Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Afternoon delight - banana and honey muffins

I have a trusty muffin mix that I am always re-working and changing and adding different flavours to. I used the same basic principles for the fig cakes with chai syrup. I had a couple of really ripe bananas so I thought I'd make some banana muffins and add some delicious honey from the markets.

Grab your muffin tray and spray with an oil spray or pop in cases. Pre heat oven to 200C. In a bowl add 220g self raising flour and 1/2 cup caster sugar. mix through.
In a seperate bowl add 1/2 cup of light oil, 1/4 milk, 1 egg lightly beaten, 1/4 cup plain yoghurt and 1-2 tablespoons honey. Mix to combine.
Grab 2 over-ripe bananas and slice 1/2 of one very thinly into slivers (you'll pop these on the top for decoration) mash the remaining banana and add to the flour along with the wet batter. Mix until combined. Don't overwork the mix. Spoon into muffin tray. Top with banana slices, add a sprinkle of brown sugar. Bake for 18 - 20 mins. makes 12.

A quick afternoon pick-me-up!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

food for thought - fish and chat potato chowder

You can probably tell by now that I LOVE soups. This one is my other favourite. My husband loves seafood but I don't cook a lot of fish at home. I'm just not that confident with it. Then I came across this recipe about a year ago and thought I'd give it a try. It is, without a doubt, absolutely beautiful. When you make it, just make sure that the vegetables at the beginning have been sweated down enough so that they are lovely and soft, otherwise you will crunch your way through the soup and it just wont taste as amazing. This soup is meant to melt in your mouth with the beautiful fresh fish,a dash of cream and yummy bacon and potatoes.....mmmmmmmmmmmm

The list of stuff:
olive oil
250g smoked speck, pancetta or bacon, chopped finely (I've only ever cooked this with bacon and it is very yummy)
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 baby fennel bulb, trimmed (fronds reserved) and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 and 1/2 tabelspoons plain flour
1 cup dry white wine
8 baby chat potatoes, each cut into 8 pieces
2 and 1/2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
500g skin removed, bones and bloodlines removed of Blue eye, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup pouring cream or single cream
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley

Heat oil in a large heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Cook bacon for 3-4 minutes until starting to brown. Reduce heat to low and add onion, celery, fennel and garlic, cook stirring for 4-5 mins or until vegies are soft. Add flour and stir until well combined. Pour in wine and bring to the boil then simmer over med heat for 3 mins or until liquid has reduced by half. Add the potatoes, milk and bay leaf and simmer rapidly for 12 mins over med-high heat. Stir in the fish and cream and simmer for a further 5 mins or until fish is cooked through. (make sure the fish isn't overcooked either or else it will taste like rubber) Season to taste then ladle into serving bowls and top with chopped parsley and reserved fronds. Enjoy!

Have everything chopped and ready to go, except for the fish, you can prepare this during the 12 min time frame.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

An oldie but a goodie - Lumberjack cake

My Mum came across this recipe in a Woman's Day (or something like that) in the late 80's. It was suggested in the article that Lumberjack cake was far better than any chocolate cake. Even then I thought that was a pretty big call but it's almost true. It is deliciously moist and tastes better for days after it is made. If it lasts that long, of course. I couldn't even tell you how many times I've made this cake. It was my best seller at the markets. Each month I would get more and more people asking me for this cake (my flourless chocolate came in at a close second)so it must be pretty good! This is going to sound totally disgusting but when I was in my 20's and I'd had a big night, if there was a slice of this in the fridge, I'd put it in a bowl and douse it in milk like it was cereal. One word - Heaven!

I always make this cake the day before I serve it. I think it tastes better the next day after it's been in the fridge but it's totally up to you. It tastes good straight from the oven too!

Take 125g butter out of the fridge, chop up and place in a large bowl, set aside to use later.
Chop up 200g pitted dates and 2 large delicious apples (skin and core removed and finely chopped) place in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of bicarb soda and 1 cup of boiling water. Cover and stand until warm (about 10 mins or so).
Pre-heat oven to 180C and line your cake tin with baking paper.
Beat the butter that you had put aside with 1 teaspoon vanilla essence and 1 cup raw sugar (I usually put a little less). Use an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add 1 egg, beat until combined. Stir in 1 and 1/2 cups sifted plain flour alternatively with the apple/date mix, then pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50 mins. Around the 40 min mark, get your topping ready.
In a small saucepan combine 60g butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed, 1/2 cup milk and 2/3 cup shredded coconut. (I didn't have any shredded coconut in the cupboard so I used desicated instead - It doesn't alter the flavour, just the look). Stir over a low heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Set aside until cake is out of the oven, spoon over topping carefully and bake in the oven for a 30 mins until topping is a lovely golden brown.
Enjoy on its own or with some cream. Freeze it in pieces. Keeps in the fridge for days.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Classic Afternoon Tea - buttermilk scones

The last scone!!!
When you have a few people coming over for Afternoon tea, there's nothing prettier than a batch of freshly made scones with some jam and cream in their own little bowls. There are so many different scone recipes but I have to say, these are my favourite. The buttermilk gives the scones a lovely texture and flavour. This recipe is so simple, you'll have them made and in the oven in no time. Enjoy with jam and lashings of cream, of course!

