Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Duck Risotto


This makes an excellent appetizer for six or could be served for half that number as a lunch or supper dish. Add a green salad, or serve with snow peas and sauteed red pepper slices. Recipe serves 3-4.

Ingredients:

2 duck breasts
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
4-5 cups simmering duck, turkey or chicken stock
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Strips of thinly pared orange rind, to garnish

Method:

1. Score the fatty side of the duck breasts and rub them with salt. Put them, fat side down, in a heavy frying pan and dry-fry over a medium heat for 6-8 minutes to render the fat. Transfer the breasts to a plate and then pull away and discard the fat. Cut the flesh into strips about 3/4 inch (2 cm) wide.
2. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered duck fat from the pan into a cup or jug, then reheat the fat in the pan. Fry the duck slices for 2-3 minutes over a medium high heat until evenly brown but not overcooked. Add the brandy, heat to simmering point and then ignite, either by tilting the pan or using a taper. When the flames have died down, add the orange juice and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. In a saucepan, heat either 1 tablespoon of the remaining duck fat or use olive oil. Fry the onion and garlic over a gentle heat until the onion is soft but not browned. Add the rice and cook, stirring all the time, until the grains are coated in oil and have become slightly translucent around the edges.
4. Add the stock, a cupful at a time, waiting for each quantity of stock to be absorbed completely before adding the next. Just before adding the final cupful of stock, stir in the duck, with the thyme and mint. Continue cooking until the risotto is creamy and the rice is tender but still has a bit of "bite".
5. Add the orange rind and Parmesan. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then remove from the heat, cover the pan and leave to stand for a few minutes. Serve on individual plates, garnished with the pared orange rind.

Chocolate and Cherry Pie


This pie contains cherries set in egg custard topped with dark chocolate icing. Recipe serves 8.

Ingredients:

2 sheets frozen ready-rolled short crust pastry, thawed
Filling:
2 large eggs
9 teaspoons cornflour
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring essence
3 teaspoons gelatin
14 ounce (415 g) can red cherries, drained and pitted
Topping:
3 1/2 ounces (100 g) dark cooking chocolate, broken into pieces
1/4 cup fresh cream

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Heat a baking tray in the oven.
2. Place a sheet of pastry on a lightly floured surface. Brush lightly with cold water, then lay the second pastry sheet on top. Roll out the pastry a little larger and line a 9 inch (23 cm) round pie dish. Cut out crescents from the trimmings. Brush the pastry rim and place crescents on the rim to decorate. Prick pastry case well and chill for 10 minutes.
3. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and a layer of baking beans. Put on the hot baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown, removing paper and beans for the last 5 minutes. Stand pie dish on a rack; cool.
4. For the filling, put the eggs, cornflour and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup milk and beat together until smooth. Heat the remaining milk in a heavy-based saucepan until almost boiling; pour gradually onto the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into the saucepan; stir over a medium heat until thick and smooth. Pour into a bowl; add the vanilla and cool until lukewarm.
5. Place 1/4 cup cold water in a heatproof bowl or enamel mug; sprinkle gelatin over and stir well. Stand the bowl or mug of gelatin in a hot-water bath until dissolved. Remove and cool until lukewarm. Quickly whisk gelatin mixture into custard. Cover surface of custard with clear plastic wrap and chill until cold and thick.
6. For the topping, put the chocolate and cream into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat very gently until melted. Stir until smooth and glossy. Cool.
7. Spread half the chocolate mixture over the base of the pastry case and cover with the cherries. Pour the custard over the cherries, then chill.
8. Re-melt the chocolate mixture and spread over the custard. Smooth the top and chill until set. Score the top diagonally with a sharp knife.

Persimmon Cake

Use very ripe, soft persimmons for this cake as they can be dry and bitter before they ripen. To obtain the flesh, stem and quarter the fruit and scoop out the pulp with a spoon. Recipe serves 8-10.

Ingredients:

8 ripe persimmons, flesh mashed
2 eggs, beaten
2 ounces (60 g) almonds, chopped
3 ounces (90 g) walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 ounces (40 g) peanuts, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
4 ounces (125 g) caster sugar
2 1/3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Method:

1. Mix the almonds, walnuts, peanuts and pine nuts with the persimmon flesh. Add the beaten eggs.
2. Stir in the sugar, flour, baking powder and lemon rind and mix thoroughly.
3. Line a 8 inch (20 cm) cake tin with baking paper. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
4. Turn cake onto a wire rack and cool before serving.

Zesty Banana Tart


A shortbread-like base with a tangy banana topping makes this tart tops! Recipe serves 9.

Ingredients:

6 ounces (185 g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose (plain) lour
Lattice:
1 cup ground almonds
1 1/4 cups icing sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Topping:
3 long ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup lemon curd
1/4 cup lime marmalade, warmed
Julienne strips of lemon rind and fresh mint leaves, to decorate

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a 8 inch (20 cm) square, shallow slab cake tin with non-stick baking paper.
2. For the base, beat the butter and icing sugar in a mixing bowl until light and creamy. Add the grated lemon rind; sift the flour over and mix well. Squeeze the mixture together to form a firm dough.
3. Press and mould the mixture evenly over the base and 1 inch (2.5 cm) up the sides of the prepared tin. Prick well. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
4. Meanwhile, make the lattice. Put the almonds, icing sugar, egg white and lemon juice into a bowl. Beat together until evenly combined. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) star nozzle.
5. Pipe a lattice grid (3 x 3) on top of the baked base and a border around the top edge. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the lattice is golden brown. Stand the tin on a wire cooling rack to cool.
6. Transfer the latticed base to a serving plate. Gently mix the banana slices with half the lemon juice. Spoon the lemon curd into each section of the lattice. Arrange the banana slices on top. Mix the remaining lemon juice with the warm marmalade. Spoon or brush the marmalade mixture over the bananas to coat completely. Decorate with julienne of lemon rind and mint leaves.

Oriental Glaze

Brushed over steaks, chops or ribs during cooking this glaze adds a spicy flavor reminiscent of the Orient. It can also be used as a sauce for a stir-fry of meat and vegetables.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup (sauce)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Method:

1. Place teriyaki sauce, honey, hoisin sauce, tomato ketchup or sauce and cumin in a bowl and mix to combine.
2. Brush meat, chicken or fish with glaze and grill, barbecue or bake.

Nutty Snaps


These dainty petit four cookies pack a sweet and nutty crunch in every bite. Recipe makes about 60 cookies.

Ingredients:

4 ounces (125 g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring essence
2 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon cocoa
3/4 cup chopped almonds
Icing:
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon cocoa
1 ounce (20 g) unsalted butter, melted
8 teaspoons cream or milk, approximately
1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring essence
6 teaspoons chopped almonds, to sprinkle

Method:

1. Put the butter and sugars into a large mixing bowl and beat together with an electric mixer or a wooden spoon until light and creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
2. Sift the flour and cocoa into the creamed mixture and beat in with the nuts until well combined. Wrap the dough in clear plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 large baking trays with melted butter.
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll out to a 1/4 inch (3 mm) thickness. Using a 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) fluted cookie cutter, stamp out out 60 cookies. Re-roll trimmings, as necessary. Put on the prepared baking trays. It may be necessary to bake the cookies in batches.
5. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until set and light brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
6. For the icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Beat in the butter, sufficient cream and vanilla to give a smooth spreading consistency.
7. Spread the icing over the tops of the cookies and sprinkle with the chopped nuts. Leave until set.

