Modern Meals in Melbourne

My nephew and his wife bought me this fabulous cookbook, Flavours of Urban Melbourne for Christmas.  It is chockerblock full of fantastic recipes and ideas, featuring recipes from 120 different restaurants, bars and cafes in the urban Melbourne area.  My niece was pointing out some of the restaurants they’ve been to, which makes it even more special.  Next time we go back, I’ll have to go visit as many of these places as time allows.  My dad was from Melbourne, and I still have a lot of family and friends there, so we go back fairly often.

I don’t normally have pork side and pork belly on hand, but oddly enough, this time around I did.  So I made pork belly with an apple butter I made quite awhile ago (apple sauce is fine too), served with white cannelinni beans sauteed with spinach, garlic, red onions and apples.  It was very, very tasty.  I served it with an light, crisp chardonnay.

 

2 lbs Pork belly or pork side

cardamon

cumin

corriander

salt & pepper

olive oil

 

I coated all the pork with the spice rub and and the olive oil.  Cover tightly in foil and roast in a shallow baking pan at 350* for  about 2 hours.  The coating comes out nice and crusty and the meat inside is very tender.

Spread the apple butter or applesauce on the plate and place the pork on top.   The flavors of the pork and the apple butter just melt in your mouth.

 

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Good-bye to an Old Friend

Today is a very sad day for me. I am down to my last Diet Coke with Lime. The Coca-Cola Company has decided once again to take away a beloved product to replace it with something totally inferior. Diet Coke with Lime has been my friend for so many, many years, with me through good times and bad. What am to do now? What am I to drink now? Coca-Cola, if you are reading this, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE rethink this and bring back my dear friend, Diet Coke with Lime. 😢😢😢

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Hail to the Queen – of Leftovers That Is

Our fridge had a lot of a little of this and a little of that, so it all got combined to make our dinner tonight.  This is actually how I got the title of “The Queen of Leftovers”.   People seem to be amazed at how I creatively throw things together to make something totally different than how I originally plated them.  Up until recently, I guess I just thought that was how everyone cooked.  But I soon found out that is a truly unique way of cooking.  If I had to describe tonight’s blend, I would still categorize it in the Caribbean mode, even though it had a very definite Indian flair.  We travel to all parts of the Caribbean on a regular basis, since we are avid scuba divers, and there is a very large Indian influence and population all throughout the Caribbean Islands.  So, tonight, we went back to St. Lucia through our dinner.  It was very similar to the Caribbean dish called Roti.

Chicken Curry

My curry sauce consisted of these ingredients.  I never measure, so make it to taste.  If you like it sweet, add more honey.  If you like it spicy, add more Cayenne pepper.

Coconut milk

lime juice

honey

curry powder

turmeric

cayenne pepper

cardamom

cumin

allspice

cornstarch

cilantro

 

The main ingredients were the leftover veggies from last night (Brussel sprouts, carrots and parsnips sautéed in honey butter); and then I added some red onion, sliced very thin; garlic; ginger; red bell pepper strips; and chicken cut in strips.  I cooked the raw veggies in olive oil first for about 3-4 minutes, then I added the cooked veggies from last night to heat them up.  Once those were cooked, I removed them from the heat and cooked the chicken strips in more olive oil.  Next was the lime juice that I cooked down for a few minutes, and then I added the rest of the ingredients.  To thicken the sauce, I took some of the sauce out and mixed in about 2 tsp of cornstarch  Once that was all mixed together, I added it to the mixture.  Bring to a boil and then reduce down to a simmer for about 3-4 minutes.  Add chopped cilantro right before serving.  Serve over rice.  White, Jasmine or Basmati rice probably work best, but brown rice would be fine too.  If you use brown rice it won’t allow the flavors of the curry to pop as much, but it will still be good.  You can also substitute shrimp for the chicken or add a combination of both if you prefer.

 

Empanadas

My empanada dough was my go-to dough for a lot of dishes; just a regular “master pie” dough, without any added sweetness.

1 1/2 cups flour

6 oz COLD butter, cut in small chunks

1 tsp salt

1 egg

4-5 TBSP heavy whipping cream

oil for frying, canola or vegetable oil are probably the best since they have a higher smoke point

I blend all the dry ingredients and butter together in the food processor for about 30 seconds, then I add the egg and the cream.  Blend together and mix until dough forms into a ball.  Remove and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  Cold butter is the key to a really nice, flaky crust.  Once the dough has chilled, remove it and roll very thin onto a lightly floured area.   You can make them any size you want, but I rolled and cut mine into thin circles that were about 3″ in diameter.  Fill with your filling.  My filling this time was the last of the red beans & rice you’ve all seen before in other meals and posts.  But you can use whatever type of filling you like.  Place about 1-2 Heaping TBSP of filling in the center of your circle and bring the ends together and pinch them tight.  Make sure your empanadas are completely sealed or you will lose your filling when your fry them.  If you need a tiny bit of water to use to seal the edges, that’s fine, just use a tiny, tiny amount though otherwise your dough will get really messy and won’t work.  We have a deep fryer, so that is what I use to fry, but a skillet with hot oil works just as well.  Before putting your empanadas in the oil, make sure it is very hot.  If you do not know how to tell just by looking at, it, splash a dab of water in the oil (STAND BACK though so not to burn yourself).  If it sizzles immediately, your oil is hot enough.  Fry for about 3 minutes or until golden brown all around.

