I hope you enjoy the food!!!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Middle Eastern Style Chicken with Jerusalem Artichoke Puree

If you belong to a fruit and vegetable co-op, the chances are that you have encountered this vegetable before

... and perhaps not known what it was, or even what to do with it!!

It is often mistaken for ginger - it does look a little bit like it - but once you peel it you can see that the texture is completely different.  So what is it?  It is the Jerusalem artichoke.  A real misnomer, as it is not related to the artichoke at all, and it is not from Jerusalem!!  Apparently they are related to the sunflower!  Go figure!  There is a theory that the name somehow came from a corruption of the Italian word "girasole" which means "turning to the sun".  However they got their name, once you have tried them you will never mistake them for ginger again.  They are lovely vegetable, very versatile - and have some great health benefits too.  They are very high in iron, and are highly recommended for diabetics as they contain inulin,  a starch that is not utilised by the body for energy, as opposed to sugar.  The vegetable is quite filling, like a potato, but does not affect blood sugar levels.  Jerusalem artichokes are at their best from autumn to winter.

I have been keeping my eye open for them for a while - some fruit shops will sell them in prepackaged containers - usually around 250g - but I was lucky enough to find them at our local farmers market this week.  They are a little costly, I paid $9 per kilo for them, but they are worth the indulgence.

The reason I have been looking for them was when I was flipping through the May edition of Delicious there was a picture of a delicious (no pun intended) looking meal on one of the pages.  I flipped backwards and forwards looking for the recipe, but could not find it.  Very frustrating - I wanted to make this dish!!  Underneath the photo was the byline that it was Dominique Rizzo's Middle Eastern Chicken with artichoke and cumin puree and zucchini salad.  Well I did what any good foodie would do, and I tried to google it.  This led me to Dominique's website - there was no recipe there - but there was a "contact us" section - so I did.  I asked her where I could find the recipe - and low and behold - she sent it to me!!  She wished me luck in making the dish and told me that it was a gorgeous dish!  She was not wrong!  So here is the recipe she sent me (I did tweak some of the amounts slightly!!)

Middle Eastern Style Chicken with Jerusalem Artichoke Puree and Zucchini Salad

Serves 4

4 x 150g chicken breasts, skin off, pounded with a mallet until 1 1/2cm thickness
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tbs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stalks
1 tbs oregano, chopped
pinch of chili flakes
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbs lemon juice
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1kg jerusalem artichokes, peeled
200ml (approx) chicken stock
20g butter
dash of cream (optional)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, roasted in a dry pan until fragrant
2 medium sized zucchini
1 cup flat leaf parsley, picked leaves, then chopped finely
10 mint leaves, thinly sliced
2 tbs currants
2 tbs pine nuts, toasted
3 tbs Italian Masala wine
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic, crushed

In a large glass bowl combine the garlic, thyme, oregano, chilli flakes, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper and olive oil.  Stir to combine, then add the chicken breasts.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge to marinate for up to 2 hours.

Place the jerusalem artichokes in a saucepan and cover with chicken stock.  Boil them until tender.  When cooked, drain off the chicken stock, and mash roughly with a fork.  Add the butter, and mix.  If you have a stick blender, use this to puree the mixture to a smooth consistency, otherwise place in a food processor.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the cream, if desired.  This can be made ahead and reheated in the microwave.

To make the salad,  chop the top and the end off the zucchinis, and using a vegetable peeler peel the flesh from the zucchinis, leaving you with a bowl of "ribbons".  I actually stopped peeling when I got the the middle section with all the seeds.  To the zucchini ribbons add the parsley, currents and sliced mint.  Combine the masala, olive oil, minced garlic, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve the salad.  Don't dress the salad too early!

Heat a heavy based frypan over moderate to high heat.  Pour in a small amount of olive oil.  Cook the chicken breasts for 3-4 minutes each side, or until they are lovely and golden.  Set aside. Once the chicken has been cooked pour the marinade into the frypan, simmer for 3 minutes.  Pour this over the cooked chicken.

Toss the pine nuts through the salad, and add the dressing.

Serve the chicken with a smear of the artichoke puree that has been sprinkled with the roasted cumin seeds and the zucchini salad.

This was truly a "gorgeous" meal to quote Dominique!!  You must try this - you will be impressed - it would make a lovely dinner party meal.  Dominique serves it with a cauliflower puree when jerusalem artichokes are not in season.  I will definitely make this meal again - it was a real winner.  I'm going to make the zucchini salad again - perhaps with some salmon next time!

Slow Braised Pork with Pumpkin Mash

"The Darlings" each picked a meal that they like the look of, and wanted me to make this week.  Tonight was pick number 2.

Although they never read the recipe and go purely on the photo of the dish - they have both seemed to pick winners this week.  This was a great dish because it was one of those meals that you spend about 15 minutes prepping, and then walk away from it for and hour and a half and go do something else!  Got to love those meals!  If you use a disposable foil baking tray - you have even less work - no washing up!!

Slow Braised Pork with Pumpkin Mash & Steamed Asian Greens

Serves 6

1.2 kg whole pice pork scotch fillet
1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tablespoon ginger, finely diced
2 whole star anise
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 shaoxing cooking wine
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Heat a large non stick frypan over medium high heat.  Add the piece of pork, and cook for 2-3 minutes on all sides to sear (don't forget the ends!)

