Thursday, May 29, 2014

Easy Friday Nights - Cheese, Pickled Beetroot and Avocado Toastie with Creamy Sriracha Dipping Sauce.

Sometimes you get home late and  it's dreary, miserable weather and you can’t be bothered with the cooking, but you want something delicious. What is more delicious than melted cheese? Melted cheese with creamy avocado and tart pickles. I’d put this on the grill and immediately regretted not adding some spice. Which I remedied when I remembered the amazing Pig’s Ass Sandwich Lance and I ate at Casselula in New York, with it’s spicy dipping sauce. This isn’t that sauce - not even close, but I needed something super quick and this more than adequately did the job.

So there I was, melted cheesy deliciousness in crunchy toasted bread, creamy spicy dipping sauce and a sipper of Rye. A perfect meal for sitting on the couch after a long day. And it all comes together in less than 10 minutes.

(makes 2 sandwiches)
½ Avocado
Pickled beetroot and onion
Sliced Cheddar Cheese - sharp is better but it has to melt well
4 slices light rye bread

Dipping sauce
4 heaping tbsp greek yoghurt
1-2 tsp sriracha (to taste)

Heat your sandwich press

Slice the cheese and layer it onto two slices of bread. Smoosh ¼ of an avocado on each one, then drain and place a few tablespoons of the pickled vegetables on top. Top with the other slice of bread to make 2 complete sandwiches.

Put into the sandwich press and push down firmly to squash together.

In a small bowl, mix together the yoghurt and sriracha to your taste.

When the sandwich is toasty and golden with the cheese fully melted, remove and slice into strips.
Eat, dipping into the sauce as you go

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cake Club Baking - Lime and Black Pepper Chip Shortbread Cookies

At my brother’s work, they have a monthly ‘Cake Club’. A monthly morning tea where they take turn to bring in a few baked goods for everyone to share. Mike has been known to bring in some ‘weird’ treats – things that are delicious but have a bit of an unusual ingredient in them. He’s taken in the Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter and Bacon Choc Chip Cookies – things like that. Since that’s what he’s known for, now he goes out of his way to provide the weird treats. With this in mind, I tried to come up with something both delicious and weird. Something that they’d probably never had before – and the combination of which would blow their minds.

And so I present Lime and Black Pepper Chip Shortbread Cookies. A tangy, salty, sweet, crunchy cookie that’s so confused, but so delicious. With citrusy chocolate drizzled on for good measure It’s like a chocolate margarita biscuit. Now, this cookie is not everyone’s cup o’ tea. But it’s definitely mine.

I spent the weekend baking with him and today his work will get some Snickerdoodles, some of my pumpkin muffins with candied bacon and this Lime and Black Pepper Shortbread. These really are best the day you make them, because you want them crisp and crunchy, but you can store them in an airtight container for up to a week.

For the biscuits:
(makes approx 30 mini muffin tray sized) 1 large bag Red Rock Deli Lime and Black Pepper Chips
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup finely shredded coconut
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of one lime
A few grinds of black pepper

For the chocolate ganache drizzle:
50g dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp tequila
2 tsp coconut cream
Zest 1 lime

Preheat oven to 170 degrees.

Pulse the chips in a food processor until it forms a fine crumb. Mix the chip crumbs with the flour, sugar, zest, pepper and coconut in a bowl, then mix in the melted butter. Press tablespoonsful into the base of a mini muffin tray. Compact with your fingers, or the back of a spoon.

Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool completely in the pans, then use a knife to run around the outside of each biscuit and carefully remove from the tray.

To make the drizzle, melt the chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave in 30 second bursts until melted. Stir through the coconut cream, tequila and lime zest. Pour into a ziplock bag, cut the tip off and drizzle the chocolate ganache over the top of the cookies.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Grilled Crab with Gin and Pomegranate Sabayon - with Warm Pink Grapefruit, Zucchini and Buckwheat Salad

Sometimes I see trends in types of recipes that go through my foodporn news feeds and it makes me think, hmm, I’ve never tried that before. It’s such a common dish, or component of a dish and despite being quite adventurous in my cooking, it’s not something I’ve ever made. Or even contemplated making – like mac and cheese. Can you believe this last weekend was the first time I’d ever made b├ęchamel sauce? As I was stirring the milk and it was magically thickening and turning into a delicious thick sauce in a way I’d never seen before, I was thinking about starting this blog. It was initially about trying new things and opening myself up to new cooking experiences, so that we didn’t eat the same dishes on rote. But although the flavours I mix together are often unique and different and new, my methods of cooking haven’t really evolved much.

