Thursday, May 31, 2007

Iced Spice Fingers

Today Rach was coming over for a nice early (11am) visit with Ethan so I thought I would whip up a batch up bickies for morning tea, biscuits are my craze at the moment & there will be a few more coming up soon. I don’t think starting at 7.30am on baking is a good idea as I must have been half asleep, they were nearly a disaster but somehow managed to turn out very nice indeed in the end by some miracle. Do you like the nice fluorescent shade of pink I managed to attain? Firstly after stage one I ran upstairs to do my morning exercise, bike & some sit ups (still trying to regain pre pregnancy bod) & 5 minutes in remembered that I forgot to add the egg & vanilla so ran down, took the mix out of the fridge & added them in completely the wrong order, it was so tough to stir these in that I actually broke my wooden spoon in half. After my exercise session I then realized that I forgot to preheat my oven but went ahead without waiting as I only had so much of a window while the little Miss was asleep. Next I made the icing with 2 tablespoons instead of teaspoons of flour & was worried that this would lend a floury flavour but no taste of flour at all. I guess the lesson is that even when it looks like you might have to bin the mix all can still turn out & exact measurements or following of the recipe is not really necessary even in the more unforgiving world of baking where I thought that precision was always the key!

Iced Spice Fingers

180g butter
100g brown sugar
265g (3/4 cup) golden syrup
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
450g plain flour
75g self raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarb of soda
3 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon & mixed spice
½ teaspoon ground cloves

240g (1 ½ cups) icing sugar
2 teaspoon plain flour
1 egg white
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 170c. Combine butter, sugar & golden syrup in a saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved and butter melted. Cool for 10 minutes, then stir through egg & vanilla.

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, pour over golden syrup mixture & stir to combine. Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface & knead until combined. Wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Using your hands, roll tablespoons of the mixture into 6cm lengths. Place onto baking paper lined oven trays & press lightly to flatten. Bake for 12 minutes or until browned. Cool on a wire rack.

For the icing, sift together sugar & flour. In a bowl lightly whisk egg white until foamy, gradually stir in icing sugar mixture, then add lemon juice & mix to combine. Halve icing, add a few drops of pink colouring to half & stir to combine. Spread icing over biscuits and stand until set.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Gingerlee, East Brunsiwck

Sunday morning Michael & I took Chloe for an early morning walk to check out Gingerlee, a new café on Lygon street in East Brunswick. The breakfast menu had a few items on it with quite a Middle Eastern feel, it was quite interesting offering dishes from toasted apricot & walnut bread, poached eggs with slow braised field mushrooms, Persian feta, avocado & lemon to the home made baked bean tagine that Michael had & the Syrian style French toast, orange blossom syrup, honey labne, stewed rhubarb & pistachios that I ordered. Mine was sensational, I could have eaten 2 plates full, the toast on first impressions could have been too sweet but as soon as you team it with the yoghurt it was perfect, as I said, absolutely luscious & nice to have something different to the usual suspects that appear on most breakfast menus. Michael enjoyed his beans though not as much as I did my dish, he said there was a flavour in there (couldn’t name it) that didn’t quite sit right with him, it did look good though especially when they brought it out in the tagine, lid & all before uncovering at the table. All in all another great addition to this strip. Also I would like to note that on the way home I stopped at Sugardough for some bread & noticed they now sell bomboloni too, custard, jam, apricot jam & chocolate flavoured & I’ pleased to say that after tasting the custard filled variety it is even better than Dench’s – in my opinion only of course – I love this bakery.

Ph: +613 9380 4430
Fax: +613 9380 4436
117 Lygon Street
East Brunswick

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Mushroom Pizzetta

Friday nights used to be take away night in our house until I turned into a stay at home mum, now I usually cook for 2 reasons, a) as you know I love it and b) – a bad pizza a couple of months ago put me off take away. As Michael used to love take away night & the most common food was pizza I decided to make my own using this unusual recipe from Delicious provided by Jamie Oliver. The pancetta is actually chopped up & forms part of the base which I haven’t seen before. You couldn’t really taste pancetta itself though I do think the dough definitely was improved by this, it was salty (not too much) and the overall flavour was enhanced, of course you could just put it in top! One tip, make sure the oven is really, really hot before you put the pizza in or the base will not crisp up, mine was a bit on the soft side but I know for next time to just pump the oven right up. In the end I would much rather eat this than a take away & it really wasn’t all that difficult or time consuming either.

Mushroom Pizzetta

1 garlic clove
A sprig of fresh thyme, leaves picked
Extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls (200g) mixed mushrooms, wiped & sliced thinly
250g Taleggio cheese, thinly sliced
A few handfuls of rocket

Pizza Dough
100g sliced pancetta
500g plain flour
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp (10g) dried yeast

For the dough, pulse the pancetta in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the flour & pulse to combine. Add 350ml lukewarm water, sugar & yeast in that order & stand for 10-15 minutes until the yeast starts to foam. Pulse once again to mix, then cover the feed tube of the processor & leave the dough to prove for 20-30 minutes until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220c. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Bash the garlic, thyme and a pinch of salt in a pestle & mortar. Stir in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

