Sunday, June 19, 2011

AN INTIMATE DINNER PARTY



I didn't feel like leaving our house on Friday night, and didn't want to pay for a babysitter.

So instead to celebrate my birthday I opted to host a dinner. It was billed as 'intimate' but the term reflected the cosy nature of the seating arrangements, rather than the modest number of guests.

We squeezed 16 people around two dining tables pushed together in the middle of our living room.








I had never served a sit-down six-course dinner for 16. And let's just say I ah, felt like I was on Master Chef when I was plating up the polenta mushroom pie and a couple of helpful friends spurred me on with reminders that I couldn't really spare the time to fuss about how the pie was sitting on the plate.

Me looking like I've just cooked for 16
Get that pie plated up...


One thing I avoid when cooking for a group is experimenting with new recipes. So each course was tried and tested and has already been published on these pages. However, the mushroom polenta pie was so buried here that by the time I found it I realised no readers ever would have.



And after the response last night I think this particular pie deserves a re-print. Quote from my dear friend Emily Besser: "I don't think people would realise how good it would taste from looking at the recipe and pics." So take the plunge. Check out 'Perfect' Mushroom Polenta Pie and see pics below of the process.





Dalia follows my pedantic pie-assemble directions




















Tofu Pecan Rolls awaiting the oven

Tips for assembling tofu pecan rolls

Looks just like a sausage roll...

I made a double batch of the popular Tofu Pecan 'Magic'' Rolls on Thursday night, along with two large pots of Brazilian Black Bean Soup with Red Pepper and Lime.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup
Dalia the fabulous sous chef


Garnishes for the black bean soup - don't forget sour cream


So on my birthday all I had to whip up were two mushroom polenta pies and a couple of spinach and rocket salads. Desert and birthday cake were taken care of by two very dear friends - Emily (tiramsu) and Miream (double chocolate layer cake).

Emily Besser's delicious Tiramsu


Miream's impressive, rich chocolate cake





My friends are very good wrappers 


Dalia was my invaluable sous chef on Friday, diligently cranking up the kitchen at 2pm and being a fabulous friend to Billie when she woke up. Jodie made the table look lovely, and read Billie not one, but three bedtime stories.

Thank you to my beautiful friends for making it a very special evening.


The Morning After: Billie and I show Dalia our local beach

Billie contemplates the large swell at Bronte

Friday, June 17, 2011

MISO VEGETABLE SOUP FOR NAOMI

My very pregnant friend Naomi sent me a message last night asking if I had a good miso paste soup recipe, "hoping to make it tomorrow if I'm not in labour", she added. She thought it might be good for pre and post birth. Sounds a bit like she's getting ready to bring her second child into the world.

I've taken this directly from the often-mentioned Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair. She recommends it for those fatigued or feeling unwell. Sounds like it's perfect for Naomi pre and post birth.

 VEGETABLE MISO SOUP FOR NAOMI


Makes 4 servings - designed to be a very light soup.


3 inch piece of wakame seaweed
4 cups water
1 very small potato, cut into half inch dice
1 small carrot, chopped
half cup bok choy, chopped
1/4 pound tofu, cut into small cubes
4 tablespoons light or mellow miso (or any, really)
2 scallions, thinly sliced for garnish


Soak wakame in small bowl of cold water for five minutes. Put the four cups of water with the potato, carrot in a pot and bring to boil.


Remove wakame and tear into pieces, removing the spine. Add wakame to soup. Lower heat, cover and let simmer 15-20 minutes, until vegetables are tender.


Near the end of the cooking time add the bok choy and tofu and let simmer for 2-3 minutes.


Ladle about 1/4 cup of the broth from the coup into each of the four soup bowls. Dissolve a tablespoon of miso in the broth in each bowl. Add more broth with plenty of vegetables to each bowl and stir gently. Garnish with scallions. 


FOR BABIES 4-6 MONTHS AND UP: Remove boiled carrots and potatoes from soup after it simmers and mash with fork. Baby will benefit from the nutritious broth made by the seaweed.


FOR BABIES 10 MONTHS AND OLDER: Give cooked vegetables and tofu cubes as finger food.







Thursday, June 16, 2011

BACK WITH A HEARTY BREAKFAST

It's past my bedtime and sleep begs but I am itching to blog, really busting to lay down a recipe before another day passes.

My three-week hiatus can be explained by the recording and airing of my first Insight program since I got the producer gig. It was a raging success, and took up a lot of time and energy.

I've also been scarce on these pages because my cooking as been pretty basic. But then I think of all the recipes in newspapers and magazines that I would have written off as too simple to publish. I realise we all like to read simple ideas to inspire us in the kitchen, and most of us cook basic stuff most of the time.

So what have I been cooking lately?

A lot of porridge. Billie is a porridge monster. It was one of the first words she uttered on a regular basis without any prompting. So we have become quite the porridge chefs.

My favourite this week - and also requiring only four ingredients - is pear and ginger creamy porridge.

Another popular one is spiced creamy porridge with dates.

Porridge does not photograph well so we will leave it up to your imaginations.

PEAR AND GINGER CREAMY PORRIDGE


Serves three


1 and half cups oats
1 and half cups milk
1 and half cups water
1-2 pears, chopped into small pieces (no need to peel)
Half teaspoon powdered ginger


Place all ingredients in small pot on medium heat and bring to simmer (with lid on). Turn to very low and simmer until creamy consistency but still a bit of liquid left. (Takes about as long as you take to shower and dress, if you're fast).




SPICED CREAMY PORRIDGE WITH DATES


Serves three



1 and half cups oats
1 and half cups milk
1 and half cups water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if you can)
9 dates, chopped

Place all ingredients in small pot on medium heat and bring to simmer (with lid on). Turn to very low and simmer until creamy consistency but still a bit of liquid left. (Takes about as long as you take to shower and dress, if you're fast).


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