Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Persian Hazelnut and Cardamon Biscuits

I am having a love affair with all things Middle Eastern and edible.  Hence I made this these biscuits.  I adapted this recipe from one given me by my charming colleague Julia, with additional inspiration from my Greg and Lucy Malouf cookbook Saraban.

They're extremely short, super nutty and have a lovely hint of spice.  They're supposed to be crescent shaped, but mine ended up a bit smooshed.  And I have been eating them, about six smooshed biscuits at a time!

  • 240g Butter
  • 1 1/4 cups Castor sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups Plain flour
  • 1 1/2 cup Hazlenut meal
  • Cardamon (about half a teaspoon)
  • rind of one orange

Heat the oven to 170 degrees (my recipe said 180, but my fan forced oven was too fast and the first tray of biscuits over-cooked, so I adjusted it down).  Cream the butter until it's pale and smooth.  Add the sugar and beat thoroughly until it's absorbed - up to five minutes.  Add about half the flour and hazlenut meal, and the cardamon and finely grated rind, and beat through until too stiff for the beaters.

Tip the mixture onto the bench and add the remaining flour and meal.  Work in with your hands.  It will make a very short dough, and will remain all crumbly.

Pick up a walnut sized amount of dough and squeeze  in your hand, until it forms a solid sort of log shape.  Then turn the edges in to form a crescent.  Place about 2 inches apart on a baking paper lined tray and cook for 15 minutes.  Check during cooking to make sure the biscuits don't over cook - they shouldn't be brown when they're done, but remain lovely and pale.

Once cooled, dust with icing sugar, and serve with coffee or tea.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tomato sugo

Last weekend Leith and I did a good deed.  We drove to Stawell to help out moving some furniture and boxes around, and then we were rewarded by Leith's mum in the traditional manner: with food.  We visited a farmers' market on Sunday and got ourselves a box of saucing tomatoes!  We also got a whole lot of fresh herbs from her garden.  So on Monday night, I made sauce.

I didn't have a recipe, and I read a whole bunch online, each different to the last: leave the skins on vs blanche and peel them; add sugar, don't add sugar; add onion, don't add onion; puree, don't puree etc  So I ended up deciding to just make my own sauce however the hell I wanted.  In fact, I made three kinds, because I needed three pots to fit all the tomatoes.

  • Tomatoes
  • garlic cloves (1 clove to approx every 500g of tomatoes)
  • a splash of oil
  • salt and pepper
  • tablespoon of caster sugar
  •  a decent splash of water
  • a slug of olive oil
Optional extras:
  • finely chopped onion
  • basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, any other herbs you like
  • olives
  • anchovies
  • chilli
  • anything you want!
I made three kinds: one that was tomato with garlic and four herbs; one tomato, garlic, basil and chilli; and one tomato with garlic, basil, olives and anchovies.  I didn't remove any skins because I couldn't be bothered, and also, it just seemed so wasteful.

Wash your tomatoes to remove any dirt.  Chop them into quarters, taking care to remove any impurities.  Put them in the largest pot you have, or three!  Add about a centimeter of water to each pot, add a slug of olive oil and the smashed garlic.  This will stop the tomatoes from burning on the base of the pots, but don't add too much as the tomatoes will leech water once they start cooking, and the sauce will be too runny.  Put the pots on a medium to low heat, and cook covered for about 40 minutes.  Stir occassionally, and let the tomatoes break down.  Add a tablespoon of sugar or so to each pot and stir in.

Once the tomatoes have started to break down considerably, add a generous sprinkle of good quality salt and cracked pepper.  Add your herbs and whatever else you are including (although I didn't add the olives until after I'd pureed).  Continue to simmer for 15 mins or so until there is a reasonably balance of liquid and tomato chunks.  Remove from the heat and pulse a few times with a bar mix until it has the consistency you want.  I pureed mine so that it was mostly smooth, but included a few little lumps still.  Two of my pots were just right, but put the third back on the heat for 10 mins to thicken a little more.

Pour into serving sized bottles and keep in the fridge or freezer, depending on when you think you might use them.  This is what it looks like if you drop one of the containers - the largest one - of delicious tomato sugo.

Leith used one right away to make us pasta!  He used some of the amazing things we came home with, including a giant golden zucchini and a homemade calabrese salami.   Here's what he made:

  • 250g wholemeal pasta spirals
  • 1 jar of tomato and herb sugo
  • golden zucchini
  • salami chunks
  • finely chopped onion
  • parmasen cheese to garnish
  • olive oil
Slice the zucchini into fat steaks, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and brush them with olive oil.  Then cook them on a grill until they blacken and go all squishy.  In the meantime, cook your pasta in just a little salted water.

Saute the onion in the olive oil until golden.  Add the salami and fry until all the delicious porky juices start flowing.  Add your sugo and simmer until heated through.  Leith here demonstrates his technique of keeping the wooden spoon clear of the pan, so it doesn't absorb all the flavours.  A worthy tip, if you believe in such things - I have to confess that I never do it!

Add the pasta and mix through, then finally, add the grilled zucchini and mix gently again.  Garnish with the parmasen, and voila!  Delicious pasta full of yumminess.