Sunday, March 30, 2008

Beans 'n limes

And I don't mean Lima Beans. I actually mean beautiful flat beans with a herby lime sauce. These beans were advertised in the supermarket as "European beans". Sounds really fancy for a country bumpkin from Oz like me, but the fancy title also attracted a fancy price, at $9.99 per kilo...ouch. At least the limes have come down in price to $4.49 a kilo, instead of a ridiculous $1 each, which they were a while back, and let's face it, they're not quite the same size as a grapefruit are they? More like a Tom Bowler marble in fact.

The health benefits from the humble green bean are indeed extensive, noticably the high Vitamin K content, which contributes to healthy bones. Green beans are also an excellent source of vitamin C, and manganese. Plus green beans are a very good source of vitamin A (notably through their concentration of carotenoids including beta-carotene), dietary fiber, potassium, folate, and iron.The list goes on ......magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorous, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and niacin..phew. Do as your mothers often told you ..."eat your greens"!

As the summer herbs in my garden are nearing to an end, and mostly going to seed, I wanted to rescue the last few and use in this Saturday night dinner. There really isn't a set recipe, other than boil or steam the beans until tender crisp. Melt about a heaped tablespoon of butter in a pan, (depending upon how many beans you're cooking) add the grated rind of a couple of limes, along with their juice, cook gently for a minute or so, then flavour with garlic chives and parsley and a scant sprinkling of dried dill. I did add a sprig of winter savoury to the pot when boiling the beans as well. No salt, the herbs and lime add immense flavour to the often overcooked, soggy green bean.

They accompanied a crumbed chicken schnitzel and stuffed pontiac potatoes, also filled with chopped parsley, sundried tomatoes, spring onions and ricotta cheese, with a hint of homemade Sambal Oelek, a fresh chilli paste, which I'll post about later.

Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging attracts fantastic entries featuring herbs and fruits and vegetables every week, and Ramona from The Houndstooth Gourmet is the gracious host for this week.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chicken Tikka with spicy onion relish

I'm not normally a big fan of Nigella. Whilst her recipes are quite good, her TV show annoys the crap out of me. Her oohs, and mmmm's and erratic camera shots are too much sometimes. But, I must give her a 10/10 for this recipe, which has become a family favourite. When served to guests, it often brings out the wimps as far as spiciness is concerned. When they're reaching for a cold drink, or a piece of bread, you know that it's too hot for them. The chicken itself is quite bitey, having been sitting in a yoghurt marinade, developing the flavours of coriander, garam masala and just a hint of chilli to tempt. The moorish part is the hot red onion relish, laced with the potent dried chillies and my favourite herb, coriander. I could eat a plate of this on it's own, washed down with an icy cold beer of course.

Chicken tikka with onion relish

4 chicken breast fillets
2 tbls unsalted butter or ghee
1 tsp vegetable oil
Steamed basmati rice, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve

2 garlic cloves
5cm piece of ginger, peeled
2 small red chillies, deseeded
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup plain yoghurt

Hot onion relish
2 small or 1 large red onion, finely sliced into half moons
1 vine ripened tomato, diced (remove seeds if you wish)
3 tblsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes, or to taste
Juice of 1 lemon

To make the marinade, process the garlic, ginger and chillies in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the remaining marinade ingredients and process again to a smooth paste.
Coat the chicken with the marinade in a wide shallow dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight).
Meanwhile, make the onion relish. Place the onion, tomato and coriander in a bowl, sprinkle over the chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze over the lemon juice and stir well. Allow to macerate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Let the chicken come to room temp before cooking. Melt the butter or ghee in a heavy pan and cook the fillets over a medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until cooked through. (Too high a heat will catch the yoghurt and burn).

To serve, place steamed rice with chicken on top, finishing with the red onion relish.

Weekend Herb Blogging, a weekly event founded by Kalyn is being hosted by Kel from Green Olive Tree

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Mellow Yellow

International Women's Day

Today is a day which marks respect for all women, International Women's Day, global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women. Zorra and fiordisale are inviting bloggers to post a yellow dish, food, drink or any consumable that is yellow in colour.

Lots of foods are yellow, of course the exotic saffron comes to mind, along with eggs, squash, bananas and of course lemons. I'm lucky enough to have an abundant supply of Meyer lemons, thanks to my parents, who have carefully pruned and nurtured their tree for nearly 40 years. I also have one growing in my garden , but it's still quite young, and struggling due to the ongoing drought.

