Konkan Black Pepper & Coconut Curry

After a forage through my freezer tonight I managed to cobble together 1kg of chicken thighs from various half opened packets and unlabelled bags of ‘meat’. After a few days of no spice for whatever reason, my body was craving the hit of spice. After another brief scout of the cupboards and fridge, I settled on this dish. It’s an unusual curry in that most of the heat doesn’t come from chilli, but instead black pepper. Before chilli populated India from Central & South America, black pepper was used to give food a kick. I do love using pepper in this way – it is a really interesting, intense spice that leaves a long hot lingering hit. The coconut milk dampens the heat a little, but we’re till left with a rich, spicy sauce that really is quite magnificent. A word of note is to really spend the time with the first half of the recipe. The intensity of heat and roundness of flavour is much improved when you spend the time reducing the onions and spice – if you short cut it, it’ll affect the flavour.


2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 tablespoons coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods (lighly bruised to open slightly)
1 stem fresh curry leaves (about 20)
2 whole dried chillies
1 onion (finely diced)
4 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger (finely chopped)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 large tomato (diced)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1kg chicken thigh fillets (cut into bite sized chunks)
250ml coconut milk

In a pestle & mortar, pound together the peppercorns and mustard seeds until ground (not too finely). Set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over a medium heat until hot. Add the cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, curry leaves and dried chillies. Let them splutter and sizzle for 30 seconds before adding the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir well for 2-3 minutes. Splash in about 1/4 cup water and sizzle for a further 2-3 minutes until the water has evaporated and the onions are frying again. Repeat this process of adding water and reducing for about 10 minutes.

Add the ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, chilli powder, garam masala and the ground pepper/mustard and stir well. Add 1/2 cup water and stir again. Like before, let this mixture reduce until almost dry then add 1/4 cup water. Stir constantly to avoid sticking.

Add the tomato, salt and sugar and another 1/4 cup water and reduce again. Repeat this process of water and reduction, like before, for about 20 minutes until the paste is thick and smooth and the oil begins to separate.

Now, Add the chicken and turn up the heat. Stir fry for 10 minutes before pouring in the coconut milk and about 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered for 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce thick and unctuous.

Serve with lots of fluffy basmati rice.

Read the rest of this entry

Fondant Potatoes

I’m always interested in different ways to eat potatoes. They’re one of the most versatile vegetables, with literally thousands of options. I’ve eaten fondant potatoes many times, but never made myself. I figured they were cheffy and complicated, but was very wrong! Normally, the potatoes are cut into perfect little cylinders, but this homestyle version is much less fuss and waste nothing of a good potato. Fondant potatoes are fried then baked in a bath of stock in the oven, which gives them a delicate, creamy texture inside and a crisp top. They’re the perfect accompaniment to a meat dishes and really rather delicious.

4 medium potatoes (Desiree, King Edward)
salt & pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
20 sprigs thyme
4 knobs butter
400ml good quality fresh chicken, beef or vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 200ºC

Peel the potatoes and cut in half lengthways. Cut a slither off the base of each potato to enable them to sit without wobbling. Season well with salt & pepper.

Place a small, deep baking pan on the stove top over a high heat. Heat the oil until just smoking hot. Place the potatoes face down into the oil and cover with thyme. Fry for 5 minutes on one side, until browned. Turn over each potato then add the butter. Let this melt and bubble for a minute or so before pouring in the stock so that it reaches about 1cm from the top of the potato. Bring this to the boil then remove from the heat and place in the oven.

Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the potato feels soft when pierced by a sharp knife.

Great with meat or poultry.

Read the rest of this entry

Mushroom Lasagne

This is an updated recipe from a couple of years ago. While the previous incarnation was as delicious as I had described it, I felt it could be stepped up a little to incorporate more intensity and richness. I do love mushrooms so getting all the mushroom flavour to be its best is key. This recipe finally elevates this simple and quite humble dish into something really special. A must try.

