Sunday, January 31, 2010

Red jewels for dinner....

This morning when I was at the market I was drawn to a basket of beautiful red pomegranate fruit and I decided to make this delicious, tart fruit the centerpiece of tonight's dinner. I just love the beautiful jewel red of the kernels, and the crunch as the seeds explode in your mouth and you get a hit of that gorgeous pomegranate juice. I have ramped up the pomegranate flavour of my dish by also using pomegranate balsamic as a base for the dressing. It you are unable to find this ingredient, try mixing a little pomegranate molasses with a little vinegar. It will be an acceptable substitute for the balsamic.

Pomegranates are used a lot in middle eastern cuisine, so that is my inspiration for tonight's dish. I have combined the flavours of mint, the spice of cumin, cayenne and paprika, the creaminess of whitebeans and organic yoghurt, the crunch of pomegranate and walnuts and teamed them together with fresh scallops and barramundi. One of the real joys of this dish is the fantastic array of textures, as well as the contrasting flavours.

If you think the recipe looks a bit fiddly, don't be put off - although there are a few processes involved they are all very quick. I made this in under half an hour without even trying.

A handy hint for removing the kernels from your pomegranate. (I know some people think they are a bit of a pain in the butt to prepare) Cut the fruit in half. Break it into pieces and put it in a bowl/sink of water. Pull away the pale connective part of the fruit. The ruby red seeds will sink to the bottom and the pith with rise to the top. Skim it off and you are left with perfect kernels.

And before we look at the recipe - a Gourmet Goddess trivia fact - The tattoo you can see a glimpse of in my profile picture includes 5 pomegranates. They are a commonly a symbol for the Goddess in many cultures and pop up as symbols in many different mythologies. And if you look carefully, they are also depicted on the High Priestess Tarot card. See, you are eating fruit with a history!

 Spiced Barramundi and Scallops
with whitebean puree and mint, zucchini and pomegranate salad

You will need:
For the marinade - 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 heaped taspoon paprika, generous pinch cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, salt and pepper

For the bean puree - 1 tin white beans (I used Cannelini) rinsed and well drained, 1 tablespoon thick continental style yoghurt, 1 clove garlic, salt and pepper.

For the salad - 2 medium zucchini sliced thinly, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, 2 tablespoons finely sliced spring onions, 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate kernels, 1 tablespoon roughly chopped walnuts ( I always toast them a little in a dry pan first - it makes them crunchier and nuttier)

For the dressing: 2 tablespoons pomegranate balsamic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, pinch salt, pepper, 2 teaspoons warm water.

Plus 1 small piece of Barramundi per person, 3 Scallops per person

Method: First, combine the marinade ingredients. Cut the fish into large chunks, add the fish and the scallops to the mixture, mix well and set aside.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.

Combine the bean puree ingredients in a food processor and blend until creamy. Set aside.

In a grill pan, cook the zucchini on both sides, until it starts to colour. Allow them to cool a little before mixing them with all of the salad ingredients.

Now cook the fish and scallops - be sure not to overcook them. Scallops literally take about 20 seconds a side. The fish will vary according to how thick it is, but it should only be a minute or so a side, if the pieces aren't too large. Allow the seafood to rest for at least 5 minutes before assembling the dish.

Now you are ready to put the dish together - start with a few spoonfuls of the puree, then combine the salad ingredients and the dressing in a seperate bowl. When combined, put a pile on top of the puree. Top with the seafood. Drizzle over any juices from the seafood and serve right away.

Serves 2 - 4 people.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Spice Girls

Tonight's recipe is the result of another request from friends, who asked for a spicy beef salad that they could enjoy with the steamy hot weather we have been experiencing here in Sydney over the last few days. There is a very good reason that the hottest countries consume lots of chilli and their request made complete culinary sense given the season and the weather. So, Susan and Mary-Lou, spice girls that you are - this one is for you :)

This dish is very easy to throw together and it is also very versatile. Feel free to use spring onion instead of red onion, add sliced butter lettuce, a handful of bean sprouts or some snow peas if the mood takes you. If you want something a bit more substantial, then include some cooked rice noodles or vermicelli. Add bucketloads of chilli or just a touch and adjust the dressing to just how you like it - the measurements I have given are a starting point. I personally think this dish really works best with a decent amount of heat to it, but that's just me - I never feel I'm having a proper chilli experience unless I'm getting a bit of a sweat on :)

