black tea and bourbon pork belly

black tea and bourbon pork belly

Hands up who's been watching Masterchef this year?  Regular readers, I'll spare you my annual (Maggie) Beer-Bashing and summarise in point-form my current musings:

-  Shannon Bennett is like the protective, older brother I never had.  Don't you just feel like if you had a Shannon Bennett in your life he'd totally be watching your back?  But not in a way like you'd want him to be your boyfriend because, let's face it, the guy looks like Grug, but definitely older brother material;

-  I'm getting one step closer to my long-suspected theory that Curtis Stone wears eyeliner and I'm starting to wonder what brand because even under immense pressure that shit just NEVER smudges.  I need makeup tips from Curtis Stone;

-  John:  please stop putting the contents of the entire pantry into your dishes.  It's a mystery BOX challenge, not a mystery PANTRY.  Also, I want to punch you in the face when you ignore the judges advice EVERY.  SINGLE.  WEEK;

-  Contestants in general:  please stop making dishes you've never made before, I'm tired of acting surprised when it doesn't work out, but also please do not make family dishes you've made a billion times because *yawn*.  Preferably make things you've made on average 2-3 times before, just enough to have perfected it but not enough that you have montage-worthy, tearful flashbacks to making it with your Nonna;

-  I'm totally Mrs Robinson-ing over Reynold right now.  The guy is totes adorbs and can make desserts.  Ladies, he MAKES DESSERTS.

black tea and bourbon pork belly
Serves 4

1.2kg pork belly
2 tbsp rice bran oil
1/2 cup honey
5 English Breakfast tea bags
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tbsp bourbon 
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Brown rice, to serve
Steamed Asian greens, to serve

Cut pork belly lengthways into three, long strips of equal width.  From each strip, cut thin slices (about 1cm thick).  Season well with salt and pepper.

To make sauce, brew teabags in 2 cups boiling water for 5 mins.  Discard tea bags.  Put tea, honey, sugar and vinegar into a medium size saucepan.  Bring to the boil over a high heat, then reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer for about 20 mins or until the mixture has reduced down to 3/4 cup.  Stir through bourbon.

Meanwhile, heat rice bran oil in a large frypan over a high heat.  Lay pork belly strips in the pan in a single layer (you may need to do this in two batches).  Fry for about 5 mins each side (when the fat renders down it will sizzle and spit so you may want to use the pan lid as a shield - be careful!) or until the pork is well browned on both sides and the skin is super crispy.    Remove pork strips from pan and drain on absorbent towel.

Add fried pork strips to sauce, toss to coat then serve on top of brown rice and asian greens. 

steak frites with gruyere salt

steak frites gruyere salt

Every now and then I like to go back to basics and cook something really, really simple.  THBH appreciates the break from being my guinea pig, always welcoming something failproof like a lasagne or a perfectly-cooked steak.  I secretly love it too, but a little part of me feels like it's a wasted opportunity to try something new - this is how my mind works, every meal is a chance to be adventurous, to give the old creativity a bit of a workout (mind you, if I go to my favourite cafe I'll always order the exact same thing every time.  It seems my risk-taking only extends to my own kitchen and not other people's).  

Sometimes I can cater to both of our interests by taking something so beautifully simple and putting a tiny spin on it.  I was thinking about gruyere cheese, which is my absolute favourite cheese, hands down.  I don't think it's a co-incidence that it's Swiss and that it does happen to just agree with pretty much any flavour profile you can throw at it, typical Swiss, so non-confrontational.  Despite gruyere's easy-going nature though, there are some things it is just MADE for - steak and potato being two of them.  Gruyere on burgers is so overdone so I challenged myself to come up with another way to get these magical flavours to party together once more.  The divinely simple answer?  SALT.  

Hope you all enjoy this ridiculously simple yet absolutely tasty recipe - pomme frites and gruyere cheese, it's more European than Eurovision, but a lot less trashy.  

steak frites with gruyere salt
Serves 2

2 good-quality porterhouse or scotch fillet steaks
1 large sebago potato, peeled, julienned
3/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
1/3 cup sea salt flakes (I use Maldon)
Pepper
Oil, for deep frying

Remove steaks from fridge 1 hour before cooking.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

To make gruyere salt, preheat oven grill to the highest temperature possible.  You want that bad boy SUPER hot.  Line a baking tray with foil and evenly spread cheese on it.  Pop under the grill and watch it like a hawk, sit by your grill with some oven mitts in hand ready to go - you want to cheese to be crispy and golden in colour - a second more will result in burnt cheese, not tasty!  The SECOND it becomes golden in colour pull it out and set aside to cool.  Once cool, pour into a mini food processor and blitz to a fine crumb.  Mix with salt.

Cook steaks on a sizzling hot chargrill pan.  I'm not going to tell you how to do this, just do it the way you like it.  Rest steaks while you prepare the frites (fancy for fries).

Heat oil in deep fryer to 200ºC.  Cook frites in 2 batches.  They won't take long - about 3 mins or just until they are hard and crispy.  Drain on paper towel.

Serve steaks topped with frites and a generous sprinkle of gruyere salt.

edamame, pumpkin and deep fried salami winter salad

edamame pumpkin salami salad

Salads get a bit of a bum deal in cooler months, stepping aside to hearty stews and homely roasts.  Personally, I don't want to wait until the weather permits to enjoy a good salad, so I'm turning things around today with a WARM, Winter-friendly salad.  

I'm fulfilling a life-long dream by doing something I should have done long ago - deep-frying salami.  Yes, you read correctly - let's take something fat-laden and cook it in a bubbling, hot fat bath.  Actually, let's take this a step further by CRUMBING the salami first.  Yeah, carbs + fat = awesomeness.  When the crumbed discs hit the hot oil they puff up and after a few minutes you have golden, delicious meaty UFOs.  

This salad has it all - sweet, salty, creamy, texture, heat, umami-ness (why yes, I HAVE been watching Masterchef).  I will leave you with some words of advice though - you may want to make extra salami chips for snacking.  Don't say I didn't warn you...

edamame, pumpkin and deep fried salami winter salad
Serves 4

1.5 kg butternut pumpkin, halved lengthways, but into 1.5cm thick slices
500g frozen, prepared edamame beans (in pods), thawed to room temperature
80g chevre, crumbled
8 slices ciabatta
12 thin slices Hungarian (mild) salami
1 cup plain flour
1 egg whisked with a splash of milk
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tbsp Kecap Manis
Oil for deep frying

Preheat a fan forced oven to 190ºC.  In a large bowl combine 1/4 cup oil, Kecap Manis, Cayenne pepper and salt.  Add pumpkin slices and toss to coat.  Arrange slices over a baking tray then pop into the oven for 40 mins, carefully flipping the slices over half way.

Meanwhile, peel edamame, discarding pods.  Set beans aside.

Preheat oil in deep fryer to 200ºC.  Press salami slices into flour to lightly coat, dusting off any excess.  Dip floured salami slices into egg wash, then into breadcrumbs, pressing down to make sure breadcrumbs stick and fully coat the slice.  Deep fry crumbed salami, 4 slices at a time, for around 2 mins or until puffy and golden.  Drain on paper towel.  Try not to devour these before you assemble the salad.

Once pumpkin is done, remove from oven (leave oven on).  Arrange ciabatta over baking tray, drizzle with a little extra olive oil then pop into the oven for 20 mins, turning after 10 mins.

To serve, arrange toasted ciabatta, roast pumpkin slices, edamame, chevre and fried salami on a plate. 

meyer lemon lamb with roasted baby carrot couscous

meyer lemon lamb baby carrot couscous

Let's talk lemons.  The suburb we live in is Wog City so just about every garden is heavily decorated with citrus trees.  Oranges, lemons, limes - you name it, we've got it.  Why this hadn't dawned on me earlier is beyond me because here I've been, paying for lemons at the shop like a chump.  Yesterday I paid $1.50 for ONE orange when I could open my own juice bar relying on the fruit from my neighbours tree alone.  

One mysterious citrus I haven't been able to get my hands on is the Meyer lemon.  Less tart than a regular lemon, the Meyer lemon's genetics makes it some kind of freak hybrid of lemon and mandarin.  I did manage to find dried Meyer lemon peel at Williams-Sonoma the last time I was in Sydney and have taken every opportunity to add it to my cooking (check out my parmesan popcorn chicken with fried thyme and Meyer lemon salt and Meyer lemon roast chicken).  As you can see it pairs perfectly with chicken, but I wanted to give it a go with lamb and was very happy with the results.  Marinate these in the morning before you go to work and you'll be rewarded with a quick and easy dinner which is packed with big flavours.  

meyer lemon lamb with roasted baby carrot couscous
Serves 4
You will need to marinate the lamb 8 hours before

12 lamb cutlets
1 tsp dried Meyer lemon peel
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and crushed 
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, bruised
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

ROASTED BABY CARROT COUSCOUS
1 cup couscous
1 bunch baby carrots (about 12)
Juice from 1 large orange (plus zest from 1/2 orange)
6 spring onions (4 cut into 4cm long pieces, 2 finely sliced)
4 tbsp olive oil
30g butter
1/4 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

To make marinade, combine lemon peel, cumin, oregano, oil, honey, lemon juice and garlic in a large non-reactive (plastic or glass) container.  Season generously with salt and pepper then mix well to combine.  Add lamb cutlets and turn to coat.  Cover and pop in fridge to marinate for at least 8 hours.

To make roasted baby carrot couscous, preheat a fan forced oven to 180ºC.  Spread carrots and 4cm spring onion pieces on a baking tray.  Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil then season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 mins, turning carefully after 15 mins.  Set aside.

Put orange juice and zest into a measuring jug.  Top up with water so that the total volume is 1 cup.  Pour into small saucepan and bring to the boil, then add couscous and 2 tbsp olive oil, remove from heat, add butter and stir well then cover and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes.  Remove lid, fluff couscous with a fork, breaking up any large chunks.  Transfer to a large bowl, stir through herbs and remaining finely sliced spring onion.  

Heat a chargrill pan to high.  Remove lamb from marinade and grill for 2-3 mins each side.  Allow to rest for 2 mins before serving on top of couscous with roasted baby carrots and spring onions. 

literal popcorn chicken with pickled corn

popcorn chicken pickled corn

Folks, this is popcorn chicken but not as you know it.  Whip up a batch of popcorn, smash it up into tiny crumbs (an awesome stress reliever) and then step aside humble breadcrumb, you've been replaced by something way more awesome.  

The popcorn crumb gives a super crunchy texture but lends a familiar, embracing flavour to the chicken wings.  These things are addictive - you've been warned.  I've also added cayenne pepper to the dusting flour for a spicy kick to compliment the sweet, crunchy pickled corn wheels.  That's right, don't expect a side of potato and gravy with these bad boys, instead I've taken sunny, happy corn cobs, hacked them into fun wheels and stuffed them into a jar with allspice, pepper and bay leaf to be transformed into briney, pickley goodness.

Having friends over this weekend?  Whip up a batch of these and you'll be the talk of the town, promise ;-)

literal popcorn chicken with pickled corn
Serves 6 as a snack
You will need to make the pickled corn at least 8 hours in advance

18 chicken wingettes
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
3 tbsp sesame oil
Sea salt flakes
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 egg whisked with a splash of milk
Oil, to deep fry

PICKLED CORN
2 corn cobs, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) thick slices
2 long, red chillies cut into 1cm thick slices
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 cups white vinegar
6 tsp salt

To make the pickled corn, bring 4 cups water to the boil in a medium saucepan.  Reduce heat to low, add garlic and allow to simmer for 5 mins.  Add vinegar, salt and allspice, increase heat to high to bring back to the boil, stirring until salt has dissolved.  Remove from the heat.

Stuff into a sterilised jar the corn slices, chillies, cooked garlic cloves, peppercorns and bay leaves.  Pour over the pickling liquid so that all the vegetables are covered.  Seal with lid then pop into fridge for a minimum of 8 hours to allow the flavours to develop.

To make popcorn chicken, heat sesame oil in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Add a couple of corn kernels and pop on the lid.  Once you hear the kernels popping you know the oil is hot enough - throw in the rest of the kernels and pop the lid back on.  Listen carefully to the kernels popping.  Every 30 seconds or so give the pan a shake to ensure all kernels are popped evenly.  Once you hear the popping sound slow down (several seconds between pops), remove the pan from heat, taking off the lid, season with salt and then allow popcorn to cool down.

Once cool, crush popcorn into fine crumbs (you can use a food processor or pour the popcorn into a zip lock bag and smash it with a rolling pin).  Pour onto a deep plate.  

Combine flour and cayenne pepper.  Season generously with salt.  Dust chicken wingettes in flour, shaking off any excess.  Dip floured wingettes into egg mixture, then roll in crushed popcorn, pressing down gently to coat.  

