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The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies to Make with the Kids this Weekend

Comforting, gooey and delicious. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies! Cookies recipes are pretty much foolproof and perfect for budding little masterchefs to hone their skills. 

Now, not to get too food-nerd on you all but since discovering food ratios a few years back, the science of food has taken on a whole new meaning to me. The are ideal ratios for a tonne of various doughs and pastries etc, and for cookies the ratio we should be looking our for is approx:


magic cookie ratio

1 part sugar

2 parts fat

3 parts flour

+ 1 egg per 250gm of flour

easy, huh?!

of course you can play around with this ratio to give a shorter or crispier cookie - but it's a great starting point


choc-chip-cookies

 

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients

- 170gm Unsalted Butter, chopped

- 40gm Caster Sugar

- 45gm Brown Sugar

- 1 egg

- 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

- 250gm Self Raising Flour

- 180gm chocolate chips

- 1/8 teaspoon of flaked sea salt

OPTIONAL

- you could add a couple of teaspoons of baking cocoa to make these babies double choc chip!

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 175 degree Celsius.

2. Cream you sugars, vanilla essence and butter together until whipped nicely. 

3. Mix your dry ingredients together (including your cocoa, if using) and then gently fold into your whipped butter mixture. You could gently stir in your choc chips at this stage - or you could use them to spell out a message in the cookies.

4. When it come to shaping, you have a few options.

        a. Roll into a log and slice

        b. Roll into individuals balls and then flatten out onto your cookie sheet

        c. roll out flat and use a fun cookie cutter (this is my preferred method when it comes to           baking with children, it's definitely more fun!).

5. Pop onto a baking tray and bake until golden and gooey - about 11 - 14 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for a few minutes prior to transferring over to a wire rack.

 

And there you have it. Have a wonderful weekend - enjoy. :)

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Brisbane's Best Picnic Spots

Even though we are currently in the throes of winter, Brisbanites are lucky enough to have beautiful temperate weekend afternoons that are just asking for lazing around on a picnic blanket with some good food and great company. 

Here's a list of our favourite grassy areas to bring a picnic, hang out and soak in some sunshine...

captain-burke-park

Captain Burke Park - Kangaroo Point

This gem is located under the Story Bridge on Holman Street in Kangaroo Park. with a beautiful view of the city and the Brisbane River. Seriously, the view here are just amazing and there is plenty of shade which is also a plus.

The park features:

  • a nautical themed playground and wide open spaces for the little ones to keep themselves entertained .
  • a bike track that can take you on the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, and even onto Southbank or West End if you were so inclined to have a ride after your picnic.
  • Public BBQs, tables, bubblers and public toilets.
orleigh-park

Orleigh Park - West End (Hill End)

This is my absolutely favourite park in Brisbane. The park winds around the Brisbane River - with UQ on the other side. The park is massive with plenty of room to lay down a blanket on the grass or near one of its many fig trees and feel somewhat secluded. Often you can even get treated to local musicians having jam sessions.  And as a recent additional, you may be lucky enough to find a food truck down there under the BCC's new food truck initiative - the park was treated to a Brazilian/Portuguese food truck last weekend.

The park features:

  • multiple playgrounds
  • a bike track (that actually connects to the above mentioned park)
  • plenty of BBQs and tables (some of which are sheltered)
  • public toilets

Also, if you are so inclined Orleigh Park is host to a full moon festival each month where local fire twirlers do their thing. It's quite a bit of fun.

highgate-hill-park

Highgate Hill Park

Whilst you're in that neck of the woods, Highgate Hill Park is just up the road and is also one hell of a park for a picnic. With arguably the best park views in Brisbane you can be treated to a great panoramic view from Mt Coot-tha to our city skyline and onto Kangaroo Point. It is also an amazing vantage point if you happen in the market to view some of Southbank's fireworks - I have meandered up for Riverfire in the past and you really can't get a better view. 

