Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Pot

The Pot sits pretty amid designer boutiques and cute little coffee shops in Hyde Park – a tiled walking lane look alike that extends from King William Road. In fact it makes for such a rickety ride, you feel like the car is about to fall apart as you drive over the series of grooves. Adjacent to the Pot is Melt, a delightful pizzeria that sounds and looks fabulous. Can’t wait to try that place! I feel a bit foolish – in my one and a half years of living in little, ole Adelaide I had never been to Hyde Park before! An interesting cheese and wine providore just a few doors away confirms that a trip up to the top of King William Road is a must.

The atmosphere is intimate, cosy and sophisticated all at once. The place could possibly seat 40 – and that would be a stretch I imagine. Literally as you enter the room it envelopes you in a warm embrace. Soft, yellow lighting, warmth of the heating and quaint French bistro ambience oozes – brown paper specials scrawled haphazardly, (so much so we couldn’t make them out and missed the crumbed sweetbreads!) overhead a glass kitchen. This allows a sneak peek at the chefs in their impressive starched whites and chequered hats.

Immediately impressed by the vibe I got as I walked in the door and further elevated by excitement over the elegant menu options, my mind whirled at the journey several tasting platters would afford us that night. The Pot has long been an Adelaidian institution until recently when the owner decided to re-vamp the place by doing a French tapas inspired menu that features plates designed to share with the exception of the appetisers that the waitress warned were individual portions (fair warning). An immediate drawback was the seating. Adjusting myself in the tiny little varnished wooden tables and chairs it seems our group of four, petite to moderately sized women, were feeling a bit like Suddenly Susan – too large and awkward to fit into the space allocated to our table and chairs without leaning a little over the customers on tables on either side, or rocking the table unceremoniously every time someone needed to reach for the bread or the water. And so, the expected happened halfway through service, the water rocked our table sending water all over my friend’s bag and lap – all he did was offer her a serviette and rush off!

The tasting menu of Chef’s selection of appetiser, charcuterie, salads, seafood, meats and dessert at $48 sounded like the way to go. But the birthday girl’s friends had said they hadn’t enjoyed the chef’s selection very much on their visit.

We ordered a bunch of things to taste and share instead. All of us being gastronomy students the experience of flavours, taste and texture as opposed to food as fuel highlights any meal we sit down to. Our waitress was awfully eager to push the shoestring fries, “I’m just going to add one – you’re going to need it.” While all of us looked horrified, nodding our heads in opposition.” One word – pushy! And for what the fries – so not worth it, some wait staff need a lesson in sussing out their customers! The gastro-gals are anything but a bunch of grease, shoving fried potato crazed women!

We started our meal with much promise. The Mushroom, Truffle and Raclette Croquettes were divine. Breaded evenly and golden to a crisp, one bite yielded a delicate, smooth interior of potato pureé laced with truffle. The birthday girl keen to try oysters had ordered the Pristine Pacific Oysters from Coffin Bay, which my companions enjoyed natural, I tried it with the Wasbi Flying Fish Roe that was simply delightful, an airy puff of zing, the burst of popping roe in the mouth and then the creamy, plump oyster to chase it. Satisfied we sipped on red from McLaren Vale (can’t remember the exact winery) waiting for the rest of our meal. Two more appetisers followed. Tempura Snails in Garlic Butter intrigued all of us, and it was truly a winning combination. There is something absolutely irresistible about garlic butter – you are powerless – tearing off hunks of bread, dipping it into the butter and mopping up all that gorgeous aromatic oil, savouring it slowly, bite, by bite like a higher power has commanded you to do so! Last but not least the Wagyu Beef Tartare with Potato Chips. Succulent morsels of delicately minced melt-in-the-mouth meat destroyed by the over-kill saltiness of the chips – it was rather tragic.

Mushroom, Truffle and Raclette Croquettes

Pristine Pacific Oysters from Coffin Bay natural and with Wasbi Roe and Tempura Garlic Butter Snails
For mains we opted Poached Skate Wing, Truffle Polenta, Poached Egg and Parmesan as well as the Confit Duck and Mushroom Boudin with Red Cabbage. Both left me horribly disappointed. The Skate seemed a tad dry, definitely way too stringy – resembling over cooked chicken meat and had a spongy texture missing flavour and vivaciousness. The truffle polenta – if it was there I didn’t notice it, the poached egg was about the only component of the dish that tasted and looked as it should.

Confit Duck and Mushroom Boudin with Red Cabbage
As for the Confit Duck – let me say never have I seen it presented as a ‘roll’ as my friend succinctly described it. Shredded dried bits of confit duck formed into a roulade like stack and stuffed with the mushroom, instead of the boudin being a sausage like roll as I had expected. The red cabbage was lovely, in a rich red wine sauce, it had me dipping my fork in constantly for more, the saltiness of the dry duck working in a way I am positive the chef did not intend. Its texture and taste resembled more the Bombay duck (a kind of salted miniature Indian fish) or Ikan Billis (dried, salted Indonesian anchovies) than duck in any way! On the side we enjoyed nibbling at a salad of Roasted Baby Beetroot, Orange, Fennel and Fresh Goats Curd – refreshing yes, worth writing home about no. To me the word ‘roasted’ is not to be taken lightly, for as far as it goes as a cooking method, it imparts unparalleled flavour and is perhaps my favourite way of cooking and eating veggies. This salad of roasted baby beets missed the point completely!

