How This Started and My Hope For This Experiment

My Husband and I are both big fans of Jamie Oliver. For Christmas I bought him Jamie's cookbook "Jamie's 30 Minute Meals: A Revolutionary Approach to Cooking Good Food Fast". As I read the preface of his cookbook I was inspired by his ideas. He felt that he was spending too much time cooking during the busy week and doing too much clean up. So he decided that for the week night meals there needed to be something quick and still healthy and yummy. He and his team did a lot of work and made the "30 Minute Meals". He has explicit directions for step by step getting the meal done in 30 min. He tells you what to do first, second, and third so that you have all dishes going at the same time, instead of making it dish by dish. Since we aren't doing once a month cooking right now I was captured by this idea and dying to start trying. I have been spending way too much time in the kitchen during the week and can't wait to be able to prepare good meals fast. My husband was all for it since he loves to eat great food and has a very particular palette. He will be making some of the meals on weekends when he isn't working because, this is after all, his cookbook :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sea Bass & Crispy Pancetta, Sweet Potato Mash, Asian Greens, 1-Minute Berry Ice Cream and Sprarkling Lemon Ginger Drink

Sea Bass & Crispy Pancetta, Sweet Potato Mash, Asian Greens, 1-Minute Berry Ice Cream and Sparkling Lemon Ginger Drink p. 182 
This meal is probably my favorite meal so far out of the JO 30 Min. Meals Cookbook. If not my favorite then in my top 3 for sure.  It was amazing.  We had a small cooking competition at our church recently and I made this for it. It won first place for best tasting. It really is GOOD!!  I am big into textures in food and this one has so many textures and flavors too that complement each other. It is a symphony in your mouth for sure. 
These are the Asian greens. Asparagus is out of season here so we went with broccoli alone. You can tell in the picture that they are overcooked as well. Once you loose the bright green color of your veggies you know it is too late-they're over cooked.  I am learning more though about resting your meat after it is cooked though and I can't see why this wouldn't work for veggies. A famous chef here in New Zealand said something in a class I took from him that made me think a lot about the way we do dinner at my house.  He said that home chef's always think they need to serve food piping hot, but really it is good for your meat to rest and better that your food is served less hot than overcooked!!  Good point don't you think? Next time we are waiting dinner on dad we will take the food out early and let it rest rather than trying to keep it hot and letting it overcook.

Crispy pancetta-this is 8 slices of pancetta that goes on top of the fish. it's cooked in a drizzle of olive oil until crispy. When crisp you remove it from the pan and leave the fat in the pan to cook the fish in.  Put the fish in the pan skin side down and press it down onto the pan with a spatula(the recipe calls for 4X 150g fillets of sea bass).  Next pound up 1 tsp of fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar and scatter them over the fish with a pinch of salt and pepper. Then finely grate over the zest of 1 lemon. Cut the lemon into quarters and save for serving.
Sweet Potato Mash- take 700g of sweet potatoes and wash, trim and stab with a knife. Put in a large microwave safe bowl. Halve a lime and add it to the bowl cover with cling wrap and microwave on full power for 12 minutes  or until cooked through.  While that is cooking, finely chop the coriander on a large wooden board and set aside a few leaves for the garnish. Add the mango chutney, a good splash of soy sauce, a drizzle of olive oil, the juice of 1/2 a lime and 1/2 a chopped red chili.
Take the sweet potatoes out of the microwave when cooked through, then use tongs to squeeze over the juice from the hot lime halves and discard them.  carefully tip the sweet potatoes on top of the mango chutney mixture and use a knife or masher to chop and mash everything together, including the skins. Season to taste, adding more fresh lime juice if needed.
I added just a tablespoon or two more of the mango chutney to it because it tasted so good.
Here it is with the sea bass and pancetta on top, lemons on the side, and a little coriander (cilantro) to garnish. Magnificent food!  Can't wait to try it again.
Here is a picture of the second batch of broccoli I cooked up and didn't over cook. It is bright green and not dark at all. It tasted SO much better.
And if you just couldn't tell--here it is with the flash on :) I should add that I didn't make the berry ice cream for desert but will try to go back and try it another time and put up a post later.
This meal got a 10 from everyone in the family as well as wining the cooking competition at church. I had so many people come up to me afterwards and ask me about the meal. The purpose of the competition was to let people try different recipes that were healthy and under a certain price per/serve as they would say in New Zealand and this was one of Jamie's less expensive meals and one of my favorites so I chose this one. It was fantastic.
I highly recommend that you try this meal, so to get you started I found this link:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Shrimp Tacos