Pre-heat oven to 200C (fan forced). Place baking paper over a tray, set aside. Place 3  and 1/2 cups Self raising flour, 2 tablespoons caster sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Combine. Add 60g chopped butter and rub through with your fingers until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the mix and add 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk. Using a flat blade knife, stir until dough almost comes together. Place on a floured surface (or another piece of baking paper on the bench). Knead until dough comes together then using a rolling pin, roll out to a 3cm thickness. Then cut out rounds and place on your tray. Cook for approximately 15 - 17 mins, until golden brown on top and they sound hollow when tapped. Makes approximately 12 - 16.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Italiano! - quick minestrone soup

This is my version of minestrone soup made simple, without all the pfaffing about. It's all about the vegetables and the bacon in this dish. I don't even use garlic but I'm sure you could add a clove if you wanted to try it. It's simple ingredients, cooked simply in around 30 mins.The bacon, when cooked over a high temperature, imparts such a lovely smokiness through the soup when added near the end. Enjoy it with some crusty bread or just on it's own.

The list of stuff:
1 red onion diced
2 carrots, peeled, halved and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 potatoes, diced (peeled if needed)
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 tin diced tomatoes
1 tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 litre chicken stock
2/3 cup angel hair pasta
175g packet of bacon

Heat some oil in a large pot and add all the vegetables. Gently fry for 5 mins. Add stock, tin of tomatoes and bring to the boil. Now turn down heat and simmer for 20 mins. Add pasta and simmer for another 6 mins. Now chop your bacon, however you like and fry over a high heat in a seperate frypan, either in its own fat or in a little butter. If you are going to freeze the soup, do not add the bacon. Just add the beans and let the soup cool, then freeze. If you are serving straight away. Add the bacon and the beans to the soup and heat through for 2 minutes. Serves 4.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Autumn on a plate - Cinnamon jelly with grilled plums

I don't know about you but whenever I buy a special ingredient for a recipe I always wonder what other recipe I can use it in. Like the Muscat wine in the brownies. Other than drinking it of course I thought, maybe a jelly could work. You could use a sweet dessert wine like mosscato for example, which would give the jelly a much lighter colour and I think a more honey like taste. The muscat and the cinnamon however gave the jelly such a sweet, spicy earthiness and the grilled plum was just the icing on the cake. This is definately another one for the grown up palette.

Place 3 cinnamon sticks, 1 cup of sweet dessert wine, 1 cup of water and 1/3 cup of sugar (I used caster sugar) in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 mins. Place 1 tablespoon of gelatine in a small bowl and pour over 1/4 cup of cold water. No need to stir it, just put it aside for 5 mins. Discard the cinnamon sticks after 5 mins, take off the heat but don't turn it off. Add the gelatine mix to the cinnamon syrup and put it back over the heat. Bring it to the boil and boil for 2 mins to completely dissolve the gelatine. Pour into moulds and refridgerate for at least 3 hours or until set.

To serve: halve plums, sprinkle cut side with raw sugar and place under a hot grill on high. Keep checking them every few minutes until done. Unmould your jelly's or serve in the mould with the grilled plum half. Enjoy. This jelly has quite a strong flavour but is really delicious. You could make 6 small ones rather than 4 bigger ones.

The moulds: I really wanted to unmould the jelly but alas I wasn't liberal enough with the oil! So if you do want to unmould it onto a plate, grease up the insides of the moulds and it is probably easiest if you fill the mould to the top.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

death by chocolate is oh so sweet - fig and muscat brownies

I know, I know, another dessert with figs. I'll tell you how this came about. As I bought the rum for our hot toddy's it reminded me of my Husband's 30th birthday a few years back. I made a big batch of chocolate brownies and a big batch of rum and raison brownies for his birthday cake. I was thinking I could make them again but not everyone likes that combination. Sometimes the rum can be a bit overpowering. Then I came across this recipe and thought, "How deliciously sophisticated". You could take these to a dinner party and serve them with the muscat wine or a perfectly brewed cup of coffee; you could take these to a picnic and watch the joggers as they run past you salivating; You could even give these as a gift - the ultimate edible present! Plain brownies are for the kids;Rum and raison are for teens but these delicious morsels are definately for the grown-ups.

