So after having a Tuesdaynightcookbookclub at home with each of us cooking something at home in April I thought that once we were ‘ allowed ‘ to have five people meeting I suggested we return to Diana Henry for another meal…especially as we did not all have photos of our food. My fault with limited technology knowledge. I had never even heard of Diana Henry until recently and now i have five of her books. You may not know I have a cookbook obsession. Some women have an obsession with shoes or handbags but for me it is cookbooks.
Our first ‘ at home ‘ Diana Henry cookbook club featured recipes from her ‘ Plenty and ‘Simple ‘ which I thought appropriate as we were all having difficulties coming to term with this strange new world of Covid19. I was convinced one day I had it and another night dreamt about having it but surviving…. Needless to say and fingers crossed we have all been well. It was the birthday of one of our group though and so I made her a cake. It was from Simple.….and simply delicious! Lemon and Ricotta Ok….she snuck me a slice! Quality control. I also made the pumpkin and red lentil dish which was perfect for dinner for 1 in lockdown!
Onto May when we were excitedly getting ready for our cookbookclub dinner. I made a Southern Italian cauliflower with fried bread crumbs, capers and anchovies. Roasting cauliflower is my favourite way to eat it…try making it into hummus. Also Barley, parsley and pomegranate salad…so dessert was a chocolate cake with olive oil which was like a cloud cake! Light and airy and delightful!
There was a potato salad and another dessert which was Baked apples with rye crumbs and mincedmeat (usually used for Christmas) and to start one of the best soups I have ever tasted Moroccan lentil soup with yoghurt and chile-fried onions. And a pasta dish with broccoli. So much goodness!
I have already posted about our June book club with Falestin. It was another fabulous night too with exciting food and recipes. Feel free to read.
Once again we were excited with another cookbook club dinner and with the highly successful Falestin cookbook from Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley. For those of you unfamiliar with his name, Sami is from Palestine and Tara Wigley cowrote this though Sami worked with Yotham Ottolingui on several books.
Some of ourdishes were musaqa’a (eggplant, chickpea and tomato), spinach pies, fritters (two types…cauliflower & cumin, and pea, spinach and za’atar and preserved lemon,) labnah, warm chickpeand green chilli sauce and pita, and Hassan’s eggs with lemon and za ‘star. And my particular favourite beetroot and feta galette.
I can rec9mmend this book ( i am not being paid for this!) But two of my friends who cooked and came for this dinner have purchaes their own copy. Just add za’atar, cumin, sumac, green chillies, feta and a lemon tree to your shopping list! I personally have the Middle East on my travel list ….when ever that will be but in the meantime, enjoy FALESTIN. Perfect for sharing and winterl
When we first were told we were in lockdown with the covid virus I thought fine. A great opportunity to write and read and do those things I always wanted to do. I was in the fortunate situation I could ‘ legally ‘ walk my dog as that constituted exercise and my goto coffee shop still operated as a takeaway drink…albeit not in my own coffee cup. Then off home!
Then I decided I would start some ‘ projects ‘ doing things I felt I never had enough time for. First cab off the rank and I decided this was the best time (like zillions of others) to learn to make sourdough. After all I had time on my hands and although the local supermarket had empty shelves of flour, sugar, rice, pasta and of course toilet paper the little fruit and vegetable shop I frequented often had bags of 10 kg bags of bakers flour. A neighbour gave me my first starter and a friend offered rye flour (and for those of you unfamiliar with ‘ feeding your starter ‘ it is the flour recommended. I watched some u tube videos and messaged and emailed friends for advice and I was off. I can report I still have my ‘L ‘ plates on and find making sourdough was more like learning a new language with various methods of procedures. My bread has been eatable but lacks those ‘ears ‘and big holes you see on sourdough bread sites but I am in awe really that one can make bread with just flour, water and salt and it is something that has been made for thousands of years and can be as basic or sophisticated as you want.
Another project was marinating olives. A friend told me of a huge olive tree on a neighbouring street where the olives were not being picked! What to do? I suggested she drop a note in the neighbours letterbox to see if they would mind if she picked a few. I figured she would have nothing to lose. Moving on both my friend and I had buckets of these fat juicy babies which resulted in finding appropriate recipes for marinating them. To salt, to cut and extract the pip, to bash them, add lemon, vinegar, and more salt required a lot of discussion and preparation. Now I have kilos of the things in various jars with different herbs and spices in olive oil waiting for sampling.
And then there were the quinces. I have a quince tree and the fruit of which I am happy to share with feathered friends but became annoyed when they would eat a quarter of the fruit before moving onto another piece. But we got there in the end and I was able to poach some and gift the rest. With a sugar shortage I decided against making quince paste this year though added some of the poaching liquid to various sweet treats and cakes. I do love having a large bowl of quinces in my house as it gives the most gorgeous perfume.