Transfer the pork to your baking dish.

To the frypan add a small amount of oil, then add the onion, garlic, ginger and star anise.  Cook stirring for 3 minutes, or until the onion has softened.

Add the stock, cooking wine, soy sauce and sugar.  Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Pour the mixture over the pork, and cover the baking dish tightly with foil.

Bake in the oven for one hour (you can leave it a little longer - I think mine was there for about an hour and a 20 minutes).  After this time, remove the foil, and baste with the pan juices.  Bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the pork is very tender.

Serve slices of the meat alongside pumpkin mash, and steamed greens, such as bok choy, broccolini and enoki mushrooms.

As is usual in this house, when pork is served - the plates are literally licked clean!  As I have said many times before, using a whole pork scotch fillet makes are really cost effective meal - and I have never had a bad meal when using this cut.  It is always lovely and tender.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sukiyaki Beef with Edamame and Sushi Rice

While traditionally "sukiyaki" means a slowly cooked or simmered dish, usually of thinly sliced beef, it also can refer to a dish, again usually thinly sliced beef that is simmered our sauteed in a skillet dish, and has a sauce that is typically a mixture of soy, sugar and mirin.  The work "Yaki" in Japanese means to sautee or grill.  So last night my dish consisted of steak that I sauteed in the frypan (although if it were warmer outside, I think grilling it on the BBQ would have been even better!) and a  sauce that had soy, sake and mirin in it.

Sukiyaki Beef with Edamame and Sushi Rice
Serves 4

200g podded frozen edamame (soybeans) *
4 x 180g beef eye fillet steaks (the better the cut of meat - the better this dish will turn out!)
3cm piece ginger, thinly sliced into "matchsticks"
Red chillies seeded, thinly sliced (according to taste) - I used 1 x long red
2tbs dark soy sauce *
2 tbs cooking sake *
2 tbs mirin (Sweet Japanese Rice Wine) *

Sushi Rice

1 1/2 cups (300g) sushi rice
2 1/2 tbs caster sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar *

* all available at Asian Grocery stores

For the sushi rice, wash the rice under cold running water until the water runs clean.

Place the rice in a saucepan, pour in 450ml cold water, cover and bring slowly to the boil.  Boil for 3 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook covered for 9 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stand covered for 10 minutes, until the rice is tender.

Meanwhile place the sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan with 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil.  Cool slightly, then stir into the rice.

Cook edamame in boiling salted water for 5 minutes.  Drain, and keep warm.

Heat small amount of oil in a frypan over medium high heat.  Season the steaks with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook them,  turning to seal on all sides, for 5 minutes, or to your liking.  Cover loosely with foil and set aside while you make the sauce.

Return the frypan to medium high heat, add the ginger and chilli and cook for 1-2 minutes until they have softened.  Add the soy, sake and mirin and cook stirring, until thick and sticky.

Slice the steak thinly.

Place some rice in the dish, top with steak, pour over a little sauce and scatter with the edamame.

This is a great, light, healthy, tasty dish!!!  A favourite with everyone - scores of 8's and 9's from the judging panel!!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Beef Casserole

Is it bad when you do a little dance of joy when your children's after school activities are cancelled??

Last night I got a reprieve from after school sport - that meant I could cook my meal at a leisurely pace.  Mind you, it meant I could have had something completely different for dinner as well.  I had factored in the cooking time to take place while we were out - oh, well we still had a lovely meal.  A nice warming, beef casserole.

As usual I made my own modifications to the recipe.  The recipe was organised so the meat was cooked for 1+ hours, then you added the vegetables and cooked them for an additional 15 minutes.  I don't know about you, but I like my mushrooms cooked in there with the meat to give it more flavour, also I didn't think adding the eschalots for only 15 minutes sounded all that appealing - I would rather them all soft and "melt in your mouth".  So this is how I cooked my casserole.

Beef Casserole

Serves 6

1.2kg diced chuck or gravy beef
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry red wine
410g can crushed tomatoes
2 rosemary sprigs
300g eschalots, blanched, peeled
250g small mushrooms, quartered
2 carrots, diced

In a large non stick frypan brown the beef in batches.

Heat a small amount of oil in a large saucepan/casserole dish (with lid) on high heat.  Cook the garlic and eschalots and bay leaves for 1-2 minutes.  Add the beef, wine, tomato and rosemary.  Cover and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for an hour.

Stir in the carrots, mushrooms.  Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and simmer for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to a nice thick consistency.

Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve with mashed potato and vegetables of choice.

There's really nothing easier than a casserole!!!  Great for these cold wet nights!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Greek Meatballs with Risoni

One would tend to think that we are turning a little Greek in this house at the moment.  What with Kalamaki, Tzatziki, Greek Lamb, and now the meatballs.  What can I say???  I actually had nothing to do with the choice of last night's meal.  Since the juggernaut that was MasterChef entered our lives "the Darlings" have taken to looking through the magazines with me and choosing a meal that they like the look of.  If nothing else MasterChef has really helped kids look at food differently.  I can't say that I have any up and coming MasterChef Juniors in the house, but they are thinking differently about food these days - perhaps, may I even dare to hope, willing to try a few more things!?!?

