Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Red-sotto - Mushroom and Beetroot Buckwheat Risotto

My cousin told me off the other day for posting yummy stuff on my blog, instagram and facebook page and not inviting her over to eat it. So I organised a cousin's catch up to rectify that. Pretty much everything that I post are just the dishes I cook for my my husband and I day-to-day. We both love food, so I try to keep our daily meals interesting. However, when it comes time to cook for other people, I get quite anxious. I know what I like, I know what Lance likes...but what if other people don't like it? If a dish misses with the two of us, there's always grilled cheese as a back-up. You can't really do that with guests. So I get complete mental blanks when I have to decide what to cook for other people.

My two go-to styles of dishes for dinner parties are pastas and risottos. The main reason being that they're easy to cook enough to feed a large amount of people all at once. Because this dinner party was family, I thought instead of playing it safe and making a chicken and corn risotto or chicken and pumpkin risotto - two of my favourite delicious and generally inoffensive flavour combinations, I thought I'd be a little more adventurous and use beetroots to make this "red-sotto".

The first time I made this, I already had some roasted beetroots and leftover lamb from a weekend roast. I actually roasted extra beetroots after seeing a similar recipe on Potlicker and falling in love with the colour. Knowing I needed a red risotto in my life. I then stirred some shredded lamb through at the end for extra oomph. But it's delicious just as a vegetarian risotto. The beetroot really is the star here. But because the lamb/beet combo worked so well, I chose to serve it with lamb steaks on the side for my cousins. Then, because I was feeling playful, I crumbled sheep's milk fetta over the top. Lamb and sheep's milk - get it? Just like I used red onion and red wine to go with the red beets. I used buckwheat instead of arborio rice, which means it needs to cook a little bit longer and isn't quite as 'creamy', but on the positive side, you can pop the lid on and let it simmer away while you socialise.

It's a very rich, earthy dish, perfect for the current warm days and chilly nights. It also pairs beautifully with the reds we just re-stocked from my favourite winery in the entire world - Cape Naturaliste. The Cab-Sauv has a boldness that holds up to these strong flavours really well.

Note the stained pink fingers!

Mushroom and Beetroot Buckwheat Risotto
4-5 med red beets
splash balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
8-9 small field mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red onion, diced
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
1 cup buckwheat
1 cup water
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup red wine
1 tbsp butter
sheep's fetta to serve

Preheat the oven to 175C. Trim the tops and tails of the beets, place in a roasting tray, splash with balsamic vinegar and caraway seeds, then cover tightly with foil. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool.

Heat the oil in a suitable risotto pan, then add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion is translucent, then add the herbs. Stir well until fragrant, then add the buckwheat and stir to coat each grain in the oil and onion mixture. Should take a few minutes.

Add the wine and cook while stirrying until the wine is absorbed.

Put the mushrooms in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, stir into the buckwheat mix.

Peel the beets and place in the food processor with 1 cup of water. Puree until mainly smooth. Stir this into the buckwheat mixture, cooking until the liquid is absorbed.

Your choice here is to then cook like a traditional risotto, adding a little stock at a time. Personally, I added all of the stock, covered with a lid and simmered it for 30 minutes untl the liquid was all absorbed. Opening here and there to stir and check that it had sufficient stock.

At the end, stir through 1 tbsp butter to make it all glossy and serve with the sheep's milk fetta. Also pictured here, lamb steaks and a dressed kale salad.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Comfort Food - Avocado Soup

Have I told you about "The Nanna Shop" before? I'm not sure, but it's very likely as I shop there all the time. It's actually called Cannington Fresh Markets, but my nanna used to live just down the road from there. Growing up, my siblings and I used to walk with her down to The Nanna Shop to buy her a newspaper and us some lollies. It's changed a lot over the years, it used to have a butcher and bakery inside the store but now it's just the one big shop. It has lots of good fresh produce, imported sauces, tinned goods, continental fare, cheese and smallgoods. Usually, if a recipe calls for a slightly left-of-centre ingredient, my first port of call to try find it is The Nanna Shop. Funnily, now my husband and his sister, along with various friends and even my work receptionist now refer to it as The Nanna Shop as well!

