15 December 2014

Spicy Asian Slaw

To say life has been hectic would be the understatement of the year! We don’t make life easy for ourselves … in the last five months, we’ve moved back to Australia from Japan, prepared our house for sale (and subsequently sold it), bought a house in the country and are now gradually immersing ourselves into the slower more relaxed way of life which would have to be at the complete opposite ends of the scale to the life we had in bustling Japan. But that’s just the way we like it. To be woken by kookaburras and have a family of kangaroos hop through the garden each morning is an absolute joy. So that is my excuse for the lack of postings in recent times but I will have more to add once I get back into the normal routine of life.

In the meantime, this fresh, tangy Asian coleslaw recipe was the perfect accompaniment to our grilled chicken dinner this week.

Spicy Asian Slaw
Adapted recipe from Food & Wine

3 tblspns peanut butter (paste)
1½ tblspns lime juice
1½ tblspns fish sauce
1½ tblspns water
1½ tblspns sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tblspn Sriracha chilli sauce
500g green cabbage, thinly shredded
350g red cabbage, thinly shredded
1 carrot, julienned
1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
1½ tblspns coriander, chopped
fresh mint leaves (about 7-10)
salt and pepper

Whisk the peanut butter with the lime juice, fish sauce, water, sugar, garlic and Sriracha.

Toss the cabbages, carrot, capsicum, coriander and mint in a large bowl, add the dressing, salt and pepper and give another toss. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Print Friendly and PDF

24 September 2014

Chicken, Orange & Peppercorn Pate

Making chicken liver pate seemed a rather ‘retro’ thing to do, it’s one of those dishes that doesn’t seem to be in fashion at the moment but I was after something that could be made ahead of time, was easily transported and tasted great. This pate ticked all those boxes and was perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon picnic along with some cheese and lovely chilled wine. Some pate recipes include cream but I prefer this firmer texture, while the addition of the pungent green peppercorns gives this old fashioned favourite a tangy lift.

Chicken, Orange & Peppercorn Pate
Recipe from Australian Good Taste

600g chicken livers
40g butter
1 brown onion, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1½ tspns powdered gelatine
¼ cup drained green peppercorns
2 tspns finely grated orange rind
pinch ground cinnamon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim any fat and membrane from the livers. In a large frying pan, melt the butter then add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over a low heat, stirring every now and then. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chicken livers. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally until they are lightly browned and still slightly pink on the inside. Remove from the heat and put to one side for about 10 minutes to cool slightly.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a small saucepan then remove from the heat and sprinkle over the gelatine, using a fork to whisk until it dissolves. Place the chicken mixture, ½ cup of the stock and 1 tablespoon of the peppercorns into a food processor or blender. Add the orange rind, cinnamon and seasoning and process until you have a lovely smooth mixture. Spoon this into three 1 cup ramekins and smooth over the surface.

Sprinkle the rest of the peppercorns over the top of the pate and then carefully pour the remaining chicken stock over the top of each one. Place in the fridge for several hours to set before covering with plastic wrap. Keeps in the fridge for several days. Makes 3 cups of pate.
Print Friendly and PDF

02 August 2014

Syrian Chicken with Ginger & Lemon

Well folks, it’s been a long time between drinks. I haven’t posted a recipe for over a month now but with very good reason. After five wonderful years of travelling the world, living both in Paris and Osaka, we have returned home to Australia to start what we hope will be the next fabulous adventure in our lives. Things are still very much in the planning stage and there are lots of hurdles to overcome before we reach what we are ultimately aiming for but meanwhile, I hope to still post tasty recipes from time to time as well as interesting food related places that I visit here at home.

Returning to Australia in the middle of an extremely cold winter means that comforting winter dishes are back on the agenda, the first being this chicken dish made with aromatic, warming spices together with a lovely sauce flavoured with honey and lemon.  Delicious on a cold August night.

Syrian Chicken with Lemon & Ginger
Adapted recipe by Karen Martini

2 tspns salt
2 tspns ground cumin
2 tspns ground cinnamon
1 tspn ground black pepper
1 tspn ground turmeric
1.5kg chicken pieces on the bone
50ml olive oil
2 brown onions, thickly sliced
100g fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small red chillies, left whole but split in half
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
5 sprigs thyme, leaves only
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tblspns honey
2 tblspns vegetable stock powder
fresh coriander or parsley to serve

Place the salt, cumin, cinnamon, pepper and turmeric into a large plastic bag, add the chicken and shake to coat.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the chicken, brown on all sides then remove to a plate. Press the whole garlic cloves with the side of a knife to slightly crush and add these to the pan with the onion, ginger and chilli, cook for 3 minutes. Now toss in the tomatoes and thyme, cook for a further couple of minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, add the lemon juice and zest, honey, stock powder and just enough water to almost cover the chicken.

