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Tart it up

So after a one month hiatus I am back and blogging. I did cook throughout february, making a very disappointing ‘spanish pork’ recipe found in the CRISO cookbook and another fail with a creamy pasta dish however I don’t actually remember enough about making them now to post. Turns out I am not as good at prioritizing my time to blog as I had originally hoped, however new month and new me and a new recipe.

Yesterday my boss kindly gave me a massive bag of tomatoes from his garden. Following from this I googled easy recipes with tomatoes and found a recipe on taste.com for an ‘Easy vegetable and ricotta tart’ and I can now confirm this recipe was both easy and delicious, although I did make a few changes.

The ingredients list for this tart were actually pretty vague such as: 2 x 145g tubs Mediterranean vegetables, drained and Mixed salad. I have no idea what they actually meant by the mediterranean vegetables and just grabbed some kalamata olives because I love them. The recipe also asked for 150g cream-cheese-stuffed bell peppers, drained but I decided that since there was enough fat already so I just grabbed a large green capcisum. I also didn’t end up using goats cheese because supermarkets don’t make it easy to find anything and settled on some feta instead ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

tart pre oven

Tart before it went in the oven

If you have ever cooked with filo pastry you will understand how annoying and fiddly it is. I did struggle a little putting the pastry together and ripped pretty much every sheet, I gave up up 7 sheets (recipe asked for 10). It wasn’t just the pastry where I totally ignored the quantities,  I used the whole capcium, and was quite rough with the amount of olives and tomatoes I added. For the ricotta I didn’t bother measuring anything out and just added a thin layer to the bottom of the tart. When everything came together it looked pretty good so I dont think this really mattered.

tart cooked

Cooked and ready to get in my belly

So apparently this tart feeds 6 people, but I cut it into 4 and had a slice for dinner. It was really really good, and as soon as I finish this post I am going to have a slice for lunch 🙂

tart on plate

This was definitely a success, and I think it will be a good base recipe to build off and try different toppings. Lets hope this is a sign that March will be a good cooking month.

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Baked spinach and pumpkin couscous

Right now I am at Sydney International Airport patiently waiting for the check in counter to open up before I can check in. I always get super anxious about travelling overseas and like to give myself lots of time to get to the airport because Sydney traffic can be a nightmare. Today however the traffic was fine and I now have to wait another hour before I can even check into my flight. So here I am, picture of a millennial, with a glass of wine, laptop out and writing a blog 😛

Earlier this week I decided to try a recipe from Michelle Bridges ‘no excuses’ cookbook. When flipping through her recipes I came across a really delicious sounding chicken recipe but then realised that is all I have made so far and didn’t want anyone thinking I have some weird obsession with chicken (although I totally do it’s so versatile and delicious). This was the first vegetarian meal I found in the book and it looked really tasty so I decided to give it ago. You can find a link to this recipe here

I actually managed to learn something from my previous cooking attempt and remembered to take a photo of the ingredients the night before so I knew what to look for when I went to the shops after work. Despite my new found organisational skills I still managed to forget a key ingredient (passata) and had to send someone out to grab a bottle while I was cooking.

Because I was making this dish on a weeknight I let myself be a bit lazy and bought pre-cut pumpkin from the supermarket. I got a 500g bag even though the recipe said it only needed 200g but really can anyone have too much pumpkin? I think not. Again because I was being lazy I just grabbed a bag of spinach rather than weighing it out and ended up with a 60g bag rather than 40g. I figured since I increased the amount pumpkin I might as well use the whole bag of spinach too and so the amounts in this recipe were completely ignored. The only issue here was that I didn’t choose a big enough bowl to mix everything together

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I think the best part about this dish was that because I had to cook the pumpkin before mixing everything cooking it at the end didn’t take very long at all. Once everything was mixed and I had added the passata, and because quantities had been made up so far I also didn’t bother measuring this out and used about 2/3rd of a jar but I did forget to add in the garlic. To fix this I just grabbed a jar of garlic powder and sprinkled it over the top before adding cheese.

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Overall this was a great recipe. I like that I completely messed up the quantities but because it was so simple it really didn’t matter at all and the final product tasted awesome.

What I learnt:

  • Unlike when baking, proportions are not always important in cooking (although time will tell how true this is)
  • You can never have too much pumpkin (did I learn this? maybe more of a philosophy)
  • Always choose a bigger bowl for mixing
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Roast Chicken with ‘real’ gravy

I was flipping through some cookbooks last week and came across Matt Okines ‘Short Cuts to glory’. If you are not familiar with Matt Okine, he is an Australian comedian not a chef and his book promises easy to follow recipes for beginners through to masterchefs. Almost fortuitously while looking at the roast chicken recipe his TV show came on the ABC making exactly that. I took it as a sign and announced to the people I live with that I would make it on Thursday night.

I can’t find a link online to the actual recipe, but you can watch him make it here (episode 10).

An organised person may have thought to check the cookbook and look up what ingredients I would need to buy before heading off to work on Thursday, perhaps even buying the ingredients the day before to make sure nothing was forgotten. unfortunately in my personal life I am rarely organised. I ran to the shops on Thursday afternoon and grabbed a chicken, some rosemary, potatoes, carrots and a large green capcium because they were on special, I then kept my fingers crossed that everything else would already be at home.

