Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Essentials: Part Two

Food was a little more difficult.. my fully-stocked pantry will not be joining me (customs restrictions would mean considerable delays, and many things like flour/rice/grains/spices are simply prohibited), so I’m faced with the prospect of re-building this from scratch. Where to start? I had to give serious thought to priorities, so I could pick up a few things each week without blowing the budget.

First priority:

  • Soy sauce
  • Rice
  • Cooking oil (I use rice bran oil)

I can get by for awhile on fresh fruit and veg with soy sauce. A few extras have found their way in over the past two weeks:

My pantry.
Spaghetti, Soba, Baby gnocchi (because it’s cute), a jar of tomato/cashew pesto, white rice, crackers, sweet potatoes, balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, stock cubes (beef & chicken), fruit, spreads, cereal, LSA mix, and sugar. And three different single-malt whiskeys. They’re essential, right?

Also a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes, flour and rolled oats (porridge) which I forgot to move from the lower shelf.

My fridge. It’s this clean because I’ve only been here two weeks. Give it time.

Yoghurt, Hummus (cute little individual-serve packages), Greek yoghurt (for cooking), butter, cheese (I work for a dairy company)
Crushed garlic (I prefer fresh, but use the pre-crushed stuff for less critical dishes and sauces), tomato paste, herb mixes (lazy, and I don’t have a garden here!), oyster sauce, soy sauce, and pasta sauce

The rest of my fridge.

NZ sauvignon blanc (It was on special and I’m citing homesickness), Baileys (OK, no excuse for that), eggs, meat (split into single portions and frozen if I don’t get to it before use-by)
Red onions (I love the colour), carrots, broccoli, and a giant bag of snow peas. I love snow-peas, and they’re local here. I hate buying them in NZ when they’re grown in Africa!

And.. the freezer. No secrets here, I’m showing you the whole kitchen!

This is already pretty well stocked, and is a huge time saver:
Half a jar of pasta sauce. I’ll admit that there’s a small tub of icecream hiding behind this. Bread (I use a slice or two a week, so this lives in the freezer), and single-serve portions in zip-lock bags of tortellini, cooked rice, marinara sauce, and seafood marinara.
Chicken fillet, chicken bones for stock, raw prawns, frozen veges, and a box of wonton noodle soup in case I just can’t be bothered cooking.

I’m cutting a few more corners here than I would normally, but to be perfectly honest I just can’t be bothered making some of the basics from scratch after a long day at work when there’s no-one else here to notice. I’m focussing more on healthy food that happens quickly so I can relax, and varying the veges I buy for different flavour and texture rather than the style of food.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Setting up: the essentials

I’m very thankful that my generous employer honoured my request for a full kitchen in my temporary accommodation, as I don’t think I could survive two months with a studio kitchen. It is always my experience that serviced apartments supply the bare minimum, so I was prepared to pick up a few “extras” to see me through. I’ve been careful to stick to the basics, and to try to purchase items which I will continue to use – rather than just double up on things I already have at home. (The contents of my kitchen will be shipped in mid-October, so there’s no point in duplication.) That said, I’ve also been conscious that “temporary” means up to three months. I don’t really do “camping”, so will need to set a few things up!

My serviced apartment comes with:

  • A full set of plates, cutlery, and glassware
  • Three saucepans (various sizes)
  • One scratched and slightly rusty “non-stick” frypan
  • One chopping board
  • Three serrated “sharp” knives (various sizes)
  • Basic utensils (wooden spoon, vegetable peeler, etc)
  • Sachets of instant coffee, sugar, and UHT milk

I’ve slowly added to this.

Week one:

  • One 26cm Tefal frypan (deep enough to double as a wok when cooking for one)
  • One sharp knife (nothing fancy, just a Wiltshire brand ‘Santoku’ blade, with a good fine edge)
  • Plastic wrap

Week two:

  • Chopping boards (one is not enough, I like to keep raw meat and veges separate)
  • Bag clips (for frozen veges, and keeping ants out of the sugar)
  • Measuring cups (they were on sale. Probably not essential, but very handy)
  • Latex gloves (for handling raw meat – easier than the full scrub-under-fingernails routine)
  • Zip-lock bags for the freezer

Utensils. Back of drawer: standard-issue. Front of drawer: my ‘extras’.

Pretty chopping boards. The little red one is not essential, but I couldn’t resist – it has tiny little suckers on the bottom to stop it slipping (the other side is flat), and it was the last one, on sale.

My frypan. I also picked up a couple of face-cloths, which I use as hand-towels in the kitchen (I never use the tea towel to dry my hands, it’s unhygienic. I use these instead, and throw them in the wash every couple of days)

Yes, Mum, I'm looking after myself

In the past two months I’ve taken a new job in a new country. To prepare for the move we renovated the bathroom and laundry, sorted and “de-cluttered” the majority of the house, and worked through all of the cleaning and maintenance required to list a property for sale. Suckers for punishment, we also managed both an engagement and a small wedding before I departed. So yeah, I’ve been a little busy.

I am now in Melbourne, Australia, and waiting for my lovely husband to join me in October, and will share my temporary kitchen and cooking-for-one experiences with you. (Yes, I do see the irony of writing a “cooking-for-one” series when newly-married!!!)

Thanks for your patience while I’ve dropped off the face of the earth these past few months. I’d like to say a special thank-you to my lovely sisters, for sharing a little of their own kitchens here while I was offline. Hope you continue to pop in from time to time! 

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See, Mum - I'm eating my veggies!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Steak Frites v1

First attempt - not bad...

This was the first time I'd ever deep fried anything. But, as a dedicated fries aficionado I thought it was best to prove I could make my own if I was going to continue deriding the quality of fries at bars and restaurants around town.

Here's how I did it. Note: this fed about 10 people and cost me about $20.

Prep the night before 
(you could do this on dinner night but there will already be a lot to concentrate on so get ahead)

6 Russet Potatoes 
* peel, and slice into evenly sized fries (mine were approx 1cm square)
* cover them in cold water with 3-4 tablespoons of white vinegar and refrigerate

Flank steak - I cooked about 2kg of steak, a large flank steak about 10cm thick and a smaller one about 2cm thick (I was experimenting)
* Mix a marinade of crushed garlic, peanut oil, black peppercorns, salt, soy sauce and honey
* Put the steak and marinade in a ziplock bag and refrigerate

Not so hard so far... 

Dinner time

* Take out your meat so it warms to room temperature while you get started frying
* Drain and dry the fries (dry them as much as possible, it makes a big difference)
* Heat a wok with 6 cups of peanut oil. I cheated and didn't use a thermometer, urban legend has it that if you dip a wooden spoon or chopstick in the oil and tiny bubbles form all around the stick, it's go time
* Fry in small batches for approx 30-50secs, fries should come out blonde. Drain on a paper towel. You're going to fry them again so put them in the oven at 100 celsius
* Salt and pepper the outside of the steak and put it on a hot grill and cook medium rare. Rest the steak for 10minutes while you finish the fries
* Same as before but fry until they are golden brown this time and salt and pepper them immediately after they come out of the oil
* Slice the steak and serve everything while it's hot! preferably with horseradish sauce (mix prepared horseradish with mayonnaise or sourcream)

This was before I realised that putting fries into hot oil with TONGS is preferable to using  your hands

The best thing about slicing a large steak like this is you get a gradation of doneness from medium through to rare

Frites are done

The only problem is I ate them so fast I didn't take a picture of it all put together! next time....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Welcome to my refrigerator

Why not add another sister into the mix? I promise there are no more hidden sisters, I'm the last one. I'm Kerryn and I fall right in between the other two in age. I live in Portland, Oregon after relocating from Wellington 2 years ago. I miss New Zealand terribly but I unexpectedly fell head over heels in love with an American boy and it looks like I'll be sticking around a while....

My American sweethearts birthday is coming up and I want to cook him something great. So while he's out of town I am going to practice the dish I want to make him on a group of friends. Can you guess what I'm making? in the refrigerator is what I prepared in advance.... When I can I like to have as much done as possible before having people over so I can enjoy their company and drink a glass of wine (and make it look like this was so easy!). This was about 40 minutes of prep but it's going to make all the difference.

The top shelf here doesn't count, but you sure can tell a lot about a girl by her fridge right? here there's:

* Champagne (I recently got engaged)
* Tonic because it's summer in the US and I love a gin
* Miso paste because I like to make things from scratch and I want to try making miso soup next week
* And that little milk jug next to the water? well I'm lactose intolerant so it's not milk. It's bacon fat I saved from burger night. Bacon fat makes the best roast potatoes.