Salmon with soba noodles.


I have been known to eat a lot of Japanese, but never really cook it at home. It’s all a little too fiddly I thought. This recipe dispels those notions – this delicious dish is such a quick and simple thing to put together. There’s almost nothing to it. And it delivers on taste too – a fragrant, fresh bowlful that is really rather filling. It’s my new go-to quick dinner fix.

INGREDIENTS: (serves 2)
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water

2 salmon fillets (skin on)
1 cup mixed vegetables (julienned carrots, beans, snow peas etc). (blanched for 30 seconds)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 bundles soba noodles (they normally come in per person serving bundles)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander (picked leaves)
1 spring onion (finely julienned)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Bring a large pan of water to a boil – keep on boil.
In a frying pan, heat the vegetable oil until hot. Fry the salmon for 3-4 minutes, skin side down until crisp. Turn over and fry for 2 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Place on paper towels.

Meanwhile, combine the mirin, sesame oil, soy sauce, lemon juice and water and set aside.

Cook the soba noodles for 4 minutes in the boiling water. In the last 30 seconds, add the blanched vegetables then drain into a waiting colander. Return to the pan and pour over half the mirin mixture. Toss the noodles and vegetables gently then arrange evenly in two bowls. Pour over the remaining miring mix then place the salmon on top. Garnish with the coriander, spring onion and a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds.

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Saganaki Eggs with Feta

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In my humble opinion, the perfect breakfast dish always comes with eggs. One of my all time favourites comes in the form of this perfect little baked dish. Hailing from Greece it creates a perfect blend of some of the ingredients the country is known for. Along with my homemade pitta breads, this particular day got off to a most excellent start.

1 tablespoon Greek extra virgin olive oil
200g best quality canned tomatoes (chopped)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried mint
2 eggs
1 tablespoon feta cheese
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 220ºC

In a flame proof earthenware dish or in a small frying pan (that can go in the oven), heat the oil until hot. Pour in the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons water. Stir in the oregano and mint. When this starts to simmer make two little holes and break an egg into each. Season with salt & pepper and then scatter over the feta.

Bake in the oven for 7-9 minutes until the eggs are set, but the yolks still a little wobbly.

Serve alongside some freshly baked pittas or with a nice crunchy loaf to soak up the sauce.

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Pitta Breads

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These were incredibly simple to make. I’m having a bit of a homemade bread phase and am truing lots of different recipes and combinations of ingredients. I love pitta breads – these Greek treasures are just perfect stuffed with chargrilled lamb or seafood – there also great fresh from the oven with nothing more than some extra virgin olive oil. You can of course, buy pitta breads, but these homemade versions really are spectacular. As breads go, they’re quite simple – give it a try!

250g ’00’ bread flour
7g dry yeast
230ml cold water mixed with 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Extra flour (for dusting)
Extra oil (for kneading)

Add the flour, yeast and oil to a large bowl and roughly combine. Gradually pour in the salt water and combine with one hand into a ball, collecting all the flour from the side of the bowl. Add a little extra water if needed.

With oiled hands and a lightly oiled surface, knead the dough for 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and silky. It will still be sticky, but add tiny bits of oil to your hands if it becomes unworkable.

Form into a large ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling wrap and leave for 1 hour to double in size.

Place a large baking tray in the oven (2nd shelf down) – Preheat to 220ºC

Remove the dough and place on a floured surface. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds then form into a ball again. Cut in half, then cut each half into three to leave 6 equally sized pieces. Cover with a clean tea towel.

Roll one piece into a ball and then using a floured rolling pin roll into an oval shape, about 3mm thick. Rub over a little flour and repeat with the remaining dough. Place three pittas on the baking tray and bake for 5-8 minutes until they are puffed and just beginning to colour.

Remove and place the remaining pittas in the oven. Cover the pittas with a tea towel to keep warm.

Eat within 24 hours.

I served mine with baked eggs in tomato with a little feta. Delicious!!

