Thursday, January 30, 2014

Quick Post - Grilled Honeydew and Corn Salsa

One of my favourite new cooking-based discoveries this summer – after cold-brewed coffee – is grilling melon. Sure, chilled melon is super-appealing on a hot summers day. Not to mention fruit slushees and icy poles and whatnot. It’s seriously refreshing. But grilled melon now has a special place in my heart, too. My favourite melon to grill is the honeydew melon. The heat intensifies the sweetness and caramelises the outside. Perfect to add to a summer salad. Or just by itself, sprinkled with a tiny bit of salt, chili flakes and sumac. Or in this salsa

I served this texturally diverse salsa alongside some of leftover lentil patties for a quick and delicious weekday dinner. It’d also go really well served alongside tacos or in burgers.


Grilled Honeydew and Corn Salsa

¼ honeydew, de-seeded and cut into slices
¾ cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
1 roma tomato, diced
½ red capsicum, diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1 tsp balsamic
Salt and pepper to taste

Grill the honeydew on the three big sides for 1-2 minutes per side.  Cut into smaller pieces when cool enough to handle. Toast the corn kernels for 3-5 minutes per side. Set aside to cool.

Add all the chopped vegetables together, mix in the balsamic and season.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

One Pot Potatoes - Diced Potatoes with Lentils and Olives

I don’t tend to eat potatoes very often. As in, normal, white potatoes. And it’s not because of the bad-wrap they got in the carb-hating phase that swept the world. I’m just not a big fan of them. Unless they’re roasted, I tend to find them pretty boring. A sweet potato I can microwave or boil and eat without anything else done to it. A white potato for me always needs a little extra help. I know other people will disagree with me. I know some people love them. That’s the brilliance of difference.

I did have a few potatoes left over from when I bought them to do a roast (because then they are an absolute necessity), and when I was given some lamb chops by a wonderful friend of mine (from her parents’ sheep farm, no less!) I thought they could be the perfect side. One of my favourite ways of preparing potatoes is this combination of fry/boil in a pan. I’m sure there’s a technical term for this type of preparation, I don’t know what it is. I just know that it’s easy and results in extremely flavourful potatoes. It also means that I can cook lentils in with it in the one pan.

Whilst you can serve these potatoes with any other meats and veg you have on hand I think this combination works extremely well. The caramelized sweet grilled figs, the rich juicy lamb and the salty creamy textured potatoes just….work, you know? The potato was enough to serve two for dinner and me for lunch the next day. The accompaniments were just for the dinner.

Diced Potatoes with Lentils and Olives
5-6 baby potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary leaves, minced (about 1 tbsp)
¼ cup uncooked French lentils (du Puy lentils), rinsed and picked through
1 cup water
½ tsp sea salt
Good few pinches of black pepper
6 olives, de-pitted and finely sliced
Sprinkling flat leaf parsley, chopped
Splash of grapefruit juice (or lime)

 Served with
4 Lamb chops
4 Figs, halved
1 Sweet paprika, halved lengthwise, core removed
1 Small zucchini, sliced into 1cm slices, lengthwise

Peel and dice the potatoes into 2cm chunks. In a high sided frypan with a lid (or a makeshift lid of aluminium foil), heat the olive oil to medium heat. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the potatoes and lentils and stir well to coat in the garlicky oil for about 2 minutes. Crack some pepper over the top to taste. Add the water and sea salt, mix through and turn the heat up to bring to the boil. Once there, turn down to low, cover with the lid and allow to cook until the lentils and potatoes are tender – around 25 minutes.

After about 10 minutes, heat your BBQ, lightly oil and grill the vegetables. Place the figs cut side down and don’t turn. The zucchini and paprika need to be turned after about 5 minutes on each side. Grill the lamb to your liking, I do mine about 3 minutes either side for a touch of pink in the middle.

When the potatoes are ready, turn the heat off and stir through the olives, parsley and a splash of grapefruit juice to ‘brighten’. Check for seasoning.