Another MasterChef inspired event was yesterday's marathon baking session.  "Precious Zumbo" decided to invent her own version of the V8 cake.  She likes to dabble a little in the kitchen (when it takes her fancy) - but this was a massive undertaking.   The result was a huge chocolate cake!!  First attempts were very admirable - but the layering possibly needed to be a little more delicate.  We were all on chocolate overload when we finished.  She is already planning the next attempt in her head - she only has 7 months to perfect it!!!

Greek Meatballs with Risoni

Serves 6

1kg mince - a combination of lamb and veal works well (you can also just use beef)
1/2 cup soft fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbs lemon juice
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves crushed garlic
700g bottle tomato passata
2-3 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
100g pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup chopped oregano
100g fetta, crumbled

Risoni to serve

Combine the mince, breadcrumbs, egg, juice, half the onion, 2 cloves of garlic, and half the oregano in a large bowl.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Roll tablespoons of the mixture in balls.  Place on a plate.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for 15 minutes.  (If you don't have time to do this it is not the end of the world - they will just be a little more delicate - so take care when frying!)

Heat a large non stick frypan over medium high heat and cook the meatballs in batches until they are browned on the outside - approximately 3-4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate

Add a small amount of olive oil to the pan and cook the remaining onion and garlic for approximately 3 minutes, or until onion softens.  Add the sauce, and chopped tomatoes and remaining oregano.  Bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.  Add the meatballs and olives.  Simmer, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.

Cook risoni in boiling salted water according to packet directions.

Spoon risoni into serving bowls, top with meatballs and sauce.  Serve sprinkled with the crumbled fetta cheese.  If you have any tzatziki left - it goes well with this too!!!

This was a very easy dish to prepare - with the mammoth baking session that was going on in the kitchen yesterday afternoon I was beginning to wonder if we would be having dinner last night - but the dish came together very quickly, and very easily!!!  The kids also loved it (what kid doesn't love meatballs??)

Monday, July 26, 2010


Sunday afternoon is bake afternoon now in this house.  Got to send "the Darlings" to school with a little "advertising material".  Apparently they hand out the cookies (to their friends - and then tell them to check out Mum's blog site!!  Gotta love the little Darlings!!!)

Monday you send them with a cookie or two each, and then you sit back and wait for the requests - one of them will ask for 2 extra, the other for 3 - to give their friends!

Today they went armed with Choc on Choc Cookies and Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies.

Choc on Choc Cookies

Makes approx 24

185g unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups plain flour
2/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
150g milk choc chips
100g dark chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 large cookie trays with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar with electric beaters until thick and pale.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and a pinch of salt into the butter mixture and beat slowly until well combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using two spoons, place heaped tablespoons of the mixture onto the baking trays, flatten slightly, then bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through.

Cool on trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely.

Once cool place all the cookies closely  together on a sheet of foil and drizzle the melted dark chocolate over the top of the cookies.

Oatmeal and Rasin Cookies

Makes approx 24

150g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup plain flour
200g rolled oats
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper (you can re-use the baking paper from the last batch of cookies if you like!!)

Beat the butter and sugar in a na electric mixer until it is thick and pale.  Add the vanilla and egg, and beat until well combined.  Stir in the oats and the raisins.

Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on the cookie tray.  Flatten slightly with a fork that has been dipped in flour.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden.

Cool on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Hopefully that will keep them going for the week!!

I think I am in for a treat tonight - I came home this afternoon to find "Precious Zumbo" concocting a V5!!  It's looking good - will show you all after it is finished.

Turkish Lamb Pide and Labne

Last night I stumbled across the perfect pizza dough!!!

Combining a tip I learned at the Good Food and Wine Show and pure laziness led to the perfect dough!  The laziness part is when I looked in the cupboard and found that I didn't have enough 00 flour - so I decided to use what I had left and combine it with plain flour.  A perfect combination???  Or perhaps the dough would have been even better with all 00 flour - will have to try that next time.

So the dough I made gave me enough to make 8 individual pizzas.  What I did instead, was divide the dough in half - make 4 small bases, and the other half made 2 pide.

Here is the recipe for the dough.

My Perfect Pizza Dough

Makes 8 individual pizzas

7g yeast
500ml warm water
800g flour ( I used 200g "00", 600g plain flour)
2 tsp salt


Combine the yeast, salt and flour in a large bowl.  Mix well.  Pour the water in slowly, and mix together until combined.

Once mixed, turn the mixture out onto a very lightly floured bench (don't add too much flour!!)  Knead the mixture for 15 minutes, make sure it is nice and smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a large lightly oiled bowl (make sure it will hold double the size of the dough at least!) Cover with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place for 2 hours.

After 2 hours punch down the dough and cut into the sections you are using.    Roll into a balls.  

Scatter a small amount of polenta on the bench and roll the dough to size.  Using polenta gives the base added "crunchiness" and stops the addition of more flour into the mixture.

Place the rolled dough onto baking paper.  Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes before you bake.

