truffled mac and six cheese

truffledmacandsixcheese

Think we could all do with a bit of comfort food right about now #aussie

truffled mac and six cheese
Serves 6-8

500g elbow pasta
70g butter
75g plain flour
5 cups full cream milk
100g grated gruyere cheese
60g each parmesan, tasty, feta and manchego cheese
1 large buffalo mozzarella ball, torn
2 middle rashers bacon, finely chopped
1 tbsp white truffle oil
White pepper and sea salt flakes
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
Dressed lettuce leaves, to serve

Preheat a fan forced oven to 200ºC.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.  Once boiling, add pasta and cook for 7 mins.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce melt butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour, whisking well and allowing to cook for about 1 min before adding milk, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking well between each addition until all milk is incorporated and you have a smooth sauce.  Add gruyere, parmesan, tasty, manchego and feta cheese.  Stir well until cheese melts and sauce becomes oozy then stir through truffle oil.  Season to taste with salt and white pepper then add pasta and stir to coat.

Fry bacon in a small, non-stick frypan until crispy then stir through the pasta mixture.

Spoon pasta mixture into a large, deep baking tray.  Tuck pieces of torn buffalo mozzarella randomly into the surface of the bake, then sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs and bake for 35-40 mins or until golden and crispy on top.  Serve with a side of dressed lettuce leaves.

beer and grape beef short ribs

beerandgrapebeefshortribs

A few minor dramas in our house at the moment have dragged my attention from my usual hangout - the kitchen.  Edweiner has managed to hurt her paw and is sporting a rather unfashionable plastic cone at the moment, bumping into every doorframe in our house, leaving me to closely navigate her every move.  Imagine those weird, super long busses with the accordion-like connector in the middle but put a blindfold on the driver and that's kind of what the situation is like right now.

A meal like this was a complete blessing last night as I just plopped everything into a pan, shoved it in the oven and had a comforting meal a few hours later with barely any effort.  

beer and grape beef short ribs
Serves 4

2kg beef short ribs
1 cup beer (I used Little Creatures Pale Ale)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
30g finely grated fresh ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
300g white table grapes (I used Thompson seedless)
Buttery mashed potato, to serve

Preheat a fan forced oven to 150ºC.

Combine beer, garlic, ginger, pepper, salt and sugar into a roasting pan.  Whisk to combine well.  Nestle ribs and cinnamon sticks into the liquid, don't worry the meat won't be fully submerged.  Sprinkle grapes on top then cover tray with 3 layers of aluminium foil, sealing around the edges carefully.

Pop pan into the oven and roast for 2 hours, taking out after 1 hour to turn ribs, ensuring foil is well sealed again before returning to oven for the remaining hour.

After 2 hours remove foil from pan and cook for a further 40 mins, uncovered or until ribs are golden and sticky and meat is soft and falling from the bone.

Serve with mashed potato and spooned with additional pan juices.

caesar sushi

caesarsushi

As far as kitchen gadgets go I generally try to steer clear of bits and bobs that aren't completely necessary.  I STILL haven't replaced that mini food processor that I burnt out the motor of within 1 week of owning when I tried to crush Jelly Belly jellybeans in it (I was channeling my inner Adriano Zumbo, don't ask) but when I spotted this Rice Cube in a kitchenwares shop my life could simply not go on without owning it.  I spent all afternoon dreaming up all the weird and wacky sushi combos I would make (umm hello - DESSERT SUSHI, anyone?!) until I got home, shoved it in a draw with the rest of my utensils and didn't think anything more of it except for the occasional time it's bulky packaging would jam up my draw.  Until today people.  