Pulse the dough gently in the food processor to break up a little. On a floured surface, knead the dough briefly until smooth. Cut the dough into 6 or 8 small lumps or 2 big ones, using a rolling pin, roll out into circles & place on the baking trays. Brush with the garlic & thyme oil, scatter with the sliced mushrooms & top with the cheese. Drizzle with more garlic oil, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper & bake for 15-20 minutes until the bases are puffed & cooked through. Toss the rocket in a little olive oil & the lemon juice & scatter over the top of the pizza before serving.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Chocolate & Coconut Budino

This recipe was by Tobie Puttock from a recent Delicious magazine. A Budino is an Italian version of a self-saucing pudding. One tip that you probably don’t need, never attempt to make a self saucing pudding in a spring form tin, when you pour over the boiling water, it will leak straight out the bottom & you will have a big mess! Despite this minor disaster I managed to save the pudding by pouring extra water on top, banging it in the oven on a tray & crossing my fingers hoping for the best. The result was pretty darn good, I loved the addition of coconut for a bit of a change to your plain old chocolate pudding. I served it with some home made vanilla bean ice cream, yum.

Chocolate & Coconut Budino

1 cup (150g) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder plus 2 tablespoons extra for topping
¼ cup (20g) desiccated coconut
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
40g unsalted butter, melted
½ cup (125ml) milk
1 egg
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
1 firmly packed cup (200g) brown sugar
halved strawberries & crème fraiche or ice cream or whatever takes your fancy to serve

Preheat oven to 175c & grease a 24cm non-stick metal pie or ceramic dish. Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa & a pinch of salt into a large bowl, then stir in the coconut and caster sugar. In a separate bowl, combine the melted butter, milk, egg and vanilla seeds with a wooden spoon, then mix with the dry ingredients. Pour the mixture into the dish & set aside for a minute. Combine the extra cocoa powder & brown sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle the mixture over the pudding, then carefully pour 1 cup boiling water over the top. Bake in the oven until the centre has puffed & the pudding feels firm – this should take about 30 minutes (If you’re using a ceramic dish it will take about 40-45 minutes).

Serve immediately with strawberries & ice-cream or whatever takes your fancy! Serves 4-6

Soft Polenta with Wine Lamb

This week my new experience for my mum & dad was polenta which they again had never tried before. I used this recipe from Marie Claire’s Cooking, which had parmesan, butter & mascarpone added to it to provide an irresistible, creamy & cheesy polenta. This topped with the gorgeous lamb cutlets & rich red wine & quince sauce was a match well made & they were very impressed so I’m happy to have turned them on to another exciting food staple.

Soft Polenta with Wine Lamb

4 cups hot water
1 ¼ cups polenta
sea salt & pepper
65g butter
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup mascarpone
cracked black pepper
8 lamb cutlets
½ cup red wine
½ cup beef stock
2 tablespoons quince paste

To cook polenta, place water in a heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Allow water to come to a slow simmer. Slowly pour polenta into water while whisking to combine. Reduce heat to as low as possible. Stir polenta occasionally with a wooden spoon for 40-45 minutes. Polenta is cooked when it comes away from the sides of the pan. Stir salt, pepper, butter, parmesan, mascarpone & extra pepper through polenta & keep warm.

Place a frying pan over high heat, add cutlets & cook for 2 minutes on each side or until they are cooked medium. Remove from pan & keep warm. Add wine, stock & quince paste to pan & simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened.

Serve lamb on polenta with sauce spooned over. Serves 4.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Fresh Tomato Pasta

I picked up some fresh organic tomatoes from my local health food shop this week to make this fabulous pasta dish, Using the finest ingredients means the sauce doesn’t even need cooking, the hot spaghetti is enough to heat it through a little. The recipe comes from Bill Granger’s Sydney Food & is superb.

Fresh Tomato Pasta

1kg vine ripened tomatoes
1 tablespoon sea salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
juice & zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
300g spaghetti
1 cup lightly packed basil leaves, torn

To serve
Parmigiano Reggiano

Score a cross in the base of each tomato. Place tomatoes in a large bowl & pour boiling water over them. Drain after 10 seconds, then peel the skin away from the cross. Halve the tomatoes, and press halves to squeeze out seeds & excess juice. Chop tomato flesh roughly, place in a sieve over a bowl & sprinkle with sea salt. Leave to drain for half an hour.

Place drained tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice & zest, garlic, chilli and pepper in a bowl & stir. Leave for 20 minutes, for flavours to combine.

Cook the spaghetti in rapidly boiling salted water according to packet instructions. Drain well. Toss through tomatoes with freshly torn basil leaves, and serve with freshly shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. Serves 4.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Caponata (Sicilian Eggplant Stew)

Since my mum started growing eggplants & doesn’t really use that many herself, I am always on the lookout for new ways to cook them. This is a lovely recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Italy, he says it can be eaten as a cold starter or a warm side, we served it along side some meat & mash. I also tried out the leftovers from the fridge cold as suggested but I think the lovely warm wintery flavours are lost & I will continue to heat it up to eat nice & hot. The eggplant is lovely & creamy & as always the tomatoes are lovely with it. The olives, capers & vinegar all blend in nicely to give it a slightly sour flavour which is nice for something a bit different.

