Showing posts with label instagrams of yumness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label instagrams of yumness. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Freekeh Salad with Capsicum, Tomato, Zucchini and Pomegranate Molasses Dressing

I don’t tend to follow recipes for salads, and as such I often don’t even think about posting my own. My salads are based on what vegetables I currently have in my fridge, and which of those I feel like eating. I’ll occasionally follow a dressing recipe to the letter, but that’s about the extent of it. And if it’s a green salad I very rarely dress it, so I really don’t think of that being a ‘recipe’ kinda dish. I don’t really think about people putting careful thought into creating their version of the perfect salad, which is a bit rude of me, I guess. For me, it’s all interchangeable. With that said, I do think about getting a harmonious mixture of textures and flavours when I’m rummaging through the fridge and cupboard. Crunch and crisp and soft and squishy all together! But I guess I more think of salads as a side dish, rather than the star. Even though I eat salads every day for lunch and absolutely love them!

This is more of a full meal kinda salad, so I’m giving it it’s day in the sun. I spent the weekend down on Molloy Island gorging on junk food (as well as overeating amazing food at El Rio and Cheeky Monkey) and felt like a nice big salad for dinner, you know, to ‘make-up’ for all the badness. I’ve bulked it up with freekeh, which I tried for the first time in this recipe. It has a nice, chewy texture. But you can substitute for any grain you’d like, I know that freekeh is pretty difficult to find in Perth – not to mention expensive. Brown rice or barley would be nice chewy substitutes. Depending on what grain you cook, you might need to cook the lentils separately. Similarly, walnuts or almonds can be used in place of the cashews. Dried cherries or chopped dates would be good in place of the cranberries. The meat can be anything you’ve got, or none at all. Some parsley and coriander would be welcome additions. The capsicum, tomato and zucchini are wonderful this time of year, so if you’re making it in summer, I’d suggest you stick with those. But hey, it’s up to you. I figure you know what you like!

And, because we re-stocked our wine cellar on the same trip, I highly recommend eating this with a nice big glass of Cape Naturaliste Semillon. You don't want to be too virtuous.

I’ve seen pomegranate molasses in a few supermarkets about the place now (mainly IGAs), but I got mine at the Nanna Shop.

Freekeh Salad with Capsicum, Tomato, Zucchini and Pomegranate Molasses Dressing
½ cup freekeh
¼ cup du puy lentils
3 cups water
1 cup shredded meat (I used a combination of lamb and chicken)
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 yellow capsicum, cut into strips
1 small zucchini, cut into 1cm rounds, then quartered
2 kale leaves, stripped off the hard rib and shredded
Handful mint leaves
¼ cup cashews, roughly chopped
¼ cup dried cranberries

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp harrissa paste
2 tsps honey
¼ tsp salt
½ tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Put the freekeh and lentils in a small pot with the water, bring to the boil then simmer with the lid on for about 25 minutes, until the lentils are soft and the freekeh is swollen and chewy. Strain out any excess water and leave to cool slightly.

Prepare all of your vegetables and shredded meat whilst this cooks and put in a big bowl to serve.

Put the dressing ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake vigorously for it all to amalgamate.

Add the lentils and freekeh to the bowl, then pour the dressing in and mix well to combine.

I served mine with a scattering of dukkah, because I had an open jar, some fetta or goat’s cheese would go perfectly as well

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Signs of Summer - Smokey Chipotle Eggplant and Mango with Black Coconut Rice

One of the signs of summer starting for me is when The Nanna Shop starts selling bags of mangoes. No more paying $4 each for them. Naturally, the first time you see them, you buy a bag. You get home and eat one straight away – because you can. And then you decide what to do for the rest. Given I also had a bag of medium eggplants and knowing that smokey chipotle goes amazingly well with them, this dish was born. I made this two days in a row, with leftovers for lunch both days and I’m still not sick of it. In fact, if I had any mangoes left, I’d be having it for dinner again – but with leftover chicken. You can leave out the meat entirely if you want, I just had some leftover so it went in.

The coconut rice can be made with brown or jasmine rice if you don’t have black. The second day I made it with red rice and white beans, just for something different.

