Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Summertime Tagliarini

More pasta cooked up by the wonderful Michael who no doubt is looking fwd to me finishing work at the end of this week so I can take on some of the cooking again, at least for 3 weeks or so until it all becomes impossible again! This dish is from the new Jamie Oliver ‘Cook with Jamie’, light, easy & lovely tangy tasty.

Summertime Tagliarini

115g pinenuts
juice & zest of 2 lemons
a large bunch of flat leaf parsley, half finely chopped & half whole
215ml extra virgin olive oil
150g parmesan cheese, finely grated plus extra for serving
50g pecorino cheese, freshly grated
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
500g tagliarini or tagliatelle

Smash up half of the pinenuts to a paste, then put into a big heatproof bowl with the rest of the whole pinenuts, the lemon juice & the zest, the finely chopped parsley and the olive oil. Stir & add the parmesan & pecorino. Season with freshly ground black pepper, taste & if the balance isn’t to your liking add more oil and or parmesan.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Sit the sauce bowl on top of the pan while the water’s heating up – this will take the chill out of the sauce & warm it through slightly. When the water boils, remove the bowl, add the pasta & cook accordingly to packet instructions. Drain & reserve a little of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the sauce & some of the water to loosen it up a little. Serve with extra parmesan & parsley.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fish Tagine

Michaels mid week cooking last week was this tagine from Marie Claire’s Zest. It was quite interesting, I’ve never had a potato based one before, normally I have had them served with couscous. A quick meal to knock up after work though be warned our potatoes took more like half an hour than ten minutes before soft. Also the preserved lemon as a garnish was a bit too strong for us when we got a bite so you might want to tone it down or leave it out all together.

Fish Tagine

4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
10 saffron threads
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 large potatoes, sliced into bite size pieces (about 750g)
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 small cinnamon quill
600g tick snapper fillets, cut into 4 cm chunks
1 handful flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved lemon

Heat the olive oil in a large deep based frying pan or casserole pot over medium heat. Add the onion, saffron & cumin and cook until the onion is soft & slightly caramelized. Add the potatoes, celery, tomatoes, cinnamon & 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for a further 10 minutes. When the potatoes are soft, season the fish with sea salt & add them to the stew. Simmer for a further 10 minutes then season with freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with parsley & preserved lemon & serve with warm crusty bread.

Woodstock, North Fitzroy

The other night the family were off to the movies & we needed a simple & quick bite to eat beforehand. My suggestion was Woodstock which is a family run little Italian place on Nicholson street. The menu consists entirely of pizza’s – Italian style, thin crust with lovely toppings, such as prosciutto & porcini, and it’s all in Italian too which the staff are happy to translae for you. There is always a specials board that has a couple of home made pasta’s of the day plus some fish & maybe some meat dishes. Last night for example there was roast goat, crumbed veal, calamari, garfish, a pesto filled agnoletti & a linguine marinara to name a couple of the specials. There is a limited wine list & byo is $10 corkage a bottle.

The few times I have been there, there are always crumbed, stuffed olives on the specials too & being a huge fan of these delectable morsels I always order some to start with. The rest of the family were a bit dubious but were soon won over & loved them as much as I do. I chose the marinara as I wasn’t in a pizza mood, the serve was huge, lots of pasta with a couple of mussles, a few prawns, some scallops & squid thrown into a tomato based sauce, very tasty though a bit on the salty side so beware if you're not a salt fan. There was also so much that Michael got half of mine, he ordered the agnoletti which was fantastic but in contrast to mine the serving was really quite small & definitely not enough to fill a grown man. We didn’t go for dessert as we were in a hurry so not sure what was on offer though there was a gelati bar at the counter so at the least one could expect a bowl of ice cream to finish off. All in all a great Italian place for a quick & simple feed though the prices are a bit on the highish side for such simple fair, ie pizza’s about $20 each & you do need one per person so if you can live with that give it a go.

612 Nicholson street
North Fitzroy
Ph: 9481 8122

Blueberry and Bran Muffins

Yesterday day I whipped up this batch of muffins for the weekend, I love muffins because they are so easy to throw together, no beating or electric appliances necessary so when you don’t have much time & energy they are still doable. These also sounded quite healthy felt quite justified in making them. They come from Bill Granger’s Sydney Food book. As you know I am in love with his breakfasts at the moment & aim to attempt most of them sooner rather than later.

