Sunday, August 16, 2015

Coriander Pesto

Often herbs come in bunches much larger than you need. What to do with leftover herbage?  Knock up a pesto. 

What you need: bunch of coriander (or what's left), a big handful of cashews, 100ml olive oil, 50g grated parmesan, sprinkle of sugar, juice from half a lime, salt and pepper to taste.

In a food processor, combine all ingredients. Taste it. See if it needs a bit more sugar, or seasoning and adjust accordingly. It should taste fresh and not overly bitter or sweet. The citrus should cut through and balance the richness of the coriander. 

When made, store in the fridge and use on whatever you like. So far, it's been a condiment on a bacon breakfast wrap, and tonight methinks it will adorn some lamb and butternut squash.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Carrie Nation

Fun fact discovered from today's research on gin: 
This is American woman Carrie Nation, who was opposed to drinking due in part to a very unhappy marriage to an alcoholic. She was responsible for direct actions on saloons in the 19th century in America, whereby she would march into a saloon and smash it to pieces with a hatchet carried specifically for this purpose. Her violence frightened many people, and she soon realised this was her strongest asset, and capitalized on it to such an extent that she even had little souvenir hatchets made which she distributed on her crusades. 
#kindofawesomeandscary #pleasedonotcometomylocal

Monday, August 10, 2015

You don't win friends with salad, until now

"Can you make some salads for the BBQ?"
Salads... So many ingredients, so much banal prep for little reward... That's what ran through my head when asked to make some salads for a Friday night summer BBQ. I promptly sent back a link to the message of The Simpsons clip where they conga around Lisa chanting "You don't win friends with salad!", to the newly-turned vegetarian, Lisa. 

Sigh. Salads. Ok, let's do this. And the results were not only delicious and friend-winning, but if you like to really show some flair in the kitchen, these salads require a bit of skill, so you don't feel under-utilized.

Let's start with the Potato Salad with Basil Pesto Mayonnaise.

Ingredients (this will make 2kg of the stuff and will serve 15 people easily)
2kg baby potatoes
2 egg yolks
1 heaped teaspoon of dijon mustard 
500ml sunflower oil
squeeze of lemon
bunch basil
dessert spoon of sugar
big handful of chopped walnuts

1) The smaller the baby potatoes you can find, the better. If they are teeny there is no need to chop them in half, but if, like with most bags of potatoes, they are of varying sizes, chop the larger ones in half and leave the smaller ones. Boil in a big pot on the stove. You might want to boil them in two batches if you don't have a large enough pot, which is what I did. Cook for about 20 minutes or so. You want the potato to be cooked through but still firm so they retain their shape. Drain and set aside to cool.

2) To make the mayonnaise, place the egg yolks in a large bowl with the mustard. Slowly add half the oil whilst continually whisking. The key here is to add the oil in a steady trickle, a bit at a time and make sure it is fully incorporated into the yolk mixture. 

3) In a blender, place the remaining 250ml of oil, the basil and the sugar (a small amount of sugar just takes the residual bitterness out of the basil). Blend until finely mixed. Then slowly add this mixture to the mayonnaise and continue to whisk. When fully mixed, the mayonnaise should be thick and pale green in colour. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

4) Once the potatoes have cooled, transfer into an epic-sized bowl and mix through the pesto mayo, and also sprinkle the chopped walnuts throughout. Season with sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper to taste. These add a bit of texture and crunch, which are never bad things. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Also, be careful how long you leave this hanging around for - it needs to be kept cool.

