Aussie Meat Pies

Aussie Meat Pies

Summer holidays are almost here and that has kept us very busy with end of school year concerts, field trips and last minute assignments.  How can life get so busy here after only having moved to Boulder 3 months ago?  Besides the busyness, we have all settled here so very quickly.  We love our neighbourhood and have such welcoming neighbours.

Aussie Meat Pies

On either side of us we have families who have each just had their youngest child graduate from high school.  Both young men are about to embark on a new life in a new city and it seems so sad that they are leaving.  We have only known these families for such a short time but I love how we have been invited to be apart of their graduation celebrations, how Elliott loves to run out and chat to the neighbours whilst they wash their car or do some gardening.  Our quiet street fills up with the neighbour kids and all their teenage friends and they entertain our kids for ages playing tennis, frisbee and skateboarding on the road.  They all seem to be such lovely, responsible, mature young adults.  It will be so quiet here when they leave for college.  I really hope my own kiddos choose to go to university in the same city, close to home!

Speaking of home, I made meat pies for dinner a couple of weeks ago.  Food for the homesick Australian.  Joel travelled back to California to give some lectures at the main campus and I wanted to cook up something uniquely Australian for dinner when he returned.  It was such a hit with the whole family that I have made these pies on three separate occasions in as little weeks.  I took a plate of mini pies to a party last week where they were quickly devoured but never again will I make mini ones – so time consuming.  I picked up a great tin with 6 pastry molds where the base measures 9cm in diameter.  This is the perfect pie size however to make it even easier you could just make one big family pie.

Aussie Meat Pies

Puff pastry is very hard to come by over here and if you do find it expect to pay through the nose for it.  A reader awhile ago told me I should give rough puff pastry a go.  It took me  awhile to work up the courage but I did and it worked a treat.  I have made it now several times and very satisfied with the layers of puffed pastry.  The first batch I made was the best but sadly I can’t remember what cookbook I made it from (one of the downsides to having too many cookbooks).  The other times I made the Rough Puff from Kate Bracks’ book, The Sweet Life, and it has been great and super easy.  The shortcrust pastry recipe I use is a Donna Hay one which I have in this recipe for Caramelised Onion and Blue Cheese Tart.  It is quite short and I do think a flaky pie pastry would be better for a meat pie.  My mum uses the Flaky Pastry recipe in The Commonsense Cookery Book and I think in hindsight I should use that one as it is perfect in my mum’s delicious lentil pies she does.  I will leave the choice of pastry to you but I will try to share a proper instructional post one day on Rough Puff Pastry as it is a great recipe to have.  I’ll also be trying my hand at the Flaky Pastry next time I make these meat pies and share the results.

To make these pies a complete meal then be sure to serve them with mashed potato, peas (or mushy peas if you are that way inclined) and tomato sauce (AKA ketchup).  All the kids were loving it but the funny thing is that I can’t even be sure they have had meat pies in Australia.  I know Joel and I would on occasion buy a meat pie at Yatala but the kids have never been there.  It is funny how being an expat makes you feel a connection with things that you weren’t that close to back home.

Horses

As tempted as we are to buy a ranch here in Boulder and get a horse or two (I have wasted hours looking at real estate and horse sales in the area and seriously considering this possibility) I feel home calling us.  Another mum I met who moved from San Francisco bought some land here and just bought some pigs which her kids adore. However in the summer she gets bears come down to the creek on her property which would scare the living daylights out of me!  I love how you can have a country lifestyle here but be 15 minutes away from downtown Boulder.  We all love it here.  It is stunning, friendly, the schools are brilliant and living here is affordable.  Tilly, in particular, is loving the horse riding and we all love the hiking and the skiing.  It was incredibly surreal to wake up on Mothers Day and see snow falling.  We had a big snow storm and Joel had to leave that evening for sunny California (shorts and t-shirts packed in his suitcase).  Levi took on the responsibility to shovel the driveway and thankfully there was hardly any snow on the roads.  I thoroughly enjoyed the last few days of our snowy winter wonderland before summer hit.  Walking to school whilst it is snowing is something we will never experience in Brisbane. Today is meant to get up to 30 degrees C so it strange to look back at these snowy photos and think that was only a couple of weeks ago!

