Wednesday
Apr232014

curry lamb, spinach and chickpea hand pies

If the mention of the word "curry" conjures up images of a fluorescent yellow powder in a little jar (you know the one that's been sitting at the back of your pantry for the last 3 years that makes a guest appearance when someone has the hankering for a curried egg sandwich?) then you must take a trip down to your local farmer's market and pick up some fresh curry leaves. LIFE CHANGING.

Heat some oil in your frying pan, throw in the leaves (don't be shy, 10-15 is a good amount) and deeply inhale the aromas of India. When the leaves transform to a deep, brown colour you're ready to rock. This fragrant oil can be used in SO many ways, just add some finely chopped onion and garlic and sauté for a unique twist on your regular flavour base. Turn a new leaf (literally), give curry powder the flick and add curry leaves to your shopping list this week.

curry lamb, spinach and chickpea hand pies
Makes 20

500g lamb mince
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
12 large fresh curry leaves (double the quantity if leaves are small)
1/2 lemon, finely zested
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 cup chickpeas (from a can, drained, rinsed)
100g baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp ghee
8 puff pastry sheets
1 egg, lightly whisked with a splash of milk
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 180ºC. Line 2 oven trays with foil.

Heat ghee in a large frypan over medium heat. Throw in the curry leaves and cook until they are fragrant and turn deep brown in colour. Add onions and garlic, saute 5-6 mins or until onions become opaque and lightly golden. Add lamb, using a wooden spoon to break down up any lumps. Cook mince, stirring regularly, until browned. Drain excess fat from the pan (do this by pushing the mince to one side of the pan, then carefully angle the pan so that the fat pools at the opposite side. I find it easier to use paper towel to soak up the oil, as attempting to tip it out of the pan results in lamb mince everywhere).

Return pan to the heat. Add lemon zest, cardamom and cumin powder. Stir well to combine, then season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, stir through chickpeas and spinach leaves, stirring until leaves begin to wilt. Set aside to cool.

Use a 10cm cookie cutter, cut 5 circles from each pastry sheet, so that you have 40 circles. Once lamb mixture has cooled, divide mixture evenly between 20 of the circles (about 1 heaped tbsp for each circle). The remaining circles will form the top of the pies - place a plain circle over the top of a filled pastry, pressing down edges firmly to seal. Repeat with remaining pies.

Transfer pies to prepared trays. Brush lightly with egg mixture then bake for 20 mins or until golden and flakey. Serve immediately.

Tuesday
Apr222014

chicken and kelp soup with green tea soba and crispy prosciutto

To encourage more adventurous cooking, lately I've been picking up random ingredients and trying to work them into my recipes.  In the past I haven't viewed seaweed as much more than a handy wrapping for my sushi, or an annoying thing to pull out of the crotch of my bathers at the beach, so when it came up as "random ingredient of the week" I drew inspiration from Japanese miso soup, using dried seaweed to build a unique flavour profile in this basic chicken soup, that is anything but stock-standard (pun intended).

chicken and kelp soup with green tea soba and crispy prosciutto
Serves 4 

200g packet green tea soba noodles
12 slices prosciutto 
Sliced spring onions, to serve
2 chicken breasts
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper 
Coriander leaves, to serve 

STOCK
1 chicken carcass, plus 4 chicken necks and 4 chicken wings
2 carrots, thickly sliced
12 black peppercorns
30g dried kelp (from Asian supermarkets)
Peeled zest from 1 lemon
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 brown onion, skin on, quartered
1/2 long red chilli
3 cloves garlic, skin on, squashed
1/2 small bunch of parsley, secured into a bouquet with kitchen string

To make stock, place chicken carcass, necks and wings in a large saucepan with all of the other ingredients except the parsley.  Fill saucepan with water until it completely covers the chicken by about 2 inches.  Place over a very low heat and allow to gently simmer for 6 hours, skimming regularly to remove any scum that floats to the surface.

