Sunday, May 25, 2008

Coconut & Lime Blogiversary: Lime Curd

Rachel over at Coconut and Lime is about to celebrate a Blogiversary. She is coming up to her 700th original recipe and is having a competition to celebrate. Participants can either cook one of Rachel's published recipes or create something new with the ingredients of coconut and lime. As a new food blogger I haven't yet participated in any competitions. Was this to be the one for me? I have been having a bit of a binge with limes recently and knew that there were lots around in the shops.

So could I come up with something creative for limes and coconut? Well, I probably could have but I cast a quick glance at Rachel's recipes and lit upon Key Lime Curd. I have never made curd myself. Well, why would I as my mother used to make lemon curd regularly? So here was my opportunity: eggs, butter, sugar and limes. As limes were A$3.99 for a kilo bag, I rather over-purchased as I ended up only needing 6-7 limes in the recipe.

But one never knows if there will be a disaster. Now I can make a few more batches or look for some other way to use the limes. Of course, we don't have key limes in Melbourne as the recipe requires. I just got normal Melbourne limes, well from South Australia actually. They are probably Tahitian limes as that's what we mostly use.

Before I started I also went to consult my bible, Stephanie The Cook's Companion, and she had some interesting comments to make about curd, lemon in her case, e.g. it not mattering if it boils, don't use a double saucepan, and she did things in a different order. One thing I did transfer from her recipe was whisking the eggs and sugar together before adding them to the juice and butter mixture.

Lime curd

3 eggs
6 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
2/3 cup fresh lime juice (6-7 limes)
1 teaspoon lime zest

Squeeze limes to make juice and add required zest.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together lightly.
Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.
Pour in lime mixture while stirring.
Add egg and sugar mixture.
Stir all ingredients together continuously for about 8 minutes until it starts to form a custard and to simmer.
Take from the stove and allow to cool.
Pour into a jar and refrigerate.
Note: the curd thickens as it cools.

This tastes and looks lovely. I have firmly put it away in the refrigerator but maybe a little bit on toast for breakfast tomorrow will be yummy? Rachel, thanks for getting me to cook something I haven't tried before. And congratulations on your blogiversary!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Foodie Blogroll

I am very excited that the Librarian and the Kitchen has been accepted onto the Foodie BlogRoll. This is a list of foodie blogs maintained by the Leftover Queen. How great a job is that! It's just the sort of task that is dear to the heart of a librarian in a kitchen.

You can access the Foodie Blogroll widget on the right hand side of my blog. From there you can submit your blog, join the Forum, and access the BlogRoll! I look forward to participating in the Foodie Blogroll Forum too.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chilli prawns with vegetables and pasta - a quick meal with a bit of help from Piedimonte's!

One of the fabulous things about living where I do in Melbourne is that my local supermarket is the renowned Piedimonte's. This means that mostly I can get anything I want to cook with and often things that I can cook but don't bother to because I can get them ready made. This meal is based on a couple of things that I can buy from Piedimonte's and have on hand for a quick meal.

There are basically two prepared elements here, the pasta sauce and the chilli prawns though, of course, the pasta is also sourced from Piedimonte's. Piedimonte's sells ready prepared chilli prawns available in their fish and seafood section which I'll be using here. I am also going to use one of the Bertolli Five Brothers range of pasta sauce as a base for this dish as I find them so good. I am using the roast garlic and onion one tonight but many of the others are equally suitable and contain fresh ingredients without preservatives.

Yes, I could make both of these without any problems, but when I come home late from work and want a quick meal this is always a favourite for me. It can be served with whatever fresh or dry pasta you have on hand. Tonight, the fresh pasta I had on hand (from Piedimonte's, of course) was tortellini with veal and sage, so I am serving my chilli prawns with a dry spaghetti as the fresh really was not suitable.

