Ocean Trout, Edamame and Mint Salad with Lime Dressing

9 Apr

IMG_9850

What you’ll need…

Salad

1 cup frozen edamame (sold at Asian grocers)

1/2 cup green peas

3/4 cup risoni

handful chopped mint

handful chopped parsley

2 rashers bacon, diced

2 pieces ocean trout

Dressing

Juice of 2 limes

2 tbsps EVOO

1 small garlic clove, crushed

Salt and pepper

Method…

1. Boil edamame for 4-5 minutes, strain, rinse in cold water then shell. Place in salad bowl.

2. Boil peas, rinse in cold water then strain. Add to salad bowl.

3. Fry bacon until crisp, drain on paper towel. Add to salad.

4. Boil risoni, strain and rinse in cold water. Add to salad.

5. Season trout fillets with salt and pepper and pan fry in a little oil for around 2-3 minutes per side or to your liking.

6. Combine ingredients for the dressing in a jar and shake.

5. Flake fish into salad bowl along with the chopped herbs and bacon. Toss with dressing and serve.

 

 

Whole Orange Cake (no butter, no oil)

19 Nov

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This cake is all over the internet and I’m sure you have seen it before. If you haven’t, let me sell it to you.

Plump, juicy summer oranges are simmered in hot water until burstingly soft and tender, then blended, skins and all. The aroma of the orange oil from the skins and the sweet flesh will really liven you up.

Almond meal is in there for sweet nuttiness. Wholesome brown sugar is whipped with whole eggs until silky and a little flour ties it all together.

It is SO easy, moist, keeps well and is oh so, well… Orangey. Because the skins are blended into the mix, you need to find thin skinned oranges without much pith, to minimise the bitterness.  It is delicious served with natural/Greek yoghurt and some orange wedges. And although this is not ever a criteria for me, this recipe has no oil or butter, just the fat from the eggs. So all those looking to eat lean, this is one for you.

I have experimented with this cake several times and I think this is just right. You can use any mould. My friend makes little orange love hearts. I make a bundt, usually.

You’ll need…

3 whole eggs

2 small oranges (thin skins)

1 1/2 cups almond meal

1/2 cup SR flour

2/3 cup brown sugar

Here’s what you do…

Simmer oranges, in water for around 1 hour.

Once cooled, puree in the blender or food processor until smooth. Combine eggs and sugar and mix until thick and ribbon-like.

Fold through orange mix and dry ingredients.

Pour into tin and cook in a 180 degree oven for about 25-30 mins, or until light golden brown and springs back when pressed lightly. Allow to cool in the turn before turning out.

That’s it! As my favourite tv celebrity meerkat would say, “simples”.

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two4six8!

Chiles Rellenos (Stuffed Chillies) with Cheese

1 Sep

(I did not use a filter on this)

Ok, I know what you’re thinking… That’s not REAL Mexican, look at all that cheese. C’mon – in Mexico they’d dip these babies in batter and deep fry ’em. This is the healthy(ish), cheese lovers version. It is also super quick to make.

The long, banana chillies (as we call them Australia) are in season at the moment. They’re crunchy, sweet and vary in colour from bright red, to yellow or green. I got a bag full for $4 recently and had lots of cheese at home and some leftover Enchilada Sauce. We just had simple cheese stuffed chillies, but there are lots of tips at the bottom of this post for how you could change it up a bit. They are another great way to use up leftovers.

This dish is all in one pot, in the oven. In addition, all you need is a packet of tortillas, or some Mexican Rice, a little guacamole or sour cream and some extra hot sauce for the chilli desperados among us. Oh, and salad, I guess. If you must.

Here’s what you’ll need…

4-6 long, large ‘banana’ chillies

Approx two cups Enchilada Sauce

Approx 2-2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (nothing fancy or strong flavoured, just regular mild cheddar)*

That’s it!!

Here’s what you do…

Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees celsius.

1. Prepare the chillies: With a pairing knife, make an incision width-ways in the pepper just under the stalk. Then Make a long incision down one-side (the same side as the cut at the top) of the chilli, making sure not to cut all the way through to the other side. Try to wedge your fingers in the chilli to scrape out most of the seeds. There will be a clump of them at the top near the stalk. Do your best to get these out. Rinse under the tap to get rid of loose seeds, pat dry and set in your flat oven-proof baking dish.

2. Stuff the chillies with the cheese. Don’t worry if they look messy. Save a little cheese for sprinkling on top at the end.

3.  Pour over the Enchilada Sauce and place dish in the oven. Bake for around 20 minutes or until peppers are soft, the sauce is hot and your cheese has melted and started browning a little.

4. Serve with plenty of hot tortillas to wrap pieces of yummy peppers, and mop up the sauce. Alternatively, serve with Mexican Rice, beans, salad and accompaniments such as sour cream, guacamole, fresh lemon and coriander for a more ‘complete’ meal at a dinner party or family gathering.

Muy rico!

* You can use other cheeses if you like: a combination of queso fresco, fetta, ricotta, cottage cheese, anything really!

Other suggestions for this dish…

  • Leftover chilli con carne
  • Some shredded meat (like this pulled pork I make for tacos),
  • Chopped and fried chorizo sausage
  • Some beans or re-fried beans

Let me know if you have other ideas or a great chilles rellenos recipe! Love sharing!

Spanakopita (Spanaki = Spinach & Pita = Pie)

31 Aug

Ok, straight-up apologies to any Greek people reading this. This is probably not an authentic recipe and you will no doubt roll your eyes in dismay at yet another bastardisation of one of your most delicious dishes. Sorry, but sometimes I get a hankering and there is no good Greek food that I can afford around my neighbourhood.

Here’s what you’ll need…

1 packet of Phyllo pastry

About 150 grams butter, melted

1 large bunch silver beet or spinach

2 eggs, lightly beaten

200 gram block fetta (Greek), crumbled

2 tablespoons grated parmesan, or similar hard cheese

One brown onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon dill, chopped

A little olive oil

Salt and pepper

Here’s what you do…

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

1. Rinse the spinach/silver beet thoroughly and drain. Squeeze out excess moisture with your hands. Roughly chop. Set aside in a large bowl.

2. Sautee the diced onion and the garlic in a little olive oil until soft and translucent. Add to the spinach.

3. Add the cheeses, egg and dill to the spinach and onion, season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

3. Grease a large, rectangular baking dish with a little melted butter.

4. Set your phyllo pastry on the bench, opened out flat and cover with a tea towel to prevent from drying out (it is very tricky to handle if it dries – will tear and shred so easily it will drive you mad). It is also important to check the packet instructions – usually I have to leave mine out of the fridge, in the packet for an hour or so until it is room temperature before using.

5. Layer the base of the pan with 2-3 sheets of buttered phyllo. I find it easiest to lay the sheets in the dish one at a time and brush with butter in between each layer. It is very important that the layers are brushed with butter.

6. Tip the spinach mixture on top of the pastry base and spread out evenly, patting down gently with your hands.

7. Add the remaining sheets of pastry, one at a time, brushing with a little butter in between each layer. You will have lots and lots of layers, but this pastry is extremely thin and you want a nice top on your Spanakopita – flaky and buttery. Yum.

8. Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut the top of the pie into squares or triangles. Do not cut down into the filling. You want to cut through all the layers of pastry, as neatly as you can, but without reaching the filling.

9. Put the tray into the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

10. Allow to cool slightly, cut and serve.

Serve on its own as a snack or with a salad and some fresh Greek yoghurt. Also, good cold/room temperature.

Lemon Curd Pavlova

31 Aug
two4six8! Not the best pic as taken outside, under a tree, on my phone.

two4six8! Not the best pic as taken outside, under a tree, on my phone.

Last weekend I had my first Pav success! My Mum and my sister-in-law turn out perfect pavs every time, but I have never had the knack! My mother-in-law was hosting a big lunch in her beautiful backyard and I was on dessert duty. She had lots of enormous, juicy lemons from a friend’s tree, so we made lemon curd to top the pavlova. This was a break from the tradition of kiwi, strawberries, passion fruit. It turned out very pretty and tasted delicious. I’m sorry but I don’t have the lemon curd recipe I used with me, but it is basically egg yolks, lemon juice, sugar and butter all mixed together and stirred over a bain-marie for about 15 minutes or until thick. There are loads of recipes online. I decorated with some lemon blossoms and whipped cream.