Cover with a lid and simmer over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes the uncover the pan and continue to simmer for a further 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and tender and the sauce has reduced slightly. Serve with parsley or coriander scattered over the top along with some fluffy rice or couscous. Serves 4.
Print Friendly and PDF

30 June 2014

Thai Larb Salad

This makes a great refreshing lunch on a hot summer’s day. Really simple and so tasty … full of all those vibrant Thai flavours that we love so much, served up in crisp lettuce cups that get folded around the filling to make mouthwatering parcels of deliciousness. Warning: this can get a bit messy to eat but who cares when it tastes so good, just have some napkins at the ready.

Thai Larb Salad
Recipe from Taste

1 tblspn peanut oil
500g pork mince (or chicken mince)
1 stem lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped
1 fresh long green chilli, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 tblspn fish sauce
1 tblspn sweet chilli sauce
1 tspn finely grated lime rind
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup coriander leaves
2 tblspn fresh mint, chopped
baby lettuce leaves (cos, butter or iceberg)
few tblspns of chopped peanuts to serve (optional)

Heat half of the oil over a high heat and add half the pork mince, lemongrass and chilli. At this stage, I also added in the red onion just to cook it slightly but if you prefer it raw, then don’t add it here. Stir fry for about 4 minutes, breaking up the lumps. Remove and set aside in a bowl while you repeat with the remaining oil, mince, lemongrass and chilli. Set aside to cool slightly for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce and lime rind. Drizzle this over the pork mixture and also add the onion (if you haven’t already), coriander and mint. Spoon this into lettuce cups and serve sprinkled with a few chopped peanuts (optional).  To eat, simply wrap as much of the lettuce around the filling as you can to form a parcel and get stuck in!
Print Friendly and PDF

24 June 2014

Lemon Curd Trifle

The other day, we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner so I offered to take dessert. The great thing about making summer desserts is that you can get away with not having to put the oven on and just rely on the gorgeous seasonal fruits to make the dish shine. I have only ever used custard when making trifle in the past but this recipe particularly appealed to me with the inclusion of lemon curd, which gave it a beautiful citrus tang. Sometimes I find that huge mouthfuls of cream in trifle can be a little bit cloying so mixing it with yoghurt was a much lighter alternative and of course, you could eliminate the cream altogether if you preferred and go solely with yoghurt. Being a trifle means there are no set rules so you can use any fruit that you fancy and I think adding some lovely crunchy toasted nuts on top too would have been fantastic.

Lemon Curd Trifle
Inspired from Sobey’s

Lemon Curd:
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
½ tspn lemon zest
85ml lemon juice
1½ tblspns cornflour (cornstarch)
1 egg yolk
½ tblspn butter

150ml cream
150ml Greek yoghurt
150-200g plain flavoured cake
1 tblspn Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Limoncello (optional)
2 kiwi fruit
two handfuls of cherries, pitted (see below)
two handfuls of blueberries

For the lemon curd, combine ¼ cup of the sugar, ¼ cup of the water, lemon zest and juice in a saucepan and boil. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, water, cornflour and egg yolk. Pour in the boiling sugar syrup and whisk constantly. Now return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring continually until thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir through the butter. Pour the curd into a heatproof bowl and then place the bowl into a larger bowl that contains some ice cubes. This will help to cool it down quickly.

While the curd is cooling, whisk the cream until thickened and gently stir through the yoghurt. Cut the cake into 1cm wide slices and place a layer over the bottom of your serving bowl. Place the kiwi slices decoratively around the sides of the bowl then place half of the remaining cake around the sides also. If you are using liqueur, sprinkle half of this over the cake. Now spoon the cooled lemon curd over the cake. Toss in half of the cherries and blueberries then pour over half of the combined cream and yoghurt mixture.

Finish off by placing a final layer of cake over the top, followed by a sprinkling of liqueur and the rest of the cream and yoghurt then scatter the remaining cherries and blueberries on top. Place in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours to thoroughly chill. Serves 6.

