Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Little Fluffy Bunny Rabbit - Two Ways

The only reason this rabbit found it's way into my kitchen in the first place was because of a quirky weekly challenge. The males of the household come home with a selection of random ingredients every Friday night, and I have about an hour to come up with and cook a meal using the ingredients. It keeps it interesting and forces me to use different ingredients and methods, and I get the little buzz of adrenalin I remember from working in commercial kitchens.

But this wascally wabbit didn't get used that week, I had NO idea what to do with it, I'd never cooked with it and never even eaten it before. Challenge F A I L E D. So into the freezer it went. And stayed. For months... and (you guessed it) months. Finally, faced with the challenge of selling a house, moving interstate and clearing out the stockpiles of food - it was time.

Inspired by Jamie Oliver - Queensland Fried Rabbit it is. So basically, the rabbit pieces are simmered for a couple of hours in a stock with rosemary, garlic and olive oil, until it's tender and moist. Then chilled overnight in the liquid. Next morning I made a stock from the roasted carcass. Come dinner time, it was just a matter of making a quick risotto with peas and Parmesan and crumbing and frying the rabbit pieces.

Rabbit will be a regular on the menu from now on. It's tender, juicy, not at all gamey and like all those "other" meats - tastes like chicken. Beefed up chicken.

Fried Rabbit with Rabbit and Pea Risotto
Serves 4

For the Fried Rabbit:
1 whole rabbit
1L chicken or vegetable stock
1 head of garlic
3 large stalks of rosemary
100ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup flour, seasoned
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs, seasoned
handful of thyme leaves, finely chopped

For the Rabbit and Pea Risotto:
1 rabbit carcass
pan juices from fried rabbit recipe
1 cup mirepoix (diced onion, carrot, celery)
1 onion, diced
500g arborio rice
2 cups peas
parmesan & butter to finish

Cut the rabbit up into pieces. Youtube has a great tutorial on doing this. In a frypan, add the rabbit, stock, garlic, rosemary, olive and salt and pepper. Simmer over a low heat for about an hour and half. The rabbit should be tender and soft, but not falling off the bone. Chill in the juices overnight or until cool.

Roast the rabbit carcass until lightly coloured. In a saucepan, add the carcass, pan juices and mirepoix with enough water to cover, and simmer for 2-3 hours. In this time, get the rabbit pieces floured, egged and crumbed in the breadcrumbs and thyme.

In a frypan, add some olive oil and butter and sweat off the onion until soft. Add the rice and cook for a few minutes to 'toast'. Add in the hot stock, a ladle at a time, stirring constantly until tender. Just before serving, stir in the parmesan and butter to taste. Taste and season well.

While the risotto is cooking, fry the crumbed rabbit pieces until just golden and heated through, about 6 minutes. Serve on top of the risotto with some fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tight A$$ Tuesdays: Potato and Leek Soup & a Special Gift From a Friend

I feel a bit guilty putting one of the components of this dish in a tight-a$$ recipe. But, with the amount you need, it is still a cheap meal. I'd planned all day to make Potato and Leek Soup, with some little parmesan crisps and crunchy bacon. About the bacon...

Not 2 hours into my day and I had a knock at the door, with my postie holding out a package for me. Under layers of bubble wrap, ice-packs and a plastic container, were 5 (!!) packages of different bacon from E at King Valley Free Range Pork. Different cuts, different cures and smokes, all the way from Victoria, all for me!

I was pacing the kitchen, I was Googling, I was filtering through my favorite food blogs for inspiration. This was special, and getting my hands on this pork has been on my wishlist for years! The recipe had to allow it to be the main event! There were streaky bacon wrapped asparagus spears, wrapped figs, carbonaras, pies, and breakfasts dishes. All great options, but... I think the soup I'd planned on making all day, carried the flavour perfectly. The flavour permeates quickly with just a quick stir. I even had enough sweet, smokey fat render out for a little drizzle on each bowl.