I'm a bit obsessed with fusion cuisine, though I apply the term sparingly as it's sooo 70's.  I feel dangerously naughty breaking all the culinary rules and sprinkling a little sumac into a traditionally Asian-styled meal (cuff me, Officer) but there's something so liberating about cooking outside of the restraints of set cuisines and just experimenting with nothing but pure flavours.  So I was feeling guilty about my neglected rice device and finally settled on a Caesar salad/sushi combo, excited by the challenges of getting all those delectable Caesar salad ingredients into one, tiny cube.  If you've got a few hours to kill give these a go - the mind-numbing, repetitive task of assembling sushi is actually quite soothing :-)

caesar sushi
Makes 24 pieces

1 1/2 cups sushi rice
2 tbsp sushi vinegar
2 middle rashers bacon, rind removed, finely chopped
1 chicken breast, tenderloin removed
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbsp rice bran oil
Inner leaves of baby Cos lettuce leaves, to serve
Boiled eggs, roughly mashed, to serve
Caesar dressing, to serve

Cook rice in a rice cooker, according to instructions.  Spread hot rice out over a baking tray, then sprinkle the sushi vinegar evenly over the top, using a spatula to gently mix.  Spread out of the tray and allow to cool slightly while you prepare the other ingredients.

Cook the chicken breast according to the perfect chicken breast instructions here.  Cut into strips about 1cm cubes, set aside.

Fry bacon in a non-stick pan until crispy.  Drain on paper towel.

To assemble sushi, pop about a teaspoon of the prepared rice into the bottom of the Rice Cube (you want it to come about half way up).  Top with a pinch of crispy bacon and a chicken cube, followed by another teaspoon of rice.  The instructions for using the Rice Cube can be found on their website which is a hell of a lot easier than me trying to long-windedly explain it to you.

Top completed cubes with a piece of lettuce, a little bit of mashed egg and a dollop of Caesar dressing to serve.

lamb and manchego omelette

lambandmanchegoomelette

Last week I had a clean out of our freezers.  Yes, that's right, freezers the plural - we have two.  Well, technically one and a half as one is just a little bit on the bottom of our fridge which doesn't hold more than a few trays of ice cubes... well, at least I thought anyway.

The mass evacuation of frozen goods unearthed a Tupperware container of salted Nutella and cherry cookie dough, a mystery container of something that I think was celeriac and bacon soup but also resembled puke, 3 cryovac-ed packs of varenyky (win!) and several random pieces of white fish of what species I have absolutely no idea.  There were also a few bags of mince with some kind of cryptic Da Vinci Code-style system that I made up to try and remember what animal said mince came (purple sticker = lamb?) from but have since completely forgotten.

Oh, and this one lamb sausage.  What on Earth does one do with one lonely sausage?  Fry it up and pop it into an omelette seemed like the most logical answer.  

lamb and manchego omelette
Makes 2 omelettes

1 lamb sausage, fried and cut into thick slices
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 vine tomato, chopped
1 tbsp sliced, Spanish black olives
80g coarsely grated manchego cheese
5 eggs
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground Cayenne pepper
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
Zest from 1/2 lemon
Buttered toast, to serve

Combine tomato and onion in a small, microwave-safe container.  Microwave for 2 mins on high or until softened.  Set aside.

Whisk together eggs, cumin, Cayenne pepper, ginger, salt and pepper.  Heat a small, non-stick frypan over low-medium heat.  Pour in half of the egg mixture then quickly use a spatula to push the mixture gently around the pan, swirling the pan so that the uncooked egg fills the holes.  This will give your omelette a lovely, fluffy texture.  Reduce heat to low and cook for about 1-2 mins or until egg is almost completely cooked.  

Sprinkle half the cheese all over the egg mixture.  Place half the sausage slices over half of the omelette, then spread half the tomato/onion mixture over the top of the sausages, followed by half the olives and parsley mixture.  You want half your omelette to be covered in toppings and the other half to be completely naked.  Use a spatula to gently flip the naked half over on top of the filled half, then pop a lid on the pan, remove pan from the heat and allow omelette to gently heat through while you cook some toast to go on the side.

haloumi and kale curry

haloumikalecurry

2014 shall hereon in be known as the Year of Kale.  I mean seriously, it's in everything - kale smoothies, kale pierogis (surely this was Putin's idea) and even kale ice cream.

Kale is so popular the whole of Queen Victoria Market sold out of it last Sunday* and I even read an article last night predicting Kale to be one of the most popular baby names for 2015 (followed closely by Romaine and Lettice - dafuq?!).

So I'm not bucking the trend this time, consider this an olive branch (or should we say kale leaf?) to those healthy-type people who started following my blog from that one time Loving Earth picked up something I made that was remotely healthy.  

