Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year and yet another basil recipe!

Where has 2008 gone? December went with a flutter of the eyelids, which is quite obvious looking at the number of posts I've submitted this month. I blame that on the seasons. When it's cold and dreary, you stay inside and cook and blog. When it's warm and sunny, and vegetables need to be planted, tended, watered, beds weeded - who has time to be indoors? Obviously not moi!

The first edition of Weekend Herb Blogging for 2009 will be duly hosted by Haalo, of Cook (Almost) Anything at least once, who is the new Hoodoo Guru of herbs and cooking (and especially photography), and Haalo will be opening up a fantastic New Year of wonderful entries, recipes and a wealth of information provided by herb groupies. I think I can qualify to be one of them by now!

However, I'm starting to sound like a broken record with my first entry for 2009. Yep.....basil. Once again. But...wait....I'm talking about LEMON basil. Citrusy, tangy and "I just can't walk past it without picking a leaf or two and inhaling the scent" type of basil. Eat basil. It's good for arthritis, psoriasis, acne, constipation, stress, build up of gas from over-indulging over the Christmas break...you name it, you've got it....eat basil!!

Lemon basil was born to be married to seafood. Prawns and lemon basil ....salsa agresto with a twang!! Throw in a fillet of Murry River Cod, and you have the perfect close to 2008.

Lemon Salso Agresto

1 cup (160 g) almonds


1 cup (100 g) walnuts


2 cloves garlic


2¾ cups flat-leaf parsley leaves


½ cup firmly packed lemon basil leaves


1½ teaspoons sea salt flakes


freshly ground black pepper


¾ cup (180 ml) extra virgin olive oil


¾ cup (180 ml) verjuice*


Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Roast the almonds and walnuts on separate baking trays for about 5 minutes, shaking to prevent burning. Rub walnuts in a tea towel to removebitter skins, then leave to cool.

Blend the nuts, garlic, herbs, salt and 6 grinds of black pepper in a food processor with a little of the olive oil.

With the motor running, slowly add the remaining oil and verjuice. The consistency should be like pesto. (If required, thin with more verjuice*.)

*If Verjuice is unavailable, you could try mixing white wine vinegar, lemon juice and a bit of sugar as a substitute.

It's the last day of 2008, so I take this opportunity to wish each and everyone a Happy New Year, and may 2009 bring you everything you wish for, plus more.

I'm off to the beach for a couple of days (taking my beanie, winter woollies and Ugh boots...thats Summer in Australia for ya)! Catchya next week, when I'll be the Hostess with the Mostest!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Tarts

These little tarts make one of the fanciest entrees that could adorn your Christmas table. An Australian Christmas can either be a traditional turkey, chicken, pork, roasted vegetables and all of the trimmings, or as is more popular in the last few decades, BBQ’s and seafood, casual and laid back, a trait that Aussies are famous for.

This is yet another dish utilizing what I have growing in the garden, and whilst the tomatoes are a little while off from being ready to cultivate, the basil is winning by miles. Last year my basil crop was just OK, so I covered myself this year and planted nearly double the amount of seedlings. As it would be, every single plant has flourished and I’m already freezing pesto for the ensuing winter doldrums.

basil pesto tarts 2

Baby Bocconcini & Roast Tomato tarts with Pesto
Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 110g plain flour
  • Pinch of icing sugar
  • 60g cold butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 250g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tub of baby bocconcini, drained
  • 1 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil pesto
  • Fresh basil leaves, to garnish
Method
  1. Sift flour, icing sugar and a pinch of salt into a food processor, add butter and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and 1-2 tablespoons of cold water. Process until mixture forms a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  3. Bring pastry to room temperature, roll out on a lightly floured surface and use to line four 1 x 4cm tart pans with removable bases. Refrigerate for 10 minutes (in really warm weather, I usually freeze the pastry to hasten the chilling process).
  4. Line the pastry lined pan with aluminium foil and fill with pastry weights or rice. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, toss the tomatoes in the oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place on a baking tray.
  6. Remove tarts from oven and remove foil and weights. Return to oven with the tomatoes for 5 minutes or until pastry is golden and the tomatoes have softened slightly. Spread a little pesto over base of each tart and fill with bocconcini and tomatoes. Place in oven for 5 minutes to warm through. Serve with remaining pesto and basil leaves.

Source: Delicious Magazine January 2002 from Valli Little

Chriesi of Almond Corner has kindly given her time to host this weeks installment of Weekend Herb Blogging, an event founded by Kalyn, that has been one of the most successful food blog events in history, now capably overseen by Haalo from Cook Almost Anything at Least Once.

basil pesto tarts 1

Bon Appetit and Buon Natale to all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Basil French Toast

Sunday morning brunch is usually not an event that occurs on a regular basis in this household. Breakfast is normally, whatever you can get yourself, you're more than welcome to have. As the family was musing on what topping to put on their toast, either Vegemite or Peanut Butter, eldest daughter spotted a Donna Hay creation in the Sunday Morning Magazine supplement, that took her fancy.