I’m not normally a ‘follow the rules’ cook. However, there are a few things you can’t muck around with if you want a perfect Pavlova. Then again, who needs perfection? If you end up with gooey sticky bits, yum. I have never met a pavlova that doesn’t turn into a heap of mess when you serve it, so fear not. Here’s what to try…

You’ll need…

For the Pavlova:

7 egg whites
385 grams caster sugar
3 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon white vinegar

(A rule of thumb for pavlova is 1 egg white to 55 grams of sugar – so you can adjust quantities down or up fairly easily)

Here’s what you do…
Preheat oven to about 110 degrees celsius or only 100 for fan forced (yes, very low). Cut out a 25 centimetre (diameter) circle of baking paper. Smear a bit of butter on the tray underneath it to stop it from sliding around.

1. Ensure your mixing bowl is totally clean and dry. I like to use a little alcohol to clean out the bowl. Water is a pavlova enemy.
2. Carefully separate eggs. Yolk is also a pav enemy. Place in large mixing bowl.
3. Using a hand beater (or stand mixer on medium speed), beat the egg whites to soft peaks.
4. Gradually add the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating thoroughly all the while. Continue beating until all the sugar has been added. Then keep on beating. You will probably be beating for about 15-20 minutes all together. You can stop until all the sugar has dissolved. You can test this by rubbing a bit of meringue between your fingers. If it feels grainy, keep beating until it isn’t.
5. Once the sugar has fully dissolved, your mixture will be very thick and glossy. Add the cornflour and vinegar and beat a few seconds until well combined.
6. Using a spatula, heap the mixture onto the paper and smear it out to fit just inside the baking paper circle. It is up to you what shape to make. I made a round, flat top with a slightly raised edge to stop the lemon curd from running over the sides (but if you like that look – do whatever you like).
– Of course you can make any shape pavlova you like: oval, square, rectangle? –
7. Place your pavlova in the oven AND DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OPEN THE OVEN DOOR TO SNEAK A PEAK YOUR PAV MAY COLLAPSE. (Sorry for breaching food blog recipe write-up etiquette. I wasn’t yelling at you. I just don’t want you to be disappointed. It was capitalisation from a place of caring). Cook the Pavlova for around 1 hour and 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the pav to cool completely (in the oven). Some people leave the door ajar to speed this process up. (There is a picture of the ‘naked pav’ at the bottom of the post).
8. Top your pay with lemon curd and dollops of whipped cream. Or, other toppings I have heard of or tried include:

  • Of course, the traditional kiwi, passionfruit and strawberries, mango, banana
  • Mixed berries (can be macerated or not)
  • Cherries are lovely for Christmas
  • Grilled, poached or stewed fruit (cold obviously) such as rhubarb, peaches, spiced prunes, pineapple, figs
  • Some marscapone mixed in with the whipped cream
  •  Pomegranate and pistachio
  • Citrus – orange, mandarin, ruby grapefruit

I would love to know what your favourite topping is or would be. Be sure to leave a comment!

Enjoy!

Oh! And by the way, if a New Zealander ever tries to tell you that they invented the pavlova – tell them you are SURE it is Australian😉

A blank canvass to decorate with any number of creative, seasonal, delicious toppings.

A blank canvass to decorate with any number of creative, seasonal, delicious toppings. Crispy shell with light, fluffy, sweet marshmallow centre. Australian dessert heaven!

 

And I just found a picture of a doozie my amazing sister-in-law made, from Mum’s recipe, I think!

PERFECT PIES!

16 Aug

Just a friendly reminder to MAKE AND EAT PIES! In my book, there is no more satisfying a food experience when you are cold, hungover, starved, sad or celebrating.

Here are a couple I’ve made lately to inspire you and get those salivary glands going…

Apple and Cranberry Pie

Christmas Turkey Pot Pie.

After dinner I asked my niece (3 at the time) what type of pie she loves best, “Love Heart Pie”, she answered. Don’t we all!

Or check out the Lamb, Onion and Stout Pie recipe I submitted for a competition ages ago. It didn’t win, but it won me a husband!!

Aussie Icon

Aussie Icon

Personally, I love all sorts of pies. Lattice top pies, bottomless pies, pot pies, party pies. But my favourite is a real, proper pie – pastry on the bottom, pastry on the top, hot, steamy salty or sweet filling.

PIES! Make one today. Your friends, family and belly will thank-you.

In my book, the perfect pie is actually not perfect at all, at least not aesthetically! I like homemade pies that have gravy goo oozing out the edges or sticky fruit leaking through slits in the top. Wonky edges and extra crispy bits are perfect. As long as the pastry is cooked through and the filling is made from good stuff, you can’t go wrong! No Martha Stewart style perfection pies for me please. I guess in a pie I’m looking for unpretentious perfection… If that makes sense?

Or if you want to try a truly weird food experience, form my hometown of Adelaide, try a pie-floater! A hot meat pie, floating in pea soup, with lots of tomato sauce. If you’re lucky you’ll get a spoonful of mash on top. Sounds ridiculous? Tastes amazing. Promise. Try it! Next time you make pea and ham soup get a pie from the shop, plop it in a shallow bowl of soup, tomato sauce on top. Promise you’ll love it, you just have to embrace it.

Here are some leftovers pies ideas…

Chop up leftover roast meat, veggies and gravy.

Use a tin of cream of mushroom soup with leftover roast chook or christmas turkey.

Homemade baked beans make yummy pies, add a bit of cheese!

Mix leftover steamed/stir-fried vegies with some satay sauce and make little satay veggie pies.

Stewed fruit of course – my favourites are apple and cherry, apple and pineapple, apricot made from rehydrated turkish dried apricots (put some booze in this one)!

Put your leftover curry in a pie!

TIPS FOR A PERFECT PIE! (Pie pros will already know these probably, but they are tips that helped me learn to make good pies)!

Whether you are using store bought pastry or home made, it is important to blind bake your base first! I find the best way is to cover the base with baking paper.

Always brush your pastry top with egg-wash or something to make it shiny.

Here are some toppings I’ve tried:

* Fig Jam – looks pretty with the little fig seeds
* Cardamom sugar – mix a pinch of cardamom into some Demerara sugar
* Coloured sugar – you can buy it from the grocery store – kids love this!
* Lavendar sugar, thyme sugar, rosemary sugar – these are all herbs that taste lovely with sweet fillings

Crust ideas:

* Cheddar crust is amazing! Just add cheese to your pastry dough for savoury or sweet pies. So delicious!
* Herb crust – load your pastry with herbs for extra flavour
* Pepper crust – instead of making a peppery stew for a filling, add lots of pepper to the pastry
* Of course cut out shapes for the top! Scour the op-shops and kitchen stores for unusual cookie cutters, some of the ones I have found are a cute rabbit for rabbit pies, christmas themed for leftover Christmas pies, flowers for a girly strawberry pie. Be creative with shapes – cut out a fish for the top of a fish pie
* Instead of one large sheet cut to fit your pie tin, cut the pastry into lots of rounds, or use a cutter to make lots of pieces and layer them in a pattern of concentric circles on top. You can see the filling through little gaps and it just looks, well… different and kind of cute. Here is an example – this blogger has done a superb job, geez that looks like a tasty pie! Herb Crusted Peach and Cardamom Pie
* Cut out little shapes to make a border around the outside edge of your pie top.
* Cut shapes out of your top sheet instead of layering extra pastry cut outs on top.

The Perfect Pie…

* An old fashioned black bird is ideal for saucy fillings – cut a whole in the centre. He is designed to let steam out to help your pastry lid cook. Cute and retro, but very purposeful! Most kitchen shops should have them
* Make sure your pie filling is plenty moist – nobody likes a dry pie! Ask your green grocer about the best fruits for pies if you are not sure. You want fruit that holds its shape somewhat, but isn’t dry or too watery when cooked. Sometimes a combination of fruits is best to get the right balance. Pectin in fruit is what makes it go nice and sticky. For example, if you have a lot of berries (low pectin), mix it with something higher pectin (like an apple, plums or quinces).
Nobody likes a soggy-bottom pie either. If your sauce is too runny, thicken with a little corn starch and water or drain off some of the runny stuff.
* I always prefer to cool the filling before adding it to the pie. So, if you make a pre-cooked stew or other filling mixture, allow it to cool first. This will prevent your pastry from going gooey before it goes into the oven.
* In my opinion, is cooked in glass or ceramic. Not sure why I think this, just have a feeling that pies in metal tins are inferior. I guess ceramic and glass heat slower than metal and so the base doesn’t cook too quickly, leaving time for the filling to cook just right as well. Or maybe it’s just childhood nostalgia? My Dad always made rabbit pie in an oval shaped, dark brown, deep ceramic dish. For me, something with a sloped edge prevents the pastry from ‘slumping’ in the dish.
* Serve it with something! Whether it’s plain old tomato sauce on a meat/veg pie (don’t be a snob, you know you want it), a side of mash and peas or crispy salad, or for sweet pies a dollop of cream, custard or ice-cream is heaven. For something different, or a bit posh, try these out – natural yoghurt sweetened with honey or not sweetened at all, for fruit pies. Raita and chutney with a curry pie. Beetroot relish or chilli tomato jam with savoury pies.

