19 December 2017

Send your salad to the Med

I've recently been given a copy of Chelsea Winter's new cookbook 'Eat'.  It is full of great recipes - most of them easy to make, and easy to tweak (to suit more simple tastes, or tarted up for an occasion).  Adaptability, my cup of tea.  

It's the festive season which, in the Antipodes, means BBQs and pre-Christmas gatherings.  We were invited to a pre-Christmas dinner over the weekend, for which we were asked to bring a salad.  I have a couple of good go-to salads (this kumara one is a goodie!!), but felt like I needed to try something new.  This Mediterranean-inspired one was perfect - light, but filling, and extremely tasty (even more so the next day!).  I changed a few things, to suit what I had in the fridge, and that's the beauty of a salad.  

Happy summer, buon appetito!!  

400 g cherry tomatoes (just shy of two little punnets)
1 bulb garlic, not peeled or separated
2 tsp dry oregano 
olive oil
1/2 cup pinenuts, toasted 
1 cup bulghur wheat (or quinoa would work well)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped 
1 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (I used basil, mint, thyme and chives)
150 g feta, in small chunks (I used a basil reduced salt one, but up to you)
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthways and sliced
1 capsicum, chopped into 1 cm pieces 
NB: Chelsea used olives rather than zucchini and capsicum - up to your tastes

3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dry dill (I used tarragon) 
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
  1. Heat oven to 180 fan-bake.  Put garlic bulb on roasting try and drizzle with oil and sprinkle with dried oregano.  I kept the cherry tomatoes raw, but you could roast them too, if you liked (drizzle and sprinkle them too, plus a little sugar).  Either way, slice them up (halves for roasting, quarters for raw).  Toast for about 30 minutes.   
  2. Toast pine nuts in a dry pan.  They take a while to get going, but keep them moving 'cause once they start to toast they will burn really quickly.  I like to do a large batch and keep the excess in a jar once they're cooled down (save having to do the toasting each time you want to use toasted pine nuts).  
  3. Put bulghur and zucchini into a large glass or ceramic bowl and cover with about 3 cups of water.  Stir then leave for a good ten-fifteen minutes to soak.  When it's ready the wheat should be a little soft but with a nice firm bite to it (not soggy).  Pour into a sieve to drain.  
  4. Put all dressing ingredients into a glass jug, or a medium bowl.  Cut base off the roasted garlic bulb and squeeze garlic cloves into the dressing mix (they'll be soft).  Mash up and stir to combine.  
  5. Combine everything together in a large serving bowl.  Drizzle with dressing and top with feta.  

23 November 2017

Lemongrass + ginger BBQ chicken

This tasty marinated chicken is (a slight adaptation) from Chelsea Winter's latest book, Eat.  Yum!!  Would work as kebabs, or chopped smaller for in tacos...  

500 g chicken breast (or thigh)
4 stalks lemongrass (hard end removed), bashed and finely chopped
good dash oil (I used sesame) 
2-3 tbsp finely grated ginger root
1 clove grated/minced garlic
1 tbsp fish sauce 
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 cup fresh coriander
zest + juice of 1 lime
1-2 makrut (kaffir) lime leaves (stem removed), finely chopped
ground black pepper
1 tbsp sweet chili sauce 

Serves 4

  1. Cut chicken into chunks (either bite-sized, or slightly larger).  Place in bowl with all other ingredients.  Marinate for a few hours (or overnight, if you're onto it enough to have your dinner planned the day before!).  
  2. Cook on hot BBQ or in hot pan (probably need to do this in batches).  
  3. Serve with salad (we had roast kumara/green salad, and asparagus).  

16 November 2017

katsu round 2

Does anyone else remember The Samurai Pizza Cats?  Talking about katsu makes me think of that show.  Anyway... 

Crumbed food is good.  I mean, who doesn't enjoy a piece of crumbed fish or chicken?  And especially with panko crumbs - the crumb is always so light and crunchy.  Last week I made tori katsu and used it for burgers (which, by the way, were AWESOME!).  So, this week we decided to break out the crumb again - using the same katsu sauce as last week (in fact, it was what was leftover in the fridge - a batch will keep for a few weeks in a jar in the fridge.  Handy!).  

