Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Roast Chicken with Coriander Seeds, Thyme and Cherry Tomatoes

LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe!! The flavours are amazing and even Mr M who doesn't say much when sampling my cooking as he just thinks everything tastes amazing (except many years ago and he won't let me live it down, I made something that he will never eat again!!). Well the groans and moans from Mr M were worth my efforts. Also next time I may have to buy two chooks as one was just not enough for this family of five!! They kept asking if I had any more.

I really thought it would have been too spicy for my 3 darlings and I did keep the 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes to only half of that just in case but it didn't seem to bother those little taste buds in the making!

We have done a few different versions of roasting the good old chook (sorry Bonnie, Coco and Gemmi who live in our back yard and supply us with their magical eggs each day!) but I'd have to say this one is a winner and will be repeated again and again I'm sure.

This recipe was found in one of my many books and it has so many I'm just busting to try. It's from "Karen Martini" - Feasting page 151, so if you're looking for a quick and easy Sunday Roast idea for a chook give this one ago.....we did some roast vegetables to go with it.

You will need:
3 tablespoons coriander seed ( I searched high and low for these and ended up using the ground coriander, and halving it)
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled (probably a good idea not to breathe too closely on your loved one!!)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
2 tablespoons flaked river salt
1.8 kg free-range organic chicken cut into 8 pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 sprigs thyme
12 cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar ( I will tell you the truth....I didn't have any so I didn't use it)

Karen Martini suggests by cutting the chicken into 8 pieces will help with the fragrant kick that you get and it will caramelise beautifully and don't forget to put in a pan big enough for this to happen.

Roughly crush the coriander seeds and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, then add the garlic and roughly crush. Add the chilli flakes and salt and pound to a rough paste.

Place the chicken pieces in a large plastic bag, add the spice mix and olive oil and massage into the chicken. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes (overnight if possible) to allow the flavours to infuse.

Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees (fan-forced).
Remove the chicken from the bag and place in a medium heavy baking dish. Scatter over the thyme sprigs and tomatoes and roast for 55 minutes or until the chicken is golden and cooked.

Remove the dish from the oven, drizzle over the vinegar and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve  the chicken with the pan juices spooned over.

Enjoy! M x

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Carrot and almond cake

Who likes a good carrot cake? Well this one is a little different than the normal carrot cakes that you can make, even I (being the queen of cake baking) had never made one like this before. It has a really beautiful flavour and texture. I think it's the orange rind and the Grand Marnier that really gives it that kick. I used to think carrot cake was for the Nanna's out there and I had never really tried carrot cake and would turn my nose up if mum would say "try it, you may like it" Who hasn't heard that line before?

I think my dislike for carrot cake came from the texture of the cake, with the big chunks of nuts and the thought that there was actually a vegetable in the cake itself. In saying this my 3 little darlings really enjoyed this cake and that's a first as the mention of carrot would send my Miss 4 running for the hills.

Like your normal carrot cake, it has nuts (walnuts) and of course carrot but doesn't have any flour, oil or butter. It's called a "Carrot and Almond cake", you might be thinking that the almond takes over the flavour of the cake but I found it was the total opposite actually. In saying that you could still taste the almond but the orange rind really shone through which made it very pleasant. Also a different take on this cake is that it doesn't have the cream cheese icing (I hear the carrot cake fans saying OH NO!!!) and me being one of those. This cake just has a dusting of icing sugar on top which was also good and you could add a dollop of thick cream!!

Most of the ingredients in this cake are processed in the food processor so if you were presenting the cake to one of those small fussy people, they would probably never know what was in the cake let alone it having carrot in it!!

This recipe is another from one of my favourites "Neil Perry"- good food and is the perfect cake for that lazy Sunday baking or for afternoon tea as it's so easy to make.

You will need:
1 3/4 cups ground almonds
1 cup walnuts, lightly roasted (I just roasted mine in the oven for about 5 minutes)
1 cup caster sugar
125g savoiardi (lady fingers) biscuits (I found these in Woolworth's) roughly chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
5 eggs, separated
1 large carrot, finely grated
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier ( I'd say if you didn't want to use this it wouldn't matter)
finely grated zest of 1 orange
icing sugar, for dusting
thick cream

Lightly grease a 23 (9 inch) round cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Place almonds , walnuts and sugar in a food processor and process to form course crumbs.

