Sunday, August 26, 2007

Patagonian Lamb with balsamic roast vege salad

What a coincidence it was during the week, when I caught the very last segment of The Hairy Bikers, a.k.a. Simon King and David Myers, on tour in Argentina. They were cooking Patagonian Lamb, and of even greater coincidence, I had two perfect lamb backstraps sitting in the fridge. The backstrap is sometimes called the eye of loin or or lamb sirloin or lamb fillet. It would have to be the most expensive cut of the sheep, way up there with the frenched loin cutlets, so it's not something you would buy everyday, it's more of a delicacy, at least it is in this house.

I had to improvise with this recipe slightly, as I couldn't source dried porcini mushrooms; I just couldn't find them anywhere, so used plain old ordinary sliced button mushrooms. I'm sure the porcini would have added even deeper flavour to the dish, but it was still good. I also substituted prosciutto parma ham for the pancetta, but you can still use a good quality, thinly sliced bacon. I also added some semi-sundried tomatoes to the paste.

Served with balsamic roasted root vegetable salad, consisting of parsnips, swede, carrot, beetroot and potato, smothered in balsamic vinegar, this made a very impressive dinner. Scott from Real Epicurean is this weeks host of Weekend Herb Blogging #97. How good is this event to be going so strongly after nearly two years, and still gathering momentum? Congratulations Kalyn.

20g/¾oz dried porcini mushrooms
2 x 225g/8oz lamb loin fillets
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt, or to taste
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
250g/9oz streaky bacon or pancetta or prosciutto

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Soak the porcini mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes, then chop, discarding the liquid.
3. Trim any sinew from the loin fillets and set aside.
4. Place the chopped porcini into a food processor with the remaining ingredients, except the lamb and bacon, and blend to form a paste.
5. Place half of the bacon rashers side by side on a chopping board to form a sheet. Place one lamb fillet over the rashers at one end, so it can be rolled up.
6. Spread half the paste evenly over the top of the fillet. Then roll the fillet, wrapping it up in the bacon sheet.
7. Repeat the process with the second fillet.
8. Place the two fillets in a roasting tin, making sure the rasher ends are tucked under the fillet.
9. Transfer to the oven and roast for 15 minutes for medium-rare meat, 20 minutes for medium and 25 minutes for well done. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

WHB # 96 Strawberry Shortcakes

A noticeable omission in this blog are sweet dishes. I'm more of a savoury than sweet person, hence the lack of muffins, cup cakes, desserts and other sweet delectable recipes. I'm not totally anti-sweets, I just don't cook or prepare them much. If there's a tub of icecream in the freezer, my family is happy.

So in a fit of madness on my part, I suddenly had an urge to make strawberry shortcakes. Don't ask me why. Maybe because I thought I had to justify the cost of my Kitchenaid mixer, and use it for something other than mixing bread dough. I have a morbid fear of creaming sugar and butter, as I never know when it is ready.

I decided to take beginners steps here into the world of "baking", and this recipe doesn't call for any creaming whatsoever. In fact it was made in my food processor with the Kitchenaid doing the whipping of the cream. Maybe next week I'll take the next giant step and make, wait for it, but don't hold your breath waiting,.......a cake!

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, and Zora from Kochtopf is the host of this special event.

2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tblsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tblsp packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
4 tsps granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup milk

1 quart ripe strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup of confectioners (icing) sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, grease a baking sheet
With blade attachment on food processor, wiz flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, butter and 2 tsps of granulated sugar until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Pour mixture into medium bowl
With wooden spoon or paddle attachment on electric mixer, add milk and mix just until it forms a smooth dough.
Scoop dough onto baking sheet in 6 equal mounds.
Dust top of shortcakes with remaining 2 tsps granulated sugar.
Bake 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove from oven, transfer to wire rack and let cool.
To make Filling, in a medium bowl, mash 1/2 the strawberries.
Mix with granulated sugar and vanilla.
Refrigerate 1 hour.
To make whipped cream, in a chilled mixing bowl, beat cream with confectioners sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla until it holds soft peaks.
Add sour cream; beat until stiff peaks form.
Cut of tops off shortcakes, and spoon filling onto bottom of shortcakes.
Cover with whipped cream and remaining sliced strawberries, replace tops.
Garnish with a dollop of cream, a strawberry half and a sprig of mint.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Gnock, gnock, gnockin' on heavens door

Lynnylu from Cafe Lynnylu is this month's host of Hay Hay It's Donna Day #14, and she has chosen gnocchi as this month's theme ingredient.