The chipotles in adobo sauce can be a bit tricky to find. I spent 2 years trying to track them down in Perth without luck, so on my trip to the states in June, I bought 2 tins home with me. Since getting back, I’ve found them at IGA in Mt Lawley, Kakulas in Northbridge and Fremantle. The Re Store in Leederville sells Chipotle Tabasco as a substitute (which you should buy anyway because it’s AMAZING and goes on everything).

Given the craziness of this time of the year, I haven’t gotten around to much proper photography lately, so this is another Instagram of Yumness.

Chipotle Eggplant and Mango
(serves 4 with rice)
1 medium eggplant, 2cm dice
1 small zucchini (or 6 small yellow squash), 2cm diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
2 tsp adobo sauce
1 cup shredded roast lamb
2 mangoes, flesh diced
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp salt
30mL shot dark rum
1/3 cup water
1 sprig parsley
1 sprig coriander

Black Coconut Rice
¾ cup black rice
¾ cup coconut milk
1 cup water
¼ tsp salt
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

First, start the coconut rice. Add the rice, coconut milk, water and salt to a small pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn to low and simmer for 30 minutes until rice is tender.

Heat a large frypan to a medium heat. Add the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, mangoes, chillis and sauce, salt, smoked paprika, rum and water. Stir it all around to fully coat everything in the sauce. Turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the lamb, and heat through for a further 3 minutes or so.

Add the kidney beans to the rice and allow to heat through for a few minutes.

Just before serving, stir the parsley and coriander through the eggplant mix. Squeeze a little kewpie mayonnaise over the top when serving

If you then have any mangoes left, you should definitely give this soufflé a try! Delicious with fresh mangoes on the side

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Inventing - Chick Pea Pancakes

Have you ever had that amazing feeling of thinking of something awesome for the first time? You feel like you've made this immense world-changing discovery because for you, it wasn't there, then you thought of it and it was. I've gotten it a few times in my lifetime. Sometimes for almost child-like discoveries of working out how something works without being shown. Sometimes for thinking of a novel way of using an ordinary household item. And sometimes for inventing recipes that blow my mind.

I know the I wouldn't be the first person to make these. I know that they possibly even exist as a traditional dish that's been around for generations. I also know that I invented them. In my world, anyway. In a food-related email discussion (I have a lot of those. A lot), we were talking about chick pea fritters and their awesomeness when I had a lightbulb moment. Chick pea pancakes. Savoury pancakes are already awesome, how about I make them with chick pea flour? I already had a Moroccan stew in the slow cooker that was requiring some form of side when I got home. What would be better than chick pea pancakes to dip in the saucy deliciousness? Armed with just this thought and an off-by-heart pancake recipe (more pikelet than crepe). I thought I would try it for the first time almost identically, minus sugar. I ramped up the baking powder and bicarb to ensure fluffiness with the new flour and voila. They were good. Really good.

This is pretty much going to be my go-to 'bread' recipe for all Middle Eastern and Indian dishes I make from now on, I'd say. My husband says they are like a cross between a pappadum and a paratha. So whilst it's probably not a new dish out there in the big wide world - I invented these. 100% from idea to finished product. And I'm pretty darned proud!


Chick Pea Pancakes
serves 4 as a side
1 cup chick pea flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2  cup water
1 tbsp butter (I actually use olive oil spread)
More butter/spread for frying

Whisk chick pea flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt together to fully combine.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the egg and water, whisk until a smooth batter is obtained.

Melt the butter in a fry pan on a low heat. Pour this into the batter whilst whisking and make sure it is fully incorporated.

Put the pan back on the heat and a minute or so later, pour the batter into the pan for making pancakes to your desired size. The first time I made big ones, the next time I made pikelet size ones.

Fry until bubbles start forming on the surface, around 3 minutes. Then flip over and cook for another 1-2 minutes or lightly golden on the other side.

