Kitchen Therapy


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Rice Pudding with Strawberries and Spiced Hibiscus Syrup

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I love rice pudding.
It’s one of those dishes that takes me back to my childhood both in Yugoslavia and then later here in Australia.
My mum would sprinkle chocolate on top and it was real comfort food to me.

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe sees classic rice pudding topped with fresh strawberries and a spiced hibiscus syrup.
I was surprised by how much I liked the hibiscus syrup. The kids weren’t keen, they said it tasted like medicine! However I loved it. Especially once I added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the syrup before serving. The colour was so pretty and vibrant and I think it lifted the flavour of the strawberries. The kids (and my husband) preferred their rice custard topped with just fresh strawberries.

It’s winter here in Australia and it’s been pretty mild, apart from a storm that swept the entire East Coast last weekend.
The northern beaches of Sydney where I live were hit pretty hard, the photo below captures one of the local beaches before and after the storm. It made the rounds on facebook so I have no idea who to credit it to but it captures the impact of the storm pretty well.
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This weekend they are predicting another round of storms.
The rain and the wind were so fierce last time, we were pretty much housebound.
If we have a repeat of this weather this coming weekend I am planning to make another batch of this rice custard, watch movies and keep warm. Maybe try some warm winter toppings on the custard!

I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie group chose to cook this week!

 


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Artichoke Dip with Rosemary Oil

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Friday was the last day of school. Two weeks of school holidays have just begun!
I made this week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays as kids and mums were coming and going from our house (the pleasures of living across the road from the school!)
The plan was to have it with grilled salmon for dinner.
I love artichoke dip… but apparently, so does everyone else!
That’s my son climbing the kitchen bench to get to it!

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After everyone started to dwindle away, I realised there wasn’t much dip left.
I wasn’t even sure we had enough for dinner as it disappeared quickly with the crackers and breadsticks I put out with it.
What surprised me the most was that the kids liked it as much as the grown ups.

artichoke2Iย really had no preconceived notion as to how things were going to work out for dinner.
I figured I’d put out the grilled bread, the dip and the gorgeous grilled salmon and let everyone work it out for themselves.
And it worked beautifully…

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This dip not only proved to be delicious with simple crackers, but also combined perfectly with the salmon, making a very satisfying dinner.
* We all stank on garlic the next day – but no one cared.
**The rosemary oil was wonderful – except for the bit where I decided to leave it blending by itself in my small hand blender and it vibrated off the bench and splattered vibrant green rosemary oil over… pretty much everything. It was just another one of those things that makes life interesting.
***I was sick for about 2 weeks so being able to make this (a week late) with all the chaos and mess that went along was a beautiful thing ๐Ÿ™‚
****I can’t wait to read what the rest of the Cook the Book Fridays group thought of this dish!

 


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Steak with Mustard Butter and French Fries

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As the kids say, I’m so devo!
(pronounced – deh-vo; translation – devastated; notation – they would be cringing if they knew I was using their words… LOL!)

I’m not devastated by the recipe (however I do think my photo has a lot of to answer for!)
I ordered David Lebovitz’ book My Paris Kitchen from Amazon, excited to participate in this week’s Cook the Book Fridays recipe and it didn’t arrive! I eagerly looked out for the delivery driver’s van every day (starting the day after I ordered the book even though I knew it was impossible for it to be shipped from the US to Australia in 1 day… right?) and nothing! 10 days of waiting and no book in sight.
So I searched until I found the recipe online ๐Ÿ™‚
(*The book arrived today!!! The day after I made the recipe but it doesn’t matter, it’s here!!!)

I’m going to veer on a tangent for a second that will be relevant… eventually.
At school pick up, on the day I made this recipe, I chatted with my son’s teacher and discovered that she had a similar experience to me last year. She also picked up a virus that she has yet to recover from. Many appointments with doctors and specialists later, she was told, like I was, we can’t find what is wrong with you, we think it’s probably post viral fatigue… and fibromyalgia. We talked about how frustrating it was and how mentally, physically and emotionally draining it is to go through something like this. It’s still effects us most days, some days worse than others, however we were able to laugh at some of the things doctors have suggested to us along the way, like:
“You haven’t actually passed out so you’re ok”
“Stop focusing on how bad you feel”
“Take a valium every third night and you’ll be ok”
“It’s post viral fatigue and fibromyalgia”
“Post viral fatigue and fibromyalgia are not real”
And my all time favourite by a female doctor:
“I’m going to tell you what I told my patient who asked for a vaginal rejuvenation – go and get yourself a younger man and all your symptoms will disappear” (That is my husband’s favourite!)

