Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Fabulous Fillet...

Tonight's dinner is a roast beef fillet with a tasty, Italian inspired stuffing. Instead of the usual roasted vegetables, I chose a selection of vegetables which I cooked on my fabulous new grill pan whilst the meat was resting. I served the meat and vegetables without any sauces or gravy, just with the pan juices poured over the top. The dish was suprisingly light and the flavours vibrantand fresh.
I love a traditional roast with all the trimmings, but this is a great option for something a bit different that also cooks really fast. You can do the whole dish in under 45mins. Please note that the stuffing ingredients only make a cup and a half of stuffing, so it you use a bigger piece of meat, you may have to double the amounts. The stuffing also works beautifully with chicken if you aren't a red meat eater.
Gourmet Goddess handy cooking hint: After I sear the meat*, I wrap it in baking paper, tie it with string and then put it in the oven. You don't have to do this, but I find that it keeps the meat ultra moist, particulary when the piece of meat is quite small and has the potential to dry out easily.
So, here it is - a beef fillet with an Italian flavour......
Fillet of Beef
with mushroom and parmesan stuffing

You will need: 500g of whole beef fillet, 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, 1 egg, 1 crushed clove garlic, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 1 tablespoon continental parsley, 1/3 cup finely sliced spring onion, 1/2 teaspoon lemon rind, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan, salt and pepper, olive oil. An assortment of vegetables, sliced for grilling/pan frying. (I used green beans, mushrooms, asparagus, cherry tomatoes)
Method: Cook the mushrooms, spring onion and garlic in a splash of olive oil for about 5 minutes on a medium heat. Combine the mushroom mixture with breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, lemon rind, parmesan. Season well and mix thoroughly.

Carefully cut a pocket in the beef fillet, starting at one end, being careful not to cut the meat right through. Use your fingers to to enlarge the pocket further and then fill the fillet with the stuffing mixture. Be sure that it is packed in firmly and evenly. Rub the outside of the beef all over with olive oil and set aside.

Heat a frypan until very hot, and sear the meat on all sides until it is brown.* Transfer meat to a hot oven and cook for a further 15-20mins, depending on how well cooked you like your meat.

(I put mine in for 15 mins) Remove the meat from the oven, cover loosely and rest for 10-15 minutes.

While the meat is resting, coat the veges in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill or pan cook the vegetables until cooked (I like them a bit firm and not cooked too much, but it's up to you) Drizzle any juices from the meat pan and the veges over the beef fillet. Serves 2-4

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gourmet Goddess Foodie News

It's that time of the year again,
when the Good Food and Wine Show rolls into town.

It is always a fantastic source of inspiration and a great chance to try new ingredients, pick up a few supplies and sample the wine of course!
For more information on getting tickets, who's taking part and what's on,
check out the website: http://www.goodfoodshow.com.au/

The show has already toured Melbourne, but here are the dates for the other Australian cities:

Sydney - July 3,4 & 5
Perth - 31 July and 1&2 August
Brisbane - 6,7, & 8 August

If you live in Australia and you have never been before, it is really worth a visit.
I'm off to the show on Friday-
stay tuned for a rundown of Good Food and Wine Show highlights!

Quote of the day.......

"I never taste the wine first in restaurants,

- I just ask the waiter to pour."

Nigella Lawson

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Huevos Rancheros

Hola amigos! Sunday brunch again and today I wanted something piquant, bold and a bit different. Huevos Rancheros fits the bill perfectly. The literal translation means "Ranch eggs" and this dish originated in Mexico, where it would be the mid-morning meal for farm workers. There are many, many variations of this dish - some are served on a corn or flour tortilla, some add red peppers, corn, black beans or cheese. Some add a side serve of avocado or even sour cream. (I suspect this is a recent Tex-Mex addition and I personally think it makes the dish too heavy) I prefer to keep it all quite simple and rustic and omit all the accompaniments. I think that it has so much flavour that it doesn't need help to be moreish and delicious. I serve my version with some warm flatbread and eat it right out of the pan.

I like my Huevos Rancheros spicy, so I have added plenty of chilli, including some fresh chilli on top to serve, but of course you can leave the chilli out completely if you want to. My version also includes Chorizo - omit it for a lovely vegetarian dish. If you were making this for a few people, you could make it in one large dish, or even do individual ones in small rammekins. As well as being a hearty brunch, this dish is perfect for a fast and easy dinner option.