Chop up 100g figs (1/2 cup) finely. Place in a small bowl and pour over 60ml 1/4 cup of muscat. Stand for 20 mins.
Pre heat oven to 180C. Grease deep 19cm square cake pan; line base and sides with baking paper, extending over the sides so you can pull it out easily.
In a medium saucepan (make sure it's not too small) Stir 125g, coarsely chopped butter and 200g dark eating chocolate, chopped coarsely, over a low heat until smooth. Cool for 10 minutes. (take off the stove)
Stir through 150g (2/3 cup) caster sugar, then 2 eggs that have been beaten lightly, then 185g (1 1/4 cups)sifted plain flour, then 150g dark eating chocolate, chopped coarsely (extra), then the fig mixture into the chocolate mixture.
Bake brownies for about 30 - 35 mins. Just keep checking them that they don't burn.
Cool in pan before pulling out and cutting into pieces. Dust with sifted cocoa.
makes about 36 pieces but cut them however you like.

"If you're gonna die eating chocolate, it might as well be these".

Monday, April 19, 2010

an old friend - stuffed capsicums and zucchinis

There are many versions of this dish but this is the one that I grew up with. The red capsicums in this dish, which impart a beautiful sweetness, are traditionally served with yoghurt and the zucchinis (usually grey) are served with lemon wedges. But rules were meant to be broken! We like it with both. Enjoy!

First of all, get your saucepan out, whack in some oil and get it over a low heat. Chop up one brown onion finely and throw it in. Stir it every now and then. You want them to soften and not burn. Pre-heat your oven to 190C. Meanwhile, grab your capsicums or zucchinis or both. Take out the centre of the zucchini with a sharp knife. Cut a hole in the top of the capsicum, removing the stalk,the seeds and membranes. Set aside. When the onion is ready add 500g beef mince (or lamb mince) and cook through. Add 500g brown rice and stir through the cooked mince.Turn off heat. Add quite a bit of salt and pepper and stir through. Get your oven proof dish out and place your capsicums, standing up. Fill them (and the zucchinis if using)with the meat/rice mix. Place the remainder around the capsicums and underneath the zuccninis. Now add 2 1/2 cups cold water over the mix, ensuring that you don't put any water into the capsicums or else they will collapse when you take them out. Put on the lid or top with a double layer of foil and pop into an oven at 190C and cook for 90 mins.

After 90 mins, take off the lid or foil (don't discard) add another cup of water, this time the water should be hot. Pop the lid/foil on again and cook for a further 40 mins. Take off the lid/foil. It should be lovely and crispy. The top rice on the capsicums will not cook all the way through but they are completely edible.

Serve 1 capsicum or 2 zucchinis per person with a little extra meat/rice mix and some lemon wedges and greek yoghurt. Oh and make sure you give it all a good sprinkling with freshly grinded black pepper. This would serve 4 - 6 people.

From my family, to yours.

skinny dip - avocado, chive and lemon dip

This is a lovely little dip. You can serve it with corn chips, rice crackers, grissini or flat bread. I usually serve it like a condiment with cold meats, cheese and bread. It is so quick and easy and you can do all sorts of things with the left over yoghurt. My next post will show you one in particular.

List of stuff:
1 ripe avocado
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons plain greek yoghurt
sea salt and pepper

Process the flesh of the avocado with the garlic. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Chill. Scatter with chives just before serving. I like this dip a little chunky but it's completely up to you.

I buy avocados in packs of 4. After I've used 1 for the vegetarian burritos and 1 or 2 in salads I usually make this for something a bit different, otherwise it will go straight to the worms!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Egg free - Sticky fig pudding cake with butterscotch sauce

This is such a lovely and sweet dessert and it's egg free!. So people with the allergy, like my son, can eat as many helpings of this as they please (well, maybe not) This is something I whip up on special occaisions like this weekend. A friend from my Mother's group was throwing a Birthday Cocktail party to celebrate "turning a certain vintage". So I made one batch of this cake and used 2 smaller cake tins and wah-lah! I have one cake and half the sauce to give to her as a birthday present and the other cake I'll take to a BBQ. It's a win - win.