I’ve heard so much contradicting, sometimes well meaning and other timesย just down right patronising and condescending statements that it took my by surprise how good it felt to just have someone to empathise with and validate my experience.
Psychology basics – empathy and validation.
Basics are good!
Basics are the building blocks, the foundations to… well everything I guess.
And that’s where this week’s recipe comes into it (finally)!
Being sick last year I had a lot of time where I could barely move and I couldn’t take in anything that was complex or required much thought, so I caught up with the Real Housewives of everywhere! (I finally know what everyone is talking about).
As I got better I moved from the housewives to watching Top Chef. I’m only a couple of seasons in and I am appreciating how important basics are to cooking. Learning to do the basics well.ย To me, this week’s recipe is meat and potatoes done well ๐Ÿ™‚

The rib eye, rubbed with salt, chipotle chilli and coriander (cilantro) tasted amazing.
The mustard butter added another layer of taste, complimenting the smoky meat.
(They talk a lot about layering flavours in Top Chef and I get it now!)
And those fries! I peeled and sliced 2kg of potatoes (there’s 5 of us) and baked them in a little bit of oil, salt and rosemary. Mine didn’t have as much of the golden colouring as I was hoping for (I think because I baked them on parchment paper) but the taste… wow! The taste was amazing!

My husband and kids appreciated the meal and expressed their satisfaction repeatedly and enthusiastically throughout the meal!
They enjoyed trying new things with the French Fridays with Dorie group and are very excited that they will get to taste and give feedback on a bunch of new recipes.
What more could I ask for ๐Ÿ™‚

I am so happy to be part of the Cook The Book Fridays group and can’t wait to catch up with the rest of the group and see what they thought of this week’s recipe. To see the full recipe, I found it on a wonderful blog called SmokySweet.

 

 

 


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Flour’s Famous Banana Cake – Recipe Review

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School is back for 2016!
Routines are slowly taking shape and the craziness of summer holidays is beginning to settle.
Each day now, I walk my son to school and as he heads off to class with his teacher, I, along with many other parents head straight to the little coffee shop tucked in amongst a few local shops across the road. The coffee is fantastic and I always order it to go, however most of the time I end up sitting at a table catching up with a friend.
It’s a routine I enjoy.
Today, after dropping off my son, I met my friends, we bought our coffees to go and this time we did take them away with us. We decided to walk them back to my place and enjoy the banana bread I made the previous night.

When my children smell banana bread baking they feel comforted.
They love the smell that fills the house.
However… they are also very clear that after trying many version of banana bread over the years their favourite recipe is for theย Banana Espresso Choc Chip Muffins from the Bakedย cookbook (see photo below).
(I usually leave out the espresso but don’t tell them that, it makes them feel grown up!)

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Yesterday however, I had to break it to them that I would be trying aย new recipe from Joanne Chang’s Flour book.
The recipe is from her first cookbook, pictured below on the left.
I bought it a while back however after falling ill I couldn’t do much more than stare it for a long time.
There are SO many recipes I want to try however yesterday I had the bananas on hand. ย Being unwell has taught me to grab opportunities that come up, no matter how small they may seem and to not over think things. This may sound simple, however my nature has always been to deliberate painfullyย over what to cook for so long that I end up making nothing. So with my new philosophy guiding me, I decided to make Flour’s Famous Banana Bread.

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It felt good to be making something, even if it was “just another banana bread recipe” ๐Ÿ™‚
The recipe can be found all over the internet, here is oneย linkย for this recipe from the food network.

Coming together over banana bread is not something new however there is a reason a lot of us do it. It isย comforting and nourishing to the soul and it tastes so damn good!
The grown ups really enjoyed this recipe, however the kids can’t go past the choc chips in their favourite banana muffins. I get it, who doesn’t want chocolate thrown into an already awesome tasting treat?!

I didn’t add the walnuts to the recipe (there are too many nut allergies in our house) and I think it still tasted really good. I liked the moist topping that developed on the cake and the inside was surprisingly light. I would definitely make this again, it was easy to make and well worth the effort.

 


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Lemon Slice – Australia Day 2016, Dee Why Beach

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Lemon Slice on Australia Day? Why not!!!
It’s straight out of the fridge and icy cold, the perfect bite for out hot Aussie weather.
This fortnight’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was a great addition to our Australia Day Celebrations.