As opposed to the other parks on this list - the park is pretty bare bones. There's a really pretty rotunda at the top of the park and a gorgeous big fig, but that's about it. The park is also mostly hill, so if you have a problem with sitting on an angle, probably best to give this one a miss.

newfarm-park

New Farm Park*

Yet another park situated along our river - aren't we lucky?! This is a massive park with plenty of room to kick a ball and run around with the kids. This is pretty much the place to go for a lazy weekend hangout for locals and is super close to the CityCat also. New Farm Park is also a convenient stop after visiting the Jan Powers Markets (if you've never been, I highly recommend you do!), or even before a riverside drink at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

The park features:

  • BBQ Facilities
  • Massive playground
  • Car park
  • Parking for the Disabled
  • Toilet facilities for the Disabled
  • Picnic Area
  • Public Toilet
  • Shaded Area
  • Sheltered Area
roma-street-parkland

Roma Street Parklands*

Welcome to largest subtropical urban forest in the world! This park would have the be the 'fairest of them all' when it come to Brisbane Parks with pops of keiliscopic colour coming from the teams of flora your will find dotted around the park. The Spectacle Garden is a sight to behold and the grounds are home to an assortment of public art - Roma Street Parklands is just so pretty.

This is another large park (16 hectares!), allowing you to find your own space to throw down your picnic blanket if that's would you're up for - again there is heaps of space to kick a ball or play some cricket. There's even the 'Parkland Explorer' - a trackless train provides an alternative to guided walks and usually operates Wednesday to Friday from 10am-12.30pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-3pm.

The park features:

  • BBQ Facilities
  • Chairs2Share (deck chairs available for free to visitors)
  • Picnic Area 
  • Playground
  • Toilet facilities for the Disabled
  • Public Toilet
  • Sheltered Area

 

* parks marked with an asterisks are licenced for alcohol consumption; if you are up for a cold brewski or glass of bubbles to go with your picnic.

Also. We have something new & amazing in the pipeline!

We have recently developed some gourmet picnic bags and we will be making them available on a rotating basis at parks across Brisbane once all i's are dotted, and t's crossed. They are currently are available monthly at Picnic Hill, but we are working hard to make sure that anywhere a delicious picnic is required - we'll be there with these babies to make sure that's a reality. Pictured above: our Antipasto ($16)Ploughman's ($23)Middle Eastern($20) picnic bags - and by all accounts are delicious and filling.

We're very close to this being a thing - so if you would like to keep posted when this is happening and where we will be (or if you would like to request a particular park) please click here and let us know.

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Planning a Function?

Most people at some point in their life, whether it’s for a personal celebration, corporate event, or just because they can, have to plan a function. It can be a challenge, but it can also be very rewarding experience for both the organiser/host and the guests. 

The process of planning an event or conference can be long and there are often a few bumps along the way. We’ve gathered a few key things to keep in mind when you’re planning you next function.

Preparation and Planning

"If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else."  Yogi Berra

"A goal without a plan is just a wish." Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"Plans are nothing. Planning is everything." Albert Einstein

There are so many quotes, hints, tips and guidelines for planning and event out there it can be overwhelming. But it is clear that preparation and planning are definitely a key to having a successful function - whether it’s a small get-together with friends or a corporate conference. 

Planning and preparation give you an opportunity to clarify what you ultimately want for your event - how you define a successful event. Success will look different depending on the type of event you’re having. 

Three major factors will impact the rest of your planning:

  1. Budget
  2. Number of guests
  3. Type of event

Knowing your limitations will help to keep your planning on track and give you a starting point. It can also be used to determine which elements of your event are the most important to its success.


The Vibe

"It's the vibe of the thing..." The Castle

Rather than focusing on a theme for your event, consider focusing on the ‘vibe’ - an intangible part of your event that is created by the venue, the menu, the styling, and purpose of the function - it is the ‘emotional quality’ or atmosphere you’re creating for your guests. The energy or ‘vibe’ of the event has a role to play in its success. 

If you function is over multiple spaces, each space might need it’s own ‘vibe’ - for example, is there a ‘break’ room that needs to be relaxed so that conference attendees can take a break from the more intense vibe of the workshop spaces, and does the dining area create an atmosphere that facilitates connections between attendees.

How do you want your guests to feel?


The Venue

The venue you choose for your function is one of the most important decisions you might make in planning your event. Each comes with their own limitations and strengths that will impact other aspects of the event.

A few key things to consider when choosing the right venue for your function:

  • The cost - keeping this cost down can allow for more of the budget to be allocated to things like the menu and styling
  • Capacity - will it be able to comfortably hold the number of expected guests/attendees? are there any minimums you need to be aware of - e.g. food and beverage packages?
  • Facilities and services - does the venue have a kitchen? does it provide tables, chairs, linens? will you need to bring in your own staff? do you need to provide your own catering? is it accessible to all your guests (i.e. wheelchair access)?
  • Atmosphere/ambience - does the venue contribute to the ‘vibe’ you’re trying to achieve at your function?
  • Location - is it easy to locate? will you need to provide detailed instructions to your guests? is it central for your target audience?

 The Food

“Food has a remarkable power to bring us all together.”  Chef Elyse Lain Elshenawey

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”  James Beard

The food at a function is more useful to the event organisers than just providing nourishment for their guests. It can be used to facilitate connections between guests who don't necessarily know each other all that well. Either because the food is a talking point, or that it provides a shared experience for all guests to use as a starting point for creating a new connection, and even strengthening existing connections.

Deciding what style of food you have at a function can play an important role in creating the 'vibe' you want for your function. 

Do you want to have ‘home made’ food or gourmet food? Will you have a sit down formal meal or a more casual share platter style meal where guests serve themselves from a platter in the centre of the table? Are you indoors or outdoors? Will your guests need to be able to stand and eat? Do you want hot or cold food? There are so many different questions come up when it comes to catering. If you haven’t planned a function before, just as your caterer if they have recommended serving sizes, types of meals designed for seated/plated meals vs. finger food/cocktail meals.

But the important thing to remember when it comes to the food, it’s about more than having enough food…it’s about finding the designing the right menu to create connections, and to add to the ‘vibe’ of the event.

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The importance of eating together.

Eat, drink & be merry! The connected dining table.

dinner-table-connections-catering

Over the course of the 20th century, and into the 21st Australians have found ourselves busier than ever. We are eating on the run, sometimes opt for the drive-thru, allow work commitments to get in the way of our family dinners. We spend less time sharing our meals with those we care about. And this can be more detrimental than you think. Not eating together can actually have negative effects on you psychologically, as well as physically.

Eating alone can be alienating. Our dinner table acts as a magnet for connection. Sharing a meal with those around us in a situation where people are happy to put aside their work and other commitments and take time out of their day. A shared meal is an excuse to catch up, talk, laugh and celebrate and even decompress from the stresses of day to day life, with those near and dear to us. If we eat alone, we enjoy not such benefits.

Furthermore, as some sort of magically delicious peacemaker, dining together can modify people’s perspectives. It can moderate people’s feelings of inequality and whilst dining, people are inclined to view those of different ethnicities, gender, and socio economic backgrounds as more equal than they generally would in other social situations (source: Eating TogetherAlice Julier).

That's the magic of food for you. It nourishes our bodies, and can help nourish our souls. That's what we love about sharing a table full of food, to bring a connectedness and belonging with the added bonus of a good meal!

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Food miles. Why we give a darn!

Food Miles.

There are many reasons to choose to shop as locally as is convenient for you. Of course, cooking with local produce is very important here at connections catering. We thought we would take a little time to explain a few reasons why.

connections-catering-green-caterers

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The further our food is transported, the more greenhouse gas that's emitted into our environment. Shockingly, the food in a standard basket of food in an Australian shoppers hands has travelled a whopping 70,000km (the equivalent to driving around Australia's coastline three whole times!). Buying food produced locally can cut down on your greenhouse gas emissions substantially. 

connections-catering-fresh-food

Fresher = Healthier

Produce purchased from many supermarkets is often cold-stored in transit for days or weeks, whilst local product can be picked as recently as the previous 24 hours. Locally produced fruit and vegetables are generally allowed longer to ripen as they do not need to stand up to the rigours of being carted around the country (or even internationally). If you're lucky enough to have a local farmer producing heirloom varieties, event better! Heirloom varieties generally have greater nutrients because the focus on today's hybrids have usually been bred to focus more on yield, than on taste or nutritional value.

connections-catering-farming

Support our local farmers!

By supporting locally grown food, you will help not only support local farmers but keep money within your community. When buying produce from a supermarket rather than farmers markets etc., the farmer can get as little as a few cents to the dollar. $1 for 2 litres of milk, anyone? Our farmers are so important, they need to earn a proper income so they can afford to continue doing what they do best, growing and producing our food. Buying locally can ensure that they can continue to thrive!

 

If you have your own ways for reducing your food miles, please comment below. We would love to hear from you!

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Mother's Day!

Mother’s Day looks different for everyone.

How we show someone we love them – whether that’s our birth mother, our adopted mother, another mother figure who’s played a significant role in the shaping of our lives, or just another woman in your life that you love – can take many shapes and forms. It might be taking the time out of our day (and theirs) to spend some quality time with them, it might be finding a small meaningful gift to give them – whether it’s handmade or not, it might be surprising them by cleaning the house or car, it might be making them their favourite meal, it might be telling them you love and cherish them, or it could be something as simple as a hug.