Blueberry and Bran Muffins

30g butter
¾ cup honey
½ cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup bran cereal
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 apple, grated
2 bananas, mashed
250g blueberries
6 strawberries, halved

Preheat oven to 180c. Place butter and honey in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until slightly caramelized.

Place milk, vegetable oil & eggs in a bowl & whisk.

Place flour, baking powder, bran & cinnamon in a bowl and mix to combine. Stir apple, bananas and blueberries through flour. Add milk mixture & stir until dry ingredients are just moistened. Then fold in butter mixture until just combined being careful not to overmix.

Set out tray(s) with 12 paper liners. Spoon batter into each cup. Top each muffin with half a strawberry. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes or until the tops are golden & a skewer comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from tray & serve.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sails on the Bay, Elwood

On the weekend some girlfriends gathered together at Sails on the Bay in Elwood for a long lunch to celebrate the upcoming wedding of the lovely Megan. We had a table right by the window which was lovely, very nice looking out over the beach. The staff were very attentive though we found them to be very inflexible, any suggested menu variations we came up with were rejected totally, for example 2 of us were pregnant & really, really wanted the Seafood Melange yet being in the state we were in asked if we could swap the cold portion (all raw & on the forbidden list) for another entree. Given that this dish was $65.00 per person & the other entrees were all way under half this amount, we certainly wouldnt have been costing them any money yet they still refused, something that annoyed us a little but we moved on, made our selections & had a very enjoyable afternoon.

I started with the Antipasto selection which included Tabouleh & falafel, hummus, balsamic pumpkin, , lavosh, crumbed olives with fetta on chilli jam, pickled yellow beetroot, avacado mousse & a zuchini bread, all very good & the portions weren't too big so not too filling, I especially loved the yellow beetroot, it was beautifully sweet, I have never seen this before so wonder where you can buy it?

Next I had the crab ravioli as a main, it was served in a broth with some pickly type veggies on top - sorry cant remember exactly what they were, the dish was nice though a bit too much for a main course, the crab flavour ended up being a bit overwhelming & I think a stronger sauce/broth introducing some other flavours to the dish would have helped, someone else had this as an entree & thought it was perfect.

To finish off how could I resist the dark chocolate truffle torte,
with raspberry coulis & white chocolate sorbet, the top section was nice & light & almost moussy & of course the raspberry coulis was perfect with chocolate as berry flavours always are. The white chocolate sorbet was ok but I couldnt really taste the choc flavour in it.

All in all a nice setting to enjoy an afternoon with the girls

Sails on the Bay
15 Elwood Foreshore, Elwood
9525 6933

Breakfast Bars

This morning, still on my healthy breakfast thing I made up a batch of muesli bars from Marie Claire’s Luscious. Very easy to prepare, the flavor was delicious though mine had a bit of trouble keeping form when cut, they did keep their shape though they were very delicate & the edges crumbled, think maybe they needed to cook just that bit longer than the 30 minutes I allowed. Anyway this will be something nice Michael & I can take along to work this week.

Breakfast Bars

150g butter
175g (1/2 cup) honey
200g (2 cups) rolled oats
60g (1 cup) shredded coconut
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
200g (3/4 cup) pitted prunes, chopped
100g (2/3 cup) dried peaches, chopped
75g (1/2 cup) currants
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 170c. Line a 23 x 32 cm sandwich tin with baking paper.

Put the butter & honey in a small pan over medium heat & stir until butter has melted.

Toss the oats, coconut, baking powder & sesame seeds together in a large bowl. Add the prunes, peaches & currants & mix well. Add the warm honey mixture & eggs & stir to combine, then spoon evenly into cake tin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the mixture is cooked through & the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven & allow to cool in the pan before cutting into 12 bars.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Fresh Bircher Muesli with Stone Fruit

The other morning while up at the ungodly hour of 6.30am to water the garden in my allocated time for the weekend I thought I would be very good & gets some oats soaking for my very own bircher muesli. I’ve never made theis before so didn’t know what to expect. I always opt for richer, wicked foods when making brekky and this has never tempted me before as it seems to be so bloody healthy. The recipe I used was from Bill Granger's Bills Sydney Food - for me Bill is the King of brekky at the moment. Sorry you cant actually see the museli in the photo, just too much yummy fruit on top. For those of you who have not made or tried this before let me tell you it is scrumptious & quite filling, enough to keep one satisfied for hours. Something to make again & the fruit combo’s are of course endless to keep it interesting.