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Vietnamese stir fried Chives with ginger & lemongrass


I had faffed about so much today getting not a lot done that I had little to no patience for food shopping. After back and forthing around the city I just happened to be in a Vietnamese area, so made the decision to go in that direction for food. The nearest supermarket had a magnificent selection of greens on offer and I settled on a large bunch of Chinese chives and a very tasty looking fish fillet. I wanted something quick and easy, and that’s just what I got. Not to mention tasty!!! Fragrant, sweet, salty and a light spice too. Very delicious.

Large bunch Chinese chives (about 300g) (cut into about 10cm pieces)
1 clove garlic
2cm piece fresh ginger
1 large green chilli (seeds in)
1 lemongrass stalk
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 tablespoon shaoxin cooking wine
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 shallot (sliced)
1 tablespoon raw (unsalted) peanuts
2 spring onions (finely sliced)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander

In a pestle & mortar, pound together the garlic, ginger, chilli and lemongrass until roughly combined but not too smooth. Stir in the pepper and set aside.

Combine the fish sauce, soy, shaoxin and sugar and set aside.

Heat a wok with 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and fry the peanuts for 1-2 minutes until brown. Remove and set aside. Drain the pan then add the remaining oil.

When hot add the sliced shallots, quickly followed by the lemongrass mixture. Stir fry for 30 seconds before adding the chives. Stir briefly then pour in all the fish sauce mixture. Stir until most of the liquid has evaporated and the chives have softened, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the spring onions, peanuts and coriander and serve.

I got a nice crispy skin on the fish fillet and served the stir fry with some fluffy broken rice.

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Spaghetti Amatriciana


Tonight I wanted to create something quick, simple and delicious for dinner. Italian food can be all three! It was raining outside, so I didn’t want to leave the house – I rummaged through the fridge for inspiration and discovered a packet of bacon I had no recollection of buying. Luckily still within it’s usage date I settled on one of my favourite pasta dishes; Amatriciano. A simple tomato based sauce with bacon and chilli. It’s a sweet, spicy sauce that works perfectly with spaghetti or penne.

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup bacon (removed rind and chopped)
1 small onion (finely diced)
1 stick celery (finely diced)
2 cloves garlic (finely diced)
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 cup white wine
1x400g can chopped tomatoes
salt & pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil (roughly torn)

Pasta (for 3-4 people)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (for serving)

Put a large pan of salted water for the pasta on the stove to heat while you’re making the sauce.

In a large deep frying pan, heat the oil over a moderate heat. Add the bacon and fry for 4 minutes until just beginning to crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan. Set the bacon aside.

Tip the onion, celery and garlic into the pan and stir fry for 4-5 minutes until soft. Return the bacon to the pan along with the chilli flakes and cook for 1 minute before pouring in the white wine. Let this sizzle for 1 minute before adding the tomato and 1/2 can water. Stir well and let this come to a simmer. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta water is boiling, cook the pasta to the packet instruction minus about 2 minutes. Drain and add directly to the pasta sauce over a moderate heat. Toss it around and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the basil leaves and serve.

Arrange in bowls and sprinkle generously with parmesan cheese and black pepper and a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you’re feeling fancy!

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Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pistachio Praline & Botrytis Syrup


I’m not really a dessert person, but I do love everything about a panna cotta. The texture, the lightness, the creaminess. It has it all! They’re also deceptively simple to make yourself. Once you’ve mastered how much gelatin to add you’re quite literally set! The panna cotta’s should have a light firmness, like jelly – and a definite wobble – your spoon should slide through with ease. Gelatin sheets differ in strength but bizarrely most brands don’t give you any indication of how much to use, so it’s a bit of trial and error. I have found that titanium strength sheets are the most consistent. Once you find a good brand, stick with it and write your formula down somewhere! My formula is roughly one 5g titanium gelatin sheet per cup (240ml) of liquid. Anyway, back to dessert – this dish has a great combo of flavours and textures. The creamy, light sweetness of the panna cotta marries well with the bitter nuttiness of the praline and the tart, sweet syrup ties the two together in each perfectly harmonious mouthful. Special!!