First thing, take out 125g butter from the fridge and leave to soften. Now pop the kettle on and finely chop 250g dried figs. Put them into a bowl and cover them with 3/4 cup boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes to soften. Now, pre-heat your oven to 170C and line a 20cm round cake pan (or 2 half sizes)with baking paper. Make sure the sides are covered too. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 2 tablespoons golden syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
until light and fluffy. Add fig mixture, 1 1/2 cups self raising flour and 1/3 cup milk. Beat to combine. Spread mixture into prepared prepared pan(s). Bake for 1 hour or about 45 -50 mins if making 2 until a skewer comes out clean.Cool in pan for 5 mins then turn out onto a wire rack to cool slightly. If you are serving the cake straight away then you'll need to start the sauce about 20 mins before the cake is ready.
Heat 300ml pure cream, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/3 golden syrup and 20g butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 mins or until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 - 15 mins or until sauce thickens. Serve. Mmmmmmmmmmm

The cake will keep covered in the fridge for up to one week. The sauce will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

easy peasy - bacon and pea pasta

I make this dish at least once a week. If we've been out and about and get home around dinner time (and the kids are going feral!) I know that I can make this in 15 minutes flat and everything will be ok again. If we have unexpected guests drop in I'll just add some chopped mushrooms or I'll add some sliced squash and zucchini that I've pre-cooked in the microwave. It's as easy as having a packet of peas in the freezer, pasta in the cupboard and a pack of bacon and parmasen in the fridge.

Grab a big pot, put in some hot water, a dash of salt and pop it over a high heat. Meanwhile chop up one brown onion and 250g bacon (or you can just use a 175g pack) When the water boils, pop in your pasta. You've now got about 12 mins to get everything cooked. Put some oil in a saucepan and let it heat over a low heat. Add the onion and bacon together and turn up the heat a little. You want the onion to soften without burning and you want the bacon to cook through. This will take about 6 - 8 minutes. Then add 1 cup of frozen peas, stir through. It will take about 4 - 6 minutes for the peas to cook through. When the pasta is ready pull it out with tongs or a pasta spoon. You want to hold onto as much moisture as possible. Place pasta in bowls, add the bacon and pea mix and then top with a really good parmasen and lots of freshly grinded black pepper. Serve.

If you want to add chopped mushrooms or the squash and zucchini chuck them in when you add the peas. I like to think of this dish as my "Get out of jail free card".

Baby it's cold outside - hot toddy

Most people would tell you that a hot toddy can cure anything. Well I don't know about that. I do know that apart from a well made cup of tea or some chickpea and leek soup, this is the next best thing! I think Bundaberg rum works best in this drink.

Splash a good dash of rum into a mug (unless you have a heat resistant glass tumbler), add 2-3 cloves and a cinnamon stick and top up with hot water. Sweeten with a little sugar or honey. It may take you a couple of goes before you get the taste right. I have to say I like just a touch of honey and not too much hot water.

Make sure the kids are in bed, you put your feet up and enjoy this with your partner as the rain tumbles down outside...."cause baby it's cold outside".

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

hola! - vegetarian burritos

This meal is so easy and so tasty. For me, the mint and the coriander make this dish and all the other elements are a bonus! I usually make this on the day I've bought all the ingredients and leave the non-perishables at room temperature. Don't be affraid of the long list of things. This is so easy and most things you'll have in the fridge anyway.

List of stuff:
8 burito tortillas (or we just use lavash wraps)
2 corn cobs (or you can use a 420g tin of corn kernals)
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, deseeded and chopped finely
1 420g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 420g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 420g can low salt diced tomatoes
1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped (I probably use less than this and I just use the small leaves so I don't need to chop)
1 avocado and 1/2 lemon, juice only
1 small butter lettuce, leaves washed and seperated
1 carrot, grated
1 lebanese cucumber, halved and sliced thinly
250g pack of light tasty cheese
1 jar of medium salsa
1 container of low fat sour cream

The prep:
Heat oil in a large frypan or pot and add onion, garlic and capsicum. Cook for about 5 mins on medium, you want them to start tos soften. Now chuck in your corn kernals, kidney beans, cannelini beans and tin of tomatoes. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occaisionaly.
Now you can get your platter ready with the lettuce, carrot and cucumber. Pop your cheese, salsa and sour cream in bowls if you like. Mash the avocado and mix through the lemon juice to taste. Pop in a bowl. When the bean mix is ready, fold through the herbs and serve. You can heat through the Lavash/tortillas if you like, it's totally up to you.

Kids LOVE this meal.They love helping themselves to what's on the table. I'm lucky that our little ones are addicted to fruit and vegetables, like I am to chocolate!