The basil in the garden is flourishing beautifully, and all of the other ingredients, amazingly were available. So a basil brunch was on the menu. With assistance from the notorious "anonymous" commenter on many of my posts, AKA, Bunny the Boyfriend, a family breakfast was enjoyed by all.

Siri, from Siri's Corner is hosting this next round of Weekend Herb Blogging, and event that highlights the use of herbs and vegetables in every cuisine known, and is now under the wings of Haalo, from Cook Almost Anything at least Once.

Basil French Toast with Bacon and Tomatoes

Serves 4

8 rashers bacon, trimmed

250 gm cherry tomatoes

1 tblsp olive oil

Sea salt, cracked black pepper

4 eggs

¼ cup pouring cream

½ cup finally grated parmesan cheese

½ cup chopped basil

20 gm butter

8 slices sour dough bread

Preheat oven to 220c. Place bacon on a baking tray and cook for 12-15 minutes or until crisp. Place the tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 5 minutes or until the skins just split. Set aside and keep warm.

Place the eggs, cream, parmesan, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Heat the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Dip the bread in the egg mixture and cook, in batches until golden. Serve with the bacon and tomatoes.







Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sage Potatoes

I've had a bumper crop of sage this year, more than I can possibly dream of using. Sage is a Mediterranean herb with a strong flavour, and although it is predominantly used in stuffing for the Christmas turkey or roast chicken, it is starting to make it's own headlines as a pesto, sage butter, used in dressings and marinades and as an accompaniment to vegetables, especially the humble spud. The ancient Egyptians cited that sage was good for the brain, and boy do I need all the help I can get in that department these days.

Ingredients (serves 10)

  • 30g butter, melted
  • 750g desiree potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) double cream
  • 1 tbs finely chopped fresh sage
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh sage leaves, to garnish

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Drizzle melted butter evenly among ten 80ml (1/3-cup) capacity muffin pans.
  2. Combine the potato, garlic, cream and sage in a glass bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture among muffin pans. Smooth the surface slightly.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Turn onto a clean chopping board.
  4. Arrange the potato bakes on a serving platter. Sprinkle with sage and serve immediately.

This weeks host for Weekend Herb Blogging, the event now overseen by our very own Australian grown Haalo, who will Cook Almost Anything at least Once, is Dianne from Diary of a Fanatic Foodie. If you only have a small amount of sage to use, this recipe is just right. However, it hasn't alleviated my overabundance of sage problem, so any suggestions would be gladly recieved.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Happy Birthday WHB



Where has this year gone? It seems like just yesterday that Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging celebrated its second birthday, and now birthday number 3 is upon us. This fabulous event attracts so many bloggers each week, I can see it celebrating many more birthdays to come. And now Haalo from Cook Almost Anything (at least once), a notable contributor in her own right, who hasn't missed one week of submitting something yummy to WHB, has taken on the role of overseeing this event. Congratulations to Kalyn, for masterminding this and nurturing it through its infancy. Enjoy your extra time to pursue your many other interests, and congratulations Haalo for taking over the role of ringmaster for the forthcoming year.

As a warmup for this event, Kalyn asked that each day, for three consecutive days, you left a comment on her blog as to what your favourite herb, favourite vegetable and favourite fruit is, to be in the running for some magnificent prizes. I must admit that coriander is my all time favourite herb, but my family is becoming a bit sick of it. If I had my way, I'd use coriander in everything, but they have rebelled. So I chose parsley as my favourite herb, mainly due to it's staying power, it's not overbearing, it's always growing in my garden and there are never any complaints from the inhouse diners.

For my favourite vegetable, I chose the tomato. To a scientist, this is actually a fruit. To a cook, it's a vege. Home grown varieties win hands down in the flavour department, and I'm nurturing my plants daily, eagerly awaiting to pick my first tomato on Christmas day.

Lastly, I chose the olive as my favourite fruit. Strange choice, but I love them with a passion. There are so many olive growers emerging here in Australia, so there is always an abundance of locally grown olives at hand. I have one single olive tree growing in my backyard, and sadly, I'll probably be in a Nursing Home by the time it's bearing buckets full of fruit, but I look forward to the day when I can sun dry my very own olives.

So with that combination I chose a recipe from a 2002 Edition of Gourmet which had all three of these ingredients, plus my favourite Lebanese Mougrabieh couscous.

Mougrabieh with roasted tomatoes and olives




For roasted tomatoes and dressing
  • 2 pints red grape or cherry tomatoes (1 1/2 pound)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, left unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For couscous
  • 2 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 1/4 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Preparation:

Roast tomatoes and make dressing:

Preheat oven to 250°F.
Halve tomatoes through stem ends and arrange, cut sides up, in 1 layer
in a large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pan.