These shrimp tacos had cilantro/coriander, tomatoes, onions, lemons, guacamole, red chillies finely chopped, tamarillos, some people had a dollop of creme fraiche, and of course shrimp.
This shrimp was cooked in a lot of fresh lime juice, a small knob of butter and sprinkled with red chili and coriander/cilantro.  It was cooked perfectly (not overcooked like people tend to do with shrimp).
How can you go wrong with all this goodness wrapped up in a tortilla??  My husband loves to put kiwi fruit hot sauce over the top to finish them off.
If it's been a while since you have eaten fish or shrimp tacos I suggest you get on that and serve them for your next meal :) So good! The only problem is that you usually want to eat more than is needed to fill you up.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fish Tacos

These fish tacos are one of our default meals. They are fast, comforting and full of fresh ingredients. And they taste AMAZING!! Plus you can throw whatever is in fridge on top :) 
Usually we do tomatoes, onions, cilantro, fish, cabbage, fresh lemon, tamarillos, cheese and either tartare sauce or sour cream and/or guacamole. Sometimes I grate carrots on top or capsicum/bell peppers. You can also grate a little beetroot over the top for some yummy and really healthy crunch. The problem with beetroot is that the dark red color of the beets stain :(
This time we ate them on flour tortillas (because that is really the only thing you can find here), but sometimes we make our own corn tortillas which are really yummy!
The next post will have our shrimp version of these tacos.  I usually keep some frozen fish on hand for these so that they are something I can make when I don't have the ingredients for anything else or when I need to use up some leftover fresh ingredients getting a little ripe in the fridge.

Monday, August 15, 2011

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Memphis Style Coleslaw

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Memphis Style Coleslaw
These are not "real" southern states BBQ sandwiches but they certainly hit the spot for us since we have been missing some good BBQ since we moved here.
The rolls are the same recipe I got from the cooking class I took. I brushed the tops with the beaten egg and then added my own touch of sprinkling them with dried herbs before baking 
(these had dried thyme on them).
I slow cooked the chicken in the crockpot with 1/2 a bottle of Smoked Manuka  BBQ sauce and 1/2- 3/4 of a can of coke. So good!
The recipe for the coleslaw came from here: 
and we were really happy with it.
We cut open the warm rolls and put on some hot chicken, squeezed on a little BBQ sauce and then topped with the cold coleslaw and the top of the bun. They were FANTASTIC and we have already repeated the recipe but with Pork shoulder and Root Beer instead of coke (either one works).

So like I said they aren't anything like southern BBQ but, as my sister-in-law pointed out, it's hard to beat a meat smoker. And as I added-yeah and some really good homemade southern BBQ sauce made by somebody named Dave or Bill who has been making if for 25 years or more :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Newest Kitchen Acquisition-And Learning to Appreciate Tea

