Saturday, October 31, 2009

Goats Cheese, Chilli and Basil Spaghetti

Wow look how quickly my diet changes when the weather hits above 30! Don't worry i'll be craving my stews and soups again soon enough. This is a nice light pasta where the dominant flavours are the basil and the pasta itself. As such, you cannot substitute the fresh basil for dried, and if you can, buy egg spaghetti rather than the dried semolina stuff (not that theres anything wrong with  that; it's just that egg spaghetti has a richer taste).

This pasta can be whipped up in only 3 minutes longer than it takes to actually boil the pasta in the first place. Great for a quick and easy meal.

Ingredients (to serve two):
  • Spaghetti for 2
  • 1 long chilli (or 2 birdseye chillis if you like heat as i do) thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 100gm fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons goats feta, crumbled
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Boil the pasta as per packet instructions. Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
Add the garlic and chilli and stir for 30 seconds.
Throw in the spinach and stir around for 30 seconds.
Throw in the pasta and toss to coat.

Remove the pan from the heat
Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, and toss again.
Transfer to serving bowls and top with the goats cheese.

Melitzanosalata with Balsamic Onions

Okay so i kind of stole this recipe for greek eggplant dip from George Columbaris. Anyone who has been to Hellenic Republic knows this man knows his Greek food. I highly recommend you go there sometime in summer, i was incredibly impressed by the great unpretentious Greek food there, and piles of it there is too.

Anyway i made a slight change in substituting balsamic vinegar for the red wine he uses in his recipe. I feel that the end result will be pretty similar though.

Tahini is a sesame seed paste, available at most supermarkets. At times it is in the health food aisle. Like sesame oil, it's potent stuff, so don't go adding tonnes extra because you think you like sesame seeds. If you need to be convinced, try a teaspoon of the stuff. I did. 

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 2 teaspoons tahini
  • 2 roasted garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 red onion
  • 50ml balsamic vinegar


Pierce the eggplants several times with a fork and bake in an oven at 180 degrees until soft and squishy.

Remove and set aside until cool enough to handle.
split the eggplants in the middle and scoop out the goopy innards into a bowl.

Process the eggplants in the food processor or blender until a fine paste is formed.
Add the tahini, garlic cloves and vinegar and season with salt. Blend until smooth.
Gradually pour in the oil whilst blending to create an emulsification. It should take about 3 minutes to add all the oil.

Place the melitzanosalata in the fridge until cold.

Balsamic Onions
Thinly slice the onions into rings

Place in a saucepan over medium heat with a 2 teaspoons of olive oil and saute until soft.
Add the balsamic vinegar and season with salt
Simmer with the lid on for approximately 5 minutes
Remove the lid and continue to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Transfer onions to a bowl and let cool.

Serve the melitzanosalata with a good bread (i used panna toscano) and garnish with the balsamic onions.

My Caprese Salad

I've called this 'My Caprese Salad' becuase i have no idea how authentic this salad is. I made this salad once when i bought all of the ingredients for a bruscetta only to find that the ciabatta bread had mold spores on it. 

Regardless, this is my favorite salad. I could eat it every day; it combined my favorite elements of Italian cuisine: basil, olive oil, and tomatoes. And it's dead easy to make. 

Note: This salad hinges on every ingredient. Only buy the best vine ripened tomatoes, and forget about this salad in winter. The better the mozarella the better .

Ingredients: (per serve)
  • 1 tomato
  • 1/2 a large Buffalo Mozarella ball
  • 1 handful basil
  • 1/4 a red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Chop the basil and add to a mortar and pestle with the garlic, a pinch of salt and a teason of olive oil. Grind into a paste.

Slice the mozarella and tomato into 5mm thick pieces. 
Very thinly shave the onion into rings.

Layer the ingredients on a plate as follows: tomato, mozarella, dot of basil, onion.
Repeat until all ingredients are on plate
Season with pepper and a dash of olive oil over the top. 