Potato and Leek Soup
Serves 6

3 large leeks, roughly chopped
100g butter
1kg potatoes, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2L chicken stock
salt and pepper
100g butter, extra
200ml cream
200g streaky bacon, cut into strips
parmesan crisps

Sweat the leeks and butter over a low heat for around 10 minutes, or until soft but not coloured. Add in the potatoes, garlic, chicken stock and salt and pepper. Cook for approx 15 minutes, until potatoes are soft. In this time, fry off the bacon until coloured and crispy. With a stick blender, puree soup until smooth. If it is too thick, thin down with milk. Serve up into hot bowls, and sprinkle bacon and parmesan crisps.

To make parmesan crisps, pile a tablespoon of finely grated parmesan on a lined baking tray, and gently pat out into rounds. Bake in a moderate oven until melted and golden brown. Gently peel off with a spatula and allow to cool.

If you are lucky enough to live in Victoria, you can find the King Valley Free Range Pork, made from heritage breed, black pigs and cured using traditional artisan methods at markets all around Victoria. Join the Facebook group to keep up to date, or check out the King Valley Free Range Pork website for markets dates and times.

Monday, May 24, 2010

wannabeafoody follower giveaway

To celebrate reaching 200 fans on the wannabeafoody facebook page, I'll be giving away some more soap. Any excuse for a celebration and to offload some more of this soap! I'm not trying to get rid of it because it's not good, I love it. But... being made from recycled oil, I have a constant supply which outstrips demand, and maybe, just maybe, some of you will try it, like it and want to make it yourselves.

It has lemon essential oil for a fresh fragrance and mild anti-bacterial action, lemongrass tea for fragrance and colour and chopped lemongrass and cane sugar for exfoliation.

If you think you would like to try some of this soap, just become a follower of or subscribe to this blog (buttons to the right) AND leave a comment on this post. In a few words, tell me about your favorite meal shared with family or friends, and what it was that made it so special. I'll pick a random comment using a random number generator and post the result here. Good luck guys!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fine Roasted Fowl with Duck Fat Potatoes

If you're wondering why there are no photos of this Fine Roasted Fowl all plated up alongside those ridiculous potatoes with crispy shells and mashy centres, it's because it pretty much got inhaled before it even got to see a plate. Fairly certain I was in some kind of trance and only snapped out of it when my plate was shiny and fingers licked clean.

The potatoes are par-boiled, roughed up in the pot, then roasted with a little duck fat. The chicken is infused from the inside with rosemary, and sage butter is pushed between the skin and the breast for sure fire crispy skin and succulent meat. There is no trussing, no stuffing or fussing.

I'm not kidding about this. I had a mental blank on how to make another roast chicken recipe sound like it was worth trying before I had dinner, but now I would go on for pages if the internet wasn't already dotted with suave swooning over Sunday roasts. Just make it. Please?

Edited to add: I'm not sure I have explained this clearly enough. The potatoes. Duck fat. Perfection. The insides are somehow even softer and fluffier than creamy mashed potato. The outside forms a kind of shell that is crisp but chewy and light. And that's just the potatoes...

The rosemary in the cavity of the chicken almost steams the breast from the inside, steeping it delicately but noticeably with its flavour. Somewhere inside the breast, this meets up with the sagey butter coming down from underneath the skin. There are layers people.... And like all yummy dishes there is a contrasting texture. Crisp, translucent, salty skin. I told you I could go on... *sigh*

Fine Roasted Fowl with Duck Fat Potatoes

1 whole free range chicken
handful of sage & rosemary
2 tabs butter
salt and pepper

1kg baby potatoes, chopped, skin on
500g sweet potato, peeled and chopped
6 tabs duck fat
salt & pepper

Dry the outside of the chicken with paper towel. Push your finger in between the skin and the breast from the cavity end to create two little pockets either side of the breastbone. Push in half of the butter and 2 sage leaves into each pocket. Rub a little butter over the skin and season well with salt and pepper. Put the handful of herbs into the cavity. Roast at around 190c for around an hour. Around 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, take the chicken out and lift to pour out the juices from the cavity. Finish cooking until the thigh pulls away from the carcass easily and the juices are clear.