I think personally for me, cooking something for mum that’s new or a favourite is a definite win on Mother’s Day, especially if there a bunch of my family there to share it with. I always plan for a shared meal with my mum, dad and any one else in my family that’s around at the time (like my sister and her 3 kids, and my other siblings if they’re in town). One of the rules my mum put in place for our family growing up was having at least one shared family meal a day (usually dinner), because for my mum that shared meal was a time to reconnect with each other and spend some time sharing important things that had happened during the day.

Even now, she’s the reason my parents, my sister (along with her kids) and I get together to have a family night once a week. Even though the conversation at the table may include some very random (and sometimes confusing) stories from my 4 year old nephew about a four-wheeler or a crocodile he saw at the wildlife park - or sometimes things that I'm certain never happened, or even just a run down of my nieces’ day at school it is always entertaining and usually (if all the kids are in a good mood!) a good time with my family. I do cherish those times, even if sometimes it can be a challenge with the kids competing in who can tell the best story or whose turn it is to speak about their day.

Here’s a recipe for a delicious Meringue Layer Cake that you might want to make for your mum (or whoever you like) this weekend. It can be a little tricky, but I promise you no matter what it looks like (things might get a bit rustic), it’ll taste delicious in the end.

meringue-cake-catering-brisbane

Meringue Layer Cake

Ingredients

Meringue Layers

  • 4 egg whites (room temperature)
  • 6 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 2 cups white caster sugar
  • ½ cup (60g) almond meal

Filling

  • 400g chocolate
  • ½ cup (125ml) pouring cream
  • 1½ cups (375ml) thickened cream

Other things you’ll need

  • Electric mixer
  • Baking paper 
  • Oven trays
  • Something that’s round and 15-20cm in diameter (like a plate or round cake tin)
  • Pencil or pen
  • Microwave safe bowl/jug or a bowl and saucepan that’ll work as a double boiler
  • Spatula
  • Cake stand or large plate for assembling and serving

Method

  1. Prepare your baking trays by drawing 3 circles using your 15-20cm diameter plate (or other round thing). Flip over the baking paper so you can see the circle but won’t get any of the ink/pencil on your meringue. Set aside your trays. Preheat your oven to 120°C.
  2. In a large glass or metal bowl add the egg whites, vinegar and 1/3 of the sugar. With an electric mixer, beat the mixture on low until soft glossy peaks form.
  3. Slowly add the rest of the sugar while beating on low. Careful that it isn’t grainy. You’ll know it’s done when the mixture has stiff peaks and is glossy.
  4. In a separate bowl add the almond meal, and gradually fold in the meringue mixture into the almond meal until combined. Don’t stir or whisk, gently fold the mixture using a spatula.
  5. Divide the mixture between the prepared baking trays and shape into circles. Bake at 120°C for 25 minutes or until the meringue is crisp to the touch (a very light touch). Turn off your oven, leaving the meringue in to cool for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Whip the thickened cream until light and fluffy, set aside in the fridge to keep cool.
  7. Prepare the chocolate ganache melt the chocolate and cream together stirring until smooth – melt together in the microwave or over a double boiler. Set aside to cool. This will be coming into contact with cream so it needs to be room temperature.
  8. Once your meringue layers have cooled, and the fillings are ready, it’s time to assemble! Now in this part things don’t have to be perfect, it’s a bit of a rustic layer cake. Place the first layer of meringue on your serving plate. Spread the layer with the chocolate ganache, then a layer of cream. Gently place the next layer of meringue on top and repeat the process. The cake should be topped with the whipped cream. Garnish with your choice or leave it as is.

Notes

If you want to make it dairy free, you could use a dairy free dark chocolate (Lindt 70%, Alter Eco, Whittaker’s 50% or up, or your favourite dark chocolate), swap the pouring cream for coconut cream and the whipped cream for whipped coconut cream (the solid part of the top of a refrigerated can or two of full fat coconut milk). If you choose this option for the whipped cream, add a pinch of vanilla bean powder to the whipped coconut cream mixture.

If you don’t like almond, you could swap the almond meal for hazelnut meal. Or you could make your own pistachio meal (finely grind pistachios in a food processor) and add a pinch of rosewater to the ganache or whipped cream and/or garnish with dried rose petals.

Other Garnish Options:  Fresh berries, Grated chocolate, Dusting of good quality cocoa, Edible flowers (real ones, not the ones made from sugar)

You can have fun with the flavours with a cake like this. Let us know if you try a variation of your very own creation or post a photo of your meringue layer cake on our Facebook page!

