Sunshine on a plate

A couple of weekends ago, we had one of those glorious late summer days, where the sun was shining, there was no wind and the day was just begging for a lazy afternoon of friends and BBQs. Lucky for us, we’d seen the weather forecast and invited a few families over to lounge around our backyard watching the kids play.

The day also coincided with ripe corn growing in our vege patch. So I decided to make a salad with just picked corn to go with the BBQ. I searched around the web for a recipe that kind of matched what I had in mind—I didn’t want anything too complicated. And I found an old recipe on US celebrity chef Emeril’s website that ticked all the boxes.

It matched the day perfectly—sunshine on a plate!

Corn, feta, tomato and risoni salad

Inspired by Emeril’s Orzo Salad with Corn, Feta and Tomatoes.

3 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup uncooked risoni pasta
4 ears of fresh sweetcorn
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
3 spring onions, chopped
1 jar of marinated feta cheese in olive oil, drained and cheese crumbled into small pieces
 

To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil and crushed garlic in a jar and shake to mix. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Use a knife to cut the kernels off the ears of corn. Cook risoni for 5-6 minutes in boiling water. Add the corn kernels and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until both corn and pasta are tender.

Drain corn and pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add about half of the dressing and toss to coat.

Allow to cool, then add the remaining ingredients and toss with the rest of the dressing.

Serve at room temperature or chill before serving.

Notes

1. Risoni is a small rice shaped pasta similar to orzo.

2. I used marinated feta cheese because that’s what my husband brought home from the shops. You could substitute regular feta cheese, crumbled into small pieces. You could also use some of the marinade from the cheese in the dressing in place of olive oil.

If you’re interested in seeing more of my recipes click here.

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Challenges and more

I recently decided I needed to stretch my wings a bit, give myself a challenge. Beading Forum runs a challenge twice a year—the Designer Quest—where members of the forum can purchase a set of beads for a modest price. The challenge is to make a piece of jewellery with the beads provided, and there is both a judged prize and a popular prize up for grabs.

This is the selection of beads I received for Designer Quest #24. 3 packets of seed beads in purple and a golden yellow, including some very tiny size 15/0 ones, a packet of triangle beads, Czech fire-polished faceted beads, round Czech beads, Czech teardrops, the big purple glass beads, small peacock dagger and even a faceted crystal. Yes, there are a lot of seed beads, something I don’t have a lot of experience with. And I’m certainly not going to launch myself into large scale bead-weaving or bead embroidery, not my thing. But I’ve got a couple of ideas based on a bracelet design in polymer clay art bead designer Heather Powers’ Jewelry Design from Nature that I plan to work on. I have a bit of time yet, but I think I need to get cracking soon!

Meanwhile, I received a lovely email the other day, informing me that I had won the Humblebeads & Vintaj Forest Friends Giveaway, which includes a fantastic selection of Vintaj brass and copper components and some gorgeous polymer clay beads and pendants from Humblebeads/Heather Powers. From the picture, it looks like a substantial stash of beads and bits, enough to make quite a few things! I’m really looking forward to receiving this package! Thanks so much Vintaj! And I’ll definitely post pics of what I make with my prize!

(Pic courtesy of vintaj.com)

Bill’s green chicken curry

A few weeks ago, we went to a local, and very good, Thai restaurant for dinner with friends. And a few days later, when I asked Matty what he’d like for dinner, he suggested green chicken curry. So I looked around for a recipe that was easy enough to prepare for a weeknight dinner, but “from scratch” enough to feel like I was really cooking. Enter Bill Granger, whose latest cookbook Bill’s Everyday Asian has been gracing my bookshelf (or rather, balancing precariously on my sideboard) since Christmas.

I didn’t play around much with the recipe, other than to swap out some of the veges for what I had to hand, namely some lebanese eggplants and zucchini from our garden. It was not a difficult recipe, and the bonus is that there is enough curry paste to make a second batch.

Verdict—this was a lovely tasting, gently spicy and fragrant curry. Definitely a keeper!

Bill Granger’s Green Chicken Curry

Based on the recipe in Bill’s Everyday Asian.