Chilli prawns with vegetables and pasta

250 gr Piedimonte's chilli prawns (prawns, sweet chilli sauce, garlic, salt, parsley)
Half red pepper sliced
10 florets broccoli
Roasted garlic and onion (Five Brothers) pasta sauce (tomatoes, tomato puree, onion, roasted garlic, salt, herbs, olive oil)
1 serve fresh/dry pasta
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Shaved parmesan

Heat pan on moderate heat and add chilli prawns.
Chop vegetables, add to prawns and continue to simmer.
Bring water to boil, add a dash of olive oil and pasta.
Cook pasta for required time - 15 minutes for the dry pasta I was using.
Drain pasta and return to saucepan.
Drizzle on olive oil and grind black pepper and mix.
Turn out pasta into bowl and add prawn mix.
Top with shaved parmesan and serve.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lime sardines - grilled or baked!

The sardines, derivative of Lorenza di Medici, were delicious yesterday, but what will I do with the rest of the sardines? I had a look at a few recipes, mainly in Greek books, and then went back to my bible for ideas, Stephanie. I don't think I have cooked many of her recipes, but I love her this goes with that column under each of the topics and often pull the book down for inspiration.

Finally I decided that I would marinate the sardines this afternoon and then grill them this evening. I thought about various combinations from Stephanie but then decided to focus my marinade on the limes that I had on hand. Sardines are oily and strong flavoured and need something to balance that. Lime juice should do the trick and I really like lime juice. I finally settled on a combination of lime juice, olive oil, ginger, garlic, coriander and Sambal oelek (hot chilli paste).

Of course, the first trick was to secure the kitchen from the cats who were going berserk about the sardines yesterday ;>) and still aware of something very interesting in the fridge. Stephanie suggests always cooking sardines outside because of next day's smell, but I don't have a barbecue so I shall have to bear the consequences, I thought as I prepared the marinade. Then as I was putting the bowl with the sardines and the marinade into the refrigerator, I had an idea. These would be delicious baked in this marinade with potatoes. So I'll offer two variants for this recipe. And to obviate the need for grill cleaning and a sardine-smelling kitchen, I'll make the baked variant tonight.

Lime sardines

12 sardines (cleaned, headed, and butterflied)
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Sambal Oelek
1 teaspoon crushed ginger root
2 cloves garlic crushed
Chopped coriander to taste
Two potatoes (for option 2)

Mix together all the marinade ingredients. Place the sardines in a bowl. Pour over the marinade. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

For grilled lime sardines:
Heat the grill until it is very hot. Place the sardines on the grill skin side up. Brush with the marinade. These should be cooked in about two minutes. Serve with green salad and olive bread. Serves two for a main meal, or can be served as part of antipasto.

For baked lime sardines:
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Peel and chop each of the potatoes into about eight pieces and add to the lime and sardine mixture. Bake for 80-90 minutes until the potatoes are tender and have absorbed the lime mixture. If you partially pre-cook the potatoes, you could speed up the process but the long cooking allows all the flavours to permeate beautifully. Serve with green salad. Serves two for a main meal.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Saturday Treats from Canals!

I am not by nature an early riser but one of the the things that I like to do to pamper myself on a Saturday morning is roll out of bed and head off to do shopping at Piedimonte's. This means that I can bring home a freshly baked almond croissant for breakfast. Sometimes I go slightly further afield to Canals in Nicholson St, the best fish shop in Melbourne.

Today I had a craving to cook a sardine recipe based on one by Lorenza di Medici but I wasn’t sure whether sardines were around. It was very cold and raining but I got myself out of bed and to Piedimonte’s, and thence to Canals. And guess what was in the Canals window? Filleted and flattened sardines just like I wanted! I was also tempted by the Pacific oysters and cooked prawns as I waited my turn. So I went away satisfied!

After I dropped off flowers to a friend for her birthday and devoured the almond croissant, housework and fighting with my modem intervened. Lunch was my reward (even though there was plenty more housework and I still couldn’t get a connection on the modem): Philippa’s luscious green olive bread with the oysters and prawns and lime juice. I normally use lemon but had been given some limes. The lime juice added a great touch, as I fought off the kokkinaki from the seafood. The greedy aspraki was asleep near the heater and missed the battle.

