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Monday, April 27, 2009

27 April 09 - Bookclub April 2009

Last week I enjoyed my first bookclub meeting since returning to Australia. In typical style, it was more about the food and less about the book, which was just as well really given that I actually read the book quite a few years ago and never quite got around to brushing up on prior to the meeting. The book was "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman, which has been recently made into a film and whilst it has been released in the US we will be waiting some time for it to grace our shores. I can pretty much recommend any of Gaiman's works, and have been lending Neverwhere around to my fellow bookclubbers. I think I own more of his books but given that most of my belongings have now been in storage for nine months I am having difficulty recalling what exactly is awaiting me in that shipping container. Let's hope the gestation period isn't much longer (possible news on this front, but I don't want to count my chickens before they have a coop).

I took the bookclub meeting as an opportunity to try out some recipes that had caught my attention recently, and ended up making three dips with accompanying dippy-type things.

First up was a particularly interesting recipe for savoury biscotti, specifically an Almond and Black Pepper Biscotti recipe that I came across in my Canadian baking cookbook. I was a little scared about this working, as the dough was such a thick consistency, but I guess this makes sense given how dense biscotti is and how thick it needed to be to hold its goodies across the entire height of the 'log'. The results were impressive to look at and delicious to eat.

Its savoury nature, as opposed to the traditional sweet biscotti flavour, was a nice surprise (well, it would have been if I hadn't been blathering on about it before serving it) and it paired quite nicely with the baked brie and sundried tomato dip that I served it with. This was simply a mixture of chopped brie, sundried tomatoes, garlic and fresh thyme baked until bubbly and delicious smelling. You can stick Glade up your arse (don't actually do this), just bake some of this in your oven if you need to mask any suspicious odours.

Next up was another recipe from my Canadian cookbook, Onion and walnut "biscuits". Biscuits in the North American sense of the word, not the Aussie/English sense. They are more like savoury scones. These were particularly delicious when fresh out of the oven, and although I reheated them prior to serving them at the meeting they weren't quite so scrumptious as when they were super super fresh. Still pretty damn good though, and a nice accompaniment to the Muhammara I served them with. The Muhammara is essentially a spicy roasted pepper and walnut dip, and actually was my impetus to roasting capsicum FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. I know, I know, I am not sure either how I managed to get this far in my cooking life without having done this before. It's so much fun! And so easy! I will definitely be roasting more capsicum in the future. All this use of North American recipes however is making my brain say "pepper" before it remembers to say "capsicum". Before I know it I'll be using aluminum foil and growing cilantro. Anyway, here is the Muhammara (finished off with some sambal oelek, which I also used in place of the chillis in the recipe) with Caramelised Onion, Walnut and Rosemary "Biscuits"..

Last up was this Artichoke Olive Dip recipe that I came across a couple of weeks ago and wanted to eat off the monitor. It has a really lovely chunky consistency and worked well with the Parmesan Crusted Baked Zucchini Sticks I served them with.

I was really happy with the zucchini sticks, and used the same crust combination on some chicken that I had marinated in a spiced yoghurt the following night for dinner. I like using Panko instead of breadcrumbs, it sounds much fancier. Took a bit of finding in the supermarket for it though, but I would assume that an Asian supermarket like Kong's would be able to sort you out pretty easily.

All six of the new recipes I tried out for the bookclub worked well and I plan to make them all again. The biscotti was really a stand out, and seemed to be the most popular of the dishes. It was also great to see how easy a good biscotti is to make, and I plan to bust out some different variations on the base biscotti mixture now that I know what I'm doing. I don't want to be a biscotti one hit wonder.

Next book we're reading: Revolutionary Road. Next bookclub recipes: ???


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