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Unplugged and getting back to basics


Have you ever felt the need in this crazy, busy technological world to just unplug and get away from it all?

I didn’t realise I was going to take a break – but before I knew it – that’s what I was doing. No writing, no stalking Facebook and Twitter. It felt good. To just cook and not write down all the ingredients along the way while worrying about whether the meal would be “blog-worthy” or not.

It was nice to get back to just cooking every night for Matt and I. The other thing when you write a blog as frequently as I was is the capacity to repeat recipes is decreased. You can’t exactly cook the same risotto over and over and keep blogging about it. You’ve always got to be trying something new and experimenting. While I love to do this – I just wanted to cook old favourites for a while. So, I did.

And I amused myself doing other things – like going out and having the most amazing dinner for my birthday (thanks to Matt) and going for walks on the beach. Here are some photos of my adventures while I have been silent in the online world.

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But I have missed writing here … and so I’m back to write about the food I love to cook and eat. But, there will be a few changes.

I’m going to post awesomely delicious recipes every Saturday morning to inspire you ahead of the weekend. But, I’m not going to push myself to post more than that. Sometimes our lives are just too full of computers and phones and not enough about the raw basics, like cooking, gardening, walking along the beach and just reading a good book. I have done all those things during my unexpected break – and it makes me a happier person. Unplugged = destressed = a happier me. That’s important.

Writing about food has always been so therapeutic to me – I don’t want it to start feeling like work again. My blog is about sharing food stories, great and yummy recipes and connecting with people. I don’t want to forget that again.

Do you think unplugging from the vertual world is important? Does being online all the time overwhelm you? How do you go about disconnecting and how did you feel about not being online? Was it easy, or was it hard to be out of touch? Leave your comments below. It would be great to hear about other people’s experiences.

It’s great to be back and I can’t wait to share an epic recipe I road-tested during my break – Rick Stein’s Massaman Curry from his recent Eastern Odyssey series. It was a labour of love – but worth the effort. Look out for it on Saturday. See you then!

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The Weekly Cook Up: Morrocan Beef Tagine


Moroccan food, in my book, is absolutely gorgeous. This tagine is no different because it’s filled with delicate flavours, amazing freshness and the pangs of yumminess that come from lemon and olives.

I admit, there are a few ingredients in this dish – but that’s why it’s a Weekly Cook Up recipe. It needs a little love and time to ensure you are left with a succulent, tender and flavourful dish.

I generally get annoyed when people call dishes like this a tagine – when they didn’t actually use a tagine to cook it in. I mean, that’s the whole point! So, I apologise to myself right now. I am calling this a tagine, because the flavours deserve that title. I didn’t have mine handy because we were house-sitting for my brother and his girl while they were off sunning themselves in warmer places of Australia. Also, this is a large batch, which will serve 6 to 8 to allow for freezing, so it wouldn’t probably fit in a tagine anyway. Feel free to halve the quantities and break out your tagine, if you have one. They are definitely a worthwhile investment.

You will see below that the first component of the recipe involves making a chermoula. This is like the equivalent of a curry paste – but in this case the consistency is more like a watery salsa. This is a critical step in making this dish as it’s where you start to build the flavour base. Keep in mind when making this dish that you really need to marinade the meat for about two hours after adding the chermoula.

Beef Tagine with Lemon, Olives and Coriander

Chermoula

  • 6 tomatoes, finely diced
  • 3 tbs of fresh coriander root, finely chopped
  • the zest of a whole lemon
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large green chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 cm of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp of Moroccan spice paste (I used Dave Bittons – but there are others available in the spice section at the supermarket)

The tagine

  • 2 kg of chuck steak – trimmed of excess fat (but leave a bit on for tenderness and flavour). Cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 potatoes (I didn’t peel them, but you can if you prefer) cut into wedges
  • 1/2 a cup of water
  • 1 cup of green pitted olives (you can use kalamata, if you like)
  • 4 tbs of chopped, fresh coriander

Method

Combine all the ingredients for the chermoula.

