Sugarbird's Sweet Nothings

I am passionate about food. And cooking. And baking. And running. Come and find a new recipe, a funny story, some strong opinions and whatever else I feel like throwing in the mix today.

Archive for the ‘Starters’ Category

August 4th, 2011 by Clarabella

Thyme, Sea Salt and Parmesan Flatbreads

If any of you have a blog (if there is anyone actually reading this) you might wonder if anyone reads the humble words you type. You may contemplate whether the thoughts and words jumbled together in your mind and hopefully somewhat eloquently put down in black and white on the screen, are ever seen by any eyes but your own. I wonder that. I wonder whether even my own mother reads my blog. Maybe now I’ll find out. Or not. Interesting experiment. It takes time to read someones blog. There are a few that I follow. Some daily and some weekly. Some only when I am on the hunt for specific information, and some I come across accidentally. But to have one that you read all of, all the time. Thats not so common. Especially of the blog that are a bit more wordy than others. The funny, anecdotal, short-and-sweet ones are easier reading. Mine’s not like that. I’m not funny. Not funny haha at least. But I like to believe I am intelligible at least, and perhaps contrary to my mother’s belief, I am reasonably clever. Or intelligent rather. I don’t like the word clever. It has negative connotations for me fore some reason. I have word bias. I am a word snob.

Today I came across the word evanescent in a quote. It is a word that I have to confess I know only from the band name. I had never heard it used in a sentence before. So I looked it up. It means: vanishing, fading away, fleeting. I like it. Its a good word. The quote I discovered it in was by Julia Child, an intelligent, educated lady who was not afraid to speak her mind. She said: “Noncooks think it’s silly to invest two hours’ work in two minutes’ enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet.” I once spent 2 days making a twice cooked brisket. It was sublime, and worth every second. I once spent 3 days making tiramisu, and did not think that a single second of my life had been wasted. Is that not why people create? For the enjoyment that the result brings, to themselves and to others? From the humble home cook who makes extra effort in the evening meal, to the worlds greatest chef; from the child who finger paints a portrait of the family pet, to the next picasso; we spend our time in the creation of great things because they are worth it for the pleasure they give. Whether it be pleasure for one meal time or pleasure for a lifetime. Giving joy to others is the reward. The reason. Read the rest of this entry »

April 14th, 2011 by Clarabella

Daring Cooks April, Edible Containers

There are a couple of things I was reminded of while cooking & baking last night.

Hot things, like pans that have just come out of the oven – they will burn you if you touch them

The old adage that my Gran used to be a big fan of, more haste less speed, its very true and it works.

Cake flour is easy to make, don’t panic if you have a cake to make and you don’t have any. You can start panicing if you don’t have any regular flour or any cornflour.

Last night I went for a run after work. First pain free run in AGES, woohoo! 🙂 I went really slowly and just relished every minute of it. It was awesome. I couldn’t stop smiling for like 3 hours afterwards. But a consequence of running really slowly is that you don’t get done quickly. So I only got home at 7:20, and I had a big cake to make, cake filling to make, and my daring cooks challenge to make. So after a moment of ‘I don’t know where to start’ flappiness. I took a deep breath, and just started. More haste less speed. And thats when I remembered another important thing. Women can multi-task. And thank heavens for that!

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at!

 I was into the soup idea for this challenge from the beginning. I am a big fan of soup and as I am trying to eat relatively healthy this week, soup fits the bill perfectly.

As far as soup varieties go, I’m a tomato girl all the way. Butternut has its place, as does a brothy prawn hot and sour soup, but for a ‘make a big batch and eat it daily’ soup, tomato is always my first choice. Read the rest of this entry »

March 13th, 2011 by Clarabella

Ceviche – Courtesy of the Daring Cooks

Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

I have never had ceviche before although I have heard of it. Being a huge fan of sushi the prospect of raw fish did not put me off at all. The thought of using it in a whole new way was exciting, and I decided that I wanted to do something different with it. Make it stand out. Make something thats not like anything I’ve had/seen/made before. So I looked around online and read loads of recipes using white fish, salmon, herbs, and then one caught my eye. Scallop and Peach Ceviche.