The key to this dish is to use super fresh ingredients - particularly the herbs. And please, if you don't have fresh limes, use fresh lemon. Don't be tempted by that hideous faux "lime juice" in the garish green bottles that you can buy on supermarket shelves. It is the work of Satan. Resist at all costs!!! I used topside steak for the recipe today, but if you are feeling a bit posh, then you can use fillet or another more premium cut. I personally think rump or topside is just fine though. It has a lot of flavour and as long as it is rested, it is succulent and tender. I cooked the meat in my grill pan, but of course if you have a BBQ, then it is perfect cooked that way. Actually, if I had a BBQ, that would be my preferred cooking method.

Okay, enough chit chat - here is tonight's dinner.....

Spicy Beef Salad

You will need:
For the salad: 500g rump or topside steak, 1 large lebanese cucumber deseeded and sliced, 1/2 finely sliced red onion, 1 small red capsicum or large bullhorn chilli deseeded and sliced, handful of cherry tomatoes sliced , handful of mint torn into pieces, bunch of coriander chopped roughly.

For the marinade: 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1/2 tablepoon fish sauce (nam pla), 1 tablespoon palm sugar, pepper.

For the dressing: 3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla), Juice of 1 lime, 1 clove crushed garlic, 1 tablespoon palm sugar, 1-3 chopped red chillies ( I used 3 - I like it spicy)

To serve: 1 tablespoon roasted unsalted peanuts crushed roughly, wedges of lime

Method: Combine the marinade ingredients and add the meat. Season generously with pepper. Cover and allow to marinate for at least 30mins (Overnight is even better)

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Taste for seasoning and add more chilli, pepper or sugar if required. Set aside.

Heat a grill pan until hot and cook the steak in one piece for about 3 minutes each side. I like my meat fairly rare, but if you prefer your meat a little more done, then allow another few minutes. Remove the meat from the pan and allow if to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.

While the meat is resting, assemble the cucumber, capsicum, tomato, coriander, red onion and mint on a serving platter or individual plates.

Slice the steak into reasonably thick slices, being sure to cut across the grain. This will make for a much more tender result. Toss the meat through the salad ingredients and drizzle with the dressing. Serve topped with peanuts, a wedge of lime - and if you are a chilli masochist, extra chilli.

Serves 2-4 people


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tart with a heart

I had to cook something this week to take to a work morning tea, and given my general aversion to sweet things I decided to bake something savoury. I pretty much used what I had on hand and just grabbed some pre rolled shortcrust pastry from the store on the way home to create a savoury, "sort of middle eastern" style tart. I had some pistachio and pine nuts that were due to be used too, so I incorporated them to make a lovely nutty crust. The tart proved to be popular with my colleagues, so it all worked well. This dish would be a great picnic dish and can be made a day ahead. It is rustic and boldly flavoured - not a delicate little quiche but something vivid and gutsy.

This tart uses a spice that some of you may not be overly familiar with - Sumac is a spice used extensively in middle eastern cuisines. It comes in the form of vivid red/burgandy berries that are ground and the outer skin removed and has a unique, sweet, lemony, tangy flavour. I love the fresh zingy taste it brings to grilled meat, dressings and pies. Good quality ground sumac should be deep red to burgandy in colour. It is now reasonably easy to source - I think even some of the bigger supermarkets are stocking it these days, but of course any middle eastern deli will have it for sure. If you have never tried it, give it a go - it is a great addition to your spice cupboard.

And now, to the dish itself.......

Pumpkin, pinenut and pistachio tart with sumac

You will need: 1 large sheet pre rolled shortcrust pastry, 5 eggs, 2 tablespoons milk, 2 cups diced cooked pumpkin, 2 large onions, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, 1 tabspoon pine nuts, 1 tablespoon pistachio nuts, 200g crumbled fetta cheese, 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1 heaped teaspoon sumac, 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes, splash of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Method: Line a 30cm quiche dish with baking paper. Press in the rolled pastry into the dish, trim any rough edges and then lay another sheet of baking paper over the top. Tip in a pile of baking weights (you can get these from cookware stores) or improvise and use dry rice or beans to weigh the paper down. Bake blind for 15 minutes, until the base is cooked through. You want it to be firm so that you don't end up with a soggy base, once the filling is in. Once the base is cooked, remove the baking paper and set the tart aside.

