Saturday, 21 March 2015

Goodbye eat quaff laugh

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about my blog and where it's future lies. After 18 months of some great eating, quaffing and laughing, I think it's time to have a rest!

I have been finding it increasingly difficult to find the time to sit down and write, as well as work, be a good mum and wife and have some time to myself. Something had to give. Unfortunately the blog had to go!

I have really enjoyed posting about my food and wine adventures and hope you have too. It has been a great way for me to meet other bloggers and to try cooking new things each week, rather than falling into the rut of making the same things day in and day out.  Hopefully without the need to actually write about what I'm cooking, I'll still manage to cook meals that are delicious and interesting!

I plan to keep the eat quaff laugh Facebook page and instagram account happening, so you can still see what I'm eating and drinking. I'll try to post pictues a couple of times a week if I can. There just won't be any more blog posts for the time being.

Thanks so much for all your support over the past 18 months. It really has been fun :-)

Eat quaff laugh might be back in the future, but at this stage I'm not sure. In the meantime, keep enjoying wonderful food, fabulous wines and lots of laughter! I know that I will be.

Cheers :-)

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Breakfast Around The Tan And A Giveaway

This morning, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event 'Breakfast around the Tan' by the Mushroom Lovers Club.

This progressive breakfast around Melbourne's beautiful Tan Track, around the Botanic Gardens, was sponsored by Diabetes Australia - Victoria. The 5 stations of food were created by Healthy Byte, the healthy eating catering company of Bright Young Things. To keep recipes healthy and appropriate for those living with diabetes, all dishes were created with the input of Scoop Nutrition. The Mushroom Lovers Club were one of the sponsors and a highlight for the kids was meeting Mighty Mushroom. I couldn't resist a selfie with him either!

Unfortunately the weather in Melbourne this morning was rather cold, so it wasn't the glorious Autumn walk I was hoping for! Rugged up in jackets, with the kids on their bikes, it was still a lovely way to spend the morning.

We started with Acqua Panna water and a pear at the first stop. A hot coffee probably would have been a much better idea to warm up!

Next, a beautiful tub of Jalna Greek yoghurt and Goodness Superfoods Barley Clusters. This was delicious and one of my favourite courses. For a non-breakfast eater, this was right up my alley.

Next up was the only hot dish on the menu - Boston baked beans with balsamic mushrooms. The beans were warming and filling and the mushrooms added some acidity. This was a great, hearty dish, and being hot, was perfect on a cold morning. I'm certainly going to look up the recipe for the beans from the Healthy Byte website to make at home. Served with La Madre sourdough, it was a meal in itself.

The fourth course was a lovely sweet potato and ricotta frittata. Unfortunately this was served cold too, as it would have been much nicer hot. The sweet potato was beautiful and soft and matched really well with the slightly salty cheese. This would be a winner if served warm with some baby spinach and smoked salmon. Now there's a brunch idea for you! We also received a small bottle of Rauch ACE juice, which was delicious.

The final course was a barley wrap with omelette, avocado, baby spinach and tomato. Again this was served cold and on a hot day, would be fine. On a cold and grey morning, a bit of warmth and toastiness would have been fantastic. The flavours were still great and it was easy to eat on the go.

To finish off the 4.2km walk, we were given a glass of the Maggie Beer Ruby Cabernet non-alcoholic sparkling. It was slightly sweet, but with a nice acidity and bubble to it. The perfect refresher at the end of a long walk.

All in all, it was a lovely morning. You can't do much about the weather and Melbourne really is so fickle at this time of year. Yesterday was 30 degrees after all!

Healthy Byte did a wonderful job catering for so many people. At least 700 people were fed over the course of the morning. It would have been nice to have a few more hot dishes, given the cold weather, but I understand that the logistics of this can be difficult. Hot tea and coffee around the track would have gone down a treat too!

Thanks to the fantastic people at the Mushroom Lovers Club, I have a giveaway for you. Yippee!
The pack consists of a Mushroom Lovers bag, apron and a copy of the cookbook Mushrooms - The Great All Rounder.