Serve with the lamb chops and grilled vegetables.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Warm Hummus Mash Za’atar Spiced Popcorn

Since first making my Yummy Chicken with popcorn, I grew quite fond of using popcorn as a ‘garnish’ on savoury dishes or as an addition to salads. In fact, Lance told me off for writing that the popcorn on the Yummy Chicken was optional – he thought it made the meal special. Something about the presentation as well as the texture addition is really fun in an otherwise everyday meal. I hadn’t done it for a while, when Alejandra posted her Ras El Hanout spiced popcorn. My mind was blown. What a brilliant idea. I already love the popcorn/chocolate combination, this just takes it to a whole new level of awesomeness! Instead of having it as just a snack, I thought I’d like it as a side dish with my dinner. Since I was already planning on having warm hummus with dinner, I thought instead of Ras El Hanout, I’d try more Middle Eastern style spices and went with a Za-atar spice blend that I bought from The Grocer. I really like this blend because I’ve recently discovered the wonders of sumac as a spice and this mix has sumac in it. I then added a little cayenne and extra pepper for a kick – totally optional but I like a bit of heat.

I have become a huge fan of warm hummus since first being served it about 12 months ago. That in itself was a revelation. My favourite dip is also a wonderful mash! Why hadn’t I thought of that? And using tinned chick peas makes it so easy. I like adding cashews instead of tahini because it adds a nice sweet, creaminess which really compliments the warm silky mash. I find tahini can be a bit bitter and prefer it in cold hummus. You do need to soak the cashews overnight to make sure they blend properly.

To balance the heat and vaguely sour taste of the middle eastern spices I wanted a hearty meat and a touch of sweetness. So I served it with lamb rump steak and a fig salad to create that balance. Sadly, the last figs of the season for me, but put to perfect use. The combination of hummus and spiced buttered chocolatey popcorn has been my favourite meal of a long, long time. And I loved standing in the kitchen, eating the leftover popcorn after dinner. This and other spiced popcorn is going to happen. Often.
I try to keep my posts in the order of the dishes I cooked, so when I post them, they are as close to being seasonally pertinent as possible. But whilst I have about 5 posts stockpiled that were cooked and eaten before this dish, I was so blown away by it's deliciousness that I am going to break my rule and let this jump the queue. Make this dish. Now.

Warm Hummus Mash
(serves 3)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tin chick peas, rinsed and drained
2/3 cup cashews, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
Juice from one (small) lemon
1/4 – ½ cup water

In a small saucepan heat olive oil to a low heat and gently cook the garlic with ¼ tsp salt for 5-10 minutes or so until soft, translucent and very aromatic. Do not allow it to colour. Add the cashews and chick peas, stir well then cover and allow to warm through for around 10-15 minutes. The heat should be very low, so it shouldn’t burn, but stir here and there to make sure.

When warm, squeeze the lemon juice over the top and pour everything into a food processor or use a good stick blender if you have it to process to a smooth paste, slowly add some water with the motor running to help the hummus get a creamy, mash like consistency. You could also use milk or cream instead of milk to make it richer, but I think water is fine. Check for seasoning, then pop back in the pot and reheat for a few minutes while you make the popcorn

Za’atar Spiced Popcorn
barely adapted from Always Order Dessert
(makes approx. 3 cups popcorn)
¼ cup popcorn kernels
25g butter (approx.)
1 ½ tsp za’atar spice blend
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
8-10 grinds black pepper
¼ cup dark chocolate chips

Put the popcorn into a brown paper bag, fold the top down a few times to “seal” and put in the microwave for 2-3 minutes on high to pop the kernels. Keep an ear out for the popping to stop, and a nose out to detect it burning.
Put the popped corn into a really large bowl. Melt the butter, pour over the popcorn, then stir to coat. Mix the za’atar spice, sea salt, cayenne and black peppers together, then tip into the bowl and stir really well to coat all the buttered popcorn.

Melt the chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave
Serve the mash, tip a generous serving of the popcorn over the top, then drizzle the chocolate over the top of that.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gifts of Food - Fig, Salami and Ricotta on Cauliflower Gnocchi

Being known as ‘the cook’ definitely has some advantages. And the number one advantage is that sometimes people give me ingredients. Often homegrown ingredients. Having some farm-fresh eggs or backyard tomatoes because they are in season is so awesome. And one free thing that I will never get sick of getting is fresh figs. Figs are one of those things that I love – but never actually buy. So I don’t tend to have them very frequently. So when I was given a handful of figs unexpectedly the other day, I was so stoked. They were my first of the season! Coincidentally, a picture of salted caramel fig trifle came up in my instagram feed that same day and I was drooling, but when I was given the figs my mind was already fixed firmly on what to cook for dinner that night.

I am one of those people that sometimes go for the ‘value-size’ option for something, not remembering that there are only two of us eating most nights. So when I saw that I could get twice as much ricotta for only $1 more…I went with the big tub. And after making lentil ricotta patties two nights in a row, and a zucchini and ricotta ‘risotto’ inspired by a pasta in the Wahaca cookbook I got for Christmas…I still had some left. Figs and ricotta are already a classic combination, so I figured they could make a good pasta sauce. Add some salami for salt and kick, defrost some cauliflower gnocchi and I had an amazing summer pasta ready in less than half an hour.

