Last night was an excellent Italian meal prepared by our excellent Itallo/Californian chef, Diane. To begin she made a delicious risotto followed by the chicken thighs with a cleansing salad to complete the meal.
As anybody knows who has made risotto it is a time consuming dish when it is made properly and Diane’s was properly made. We thought that the rice could have taken a minute or more on the stove to soften the rice kernels but this might be a matter of taste. Risotto to begin a meal is something to treasure because it is a complex dish to make: not its ingredients but the cooking and the constant time needed to watch, stir and continuously add the broth before it is considered just right makes it a difficult dish to prepare. Restaurants outside of Italy probably do not have the chefs or the time to put risotto to their menu.
The main course (primo piatto) is a dish I put together after seeing how the butchers debone the chicken thighs and leave a perfect space to lay a bad of butter and some fresh herb before rolling it up and using a slice of prosciutto to wrap around it to hold it together. Diane placed it in a ceramic baking dish and depending on the thickness of the thigh about 25 to 30 minutes will be needed to cook it. Always slice it through to the bone making sure that the meat shows no red. The butter/herb combination will flow out of the thigh as it cooks and Diane mixes a little wine with this butter so that it does not burn in the baking dish; this mixture with the juices from the chicken will make a delicious sauce when it is eaten with the chicken.
A simple cleansing spinach salad rounded off a scrumptious meal.
As our beverage Diane selected an inexpensive yet satisfying “super Tuscan” red wine from the Carpineto vineyards. It has the unusual name of Dogajolo; we have had it before and it always tastes good with the strong central Italian flavours.
On Sunday the 26th we had a purchased but very good Lasagne with a good cleansing salad.
The next day Diane made a fascinating salad by combining purchased smoked trout with a salad bowl of lettuce pieces, slices of cucumber, pieces of tomatoes, sliced onions and the occasional olive. It was an excellent combination and one that will be repeated now that summer is approaching. Some time ago we bought an inexpensive smoker and we will be able to flavour our purchased raw trout with our own herbs.
Last night we went to the show and watched an interesting film called Gone Girl and had dinner at the Kurdish food stall. We had Baba Ghanoush with pieces of Kurdish bread for dipping and both of us had Kurdish Gozleme. The Gozleme is two thin pieces of Kurdish bread filled with, in our case, feta cheese on a bed of spinach. I love these things and could easily eat them far more often than do now.
Last night was a lil’ bit of Greek and the rest was a fill-in with what we had but none-the-less it was excellent as Di’s meal always are.
We started with a plate of the usual suspects: cheese, olives and a small dish of her dipping sauce from earlier in the week. It was a combination of her creations and it was superb. Di served long pieces of Turkish bread for dipping and it was a splendid way to begin the meal.
After this Diane served corn on the cob that was very, very good. It was local corn and probably so good because it was sweet corn from spring. It was just roasted and served with butter and was sooooo good. I do not think the Greeks normally eat corn on the cob so that is why the meal can’t be called Greek.
The third course was as good as the corn and for the same reason: it was spring, tender lamb. She served us two chops apiece and they tasted superb.
The wine also deviated from the Greek meal theme: it was an Australian inexpensive bottle of Jacob’s Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra.
Many of these as well as many others are from an old 1976 cookbook that we bought soon after migrating: Spanish Regional Cookery by Anna MacMiadhachain. It is an interesting, useful cook book if you can find a copy of it.
Probably because the week’s stresses had culminated on the shoulders of the strong chef of our home she decided to make a familiar Spanish meal that was tried ‘n true. There were certainly no complaints from the other person at the table. Diane began the meal with a plate of nibbles: slices of Parmagiano (not Spanish but we had no Zamorano or any other hard cheese,) a slice of Jamon Serrano (like prosciutto only better) and two types of olives (our olive recipe but someone else’s brand of olives) and Artichoke pieces with mayonnaise (Alcachofa con Mayonesa.)
Diane’s second course was Migas Andaluzas (fried bread cubes with spices.)
The main course arrived next and it is a beauty: Lamb Stew from Jerez (Calderete de cordero.) This is an old favourite recipe that always turns out: cubed spring lamb, the usual southern European flavourings except with this recipe you must add sherry to the water that initially cooks the meat and then after pouring that liquid out and more sherry to the meat and cook for one hour at least.
As a side, Diane finely slices potatoes and fries them in olive oil and about half way through the frying she chops and adds a good amount of oregano to the potatoes.
Our meal was highlighted by, not a Spanish wine but a ’06 bottle of Cypriot wine: KTHMA KEO, Cabernet Sauvignon
Diane has decided to make a series of Greek meals: because 1) they taste so good and 2) the season is warming up into summer. Therefore, she started her meal with Tahina Dip and stuffed Grapevine Leaves (Dolmadakia).
Her second course was a delicious variation of an old favourite for BBQ meals even though this one was in door because the evening air is still not conducive to a dinner BBQ. We have used Haloumi prepared this way but the local market offered kasseri cheese specifically for Fried Cheese or Saganaki; one of my favourite BBQ courses. It is simple in that you only need to obtain a cheese that is hard like haloumi or kasseri that can be brushed with olive oil and then dusted with flour before being fried on a hot griddle or pan.
The main course was a luscious eggplant dish where the eggplant is halved and scooped out to which are added chopped onion, garlic and chopped mushrooms. These items are fried and cubes of feta are added before refilling the eggplant. Slices of tomato are laid on top and the dish is baked. It is filling and makes a great main course.
Diane made a delicious refrigerated Greek salad to accompany this Greek meal.
My only sorrow was that we had drunk all of the Greek white wines so we relied on an excellent domestic white wine.
Last night Diane made a wonderful Greek meal for our rejoining after our absence from each other these past weeks (see last post.)
She began the meal with a Skordalia dip to which she added a bit of Greek yogurt with: Celery sticks, pieces of toasted Flat Bread and sticks of Cucumber.
For the main course she prepared/Bakaiaro Me Spanaki (Cod Baked with Spinach and Garlic Sauce) we had Rankin Cod baked on a bed of Spinach and garlic sauce (Skordalia) with finely chopped green onions.
With this lovely Rankin Cod Diane made a fresh Greek Salad with the usual suspects.
We shared a delicious Grant Burge Pinot Gris from the Adelaide Hills.
The explanation is a fairly long one on Diane’s part; on my part it was simple: I had to go to a Respite facility in Bunbury while Di was away in California visiting her mother.
After last October I can no longer stay by myself here in Leeming so I had to go to this respite centre while she was away. The centre was custom built for its purpose and therefore it is roomy inside with easy rooms to access and because it only takes a maximum of six clients with two staff changing in the afternoon to two new staff with one for the night period it is easy to see how well the clients are cared for throughout the twenty four hours of the day.
Because this blog touts itself as a food blog I will say a few words about the meals that MS clients can expect. These marvellous women who staffed the facility at lunchtime and others at dinnertime, with the exception of two male Carers, cooked home style meals; meals as they would fix their families. In no particular order I enjoyed: homemade pizza, mild Curry, penne with a tomato meat sauce, mixed bean stew, baked fish, sausage pieces with onions and sautéed chicken pieces with vegetables.
Generally at lunch it was pretty much what people requested and as long as it was within reason these wonderful people would accommodate the request.
In my three week stay I met 18 different people who came into the facility as carer’s and to a person they were professional, caring, very knowledgeable and personable. The MS Society has really got it together regarding staffing and operating such a facility.