Fresh Bircher Muesli with Stone Fruit

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup apple juice
1 cup coarsely grated apple
½ cup natural yoghurt
juice of 1 lemon
½ cup sliced peaches & nectarines
¼ cup mixed berries
2 tablespoons honey

Place oats and apple juice in a bowl and soak for 1 hour, or overnight. Add grated apple, yoghurt & lemon juice to oat mixture & mix well. Spoon into serving bowls & top with fruit. Drizzle with honey.

Summer Fruitcake with lemon mascarpone cream

As well as pasta, I have been quite fond of cakes these past few months & I think if I wasn’t working I would be hard pressed not to make one very single day, now that would be a very bad thing. Luckily I am still slaving away so usually only manage to sneak one in a week. This week I had some friends coming over for lunch & had this recipe from Delicious magazine that takes advantage of the abundance of summer fruit in our shops now so I was dying to try it out. As well as berries it also used peaches, the sweetness & slight tartness of each working beautifully together. Also the almonds gave this cake so much more, I was lucky any even got baked the mixture was so irresistible. I found I had to cook it about 10 minutes or so longer than required & the end result was still a lovely moist cake full of fruity goodness and don’t skip the lemon cream, its goes really well too.

Summer Fruitcake with lemon mascarpone cream

250g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
6 eggs
½ cup (120g sour cream)
200g raw almonds
180g plain flour, sifted
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g raspberries
150g blueberries
2 small peaches, peeled & sliced
Icing sugar to dust
Lemon Mascarpone Cream
200g mascapone
150ml thickened cream
Juice & rind of 1 small lemon

Preheat oven to 180c. Grease a 24cm springform pan & line the base with baking paper.

For lemon mascarpone cream, beat ingredients in a bowl to combine. Cover & refrigerate until ready to serve.

Place butter & caster sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer & beat until light & fluffy. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Whisk in sour cream. Process almonds in a food processor until fine crumbs, then fold into the mixture with the flour & baking powder. Stir in the vanilla then pour in half the batter into the cake tin and sprinkle with half the fruit. Repeat layers of batter & fruit. Bake for 40-45 minutes (cover loosely with foil if it starts to brown), until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in center. Cool in pan for 15 minutes then place on a rack & dust with icing sugar. Serve with lemon mascarpone cream.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Baked pasta shells stuffed with spinach & ricotta

More pasta, can you believe the amount of carbs my pregnant body is craving, I am really loving the stuff & am not at all interested in meat of any kind as I used to be, I do still eat it though, you know iron, protein & all that jazz that apparently my body needs now. Anyhow this pasta dish is pretty simple yet sensational, it comes from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer. The fiddly part of stuffing I did while sitting on the couch so as not too tire myself out too quickly!

Baked pasta shells stuffed with spinach & ricotta

1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion finely, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 x 700g bottles tomato passata
700g fresh spinach (or 1kg frozen chopped spinach, thawed & thoroughly drained)
500g ricotta
2 eggs, beaten
100g parmesan
freshly grated nutmeg (or from a jar as I used)
salt & pepper
500g large pasta shells

Preheat oven to 200c.

In a very large saucepan, gently fry the garlic & onion for about 5-10 minutes until translucent. Add the passata & refill both bottles with water about 3 quarters full, giving them a good shake to mop up any tomato. This will give you about 1.2 litres water, add to the pan, bring to the boil, partially cover & simmer for about 25 minutes.

Soak the fresh spinach in some cold water to get rid of any dirt, then cook in just the water still clinging to the leaves until it has wilted down & cooked through, then drain very well, squeezing out as much extra moisture as you can, & chop roughly (use some scissors while still in colander is easiest).

Empty the ricotta into a bowl, add the eggs, then grate on about 75g of the cheese. Add the spinach when its cool, then stir it all together with the nutmeg, salt & pepper.

