Cafe de Paris butter recipe

This post is a long time coming. A long time. Pregnancy stopped me in my tracks in more ways than simply preventing me from posting here. My main focus was on growing a healthy baby. And that was it. Motivation to achieve much else waned. But then Pat was born and immediately I felt invigorated. Ready to pick up where I left off and reenter life at full throttle. This Cafe de Paris butter recipe is one of the first things that I was inspired to make for the sheer pleasure of it to go with a celebratory meal to mark our new family unit of four.

Cafe de Paris butter recipe

Let’s be clear. This recipe is not for the fainthearted. It’s butter, flavoured with a myriad of ingredients, to sit atop steak. The method is straightforward enough, but for the mixture a trip to the shops to restock the pantry will be required. The finished product is well worth the effort though and will keep in the freezer for months ready to crown grilled beef and transform it into a glorious meal at a moments notice. Serve aforementioned meat with shoestring fries and it’s one of my favourite dinners.

Cafe de Paris butter recipe Cafe de Paris butter recipe Cafe de Paris butter recipe

Enough of dinner though. Pat. Patrick Finch Thompson. My little man. After a rather traumatic pregnancy with more monitoring than I care to ever remember, due to my history with Thea and some abnormal findings, Pat arrived safely into the world at 11.19am on Thursday June 30th 2016 36+6 weeks, all 2.4kg and 45cm of him. I was allowed to hold him skin to skin after his birth and I bawled. Howled. The relief. All the months of heartache worrying how long I’d be able to carry him. If he’d be ok. And he was. He was perfect. Oh and the love. The absolute pure unending love that I’m sure every parent feels as soon as they see their baby. That love is so special.

Cafe de Paris butter recipe Cafe de Paris butter recipe Cafe de Paris butter recipe

I don’t feel that I need to say much more here right now. About Pat. Or about this Cafe de Paris butter recipe. Basically this a great compound butter to transform steak and chips from average to wipe-the-plate-clean delicious. And Pat. Well, I’ll definitely be mentioning him again soon.

cafe de paris butter recipe

 

Cafe de Paris butter recipe

Adapted from a recipe from French by Damien Pignolet

1kg soft unsalted butter
60g tomato sauce
25g Dijon mustard
25g capers, roughly chopped
125g French shallots, finely chopped
50g parsley, finely chopped
5g dried dill
5g dried thyme
10g tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 tbsp brandy
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp curry powder
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch of dried rosemary, ground
8 white peppercorns, ground
juice 1 lemon
zest 1/2 lemon
zest 1/4 orange
10-12g sea salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy.

In a separate bowl combine all the remaining ingredients and then add them to the butter and mix thoroughly.

Next take a long length of aluminium foil and on top of it place a long length of baking paper. Spread the butter out along it and try to keep it an even width from top to bottom. Now roll the butter into a log, twisting the ends of the foil to tighten it.

To serve, cut discs of the butter and place (once at room temperature) on top of warm steak to melt while the meat is resting.

Asparagus carbonara

asparagus carbonara

So without further a do, I mean it has been eight weeks or something now, I have a new recipe, asparagus carbonara. A dinner born as a way to help make use of the gorgeous and abundant cherry tomatoes thriving in back yard. It’s such a joy to pick a new harvest each day with Thea, to subliminally teach her where food comes from as well as recognise colours. But why the lapse in sharing this simple recipe?

asparagus carbonara asparagus carbonara

Well. The cooking continues in my kitchen, but that little window when Thea has her nap that I used to reserve for writing down my recipes. Gone. Used now by me also for some daytime shuteye. And it’s not even a choice. I’d love to stay up and be productive but my body hits a wall and it’s all I can do to read Thea a story, usually Peepo, settle her into her cot and then climb into bed myself.

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Daytime naps are one of life’s little luxuries though. A mini holiday during the day. And the way I like to look at it, exclusive time for me and my 20 week bump. Lying on my side, hand on tummy, feeling the tiny little kicks that never fail to make me smile. I know. Half way. And thankfully growing well.

asparagus carbonara

Speaking of holidays. We are off to Fiji next week and I am so excited. Excited to spend time as three, swimming and relaxing. Spending our days at a different pace. My reading material is children’s fiction, Harry Potter and The Dream Snatcher – glorious worlds that I can easily lose myself in and may even be able to finish while away with Thea. I have also prepared a list potential restaurants, because holidays are as much about eating as they are unwinding. I know I will find inspiration for new recipes to bring home with me. Be patient until I share them.

asparagus carbonara

asparagus carbonara

 

Asparagus carbonara

For 4.