Caponata (Sicilian Eggplant Stew)

Olive oil
2 nice large purple eggplants, cut into large chunks
1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, peeled & finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely sliced
a small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves picked & stalks finely chopped
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, soaked & drained
a handful of green olives, stones removed
2-3 tablespoons herb vinegar
5 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
optional: 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, lightly toasted

In a large frying pan, pour in a couple of glugs of olive oil & place over heat. Add the eggplant & oregano, season with a little salt & toss around so the eggplant is evenly coated with oil. Cook on high heat for about 4-5 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now & then. When the eggplant is nice & golden all over, add the onion, garlic & parsley stalks & continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Feel free to add a little more oil to the pan if it’s getting too dry. Throw in the drained capers and the olives & drizzle over the vinegar. When all the vinegar has evaporated, add the tomatoes & simmer for about 15 minutes or until tender. Taste before serving & season if needed with salt & pepper & a little more vinegar. Drizzle with some good olive oil & serve sprinkled with the chopped parsley leaves & almonds if you like.

Banana, Cherry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Here is another delicious concoction from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a domestic Goddess’. They are called cupcakes yet I think they are more of a muffin, in my thinking a muffin is a heavier stir everything together job whereas cupcakes are more like mini cakes, light , airy & made with lots of creaming of butter & sugar & so forth. Here is another opinion on the matter which seems to be in line with my thinking, what is your definition?

Banana, Cherry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

125g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas
60ml (4 tablespoons) sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
300g plain flour
40g dried cherries, chopped
50g white chocolate, chopped or buttons
12 bun muffin tin with paper cases

Preheat the oven to 180c. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then, off the heat, add the sugar, vanilla and soft bananas, mashing them with a fork in the pan. Stir in the sour cream & the eggs and – still using your fork or a wooden spoon if you prefer – beat to mix. Add the bicarb & the baking powder, & stir in as well, then finally stir in the flour, cherries and chocolate. When the mixtures just blended, divide between the 12 muffin cases & cook for 20 minutes or until golden & springy on top. Remove the cupcakes in their papers to a wire rack & leave till cool. Makes 12.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Salmon fillet wrapped in prosciutto with herby lentils, spinach & yoghurt

Here is a simple dinner for when you’ve been running around all day & don’t have much energy left, it comes from Jamie Oliver’s Return of the Naked Chef. The prosciutto gives the salmon a lovely salty kick.

Salmon fillet wrapped in prosciutto with herby lentils, spinach & yoghurt

255g lentils
4 x 225g salmon fillets, skinned & pin-boned
salt & freshly ground black pepper
8 slices of prosciutto
olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 good handfuls of mixed herbs (parsley, basil, mint), chopped
3 large handfuls of spinach, chopped
200ml natural yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 220c. Put the lentils into a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil & simmer until tender. Season the salmon fillets with a little pepper before wrapping them in the prosciutto slices. Leave some of the flesh exposed. Drizzle with olive oil & roast in the oven for around 10 minutes until the prosciutto is golden. Drain away most of the water away from the lentils & season carefully with salt, pepper, the lemon juice and 4 good lugs of olive oil. Just before serving, stir the herbs & spinach into the lentils on a high heat, until wilted. Place on to plates with the salmon & finish with a drizzle of lightly seasoned yoghurt.

Hot Strawberry Soufflés

Just look at these amazing, puffed up ramekins full of light and airy, fruity goodness. This is the first time I have made or eaten a soufflé other than the chocolate variety so I didn’t know what to expect, the recipe is from an old issue of Australian Table Magazine & was this weeks ‘low fat’ dessert offering for my parents. I served it with some amazing home made vanilla bean ice-cream which I whipped up in my fabulous new ice-cream machine that they bought me for my birthday (stay tuned for ice-cream recipes coming up!). I was quite surprised at how airy & light the end result was, in my experience chocolate soufflés seem much heavier & cakier even though they are still light, in fact it’s been a while since I’ve had one so I better make some again soon & compare the difference. The strawberry ones were nice for a change & good to know they are low fat however my pick would always be the heavenly gooey choc variety.

Hot Strawberry Soufflés

150g frozen strawberries, thawed
1/3 cup (75g) sugar
2 teaspoons kirsch, orange flavoured liqueur or brandy
juice of half an orange
4 egg whites
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 220c. Grease 4 x ¾ cup ovenproof soufflé dishes. Place strawberries in a bowl with sugar, liqueur and orange juice. Crush lightly with a fork. Set aside.

Whisk egg whites until form but not dry. Stir a spoonful into strawberry mixture. Fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon into prepared dishes & level tops with a metal spatula.

Place in oven & immediately reduce oven temp to 190c. Bake for 10 minutes, until well risen. Dust with sifted icing sugar & place on heated plates. Serve with cream or ice cream.

Chicken Tagine with Green Olives & Preserved Lemon

Every week my mum comes over to my place for a day to spend time with Chloe & to help me out. To thank her for her help I cook up a big dinner for both my mum & my dad & I try to cook up dishes that they have never tried & would not try without my prodding. This week was the fancy sounding tagine which is really quite simple, I served it with couscous, another ingredient they have never tried. This recipe is from Gourmet Traveller & was a big hit, I loved it as I usually love all tagines & surprisingly my parents both loved it too, even the couscous which they thought they would hate. Next week polenta has been requested so I hope they love that just as much.

