February 26, 2012
Being a chef can have its disadvantages.
People have certain expectations.
They exclaim 'your family must eat well' and to my husband 'you're on a good wicket then' while pointing at his tummy.
But really, you can't always be on. Its not souffles and sunshine all the time.
I thought I'd give you, my Dear Readers, an insight into one of our family meals- just a dinner. Last Sunday nights supper actually.
I wanted something quick and easy, tasty, and that would incorporate a heap of our garden veggies before they take over the yard.
This is it. Chicken Veggie Pasta Stuff. Sound good?
Welcome to my world.
Chicken thigh fillets- cut into chunks
Small amount smokey bacon- from the freezer
Leek- rescued from the bottom of the crisper
Mushrooms- reduced to clear and marked down
Zucchini- so many zucchini!
Cherry tomatoes- veggie patch
Spinach- from the freezer
Garlic- always on hand
Slurp of white wine- cause thats what I was drinking
Splash of red wine vinegar- from the pantry
Dribble of lactose free cream- UHT pantry pack
Basil- veggie patch
Gently sweat down the leek and bacon to render out some of the smokey fat.
Throw in the chicken and seal it off.
Add in all the veggies, all at once to make life easier. Squish the tomatoes as you stir to help make some sauce.
Now slurp in the garlic, wine and vinegar and give a good mix around.
Simmer just until the chicken is cooked through, then take off the heat and dribble in enough cream to the pan juices to make a sauce. Toss in the basil leaves.
Serve over pasta. San Remo is my favourite, it tastes good and retains some bite to it when cooked, but like most gluten free pastas doesn't stay in one piece if you want it the next day.
So Dear Readers, that's an ordinary dinner at this chefs house. What did you have for dinner today?
February 20, 2012
Some lovely finds at the market this week.
Soft ash goats cheese, tiny lamb cutlets, and beautiful fresh ripe figs. Yumm.... Obviously they needed to be combined together.
This seems like a lot of steps for one dish Dear Readers, but really they don't take long at all.
The dukkah can be made days in advance, and the cutlets can be coated a day ahead as well if you like. The salad is 5 minutes work, tops. So there's no excuses for missing out on a lovely meal even if you're in a hurry, with just these few ingredients in the fridge.
3/4 cup Hazelnuts
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon sumac
Good pinch of salt flakes
Toast the hazlenuts in a dry pan over medium heat, until starting to change colour.
Add in the rest of the ingredients, and toast until the seeds are a lovely golden colour and the spices are releasing their aromatic oils. Make sure you keep stirring or shaking the pan so they don't burn. Pull out a few hazlenuts to keep as a final garnish.
Let them cool a bit, then pulse them in a food processor until they are roughly- but fairly finely chopped.
That's it, dukkah's done and dusted.
Pat your little cutlets dry with kitchen towel, then dip all over in a lovely olive oil- I used a beautiful smoked olive oil for a bit of extra va-voom!
Let the excess drip off, then dip the cutlet into the dukkah. Make sure it gets into all the nooks and crannies. This coating is not only delicious, but will help protect the meat from over cooking and drying out in the pan.
Pop the coated cutlets into a preheated pan on medium heat. There's no need to oil the pan, as you don't want to burn the dukkah or fry it too hard in oil. The oil you dipped the meat in will be fine.
Little cutlets like this don't require much cooking at all, they should be served nice pink and juicy, so watch them carefully.
If you had quite a lot of meat to cook off, it would be easier to sear them well, then put them all on an oven tray to finish cooking. That way they are all ready and hot at the same time for plating up.
Now, while all the lamb is cooking, it's time to make the salad.
Rip open a packet of pre-washed rocket leaves and scatter them artistically about your serving dish or plate.
Cut some perfectly ripe figs in half so that the luscious pink insides are showing, and pop them about too.
Slice or crumble on your goats cheese for the gorgeous creamy tang it brings to the party, scatter over the reserved hazlenuts, and voila!
Looks like something from a magazine doesn't it?
Now a bit of dressing is lovely to help the greens go down, but I like to serve mine separately, or srizzle it on after you've served your guests. My dressing consists of some scrummy Pukara Estate Fig Balsamic Vinegar whisked with a bit more of the olive oil. It tastes fantastic, but the dark colour stains the food. Please serve it separately, you'll thank me.
So my Dearest Readers, so you like fresh figs, and how do you like to serve them when they're in season?
