Monday, September 27, 2010

Chicken pot chicken pot chicken pot piiiie!

Miss me? Worried about me? Angry at me for the desertion? Just the first two? Aw, how sweet… If you’re mainly just the last one though, here, look at these eggs, no one can look at these eggs and harbour ill feelings, smiley face eggs make ill feelings inharbourable. And that right there is a fact. And a made up word. (Interesting side note: this egg face was 100% accidental, creepy or warm feeling inducing?)

I always skim through blogs and it seems that so many people take little breaks every now and then, and then bore their readers with their excuses, I will not do that. I’ve already wasted two paragraphs and a ridiculously cute photo going on about it, I’m now officially done. Full stop.

Next on this posts agenda is chicken. Chicken pie minus effort equals my kind of maths. (Well, if I’m being honest, even that much maths feels like too much…) That equation actually equals chicken pot pies but yeah, I take on any excuse to badmouth maths. (Algebra? More like boring-gebra!! That’s right, snap.). These pies are so nifty, so Nigella, so frigging good. When it comes to meals I pretty much have rice with everything, I don’t even remember the last time I had pasta with my spagetti, which kind of doesn’t make it spagetti, but I still tell people I have spagetti, I guess I like the thrill of the lie, no matter how ever so slightly boring that lie may be… But this time, when I spoke about my chicken pot pie dinner, there was no lying, there was no rice, I guess you could say these pies are helping me to be a better person, no more lying about pasta. I think I'm on the straight and narrow.

So here we have a bag full of chicken, flour and herbs, a photo which may not be so appetising, but oh so very useful, no flour everywhere, plus you get to shake that bag like a polaroid picture which is always going to be fun.

I’ve never made a sauce like this from scratch before, it was a little nerve wracking but upon the successful gravy making, pride was definitely felt.

An important part of the sauce was marsala. A lot of people only think of Italian cooking when they think of marsala, I will always think of visiting my Nan at 5 in the evening, mum in her work clothes with a scotch and coke, us kids in our school clothes and boiled lollies, and Nan with her marsala and coke. Fond fond. I had no coke on me but I decided to see what Nan was on about all those years. Alone, marsala is not recommended, i'll let you know how it goes with coke.

This part reminded me of when that guy made the kitten pie in young Einstein, I double checked my ramekins before putting them in the oven, I didn’t need that kind of bad press.

Lookit! They rise!

It was so beautiful and spherical, I almost didn’t want to ruin it…

But I did, I ruined it good. No regrets.

Before I ruined it I ran out of pastry. Im not proud of this, but it happened, and you should totally do it too.

Chicken, Mushroom and Bacon Pie
Nigella Express
Makes 2
  • 3 rashers streaky bacon, cut or scissored into 2.5cm strips (Nigella scissors everything, now I do too. Join us.)
  • 1 tsp garlic oil
  • 125g button mushrooms, sliced into 5mm pieces
  • 250g chicken cut into 2.5cm pieces
  • 25g flour
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1T butter
  • 300ml hot chicken stock (I haven't tried it yet, but next time I'm going to try stock with no added salt, the whole thing was just a teensy bit salty... If it needs salt you can always just add it!)
  • 1T Marsala
  • 1 sheet puff pastry (you have to buy several slices in a package so you may as well use alot more than this. It would be wasteful if you didn't...)
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C. In a heavy based frying pan, fry the bacon strips in the oil until beginning to crisp, then add the sliced mushrooms and soften them in the pan with the bacon.
  2. Turn the chicken strips in the flour and thyme (you could toss them about in a freezer bag), and then melt the butter in the bacon and mushroom pan before adding the floury chicken and all the flour left in the bag. Stir around with the bacon and mushrooms until the chicken begins to colour.
  3. Pour in the hot stock and Marsala, stirring to form a sauce, and let the bubble away for about five minutes.
  4. Take two 300ml pie pots (if yours are deeper, don't worry, there will simply be more space between the contents and the puff pastry top) and make a pastry rim for each one - by this I mean an approx 1cm strip curled around the top of each pot. Dampen the edges with a little water to make the pastry stick.
  5. Cut a circle bigger than the top of eat pie pot than the lid, and then divide the chicken filling between the two pots.
  6. Dampen the rim of the pastry again and then pop on the lid of each pie, sealing the edges with your fingers or the underneath of the prongs of a fork.
  7. Cook the pies for about 20 minutes turning them around halfway through cooking. Once cooked, they should have puffed up magnificently.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

'Allo Almond!