Timeless - stewed quinces

As you can tell, I'm ever so slightly obsessed with quinces. It was another delicious treat I grew up with. You could only buy quinces around Winter time so they were considered very special in our family. Now I love making them for my family. When I see them in the shops each year I just can't believe the time has flown by that quickly.

If you want enough for 4 people with no leftovers, use 2 medium quinces. Grab a pot, add to it about 2 cups of water and a cinnamon stick. Now peel your quinces, cut them into quarters and cut out the tough core (make sure you get all of the core as it doesn't taste very nice even after stewing) Throw in your quinces and about 1/2 cup of sugar. You could add 3/4 of a cup if you like, depending on how you will use the quinces. If you're just eating them as is, then more sugar would be required. Now simmer over a medium-high heat for about 40 minutes or until it's reached your desired softness. Take them off the heat before they get mushy.

Serve with some honeyed yoghurt; beautiful with vanilla icecream (make sure you add some syrup too) or pop the quinces into an ovenproof dish along with a little syrup and top with a simple crumble mix and brown in the oven or under a grill. Serve with a big dollop of cream.

I love the smell of stewed quinces. They always remind me of roses...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fennel be thy name - fennel, olive and orange salad

I've really only discovered fennel in the last year or 2. Before that, all I knew about it was that it had an aniseed flavour. Well after using it in a chowder and then having it in a salad at the wonderful restaurant, Blancmange, I was converted!
This beautiful looking salad is lovely with seafood it even dresses up a humble bbq chicken or just enjoy it on it's own. When the weather starts getting colder I always use citrus or lots of garlic or onion in my cooking. It just seems to work out that way.

Grab your platter or bowl or whatever you want to use to hold the salad. Now grab 2 fennel bulbs, (trimmed, reserving the fronds) chop into quarters and then cut very thinly. PLace on your platter. Very finely chop up 1/4 red onion and scatter over the fennel. Peel 2 oranges and slice them very thinly. Scatter them over the salad. Grab about a cup of pitted olives and throw them over the top. Now you are going to add some dressing. Drizzle over the salad: 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice; 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice; 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Garnish with the reserved fronds. Best enjoyed at room temperature.

Now that was the recipe but I used much less onion as you can see from the pic and less olives. Also I couldn't get pitted olives so cutting them was a hassle as you do want to get a bit of everything on your fork! I also used alot less extra virgin olive oil; probably about 2 tablespoons in all. And make sure that the oil you do use is a very good one, it makes all the difference.

Just go along for the ride with your tastebuds. It's 'dolce e salata' heaven!

Gluten free, egg free, nut free treat - coconut biscuits with white chocolate drizzle

I've made these biscuits for years now. I came across the recipe when I began my Cake business in 2003. I couldn't believe the number of people who would come up to me at the markets and ask if there was a cake that didn't have eggs or nuts or was gluten free. So I was always glad that I had these available for them. I would sell these individually or in a sweet cellophane bag with a chunky ribbon. I always thought they made a cute gift all wrapped up; something a bit different.

Preheat oven to 180C. Grab your slice tin and pop in some baking paper so it comes up the sides. Now get a bowl and fill it with 150g desicated coconut, 150g rice flour, 105g caster sugar (or 1/2 cup, whatever's easiest for you) and a pinch of salt. Stir well. Now get your half cup measure and your teaspoon measure. Fill the 1/2 cup with tap water and the teaspoon with Vanilla extract and add it to the mix. Stir through then transfer mix to your prepared tin, pressing in firmly, making sure it is all even. Otherwise you'll get some thin and crispy bikkies and some fat and fluffy ones. Bake for 40 mins or until edges start to brown and top is golden.
Get your wire rack and cut a piece of baking paper the same size. Put the baking paper on your bench and then the rack over the top. (You'll thank me later) After you've pulled the tin from the oven pull it out of the tin and place on your rack to cool (discarding the baking paper you cooked it in).

When it is cool, make your pieces with a sharp knife. The mix may be a little crumbly, so cut carefully. Now grab a saucepan and fill it about a 1/4 full with water. Bring it to a simmer. Now place 140g of white chocolate melts in a heatproof bowl and melt over the pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl does not touch water. Stir until smooth. Then using a teaspoon, drizzle over the biscuits.(You need to ensure that there is enough chocolate on each biscuit otherwise they will taste dry) Allow chocolate to set before serving. (about 5mins) Now all you have to wash is the rack as you can just throw out the baking paper with all the hardened chocolate. (Remember to rinse your bowl out straight away too!)