To enter, all you have to do is comment below with your favourite way to enjoy mushrooms. Easy!

Competition starts now and closes on Sunday March 22 at 10pm. Open to Australian residents only.

Get your thinking (mushroom) caps on and get entering!!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Risotto Cakes

If you're anything like me, when you're cooking risotto, do you end up with way too much? I always measure out my rice, but for some reason the end result is a massive saucepan full of the stuff.

I love risotto, so it's really not that big an issue, but it does mean lots of leftovers. I don't need to take lunch to work, because I get a staff meal, so Mr eat quaff laugh ends up eating the same thing a few days in a row. Sometimes he doesn't mind, but other times he'd prefer something different.

A couple of weeks ago I made a batch of a delicious mushroom and asparagus risotto and ended up putting the leftovers in the freezer. We had so much going on at the time and just didn't need any for lunches.

I planned to use the leftovers for making arancini, which we both love. Who could not like crispy, deep fried balls of rice with a gooey, melty cheese centre? Mmmmmm.....

When I defrosted this lot, the texture of the rice had changed and it was a bit watery. I couldn't form it  into balls that would in any way stay together when I deep fried them. Not having any eggs on hand to help bind them together, I had to get a bit creative.

These risotto cakes were the end result, and they were perfect for a light weekend dinner.
The outside of the rice crisped up in the muffin tin and the cubes of mozzarella in the middle went all melty and stringy. Delicious!

They are lovely served hot, with your favourite chutney and a salad, but are also great cold for lunch the next day.

This really is just an idea, rather than a recipe. The quantities I've given will depend on how much risotto you have leftover and how cheesy you like the centre of the cakes to be. Have a play around and see what works best for you!

Risotto Cakes

Leftover risotto
Mozzarella cheese, cut into 1cm cubes
Panko crumbs
Parmesan cheese, grated
Oil spray for greasing

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Lightly grease a muffin tin with oil spray.
Spoon about a tablespoon of the risotto into the tin and push down with the back of a spoon.
Place 2 cubes of mozzarella in the centre and push into the rice slightly.
Spoon another scoop of risotto over the top to cover the cheese and press down gently.
Sprinkle some panko crumbs and parmesan cheese over the top of each risotto cake.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the crumbs have turned a lovely golden brown and the edge of the rice is crispy.

Carefully remove the risotto cakes from the tin.

Serve warm with salad and chutney for a light meal.


Thursday, 5 March 2015

Summer Vegetable Tarts

Even though it's now officially Autumn, there are still so many Summer vegetables around in the fruit and veg shops and markets. I know that our tomato plant is flourishing!

A light puff pastry tart is the perfect way to use up some of those vegetables in a fresh and easy way. Shop bought frozen puff pastry is just so easy to work with, and is great to have in the freezer to use for sweet and savoury treats, whenever the mood strikes you. As much as fresh pastry is delicious, as a working mum, I just don't have the time to make my own, especially puff pastry.

These tarts are perfect as a quick mid-week meal and would also be lovely as a light weekend lunch. Serve them with a salad or some roasted vegetables to make it a more substantial dinner.

The zucchini is only barely cooked, but because it is sliced so thinly, it is delicious. The creamy Danish feta adds saltiness and the roasted red capsicum sauce a beautiful sweetness.

I like making individual tarts, because they look much more pretty, but you could easily make this into one tart to serve at the table. For a dinner party, cut the pastry into nine or twelve squares to make canap├ęs. Lovely to serve with a glass of Champagne at the beginning of the night!

 Whip these tarts up for your next lunch or dinner and see how quickly they disappear!

Summer Vegetable Tarts

2 red capsicums
1 Tbs olive oil
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted
80g Danish feta
2 spring onions, thinly sliced white and inner green part
A handful of mint leaves + extra to garnish, finely chopped
1 small zucchini
1 Tbs toasted pinenuts
Vegetables or salad to serve
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a grill to high heat.
Cut capsicums in half and remove seeds and membranes.
Place skin side up on a foil covered tray and grill until the skin is blackened and blistered.
Wrap the capsicum in the foil and set aside for 10 minutes for the skin to loosen. Peel the blackened skin off and discard.
Place roasted capsicum flesh and oil in a blender and whiz until smooth. Season to taste and set aside.