Only recently have I begun to really appreciate the whole "sweet and salty" thing. I'm not at the bacon lolly stage of the appreciation process, I'm not sure if I ever will be, but I'm definitely moving in the right direction (my diabetes prone genes aren't quite so enthused but they don't get a vote. Just as I'm sure my Nan's diabetes will be passed down to me, I know that her (unintentional) setting the norm high, then impressing us all with her "low" numbers will be passed down as well).
These sugar coated almonds were like, a step to be compared with the whole moon landing thing. There was actually sugar and salt sitting together in a bowl! Just sitting there screaming about being sweet and salty and delicioooous. I initially made them because my sister is getting her vegetarian on and I thought these would help her get all healthy and iron filled, just so long as she ignored all of the ingredients other than the almonds... In the end though they became the official snack of Valentines weekend, the weekend my parents came to visit. I made the small batch then blammo, a kilo of almonds were very quickly bought and de-healthied and divvied up between the fim fam. Followed by a startlingly competitive game of Uno. Dad, I hope I never get in like a knife fight with you, that look in your eyes over your Uno cards, wow, just, wow.
Measuring out the almonds, I wont disclose just how many cups of almonds were made, I don't want to be judged... Oh wait, I already told you a kilo, damn.
Honey, oil and water, they don't like each other, they definitely didn't want to be in the same saucepan, but my, don't they make a handsome trio?
Ever so slightly overcooked almonds (totally didn't matter, such things are trivial when covered in this much sugar).
My pretty cup measure my sister got me for my birthday, very fitting for these Valentines weekend almonds.
Two thoughts come to my mind when looking at this photo: northern hemisphere christmas, and people with diabetes looking at my blog then having one of their feet drop off immediately upon seeing this photo (something that I always told my Nan would happen if she had another piece of cake. I know it sounds horrible, but I figure I'll have it one day so I'm allowed to joke, right?)
Coated. Setting. Getting slowly eaten by Michelle while she cleans up...
Almonds don't lie.
Honey Roasted Almonds
who got it from
Recipe from
2 cups Raw Almonds
2 TBS Honey
2 TBS Water
2 TBS Oil (Almond, Peanut or Canola)
1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
  1. Heat the oven to 175C. Place the almonds in a single layer on a baking tray and cook for 10 minutes. Take them out and let them cooool.
  2. Bring the water, oil and honey to the boil in a medium saucepan then add the almonds and stir for a few minutes till they soak up most of the excess liquid. (I had a bit still swirling round in there but just poured it all into the salt and sugar mix, this could be why I felt it necessary to eat my almonds with a spoon...)
  3. Mix the sugar and salt together and add the almonds, shake them round till they're all coated then spread them out on a baking paper lined baking tray and let set. (This is where you should shape your almonds into messages, if you so feel the need, like some people do...)
  4. Now go eat them all. I don't know how long they last, but hey, I don't think anyone in the history of these almonds has ever had the opportunity to find out.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


"Try to use very ripe bananas for a sweeter, richer cake." Yes Hummingbird Bakery, I know, I've read the countless recipes banging on about these rotten narnies, it just took a little bit of work to get around my whole silly "not consuming rotten food" thing. Sure, it's just fruit that is so old it couldn't legally be sold to consumers, pssht, what was I worried about again? Well anyway, after years of ignoring this sage advice, making mediocre banana bread, I said bugger it and left my bananas out to get their rot on. Sound gross? Maybe I could have worded it better, but its all for a good cause, I'm setting myself up to make a point: I'm astoundingly fussy and easily grossed out, but I am here today, telling you to leave your bananas on the bench for a week or so and you will be rewarded with the tastiest, softest banana bread in all the land. Even if you stuff it up as royally I did.
Smooshed up bananas, a whole lot lot less horrifying once out of their skins...
Sliced bananas with brown sugar sprinkled on top, making them all shiny and glazed...
A trick I learnt from my lovely friend Akiko's.....
LOVELY Mum......
Who made me a beautiful chocolate banana cake when I visited, just because. Just because she is that nice.
Okay, enough distractions, it's time for my failed banana bread, which I like to look at as an unconventional masterpiece. Complete with conventional masterpiece in background. It could, just possibly have all been okay, but as per usual, I was impatient, I tried to de-tin the bread before it was ready and yeah, as you can see the middle couldn't stand my excessive shaking and just... fell out. How sad. I didn't waste it though, even in pieces this banana bread is to die for, though without the dying, cause then, well, you wouldn't be able to eat more of it.
Oh wait, I'm sorry, I just realised that I almost finished without giving an excuse! Goodness me, that was close. My excuse in three words: Rental property oven. My excuse in lots of words: My cooking has definitely suffered since moving back into rentals, ovens bought for their price, not for their functionality, bleck. This oven is astoundingly dry and subsequently dried the heck out of everything it came in contact with, I even gave my poor bread a little foil tent, but it was not meant to be, I couldn't even cook frozen chips well in that thing! I dream of the day I get to spend a ridiculous amount of money on my very own oven... Till then I shall resort to cooking on the top shelf and using foil tents on very near everything.
Banana Loaf
  • 270g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g peeled bananas, mashed (plus a few slices to put on top to decorate)
  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C
  2. Put the sugar and eggs in a mixer and beat until well incorporated. Beat in the mashed bananas.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarb and ginger to the sugar mixture. (Not very original or brilliant but I like to put all the dry ingredients in a bowl together and whisk them all up ready to go into the wet ingredients) Mix it thoroughly until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the egg mixture. Pour in the melted butter and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared load tin and smooth over with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for about an hour, or until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool slightly (or in my case, slightly more still) in the tin before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Chahan Induced Nostalgia