For the curry paste
1 tsp white peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 lemongrass stalk, white and pale green parts roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
4 spring onions, roughly chopped
2 tbs coriander roots, washed and chopped
3cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
2 tbs sunflower oil
 
For the curry:
1 tbs sunflower oil
3 tbs green curry paste
125ml chicken stock
250ml coconut milk
1 anchovy, finely chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
500g chicken breasts, cut into 2cm chunks
100g green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-3 cm lengths
1/2 tin baby corn
1/2 tin bamboo shoots
100g lebanese eggplant, cut into 1-2 cm rounds
100g green zucchini, cut into 1-2 cm rounds
100g yellow zucchini, cut into 1-2 cm rounds
1 tbs white sugar
2 tbs fish sauce
1 tb lime juice
handful of basil leaves, torn
 

To make the curry paste:

Heat a small fry pan over medium heat and dry-toast the peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Add to a food processor with other curry paste ingredients and blitz to make a paste.

To make the curry:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Fry the curry paste for 2 minutes unti fragrant.

Add the stock, coconut milk, anchovy and lime leaves and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add chicken and cook for a further 5 minutes, then add the vegetables, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice and simmer for 15 minutes until vegetables are tender and chicken pieces are cooked through.

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with steamed rice.

Notes

1. When I make this again, I will pound paste mix in a mortar and pestle before I blitz in the food processor, as I found my machine didn’t do a good job. I ended up transfering the paste to the mortar and pestle for a good pounding to get a good paste consistency.

Silver heart

I love the combination of leather and sterling silver. This necklace was made on a whim a couple of weeks ago. It’s inspired by several necklaces in the Sundance Catalog, which carries a gorgeous, but pricey range of jewellery. I used tiny Thai silver beads stamped with flowers, wire-wrapped freshwater pearls and a Thai silver heart, also stamped with a flower, and knotted them along a long piece of black leather.

Thai silver is a purer metal alloy than sterling silver, up to 99% pure compared with the 92.5% silver in sterling. In theory that means it doesn’t tarnish as easily, and retains its bright lustre.

Chicken and chorizo jambalaya

When I was in my early 20s I moved out of home and across the world. In my first year living in the US, I lived on campus, eating dorm food. And I really really really missed my Mum’s cooking. Even her curries, which I was sure I didn’t like! But it wasn’t until I moved into my first apartment that I discovered cooking.

Before I moved away, I wasn’t much of a cook. I could bake a mean packet cake, and my Dad and I had had a pizza making thing for a while. I could make spag bol, but really, who can’t? And I could make a few other bits and pieces, but nothing special. My limited repertoire quickly wore thin.

So I started looking for other things to cook. One of the recipes I got from Mum early on, scrawled in pencil on a dog-eared piece of paper, was for jambalaya. Jambalaya is a rice-based dish from New Orleans, flavoured with a base of onions, celery and capsicums (bell peppers if you live in the USA) and a liberal dose of Tabasco sauce! I cooked this recipes for years, initially with chicken and bacon, or Canadian bacon in the US, which is a bit more like ham, and eventually using a spicy sausage like kielbasa or even Cajun Andouille sausage.

But eventually I stopped making jambalaya, it just disappeared from my regular selection of meals. We moved back to Australia and I started cooking more south east Asian food. And then I had kids, and my food choices revolved around what I thought the kids might—possibly—eat.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing Pinterest, which is becoming a good place to find a recipe. And I came across this recipe. And it reminded me of something I didn’t even know I’d been missing. It’s a one pot meal, and this recipe easily makes enough to feed 6, if not 8, people!

Too bad my kids don’t like it!

Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya

Based loosely on the recipe posted by The Galley Gourmet, with a nod to Paul Prudhomme, and the addition of tomatoes to make it more of a creole style jambalaya.

2 tbs olive oil
1.5kg free range chicken, cut into 8 pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 chorizo sausages, sliced 1/2 cm thick
2 small (1 medium) onions, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
1 green capsicum, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups long grain white rice
400g tin crushed tomatoes
3 fresh bay leaves
2 cups chicken stock
2 spring onions, chopped
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Tabasco sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down first, and fry until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. You may have to do this in batches. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken if necessary.

Add the chorizo sausage and fry for about 5 minutes until the edges start to go brown. Remove to a plate and pour off all but about 3 tbs of the fat in the pan.

Add the onions, celery and capsicum and saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat until they soften. Add the garlic and saute for about 2 more minutes. Then add the cayenne pepper, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix.

Add the rice to the pan and saute until the rice goes opaque, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, the stock and the bay leaves and bring to the boil. Return the chicken and the sausage to the pan. Then cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Gently stir the rice, allow to sit for 5-10 minutes and garnish with spring onions and parsley.

Serve with Tabasco sauce.

Notes

1. I used jasmine rice as that is what I had in the cupboard. But ordinary long grain rice would be fine.

2. You could happily substitute canned diced tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes, again, it was what I had to hand.