The beauty of these is that you can make them and then store them in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week! Enjoy

Mezze - green bean salad

The easiest way to feed a multitude of people, I believe, is with lovely mezze plates. And this green bean salad is the perfect way to deliver something a little different. You can serve so many delicious foods as part of a mezze - prosciutto and figs; a good sopressa with some crusty bread; some barbequed octopus and haloumi; the list really is endless. These green beans are so quick and easy and they have such a refreshing taste. Enjoy

Firstly grab a pot of water and put over a high heat. Now just cut the stalky ends of 250g of green beans. When it's boiling you want to blanch the beans and then drain them and pop them into a bowl with fresh cold water and ice. If you don't have any ice just make sure that your sink is clean and you can put them in there with cold water. When you are about to serve chop 1 clove of garlic and 2 teaspoons of flat leaf parsley. Drain your beans and put them into a bowl (not the serving bowl) and toss in the garlic and parsley along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar. Now place in your serving bowl standing up with the cut stalky end at the bottom of the bowl. Best served at room temperature. Serves 4 as part of a mezze.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A good mingle - Chickpea and leek soup

I am in L-O-V-E Love! with this soup. It's one of those meals that I pull out when someone isn't feeling well. It simply fixes you right up with it's beautifully developed flavours. Now I am just waiting for our first crop of leeks to get a little bigger so I can use them in this dish. I can't wait!!!!

In a large pot melt a knob of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil, heat gently. Meanwhile finely chop 2 - 3 leeks, (depending on their size) white part only. Finely chop 2 cloves of garlic. Throw it all in to the pot with a good dash of salt. Now let the leeks sweat very gently. You'll know when they are ready as they go lovely and translucent and they smell kinda sweet. Now chop up 2 medium sized potatoes (skin on or off - it's up to you) throw them in to the pot along with 2 tins of drained chickpeas. Heat through for a couple of minutes, allowing the flavours to get to know eachother. Then add about 1 litre of liquid chicken stock. You want to ensure everything is covered plus a little extra. Allow a good 20 minutes on high heat. The soup is ready when the potatoes and chick peas are soft. You could even leave it for 40 mins so the potatoes and chickpeas mush themselves but if you're pressed for time 20 minutes should do the trick. Grab a bamix and give it a good go. The soup should be lovely and thick.

Ladle into bowls and top with a good swirl of extra virgin olive oil, parmasan cheese and plenty of cracked black pepper. Serve with crusty bread.
Good health!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

cheesy goodness - broccoli and cauliflower canneloni

I usually make this dish after I've made pizzas so I can use up the remaining mozzarella. This is such an easy dish and I love all the elements that come together to create it. It's choc full of cheese, pasta, crispy croutons and vegetables. What more could you want?

Get out a high sided pot and throw in some oil, add a finely chopped red onion and saute over medium heat for a few minutes. Meanwhile roughly chop 1 whole broccoli and 1/2 a cauliflower (both roughly the same weight) Chuck it into the pot (You could throw in a 1/2cup of wine at this point if you like) Now throw in 2 cups of chicken stock (either the liquid type or water mixed with stock powder - it's up to you) Pop the lid on and cook rapidly for about 15 - 20 mins. (making sure all the time there is some liquid on the bottom so it doesn't burn) You just need everything soft so you can mush it up with your spoon. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper.

Grab your oven proof dish (a decent sized one) and pour in a jar of store bought pasta sauce (I've used five brothers summer basil and their mushroom one before) You can also make your own with onion, garlic and a tin of tomatoes or I've been using a jar of passata with torn basil leaves from the garden along with a good dash of salt and pepper.Grab your 250g pack of canneloni, pull out a tube and smoosh it up the side of the pot collecting the mixture inside. Do this for each one. As you fill them pop them on top of the tomato mixture. when they are all done and you still have some mix left just spread it over the top of the filled tubes. Now cover with 250g mozzarella cheese. Take an end piece of brown bread (either from the freezer or the fridge) and use your scissors to chop up some croutons. Whack them over the top and to finish off throw on some parmasen cheese. Now whack it in a 200C oven for 30 mins, until browned and the pasta is cooked.

Enjoy with a salad of rocket, cucumber and thinly sliced red capsicum with a dash of balsamic vinegar.

End of a season - Summer Strawberry Slice

You know it's the end of Summer when the price of strawberries start to rise. If you can, before this happens, when the days are still warm and only the nights remind us what is just around the corner - make this delicious slice.
There are 3 basic steps and the recipe uses very basic ingredients. It looks spectacular served for morning or afternoon tea and children love it too. It's one of those naughty but nice treats!