Place half the chermoula in a bowl with the meat. Mix thoroughly and seal both bowls with cling film and place in the fridge for an hour – 2 if possible to allow the flavours to meld and marinate.

 Take the meat and chermoula out of the fridge and set aside. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a large, heavy-based pan and add the onion, cooking over a medium heat until nice and soft.

Add the meat, the remaining chermoula as well as the tomatoes, potatoes and water.

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a very low heat for about two hours, or until the meat is lovely and tender. Add the olives, allow to heat through for a minute or two. Add the fresh coriander, then serve.

Serve with cous cous and some nice crusty bread.

This dish has amazing layers of flavour that will dance in your mouth. The soft, fluffy cous cous soaks up the juices perfectly. This really is an awesome dish.

As for my music recommendation – One Republic was definitely a feature of my playlist while I was making this. Make sure you look up their albums – but one of my favourite songs is called Lullaby. It’s a song about home, about feeling safe and content. Have a listen below. It’s a really beautiful song.

The tagine will freeze well for up to three months. Seeing as it’s the Queens Birthday long weekend, why not spend some time whipping up some dishes like this to freeze to make your life easier when work and life gets crazy again! Check out The Weekly Cook Up for more inspiration. Other than cooking – what are your plans this long weekend? I’m working at my brother and dad’s shop, and relaxing with my finacee. No doubt there’ll be some cooking going on too 🙂

Cooking – not only cures hunger, but enriches the soul


Over the past few months I’ve been trying to figure out what makes cooking such a challenge for people. Why don’t more people love compiling the evening meal as much as I do?

So, I asked a few of my friends on Facebook about what makes cooking challenging for them. Most of them said it was time that made it hard to get a meal on the table. Others said it was the financial stress of having to cook for a large family. Other said recipes had too many ingredients or were too hard to follow. All very useful things to know for a food blogger like me.

But, while I can create and write simple recipes that taste great and are good on the bank balance, I was wondering what I could do to change the mindset that cooking is just a means to an end – something that has to be done.

I’ve decided, it’s all about how you feel when you cook. Busy schedules, screaming kids – all while dealing with hot pots and timers and everything else that goes along with cooking. Yeah, that sounds terrible to me too!

So, I came up with a recipe to help you think of cooking as not only a means of feeding your hunger, but feeding your soul:

1. Turn the TV off, and turn your favourite tunes on.

 One of my pet hates when I am trying to cook is having the TV mind-numbingly blaring in the background. I always cooked with the TV on growing up – then I brought a house that’s kitchen was a totally separate room from the rest of the house. Well, it was my little haven of happiness. I’d have my music on, and dance around the kitchen adding a dash of this and a drizzle of that to whatever I was cooking. I know most houses are open plan – but why not turn the TV off for a while and enjoy some music. It will do your creativity a world of good, it’ll reduce stress, plus it’s unhealthy to have the idiot box on ALL the time.

2. Ask your parner /housemate / friend to sit with you while you cook, or even lend a hand!

One thing my fiancée and I love to do is spend time together while we cook. Sometimes I cook, sometimes he cooks. Sometimes I chop and he stirs. You get the drift. If we had kids, they’d probably be there too looking on and making racket. But hey, at least you’re together and communicating, and there’s nothing better for the soul then that!

3. Be confident!!

Many people see cooking as being hard, and therefore not enjoyable. I can understand that! If you watch Masterchef or My Kitchen Rules – no wonder most of us are getting a complex that our food isn’t special enough or fancy enough or it doesn’t have enough ingredients. Well, I’m here to tell you that most of the stuff that they cook on those shows doesn’t have a place in anyone’s kitchen 90 per cent of the time. Unless you are a lady or man of leisure with a whole lot of money and a stack of time on your hands, then that sort of cooking is a unrealisitic expectation to put on home cooks. As long as it tastes good and makes you happy, that’s all that matters. In saying that, I think those “four ingredient” recipes are kind of dumb – but there’s a happy medium to everything.