Make the pizzas up on the baking paper.  Use the baking paper as a "go between" - ie place directly onto your oven rack/terracotta tile/pizza oven.  Leave it there for approximately 1 minute (or until the base has firmed up, then remove it.  If you are freezing the dough, layer baking paper between the  bases.


Now for the Pide

Turkish Lamb Pide

Makes 2

olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove crushed garlic
500g minced lamb
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp hungarian paprika
1 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tomatoes, diced
mozzarella cheese

Heat a non stick frypan over medium high heat, cook the onion and garlic for approximately 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft.  Add the mince and cook, breaking up the mince until it is browned all over. Add the spices and the lemon juice.  Mix to combine.  Add the chopped tomatoes and the chicken stock, cook gently for approximately 5-10 minutes, or until most of the moisture has evaporated.

To assemble the pide, roll the pizza dough out into an oval shape.

Place the dough onto baking paper.  Place the filling in the centre and fold the sides to partially enclose the filling.  Top with a little mozzarella cheese.  Squeeze the dough together at each end.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until crisp and golden.

I topped mine with tzatziki that I had left over from our Greek night on Friday, and with a little Labne that I had made.  You could also top with a little chilli sauce, and chopped mint.


Now if you are interested in making some labne - it is incredibly easy.  All you need to do is place some greek yoghurt that you have seasoned with a little salt in some muslin and suspend it over a bowl for 3 days (this is the same procedure that you use for making the tzatziki - just longer - look in the "dip" section for the recipe)  After 3 days the yoghurt will become quite firm.  Simply make small balls and roll them in some soft herbs such as oregano, chives or mint.  Place the balls on a plate and put in the fridge for an hour or so - this helps them to harden a little before you put them into oil.  After an hour place the balls in a screwtop jar and cover them with olive oil.  To the oil add 4-5 whole black peppercorns and 2 cloves or garlic.  There you have home made labne!!!  Very impressive!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Prawn Kalamaki with Tzatziki and Herb Salad with Greek Style Lamb and Vegetable Pilaf

With last night's meal we had a little Greek theme going.  I was inspired by last week's Master Class and George's Tzatziki.

I got myself all sorted out on Thursday - went to the fabric shop, bought the muslin and the yoghurt and started my prep for the Friday evening Greek feast!  I also decided while I was at it I would give making labne a go - that needs to "hang" for 3 days - so it's still in the pipeline!!  Stay tuned for the results.

Now if you saw the Master Class you would have seen that the yogurt and the cucumbers need to drain overnight - I did mine for 24 hours.  Following these procedures will give you the most beautiful, creamy tzatziki you have ever tasted!!  Heaven on a Greek Plate!!

So onto the actual recipe.

Prawn Kalamaki with Tzatziki and Herb Salad

You decide how many this serves - we had it as an entree - can you stop at 2 prawns each???

12 green prawns, peeled and deveined
2 tbs olive oil
several springs of thyme
1 clove crushed garlic


handful of small salad mix leaves
2tbs sage leaves
2 tbs dill fronds
2 tbs mint leaves
2 tbs chive batons
1/4 cup Japanese mayonnaise
1/2 lemon to serve


4 lebanese cucumbers, peeled and grated
2 cups Greek yoghurt
1/2 clove garlic finely grated
1 small french eschalot, finely grated
1/2 bunch dill, finely chopped
1 lemon, zest only, finely grated
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tbs Greek honey (I could not find any so I used Organic Orange Blossom Honey)
4-5 tbs olive oil

What you want to do is to take approximately 2 cups of Greek yoghurt and place it in the middle of a square of muslin.  Drawn the corners together and tie string just above where the ball of yoghurt is.  Suspend this over a bowl at least overnight.  You will be amazed at the amount of liquid that comes out.

For the cucumbers place a rack over a dish.  Place a clean chux over the rack and lay out the grated cucumber, season with a little salt.  Fold the chux over the top of the cucumber and leave in the fridge along with the yoghurt until needed.

At this stage you can also soak your bamboo skewers in water.

Next Day.....

Place the drained yoghurt in a bowl add the grated garlic, eschalot, dill, lemon zest, honey and cayenne pepper.  

Add the drained cucumbers and stir to combine.  Add the olive oil and stir well.  Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and salt.  Place in a serving bowl and top with a little more olive oil.

For the prawns, mix the olive oil and garlic together and add the prawns.  Leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Gently insert the skewer into the prawn, starting at the tail end - you want the prawn to be straightened onto the skewer.

Mix all the salad leaves and herbs, gently bind the leaves together with the mayonnaise.  Season with salt and pepper.

Place the lemon half onto the barbecue to caramelise.

You want the barbecue to be on a low gentle heat.  Throw the thyme leaves onto the heat source, and then place the prawn skewers onto the bbq rack.  The smoke of the thyme leaves will impart a lovely subtle flavour to the prawns. Very gently cook the prawns for around 4 -5 minutes, or until cooked through.

Place the kalamaki on a plate along with the salad, lemon half and a bowl of tzatziki.

For main course we had ...