Preheat oven to 220 degrees.
Lay pastry sheet out on a work bench and cut into quarters. 
To make tarts, score the pastry completely around the outside, about 1cm in from the edge. Prick the centre with a fork. See the top tarts in the photo.
Alternatively, cut completely through the pastry 1cm in from the edge, except for 1cm at the two opposite corners. Fold the pastry strips across the square to create a decorative edge. Prick the centre with a fork. See the photo for the finished product.

Brush the outside of the pastry squares with milk and place on a tray lined with baking paper.

Par cook pastry cases for 10 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Use an oven mitt and a spoon to push down the centre of the pastry so that it is flat. Remove from the oven.

Using a vegetable peeler, cut long ribbons from the zucchini and set aside.
In a small bowl, mash feta with a fork until smooth. Add mint, spring onion and season with pepper. 
Spread the feta mixture into the pastry cases.

Top with zucchini ribbons and return to the oven for 5 minutes, or until the pastry is completely golden and the zucchini has softened.

Place blobs of the capsicum puree over the tarts and return to the oven for 1-2 minutes to warm through.
Carefully remove tarts from the baking tray onto serving plates. Sprinkle with toasted pinenuts and extra chopped mint.
Serve with vegetables or salad.


Monday, 2 March 2015

Quinoa, Grape and Nectarine Salad

This weekend we went away with the family to celebrate my Father in Law's 60th birthday. My job was to bring a salad to eat at a BBQ lunch.

Not knowing exactly what cooking facilities I'd have available and wanting something that I could easily transport all the bits and pieces, I thought I'd look for a sturdy sort of salad. As I happened to be flicking through the latest Coles catalogue, I came across this recipe.

In true eat quaff laugh form, I modified it a little bit to suit my tastes, but it turned out to be an absolute winner! Everyone loved it and there was only a small bit left over, which is always a good sign.

I cooked the quinoa before we left home and just took it away with us in a container. The grapes I cooked in the morning and left to cool in the fridge, so that they wouldn't make the rest of the salad soggy. I didn't use up all the dressing on my salad, but you could use it all if you like a lot of dressing. Otherwise, keep it in the fridge for another time.

This was a great BBQ salad, but would be perfect to take anywhere you need to bring a share plate. The flavours were very summery, so if you're going to make it, you'll need to do it soon while nectarines are still in season. The white nectarine gave it a beautiful floral sweetness. Yellow nectarines would probably be quite nice too, but try to hunt out the white ones if you can.

To make this salad into a bit more of a meal, toss through some cooked chicken or flaked salmon for a protein hit.


Quinoa, Grape And Nectarine Salad

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup quinoa
3 cups red grapes, removed from stems
1/4 cup marsala
4 spring onions, washed and root end removed, thinly sliced white and inner green part
100g rocket
2 white nectarines, seeds removed and thinly sliced
80g Danish feta, chopped
1/4 cup toasted pinenuts
1/4 cup toasted macadamia nuts, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine oil and vinegar in a jar and season to taste. This is your dressing.
Bring a medium sized saucepan of water to the boil. Add quinoa and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until it is cooked. Remove from the heat and drain well. Set aside to cool.
Heat a drizzle of oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Add the grapes and toss for about 3 minutes, or until they start to soften.
Add the marsala to the hot pan and toss around to coat the grapes. Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until the marsala has evaporated, but the mixture isn't too dry. Tip the grapes into a bowl and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, spring onions, rocket, grapes, feta, pinenuts and macadamias. Toss through half the dressing.
Add the nectarines and fold through carefully so they don't break up.
Season to taste and add a little bit more dressing if you think it needs it.


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Swordfish Agrodolce

A few weeks ago I had a dinner party with some friends who had recently moved to Mount Isa. Living in a desert location in the middle of nowhere, the main thing they missed was fresh seafood. A seafood feast it was to be!

