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, 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.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Father's Day Dinner-recipes courtesy of Jamie

Roasted Chicken, Parsnips, Butternut Squash, and potatoes, Boiled Carrots, and Savoy Cabbage

With our cold winter weather we have been craving warm winter vegetables. Father's Day dinner was focused on several of these.  These recipes are all Jamie's recipes but they aren't from the 30 minute meals cookbook. They are from one of his TV shows (can't remember which one).

Each vegetable was seasoned and prepared a little differently to provide a unique flavor and texture. The Butternut squash was cut, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with paprika, salt & pepper.

The parsnips were parboiled with 2 whole lemons, drained, drizzled with runny honey and olive oil, and sprinkled with thyme, salt and pepper. Then grilled in the oven with the squash.  The hot lemons set aside.

This is the fantastically fresh marinade for the chicken. This was worth making again-very good! In case you are dying to try it here are the very simple instructions: In a pestle and mortar put a whole bulb of garlic( peal on) take several large stalks of rosemary and dip them in of one of the pots of boiling veggies for a few seconds and add the leaves to the garlic. Pour in a few lugs of olive oil, add the peal of a lemon, and season with salt & pepper.
Pound together to get the garlic mashed up and the spices to blend well into the oil. After it is all pounded up Stuff your chicken with one or two of the boiled lemons(depending on how big your bird is) and a few sprigs of rosemary that have also been dipped in boiling water.  Cook the Bird for 30 min then add the potatoes (parboiled) and rub them around in the marinade in the bottom of your chicken pan and cook the two together for another hour.

The other roasted vegetables will probably not take more than 30 -35 min. so add them into the oven at the end.

Here are the finished parsnips. I used a Manuka honey because it has a strong flavor and I thought that would help the parsnips taste a little better. They are not one of my favorite vegetables.  The actually tasted really good with the strong honey and I would definitely recommend using a strong honey if you make these. My family isn't used to eating parsnips and I think it will take a lot of repetition to get us fully used to their taste but this was a fantastic recipe to help introduce them to my children.  They liked them but didn't want to eat too much of them.

The chicken was so juicy and tender and according to Jamie cooking the bird with a hot lemon inside helps not only flavor the meat but it also helps cook it from the inside as well as the outside giving you a shorter cooking time.

The potatoes were covered in the marinade as well and they were really crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. Because they were parboiled they didn't take long to cook and they cooked very evenly and crisped up beautifully.  They were definitely the star of the show to me although the boys all seemed to like the chicken best.

The greens you see on the plate were fantastic.  I was really surprised since they are also something that I don't usually care for. I made sure to keep them quite crisp since three of us really hate completely wilted greens of any kind. Jamie doesn't cook them long though so I think they are meant to be crisp.  To make these you heat a large pan and cut up a savoy cabbage really finely. When the pan is hot add a little olive oil and heat that. Add the cabbage and 10TBS of Worcestershire sauce and a bit of salt. Only cook for 4 min and take off the heat. 

The carrots were boiled with 2 TBS of sugar, cumin seeds, butter and salt.  Boiling in the sugar and spices gives them a really nice flavor you can't get if you just sprinkle them on top afterwards. The last but not least part of the meal is the gravy.  Take the juices from the bottom of the pan with the chicken and make a roux by adding some flour.  If needed (and it probably will be) add a little water and stir as it thickens into a very tasty and easy gravy. 
This meal was fantastic. It was like eating a big Thanksgiving dinner that was healthy.  My favorite thing about the meal was that it was built around making the vegetables exciting and not just the meat.  A great way to introduce new winter vegetables to your family if you don't normally eat butternut squash, parsnips or savoy cabbage.  My family gave the meal an 8.5 or 9. The potatoes, chicken, cabbage and carrots were loved by everyone. My kids were however a little skeptical of the squash and parsnips.  They liked them but not enough to eat seconds and they didn't want them as leftovers the next day.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Moroccan Lamb Chops, Flatbreads, Herby Couscous, Stuffed Peppers, Pomegranate Drink

Moroccan Lamb Chops, Flatbreads, Herby Couscous, Stuffed Peppers, Pomegranate Drink p.266

I made everything for this meal except the Pomegranate Drink. I couldn't buy any pomegranates so I defaulted Jamie's Berry Slushy P. 166 This was quite an exciting meal for presentation and if I had more unique dishes it would have looked stunning.  So many colors and textures deserve the same in serving but alas I must use what I have here on the other side of the world from my serving dishes.

