Thursday, January 19, 2012

A colourful summer meal

Made a very simple but rather pretty(and very delicious) meal the other day that was just right for one of those hot summer days when you don't feel like standing in front of a hot stove for hours. (Mind you, we haven't had all that many hot days just recently!) It suits an everyday meal well, but is also good-looking enough to go down well as dinner with friends.
So here's what it is:
Half a good tomato, sliced in half, the flesh scooped out and chopped into pieces and mixed with chopped herbs, Spanish onion, and prosciutto, the mix then pushed back into the tomato shell and served on top of a 'mache' salad(corn salad as it's known in English) or just ordinary green lettuce of you don't have mache. I love mache, which is obtainable everywhere in France where it's a very common salad ingredient--it's much more difficult to get here, but David managed to get some to grow this year, to my great delight(in the past it's proven rather difficult to get going going) The whole thing was set off with some slightly steamed and cooled asparagus spears that had popped up for no particular reason in the garden(you don't usually see new ones till spring.) Of course I also drizzled some vinaigrette dressing on the salad as well.
Main course:
White fish with a herb, lemon and caper sauce:
Cook the fish(I used barrumundi) in a little oil in a non-stick pan, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Meanwhile mix chopped garlic, chopped basil and lemon thyme, grated lemon rind, lemon juice, salt, peppers and capers in a bowl, adding a little olive oil to make a nice thick sauce. When the fish is nearly cooked, pour this sauce onto it, stir for a few seconds, then serve the fish with the sauce on top.
Couscous and pomegranate salad(adapted this from a recipe of my daughter's)
Make some couscous according to instructions on packet, cool a little. Add the juice and seeds of a pomegranate, some chopped mint, salt, a little chopped garlic, chopped Spanish onion, some olive oil and lemon juice to the couscous and stir well till properly mixed. You can serve the salad slightly warm or cold, it's lovely either way.
We just had juicy white peaches fresh off the tree. Fantastic! This meal would also go well with a berry fool or mousse.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Writers and editors on food 14: Wendy James

Wendy James is a novelist and short story writer. Her first novel, Out of the Silence(2005) won the Ned Kelly Award for first crime fiction and was shortlisted for the Nita May Dobbie Award for women’s writing.
Her other novels are The Steele Diaries(2008), Where have You Been(2010) and the forthcoming The Mistake(February 2012). She has also published a collection of short stories, Why She Loves Him(2009).
Her short stories and articles have also been published in literary journals, magazines and anthologies.
Wendy grew up in western NSW and on the northern beaches of Sydney. She now lives with her husband and children in Newcastle, NSW.

Bread Omelette

This is a version of french toast ( or a savoury bread & butter pud, I guess...) that my nan occasionally made for breakfast when I was a kid. I'm not sure where this version hails from. Nan grew up on a very isolated station west of Bourke, so I imagine meals that made use of stale food and leftovers were quite common.

The recipe serves one - two people, and doubling the ingredients works okay, too. I think I'd do it in batches if feeding a bigger crowd.

one egg
1-2 slices bread (stale is fine)
dash of milk
chopped parsley

Beat the egg and milk together. Tear pieces of bread and mix into the egg mixture. Squelch about a little. Add parsley.
Fry each side of the omelette (in oil or butter) in a smallish pan over low heat until golden brown .
Serve with a sprinkling of salt and white pepper, a squirt of tomato sauce and/or your preferred 'hot' sauce. (Lancashire Relish works best for me)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Deliciously simple home-made icecream