Roasted Baby Beetroot, Orange, Fennel and Fresh Goats Curd

To end the night we shared the Eton Mess – Crushed Meringue, Mascarpone, Banana and Salted Butter Caramel that reminded me of a cross between rocky road nougat and a banana split. Requiring a customary sweet fix after dinner, it served its purpose. However, I spied other customers with plump Cinnamon Sugar Donuts and Mocha Sauce that looked tantalizingly divine as well as delicately dreamy lightly raised pale, lemony Passionfruit Soufflés that made our ‘Eton Mess’ pale in comparison.

Eton Mess

Shop 21, 60 King William Road, Hyde Park, SA 5061
Tel: +61 8 8373 2044

The Pot Food & Wine on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ricotta and Pesto di Rucola Ravioli with Nut Brown Butter Sauce

While basil pesto and ricotta ravioli is a classic filling, this rocket pesto variation adds a peppery kick!

Ingredients: 100 g Pesto di Rucola; 100g Ricotta; 40 wonton wrappers(made with egg); 100 g butter; 1 large egg, beaten to blend; Parmesan to garnish; Rocket leaves to garnish

Method: Combine the pesto and the ricotta in a bowl. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place wonton wrappers on work surface. Using pastry brush, brush wrappers with beaten egg. Place ½ tblsp pesto and ricotta filling in center of each. Fold each wrapper diagonally over filling, forming triangle. Seal edges. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature while heating the butter to make a nut brown butter sauce.
Working in batches, cook ravioli in pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well. Add ravioli to pot with butter sauce; toss to coat. Transfer to plates, drizzling any sauce from pot over ravioli. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and scatter rocket leaves, serve immediately.

More ravioli recipes?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Orange Poppy Seed Cake with Cranberries and Caramel

This cake is simple to make, the caramelised oranges and icing make it a rather consuming procedure, but the result is simply fantastic, making for a pretty centrepiece for an afternoon tea or brunch. The cranberries and poppy seeds are a wonderful combination with the zesty orange, both adding interesting texture and taste.

Ingredients: 2½ cups plain flour, 1 tblsp baking powder, 4 eggs, ½ cup of milk or a little bit more, 1 orange (zest and juice - about ½ cup), 1 cup golden caster sugar, ¾ cup / 150g melted butter, ½ cup dried cranberries, 4 tblsp poppy seeds

Method: Melt butter with sugar, milk and leave aside for a while to cool down. In a bowl mix flour and baking powder, add cooled down butter and gradually add eggs, orange zest, poppy seeds and orange juice, mixing with whisk all the time.

At the end fold in the cranberries.Pour mixture into buttered tins and bake in the oven preheated to 160°C (320°F) for about 45-55 minutes.

Ready cake should have cracks on the top, should be moist but not sticky inside, use skewer to check. Remove cakes from the tin and let them cool down.

For the Caramelised Oranges
125 g caster sugar
2 oranges, sliced

To make the caramelised oranges, put the caster sugar in a frying pan in an even layer and heat until it starts to melt and turn a golden colour. Tip the pan from side to side to keep the caramel as even as you can. Once it reaches a dark gold, carefully add half the orange juice from the cake oranges (it will splutter so stand back). Keep on the heat, stirring so that any lumps melt back into the caramel. Add the orange slices and heat gently for about 5 minutes until they soften a little. Lift out and drain, keep the caramel and orange slices for later.
For the Icing
100g caster sugar
While the cake is baking, make the icing. Add the sugar to the remaining orange juice and stir. Add to the caramel but don't try to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the hot cake while it is in the tin. Lay the rest of the orange slices down the centre and leave to cool. Remove from the tin when cold.


Looking for more citrus infused cakes?

Try my Lemon Semolina Cake

or my Gluten free Orange and Almond Cake

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Baked Ricotta with Marinated Olives

Delicately infused with orange zest, this recipe produces a lightly baked ricotta that pairs beautifully with mixed olives marinated in olive oil, lemon and chili flakes. A variety of stuffed olives with almond, jalapeno or feta, spiced Sicilians, green and black Cerignolas, Kalamata and oil cured olives work wonderfully balancing the dish with an edge of acidity.

This recipe has been adapted from Gourmet Girl. Makes two ramekins of baked ricotta.

Ingredients: 1 cup whole milk ricotta; 2 eggs, separated; 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves; Grated zest of half an orange; 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese; freshly cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt

For Marinated Olives: 1 cup mixed olives (jalapeno stuffed, Spiced Sicilian, almond stuffed, green and black Cerignolas, and oil cured olives)1/4 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley1 teaspoon grated lemon zest1/2 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes1 tablespoon olive oil

Method: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 2- 8oz. oven proof ramekins. Whip 2 egg whites to soft peaks and set aside. Combine ricotta, Parmesan cheese, orange zest, 2 egg yolks, thyme, salt and pepper until blended. Add about one third of the whipped egg whites and fold gently. Add remaining whipped egg whites and fold until just incorporated. Divide the mixture evenly between the buttered ramekins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned on top and a little puffy. (they will deflate a bit as they cool). Baked ricotta is best eaten warm or at room temperature. Combine all the marinated olive ingredients and serve alongside the cheese with sliced French baguette.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Prawn Saganki

