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27 October 2009

Crusted BBQ Fish


We recently had barramundi cooked over an open flame BBQ with some friends that was absolutely delicious. I had been wanting to recreate that meal at home, but decided to add some spices from my extensive collection.

I was not disappointed. The BBQ adds such a deliciously smoky flavour and the spices created a crust that became beautifully blackened and crunchy. The mango and avocado salad was the perfect accompaniment.
We also had a few scallops cooked on the BBQ with this one - a lovely Sunday night meal...

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 teaspoon amchur powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon ginger
Salt and pepper
2 firm white fish fillets

Method

Combine the spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the fish. BBQ the fish over high heat for a few minutes each side until cooked through. Serve immediately.

Mango and Avocado Salad


I know, I have not been posting regularly. I apologise to anyone (maybe there is at least one...?) who has been checking regularly hoping for new posts. We have been very busy lately. This time last year we were in the midst of planning our own wedding and attending lots of friends' weddings. We thought this year would be quieter...we were wrong! Now we're in the midst of 30ths, our 1st wedding anniversary, baby showers and so on. But we're having a lot of fun.

Now back to food. I have always had an aversion to salads with fruit in them. I have no idea why, other than that for some reason it seemed wrong to me. Mum used to make an avocado and mango salad that I never really liked. Turns out, that it was me who was wrong.

I think this salad is a new favourite of mine! It is so fresh and light - just delicious! It went beautifully with the Crusted BBQ Fish.

Ingredients (serves 2)

75g baby rocket
1 avocado diced
1 mango diced
Zest of 1 lime and the juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Finely chopped mint to taste

Method

Just before serving, combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss well.

18 October 2009

Rich and Decadent Chocolate Cake


I am quite intrigued by devising baking recipes. This is because baking is much more of a precise science than I am used to with the rest of my cooking. Normally, I just throw things in and hope for the best. But with baking you have to use precise measurements and add the right ingredients to allow, for example, the cake to rise, or be moist enough, etc etc.

But I decided to have a go. And I was quite pleased with this one.

I wanted to create a rich, but light in texture, dessert cake. It was probably not exactly as I imagined, but lovely all the same.

Ingredients

200g butter
300g dark chocolate
6 eggs, 5 separated, and one extra
4 tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 cup self raising flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup almond meal
Creme fraiche and raspberries to serve

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Grease and line a 20cm spring form tin.

Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water and heat until melted (don't let the bowl touch the water). Allow to cool slightly and then whisk in the egg yolks, extra egg, 2 tablespoons sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and almond meal.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until soft. Beat in remaining sugar until firm peaks form.

Fold the egg whites through the chocolate mixture (it is easiest to fold through half to loosen the mixture and then fold through the rest).

Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes until still moist in the middle. Serve with creme fraiche and raspberries.

09 October 2009

Finally, a new camera!

So, finally, after some procrastination and deliberation, I have purchased a new camera! Very happy - it has some features which I think will make for some lovely photographs.

I am looking forward to a weekend of cooking and hope to post a few new recipes soon.

15 September 2009

Menus

So, it has been a while since I posted anything. The reason for this is not lack of cooking, I have been doing plenty of that. But, I have been very disillusioned about not being able to photograph my meals. I have become so accustomed to taking photos that I do not like how the blog looks without them.

As a result I have not felt inspired to type up my recipes. I've also been a bit time poor lately, but I am determined to put up some new recipes in the next week and also make some dishes again so I can photograph them.

We are almost ready to buy another camera. I think I have decided on which one we want and I hope to buy it shortly.

In the meantime, more as a reminder to me as to what I need to try to re-cook, here are some menu plans I put together recently.

Sunny Sunday Lunch

We had such a lovely afternoon with Renee and Todd. Yet again we were able to enjoy our little backyard. I am coming to love nothing more than sitting outside sharing a meal with family and friends.

The menu I created was as follows.

Roman gnocchi (this is one of my favourite ever dishes)
Grilled chicken with lemon and parsley sauce
White bean with prosciutto and sage
(We also had the chocolate tarts I made when Alana and Ben came over)

Father's Day Feast

Each year Mark and I normally entertain our parents, my sister, my grandparents and my aunt and uncle at our place on Mother's Day. This Mother's Day we were in the midst of moving, so we were not able to entertain. Instead, we decided to celebrate Father's Day. And it was a stunning day. I was thrilled with the food, and yet again our backyard was greatly enjoyed.

Here was the menu.

To start:
Prawns spiced with cumin, coriander, lemon myrtle and mountain pepperberry leaf

As a main:
Herbie's Native Lemon Pepper chicken
Roast beef
Thyme potato bake
Beans with lemon and pistachio dressing
Tomato and avocado salsa
Rocket and balsamic salad

And for dessert:

Caramel slice as seen in the current issue of Donna Hay magazine

I look forward to posting these soon!

29 August 2009

Broken Camera

Unfortunately our camera has broken - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Last night it did not work. We're going to buy another one, but have not yet had a chance. Apologies for the last of photos - quite honestly it is shame because some of these recent dishes looked lovely (even if I do say so myself).

I have however just now remembered that our video camera takes still shots, so I'll have a go at taking photos using that when I made lunch for Renee and Todd tomorrow - this really is the perfect weekend for me, lots of cooking for my friends!

Relaxing Friday Night Feast

Last night we had our friends Alana and Ben over for dinner. Alana and Ben have pretty hectic schedule (Alana being an event manager and Ben being a Qantas engineer) so this dinner was planned quite some time ago - but as a result I was extremely excited because I had long been thinking about what I would make for them!

As it was a Friday night, I wanted to cook something that would be easy enough to do after work. So, I came up with the following menu.

Lemon and Lime Prawns
Fragrant Lemon Spiced Chicken
Almond and Herb Couscous
Golden Chocolate Tarts

I also made a very simple spinach, avocado and pistachio salad with lime juice dressing. But I have not added that as it was really very simple.

No photos unfortunately - camera is broken and we need to buy a new one.

We had such a lovely time with Alana and Ben - ending with Ben smashing Mark at Wii tennis. Just a lovely way to spend a night with friends - good food, conversation and company.

Lemon and Lime Prawns

I purchased some black limes some time ago. I have used them in a casserole, but wanted to try pulverising them and sprinkling them over prawns or chicken.

Black limes are whole sun-dried limes of 2.5-4cm in diameter. They are have a delicious, citrus sticky pith in the centre.

So, yesterday, I took two black limes and ground them in my mortar and pestle with about 1 teaspoon black pepper and salt until well ground. I had a bit of a taste and decided that something more was needed. I had been trying to avoid lemon myrtle since I use it so often, but it really did seem like that was exactly what was needed. And I wasn't wrong, Just a small amount of lemon myrtle was perfect.

This is another dish that I will be repeating!

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter)

20 green prawns peeled
2 black limes
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon myrtle
Olive oil to fry
Mayonnaise to serve (see post from 22 February 2009)

Method

Grind the limes, pepper and salt in a mortar and pestle until well ground and combined. Add lemon myrtle. Place prawns and spice mix in a plastic bag and squish to coat prawns in spices. Preheat olive oil in a fry pan. Cook prawns for a few minutes on each side until cooked through. Serve with mayonnaise as a starter.

Fragrant Lemon Spiced Chicken

I asked Alana what sort of food she was into at the moment - and she replied that she is not too keen on too much heat. Taking this into consideration, I wanted to make a really fragrant, but mild curry chicken dish. Personally, I think when you add too much chilli it overpowers the rest of the food and you cannot appreciate the all the other subtle flavours. This is particularly true when you are making something that contains many herbs and spices. If you are adding a lot of different flavours you want to be able to taste the subtlety of each without the heat overtaking the dish.

I was really happy with how this dish turned out. I think we will having this one again this week. My inspiration for this dish was the cover recipe on 'Delicious' magazine this month - but as normal, I made a few changes and now it is actually quite different...