This time however we served our crumbed chicken with brown rice, a spring salad (included blanched asparagus and plenty of fresh mint) and a little extra katsu sauce on the side.  The other differences - a) I added seeds to the crumb (poppy and sesame); and b) rather than dredging the chicken in flour and egg before crumbing, I just marinated it in the katsu sauce and then, when ready to cook, crumbed.  Yum!!  

14 November 2017

Chipotle chicken skewers with spring couscous salad

This was a really tasty (and quick and easy) chicken dish.  I loved the veges in the couscous salad too - still a little bit crunchy, which is perfect (I like my veges a little less- then more-cooked).  The Culley's Chipotle Sauce which I used was medium-spicy - kind of like a mixture of BBQ sauce and tobasco.  Really yum!!  But if you prefer your dishes to be a little less spicy then sub the chipotle sauce for a smokey BBQ sauce (Whitlocks is a good one), maybe with a little paprika powder mixed in.  

300 g chicken (thigh or breast) 
1-2 tbsp chipotle sauce
1/4 tsp salt
6 bamboo skewers (optional - you could just panfry the bite-sized chunks of marinated chicken without kebabing them) 

1 zucchini, quartered, chopped into 1 cm pieces 
6 spears asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into 2 cm morsels 
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup stock (I used chicken) 
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup couscous
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
2 tbsp fresh herbs (I used basil, mint and parsley), chopped up
50 g feta cheese

75 g natural unsweetened yoghurt
1-2 tsp chipotle sauce
  1. Soak skewers in water for 10 minutes, if using them.  
  2. Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks and marinate in chipotle and salt.  Thread onto skewers (or just leave in marinade bowl, if not skewering).  Cover and place in the fridge until you need it.  
  3. Put zucchini and asparagus in a large bowl.  Cover with boiling water and leave for a few minutes to cook.  I drained the water after about 5 minutes and poured over a fresh lot - they're done when the asparagus is bright green and the veges tender, but firm.  
  4. Bring stock and salt to the boil.  Remove from heat, stir in couscous and cover.  Leave covered for 5 minutes, to allow the couscous to cook.  
  5. Heat frypan to cook chicken.  Cook until cooked through (no surprises there!) and starting to brown/blacken on the outside.  
  6. Mix couscous with the drained greens, add in lemon juice and zest, herbs, tomatoes and feta. 
  7. Serve with chipotle yoghurt, if desired.   

09 November 2017

Tori katsu burgers

 I've come across chicken katsu before - in recipes and in Japanese restaurants.  I always thought it was a special way of cooking/crumbing the chicken.  So yesterday, trawling through some recipe sites (looking for some mid-week inspiration!), I came across chicken katsu burgers and I thought - "YES!  That will do admirably!".  And so I discovered that katsu is both the crumbed chicken (torikatsu) AND the sauce served with the chicken (tonkatsu sauce).  Ah ha!!  

So, it's basically a BBQ-style tomato-based sauce.  It was really easy to make and keeps well in the fridge for some time.  The batch I made was enough for drizzling over 5 torikatsu burgers, with enough leftover for probably another 5 burgers.  We reckon this sauce would also be fantastic with roasted pork, or even good ol' steak and chips.  Maybe with salmon?  Give it a try and see what you think...

1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp finely grated ginger (I used a microplane for this and the garlic)
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely grated
1/4 tsp ground allspice (I was out of this so used mixed spice)
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small saucepan.  Stir over low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, until thickening.  Set aside until you need it (can be used cold or heated back through).   
For the burgers themselves I used mezzo breads from Volare (local specialty baker), but whatever burger buns you fancy will do (the photo with the black brioches was from Nadia Lim's MyFoodBag - I forgot to take a decent photo of our burgers before we got hungry and ate them!!).  I liked the fact that the mezzo were light and quite slim.  A bulky bun with crumbed anything can be a bit too much sometimes.  But up to you.  And toasted buns - yes please for me, but again - up to the individual.  

The tori katsu - I cut into 2cm chunks and marinated 500 g of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of fat and chewy sinewy bits).  The marinade was just a couple of tbsp each of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, with a couple tbsp grated fresh ginger.  When ready to cook, shake piece of chicken off, dredge in flour, then egg, then panko crumbs, and cook in pan of hot melted butter.  

Build your burgers by smearing some good thick mayo on one half of the bun, pile with coleslaw (ours had grated carrot, red cabbage, beetroot, chopped spinach, spring onions and red onion) and tori katsu, then drizzle with the katsu sauce and top with remaining half of bun.  Yum!!  Sounds labour intensive, but it really wasn't - get the sauce done earlier, and you can even buy some coleslaw from the deli, if time is short.  

