Cacciatore, meaning ‘hunter’ in Italian, is also the name given to a wonderful winter-warming stew. It’s a well-loved Italian classic, with many variations to explore. Capsicum (peppers, for my American friends) and/or mushrooms are quite often added and I have no doubt that there’s a debate to be had over whether to choose red or white wine. Continue reading →
It feels a little self indulgent to prepare a big bowl of Tiramisu, when it’s just for the four of us… on a weeknight no less. But with weather temperatures starting to dip, I really don’t require too much coercing to unleash my indulgent side. Thankfully walks around the lake have recommenced with vigor now that school holidays are over, ensuring those oversized portions of tiramisu don’t rest on my hips any longer than necessary. 😉 Continue reading →
It’s not even my type of music, yet I find the soundtrack to the Broadway Musical ‘Jersey Boys’ strangely infectious. It’s one of 3 musicals that I’ve seen ‘live’ in New York and I have incredibly fond memories of it, mostly due to the fact that I saw it on a fabulous girl’s weekend with a dear friend from Australia who was also living in the USA at the time. Continue reading →
I’m sure that most of the punnets of raspberries in the shops end up turning mouldy and being tossed out. They usually have such ridiculous price tags attached to them, that I can’t imagine who would be silly enough to buy them, particularly when they’re out of season and look like they’re on their last legs! Quite a tragedy in my opinion… as unfortunately for me they just happen to be my absolute favourite fruit. The perfect balance between sweet and tart… luscious and fragrant… little bites of pure deliciousness. Continue reading →
The feeling of failure in the kitchen has never been quite so great as when you go to the effort of making fresh pasta dough… kneading it… resting it… rolling it… cutting it… cooking it… and then realising that it’s quite possibly the most awful pasta you’ve ever tasted in your life. You’ve tragically also gone and put this on a plate for your family, who funnily enough are dodging eye contact with you for fear of having to speak and admit that what you’ve dished up is pretty much inedible. Aaaargh, all that hard work for nothing!
So, having attempted fresh pasta with my pasta machine a handful of times before, with little success, this was my first attempt using a recipe (along with a number of invaluable tips for technique and procedure) from John at ‘From the Bartolini Kitchens’. Continue reading →
There are some dishes that I hesitate in posting, as I feel that they’re probably not exciting enough for my fellow bloggers and readers who I know cook to such a high level and have their own tried and tested recipes. However, part of the reason for creating this blog is to provide a go-to guide and resource for my two young boys, so that eventually when they leave the nest 😢 (or even before then perhaps… when they feel inspired to cook up something for dinner for their parents! Yes, I did stress that word ‘perhaps’!)… some of their favourites will be there to find easily.
This is a dish that I cook reasonably regularly and it’s most definitely one that puts a smile on everyone’s faces! Continue reading →
There was a monster in my garden! My stomach turned as I contemplated how to get rid of him. Should I slash at him ruthlessly, cutting him off from his life-supply? Should I preserve and bottle him like a specimen in the museum? Or should I leave him in situ in the interests of science to see how truly monstrous he could actually become? I had turned my back for a week or two and he had swelled and distended himself to become the zucchini magnificent that he is today. Continue reading →
There are some evenings when breakfast fare can seem rather appetising for a light and easy dinner. Nights when husbands are out at work functions and eldest children are away on school camps… perfect timing for this relaxed, simple dish that ticks all the boxes of being deliciously comforting, relatively healthy and ready in a flash…
A dish that can be adapted for all tastes and preferences… the options are endless. Next time I’ll be trying this with strips of smoked salmon and a sprinkling of snipped chives!
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be playing tour guide, host and interpreter for some very dear French friends who are coming out to visit us for the first time here in Australia. My apologies in advance for not being able to post as much as I’d like to over this period and also for possibly not getting a chance to read and comment on all of your posts. If I find the time, I’ll certainly try to post a little something here and there of my adventures around the country avec mes amis français!
Oeufs en Cocotte with Prosciutto | Gather and Graze
Line 2 ramekins (mine are about a 1 cup capacity each) with enough strips of prosciutto to cover the base and sides.
Crack 2 eggs into each ramekin and gently place in the halved cherry tomatoes, a couple of teaspoons of creme fraiche, a few torn basil leaves and a grinding of salt and black pepper. If you like, sprinkle over a teaspoon or two of finely grated parmesan cheese.
Bake the eggs in the oven for approximately 15 – 18 minutes until cooked to your liking. Serve with a good serving of hot buttered toast.