Saganaki means 'little frying-pan' in Greek. Traditionally served as an appetizer comprising fried cheese melted in a small frying-pan until it is bubbling, served with lemon juice and pepper and eaten with bread. Usually Kefalograviera, Kasseri, Kefalotyri, or sheep's milk Feta cheese is used. Regional variations include Formaella cheese in Arachova and Halloumi cheese in Cyprus.
This is a fabulously delicious recipe by Chef Garry Meghan, Judge of 2008 Debut Australian Masterchef - a show I have been following religiously. The simple flavours - chili, garlic, coriander and parsley are balanced ever so perfectly, brought to life by the crispiness of the pan-seared prawns. Although the dish presented beautifully, I was rather skeptical about the whole baby tomatoes. Don't be - because they are blistered, when you cut into them the sweet juice bursts onto your plate (note: maybe even your clothes!) coating the prawns with just the right amount of sauce and tying all the vibrant flavours together. This version of the Greek dish maintains traditional preparation in a single-serving frying-pan and can even be presented in the pan itself to re-create a rustic feel.
Serves 1
Ingredients: 8 green king prawns; 2 cloves garlic, peeled, thinly sliced; 1 long red chili, thinly sliced; 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves; Extra virgin olive oil; Sea salt; 4 baby yellow roma tomatoes; 4 small black Russian tomatoes; 4 baby red roma tomatoes; 60g feta; 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
Method: Cut through the underside of the head and shell of each prawn with kitchen scissors, then use a sharp knife to butterfly the prawns open. Remove the digestive tract and wipe clean with paper towel. Place cut-side up onto a plate. Press garlic, chili and coriander over the prawn meat, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Marinate for up to 1 hour.
Preheat oven 250°C fan forced. Heat an oven-proof frying pan over high heat until hot. Add enough oil to cover the base then add prawns flesh side down. Cook for 2 minutes, gently pressing flat with a spatula until golden. Turn over and cook few more minutes. Scatter the tomatoes over the pan, season with salt and transfer to the oven. Cook for 3 minutes until tomatoes just blistered. Remove from the oven, crumble over the feta, scatter over the parsley, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Serve in the pan.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chicken Tom Kha

In February, 2008 a celebrity chef and food critic became Thailand’s Prime Minister, a record first in world history. Take that Mayor Swatzernager! This recipe is one from his collection.

Tom Kha is a favourite of mine and is surprisingly easy to make. I did find that the leftover portion I re-heated the next day developed a depth of flavour missing the day I made it. Refreshingly zesty and aromatic with heaps zing thanks to the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lemon juice and galangal (kha) that infuse the broth, coconut milk finishes the soup adding a smooth creamy texture, tempering the zing just a little. Be warned this soup will leave you craving more, while your lips bear the brunt.

If you like, the soup can also be made with shrimp, pork, beef or mushrooms, so feel free to substitute the chicken in this recipe. Thai's customarily enjoy Tom Kha ladled over a bowl of steamed Thai jasmine rice, but it is lovely simply on its own as a soup as well.

Serves 4 as soup; 2 if eaten over rice.
Ingredients: 450 ml chicken stock; 4-5 kaffir lime leaves, shredded; 4 or 5 2 inch pieces fresh , bruised to release flavor; 1 inch cube galangal sliced thinly; 4 tablespoons fish sauce; tablespoons lime; 120 g chicken breast, cut into smallish bite sized pieces; 150 ml coconut milk; 1 small red Thai chili, slightly crushed; Coriander leaves to garnish.
Method: Heat the stock, add the lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, fish sauce, and lime juice. Stir thoroughly,bring to a boil, and add the chicken and coconut milk, then the chili peppers. Bring back to the boil, lower the heat to keep it simmering and cook for about 2 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baby Capsicums Stuffed with Pesto di Rucola and Ricotta

A sucker for miniatures from dogs to dolls as well as fruit and veggies, I spied some tiny baby capsicums at the market last week. I took them home formulating ideas of how to stuff them, as I wanted to keep them whole and came up with this recipe. The baby caps present beautifully as canapés at a cocktail party or plated appetisers for a dinner party, involving hassle free preparation.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 25 -30 minutes

Ingredients: 6 baby capsicums; 100 g Ricotta cheese; 100 g Pesto di rucola (follow the link for the recipe)

Method: Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Combine pesto di rucoula and ricotta cheese thoroughly in a bowl. Slice the top of the capsicums, de-seed them and stuff them with the cheese mixture, filling to the top. Line a baking tray with foil and lay on capsicums, with the capsicum tops as well, to use as lids later. Bake for approximately 25-30 mins until the capsicums are roasted and the cheese mixture is becomes set. Serve with or without capsicum lids depending on desired presentation.

Planning a party? Looking for some stylish canapés to serve?

Try my Brie-Bacon Pastry Rounds

or Sweet Pork or Citrus Scallop Dim Sums

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spiced Meat Samosas

Mutton or goat mince samosas are relished as a delicious tea-time treat back in my hometown Bangalore. Samosas are an Indian deep fried snack - triangular shaped layers of flaky, crisp pastry can be found in shops and homes across the country with a variety of fillings, spiced potato with peas and onion samosas being the most popular. Mutton samosas are customarily made by India's Muslim community as well as the Keralites down south and are a favourite of mine. This recipe is by Sherin Mohan, who incidentally is from Kerala.

I have spotted samosas being served as fancy appetisers in restaurants in Australia, larger and slightly basterdised of course! Another example of globalisation and 'fusion' food. Goat mince gives this recipe a special something, but I could not get my hands on any and settled on Aussie lamb mince which worked well too.