Greek Style Lamb with Vegetable Pilaf

Serves 4

2 tbs olive oil
3 cloves crushed garlic
3 tbs chopped oregano leaves
600g lamb steaks 

Vegetable Pilaf

1 tbs oliv oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 lemon zested
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 bunch broccolini, trimmed into 2cm pieces
150g Persian Feta, crumbled
2 tbs chopped mint

** slice the zested lemon into thick slices and cook on the barbeque with the lamb - use as a garnish.

Marinate the lamb in the olive oil, garlic and oregano for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile make the pilaf.  Heat the oli in a large, heavy based saucepan over low-medium heat.  Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened.  Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Ad the stock and the lemon zest, and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to low.  Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes.  Stir in the peas and broccolini and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the remaining liquid and steam are absorbed by the rice.

Meanwhile cook the lamb steaks on the barbeque for approximately 3 minutes each side, depending on thickness and to your liking.

Fold the persian feta cheese through the pilaf and season with salt and pepper.

Divide the pilaf among the plates, top with lamb steaks.  Garnish with the caramelised lemon slices and serve with any remaining tzatziki.

With a little ouzo, and some plate smashing (and a little imagination) you can pretend you are on a Greek holiday!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Drunken and Bruised

Since leaving the MasterChef kitchen Alvin has started up a food blog.  It is called Cinnamon Pig, and on there, so far,  is the recipe he is now famous for - Drunken and Bruised.

I decided to give it a go last night.  The recipe he has posted was a little sketchy (probably by design) so I searched around on the MasterChef website and there is now a video of him making this dish - so after watching the video and armed with the recipe I attempted to do justice to the dish that Gary so loved.

I can tell you I was "in a world of pain" making this recipe.  You see you make the salad with a mortar and pestle - first the peanuts, then garlic, then chilli and lime.  I decided to cut the chillies and remove the seeds to reduce the heat (I like it hot, but others aren't so keen) - so to start off I had chilli on my fingers.  I start pounding away - first off I get lime juice in the eye - it smarts a little - but it's ok.  Next pound, WHOA!!! chilli in the eye - then made the big mistake of trying to wipe - STUPID, STUPID, STUPID.  I have never been in so much pain (well yes I have - but man it stung!!!).  So warning - safety glasses are needed when attempting this recipe!!!

Now I have only modified this recipe slightly.  I reduced the amount of chilli from 4 to 2.  I increased the amount of peanuts from 2 tbs to 100g, and I increased the number of cherry tomatoes from 6 to a punnet.  So overall nothing too drastic.  The other thing that I should mention is that I feel the broth needs a little salt - but you be the judge of that.  The recipe is as follows:

Drunken and Bruised

Serves 4

1 medium sized organic chicken
1 litre Shao Tsing wine
500ml mirin
500ml water
60g dark palm sugar
2cm piece of ginger, peeled and bruised

3 cloves of garlic
2 tbs peanuts, roasted and salted (100g) - use 2 tbs in the salad - the rest as a garnish
2 tbs dried shrimp, rinsed and drained
2 small wedges of lime
6 cherry tomatoes, halved (1 punnet)
1 bunch of snake beans (8-10 beans), cut into 5cm lengths
2 birds eye chillies
1 lebanese cucumber, shredded

3 tbs dark palm sugar
3 tbs fish sauce
3 tbs lime juice

For the chicken bring a large pot of water to boil, blanch the chicken for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the water.  Discard water.

In the same large saucepan bring the Shao Tsing wine, mirin, water, palm sugar and ginger to the boil.  Gently place the chicken in the broth and turn down the heat to a simmer.  Cover, and simmer gently for 45-60 minutes.  Take off the heat and allow the chicken to cool in the broth.  (In the video Alvin mentioned that you can even leave it there overnight - I think this would be better as it would allow the flavours to develop even more.  Make sure the breast side is down and immersed in the broth.)

For the salad place 2 tbs of the peanuts in the mortar and pestle, and crush slightly.  Add the dried shrimp and pound to a coarse paste.  Add the lime wedges and bruise gently with the pestle.  Add the tomatoes, beans and chillies, and work carefully with the pestle and a spoon.  The spiciness of the dish depends on how much you bruise the chillies.  Mix in the cucumber.

Mix all the dressing ingredients together.  The palm sugar takes quite a bit of stirring to dissolve - so if you make it well before you make the salad it gives the sugar time to dissolve.  

Don't dress the salad until you are just about to serve.  

Adjust the taste accordingly.   There should be a balanced combination of the heat from the chillies, the sourness of the lime, the saltiness of the fish sauce and the sweetness of the palm sugar.

To serve place the chicken meat in a bowl with some steamed jasmine rice, and a bowl of broth on the side.  Top the chicken and rice with a spoonful of salad.

This is a lovely dish - I think I remember Alvin saying that it was like "chicken soup" for him - a comfort food.   I would, as I mentioned before, add a little salt to the broth though - just to get a little more "flavour" going on.

Give it a go - just make sure you have your eyes well protected!!!!

Tonight I am making George's Prawn Kalamaki with Tzatziki - stay tuned for the recipe!!

** Just watched MasterChef Master Class episode from last night and saw that Alvin added a sneaky little bit of sesame oil to his dressing!!!  See that is how they demoralise us all - leave out an ingredient so you are left wondering why yours doesn't taste as good!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beef and Vegetable Curry

Last night's meal was so disappointing!