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • about 200-300g cherry tomatoes
  • a handful of  black olives
  • 4 clove garlic
  • 1 to 2  birdseye chilli, chopped
  • 30g butter
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 400g spaghetti or your favourite pasta
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Snap the woody ends from the asparagus and then cut the spears into three. Cook these for about 3-5 minutes in boiling water, drain and then plunge into cold water, chilled with ice if you have a spare tray handy in the freezer. This step stops the asparagus cooking so that it retains its bite and colour. When the asparagus has completely cooled, drain and dry.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

Pit the olives and then slice lengthways. You can put these three items into a bowl now ready to add to the pasta later.

In another bowl, place the yolks, milk, feta, salt and pepper and mix well.

Now chop the garlic and chilli and fry gently in the oil and butter until the garlic is fragrant but not coloured.

At this stage, everything is ready and you could go and bath children, have a bath yourself, open a bottle of wine and read a magazine, do the washing up. Whatever. The point is that when everything is done up to this task, the prep can be left and then continued on with again later.

Put a large pot full of water on the stove and bring to the boil. Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes.

While the pasta is boiling, add the asparagus, tomatoes and olives to the garlic and chilli, gently heat and keep warm.

When the pasta is done, drain and then return it to the pot in which it was cooked. Working quickly, add the asparagus mixture to the pasta and gently stir and then straight away add the yolk mixture. Continue gently stirring the pasta. The yolks will cook with the pasta’s residual heat and a glossy coating will develop over everything in the pot.

Check for seasoning and enjoy.

Like this recipe. You might like spaghetti carbonara

Peach and burrata salad

I know. I know. I feel a bit sheepish coming back, but I really really would like to explain where I’ve been. And also make my comeback along with a killer summer peach and burrata salad that you are going to want to make. Juicy ripe peaches, soft creamy cheese, crunchy buttered almonds, clean fresh mint and tangy pomegranate molasses to marry the seasonal medley together.  A gorgeous starting point or accompaniment for any seasonal gathering.

peach and burrata salad

Ok. Let’s get to the point. Why was my last post back in November? Um, because I’m making a tiny human and the last 14 or so weeks have been all about sleeping, eating more citrus fruit that is necessary and copious amounts of tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt and olive oil, and generally just getting through the day. It does seem so unfair that pregnancy make you feel like half the person you once were. Sick, tired, cranky, constantly hungry. But as I write this, a small person is growing inside of me, apparently currently the size of a peach (you see what I did there).

peach and burrata salad

Not only have I been feeling exhausted though. If I’m very honest, which is easy on paper, I’m scared. I am just so scared. I know the absolute joy that comes with bringing a child into the world now, and I also know the anguish that comes with bringing a very tiny premature baby into the world, so I’d just like this time to be a smooth ride. A lazy, uninteresting, routine journey to 40 weeks. With a big party at the 30 week mark as I enter unknown territory.

peach and burrata salad

To instil some positivity, which I know can only come from inside myself, I have made a pregnancy vision board, full of beautiful round bellies and cherub like newborns. I bought some new onesies. Unisex ones. And no we’re not finding out this time around. Every night I now read Thea a book all about how she’s going to become a big sister. And you know, I feel a little more carefree.

peach and burrata salad

So with my new outlook (and hopefully second trimester renewed energy) comes new vigour to return to this space and share some beautiful recipes with you, starting with this rather special peach and burrata salad, as well as share this crazy, miraculous and wonderful journey.

Peach and burrata salad

For 2. 1 ball of burrata will serve 2 people so you can adjust this recipe according to how many people you are feeding

  • 1 ball burrata
  • 2 ripe yellow peaches
  • handful fresh mint leaves, roughly sliced
  • small handful of whole almonds
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • pomegranate molasses

This peach and burrata salad is the kind of dish that needs to be made at the last-minute, but don’t let that deter you as it’s extremely simple and quick to prepare.

Begin by toasting the almonds in a pan with a teaspoonful of butter and then roughly chop them.

Depending on how rustic you’d like the salad to look, tear or cut the peaches into  walnut size chunks. Now take the ball of burrata and gently tear it and scatter it over the peach pieces.

Over the cheese and the fruit, sprinkle the mint leaves, the almonds, a frugal dousing of pomegranate molasses and enjoy.