You will notice that I haven't included a recipe for the tomato based sauce* - use your own basic nepolitana style sauce or even a good quality store bought sauce (my preferred brand is Barilla) if you don't want to make a special batch. My tomato sauce contains capers, anchovies, lots of garlic and chllies, but use whatever you like.

So, here it is - my version of the rustic Mexican classic....

Huevos Rancheros

You will need: 1 cup tomato based sauce* per person, 1-2 organic free range eggs per person, Half a cup of roughly chopped Chorizo, 1 tablespoon chopped black olives, A few dashes of tabasco sauce (optional) , 1 tablespoon finely sliced spring onion, flatbread or soft tortillas to serve, 1 teaspoon finely sliced red chilli (optional)

Method: Combine the olives, Chorizo, tomato sauce, tabasco together and pour into an ovenproof dish. Make a small well in the sauce and break the egg gently into the mixture. Repeat for all of the eggs.

Bake in a hot oven for 10-15 mins depending on how much you like your eggs cooked. (I like them a bit runny in the middle, so the yolk mixes with the sauce - yum!)

Top with spring onion and chilli and serve right away with warm flatbread or soft tortillas.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I feel like.... Italian tonight.

I felt like something Mediterranean tonight and but wasn't sure exactly what, so I went for a wander around my greengrocer on the way home from work for some inspiration. It wasn't long before I found it in the form of some beautiful, firm and glossy black eggplant. I couldn't resist it and so it is the centerpiece for tonight's dinner. Eggplant is an incredibly versatile vegetable and is used extensively in Mediterranean cooking - I used medium sized eggplant for this dish. Many recipes get you to salt and drain the eggplant first - I don't usually do this, unless the eggplant is very large or a bit old.

At the greengrocer, I also picked up some asparagus, prosciutto and mozzerella to add to the mix and did a little side dish of prosciutto wrapped asparagus - simply cooked quickly in a pan with a touch of olive oil and some freshly ground pepper. I drizzled some fruity olive on it to serve. Easy.

The eggplant dish I came up with is very simple to put together, but has a lot of flavour and looks quite pretty I think. You could serve this as a vegetarian main course or starter - I would use a smaller sized eggplant if I was doing it as a starter. You could also put prosciutto into the layers, or even crumble a little fetta into them for a richer taste.

So, here is tonight's offering - It serves two as a main course.

Parmagiania de Melanzane (Eggplant Parmigiana Stack)

You will need: 1 medium eggplant, 1 small Mozzerella cheese, 1 cup tomato based Nepolitana sauce (I used my own home made one, which has capers and anchovies, but use whatever you fancy. Even a good quality bought one would be fine if you are pressed for time) 1 tablespoon fresh continental parsley (you could use fresh basil if you prefer) Salt & Pepper, Olive oil.

Method: Cut the eggplant into slices around 1cm thick. You will need 3 slices for each person. Do the same with the Mozzerella. Heat a frypan with a little olive oil, season and cook the eggplant for about 1 minute each side, until slightly browned. It does not have to be cooked right through.

Place the eggplant in a single layer on a baking tray, top each piece with a spoonful of the Nepolitana sauce and then a slice of mozzerella. Bake for around 10 mins in a moderate oven.

To serve, stack three slices on top of each other and finish with some chopped parsley.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sweet Sunday

I like having a leisurely cooked breakfast on a Sunday, and my love for things savoury and piquant usually means that I have poached eggs and bacon, or corncakes, grilled mushrooms and avocado with lots of tabasco or something equally spicy on the side.

This morning though, I decided to have something sweet for a change. I bought some lovely fresh ricotta and fruit yesterday, so this became the inspiration for this yummy breakfast dish. It could easily become a dessert dish - perhaps use blueberries and banana or mixed berries? Plums or apricots would be nice too. If you are doing it as a dessert, then I would make the hotcakes quite small - pikelet size.

I don't like things too sweet, so I haven't put a lot of sugar in the batter mixture, but if you like it sweeter, then add more sugar. Just remember that more sugar will mean they will brown and caramelise a lot faster, so watch the hotcakes so they don't burn. This recipe will serve 2-4 people, depending on how piggy you want to be!