*one stall I frequent sold out of it and I was too lazy to go anywhere else.

haloumi and kale curry
Serves 4

3 tbsp rice bran oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt flakes
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 x 270g can coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock
2 medium-sized potatoes, cubed (about 1.5cm size)
200g butternut pumpkin, cubed (about 1.5cm size)
2 vine tomatoes, roughly diced
12 stalks Tuscan kale, shredded
250g haloumi, cubed (about 1.5cm size)
Zest and juice from 1 large lime
Coriander leaves, to serve
Cooked basmati rice, to serve

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a medium-large sized, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 4-5 mins, stirring constantly, until onion is really dark and golden in colour (but not burnt - be careful!).  Drop heat to low, add in garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 min.  Add spices, stirring for 30 seconds until fragrant, then add tomato paste and stir well to combine.

Add coconut milk and vege stock, increase heat to medium-high and bring to the boil.  Add salt and pepper.  Drop heat to low and allow to simmer for 10 mins to let flavours develop.  Add potato, pumpkin and tomato, turn heat back up to medium-high to allow curry to come to the boil, then drop heat down to low, pop a lid on the pan and allow to cook gently for around 20 mins or until veggies are soft.  

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in a small frypan over medium-high heat.  Add the haloumi to the pan and fry, stirring until golden and crispy (about 2 mins).  Drain on paper towel.

To finish off the curry, remove from the heat.  Stir through kale and lime zest and juice and allow to sit for 3 mins before serving to allow kale to wilt and just cook through.  Stir through haloumi just before serving on top of rice.  Top with coriander leaves.

chicken and grilled apricot summer salad

chickenapricotthymesalad

Some nights you just want something quick and easy and you might also want the same thing from your dinner.  The clashing textures of crisp lettuce, crunchy croutons, creamy mozzarella and soft, grilled apricot make this dish interesting and hearty enough for a main yet light enough to chow down on in the thickness of the summer heat.  Tossed with a sharp mustard dressing to tie it all together, I think you're going to really like this one guys ;-)

chicken and grilled apricot summer salad
Serves 2
You will need to begin this recipe the night before

1 chicken breast fillet, tenderloin removed
4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked 
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup light olive oil, plus 2 tbsp extra
1 tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
1 ball buffalo mozzarella, torn
4 apricots, halved, stone removed
2 small, sourdough dinner rolls, cut into 1 inch cubes
200g Chinese cabbage (wombok), shredded
1 cos lettuce, shredded
2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves

MUSTARD DRESSING
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp seeded mustard
1 tsp white sugar
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Combine thyme, dijon, light olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl, whisking to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Use a heavy, glass jar to flatten out your chicken breast to an even thickness.  You don't want to bash the living crap out of it, just enough to make the thick end the same as the thin end.  Pop this chicken into a shallow glass/plastic container, pour over marinade and turn to coat.  Cover with lid and place in fridge to marinate for up to 8 hours.

To make dressing, combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake well to combine.  Set aside.

Once chicken has marinated, remove fillet from marinade, wiping off any excess.  Heat 1 tbsp reserved olive oil in a heavy-based frypan over medium-high heat.  Once hot, turn heat down to medium and pop the breast in and cook for 1 minute only.  Turn heat down to low, flip the chicken breast and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid.  Set a timer for 10 mins and leave chicken to cook - do not peek!  Once the timer has gone off, remove pan from heat, leave lid on and allow chicken to sit for another 10 mins uninterrupted.  

Meanwhile, heat a chargrill pan over medium-high heat.  Grill apricots halves, flesh side down, for 1 min or until just charred.  Remove from pan.  Combine bread cubes and remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a plastic bag and toss to coat.  Throw into the hot pan and cook, tossing regularly, for about 2-3 mins or until charred and crispy.  Set aside.

