home on the range

Sometimes I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.  Not only do I live in the world’s most beautiful city, but my family have a sheep farm only two and a half hours away. So whenever I am starting to get overwhelmed by the traffic and the dirt and the whole impersonal nature of city life, I know I can just jump in my car and escape.

Just the thought of open roads and familiar friendly faces is enough to sustain me through the smog and congestion that is inevitable in the M5 tunnel on a friday afternoon. That and the vision of once again cooking in my mum’s luxuriously spacious, dishwasher equipped country kitchen.

It’s always the best feeling pulling into the tree lined driveway of “Mount View”. No matter how long between visits, or whether the countryside is the bleached straw colour of summer or the luscious green of a drought-free winter, there’s nothing as comforting as that feeling of being HOME….

Whenever I spend time at home I tend to do the lions share of the cooking. Not because my mum is a lightweight in the kitchen (she’s an inspirational cook) but because I like to give her a break…and yes I do love to spend time faffing about in her kitchen….

This weekend began with a friday evening a deux…just me and mum. I arrived late and was feeling a bit frazzled by the journey but all it took was a delicious kir (white wine & cassis, a blackcurrant liqueur) and a good chat on the verandah as the dusk descended for me to be feeling perfectly relaxed and in weekend mode.

I always try to bring some fish home when I visit. It still baffles me that with modern refrigerated transport that it can be so difficult to get decent fish in the bush. So for our girls dinner I opted for a carpaccio of tuna with capers and radicchio accompanied by a sourdough baguette from Bourke St Bakery and an excellent Champagne that I picked up for a song at Kemneys. The Gauthier Brut NV was every bit as good as a Billecart Salmon or Pol but at only $40 a bottle…it was a total steal and a lesson in trusting the judgement of the good people at your local bottle-o.

Dessert was inspired by Maggie Beer from her first book Maggie’s Farm, I took some lusciously ripe black mission figs. These I washed and dipped in dark brown sugar before baking them for about 10mins until the figs were all gooey and a sauce had formed. Served with marscarpone and topped with toasted cashews….heaven on a plate.

Saturday night was a larger family affair with my dear old dad and my favourite (and only) brother Dom joining us. The menu ended up as follows:

kir royale
insalata caprese with sourdough baguette
2000 lowe family chardonnay
roast chicken with chicken liver, truffle, porcini mushroom & rosemary stuffing
crispy smashed & roast king edward blue potatoes
witlof and watercress salad with mustard vinigarette
lemon curd tart with passionfruit and marscarpone (or vanilla ice cream for the boys)

There were a few revelations with this menu. The insalata caprese was Karen Martini’s version with the bocconcini mixed in a tangy yoghurt providing a more creamy dairy component to the italian classic salad.  The porcini mushroom and truffle paste that I purchased from Fratelli Fresh to use in the stuffing was an absolute winner as was the use of chicken livers in the stuffing, turning it into a rich pate-ish experience. King edward potatoes are only blue skin deep and when you cook them they loose their colour and end up looking like normal desirees. That aside, they do make the most heavenly crunchy baked smashed spuds….all good things…

insalata caprese

serves 4
This recipe was adapted from a version that Karen Martini published in the Sun Herald last year. I’ve reduced the amount of oil and substituted roast red capsicum for the roasted chilli to work with my mum’s delicate palate (for the woman who thinks dijon mustard is incredibly hot). This is a recipe that relies heavily on the raw materials. Only make it if you have flavoursome vine ripened tomatoes.

1 red capsicum (pepper) roasted and skinned and cut into slivers
1/2 red onion, finely diced
4 medium vine ripened tomatoes
250g bocconcini or buffalo mozerella
2T natural yoghurt
handful basil leaves
1/2 clove garlic, smashed
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
2T aged balsamic vinegar
s&p
extra bail leaves & crusty ourdough bread to serve.

Finely shred basil leaves and combine with oil and garlic and allow to stand for at least 10 mins.

Tear bocconcini into bight size pieces and combine with the yoghurt and season with s&p.

Slice tomatoes about 1cm thick and arrange overlapping on a serving platter. Grind over black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with finely chopped onion.

Pile bocconcini mixture on top of the tomato. Remove garlic from basil mixture and season with s&p. Drizzle basil oil over boccincini & tomatoes and then drizzle over balsamic vinegar. Serve scattered with extra basil leaves & bread.

 

crispy roasted smashed king edward blue potatoes

serves 4
I first learned about this way of roasting spuds from Jill Dupliex when she was writing for the Sydney Morning Herald but have also seen Jamie Oliver do them this way.

800g King Edward Blue Potatoes, or Desiree
Olive Oil
s&p

If potatoes are large, halve and then simmer in salted water for approx 15mins, or until cooked through. Drain and return to saucepan

Heat oven to 230oC. Line a baking tray with foil and drizzle with olive oil. Place potatoes on the tray and then squash each potato with a masher until they are about twice the diameter. Drizzle with more olive oil and season with s&p. You can also sprinkle with any flavourings.  I like thyme leaves or rosemary or even dried chilli flakes but on this occasion I kept them plain.

Bake on the top shelf of the oven for approx 15mins or until golden and crispy. Serve immediately (if you are going to serve in a communal dish for the table I find it best to pop the serving dish in the oven for the last 5 mins of cooking so that it keeps the spuds as hot as possible with the added bonus of them sizzling as they make their way to the table…real crowd pleaser…)

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