Banana and Ricotta Hotcakes

You will need: 1 cup self-raising flour, 2 eggs, about half a cup of milk, 1 dessertspoon caster sugar, 1 large ripe banana (or 2 small ones), a few teaspoons butter (or oil ) to grease the frypan, 1 cup fresh ricotta, maple syrup, a few strawberries (optional)

Method: Blend the milk, eggs, sugar and half of the banana in a food processor till smooth.

Sift the flour into a bowl and gradually whisk in the milk to form a batter. You may need to add more milk if the batter is too stiff. The batter should easily coat/stick to, the back of a spoon.

Gently crumble half of the ricotta into the mixture and stir through gently. Let the mixture rest for 10-15 mins.

I like to transfer the mixture into a small jug to make pouring the batter easier and less messy, but you can also use a spoon or measuring cup for the next step. Heat and grease the frypan and cook the hotcakes in batches, with the hotplate on medium heat. Turn the hotcakes when bubbles appear on the surface.

Keep an eye on the heat and turn it down or up if you have to. Remember that the amount of sugar you put in and the ripeness of the banana will affect how fast it will brown/burn.

Serve the hotcakes right away, with sliced banana, strawberry and the extra ricotta, drizzled generously with maple syrup.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pasta - Pronto!!!

I felt like pasta for dinner tonight but I didn't want a meat based sauce - I had bacon for breakfast this morning and Yum Cha for lunch (Mmmmmmm... BBQ pork!) so I had more than my carnivore quota for the day! I picked up some winter veges on the way home (spinach, fennel and pumpkin) and came up with this. This pasta is a lovely vegetarian dish that tastes luxurious, takes very little time to make and looks great. The addition of the walnuts adds texture to the dish and the lemony, garlic sauce is a great accompaniment to the winter vegetables.

Fettuccine with Winter Vegetables and lemony garlic sauce

You will need: 1 cup pumpkin - cut into small cubes, Half bunch English spinach - sliced quite finely, 1 small bulb fennel, 1 medium brown onion, 2 tablespoons roughly chopped walnuts, 2 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, 150ml cream, splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, parmesan cheese, Fettucine.

Method: Steam the pumpkin until cooked, but still firm. Set aside.

Slice the fennel and onion to a similar thickness as the fettucine. Cook the fennel, garlic and onion in a splash of olive oil. Cook on a medium heat until it starts to look transparent. You do not want to brown it, so keep an eye on the heat.

Put the water for the fettucine on to boil, adding plenty of salt. Once it boils, add the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, return the onion/fennel to the heat and then add the cream, pumpkin and lemon rind. Mix it in well and allow it to simmer gently and reduce.

Add the walnuts, salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta is cooked, add it to the sauce, along with the spinach. Combine gently, check for seasoning and serve right away with parmesan and cracked pepper.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quote of the day..... on etiquette

" At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death
should always be seated closest to the bathroom"
George Carlin

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Simple Sunday - Juicy Roasted Chicken

A roast dinner is the ultimate comfort food - I remember the Sunday roasts of my childhood when my grandparents would drive down from the country and we would have a roast lunch, usually a leg of lamb or a stuffed chicken, with gravy (made from the pan juices) and piles of beautiful roasted vegetables. If we were lucky (usually when we had guests) there was also a hot dessert or baked pudding. It was all very "1950's nuclear family" and funnily enough the only times I ever felt like we resembled those families I used to see on TV.

I think that those Sunday lunches were really important in instilling a love of cooking in me and also teaching basic kitchen skills. I remember peeling the vegetables, learning basic knife skills, discovering how long things took to bake and being entrusted to stir the gravy. As I got older I learned more involved processes, such as how to make the custard that would accompany baked apples or a steamed pudding. Eventually I would take over the whole process, loving the warmth and sense of responsibility that time in the kitchen gave me. The kitchen gave me focus, comfort and a sense of purpose.

Today's recipe is a very simple roast chicken that is packed with flavour. It does not have all the trimmings of the traditional family roast but uses some techniques for adding taste and keeping the flesh moist and succulent. I have chosen Greek inpired flavours and served it very simply with roasted potatoes and zucchini, drizzled with the galicky/lemony pan juices.

Juicy Roasted Chicken with Greek flavours

You will need:
1 whole chicken (neck and giblets removed), 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon lemon rind, 4 large cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon salted soft butter, about 1 tablespoon greek oregano (you will find this in deli's or continental stores. It is sold dried in bunches and is long and shrub like. Crumble the leaves off the ends and discard the very tough ends of the stalks), olive oil, Pepper, Salt.

Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water. Gently pat dry.

Combine the butter, lemon rind and 2 of the garlic cloves (minced or chopped very fine) until well mixed. Gently work the skin of the chicken breast away from the flesh (be careful not to tear the skin) and distribute the butter evenly over the breast. The butter will keep the meat lovely and moist.

Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the chicken and rub it in to the flesh. When you are done, put this into the cavity, along with two thirds of the oregano, roughly chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Now rub the chicken all over with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and the rest of the oregano and cook in a hot oven for 20 mins. Reduce to a medium heat and cook for another hour or until the juices run clear and it is cooked through. Be sure to baste the chicken every now and then during the cooking process.

If you are cooking potatoes with the chicken, add them when you have about 30mins left to go with the cooking of the chicken. When the chicken is done, cover in foil and rest it in a warm place for 10-15 mins before carving. Drizzle the juices over the chicken to serve (or use them as a base to make a lemony gravy)


A Taste of Morocco - Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemon is one of my favourite ingredients, with it's exotic, unique flavour and ability to take a simple dish to a whole other level. It is an absolute must when cooking a Moroccan style stew or tagine, but it is also great in dressings and marinades or scattered through a vegetarian cous-cous or with grilled vegetables. The flavour is quite strong, so it is important to excercise a touch of restraint when using this ingredient. Chop it finely and add small amounts to start with. Taste your dish as you go until you are happy with the intensity. When using preserved lemon be sure to remove all of the flesh and scrape away the white pith. You use only the skin of the lemon which contains all the lovely citrus oils. The rest will usually be very salty and is not suitable for use.

If you have ever seen preserved lemons in your grocer or gourmet store you will know that they can be quite expensive. Luckily for us, they are ridiculously easy and inexpensive to make yourself, especially right now when lemons are cheap and plentiful. Just be sure to make them at least 4 weeks before you want to use them - they take that long to be ready. Once they are, they keep for months and you will have this exotic and delicious ingredient on hand to add a touch of Morocco to your cooking.

You will need: Whole lemons (today I used Eureka lemons), bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon (quills or bark - not powder) salt, lemon juice and a jar/jars with tight fitting lids. Avoid using metal lids, as the salt will make them corrode.
Method: Wash the whole lemons in warm water and dry them. Slice them as if you are cutting them into quarters - starting at the non-stalk end - but don't cut right through to the bottom so they stay in one piece. You should be able to open them up like the petals of a flower.
Place a few cloves inside each lemon and then push them into the jar, layering the sea salt, a few cloves, bay leaf and cinnamon. When the jar is full, top up with extra salt and lemon juice and seal the jar tightly.
Store in a cupboard away from direct light for at least 4 weeks. During the preserving time, give the jar a shake every few days to incorporate the ingredients. Top up with extra lemon juice if you need to.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Great Culinary Moments in Cinema # 2 - Goodfellas

From one of my favourite films of all time - but I have yet to try Paulie's garlic technique. (Can you even buy razor blades like that anymore??) however I do subscibe to the assertion that meatballs should contain 3 kinds of meat......


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Something Szechuan...

I had a hankering for something spicy and full of texture tonight so I stopped at the Asian Grocery store on my corner on the way home (yes, I realise I'm blessed when it comes to having fabulous ingredients on my doorstep. I'm very lucky.) I picked up some fresh coriander, bean sprouts, some lovely red chillies, some minced pork and the ingredient that is the star of tonight's dinner - tofu - aka beancurd.
If the thought of tofu makes you zone out, or you think that you would rather eat a dish sponge, bear with me. For years I never touched the stuff, swearing off it because of evil tasting tofu concoctions I tasted in the 80's. These dishes were usually made by dodgy, unwashed vegetarian flatmates in the filthy share house kitchens of my youth. Thank goodness I put all of that behind me and gave this ingredient the respect it deserves. There is a reason that Asian cultures have eaten this ingredient for centuries. It is cheap, versatile and completely delicious.

The wonderful thing about tofu is the way that it takes on flavour. People often complain that it has no taste, or that tofu dishes are bland. All this means is that the cook has missed the point of this great ingredient. To me, tofu is about texture. It can be slippery and silky, firm and meaty, crispy and caremelised. It is so versatile and lends itself to all kinds of dishes and takes on other flavours so beautifully.

