I recently managed to, somewhat accidentally, quadruple my collection of French cast iron skillets (Overzealous gumtree seller) and to try one out, I made a recipe which, whilst unfortunately not mine, perfectly epitomises the way I love to cook. This recipe takes two pots and less than fifteen minutes for a full pasta dish with a from-scratch tomato pasta sauce.
The recipe from Kenji over at Serious Eats makes use of the extra ripeness of cherry tomatoes and their high pectin content, in order to whip up a wicked fast and delicious sauce. I think this sauce is perfect because it's not particularly involved, practically foolproof, and from turning on the kettle to serving up in no more time than it takes to cook the dry pasta.
Since this is such a quick recipe, I usually make it as a single serve for lunch, my variation of the recipe is as follows, and can easily be scaled up.
Easy Pasta Sauce
A box of cherry tomatoes
One clove of garlic, thinly sliced
One cup of any short cut pasta
Rosemary, cut fine
Parmesan, Pepper and more Rosemary for garnish
One skillet and one medium sized Pot,
Add salt and bring pot of water to the boil
Fry garlic in vegetable oil in the skillet over medium heat (medium-low with cast iron)
Add pasta to the pot
Once the garlic has begun to soften, add the tomatoes and stir to keep the garlic from burning
Press down on the tomatoes as they cook
Once the pasta is done (or very nearly done) tip a splash of water from the pot into the skillet
Strain the pasta and add to the skillet
Cook for one more minute
If the sauce comes out too thin, raise the heat and cook for a little longer until it thickens. Conversely, if you find the pasta didn't cook as much as you hoped in the pan, you can add more water from the tap (or if you reserved some, the pasta water is ideal) and cook a little longer in the pan. This recipe really benefits from the starchy pasta water which helps bind the sauce to the pasta.
Some great additions to this recipe without adding any more cook time include feta or goat's cheese, microwaved prosciutto, and the caramelised onions from the baguette recipe.
This website is always going to prefer Small Batch Australian spirits. But sometimes you may not want to use your best spirits in a new cocktail experiment, or you have a lot of people to provide drinks for, or you wince at the thought of mixing drinks with your top shelf. For these instances, we may not have anything truly inspiring, but there are a number of cheap and widely available spirits which punch well above their weight. Here are some drinks, either under or very close to the $40 mark, which are well worth the space in your liquor cabinet.
If you're a fan of Whiskey it's worth having at least two different styles in your collection. American Whiskey styles such as Rye and Bourbon are very well represented in classic cocktails, many of which originated in and around American Prohibition. Other great whiskys for mixing are blended Scotch, Japanese, Canadian, Irish Whiskys.
Jim Beam Rye is my staple for prohibition and classic cocktails, even if they ask for Bourbon. Their bourbon isn't anything to write home, but a number of bartenders rave about the Rye. It gets as low at $35 for a bottle at Dan Muphy's, which probably makes it the cheapest item on this entire list. If you have to have a bourbon, Bulleit is a good place to start, but Buffalo Trace is a very worthwhile upgrade.
As for the rest of the world, the pictured Suntory Whisky blend is one of the best sipping Whiskys at the $40 mark. If it has to be Scotch, most bartenders us J&B, but Monkey Shoulder also pushes above its price point.
Upgrade To: Whipper Snapper's Crazy Uncle Moonshine and Upshot Australian Whiskey, Rittenhouse Rye.
One versatile classic Gin should be more than enough to experiment with most cocktails. Tanqueray (Preferably Export Strength) is one of the few spirits I'm sure never to run out of. It's a classic London Dry gin which has been around since the 1800s. It uses just four botanicals, and really doesn't get in the way of your fancy cocktail, whilst remaining balanced and delicious.
Pay just a little more for even more delicious Bulldog, or a bit more again for the West Winds The Sabre, from Margaret River.
Upgrade To: Hippocampus Gin, West Winds The Cutlass, Melbourne Gin Company.
A number of small bars use Ketel One as their house Vodka, but since Ketel took a little bit of a price hike recently, Absolut is a perfectly acceptable substitute, which stays at or just under $40.
Whilst by no means a traditional Vodka, Zubrowka bison grass vodka is one of my favourite sipping vodkas. And 666 is a slight increase in price but it's Australian and very impressive.
Upgrade To: Hippocampus Vodka.
A lot of books and online guides will tell you that your minimalist bar needs a clear and a brown rum, but unless you're on some major Tiki bent, I think you can get away with one or the other. Stolen White is a brown rum filtered to be clear, so it's pretty versatile in recipes which call for either.Their unfiltered Stolen Gold has a little more flavourful if you don't mind your Daiquiris coming out brown (And you shouldn't)
Upgrade To: Ord River, Quiet Canon (If you're lucky enough to acquire some Quiet Canon.. Please don't mix it)
Australia actually puts out two pretty good and well priced Brandies. Black Bottle, a sub $40 brandy make by the VOK people, is a nice little mixer which pairs well with Jim Beam Rye to make for the cheapest Sazerac ever.
St. Agnes VSOP (A big step up from the VS) is a nice upgrade for Sidecars or Champagne Cocktails.
Upgrade To: Cognac.
It wouldn't hurt to spend a little of the money you've saved on spirits on some fresh citrus and some decent mixers. Some inexpensive liqueurs like Cointreau, Amaro Montenegro and Aperol make wonderful additions to any bar and whilst they rarely take centre stage, can make great additions to cocktails. Cheap spirits often filter a lot of flavour out in order to remain inoffensive, so some Angostura Bitters will do a great job in adding some punch. Speaking of punch, the one acceptable time to use store-bought lemon juice is to cut 50/50 with fresh lemon juice when you're out of season but just have to make that punch which uses a full litre of lemon juice.
Finally, it's almost always cheaper and to a higher quality result to make your own Syrups. Start with Simple Syrup and Grenadine, then work your way to Honey, Ginger Beer, and even Tonic Syrup.
Toward the end of last year a friend and I decided to try out as many bakeries as we could find, he in search of the best sourdough loaf in Perth, and I in search of the best baguette. We tried a few places here and there and had some pretty nice and then some less-nice breads. I developed a metric for my perfect baguette, which had to:
Chu's baguettes come out of the oven at a charitable 11am, which means there won't be any fresh baguettes ready for breakfast. But if, like me, heading to and from a bakery before breakfast was a bit overly optimistic in the first place, then Chu's make for the perfect so-fresh-it's-still-warm lunch.
I stopped by The Little Cheese Shop in Bayswater and upon their recommendation picked up a D'argental Brique Lingot, a really creamy French Brie with a lovely and slightly salty finish. I caramelised some onions and chopped up a grape tomato to make a great Baguette which brought me back to the breakfasts I used to scramble together in Paris. (There we had a lady who would bring us fresh baguettes every morning, which is one of the high points of decadence in my life thus far)
Ham, Tomato, Caramelised Onion and Brie Baguette
Two slices of deli style Ham
A large grape tomato
I'm not going to explain how to make a sandwich.
Very Easy Caramelised Onions
A lot of cooking websites tell you even half an hour isn't nearly long enough to caramelise onions, and that you should caramelise onions as low and slow as you possibly can. I'm all for this, but when I'm whipping up lunch, sometimes as long as I have is ten or fifteen minutes. Here are a few tricks for how to speed up caramelised onions: