Tag Archives: recipe

Warm Green Bean Salad

                           

                                           What Is The Long and Short of It?

                                  Who says you cant eat salad in the Winter?
                               This is the stuff that Cravings are made from…

Serves 1 (multiply as necessary)
200gm of green beans, fresh as possible, the knobbly bit cut off
Squeeze of lemon juice
Splash of olive oil
salt and freshly cracked pepper
a few chunks of acreamy white cheese of your choice, or a mixture (chevre, fetta, buffalo mozzarella, cream cheese, labna)
A few capers
Bread, if desired

Boil a little water.
Stir lemon juice with olive oil and salt and pepper in the bowl you are going to eat from.
Pop green beans in hot water for 1 1/2 minutes with a lid on. No longer.
Drain. Toss in the lemon mixture. Sprinkle with chunks of cheese and capers.
Devour. Mop up extra juices with bread. Smile.


The Long Of It

I have had a craving for green beans for a couple of weeks now so I was super happy when I saw them at the market Today. I purchased some soft goats cheese and 1 luscious ball of buffalo mozzarella and whipped up this little baby for the quickest lunch ever.
I have been making versions of this salad for years now.

If you have an egg in your fridge you can poach that right on up and balance it atop your steaming beans. Poke it with your fork and watch the rich yellow yolk ooze over the crisp green morsels.


To make this into more of a meal top it off with a piece of panfried fish or a golden fillet of chicken. Or if you are a vegetarian  I would boil some baby potatoes and soft boil 1-2 eggs and toss that through. Mix in some roasted cherry tomatoes. Heaven.

To take this to a whole new level of decadence mix a little truffle oil with the lemon juice and olive oil and fill your senses with the heady wonder.

If you want to make this in advance you can do a cold version. Just blanch the beans for the same amount of time and then plunge them into some seriously iced water for 1 minute to stop them overcooking. This keeps them crisp and green. When you are ready to eat toss them as before and bobs your uncle.

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Meltingly Tender Fennel Bake

 

What Is The Long and Short Of It?

The short Of It

1 large brown onion – roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

A good glug of Olive oil

4 bulbs of fennel

2 handfuls of grated Parmesan

100 gm of butter

100 gm of flour 800 ml of milk

Nutmeg (freshly grated please) 

A few peppercorns and a bay leaf

Salt

Rosemary, finely chopped

Splash of white wine if you have some hanging around

 Put the onion and garlic and finely chopped rosemary in a large frypan with the olive oil. Turn the heat onto low and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionaly, not allowing any color.

Meanwhile cut the fennel bulb into long wedges and put aside the frilly leaves for later. After your onion and garlic is fragrant and translucent add the fennel wedges. Stir to coat with onioney oil. Add a pinch of salt. Splash in about 1/4 cup of water or white wine if you happen to have some and turn the heat to the lowest it will go, cover with a fitting lid and allow to infuse with flavor and soften. After 10 minutes turn off heat but leave the lid on. The fennel will go right ahead and get more tender as it sits in its owner little sauna.

For the bechemel sauce; (don’t be intimidated: its just a white sauce)

 Put a pot on the stove with the milk, a bay leaf, a few pepper corns and any tough trimmings from the fennel and onion. Bring to almost boiling. Turn off and strain.

Melt butter over a low heat till liquid. Bung in the flour, all in one go – Bam! Whisk till smooth. Whisk slowly for 1 minute, allowing flour to cook a little. Add a ladle of milk. Be careful, it may hiss at you. Whisk till smooth. Repeat a ladlefull at a time until all the milk is added. Cook 5 minutes, whisking gently. Add half the grated parmesan, a good grating of nutmeg and adjust the salt as necessary. Tada! Bechemel…

Mix Fennel and all its juices into the bechemel and pour into a baking dish with a lid. Failing that, some foil. Sprinkle with other parmesan and bake at 160 about 40 minutes. Finely Chop fennel leaves (or snip with scissors) and garnish just before serving. Devour.

 

 The Long Of It

Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables, and a poor misunderstood little lady she is.

Sure if you chew on a large hunk you may find it to taste far too aniseedy for your liking, but dont be dissauded. Slice it thinly and dress it with a little olive oil and lemon juice.

 Cook it slowly with your onion and garlic to add extra flavor to the base of your soup.

Buy a nice small one and cut little chunks for a perfect addition to your cheese fondue.. What you dont make fondue? Ill show you how soon!

