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!
Winter is coming. And with it comfort food. Lots and lots of comfort food. Cooking during winter is just so much better for so many reasons, but the best one of all being how wonderful it can make you feel on a cold night. One thing that features a lot in my household is vegetable soups. They’re so quick and easy to prepare, and are something we all enjoy. Even my vegetable-hating sister will sit down to a veggie soup.
Something else that features in my kitchen a lot is coriander, or cilantro as some of my international readers will know it as. My local fruit shop typically sells massive bunches of them as a three for $2.50 deal. It’s so extremely cheap in comparison to any supermarket that I can’t help but bring the trio home with me every time I go shopping. It can make it difficult to use it all before it spoils, so this recipe is one of a few I turn to when I have a lot to use. It has all the ease of a standard vegetable soup made special with the addition of fresh coriander and a handful of Moroccan spices.
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.
I love shopping freebies. If there’s one way to get me to buy a product, it’s to include a free cook book with it. Especially if it’s a product I often buy anyway. Leggo’s and Philadelphia do this a lot. And that suits me just fine, because it gives me an excuse to stock up on their products more than I already do.
But this week did one better. It offered a free cook book, and a free pizza tray in exchange for buying three Leggo’s products. I’ve been meaning to get a proper pizza tray for so long, and to be able to snag one for $6 worth of tomato paste, one of my most used ingredients at meal time, was about as good as it was gonna get. Get in muh trolley.
Pizzas aren’t an especially difficult thing to cook. Especially if you’re anything like me and are happy to eat most anything shoved on a pizza. What is it about pizza bases that makes everything taste 3000 times better? I don’t really bother with recipes. I’ll make up the base and just throw on an assortment of ingredients I have on hand and voila! Dinner’s served.
Even still, the recipe book “Love Pizza” presents a bunch of delicious flavour combinations I hadn’t thought of before, and can’t wait to try. But for this week’s Cook Book Challenge, I chose one of the most unconventional pizzas of the bunch.
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.