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January 26th is Australia Day and as usual we head out to Dee Why Beach on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
We have bacon and egg or sausage and egg sandwiches.
There are pancakes with maple syrup and butter or lemon and sugar.
And this year we had Dorie’s Lemon Squares!

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The festivities include a car and bike show, thong (flip flop) throwing competitions, rides, performers and music.
Tattoos are a must, as are hats, flags and anything else that bears the Aussie flag wrapped around your body, your car or even around your house. I usually end up with an Australia flag tattoo on my cheek at some point in the day.
It’s tradition ๐Ÿ™‚
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And of course there’s always a few kangaroos hopping about…

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The celebrations start early on Australia Day so we head home around lunch time, when the heat is at it’s peak. We have a rest and put lamb (another Australia Day tradition) in the oven for hours of slow roasting then head back to the beach for a swim while it cooks.
We return home tired and famished. The smell that greets us is soothing and we can’t wait to eat!
This year we will be finishing off a great day and great meal with Lemon Squares topped with dollops of whipped cream.

You can find the recipe (with raspberries added) here.
* We have nut allergies in the house so I left out the almond meal and used normal flour.
I also left off the almond slices that were to be scattered on top of the squares.

 


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Tzatziki

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I was pretty much raised on Tzatziki.
My mum made it ALL the time.
She still makes it.
And I love it!
So I was pretty excited to see it was this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe!

After a day of netball… (that’s my daughter on the right!)

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Soccer… (My son is the one chasing the ball on the right!)

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And more soccer… (and a change in the weather!)

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It was comforting to finish the day with a simple meal.
We paired Dorie’s Tzatziki with lamb cutlets and some grilled pita chips.
Everyone was happy!

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We really, really liked Dorie’s tzatziki!
And by accident I stumbled upon a recipe by David Lebovitz for tzatziki that seems pretty similar if you want to try it for yourself… just substitute the olive oil for lemon.

I am looking forward to reading what the rest of the French Fridays with Dorie group thought of this!

 


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Savarin

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The Savarin, a yeasted bread cake saturated in sweet syrup, pear eau-de vie (brandy), filled with whipped cream and topped with your choice of berries.
This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia recipe.
Looks simple…
And I think it would have been simple if I didn’t leave it till the very last minute.
Which also happened to be the weekend I was having 5 of my son’s friends sleep over for his birthday.
Six 13-year old boys.
They are loud, they squeal, they argue, they burp, they fart, they tell each other they stink, call each other names, wrestle each other to the ground, jump on each other, laugh at inappropriate jokes and can’t seem to keep their arms and legs to themselves. And did I mention they are loud?
I made the cake before heading out to dinner and a few games of laser skirmish.
I took many, many photos.
My husband took many, many photos.
13 year old boys move.
A LOT.
Nearly all the photos turned our blurry.
Someone, if not everyone, was moving at any given time. Below are the best out of the lot, and as you can see they aren’t that great!
My 6 year old son was happy to get his dad all to himself and play a game of pool while the big boys laser battled (and came out arguing over who was the best shot and argued again as the scores came up on the screen).
Teased, poked and paid out on each other through dinner.
Argued over who was the best at PS3. Who was going to sleep where. And what movie to watch.
(And that last pic is of me hugging my son as he’s trying to squirm away).

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The next morning they woke us all up at the crack of dawn with more laughter and arguments.
The early start however meant I could make the syrup and soak the cake before starting on pancakes for breakfast.

When they all went home, bleary eyed and tired (me and them), I filled the the middle of the cake with whipped cream and topped it off with fresh berries. The recipe calls for the berries to be mixed in raspberry puree however I prefer my berries fresh.
I sat down to a quiet and freshly cleaned house, drizzled the cake with pear eau-de-vie…

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And savoured each and every bite!
(My husband wants me to mention he did most of the cleaning while I finished making the cake ๐Ÿ™‚ !).

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I love baba cakes, so I thought this was wonderful.
I preferred it with the pear eau-de-vie.
I’m not a fan of alcohol in cakes so I was surprised when I splashed more and more brandy on top of my cake. I thought it was the taste of pears that kept me going back for more, my husband thought it was just me trying to blot out the past 24 hours! (Truth is I loved every minute of the craziness!)

The recipe of the cake can be found here.

I am looking forward to see what the rest of the Tuesday with Dorie group thought of this cake!