Heat oil to 200ºC (using a deep fryer is safest).  Cook chicken wingettes in batches of 3 for 3-4 minutes.  Drain on paper towel and season with salt before serving with pickled corn.

lemongrass poached nashi porridge with pistachio brittle

poached nashi porridge pistachio brittle

On the night of our wedding eve I stayed at my Bubcha's house.  We stayed up until midnight talking - no mean feat for a woman who was 6 months pregnant (me, not my Grandma) and a 91 year old.  She asked me what I wanted for breakfast and I didn't even have to think for more than a split second before I requested her famous porridge.  On the morning of our wedding she awoke at sparrow's fart (for those who don't speak bogan, that means early) and cooked up a batch and we sat together in pre-coffee silence, the room full of nerves and anticipation, hunched over our steaming hot bowls.

There is no universal way to make porridge, we all have our preferences for how we prefer it - some like it firm and bitey, other's prefer a more smooth and creamy consistency but I think everyone would be united in the feeling that a mouthful of porridge can easily transport you back to your childhood.  

Being an extremely busy person (self-inflicted), the last few winters I have fallen guilty to relying on the microwave to churn out a batch in as little amount of time possible, but yesterday I had an aching for Bubcha-style porridge - slow and steady on the stove with a dash of semolina for consistency and a generous knob of butter swirled through at the end.  Is there ANYTHING butter can't improve?  

I called Bubcha to find out her recipe, a rookie error as my Grandma never cooks with recipes, just guesstimating and feel.  The original recipe goes something like this - "You know my second largest saucepan?  Well, I fill that with water about 3/4 of the way and add some salt and bring it to the boil.  Then I get my soup bowl, you know the one, right?  I fill that with oats and add that, then add a little bit of semolina".  You get the picture, it was a struggle.  Guided loosely by her instructions I pieced together this recipe which turned out bang on perfect.  We would usually eat this porridge simply sprinkled with brown sugar and topped up with warm milk, however I have added a few fancy extras for your eating pleasure.  

How do you like your porridge?

lemongrass poached nashi porridge with pistachio brittle
Serves 4

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup semolina
Pinch of salt
30g butter
Warm milk, to serve

LEMONGRASS POACHED NASHI
4 nashi pears, peeled
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised, roughly sliced
1 tsp vanilla bean paste 
4 cardamom pods
30g ginger, sliced
2 cups caster sugar

PISTACHIO BRITTLE
1/4 cup pistachio kernels, crushed
1/2 cup caster sugar

To make pistachio brittle, sprinkle nuts evenly over a lined baking tray.  Place sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Watch closely, DO NOT STIR, just gently swirl every now and then, until all the sugar is melted and light golden in colour.  Pour over nuts then pop tray into fridge for a few hours to harden.  Once hard, roughly crush the brittle.

To make poached nashi, fill a large saucepan with 2.5L water.  Add sugar, lemongrass, vanilla bean paste, cardamom and ginger then bring to the boil.  Drop heat to low, then add nashi and cover surface of the water with a square of baking paper.  Allow to simmer for 45 mins then turn heat off and allow nashi to cool in the poaching liquid.  Carefully remove nashi from liquid, set aside.  Strain liquid through a fine sieve, discard solids and return liquid to saucepan over a high heat.  Allow to cook for about 20 mins - you want to try and reduce the liquid down to a syrup to serve over your nashi.  Once reduced to about 1/4 of the original amount, set aside.

To make porridge, bring 2L water to a boil.  Reduce heat to super low then add a pinch of salt then whisk in semolina.  Add oats then allow to simmer, stirring regularly, for about 30 mins then stir through butter.  Serve porridge with warm milk, topped with a poached nashi, a drizzle of the lemongrass syrup and a sprinkle of pistachio brittle.

thai green curry gnudi

thai green curry gnudi

I've managed to escape the clutches of my offspring for a split second so I'm typing at the speed of light to get this blog post out.  I would highly recommend this recipe for parents or other busy people as it can be prepared in stages (important when you need to drop everything and run to a screaming kid) and also is completely do-able with a Baby Bjorn strapped to your body.  I can't say the same for going to the toilet, unfortunately, a basic necessity which has become a bit of a luxury these days.

For those who haven't tried gnudi, it's basically the lesser-known cousin of gnocchi, the difference being gnudi is made from ricotta instead of potato.   Pronounced nudey, it's also way more amusing to say.  As THBH doesn't like ricotta (he needs help, I know) I'll fry up some chicken breast for his (zzz) and perhaps use up the extra gnudi (hee hee!) with some fried bacon and onion for lunch tomorrow.  Yup, I think these extra baby kilos are going to stick around for a while.

thai green curry gnudi
Serves 4
You will need to prepare this recipe the night before

500g good quality, firm ricotta cheese
1 stalk lemongrass, white section only finely chopped
30g ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 cup semolina
3 tbsp green thai curry paste
270ml coconut cream
250ml salt-reduced vegetable stock
100g snow peas, shredded
100g sugar snap peas, halved
1 long, red chilli, finely sliced
1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted
Coriander leaves and lime cheeks, to serve

In a large bowl combine ricotta, lemongrass and ginger.  Mix very well to combine, you want the ricotta to be light and fluffy and no big chunks.  Roll ricotta mixture into 3cm balls.  Spread semolina over a baking tray and roll ricotta balls (gnudi) to coat, leaving them on the tray.  Pop into the fridge overnight (or minimum 8 hours).

Heat a medium frypan over medium-high heat.  Add green curry paste and cook, stirring, for 2-3 mins or until fragrant.  Add coconut cream and vegetable stock along with 1 cup water, bring to the boil then drop heat to low and allow to simmer for 8-10 mins.  

Meanwhile, bring a medium sized saucepan of salted water to the boil.  Cook gnudi for 3 mins (you may want to do this in 2-3 batches).  Remove with slotted spoon and divide among 4 bowls.

Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes.  Place snow peas and sugar snap peas in another, large bowl and pour over boiling water, allowing to sit for 2-3 mins.  Drain, then plunge into ice-cold water to blanch.  Drain.

To serve, divide thai green curry sauce over the gnudi.  Top with blanched peas, chilli, toasted coconut, coriander leaves and a squeeze of lime juice. 

mother's day spiced hot chocolate stirrers

spicedhotchocstirrers

Over the past two weeks I've spent a record-breaking amount of time in the kitchen.  Unfortunately it has not been on anything particularly exciting - mainly mixing formula, sterilising bottles and trying to eat a baked bean toasted sandwich with one hand (I upgraded to baked bean toasties after solely surviving on Babybel cheeses for an entire week).  

Apart from the lack of time, food and sleep, Mum life is the best.  Tomorrow will mark one month since I've had the job, and I'm no expert but I think I'm doing alright.  I've finally learnt to let go of my obsessive social-media-checking schedule and weaned myself off my to-do lists, which used to be a therapeutic hobby but now just results in stress as it takes me 3 hours to one-handedly type an email (not very productive).  

I've learnt how to be more gentle to myself and wash away the heavy demands (blogging schedule, alphabetised spice cupboard, changing my underwear once a day) that were once part of my old life, but have no place in my new job.  There's only 24 hours in a day, but when that baby start wailing there is no task more important than finding a way to make her happy again, even if it results in a third batch of burnt salted toffee.  

These pretty hot chocolate stirrers just need to be dunked in a big mug of hot milk and would make the perfect gift for your Mum tomorrow.  Happy Mother's Day to all the beautiful Mums out there xx

mother's day spiced hot chocolate stirrers
Makes 2 of each flavour
You will need 6 wooden teaspoons and 6 x 125ml capacity cube chocolate moulds (I used a silicon jumbo ice-cube tray from Kmart)

WHITE CHOCOLATE WITH SALTED TOFFEE
250g good quality white chocolate
1/2 cup caster sugar
20g butter
1 tsp sea salt flakes

Place the sugar in a medium sized saucepan.  Cook over a high heat - DO NOT STIR.  To ensure the sugar caramelises evenly just carefully swirl the saucepan.  Once all of the sugar melts, immediately remove from the heat, stir through the butter and salt.  Pour onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Pop into the fridge to set.  Once the toffee is hard, cover with another sheet of baking paper and use a rolling pin to crush the toffee (it should be like a breadcrumb consistency).  

Melt the white chocolate.  The easiest method is to break up the chocolate into even pieces, place the chocolate into a plastic or glass bowl, and microwave on MEDIUM for short bursts (20 seconds at a time).  At the end of each burst, use a plastic spatula to stir the chocolate.  Microwave in short bursts until all the chocolate is completely melted, being careful not to overcook (if it looks grainy, it's burnt - you have just committed crimes against chocolate.  Go directly to jail, do not pass GO).

Stir 1/4 cup of the toffee crumbs through the melted white chocolate.  Pour equal amounts of the chocolate into 2 chocolate moulds then insert spoon into each.  Allow to set in the fridge for 3-4 hours or until chocolate hardens again.  To remove chocolates from pan, carefully twist the spoon until the chocolate releases from the mould.  

MILK CHOCOLATE WITH STRAWBERRY
250g good quality milk chocolate
1 tbsp dehydrated strawberry powder (get it here)

Melt chocolate according to instructions above.  Stir through the strawberry powder.  Repeat the process above to make the chocolate stirrers. 

DARK CHOCOLATE WITH ORANGE AND SZECHUAN PEPPER
250g good quality dark chocolate
1 tbsp orange extract (I used this recipe to make my own)
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, ground in a mortar and pestle

Melt chocolate according to instructions above.  Stir through the orange extract and pepper.  Repeat the process above to make the chocolate stirrers.

quinoa anzacs

quinoaanzacs

Thought I'd fly in today and blow away the tumbleweeds on this blog.  For those who have been playing along on Instagram and Facebook you would have already heard the super exciting news - two weeks ago THBH and I welcomed into the World our precious and ridiculously cute daughter, Marlo Anya (aka THBB - The Hungry Babushka Baby)!

I am underwhelmed to report that all the cliche things they say about parenthood are true.  Apologies to those who were waiting for some ground-breaking news in this department - I am tired beyond words, barely know what day of the week it is anymore and my most proud achievement in the last week is that I can now change a nappy in under 30 seconds (poonami nappies, give or take an extra 15 seconds).  It's tough, but every day gets a little easier, and we keep learning and fine-tuning until we finally have a square centimeter in our kitchen that isn't covered with bottles, boob milk and steralising equipment where I can attempt to bake something that I really should have "scheduled" about a week ago.  Oh well, if anyone is wanting to make gluten-free, vegan Anzac biscuits at 5pm on Anzac Day you've come to the right place.

Thanks for hanging in there while I navigate my new life and add yet another job title of Mum to the ever-growing CV.  Yes, yes if I was a legit, hardcore blogger I would have got my sh!t together and scheduled posts to tide you guys over but I have always felt uneasy creating content in advance, kind of like I'd be lying to you guys and putting up this Superwoman front while in reality I haven't got out of my pyjamas for three days straight and I'm sympathising with all the dairy cows out there.  I'm just here keeping it real, and if you're along for the ride I might just surprise you every now and then with a new blog post, and I promise it won't even be lactation cookies...

quinoa anzacs
Makes 18

1 cup rolled oats 
1 cup quinoa flour 
1/2 cup white quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar       
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 tsp bicarb soda    
1/4 tsp sea salt    
2/3 cup (liquid) coconut oil   
1/4 cup water  
2 tbsp dark agave nectar

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 140ºC.

Mix oats, quinoa, flour, sugar, coconut, bicarb and salt in a large bowl.  Stir in the coconut oil, water and agave syrup until well blended.

Divide mixture into 18 golf-ball sized portions.  Roll into balls and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper (leave about 3cm between each ball).  Press balls down gently with a fork to flatten.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.  Let the biscuits cool on the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool completely.  

curry hummus fishcakes

curryhummusfishcakes

If nesting became an Olympic sport, I'm not going to lie, I'd be taking out the gold medal.  Things are getting a bit out of control at our house - our spice cupboard is alphabetised and short of ironing THBH's undies we've signed up for Netflix in a futile attempt to matchmake my arse and our couch.  So far it's taken me 4 days to watch Frozen (there are 3 year olds with a greater attention span than me - sad, but true).

Speaking of frozen, I've cleaned out our spare freezer - you know, the one in your garage that could very well contain half a cow from 3 years ago that you completely forgot about (but highly unlikely to contain forgotten ice-cream or anything actually useful when you're 38 weeks pregnant) and found some real gems including two random fish fillets, one of which I am confident is salmon and the other just a pot-luck white fish.  THBH currently abhors fish (despite happily ordering it from a fish and chip shop just last week) so I did what any self-respecting parent would do and disguised it in something he loves.  Unfortunately, my plan failed which resulted in me having fish cakes for lunch for the next 2 days and THBH eating Vegemite Saladas for dinner.  Them's the breaks!

curry hummus fishcakes
Makes 4

250g fillet Atlantic salmon, skin on
200g fillet mild, white fish, skin on
150g milk
2 dried bay leaves
80g hummus
300g potatoes, peeled, cubed
1 tbsp Kewpie (Japanese) mayonnaise
1/2 tsp lemon zest
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 cup plain flour
1 egg, lightly whisked
Fresh curry leaves
Rice bran oil, to fry
Lemon and tartare sauce, to serve

Place fish, skin side down, into a small saucepan.  Cover with milk and 150ml water, add bay leaves.  Cover, bring to the boil over a high heat then immediately drop heat to very low and allow to simmer for 5 mins before removing from heat and leaving to sit for 10 mins (covered) to gently poach.  Remove fish from poaching liquid, dry on paper towel and then use a fork to break up into large flakes (discard skin).

Put potatoes into a small saucepan, cover with boiling water then place over a high heat until water comes back to a boil, drop heat to low and allow to simmer for 10 mins or until potato is soft when poked with a fork.  Drain, then return to saucepan and cook over a very low heat to remove excess water.  Mash roughly with a fork then stir through hummus, mayo and lemon zest.  Season with salt and pepper.  Fold through fish flakes (be gentle as you want the fish flakes to stay large and not break up too much).  Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and form into 2cm-thick patties.  

Dust each patty with flour, dip in egg then roll in breadcrumbs.  Place onto a plate and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours (this will harden the patties and prevent them from crumbling apart when frying).

Pour oil into a deep saucepan (you want the oil to be about 2cm deep).  Heat over a high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, throw in about 3 curry leaf stalks (about 36 leaves) and cook for 2 mins to let curry flavours infuse into oil.  Add fishcakes and cook for about 5 mins on each side or until light golden in colour and heated through.  Drain on paper towel and serve with lemon and tartare sauce.

steak sandwich with kiwiberry chutney

steaksandwichkiwiberrychutney

If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll probably know that I'm totally OBSESSED with new and unusual ingredients.  Fellow foodies have been peppering my Instagram feed with heavily stylised pics of a curious, little fruit known as the kiwiberry, so I simply couldn't resist picking up a few punnets at the market this week to experiment.

Think of a teensy, little kiwifruit without the bodily hair.  That's right - the tantalising, tropical flavour of kiwi without the fuss of the fuzz, just pop it straight into your gob.  A little more tart than their hairier cousin, my idea was to work the berries into a tomato-based chutney with a hint of vanilla to compliment a big, beefy steak sandwich.

If you have any leftover chutney it would also work really well on a simple, ham sandwich.  Enjoy!

steak sandwich with kiwiberry chutney
Serves 2

2 scotch fillet steaks, at room temperature
1 ciabatta loaf
2 vine tomatoes, thickly sliced
Cos lettuce leaves
Gruyere cheese, sliced
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

KIWIBERRY CHUTNEY
800g vine tomatoes, diced
250g kiwiberries, halved
1 brown onion, diced
70g caster sugar
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod reserved
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Juice from 1 lemon

To make chutney, add all ingredients (including scraped vanilla pod) to a medium sized saucepan over a high heat.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to super low and allow to simmer, stirring regularly, for about 3 hours or until fruit breaks down and liquid evaporates.  Set aside.

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 80ºC.  Heat ciabatta in the oven until ready to serve.

Season steaks generously with salt and pepper.  Heat a chargrill pan to super hot.  Cook steaks to your liking, about 2-3 mins each side (for medium rare).  Remove from pan and allow to rest for 2 mins (save juices) before slicing very thinly and tossing steak strips in their juices.  

Cut ciabatta loaf in half widthways, then lengthways to make two sandwiches.  Spread the bottom layers of the bread generously with kiwiberry chutney then top with steak strips, cheese, lettuce and tomato finished with the top slice of ciabatta. 

honey cumin chestnut ravioli

honeycuminchestnutravioli

Every birthday, Easter, Christmas or pretty much any occasion in our family is celebrated with a huge batch of a traditional Ukrainian dish called varenyky (if you have Polish friends you may have also heard them called perogies - same same).  The fundamentals of varenyky are simple - carbs wrapped in carbs, boiled (and fried, if you're feeling indulgent) covered in lard-fried bacon and a huge dollop of tart sour cream to balance out all that richness.  Absolutely nothing fancy, just potatoes, pasta and fried bacon and onion.  Cheap as chips to make, but like any good, rustic food usually requires a pretty hefty effort on the chefs part.  All that dough rolling, cutting and filling is mega time consuming, so this gargantuan task is usually broken down into a family production line.  A solid day of manufacturing usually results in a substantial yield which, inevitably, will be gobbled up by the rest of the family in about 5 seconds flat.

A few years ago Mum discovered a shortcut, and although my Bubcha would most definitely not approve, we have found that using wonton wrappers produces an almost identical result and can cut production time down to almost one quarter.  

I've often fantasised about giving this peasant dish a posh makeover - perhaps spiking the potato filling with a bit of truffle or draping smoked salmon, or something equally luxe, all over the crispy little parcels.  Today's gloomy, Melbourne weather has inspired me to use a hearty, Autumn ingredient that is so underrated here in Australia (hell, I even forgot it had its own emoji) - the chestnut.  Pureed with potato, cumin-infused oil for warmth and honey to bring out that beautiful sweetness, I spoon the filling between wonton sheets (and ignore Bubcha tsk tsking in my subconscious) and then gently boil them before spooning over some crispy bacon lardons and caramelised onion.  Let's agree to call these ravioli, as not to upset my ancestors ;-)

honey cumin chestnut ravioli
Makes 15 ravioli

1 cup roasted chestnut flesh, cooled
1 cup mashed potato, cooled
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
35g butter
1/2 cup quark (European style cottage cheese), crumbled
30 wonton wrappers
3 middle rashers bacon, cut into very thin strips
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

In a large bowl mix together chestnut flesh, mashed potato and honey.  Melt butter in a small frypan then add cumin and fry for about 2-3 minutes or until butter just begins to brown.  Pour into potato/chestnut mixture and mix well.  Allow to cool, then fold through the quark.  Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the ravioli place a wonton wrapper on a clean surface.  Dip your finger into water and trace the edge of the wrapper (this will help seal the ravioli).  Place a heaped tablespoon of the filling into the centre of the pastry, then top with another wonton wrapper, pressing the edges to seal (ensure there are no air pockets around the filling).  Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling (stop the completed ravioli from drying out by placing them onto a baking paper-lined tray and cover with a damp tea-towel).  

Once you have finished assembling the ravioli, bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil.  Season with salt.  Once the water is bubbling, add about 3 ravioli at a time and allow to boil for about 3-4 mins or until ravioli float the the surface.  Carefully remove from water, drain.

While you are cooking the ravioli, heat oil in a medium frypan over medium heat.  Add bacon and fry for about 3 mins, then add the onion and fry for a further 3-5 mins or until onion is caramelised and bacon is crispy.  