BoulderShoveling the drivewayBoulderBoulderBoulder  Hiking Hiking  HikingDriving home    Mountains

aussie meat pies

1 quantity of shortcrust pastry 
2 sheets of puff pastry (or half a batch of rough puff pastry)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
150g bacon slices, cut into strips
500g beef mince
4 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 1/2 cups of beef stock
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
sesame seeds

Line the base of 1 large pie dish or 6 individual tart tins with the shortcrust pastry.  Prick the base with a fork and pop in the fridge for half an hour.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F) and blind bake the pastry.  Set aside to cool.

For the filling, heat a large pan over a medium heat.  Add the oil and saute the onions until soft.  Add the bacon and cook until brown.  Add the mince and brown it before adding the sauce and seasonings.  Sprinkle over the flour and cook, stirring the whole time, for about a minute and then add the beef stock.  Turn the heat down to low and cook for 20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened up and the meat is thoroughly cooked.  Check the seasonings and adjust if needed then set aside to cool.  Lots of black pepper make these pies really tasty.

Fill the pastry bases with the cooled beef filling.  Whisk the egg and milk together to make an egg wash and brush this on the edges of the pastry bases with a pastry brush.  Roll out the puff pastry to about 4mm thick and cut out the lids.  Place on top of the pie and crimp the edges with a fork. Brush the tops with the egg wash and make a slit on top.  Sprinkle over the sesame seeds and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Posted in Baking, Family Dinner | 17 Comments

Nashville Part 2 & Cranberry Bread

Cranberry Bread

This post has been a long time coming.  Way back in November I posted Nashville Part 1 and for the last 5 months I have been meaning to share some more of our trip to the deep south, especially as I gave the suggestion there would be no doubt a Part 2.  Yesterday we had afternoon tea with our neighbours who were giving us the run down on a few good restaurants in downtown Boulder and a place called Lucile’s Creole Cafe was suggested for Creole cusine, which I have yet to explore, and southern style breakfasts such as Buttermilk Biscuits, Shrimp & Grits etc.  This reminded me of all the southern food we had in Tennessee.

Arnold's

One of the trip highlights for me was having lunch at Arnold’s in Nashville.  Arnold’s is a meat and veg diner which is only open on weekdays with a set menu for each day of the week.  We had to line up for a fair while but it was part of the experience and gave us the opportunity to check out everyone else’s trays and what they were eating.  The staff were bustling around and were encouraging the customers to befriend each other at the long communal table.  There were big cups full of iced tea and plastic trays loaded with fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, fried catfish, fried green tomatoes, black eyed peas and my favourite, a baked squash.  There were also pies and I think we had a chocolate cream pie but I didn’t get much as the kids demolished it.  The food tasted like it was loaded with salt and fat but the whole experience was incredibly fun and I would go again and again if my arteries didn’t get a say.

Arnold's

We experienced our first Thanksgiving with family and Joel’s brother and sister-in-law put on an incredible feast.  Ben was in charge of the turkey and roasted it to perfection – I need a lesson.  Rachel was super organised and made so many dishes using recipes from her family and some from The Pioneer Woman.  The Jack Daniel’s Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie was my favourite and Rachel shared the recipe with me but I have yet to cook it.  I’ll be sure to make it for Thanksgiving this year.

Thanksgiving FeastThanksgiving FeastThanksgiving feast

Another recipe that Rachel shared with me was for Cranberry Bread.  It is essentially a loaf cake and it is really simple to make and very yummy, especially when it is still warm from the oven.  Fresh cranberries were plentiful around Thanksgiving.  Cranberry season starts late October but I’m sure you could use frozen cranberries if fresh ones aren’t available.

Cranberry Bread

On our final day in Tennessee we all went to Loveless Cafe for a hearty feed of biscuits and gravy, fried chicken and bottomless coffee.  And when it was time to go home it was hard to resist all the pies so I bought some to try and for the life of me I can’t remember what they were.  I think one was a Coconut Cream Pie but I’m not 100% sure.  I think the reason my memory is a little fuzzy is that I needed to block that food memory out.  I started to feel very sick that evening and felt horrible for the next 24 hours which included our flight back to California.