Perfect with a crisp, dry rose.

Fig Salami and Ricotta on Cauliflower Gnocchi
200g thinly sliced salami, roughly chopped into 1cm squares
1 medium red capsicum, thinly sliced
4 figs, roughly diced
1 cup ricotta
Enough gnocchi for two people (I used this recipe which I had pre-cooked. If you buy it packaged, you’ll need to follow the package cooking instructions first)

Pecorino, black pepper and lemon zest to serve

Heat a frypan to medium high heat and add the salami, stir to separate the bits and help it render out some of it’s oil. Add the capsicum and stir fry this with the salami for about 5 minutes until it starts to soften.

Add the gnocchi and figs and stir through to coat in the oils. Cook for another 5-10 minutes or so until the figs become a little jammy. Add the ricotta and warm through – approximately 2 minutes.

 Serve, sprinkled with some pecorino (or other sharp, aged cheese) freshly cracked pepper and a little lemon zest.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ginger and Grapefruit Lentil Patties with Maple Grapefruit Salmon

Tinned beans of all descriptions are a pantry staple of mine. And of those, chick peas and lentils are my favourites. I always make sure I have a few tins on hand for bulking up salads or curries, or blending up into a dip. They're also great for when I'm running late and leave the house without taking meat out to defrost...leaving us vegetarian for a night. One of my favourite vegetarian dishes to make is lentil patties. They take on flavours so well and make a lovely, filling dish. The patties can be eaten by themselves with just a side salad or turned into burgers or tacos. They're extremely versatile, not to mention pretty darn good for you.

Over the years I've ordered a lot of vegetarian burgers out at restaurants and generally fail to be impressed. (On a side note, ordering the vegetarian burger with added bacon tends to create utter confusion!). Working off this basic recipe, I've discovered a world of super tasty, not to mention easy and highly adaptable patties. Just change up the bulk, or the herbs. Or even substitute the ricotta for natural yoghurt. This particular version is fresh and bright tasting with the ginger and grapefruit, but has a lightness that pairs well with this fish. If you don't have the burghul, just some panko would be fine.

I've served it here with a simple salad and some glazed salmon, just because I was feeling fancy. The next night I had the same patties as burgers without the salmon.

Ginger and Grapefruit Lentil Patties 
This makes about 6-8 patties
(adapted from Sprouted Kitchen)
1 tin lentils, rinsed and drained
¾ cup ricotta
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated ginger
Zest from one grapefruit
Small handful coriander and basil
1 egg
½ cup fine grit burghul
4 tbsp coconut flour
pinch salt and pepper
Black sesame seeds (optional – to roll the patties in)
Coconut oil for frying

Maple Grapefruit Salmon
2 portions salmon
Juice from one grapefruit (approx. 1/3 cup)
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp maple syrup

Add the lentils, ricotta, shallot, garlic, ginger and grapefruit zest into the blender and pulse to chop roughly. Add the egg and process to thoroughly combine. It will be a pretty wet mix at this stage. Add the burgul, coconut flour, herbs and salt and pepper, and process again to mix properly. It should now be about the consistency of a normal ‘beef’ pattie. If it looks too dry, add another egg. If it’s too wet, add a tablespoon more burghul.

Wet your hands, then roll the mixture into patties. Press into sesame seeds (if desired), then place them on a lined baking tray, cover loosely and refrigerate for half an hour or so to ‘set’.

Meanwhile, mix together the marinade ingredients and pour over the salmon. Cover and set aside.

In a medium high frypan, add a thin layer of coconut oil and gently place a few patties in, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook for 10 minutes until golden, then flip and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Remove to a plate and keep warm whilst you do the rest of the mixture.

In a separate frypan, heat a little oil until shimmering and place the salmon in. Cook 2 minutes, then turn over. Add the marinade to the pan and cook another two minutes until almost cooked through and the sauce has reduced to a sticky glaze. Serve on top of the lentil patties with avocado, some fresh salad and the glaze drizzled over the top

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Adult Summer Treats - Hendricksicles

Just a really quick post today. I wanted to get this out there in time for you to do this on the weekend. It’s forecast to be 38C on Saturday and Sunday, so if you chuck these in the freezer by Friday night, you’ll have a wonderful, refreshing, adult treat for any entertaining you do on the weekend. This time of year, Lance and I like taking our television outside and watching dodgy 80’s movies in the spa to help keep cool. I will no doubt take one of these in with me! I am in love with gins at the moment, they are so refreshing, and Hendricks is one of my favourites. It’s known for it’s distinctive cucumber flavour. And seeing as these icy poles are made with cucumber too, it’s like it’s healthy! You can also freeze these in ice cube trays and add a few to a glass of dry white wine for an easy sangria!