Serve boiled ravioli topped with a generous mountain of fried bacon and onion.  

white choc blueberry hot cross buns with pedro ximenez glaze

whitechocblueberryhotcrossbuns

One a penny, two a penny...

white choc blueberry hot cross buns with pedro ximenez glaze
Makes 12

1 tbsp dry yeast
110g caster sugar
375ml lukewarm milk
635g flour, sifted
1 tbsp Milo 
50g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
75g dried blueberries
125g white chocolate chip
75g plain flour, extra
80ml water

PEDRO XIMENEZ GLAZE
2 tbsp hot water
1 tsp gelatine powder
60ml Pedro Ximenez (sherry)
40ml water, extra

Combine yeast, 2 tsp sugar and milk in a large bowl.  Set aside in a warm spot for 5 mins for yeast to activate.

Add flour, Milo, butter, egg, blueberries, white chocolate and remaining sugar and mix well.  The dough should come together but be quite sticky.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8-10 mins or until smooth and elastic.

Place dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and pop into a warm spot to allow to rise to double the size (about 1 hour).  

Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Arrange the dough balls in a lightly greased 22x18cm rectangular baking tin.  Cover with a damp tea towel and set aside in a warm place for another 30 minutes.

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 175ºC.  Whisk together the extra flour and water to form a thick paste then use a pastry brush to paint a cross shape roughly across the top of each bun.  Bake for 30 mins - when ready buns will be golden and spring back a little when pressed.  

To make the glaze, place 2 tbsp hot water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine.  Whisk together to dissolve gelatine, then combine with Pedro Ximenez and extra water and whisk well to combine.  Generously brush over hot cross buns as soon as they come out of the oven.    

mandarin duck with brussels slaw

mandarinduckbrusselsslaw

For 5 minutes of absolute hilarity, try waddling into Dan Murphy's, heavily-pregnant and juggling a bottle of Cointreau and three bottles of wine.  The horrified looks on shoppers faces' is an endless source of entertainment, with people looking around for some kind of hidden-camera like the whole stunt was set up for Punk'd or something.  Before you go all Pete Evans on my ass, you should probably know that the Cointreau was for this dish and the wine was for guests at a party we hosted on the weekend.  I was tempted to buy a carton of ciggies just to top it off but frankly it was a rather costly stunt for someone who doesn't smoke and I'd rather spend the $200 on my latest addiction, Bonds onesies.  

As my bump started growing, I was super self-conscious to be seen doing anything that couldn't be considered "motherly" ie. buying alcohol, wearing a rave promo t-shirt in public, even showing my tattoos made me somewhat uncomfortable.  I would send THBH in to buy beer for me (again, for cooking, refer Boozy Chicken) and even donated my prized collection of scarfs with skull prints on them to Vinnies.  I've pretty much gone from Lindsay Lohan to Noni Hazelhurst in 9 months flat.    

Anyway, the countdown is on now and Little Miss is free to make her appearance anytime from tomorrow onwards.  If anyone ever broke into our house and checked our freezer one could easy be mistaken for thinking I am preparing for the apocalypse - I have enough homemade chicken stock in there that you could fill a bath with the stuff and about 20 other pre-made dinners that I have not labelled and will no-doubt forget what they are when I find them in the back of the freezer in 6 months time.  For any future dinner guests rest assured, I will be politely declining taking my placenta home for smoothies.

mandarin duck with brussels slaw
Serves 4
You will need to begin this recipe 8 hours before

4 duck breasts, skin on
100ml light olive oil
Juice of 2 mandarins
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp Cointreau
1 tbsp Angostura Bitters
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

BRUSSELS SLAW
1/4 wombok (Chinese cabbage), finely shredded
8 brussel sprouts, finely shredded
3 mandarins, segments peeled
2 shallots (green onions), finely sliced
4 tbsp Kewpie mayonnaise
Juice from 1 mandarin
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

To make marinade for the duck, in a small jug whisk together oil, mandarin juice, garlic, Cointreau, Angostura Bitters and cardamom.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour into a shallow container (with lid) then place duck breasts, skin-side up, into the mixture.  You ideally want the skin to be sitting on top of the marinade so it doesn't get wet.  Cover with lid and pop into the fridge to marinate for 6-8 hours.

After duck has marinated, carefully remove from the marinade making sure the skin doesn't get wet.  Pat dry with paper towel then score skin lightly with a very sharp knife and rub in a little extra sea salt flakes.  Preheat a fan-forced oven to 200ºC.  

Place duck breasts skin-side down into a cold, non-stick frypan (do NOT add any oil to the pan!).  Place pan over medium-high heat and set timer for 7 mins, draining off any excess oil that is rendered from the breasts (you will need to pour out the oil every 2 mins or so - there will be a LOT of it coming out).  After 7 mins of cooking flip the breasts over and fry on the other side for 1 minute only to seal.

Line a baking tray with foil then place a baking rack on top.  Place duck breasts, skin-side down, on the rack and roast for 6 minutes or until cooked through but still pale pink inside.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 mins.

To prepare the brussels slaw, combine mayo, mandarin and lemon juice and mustard in a small jar and shake well to emulsify.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss the cabbage, sprouts, mandarin segments and shallots in a large bowl then dress just before serving with the sliced duck breast.

beef rendang burger

rendangburger

Cricket-watching fuel...

beef rendang burger
Makes 4

600g beef mince
1 egg
1 tbsp coconut oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
4 x hamburger buns
Sliced tomato, to serve
Sliced cucumber, to serve
Sliced red onion, to serve

RENDANG PASTE
1/2 tbsp tamarind puree
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
3 long, red chillies, roughly chopped
1 cup shredded coconut, lightly toasted
1 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly toasted
2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted
40g fresh ginger
30g fresh galangal
30g fresh turmeric (*WARNING - use gloves, unless you like the Bart Simpson look!)
6 red eschalots, peeled
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 stalks lemongrass, inner white section only 
1/2 tbsp palm sugar

To make rendang paste, combine all ingredients in mini food processor (or blender) and blitz on high speed until a thick paste forms.  

In a large bowl combine mince with egg and 2 tbsp of the rendang paste (reserve excess paste for another recipe).  Season with salt and pepper.  Mix well using clean hands.  Divide into 4 equal portions, form into patties then pop into the fridge for about an hour to rest (this will help patties hold their shape when frying).  

Add coconut oil to a large frypan and melt over a high heat.  Reduce heat to low and add beef patties, cooking for 4 mins each side or until cooked through.  

To serve, assemble each burger with a patty, sliced tomato, sliced cucumber and red onion rings. 

pistachio crusted leg of lamb with espresso gravy

pistachiolambespressogravy

Hey everybody!  EXCITING NEWS - I'm officially on maternity leave which means my only job for the next 4 weeks is keeping your bellies full before I embark on a lifetime journey of keeping my child's belly full.  