Chicken Tagine with Green Olives & Preserved Lemon

2 tablespoons Ghee
6 chicken marylands, thighs & drumsticks separated
2 large onions, coarsely grated
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon (firmly packed) saffron threads
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 black peppercorns
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 stick of cinnamon
2 cups chicken stock
50gm preserved lemon (about 3 pieces), flesh discarded & rind thinly sliced
150g queen green olives (about 12) pitted
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped coriander
Couscous & crusty bread to serve

Heat ghee in a tagine or heavy based casserole, add chicken pieces & cook over high heat, turning, until golden. Then add onion, garlic & spices, and cook over medium heat, stirring to coat chicken pieces for 3 minutes or until fragrant. Add stock & 1 ½ cups water, turning chicken pieces once during cooking, for 40 minutes or until chicken is tender & meat almost falling off the bone.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to an oven tray & discard cinnamon. Bring sauce to a boil, and simmer for 12 minutes or until reduced by a quarter. Return chicken to pan, add preserved lemon, olives & herbs, and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes or until chicken is heated through, then season to taste with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper. Serve with couscous & crusty flat bread.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Passionfruit Yo-Yo’s with White Chocolate Ganache

Here is a delicious recipe for Yo-Yo’s from a recent Gourmet Traveller, I think it was thier passionfruit special. Passionfruits are going for $1.50 a pop now so I used the tin of passionfruit pulp in syrup you can but from the supermarket instead, seemed to do the job without a problem & much less fiddly then pulping & processing too.

Passionfruit Yo-Yo’s with White Chocolate Ganache

Makes about 24 biscuits

180gm butter, softened
90g pure icing sugar
80ml (1/3 cup) passionfruit juice
225g (1 ½ cups) plain flour
100g (2/3 cup) cornflour

90ml pouring cream
45ml passionfruit juice
2 pieces of lemon rind, removed with a peeler
180g white chocolate, finely chopped

For Ganache, combine, cream, juice & rind in a saucepan and bring just to the boil over medium-high heat. Place chocolate in a bowl, strain over hot cream mixture, whisk until smooth & refrigerate for 4 hours or until thick.

Beat butter & sugar in an electric mixer until light & fluffy, add juice & combine. Add flours & mix until just combined, then turn onto a floured surface, form into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180c. Roll out pastry to 8mm thick & using a 3cm diameter cutter, cut rounds from pastry & place on baking paper lined oven trays. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until just golden, cool on trays for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spread half the biscuits with a teaspoon of Ganache, sandwich with remaining biscuits & stand until set. Uniced yo-yo’s will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

Note: To make your own passionfruit juice, blend passionfruit pulp in a food processor to crack seeds, then strain through a fine sieve. 12 passionfruits yield about 1 cup of juice.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


This week’s soup is a classic Italian dish, Ribollita from the river Café Cook Book (Blue), I’ve never made or eaten this before so was looking forward to seeing what it is like. Note that I couldn’t find any Cavolo Nero & don’t know if you can even buy it here at all, so according to the book I have substituted with silverbeet but I am no longer authentic.
Also I used beans in a can so you can see I am a real cheat, sorry but I just cant be bothered with all of that soaking when the tins taste pretty good to me & can cater to my sometimes lazy streak. I halved the quantities & still got 6 good sized servings jam packed full of veggies – I left mine quite thick with not much liquid at all. Oh and one other thing, you will need a bloody big pot even if making only a half serve! In the end you have a good hearty soup for a cold Winters night, the silverbeet gives it a particular earthy flavour & the bread a nice and unusual texture.


Serves 10

250g cannellini or borlotti beans, soaked overnight with 2 tablespoons of bicarb of soda (or use a tin & cheat as I did)
1 large tomato
½ bulb garlic
a handful of fresh sage leaves

1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
2 whole heads celery, chopped
450g carrots, peeled & chopped
4 medium red onions, peeled & chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 x 800g tin peeled plum tomatoes, drained of their juices
2kg cavolo nero, stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped (or sub with swiss chard/silverbeet, savoy cabbage, kale, broccoli or rape leaves)
2 loaves stale ciabatta bread, crusts removed, sliced or torn
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Drain the beans well (and rinse if from a tin), place in a saucepan, cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then drain again. Pour in enough fresh water to cover by about 5cm, then add the tomato, garlic bulb & sage. Return to the boil & simmer, covered, occasionally removing any scum that comes to the surface, until tender, which can very from 40 minutes to 1 ½ hours (or considerably less if from a tin). Keep the beans in the water they’re cooked in.

In a large saucepan fry the parsley leaves, garlic, celery, carrot and onion in the oil for about 30 minutes until the flavours combine. Add the tomatoes & continue to cook on a gentle heat for a further 30 minutes, then add the cavolo nero and half the cannellini beans with enough of their liquid to cover. Simmer for 30 minutes.

In a food processor, puree the remaining beans and return to the soup with just enough boiling water to make the soup liquid. Add the bread, a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil, and season well with salt & pepper. As exact amounts are not possible, you must balance the amount of liquid to bread so that the soup is very thick.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Italian Sausages with Lentils

What to do with leftover uncooked sausages from the Barbie when you’re not a snag fan? Flicking through my books I have earmarked a few recipes using snags so hopefully they will work well & be a bit more inspiring than plain old bangers & mash. The first is from Nigella Lawson, Nigella Bites. This was my first Nigella book & funnily the one I have cooked the least from for no particular reason, I am making a mental note to pick it up a bit more often in the next few months. Apparently this dish is what Italians serve traditionally on New Years Day, the lentils symbolizing prosperity that is hoped for the coming year. Of course my sausages are not Italian but beef & red wine flavoured which seemed to do the job just fine. A lovely dish though a word of warning, I halved the recipe for 2 & there were still way too many lentils & I also did the full measurements for the gravy & felt there wasn’t enough so I would actually double that next time. Other than that, the gravy was rich & delicious & it all went together perfectly.

