27 February 2015

Baked Plums with Ginger

As mentioned in a previous post, we have had so many plums from our little plum tree. I’ve given them away, made jam, made desserts and also had them every morning for breakfast. We had just enough left over for one last gasp … a delicious tray of baked plums with ginger. The original recipe used Marsala in the sauce but as I didn't have any, I substituted with a sweet, sticky dessert wine which worked well. Served with creamy Greek yoghurt, these were a treat worthy of our last taste of summer fruits.


Baked Plums with Ginger
Slighty adapted recipe from Italy on my Mind

10-12 plums, I used Narrabeen (original recipe used 6 nectarines, so you could do that too)
1½ tspns grated fresh ginger
50g brown sugar
juice of ½ lime
2 tblspns sweet dessert wine (original recipe used Marsala)
½ cup water

Halve the plums (or nectarines) and remove the stones. Heat the oven to 180c. Pop the plums into a bowl along with the ginger, sugar, lime juice and dessert wine. Give everything a good toss around until the plums are nicely coated. Place the plums cut side up in a roasting tray that has been lined with baking paper. Pour the water into the tray and bake for 20 minutes. Fruit should be cooked but still firm and retaining its shape. Serve the plums with the gorgeous sauce spooned over.
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21 February 2015

Garlic Toasts

There’s nothing more satisfying or enjoyable than an ice cold beer or wine as the sun is setting after a day working in the scorching heat. We were doing just that the other day when I had the sudden urge for garlic bread to go with it but wasn’t patient enough to go through the whole bread slicing, buttering and wrapping routine, not to mention having to wait for it to bake for 20 minutes! I remembered a recipe that I’d found on the Saveur website that required no baking and was the answer to my garlic bread craving. So easy, so quick and so scrumptious!


Garlic Toasts
Slightly adapted recipe from Saveur

6 slices ciabatta bread (or a baguette or in fact any bread you have)
4 tblspns unsalted butter, softened
½ tblspn olive oil
2-3 tblspns freshly grated parmesan (use more if you want it cheesier)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tblspns parsley, chopped
¼ tspn chilli flakes

Slice the ciabatta into 2cm slices. Really you could use up any bread that you have and slice it up whichever way you want. Combine the butter, oil, parmesan, garlic, chilli and parsley in a bowl. Toast one side of the bread then spread the other side with the garlic butter. Place under a hot grill for a few minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.
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12 February 2015

Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes

When the temperature is hovering around 40c as it has been here lately, the last thing you want to do is slave over a hot stove for too long or have the oven heating up the kitchen. This pasta dish with sweet cherry tomatoes is so easy and refreshing, a perfect dinner for a hot summer night. The only cooking required here is boiling up some pasta and by the time it’s cooked, the cool tomatoes are ready to be tossed through. Add as much shaved parmesan over the top as you like.


Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes

250g cherry tomatoes, mixed colours
2 tblspns olive oil
1 tblspn balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
handful fresh basil, roughly sliced
200g spaghetti
shaved parmesan

Get a large pot of salted water to boiling point then add the spaghetti. While that’s cooking, halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes and put in a bowl with the oil, balsamic, basil, salt and pepper and mix well. By now the spaghetti should be cooked so drain it and toss through the tomato mixture. Divide into two bowls and top with shaved parmesan. Serves 2.
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07 February 2015

Acqua Pazza

Acqua Pazza literally means ‘crazy water’ in Italian and I first came upon this dish at a wonderful little Italian restaurant in Osaka of all places! There, the fish was served whole in the most flavourful broth and was so melt in the mouth tender, it was just sublime. I scoured the internet in search of the recipe only to find that as usual, there are numerous ways to cook this Italian fisherman’s classic. I’ve only just now gotten around to giving it a go and decided on the chunky white fish fillet version. I also added the crunchy topping from yet another adaptation I came across and together, the result was delicious. Make sure you don’t cook the sauce down too much as you want to have some of that crazy water in your bowl, ready to be soaked up with some lovely crusty bread.


