A little bit Cheffy

If there’s ever an opportunity to cook with friends, I’m all for it. I love the community of cooking and sharing a meal together, chatting and getting to know each other more. It’s why I loved my home Cook-A-Long days before we moved.

This month (NEXT WEEKEND!!) I’m heading to Auckland with some of the beautiful ladies in my Thermomix Branch to our annual ThermoFest. It was a challenge for us to qualify for the trip but we did it! So on the 1st of March we got together, made some wonderful food to celebrate our achievements.

Recently, Dani Valent (food blogger/journalist) teamed up with Thermomix to release her third Thermomix Cookbook – Entertaining with Dani Valent. It’s the most beautiful cookbook, the chapters being Menu’s of different themes – think Mexican, BBQ, Brunch, Indian to name a few – with each theme populated with many recipes to make your next event specular. I’ve made many dishes from it, using the Recipe Chip it comes with makes cooking them so easy, and have been looking forward to diving into this chapter the most – A Bit Cheffy.

Together we made 5 dishes and it was one of the best lunches I’ve had this year. It included:

  • Pineapple and Rum Cocktail (which just may become a regular weekend drink in my house!)
  • Potted Baby Vegetables
  • Cheese Puffs
  • Confit Salmon with creamy Cauliflower mash and Parmesan Gnocchi
  • Strawberry Spheres with Mango Truffles.

The lunch was amazing. We each chose a dish to create and put it together there before eating. I loved the tahini dip that was hidden under the olive and rye ‘dirt’ of the potted vegetables. Unfortunately I didn’t have the cheese puffs (as they’re gluten based) but everyone raved about them.

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I chose to make the Salmon dish. I’ve been curious at how the confit would go as it was cooking within the confit of olive oil, in the Varma. Next time I’ll cover the confit with a cling wrap to prevent any water from the steam dripping into it, and I’d ensure the tin I used didn’t leak oil everywhere as well (oops!). We are so fortunate to have an amazing chef with us who helped me with the crispy salmon skin technique. The parmesan gnocchi just melted in your mouth and was so easy to create but the winner of that dish would have to be the cauliflower cream. Definitely an element I’ll be recreating at home – possibly next time with a rich slow-cooked lamb or some spicy indian dish.

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The other side of Instagram!

If you’re on Instagram be sure to follow me here and my friend Gabrielle’s beautiful blog @kitchenthyme.

The star of the day with the dessert. As I mentioned, Chef Gabrielle was able to source some of the more difficult ingredients for us and together we make the strawberry spheres (so interesting!!) while she’d prepared ahead the Mango Truffles and the other elements. (If you’re friends of mine on Facebook there’s a hilarious video of us making them!!)

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If you get together and create one of Dani’s menu’s, remember to check out her website – she’s put together some great playlists of music to have in the background of your next Entertaining Event. Having studied music, I loved the combination of Cornelious, Nick Cave and The Avalanches. Pieces I haven’t heard in years! Thanks for the memories Dani!

If you’re looking for a new cookbook, I highly recommend it. Most of the recipes feed 8 people – so fantastic for larger families, and they’re surprisingly easy to throw together. Outside of this menu, my fav would have to be the Mexican night (the Blackened Chicken with Peanut sauce is so deviiiine!), and you can’t go past the Pea and Lettuce Soup from the Ladies Lunch. Yes, sounds odd. Tastes amazing.

You can purchase your copy through your Thermomix consultant or directly from the Thermomix Website.

*not sponsored.

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My Top 5 Favourite Cookbooks.

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I once read a quote that said something along the lines of ‘we only really create 6 recipes from a cookbook’ and when you think about it, that’s generally true. I read that years ago and since then I’ve attempted, not once but twice, to cook every single recipe from a cookbook. It’s always a fantastic challenge as I find myself creating dishes I wouldn’t have looked twice at, discovering different flavour combinations and pushing myself outside of that 6 recipes comfort zone.

I’m always conscious of my new cookbooks now and always attempt to get the most out of them. A cookbook to me is like a good novel. I love to read them, cover to cover. I’ll happily sit and read recipes, methods and drool admire the beautiful food photos that are so carefully and loving put together. It’s a dream of mine to write and produce a cookbook, I’ve found that the more experience I have with food and Thermomix and cooking, the more I want to inspire others to cook and love food as well.

My bookshelf is overrun by cookbooks and while I love them all, there’s always a select couple I reach for. For birthday cake. A healthy dinner. Something quick and easy that the whole family will eat. So if you’re just starting out or wanting to expand your own cookbook collection, here are my Top 5 Must Have Cookbooks.

  • The Happy Cookbook, by Lola Berry. One of my ‘Cook All the Recipes’ challenges was based around this book and I’d do it again. Berry has created a focus on getting the most nutrients into her simple but tasty recipes. I love it because I can eat everything in the book without fear of food reaction too!
  • 30-Minute Meals, by Jamie Oliver. My bookshelf is an Ikea cube-like shelf and nearly two of the ‘boxes’ are taken up with my much loved Jamie’s cookbooks. Out of all of them, I reach for his 30MM the most. Each meals has a main, two sides and {generally} a dessert. I generally leave out one element for our smaller family but the mains are so easy to recreate, and once you’ve got them down pat, really do only take 30 Minutes {especially with the help of my Thermomix!}
  • Something for Everyone, by Louise Fulton Keats. Written for cooking with the Thermomix, this is my most used Thermo Cookbook on my shelf. Family friendly meals, school friendly baking and my favourite Flourless Biscuits recipe. It’s a must-have for all families.
  • Seasons, by Donna Hay. I have many many Donna Hay cookbooks {and a few of her magazines} and this one is the most well used. It was the other I used for one of my challenges and still a favourite. I love it’s focus on eating what’s in season, it’s the best way to get the most flavour out of food as well as kinder on the budget.
  • Day to Day Cookery, by I.M Downes. If you did Home Ec in Australia at any point, you’ll have your own copy of this household staple. It was the first one I had when I moved out of home, my copy is well work, food splattered and still used. It hold’s my favourite recipe for omelette, different methods for cooking chicken and all the baking recipes to fill a display cabinet. Another must have.

While I love these, I always covert any new cookbook that comes into my home. I recently had the pleasure of cooking from Dani Valent’s upcoming Thermomix cookbook ‘Entertaining with Dani Valent’ and can not wait to get stuck more into it. Before we recently moved I bought a box of second hand books and in it Peter Gilmore’s Quay has taken pride on my shelf, along with a bunch of new-to-me books that need decidedly more food splatter on them.

What new recipe are you going to make this week?