Store on a plate in a really low oven to stay warm as you repeat the process until all cooked.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Instagrams of Yumness - Back to Reality Bacon Jam

So I am back from the most amazing food-centric 5 week holiday. The whole impetus behind this foodie holiday came from seeing the post for a cooking retreat being hosted by the wonderful Alejandra from Always Order Dessert - the first blog I ever started following - and thinking how perfect it would be. I described "The Sweet Escape" to my husband who then spent the next day or so convincing me that I should definitely go because it sounded ideal for me. I didn't really need that much arm twisting! From there, the rest of the trip blossomed and there we had it. A spontaneous, amazing and delicious holiday! Check out the recap of how awesome the retreat was here. No doubt over the coming months you'll get more stories from the retreat and from some of the restaurants we dined at in New York and New Orleans. I came back full of inspiration and passion to cook some of the things I tried in various restaurants and research cuisines and ingredients I came across. Not to mention using some of the 11 hot sauces we bought back. But I had to go straight back to work (literally 14 hours after I landed in Perth after 38 hours worth of transit - Eep!) and it all got a bit too hard. For now. But in the meantime, there is this. Bacon Jam.
There was a very strong bacon element to my holiday. We made maple candied bacon on the retreat. I bought some bacon hot chocolate in Atlantic City and was told I had just missed their "Bacon Week". In New York, we saw a queue of thousands of people that went down the block and around the corner. Curious, we asked someone what they were lining up for and were told "Bacon Fest". When we were in New Orleans, we were at a craft cocktail bar and were given a sample of the bacon vodka that they make for their Bloody Marys. And on one of the Sweet Escape excursions, I was discussing this bacon jam with some other participants. (I think mainly inspired by the wine jelly making class with Nancy from Potlicker Kitchen). Remembering that I had a kilo of bacon in the freezer and knowing how versatile the end product is, I thought I'd make a batch to help make easy and tasty dishes while I get back into the routine of real life. It is salty and sweet and smokey and just amazingly delicious. My favourite uses for it include:
With avocado on crackers
Grilled bacon jam and banana sandwiches
Spooned on baked sweet potato
On crackers/mini toasts with camembert
With pancakes/pikelets
On hash browns/potato cakes
Reheat in a pan, add a little oil, spinach and toss through pasta
Eating it with a spoon
This jam is one of my quickest ways for creating Vegetarian Recipes improved by bacon. If you make this, or have made something similar, I'd love to hear how you eat it!

Bacon Jam
1kg bacon
1 large red onion, diced
2 large shallots, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 small jalapenos, minced (or to taste)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup brewed coffee
1/4 cup bourbon
Dice the bacon really small. In a large pot/frypan cook bacon until starting to brown and crisp at the edges. My slow cooker base goes on the stove top, if yours does too, just use that - one pot!! You might have to do this in batches if your pot/frypan isn't big enough. Remove cooked bacon to paper-towel lined plate to cool and drain off grease.
Pour all but 1 tablespoon of remaining bacon fat from pot. Turn heat down to low. Add onion, shallots, garlic and chillis. Cook until onions are translucent.
Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, bourbon and coffee. Bring to the boil, then add in the cooked bacon.
Transfer everything to a slow cooker. Cook on high for 3 hours until jammy and delicious.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Entertaining - Tapas Sliders Night

The idea for this post came from three sources. Firstly, I am a huge fan of tapas style food. I want to try all of the things, so small amounts of various items is the best! When I go to restaurants, I can usually rope a few people into ordering multiple starters and make it a DIY tapas night, instead of ordering mains. Have you noticed that generally, the most unique and interesting food flavours are in the entrees? I'm assuming it's because if you don't like it, there's only a small amount and you've got your mains coming. But it's such a fun way of dining to try only smaller dishes.

One of my favourite restaurants is Watershed Winery near Margaret River and it's because they have a tasting plate appetiser for two and tasting plate dessert. Each plate comes with around 6 perfectly created mini-dishes. All different and unique, but still complimentary. I've often wanted to re-create this style of dinner party at home, but it's a lot of work to make so many mini-dishes. I actually want to do a tasting plate entree, main and dessert. 18 dishes for one dinner!

Secondly, my work Christmas party last year. It was a cocktail event, with lots of wonderful snacks going past and free-flowing champagne. It was getting towards the end of the night, when I'd danced to my heart's content and drank a few too many bubbles when I started to smell the most amazing smell. Burgers. And then I saw the tray of sliders the waiters were bringing around. Best. Idea. Ever. Mini-burgers for drunk folk, just before midnight.