The house smelled so beautiful, the aromas of a lovely curry, but it just failed to deliver on flavour.  I followed the recipe, the only thing I didn't do was add the beef stock (and that was because I simply could not fit it into the crock pot). I figured once it had been cooking all day I would add it later, but as you know with a crock pot you do not lose liquid - if anything you gain it!  In fact I have a lovely yellow "bubble over" on my bench to prove it!!!  I also forgot to add the peas (oops!) but I don't think they would have added too much to the flavour.

Another thing that really gets me is these bloody stylised photos!  After bubbling away in the crock pot for 8 hours my curry had no lovely whole pieces of cauliflower.  These photos really set the home cook up for disaster - how many times have you followed a recipe to the T only to say to yourself at the end - mine doesn't look like that!!  Of course it doesn't - they add bits of lovely whole (probably uncooked) elements to the finished dish, spray it with oil to gloss it up and anything else that they need to do to make theirs look absolutely brilliant.  We as the home cooks are doomed right from the start.  That's why in a way I hope you appreciate my photos - they are not touched up - often without garnishes - this is how they look!!

Having said all that, should I share the recipe with you that I made last night??  I felt I had to post today - didn't want you to all think I was slacking off in the kitchen department and not cooking!!  Was the meal an absolute failure?  No, it just wasn't full of flavour.  Anyway, you decide.

Can you see the cauliflower???

Beef and Vegetable Curry

Serves 8

2 tbs oil
1.2kg gravy beef, trimmed, cut into 3cm cubes
2 brown onions, halved, sliced
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup korma curry paste
750g lady christl potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 2cm cubes
1/2 cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 x 400g cans diced tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
1 cup frozen baby peas

Heat half the oil in a large frypan.  Cook the beef in batches over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, or until browned all over.  Transfer to a plate.

Heat the remaining oil over medium heat.  Cook the onion and garlic for 3 minutes, or until softened.  Add the curry paste and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and stock to the onions and garlic, stir to combine.

** Now here is what I would do next time.

Add the beef and juices to the crock pot, pour over the tomato mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

Cover the crock pot with lid, and cook on low for 8 hours.

Steam the cauliflower and peas and add for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Serve with rice, yoghurt, chutney and chopped coriander. 

If you try this let me know how you go, and what changes you made to improve the flavour.  The only saving grace with this dish was that because the flavours were so mild "The Darlings" actually quite like it.  So I guess in that respect it was a success!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chicken Macaroni Bake and Cornflake & Sultana Cookies

Did you see the cake last night on MasterChef????  Wasn't it beautiful - I want one for my 50th birthday next year!!

I don't think I am the only one in Sydney that wants one either.  Looking at the on line forums last night it looks like it is on the wish list of every bride to be in Sydney as well!

If you ask me the winner of Series 2 of MasterChef isn't the person whose picture is going to be on the next issue of the magazine - it is the person who is on the cover of the latest issue - Adriano Zumbo!  Everyone wants his V8 cake and his Macaroon Tower!  The queues around his bakery are apparently phenomenal.

There is no way I could have tackled a cake like that - the technical skill involved in producing a work of art like that is totally beyond me - besides where do you get titanium dioxide from?

On to more achievable recipes.  Last night I made the Chicken pasta bake that is featured on the cover of the latest Super Food Ideas.  Saying that though, I did modify it to suit me.  I will give you the recipe as it is printed, and then in red what I did to it.

Chicken Macaroni Bake

Serve 4 (6)

1 1/2 cups dried macaroni pasta (500g)
1 tbs oil
1 brown onion, chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
500g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed sliced (1 kg breast - sliced)
1 tbs plain flour
2 tsp wholegrain mustard (2 tbs honey mustard wholegrain mustard)
300ml light cooking cream
50g shaved ham (200g)
300g broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 cup frozen peas (1 cup)
125g grape tomatoes, halved (250g)
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (1 cup)
1/2 cup grated reduced fat tasty cheese (approx 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 180C.

Cook macaroni in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, following packet directions.

Meanwhile heat oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic.  Cook stirring for 3 minutes, or until onions are soft.  Add the chicken.  Cook stirring for 5 -7 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove from the heat and  sprinkle the flour over the mixture.  Add the mustard and stir through.  Return to heat, and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.

Add the cream and ham.  Season with salt and papper.  Stir to combine.  Add the broccoli and peas and the macaroni.  Toss to coat.

Lightly grease an ovenproof casserole dish and spread mixture in dish.  Top with the tomatoes halves.  Combine the breadcrumbs and cheese and sprinkler over the top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and cheese is melted.

This was a great dish - had everything in it.  Making the quantity that I made I certainly have leftovers for tomorrow night.  Admittedly "the Darlings" picked out most of the vegetables, but I figure if I include them often enough they will eventually get sick of picking them out and just eat them!!!

Now to go into their school lunches I made some Cornflake and Sultana Cookies.  These were so easy that I suggest you double the recipe, as it only makes 24 cookies - they will devour those in no time!!!

Cornflake and Sultana Cookies

Makes approx. 24 cookies

125g butter, chopped, at room temperature
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups self raising flour
2 tbs milk
1 1/2 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup sultanas

Preheat the oven to 160C non fan.