29 September 2017

Next level burgers

Burgers are awesome.  I'm a big fan, especially of a good ol' homemade hamburger with beetroot, cheese and BBQ sauce.  Or a crumbed fish burger, yum!  There are 4 things that make, or break, a burger - tasty homemade patties (or fish, chicken, falafel) - plenty of herbs/spices, yum; good buns; fresh salad; and the sauce.  Oh, the sauce.  It's key.  

Chelsea Winter has just released her latest cookbook - Eat.  It has a recipe for Crunchy Buffalo Chicken Burgers with a Blue Cheese Sauce, which I am keen as to make.  They sound amazing!  In the meantime however, I thought I'd share a couple of her other burger sauces which will just take your burger experience to the next level of amazingness!  

Secret sauce for best-ever cheeseburger

3/4 cup mayo (Best Foods or Pams American are good)
2 tbsp onion, finely chopped
3 gherkins, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper, to taste

Avocado-basil mayo, for sublime chicken burgers (ooh, with bacon!)

1/2 cup mayo (as above)
1 ripe avocado, mashed
2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, torn up
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste 

21 September 2017

Kung Pao Part Deux

Ok, so further to the kung pao of a couple week's back - we made it again but this time using smoked paprika in place of the cayenne pepper.  Boom, still amazing, but without the insane amount of spicy heat.  So there we go peeps - cayenne if you like it hot, paprika if you like it not.  Chī hǎo hē hǎo!

19 September 2017

Hulk smash! peas and broc

This is a sort of retake on the whole mushy peas arena.  It went with a recent Nadia Lim fish and chip meal, but I've added a couple of extra veges (might as well use up what is in the fridge!).  

This is enough for 2-3 people:

6 florets broccoli and 4 florets cauliflower (or just broccoli), roughly chopped up (stalk and all)
1/2 cup frozen peas 
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
good handful fresh mint, chopped up
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp butter
salt, herbs and spices of choice (I used salt, pepper and tarragon)

  1. Put all ingredients (except butter) in pot.  Put the lid on and steam for a few minutes until just cooked. 
  2. Drain excess water. 
  3. Add butter and salt/herbs and roughly mash.  Hulk smash!!  

14 September 2017

believe it or not - you're gonna love brussells

Brussell sprouts don't have the greatest rep.  I imagine if a poll were taken of vegetable-eating adults, probably 7-8/10 would say they don't like BS.  Why?  Because they're tasteless or, even worse, they taste the smell of boiled socks.  BS have always been boiled, within an inch of their lives.  So the result, not surprisingly, is a vegetable gone limp, devoid of flavour, and therefore not a welcome addition to any meal plan.  

However, I am one of the 2-3/10 who genuinely do enjoy BS.  Always have.  We didn't have them much as kids, as our parents hated them, but when we had them I loved them.  And now they are, dare I say it, enjoying something of a renaissance.  The age of the Brussell.  Any why is that?  Because we are slowly realising that, as with most foods, they can be cooked in more than one way (and, in fact, are absolutely fantastic raw - see Winter Slaw 2.0).  

Last night we had steak.  What do we have with it, we wondered.  Eventually (imagination was ebbing by evening) I settled on mushroom sauce and some form of potato (oh, well done me).  Fortunately KB had a little more imagination left and came up with this really really tasty twist on a good ol' roast vege salad - and it used brussells!  

1-2 beetroot
1 kumara (we used orange)
1/2 large red onion
6 brussell sprouts
half or more red capsicum
sour cream
hoisin sauce

  1. Chop beetroot and kumara in large bite-sized chunks, and onion in wedges - roast until cooked through.  Bring out and set aside to cool. 
  2. Finely slice brussells; dice capsicum, finely chop herbs.  
  3. Mix sour cream and hoisin (sorry, wasn't watching so not sure of exact amounts, but am thinking 125ml tub of SC and a tbsp or so of hoisin).  
  4. Fold all together and serve as a cold salad.  

06 September 2017

Schnitzel von Parmasan Crumb

Schnitzel - it's one of those meats which I sometimes just forget about.  You buy some, it sits in the freezer for ages, maybe ends up sliced up for a stir-fry.  But crumbed schnitzel is one of my favourite ways to have meat, it's awesome.  Don't know why we don't have it more often!  