For filling: 250 grm Mutton mince; 1 medium onion; one large tomato; 2 small green chillies; 1 tsp Turmeric powder; 1 tsp Garam masala; 1 tsp Chili Powder; 1½ tsp Salt

For dough: 200 grm flour; ½ tsp salt; 1 tblsp butter; 1 tsp Cumin seeds; ¾ cup Oil; 7 tbsp Cold water

Method: Chop the onion finely. Wash, peel and chop tomato and green chillies. Peel and finely chop ginger. In a frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and fry onions for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, green chillies, ginger, chili powder, garam masala and turmeric powder and fry for two minutes. Add the mince and fry for five minutes. Add ½ cup of water and bring it to boil. Lower heat, add salt and simmer for 45 minutes till meat is dry.

For pastry, I tried spring roll pastry sheets, cutting one sheet into fours. I would however suggest that if you wish to use the ready made pastry, opt to use a whole sheet for one samosas, repeatedly folding around the stuffing to create a flakier, substantial pastry.

Ready made wrappers pale in comparison to the wholesome traditional pastry. In addition I baked my samosas as a healthier alternative, however, for crispier, perfectly golden samosas deep frying is the way to go - I have to admit deep fried samosas are simply to-die-for.

Sieve flour and ½ tsp. of salt into a large bowl. Add unsalted butter and cumin seeds and rub into the flour. Add water 1 tbsp at a time and roll into a fairly stiff dough. Shape into 8 balls and roll out on a floured board into thin rounds. Cut into half and roll into a cone pressing the ends together. Fill cone with 2 tbsp of the stuffing and seal end, brushing dough with cold water to help seal it. In a kadai (traditional Indian wok), or simply use a wok or deep frying pan, heat the oil. Add samosas, lower the heat to medium and fry for 5-6 minutes.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Muesli Cookies

A healthy option to fill your cookie jar with and keep your energy levels up...
Cooking Time 20 minutes
Makes 24 cookies
Ingredients: 3 cups homemade toasted muesli (the more fruit and nuts the better); 1/2 cup (75g) plain flour; 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 drop vanilla essence, 100g butter, melted, cooled; 1/3 cup honey; 1 tblsp packed brown sugar; 1 egg, lightly beaten
Method: Preheat oven to 170°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Combine muesli and flour in a bowl. Whisk butter, honey and egg together. Add butter mixture to oats and mix well. Set aside for 15 minutes. Roll spoonfuls of mixture into balls and place on trays, 3cm apart. Flatten. Bake for 10 mins. Swap trays halfway through. Cool for 10 mins transfer to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining mixture.
Like this recipe? Looking for more healthy recipes to satiate your sweet craving?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pesto di Rucola

I adore pesto and am constantly finding new ways to use it around my kitchen and on my plate! A twist on the standard basil favourite, peppery rocket or arugula leaves that are sharper, with a slight bitter finish packs a real flavour punch. A tweaked version of Gino D'Acampo's rocket pesto recipe from Saturday Kitchen, Food Network, I swapped olives for capers since I didn't have any on hand, and added pine nuts that were missing. A true pesto in my eyes must have a nutty flavour and texture to deserve to call itself a pesto. Walnuts can be used in place of the pine nuts for a further variation - they too have a creamy taste and will add lovely texture. Toasting nuts releases the full depth of the rich nutty flavour, so remember to toast your nuts before adding them to your food processor to optimise their taste.

Ingredients: 200g fresh rocket leaves; 1 clove garlic; 10 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil; 1 tbsp Spanish Manzilla Olives or Italian Cerignola's work well; 2 tbsp white wine vinegar; 100g freshly shaved Parmesan; Salt; Freshly ground black pepper;

Method: Simply chuck all the ingredients into a food processor and give it a quick whizz. You can either make it smooth or slightly chunky depending on your preference and whether you are serving it as a dip, spread, stuffing or marinade.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Udon Noodle Soup with Silken Tofu and Mushrooms

A complete carnivore the very idea of vegetarianism is absurd to me. I simply cannot fathom why anyone in their sane mind would voluntarily sign up to eat nothing but “grass”. While I advocate a balanced diet, and relish my greens, even enjoy foraging for new types and kinds of veggies (and trust me there are so MANY!), I believe veggies are best served as a side complimentary to a meaty main! Eliminating meat altogether – whoa, that's just crazy talk!

Contrary to my carnivorous palate, this is a Japanese soup - delicate and nourishing, enriched with katsuobushi aka bonito flakes or dashi that are dried, smoked flakes of bonito, (a variety of tuna particular to Japan) that resembles wood chips. Silken tofu adds a unique textural dimension, fresh, tender spring veggies contrastingly crisp and thick soba noodles finish the broth adding wholesome satisfaction. The subtle, fresh flavours go well with a tangy or spicy kimchee served on the side.

This recipe is from Ric and Trudy’s website Mediterrasian dedicated to the health benefits of traditional Mediterranean and Asian foodways.

Ingredients: ½ cup sliced dried shiitake mushrooms, or thickly sliced fresh mushrooms; 90g Udon noodles, 5 cups dashi stock (made with dashi stock powder, most convenient); 1½ tablespoons Japanese soy sauce; 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger; 1 carrot—thinly sliced on the diagonal; 1 cup chopped bok choy (optional) ; 6 oz (180g) silken tofu—cut into ½-inch cubes; 1 scallion (spring onion)—thinly sliced on the diagonal

Method: Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water for around 15 minutes (or use thickly sliced fresh mushrooms instead). Drain and squeeze dry. Cook the noodles in boiling water for 4 minutes, rinse under cold water and drain. Heat the dashi stock in a large saucepan until boiling, then add the soy sauce, ginger, carrot, bok choy, tofu, mushrooms and scallion and cook for 6 minutes. Place equal amounts of the cooked noodles in the bottom of two bowls, and top evenly with the dashi stock, vegetables and tofu.