Enjoy this peach and burrata salad recipe? Then you might like this marinated mozzarella salad

Roast capsicum bruschetta with tomato and parsley

So now I’ve shared with you where we’ve been staying for the last three months, can you picture it? Can you hear the waves breaking from your pillow as you lie in bed reading a book, smell the jasmine wafting through the window in the middle of the night as you look out over the ocean lit by a full moon, see the whales breaching as you enter the kitchen first thing in the morning? It’s all still so fresh in my memory. Like this fresh and colourful picnic made up of roast capsicum bruschetta with tomato and parsley and a kale salad with roasted baby carrots, shared around a gigantic neolithic looking table at the bottom of the garden.

roast capsicum bruschetta

Exploring our surroundings during the first few days of our stay, Thea and I discovered an incredible, almost secret, garden artefact. Below a palm tree and shaded by its branches, on the last ‘tier’ of the house’s land, stood a huge stone table, its rough surface patched with lichen. Embraced by lush grass and perfectly placed for gazing out over the ocean, I pledged to myself that I would make an effort to make the most of such a wonderful thing. To read a magazine at it. To sip my morning cup of tea at it. To have a picnic around it and share it with friends.
roast capsicum bruschetta

Picnics are fun things and can be as simple as a cookie (the word I use with Thea to describe the homemade snacks I make her, like these granola bars) eaten in the park. They can also be as elaborate as wicker hampers burgeoning with cheeses, meats, pastries, fruit and champagne. I remember taking a long-term university flame on a romantic picnic to celebrate the end of his exams. The wicker basket kind. When we got to our destination though it was pouring and after trying to drink champagne under a tree we decided better of it and retreated to a nearby pub. We finished or picnic on the train home and the fact that I can still remember the event so vividly is probably because of the inclement weather. 
roast capsicum bruschetta

In fact, pondering picnics, Mark proposed to me half way through a picnic. At Clareville beach, mid bucket of prawns that we were sharing with my dad, he asked I’d like to go for a walk. “You’re not going to propose are you?! You never go for romantic walks” I affirmed, to myself as much as him. Poor guy. He replied that he wanted to go and see the tri-hull moored a short distance away, which seemed like a fair enough explanation. When we reached the boat in question though, he turned and dropped to one knee…

roast capsicum bruschetta

There is definitely a sense of romance where picnics are concerned. Not just girl boy in love romance, but something idealised, pretty and whimsical. Eating atop blankets and rugs, in the shade of trees, surrounded by nature, away from the pressures of life. So next time you take your lunch to a park bench, or pack an elaborate hamper, try this roast capsicum bruschetta with tomato and parsley. Perfect with or without champagne.

roast capsicum bruschetta

Roast capsicum bruschetta with tomato and parsley

Enough for 4 servings. Place the prepared ingredients into little containers so that you can assemble the roast capsicum bruschetta at your chosen picnic spot.

  • 4 red capsicums
  • 1 ripe truss tomato
  • small handful parsley leaves, finely sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • slightly stale bread

Begin by preparing the capsicums. Cut them in half from stem to base and remove the seeds. Now cut side down, place them under a hot grill until they are blackened all over, then pop them into a bowl. Cover the bowl with cling wrap to allow the capsicums to steam, which will make peeling them easier.

While the capsicums are cooling, cut the tomato into grape size pieces.

When the capsicums are cool enough to handle, peel their charred skin off, but don’t wash them, as this will take away some of the lovely flavour that you’ve just imparted from grilling them. Now slice them into thin strips.

Why stale bread to make roast capsicum bruschetta? The reason I say stale bread is that it will absorb all the juices from the vegetables and still be firm enough to pick up. With fresh bread you may run the risk of creating something that is still delicious, but that you need to eat with a knife and fork.

To assemble, place a little pile of capsicum strips, several pieces of tomato, a generous dousing of oil, salt and pepper and a smattering of parsley on top of your bread and leave for a few minutes for all the flavours to mingle, then enjoy. Some crumbled feta or crunchy almonds, or hell, both, would also be lovely additions.

Need another picnic recipe. What about this marinated mozzarella salad.

Almond tart with strawberries

I can’t really keep it a secret any longer. If you visit here often you’re going to notice sooner or later anyway, so I’d better come clean. For the last three months I have been living in a house with views that take my breath away daily. With gardens so pretty and scent heavy, I feel like I’m in a fairytale when I walk through them. I’ve fallen asleep to the reassuring sound of breaking waves and woken to magnificent patchwork orange and magenta skies. So this almond tart with strawberries was perfect for a Sunday lunch with friends in such a special place.

