Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Shaped Breadbaking Day #6

BreadBakingDay #6

Zorra from 1x umrühren bitte is the creator of the monthly Breadbaking day event, and the theme for this month chosen by Sweet Sins, is shaped bread, so I'm submitting Pane Siciliano from Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

This is one of the best tasting breads I've ever made, on par with the Pugliese, and I think it's the high percentage of durum flour that gives it such a unique and beautiful flavour.

The loaves take 3 days to make unfortunately, but they are well worth the effort. Some say that the last overnight retardation in the fridge after they are shaped, is not necessary, but why settle for less flavour?

Shaping loaves can be quite difficult, and lots of practice is sometimes required, however shaping Pane Siciliano is so easy. Divide the dough into three pieces and shape each piece as you would a batard. Then coil each end simultaneously, but in the opposite direction, toward the centre to make an "S" shape. Much easier than trying to say "pane siciliano" after a couple of glasses of wine!

I'd run out of sesame seeds for these loaves and only had nigella seeds to sprinkle on top, which were not as complimentary to the bread as the sesame seeds are.

The bread is chewy, the crust has a slight crunch, and it's superb with a soft cheese such as brie or camembert.

Pane Siciliano recipe can be found here at Google Books.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fig frenzied filcher

Yesterday, I have to admit it, I was a very bad, bad person.

It all started whilst having a coffee at a little country cafe, under the shade of a massive fig tree. The figs were fresh, abundant and sadly just outer skins as the birds love them so much. I had a sudden craving for fresh figs. Sadly the owner of the cafe didn't offer me any, and the coffee was only so so. On leaving though, there was a yellow plum tree, groaning with ripe juicy plums, and just at the right height for me to sneakily pick one. That'll teach the cafe owner a lesson for not offering me some figs. I'll just nick a plum instead to make up for it. Trying to be discrete as possible, I quickly picked a plum, and bit into it nonchalantly, only to have another plum fall onto my head. So much for being discrete and unnoticeable. Unfortunately my husband noticed, and said it served me right for stealing.

Those figs were the foremost thing in my mind. Meanwhile, we came upon Harry's Vege Patch. I met Harry three years ago on a flight home from Athens to Melbourne. Harry is Italian, and even though he lives in Melbourne, he has a patch of ground "up the bush", as we call it, to plant his veges, escape from the city, and make a couple of dollars on the side as well. It was a nice opportunity to catch up with Harry again and buy some of his potatoes ("good for gnocchi" he informed me), some peaches and some nectarines. Then onto a berry farm where I purchased 2 kgs of frozen raspberries. I was about 3 weeks too early for the Autumn crop, but I can still put the frozen berries to good use. Ice cream comes to mind.

Heading closer to home, I couldn't get off the subject of figs. I was obsessed with the fact that amongst my booty of fruit and veg, there was not one fig. That is, until my husband took a slight detour, pulled the car into what looked like a bus depot (being Sunday luckily it was closed) and said "There". I couldn't believe my eyes. A massive fig tree groaning under the weight of ripe figs. I was out of that car in half a second returning back only to scrounge for a bag or receptacle of some sort, and proceeded to behave like a frenzied female fig filcher.

Now you're probably thinking this woman is a total thief, as well as a lunatic. I must defend myself here, Your Honour, and state that I never had to climb a fence, use bolt cutters or force entry of any sort. It was broad daylight, I wasn't wearing a balaclava and the tree was just there. I did however attract a toot from a passerby; I'm not sure if it was a gesture of country friendliness or he was tooting because I was stealing. And I did feel quite guilty, but not for long.

Especially when the figs were served with prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh rocket (aragula) from the garden, and drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. Teamed with dukhah crusted BBQ lamb and a glass of prosecco, that guilt I was feeling earlier went straight out of the window.

Fresh Fig and Prosciutto Salad

8 ripe figs (don't refrigerate them)
1 bunch of rocket
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Balsamic vinegar
Squeeze of lemon juice
8 slices of prosciutto
freshly shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, to serve

Cut the figs in half and then toss with rocket in a bowl. Dress with a vinaigrette of 3-4 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar. Add lemon juice to taste. Divide evenly among 4 plates, then drape over two slices of prosciutto. Top with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and serve immediately.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Slice of heaven

Round #17 of Hay Hay it's Donna Day closes today, with Joey from 80 breakfasts choosing the theme of pizza. My family thanks you, Joey. They rarely have pizza for a Saturday lunch, and if they do, it's normally left overs from Friday night, a la cardboard.