These beautiful tea cups are my newest kitchen acquisition and I am in LOVE with them. They are made in Italy and I have had my eye on them since we moved here over 8 months ago.  I finally decided to buy a set of six and I am really enjoying them.
Here where we live now they have 3 meals a day and then morning and afternoon tea and sometimes pudding which comes after the last meal of the day. It depends on where your roots are I am told.  I used to have a huge amount of tea in my cupboards in the USA, but only drank it for medicinal purposes because I forgot it was there until someone couldn't sleep or had an upset tummy or something. Here I drink a glass of tea everyday and sometimes two.  I am really enjoying the Fijoa tea, the lemon and lemongrass tea, the strawberry and mango and my staple Mint tea. 
For me it makes it even more enjoyable to drink it out of my new tea cups. It combines beauty with taste which is something I have always had an appreciation for. My kids LOVE having tea as well. Their favorite (and mine) is to eat biscuits with their tea. I couldn't really understand the obsession with small hard round biscuits that are barely sweet. Until the day we had some with out tea and it all made sense.  They really are quite good with tea (not good for much else though).
My two year old really enjoys her tea and she and the boys were quite put out with me when I wouldn't let them drink it out of my new tea cups. But they would drink it from anything as long as these homemade gingerbread men were on the side :)
This is one of the homemade gingerbread men that we made to decorate at my sons birthday party. These were also really great with tea. I was glad I made an extra batch. I had to go all over to find molasses here. I finally found it at "Common Sense Organics" and it was just what I wanted-unsulferd molasses.  Here is the link for the recipe to make you own homemade gingerbread men to dunk in your tea:  I like this recipe because it is real gingerbread made with molasses. It has a wonderful flavor. I used fresh nutmeg in mine as well which was nice. Hope you enjoy your tea and little men as much as we have.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fruit Salad inspired by Jamie's "Fruit and Mint Sugar"

This fruit salad has become a favorite with my family. We love fresh fruit salads and this one is really yummy.  I didn't have all the things used in Jamie's "Fruit and Mint Sugar" so I came up with this version of fruit salad inspired by his use of mint and lime with pineapple. I cut up one fresh pineapple, 3 bananas, 2 apples and 5 clementines. I squeezed lime juice on the top, a small handful of walnut pieces and some fresh mint chopped.

Then...remember the coating for the coated ice cream in his book?? (if you don't remember it has gingernut biscuits, dark chocolate and toasted hazelnuts ground up together in the food processor). Well I had some of that frozen so I sprinkled it over the top and it was fantastic. For a treat add a little whipped cream to the top and for a healthier treat add a little yoghurt.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cooking Class W/ The Chef of A Local Restaurant

Cooking Class W/ The Chef of A Local Restaurant: On a Sat. this last month I spent 6 hours cooking in an industrial kitchen under the direction of the Owner/Head Chef of a local restaurant. He is now at the point in his career where he can leave the restaurant (temporarily) to his crew and follow his passion to teach cooking classes on the side.  He has a separate building across the street from the restaurant where they do some prep work and where he can teach cooking courses.  The one I took was an overall sort of class where we made scones for morning tea and 5 dishes for lunch, and finished it off with desert.  We learned knife skills as well as many other little tidbits along the way.  They whole 6 hours was hands on which I loved. I am not as much a fan of classes where you just watch someone else cook and taste it at the end.  
Well start with desert first: a typical lemon tart with mascarpone on the side.