It's that time of the year when you just crave icecream. And I very often make my own, without any special equipment of any sort, from a recipe I invented years ago(and even won a prize for in the Australian Women's Weekly at the time!) A simple mixture of egg whites, sugar and cream, it works every time, is cheap to make, super-easy, is completely natural, has a beautiful texture and taste, with no crystals forming at all despite not needing any icecream churn or anything like that. And it's ready in a few hours(if made early in the morning for that evening) or best still frozen overnight. And you can make all different sorts of flavours, depending on what you fancy.
The really important thing to remember with it though is never to put anything with water in it. This is what forms ice crystals. So no syrups or anything like that. Fruit icecreams work well as long as you don't add any water to the juice--in fact don't use commercial juice but just crushed fresh fruit, or jam(which works even better.) You can make a delicious fudgey one by melting some unsalted butter with cream and brown sugar, which will make a thick caramelly sauce which mixes in well to the basic mixture(when it's cool). You can melt chocolate and add to it, and make a milk or cream coffee mixture for coffee icecream(just don't make the coffee with water).
So, for one litre of vanilla icecream, you need:
Two egg whites
200 ml cream(single cream--whipping cream is best, not thickened cream or double cream)
1/2 cup of caster(fine) sugar.
Drop or two vanilla essence(you can use vanilla-flavoured sugar instead--either bought or homr-made, by putting a vanilla bean inside a pot of caster sugar and leaving for a few days. Use this them instead of the plain caster sugar.)
Beat the egg whites till peaks form, add most of the sugar, beat again till thick and glossy, as for a meringue mix. In a separate bowl, beat the cream and rest of the sugar, till thick and gloosy too. Mix the cream and egg white mixtures together,folding in till well-incorporated. At this stage add the vanilla essence(or any other flavouring you're using). Put this in a 1 litre icecream container and freeze several hours or overnight. Serve on its own or with fresh fruit(in my photo, it's a blackcurrant icecream with fresh peaches from our orchard)
Et voilà! It's as easy as that! Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Guest post: Deborah M. Gray's How to Import Wine

Before Christmas, guest blogger and wine expert Deborah Gray contributed a wonderful post to A la mode frangourou, on holiday food and wine pairings, which I for one found very useful when deciding on what wines to choose at Christmas and New Year! Today, she writes about the inspiration for her very successful book, How to Import Wine, which has garnered a prestigious award, Gourmand magazine's 'Best Professional US Wine Book 2011.' It's also in contention for several international wine book awards.

My father was the impetus for my wine importing business in the States. He had just started a brand from his vineyard in Cowra, New South Wales and his desire to export prompted me to take on the challenge of importing. My knowledge and experience was precisely zero at that stage and the only advice I was given was “don’t do it.” Undaunted, I plunged blindly in. Since there was also no book on the subject, trial and error and missed opportunities became my modus operandi in the early years. They weren’t much fun at the time, but they provided valuable experiences from which to learn and clear examples in the book of what not to do.

I have been so fortunate to have travelled to many wine regions throughout Australia and New Zealand, met fascinating people, enjoyed incredible meals, and ridden the wave of wine popularity for Oz and NZ wines. I have judged wine competitions, spoken at festivals, served on wine boards and have great memories that will stay with me forever. But sitting in my office in California on the cusp of the recession in 2008, business for high end, boutique Australian wines was hard to come by and became increasingly more so as the year progressed. With that in mind, time on my hands and the germ of an idea, I started researching online, through publishers and in book stores and still found no wine importing books.

I have spent a lifetime dabbling in journals, writing seminar materials, taken a stab at novels and poetry, but had never written a How-to. And yet, the prospect excited me. As I went about my day in my business I made notes every time I thought of another aspect of the industry. From this I devised a Table of Contents as a guide and found it made an easy roadmap for me from subject to subject. People often tell me I must have spent a long time researching for this book, but in reality most of it came from my nearly 20 years experience, with research occasionally necessitated by a desire to be absolutely clear about particular details or to make sure I was up-to-date on resources.

I eschewed the dry, academic style I found in many non-fiction business books and made How to Import Wine – An Insider’s Guide conversational and as easy to understand as I hoped it would be. The writing became an enjoyable exercise, a nostalgic trip down memory lane and a satisfying diversion from the ordeals of a difficult economy.

If necessity is the mother of invention, I am a prime example. The vicissitudes of the economy and a dearth of subject matter became my motivations, but the publishing journey, although frustrating at times, has been one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my life. The journey isn’t yet over and I can’t wait to see where it leads!