Loveless Cafe, NashvilleBiscuits Loveless Cafe Biscuits and GravyFried Chicken, Fried Green Tomatoes and Mac & CheeseLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless CafeLoveless Cafe

When we had first arrived in Tenessee, Joel’s brother had been feeling unwell.  But it wasn’t until I decided to treat all our kids plus my little niece to an evening at the movies that I realised that it must be contagious.  My poor niece was sick right at the end of the movie which had me and 5 kids pushing past the big bathroom line to get the poor girl cleaned up.  Over the next few days Tilly and Levi also picked up the tummy bug and neither of them want to eat a Thanksgiving feast again.  For me, I don’t think I can eat biscuits and gravy again and I can’t even bring myself to write about them.  Suffice it to say, we loved our meal at Loveless Cafe and it was incredibly fun but I’ll have to order something different in future.  Anyway, what extended family holiday isn’t complete without a contagious tummy bug! Thankfully it only really affected our appetites and everyone was well enough to get around and see lots.

One cafe that I really liked was Frothy Monkey as they had delicious lattes.  The kids loved their steamers and one evening my curiousity got the better of me and I had to try their Rosemary Honey Latte.  It was not good, but it wasn’t bad. I guess it was just interesting and I didn’t mind the herbal hit.  But I do prefer my lattes to consist of just coffee and milk.

Rosemary Honey Latte

On our last afternoon, Rachel and I took the kids to Carnton Plantation for a tour of the house and a walk through the gardens.  A beautiful place with incredible history.  I really wish I could go and visit the gardens in the late Spring as I’m sure they would be beautiful. The skies in Nashville were very grey while we were there and it was a strong contrast to the blue skies that greeted us in California when we got home.

Carnton PlantationCarnton PlantationCarnton Plantation Carnton PlantationCarnton Plantation

I loved our time in Tennessee but left feeling that is just so much more to see so hopefully we can return.  I particularly enjoyed time with my sister-in-law who shares a love for cooking and pointed me in the direction for some Southern style recipe books.  I purchased three books mostly because the titles were so enticing – Bless Your Heart – Saving the World One Covered Dish at a Time; You Be Sweet -Sharing Your Heart One Down-Home Dessert at a Time; At My Grandmother’s Table – Heartwarming Stories & Cherished Recipes from the South.

All three books are delightful and they’ve opened my eyes to a whole new food world. There are lots of recipes that just don’t appeal to me (usually involving cans of crescent rolls, miracle whip or instant pudding mix) but I enjoy the read and some of the recipe titles just make me want to cook them:- No Flames, No Fuss, Easy Bananas Foster; Best Thing You Ever Put In Your Mouth Yellow Cake With Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing; Strawberries On A Cloud; Make Ya Wanna Slap Your Grandma Chocolate Cobbler.

Out of all these new recipes I am really enjoying this Cranberry Bread and will be making it again and again.  Thanks Rachel!

Cranberry Bread

 cranberry bread

2 cups plain flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp grated orange rind
¾ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
1 cup fresh cranberries, whole
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degree F) and grease a loaf tin.

Mix together the dry ingredients and make a well in the center. Mix in oil, orange rind, juice and egg until blended then fold in cranberries and pecans.

Bake for one hour and 10 minutes.

Posted in Afternoon Tea, Baking, Bread, Cakes | 10 Comments

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Apple Tarte Tatin with Cinnamon Ice Cream

Last week I made a very successful Rough Puff Pastry.  I’ve attempted this type of pastry a couple of times with no success so this was a triumphant moment.  I used some of the pastry to make little Apple Tarte Tatins for our Friday dessert and have popped the rest in the freezer for another day.  Puff pastry here in America is hard to come by.  I do know where I can get it but you pay through the nose for it so I don’t get it.

Boulder, Colorado

To go with the Apple Tarte Tatin I wanted to make a special ice cream.  I usually turn to the fantastically simple Ben and Jerry’s recipe book for ice cream but I wanted to do something with a creamier texture which calls for a proper custard ice cream.  In Kate Bracks’ book ‘The Sweet Life’ she has a brilliant recipe for vanilla ice cream so I started with that and tweeked it a bit here and there and added some broken cinnamon bark to infuse.  A really perfect accompaniment to the Apple Tarte Tatin and really any apple or pear dessert.