I started the night with panfried scallops on a cauliflower puree with crispy prosciutto and dill. It was amazing! Salty, sweet and a little bit earthy. A wonderful combination of flavours.

For main course, I decided on Swordfish with and agrodolce sauce. This dish was from the February 2015 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine. I have a subscription to this gorgeous magazine and try to cook something out of each issue when it arrives.

I had been eying off this recipe for a while and finally decided that this dinner party was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

I had never had an agrodolce sauce before, so wasn't really sure how the flavours would combine. I needn't have worried. It was simply delicious! The thick, meaty swordfish steaks were the perfect match too. Hearty, but served medium rare, they were tender, juicy and just divine.

I'd certainly make this dish again. Swordfish isn't always the easiest fish to come across, but if you can find it, then definitely buy it. Another firm fleshed white fish would work too, but you wouldn't get the same texture to the flesh.

Served with some simple steamed asparagus, sprinkled with dukkah, this was certainly a dinner party worthy meal.

Swordfish With Agrodolce Sauce

6 skinless swordfish steaks
180 ml white wine vinegar
50 gm raw sugar
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
50 gm currants
60 gm pine nuts
2 lemons, segmented
½ cup dill sprigs
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 170C. 
Heat vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. 
Place onion in a bowl, pour vinegar mixture over, add currants and set aside to infuse for 5 mins.

Roast pine nuts on an oven tray, shaking pan occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until golden.
Stir into onion mixture with lemon segments and set aside until ready to serve.
Just before serving, stir in the dill.

Heat a barbecue or char-grill pan over high heat. 
Brush swordfish steaks with olive oil and seaon to taste.
Grill for 2 minutes on each side or until golden and cooked medium-rare. How long you cook for will depend on the thickness of the fish.
Serve the fish with agrodolce spooned over the top.


Monday, 23 February 2015

Warm Summer Pasta

The recipe for February in my lovely De Bortoli calendar is a beautiful tomato pasta. This dish couldn't have come at a better time for us, given the hundreds of tomatoes our little plants are producing at the moment!

I often make tomato based sauces for pasta, but I've never made one using balsamic vinegar as the main sauce ingredient. I thought it might have been a bit too acidic, but combined with the sweetness of homegrown tomatoes and the spicy salami, it was absolutely delicious.

Marinating the tomatoes in the vinegar, gave it a lovely intense flavour and made the whole dish very easy to put together. For an easy weeknight dinner, this was perfect.

This pasta will certainly become a regular in our household. My fruit bowl is still full of our ripe, red tomatoes, so I have a feeling I'll be making this one again very soon.

Warm Summer Pasta

5 tomatoes, chopped
8 semi dried tomatoes, sliced
60g pitted black olives, halved
3 Tbs basil, chopped
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
300g fettucine or long pasta
1 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbs fresh sage, chopped
6 slices of spicy salami, cut into strips
Pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to serve

Place tomatoes, olives, basil and vinegar in a bowl and stand for 30 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling water until tender, drain and keep warm.
Heat oil in a large pan and fry garlic, sage and salami until golden.

Remove from the heat and toss through the pasta with the tomato mixture.
Season to taste with pepper and serve with parmesan cheese.


And To Drink....

The wine matching suggestion for this pasta dish is the De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate Grown Chardonnay. The grapes from this wine come from the Dixons creek vineyard, which is a cool climate region of the Yarra Valley. These vines are low yielding older vines and so produce wines with a beautiful complexity and richness. 

The wine is made with minimal intervention to ensure that the true Chardonnay flavours shine through. The grapes are hand picked, whole bunch pressed and then fermented in French oak barrels.

This Estate Grown Chardonnay is a light yellow in colour with aromas of stone fruits and brioche. To taste, it is lovely and rich with a slight butteriness, a little minerality and acidity and beautiful fruity freshness. It was a perfect match to the sweetness of the tomatoes in the pasta. I thought that the vinegar might overwhelm the wine, but it was complex and bold enough to stand up on it's own.

The De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate Grown Chardonnay was beautiful drinking as a current vintage, but would further develop over another couple of years. I might just have to go out and buy another bottle to try again in a few years time!