A little too quite Family Dinner

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This week was a simple family dinner as much as it can be. Although it was unusually quiet because one of the sisters has gone to Cambodia for study and a holiday. Until now, I never realised that she was the loudest one at dinner, it just isn’t the same without her and her man. Whenever you see them they are bursting energy and so much to tell you no matter how mundane it may be. I am looking forward the family dinner when she returns will be a fun one.

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For tonight’s feast Mamma made some family favourites.

Succulent steak cooked to perfection. It was never a particular type of steak. But if it was on special at the grocery store that would be the one, she does need 12 of them plus extra for left overs. Cooking them on the bbq was Pappa’s job, he always does a perfect job. Unless he gets distracted by something the family are doing, then you see him rush to the bbq bellowing with smoke to take them off as quickly as possible. Most of the time they are saved.

Wholesome veggies, corn on the cob, green beans from the garden and roast potatoes with Mamma’s blend of seasonings. (I need to find out what they are)

A mixed salad (that is different ever time) it doesn’t sound much but, her combination of Nonno’s home grown tomatoes, juicy ripe and succulent,. Salty kalamata olives, herbs from the garden, red onion, cucumber, feta, every kind of lettuce leaf with the perfect balance of olive oil and Vinegar.

My number one favourite, CATALONGA! Its cooked chicory, but it’s so much more than just fried greens. I will put up the recipe soon.

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Last Australia Day’s Bundy bbq sauce

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Last Australia Day we had more people than you could fit in our 2 bedroom apartment over for a bbq. I made a big hamburger feast with home made patties, 2 types of cheeses, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, caramelized onions, flipped eggs, crispy bacon, pineapple slices, pickles, beetroot, a few relishes, coleslaw and my own Bundaberg rum bbq sauce. I thought I would share the recipe for the sauce.

The recipe is simple, but you do need to season well and  constantly taste the sauce while it is cooking to make it to your liking. I added more chilli because I like it spicier.

Let me know how it turns out and if you added anything to make it your own. If you need any advice leave a comment.

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Kangaroo Valley Australia Day

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This Australia Day we were invited to camp at a friends farm in Kangaroo Valley. His uncle had recently brought it off an old Italian man, that had to sell the property as the vineyard and orchard were getting too much work for him. My Italian man and I heard the word ‘vineyard’ and we were in. A group of us drove down with all our camping gear ready for a couple of nights. Usually I would be busy the night before excitedly getting all the meals prepared, because normally when we camp the guys build a fire and that’s what we cook from. When we have gone camping before I have made stews, sandwiches, veggies in foil to roast, pre measured ingredients for a damper, banana smore’s and other snacks. Unfortunately for me (only) this time it was not campfire camping, the farm we were going to was only about an acre and they had a shed with a bbq. This would be a nice break from cooking, to be able sit, relax and enjoy the weekend. Our plan was to have a bbq lunch, dinner at the pub which was just a few minutes walk from the farm and bacon and egg rolls for breakfast. The Farm was very charming with heaps of potential, I can see why our friends uncle brought it. We set up our tent’s and got everything organised to start relaxing and exploring. We did so much in a day but a few highlights were, watching the guys shoot a compound bow, one of their new toys. I tried to have a go but there was no way I could pull it back, I did enjoy watching the guys search for all the stray arrows. My Italian man and I went exploring the small vinyard tasting a few of the grapes and mixing flavours. It felt like we were in Tuscany, inspecting and blending grape varieties getting ready for harvest. We were told they were Shiraz and Verdicchio grapes and were given a bottle from the uncle to try, it was honey like and very smooth I could’ve had another bottle.

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Our lunch was your typical sausages on the bbq, defiantly nothing wrong with that though. There is nothing better than a sizzling sausage on white bread with melting butter and tomato sauce oozing out of it. We did cut our trip short as we got rained out but we did so much in a day it felt like we had been there for longer. The only think I would be happy about was saying goodbye to were the flys, it was cow country and I think they were even immune to Aeroguard. It was a great Australia day full of friends, food and good times

Catch of the day

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Last weekend my Italian man and one of his brothers went spear fishing (the kind where you free dive to catch fish, no air tanks just your own breath) and caught a few fish for our dinner.  They had a number of fish i was given a black fish, 3 goat fish and 2 leather jackets. They descaled and gutted them for me as I am not the best at handling fish, but I will get better. Not being very familiar with preparing/cooking fish, his brother said the leather jackets are best on the BBQ so I froze them until I needed them later. For the black rock fish he said it was not his favourite for eating and suggested to make a fish stock, it made a really mild stock great for most cooking.The goat fish I will use in a soup. I called Nonna to see if she had any tips or recipes, she said she just makes hers up as she goes and to look up a recipe and I shouldn’t go wrong. I didn’t get the recipe from any favourite cook book, I just wanted something simple that worked for what I needed at the time. I get so disappointed when you find a great recipe in a cook book to find “test kitchen” clearly hasn’t done their job and Its not even proof read correctly (2 cups instead of 2 teaspoons). Sometimes you just need to go for the simple ones that have been tried and tested. I got the recipe for the stock and the stew from www.taste.com.au. I excitedly went to the grocery store to collect all my supplies, I always get such a rush when shopping for ingredients.