When the stock has cooked for 6 hours, remove from the heat and strain through muslin cloth-lined sieve (or Chux cloth, if you aren't that fancy pants).  Discard the solids.  Transfer the stock to a metal bowl.  Fill your kitchen sink with ice and cold water, then float the bowl of stock on top.  This is called an ice bath and will help to bring the temperature of your stock down rapidly so that it is safe to put into your fridge.  Leave the bowl in the ice bath for around 30 mins, then remove, cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to cool overnight and let flavours develop. 

When you want to use the stock, you will notice that a thin layer of fat has solidified on top.  Gently break through this layer and remove all the fat, discard.  Pour the stock into a medium sized saucepan and gently bring to the boil over a low-medium heat.  Once the stock has reached a gentle boil, add the chicken breasts and poach for 10-15 mins or until cooked through (the internal temperature should reach 72ºC to be safe).  Remove breasts from the stock, set aside.  

Add the soba noodles to the stock and cook according to packet instructions (about 6 mins should do the trick). To remove noodles from stock, straight through a sieve, catching the stock in a container underneath.  Set the noodles aside.  Line the sieve with muslin cloth and pass the stock through once again, removing any impurities for a clear stock.  Season to taste with salt.

Fry the prosciutto in a non-stick frypan until crispy.  Drain on paper towel.

To serve, divide stock among bowls.  Divide noodles among bowls and top with shredded poached chicken, crispy prosciutto, spring onion and coriander leaves.  Season with pepper.

Monday
Apr212014

african herbed sausages with saffron mash

Try these at your next BBQ and you'll forever turn your nose up at supermarket sausages! I've finely chopped the vegetable ingredients but if you prefer a less "rustic" texture, run the mixture through your food processor before adding egg and breadcrumbs.

african spiced sausages with saffron mash
Serves 4

500g pork mince
1/2 red capsicum, very finely chopped
1/2 small onion, very finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaves and stems (discard roots)
1 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil

SAFFRON MASH
Generous pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 1 tbsp boiling water
8 medium sized Sebago (or other floury) potoatoes, peeled, quartered
60g butter
Splash of thickened cream
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

In a large bowl combine all of the sausage ingredients. Use your hands to mix until very well combined. Divide into 12 equal portions and form into sausage-shaped logs. Refrigerate for 30 mins to allow to firm up (nobody likes a floppy sausage).

Meanwhile, place potato into a large saucepan with 1.5L cold water. Season with a generous amount of salt. Bring to the boil over a high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 20-25 mins or until potato chunks are soft when poked with a fork. Drain well, return to saucepan.

Add butter and cream to the potatoes. Mash well with a potato masher (or stick blender, if you prefer a silky smooth consistency). Remove saffron threads from the water, discard the threads and add water to the mash, stirring through well. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with lid and keep warm while you cook the sausages.

Heat vegetable oil in a large frypan over low-medium heat. Cook sausages, turning every 1-2 mins to ensure all sides are browned evenly, for 6-8 mins or until cooked through. Serve with saffron mash.

Saturday
Apr192014

herbed clafoutis with vine-wrapped goat's cheese

I love my dog. I mean, I really, really, REALLY love my dog. I love my dog so much, last week when I was meeting lovely Mummy bloggers at Kidspot workshop I had a hard time not comparing their graphic accounts of childbearing with getting a new puppy. I resisted as I could still hear my Mother cackling like a crazed hyena when I told her that raising a baby dog was just as difficult as raising a baby human. Of course I would know, from all my experience of raising a child (none. OK, I once carried a raw egg around with me for an entire week to prove I could be responsible. I was 8).

From watching movies, I know there is a lightbulb moment in every parent's life where they look at their children (usually in slow motion) and feel immense pride - perhaps it is because they came first in the school sports carnival, or perhaps it was because their incredibly unco child managed to carry a raw egg around for a whole week without breaking it. The thing is, people have these feelings for their pets too.

