Thursday, December 02, 2010

Slow cooked lamb & veggie ragu

This post has been lingering in draft form for aaages, and I finally have some time to tidy it up & get it posted! 
This recipe is certainly not groundbreaking, indeed when i read it the first time i kind of though, well, that doesn't sound exciting enough to even bother cooking. But I promise you, it is. Normally when I make this we use lamb shanks, rather than the fillets, because as we all know, meat cooked on the bone is more flavoursome, tender and juicy. However, in this instance I couldn't source free-range lamb shanks, so in accordance with my recently set resolutions I had to modify the recipe to fit with the ethically produced meat available. 

Slow cooked lamb & veggie ragu
originally adapted from a Weight Watcher's recipe of all things, but don't let that put you off
Serves 4 hungry people

4 small lamb shanks or 400g lamb fillet, chopped
olive oil 
2 or 3 cloves garlic  
1 onion, diced 
2 carrots, diced 
4 sticks celery, chopped 
500 g mushrooms (swiss brown are nice if they're not too expensive), chopped 
500 ml (half a litre) of good stock (i use chicken, even though it would make sense to use something meatier...)
1 whole bay leaf      
800 g crushed tinned tomato
400 g "short" pasta (eg penne, spirali, not spaghetti or fettucini) 
1/4 cup(s) Parsley, fresh, chopped


  • Season lamb with salt and ground pepper. 
  • Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick casserole dish (a Le Creuset or similar) over high heat. 
  • Add the shanks or chopped fillet and brown, turning to cook evenly, for 5 to 10 minutes. Don't worry if your lamb is browning quite quickly, you're aiming to get a nice bit of colour on the meat & seal it off in preparation for the slow cooking portion. 
  • Remove lamb from pan & cover with foil. Do NOT wipe or rinse the pan, you want to keep the nice juices in there. 
  • Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, turn back to medium heat, add garlic and onion and cook for 3 minutes. 
  • Add carrot and celery and cook for another 3 minutes
  • Add mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Add stock, bay leaf and tomatoes and bring to the boil. 
  • Return the lamb to the pan. Make sure the lamb is pushed right down to the bottom of the pan so it's covered by the stock & tomato mixture. 
  • Turn the heat back to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Yes, this is a very long time. Yes, the meat will be falling off the bone when you're done - yum! 
  • Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to the directions on the packet, starting once the lamb has been in for 1:45. 
  • At this point, if you're using shanks, remove them from the pan to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. If you're using fillet meat, ignore this step and treat the lamb as part of the veggie ragu. 
  • Taste the ragu and season as necessary then cook for 10 minutes over high heat to thicken up the sauce a little. 
  • Combine the cooked pasta, the veggie ragu and the chopped parsley all together (either in your pasta pot or your casserole dish, depending on what is largest).
  • Serve in shallow bowls and place a shank on top. 

Browning the lamb

Lots of veggies! 

Veggies + lamb + stock + tomatoes 

2 hours later, + pasta

Finally, slow cooked lamb & veggie ragu
And there you have it! It might not look glamorous, but it sure is tasty! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Forever21 pretty, mixed-media beads necklace

On our honeymoon in Singapore I went a little bit nutso in Forever21 in the accessories department. One of my purchases was this super cute necklace made of big, mismatched, vintage feel beads - some copper metal, some faceted clear plastic, some fabric covered (my faves!) and a few pearls for good measure. Love! 

This is my first outing with the super pretty necklace, and I'm pretty pleased with how it dressed up a pink polo top. Pretty pretty, right?  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Belgian Beer Cafe

The weather on the weekend was so lovely and spring-time-ish, we decided to walk to the Belgian Beer Cafe to enjoy the sunshine and a few ciders. 
I couldn't resist taking photos of some of the blossoms we walked past on our way: 

I don't know what this tree is but the blossoms are so pretty! 
I don't know what this one is either, but so many blossoms!!! And such beautiful spring-time sky! 

The outside space was crazy busy - not a seat or a piece of grass free for us, so we did the logical thing and joined the incredibly long line for the bar to order drinks! 

We tried the Rekorderlig Apple Cider and the Monteith's Apple and Pear ciders.