Cook the pasta shells in a large pan of slated boiling water, for about 5 minutes once they come back to the boil, then drain & leave til cool enough to handle. Tip into a baking dish, approx 38 x 32cm, so that they lie in a single layer, stuff each shell with approx 1 heaped teaspoon. Ladle the sauce over the pasta, grate the remaining cheese over the top & bake for 20-30 minutes until pasta is cooked & sauce hot & bubbling. Cool slightly before serving.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Chocolate Waffles (pancakes!) with cherry compote & Vanilla Yoghurt

Growing up one of my favourite breakfasts was waffles, which my Nanny made whenever we went and stayed at her place, she just made good old traditional waffles & served them with ice cream & syrup. Now that she has left us I decided it was about time I learnt how to make them myself so I got the machine off my mum & today gave them a go using a fancy recipe of Bill Granger’s from Bill’s Sydney Food. Well I had a little problem in that my machine was in German & I had no instructions so I tried it on the middle setting & heated it up good & proper, then sprayed with oil so they wouldn’t stick & dolloped on the first lot of batter. Disaster! The machine was way too hot & the mixture immediately stuck & that was it. Being a bit tired by this stage I couldn’t be bothered cleaning the machine so made my waffles pancake style, very delicious & wicked to be having such a chocolate treat for brekky & even though they weren’t as pretty as waffles I don’t think the taste was any the worse for the use of the frypan. Will get the waffle maker out again soon & try it a bit differently, if anyone has any tips on the cooking please help me! Thanks. Also I used fresh cherries as they are so delicious now, much better then frozen if you ask me.

Chocolate Waffles (pancakes!) with cherry compote & Vanilla Yoghurt

3 eggs, separated
1 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
60g unsalted butter, melted
100g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 ½ cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
Good quality dark chocolate, shaved (to serve)

Place egg yolks, milk, vanilla & melted butter in a bowl & stir until combined.

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl resting over a saucepan of boiling water & heat until chocolate has melted. Allow to cool slightly.

Sift flour, baking powder & salt into a bowl & make a well in the centre. Gradually stir in the milk mixture until the batter is smooth.

Place the egg whites in a clean dry bowl & beat until soft peaks form. Fold into the batter with a large metal spoon. Add the melted chocolate & swirl through batter.

Cook according to the waffle iron manufacturers directions!

Serve with cherry compote, vanilla yoghurt & shaved chocolate.

Cherry Compote
½ cup caster sugar
250g frozen cherries
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place sugar in a small saucepan with ½ cup water over medium heat. Stir to dissolve then boil until liquid is reduced by half. Add cherries and cinnamon & cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat & cool before spooning over waffles.

Vanilla yoghurt

1 cup natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place ingredients in a small bowl & stir until combined. Refrigerate until required.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Proper Blokes Sausage fusilli

Michael cooked me my first meal from the new Jamie Oliver book – Cook with Jamie, the cooking is part of this Christmas gift from him – brilliant idea! So of course it stands to reason that he chose a dish that was in Jamie’s words ‘blokey’. It was really yum, the fennel flavour was fantastic & it all had just the right amount of zing to lift the flavour but not burn. Here is Jamies description…

Proper Blokes Sausage fusilli

This is a real blokey, gutsy yet simple pasta dish – but saying that, girls tend to like it as well! It hasn’t really got a sauce of any description because all the flavour that comes out of the ingredients will stick to the pasta and that’s enough. I will even go so far as to say that this is one of my top ten pasta dishes! Remember to buy the best sausages you can afford – if you get cheap, dodgy sausages it just won’t work. Thanks Michael & looking fwd to more of your ever improving cooking skills!

Serves 4

2 heaped teaspoons fennel seeds
2 dried red chillies, crumbled
olive oil
600g/1lb 6oz good quality course Italian or Cumberland sausages (used Lamb and Rosemary)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
a wineglass of white wine
zest and juice of 1 lemon
500g/1lb 2oz good quality fusilli or penne
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a couple of knobs of butter
a handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf Parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Bash up the fennel seeds and chillies in a pestle and mortar or Flavour Shaker until coarsely crushed, then put to one side. Heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage skins and put into the pan, really breaking it up using the back of a spoon. Fry for a few minutes until the meat starts to color and the fat has rendered slightly, then crush it once more so it resembles coarse mince. Add the bashed-up fennel seeds and chillies and cook on a medium heat for around 10 minutes until the meat becomes crisp, golden brown and slightly caramelized.

Stir in your oregano, then pour in the white wine and allow it to reduce by half. Add the lemon zest and juice. Turn the heat down to low while you cook your pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water according to the packet instructions. When the pasta has cooked al dente, drain it in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water, and toss it in the pan with your sausage meat. Coat the pasta in all the lovely flavours then add the butter, Parmesan, chopped parsley and a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water. This will give you a lovely, shiny sauce. Taste and check for seasoning, then serve immediately with a little extra grated Parmesan sprinkled over the top.