Transfer the crumb mixture to a large mixing bowl. Process the savoiardi biscuits and baking powder together until the biscuits are finely crushed, then combine them with the crumb mixture.

Add the lightly eaten egg yolks, carrot, Grand Marnier and orange zest to the crumb mixture, and mix until all the ingredients are moistened and well combined.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees (350F/Gas 4). Beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into the cake mixture in three batches.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer. (Mine was in the oven for more like 55 minutes, the middle was a little sticky)

Transfer the cake to a wire rackto cool. Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy! M x

Monday, 23 May 2011

Best - Ever lasagne

I was thinking (and no it didn't hurt that much B) that surely there must be some Italian blood in these veins of mine as I LOVE pasta. Any pasta really. Growing up Mum would often make her own version of spaghetti bolgnaise, which as kids we would devour in minutes. I loved her version so much so that when I was grown up enough (only a couple of years ago - just kidding!) I wanted to make it for my special man (that would be Mr M of course). With my cooking skills not nearly as fine tuned as they are now I took off to the shops and was in search for that special ingredient that Mum would use....."a can of tomatoes" but not just any can. I knew the label and it was a kind of puree that went in with everything. To my horror I couldn't find that can anywhere and was distraught "what would I do now" I thought to myself....if only I knew what I do now!

Of course, I now know you can create your own tomato sauce with cans, with your own tomatoes from your garden or anything really. It is the herbs and spices that you add really add that extra something.

I can't really remember the amount of times I've actually made a lasagne as it's one of our favourites in this house and I have made a few different recipes but most of them are very much alike. I think it's really your choice whether you want to use minced beef, pork mince or veal mince or a combination of all three. I usually just make mine with beef mince but today I wanted to share with you a recipe that I found in my "Neil Perry" cook book (he's another favourite of B & I's). His recipe has a combination of pork and veal mince and the flavour is truly amazing, a really rich thick sauce. I think Neil is right when he says the vinegar gives it that kick and it is quite easy and fast so even the non-chefs out there could give this one a go.

We usually make our own pasta at home now as I was given the gift of all gifts a few years "Kitchen Aid" (Mr M thinks I'm actually married to the Kitchen Aid and not him!). Well it has a pasta making attachment and you basically just have to stand there and feed it through. It's so easy. For today's recipe though I just used the instant packet lasagne sheets as I know many of you out there may not have a pasta making machine (see I do cheat sometimes!).

Also with this recipe it calls for some fresh buffalo or cow's milk mozzarella, I actually bought some fresh buffalo but it was quite expensive so it would be fine just to use the normal mozzarella you buy in the supermarkets if you can't get the other.

You will need:
9 instant-cook lasagne sheets (remember mine were from a box)
500g fresh buffalo or cow's milk mozzarella, torn
100g freshly grated Parmesan

meat sauce:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
300g pork mince
300g veal mince
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons plain flour
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
a pinch of caster sugar
700ml tomato passata (which means pureed tomatoes)
400g tinned diced tomatoes
1 large hand full basil leaves

bechamel sauce:
50g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
600ml milk
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Serves 6

You will require a 23 x 29 x 7cm lasagne dish (something close to this size will be fine) Preheat your oven to 190 degrees (375F/Gas 5)

To make the meat sauce, heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add both of the meats and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, breaking the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, for about 4 minutes, or until the meat loses it's raw colour but has not browned.

Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, then pour in the vinegar and stir occasionally until it has almost completely evaporated. Add the sugar, passata and diced tomatoes and allow the sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until it reduces and thickens slightly.

Adjust the seasoning, stir through the basil leaves and set the sauce aside (at this stage, the sauce can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to two days, then reheated before assembling the lasagne).

To make the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over lo-medium heat. Add the flour to the butter and stir constantly over the heat, for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the milk all at once, whisking constantly, to avoid any lumps. Return the pan to the heat and continue to whisk constantly, until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the lasagne, spread one-quarter of the meat sauce into the base of the lasagne dish. Place three of the lasagne sheets over the sauce.