Pizza's are a passion of mine. I'm forever searching for that elusive crust, that OMG crust, that crust that is forever memorable. Well today I think I found just that crust. I normally like to rest the dough overnight in the fridge for a flavour boost, but this crust doesn't need that, plus I wasn't that organised. More importantly, the preparation time needs to be minimal, considering the record time in which the final product is demolished, I mean devoured.

Here is my take on a Pizza Margherita, named after Queen Margherita of Savoy, and is supposed to have all of the colours of the Italian flag. Bit like the Caprese salad...hmmm Caprese Pizza maybe?

Pizza Dough

1 1/4 tsp yeast
1 cup (8 oz) water at room temperature
1 3/4 cup (14 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface and peel
1 cup (8 oz) cake flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar

I just plonk all of the ingredients into my KitchenAid and mix for about 7-8 minutes.
Turn dough out into an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled.
I never roll the dough, I just poke my fingers gently into it until it reaches the desired shape.
Heat oven to 450 degrees F or as hot as it will go.


4 large, ripe and juicy tomatoes, diced
2 cloves of minced garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Bocconcini (or you could use sliced mozarella)
Grated parmesan
Extra olive oil for drizzling
Basil leaves

Finely chop the tomatoes, add garlic and a drizzle of olive oil, and marinate for at least 30 minutes. Drain tomatoes, add to pizza dough, add sliced bocconcini or mozarella, grate parmesan cheese over the top and cook in oven until crust is browned on the bottom, and cheese is bubbly.
Place basil chiffonade on top and drizzle with more olive oil.

Slice and enjoy

And have a great Australian Day to all the Aussies out there!

Spicy tomato jam

Want to start your day with a bit of zing? Try this jam for breakfast...yes, that's right, breakfast. It teams beautifully with parmesan toast and bacon. Over the summer holiday break, I had the daunting task of cooking breakfast for 7 people all at once. Trying to co-ordinate 14 eggs with 14 slices of toast was not my idea of fun. So I cheated by dipping the bread into beaten eggs mixed with cream, chopped chives and parmesan, and doing a french style toast with bacon and tomato jam on the side. Impressive and oh so tasty.

This is so good, I had to make another batch this week, and it's a great way of using up the influx of tomatoes that summer time brings.

Tomato Jam (makes 4 cups)
1 kg tomatoes
I onion, finely chopped
1 long red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 cups (440 g) caster sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon juice
2 cups (500 ml) tomato juice
1/2 cup finely chopped basil or flat leafed parsley leaves

Cut a small cross in the base of each tomato. Place tomatoes in a large heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over to cover. Leave for 30 seconds, drain and remove skins.
Place tomatoes in a food processor and pulse to crush, but do not puree.
Transfer tomato mixture to large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes or until thickened.
Add the onion, chilli and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Stir in the lemon juice and tomato juice, and bring to a simmer.
Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 35 minutes or until thickened.
Skim foam from surface and discard.
Cool slightly, stir in the basil or parsley, then chill for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight, before using. Season to taste.

Anna from Anna's Cool Finds is hosting Kalyn's Kitchen Weekend Herb Blogging this week. Have a look at her impressive list of entries that she has submitted to this great event since it started.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Rémy does ratatouille

I'd love to have Rémy living in my hair, just to guide me through some difficult culinary moments, but as I have a severe aversion to rodents of any sort, I'll have to rely on my favourite Australian "cook", Maggie Beer. If you haven't seen the movie Ratatouille, it's a must see for any foodie out there. I laughed, I nearly cried, but mostly I envied Linguine for having such a valuable teacher by his side. My kids thought I'd really lost it this time, watching a kids movie. But hey, I loved Shrek too, so no big deal.

Maggie's version of ratatouille is modeled on the traditional French style of slow cooking, until all of the vegetable flavours meld together until they have lost most of their shape, developing luscious juices. Served as a side with roast lamb (which I'm having tonight), it's Maggie's way of sitting down with friends to enjoy a summer evening, without having to rush around in the kitchen. Now that's my kind of Sunday night.


3 eggplants cut into 3 cm cubes


½ cup olive oil

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

3 red peppers, seeded and cut into cubes

6 small or 3 large zucchini, cut into 3 cm cubes

A few coriander seeds, crushed

4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly chopped parsley, or torn basil


Place eggplant on a tray and lightly sprinkle with salt. Cover with foil and press lightly with weights for an hour. Wipe off moisture with a paper towel or clean tea towel, and drain juices.