About a week ago my husband and I celebrated our 15th Wedding Anniversary (the crystal glasses seen in my previous post were our gift to one another to remember this rather special milestone). We also decided to take our two boys out for dinner that evening to a local Italian restaurant to delight in some really wonderful food. After a relaxing meal and a glass or two of wine, it finally came time for dessert… tiramisu was spotted on the menu and my choice was made (all rather swiftly). It arrived at the table and naturally the children were keen to have a taste, but with the infusion of coffee and liqueur, a small spoonful was more than enough and they were straight back to their gelato. Phew… all the more for me! 😉
Following that evening, an idea has been rattling around in my head to create a version of this iconic, marvellous dessert that could be equally tempting for both adults AND children. So, despite not having posted a savoury recipe in well over a month, I am hoping that you will indulge me just one more time, so that I can put my head down to rest tonight and get a full night’s sleep! It really has been bothering me to the point of distraction.
One other thing that’s been causing a little lack of sleep lately is the fact that we were given a wonderful big pot of honey just before Christmas from our very kind bee-keeping neighbour. Those of you who follow G&G on Facebook may remember seeing photos of the Honey Bee Swarm in our backyard last October and our fabulous bee-keeping neighbour who came to save the day and remove them for us. I have to say that this pot of honey is very well loved, but I really didn’t want to see it all disappear, slathered onto slices of toast (never mind how delicious that is…)! So, developing this dessert has also allowed me to celebrate the amazing honey bees that visit our garden, along with the incredible-tasting honey that my neighbour and his hives have produced. Thanks very much D!
25g Milk (or Dark) Chocolate (chopped into chunks)
Honey Mascarpone Cream
300ml Heavy Cream
100g/½ Cup Mascarpone Cheese
3 Tablespoons Honey
For the dipping sauce, heat the cream and milk in a small saucepan over low heat, until just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Leave for a couple of minutes, then stir until completely melted and combined. Allow to cool to room temperature.
To make the Honey Mascarpone Cream, whip the cream in a large mixing bowl until frothy on top. Add the mascarpone and honey and continue to whip until you have soft peaks.
To assemble the dessert, dip the savoiardi biscuits into the dipping sauce, turning them a couple of times in the sauce to ensure completely coated. Place a single layer of the soaked biscuits in the base of a serving bowl (see photos below if unsure), then add a layer of the honey mascarpone cream. Continue layering biscuits and cream, finishing with a layer of cream. Grate some chocolate over the top and refrigerate for about 6 hours (or overnight), for the biscuits to soften and the flavours to infuse. Serve chilled!
Option of adding a little fresh fruit between the layers… berries, sliced banana or mango would all work really well in my opinion.
This is one of our favourite family dinners – a dish that everyone finds appealing and that can easily be adapted for seasonal changes and whims. Shown in the photo above is how this meal usually finds it’s way to our table – with the olive oil, Vino Cotto, garlic and juice from tomatoes coming together to form a wonderful, light sauce to spoon over the top. Continue reading →
‘Gather and Graze’ is not about preparing elaborate, complicated meals – that was never my intention. Mostly it’s about sharing food, recipes and ideas that bring both happiness and nourishment to our own small family. It is also published in the unwavering hope that it will reach those people teetering on the verge of discovering how wonderfully simple cooking can be… Continue reading →
On nights like tonight, after baking batches of muffins and cookies for children’s end of term parties at school tomorrow, a quick, easy pasta dish for dinner was all I had time for. I love that this recipe is cooked in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. It’s always a hit with the kids, especially when served with a little garlic bread on the side!
There are so many fabulous variations of Pasta Carbonara out there, but I still felt keen to document and share this particular version – it’s the one we’ve been cooking for years now and we still haven’t tired of it.
A large handful of Finely Grated Parmesan (or Grana Padano) Cheese
A sprinkling of Freshly Ground Nutmeg
A little Sea Salt and Pepper
Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a rolling boil. In a book I’m currently reading, ‘In Search of Total Perfection’, Heston Blumenthal recommends about 1 litre of water for every 100g of pasta.
While the water is coming to the boil, place the egg yolks, cream, parmesan, nutmeg and seasonings into a small mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Set this bowl aside for later on.
Once the water is boiling, add some salt (another Heston tip: add 10g of salt for every 100g of pasta) and give a quick stir before throwing in the pasta. Stir again gently to make sure none of the pasta is sticking together.
In a medium-sized frying pan over med-high heat, pour in the olive oil and when hot, add the speck. Fry until nice and golden. Turn the heat down a little and add the white wine, stirring to lift any little bits of speck stuck to the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to simmer for a few minutes until syrupy and then turn off the heat.
Keep an eye on the pasta and strain it in a colander as soon as ‘al dente’ (tender, but with a slight bite). Add the drained pasta directly into the frying pan and toss briefly in the oil and speck until all of the pasta is coated. Remove the pan from the stove (so that the sauce doesn’t curdle from the eggs coming in to contact with too much heat) and stir in the egg/cream mixture. The sauce will thicken slightly with this gentle stirring. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve immediately.