4. Keep your bench tidy

The most stressful part of cooking for me, really is the clean up. I hate it! So, I have a plastic bag on the bench where I throw all my rubbish, and I cook with the dishwasher open so I can turf stuff in there when I’m done using it. After I have chopped stuff up, I wash my board and give the bench a wipe. It’s actually really easy and saves sooo much cleaning up later on. In saying that, don’t sweat it too much. When I make something new and complicated, there’s mess and jars and stuff all over the place (including the odd bit of vegie peel on the floor). The trick is, don’t make stressful recipes or new things when you are short on time and patience. Be kind to yourself!

5. Remember that cooking is about love and generosity

Change your mnindset by thinking about cooking not as a chore, but as a way of showing your love for yourself and for your family. For me, my love for food stems from the satisfaction I get from having people together, in one place – enjoying each other’s company. What better way to do that then to share food? The other thing I love about cooking is the generosity of it – and the way you can be so creative and artistic all at the same time. But what is so special for me is that cooking is the way I open my heart to people – it’s the way I feel most comfortable in showing the people I care about just how much they mean to me. If the one thing you can do everyday to show the people close to you that you love them is to cook for them, then I think that’s great. It won’t always be met with a thank you – but when it comes to food, most people appreciate the effort. And, if you live alone and cook for one – think of it as your treat to yourself. I used to do that when I lived alone and could cook WHATEVER I liked, with no complaints 🙂 Fabulous!

Have a think about these tips and if you do nothing else – cook with music on. For me the two go hand in hand. Sometimes it’ll be Kings of Leon, other times Paramore – at the moment, it’s this awesome song by a great band called Stateless. It’s chilled, relaxing and very cool!

Now because I think music and cooking are a recipe for happiness, I’m going to share with you what I think are the most inspiring tracks when it comes to cooking in all my future posts!

But in the mean time, if you normally cook with music, what’s flicking through on your Ipod at the moment? Share your inspiring tunes in the comments section below!

Be Inspired~

Lisa

 

Happy Birthday Uforic Food!


Today is Uforic Food’s first birthday, and as you can see, it’s the start of something new!

As a birthday present, the blog has received a complete makeover! What do you think?

Personally, I love it! 🙂

Over the past 12 months I have learnt a whole lot about blogging. I have posted more than 100 times and have a bunch of dedicated followers, who I thank so much for joining the Uforic Food community and the journey so far.

In the last year you have watched me dish out 30 Recipes in 30 Days – which was an awesome challenge – as well as share countless stories about my love for food, how it has grown over time and some of my family’s secret recipes.

But knowing that this big milestone was approaching, I have taken the time to think about where Uforic Food is going.

I decided the most important thing to me is to inspire people to cook, despite the fact that life is busy and hectic and crazy and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I want to help you be a success in the kitchen.

Uforic Food is all about fabulous flavour and simplicity wherever possible. Let’s have fun cooking, instead of it being a chore. They’ll be no whacky concepts or ingredients you can’t understand. I won’t write recipes that make you have to buy 10 different kinds of sauce that are only going to sit in the cupboard because you have no other use for them.

My aim is to help you feel confident about cooking and therefore it’s all about being creative. There is nothing more rewarding then being able to go to the fridge, freezer and pantry – see what you have and make something out of it – without a recipe to go by, simply because you understand what flavours work well together. That kind of knowledge is true inspiration – not reading and following a recipe to the letter.

The recipes I write here, and the ones that will be featured in the cook book I am now writing (very exciting!!), won’t be created with the expectation that you are going to follow them step by step, measuring everything accurately along the way.

They’re a guide, surrounded by lots of other tips, tricks and food knowledge – to inspire you to chop and change, add flavours you like and have fun with it. Make it your own!

Many people dread cooking, do it out of necessity and buy take-aways and pre-packaged stuff from the supermarket because cooking is just too overwhelming, time consuming and difficult. But, I promise you, sign up to the new-look Uforic Food and in no time you’ll be dancing around the kitchen, adding a dash of this and a dollop of that and having a fabulous time cooking meals for you and your family.

