Recipes

A homegrown dinner

This is a post I started working on in January, but for some reason I never finished writing it until now. But perhaps it’s a timely one for all of you who live in the northern hemisphere!

Last summer, for the first time ever, we planted potatoes in our garden. We ended up with about 7-8 kilos of potatoes! Pretty good for a first attempt. Our other successful crops this summer included garlic and tomatoes. In fact, we had a pretty good crop of tomatoes, as the weather was unusually and consistently warm for this part of Australia!

Homegrown produce

Browsing through my cookbooks to get inspiration, I came across a Jamie Oliver recipe for chicken, tomatoes and potatoes. Perfect! I played with the recipe a bit, adding garlic and reducing the amounts a little to fit our family a bit better. It’s a fairly loose recipe, easy to adapt to fit your needs.

Chicken dish for collage

It looked delicious, tasted delicious, and was a great way to cook our homegrown dinner!

Crispy, sticky chicken thighs, with new potatoes and tomatoes

Adapted from Jamie at Home, by Jamie Oliver

Serves 4-6

1 kg chicken thigh fillets, preferably skin-on, cut into 3 strips
1 Tbs olive oil
600 g new potatoes
300-400 g cherry tomatoes, large ones halved
1 small head of garlic (or 4-5 cloves), peeled and smashed
Bunch of fresh oregano, leaves picked
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Red wine vinegar
4 Tbs Olive oil, extra

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Boil potatoes until almost cooked. Drain and squash using the back of a spoon or your thumb.

While the potatoes are cooking, season chicken with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil. In two batches, fry in a large frying pan for about 10 minutes over high heat, until almost cooked. To the second batch add the garlic, tossing it with the chicken.

Add back the first batch of chicken, along with the potatoes and tomatoes, and toss to combine with the chicken and garlic.

Pound the oregano leaves and a large pinch of salt with a mortar and pestle, add a good splash of red wine vinegar and about 4 Tbs olive oil. Season with ground pepper and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Toss to mix and transfer to a large shallow ceramic or glass baking dish or a non-reactive roasting tray. Cook in the oven for about 45 minutes until golden.

Notes:

1. I didn’t skin the tomatoes, but if you prefer, you can blanch them in hot water and then slip the skins off.

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Recipes

Crunchy beef stew!

I haven’t posted a recipe in ages—not since the Christmas flurry! It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, I just haven’t had much time to cook anything exciting. It’s been more of that subsistence cooking we all fall back on when we’re busy.

Anyway, I was wandering through the supermarket last week looking for inspiration and saw the cover of the latest Australian Good Taste magazine, a gorgeous beef stew with a crunchy-garlic bread topping. Thankfully the weather has been cool of late, pulling me into a slow-cooking, hearty dinner kind of mode.

The basis of this recipe is a simple beef casserole, slowly cooked over 2.5 hours. It would make a great pie filling too. Then, Turkish bread, sliced and soaked in an eggy, cheesy, garlicky mixture topping the beef. And meltingly soft onion jam tucked in between the slices. All cooked until the bread is golden and crunchy. What’s not to like?

Serve it with a green salad, or a side of green beans.

Crunchy Beef Stew

Slow-cooked Beef with Onion Jam and Crunchy Garlic Bread

From Australian Good Taste Magazine, vol. 18 no. 5 (May 2013).

Serves 4-6

For the beef filling:
40 g plain flour
1.5 kg beef chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 5cm chunks
2-3 Tbs olive oil
400g can diced tomatoes
250 ml beef stock
185 ml red wine
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
300g bacon rashers, coarsely chopped
1 leek, washed and sliced 1cm-thick
 
For the onion jam:
1 Tbs olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 sprigs thyme
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
 
For the crunchy garlic bread topping:
3 eggs
250 ml milk
25g shredded parmesan cheese
1 Tbs fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
2 garlic cloves, crushed
300g Turkish bread, sliced 2cm thick
12 cherry tomatoes, tossed in olive oil and roasted for 30 minutes or so until soft.
 

To make the filling:

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Toss the beef with the flour and season with a little pepper. Heat 1 Tbs of the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown the beef in 3-4 batches, using more oil if necessary, and transfer to a 3.5L/10 cup capacity casserole dish or dutch oven.

Add the tomatoes, stock, wine, bay leaves, thyme to the dish, cover and bake for 2.5 hrs.

Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the bacon and leek. Stir for 5 minutes, until the leek softens, then add to the beef and stir to combine. Bake for another 30 minutes or so.