I've only made gnocchi once before, and although I was quite proud of myself, it tasted like the old home made "glue" we used to make as kids, referred to as "clag", which was just a mixture of flour and water. So when Linnylu decided gnocchi was the theme, I thought now is my chance to try again.

This time, however, I went for a ricotta based gnocchi, based on this recipe from Jaden's steamy kitchen. I'm not sure if it was the mouth watering picture that drew me like a magnet, or Jaden's hilarious explanation of how she learnt to cook. Either way, I had great fun making it, and the family (minus my recently converted vegan daughter) devoured them off the plate. So what was supposed to be a "light" meal, turned into an entree for three. Kudos to Jorj, who adores gnocchi and who used to demolish a wheel of brie or camembert in record time....she never had a single one of these luscious little pillows.

Pan-Fried Lemon-Ricotta Gnocchi

1 cupwhole milk ricotta
1/2 cupfreshly grated parmegiano reggiano
(plus extra reserved for garnishing) (I used parmesan)
1 largeegg yolk
1 tsp lemon zest (use a microplane grater)
(plus extra reserved for garnishing)
1 tspkosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt)
(I only had sea salt so used a good pinch of that)
3/4 cupall purpose flour, sifted
1 tblspchopped parsley (plus extra reserved for garnishing)
1/2 tspfinely minced chilli (or red pepper flakes) -
adjust chilli based on your tastes
2 tblspclarified butter
(or just butter, but the clarified butter works much better)
(I used Ghee, which of course is clarifed butter)
1 tblspolive oil

1. Combine ricotta, parmegiano, yolk, zest and salt in large bowl. Mix well. Sprinkle half of the flour on the mixture, gently turn with spatula a few times to incorporate. Dump mixture on clean, lightly floured countertop. Sprinkle remaining flour on top of the mixture. Gently knead with your fingertips, just bringing together the mixture until flour is incorporated through. This only should take a minute or two. Any longer and you will be over-kneading. *If you are using skim milk ricotta - you may have to use more flour, as there is more water content in skim ricotta.
2. Divide dough into 4 parts. Take one part and roll into a long, 1" diameter log. Cut gnocchi into 1" pieces. You may use your wooden doobie-bopper or tines of a fork to get those pretty grooves that will eventually disappear after frying anyways. (I happened to find a "doobie-bopper" at the local trash and treasure market last weekend. I'm pretty sure it's what's known as a butter pat, for making homemade butter, but I now call it my gnocchi groover)

3. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and olive oil. when butter is just lightly browned, add gnocchi in single layer. Fry on one side for 2 minutes, flip. Add chilli. Fry other side for 1-2 minutes. Timing really depends on how big/thick your gnocchi is. Do a taste test - do you taste flour? Not done yet. Serve with a sprinkling of lemon zest, parmegiano and parsley.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

4 & 20 blackbirds baked in a pie

And when the pie was opened, the birds began to sing....
Four'N Twenty Pie interpretation from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Four'N Twenty Meat Pie was invented in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia by LT. McLure in 1947. The meat pie is a very popular food product in Australia as strong demand for the pie saw production grow from 50 pies per day to 50,000 pies per hour in between the years of 1948 to 1998.

McLure took a sampling of his pies to the Royal Melbourne Agricultural Show where they proved very popular. Increasing demand for the pie caused McLure to eventually open a Melbourne bakery in a pavilion of the showgrounds, later moving to bigger premises in nearby Ascot Vale several years later.

The Four'N Twenty Meat Pie is Victoria's best selling meat pie. It is considered a tradition to consume a Four'N Twenty Meat Pie at an Australian Rules Football match . While not as iconic outside of Victoria, Four'N Twenty pies are still the most commonly available brand in hotboxes, in service stations and corner stores across the country.

In 2006 it was announced that the Four'N Twenty pie would begin being sold on the American market.

Well, I have looked at, scrutinised, analysed and invariably cooked, lots of recipes for "4n20's", as we call 'em 'ere Down Under, but none of them matches up to this recipe. This recipe is the closest to the ridgey didgey, all Aussie Meat Pie that I have found...and of course, it's gotta be served with "dead horse'.

(Aussie slang) dead horse
(meaning) tomato sauce

This is my entry for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, kindly hosted this week by Melissa, The Cooking Diva, and whilst I've prattled on about an Australian icon, without homegrown dried oregano, (which I place in a brown paper bag, and hang in the garage until it's dry, or more than often, I forget about it), this pie would taste like that famous Colonel's recipe with only 10 secret herbs and spices...THIS IS THE SECRET INGREDIENT..dried oregano.

I remember an Italian chef mentioning on a cooking program, that only the dried purple flowers were worthy of eating. He threw the rest away! Oregano is also an excellent antioxidant. A recent study (Zheng, W. et al. 2002. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol 49: pp 5165-5170) of culinary and medicinal herbs identified oregano as the the herb with the greatest antioxidant activity. It scored higher than any fruit or vegetable previously tested. It had higher antioxidant activity than even vitamin E.

AUSSIE MEAT PIE - makes 6 individual pies

1 onion finely chopped
500 gms (1 and 1/4 pounds) ground beef
1 cup water
2 crumbled beef stock cubes or 2 tsp stock powder
1/4 cup tomato sauce (dead horse or ketchup)
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Pepper to taste
A good heaped pinch (or more) of dried oregano
Pinch nutmeg
3 tblsp plain (all purpose) flour
3 sheets of ready rolled shortcust pastry, thawed
3 sheets of ready rolled puff pastry, thawed
Beaten egg to glaze


Cook onion and beef without any fat until meat is well browned (a non-stick frypan is recommended for this step)

Add 3/4 cup of water, stock cubes, sauces and seasonings.

Blend flour with the remaining water to make a smooth paste. Add to meat and bring to boil, stiring constantly. Boil 5 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool.

Line individual pie tins with the shortcrust pastry, spoon in cooled meat mixture, cover pie with puff pastry sheets.

Glaze with beaten egg, then bake in a hot oven 230 degrees C, or 450 degrees F, for 15 minutes, reduce heat to moderate and then cook another 25 minutes until pastry is golden.

Oh isn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

There was a young sprout from Brussels...

Polled as the most hated vegetable in the UK, the poor Brussels sprout seems to be as popular as a plate full of raw offal. Apologies to those who feel that raw offal is appealing.

I must admit, I've never craved these mutant cabbages. If they're served up to me I'll politely eat them, but I can honestly say they have never created a "taste sensation" worthy of remembering.

I'm not sure if it is the smell of them, the texture, or the bitter flavour that I've endured in the past that make these cute little fellas so offputting.

There is no way that I could even bribe, cajole, coax, or trick (sneakily poke one under the mashed potato) my family into eating them....eeeeewwww. I've managed to successfully serve steamed zucchini to my husband, after 25 years, without having to listen to the barrage of "why eat this stuff? It's tasteless", but when I showed him the packet of adorable baby sprouts, he emphatically "drew the line in the sand" and shouted "I'm not eating them". He was like a 3 year old, and it visibly upset him that I was going to force him to eat his sprouts. So after a 30 minute heated "discussion" on the foods he disliked when I married him which he now eats, the sprouts were sitting on the bench, developing an even bigger inferiority complex than they had before.

So it was Brussels sprouts for one that night.
This is my entry for this Weekend's Herb Blogging event #94, hosted this week by the creator, Kalyn, from Kalyn's Kitchen.

I wanted to keep the flavour simple, and not mask it with bacon, or onion or some type of sauce. To maintain the bright green colour of the sprouts, boil in plenty of water with the lid off, for no more than 8 minutes. This is due to the fact that the chlorophyll in the vegetables react with acids in the cooking water (remember the dull almost opaque sprouts we had to endure as kids?), so lots of water dilutes the acids, and leaving the lid off while boiling allows the acids to disperse.
I simply served mine drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and crumbled feta cheese. I am now a member of the ever increasing "sprout convertee" list. If only I could overcome my loathing for offal!