Bake fennel slowly for a sweet caramelized vegetable similar to whole baked onions. The limits are endless and I encourage you to start buying these pale green beauties and give them a go.

This dish is a great way to start. As the title suggests its meltingly tender, rich and creamy like the best kind of potato bake. The fennel has a wonderful sublte flavor, a hint of aniseed, so fleeting you may not even place it. If fennel happens to be a little pricey when you make this dish you can (and I often do) replace half the fennel with chunks of potato. I served this dish most recently to three Italians and two americans who am am staying with in Sicily and it was one of those moments where two bites in everyone was insisting on the recipe and buy the end Peter and Dylis, who grow vegetable on their farm, had decided that growing fennel was an idea worth persuing. It works beautifully as a side dish and is wonderfully warm on those chilly windswept days. Enjoy.


The Day Of The Ricotta

Saturday was to be The Day Of The Ricotta.

 Friday afternoon we went ona little venture to organize the milk. In the Sicilian countryside this is not as quick as it may seem. We are shown the cows. There are small gambolling calfs and large cynical mothers who regard us through half open eyes as they methodically chew their cud. Next we are taken inside where the farmers wife pulls a bottle of limoncello from the cupboard and puts out little plastic cups. It is only four in the afternoon, but you dont serve coffee this late in the day. And so we sit sipping on the tartly sour lemon liquer as we are shown photos of their children as babies and told that they have relatives in Australia and ask Miki how it is going on her farm. We tell them that we are going to make ricotta tomorrow and they nod solemnly. The farmer looks like you would imagine a typical Italian farmer to look. Large belly, larger apron and a booming voice. Apon hearing that I am a chef he promptly tells Miki that he would like me to come and stay at his house, just for one day, to teach his wife to cook. His wife hits him around the head. We leave a huge plastic bottle for the early morning milking the next day and head back to the farm.

The Day Of The Ricotta dawns. After a hot sweet black coffee and a bowl of yoghurt with homegrown oranges we head out to do some work before the ricotta making begins. There is a lot to do on the farm. This morning we are finishing varnishing the house of the donkeys. This involves climbing a ladder balanced somewhat precariously on a large several feet above the ground while Dylis holds the ladder in place and I use one hand to to paint, the other to hold myself steady using a nearby tree branch. After the top of the little cabin is varnished to within an inch of its life we get the news.

The milk has arrived.. The house I am staying in is over 200 years old, renovated and tastefully decorated. There is a large open kitchen, windows looking out over the vegetable garden. The countertops are sicilian handpainted ceramique blasted onto huge sleps of lava stone from etna. There are huge polished wooden drawers with a smooth tile floor and a little wood burning stove. Their are forget-me-not blue lace curtains crocheted by the amazing and multi-talented Gueseppina. For me it is a dream kitchen. But this is not where we will be making the ricotta.

 Enter the laundry. This is where the ricotta has been made for an age. There is a large ring gas burner atop which is placed an enormous pot filled with the fresh milk. Stage one involves waiting. We wait as the milk comes to temperature. As we wait we are shown what the ricotta is traditionally shaped in. Little handwoven baskets. But they are not used anymore due to hygiene reasons but nevertheless still adorn the walls of the room. Standing around the slowly heating milk are seven of us. Miki and Sylvio. Our hosts. Miki’s mother Guesepina, peering expertly through her glasses at the pot. Dylis and Peter, my fellow woofers. They are from Cape Cod in American where they passionately (and successfully) grow vegetables despite their soil being made almost entirely from sand. Lucia, the maid. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is a maid. But not in the regular sense. Rather she is a friend who comes round twice a week to give their big old home a thorough cleaning. Apon arriving she is invited in, sat down with a cup of tea whereapon her and Miki have a half an hour conversation before she cleans the bejusus out of the house. Not that it isnt always spotless, anyway. But besides helping them clean apparently when ricotta making time comes around Lucia helps with the cheese making. She makes it at her own house and each time they are comparing techniques and tips. And me. The cheese-loving chef from Australia who is about to see ricotta being made for the first time.

 

The rennet is added and once the milk is brought slowly to 40 degrees a lid is placed atop, the heat is turned off and we all file out to go set the table. Setting the table today does not just involve placing glasses and plates, cutlery and a bottle of wine. Sylvio pulls a large sausage shaped hunk of cured meat reverently from the fridge and with great precision begins to carve it in wafer thin slices. He asks me if I know bresaola, the cured meat in question. I do. It is wonderful indeed. He asks me if I know carpaccio. I do. But I know it as seared (or totally raw) beef sliced paper thin and topped with oil, shaved parmesan, pepper and rocket. He explains that originally carpaccio was made with bresaola, the cured meat he is currently slicing. This I did NOT know…

We squeeze lemon all over the bresaola, drizzle with olive oil from their farm and a good grating of black pepper. Several layers later we sprinkle with shaved parmesan and place on the table. Photo’s are taken. And with that we all head back to the cheese making room.