To make the onion jam:

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and thyme and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently until the onion starts to caramelise. Add the sugar and vinegar and stir for 3 minutes until the mixture thickens and the liquid evaporates.

To make the crunchy garlic bread topping and assemble:

Use a couple of forks to shred the beef into smaller pieces. Spoon half of the beef filling into 1.75L/7 cup overproof dish or pan. Freeze remaining beef mixture for another use.

Whisk the eggs, milk, parmesan, parsley and garlic in a bowl and season with pepper. Soak each piece of bread in the egg mixture until soggy (about 30 secs) and place on top of the beef, overlapping slightly.

Spoon the onion mixture around and in between the bread slices, and pour over the remaining egg mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the bread is crunchy and golden.

Scatter the tomatoes across the dish and serve.

Notes:

1. For a larger crowd, use all of the beef mixture and double the bread and onion jam. Otherwise, the leftover beef can be used to make another crunchy beef stew or served over rice or mashed potatoes, or even used as a pie filling.

2. Roast the tomatoes at the same time as the assembled dish. Small truss tomatoes can be used instead of individual cherry tomatoes.

Recipes

Christmas treats for everyone

Well, Christmas has come and gone, the leftovers are have been eaten (or stored in the freezer), the tree has been undecorated, and the wrapping paper is in the recycling bin. But I did promise to share my recipe for the best chocolate truffle slice ever, and I’m going to start off with a recipe for a super quick and easy sweet treat.

This treat is something I found on Pinterest and made for my younger daughter to take on her last day of school as a birthday treat (her birthday is in late December) to give her class mates instead of cupcakes. You could even pop these onto the side of a mug of hot chocolate to pep up a warm treat!

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There’s no real recipe for this one, simply poke a candy cane into each marshmallow, dip the bottom of the marshmallow into a bowl of melted chocolate, and roll in crushed up candy canes (it’s quite therapeutic banging away at a zip-lock bag of candy canes with a rolling pin!). The chocolate sets quite quickly and they can be piled up in a bowl, or if the marshmallow is big enough (mine weren’t) stood up on their bases.

Now, back to that chocolate raspberry truffle slice. It’s amazing. I kid you not. The only thing that stops me from gobbling the whole lot down in one sitting is that it is so incredibly rich, that I physically can’t eat more than a couple of pieces at a time.  And it’s easy too. The hardest part is sieving out the seeds from the raspberry mixture.

Now, you will need to seek out fresh raspberries for this one, as the frozen variety tend to be a little too juicy. Sadly, that means it’s not going to be particularly suitable for the Northern Hemisphere at Christmas, but I urge you to think about making it when raspberries are at their peak! Use a good quality dark chocolate too, it’s definitely worth it.

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Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Slice

Adapted from a recipe first published in Australian Gourmet Traveller, December 2006.

Makes approximately 60 squares

300g fresh raspberries
200ml pouring cream
50ml Framboise
600g dark chocolate
Dutch process cocoa (optional)

Combine 200g raspberries with the cream and Framboise in a small saucepan, and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Process in a food processor and then pass through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.

Clean and dry the food processor and add chocolate, broken into chunks. Process until the chocolate is finely chopped.

Transfer the sieved mixture to a clean saucepan and bring back to the boil. With the motor running, pour the raspberry-cream mixture into the food processor and process until smooth.

Pour about half of the chocolate mixture into a baking paper-lined 20cm X 30 cm tray. Scatter the remaining raspberries evenly across the tray and pour over the rest of the chocolate mixture. Use a spatula to make sure the top is smooth and the depth is relatively even.

Refrigerate overnight, then use a warm knife to cut the truffles into squares and if desired dust with cocoa. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Notes:

1. I find that if I want to double this recipe I really need to do two batches, as that much liquid won’t fit into my food processor.

2. Sieving the raspberry-cream mixture is difficult. If your sieve has very small holes, it can help to sieve it through a coarser sieve first. And a spoon is useful to gently push the liquid through the sieve too.

3. The original recipe called for dark chocolate with 57% cocoa solids. I can’t always get this percentage, so sometimes I mix two different dark chocolates, say a 50% and a 70% to get a good flavour.

4. If the raspberries are large, they can be gently broken apart (NOT crushed) before scattering over the chocolate mixture.

5. In theory this will last in the fridge for up to a month if stored in an airtight container. I challenge you to keep it for that long!

