Potato, parsnip and fennel bake

Kudos to the maitre d’ at a local restaurant. Upon being seated, we noticed our water glasses were dirty and had red lipstick marks upon them. After politely asking him for clean vessels he picked them up, examined them closely and as he walked away loudly announced, ‘Sure, well Holy Rats Arse!’

My friend and I looked at each other. ‘Did he really say that?’ I asked. ‘Yes’, said my friend, ‘Yes, he did.’ We are open minded people yet this unwaiterly proclamation managed to surprise, horrify and strangely, delight us. Hilarity ensued and we continued to repeat this phrase (quietly) throughout the surprisingly delicious meal.

Upon finishing, we walked to the front to ask if we could split our bill. He did, albeit begrudgingly and his farewell response to us was, ‘Rock on ladies.’ This bloke is taking customer service to another level. Not necessarily towards the lofty echelons of fine dining but to a very special and individual level nonetheless.

This is surely The Year of the Gratin. I am a woman obsessed. As this dish was baking; giant cheesy, thyme-scented metaphorical arms reached out from the oven and hugged me close. Whispering in bubbling, soothing tones, ‘There, there, everything will be allright.’

Aniseed fennel, slightly spicy parsnip, creamy potato and herbaceous, sweet grassy cheese. This is a wondrous combination. It’s a dish that may even cause you to utter a colloquialism that involves the sacred posterior of a rodent. If one was so inclined.

POTATO, PARSNIP AND FENNEL BAKE

WHAT YOU NEED
4 potatoes, peeled and finely sliced (600g)
4 medium size parsnip, peeled and finely sliced (500g)
1 medium size fennel bulb, finely sliced
300 ml cream (you can use 250ml of cream and 50ml of sour cream for extra tang)
1/4 cup milk
2 garlic cloves, crushed very finely
1 tbl fresh thyme, picked
A dash of nutmeg
150g Gruyere cheese, grated (I used the wonderful Heidi Gruyere from Tasmania for a bit of a treat)
Salt and pepper to season
Extra thyme

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C and use butter or oil to grease a large baking dish.
Layer the potato, parsnip, fennel and season with salt and pepper then sprinkle on half of the cheese. (Leaving enough cheese to sprinkle on the top.)
Place another layer of potato, parsnip and fennel and season with salt and pepper again.
Warm the cream, milk, garlic, thyme and nutmeg in a small saucepan over a low heat for five to ten minutes until the flavours are infused and the cream has thinned a little. Seasons lightly and gently pour this mixture over the vegetables.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the gratin and chuck a few extra thyme leaves over the top.
Cover with foil loosely (making sure the cheese doesn’t touch the foil) and bake for 50 minutes.
Remove the foil carefully (watch that precious cheese) and bake for another 40 minutes or until the vegetables pierce easily with a knife and the top is golden brown and bubbly.
Remove from the oven and let it sit for ten minutes to allow the gratin to settle before devouring.

A Cheergerm recipe based on a few hundred million different gratin recipes

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Lemon sour cream muffins

Kid 1: If I was to be killed and eaten, I would like to be put to sleep so I couldn’t feel anything, then have every part of my body used, eaten and nothing wasted. Kind of like a soft shell crab.

He really is showing an extreme commitment to the concept of nose to tail eating. During the school holidays, Kid 1 watched a junior baking show on television where ten year olds created intricate baked goodies. This put a fire in his belly and he insisted on baking these muffins completely by himself (under my supervision.) His egg-cracking ability has come along in spades and it’s lovely to observe his burgeoning kitchen confidence.

This is a standard recipe in our household and they are very good. The sour cream moistens the muffins and contributes towards a tender crumb and light golden exterior. They are tangy, creamy and moreish. The only thing that will be be left is the muffin wrapper.

LEMON SOUR CREAM MUFFINS

WHAT YOU NEED
1/3 cup vegetable oil (we use grapeseed)
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, 70g
Zest and juice of one medium size lemon (roughly 1 tbl of zest and 1/4 cup lemon juice. If I have extra lemons, I will often add another tbl of zest. We love ‘mega lemon’ flavour)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour
1 tbl baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 200C and place your muffin papers in a muffin tin or on a baking tray. I will often give the muffin papers a light spray with rice bran oil spray to avoid sticking.
In a large bowl, combine the oil and sugar.
Add the eggs and mix well.
Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and sour cream and mix well.
Sift the flours, baking powder and salt into the bowl then fold in gently. Do not overmix or your muffins will be not as tender.
Fill the muffins papers about 2/3rds full and bake for about 15-20 minutes until they are risen, light golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.
Eat them.