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You might recall that back in April a tree fell on our house, and as a result we relocated that same night to Ma and Pa’s. Well a very generous friend offered us their home for the months of August, September and October. And so this is where my photos have been taken lately. In the beautiful kitchen of a Palm Beach house with panoramic views of the ocean. Believe me that I am not exaggerating when I say that sometimes I look up from the dishes to catch a glimpse of a whale breaching. That at night I can see Barrenjoey lighthouse intermittently twinkle in the distance. That I am extremely lucky and grateful for the opportunity to have stayed in such a beautiful location.

strawberry and almond tart

I think that Thea has enjoyed her stay too. We go the beach daily, sometimes twice, making the most of our temporary seaside location. I put her porridge in a little container, grab a coffee and we go, with obligatory bucket and spade in tow, to have our breakfast on the sand. I don’t know if I would do this if it was our full-time home. There is definitely something to be said for being placed in situations that not only force you to realise how fortunate you are, but also to make the most of your time.

strawberry and almond tart

The spotted gum tree that crashed through our roof has also made realise that our house overlooking the sparkling Pittwater, a five-minute walk to Clareville beach, was a great home. I’m not sure that we fully appreciated that. We were so focused on renovating it and making in to the thing that we wanted it to be, that we never stopped to fully acknowledge how good it was: All those evenings spend sharing food with friends and family on the deck, this one and this one, oh and this one, especially stand out, as well as the dinner parties inside by the fire like this one.

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When we do move back to our home (seemingly still light years away as our insurance hasn’t even been settled yet) I’m planning on throwing the biggest dinner party ever. I intend to celebrate where we live. With lots of delicious food. Delicious wine. Flowers. Music. And possibly even bite size versions of this almond tart with strawberries. It really is that good and definitely fitting for a special occasion. Even Thea thinks so.

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Almond tart with strawberries

Adapted from a recipe in The River Cafe Cookbook 2

For the pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g self raising flour
  • 55g icing sugar
  • 100g butter, cold, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp cold water

For the almond tart filling

  • 265g soft butter
  • 265g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 265g almond meal

To serve

  • 250g strawberries, hulled and halved
  • icing sugar
  • creme fraiche

To make the almond tart pastry, pulse the butter, two flours and icing sugar in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the yolk and pulse until mixed in and then with the motor running add the cold water in a steady stream until the pastry comes together. Remove from the processor, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes before rolling out (with extra flour) and lining a 28cm diameter, 3.5cm deep loose bottomed fluted tart tin. Pop the lined tin in the fridge for another 20 minutes or so and then bake it in a 180 C oven.

**A note on baking the tart shell. Use baking beans. Seriously. I don’t know why I waited so long to become the owner of these little ceramic balls that have changed the appearance of my pastry shells for the better. I used to bake my tart shells with nothing and the sides would always shrink and the bottom bubble up. Then I got a little less lazy and started using dried kidney beans to keep the base of the tart shell flat. But after a while they began to smell. And just weren’t all that pretty. So one day, when in a kitchen shop looking for some platters, I came across Tala baking beans and my tart shells have been beautifully golden and even specimens ever since.**

For the almond tart filling, using a hand-held or stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together. When the mixture is pale and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, followed by the almond meal. Spoon the mix into the baked tart shell and bake for around 40-50 minutes until the filling is set. Don’t be tempted to overfill the shell as the mixture does puff up and will spill over the edge resulting in a messy end result.

Once the almond tart is cooled, decorate with strawberries, lots of icing sugar and enjoy with spoonfuls of creme fraiche.

Like this dessert recipe? Then you might enjoy my two tiered Pavlova

 

Beautiful Thai canapés

Let me begin by telling you about the thing that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. Ocean swimming. Dropping into the sea and swimming in the cool mineral rich water as part of my daily routine. What could be better. An activity to nourish the soul and clear the mind, at the same time of course as keeping everything trim, muscles toned surrounded by the cold.  Well the past few weeks I have been lucky enough to do just this with a lovely lady that I met at the beach (there was no way I was going to do this activity alone). And that’s where these beautiful Thai canapés come in.

beautiful Thai canapés

Sam is the lovely and very interesting lady mentioned above. Bobbing in her blue swimming cap, she patiently waits for me as I catch up to her in the sea. With no pushing and gliding at either end like in a pool and a slight sense of vertigo as my body rolls in the swell, I’m still acclimatising to open water swimming. We jump in to the sea at the end of Palm Beach ocean pool and swim parallel with the shore for 500m or so and then back again.

beautiful Thai canapés

Let me be clear at this point. I find this activity extremely scary. Rips, swell, breaking waves, deep water. No problem. But not being able to see what’s beneath me. The thing that nightmares are made of. Conquering your fears though is kind of addictive, and every time I get out of the water after another swim, I want to get straight back in. Plus I guess being scared makes a morning swim just that little bit more exhilarating.

beautiful Thai canapés

Sam is also a mum, and a runner, and she’s done ski seasons. I feel at home in her company. After sharing a few drinks with her and her husband’s one Sunday afternoon, Mark and I wanted to continue the conversation, so the following weekend we invited them to dinner. Cue the beautiful Thai canapés. Sweet, salty and nutty. The perfect flavour combination to enjoy with a few pre dinner drinks.