Personally, I think the best list of pie recipes online that I have found belongs to the BBC.

And to my USA followers, you know I want to hear from you… You are a nation of bigger pie nuts than even us Aussies! I’ll never forget my first Cherry Pie a la mode experience when I was fifteen in a New York diner.

Hot Mango Jam

16 Aug

Last summer I was given two shopping bags full of beautiful, ripe mangoes from a friend’s tree. Lucky us! We ate mangoes for days. It isn’t an Aussie summer without at least a daily session with a ripe, sweet, slightly tangy, juicy mango. You end up with an orange smear around your mouth, fibre stuck in your teeth, sticky hands (and forearms if it’s a super juicy one) and a big smile on your face.

We had so many mangoes I decided to try making a chutney. Seeing they were so ripe and soft, it really turned out like a jam. It is sweet, a little sour, fragrant and spicy! It is not like traditional mango chutney made with under-ripe mangoes, with firm chunks and a sticky consistency. But it is fantastic with curries, grilled meats or even a firm cheddar and crackers!

Here’s what you’ll need…

4 very large mangoes, cut up roughly

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 1/2 cups brown vinegar

1 sliced brown onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon grated ginger

2 hot chillies, chopped

5 cardamom pods, crushed

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 tablespoon currants (optional)

1/2 tablespoon oil

Here’s what you do…

Note! You will need to have pre-prepared some jars for storage. I used good quality, recycled canning jars with pop-seal lids. If you need help with the process of preparing jars for preserves, click here.

Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Fry the onion, garlic and ginger until golden brown. Add the mustard seeds and stir until they start to pop. Add remaining spices and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring. Add the sugar and vinegar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the mango and stir. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until a thick consistency is reached.

Take off the heat and carefully spoon the mixture into your sterilised jars and screw the lids on while still hot. Allow to cool on the bench and then store in a cool, dark place for at least a week before eating. I made about 3 medium sized jars from this recipe.

I opened the last jar last night, and it is August now. It had developed so nicely and was better than the first and second jars we ate. Be sure to store in the refrigerator after opening.

This is so good with curry. Try my easy Biryani recipe.

Cheats Chicken Biryani

16 Aug

This is a quick mid-week alternative to a proper biryani. Serves 4.

Here’s what you’ll need…

2 brown onions, sliced

2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or ghee

2 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon panch phoran (from your Indian grocer)

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1 chopped tomato

2 cups chicken stock or water

salt

500 grams chicken thigh meat, cut up or whole

2 cups vegetables (your choice)

2 cups basmati rice

Slivered almonds, coriander, chutney/pickles, raita.

Here’s what you do…
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. In a large saucepan (with a tight fitting lid), heat the oil/ghee. Fry one onion, the garlic and ginger until it starts to turn golden brown. Add spices and cook for 2-3 minutes. Put the rice in the boiling water and stir, leave to boil for around 5 minutes. Just after you put the rice on, add chicken, tomato and stock/water and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and stir. Strain the rice (par-cooked), and layer it on top of the curry. Place the lid on the pot and turn the heat to low. Allow to cook for further 10-15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Try not to open the lid and let the steam out too many times! This will increase the cooking time needed! Alternatively, if your saucepan is oven-proof, you can place the whole thing, covered, in the oven at about 180 degrees celsius.

I like to garnish the top with a fried onion (sweet), some toasted slivered almonds (crunchy), a sprinkling of turmeric (pretty) or saffron infused ghee (expensive) and some coriander. But you could add raisins for sweetness, more or other toasted nuts, mint, chopped cucumber and tomato. Anything you fancy!

Serve with a dollop of fresh yoghurt or raita and some pickles and chutneys. We had ours with my Spicy Mango Jam.

This is not an authentic Biryani and my Mum will likely disapprove as her Biryani is highly superior! But it is ready in 30 minutes and can be made with pretty much any curry. Only two pots and a chopping board to wash up and you’ll have yummy leftovers for lunch.

two4six8! Sorry I started eating before I took a snap. I was soooo hungry!

P.S. A fellow blogger is hosting ‘Chicken Week’ on their blog – check out all the yummy recipes. There is a One Pot Chicken Dinner with olives and tomatoes that looks scrumptious (if curry isn’t your thing)!

Actually, this blog has advertised my post – isn’t that nice of them! chefdehomebadge_featuredbadge_transparent

Chilli Chocolate Cake ❤

14 Aug

So I’m STILL really busy and this is cheeky – but I don’t have a lot of time for inventing. This cake recipe was from a great show that was screening on SBS television a few months back called Spice Trip. I tried this cake without the tequila and loved it so much I made it for our wedding day, along with a few other favourites as part of a cake banquet for our guests. I chose this because it is super duper quick and easy. No beatermix required. One bowl, a spoon and a whisk. Here is the link to the recipe
http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/really-easy-chocolate-cake-chilli-salt-and-tequila

I undercook this cake because I’m always worried about turning out a frisbee and wasting the good chocolate I use to make it. It is gooey the first day (amazingly delicious served warm out of the oven), and it kind of sets by the second day and is moist, firm and superb! I recommend covering loosely with foil for the last five or ten minutes and whatever you do don’t open the oven door to sneak a peak or you’ll get a pancake. Opening the oven door too early in the cooking process will cause your cake to collapse.

Here are some wedding snaps. I’ll have to ask my sister for the Russian Tea Cakes recipes.

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Chipotle Prawn Tacos with Guacamole & Chargrilled Corn and Chilli Salsa

14 Aug

This the same recipe as for Chipotle Fish Tacos except for the salsa…

All I did was chargrill some corn and large red chillies in a griddle pan on high heat, no oil. This would also work perfectly on the BBQ. Cut the corn off the cob, peel the blackened skin off the chillies and chop them up. Mix the corn, chillies, some lime juice, a drizzle of olive oil, a little salt and pepper. Mash some avocado with coriander, lime, salt and pepper – or however you like it.

Arriba!

Sorry for the speed blogging btw. I’m still studying and life’s too hectic to indulge in super long posts and super long recipes. This recipe is as yummy as anything complicated and long. Promise.

Oh! And why don’t you try this for dessert… Chilli Chocolate Cake

Sesame Salmon with Cold Soba Noodles and Pickled Ginger

12 Apr
two4six8

two4six8

I know this is nearly the same as my miso mackerel. But honestly, this can be ready in thirty minutes or less, is ultra nutritious and comforting. You don’t have to make your own ginger… Just pop in to your nearest Asian grocer or use fresh grated ginger.

For one serve, you’ll need…
1 fillet or steak of salmon
2 tbsp mirin
4 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp water
A few shakes of sesame oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Soba noodles – 1 bundle
a sliced spring onion

1. Boil soba noodles until tender – about 2 mins. Strain and rinse with cold water. Strain and place in a dish. Toss with spring onions and dress with 1 tbsp of soy, mirin mix.
2. Marinate salmon in soy, mirin mix for a few minutes. Heat a pan over medium heat. Add a little oil and pan fry salmon on both sides until cooked to your liking. I like mine quite soft so only cook it for about 5 minutes.
3. Sprinkle sesame seeds on a plate and roll the salmon in the seeds until coated on all sides with sesame seeds.
4. Serve salmon on the bed of noodles with a side of steamed greens and some sliced pickled ginger. A wedge of lime is nice, or a sprinkle of Japanese red chilli powder!

Enjoy!

You need to make the pickled ginger at least a day ahead but it is truly worthwhile. You will have to find some very young ginger. In Australia, the first harvest is usually January-March, I think. But if you see ginger with very thin skin which is shiny and waxy looking it should be juicy and tender without the stringy, woody fibres that more mature ginger has. Bring 1 cup of rice vinegar to the boil with a quarter cup of sugar. Slice one large piece peeled ginger with a vegetable peeler and pack loosely into a sterilised jar. Pour hot vinegar over ginger, cover and seal you jar. Watch the magic as your ginger turns a beautiful pale pink! I haven’t been specific about quantities. You may need more or less vinegar depending on how much ginger you have. Leave in the cupboard for a few days.