Add garlic to pan and roast in middle of oven until tomatoes are slightly shriveled around edges, about 1 hour. Cool in pan on a rack 30 minutes.
Peel garlic and purée with oil, water, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup roasted tomatoes in a blender until dressing is very smooth.

Make couscous:

Bring broth to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan and stir in couscous, then simmer, uncovered, 6 minutes. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes.
Spread couscous in 1 layer on a baking sheet and cool 15 minutes.
Transfer couscous to a bowl and stir in remaining ingredients, dressing, roasted tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.

Cooks' note:

·Roasted tomatoes, dressing, and couscous can be made 1 day ahead and kept separately, covered and chilled. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Atlantic Salmon atop with a herb salad

I just love having a keen fisherman as a neighbour. Fresh water fish, caught in local streams and lakes are a favourite of mine. Trout are in abundance, along with the occasional Murray Cod, when in season. But this weekend I was given a real treat. Atlantic salmon, which I've never tasted before. It's very similar to a brown trout, but I think the flavour is unmatchable. Of course the fisherman told me to cook it simply, so as not to bugger it up, but of course I never listened. Salt, pepper and butter, wrapped in foil was all he asked me to do. Ho hum, that's a bit boring, but I'm sure quite tasty.

I stumbled across this recipe at one of my favourite food sites, Food Safari. This dish was created by Greg Malouf, a favourite Aussie chef, who specialises in Lebanese and Middle East cooking. As soon as I saw this, I knew the simple method was going to have to wait. Sorry Simon!

The use of corriander and mint, with a touch of sumac, served as a salad on top is very impressive....a real dinner party dish if ever I saw one. The tahini yoghurt acts as a base for the salad to "stick" to, and imparts a beautiful creamy flavour and texture.

Susan, from The Well Seasoned Cook is hosting Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging this time around, the third time she has had the pleasure to host this great event. Susan has a beautiful blog, fantastic recipes and stunning photos. Stop by and visit if you can.

Baked salmon

Ingredients

1 whole Atlantic salmon
Sea salt and milled white pepper
50ml extra virgin olive oil
150g walnuts
120ml extra virgin olive oil, extra
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
3 long mild red chillies, seeded and finely diced
2 cups coriander leaves, chopped
½ cup mint leaves, shredded
20g sumac

Dressing
400g natural yoghurt
100ml tahini
1 clove garlic, crushed with 1 tsp sea salt
2 lemons, juiced

Preparation

Preheat oven to 150°C. Whip yoghurt, tahini and garlic together until it becomes a thick paste. Thin slightly with lemon juice, season with salt and refrigerate (it should be the consistency of pure cream).

Season salmon with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil. Wrap in silicon or baking paper. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes. Gently turn salmon over and cook for a further 20 minutes. The salmon should be medium rare after 50 minutes.

Remove from oven, opening the paper to stop further cooking. With a sharp knife, pierce the skin along the back from head to tail and peel away the skin. Scrape away the grey blood line. Carefully transfer to a large serving plate.

Brush some of the yoghurt mixture (about ½ cup) onto the flesh of the salmon to coat the top side. Reserve the remaining sauce to serve with the finished dish.

Roast walnuts in a preheated oven (200°C) for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and rub briskly in a clean tea towel to remove as much of the skin as possible. Chop finely. Whisk the extra oil with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add onion and chilli and whisk lightly. Add coriander, mint, sumac and walnuts.

Spoon the salad onto the salmon and carefully cover the entire fish as neatly as possible. Serve at room temperature with reserved sauce. Salmon can be cooked up to 4 hours in advance and the salad can be composed just prior to spooning onto the salmon.

Note: To serve, 'cut' fish along the length with a spoon. Scoop flesh off onto serving plates.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Turkish Bread Delight

Further to my previous post on Hummus Bi Tahini, this was the Turkish bread that I made to accompany it. I used the recipe from Glutten Cat, who generously had translated it into English. This bread not only looks fabulous, but tastes wonderful. It is the perfect scoop for hummus or any meal that has a sauce or gravy, or just eat it as is. I was a bit heavy handed with the nigella seeds, which I used in preference to caraway seeds. Next time I'll combine both.

The finished product and (below) the proved dough, ready to be put in the oven.

This recipe makes a lot of dough, so depending upon the size of the bread you require, halve or even quarter it, which is what I'll be doing next time.

I really loved the effect of spreading yoghurt over the top, which not only held the seeds in place, but gave it a beautiful shine, texture and flavour, once out of the oven.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Humble hummus


Traditionally hummus is served for a breakfast or lunch, and whilst I love a lunch of Turkish bread adorned with this creamy chickpea puree, it has become a favourite dip to take to parties, dressed to impress.