Pitting cherries:  I saw a great little video recently showing how to easily pit cherries.  Simply place a cherry on top of an empty wine bottle, having the stem at the top.  Remove the stem then gently push the pointy end of a chopstick into the cherry and the pip will pop through into the bottle.
Print Friendly and PDF

17 June 2014

Green Bean Salad

Here is another stunning salad recipe from the master of all things veggie, Yotam Ottolenghi. Taking full advantage of fresh spring beans and peas, this is a great combination mixed together with a few spices and a gentle touch of chilli. In the original recipe, he adds tarragon but unfortunately I didn’t have any fresh herbs to hand, although I think the addition of some lovely basil or coriander would work beautifully too.

Green Bean Salad
Slightly adapted recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi

250g green beans
250g snow peas
250g green peas (fresh or frozen)
2 tspns coriander seeds, roughly crushed with a pestle & mortar
1 tspn mustard seeds
3 tblspns olive oil
1 tspn nigella seeds (kolonji)
½ small red onion, finely diced
1 mild fresh chilli, deseeded and finely diced
30g baby salad leaves (optional)

Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the beans for 4 minutes then lift them out and immediately plunge into iced water to refresh. Drain and leave to dry. Now blanch the snow peas and green peas for one minute, refresh in iced water, drain and leave to dry. If like me you prefer to tone down the onion, blanch it along with the snow peas and green peas just for that minute.

Combine the beans, snow peas and green peas in a large bowl along with the nigella seeds, red onion and chilli. Season with coarse sea salt to taste. Heat the oil in a small pan and add the crushed coriander seeds and mustard seeds, when they start to pop, pour the contents over the bean mixture and toss together. Finally, gently mix through the baby salad leaves if using. Serves 4.
Print Friendly and PDF

13 June 2014

Thai Chicken Meatball Curry

You know the scenario … it’s the end of the week, not much left in the fridge except for a few bits of lonesome veg and luckily, some chicken mince in the freezer. Hmmm, what to make. There’s always curry paste and coconut milk in the pantry so it was a no brainer to put this simple meatball curry together and very tasty it was too. Of course, you could substitute pork or beef mince if you like and let’s face it, you might even want to do away with the meatballs altogether and just enjoy a lovely vegetarian version of this flavourful Thai curry.

Thai Chicken Meatball Curry
Adapted recipe from Simply Delicious

500g chicken mince
1 tspn Thai red curry paste
50g panko breadcrumbs (or fresh)
3 tblspns fresh coriander, chopped
1 tblspn fish sauce
1 tblspn soy sauce

2 tspns Thai red curry paste
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400ml coconut milk
250ml chicken stock
2 tblspns fish sauce
2 tblspns soy sauce
2 tspns sugar (optional)
1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
fresh coriander to serve
1 zucchini, cut into discs
250g baby corn
1 red capsicum, cut into 2cm pieces
4 spring onions, cut into 3cm pieces

You could substitute the above vegetables for any other of your choice such as:
carrots, cut into strips
handful of snow peas
broccoli florets
bok choy
green beans
… or whatever other veg you have handy

Mix all of the meatball ingredients together and then roll into golf ball size (using wet hands will make this a little easier and not so sticky). Place onto a tray and set aside while you prep your veg.

Heat a little peanut or vegetable oil in a large pan or wok and fry the meatballs in batches until they are golden brown all over, remove and put onto a plate.

Now add the curry paste and cook for a minute until it is fragrant (it will stick a bit but that’s OK), then add the garlic and any vegetables that will take a little longer to cook, such as carrot. Pour in the coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, soy sauce, chilli and sugar. Add the meatballs to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Now add the remaining vegetables and simmer for a further 10 minutes until they are tender. If you want to thicken your sauce slightly, mix 2 teaspoons of cornflour with 2 teaspoons of cold water and stir this through. Spoon the curry over jasmine rice and sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander. Serves 4.
Print Friendly and PDF

04 June 2014

Amazon Chocolate Cake

This cake received a resounding thumbs up from The Chief. Although he is a self confessed chocoholic, he doesn’t seem to go in for rich chocolate desserts or cakes, complaining that they’re always “too chocolately” … is there such a thing? However, he really loved this cake even with the ramped up cocoa content. The crumb was beautifully moist and tender without being overly sweet and to make things even better, there are no eggs, butter or milk, which to my reckoning makes it virtually guilt free! Just in case you still aren’t convinced, what about the fact that there’s no melting, creaming or intense beating work involved, just simple combining of wet to dry ingredients and if that wasn’t enough, it was still moist even after three days. Now all of that just makes for an irresistible combination!