For the bechamel sauce:
40g butter
4 tablespoons plain flour
500ml cream
1 litre milk
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
40g grated parmesan
40g grated cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper

For the lasagne:
1kg button mushrooms (thinly sliced)
25g dried porcini mushrooms (soaked in 300ml hot water)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion (finely chopped)
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 celery stalk (finely chopped)
Salt & Pepper
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons fresh sage
Pack of dried lasagne sheets
4 tablespoons truffle pecorino (grated) mixed with 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese (grated) (or just 6 tablespoons parmesan)

Preheat oven to 180ºC

To make the sauce:

In a saucepan, melt the butter then stir in the flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes then pour in the cream and milk, whisking constantly. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk until the consistency of double cream (about 3-4 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan and cheddar until melted then set aside.

Drain the porcini mushrooms, keeping the liquid. Chop the mushrooms and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat. Add the onion, garlic and celery and fry gently for 4 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the rosemary, sage and both the button and porcini mushrooms and fry for about 10 minutes, until most of the water from the mushrooms has evaporated. Stir in about 1/3 of the béchamel sauce along with the soaking liquid from the porcini mushrooms. Let this simmer for 3-4 minutes until rich and creamy. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a rectangular casserole dish, spoon a thin layer of the mushroom mix over the base. Add a sheet of lasagne, then a light sprinkling of truffle pecorino and parmesan and finally a few spoons of the béchamel sauce. Repeat the process three or four times, ending with a layer of mushrooms with the remaining bechamel sauce spread over. Sprinkle the top with the remaining pecorino and parmesan. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Increase the heat to 220ºC and bake for another 8-10 minutes to brown the top.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a simple rocket and tomato salad.

Read the rest of this entry

Pork Steaks with Mustard, Sage & White Wine

Something I often fall back on is this simple recipe for the perfect sauce to accompany pork or chicken. I’ll often make it differently, adding what I have in the fridge at the time, mixing herbs and other ingredients to suit. This time, I made with pork and sage a perfect marriage. It’s easy and quick, which is occasionally just what I want. It’s delicious too by the way.

4 small pork steaks (you can use chops, loin, escallop etc).
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely sliced)
7-8 fresh sage leaves
2 anchovies (mashed)
2 heaped teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup white wine
salt & pepper

Season the pork steaks with salt & pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan until hot. Cook the pork until just cooked (4 minutes per side – depending on thickness). Remove from the pan onto a plate. Tip out the oil from the pan then replace with the remaining oil and butter. Add the shallot, garlic and sage and stir fry for 1 minute before adding the anchovy and mustard. Stir this briefly to combine everything then pour in the wine. Let this sizzle and reduce for about 1 minute before pouring in 1/2 cup water. Shake the pan or stir to combine and let this reduce for a further 1 minute. Return the pork to the pan along with any juices that have accumulated. Spoon the sauce over the steaks then serve.

It was end of the week food so there were only potatoes in my kitchen. So, I ate mine with mashed potatoes and it was rather lovely and satisfying. I dare say an appearance by some vegetables would have been even lovelier.

Read the rest of this entry

Spanish Eggs Baked in Tomato

I like something simple to eat in the morning – something with no fuss. Sadly, this often means sticking a couple of slices of bread in the toaster – which in time can become a little depressing. This dish is a little more involved than that, but not much. I always forget about my clever little tapas dishes which can be put directly under the flame of the stove. This creates an instant pan/eating vessel solution, saving you time and washing up. I just cook everything in there and dispense with the fuss. The dish is simple, understated but very yummy indeed. I eat mine with a spoon and some crusty bread and could wish for nothing more. A fabulous start to any day.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 spring onion (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (sweet)
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
200g best quality canned tomatoes (chopped)
salt & pepper
2 eggs
1 tablespoon fresh parsley (chopped)

Preheat grill

In a medium flame proof tapas dish or small frying pan, heat the oil over a moderate heat until hot. Add the spring onion and fry for 1 minute. Add the paprika, sage, salt and pepper and stir briefly before adding the tomatoes. Bring to a boil then simmer for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat then break the eggs into the tomato mixture. Place under the grill for 4-5 minutes until the whites are set. Serve.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve alongside crusty bread.

Read the rest of this entry

Parsi Eggs

The Parsi community of India are descendants of the Persian settlers from the 8th-10th Century. Their dwindling community can still be found all over India, and particularly in Mumbai. Their cuisine is notably different from standard Indian cookery, taking influences from Iran and the Middle East. There are a scattering of excellent Parsi cafes and restaurants in Mumbai, one such place served Parsi eggs. Soft, spicy eggs, scrambled with fresh vegetables and herbs along with spices. The results are mind-blowing! This recipe is fairly close to the eggs I ate, but omits the minced lamb which they used. You can add 1/2 cup of minced lamb to this recipe (just after frying the onion) – it’s amazing just how good it tastes! That said, without the meat is every bit as tasty perfect for breakfast or a lunch snack. Give this a try.


1 tablespoon ghee or butter
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 fresh curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 spring onions (chopped)
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
2 teaspoons fresh ginger (grated)
1 small hot red chilli (finely chopped (seeds in or out, you decide)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tomato (chopped)
2 tablespoons fresh fenugreek (chopped) (optional)
6 eggs (beaten)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander (chopped)
1 lime (cut into wedges)

In a medium pan, heat the ghee until just hot. Add the cumin seeds, curry leaves, pepper and salt and stir for 30 seconds before adding the onion. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes then add the garlic, ginger and fresh chilli. Stir for 1-2 minutes then add the turmeric, chilli powder and stir once or twice before adding the tomato and fenugreek (if using). Let this cook for 1 minute then pour in the eggs. Stir continuously for 2-3 minutes or until the eggs are just cooked through and still creamy. Remove from the heat, stir in the coriander and serve.

Serve with Indian breads such as roti, paratha or naan, alongside some fresh lime wedges to squeeze over.

Read the rest of this entry

Beef Rendang

If there’s a curry that epitomises everything I love in a curry, it’s a Malaysian rendang – meltingly tender meat, intense rich sauce and a fragrant complex flavour. The Malaysian rendang delivers top marks in all categories. It’s one of my all time favourites. A thick, clingy sauce coats big chunks of butter-soft beef – no knife required. It’s also one of the easiest curries to make. The key is time, giving it long enough to cook. There’s a world of difference to a well cooked rendang and a badly cooked one. So don’t get too excited or greedy and take to off the heat too early. Give it plenty of time to cook until the meat is soft enough. A great way to intensify the flavour is to make it 24 hours in advance. The flavours will develop and make it that extra bit special – if you have the will power to wait. See for yourself why this curry is one of the most amazing creations ever…


1kg beef chuck steak (cut into large 100g pieces)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

2 lemon grass stalks (white parts only, thinly sliced)
2 French shallots (finely sliced) (or 1/2 sliced medium red onion)
1 tablespoon fresh galangal (chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (chopped)
5 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
15-20 dried red chillies (soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 30 mins)
4 fresh small red chillies (seeded and chopped)
4 candle nuts (or macadamia nuts) (pounded)
1 teaspoon shrimp paste

2 tablespoons peanut oil
550ml coconut milk

Marinate the beef in the soy sauce and sugar in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a food processor, blend together until very smooth all the paste ingredients and 100ml of the coconut milk.

Heat a large saucepan over a medium heat until hot. Add the beef in one layer and cook for 3 minutes each side to brown well. Pour over the paste and the remaining coconut milk together with 250ml water. Bring this to a simmer, then reduce the heat to very low to simmer gently. Cook, covered for 3-4 hours until the beef is very tender. Remove the lid and turn up the heat to moderate to reduce the sauce so that is very very thick and clings to the beef (about 15-20 more minutes). The oil may separate – this is normal and is the sign of a great sauce.

Check for seasoning and add salt if necessary.

I prefer mine served with Malaysian style roti bread (buy the frozen ones – they’re great), but it’ll also work with rice.

Read the rest of this entry

Chettinad Chicken with Tomato & Black Pepper

I was pretty exhausted and dare I say a little grumpy after a day filled with work, and general ‘stuff’. I was in the mood for something that would make me feel like it had all been worthwhile. Curry (and beer) go a long way to making this happen, and there’s none better than this amazing Chettinad chicken curry – flavoured with regional spices such as cinnamon, fennel and predominantly black pepper. This curry is spicy, fragrant and rich. But not at all heavy – the curry leaves at the end add a lovely fresh finish to this dish and the lingering heat of the pepper creates a welcome difference from the usual chilli hit. Grumpiness be gone!