I watched Julie and Julia on the weekend (with a large bowl of mac and cheese using aforementioned b├ęchamel sauce to cope with all that delicious food on screen) and watching Julie debone a duck and going through the calf leg gelatin section of Julia Child’s cookbook made me determined to make a few more things requiring a different cooking technique to my usual. Whilst I don’t think I’ll ever buy a calf leg, or possibly even debone a duck, I will definitely try a few new things.

I wrote before about being scared of roasting a duck, and that experiment turning out deliciously well. And one of the other things I’ve never really attempted seriously before is sauces or custards with egg. Even making ice creams I try to avoid using custard based ones because cooking eggs like that scares me. I figure I’ll end up with scrambled eggs and ruin the whole thing. But I made a chocolate pavlova for Mothers’ Day and ended up with a whole bunch of egg yolks and decided it was the perfect time to make a pink grapefruit curd. Again, I enjoyed watching the magic of the yolks and grapefruit juice thicken and become creamy and turn from ingredients into an actual dish. So the next step was to make a sabayon sauce. Sabayon (or zabaglione) is a light and fluffy sauce, drink or dessert made using some form of alcohol and egg yolks as the main ingredients.

Things I’ve learnt in these two egg-based sauce dishes is that you need to be patient at first, slowly drizzling the hot liquid into the eggs and whisking first before putting it on the heat and whisking consistently at a brisk pace. But it’s definitely a trick worth trying, you really do feel there is a science behind cooking.

Given that it’s Autumn and the markets are full of pomegranates, this sabayon is pomegranate flavoured and paired with one of my favourite spirits – Gin. I again used the West Winds Sabre for it’s specific citrus notes, but if you can’t get your hands on it, substitute Bombay Sapphire. And like my last Gin dish, it uses crab meat. I had this frozen from our very successful crabbing trip in summer, but you can generally get your hands on crab or crab meat at most supermarkets. There’s something about gin and crab that just *work*, you know! I then put it under the grill to heat the crab and lightly toast the top of the sabayon. The end result is a toasty, airy, citrusy puff of rich sauce on top of the flaky crab meat. So. Good.

This was paired with a warm buckwheat salad. I think next time, I’d like to add a few plain salted tortilla chips as well, for a textural counterpoint.

Grilled Crab with Gin and Pomegranate Sabayon
2/3 cup West Winds Sabre Gin
4 tbsp pink grapefruit juice
2 pomegranates, seeded
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
300g cooked crab meat, picked over for cartilage and shell

Seed the pomegranates and reserve ¼ of the arils for the salad. Put the gin, grapefruit juice and pomegranate seeds into a small saucepan and simmer until the liquid has reduced to about ¼ of a cup.

Line a baking tray with paper and divide the crab meat into 4. Tightly pack with your hands into patties and set aside until sauce is ready.

Once the gin mixture has reduced, strain through a fine sieve into a glass bowl that you can set above simmering water. Set a small saucepan of water to simmer. Add the egg yolks to the reduced gin and whisk briskly for a few minutes to fully incorporate, then place over the simmering water. Whisk constantly and briskly until the sauce becomes light and fluffy, the colour will turn a pretty pale purple. It’ll take about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and drizzle the olive oil into the mixture, whisking slowly for a few minutes until emulsified. Taste and season as needed. Set aside until salad is ready and you can grill the crab.

Spoon the mixture over the crab and place under a pre-heated grill for 2-3 minutes until toasted and brown.