In a large bowl combine cabbage, lettuce and baby spinach.  Pour over dressing and toss to coat.  Thickly slice chicken.  Divide salad among two, large bowls, then top with grilled apricots, croutons, chicken and buffalo mozzarella.  

brie and basil puff tart with tomato, raspberry and clove chutney

brieandbasilpufftart

It has come to my attention that a section of my website as been SERIOUSLY neglected lately - so this special, little dish is a peace offering to all you breakfast lovers out there.  If you peeved on my tomato, raspberry and clove chutney last week here's a clever way to use some of it up, that is if you haven't already smeared it over crackers and vintage cheddar and gobbled it all up already.  Now please excuse me while I go and finish my coffee...

brie and basil puff tart with tomato, raspberry and clove relish
Serves 1

2 sheets puff pastry, partially thawed
1 tbsp tomato, raspberry and clove chutney
1 egg, lightly whisked with a splash of water
50g triple cream brie (or normal brie but trust me when I say once you try triple cream there's no going back), sliced
A few fresh basil leaves, to serve

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 200ºC.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Using a 22cm plate as a guide, using a small, sharp knife cut a circle out of each of the puff pastry sheets.  Using a 19cm plate as a guide, place the plate in the centre of one of the puff pastry circles and cut a smaller circle inside.  Place the full 22cm circle onto the prepared tray.  Carefully peel the thin, outer circle from the second puff pastry sheet, laying it on top of the first sheet being careful to follow the edges of the circle.  This top layer will act as a puffy border to your tart.

Brush the egg wash sparingly around the border only.  Spoon chutney into the centre and use a spoon to spread evenly, then space brie pieces all over the centre.  

Bake tart for 15-20 mins or until golden and puffy.  Remove from oven (you will notice the tart will deflate pretty quickly - this is OK, don't panic).  Allow to cool slightly before sprinkling with basil leaves.  Serve!

beef, broccolini and cashew spring rolls with coconut lime dipping sauce

beefbroccolinicashewspringrolls

A quick one for your weekend par-tays ;-)

beef, broccolini and cashew spring rolls with coconut lime dipping sauce
Makes about 30

500g beef mince
100g vermicelli noodles, soaked in boiling water for 3 mins to soften, drained
8 stalks broccolini, finely sliced
1/2 cup raw cashew nuts, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 long, red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp cornflour
Black pepper
30 spring roll wrappers
Vegetable oil, for deep frying, plus 2 tbsp extra

COCONUT LIME DIPPING SAUCE
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup lime juice
1 tbsp grated ginger

To make spring rolls, combine beef, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp cornflour and pepper in a large bowl.  Mix well to combine then pop into the fridge for 10 mins to marinate.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frypan over medium heat.  Add beef, frying until browned and breaking up any lumps with a fork.  Remove beef from pan, drain on paper towel (you want to try and get rid of as much oil as possible as this will make your spring rolls soggy!).  Wipe out pan with paper towel then heat another tbsp oil over low heat.  Add broccolini, cashews, garlic, chilli and ginger and fry for 1 min or until fragrant.  Add the mince back to the pan, along with the oyster sauce, stirring well to combine.  Stir through the vermicelli right at the end then remove pan from heat and set aside for mixture to cool completely.  Do not attempt to wrap the spring rolls while the mixture is hot or you will have soggy rolls (gross).

Once the mixture has completely cooled, wrap one spring roll at a time by placing 1 tbsp of the beef mixture in the corner of a spring roll wrapper.  Roll twice, then tuck over the left and right corners and continue to roll tightly until at the opposite corner.  If your spring roll wrappers don't stick, you can use the extra 1 tsp cornflour and mix a little water in to make a paste, then use this slurry like a glue to seal the corner down.  Repeat with remaining mixture and wrappers.

Once all wrapped, heat oil to 200ºC (you can use a deep fryer or oil in a deep saucepan for this).  Fry spring rolls, 5 at a time, for about 2-3 mins or until golden.  Drain on paper towel.

To make dipping sauce combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Serve with spring rolls.

tomato, raspberry and clove chutney

tomatoraspberryandclovechutney.jpg

I am beginning to sense a direct correlation between the level of craving for food and the price of said food.  Intense craving = exorbitant price.  Exhibit A - raspberries.  What the HELL is with raspberries lately?!  