I've been lurking in the background for the last 2 weeks, tidying up a few things on the blog.  I'm putting my obsessive "fixer-upping" down to selective nesting, but THBH probably wishes it would extend to cleaning the house - it looks like Hiroshima around here lately as things get dumped everywhere any anywhere with the intention of tidying up just as soon as I've edited this image/watched Bold and Beautiful/alphabetised my entire spice cupboard...

Meanwhile, I've been quietly observing the goings on in the foodie World and was quite happy to take a sideline on the whole "Flushing coffee up my bum daily cured my cancer.  Oh wait, no it didn't, I'm dead" and "Eating a truckload of kale every day cured my cancer.  Oh wait, no it didn't, I never had cancer in the first place".  I was happy to chime in on the Pete Evens bashing though, we all know I love a good Pete Evans bash.  There also seems to be no slowing down on the waffle obsession, with a bunch of recipe developers throwing random shit into a waffle iron to see what works and what doesn't.  Please excuse me while I go pour a bowl of cereal into my toaster #onestepahead #nextfoodiefad #darwinawards.

Sarcasm aside, I am happy to report that last night I had a breakthrough with a recipe I've been trying to perfect for a while.  On my third attempt (that's a lot for me, I have a very short attention span) I nailed this pistachio crusted leg of lamb, which seems simple but trust me, getting the meat super soft and the nut crust not burnt and just enough pan drippings to make a successful gravy is no walk in the park.  Gravy is my arch nemesis.

I hope you guys love this one as much as we did x

pistachio crusted leg of lamb with espresso gravy
Serves 4-6

2kg leg of lamb, bone in
3 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced into thin slithers
60g stale sourdough bread
90g pistachio kernels
A few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
2 onions, skin on, quartered
1 head garlic, skin on, halved horizontally
2 tbsp dijon mustard
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

ESPRESSO GRAVY
1 shot expresso
2 tbsp plain flour, sifted
Pan juices from roast (about 2 cups)

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 200ºC.  Stab lamb repeatedly with a small, sharp knife and insert garlic slithers into each puncture wound.  Pop lamb into a deep roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil then season generously with salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 mins then remove from oven, reduce heat to 100ºC fan.  Arrange onion wedges and garlic around the lamb, cover pan with about 6 layers of foil, ensuring edges are tucked in to form a seal.  Put lamb back into the oven and roast for a further 6 hours.  

Meanwhile, add sourdough, pistachios and parsley leaves to a food processor and blitz until a course crumb.  Season with salt and pepper.  Watch Bold and Beautiful, alphabetise your spice cupboard... hell, you've got a spare 6 hours, do whatever you want ;-)

Once lamb is done, remove from oven.  Increase heat to 150ºC fan.  Carefully take lamb out of the tray and discard onion and garlic.  Pour pan juices through a fine sieve into a jug.  Set aside.  Pop lamb back into the pan and spread with mustard.  Press pistachio mixture all over the surface of the lamb then return to oven to roast, uncovered, for a further 1 hour.

To make espresso gravy, carefully skim fat layer from the top of your pan juices.  Add to a large frypan and heat over low heat.  Whisk in the flour to create a roux, cooking until the flour becomes a light golden colour.  Gradually add the pan juices, whisking with each addition to ensure no lumps.  Once you have added all the pan juices, whisk in the espresso then season to taste, then allow to simmer on a low heat for a few minutes until sauce has thickened (if your gravy is lumpy you can strain it through a fine sieve at the end).  Keep warm.

Once lamb is done, remove from oven and allow to rest for about 20 mins before carving and serving with the espresso gravy.

walnut pesto tuna farfalle with crispy sage

walnutpestotunapastacrispysage

It's been a bit of a slow news week in the kitchen of The Hungry Babushka.  What started out as an epic menu with Crispy Cointreau Pork Belly Bao quickly descended into a run of crappy flavour combos and half-arsed presentation which I simply put down to being utterly exhausted and reaching my breaking point of trying to maintain life at the same pace as before, pushing aside the minor detail that I'm now just 6 weeks away from having a real, human baby.  By Wednesday I was begging THBH to take me out for fish and chips after I almost had a nervous breakdown after spending in excess of 2 hours and 300 shots trying (and failing) to make a beef rendeng burger look pretty for the camera.  A word of warning to any aspiring food stylists out there - burgers really are the Steve Buscemi's of the food world.

In the best interests of preserving my sanity, next week I'm taking off my Willy Wonka hat and taking some time out from recipe creation.  THBH, if you are reading this don't panic, I'm not going to let you starve to death.  I have decided to re-visit some of my favourite oldies and will be sharing them over on Instagram (@thehungrybabushka) and Facebook for you all.  Peace out and we'll see you on the flip side ;-) x

walnut pesto tuna farfalle with crispy sage
Serves 4

500g farfalle pasta
2 x 185g good-quality tuna chunks in spring water (I use Sirena), drained
250g punnet cherry tomatoes
2 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic
2/3 cup rice bran oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
24 sage leaves
60g butter
3 tbsp rice bran oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 160ºC.  Line a baking tray with foil, pour tomatoes onto foil and drizzle with 1 tbsp rice bran oil.  Season with salt and pepper then bake for 10 mins or until just starting to collapse.  Leave in warm oven.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.  Cook pasta according to packet instructions, drain.  Set aside (keep warm).

To make walnut pesto, combine basil, walnuts and garlic in a mortar or mini food processor.  If using mortar and pestle, bash the crap out of the mixture until it is paste-like, then gradually stir through the olive oil.  If using a food processor, blitz basil, nuts and garlic until a paste then gradually add oil in a very slow and thin stream while the motor is running.  Stir through lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Heat butter and remaining 2 tbsp oil in a small frypan over medium heat.  Once the butter is frothing, throw in the sage leaves and toast for about 2 mins or until leaves start to curl and become crispy.  Remove from heat.

To serve, toss tuna chunks and pesto through pasta to coat.  Divide into three bowls with roasted cherry tomatoes and topped with crispy sage leaves.  Season with a little extra salt, if you like.

crispy cointreau pork belly bao

crispycointreauporkbellybao

One of the things they don't tell you about pregnancy is that your body starts preparing you for the joys of waking up all night BEFORE you've even had the baby.  

For a creative mind this is absolutely killer as you wake up at 3am for a wee (the 6th time since you went to bed) and you end up laying in bed, wide awake, thinking about bao puns until 5am.  