Just like a real parent, I have always hidden vegetables in our dog's food. I wouldn't have gone to all the trouble had I know that our dog actually LOVES vegetables. This evening when I dropped parsley on the floor our dog appeared from nowhere and hoovered it up, looking up me with those huge, dinner-plate eyes "Please Sir, can I have some more?". I couldn't believe what I had witnessed so I tested this theory further with the baby spinach I used to garnish my dinner plate but really didn't want to eat. She happily devoured it and sat patiently, waiting for more. This is a game changer for me. All my life I had wished for a dog I could feed my vegetables to. Now, at 30 years of age, my childhood dreams have come true and I couldn't be a prouder parent.

herbed clafoutis with vine-wrapped goat's cheese
Serves 4

6 eggs
375ml milk
75g plain flour
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
2 tbsp finely chopped dill
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped mint
2 spring onions, whole, roots removed
Zest of 1 lemon
6 preserved vine leaves
100g matured goat's cheese (I like La Luna for this recipe)
60g grated tasty cheese
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 200ºC.

Whisk together eggs, milk, lemon zest and flour. Season with salt and pepper. Add chopped herbs and whisk well to combine. Pour into a 26cm round, ovenproof dish (I used a deep, coated cast iron frypan). Bake for 15 mins.

Remove from oven, arrange spring onions on top of egg, pushing down gently into the mixture. Divide goat's cheese into 6 equal portions. Wrap each portion roughly in a vine leaf, then push the wrapped cheese into the egg mixture, spacing out evenly over the clafoutis. Sprinkle with tasty cheese, then return to oven bake for a further 10-15 mins or until golden on top and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Friday
Apr182014

my darling lemon (myrtle) thyme bbq prawns

"This is not the greatest recipe in the World - this is just a tribute" Tenacious D

Don't get me wrong, it's a good recipe, I'm just not a bit tooter of my own trumpet (even though I do play trumpet, but let's save that party trick for another time). I would like to dedicate this recipe to fellow foodie blogger My Darling Lemon Thyme in honour of her most recent Saveur Food Blog Awards win in the Best Original Recipes Blog (Reader's Choice) category. We heart you My Darling Lemon Thyme!

What better way to celebrate than with a recipe title that kinda sounds like her name, with an beautiful ingredient that is uniquely Australian. Today is the first time I have used lemon myrtle and as I ripped open the bag and breathed in its commanding, citrus scent I was overcome with nostalgia, though it took me a while to work out what it was. Shoving the bag under THBBF's shnoz, I watched his face closely as he had a similar reaction. Then it hit me - KFC MOIST REFRESHER TOWELETTES! Yes, KFC moist refresher towelettes smell like lemon myrtle. If only I could work out the 11 secret herbs and spices...

my darling lemon (myrtle) thyme bbq prawns
Serves 4, as an entree

12 large green prawns
1 tsp lemon myrtle powder (available from gourmet food shops or online at Herbie's)
1 tsp finely chopped thyme leaves, plus a few extra sprigs, to serve
1 clove garlic, crushed
100g unsalted butter, softened
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

To prepare prawns, remove and discard legs from body of prawn. Using a small, sharp knife, make a slit on the underneath of the prawn from the head down to the tail. Make sure you don't cut through the prawn completely, just enough to be able to place the prawn belly-down on a board and press down on the shell to butterfly. Use the tip of your knife to carefully remove the vein.

In a small bowl, combine butter, lemon myrtle, garlic, thyme and salt and pepper. Stir to combine well. Brush butter generously over prawns.

Preheat a BBQ (or chargrill pan) to a high heat. Grill prawns for 3-4 mins (depending on size). I used a heavy, cast iron pan to push down the prawns and flatten further as they are cooking - this also helps to achieve the lovely char-grilled marks. Throw the extra thyme sprigs into the pan and heat to release aromas. Serve prawns seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled thyme sprigs and a tiny extra sprinkle of lemon myrtle powder.

Serve with grilled sourdough bread (gluten-free, if you're a MDLT follower!) drizzled with citrus-infused oil.