To make my Cucumber Kimchee click on this link

And if you liked this recipe you may like to try these:

Sweet Pork and Citrus Scallop Dim Sums

Vietnamese Cold Rolls with Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rhubarb, Ginger and Honey Muffins

This recipe taken from Times Online and contributed by David Hall turned out to be a disaster. I ended up with gluggy, sticky muffins and was extremely disappointed since it was the first time I was eating/ cooking rhubarb and was much looking forward to it. Oh well, there's always next time right?

Makes 6 large muffins

Ingredients: 2 large or 4 small sticks of rhubarb, washed and cut into chunks, 100ml runny honey, 120g plain flour, 100g wholemeal flour, 50g rolled oats, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 2 root gingers, roughly chopped, 2 tbsp of the ginger syrup, 200ml natural yoghurt, 1 egg, 50g butter, melted, 50ml runny honey

Method: Put the chopped rhubarb, the honey and a little water into a pan. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes until it turns soft.

Mix with a fork and put aside to cool down. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4. In a large bowl, sieve in the flours and bicarb, retaining any wheat that is left in the sieve for decorating the muffins. Stir in the oats and root ginger. Mix together the yoghurt, egg, melted butter, ginger syrup and honey then pour onto the flour and oat mixture. Combine thoroughly with a metal spoon. If it looks dry, mix in a little milk until the mixture falls easily from the spoon.

Grease a muffin tray with a little oil or butter. Cut out 6 squares of baking paper and push them into the muffin tray holes. Pour in the muffin mixture equally then sprinkle with the left over wheat. Bake on the middle shelf for 30-40 minutes until risen and golden brown. Eat slightly warm.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mediterranean Beef Kabobs

These skewers have been adapted from Suzanne Somers original recipe. Beef that bursts with tarragon, oregano and garlic marries well with smoky, char grilled zucchini and aubergine. Best served as a platter with olives, hummus and crisp pita bread - the perfect complementary nibbles.

Makes 6 skewers

Ingredients: 400 g boneless beef sirloin steak, cut into 1 ½ inch cubes1 large red onion, cut into chunks 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tblsp dried oregano1 tsp minced garlic 1 tsp dried tarragon, crushed, salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 tblsp lemon juice

Optional: *12 pearl onions (peeled)12 cherry tomatoes (stems removed)2 red or green bell peppers (seeded and chopped into 2-inch squares)12 mushrooms (stems removed)
*This will increase the total yield of recipe, i.e. number of skewers.

Method: In a plastic container or bowl with a lid, combine olive oil, garlic, tarragon, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper thoroughly, then add meat cubes, coating them completely. Allow meat to marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours, turning the meat occasionally.

Drain meat, set aside marinade. Thread meat cubes onto six 12-inch metal/wooden skewers, alternating with the red onion chunks and optional veggies if using, in a pretty pattern. Repeat the process until your skewer is full. Thread the next kabob and continue until all your ingredients are used up. Cooking the kabobs on a hot grill pan is the best option, about 2-3 minutes on each side and the veggies will get a nice charred colour and taste. It can also be broiled in the oven otherwise. Either way, basting with the leftover marinade and turning occasionally to brown evenly until the meat is done to your liking will ensure the meat is moist.


Want to make a complete Mediterranean meal?

Try my hummus recipe click here

And if you liked this recipe you may like my Moutabel and Lebanese Lamb Chops

Looking for more skewer recipes?

Why not try my Adobo Pork Skewers and Mojo Potatoes


Hummus, a Middle Eastern dip is gaining popularity. Served along with fresh or toasted pita bread it is perfect for parties and entertaining as a tasty snack or appetizer.

Extremely healthy, it takes less than five minutes to make in a food processor involving ingredients that are usually tucked away in your pantry, and beats the store bought variety by leaps and bounds. Tahini or sesame paste is the only unusual ingredient, and cannot be substituted. A vital ingredient tahini gives hummus its distinct flavour, it can usually be found at your local supermarket, and a jar will really stretch, since a batch of hummus requires only a spoon of tahini. Tahini is an extremely thick suspension of oil and paste, ensure you mix it thoroughly before spooning out the desired amount.

Ingredients: 400 g drained canned chickpeas, 1 tbsp tahini, 1 clove garlic, 1 tsp Lemon juice, 1-2 cups olive oil, pinch of salt

Method: Put all ingredients apart from olive oil in food processor, and half of the olive oil and blend on high until it begins to form a smooth paste. Remove lid, add in the rest of the olive oil and continue to blend until it is completely smooth. You may have to add more olive oil if the mixture is thick and unable to blend completely.

Garnish with parsley and paprika if you desire.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Steak and Kidney Pie

In Medieval England the outer pastry shell of a pie was devised as a mode of transporting meat and veggies on long journeys, serving as a container, holding the filling together and protecting it from air, water and moisture. Somewhere along the line, a hungry traveller must have sampled a bit of pastry only to be pleasantly surprised.

