Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Comforting vanilla, cardamon and cinnamon rice pudding

I must need a big hug today. Because that is really what I'm looking for from this rice pudding. A big and comforting hug.

Vanilla, cardamon & cinnamon rice pudding

The combination of the milk and vanilla is so simple, but also a call back from my childhood.  It's lunchtime and this is all I feel like eating, so rice pudding it is.
The cardamon brings this dish up to date and an adult touch - I love cooking with spices, and it gives an extra depth that counteracts the sweetness of the sugar/maple syrup.

Comforting vanilla, cardamon and cinnamon rice pudding (adapted from Sophie Dahl's recipe)

1.4 litres milk (of your choice)
1 cinnamon stick
8 cardamon pods, seeds only
300g basmati rice
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g golden caster sugar (or raw) or alternatively 175ml maple syrup
150g raisins
55g flaked almonds

Serves 6. (I usually make half quantities of this recipe)

Preparing the cardamon pods

Pour the milk into a heavy-based saucepan along with the cinnamon stick and the cardamon seeds. Bring to just before boiling point (when you see small bubbles) and then stir in the rice and vanilla extract.

Heating the milk with the cinnamon quill & cardamon seeds

Simmer on a low heat for 25-30 minutes, stiring to ensure it doesn't stick to the pan.

When the rice is a wet risotto-type consistency (but still has bite) add in the raisins, almonds, sugar/maple syrup and continue to cook for a further 5-10 minutes.  You can add more milk at this point if necessary.

Serve immediately. 
This goes really well with stewed fruit such as plums, rhubarb and apples if you feel like making an extra element.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bills, Woollahra

After sauntering around Paddington and Woollahra on my mum's last day in Sydney, we popped into one of my Sydney favourites, Bills.

It really is one of those gracious places that is wonderful, without really having to try. The food is totally non pretentious, but marries the most stunning and simple flavours. I normally love going there for breakfast (corn fritters and ricotta hotcakes are totally legendary, as are his eggs that must contain way too much cream to be at all healthy) and was totally tempted, but also wanted to try something new.

I decided on the Orecchiette with ricotta, baby spinach and roasted tomatoes.  A combination I'll be trying at home very very soon.
Orecchiette with baby spinach, ricotta and tomatoes
Mum went for a thai beef salad
Thai beef salad
Mum also was thrilled, and has continually told me how reasonable it is to eat out in Sydney now.

The wait staff looked after us impeccably, letting us wait in a neighbouring book store, and then coming to find us when an available table came up. We were impressed.

Thanks Bills for another great meal. Love your work.

PS sorry for the lack of photos. I'm currently looking to invest in a DSLR which would be very exciting and would totally inspire me to take HEAPS of photos. But SLRs are much more techy and involved than I was thinking, but hopefully I'll decide soon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Boathouse, Palm Beach

After days of torrential rain, the sun came out strongly and brightly at lunchtime today. Mum and I were about to head home from the shops, but decided that Palm Beach was calling us. More specifically, The Boathouse. (They also have a lovely blog here)

I only discovered this place a year ago when my husband and I were passing by. He saw it by chance, and thought it would be right up my alley. So true.

I've had a minor love affair with Pittwater and the Northern Beaches since the first time I came up here when I was on holiday from England. The paradise-like beaches that I saw every day via Home & Away. And Avalon would have to be my favourite Sydney suburb (if you can really call it Sydney). The vegetation makes it feel degrees further north of Sydney in terms of how tropical it is, beautiful bright flowers and verdant green plants, which are matched by the houses and lifestyle. I get that holiday feeling even when I just pop up for a few hours.

The Boathouse just about sums up the Palm Beach experience as an outsider. It sits on the edge of Pittwater, just a stone's throw to the ocean, looking across to Currawong beach and West Head.  Peaceful yet alive. The Boathouse has been subtly decorated, a modern beach house that is airy and light yet filled with individual pieces of furniture, and bountiful with baskets of seasonal produce.
The Boathouse

Need I say more?
Well yes, the food is also outstanding. The menu is not huge, but it does the classics in a refreshing way. Fish & Chips, steak sandwich and burgers all make the cut for the lunch menu, along with a bucket of prawns. The fresh fish also varies all the time - we tried the kingfish, along with the salt and pepper squid with a light asian salad. Perfect for  sunny Sydney lunch.