If you are making this dish in Summer or indeed on a warm day try and make this in the coolest part of the house, it will just make things easier. Dissolve your strawberry jelly as per packet instructions (I use Aeroplane jelly) then set aside to cool. Don't pop it in the fridge unless it is a very hot day.
Sift 1 cup of flour into a bowl and add 1/2 cup caster sugar and mix well. Rub in 60g cold butter that has been chopped. It should resemble breadcrumbs but try not to work it too much or the heat from your hands will make it stick to you. Add 1 egg that you have lightly beated. Use a spoon to mix forming a dough like consistency. Don't worry if it doesn't come together as now you will press it into a slice tin.
Grab your tin (roughly 17.5cm by 27cm)If there are no marks on your tin you can use as is but I use 2 layers of baking paper (criss cross if that makes sense) so that I can pull the whole slice out with ease. Press the dough into the tin, covering the whole bottom (using some flour on your fingers if need be) and bake at 180C for 20 mins. Take tin out and leave to cool. (This can take 30 - 40 mins)
Meanwhile wash 500grams of strawberries, take the stalks out and slice them up. I place them onto absorbant paper as I do this. When base is cool, throw on your starwberries and press down with your hands (not too hard!) then pour over your cooled jelly and chuck it in the fridge until the jelly is set. Too easy!

Makes 12 squares or 8 rectangle pieces.

If you're making this for morning tea I'd definately make it the night before. However if you were making this for afternoon tea you could start it at 9am and it would be ready to enjoy by 2pm! All you need to serve with it is a wonderful cup of tea. ahhhhh.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Childhood Memories - Chilli and Tomato

I grew up with this dish. It was something my family would make every friday. Traditionally it was served with lamb cutlets, lots of crusty bread and green beans. I serve it with lamb and green beans too but instead of the bread I do a quick cous cous with sprigs of coriander. There's nothing like making food that you grew up with - To me this is real comfort food!

This recipe is one of those that I make differently every time but generally you grab an onion and chop it roughly. Grab 3 or 4 red capsicums (I usually do 1 per person) You can use either yellow or red capsicums. Chop them up roughly, removing all the seeds and membranes. Grab a saucepan (preferably not a non-stick pan) and add about 2 tablespoons of oil. Put it on a low flame and add the capsicums and onion. Give it a stir every now and then to distribute the heat but give it a while until everything goes really, really soft. (This could take up to 40 mins or longer depending on how many capsicums you've cut) When you are satisfied that the capsicums are soft and everything has caramelised well add a teaspoon or 2 of sweet paprika, give it a stir. Then add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a little bit of water. Give it another 10 minutes or so over a medium heat. The mix should thicken up but if it's catching on the bottom of the saucepan just add a touch more water. And that's it. Simple ingredients but if cooked right - just heaven.

fruit glorious fruit - poached fruits

This is a Tobie Puttock recipe from 'Italian Local'that I have slightly tweaked but is so simple and to me the flavours are more suited to Autumn and Winter. You're more likely to have some lemons and oranges lying around in the cooler months to ward off the dreaded flu. Well I'm sure this would fix you right up. I served this on Good Friday with his Banana and ricotta fritters and some plain yoghurt and honey for drizzling. Perfect! But even just with yoghurt and honey the fruit stands out as the champion. If you've got a spare 10 minutes then you can make this dish and impress everyone with the flavour at the same time!

Grab a pot and throw in 1 litre of water; 350g of caster sugar; rind of one orange and one lemon (just use your ordinary peeler; 5 cloves; 2 cinnamon sticks and 1 vanilla bean halved lengthways. (everyone should have these ingredients in their home except for maybe the vanilla bean. Invest in a few and have them ready in the cupboard for such occaisons!)

FRUIT: You can use a combo or just one type, it's up to you. Just use between 600 - 800grams. Peel the fruit, quarter it and core it if you have the time. First time I made this I just peeled the pears and halved them and that was it. I found the core soft enough from the poaching so it was fine. It's up to you.

Bring to a medium simmer then throw in your fruit and poach for about 5 minutes. DONE! To serve: plain pancakes or crepes; icecream with toasted almonds; sponge cake and cream; yoghurt and honey.......mmmmmmmm the list is endless.

When it's cool pop the fruit and the syrup into an airtight container and keep in the fridge for a couple of days. We've enjoyed these fruits 2 days later with icecream. Delish!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

food to share - Crispy chicken with tomato and potatoes

I love a meal that you can pop down on the table and people help themselves - especially when it looks this good.It's another jamie Oliver recipe and I love that he reccomends a rocket salad simply dressed with oil and lemon juice. He's got it so right. I've made this a couple of times now and I love adjusting the flavours each time and seeing what less of this does and what more of that does. It's one of those easy recipes that allows you to do this. I'm sure you could even wrap the chicken in prosciutto or even use another herb like taragon...

