Friday, April 18, 2014

Unplanned detours




My recently formed small department (four people) has been going through some major upheaval in the last few weeks. And when I say “upheaval,” imagine me cruising along a smooth highway in my little car, only to find I have suddenly been diverted into a game of bumper cars (dodgems?). Not disastrous, but somewhat unnerving. More on that later, I hope, when the dust settles.

Meanwhile, it’s midway through autumn in Canberra: dark not long after six o’clock, temperatures dropping down into the single digits (Celsius) at night, trying to hold off on turning the heat on until ANZAC Day (25 April), in accordance with Canberra tradition. Put the two together and the need for starchy comfort food becomes self-evident.

Short rib risotto
This is more of a suggestion than a recipe; I made my favorite short rib recipe for dinner a few nights ago, and hit upon this as a good way to use up some leftovers. I started the risotto in the usual waysoffrito, rice, wine – and heated up several cups of the short rib cooking liquid, thinned with hot water, to use as stock. I shredded a couple short ribs’ worth of beef to stir in at the end, along with the leftover braised kale I had made to serve with it the first time around. Finished with butter, pecorino romano, salt & pepper.

Top with more grated pecorino romano. Serve in your old bunny dish if necessary.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rolled pavlova

Pavlova season (and eating-outside season for that matter) is pretty well over in Canberra as of this week; we turned the clocks back over the weekend, which means the sun is setting before 6pm. (Not to mention the 14 days of rainfall we had in March - twice the historical average.) So I'm filing this away for about six months from now, while those of you in the northern hemisphere can get ready to enjoy it.

I've written about traditional pavlova before, and rolled pavlova is just a variation on a theme - same ingredients, different presentation. The great advantage of rolled pavlova is that, unlike the traditional version, which needs to be assembled at the last minute, it is best done a couple of hours in advance and left in the refrigerator to rest.

I used the method outlined in this recipe from taste.com.au, a mammoth and consistently reliable Australian food website. I prepared and baked the pavlova base according to instructions (leaving off the almonds); once it had come out of the oven and cooled a bit, I turned it onto the prepared baking sheet, which I had dusted with confectioner's (rather than the suggested caster/granulated) sugar. Then I spread it with a thin layer of lemon curd, and filled it with whipped cream and my own choice of fruit (in this case, mixed berries) before rolling up and refrigerating for an hour (while we ate lunch). When it was time for dessert, all I needed to do was slice and serve: simultaneously stress-free and impressive, always a winning combination.

Enjoy! Meanwhile I'm thinking it's gotten just about cold enough here to break out the sticky toffee pudding.

Friday, March 28, 2014

March round-up

March has turned into what the Fantastic Mr. Fox would call a clustercuss, and life, cooking, and posting have suffered accordingly. But there are a few highlights to share:

Speaking of foxes....Now that the weather is cooling off, we  are seeing more of the local wildlife - including this recent backyard standoff between 2 invasive non-indigenous species. (Spoiler: despite the considerable size differential, the cat won this bout hands down. The fox slunk away and has not been seen since. S/he had no comment, so we still don't know what the fox say.)

I went to a back-to-school cookie swap which had originally been scheduled as a Christmas cookie swap, but got postponed when the hostess' December turned into an even bigger clustercuss than my March. Highlights from this included lots of delicious cookies, entertaining local gossip, and one attendee's excellent idea to provide her contribution as unbaked dough for freezing and future use (see rolls at top left), an idea which I am totally stealing for future cookie swaps. My contribution features the poofy blue tissue-paper flowers, inspired by Celia when I had to MacGyver up some fancy packaging from supplies I had on hand at the last minute. (My contribution.)

I have become an inexpert maker of inauthentic sushi, as evidenced by my latest batch. The process for basic inauthentic sushi is pretty straightforward - cook some sushi rice; when cooked, season it with sushi vinegar and let cool while you finish prepping the fillings (Miss B's preferred inauthentic sushi fillings are thin strips of cucumber and carrot, topped with chunks of canned tuna). Then assemble, wrapping fillings and rice in a nori sheet. It's here that my inexpertise becomes manifest, as clearly my rolling technique needs work. One of Miss B's classmates brings homemade sushi to school every day, and apparently his never disintegrate during the eating process, unlike mine.

In the interests of focusing on things I can control, last weekend I chose to cope with some of March's WTFery by cleaning out and reorganizing my pantry cupboard. Here is the result - a small island of order in a sea of chaos, but it's like doing 5 minutes of deep breathing exercises just to open it up and stare into it.

And this is rather nice to stare at too. Thanks, everyone!

Now roll on April 1, say I. Hope all is serene in your neck of the woods.
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