Tonight was the first look at beef from the Isola Farm Chianina meat pack.  I used a couple of the steaks – enough to feed our family of four.  So I guess this was as close to Bistecca Fiorentina that I was going to get without actually going to Tuscany.  The recipe is easy.  Cook steak to you liking, season post cooking and drizzle with some olive oil.

Good looking meat isn’t it!

Tasted good too!

I also cooked a side of Mixed roast vegetables out of Tessa Kiros’ Twelve – A Tuscan Cookbook.  This I think was her first cookbook but she has been prolific since then with at least 6 in total that I know of.  It’s a good looking book with lots of homely recipes.  Twelve presents Tuscan recipes divided seasonally by month and this recipe comes from August.

You will need 1 eggplant, 2 zucchinis, 1 red capsicum, 2 potatoes, 3 tomatoes and 1 red onion.  Thinly slice all the vegetables and in the case of the eggplant, salt and allow to drain.  Place 2 tbsp of olive oil in the bottom of a large oven dish and then arrange the veges in lines and layers.  Drizzle the assembled veges with 6 tbsp olive oil, add 3/4 cup of water and season well.  Cook in a 200C oven for 50 to 60 mins.

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In My Kitchen

In my kitchen is…….

a box that I am very excited about….

from Isola Farm in the Gippsland – you can read all about the farm, the cattle and the beef here.  The farm sells 10kg packs of meat, so you receive a selection of cuts and some mince.  Here is what I received….

There are 3 TBones, an eye fillet, a silverside roast, a pack of chuck steak, topside steak, osso bucco and 3kg of mince.  Will be having the first look at some of the TBone tomorrow.

In my kitchen are…..

4 jigsaw plates that arrived for Valentines Day – small plate, medium plate, big plate – take your pick.


In my kitchen….

a lot lately has been Thomasina Mier’s “Mexican Food Made Simple”

This is a great book – good recipes, pictures, layout and extra info.  I have made recently an easy peasy peanut mole, a delicious chicken and avocado salad and a killer guacamole a few times.  If you like Mexican food, get this book!

Also check out other In My Kitchen posts on Celia’s site here.

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Cooking while on the bike

We had friends over on Sunday for lunch, but I also had to fit in a ride on Sunday morning.  So what better time to do a slow cooked lamb shoulder.  Got up at 530, put the lamb in the oven and took off for 4 hours.  Uncomplicated, simple cooking that delivered an excellent result.

I chose the recipe from Maha.  Maha is a restaurant is Melbourne run by Shane Delia serving Maltese/middle eastern food designed to share.  Its a great little restaurant and like many in the Press Club group has spawned a cookbook, but in this case I am grateful for it.  There is a good mix of recipes with a modern slant and traditional family cooking.

This recipe has 2 distinct parts, spice infusion and cooking.   4 500g pieces of lamb shoulder are called for so I bought a lamb shoulder from Jago meats in the Vic market and they quartered it for me.  I then made a ras el hanout spice mix as per the cookbook and rubber 80g of it into the lamb and left to infuse overnight.

Next morning I sliced 3 onions and halved 2 garlic heads, combined and placed in bottom of a casserole.  On top I placed the lamb and poured in 1.5l of chicken stock – enough to cover 3/4 of the lamb.  Lid on and into a 100C oven for 5 hours.  After 5 hrs, I removed the lid and increased temp to 120C and cooked for another 1 1/2 hrs.  Then it was time to remove the meat, strain out the solids from the stock and return the meat to the casserole with 500ml of stock.  The the casserole went back into a 220C oven for 40mins and I basted the lamb every 5 mins or so.

The result was very tender and tasty – not that you would know from the photo below.  What appears as 4 chunks of charcoal was in fact very tender meat with a dark, sticky, almost crunchy coating.  I served the lamb with an heirloom tomato salad and the meal was accompanied by a bottle of 1986 Chateau Tahbillk Cabernet Sauvignon which was absolutely singing.  Thanks J&K!



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Fish, vietnamese style

Monday night is usually fish night at our place and I shopped for the ingredients for this while at Little Saigon yesterday.  It’s another dish from KOTO so doesn’t get me any closer towards my cookbook goal but it intrigued me so I wanted to give it a go – the marinade is unusual and the fish is cooked twice, first grilled, then deep-fried – a bit out of my comfort zone.

The dish, fried rockling with turmeric, dill and vermicelli, requires a paste to be made from a 3 cm peeled piece of galangal, 1 long red chilli, 2 tbsp ground turmeric and 1 tbsp sugar. To this paste is added 3 tbsp of fermented prawns and 2 1/2 tbsp of water to make a marinade.  Chunks of rockling are then marinated in this for 2hrs.  Once I had done this, my daughter came home.  I was greeted with “what’s that smell?” and “that’s disgusting!” which is probably fair enough as it’s a reasonably challenging aroma.