While the base is cooking, Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan. Add the sliced onions and sautee them for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, chilli and sumac and cook for another 5 minutes. Now add the cooked pumpkin and stir it through.

Beat the eggs, milk and plenty of salt and pepper together. Set aside.

Crumble half of the fetta and cheddar over the base of the tart, then tip in the filling ingredients. Top with the remaining cheeses, pine nuts and pistachios. Pour the egg mixture into the base and then top with the fresh chives.

Bake in a moderate oven until lightly golden on top and the egg mixture is just set. This will take around 25 minutes. Allow the tart to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into it. Serve warm or cold.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dinner with friends

Last night I hosted my first dinner at home for 2010 and I decided that I wanted something with big flavours that would be good for sharing around my living room table. Although I do have a small dining room (a converted second bedroom that I figured would get more use as a place to dine) I often serve dinner around my oversized coffee table. It makes for a much more chilled out atmosphere and we can all just lounge around without the formality of a dining room. The menu I put together for my guests was heavily influenced by spanish cuisine, starting with a whole selection of tapas style dishes that were served with warm crusty bread and plenty of wine. I followed this with a big bowl of fresh local mussels, a grilled vegetable salad and the chicken dish I cooked earlier in the week (I told you that it freezes well!) For dessert, I took advantage of the beautiful white peaches that are in season right now, and poached them in a vanilla and orange blossom water syrup. I served them with some double cream and topped them with some Pomona glace oranges.

I tried something new last night - I have seen various kinds of stuffed chillies served as part of a tapas selection and also in mexican and asian menus and I always like the idea of them. I made up my own recipe, which comprised of chorizo, breadcrumbs, garlic,and a touch of passata to moisten the mixture. I whizzed this all in the food processor and then split and de-seeded the chillies and filled them with the mixture. They were then put in a hot oven drizzled with olive oil for about half an hour. They were spectacularly good - smoky and melty and sexy. I swear I could eat a huge plate of them without stopping, they were so moreish. Perfect as a snack with beer but also great as a tapas/antipasto option. My only regret was not making a lot of them! I will be featuring these in many a menu in the future I think.

Here are some pretty pictures of what was on offer at Casa Gourmet Goddess last night.....

Warm mixed marinated olives, Green Sicilian olives, Chorizo stuffed chillies

From left: Grilled haloumi with lemon, Mixed chorizo (chicken and pork),
cheese stuffed peppers, red figs with proscuitto

Paprika crusted squid with aioli

Grilled vegetable salad with pomegranate balsamic dressing

Chicken with capers and olives

Steamed mussels with rich tomato and garlic butter sauce

Poached white peaches with orange blossom water and vanilla syrup

PS: Before I sign off, I have to thank Justin and Marek for treating us to a couple of bottles of my favourite fizz, Veuve Clicquot to kick off the evening in fine style. Thanks boys XX


Saturday, January 9, 2010

By special request....

Here at Gourmet Goddess we are all about satisfying the culinary cravings of those we care about, so this week when my friend and fellow food lover - the lovely Emily - asked me if I had a recpe for a mediterranean style chicken casserole dish, I promised her that I would whip one up on the weekend and post the recipe. This chicken dish I have chosen is very rustic and the flavours are bold, with the addition of fennel, olives and capers. The sauce also contains anchovies. Now, if you hate anchovies, don't go all skittish on me (you are already screwing up your nose, aren't you??) Anchovies add a beautiful piquant quality to the sauce and I promise you that it won't taste even remotely fishy. They really do add something special to the dish, so don't be tempted to leave them out. I really love capers in a whole range of dishes and they really work well with mediterranean flavours. Generally I prefer to use the salted capers - you just need to rinse the salt off them before use. If you can only get the ones in vinegar, that's fine - just drain them well. The smaller capers are much nicer than the really large ones too, so look out for the smaller "baby" capers.

This dish can be made ahead and is actually even more delicious the next day. Perfect for entertaining if you want a "set and forget" meal that will not keep you away from your guests. It is also ideal for freezing, which is what I am doing with the batch I've made tonight. It is gorgeous as a pie filling too. Put the mixture in a dish or in individual ramekins and whack some puff pastry on the top. Cook until the pastry is puffed and golden and presto! Mediterranean chicken pie. This casserole is lovely with polenta, green vegetables such as broad beans or zucchini or with crusty, garlic grilled bread.

So, here you are Em - hope you enjoy this one....

