Poached Peaches with Rosé syrup

I bought some peaches at the market today. The sole reason I bought them was because they were extremely cheap. I am unable to pass on a bargain, so snapped them up. The only drawback is that they were pretty hard. I knew they’d be a while before they finally softened, but I wanted to eat them right away, so I decided to cook one of the simplest and best ways of eating peaches in my opinion, poaching them in wine. Instead of red wine, which is the usual way I do them, I tried rosé – it was hot outside, and I figured rosé would be less wintery and lighter. I was right. The peaches were soft, subtle and the reduced poaching liquid, sweet, tart and intense without being too overpowering. It was the perfect end to my balmy summer’s evening.

INGREDIENTS:
4 firm white peaches
1 bottle dry rosé wine
2 star anise
3 lemon rind pieces
1 cup sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Using a sharp knife, cut a deep slit into the bottom of each peach, I find this helps them poach quicker. Place them in a medium saucepan so they fit snugly together. Pour over the wine to cover and add the star anise, lemon rind and sugar. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and poach the peaches for 30-40 minutes until soft.

Remove from the pan and cool slightly. The skin on some peaches will slip off very easily, others not. I like them with or without so don’t worry if the skins won’t budge.

Turn up the heat of the poaching liquid to medium, let the sauce reduce until you have about 1 cup of liquid left. About 30 minutes. It should reduce down to a glossy syrup. Strain through a sieve and discard the solids.

SERVING:
Cut each peach into quarters, discarding the stones. Arrange some pieces in a shallow bowl and serve with cream and a generous drizzling of the syrup.

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Moroccan Harissa Lamb with Chickpeas

On a long haul flight back from Las Vegas to Sydney, I read from cover to cover an issue of Bon Appetit magazine. In the magazine was a very simple recipe for chicken in Harissa with chickpeas. Having nothing else to do, I began ‘fantasising’ about cooking it when I eventually got off the excruciatingly long flight. Once home, imagine my horror when realising I’d left the magazine on the plane. The pain slowly eased as I remembered how simple it was to cook. So, off I went to shop for some of the ingredients. Once again, imagine my horror as I returned home to discover I’d forgotten to buy chicken. I’d bought every meat other than chicken at the butchers. Not being able to face any more horror, I settled on the same recipe, using lamb. And you know what!? It was delicious!! Flavourful, subtle and really something special. A very happy mistake and worth all the drama.

INGREDIENTS:
1kg lamb chump chops
1 tablespoon ghee or oil
1 onion (halved and thinly sliced)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 tablespoons Harissa paste
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
400ml low sodium beef stock
Salt & pepper
1 x 400g can chickpeas (drained)
1/4 cup fresh parsley (finely chopped)

DIRECTIONS:
In a large heavy based pan, heat the ghee over a moderate heat. Brown the meat on both sides as remove from the pan. Add the onion, garlic and mint and stir for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the Harissa and tomato purée and mix well before adding the beef stock. Return the lamb to the pan and season well with salt & pepper. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to very low. Cover the pan and cook gently for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until the meat is very tender. Tumble in the chickpeas and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve.

SERVING:
Squeeze over half the lemon, sprinkle over the parsley and serve alongside vegetables or cous cous with the remaining lemon cut into wedges to squeeze over as you see fit.

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Salmon Poached in Spicy Thai Sauce

I was in the mood for something very spicy tonight. Something that would leave a lasting impression! It was a balmy evening so I also didn’t want anything too heavy or rich, so settled on a light Thai fish dish. Salmon works really well with coconut based curry sauces so was a perfect choice for this dish. I added a lot of chillies (more than I suggest here), maybe 30, which made it more than a little spicy. It was completely manageable though and gave me a hot, but incredibly fragrant sauce to accompany the fish. You can scale the chillies up or down obviously. 5 will give you medium/mild moving up the scale to 20 for hot. Whatever your threshold is, you’ll enjoy this I’m sure!

INGREDIENTS:
For the paste:

2 large French shallots or 1 small red onion (chopped)
5 cloves garlic (chopped)
3″ piece of fresh ginger (chopped)
1/2 tablespoon fresh coriander roots & stalks (chopped)
2 lemongrass stalks (whites only, chopped)
10-20 hot Thai red chillies (seeds in, chopped)
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons peanut oil

For the sauce:
4 200g skinless salmon fillets
3 tablespoons peanut oil
400ml coconut cream
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small carrot (thinly sliced)
1/2 head broccoli (cut into small florets)
10 sugar snap peas
1/2 cup fresh coriander
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil
2 kaffir lime leaves (shredded)
1 lime (juice of)

DIRECTIONS:
In a food processor, blend together all the paste ingredients until smooth. Set aside.

Heat a wok with the peanut oil over a medium high heat. When hot, tip in the paste and stir, let it sizzle for 5 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid sticking. Pour in the coconut cream, fish sauce, sugar and about 300ml water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Gently slide in the salmon fillets and cook for 5-8 minutes until cooked thorough. Carefully remove from the pan and tip in the vegetables and cook for 3 minutes. Stir a few of the herbs and the lime juice and serve.

SERVING:
Over a bed of Jasmine rice, spoon over some sauce and vegetables, then place a salmon fillet on top. Spoon over a little more sauce. Garnish with Thai basil, coriander and shredded kaffir leaves and a few snow pea shoots. Enjoy!

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Vegetable Cous Cous

I often forget that it’s OK to post really simple dishes on the blog sometimes. I get caught up in complex curries and the like but often, I prepare really simple and really tasty accompaniments to the main event of my meal. One such tasty dish is cous cous. I love the stuff. I make it often to sit with Middle Eastern stews and African tagines. Mostly, I’ll just serve it plain, but other times, especially if i’m trying to up the vegetable count, I’ll mix with veg and herbs. It makes for a substantial all-in-one side, which is a bonus. I mix and match what I add, but this version features carrots and beans, which went perfectly with the fish in tomato sauce I served it alongside. Very satisfying.

INGREDIENTS:
Serves 2-3
1 cup cous cous
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup French beans (cut into small pieces)
1/2 cup carrot (diced)
1/3 cup fresh dill (chopped)
1/3 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
1/3 cup fresh mint (chopped)
1/2 lemon (juice of)
freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Pour the cous cous into a large bowl. Pour over 1 cup boiling water, the olive oil, cumin and salt. Cover the bowl and leave for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a small pan of water to the boil. Cook the vegetables for 4-5 minutes until cooked but not soft. Drain and set aside.

Fluff up the cous cous with 2 forks then stir in the vegetables, dill, parsley and mint. Squeeze of the juice of half a lemon and season with black pepper and more salt if needed.

SERVING:
Serve alongside whatever takes your fancy!

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Buttermilk Pancakes with Berries

As breakfasts go, the Americans know how to put on a show. It’s always a treat and trauma going out for breakfast in the US, as there’s a multitude of wonderful dishes to choose from. One such dish are pancakes – with a million different offerings and a million more combinations of flavours to accompany it can be a minefield of choice – and can be very stressful for someone like me who is way too greedy for their own good. To avoid the pain, I often make my own buttermilk pancakes at home and serve them with fresh (healthy) berries. I mix and match my berries and fruit using all sorts, including blueberries, gooseberries, mango etc… today I went for my favourite combo. I never add sugar to my berries, with I’ve noticed the yanks do a lot – it seems sacrilegious to me, instead – I tart them up with a spritz of fresh lemon juice to add a bit of zing. I do like a drizzle of maple syrup at the end though to bring all the flavours together and to soak into the deliciously light and fluffy pancakes. Good morning America!!

For the Fruit:
1 punnet fresh raspberries
1 punnet fresh blackberries
1 punnet fresh strawberries
1/2 lemon (juice of)

For the Pancakes:
3 cups plain flour
3 tablespoons caster sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups fresh buttermilk
1/2 cup full fat milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter

DIRECTIONS:
Combine the fruit together in a bowl, squeeze over the lemon juice and mix well. Refrigerate until needed.

For the pancakes:
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large jug or bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the buttermilk, milk, eggs and butter.

Heat a large, flat, non-stick frying pan over a moderate heat. Spray with a light oil to coat the pan.

Beat together the flour mix and the buttermilk mix until combined. Don’t worry of you have some lumps.

Pour in about 1/3 cup of the mix to create a little disc about 4-5″. Repeat with as many as you can fit in your pan without them touching. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes each side till light and golden. Cool on a waiting plate as you cook the remaining pancakes – you should get anywhere between 12-15.

SERVING:
Serve a layer of pancakes with the fruit over the top. Drizzle maple syrup or honey over. It’s also nice with some greek style yoghurt or soft ricotta topping.

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Lamb Ragù

This is a simple, rustic dish that is amongst the tastiest things in my repertoire. Meat cooked for hours has a universal appeal in my house, and when alongside a rich, flavour filled sauce with pasta becomes something of a taste sensation. I cook this dish often, using all manner of different meat and ingredients. This recipe is the dish at its simplest – you lose nothing in flavour and it’s pretty much fail safe. Try this!

INGREDIENTS: (serves 4)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large lamb hind quarter shanks
1 large onion (diced)
1 large carrot (diced)
2 celery stalks (diced)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
200ml white wine
1 litre beef stock (hot)
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

DIRECTIONS:
In a large casserole pan with a lid, heat the butter and oil over a moderate heat until hot. Add the lab shanks and cook for 4 minutes on each side turning to brown all the meat well. Remove from the pan. To the pan, add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook for 4 minutes until soft before adding the garlic, oregano, rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and then pour in the wine. Sizzle for 2-3 minutes to reduce the liquid.

Pour in the beef stock and bring to a simmer. Return the meat to the pan and reduce the heat to low to get a slight simmer. Simmer gently for 2-3 hours (lid on), turning the meat occasionally until it’s falling off the bone.

Carefully remove the meat from the pan and place on a large board. Using a sharp knife and fork, remove the meat from the bone and shred into smallish pieces. Discard any fat, gristle and bone. Set aside the meat.

Using a stick blender, blend the cooking liquid into a thick creamy sauce, the consistency of double cream. Reduce if necessary.

Return the meat to the pan, add the parmesan and stir through.

SERVING:
Cook some pasta – Fettucini and Papardelle work well, but also rigatoni, penne and spaghetti. Toss the cooked pasta amongst the ragù and ensure each ribbon is coated well. Dish up and sprinkle generously with more parmesan, black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Substitutes:
This dish works well with other meats, rabbit (reduce cooking time), Osso Bucco and Stewing beef are some of my favourites.
I also mix up herbs I use – whichever falls out of the cupboard first. Oregano, Marjoram, Thyme, Bay Leaf, Sage and/or Basil.

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Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks in Red Wine

There’s something impressive about meat that will cut effortlessly with a fork. Especially when it’s a delicious creamy beef cheek. It’s a really underrated cut of meat which is just perfect for slow stewing. This Italian stew leaves a rich, fragrant sauce after hours of cooking and is utterly fork-tender delicious. Today it rained. I’m down the NSW Coast so it was pretty miserable, grey and cold! This was perfect – cooking for so long, it warmed the house and filled the rooms with a tantalising aroma. When it was finally ready, I served each cheek atop of a smooth mound of creamy Parmigiana flavoured polenta to much applause.

INGREDIENTS:
3 tabelspoons olive oil
2 onions (finely chopped)
1 carrot (finely chopped)
2 celery sticks (finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 teaspoon crushed dried juniper berries
3 tablespoons fresh oregano (chopped)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon ground star anise
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 litre red wine
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 beef cheeks

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 150ºC

Heat a frying pan with half the oil and seal the beef cheeks for 3 minutes each side until browned. Set aside

Heat the remaining oil in a large ovenproof casserole pan over a moderate heat. Fry the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, juniper, oregano, bay leaf and star anise for 7 minutes until soft and rich brown. Add the tomato paste and stir for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the wine and add the beef cheeks. Bring to a boil then remove from the heat, cover the pan with a lid or some foil and cook in the oven for 3-4 hours until the meat is very tender, stirring occasionally.

Carefully remove the beef cheeks and bay leaf and blend the sauce with a hand blender into a thick, rich gravy. Return the beef cheeks to the pan. Serve immediately!