beautiful Thai canapésIt’s funny. I’ve owned David Thompson‘s Thai compendium for years, and enjoyed glancing at its fuchsia spine on my bookshelf, but I’ve never cooked anything from it. I’m a little nervous of Asian recipes, slightly fazed by their long ingredient lists and confused about what to substitute for items that aren’t readily available. But this recipe. I felt confident about it. And now I’ve made it once, I want to make it again. A bit like diving in to the ocean I suppose. Scary at first, but definitely something to repeat.
beautiful Thai canapés

Beautiful Thai canapés – Ma Hor – Galloping horses

Minced chicken, pork and prawn with pineapple

From David Thompson’s book Thai Food

  • 100g prawn meat, finely chopped
  • 100g chicken mince
  • 100g pork mince
  • 1 cup palm sugar, grated
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup fried garlic
  • 1/2 cup fried shallots
  • 4 tbsp ground toasted peanuts (unsalted)

Coriander and garlic paste

  • 4 coriander roots
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 15 white peppercorns
  • pinch salt

Fry the prawn mince with a pinch of salt in the oil of your choice. When cooked, transfer to a bowl to cool and repeat with the chicken and pork mince.

Next make the coriander and garlic paste by pounding all the ingredients together with a pestle and mortar.

Now fry the paste in a little oil and when fragrant add the palm sugar and fish sauce and then simmer for a few minutes until the mixture is thick and syrupy.

To the syrupy mixture add the prawn, chicken and pork mince and half each of the fried garlic, shallots and peanuts. Cook for a few minutes than remove from the heat and add the remaining garlic, shallots and peanuts. Taste the mixture. It should be sweet, salty and nutty. Adjust accordingly

Leave the mix to cool. It will firm up considerably. While it’s cooling cut the pineapple into bite size slices.

Moments before you are ready to eat the canapés, top the pineapple pieces with the punchy topping and enjoy.

Love canapés? Then you might like this recipe for gougers-bite size balls of cheesy choux pastry.

A very easy garlic prawn entree

easy garlic prawn entree

Prawns plus garlic. The perfect combination. Add some fresh bread and you have a very easy garlic prawn entrée. The best thing about this starter is that it’s served ‘en papillote‘ or in the bag, which means that there’s a little bit of theatre when you bring the garlicky crustaceans to the table. Guests have to tear open their own individual parcels, releasing the wonderful cooking aromas, at the same time as revealing the pink, parsley flecked prawns inside.

easy garlic prawn entree

Home made garlic butter is the best. A few cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh herbs, a grating of lemon zest and some soft butter, press the button and it’s done. Use it to smother over thickly sliced bread before toasting under the grill to make garlic bread. Stuff chicken breasts with it for delicious homemade chicken Kiev. Fry some sliced mushrooms in it and serve them on triangles of brioche. But make lots and freeze it so that you always have some on hand.

easy garlic prawn entree

easy garlic prawn entreeeasy garlic prawn entree

I think that a hankering for prawns is a sign that the weather is getting warmer. The days longer.  The sun lingering in the sky. Prawns are the kind of food that I like to take time to eat, whether around a table with friends or simply with a significant other and a bottle of wine. Leisurely peeling away the crisp shells and dipping the pink meat into piquant seafood sauce, in an al fresco setting. When buying prawns, look for ones with smooth black eyes, not ones with eyes that look like currants. This is a sign that they are fresh, or so I was told by a lady who sold me some of the sweetest, freshest prawns that I’ve ever eaten.

easy garlic prawn entree

A very easy garlic prawn entrée

For 6.

  • 1-1.5kg prawns (which should be around 30-45 prawns depending on their size and how many you want to serve to each of your guests)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 250g soft butter
  • 1 bunch parsley, leaves only
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • glass of white wine

Begin by making the garlic butter. Simply put the garlic, butter, parsley, zest and salt in a processor and whizz until everything is well combined.

Prepare the prawns by removing their heads and shells (you can keep these to make prawn stock) and then the vein that runs down their backs.

Tear off six pieces of baking paper about 40cm in length. Fold these pieces in half, just so you have an indication of where to put the prawns. Place 5-7 prawns per person on one half of each piece of baking paper and top with a generous amount of butter.

Now fold the baking paper over the prawns using the halfway line that you made as a guide and then starting from one end, seal the baking paper all the way around so that you have a parcel.

At this point, the parcels can be stored in the fridge until that are needed.

When you are ready to cook the prawns, unseal the parcels enough to be able to add about 2 tablespoons of white wine to each one. (Don’t try and do this ahead of time as the wine will leak out. I know. I tried and failed.) Reseal the bags really well, as the wine inside the bags will steam and cook the prawns. If there are any gaps, then the steam will escape.

Place the parcels on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes at 180C.

Serve the prawns immediately in their little bags with fresh bread and a green salad. A very easy garlic prawn entrée.

You want to know what to do with the prawns heads and shells? Thai red curry with prawn stock and salmon.

Oven baked chicken wings

I made an awesome discovery last weekend. Blue cheese dipping sauce. It’s delicious. Lick the bowl clean kind of delicious. So why have I never tried it before, especially since it’s extremely quick and simple to put together. The reason that I made it in the first place is because I cooked Mark one of his favourite, and one of my take it or leave it, things. Chicken wings. Oven baked chicken wings with honey and smoked paprika.

oven baked chicken wings

The occasion was the football final. Now I’m not into NRL, but I do like a reason to cook. And chicken wings seem to go hand in hand with the manly act of watching sport on TV. So once I decided on the wings, I thought I’d give the inextricably linked blue cheese dipping sauce a whirl. Now I’m a convert to both. A bright, brash, loud and utterly delicious finger licking combination.

oven baked chicken wings

Speaking of delicious. Every kitchen should have a tin of smoked paprika. A little of this Spanish spice made from smoked pimiento peppers goes a long way. It makes roast chicken taste amazing. Just whizz a teaspoon or two in the food processor with some soft butter, then push the mixture under the chicken’s skin before roasting it. It makes a great marinade too. Add a tablespoon to a few crushed cloves of garlic, some lemon zest and juice, couple of sprigs of chopped fresh oregano and a drizzle of oil and let cubes of chicken bathe in the marinade before threading them onto skewers and cooking them on the barbecue.

oven baked chicken wings

Along with a few other ingredients, smoked paprika makes a fantastic rub for salmon, like for salmon tacos and Cajun salmon. And blended with mayonnaise and lime juice, it brings grilled corn on the cob to life. And let’s not forget these sticky, smoky chicken wings. If you want to make them extra sticky, just drizzle with some extra honey for the final 10 minutes of cooking.

oven baked chicken wings

Oven baked chicken wings

Original recipe by Elle Vernon. For 2.

About 16 chicken wings

  • 2 tbs oil
  • 1 tbs smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbs honey
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • generous pinch of salt
  • generous grinding of black pepper

Simply mix all the ingredients together to make a sauce and smother the chicken wings in it. You can leave at this point to marinate for a few hours or bake straight away.

To bake, spread the wings out on a wire rack above a baking tray and bake for 40-50 minutes at 190C until the wings are cooked and slightly charred. Dip into blue cheese dipping sauce and eat.

Blue cheese dipping sauce

  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 1/4  cup mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese (I used gorgonzola dolce)
  • salt to taste, may not be needed
  • black pepper

Simply whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor. A little milk can be added to thin thin the sauce if desired.

Making homemade crinkle cut chips

I failed. I missed a week. My intention at the start of the year was to write one blog post a week. Which sounds easy right. But with a small person in your life and the responsibility of a job, and the excitement of finishing your first marathon, yeah I did, but more on that later, sometimes despite the best of intentions, plans get overlooked. I mean I’ve done pretty well so far, even posting the week a tree fell on my house. But this week, I just didn’t. It’s like I used up all my motivation completing those 42 kilometres and didn’t have any left to write. I simply wanted to eat protein after all my carb loading, and take the pressure off myself a little bit. Something I did do though was dabble in the kitchen with a crinkle cutter to make homemade crinkle cut chips, to go with aforementioned protein.

homemade crinkle cut chips

For some reason I believed that crinkle cutters only existed in factories that prepared vegetables for the frozen food isle in the supermarket, which is rather strange since I have most kitchen gadgets under the sun. So when we moved in to Ma and Pa’s house back in April, I was pretty darn excited to find Ma’s crinkle cutter in the kitchen drawer. Any crinkle cut vegetable is fun. I suppose it’s not normal, not the way nature intended, but a bit  playful. Normally I would make little duck fat roast potatoes to go with steak, but this week it was all about the homemade crinkle cut chips. Let me be clear here. I made oven baked crinkle cut chips, not the fried variety. If you’re interested in how to make them, Gourmet Girlfriend has a lovely post on hot chips. It’s not that I’m against deep frying, there is definitely a place for it, but I seem have more success with getting chips crispy in the oven. And since there is always so much washing up in my kitchen from catering, I like to choose the easy wash option when it comes to my own dinner.