A beloved British favourite, and a sensitive topic in terms of what constitutes the perfect pie: the pastry must be flaky, buttery and substantial enough, the kind and amount of filling as well as the dimensions are all critical, but most important seems to be the ratio of pastry to filling that deem a pie, fit be called a pie! Britain's online community seems to be divided in defining a ‘real’ pie, majority argue it must have four sides of pastry - base, sides and lid, while others are fine with just a pastry lid.

What cannot be debated is this traditional English comfort food is readily available in cafés and pre-packaged in supermarkets across Britain as well as Australia. Finding a pie without preservatives and delicious flaky pastry that yields a generous filling of piping hot steak and kidney is a rarity today. While this recipe requires ardourus preparation, in the end its perfection is unparalleled.

As a child, I wasn’t a fussy eater. Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli were easily some of my favourite greens and I was a natural carnivore! There were few things I refused to eat, however kidney and liver were two of my childhood nemeses that simply grossed me out, the overwhelming metallic aftertaste didn’t help matters either. I remember many nights where I spent hours at the dinner table with a plate of kidney or liver starring up at me. As a grown woman empowered to make my own decisions, the most important being the ability to opt out of wearing matching outfits to my younger sister as well as stay a safe mile away from steak and kidney, ironically I have made it a mission to experiment and embrace all kinds of foods, including my childhood nightmare.

While the most common polled side with steak and kidney pie is creamed or mashed potatoes, I preferred something lighter and healthy aka, seasoned, lightly grilled, sliced snake beans and vine ripened, quartered cherry tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil.

Preparation time 1-2 hours
Cooking time 1 to 2 hours
Ingredients: 225 g lamb's kidneys; 700 g chuck steak; 1 tbsp vegetable oil; knob of butter; 2 onions, chopped roughly; 2 tbsp plain flour; 2 bay leaves; 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only; 570 ml beef stock; 4 field mushrooms, sliced thickly; 1 tsp tomato purée; 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce; 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley; salt and feshly ground black pepper
For the pastry: 175 butter; 225 g plain flour; 8-9 tbsp water; 1 beaten egg, to glaze
Method: Halve the kidneys and cut out the tubes. Rinse in cold water and peel off the skins. Cut in small pieces. Trim and cut the steak in cubes. Heat oil and butter in a large pan, then fry the onions for 3-4 minutes, stirring. Fry the meat for 2-3 minutes until it loses its pink colour. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the herbs and stock. Stir until thickened and coming to the boil. Add mushrooms and purée, lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 1½ hours until, the meat is tender.
To make the pastry, wrap the butter in foil and freeze for 45 minutes. Mix the flour with ¼ tsp of salt. Holding the frozen butter in foil, dip it in the flour and grate coarsely back into the bowl, peel the foil back so it does not get grated. Keep dipping it in the flour as you grate. Mix in the butter with a knife until evenly coated with flour. Stir in the water to form a dough. Gently form into a ball. Wrap in plastic film and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. When the meat is cooked, remove bay leaves, season with salt, pepper and mushroom seasoning (or Worcestershire sauce), then cool slightly. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to 5mm/¼in thick and 2.5cm/1in wider than a 1.2 Litre/2 pint pie dish (I used ramekins to create individual pies). Cut out the lid so it is slightly bigger than the dish. Cut a strip of pastry the width of the rim. Stir the parsley in to the meat and transfer to the dish. Brush the rim with egg, lay pastry strip on top and seal. Brush with egg and put lid on top. Seal the edges, knock them up with the back of a knife. Flute the edge. Cut a slit in the lid, brush with the egg (but not the edges or they won't rise). Bake for 20 minutes, then brush with egg again. Bake for 10 minutes until the pastry is golden.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Blueberry Nights

Still from My Blueberry Nights

Quintessential comfort food has got to be pie, and this forms the pretext for the movie My Blueberry nights starring singer turned actress, Norah Jones and the delicious Jude Law.

Jones plays Elizabeth, who has her heart broken and looks for solace at Jeremy’s (Law) New York diner for blueberry pie a la mode – cake and conversation. Jeremy uses pie as an analogy for life. “At the end of the night the cheesecake and the apple pie are always completely gone, peach cobbler and chocolate mousse cake nearly finished, but there is always a whole blueberry pie left untouched.”

Automatically Elizabeth asks what’s wrong with the blueberry pie, to which he replies, “there’s nothing wrong with the blueberry pie, it’s just people make other choices; you can’t blame the blueberry pie, no one wants it.” From this point on Elizabeth resigns herself to a piece of what ‘nobody wants’, making it a nightly affair – and is always welcomed by a generous slice of Jeremy’s gooey, pie that oozes out gooey, jammy blueberries and is served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The movie takes a sudden ‘U’-turn with Elizabeth leaving town and heading to Memphis where she takes on two jobs, working days at a café and nights at a bar to save money to buy a car. All the while she writes postcards to Jeremy, without revealing her address. Jeremy by this time has fallen for Elizabeth and desperately tries to get in touch with Elizabeth, but fails miserably.

In time, Elizabeth returns to New York to find her ex-boyfriend's apartment for rent, crosses the street to Jeremy’s café to discovers he has been waiting for her all along, her space reserved for her at the counter and a slice of blueberry pie and conversation just like the old times, but this time they finally realise their feelings for each other.