For the Panna Cotta

1 1/2 cups full fat milk
1 1/2 cups cream
2-3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 vanilla bean
3 x 5g gelatin sheets (titanium strength)

For the praline
1/2 cup whole, shelled pistachio nuts
1 cup caster sugar
pinch sea salt

For the syrup
1 small bottle of Botrytis dessert wine (or any sweet white wine).
1 teaspoon sugar

For the panna cotta

Cut the vanilla bean lengthways in half. Using a teaspoon or knife, scrape out the beans from both sides. Add to a saucepan along with the milk, cream and sugar and turn on the heat. (Don’t throw out the bean, add this to a jar of sugar, for fabulous vanilla sugar, great over fruit or in tea.)

Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water while the milk heats.

When the milk is hot, remove from the heat. Squeeze out the gelatine sheets and add to the milk until dissolved. Pour the milk through a strainer, and then decant the liquid into small ramekins or panna cotta moulds. (makes 4-6 depending on size). Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours for the panna cottas to set.

For the praline
Arrange a lightly greased piece of greaseproof paper on a baking tray then arrange the nuts in one layer quite close together.
Heat a small frying pan over a moderate/high heat. Pour in the sugar and shake into one layer. Keep over the heat until the sugar melts. DO NOT STIR! The sugar will eventually turn a deep golden brown. Be careful to no burn the sugar. When it’s deep amber colour, remove from the heat and quickly and carefully drizzle over the nuts. Don’t be tempted to touch the mixture – it’s molten hot! Add a pinch of sea salt to the top and leave this to cool completely. It’ll harden.

When cooled, snap the praline into small pieces. Set four pieces aside and put the remaining pieces into a food processor. Pulse blend until you have a crumble, like coarse breadcrumbs.

For the Syrup
Place the wine and sugar in a small frying pan and over a moderate/high heat reduce by 2/3 – about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and decant into a small jug. Refrigerate to cool and thicken the syrup.

With a knife, gently ease the top edges of the panna cottas from their mould. Dip the ramekins into a shallow bowl of hot water that goes up about half way. Leave for 5 seconds then turn out onto a waiting plate or bowl. Drizzle over some syrup then add a spoonful of the praline crumble. Finally add the small piece of praline and serve.

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Roasted Butternut Squash with Tahini


I’m not a big fan of roasted squash on its own. I find it quite mushy and unappealing, but when I saw this recipe, where it’s mashed and enhanced with tahini, one of my favourite flavours I just had to give it a try out. I’m very pleased I did – what a transformation! The natural sweetness of the squash is enhanced with the use of tahini and yoghurt and with an extra hit of tart pomegranate molasses elevates a straightforward vegetable into something very special indeed. It looks great and tastes even better.

1kg sized butternut squash
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons light olive oil
5 cloves garlic (skin on)
2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons tahini paste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon (juice of)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 190ºC

Cut the butternut squash in half, remove the seeds and pulp from the centre and discard. Chop into large chunks then remove the skin. Arrange on a large baking tray with the garlic cloves. Drizzle over the light olive oil and then scatter over the cumin, salt and pepper. Toss with your hands to coat all the squash. Bake in the oven for 70-80 minutes until soft, turning once or twice during that time.

Remove from the oven, then using a fork, mash roughly. Squeeze the garlic from the skins and mash those too. Add to a large bowl then stir in the yoghurt, tahini, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

Serve warm or at room temperature, scatter over the sesame, nigella and pumpkin seeds and then drizzle over the pomegranate molasses. Serve as a side dish to meat or fish, or alongside bread to use as a spread/dip.

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Hazelnut & Lemon Yoghurt Cake with Lemon Icing

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It was a cold wintery Sydney that inspired me to bake a cake today. There’s something so comforting about the smell of a baking cake wafting through a warm house when it’s cold outside. This cake was created with stuff I had lying around, after a thorough rummage to look for almonds, I discovered a whole pack of hazelnuts which I knew would work equally as well with my tried and tested lemon cake recipe. Using yoghurt is definitely a favourite of mine, the results are always great – always spongy, light and not too rich. The cake turned out great and just the antidote for the beginning of the rain outside.

2 eggs
225g caster sugar
225g Greek yoghurt
3 lemons (zest of)
100g hazelnuts
150g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup icing sugar
juice of 1-2 lemons

Preheat oven to 170ºC

Lightly grease a non-stick 20cm round cake tin and dust with flour. Set aside.

