14 April 2010

Pink Lavender Lemonade

If you are wondering about the Strawberries and Lavender picture, that was taken when I was making Pink Lavender Lemonade for a Cooking Club night a while back.  It is a drink that is just what I like, not too sweet, with an interesting twist by having the aromatic flavour of lavender.  The recipe is below, enjoy!

Pink Lavender Lemonade

from the book “Lemonade” by Fred Thompson

4 ½ cups cold water
1 Tb dried flowers
1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of the strawberries
10 fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (10-12 lemons)
Sliced strawberries or lemon for garnish (optional)

1. Place 2 cups of the water, the lavender, sugar and strawberries in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for 10 minutes.

2. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a 2-quart container. Stir in the lemon juice and remaining 2 ½ cups water.

3. Chill until very cold. Serve over ice, garnished with sliced strawberries or lemon.

I mixed this with Soda Water since it was quite strong, it makes it go further as well. I think it’s important that it is very chilled – a lovely sipping drink!

12 April 2010

How to start your own Cooking Club

Firstly, just do it! The idea is to get together a group of like minded people who share the love of food and cooking. It isn’t about how good you can cook but how interested you are in learning to cook and share your interest with others. We have all become so much more confident over the years and really enjoyed each other’s personal cooking style.

I have listed below a few things that we have found worked for our cooking club, but you may have different lifestyles and interests so change things to suit your needs.
• 6 people is a good number, as it covers each course with a spare for those months that someone can’t make it. We started with 7 which worked fine too.
• If you don’t know of 5 other people who are interested just find 1 and that person may know of someone else and so on. It’s amazing how many people become interested once you get the word out there.
• Choose one day a month that you are going to meet (we meet the 1st Thursday of the month) that way you will always have it in your diary and it is easier to plan for.
• The person on Mains for the month also chooses the theme. This can be anything from a type of cuisine to specific ingredients.
• Make up a roster so that each month you know what you will be on and no one misses out on a course.

Here’s an example of our roster, click on it to enlarge.

We have only recently made the host also do mains, previously they were separate. But we thought this may have been limiting what people choose as mains when having to transport it.

The person who is on Drinks is to choose a cocktail or something interesting that goes with the theme. Starting with a cocktail makes a really nice way to begin the evening. Especially since we have all left a home of babies or children so we look forward to a chance to unwind!

As a group we also try and do food related outings. This may be to a Food and Wine show or a Cooking Class. It is so nice to do these types of things with people you know are also interested in food.

If you have anything to add with tips from your own Cooking Club then please feel free to make a post. Just remember to enjoy it, and like I said before, ‘just do it’!

11 April 2010

Food with Alcohol

The theme of this month's cooking club pretty much sums up a relaxing evening for me.  There's nothing better than a tasty meal with a glass of wine. However, the theme was more to do with putting the alcohol into the food which is what we all successfully did!
I was on starters, and I chose a dish I have been wanting to try for some time, a twice baked souffle.  I found the recipe on http://www.taste.com.au/ and was able to link it with the theme as there was wine in the tomato sauce.  The recipe was pretty straight forward, and what was fantastic was I was able to transport them very easily.  I made the tomato sauce and baked the souffles at home in the afternoon, keeping them in the moulds. I then drove them over to CookEl's home and simply turned them out into the sauce in the roasting pan, poured over the cream with a sprinkling of cheese and cooked them for 20mins.  They were so light and fluffy, definitely a recipe I will do again.  It is a recipe that has so much potential to play around with, next time I think I will use some blue cheese to give it a stronger flavour and I am still pondering on how I could tweek the sauce.  I chose to use dariole moulds instead of ramekins to give them more height.

Twice-baked gruyere soufflés with rich tomato sauce

Preparation Time: 30 mins
Cooking Time: 85 mins

(Serves 6 in 180ml ramekins or Serves 9 in 125ml Dariole Moulds)

1 tbs olive oil
1 brown onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
2 x 425g cans diced tomatoes
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
125ml (1/2 cup) water

Melted butter, to grease
60g butter
50g (1/3 cup) plain flour
375ml (1 1/2 cups) milk
Pinch of white pepper
4 eggs, separated
80g (1 cup) coarsely grated gruyere
80ml (1/3 cup) pouring cream
Rocket leaves, ends trimmed, to serve


1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the wine and cook until almost all of the wine evaporates. Add the tomato, rosemary and water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. (I just used a Stick mixer)
2. Preheat oven to 200°C. Brush six 180ml-capacity ovenproof ramekins with melted butter to grease. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute or until mixture bubbles. Remove from heat. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly until smooth.
3. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes until mixture thickens. Season with salt and white pepper. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Whisk in the egg yolks and three-quarters of the gruyere.
4. Use an electric beater to whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until firm peaks form. Use a large metal spoon to gently fold the egg whites into the gruyere mixture. Spoon the mixture among the prepared ramekins.
5. Place the ramekins in a baking dish. Add enough boiling water to the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until puffed. Set aside for 20 minutes to cool (the soufflés will deflate).
6. Pour the tomato sauce over the base of a 30 x 20cm baking dish. Turn out the soufflés and place, upside down, in the dish. Pour over the cream and sprinkle with remaining gruyere. Bake for 20 minutes or until gruyere melts and soufflés are puffed.
7. Spoon tomato sauce among serving dishes. Top with soufflés and rocket. Serve immediately.