I was discussing how perfect that idea was after she'd said she had pork sliders for lunch that day when we came up with a brilliant easy dinner party idea - tapas sliders. Mini-burgers with a choice of patties. So you can try multiple burgers in one night, or just stick to your favourite if you're a bit fussier. All of the patties can be prepared beforehand and then just grilled when your guests arrive. You can perfect the topping combinations for them, or like we did, create a burger station where they can experiment on their own. 

Our burger combinations suggestions were:

Beef patties - with cheese, beetroot, salad and tomato sauce
Pulled pork - with BBQ sauce, pineapple and coleslaw
Grilled pumpkin - with avocado and grilled haloumi
Prawn patties - with avocado and mango salsa

I made the pulled pork and prawn burgers. My friend brought the pumpkin and beef patties.

Our buns were a little on the large side for sliders, so I had my beef burger bunless as you can see in the pictures below. Sorry, all phone photos still.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mixed Greens, Pear and Goat's Cheese Salad with Chocolate Chilli Dressing

I wish I'd come up with this idea on my own, it's something I'd be super proud of. It's a weird, but elegantly simple idea. After all, salad dressings are basically a mix of oil, acid and sugar - why shouldn't that sugar be chocolate? But I'll be honest and say that this recipe was adapted from an idea I saw on the Hershey webpage. As part of that holiday I mentioned in my last post (the one that means this photo is also a phone photo - so bad I'm almost ashamed to put it up, but the salad was so delicious I'm willing to put it out there), my husband and I are taking a quick trip out to Hershey, PA. That's right, a whole town built by a chocolate company. With a theme park. Chocolate and roller coasters! Perfect, right?

So anyway, I was doing a bit of browsing on their website and came across a recipe section with a chocolate and chilli salad dressing. I simplified their recipe down to the basic 3 ingredient rule, then added chilli. I figure easier is better for a weeknight, and it'll give me a good base to start experimenting with. And it was awesome. Seriously. Awesome. I used Cottees chocolate sauce because of availability in Australia and price point. But feel free to use Hershey's, or a more natural, virtuous chocolate sauce.

I served this as a side salad for dinner, but I'd definitely serve a larger portion with a big juicy pork steak to turn it into a main meal salad. And, at the risk of getting sick of my own'd also be really good with crispy bacon bits. Vegetarian dish improved by bacon. In fact, so many things would go well with this dressing!

The dressing is also pretty strong, you only need a drizzle of it, rather than to full-on 'dress' the salad. For two people, I used 2 tbsps of the dressing. The salad ingredients all depend on how much you intend to serve.

There was also a recipe for a savoury chocolate soup I'm keen to try when the weather cools down further - I'll keep you posted!

Mixed Greens, Pear and Goat's Cheese Salad with Chocolate Chilli Dressing

3 tbsps chocolate sauce
4 tbsps coconut oil
3 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tsp chilli powder

Mixed salad greens
1/2 buerre bosc pears, very thinly sliced
pine nuts
1/4 brown onion, diced
2 tbsps corn flour
oil for frying
goat's cheese, crumbled

Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake!

Toast the pine nuts in a medium hot pan. Toss the onion in corn flour, then heat the oil in the same pan, and fry until brown and crispy. Put on paper towel to drain and cool.

Arrange greens, pear slices and goat's cheese in salad bowl, top with crispy onions and pine nuts, then drizzle the dressing over the top.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Instagrams of Yumness - Moroccan Carrot, Cauli and Ruby Red Grapefruit Salad‏

So, I've been pretty slack with the photographs lately - so you'll only be getting phone pictures for a while. Sorry about that.

I've been somewhat pre-occupied with researching and booking our upcoming holiday, so everything else has fallen by the wayside.  Seriously, so excited! At times like this, my memory is even worse than usual. Do you ever buy a specific ingredient with a specific dish in mind - then completely forget why? I do. All. the. time. I bought some ruby red grapefruit last weekend. I can only imagine that it was for some form of salad, given that it got back up to 37C, despite being April. I can't remember what I planned to pair with it, but a salad still seemed like a good idea.

