon mustard (page 658 under salad greens). Ratings were mixed. My daughter, when questioned, said that she “quite liked the salad dressing but I don’t eat salad” so I am not quite sure what to make of that rating.  Others gave it a ‘would eat again’ score. Not bad, but not good either.

 

Recipe #80 – chicken breasts with sage

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Chicken breasts with sage (under sage, page 652) – the name pretty much says it all. That is, apart from the lemon.

This is another of those mid-week, fast, easy and tasty meals from the book. And while its tasty and easy,  it just didn’t rise the heady heights of a top rating dish. Not that it was bad, just not great. Give it a go though when you have some chicken breast lying around and a sage plant out the back.  Which is essential I think. Sage always looks so sad and sorry in the shops and so expensive. Really people, go out this weekend and buy yourself a sage plant if you don’t have one already. You won’t regret it.

Ratings for this dish are ‘would eat it again’ – particularly mid week, after work and when the sage is calling from the back deck.

 

Recipe #79 – fettuccine with gorgonzola

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I think I first had gorgonzola at a dinner prepared by an Italian PhD student who shared an office with my wife at the time.  What a revelation it was at the time (paired from memory with gnocchi and downed with a few red wines)! And while the picture does not look like much more than a plateful of fettuccine, believe me, this recipe is all about one of the world’s oldest blue vein cheeses(according to me very limited research). So if you do not like strong tasting cheese, this recipe is not for you. For all others read on.

This recipe is definitely in the mid week, after work, easy category of cooking. Sure, you need a hunk of Italian mouldy cheese lying around the house and a truck load of dairy products, but show doesn’t have that. And when I say dairy products, I mean DAIRY products. I think this dish has the full set – butter, cheese (two types), cream and milk. The only thing missing was a bit of yogurt I think.

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Luckily, the punters at dinner when this was served didn’t mind the odd bit of smelly cheese and didn’t seem to count the calories of all that dairy  – the rating, a definite make again. Which is what you would expect from a dish containing one of the world’s oldest blue cheeses. Right?

 

Recipe # 78 – chicken noodle soup (as it should be)

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This soup started badly when I couldn’t find the dried shitake mushrooms that were on the days shopping list. Surely these weren’t not bought. But it seems that they were. They were no where in the cupboard to be found. Luckily I discovered some dried porcini so these were substituted for those missing mushrooms from Japan. Little did I know that my wife had bought fresh shiitake which were (and possibly still are) sitting in the fridge. Such is life, as they say in the classics. 

Apart from the mushroom mishap, this recipe is an easy dish to cook and tasty to eat (although there was one vote for more salt!). Its one of those dish that just taste healthy, so I am sure that it is. Lets face it, it even looks healthy. Particularly when you poach the chicken East Asian style – no fatty oil or butter there to add to the calories. Even so, I am not sure that this is how chicken noodle soup should be (as suggested in its name) but ratings were high – a solid ‘definitely make again’ was achieved – so maybe this soup deserves a little bit of ‘look at me’ time. Just saying.

Recipe #77 – tom yam goong – sour prawn soup

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I was first introduced to tom yam goong in the cold climate of Canberra where the team I worked with had a ‘team restaurant’ – the Thai Rama (or as it was called in the branch the Golden Handshake as a result of the owner using the proceeds from one to open the restaurant). Every so often (actually quite often) the whole team would trudge off to the Thai Rama for lunch which would be ordered for everyone in attendance by one of the directors – no correspondence was entered into about his choices. Tom Yam Goong was on the table for every lunch. And it was hot. Once it was so hot that that one of the luncher’s nose famously started to bleed. That’s hot. Perhaps too hot but there you have it. 

This version of the famous thai soup (under lemons and limes page 392) was not quite as hot as the one in Canberra. It was pretty hot though. It was not, however, as tasty as I would have liked. Certainly not as tasty as my other recipes for this soup which include making the broth out of the left over prawn shells and use some more traditional thai ingredients, like galangal. Nevertheless, not a bad addition to our  thai dinner the other night inspired by the presence of coriander in the garden and the absence of my daughter who is not the biggest fan of fish and her friend who is not the biggest fan of prawns. 

