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I’m Ba-ack…(with a bang)!

Did you miss me? I certainly missed you!

My earlier prediction that my blog would likely take a back seat as I became busier with work and study unfortunately came true. I don’t like to make excuses, but over the last couple of months, both have done a monumental job of sapping my time and energy (my creative energy, in particular) and regrettably it meant my blog went untouched…from my end anyway!

I especially want to express my heartfelt apologies to the amazing bloggers who continued to contribute to the I Made It! Monday” event in my absence – I will soon follow up with a round up of their fantastic achievements.

I can’t promise you (or myself) that it won’t happen again, but now that uni’s over for the semester, I have some extra time on my hands…for the time being, at least! I’ve also recently resolved to stop letting work get the better of me – it’s…Just. Not. Worth. It! On a brighter note, during my time away, I have still been doing plenty of ‘food touristing‘ – I even managed to squeeze in a visit to my old hometown of Adelaide, which involved a lot of good food and wine – so I have stacks of tasty anecdotes to share with you.

Already as I’m typing this, I feel so much better – I really, really missed this. And I missed scouring through all my favourite blogs (I haven’t had the opportunity to do much of that either)…I have so much to catch up on!

After all of that, you’re probably wondering what this ‘bang’ I referred to in the title is supposed to be…surely this (a mere whimper thus far, if you will) can’t be it?

Well, it had a lot to do with this morning’s breakfast. Not only did it wake me up in a physical sense, but it provided that ‘kick’ I needed to get my blog-jo back.

I’ve always wanted to try making Shakshouka or Huevos Rancheros, because they always look so delicious and relatively easy to prepare, especially considering the ingredients include items that are pretty stock standard in most pantries and fridges. I skimmed the internet to get some general ideas and ended up formulating my own version from a few different recipes based on what I had on hand:

Spicy Baked Eggs with Chorizo

Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs (the larger the better)
  • 1 chorizo sausage, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced
  • 1 small or half a large onion*, sliced
  • 1 small or half a large red capsicum, sliced
  • 2 tsp paprika (I used 1 tsp smoked, 1 tsp sweet)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (strictly optional – I can’t stress that enough! My eggs didn’t just provide a kick, there were some punches thrown in as well!)
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes 
  • Fresh herbs (parsley or coriander), chopped

* I only had brown onion on hand, which worked fine, but I think red (Spanish) onion would be perfect for this dish.

Method:

Note: this served two of us. You don’t have to be strict with the measuring either – feel free to mix it up to your personal tastes. I’m sure next time I make this I’ll rework it a bit (almost certainly omitting the dried chilli flakes…phwoar!)

*Sigh* – it’s good to be back! šŸ™‚

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Fresh flavours: Prawn Laksa

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Fresh.”

Call it strange, call it convenient, but this week’s “Fresh” Photo Challenge happened to coincide with the very weekend I was considering preparing a Prawn Laksa for dinner.

There is just so much to love about classic South-East Asian flavours such as lime, chilli, fish sauce and coconut – the perfect fusion of sour, hot, salty and sweet. I’ll admit I took a shortcut and used a store-bought paste, but the results were still tastebud-tingling terrific (even if I do say so myself)!

I don’t cook fresh seafood all that often, so in case I don’t do so again for a while, this will also be…

My pick for OhMyGlai!’s Flavour of Month for April: Prawn/Shrimp

“I Made It! Monday” Easter Extension

I hope you’ll forgive me, but I have decided to extend the first week of my new event, mainly because it has only just “made it” to The Daily Post’s Events listing (see what I did there?) Don’t worry, though – I will still share the details of something else I made in the last seven days…

Taking advantage of the extra time off from work many of us are fortunate to get over the Easter long weekend, I decided to do some baking. While I was waiting for the Other Half to come home with some extra supplies I needed to give KitchenSpells’ Chocolate and Marshmallow Cupcakes a go (more about that in a future post), I was flicking through some of my many recipe books to see if there was something relatively quick I could whip up in the meantime.

It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon a deliciously indulgent recipe for which I miraculously had all the ingredients on hand…

Triple Chocolate Mocha Brownies

Ingredients
  • Ā½ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 125g unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbs instant espresso powder
  • 2 cups golden brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • Ā¼ tsp salt
  • Ā½ cup macadamia nuts, chopped (or other nut of choice, if you wish)
  • 90g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 90g white chocolate, chopped
Method

Preheat the oven to 190Ā°C (375Ā°F). Line a 20cm x 20cm x 5cm baking pan with aluminium foil, allowing the foil to overhang the sides. Grease the foil. (In hindsight, I would also add a layer of baking paper on top of the foil at the base of the pan to prevent sticking.)

Mmm…chocolate and coffee – another match made in heaven!

What did you make last week? Find out more about “I Made It! Monday” on the main event page.