Noticing that my favourite fruit fellow at the market didn't have any on display this morning I queried this, figuring maybe these days there's a black market for the tart, little morsels.  Maybe I'd even have to say a special phrase or use a secret handshake.  I was informed that he had sold out of raspberries as they were on sale yesterday at $6 a punnet - an absolute bargain given that they were $12 a punnet last week.  TWELVE DOLLARS A PUNNET?!!  That roughly equates to $1 PER RASPBERRY.  Now I don't know about you but my partner and I generally consult one another before making major purchases, a punnet of raspberries has never been one of those things, until now.  

Later, at Coles, I picked up their monthly magazine and flicked through to Curtis Stone's Christmas recipes (seriously, does that guy wear eyeliner?  I diverge) and am met with a recipe for Raspberry Trifle calling for not 1 but 8 PUNNETS of fresh raspberries.  I calculate that to be a $96 trifle (and that's not even including the other ingredients yet), so no offence Curtis but if I could afford that $hit I'd be shopping at THOMAS DUX, not Coles.  But then again, if I was to be feeling depressed about not being able to bankroll a dinner for two at The Fat Duck Melbourne I could always pick up a Heston for Coles Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding and sit in a dark room, alone, sobbing and eating it straight out of the packaging.  Merry friggin' Christmas.

tomato, raspberry and clove chutney
Makes about 1L

1.5kg vine tomatoes, roughly chopped
200g fresh raspberries
1 brown onion, diced
70g brown sugar
100g white sugar
1 tsp sea salt
12 whole cloves
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

Place all ingredients into a deep saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then drop heat to low and allow to simmer, stirring often, for around 6 hours or until the mixture has thickened to a jam-like consistency.  

Spoon chutney into sterilised bottles (you can do this by giving them a cycle through the dishwasher) then store in fridge.  Lasts around 2-3 weeks.

chicken, carrot and orange soup with almond, currant and coriander crunch

chickencarrotsoupcrunch

This is an impressive, textural soup that you can easily whip up on a weekday night.  And yes, I may be in denial about winter finally being over...

chicken, carrot and orange soup with almond, currant and coriander crunch
Serves 4

1.5L salt reduced chicken stock
1 skinless chicken breast
750g carrots, topped and tailed, sliced into 1.5cm thick rounds
1 sprig rosemary
1 tsp black peppercorns
Sea salt flakes
Juice of 1/2 orange
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 cup loosely packed coriander leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp flaked almonds
1 tbsp currants
1/4 cup light olive oil

In a large saucepan add chicken stock, carrot, rosemary and peppercorns.  Bring to the boil, then once boiling drop heat to low, add chicken breast and leave to poach for 13 mins.  Remove chicken from soup, keeping soup on a simmer for a further 10 mins.  Meanwhile, use two forks to shred the chicken meat, set aside.

Carefully remove carrot from soup with a slotted spoon, then transfer to a blender (you could also use a deep bowl and a stick blender for this instead).  Strain the soup liquid into the blender, discarding the rosemary and peppercorns.  Add orange juice and brown sugar, then blend until smooth.  Season with salt to taste then stir through the shredded chicken.

Crush coriander and cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle until JUST crushed (you don't want them completely pulverised!).  In a small frypan heat olive oil over low-medium heat.  Add the crushed seeds and cinnamon and cook for 1 min or until fragrant.  Remove from heat then toss through the almonds to coat.  

Spoon soup into bowls, topping each with a sprinkle of spiced almonds (plus a little extra drizzle of the oil, if you like), currants and coriander leaf.  Season with salt and pepper before serving. 

jam doughnut ice cream

jamdoughnuticecream

As I carefully pierce jam doughnuts, threading the silver cord through the holes and artfully arranging them on our snow white Christmas tree, I am transported back to a time in my childhood when my Mother used to tie cinnamon doughnuts to the clothesline and we would try to eat them using nothing but our faces - hands bound behind our backs, as we race to finish the cakey rings of goodness, cinnamon and sugar covering our grotty, little faces.  

I've always been a bit obsessed with tying food to the Christmas tree.  Nobody will ever forget the time I tied Lindt balls all over our in the peak of a Brisbane summer, no prizes for guessing how that turned out.  While I don't plan on leaving these doughnuts on our tree for any longer than this photo shoot, I am feeling more than a little inspired to do a foodie-themed tree this year and am staring at the box of last-year's decorations and seriously considering retiring the string of Santa Christmas lights that Edweiner (our now 2-year-old dachshund) mauled last Christmas.  How will you guys be decorating your tree this year?

jam doughnut ice cream
Makes enough for 6-8 serves
You will need an ice cream maker for this recipe

8 large jam doughnuts (about 10cm)
1 1/2 cups whole cream milk
600ml thickened cream
1 tbsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup caster sugar
Pinch of sea salt flakes

The night before you want to make the ice cream, pop the bowl of your ice cream maker into the freezer.