February 15, 2012
In our house, the BBQ remains firmly the domain of my husband. He uses it for chunks of meat, slabs of meat, roast meats.... and the occasional token veggie.
Its not that he hates veggies, well, not all of them. Its just that they take up prime grill space and are so fiddly to deal with, a slab of meat just needs to be turned once after all, and isn't likely to roll off the grill.
When I was first asked by The Australian Mushroom Growers Association to write a post for their Summer Mushroom Campaign, http://www.summermushrooms.com.au/ I did some research into these fungilicious little creatures and why we should all be eating more of them.
Mushrooms are little power houses of goodness. Did you know that they are full of antioxidants and are the only non-animal source of vitamin D? They are low in sodium and kilojoules and are fat free too, add to that impressive list the umami characteristics, low cost, and the year round availability and I certainly think we're onto a winner.
With daylight savings extending our evenings, and BBQs still very much on the go for easy after work dinners, it was a logical step to come up with a way to combine the lot.
I wanted to find a way to make mushrooms on the BBQ easy- easy to manage, easy to turn, and easy to eat too. So my mind drifted in the direction of things on sticks...and Rosemary Mushroom Kebabs were born. Perfect solution! Mushrooms mustered into manageable measures, no mucking about! Turn the whole lot at once, just a couple of times, and line them up next to the sausages, not even a hardened carnivore could complain about that.
My only concern was that this was a bit too simple.
Then I thought about it..... I wanted to show how great and easy mushrooms are, you don't need to muck about with fancy-pantsy ingredients to do that. This is just an easy recipe with a few easy ingredients that make a lovely meal.
Sometimes that's all you need.
I like the earthy herbs with mushrooms, they seem to bring out the deeper bass notes and all that umami goodness. Rosemary is in so many home gardens, or at least every corner supermarket, and garlic is an indispensable kitchen companion so in they went to the mix. Yumm... I was really surprised at just how much of the flavour was sucked up into the flesh of the mushrooms. Actually the first time I made these I left them in the fridge overnight before cooking and the taste was amazing, definitely something to do again!
Rosemary Mushroom Kebabs for the BBQ
Mushrooms- 4 or 5 per kebab
Rosemary- nice long pieces
Garlic- as much as you like
Oil- for drizzling
Gather your rosemary sprigs, cut them into pieces that will fit about 4 or 5 mushrooms comfortably.
Strip the leaves off, just leaving a few on top to look pretty, then chop them finely.
Cut the ends of the rosemary sprigs sharply on a diagonal to make them nice and pointy
Trim the ends of the mushrooms if you like, just for looks and uniformity. (I always keep the trimmings to use in sauces, risotto, or other recipes)
Thread the mushrooms onto the sticks of rosemary- don't they look pretty!
Pop them into a dish, toss in a few crushed garlic cloves,sprinkle with the cut rosemary leaves, then drizzle with oil. Use straight away, or leave them for a while to let the flavours infuse.
Fire up your BBQ, toss on slabs of meat if you like, then place on your beautiful mushroom kebabs.
Turn just once or twice to cook evenly, isn't it easy turning a whole stick at once?
Serve your kebabs deliciously hot from the grill, either on their own or next to your slabs of meat.
Simple it may be, but a real winner.
Check out this site for some more great ways with mushrooms:
So my Dear Readers, do you like to BBQ, and how do you like to serve your mushrooms?
February 6, 2012
I hate to have to say it, but I'm a rhubarb snob.
I'm very sorry, but I really like my rhubarb to be red.
Last year I planted a whole garden bed with fruiting plants. I've got strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, rosellas, potted citrus trees... And rhubarb. I love rhubarb.
The variety I planted is supposedly called Sydney Crimson, but they lied, its Sydney Green. Oh I know it still tastes the same, but its just so hard to reconcile myself to the lack of red prettiness that I love to show off in cooking that I've been avoiding picking and cooking it for as long as possible.
I never knew I was so shallow.
As it so happens, I chanced across this recipe for Strawberry Torte in the Food and Wine Section of the Canberra Times this week. I clipped it and put it in my to-do pile- but then the stalks of neglected rhubarb caught my eye. Mmmmmm.... One of my favourite flavour combinations, I have some little end-of-season strawberries to use up, and the lack of rosy redness won't matter at all. Perfect!
