Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dinner? Get Stuffed.

Apparently necessity is the mother of invention and today's recipe is the result of a 7.30 Tuesday night "what will we have for dinner" crisis. There was not a whole lot in the fridge to choose from and I was not inclined to go to the trouble of defrosting something from the freezer, so I decided to see if I could make something tasty with the bits and pieces we had. The ingredient that really leapt out at me were 6 beautiful large Portobello mushrooms, almost as big as rice bowls. They certainly looked like they should be containing something, so I took stock of the fridge and settled on a stuffing based on a small amount of left over minced chicken, herbs and  breadcrumbs.

The whole dish took just over half an hour from beginning to end, and the result was so delicious that I thought it warranted sharing with you all. The large mushrooms had a delicious rich flavour and the freshness of well seasoned, herbed stuffing was a great contrast to the earthiness of the mushrooms. I would not attempt this recipe with small, button mushrooms - it requires the strong flavour of the large tastier varieties to pull it off I think. Is it just me, or do those little button mushrooms taste like nothing?

You could easily adapt this recipe according to whatever you have around - other herbs, maybe some finely chopped spinach, bacon, pine nuts, a touch of lemon rind. You could also substitute the chicken mince for pork or beef. However you make it, be sure to season your stuffing mixture well and choose large, fresh and firm mushrooms.

Here they are......

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
with balsamic and olive oil

You will need: 6 large Portobello or field mushrooms, 1 cup raw minced chicken, 1/2 cup mozzerella cheese, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon chopped continental parsley, 1 tablespoon thinly sliced spring onion, 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs, 1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard, about a teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon (thyme would work too),pinch of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to serve.

Preheat your oven to 200C. Now, gently twist off and remove the stalks from the mushrooms. Chop them finely and place in a bowl with the chicken, mozzerella, garlic, parsley, spring onion, breadcrumbs, mustard and tarragon. Sesaon with a pinch of cayenne pepper and plenty of salt and pepper. Combine the mixture very well (using your hands is best for this)

Press a generous amount of the filling into each of the mushrooms. Place them on a baking tray and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cook for about 25 minutes. allow the mushrooms to rest for a few minutes before serving.

To serve, drizzle over the pan juices and some extra olive oil over the mushrooms and also add a few drops of balsamic vinegar to the plate. It combines with the juices from the mushrooms and the oil to make a delicious dressing.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

An express Asian feast, dreams - and who stole my quails!!

Evening eveyone. I am happy to report that I am pretty much over this illness and that I am feeling almost normal again. Boy did that flu knock me out! I am not at all prone to sickness, so it was a bit of shock to be forced to pretty much take to my bed for two weeks. Not my idea of a good time, I can tell you! AND it kept me out of the kitchen!

As well as my flu symptoms, this sickness has been giving me some seriously crazy ass dreams too - the most amusing (and food related) being that I had dreamt I was competing in a cross between Masterchef and Iron Chef and it was a French themed challenge. I had this gorgeous quail dish worked out and all was going well, until someone stole my quails. How very dare they! I was bordering on hysteria, running up to strangers demanding that they give back my quails immediately, while the rest of my side dishes overcooked on the stove. When I woke up from the dream my heart was actually pounding, but would you believe it - I remembered my recipe for the quail dish! Now, I've never been inspired to cook a dish by a dream before, but I fully intend to turn the French quail dish into reality in the GG kitchen very soon. Many thanks to my kooky subconscious for the recipe idea - but do any of you dream interpreters know what it means when you dream about stolen game birds? Anyhoo.....

So it's Sunday night, my appetite is back after nearly 2 weeks with the flu and my tastebuds have a hankering for something with an Asian flavour. I also didn't want anything that was going to keep me away from the heater and the couch for too long (it's freezing!) I did toy with the idea of a sneaky Chinese home delivery, but instead I checked out the fridge and the pantry and came up with an easy Asian tasting plate that I managed to throw together in about 40 minutes. The result was three simple dishes - some fish, some greens, and some tofu - served with a couple of warming bowls of miso and seaweed soup on the side (not pictured - sorry, I completely forgot to photograph them, but they were your garden variety, instant Miso soups) Very yummy and a perfect accompaniment to any Asian meal.

I really love the concept of tasting plates - I like the sharing aspect, as well as the fact that you get to have a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Variety and generosity is good. Tasting plates also look great, providing a lovely visual contrast of colours and textures. They are a great way to entertain too, allowing everyone to just help themselves - and any of those pesky, fussy eaters to pick away at what they like and leave what they don't. 

Tonight's recipes are so simple and fast that I have just written them below in note form. Feel free to modify them to suit you. Here is what we shared for dinner on this chilly winter Sunday night, rugged up on the couch.....

Sunday Night Asian Tasting Plate
Crispy Seasame Barramundi with Wasabi Mayonnaise, Sugar Snap Peas with Sesame Oil and Soy Dressing, Fried Spiced Coriander and Pepper Tofu with Chilli Sauce


For the Barramundi - I simply dusted the Barramundi with seasoned flour, dipped them in lightly beaten egg and then coated them in a mixture of 1/2 Panko breadcrumbs (you will find these in any Asian grocery store) and 1/2 sesame seeds. I then shallow fried the fish in peanut oil. The Wasabi mayo was just a couple of tablespoons of good quality aoli (garlic mayonnaise) I had in the fridge, mixed through with a generous amount of Wasabi paste. It can be as mild or as hot as you fancy.

For the Sugar Snap Peas - I steamed these for about a minute in the microwave and drizzled them with a couple of teaspoons each of soy sauce and sesame oil just before serving. I seasoned them with cracked pepper and sesame seeds to finish them off.

For the Tofu - I pounded together 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon of Szechuan pepper, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns and 1 teaspoon sea salt. When it was finely ground, I added it to 2 tablespoons of plain flour and mixed it well. I tossed the cubed tofu in the flour and then shallow fried it until it started to turn golden and puffy.

While the tofu was still warm, I tossed through some chilli sauce, a squeeze of lime juice, a tablespoon of spring onion and seasoned well with salt and pepper. That's it - dinner!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A cup of tea, a Bex and a nice lie down....

Evening all - just wanted to check in and apologise for there being no new Gourmet Goddess entries for the last couple of weeks. Alas I have been struck down with a positively vile flu which I am just now recovering from. I've hardly been grocery shopping let alone getting into the kitchen, but I promise once my energy and appetite return I will have lots of tasty treats in store.

Anyway, for now I'm taking my medicine, resting, rugging up, consuming copious amounts of herbal tea and laying low. Hope to meet you all back here in about a week. Thinking of new recipe ideas as we speak!

In the meantime, be sure to take extra care of yourselves and stay healthy - we are in the midst of flu season and this one is nasty.

Love GG XX


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Get me to the Greek!

Eggplant has been around for a long time - apparently it has been grown in various forms since pre-history and is a member of the nightshade family, closely related to the potato and the tomato. It is a technically a fruit and comes in a large variety of shapes, colours and sizes - black, purple, white and green or even lilac.They can be almost as big as your head, or as small as a baby pea. Eggplant will soak up any other flavours that you put with it, so it is great in curries, stews or coated in a marinade.

Eggplant is in season right now so they have the advantage of being inexpensive and also of a really great quality. Always buy eggplant that are firm and glossy - the skin should not be soft, dull or puckered. The green stem should be green and firm. The most common question about eggplant is - to salt? or not to salt? If I am using very young eggplant, or the long slender lebanese style eggplant, I don't bother. However larger eggplant (like the one I am using in today's recipe) benefit from being salted before cooking to remove any excess bitterness from the fruit. I have included instructions for this in my recipe.

Eggplant is very popular in Greek cuisine and this is where I got the inspiration for today's recipe - a hearty lamb and eggplant dish that is loaded with flavour - add olives and fetta and fresh herbs and you have something delicious that takes advantage of the wonderful eggplant that is in season right now. Serve it with crusty bread and a beautiful green salad and even those who aren't crazy about eggplantwill be coming back for seconds.

Lamb, Eggplant & Fetta Rolls

You will need: 2 large eggplant, salt, 500g minced lamb, 1 large chopped onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 2 tablespoons crumbled fetta cheese, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 tablespoon fresh mint, 1 egg, a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper, 3 cups nepolitana sauce (or passata), 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 tablespoon chopped deseeded Kalamata olives, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Method: Slice the eggplant into pieces about 1cm thick, lengthways. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Allow to rest for 30 minutes. Drain off all of the dark liquid and pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towels.

Heat a pan or grill and brush it with olive oil. Cook the eggplant slices in batches until slightly browned on each side. Set aside.

In a frypan, add a splash of oil and the chopped onion and garlic. Cook on a medium heat until the onion is soft.

In a large bowl, combine the minced lamb,oregano, paprika, mint, egg, cayenne pepper, parsley. Mix well with your hands. Now add the cooked onion and the crumbled fetta cheese. Season with a little pepper and mix well.

To make the rolls, lay a slice of eggplant flat and place about a tablespoon full of the mince mixture in a sausage shape across the middle of the slice, one third of the way down. Roll up the eggplant to encase the mixture and place in a shallow baking dish. Repeat until all of the rolls are completed.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Pour the nepolitana sauce (or passata) over the rolls and top with the chopped olives. Bake for about 45 minutes. Serve with crusty bread and a salad, or rice.

Serves 4-6 People.