Lemon Tarts are not my favorite desert and I had never made one before. I learned some tips for making them that were helpful if I should ever make one again :)  One tip was to put the filling in a food processor and whip it until it is shiny then put it through a sieve. That way you get a beautiful color and you eliminate any little tiny pieces of egg that might have cooked.
The next little tidbit I learned was to cook the pastry cases with a little bit of pastry hanging over the sides. This allows it to shrink up nicely without loosing any of your crust down inside of your pan. We also learned how to cut little round papers to fill with barley, rice, or chickpeas to use as weights as they cook.
Another really helpful tip was how to eliminate the extra edges after the pastry cases were cooked. He used a rolling pin on top and just rolled it over each one until they were cut clean and perfect.  And last little tip and my personal favorite is to take the left over crusts and dip them in your morning tea :)
These are the cheese scones we made for morning tea. They were fantastic if really fattening.  They are so much better than the hard scones you buy in all the cafes here. Well most of the cafes. Some of them have really great scones that tastes fresh and not hard and old.
These are the ones we cooked up in his industrial kitchen--
This is the same dough (leftovers I brought home) but cooked in my crummy little oven.
After reproducing all the recipes at home that we made while I was there I was able to see first hand the difference that having an industrial kitchen/oven makes. The oven there cooked everything evenly and perfect every single time. My oven did not. It was quite sad. 
These are the rolls we learned to make. They turned out so perfectly and again the oven made ALL the difference.  I learned how to roll the dough into perfect little balls of all the same size and shape. We weighed the dough and every ball was between 58-60g in weight and rolled the same size so they would cook evenly and perfectly. 
One thing I liked as well was covering the rolls with cling wrap instead of a towel. It keeps the dough so much more moist and holds in the heat to let them rise a little more easily even in a cold kitchen.
The rolls were brushed with a beaten egg and they turned out completely uniform. I have made some beautiful rolls at home but mine don't turn out quite so perfectly. Close but not quite the same as these were.  One difference is that I am using 1/2 wholemeal flour and 1/2 reg. flour and I think the taste a lot better that way since we are used to making everything with wholemeal.
This is the dressing for the spinach and walnut salad: I used an ingredient I had never cooked with before- Palm Sugar-it is sugar, water and coconut juice and it has a unique sweet flavor I really like. One of the guys in the class told me he makes a great plumb sauce with it. It was fun to be in the class with 4 other people who love to cook and hear what they have learned and what the love to make etc...
The dressing is 50g palm sugar, 50g lime juice, 50ml, lemon juice and 50 ml, olive oil. You just cook it on low heat until the sugar dissolves and it once it is cool you can pour it over the salad. It is a fantastic dressing. Yummy!
These are the cubed and boiled potatoes we made for the spiced potatoes. We ground our own spices to sprinkle over the potatoes and fried them until golden. For the recipe we used 1 Kg of potatoes, 1 tsp each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds,  1/3 tsp chili flakes and flaky salt.
This was something entirely new to me as well because of the way we cooked them.  These are the candied walnuts we made for the spinach salad. You boil them for 3 minutes first-who would have thought? After you dry them off and cool them you toss in icing sugar and cayenne pepper(2TBS icing sugar to 1 pinch of cayenne pepper) and dust off the excess.  Heat oil in a pan and cook them stirring frequently until caramelised.  The chef was saying that it is hard to get even his own chef's too cook them until they are dark enough. He said that the nature of caramel is that it is burnt sugar and no one ever wants too cook it until it is burnt.  I personally am one of those people that likes it a little less burnt :)

Here they are being fried up-
They are still way too light at this stage
This is how dark he had us cook them. I would have liked them just a little lighter than this because they tasted a little more "caramelized" than my palette prefers.
This is the moonfish with Chermoula spice paste. The spice past we made was 15g cumin seeds-dry roasted and ground, 5g coriander seeds-dry roasted and ground, 10g paprika, 5g ground ginger, 1 clove garlic-roughly chopped, 1 chili-deseeded and chopped, 30ml lemon juice, 40ml olive oil salt and pepper to taste Then we combined it in the food processor until it was ground into a paste.
We just spread a little on top of the fish before cooking and it was really good.
These are the slow roasted tomatoes with onion relish on top. Very good as well!
The finished salad-
Part of the finished meal: roasted potatoes, fish and fennel salad
now with the spinach salad on the side
And here are the slow roasted tomatoes with onion relish (I guess I didn't get a picture with the roll).
And there you have it the finished product of all our labors in the kitchen.  Fantastic food and company and we got to take home all of our recipes. Well worth the cost of the class.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sticky Pan-Fried Scallops, Sweet Chilli Rice, Dressed Greens, Quick Brownies

Sticky Pan-Fried Scallops, Sweet Chili Rice, Dressed Greens, Quick Brownies p. 152
This was another first for me. I have eaten scallops many times but I had never made them myself before. I thought for my first time a JO recipe would be best, and I was right. These were fantastic and the kids couldn't get enough of the sticky scallops.

