Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gourmet Goddess takes a break.....

 Hi everyone - I know that we are way past due for this week's offering from the Gourmet Goddess kitchen, but I am stopping to take a break, after the big move. We have spent the last few days moving not one, but two houses and merging them and are currently in the process of unpacking. The new house is just lovely and we are already feeling very much at home. Kitchen wise, I am making the big leap from gas cooking to electricity. I am a big fan of cooking with gas and was nervous about the whole electricity thing, but my new electric stove is working really well so far. Every oven has it's own idiosyncrasies to master and I'm learning as I go.

Once the unpacking is completed (1 room to go and counting!) we start on the garden. It is already really nice, but there are herbs and veges to get in and I have my heart set on having some purple Pansies and pretty spring flowers in there too. I have already bought French Lavender, a big Rosemary bush and some climbing Jasmine. My mother in law is heading down from the coast on the weekend with seedlings she has been cultivating and I can't wait to see what she has grown for us. In other garden news, we scored a great bargain wooden outdoor setting on EBay the other night, just perfect for outdoor entertaining. I see lots of outdoorsy, BBQ recipes in my future!

See you all next week when GG returns with new recipes and food ideas. Enjoy your week and be sure to take in some of that beautiful spring sunshine and the fantastic produce that has started to appear. Don't forget the flowers too!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Divine Duck

Firstly, I am happy to report that after lots of searching, disappointing open houses, inflexible real estate agents and horrible paperwork we found a gorgeous old house through a private listing, with a delightful landlady who made the whole process a pleasure. So, this weekend Gourmet Goddess will be relocating to a new kitchen! I can't wait to set up my new cooking workspace, which includes an old fashioned walk in butler's pantry and a dishwasher (those post dinner party washing up sessions are going to be so much easier!) We now also have a garden where we will be growing some of our own herbs and produce, so prepare for some Gourmet Goddess gardening content in the future.

So, at the moment the house looks like a bomb site and there are boxes everywhere as we start to pack. We move on Friday. I am trying to clear the freezer and the pantry before we move, (less to pack and a chance to use up ingredients) so that was the inspiration for today's recipe. I had two Game Farm duck breasts that I wanted to use, so I created a duck salad, served with toasted walnuts, pomegranate seeds and creamy white bean puree. I used delicious, delicate tasting mache leaves as the green component. I first saw these salad greens in France, where they seem to be the salad leaves of choice - but I had never seen them in Australia until Sunday afternoon when I found them for sale at Harris Farm Grocer (I picked them up at Broadway, if you live in New South Wales) If you can't find mache, then use any greens that take your fancy - baby spinach or rocket would be lovely.

This salad doesn't require a dressing - I just drizzled over the pan juices from the duck and it was delicious. I toasted the walnuts for a couple of minutes in a dry pan, to add a nutty taste and some crunchy texture. You can use any kind of white beans for the puree - I used tinned cannelini beans, but butter beans would work too. Always remember to rinse tinned beans really well before use for a better result.

You could marinate the duck overnight if you wanted to, but I didn't have any time to do that so I only let it sit in the marinade for about 15 minutes - it worked fine. I absolutely love pomegranates, but if you don't like them or you have trouble finding them, my next choice would be tangy pieces of pink grapefruit. I think anything with a tartness to cut through the richness of the duck would be ideal.

If you are a little bit daunted by the idea of cooking duck, this is a great way to introduce yourself to it. The instructions are foolproof and you will end up with a deliciously tender result. Give it a try. Next week I will be reporting from the new Gourmet Goddess kitchen, so see you then!

Duck breast salad with white bean puree, walnuts and pomegranate

You will need:
2 duck breasts- skin on, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 clove minced or finely chopped garlic, 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon toasted walnuts, a tablespoon fresh pomegranate seeds, a couple of handfuls of mache (or other salad) leaves,1 tin well rinsed and drained white beans, a splash of olive oil, 1 tablespoon natural yogurt (the thick continental style if you can get it) salt, peppper to taste, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar or cider vinegar - take your pick.

First, with a very sharp knife, score the skin on the duck breasts - I cut them on the diagonal so that it cuts through the skin, but not the flesh underneath. Combine the paprika, garlic, olive oil, cayenne and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Add the duck breasts and ensure they are all covered. Set aside for about 15 minutes (or overnight)

In a food processor, blend the rinsed beans, olive oil, yoghurt, lemon juice (or whatever you decided to use) and season very generously with salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Preheat the oven to about 220C.

In a non stick pan, cook the duck breasts on a low to medium heat for 3 minutes, skin side down. The skin should turn golden and the fat will start to render from the skin. Turn the duck over and cook for another minute.

Transfer the duck to a baking dish and cook for about 15 mins in the oven. Remove the duck from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting diagonal slices to serve. Save the pan juices - they will form the sauce.

To assemble the salad, simply start with a layer of bean puree, then arrange your salad leaves, pomegranate and walnuts. Finish off with slices of the duck and drizzle over the pan juices just before serving.

Serves 4 people as an entree or 2 as a main. We ate ours with crusty bread to mop up the bean puree and the delicious duck juices.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Fresh, fast and fantastic!

I'm all about quick and easy at the moment - Andrew and I are in the process of merging households as well as searching for a new address in the hell that is the cut throat Sydney rental market, so we don't have a whole lot of time. Between work, open house inspections, trips up to Andrew's place on the Central Coast to pack things, work and the endless paperwork of tenancy applications, there hasn't been a whole lot of time for relaxing - or cooking anything too involved.