The Monteith's was perfectly decent, but there wasn't a great depth of flavour in either the pear or the apple, in fact, the two ciders tasted pretty similar. The Rekorderlig, however, was just delicious. Incredibly fruity but still clean and not overly sweet, and frighteningly easy to drink. According to their website, Rekorderlig is "Made from Pure Swedish spring water that runs directly under the brewery in Vimmerby Sweden". It is also officially my new favourite drink, and just in time for summer! I was super happy to discover that Dan Murphy stocks Rekorderlig, but tragically only the Apple and Pear varieties, not the delicious sounding Strawberry & Lime *pout* 

We also had some of the traditional Belgian Frites and Mayonnaise, but they were so moorish they were all gone before I took a pic of them! 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's never too late to set resolutions

Inspired by my dear friend Emily over at Emily is now I have decided I need to make some resolutions. Indeed I am resolved to make resolutions. Surely this is redundant...? 
Anyway. I'm going to keep the list short and try to keep my goals achievable and measurable rather than inspirational and lofty, because I'll be taking stock at the end of the year and seeing how well I've done. I'm going to break it down into categories to keep my scientific brain satisfied. 

1) Post to this blog at least once a week...
2) ...preferably with a photo to keep things interesting and to keep me taking photos
Work and study: 
3) Submit two more articles for publication before the end of the year 
4) Read all the popular non-fiction (ie, not proper scholarly publication level) obesity, food and ethics books I've bought but not read yet 
Health and wellness: 
5) Attend at least five exercise classes per week: yoga, pilates, zumba, spin, pump
6) Eat mostly whole foods  
Environment & Ethics: 
7) Purchase the most ethically produced meat and animal products we can source and go veggo when there are no ethical meat options available 
8) Where possible, shop at Farmer's markets. Aim to visit a Farmer's market once a month as a starting point. 
Family & Friends
9) Stay in touch with my brothers more. Even just a text message, but some form of contact at least once a month to start with. 
10) Send Christmas cards to overseas & interstate friends

Wish me luck! 

Monday, October 04, 2010

Peanut Butter Brownies

Confession time. I freaking love peanut butter. With a depth of passion that it is indecent for a woman to love a spread. I think it came to a head when I travelled to the US with my favourite Aunt, Maggie when I was ten and discovered that Americans have an entirely different relationship with PB than Aussies. There were peanut butter M&Ms, Reese's Pieces and many other permutations of the creamy, nutty spread that I hadn't even known I was missing in Australia. Sadly I had to adapt to life without Butterfingers et al, but my Mum indulged my peanut butter obsession with a Women's Weekly recipe, Peanut Butter Crinkles. Those biscuits are just delicious with the right amount of creamy nutty goodness offset with a little lemon zest and they have been a favourite since I was a little kid. But woman can not live by Crinkles alone. I need more and various ways to satisfy my peanut butter cravings! Fortunately I have discovered a new food blog, and already sunk many hours in to drooling over the gorgeous food p0rn photography and delicious recipes. This one in particular piqued my interest, enough to get my butt off the couch and into the kitchen: 
Smitten Kitchen, peanut butter brownies Thank-you, Deb of Smitten Kitchen. 

Peanut Butter Choc Chip Brownies
Adapted very slightly from Smitten Kitchen (mainly for ease of converting Imperial to Metric, and because I'm a bit slack and didn't read the recipe properly)

250g butter, softened in microwave
1 3/4 cups caster sugar
1 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy because I like it on my toast, but next time would definitely go creamy) 
2 large free-range eggs
2 cups of plain flour
250g chocolate chips (I used dark, but would give milk a go next time) 

To make brownies: 
Preheat oven to 180 celsius. Grease a 20cm x 30cm baking pan, then line with baking paper and grease the paper. 
Use electric mixer to beat butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Beat in eggs, then add choc chips and stir until combined. Add flour and stir until just combined.  
Spread batter into baking dish, smoothing the top with a spatula or damp hands.  
Bake until brownies are golden brown and a bit puffy - mine only took 30 minutes and were already getting a bit overly golden on the edges. 
I let mine cool in the pan overnight, but I think I would have been better to cut them to size after an hour of cooling. 

Straight out of the oven - edges looking a bit brown...
Ooh, look at that cross-section with all those choc chips! 
All cut up and ready to eat! 

