Care packages

Care packages

We are constantly being warned about the dangers of comfort foods; food that we turn to when we’re feeling down, food that fills more than just our hunger pangs. However, what if this is actually the point? Food has the ability to nourish more than just our stomachs.
At some time in your life, a dear friend or family member may need your help. Whether they have had a bad accident, a serious operation, or they are in the midst of a crisis, you can show them that you care, simply by cooking for them. Not only is it practical, it makes everyone feel good. Nothing tastes as good as a homemade meal kindly dropped at your doorstep. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, simple home cooking is the best, when it has been made with extra love and care.
Here are a few tips when making up a care package. Use disposable containers: they are easy to transport, store, reheat and no washing up required.
They are also practical as you can write any cooking or reheating instructions on the lid. Include a copy of the recipe: it lists all the ingredients (in case of allergies) and besides, if your friend likes what you have made, they may make it again.
Don’t forget to include vegetables or salad ingredients. You can prep these by washing, peeling and chopping. You can boil some potatoes, ready to be roasted.
I have included three recipes for you to make. Firstly, a simple chicken and corn soup that is perfect when you need nourishment, but don’t really feel like eating much.
The sticky lamb shanks take advantage of a cheaper, tasty cut and long, slow cooking rewards you with a delicious stew. And lastly, my mum’s recipe for meatballs in barbecue sauce.
So next time you are cooking, make up double the quantity and send some off to someone you love.

Mum’s meatballs in barbecue sauce

What could be more comforting than your mum’s recipe? If possible, ask your butcher to mince some topside. Make up a double quantity and package some up for a friend.

500g mince beef
1 cup soft breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
1 egg, beaten
salt and freshly ground pepper
½ (half) cup plain flour
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs worchestershire sauce
1 tbs white vinegar
few drops of Tabasco (optional)
1 tsp celery salt

In a medium bowl, place the mince, breadcrumbs, onion, capsicum and egg. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.
Place flour on a large, flat plate.
Roll mixture into balls and gently coat in flour.
Place oil in a medium frypan and heat. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside. Wipe out the frypan, then add tomato sauce, water, sugar, worchestershire, vinegar, Tabasco and celery salt. Stir to combine. Bring to boil, reduce heat, add meatballs and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes, turning halfway through.
Serve with rice or creamy mashed potato.

Serves 4.

Chicken and sweetcorn soup

This is such an easy soup. You can puree it smooth, leave it in delicious chunky pieces, or, like me, a bit of both. Use good quality homemade stock if you can, as it is nutritious and so easy to make. For a soup ‘to go’, package up the garnishes separately. Also good with fresh egg noodles; pack separately and send with heating instructions.

50g butter
2 leeks, washed and sliced
1 litre good quality chicken stock
3 fresh corn cobs, kernels removed
2 chicken fillets (500g)
salt and pepper
fried shallots to garnish
1 red chilli, sliced (optional)
fresh coriander leaves

Melt butter.
Add leeks and cook until softened.
Add stock and bring to the boil
Add chicken fillets and corn kernels and cook over a gentle heat until chicken is cooked, about 5 – 10 minutes.
Remove chicken.
Using a stick blender, puree the soup, leaving some chunky pieces for texture.
Shred the chicken with your fingers and return to the pan.
Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with fried shallots, chilli and coriander.
Serve with crusty bread.

Serves 4.

Middle Eastern Sticky lamb shank stew

Somewhere between a soup and a stew, this is chock-a-block with yummy vegetables. Delicious ladled over fluffy cous cous, serve with extra flat bread to mop up all the juices.

1 brown onion
2 celery stick
2 carrots
1 leek
60 ml olive oil
4 medium lamb shanks
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground fennel
1 tsp ground cumin
1 stick cinnamon
1 tbs harissa (optional)
pinch saffron
1 ½ litres chicken stock
400g Jap pumpkin
2 parsnips
2 large potatoes
Cous cous, to serve
½ cup fresh coriander leaves, picked

Preheat oven to 180C fan forced.
Chop onion, celery, carrot and leek into medium sized dice.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy based casserole dish and brown lamb shanks on all sides. Remove and set aside. Add diced vegetables to the pan and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, fennel, cumin, cinnamon, harissa and saffron and cook for a further minute. Return shanks to pan, add stock and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and place casserole in oven, uncovered for 1½ hours, until lamb meat is tender and falling off the bones.
Dice the pumpkin, parsnip and potato in medium dice and place in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat well. Place in the oven for 1 hour or until the vegetables are cooked and softened.
Remove the lamb and other roasted vegetables from the oven.
When cool enough to handle, gently pull away the lamb meat from the shanks and break into large pieces. Discard the bones.
Mix the roasted vegetables with the lamb.
Place a large spoonful of cous cous in a shallow bowl and ladle over the lamb and vegetables. Scatter over coriander and serve.

serves 4.

