Sunday, September 30, 2007

Simply smashing

I almost feel guilty submitting this entry to Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging event, hosted by Ulrike from Kutchenlatein, because there is very little effort involved in creating it. This dish, "smashies", as it has been named by the family, is a staple in our house, and it's served up at least once a week.
With only four ingredients involved, and very little preparation required, Smashies are a midweek favourite on those nights that "I can't really be bothered". We're all entitled to a few of those, don't you think.

Boil up some chat potatoes, or new baby potatoes, until they're soft enough to "smash", but not completely cooked through. I use the back of a soup ladle to press down on them, usually with the help of a wooden spoon inside the ladle to help with this process. You will find some may smash to smithereens, but these crunch up beautifully, and are always stolen out of the tray by passers by, before making it to the table.

Liberally sprinkle olive oil, sea salt and fresh rosemary sprigs over the potatoes and bake in the oven until crispy around the edges. Dried rosemary could be used as well, but my garden has a monster of a rosemary bush and the aroma of fresh rosemary baking is one of my sensory delights. vegetable, one herb. I must be subconsciously planning ahead (practising) for the two year anniversary of Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging. I can't wait to see the outcome of everyone's votes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hay Hay its Donna Day #15

When I announced that I was going to make a tart today, my husband, who is notorious for having selective deafness, pricked his ears up immediately. He thought I said "I'm going to be a tart today". When I explained that I was making a tart for Hay Hay it's Donna Day, an event founded by Barbara at WinosandFoodies, he seemed quite disgruntled and went back to reading the paper with a profound look of disappointment on his face.

Trinigourmet, the winner of the last challenge with her faboulous knock your socks off gnocchi, has chosen sweet or savoury tarts as the theme for this month.

Tarts scare me however. I have yet to make a decent pastry without it crumbling before my eyes. Therefore I steer away from home-made pastry recipes. That is, up until now.

I FINALLY MADE A DECENT PASTRY AT LAST. I love these challenge events. It allows me to (a) go and buy a new longed for gadget, (b) try to learn new methods and techniques and (c) persist until I get things right or (d) completely abandon, abort, give up.

Option (d) was my initial thought with this challenge, however option (c) kept jumping into my head. And I've heard people swear, that any idiot can make pastry in a food processor. As I already have a food processor, option (a) sadly never got a look in. So with option (b) and (c) as the plan, with fingers crossed, a Chervil and Egg Custard Tart with Tomato and Capsicum Salsa was hopefully about to be born.


The pastry was a cinch. All these years I've been avoiding it, and suddenly one time, everything turns out as it's supposed to.

Ingredients (serves 6)
• 1/4 cup roughly chopped chervil sprigs (you could use parsley if chervil is unavailable)
• 3 eggs
• 1 egg yolk
• 3/4 cup (185ml) pure (thin) cream
• Pastry
• 1 1/3 cups (200g) plain flour
• 125g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
• 1 egg
• Tomato & capsicum salsa
• 1 small red capsicum, finely chopped (I used bought chargrilled capsicum)
• 1/4 cup semi-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
• 1 tbs olive oil
• 2 tsp red wine vinegar
• 2 tbs salted capers, rinsed, drained
1. For the pastry, process flour and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg, 1 tablespoon chilled water and 1/2 tsp sea salt and process until it comes together to form a smooth ball. Press pastry into a disc, enclose in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Roll out the pastry on a lightly-floured surface until 2-3mm thick, then use to line a 12cm x 35cm rectangular loose-bottomed tart pan. Prick base with a fork and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove paper and weights or rice and bake for a further 5-8 minutes until the base is dry and pastry is golden.
3. Reduce oven to 170°C. Scatter chervil over tart base. In a bowl, whisk together eggs and extra yolk, then stir in the cream and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over chervil and bake for 20-25 minutes until custard is just set. Cool to room temperature in the pan.
4. Meanwhile, for the salsa, toss all the ingredients together in a bowl. Top the tart with salsa, then slice and serve.

And just to prove that it wasn't a fluke, I made this one from Donna Hay's cookbook, Modern Classics Book 2. I'm unstoppable now. Thanks Trini for allowing me to find my inner tart!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Apple Day

On September 28 swissfruit is organizing the 15th apple day. I never knew that the Swiss eat approximately 18 kg of apples per person, per year. They sure love their apples!!