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Beginnings of Fish stock here is the recipe

I started with the stock following the recipe step by step, with a few adjustments I have made in blue on the recipe. There was quite a lot so I halved it, measured out what I needed, froze the rest and the other half I gave to Mamma, she loves it when we share food.

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Then onto the soup, again I followed it by the recipe. I made a few adjustment in blue as well. Cooking the soup and fish stock was easier than I expected and doesn’t take that long to make, the longest time needed was waiting for the flavours to develop. We ate the soup with a crusty Ciabatta loaf and a chilled Sauvignon Blanc (lucky thats all we had in the fridge) a perfect meal . It turned out great. Such a great challenge. I will do it again.

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Nonna said- Don’t remove the skin that forms on the top of the stock this is extra flavour and it is where all the healthy omega 3 from the fish is.

I like to use the Mutti brand crushed tomatoes and passata ,I’m not trying to advertise, I am just in love with it.

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Voila! Italian Fish soup. Here is the recipe on taste.com.au

La Cucinetta

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This is my little kitchen (Cucinetta)! I know what your thinking, I thought the same when we first moved into our place. But you will be surprised what you can do in a 2 by 3 meter kitchen when u make it your own. Everything is at an arms reach and I don’t waste any time afterwards cleaning up, because you can’t let this tiny kitchen get in a mess while your cooking you will have no room for anything else. I have learned to clean as I cook and it defiantly works to my advantage now. This is my little domain that I let my creative mind go, whether its recreating something from the many chefs that I admire, my library of cook books or if its making something up with what ever I have in the fridge and cupboard. I still surprise my self with what I can create in here.

Mamma’s cake recipe

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From Mama’s Women’s Weekly Italian cook book.

Now I haven’t had an occasion to attempt to make this cake and I don’t want to make it just for the sake of it because I may eat it all, Nonna would not approve. I wanted to give you the recipe so you can give it ago if you like. If you cant read the recipe in the picture I can send you a copy that I have typed up. I cant seem to find it on the net to give you a link. If you are lucky enough to have a copy of the 90’s ‘Women’s Weekly Italian’ cook book you will find it in there.

Let me know how you go when you give it a try and if you have any questions I can ask Nonna.

Nonno’s 81st birthday dinner

IMG_4757This Wednesday night Family dinner was particularly special Nonno turned 81 today, this is Papa’s side of the family. So this was a combined birthday dinner with our weekly dinner, the only difference was there was more food, people and special Grappa to be had after dinner. This Nonno is more “Italian” than the other one. When you greet him you have to say hello and how are you in Italian or you will be corrected.  I have got this routine all worked out now but run into trouble when I do this, he then forgets that I can’t speak Italian and starts having a conversation with me, I just smile and nod that usually works.

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Prosecco and pomegranate spritz

The nights feast started off with chill and garlic barbecued prawns that Papa cooked, this was his job for the night. Zia made all of girls a Prosecco and pomegranate spritz. Just a glass of Prosecco ( Italian dry white sparkling wine) and pomegranate seeds spooned into the glass for colour and sweetness. It was so beautiful to look at with the magenta bubbles rising to the top.

Chili and Garlic Barbecued prawns.

Chili and Garlic Barbecued prawns.

We ate the barbecued prawns outside on the porch, I had never seen prawns being peeled so quickly they all were naturals, in one quick movment. It was a twist with the head and peeled the body and legs shell off all at once leaving the tail on to hold while eating. I didn’t even have to peel any, My Italian Man was doing it for me. All of the women didn’t have to peel any their men did it for them like it was their duty, It was very sweet. We sat out here for a while enjoying the light of the afternoon and listening to Nonno tell us this will be his last birthday, he tell us this every year.

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When it started to get dark we all piled into the huge table and started to chat away while the finishing touches of dinner were being made. Tonight’s feast included two huge slab Lasagna’s, a few salads, bread and the home made family wine. I selected a little of everything for my plate very excited to eat this lasagna its one of my favourites, but it was different this time. I was a  bit confused not eating the usual glorious traditional beef lasagna, this time it was a turkey version. Very strange. I found out that this was not an experimental dish Mamma wanted to try but leftover turkey that had been kept frozen from Christmas. It made me laugh, they will never waste anything it can always be created into something again. It was nice but just not a good a the usual. I would never say that though.

After cleaning up we had the birthday cake, the glow from the candles shone on Nonno’s beaming face showing how happy he was that we were all with him celebrating another year. Candles were blown out and a wish made, it was now coffee and grappa time. Zia had made the birthday cake tonight, very appropriately named ‘Mamma’s cake’ she got the recipe from the ever faithful ‘Women’s weekly Italian’ cook book. It was a coffee/ Kahlua sponge with custard filling and frosting. It was to die for. ( I will post the recipe shortly)

We were all full and happy and Nonno and his sons were well into the grappa having a very interesting discussion but I had no idea what was going on because they had switched to talking in Italian, they do this after drinking grappa. If I followed them closely you could get the idea from their animated hand gestures. The night was ending and we all said our goodbyes with the awkward ‘which way are you going’ double kiss from Nonno.

