Archive for December, 2009

Christmas Closure

December 19, 2009

Just a note to say that An odd assortment is likely to be closed for the next three weeks.

We’re going on our annual pilgrimage to Queensland to see family for Christmas, and to laze around at the beach. I probably won’t have much internet access during this time, so have a lovely holiday one and all, and see you in mid-January!

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My favourite meat

December 18, 2009

WARNING: This post may be unsavoury for vegetarians.

Earlier this week I was casting around for something to write about for Favourite Friday, and somewhat unexpectedly found the answer staring up at me from my dinner plate. Lamb!

It’s funny that it’s never before occurred to me to write about my love for lamb, since everyone who knows me is surely by now sick of me waxing lyrical about it every time meat comes up in conversation. But I guess sometimes I don’t realise obvious things…remember my owls epiphany?

Anyway, on to the meat course.

Lamb is a dish I have always loved. Roast lamb, lamb stew, lamb chops, lamb curry, lamb fillet, and best of all: lamb cutlets. I’m rather predictable, because just about any time we go to a fancy restaurant I order the lamb. I just love the flavour and tenderness of beautifully cooked, medium-rare, lean lamb.

I’ve always been something of a red-meat girl. I don’t eat much pork and it was only after Phil and I moved in together that I really started eating chicken (previously I believed all chicken was dry and tasteless, but that man does amazing things with poultry). I love beef—there’s nothing like a good steak, and it’s a meat that’s not only versatile but usually relatively cheap. And of course, I love lamb. It’s funny, often, when we dine out, because I quite like red meat but Phil quite likes chicken—and the restaurant industry seems to have this idea that men order red meat and women order white meat. That’s quite possibly true for most people, but it’s funny to see waiters looking a little nonplussed when I say ‘actually, the steak is for me.’

It’s hard to describe just why I like lamb more than beef, but I’ll try. Lamb seems to have a depth of flavour that beef doesn’t. It can be more savoury, more meaty, if you like, although at times I’d also describe it as sweeter. Perhaps you could say it’s more gamy? In any case, I tend to think of beef as a straightforward flavour, and lamb as a complex flavour. I guess the meat is also juicier, since most cuts of lamb have a little more fat on them—but this doesn’t mean lamb has to be greasy, which is the main objection I’ve heard from lamb’s opponents. The trick is to buy leaner cuts: avoid chump and forequarter chops, and instead go for frenched cutlets, backstrap/fillet, leg steaks, or diced shoulder. They’re generally more expensive, but definitely worth it, and who doesn’t deserve a treat every now and then?

Enough talk. Now I’d like to share with you my favourite quick-and-easy way of cooking lamb cutlets, as in the photo above. Although there’s a little bit of preparation it’s the fun sort, where you get your fingers dirty. Remember how much you loved that at kindy?

Juicy tender lamb cutlets in a crispy crumb

3 lamb cutlets per person (you could have two per person, but let’s be honest, you’re going to want to eat an extra one anyway)

plain flour

1 egg

dry breadcrumbs (the sort you buy in a box from the supermarket)

herbs or spices if you’re feeling fancy

These are best cooked on a rack in the oven. Preheat your oven to 200°C. If you don’t have a roasting tray with a built in rack, you can put the lamb cutlets directly onto the oven racks with a baking tray underneath to catch any juices. If you don’t want to do this they will cook fine on a lightly greased baking tray, but one side won’t be crispy.

Put a handful of flour on one plate and a handful of breadcrumbs on another. If you’re feeling fancy, mix some herbs or spices into the breadcrumbs. I often just use black pepper. Crack your egg into a wide, shallow bowl and mix it up a bit.

Now start your production line. Take one lamb cutlet, dip it into the flour until it’s all covered (even the bone handle), then into the egg, then into the breadcrumbs, making sure it’s completely covered at each dipping. Place on the rack. Repeat with remaining cutlets. Flour, egg, breadcrumbs. Easy!

Pop your crumbed cutlets into the oven. Cooking time will vary depending on how you like your meat and what your oven is like, but for medium-rare it usually takes me about 15 minutes. A metal skewer is useful to check whether they are hot inside.

Once done, eat with your fingers so you can properly gnaw all the tasty-crispy bits off the bone. Yum!

I really urge you to try this, as it’s so tasty and easy. And I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Lamb forever!

Okay, that’s… wait, what?