The Weekly Cook Up will continue on Fridays, which delivers recipes ideal for cooking when you have a little more time up your sleeve, but that are suitable for freezing in batches to be thawed and eaten during the week when life is crazy and you only have enough energy to dial for pizza. Trust me, the time you invest on a weekend to cook a few dishes for later in the week will become your saving grace, not only when it comes to time, but for your health, as well as your hip pocket.

On Saturday l’ll bring you some awesome tips on not only how to feed your hunger, but enrich your soul through cooking. It’s a post I’m really proud of and hope you check it out. They’ll even be music too!

But until then, why not use one of the trusty links above to share this with your friends on Twitter or Facebook. Think of it not only as a birthday gesture to Uforic Food, but a great way to inspire your friends.

Again, thank you for following me on my foodie journey so far … and if you’re new to Uforic Food, welcome and please feel free to look through all the recipes already on offer. I’m really looking forward to connecting with you 🙂

 

 

Lisa

 P.S I would like to also thank my dearest friend and technology guru AJ (follow him on Twitter @BLKMGK01 or visit his awesome site for cool young professionals here). I know we didn’t get to do everything we had planned – but that just means there’s even more excitement to come!

I would also like to thank Adcell Group for designing the awesome new header and the very stylish Uforic Food logo. I love it!

The Weekly Cook Up: Curry with ginger and coriander


The Weekly Cook Up is a new column I plan to bring you every Friday right around 3pm when you are seriously having a think about your weekend menu.

The aim of the Weekly Cook Up is to inspire busy people like yourselves to set some time aside in the kitchen on the weekend to prepare at least one meal ahead for the week. If you’re really keen, you could cook up a few dishes, it’s totally up to you!

The thing is, we are all flat out busy – it’s just the way life is. It doesn’t matter if you have a husband or wife and kids, a hungry boyfriend or girlfriend at home or your extended family living with you. Even if it’s only yourself you have to feed – whether cooking is your thing or not, it can be a real drag to get motivated during the week.

That’s nothing to feel bad about – we all get like that. But the bad thing is it drives us to constantly eat out – not for a nice occasion, but because we all need to eat. Or lots of people find themselves buying expensive take-away or pre-made crap at the supermarket.

We live in a world where we are surrounded by cooking shows where the contestants stress out to create this (mostly) amazing food. I don’t know about you, but while these shows do inspire people to cook, I think they also make some of us feel a bit guilty for not putting a meal like that on the table after a busy day at work or with the kids, or however you spend your time.

That expectation is ridiculous and if you feel that way – then stop! If you are a regular reader of Uforic Food, you’ll know that my friend Ruza and I have our applications in to represent Victoria in season 3 of My Kitchen Rules. But I am more than happy to admit that I don’t cook like they do everyday. What they do is what I call “special occasion cooking”. Life’s just too busy to do that sort of stuff all the time and as much as I love to cook – I don’t even want to.

The weekly Cook Up will bring you recipes that may require a little more preparation or cooking time – but will be the sorts of things you can cook and freeze in batches like curries, soups, casseroles and other yummy, comforting, delicious food. I know you and your family are going to enjoy eating these dishes a whole lot more than going out for dinner just for a feed or eating expensive and unhealthy take-away more often than you should.

There is a place in all our lives for eating out and take-aways – but I think it’s important to eat home-made, healthy food. I think with a bit of planning and a hint of inspiration – you’ll be cooking up a storm and everyone will be happier, healthier, less stressed and best of all – you’ll save some money too!

That’s why I have chosen Fridays to post the Weekly Cook Up – most of us get a few days off each week, hopefully your partner is home too and can look after the kids – while you get into the kitchen and prepare one or a few meals for the week ahead. Turn the music up – pour yourself a glass of wine or crack open and beer and enjoy yourself!

Sound good? I hope you are all nodding in agreement 🙂

The biggest pleasure for me comes in the form of comfort food – and so I am going to kick of Uforic Food’s Weekly Cook Up with a fabulous curry, which I made last night. I made it up from ingredients that inspired me at the supermarket and in the pantry and it turned out great. I used chicken thigh fillets for this, but you could also use some chuck steak and simmer slowly for 1.5 – 2 hours. If you feel like it, mess around with the spices and make it your own.