A very simple torte this one with just a few basic ingredients- more like a frangipane mix than anything else really, with the fruits sandwiched in for a bit of something special. Yumm...
The recipe was originally taken from Orlando Murrin's food column, used in the Canberra Times food column, now to be utilized and adapted by me, to share with you. Whew, what a journey indeed, I certainly hope it's worth it!
Strawberry Rhubarb Torte
170 gr gluten free Self Raising Flour
170 gr butter
170 gr sugar- I used raw
170 gr ground almonds
Strawberries, halved if large
Rhubarb, cut to match the strawberries
Tablespoon or so of preserved ginger, finely chopped
Put all ingredients except fruit and ginger, into a food processor and whiz until mixed.
Spilt the mix in two, then pat one half into the base of a prepared 23 cm springform tin.
Mix the strawberries and rhubarb with the ginger and stir to coat thoroughly.
Place a layer of strawberries and rhubarb over the pastry layer leaving a little edge free, then sprinkle with a little extra spoon of sugar.
Pat the remaining pastry half evenly over the fruit, to the edge of the pan. Then sprinkle with a touch more sugar to look pretty.
Bake for 1 hour to 70 minutes at 180*C, checking halfway through to cover if browning to quickly.
Allow to cool slightly in the pan and firm up a little before releasing and serving.
I was really quite surprised at the delicacy of this torte. Much more dainty than you would imagine. The fruit was perfectly balanced with the pastry, not overwhelmed as I'd thought might happen, and you really could use any fruit at all- maybe apricots would be nice.
Sweet and buttery, homey not homely, this is a perfect cake for sharing over a cup of Earl Grey tea or warm with custard- not cream, definitely custard. One of the easiest cakes you will come across to make and remember, it's definitely one every good cook, or chef, should have in their repertoire.
So Dear Readers, are you a produce snob, and do you prefer red or green rhubarb?
February 1, 2012
Just for a change...
When I was baking for cafes, I made dozens and dozens of Orange Almond Syrup Cakes each week. They just seem to be the ubiquitous gluten-free-go-to at every cafe around.
They are very good cakes, amazingly moist with the flavour deepening over time and great keepers, no problem lasting at least a week without issues, but I'm ready for change.
I've had my eye on this cookbook, Indulge, by Rowie Dillon for a while now. I'd heard good things from other reviews and as I'd tried her successful range of baked goods, I knew it would hold lots of gluten free treasures. I was right.
This recipe caught my eye straight away- I had made my own similar cakes for so long that I had a reference point to go to, mine were also gluten and dairy free, but this one had tofu, not something I've used in a cake before. Time to try something new!
I admit I've changed out the oranges for mandarins, not that I have anything against oranges, I just wanted a break from the usual.
Mandarin Almond Syrup Cake
400gr Almond Meal
200gr Tofu- The recipe called for silken, I only had firm but it still worked out OK
250gr Palm Sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp Cardamom
1 tsp gfree Baking Powder
Place the mandarins in a pot full of water, then boil for an hour.
Drain. Puree until smooth.
Blitz the palm sugar, tofu, mandarins and olive oil until nice and smooth.
I usually use Rice Bran oil for everything from frying to baking, I just think it's handy, a very high smoke point and extremely mild flavour. I was halfway through making this cake when I realised I was out! Oh no! I rummaged through my stash.... garlic oil, chilli oil, lemon myrtle, smoked, truffle.... then thank goodness- Homeleigh Grove Blood Orange! Close enough, yummy and very local. Win win!
Sift the almond meal, spice and powder. Then add the blitzed ingredients stirring until smooth.
Put mixture into a greased and lined 22cm cake tin and bake at 180* for an hour and 10 minutes.
Serve with mandarin syrup.
500ml mandarin juice
250gm palm sugar
Place sugar and juice in saucepan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved.
Bring to the boil, and cook down for 15 minutes until thickened and syrupy.
Pour over cake.
This is a lovely cake indeed.
Moist but still fairly delicate, and the flavour is certainly better the next day. The only thing that needs changing is when to pour the syrup. I would prefer to leave it off and just pour some over each slice as required. I found the syrup absolutely delicious, but a bit sweet for me and the cake tended to break up a bit as the syrup soaked in. That minor difficulty aside, I'll certainly be making this recipe again, but maybe playing around with it just a little more.
So Dear Readers, which is your favourite citrus fruit, and would you put it in a cake?