Put the oven on at 200C. Pop a large pot of salted water on to boil. When it's boiling add 900grams of new potatoes. Now get onto the chicken. Grab 12 chicken thigh fillets and cut them into 3 pieces. Throw into a bowl along with olive oil (enough to coat) and salt and pepper. Give it a good mix with your hands. Put a large saucepan over a high heat. When ready throw your chicken in. Now pop the kettle on to boil. Grab 500 grams of cherry tomatoes (different colours if possible) and prick each one with a sharp knife. Chuck them into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Now get back to the chicken. Give it a good toss, you want to start the lovely caramelisation process that the oven will finish. Drain the tomatoes and pinch off the skins. Drain the potatoes and using an implement (I used the back of a spoon) push into the spuds a little; you want to leave like a thumb print and pop them back in their pot along with the tomatoes and throw in the chicken (use a slotted spoon to remove chicken) Now the next part is up to you, what you like more or less of - Add a handful of chopped oregano, a few splashes of red wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Give it a good mix, pop into an oven proof dish (don't worry if it doesn't all quite fit it just means the top bits will be yummy and crispy and the bottom bits will be lovely and soft)Chuck it in the oven and bake for 40 mins.

Serve with a rocket salad (dress with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil), crusty bread to mop up all the yummo juices and of course a large glass of white wine. Enjoy!

fool proof mix - Fig cakes with Chai syrup

I cut out this beautiful looking recipe years ago from a foodie mag and have never made it. They are called fig fudge cakes and the only thing stopping me from making them now is that one of the main ingredients is coffee. I haven't drunk coffee for a long time and am not big on coffee in desserts. So I thought I could incorporate a technique uesd in that recipe and smash it together with my fool proof muffin mix and wah-lah - my fig cakes with chai syrup - ENJOY!

Preheat oven to 200C and line a 12 cup capacity muffin tin with 12 cases or spray with an oil spray.
Take out the stalk of 6 dried figs and cut them in half. Place in a small saucepan with 12 cardamon pods; 12 cloves; 6 grams of fresh ginger, sliced; 2 cinnamon sticks and 1 & 1/4 cup of water. Place a tea bag in the mix and put on a full heat. Set the timer for 10 mins. When it starts to boil take out tea bag and reduce heat to half. Take out figs and set aside to cool. Set timer for another 5 minutes and reduce heat to lowest setting. Once ready strain and set aside.

Meanwhile measure out 220g Self raising flour and 1/2 cup caster sugar. In a seperate bowl add one egg, 1/2 cup plain yoghurt, 1/4 cup plain milk or soy and 1/2 cup of oil (I use a light olive oil)Give this a mix through with a fork then add to the dry ingredients and mix very lightly until just combined otherwise you'll get very tough muffins. Put spoonfuls in the muffin tin and top each one with a half fig. Place in the oven and set timer for 20 mins (checking around the 15 - 18 min mark in case they are cooking too quickly) When ready take out of the oven and pour the chai syrup over each individual cake while hot or if serving as a dessert you could serve with thick cream and drizzle over sryup. MMmmmmmmm delishioso-moso. I've had 2 allready!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Come to Mama - parsnip and pancetta pasta

I LOVE a good pasta dish. I hadn't tried this one before but I liked the idea of parsnips and rosemary with pancetta. It was a cold evening, why not give it a go I thought.

To a pot of salted water add your pasta. Now get everything else ready!
Grab a large saucepan and add 2 knobs of butter (you need an amount that you are comfortable with plus a little extra) Put it on a medium heat. When ready throw in 12 slices of pancetta torn apart along with about about a handful of fresh rosemary leaves(I added a bit less than this to be certain the flavour wouldn't take over but really I could have added more) heat through until fragrant and pancetta starting to crisp. Then throw in 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped and 2 medium parsnips that have been peeled and cut in half lengthways and then finely chopped lengthways. Give it another few minutes until the parsnip has softened. Strain your pasta then throw it into the saucepan and add some more butter (I think I slightly overdid it which you maybe able to tell by the pic but it was YUMMO) and add approx 2-3 cups of fresh parmasan (I did a mix of parmagiano regiano and parmasan)

served 2 adults and 2 kids and hubby had some leftovers for lunch the next day.

Thanks Jamie Oliver. This recipe is from 'Happy Days with the naked chef'