Italian Sausages with Lentils

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
sprinkling of salt
500g puy lentils
1 fat clove of garlic, squashed with the side of a knife, & skin removed
8 Italian sausages
100ml red wine
50ml water
flat leaf parsley

To cook the lentils, put 2-3 tablespoons of the oil into a good sized saucepan (and one which has a lid that fits) on the heat & when it’s warm add the chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt (which helps prevents it browning) and cook over low to medium heat till soft (about 5 minutes). Add the lentils, stir well & then generously cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then cover & let simmer gently for half an hour or so until cooked & most, if not all, the liquid’s absorbed.

When the lentils are nearly ready, put a heavy based frying pan on the stove, cover with a film of oil & add the bruised garlic. Cook for a few minutes then add & brown the sausages. When the sausages are brown on both sides, throw in the wine & the water & let bubble up. Cover the pan, with a lid or foil & cook for about 15 minutes. Using a fork, mash the now soft garlic into the sauce & taste for seasoning, add more water if too strong.

Remove the lentils to a shallow bowl, top with sausages & pour over the garlicky, winey gravy. Sprinkle with parsley. Serves 4.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Caramelised Pecan Tart

For Mothers day I made a couple of cakes to take along for the family lunch. One was a black forest cake which tasted great but was a bit of a disaster in that the top sort of fell apart so I wont be giving that recipe. The second offering was this pecan pie at my mum’s request. She had recently tried making one which didn’t quite work out so this was another recipe, this one from a recent Delicious Magazine, the original recipe also came with bourbon ice cream which I have skipped. Also I used normal everyday supermarket caster sugar as I have no idea what ‘golden’ caster sugar is. It was really very yummy & my mother has also approved, sorry about the crap photo taken very hurriedly on the paper plate before scoffing!

Caramelised Pecan Tart

225g plain flour, sifted
150g chilled unsalted butter, cubed, plus 120g for the filling
300g pecan halves, broken into pieces
150g runny honey
100ml thickened cream
2 tablespoons (40ml) bourbon or whiskey
5 egg yolks
150g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg

For pastry, combine flour with a pinch of salt. Use your fingertips to rub in cubed butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (or whiz in a food processor). Add 2 tablespoon of iced water & stir with a knife (or whiz again) until pastry forms a ball. Knead briefly on a lightly floured surface until smooth, then roll out & use to line a 24cm loose bottomed tart pan. Prick base with a fork & chill for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200c. Line pastry with baking paper & fill with pastry weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove paper & weights. Bake for a further 5 minutes or until pastry is a pale biscuit color.

Remove pastry case from oven & reduce oven temp to 190c. Spread nuts on a tray & toast for 5-6 minutes. Meanwhile warm honey, butter, cream & bourbon over low heat until butter melts. Beat yolks in a bowl, then stir in honey mixture, nuts, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg & a pinch of salt. Pour filling into pastry & bake for 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Kluski Soup - A childhood favourite

When my mum came over this week she made some Kluski soup, this is a Polish recipe that my Grandma used to make for us all of the time, I love it & it’s really very simple so I really should make it myself sometime too, I sometimes forget about the simple things in life in my quest to try out so many new foods & recipes. Kluski are basically Polish dumplings that are added to chicken noodle soup. We cheat & use a packet mix, of course if you make home made chicken stock it is so much the nicer for it.
So thanks Mum & Happy Mothers Day for yesterday!

Kluski Soup

2 packets of Continental Chicken Noodle Soup (Not the low salt one)
2-3 large carrots
3-4 potatoes
2 eggs

Make the soup to packet instructions & add some chopped carrots. When the carrots start to soften add the peeled & chopped potatoes. As this is cooking, make your kluski, in a mug beat the 2 eggs lightly, add enough flour & stir until you have a thick dough, it needs to not be runny but still be able to be stirred. When the potatoes are nearly done, drop teaspoons of the dough into the soup & cook for a couple more minutes until the dumplings are just cooked through. Serve immediately.

Ginger & Orange Syrup Pudding

This is an old recipe from the July 2003 Australian Table Magazine that I found waiting to be tried out. I have been trying to find some low fat desserts to make instead of my usual preference for fat & sugar laden heavenly concoctions! This is mainly for the sake of my parents who I am cooking for & are supposed to be getting their cholesterol down on Doctors orders. This recipe is low fat & doesn’t have much sugar in it & is actually quite tasty, my mum & dad were quite happy with it. I must say the Golden syrup does work wonders for what would otherwise be quite plain, serve with a good scoop of ice cream (low fat or not) to complete the pudding.

Ginger & Orange Syrup Pudding

Cooking Spray
160ml (2/3 cup) golden syrup
110g (3/4 cup) self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
grated rind of 1 orange, plus extra zested rind, to serve
2 tablespoons caster sugar
50g reduced fat canola margarine
1 egg
80ml (1/3 cup) skim milk
reduced fat ice cream (optional) to serve

Preheat oven to 180c. Grease 2 x 2 cup capacity ramekins with cooking spray.