Lately I've been wanting Moroccan flavours. I haven't had a great deal of Moroccan cuisine (despite being in love with my tagine and using it to cook everything), but I had leafed through a Moroccan cookbook a few weeks back and thought that they would go well with the grapefruit. A lot of recipes call for harissa paste, which I knew was a chilli paste of some description, but I didn't know the specific flavours. I found a recipe online and gave it a go, using it as a rub on a slow-roasted lamb leg but I can't say that I was all that excited by it. I decided to try a commercial one, to see what it was 'supposed' to taste like. Much better. Zesty, with a decent residual heat. Cumin and caraway stronger than the one I made. Perfect for a salad dressing. I added honey for sweetness, herbs for freshness, crunchy veges and some seeds for texture.

Quite impressed with the results. Fresh and spicy at the same time. Really easy to prepare as the food processor does all the work. Perfect salad for a warm night. Paired beautifully with steaks. Next time, I would consider adding some fetta or goats cheese and toasting the seeds.

Moroccan Carrot, Cauliflower and Ruby Red Grapefruit Salad

Half head cauliflower
4 small carrots
4 big sprigs flat leaf parsley
4 big sprigs basil
4 big sprigs coriander
handful pepitas
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 red grapefruit

2 tsbp harissa paste
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp grapefruit juice

shaving of pecorino to serve

Break the cauli into florets, and put it through the processor, pulsing until it resembles rice. Put it in a bowl big enough to hold the whole salad. Do the same with the carrots, add to the bowl. Do the same with the herbs, but leave slightly bigger.

Segment the grapefruit, breaking it up over the bowl of the processor to catch the juice. Break the segments into small pieces and add to the bowl of vegetables. Add all of the seeds, and fold together, mixing thoroughly

To the grapefruit juice in the bowl of the processor, add the harissa paste, honey, grapeseed oil and salt. Blend to combine, check for seasoning.

Pour dressing over the vegetables and mix thoroughly, then serve with pecorino. As I said, next time I'll use fetta or goat's cheese.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Instagrams of Yumness - Roast Chicken and Vegetable Buckwheat Pilaf

This is a weird combination of leftovers/cooked-for-another-dish/new meal that I made for dinner the other night. Confused? Haha! Me too, writing that! Let me explain. Earlier in the week, we had my in-laws around for dinner. For Christmas, they had given my husband a beer chicken frame - it's a ring thing that you put a can of beer in, and place the cavity of the chicken around it and then roast it in the BBQ. The beer steams through the chicken and subtly flavours it. It's quite delicious and seeing as we had a small chicken, my husband roasted it as a taster for them before the main meal. It's something he's planning on experimenting a lot with, I think ginger beer is next on the list! Currently his favourite way of doing it is by adding chillis and garlic into the beer. So anyway, I had about 1 cup's worth of beer-roasted chicken leftover, so that takes care of the "leftovers" part.

And that night, I was making people chocolate gifts for Easter, rather than buying them eggs. I decided on two items, Chocolate Salami and Whisky Marshmallow, Caramel Bacon Bark. I absolutely fell in love with the Chocolate Salami idea when I saw the pictures on my favourite food blog, Always Order Dessert. And the Bacon Bark, which as a vegetarian dish improved by bacon, shouldn't really need further explanation. I will do a post on both of these in the not-too-distant future. It being Easter very soon! But to make the Bacon Bark, I needed to cook bacon! So I left about a quarter cup of small diced bacon in the pan to help flavour this pilaf. So that's the "cooked-for-another-dish" portion.

Add newly roasted vegetables, and that sort of explains what I meant. But after tempering more chocolate than I've eaten all year, toasting nuts, making caramel, burning caramel, making more caramel, melting marshmallow and crushing biscuits, this hearty yet light pilaf was a delightful dinner. And it all comes together with very minimal 'active' cooking time. In fact, I was calling it a 'risotto' until I realised I didn't do the constant stir, add stock, stir that comes with real risotto cooking.

Roast Chicken and Vegetable Buckwheat "Pilaf"
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1/4 cup finely diced bacon bits
punnet of cherry tomatoes
kernels of 3 corn cobs
1 small zucchini, diced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
splash of apple cider vinegar (or white wine)
1 cup buckwheat
2 cups water (or stock)
pecorino to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Toss the cherry tomatoes, zucchini and corn kernels in a splash of olive oil. Add the garlic slices and roast in a moderate oven for around 30 minutes. Until zucchini and tomatoes are soft and squishy and corn is golden and cooked.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon bits in a high sided saute pan or put until crispy. Add the buckwheat and stiry around to coat in the bacon fat. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar and stir the buckwheat around in it until it's evaporated. Add the water (or stock), put the lid on and cook for half an hour or so until very almost cooked. Stir through the shredded chicken and cook for an extra 5 minutes or so until warmed. Check for seasoning.

Serve with shaved pecorino, and a fresh crack of pepper.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Instagrams of Yumness - Sauteed Mushrooms with Silverbeet (Chard)

Last night, after a gym work out, followed by Pilates, I didn’t get home until around 9pm. And starving. And desperate for protein! Luckily, on the weekend I headed to some new markets and bought a swag of mushrooms. I have never been terribly adventurous buying mushrooms. I usually stick to the cheaper button, field and Portobello styles. But in the spirit of trying new things, I picked up a punnet of shitake and a packet of enoki to go with the standard field mushrooms. I thought I would quickly fry them, minimal intervention to get a sense of their individual textures and flavours. I added some silverbeet to up the vege quota, a poached egg for more protein, some toasted nuts and seeds for crunch. Served with a slice of “Life Changing Bread” from My New Roots (a dark rye would do just as well) and a good dash of Sriracha. My husband’s newest sauce addiction. We’ve gone through a bottle in a fortnight!

Verdict – delicious and cooked in about 15 minutes. But this would most definitely a Vegetarian Meal Improved By Bacon. Crisp up a few rashes to add to the top and this would be perfect!


Sautéed Mushrooms with Silverbeet

Serves 2

Small punnet shitake (around 5 mushrooms), sliced

Small packet enoki (a decent sized handful)

2 medium sized field mushrooms

1 shallot

1 clove garlic


½ tsp dried thyme

1 tsp honey

Splash balsamic vinegar

Splash Worcestershire sauce

3 leaves silverbeet (chard),

¼ cup fresh basil leaves

Olive oil for frying – about 3 tbsps.

2 eggs

¼ cup walnuts

1 tbsp quinoa

2 tbsp pepitas

¼ tsp smoky paprika

Heat a pan/wok and gently toast the nuts, quinoa and seeds until golden and crunchy, stir through the paprika. Remove to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Add a little olive oil to the pan, heat to medium. Dice the shallots and fry until translucent, mince the garlic and add to pan. Add salt and pepper to taste, thyme and the teaspoon of honey. Mix to evenly distribute through the onion mixture

Finely slice the shitake and field mushrooms and lightly separate the enoki. These will further break apart when cooking, so don’t worry too much. Fry, stirring frequently, to coat them in the onion mixture. When softened slightly (around 5 minutes), boil water in a shallow pan to poach the eggs.

Add the splashes of Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar, this should sizzle and cook out pretty quickly, so make sure you stir it through all of the mushrooms. Add the silverbeet and fresh basil leaves, cook until wilted, but still bright green.

Serve immediately with poached egg on top, sprinkled with the seeds and a slice of bread and sriracha on the side.

And as I said, next time I make this, I’ll be adding a rasher of crispy bacon on top.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Summer: Blue Swimmer Crab and Chilli Pasta