CURRY WITH GINGER AND CORIANDER

 

  • 1 tbs of butter
  • 2 tbs of olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely diced (you can do this is a food processor, if you like, just make sure you don’t turn it to mush)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced (or pop in the processor, if using)
  • 3cm knob of ginger, finely diced (or in processor, but remove skin and chop into chucks first)
  • 1/4 of a cup of fresh curry leaves (I found them in the fruit and veg section at the supermarket)
  • 1 tbs of finely chopped coriander root
  • 1 tsp or ground coriander
  • 2 tsp of ground cummin
  • 1 tsp of ground turmeric
  • 1/2 a tsp of ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp of ground paprika
  • 2 tsp of garam masala
  • 1/2 a tsp of chilli flakes (remove if cooking if kids, or ramp up if you like it hot – you could add fresh chilli too, if you have it)
  • 700gm of chicken thigh fillets, cut into large chunks (or chuck steak)
  • 1 400gm can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 a tsp of sugar
  • 3/4 of a cup of chicken stock (or beef stock, if using steak)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 of a cup of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Method:

Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy-based pan and cook the onion, ginger, garlic and coriander root with a few good pinches of salt, until they begin to soften. Make sure they don’t take on any colour. You want them to sweat and the salt with help with this.

Add all the spices and cook for a further three minutes, stirring to ensure they don’t burn. This releases their flavours and they will become lovely and fragrant.

Add the chicken/beef and turn it up to a medium heat. Toss it through the spices and cook for about 5 minutes until the outside changes colour. This means the meat is nicely sealed.

Add the chopped tomatoes, sugar and chicken/beef stock and bring it up to a boil. Taste the sauce at this point and see if it needs some salt and pepper. I’m sure it will.

Turn the temperature right down and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes if using chicken, or simmer covered for 1.5 hours (checking regularly) if you are using beef. Taste the beef at the end of that cooking time to see if it’s tender. If not, cooking for another 15 minutes and test again. It’s very important if cooking this with beef that you make sure it’s cooking nice and slowly, otherwise the meat will go tough.

Stir through the fresh coriander and serve with some basmati rice and natural yogurt.

This really did turn out beautiful and fragrant and would be fine young children – just don’t add the chilli flakes. If it’s adults only and you’d like a bit of a chilli hit – I reckon a whole red chilli would do the trick nicely.

This makes enough to serve 4 quite generously. Feel free to double the recipe and then freeze it in air-tight containers for up to three months. If you’re on your own, you can buy containers large enough to fit one meal in. I do this for my dad. I always cook the rice for him, put it in the bottom of the container and then put the curry on top. This is a great option if you work nights and need to take your dinner to work.

If you’ve done it in a batch for four – I’d recommend that you freeze the curry only – and then make your rice fresh.

To make great rice, do 1 part rice to 1 1/2 parts water. If you are serving four, you’ll need a mug-sized cup of uncooked rice to 1 1/2 mug-sized cups of water. Cook it in the microwave on high for 12 minutes. I promise you won’t go wrong!

To make my rice a little more interesting, I added a teaspoon of chicken stock powder, a knob of butter and a teaspoon of turmeric – to make it yellow. It was yum!

To re-heat – it’s ideal if you can put the frozen food in the fridge the night before you plan to eat it. Once thawed, if you have made a family-sized batch, you can pop it into a saucepan and slowly reheat. If you can’t be bothered with that – the microwave is fine. Heat on high for 2 minutes. Check and stir, and continue until it’s hot enough.

Meals for one, which include the rice as part of the frozen meal, will need to be heated in the microwave, as stated above.

So this week I challenge you to get into your kitchen and do a bit of a cook up. You might like to use this recipe, or another one that you know freezes well. It will be the start of fabulous weekday meals – minus the stress!

Be Inspired~

Lisa

Freezing meals – is it the way to go?


Frozen food may not look that appetising in this state - but it's healthier, cheaper and quicker than take-away! Post your feedback below.

