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Archive for the ‘loving food’ Category

Choc chip cookies

In the 1970s and 1980s, Nabisco made a choc chip cookie that I thought was the Ants Pants, the Bees Knees, Scoffs for Toffs.  The voiceover on the television ad crowed in a cod-American accent — ‘Chips Ahoy with more chocolate chips from Nabisco’.

It was a consistently crunchy biscuit that was the right width (not too thin, not too thick) and contained the perfect amount of choc chip bits along with minimal nuts.  I thought these biscuits disappeared in the mid- to late- 90s but according to kraft.com.au, these biscuits are still being sold.  Perhaps it was my youth that vanished, along with my eyesight.

Anyway … recent cravings of mine for choc chip biscuits have seen me heading to the kitchen to make my own rather than scouring the supermarket aisles for a product that I’m clearly blind to.

My first attempt was a couple of months ago, based on a recipe from the Woman’s Weekly book, Sweet Old-Fashioned Favourites.  I don’t have a picture of my attempt but they didn’t cut the mustard, measure up, meet their key performance indicators.  They were too hard, too thick and they didn’t have enough choc chips.

My next, most recent and more successful attempt was based on a Nestle recipe that I cut out of a weekly magazine.  I didn’t hold that much hope for it because my experience of cooking from a magazine or tin labels comes via my grandmother and the 1970s where essential ingredients were chicken noodle soup or milk arrowroot biscuits.  Neither were particularly palatable, either in the mix or out of it (although I wouldn’t say no to a plate of beef mince chow mein right now, which contained the chicken noodle soup).

But this Nestle recipe had a lot going for it – namely, a whole tin of condensed milk and 250g of choc bits.  I wasn’t too worried if my biscuits didn’t work.  The mixture would have to be edible in some way.  I’d eat it raw if I had too.  (And this is in fact what happened only because it tasted so damn good.  I am now rather pudgy.)

To cut to the chase, here they are: golden, crunchy on the outside, slightly chewy in the middle, with chocolate buds bursting throughout.

Afternoon perfection!

And here’s the recipe itself.  I can recommend it for the ease in which the mixture comes together and its flexibility in being able to cope with substitute ingredients such as margarine made from canola oil (less greasy than butter) and normal choc chips instead of white ones.

I made 45 bics in total which were scoffed by mainly one person in a week.

Bon biscuit!

Choc Chip Cookies by Nestle

150g butter (or margarine made of canola oil)
1/3 cup caster sugar
395g can nestle sweetened condensed milk
2 cups of SR flour
125g Nestle Dark Choc Bits
125g Nestle White Choc Bits (or Nestle Normal Choc Bits)

Preheat oven to 180C.  Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.  Beat butter and sugar until creamy.  Beat in Nestle Sweetened Condensed Milk.  Stir in flour, then Nestle Dark and White Choc Bits, mix well.  Roll heaped tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls.  Place on prepared oven trays and press gently with a fork.  Bake 15 minutes until golden.

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Insalata Caprese

Warm summer nights means SALADS!

The above was my take on the Italian dish, Insalata Caprese: cherry tomatoes, baby bocconcini, fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic glaze.  The basil adds so much flavour.

And then, from the book Fresh by Michele Cranston, there was hot-smoked salmon on potatoes roasted in lemon zest, with spinach and a dill dressing.  The smokiness of the salmon offset by the gooeyness of the potatoes, cut through by the freshness of the spinach and the tang of the dressing – too good.

Everything was bought from a fruit and veg shop or the supermarket, which made me very happy.

And my god, did we scoff the lot.

Hot-smoked salmon with potatoes and spinach. Yum!

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Scoffing for Australia - handfuls of kettle chips for dinner.

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I had been waiting to find some figs in decent nick to make this recipe, as they are quite expensive and only available for such a short time. So, what better time to make this than for Christmas Day as a pre lunch snack- waiting for Cumin4ya to get his act together. 

Fresh Figs

Ooh yummy!

  

This recipe originated in the New York Times, however, I spied it on Sassy Radish and salivated as I read through the post and looked at the pictures. 

I struggled a little with the recipe as some of it was in Metric and some in Imperial, it really didn’t matter in the end as I disregarded most measurements and cheated by using a jar of bought caramelised onions. 

What a delicious combo!

  

Please note for the below recipe I skipped the honey completely and only lightly sautéed the bought onion with some rosemary in the hope of infusing some of the flavour into the onion- did not really notice a big rosemary presence apart from the fresh needles scattered on top after baking. As already mentioned, I did not follow this recipe, but the end result was a success! 

Adapted from Sassy Radish 

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions (1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 sprig rosemary, more for garnish
Pinch sugar
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
Flour for dusting
3/4 pound prepared puff pastry
1 pint fresh figs ( 3/4 pound), stemmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 1/2 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled (about 6 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Good-quality honey for drizzling, optional. 