December 16, 2009

While deciding what to wear to dinner last night, I tried on this dress.

Just your average 50s-inspired cocktail dress in a rather heavy gumleaf-green cotton. Then I happened to glance at the tag:

5% wire? Huh??

Now there is definitely no wire shaping or boning in this dress so I have no idea what they’re on about. I suspect this is another confusing example of Engrish. But hey, it made my day.

Today is a special day

December 15, 2009

It’s the birthday of the most important person in my life :)

Happy birthday, my love!

Cherry-coconut muffins

December 15, 2009

Making muffins is such a good way to use up any fruit or sweet things you have lying around—and if you have too many cakes in the pantry already (guilty!) they freeze really well. I made these to use up the last of the buttermilk we bought for the buttermilk fried chicken and the mango coconut pancakes, and to offset our surplus of cherries. When I was trying to come up with another flavour that would sit well with cherries, Phil, lover of the Cherry Ripe bar, naturally suggested coconut. Why didn’t I think of that?

You should make these muffins if, like me, you bought a kilo of cherries at the markets last weekend and they are ripening faster than you can eat them.

Cherry-coconut muffins

2 1/4 cups plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarb soda

3/4 cup brown sugar

300 mL buttermilk (if you can’t find buttermilk, mix 150 mL milk with 150 mL plain yoghurt)

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

125g melted butter

30 mL Malibu (coconut rum)

1/4 cup dessicated coconut

200 g fresh cherries, halved and stoned (weigh them after you stone them)

Preheat the oven to 190°C and line a muffin tin with paper cases.

Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarb into a large bowl and mix in the brown sugar. Make a well in the centre.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, melted butter and Malibu. Pour the egg mixture onto the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Don’t over-mix: the batter doesn’t need to be smooth, and it will make your muffins tough.

Sprinkle over the coconut and cherries, and fold through gently. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin, filling each case about 2/3 full.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until they test clean. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

Enjoy warm on a summer afternoon, with some white wine, or dip in melted chocolate on a cool evening. Yum!

Mango and coconut pancakes with passionfruit syrup

December 14, 2009

Phil made these beautiful summery pancakes for breakfast on the weekend. His specialty is exotic breakfasts, which I revel in because I can never summon up the energy to cook anything so intricate in the mornings.

We bought a tray of mangoes this week, a colleague’s daughter’s school was selling them as a fundraiser (by the way, much better idea than chocolates!). So now the house is filled with the delightful smell of Kensington Prides ripening, and we are thinking up creative ways to eat them all.

The passionfruit syrup that I made to go with these is super-fast and easy, but if you really can’t be bothered, then I recommend substituting some passionfruit butter.

Mango and coconut pancakes with passionfruit syrup

Serves 2

For the pancakes:

3 free range eggs, separated

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup dessicated coconut

1 mango, cut into 1cm cubes or 1cm-thick strips

For the passionfruit syrup:

2 passionfruit

2 tbs sugar

1 1/2 tbs water

First of all make the syrup. Scoop the pulp and seeds out of your passionfruit, making sure you don’t lose any of the juice. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the passionfruit. Increase the heat to medium-low, stirring the passionfruit pulp through the syrup, until it starts to bubble. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before pouring into a small jug.

Place the egg whites in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer or a hand-held egg-beater until soft peaks form. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with half the buttermilk, then add the flour, baking powder and coconut, mixing well. Add more buttermilk until you have a thick, dollopy batter.

Gently fold the egg whites through the batter. Melt some butter in a large pan over a medium-high heat, then spoon in the batter. We have a large pan and like to make two pancakes at once, but if you prefer perfectly round pancakes then I’d suggest using a small pan and cooking them one at a time.

Once your pancakes are in the pan, cover the uncooked side with pieces of mango, pushing into the batter a little. At this stage you can sprinkle over some more coconut, if you’re a coconut-aholic like Phil.

Keep an eye on your pancakes and turn them once they’re browning nicely. This is a good time to check the level of heat under your pan—these will be very thick and fluffy pancakes, and if the pan is too hot, the outside will burn before the inside has a chance to cook.

Once cooked, serve your mango and coconut pancakes with the passionfruit syrup and a healthy dose of sunshine.

Cooking up a storm

December 12, 2009

It’s been rather a gourmet week this week. Here are some of the tasty things we made.

