Thursday, May 26, 2005

Sarah Discovers How To Eat

I have gone cooking crazy! I've waited ages to get How To Eat, and now that I've got it, I'm throwing myself straight in... and am going to be cooking all the recipes out of it this year. Check out my progress at the following link...

Sarah Discovers How To Eat

I think I will still be cooking stuff from other books, if I can find the time... or at least will be occasionally eating out at restaurants still... so don't worry, Sarah Cooks will still be here, still be updated, still be loved. Aww...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

My Cookbooks

Having recently substantially increased my cookbook collection due to my birthday, I thought it was time to present them to you here, at Sarah Cooks. (PS this only includes cookbooks that I've bought/received for MYSELF, not my mum's ones.)

Reading cookbooks is my thing. Many people my age seem to fill the meaningless stretch of time that we call life by playing videogames, listening to music, surfing the net, chatting on the phone, watching DVDs, working, shopping, going out, clubbing, drinking, smoking, doing drugs, having casual sex etc. I do some of these things too... but my hobby of choice is reading cookbooks.

Anyway, here they are, on top of my chest of drawers. Before my birthday, I still had my high school textbooks (yes really) sitting there, with my cookbooks scattered around the floor, the kitchen, the lounge room... but now the textbooks have been conclusively shoved away, with my cookbooks having pride of place.

I've learnt so much more from cookbooks than I have from textbooks...

My cookbooks

Nigella Lawson
- How to Eat
- How to Be a Domestic Goddess
- Nigella Bites
- Forever Summer
- Feast

Jamie Oliver
- The Return of the Naked Chef
- Happy Days with the Naked Chef
- Jamie's Kitchen
- Jamie's Dinners

Nigel Slater
- Real Food

Bill Granger
- bills open kitchen
- bills food

Neil Perry
- The Food I Love

Stephanie Alexander
- Stephanie's Menus for Food Lovers

Donna Hay
- Modern Classics Vol. 1
- Modern Classics Vol. 2

Jill Dupleix
- Old Food

Michel & Albert Roux
- The Roux Brothers on Patisserie

- The Essential Dessert Cookbook (Murdoch Books)

The best ones out of these are the Nigella ones (duh!), which I love to pieces and read and re-read time and time again, and constantly cook from. How To Eat, her first (and some say, best) book, is my most recent acquisition, and I can't wait to work my way through all 526 pages! (But more on this later...)

Also especially good are Jamie's Dinners and Real Food. Bill Granger also has nice recipes, which are relatively simple to make, quite healthy and light, and usually turn out quite well. But he's not quite as inspiring to read, in a literary sense, as Nigella, Nigel, or even Jamie. I've also got Toast, which is Nigel Slater's autobiography... I can't wait to read that one.

Ooh, I just realised that the last three ones aren't on my shelf. I'm going to go and move them there now...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake

Last night I had a couple of friends over for a quiet night at home. Thus, a chocolate cake was in order. I was going to do the Malteaser Cake again, but I thought I really should try a new one (there are at least 12 on my to-do list). So, I ended up choosing to do the Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake, from Feast's "Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame" chapter, which is where it rightly belongs.

It is named quadruple for the four chocolate elements that go into it - cocoa in the batter, chocolate chips (but I just chopped up a bar of chocolate), a smoky chocolate syrup poured over the cooked cake, and chocolate shavings pressed into the top.

The recipe says to line the tin with gladwrap (hah, yeah right), but after hearing horror stories of melting plastic on the forum, I used foil. Also, our tin wasn't quite big enough, so I poured the remaining batter into two muffin tins.

Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake

I served it in a very poncy way, in slices on a plate with a quenelle of sour cream (creme fraiche would probably have been better, but what are you gonna do?), a sliced strawberry and dusted with icing sugar. Normally I'm not so Bree Vandercamp about presentation, but I learned how to do this at work the other day, so I needed to practice.

I wanna be a glam Stepford Wife, sipping champagne and wearing expensive makup!

The cake was so incredible! Really moist, really luscious and intensely chocolatey. You could smell the chocolate from the other side of the kitchen! And the top of the cake has this fabulous crust, which contrasts with the rich, dense, moist chocolate interior.

Daniel: Superb. Superb.
Robbie: I want your chocolate cake. its fuckin hot

I'm gonna cut it into slices, freeze it and share my cake around with friends at uni.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Nigel Slater's Grilled (or fried) Chicken with Chilli, Lemon and Mint

On Monday this week, I popped into Borders near uni and picked up two new books – Nigel Slater’s Real Food and his autobiography, Toast. I’ve wanted these books for a while, ever since I’d seen his program Real Food on Lifestyle Food. Click here for some more comments on his deliciously erotic program.

