Friday, August 10, 2007

Some Of That...A Little Bit Of This, And Whatever's Left Over

Have you ever made a mess in the kitchen? Silly question, isn't it? I'm sure you've all experienced those disastrous "kitchen moments". I know I've had a few! For instance, one Saturday evening a few years ago. I was entertaining dinner guests. The dining table set and decorated to the hilt, an elaborate brass candelabra held centre stage on the table of eight.

Following the agreeably appetising first and second courses, the popping of corks, wine sipping (read "guzzling"), spirited conversation and laughter, the time had arrived for dessert. Merrily, I headed off to the kitchen where alone to my own devices I energetically shook a plastic container of cream. The cream needed to be thickened only slightly, not whipped. My guests remained seated at the dining table in the dining room immersed in conversation and wine, while I, in the kitchen, became immersed in cream! At a rapid rate of knots and with the force of a misguided missile, the top flew off the cream’s container. It’s amazing how far cream can spread. You should try it one night...perhaps not! Equally, mushroom sauce makes a similar mess when one drops a saucepan full of a hot, creamy mushroom sauce on to the kitchen floor. The evening that particular calamity occurred, the steak ended up being served with mustard on the side, minus sauce. I made no mention of the upwardly-mobile mushroom sauce and its vast range when I returned to my dinner guests. Until this day those guests remain completely unaware of the drama that unfolded in the kitchen, unless, of course, they read this post, which is unlikely. However just in case, purposely, I’ve divulged no names! It took me days to remove the mess from my open, country-style kitchen cupboards! And yes, I still prepare mushroom sauce and shake cream containers, but nowadays with extra care! I suggest you do similar….

Prawns & Asparagus Bruschetta

1 jar pesto sauce (you can make your own but there are some great varieties on the supermarket shelf these days)
1 sml bunch thin stalk asparagus
Thick slices of Italian or country bread
1-2 vine-ripened tomato diced
About 36 cooked prawns/shrimp
8 oz freshly-shredded parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil (I always wonder where they find that extra virgin!)
cracked pepper
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Balsamic vinegar

Combine olive oil and garlic in a small bowl; set aside. Peel and devein prawns; set aside.

Steam asparagus with water until desired tenderness, like slightly past
al dente. Slice bread into thick slices. Spread even coat of pesto sauce over one side.
Lightly toast (do not brown). Remove seeds from tomato; dice. When asparagus is done and pesto-coated bread slices are lightly toasted, break stalks approximately 3-4 inches in length and place 2-3 stalks on each bread slice. Place prawns on top of each slice. Sprinkle each with diced tomato and shredded parmesan cheese. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and cracked pepper to taste. Serve warm/room temperature.

Fig and Goat Cheese Tart
Serves 8-10. You will need a 9 to 11 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

For the tart shell:
¾ cup plain (all-purpose) flour
¾ c. whole wheat self-raising flour
½ c. fine yellow cornmeal (not stone ground)
1 tblsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter, chopped into pieces
1 ½ tblsp. fresh rosemary, chopped or ¾ tblsp. dried
4 tblsp. ice water plus more as needed

For the filling:
8 oz. goat cheese
½ cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup cream
500g (1 lb) fresh figs, trimmed and sliced crosswise
1 tblsp. honey
2 tblsp. red currant jelly (or strawberry or raspberry jam)

Make the shell: Preheat oven to 218-220C (425F). Add the flours, cornmeal, sugar and salt to a food processor; pulse to combine. Add the cold butter (straight from the fridge) and rosemary. Process until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with little clumps of butter still visible. Add the 4 tblsp. of water; pulse until just combined. Pinch a bit of dough with your fingers. If the dough holds together, it's done, otherwise add a bit more water, a half tablespoon at a time, until your dough just holds together. It should still be fairly dry and may seem a bit crumbly. As long as it holds together, you’ll be fine. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured cutting board and bring it together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Roll the dough into a large disc, about 1/8 inch thick. Then roll the dough so it is draped over the rolling pin and lay it back out over your tart pan. Gently press the dough into the edges of the pan and into the fluted sides. If your dough looks like a bit of a patchwork because it did not roll into a perfect circle, don’t worry. Once it is filled, no one will know. Run your rolling pin over the sharp edges of the pan to cut away any excess dough. Place the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove your shell from the freezer and prick all over with a fork. Put it on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm and just barely starting to brown. If the bottom of the tart starts to bubble up during baking, just prick the spot with a fork. Cool completely in the tart pan, then add the filling.