SERVING:
As I mentioned, I served mine with creamy, cheesy polenta, but it’s perfect with mashed potatoes, celeriac or cauliflower puree or even mix some of the sauce with a ribboned pasta such as pappardelle or tagliatelle.

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Arepas with Chipotle Chicken.

If there is one thing guaranteed to pull me out of the depths of a cavernous hangover it is an arepa. They are manna from heaven – and lift your spirits no matter how much of a state you’re in! I recently discovered them while living in Las Vegas, where the hangover was as frequent as the 40ºC days. South American in origin from Venezuela and Columbia predominantly, they are a simple corn flat bread which sometimes come stuffed with all manner of delicious fillings. Favourites of mine include pulled pork or black beans with cheese and the hangover speciality – spicy eggs with chorizo. The corn breads use a special flour made from cooked maize called masarepa. It gives them a lovely crunch on the outside and a soft, spongy texture inside. In this recipe they act, much like a Greek Pita pocket to hold the stuffing. This pulled chicken is simple and works a treat. Spicy and so full of smoky flavours – be sure to reduce the sauce enough as a watery liquid is not great when stuffing arepas – they’ll fall apart. One other note – be sure to make the accompanying green sauce – it adds an extra dimension to the overall experience. Hopefully you’ll agree that these little taste sensations are something very special indeed! Viva Arepas! Viva hangover!

INGREDIENTS:

PULLED CHICKEN:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small red onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
1 small bunch coriander (stems only, chopped)
1kg chicken thigh fillets (cut in half)
1 200g (7oz) can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
salt & pepper
1 lime

AREPA GREEN SAUCE:
3 tablespoons whole egg mayonnaise
1 small bunch coriander (leaves only, chopped)
1 garlic clove (chopped)
1 lime (juice of)
1/2 avocado (sliced)
1 hot green chilli (chopped) (optional)
salt & pepper

AREPAS:
2 1/2 cups masarepa flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
butter for cooking

DIRECTIONS:

PULLED CHICKEN:
Using a stick blender, blend the chipotles in sauce into a thick puree. Mix with about 150ml water. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a moderate heat until hot. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently for 5 minutes until soft. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes until light brown. Add the chipotle puree and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 1 hour until the chicken is tender and the sauce is very thick and clings to the chicken. Remove from the heat and using two forks shred the chicken. Squeeze over the lime and season with salt & pepper. Set aside.

AREPA SAUCE:
Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend with about 3/4 cup water into a smooth creamy sauce (like the consistency of double cream) Decant to a bowl or squeezy bottle and refrigerate until needed.

AREPAS:
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt and then gradually pour in 2 1/2 cups of tap hot water (not boiling). Stir in the butter. Knead the dough briefly, which should be like play dough, to get rid of any lumps, then place into the bowl and cover. Leave for 15 minutes to rest.

Take out a pool ball sized ball of dough and roll in your hands. Between two pieces of plastic wrap, gently press down with a small saucepan base to create a patty about 4″ wide and about 1″ deep. Smooth the edges then place on a platter while you make the rest. You should get 8-10 arepas.

Preheat oven to 180ºC

Heat a large frying pan over a moderate heat. Add a little butter (about 1/2 tablespoon) and then place 3-4 arepas in the pan and cook for 5 minutes each side. Repeat with remaining arepas. As soon as they come out of the pan place on a baking tray and cook in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool slightly.

Carefully cut a slit through the arepa to make a pocket. Stuff generously with the chicken and serve.

SERVING:
Serve alongside hot chilli sauce and green sauce with fresh lime to squeeze over if you like.

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Goat Curry with Fenugreek

I saw goat meat for sale today at the supermarket, something new for Aussie supermarkets… so I snapped up a couple of cartons and planned my sensational little curry for dinner. Knowing I had goat also meant I had to get started early! Goat meat is tougher than say, lamb or beef so requires much more cooking to reach meltingly tender. Be sure to give yourself plenty of waiting time, maybe even cook it the night before – that way you’ll be guaranteed an even tastier curry as it will intensify in flavour too. Goat is a perfect partner for fresh fenugreek, a fragrant and distinctive Indian herb. This dish is rich with a thick, glossy sauce that just bursts with flavour. It’s a truly tasty combination.

INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons ghee (or vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 cinnamon stick (snapped in half)
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
4 green cardamom pods (bruised)
1 bay leaf
4 cloves
3 medium red onions (sliced)
500g fresh fenugreek (leaves only)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
5 garlic cloves (grated)
4-6 small green chillies (chopped, seeds in)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2-4 teaspoons chilli powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1.5kg goat meat (large dice)
1 large tomato (finely chopped)
1 cup Greek style yoghurt
1 lemon or lime

DIRECTIONS:
Heat the chee in a large, heavy based pan over a moderate heat until hot. Add the cumin seeds, nigella seeds, cinnamon, fenugreek seeds, cardamom pods, bay leaf and cloves and sizzle for about 45 seconds. Add the onion and fry gently for 4-5 minutes until soft and golden.

Add the fenugreek leaves and stir fry for a further 5 minutes until most of the moisture is out of them. Add the ginger, garlic and fresh chilli and stir for a further 1-2 minutes before adding the ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, turmeric, nutmeg, chilli powder and salt and stir briefly before adding the goat meat. Turn up the heat and stir fry for 3-4 minutes – add a little water if it begins to stick. Add the tomato and stir for a further 3 minutes before adding the yoghurt. Bring to a simmer then add about 400ml water, enough to just cover the meat. Partially cover and reduce the heat to very low.

Simmer very gently for about 2-3 hours until the meat is meltingly tender. Remove from the heat and squeeze over the juice from the lemon/lime and stir in.

SERVING:
Serve with Indian breads or basmati rice.

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Malabar Style Coconut & Fish Curry

This curry from the Malabar coast of Southern India is one of my favourites. I picked up some freshly grated coconut from Sydney Markets today (grating a coconut is way down my list of culinary must do’s) so decided on this deliciously fresh curry for dinner. I’d also bought some cheaper white ling fillets from the market as it’s perfect for this style of cooking. The fish is coated and deep fried before being added to the curry, which is a little unusual, but helps the fish keep its shape, while adding flavour and a nice texture to the final curry. The curry itself has a spicy, thick sauce which while rich, is also light and fresh. It’s a perfect accompaniment to a warm summer’s evening.

INGREDIENTS:
Fish Coating:

700g white fish (skin off, cut into large chunks)
1/2 cup besan flour
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons fresh coconut (finely grated)
Salt & pepper
2 cups vegetable oil

Curry paste:
1 cup fresh coconut (finely grated)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 small red onion (chopped)
2 small green chillies (seeded and chopped)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Other:
2 tablespoons coconut oil
10-15 fresh curry leaves
1 red onion (finely sliced)
1-3 small, hot green chilies (left whole, slit down the side
1 teaspoon tamarind paste mixed with a little water
1 tomato (very finely chopped)
Salt & pepper
1 small bunch fresh coriander (roughly chopped)

DIRECTIONS:
For the fish:

Mix together the flour, turmeric, coconut, salt and pepper. Toss the fish pieces in the mix to coat.

Heat the oil in a non-stick deep frying pan until hot. Add 1/3 of the fish pieces and fry for 3-4 minutes each side until browned and crunchy. Fry the remaining 2/3 of the fish in two batches. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

For the paste:
Place all the ingredients together in a blender and blend with 1/2 cup water into a smooth paste. Set aside.

To make the curry:
In a wok or deep frying pan, heat the coconut oil over a moderate heat until hot. Add the curry leaves and sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the sliced onions and fry for a further 5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the paste and fry for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid sticking (add a little water if it does stick).

Add the tomato, chilli, tamarind liquid and 500ml water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook gently for a further 15 minutes.

Gently slide in the fish pieces and shake the pan to submerge. Don’t stir too much or the fish will fall apart. Cook for 4-5 minutes uncovered then turn off the heat. Check seasoning just before serving.

SERVING:
Sprinkle over the fresh coriander and serve with lots of fluffy basmati rice.

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