Again, this was very easy to prepare - just marinate the chicken in advance and pop in the oven to cook before serving straight from the oven.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 lemon zest removed and set aside, white pith removed and the flesh cut into slices
1/3 cup olive oil
4cm fresh ginger finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon medium curry powder (I used Herbies brand - delicious!)
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons tumeric
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Pinch dried chilli
2 onions finely sliced
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 tablespoon white poppy seeds
4 chicken breasts trimmed
Greek yoghurt mixed with lemon zest (you'll need a zest an extra lemon) and 1/3 bunch mint finely chopped to serve

Method

Place the oil, ginger, dry spices and tomato paste in a bowl. Add 200ml water and whisk to combine. Add lemon zest, lemon slices, onion, garlic and white poppy seeds and stir to combine.

Put chicken and marinade in a plastic zip lock bag, seal the bag (releasing as much air as possible) and squish to mix the ingredients well. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Place the chicken and marinade in a casserole dish with a lid. Cook for 40-50 minutes. Serve with yoghurt, couscous and a green salad (I made a spinach, avocado and pistachio salad).

Herb and Almond Couscous

I think in a previous blog I mentioned that Mark one day announced that he no longer like couscous and never wants to eat it again. Well despite that, couscous just seemed like the perfect accompaniment to this dish, so I decided to give it another go with him - and I seem to have changed his mind about it! He now says that he meant polenta not couscous.

As I was cooking on a Friday night I wanted to ensure that the meal was easy - and couscous is so much easier than rice, and so much easier to flavour.

We'll definitely be having it more often from now on.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 1/2 cups couscous
1 1/2 cups chicken stock boiling
Knob of butter
2 tablespoons toasted almonds
1 bunch parsley finely chopped
2/3 bunch mint finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Drizzle of olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

Method

Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling chicken stock, add butter and cover with glad wrap. Leave for 5-10 minutes or until stock is absorbed.

Use a fork to mix through the almonds, herbs and cumin. Stir through lemon juice and add olive oil to taste.

Golden Chocolate Tarts

I was watching Jamie Oliver one day and he made these delicious looking chocolate tarts. They looked gorgeous and were very easy - so I decided to give them a go, but added a few extra little touches of my own...

Jamie Oliver used orange zest to flavour the pastry. I decided to raid my spice containers and used cinnamon instead. Wattleseed or allspice may also be nice (something to try next time). He also did not add any additional flavourings to the chocolate. At the moment I have a lot of golden syrup in the pantry. It seems a number of times I have purchased it with the intention of making something, and then have not. So I decided to add it to the chocolate and it added a really delicious caramel flavour. I really like golden syrup, it reminds me of eating homemade pikelets.

I used mini cupcake tins for these - if using normal sized cupcake tins, the quantities may need to be increased.

The pastry is a bit fiddly, but generally these are easy and can be made in advance.
No photo unfortunately due to the broken camera...


Ingredients (makes 10-12)

1 sheet puff pastry thawed
30g butter melted
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
100ml thickened cream
75g dark cooking chocolate
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons golden syrup

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Grease 12 holes of a mini cupcake tray. Brush the pastry with the melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll the pastry sheet up into a roll (like a Swiss roll) tightly so that the sugar are swirled through the pastry. Cut the roll into 1cm slices. Press down through the middle of each slice so that a flat dish is formed with the sugar and cinnamon swirled throughout. Roll each so they are about 1mm thick (ensure there are no holes). Line each cupcake hole with a pastry disk. Fill each with scrunched up baking paper and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden (you'll notice that some of the butter and sugar will caramelise - this is exactly what you want). Allow to cool.

Meanwhile place the cream in a glass bowl and microwave on high for a minute or so until just below boiling point. Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the hot cream. Mix until the chocolate has melted. Add the pinch of salt and the golden syrup. Fill pastry cases with chocolate and refrigerate until set.

23 August 2009

Ladies and Babies Lunch

Last Saturday I had lunch with Rochelle and her sister Lani, and their beautiful children Otis (19 months old) and Isla (9 months old). I was very excited about this lunch. Firstly, I love seeing Rochelle and Lani and also love seeing Otis and Isla. Secondly, as the weather is getting warmed I was thrilled to sit outside and enjoy our courtyard. But thirdly, because Lani is a fan of this blog, I was really excited to cook for her (although I did feel slight pressure for it to be a superb meal!).

The day started perfectly, the weather was amazing, I was very well prepared and when my guests arrived I had completed every bit of preparation that I had wanted to complete in order to be relaxed and enjoy my time with my guests.

And I was not disappointed with the rest of the day either. Sitting outside was so wonderful and relaxing, Otis and Isla were gorgeous and the three adults had a lovely time chatting and eating.

All in all, it was a day I could repeat again and again...

Now, the menu.

I had asked Rochelle what Lani's favourite foods were - and found that, like me, she loves chorizo, haloumi and chicken schnitzel. So, considering this, I came up with the following menu:

Chorizo and Haloumi Ravioli with Spinach, Lemon and Butter Sauce
Lemon Myrtle Crumbed Chicken
Rosemary Hasselback Potatoes
Pomegranate Lemon Tart

As for preparation, here is what I did in advance:

make ravioli
wash spinach
chop rosemary
crumb chicken
peel potatoes (and store in cold water)
zest lemon for 'Spinach, Lemon and Butter Sauce'
make tart

Everything else I did just before serving. I will upload some photos as soon as I can.

I hope my guests enjoyed the day as much as I did. Now I am looking forward to next weekend - dinner with Alana and Ben and then lunch on Sunday with Renee and Todd. It will be a big weekend of cooking - perfect for me!

Chorizo and Haloumi Ravioli with Spinach, Lemon and Butter Sauce


So, was very excited to make this dish, I had been dreaming about it for a very long time. Here, I have managed to combine many of my favourite ingredients - chorizo, haloumi, butter, spinach...

There is quite a lot of filling - I made this on Saturday and then again on Sunday. So you need two quantities of pasta.

Make sure you do not make the ravioli too big. It is best to have more filling and less pasta in order to appreciate the flavours.

This one should definitely be a starter. It is very rich, but very delicious, even if I do say so myself (although, next time I will add more chorizo).

Ingredients (serves 6 as a starter)

2 quantities of pasta (see post from 8 March 2009)
2 chorizo sausages
Olive oil to fry
250g ricotta
250g haloumi grated
1/3 cup fresh mint finely chopped
1 egg
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
300g baby spinach
4 tablespoons olive oil
120g butter
Zest and juice of two lemons
Extra olive oil to drizzle
Parmesan cheese to serve

Method

Make pasta as per my post from 8 March 2009.

Place the chorizo in a food processor. Process for a few minutes until chorizo resembles mince. Fry minced chorizo in some olive oil until crisp. Drain on paper towels and allow to cool.

Meanwhile combine ricotta, haloumi, mint, egg and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Mix to combine. Fill ravioli.

Cook ravioli in a large saucepan of rapidly boiling, salted water for a few minutes. While ravioli is cooking, heat the butter and oil in a pan and saute the baby spinach until just wilted. Add lemon zest. Serve ravioli with wilted spinach and butter sauce. Drizzle with extra olive oil and lemon juice. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Lemon Myrtle Crumbed Chicken


As lemon myrtle is one of my new favourite ingredients, I could not resist adding it to the crumbed chicken I was making. It is so fragrant, lemon and fresh - it really gives the chicken a lift!

I served this with Rosemary Hasselback Potatoes, homemade mayonnaise (see post from 22 February 2009) and a simple side salad of baby spinach (of course) cherry tomatoes and avocado. This dish is definitely a favourite of mine!