Nigel Slater

What can I say? I’m absolutely hooked! Nigel Slater is fantastic. He’s quite Nigella-esque, in his enthusiastically verbose descriptions of food he is passionate about. I think I’ve read at least half the book already. Unlike Nigella, though, Nigel seems to completely abandon himself to the pleasure of his food, which is to say, there is nothing in here concerned with being healthy or low fat… it is all just delicious. Bring on the butter and cheese!

Real Food is divided into eight chapters – potatoes, chicken, sausages, garlic, bread, cheese, ice-cream and chocolate.

And here is the first recipe I tried…

Nigel Slater's Grilled Chicken with Chilli, Lemon and Mint

Small pieces of chicken are steeped in a Moroccan inspired blend of chilli, garlic, saffron, mint, oil and lemon. It is then your choice whether to grill or fry said chicken pieces. I chose the grill because I thought it would be healthier, and less mess. Hah! The cooking process was so oily and splattery! Nigel says, “it is an exciting way to cook little bits of bird”. How true. Trying to avoid hot oil splattering on my arms is my version of extreme sports.

He also says, “Some couscous, well buttered and flecked with coriander and sultanas, makes a lovely, soothing accompaniment to the spicy chicken”. This was also true. I cooked the couscous in chicken stock for added flavour, and then forked through a little butter, toasted pine nuts, chopped pistachios and coriander. I added the nuts because that’s what we had in the house, and also that’s what Nigella uses in her Saffron-Scented Chicken Pilaf, which I adore, and is Moroccan in inspiration. If we’d had cashews and almonds, they would have gone in as well.

It was fantastic! So, so good! Nigel Slater is my absolute hero! My mum totally loved it too (she’s a sucker for dried fruit in savoury foods, see). I mean, she really, really loved it.

Mum: I love it!

And I love Nigel…

Friday, May 13, 2005

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today is my dad’s birthday, and we went to The Brasserie in Crown for lunch. It’s such a fab restaurant. They’ve got a 3 courses for $41.90 lunch deal which provides excellent value.

This morning before we left I got a bit excited and started surfing through the menu on the net... The Brasserie at Crown

We sat outside on the terrace, watching kids run through the fountain and enjoying the chilly sunshine.

Bread rolls - served with olive oil and a spice/salt mix

They were soft, crusty, well flavoured and with a lovely grainy toothsome texture.


James Boag’s Beer

Snails Provençale tomato fondue, garlic and parsley butter sauce 16.50
Poêlon d’escargots à la Provençale et au beurre d’escargots

I tried one of these snails. They were garlicky and buttery and fabulous. And the texture was like a mussel.

Pan-fried tenderloin and braised ox cheek with mushrooms 35.00
Filet poêlée et joue braisée en daube pomme de terre et champignons

An upside down soufflé of tropical fruit 16.50
Fruits exotiques-soufflé renversé-brunoise


Campari & Orange

Country style terrine with duck foie gras, toasted sourdough and onion confiture 18.50
Terrine de campagne et foie gras à la confiture d'oignon, pain de campagne

Pan-fried tenderloin and braised ox cheek with mushrooms 35.00
Filet poêlée et joue braisée en daube pomme de terre et champignons

I actually ordered this tenderloin for myself, but when it came I realised it had bacon in the sauce. ICK! So mum graciously took it and I took her duck.

Apricot and almond 'clafouti' with pistachio ice cream 15.00
Abricots clafouti glacé pistache


Gin & Tonic

Snails Provençale tomato fondue, garlic and parsley butter sauce 16.50
Poêlon d’escargots à la Provençale et au beurre d’escargots

Porterhouse maître d’hôtel or béarnaise sauce, French fries 32.00
Entrecôte maître d’hôtel ou béarnaise, pommes frîtes béarnaise

I was nearly gonna order this steak. Glad I didn't. I don't really like bernaise sauce, I've discovered. I can't understand why Nigella's says that her dying wish is for a steak bernaise... Also, even though it doesn't look like a lot, even my brother couldn't finish his steak.

Daniel: This is a meal made for MEN. No salad, no vegetables, just meat and chips.

Traditional rum baba, Chantilly cream 14.50
Baba au rhum tradition, crème Chantilly

Alcoholic much? I had a bite of this, it was SOAKED in rum. Daniel was almost drunk by the end of it.


Campari & Orange

Blue and goat’s cheese soufflé, crispy cos lettuce salad 16.50
Soufflé gratiné au bleu et fromage de chêvre, coeur de romaine

Yu-huh, yu-huh, yu-huh. This was beautiful!!!

