Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Baked/Coddled Eggs

I am a bit hampered movement-wise this week as my left knee seems to have gone on strike.  My leg turns but the knee cap seems to go its own merry way.  And the clicking is a nasty sound.  I think I need a new titanium knee sometime soon.  So it means I am having to be a bit careful, including not spending hours on my feet creating gourmet feasts - ha hah!  I had just read a blog post (sorry blogger, I can't remember which one) a few days ago and they mentioned making coddled eggs.  I have sometimes made what I guess you would call baked eggs as I don't put them into a water bath in the oven, I just bake them on a tray,  So this was my one and only thought for dinner last night; quick and easy and only a few minutes on my feet.  Mr Pickings himself was ill and having a nap so wasn't really up to much either.  I had just seen an ad for the McDonalds app whereby you can order fast food online.  For a nano second there I even considered it!  But commonsense prevailed along with my taste buds and I threw this together in minutes.
I had some leftover baked salmon in the fridge along with some dried coriander leaves, and my home-made roast capsicums.  These were the flavour base for my eggs.  You can use anything you like in these; throw in leftover shredded chicken, any herbs you like, the spices you like and so on. Then you just break a couple of eggs into the ramekin/coddler, top with a couple of tablespoons of cream, season and throw in a 190C oven for about 20 minutes. You could put the ramekins into a water bath - i.e. - put on a baking tray and fill it so the water comes halfway up the little bowls and then bake for about 10-12 minutes.  You would then have legitimate coddled eggs:)   But honestly who can be bothered with all that if you don't have to?   I think the only difference is that the eggs may be a little more tender if coddled rather than baked, but frankly life is too short for this little blogger with the buggered knee.

recipe for 2 people:

ingredients:  (based on what was lying around in the depths of my fridge)

120g salmon (or chicken)
2 spring onions snipped into small pieces with scissors
1/2 doz.small chunks of roast capsicum cut into small pieces
2 eggs per person
2-3 tbs of cream per person
handful of fresh herbs - chives or parsley would be great here
salt and pepper to taste


Place the salmon, spring onions and roast capsicum into the bottom of the lightly greased ramekins
Break over 2 eggs into each one
Pour the cream over the eggs
Add the herbs and seasoning
Bake at 190C for about 20 minutes till eggs are firm (or however you like them)

Nice with a salad or even - dare I say it? - some oven baked chips.

yes the capsicums look weird; the olive oil has congealed in the fridge 

ready for the oven  

This is also a great breakfast dish, or light lunch.  If you have hungry husbands or children to feed, eat with salad AND chips!

File:Bondi, 8 - Hen, laying lunch - Bondi, 2011.jpg
(stock image author Newtown Grafitti) 

Friday, 16 January 2015

Aloo Chops or should that be Chop?

I can't quite make out if it should be chop or chops.  Either way it is potatoes mashed and filled and fried - a bit like Spanish croquettas.  And just as irresistible!  I was reading the other day that there are over 3,000 different varieties of potato in Peru, and over 5000 worldwide.  That is gobsmacking - and to think we see about 6 kinds in the shops here.  I wonder if Sir Walter Raleigh only brought a couple of types back with him, and how did he stop them sprouting and going green on the long sea voyage home?  It's not like he had a fridge on the ship!  Seedlings you fool, I can hear you saying.   Ah yes, you are right, savvy reader.
I have fond memories of my dad grating bucketloads of spuds with a nifty little red hand grater thingy.  Mum used to make potato fritters for our dinner now and then, which she used to grate with a normal box grater.  Or she would persuade our dad to grate them due to his manly strength.:)  Then mum discovered a grater that had a handle you could turn, which meant grating potatoes for 6 only took half an hour instead of an hour or more.  I suppose it was a version of rosti really.  She would then send one of the 4 children down to the local fish shop to buy some flake (gummy shark), for which she would make her own batter and fry up to eat with aforesaid potato fritters.
I found this recipe in a really ancient Margaret Fulton cookbook - Book of Indian Cooking, probaby as authentic when published in the mid 1980's as your local Indian takeaway.

File:Carlas Grater.jpg
nope mum's grater wasn't this cute! (author Ken in Dallas) 

This is a fairly easy recipe, with just a bit of fiddling about.  You first have to boil and mash the spuds, then cool them down before filling with the pre-cooked and cooled meat mixture.  Then you get ready to fry baby, fry!  Ok, I confess -  I do not like deep frying, and usually bake everything in the oven instead.  And when it can't be helped, Mr Pickings takes over and he does the frying in an electric pan out on the back deck.  Cos otherwise we end up with spatter all over the kitchen walls and floor.  How is it possible?  I don't know how it can spread out 3 metres from the stove top but it does gentle reader, it does.  So there are 3 parts to this recipe, all really easy. First make the mashed potato, then make the meat filling.  Form the meaty, potatoey patties and fry up.


