Was there any day more exciting in primary school than lunch order day? Everyone would turn up in the morning with their order scrawled on a brown paper bag, the couple of coins required to pay for it taped to the front. And if you were the chosen one that week you would get to be the hero who carried the shopping basket full of your classmates brown paper dreams down to the canteen. Later in the day you’d carry those same bags back packed to the brim with everyone’s favourite steaming hot junk food. Meat pies, chicken nuggets and sausage rolls were always common picks. But another one of my favourites was the good old pizza pocket. What was yours?
The thing about childhood memories is that they glisten so wonderfully in our minds, but attempts to relive them as adults usually end in disappointment. Every time we’ve bought pizza pockets as an adult it’s usually followed by a, “These used to be so much nicer,” comment. More likely, they were never quite amazing but we were much more easily impressed as children. So when the pizza pocket craving hit recently rather than re-living that disappointment again I decided to make my own!
If you’ve been following my blog for any significant length of time, you will probably know all about my furbaby Tobias. He’s my [not so] little fuzzy Siberian husky puppy. I call him a puppy, but he’s very much an adult now because last Sunday he turned 4 years old. I always bake birthday treats for my loved ones, and Tobias’ birthday is no exception.
It was for his first birthday I first entered the world of home made pet treats, and every year I continue on the tradition. This year I wanted to incorporate some meaty goodness into them.
Our record-smashing Aussie summer of ridiculousness has finally come to an end. And when I say smashing, I mean over 150 extreme weather records were broken this summer. There are lots of things I like about summer, but I am definitely not sad to see this one go. The weather is still warm, but cooling. The last major bushfire in my home state [which began in January] has just been contained. And it’s now possible to walk outside without fear of spontaneously combusting.
Almost equally exciting is the fact I can now turn my oven on without fear of undoing a days worth of effort of keeping my house at a liveable temperature. My cooking routine is gradually returning to normal and meals are no longer planned around the likelihood of it causing us to drown in our own sweat. Returning to baking desserts and decorating cakes had me feeling completely out of practise, but much like getting back on that bike, my old skills are quickly resurfacing.
As soon as we got a respite from the heatwave, I turned to one thing we have sorely missed this summer: roasts. We were still keen for something on the lighter side of the roast category, so I started us off with a mini beef sirloin. These tiny roasts are great for a small family like my own, and the relatively quick cooking time is another wonderful bonus.
Some of my favourite meals are ones I get to have very rarely. Lamb seems to feature in quite a few of them. It’s such an expensive meat these days: one a Uni student on a strict budget has to be mindful about adding to the shopping cart.
One blessing, I suppose, is that when I do find an excuse to bring a cut of it home with me you can be sure it’s respected. It won’t turn into the next slap together weeknight meal. It’s reserved for an occasion when I’ve got the time to make it a little more lavish. All the better the savour it.
The next couple weeks of the cook book challenge are following on from the supermarket freebie theme. This one is another Leggo’s book, but unlike the pizza book I didn’t even catch this in the supermarket. This one was gifted to me from my partners mum. It’s called Fast Italian, and is the third volume in their Italian cook book series. The first book is called Cook Italian, and was featured in my 8th cook book challenge. The second volume, Love Italian, seems to have slipped my mind and will surely feature soon.
Fast Italian is, as the name suggests, all about the quick meals. It delivers 60 recipes that all promise to take less than half an hour to dish up. A time frame that suits my mid-week meal apathy.
I’ve made a few meals out of this book so far, and all of them have been received well. For the challenge, I’m sharing with you their ‘Pork with Tomato Salsa and Polenta Dumplings’. I hadn’t cooked with polenta before, though my assumption was that it shouldn’t be difficult. As promised, this recipe delivered a quick, easy, but flavorful dish I’ll definitely be making again.
Returning to the challenge this week, I turned to my Christmas present from Cameron's mum. This is the second book from 'Great Tastes' she has bought me, and I have to confess loving both of them. The recipes range from the simple to the more complex, from those involving pantry ingredients to others requiring a stop-over at a speciality grocer. I'd been meaning to cook from this book since Christmas, but have only just got around to it now. I swear I think it's still February. None the less, it was worth the wait. I've cooked from this book thrice this week.
When it comes to weeknight meals I very quickly lose my inspiration. Cooking has begun to be a chore, particularly so when cooking for my sister who likes so little different things. When it comes to deciding what to make for dinner I can never formulate answers. Particularly not answers that involve quick, easy yet interesting solutions. This is where this book comes in. I'm determined to cook out of it as often as possible.
As for the challenge, well, that had to involve something out of the ordinary. As soon as I turned to this item, I just had to make it.
Now the weather is gradually but finally getting colder, winter type meals are starting to become more common in the household. Soups, stews, curries, casseroles, roasts and pies. The sort of meals that felt far to hot and heavy to eat weeks ago are now desired to chase the chill away.
These pot pies are one of the most simple meals of the bunch. They don't require any pastry knowledge or blind baking so they're perfect for anyone intimidated by making pie crusts.
I'm not much of a breakfast person simply because I feel ill if I eat soon after waking, but when my boyfriend stays over I find myself not just wanting to make breakfast, but wanting to make something nice for him. We usually go for something like baked eggs or bacon and egg muffins, but every so often I get the motivation to do something that takes a little more effort.
These rolls are made using a basic scone dough, with a little bit of a twist.
Now that my mini-series of cook books has been cooked through, I'm back to indecision in picking a book for the challenge. This week was made a little easier for me, as dad picked up another couple books from the op shop for me. I was flicking through one whilst trying to decide on dinner and came across as recipe I just had to try.
The book is New Idea's "Let's Cook Chinese". I'm such a lover of Asian food, but it's something I seldom have at home. Neither of my parents were equipped to cook Asian dishes, so growing up the only Asian food I got was take away. I haven't learnt enough yet to be able to experiment much with Asian flavours, and so I tend to rely a lot of cook books when I'm making it at home. Some are more westernised than others, and I feel this one lingers half way between traditional and bastardised Asian cuisine, but as a Westerner I'm not picky enough to mind. This book had so many dishes I wanted to try, but there was one that caught my attention above all else.
I've just finished another batch of research, and perhaps my final pending on how the data turns out. While I was getting up at 5am and coming home at 8pm, I didn't have the energy to cook anything. Dinner was usually my first meal of the day and often consisted of 2-minute noodles or a pasty. Anything I make quickly and shove in my mouth before collapsing into bed. Needless to say, I fell off the CBC bandwagon once more. This week, I was extra excited to pick it up again given that this week's book is Kylie Kwong "Simple Chinese Cooking".
Kylie Kowng is an Australian chef who is as charasmatic as she is brilliant. She takes the Cantonese cooking she learned from her mother and applies the chef-fy skills she's learned in her adult life. But my favourite thing about her is that she's a proponent of sustainable food and ethical eating. Her restaurant famously uses only local, organic and biodynamic produce and has won awards for it's sustainablity.
I've been a nature and animal lover as far as I can remember, and in my adult life a Zoologist. Conservation, sustainablity and animal ethics are among my highest priorities in life. I've found that a lot of people think that to eat and live sustainably means to go without all the good things. Kylie and her restaurant show just how easy it is to have amazing food that is sustainable.
Chilli-salt Duck Breasts with Lemon