And the sardines? I wanted to cook an old favourite which involves baking the sardines with breadcrumbs, oil, orange juice, pinenuts and currants. There were a couple of obstacles. First, the pottery dish I have always used had cracked and was unusable for baking. Second, I couldn’t find the Lorenza di Medici recipe book anywhere amongst my cookbooks. I didn’t need the recipe book to cook the sardines but, so that I could discuss it here, I wanted to see what her recipe involved as opposed to mine which I know I have varied from Lorenza’s. Finding another dish proved less of an obstacle than finding Lorenza di Medici’s The Renaissance of Italian cooking which remains mislaid.

Hmm! After a good start my Saturday was not going well: broken dish, lost cook book, no internet connection and an overwhelming amount of housework. Use another dish, just cite the recipe book as a source, start inputting my blog post in Word for uploading later (@#$% internet connection), and do more housework (or put on my raincoat and go for a walk in the beautiful rain).

Things didn't get better. The modem was on its last legs so I dashed out to buy a replacement and still the washing wasn't done! And when I started cooking the sardines the quantities were not quite right for the dish I was using and required a bit of playing with quantities. However, the final product was delicious and well worth the effort. And the new modem is still working and the first load of washing is completed!

Baked Sardines with breadcrumbs and orange juice

12 sardines (headed, filleted and flattened)
3 heaped tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon currants
1 tablespoon pinenuts
Olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees. Place the sardines in a circular arrangement in a round dish that is suitable for oven to table use. Sprinkle the currants over. Add breadcrumbs. Pour on orange juice to cover and dash with olive oil. Toss pinenuts on top. Place in the middle of the oven and cook for 30 minutes.

Serves four as an entree and two as a main meal. For a main meal serve with salad or vegetables.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lentil & Bocconcini Salad for Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day here in Australia and as is normal we are all gathering for lunch and bringing food. I need to bring something that will not need cooking or heating when I get there as others need the oven, and it also needs to be something that is good for the vegetarians who will be there. I am also still feeling in the need of comfort food because of my illness. So I decided on an favourite old stand-by, my Lentil and Bocconcini Salad. This is a dish that I can do very quickly and it is also one that will not need any further work on arrival. It is fresh and tasty and a regular pleaser at any time of the year.

I have a long-standing love of lentils in any shape or form that dates to my living in Greece. I am going to use normal sized lentils today, but you can also use the delicious tiny variety grown in France and also in Australia. I find this a very versatile recipe. This time I am using Vietnamese mint as it is flourishing in the garden. But sometimes I use coriander - I won't use this today as my sister is allergic to it. Or, for a totally different taste, in season I use basil which goes beautifully with the tomato and bocconcini with which it is often married in salata caprese. When I use basil, I leave out the ginger and the chilli. I also vary the pulse I use, with chickpeas being the most common variant.

Lentil & Bocconcini Salad


800 g lentils ( pre-cooked or canned)
200 g cherry bocconcini
1 red pepper
200 g cherry or grape tomatoes
1 zucchini
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp ginger root
1/2 tsp Sambal Oelek (or crushed/chopped fresh chilli)
Vietnamese mint
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Drain the lentils and place in a bowl which can be used for serving. Drain cherry bocconcini and cut in half. (If you are using normal sized bocconcini, quarter them). Add bocconcini to lentils. Deseed and chop red pepper into strips. Julienne the zucchini. Slice the cherry or grape tomoatoes into halves. Add all the vegetables to the lentil and bocconcini mix.

Roughly chop the Vietnamese mint, put the garlic and ginger through a press and add this along with the chilli. Dash some Greek olive oil and balsamic vinegar (di Modena, of course) to taste on the salad. Toss and serve.

This is a delicious lunch served with olive bread or a crusty loaf and butter. Or it can be served as part of a larger array of food as it will be for my family's Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Comfort food & Maggie Beer!

This Librarian is still feeling challenged by the throat, sinus and chest infection she has had for over two weeks. Sure it is getting better. But tonight comfort food was on the agenda. Several things conspired. This morning in the pantry my eye had lighted on some plum sauce I had made a month or so ago from a Maggie Beer recipe. And this evening when I had finally been enticed to the kitchen by the hungry cats I turned on the television to get a bit of the Cook and the Chef, i.e. Maggie Beer. That was all about eggs, bacon, pastry, and other yummy things that I wasn't going to cook. They were also talking about food to eat when they felt sooky.