Ingredients (serves 3)

3 chicken breasts trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise so you have two thin breast pieces
2 cups store bough breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons lemon myrtle
2 cups plain flour
3 eggs lightly beaten
Olive and oil and butter to fry

Method

Combine the lemon myrtle and breadcrumbs and mix well. Dip the chicken in the flour, then the egg and then coat with the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set the coating.

To cook, heat butter and oil in a fry pan. Cook the chicken for a few minutes on each side until golden and crisp (I like them to be cooked for a bit longer and to be quite brown).

Serve with avocado salad and mayonnaise.

Rosemary Hasselback Potatoes

I really wanted to cook these potatoes with sage and not rosemary, but there wasn't any sage at the supermarket, so I swapped to rosemary. What I really wanted was a sweetly fragrant herb to compliment the lemon a eucalyptus lemon myrtle in the chicken.

I just love crispy potatoes, and these definitely fit the bill!

Ingredients (serves 3)

4-5 medium potatoes cut in half
Leaves of 3 sprigs rosemary finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
Olive oil to drizzle

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Using a sharp knife cut slits in the potatoes, from top to bottom, about 2 mm apart and 3/4 of the way through the potato.

Place the potatoes in a bowl, add rosemary, salt and olive oil. Stir to combine. Spread on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 50-60 minutes until golden and crisp.

Pomegranate Lemon Tart


So, I decided to experiment with using pomegranate molasses in a dessert. This tart is quite tangy and 'tart' (I can't think of another word to describe it). But it did have some fans (or one at least...Rochelle seemed to enjoy it and I think Otis did also). I enjoyed it, though I think I will do some further experimenting.

You will need to taste the filling to ensure that it is not to tangy or sweet.

The pastry needs to be cooked for quite a while to ensure it is cooked through. That was one down fall of this dish - I did not cook the pastry for long enough.

I used a pastry recipe I found in Bill Granger's Bills Open Kitchen (well, the quantities anyway (except for the water - I found I needed more than the 60ml specified), I used a slightly different method and also sealed the pastry with egg before pouring in the filling). I would recommend either rolling it thinner than 3mm, or cooking it for longer - my suggestion is set out below.

Ingredients

Pastry
2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
Pinch of salt
180g chilled butter cut into cubes
60-100ml iced water
1 egg lightly beaten

Tart filling

4 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup thickened cream
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 - 1/3 cup pomegranate molasses (to taste)
Creme fraiche to serve

Method

Pastry

Place the flour, icing sugar, salt and butter in a food processor. Process until well combined and mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water slowly until dough comes together in a ball. Wrap in glad wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

After dough has chilled, use a rolling pin and roll dough out on to a floured surface until 2-3mm thick (or thinner of you like - but in this case, cook for less time). Line a greased or non-stick tart tin with the pastry, prick the base with a fork and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or rice and cook for 15-25 minutes or until pastry is cooked through.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Brush pastry with egg and return to the oven for 10 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool completely.

Pastry is now ready to fill.

Filling

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Place the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the cream, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses and whisk lightly with a fork until just combined.

Fill pastry shell with filling and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until just set. Serve with creme fraiche.

11 August 2009

My New Favourite Potatoes


I made these potatoes a few weeks ago when Scott came over for dinner. And fell in love with them. I made them again last night. And still loved them. I really think they are my new favourite. This may be attributable to the fact that I love burnt butter and sage, but that is fine with me!

It is important to dress the potatoes while they are still warm so that they suck up all the flavours.

The flavours just seem to work beautifully together. I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)
3-4 large potatoes cut into chunks (or 12 small potatoes)
6 slices prosciutto
100g butter
1 bunch sage
1 tablespoon capers
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns crushed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method
Preheat oven to 210 degrees. Steam potatoes until cooked through. Meanwhile, bake prosciutto until crisp.

Once potatoes are just cooked through, place butter, sage and capers in a small saucepan. Cook until sage and capers are crisp and butter is browned. Pour over potatoes. Break up prosciutto and add to potatoes. Top potatoes with lemon zest and peppercorns. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with extra olive oil.

Thyme and Chicken Risotto with Crispy Garlic Breadcrumbs

I saw a Jamie Oliver recipe recently which inspired me to make risotto. The risotto that he made was quite 'loose' - a lot more creamy than any other risotto I have ever made. As he described it 'oozy'.

To flavour I used thyme, celery and garlic. And I complimented the 'oozy' risotto with crisp breadcrumbs. And because Mark always likes meat with his meals, I added chicken.

I was very happy with the result. It seems my camera is dying, so unfortunately I don't have photos of this dish.

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic crushed
Olive oil
1 brown onion chopped
1 stalk celery finely chopped
2 cloves garlic (extra)
1 cup arborio rice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 glass white wine
4-5 cups chicken stock
1 chicken breast trimmed
1 cup grated parmesan
50g butter

Method

Preheat oven to 220 degrees. Combine fresh breadcrumbs, garlic and enough olive oil to coat the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Mix to combine. Spread over a roasting tray and roast until crisp. Set aside.

Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan until simmering.

Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds. Add the arborio rice and cook until translucent. Add the thyme.

Pour in about a glass of white wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed. Add salt and pepper. Use a soup ladle to add the chicken stock one ladle full at a time, stirring well, and adding more stock once the last ladle full has been absorbed.

While the risotto is cooking, cook the chicken breast in a fry pan with a little oil until cooked through. Slice thinly. Set aside.

You probably won't need all the chicken stock. When about 2/3 of the stock has been absorbed, taste the risotto. It should be creamy on the outside but still with a bit of a "bite" in the centre. Don't let it become too thick - some of the liquid should remain.

Once cooked, stir through the parmesan and butter and place the lid on the saucepan for 3 minutes. Just before serving, stir through chicken. Serve topped with crisp breadcrumbs.

10 August 2009

Mark's 30th Birthday Party

So, we recently celebrated Mark's 30th birthday. We entertained about 32 guests at our new house - and we had a ball!

I wanted to cater it myself (despite Mark urging me to arrange a caterer so that I would not have to worry about anything on the night). I decided to take the day before off work - and thank goodness I did. I will admit that this menu was a lot of work. I was very lucky to have some wonderful helpers, and despite being busy beforehand, I was very relaxed on the actual night, thanks again to my helpers and to being extremely prepared.

So, here was the menu...

Mini Caesar Salads
Mini Roasted Tomato and Bocconcini Salads with Pesto
Open Beef and Chorizo Pies
Mini Chicken Pies
Roasted Beef on Potato with Salsa Verde
Crumbed Chicken Strips
Sumac and Lemon Chicken Wings (see post from 22 March 2009)
Asian Beef Salad Boxes
Mini New York Style Cheesecakes
Mini Lemon Cupcakes scented with Cardamom

I have not posted the cupcake and cheesecake recipes - I searched www.taste.com.au to find the cheesecake mixture and for the lemon cupcakes I just used a basic cupcake recipe I found on www.taste.com.au and added a little cardamom and iced them with a lemon juice icing. It was a last minute decision to make them (originally I was going to buy a cake), but I am very glad that I did.

I was also going to have a chicken curry and rice box, but cut this as people were full and I could not be bothered.

In terms of timing, here is what I did in advance.

Week before
Make mini chicken pies and put them in the freezer.

Day before
Make pastry cases for salads and beef and chorizo pies
Roast tomatoes
Make aioli
Make pesto
Prepare mince and chorizo for pies
Make salsa verde

On the day
Make cheesecakes
Make cupcakes
Ice cupcakes
Roast beef and cut once cool
Make roast potatoes
Make asian salad dressing
Crumb chicken
Marinate chicken wings
Bake prosciutto
Make asian beef salad (but do not add beef or dressing)

On the night
Because all the above had already been prepared, on the night all we had to do was:
- fry chicken
- grate parmesan and put salads together just before serving
- cook chicken wings
- re-heat beef and chorizo pie filling and add hot to cases
- cook chicken pies
- put together potato and beef and top with salsa verde
- dress salads and put in boxes

It probably seems like a lot on the night, but it was really quite easy. I really did have some wonderful helpers.