Kochtopf, famed for her World Bread Day event, (which is happening on 16th October) is spreading the word. This event is impromptu, however most people have the odd apple or two in their fruit bowl or pantry, so why not join in. Post about a dish with apples as the star ingredient.
Send an email to kochtopf(at)gmail(dot)com including
    - your name
    - your blog's name and your blog's URL
    - the recipe name and the post's URL
    - your hometown/region and country
Submissions have now been extended to Sunday 30th September, so get those peelers (however the skins contain the best source of nutrients) and corers out of the gadget draw and lets show how we can keep the Doctor away for good! The health benefits of eating apples are extraordinary. The phytochemicals (which act as antioxidants) found in apples help:
  • Reduce cancer of liver, colon, lung and prostate
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Age related memory loss
  • Increase lung function and also decrease lung disease, including asthma
  • Decrease the risk of strokes - to name just a few.
I chose a Tuscan Apple Cake as my submission. This is a delicious sweet, served with a dollop of whipped cream...Hmmmm...maybe not the right choice to keep the Doctor away, but apples help reduce cholesterol, right? Just remember, all food is good if eaten in moderation. This dessert will test your willpower somewhat.

The apples in this dessert are Golden Delicious apples, my favourite when they are in season. I remember as a child, our family driving to an orchard nearby, and picking boxes of crisp and juicy Golden Delicious apples. The juice would run down to your elbows with each loud crunch. They're great for eating, and their high sugar content means they hold their shape when cooked, so are ideal for pies, cakes and Tuscan Apple Cakes!

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 6 thick slices woodfired bread, crusts removed, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup (250ml) milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 3 tbs (1/4 cup) plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup (250ml) thin cream
  • 2 golden delicious apples, peeled, sliced
  • Icing sugar, to dust


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 24cm springform cake pan with a tightly fitting base, or grease and line the base of a regular 24cm round cake pan.
  2. Place bread in a shallow container, pour over milk and soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Place eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla and butter in a bowl and use a hand whisk to combine. Slowly add cream, beating well.
  4. Squeeze bread, discarding milk. Place in cake pan, pressing down well. Lay apple over top in a circular pattern. Pour over egg mixture and leave to soak for 10 minutes.
  5. Bake for 50 minutes until golden and cooked but still moist. Cool slightly in pan. Dust with icing sugar.
  6. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Happy apple day everyone

A total of 59 amazing apple recipes can be found here in the roundup

Well done Zorra, great job!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tea for two and two for tea...

None for me and two for you....or something like that.
(Actually those were my original lyrics, sorry.)

The song was written in 1925, the year my father was born, the musical was No, No, Nanette, which was performed at the London Palace Theatre, way back then in the Roaring 20's, and ran for many, many years.

However, I digress.

The reason I penned my own version is because, sadly, I'm only able to imagine how good these taste(d). Just like having tea-4-2.


They were demolished before my eyes. Poof!! All I was left with was the dishes to wash, condescending pats of congratulations on my back, (GOOD biscuits Mum), and one or two crumbs to wipe up.

Thank you Cherrapeno; apparently these were "tops".

Garlic Prawns with Lemon Pilaf WHB #101

The proven health benefits of garlic, or the herbal "wonder drug", certainly outweigh the after effects of indulging in a meal, heavily laced with garlic, although the people around you the next day may not agree. The dreaded "garlic breath" is the downside, and although you may not smell it yourself, a sure sign that you have this affliction is your co-workers are pinching their nostrils whilst talking to you, or worse still, sending you messages via email rather than coming within 10 feet of you. But hey! Garlic is one of the best anti-oxidants you could eat. It is known to help fight off the common cold, treat severe acne, reduce cholesterol levels and even repel mosquitoes. Although after eating this dish, I think it repels much more than the annoying mozzie, friends and family included. If you do find somebody nice enough to engage in a face to face conversation with you, then it's a sure bet that they obviously had a "garlic fest" the night before as well. Adding parsley towards the end of cooking is known to help, but not disguise the problem.

Sometimes it's a good thing to be left alone, I say!


Garlic Prawns
12 green prawns
6 cloves garlic
50g butter
60ml Brandy
Salt & pepper
150ml Cream thick
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Parsley chopped

Rice Pilaf
1 cup Basmati rice
30g Butter
2 Shallots fine cut
1 cm Cinnamon
1 cardamom green pod bruised
1 Bay leaf
2 cups White chicken stock
3 strands Saffron
Lemon zest


Rice Pilaf
Saute shallots in butter. Add rice and saute on low heat until glassy.
Add cinnamon, bay leaf and cardamom. Pour in hot chicken stock and put heat to lowest setting on your stove top, add saffron and whack a lid on. Leave 15 mins.
Serve rice pilaf with a little lemon zest.

Garlic Prawns
Melt butter gently in a fry pan on a slow heat till foaming and just nut brown. Add chopped garlic, stir for 20 seconds, then add whole prawns (de shelled) and when they have just turned red, bump up heat and pour in the brandy. Fold in the cream, lemon juice and parsley and take off heat. Place prawns on a plate. Return pan with sauce to heat and reduce, checking for seasoning and serve poured over the prawns, rice pilaf to the side, the whole lot garnished with chopped parsley.

This week's host for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging is Myriam from Once Upon a Tart. Only a few short weeks until the 2 year anniversary of this event, and I can't wait to hear what the theme for this auspicious occasion will be.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Piadina, pie, pijda, pieda, pida or pita

Or just another type of pizza? Please yourself, whatver you like to call it, this Italian flat bread is yet another versatile luncheon choice, or a light evening meal. Very similar to the Torta al Testo as posted earlier, this one is a thicker version, more manly I guess, than the delicate Bread of the Tile. So it's one for the boys.

The piadina is from the Romagna region of Italy, however, it dates back to ancient Greece - piadina's etymology is the Greek word plakous - an unleavened hearth bread passed down from the Etruscans more than 3200 years ago. Today it is very popular in bars as an antipasto, served heated, cut into wedges and sprinkled with olive oil and salt. The authentic piadina does not use any rising agents, just flour, lard and water.

I'm not a great fan of lard. I liken it to the pictures of cholesterol filled arteries the health authorities kindly show us, or those cellulite dimples that mercilessly appear when you're not looking, so I chose a recipe from Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno's book, Bread..baking by hand or machine, which interestingly uses carbonated water as an ingredient. The recipe is virtually a mirror image of the Torta al Testo, with the exception of the carbonated water, so I wondered if there were any noticeable differences between the two.

I personally prefer this flat bread. Not only is it thicker (hence easier to slice into two), but when toasted, the crust has real crunch, (or for the men out there, real grunt). I also love the way it is very flexible and bends without breaking, almost like rubber, if you just want to use it as a sandwich or a panini. This one is a meal on its own. The tile bread maybe suited more for an antipasto with drinks. Either way, they're both delicious.


2 tsp dried yeast
75 ml (2.5 fluid oz) water
500 gm (1 lb) strong white flour
2 tsp salt
1 tblsp olive oil
250 ml (8 fl oz) carbonated water (I used a small bottle of soda water)


1. Sprinke the yeast into the water in a bowl. Leave for 5 minutes then stir to dissolve. Mix the flour and salt together, make a well, and pour in the yeasted water mixture, the oil and 150 ml (1/4 pint) of the carbonated water.

2. Mix in the flour. Stir in the reserved carbonated water, as needed to form a firm, moist dough.

3. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and need until smooth, shine and elastic, about 10 minutes.

4. Put the dough in a clean bowl sprayed with a little olive oil spray, cover and leave to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes. Knock back, then leave to rest a further 10 minutes.

5. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces, and roll out to form rounds 15 cm (6") across and 1 cm (1/2") thick.

6. Heat a heavy frying pan, preferably cast iron, over a medium low heat until very hot, about 10 minutes.

7. Place one of the dough rounds in the hot pan and prick all over with a fork to prevent air bubbles. Cook until golden brown on each side.

A popular way of eating a piadina is in the form of a panini, or type of sandwich, similar to a wrap.

Or you could treat it in the same way as a cafe focaccia; fill it with then toast it in a press.

Popular fillings are:

chicken, avocado, mayo and rocket; eggplant, provolone, zucchini and pesto; rocket, tuna mayo and roast veal to name a mere few.

For the traditional "lardy" version, the ingredients are:

500 g (1lb) white bread flour

30 g (1 oz) salt

80 g (2.8 oz) lard

5 g (0.2 oz)g baking powder

warm water as needed

· Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together. Chop up the lard and work into the flour with your fingers.
· When you have a bowl of crumbs and no lumpy lardy bits, gradually work in water until you have a moist dough. This will be a ratio of about 3:1 flour to water.
· When the dough has been fully kneaded and the dough is springy, bouncing back when you poke it, leave to rest.
· Cook as above.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

WHB #100 Baked Savoury Cheesecake

Each Wednesday night, at exactly 6:30 pm, I perform a ritual. Dinner is timed down to the last second to be cooked by 7:00 pm, not a minute earlier. The phone is turned off, the doors locked to visitors, and I'm propped in front of the TV watching my favourite cooking program, The Cook and the Chef on ABC TV.

Maggie Beer, a renowned chef in her own right is "the cook", and resides in the beautiful Barossa Valley near Adelaide, South Australia. Alongside her is the "chef", Simon Bryant, who is Executive Chef at the Hilton in Adelaide. Together they chose similar, often local ingredients and compare their own unique techniques of cooking. As Simon quotes " a recipe is nothing; technique is everything, and when things go wrong you have to be able to wing it." Hey, I do that all of the time!

One particular episode showed Maggie making a Baked Savoury Cheesecake, and, as with nearly all of the recipes shown on the program, I thought "Yep, I could eat that right now", as my boring old veges are steaming away on the stove.

This recipe is so simple, with only the addition of green olives to enhance it's flavour. I made it last night to have with drinks, but I'll definitely make it again for when guests are allowed in (not on Wednesday at 6:30 pm though), or even to take to a party/BBQ as finger food or an elegant appetiser.


200g biscuits, 2/3 savoury, 1/3 sweet.
100g butter
250g ricotta
250g mascarpone
2 tablespoons preserved lemon/ rinsed or 1 tbls orange peel (if you use the orange, add a pinch of salt) - I opted for the orange, as my preserved lemons are still "preserving" in the cupboard
3 tablespoons green olives chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
125ml sour cream
1 tablespoon flour
3 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley


Pre-heat the oven to 160ยบ C. Pulse the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Melt the butter and mix into the breadcrumbs. Spray a 20cm springform pan with baking spray and then press the crumbs into the pan to create a crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Mix the ricotta, mascarpone, peel, olives and eggs together but don’t overwork the mixture. Pour this mixture onto the crust and bake for about 40 minutes – or until the mixture springs back when touched lightly.
Mix the sour cream and flour together using a whisk. Spread this evenly over the cake and bake for a further 10 minutes.

NOTE: Let the cheese cake settle so that it’s easy to cut, but it must be served fresh from the oven.

Katerina from Daily Unadventures in Cooking, is this weeks host of the 100th episode of Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging. I think that calls for a toast, raise your glasses everyone.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Torta al testo

The fast food of Umbria has come to this backyard. I have found our new Sunday night (or any other night) "quick fix" dinner. Torta al testo literally means Cake of the Tile, but this is actually bread of the tile....a quick flat bread cooked on a tile placed over an open fire. In my case, it was cooked on a cast iron frypan on top of the stove, not quite as authentic as they do it in Umbria, but the result was more than satisfying. It is usually cooked, split into two discs, stacked, wrapped in foil to keep warm, then filled and reheated just before serving.

The options are endless with this type of bread. It can be filled with any combination of ingredients you have on hand. You could even use it as a pizza base, or a variation of panini, a sandwich toasted in a sandwich press...the possibilities are endless.

I chose to fill this one simply with rocket (aragula) from my garden, and some left over cheeses - camembert and mozarella. Simple as that.

I'm warming up for the World Day of Bread on October 16th, so expect a few more "practice runs" published in the meantime.


For the dough -
2 tsp dried yeast or 15 gm (1/2 oz) fresh yeast
315 ml (10 1/2 fluid oz) water
500 gm (1 lb) strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
I tblsp olive oil

For the filling-
250 gm (8 oz) melting cheese (fontina is recommended)
125 gm (4 oz) rocket leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Sprinkle the yeast into 200 ml (7 oz) of the water. Leave for 5 minutes then stir to dissolve. Mix the flour and salt together into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeasted water and the olive oil.

2. Mix in the flour and stir in the reserved water, as needed, to form a firm moist dough.

3. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface, and knead until smooth, shiny and elastic, about 10 minutes. I used my Kitchenaid for this part.

4. Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. In the meantime, pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celcius (350 degrees F), or gas mark 4.

5. Knock back, then leave to rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 pieces, and on a lightly floured surface, roll each piece to form a round of approx 20 cm (8 inches) across and 5 mm (1/4 inch) thick. If the dough resists rolling out, leave it to rest for a couple of minutes, and then continue.

6. Heat a heavy frying pan or griddle over medium low heat until very hot, about 10 minutes.

7. Place one of the dough rounds in the hot pan and prick all over with a fork to prevent air bubbles. Cook until golden on both sides, flipping it over frequently to avoid scorching and to aid even cooking, about 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough rounds.

8. Stack the rounds on top of each other and cover with a tea towel to keep soft and warm. When cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to cut around the edge of and bread, and using your hands, separate it into two halves. Top one half with the cheese and rocket and season with salt and pepper.

9. Place the other half on top and put the stuffed bread onto baking sheets. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes until hot and the cheese has melted. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

If you're super lazy, like I was this night, and want to make a less delicate version, don't split the bread, just place filling on top of one round, then place the other round on top and proceed to heat in the oven.