Beat together the eggs and sugar until lights and creamy. Beat in the yoghurt and lemon zest then set aside. In a food processor, blend the hazelnuts until they resemble breadcrumbs. Combine with the flour, baking powder and salt. Tip this mixture into the wet ingredients and stir to incorporate. Don’t over stir.

Pour the ingredients into the cake tin and smooth out. Bake for 45 minutes until cooked in the centre.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly before turning out to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, using a whisk, gradually pour into the icing sugar a little lemon juice at a time, until the consistency is thick, but pourable. The consistency of honey. When the cake is completely cooled, pour over the icing and smooth out to cover the cake.

I served mine as I do with all my cakes, with a cup of coffee and a TV show about food.

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Lentil & Ham Soup


One of the first things my mother taught me how to cook was lentil soup. We ate it regularly as I grew up. I would ask for it constantly in any weather. Maybe her idea to teach me, was that if I wanted it all the time, I could cook it myself, thereby saving her a job! Whatever the reason, It’s still one of my favourites. So, as the temperature in Sydney cools for winter – it’s time for lentil soup. It warms every inch of the body and takes me back to bitter English winters where there was always a pan on the go. My mother’s recipe would see the ham hock cooked in the soup. I’ve slightly changed her recipe, in that I create my ham stock first before cooking the lentils. For whatever reason, the ham hocks in Australia aren’t quite as smoky or intense as I remember the British ones being, so the soup needs all the help it can get to draw out that salty bacon flavour. It takes longer, but it’s that flavour that makes this soup so special – so I’m happy I’ve struck upon this slight variation. She also left hers chunky, which I like too, but prefer to blend mine ’til smooth. Either way, you must make this etc…

For the stock:

1 ham hock (5-6 deep cuts in the flesh – to the bone)
1 medium onion (quartered)
1 carrot (cut into chunks)
1 stem rosemary
2 bay leaves
4 stems fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves
4 peppercorns

For the soup:
2 cups split red lentils
1 onion (chopped)
1 carrot (chopped)
2 medium potatoes (peeled and cubed)
salt & pepper

To make the stock:
Place all the stock ingredients into a large pan along with 3 litres of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer very gently for 2 hours. Remove from the heat.

Take out the hock and cool slightly. Remove as much meat from the bone as you can – set aside and discard any fat and sinew.

Drain the liquid into another large pan and discard the vegetables and herbs. Add the bone to the liquid along with the lentils, onion, carrot and potatoes. Place this over a moderate heat until just simmering. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes until the lentils have pretty much disintegrated. Remove from the heat. Remove the bone and discard then using a hand blender, blend the soup until smooth. Season generously with salt & pepper before serving.

Serve with a little of the ham sprinkled over the soup along with some black pepper and a little drizzle of good quality olive oil or melted butter.

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Pear Tarte Tatin


I have always LOVED tarte tatin. A simple and amazingly sweet blend of fruit and pastry. Sweet and caramelised pears atop of a flaky, crunchy pastry. Much easier to make than you’d think it’s a great dinner party spectacular that can be prepared ahead and popped into the oven as and when. When it’s turned out, it’s guaranteed a ripple of applause and with the first mouthful guaranteed a sigh of pleasure from everyone involved in its eating.

Serves 2 (I suppose).

50g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter
3 medium pears (peeled, cored and quartered lengthways)
2 star anise
pinch cinnamon powder
1 frozen puff pastry sheet (half thawed)

In a small oven proof frying pan (about 15m width), heat the sugar and butter over a moderate/high heat, shaking the pan until bubbling and turning golden brown. Add the star anise, cinnamon and pears in one layer and shake pan to coat. The sugar and butter may separate. Worry not, it’ll all be fine. Let the pears cook for 10 minutes, shaking occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200ºC

Using a plate that is slightly larger than the frying pan, cut a circle from the pastry.

Arrange the pears in the pan, outer edge facing down. Place the pastry over the pears and carefully tuck it around the edges into the pan. Prick the top a few times then place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and puffed up.

Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Place a large plate over the pan and carefully invert the pan onto the plate. Scrape any syrup from the pan and spoon over the tarte.

Serve with a spoonful of cream or mascarpone.

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