Pour golden syrup into bases of prepared ramekins. Set aside.

Sift flour & ginger into a large bowl. Add grated orange rind, sugar & margarine & rub together with your fingertips until a crumb forms. In a separate bowl, beat together egg & milk with a fork, then pour into crumb mixture & stir until well combined. Spoon mixture over golden syrup in ramekins & bake in oven for 20 minutes or until cooked & golden.

Scoop ½ pudding out of ramekins, place in bowls & top with extra rind. Serve with ice cream if desired. Serves 4.

Slow Cooked Shoulder of Lamb with Roasted Vegetables & Shepherd’s Pie

Yesterday I made this slow cooked roast from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Dinners & turned it into a pie as suggested. The aroma in the kitchen all afternoon, not too mention the lovely warmth filling the house was wonderful. When it came out of the oven though I was a little disappointed to find that even after 4 hours my lamb was a little tough & wasn’t the greatest cut of meat – may have to rethink my butcher. Apart from that, the flavours were wonderful & the roasted veggies had that sweet, garlicky flavour from all of the juices, much nicer than the traditional mince meat, bland shepherd’s pie of old.

Slow Cooked Shoulder of Lamb with Roasted Vegetables & Shepherd’s Pie

1 x 2.25kg shoulder of lamb, bone in
olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 whole bulb of garlic, broken into cloves
a handful of fresh rosemary sprigs
2 red onions, peeled & quartered
3 carrots, peeled & roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery, cut into pieces
1 large leek or 2-3 baby leeks, trimmed & cut into pieces
a handful of ripe tomatoes, halved
2 bay leaves
a handful of fresh thyme sprigs
2 x 400g tins of good quality plum tomatoes
1 bottle of red wine
Potatoes (For Mashing)

Preheat oven to 200c. Rub the lamb with oil, salt & pepper & put it into a roasting tray. Using a sharp knife, make small incisions all over the lamb & poke rosemary leaves & some quartered cloves of garlic into each one. Add the rest of the garlic cloves, the onions, carrots, celery, leeks and fresh tomatoes to the tray, then tuck the remaining herbs under the meat. Pour the tinned tomatoes over the top, followed by the wine. Cover the tray tightly with a double layer of foil & put it into the oven. Turn down the oven to 170c & cook for 3 ½ to 4 hours, until the lamb is soft, melting & sticky & you can pull it apart with a fork. Gently break up the meat, pull out the bones & extract any herby stalks. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins & mush it in. Shred the lamb, and check the seasoning.

To turn this into a shepherd’s pie, transfer the lamb & veggies to a casserole dish, cover with mash potato, add a sprig of rosemary & bake in the oven at 200c for 35 minutes until golden.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Spring Minestrone with Pesto

This weeks soup is Jamie Oliver’s Spring Minestrone from Jamie’s Kitchen – I’m sure he would forgive me for making this in Autumn! The pesto on top is a nice touch which boosts the flavour wonderfully. As you can see from the photo it is not the most photogenic of soups but it is packed full of fresh healthy veggies & I think I can safely say I have now filled my fiber content for the week!

Spring Minestrone

6 heaped tablespoons fresh pesto (see recipe below)
1.5 litres chicken, ham or vegetable stock
1 bulb fennel
100g fine asparagus
2 Romanesco or 1 large cauliflower
6 baby courgettes
6 plum tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
100g green beans, finely sliced
100g yellow beans, finely sliced
100g peas, podded
100g broad beans, podded
100g spaghetti, broken up (or other small soup pasta)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 small handful of green or purple basil
1 small handful chives

Bring a pot of stock to the boil. Then prepare all of the vegetables & put to the side. The fennel has to be halved, sliced & finely chopped, the asparagus needs to have the woody ends removed, the stalks finely sliced & the tips left whole, the cauliflowers need to be divided into small florets, the courgettes need to be quartered lengthways & finely chopped & finely the tomatoes need to be blanched. Cut them in half, remove the pips & finely slice.

In a casserole type pan (quite wide but not very deep) put 5 tablespoons of olive oil & heat the pan on medium heat. Add the garlic, spring onions & fennel & gently fry without coloring at all for about 15 minutes. Then add the rest of your prepared vegetables, the pasta & your boiling stock. Bring to the boil, simmer for about 10 minutes, season & serve in big bowls with a dollop of fresh pesto in the middle & a sprinkling of chopped basil & chives & a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


¼ clove of garlic, chopped
3 good handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked & chopped
1 handful of pinenuts, very lightly toasted
1 good handful of grated parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
optional: small squeeze of lemon juice

Pound the garlic with a little pinch of salt & the basil leaves in a pestle & mortar: or pulse in a food processor. Add a bit more garlic if you like. Add the pinenuts to them mixture & pound again. Turn out into a bowl & add half the parmesan. Stir gently & add olive oil – you need just enough to bind the sauce to get it to an oozy consistency.

Season to taste, then add the rest of the cheese. Pour in some more oil & taste again. Keep adding a bit more cheese or oil until you are happy with the taste & consistency. It may need a squeeze of lemon juice at the end but it’s not essential.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Marinated Chicken

Here is a tasty marinade for chicken which I used on some chicken thigh fillets for my birthday bash on the weekend. The chicken was lovely, tender & the blend of sweet tangy marinade flavours plus Michael’s superb char grilling powers made this great for any Barbie. Note the recipe from Women’s Weekly Great barbecue Food specified chicken wings which I ditched for thigh fillets, sometimes I’m just not in the mood for chewing on a lot of bones to get a little meat! As you can see from the photo, there was a lot of meat being grilled to perfection & the pic doesn’t even sow half of it! Guess what I’ll be eating for the rest of the week?

Marinated Chicken

1.5kg chicken wings (I used about the same weight in thigh fillets)
1 cup (250ml) tomato sauce
½ cup (125ml) plum sauce
¼ cup (60ml) Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup (50g) firmly packed brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl, stir, add chicken, stir to coat. Cover & refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Drain chicken & discard marinade. Grill on barbecue or griddle pan until cooked through (about 40 minutes on barbecue).

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to me! To celebrate I had my friends over for an afternoon bbq, the sun was out, the rain stayed away (Not that we want the rain to stay away forever but it was nice just for the day!) & it was a beautiful afternoon. To fulfill everyone’s sweet tooth’s I made up this batch of brownies from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. They were very nice though my favourites are still the cherry brownies from Jamie Oliver’s latest book. Also they weren’t quite cooked after the specified 25 minutes & even after leaving them for a few extra minutes I think I still took them out too early as the recipe put the fear of God into me that they would turn out crumbly & horrible if left too long. This was definitely not a problem with the center being almost gooey rather than chewy although they did hold their form so maybe this was how they were supposed to turn out, who knows, I have just discovered brownie cooking & am no expert as yet, will have to keep experimenting.


375g soft unsalted butter
375g dark chocolate
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
500g caster sugar
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
300g chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 180. Line a 33 x 23 x 5.5cm tin with baking paper. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy based pan. In a bowl or jug, beat the eggs with the sugar & vanilla. Measure the flour into another bowl & add the salt.

When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs & sugar, and then the nuts & flour. Neat to combine smoothly then scrape out of the pan & into the lined tin.

Bake for about 25 minutes. When it’s ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but the middle still dark & dense & gooey. And even with such a big batch you do need to keep alert, keep checking: the difference between gungy brownies & dry brownies is only a few minutes, remember they will continue to cook as they cool. Makes a maximum of 48.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Steak Sandwich with Garlic Crème

A great Friday night dinner would have to be the steak sandwich, easy to put together & its almost like having take away (which keeps Michael happy) but of course much better, this is Bill Granger’s version from Sydney Food which apparently has been on the menu at his place from the start. It has all of the right ingredients for me, onions, a bit of salady stuff, crusty bread & the garlic crème for me is ever so much nicer than tomato sauce – a condiment I don’t have a very good relationship with as un Australian as that may sound.

Steak Sandwich with Garlic Crème

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely sliced onion
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 thick slices bread, such as ciabatta
1 bunch rocket
4 ripe tomatoes

Garlic Crème
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2cloves garlic, crushed
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup canola or other mild oil

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the onion & cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden. Add vinegar, salt & pepper & cook for a minute longer until caramelized. Remove onion from the pan & set aside.

Meanwhile make the garlic crème. Place egg yolks, vinegar, garlic, salt & pepper in a bowl & whisk until combined. Add the oil drop by drop, whisking constantly. When the sauce starts to thicken, add the oil in a steady stream until the oil is fully incorporated. If the crème is too thick, thin with a tablespoon of warm water.

Using the same pan as the onions, heat the remaining olive oil over high heat. Add steak to the pan and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cook for 1 minute, turn & cook the other side for a further minute.

Spread the bread with the garlic crème. Place rocket on the 4 ‘bottom’ slices of bread & top with tomato. Place onions on top pf tomato, followed by streak. Cover with second slice of bread. Serves 4.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Roast Leg of Lamb with Rosemary & Garlic.

This is what happens when you need to feed your baby just as the roast needs carving & you forget to yell out ‘Take a photo!’, you end up with a photo of bones. Yes, for Michael’s birthday I had the family over for dinner which meant 10 people, so what is the easiest & most delicious thing to cook for those numbers, especially when you have a 10 week old baby not letting you spend much time in the kitchen? That’s right, the good old Aussie favourite, Roast Lamb. I used Jamie Oliver’s recipe from the original Naked Chef for a simple Rosemary & Garlic flavouring, I think this combination is probably the best you can do to a lamb roast. So easy too, bash it all together, whack it in the oven, follow with some veggies, whisk up a gravy at the end & walla, a magnificent birthday feast (at least I hope they all thought so).

Roast Leg of Lamb with Rosemary & Garlic.

1 leg of lamb (about 2kg)
½ lemon
1 handful of picked fresh rosemary
1 clove of garlic
olive oil
some extra bunches of rosemary

Slice of small pieces of skin about the size of a 5 cent piece at random around the leg of lamb. Lightly rub with the lemon. With a knife, follow the bone down about 10-12 cm. Do this from the top end and the bottom end. Using a mortar & pestle, smash up a small handful of picked rosemary with 1 teaspoon salt. Add the garlic & ½ tablespoon olive oil and pound again. Rub this mixture on to the exposed flesh & push into the gaps you have made with the knife next to the bone. Season the skin with salt, and then sprinkle it with rosemary. Tie lots of branches of rosemary around the meat. Put a little oil in a hot roasting tray, add the lamb, & roast it in the oven at 225c, turning every 30 minutes.