The flavour of these is fairly subtle - if you are feeling like a little more sugar and oomph in your frozen cocktail treat, you can always make these Dirty Pirate ones!

1/3 cup Hendricks Gin
1/4 cup St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/4 cup simple syrup
2 small lebanese cucumbers, peeled and de-seeded
1 cup water
1/4 cup mint and basil leaves

Blend the cucumbers, water and mint and basil leaves well until liquid. Add the Gin, St. Germain and simple syrup.

Put into icy pole molds or ice cube trays

Freeze until solid. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Much Ado About Joss Whedon - Movie Flavoured Ice Cream

I’m a little bit in love with Joss Whedon’s work. Not just Buffy and Angel. Also his work on Toy Story, Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog, the Avengers and what is one of my favourite movies – Cabin in the Woods. When I was in New Orleans last year, I went to an awesome little cocktail bar and played “What’s Your Favourite Cocktail” with the lovely bartender, who made Lance and I the most amazing drinks both classic cocktails and her own concoctions. And we chatted to her for hours about anything and everything. Including about how she’d walked from the Bywater (where she recommended we go for dinner) into the French Quarter – about an hour’s hike - in the heat of July just to watch a screening of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, before getting there and finding it had been cancelled. I was devastated for her. But so incredibly excited for me. A new Joss movie!

When Cabin in the Woods was screened here, it was only for a week or so and my core Joss-loving friends managed to sync a free evening and went for pizza and watched it. Seeing that we weren’t free for the brief screening time that Much Ado had here, we had to plan a screening party at home.

So in honour of the bartender who first told me about the movie, I started the evening with an Aviation cocktail. Invented in the early 1900’s, it’s sometimes referred to as a “Gin Sour” which for me makes it a perfect little summer cocktail. We then had snacks galore, ordered pizzas for dinner. And for dessert…movie flavoured ice cream. What exactly is “movie flavour”?? Popcorn and malteser. If you haven’t done it before, next time you have hot buttered salty popcorn, add a few maltesers to the top and allow to melt and meld the flavours. So. Good. Any chocolate will do, but the light texture of the maltesers and the crunch makes it a perfect melt option. Given that watching movies is pretty much the only time I eat popcorn, this to me tastes like movies!

I stumbled upon a recipe for salted sweet corn ice cream by my favourite blog and was already excited by the idea of the flavours. Not to mention the fact it was a corn starch mixture, not an egg custard mixture which I am notoriously bad at. (Although my chocolate beer ice cream worked remarkably well!) I adapted it to use pop-corn instead of fresh corn to make it more “movie” flavoured, and added the maltesers.

To make the pop corn, simply add kernels to a brown paper bag, fold the lip down a few times to 'seal' and microwave for 2 minutes or so. Listen for the pops, and keep a nose out for burning.

Movie Flavoured Ice Cream – Pop Corn and Malteser Ice Cream
(barely adapted from Alejandra's)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 cups whole milk + ½ cup whole milk, divided
4 cups plain popped popcorn (1/4 cup kernels)
½ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
1 teaspoon good sea salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup Maltesers, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve
extra popcorn to serve

Combine the heavy cream, milk, vanilla bean, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Let simmer very gently for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to dissolve the sugar.

Turn off the heat, an add the popcorn one cup at a stirring to dissolve the popcorn before adding the next cup. Cover and let cool to room temperature.

Pass through a fine sieve into a clean pot, pressing out as much liquid through as possible.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the 3 tablespoons cornstarch and remaining ½ cup of cold milk until smooth. Add to the strained mixture and place over medium heat, stirring constantly in one direction until mixture thickens. Continue to cook and stir for 2-3 minutes until you can no longer detect the taste of cornstarch and it coats the back of the spoon.

Turn off the heat and transfer the thickened corn base to a clean bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface (this will help prevent a skin from forming on it while it cools) and chill in refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours – or overnight.

Process the chilled mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When it is finished, transfer to a freezer safe container and gently fold in the maltesers. Freeze for 2-3 hours to properly set.

Top with additional malteser chunks and some popcorn.