Sunday, February 13, 2011

Paris, Anyone?

I have always loved the thrill of a big city.  There is just nothing like the buzz you get from the feeling of being within the Metropolis, especially when you have lived most of your life away from the hustle and bustle.

In my 20's it was always my dream to go to New York City.  I just got back from my sixth visit - I am enamoured by the place.  I feel I need to keep the dream alive and think about other places I would like to visit, such as Paris.

I almost cringe when I say I want to go to Paris because I know for the most part, it is such a cliché.  Only, it just never lost its style.  I mean, Bogie told Ingrid Bergman, "We'll always have Paris" in Casablanca.  For a line to be so famous in a movie, that has to mean something!

I recently read a book 'Lunch in Paris' by Elizabeth Bard (2010 Harper Collins).  It is a sweet memoir of an American girl and a French guy.  They love to cook, to eat, then voila! - they fall in love. What makes this book so delicious is that not only is it a story about their love, it is also a culinary journey of their relationship, with each chapter ending with recipes.  

How wonderful is it, to not only find your soul mate, but for them to love food as much as you do...  And for it to all happen in Paris... *Swoon*

All this buzz about Paris has sparked an interest in Julia Child.  I am not all that interested in the Julie/Julia phenomenon, but I admit, it was the catalyst.  The real Julia was so honest and endearing.  You can't help but feel at ease and at home with her advice on how to cook.  I am still to make her famous 'Boeuf Bourguignon', but winter will be here soon enough...

My French Revolution is also thanks to David Lebovitz and his blog 'Living the sweet life in Paris'.  He is giving me hunger pangs to travel to this suddenly exotic and must-see locale. David's blog has also introduced me to the recipes of Dorie Greenspan, who's French Apple Tea Cake must be tasted to be believed...

I imagine riding around the city by bicycle, to stop for an impromptu picnic of cheese and Champagne near the Eiffel Tower and looking (as well as sounding) ridiculously foreign.  Mostly I am just salivating over all the fabulous things I plan  to eat, after shopping at all the Patisseries, Boulangeries and Charcuteries...

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship... Would you like pommes frites with that?

Until next time... (au revoir)

Kitty xx

Friday, February 11, 2011

On the lighter side...

It should come as no surprise how much I love to eat.  I love eating almost more than I love cooking.  However my whole 'never trust a skinny chef' philosophy is making my jeans fit a little tighter than I prefer.

Now I am not a thin girl.  Having said that, I am not a big girl either, perhaps a little more rounded and Botticelli than some.  I like to think that the extra pounds I carry are the hallmarks of me being a good cook who obviously enjoys what she eats.  I remember an old work colleague had not seen me for a few years who said 'You look like you have been feeding up in the top paddock' and added 'I s'pose the happy cow makes the most milk'... to which I immediately thought he was making reference to the size of my boobs. I am still scratching my head about that comment.

Anyway, over the past few weeks I have been trying to detox and be good to my body.  I haven't been killing myself with lemon juice and salt water, or on a radical crash diet.  I have been drinking more water, eating more fruit, more grains and upping my fibre intake.  So far I have been feeling a great deal lighter and heaven forbid - healthier! 
My pangs and yearnings for certain rich and fried foods have also subsided considerably.  I find I want to eat less and I am reaching for fruit and water rather than chocolate and coffee.  I don't know how long this fad will last.  I haven't gone to the extreme and started exercising as yet as I figured I would see how I looked and felt after a month of healthy eating to see if I could marry this up with some physical activity.  We'll see.

Pumpkin Risoni with Fetta (recipe inspired by Donna Hay Magazine Dec Jan 2011)

500g pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
100g fetta, crumbled
1/2 cup risoni
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp chili flakes
50g sun dried tomatoes (or semi dried)
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed (if you don't rinse them they give you gas - trust me!)
1 big handful Italian parsley, roughly chopped
1 handful mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 tbs pine nuts
scant amount of garlic, grated
Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Toss pumpkin, fennel seeds, chilli flakes with a lug of olive oil.  Spread out onto a sheet pan (lined with baking paper for easy clean up) and bake in a moderate oven until fork tender (about 20 mins).

Cook risoni as per directions and drain well.  Dry roast your cashews and pine nuts.  In a large bowl, grate about a half a clove of garlic.  Toss in your cooked pumpkin, along with the risoni, tomatoes, chick peas, mint and garlic and toss well to combine.  (The residual heat in the pasta and pumpkin will steam the garlic, taking away the raw taste).  Add your toasted cashews, pine nuts and fetta cheese.  Check seasoning and give a final toss to combine.  Add a little extra olive oil if the mix seems a little dry.

You can't help but feel smug and good about yourself after eating this.  I have served this to carnivores and they have not missed the meat.  However I do believe it would make a nice accompaniment to a big juicy sirloin...