If you can find good qualitySpeck where you live, please give it a try! It has a slightly smoky flavour and a touch of juniper berry, that is really wonderful in this dish.
It was with something of a heavy heart that I went out to pick the last remaining tomatoes from the garden this morning. They have provided us with such beautiful and bountiful fruit right the way through summer and autumn, however the time has finally come to clear the beds and tidy up before winter hits… and from the forecast I’ve just seen, it appears that winter will rear it’s frosty head tomorrow. Give me a day or two and I promise that my melancholic mood will give way to much eagerness for all the delicious soups, roasts, casseroles and heart-warming puddings yet to come… however today shall be dedicated purely to the tomato.
Back in very late October I nestled our six little tomato seedlings into their rather large pots and commenced tending to them as if they were my own children. Often questioning whether they were hungry or thirsty, getting enough warmth and light from the sun and making sure their ever-growing limbs were supported and nurtured in the right directions. Our season hopefuls included two Romas, two Cherries, a Green Zebra and a Black Russian – an attractive mix of colours, sizes and flavours to adorn the salad bowls of summer.
The following simple idea for an appetiser brings together five of my all-time favourite ingredients, into one luxurious mouthful. Perfect as they are, accompanied with an aperitif, or perhaps as part of an antipasto platter; I hope you’ll agree that the flavours intermingle superbly and leave you craving for more.
Boursin Cheese (80g will fill approx 16-20 halved tomatoes)
16-20 Fresh Basil Leaves (small to medium sized)
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Using a sharp knife, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and gently scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Scoop a little Boursin onto the tomato halves and top with a basil leaf. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Consider doubling the quantity… these are very moreish!
Use a good quality EV Olive Oil and if possible an aged Balsamic Vinegar – they really make a difference when used to dress a dish such as this one.
Perfect served with a chilled white wine on a sunny day.
I have categorised these under ‘Italian’, as although the cheese is decidedly French, I feel they ooze ‘italiano’ with their mix of tomato, basil, olive oil and balsamic…
With somewhat ulterior motives, I began not so long ago, to trace some of our family history. Knowing that predominantly my ancestry winds it’s way back to English and German origins, I was actually secretly hoping to uncover that gem of a find that I had a drop or two of Italian blood coursing through my veins. Not just because so much of the country is jaw-droppingly picturesque and packed full of history and culture, or that the deliciousness of their food and wine leaves me so constantly in awe… but mostly because I would love dearly to have grown up with an Italian Nonna in my life. Complete with her opinionated wisdom on all facets of life and her deep sense of family and love to knit everyone together. Countless stories she would have told of people and places from her past long ago and while she was telling these stories her hands would be busy kneading dough, rolling pasta, or stirring a pot of the most aromatic ragu ever to grace a cucina. The sights and sounds and smells would have seeped into my very being, guiding me and staying with me right the way through life.
Alas, I found nothing surprising except an English convict or two to colour my family tree, so I’ll leave you with something of an aromatic recipe which unfortunately comes not from my Nonna, but with love and essence of Italy all the same. Salute!
400g Boneless White Fish Fillets (cut into bite-size chunks)
12 Raw Prawns (shelled and deveined)
1 Calamari/Squid Hood (cleaned, hard quill removed and thinly sliced into rings)
Zest of 1 Lemon
Handful of Fresh Basil (or Flat-Leaf Parsley) Leaves (chopped into thin ribbons)
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low/medium heat. Add the onions (with a good pinch of salt) and fry gently for about 8-10 minutes until softened. Next, stir in the garlic, parsley, dried chilli, capsicum and fennel, continuing to fry gently for 5 minutes or so. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and tomato paste and continue to cook another 10 minutes. Pour in both the wine and stock, bring to the boil and then reduce heat to simmer for another 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper while the soup is simmering. Add the fish pieces and partially cover the saucepan with a lid, simmer for about 4-5 minutes, before adding the prawns for a further 3-4 minutes until cooked. The calamari rings should go in for the final minute or so of cooking.
Top with lemon zest and basil and serve immediately. Absolutely perfect with a loaf of fresh, crusty bread on the side.
Notes on Cooking:
Feel free to use boiling water instead of the wine and stock, though be sure to check the seasoning, as more salt and pepper will most likely be required to balance the dish.
This soup is beautiful with all manner of seafood added to it – try adding some cleaned mussels, clams or scallops. Be thoughtful of the required cooking times for each…
My thanks to a dearly-loved friend in New Zealand who first introduced me to this soup – her recipe has been altered somewhat over the years, yet still makes me think of her each time I cook it… xx