Renee was with me pretty much all day Saturday. She helped ice the cakes, crumb the chicken, make the salads, clean up and then on the night she turned up not only as a guest, but she also brought her famous avocado and salsa dip and then helped again.

My mum was a wonderful help and one of the only people I trusted to fry the chicken, given she was the one who taught me to make it! Her and my sister Jess arrived early and were such a magnificent help with all the last minute preparations.

Rochelle also brought some dips (I wanted to have a few nibblies around for people to munch on) which was a fantastic help and very delicious, and helped on the night with the salads and many other things.

Sharon was also a wonderful help, along with Amber (if not for Amber I would have no photos), Shelley and Mark's mum Dianne.

So thank you to everyone who helped, I appreciate it immensely - your help enabled me to give Mark a really wonderful party, which is exactly what I wanted. But I definitely could not have done it alone!!

Asian Beef Salad Boxes

I really wanted to serve one of the dishes in some type of 'box'. A salad seemed like a good choice as it can be prepared in advance and no cooking is required. This salad was very simple and our guests seemed to enjoy it.

My quantities are not great for this, so I will just tell you what I included and you can include as little or as much of each as you like.

Ingredients
Beef cooked to medium and thinly sliced
Mixed greens (I used the 'Asian Salad Greens' mix you can buy in packets from the supermarket)
Tomatoes
Cucumber
Spring onions
(If I had remembered, I would also have included toasted almonds)
Soy sauce
Lime juice
Caster sugar
Fish sauce

Method

Combine beef, greens, tomatoes, cucumber and spring onions in a bowl. To make the dressing, mix fairly equal parts of soy sauce and lime juice, add a splash of fish sauce and a teaspoon or two of sugar. Combine well. Dress the salad just before serving.

09 August 2009

Crumbed Chicken Strips

Growing up, crumbed chicken and chips was my favourite meal. It was what I requested every birthday until we became conscious of cooking with too much oil and butter. Mum also used to deep fry the chips - something I have only ever done once as a very special treat (because unfortunately the deep frying does make them taste better).

Now that I am older, we occasionally still have crumbed chicken (minus the deep fried chips) cooked in oil and butter (though, more often it is actually oven baked) and I love to serve it with homemade mayonnaise and avocado.

For the party I decided we could treat ourselves and have crumbed chicken strips, golden fried in oil and butter and served with aioli as a dipping sauce. And they were delicious. We just pre-crumbed the chicken (thanks Renee!) and fried it in batches just before serving (thanks Mum!). Easy!

Ingredients
2kg chicken breasts cut into thin strips
5 eggs lightly beaten
4 cups breadcrumbs
3 cups flour
Oil and butter for frying

Method
Coat each chicken strip in flour, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate to set coating. Heat butter and oil in a fry pan and fry until golden. Serve with aioli.

Mini Chicken Pies

For this dish, I just made up a batch of the mixture for Mum's Chicken Pie (see post from 21 February 2009) but instead of making a big pie, I bought mini foil pie dishes and made about 36 smaller pies instead. The mini pie dishes I found at my local 'Discount Variety' store which I find has many useful items such as this.

They worked beautifully and were the fastest dish to go!

Roasted Beef on Potato with Salsa Verde

I was really excited when this canape popped into my head while I was trying to sleep. And they seemed to be a bit hit with our guests.

Again, they could be prepared in advance and then assembled just before serving. Initially I was going to re-heat the potato before serving, but then I decided that it was unnecessary.

These are very easy and effective.

Ingredients (makes 60)
10-12 large potatoes, each cut into 6 rounds
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
750g beef fillet cooked to medium and cut into 60 chunks
Salsa verde (see post from 12 April 2009)

Method
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place potatoes, olive oil and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix to combine. Place potato rounds on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cook for about 30-40 minutes or until cooked through and crispy.

To serve, place a piece of beef on each potato round and drizzle with salsa verde.

Open Beef and Chorizo Pies

I made about 70 of these pies, and still had some of the mince mixture left over, so my quantities may be a bit off here. If you try to make these, you may therefore need to make a little less of the mixture. Or else, just pop the left over in the freezer like I did.

Otherwise, these were delicious and most seemed to be snapped up by our guests.

Ingredients

8 sheets shortcrust pastry
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 brown onions finely chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
3 chorizo sausages finely chopped
1kg beef mince
3 tins of crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup chicken stock
Dash Worcheshire sauce
2 teaspoons hot paprika
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper

Method

To make the pastry cases, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Use a round pastry cutter to cut rounds from the pastry. Line mini cupcake tins with the pastry. Stuff pastry with scrunched up baking paper to ensure it keeps its shape. Bake in the oven until just golden (about 10 minutes). Remove baking paper and brush the inside of each case with egg. Bake for another 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool.

For the filling, heat the olive oil in a large fry pan. Fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the chorizo and fry until crisp. Add the mince and brown, breaking up any lumps. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, stock, Worcheshire sauce, paprika, basil and oregano. Simmer for approximately 40 minutes or until most liquid has evaporated.

Fill pastry cases with mince mixture just before serving. Re-heat mince mixture if necessary.

Mini Roasted Tomato and Bocconcini Salads

As with the Mini Caesar Salads, I would normally serve these in bread cases that have been baked with garlic and butter, but again, the bread cases just did not work for me here.

Again, you can pre-prepare all the ingredients and then fill them just before serving.

Ingredients (makes 18)
2 sheets shortcrust pastry
1 egg lightly beaten
18 cherry tomatoes
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt and pepper
18 mini bocconcini
Pesto (see post from 15 March 2009)

Method
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Use a round pastry cutter to cut rounds from the pastry. Line mini cupcake tins with the pastry. Stuff pastry with scrunched up baking paper to ensure it keeps its shape. Bake in the oven until just golden (about 10 minutes). Remove baking paper and brush the inside of each case with egg. Bake for another 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a roasting dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and roast for 20-30 minutes or until soft.

To serve, fill pastry cases with one roasted tomato, one mini bocconcini and drizzle with pesto.

Mini Caesar Salads

I have made these salads on a few occasions prior to the party. Normally for the cases I use white bread that has been rolled very thin and flat and buttered with garlic butter, but some reason when I was making these this time, the bread just would not work. So I decided to use shortcrust pastry that I had purchased instead. It saved a lot of time.

For the aioli, see my post from 22 February 2009 for Mayonnaise and add one clove garlic. I like to use aioli instead of traditional caesar dressing, only because I like the taste better.

These are very easy to make - I recommend them for entertaining. Just pre-prepare the cases and filling in advance and then fill just before serving.

I used mini cupcake tins, but you can always use standard size cupcake tins.

Ingredients (makes 18)

2 sheets shortcrust pastry
1 egg lightly beaten
3 slices prosciutto
Cos lettuce shredded
A few handfuls grated parmesan cheese
Aioli

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Use a round pastry cutter to cut rounds from the pastry. Line mini cupcake tins with the pastry. Stuff pastry with scrunched up baking paper to ensure it keeps its shape. Bake in the oven until just golden (about 10 minutes). Remove baking paper and brush the inside of each case with egg. Bake for another 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Bake the prosciutto until crisp and break into shards.

Just before serving fill the pastry cases with lettuce, prosciutto and parmesan and top with aioli.

Pine Nut and Ricotta Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce


So a few weekends ago I felt inspired to make fresh ravioli. Scott was coming over for dinner and I knew he would appreciate fresh pasta.

Believe it or not it was a lot quicker and easier than you might think. And so, so satisfying.

See my post from 8 March 2009 for how to make the fresh pasta.