Mexican Day of The Dead cookies

Recently had fun making these cookies for a Mexican party.

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here’s how:

Make a plain cookie dough (see recipe below).

Cut out skull shapes (I bought these cookie cutter shapes on ebay from yellow-octopus).

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Bake, then remove from oven and allow to cool.

To make the icing, roll out some ready made royal icing (available at supermarkets and cake decorating stores).

To get it really thin, I used my pasta machine (and some cornflour to prevent sticking).

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Cut out shapes, then brush cooled cookies with some sugar syrup and place the icing on top. Turn the cutter over and press the stamp into the icing to make the indentations.

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For a simple decoration, I used powdered food colouring from the cake decorating shop. Just brush it on with a soft makeup brush.

The recipe below is adapted from The Joy of Fred blog.

From Fred’s Cookbook

1 cup unsalted butter



1 cup sugar



1 large egg


1 tsp. vanilla extract


1.5 tsp. baking powder



3 cups flour



1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180C).

In a standing mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients a little at a time to the butter mixture.

Mix until flour is completely incorporated.

Split dough in half, and roll each half between two sheets of parchment paper to desired thickness, and chill for 30 minutes.

 

(although the original recipe has this instruction, I didn’t do it. I used the dough straight away. I didn’t need to roll between the sheets of parchment).

Remove from refrigerator, and carefully lift off one sheet of parchment, then lightly dust the dough with flour.

Replace the parchment, flip over and repeat.


(again, I didn’t follow this step. I simply baked the cookies)

Cut, stamp then bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies begin brown around the edges.

 

(you can stamp the design straight on to the cookie dough, or bake them plain, then stamp the  design onto the icing)

Curtis Stone recipe for Coles

Check out this super easy and delicious Korean beef and rice recipe in the latest issue of Coles magazine.

Curtis Stone Korean recipe for Coles

Curtis Stone Korean recipe for Coles

Looking for assistants

I am lucky to have several great assistants who have been with me for awhile now and they know how much I treasure them. However,I’m always on the lookout for an extra pair of hands to help on a shoot. Sometimes, other stylists contact me looking for an assistant too. So, leave your contact details here, if you are interested in helping out.

You never know where it may lead.

Food Styling Class in Melbourne

Come to my food  styling class at Essential Ingredient in Melbourne in July.

There are two classes to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that suits you.

http://www.essentialingredient.com.au/events/food-styling-1/

http://www.essentialingredient.com.au/events/food-styling-2/

 

Looking forward to seeing you there. I have already had several enquiries so book in quick as places are limited.

 

food styling class Melbourne July 2014

Great news!

I’m giving a food styling class at Essential Ingredient in Prahran on Saturday July 19th.

The following day, I am giving another class, along with SImon Griffiths, a respected food and travel photographer. We will be demonstrating, styling and photographing some difficult foods, including ice-cream, roast chicken and soup.

More info on the essential Ingredient website. I have posted a link on my facebook food + style page too.

Please come along.

Mum’s caramel bananas

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Caramel bananas with banana and dulce de leche icecream

My childhood treat of caramel bananas is given a makeover, with the addition of a super easy ice cream and the bitter crunch of praline. Can you ever have too much caramel?

 

icecream:

4 over ripe bananas

1 cup dulce de leche*

 

praline:

¾ cup caster sugar

½ cup almonds

 

bananas:

60g butter

½ cup brown sugar

4 ripe bananas, peeled and cut in thick slices on an angle

 

To make ice cream, blend bananas in a food processor until smooth. Add dulche leche and blend. Pour into a plastic container and place in freezer for 4 hours until firm.

To make praline, line a baking tray with baking paper.

Heat a heavy based frypan over high heat. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar, allowing it to melt before adding more. As it melts, stir with a wooden spoon to ensure it doesn’t burn. Keep adding the sugar and stirring until it is a dark golden brown colour.

Quickly add the almonds and pour the mixture onto the tray.

Allow to cool, then break into large chunks and place in a food processor. Pulse until roughly crushed.

For the bananas, melt butter in a pan over medium heat, add brown sugar and stir. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring, until caramel forms. Add sliced banana and continue to cook until banana is soft and golden.

Remove from heat and drizzle over any extra caramel from the pan.

Serve with a scoop of ice cream and sprinkle with praline.

Serves 4.

 

*To Make Dulce de leche:

 

Place a tin of condensed milk in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours, topping up with extra water to keep the tin covered. Remove and allow to cool.

 

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