Tip: If preferred, top the cookies with melted chocolate and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pumpkin and Apple Risotto

Pumpkin and other winter squash are very popular in Italy and appear in many classic Italian recipes. If pumpkins are out of season, use butternut or onion squash - the flavors will be slightly different, but they both work well. Recipe serves 3-4.

Ingredients:

8 ounces (250 g) butternut squash or pumpkin flesh
1 cooking apple
1/2 cup water
1 ounce (30 g) butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
3/4 cup fruity white wine
3 3/4-4 cups simmering vegetable stock
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Cut the squash into small pieces. Peel, core and roughly chop the apple. Place in a pan and pour in the water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the squash is very tender. Drain, return the squash mixture to the pan and add half the butter. Mash the mixture roughly with a fork to break up any large pieces, but leave the mixture chunky.
2. Heat the oil and remaining butter in a pan and fry the onion and garlic until the onion is soft. Tip in the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, over a medium heat for 2 minutes until it is coated in oil and the grains are slightly translucent.
3. Add the wine and stir into the rice. When all the liquid has been absorbed, begin to add the stock a cupful at a time, making sure each addition has been absorbed before adding the next. This should take about 20 minutes.
4. When roughly two cupfuls of stock are left, add the squash and apple mixture together with another addition of stock. Continue to cook, stirring well and adding the rest of the stock, until the risotto is very creamy. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, adjust the seasoning and serve immediately.

Apple Petal Tart


Stylishly presented, this tart has a double helping of cooked apples. Recipe serves 8.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
4 ounces (125 g) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
Filling and Decoration:
6 large red apples (about 2 pound/1 kg)
1/2 cup sugar-free apple juice
Juice of 1 lemon
4 teaspoons caster sugar
4 teaspoons apricot jam, warmed

Method:

1. Put the flour and butter into a food processor and mix until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, about 1 minute. Add the sugar; mix for a few seconds. Add the egg and 4 teaspoons chilled water and mix until a dough forms which leaves the sides of the bowl. Compress the dough together with clean cold hands; shape into a disc; wrap in greaseproof paper and chill for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, peel, core and chop 4 of the apples and put in a pan with the apple juice. Cover and stew, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until the fruit softens. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to fit a 9 inch (23 cm) round pie dish. Decorate edge and prick base.
4. Line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper and a layer of baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove paper and beans.
5. Spread the cooked apple in the pastry case. Core the remaining apples and cut in half downwards, but do not peel. Thinly slice the apple halves and toss in lemon juice. Starting at the edge, arrange the slices in overlapping circles. Sprinkle with caster sugar.
6. Return to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes. Brush with the jam and cool slightly before serving.

Tip: If you do not have a food processor, make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour with the fingertips, then mix in the sugar, egg and water with a round-bladed knife.

Fried Fish with Mango and Ginger Salsa

Fish has an affinity with the sharpness of fresh fruit, which is why it is often served with lemon. In this recipe, mango provides the tangy flavor. Look for a mango that is slightly under-ripe or it will be a little sweet. You can also substitute other fruit in this salsa, such as plums. Serves 2.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons corn flour
Salt and pepper
2 pieces white fish (haddock, hake, cod)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small mango
1/2 spring onion
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 dessertspoon chopped fresh coriander
1 dessertspoon lemon juice (optional)

Method:

1. Place the corn flour on a plate and season it with salt and pepper.
2. Wash the fish and dry lightly with kitchen paper. Toss the fish in the corn flour until coated on both sides.
3. Fry the fish gently in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for approximately 5 minutes on each side until just just cooked. The length of time required will depend on the thickness of the fish.
4. Dice the mango flesh and the spring onion as finely as you can. Mix these with the grated ginger, chopped coriander, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
5. Season the salsa to taste with salt and pepper and serve with the fish.

Fragrant Baked Pears


A warming dessert for a cold winters' night. Recipe serves 6.

Ingredients:

3 firm ripe pears, peeled
4 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup dark rum or orange juice
4 tablespoons brown sugar

Method:

1. Halve the pears lengthwise and remove the cores. Place them cut side down on a board and cut each half crosswise into 5 or 6 even slices, being careful to retain the shape of the pear.
2. Place the pears into a buttered baking dish and fan the slices out a little.
3. Put the cinnamon sticks and cloves into the dish and sprinkle each pear with the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
4. Dot the pears with the butter and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
5. Remove the pears from the oven, pour over the rum or orange juice and return to the oven for 5 minutes.
6. Serve warm with cream.

Layered Ham and Cheese Bake

To complete this tasty meal, accompany the bake with a stir-fry of vegetables such as snow peas, sliced onions, sliced carrots, pepper strips and celery sticks. Recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

4 eggs
2/3 cup milk
8 slices wholemeal bread, cut into quarters
4 ounces (125 g) leg ham, chopped
4 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
6 spring onions, chopped
1 cup grated tasty cheese

Method:

1. Place eggs and milk in a mixing bowl and whisk until combined. Brush bread with egg mixture. Combine ham, red pepper and spring onions.
2. Place 4 slices of bread into a lightly greased ovenproof dish, top with half the ham mixture and sprinkle with half the cheese. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients. Pour over any remaining egg mixture and bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 30 minutes or until firm and top is golden brown.

Chinese Fried Rice


This dish, a variation on Special Fried Rice, is more elaborate than the more familiar egg fried rice, and is almost a meal in itself. Recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

2 ounces (60 g) cooked ham
2 ounces (60 g) cooked prawns, peeled
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 spring onions, finely chopped
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup green peas, thawed if frozen
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
4 cups cooked white long grain rice

Method:

1. Dice the cooked ham finely. Pat the cooked prawns dry on kitchen paper.
2. In a bowl, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and a few spring onion pieces.
3. Heat about half the oil in a wok, stir-fry the peas, prawns and ham for 1 minute, then add the soy sauce and rice wine or sherry. Transfer to a bowl and keep hot.
4. Heat the remaining oil in the wok and scramble the eggs lightly. Add the rice and stir to make sure that the grains are separate. Add the remaining salt, the remaining spring onions and the prawn mixture. Toss over the heat to mix. Serve hot or cold.

Variations: This is a versatile recipe and is ideal for using up leftovers. Use cooked chicken or turkey instead of the ham, doubling the quantity if you omit the prawns.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Exotic Fruit and Vegetable Salad


This is a variation on the famous Indonesian rice salad known as Gado Gado. Choose some or all of the suggested fruits and vegetables to make an attractive centerpiece for an Indonesian or Thai meal. Recipe serves 6-8.