While the chicken is cooking, parboil the potato and sweet potato for about 10 minutes. Drain and rough them up with a fork in the pot. Melt the duck fat in the roasting tray over the stove and add the vegetables and shake around to coat with the fat. Season with salt and pepper and put in the oven to brown and crisp up.

Dish it up alongside some steamed greens and drizzled with gravy made from the pan juices. Remember to keep the carcass to make stock. I use the Aldi Free Range Chickens. They have a great flavour without being gamey, and never need much more than a little salt and pepper to be transcendent.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tight A$$ Tuesdays: Slow Cooked Osso Bucco

You know as soon as you combine hours of low-heat cooking and a cut of meat with a high bone to meat ratio, you're going to end up with meltingly tender meat and a sauce that becomes rich and creamy from the dissolved connective tissue and marrow.

That's exactly what happens with this dish. It takes around 5 minutes to prepare, and then you get to sit down with a warm Milo and a book for a couple of hours while you take in the smells that will inevitably filter through the house. It's cheap as chips to make, probably using around $7 worth of meat and will feed around 6 people with a side of mash, risotto or couscous. You can use the shank bones for traditional osso bucco, or apply the same method to chops, necks or any cut really. A handful of fresh herbs and lemon zest added at the end brings it to life and freshens it all up.

Slow Cooked Osso Bucco

1kg osso bucco
800g diced fresh or canned tomatoes
400g tomato puree or passata
2 onions, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
big slurp of red or white wine (about 2 cups)
Handful of fresh herbs - i used parlsey, thyme, oregano and some chives
salt and pepper

Brown off the meat in batches and put in the bottom of a baking dish. Sweat the onions, carrot and celery until slightly browned, pour in over the meat. Add the tomatoes, passata, wine and herbs to the meat. Cook for 2-3 hours at 160c until meat is falling off the bone. Check the seasoning. Serve over couscous, risotto or a creamy mash.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Berry Orangey Sour Cream Cake

This is an absolute keeper recipe that I discovered this weekend. In the same spirit as the Blank Canvas Cookies, you can just play around with the base recipe, and formulate your own flavourings and embellishments. The cake batter is moist and light, and the zingy sour cream beckons to be supercharged with zests, juices and tart berries.

The original recipe calls for lemons, yogurt and blueberries - none of which I actually had on hand. I swapped these for oranges, sour cream and mixed berries. Someone was "helping" and decided a roughly chopped banana could be thrown into the wet ingredients when mummy wasn't looking. But, who am I to argue with pudgy fingers and blonde curls?

I tweaked this recipe a bit to make it a one bowl cake. Who needs to be washing extra bowls when there are so many other little distractions to play with? *Ahem* Everyone, meet Louey - the newest wannabeafoody apprentice. Awww!

Anyway, this one is really simple, no creaming of butter and sugar, no folding or fluffing or sifting. Suitable for those of us racing after children and/or puppies. Super quick and super yummy. You'd better make two of these if you want it to last long enough to become school or work lunches. You've been warned.

Berry Orange Sour Cream Cake 

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 3 oranges
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 cups frozen mixed berries

Grease a 8" square cake pan and line the bottom with baking paper. Preaheat oven to 180c.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, oil, sour cream, vanilla and zest until well combined.
Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt, stirring until just combined. Fold in the berries and pour into the pan. Cook for around 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

To make the glaze: Fill a measuring cup to around 3/4 full with icing sugar, and add 2 tablespoons of juice from a lemon or orange. Pour over cake when completely cooled.

And just because puppy noses and paws are the cutest things on earth...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tight A$$ Tuesdays: Comfy Bacon Bone Soup

Mum used to make this continuously as soon as the temperature dropped below "sweltering" and then sometimes even when it didn't. Monday to Sunday - that's what we got. Although it was rather monotonous during those months, it was very good. This is yummy-for-my-tummy ultimate well-being food.

This little dude got caught in the act of eating my oregano. He escaped the pot but promptly became chook food. Out of the pan into the fire?

And bonus, you can make it with your eyes shut in a matter of minutes, it makes enough to feed several small countries, it's healthy and costs just a few dollars for countless meals. It gloops up considerably upon cooling, so you can thin it down with stock or water to make even more. I kid you not, the fridge will be full, the freezer packed and your belly distended once you give this a whirl. And, seriously, give this a go.

Bacon Bone Soup
(This makes enough to almost fill my 14L stockpot)

2 large onions, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 celery stems, diced
4 potatoes, diced
1.5kg bacon bones or smoked hocks
500g dried split peas, soup mix, barley, dried grains or whatever

In your stockpot, saute the onions, carrots, celery and potatoes over a low heat until lightly coloured and softened. Add the bacon bones and dried grains and enough water to completely cover all the bones or fill your pot to about 3/4, whichever is more. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally so it doesn't catch on the bottom. After a couple of hours, the meat should be falling off the bones, and the liquid thickened and rich. Season with salt and pepper and get into it with some buttered fresh bread or toast.

Notes: There is no strict recipe, if you don't eat pork, use some browned beef or chicken bones. Use any vegetables in any proportions, clear out the fridge and put it all in. Pasta and rice are good substitutes for the soup mix. Frozen peas etc are great additions to put in at the end. Try putting it all in your slow-cooker and forget about it for the day. You'll come home to dinner all done and the house smelling... soupy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Challenge

Just over a week ago Jen over at Jen's Shangri-La requested a pineapple upside-down cake recipe to satisfy the senses. Most of the regular recipes used a plain buttercake batter (oftentimes made from packet mix) with a canned pineapple topping. A slice of mediocre anyone? Ready to tear this down and rebuilt it?

First off, the main event - saucy pineapple topping. Fresh pineapple! The tart taste-bud defibrillating acidity of a fresh pineapple cuts through the sickly butter-caramel sauce surrounding it. And there should be just enough sauce to dribble down each slice of cake. It's the way it should be!

The cake needs to be... a little different perhaps? I tried cardamom. (Or as the health food shop lady "corrected" me - "cardamon".) Cardamom is... hard to explain. Cinnamon, citrus and pepper come to mind. It's highly fragrant and can be overpowering so just a small amount as an aromatic is perfect and enough to tweak the experience up a notch. I bought the whole pods, emptied out the seeds from about four of them and ground them in a mortar and pestle. This one little spice makes this cake.

The addition of some Drambuie (spiced honey brandy) also adds an extra dimension. Don't worry about getting the kids blotto, the alcohol will be all cooked out by the time you get to eat it, leaving a rich depth of flavour.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake All Grown Up!

1/2 pineapple, peeled, quartered and sliced
100g butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 - 1 tsp ground cardamom seeds
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
100g butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tab Drambuie (spiced honey brandy - optional)
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 180c. Grease a loaf tin or 10" round cake tin. In a pan, melt butter and sugar together and cook over a low heat for 4 minutes. Pour into the bottom of the cake tin then layer pineapple on top.

In a sifter, add the flour, cardamom, baking powder and salt. Beat butter and sugar until pale and creamy, add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla and Drambuie, beat well. Sift in half of the flour, then add pineapple juice, then the rest of the flour, beating well between each addition. Pour the batter over the caramel and pineapple and bake for around 40 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. Stand in tin for 5 minutes before inverting onto a plate.

Serve with vanilla icecream, lightly whipped cream or like someone did - with creamy toffee chunk icecream and a nip of Drambuie.

More notes about the cardamom: The whole pods can be ground, but will often give a bitter flavour. Leave the seeds inside the pods until you're about to grind them - they spoil and can go rancid quickly. Buying ready ground cardamom is expensive and will have likely lost most of its flavour, and certainly it's freshness. I bought about 10 times the amount of whole fresh pods I needed from the health food shop for 50c. I used just over half a teaspoon of the ground seeds, the original recipe had three whole teaspoons and I can't begin to imagine how strong that would be. I definitely advise using a smaller amount first off, especially if you've never had it before. If it scares you, you can trade the cardamom for cinnamon, nutmeg or mixed spice - but I think it's definitely worth trying out. We loved it!