Acqua Pazza
Adapted from Italianicious

3 Roma tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
1 long red chilli, cut into 4 pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 tblspn olive oil
2 pieces of chunky white fish
2 small sprigs thyme
about 10 Italian parsley leaves
100ml white wine
few basil leaves
pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)

1 tblspn pine nuts
1 tblspn freshly grated parmesan cheese
½ tblspn olive oil
handful of fresh breadcrumbs
1 tblspn chopped basil leaves

Get the breadcrumb mixture made first by whizzing up the pine nuts, parmesan, olive oil and basil in a food processor, then add the breadcrumbs and mix again until everything is combined. Spread this out on a tray and bake in the oven at 180c for about 10 minutes until dry and crispy, keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t brown too much. Set aside to cool.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and add the whole garlic cloves, chilli pieces and dried chilli flakes, cook for a minute. Now pop the fish into the pan and season with salt and pepper. After a minute, turn the fish then add the thyme, parsley leaves and wine to the pan. Simmer for a few minutes to evaporate slightly. Add the tomatoes, basil leaves and about 100ml of water to the pan, cover and simmer until the fish is cooked through.

Remove the fish to a plate and keep warm. Increase the heat and continue cooking the sauce until slightly reduced but not too much, you want to keep some liquid in the pan. Use a fork to crush the softened garlic cloves and mix through the sauce. Place the fish into serving dishes, spoon tomatoes on top and pour the sauce over the fish then sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Serves 2.
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02 February 2015

Plum Jam

The up side to having fruit trees is the ability to pick as much fresh fruit from the garden as you want. The down side to having fruit trees is also being able to pick as much fresh fruit as much as you want! It’s a double edged sword … having seasonal fruit in abundance, but not being able to use all of it. Having said that, I have lost about a third of my plum crop to the birds, despite covering the tree with netting, they seem to have a crafty way of still getting through and dining out at my expense. However, there are still plenty to go around and while we have been enjoying them for breakfast, lunch and dessert, there is only so much we can eat while they are still at their best. So I made up a batch of jam which turned out really well, setting beautifully and tasting great. I used the yellow fleshed Narrabeen plums but you could easily use the dark Satsuma variety instead which would give you that gorgeous deep ruby red colour.


Plum Jam

1.5kg plums
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup water
1kg sugar

Put the whole plums, lemon juice and water into a large pan and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and has broken down. Use a ladle to scoop the fruit into a sieve over a large bowl and press most of the pulp through, discarding the pips. Now tip all of the pulpy mixture back into saucepan and stir through the sugar. Have this at a low rolling boil for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking to the base. Every now and then, skim the white froth from the surface and discard.

Meanwhile, put a saucer into the freezer to get really cold. Wash your jars and place them into an oven at 150c for about 15-20 minutes to sterilize.

When the jam has been boiling for about 20 minutes, place a teaspoonful onto the cold saucer, leave for about 20 seconds, then use your finger to press it towards the centre from the side. If it wrinkles up and stays pretty much in position, then it’s done. If it still runs too much, continue to simmer the jam and try again 10 minutes later.

Once you’ve reach a satisfactory setting point, ladle the jam into the hot sterilized jars, seal and store. Makes 4 x 400ml jars.
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26 January 2015

Chilli Salted Squid

Over the years, salt & pepper squid has made an appearance on just about every restaurant and pub menu. It’s one of the most popular dishes around with each establishment having their own take on it. Thankfully gone are the days when rings would be served coated in a thick layer of breadcrumbs that engulfed the squid so much you could hardly taste it. These days a much lighter coating is used to barely dust over the tender pieces, retaining their distinctive flavour and texture.

Squid can be a tricky thing to get right … too much cooking results in tough, overcooked pieces but you still want to cook it long enough to achieve that desired crispiness. The secret is potato flour (starch), which gives a lovely thin, crisp coating and the addition of egg white makes it even crunchier. Avoid using really young squid as the texture is too fine, you want something a bit meatier and make sure that the oil you use is fresh, something mild like vegetable or grapeseed oil is perfect. Avoid using olive oil as this doesn’t get hot enough. This recipe from the Red Lantern restaurant in Sydney is everything you want from squid … salty, spicy, crunchy and delicious all rolled into one.


