Thursday, May 13, 2010

mmmmm meatballs

There's nothing like a good meatball recipe. Here's mine. Add some chilli or other spices to the meatballs - and enough orange zest to taste. Perfect over linguine.

Linda's MMMMM Meatballs:
2 slices of bread soaked in just enough milk to cover them. Leave 15 minutes until soft.
500g veal mince, or lean beef mince
one onion, finely diced
one clove of garlic, finely diced
1 tbsp of fresh sage, finely chopped - or parsley if preferred
grated zest of half an orange
salt and pepper

Squeeze excess milk from bread and place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well with your hands till combined. Form into small balls and refrigerate 30 minutes or more.

One onion, finely diced
One stick celery, finely diced
One carrot, peeled and finely diced
Two cloves garlic, finely diced
One tin of tomatoes, chopped
One tablespoon tomato paste
Water as needed (around a cup)

Saute the onion, celery and carrot over a low heat in a little olive oil for at least 15 minutes, stirring regularly. All vegetables should be soft, but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add tomato paste and stir for one minute. Then add tinned tomatoes and enough water to make a good sauce consistency. Bring to the boil, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, adding more water if it thickens too much. When the sauce seems rich and ready, drop in the meatballs, making sure they don't crowd each other, pop a lid on and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Serve over pasta or just with steamed vegies.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

slowly does it

I know - another post! I can't believe that I'm so prolific on my other blog, yet so crappy on this one. I'll try!

I was always an impatient cook. I hurridly chopped the ingredients, threw them in the pan, gave it a cursory stir and always seemed to throw in the next ingredient before the current one was ready to receive it. Now, I'm trying to slow down. I'm taking cooking as my form of meditation for the day. I can't sit in the lotus position and manage alternate nostril breathing, so, instead, I'll take my peace when it comes.

Now, slowly dicing the onion into small, even squares is my form of bliss. Then I'll chop carrots to a similar size and a stick of celery will join in the gang. The basic miropoix is the base for virtually any meal - but it takes time. I slowly heat the oil, not too much, and sometimes throw in a little butter for flavour. Then I'll add all the ingredients and stir them so they're well-coated in the oil and then let them sweat over a low heat for at least 10 to 15 minutes. I always used to rush this step and the onion was never cooked before I added the sauce and that was it, the onions stopped cooking and were always hard and nasty in the sauce.

When this is done, I'll remove them from a pan and then start to brown my meat. If I'm making a casserole I ask my butcher to chop up blade or chuck steak into 1 inch cubes. I dry them off with a paper towel {that's a Julia Child hint and oh boy, does it make for a lovely, caramelised piece of meat} then I'll toss it in some seasoned flour {just some salt and pepper added for flavour}.

I add some more oil, let it heat and then add the meat a little at a time. I don't like to crowd it or it'll sweat and leach juices and then stew rather than caramelise. Remember, this is meditation time, so what's the hurry. I only add enough to cover the bottom of the pan with enough space in between each piece of meat to fit in my tongs and flip the meat easily.

When all the meat's browned it's time for my favourite bit - deglazing the pan. Not deglazing the pan is a sin - all the caramelised goodness from the vegies and the meats sit on the bottom of the pan and they need wine or stock to release it. Pour in about 1/2 cup of whatever liquid you're cooking with - either wine or stock - and stir it over a low heat so that all the yummy bits from the bottom of the pan rise up and mingle with the liquid. When that's done return the meats and vegies to the pot, stir and add your remaining ingredients.

Deglazing's also the perfect way to make a sauce after you've cooked a steak. Add some button, saute some finely diced french shallots, then throw on some red wine and bring to a simmer. A length of fresh time and lashings of freshly ground pepper will make it sublime.

Bon appetit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

befriending your butcher

I quickly learned that the key to getting a good meal is to find a good butcher. Luckily, I didn't have to go far as we've got a really good butcher just down the road who not only has a wide range of meats, they're happy to order in special requests and will always cut a meat up 'just so'.

Because I quickly became a fan of slow-cooking I needed to find just the right cuts for this, and the answer was cheap meat cut up in gigantic chunks. At first I'd just buy the steak and cut it up, until I realised that nothing makes a good butcher happier than cutting up the perfect piece of meat so it'll cook to perfection.