Makes 11-12 muffins depending on the size of your muffin papers

Slightly adapted from a recipe from Jens Favorite Cookies blog, link to original recipe follows.

Lemon Sour Cream Muffins


Cauliflower and zucchini gratin

Is it wrong to love someone simply because you return home at midnight from a girls night out, on a cold winters eve, to discover that your other half has thoughtfully left your side of the electric blanket switched on? You can keep your Tiffany’s, Cartier and Harry Winston. It’s the small thoughtful actions that float my boat and whilst diamonds may be a girls best friend, they can’t keep you warm on a chilly evening. (Not like an electric blanket does. Oh, and a Yak of course.)

My way of showing The Yak love, is to cook hearty vegetable dishes that involve cheese. This little recipe is a take on a dish from the excellent ‘The Wholesome Cook’ by Martyna Angeles. It is a smidgen lighter than a heavier cream-based gratin. The sharp cheese, nutty cauliflower and golden crust has ensured that this gratin will be on steady rotation for the remainder of winter.

CAULIFLOWER AND ZUCCHINI GRATIN

WHAT YOU NEED
2 tbl oil (I used grapeseed oil)
300g cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 small zucchini (300g), sliced into 1 cm chunks
Black pepper
Sea salt
1/2 cup milk
100g Comte, Gruyere or Taleggio cheese, diced
1/3 cup breadcrumbs of your choice, I used gluten free sourdough buckwheat crumbs). The original recipe uses almond meal.

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 20 cm gratin dish.
Heat the oil in a medium size frying pan and saute the cauliflower and zucchini over a medium heat for about ten minutes, until they start to colour and soften. Season generously with black pepper and add a big pinch of sea salt.
Add the milk and cheese and stir for one minute until the cheese starts to melt. Check the seasoning then pour into the gratin dish.
Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs or almond meal and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
Serves 2-4 people.

Cooking Notes: I have added a few pinches of nutmeg before which adds a bit of something nice, also the original recipe uses 3 yellow squash instead of zucchini; Taleggio instead of Comte and states to sprinkle 2 tbl of chopped parsley over the gratin with the breadcrumbs before baking.

Recipe only slightly adapted from The Wholesome Cook by Martyna Angeles, published by Harlequin, October 2015.

Go here for a Cheergerm post about The Wholesome Cook book and a millet and rice puff square


Rice pudding with cardamom, rosewater and pistachios. A faerie tale.

Once upon a time, a Cheergerm happened upon a magical sounding exotic rice pudding recipe in a magazine. It was torn out and safely filed/misplaced/lost, never to be seen again. (It is most likely in the same wee hidey-hole as my sanity and my mind.) As human beings are want to do, we hanker after something when it is gone. This dish was concocted from my standard rice pudding recipe and sketchy memory of the one that went missing.

Taking the horse and carriage, I headed out into the dark and grim forest to procure the necessary ‘pimped up ingredients’ of almond milk, rosewater, pistachios and in my opinion, extravagant dried rose petals. To be able to afford these elements, it was first necessary to make a deal with a wicked faerie queen. In classic storybook manner, I agreed to surrender my firstborn when he turned sixteen. (Sucked in stupid faerie, if the last few days have been anything to go by, he will be even less compliant than he has been as a child. If that is even possible.)

This dessert is decadent and creamy with a deep herbal spiciness from the cardamom and highlighted by the sweet floral aroma and flavour of the rose. The Yak and I lived happily ever after for about fifteen minutes whilst we hungrily devoured bowls of this delightful pudding. Now what else can I throw those bloody expensive rose petals over? The End.

RICE PUDDING WITH CARDAMOM, ROSEWATER AND PISTACHIOS

WHAT YOU NEED
1 cup basmati rice
1 litre almond milk (it’s better to use unsweetened if you can find it)
1/3 – 1/2 cup caster sugar (I don’t like it too sweet and how much sugar you need will depend on the almond milk you use)
1/3 cup sultanas
3/4 tsp cardamom powder
Large pinch of salt
1 tsp rosewater
1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
Edible dried rose petals to sprinkle upon said dessert in a bewitching manner, you may need to take a mortgage out to purchase these

HOW YOU DO IT
Rinse the rice.
Place the rice, almond milk, 1/3 cup sugar, sultanas, cardamom and salt into a medium size saucepan. Stir and taste this mixture to see if you need to add more sugar.
Bring the mixture to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is thick and porridge-like.
Remove from the heat and stir through the rosewater.
Serve and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and dried rose petals. Oh, so very pretty.

Note: one of these photos shows a brand name product, rest assured, no payment has been received for this post. Considering the cost, I wish! This also makes a great breakfast dish.

A Cheergerm creation