But what to eat? Comfort food was needed. Soup and toast offered one prospect. Then I remembered the plum sauce - yum! Next thing I was chopping up onion and potato, heating olive oil in a saucepan, popping in the onion and potato with a bit of Madras curry, tossing them around for a while, and then adding a basic comfort standby from the freezer, frozen peas, and a bit of water. Meanwhile I had retrieved some frozen plum sausages from the freezer and was thawing them in the microwave. What a great comfort meal resulted! Grilled sausages, peas, potatoes and onion, and the highlight: Maggie Beer's plum sauce.

And the plum sauce? A while ago, during plum season anyway, a colleague gave me a mass of blood plums. I hunted around my recipes and found a great recipe in Maggie's Orchard for plum sauce. Maggie says it was an interpretation of one of the recipes in the Barossa cookery book first published in 1917. It has also been re-published in Maggie's harvest.

You need:
3 kg blood plums
500 g onions
2 cloves garlic
1.25 kg sugar
500 ml red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Halve the plums but leave the stones in. Cut the onions into small chunks and slice the garlic. Bruise the ginger by pressing down on it with the blade of a knife (do not chop it up as I did, but keep it in one large piece!!). Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger in a little olive oil in a large preserving pan until softened. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the plum stones come away from the flesh, about 30 minutes. Strain the sauce and allow to cool. Fill hot, sterilized bottles with the cooked sauce and seal.

I had a great meal, while watching Spicks and specks. The good thing is that I still have some of the vegetables ready cooked and I have all the other ingredients to do it again tomorrow night if I am still feeling in the need of comfort food! Now, I can get off to chamomile tea and my warm bed! Hopefully, I will feel better tomorrow.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Food Social Networking Sites

I got into this food and cookery blogland via Sandy's Things at Learning 2.1. So I have been interested to find a couple of food social networking sites. Bakespace is touted as the MySpace for cooks and has been an Official Honoree in both the 2007 and the 2008 Webby Awards. You can swap recipes, make friends, blog, message, join Pantry Forums and Tearoom Chat, tag recipes to set up your cookbook and move out into the wider world to buy from Amazon. You can reach me at Bakespace here.

The other site that I kept on coming across is Foodbuzz. Foodbuzz is a site of foodies: you might be someone who likes eating, who enjoys commenting on restaurants, or someone who wants to share recipes or food blogs. You can review restaurants (there are very few in Melbourne, two to be precise, neither of which I had ever heard), and link up with other foodies as friends, read and share recipes and link into foodie blogs. A lot of the foodie blogs I came upon were members of Foodbuzz but it is certainly limited in local interest for Australians, though there are 40 odd Melbourne members. You can follow me on Foodbuzz here and I am interested to see that this blog is feeding there beautifully.

Brave New World!

What an amazing world I have found out there in food and cookery blog land! I have been exploring some of them that I came across through Tastespotting and others I have been led to through lists of blogs on the blogs I have bookmarked. This is definitely a brave new world that I want to explore further. The blogs vary from the highly professional and highly specialized to people who just enjoy food and like to blog about their experiences.

I was a bit mystified initially on Tastespotting to see a whole swag of recipes for cheesecake pops. Eventually after reading a few of the blogs I discovered the Daring Bakers Challenge! These cooks were all participating in the the April Daring Bakers Challenge. Someone posts a recipe and everyone registered has a go at it or variants of it. They then blog about it, put it up on Tastespotting or whatever. I don't think there is any competition here: just learning from each other.

And today this time through Souvlaki for the Soul, I came across another online challenge, the Joust, which operates out of the Leftover Queen Forum. Each month someone suggests a few ingredients and members come up with recipes, cook them, illustrate them, blog about them and post them on the Joust site. You need to have a food blog to register; then you can participate and vote for the recipe of the month.

It sounds a bit like the Iron Chef ;>( but is probably a bit less stressful in terms of time-pressure.

I can see that I am going to need to set aside a bit of time each week to catch up with reading all these blogs. Then I need to work out time to do some cooking and experimenting with creating recipes. Fun, fun, fun. And I got the original of Aunty Luce's recipe book yesterday so that is another exciting focus for the librarian in me.


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