Winter can mean only one thing

Just when I thought Winter would never come, we are suddenly blessed with cold nights!  Can I just say my 5 in 1 slow cooker is working overtime! (See photo)new-wave-multi-cooker-5-in-1

So what do I love about Winter, surely you could guess by now……comfort food.  Warm soulful food cooked with love and possibly served with wine (Australian of course).  Now my definition of comfort food may not be the same as yours but I think it is a term that can be open to interpretation.  So let me present a few of my favourite comfort foods in the form of a menu.  I might even share a recipe too.

 

Breakfast

Porridge with honey or brown sugar

Poached eggs on toast maybe with some baked beans

French toast with fruit and sweet ricotta or yoghurt (okay I have friends who’ll dob me in here-I eat this anytime of the year)

Lunch

Leftovers heated up

Toasted sandwiches with way too much cheese

Dinner

Slow cooked proteins-I sweat some onion and garlic, brown diced  and floured meat, add 3-4 different chopped vegies, about 500ml liquid-stocks, herbs, mustard, tinned whole tomato-whatever takes my fancy.  Depending on the protein I will then slow cook for 4-8 hours

Curries-again something I prepare in the slow cooker, always serve with rice and sometimes pappadums

Soups (usually vegetarian)

Roast (recently did a rather large slow cook lamb shoulder- 4 hours in the oven and the meat was melt in the mouth- I made the fatal error of placing the pulled meat in the middle of the table-suffice to say there was no meat for leftovers)

Dessert

Self saucing puddings

Sticky Date pudding

Really good quality dark chocolate

Hot Chocolate

Now although I have a plethora of cookbooks, I often resort to sourcing a recipe on line.  I usually spend some time on a weekend planning out meals, scouring recipes or sometimes, more often than not, I do the weekly shop and come home with something from the butchers that I couldn’t resist and then find a suitable recipe.  Slow cooked meals that are quick to prepare can be in the slow cooker by 3:30pm (after work and school pick up) set for 4 hours and ready for a 7:30pm dinner. Soups in my house almost cook themselves with the help from my multicooker. Roasts are so easy with very little prep time and 1-2 hours in the oven.  Then of course meals can be cooked on weekends and heated up during the week. For those who find themselves time poor during the week, quick meals can still be comforting.  Nothing wrong with a toasted sandwich or wrap for dinner or eggs- how many different ways can you cook eggs?

Cauliflower Soup

I am completely ok about paying $5 for a cauliflower.  Some people would seriously baulk at this.  This recipe is  a meal fit for 4-5 people if accompanied with bread.  This meal is quicker than deciding on a pizza or driving down to the local fast food joint, it is cheaper and far more healthier!  This meal is perfect for meat free Monday!! Now please remember I don’t measure most ingredients when I cook dinner-I pretty much freestyle so bear with me.

Ingredients

1-2 onions sliced

1-2 cloves of garlic crushed or thinly sliced

1 whole cauliflower roughly cut-leaves are fine to eat too

1-2 potatoes peeled and chopped

About 2 cups of stock (I use vegetable or chicken)

Your choice of herbs

Steps

1.       Heat a lug of oil, add onion and soften. Add garlic for the last minute or so.

2.       Add cauliflower, potato, stock and herbs

3.       Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until vegies are soft

4.       Use a stick blender and blend to your liking

5.       Serve with your favourite bread, sour cream and parmesan if you wish.

TIPS: You may need to add more stock.  I use a multicooker and just set it to ‘soup’ so I don’t even need to monitor the simmer process.  Don’t overdo it with potato, it really takes away from the hero of the dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating our way around Queensland

Traditionally when camping I’ve always shopped and planned menus prior to leaving on holidays.  We usually have enough food to last a week and pantry items for the trip.  The longest we have travelled for is about a month.

