A Snack Platter Dinner Is A Legitimate Thing!


“I believe in a benevolent God not because He created the Grand Canyon or Michelangelo, but because He gave us snacks.” 
~
 Paul Rudnick

Our neighbours came over for dinner last night.

We get together quite often, and many times our dinner is not a proper meal. Instead it is a dinner of snacks.

Our friends will bring some. I will rustle some up. Fresh harvest from the vege garden – maybe some little tomatoes, green beans or a nice crunchy capsicum (bell pepper), crackers and dips and cheeses and relish and nuts. Maybe some leftover salad or roast meat or vegetables. Whatever else we can find that is snacky.

Then we add wine, or bubbles, or tea. Throw in some good conversation and a few laughs. Music, of course.

Perhaps something sweet to finish. Fresh fruit or whatever biscuits, cake or chocolate is hiding in the pantry.

Maybe, after a while, some kind of game. Cards Against Humanity is a favourite.

Quite often I’ll make us all a Golden Milk latte or a mug of chai to round out the night.

It’s an easy thing to do, to throw together an assortment of snacks. It’s low key, and if you’re tired or unwell it makes having company a pleasure rather than a chore, which is as it should be!

The energies of 2019 suit relaxed get-togethers and shared company. Maybe you could try a snacks platter night some time soon, and ask all your guests to contribute.

Hugs and love, Nicole❤ xx

Slow Cooker Italian Lamb Shank Recipe

2013-06-26 18.01.44

“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”~ Jane Austen

 

I’m totally in love with my slow cooker right now. Just ten minutes of preparation in the morning and the slow cooker does all the work so that by nightfall I have a luscious, melt-in-the-mouth dinner, brimful of goodness and with next to no effort. It also makes for wonderful left-overs!

This recipe can just as easily made with lamb neck or lamb chops.  The flavour is wonderfully Italian; the orange gives a hint of sweetness and the herbs, garlic, bacon and tomato create a rich sauce to ladle over the meat.

I served my lamb shanks with roasted cauliflower (have you tried this? seriously addictive and good!) and a sweet potato mash for Wednesday’s dinner, and used the leftovers last night for a delectable ragu sauce with rustic pasta.

This recipe also freezes well, and is easily reheated for an easy meal later in the week. If you don’t have all the ingredients, feel free to experiment. Slow cookers make everything taste good!

Ingredients:

6 to 8 frenched lamb shanks (or other lamb cuts with bones in them eg chump chops or neck), 1 large onion, 8 to 10 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of olives with the seeds removed (kalamata olives are good!), 1 large carrot, 2 sticks of celery, 2 tins of diced tomatoes or 4 cups fresh chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 cup of red wine, 1/2 cup of red capsicum (bell pepper), 1 teaspoon of mixed dried Italian herbs,  1 cup of rich chicken or vegetable stock, 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley, 2 thick slices of orange with the skin on, 2 rashers of bacon or 3 tablespoons (75 grams) of pancetta, salt and pepper to season.

2013-06-25 10.50.17

Chop onion, carrots, celery, capsicum (bell pepper) and bacon or pancetta. Chop parsley finely.

Brown your lamb shanks in a large frypan over medium heat. Place the lamb shanks in layers, alternating with a sprinkle of the vegetables, garlic, herbs, bacon and olives.

Add the stock, orange slices, tomatoes, tomato paste and wine. Give a good grind of pepper and a little salt. Cover and cook.

2013-06-25 10.55.36

 

Don’t be put off by the long cooking times.  The longer you cook the meat the more tender it will be, and the more nutrition will be imparted to the sauce. Slow cooked meats are very good for you – packed full of fat soluble minerals, amino acids, easily digestible proteins, gelatin and other health-promoting things!

Cook on low in a slow cooker for 6 hours.

Cook on low heat in a saucepan on the stove for 4 to 5 hours.  Turn your shanks at least once during this time, and re-baste with sauce.