My Favourite Recipe: PASTA perfection

Between work, online uni study and preparing a guest post for the beautiful Flavoured Lemons blog (what a treat and honour!), I’ve fallen a bit behind with the weekly ‘My Favourite Recipe‘ challenge. Better late than never, though, am I right?

Had I not had the wonderful opportunity to spend four amazing days in Tuscany (nearly two years ago now, *sob*), learning how to cook delicious Italian food with Chef Claudio, this would be a completely different post!

Pasta is such a versatile ingredient – whether you use dried, fresh or handmade, you’re pretty much assured a quick, easy and – best of all – relatively cheap meal (unless, of course, you choose to lace it with champagne, lobster, and freshly shaved truffles and the like). I’m not ashamed to admit that if it wasn’t for those jars of ready-made pasta sauce you can buy at any supermarket, I probably would have survived on little more than scrambled eggs or tinned spaghetti when I first left home…we all have to start somewhere!

However, with the help of the Super Food Ideas magazine, countless Australian Women’s Weekly recipe books and the likes of Donna Hay, Nigella and Jamie, it wasn’t long before I discovered just how easy it is to turn a humble bowl of pasta into something delicious using fresh ingredients and home-made sauces. With Chef Claudio, I had the opportunity to take it one step further and learn how to make fresh pasta with an egg, plain flour and my own two hands (no machine required). Although we declared at the time that we would never cook with packet pasta again, I must confess it is still a staple item in our pantry (or fridge, when we get the fresh pasta).

But I digress – I’m here to talk about my favourite pasta recipe!

I was first introduced to the salty-but-sweet, rich, creamy goodness of Spaghetti Alla Carbonara while I was working in a lovely little Italian cafe-restaurant in my late teens; several years later I started looking for recipes in order to try it myself, aware of the fact that it would never measure up to Chef Jan’s beautiful dish.

Over time, my versions of this dish have changed quite considerably, based on the recipes I’d sought out, and whatever ingredients I had in my possession at the time. Once again, Chef Claudio came to the rescue.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to throw away the cream, tins of evaporated milk, and any preconceptions you had about what constituted a true Carbonara…

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara (alla Chef Claudio)

Ingredients:
  • 400g spaghetti (or other pasta of choice – I sometimes use fettucine or spiral pasta)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 200g prosciutto (or bacon)
  • 2 TBS milk
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Note: Besides the measurementsĀ (I tend to use less eggs), the only variation I make to this recipeĀ is to cook chopped mushrooms with the prosciutto…they work beautifully in the recipe.

Method:

Thanks again to B.TX for setting up this challenge! Please join in and support this wonderful weekly event!

Mango-licious (Flavour of the Month)

If you couldn’t tell, I can’t resist a foodie blog event, so I was very excited to discover that Glai from Oh, My Glai! (another one of my fellow Blogging101 graduates) recently created a monthly challenge called Flavour of the Month. Consider me on board!

I’ll admit that I was a bit hesitant when I saw that this month’s flavour was mango, as it really isn’t one of my favourite foods at all (although I can’t put my finger exactly what it is about mangoes I don’t like…go figure!) However, there was one occasion in particular where my opinion of the humble mango was completely swayed in the opposite direction.

I was on holiday with my Other Half in Koh Samui, Thailand a few years back and we were scouring the menu for something sweet to finish off the delicious Tapas lunch we had just enjoyed (more about that in a future post). Immediately, my coconut icecream-seeking radar hit the jackpot – I was so excited that I didn’t notice that it was served with mango, and therefore missed the opportunity to politely request the dessert be served without it.

When it arrived, I couldn’t wait to sink my spoon into the cool, delicious icecream, but because I was on holiday and feeling rather generous, I decided to give the mango one last chance to prove itself.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Never in my life had I tasted something so sweet, juicy and delicious! The mango was so fresh, it was still warm from the sun that it had been basking in before it was gently plucked from the tree only several minutes beforehand.

Unfortunately the photo below doesn’t do a great job of representing the mango itself (as previously mentioned, it was the coconut icecream I was particularly enthused with, and once I’d started on my dessert, there was no stopping me until my plate was clear), but I’m sure you get the idea:

COAFT Mangolicious 1

I couldn’t possibly omit mention of another magical mango moment in my life…

Although it was several months ago, I still dream about my very good friend’s delicious summer pavlova we enjoyed at a pre-Christmas picnic. She had pre-prepared the perfectly light-and-crisp-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside meringue, and decorated it before our very (tempted) eyes under the trees. Instead of the traditional kiwi fruit or strawberries, she chose to give the topping a tropical twist with freshly-sliced banana and mango. It was (to say the least) absolutely di-vine!

Needless to say there was nary a crumb left! Mango-licious indeed…