The milk has set into a jelly like consistency. The jelly is first sliced into pieces inside the pot and then stirred. The heat is back and and once again we watch the slowly heating milk. Lucia is stirring, stirring. Boiling hot water is poured into the continuesly stirred milk. Now the contents of the pot have turned opaque instead of white and the time is near. Minutes later Lucia reaches her arms into the pot and pulls from deep within the liquid a soft white cheese. But, we learn, this is not the ricotta. Ricotta in Italian, literally means ‘recooked’ and is a method for extracting further cheese from the whey, the leftover liquid… I never knew that! The first cheese, the curd that is here called Tuma is pulled apart and placed into tubs.

We are all given chunks in bowls with plastic spoons and taste the still warm curd. It is quite soft but a little bland. A good base for making things, i think. Nevertheless it is delicious. Like slightly chewy warm milk. Now the ricotta begins. The liquid is heated for the third time. We take turns stirring and Lucia checks the consistency with her spoon from time to time. She takes a spoonfull and pours it back into the pot from a height. Miki and Sylvio have a thermometer but Lucia can see by sight. Or so it seems. Once the milk reaches about 60 degrees in goes 5 litres of cold milk, a glass of lemon juice and the salt. Again we wait. The pressure builds. There are murmers in Italian. What is wrong, we ask. It seems to be taking too long. Wait, wait, says Lucia. The tension in the room becomes palpable as ‘tiny tiny ricotta’ begins to form on the surface of the liquid. Small beads solidying whiteness. But is is enough? This pot is aluminium and it is much better to use stainless, they say. Lucia looks nervous. Gueseppina kneels down, almost eye to eye with the top of the pot and nods. The bead become bigger. Its forming! Suddenly everyone is yelling and hugging each other and yelling Ricotta! Ricotta! Just as quickly silence falls as we see Lucia’s face. Perhaps we cheered to soon. It still may not come good. Now the tension is like the set milk. You could slice it with a knife. You could put it on a plate and watch it wobble… The whole surface begins to coagulate and gently, gently, Lucia pulls the curd inwards and it continues to form. And yes. It is ok. A collective sigh of release. We take turns lifting the soft warm ricotta into little draining pots where the water slips away and more portions are served out which we ferry to the table. And we sit and eat a bowl of hot ricotta with fresh bread. It is soft and slightly salty and oh-so decadant. To be sitting at a table and eating a bowl of fresh cheese. Those of us that eat meat dive into the carpaccio and everyone sips on local wine and after we eat homemade almond biscotta with sweet moscatto.

Ah warm ricotta, it is nice to meet you…

 

Note: my camera is out of action so all photos are courtesy or Longneck Road Productions, my fellow wwoofer Peter.


Crispy Golden Potato Wedges with MTD Sauce (Or – Quick! My potatoes are about to sprout!)

– What is the Long and Short of It? –

Crispy, golden potatoes with a dipping sauce so good you will finish any leftovers with a spoon…This is dedicated to all those people out there who think they can’t cook. You can cook this. Trust me.

– For the Wedges –

 

Potatoes, cut into wedges
Oil
Salt
Spices ( I like tumeric, cumin, caramon and paprika)

– For the MTD Sauce –

For every two people you will need

1 Brown onion, diced
1 Large Clove of Garlic, finely minced
400 gm Greek yoghurt (or any unsweet unflavored yoghurt)
Salt
Small Handful of Parsley
1 tblsp of Oil
Pinch of Sugar

Preheat the oven to 200.

Cut as many potatoes as you think your guests will eat (this depends largely on if it will be the main course or a side dish) and space evenly on a baking tray (or two)

Drizzle well with olive oil. You want enough to evenly coat. Give it a good salting and wack in your spices. Even just tumeric is lovely, if you dont have all the spices.

Get in there with your hands and massage the oil and and spices and salt all over your lucky wedges.

Bung tray in the oven and leave for about 20 minutes until crispy and the kitchen smells wonderful.

Meanwhile.