We decided we needed a break from this crazy schedule we are living at the moment and took time out last Sunday afternoon to hang out with good friends, have a few glasses of wine, share a lazy lunch (and a few rounds of "Beatles Rock Band"!) I had to rustle up something in a hurry to contribute to the buffet table because we had just dashed back from the coast after a bout of packing.

I was going to cop out and just do the cheese platter thing, but instead settled on these quick and easy Asian meatballs that ended up being a hit. They have bucketloads of flavour as well as looking pretty, thanks to lemongrass, mint, ginger and garlic. We ate them warm from the oven, but they are just as good cold. As a dipping sauce, I mixed up some good quality mayo and some black pepper paste (from Asian grocery stores) - it was really beautiful - and a change from that most misused and over represented condiment - sweet chilli sauce. God, I'm over that stuff - must people put it on everything??? Anyway, I digress....

I cooked these meatballs in the oven, so they don't require extra oil for frying and you don't even need to turn them. You can do the prep work in 10 minutes and cook them like I did for 15 minutes, so they are great if you are in a rush - in under 30 minutes you will have 30 meatballs. The result is delightfully moist, sesame crusted meatballs with not a lot of fuss. You can be very free and easy with the ingredients for these - my recipe is just a guide based on what I did on Sunday, but feel free to add or omit things or to experiement with different spices. Just don't be stingy with the flavours. Use whatever is around - although I would stick with the sesame seeds for the coating. They are what make the meatballs a bit more than your standard cocktail meatball. Speaking of which, these would make great finger food.

Have to run -  Hopefully next time you visit me I will have secured that elusive rental property, calmed down a bit and have a new Gourmet Goddess kitchen to relocate to. In the meantime, enjoy these lovely eastern delights....

Fragrant lemongrass, coriander and sesame meatballs

You will need: 1 kilo pork mince, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1 egg, 1 whole bunch coriander finely chopped, 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, 1 tablespoon very finely minced lemongrass (you can also use lemongrass paste or powder if you like) 1 teaspsoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, 1 cup finely chopped spring onion, 1/2 tablespoon very finely grated ginger, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar if you don't have it), 1 cup sesame seeds.

Method: Mix together everything but the sesame seeds in a big bowl. Use clean hands and make sure you combine everything very, very well. The mixture will be a little bit sticky, but that's fine.

Place the sesame seeds in a shallow bowl. Wet your hands and roll the pork mixture into small balls. Toss the meatballs lightly in the seeds and place them on a baking dish covered with baking paper. If you find the meatballs difficult to shape, it will be because your hands are dry. Keep your hands wet and you will find the process a whole lot easier.

Bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the meatballs you make.
Serve warm or cold.

*Makes around 30 small meatballs. If you don't want to serve them all at once, these freeze well.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Gourmet Goddess welcomes Spring

Nothing signals the start of Spring to me more than the sight of fresh asparagus. I love this time of year when so many of my favourite fruits and vegetables start coming into season. As the season progresses, the quality and supply gets better and the price drops - you have to love that! I am a devotee seasonal eating. I've never understood why eating the same food all year round is perceived as a good idea. In order to eat food out of season, we are required to ship food from long distances, with all the negative environmental impact that has, as well as sacrificing quality and increasing price. Eating seasonally makes sense for your tastebuds, your wallet and the environment too.

It is really worth going online and researching what is in season at particular times of the year and planning menus around that. I always include seasonal suggestions on the right hand side of my blog page, so you may also want to start there for ideas. When buying produce, always check the origin - if your grocer doesn't diplay this information, then ask why - they should. Same goes for seafood and meat. Food that has travelled a long way has not only contributed to more carbon emissions, but has also been handled multiple times to get to you - quality can only suffer. Buy close to home as much as you possibly can to get the very best produce and to do your bit to minimise negative environmental impacts.

Now, to today's recipe - This dish is so simple to make, but is also pretty enough to serve at a dinner party. I love the effect of the sage leaves through the veil of proscuitto. Juicy chicken, salty proscuitto, the lovely herbal aroma of sage and a garlic infused, buttery mozzerella centre make this Italian inspired dish one that you and your guests will love. I served this dish last night with some asparagus (of course!) - I just threw the asparagus spears in a grill pan for a couple of minutes with a touch of olive oil and salt and pepper. Don't forget to chop off the thick, woody ends before you cook them.

To accompany the asparagus, I chopped up some baby roma tomatoes and black olives, which I seasoned well with salt and pepper and tossed with a drizzle of olive oil and a little balsamic. The whole meal was done in under half an hour. Perfect to throw together after work when you don't have a lot of time. This dish would also go well with grillled vegetables - zucchini and eggplant would be great, or an Italian inspired salad - think cos, rocket or  radicchio leaves, basil, roasted capsicums, olives, artichokes, fetta or bocconcini cheese - whatever is in season. Give it a try - it is maximum flavour and presentation with minimum effort.

Chicken with proscuitto & sage
served with grilled asparagus and baby roma tomato and olive salad

You will need:
2 chicken breasts, 6 slices proscuitto, 10 sage leaves, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/2 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon grated mozzerella cheese, salt and pepper.

Trim any fat off the chicken breasts and gently cut a pocket along the length of the breast, taking care not to cut right through. You want the chicken to still be in one piece.

Finely chop 2 of the sage leaves and combine with the cheese, butter and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon half of the mixture into the pocket you have made in the chicken breast. Repeat with the second one.

Lay 4 sage leaves on top of each of the chicken breasts and then wrap the chicken in 3 pieces of proscuitto each. Tuck under any stray bits of proscuitto so that the surface is smooth.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Some of the butter will flow out of the chicken - use this to gently baste the chicken. Allow the chicken to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving and drizzle over the remaining pan juices.