Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Moroccan Lamb Loveliness

I love the rich aromas that cooking a Moroccan inspired dish creates and today's delight is full of spices that will stimulate your taste buds and make your kitchen smell like a spice market. This dish uses delicious Australian lamb, warm, aromatic spices, salty fetta cheese and fresh herbs as a filling for flaky filo rolls. As always, the spice amounts are only a guide. You may want to add a truckload of chilli or just a touch. You may not be a fan of fresh coriander - then substitute some continental parsley. Just taste as you go until you get a flavour balance you are happy with.

The lamb mixture should be cold when you make your rolls, or the pastry will melt and fall apart and it will be a big hassle to handle. I recommend making the mixture well ahead (even the day before) to ensure that you get the best results. These rolls (uncooked) will freeze well - just put a layer of baking paper between them if you are stacking them in layers into containers. Although I used filo pastry, you could substitute puff pastry if filo is hard for you to get hold of.

These are very moreish and tasty, so give them a try.....

You will need: 1 pack Filo pastry, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons poppy seeds,1/2 cup melted butter, 500g lamb mince, 1 large finely chopped red onion, 1/2 cup finely diced celery, 4 cloves finely chopped garlic, 2 cups diced cooked pumpkin (cooked until just soft, not too mushy), 1 cup crumbled fetta cheese, 1/2 cup chopped mint, 1 bunch fresh coriander, 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli, 1/2 tablespoon coriander powder, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, a pinch of cinnamon, pepper, salt, a splash of olive oil.

Method: Add a splash of olive oil to a pan and cook the onion, garlic and celery until soft. Add the chilli, coriander powder, paprika, cumin, nutmeg and cinnamon and cook for about a minute. Add the lamb mince and cook it until browned. When it is done, remove from the heat.

Allow the lamb mixture to cool, then stir through the pumpkin, fetta, fresh mint and fresh coriander. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as required. Once the lamb mixture is completely cold, it is ready to use to make you filo rolls/parcels.

Unroll your packet of filo and cut it in half. Each roll will take 3-4 individual sheets. Brush each sheet with a little butter until you have a few layers, place a tablespoon of the lamb mixture onto the pastry and roll up to form a parcel.

When you are done, place the rolls on a greased or lined baking tray. Beat together the 2 eggs and a couple of teaspoons of water. Brush the rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle with the poppyseeds.

Bake in a moderate oven for 20-30 mins, until golden brown.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You say tomato... I say bruschetta!

I came across some particularly gorgeous looking baby Roma tomatoes when I was at the greengrocer the other day and they were the inspiration for today's recipe. Very simple but just so delicious -  and perfect for a light lunch, an entree or finger food (if you want to scale it down to smaller pieces). Try to have your tomatoes at room temperature for this dish (or any dish for that matter) as the natural flavour and sweetness of the fruit is much more pronounced. If you don't believe me, try eating a tomato right out of the fridge and then one that has been sitting in the fruit bowl for an hour and you will see what I mean.

This bruschetta is made extra delicious with the addition of Fontina cheese, slices of proscuitto and fresh thyme. Use any cheese you like - even some crumbled feta or soft goat cheese would work well. Don't even consider making this unless the tomatoes are fabulous. I find that often the small cherry tomato are tastier than a lot of the larger tomatoes in supermarkets, so if the larger ones don't inspire you, then check out the smaller varieties. And if you are lucky enough to grow your own tomatoes, then you are well and truly sorted!

Roma tomato bruschetta with proscuitto and fontina cheese

So, what did I do?
I'm not bothering too much with precise measurements here - just use as much bread and tomatoes as you need for the number of people you want to feed and taste as you go. Easy.

Chop the tomatoes and combine with a handful of fresh parsley. Add some fresh thyme (remove the woody stalks so there are soft leaves only), a splash of good extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Taste and add more salt and pepper if required. (Try not to add too much oil or vinegar - you don't want the tomato mixture to have too much moisture)

Now, in a cup,  mix some fresh thyme and a couple of cloves of minced garlic with olive oil. Lightly toast sliced rustic style bread - sourdough or ciabiatta is ideal. Then, brush both sides of the bread with the oil. Top with a slice of the cheese and a slice of proscuitto. Pop in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the cheese has just melted. (I prefer it when the cheese is not browned, but do whatever you prefer)

Top with the tomato mixture, freshly ground pepper and a little extra fresh thyme. Serve right away. Delicious!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A new GG Winter creation

Regular readers will recall that when I was Paris recently, I had the opportunity to cook rabbit - a meat I really love and one that I think is overlooked and underused in Australia. The meat is very lean, beautifully tasty and really lends itself to a flavoursome and comforting winter dish. I came up with this recipe a couple of weekends ago when I was spending the weekend on the Central Coast of New South Wales and purchased a wild rabbit. I decided to create something new that satisfied my desire for comfort food. What I came up with was this slow braised rabbit, flavoured with herbs, mushrooms, eschallots, bacon and proscuitto - and given a bit of zing with a touch Dijon mustard and a splash of dry vermouth. The result was just delicious - the sauce is to die for. Don't waste it - I served the dish with super creamy potato mash so that we got every last drop.

Look, if you are a bit skittish about eating rabbit (and I know many people are) you could easily do this with skinless chicken pieces as a substitute. But - if you have never eaten rabbit, this would be a great way to give it a try. I have used wild rabbit in my recipe - it tends to have a stronger flavour - but you will mostly find that rabbits sold in Australia are farmed and will have milder tasting flesh. Check with your butcher who will be able to tell you whether yours is the farmed kind of one of the wild ones. I bought my rabbit skinless, gutted and whole (with the kidneys left in) - I preferred to butcher it myself now that I know how, after learning when I was in France - but your butcher can do it for you if you would rather not.

I made my own Bouquet Garni to flavour this recipe (instructions below) but if you really can't be bothered, you can buy Bouquet Garni sachets from the supermarket - although I can't promise that the herbal flavour will be as nice as using the fresh product, it should still be ok.

This style of dish is even better if you make it the day before you want to serve it - it allows the flavours to develop further and is perfect for entertaining. Make it when you have time and then just reheat when your guests arrive. This will freeze well too. I used a heavy cast iron/enamel pan to cook my rabbit dish - something that can go from stovetop to oven is ideal. Who wants to fiddle around with extra pots? I don't. So here it is, served with buttery mash....

GG slow braised rabbit with mushrooms, bacon and proscuitto

You will need: 1 whole rabbit (I used a wild one for this recipe but most that you buy these days will be farmed), 1 cup diced celery, 1 cup diced carrot, 1 cup sliced leeks, 10-15 whole peeled eschallots, 10-15 button mushrooms, 4 slices roughly chopped proscuitto, 3 slices roughly chopped streaky bacon with the rind removed, 3 or 4 cloves garlic, 2 bay leaves, 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme, 6-8 sprigs parsley(with stalks), kitchen twine (to tie up the herbs with), a square of muslin or cheesecloth about 12cm square, 1L chicken stock, 1/3 cup dry Vermouth, 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard, a generous splash of olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, salt and pepper.

First, you will need to cut the rabbit into 6 pieces. Remove the front and back legs (with the thigh attached) and set them aside. Now remove the large fleshy part that remains at the back end of the rabbit (this is the "saddle"). Cut this into two halves. The rest of the rabbit/bones can be frozen for use in making stock another time - it will have very little meat on it. Before you do though, have a look inside the cavity - if your butcher has left the kidneys attached, gently cut them off and dice them finely. They will add to the lovely layers of flavour in the dish. If they have already been removed, no problem - the dish will still work well. And of course, if the thought of trying to butcher a rabbit is a bit much - ask your butcher to do it for you!

Now, make the Bouquet Garni - take the parsley, thyme and bay leaves, place them in the cloth and tie them up in a bundle securely with a piece of kitchen twine.

Season the rabbit pieces with pepper and a bit of salt. Heat a generous splash of olive oil in the pan and brown the rabbit pieces in batches of 3. Remove the rabbit from the pan and set aside. Add the bacon and proscuitto, chopped kidneys (if used) leeks, carrots, celery and escallots to the pan and allow to cook for about 5 minutes. Now add the garlic and Bouquet Garni and cook for another 5 minutes. Splash in the Vermouth and allow it to bubble up, realising all those lovely precious caramelised bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add the stock and stir it in well. Cover the pan and bake in a moderate oven for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every half an hour or so. If the dish is drying out too much, add a bit of water to the pan.

Add the mushrooms, Dijon mustard and butter and allow to cook for at least another 1/2 hour. to 45mins. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve with creamy mash and a sprig of fresh thyme.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gourmet Goddess Newsflash!!

Hi Gourmet Goddess readers

I wanted to share some very happy news with you all and announce that on Friday, my partner Andrew asked me to marry him. I of course, promptly burst into tears and said yes! As well as a huge smile on my face I am now also sporting a beautiful white gold and diamond engagement ring.

We are both absolutely thrilled and have spent the weekend sharing the news with loved ones and celebrating (which, for wine buffs,  included a 1975 vintage bottle of Grange -Thanks to my gorgeous inlaws, Kate and Peter! Amazing) We are looking forward to a late April/early May wedding in 2011, followed by a honeymoon in Paris.

So, it looks like the Gourmet Goddess kitchen has found a permanent Sous Chef! I am happy to report that my future husband can cook (the first thing he ever cooked for me was a superb beef wellington) and has asked me to assure GG readers that he isn't just marrying me for my cooking :)

And no..... I will not be catering my own wedding. Although I have to admit I did think about it - but only for a moment!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Comfort food - old school style

It has been rather chilly here in Sydney and nothing is nicer in the cold weather than a really hearty, old fashioned soup. My original plan was to make a soup based on vegetables, barley and ham hocks - but when I went to the butcher they had run out of ham hocks (everyone else in the neighbourhood must have had a hankering for soup making too) The lovely butcher suggested he cut me some pieces of osso bucco as an alternative and that it would work really well with the barley.

Well, the lesson here ladies and gentlemen, is listen to the butcher. He was dead right, and this soup turned out beautifully. Absolutely bursting with flavour, full of delicious nutty tasting barley and lots of veges. Not only was it tasty, warming and satisfying - it was also super healthy. I cooked the soup for around 3 hours, so it isn't one to whip up after work or when you are in a hurry. It does however, freeze beautifully, so do a big batch on the weekend and freeze it in portions to have whenever you fancy.

I love the addition of silverbeet to this soup - please note that we are talking silverbeet here (the big tall dark green leaved stuff with the white stalks. Also known as Chard) not English spinach. English spinach is far too delicate for this super robust dish. If you really hate silverbeet, then just leave it out - but I love my greens and I think it really adds extra flavour and texture to this soup. I also prefer the soup to be quite thick, but add more stock or water if you prefer it a bit lighter. I was so happy with the addittion of the osso bucco to this soup I will be doing it this way from now on. Try it and see if you agree....

Beef and barley soup

You will need: 2 medium carrots, 1 parsnip, 1 leek (use only the white part), 2 brown onions, 3 or 4 stalks of celery, 1 bunch silverbeet, 2 medium potatoes, 3 pieces of beef osso bucco (with the bone still attached of course! You want that precious marrow), 1 cup dried barley, 2 litres beef stock (I just used the commercial kind from the supermarket, but if you have homemade stock, then use it), 3 cloves garlic, 2 bay leaves, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 bunch fresh continental parsley, a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.

Method: Wash the carrots, parsnip and potatoes thoroughly. Leaving the skins on, (more flavour and more vitamins!) dice them into pieces 1-2 cm in size. If you want super chunky soup, then by all means cut them bigger. Now cut your celery into pieces, around the same size as your other veges. Set your veges aside.

Cut the really thick white stalks from the silverbeet and then slice the green part - you can cut it quite thickly as it will shrink a lot once you cook it. Set the silverbeet aside. Slice the leeks, dice your onions and finely chop the garlic.

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions, leek and garlic and cook them on a medium heat until they are soft and slightly transparent. Add the carrot, parsnip, potato, celery, bay leaves, cayenne pepper and  season with a generous pinch of salt. Cook the veges for about 10 mins, stirring regularly so they do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the osso bucco and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the beef stock and top the pot up with water so that it only leaves about 3 fingers width of space between the liquid level and the top of the pot. Cover the pot until it comes to the boil and then turn it down to a very gentle simmer. Allow to simmer like this, stirring occasionally for about 2 hours.

After 2 hours, add the barley and stir it in well. Simmer for a further 45 minutes and then add the silverbeet. Let the soup cook for another 15 mins or so. If it gets too thick, just add some hot water. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as required.

By this stage most of the meat - if not all - should have fallen off the bones. Remove the meat and bones and chop any larger pieces of the meat into smallish pieces. If there is still marrow in the bones, then remove it and chop it up too. Return all of the meat (minus the bones) to the pot.

Just before serving, chop up the fresh parsley and fold it through the soup, keeping a little in reserve to put on the top. Serve with crusty bread.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Frenchified Fish

As you would all be aware, I recently returned from a stint in Paris where I was lucky enough to not only indulge in some beautiful French food and produce, but to also attend cooking school there. I learned a lot in the process and today I would like to share a dish inspired by my time there that also uses a brilliant technique for cooking fish that is so simple - but yields the most superb results.

This cooking principle uses a bed of fresh herbs on which to cook the fish, so that it is not only cooked gently and away from a direct heat source (thus retaining all the moisture and flavour) but also giving the fish the most goregous fresh aroma and taste of the herbs at the same time. The method is fast and simple and I swear that once you try it, you will be as blown away by the result as I was! This is how fish is meant to taste. You could use whatever fish you wanted to, but don't choose fillets that are too thin or fragile. I used Jewfish (Mulloway) for my version today. In Paris we used large Bream fillets. Just choose what you like and what looks super fresh. I am keen to try this technique with salmon too - I think it would be beautiful. If any of you do try the salmon option, let me know how you go.

I chose to serve my fish with a rich and creamy gratin of fennel and cauliflower and a wedge of lemon. It would also be great with mash and asparagus, or even just a simple salad of endive for a lighter option. But however you serve it, I promise it will be the juiciest most delicious fish you've ever tasted. This cooking technique is that good.

French style baked Jewfish with fresh herbs
and fennel and cauliflower gratin

For the fish:
You will need: 1 piece of fish per person - use fish that is reasonably thick and not too delicate.
1 bunch each of continental parsley, tarragon and dill - plus salt, olive oil, lemon to serve.

First, line a shallow baking tray with foil or baking paper and preheat the oven to about 220C.

Take the fish fillets and ensure that there are no bones embedded in the flesh. If there are, remove them with tweezers (the cheffy term for this is called "pin boning") Cut them into individual portions if necessary and cut each piece across the skin in 3 places. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and set it aside.

Tear all the leaves off the herbs and discard any tough stalks. Chop the herbs roughly and combine well. Drizzle the baking tray with olive oil and then pile the herbs in a thick pile/layer straight onto the tray.

Rub the fish on both sides with olive oil and salt. Place skin side up onto the layer of herbs and drizzle with a little extra olive oil. Bake in the oven for 6 - 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. It should be super moist so be careful not to overcook it. Allow to sit for 2 minutes on the tray before serving (be sure to scoop up the fresh herbs with the fish so that these can also be enjoyed) Serve with a slice of lemon.

For the gratin:
You will need:
1 fennel bulb - green part removed and cut into thick slices, 1 small or half a large cauliflower cut into florets, 2 tablespoons salted butter, One and a half tablespoons plain flour, 3 cups milk, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg,1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.

Place the cauliflower in a pot of salted water and cook until just soft enough to easily stick a knife through. Add the fennel and cook for about 2 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and fennel and place in an ovenproof dish. Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and when it starts to foam, add the plain flour. Stir it in well, to make a roux. I use a whisk for this - it means you can remove any lumps that might appear in the sauce quickly and easily. Let the roux cook for a minute or two (you want to cook the flour well, but be careful not to let it brown. If it does, start again!) Add half of the milk and whisk quickly and thoroughly. Keep whisking and gradually add the rest of the milk. Dont be insipid with your whisking - put your back into it - you don't want lumps!

Let the sauce cook for a few minutes, until it thickens to a custard like consistencey. Add salt, pepper and the nutmeg and cook for another minute. Pour over the cauliflower and fennel. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and bake for about 30 minutes until the crust is golden. Let it rest out of the oven for 10 minutes before serving.