Ingredients (serves 3)

3 eggs
1 3/4 cups plain flour ('00' strong flour is best - this is now available from the supermarket)
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh basil finely chopped
1 egg
1/2 - 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
6 tomatoes halved
6 cloves garlic peeled but left whole
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt and pepper
Dash red wine vinegar
Freshly chopped basil (extra) to serve
Parmesan cheese to serve

Method

For the fresh pasta, please see my post from 8 March 2009 for Roasted Red Onion and Garlic Ravioli.

To make the filling, combine all ingredients (except the breadcrumbs) in a bowl and mix to combine. Add breadcrumbs until a creamy, but not to soft, consistency is reached.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Place the tomatoes, garlic, dried basil and oregano and olive oil in a roasting dish and roast tomatoes for 40-50 minutes until soft. Process tomato mixture in the food processor. Just before serving, heat tomato mixture in a saucepan and season with salt and pepper and a dash of red wine vinegar. Stir through extra basil.

Cook ravioli and serve topped with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.

Jacket Potatoes with Danish Feta, Bacon and Garlic Chives


As a child I just loved potatoes baked in their skins. Mum would always bake them so that they were crunchy on the outside and then pop a bit of salt and butter in the middle making them delicious and creamy on the inside - simple but so wonderfully comforting.

After I moved out of home I made baked potatoes very rarely - in fact until recently the only time I can remember baking a potato in its jacket was when I had my tonsils out and felt like something very plain but homely (unfortunately I could only manage a few bites). But lately potatoes baked in their skins have made a come back with me. Naturally, I normally cannot go past just the simple butter, salt and pepper filling of my childhood (though Mark prefers chives, bacon and sour cream), but on occasion I have tried something different - resulting in this combination which I really loved.

Ingredients (serves 2)
2 medium - large potatoes in their skins, scrubbed clean and pricked with a knife (or a few smaller potatoes as I have used in the photo)
Olive oil for frying bacon
2 rashes bacon finely chopped
Butter
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Danish feta crumbled
2 tablespoons garlic chives finely chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the potatoes directly onto the oven rack and bake for at least an hour (you can also pre-cook the potatoes in the microwave and bake for less time).

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on absorbent paper.

Once potatoes are cooked, cut a cross in the top of each and fill with a small knob of butter, salt and pepper, bacon, feta and chives.

08 August 2009

Roasted Herb and Sumac Tomatoes


The tomatoes I used in this dish were quite small so I used three to serve two people, however normally I would only use two tomatoes.

I used to roast tomatoes almost every time I served them, no matter what - in salads, with roasted meats, whatever. But more recently I have been serving them raw...but I think roasting may be about to come back into my repertoire.

Sumac is a deliciously tangy spice that matches beautifully with roasted tomatoes. If you have never tried it, you definitely should.

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 large tomatoes (or 3 smaller ones)
1 teaspoon sumac
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Handful of parsley
Olive oil to drizzle

Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half. Place in a roasting dish and top with sumac, salt and pepper, parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until soft.

Garlic and Spice Lamb


Apologies to anyone checking this blog regularly for updates (fingers crossed there may be at least one of you...) I have been very slack lately. We had Mark's 30th last weekend, and that event seemed to take up the majority of my time and effort for the last few weeks. The party was fabulous though (more about that later when I post the party menu).

But I have been doing a bit of cooking and will with any luck over the next few days post my most recent recipes. I'm also doing a bit of entertaining in August so those menus will be posted. I'm very excited that next weekend I am cooking for my friend Rochelle and her sister Lani - I have some really interesting fresh pasta ideas for that menu.

And thank you to Renee who after cooking my last post 'Chicken, Cherry Tomato, Mint and Danish Feta Pasta' noticed that the picture shows pine nuts but the recipe does not. I have rectified this now.

A word of warning about this one - it is not for the faint hearted when it comes to garlic. I absolutely loved it, but it may not be for everyone. Of course, you can simply reduce the amount of garlic to suit your tastes, but as it is not cooked for long, it still remains quite pungent. To reduce the pungency you could roast the garlic before adding it to the spices.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
4 cloves garlic
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 lamb fillets

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the coriander, cumin, salt, pepper and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Bash the ingredients together and add the olive oil to form a paste.

Cook the lamb in a very hot pan until seared on one side. Turn the lamb over and spread the garlic and spice paste on the lamb. Place the lamb in the oven to finish cooking to your liking (normally about 4-6 minutes). Slice and serve with roasted tomatoes and potatoes - recipes to come.

28 July 2009

Chicken, Cherry Tomato, Mint and Danish Feta Pasta


I go through phases with pasta. Sometimes I want it all the time. Other times I can happily not eat it for a while. I think because it is so heavy at night I find that I want something lighter.

Having said that, I went through bit of a pasta phase recently (probably due to it being cold outside), and this dish was one that I made at that time. What I love about it is that it is so fresh - and has all my favourite ingredients - tomatoes, mint, garlic, danish feta...


Ingredients (serves 2)

300-350g long pasta (spaghetti / fettuccini)
1 chicken breast trimmed
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic (or as much as you like)
250g cherry tomatoes halved
1 bunch mint roughly chopped
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons pine nuts toasted
Danish feta (as much or as little as you like) crumbled
Salt and pepper

Method

Cook the pasta as per packet instructions. Meanwhile, grill the chicken and set aside to keep warm.

Heat the olive oil in a fry pan. Add the garlic and fry gently and then add the tomatoes and cook until soft. Add the cooked pasta to the tomato mixture. Reserve a little of the pasta cooking liquid.

Stir to combine, adding red wine vinegar as you go. Slice chicken and add to the pasta. Stir though a little of the reserved cooking water if the pasta is a bit dry. Season with salt and pepper and mix through mint. Serve topped with pine nuts and danish feta.

27 July 2009

Baked Meatballs with Fragrant Tomato Sauce


It has been a while since I posted something, I have about 6 recipes ready to post, but finding the time lately has not be that easy...

We're currently (still) trying to get the new house in order, and seem to almost be there. It seems to completely consume our eveings and weekends. But I am loving the kitchen in our new house - so much bench space!! And I recently purchased a new 10 piece Scanpan saucepan set (reduced from $1000 to $449 - how could I refuse, especially after one of my saucepans broke). Absolutely loving my new toys. And we're also planning a party for Mark's 30th, which I decided to cater - all finger food and noodle boxes. I've put a lot into the preparation so hopefully it all comes off well. I'll be sure to post that menu after this coming weekend.

For this particular dish I was inspired by a Donna Hay recipe that was in one of the Sunday paper magazines this week, but I made mine a little differently. Very easy, and even easier if you are able to make the meatballs in advance. I have my leftovers stored in the freezer. I just served it with a green salad, and if I had any, I would have also served with crusty bread to mop up the juices

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 brown onion finely diced
Olive oil (to fry and to drizzle over meatballs)
500g beef mince
300g pork mince
3-4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup parsley finely chopped
2 eggs
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
3 tins tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Splash white wine (about 1/4 - 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon allspice
Basil leaves and parmesan cheese to serve

Method

Preheat oven to 220 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a small fry pan and fry the onion until soft. Set aside.

Meanwhile combine the mince, garlic, oregano, parsley, egg and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Use your hands to combine well. Season with salt and pepper. Roll into balls a little smaller in size than a golf ball. Place in a roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile combine the tinned tomatoes and tomato paste in a bowl with the all spice and white wine. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the tomato mixture over the meatballs and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes.

Serve topped with basil leaves and parmesan.

14 July 2009

Lemon Chorizo Pasta


As you are probably gathering by now, I really like chorizo. And I think lemon and spinach compliment it beautifully.

This dish is quick and easy to make and takes delicious. It is a favourite of mine. It is beautiful with a crisp white wine!