homemade crinkle cut chips

Something else that I failed to do this week was go for a run. Due to a bruised toe, I couldn’t walk, let alone run. And that felt strange after months of diligent training, to not have to worry about maintaing my run fitness. But I missed it. I felt restless. Part of my routine was lacking. Which allows me to now answer something that I had wondered in my last post before I ran my first marathon. Would I want to do it again? Hell yes. My competitive streak says, you can do it faster next time. You can train a bit harder. You can get new trainers and a fancy watch and really go for it. Those last 10 kilometres were hell, but it’ll be better second time around.

homemade crinkle cut chips

Sydney marathon was a lot of fun. Being able to run over the Harbour Bridge with choppers flying overhead was exhilarating and the first five kilometres flew by. I drank water at every drinks station, half in my mouth half over myself as I kept moving and after all the carbohydrates that I had consumed in the week leading up to the event, my body felt strong. Around the Botanic Gardens, through Kings Cross where late night revellers who hadn’t yet been to bed watched on, round the SCG and Centennial Park, back towards the city. Entering into 30 kilometre territory is where my body started to demand that I stop, or at the very least walk for a bit, but I kept going. Through The Rocks, around Pyrmont, round Circular Quay and towards the finish at the Opera House. I must’ve had a lot more gas left in my tank than I gave myself credit for, because I sprinted the last two kilometres. And then I crossed the line. That strange emotion of elation mixed with tears of relief flooded my heart and I was so happy to embrace my family who were waiting for me. I had done it. And I was still standing.

homemade crinkle cut chips

Thats the thing. Even if you miss a session, you have to continue on, rather than see the miss as a sign of failure and give up. So without further ado, my recipe for oven baked homemade crinkle cuts chips is below, and I’m off for a run.

Homemade crinkle cut chips

  • 500g floury potatoes, such as Sebago (look here for a great guide to the humble spud as well as other floury potato alternatives)
  • 2-4 tbsp neutral flavoured oil like vegetable or sunflower

Begin by peeling the potatoes. Sometimes I don’t peel roast potatoes because I like the texture of the skin and the nutrients that it provides, but for homemade crinkle cut chips, I think they need to be completely naked. No bits of skin anywhere.

Now, using the crinkle cutter, or a knife, cut the potatoes into thick batons. I like to cut the base off the potato first so that I can then use the flat surface that I have created as a stable base to stand the potato on while I cut the remainder of it up. This is a great tip when cutting up all veggies, it makes life easier and avoids the knife slipping into your fingers.

Ok, so chips cut. Next par boil them until they are soft enough that you can insert a knife into them with little resistance, but not so much that they are starting to fall apart. To do this, place the chips in a pot, cover them with cold water (this helps to remove the starch) and bring to the boil. Boil for about 10 minutes but maybe 15 depending on the potatoes.

Now gently, so as not to break the chips, drain them. At this point, as in so many of my recipes, you can spread the chips over a tray and leave them in the fridge to dry out, anywhere from a few hours to overnight.

To the cooking part. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place a large tray with about 2-3 tablespoons of oil on into the oven to heat. This step allows the chips to start cooking as soon as they hit the tray, rather than steam as they heat from cold. It ensures, or at least I believe it does, a crispy chip. So when the oil is hot, about 5 minutes, tip the chips onto the tray and they should begin to sizzle immediately.

Make sure that the chips are in one even layer. If you need to use two trays to achieve this, then do. Again, it avoids the chips steaming and helps them cook evenly.

Bake the chips for about 40 minutes to an hour. I don’t meant to be vague, but the cooking time does depend on your oven. Basically you are looking for crisp, golden, crinkly batons. Do toss the chips occasionally with the appropriate weapon, to make sure that they cook evenly. And that’s it. Sprinkle your homemade crinkle cut chips with salt, dip in the sauce of your choice and enjoy.

This steak would go deliciously well with these chips.

Penne pasta with brussels sprouts

penne pasta with brussels sprouts

It’s really happening. I’m going to run a marathon. In two days (at the time of writing). If I stop to listen, there is an electric hum pulsing around my body, generated by an amalgam of trepidation and excitement about Sunday’s event. I’m about to embark on something that has been a goal of mine for many years. And that feels good. Like something worthwhile. Like the stuff that life is about. Putting yourself on the line and chasing your dreams. To help in my quest, this week in the lead up to the big race, I’m stuffing carbs into my mouth left right and centre. Toast, porridge, bananas, dates, honey, pasta, rice, vegetables and the occasional snake. Yep. Who knew. Apparently snakes (jelly sweets) are a good source of glucose to help fill my cells with glycogen to burn while I’m running. I’ll try anything once if it’ll help get me across the finishing line. Preferably on two legs. My favourite source of fuel is still pasta though and this penne pasta with brussels sprouts will convert even the most staunch dislikers of these miniature cabbage like vegetables into new admirers.