Chocolate, Coconut and Rum Cake

1 Feb
Tiki says "yum yum two4six8!"

Tiki says “yum yum two4six8!”

I’m not a very good baker. I just don’t have the feel for it and never really got the basics firmly under my belt. I do however, have baking under my belt in the literal sense. In fact, I always tell people I don’t really have  a sweet-tooth. Well, that’s just a big whopping ol’ lie isn’t it. I have the waist-line to prove it😉 I especially like chocolate cake. Who doesn’t? Apart from my Nanna’s hand-written chocolate fudge cake recipe which lives tucked inside the front cover of Mum’s tattered and beloved Joy of Cooking, I really don’t know a chocolate cake recipe. Nanna’s is a good everyday chocolate cake, but I wanted to make something a bit spesh, you know? I also like rum. Rum and chocolate cake… Now you’re talking. Oh, merde! No butter. Hmmm. And merde encore, only two eggs. Lousy backyard chickens. Oh, there’s a spare egg white leftover. And what about that jar of coconut oil sitting in the pantry? Surely that stuff’s delicious. Mum makes the world’s best muffins with that stuff. And I hear it’s really GOOD for you. Something about good fats with a really hard to pronounce name… Medium chain triglycerides? Say that 10 times really quickly! After you’ve tested the rum for the cake.  Healthy chocolate cake… Woohoo!

Eggs, chocolate, coconut oil, rum, flour. Let’s give it a bash. So, I got brave and made it up as I went along. And guess what? Success. It’s been out of the oven 30 minutes and I’ve already got two slices under my belt! Yay! I can bake!

Here’s what you’ll need…

2 eggs, separated

1 extra egg white

1/4 cup caster sugar

150 grams dark cooking chocolate

1/4 cup coconut oil

splash of rum/rum essence

3/4 cup SR flour

1/3 cup milk

Here’s what you do…

1. Grease a standard 8″ round tin and pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius.

2. Melt the chocolate (in the microwave or over a bain-marie) and set aside to cool.

3. In a medium sized mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl, beat the two egg yolks and caster sugar until light, fluffy and very pale (about 5 minutes). In another bowl, beat the egg-whites until stiff peaks form.

4. Mix oil and rum into melted chocolate. Stir thoroughly until well combined. While beating the egg yolk mixture on low speed, slowly pour in the chocolate and rum mixture. Mix until just combined. Don’t over-beat, or you will lose the air you need in the mixture.

5. Slowly add sifted flour and milk, alternately, mixing gently on very low speed (or you can do this by hand). I like to start and end with flour. Again, do not over-mix, just until the flour and milk is incorporated.

6. Add about 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and slowly, gently fold through with a whisk or spatula. Once incorporated, add the remaining egg whites to the bowl and fold through the mixture.

7. Pour batter into prepared tin and sit this in another baking tray with an inch or so of tepid water in the bottom. Bake for around 20-30 minutes or until the top bounces back when lightly pressed with your finger.

8. Allow to cool in the tin for ten minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool. Ice and refrigerate to eat later or serve warm as a dessert. I just did a paper cut and sprinkled with icing sugar – maybe it doesn’t need icing at all?

Enjoy! If you think of any good serving ideas or garnishes – share them in the comments section.

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I served this piece with rum chocolate cream. It’s whipped cream with rum and melted chocolate. You could ice it with this?

Vegemite Chicken

24 Jan
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two4six8 grew up on it.

On hot buttered toast. With cheddar and cucumber on toast (my sister in law’s brilliant invention), a spoonful in my bolognese. And my all time favourite… Honey and Vegemite on toast. Strange, but yum.

I know what you’re thinking. How cliché can you get this close to Australia Day? But honestly, this has nothing to do with kitsch patriotism. My friends will tell you I’m the last person to get excited about celebrating on January 26th. Don’t get me wrong, I love football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars as much as the next bloke. Or should I say, sheila? I usually just hide inside and then head down the beach to clean up after yobs so the turtles don’t have to choke on their rubbish. “Love ‘Straya – just not enough to give a shit about picking up after meself down the beach. That’s some other bloke’s job eh”. You beauty mate. Sorry for the neurotic whinge, I won’t get into politics. You’re not here for politics, you’re here for tasty chicken. Here’s how I got to the Vegemite chicken idea. In fact, it wasn’t me at all, it was a friend, but anyhow…

Last Sunday night after a boozy afternoon, I was at a Chinese restaurant in Brisbane’s China Town, greedily ploughing into a hot plate of Shantung chicken. Although I’ve eaten it a lot I’ve never known how it’s done. And I can never decide if I like the hot, crispy skinned chicken and sweet, sour sauce or the fried spinach garnish better. This blog does a fine job of explaining the dish. Now I know what to do with the bottle of black vinegar I bought randomly over a year ago. And now I know what that sweet, sour, slightly ferment-ish DELICIOUS flavour is that my mate Andy was puzzling over after eating it at the restaurant. He thought it tasted like Vegemite. Maybe. Can’t remember if he said it, or if I thought it, but I’ve been thinking about Vegemite chicken since Sunday. To my mind there had never been such a thing, but I was wrong. Of course it exists. There’s apparently a recipe for Vegemite chicken wings right on the back of the jar! There is nothing new under the sun, as the phrase goes (and so, often, does Andy). A simple google search has consistently annihilated any original culinary idea I’ve ever had, pretty much. Tempting as it was to bastardise the Shantung chicken recipe with the addition/substitution of Vegemite and claim it as my own, although reflecting the true colonial spirit of Australia Day (oops that was political, wasn’t it?) I decided to stick with my Aussie instincts in the use of this most cherished and familiar ingredient.

Here’s what I came up with… It was beautiful – sweet, salty, a little malty. I’m not convinced I’d choose it over Shantung chicken but hey, it was fun to invent something new! Well, new for me anyway.

You’ll need…

1 whole chicken, butterflied (I partially de-boned mine)

1 tablespoon Vegemite

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon boiling water

2 large sprigs rosemary

a knob of butter (unsalted or low salt preferably)

What you do…

Simply mix all the marinade ingredients in a jug/bowl and stir well to combine, ensuring the sugar and Vegemite have melted/dissolved thoroughly. Hide the rosemary under the bird or under the skin of the bird and then smother with marinade, rub with your hands to ensure even coverage. Cover with glad and refrigerate. As usual, at least an hour is ok or overnight if possible.

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Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Melt around 50 grams of butter. Baste the chicken lightly with butter. Cook for 20 minutes then reduce heat to 180 for about 40 minutes-1 hour depending on the size of your bird. Cover loosely with foil if the skin is burning.

Drain the juices from the pan. If you want to, strain off the chicken fat. Let the cooked chicken rest, covered with foil, for at least 10 minutes. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve with the pan juices.

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It puts a rose in every cheek😉

Our Girls

23 Jan

Best thing I did in the last 12 months or so was invest in these 4 beauties… Bok Bok Bok… If you’ve got room, I encourage you to do the same. Their coop cost about $100, built from a second hand plastic kids’ cubby house, some star pickets and chicken wire. They’ve laid on average 2-4 eggs per day all together.

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From front left – clockwise… Little Miss Fuzz Buzz, Ophelia, Pamela Jill and Dot


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Quinoa Protein Power Breakfast

23 Jan

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I know, I know… Quinoa’s so fashionable. But honestly this breakfast keeps you powering through the morning like no other. I mean, I am usually famished by 10 or 11, but not on the days I eat this combo. And you don’t have to chow down on greasy bacon or sausages to get the protein hit you need to get you through the morning. Cinnamon is also said to boost metabolism. Whatever, it tastes awesome. I usually add a high fibre mix consisting of psyllium husks and seeds and linseed – but that’s up to you. The quinoa mix keeps well in the fridge if you want to make a big batch for hectic week-day mornings. If you’re like me and leave nowhere near enough time to get dressed and fed in the morning and usually have to opt for one of the two before you hot foot it out the door – you get dressed, and not fed. 

