Katering Syd Blog

Round two

Well, here we are again, several months since my last post.  If there was ever anyone reading, they *must* be long gone.  Sorry for alienating you, dear reader.

I don't want to make excuses as to why I haven't posted anything here for months YET AGAIN, but I will, 'cause I can be mature like that. 

I point the blame that is the clusterf@#$ of 2014 so far: house renovations, a big death in the family (sigh), the current heatwave in Sydney, and Serial.

Renovations are done.  Heat wave is (maybe) done.  Serial is NOT DONE*.  And the death in the family?  Well that is done but the emotions that follow are not

ANYWAY, let's write clusterf@#$ off for now, in terms of the ol' blog.

Until then, here's the cover for my next cook book, lol:

#Thanksgiving2014

#Thanksgiving2014

 

*Do you have HOURS to kill?  Drop down the Reddit rabbit hole, and then email me to discuss!!

 

In which we make a triumphant return to the blogosphere

Dear Reader,

Let me take this opportunity to apologise for the lack of posts for the last few months.  I certainly haven't forgotten about you, but with a trip to the Motherland in March, the Stanley Cup Playoffs and FINALS in April, May, and June (#NYR2015), and that little matter of a house renovation going on as I type, you'd understand that I'm a bit, well, mental.  At least more so than usual.

A quick summary of some fun food over the last few months:

  • Beautiful oysters on a Wednesday night at Ulysses Folk House.
  • Making homemade mozzarella sticks with my sister.  
  • On my first full day back in Australia, I had to go to Melbourne for work.  I was completely confused due to jet lag and for dinner that night, ordered a tofu curry.  What arrived was neither tofu, or curry.  At least as I know both to be.  The meal was delicious but as I nearly fell asleep into the dish, I knew it was time to go back to the hotel.
  • Making pierogies for my in-laws.
  • Watching the house renovations progress and seeing the outline where the new kitchen will be - dreaming (yes, dreaming) about the first meal I'll make when I get back home.  

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to do much recreational cooking in the last while, but it's all good.  Eventually the new kitchen will be mine and then, it's party time.

$50 Food Challenge: Steak Tacos and the end

Last but not least, we’ve got Steak Tacos in our $50 Food Challenge.

The Steak Tacos were taken from the Food Network (found via Twitter) and were super easy to make.

It wasn’t however, budget friendly, coming out at $27.24 with $6.81 per portion.  This surprised me – I thought that this would be the cheapest meal, but I guess avocados really are expensive.  

I guess the other thing is that the Steak Tacos didn’t last as long as I thought they would.  I thought we’d get 6 tacos out of the batch, but it was more that 3…and a bit.

This does mean that I’ve blown the $50 budget – the week total is $56.26.

D’oh!

In summary, it was a challenge to cook a week’s worth of meals under $50. I didn’t quite make it, but at least it was only $6.26 over.  I’ll definitely try again, and soon!

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$50 Food Challenge: JO's Spaghetti Puttanesca

Last week’s $50 Food Challenge started out strong, but can it end with me spending only $50 for the entire week’s worth of meals?

Next up, I made Spaghetti Puttanesca with Garlic Bread.  The recipe came from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals book (side note: lots of great recipes in there!).  I have enjoyed everything of Jamie’s that I’ve ever made, and this was no different.  It was super easy to make, and turned out delicious.  And lasted three nights, which was an added bonus, because by the end of this meal, it was Thursday!

The only disclaimers I have for this are:

  1. Coming from the 30 minute cook book, you'd expect it to take 30 minutes.  It took me 32, which isn’t too bad, however, his recipe also included some kind of dessert, so if I had done that, I would have been well over the half hour mark.
  2. Every time I make something of JO’s, the kitchen turns into a disaster zone.  Reading his fast recipes, and the way they flow, you can feel his frenetic energy, and the first time I ever make one of his meals, the kitchen really suffers and you have to add on the clean-up time.  So, with cleaning (not including doing the dinner dishes) all up, it took me 51 minutes.  Not too bad, still under an hour.

Total cost: $18.61 / Portion breakdown $3.10 (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday)

Week total to date: $29.02

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$50 Challenge: Ravioli and sauce

Ok, so let's get down to results of the $50 Food Challenge. 

To recap: I’ve challenged myself to cook a week’s worth of meals for $50 total.  Is it possible?

Here's the menu for the week:

  • Fresh ravioli and sauce (store bought)
  • Steak Tacos
  • Spaghetti Puttanesca

First up...