The movie is passé with an average script, cinematography and acting, but somehow echoes the simplistic reality of how life sometimes meanders slowly, and that it does not always have to be confronting and full on as most Hollywood romantic comedies portray love, lust, life and relationships. As for the pie, I think it may be a metaphor for the way Elizabeth and Jeremy’s love grew into a comforting, easy and soothing relationship, much like the blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream.

After watching this movie, I was curious about where to score some of New York’s best blueberry pie. Funnily, there isn’t much of a forum on the matter, but from what I gather the online community seems to think Union Square Greenmarket is the best bet. If I’ve got you in the mood for a slice of blueberry pie and your not a New Yorker, stay tuned, in the coming weeks I will be uploading a tried and tested blueberry pie recipe.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Adobo Pork Skewers with Mojo Potatoes

Vogue Entertaining and Travel's March 2009 issue featured Brisbane cantina, pizzeria and tapas bar Gusto Da Gianni, owned by Italian, Walter Franchini and run by Spanish, Executive Chef Javier Codna, where this recipe has been taken from.

The Spanish-Italian partnership has led to a menu where pasta and pizza is an everyday affair. Spanish food they say is similar to Italian in many ways, and is gaining popularity in Australia, as well as tapas fitting in well with the ‘casual, sociable way of eating’ their wish to promote in their eatery.

The potatoes herbed with parsley, green capsicum and cumin are rather subtle on their own, but perfect paired with the pork skewers, balancing the dominant flavours of the adobo seasoning.


Pork Skewers: 1 ½ tblsp Adobo Seasoning*; 2 dried bay leaves, crumbled; 2 cloves garlic, halved; 60 ml olive oil; 2 x 400g pork loins, each cut into 20x30 cm pieces; 8 bamboo skewers

* My friend Cari left me some adobo seasoning before she left back to the US. If you cannot find it at your local supermarket or specialist store, you can make your own adobo seasoning quite simply: 1 ½ tsp each ground cumin, dried oregano, dried thyme, black peppercorns and sweet smoked Spanish paprika.

Mojo Potatoes: 1 green capsicum, roughly chopped; 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked; 1 birds eye chilli, halved with seeds; 2 tsp ground cumin; 60 ml olive oil; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 800 g Southern Gold/ King Edward/ Kipfler Potatoes

Method: Combine adobo, garlic, olive oil and 2 tsp sea salt to a paste. Thread pieces of pork onto a skewers, place in a flat dish, then rub all over with adobo marinade and refrigerate for 3 hours.

For the potatoes: process all the ingredients except the potatoes in a food processor until it becomes a puree. Cook the potatoes in their skins in boiling salted water until tender. Cool slightly, then peel and chop. Combine warm potatoes and capsicum mixture in a bowl, crushing potatoes slightly.

Pre-heat a barbeque of chargrill pan to medium-high, then cook pork skewers for 2 ½ minutes each side, or until cooked. Serve pork skewers on a bed of mojo potatoes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Linguine alle Vongole

While some food snobs may contest the pairing of seafood/ shellfish and Parmesan, I don’t care what they say - I absolutely love it. The velvety texture of white wine sauce cream sauce infused with delicate Italian herbs is made richer by a blanket of Parmesan, that envelope the heap of vongole with fingers of robust flavour.

Vongole is the Italian name for clams, which are typically used in pasta dishes. This is a recipe that I envisioned in my mind repeatedly, inspired by my consumption of one too many Italian restaurant meals. Oh well, it seems to have paid off in the end! Fresh clams work best here, but you can used tinned clams if your hard pressed.

Just enough to serve two, but if you're appetite is anything like mine - perfect for one!

Ingredients: 300g Vongole, cleaned thoroughly; 100 g Pancetta, diced; 1 small brown onion; 1 clove garlic, minced; 150 ml thick cream; Olive oil, for frying; Splash white wine; 250 g linguine; dried Italian herbs; salt and pepper to taste; grated Parmesan to serve and a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley

Method: In a wok sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil, add the Pancetta and fry until golden brown, add the vongole and cook for about 4-5 minutes until all of them open (throw away the ones that don’t).

On another burner boil the linguine in a pot of salted water till al dente (usually 8 – 10 minutes). Drain and toss with olive oil and dried Italian herbs. Set aside.

Once the vongole is cooked through, add the cream to the mixture and toss to cover the vongole, onions and Pancetta, and finally a good splash of white wine, season with salt, pepper and dried Italian herbs. Toss in the drained, seasoned linguine and serve into pasta bowls with fresh grated Parmesan and shower with chopped parsley.

