I’ve always liked cooking and from a young age, Mum (who is actually a fantastic cook but dislikes it), encouraged us to cook. By my early teens I was cooking (mainly desserts) for Mum & Dad’s dinner parties. But despite a slight addiction to cookbooks and several cooking magazine subscriptions, my cooking in recent years has been limited to odd moments of inspiration and a lot of simple, functional and usually kid friendly stuff (because for some reason two “foodies” have created a couple of picky eaters – but that is a post in itself). The last 3.5 years with an abundance of good local Vietnamese food and a housekeeper meant I cooked even less.
Part of my fantasy about moving to the Barossa Valley was about food. From early this year when I started following the Farmer’s Market on social media, I decided this is where I wanted to live, in a place where food is almost as much a part of the history and culture as wine. So far we have visited the Farmer’s Market every Saturday since we arrived and have been inspired by seasonal fresh produce.
As Mum is visiting we decided to take her to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop for lunch yesterday, which is only about 10 minutes from home. I was already thinking of a roast chicken, but the visit inspired me to use the bottle of verjuice I’d purchased on my last visit and the copy of Maggie’s Table I’d had for about 12 years and make her Roast Chook with Garlic and Verjuice. I then discovered the Salted Brandy Caramel and decided that it deserved some good homemade vanilla ice cream – although Maggie herself does suggest on the label it could just be eaten out of the jar!
So began preparations for a fancier than usual Tuesday night dinner (previous weeks have been Lego Movie inspired Taco Tuesdays) and I decided that I would do this every week as a way to improve my cooking skills and cook the dishes I would want to serve for a dinner party but might be too scared to experiment with if guests were coming.
The chicken was paired with Parmesan polenta (super easy), beetroot (from the market) with Woodside’s Lemon Myrtle Cheever and greens (also from the market) with Maggie Beer’s vincotto.
The chicken was delicious and so moist especially with the reserved pan juices but I learned that in future our non fan-forced oven requires slightly longer cooking times. Adding the extra verjuice and water at 20 minute intervals was a bit more work that my normal chicken cooking method but actually helped me to catch-up up on some much needed study in nice 20 minute bursts.
The side dishes worked well with the chicken and dinner was enjoyed by all (including the little people).
Dessert was probably where I went a little over the top to attempt a complicated vanilla bean ice cream. This was the third time I’d used my Cuisinart Ice Cream maker and the first time I’d used one of the more complicated custard based recipes. Again many of the ingredients were from the Farmer’s Market including Jersey Fresh milk and cream and Tathra Homestead eggs. I added the salted caramel towards the end, but given the richness of the ice cream, it might have been better to just drizzle a little over when serving – but otherwise very tasty!
I’m now looking forward to my trip to the market on Saturday for inspiration for next Tuesday – and the excuse to pull out another cookbook from the collection.