There are many differing versions of hummus; made with fresh chick peas, picked at a certain time of day (for the diehard hummusologists), dried chickpeas soaked overnight and then cooked, or for those in a rush, the canned variety which are already cooked.

I've never seen fresh chickpeas here, so that's not an option. And clearly my life is not so organised that I would remember to pick chickpeas at a certain time of day, if I was lucky enough to have a chickpea crop at my readiness. My preference is a good quality dried chickpea, soaked overnight. The next day drain the chickpeas and rub off any of the loosened shells before cooking. This soaking, rinsing and draining process is the most lengthy part of the preparation, but all you need to do is be prepared a day in advance. After that, very little effort is required to finalise this creamy, luxuriant, high protein pulse.

I use a pressure cooker to cook the chickpeas, which expedites the cooking process immensely, and retains all of the goodness. The most popular and best known version of hummus, is made with tahini paste, a paste of toasted and ground sesame seeds, and I have chosen this version to submit to Valentina from Trem Bom-English Version, who is hosting Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging. Valentina is a regular contributor to Weekend Herb Blogging, so be sure to visit her blog for the roundup. And I believe that Kalyn herself is about to embark in the world of pressure cooking, so this recipe might be the perfect introduction to her new appliance, plus I think it's South Beach friendly as well.


Hummus bi tahini

150g dried chickpeas soaked overnight or 400g can chickpeas
140ml tahini
Sea salt
Pinch ground cumin
Juice of 3 lemons
3 large cloves garlic
Pinch cayenne pepper

Method:

- If using dried chickpeas, rinse and add plenty of fresh water. Simmer for 1 hour or until quite soft. In a pressure cooker this can be reduced to about 20 minutes once pressure has been reached. Reduce pressure using the quick method.

- Drain and reserve a little of the cooking water. Canned chickpeas should be drained and cooked in fresh water for 20 minutes or so.

- Puree everything together, adding a touch of cooking water until it is creamy and smooth. Adjust the seasoning.

- Spoon onto a plate, smooth the surface and then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika, parsley and sundried olives.


Serve with homemade Turkish bread. Middle Eastern food, so simple, so tasty.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Fetta Pots of Dill & Parsley



It's Australian Football League Grand Final weekend here, and that means BBQ's, beers and glued to the TV wherever you are. If you're lucky enough to have your team playing, it's a nerve wracking day to say the least. For me, I can sit back and relax and not give a hoot who wins or loses, because my team ended up stone motherless last. Maybe next year Dees.....please?

Our day starts at about lunch time, sitting out in the early spring sunshine, nibbling, drinking, talking and relaxing. The BBQ is fired up at about 1 o'clock (or whenever people start to become hungry), which in the past has been about 3 o'clock!! Salads and dips and nibbles are in abundance, all in readiness for the 2:30 pm start. When the National Anthem is played, you could hear a pin drop right around the country, followed by a roar of encouragement from the crowds, both attending the game, and in every lounge room, back shed, patio or wherever your vantage point may be.

So my contribution in the nibbles department is a dip I have adapted from a recipe in this month's Delicious magazine from Belinda Jeffery. Her recipe is called Potted Dill & Parsley goat's cheese with celery. Mine is substituting Persian Feta for the marinated goats cheese (because I just love it), and as macadamias are way too expensive at the moment, I've substituted pecans in the pesto.

Haalo, from Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once, and an inhabitant of Melbourne, where the big game is played, is hosting Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging this week. If you love football, this is truly a great day. If you dislike football, I would suggest you book a mystery flight to a foreign country, because the coverage of the game is at saturation point already. All I can say is may the best team win on the day.

Dill & Parsley Pots

1 cup of chopped spring onions
1/2 cup of flat leafed parsley
1/2 cup of dill sprigs
Juice of one lemon
1 cup of lightly toasted pecan nuts
3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
250 gms marinated Persian Feta, drained
Celery sticks, lavash crispbreads or thinly sliced grilled Turkish Bread to serve.

Method
Blitz the spring onions, parsley, dill, lemon juice, pecans and half the olive oil until pureed. With motor of food processor still running, slowly add the rest of the olive oil until smooth and thick. Taste and adjust the flavours by adding sea salt and freshly ground pepper, or even more lemon juice.

Place the drained feta in a bowl, and mash well with a fork. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the pesto, depending upon how strong a flavour you want. Transfer to individual ramikins and refrigerate until required.

Any leftover pesto can be kept in the fridge, covered with a layer of EEVO, and sealed for up to a week. (I'm guessing this would be a great addition to grilled fish or a pasta salad).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mint'N'Lentils

A spring cleanout of the garden has left me with quite a dilemma in the kitchen. The beds are all weeded, prepped with mulch and fertiliser, in readiness for the ensuing summer crops, which alone fills me with excitement (I'm easily elated these days!). The only problem is most of my herbs were ousted in the process. After inspecting my husband's hard work, and giving the thanks and "good job" pat on the back, I silently cringed at the thought of not being able to use fresh herbs of my choice for a while. All that was left was a trumpled clump of garlic chives, a past-its-use-by-date clump of parsley and a small patch of oregano that had decided to relocate to another part of the garden all by itself. He openly cursed me for planting mint in the garden and not in a pot, because it took him ages to eradicate all of it. All of it except one teeny bunch hidden under the chives. Eureka!

As we've all been on a healthy diet kick this past week, not just for weight loss reasons, but for general health reasons, I thought it was time to introduce something foreign to the family. Lentils. Green puy lentils in fact. May as well start with the best to tempt the fussy tastebuds.

Mint is probably the first fresh herb I had tasted as a child. Mud pies with mint leaves on top were a childhood backyard treat. It's the easiest plant to grow (just ask my husband), it has uses from breath fresheners to after dinner sweets, and it makes your kitchen smell fresh, and well....minty.

Ingredients

1 cup lentils

4 cups water

3/4 cup red pepper,chopped

1/3 cup red onion,chopped

2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

1/2 preserved lemon,finely chopped

6 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic,minced

6 ounces feta cheese,crumbled

Directions

In saucepan, bring lentils and water to a boil; cook 30 minutes until tender, drain.

Add pepper, onion, preserved lemon and mint.

Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until ready to serve.

Just before serving, add oil, lemon juice, garlic and feta.

Toss and serve.



Zorra, from Kochtopf, is kindly hosting Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, this time round, and if my mint ever returns, and I'm sure it will, this will be a regular dish on our new "healthy" menu.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Baby snapper, fennel and herbs

It seems like eons since I posted for Weekend Herb Blogging, and whilst life has been busy, catching up after a relaxing holiday, dishes are still being created with herbs from my garden. Wanting a healthier dinner, after overindulging in restaurant food, these baby snapper were beckoning me. I swear one was positively staring at me, and I couldn't walk past it, without feeling slightly unnerved.

Getting back into the swing of things has been rather difficult, to say the least. This tasty dish utilises the final bulbs of fennel I have growing, a vegetable that I rate way up there as one of my favourite flavours. The host for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging is Ulrike from Kuchenlatein and these baby snapper are heralding in the first tastes of Spring, a much awaited season after a bitterly cold winter.

Whole baby snapper, sweet fennel and herbs

INGREDIENTS

2 whole baby snapper (200g each),1 fennel bulb, 2 lemons freshly, ground black pepper, 1 bunch chives, chopped, ½ bunch basil, chopped 2 tablespoons olive oil, 200g butter, softened, 200ml orange juice, salt, 30g sumac

METHOD

Place fresh snapper on chopping board and cut 2cm deep slits along both sides of each fish. Combine shaved fennel, zest and juice of one lemon, black pepper, chives, basil and olive oil together and mix well. Pack fennel mix into the slits of the snapper tightly. Beat butter in a medium bowl and fold in the orange juice, salt, the juice of the remaining lemon and the sumac through softened butter. Rub soft butter mix all over the fish and wrap in tinfoil so no liquid can escape. Place on BBQ plate over medium heat for about 8-12 minutes or until cooked through. This will depend on snapper size.

I served this with a tossed salad of greens and roasted roma tomatoes, and a creamy potato gratin. Just lovely.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Paella to the rescue

Yesterday was spent fervently cleaning out the pantry, which is a slide out pantry that hasn't "slid" for quite some time, due to it's state of disarray, and fearing that everything is going to fall out onto my head. It's quite amazing, and rather embarrassing, what you find when you do make this effort. Half opened packets of this and that, still usable, but not visible. I found 4 cans of sweetened condensed milk of all things. I would use this ingredient once every blue moon, so why did I have a cache of it? No idea. I also had lots of half opened packets of rice. Obviously the rice container was too hard to reach on previous occasions, so another packet was opened. The only way I was going to get this job done properly was to empty everything out, check the use by dates, reorganise into labelled containers, then sit back and smile at my lovely, orderly pantry. And it was a great exercise in finding out exactly what I had stocked. Clearly the glut of rice made my decision of what to cook for dinner a whole lot easier.