 

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Fit for a Leprechaun

Happy St. Patty’s day to you all.  I hope everyone enjoyed today’s festivities and fun.  With my last name being Jones, it’s pretty obvious that I have more than a wee bit of Irish and Celtic blood running through my veins.  I am celebrating my Irish and Celtic roots from the kitchen, of course, one of my most favorite places to be.  Most people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and cabbage.  That’s fine.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But there is so much more to Irish cooking than just corned beef and cabbage.  I am celebrating today with  scallops in a creamy mushroom sauce; sauteed Brussel sprouts, carrots and parsnips; mashed potatoes and potato scones.  It dawned on me as I was cutting the vegetables that they represented the colors of the Irish flag, green, orange and white.  I did not plan it that way, but that’s just how it worked out, which is kind of fun.  Make enough mashed potatoes to serve and to use again for the potato scones.  My recipes for today were inspired by one of my many Irish cookbooks, The Complete Book of Irish Cooking.   I say inspired by, because anyone who knows me knows that no matter what, I will ALWAYS put my own spin on things and make it uniquely my own.  That’s just how I roll.  It must be the creativity that comes with my Celtic bloodlines.  Erin Go Braugh and Enjoy!

 

Scallops with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

1 1/2 lbs Sea scallops

mushrooms

shallots, minced

bacon

heavy whipping cream

flour

dry white wine

salt & pepper to taste

cheddar cheese

chopped parsley

 

Poach the scallops in a combination of 1/2 water and 1/2 white wine for about 5 minutes.  Remove the scallops and set aside.  Reduce the scallop liquid to about 2 1/2 cups.  Cook bacon to your desired crispness and remove.  Cook shallots and mushrooms in bacon grease for about 3-4 minutes.  Add reduced scallop liquid, 3-4 TBSP flour and heavy whipping cream.  Mix thoroughly then add scallops and bacon.  Pour the whole mixture into a prepared baking pan, top with cheddar cheese and chopped parsley.  Bake at 350* for about 30 minutes.

 

Brussel Sprouts, carrots and parsnip

I sauteed these all together in honey butter (yes the same honey butter you were introduced to with the festival).  Add enough honey to give it a little sweetness.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until your desired outcome is reached.  I like my vegetables with just a slight crunch left to them.

 

Potato Scones

1 cup cooked mashed potatoes

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 oz softened butter

thyme

majoram

green onions, chopped

milk as needed if dough is too thick.

egg wash

 

Preheat oven to 400*  Grease an 8 1/2 in baking pan and line with parchment paper.  Combine all the ingredients together and form dough into a ball.  Roll it flat and fit it into the baking pan.  Make an egg wash and brush on top of the dough.  I usually use 1 egg and heavy whipping cream, but water or milk is fine too.  They just all have slightly different browning qualities.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until it comes out golden brown and the inserted toothpick comes out clean.  When cooled, cut into 8 wedges.

 

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A Bag of Cherries

A friend of mine gave me a bag of beautiful red cherries from her tree, so I decided the best thing to make with them was a cherry chocolate coffee cake.    Nothing better than fresh produce grown and picked from family and friends to enhance the flavors of your foods.  I only used about 1/4 of the cherries that she gave me, so there will be more cherry dishes in the future.  Yum!  I just love cherries, especially in the spring and summer.

This cake is so delicious and moist.  It has been tried and tested many times, and always comes out a huge success.  I did not have sour cream today, so I substituted yogurt.   I substitute those all the time, depending on which one I have on hand at the time. They both work just fine.  I topped it with my leftover chocolate ganache from when I made my pistachio cake.  Ganache can stay in the refrigerator for quite some time.

2/3 cups sugar for cherries, plus 2 3/4 more cups for the cake

1 cup cherries

1 tsp cinnamon

3 3/4 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) soft butter

3 large eggs

16 oz of either sour cream or yogurt

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

either powdered sugar or chocolate ganache for topping, after cake is completely cooled

 

Combine the 2/3 cups of sugar and cherries and set aside.

Combine all the dry ingredients and set aside.

Beat butter and rest of sugar in a mixer for about 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Then add eggs 1 at a time and mix.  Vanilla is next, followed by the sour cream or yogurt, then a little bit of the flour mix.  Mix, then repeat until all of the flour is mixed in with the batter.  You never want to over mix because that will make your dough tough.  When dough is done, fold in both the cherries and the chocolate chips.  I used a bundt pan, but if you prefer a sheet cake, use a prepared 9×13 sheet pan instead.  For the bundt, I baked it at 350* for about 1 hour, or until it was a nice golden brown and a toothpick came out clean when inserted in the middle.  For a sheet cake, adjust the time.  Also, very important, when baking everyone’s oven is different, so adjust your times accordingly.