Ingredients:

4 ounces (125 g) green beans, trimmed
2 carrots, cut into batons
2 cups bean sprouts
1/4 head Chinese leaves, shredded
1/2 small cucumber, cut into thin strips
8 spring onions, sliced diagonally
6 cherry tomatoes or small tomatoes, halved
12-16 cooked tiger prawns
1 small mango
1 small papaya
1 quantity Lontong (compressed rice)
4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
Fresh coriander
For the Peanut Dressing:
8 tablespoons crunchy or smooth peanut butter, preferably unsalted
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
1 tablespoon tamarind water (see Tip) or juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons light soy sauce
Hot chili sauce, to taste

Method:

1. First, make the peanut dressing. Place all the ingredients except the chili sauce in a pan and heat the mixture stirring all the time, until it is very hot and smooth. Stir in chili sauce to taste. Keep the dressing warm, or allow to cool and reheat before serving.
2. Cook the beans and carrots in boiling water for 3-4 minutes until just tender but still firm. Drain, then refresh under cold water and drain again. Cook the bean sprouts in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and refresh.
3. Arrange the carrots, beans and bean sprouts on a large, attractive platter, with the shredded Chinese leaves, cucumber strips, spring onions, tomatoes, and prawns.
4. Peel the mango and cut the flesh into cubes. Quarter the papaya, remove the skin and seeds, then slice the flesh. Add to the salad platter, with the lontong. Garnish with the egg quarters and fresh coriander.
5. Reheat the peanut dressing, if necessary. As soon as it is warm, pour it into a serving bowl. Place the bowl in the center of the salad and serve. Guests help themselves to the salad, adding as much dressing as they like.

Tip: To make tamarind water, break off a 2 inch (2.5 cm) cube of tamarind and put it in a bowl. Pour in 2/3 cup warm water. Using your fingers, squeeze the tamarind so that the juices dissolve into the water. Strain, discarding the sold tamarind, and use as directed in the recipe. Any unused tamarind water can be kept in a container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Orange and Mint Glaze

Delicious used on pork, veal or lamb. Add extra flavor to a lamb roast by basting with this glaze during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon French mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons mint jelly, warmed

Method:

1. Place orange juice, mustard, honey and mint jelly in a bowl and mix to combine.
2. Brush over meat and grill, barbecue, pan cook or bake.

Layered Spicy Smoked Fish

Serve Layered Spicy Smoked Fish accompanied with boiled or steamed rice and buttered green beans. Recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 pound (500 g) smoked fish fillets
3/4 ounce (20 g) butter
1 onion, sliced
2 tablespoons curry powder
Cream Sauce:
1 ounce (30 g) butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Cheese Topping:
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs, made from stale bread
1/2 cup grated tasty cheese
1 ounce (30 g) butter, melted

Method:

1. Place fish fillets in a large fry pan and add just enough water to cover. Cook over a medium heat until water boils, then drain and flake fish, removing skin and bones as you go.
2. Melt butter in a clean fry pan and cook onion for 4-5 minutes or until golden. Stir in curry powder and cook for 1 minute longer, then remove from heat.
3. To make sauce, melt butter in a saucepan, stir in flour and cook over a medium heat for 1 minute. Gradually add milk and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce boils and thickens. Blend in cream and mayonnaise.
4. To make topping, place breadcrumbs and cheese in a bowl, pour in butter and mix to combine. Arrange half the fish in an ovenproof dish, top with half the onion mixture, then pour over half the sauce. Repeat layers, finishing with a layer of sauce. Sprinkle with topping and bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Chocolate Fudge Drops


These crunchy chocolate and nut candies are a sweet sensation. Recipe makes about 36 drops.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup whole almonds
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 pint (150 ml) fresh cream
8 teaspoons cocoa
1/4 cup golden syrup
1 ounce (30 g) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring essence

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Spread the almonds on a baking tray. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the almonds have turned golden brown. Stand tray on a wire rack to cool completely. When cold, chop almonds coarsely.
2. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
3. Put the sugars, cream, cocoa and syrup into a heavy-based saucepan. Cook over a medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture is grainy and reaches a temperature of 230 degrees F (115 degrees C) on a sugar thermometer.
4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the butter, vanilla and chopped almonds with a wooden spoon. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
5. Stir the mixture for about 2 minutes, or until it begins to thicken. Drop metal tablespoons of the mixture onto the prepared baking trays. Let the fudge cool completely.

Tip: Roasting the nuts enhances their flavor, but it is not essential to do this. For a convenient alternative, used ready-roasted hazelnuts or other types of nut.

Ginger Diamonds

A light gingerbread cut into diamond shapes. Can be served warm as a pudding with cream, or, iced with lemon or vanilla icing, at room temperature with coffee. Recipe makes about 20.

Ingredients:

5 ounces (150 g) soft unsalted butter, chopped
1/3 cup caster sugar
3 tablespoons treacle
1/2 cup golden syrup
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 cup milk

Method:

1. Beat butter, sugar, treacle and golden syrup until pale and creamy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well between additions.
2. Sift flour, soda, baking powder and spices together, stir into dry ingredients alternately with milk and mix well.
3. Pour mixture into a greased and base-lined 7 x 11 inch (18 x 27 cm) slab tin and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 30-35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
4. If serving as a pudding, cut into diamonds and serve immediately. If not, cool cake in tin before turning out onto a plate and icing, as desired.

Note: Keeps in an airtight container for 4 days.

Chicken and Pineapple Stir Fry


Served with rice this quick and easy dish is sure to become a family favorite. Recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon freshly chopped ginger
1 teaspoon freshly crushed garlic
1 medium onion, sliced
1 red pepper (capsicum), sliced
8 ounces (250 g) green beans, sliced
1 small pineapple, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon oil, extra
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons chili sauce (optional)
1 pound (500 g) chicken thigh fillets, sliced
2 teaspoons cornflour
2 tablespoons water

Method:

1. Heat oil in wok or fry pan, add ginger, garlic and onion and fry for 1 minute.
2. Add pepper, beans and pineapple. Fry for 1 minute, remove from pan.
3. Heat extra oil in pan, add sauces then 1/4 of the chicken, stir fry for a few minutes or until chicken is tender. Remove from pan. Continue to fry remaining chicken in the same way.
4. Blend cornflour and water, add to pan with vegetables and chicken, stir fry until mixture boils and thickens. Serve with steamed rice.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Risotto Alla Milanese


This classic Italian risotto is always served with the hearty beef stew, Osso Buco, but also makes a delicious first course or light supper dish in its own right. Recipe serves 3-4.

Ingredients:

About 5 cups of beef or chicken stock
Good pinch of saffron strands
3 ounces (90 g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Bring the stock to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Pour a little stock into a small bowl. Add the saffron strands and leave to infuse.
2. Melt 2 ounces (60 g) of the butter in a large saucepan until foaming. Add the onion and cook gently for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned.
3. Add the rice. Stir until the grains start to swell and burst, then add a few spoonfuls of the stock, with the saffron liquid and salt and pepper to taste. Stir over a low heat until the stock has been absorbed. Add the remaining stock, a few spoonfuls at a time, allowing the rice to absorb all the liquid before adding more, and stirring constantly. After 20-25 minutes, the rice should be just tender and the risotto golden yellow, moist and creamy.
4. Gently stir in about two-thirds of the grated Parmesan cheese and the remaining butter. Heat through until the butter has melted, then taste for seasoning. Transfer the risotto to a warmed serving bowl or platter and serve hot, with the remaining grated Parmesan cheese served separately.

Dark Gingerbread Cake


A moist dark cake, made with ground ginger, fresh ginger and glace ginger. It is best made the day before eating and is perfect served with coffee. Recipe serves 16-20.

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable or light olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons (135 ml) treacle
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon or rum
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 ounces (50 g) glace ginger, chopped
1 3/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 ounces (60 g) rye flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
6 1/2 ounces (200 g) fresh dates, pitted
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Icing sugar, for dusting

Method:

1. Combine eggs, oil, treacle, molasses, sugar, bourbon and grated and glace ginger in a bowl and mix well. Sift together flours, cocoa, baking powder and spices and stir into egg mixture until well combined. (The mixture will be very thick.) Combine dates and 1 3/4 cups water in a saucepan, bring to the boil and stir in soda. Remove from heat, gently stir date mixture into cake batter and mix well.
2. Pour mixture into a greased and floured round 10 inch (24 cm) cake tin and bake in center of oven at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 50-55 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Stand 10 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool.
3. Wrap cake in plastic wrap and stand for 1 day before eating to allow flavors to develop. Mask cake partly with paper strips, dust with icing sugar and serve with thick cream, if desired.

Note: Keeps in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Lemon, Chili and Ginger Glaze

For a quick meal with a difference, place a piece of fish in aluminum foil, spoon over some glaze, dot with butter, enclose foil and bake, grill or barbecue.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
2 tablespoons ginger marmalade
1 teaspoon minced chili
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

1. Place oil, lemon juice, mustard, marmalade, chili and coriander in a bowl and mix to combine.
2. Brush glaze over meat, chicken or fish and grill, barbecue, pan cook or bake.

Barbecued Corn


Any herb combination can be substituted for the sage and basil in this recipe. Serves 6.

Ingredients:

6 cobs of corn
5 ounces (150 g) butter, softened
1 bunch of fresh sage
1 bunch of fresh basil

Method:

1. Peel back husks, leaving attached at the base, and remove silk. Immerse corn with husks in water for 15 minutes. (This will aid in a steaming process when cooking and prevent the kernels from becoming charred.)
2. Drain corn and spread butter over the corn kernels. Stick sprigs of herbs around cobs against the butter and pull back husk to encase the cob in its original position.
3. Wrap each cob in an oiled 12 inch (30 cm) square piece of foil. Place on grill over medium heat and cook for 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove foil and serve immediately, allowing guests to peel away the charred outer husks.

Chicken Stock

I have given storage options at the end of this recipe because chicken stock is so useful to have on hand. I use it in many other recipes because it is superior to stock cubes or packet stocks. Recipe makes 4 cups.

Ingredients:

2 medium onions, peeled
1 large carrot
2 sticks celery
1 x 3 pound (1.5 kg) boiling fowl
8 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Sprig of fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
5 sprigs parsley
6 cups water
Salt to taste

Method:

1. Wash and roughly chop the vegetables.
2. Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan.
3. Over medium heat, slowly bring mixture to the boil. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce heat, cover saucepan, and simmer gently for 3 hours.
4. Strain the stock through a sieve. Reserve the meat for another dish. Discard skin, bones and vegetables.
5. Chill in refrigerator overnight and then skim off any congealed fat. Use in recipes requiring chicken stock or reheat and serve in cups as a nutritious hot beverage.

To store stock: Keep in a sealed container in refrigerator. Clarified stock will keep for a week or two if re-boiled every few days. Freeze in an ice cube tray. Store cubes in a freezer bag for convenience.

Apricot Glaze

For a quick, easy and delicious meal, try this glaze brushed over ham steaks or chicken fillets.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup apricot jam, warmed
3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Method:

1. Place jam, teriyaki sauce, garlic, mixed spice and vinegar in a bowl and mix to combine.
2. Brush glaze over meat, chicken or fish and grill, barbecue, pan cook or bake.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pancetta and Broad Bean Risotto


This delicious Italian risotto makes a healthy and filling meal, served with cooked fresh seasonal vegetables or a mixed green salad. Recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 ounces (185 g) smoked pancetta, diced
1 3/4 cups risotto rice
2 1/2 pints (1.5 litres) simmering chicken stock
2 cups frozen baby baby broad beans
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs such as parsley, thyme and oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shavings of Parmesan cheese, to serve

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and pancetta and cook gently for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the onion and garlic to brown.
2. Add the rice to the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add a 1/2 cup of stock and cook, stirring all the time, until the liquid has been absorbed.
3. Continue adding the stock, a 1/2 cup at a time, until the rice is tender and almost all the liquid has been absorbed. This will take 30-35 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook the broad beans in a saucepan of lightly salted, boiling water for about 3 minutes until tender. Drain well and stir into the risotto, with the mixed herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into a bowl and serve, sprinkled with shavings of fresh Parmesan cheese.

Tip: If the broad beans are large, or if you prefer skinned beans, remove the outer skin after cooking.

Blood Orange and Tomato Salsa

This salsa is delicious served with grilled swordfish, tuna and trevally. Recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Ingredients:

Skinless segments of 3 blood oranges (see note)
2 medium-size tomatoes, seeded and cut in 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces
2 green onions, finely sliced
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 fresh red chili (optional) seeded and finely diced

Method:

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.
2. Cover and stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving so that the flavor develops. Can be stored for up to 2 days in the refrigerator, bring back to room temperature before serving.

Note: If blood oranges are not in season, substitute 2 oranges and 1 grapefruit, segmented and cut into bite-size portions.

Nutty Chocolate Fudge


Loved by all ages, this tempting fudge makes a wonderful gift. Recipe makes 1 1/2 pound (750 g) or 36 squares.

Ingredients:

About 1 2/3 cups white sugar
4 fluid ounces (125 ml) cream
4 ounces (125 g) unsalted butter
5 ounces (150 g) dark cooking chocolate
8 teaspoons golden syrup
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts or hazelnuts
Topping:
6 ounces (185 g) dark cooking chocolate
3/4 ounce (20 g) unsalted butter

Method:

1. Grease a shallow, 8 inch (20 cm) square tin.
2. Put the sugar, cream, butter, chocolate and syrup into a heavy-based saucepan. Warm gently over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the butter and chocolate melts.
3. Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Using a sugar thermometer, boil to 240 degrees F (116 degrees C), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove from heat and stand for 10 minutes.
4. Using a large wooden spoon, beat the mixture until it just becomes thick and creamy and begins to look grainy. Do not over beat the mixture.
5. Stir in the nuts and pour into the prepared tin. Leave until the fudge is set.
6. For the topping, melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
7. Spread the chocolate mixture evenly over the fudge and leave to cool. Once cool, put in the fridge to set.
8. With a sharp knife, cut into small squares and serve.

Tip: When using a sugar thermometer, always read the temperature at eye level. Watch it carefully once it reaches 220 degrees F (104 degrees C), as it rises very quickly after this point.

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Serve with slices of rye bread topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon (6 1/2 ounces/200 g smoked salmon will be enough for 4 people). Recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 ounces (40 g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large telegraph cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cubed
3 cups good chicken stock
1 firmly packed cup watercress
3/4 cup cream
1/2 cup creme fraiche, for garnish
1 1/2 ounces (40 g) salmon roe, for garnish
Mustard cress, for garnish

Method:

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and cook onion over medium heat until soft. Add cucumber, cover, reduce heat and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add stock and bring to the boil. Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until cucumber is tender.
2. Add watercress and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
3. Transfer in batches to a food processor and process each batch until smooth. Season to taste and stir in cream.
4. Refrigerate until well chilled. Serve in individual bowls garnished with a spoonful of creme fraiche, salmon roe and mustard cress.

Crumbed Fennel Wedges with Red Pepper and Chili Sauce

Serve as an appetizer, a side dish to accompany roast chicken or roast beef, or as part of an antipasto platter. Recipe serves 4-6.

Ingredients:

4 baby fennel, quartered
1/3 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
2-3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs, made from day-old white bread
Olive oil, for shallow-frying
Red Pepper and Chili Sauce:
5 inch (12.5 cm) piece day-old French bread, crust removed
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 roast red peppers, peeled and seeded
1 fresh small red chili, or to taste, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (available from Middle Eastern food stores), or to taste

Method:

1. For the sauce, soak bread in cold water for 2 minutes, then squeeze out excess. Combine bread, garlic, pepper, chili and 2 tablespoons of cold water in a food processor and process until smooth. Add oil in a steady stream, with motor running, until sauce is well combined. Season to taste with pomegranate molasses and salt and ground black pepper.
2. Add fennel wedges to a pan of boiling water and simmer for about 5-10 minutes or until tender. Toss wedges in flour and dip in egg. Toss in breadcrumbs to coat. Heat oil in a frying pan and shallow-fry fennel in batches until well browned all over. Drain on absorbent paper and serve immediately with Red Pepper and Chili Sauce.

Bread Sauce

A traditional sauce to serve with roast chicken or game birds.

Ingredients:

1 onion, finely chopped
6 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
6 black peppercorns
Pinch grated nutmeg
2 cups milk
1 3/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs, made from day-old white bread
2 ounces (60 g) butter, chopped
1/4 cup pouring cream, optional

Method:

1. Combine onion, cloves, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, nutmeg and milk in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Remove from heat and stand for 30 minutes to infuse.
2. Pass milk through a sieve and place in a clean saucepan. Add breadcrumbs and whisk gently over medium heat until well combined and heated through. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cream, if using. Season to taste and adjust consistency with more crumbs or cream if necessary.

Easy Chocolate Squares


Shortbread cookies and raisins are hidden treasures in this 'more-ish' chocolate treat. Recipe makes 18 squares.

Ingredients:

8 ounces (250 g) dark cooking chocolate
8 teaspoons golden syrup
2 1/2 ounces (75 g) unsalted butter
3 1/2 ounces (100 g) shortbread finger cookies or biscuits
3/4 cup seedless raisins, halved, or sultanas

Method:

1. Grease and line the base of a 10 x 8 inch (25 x 15 cm) slab tin.
2. Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a heatproof mixing bowl. Add the syrup and butter and set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Stir until the chocolate melts. Remove from the pan.
3. Put the cookies in a clean plastic food storage bag and crush lightly with a rolling pin.
4. Stir the crushed cookies and raisins, or sultanas, into the chocolate mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread level. Chill for 2-3 hours, or until set.
5. To serve, use a sharp knife dipped in hot water to cut the chilled chocolate 'slab' into 18 equal squares.

Tip: For the best texture, the shortbread cookie or biscuit pieces should be fairly large, so don't over-crush them.

Banana and Coconut Bread

Day-old banana and coconut bread is excellent toasted. Recipe serves 12.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup caster sugar
1 2/3 cups shredded coconut
3 bananas, sliced
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1/2 pint (300 ml) milk
2 ounces (60 g) butter, melted
1 banana, extra, thinly sliced

Method:

1. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, coconut and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Gently fold banana and rind into dry ingredients, mixing well to distribute banana evenly.
2. Whisk eggs, milk and butter until well combined and fold into banana mixture. Spoon mixture into a greased 4 x 10 inch (11 x 25 cm) loaf tin and decorate with extra banana slices.
3. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for about 75 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Stand 5 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool. Serve sliced and spread with butter, if desired. Keep covered in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chocolate Nugget Bars


Walnuts, chocolate and crispy meringue make a sweet treat that will get repeat orders. Recipe makes 25 bars.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup caster sugar
4 ounces (125 g) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups mini marshmallows
2/3 cup dark brown sugar

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a 13 x 9 inch (33 x 23 cm) shallow slab tin. Line the base with greaseproof paper.
2. Beat the sugar and butter in a bowl until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks. Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir into the mixture to form a soft dough.
3. On a floured surface, roll out dough to the size of the tin. Lay dough in the base of the tin; press into the corners. Sprinkle over walnuts, chocolate chips and marshmallows.
4. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Whisk in the brown sugar gradually, whisking at top speed. Spoon the mixture over the chopped walnuts, chocolate chips and marshmallows, completely covering the base.
5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a crust forms on top. Cool in the tin, standing on a rack, for 10 minutes, then score into bars. Cool for another 20 minutes before cutting the bars.

Tip: Be sure to score the bars when they are still warm as the topping becomes sticky when it is cold. If you cannot find mini marshmallows, use normal-sized ones and cut them up with scissors.

Salmon with Green Lentils and Vegetables

This delicious, colorful and very speedy meal uses vegetables that take the same time to cook as the salmon. If you want to include vegetables that take longer, such as carrots, then part-cook them before you add the salmon. If you wish to use dried lentils, cook 4 ounces in 1 pint (600 ml) of stock until soft. Recipe serves 2.

Ingredients:

14 ounce (400 g) tin lentils
12 ounce (340 g) selection of vegetables e.g. zucchini, mushrooms, snow peas, baby sweetcorn, spinach, fresh or frozen peas, fresh or frozen broad beans, peppers
2 salmon fillets
Lemon wedges and parsley to garnish

Method:

1. Place the lentils and their juices in a large frying pan.
2. Cut your chosen vegetables, where necessary, into pieces that will all cook in a similar amount of time.
3. Place these on top of the lentils.
4. Lay the salmon fillets on the vegetables, skin side uppermost and bring the mixture to the boil. Cover with a loose fitting lid and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the salmon and vegetables are just cooked. The length of time required will depend on the thickness of the salmon.
5. Place the lentil and vegetable mixture in pasta bowls, put the salmon on top and garnish with the lemon wedges and parsley.

Chokos with Italian Tomato Sauce


The tomato and herb sauce gives a flavorsome lift to the choko and the crunchy topping provides a nice contrast in texture. Recipe serves 6.

Ingredients:

3 chokos
4 ounces (125 g) melting cheese
1 cup prepared Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce (any brand)
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
A few drops Tabasco sauce (optional)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 ounce (30 g) butter

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Peel chokos and cut into quarters. Steam for 10 minutes until just tender. Drain. Place in an ovenproof dish.
2. Combine Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce, oregano, Tabasco sauce and pepper. Slice cheese finely.
3. Spoon sauce over chokos and top with cheese. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and dot with butter.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately.

Risotto-Stuffed Eggplant with Spicy Tomato Sauce


Eggplant are a challenge to the creative cook and allow for some unusual recipe ideas. Here, they are filled with a rice stuffing and baked with a cheese and pine nut dressing. Recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

4 small eggplant
7 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
Scant 1 cup risotto rice
3 cups hot vegetable stock
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts
For the tomato sauce:
1 1/4 cups thick passata or pureed tomatoes
1 teaspoon mild curry paste
Pinch of salt

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, and remove the flesh with a small knife. Brush the shells with 2 tablespoons of the oil and bake on a baking sheet, supported by crumpled foil, for 6-8 minutes.
2. Chop the eggplant flesh. Heat the remaining oil in a medium pan. Add the eggplant flesh and the onion, and cook over a gentle heat for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add the rice and stock, and leave to simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Add the vinegar.
3. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Spoon the rice mixture into the eggplant skins, top with the cheese and pine nuts, return to the over and brown for 5 minutes.
4. To make the sauce, mix the passata or pureed tomatoes with the curry paste in a small pan. Heat through and add salt to taste. Spoon the sauce on to four individual serving plates and arrange two eggplant halves on each one.

Tip: If the eggplant shells do not stand level, cut a thin slice from the bottom.

Fried Fish with Tomato and Pickled Lemon Salsa

Coating the fish in corn flour gives it a lovely golden color but you could use other flours if you cannot tolerate corn. Salsas are very easy to make with any moist fruit and vegetables - try substituting avocado for the tomato or pineapple for the lemon. Recipe serves 2.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons corn flour
Salt and pepper
2 pieces white fish (haddock, hake, cod)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large ripe tomatoes
2 dessertspoons finely chopped pickled lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (coriander, parsley)

Method:

1. Place the corn flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper.
2. Wash the fish and dry lightly with kitchen paper. Dip the fish into the seasoned corn flour until coated on both sides.
3. Fry the fish in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, over a medium heat, for approximately 5 minutes on each side or until just cooked. The length of time required will depend on the thickness of the fish.
4. To make the salsa, skin the tomatoes (place in boiling water for a few seconds to loosen the skins) and dice the flesh as finely as possible. Mix the tomatoes with the pickled lemon, fresh herbs and the two remaining tablespoons of olive oil.
5. Season the salsa to taste with salt and pepper and serve with the fish.

Marbled Cookies


These quick and easy cookies are flecked with chocolate flavored mixture. Recipe makes 30 cookies.

Ingredients:

4 ounces (125 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
4 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon almond essence
4 teaspoons cocoa

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
2. Put the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer or wooden spoon until pale and creamy.
3. Beat in the egg. Sift the flour over and stir in with the almond essence and milk to form a stiff dough. Break off an eighth of the mixture and knead in the cocoa.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the almond dough to a large rectangle. Scatter small pieces of the cocoa dough over the top.
5. Roll up the dough, Swiss roll-style, then fold in half lengthwise. Re-roll into a 9 inch (24 cm) sausage shape. Wrap in clear plastic; chill for at least 2 hours.
6. Cut the length of dough evenly into 30 slices. Place the slices on the baking trays, spaced 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly golden in color.

Tip: To make the cocoa and almond cookies shown to the left of the picture above, knead 1/4 cup sifted cocoa into the prepared dough. Press 2 ounces (60 g) slivered almonds onto the sliced cookies and bake, as above. The unbaked dough keeps for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. Roll into a sausage shape and wrap in plastic.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Roasted Pepper Risotto


This Italian pepper risotto makes an excellent vegetarian supper dish, or an appetizer for six. Recipe serves 3-4.

Ingredients:

1 red pepper (capsicum)
1 yellow pepper (capsicum)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
4 cups of simmering vegetable stock
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat the grill to high. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and pith and arrange, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Place under the grill for 5-6 minutes until the skin is charred. Put the peppers in a plastic bag, tie the ends and leave for 4-5 minutes.
2. Peel the peppers when they are cool enough to handle and the steam has loosened the skin. Cut into thin strips.
3. Heat the oil and butter in a pan and fry the onion and garlic for 4-5 minutes over a low heat until the onion begins to soften. Add the peppers and cook the mixture for 3-4 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir in the rice. Cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring all the time, until the rice is evenly coated in oil and the outer part of each grain has become translucent.
5. Add a spoonful of stock. Cook, stirring, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Continue to add the stock, a spoonful at a time, making sure each quantity has been absorbed before adding the next.
6. When the rice is tender but retains a bit of "bite", stir in the Parmesan cheese and add seasoning to taste. Cover and leave to stand for 3-4 minutes, then serve, with extra Parmesan, if using.

Vegetarian Quiche


A delicious and nutritious treat for vegetarians. Recipe serves 6-8.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup plain wholemeal flour
4 ounces (125 g) chilled block margarine or butter, cubed
1/4-1/3 cup chilled water
Filling:
8 teaspoons olive oil
1 large leek (about 14 ounces/400 g), washed and thinly sliced
3 large carrots, grated
3 large eggs
6 1/2 ounces (200 g) natural yogurt
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon pepitas, toasted
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 carrot extra, peeled into 'ribbons', to garnish

Method:

1. Place flours and margarine in a food processor; mix to the texture of breadcrumbs, about 30-60 seconds.
2. Add water, 4 teaspoons at a time, and mix for approximately 10 seconds. Continue adding water in this way until a dough forms which leaves the sides of the bowl clean. Mould dough into a disc shape on a lightly floured surface; wrap in greaseproof paper and chill for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
3. For the filling, heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat; add leek and carrots and cook gently, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly.
4. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, yogurt, mustard and salt, using a balloon whisk. Add leek and carrots and mix until ingredients are combined.
5. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface and line a 9 inch (23 cm) flan tin. Line with greaseproof paper and a layer of dried beans. Bake 'blind' for 15 minutes, and then remove paper and beans.
6. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Pour filling into pastry; bake for 25 minutes, until filling is firm. Sprinkle with pepitas and sesame seeds. Place carrot 'ribbons' in a clean plastic food storage bag; microwave on High for 30 seconds. Place on top of quiche and serve hot.

Stir-Fried Rice and Vegetables

The ginger gives this Oriental dish a wonderful flavor. Serve it as a vegetarian main course or as an unusual vegetable side dish or accompaniment. Recipe serves 4 as a side dish.

Ingredients:

1/2 cups brown basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 inch (2.5 cm) piece of fresh root ginger, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, halved
2 inch piece of pared lemon rind
1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon groundnut oil
1 tablespoon ghee or butter
6 ounces (185 g) baby carrots, trimmed
8 ounces(250 g) baby zucchini, halved
About 1 1/2 cups broccoli, broken into florets
6 spring onions, diagonally sliced
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Method:

1. Put the rice in a saucepan and pour in the stock. Add the ginger, garlic and lemon rind. Slowly bring to the boil, then cover and cook very gently for 20-25 minutes until the rice is tender. Discard the flavorings and keep the pan covered so that the rice stays warm.
2. Slice the mushrooms, discarding the stems. Heat the oil and ghee or butter in a wok and stir-fry the carrots for 4-5 minutes until partially tender. Add the mushrooms and zucchini, stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, then add the broccoli and spring onions and cook for 3 minutes more, by which time all the vegetables should be tender but should still retain a bit of "bite".
3. Add the cooked rice to the vegetables, and toss briefly over the heat to mix and heat through. Toss with the soy sauce and sesame oil. Spoon into a bowl and serve immediately.

Vegetarian Pasties


Perfect for picnics or packed lunches. Recipe makes 6 pasties.

Ingredients:

3 sheets thawed, ready-rolled wholemeal short crust pastry
Filling:
1/2 x 10 ounce (300 g) packet firm tofu, drained
4 teaspoons salt-reduced soy sauce
4 teaspoons sweet chili sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup diced red pepper (capsicum)
1 cup small broccoli florets
1 cup shredded spinach
4 teaspoons burghul
Soy drink to glaze

Method:

1. For the filling, slice tofu 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick; place in a small bowl. Add soy sauce, chili sauce and lemon juice; cover and marinate for 15 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a large baking tray. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat; add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in tofu, pepper, broccoli and marinade and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in spinach and burghul. Cool.
3. On a lightly floured work surface, place the sheets of pastry. Roll out each sheet until just large enough to cut two rounds from each one, using a 6 inch (15 cm) pastry cutter or by cutting around a 6 inch (15 cm) saucer.
4. Divide the filling equally between the six pastry rounds, spooning onto centers. Brush edges with cold water. Lift opposite sides and press together. Flute or roll edges over to seal. Place on greased tray; brush with soy drink.
5. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm or cold with salad.

Tip: Place sheets of frozen pastry on wire cooling racks to speed thawing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lamb Hotpot


What could be more delicious than a dinner of lamb fillets with rosemary and garlic, topped with crispy potato slices? Serve with a light red wine for a perfect springtime dish. Recipe serves 6.

Ingredients:

2 fillets of lamb, thickly sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
6 lambs' kidneys
1 1/2 pound (750 g) potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 fl oz (125 ml) chicken stock
4 fl oz (125 ml) white wine
3/4 ounce (20 g) butter, plus extra for greasing
Sprig of fresh rosemary, to garnish

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Trim any excess fat from the lamb and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices. Lay a sliver of garlic on each slice. Cut the kidneys in half and remove the cores with a sharp knife.
2. Cover the base of a casserole with one-third of the potato slices, overlapping them slightly, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange half the lamb and kidneys on top. Sprinkle with half the chopped rosemary and cover with onion rings.
3. Repeat, seasoning each layer, finishing with overlapping potato slices. Pour the stock and wine over the top. Cut a piece of greaseproof paper to cover the potatoes. Grease well with butter and lay, butter side down, on the potatoes. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bake for 3 1/2 hours.
4. Remove the lid and buttered paper, dot with remaining butter and return to the oven for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned. Garnish and serve.

Tip: This dish is delicious served with french beans and carrots.

Salsa Verde

Green and piquant, this sauce of fresh herbs is excellent with any fish, hot or cold, and goes well with hard-boiled eggs. Since it is so very good with shrimp (prawns), why not try it in a prawn cocktail?

Ingredients:

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon watercress leaves, finely chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped (basil, marjoram, and a little thyme, sage, chervil and dill)
Coarse salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons
1-2 teaspoons sugar
Black pepper

Method:

1. Blend or pound together in a mortar, the garlic, parsley, watercress, fresh mixed herbs and a little coarse salt, until they form a smooth paste.
2. Add the oil, a spoonful at a time, and mix well. Add the lemon juice and season with sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

Tuna Caesar Salad

For a more traditional Caesar salad, omit the tuna and capers and add lean chopped ham and Parmesan cheese. Recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 cos lettuce
6 slices bread, crusts removed, cut into cubes
1 cup low-oil mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 anchovies, mashed
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
14 ounce (425 g) can tuna in brine, drained
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon capers
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method:

1. Discard outer lettuce leaves, tear off individual leaves, wash, shake off excess water and wrap in a clean tea towel. Refrigerate lettuce while preparing salad.
2. Dry fry the bread in a hot frying pan, shaking the pan and turning the croutons regularly, until golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool. Combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, anchovies and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl and mix well.
3. When ready to serve, pile the lettuce onto serving plates, add chunks of tuna, drizzle over the dressing and garnish with croutons, chives and capers. Season to taste with pepper and serve immediately.

Pork with Broccoli


A colorful stir-fry combination of vegetables and pork. Recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

7 ounces (220 g) carrots
10 ounces (315 g) broccoli
3 1/2 ounces (100 g) mushrooms
1/2 inch (1 cm) fresh root (green) ginger
1 pound (500 g) pork fillet
Salt to taste
Freshly milled black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/4 cup sunflower or corn oil
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
Pinch of caster sugar
3 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

Method:

1. Cut carrots into very thin slices. Separate broccoli into small florets. Thinly slice broccoli stalks.
2. Wipe mushrooms with absorbent kitchen paper and trim stalks. Thinly slice. Peel ginger, slice thinly and finely chop.
3. Cut pork into thin slices against grain. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cornflour. Rub well into pork with finger tips.
4. Heat oil in wok until hot, but not smoking. Add pork. Stir-fry briskly for 1 minute. Remove with draining spoon on to rack or absorbent kitchen paper.
5. Add carrots, broccoli and mushrooms to remaining oil in wok and stir-fry for 1 minute. Crush garlic directly into the hot oil. Add ginger. Sprinkle with soy sauce and stock and mix in sugar. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Return pork to wok and mix thoroughly with vegetables. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chives.
7. Serve with curry-flavored rice.

Nutted Fruit and Cheese Salad

Apples, pears, nuts and a little cheese make a perfect winter lunch. Serve with a wholegrain roll. If you can't find fresh mint or basil, substitute 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley mixed with 1 teaspoon mint flakes. Recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

For the Dressing:
1/3 cup firmly packed fresh mint or basil leaves
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoon olive oil
For the Salad:
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 12 wedges
1 large Red Delicious apple, cored and cut into 12 wedges
2 large William pears, cored and each cut into 8 wedges
4 ounces (125 g) low-fat Cheddar cheese, cut into 3/4 inch (2 cm) cubes
1/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Mint leaves (optional garnish)

Method:

1. To make the dressing, blend the mint, buttermilk, honey, lime juice and oil in a food processor or blender for about 30 seconds or until smooth. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to 4 days.
2. To make the salad, place the apples, pears, cheese and pecans in a large bowl and toss together. Shake the dressing well and drizzle it over the fruit. Garnish the salad with the mint, if desired.