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Beef Stifado

Stifado is a Greek dish of braised meat lavished with a rich heavy sauce. It is a bit similar to an osso bucco though the sauce is much stronger than the standard osso bucco, with buckets of wine and spice in the mix. It pairs best with tendon-heavy cuts of meat such as rabbit, or beef cheek as i use here. Failing either of these, go for oyster blade. 

As you can see, beef cheeks are tendon heavy and marbled. Through slow cooking, the cheek will become very tender, and the meat will remain moist and sweet.

  • 1kg beef cheek cut into 6 pieces
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tbs smoked paprika
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cinnamon quills
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/2 tbs allspice powder
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 3 stems celery, diced
  • 12 shallots, peeled but whole
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius
Place the cinnamon, allspice and cloves into a dutch oven and into the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Turn oven down to 150 degrees.

Place a saucepan over medium heat with 2 tbs olive oil. Mix the flour and paprika on a plate and coat each piece of meat in the flour mixture.

Transfer the pieces of meat, 3 at a time, to the pan, and brown on all sides.

Set meat aside. 

In the same saucepan, add oil if necessary then add shallots, browning for 3 minutes

Add garlic, carrot and celery and saute for a further 5 minutes.
Add sauteed vegetables to the dutch oven over the spices. Add meat.
Pour over the wine and vinegar and add the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. 
Cook on the stove top on low heat for 1/2 hour or until the sauce has halved. 

Pour over the chopped tomatos, place the lid on the pot and place in the oven.
Cook for 2 hours or until meat is very tender.

Serve with mashed potatoes and lavishly pour on the sauce. Bon appetit! 

Guilty Pleasure Number 1


You can probably pick which recipes i'm making for my weekly lunches! Spanakopita is a Greek dish of a yummy mixture of spinach and feta rolled up in flaky filo pastry.

  • 250gm spinach
  • 150gm good quality feta, crumbled
  • 75gm parmesan finely grated
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, roasted
  • 10 sheets filo pastry
  • 100gm butter, melted
  • Pepper
  • 2 eggs, lighted beaten
  • 5 spring onions, chopped coarsely

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsiuis.
Saute the spinach until soft and mushy and transfer to a sieve. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the spinach to remove as much water as possible.
Mix the spinach, feta, parmesan, eggs, pine nuts, onions and eggs together in a large bowl. Season with pepper. 

On a clean surface lay out the first piece of filo.
Brush entire sheet with melted butter.

Lay a second sheet of filo over the first, and also brush this with butter.
Fold the filo in half lengthways.
Place 2 tablespoons of the filling onto across the left of the pastry leaving about 5cm at each end, as per the below picture. 

Roll the filo into a log.
Curl the filo into a rough spiral, tucking the  ends of the filo underneath so that the shape stays put.
Place onto a baking tray and brush again with butter.
Repeat for the remaining 5 spanakopita. 

Bake in the oven for approximately 20minutes or until lightly browned.

Serve warm, i think it pairs well with a light caprese salad.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blissful Cheese Blintz

A blintz is simply a type of crepe of mostly Russian origin. The style that i describe in the recipe below is probably the most common in Australia; you can get them at Pancake Parlour! This one is for desserts, however blini can also be filled with savoury fillings as a main or entree. My favorite thing about these is their yummy snack size portability!! Chuck them in the freezer and pull them out as you need them. Yum!

The Blintz Crepe
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Butter

Combine all of of the ingredients except the butter and whisk until well combined. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Remove, and test consistency. You are looking for a very runny pancake batter; if you need to thin it out at at time, gradually add more milk and stir.

Heat a frying pan to a medium heat and then run the pan with some butter. Pour in approximately one ladel full of batter and tilt the pan so that the batter spreads out to be as thin as possible. 

Within about one minute, the blintz should no longer look glossy, and may be rising slightly off the pan at it's edges. When this happens, slide a spatula under the crepe and flip and cook for a further 20 seconds. Then remove the blintz and place on a plate with  a towel over the top. Repeat for the remaining blini.
Note: It's a given that the first blintz or two will not turn out very well. This might be because the pan is too hot, it might be because the batter is too thick; even if you get all of these right, the first blintz is never the best.

The Filling
  • 500gm ricotta or cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar

Simply combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl any way you know how!