penne pasta with brussels sprouts penne pasta with brussels sprouts

I’ve always fallen into the category of one of those strange people who enjoys eating brussels sprouts. At Christmas, I’d be one of only a few family members who would happily pile a small mound of the little edible green balls onto my plate. As I’ve grown older, I’ve experimented with sprouts, moving away from the simple method of boiling them. I’ve roasted them along with beetroot and the served the resulting medley with crisp bacon and a mapley Dijon dressing. I’ve shredded them to compose a salad with kale, parmesan, lemon and almonds. And I’ve braised them with lemon juice and cream a la Molly Wizenburg. And Molly’s lovely recipe for cream braised brussels sprouts was the inspiration for this pasta dish.

penne pasta with brussels sprouts penne pasta with brussels sprouts

Using the marathon as an excuse, a very good one I might add, we are staying in the city for the weekend. Running long distances seriously takes it out of me and after my longer training runs of 25km plus, I’ve almost needed an afternoon nap. Thea has prevented such luxuries from happening. But hopefully, in the city, in our hotel room, after a warm shower and a big plate of food, I might be able to have a little sleep, before celebrating my victory with a glass of champagne. I need to visualise after the event as much as I do running the course, because I feel that ultimately it will help spur me on to the end.

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I have also asked Ma and Pa, who have been so wonderful this week in cheerily finishing all the high carb meals that I have prepared (we are still living with them since the tree fell on our house) and will be looking after Thea for the weekend while I’m away, to come and watch me cross the finish line. I knownseeing their faces, plus Mark and Thea’s, in the crowd, will give me the boost I’ll need to get me across that line. More than that though. I feel that I would be doing them a disservice, as well as Thea who has accompanied me on many training sessions and Mark who has looked after our tiny wonder every Sunday while I’ve been off on my longer runs, if I don’t cross the finish at a fraction more than a walking pace. Everyone has been so instrumental in getting me this far and I owe it to them out of gratitude.

penne pasta with brussels sprouts

At the moment I’m unsure about whether marathon running will become a regular part of my life or just a one time goal. Getting to this point has filled a big part of the year, from our little holiday on the Central Coast in June when I ran the Bay to Bay half marathon to our now long weekend in Sydney for the full event, not forgetting all of the scheduled runs in between. It’s really fulfilling to have something to work towards and seeing yourself improve, if only in tiny increments. I like the idea of being a runner, able to put on trainers and fill my lungs with fresh air and get my pulse racing with speed and ease. It feels good. And you see the world from a different viewpoint; houses you’ve never noticed, flowers you’ve taken for granted, hills that always seem easy in a car. The nuances of your surroundings come at you in new and interesting way. So maybe I will continue with my running. Especially if it means I can eat more dinners like this penne pasta with Brussels sprouts. Watch this space.

penne pasta with brussels sproutspenne pasta with brussels sprouts

Penne pasta with brussels sprouts

Inspired by a recipe by Molly Wizenberg

  • 12 brussels sprouts
  • 25g butter
  • 1 cup cream
  • juice of a lemon
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • grating of nutmeg
  • 8 rashers streaky bacon, cut into batons
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup parmesan, finely grated
  • penne pasta

Begin by cutting the ends off the sprouts and discarding any loose outer leaves and then chopping them in half.

Melt the butter over a moderate heat in a large flat bottomed pan and then place the sprouts flat side down in the pan and leave them undisturbed to brown for 5-8 minutes. Flip and then cook for about another 5 minutes on the other side.

When the sprouts are browned on both sides, sprinkle them liberally with salt, pepper and nutmeg, add the cream. Bring it to a gentle simmer, then turn the heat down to its lowest setting, put the lid on the pan and leave the sprouts to cook for about 10 minutes. You want them to be soft but still with a bit of bite and not falling apart. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice.

In a new pan, fry the bacon until crisp and then add to the sprouts. In the same pan that you fried the bacon, with the residual oil, cook the garlic, then also add it to the sprouts along with the parmesan cheese. You can now move to the next step, or leave the sprout mixture in the pan and bath small children, even relax with a glass of wine and proceed to assembling dinner when you are good and ready.

When you are ready for dinner, cook the pasta and when it’s done, to the magical el dente state, about 10 minutes, drain it, but keep a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water aside. Add it together with the pasta to the sprout mixture. Turn the heat back on under the sprout pan, stir and let everything heat through together. This step helps the lovely earthy creamy sauce stick to the pasta. Decant into bowls and eat.

Like this recipe? Then you might like my spaghetti carbonara recipe.