Chilli Salted Squid
Recipe via Good Food

200g squid tubes, cleaned
mild, neutral oil for deep frying (grapeseed, vegetable)
1 egg white
150g potato flour (starch)
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1 red bird’s eye chilli, thinly sliced
1 small garlic clove, crushed

Seasoning:
1 tblspn salt
1 tspn ground white pepper
1 tspn ground ginger
1 tspn white sugar
½ tspn Chinese five spice powder

Combine all the seasoning ingredients together in a bowl.

You can slice the squid in which ever way you prefer … could be rings or strips about 5mm wide. Put the egg white into a bowl and lightly whisk to break it up, toss in the squid pieces and coat each piece well. Gradually add the potato flour a little at a time, until the squid is well coated and feels quite dry, you may not need all the flour to achieve this.

Fill a wok or deep pan about a third of the way full with oil and heat to 180c (or until a cube of bread turns golden in 10 seconds). Shake off the excess flour from the squid and then working quickly, add a few pieces at a time to the hot oil. Use a slotted spoon or a mesh strainer to remove the squid and place it into a colander to drain.

Pour the oil from the wok, leaving one tablespoon and have the heat at medium high. Tip in the spring onion, chilli and garlic and cook for 30 seconds then add all the squid. Toss for one minute to heat through. Sprinkle over the seasoning mixture, toss well to combine everything and serve immediately. Serves 2.
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20 January 2015

Green Couscous

I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe by Ottolenghi that wasn’t a keeper. He just seems to get the flavours so right and despite there being a long list of ingredients, this really is so simple with minimal cooking that can be done ahead of time. It makes a fantastic side dish for any grilled meat or fish and is equally good as a light lunch all on its own. In usual Ottolenghi style, this dish is chock full of fresh herbs, which gives tons of flavour and even if you’re not a fan of couscous, I think you’ll be convinced by this one.


Green Couscous
Slightly adapted recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi

150g couscous
160ml boiling water or vegetable stock
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tblspn olive oil
½ tspn salt
¼ tspn ground cumin
50g pistachios, shelled and toasted
1 fresh green chilli, thinly sliced
30g rocket, roughly chopped

Herb Paste:
20g flat leaf parsley
20g coriander
2 tblspns dill
2 tblspns mint
90ml olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and sauté the onion for 10 minutes over a low heat until golden and soft. Add the salt and cumin and mix well then leave to cool. Put the couscous into a large bowl and pour in the boiling stock or water. Cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes then fluff up with a fork.

Place all the herb paste ingredients into a food processor and give it a good blitz until smooth. Add this paste to the couscous with the onion, pistachios, green chilli and rocket. Mix gently until well combined and serve at room temperature. Serves 4.
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16 January 2015

Pecan Crunchies

The weather here has been unbelievable. We’ve gone from sweltering in dangerously windy 40c temperatures to torrential rain, floods and thunderstorms in just a matter of days. While I am so happy to see our rainwater tanks filling up (now there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d be saying 6 months ago), it’s not really the kind of weather we’ve come to expect for mid January!  For some reason when I look out the window and see grey, heavy skies, there’s something comforting about staying inside with the aroma of baking biscuits wafting through the house. Low, slow cooking gives these delicious Pecan Crunchies a crispy texture and lovely golden colour.