The Folding and Cooking
Place around 2 tablespoons of the filling in the centre of the blintz crepe.
Fold the top of the crepe into the middle, on top of the filling.
Fold the bottom of the crepe into the middle, above the other end of the crepe
Repeat for left and right as per the picture below. 

Place in a baking dish with the folds down and cook for 20 minutes at 180 degrees; or place in an oiled pan, folded side down until the side browns, then flip and repeat for the other side.
Dust with icing sugar and serve with a wedge of lemon and some berries. The inside should be gooey. I personally prefer them at room temperature where the filling has thickened a little bit.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Holy Frijoles it's Chicken Mole!

Chicken mole utilizes one of those sweet-savory crossovers that seems to make alot of people go 'eh?' when they see it occurring. In this case it's the use of chocolate to create a sauce for chicken. It's works! A good bitter chocolate imparts a richness, and a glossiness to sauces that i've used on a variety of meats. It goes particularly well with kangaroo.

I don't think this dish is terribly authentic, but it's very easy to do, and mole is a versatile sauce used in countless Mexican recipes. To make the sauce alone just substitute the chicken pieces with chicken stock. Done! 

  • 1 size 16 chicken or 4 marylands if you can't be bothered chopping a chook yourself
  • 2 sprigs coriander plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp clove powder or 3 cloves
  • 1 tsp smoke paprika (a primary flavorant of this dish so use the best you can)
  • 2 onions
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 50gm dark bitter chocolate
  • 2 chillies fresh or dried
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds plus extra for garnish
  • 2 pieces day old bread.

Chop one of the onions coarsely and put into a large put with the chicken, crushed garlic and coriander. Cover with just enough water to submerge the chicken and bring to the boil. Reduce and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside. Strain the stock. 

Toast the sesame seeds in a pan with no oil until they begin to brown. Transfer to a blender with the tomatoes, spices, chillies bread, and 1/4 cup of the stock. Puree into a place.

Chop the second onion finely and cook in a large saupan with 2tbs of oil on a low heat for 2-3 minutes, until they soften. Add in the paste and cook for 10 minutes. Return the chicken to this pot and cover with the stock. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes.

Remove the chicken and place under foil to keep warm. Reduce the liquid until it's about 1/4 of its original quantity, or until it becomes slightly viscous. 

Place the chicken on a serving plate and ladle on the reduced sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining sesame seeds and a bit of coriander, and serve with steamed rice.

Jaffa Cake

When i bake a cake, it's all about moistness. Yeah sure lightness is great, richness is important. But for me, i always love a moist cake. As such, 90% of the cakes i make are flourless or have a large amount of the flour reduced. This typically creates a denser, more moist texture to the cake. And this jaffa cake is no exception!
For those who love an oozy rich chocolate cake like a mud cake, move on. Although there is an entire block of dark chocolate in this cake, the orange and almond really take the fore here, with the chocolate adding more of a bitterness to the cake than anything else. 

  • 200gm  dark bitter chocolate
  • 2 oranges (i used blood orange to ensure that they'll be sweet.... can never tell with Valencias)
  • 100gm butter, chopped
  • 8 eggs (buy free range please!)
  • 3 cups almond meal (you'll get a nuttier taste if you roast and grind the almonds yourself, but i didn't this time)
  • 1 1/3 cups caster sugar
  • Cream to serve

A note on Caster Sugar:
In case you didn't know, caster sugar is a finer grain of sugar than the standard sugar we buy. It's got a visible grain so it's powdery like icing sugar, but dissolves much faster in a solution. Hence it is typically used for cakes. There' not too much call for larger grains of sugar so i tend to buy only caster, however it's important to note that if you want to substitute regular sugar for caster sugar, use a weight rather than volumetric measurement as a cup of caster sugar will be different to a cup of regular. Same goes for icing sugar. 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees fan forced and line a 22cm (regular size) baking tin.  

Put the oranges whole into a small saucepan and cover with water. Boil for around 1 hour then remove and leave to cool. 