Here’s what you’ll need…

1/3 cup tri-coloured quinoa (or any type, no diff)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon sugar or honey or agave sweetener (optional)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Fruit of choice

It’s easy…

Cook the quinoa in the liquid according to packet instructions. I use the absorption method. Allow to cool. Mix the cinnamon and sweetener (if using) with either the quinoa or yoghurt, whatever you prefer, top with fresh fruit and eat! You can Add a splash of cold milk if you want it wetter. 

Dairy Free Alternative…

Instead of milk, use 1/2 orange juice to cook the quinoa. Sounds strange, tastes fantastic. Top with soy yoghurt, or just lots of fruit and some nuts! 

 

Breakfast Fajitas with Leftover Enchilada Sauce

23 Jan

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This is how we used the leftover enchilada sauce this morning

Tortilla Soup or ‘Sopa Azteca’

22 Jan

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This soup isn’t bold and strong but rather mild and delicate, but I promise that after your third or fourth mouthful you’ll be absolutely loving it. There are a few ingredients in this soup that may be quite hard to find in some places – in particular, the pasilla chillies which are typically used to enhance the fragrance and texture of the soup. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t have them. Nor does it matter if you don’t have any enchilada sauce to add. It is nice the way I make it but if you conduct a basic google search for tortilla soup you will soon see that there are literally hundreds of different versions of this soup. It’s just the basic idea that I love. I’ve put a note on substitutions and variations on the theme at the bottom of this recipe.

Here’s what you’ll need

Serves 6 as an entree or 4 as a main

1 cup vegetable oil

6 small corn tortillas

1 dried pasilla chilli, stem and seeds removed, sliced

1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 litre chicken stock

1 small chicken breast or 6 chicken tenders

1 cup enchilada sauce

1 ripe avocado, diced

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1 tablespoons or around 50 grams mild crumbly feta, crumbled

1 lime, quartered

Steps…

1. Heat oil in a medium sized saucepan to a good frying temperature – around 185 celsius, 365 fahrenheit

2. Cut tortillas into 1 inch strips and fry in the hot oil. Drain on paper towel or in a colander. Set aside.

3. Tip out most of the oil except about 2 tablespoons. Fry the pasilla chillies for about 20 seconds. Drain on paper towel and when cooled crumble the chillies slightly to break them up. Set aside.

4. Gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until translucent. Add chicken stock and enchilada sauce along with chicken. Simmer on low heat until chicken is cooked through – 10-20 minutes. Remove chicken from broth and shred or cut into pieces.

5. To serve, you can either put out all of the garnishes and let people serve themselves at the table, or divide the tortilla strips between shallow bowls and top with a small amount of each garnish. Pour two or three ladles of hot soup into the bowl and enjoy!

Substitutions…

Use mild cheddar instead of the feta. It goes melty and delicious. If you have a local deli that sells queso fresco – this is traditional and delicious.

Cooked black beans, kidney beans, or even leftover re-fried beans are tasty and could replace the chicken.

Any vegetable can be added to the soup – chayote/choko, capsicum, potato, zucchini or squash are all nice.

A sprinkle of cayenne pepper instead of the pasilla chilli would be fine if you don’t have a Mexican importer nearby.

Any other suggestions? Add them in the comments section! 

Enchilada Sauce! WHO CAN? MEXICAN!

22 Jan

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I made this recently for family. We used it in both the first and second courses of a Mexican feast – a ladle full added to chicken broth to liven-up Sopa de Tortilla and smothered over pulled pork stuffed tortillas, sprinkled with cheese and cooked under a hot grill to make super tasty Enchiladas. You can also hike up the heat factor in this sauce and bottle it as a hot condiment for all manner of dishes and snacks – on eggs, added to fresh salsa/pico de gallo, on steaks

. It keeps for ages in a sterilised jar in the fridge.

Here’s what you’ll need…

… to make about 1 litre of sauce…

Around 500 grams fresh, ripe tomatoes (any variety), roughly chopped

Two small onions, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled

3-4 sprigs thyme, or coriander with roots attached

1/2 cup water

salt

1/2 – 1 whole habañero chilli**

75 grams butter

** These chillies are the dark red and bright yellow ones pictured above. They are EXTREMELY HOT and have a delicious sweet, nutty flavour. Be warned – wear gloves while handling these chillies and if you are not used to spicy food, perhaps you could make the sauce with a milder variety (like the others pictured) or some mild chilli powder.

IMG_8878Here’s what you do…

It’s dead easy… Put all the ingredients except the butter in a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth (1-2 minutes).

Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan until very hot and frothy.

Pour the contents of the blender into the pan – be careful as it may splutter a little. Stir butter and sauce together, reduce heat and simmer slowly, uncovered, for about 30-40 minutes. The consistency you are after is about the same as store bought tomato passata.

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two4six8! Who do we appreciate!?!😉

WAYS TO EAT IT…

1) Use it as a base for quesadillas – smear some on a tortilla, top with cheese and another tortilla, pan-fry both sides. Serve with sour cream and guacamole. Add some fried chorizo or grilled veg. Drool.

2) Put it on toast with cheese and grill it after a night out!

3) Shred the meat of a rotisserie chicken, mix some of this sauce through it and use it as a stuffing for enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, flautas etc.

4) Serve it as a sauce with tacos.

5) My favourite… Put a ladle full in some chicken broth for Sopa de Tortillas.

6) Freeze it and dream up something yummy…

Any other suggestions? Please share in the comments section🙂

I’m back!

22 Jan

HOLY BOSS O’ THE HOT SAUCE BATMAN! That was a busy year!! Sorry I haven’t blogged  since last February… I’ve been studying full time towards a Masters of Speech Pathology. I’m half way through. I’m loving it, but it has been more than hectic. Needless to say my kitchen hasn’t had the same workout it usually gets. I did manage to find time most weeks to bake for my classmates and also perfected the loaf. Quite a coup! This year saw lots of eggs on toast (thanks to my beautiful chookies), beans on toast, scratch and duck under the table (excuse the silly Australianism).

Anyhow, I’m back and have a few old favourites to blog about, a couple of chilli bushes and some seasonal stone fruits to put to use, as well as a year’s worth of pent up culinary creativity to release. An ‘invention test’ with mates is pencilled into the diary also. Should be fun. I can’t promise anything more than a short, sharp burst of enthusiasm until uni cranks up again, but hopefully you’ll settle for quality, not quantity!

First cab off the rank is an excellently versatile enchilada sauce and my favourite way to use it. Strangely, not for enchiladas. Stay tuned…

Pineapple Cayenne Pepper Relish

9 Feb two4six8!

two4six8!

A milder alternative to my fiery Sambal.

You’ll need…

1/2 large or whole small pineapple, finely chopped (around 2 1/2 – 3 cups)

1/2 brown onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup vinegar (white wine or apple cider)

1/2 cup brown sugar

2-3 cayenne chilli peppers or 1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder

pinch of salt

Simply…

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer, uncovered, until most liquid has evaporated and the relish is syrupy and soft. Store in a glass jar. Best eaten after a couple of weeks resting in the fridge. Yummy with fresh mint or coriander stirred through.

Serve with grilled chicken or fish. Great on burgers (Paul’s suggestion for which I told him he would get no credit whatsoever, aren’t I nice?)

Fresh cayenne peppers, underrated and unfairly upstaged by the dried powdered form. These chillies grow really well in pots. This plant has fruited abundantly at least 5 times now. They're hot, but not mega hot and de-seeded have a great flavour.

Stuffed Red Capsicum with Soy and Ginger Sauce

5 Feb

two4six8!

So you know those Sunday afternoons when you have no idea what’s for dinner and you’re really more in the mood for some light comic relief than cooking a meal? I promise if you watch any of the ‘Cooking with Dog’ video series on YouTube, you will find inspiration and probably have a giggle. You may be thinking “Cook with dog? What the…?” Well, relax, it’s not what you think (although at our house the jokes about this concept came on pretty thick and fast). Nobody does eccentricity quite like the Japanese! I got my idea for dinner tonight from this video. I wasn’t planning to blog this meal (that’s why the photo’s not crash hot), but it turned out so good I figured why not!? And really, you could stuff other vegetables like zucchini or eggplant too. There are lots of other yummy, easy Japanese recipes on ‘Cooking with Dog’.

I changed the ingredients a little but followed the method shown in the video. I’ll list the ingredients I used for my stuffing below because it turned out really yum. Also, I added lots of fresh, grated ginger to the sauce, because we love it and because we have colds.