As I am embracing a more sustainable lifestyle my food prep methods have altered.  This has come about for several reasons but the main one being reducing my food miles and supporting local farmers.  So here’s a few of my favourite tips:

  • I now fully embrace scrumping (food grown on public land ripe for the taking-just today I found an orange tree growing next to the Pacific Highway)
  • I love buying straight from the farmer-roadside stalls are awesome!
  • Local butchers-ask them who they source their meat from and usually they are happy to chat with you
  • When dining out/take away get local knowledge first and don’t be afraid to ask the waitress where products are sourced from.  A great waitress will know and a good waitress will go and ask the Head Chef.  Sometimes menus will have this information.  Be especially weary of seafood products.
  • Source the best bakery in town
  • When buying a souvenir for that special person back home, consider a locally made product like preserves, wine or cheese.
  • Before I even start on a journey, I do a little internet browsing and check out if there are food trails

I love the fact that I can cut out the middle man, meet the producer and directly help small Australian businesses.  The kids love it too.  Picking strawberries, trying different cheeses, drinking real milk and catching red claw,IMG_2511 it all adds to the adventure of discovering Australia.

My Ocean Harvest

With the salty sea breeze caressing my face, the cool water licking at my feet, whales frolicking on the horizon and the osprey circling  above I was transported away to a moment of happiness.  I could here the kids squealing with delight as they constructed a pool and then later entombed their older cousins in the sand. Yes people I was at the beach, Noosa North Shore to be precise.

Now please don’t be alarmed by what I am about to tell you next…..Are you ready?….Okay…..Sure?……So beside the fact that I was having some well deserved R & R with my family, I was also on a mission to catch a fish!  Earlier on in the day we had collected a couple of dozen pippies in hope to entice our dinner to join us.

So after a few unsuccessful attempts at casting a surf rod beyond the first breaker, my darling husband, Reece, decided to man up and help me out. (He’s so strong!) Shortly after I hauled our first dart of the day. Reece stepped up yet again by dehooking, rebaiting and casting my line. Over the course of the afternoon I caught three more dart and a bream (all legal size). I was happy.

I felt it was important to write this blog as this is part of who I am.  Ever since I was old enough to hold a rod, my parents would take my brother and I fishing in the passage near Bribie Island.  These were magical times.  For not only did we connect as a family, it was an opportunity to connect back to our roots. Yes we are all descendants of hunters and gatherers and depending where we lived would determine our diet.

Today it is a  completely different story.  It’s convenient food for our fast paced lifestyles.  Too tired to cook? Busy day at the office?  Nothing in the Fridge? Food these days for the affluent, comes premade, precooked, packaged, frozen, chemically altered and potentially has travelled more times overseas than I have.  Getting all your meals from a grocery store, dining out or take away conveniently also disconnects us from the source. Take for instance the frozen prawns my friend bought the other day.  Caught in Australia but packed for your convenience in China.  My friend had made the innocent assumption (like most of us who have any nous of common sense) that being Australian it would be packed here.

I honestly believe that if you source food directly from mother nature you will reap the benefits.  So what does one learn from a fishing experience? Catching a meal takes time, patience, respect and knowledge. That afternoon helped me reconnect with ocean. The fish that I caught we were grateful for, we only took enough for a meal and the osprey who had been patiently circling above graciously accepted the frames which we shared with him.

Jamie Oliver and Me

Confessions of a foodie.  My ‘not so secret’ love affair.

Intrigued? Jealous? Well don’t be too shocked! My relationship with Jamie Oliver is purely based on my food obsession.  Have you ever made a list of people you’d love to invite for dinner? Well Jamie’s definitely on my list. Rest assured Jools (Jamie’s better half), I’m not one of those crazy stalkers who sends inappropriate gifts.  For heaven’s sake it’s not that sort of relationship. Besides I’m a happily married woman.

Although my relationship with Jamie is purely one sided we do share a love of food, the environment and helping others.  My apologies if my heading misled you, I really wanted to see if my husband is reading my posts (love you honey).

So I’m loving Jamie’s new series based on his new book, ‘Save with Jamie’ (Penguin, 2013). Jamie has such a natural way of engaging with people.  His passion is contagious. His book and the series is dedicated to cooking beautiful  home meals that are  reasonably healthy and cheap. Jamie’s instinctual cooking methods allows home cooks to feel good about being flexible and creative.  YES- it’s okay to not measure everything (lugs of oil, knobs of butter), get your hands dirty and substitute ingredients. More importantly though, Jamie’s committed to showing you clever ways to reduce food waste by snazzing up leftovers, freezing and planning.