You know how there are some activities that just encapsulate a season for you? On top of the obvious things like swimming, eating stone fruit,  suffering mosquitos, celebrating Christmas and Australia Day, and generally trying to stay cool, something that jumps out and screams “Summer!!” for me is crabbing. Every year that I have been with my husband, we somehow managed to score a free night amongst the madness that is our holiday season – with birthdays it extends from the start of November til the start of February – to spend a night crabbing with his sister. It’s something I remember doing as a kid, too. We used to go down to our friend’s house in Mandurah, the dad’s would head out at dusk and crab all night, then we’d wake up to a massive pot of crabs cooking away as the sun rose. We have always done it more glamorously, wearing waders rather than old Dunlop vollies and bathers, so we can strip and drive off relatively clean and dry. But with torch nestled in our armpits, and scoop net in hand, we scour the bay for blue swimmer crabs. Turning our nose up at the females and little ones, going blind and delirious as the night goes on and you can’t see through the water anymore. And coming home to cook our catch at 3 in the morning. Back aching and completely exhausted from trudging through knee-deep water with a squelchy river bed; but excited to have done something a bit different on a balmy summer’s night. Most years we aren’t terribly successful, getting only a handful. This year, we ended up almost at our quota. So on top of eating a few claws fresh out of the pot, still warm, dipped in passionfruit vinegar, I got to be a bit experimental with the crab flesh.
We don’t tend to eat a lot of seafood, because it’s fairly expensive, but I am a big fan in almost all of it’s forms. Often, unless we catch it, we don’t eat it! Being a fairly delicate and sweet flavoured flesh, I thought simple and clean flavours was best for making a crab pasta. I didn’t want it to be lost in a heavy sauce. My husband, as well as re-acquainting me with crabbing, also introduced me to using tequila in cooking. One of his favourite things to do is pour a capful (maybe 5-10mL) of his favourite tequila over a big juicy steak. As it hits the steak and warms up, the aroma is incredible. Seriously, try it. I used a reposado for this dish, but ordinarily I stick to anejo’s or a Mezcal, as that is what we usually drink.
The crabs we boil in a large pot of water with 2 heaped tsps of hot English mustard and a good few glugs of white vinegar.
Crab and Chilli Pasta
2 shallots
2 BIG cloves garlic
1 chilli
2 sweet paprika, diced
1 tub grape tomatoes
3 yellow squash, diced
Zest and juice from 2 lemons
Splash tequila
2 handfuls of cooked crab meat
Fresh coriander
Fresh parsley
250g egg pasta
Parmesan, pepper and chilli flakes to serve
Bring plenty of salted water to the boil
Fry minced shallots, chilli and garlic in oil until translucent. Add lemon zest
Add sweet paprika, squash and tomatoes, cook until softened a tad
Cook pasta as per instructions
Smoosh tomatoes against side of the pan, add tequila, lemon juice and crab meat, stir until crab meat heated through
Add noodles, and a splash of olive oil, stir to coat and combine
Add fresh herbs
Serve with freshly grated cheese, pepper and chilli flakes.
Being an Australian Summer, I also recommend drinking a nice Semillon Sauvignon Blanc to go with it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Two Super Easy Vegan 'Pantry' Curries

So I was reminded one afternoon that some of the girls at work were doing a bring-a-dish lunch the next day. I was most disheartened. Not because I don’t like lunching with the girls, but because it meant I’d have to specifically cook something to bring in. We were already going to have leftovers for dinner, so there was going to be no cooking. Nothing I could just make a little bit more of in order to bring in the excess for work. I also didn’t have much by way of fresh veges in the house, and I really didn’t want to go to the shops. So I went to the gym and had a brainwave whilst running...
Enter two of the simplest curries you’ll ever make. All from stuff in the pantry, and a sweet potato. Literally 5 minutes prep time, then I walked away for half an hour and then turned off the heat. Sorry the photos are pretty bad quality. Oh, and in the interests of full disclosure, the lentil curry photo is no longer vegan, we added some diced up leftover sausages with the leftovers the next night.
Lentil and tomato curry
1 tin of lentils, rinsed
1 tin of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp dried chilli
1 tsp dried coriander
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp cinnamon
Salt to taste
Chuck everything in a pot, add ½ cup of water, simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes or so. Check for seasoning.
Sweet potato and chickpea curry
1 large sweet potato, cut into small dice
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed
1 tin coconut milk
1 ½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the sweet potato into small dice, put everything in a pot, add ½ cup of water and simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes or so, until the sweet potato is tender but holds it’s shape. Check for seasoning
 Serve  both with rice and breads etc. of your choice