Recipes

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas…

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Ah, the smells of Christmas. Many years ago, when pot pourri was still fashionable, I had a wonderful mixture that smelled of Christmas. I would put it out in early December, and each night when I got home from work, the spicy fruity smell would welcome me in the door.

The real thing, of course, is Christmas baking. The heady fragrance of the Boozy Christmas pudding mix that wafts up as you stir it. The warm smells of a rich and spicy Christmas cake as it slowly cools.

There are so many recipes for fruit cake, and I’ve certainly tried a few. But this one is my keeper. It’s a boiled fruitcake from Aussie cookbook author Belinda Jeffrey that was published in Australian Home Beautiful magazine a few years ago. The beauty of the recipe is its flexibility—the types of fruit included can be varied to include any combination of raisins, sultanas, currants, prunes, dates, apricots, and other dried fruits; similarly the liquids can be varied to include orange and lemon juice, brandy, rum, port, to your tastes.

One of the main ingredients in this fruitcake recipe is fruit mince, and I’ve included a recipe for a homemade version as well, although a good quality store-bought fruit mince will work just as well. This recipe also comes from an Australia cookbook writer, the beloved-by-many Margaret Fulton.

I’m not one for the traditional marzipan icing and fake holly leaves. I don’t even make a nice pattern of almonds and pecan nuts on the top of the cake. It’s all about the rich, dark, fruity, dense cake for me.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and all the best for a Happy New Year!!!

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Christmas Cake

Adapted from a recipe by Belinda Jeffrey, published in Australian Home Beautiful, December 2009.

Makes 2 Christmas cakes, 20cm diameter.

1 large lemon, zest finely grated, juice reserved
1 large orange, zest finely grated, juice reserved
495ml brandy or cognac
450g butter
540g dark brown sugar
1200g mixed dried fruit—for example, raisins, sultanas, currants, chopped apricots, chopped prunes, diced dates, candied fruit peel, glace fruit)
555g fruit mince (see recipe below)
3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 heaped tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cloves
3 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tsp almond extract
6 eggs
570g wholemeal flour
blanched almonds and pecan halves for decorating (optional)
extra brandy/cognac

Measure out lemon and orange juice and add 1/2 c water to it, then pour in brandy until mixture measures 900ml total. Add the zest and set aside.

Melt butter over medium heat in large saucepan. Add the sugar and stir until the mixture is wet and slushy. Add the dried fruit, fruit mince, bicarbonate of soda and reserved juice mixture and stir to mix. Increase heat to high and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then stop stirring and bring the mixture to the boil. Allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to avoid the frothy mixture boiling over. Then turn off the heat and allow to cool completely in the saucepan.

Preheat oven to 150C. Grease 2 20cm round deep cake tins with butter and line with a double thickness of baking paper.

Add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, cloves, vanilla and almond extracts to the cooled mixture and stir. Add eggs and stir in well. Mix in flour and stir to thoroughly combine, then allow batter to sit for a few minutes before scraping it into the two prepared tins.

If desired, decorate the tops of the cakes with almonds and pecans arranged in concentric circles.

Bake the cakes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, approximately 1.5 hrs. Check the cakes periodically during cooking, and cover with foil once the tops are a good rich brown colour.

Leave the cakes to cool completely in the tin, on a rack. Remove from the tin, and brush the base and the top with brandy/cognac, then wrap in cling wrap and foil. To prolong the life of the cake, store in the fridge.

Notes:

1. The boiled fruit mixture can be cooled overnight if that is convenient.

2. The top of the cake will feel firm when lightly pressed when it is fully cooked.

3. The cake will last in the fridge for at least a couple of months.

Fruit Mince

Adapted from a recipe by Margaret Fulton, published in Australian Home Beautiful, December 2009.

Makes approximately 4.5 cups.

1.5 c raisins
1.5 c currants
1.5 c sultanas
1/3 c blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
1 apple, grated
3/4 c brown sugar
75g unsalted butter, melted
1/3 c brandy or rum
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 orange, zest and juice

Process dried fruit and almonds in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Spoon into a bowl and combine with grated apple, sugar, butter, brandy, spices and orange juice and zest. Mix well.

Cover and chill, stirring daily for at least 2 days before use.

Notes:

1. Fruit mince will last for several months in the fridge. Give it a stir now and then.

2. This recipe is actually half of the original recipe, but I find I don’t use it all up (I’m not one for making fruit mince tarts). I have enough left over after making the cakes to make a batch or two of fruit mince muffins.