Horse RanchBoulder, Colorado    Apple Tarte Tatin with Cinnamon Ice Cream

cinnamon ice cream

450ml cream
250ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cinnamon barks, broken in half
6 egg yolks
110g caster sugar

Heat the milk, cream, vanilla and broken cinnamon in a saucepan over a medium heat. Once hot, take off the stove and set aside to allow the flavours to infuse for 20 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until thick and pale.  Strain the cream mixture in slowly, whisking the whole time.  Then transfer to a saucepan and cook over a medium heat stirring constantly until thickened.  You will know the custard is ready when the mixture coats the back of the spoon and you will also notice that the mixture feels thicker as you stir.

As soon as it thickens, take it off the heat and strain it into a bowl.  Set aside to cool and then cover and place in the fridge to completely chill.  Then churn the mixture in an ice cream machine and return to the freezer for several hours or overnight.

Posted in Colorado, Dessert, Ice Cream | 6 Comments

Chocolate Pavlova

IMG_2080

With four children there is always something on – something to organise, something to do or something to attend.  This week there were 3 separate sports days to attend for 3 of my kids which required a great deal of my time to ensure that all my kids got my equal attention.  And then Levi came home after school on Tuesday with a broken front tooth which required a couple of trips to the dentist.  As a result the week has flown by and I swear I spent the most part of it standing on the school field shivering and willing the sun to beat harder.

IMG_3015

Friday nights are pizza, dessert and movie night at our house. This week’s dessert is going to be Apple Tarte Tatin with Cinnamon Ice-cream.  I have just finished churning the ice-cream which left me with 6 egg whites.  I used these leftover egg whites for a batch of Raspberry Lemon Friands but they would have been perfect for this pavlova.

This yummy Chocolate Pavlova was a special dessert from a few weeks ago when Matilda returned from her first 2 night away camp.  Her camp was up in the mountains and there had been a big snow storm so I was very anxious to have her home safe and sound again – so naturally I made a Chocolate Pavlova to prepare for her return!

IMG_2083

This pavlova makes me think of Christmas as I first made a similar recipe from a Christmas edition of a magazine – I think it was Inside Out magazine.  It was amazing but I couldn’t track down the old issue so I made this recipe from a ‘Books For Cooks’ book that I picked up in London.  A simple dessert to make but quite decadant and perfect for a special weekend dessert!

IMG_2067

chocolate pavlova

(adapted from Books For Cooks Favourite Recipes)

6 egg whites, at room temperature
a pinch of salt
350g caster sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon white vinegar
250ml cream
1 teaspoon caster sugar
berries

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Draw a 23cm circle on a sheet of baking paper, turn this upside down onto a baking tray.

Whisk the egg whites in a mixer with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form.  Continue whisking and add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, and then whisk further until well the mix is stiff and glossy.

Sift over the cornflour and cocoa powder, pour in the vinegar and gently fold through with a spatula.  Carefully mound the meringue mix within the circle on the baking tray.  Smooth the sides and the top.  Bake for 5 minutes and then turn down the oven to 120 degrees C (250 degrees F) and cook for a further 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Turn off the oven and prop the door open with a wooden spoon then leave until the pavlova has cooled completely.  Invert the pavlova onto a serving plate.  Whip the cream with the extra sugar and spread onto the top of the pavlova.  Decorate with the berries.

 

Posted in Christmas, Dessert | 6 Comments

Burritos

Burritos

Summer holidays start in just under 5 weeks!  I can’t believe how fast time is flying.  When we moved to Boulder I just had a couple of weeks to get settled before the uni semester started and I feel like I have been struggling a little with time management but just before Easter I got 2 big assignments done and I am feeling much more in control.  I’ve even been able to dedicate a bit more time here at the blog to share recipes and link up to various social media.  So if you are that way inclined you can look at my Pinterest page, my Facebook page (which has been going for a while now) or my Instagram page (which I only just started) or my Google + page (which I also only just started).  But more importantly, Joel set up a recipe index so it is so much easier now to locate recipes.  Thanks Joel!

And on another note, my lovely friend Alice interviewed me on her blog this week at Perch and Prosper.  I love Alice’s blog as it makes me feel not so far away from home and she also has a gorgeous online store which is well worth checking out.