Last night we had friends to dinner and I made Julia Child's Beef Bourginon. It was time-consuming, but every single act lead to some degree of deliciousness. For a start I had to dry each piece of meat on a paper towel before sauteeing it, and this meant it browned up beautifully rather than simmering to a dull grey in its juices. The only part of the recipe I didn't follow was to simmer the bacon in boiling water for 10 minutes to take out the saltiness {I mean, c'mon, THAT'S the appeal of bacon...}.

My butcher's also happy to take a Lillydale free-range chicken from its wrapping and cut it into pieces for me - something I'd need poultry shears and far more patience to do well. The the pieces are placed in a large ziplock bag with rosé, garlic, herbs, honey and lavender to become Nigella's ever-so-tasty St Tropez Chicken.

For convenience-sake I'll still grab a pre-packed piece of meat from the shelves at the supermarket, but I'm determined this year to keep patronising my butcher. Blokes such as he really do need to be rewarded...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

first bites

The first thing that struck me when we thought about eating meat again was the variety. Seriously, it's almost endless. Now I know there's a lot of vegetarian options out there - I know, I tried 20 years of them, but adding meat into the equation just changed my way of thinking. Rather than dinner being "vegetarian lasagne and salad" it could be chicken {roasted, grilled, thighs, breasts, kebabs, poached...} with salad...

But the thing was, at nearly 40 I had no idea how to cook the meat. As I was 17 when I gave the stuff up that meant there were a lot of learning years that'd flown by. Unused. So I had to start afresh. Thank goodness for the internet and Lifestyle Food. Cooking programs were my saviour. So was a meat thermometer that saved many a roast.

I think I've finally mastered the perfect steak {after tips from Gordon Ramsay and my friend Pete!} and now I can serve up a perfectly seared on the outside, pink on the inside piece of caramelised tender goodness.

I went from chicken being my favourite food in my teen years, to dropping low on my list of loves now {probably because of the ubiquitous nature of skinless chicken breasts - why?}. Pork is my friend. Oh, my very best friend and I'm so glad I'm a carnivore during the rein of the pork belly {best bit EVER}. Duck, oh, I do love duck. Confit? Yes please. Lamb's also up there in my fave mouthfuls - and nicely cooked beef also does it for me.

What amazed me, and my husband, was how fussy so many people are about meat. In my years as a vegetarian I thought you either ate meat, or you didn't. But after having people around I learned some things.

1. Lots of people don't like salmon. I know - crispy skin salmon with a squeeze of lime and a dusting of pepper is delish!
2. Lots of women don't like a lot of meat - and will only eat chicken breast. Missing out ladies!
3. Some people won't eat meat with bones as it's too fiddly. But it's the most tasty!!!
4. Former vegetarians such as my husband and myself are quite possibly the most adventurous eaters.

Next up on my journey - foods I have known. I plan on filling this blog with recipes - so stay tuned...

Monday, January 11, 2010

starting over...

After 20 years as a vegetarian, I was understandably nervous about re-introducing meat into my system. That's a helluva long time between bites. So, we started slowly with a piece of sauteed chicken breast, then, the next day a fish fillet and then decided that we could handle it and it was time to tell our daughter about our new carnivoristic life.

She was five at the time, and pretty excited about it really. So we went and bought some chicken, cooked it up, passed it over and she popped it in her mouth and chewed.

And chewed.

And chewed...

"When can I stop chewing?" was her response. Understandably. After years of vegetarian food the fibrous nature of animal protein, was hard for her to handle. So we thought we'd leave it up to her to take her time, and slowly introduce meat for her to try when she was in the mood.

Next came the biggest challenge for me - re-learning how to cook meat. I was 17 when I gave it up and my cooking repetoire was solely veggie. Mucho one-pot dishes and ethnic food galore. I needed to learn to master the basics so I started to drag out the cookbooks and experiment - with mixed success...

this year...

I totally promise to write on this blog.


Let's say Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Will that do for a start?

Cos, c'mon, I'm nothing if not a vociferous blogger {there must be an actual term for that - let me know when you find it}.

So, I'll see you tomorrow then. With a post. A real one. Pinky swear!