Preparation: 

1. In a large skillet over low heat, melt butter with oil. Add onions, rosemary and sugar. Cook, tossing occasionally, until onions are limp and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pan. 

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and egg until smooth. Stir in the onions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to a 9 by 12-inch rectangle. Transfer to baking sheet. 

3. Use a fork to spread onion mixture evenly over pastry (let excess egg mixture drip back into bowl), leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange figs, cut-side up, in even rows on onion mixture. Scatter cheese and pine nuts over figs. Use a pastry brush to dab edges of tart with egg mixture. Gently fold over edges of tart to form a lip and brush with more egg mixture. 

4. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with rosemary needles and drizzled with honey, if desired, warm or at room temperature. 

Yield: 8 servings 

All done.

 

Things I would do differently; 

  1. Buy caramelised onions not done in balsamic vinegar I think the balsamic was a bit strong
  2. Perhaps not be so lazy and cook onions from scratch next time(?)
  3. Not add all of the egg/ milk mix to the onion as the centre part of the tart was a little soggy
  4. Best served immediately, but was still a hit on Boxing Day when Adventure Biscuit scoffed the lot!

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Today Cumin4ya and I took a Gourmet Safari of the Middle Eastern flavour through the inner west of Sydney. The Gourmet Safari’s are the brainchild of Maeve O’Meara, well known as the host of Food Safari on SBS TV. To our pleasant surprise, Maeve was our guide for the day, along with Sharon Salloum(Head Chef) of Almond Bar in Darlinghurst.

     

Baalbek Bakery    

The day began visiting Baalbek Bakery in Canterbury where we chatted with the owner over a Lebanese coffee, much the same as Turkish- very strong ,very black, very chewy and you take sugar regardless of the fact you may normally not.    

Maeve showing proprietor a photo of herself in the newly published Food Safari Cookbook.

The real highlight of the visit was the walk through of the working bakery. From seeing a pile of kneaded dough ready to be placed on conveyor belts and trundle off to the 900C oven, to the delivery of the finished product through a hole in the wall where ‘the girls’ are ready to bag the bread for sale.    

Man Oosh
 
Next stop was Man Oosh in Enmore for fairly traditional Lebanese pizza in terms of flat base and some of the choices of topping. The group tasted the Za’atar (Za’atar is generally prepared using ground dried thyme, oregano, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt and is mixed with oil) pizza which is a breakfast staple of the Lebanese people, and a Meat pizza, which had spice and depth, but the Za’atar was the standout for me.
 
The plucky young owner has plans to expand into the Sydney CBD, and if he remains true to his traditional recipes, he will have a strong following in no time.

Mr Man Oosh

Can't remember the technical name for Meat Pizza?

 
The Nut Roaster
 
Right then, on we go to the star of the show, The Nut Roaster in Lakemba. This joint was established in the mid ’70s by Jimmy Afiouny who emigrated from Tripoli. Jimmy drew on his familial nut roasting techniques and The Nut Roaster is today, much more than that, it is a an Emporioum of all things Middle Eastern.  Great set up on arrival with a tasting table prepared for us and an informative run down by Jimmy’s son Tarek.
 

Who is that guy in the cap?

 
The Kri Kri nuts are a killer( I bought a kilo for six bucks!) peanuts dipped in a mildly spiced flour mix and then roasted- oh so good! And then there is the Za’atar mix, the Lebanese feta rolled in herbs, the imported fig jam, the fresh roasted cashews and pistachios…what else did I buy? That’s right, a tub of silky creamy Grandpa’s Dairy Labni(Dulwich Hill) and some fridge fresh pizza bases so I can attempt my own version of Mr Plucky’s Za’atar pizza for breakfast!
 
 
Abu Ahmad Halal Butcher
 
Hilarious! Ahmad thinks he is a bit of alright, and he is, as far as meat is concerned. The BBQ is set up outside  Abu Ahmad Halal Butcher on the busy Boulevarde in downtown Punchbowl. As Maeve mans the BBQ and introduces Ahmad and he talks about what Halal means, Cumin4ya bends Sharon Salloum’s ear before she departs the tour.
 
Schwarma and Sausages

Maeve and Ahmad cooking Schwarma and sausages

 
It goes something like this…
 
I just have one more question for you…when I was younger I used to go to my Leb mates house after school… his Mum always had a bowl of fresh herbs in oil on the table…was that Za’atar made with fresh herbs and not dried?
I then chat to Sharon and tell her Cumin4ya was itching to get that last Q in before she left. She’s says, “He’s so cute!” with a giggle! All I can say is Cumin4ya is in his element!
 
 
Getting back to the fare…
Rosewater and Pine nut sausages, yum, but not into cinnamon, and I could taste it.
Garlic and Vinegar sausages VV yum, we bought half a kilo.
Schwarma, marinated beef thinly sliced(not strips) and tasted both spicy and sweet- I suspect cinnamon was involved, but the balance was enough for me to tolerate. Bought a kilo!
 
 
A few passersby decided to help themselves to the BBQ which was entertaining, and an old bloke who must frequent the butchery just settled right in. And Cumin4ya scoffed the lot!
 
 
Steet party crasher.

The Local.

 
Al Aseel
 
And now for some 50/50 news on the next stop, lunch at Al Aseel in Greenacre. 
Cumin4ya left the camera on the bus, so no live snaps. So here is the doggy bag styling for you…

Doggy style...

The spread was traditional including hommous, babagnouj, falafel, tabouleh, pickled accompaniments of turnip, wild cucumber and green chillies. There was a dish I was unfamiliar with which was fishy- chilli fish with pinenuts and looked like it had tahini all over it. I don’t like fish if I can’t control ordering it myself, needless to say, I had more felafel instead. It was all very delicious and authentic as expected.    

The good news from Al Aseel, a few things really    

It was really, really good.    

I didn’t over do it, so did not feel too full for the next stop.    

I ran into a work colleague who is Lebanese- tick for a local dining here.    

Then who should walk in, but Mr Golden boot himself, Hasam El Masri- double tick for a local of noteriety dining here.    

     

Five Star Sweets    

Located opposite the lunch venue is Five Star Sweets, a curious place for the uninitiated. A spotless showcase of Lebanese indulgence.    

This is the place to come for celebratory baskets including;  first child born, first boy born, weddings, funerals, return from Mecca… The only way to explain this is like bonboniere for weddings, everyone who visits the house when the baby is born, or the wedding is announced, or the person has died…is offered a token(fancy wrapped chocs) from the basket.    

Weddings? Parties? Anything?

Weddings? Parties? Anything?

Its a...?

 And we had theeee most delicious selection of pastries, not just your average baklava either. I reckon Cumin4ya and I made right pigs of ourselves as we laughed with our fellow Safarians that this was death by dessert…then our informative host Muhammad brought out a plate of chocolate. I ate one and swooned, much to the amusement of my Safarians, I then went back for thirds as the centre of the choc was peanut brittle!    

Sorry, camera back on the bus!    

     

Sweet City    

Sorry to say, but pretty disappointed here. When the ice cream is described as thick and ‘stringy like’ I expect it to be so. Na! Waterey and lacking in depth of flavour.    

Cumin4ya chose Passionfruit and Boysenberry- raved about the Boysenberry, but thought the Passionfruit was so so. I tried the Pistachio(so predictable) and the Mango(and so predictable) and was left, well, speechless. Speechlessly disappointed. If the wrap was not so big, I might have been satisfied, but you know me- talk it up and I am thinking big!    

I could have done with ending the day at 5* myself.    

The Verdict    

It was great!   

I would recommend a Safari to anyone from my overall experience. A useful thing to note is the feedback form on the bus on the way back and also the very open nature of the tour guide- Maeve in this case, the business owner. 

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Come and get it!

Living in different towns let alone different states means that my family and I don’t often get together to eat, cook or talk about food.

And, for me personally, I like to talk about food.  I like to hear what others are cooking, eating, throwing down the toilet so that I can do the same.

This blog is an attempt to address this failure of modern living.  I’ve enlisted my nearest and dearest from across Australia and we’re going to have a conversation about food.  Good food, fantastic food, unusual food, how-to-cook food — as well as food failures, food fuckups, and food follies.

And just as topics of conversation come from left-of-field and follow their own paths to be overtaken by something coming from right-of-field, this blog may very well do the same.

We all have disparate interests:

hotcuppa loves, well, tea! and the sweet accompaniments of cake, pastry and biscuit
cumin4ya likes things hot and spicy, including his cooking
fauxfoiegras is not afraid to try anything and will keep us abreast of what she’s up to next
adventurebiscuit prefers the perils of the outdoors to those of the kitchen so it will be with great courage that he posts anything at all
bongout is actually two words – french ones – meaning beer and lentils … okay, not true but we should be able to rely on bon gout to bring some ‘good taste’ to this blog, and, finally
oldspice is a wonderful cook and gardener who will show us some of the things in her garden and on her table.

With all of these different interests, we may have plenty to talk about or we may end up talking about … nothing.  And if that’s the case, we’ll just go back into our kitchens, cook up something delicious, sit down somewhere comfy and … scoff the lot (had to get that in somewhere).

Cheers!

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