To stuff 3 large peppers, cut into quarters, you’ll need…

3 chicken thigh fillets, minced

3 green onions, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups mixed dried Chinese mushrooms (you need to soak these in hot water first), finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

lots of cracked black pepper

generous pinch of salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

You could put all of the ingredients (except the chicken) in the food processor to save time and fuss.

We ate ours with some soba noodles and we’re looking forward to the cold leftovers tomorrow for lunch.

WOOF! Or more likely, YAP! You like button!

Chipotle Fish Tacos with Pineapple Tequila Salsa

30 Jan

Better with prawns but they were $45 a kilo! Stupid weather! I used Snapper. Really, you could use chicken, beef, lamb or pork. Or for vegetarian – thick slices of tofu would be yummo!

These tacos are light, fresh and so healthy tasting. They’re low fat as there is none of the stuff people associate with heavy, rich Tex-Mex, no cheese, no sour cream, no thick sauces or cooked salsas.

I only know of one place in Brisbane where you can buy dried Chipotles – Samios Foods in Woolloongabba http://www.truelocal.com.au/business/samios-foods-retail/woolloongabba  and a restaurant/deli at Worongary on the Gold Coast called Fajitas http://www.fajitas.net.au/

If you’d like to try making your own tortillas – refer to https://two4six8.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/pulled-pork-tacos/ – there is a recipe there.

Here’s what you’ll need…

(about 8-10 tacos)

2-3 dried Chipotle chillies

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon cumin

pinch salt

500 grams firm white fish

small pineapple or half a large one

2 jalapeños, thinly sliced

2 limes

small red onion

generous splash of tequila

fresh coriander

2 avocados

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

8-10 small corn tortillas

Firstly…

Prepare the salsa – finely dice the pineapple, slice the onion, chop the coriander and chillies and toss in a bowl with the juice of half a lime, a splash of tequila and a some pepper and salt. Cover and set aside.

I chopped the pineapple a little too chunky, we thought. Really finely chopped, almost crushed, would have been better.

Mash the avos with a little lime juice, salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

Next…

Remove the stem from the dried chillies and process in a spice grinder to a powder. Mix with other dried spices in a small bowl.

smokey, hot, deliciousness

Then…

Slice the fish into 2-3 cm thick strips. Sprinkle with the dried spices to coat. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and when very hot quickly fry the fish. It’ll only take a minute or two each side.

A really hot pan and just a couple of minutes to keep it moist

Finally…

Warm the tortillas and wrap in foil or a slightly damp cloth and keep warm.

I wrap my tortillas in a cloth and keep them warm in a basket with a lid.

To serve…

If you want to plate up the tacos for everyone, a clever trick is to place wedges of lime on the plate in a line, so they will prop up the tortillas sitting between them! Smear each tortilla with a little guacamole, top with one or two strips of fish and a little salsa. Or, you can simply put all your bits and pieces on the table and get into it! The palm of your hand – perfect for tacos!

A little ceramic donkey and a shot of tequila make great accompaniments. Olé!

two4six8!

Simple Pleasures: Melting Moments with Lime Butter Cream

29 Jan

So good with a hot cuppa for a relaxing treat

I needed to bake something egg-free for a friend recently. All I could think of was shortbread. Boring. Shortbread sandwiched around tangy, creamy icing. Now you’re talking. This whole batch of biscuits cost about the same as one melting moment from the sweaty jar at the local cafe.

These were perfect! Yummo and super easy and quick to make. I had to tweak the recipes I found to suit my ingredients. This is what I came up with.

All you’ll need…

Makes 12 small-medium sandwich style biscuits

125 grams unsalted butter, chopped

1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

1/4 cup icing sugar

3/4 cup plain flour

1/2 cup cornflour

Filling

75 grams butter

2/3 cup icing sugar

1 teaspoon lime juice

zest one lime (finely grated)

Firstly…

Beat butter, vanilla and icing sugar until fluffy.

Sift together plain flour and cornflour and add to butter mixture in three batches, folding through.

Place small balls of batter about 2 cm’s apart on a non-stick baking tray and flatten with a fork. Alternatively, you can pipe the mixture onto the tray, using a wide circular nozzle. I did the latter and got nice, evenly round biscuits.

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 170 degrees. Cool on cooling racks. Be careful moving the biscuits as they are quite soft and breakable while warm.

For the Filling…

Cream all ingredients with a hand beater or free standing electric mixer until very pale, light and fluffy. Refrigerate until biscuits have completely cooled.

To assemble…

Pipe a dollop of icing onto one biscuit, then simply sandwich together with another.

The butter cream will still be soft. Refrigerate for ten minutes or until firm so they hold together when eaten. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

two4six8!

Peach and Strawberry Almond Crumble

29 Jan

Peach and Strawberry Almond Crumble

So I haven’t eaten dessert for weeks, and as you know I don’t really give a hoot about sweet things but this was delicious – teamed up with a rainy evening, Midnight Cowboy DVD and my favourite person to stay home with on a Saturday night – a winner!

This is easy as pie. I mean crumble.

This was a beautiful fruit combo but you could substitute almost any fruit. I had these getting very ripe in my fridge.

You’ll need…

2-3 large peaches, cut into pieces

handful of strawberries, rinsed, hulled and halved

2 teaspoons castor sugar

about 3/4 cup plain flour

about 1/4 cup brown sugar

60 grams cold butter, diced

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1/4-1/2 cup flaked almonds

Preheat to 190 fan-forced

The first step…

is to simply arrange your fruit in a shallow baking dish (mine was a one inch deep 20cm ceramic pie dish) and sprinkle with castor sugar. Leave to macerate a little while you prepare the crumble.

For the crumble…

Place all ingredients except the almonds in a stand alone mixer bowl, or a medium mixing bowl. Make sure the butter is very cold for best results. Process (on medium speed) or rub between your fingers until you have a large-ish crumble (if it is too fine, like breadcrumbs, the top will not go crunchy). It’s not a very enticing example but the crumble should be about the consistency of gravel.

Fold through the flaked almonds.

Sprinkle the crumble over the fruit – do not press it down – it should be a loose, even, thick layer.

Bake for around 20 minutes…

or until the fruit starts bubbling around the edges and the top is a deep golden brown.

I served it with yummy home-made custard – whisk 2 egg yolks, 1 tablsepoon cornflour, 1 tablespoon castor sugar thoroughly, pour over 250ml’s hot (almost boiling) milk – whisk vigorously. Pour into saucepan and stir over medium heat until thick. Refrigerate.

two4six8!

Yummy fruity comfort food

Smoked Cod and Poached Eggs for Breakfast

17 Jan

two4six8!

Although the idea of eating fish for breakfast may repulse some people, I’m with the Scots and their kippers, the Chinese and their salty fish congee, Eskimos and raw fish. All the cool people eat fish for breakfast. It’s protein, healthy oils and salty goodness to get your taste buds humming for the day.  But this recipe is not stinky, slimy sardines heads and all, but a nice, firm, flaky white cod with not too much fishy smell. Ok, so I used to call it ‘stinky fish’ when I was a kid, but it only smells when it’s raw. Straight out of the packet and into the water and trust me, your nose won’t notice a thing. Mum used to serve it up for dinner with mash, steamed veg and smothered in creamy white parsley sauce. We all loved it!

My dish is kind of like a breakfast salad. Totally not suitable for hungover people or children under 15 (nor my dear friend Amber who’d probably rather go a deep fried tarantula than this for breakfast – sorry Amby) . For me it evokes; 1) Poverty – What nutritious meal can I cook for less than $5? (Yeah I’m back there again). 2) Dieting – What maximum protein breakfast can I eat that doesn’t involve pork fat in all its glorious and fattening manifestations? 3) Nostalgia – I think I ate this about twice a week for all of my twenties (remark – as those of you who know me would know, I was most definitely NOT on a diet for most of that time, I was just poor most of the time).

As for the fish, I had a terrible moment of moral incertitude when I recently asked myself the question “Oh crap, is this stuff sustainable? Or I have I been supporting some far-away over-exploitation of some poor, endangered species of obscure fish all this time, paying no mind to the potential ethical and environmental wrong I am committing regularly for the sake of my $2.80 Stinky Fish fillet”? Could I blame it on Woolworths? But PHEW! It’s all good. And in the process of finding out that the fish is in fact Hake, not Cod at all (it’s only marketed in Australia as Cod) and both the fish and the South African fisheries it comes from have the ‘Marine Stewardship Council’ tick of approval, I found this webpage – http://www.msc.org/. It provides quite a comprehensive list of the availability of their certified ‘sustainable’ fish products in Australia. Click on ‘Where to Buy’. There is also lots of information on fisheries and species and the whole shebang.

