Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Great Read

A few years ago, one of my beadmaking friends, the lovely Deanna Chase, who makes beautiful beads, started talking about writing a book.  I think she started off with the annual challenge to write a novel in 40 days that a lot of people participate in online.  I have known a number of people who express interest in writing a book, but not everyone has the talent, the drive and the creative edge to make it happen. 

I was very fortunate to be able to participate in the process as Deanna worked towards her goal. I was one of a lucky group of people who got sneak updates, as I helped with proofreading and general 'Beta' reading for her, and it was great fun and very exciting to see her talent and realise that this could really be happening for her - she might very well be published! 

I was so excited to see her first book Haunted on Bourbon Street come out - I had to buy it in both paperback and for Kindle, (so I could read it while waiting for my international parcel to arrive) but it would have been well worth the wait. Its a great book, not a genre that I had previously read (paranormal romance), but entertaining and with great characters and an intriguing story. And it was fun to read about a character who was a beadmaker also. I was also so touched and honoured to be mentioned in the acknowledgements.

In less than a year, Deanna then went on to complete the 2nd book, Witches of Bourbon Street and she is currently having an amazing sale, offerring both these books together in a set for only $1.99 Barnes & Noble and Amazon for a limited time.  At that price, you couldn't possibly go wrong!!

Congratulations Deanna!!!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Portuguese Pork and Darphin Potatoes

A few years ago, when I first read Julie & Julia, I thought "what a great idea - wish I'd thought of that!". And I discounted anything similar as jumping on the bandwagon.  But its been months since I blogged - when I'm travelling seems to be the only time I think of it, and I have a huge collection of cookbooks that don't really get used all that much lately. Partly because I tend to use them as inspiration these days, rather than actually following a recipe, partly because I don't entertain as much as I used to, and also because my husband has been doing most of the cooking for the last few years, while he hasn't been working full time.

So, without any rigorous schedule like Julie used, and without aiming at any specific cookbook, I'm going to aim to cook a new recipe of some kind, from one of my books, at least once a week.

Last night I started the ball rolling with a recipe from my Slow Cooking cookbook. I bought some very lean diced pork at the Asian grocers this week, so I went looking for a recipe to use it.  I settled on Portuguese Pork with Cumin  and to accompany it, I made Darphin Potatoes  from a new book The Original Masterclass: Le Cordon Bleu: Potatoes.

The pork was nice, but I was disappointed the sauce didn't thicken. I don't think it was supposed to, and if I'd been cooking in my usual way (ie making it up as I go along) I would have stirred through some sour cream, or thickened the gravy with cornflour. Instead, I turned it up and left the lid off for the last 30 min of the 4 1/2 hr cooking time, and I think I may have overcooked the pork, as it was a little drier than I expected.  Nice subtle flavours though.  The potatoes were tasty - seasoned only with salt and pepper, they were a great accompaniment to the pork.

Portuguese Pork with Cumin

3 Cloves Garlic, crushed
I tsp Ground Cumin
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh coriander
750g Pork fillet
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3/4 cup chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
coriander leaves to garnish

1. Mix together the first 7 ingredients in a bowl and marinate the pork - coat well.
2. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Remove pork from marinade with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. Fry in batches till golden. Heat remaining oil and cook onions until soft.
3. Place Pork and Onion in the slow cooker, set on low, with marinade and chicken stock.. Cover and simmer for 4 1/2 hrs. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with Lemon wedges and fried potatoes.

There is a saying in my family that we are incapable of following a recipe without replacing various ingredients until it barely resembles the original.... While I was intending to follow this recipe, it wasn't planned, so I did have to leave out or substitute a few things. I used french mustard instead of Dijon, because that's what I had on hand. I didn't have any fresh coriander, so I used ground, and left off the garnish. I didn't have any chicken stock, so I used vegetable... and I've just realised I forgot to add the salt and pepper - I don't use a lot of salt, except in potato dishes (no danger I'd forget to season the Darphin Potatoes!).

Darphin Potatoes

4 medium Potatoes
Oil or clarified butter

1. Peel the potatoes and place in cold water. heat a heavy based frying pan over medium to lo heat.
2. Grate the potatoes to a straw-like thickness. Work quickly to prevent discolouration, but do not rinse, as the starch will help the cake hold together.
3. Add 2 Tbsp of oil or ghee to the pan. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper and squeeze out excess moisture. Place all the potatoes in the pan and press down into an even layer. Reduce heat to low, give the pan a good shake to loosen. If it sticks, add a bit more oil around the edges and shake again.
4. When the edges begin to colour, turn the cake over and press down again. Give the pan a good shake. Cook until nicely browned. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels before serving.