The main reason I shop there frequently is for the fruit and veg. And one of the best things they have a buckets of produce at the back of the store. If you can use it, these bulk buy buckets are excellent value. Especially for those things that are a little on the expensive side normally, like mangoes, mushrooms and avocadoes. Usually the produce in the buckets are slightly smaller than what is normally sold in the per kilo section, but is still excellent quality. As summer approaches, I always head straight to the back first, hoping that mango season has started. It's one of my signals that summer is on it's way.

One thing I always buy there is bags of avocadoes. Always. I love avocadoes. Occasionally, I end up with too many and the two of us can't finish them before they've gone a little too soft. Which is where this soup came in. Creamy and subtle and oh-so-easy, this is a great vegetarian soup by itself, or as served here, awesome with the chipotle chicken as an extra kicker. Especially in this got-cold-again weather. And it would be remiss of me to not mention that crispy bacon would then make it a Vegetarian Recipe Improved By Bacon.

The wine in the last photo is from Darlington Estate. I highly recommend you eat there at some point. Awesome food.

Chipotle Chicken
2 chicken thighs
1/4 cup chipotle sauce
1 tbsp rice bran oil

Avocado Soup
adapted from here
1 tbsp rice bran oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
5 cups vegetable stock
3-4 small ripe avocadoes
2 stalks silverbeet, centre white bit removed and shredded.
Handful coriander leaves for garnish
2 jalapenos, sliced, for garnish

Pour the chipotle sauce over the chicken thighs and allow to marinade for 20 minutes or so. Heat the oil in a frypan, BBQ or grill and cook the thighs until done, about 5 minutes per side. Set aside, but keep warm.

Heat the second lot of oil in a pot over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook another few minutes until very fragrant.

Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, add the silverbeet and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat.

Add the avocado and blend the whole thing with a stick blender until smooth. Return to a low heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until warmed through.

Slice chicken, then put in the bottom of the serving bowls and pour the soup over the top. Garnish with jalapenos and coriander.

Serve with corn chips, if desired.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Obsession - Pretzel Rolls

Pretzel Rolls. If you are like me and love nothing more than sitting down to freshly baked bread, still warm from the oven , smeared with butter - then these two words are going to change your life. One of the sponsors of the Sweet Escape retreat was LaBriola bakery, and they gave Alejandra (and hence us) a whole bunch of pretzel rolls. And they were good. Addictively good. Can't eat just one good. When I got home, I immediately googled recipes for pretzel rolls, needing them in my life. I've made these twice now and love them. They're not quite as good as the La Briola ones, but they are definitely an adequate at-home substitute! Both batches were gobbled up by my guests pretty quickly, so that's a fairly good indication of yumminess.

The first time I made them, I made the dough in a stand mixer that is woefully poor at actually mixing more than the small centre of the bowl where the blade sits and had to knead the rest in by hand. I can't wait til I finally get around to saving enough for a KitchenAid! The second time I made them, I used a breadmaker to mix the dough. This method worked well, but the dough ended up a bit sticky, so I needed hand-knead in some extra flour. Until I get my KitchenAid, I will be sticking with the breadmaker method, and checking earlier on to see if the dough is sticky. If you have a good stand mixer, then that will work.

As I said, these are perfect with just some butter, but also great as slider buns. Let's face it - any time you need a bun these are perfect. I realised I forgot to take a photo of them sliced up with said butter or fillings - but I was too busy eating them. Maybe next time, I'll pop it on instagram

Pretzel Rolls
adapted from here

1 1/2 cups warm water (as hot as your tap gets)
1 tbsp dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
4 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp melted butter
1 beaten egg for glazing

8 cups water
1/4 cup bicarb soda

Start by melting the butter, and setting aside to cool slightly.

Pour the warm water, sugar and yeast into the bowl of the breadmaker, stirring together. Leave it to sit for about 10 minutes until it's foamy.

Add the flour, salt and butter, then set the breadmaker on the dough setting. Watch as it comes together, and once it's all combined (about 10 minutes into kneading for mine), gently and safely touch the dough to see if it's 'sticky' to the touch. If it is, add a tbsp of flour at a time until it's not sticky. I added an extra 4 tbsp to mine.

Once the dough is a good consistency, leave the dough setting to finish and it will do it's first rise in the bowl of the machine.

For standmixer, follow the breadmaker instructions as above up until the rise - it'll need around 5-10 minutes of kneading time. Then cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm position for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.

Lightly flour your work surface and drop the ball of rised dough out onto it. Knead lightly into a flatter disc and cut into 16 equal pieces for slider sized buns. Take each piece and roll around in both hands, so you have a smooth ball. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Repear with all the pieces of dough, leaving room on the tray for them to rise again. Place in a warm spot 30mins to an hour. They won't quite double again, but will look puffier.

Now it's time to prepare for baking! Preheat oven to 225C. Place the water and bicarb soda into a large pot and bring to a simmer. Beat the egg for the glaze.

Carefully slide each roll "flat" side down into the poaching water, let it sit for 30 seconds, flip it over and let it sit "round" side in the water for another 30 seconds. Flip it back over and fish it out with a slotted spoon and pop it back on the baking sheet, flat side down.

Brush each poached roll with the egg wash and slash a deepish line across the middle with a knife (if desired, you can sprinkle salt on top, too).

Bake the rolls in the oven for 15-20 minutes, rotating trays half-way through, so the rolls are an even golden brown and sound hollow when you tap the base. Allow to cool slightly before eating. Best served warm!


Friday, August 9, 2013

Entertaining - 30 Sucks Party

I had all sorts of good intentions of cooking something awesome this week AND taking proper photos of it. I really, really want to get better at doing that and stop using phone photos. But I also want to maintain a vaguely weekly post on this blog. Seeing as this whole week has been a blur of after work activity, full of bottom-of-the-fridge soup, baked beans and toasted cheese sandwiches - no real cooking for real photos eventuated. So I thought I'd do a post on a party my husband and I threw. We absolutely love entertaining and having people over, so I thought I'd add a few posts of our past parties to maybe inspire you when I don't have any recipe photos lined up. I thought I'd start with a party we threw for a friend almost exactly a year ago. Maybe you can use some of the details in a party of your own!

Last year, a whole bunch of my usual crew turned 30. And all over pinterest were photos of "30 Sucks" lollipop bouquets. Seriously, how did it know? Did the whole world turn 30 last year?? Seeing this, and having had many a Buffy conversation over the years with the birthday boy - the theme was born...30 Sucks. Double-meaninged "sucks". Perfect, right? Theme chosen, we got to work.

Front of the invitation
And when you open it up...
We were lucky enough that after the theme was picked, the party supply shop down the road were having a chuck-out sale of all their old Halloween stuff, in preparation for new stock. We were able to turn our games room into a haunted castle without a huge expense. I then made blood-rimmed wine glasses and little coffin treat boxes (complete with lollipop 'skeleton'). I also made jelly worms and labelled reddish juices as various blood types to go with the usual party fare.



We played vampire themed versions of normal kids party games. I love playing games at parties - even as an adult. I don't think it's nearly encouraged enough, except for at Kitchen Teas! Our games were "Pin the Bite Mark to the Victim", "Suck it til it Fits", "Pass the Suspicious Looking Parcel" and a version of musical statues, using horror poses as the "freeze".

A friend who couldn't make it came as a staked vampire!

And when it was time to make the cake, I went to my favourite go-to cupcakes - red velvet. Delicious and the colours suited the theme.


If you want any more details about any of this party, send me an email!