This is the Moroccan style lamb. The flavor was so good my guests were sucking the bones when the meat was all gone.  Yummy!  The rub was made with freshly grated nutmeg, ground cumin, sweet paprika, dried thyme. You score the meat to made sure that when you massage in the rub it gets into the crevices.  Then when the meat is seasoned you add it to a hot pan and brown all sides of it and finish it off in the oven--Superb and you really can't go wrong unless you over cook it.  14 min for blushing to medium and a few minutes more or less for well done or rare. 

This is the houmous and it was really just store bought houmous with some added flavors. I took garlic houmous and drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, pepper and sweet paprika, and a squeeze of lemon.  It was very tasty!

These were the stuffed peppers and they were so easy it was like cheating. He uses peppers that are roasted and jarred already since it is fast.  You take the peppers out of the jar, slip in a few slices of good melting cheese (I used a good Cheddar), and you slip them into a hot pan and cook for 1.5-2 minutes until the cheese is melted. Fast, easy and quite tasty as a side.

This was new for me. I have never used harissa before and I really liked it.  This was also a garnish for the meal. It was made with 250g of yogurt, a heaped teaspoon of harissa, a drizzle of olive oil and a little chopped parsley sprinkled on top.  It was wonderful on the flat bread. It was cool in your mouth because of the yogurt but the harrissa added a bit of heat and spice that was in contrast and it was lovely. For those of you who don't know what Harissa is it is a Tunisian Chili eaten in North Africa. It comes in a jarred paste where I live but is also sold in tins, tubes and other containers according to Wikipedia.  It can also differ in taste depending on what region you buy it in.  If you haven't tried it before I highly recommend it!

Oh Couscous how I love thee-couscous is so versatile. You can make it so many different ways and it's always good. Just like a potato :)  This couscous had finely chopped red chili, parsley, a few lugs of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and the juice of one lemon. Simple and supurb. The grainy texture of the couscous was in nice contrast to the smooth bread and spreads.

This flatbread was a great example of how Jamie takes something so simple and pre-made and turns it into something that tastes spruced up and homemade.  To make these you buy a package of good flatbreads lay them on a board and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with S & P and dried thyme or oregano. scrunch up and wet a large piece of greaseproof paper and flatten out. Wrap up the flatbreads in it and put in the oven on the bottom shelf to warm up on 220'C/425'F/gas 7. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how it takes plain flatbreads up a notch on the food ladder.

Here is the finished product--Fantastic!

For the berry slushy see my post on "Smoky Haddock and Corn Chowder"

This meal was so well received that it will definitely be put on the list of repeats.  I would also like to add the Harissa to some other more simple last minute meal ideas. If you already have a jar of it on hand you can use it as a rub for any meat and it would be wonderful.  I also like the idea of using it with other couscous meals.
I apologize for going in and out of USA and European spellings. It is getting harder and harder for me to keep them straight and since I have readers from both ends I guess it doesn't really matter. It will look wrong to one or the other anyway :)
It took me more than 1/2 an hour as well. I am wondering if I will ever be able to consistently get these meals made in 1/2 and hour or if that will just be unattainable?  Hmmm--on a happier note my knife skills are improving greatly. Not getting too much faster yet but I am consistently being more uniform in my cuts and my spread has improved a little.  Farewell and Goodnight! Happy Cooking to you all-