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Cafe Vue Lunch-box - September

Cafe Vue Lunch-box - September
Starter ~ Baba ganoush with potato crisps
Salad ~ Tuna and sweet corn risoni
Savoury ~ Chicken on brioche roll
Sweet ~ Lemon meringue

Monday, September 06, 2010

New obsession - manicures

So, I seem to have developed a new obsession with manicures, nails and polishes. I dabbled in a bit of the odd polish when I was at Uni, but it was very slapped on, grungy style, black or navy or burgundy polish. This thing now, it is an entirely different beast. I can almost certainly date the beginning of my nail polish / manicure obsession to the (not so distant) days of pre-wedding beauty prep. Suddenly I realised, with the help of expensive women's magazines, that my nude nails were a no-no, and a manicure was part of a completed look. While I certainly don't want to subscribe to someone else imposing a stereotype on me, I do have to say that the painted nails, they make me feel happy. It's a way of injecting a bit of colour into a mostly denim, black and grey Melbourne wardrobe, and I'm really getting into it now. Up until last night I haven't been brave enough to do my own mani, preferring to pay $7 (in Singapore) to $20 to let some nice lady take care of my nails for me, but I have realised that's not really a sustainable obsession (not on my student budget). So last night, I painted my own nails, for the first time in many, many years:
Australis, Baby Doll. 
Not too shabby, eh?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Belgian Beer Cafe, Moules marinière

My 6 month PhD review went really well. I was worried I was going to get quizzed about why I am doing a theoretical PhD but the review panel seemed happy. To be honest I was hoping that they would say how impressed they were with progress I've made so far... full of my own importance much? Ha. Anyway, it went well, and to celebrate my office mate, Brad, took me out to The Belgian Beer Cafe for lunch.
Yum! I couldn't beLIEve the giant pile of mussels in my pot! I had the The Moules marinier, it was delicious, but boy was there a lot white wine in that stock. Lots of wine, lots of herbs (dried) and lots and lots of mussels. The mussels were served with the signature Belgian frittes & mayo and really excellent bread, which I of course used to soak up the delicious mussel, wine & herb stock. At $27 it's not a cheap lunch, but you could quite easily share with a friend (if your friend isn't a happy vegetarian, like Brad).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!!!

We spent some time last night looking at movie trailers online and I am now hanging out to see Despicable Me. Animated films are something that I have come to love since David and I became a couple. Before then I had seen and enjoyed The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo and probably some others I can't remember, but I wouldn't have said Animated was a genre I was in to, and I certainly wouldn't have rushed out to see an Animated film on the big screen. Since then, however, David has introduced me to the wonders of Pixar, Dreamworks et al and I am now a firm Animated fan. We saw Wall-E and Up at the movies and during both films I was brought to tears, something I didn't think would be possible when watching what I previously would have called a cartoon. I mean, come on, this stuff is for kids, right? Well, kids these days must be made of stone, because i was snivelling into my sleeve within the first ten minutes of Up, and my heart just about broke in the last ten of Wall-E. I'd also count Monsters Inc. among my favourite movies (I mean, come on, who can't love a big hairy blue monster and his eyeball sidekick who accidentally adopt a gorgeous little girl and name her Boo?!) and thought Ratatouille was great too.
What I really like about this generation of Animated films (from the Pixar crew at least) is they aren't built around a romance. Sure Wall-E loves Eva and Linguine is head over heels for Colette, but that's not what the stories are about. Eva's number one priority is her primary directive to find the plant (there's a career driven women if ever I saw one) and both Monsters and Up are essentially buddy stories with our heros up against some evil or injustice. And I think those are pretty good stories, for adults and kids alike.
Anyway, so where was I going with this...? Oh right. I am a recently converted Animated Film fanatic. And there is a new one being released soon - Despicable Me, with Steve Carrell as the voice of the #2 super-villain in the world, Gru. The part that I am really looking forward to? When Gru's recently adopted daughter, Agnes, discovers a fluffy unicorn toy at FunLand amusement park and declares that "It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!!!". I have watched that clip on repeat at least a dozen times already and it still makes me laugh out loud. And my ridiculous laughter makes David laugh. Everyone's a winner! It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!!! 
Seriously though, Twilight can go suck it, I can't wait for Despicable Me.