Sunday/Monday
Fresh ravioli and sauce

Full disclaimer: In our house, we cook these pastas as a treat.  These meals are more expensive than dry pasta and jarred sauce (yes, I utilise jarred sauce.  I’m NOT AFRAID TO ADMIT THIS).

There are several brands on the market these days, but this week, I chose the one that was on sale in my local supermarket, and chose Leggo's Beef Ravioli with Bolognese Sauce 

There’s no real mystery here: boil the water, throw the ravioli in.  Let them dance around for approximately five minutes, and then drain the water.  Heat the sauce in the microwave according to directions and then add to the cooked ravioli.  Top with parmesan cheese, if desired.

The cost verdict?

Total cost: $10.41 / Portion breakdown $3.47 for four dinners (two nights/two adults)

So far, so good. 

Giddy up. 

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$50 Food Challenge

I’m a big fan of food challenges.  Food challenges is a term that I coined* which means I’m making something difficult or new.  A couple of years ago in a personal blog, (which is now languishing on the interwebs), I chronicled a year of Food Challenges.  Each month, I made something I had never done before.

I suppose the latest food challenge was when I made pierogies a few weeks ago.

 I’ve been wanting to do a food challenge based on cost for awhile, and I am pleased to say that my dreams** are FINALLY coming to fruition – for the next week, I will be creating meals within a very strict budget.  

So, what does this mean exactly?  I will be preparing meals to last at least five nights feeding two adults, for under $50 total.   

Q: Why five nights, as opposed to seven (a full week)?  

A: You're very inquisitive!  I chose five because that's a standard work week.  Sometimes on the weekend, I don't cook due to social events, eating Ramen for dinner (to clear out the cupboard), etc, etc. 

Let’s see how we*** go, and check back here for full updates!

*I feel like Richard Lewis, coining the phrase from hell

**Are my dreams sad?

***I’ve dragged you into this, dear reader.  We’re all in this together!

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Pavlova

One of the things they don’t really tell you about moving countries is that you will inevitably eat new things.

While Australian cuisine isn’t completely foreign to the American stuff that I know and love, there are some foods that I have been introduced to over the last decade:

Vegemite
Definitely an acquired taste.  I don’t love it, but I don't hate it either.

Fairy Bread 
A childhood birthday party staple.  I can't believe this is NOT in North America.

Sausage sandwiches
I couldn’t quite get my head around non-breakfast sausages when I first had these, but wowser, they’re great.  Add some caramelised onions and sauce (ketchup, BBQ or mustard) and we’re good to go.

Lamington
Sponge cake covered in chocolate and coconut.  At my citizenship ceremony, the Council served these afterwards, along with Australian Breakfast tea.

Meat pie
The first time I had a ‘pie’ my friend asked me what kind of pie I wanted for lunch.  I got confused, and said, “Uhhh, apple?”  She looked at me like I was  crazy and thankfully ordered me a traditional meat pie.  Nom Nom.

Pavlova “Pav”
A glorious dessert made of a meringue base, covered in fresh whipped cream and topped with fruit.

The first Thanksgiving I was here, I attempted to make a Pavlova, in some kind of cultural mash-up.  It didn’t exactly work (it’s been so long now, that I don’t quite remember what happened, but I don't think it set properly), so after that, I kept T Day to traditional American foods only.  But that’s another blog for another day (actually, let’s visit this in November).

Last Australia Day, I decided to go for the Pav again, and it came out perfect.  I did it again, yesterday, for Australia Day 2014.  Yesterday’s Pavlova also turned out pretty good.  Pretty, pretty, preeeety good.

Now, I should disclose that I didn’t make the meringue from scratch.  I don’t know how to do that and I have a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn’t work out so well. 

I did however, utilise Pavlova Magic – a powered egg white / gelatine mixture made by White Wings.  All you add is water and caster sugar the powder to create the meringue. 

It's very simple.  Pavlova Magic comes in a plastic egg shaped container.  You fill the bottom of the egg with water, add to a large bowl with the powder and beat with an electric mixer until it comes stiff and peaks form.  Then, you fill the top part of the egg with caster sugar and beat that into the mixture for a minute or so.

Next, you pour the mixture onto a baking tray, and pile it high.  It sort of naturally forms a tall mound anyway.  Place in a pre-heated oven, and bake for an hour.  After the hour, you turn the oven off, and leave the Pavlova in there until the oven cools completely.  You also can not open the oven door during the cooking and cooling process, so while it’s relatively simple, it does take several hours from start to finish.

