How to: Get fake dressed.

You know what I’m talking about. You need bread/milk/wine badly. No time or desire to dress properly. That takes effort. And anyway you want to shower nicely later when you can, so what’s the point getting dressed now? It’s early, but not quite early enough to risk pyjamas for the mission. Or maybe it’s actually late and you’re already undressed for the day and no way are you putting your bra back on. No. Fucking. Way. So what do you do?

You get fake dressed.

This is a lot easier in winter. A good coat can make pretend dressing a breeze. However, summer time yields the footwear advantage: thongs and other slip-ons. You get extra points for these because you don’t have to bend to put them on. It’s all about minimal effort for maximum effect. And the effect we are after is: “nothing to see here”.

Essential to the fake-dressing kit.
Essential to the fake-dressing kit.

This morning I got faked dressed to drop Glenn off at work, with the idea that afterwards G and I could do some super quick Lego shopping. The Lego shopping would enable me to have a lovely proper shower later as G would then stop driving me crazy asking me about the desired Lego item and be blissfully preoccupied for a time while he put it together.

So this was the fake outfit: hair left as is but could possibly pass as purposely tousled ‘bed hair’ if you didn’t look too closely and see that it was completely flat on one side from being laid on and ever so slightly dandruffy. Hooded and (crucially) zipped coat covered no bra no undies ensemble of very old and holey (not holy. Holey) singlet and leggings that I slept in. No socks. Resisted the delicious lure of Uggs and slipped feet into elastic sided ankle boots. This feels very weird with no socks. That’s ok. If you do this, you’re passable. You can now leave the house and get the chocolate, I mean milk, without being actually dressed. Carry a large bag. It looks more convincing. Walk fast.

Admittedly, fake dressing is made easier for me by the fact that in winter I tend to sleep in tank tops and bad track pants. Like many people, I change into this outfit as soon as I get home. If it’s warmish I can just add a hoodie and thongs to be fake dressed. And then maybe someone might be fooled into thinking my messy/greasy hair is due to a sweaty workout. And that I’m fresh out of a hard core Bikram yoga class and not just fresh out of Kit Kats and making the dash for more.

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I told my friend Rosebud that I was writing about this and she said that fake dressing for her is leaving the house in the track pants she slept in with the addition of “blush and mascara and a lovely scarf”. Blush? Her theory is that people will think that if she’s gone to the trouble of putting blusher on then surely she has applied the same sort of effort to the rest of her person. Admirable logic. I imagine people scanning her, Terminator-style, up and down when she’s in line at the checkout. Their gaze comes to rest on the blusher. Conclusion: this person is fully dressed. Move along.

We agreed that you can’t get fake dressed in patterned pyjamas.  That’s not fake dressing. That’s just going out in your pyjamas. Unless you actually rolled the pyjamas up above your knees and concealed them under a thick dress or coat. But that’s a bit too much effort which is completely against the rules of fake dressing. It’s not done. It’s also actually just a tad crazy. Which we’re clearly not.

You can't fake dress in pyjamas. The deer would give you away immediately.
You can’t fake dress in pyjamas. The deer would give you away immediately.

 

 

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Lamb shanks with pappardelle

When I was in my early twenties, Mum gave me a blue Le Creuset casserole pot.  This sounds a bit showy-offy and it absolutely is.  A good quality cast iron pot is a beautiful thing and I was really proud to be in possession of it.  The most comforting of food has always begun for me in this pot.  It was pretty much the only thing I consistently packed and took with me from place to place.  I associate it with good times and moving out on my own.

I swear this is as clean as it ever gets now.
I swear this is as clean as it ever gets now.

One of the best things you can cook in this pot is lamb shanks.  There are any number of things you can do with the shanks once they’ve been slow cooked and meat removed from bones.  You can put it into pies, have it under a layer of mashed potato and parmesan cheese, wrap it in puff pastry or freeze it for later when your in-laws are coming to stay and you want to seem like you’ve pulled out all the stops.  Make a beautiful gremolata to scatter on top.  Make your own pasta to have with it.  Or don’t and buy fresh pasta sheets and cut them up (like Jamie does).  It’s easy, yet impressive.

Hello boys...
Hello boys…

If we had made this back in the day when we shared a house, my friend Lozzie and I would have referred to it as a ‘pick-up dish’.  Yes it is what it sounds like.  You could successfully woo someone with this dish (hello boys…).  Or you could feed about ten without breaking a sweat.  These are qualities I very much admire in a recipe – romance and extendability.

 

Golden brown...
Golden brown…

Slow cooked lamb shanks with pappardelle

 

Ingredients  (serves four )

2 medium sized onions (diced)

4 garlic cloves (minced)

3 rashers of bacon (chopped)

4 lamb shanks (3 if they’re the freakishly large ones)

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 cans tomatoes

at least 1 glass of red wine

5 small carrots

1 long stick of celery (finely sliced)

sprig of thyme

sprig of rosemary

2 pinches freshly ground pepper

salt

1 packet of fresh lasagne sheets

parmesan cheese

Sexy shot of ingredients
Sexy shot of ingredients

 

Method

Get your cast iron pot out and heat up one tablespoon of olive oil on a medium heat

Sautee the onions, garlic, bacon, celery , chopped herbs and pepper for about fifteen minutes

In a separate frying pan, heat another tablespoon of olive oil, make those shanks golden brown and then add to the pot

Chop the carrots lengthways and then into longish chunks. Poke these in and around the shanks

Add the tomatoes. It will start to look really full. This is ok

Add as much wine as possible in the leftover space

Cook for four hours at 180 degrees with the lid on. Check every hour or so to scrape the sides and check the liquid level has not dropped too low (it shouldn’t though)

When cooked, remove the shank bones, stir everything up and add salt to taste

Cut fresh pasta sheets into thick pappardelle . Stir some of the lamb through the pasta but withhold at least a third to spoon on top

Serve with grated Parmesan and gremolata.