Recipes

Christmas is cooking …

photo credit: k e e k i via photopin cc
photo credit: k e e k i via photopin cc

Around this time of year, talk in my family turns to what we’re going to eat on Christmas Day. If it’s my side of the family, our preference is to have one big meal that stretches out for most of the afternoon—perhaps some nice nibbles to start with, some BBQ’d seafood (we ARE in Australia after all, what’s Christmas without a BBQ?) for a first course, then maybe a whole fish (again, cooked on the BBQ) and a turkey breast or some slow-roasted lamb, or a beef fillet, with some salads and maybe some asparagus and of course roast potatoes!

Then there’s a ham on the side for those that want it; the leftovers will keep us in sandwiches for the next week or so! That usually takes us through to late afternoon, and after a rest it’s time for dessert—something lighter and more summery like pavlova or summer pudding, as well as the more traditional Christmas pudding.

Christmas pudding has become a tradition in our family over the last 20 years or so. I don’t really remember it featuring on the menu when I was a kid, unless we were visiting our relatives, although I know it made the occasional appearance. But when I moved to the US in the early 90s and started teaching myself how to cook, I came across a recipe in The San Francisco Chronicle that was easy and delicious, and with some minor modifications I’ve been making it ever since!

It’s not too labour intensive, although you need to plan your cooking around your schedule as you need to start the fruit macerating the day before you cook the puddings, and the steaming time is several hours long. And here where Christmas meets Summer, I also have to keep an eye on the weather, as I don’t want to heat the house up more than I need to on a hot day.

My recipe makes two good-sized puddings— each one is plenty for a group of 12 as it is very rich—and they keep for a while, although I have made them as little as a week before the big day with delicious results. I think the longest I’ve kept a pudding is about a year—the quantity of alcohol is sufficient to preserve it well!

I’ve got a couple more Christmas cooking posts for you over the next few days, a great boiled fruitcake recipe as well as the most fantastic raspberry chocolate truffle slice, seriously it’s to die for!

(You’ll have to wait for a photo—there is absolutely nothing photogenic about a pudding in a tin mould!)

Boozy Christmas pudding

Adapted from a recipe published in The San Francisco Chronicle on 16 December, 1992.

Makes 2 puddings, each serving 8-10 people.

350g prunes, pitted and chopped
300g currants
225g dark raisins
125g mixed peel
100g dried apricots, chopped
zest and juice of large orange
zest and juice of large lemon
1 Tbs molasses
2/3 c Guinness stout
1/2 c brandy
1/4 c tawny port
1/4 c Cointreau
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, rounded
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, rounded
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves, scant
1 c plus 1 Tbs dark brown sugar
8 cups of breadcrumbs made from fresh white bread — about 500g
175g butter plus additional for greasing the pudding basins

Combine the prunes, currants, raisins, peel, citrus zests and juice, apricots, and molasses in a large non-reactive bowl. Add the stout, brandy, port and Cointreau and mix well. Stir in the spices, add the sugar and mix very well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-48 hours, stirring occasionally.

Take the fruit mixture out of the fridge and stand at room temperature for about an hour. Fold in the breadcrumbs in batches with a large spatula, until no white specks of bread are visible. The mixture will be quite stiff at this point. Allow to stand for about 30 minutes at room temperature. Melt the butter and thoroughly fold into the mixture. There will be about 9 cups of the pudding mixture.

Brush 2 pudding moulds, each about 2-2.5L capacity, with melted butter. Lightly pack the pudding mixture into each mould and smooth tops with a rubber spatula.

Butter 2 rounds of baking paper/parchment and press onto the surface of each pudding. Cover each mould with its lid, or with aluminium foil.

Place each mould into a stockpot with boiling water 3/4 of the way up the sides of the mould and cover pot with lid. Steam for 4 hours over low to medium-low heat so that water bath is at a gentle boil.  Replenish boiling water as necessary.

Transfer puddings to wire racks and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until day of serving. Brush them with brandy or Cointreau once or twice if desired.

To serve, let puddings stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, then steam as before for 2.5 hours. Let cool on rack for a further 1.5 hours.

Run a knife around the edge of the pudding and invert onto a cake plate or stand. Decorate with holly sprigs and/or glace fruit if desired.

Pour about 2 Tbs hot brandy over the top of the pudding and light with a match. The flames will subside as the alcohol burns off. Slice and serve with whipped cream, vanilla icecream, custard, brandy butter or even a slightly sweetened natural yoghurt.