Wonderbao, Belly Bao, Bao Now and Bao Stop have all embraced the bao craze in Australia, it has even been deemed the Asian kebab, and if I wasn't heavily pregnant I sure as hell could smash several of these after a boozy night out (instead I just smashed several of these with a glass of ice-cold milk while watching Better Homes and Gardens).

crispy cointreau pork belly bao
Makes approx 8 
You will need to begin this recipe the night before

1kg piece pork belly
125ml Cointreau
150ml malt vinegar
250g brown sugar
5 cloves garlic, bruised
175g maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
3 fresh bay leaves
Sea salt flakes
8 frozen bao buns (available from Asian supermarkets)
6 large iceberg lettuce leaves
1 large carrot, julienned
2 large Lebanese cubumbers, seeds removed, julienned
2 spring onions, julienned
1/2 cup coriander leaves

The night before: prepare pork by using a stanley knife (or super sharp kitchen knife) to score a cross-hatch pattern (cuts about 2cm apart) into the pork rind.  Be very careful not the press to hard - you don't want to cut down into the flesh, just enough pressure to score the surface.  Place the pork belly, skin side up, on top of a cooling rack and place into the sink.  Pour about 1L of boiling water all over the pork.  You should notice the cuts opening up - this is good!  Remove pork from sink, pat down with paper towel to dry thoroughly then pop the pork (still on the rack) into a deep roasting tray, making sure the skin side of the pork is up.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt flakes, ensuring the entire surface of the skin is covered, then pop into the fridge, uncovered, overnight (at least 12 hours).  The salt helps draw out all of the moisture from the skin and will give you an amazing, crispy crackling.

When you are ready to cook:  Preheat a fan-forced oven to 230ºC.  Brush salt off the pork, then use paper towel to pat the pork belly all over, making sure it is really dry.  Place pork, skin side up, in a deep roasting tray (you want the piece of pork to be nestled in without too much room around it so try and use the smallest size tray possible) and pop into the oven for 30 mins.

Meanwhile, combine Cointreau, vinegar, sugar, garlic, maple syrup, bay leaves and cinnamon stick in a medium-sized saucepan.  Heat over a high heat until boiling, then cook for a further 2-3 mins.  Remove from heat.  

Once pork is done, use tongs to carefully remove from the pan.  Pour the Cointreau mixture into the tray and then gently place the pork, skin side up, back into the tray.  The liquid should not touch the pork skin (if it looks like the liquid will be too deep and cover the skin, just pour less in.  Any liquid touching the skin will result in soggy skin and no lovely, crispy crackling - loserbao!).  Reduce oven temperature to 150ºC fan then carefully place tray back in oven and allow to cook for 2 hours.  

When you have about 30 mins of cooking time left:  Fill a large saucepan with steamer attachment 1/3 full with water and bring to the boil.  Line the steamer insert with lettuce leaves (this will stop the bao sticking and also help seal in moisture) and place frozen bao buns on top.  Cover with lid and allow to steam for 10-12 mins or until buns are light and fluffy.  

To serve, remove crispy pork skin from belly and use a cleaver to cut into smaller pieces.  Cut/shred pork flesh and mix together in a bowl with the crispy skin.  Add 1/2 cup of the Cointreau liquid from the roasting tray and toss to coat.  Stuff the steamed bao buns with pork, carrot, cucumber and spring onion and a sprinkle of coriander leaves.

broccoli and gruyere puff twists

broccoliandgruyerepufftwists.jpg

It's got broccoli, it's healthy...

broccoli and gruyere puff twists
Makes 48 sticks

4 puff pastry sheets, defrosted
100g broccoli florets (no big stalks), processed in food processor to resemble breadcrumbs
150g gruyere cheese, grated
1 tbsp currants
Zest from 1 lemon (use a microplane to get it super fine)
1 egg, lightly whisked
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a fan forced oven to 190ºC.

Brush each pastry sheet lightly with egg wash.  Sprinkle broccoli crumbs, cheese, currants and lemon zest evenly over the four sheets.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place a piece of baking paper over each pastry sheet and use a rolling pin to very gently press the toppings into the pastry.  Remove baking paper.

Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut each pastry sheet into 12 even strips.  Twist each strip and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, making sure there is a bit of space between each twist as the pastry will puff up when baked (you may need to do this in batches, I used 4 baking trays).  

Bake for 12-15 mins or until golden and crispy.  Allow to cool to room temperature before serving as a very classy snack with some alcoholic beverages.

salted golden gaytime dulce de leche cheesecake

saltedgoldengaytimecheesecake

Somewhere in the depths of my iPhone, hidden away in the millions of reminders I make for myself is a little note called RECIPE with the little lightbulb emoji beside it.  Whenever a random food-related idea pops into my head I rush to this note and jot down whatever it is in my mind.  Some of the ideas have been sitting on the list for a while as I can't quite work out how to translate them into a recipe (eg. lemonade and goat's cheese, anyone?) and sometimes the ideas are just so friggin' do-able they never stay on the list for long.  Salted Golden Gaytime was one of those ideas.  

When developing this recipe I started off with a no-fail cheesecake base recipe that my family has been using for years.  The basics are all there - cream cheese, gelatin etc. but I started subbing in the bits and bobs I wanted like softened Golden Gaytime ice-creams and sea salt flakes.  I was going to leave it like this but when I tasted the mixture it still needed a bit more sweetness so I folded through a few tablespoons of dulce de leche and this multicultural little cheesecake was born.

I'd like to think I was witty enough to come up with this in time for Mardi Gras, but alas no, it was only an afterthought.  It's hard to have a Gaytime on your own.  

salted golden gaytime dulce de leche cheesecake
Serves 12

220g Malt-o-Milk biscuits
75g unsalted butter, melted
500g Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
4 Golden Gaytime ice-creams left out at room temperature for 10 mins, plus 3 extra to decorate
3 tbsp dulce de leche
2 tsp gelatine, dissolved in 60ml boiling water
1 cup whipped cream
1 tsp sea salt flakes

To make base, blitz biscuits in food processor until a fine crumb.  Add melted butter and blitz until combined.  Pour mixture into the bottom of a 22cm springform pan and use the bottom of a jar or drinking glass to compact the crumbs into an even layer.  Pop into fridge while you make the filling.

To make the filling, in a large bowl combine Philadelphia cream cheese, Gaytime ice-creams and dulce de leche.  Use an electric beater on high speed to beat until cream cheese is smooth.  It won't look super smooth like a normal cheesecake mixture due to the little bits of biscuit crumbs in the ice-cream, but keep keep beating away until you can't see any little white bits of cream cheese.  Stir through the gelatine mixture then when completely combined, fold through the whipped cream and sea salt flakes.  Spoon mixture on top of the biscuit base, smooth the top then pop into the fridge for at least 3 hours or set (preferably overnight, if you can wait that long).

To serve, cut up extra Golden Gaytimes into pieces (throw the sticks away) and serve on top of cheesecake slices.