Chicken and Chorizo Paella

3 tablespoon Olive oil

1 Red bell pepper deseeded & sliced

200 gram Mushroom sliced

2 cloves Garlic chopped

600 gram Chicken breast sliced into bite sized pieces

200 gram Chorizo sliced

700 gram Tomato skinned & chopped

1 tablespoon Lemon rind grated

1 tablespoon Rosemary chopped

¼ tsp Saffron (soaked in a little hot water)

2 tablespoon Parsley chopped

500 gram Arborio rice

3 cups Chicken broth

200 gram Peas

1 pinch Salt to taste

1 pinch Black pepper to taste

Lemon wedges to serve


Instructions

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

1. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil until warm. Stir-fry the red pepper, mushrooms and garlic for 3 minutes. Remove & set aside.
2. Add a bit more oil to the saucepan and add the chicken and chorizo. Stir-fry for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
3. Add the tomato, lemon rind, rosemary, saffron mix and parsley to the pan, and stir. Top with the rice, chicken, chorizo, red pepper, and mushrooms. Pour over the stock and simmer until the rice is cooked. Do not stir or cover. Add a little more stock if necessary.
4. Once cooked, scatter with peas, remove from heat, cover with a lid, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
5. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm with lemon wedges on the side.

Quick, nutritious and only one pot to wash. My day wasn't spent in vain.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Taste and Create XIII- Pure southern comfort

Dianne, from Dianne's Dishes, my Taste and Create partner for this month, spent her childhood in the U.S. south, so I thought I'd try some real southern food in honour of that. What could be more southern than fried chicken (Maryland of course) and Hushpuppies? I always thought that Hushpuppies were a brand of shoe up until now, but these fried cakes of cornmeal are so light and fluffy, they certainly don't resemble anything like an old boot.

I was unsure whether the polenta that I substituted for the cornmeal was suitable, guessing that cornmeal is perhaps a bit finer, but they were still really good with a nice crisp outer coating. A bit of leftover chopped parsley was thrown in for good measure and flavour.

The chicken, after an overnight marinate in buttermilk, was sensational. The seasoning of the flour mixture with vegetable bullion powder and garlic powder produced a flavour that even the famous Colonel would be envious of. I used my deep fryer to cook the chicken, finishing it off in the oven to crisp up even further. I reckon it's the best darned chicken I've ever had and I'll definitely be making it again, real soon.

So thank you Dianne for introducing real Southern Food into my cooking repertoire. We all loved it.



Friday, August 22, 2008

Never smile at a crocodile


Wondering where I've been lately? Certainly not in the kitchen, but definitely working up a sweat when these fellas were jumping just feet from my face. This guy is just one of 3,000 saltwater crocs inhabiting the Adelaide River in the Northern Territory of Australia, so it's not the best place to go for a paddle. Interestingly, I learnt that "crocodile tears" are actually real and not just a saying that parents would use on children when a tantrum was thrown, and real tears were nowhere to be seen. Crocodiles are sprinters, at a speed faster than any racehorse, but if they sprint for more than 100 metres, the lactic acid builds up in their bodies, to a deadly level, and they expel these acids through their tears, to avoid death. They can also see in colour, so if you happen to find yourself in croc infested waters wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt, get it off real quick, or say your prayers.
Crocodile is a white meat, high in cholesterol and protein, but low in fat, with a delicate flavour (so I'm told!!) Light tropical fruits such as paw paw or banana compliment crocodile meat well. Surprisingly, it is best cooked from a frozen state, as during the thawing process most of the moisture runs out decreasing the flavour. It should be cooked for two minutes on either side and then allowed to stand for a few minutes. There is no need to use a large number of ingredients, other than herbs or spices. If frying, always use butter or olive oil, as these will not interfere with the unique flavour. Do not use margarine as the hydrogenated fats can emit an unpleasant flavour and prevent you from using other dairy products such as cream in the recipe. Keep it plain and simple. Farmed crocodile meat is a growing industry in Australia, however I'm not really adventurous enough to try it. Gotta keep tabs on the cholesterol levels, right?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Holidays at last

Weather conditions are downright crappy at the moment. Freezing cold, wet and windy. So I'm heading north to a warmer climate tomorrow, for a much needed break from daily routines. Darwin is the destination, and at least I can seek a reprieve from the sub zero temperatures each morning, enjoying a sip by the pool, fresh tropical fruit, varied Asian cuisines, with a side trip to Singapore for a touch of shopping and more food delights. Herb crusted rack of lamb was the most adventurous dish prepared this weekend, apart from Vegemite on toast!!
For the crust, combine fresh herbs, bread crumbs, a couple of good dollops of grainy mustard and moisten with olive oil. Press onto lamb racks and roast at 200 C for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 170 C until done. This was simply served with roast vegetable salad on a bed of rocket, with balsamic reduction dressing.