I’m still not too sure about the whole idea of cooking food and then freezing it – even though I have been doing it for years now – mostly for my wonderful dad, but earlier back in my uni days.

So, I wanted to call on you all to give me some tips, tricks and recipes that work well for you, which you can post in the “comments” section below.

As a food enthusiast, I always think it’s better to cook and eat everything fresh – but of course, that’s not always possible. People do lead very demanding lives these days with long hours at work, kids (not that I’d know anything about that, but I can imagine it would be hard), commuting, new exercise regimes (I know something about that – really need to get on the treadmill again!!). The list goes on.

One thing that does dismay me is that in order for people to fit everything in – they get take-away rather than cooking. I’m not talking on the odd occasion – I mean once a week is fine – but almost every night!! This just boggles my mind!

Take-away is soooo expensive!! Quite often (depending on your choices) it’s not all that healthy – in fact it can be fat laden and horrible! I also think it’s a bit of a falesy that take-away saves time. I mean unless you get it home-delivered, by the time you ring up, wait a bit, drive down to pick it up – probably wait a bit longer, and then drive home – you could have cooked a delicious, healthy meal at home. Just on this blog alone I can name five recipes I could have whipped up in the time it takes to pick up your take-away (garlic and chilli prawns, marinated lamb, whipped up quickly on the barbecue, Pollo alla Cacciatora, baked fish with tomato and lemon and of course – Matt’s Meatlovers Pasta).

I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, but I know all these dishes would taste better than KFC or pizza (don’t tell Matt I said that! LOL. It is his favourite food)

The reason for my critique on frozen food is that I am really enjoying doing weekly cook-ups for my dad – so that he’s always got food to eat when he gets home from a hard night working at Anglesea Fruitz. However, I’m afraid he’s getting sick of eating the same old things – as in stuff I know freezes well – like casseroles of all kinds, spaghetti bolognese etc. I even freeze risotto – although I know this doesn’t re-heat that well.

I was also hoping that your tips, tricks and recipe ideas might inspire others to cook and freeze, rather than opt for expensive take-away. I mean just imagine how much money you could save if you dedicated a day a week, or even a fortnight, to make a few nice casseroles, soups etc to stockpile in your freezer for busy nights when you just can’t be bothered.

I can imagine that if I’m lucky enough to have some little kiddlywinks running around one day, that taking care of them is going to take up almost all of my time. But I think we owe it to ourselves and to the health of our families to take some time out and cook food – even if it means we stick it in the freezer for later use. I mean simple pasta sauce like my marinara recipe is so versatile that you can make it, freeze it, and then use it to whip up quick pasta dishes where all you have to do is thaw it out, cook some pasta and then add some mince, bacon, or other flavourings like capers, olives, capsicum etc. In no time at all – you have a meal on the table and little washing up.

Tonight mum is coming over and we are taking over Matt’s mum’s kitchen to whip up some yummy stuff for dad to have for dinners for the next weeks or so – which will be served up into meal-sized containers and labelled accordingly. I am planning on making chicken and lemon drumsticks, bolognese sauce, chilli con carne and a lovely chicken risoni dish. Except for the bolognese sauce – they are all new dishes I found on the web. So, I’ll let you know how they go.

In the meantime, I’d really love to hear your stories around freezing meals. What recipes have worked well for you? Are there some important tips people should follow if they are going to head down this path.

Here are five things I always consider when I’m freezing meals:

  • How will the recipe go being reheated? I always avoid freezing meals that contain cream, as I’ve found it doesn’t work well
  • Always use good, air-tight containers that are labelled – so you know what’s in them.
  • Try not to keep frozen meals in the freezer too long – 3 months, tops.
  • I always figure out the meals I would like to make, and then do a comprehensive shopping list – including adding plastic containers to the list. There’s nothing worse then cooking a whole stack of food and then having no containers to put it in.
  • After putting the food in the containers, ensure it has cooler to room temprature before putting the lid on and putting it in the freezer.

Leave your tip in the comments sections below.

Cheers,

Lisa

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