On the 20th of December it was exactly one year since I left Japan. It's a bit sad not being able to think "this time last year I was..." I've had to move onto "this time two years ago..." Which can be weird, I cant believe it was so long ago, all the memories still feel so recent. One of the hardest things is seeing what my friends still in Japan are up to, statuses from friends all over Japan are starting to talk about snow, and it's making me think of two years ago (eek) when I had just returned back from Japan after being home for the holidays, waking up, opening my windows and seeing this!!
It isn't much for normal northern hemisphere people, but damn, I very near wet myself! The first problem I had with the snow (which I only saw twice in my entire 18 months in Japan) was what footwear to use! I was so perplexed, I had never thought of it before! About five minutes before leaving for work I looked at my little plastic shoes and thought "well that's not gonna work at all," then looked over at my ug boots and thought "yes, brilliant, brilliant idea Michelle, you GENIUS." After much stomping, slipping and giggling I started to realise that the non waterproof super absorbent footwear was not a great choice... But I'm Australian, how on earth was I meant to know??
Next snow day I fought fellow cold footed shoppers and got me some gumboots, only to find that by the time I had finished work the snow had not only stopped falling, but it had melted as well. Ah, Tokyo winter. Snow--melt--gone. Here's the slushy stage!
So yes, with these memories and many others, I've turned to cooking foods that remind me of my time in Japan, some may say I'm torturing myself, but I like to think I'm just being nostalgic. Please enjoy the first of many Japanese recipes to come, I know I will!
Vegetable ingredients looking like a dog hiding in the bushes...
Vegetables added while the meat is still cooking, I did what I was told, but it scared me and I just don't think I'll do it again. I've got a mad fear of salmonella poisoning going and yeah, the vegetables were pretty damn overcooked before I was convinced the pork was done.
Cooked Japanese rice added, all coming together, just one more ingredient...
A nice cold bottle of Sapporo! My beer of choice while Izakaya hopping in Japan was Asahi, but I do enjoy a good Sapporo, I've never been, but I really do think that this is what Hokkaido would taste like, I recommend!

Missing you always Japan, even though sometimes you can be scarily cold, I'll always love you!

Chahan (Japanese Fried Rice)

By Brooke from Take it and Like it

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 carrot (The recipe says it can be chopped but they grated it, I thought this was a great idea, I don't think I would appreciate crunchy carrot in this, but if you would, go nuts!)
  • 3 shallots
  • 60g chopped cooked pork (I don't like chopping meat so I bought stirfry pork and ended up with huge pieces of pork all the way through, would not recommend, next time I think I'm just gonna have to man up and get meat juice all over my hands.)
  • 1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger (Woolies ran out of ginger. I know, nuts, so I had to use tube ginger, not as strong but still good, i GUESS, *sulky face*)
  • 2 cups cooked Japanese rice
  • 1 tbsp sake or mirin (I used mirin)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • handful of chopped greens (I got a packet of mixed rocket and baby spinach from the fruit and vege section)
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add any ingredients that need to cook first - I put the carrot, green onions and pork in now, and because I had shredded the carrot instead of chopping it this only required 1-2 minutes of cooking time.
  2. Stir in the ginger then add the cooked rice. Break the eggs on top of the rice and quickly mix everything around so the rice grains are coated with the uncooked egg.
  3. Add the sake & soy sauce then the greens, and serve.
  4. You definitely want to move fast when making this; if you let the eggs overcook it tends to be a bit too dry. Remember, the heat from the rice will keep cooking the eggs while you're plating it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Queen of Kitchens, Thy Name is Nigella.