Cooking times
Pink – 10 Minutes for every 450g plus 20 minutes
Medium – 13 minutes for every 450g plus 20 minutes
Well Done – 20 minutes for every 450g plus 20 minutes.

Always rest the meat for at least 10 minutes before carving.

Happy Birthday Michael!

Happy Birthday Michael aka Daddy! For the man who is not that into cake I let him choose his own cake, ie I read out a huge list of cakes from my books & he picked the one he liked best – he didn’t actually look through my books & do the hard work himself. So that is how we ended up with this very festive looking cake from the Kiddiefeast chapter of Nigella Lawson’s Feast. It looked fantastic, and tasted great even though it was very, very sweet. The buttercream filling is very rich & the chocolate icing just tops it off so you really can only have a small slice or risk feeling ill from sugar overdrive. I can imagine this one would go down well with the kiddies.

Birthday Custard Sponge

200g plain flour
3 tablespoons Bird’s custard powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4 eggs
225g soft butter
200g caster sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk

Make sure everything you need is at room temperature before you start. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180c, and butter and line two 20cm sandwich tins.

Put all of the above ingredients except the milk, into a food processor. Process to a smooth batter, and then add the milk a tablespoon at a time to make a soft dropping consistency. Divide between the two cake tins & bake for 20 minutes. The cakes will have risen & feel puffy, this is because of the cornflour in the custard powder.

Let the tins sit on a cooling rack for 5 minutes & then turn them out on to a rack, peeling away the paper & cool completely.

Buttercream Filling
125g icing sugar
4 teaspoons Bird’s custard powder
75g soft unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons boiling water

Process the icing sugar & custard powder to get rid of any lumps, and then add the butter, processing again to make the buttercream come together. Feed the boiling water down the funnel with the motor running to make the filling easier to spread. Then sandwich the cooled sponges together with the cream.

Chocolate Icing
60ml water
2 tablespoons golden syrup
125g caster sugar
175g dark chocolate
1 pot hundreds & thousands

Combine the water, syrup & sugar in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve over a low heat. Let it come to the boil & then take it off the heat. Break up the chocolate into small pieces then add to the pan, swirling it around to cover in the hot liquid. Leave to melt for a few minutes, and then whisk the icing to make it smooth & shiny. Pour over the buttercream filled cake, letting it drip down the sides, and then sprinkle generously with the hundreds & thousands before the icing sets.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Puy Lentil Soup

Well with the cold weather setting in it’s time for me to start making my usual pot of soup per week. Today I felt like I needed some fiber so it was this very hearty soup from Bill Granger’s Sydney Food. The soup was very tasty & didn’t require any extra seasoning, I think this is because my vege stock was very salty. It was also quite thick with almost no liquid remaining, bordering on a stew I guess, no complaints from me there, served with some crusty fresh bread it was the perfect lunch.

Puy Lentil Soup

50g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped Spanish onion
½ cup sliced leek, white part only
½ cup chopped celery
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
400g tin chopped Italian tomatoes
1 litre vegetable stock, or water
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
½ cup lentils du Puy
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup finely chopped parsley

Melt butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots, onion and leeks & cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add celery, garlic & chilli and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, stock (or water), bay leaves, oregano & lentils & bring to the boil. Reduce heat & simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Season with salt & pepper if needed & stir through parsley.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Apple, Dried Cherry & Almond Loaf

Finally I found some dried cherries down at my local health food store on Lygon street, they were bloody expensive so I hunted down all of the recipes I had that required them & this is the first one I tried. This is a lovely recipe by Bill Granger which appeared in a recent Delicious magazine, I’m not sure if it’s also in one of his books, it’s not in the 2 I own. I used the wholemeal flour making me feel very healthy yet again and I found the cherries to be quite nice in this loaf mixed with the nuts & dried apple. I didn’t bother with the toasting, extra honey or ricotta to serve & found it didn’t need them at all, both warm out of the oven or cooled down to room temperature it was great though I’m sure the additions would make it even more wonderful. Look out for my next dried cherry recipe which will be completely at the other end of the ‘healthy’ range & be completely wicked!

Apple, Dried Cherry & Almond Loaf

½ cup rolled oats
300ml milk
1 ½ cups plain flour (or you can use wholemeal)
3 teaspoons baking powder
100g dried cherries
50g dried apple, diced
75g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup honey plus extra to serve
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup roughly chopped unsalted almonds, plus 2 tablespoons extra for sprinkling (optional)
Fresh ricotta, to serve

Put the rolled oats in a small bowl, pour the milk over them & leave to soak for about 10-15 minutes. Preheat oven to 180c. Lightly grease & line a 1 litre (4 cup) loaf pan with baking paper.

Sift the flour & baking powder into a bowl & stir in the undrained rolled oats, dried fruit, brown sugar, cinnamon, honey, egg & chopped almonds. Mix together well.

Spoon the mixture into the pan, level the top & sprinkle with extra almonds if desired. Bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Cool for 5 minutes in pan before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely. Toast & serve with ricotta & honey.