Almond bread with lots of orange and lemon zest

Buttermilk fried chicken (YUM!) with Christmas salad and Moroccan carrot salad

and earthquake biscuits (dense chocolate biscuits rolled in icing sugar).

Just about all these recipes are from delicious. magazine. If you like cooking, I can’t recommend anything better than a subscription.

My favourite wine

December 11, 2009

Welcome to Favourite Friday. This week the management is pleased to announce a special offer—two favourites for the price of one!

I wanted to talk about my favourite wine. I don’t want to sound like a wino, but choosing a favourite from the many wonderful drops available was never going to happen. I just like wine too much—all sorts of wine, wine from different regions, wine by different vintners, wine of different ages, wine at different temperatures, wine drunk in different places. Narrowing it down to two types was a wrench, I can tell you.

On to the first favourite: Champagne.

Let me make one thing clear from the start. Most of the white fizzy wine I drink doesn’t come from the Champagne region, in fact it’s probably never heard of France. But I’m damn well going to call it Champagne here and in every other conversation I have about the stuff. Sparkling wine it may be, but to me it’s always been Champagne and always will be. Any other name is cowardly legal twaddle and an insult to the romance of this beautiful drink.

What is it that makes Champagne so attractive? It has many charming qualities, but somehow it has a little something more, something that other wines don’t possess. The pale golden hue, the sight of bubbles rising. The delicate scent, grassy or buttery, sometimes with a faint whiff of flowers. The clean, fresh taste that’s just on the right side of too dry, the feel of bubbles on the tongue…and yet, and yet. Champagne has a certain romance about it. When you drink it, you could be in a 1920s nightclub listening to jazz. You could be a 50s-era film star, celebrating your latest box-office success. You could be at a friend’s wedding, or on a first date, or making someone’s birthday a night to remember. Champagne, apart from all its measurable qualities, has the taste of celebration, the smell of parties, and the look of romance.

See how it lights up my otherwise dull and dirty kitchen bench? Champagne is instant glamour.

Of course, another of its good qualities is that it is so versatile. You can mix Champagne with just about everything. Half-and-half with orange juice on Christmas morning. Allow a strawberry to macerate slowly in the wine as you drain the glass. Add a wild hibiscus for some colour and flavour. Mix it in a cocktail—I love the Classic Champagne Cocktail, the French 75, and of course the Bellini. Or throw in whatever you’ve got laying about—this evening I added some leftover raspberry syrup, but saffron syrup also makes an exotic and delicious blend.

Actually, it’s funny, given how much Champagne I consume, that I can’t find a photo of myself drinking it. Perhaps some angel with more regard for my reputation than I would usually show has destroyed all the evidence?

Summer, with its propensity to increase the consumption of Champagne, is also the perfect time to drink my other favourite wine—Rosé. With a colour halfway between red and white wine, but a nose and flavour all its own, Rosé has always fascinated me. It’s perfect for those occasions that call for something a little more fragrant and a little more flavoursome than Champagne. I love discovering new Rosés, and I honestly can’t remember ever buying the same bottle twice. There are so many different Rosés available these days, made (as far as I can tell) from several different sorts of grape. Some are fresh and dry, others have a hint of sweetness, and I can remember one that smelt distinctly of strawberries. Distinctly.

These are the three bottles that are currently in my possession. Appropriately, they are from three different regions—Queensland, the Barossa, and Western Australia—and I believe all three are concoted from different grape varieties. And one’s even bottled under a cork, bless their old-fashioned little cotton socks. The central Rosé in this picture is actually of particular significance—it was the first Rosé I ever discovered, having never before heard of the existence of pink wine. Mum bought a bottle of this from the vineyard when we were in the Barossa in 1998, and I can remember being fascinated by the matching pinks of the brolga’s wings and the wine it attended.

Rosé is the wine I like to introduce Summer with. It’s fruity enough to drink in Springtime, and refreshing enough to carry you through Christmas lunch and to the hot days beyond. And there’s hardly a woman I know who isn’t attracted to pink wine.

With romantic Champagne and fruity Rosé, there’s plenty to keep me occupied this Summer. What will you be drinking?

Tiny Mitten

December 10, 2009

Here’s something I made a while ago, but couldn’t share as it was part of a secret pal package:

A teeny tiny mitten! Isn’t it cute?

SNOWMAN CHERRY!!

December 10, 2009