Eight Bells

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Dinner Take 2

I hope you all had a great Christmas and we wish you a very happy new year.
My apologies for the lack of updates recently but as you know it's a pretty crazy time of year and I haven't had a lot of free time for bloggage lately.
This is our second Christmas dinner for 2006 this time on Christmas eve and just for Julia and I. Some of the courses are similar to the previous dinner so you will find the soup and blini recipes in the last post. It is a lot of food but keep in mind that the dinner was eaten over the course of around three hours. If you want to know anything about any of the dishes feel free to send me an email or leave a comment as this is just a quick catch up. I hope to return to more regular posting in the new year.

The Table

Turkey on the Webber
Cooked on my new Webber charcoal bbq. I have never tried this before but the turkey cooked perfectly and the slight smokey flavour was lovely.


Smoked salmon and caviar

Christmas Margaritas

Pâté de frois gras
Served with mini toasts


The Bird

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Dinner

Yes I know it's way too early and in reality this meal was eaten over a week ago (you can thank my terrible inattention to this blog over the last couple of weeks for that) but circumstances dictated that we had christmas dinner a little early this year.

To make things simple this year we cooked a deboned and rolled ham for the first time instead of a full leg. It is definately something we will do again. This ham glaze recipe is taken straight from the Cuisine magazine website and is one we have been using every christmas for about 5 or 6 years now.

Baked Ham with Palm Sugar & Kaffir Lime Glaze

1 whole leg of ham, cooked on the bone (or not in this case)
1 cup of palm sugar, grated
2 tablespoons ginger juice (grate the ginger and squeeze out the juice)
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
1 kaffir lime leaf, finely shredded
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 mild red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon five spice powder
Whole star anise

Cut a scallop pattern around the shank end of the ham skin. Working from there, remove the ham’s skin, using your fingers for ease. Score diamonds into the fat, but do not cut into the meat. Put the ham in a large roasting dish. Combine the rest of the ingredients, except for the star anise, and spoon over the ham. Arrange the star anise on top.Bake for 2 hours in an oven preheated to 150°C. Every 15 minutes, scoop up the glaze and baste the ham with it. At the end of this time, the ham will be beautifully golden brown and warmed right through.
Remember not to store a ham for long in plastic – it likes to breathe. The best way to keep it is to wrap it loosely with waxed paper – this protects the glaze – then to store it, in a dish large enough to contain it, in a muslin ham bag (these are sold in kitchen stores), or wrapped loosely in clean muslin.
The main course was just ham, new potatoes and peas. It was a nice light christmas meal which didn't put anyone into a coma for 5 hours afterwards, always a bonus.

You can play around with this recipe a little I used about double the amount of ginger and lime juice and used a large hot red chilli and left out the kaffir lime leaf.

Ajo Bianca de Malaga

This is also a borrowed recipe and comes from Ray McVinnie's 'Eat' book.

2 cloves of garlic
225g of finely ground almonds
150g of fresh white breadcrumbs
100ml of non-peppery extra virgin olive oil
About 3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
1 litre of iced water
Flaky sea salt to taste
300g of seedless white grapes, halved

Put the garlic, almonds, breadcrumbs and olive oil into a food processor and pureé to a smooth paste. Add the vinegar and water and process until frothy. Taste and season with salt. Pat attention to the sweet and sour flavour and add a little more vinegar if necessary.
Serve each portion of soup with a small handful of grapes in the bowl.

Just a note re this recipe, make sure you select the light variety of sherry vinegar and our feelings were this would be better with just 2 tablespoons of vinegar rather than the 3 in the recipe.


This will make 30-40 blinis

7g sachet of dried yeast
A pinch of sugar
1 cup of warm milk
3/4 of a cup of buckwheat flour
1/2 a cup of plain flour
2 eggs separated
20g of butter
1/3 of a cup of oil
150g of creme freche
Lemon juice
Salt & pepper
Fresh chives, flat leafed parsley and thyme, finely chopped

Place the yeast and sugar in a bowl and grdually stir in the warm milk. Sift the flours into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the egg yolks and warm milk mixture and whisk until combined and smooth. Cover and stand in a warm place for 45 minutes.
Melt the butter, stir into the dough mix and then season. Place the egg whites in a clean dry bowl and beat until soft white peaks form. Fold one third of the egg whites into the batter until just mixed. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Drop 1 heaped teaspoon of batter into the pan for each blini. Cook for 1 minute until bubbles form on the surface, turn and cook a further 30 seconds. Place the cooked blinis on kitchen roll and continue until finished. Cool the blinis completely before dressing.
Mix the creme fraiche with a little lemon juice and the chopped herbs, spoon on to the blinis and add smoked slamon and caviar or pancetta. Leftover blinis can be frozen and served again.