1 kg potatoes  (pick the ones that are starchy rather than waxy)
1/2 tsp of salt
3 tbs milk
3 tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion finely chopped
3 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
250 g beef mince
2-3 tbs sultanas (or raisins)
2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp dried mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 tbs chopped fresh coriander leaves


Peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks
Boil in salted water till soft
Drain and mash with the milk
Allow to cool
Heat the oil in a frypan
Fry the onion and ginger till golden and soft
Add the mince, sultanas, and all the aromates except the fresh coriander into the pan
Stir the mince around till it has browned and separated into small pieces
Fry gently for about 15 minutes till it is cooked and fragrant
Stir in the fresh coriander
Allow to cool
Scoop up a handful of the cooled potato and make a large dent in the middle
Spoon 3 tsp of the meat mixture into the dent and fold over
Gently roll it together till you have a fat and happy patty
Keep going till you have 8 round patties
Coat them in plain flour
Shallow fry a few at a time till golden
Keep frying till all 8 are looking beautifully golden and smell delicious

Ok I have to admit it - Mr Pickings had to watch over me while I did this as he is so much better than me at frying. They turned out pretty well!  But I did have to scrub down the plastic table that I cooked them on in the courtyard.  (Ok ok I have a weird phobia about spattering my kitchen).  Then Mr Pickings literally had to drag the table into the backyard to hose it down cos I had used so much cleaning spray.  Yep I am undeniably weird.

yes that is my red slipper down there  

adding the coriander (I used lightly dried as fresh was unavailable)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Historic Heston - book review and Earl Grey Tea Salt

I love Heston as does my niece who maintains that he is her future husband.  Never mind that he has a girlfriend already!  This does not faze her; she is prepared to wait till he comes to his senses.  He is a philandering husband though so maybe she just shouldn't trust him to have any senses at all.  Well, we will try to forgive him his naughty ways and just enjoy his wonderful food and TV shows.  We tried to get a seat at his temporary restaurant in Melbourne this year but were not successful in the ballot.  I hear there was a lot of skullduggery around that ballot, and scalpers selling tickets for many thousands of dollars.  Darn, if only I knew a scalper!:)
I am in the thick of reading his amazing book Historic Heston which is as heavy in weight as it is beautiful and fascinating in content.  The photography is absolutely splendid, rich in colour and with stunning dishes displayed.  You could just sit and drool over the photos and nothing else if you wanted.  I really love history, and I am a keen reader of food history.  Heston (or his minions) have done extended research, and it shows in his prose and the truly amazing dishes he and his crew have come up with.  I can hear his voice as I read the book, and it does sound like the language he uses in his shows.  I have made one wee thing from the book - Earl Grey Tea salt which I think I will use sprinkled over baked salmon fillets, or chicken.  He uses it in a sweet dish in the book, where he sprinkles it over a strawberry tart (which has 9 elements to the dish).  He makes a gel, and this salt, and yoghurt cream, and chamomile sugar, and crystallised mint, and biscuits, and tuiles, and poached fruit and a strawberry sorbet.  Eek!  I am exhausted just writing it down.
Basically this book is great if you like Heston, if you like food history, and if you like fabulous photos of amazing food.  I don't think it is in the least bit practical or useful as a cookbook but who cares?  That is obviously not the aim of the book.  It is a splendid read (though a bit heavy for bed-time reading unless you have a servant lad with hefty muscles to hold it up for you).   It also has lovely sketches and drawings along with the text and the photos, so it is a real feast for the eyes. Heston throws in some of his scientific knowledge which I found really interesting.  The more I cook, the more I realise you need to know a bit of the scientific basis for cooking.  It helps you to understand how ingredients react to each other, and how to obtain the results you want from a dish.

2 simple ingredients

Take 20 grams of sea salt flakes and 5 grams of Earl Grey tea leaves (not tea bags) and pound them together in your mortar.  Store in a glass jar with an air-tight lid.

pound them up in your mortar and pestle

gently pounded 

The last dish in the book is Mock Turtle Soup from Alice in Wonderland.  It has (if I have counted correctly) 12 elements!  It has 2 different stocks and a consomme, and numerous other elements with varying degrees of difficulty.  Clearly I am not going to be making this any time soon and nor I think will you!  But oh it is lovely to look at and dream about.  I just have to get myself to The Fat Duck in Bray and eat it there!

File:Alice in Wonderland by Arthur Rackham - 13 - That's very curious.jpg
the Mock Turtle (public domain image)

Monday, 12 January 2015

Nutella Liqueur With A Kick!

You may remember folks, I mentioned ordering a small jar of Nutella before Xmas but they replaced it with a very large jar (for the same price).  So it has been sitting in my pantry for a few weeks almost full and calling to me with its deadly siren song.  I made Irish cream liqueur as Xmas gifts and thought I would extend the idea to the lurking Nutella.  I checked out the Net and found heaps of recipes online, so have based my recipe on this one.  I love the way the recipe says to taste and add more vodka if desired.  It is already so strong you can feel your hair curl as you drink it so I can only imagine who is crazy enough to desire more vodka in it!  But different strokes for different folks as they say.  I was saying to Mr Pickings the other day that the person who invented Nutella must have been absolutely out of their mind with happiness (and money) when they realised how many people loved it and were willing to buy it.  Apparently the inventor was Mr Ferrero (yes of that famous chocolate company) who invented it in the 1940's;  he used hazelnuts as a filler because chocolate was hard to come by during the War.  Talk about serendipity!  He would have won that TV show for sure -  you know the one where you invent a new food product for a supermarket?  I have to get my brain working on that; surely I can invent something fabulous? :)   But in the meantime I will drink this to get my brain sparking.


210g. of Nutella
100g. of vanilla caster sugar
300 mls thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract - optional
500 mls of Vodka


Place the Nutella and sugar into a medium saucepan
Whisk together till combined
Slowly pour in the cream while stirring
Keep whisking while you heat it over a low to medium heat till it starts to simmer gently
Stir in the extract(s)
Take off the heat and allow to cool right down
Add the vodka and whisk it well till you have a smooth chocolatey liquid
Pour it into small bottles

It will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

whisk Nutella and sugar together 

stir in that luscious cream

keep stirring 

stirred!   Now add the extract(s)

vodka mixed in and ready to bottle

cute little bottles ready for the fridge 

File:Ripe for picking - geograph.org.uk - 241815.jpg
beautiful hazelnut tree (author Eirian Evans)