Mediterranean chicken with olives and capers

You will need: 1kg boneless chicken thighs, 2 tablespoons plain flour, 2 tablespoons mild paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 2 large onions, 1 small fennel bulb, 4 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup roughly chopped pitted olives (I used a mixture of red and green), 1 tablespoon capers, 1 bay leaf, 4 anchovies finely chopped, olive oil, 1 litre chicken stock, 1 tin crushed tomatoes, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Method: Trim the excess fat from the chicken thighs and if the chicken thighs are all in one large piece when you buy them, cut them in two. Combine the plain flour, cayenne, a generous amount of black pepper and 1 tablespoon of the paprika - coat the chicken well in that mixture. Heat some olive oil in a casserole dish on the stovetop and brown the chicken till golden, a few pieces at a time. Don't overcrowd the pan - you want to brown the chicken at this stage, not stew it. Put the chicken aside.

Slice the onion and fennel (only use the white part of the fennel bulb). Heat a splash of olive oil in the pan and cook the fennel and onion until it starts to soften. Add the bay leaf, garlic, anchovies, olives and capers and combine well. Add the chicken, stock, tomatoes, balsamic and 1 tablespoon paprika. Bring to a simmer and then cover the pan and transfer it to a moderate oven.

Cook for 1 hour with the lid on, stirring a few times during the cooking. After the 1 hour mark, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if required. Turn the oven up high and cook the chicken for another 20 minutes so that the sauce reduces furter before serving. Serves 4-6 people.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Creature Comforts

I went back to work today after a few days off over the Christmas break and it's been a crazy day.  Launching yourself back into a hectic work schedule after a few days of lazing around the house, reading books in your pajamas all day and having a nanna nap every afternoon is a shock to say the least. I knew it would be a challenging day, so food wise I made sure I did all the right things - healthy, fibre filled breakfast? Check. Wholegrains and veges for lunch? Check. Fresh fruit to snack on? Check. Drinking 2 litres of water instead of coffee? Check. Now it's dinner time and I wanted to continue the healthy theme, as well as having something filling and comforting.

Soup would have to be one of the most comforting dishes ever, and I really love Asian clear broth based soups. They manage to be comforting without being too heavy and have a lovely flavour as well as freshness. The soup I'm sharing with you today is one that I like to make if I am feeling tired and run down, or if I feel like I'm coming down with a cold. It tastes so damn good and is so, so healthy. If you ever doubted that food is medicine, then this will change your mind on the subject. I swear that I always feel great after I've eaten it. I like to add a fair whack of fresh chilli to it, but of course you can adapt it to your taste. The dish contains dried Shiitake mushrooms that you can purchase at any Asian grocer. They are a great ingredient to have in the pantry - they keep indefinitely and have a knockout flavour. (Just soak them in water before use) They are also used extensively in Chinese medicine and can be brewed as a tea and consumed as a tonic. The broth in today's recipe is also flavoured with fresh ginger and star anise, which makes it deliciously fragrant.

The amount below is enough for 1-2 people, depending on how hungry you are. If you are super starving, noodles would be a nice addition. If you are a vego, you can leave the chicken out and use vegetable stock instead. You could also add some tofu if you wanted to. This whole dish took about 20mins to throw together, thanks to the use of purchased stock. Of course you can make your own stock if you have time - tonight, I used the supermarket stock option. I've been a bit general with the amounts in the recipe - just add as much or as little of the ingredients as you feel like. It is a very forgiving dish.

Asian Chicken & Mushroom Broth

You will need:
For the broth 500ml (2 cups) chicken stock, 1 star anise, a thumb sized piece of ginger sliced.
For the rest 1 chicken thigh- trimmed of fat and sliced into strips, 6 dried Shiitake mushrooms (soak them in warm water until soft and then slice them. If the stalks are a bit hard, cut them off), coriander, fresh chilli, bok choy, handful of sliced spring onion, red chilli, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, pepper.

Method: First, make the broth. Heat the stock and add the ginger, sliced mushrooms and star anise. Simmer for 10mins and set aside.

Combine the chicken and sesame oil and season with pepper. Heat a wok or pan and stir fry quickly till cooked through. Add the bok choy and cook until it starts to wilt.

Arrange the chicken, bok choy, coriander, spring onion in the serving bowl. Pour over the broth and mushrooms. Top with extra coriander and chilli and serve right away.