Duck canard
Pan-fried breast with honey, spices and sautéed vegetables 34.00
Poitrine poêlée au miel, aux légumes sauce épicée

The duck was a bit tough, not fatty enough for my liking. But the sauce and vegies were fab.

Strawberry and vanilla iced meringue 14.50
Vacherin glacé fraise et vanille

This dessert was absolutely amazing! It's cinnamon flavoured whipped cream piped around the outside, with a layer of strawberry sorbet above a layer of vanilla ice-cream. Beneath this is a fine dice of mango, strawberry and kiwi fruit, which sits on top of a meringue. There was a sweet pool of berry sauce on top of it.


Sautéed seasonal mushrooms 6.50
Champignons sautés

French fried potatoes 4.50
Pommes de terre frîtes

Mesclun salad with French, olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette 7.50
Salade de mesclun, vinaigrette classique, huîle d’olive citron ou vinaigre balsamique

Daily green vegetables 5.50
Légumes du jour
Fine green beans, lovely and buttery.

It was so delicious! But I was so full, we came straight home and I went straight to bed.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

My 21st Birthday #4: The Food

Mmm… yummy yummy food.


Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the canapés! I was too excited talking to everyone.

Congo Potato round with Mountain Pepper dusted Atlantic Salmon and Crème Fraiche

Marrakech Lamb skewers, served with cucumber & mint yoghurt

Roasted pumpkin and spinach risotto balls, served with a red capsicum mayonnaise


There was a 50/50 choice of either swordfish or steak.

Seared Swordfish Steak served with grilled eggplant, butter beans & tomato salsa

Sirloin steak served with a Fresh Tomato & Roast Capsicum salad and Mustard Sauce

And they were served with a mixed salad and roast potatoes.


Jacob and Roast Potatoes

It was delicious! That mustard sauce on the steak was crazy. The only thing was, I was too excited to eat a lot! And trust me, this never happens.

Cake, duh.


Sparkling - Andrew Garret blanc de blanc nv

White Wine - Yering station barak’s bridge chardonnay yarra valley
Barking Owl semillon – sauvignon blanc Western Australia

Red Wine - Yering station barak’s bridge pinot noir yarra valley
Yering station barak’s bridge shiraz yarra valley

Beer - Crown lager Victoria

Plus soft drinks and water.

Monday, May 02, 2005

My 21st Birthday #1: The Cake

So, my 21st birthday cake. It was a chocolate cake. In fact, the ultimate chocolate cake. It was Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Fudge Cake, from Nigella Bites. I made it in triple quantities, baked it on Wednesday in two 24cm square tins at 160o for 1 hour and 40 minutes each.

I then iced them on Thursday night, also in triple quantities. Check out the ingredients of the icing!

-750g butter
-525g chocolate
-825g icing sugar
-3tbs vanilla extract

That’s a whole lotta icing!

It was so much fun doing the icing. There was chocolate everywhere! Smeared on the kitchen benches, the stove, the microwave, and my t-shirt. Fun fun fun.

However, I panicked on Friday morning that there wouldn’t be enough cake (63 guests, you see), so I quickly whipped up another one. This time I tried the Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake from Nigella’s Feast. It’s an evolved version of her Sour Cream Chocolate cake from How to be a Domestic Goddess. I’ve made the Sour Cream Chocolate Cake before, and wasn’t impressed, but EVERYONE on the forum raves about the OFCC, so I thought this would be a good excuse to try it.

Then I decorated both cakes, using rolled out marzipan. For “SARAH’S”, I printed out the letters with Arial black size 150 font, and then cut them out. For the rest, I used my Nigella Lawson Living Kitchen Cookie Cutters!


The Chocolate Fudge Cake

Cake no. 2 – The Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

My mum LOVED the words I put on this one.

So at the party, we almost finished the large cake, and didn’t even get started on the second one. Oh well, best to be never knowingly undercatered, as Nigella herself might say. The reaction to the cake was very positive. Partly due, I think, to the fact that I mentioned it in my speech.

Sarah: And I’d also like to thank me, for making my cake. It’s really delicious, it’s a Nigella Lawson Chocolate Fudge Cake, so you’d all better eat it.

In the wee hours of the morning, after Robbie and I returned home, we wolfed down a bit more of each cake. And just for the record, the Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake is very nice. But the Chocolate Fudge Cake is superior, in all respects.

The Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake is more cakey, and less densely chocolate. Also, the icing is grainier, whilst the Fudge Cake’s icing has a wonderful teeth-coating, throat clogging smoothness. I think one might be satisfied with the Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake, but only if they’d never tasted the Chocolate Fudge Cake before.