Truth be told, this dish is awesome for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

To serve 2 people

Here’s what you’ll need…

2 handfuls rocket/roquette (however you want to spell it) and baby spinach – or any other lettuce you like, really

2-4 eggs (one or two each)

1 fillet smoked cod

2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

squeeze lemon

some dill or parsley or basil, finely chopped

2 small potatoes

Four simple steps…

1. Boil or microwave the spuds until soft and tender. Slice, dice or smash.

2. Poach the fish fillet in simmering water for about 4-5 minutes (or less if it’s a small one). Remove to a plate and flake with two forks. It should slide off the skin really easily. Discard skin.

3. Poach your eggs. If this thought infuriates you – poaching eggs can be a b*#ch of a process if you haven’t nailed it yet, listen up. Medium pot of water, bring to the boil. Once boiled, reduce to simmer (with only little bubbles), add 3 tablespoons white vinegar. Crack the egg in as close to the surface as you can. Do nothing for 3 minutes. Remove egg with a slotted spoon.

4. Mix the yoghurt, herbs and a squeeze of lemon.

Serve – Put down a bed of greens, place the potato on top, then the fish, then the eggs. Tuck in!

two4six8!

Hollandaise is nice instead of yoghurt. Sour cream is an ok substitute for yoghurt. Or don’t have any sauce at all, just a good crack of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.

Barberry Rice Pilaf with Chicken

9 Jan

two4six8!

I met an Iranian woman recently who introduced me to barberries. They are a little, very sharp tasting berry used in pilaf dishes throughout the Middle East. They remind me of tangy pomegranate. I have made this pilaf of my own for years with currants, but I found the little red berries at my local Lebanese deli and thought I’d give them a whirl. The guy there told me to keep them in the fridge as they are semi-dried, but they keep for ages. They add such a yummy sourness. With the addition of a pan fried, sliced chicken breast, this pilaf makes a very satisfying meal. It is not heavy and is very healthy – barberries are crammed with vitamin C and the dish is low in fat. I have made it several times this summer. You can serve it hot, warm, cold – doesn’t matter. I hope you like it.

For a large bowl to serve 4, You will need…

 2 cups basmati rice

large pot of waterchicken/vegetable stock powder

4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

2 teaspoons cumin

2 fresh bay leavesblack pepper

1/2 cup barberries (or currants)

1/2 cup pistachios, flaked almonds, pine nuts (or a mix)

2 medium size red onions

1/4 cup fresh parsley (flat leaf or curly)

1/4 cup fresh mint

1/4 cup fresh coriander

2 chicken breasts

salt and pepper

juice of one lime or half a lemon

olive oil

Firstly…

Slice the onions into thin rings or half-rings and add to a hot pan with olive oil. Turn down the heat and stir occasionally until well caramelised – this will take up to 15 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, prepare the rice…

Add stock powder, cumin, smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves and ground black pepper to a large pot of water, add well rinsed Basmati rice, bring to the boil and boil until the rice is just tender – strain the rice while it is still ‘al dente’ as it will continue to cook for a while after it is strained (as it cools). Overcooked rice will wreck this dish.

Place the rice in a large, flat bowl or on a serving platter and toss through the barberries. Set aside to cool.

Secondly…

While the rice is cooling, toast the nuts in a dry pan over medium heat. As my funny sister in law says “I’m going to burn the pine nuts now” – whenever she cooks them! I swear at least 75% of the pine-nuts cooked in my house turn to little black nuggets and go straight to the bin. Don’t turn your back on your nuts!

You can chop them roughly or leave them whole. I don’t bother chopping except for pistachios. Set aside. Chop your herbs and set aside.

Thirdly…

When the rice is around room-temperature, toss in onions, nuts and herbs along with some salt and pepper to taste. I like to mix it gently with my hands.

For the chicken…

Gently beat chicken breasts with a rolling pin or meat pounder on the thickest part of the breast (for even cooking), dry with paper towel, season with salt and pepper (and sumac is nice if you have some), heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the chicken breast for about 3 minutes each side (or until no longer pink in the middle). Remove to a chopping board and slice into thick slices. Toss with the lemon/lime juice and a few tablespoons of olive oil.

To serve…

Either toss the chicken breast with the lemony juices through the salad and serve from the bowl, or plate up piles of rice salad with some chicken breast on top and drizzle with lemony juices. Be sure to refrigerate promptly if you do not serve the chicken hot.

Without meat it is a nice side dish or salad.

Without meat it is a nice side dish or salad with some lemon and oil dressing.

 

 

 

 

Thai Style Salad Deluxe

7 Sep

two4six8!

I’m not going to bother with any long intro to this dish, all I will say is that I made it tonight, probably enough to serve 4 people and we polished off the lot. We seriously COULD NOT STOP.

You will have heard a million times, Thai food is all about the balance – sour, sweet, salty. You’ve got to get that right in this dressing but honestly, it’s not brain surgery.

This dish is a kind of hybrid salad! Paul always makes this beautiful glass noodle salad with shredded cos lettuce, herbs and prawns and I love to make Thai green mango salad when the fruit is in season. I yelped with excitement the other day at our Asian green grocers when I saw them there for the first time since last summer! Beautiful, slender, sour green mangoes. And thirdly, everyone’s favourite Thai salad – Larb – the one with the roasted rice powder and ground meat.The result is a bit of all these and boy was it amazing!

Like any salad you have full artistic license with this one – you just have to remember the sweet, sour, salty balance thing.  The star ingredient of ‘larb’ – the roasted rice powder, is not in this salad, I made little fried garlic slivers instead.

Here’s what you’ll need…

SALAD

2 Thai green mangoes (you want them very firm and green so they are tart and crunchy, not soft and floppy) See picture below!

3 spring onions

2 red chillies (optional)

about 2 cups bean thread noodles (cooked)

One baby cos lettuce (or 1/3 – 1/2 a big one)

coriander

mint

roasted peanuts

5-6 cloves garlic

fried shallots (from the Asian grocer)

12 cooked prawns

50-100 grams chicken mince

50-100 grams pork mince

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

DRESSING

juice one large lime (or 2-3 tbsps)

2-3 tbsps fish sauce

2 tbsps sugar (palm, white, raw, brown – doesn’t really matter)

1 tbsp thai chilli and soy bean paste (from Asian grocer)

A rule of thumb for this dressing is to use equal quantities of sour, salty, sweet – but you can make it to suit your taste. Just start with less and adjust gradually as you know fish sauce is mega salty!

Now that you’ve scrapped the idea of making this salad because the list of ingredients is soooo long, WAIT! You can make this without the three different meats and just pick one – or use none and serve it alongside grilled fish or meat. We bought prawns and then realised we had a leftover pork chop and some chicken breast so we used it all up. If you don’t have the chilli bean paste the dressing is beautiful without it.

Here’s what you do…

Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix well to allow sugar to fully dissolve. Set aside.

Soak your noodles in hot water according to packet directions, drain, cut into manageable lengths and set aside.

Slice the garlic and shallow fry it in a little oil until they just start to change colour – these will burn easily and remember they will continue to cook and darken in colour even once they have been removed from the hot oil. Drain on paper towel.

Slice the spring onions and chillies on the diagonal into thin slices.

Shred the cos lettuce (not too fine).

Peel the mangoes. Cut into thin strips** see below for notes on this**.

Place all the above ingredients in a large salad bowl.

Slice the prawns in half – add to the salad.

In a very hot pan with a little oil, fry minced pork and chicken with the 1 tbsp fish and the sugar until it is lightly coloured. Allow to cool slightly. Add to salad.

Roughly chop herbs (if you wanted to add thai basil or vietnamese mint you can) and add to the salad.

Toss all salad ingredients with the dressing until well mixed. Sprinkle with a handful of smashed roasted peanuts and some of the little fried shallots to serve.

Enjoy!

** You can cut the mangoes any way you like really but I do rough julienne strips the way a Thai friend of mine taught me to and it’s quite nifty and looks nice- you hold the mango so that it’s lengthways down the palm of your hand (i.e. where the stem would be is at the top of your middle finger), with a sharp pairing knife or short bladed knife cut incisions in the mango from top to bottom (they don’t have to o all the way through to the seed), then turn your knife so that the blade is perpendicular to the incisions you’ve just made and scrape off the strips. Confusing? Just slice off thin slices from each cheek and then slice into thin strips.

