I’ve been in Sydney for the last week. It was supposed to be a combination of day job work (an office relocation I’d been coordinating) and family (my mother’s 80th birthday celebrations). Sadly, though, the birthday celebrations were cancelled (yep, covid) but I did at least get to spend a night with Mum and Dad last weekend.
Mum made rissoles for dinner, and they reminded me of the rissoles my grandfather used to make. Pa has been gone for many years now – about 26, I think – but I always remember his rissoles (and his home-made soups). He gave me his secret recipe once – I must have been about 15 or 16, I suppose – but mine never tasted as good as Pa’s. Pa also taught me a lot about gardening, something I drew on when writing the character of Horrie in Wish You Were Here. Mum gardens the same way as he did – things planted here there and between something else. I suppose I do too.
In any case, the rissoles were to be my last decent meal for the week. Because I was staying in a hotel near work with no access to transport or a grocery store, breakfast and (most days) lunch was either non-existent or some of the cheese and cracker snacks I’d bought from home just in case. Other than dinner out with some friends at the local Chinese restaurant, evening meals were much the same – but with wine. By the time I got home on Friday night, I was craving something tasty and freshly made.
I was also dying to get back into the kitchen. It’s been a super stressful couple of weeks, and I’d missed being able to potter about in the kitchen to relax my brain. There’s something about measuring and chopping and weighing that focuses my monkey brain on the task at hand and away from the what-if worries that usually fill it. More on that, however, another time.
While I was away Grant picked some of the eggplants I’ve been growing. It’s my first attempt growing eggplants and I’ve been so happy with them – especially after the failure that the zucchinis were (spoiler alert – way too much rain and mutant giant grasshoppers). Anyways, with some lamb mince, spices, and a tahini and yoghurt sauce, they became dinner on Friday night when I was home. The recipe – Nigella’s beef with aubergine fatteh – is here. We use lamb instead of beef and serve it with toasted pita on the side. Sarah also arrived home from Hervey Bay in time for dinner and was well chuffed – this is one of her faves.
Grant brought a bag full of chillies home from work the other day so before they could be wasted, I did something with them on Saturday.
After chopping them all up, I popped half (about 200g) into a bowl with 1 ½ cups of white vinegar and 1 ½ tablespoons salt, covered them with cling film and let them sit in the brine for 24 hours. On Sunday morning I drained them and spooned them into a sterilised jar with a clove of garlic, and a bay leaf from the tree out the back, before covering them with olive oil. We’ll use them (and the oil) in pasta dishes, traybakes and Italian style dishes.
For the rest, we chopped in two of the super-hot Carolina Reapers that had also come home in the bag, tossed all the chopped chillies and a couple of chopped garlic cloves into a roasting pan, covered them with about 500ml vegetable oil and stuck them in the oven on a low temperature for about an hour.
After they’d cooled in the oil, we strained the chilli oil into a bottle. We’ll use this one in our Asian cooking. I stuck my finger in to taste it and let me just say, a little will go a long way.
I’m on a mission this year to bring back the Sunday roast – but not necessarily the traditional roast, although of course we’ll do that too. This Sunday I took an Asian route with Shandong Chicken. It’s a Cantonese dish that’s a fabulous balance of all the flavours – sweet, salty, bitter, sour, spicy.
Traditionally this chicken is twice cooked. It’s poached, then deep-fried, and served with a sauce of black vinegar, soy, sugar, garlic and chilli.
I’m not a big one for deep frying so the recipe I use is this one by Adam Liaw. The chicken is marinated in Shaoxing wine, dark soy and ginger juice. You then dry the chicken skin with a hairdryer (hence why Sarah calls it blow-dried chicken) and roast it. Not only is it much healthier and lighter than the original, we think it’s tastier and the blow-drying gives a really crispy skin.
We serve it with shredded lettuce and a quick pickled carrot, accompanied with home-made fried rice and scattered with sliced chillies and coriander – although I forgot to buy coriander at the markets yesterday.
You could do it with supermarket-bought barbecued chicken – just chop it up and pour the sauce over it. You could also adapt the recipe to the air-fryer – using pieces of marinated chicken. I haven’t yet tried it but watch this space.
Finally, I baked a Caramelised Orange Cheesecake. I saw this on last month’s What’s On Your Plate (check out Retirementally Challenged post here). Thanks, Janis for sending your recipe to me – it was a resounding success.
The only tweak I made was to add a little more sur cream to the cheesecake and instead of brushing the top with the caramelised orange sauce, I drizzled it over. It was declared the best cheesecake ever.
It’s made me think that I should select a recipe each month from What’s On Your Plate and cook it…. #foodforthought.