Enjoy the weekend.

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WHY DID THE TOMATO BLUSH?

Because he saw the salad dressing!

Terrible jokes aside, it’s time for us to share another one of our much-loved recipes. Whilst many people are familiar with the more well-known Apple Tarte Tatin, I wanted to share the version I first came across in a cookbook I purchased as a teen when first starting to explore what could be created in the family kitchen. A version created with not apples, but a savoury version with tomatoes (what a revelation!). Being one who can tend to favour savoury over sweet, I completely fell in love with just how delicious this version is (it's always a savoury, not sweet French toast cooked up at our place, but that's another blog post).

This dish is excellent for a lazy weeknight dinner, or even better as part of a Sunday brunch. The tomatoes are complimented with mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, and thyme, a combination that’s completely addictive.

tomato-tarte-tatin-catering-brisbane

Tomato Tarte Tatin

(6 servings)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 20-24 small truss tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 sheet frozen butter puff pastry (trimmed)
  • 100gm buffalo mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put the vinegar, sugar and thyme in a non-stick frying pan and place over medium heat.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then add the whole tomatoes.  Toss the tomatoes in the sweet syrup for a few minutes to ensure they are well coated, then removed from the heat and allow to cool completely in the pan.

Lightly grease the inside edge of a 20cm (8 inch) pie dish, then arrange the tomatoes over the base and drizzle with the cooking liquid.

Place the sheet of puff pastry over the tomatoes and tuck the edges of the pastry in a little around the tomatoes.  Place the pie dish into the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.  Place a large serving plate over the top of the pie dish and flip the tart and pan upside down.  The tart should now be sitting on the plate with the tomatoes facing up.  Tear the buffalo mozzarella into several pieces and scatter over the tart.  Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil

(recipe is taken from Marie Claire – Comfort)

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JUST A LIL' BIT OF PUMPKIN

I’m sitting here sipping on my matcha green tea coconut milk (it tastes better than it sounds) writing this post and thinking about pumpkin, and weirdly pumpkin pie is the first thing that comes to mind, followed closely by the thought of pumpkin soup. It’s weird that pumpkin pie is the first thing I think of because I’ve had it only once in my life, and I’ve never even cooked it – I blame the Internet, Starbucks, and all the “pumpkin pie spice is life” memes. Pumpkin soup on the other hand when I was growing up was a family staple in the cooler months, partly because it was cheap to make bulk, but mostly because my mother looooves pumpkin soup – but only if it’s made with butternut pumpkin and served with fresh bread slathered in real butter.

Pumpkins are a pretty awesome vegetable (though apparently it’s technically a fruit) when you think about it. They come in so many shapes and sizes, and you can do so much with them – savoury and sweet – dips, pies, roast, salad, scones, muffins, … I could go on. There are so many strange looking pumpkins – the heirloom ones are the strangest!

My favourite type of pumpkin to cook is the butternut pumpkin (blame my mother for this bias) because it’s one of the sweeter ones. Don’t get me wrong, if you roast any kind of pumpkin I’m totally going to eat it and enjoy it, skin and all because roast pumpkin is all sorts of delicious! The little bit of caramelisation around the edges that happens when you roast pumpkin are the best. Although put it beside a well roasted potato (with a few mixed herbs) and it’s a difficult decision which to eat first. Have I mentioned roast dinners are fabulous?! Anyway, I’m getting distracted now thinking of a roast dinner.

Pumpkin soup is something that I’ve never enjoyed unless it was homemade. I tried a pre-made soup out of a tin packet…it just wasn’t the same. I think because of the good memories I have of sharing pumpkin soup around a big table with my whole family (my parents, two older sisters and my little brother) that I can’t ever really enjoy pumpkin soup unless it’s made by myself or someone I care about. If I take a moment a just sit and think back to the times I’ve had pumpkin soup, it brings a smile to my face and warms me from the inside out because it brings to mind the love of my mother, the joy of sharing a meal with my friends on a cool night, and the contentment I always feel after spending time with people I love and who love me.

I don’t know about you, but I love to find new ways to enjoy some of my favourite meals. I’m always on the hunt for a slight variation in one of my favourite meals that allows me to appreciate my favourite just that little bit more. I especially love seeing other people enjoying their favourite meal all the more because they’ve added a new ingredient or two that adds another dimension to it. It just lights up their face and that in turn makes me happy, because I love to cook and to I see someone else enjoying cooking and what they’ve created is a fabulous thing.