Scallop Risotto

You could probably serve 3 or 4 with this recipe but with fresh scallops at just $6 a dozen at the moment we ate it all between the two of us!

1 cup of arborio rice
2 dozen scallops
1 litre of good fish stock
1 onion, chopped
1 cup of white wine
Fresh baby spinach leaves
1 cup of freshly grated parmesan
Fresh flat leafed parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper
1 lemon
1 lime

Warm the stock and wine in a pan.
In a large pot cook the onion in a little oil until soft and then add the rice. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes and then start to slowly add the stock/wine mixture half a cup at a time so that the rice absorbs the added fluid before adding more. Cook until the rice is nearly done but not completely soft. Once you have the right consistency add your parmesan and parsley and cook a further 5 mins (if the risotto is a little too dry add a little white wine at this stage).
Sear the scallops in a little oil until coloured and then squeeze the juice of half a lime and half a lemon over them in the pan.
Serve the risotto in bowls on a bed of raw baby spinach leaves with the scallops on top. Add parmesan and enjoy.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Classic and simple carbonara is the quintessential Italian dish. The following will serve 3-4.


1 cup of 00 flour (normal high grade white flour will do)
3 eggs
1/2 a teaspoon of salt

Tip the mixed flour and salt on to a flat surface and form a well in the middle. Break the eggs into the flour well and begin to mix in with a fork. Once the eggs and flour are roughly combined use your hands to knead the mixture into a dough. Continue kneading the pasta dough for 10 mins and then wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 20-30 mins.
Once rested use your pasta machine to make the spaghetti.

Carbonara Sauce

300g of streaky bacon (or if you can find it pancetta) cut into pieces
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 large brown field mushrooms, sliced
2 large cloves of garlic, whole
1 tablespoon of clarified butter
Salt & pepper
1 cup of finely grated parmesan

Cook the bacon and the garlic in the clarified butter until the bacon is browned. Squish the garlic cloves a little to increase the flavour (not too much you need to remove and discard them). Discard the garlic and set the bacon aside. Cook the mushrooms in the same pan until just cooked and set aside.
Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water, usually around 8-10 minutes. When al dente drain and then return to the pasta pot but off the heat. Mix in the beaten egg, the parmesan and the bacon. Mix until the egg is cooked (around a minute or so). Serve in warm bowls with more grated parmesan, the mushrooms and freshly ground black pepper.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Birthday Tools

A microplane has been on my shopping list for a long time but I just hadn't got around to buying one. It was my birthday on the 3rd of December and look what I got, not one but three! Of course I had to try them out immediately and the difference it made to parmesan was incredible. Instead of a dense heavy mass of grated cheese I had a bowl full of feather like ribbons, a fluffy cloud of cheese. The taste was amazing due to the increased surface area of the grated cheese. The three microplanes have different guages for cheese, nutmeg, ginger, vegetables etc. They aren't cheap but are a fantastic addition to your kitchen tool range.

Easy Chicken

I debated posting this as it's hardly a recipe however for a no effort meal it is just too nice not to write up.

1 chicken, thawed
Cherry tomatoes
Salt & pepper
2 lemons
Half a handful of fresh thyme
10 leaves of fresh sage

Preheat your oven to 180C. Cut the lemons in half and stuff the chicken with 2 of the lemon halves and the herbs. Squeeze the other lemon over the chicken and grind over salt and black pepper. Roast the chicken on a grill in a metal baking dish for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on it's size. If it starts to brown to quickly place tin foil over the top of the chicken.
When the chicken is ready remove it from the oven and leave it to rest for 10 mins while you heat your bread. Make a simple salad of lettuce and cherry tomatoes and serve with the bread and chicken. Have salt, pepper & mayonaise ready.