Make the filling: Preheat oven to 175C (350F). Add the goat cheese, ricotta, egg, salt and cream to the food processor. Process until you reach a smooth consistency. Transfer the goat cheese mixture to the cooled tart shell and spread evenly with the back of a spoon. Arrange the figs in concentric circles starting at the outside of the tart and working your way to the center. Add the honey and red currant jelly to a saucepan over low heat. Cook stirring frequently until melted and combined. Use a pastry brush to dot the glaze all over the figs. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cheese is firm and the figs are softened. The glaze will bleed around the edges of the shell, but you will not have a soggy tart as the dough is incredibly firm and resilient. Cool on a wire rack, remove the tart from the pan and serve warm or at room temperature. Keeps tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Potato, Rosemary & Goat's Cheese Tarts

1 Sheet ready-made puff pastry

1 large potato

120g goat’s cheese sliced,

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves,

Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 200C. Cook the potato in a large saucepan of salted, boiling water for 20-25 minutes or until tender, but not falling apart. Drain, peel and cut into 5mm slices. Cut puff pastry into 4 squares. Top each with slices of potato, goat’s cheese and rosemary leaves. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove from oven and drizzle with olive oil. Season to taste if you like. You can add and detract different toppings/fillings...whatever takes your fancy at the time.

Banana & Date Loaf
3 over-ripe bananas
2 Tbsp lemon juice
200 grams sour cream or yoghurt
300 ml sugar
3 eggs
1/2-3/4 cup pitted and chopped dates
400 ml plain flour (about 1-3/4 cups)
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp Buderim candied ginger nibbles (optional...but a really nice additive!)

Peel bananas and mash bananas with a fork, sprinkle with lemon juice and put aside.
Whisk eggs with sugar until pale and frothy. Stir in sour cream. Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger) and fold into the egg mixture together with the banana mush. Stir in candied ginger and dates. Pour the mixture into a prepared loaf tin and bake at 175C (350F) for about an hour. Test for doneness with a toothpick/skewer - it should come out clean and dry. Take the loaf out of the oven; let it cool for 5-10 minutes, then turn out the loaf and cool it completely on a metal rack.


  1. What's a leftover?

  2. Okay! Okay, Lee! So you did what your mother told you and ate everything on your plate and more! No left-overs for you, then! ;)

  3. This all looks good to me. No visible disasters this time.

  4. No, jmb...but it's the invisible, hidden one that you've got to worry about! ;)

  5. Anonymous11:32 PM

    A meal fit for a King. Or a Queen.

  6. G'day, Steve...yep...we won't go hungry over the weekend! :)

  7. Hi Lee ~~ Had a mental picture of you splattered in cream -
    not to mention the mushroom sauce. We all have similar disasters, but we keep them quiet. So glad you liked the patch of grass and no doubt keeps the soldier sane. Granny Ann said an American soldier did the same thing. They must miss home dreadfully. Take care, my friend, Love, Merle.

  8. Yes, they must,'s a harsh world out there and it doesn't get any better.

    The green, green grass of home...I think there could be a song in there somewhere! ;)

  9. You always make stuff I don't even like look good! geez lol.. I'm wondering why you don't have a cook book out?

  10. I only have had my allotted 2 cups of coffee so this post has made me as hungry as a Red neck in a fried chicken shack.

    Those kitchen mishaps are funny when they become a faded memory, unless you have had enough wine at the time of explosion.

  11. I'm tempting you to try those things you don't like, never know, your taste may have changed! ;)

    I might have to borrow that saying off you at times, Lady Di! ;)

    A bit of both re the reactions to the mishaps! ;)

  12. Anonymous12:32 PM

    Lee, You do understand YOU ARE KILLING ME! The fig and goat cheese creation pushed me over the edge into the hopelessly lost world of "I MUST HAVE THAT!" land...

    How firm are you in your heterosexuality? Marry me!


  13. lol Sorry, Elizabeth...I'm very firm in my sexuality! Hell would have to freeze over before I married again, anyway!

    Fresh figs...they are too few. Wonderful creations. :)

  14. Lee, what fabulous food! I am definitely going to try the fig and goat's cheese tart and banana loaf. Oh, cream is a disaster! I've had many moments like that, but because I curse so loudly, I have not been as successful as you in hiding the event from my guests!

  15. Yep, been there, done that. When I was making the kids' milkshakes in the blender and didn't have the top fastened properly. Oh joy! A strawberry flavoured kitchen!

    However, even if I don't have disasters like that, I still make a hell of a mess in the kitchen. It ends up being the cleanest room in the place because I always have to wipe walls, wash the floor...

  16. Hey Welsh and Robyn...glad to see I'm not alone! The trick is to make sure the music and conversation is loud enough to muffle the cursing, Welsh! ;)

    Robyn...the trick I learned by cooking professionally, is to clean up as you go along...finish one preparation and before commencing another, clean up the first, not putting the lid firmly on the blender is another matter all together! ;)

    I've said before...I learned to curse by working in kitchens! ;)

  17. Anonymous7:24 PM

    Wasn't going to divulge this, but while making an angel food cake the hand mixer caught fire, which in turn led to cake batter and melted plastic being slung onto every corner of the kitchen before I could get the darn thing turned off, unplugged and under running water in the sink to put the fire out.
    It was a classic Lucille Ball moment and I felt like an idiot...


  18. Hahahahaha...Elizabeth...that reminds me of the time I was flipping pancakes on Sunday afternoon, thinking I was oh, so smart! One neatly disappeared down between the stove and the wall, never to be seen of again! ;)

  19. I must add...with great difficulty I did my utmost to scrape all the remains off the wall and the oven wall, but with about half an inch space to work it in, it was mighty difficult! lol The air was pretty hot that afternoon, not only from the heat emanating from the stove! ;)

  20. I have in the past, and shall continue into the future scolding you for trying to derail the efforts of those of us who need to remove some of the effects that gravity has on us.
    I'll try instead to think of liver and onions. (I know someone out there is going yum yum.)
    Yes, kitchen disasters are by far the most memorable. But so far, no fires for ol Cliff. I do have a Sister who has a new kitchen because of a forgotten batch of popcorn.

  21. I had to laugh about the cream. I can only imagine. The kitchen and I do not speak the same language. The only thing I operate is the microwave and the refrigerator door. I did put a pizza in the oven one time and the element exploded. It was a really old oven. Does that count as a disaster?

  22. Cliff...I love liver and bacon...especially the next day when the flavour has gone through the gravy...yum, yum!

    Yep, Corn Dog...that counts! ;)

  23. Anonymous1:53 PM

    Going out for dinner. Now have to decide which restaurant serves the best liver and onions. This blog site is dangerous! (But I love it!)

    PS - Lee, I traded a box of my figs to a neighbor farmer for a box of her pears. They are canning pears and hard as rocks. Any ideas?


  24. You know what these recipes remind me of and don't ask me how I got to this point. My grandfather had a wonderful fig tree outside the kitchen when I was growing up. He made fig preserves and between the preserves and milk toast,it brings back wonderful memories. I just love it when you tell us kitchen disasters, at least in my book then I know I wasn't the only one to experience disasters. :)))

  25. Elizabeth, I've recorded and then deleted your email addy as you can see. I'll get some recipes over to you very soon.

    I love fresh figs, too, Sandra...picked and eaten straight from the trees. Not enough of them grown around here these days. Kitchen disasters...great fun! ;)

  26. Hi Gledwood...good to see you didn't speak with your mouth full! ;)

  27. Anonymous5:49 PM

    Going to be up late peeling more pears. Lee, if I bake them or simmer them in butter w/ brown sugar and spices can I freeze them in freezer bags for later use or will they become too mushy? Do I need to add lemon juice or canning preservatives? Keep in mind these are Texas canning pears (like horse apples and hard as rocks).

    All your recipes sound delish and I look forward to trying them but I need to make them "workable" first.