There are 3 main forms of tofu that you will see in your Asian market or health food store. Silken tofu, which is very soft (sometimes you will see it in a form that is so soft it is almost a liquid) regular or medium tofu that is soft, but will hold it's shape as long as you are gentle with it (what I used in tonight's dish) and hard tofu, which is very forgiving, can be cut into cubes and survives rougher treatent. There is also sweet tofu - be sure that you don't buy it by mistake if you intend on making a savoury dish. I did that once. Note to self - strawberry flavoured tofu and pork fillet don't mix.

Tonight's tofu dish is chock full of flavour - I made it extra spicy but put as much or as little chilli in it as you like. It is loosely based on the iconic Szechuan dish, Ma Po Tofu. This dish is very quick to cook so it is a perfect midweek dinner. I decided to make a side dish of pineapple rice to go with the tofu (I ate lots of this when I was in Singapore and became addicted to it, so tasty!) The one I made tonight is a super quick, basic version with only a few ingredients but it goes beautifully with the tofu dish.

The only thing about cooking any fried rice dish is that the rice needs to be cooked beforehand and allowed to get cold (overnight in the fridge is best) If you use freshly cooked, hot rice, the rice will just break up and you will end up with a stodgy mess. If you haven't planned ahead for your fried rice, do what I do - make a sneaky trip to the supermarket and buy one of those packs of pre-cooked rice. They work brilliantly for any fried rice dish and one of those packs actually serves 4 people, once you add the other ingredients. The rice holds together perfectly and it is super convenient.

All I did for the rice was to put a touch of vegetable oil in the wok, whisk 3 eggs and throw them in to scramble. When they are cooked, take them out and set aside. Then I added the rice (one of those packs from the supermarket I talked about earlier), a cup of cooked peas, a cup of pineapple (chopped into small bits) and a handful of sliced spring onion. Stir fry the ingredients then add a splash of ligh soy sauce, a teaspoon sesame oil and some cracked pepper. Done!

Tofu with Spicy Pork
Served with tasty pineapple rice

For the tofu: 1 handful minced pork, 1 small red onion chopped finely, 2 cloves crushed garlic,
200g regular tofu - diced, half cup fresh sliced green beans, 1 cup fresh beansprouts, half cup of roughly chopped coriander, third of a cup sliced spring onions, red chilli (sliced finely to taste), splash of vegetable oil, extra coriander/chilli to garnish.

For the sauce: 1 tablespoon chilli jam (you can use sambal or other chilli sauce if you wish, but chilli jam gives the best flavour), 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 1 cup chicken stock. 2 teaspoons cornflour dissolved in half a cup of cold water.

Method: Mix up all of the sauce ingredients except the cornflour/water mixture and set aside.

In a pan, heat a splash of oil and add the red onion and garlic. Cook till soft, then add the pork mince and cook till lightly browned. Add the tofu, and gently stir through. Add the sauce mixture and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add the sprouts, coriander, spring onion and red chilli and stir through. Finally, add the cornflour mixture and stir it through. It should thicken fairly quickly. Serve right away with a sprinkling of the extra chilli and coriander.

Note: You can easily make this a vegetarian dish by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, omitting the pork and using vegetarian oyster sauce that is available in all Asian supermarkets.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Spice Girl

I am a massive tea lover with a bit of a fetish for accumulating teapots and different kinds of teas. I have a pot of tea permanently on my desk at work which I sip all day and a selection of teas that I dip into as the mood takes me. There is something very ritualistic about partaking of tea which really appeals to me. I love all kinds of tea, but I particularly enjoy herbal teas - the fresh zing of lemongrass, the decadent sweet aroma of rose petals and the pure, clean taste of Sencha. But in winter, the one tea that is guaranteed to make me sigh with contentment is Chai. I love it's warming spices, including cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom, and I find it is a fabulous afternoon pick me up.