In an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar and vanilla until creamy.  On low speed add the flour, and mix until combined.  Add the milk and mix until the dough just comes together.  Using a spoon stir in the cornflakes and sultanas, mix until well combined.

With your hands make small balls (slightly larger than the size of a walnut).  Flatten lightly onto baking trays that have been spread with baking paper (this saves washing up!!)  

Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden.

Cool on trays, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Great with a glass of milk after school!!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Choc Chip Brownies & BBQ Marinade

Are you addicted to MasterChef the same as me?  If not I apologise, and suggest that you skip the next couple of lines and head straight to the blue text and the recipe!

Yesterday afternoon I was catching up on Friday's Master Class on the internet, while I was waiting for my latest batch from the oven to be ready.  I was watching Gary make his Chocolate Gluttony, and you will never guess what I was waiting on to come out from the oven .... you got it  - Brownies!!!  His recipe was pretty much the same as mine, so I say this is a good base to experiment with.  Even give your own "Chocolate Gluttony" a go using this brownie mix as the base.

Choc Chip Brownies

250g butter
2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180C (non fan).  Line a lamington slab pan with baking paper.

Melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave.  Stir in the sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and stir until the mixture is thick and glossy.

Sift in the flour and cocoa powder, and stir well until combined.  Stir in the vanilla, and chocolate chips.

Spread in the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until  - and here is Gary's tip - makes sure the edges are firm, there is a nice crispy topping, and the centre is still soft.  This way you will have a lovely gooey brownie.  Of course if you don't want the gooey - simply cook for a minute or two longer.

So Dear Readers what would you include in your Chocolate Gluttony Dessert??  Do tell!

I think I am still a little in holiday mode, and not that organised in the pantry department.  It seems so hard to get the kids to go to the shops to get food.  When I tell them we need to go get food they tell me don't worry Mum - just order pizza!!  Ain't life simple when you are a kid?

So anyway, we decided we wanted a BBQ last night - I rummaged around in the freezer and discovered some long forgotten lamb rump steaks.  They looked a little freezer burnt - but a good marinade would fix that!  Looked in the pantry - nothing ready made there.  Will have to concoct something up!  Here is what I made, and I must say - it tasted pretty good!

BBQ Marinade

1/2 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tsp mustard powder

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  

Use to marinade, steak or lamb.

So tomorrow, with a little ambivalence I wave good bye to "The Darlings" as they head back to school.  Happy - because I can do whatever I want without arguing with them about why we need to do it.  Sad - because it's back to all the running around after school with all the sporting activities that are back on again - late night dinners, and the usual hectic schedule.  Oh well - can't have life easy all the time can you??

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Roast Lamb with Potatoes and Onion Gravy

Sometimes it doesn't do well messing with a classic.

I love a roast lamb dinner, but you know how it is, you just want to try something different - you really can't help yourself when you see a lovely glossy "styled" photo can you?

So last night I messed with a classic.  The response was mixed.  I liked it, but I don't think I will try and reinvent the wheel again when it comes to the good old fashioned lamb roast.  Just cook that basic roast that Mum has cooked for over 40 years - you can't go wrong!!  My Mum always made a tomato and onion side dish that was topped with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, and of course there were lashings of pumpkin, potatoes, and sweet potato!  We also never had a roast lamb without green beans!  Perhaps I will have to share this one with you all one day!!

Saying that though - if you are up to it, and want to try something different - give this a go!!

Roast Lamb with Potatoes and Onion Gravy

Serves 6-8

2.5 kg leg of lamb
60g sliced pancetta, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tsp chopped rosemary, plus 1 sprig, small sprigs separated
25g butter, at room temperature
1.5kg potatoes, cut into 1cm slices (I used baby Lady Christl)
2 cups beef stock

Onion Gravy

2 tbsp olive oil
4 small red onions, thinly sliced
2 tbs plain flour
1 cup dry red wine
600ml beef stock

Preheat oven to 210C fan forced.  Using a small paring knife, make deep incisions all over the meaty parts of the lamb.

Combine the pancetta, garlic, lemon rind and chopped rosemary in a bowl.  Using fingers, push the pancetta mixture into the incisions.  Push a rosemary spring into each incision.  Spread the butter over the lamb and season well.

Lightly grease the base of a roasting pan with a little olive oil, and scatter the potato slices over the base of the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Top with the lamb.  Pour the stock over the potatoes and roast for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160C (fan).  Roast for another 1 1/4 hours (rare) or 1 hour 35mins for medium.

Meanwhile make the onion gravy.  Heat the oil in a pan on medium-low.  Cook the onion for 10-15 minutes, or until soft and golden brown.  Add the flour and cook, stirring for 30 seconds.  Add the wine and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 4 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half.  Add the stock and simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the gravy thickens slightly.  Season to taste.

Cover the lamb and rest for 10 minutes.

Slice and serve the lamb with the potatoes and onion gravy, and vegetables of choice.

As I said, there was really nothing wrong with this dish, other than the fact my lot seem to like the bog standard, roast lamb (with no unusual additions!!!).

I regret that the camera was "malfunctioning" last night.  I think I have been using it too much, and the poor old battery needs replacing!! So no photos today Dear Readers!!!