I'm off to pack. If anyone knows which horse is going to win the Darwin Cup, I'd be grateful for the tip.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Adults Only Tiramisu

With the amount of alcohol in this recipe, I had to warn my daughter not to drive after eating this luscious Italian dessert. Her probationary license stipulates zero alcohol content in your system, and I'm sure a breathalyser test would have registered way up there after only a couple of mouthfuls. Luckily only the biscuits are quickly "dipped" into this potent brew, otherwise we'd all end up happily tipsy, not that that would be an issue. I must confess I have only made Tiramisu once before, and that was due to a request from my eldest when she turned 16. Because she was "grown up" in her eyes, the customary birthday cake made way for this "adults only" dessert. Maybe it was her way of consuming alcohol right under my nose, instead of waiting for a party with her friends!! She is now 24, well and truly grown up, and I'm happy that I have an excuse to make it again. So are the dessert deprived members of this family. They all think HHDD is fabulous, because they can indulge in the rare treat of desserts after a meal. When I told my youngest what the theme for this month was going to be, she insisted we shop for the ingredients immediately. I wonder if her enthusiasm would have been the same had the theme been some savoury dish. I think not.
Alexandra, from Addicted Sweet Tooth, the deserved winner of the last round of Hay Hay it's Donna Day, a fun event now under the wing of Bron Marshall, has chosen Tiramisu for this months challenge. This is a no-bake (right up my alley when it comes to desserts), rich Italian dessert, that literally translates as "pick me up" or "make me happy/less sad". We all know the virtues of coffee, chocolate and alcohol, each providing a momentary state of euphoria. Combine them all together and what do you get? An exhilarating uplift with every spoonful, equally addictive as the individual ingredients can be on their own. Just don't drive for a while. Enjoy your happiness.

Tiramisu

Prep time: 30 minutes

2 hours refrigeration

Ingredients

300 ml espresso coffee

3 ½ tblsp Marsala

2 tblsp Kilkenny cream (coffee and chocolate liqueur)

2 tblsp brandy

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

3 eggs separated

75 g caster sugar

300 g mascarpone

Cocoa for dusting

100 g good quality dark chocolate, grated

Savoiardi biscuits

Chill six 300 ml glasses. Combine coffee, coffee liqueur, brandy marsala and vanilla in a large bowl and set aside.

In a bowl beat egg yolks with sugar until light and fluffy, then mix in mascarpone. Beat eggwhites intil soft peaks form, then fold into the mascarpone mixture.

Dust the base of each glass with a little cocoa and sprinkle with some of the grated chocolate. Add a spoonful of the mascarpone mixture to each glass. Quickly dip the biscuits, a few at a time, into the coffee mixture and arrange in a single layer on top of the mascarpone, breaking biscuits to fit if required. Dust with cocoa and chocolate and then repeat layers again, finishing with mascarpone. Leave to chill for a couple of hours in the fridge and then dust again with cocoa and grated chocolate.

BBD #12 Small Breads

Krispy Kreme © donuts are not common in Australia...yet. Their franchise has obviously hit the major capitol cities, but not the small rural communities, and hopefully it will be a long time before they do, if these copycat donuts are any indication as to why people are raving about them. Who needs another fast food franchise in their town? Not me. Bread Baking Day #12 is travelling to India this month, where Aparna, from My Diverse Kitchen has chosen small breads as the theme. This is a monthly event created by Zorra from Kopchtopf, and I was just in the right mood to make donuts this last weekend. And as I'd just whipped up a batch of delicious lemon curd, I thought I would incorporate the tangy flavour with the sweet bread, and fill the donut "holes" with it. Personally, I think the holes are the best part!
breadbakingday #12

Copycat Krispy Kreme© Donuts

DONUTS:
2 cups scalded milk
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons yeast
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
7 cups sifted flour


GLAZE:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cold water

Melt butter in hot milk. Add 1 teaspoon sugar and salt. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

Beat in yeast, nutmeg, eggs and 3 cups flour.

Add rest of flour (dough will be sticky). Knead for 5 minutes then allow to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Roll out dough, cut into shapes. Do not re-roll dough. Allow to rise for 30-45 minutes.

Mix together ingredients for glaze; set aside.

Heat oil to 365F.

Fry donuts 2 minutes on each side or until brown.

Dip in warm glaze.

Makes 48 donuts

This makes a lot of donuts, so be prepared to be chained to the deep fryer for a fair amount of time. Also be prepared for the plate of donuts to disappear before the next batch has finished cooking. Make sure at least one is saved for the cook!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Moroccan mania for Taste and Create


Right now I'm in the height of a Moroccan obsession, and so I was duly excited to be paired up with Ann and Jack from from Redacted Recipes this month, for Taste and Create, a monthly event created and coordinated by Nicole.

Tagines are a regular guest at our dinner table, at least once a week. The mention of "stew" for dinner always brought comments of disdain from the family in the past, but if the word "tagine" is substituted, there isn't a problem. It sounds much more exotic, and of course it really is, because Moroccan spices make an ordinary old stew sing like a star.

So dinner last light was a lamb tagine. This dish was so delicious, the cinnamon really shone through, and the prunes gave it a fruity lift. I think it's the first time everyone ate zucchini without leaving it to the side of the plate.