Forgive me Nigella for I have sinned. The first time I met you (ie saw you on an ad for tea) I thought you were snobby and full of yourself, swanning round, smirking about drinking tea in bed. But oh how I was mistaken, the shame I feel for ever judging you is immense. I now harbour no ill feelings towards you, only feelings of wanting to be you. I know it was Austar that decided to put on a weekend marathon of your wonderful show, but I like to think you had something to do with it, a chef-like angel swooping into my loungeroom and opening my eyes to your brilliance. Thankyou, I will be forever grateful. In return, I shall buy all your cookbooks (as my bank account permits) and not let anyone say anything bad about your big bottom. One of the big things I miss about being home (along with being with family etc etc) are the Austar marathons. 72 hours of Will and Grace? Yes please! Mind numbing amounts of Friends? Don't mind if I do! 100 episodes of Girls of the Playboy Mansion? I shouldn't... but okay! This past New Year long weekend I was flicking around trying to find a marathon I could commit to, when I stumbled upon the food network. I saw Nigella, and she wasn't talking about tea, so I was intrigued. I was instantly drawn in by her adjective and simile filled descriptions of food. Who knew cheese could be voluptuous? I sure didn't, but I'm so glad that I do now. The real clincher I think though was her statement that burning your tongue while taste testing your dinner is a "tragedy." Something that I have always felt, but never been able to put into (such melodramatic) words. As I watched I frantically wrote down especially amazing recipes (very near all of them), missing steps and measurements as I went, being crushed when I had to pop to the shops and missed an entire episode. Since then I've missed Nigella, I wish every day were Nigella marathon day. But then yesterday I discovered that my favourite of the Nigella shows (Nigella Express) is a book! AND it has all of the recipes I hastily wrote down, and so so so many more! Instant buy. Instant sitting on my front veranda with my bird and reading it all the way through. It is honestly just the best cookbook that has ever happened to me; the intros, the methods, everything, you can just hear Nigella saying it all. "Place the potatoes in a freezer bag and hit them with a rolling pin." I love that she can sound all fancy British yet still be the kind of person that beats potatoes with a rolling pin. So please buy it, if not for me, for Nigella and her neverending list of adjectives. Or you could just sit around and wait for me to make everything in the book, which is totally going to happen. Number one: Doughnut French Toast. Nobel Peace Prize material, seriously, no one can fight when they have Donut French Toast in their lives.
First few stages - not looking so appetizing, but oh, just you wait...
I made this the day after the marathon and was going off my rough notes, so I didn't know I had to soak the bread for so long, but it was still good, I don't think I would want any more mixture soaked in than this...
See? They Still turned out super thick, so it's up to you!
My first time making french toast, I was NOT disappointed.
Incase you hadn't already noticed, my photos are now being taken with a super fancy camera. Christmas is the best. Thankyou family for getting it for me, I promise I will learn to use it properly... one day.

Doughnut French Toast

Nigella Express

Serves 2

  • 2 eggs
  • 4tsp vanilla extract (I haven't taken the plunge and bought extract yet, I'm just so cheap, one day I will, but till then essence works just fine!)
  • 60ml full fat milk (that's what I love about Nigella, she isn't scared of a little fat)
  • 4 slices from a small white loaf or 2 slices from a large white load, each slice cut in half.
  • 25g butter plus a drop of flavourless oil for frying (on the show she said adding the oil helped prevent the butter from burning, fascinating! I used vegetable oil here.)
  • 50g caster sugar (Nigella uses this sugar to dip the bread in, I decided this might be a little too much sugar so instead just dusted the toast with some cinnamon sugar, because who has ever heard of a doughnut without cinnamon??)
  1. Beat the eggs with the milk and vanilla in a wide, shallow bowl.
  2. Soak the bread halves in the eggy (eggy!) mixture for 5 minutes a side.
  3. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan, and fry the egg soaked bread until golden and scorched in parts on both sides.
  4. Put the sugar on a plate and then dip the cooked bread in it until coated like a sugared donut.

In the intro to this recipe (yes, this little gem hidden away in an intro!) Nigella gives the recipe for a strawberry sauce if you so choose to swing that way. I myself swung in the golden syrup direction but it's always nice to have choices!

Direct from the pages of Nigella - You Can turn this into a dinner party doughnut-allusive dessert by whizzing up 150g hulled strawberries, 4T icing sugar and a spritz of lemon juice in the blender, to make a sauce to pour or puddle (puddle!) over.