Tomato and Radish Salad with a Raspberry Dressing

Often things are born out of accident, or a desire to use leftover bits and pieces. This salad, which I shall be adding to my repertoire, is one of those things. Since moving to England last year, I have been enamoured with the radish. When I saw them piled high in their resplendent glory at Borough Market, my mind instantly drifted to Peter Rabbit and Mr McGregor's Garden. How sweet! Radishes don't feature much in Australia, and these tickled my sense of whimsy. When I saw a bag of these delightful little rubies for 45p whilst shopping for salad ingredients, I thought, "Yes! Radishes! I can use those!"... 
I paired them with lovely ripe heirloom cherry tomatoes in red and yellow. You need the variety of colour here as it makes it visually arresting, and also varies the flavour to the more developed palate. Please note, it is imperative to have lovely ripe tomatoes, you don't want semi-ripe ones with mediocre flavour.
The raspberry dressing came about from some leftover raspberries I had knocking about the fridge. Push yourself to use what leftovers you have. Waste is a terrible thing.

300g heirloom cherry tomato mix
150g cherry tomatoes on the vine
7 small radishes
For the dressing: 5 raspberries
balsamic vinegar
red wine vinegar
lemon juice
olive oil

1) This salad is best prepared as close to serving as possible. It may be chopped up and assembled slightly in advance, however do not dress it until serving time. Chop all the tomatoes in half. If you are good with knives (I prefer doing this with a long serrated blade) you can place your hand on top of several cherry tomatoes and slice through horizontally, which saves time compared to slicing them individually, however, this can be dangerous, so don't try and be too clever. Place in whatever serving bowl you'll be using.

2) Thinly slice the radishes into rounds. Take a moment to admire how beautiful they are. These add a burst of freshness and pepper and crunch. Disperse radishes throughout the tomato mix. Season the salad with sea slat flakes and freshly ground black pepper to taste. 

3) To prepare the dressing, mash the 5 raspberries with a fork in a small bowl. I don't have exact quantities for the liquids here as you use your eye and your palate to check how things are going. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and mix. Add a splash of red wine vinegar, some lemon juice and a bit of olive oil. Mix together roughly. Transfer to small jar with lid and shake it rather furiously. This will break down the raspberries. You don't really want large pieces in there. Have a little taste and assess if it needs more of anything. It should have a lovely balance of sweet and tangy. It is a rather unexpected dressing and will even potentially stump the most avid of food genii. Pour over the salad evenly when ready to serve, if making this dressing in advance, which is fine, just be sure to store it in the fridge.

Roast Butternut Squash (or pumpkin if you're Australian) with Spinach and Feta

1 butternut squash cut into 2cm cubes
olive oil
ground cumin
chilli flakes
sea salt
ground black pepper
1 pack of baby spinach leaves
1 block of feta
For the dressing: 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
juice from half a lime
teeny weeny bit of sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Dice butternut into 2cm cubes and place on roasting tray. Splash over olive oil and then sprinkle the ground cumin and chilli flakes. Season with salt and pepper and roast until cooked through. This takes approximately half an hour. Set aside to cool. Once cool, you can refrigerate this until you are ready to assemble and serve the salad. The longer in advance you make this, the more the flavours will develop. Try and give it a good 6 or so hours. 

2) Wash the spinach and throughly dry off. You can dry it by pressing kitchen towel lightly over it. You don't want wet spinach, so be meticulous. Add the butternut and crumble the feta over. I didn't quite use the whole block, as you don't want to overload the salad with feta. It's very salty so pay attention! Toss the salad gently to get a good distribution of ingredients. Set aside whilst you make the dressing.

3) Place the yogurt in a bowl and squeeze in the juice of half a lime. Mix together with a fork. Sprinkle a wee bit of sugar in. This tiny addition will help to bring out the sweetness of the butternut. Add some black pepper and sprinkle in a bit of ground cumin too. Lastly, add a little bit of olive oil and mix well. Pour over salad and mix through at the last minute and serve. The tangy yogurt works a dream with the spice of the butternut. 

Roast Sweet Potato, Pomegranate and Dukkah Salad

one large sweet potato, cut into 2cm cubes
olive oil
For the dukkah (an Egyptian condiment): 150g raw hazelnuts
Big fat handful of raw sesame seeds
dessert spoon full of cumin seeds
sea salt flakes
Pomegranate seeds (in the UK you can buy these in the fresh fruit department of Waitrose, in Australia you will probably have to buy a pomegranate and extract the seeds yourself)

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees c. Peel the sweet potato and cut into 2cm cubes. Splash over some olive oil and roast until cooked. This takes about 25 minutes or so. Set aside to cool. You can make this in advance. Simply store in a container in the fridge until needed.