The flavours of Chai really lend themselves to be used in cooking and the following recipe is a super easy but decadent tasting sweet dish, that can be eaten with natural yoghurt for breakfast or served as an exotic dessert with double cream and a sprinkling of pistachios. I used a lovely fragrant organic Chai for this recipe that I recently discovered at the health food store. You can find out more about it here: http://www.chai.com.au/

Winter Fruit Compote with Spiced Chai Syrup
You will need:
Assorted dried fruit (I used prunes, dried apricots and white figs for this one)
2 cups strongly brewed Chai (without milk)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons orange rind

Gently simmer all ingredients until the syrup reduces by about half
Cool and serve at room temperature


Purple Reign

When it comes to root vegetables, I have always held the view that Beetroot is king. Earthy and sweet, all swathed in ruby/purple goreousness, the colour of Ceasar's robes. It has been eaten since Roman times, when it was used to treat sickness and was believed to fortify the blood. Beetroot is ridiculously good for you - rich in folate, vitimin B, very high in fibre and extremely low GI, so it will help stabilise your blood sugar. Apart from all of that, it tastes fantastic.

Beetroot is in season right now and it is a great time to eat it at its best. I was inspired by this morning's trip to the grocer, where I found beautiful fresh bunches of beetroot and new season's oranges - ingredients that belong together. I was craving fresh greens all day, so tonight's dish is a salad - with roasted beetroot as the star - along with mixed greens, fresh orange, toasted walnuts, fetta cheese and an orange and maple dressing.
Before we go to the recipe, I should share a little Gourmet Goddess cook's hint with you. The secret to the fabulousness of this salad is in matching the music to the boldness of the beetroot. Punchy, sassy, purple as they come and sure to make you feel good? There could be only one choice here. I have to admit that a sneaky glass of red for the cook and Prince played loudly on the stereo (Purple Rain on high rotation and a singalong to Raspberry Beret!) made the beetroot that much sweeter. Would I lie to you?

Balsamic Roasted Beetroot Salad

with Orange and Maple Dressing

You will need: 1 bunch fresh beetroot, 1 large red onion cut into thick slices, 3 cloves garlic, Olive oil, 2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar (tonight I used a Pomegranate Balsamic but a plain one is still perfect), Juice of 1 orange, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, Sea salt & pepper

For the salad: Mixed greens, Flesh of 1 orange, sliced into segments, 1 or 2 tablespoons walnuts (I toast them in a dry pan for 5mins - gives a better flavour), A few cubes of Fetta cheese (I used an organic sheep milk Fetta tonight)

For the dressing: 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 4 tablespoons orange juice, 1 clove crushed garlic, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, Salt & pepper to taste

Method: Start by cutting the stalks off the beetroot and putting them in a pot of water. You should keep the beetroot whole at this point. Bring them to the boil and then simmer for about 15mins. You are not trying to cook them right through, so don't worry if they are still quite firm after the cooking time is over.

Plunge the whole beetroot into a bowl of cold water and let them sit there for 5 minutes. With your hands, rub the outside skin off the beetroot (treat it rough, it can handle it) You should be left with beautiful smooth, bright purple beetroot. Cut the whole beetroot into into small wedges.

In a baking dish, mix the beetroot, onion, garlic, oil, balsamic, maple syrup, orange juice, salt & pepper and cook in a hot oven for about 45mins (or until the onion and beetroot has caramelised and the liquid has evaporated) Stir the mixture a few times during the cooking process. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Whisk the dressing ingredients. Assemble the salad ingredients and beetroot - topping with the the walnuts and a crumble of Fetta. Drizzle with the dressing and serve right away.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Quote of the day.....

All you see, I owe to spaghetti.

Sophia Loren


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Something fishy.....and being sustainable

One of my workmates (and ex-chef) Ben very generously gave me a jar of his own homemade hot chilli jam this morning, made with chillies grown in his own garden. I decided I was going to use it somehow in dinner tonight and I had also been craving seafood, so on the way home from work I stopped at the fishmonger to see what looked good.

I picked up a few prawns, a couple of scallops and a small piece of Blue-Eye Cod. I had some of the braised leek/tomato mixture from last night in the fridge, so I added a cup of vegetable stock to it, a handful of black olives and a spoon full of Ben's chilli jam and made a spicy broth. (Full marks on the chilli jam by the way Ben - it had a lot of heat and also a beautiful flavour with just the right acidity. Yum!) For the seafood, I mixed a tablespoon of flour and a teaspoon of paprika together, dusted the seafood lightly in it and then cooked the fish , prawns and scallops in a pan with a touch of olive oil till golden. The whole process literally took 15mins from start to finish and it definitely satisfied my desire for seafood and chilli tonight. The seafood was super fresh and the dish was full of flavour.