I think it was a couple of winters ago now, my mum and older sister fell back in love with pumpkin soup (it stopped being a favourite for a while because it was made just one to many times) – this time with a bit of a Thai style twist to it thanks to a friend of the family. I’ve got for you here a basic pumpkin soup recipe (the one my family uses) and then some changes you can make to add a bit a twist to it if you’re looking for something a little different.

Pumpkin Soup

(Serves approx. 6)

Ingredients

  • 1 kg butternut pumpkin (or more), skin off and diced
  • 2-3 medium onions, skin off and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1.5L – 2L liquid stock (chicken is great)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Nutmeg (ground)

Method

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter in a large saucepan over a medium to high heat, until the onion has become opaque (clear-ish).
  2. Add the diced pumpkin and cook for about 8 minutes.
  3. Pour in the stock, a pinch of salt and pepper and nutmeg. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer covered until the pumpkin is tender.
  4. Remove from the heat, and (carefully) using a stick mixer (or in a blender) blend the mixture until smooth.
  5. Serve with fresh bread and butter.

Note: Depending on how thick you like your soup, adjust the amount of stock used. If you like, you can add a dollop of cream to the soup to serve and extra pepper to taste

Want to make it with a Thai-style twist?

  • You'll need - in addition to the above ingredients:
    • 1 medium sweet potato (peeled and diced)
    • 2 medium carrots (peeled and diced)
    • 1 table spoon of red curry paste (Thai style)
    • Juice of 1/2 lime (or more, to taste)
    • 2 x 270mL cans of coconut milk (full cream or light)
    • Fresh coriander, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • Optional: Use less pumpkin (1/2 butternut pumpkin) and instead use the sweet potato and carrots. Or you could just add the extra ingredients to make more soup. It's up to you.
  • At Step 2 - add the red curry paste
  • At Step 4 - add in the coconut milk and blend together. Then stir through the lime juice and coriander

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WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LIMES...

As a kid growing up I never liked limes, not even lime cordial or lollies (though pine-lime Splices were delish!), which is about as far as you can from actual limes! But now?? I’ll make a lime and coconut stir-fry or add kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass to my rice and quinoa as I cook it, when I’m looking for something a little different to go with my meal. I’ve definitely come to appreciate the zesty appeal of fresh lime in cooking or in drinks.

Did you know that there are more varieties than the smooth skinned limes that we see everywhere in the shops? I didn’t, well not until I actually started exploring more in my cooking. The Tahitian (or Key) lime (the one we know best) is seedless and very juicy – so great for drinks like a margarita ;), where as the Kaffir lime is lumpy, seeded and has very little juice – the leaves are most commonly used in cooking, particularly Thai recipes.

Oh but the humble lime is not just confined to Thai cooking, there are (so I discovered recently) some very delightful ways to enjoy lime. On a recent holiday in New Zealand with my family I was on the hunt for an easily transportable snack (we were driving around the North Island) and because I have a couple of food intolerances it’s a bit more challenging if I want something more exciting than plain rice crackers, anyway I stumbled across an organic store that stocked some ‘me friendly’ snacks. Now I’m generally pretty open to trying new flavour combinations because when your diet is limited like mine, to come across something new and actually find it’s not horrible (much less delicious) is much more exciting than I like to admit. Well, I thought I’d try out some cookies that looked interesting. Pistachio and lime flavoured cookies. At first I was a little sceptical, not that I don’t think lime goes well with nuts or nutty flavours (I love me a lime and macadamia raw cheesecake or crunchy baked lime and coconut chicken), pistachios and I have had a rough history – I always seemed to get the dodgy ones in the packet. Oh man, when I took my first bite I was prepared to be disappointed, but instead I found myself having to hold back and not shove a few more cookies in my mouth. I immediately rushed off to force my family to try one too, but then hoard the rest of packet because I wanted them all for myself. Hahaha!

Why did I just spend all that time telling you about a bunch of cookies? Well, mostly to get you to consider trying limes with other flavours you might not expect to be any good… or try something new that has limes in it. If you’re making a guacamole, add lime juice rather than lemon… or use lime juice as the star of your own homemade salad dressing rather than a store bought jar (then test it out on some unwitting friends and family). One of my favourite things to do is test out new recipes on my friends or family and talk to them about how my latest dish came about. Usually in a rambling story like the one I just shared with you! But I must say that my adventures in the kitchen are made so much better in the sharing of a meal and story.