This is crumbed schnitzel taken to the next level - with parmasan and herbs.  Yum!!  This crumb is also perfect for slices of chicken (homemade chicken tenders, anyone?).  

Herbs (I used Simon Gault's Italian seasoning)
Panko crumbs
Parmasan cheese
Beef schnitzel (or chicken, pork...) 
Potatoes (for mash or chips)
Veges or slaw

  1. Mix a little salt and herbs with your flour.  
  2. Finely grate parmasan onto your panko crumbs and mix together.  
  3. Whisk an egg (or two, depending on how much schnitzel you're crumbing) in a bowl.  
  4. Cut schnitzel into manageable-sized pieces (strips is great for kids, or palm-sized is good) and coat in herby flour.  Next dredge through egg.  Finally coat with panko-parmasan crumb.  
  5. Cook in hot pan with oil or butter.  
  6. Serve with oven chips (kumara maybe?) or mash and steamed veges or slaw.  Enjoy!!

05 September 2017

Patatas bravas - put 'em up!

Patatas bravas means fighting potatoes.  That's probably one of the funniest names for a dish I've ever heard, and I love it.  I mean just picture it - Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor as potatoes.  Brilliant.  It's a dish commonly served in bars throughout Spain, as a tapas dish - usually with a tomato-based sauce or an aioli.  This recipe sort of combines the two by mixing tomato and capsicum pesto with a mayonnaise.  The spices you use on the potatoes are really up to you, but for an authentic Spanish flavour I'd definitely be using paprika - its smokey flavour is perfect with the capsicum pesto and chorizo.  

We got our meal inspiration from the latest batch of recipes on My Food Bag - and the potatoes were served with fish and chorizo.  I was a bit skeptical about how fish would go with the strong flavours of the chorizo, paprika and capsicum pesto, but it just worked perfectly!  We used gurnard, but any white fish would do.  Chicken would also be really nice here - perhaps in a panko crumb?  

Serves 2 - 3 

2 large potatoes, chopped into 2cm chunks, or thin wedges
1 tbsp Spanish spices (I used a combo of smoked paprika and Simon Gault's Mexican blend)
butter/fat/oil for roasting

1 chorizo sausage 
1 onion, diced 
1 clove garlic, diced 
6 button mushrooms, diced 
half red capsicum, diced 
1 spring onion, finely sliced 

1 tbsp mayonnaise 
1 tbsp capsicum pesto (I used 'Mediterranean' Chunky Dip) 
1/2 tbsp tomato sauce 

2-3 fillets fish (1 per person) 

broccoli and carrots (or whichever veges you like), cut to steam
  1. Toss the potatoes with spices and oil/fat/butter.  Roast for about 20 - 30 minutes, until golden and crisping up.  
  2. While potatoes are cooking prepare veges.  Mix together the sauce ingredients.  
  3. Saute the chorizo, onion, garlic, mushrooms, capsicum and spring onion with some butter.  
  4. Steam broccoli and carrots. 
  5. When potatoes and other veges are almost done, cook your fish (again, I like to use butter).  We didn't flour or crumb ours, but you could if you wish.  
  6. Serve by layering potatoes with stirfry veges and drizzle the whole with sauce.  Top with fish and place steamed veges on the side.  

04 September 2017

Kung pao!!

Kung Pao!!  It sounds like something you'd hear in a Bruce Lee fight scene.  Named after Qing Dynasty official, Ding Baozhen, Kung Pao literally translates to 'Palace Guardian'.  A staple of Sichuan cuisine, it's now a spicy staple throughout Chinese restaurants worldwide.  

I made my own sichuan seasoning, using cumin seeds, salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper and ground ginger (roughly 1 tsp of salt and black pepper, 2 tsp of other ingredients).  It was really quite spicy - which I enjoyed, but it probably wouldn't be how I'd do it next time, as others found it a bit too much.  Next time I'd still make the seasoning but omit the cayenne, which is where the bulk of the heat came from.  The other ingredients in this dish, especially the hoisin sauce, make it so flavoursome that I really don't think the cayenne would be missed.  

You could make this with any meat you like, but chicken is an easy one, and looks great on the plate.  Another alternative, for a super-quick midweek meal, would be to serve the chicken with rice and steamed veges on the side.  Kung Pao!! 