Pecan Crunchies
Recipe from Australian Women’s Weekly

125g butter (I used unsalted)
2/3 cup raw sugar
2 tblspns golden syrup
1 egg
1 cup desiccated coconut
1½ cups self raising flour
¼ cup pecan pieces

Melt the butter either in the microwave or in a saucepan. Now add the sugar, golden syrup and egg, stir thoroughly. Stir through the coconut and flour. Roll 2 teaspoonfuls of mixture into balls and place onto greased trays. Allow enough room for spreading. Pop a piece of pecan on top, pressing down to flatten just slightly. Bake in a slow oven for 25-30 minutes. Makes 30.
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05 January 2015

Peaches with Caramel & Crumble

Is there anything sweeter than a juicy, ripe peach in summertime, I think not. It has such a short season so I’m trying to make the most of them while I can. This recipe was inspired by one that I saw over at Smitten Kitchen, although I decided not to grill the peaches, just wanted them as is, cold and fresh, drizzled in gorgeous caramel sauce and nutty crumbs all on top of luscious dollops of Greek yoghurt. It might seem like a bit of work, all those ingredients, but everything can be made up to a week in advance, the caramel sauce sitting in the fridge, tempting you to spoon it over all and sundry!


Peaches with Caramel & Crumble

4 peaches, remove the stones and coarsely chop
Greek yoghurt or icecream of your choice

Crumble:
30g raw pecans
80g plain flour
20g icing sugar
1 tblspn raw sugar (or white granulated is fine)
pinch salt
1/8 tspn baking powder
40g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
½ tspn vanilla paste

Caramel:
75g brown sugar
125ml cream
½ tblspn golden syrup
10g butter
splosh (about ½ tblspn) of bourbon is optional (or brandy or vanilla extract)

For the crumbs, heat the oven to 180c. Line a tray with baking paper and spread over the nuts in one layer, bake for about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are browned and fragrant. Cool. Place the cooled nuts, flour, both sugars, salt and baking powder in a food processor and blitz until you have a powdery crumb mixture, don’t mix too much, you don’t want a paste. Add melted butter and vanilla, pulse until large and small crumbs form. Spread this out onto the baking tray and bake for 8 minutes, give it a stir to brown evenly and continue to bake for a further 4 minutes. Cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container where they will keep for at least a week.

For the caramel. place the sugar, golden syrup and butter in a small saucepan and mix until melted. Slowly and carefully pour in the cream, careful as it splatters, then splash in a little bourbon if you’re using it although this isn’t mandatory, just a little more decadent. Once cool, this can be stored in the fridge for about a week and just rewarmed in the microwave when needed.

Now for the assembly … spoon some of your favourite yoghurt or icecream into a serving dish and top with chopped peaches. Drizzle over the warm caramel sauce and finish off with a sprinkling of the crumble mixture. Serves 4
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23 December 2014

Cherry Crumble Slice

To me, nothing says Christmas is coming more than the appearance of cherries. We have been lucky enough to be indulging in the most delicious cherries this week as our neighbours had an abundance of them growing. Sadly their short lived season has now come to an end and even though I love, love, love cherries, there is only so much that even I can eat so when they started getting just a little too soft, I decided to use them up on this slice. Like any crumble, this was super easy to make and ready to eat in no time at all. Sweet, sticky cherries over a crispy, golden base … too easy.

A very Merry Christmas to all and may your 2015 be filled with plenty of good times, good cheer and of course, good eating!!


Cherry Crumble Slice
Halved recipe from Bakeaholic

¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
½ tspn baking powder
1½ cups plain flour
120g unsalted butter, chopped
1 small egg
pinch salt
½ tspn vanilla paste

2 cups cherries, pitted and halved
¼ cup white sugar
2 tspns cornflour

Heat the oven to 180c and grease a 20cm x 20cm pan and line the base with baking paper, making sure that the paper overhangs on two sides to make removal easier.

Place the cherries, sugar and cornflour into a bowl and gently mix then set aside until needed.

Put both sugars, flour, baking powder and salt into your food processor and whizz for a few seconds to combine. Now add the butter and egg and keep mixing until the dough is crumbly. Tip half out into your prepared pan and press down firmly to completely cover the base.

Sprinkle the cherry mixture over the base then crumble the remaining dough over the top. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Cool in the tin completely before cutting into pieces.  Makes 9 large squares.
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