Warm Pink Grapefruit, Zucchini and Buckwheat Salad
2/3 cup buckwheat
1 ½ cup water
½ tsp salt
Big pinch fresh black pepper
Olive oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp coriander seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2/3 cup corn kernels
1 pink grapefruit, segmented and diced
1 tbsp tamari
2 silverbeet leaves, stripped and shredded
1 Avocado, sliced
Handful toasted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ of the pomegranate arils reserved from making the sabayon

Put the buckwheat, water, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer until the buckwheat is cooked, but still chewy, around 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

In a frypan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the garlic until translucent. Add the cumin, mustard seeds and coriander seeds, stir well to coat in the oily garlic mix. Add the zucchini and corn kernels and cook for 5-10 minutes until the zucchini is soft. Take off the heat.

Stir through the cooked buckwheat, tamari, grapefruit pieces and silverbeet leaves.

Serve with sliced avocado, toasted almonds and the reserved pomegranate arils on top.

 Gently remove the crab with sabayon patties and serve alongside


Sunday, May 18, 2014

One Dish Two Ways - Gunpowder Smoke Mackerel

My husband has recently gone a little crazy for smoking foods. He’s bought a bunch of hickory chips and uses the hooded BBQ and various trays and levels he smokes sausages and bacon and steak and garlic and jalapenos and whatever else he can find. He’s constantly trying to think of ways to improve his set-up and experimenting with different ways to do it better and hopefully find the best, most consistent way. So far the things he has had the most success with are sausages. He’ll smoke up a dozen or so and I’ll use them to make gumbo or cowboy beans or whatever could benefit from some hickory smoke.

With his smoke-obsession in mind, I recalled seeing a recipe for tea-smoked chicken in a magazine I was flicking through while waiting for a physio appointment. A quick google showed that tea smoking is a fairly common and simple task. I thought it was different enough to not step on his hickory smoked toes, but still a delicious experiment. This smoked mackerel is perfect served hot with soba noodles and sauteed Asian greens, or on some jasmine rice with a simple salad. But I think I loved it most cooled, flaked and served as part of a cheese board.

To be honest, I don’t know the science behind requiring the rice, but every traditional tea-smoking recipe I came across used equal parts long grain rice and tea. And who am I to mess with that? Make sure you turn your rangehood/exhaust fan on if you’re making this inside.

Gunpowder Smoked Mackerel
½ cup gun powder green tea (or other green tea)
½ cup jasmine rice
2 tsp brown sugar
2 mackerel cutlets
Salt and pepper
Zest of 1 lime

First prepare your ‘smoker’. You’ll need a pot/wok and a steamer that fits it and a whole bunch of foil. At least double fold a piece of foil that will fit the bottom of your pot, fold up a few centimetres of each side to create a sort of foil bowl. Mix the green tea, rice and sugar together and put it in the foil bowl. Put this bowl into your pot/wok then put over a hot flame.

Pat dry the mackerel cutlets, then season each side with salt and pepper, and some grated lime zest. Place these into your steamer basket.

When the tea mixture starts smoking, put the steamer over the top and leave to cook for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve immediately with rice and salad or allow to cool, flake and refrigerate. Serve on a cheese board with Pickled Pink

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pickled Pink - Pickled Beetroot and Red Onion

I was originally going to put the recipe for this at the end of another recipe, as it is an accompaniment, rather than a meal. But it has turned out so versatile that I’ve used it in so many dishes since then, so I thought I would give it it’s own post, which makes it my easier to just link here for the future. I call this pickled pink – a really simple combination of pickled beetroot and red onion. I was going to add radishes to the mix too, but completely forgot when I came around to making it. I am going to add radishes next time.

It only takes about 10 minutes to make, but then a few hours to cool so factor that in for when you want to eat it. It should last a good few weeks in the fridge.


Pickled Beetroot and Red Onion.
1 red onion, sliced into thin half moons
3 medium beetroot, sliced into matchsticks
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup water
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp sea salt
5 allspice berries
½ tsp peppercorns
½ tsp caraway seeds

Slice the onion and beetroot as directed and layer slices in the jar(s) you wish to store it in.

Place the vinegars, water, honey and salt in a small pot and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes then take off the heat.

Add the allspice berries, pepper corns and caraway seeds to the vinegar mix. Stir to mix through.

Pour the vinegar over the top of the veges. Leave on the bench top to come to room temperature.

Store in the fridge