Breakfast at Como wharf

IMG_4874Nonna ‘s number one priority is family and bringing us together for whatever reason. So keeping that in mind I took the day off on Friday and spent it with my Mum and Grandma. I feel like we haven’t spent some ‘just us’ time in a while. I know there is always the weekend but the a week day is more quiet, less busy and you are not rushed out by a cafe trying to seat their waiting customers. Sounds a little stupid I know.

So my Mum suggested this little Cafe by Como wharf. We drove down early in the morning, it wasn’t even opened yet so we had a little time to walk around the water to enjoy the beautiful view of the river. A perfect  sunny morning hardly anyone around no Mums with prams or people runny yet, just us. Once the cafe was opened we sat on the deck by the water under these huge Moreton Bay fig trees, they created a beautiful shady canopy for our breakfast. Looking over the menu which was nice and small, I don’t like big menus at cafes. My thinking is if its small and simple they focus only on these few and can do them well. I find if they have 25 or more dishes its too complicated, you don’t know if everything is really all that fresh and the chef’s probably rush though them just to get the orders out . But if its small and changed regularly they can do the dish over 100 times like its a home cooked meal to them they know it so well. My Grandma and mum ordered the pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, my Grandma thought this was weird but gave it a go. I ordered the eggs Benedict with salmon. It didn’t take long for the meals to come out. They looked clean, fresh and I was anxious to cut into my poached eggs to see if they were oozy and soft. I always get so disappointed when i get golf balls. Poached eggs are one of my things to yet get the hang of so I like to ordered them because I cant make them myself. My plate was placed in front of me by a lovely friendly waitress, I cut in to my eggs and success beautiful and oozy! All of our meals were flawless, the cafe was beautiful, serene and peaceful. Some great quality time with the women I look up to.

If you would like details on here this cafe is leave me a comment and ill get back to you

Nonna would have approved. I will have to ask her if she has any secrets for poaching eggs. I still cant get them right even if I follow the book.

Wednesday night family dinner

Breaking bread with the family

Breaking bread with the family

My Italian man comes from a family of ten. Dinner time is never ordinary – including all the ring-ins – there are now 15 of us. There is always laughter, knowledge and plenty of food shared at the table. This tradition started when My Italian man and some older siblings moved out on their own or got married. Mamma would forever be saying she never sees us altogether, so Mamma decided Wednesday would be the night ‘La Famiglia’ would all come together.

Mamma spends most of the day cooking for her clan and never dissapoints, she serves up a fantastic feast – traditional dishes, pastas of every variety, homemade potato pillows of gnocchi,  crisp paper thin Chicken Parmigiana, a colossal deep pan Lasagne, wholesome Minestrone like no other, pizza filled with delirious toppings , creamy risotto and the many seafood dishes as the brothers love to go fishing and bring home all kinds of seafood.

On other nights, she will attempt some experimental dishes that she comes across in her library of cook books. For many, this would seem like a chore but she finds so much joy in cooking for her family and bringing them altogether once a week.
Papa’s job is to do the barbequing and getting the family home made wine from under the house to decanter. The homemade wine seems to be a never ending supply (although as we are getting older, the number of bottles keep increasing), he won’t admit it, but he is secretly proud at how many we go through and how much we all enjoy it.
After we have had our fill, chatted a little and mamma has shoved the last bits of salad and bread into us (as it isn’t the best for tomorrows leftovers) all the plates get passed down one by one like clockwork to the end of the table and taken to be washed up by whoever’s turn it is to wash this week.
After dinner is my favourite time. We all sit down at the table to relax and share coffee, dessert and talk about what we have been up to since our last dinner. Occasionally, if Papa feels the need, he will bring out the port and grappa to finish off interesting discussions.The family always look forward to this time, It’s almost turned into a weekly ritual that we rarely miss, If you do, you have to have a pretty good excuse to get it by the family.

A quiet Sunday afternoon

IMG_4660In the late afternoon we went to a friends place and had a few drinks in “the car port” under their apartment. Some of their neighbours had decided to dump a few tables and chars in there. Being typical boys, instead of moving and throwing them out they just left them and now that’s where they hang out. We chatted, drank and soaked up the afternoon.  I snapped this picture and wanted to share it, was surprised how well it turned out. I guess everything always looks better with wine.

Having a few too many we strolled down to the local pizza place for dinner and ordered their version of a ‘Caprice’ its toppings were ham, mushrooms, capsicum, anchovies, olives, oregano and we added chill flakes. It was piping hot and had just the right amount of toppings and huge anchovies (I have recently found i cant get enough of them on my pizza).We walked down to the beach and ate it on the rocks by the water.

Very picturesque an afternoon all about enjoying the summer breeze before heading to work on Monday.

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