Tag Archives: sour cream

beef cheeks (& even the doubter liked them)

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Well, this has been a rather occasional diary lately, hasn’t it? It’s not that I’ve not been cooking, but rather than I’ve had so much else on my (metaphorical) plate that this blog slipped to the back. But anyway, here we are again 🙂

A few days ago I called into a new butcher’s shop on the way home (‘new’ in the sense of  ‘new to me’; they’ve been there fora while but I’ve never stopped before). Into my basket went lamb sausages, a couple of nice bones for the dog, and 6 beef cheeks. I’d not cooked this particular cut before I thought I’d experiment.

So yesterday morning I turned on the slow cooker & got to work. First up, & sliced & gently fried 2 medium-sized brown onions in a bit of olive oil – I know most slow cooker recipes say to just put them in the pot, but I’ve found the flavours are better if the onions are at least partly-cooked before they go in there. Dunno why. After about 5 minutes I added 6 big cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced, and gave them all another 5 minutes in the pan.

At about the same time I put a cup of dried mushrooms – several different kinds – into a bowl & covered them with boiling water.

The onions & garlic went into the bottom of the slow cooker dish. I put a bit more oil into my frying pan, coated the beef cheeks in cornmeal, and browned each in turn before arranging them on top of the onions. A couple of largish carrots, peeled & diced, joined the meat, & I tucked 3 bay leaves in among them. (One of the things I love about our current house is that all my herbs are in the garden, or in pots, in the courtyard – just a few steps from the kitchen.)

Then I opened a bottle of pinot noir & used a cup of that to deglaze the pan. (My brother – the one that does a lot of cooking – would say that at this point I should have made personal inroads on the remaining wine, but I’ll confess to not particularly liking reds.) I added the leaves from several sprigs of thyme, 500 mL of beef stock, the rehydrated mushrooms (having cut the big ones into smaller pieces), and some of the water from the mushrooms, & brought all that to the simmer before pouring it over the meat & veges in the slow cooker. And left it all to cook on ‘low’ for 8 hours – I turned the meat occasionally but it could have been left entirely to its own devices. By the end of that time it smelled divine & the sauce/gravy was delicious 😀

We’d invited friends to dinner (one of whom loves beef cheeks, but the other was decidedly suspicious). To accompany the casserole, we had beans (frozen in the summer when we had a distinct surplus), roast butternut pumpkin (also from the garden) & baked potatoes, based on a Gordon Ramsay recipe I saw on TV recently.

For this, I used 3 large Agria spuds – they are yellow & floury & wonderful when baked. They needed an hour at 180 C. About 15 minutes before the potatoes were done, I finely shredded 1/4 of a drumhead cabbage and cooked it gently in a little butter until it was tender. Then I cut each spud in half lengthways & carefully scooped out the flesh into a bowl, arranging the skins in a baking dish. I mashed the flesh with a little butter & a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, seasoned it with salt & ground black pepper, and then mixed in the cabbage. And then mixed in about 75g of crumbled blue vein cheese – it really lifted the dish out of the ordinary – before popping back in the oven to heat through.

That was such a nice meal – & I think the doubter is converted.

zucchini timbales & tomato coulis

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Last night we had some good friends to dinner. The main course was garlic & sweet chilli prawns, but on casting about for an entrée I decided on this zucchini dish. Mainly because we have zucchinis in the garden, & with this vegetable it seems you have either a glut or a famine. I’ve had the recipe for years but haven’t made it a lot in recent times; it’s from an old edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly microwave cookbook (we’re talking the 1980s here 😀 ).

The timbales: first, puree 8 small zucchini in a blender – you could equally well grate them; I’ve done it both ways & both work just fine. Cook the result in the microwave on ‘high’ for 5 minutes & then squeeze out as much of the moisture as you can.

Put the squeezed veges in a bowl & mix in a 250g tub of sour cream (‘lite’, if you insist, a pinch of salt, as much chopped basil as you like (the recipe says 2 Tblsp but I like more than that), 2 Tblsp grated parmesan, & 4 eggs.

Divide the mix between 6 1/2 c moulds (I love my silicone ones; if you are using another kind remember to grease them well) & cook in the microwave for around 7 minutes on med-high – check occasionally. You want them firm in the middle. (They could also be done standing in a dish of water in a moderate oven.)

The coulis: peel & chop 4 medium tomatoes & put in a bowl with a clove or more (I used more as garlic is something we also have a lot of & we all like it) & 2-3 Tblsp tomato paste. Cover & cook on high for 3-4 minutes, then blend to a puree.

Unmould the timbales onto serving plates & serve with some of the tomato sauce on the side. This is a lovely, light, summery entrée 🙂

cheese-filled cannelloni

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The other day I found a packet of dry cannelloni tubes in the pantry, & decided we’d have cannelloni for tea. The sauce was going to be easy: we’re slowly working through the packets of tomato sauce that I froze last summer, so out came one of those, plus there was a 450g packet of beef mince in the freezer. So I turned the oven to heat to 180 C and next, once the meat was defrosted (microwaves are a wonderful invention) I browned it in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring to break it up, & then added a packet of sauce & left it to simmer very gently. But what to put in the tubes of pasta?