It was about 5:30pm by the time I got home with everything, and as the smallest chicken I could find was quite large (2kgs!) I started straight away. This meant that I did not have time to leave the chicken hanging out on the counter for 30 mins like the recipe recommends to bring it to room temperature.

In the recipe they suggest that you should cook your chicken on the rack in the oven and have the tray of vegetables under it to catch all the juices. This sounded a little too messy for my liking, and thankfully I had a rack that I could cook the chicken on but still keep it on the tray. This meant that the vegetables would not get the chicken juice during cooking but also meant I would have it all at the bottom of the tray to add into the gravy anyway. As I had fairly large chicken I decided to get it in the oven striaght away and start on the veges afterwards.

Side note: Matt tells you to wash your chicken. I cannot stress enough what bad advice this is. You should never wash a raw chicken, it actually increases your chance of getting food poisoning, read more about that here.

Anyway, back to me. My first challenge was stuffing the chicken, they say to add a bunch of rosemary. How much is a bunch? well i just googled it and it turns out 22 sprigs, I used 4. As I didn’t check the recipe beforehand I didn’t end up purchasing fresh thyme, but I added a teaspoon of dried thyme instead. When it came time to actually stuffing it I chickened out and asked someone else to do it for me.

Stuffed Chicken

Once I had the chicken cooking I went back to the veges, got them all cut up, popped them on a tray and put them in the oven about 25/30min after the chicken went in

Roast chicken

About an hour later as the chicken was almost cooked I went back to the cookbook and looked up how to make the gravy. It was at this point someone pointed out to me that I had not included leeks and onion but that capsicum would not be an appropraite substitute so my gravy only ended up having carrots and did not become the nice dark brown colour like in Matt’s pictures.

The final dish ended up tasting really good. I was so excited that I didn’t overcook the chicken and it was still super moist which was a first for me! So 9/10 recommend this cookbook (would have been a 10 if he didn’t include the washing chicken part)

Final dish

What I have learnt from this experience:

  • Roasts are not really a weeknight dish, if I try this again I will allow for more time
  • Read the whole recipe at the start 😛
  • maybe have a shopping list/check ingredients before heading to coles.
  • Roast dinners do not make for the most pretty pictures
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Pomegranate chicken with almond couscous

For my first attempt at becoming a culinary master I found this recipe on the BBC good food website, pomegranate chicken with almond couscous.

I chose this for my first attempt in 2018 because there were only three steps in the method, not too many ingredients and most importantly I really love pomegranates.

I will put this out there now, a good reason as to why I have so many cooking fails is that I always make changes to any recipe I find, sometimes this is by accident because I forgot to pick up all the ingredients, and other times it’s because I just want to add elements I like and remove those I know I don’t really like. This recipe was no different. I chose not to include the chicken stock at all, rather I added a little margarine to the couscous and did not add anything extra to the chicken. I don’t mind using stock however I generally prefer to have it watered down as for me it just makes food taste too salty.  I also chose to go with harissa paste as opposed to tagine spice paste because I already had some. My final change was that I could not find flaked almonds in the cupboard (of course I ended up finding them after the meal) and so I just toasted whole almonds and added in some pine nuts too because why not. Oh and I forgot about the mint whoops!

I had trouble finding an actual pomegranate for this recipe, they were on sale at a few different supermarkets but had all sold out so I ended up buying a packet of the pomegranate seeds from Woolworths for $5!! A pomegranate normally costs about $2 so I was pretty outraged but it did end up saving a lot of time in the long run.

This recipe was actually pretty easy to follow, and it did taste pretty delicious however I made some mistakes along the way.

I started out with cooking the onion and the chicken, I then added the harissa into the pomegranate juice and mixed it around before adding it to the dish. At this point everything was looking and smelling good.

cooking1

I decided to cook the couscous not at the beginning like the recipe suggested. This turned out to be my downfall. I kept watch of the time and the dish, after simmering for about 9 minutes the dish was looking pretty perfect and I was excited that my first attempt at cooking in 2018 was going to be a success

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Look how thick and delicious that sauce is! Yum!

With a minute left of cooking according to the recipe I decided to add margarine to the couscous and fluff away. In my head I thought this would take a minute, in reality it took a bit longer. By the time the couscous was ready my dish had been over cooked and the sauce was gone.

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Thankfully I was not alone in the kitchen, and someone suggested that I add a little more pomegranate juice to the pan and cook for a minute so that I would have some sauce for the dish. This worked out okay but the final sauce was pretty runny.

The dish was still really tasty, while the chicken was over cooked and so a little chewy, the flavours were great. It was sweet and spicy at the same time, and the nuts helped bring a different texture to the dish which was really enjoyable. Overall I would say this dish was a relative success and I didn’t mess up too much to be completely disheartened so that’s always a plus!

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Hello world

and by world I mean hi mum, thanks for stopping by.

My goal for 2018 is to teach myself how to cook and document my journey, hopefully getting better and enjoying to cook more in the process. I know it is already the 10th of January, I have started cooking but was a bit slow in working out the whole blog thing.

A little about me:

  • I am completely obsessed with food
  • I love baking
  • I love eating
  • I love talking about food
  • I really like My Kitchen Rules
  • I hate cooking

Lets see how this goes…