Amazon Chocolate Cake
Recipe by Margaret Fox via Food 52

1½ cups plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa (I used 2/3 cup for a deeper chocolate flavour)
1 tspn baking soda
1 cup sugar (I used castor)
½ tspn salt
5 tblspns neutral oil (corn, canola, vegetable)
1 cup cold water
1½ tspns vanilla
1 tblspn cider or white vinegar

Heat the oven to 180c. Line the base of a 20cm round cake tin and grease the sides with a little oil. Using a large bowl, sift in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla and vinegar.

Now quickly add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until no lumps remain. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and tap the edge of the pan against the counter to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top springs back when gently pressed. Leave the cake in the tin to cool, placing it on top of a wire rack. Decorate with your favourite frosting or just sift over some cocoa or icing sugar.
Print Friendly and PDF

30 May 2014

Green Bean & Roasted Red Pepper Salad

Roasted capsicums have got to be one of my favourite vegetables for a salad, served at room temperature. I love the smoky flavour that comes with grilling the skins until they are totally blackened before peeling them and mixing with a tangy vinegar dressing. Together with the fresh tomatoes and crispy green beans, this was the perfect accompanied to grilled fish and the left overs were even better for lunch the next day!

Green Bean & Roasted Red Pepper Salad
Adapted recipe from Food & Wine

2 red capsicums (peppers)
2 golden shallots, chopped
2 tblspns red wine vinegar
2 tspns sherry vinegar
sea salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
fresh ground pepper
350g green beans, trimmed
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tblspn fresh Italian parsley
1 tblspn fresh mint (optional)

Place the capsicums under the grill or over an open gas flame, turning them until they are charred and black all over. Transfer to a bowl and cover with cling film to sweat. When cool enough to handle, peel the capsicums then slice into 5cm x 2cm strips.

Combine the shallots, red wine vinegar and sherry vinegar in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Leave for 10 minutes before stirring in the olive oil and pepper.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and quickly blanch the beans for about 4 minutes until tender but still crisp. Drain and spread out on a sheet to cool to room temperature. In a salad bowl, combine the capsicum, beans, tomatoes, parsley and mint (if using). Pour over the shallot dressing and toss everything together well. Serves 4.
Print Friendly and PDF

27 May 2014

Semolina Bread

Semolina flour is made from durum wheat and makes great pasta but it also can be mixed with regular flour to make beautiful bread.  Sure, this traditional Italian loaf does take a bit of time, with a few risings required but you are rewarded with a loaf that has a chewy but light crumb, a lovely yellow colour and wonderful slightly nutty flavour.  You can leave the dough in the fridge overnight after you’ve done the initial two risings but I opted to bake mine on the same day and it still tasted great. The addition of plenty of olive oil ensures that it has a moist texture and stays fresh, even on the following day and it’s fantastic toasted as well.

Semolina Bread
Recipe by Jeffrey Hamelman

180g fine semolina flour
180g bread flour
250g water
1¼ tspns instant yeast
17g sugar

270g semolina flour
270g bread flour
300g water
17g salt
3 tblspns olive oil

For the sponge, in a large bowl mix together the two flours, yeast and sugar until evenly distributed then pour in the water and mix to a dough with either your hand or dough hook, just until it all comes together. Cover and let it sit to ripen for around 60-90 minutes.

Now tip the remaining flours, salt, water and olive oil into the bowl with the sponge mixture and again, using either your hand or dough hook, bring everything together. You can either let your dough hook knead it for about 6 minutes or tip it out onto a surface and knead by hand. This is not a wet dough, it's quite firm but don't worry, it will rise beautifully and be lovely and light.  Pop it back into the bowl, cover and leave to rise for about an hour.

At this point, using your hand, gently lift one side of the dough up and over onto itself, then give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat so that you have lifted and turned all sides of the dough. Cover and leave again for an hour.

Divide the dough into two and gently form into rounds, place on a floured surface, seam side up, cover and leave to relax for about 15-20 minutes. Now you can give the loaves a final shaping, making sure that you press the seams well to avoid too much splitting. Either pop them into floured bannetons or shape into loaves and put on a tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a cloth and leave to rise again for an hour or until doubled.

Heat the oven to 240c. If you’ve used a banneton, tip the dough out onto a paper lined tray, slash the top if desired and pop in the oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 230c and continue to bake for another 20-30 minutes until the bottoms sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Makes 2 loaves.
Print Friendly and PDF