Burritos

My sister gave me a DVD for my birthday called Mexican Fiesta with Peter Kuruvita. I believe it aired fairly recently on SBS in Australia but I’d never seen it.  I started to watch it over the weekend and it has left me craving Mexican food and with itchy feet for travel.

We love to have tacos and I’m pretty sure the kids would eat them every day of the week if I let them.  I know Joel really misses the Friday burritos at Google in Silicon Valley but he still gets plenty of delicious Mexican food at work here in Boulder too.  When I went there last week for my birthday lunch with Joel we got plates piled high with beef fajitas – grilled capsicum, onions, corn tortillas, beans, salsa, the works!

Burritos

For burritos at home I take some recipes I love and just simplify them and take out the chillies.  The only heat comes from just a tiny bit of chipotle en adobe which adds more depth of flavour than actual heat.  For adults I add a generous amount of hot sauce for heat.  My recipes, I’m sure, are far from authentic Mexican but they work very well for our family and we love them.

Burritos, like tacos, have plenty of room for improvisation and you add almost anything that takes your fancy.  Most burritos I have had have rice in them but I prefer just the chicken (or beef or pork), some beans and then the yummy salsas and guacamole.  But you can add rice if you like to make a more substaintial meal.

Burritos

burritos

large flour tortillas (I use bought ones)
coriander
cheddar cheese, grated
hot sauce

refried black beans

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of sauce from a tin of chipotle en adobe
1 tablespoon coriander stalks, finely chopped
2 x small tins of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 bay leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil.  Saute the onions with a little salt until tender.  Add the garlic, sauce and corainder stalks and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the beans, bay leaves and chicken stock and bring to the boil.  Turn down to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes,  stirring often.  Season to taste.

simple chicken tinga

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
a pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
2 x small tins of crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon of chipotles en adobe, finely chopped
1 BBQ chicken, bones and skin removed and meat shredded
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan.  Add the onion and saute until soft.  Add the garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon and sugar and cook for a further few minutes.  Add the tomatoes and chipotle en adobe.  Bring to the boil then turn down to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Season to taste.  Add the shredded chicken and gently heat through.

basic fresh tomato salsa

3 large tomatoes
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
a handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1 lime
pinch of brown sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Quarter the tomotoes and remove the seeds.  Finely chop the flesh of the tomato and place in a bowl.  Add the remaining ingrediants and season to taste.  You may need to add more lime juice.

basic guacamole

2 ripe avocadoes
1/2 cup of basic fresh tomato salsa
coriander leaves, chopped
lime juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Half the avocados, remove the stone and scoop out the flesh.  Finely chop and place in a bowl.  Add the tomato salsa, a bit of extra coriander leaves, a bit of lime juice and mix all together.  Season to taste.

To assemble the burritos, lay out the tortillas on a board.  Place a couple of spoonfuls of the refried black beans, some chicken tinga, some guacamole, some tomato salsa.  Then top with a little grated cheese, some extra coriander leaves and a few shakes of hot sauce (optional).  Fold in the sides of the tortilla and then roll the burrito up.

Toast the burritos lightly in a dry pan for a couple of minutes on each side over a medium heat or toast in a sandwich press.  Either serve as is or slice in half on the diagonal.

Posted in Family Dinner, Lunch | 3 Comments

Potato and Leek Soup

IMG_2607-2

The good folks of Boulder need to send me the morning memo about what to wear each day.  Lately there has been a lot of legs and arms on display because spring arrived and yet I have found it so chilly that I’ve still been getting around in my jacket and boots.  But then this morning I went for a run, came home hot and sweaty and jumped in the shower and then got dressed in a skirt and light cardigan.  I decided it was time to dress for spring but I went out the door and froze whilst everyone else was dressed for winter.  Today was so cold and so windy.  So I came home and got back into my warm, snuggy winter gear.

The weather has been up and down but I have been warned that this is normal in April. Yesterday was a gorgeous, warm day for the kids’ sports and a short hike.

IMG_2019-2

But today we are back to cold weather which calls for warming food like this soup.  Potato and Leek is always a hit with the kids and they especially love it with a crusty baguette.  It is one quick and easy meal.

IMG_2653

potato and leek soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 – 3 leeks, well washed, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
5 large potatoes, peeled and cut in 3cm pieces
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Saute the leeks in the large pot with the olive oil and butter until soft.  Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the potatoes and stock then bring to the boil.  Turn down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are cooked, about 25 minutes.  Puree the soup in a blender or with a stick blender and then stir in the cream and season to taste.