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Cooking Caribbean Style

One of the things I love so much about cooking is that it allows me to “travel the world” from the comfort of my own kitchen.  This provides a mini escape since time and money do not allow me to really travel as much as I would like.  I have so many cookbooks, and so many cookbooks from around the world, so every time I cook something exotic, I feel as though I have escaped to that far away place, even if only for a short time.  We are always trying new things and are very experimental when it comes to food.

Tonight’s dinner was inspired from the books Caribbean Cooking and Caribbean Potluck.   I say inspired by because inevitably, I change and customize recipes all the time.  I just can’t help myself.  I always have to personalize them.   You will see all of my cookbooks have notations and changes I have made.  This is just how I roll.  This is in essence why I have started this page.  I want everyone to know that it’s OK to cook the way you want.  There are no rules that say you have to follow a recipe exactly.  Cooking is not rocket science.  It’s supposed to be fun.  Cook what you like and be creative.

Our menu tonight was slow-cooked ribs in a spicy molasses glaze with, a Creole spiced slaw, red beans & rice (yes, you’ve seen those before) and festival with honey butter.  I cooked the ribs in the slow cooker for about 8 hours and then tossed them is the molasses glaze.

Molasses Glaze for the ribs

3 TBSP molasses, 2 TBSP tamari sauce, 6 TBSP hoisin sauce, 1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce, 1/4 cup rum (although, don’t be shy with the rum), 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp thyme, 5 TBSP honey, 1 cup orange juice, 5 TBSP brown sugar and 1/4 cup white vinegar.  Put all the ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Once it boils, turn it down to a simmer and continue cooking for at least 30 minutes.  The longer you cook the sauce, the thicker it will become.  Make it to your desired outcome.

 

Creole Spiced Slaw

Red and green cabbage, chiffonade or sliced real thin; red & yellow bell pepper strips, sliced thin; red onion, sliced real thin; green onions, chopped small; shredded carrot; roasted cashews; 1 jalapeno, very small dice; toasted coconut; pineapple chunks, diced small; cilantro

Dressing

1/4 cup lime juice; red pepper flakes to taste; chopped lemongrass to taste (I used dried lemongrass); 2 TBSP honey; 1 TBSP brown sugar; 2 TBSP oil (I almost always use olive oil, but your choice is fine); 1 tsp soy sauce; 1/4 cup coconut milk

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing and toss well with the salad mixture right before serving.

 

Festival

Festival is a Caribbean bread-like donut, similar to a Southern hush puppy.

2 cups yellow corn meal; 1 cup flour; 1/4 cup brown sugar; 1 tsp baking powder; 1/2 tsp salt; 1 egg; 1 cup orange juice; canola oil or vegetable oil for frying.

Mix all the ingredients together.  Dough should be a thick dough.  Shape into balls and deep fry.  You can also pan fry them too if you do not have a deep fryer.  Serve hot with honey butter.  Honey butter is just that; honey and butter.  Add as much honey as the butter will hold, and make it to your desired sweetness.

Enjoy your Caribbean dining experience along with a refreshing rum punch or mai-tai.

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The Answer is Always Wine

My kitchen is always well stocked, both with food and ingredients to cook with and, of course, wine.  My house would be empty without wine.  We probably have at least about 200 bottles of wine in our basement; nothing particularly fancy, but all good wines that I can enjoy at anytime.  No matter how your day is going or what you have going on, wine is always the answer to whatever questions you may have.  Being originally from Southern California, of course I am partial to the great wines of California, especially a rich, buttery, oakey, golden chardonnay, but that does not mean that I don’t enjoy great wines from other ares and varietals as well.  A rich Malbec from Argentina to go with Steak Chimichurri; or an Italian Proseco with quiche or pasta;  a good Australian Shiraz with some grilled sausages and a grilled potato salad is always a good choice as well; or even a well-chilled, fruity sangria shared with friends out on the deck; it doesn’t matter, it’s all good.   I enjoy most wines, but on the rare occasions when I find something that is completely unpalatable to drink, I can always find a way to cook with it and no one will ever know how disappointed I was with it in the glass.  I also make and bottle my own wines, with the guidance and grapes from our local vintners.  I have created my own unique blends as well as made “wine-in-a-kit” as my husband calls it.  Some of our own wines and labels are featured in the picture below.  No matter what kind of wine I am drinking or what I serve it with though, the best way to enjoy it is when it is shared with good friends and family and those that I love.

IMG_0473With this much wine around, this also means there are a lot of wine corks around.  I re-use them as well, in as many creative ways as possible.  I hate waste, and try my best to always re-use everything at least once.  This is a trivet made from a picture frame and wine corks.   Some have even said they want to hang it on the wall as art.  Variety is the spice of life, and that’s what make things interesting.

So raise a glass and give yourselves a toast.  Salud!  A votre sante!

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