In the fridge were eggs, a block of parmesan cheese, and 250g tubs of ricotta cheese & sour cream. I emptied the 2 tubs into a bowl & beat them together with a wooden spoon, before beating in the egg and some grated parmesan. Next I chopped together fresh parsley, basil mint (because I still don’t have any basil) and lemon thyme & mixed that into the cheese mixture. I used a teaspoon to fill the pasta tubes, standing each on its end to do this. In retrospect I could have used a piping bag, but oh well…

I spooned a little of the sauce over the base of an oblong casserole dish, then arranged a layer of filled cannelloni over the top. More sauce on the pasta, and then the next layer of cheese-filled tubes, and finally the rest of the sauce. Because I felt like a cheese overload I sprinkled a little more parmesan over the top before putting the dish into the oven – it took about 35 minutes to cook, by which time the sauce was bubbling & the cheese golden. (You can check that it’s cooked by pushing a skewer into the pasta – there should be very little resistance.)

We had it with salad & some steamed broccoli from the garden – there was plenty for 4 with leftovers for lunch the next day.

 

a very nice cheesecake

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This is a dessert I make quite often when we’re having friends over for dinner. It’s quick to make, requires no baking, & if you make it with ‘lite’ dairy products you can almost kid yourself it’s healthy 🙂 This recipe’s our current favourite variation on the original Edmond’s Cookbook version.

First, crush your biscuits** – for this version I use chocolate thins. (You can either put them in the blender until you get coarse crumbs, or put them in a reasonably sturdy plastic bag & beat them with a rolling pin; this can be quite cathartic.) Then mix in 70g melted butter & press the crumb crust into a 20cm-diameter dish. These days I use a spring-form pan – while it’s non-stick I still line the base with baking paper – but a ceramic pie-dish served us well for years. Put that in the fridge to chill & set while you make the filling.

Wipe the blender to get rid of the worst remaining crumbs & then into it put: 250g cream cheese (lite if you prefer); 250g sour cream (ditto); 1/4c white sugar; and the juice & zest of an orange (because this goes particularly well with the chocolate base. But you could use a lemon or lime instead). Blend till smooth.

Soften 4tsp gelatine in a couple of Tblsp water, & then briefly microwave to dissolve. Blend that into the cream mix & pour the whole lot into the prepared tin. At this point I sometimes add blueberries (though not with the chocolate version) or other fruit.

Chill till set, & serve 🙂

** If using plain biscuits (eg wine biscuits), then some crumbed macadamia nuts would be nice in the crust too.

a couple of dips

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When catering for the daughter’s birthday party, one of the things I made was a gloriously pink beetroot dip. One of her friends was asking about recently & so I thought I’d share it here, along with the yummy bean dip we had as a starter the other night.

Beetroot dip: drain a 480 g can of beetroot (sliced, chunks, baby; it doesn’t matter) & put it in a blender along with a 250 g tub of sour cream, and 1 tsp ground cumin. Blend till smooth & season to taste. For the party I served it with chips made from gluten-free wraps, as two of the guests are coeliac. (Which reminds me – until recently it’s been quite hard to get gluten-free spices. I was flabberghasted to find, on reading the labels, that many of them contained gluten. Presumably as a filler?)

Zesty red bean dip: this one’s from the wonderful Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook, by Alison & Simon Holst. Put a clove (or more – I inclined to more 😛 ) of garlic into your trusty blender, along with 1/2 c roughly chopped parsley, 2 Tbl coriander leaves & stems (ditto), 2 Tbl olive oil, 2 tsp lime or lemon juice, & either 2-3 spring onions (cut into 2cm lengths) or a small red onion (also roughly chopped. Blend until smooth. Then drain a 480 g can of red kidney beans, keeping the liquid, & add the beans to the blender before processing everything until smooth & well blended. You can add some of the bean liquid if the mix is too thick. Taste it & adjust the seasoning – the Holsts suggest adding some sour cream if the flavours are a bit sharp, but I didn’t find I needed to.

Enjoy 🙂

oyster mushrooms with pasta

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This morning at the farmers’ market a lovely young chap from Raglan was selling oyster mushrooms, both fresh & dried. I asked about cooking them & he made them sound so delicious that I just had to buy a bag of fresh mushrooms (about 100g) & put them in my saddlebags, to be joined by all manner of other nice things (including cherry tomatoes, dwarf beans (our runner beans are still going, but the dwarf ones we put in were a bit of a disappointment), Purple Heart spuds, peppers, blueberries, & Guide biscuits). And as I biked home, I considered dinner…

… and decided on pasta with mushrooms, roast tomatoes, & beans.

First, I put the cherry tomatoes into an oven dish & tossed them with salt, pepper & a little olive oil before leaving them to roast at 200 degrees Celsius. Next I sliced the beans (using my nifty little bean-slicer-thingy) & put a big pot of water on to boil for the spaghetti. Because I was using the bought, dried variety I figured the pasta should be cooked at the same time as the beans (this is important as the husband doesn’t like his beans ‘squeaky’).

Once the beans were also set on the heat, I melted 50g butter in a heavy frying pan & – as instructed by the grower 🙂 – tore the mushrooms into smaller pieces: you tear along the line of the gills so that the texture is retained. They softened quite quickly, at which point I added 125g sour cream and the leaves from 3-4 sprigs of lemon thyme; the mix needed thinning with a little water.

Everything was done at the same time (doesn’t always happen!). I drained the pasta & returned it to the pan, then poured in the creamy oyster sauce & mixed everything together quickly before dividing it between 4 plates (along with the drained beans) & topping each mound of pasta with some cherry tomatoes, the juice from the tomato dish, & a goodly helping of finely grated parmesan.

Delightful! I’ll be buying more of those mushrooms sometime Real Soon!!