Bones removed. Ready for anything really.
Bones removed. Ready for anything really.

 

Beef Wellington Mini Pies

I’m still daydreaming about the perfect Beef Wellington that our friend, Heather, made us for Christmas in July.  I have a list of meals I would travel back in time for and that one is on it.  In the meantime I’ll make do with these tasty little babies of goodness.

The thing that makes these mini pies really simple to make is my silicon mini muffin tray.  I cannot stress this enough.  It is the bees knees – obtained from one of those kitchenware parties where I didn’t really want to buy anything but thought I probably should (haven’t we all been there?).  I chose the muffin tray somewhat reluctantly but it’s turned out to be fabulous and utterly essential.  I now have two of them so that, if I ever feel the urge, I can make 48 small things at the drop of a hat.  No greasing or drama.

My beloved.
My beloved.

To make 24 Beef Wellington Mini Pies you will need:

One 24 hole silicon mini muffin tray

2 round biscuit cutters (one big, one smaller for lid)

One frying pan and some small tongs

Ingredients

400g beef eye fillet
4 sheets puff pastry (Pampas Puff Pastry with butter is palm oil free)
Half a cup of chicken liver pate*
One egg
One tablespoon olive oil

*You can buy good quality pate from the deli. But a good tried and true version to make is Women’s Weekly chicken liver pate recipe.

Method

Lay out your puff pastry and use biscuit cutter to cut 24 circles to place inside the mini muffin tray.  You may need to fiddle around to get the right size.  When my biscuit cutters have been nowhere to be found, I have in the past used the rims of various small glasses instead.  This is probably not advisable but you get the idea – you can use anything.

Try and use the puff pastry when it’s just thawed.  Any longer and it’s generally too sticky and stretchy.

Cut 24 smaller circles for the lids and set aside.

Pie bottom and pie top. If either end up being not quite big enough then just stretch it a bit at the last minute. The joy of puff pastry!
Pie bottom and pie top. If either end up being not quite big enough then just stretch it a bit at the last minute. The joy of puff pastry!

Cut the eye fillet into 24 little pieces. Each piece should be small enough to fit snugly inside the puff pastry case and leave room for a little pate on top.  I usually achieve this by cutting the fillet first into strips and then cutting one piece off the end of a strip as a test. Once you’ve got the right size it’s just a matter of copying it.  There will be leftovers for your spoilt dog.

Heat olive oil in frying pan.  Get some small tongs and quickly sear each little piece of steak for a few seconds each side in the oil and put aside. Don’t season the meat as the pate contains a lot of salty flavours.

Put the seared steak pieces inside the pastry cases.

Spoon about a 1/2 teaspoon of pate (or as much as you can squeeze in really) onto the meat.

Pate ready to melt onto the meat. Now for lids...
Pate ready to melt onto the meat. Now for lids…

Pop the lids on all 24 pies and press the edges down gently with a fork.  Give each pie a prick once with fork.

Cute.
Cute.

Brush with whisked egg and bake in oven at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Leave to rest in the muffin tin for ten minutes before removing and serve.  Accept praise graciously.

pies2

Chicken and sweet corn soup

Last week I posted a photo of a pot of soup that I’d made for my house for lunch. It must’ve looked pretty good because a few of Lex’s workmates came up and asked her  if she’d just made it. To which she could only reply, ‘Uh no, I’m here at work – with you?’, then later told me off for not putting my name after my social media posts. It probably doesn’t help that we have identical soup pots. We also received a few requests for the soup recipe, so here you go.

I wrote on my original Instagram and Facebook post that my flatmates always used to know when I was unwell because a pot of chicken and sweet corn soup would appear on the stove, but I also used to make it when I was feeling homesick, along with plain steamed rice, fried dace and chilli infused tofu. I find my favourite comfort food is usually the simplest and easiest to make, which for me, is a comfort in itself. This soup is one from when many moons ago, Mum decided I needed a few basic meals to have under my belt. She wrote the original version in my old high school cooking book which didn’t include chicken as I was about sixteen and going through a stage where I was funny about eating it. I’m nearly 34 and still a bit funny about eating chicken, but I do prefer the recipe with it.

soup bowl

1-2 chicken thighs*
1 can creamed corn
2 cans of homemade chicken stock**
1Tbs chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
1Tbs light soy sauce
1Tbs cornflour mixed in ¼ cup of water
2 eggs lightly beaten
*or leftover shredded chicken from the homemade stock
** or substitute 2 cans of water with 1Tbs chicken stock cube

Cut the chicken thighs into strips about 4cm long, then brown them in a heavy based soup pot with a little vegetable oil and a dash of the cooking wine. Add the creamed corn, stock, rest of the cooking wine, soy sauce and bring to the boil then simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the cornflour mixture to the soup and bring to the boil, stirring constantly so the soup doesn’t lump then gently stir in the beaten eggs. Take care pouring in the eggs so you achieve thin, whispy strands of eggyness.

Mum wrote at the end of the recipe ‘add spring onion – chopped if liked’ because I didn’t like spring onion then either. But it does look pretty in a little chinese soup bowl with the bright green garnish.

The inspiring pot of soup
The inspiring pot of soup