I have preserved bags and bags of lemons. Why let them go rotten on the ground if you have too many? The uses for preserved lemons go way and beyond traditional Morrocan tagines. Add them to marinades, stuff fish or chickens with them, add them to a salsa verde. They are great with any pork dish, as they cut through the richness of the fatty meat. Another fantastic use is when making labna, by draining yoghurt overnight so it can be rolled into small balls, then roll the yoghurt balls into finely chopped preserved lemon, finely diced garlic and lots of chopped flat leaf parsley, and have a gremolata ball, which can be served with slow cooked or grilled lamb, kid and couscous or polenta. Very exotic.

I use simply lemons, sea salt and lemon juice. Cut lemons into quarters, not cutting right through to separate. Pack with a tablespoon of salt per lemon. Place into jar, pushing each lemon down tightly to reduce air pockets. Cover with extra lemon juice. Store in a dark, cool cupboard for at least 6 weeks, turning your jar upside down to distribute the salty juice.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Meet Mr. & Mrs. Tomato

I honestly don't know what was in the manure that I put into the vege garden this year, but most of my Roma tomatoes on one bush ended up shaped like this. Cute aren't they?

And as for the peppers! I forgot that I had purchased the miniature variety, let alone chocolate coloured. They were a real surprise.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Paad Thai - A noodle high

My girlfriend, M, and I often travel over to Western Australia, where she has 4 sisters and I have my brother to visit. I had the pleasure of staying with one of her sisters, along with her husband Nico Moretti, who runs a cooking school straight from their gourmet kitchen, overlooking their Bali inspired garden. I felt like I was at a resort, watching Nico prepare a platter of fresh fruit for breakfast to have with chocolate croissants and freshly squeezed orange juice. Nico has since written a cookbook, called Food for Friends, and of course I have a copy. The recipes are all very simple, not too fancy, but fancy enough to impress your audience.

I had made Paad Thai once before, but it was horrible. I’m obviously not a tofu person, sadly, and the recipe called for fried noodles. I may as well have served up a bag of rusty nails. It was disgusting. So I couldn’t wait to try Nico’s Paad Thai, as it had all of the authentic Thai ingredients (NO KETCHUP!) that I love – but minus the tofu. Please, if you can, find the tamarind puree. It's the magic ingredient in this dish.

There were many silent reservations when the family asked “what’s for dinner?”, because that first Paad Thai was indeed very memorable. After this version was presented, hopefully memories of that first ill-fated attempt at this wonderful Thai dish has been erased. Thanks Nico!

Zorra from Kochtopf is hosting Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging this week. This is Zorra's second time as a host for this event, and she has many other blog hosting events up her sleeve, with International Womens Day being her next inviting challenge.

Paad Thai

serves 6


1 x 375g packet rice stick (dried rice noodles), 5mm to 10mm thickness
250g finely sliced chicken breast (or sliced pork or peeled prawns)
2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
11⁄2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, bottom 2-3 inches only, bruised and finely chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil


• 1⁄4 cup seedless tamarind purée (available fromAsian grocers)
• 1⁄4 cup warm water
• 3 tbsp fish sauce
• 2 tbsp palm sugar, grated or finely chopped
• 2 tbsp lime juice
• 3 tbsp kecap manis (available from Asian grocers)
• 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
(place the above ingredients into a screw top jar or bowl and shake or mix to combine)

1 packet lightly fried tofu, cut into 1⁄3 inch cubes
3-4 spring onions, sliced in half lengthwise and then cut into
1 inch pieces
3⁄4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
2 stalks coriander (roots removed), chopped


2 cups bean sprouts
1 red chilli, finely sliced
2 limes, cut into 10 to 12 wedges
1⁄4 cup fresh coriander leaves

Bring a large saucepan full of water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the dried rice stick . Allow to soak for 8-12 minutes, depending on thickness, until tender. Drain in a colander and set aside. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a wok or large frypan. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chillies and stir-fry until golden and aromatic.
Add the chicken and stir-fry until cooked through. (If you also want to include prawns, stir-fry them for 3-4 minutes, until cooked, then set aside and keep warm. You can add them later, at the same time as the tofu and peanuts are tossed through.) Stir in the seasoning mixture and spring onions, bring to the boil and simmer for about 1 minute. Now add the noodles and stir through (gently, to prevent them from breaking) until they are coated with the chicken and seasoning. Finally, throw in the peanuts, tofu and coriander and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving dish (or leave in wok to serve) and sprinkle with additional peanuts and chilli. Surround the noodles with bean sprouts, place lime wedges on the side and serve immediately.