2) For the dukkah, place the hazelnuts and sesame seeds into a fry pan and place over low-medium heat. You want to give them some colour. Be careful. Due to their high oil content, both of these ingredients can burn quickly. Once golden, remove from the heat. When cooled, place in a mortar and pestle along with the cumin seeds and a good pinch of salt and bash. You are not making a paste, more so just a chunky birdseed like mix. 

3) When it is time to serve the salad, place the sweet potato in your dish, lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over the dukkah. The potato will be a bit sticky so the dukkah will cling to it nicely. Add the pomegranate seeds and mix well. This salad doens't have a liquid dressing as the dukkah acts like a coating and there are gorgeous pockets of moisture added by the pomegranate seeds. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Chilli Marmalade

Being more than a chilli fan, a fiend if you will, how could I resist a bag of Scotch Bonnet chillis reduced to clear for 79p? 

Giving them to a certain self-proclaimed food genius, this recipe was conceived on a whim and is actually now the official recipe to end all chilli jam recipes. We called it a marmalade as its texture and behavior is more akin to a marmalade than a jam. The lemon rind also brings a lovely citrus zing to the palate, also reminiscent of a marmalade.

Warning: this stuff is hot. Scintillating. Super hot. Hot stuff coming through. Lock up your daughters kind of hot. 

Ingredients (yields about 150ml)
4 Scotch Bonnet chillis, finely chopped
6 Birdseye chillis, finely chopped
40ml cider vinegar
Half cup white sugar
Half a lemon's worth of rind, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic finely sliced

1) Pour the sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add a splash of water, which will begin to dissolve the sugar. Add the chillies and the garlic and bring to a simmer over low-medium heat. Stir constantly. 

2) When the mixture starts to look "jammy", add the cider vinegar.
Continue to simmer and stir and after about 10 minutes, add the lemon rind. Make sure you don't let it come to the boil. Continue cooking for a further 15 minutes or so until a lovely, sticky consistency is reached.

3) Pour into sterilized glass jar and seal.

Enjoy on everything! On toast, on ravioli, on chicken, even dip a square of dark chocolate in there. Also, enjoy the burn...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ginger and Lemon Cheesecakes

Ingredients (yields 9, set in ramekins approx 10cm in diameter and 5cm deep)

20 Gingernut Biscuits
100g butter, melted
400g cream cheese (full fat)
200g marscapone
100g icing sugar, sifted 
Desert spoon of ground ginger
Juice of one lemon
180ml double cream
Lemon zest to garnish


1. For the base, crush the gingernuts until they resemble breadcrumbs; you can do this in a food processor or by placing the biscuits in a food bag and bashing them with a rolling pin. Place the crushed biscuits in a bowl and stir in the melted butter until well combined.

2. Form the base of the cheesecake by firmly pressing the crumbs into the bottom of the glass ramekins (these look cute, travel well and are the perfect size for individual portions). The base should be about 1cm thick. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge to set.

3. In a large bowl, place the cream cheese, marscapone, icing sugar and ginger. With a spatula, mix until well combined. Depending on how gingery you want the mixture, add a little more. Tasting as you go along is important. Squeeze in the lemon juice and mix thoroughly.

4. Whip the cream until it resembles thick custard and fold through the cheese mixture. Taste again to make sure there is enough zing from the lemon and spice from the ginger. You should be able to taste both clearly but not in an overpowering way. 

5. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins on top of the base and smooth the tops off. Cover in cling film and return to the fridge until ready to serve.

6. To serve, freshly grated lemon zest and sprinkle over the top. Again taste the zest. Sometimes lemons can be particularly sour, as was the case with mine, so a teeny sprinkle was adequate. 

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