I've been working on a lot of recipes lately that are different to my usual dishes. As a result, not all of them are working out exactly as I hoped. For example, tonight I made a chicken dish simmered in soy, star anise and ginger. But it was not quite right, so I am refining it and hope to put it up soon. But I am hoping to add a lot more soon.
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
300g fettuccini
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 chorizo sausages
2 cloves garlic crushed (add less or no garlic if you are not a garlic fan)
2 spring onions finely chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
150g spinach (either baby spinach or English spinach)
1 bunch parsley finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Grated parmesan to serve
Method
Cook pasta in boiling salted water in accordance with packet instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large fry pan. Cook the chorizo until crispy (tends to take 5-10 minutes). Add garlic and spring onions and cook for 1-2 minutes being careful not to burn.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and add to the pan with the chorizo. Put pan on low heat. Add lemon juice and zest, baby spinach and parsley. Stir to combine (add some of the pasta cooking water or olive oil if it is a little dry). Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese.

12 July 2009

Potato and Roasted Garlic Soup


I have been very slow to add recipes lately - unfortunately this is because I have not been cooking as much! We spent today re-shuffling furniture and trying to get ourselves sorted out now that our floors have been polished and we can finally attempt to unpack properly. A very disappointing weekend from a food perspective, but I guess these things have to be done.

I did manage to cook a quiche yesterday - but I was not 100% happy with it (my friends said they liked it, but I am not convinced), so that one is being fine tuned. And today I made a thick and creamy potato and roasted garlic soup - very happy with this one!

Ingredients (serves approx. 4)

2 heads garlic top sliced off
Olive oil
1 brown onion diced
4-6 large potatoes peeled and cut into 2-3cm pieces
4-5 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup sour cream (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
To serve, 1 bunch chives finely chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil, wrap in foil and make for 40 minutes. Allow to cool and remove garlic flesh from skins.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan. Saute onion until soft. Add potatoes, stock and thyme. Bring to the boil and then simmer until potato is soft. Process potato mixture and roasted garlic.

Return soup to the pan. Add mustard, sour cream and salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with chives.

09 July 2009

Gorgeous Greens with a Dash of White


I apologise for being slack with the recipes lately. Mark and I have been away, so I have not been cooking as much as usual. And then this week I made two dishes I was going to post (salmon flavoured with lemongrass and ginger, and chicken with a salsa verde type sauce) but I am not sure they turned out exactly as I wanted, so I decided not to post them just yet.

Tonight we were just having a simple meal of steak with steamed potatoes and some greens. But I then decided to saute the beans and spinach with garlic, lemon and feta - and was absolutely delighted! They were the surprise hit of the night (well for me anyway).

This side dish is really just a variation on the 'Lemony Greens' I made recently, but better. I'm a bit vague on the quantities, so just adjust depending on how many people you are feeding, and add as little or as much olive oil as you like. Try it out!

Ingredients (serves 2)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic
200g green beans trimmed
Juice of half a lemon and zest of whole lemon
150g baby spinach
Salt and pepper
Danish feta to taste

Method

Heat the olive oil in a large fry pan. Add the garlic and beans and saute for 5-7 minutes or until cooked to your liking (I like them to be still crisp). Add the lemon juice and spinach and cook until the spinach is just wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the lemon zest. Serve with feta crumbled on top.

28 June 2009

Preserved Lemon Chicken Curry

On one of my numerous trips to Herbies Spices at Rozelle I purchased preserved lemons. When I have used preserved lemons previously I have found them too salty. I wanted to therefore try them from Herbies - my rationale being that if didn't enjoy Herbie's version, I would not like any preserved lemons. And I was not disappointed.

I was originally going to make this meal on Sunday and then re-heat it on Monday night, but since tonight is so cold and rainy, I decided that we would eat it tonight - perfect comfort food.

I did a spice blending class at Herbies a few weeks ago and purchased native pepperberries. I have used them in this dish instead of black pepper as it is stronger and more intense, and I wanted this dish to have a little more heat. If you do not have pepperberries, just use a couple of teaspoons black pepper. I have also used white peppercorns as I like their flavour. Add some chilli if you want more heat, but perhaps taste it first and add extra chilli just before serving.

I loved this dish, and hope you do also.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 native ground pepperberries
1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom
Plain flour for dusting
3 chicken breasts skin off, cut into three pieces
Oil for frying
1 brown onion chopped
3 preserved lemon quarters (one left whole, 2 with the pith and flesh removed and slices into thirds)
2 cups chicken stock
200g Greek yoghurt
White rice to serve

Method

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Combine the spices in a small bowl and mix well. Dust the chicken lightly with flour. Heat oil in a fry pan and brown chicken in batches. Add a little extra oil and cook the onion until just soft. Add the spice mix and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Place the chicken, onion and spices, preserved lemon and chicken stock in a casserole dish with lid. Cook in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Stir through yoghurt and serve with white rice.

22 June 2009

Cauliflower, Bacon and Caraway Soup with Pesto


I was hesitant to serve soup as an entree as it seemed a bit 80s. But given how cold and rainy it has been, soup seemed so deliciously warming and appropriate.

After the success of the pureed cauliflower I made at Easter I had been wanted to create a soup, so used this opportunity, and it was delicious! It probably doesn't need the butter and cream to be delicious, so omit these if you want a lower fat version.

And also very easy to make - have a go.

Ingredients (serves 4 with a small amount leftover)

1 tablespoon olive oil
25g butter
6 rashes short cut bacon diced
1 brown onion diced
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 cauliflower heads (about 450-500g each) cut into florets
5-6 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 slices prosciutto
300ml thickened cream
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons pesto (see post from 15 March, but add a little less parmesan and pine nuts)

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Saute the bacon, onion and garlic in the butter and oil in a large saucepan until the bacon is crisp and the onion is soft. Add the cauliflower florets, stock and caraway seeds. Bring to the boil and simmer until the cauliflower is very soft (15-20 minutes). Meanwhile, cook the prosciutto in the oven until crisp.
Once cooked, blend in batches in a food processor (note that you may not need all the liquid if you want a thick soup). Return to the pan and add the cream and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with prosciutto shards and a dollop of pesto.

Thyme Roasted Vegetables


This meal is really very easy. There is very little preparation and it can just cook away in the oven while you relax or do something else.

With this dish, you can really use whatever vegetables you like. Just make sure they are cut into similar sizes, or that ones that cook faster are bigger than those that cook slower.

Last time I made this, I also served it with peas sauteed in mint and butter, but this time, with the heavy soup entree, I decided to pass on the peas this time. I'll save them for another post.
Ingredients (serves 4)

4 parsnips peeled and cut in half lengthwise
8-10 baby new potatoes halved
600g sweet potato cut into large pieces
2 onions quartered with the skin left on
1 head garlic cloves separated, skin on
4-6 carrots, skin on, cut into 3-4 cm pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 bunch thyme
Salt and pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees (or a little less if the meat is not roasting at the same time). Place all the vegetables in a roasting tray (it is much easier to clean if you line it with baking paper). Toss them in the oil, vinegar, thyme and salt and pepper. Roast for 40-50 minutes or until soft.

Succulent Roast Beef


I purchased the meat at David Jones -- if I want really good meat, that is where I head. And I have never been disappointed. It is more expensive than normal (except when I purchased quite a bit on sale not long ago) but every so often I can justify the expense.

Saturday night was one of those nights.

And again I was not disappointed.

I like my meat cooked medium - so if you like it a little more well done, you will need to cook it for longer.

Ingredients (serves 4)

900g beef fillet
1-2 tablespoons dijon mustard
4 slices prosciutto

Method

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Take the beef out of the fridge and let is rest until it reaches room temperature. Spread the dijon mustard over the top of the beef. Place the prosciutto slices on top of the mustard. Place on a roasting tray in a roasting tin. Roast for 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

19 June 2009

Lemon Myrtle and Kaffir Lime Leaf Risotto


One of the first risotto recipes I learnt to make was a lemongrass and lime leaf risotto that was in a small marie claire book of my mum's.

It was absolutely delicious and very unique. I should one day remember to write down the recipe when I am over at their place.

In the meantime, I have tried to make something similar using my enormous range of spices! Lemon myrtle has a very lemongrass-like flavour, and I have plenty of dried kaffir lime leaves, so it seemed logical to have a go using these.

So here is my creation, and if I do say so myself, it is not too bad...

Ingredients (serves 2)

4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2cm grated fresh ginger
1 cup arborio rice
1 chicken breast trimmed
1 teaspoon lemon myrtle
1 teaspoon dried kaffir lime leaf
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon butter
Small handful fresh mint

Method

Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently. Heat the olive oil and sesame oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger and cook for a minute or so. Add the rice and cook stirring until translucent. Use a soup ladle to add the chicken stock one ladle full at a time, stirring well, and adding more stock once the previous ladle full has been absorbed.

After all the stock has been absorbed, add the lemon myrtle, kaffir lime leaves, fish stock, butter and mint and stir well. Serve immediately.

18 June 2009

Very Slow and Very Tender Lamb


As anyone reading this blog will have picked up lately, I have been experimenting with slow cooked lamb. Often I try to combine a crunchy top, and a tender core. But this time I decided not to try and make any part of the lamb crunchy and go for a true slow cooked, fall of the bone, lamb (as opposed to part slow cooked and slow roasted, which are different). I used half a leg for just the two of us, but you could probably cook a whole leg in the same amount of time.

And this dish turned out exactly how I wanted it to (it received a 'very good' from Mark)!
And it was so easy to make. It does require a bit of forward planning (ie remembering to put it in the oven) but once it is in, you can just forget about it.

What more could you ask for really?

Ingredients

1/2 leg of lamb
Flour for dusting
Olive oil for frying
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and left whole
2 onions peeled and quartered
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups beef stock
400g tin tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
4 bay leaves
A few sprigs thyme and sage
Freshly ground pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 120 degrees. Dust the lamb in flour. Heat oil in a dish that can go on the stove and in the oven (or use a fry pan and transfer to a casserole dish). Brown lamb on each side. Add the vinegar, stock, tomatoes, basil, oregano, bay leaves, thyme, sage and pepper. Cover and cook for 8 hours. Serve with rice or mash and veges.

Creamy Chicken, Thyme and Sage Casserole


On the particular evening that I made this dish, I was babysitting for my gorgeous God son Otis. I wanted to make something that I could feed him at about 5.30 and then reheat again later for Mark and me once we had put Otis to bed. So a casserole seemed like the perfect choice.

And then I saw a creamy looking casserole on http://www.taste.com.au/ that looked delicious (what perfect timing!) so I decided to create a creamy casserole of my own.

Otis seemed to enjoy this dish, and Mark and I definitely did. There was probably far too much liquid, so I have only specified below a portion of what I added. If it looks too dry, add extra.

I served it with roasted garlic mash (see post from 14 June 2009) and some veges.

I used chicken breasts, but you could use whatever you like. I let the dish sit for a few hours after cooking and then reheated it, and the meat was wonderfully tender. I think the resting contributed to this.

Ingredients

Butter to fry
900g chicken breast or thigh cut into large pieces
6 rashes short cut rindless bacon
2 leeks, pale section only cut into quarters length ways and then cut into 3 cm pieces
5 cloves garlic bruised but left whole
2 tablespoons plain flour
3/4 cup chicken consomme
3/4 cup white wine
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch sage
1/2 cup thickened cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Heat the butter oil in a dish that can be used both on the stove and in the oven (or use a fry pan and then transfer to a casserole dish). Cook the chicken in batches until browned. Remove from pan.

Melt extra butter and then add and cook until well browned. Then add leeks and garlic and saute. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes. Add the wine and stock and bring to the boil.

Return chicken to the pan with 1/2 the thyme and 1/2 the sage. Cover and place in the oven and cook for an hour.

After an hour, return pan to the stove top and add cream and remaining thyme and sage. Cook, stirring for a few minutes until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with mash and vegetables.

14 June 2009

Lemony Greens


You would be aware of how much I love spinach - I have withdrawals if I don't eat it for a few days. I also love green beans and lemon. So combining these into one dish just seemed logical. I also like to serve at least something green with each and every meal.

The lemon adds just enough tang to make these greens just a little extra special. I served this to Scott and Mark along with the roast chicken and roasted garlic mashed potato.

Ingredients (serves 3)

3 handfuls green beans
Drizzle olive oil / knob of butter (whichever you prefer)
200g spinach washed and dried
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Heat the olive oil or butter in a fry pan. Cook the beans until cooked through, but still crunchy. Add spinach and saute until wilted. Add the lemon juice and zest and serve immediately.

Roasted Thyme Chicken with Garlic Mashed Potatoes


It was the Saturday night before our 'Long Weekend, Long Dinner' house christening. I was tired (from shopping and lunching for Jess's birthday) and busy cooking for the next day, but we had invited Scott over, so I wanted to cook something lovely that the boys would enjoy.

Since winter has set in I have been craving more comfort food - and what is more comforting that roast chicken and mashed potatoes?

So I grabbed a whole chicken from the supermarket, added a few extra wings (Mark looked very suspiciously at the chicken when I served it, asking whether I had added extra wings. I think he for a brief moment wondered if I have purchased a mutant chicken) and then threw it in the oven to roast. Simple and delicious.

Ingredients (serves 3)

1 whole chicken and 3-4 extra chicken wings
1 bunch thyme
30g butter
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1/2 lemon
1/2 onion
1 head garlic
4 large potatoes peeled
1/2 cup milk or cream
30g butter (extra)

Method

Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Place 1/2 the thyme and butter under the skin on the breasts. Place the onion and lemon in the cavity and rub both the whole chicken and the wings with oil, salt and pepper. Scatter the remaining thyme around the chicken. Roast in the oven at 200 degrees for 45 minutes per 500g. To serve, drizzle with pan juices.

Cut the top of the head of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil and roast for about an hour. Once cooled, squeeze garlic flesh from skins. Set aside.

Boil potatoes until soft. Drain well and return to the pan with the milk and butter. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Mash well. If you want it to be extra smooth, press the mash through a fine sieve and then fluff with a fork. Serve with the chicken along with lemon greens.

Long Weekend, Long Dinner

So, this was our first experience entertaining in our new house. We were very excited to christen our house, so I wanted to create a really amazing menu for my friends. I hope that I succeeded - every ounce of food was devoured, so it seems that my friends enjoyed themselves, or at the least were hungry.

This was the menu...

Starters
Marinated feta
White Bean and Olive Dip
Fragrant Red Kidney Bean Dip
Feta, Ricotta and Pine Nut Dip

Main Meal
Slow Roasted Lamb with Spiced Butter
Wonderfully Crunchy Chicken Wings
Crispy Chicken Breasts
Mustard and Chive Potatoes
Honey Spiced Carrots
Beans with Pistachio Gremolata
Green Salad with Pink Peppercorn Dressing

Dessert
Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcakes with Ganache Icing
Brown Sugar Butterfly Cakes with Raspberry Cream

Do in advance...

Day before:
Marinate feta
Make white bean dip
Make kidney bean dip
Make toasts for dips
Make spiced butter
De-seed pomegranate
Chop pistachios
Make salad dressing

Morning of 'the day':
Make cupcakes (including cream and icing)
Marinate chicken wings
Wash spinach for salad
Chop spring onions
Blanche beans and carrots
Par boil potatoes
Put salad together (except for avocado)

Feta, Ricotta and Pine Nut Dip


Normally I would make this dip with only feta - but I didn't really like the taste of the feta I had purchased. So I added a little ricotta to mellow the flavour and decided that I liked it better this way.

This dip was a last minute addition to my menu - I just really love the flavours and, of course, I cannot look past such a cheesy, creamy dish!

Ingredients

150g creamy feta crumbled
1 cup ricotta
1 spring onion finely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts lightly toasted and lightly
1/2 clove garlic crushed
1/2 cup basil leaves thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
Olive oil to taste

Method

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Fragrant Red Kidney Bean Dip


I saw Nigella Lawson a recipe similar to this one as part of a middle eastern banquet once and thought it looked delicious. I have tinkered with it a little, and used some additional spices and herbs. The end result was very pleasing.

I found that I can smell this dip before I taste it - it is wonderfully aromatic.

Again I served this with toasted bread - just delicious!

Ingredients

2 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tins red kidney beans undrained
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom
Juice and zest 2 limes
1 bunch mint
Olive oil (extra)

Method

Mince the onion and garlic in the food processor. Heat the olive oil in a fry pan and add the onion and garlic mixture. Cook until golden. Add the kidney beans (along with the liquid in the tin), tomato paste and spices. Cook for a few minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool. When cool process in a food processor until well combined, but still lumpy.

Place in serving bowls and top with zest and mint. Drizzle with extra olive oil.

White Bean and Olive Dip


I call this a 'dip', but really it is more of a bruschetta topping (for want of a better expression). Regardless of what it is - I absolutely love it. I first learnt this recipe when Mark surprised me with an Italian cooking class http://www.cucinaitaliana.com.au/contact.php) and this was one of the dishes that we made.

Since that time, I have made it many, many times. People always seem to love it.
I serve the dip with toasted sourdough or Italian bread which I have drizzled with olive oil and then baked in the oven until golden.

You need to be generous with both the salt, olive oil and parsley in order to make this dish work - do not be stingy, I simply with not be as nice. Taste regularly and add what you think it needs.

Again, I made this one the night before and just pulled it out of the fridge about an hour before serving so it came back to room temperature.

Ingredients
1 red onion finely diced
2 tins cannellini beans or white beans rinsed
Olive oil to taste
1 bunch parsley (or as much as you want)
1 cup olives
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Place the diced onion in a sieve and salt well. Allow to sit for a few minutes and then rinse (this takes away the bitterness). Place the beans and onions in a medium bowl. Add olive oil and mash with a potato masher until coarsely mashed. Do not over-mash and do not place in the food processor - it should be rustic. Add the parsley, olive oil, olives and salt and pepper. Taste and add extra olive oil, salt and pepper and parsley as you please.

Feta Marinated in Lemon and Oregano


Normally I would use Danish feta for this dish. I love the one from the deli section of Woolworths. But as one of my guests was pregnant, and therefore could only have pre-packaged feta, I used a smooth and creamy, packaged, cow's milk feta. I cannot recall what brand it was, but it was delicious.

I made this the night before in order to give the flavours sufficient time to come together. I was very pleased, everyone seemed to enjoy.

Ingredients

200g smooth and creamy feta crumbled
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate for at least an hour, longer if possible.

Mustard and Chive Potatoes


I keep reading that mustard seeds go really well with potatoes and have therefore been keen to give that combination a go. But I have also been very much enjoying steamed potatoes with butter (or olive oil) and herbs. As I could not decide what to serve for my dinner party, I figured that I could have the best of both worlds - mustard and chives - two flavours that work beautifully together.

These potatoes were quite simple. I par boiled the potatoes in advance, sauteed them in a large fry pan with a lid (thanks Renee!) and then just let them sit on low until I served the main meal. They were left there for perhaps 30 minutes.

Add butter to taste. I didn't really measure the butter, I just threw in as much as looked sufficient.

I don't have a decent photo unfortunately - the steam coming off the potatoes made it very difficult to take a good one.

Ingredients

15-17 medium-large potatoes peeled and cut into quarters
50-75g butter
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 bunch chives finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Par boil the potatoes for approximately 5 minutes. Drain and allow the excess moisture to evaporate. Melt the butter in a large fry pan. Add the potatoes and mustard seeds and saute until golden. Add the chives and mix well.

08 June 2009

Slow Roasted Lamb with Spiced Butter


I have been experimenting a lot with slow roasting lately. Slow roasted food is so wonderfully comforting in winter and I love filling the house with the roasting aromas.

With this lamb I had to make a choice - was I going to keep it covered the whole time and ensure it was always topped up with stock / wine? Or was I going to finish by roasting, uncovered and allow it to crisp on top? The trade off is that the latter option means that the meat is slightly dryer than the former. But since I love the crunchy parts on top, I went with the latter, but plan on experimenting with a wetter, more moist slow roast next time.

The result was however delicious. The lamb was still very moist and succulent despite being allowed to crisp on top and the spices tasted amazing. I attended a spice blending class at Herbies Spices last week so my interest in spices has been refreshed.

Ingredients

300g butter softened
4 tablespoons ground coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic crushed
2 legs of lamb on the bone
2 cups vegetable stock
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
Handful fresh mint

Method

Preheat oven to 120 degrees. Place the butter and spices in a bowl and mix well. Cut slits in the lamb legs and smear with 2/3 of the butter mixture. Place lamb in a roasting tray with the vegetable stock. Cover tightly with foil. Roast in the oven for 7 hour. Increase heat to 160 degrees and roast uncovered for another hour. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving scattered with pomegranate seeds and mint.

Wonderfully Crunchy Chicken Wings

Lately, I just cannot seem to cook chicken wings often enough. They are just so deliciously crunchy and satisfying. The ones that I have used for this recipe were very small which meant they crisped particularly well. I received quite a few comments on these wings - they seemed to go down very well - my friend Phil managed to eat quite a number by himself!


Marinating the wings for a number of hours before roasting makes a big difference to the final product - so if you have time to do this, I highly recommend you do so.

Again, no photos sorry!


Ingredients

20 chicken wings
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon black pepper finely ground
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom
2 large thick plastic zip lock bags
6 tablespoons olive oil


Method


Place 10 wings in each plastic bag. Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Add the spices and olive oil to the bags with the chicken and combine well. Marinate for at least 4 hours.


Preheat the oven to 210 degrees. Place the wings on a baking tray and roast for at least an hour - or until the wings are crispy.

Crispy Chicken Breasts

When entertaining I like to offer guests two different types of meat - and often I choose chicken and lamb. Lately I have leaned towards chicken wings as I love roasting them until they are wonderfully crispy. In addition, for this dinner, I wanted to serve chicken breasts with the skin still on so that we could enjoy the beautiful white chicken breast meat as well as the crispy skin.

I also wanted to be able to run the spiced butter theme through as many dishes as possible. Leaving the skin on means I could place the spiced butter under the skin and the succulent meat would be flavoured by the spices.
No photo unfortunately - I was running short of time!

Ingredients

Spiced butter from Slow Roasted Lamb with Spiced Butter recipe
5 chicken breasts skin on
1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Use your fingers to separate the chicken skin from the breast, creating a pocket. Place knobs of the spiced butter in the pocket. Heat the olive oil in a fry pan and place the chicken skin side down and brown well.
Transfer the chicken to a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

Green Salad with Pink Peppercorn Dressing


Personally, I generally prefer salad to hot vegetables. But I know that some people prefer just the opposite. As I was feeding so many people I wanted to serve sides that suit everyone's tastes - so decided to serve a salad as well as the beans and carrots. And, well, since I love spinach I wanted to incorporate it somehow...

The pink peppercorns were a last minute thought and were added for colour as well as for their wonderful tang.

Ingredients

250g baby spinach washed and dried
4 spring onions finely sliced
1/3 cup pistachios chopped
2 avocados chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons pink peppercorns lightly crushed

Method

Combine the spinach, spring onions, pistachios and avocado in a salad bowl. Place the olive oil, lime juice and peppercorns in a screw top jar and shake to combine. Drizzle the salad with the dressing just before serving.