Notes:

1. You need at least 3 days to make the puddings from start to finish. But the longer the puddings have to mature, the better. I try to make mine in early December.

2. The original recipe called for Frangelico instead of Cointreau, so feel free to mix up the alcoholic flavours a bit! Grand Marnier would also be nice. Cognac can be used in place of brandy.

3. You could use glace fruits instead of mixed peel.

4. I use a good quality white sandwich loaf for the breadcrumbs, which I prepare using a food processor. Sometimes I use the crusts, other times I cut the crust away. What is important is making sure that the bread is in crumbs not chunks.

5. You could use several smaller pudding moulds or basins if you wanted smaller puddings, but make sure the bowls aren’t more than about  3/4 full. The steaming time remains the same.

6. Leftover pudding can easily be heated up in the microwave, and it’s nice cold too!

Recipes

The silverbeet solution

We have lots of silverbeet and rainbow chard in our garden. It’s about the only thing we grew this winter, and I kind of forgot about using it until suddenly there was so much I was a bit overwhelmed by it!

I had in mind some kind of silverbeet tart or pie, so I went looking through my recipes books. Have you tried Eat Your Books? It’s the perfect solution for someone like me, with an embarrassingly large collection of cookbooks! It’s an online recipe index with not only the recipes indexed but the ingredients in each recipe too—you add all your recipe books, magazines, even blogs, to your library and then when you are looking for a recipe, you type in the ingredients or type of recipe you’re looking for and it tells you what recipes are in what books, and a list of ingredients required! It’s fantastic!!

In the end, though, I didn’t find quite what I was looking for, so I made it up as I went along. My recipe is loosely based on this recipe, but I have changed it a fair bit, most noticeably by adding lamb! I also added a spice blend from a local middle eastern supermarket. It’s a Lebanese blend of allspice, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, anise, nutmeg, mahlep and galangal, known as Seven Spices (I know, I know, there are 10!), and it just gave the pie filling a subtle boost of flavour without overwhelming it.

It ended up being a perfect meal, served with a green salad to add some crunch. And I think it would be just as nice with chicken instead of lamb.

Lamb and Silverbeet Parcels

Serves 6

2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g lamb mince
1 large bunch of silverbeet or rainbow chard
300g ricotta cheese
100g feta cheese, crumbled
grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp Seven Spices blend or a similar middle eastern spice blend
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 sheets of puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten with a splash of water for the pastry wash
 

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Cut the silverbeet/chard leaves away from the stems. Slice the leaves into ribbons and finely chop the stems.

Fry the onion and garlic gently in about 1 Tbs olive oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until soft and golden.

Add the mince and silverbeet stems and fry until the meat browns. Then add the silverbeet leaves handful by handful, allowing it to wilt between each addition.

Stir through the cheeses and the spice blend, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Finally stir the beaten egg through and allow to cool slightly.

Divide the mixture into 6 portions and place each portion in the middle of a square of puff pastry. Fold the corners over each parcel to fully enclose and brush with the egg wash.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Notes:

1. Filo pastry could be used instead of puff pastry. In that case, brush with olive oil or melted butter instead of the egg wash.

Recipes

Roast chicken with a twist

I’ve been in a bit of a food rut recently. We’ve been busy busy busy and while I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, it hasn’t been super exciting.

But I came across this Neil Perry recipe in the weekend paper yesterday and something about it just appealed to me. I love Asian flavours, and I love roast chicken, so the idea of marrying the two together is just inspired! It’s really easy to put together and tastes fantastic.

Neil Perry suggests serving it with steamed Asian greens. We ate it with homemade fried rice, steamed asparagus and green beans and just picked silverbeet and rainbow chard, sauteed and wilted with garlic and seasoned with a splash of soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Lemongrass and Ginger Roast Chicken

Adapted from a recipe by Neil Perry, published in The Age, 20 October 2012.

Serves 4-6

2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, finely sliced
1 Tbs grated ginger
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 eschalots, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1 Tbs fish sauce
1/2 tsp caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, diced and softened to room temperature
1.5 kg free range chicken
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
sesame oil 

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Using a small food processor, chop the lemongrass, ginger, garlic and eschallots until very fine. Add the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and blend to a paste. Using a fork, mix through the softened butter.

Gently loosen the skin of the chicken over the breast and legs and push the butter under the skin. Place chicken breast side up in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 1 hour or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced.

Rest for 10 minutes before cutting into pieces. Drizzle with sesame oil just before serving.