Rosemary Risotto with Borlotti Beans


This is a classic Italian risotto with a subtle and complex taste, from the heady flavors of rosemary to the savory beans and the fruity-sweet flavors of mascarpone and Parmesan. Recipe serves 3-4.

Ingredients:

14 ounce (400 g) can borlotti beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
3 3/4-4 cups simmering vegetable or chicken stock
4 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
Scant 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Drain the beans, rinse under cold water and drain again. Puree about two-thirds of the beans fairly coarsely in a food processor or blender. Set the remaining beans aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the onion and garlic for 6-8 minutes until very soft. Add the rice and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the grains are thoroughly coated in oil and are slightly translucent.
3. Pour in the wine. Cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring all the time, until the wine has been absorbed. Add the stock gradually, a ladle full at a time, waiting for each quantity to be absorbed before adding more, and continuing to stir.
4. When the rice is three-quarters cooked, stir in the bean puree. Continue to cook the risotto, adding the remaining stock, until it is creamy and the rice is tender but still has a bit of "bite". Add the reserved beans, with mascarpone, Parmesan and rosemary, then season to taste. Stir thoroughly, then cover and leave to stand for about 5 minutes so that the risotto absorbs the flavors fully and the rice completes cooking. Serve with extra Parmesan, if you like.

Variation: Fresh thyme or marjoram could be used for this risotto instead of rosemary, if preferred. One of the great virtues of risotto is that it lends itself well to variations. Experiment with different herbs to make your own specialty dish.

Herbed Cheese and Watercress Sandwich

A member of the Crucifer family, watercress has many nutritional and gourmet virtues. Use it much like lettuce. Recipe makes 4 sandwiches.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped green pepper (capsicum), patted dry
1/3 cup finely chopped seeded cucumber
1 spring onion, including top, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill, basil or chives
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
Black pepper, to taste
8 slices wholegrain bread
1 large bunch watercress, rinsed, patted dry and course stems removed

Method:

1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine cottage cheese, capsicum, cucumber, spring onion, dill, lemon rind and pepper. Distribute mixture evenly between 4 slices of bread, then top with watercress. Place the remaining bread slices on top and cut in half.

Creamy Slices with Lemon Sauce


These pastries taste great with any combination of fresh seasonal fruit. Recipe makes 6 slices.

Ingredients:

8 ounces (250 g) puff pastry or 2 sheets frozen pre-rolled puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 pint (300 ml) fresh or thickened cream
4 teaspoons caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla flavoring essence
4-8 ounces (125-250 g) raspberries and/or redcurrants
Icing sugar, to sift
Sauce:
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
2 tablespoons julienne of lemon rind

Method:

1. Lay a sheet of pastry on a lightly floured surface; brush with cold water and lay the second pastry sheet on top. Roll over lightly with a rolling pin to seal. Trim the edges with a large sharp knife. Cut the pastry in half lengthwise, to make two wide strips about 10 x 5 inch (25 x 12.5 cm). Cut each strip into three 5 x 3 inch (12.5 x 7.5 cm) rectangles.
2. Preheat the oven to 440 degrees F (220 degrees C). Put the pastry rectangles on a large baking tray. To make the lids, score a border around each rectangle 1/2 inch (1 cm) in from the edge. Be careful not to cut all the way through the pastry.
3. Chill the pastry shapes for 10 minutes. Brush tops with egg and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until well risen and golden.
4. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Carefully remove the lids from the center of each pastry rectangle and reserve.
5. For the sauce, put the white sugar, lemon juice, lemon rind and 3 fl ounces (90 ml) water into a small pan. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil for 5 minutes, or until thickened and reduced slightly. Leave to cool completely.
6. Put the cream, caster sugar and vanilla into a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer or hand-held rotary beater until soft peaks form.
7. Spoon the cream mixture and fruit onto the pastry bases. Put the lids on top and sift the icing sugar. Serve with the lemon sauce.

Tip: If preferred, use strawberries, cherries or blueberries in place of raspberries or redcurrants. Stone the cherries and slice the strawberries before filling the pastry cases.

Couscous Salad with Summer Vegetables

Couscous makes for a lighter salad than pasta but it still acts as an ideal backdrop for a variety of ingredients. Recipe serves 6.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of either home-made or bought chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup couscous
3 small eggplants, halved lengthwise and sliced 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch black pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup water
11 ounces (330 g) canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 egg tomatoes, diced
1 small red (Spanish) onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint or parsley
For the Dressing:
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch black pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Method:

1. In a saucepan, bring the stock to the boil; stir in 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and the couscous. Cover, remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick frying pan, heat the remaining oil over moderate heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the eggplants and saute, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, garlic, cumin, cinnamon and pepper. Saute, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the water, cover and cook for a further 1-2 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender, but still crisp.
3. To make the dressing, combine the juices, lemon zest, mustard and pepper in a large bowl, then whisk in the oil. Add the couscous, vegetable mixture, chickpeas, tomatoes, onion and mint and toss to combine. The salad will keep, refrigerated, for 2 days.

Stuffed Chicken Rolls


These delicious Italian chicken rolls are simple to make, but sophisticated enough to serve at a dinner party, especially if you arrange slices on a bed of tagliatelle tossed with fried wild mushrooms. Recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 1/4 cups cooked white long grain rice
3 tablespoons ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3-4 slices Parma ham
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh flat leaf parsley sprigs, to garnish
Cooked tagliatelle and sauteed mushrooms, to serve (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Melt about 2 teaspoons of the butter in a small pan and fry the garlic for a few seconds without browning. Spoon into a bowl.
2. Add the rice, ricotta, parsley and tarragon and season with salt and pepper. Stir to mix.
3. Place each chicken breast in turn between two sheets of clear plastic film and flatten by beating lightly, but firmly, with a rolling pin.
4. Divide the slices of Parma ham between the chicken breasts, trimming the ham to fit, if necessary.
5. Place a spoonful of the rice stuffing at the wider end of each ham-topped breast. Roll up carefully and tie in place with cooking string or secure with a cocktail stick.
6. Heat the oil and the remaining butter in a frying pan and lightly fry the chicken rolls until browned on all sides. Place side by side in a shallow baking dish and pour over the white wine.
7. Cover the dish with greaseproof paper and cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the chicken is tender.
8. Cut the rolls into slices and serve on a bed of tagliatelle with sauteed mushrooms and a generous grinding of black pepper, if you like. Garnish with sprigs of flat leaf parsley.

Tip: Risotto rice could be used in place of white long grain rice in this dish. Risotto rice has a different consistency to long grain, and will make a much denser stuffing for the chicken rolls.