Save with Jamie is far from being just another cookbook.  In addition to the 120 money saving meals, it also contains detailed nutrition information, shopping tips, kitchen organisation and plenty of inspiring photos.  What a great team Jamie must have!

So to wrap up my post, I thought $24 for Jamie’s book was a great investment.  I also don’t mind sharing my living room with Jamie on a Thursday night, 7:30pm,  when he brings the pages of his book to life with his TV series.  So Jamie if you’re reading this, feel free to pop in for dinner and we can talk turkey about employment opportunities for an obsessed foodie who wants to change the world with you. Love you Jamie (note to self-okay, that may be a little stalkerish).

For your own copy of Jamie’s book visit: http://www.jamieoliver.com/savewithjamie/

FOOD WASTE NASTY FACTS (extra)

Food waste is one of my all time pet hates. Did you know that in  New South Wales (Australia), 800 000t of food from households ends up in landfill? This equates to 315kg of food waste or 38% of  household waste or $1036 per year per household. As it is a significant amount, it also contributes to climate change as the breakdown process of food creates methane. (http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.nsw.gov.au/love-food/environmental-impacts.aspx#production) On a more global scale, according
to a study conducted by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization,
one-third of all the food produced around the world, approximately 1.3 billion
tons a year, is never eaten. I know Jamie would not be happy about that.

 

 

A Celebration for Foodies

When it comes to food I am fairly obsessive.  If I’m not in the kitchen creating or in the garden collecting eggs or picking vegies, I’m probably reading a food mag or watching a cooking show.  Let’s not forget the regular practise of consuming food too.  That I do quite well.  So when one of my BFFs (Best Friend Forever) suggested we go to this year’s Causley Fresh Gate To Plate Degustation (http://www.gatetoplate.com.au/main.html) well I did backflips.  What a great foodie challenge to eat through several courses highlighting local products and local Chefs.  Of course this would be deliciously accompanied by some beautiful near local wines.

Helper Dianne Luxton and Chef Antony Perring at the Gate To Plate masterclass on Saturday afternoon. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner

Helper Dianne Luxton and Chef Antony Perring at the Gate To Plate masterclass on Saturday afternoon. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner

Well did I cry in my pillow and comfort eat my way through a bag of Choc Bits when my BFF informed me that she had been too late to book us a table.  Okay I may have been a little too dramatic with the crying into the pillow scene but I was genuinely upset.  However there was a silver lining on a cloud of pink fairy floss to our dilemma.

BFF had suggested we book in for the Yamba Food Trail followed by a Master Class.  All day taste testing local food and getting foodie tips from experts, “Yeah, count me in!” Locally ground coffee (http://www.espressobotero.com.au/), a tour of a local fish farm (http://pim.net.au/),  a local deli shopping experience (http://www.causleyfresh.com.au/), lunch at Wato’s Fish and Burger Bar, Yamba, and  let’s not forget to mention the beautiful bottle of Sparkling we consumed(http://www.robertchannonwines.com/Scripts/openExtra.asp?extra=1) made for an unforgettable food trail experience.

Our day continued on a high with a Master Class at our local Art Gallery. Our host for the day Chef Antony Perring (http://www.ironsandcraig.com/) , roped me into assisting him to make ricotta.  (Between you and me I was totally loving the limelight). We were also spoilt with some mouth watering BBQ prawn and scallop nibbles.  No one could resist the  dessert presentation (http://www.nicholsonfinefoods.com.au/) which was truly a work of art.  On the inside we were all plotting the quickest way to get to the dessert display and which people we would need to knock over (lucky I was in the front row and therefore could throw myself at temptation).  All of this amazing food was perfectly matched with Robert Channon Wines from the Granite Belt and coffee made with love from Espresso Botero.

Alas all good things must come to an end, so I bid my new friends farewell but I was happy in the knowledge that not only do I have all of this amazing produce available to me in my Clarence Valley, I know that I’ll be doing the food trail and master class again next year.  One last word, this obsessed foodie enjoyed herself so much that she has volunteered to help organise next year’s event. Maybe this way we can be guaranteed a table at the Degustation!