Friday, June 12, 2009

21st Century Food Misnomers

Today there is an increasing pressure on consumer food choices in terms of brands, sources and ideologies thanks to gourmet snobs and the ethical food police. Michael Pollan in his book, In The Defense of Food, advises shopping on the perimeters of the supermarket since it contains the ‘fresh’ produce like dairy, meat and fish, thus avoiding ‘processed evils’ that line the middle aisles, most of which contain high-fructose corn syrup. Pollan is definitely onto something …
Rushing down the escalator at Woolworth’s, (Australia’s leading supermarket chain) making a dash for a carton of milk and half a dozen eggs, on my way home from the gym I could not avoid being enticed by rows of frosted cupcakes sitting pretty in the main centre aisle that immediately caught my eye. Ahhh, now that would make for some awesome food porn was my initial thought, followed by some deeper analysis. A mathematical analogy sprung to mind as I starred enamoured by the pretty cupcakes patterned with pastel frosting: ‘the sum of all parts must be equal’. You must be wondering, why math, and what the hell does it have to do with cake? Let me break it down, these cupcakes looked utterly delicious, swirls of piped lemon frosting showered with tiny blue and red stars contrasted by chocolaty tidal waves of icing looping round and round, finally gently kissing the tops of the golden-brown cupcakes and embellished with sliced banana. When something looks so good, before you know it your imagination takes off as you contemplate the taste, envision the texture and anticipate the sweetness, ultimately bracing yourself for the satisfaction that first bite is sure to yield. In my mind I could almost taste the icing on my tongue and a reflex kicked in causing me to smack my lips in anticipation – suddenly aware that I must look ridiculous mesmerised by endless rows of cupcakes, eyeballing them like a frenzied-cake-lovin’-fat-kid, I force myself to push aside the big question: How on earth could they look so good and be selling on ‘special’ at two for $2! I was a bit weary, should I be happy or scared? Was it going to be a pleasant surprise or a nasty shock? Mind boggled, I picked up two cupcakes and carefully placed them in my basket to find out.
More often than not my food decisions factor health and price, forming what I believe is the perfect balance. And while this is true for the most part, I’d be lying if I said that I avoid the supermarkets like the plague or that I only buy organic produce, fair-trade coffee, free-range eggs and artisanal cheese.
In fact I don’t buy into the whole organic movement one bit! Personally I think it’s a crock of shit. Westerners think they want ‘real’ organic – trust me they/you can’t handle 100 per cent ‘authentic’ organic! I’m from India, the land of organic and everything we grow is miniscule, garlic cloves that are the size of my pinkie nail and a pain-in-the-ass to clean, tomatoes the size of golf balls that are rarely ever vine ripened or trussed and almost never found blushing in a brilliant, red hue. As for the capsicums they look maimed or deformed, like ugly wrinkled witches noses. In terms of taste and cooking they tend be high in water content, giving out lots of moisture making it difficult to sauté and stir fry veggies, easier to steam, stew or curry instead.
My stand on free-range versus caged is – blah, blah, blah! Studies and research have indicated that free-range chickens don’t necessarily have a better life than caged-chickens (that is before their entire world goes pitch black). The terminology free-range is designed to make you think that in some way they are free, (which they are not, they are caged as well), it simply means that there is a tad bit more room for them to try and flap a wing. The question to be asked instead is, how much more room? Frankly I think the difference would be comparable to the amount leg-space one would gain from upgrading from a mini-coupe to sedan. Sure, the extra leg-room is nice, but the coupe won’t kill you, especially if you have short legs like mine!
Shopping at the Central Market is an absolute pleasure, but given its location and the cities dysfunctional bus routes it requires a bit of planning ahead, that makes it a strictly once a week affair. Although I try to be as organised as possible, I usually have to nip into the supermarket twice a week to pick up something that invariably got left off the week’s shopping list, or to re-stock my pantry. And yes occasionally I may even buy an odd cupcake loaded with preservatives, chemicals and high-fructose corn syrup!


As for these babies, they worked like a charm paired with a steaming cuppa coffee to round off my day. Sometimes you just gotta check your brain at the metal detectors at the supermarket, and live a little (and by that I mean wander the middle aisles)!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eggless Milkless, Surprisingly Tasty Chocolate Cake

Intolerances and allergies are increasingly gaining ground today. Two of the most common aversions are to milk and eggs, if you are afflicted by either, or both of these, or perhaps a strict vegetarian then this recipe is perfect for you.

Taking "eat anything that crawls" to the next level I eat anything and have no restrictions whatsoever when it comes to my diet. I stumbled onto Mochacholatarita an interesting food blog couple of weeks ago when a midnight craving for something sweet, nagged me relentlessly. I ended up whipping up a batch of these eggless-milkless chocolate cakes, since I was out of the two vital cake making ingredients (milk and eggs). Surprisingly the recipe yielded some pretty darn good cakes. No matter what your food ethos is – go ahead and give these a go, I’m sure you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was...

Serves 6
Ingredients: 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour; 1/2 cup oatmeal; 3/4 cup white sugar; 1 teaspoon baking soda; 1/8 teaspoon non-iodized salt; 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder; 1/4 cup vegetable oil; 3/4 cup water; 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Method: Preheat oven to 175C. Mix all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle. Mix all wet ingredients in a bowl, pour into dry ingredients, mix well. Pour batter into greased pan or muffin tray lined with paper cups until almost full. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Brie-Pear Pastry Rounds with Bacon and Sage

Crisp puff pastry set off by creamy brie and slivers of sweet d'anjou pears seasoned with sage and served with a simple salad is ideal for a light lunch, part of a brunch menu, an indulgent breakfast variation, or why not scale down and try mini versions that would serve well as canapes at a cocktail party.

Total time: 40 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients: 250g Puff Pastry; 100g Brie, sliced; 2 Pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced; 4 rashers back Bacon; 1 tsp fresh Sage, chopped

Method: Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6 and lightly grease a baking tray. Preheat the grill then cook bacon rashers until crisp. Roll out the pastry large enough to cut out a circle of 25 cm/10 inches. Place on the baking tray. Place the brie over the base to within 21.5 cm/ an inch from the edges. Arrange the pears and bacon over the brie and sprinkle over the sage. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.

For the salad: Dress ½ head iceberg lettuce, washed, drained and roughly torn and 2 tblsp Spanish Pimento Olives, sliced with a good splash of Verjuice and extra virgin olive, dried Italian herbs, salt and pepper whisked together.