Friday, October 29, 2010

Lovely Linguini

Today's menu combines my love of fresh seafood and pasta in a delicious, fresh tasting and easy to put together dish. I have used lovely new seasons local mussels and fresh prawns and teamed them with vine ripened tomatoes, a hint of chilli, crisp flat leaf parsley and the tang of lime. Finished off with a little butter at the last minute, it is rich tasting without being too heavy. You could of course us any seafood you like - scallops, clams, fish and calamari would work really well too. Add other herbs if you want to - dill, lemon thyme or chives would be a nice addition.

I made this dish for dinner last night and it took about half an hour from start to finish, including the cleaning of the prawns and mussels, so it is an ideal midweek dinner. It is also good looking and special enough to serve up to guests. As always, make sure that the seafood you have selected is absolutely fresh - anything less than first rate seafood will result in a second rate dish. This dish is not suitable to make ahead or freeze.

A note about the mussels - I prefer to use the black, local mussels - although it seems that the large, green lipped variety from New Zealand are more popular. Our local mussels are smaller, but they are also beautifully sweet and I find the flesh more delicate tasting. I will choose the local product over imports every time. A few years ago when I was visiting the South Island of New Zealand I ate their green lipped mussels and they were stunning, but shipping them thousands of kilometers from New Zealand to eat them in Australia really loses something taste wise - as well as the environmental impact of transporting them.

I am actually off to New Zealand for work next week (North Island this time) and I'm hoping to sample some of the beautiful produce they have to offer while I'm there. If the quaility is anything like the last time I visited, I will be in for a treat. Stay tuned for a report on what I find there and some pretty pics.

In the meantime, enjoy this lovely simple seafood pasta. Bon Appetit!

Mussel and prawn linguini with chilli and lime

You will need: About 150g dry linguini or pasta per person, 5 mussels per person, 5 whole raw prawns per person, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/3 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon minced chilli, 1 clove minced or finely grated garlic, grated rind of 1 lime, juice of 1 lime, 1 cup chopped continental parsley, 2 large tomatoes with the seeds removed and diced finely, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, pinch of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, extra olive oil.

Method: First, clean and debeard the mussels, then remove the heads and shells of the prawns (I leave the tails on for flavour and presentation) Don't forget to devein the prawns - no one likes to have a delicious dish ruined by having the gritty digestive tract left in!

Combine the paprika, a splash of olive oil, chilli, salt, garlic, lime rind and half of the lime juice in a bowl. Add the prawns and allow to marinate while you prepare the rest of the dish.

In a seperate bowl, combine the tablespoon of olive oil, parsley, tomato, cayenne, the rest of the lime juice, parsley and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook your pasta until it is al dente - don't overcook it - it should by slightly firm to the touch. Drain the pasta and set it aside while you quickly finish the dish.

Put the empty pasta pan back on the heat and turn it up high. Add a splash of olive oil and when it is smoking add the prawns. Quickly cook the prawns (this should only take a minute) and then remove them from the pan. Turn down the heat a little. Add the mussels and put the lid on. Cook the mussels for a minute or so, until they steam open. Remove them from the pan and disgard any that do not open.

Return the cooked pasta to the pan and add the butter. Toss through until the butter is melted. Add the tomato mixtutre and all of the seafood. Mix gently until combined and season with salt and pepper.
Serve right away.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Very Vegetarian

It was my intention this week to post pics of the housewarming lunch that we held last Saturday, however once the food was on the table I completely forgot to take photos of it before it was demolished. Sorry guys - you will have to close your eyes and imagine what it looked like! We enjoyed a starter of antipasto, along with italian style pork meatballs with a spicy tomato dipping sauce, a selection of cheeses and wonderful olive bread from Bourke Street Bakery. For mains, there was a selection of garlicky leg of lamb cooked over coals, stir fried garlic and chilli prawns, greek sausages, chicken, fetta and spinach sausages, grilled asparagus, tomato, basil and bocconcini salad, 2 vegetarian tarts - mint, pea and fetta and wild mushroom and a roasted pumpkin, rocket and pomegranate salad served with a pomegranate balsamic dressing. Our guests seemed to really enjoy it (special mention must be made of my lovely finacee's spectacular lamb - cooked over coals and so succulent and tender) but as always I over catered - we lived off the leftovers for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 2 days!

Today I thought I would share what we had for dinner last night. A nice vegetarian dish that is cheap and easy to make - zucchini and chickpea fritters. You can serve them as a main or a starter - or grab some nice rolls and turn the fritters into vege burgers. The accompaniment is a creamy horseradish and mint sauce which is a lovely tangy, creamy contrast to the nutty flavour of the fritters. The addition of mint gives a lovely fresh note to this dish. You could easily add other vegetables or herbs to the fritters - I think that grated carrot or some finely chopped spinach would work well. Make sure that you don't scrimp on the seasoning of the fritter mixture - plenty of salt and pepper please. Chick peas and other legumes can be a bit bland if you don't give them a boost with some seasoning. Salt and pepper will help bring out their natural flavour. These fritters are best eaten soon after making and are not suitable to freeze. My recipe will make about 12 large fritters.

Zucchini and Chickpea Fritters with horseradish and mint sauce

You will need:
For the fritters: 1 x 400g tin chick peas rinsed well and drained, 2 medium sized zucchini grated, 1 tablespoon grated parmesan, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped mint, 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 1/4 cups self raising flour, a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.

For the sauce: 1 cup sour cream, 1 dessert spoon horseradish cream (buy this in the mustard/condiment section of the supermarket), 1 dessert spoon finely chopped mint, salt and pepper.

Method: Whisk together the eggs, milk, cayenne and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gradually add the flour, to form a smooth batter. You may use more or less flour depending on the size of the eggs - the mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter.

Mash the chickpeas. You can also use a food processor for this, but don't make the mixture too smooth - you want some texture there.

Fold in the zucchini, parmesan, parsley and mint into the batter. Season generously and allow the mixture to stand for 10-15 minutes.

To make the sauce, combine the sauce ingredients and mix well.

Heat a frypan and add some vegetable oil. Spoon the fritter mixture onto the pan and cook until golden. I make these fritters a bit larger than say, corn fritters. I used a couple of spoonfuls of mixture each and they come out the size of a hamburger patty. You can of course make them smaller if you like. Drain them on paper towels and serve right away with the sauce.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

A seafood BBQ

As the weather gets warmer and daylight savings is upon us (YAY!!) it is time to head outside, crank up the BBQ and enjoy some of the fantastic seafood that Australia has to offer. Scallops are in season right now and I couldn't resist picking up a dozen of the flat shelled beauties at the fishmonger on the weekend. They are a great price at the moment and as they are my favourite kind of seafood I will be indulging as often as I can. I also noticed that my fishmonger has started stocking the beautiful Crystal Bay prawns, and picked up a handful to have with the scallops.

I chose to cook the scallops simply on the shell, with a touch of well seasoned garlic butter on the top and a sprinkling of chives. I put them right on the BBQ and used a teaspoon to turn over the scallop flesh in the shell to ensure that they were cooked evenly. They only took a few minutes to cook through. So delicious.

With the prawns, I went for my own version of that Greek taverna favourite Saganaki Prawns. Instead of cooking the prawns in the red sauce, which is how they are usually done - I marinated them first, cooked them on the BBQ for a wonderful char grilled taste and added them to the dish at the last minute. I was really happy with the result - so tasty! We ate ours with warm flatbread to mop up the delicious sauce. I have included the recipe below.

I am in the process of planning the menu for a casual housewarming lunch that Andrew and I are having this Saturday. I am thinking something with a Mediteranean vibe - big robust flavours, spring lamb, vibrant colour and generous serving platters. I will post the results and the menu next week so you can see whta I did. In the meantime, you might want to give my Saganaki Prawns a go.