Fry onion in about oil until golden and caramelized over a medium to high heat. Add a little salt and a pinch or two of sugar and cook a mo, You want some serious goldenness going on here. Stir through 1 tbls of water. Turn off.

Mix finely chopped garlic into and parsely into onion. Cool 5 minutes. Stir through yoghurt and season to taste.

Serve with a generous portion of MTD sauce and devour!

– The Long of It –

I have been making wedges for as long as I can remember. They are one of the first things I learnt how to cook and their variations are countless.

My mum makes amazing ones with good quality mayonnaise, fresh chopped rosemary and grain mustard and they are soft and luscious.

It still amazes me the incredibly vast guises the humble potato can take. From mash to duaphinoise to chips to curry to pringles, to jacket, to soup to vodka…

Can you imagine the first people to discover potatoes? To take this wierdly lumpy thing from the ground and then think that it was edible. How wildly delicous it would be… How it would cause a famine in Ireland…

Did you know that potatoes were the first food to be grown in space? Hot damn! That is awesome! They are eco friendly. They are healthy. They are the 4th most consumed food on the planet… Marie Antoinette never actually said ‘Let them eat Cake!’  But she did wear potato blossoms as accesories….

But this all pales in comparison to the fact that pototoes are just damn delicious. Plunk one in the coals of a dying fire. Roast. Salt and drench with butter and tell me otherwise…

 

A note on the title: I haven’t made wedges in a while. Last night me and my lovely host were deciding what to cook and we were like, how about potatoes?
But lo and behold the potatoes were getting little sprouty bits and we were like, quick, quick, what shall we do?
And it came to me like a bolt from the blue and we made wedges. From all of the potatoes. And it was glorious.


Wonderfully Moist Chocolate and (gasp) Zuchinni Cake

– What is the Long and Short Of It? –

Everything is good with chocolate right? Coffee, orange, caramel, almonds, zuchinni… what, what?!

Time to take out your adventurous gloves and fall in love with this fantastically moist cake, fragrant with orange and rich with chocolate. Slightly chewy on the outside and iced to perfection… It’s like carrot cake. That had a love child with a chocolate cake.

– The Short of it –

185 gm butter
1 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups Self Raising Flour
1 1/2 cups of grated zuchinni, skin and all
2 tsp Finely Grated Orange Rind
1/4 cup of good quality cocoa
3/4 cup of Milk

Beat butter and sugar till smooth.
Add one egg. Beat till smooth. Repeat with second egg.
Fold in other ingredients, sifting flour and cocoa if they are lumpy.
Grease and flour a cake tin. Pour in batter.
Bake at 200 for around 50 minutes to an hour. Its ready when the top springs back when pressed lightly with your finger.
The skewer trick wont be right here – the cake is meant to be moist.
Cool on a wire rack.
Prepare yourself…

Ice with Rich Chocolate Icing.

(125 gm of melted dark chocolate mixed with 1/4 cup of sour cream and 1/2 cup of icing sugar and chilled until softly set)

Ice.

Prepare to have your mind blown….

– The Long Of It –

I have been hearing about this cake for years in cookbooks and magazines and on blogs and though it sat high on my list of  ‘to bake’ things, it just never eventuated.
It fascinated me. To use zuchinni with chocolate must be either mad or genius (the two often being confused) and for it to feature everywhere I was guessing the latter.
I was right.
Just before leaving the country I went to spend two weeks with my family in Crystal Waters and my Mum said, ‘Let’s make that chocolate zuchinni cake.”
That’s how long I have been meaning to make this damn cake for. Since before I moved out of home. Madness.
So we did. And it was glorious.
We made two and ate it for morning tea. And then afternoon tea. And then for breakfast.
Also to all the guests that came over.

Note : This Icing is wonderful for any chocolate cake you might make.
Rich and less sickly sweet than your average icing (which I don’t really like)

Please let me know how your adventure goes… Don’t make the mistake I did and wait to have this with your morning (or afternoon) cup of tea!

 


Roast Tomato Soup

What is the long and short of it?

–  The short of It  –

Want an easy dinner? Ripe tomatoes? Dont feel like pasta?  Deep velvety red and wonderfully aromatic soup to the rescue!