Read the rest of this entry »

October 14th, 2010 by Clarabella

On a Roll, or off a roll perhaps?

Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Now I had heard of stuffed vine leaves before. I can’t remember ever having eaten them, but I was aware of them as a concept. So I was excited when I saw this months challenge. Something completely new that I had never even considered attempting before.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 9th, 2010 by Clarabella

Leek Bread Pudding

When I read this post on Smitten Kitchen I could not help being tempted. I only discovered leeks a couple of years ago. I think the delay in my leek enlightenment was due to never having had it as a child, and therefore not instinctively knowing how to use it as an adult. I think that a lot of my ingrained food ideas stem from the food I grew up with, but there are a couple of gaps as there are some things that my mom never fed us as kids, probably because one (or more) of us 4 siblings would have refused to eat it.

And she was probably right. There are a whole lot of things that I didn’t like as a child; Mushrooms (always picked them out of my mom’s chicken-a-la-king), green pepper (also picked them out of my mom’s chicken-a-la-king), other colour peppers, mayonnaise (don’t know why, I was just scared of it); but thankfully my tastes have since matured and enjoy an array of colours, textures and flavours I did not know as a child.

So one of the challenges with this recipe was that I could not find a brioche loaf at the shop. I’m sure that they must be available somewhere, maybe from a bakery or deli, but I thought the easiest solution would be for me to make one. I have made bread plenty of times in the past and I have good, strong kneading arms so a little bread doesn’t scare me. I am sure that there must be many brioche recipes out there with various merits, and to be honest the one I used was not great, so I am not going to post the recipe for it. I’m sure that I, or you, could do a lot better so there are a couple of pictures but not gory details.

The leek bread pudding itself was a new experience for me. Although the English do love their bread and butter pudding, I am not a native English-person and it does not appeal to me that much really. I find it a bit stodgy and the thought of bread for dessert after dinner is a bit intimidating. But this idea of a bread pudding, with leek herbs and cheese, for dinner itself… now thats something that does tickle a few of my tastebuds.

It was not a difficult or time-consuming recipe, and the smells of cooking leeks and browning brioche go a long way towards stirring up your appetite on a Sunday afternoon. I also find something so homely any comforting about home-cooking smells. No matter how bad a day I may have had or how rainy and grey the day is, the warm, welcoming smells of my kitchen never fail to make me smile. It also reminds me of how I have my own kitchen, and how lucky I am for that. And also how far I have come from the days when I used to make pinwheel biscuits and lamingtons in my mom’s kitchen when I was in my early to mid teens. I didn’t realise back then how much I enjoyed cooking/baking. Maybe if I had I would have pursued a food-related career, but how it turned out, cooking is my solace and my escape. My mind has always been methodical and logical and following and developing a recipe allows brain work without complications. I love it.

This bread pudding tastes great the next day to, maybe even better from it overnight chance for the flavours to settle and cosy together. So don’t be intimidated by the size of a whole loaf, go for it – you won’t regret it.

Leek Bread Pudding

Makes one loaf. Double the recipe to fit in a 9×13 baking dish.
Serves 6 as a side dish
1 cup leeks in 1/2-inch thick slices, white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed
Coarse salt
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups 1-inch-cubed crustless brioche
2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3 cups whole milk, heavy cream or a combination thereof
Freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup shredded Emmanthaler or Swiss cheese
Place a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, drain excess water from leeks, and add to pan. Season with salt, and sauté until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very soft, about 20 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While leeks are cooking, spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until dry and pale gold, about 15 to 20 minutes (my already-stale brioche took less time to brown), turning pan about halfway through. Transfer to a large bowl, leaving the oven on.
Add leeks, chives and thyme to the bowl of bread; toss well. In another large bowl, lightly whisk the egg and egg yolks, then whisk in milk or cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons shredded cheese in bottom of a buttered 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Spread 1/2 of bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 2 tablespoons cheese. Spread remaining bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour in enough milk mixture to cover bread, and gently press on bread so milk soaks in. Let rest 15 minutes.
Add remaining milk mixture, letting some bread cubes protrude. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about 55 to 65 minutes. Serve hot or cold