Serves 2-3 

300 g chicken breast (one large one, give or take)
1 tsp sichuan spice mix (see above) 
1 tsp each of soy sauce, honey, sweet chili sauce, hoisin sauce and sesame seeds

1 pack singapore noodles (or ramen noodles) 
2 tsp soy sauce 
1 tsp honey
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp rice vinegar (or white, or cider)
1 tbsp hoisin sauce 
3/4 cup water
juice of 1/2 lemon 
1 spring onion, sliced - keep white and green separate 
1 tbsp ginger, finely grated 
2 cloves garlic, finely diced or minced
1 tsp sichuan spice 
1 carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
1 bok choy , thinly sliced (I used a few brussell sprouts, thinly sliced too)
4 tbsp peanuts/cashews, roughly chopped 
toasted sesame seeds, to serve 
coriander, to serve

  1. Slice the chicken breast into two steaks (place hand flat on the chicken and slice through the middle).  Mix together the marinade ingredients and add chicken to it.  Leave to marinate for as long as you like (I made this at lunchtime and put it in the fridge for a few hours).  
  2. Toast sesame seeds, set aside.  Prep all your stir fry ingredients - again, you can do this earlier in the evening, so then all you need to do is cook the chicken and through the meal together when you're ready to eat.  
  3. I used soft noodles (Trident Singapore Noodles, to be specific), so didn't need to cook them before adding them to the stir fry.  However, if you're using dried noodles, you'll need to pour some boiling water over them a couple of minutes before you want to add them.  
  4. Mix soy, honey, cornflour, vinegar, hoisin, water and lemon juice in a bowl - this will be your stir fry liquid - depending on the noodles you may not need all of it.  
  5. Fry chicken breast steaks in pan over medium heat.  Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until cooked right through.  Remove from pan and set aside to rest for a few minutes.  
  6. Stir fry garlic, white of the spring onion and ginger in pan with a little butter or oil (sesame oil would be nice!).  Once turning golden add the carrots and a little of the liquid.  Fry for a few minutes.  Add bok choy/brussells and a little more liquid.  Add the noodles and a little more liquid.  Stir fry for a few minutes, adding the liquid bit by bit, as it is absorbed by the noodles (even though they're already soft, they seem to absorb quite a lot!).  Stir through the peanuts.  
  7. Slice chicken, to place on top of the noodles.  
  8. Plate it up and sprinkle with sesame seeds, green of the spring onion and coriander.  Enjoy!!  

23 August 2017

winter slaw 2.0

Winter.  Salad.  A misnomer, for some; a blessed break from the monotonous roast and stew, for others (no disrespect or roasts and/or stews, I love them both!).  Winter is a time for warming, hearty meals, so salads tend to either completely disappear from our menus, or at the very least take a back foot.  They're typically lighter, most-often cold, great-for-BBQ fare.  However, this doesn't mean we should ditch salads over the colder months - warm roastie salads, quinoa salads, chicken and bacon caesar salad (yum!!).  Oh - how about a caesar-quinoa fusion salad?  And coleslaw.  Good ol' coleslaw.  

This is adapted from Nadia Lim's 'Winter Slaw' - basically the same, just with a couple of additions (we love beetroot, and the spinach in our garden was going crazy).  This is fantastic with some fried fish, or alongside a homemade burger (last night and tonight's menus respectively).  

Next time I'm going to grate in a little parmasan too...

Makes enough for 5 or 6 people.  

1 baby bok choy, finely sliced (or use entra spinach, beetroot leaves...)
couple handfuls spinach leaves, finely sliced
1 beetroot, peeled and grated
6 brussel sprouts, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce

  1. Mix sour cream and sauce together. 
  2. Mix all veges together.  
  3. Combine veges and sauce, just before ready to serve. 

03 August 2017

K-lime glaze

Highly fragrant, a little sweet and sticky, and the perfect glaze for salmon, prawns, chicken kebabs... 

6 makrut (K-lime) leaves, central stem removed, finely chopped
2 tbsp coconut sugar, or brown sugar
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 tsp hot sauce (I used some harissa as had no hot sauce)
1 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or white)
1 tsp sesame oil 
1/2 cup water
  1. Combine all ingredients in small saucepan.  Bring to boil, stirring.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes until starting to thicken slightly.  Makes about 1 cup.  
NB: From Nadia Lim's 'Dinnertime Goodness'.  

cheesy, with a chance of meatballs

These meatballs were taaaaassssty!!  They were a perfect hearty meal for everyone from us adults right down to Miss 2, and the boys in between.  This recipe made a truckload of food (I reckon we could have easily fed 6-7 adults, so froze half of it for an easy meal another night.  Mr 4 really enjoyed helping to make and mix the meatball mixture too, so a good one for kids in the kitchen.  