Cook in a moderate oven (180 degrees celsius/ 350 degrees fahrenheit) for 30 minutes, and then reduce heat to 150 degrees celsius/ 300 degrees fahrenheit) and cook for 3 hours.  Turn your shanks at least once during this time, and re-baste with sauce.

Serve with your favourite seasonal vegetables, and some mash, rice or pasta if it suits you. Perhaps a slice or two of rustic sourdough bread to mop up those juices?

2013-06-26 18.02.44

When cooked low and slow the marrow and gelatin from the meat help thicken the sauce. Don’t waste any of it!  Whatever is not eaten with dinner can be used as a basis for a pasta sauce, or as a gravy over other meats or vegetables.

Leftovers?

Strip the meat from the bones, add back into the sauce, heat and serve with cooked pasta as another meal. This is comfort food at its finest!

2013-06-27 18.23.04

2013-06-27 18.24.49

 

Simple Baked Camenbert Recipe

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
~ C. S. Lewis

Our little farmhouse is as popular as any Byron Bay bed and breakfast come weekends,especially on Market Weekends! I’m returning home this morning, after a very big week of psychic work in Brisbane, and this afternoon guests arrive to spend a few nights with us.  It doesn’t give me much time to get ready, in anticipation of feeding the hungry hordes.

Afternoon drinks on the veranda is a much-looked-forward-to Friday ritual in our neck of the woods, and I know my visitors will be hungry after their long drive.  I won’t have had much time to whip up anything very spectacular – so my fallback treat today is Baked Camenbert.  Baking camenbert is so simple, and the result is a rich, melty fondue-reminiscent cheesy heaven! You can scoop it out onto bread or crackers, and there is always a fight to eat the ‘skin’ at the end of the cheese-dipping session.

Our beverages of choice will be Hendricks Gin and Tonic (thanks to my dear friend Rachel for putting me on to this gin), Stone and Wood Pacific Ale (a locally brewed and quite excellent beer) and perhaps a bottle of bubbles or a crisp dry white wine.

Now, to the business of baking camenbert.  I have some splendid, meal-worthy variations of this recipe but for today let’s just start with the basics.  You’ll need a wheel of camenbert (more if there is a crowd!), and some good quality crackers, crispbread or mini-toasts.  A good fresh bread, ripped into chunks can also work well.  I like the camenberts that come in the little wooden boxes.  The box helps the cheese stay in shape as it bakes, but if you can’t get hold of one like that don’t worry.  It will still work out fine!

If you want to make your own crackers and crispbread, I thoroughly recommend the recipes from the fabulous Darla Cooks blog. Just click on the link to visit cracker recipe heaven. Here’s a picture from Darla’s blog of her own crispbread making efforts:

This image courtesy of the amazing Darla Magee-Price

Anyway, back to cheese….

Using a sharp knife (serrated ones work very well for this) carefully cut the top rind off your wheel of cheese.  Then score the inside of the cheese lightly to help it cook through evenly.

If you have some sprigs of fresh rosemary, and a little fresh garlic to hand, these will turn your camenbert into something magical.  It’s so easy.  Just skin a few garlic cloves, cut in half if enormous, and poke into the cheese.  Poke a few sprigs of rosemary in the cheese as well.

Now place your cheese on a baking tray and pop it into a very hot oven for fifteen to twenty minutes. If you don’t have a nifty wooden box for your cheese, and the rind is quite soft, you can place the cheese in a small oven proof bowl or ramekin, or make a little paper and aluminum foil collar to keep your cheese in shape.  Or live on the wild side, put a piece of baking paper under your cheese and be prepared to eat it sloppy if it doesn’t hold its shape.

Check in with your cheese every so often.  You want it browned and bubbly but not burned.

To serve, simply slide your cheese onto a serving platter, surround with crackers, provide a knife if that’s your kind of entertaining style, and watch it be demolished!