Would I make this again? Probably not. I would certainly make tom yam goong again but I think I would revert to my normal thai cookbook. Would I eat it again if someone else made it – sure, why not. It was tasty enough and had a good chili heat – just like the Golden Handshake in Canberra (but without the nosebleeds). 

Recipe #76 – thai-style eggplant salad

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This was such a pretty salad (page 282 under eggplants) – all purple, pink, white and yellow – and held together by strong flavours including the flavour of dried shrimp paste – come on, you KNOW that sounds good (no really, it sounds and tastes good). This was another dish in our thai / coriander inspired dinner a few days ago. And from the picture, you may think that this is the only one without coriander but the truth of the matter is that I forgot to put them on. And really, this dish did not really need them I think.

We had this cold (I mean its salad right!) but I actually think that this would be better hot (or at least warm) to get the best out of this dish. Next time I make it, that’s my plan. And I will certainly make this again. Its just so pretty right. Perfect for that fancy dinner party where you want to impress you friends with your food styling skills. I mean, this dish just styles itself (and it tastes good too). Rating – definitely make again (particularly if you like eggplant). And if you do make it, don’t skimp on the eggplant people – you and your dinner companions will eat two Japanese eggplants each if they are made like this!

Recipe #75 – son-in-law eggs

 

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For me, this was the highlight of our coriander inspired thai dinner – son in law eggs (under eggs, page 290). I have seen this recipe in many of our thai cookbooks but had never made them. Well readers, let me tell you that stops now. Right now. I would eat these over and over again and I am not even that big a fan of hard boiled eggs! What does it for me though is the blend of flavours here – the softeness of the egg with the crispy fried garlic combined with the sweetness of the caramel and fish sauce sauce. Yum! I have to say, my father twice cooks a whole bunch of stuff (cabbage for example, don’t ask) but it never tasted as good as this.

So in the words of the great Molly Meldrum – do yourself a favour and try this dish. Go on. You won’t regret it. (At least, I don’t think you will!)

You will not be surprised that this received a ‘definite make this again’ (and not just from me!).

If you have never had this, I can only recommend that you do. A definite ‘make this again’ rating. 

 

 

Recipe # 74 – thai steamed fish with coriander root, chilli and lime juice

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This recipe (page 234 under coriander) was part of our thai feast (all from Stephanie’s book of course) and was specifically selected based on two criteria. The first was that my daughter who is not the biggest fan of fish was not going to be home for dinner and the second was that my wife had a bunch of coriander growing in her back deck herb garden and wanted to see it usefully used in some recipe. With this background, how could we not have some kind of thai fish dinner?

Having said that, I think that this recipe was definitely the weakest link in our thai / corander inspired dinner. Perhaps its that I like chilli and I went on the low end of the recommendation from Stephanie – I don’t know but the fish was a little, well … insipid maybe… maybe it’s just me but I like my thai with a bit more heat than this dish. Note to self, next time, definitely increase the chills. And there will be a next time I think. This dish got a ‘would eat again’ rating but my feeling is that this could be a great dish if I get it right. 

Recipe #73 – pine forest mushrooms with garlic, cream and parsley

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Its a big call in our house to change a breakfast favourite – and garlic mushrooms is a breakfast favourite. Nevertheless, I was cooking and we had left over mushrooms from my daughters french inspired dinner from the night before and there was a mushroom and garlic recipe in Stephanie’s book (page 425, under mushrooms) and so there we were.

Dangerous? Of course! But you have to do what you have to do.And this had to be done. 

So to the verdict. While this was good, I don’t think that it was as good as my wife’s garlic mushrooms smothered in lashings and lashings of butter which, lets face it is not healthy at all but it is tasty. The Stephanie Alexander recipe skimped on the butter but replaced it with 1/2 cup of cream – hardly a healthier alternative and certainly not as tasty (to me anyway). This was definitely a ‘would eat if you made it again’ sort of meal.

 

Recipe #72 – marinating paste

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Stephanie suggested the mushrooms and chestnuts (Recipe #71) would go well with a simple grill and so it was paired with some lamb loin chops that were marinated in a marinating paste (page 375 under lamb) and then grilled and then devoured. This paste provided all the flavours that lamb needs (IMHO) – rosemary, dijon mustard, salt (from soy) and pepper. What more could you ask for? Certainly the punters at dinner the other night enjoyed this and gave it the highest rating of ‘definitely make again’.