500 g beef mince 
2 tbsp paprika/ground cumin/ground coriander etc - (I used a Louisiana Creole spice mix with those spices, plus onion and garlic)
1/2 tsp salt 
2 eggs 
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs 
1 tbsp tomato sauce 
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
grated cheese, to top

1 onion, finely diced 
1 tbsp spice mix used in meatballs 
1 tsp salt 
70 g tomato paste 
2 stalks celery, finely chopped 
1 cup green veges, finely chopped (we used some broccoli and bok choy)
1/2 cup red wine (or stock)
1/2 cup stock (beef, chicken, vege...) 
1 tomato, diced (I used a couple tbsp of relish instead)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 

rice, to serve
  1. Mix all meatball ingredients together, except cheese.  Set aside until needed (Mr 4 and I made these in the morning, covered the bowl and put them in the fridge for the day). 
  2. When ready to get dinner going: roll meatballs and fry in large pan (one that can go under the grill, if possible) until browned all over but not cooked through.  Remove from pan and set aside. 
  3. Get rice cooking.  
  4. Fry onion in pan.  Add spices, salt, tomato paste, veges and red wine.  Stir for about a minute, then add other sauce ingredients.  Add meatballs back to the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes (at this point you can either carry on, or remove from heat and set aside again, until you're almost ready to eat - so this can, up to this point, be prepared earlier in the day - you'd just need to gently heat through again later).  
  5. Top with cheese and grill for 3-5 minutes, until browning and bubbling.  
  6. Serve on rice with a dollop of sour cream.  

Scrumptious Thai chicken salad

I love coconut in food.  It's a flavour which, I think, both works well with other flavours and as a stand-alone ingredient.  This salad uses both - the coconut milk which is mixed with various other Thai-inspired flavours and the shredded coconut, toasted and forming a major part of the overall meal.  

I found this little harbinger of delight was a recipe found in Chelsea Winter's cookbook 'Scrumptious'.  We altered it a trifle (I had run out of lemongrass, so used some makrut lime leaves instead, and we heated the shredded chicken back through in the sauce it had been poached in, making the overall dish not entirely cold).  Also, we used pinenuts, as Mr 12 is allergic to peanuts, but you could use peanuts, or cashews.  

350 - 500 g chicken breasts (I used 2 large) 
1/2 onion, diced 
1 tbsp sesame (or peanut) oil 
2 tbsp grated ginger 
2 makrut lime leaves, central steam removed and finely sliced (or pound and chop one stalk of lemongrass) 
2 tbsp ground cumin 
400 ml coconut milk

3/4 cup shredded coconut 
1/2 - 3/4 cup pinenuts (or peanuts, cashews...) 
100 g vermicelli noodles 
2 cups chopped bok choy (or pak choy, spinach etc) 
2 carrots, grated 
2 stalks celery, finely chopped 

1 cup coriander, chopped (leaves and stalks) 
1 red chili, finely chopped (optional) 

1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sweet chili sauce 
2 tbsp lime juice 
1 clove garlic, crushed 
1/2 tsp sesame oil 
  1. Heat oil in pot over medium heat.  Cook onion, ginger, lime leaves and cumin for a few minutes until fragrant.  
  2. Add the coconut milk and chicken, increase heat and bring to simmer.  Simmer gently for about 8 minutes, turning chicken occasionally, until chicken is cooked through.  Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl with a lid (the chicken and the sauce).  Put in the fridge until needed (this part can be done up to 2 days in advance).  
  3. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a bowl.  Set aside.  
  4. Toast the nuts and shredded coconut in a dry pan.  Set aside when lightly browned.  
  5. Put the noodles and bok choy in a large bowl.  Cover with boiling water and leave for a few minutes until cooked.  Stir to separate the noodles, then drain.  
  6. Bring chicken out and shred.  Return, with the sauce, to a pot and heat through.  
  7. Mix other salad ingredients and coconut/nuts with the noodles.  Serve salad, topped with chicken and garnish with a little extra coriander.  