When I saw a bag of bunya nuts on sale and a recipe for pesto i jumped at the chance to make something new. There was an enormous bunya pine tree at the boarding school I attended many (many) years ago but I don’t remember the nuts from it. However, it was a real project to actually peel then so I sought assistance from family. The finished product was very delicious though it maybe something that will not be repeated in the near future. No photos here.
As I write this, restrictions are slowly being lifted and soon we will be able to share a coffee and a meal with friends and family. Though I was fortunate to have family visit from interstate (where border restrictions were lifted) to help celebrate a milestone recently. They hired a car instead of taking flights which we are still waiting for and we enjoyed some DELICIOUS food and wine. Bring it on!
February is usually the hottest month of the year in Australia so a perfect time to being out the salads and what better way than to comb through Hetty McKinnon’ s three recipe books to find inspiration.
I first heard about Hetty when I was following one of my favourite bloggers Lorraine Elliott with her notquitenigella daily blog about food related stories. Lorraine mentioned meeting a woman in the centre of Sydney who started delivering freshly made and healthy salads by bicycle. Professionals who worked from home who wanted a delicious meal with having to spend time and effort leaving their office. years or so on and we find Hetty, her husband and three children relocated to Brooklyn in New York city and the author of three wonderful cookbooks ‘Family’ ‘Neighbourghood’ and ‘ Community ‘. Though I am not sure in which order they were released though I do know ‘ Community’ has just been rereleased with stories and interviews with some of her long term followers.
These vegetarian salad recipes are stand alone meals and not something to accompany a barbeque or lamb roast. So what did we have?
I made a salad with frozen peas, roasted baby potatoes and boiled eggs all bought together with a fabulous chimichirri and because I love roasted cauliflower made one with lemon, pine nuts, parsley all bought together with a whipped feta and lemon dressing.
Roasted eggplant with sofrito, chickpeas and almonds was a favourite and my friend who travels from out of town with her delicious roast pumpkin with chick peas and pepitas. I know the dessert wasn’t in any of Hetty’s books but everyone made salads so I quickly made a buttermilk panacotta with a fresh fig compote.
I was interested to read that Hetty has a formula in which to make your own salad which covers the necessary components to make it substantial that I thought I would share with you. To start choose one or two vegetables and team with a hearty legume or grain (and not be afraid to use a can of lentils, chickpeas or butter beans). Add some leaves for greenery (I notice she used spinach and kale often) then herbs for freshness and nuts and seeds for freshness. The crucial elements is the salad dressing and Hetty uses yoghourt, lemon, ricotta, olive oil, garlic, capers, & feta plus salt and pepper of course. And always a fried egg on top of a leftover salad is a fabulous idea (and one I use often!) Don’t be afraid to roast vegetables to bring out flavour. I personally love roasting pumpkin, carrots, beetroot, fennel, eggplant…..enjoy!
At The Books at the Brewery before Christmas a year or so ago we had the pleasure of meeting local residents who were involved in the food industry. One of these guests was Rosa Mitchell. Rosa has a farm near Yandoit in which she and her husband produce much of her vegetables at her Melbourne based restaurant ‘Rosa’s Canteen’
Although Rosa was born in Sicily she has spent most of her life in Australia but her roots are firmly from her homeland and each year she takes a group of foodie types for a tour to get a sense of her early life. In fact when I visited her restaurant with a friend I was disappointed that Rosa was leading one such tour. However her staff did not disappoint with her food. Generous portions of freshly made pasta was followed by a sublime lemon tart. Wine was served by the glass and the service professional but helpful.
So it was no surprise that I chose one of the two cookbooks that Rosa has written for our Tuesday night cook book club. One of my friends has her other cook book so we were spoilt for choice. And it was a difficult choice as you wanted to cook so many of her recipes with ingredients unfamiliar to me. Things like wild fennel and nettles and farro and hare. But I ended up choosing for a barley salad. I like barley but had never cooked it and it made a simple salad with fresh tomatoes, red onion and a dressing. Not happy with just a salad of course I could not help myself and a made a chocolate, pear and pistachio cake. Then I saw the fig and fennel biscuits. Whoever thought of such a combination. Very popular! Other favourites were fennel fritters and a ricotta and fig tart. Another successful evening with great company and delicious. A glass of masala went well with those desserts too.
Next month….will we even be getting together at all. We all hope so and I have suggested recipes from Diana Henry ‘Plenty and ‘ Simple’ which are two of her books though a friend has several others. Maybe we won’t have a book club after all or if we will it make with what you can make with a can of chickpeas or lentils, or a packetof frozen peas or from your late summer garden. Challenges regardless are in store.