In a blender combine 5 doughnuts, milk, sugar, vanilla paste and salt.  Blitz well until doughnuts break down and the mixture becomes a smooth liquid.  Pour into a large bowl, stir in cream then cover surface with plastic wrap and pop into the fridge to cool for around 8 hours.  

Once chilled, pour the mixture into the bowl of your ice cream maker.  Place bowl into the ice cream maker and churn for 20 mins.  Meanwhile, roughly break up remaining doughnuts into small pieces.  Once churned, add the broken up doughnuts and churn for an additional 5 mins before transferring mixture to a freezer-safe container (I use a loaf tin), covering well will one later of plastic wrap and an outer layer of foil, then pop into freezer for around 8 hours to firm up.    Remove ice cream from the freezer 5 mins before serving to soften up a tiny bit, then scoop into bowls and devour!

tonka-braised salt and pepper squid

tonkabraisedsaltandpeppersquid

I read a really captivating argument on Facebook recently against heavily Photoshopped images of women in fashion magazines.  Now I usually keep the content of this blog fairly light and fluffy, not because I try to avoid conflict at all costs (I mean, what sane person doesn't?) but I'm embarrassed to admit I kind of live in my own little bubble and don't really have a strong opinion on too many topics - one of my strengths (or weaknesses, depending on how you see it) is that I am extremely empathetic, to the point that I could usually make a pretty strong case on either side of an argument.  Maybe that's just what happens when you spent waaay too much time hanging out with the debating team when you were at high school (OK, I was actually ON the debating team at high school - third speaker - you got me).  

Anyway, this got me thinking about Photoshop and how I rely on this program day-to-day to not only remove that second chin on my FB profile pic selfie, but how I can just quickly jump on PS and erase that dog hair sitting just to the side of my plate.  Disgusting, I know, but that's the reality of having a little, black dog and unfortunately editing on the computer doesn't edit in real life and from time to time am confronted with dog hair in our meal (hey, I've had worse, ie. curlier and of more questionable origin, hairs in restaurant meals before).  

Fellow food bloggers, do you use PS to "tidy up" your pics before publishing?  If so, what functions do you use the most and do you see anything wrong with the use of Photoshop in food photography?  Love to hear your thoughts on this x

tonka braised salt and pepper squid
Serves 2

3 calamari tubes (cleaned)
1 cup milk
1/2 tonka bean (available from Gewurzhaus or Herbie's Spices), finely grated with microplane
1/2 cup plain flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes, plus extra to serve
1 tsp Szechuan pepper
1 tsp black peppercorns
Rice bran (or canola) oil for deep frying
Potato chips (fries), lime wedges and tomato sauce, to serve

Place calamari tubes in a shallow, glass/plastic container so that they are in a single layer.  Cover with milk then sprinkle with grated tonka bean.  Mix to combine, cover and pop into the fridge, allowing to braise for 8-10 hours.  Drain well, discarding milk.

Preheat oil in deep fryer (or deep saucepan) to 190ºC.

Use a very sharp knife to cut the top (pointy end) off the calamari tube.  Carefully make a cut down one length of the tube to open up the tube so it lays flat.  On one side of the tube score the surface (apply very little pressure when scoring so that the cut doesn't go all the way through).  You want the cuts to be about 1 inch apart and you should do them on the diagonal, in both directions as to create a diamond pattern.  Cut the calamari into 1 inch-sized squares.

Combine both peppers and salt an mortar and use pestle to grind into a fine mixture.  Add mixture to flour and mix well.  Toss calamari squares in the flour, shaking off any excess.