Any meal that can produce this kind of happiness, must be good :)

I didn't end up with a good picture of the veggies for this meal, and to be honest they weren't that good. They were my least favorite part of the whole meal.  It was 4 choi, broccoli (should have been purple sprouting broccoli but I couldn't find any), and asparagus. If these had been cooked properly they might have been good but as it were I didn't have a way to steam them and then ended up rather boiled and yucky.  Will have to try again now that I have a proper sieve to use for his steaming method.  The seasoning for the veggies was soy sauce, lime, and olive oil which is good but not anything really special. 

For the sticky pan-fried scallops you use 1 lemon, Chinese five-spice, sesame oil, 1/2 a red chili, 1 clove garlic, runny honey 2 small knobs of butter, and a small bunch of fresh coriander.  These were truly yummy. You are supposed to use scallops that have been trimmed and I recommend that, but the ones I had were not trimmed and so I just left them that way. If you haven't ever eaten or seen an untrimmed scallop you should check them out. They have a large orange part that I am not really a fan of. It has a strange texture.

You score the scallops on a piece of greaseproof paper, drizzle over some olive oil, sprinkle with S&P, finely grate over some lemon zest and dust with Chinese five spice. Then drizzle over some sesame oil (I love this stuff) and toss together until coated. Fry them in a hot pan scored side down in a little olive oil. Don't turn them until the last 30 seconds of cooking and crush over one clove of garlic, sprinkle over the chili, squeeze in the juice of 1/2 a lemon and add a tiny drizzle of honey and 2 small knobs of butter. JO does all of that in the last 30 seconds of cooking time :) He is seriously fast! When the butter is all melted and the scallops sticky and nice you can sprinkle over your chopped coriander--nice, sticky and beautiful!

This is the rice and it was equally as good as the scallops. I used 1 mug of basmati rice, a small bunch of spring onions, 3 eggs, 1 TBS of soy sauce, 1TBS of sesame oil, 1/2 a lemon, a small bunch of coriander and sweet chili sauce. The rice was really easy to make. When it is cooking you mix up the chopped spring onions, the eggs, the soy sauce and sesame oil. Then when the rice is almost cooked take off the lid and fluff with a fork before pouring over the egg mixture, squeeze over the juice of 1/2 a lemon and add a pinch of pepper. Put the lid back on and cook on the lowest heat for another 4-5 min.  

Happy children = happy parents. This meal was healthy, delicious and appealed to the adults as well as the children.  I am not one who believes in one menu for the kids and another for the adults. How are the kids supposed to grow up to appreciate different kinds of flavors and foods if they aren't exposed to them?? My children are picky about textures and they know what they like, but they will try anything and they will eat and enjoy most food if it is cooked properly.

These are the decadent brownies made with 2 x 100g bars of good-quality dark chocolate, 250g unsalted butter, 200g golden caster sugar, 6 level tablespoons cocoa powder, 4 heaped tablespoons self-raising flour, a handful of crystallized ginger, 4 eggs, a handful of pecans, a handful of sour dried cherries, 1 clementine and creme fraiche to serve.  My food scale was broken so I just did the best I could with the grams but it turned out perfect anyway.  They weren't too dry, they weren't too hard and they weren't too gingery-They were perfect.  I am one who likes my chocolate and nuts-I don't usually care for ginger or fruit in my chocolate brownies (or so I thought) but it was actually really good and seemed to add some redeeming qualities to the fat and sugar we were consuming.

The room went quiet until the plates were empty and they all I heard were pleas for "more please mommy".

This was a pretty fast meal but I didn't get an exact time because I forgot to check the time in the end. My best guess is that it took me around 45min. I know it was between 1/2 and hour and an hour.  It was a definite keeper on the rice and the scallops. I will try the vegetables one more time properly and see how they go. This is a great meal for serving a lot of people as well. The brownies can serve twelve and it is really easy to make a huge pot of rice, and to double the scallops and veggies.