Spread another quarter of the sauce over the lasagne sheets, followed by one-third of the mozzarella. Continue to layer the lasagne sheets, sauce and mozzarella two more times.
Pour the bechamel sauce evenly over the final layer of mozzarella, then sprinkle evenly with Parmesan. Cook the lasagne for 30 - 40 minutes, or until the cheese has browned and the sauce is bubbling. Remove the lasagne from the oven and let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. (If you can wait that long!)

Neil Perry.......I think you are right "Best Ever"!!

Enjoy M x

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Making Pasta at Black Pearl Epicure - Guest post by Mr M

This post stars M & B's very own:

Mr M: Man of many talents....but cooking? No talent!! (Sorry Mr M)
Mr 7: Son of many talents.......especially eating food!

Mr M and I have had many discussions about spending one on one time with our three kids, so I set about finding something exciting for them to do as a special treat. All three of them are addicted to watching anything that involves cooking (not my fault at all *cough*) so I decided that it was their turn to have a cooking lesson of their own, seeing Mr M and I had already been to some ourselves.

I found a kids making pasta class with either mum or dad at Black Pearl Epicure. We hadn't experienced a cooking class there yet as most of the classes we have done so far have been at James Street Cooking School. I set about booking a class for Mr M and Mr 7 for some special bonding (hoping they may actually learn something also!)

The menu for the day was "Roasted pumpkin and ricotta ravioli and creamy thyme sauce, garnished with a tomato and lime salsa". Yum! (lets hope they can re-produce this at home!). The boys set off very excited, and they were gone for 3hrs (actually nice and quiet at home with just myself and the girls....sorry boys!).

Upon the boys return, they walked in with huge smiles on their faces and no sooner than I asked Mr 7 how he went he was asking me to book him into another class ASAP!! They had a fantastic time and had eaten themselves silly. Mr M took a couple of pictures to share and he recommends getting out and doing a class!! "So much FUN!!"

So here's Mr M to tell you about it! Take it away Mr M!.....................

We arrived a couple of minutes late and paired up with a Mum and Son combo. First up our chef William Pointu welcomed us and he seemed very friendly and had us eating out of his hands. He ran through what we were about to make and had a few laughs. We washed our hands - the most important first rule (Maude and I have seen where these kids put their hands - NOT GOOD!).

First off was our dough, plain flour, egg and some salt. The kids came to life, Master 7 was attacked by dough, the more he pushed and pulled the more he was consumed by the beast!! Chef William dropped in too see each dough table and gave my Master 7 some clues (a pinch of flour and rub your hands together seemed to do the trick).

Our dough wrapped up in glad wrap aside, Chef William showed us our filling, roasting pumpkin, french onion and thyme, he said french onion was a good substitute for garlic with kids. He then showed us some great knife skills and safety skills.

Kids are up front for some salsa time, they all got along really well, smelling, tasting and adding ingredients and having a great laugh while our communal pot of creamy thyme sauce was waiting to boil.

It was then back to our work bench and working on our dough, we had our rolling pins and pasta machines ready, a quick tumble of our filling ingredients pumpkin and ricotta and a pinch of salt, we were ready to roll, the room is now well and truly alive!

I must admit the kids were doing a better job than I was but we were all having a great time. Chef William was preparing to plate up and we all sat at the dinner table, trading stories and laughs about our experiences.
It was a truly pleasant morning had by all.

Well done boys!! And thank you Black two men now want to make this every weekend!

M x

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Caramel Almond Tart & Mini Cheese Cakes

Hello......ok I was on assignment, the brief was to make a couple of dessert type things for a lovely lady called "Mrs R". So I had a few ideas in mind that were easy as Mrs R was doing a couple also. I remember when I was alot younger,  this tart that my Mum used to make when we lived in Perth and it was a hit with all her friends so I decided I'd make it and some mini heart shaped cheese cakes with some lemon curd on top.

My day started fantastic.....I had the kitchen cleaned up ready for me to start my cooking but I was still in my PJ's. I suppose this is where the subject of cooking changes!! I step into the soap!! (well the smallest bit of soap you have ever seen!) next the gas bottle decides to be empty just as I put the shampoo in my hair....."Mr M" long gone!! Ok I feel so much better getting that off my chest....back to cooking!!

I found the folded up piece of paper that my mum had written the recipe of the tart on tucked safely away in the junk draw! I've been told the recipe comes from one of her Australian Women's Weekly books. It's called "Caramel Almond Tart" I didn't get to take many pictures either as my camera battery decided to go flat also.
90g butter softened
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of milk
3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup self-raising flour
1/3 ground almonds
I used a tart tin with a removeable base, measuring approx 22cm diameter
400g can condensed milk
125g butter
1/4 teaspoon almond essence (I don't even use it as with the almond meal I think it has enough almond flavour)
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup flaked or slivered almonds
1/2 cup icing sugar
lemon juice

Cream butter and sugar in small bowl, beat in egg yolk and milk. Stir in sifted flours and almonds in 2 batches. Refrigerate (in shape of a ball) if you like (I just push it into base with my fingers) Bake in hot oven until golden brown (about 15min)

Put condensed milk in a saucepan and stir briskly (medium heat) for about 10 minutes until it turns a slight caramel colour, making sure you don't take your eyes off the saucepan as the condensed milk burns very quickly .
Cool for 10 min and spread over base.

For the filling
Cream butter, essence and sugar, beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour and ground almonds. Spread over top of the caramel base and sprinkle with almonds. Bake in moderate oven for 30 minutes or until golden on top.
For the icing
In a bowl add enough lemon juice to the icing just so it comes together. I then put the icing in a glad sandwich bag and cut the tip off (like a little piping bag) and just made a pattern.

Mini Cheese Cakes

This cheese cake recipe is actually for patty cake cases, so you could use patty cup cake papers or even small muffin trays but you would need to put the cases inside the muffin tray if it didn't have a removeable base. I have this cute heart shaped tin with removable bases so I used it. The actual recipe I found on a website years ago, but it's just a basic baked cheese cake one.

150g Nice Biscuits
70g butter
250g cream cheese
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 egg
20ml lemon juice
100ml thickened cream

For your base, crush the biscuits either with the end of your rolling pin or in your food processor. Melt your butter then mix it with your crushed biscuits in a small bowl.

Push about a tablespoon of base mixture into the bottom of your tins, pushing firmly as you go.
For the filling, beat cream cheese and caster sugar with an electric mixer until soft and well mixed, add egg.
Then add your lemon juice and cream until well combined.

Spoon your filling on top of the bases and bake in a 180 degree oven for 20 minutes or until set. Leave to cool in tins or patty cases for 30 minutes.
Now you can just decorate the tops of these cheese cakes with some raspberries or strawberries. I made some lemon curd for mine.
I hope Mrs R enjoys them as much as I enjoyed making them!

M x

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Roasted Tomato Soup

Hello....ok I get the picture!!
 Alot of you like soups, and yes we have posted a couple which were kindly made from M & B's oldies (sorry mum & dad). Well I thought I had better get some of my own on here now that we have these lovely cool nights. I might have to fess up about something before I go on though.....I'm not a soup eater! Yes I can picture you all gasping and saying "How could you NOT". I've never been a "hot liquid" kind of person ever....just ask B!! (Ok B no need to tell them all my faults) Don't worry though, I have actually made soups before I'm not that cruel that I deprive my family from experiencing them. I do try them and actually think they taste really good but just can't get through a whole bowl full. I really like the roasted tomato and a good old pumpkin soup, so I'm going to show you the roasted tomato one I did with a really yummy mint pesto that goes on top!! I found this one in my Donna Hay book "Modern Classics book 1" page 18.
You will need:
12 large vine-ripened tomatoes (2kg) halved
1 head of garlic, whole and unpeeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
2-3 teaspoons sugar.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Place the tomatoes and garlic on two baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for 40 minutes or until very soft ( I had mine in the oven for about 1 hour ). Allow to cool slightly. Squeeze the garlic flesh from it's skin and process in a blender with the tomatoes and any juice from the baking trays in two batches until smooth.

Cook the tomato mixture , stock and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. To serve , ladle into bowls or mugs and top with a spoonful of mint pesto.

For the mint pesto you will need:
1 cup of roughly chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil

In a food processor add mint, parsley, pine nuts, grated cheese and blend until combined. Add the olive oil.
You can serve over tomato, lentil or vegetable soups.

I must admit I really did like this one.....very tasty with my toast soldiers!!

Enjoy M x