2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
4 dried red chillies
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cardamom pods
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 onion (sliced)
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon finely grated garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1kg chicken thighs (cut into 1/4 portions)
200g can chopped tomatoes
3 hot green chillies (chopped, seeds in)
20 fresh curry leaves
2 teaspoons black pepper

Heat the oil in a large heavy based pan over a moderate heat until hot. Add the mustard seeds and sizzle for 30 seconds before adding the chillies, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds and cardamom. Cook for 1 minute, then add the cloves, cinnamon stick and fennel seeds and cook for a further 1 minute. Add the onion slices and cook for 7-8 minutes until soft and golden. Now add the ginger and garlic and fry, reducing the heat slightly to avoid sticking, for 1 minute. Now add the ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric, salt and 1/4 cup water and stir continuously for 1 minute, before adding the chicken, tomato and chillies. Let this cook for 7-8 minutes until the sauce is thick and the oil begins to separate.

Add 400ml water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered, for 45 minutes (remove the lid after half way). Stir in the curry leaves and pepper and serve.

Serve alongside lots of fluffy basmati rice.

Read the rest of this entry

Italian Easter Lamb with Peas

Now I know we’re a few months away from Easter, but this is one of the dishes from Italy that I love the most. It has good an bad memories for me however. I once ate it at a restaurant in Leichhardt, Sydney which will remain nameless. I was charged $37 for the privilege. On ordering I was pre-warned by our faux Italian waitress that I would a) not be disappointed and b) should brace myself to be very very full afterwards. The very opposite was the bitter reality. The dish was bland and very mediocre and it arrived on something the akin to a tea plate. I kid you not when I say that it took me about 3 minutes to eat, the waitress grinned as she came to pick up my plate as if to say “well, can you move?!” Six years later and I’m every bit as bitter, I have however learned to make the authentic version. Packed full of flavour, it’s quite amazing to me just how much the restaurant fu**** it.

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion (roughly chopped)
1 stick celery (roughly chopped)
1 carrot (roughly chopped)
4 cloves garlic (peeled and bruised)
5 anchovy fillets
1kg lamb shoulder (cut into chunks)
10 cherry tomatoes
10 stems fresh thyme
200ml white wine
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
salt & pepper
5 small potatoes (halved)
500g frozen peas
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons parmigiano reggiano cheese (finely grated)

In a large casserole pan, heat the oil over a high heat until hot. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft. Add the garlic and anchovies and cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the lamb, thyme and tomatoes. Cook for 10 minutes stirring once, then add the wine and vinegar and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until the liquid has almost gone. Add the potatoes and peas and 250ml water and season generously with salt & pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid or foil. Simmer gently for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and simmer for a further 15-30 minutes until the lamb is tender and the sauce rich and thick. Stir in the butter and cheese at the end just before serving.

Serve as a stew alongside lots of crusty bread.

Read the rest of this entry

Vietnamese Pork Belly & Egg with Lemon grass and Star Anise

I felt like something easy tonight – something that I could just chuck into the oven and forget about. This Vietnamese inspired dish is just that – it features one of my guilty favourites, pork belly. I know I’m supposed to not eat all the fatty bits, but I can’t help myself, it’s the best – it’s especially fabulous when it’s been slowly braised until it literally melts in your mouth. Heaven! This dish is mild, fragrant and light, which balances well with the pork. The eggs are a stroke of genius, adding a great texture to the sauce. The sauce itself is thin and souplike and really delicious. It’s a simple and fuss free dish that left to its own devices cooks perfectly without any interference from you.

4 eggs (hard boiled then peeled)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
600g Pork spare ribs (cut into large bite sized pieces)
1/2 onion (chopped)
5 star anise
1 sick lemon grass (cut in half, lightly bruised)
2″ piece ginger (peeled and chopped)
3 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
250ml coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Preheat oven to 180ºC

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a moderate heat. Fry the pork pieces for 2 minutes each side until browned. Add to an oven proof casserole pan. With the frying pan still over the heat, pour in the coconut milk and 300ml water then stir in the turmeric, soy sauce, fish sauce and pepper. Bring to a simmer then remove from the heat and pour over the pork.

Stir in the onion, star anise, lemongrass, ginger and garlic. Cover the pan with a lid or kitchen foil and bake for 1 hour. Stir well, then bake covered for a further 1 hour until the pork is very tender. Add the hard boiled eggs and cook for 10 minutes before serving.

I served mine with some coconut rice and a crunchy mixed salad.

Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: