Monday, April 22, 2013

Pine mushrooms, pasta and not much else

This is less a recipe and more a brag about where I've just been. After a slow and sumptuous long weekend in Victoria's North East Alpine/gourmet/Twin Peaks country, we arrived home with a few little morsels of local produce. And the pick of the litter? Pine mushrooms. Big, orange and beefy. I get very excited when I can get these. It means we're on the wintery side of Autumn. It means I'm shopping somewhere far more rewarding than the local shithouse supermarkets. It means dinner is going to be delicious.

When I can get pine mushrooms, I prefer to do very little to them. In this case we also had beautiful handmade spinach pasta, and stunning Myrtleford butter with French herbs. And half a bottle of incredible Nebbiolo. Don't add that to the dish. Just drink it while you're cooking...

If you don't have handmade pasta and herbed butter you could add one or two of: garlic, blue cheese, truffle oil, parmesan, hazlenuts or just salt and pepper. But remember, less is more.

  • Pine mushrooms
  • Pasta
  • Herbed butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan
  • A dash of olive oil

Boil and salt your pasta water and add your pasta. Wash and slice the mushrooms. Then heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and throw in the mushrooms. 

Scoop a small spoonful of the butter and ogle it a little. Then add it to the mushrooms. Season with a little salt and a liberal amount of pepper. 

Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the frying pan and plop in a second spoon of butter. Toss through and serve with a small garnish of parmesan. Drink wine throughout.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Farro, Barley, Spinach and Pomegranate Salad

This salad has several features that are likely to recur in the next little while: it can be fed to a seven month old baby (more or less) and it can be prepared in advance (eg while said baby has his afternoon nap). It is also crammed full of nutritious ingredients and is surprisingly more-ish. You could use any grains you have to hand to make it. The star ingredient is the pomegranate molasses. Without this, it would be pretty dull. With it, it's sour and tangy and sensational.

  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • pearl barley (I used half a cup)
  • farro (I used a cup and a half)
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • pomegranate molasses (a big long pour - about half a cup)
  • 1 pomegranate
  • about 1 cup almonds (you could use any nut or pepitas)
  • 4 1/2 cups boiling water

Finely chop the onion and garlic and sautee in olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add the fennel and cumin seeds and fry in the oil until fragrant. Add the barley and toss through the oil, then add boiling water (3:1 water to barley)*. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Then add the farro and more hot water (2:1 water to farro). Simmer for about 30 minutes or until almost all the liquid is absorped, stirring regularly to prevent burning. 

Meanwhile, roughly chop the almonds and toast them in a dry pan.

Shred the spinach, rinse and stir through the grains**. Then add the pomegranate molasses and stir until the moisture is absorbed. Stir the nuts through, reserving a few for garnish. Cut the pomegranate in half and bang the seeds into the pot through your fingers, catching the white pith, again reserving some. 

Serve with the remaining almonds and pomegranate on top. Eat it with lemon baked chicken, or spicy fish, or simply on its own. 

*Here is an incredibly useful chart I stumbled upon for cooking times for various grains.

** If feeding to a baby, stop here. I took some out, then kept right on going.

So this happened...

Oh yeah, and I wrote a thesis (albeit just a little one).

And there has been much cooking - almost all of it harried and utilitarian and much of it done by my partner while I've sat on a couch with a hungry baby attached. So here we are, eight months since my last post. 

I went for a run this morning. I am so so close to being able to do up my skinny jeans.

I think my hiatus is just about over...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Caramelised onion and sweet potato tart

You know when you have to 'bring a plate' to your last antenatal class and you forgot about it until that day and you have spent your weekly budget, and you're not sure what to do? But then you discover that you have an onion, and a sweet potato, and a little bit of left over mozzarella and parmesan from the weekend's lasagne. And there's some puff pastry in the freezer. And it's the depths of winter and you're supposed to be writing your thesis and you can think of nothing better than having an excuse to put the oven on?

Well, I'm sure we've all been there. Or at least somewhere entirely dissimilar to there. Fortunately, this tart is the solution to all manner of crises. It's pauper ingredients gussied up as fancy French business. It's pretty easy. And it's really scrummy. It would work with all different kinds of cheese, and using this template I'm pretty sure you could do good work with potatoes, mushrooms, and all manner of other seasonal veg.

  • 1/2 a large sweet potato
  • 1 brown onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 50 grams butter
  • splash of sherry vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 big handful of grated mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry
  • salt and pepper to season

Finely slice your onions, the thinner the better. Heat the butter in a large frying pan on a medium heat, and add the onions. Soften then for about 10 minutes until they are golden and then add the splash of vinegar and brown sugar and continue to sweat the onions for another 5 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, finely slice your sweet potato, then add it to the pan. Sautee the potato for about five minutes until it starts to soften. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Grate the cheese and toss half of it through the mixture, reserving half for the top.

Take your two sheets of puff pastry which should be properly thawed by now. Because this is Australia puff pastry only seems to come in squares, which is the wrong shape and thickness for this tart. So scrunch them into a ball, and roll them out again into a vaguely circular shape about 2 millimeters thick. Don't worry about it being neat, you can pass any wonkiness of as 'rustic'.

Tip the onions and sweet potato mixture into the centre, leaving a 2 cm border. Fold the pastry border in and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Brush the pastry edges with a little milk and cook in a hot oven (220 C) for about 18 minutes.

When you remove the tart from the oven it will have puffed up into a glorious golden pouffie thing. Let it cool for a few minutes before slicing it. Da na!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chewy ginger biscuits

I've had a bit of an absence from posting here which I feel I should acknowledge, before I tell you about these biscuits. It is probably enough to say that I am now eight months pregnant, still working full time and frantically trying to complete my masters thesis.  Many exciting and wonderful things have been happening, but this site is not my journal and so I won't go into all that here.  Let it just be said that if you like food and you like to travel, then get ye to Penang in Malaysia where there are the most wonderful culinary and other adventures to be had if you're willing to just walk and explore.

But enough of such pleasant reminiscences. To the biscuits! My favourite thing about these biscuits - apart from the fact that they are just cooling on a rack right next to me and I've already shoved three warm ones in my face - is how sparkly they are. They're coated in raw sugar which gives them an excellent ghetto bling aesthetic, and a lip-smacking crust to boot. Chewy and soft, they are the essence of wintery comfort.

I've adapted this recipe from one I found on All Recipes. Like everything with ginger and spice in it, it did not have enough, so I've corrected some of the amounts here, and subbed in golden syrup instead of molasses, just because I didn't have any molasses. 

  • 2 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 180g butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • raw sugar for coating
Heat the oven to 180 degrees C and line two trays with baking paper. 
Sift all the dry ingredients except the sugar. In a separate bowl cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg and beat in. Add the water and golden syrup to the wet mix and stir through with a wooden spoon. Then stir in the dry ingredients in two batches until mixed through.

Pour some raw sugar in a bowl, then roll the biscuit dough into walnut-sized balls and roll in the sugar until it's evenly coated. Then place on the trays and flatten each ball slightly with your hands. The dough is very soft so work it gently.

Bake for 8 minutes (10 if you have a slow oven). Then cool and scoff. 

When your unborn child kicks you as you eat them, it's surely a sign of approval, no?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chocolate, pine nut and orange tart in a ginger crust

This weekend I had dinner with my friends Lucy (check out her morsels of reflection here) and Jason. Whenever they've cooked for me in the past I have been a bit awed by how yummy everything is - and they tend to cook meals I rarely make myself, making them all the more enjoyable. So when I offered to bring dessert, and Lucy kindly asserted that I needn't feel I had to make anything too fancy, I kind of knew I was going to make something that was at least a bit fancy. Also, I probably should have been studying on Saturday afternoon, so the idea of making some pastry from scratch was all the more appealing.

This tart is one I've made before. It's all about contrasts.  The chocolate is divinely rich, but in small proportion compared with the tang of the orange and ginger. The ganachey-custard is so incredibly smooth whereas the pine nuts add a lovely crunch, while the pastry is all buttery crumbliness. And the nuts and zest themselves crispen to form a fragile sugary crust over the whole thing.  Best of all, the pastry recipe is very easy. Oh goodness, I do endorse this tart.

I found the recipe for this tart online, from chef Antoine Bouterin.  However adding the ginger to the pastry is my own addition, for that extra kick.

Ingredients - for the pastry:
  • 70 grams butter
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/14 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • splash of iced water
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 180g dark chocolate pieces
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • zest of one orange

While it's not tricky, you need to start a little ahead of time if you want to make your own pastry. For shortcrust pastry I really recommend doing it yourself, as the result is always so lovely and fresh and buttery. When making pastry, I tend to cheat. I put all the ingredients in my mixer and turn it on until it's a crumbly mix. Then I tip it into my greased and floured tart tin (about 9 inches across).

Press the mix with the heel of your hand until it evenly covers the tin, making sure you smoosh enough over the sides to form the lovely corrugated edges. Once it's evenly covered, place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Now it's time to pre-bake the tart case. Heat the oven to 180 C. Prick your tart case with a fork all over the bottom, and line it with tin foil, pressing the foil firmly against the pastry all the way around.  Now bake for about 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 10.  When you remove the pastry from the oven, if it looks like it's raising up from the base of the tin a little, just gently push it back down.

Now add your filling. Mix the cream, sugar and egg with a fork or whisk and pour into the tart case. It will form a very shallow layer. Scatter over the chocolate pieces, making sure they're evenly distributed. Next, add the pine nuts. And finally, sprinkle over the orange zest.

Place the whole lot in the oven at a 175 C and cook for 20-25 minutes.

Serve in delicate wedges with whipped cream. Oh yes indeedy.