Firm, bright green mangoes are what you want. Most Asian green grocers should have them through Spring and Summer. You can skip the chillies if you don't like spicy.

Tuna Ceviche Salad

16 Aug

Ceviche is a dish originating in South America which is made by ‘cooking’ fish or other seafood in citrus juice and garnishing it. It is usually eaten as an appetizer. There are so many variations and I encourage you to give them a go. There are versions with coconut milk and coriander, Asian versions with fish sauce, palm sugar, lemongrass etc and a myriad of other combinations. Google Ceviche and you’ll find hundreds of recipes. I made this version with fresh tuna, but you can substitute any fresh fish, prawns/shrimp, scallops, squid or a combination. This one is very simple – inspired by guacamole and fresh salsa. The ingredients go together really well so you can’t really mess this up. It looks pretty served in a glass (you need something low and wide – a low ball or a dessert glass) with toast or crispbread on the side. Or, lay it out flat on a plate for people to share. You really must have something crunchy to scoop it up with. It takes very little time to prepare and is very healthy. Of course you can add other ingredients to this dish like finely chopped chilli, a little garlic or some mustard. Diced cucumber would be a good addition.

Here’s what you’ll need…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 ripe tomatoes, diced

1 piece of tuna, about 250 grams (it needs to be very fresh and good quality)

juice of half a lemon

juice of half a lime

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp capers

1 avocado

1/4 red onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon each chopped fresh basil and parsley (or you can substitute chives, dill, coriander – up to you)

1 tablespoon sour cream

freshly ground black pepper

salt

black caviar to garnish (optional)

Firstly…

Blend the avocado, sour cream, about a teaspoon of the juice and some salt and pepper in a food processor or with a fork, until smooth.

Next…

Dice the fish into small cubes about 1.5 – 2 centimeters. Place the fish along with the chopped onion, tomato, capers and herbs in mixing bowl and toss. Taste the juice – if it is very sour you can add a pinch of caster sugar. Pour the juice over the salad mix. The juice will start to cook the fish immediately. Leave aside for about 5 minutes. Add the olive oil and toss again.

To serve…

Spoon the avocado mixture into the glass (or glasses if you want to do multiple individual serves) and top with the salad mixture. Garnish with a spoonful of black caviar if you want to. Serve with pieces of toast, toasted pita bread, bagel crisps or whatever crunchy cracker you have.

two4six8!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a different way to serve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a generous spoonful on a little toast

Miso Marinated Mackerel

29 Jul

Food for those days when you want to feel light and happy!

I remember one afternoon in Paris when I was walking past a ‘Quick’ burger restaurant and there was a young 20 something year old guy standing out the front scoffing his burger in the street and a 50 something year old woman, glamorously dressed à la Parisienne,  unreservedly and angrily berating him, asking why he couldn’t at least eat his ‘merde Americaine dans le restaurant’. I think in France if you don’t have time to sit down and eat properly you might as well skip the meal altogether. I’m pretty sure this would be the consensus of most self respecting gourmands and I guess it could be an alternative explanation for the skinny French woman phenomenon. I’ve heard that the days of that miraculous ability to stay glamourously thin on a diet consisting of all things indulgent may be running out for the French (much to the relief of ‘full figured’ women like me everywhere). Even the culinary nonpareil (at least the time poor ones), have begun to surrender to the mystery meat/butane burger and ‘french’ fries (ironically not French at all) from oily cardboard boxes drenched in long life mayonnaise from a sachet, tout à emporter – ‘to go’. Not surprisingly, the obesity epidemic is gaining significant momentum in France as it is elsewhere. And the French aren’t the only ones who are losing their grip on traditional, uncompromisingly high culinary standards, apparently. I’ve read that the Japanese 22 year record for the longest life span is threatened by the ‘would you like fries with that’ generation. A junk food tsunami seems to be emanating from some of the world’s epicenters of crap, flooding streets where once stood vendors of short-order nourishing fare with burger joints and pizza chains in all their greasy glory. But can the fast food empire really dilute gastronomical greatness?

When I am good I am very very good and when I am bad I eat chips. Sometimes I get the extra crunchy beer battered chips from the fish n chip shop in Burleigh or fish tacos from Wahoos with a mountain of crispy shoe-strings doused in their XXX hot sauce on the side. When I am good I eat sushi.

Japanese food always makes me feel healthy. I have only recently learned a few basics of Japanese cooking and I’m desperate to go to Japan to connect the dots properly. What an incredibly complex, developed cuisine. I’ve only scratched the surface but it’s so nice learning about new ingredients. I have made this particular recipe several times now and I think it is really beautiful. I’ve heard there are hundreds of types of miso in Japan – my local Asian grocer has two: brown and white. This dish uses white miso, tastes fabulous and is quick and easy to prepare. It is not my creation. I have done what I often do which is to read a few similar recipes and go with my instincts on how to cook the dish.

This dish is quite common I think, although I had never tried it until I made it recently. I bought the freshest mackerel at the market. It was glistening so silvery and wet I couldn’t resist, so I got the fish monger to clean and fillet it for me. I have cooked it several times since and it is our #1 favourite at the moment! I much prefer mackerel fillets to steaks personally, but you could do either I guess.

It’s dead easy.

You’ll need…

1/4 cup white miso paste

1/4 cup mirin

2 tbsps rice vinegar

1 1/2 tbsps minced ginger

1 1/2 tbsps minced spring onions

2 fillets mackerel (cut into smaller pieces if you like)

Simply combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl and coat mackerel. Leave for 30 minutes minimum, 2 hours max (I suspect any longer the vinegar might cook the fish a little too much and make it mushy when cooked).

Mix well until smooth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the best fish in the shop and the cheapest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fry the fish fillets skin side down in a hot pan for a few minutes and then spoon on any residual marinade and put under a hot grill for about 5-6 minutes (or more or less depending on the thickness of the fillets). To test, insert a knife into the thickest part of the fish and gently pull to the side. If the flesh is white and opaque you’re done! If it’s resistant or pink or translucent it needs to keep cooking.

Served with cold buckwheat soba noodles and dipping sauce, snow peas with sesame paste and some pickled daikon radish and red radish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

two4six8!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An icy cold pilsener and some pretty little dishes feel nice too!

Spicy Korean Style Beef and Octopus Soup

19 Jun

two4six8!

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve blogged. Here’s a a yummy winter soup to make up for lost time! The hot bean paste in this recipe is sold in all good Asian grocers, but if you can’t find it, just use cayenne pepper or regular chilli powder. If you don’t have mirin, use dry sherry. This soup is tangy, spicy, beefy and I just love loading it with crunchy bean sprouts just before the end. Bean thread noodles are nice in this soup but don’t add them to the pot as they can overcook and break into little pieces and disappear (especially if you reheat leftovers later). This soup is just as nice with chicken and it’s much quicker obviously. When I was a uni student I ate it with no meat, just veggies and an egg poached in the spicy broth.

Oh and one more thing – if you skip the stock and reduce the quantity of water in this recipe by two thirds you can make a thick stew instead of soup, to eat with hot rice and kim-chi.

You’ll need…

500-600 grams skirt steak, cut on a diagonal, against the grain, into one inch pieces

6-8 baby octopus, roughly chopped up into 3 or 4 pieces (this ingredient is optional)

2 litres water, chicken or beef stock (a couple of stock cubes will do – and I use them all the time although I know they’re awful)

2 tbsps tomato paste

1 tbsp hot bean paste

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large onion, sliced

1 carrot, sliced

1 1/2 cm slice ginger

2 tbsps mirin, dry sherry or dry white wine

2 tsps sugar

1 tbsp soy sauce

lots of cracked black pepper

a few slices dried mushrooms

A large handful bean sprouts

5-6 spring onions, sliced into 2 inch pieces

sesame oil to finish

Some sliced snow peas, button mushrooms or cabbage.

Here’s what you do…

Fry the beef in a little oil until well browned (you can do this in batches – I find it quicker that way) in a large, heavy saucepan. When all the beef is well coloured, add the onion, garlic, ginger, dried mushrooms, carrot and all other ingredients. Don’t add the bean sprouts and spring onions yet. Simmer over low-medium heat for about an hour or a little more until the beef and octopus are tender.

A couple of minutes before serving (or you can do it at the table when you serve) add the bean sprouts and spring onions. You can have fresh chives or coriander too and a few drops of sesame oil. Be careful not to eat the piece of ginger!

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