So, here it is, Pan fried seafood in leek, olive and tomato broth (featuring Ben's chilli jam) .....

Living my childhood on the coast of Western Australia, I grew up with seafood, and I have not lost my love for it as I have gotten older. I have memories of stiflingly hot nights in the 70's on the banks of The Swan River, waiting expectantly for the return of the prawn nets, hearing them dragged through the dark water full of school prawns that flicked you with their spiky tails and made us squeal and drop them on the sand. If you were lucky, the haul would also include vibrantly coloured Blue Manna, Blue Swimmer Crabs or glossy black river mussels, all of which would later be devoured at the kitchen table, still steaming from the pot, eaten with vinegary fingers, crusty white bread and lashings of butter. It was the simplest but most delicious of feasts.

Sadly, in 2009 we see fish stocks around the world seriously depleted, with many species being threatened or wiped out due to destruction of habitat or overfishing. In recent years I have become very aware of the impact my consumer choices have on this situation and I have consciously been trying to make better choices, avoiding species that are overfished or in danger of being so. The Australian Marine Conservation Society are a great source of information on the subject. For more info, go to http://www.amcs.org.au/default2.asp?active_page_id=137

For quick reference, here is a list to help you choose wisely, but it is by no means a complete list, just a starting point. I have included alternative names for some of the species.

Fish/Seafood to avoid: Blue Warehou, Black Trevally, Sea Bream, Hake, Silver Kingfish, Redfish, Red Snapper, Southern Bluefin Tuna, Bigeye Tuna, Shark, Flake, Silver Trevally, Silver/White Trevally, Sea Perch, Orange Roughy, Swordfish, rainbow Trout, Atlantic Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Brown Tiger Prawn, Rock Lobster, Coral Crayfish, Sea Cucumber, Tasmanian Scallop, King Scallop, Baby Octopus (Thailand)

More sustainable choices: Hoki, Blue Grenadier, Barramundi, Blue Eye Cod, Deep Sea Trevalla, Blue Eye Trevalla, Bream, Yellowfin Tuna, Flathead, King George Whiting (but avoid whiting from Western Australia as the fishery is closed), Trumpeter, Sand Whiting, Mackarel, Mullet, Yellow Eye, Ling, Rock Ling, Snapper, Red Bream,Tailor, Blufish, Skipjack, Coral Trout, Balmain/Moreton Bay Bugs, Western Rock Lobster, Calamari, Cuttlefish, Squid, Octopus, Blue Mussel, Green Mussel, BlueSwimmer Crab.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday night leftover makeover - Arancini

Tonight, I had mushroom risotto in the fridge from last night's dinner, so I decided to tart up the leftovers into an easy Monday night after work dish. I figured it was nicer than shoving microwaved leftover risotto into my face while watching MasterChef on TV! Sticking with the Italian theme, I decided on Arancini, those delectable crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside rice balls. To jazz things up a bit, I added some extra parmesan to the cold mixture, along with a couple of handfuls of baby spinach.

To make the Arancini, I simply formed the rice mixture into balls, (use wet hands, it makes handling them so much easier) rolled them in seasoned flour, then lightly whisked organic free range eggs and then breadcrumbs. I put the Arancini in the fridge for about 10 mins, while I quickly braised some young leeks in a touch of olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a tablespoon of water. Halfway through, I remembered that I had a couple of Roma tomatoes in the fridge so I chopped them roughly and threw them in too.

I cooked the Arancini in vegetable oil until they were golden (it only took a couple of minutes) and served them on a bed of the braised leeks. And here they are!

This dish was really satisfying and tasty, as well as being a great way to use up leftover risotto. Actually, it would be worth making extra risotto so that you can make these the next day. The other great thing is that it only took me 25mins to make this dish, so it isn't a three act drama and is totally do-able after a long day at work. Think about adding a small square of mozzerella to the centre (which is a more traditional way to serve them) or adding other fresh herbs, some grated zucchini or different cheeses. I'm thinking Romano, Ricotta or Pecorino?

GG Entertaining Hint: Try tiny Arancini as a lovely finger food option. Make them ahead of time up to the cooking stage and keep them in the fridge until they are ready to fry. Serve them immediately with a simple tomato based dipping sauce. Just make sure they are small enough to eat whilst holding a Martini in the other hand!!