Chermoula fish

I came across this recipe earlier in the week, in an email from Mindfood.  Their recipes always sound beautiful and would undoubtedly be very tasty, but to be honest I usually just find them a bit too fussy for a weekday meal (after work, who can be bothered with tricky?).  This one however struck me as relatively straightforward.  And it was a fish recipe, perfect for a light, but tasty, Monday-meal.  

Chermoula is a marinade used extensively in North African cooking (particularly those areas along the Mediterranean).  It is traditionally used to season seafood, but can be used as a flavour-base for other meats or vegetables.  This marinade doesn't used cumin, but cumin is, along with coriander, a typical ingredient in chermoula. 

I used a combination of hoki (it was on special) and tarakihi for our meal.  But any firm white fish would do nicely.  Gurnard would be excellent!  

4 fillets of fish (roughly 700 g) 
500 g potatoes, cut into quarters lengthways
1 tbsp butter 
1 red onion, sliced
1 capsicum, cut into thick slices
1-2 tbsp grated ginger 
300 g tomatoes, cut into chunks 
1 cup chicken stock 
1/2 cup large green olives (Delmaine do ones in a jar which worked well)
1-2 limes, cut into thick slices (or 1 tbsp preserved lemon)
crusty bread, to serve (optional) 
coriander leaves, to garnish 

1 cup coriander 
1/2 cup parsley 
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic 
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (or apple cider)
salt and pepper
  1. Place chermoula ingredients in food processor  and process until all cut up and becoming smooth (I left a few bigger pieces in mine).  
  2. Cut fish into chunks.  Combine with chermoula in a bowl.  Set aside.  
  3. Steam potatoes until tender.  
  4. Heat butter in large pan/pot (it must have a tight-fitting lid), or a tagine (I don't have one, so used a large heavy pot).  Add onion and capsicum and cook for about 5 minutes, til softened.  
  5. Add ginger and tomatoes and cook for further two minutes.  Remove from heat and set tomato-onion mixture in a bowl.  
  6. Arrange potatoes in bottom of pot.  Spoon over half the tomato mixture.  Top with chermoula fish and second half of tomatoes.  Pour oven stock.  Scatter with olives and lime.  
  7. Cover pot with sheet of baking paper and tight-fitting lid (or your tagine's lid) and simmer gently for 10 minutes.  
  8. Serve with warm crusty bread (I used some par-baked dinner rolls).  

NB: Most supermarkets carry pre-mixed Ras el Hanout these days too - I have one in the pantry from Mrs Rogers Premium range, bought at our local Countdown.  

31 July 2017

The Queen of Tarts

Pastry.  I love pastry.  To be even more specific, I love to eat things made from pastry.  Pies.  Danishes.  Tarts.  Yum.  

Over the weekend I spent a day at The Food Show in Auckland, and saw some fantastic cooking demos by some of our coolest celebrity chefs.  It got me thinking back to past years at the show, and I remembered a tasty, but very quick, tart whipped up by Ray McVinnie, using mushrooms, pastry and butter (ok and a couple more ingredients, but you got the basics right there!).  

So, without further ado, here it is, as Frankie and I created it, yesterday for lunch...

Serves 2-3 (depending how hungry you are) 

2 sheets flaky puff pastry (I was using the pre-rolled Edmonds) 
1 egg 
sesame seeds 
c. 10-12 button mushrooms, sliced about 1/2 cm thick
3 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced or chopped fine
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp dried tarragon 
salt and pepper 
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.  
  2. Beat egg in a small bowl.  Brush 1.5 cm around edge of pastry with egg.  Fold over, creating a border.  Brush tops of border with more egg.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  
  3. Prick bottom of tart (within the border) - this will stop that pastry rising when cooking.  Place in oven for a few minutes, just to start cooking the area where the mushrooms will be - don't leave it for too long, 'cause you don't want the border cooked too much before you top the tart.  
  4. Remove from oven and top with a layer of mushrooms.  Mix together butter, onion, garlic, parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper.  Drizzle over the mushrooms.  Sprinkle with a few more sesame seeds.  
  5. Return to oven for 5 minutes.  Remove when nicely browned.  

27 July 2017

Hulk's signature dish

If Hulk were to take on cooking, I reckon this would be his signature dish.  It's hearty, rich in flavour and, as with Hulk, has more than one personality involved.  This dish is essentially a sausage casserole, but mixed with a pasta bake and a lasagna.  That's right - sausage casserole pasta bake lasagna - boom!!  