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hello? ... Whoever you are...

Wow!  Blogger stats indicate to me there are quite a few countries viewing Cucina Povera.  I appreciate that Internet is 'working', plus I love the International flavour. Only it seems to be a great deal of voyeurism for the most part!

I just wanted to say thank you for finding me, even bigger thanks for sticking around, clicking around and heartfelt hugs to you if I have given you inspiration to cook!

This project is a wonderful outlet for me.  It gives me joy and brings me inspiration, not only to cook, but to write and to share my thoughts, feelings and recipes.  Though I may never hear from every person who reads this blog, I just wanted to say thank you for making my day and stopping by.

Maybe one day we can all get together for afternoon tea.  Wouldn't it be grand!

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Summer Picnic / Anytime Picnic

I don't know what it is about picnics, but they make me feel so nostalgic.  I love filling up my wicker basket and going off on a local adventure.  I recently bought an old Thermos Flask from my local Op Shop.  It is old and its green and I love the Retro feel I get even just by looking at it.  (I just want to tie on a silk scarf, jump into my Karmann Ghia and drive up the coast!)

I guess when it comes to things like picnics, tea parties or just tea for me I can't help but be a bit of a fuddy duddy.  I love using all my silly little nick knacks and accouterments - serving on pretty plates and drinking out of pretty cups, sitting on a tartan rug with a cosy blanket on hand just in case it might rain...

It is fun.  I think it is the food stylist in me (or 1950's housewife) just begging to get out.  If you are going to eat, entertain, or just enjoy time on your own, why not let it be a chic or luxe event? 

My picnic was down by the beach, Rainbow Beach in fact.  The weather was a little inclement, so I was sure to pack accordingly.  The food was simple - a cold platter of deli meats and cheese, olives, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes and a fresh sourdough Vienna loaf.  I had some left over apple tea cake which went down really well with my thermos of coffee (I was so glad that after 5 hours my coffee was still hot!  $3 well invested!).

It was a beautiful day, despite the weather, and I was able to even get down to the beach to play in the sand for a little while.

Too soon it was time to go home.  But I know there will be other Sundays...

Until next time...

Kitty xx

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When Vanilla is better than Chocolate...

I don't think I could live in a world without chocolate.  It is one of the most comforting things I know.  Sometimes a square of chocolate is better than a warm hug on a cold day, a block of chocolate can help one drown their sorrows.  It is the thing I reach for when there are plenty of other 'healthy choices' in the fridge or pantry, and what I crave when there is nothing else to eat.

So why on earth would I say vanilla is sometimes better than chocolate? 

It was a self-declared 'Experimentation Sunday'.  I had a jar of vanilla pods (a sweet bargain I probably will never find again - 12 pods for $4) and a Christmas magazine (a little late, I know) where I found a recipe for vanilla syrup.  Now I pay at least $7 for vanilla extract and $14 for vanilla bean paste, so imagine my joy at being able to make my own vanilla concoction (with possible potential for use in baking) for nix?

My intentions for this syrup were not pure, but indeed had purpose.  Yes, dear friends, this syrup was destined for a very strong, very vanilla and very velvety smooth Martini.

I can hear Martini purists getting all squeamish and wanting to hit me over the head with their Cocktail Bibles and I can probably hear you cussing and swearing at me for having the hide to call a 'Cocktail' a 'Martini'.  Well this is my blog, my drink and I like calling it a Martini.

Call it what you will, it is a rather potent but smooth and deliciously syrupy-sweet drink. 

Firstly, here is the recipe for the Vanilla Syrup.

Vanilla Syrup (Recipe from Donna Hay Magazine, Dec/Jan 2010/11)

Place 1 cup of caster sugar, 1 cup of water and 2 split vanilla pods into a saucepan.  Set heat to medium and stir with a metal spoon until the sugar becomes dissolved.  Let the mixture come to the boil and simmer gently for 5 minutes.  The syrup will thicken slightly.  Allow to cool completely and pour into a sterilized glass bottle (making sure you add the vanilla pods as well).  Makes 1 cup.

Vanilla Martini/Vanilla Cocktail

2 shots of chilled Vodka
1 shot of your home-made Vanilla Syrup

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour over Vodka and vanilla syrup.  (Wave a bottle of Vermouth over your cocktail shaker to ward off any evil Martini Spirits).  Shake your booty vigorously along with the shaker and strain into a chilled Martini glass.

Enjoy in moderation.  Serves 1

I would love to think I could convert aficionado's of the Mud Slide with my sophisticated alternative.

I still have some syrup left from my weekend of indulgence which I plan to experiment with by using in place of vanilla extract in my baking.  I also plan to 'recycle' the vanilla pods for my next batch of syrup.  I will be sure to post my results.

Until next time,

Cin Cin!

Kitty xx