Heat oil in an enamelled cast-iron casserole in which the finished dish can be served, and sauté onion until limp and golden. Add garlic, red pepper and eggplant, then cover the casserole and cook gently on stovetop for 40 minutes. Add zucchini, coriander seeds, tomato and a grinding of black pepper and cook for a further 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Stir in parsley or basil and adjust seasoning. Serve either hot, warm or cold.

Kalyn, from Kalyn's Kitchen has nominated Rinku from Cooking in Westchester to be the host for this weekend's event.

Mon dieu, Écouter..Say no more

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pomegranate, feta, cucumber and mint salad

There are exactly 840 seeds in a pomegranate. I didn't know that, which probably explains why it took me nearly a whole morning to extract each jewel separately and eat them one by one when I was a small child. We had a pomegranate tree growing near our front gate, where I would sit for hours patiently waiting for my older brother and sister to come home from school, just so they could "play schools" with me, much to their protests. Red stained fingers, mouth and clothing were part of my everyday appearance back then. And unbelievably, I never had a pomegranate again, that is until last night. The Persian fruit has now come back into vogue, after all of these years, probably due to the newfound health benefits of the juice, with the same antioxidant benefits as red wine, assisting in curbing the progression of fatty deposits on the artery walls.

In my planting frenzy in late spring, for some reason I felt that I needed to plant 3 cucumber seedlings. I have no idea why I did such a stupid thing, because now, along with the zucchinis, I have more than I can possibly use. As much as I love fresh, crunchy cucumbers, you can only eat so many. I have the liberty of picking them when they are small, because there will always be at least another dozen ready the next day.

So a Middle Eastern themed salad is created - pomegranates originating from Persia, creamy Persian feta and beautiful purple/red sumac.

Pomegranate, feta, cucumber and mint salad

2 pomegranates

200g feta (Persian if you can find it)

2 Lebanese cucumbers, diced small

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped

1/3 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped

2 tsp sumac (optional) - a middle eastern spice which imparts a tangy citrus flavour

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 tbsp extra-virgin

olive oil



Break open pomegranates and remove seeds. Crumble feta into largish pieces. Combine seeds, feta, cucumbers, onion and herbs in a large bowl.

To serve

When ready to serve add the sumac, vinegar, oil and salt and toss to combine. Best served cold.

If anyone has any tips on how to get pomegranate juice stains out of a white blouse, I'd be grateful to hear from you. Seems I have done a full life circle again!

Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging is kindly hosted this week by Vani from Batasari. Check out her blog for some great Indian dishes.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The new year brings....ZUCCHINI'S

Phew! What a hectic holiday break. And of course I never did get around to doing everything I wanted to, like culling my magazine collection, *cleaning out the pantry, having a weedless garden and learning to take photos on my new DSLR (thank you Santa!!). However, it was a great family time, even catching up with my brother, who "dropped in" unexpectedly from Western Australia, so lots of yarns, drinks, sightseeing, lunches, dinners etc were enjoyed. I haven't even cooked a meal for nearly a week! And whilst I've been out and about socializing, the zucchini's have been having a lovely time multiplying and multiplying and multiplying. I shouldn't complain though, as I expected them to do so in this 40 degree heatwave we've been enduring, but it's a sure fire way of making your neighbours avoid sticking their heads over the fence for a chat whilst you're harvesting zucchinis. They're strangely nowhere to be seen.

Fortunately there are bazillions of recipes in ways to use zucchini, but as I'm at the burnt out stage (read that as holiday lazy), a simple zucchini slice to send with my brother on his trip across the Nullaboor desert was all I could manage today.

The oils in my pantry ranged from EVOO through to advocado, herbed flavoured, peanut...but not one drop of vegetable oil. I did, however have a bottle of Carotino Oil , made from red palm and canola oil, lodged at the back of the shelf, which I forgot that I had (*that happens a lot with my pantry items). It's full of Omega 3 fats, lots of vitamins and is a beautiful colour. Just perfect to jazz up a plain old zucchini slice, and good for you too.

Zucchini Slice (from Delicious Magazine)

Ingredients (serves 15)

  • 5 eggs
  • 150g (1 cup) self-raising flour, sifted
  • 375g zucchini, grated
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 200g rindless bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil - (or Carotino Oil)


  1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 30 x 20cm lamington pan.
  2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl until combined. Add the flour and beat until smooth, then add zucchini, onion, bacon, cheese and oil and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in oven for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
Hopefully, Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen has utilised her well deserved rest better than I have, as she's launching and hosting the first Weekend Herb Blogging event for 2008. Her roundups are always a pleasure to read and enjoy.