Grilled scallops with garlic butter and chives

Crystal Bay Saganaki Prawns

To make the Saganaki Prawns.....

You will need:
1 kg shelled raw prawns (I leave the tails on - extra flavour and nice presentation), 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3 cloves crushed garlic, 2 heaped teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, 2 teaspoons minced chilli (more or less, depending on your taste), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 2 cups of your favourite nepolitana sauce  (I put a generous amount of chilli in mine for extra punch, along with fresh oregano and thyme from my garden), 1 tablespoon pitted black olives (I cut mine in half), 1/2 cup crumbled fetta cheese.

To serve:
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley.

Combine the olive oil, garlic, thyme, paprika, chilli, salt and pepper. Marinate the prawns for about 15 minutes. You can also do this overnight if you like.

Heat your BBQ hotplate until it is smoking and cook the prawns, turning often. They will only take a couple of minutes to cook through. Be careful not to overcook the - you want them to be sweet and juicy.

Heat your nepolitana sauce, stir in the olives and pour into a serving dish. Gently fold in 3/4 of the fetta cheese. Add the BBQ prawns and combine them gently in the sauce. Top with the remaining fetta, thyme and parsley. Serve with crusty bread or warmed flat bread to soak up the tasty sauce. Serves 4.

For more info about delicious - and sustainable-  Crystal Bay prawns, check out their website:


Saturday, October 9, 2010

GG's outdoor odyssey

Now that I have an outdoor space and a garden to enjoy, I have started thinking about outdoor cooking. Having access to both a standard BBQ and a Weber gives a lot of options and I plan on doing quite a bit of entertaining as the weather warms up, centered around BBQ and grill style food. There is nothing more delicious than a freshly BBQ'd sausage on a roll as far as I'm concerned, but I'm looking forward to experimenting with taking things a bit further and going beyond your basic chops and sausages.

I am a huge fan of seafood cooked over coals and I think my up and coming food experiments will centre around different seafood dishes (watch this space) but last night I thought I would start my outdoor cooking odyssey with American style pork ribs. The ribs go through two cooking processes - first poached in a liquid flavoured with herbs and spices and then cooked over coals and basted with a delicious sticky BBQ glaze.

The glaze is flavoured primarily with by smoky paprika, garlic, chilli, fresh thyme and maple syrup. It is absolutely delicious and enhances the flavour of the pork beautifully. The pork ribs are great served with corn on the cob and jacket potatoes with sour cream and chives. The recipe below serves 2-4 people depending on how much you want to indulge. If you don't have a BBQ, I have included an alternative cooking method below. The glaze would also work well on chicken wings or skewered prawns, if you aren't a pork fan or if you want a meal that is a bit lighter.

So, here is last night's dinner - and my first attempt at cooking in the GGG (Gourmet Goddess garden) Hope you are inspired to give them a try.

 Twice Cooked Pork Ribs
With smoky chilli maple glaze

You will need: 1kg pork ribs

For the poaching liquid: 2 Bay leaves, 1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns, 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 small peeled roughly chopped onion, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 cloves garlic, water.

For the glaze: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup BBQ sauce, 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon smoky paprika, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dry chilli flakes, 2 teaspoons thyme leaves (I used fresh), a few dashes of Tabasco sauce (ok, I used a bit more than a few dashes because I like my chilli!), 2 tablespoons reserved liquid from the poaching process.

Method: First, place all of the ingredients for the poaching liquid in a large saucepan. Add the pork ribs and cover with water, Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the liquid (you will need this for the glaze).

Remove the pork ribs and allow them to drain and cool.

Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Preheat your BBQ. Place the ribs on the rack/grill section of your BBQ (I used the Weber for this - cooking over coals really adds to the flavour) Cook the ribs for 5 minutes each side without applying any of the glaze.

Now baste the ribs with the glaze and cook for about another 15 minutes, turning and basting often. Watch that the ribs don't burn - move them to a slightly cooler spot on the BBQ if they seem to be darkening too quickly.