As with most casseroles (and indeed, most dishes I make), there are several places where you can switch things in or out, depending on your tastes and what you have (or don't have) in the fridge.  This is adapted from Chelsea Winter's recipe in Scrumptious (thanks Janelle!!).  

500 g pumpkin + kumara (I used butternut and orange kumara, chopped into 2cm chunks)
2 tbsp EVOO 
salt and pepper
smoked paprika
8-10 sausages (I used our local butcher's beefys) 
1 large onion, sliced
4 - 5 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 cups chopped spinach (or 2 zucchini, grated)
1 tbsp dried oregano 
2 x 400 g tins tomatoes 
1 cup beef stock (fresh - if you use powdered, add a little extra water and no extra salt)
1/2 cup red wine (or another 1/2 cup stock)
1/2 cup tomato paste (I used half-and-half pizza sauce and BBQ sauce, 'cause I'd run out)
250 g dried pasta (penne, macaroni...) 
1.5 cups cheese sauce (however you like to make it) - or 200 g creme fraiche (sprinkle some grated chedder cheese on top, if you use creme fraiche)
1 cup freshly grated parmasan cheese
  1. Toss the pumkin/kumara with oil, salt and pepper, and paprika.  Roast in oven at about 180 degrees celcius for about 20 minutes.  
  2. Cook pasta as per instructions on the packet, to al dente.  
  3. While veges are roasting, chop sausages into 5 or 6 pieces each.  Melt some butter in a large frypan and brown all over.  Remove from pan and set aside.  
  4. Melt a little more butter, cook onion until softening.  Add garlic, spinach and oregano.  Cook for a couple more minutes.  
  5. Put sausages back into pan and add tomatoes, stock, wine, tomato paste.  Stir and bring to rapid simmer.  Simmer away for about 15 or so minutes, until sauce is thickened.  
  6. Make your cheese sauce, if using.  
  7. Mix roasted veges, cooked pasta and sausage saucey mixture together in a large lasagna dish (I had to use one large and a small one too).  Pour cheese sauce over all.  Grate parmasan on top.  
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden in colour.  You could grill for a minute at end too, to get that really sweet golden top.  
  9. Serve on its own or with some stramed greens.  This is so yum!  
Serves about 10 adults.  

30 June 2017

Thai tastiness

I love Thai food.  These little 'cakes' (mini patties, really) convey all the flavours of the South-East that we love, in a quick, easy and versatile bite.  They make for a tasty midweek meal or a fantastic tapas option - I'm thinking perfect for watching the All Blacks take on the Lions tomorrow night!?  

350g pork mince (or chicken or turkey)
1.5 tsp Thai green curry paste
2 makrut leaves*, central stem removed and thinly sliced
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp sweet chili sauce
1 egg
1/2 cup panko crumbs
2 spring onions, white and green part thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp finely grated ginger (I use a microplane)
1 clove grated/minced garlic
juice of 1 lime/lemon
2 tsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp fish sauce
  1. Mix together all first batch of ingredients and set aside until ready to form into little patties and fry (I made the mixture earlier in the day and kept it in the fridge). 
  2. Mix together second lot of ingredients, for the dressing.  Keep in fridge until you're ready for it. 
  3. Melt butter in large frypan and cook patties until browned on both sides.  
  4. Serve with dressing as a dipping sauce (tapas style!) or with coconut rice, winter slaw and toasted sesame/pinenuts, drizzled with the dressing (awesome meal!!).  
Makes enough for 4, as a meal with rice etc.  For the coconut rice I cooked 1 cup of rice in 1 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup water.  Once boiling turn down to low and cover with lid.  After 20 minutes turn off and keep covered until ready to serve (can sit there steaming away for a good half hour).  

For the slaw we finely chopped coriander, bok choy and a carrot, then stirred through a couple of tablespoons of the dressing.  Yum!!  

NB: * makrut leaves = kaffir leaves.  Makrut (pronounced mah-krut) is the Thai word used to describe the bumpy-skinned lime otherwise referred to in many Western countries as the kaffir lime.  Given that word's place in many countries' vernaculars as a racial slur, there is a push to use the Thai name instead.  Given this lime's leaves are often seen in Thai cuisine, this makes complete sense to me.  So, same leave, different name.