Kingfish with Asian salad

Salt and pepper squid with Japanese salad and wasabi dressing

And we had a visit from a Pelican to top off our visit

Looking back to the Pittwater beach side

The sea plane jetty - yes you really can arrive by sea plane

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Anglo-Australian dinner

In Sydney the weather has changed overnight. Probably because my mum is visiting from Perth. It hasn't properly rained in months here, but we've just had 120mm in 24 hours.

All for the good though, as I suddenly felt like re-creating a dinner we had with the Rule family when we were on holiday in Yorkshire. Roast dinner doesn't feel right when it's 30 degrees and you need to feel strong to even put the oven on. But the constant rain and lower temperatures have made me much more inclined to take my time again in the kitchen.

Tom Rule also gave me a fabulous lesson in Yorkshire puddings when I was there. No 'only in Yorkshire talk', he made me feel that it was entirely do-able, and told me that he had taught himself. That totally bolstered my confidence, as I thought it would be the age-old tale of the family recipe that had been passed down.

The key, he told me over and over, was super hot pans that are pre-heated, along with the vegetable oil (that sits in the muffin pan). You've also got to be super-organised so that you can leave the Yorkshire puds until the last minute, and not need to open the oven. If you do that it takes all the puff and rise out of the puds, and they collapse on the spot.

He recommended Jamie Oliver's recipe, so we went with that.

My first yorkie puds. A very proud moment!

Of course, this has to be accompanied by all the usual suspects: beef, roast potatoes and parsnips.

I ground some black peppercorns and sea salt to roll the beef into.

Searing the beef prior to roasting in the oven.

Beautiful beef. It disappeared within 10 minutes flat.

Maybe not the perfect match to the meal, but I felt like whipping up a pavlova. Perfect way to end a lovely family dinner.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

last days of summer

From a baking hot summery day yesterday to about 20 degrees today, we Sydneysiders know that autumn is coming.

I'm enjoying the last of the summer ingredients. So, this was yesterday's salad. It was perfect.
Mum, I'm hoping to make you a few of these when you come over.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My muesli

I've been inspired to make my own muesli in the last few weeks. Thought it was about time I did some trial and error with tastes and ingredients.

Over the summer I've been making my own muesli/bircher most mornings - a base of rolled oats, with dried cherries, slivered almonds, frozen blueberries and frozen raspberries and a dash of full cream milk. I leave this to sit for 10 -15 minutes, and this makes it so much more delicious. Not only do the oats start to break down, but the raspberries and blueberries start to soften, and flavour the surrounding milk and oats. Delicious.

More recently I've been reading up on the idea of quitting sugar (via David Gillespie and Sarah Wilson), and how poisonous the quantities that we consume are for our bodies. I don't think I'm ready to bite that bullet quite yet, such a big commitment. And I love my baking too much to give that up. But I am trying to take this on board for my own consumption, listening to what my body really wants, taking notice of those sugar related ups and downs.

Starting the day well is so important - so, inspired by The Muesli, and its no sugar mantra, I've focused on getting lots of great proteins and fats into my muesli.  No dried fruit - this contains a lot of sugar, which should be avoided at breakfast where possible.

Along with my switch to full cream milk - I've found that this breakfast and a full cream latte mid-morning, I am genuinely not hungry until lunchtime. I can even avoid the mothers' group obligatory biscuits!

My muesli

400g rolled oats
50g oatbran
40g sesame seeds
50g cashews, broken up
20g sunflower seeds
40g slivered almonds
40g pepitas

Et voilà, My first muesli

That's unfortunately where the healthy finished for me - I had to sample the final mix tonight with divine King Island honey & cinnamon yogurt. It didn't disappoint.

FYI - Aldi now does a great range of natural nuts, they are so reasonably priced too.