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

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

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

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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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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