Once cooled enough to handle, cut the orange into pieces and throw into a blender or food processor (or like i did a spice grinder... it died in the middle of this...) and puree into a paste. 
Melt the butter and chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave (a double boiler is as simple as a bowl placed ontop of a saucepan of boiling water. The idea is that only the steam heats the bowl, do NOT let the water touch the bottom of the bowl) and allow to melt, stirring regularly. Allow to cool slightly.

In a seperate bowl, beat the sugar and eggs until well combined.  

Mix in the almond meal and orange pulp, and then temper in the melted chocolate and butter (if it has cooled enough tempering is not necessary. Tempering is where you add the mixture is small parts to allow the temperature of the egg mixture to rise slowly, preventing the eggs from cooking). 

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and put into the oven for around 1hr 15 minutes. People say to check by inserting a skewer and if it comes out clean it's ready. But because this cake is flourless i don't feel that that works so well. Just give it your best guess; err on the side of a little underbaked because the cake will simply be a mit moister. Unlike flour cakes it will still taste great and have decent texture. 

Dust with extra icing sugar. 

Serve a room temperature with cream. If you want to be fancy, mix some lemon zest into a mixture of 1 part marscapone to 1 part cream.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gnocchi with Creamy Pesto & Proscuitto

So we made the Gnocchi yesterday (we did didn't we?) and today we make the sauce. Eschewing any sense of calorie counting, i've opted for one of the big grandaddies of creamy sauces. This is comfort food at it's best!! Just don't plan on moving much for the rest of the evening.

Serves 1 fatty

3 slices proscuitto
1 tbs fresh basil pesto
1 tbs sour cream
1 tbs pine nuts
1 serve gnocchi (around 20 pieces)

Set a pot of salted water onto boil.
In the meantime, heat up a frying pan with a little bit of oil and throw in the four pieces of proscuitto. Unlike bacon this stuff will crisp up in no time; once it starts to turn a little golden, and shrivel up, remove from the pan and place on a paper towel.

Put the pine nuts into the same pan and toss for 30 seconds and place on the paper towel.
When the water is at a rolling boil, place in the gnocchi, and as each piece floats to the top, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

When all pieces of gnocchi are removed, discard the water and put the gnocchi back into the pot over the heat. Add 1 piece of the proscuitto, broken into pieces, the sour cream, and the gnocchi.
Add a good grind of peper and toss the ingredients until the sour cream has melted into a sauce.
Place the gnocchi into a bowl and garnish with the two remaining pieces of proscuitto and the pine nuts.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Don't knock the Gnocchi

Gnocchi... most of us have tried to make it, most of us have failed. Most of us will try again, and this time we shall succeed!! And once we do, then we can mix things up a bit with sweet potatoes and flavourings. But for now, the basics.

The 3 Cardinal Rules of Gnocchi:
1. No water!!! Gnocchi is so often ruined because there is too high a water content in the dough; the main cause of this is waterlogging the potatoes when boiling. Put the potatoes in the oven people!

2. Do you like the taste of raw flour? No? Then use as little as possible!!

3. Don't give me that saucy look. Choose your sauce wisely. Gnocchi goes better with sauces with a high oil count, and the heaviness of the potatoes does not lend them to 'summery' sauces like oil and chili. Go for gold with carbonaras, sage and burnt butter, or if you must go tomato, go a ragout.

This recipe will make 3-4 serve of gnocchi.

1kg of starchy potatoes like desirees

2 cups of flour MAXIMUM


1 egg
Put the potatoes into the oven at 180 degrees for an hour or so until they're easily pierced with a fork. Remove and leave to cool enough to handle (these are hot potatoes after all).

Peel the potatoes (you should be able to do this with your fingers) and either push through a ricer or grate using a block grater so that a fine consistency is achieved.
Mix through one lightly beaten egg. Gradually add flour to the mix until you can handle the dough without it sticking everywhere (don't add any extra as more will be incorporated as you knead). Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or so.
Split the dough into 4 balls.

Roll the first ball out on a board until it's a log around 3cm thick.
Then cut the log into pieces around 3cm each. You should end up with... a 3cm cubed cube. Get it?

Roll the first piece into a ball, and then press lightly onto the prongs of a fork to create a ridge.
Roll the ball along the ridge so that it goes around able half of the ball. This is not just for presentation; the ridges will grab your chosen sauce better.

You may have noticed, you no longer have a ball. You have an oval, or a log. That's okay, just lightly press the gnocchi into the shape below.
Set the finished gnocchi piece onto a floured surface or a sheet of baking paper.
Repeat for the remaining pieces, and then for the remaining balls of dough.

You can then freeze the gnocchi on a baking tray; when solid you can throw them in a freezer bag to save room. Else you can boil them up straight away!
To cook, bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Drop in the gnocchi and as they float up to the top, scoop them out with a slotted spoon.
Tomorrow i'll put up a sauce to have with the gnocchi.

Night night

Baklazhanovaya Ikra.... what now?

Baklazhanovaya Ikra can be most accurately described as the Russian version of poor man's caviar, or Babaganoush. That's not to say it's the same thing! The thing i love about this dip is that it tastes so fresh and zingy, as opposed to the Russian comfort food we've all come to know. I love this dip tipped with parsley, and spread across a crusty slice of bread; it seems to go really well with a sharp white wine.

It's a great REALLY simple recipe to take to a party, better than buying an overly salted dip from the supermarket.


1 large (and i mean LARGE) eggplant... look for one around 750gm
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbs red vinegar or lemon juice (i prefer lemon juice for the freshness factor)
2 tbs good oil (olive is an easy choice)

Black Pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced.


Punch a number of holes into the eggplant with a fork and put into the oven on around 180 degrees for an hour or so, until the eggplant is beginning to collapse into itself, then remove and leave to cool for 10 minutes or so.
Split the eggplant down the middle and scoop the contents into a food processor.

Add all of the other ingredients and whizz it up until it forms a fine paste. (Note: some traditional recipes for Balkazhanovaya Ikra call for only the eggplant to be processed or finely chopped; and all other ingredients to be finely chopped... horses for courses people!) Refridgerate overnight and the dip with thicken naturally. Enjoy however you wish!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Belleh of Bulgolgi

Bulgolgi is the first Korean food most of us Westerners would have at a Korean restaurant. It doesn't really push the boundaries of our tastes like things such as Kimchi would. And luckily enough, it's extremely easy to make at home, and the main ingredients are all easily available.

- 500gm good quality beef (i used Scotch Fillets)
- 1 nashi pear / kiwi fruit (i used a nashi pear)
- 4 -5 tsp White sugar
- 1/4 cup Japanese or Korean soy sauce
- 3-4 tsp sesame oil
- 5 spring onions, cut into 2 inch lengths
- 2-3 tsp Japanese or Korean rice wine
- A good dash of black pepper
- 1 white onion, medium
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 spring onions, cut into 3mm pieces of a sharp diagonal slant, for garnish
- cooking oil

Chuck the beef fillets into the freezer for a couple of hours until they are par-frozen. This makes thinly slicing the beef much, much easier. Thinly slice the beef on the slight diagonal (this will make the tendons of beef muscle shorter, making for a more tender finished beef strip in fast cooking).

Sprinkle about 2 tsp of the sugar over the sliced beef , mixing through with your hands, and set aside. Peel the pear / kiwi fruit, and coarsely chop the onion, and throw into the food processor until a fine puree is achieved. To this mix, add the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour over the sliced beef and combine well (hands are the best tool for this). Leave the beef to marinate for at least 2 hours, or ideally overnight.

Set a wok onto the stove at a very high heat, and let it heat up fully. Pour in a dash of cooking oil (one with a high smoke point) and then throw in about 1/5 of the beef. Stir or shake constantly for just a few minutes, until the sauce begins to caramelize (the best signal that it's ready is the scent, or slight catching on the bottom of the wok). Transfer this beef to a bowl, and repeat 4 more times until all the beef is cooked.

And you're done!!

Bulgolgi is traditionally served with other condiments and rice, inside of a lettuce cup. This is definitely my favorite way to eat it; with a pinch of kimchi and roll it up. Delicious!


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