Finish with a good grating of parmesan and serve with a crusty baguette.

Posted in Soup | 2 Comments

Megan’s Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Megan's Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Orange Cardamon Ice-cream

I have many recipes for flourless chocolate cake and I love them all.  This one was given to me by my foodie friend Megan, whom I’ve known since high school, who happens to have the brilliant blog Children’s Books Daily.  If you are ever looking for inspiration and encourgament to seek out books for your kids and read to them each night then her blog is for you.

Sitting down at the end of the busy evening routine to read to my children is one of my favourite things in the whole wide world.  Elliott is going through a stage of wanting to learn about animals, the ocean and aboriginal culture.  Essie is absorbed in the world of Nutmeg and Tumtum and Violet Mackeral.  And Levi and Tilly can be anywhere from Big Nate to Wonder to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  It is all good.

Quiet moment

Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday

April has been a month full of activity with Levi’s 12th birthday, holidays, Easter and my birthday.  I think we had the last of the seasons snow and spring has definitely sprung.  It is amazing how one day our backyard is covered in snow with kids having snow ball fights, sledding and making Maple Syrup Snow Taffy and then a week later the grass could not be greener and blossoms have shot out from every tree.  It looks like a completely different place.

Snow

Snow Ball Fight in backyard

Boiling maple syrup for Maple Syrup Taffy

Maple Syrup Snow Taffy

Easter Tulips

Boulder

With Spring the kids have been doing swimming, rock climbing classes, soccer and Tilly has been doing a horse management class Saturday mornings working with mostly rescue horses.  She absolutely adores it and is desperate to have her own horse – which won’t be happening.

Rescue Horses

On Easter Sunday we woke up painfully early, 3:45am, and drove to Red Rocks with a thermos of Hot Chocolate to keep to kids fueled for the dawn Easter Sunday Service.  It was cold and it was early but Joel and I were blown away with how well behaved our kids were sitting through the service.  Joel had a negative experience taking Levi to a dawn service on ANZAC day many years ago and we hadn’t braved a dawn service since but it seems our kids have grown up since then – hooray!

Dawn Easter Sunday Service at Red Rocks

Dawn Easter Sunday Service at Red Rocks

Dawn Easter Sunday Service at Red Rocks

Sunrise at Red Rocks

Dawn Easter Sunday Service at Red Rocks

Red Rocks

Red Rocks

The rest of the day was spent doing craft and feasting.  Before we left the house in the wee hours of the morning, I put a leg of lamb in the oven to slowly roast for 8 hours which resulted in tender meat.  It was a Kate Quinn Davies recipe where the meat is shredded then drizzled in salsa verde along with a generous squeeze of lemon and crumbled feta.  It was delicious served alongside roasted asparagus, tomatoes and potatoes.  Dessert was individual Balsamic Strawberry Upside Down Cheesecakes.

Easter Sunday lunch

Balsamic Strawberry Upside Down Cheesecakes

Salt Dough Crosses

Easter Tulips Salt Dough Crosses

Yesterday I celebrated my 38th birthday.  We were given movie tickets from Levi’s orthodonist, a long story, so we took advantage of having all the kids at school and went to see a movie followed by lunch at Google.  For dinner I had some helpers in the kitchen and we made Duck Confit with Red Cabbage, Hazelnuts and Bacon and Wet Polenta from Philip Johnson’s book Ecco Classics.  The kids had never had Duck Confit before and I had never made it before but it was easy and delicious and the kids adored it.  As the majority of cooking is done well ahead of time, all that was required just before serving was to heat it up and then crisp up the skin under the grill.  It is a dish I will be making again and again – for special occasions.

Duck Confit with Red Cabbage, Hazelnuts and Bacon

Dessert was Megan’s Chocolate Hazelnut Cake and Belinda Jeffery’s Orange Cardamon Ice-cream from her new book Desserts.  A beautiful cookbook which I have made several recipes from already.

Orange Cardamon Ice-cream

Well I have another quiet day today as all the kids have gone with Joel to work for Kids Day At Google. I hope to get in a quick hike up the foothills before doing some study and then later we will be making a batch of ANZAC biscuits for kids to take to school tomorrow and thinking about all the activity that is happening back home as everyone commemorates the ANZACs. I’m still missing home but I can’t help but count the many blessings that we have here.  Colorado is a stunning part of the world and I particularly love our little pocket of Boulder.

Boulder  Boulder   Boulder   Megan's Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

megan’s chocolate hazelnut cake

6 eggs
185g dark chocolate, chopped
185g unsalted butter
185g raw sugar
185g hazelnut meal

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F) and grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.

Separate eggs and whisk the eggs whites until stiff peaks form and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in microwave or over a double boiler and stir until smooth. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then mix in the egg yolks one at a time.  Stir through the melted chocolate and then the hazelnut meal.  Fold through the stiff egg whites gently and pour into the prepared tin.  Bake for 1 hour.

Being a flourless cake it will no doubt sink in the middle but don’t worry.  Top the cake with ganache or just dust with icing sugar or pile berries high on top.  Serve with ice-cream or cream.

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Colorado, Dessert, Easter | 4 Comments

Leek and Bacon Tart

Spring

Look at these gorgeous little beauties that have just popped out of the ground in our front yard!  This very same yard was covered in about 4 inches of snow last week and now there are a few little signs of Spring.  I’m looking forward to seeing the garden transition into Spring and Summer over the next few months.  We have been told that the big tree in the backyard is a fruit tree which the real estate agent thinks is a peach tree but isn’t 100% sure.  We will have to wait and see.

Spring

It is terribly exciting to find a new cookbook that has just so many great recipes and even better if it is second hand and only cost a few dollars.  I found this copy of ‘Flavours of the Sun’ by Patricia Lousada and Charlotte Fraser and it is chock full of tasty Mediterranean recipes.  It was first published in 1994 and there is nothing dated about this 20 year old book.  Here are some of the recipes that caught my eye.

Red Pepper, Anchovy and Smoked Mozzarella Pizza

Crostini with Leeks, Pine Nuts and Gruyere

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms and Prosciutto

Puy Lentil, Red Onion and Feta Salad

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Mascarpone and Ginger Cheesecake

Flavours of the Sun

How delicious does that all sound?  Well so far I have only cooked one recipe and that is for the Leek and Bacon Tart.  I made the shortcrust pastry recipe from the book too and it was wonderfully light and crumbly.  The blurb about this recipe in the book describes this as an ‘excellent tart for colder days’.  And despite the odd little flower poking up through the ground here, there are plenty of cold days here in Boulder to warrant making this tart.

Leek and Bacon Tart

leek and bacon tart

(adapted from ‘Flavours of the Sun’ by Patricia Lousada and Charlotte Fraser)

1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
250g bacon, cut into 1 cm pieces
50g unsalted butter
500g leeks, washed and finely sliced
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs
250ml cream

shortcrust pastry

200g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
125g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
4 tablespoons of ice cold water

Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to combine.  Add the butter cubes and blitz for about 5 seconds.  Whilst the machine is still running,  add the water a little at a time until the dough just forms a ball.  Turn off the machine as soon as that happens then tip out the dough and wrap in plastic wrap.  Pop it into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C (375 degrees F).  Oil or butter a 23-25cm tart tin.  Roll out the dough (I find this easiest to roll it out between 2 pieces of baking paper or similar) and line the tart tin. Prick the base of the tart with a fork several times.  Then line the tin with baking paper pour over some dried beans and blind bake the tart for 15 minutes.  Carefully remove the baking paper and beans and return the tart to the oven to cook for a further 5 minutes.

making the tart

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degree F).

Gently saute the onion, garlic and bacon in the butter until the onion has softened a little.  Then add the sliced leeks and cook slowly for 5-10 minutes or until the leeks have soften.  Season to taste and stir through the chopped parsley.

Whisk together the cream and eggs and season to taste.  Add the leek mixture and stir together then pour into the blind-baked pastry case.  Bake for 30 minutes or until set and golden.  Serve warm with a crisp salad.

Posted in Family Dinner, Lunch, Tarts | 2 Comments

Mayonnaise

Snow

We have been living here in beautiful Boulder for 3 weeks and it has been a fairly seamless transition into a new home, a new neighbourhood and new schools for the kids.  I do not enjoy moving though.  All the little details and all the paperwork to fill out and of course, all the unpacking but I’m so glad with our decision to move here.  We all love it and it is certainly not hard to be looking out to stunning, dramatic, snow-capped mountains all day long.

We are very far from sub-tropical Queensland as we shovel snow from the driveway and walk to school through the snow.  The kids play outside at lunchtime at school even when it is snowing!  Obviously the snow is very novel for us but the weather here changes so dramatically.  It can be snowing one day and the next day, the sun will be out, the skies will be blue and the snow can melt by midday.  The noise that the melting snow makes is surprisingly loud as it constantly trickles down the roof and into the down pipes.  You have to dodge the chunks of snow falling from the trees as you walk up the street.

007

I am hugely relieved to see the kids settled so quickly into yet another school.  Levi has started at middle school which he was very apprehensive about.  Thankfully he has jumped right in, got involved, made friends and loves it.  A huge relief!

Well there are still 8 boxes that still need to be unpacked but my motivation has left the building.  My studies have started up again so the time that kids are at school is dedicated to the books which doesn’t leave much spare time.  Time seems to be a rare commodity and there are too many good books I want to read, hikes I want to explore and sewing projects that I want to finish and begin.  With Levi’s 12th birthday just around the corner, I’m feeling an urgency to enjoy more and more time with all the kids.  We have been enjoying skiing and love doing this as a family.  It takes just over half an hour if the roads are clear to get to the nearest ski resort so we have been getting in some half days which is less tiring.

012

Cooking, fortunately, is something I have to do each day so I enjoy that creative outlet.  Each week I try at least one new recipe and it is becoming a lot more enjoyable as the kids get older and take an interest.  I tried Annabel Langbeins recipe for Speedy Mayo back in December and I have been making it lots ever since.  Annabel Langbein just has so many good recipes and this one is no exception.  I did not know that mayonnaise could be so easy.  You literally put all the ingredients into a narrow container and blitz with a stick blender.  That is it!  Pop a lid on and it keeps for a fortnight!

010

I spread it on the kids sandwiches for school and they love it.  Tonight I roasted some salmon and veggies and served it with this mayonnaise with chopped basil and capers mixed through.  The 3 older kids loved it.  Elliott prefers the plain mayo but he’ll grow out of it!

Well there you go.  The first recipe for 2014.  Now back to the books.

021

mayonnaise

(from Annabel Langbein’s book ‘Simple Pleasures’)

2 eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
a good pinch of white pepper
1 1/4 cups neutral oil

Put all the ingredients into a narrow container and blitz with a stick blender.  So easy!

If you want a thicker mayonnaise, which I normally do, just add some more oil and blitz again.  Add up to 1/4 cup extra if needed.  If a thinner mayonnaise is needed then just add some hot water.

I often halve this recipe, as I did in the photos, when I just need a smaller amount.

Posted in Basics, Colorado | 4 Comments

Happy New Year

Yosemite

The last couple of months have been a blur.  I returned from Nashville with the kids and Joel went on to Colorado for work and came home with an offer to transfer to the Boulder office for 12 months.  For the entire Christmas holiday we weighed up the pros and cons and finally decided to move.

We love California.  Such a beautiful place and there is just so much more to see. Thankfully we can come back often but we are also excited about experiencing Boulder before returning home to Australia.

Yosemite

Making the decision to move, just like making the decision to move to San Francisco, is not an easy one. Especially when I think how settled the kids are at their current school. It has been at the forefront of my mind the last couple of months but what a busy couple of months.  I have started studying online which requires a lot of discipline with time, my parents have been visiting for the last month, Joel and I had a weekend away in New York and then we all spent Christmas up in the Sierras and got in some skiing.  As you can see from the photos we got to Yosemite which is looking vastly different from when we were last there in the summer, but just as striking. Because it has been the festive season I have been cooking, cooking and more cooking.

Well, it is a new year and for the first time in my life I haven’t set any new year resolutions.  It doesn’t feel like a new year as we are half way through the school year, but more to the point, I feel content.  I could work harder at getting to things early, or at least on time, but that can wait until 2015.  Happy New Year and I hope to share lots more recipes in 2014!

Yosemite

Posted in California | 8 Comments