2kg of Ripe Tomatoes (I use a mix of cherry and roma)
2 brown onions, roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
Olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and sugar
Vege stock or vege stock cubes
Fresh basil, to serve

Roughly chop the tomatoes. If you are using cherry tomatoes they dont need to be chopped. Spread out in a large oven tray and generously drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Sprinkle evenly with salt and sugar. This will caramelize and give your soup a wonderful depth of flavor.
Roast at 200C for 20-30 minutes or until skins have split and the house smells wonderful..
Meanwhile…
Put a good 2-3 tbls of olive oil in a large soup pan over a low heat and put in your onions and garlic while the pan is still cold.  Saute for ten minutes, over a low heat, stirring occasionally. You dont want any color. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Potter about, dance if you like.
Scrape all the roasted tomatoes and juices into the onion mix and cover with water or stock by about 1 cm.
Bring to the boil. Turn down a little. Simmer 20 minutes.
Now for the blending. Take some liquid off first and add back if needed. Its easier to thin it out than try and thicken a watery soup.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with crusty bread and some fresh torn basil. Feel the Joy.
serves 4-6

(for something a little special put a bowl of grated parmesan on the table for sprinkling)

–  The Long of It  –

A ramble about this soup.. And about tomatoes.

I have been making this soup for years now. It is one of my favorites. It is outrageously simple but tastes wonderful.

I am a bit of a tomato snob. When I was a child we would wander barefoot out into our garden and pluck a ripe cherry tomato fresh from the bush, wrap it in a basil leaf and tada! best snack ever.. But the general tomatoes in Australia are terrible. The skin may be red but the inside is pale and watery with little flavor. A very firm tomato, ladies and gentlemen, is not a good tomato. Dont even get me started on those GM  ‘sandwhich tomatos..’

I like to go the Farmers Market in brisbane where you can buy heirloom tomatoes. Their is a man who looks a little like a tomato himself and he has a table filled with lumpy ones, stripey ones, small ones, big ones, green ones, and yes, you dirty minded people, I am still talking about tomatoes.

And they dont just look different! They taste different too! The green zebra tomatoes are the most flavorsome of the green tomatoes…

But this is not always possible. And so this soup helps to bring out the flavor in even your blander, firmer supermarket tomatoes.

But at the moment I am in Italy!  Ye gods, boys and girls! The tomatoes are fantastico! Your average beef tomato is red and ripe and juicy and cheap!  It is rounded and warm and sometimes I want to put them next to my bedside table for decoration or take photos of them and display them on walls.. But I am a little crazy. You’ll get used to it. So with tomatoes this good, at 1.50 a kg, you see why this soup would be a gift to all.

But if you didnt know that tomatoes are more than j
ust vaguely bland and often crisp vegetables that make your sandwhich soggy or cut in wedges in the obligatory salad on the side of your plate – I suggest you make this soup and then go have a look at some homegrown tomatoes from a nearby farmer. It may just change your life…

A tomato should be like a woman; a little soft,  pleasant to smell and better if left to grow in the sun.. They should be all shapes and sizes  and colors and this just improves on their beauty and the overall experience…

A note on soups…

To add a little secret vavoom! to any soup you make, spend 5-10 minutes on your onion and garlic. This is the base of your flavor.

Put the onion and garlic (roughly chopped ) in a pan with the oil or butter on a low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, without allowing any color. This is called sauteing. But take it one step further. Keep cooking on a low heat till it gets super fragrant but still do not let it color. It will become soft and translucent and palely caramelized and a little sticky. Dont be shy with the oil..

Color  in onion and garlic is wonderful but the flavor changes and is not what we are looking for here. A deep richness and sweetness will come from cooking your onion and garlic this way which will impart its sauve beauty to your soup.

So give it a try on the next soup you make. You’ll see the difference.


Magical Chocolate Mousse

What is the long and short of it?

– The Short –

No baking, no gelatin, small effort, gorgeous mousse! Tada!

200 gm chocolate, dark if possible
5 eggs, seperated
150 gm butter
 5 tbls sugar

Take eggs out of fridge. Seperate into bowls with enough room for whisking.
Pop chocolate and butter on a double boiler over a low heat. Leave to melt.
Beat egg yolks and sugar till pale and fluffy.
Stir melting chocolate till liquid. Remove from heat and put aside to cool a little.
Beat egg whites to soft peaks.
Check the chocolate. When it is room temperature stir into the yolk-and-sugar mix. Too hot and it will cook the eggs. Mix till smooth.
Fold in whites. Softly. The gentler you are the lighter your mousse.
Set in fridge or pour into lovely little glasses and then set.
Serve with fresh fruit or in hot chocolates or with icecream or as the filling to a cake or eat with a spoon from the fridge…
Enjoy!

(You could easily make this diary free or sugar free by using honey and a diary free chocolate)