Let the ribs rest for 5 minutes before serving. Drizzle any remaining glaze over the ribs.

*Alternative cooking method: If you don't want to do the BBQ thing, the ribs will work well in the oven. After the initial poaching process, you can bake the ribs in a moderate to hot oven for 25 minutes, basting and turning regularly.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Fabulous Fungi - The Best Mushroom Sauce

Well, I am well and truly settled into my new kitchen and despite it being a lot smaller than my last one, it is actually much better designed. I'm enjoying the compact space that still manages to give me a decent amount of bench to work with and also the open plan aspect, so I'm not locked away from my guests as I cook. I'm loving the new house and the new garden. Last weekend we planted a whole range of different types of herbs, including English and continental parsley, chives, rocket, lemongrass, sage, rosemary, thyme, chillies, tarragon, oregano, coriander. We also planted baby cos lettuce, tomatoes and capsicums - as well as lavender, daisies, beautiful purple pansies, red impatiens, bromeliads, ivy, violas and scented climbing jasmine.

We have also added a large hardwood garden setting (thanks EBay) so that we can sit out and enjoy it all. Can't wait to be able to pop out the back and pick my own herbs and veges and to see how the garden changes with the seasons. The soil is chock full of worms and is dark and rich. The yard gets sun all day too, so I think we will do pretty well - fingers crossed. There will be more veges and flowers going in over the coming weeks.

Now to today's recipe. Last night we had a pretty simple Scotch Fillet steak and vegetables (the new seasons broad beans were at the grocer, along with asparagus and small young spring zucchini, so that's what I chose to serve. I just steamed them a little - that's all they needed) but I decided to make my decadent, rich mushroom sauce to accompany the meal. It is quick and easy to make, but isn't your standard mushroom sauce.

The secret to this sauce is the mixture of fresh and dried mushrooms. It gives a wonderful richness and depth of flavour that you just won't get from fresh mushrooms alone. I was lucky enough to come across dried wild mushrooms (a combination including lovely golden Chanterelles, Porcini and Morels) but you could use any kind of dried mushroom. Chinese grocers are a great source of dried mushrooms if you can't find any in your supermarket or gourmet store. I have made this sauce very successfully using the dried Shitake mushrooms that you can get very easily these days.

Feel free to experiment with different varieties of fresh mushrooms too. I used simple button mushrooms this time - but you can use any kind. You could use a mixture of varieties of fresh mushrooms to add more complexity to the sauce. Oyster mushrooms, Swiss Browns, Pines - they will all work beautifully. The only variety I probably wouldn't use are Enoki mushrooms, as they are too delicate for this dish I think.

The recipe below will make enough sauce for 2-4 people depending on how generous you want to be with the servings. You can also make the sauce to serve on toasted woodfired bread. It would make a great vegetarian entree or rich breakfast. This sauce has big flavours and is very rich, so a little will go a long way.

Here's how I served it for diner last night -

Scotch Fillet and Wild Mushroom Sauce
- served with fresh broad beans, asparagus and young zucchini

You will need: A handful dried wild mushrooms, a couple of handfulls sliced fresh mushrooms, 1 cup cream, 3 teaspoons Worchestershire Sauce, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, any juices from the steak (reserved), a couple of teaspoons of chopped parsley or chervil (optional)

Method: Place your dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them soak for about 20mins. Scoop them out and squeeze them gently to remove excess water. Set the dried mushrooms aside.

Cook your steak to your liking and leave it to rest while you make the sauce.

Using the pan that you used to cook your steak, melt the butter. Add the fresh mushrooms and allow them to cook for about a minute. Add the reconstituted dried mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms until they start to brown a little.

Add the cream, mustard and Worchestershire Sauce and combine well. Allow to simmer gently until the sauce starts to thicken. Add any juices from the meat that has been resting and combine well. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve the sauce over the steak with a sprinkling of the fresh herbs.