 When you take it out of the oven, store it in an air-tight container until you are ready to add the cream and fruit (I think you can store it up to three days).  I always use fresh cream that I whip up with a bit of sugar.  I usually add strawberries and kiwi, but any berry/soft fruit would do.

The result is a light and refreshing dessert that is perfect for these hot summer days.  Or in yesterday’s case, rainy and cool summer days. 

Actually, it's perfect for all days – summer, autumn, winter, spring.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!  Pav, Pav, Pav!

Rice is nice...now

It’s no secret that I like starch and carbs.  Bread, pasta, rice – they are my favourites.  With pasta, especially, it’s so versatile, that you could make a pasta every night with a different sauce and a different pasta, that each meal would be completely different.   I’ve thought before, “If I ever develop a gluten allergy, this is not going to be good.”  Luckily, if this does ever happen, they are making more and more gluten free products, so I should be right.

Unfortunately though, for many years, I was ruining rice, and I couldn't fully appreciate it.  My rice was NOT nice. 

What was I doing?  This: being an idiot and adding too much water into the pot (thus practically making rice pudding).   Or not adding enough water, only to over compensate at the end and again, end up with a…mound of rice that was gluggy.  I always had another mound of semi-cooked rice stuck to the bottom on the pot.

 Does this happen to you?  

No?  Oh.  Aren't you clever!  (Seriously!)

Yes?  Stop what you are doing* and get yourself a rice cooker!  It will change your life.  Is that too dramatic?  You’d think, yes, but that’s exactly what someone told me after hearing me complain about my ruined rice one time too many.  And, yes.  It. Did. Change. My. Life.

I bought my Kambrook Rice Cooker just about five years ago now, and it’s still going strong.  It was affordable (I got it at Woolies for $24).  I see that the newer models are still under $30, so it’s really the best appliance that you can get yourself in the kitchen (in my humble opinion).  I know you can spend more cash on more fancier models, but all I need is something to cook the rice and keep it warm (once cooked), so mine suits me just fine.

The proof is in the pudding (no pun intended)  - each batch of rice comes out perfect each time: fluffy, separated into individual grains and just overall delicious.  The best part is that there is no stirring required.  You add rice and water together, turn it on, and leave it to do its thing.  Nothing gets stuck to the bottom. 

One doesn’t necessarily think ‘amazing’ when one thinks of rice, but that’s what you’ll say after you make your first batch!

*or deal with this later, you beautiful procrastinator, you.


Pierogi!

Have you ever made a dish that you've never prepared before, but you've enjoyed it hundreds, if not thousands, of times before?  How did it turn out?  What did you expect?  

These questions were swirling around my head last week because I decided that I wanted to make pierogi.

Or is it pierogis?  Actually, I'm pretty sure the plural is pierogies.

In any case, I made  pierogies (I'm going with this one) this past weekend and I was so amazed how E-Z it was to make and how fantastic it/(they?) tasted.  Can you write they in this context?  My grammar skills are clearly lacking today (maybe everyday).

I ate pierogies a lot growing up - Mrs. T's is THE brand that sells them frozen, and very delicious.  But, I have never found pierogies in Australia, frozen or fresh.

I really had the hankering for pierogies so my Mom sent me a recipe that she's had ever since her friend sent her a postcard in 1984 with the recipe printed on the front.

It took a couple of hours from start to finish, but I was also making a meatloaf, which no doubt delayed the process.  I made traditional potato and sauerkraut pierogies.  The process was very simple and not very messy.  The recipe was easy to follow. 

They turned out...excellent.  I was shocked, to be honest.  If I'd known how good they'd be, I would have nagged my Mom for the recipe years ago.  As I was boiling them, they were looking correct, and I thought, "Wow, this seems to be working."  A few year ago, I attempted ravioli and that didn't work out so well.  The raviolis all fell apart in the water and we ate baked beans for dinner instead.  In the back of my mind, I thought the pierogies would fall apart too.  I think this is why I also made a meatloaf.  I needed some dinner backup.

But, when they didn't fall apart, I got hopeful.  I had a teeny tiny taste (for quality assurance, of course!) and I almost fainted when I realised how good they were.  The pierogies tasted as I thought it/they should.

 Sorry, Mrs. T, I love you lots, but Ms, RC's pierogies are pretty good too.

I forgot to take a good quality photo (there's one phone photo on IG), but I will be making these again, and when I do, I will take a proper photo.

Here's the lovely recipe, straight from the '80s.  Note a few typos (not unlike my typing).  :o 

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