So tell me Dear Readers is your family adventurous, or do they like the tried and true, with no changes please!!   What is your version of the roast lamb dinner?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Beef Stroganoff & Caramel Slice

I decided to take the MasterChef Pressure test this week and make their version of Beef Stroganoff.

If I had been on the show I think I may have been eliminated - I made the mistake of not reading the recipe properly, and I had to do a "Jonathon" and try and fix it mid way through the recipe and hope for the best!!  Having said that I think the dish turned out OK.  What I didn't do was include the paprika in the flour dusting of the meat - so I added it during the cooking.  The other thing I did that was different from the recipe was I used more meat (we are a family of carnivores!!) and I only used one carton of creme fraiche - the recipe called for 300g and the container I bought was 250g - at $6 per carton I wasn't using 2!!!  Also used slightly more beef stock as the sauce was a little too thick.

This recipe was quite different from the one that I usually make:
- the addition of brandy
- the use of copious amounts of butter and oil
- the use of creme fraiche (when I usually use light sour cream).
- french eschalots, I usually use onion and garlic.
- they also specified using fillet steak - I usually use rump.
- using swiss brown mushrooms - I usually use regular

I really liked the end result - but you certainly couldn't eat like this all the time.  As a special occasion or dinner party dish though it is certainly worth giving it a try.  I didn't make my pasta from scratch - yes I know, it's easy.  Let's just say I was time challenged the day and didn't want to risk it.

So here is the recipe for MasterChef Pressure Test Beef Stroganoff

Serves 4

600g tail piece end of beef fillet
2 tbs sweet paprika
2/3 cup plain flour
1/4 cup olive oil
50g butter
200g swiss brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 french eschalots, finely chopped
1 tbs tomato paste
1/3 cup brandy
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tbs worcestershire sauce
300g creme fraiche

Cut the end pieces from the fillet steak (the make a uniform shape). Cut the large piece in half widthwise.  Cut the steak into 5cm long pieces.  Cut each piece into 5mm thick slices, then cut each slice into 7mm wide strips.  Making all the pieces uniform sizes helps with the cooking time.

Combine the paprika, flour and 1 tsp salt in a bowl.  Dust the beef strips, in small batches, with the flour mixture, then shake off the excess and place the beef on a plate.

Heat 2 tbs of oil in a large frying pan over high heat and brown the beef, in batches, turning once, for 1 minute.  Transfer the beef to a plate.  Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel.

Heat 25g butter and remaining 1tbs of oil in the frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook turning once for 5 minutes, or until golden.  Reduce the heat to medium, add remaining 25g butter and eschalots, and stir mixture for 3 minutes, or until eschalots are soft.  Add tomato paste, brandy, stock and worcestershire sauce.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium.  Stir in creme fraiche and return the beef to the pan with any juices.  Season with salt and pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes or until beef and sauce are heated through.

Serve with fettucini, garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley, or slivers of cornichons (tiny pickled gherkins).

MMMMM this was very yummy!!!  The additional investment in the fillet steak and swiss brown mushrooms is definitely worth it.  Using the creme fraiche and all that butter certainly gives the dish a rich creaminess that my dish doesn't have, and the french eschalots give the dish a different element as opposed to using garlic.

My verdict - try this dish, if only once, it is worth it!!

My next mission was to make a slice to leave for "The Darlings" for the snacks the next day.  I had a babysitter organised and was off the the Good Food and Wine Show!!!

"Precious" and I took off for a girl's day at the show!!!  What fun we had!!

We went to the Celebrity Theatre and Pete Evans taught us how to make the perfect pizza (I must admit I am now tempted to make my own dough!!!).  He even made a Chocolate Pizza!  I used these ideas when I returned home and made pizza for dinner!! Pete says "less is more" when topping a pizza - and I think I have to agree (well at least with the Prawn pizza I made) - not so much with the Mexican one - you just have to layer all those lovely elements to get that true Mexican Flavour!!

Next demonstration was George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan - they made their own pasta dough (and yes, tempted again to give it a go!!) with their pasta dough they made lovely prawn ravioli (oh so easy.... watch this space I will have to try that as well!!)  George also made a very interesting dish - hommus which he spread in a baking dish, then topped it with green prawns, then put more hommus over the prawns (he called it a hommus doona!!!) and baked them!!  Would have loved to taste them to see how they turned out.

We tried lots of things, peking duck, oodles of noodles, cheeses, wines, liqueurs, sauces..... and after 9 hours, came home with a trolley full of goodies to try out at home!  Also lots of new recipes to try out!!!

Caramel Slice

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1 cup desiccated coconut
150g butter, melted
395 can condensed milk
2 tbs golden syrup
30g butter, extra
1 1/2 cups dark melts, melted

Preheat oven to 180C (non fan forced)

Line a lamington tin (18cm x 28cm) with baking paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, coconut and butter, mix well.  Press into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.

While the base is cooking combine the condensed milk, golden syrup and extra butter in a saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until almost boiling (make sure your stir constantly or it will go lumpy).  Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes (keep stirring!!)

Pour the caramel over the base and bake for a further 10 minutes.  Cool.  Spread the melted chocolate over the top, then cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares.

Very, very easy!!!