Have you ever discovered something new, and then you see it everywhere? Well this has happened to me very recently... interestingly enough I've come across an Australian native I didn't know about. My little nerd heart loves to learn new things so I just had to share this with you too. :) 

Native Limes in the Limelight …

Ever heard of a Finger Lime? I sure hadn’t until I stumbled across a recipe on Pinterest for an ‘avocado dip’ (which I assume is just another way of saying guacamole) that used citrus caviar from Finger Limes to make it look a little fancy and add something a little different. 

After doing a little digging around with the help of my old friend Google, I discovered that Finger Limes (aka ‘Rainforest Pearl’) are in fact one of Australia’s six species of native citrus. The Australian Finger Lime is native to the rainforests on the boarder ranges of South East Queensland and Northern NSW. 

The trees are thorny and produce distinctive finger shaped fruit that can be up to 12cm long. Typically both the skin and pulp are green-yellow in colour, though over the years different variations have been cultivated with different skin and pulp colours. The intensity of the skin and pulp colour can be affected by flowering times and climactic conditions.

Source: Pryor (2011). Photo by Janet Durham

Source: Pryor (2011). Photo by Janet Durham

While the flavour is similar to that of the limes we all know, the pulp is caviar like in appearance hence the nickname of ‘citrus caviar’. The tiny capsules of lime juice that ‘pop’ add a burst flavour and texture to a dish. Pemberton Finger Limes, a Western Australian grower and suppler, say that Finger Limes should always be cut open crossways, not lengthways and then slowly squeeze out the ‘citrus caviar’ – like squeezing toothpaste from a tube.

Pemberton Finger Limes has provided some tips for storing Finger Limes…

  • Store in dry and cool conditions – between 10-20°C, no cooler than 5°C
  • They’re best kept in an open paper bag or cardboard box
  • You can keep them in your fruit bowl, but make sure they’re not under other fruit
  • The shelf life of a Finger Lime is between 3-4weeks.

The Australian Superfood Company sells Freeze Dried Finger Lime (powder) that they say is an interesting addition to dukkah. You could also use the powder in a green smoothie to add a zesty twist.

Are you all limed out? I’m certainly not! I think I might go make some pistachio and lime balls for snacks this week. How will you be using lime next time?

 

Sources:

  1. Hardy, S., Wilk, P., Viola, J., Rennie, S. (2010, January). “Growing Australian Native Finger Limes” Prime Fact 979. Retrieved from http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/320272/growing-australian-native-finger-limes.pdf.
  2. Pryor, C. (2011, 17 June). Food on Friday – Finger Limes. ABC Rural – Bush Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/site-archive/rural/telegraph/content/2011/s3246629.htm.
  3. Pemberton Finger Limes. (2014). Pemberton Finger Limes. Retrieved from http://www.pembertonfingerlimes.com.au/.

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WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER

One of my family’s favourite meals is a roast dinner, the only person who doesn’t enjoy it quite as much is one of my older sister’s, but that’s only because she’s vegetarian so she doesn’t count. ;) A roast chicken is something that gets cooked when everyone in the family is all together – me, my 3 siblings (2 sisters and a brother), and my parents. My dad especially loves it when I cook a roast dinner, his favourite is definitely the whole roast chicken with garlic, lemon and thyme (I think I used a Jamie Oliver recipe).

Chicken is by far one of my favourite meats to cook, for so many reasons! I think my favourite thing is that there are so many different cuts of chicken…breast fillets, wings (wingettes), thigh fillets, drumsticks, Maryland (thigh with drumstick attached). Thigh fillets and breast fillets are good for stir frys, drumsticks are great for easy portioning of meals, Maryland’s look great as roasted and are good for when you’re feeding someone who needs to eat larger portion sizes. If you’re interested in learning how to dismantle a whole chicken Stockman’s Daughter has great ‘how to’ instructions (including a video) for dismantling a chicken. Another reason is that because of the different cuts there are so many different ways to cook it and so many different flavours to work with. I love a good Thai-style chicken stir fry with a tonne of crispy veggies served with coconut rice, or baked marinated chicken wings or drumsticks with salad and chips; barbequed chicken kebabs are a favourite of my young nieces and nephew. It’s definitely a versatile meat and it’s generally pretty cheap too, which when you’re on a budget is fantastic. It was my default source of protein (other than mince, or brown lentils) as a uni student because a bulk buy of chicken (any cut really) would get me through quite a few meals. More recently I’ve been trying to be more sustainable in my cooking and I’ve been looking into how to use a whole chicken. In my search I’ve found recipes for using the carcass or bones to make my own chicken stock, or even bone broth. I’m yet to have a crack at my own bone broth, though I’ve read it’s quite good for your health. If you’ve got a whole chicken and you’re flat roasting it (aka spatchcocked), the backbone you cut out can be used to make a stock or soup, so there’s less waste.