Ann and Jack's recipe can be found here. I really wanted to serve this with their Za'atar Bread to mop up the luscious juices, but just ran out of time. I will make it next time though, and the lamb tagine will definitely be on our menu again.



Saturday, July 12, 2008

Herbed Ricotta Fritters

When you have a couple of egg yolks staring at you, 1/2 kilo of ricotta in the fridge that you're undecided what to do with, want to make something really quick and easy, dying to sit and relax with drink in hand, then these little fritter-balls are the perfect solution to your woes.

Two cups of chopped herbs are folded through the ricotta/egg/flour mixture and shallow fried in minutes. The combination of herbs is entirely up to you. As we are in the depths of a freezing winter, with snow on the mountains and frosts on the ground, I'm still lucky enough to have the old reliables flourishing in the garden - rosemary, parsley and oregano.

Initially, I thought that these might be a bit bland and overpowered by the herbs, but after one bite my fears were put to rest. They would make a wonderful addition to any party platter, but I would double the recipe 'cause they're just so tasty.

Herbed ricotta fritters

Ingredients

  • 500g fresh ricotta cheese
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup self-raising flour, sifted
  • 2 cups mixed fresh herbs, chopped (we used flat-leaf parsley, oregano and rosemary leaves)
  • 150g parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 cups vegetable oil, for shallow-frying

Method

  1. Place ricotta in a sieve over a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow excess moisture to drain from ricotta. Drain, wash and dry bowl. Spoon ricotta into the bowl. Add egg yolks. Mix until well combined. Add flour, herbs and 1 1/2 cups parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.
  2. Preheat oven to 160°C. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Using 1 heaped tablespoon of mixture per fritter, cook fritters in batches of 4, turning often with a metal spoon, for 3 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack over a baking tray. Keep warm in oven while cooking the remaining fritters.
  3. Place fritters on a plate. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Simona, from Briciole, is hosting this months Weekend Herb Blogging event, the brainstorm of Kalyn, from Kalyn's Kitchen. There are some new rules being introduced for next weekend, rules for the better, in my honest opinion, so that this event remains primarily about herbs, so check them out here.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fish and Fresh Fennel Tagine



You can't get any fresher than this. The dirt from my garden is still clumped to the fennel roots. The aniseed perfume is so much stronger than any supermarket bulb, left wilting on the shelves for who knows how long. The crunch as the knife slices through the crisp layers is almost deafening. The pleasure of eating something grown from scratch, and with a little love, is immeasurable.

Fish was on the menu last night and fennel and fish are a marriage made in heaven. This is yet another Moroccan inspired recipe which I adapted from my latest cookbook purchase, Moroccan Modern by Hassan M'Souli, a restaurateur from Sydney. I know I'm going to get my money's worth from this book, the recipes are just fabulous.

This dish is abundant with coriander and parsley. The tomato chermoula is so versatile in it's uses, as a marinade, or even as a sauce for pasta marinara, I think I will always make double the recipe from now on.


Pam, who cooks, sews and knits in her "spare time" from Sidewalk Shoes is kindly hosting Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging this week.

Fish tagine

Ingredients

  • 4 x 2 inch thick firm fish fillets (try swordfish, dhufish, Ling or cod fillets)
  • 2 cups of tomato chermoula (see recipe below)
  • 1 large fennel bulb (the original recipe used celery sliced lengthways)
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 small red capsicum
  • 1 small green capsicum
  • 2 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 2 cups of fish stock
  • A handful of kalamata olives
  • 1 preserved lemon cut into wedges
  • 4 roma tomatoes halved and roasted
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander

Method

Marinate your fish fillets in the tomato chermoula for at least two hours.

Slice the fennel (or celery) and place slices parallel across the tagine base. This stops food from sticking and burning to the bottom.

Next place the fish fillets over the fennel. Next slice the carrot diagonally in 1cm slices. Peel and slice the potatoes in the same fashion. Deseed and remove membranes from capsicums and slice the flesh to be double the thickness of the potatoes. The slices need to be varied accordingly so that they all cook in time.

Alternate the carrot & potato slices around the outer edge of the tagine and on top of the fish. Place the capsicums in alternating colours on top of the whole dish.

Mix the tomato chermoula with the tomato paste and fish stock and whisk until well combined. Pour over the vegetables and the fish, and top with olives and preserved lemon wedges.

Cover with tagine lid and simmer over a low heat for 45 minutes.

Serve the fish tagine directly to the table, garnished with tomatoes and sprinkle with fresh coriander.
Tomato Chermoula

Tomato Chermoula is a great accompaniment for seafood dishes.

Ingredients

  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 brown onions diced
  • 4 x 400g cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander
  • Salt & pepper

Method

Gently heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the garlic and onion until soft. Add the tomatoes, cumin, and lemon juice. Simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the fresh herbs and remove from heat. Season to taste. This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.