Anyway, that’s basically the recipe.  Fish is lightly grilled so as not to be cooked all the way through.  Then deep-fried in batches with some dill and spring onions added at the end of the deep fry to wilt.  Serve on top of rice vermicelli and top with chopped, roasted unsalted peanuts.  Add accompaniments of thai basil leaves, coriander leaves and dipping sauce to taste.   Tastes better cooked than it smelt in the uncooked state – a lot better.


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Bun Cha

Keeping on the Vietnam theme, we also did a street food tour while in Hanoi.  We had various spring rolls in a market, then made our way to various shops to try Vietnamese coffee (coffee and sweetened condensed milk), pho cuon and finally bun cha.  Bun cha can roughly be described as Hanoi style grilled pork with rice noodles.  Essentially you put together your own concoction of pork, noodles, dipping sauce, various herbs and greens, chilli and garlic.   The pork is either marinated pork shoulder pieces, spicy patties or both.  We even bought back a cheap grilling basket to try and cook bun cha on the bbq.

The guy who ran the tour, an American called Daniel Hoyer, has also written a few books and one is called Culinary Vietnam.  Needless to say, when we got back from Vietnam I bought a few cookbooks  and if I’m being honest, this book duplicates a lot of what I have in other books.  It has nice pics though.  The bun cha recipe I used comes from Culinary Vietnam and can be found here.

The patties were fantastic, the pork shoulder a bit overdone.  I’ll try and do better next time.

For what is worth, this is where we had our bun cha in Hanoi – crammed inside around a little table on little blue plastic stools.  It was great!

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Lime-marinated Beef Salad

We had a few days in Hanoi last September and absolutely loved it, particularly the food. While there we did a half day cooking course with an expat Aussie, Tracey Lister.  She has also written a couple of cookbooks, the first of which is called KOTO.  KOTO stands for know one, teach one and is a hospitality training centre designed to help disadvantaged young people.  We ate at the KOTO restaurant while we there as well.

The book groups recipes by major regions and the recipe for lime-marinated beef salad is taken from the Dalat and the Central Highlands.  It’s a pretty simple recipe but very tasty.  Making it also gave me an excuse to visit the Little Saigon market in Footscray.  I must visit this more often – it is such fun and great value – limes for 20c each for instance.

First you make up a marinade by dissolving 2tbsp of caster sugar into 4tbsp of lime juice and 3tbsp of fish sauce (use vietnamese fish sauce nuoc mam nhi if you can).  To this add 2 garlic cloves, 1 stick of lemongrass and 1 deseeded long red chilli – all chopped.  Cook a 500g piece of beef fillet in a lightly oiled medium pan for 8 to 10 mins, evenly browning all sides.  Allow to rest for 10 mins before slicing thinly and toss through the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hrs.  To serve remove beef from marinade and combine with 4 thinly sliced red shallots, a large handful of Thai basil leaves, a handful of rice paddy herb, a handful of mint leaves and 4 tbsp chopped roasted unsalted peanuts.   Serve and top with fried shallots (I omitted this).

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Caesar Salad from The Cooks Companion

Stephanie Alexander’s The Cooks Companion has sold over 500,000 copies.  And rightfully so.  It is the go to reference book in my kitchen and that is the key to the utility of this book, it is an A to Z reference book by ingredients and apart from the recipes for each ingredient, has valuable information such as selection and storage, cooking times, methods of cooking, preparation, etc.  Plus a basics section for sauces, pastry, etc.  And of course, it is written from an Australian perspective in terms of seasonality and availability.   I’m not saying its my absolute favourite cookbook (it’s close) but if every kitchen was only allowed to have one cookbook, this would be it.  I turn to it a lot.

I had a request for a chicken caesar salad for dinner last night and settled on adding some grilled chicken to The Cooks Companion’s recipe for Caesar Salad.  Stephanie emphasises the importance of using quality ingredients.  Into my salad went free range Yarra Valley eggs, Ortiz anchovies and smoked streaky bacon from Linke’s butchers in the Barossa.

First make the dressing.  Boil 3 eggs for 4 minutes and then run under cold water for a minute to stop the cooking.  Crack into a bowl and scoop out contents (be careful of egg shell).  Blend in a processor till creamy and smooth.  In a mortar and pestle, grind a clove of garlic and a pinch of salt into a paste, then combine with 2 chopped anchovy fillets, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Add these ingredients to processor, blend and keep motor running.  Gradually add 1/2 cup of olive oil to the blender.  Once finished, season with salt and pepper to taste.   I used a Thermomix for this process.

This dressing was very good, notwithstanding the fact that while typing this, I realised that I used 1 tsp of vinegar instead of 1 tbsp.

To make salad, wash and chop some cos lettuce.  Top with browned streaky bacon (i chopped mine up), sour dough croutons (made by frying slices of sour dough in a little olive oil).  Also add grilled chicken at this stage if doing so.  Top with a halved hard boiled egg, sliced anchovy fillets and generously drizzle with the dressing.  Finish with chopped parsley and shaved parmesan.  Very  good salad.


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