 
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I think it was in November last year (I can’t believe it’s 2016 already!) a friend of mine invited a few people over for dinner and cooked us an amazing roast meal…and you guessed it, it was roast chicken! But it wasn’t any old roast chicken with the usual flavours, it was lemon and macadamia! I’d never had macadamia with chicken before, in fact the combination had never occurred to me so I watched closely as she prepared the chicken – she’d decided on using Maryland’s because there weren’t enough of us to justify roasting a whole chicken and we were a little short on time. As she prepared the meal we spoke about a lot about our favourite meals and shared stories of meals we’d cooked for our friends and family in the past and the meals we were looking forward to cooking them in the future. We both love to cook for the important people in our lives, though I tend to prefer baking desserts and sweet treats. We both felt that the cooking of the meal was a way to show our friends and family that we cared and the opportunities the shared meals gave us to spend some quality time with them. The chicken turned out fabulous and the conversation and time spent with my friends was so refreshing and rewarding, particularly because it was towards the end of the year when things tend to get a bit hectic. I’ve decided to share with you the recipe for the lemon and macadamia chicken. While my friend used Maryland’s it’s fabulous as a flat roasted (Spatchcocked) chicken. I like to serve this with roast sweet potato, carrot, potato, and pumpkin that have been lightly coated in olive oil and tossed in dried or fresh rosemary, and with some blanched (so they’re still crispy) broccoli, beans, and peas.

Flat Roast Lemon & Macadamia Chicken (Serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (approx. 1.2kg)*
  • 1 ½ cups raw whole macadamia nuts, raw roughly chopped**
  • Zest of 1 whole large lemon**
  • ½ large lemon, finely sliced into discs (slice up the zested lemon)**
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  2. To prepare the chicken - cut along both sides of the backbone of the chicken with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, remove the backbone (keep it for stock or soup), turn the chicken over then press firmly on the breastbone with the heel of your hand to flatten it out (or you can ask your friendly butcher to do it for you). Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  3. Mix together the roughly chopped macadamias and lemon zest.
  4. Using a sharp knife lightly slice along the bottom edge of the chicken and separate the skin from the meat using clean hands (separating the skin from the meat is a little bit gross but the texture and flavour at the end is worth it!). Between the skin and the meat of the chicken stuff the macadamia and lemon zest mixture. Push the macadamia and zest mixture as far as it will go without tearing the skin, trying to get the mixture over as much of the chicken as possible. The result is a very bumpy looking chicken, it might look a bit strange but it’ll taste fantastic!
  5. Rub the skin of the chicken with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover the meatiest parts of the chicken with lemon slices or however you like. Covering the chicken with lemon slices is optional, but it does look good.
  6. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 – 45 minutes, or until cooked through (juices run clear).
  7. Serve on a platter with roast vegetables and steamed greens.
roast-chicken-catering-brisbane

 

 

NOTES:

* If you want to make this for 2 people, instead of a whole chicken you can use 2 Marylands with skin on, ½ cup of macadamia nuts, and the zest of a small lemon (or ½ a medium sized lemon) instead. Roast them at 220°C for 45 minutes.

** If you’re not a big fan of nuts or allergic to them there are plenty of other flavour combinations you could try. Here’s a list of different spices, herbs, and other flavours that work well with chicken…just take the above recipe and swap out the nuts and lemon with the flavours you like best.

  • Herbs: fresh or dried thyme, fresh or dried rosemary, fresh or fried coriander, fresh or dried marjoram, sage, fresh parsley, fresh tarragon
  • Spices & Spice Blends: garam masala, jerk seasoning, dukkah, harissa, chilli powder, herbes de provence, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika
  • Other: lemon, orange, garlic, soy sauce, white wine, honey, ginger, pesto, miso paste, lime, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, pineapple, coconut, nuts – almonds, macadamia, pistachio, cashew

If you’ve never spatchcocked a chicken before here’s a handy instructional video from BBC Good Food - How to flatten (spatchcock) chicken (BBC Good Food)

Hopefully you’re now off to plan your own roast chicken to share with friends and/or family! We’d love to hear what you think of the recipe and any other flavour combinations you love to use on a roast chicken.

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