Fry calamari for approx 2 mins or until they become lightly golden and curl in at the edges.  Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with a little extra salt before serving with potato chips, lime wedge and a side of tomato sauce.

coconut chai yoghurt

coconutchaiyoghurt

Donna Hay is my secret foodie crush.  Well not exclusively, of course, there's also George Calombaris (for dinner) and Adriano Zumbo (for dessert).  And for dessert, I was referring to a cronut, get your mind out of the gutter.

My inspiration for this yoghurt came from a Donna Hay recipe I ripped out and have been saving from a few months ago.  Coconut chai was something I sure did like the sound of but with summer around the corner a cool variation was on the cards.  Ice-blocks was my original idea but ended up challenging myself a bit with this yoghurt, which produces a runnier consistency yoghurt which is nice on it's own or would also be lovely in a banana smoothie.  

coconut chai yoghurt
Makes 1L
You will need an EasiYo yoghurt maker or equivalent for this recipe

400ml coconut milk
3 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise 
6 cardamom pods
6 cloves 
1 tsp loose-leaf black tea
90g honey
600ml UHT milk
2 tbsp full cream milk powder
3 tbsp natural yoghurt 

Combine coconut and UHT milk in a deep microwave-safe bowl, whisking in the milk powder.  Add cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, cloves, tea and honey and microwave on HIGH for 9 mins.  Remove from microwave and set aside at room temperature to cool completely.

Once the milk is at room temperature, strain through a fine sieve, saving the milk and discarding the solids.  Whisk in the natural yoghurt then pour into plastic container of EasiYo.  Fill outer yoghurt container with boiling water then sit plastic container inside.  Close lid then allow to sit, at room temperature, for 8-10 hours, making sure the container is not disturbed (moving it around will affect the end product).

After 8-10 hours remove plastic container from inside.  Shake well then pop into fridge to cool before serving.

lemon and thyme roast chicken with white truffle and tahini drizzle

lemonthymeroastchickentruffletahinidrizzle

I've had bad experiences with truffle oil in the past.  My first jar was gifted to me for my birthday by some very intuitive colleagues.  After sitting around and sniffing the jar for about a week (for those who have never smelt truffle oil - it's heavenly.  Like, they should seriously immortalise that sh!t in a perfume) I popped it into my pantry and forgot about it until about 6 months later when, let's just say the aroma wasn't quite so delightful.  Valuable cooking lesson #361 - truffle oil goes rancid pretty quickly.

The next time I decided to invest in a bottle of truffle oil I was determined to learn from my past mistakes.  I was going to use this stuff on everything, and I mean everything, until I had used up the very last, precious drop.  Well, turns out that didn't take as long as expected - I pulled a piping hot, roast chook out of the oven and as it was resting I had the lightbulb moment to drizzle some of my prized oil over the top.  As I unscrewed the cap, and position the bottle above the chicken my hand quivers a little under the pressure and, you guessed it, the entire contents of the bottle glugs out all over our freshly-roasted dinner, resulting in an unintentional million-dollar meal (see Millionaire's Meatloaf).  Cooking lesson #362 - you CAN have too much of a good thing.  Our house smells like truffle for the next 6 months and I now realise why nobody has ever made a perfume out of that $hit.

Last week I picked up another bottle, third time lucky they say.  I learnt from my past two mistakes and store the bottle in my fridge and only use a teaspoon to add the pungent oil to my creations.  My gamble paid off and I've finally created something beautiful with truffle oil - hope you guys enjoy x

lemon and thyme roast chicken with white truffle and tahini drizzle
Serves 4

1.5kg whole chook
9 sprigs thyme
1 small lemon, pierced all over with a sharp knife
4 cloves garlic, skin on, crushed with the back of a knife
1/4 cup olive oil
12 chat potatoes
2 tbsp duck fat
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

WHITE TRUFFLE AND TAHINI DRIZZLE
3 tbsp tahini paste
4 tbsp water
1 tsp white truffle oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Sea salt flakes

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 160ºC.  Politely stuff the cavity of the chicken with the garlic cloves, thyme sprigs and whole lemon.  Truss the chicken then pop into a roasting pan before drizzling with olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper.  Pop into the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, place potatoes into a large saucepan and cover with cold water.  Place on the stove over a high heat and cook for around 20 mins or until potatoes are able to be easily pierced with a skewer, but not too much that they fall apart.  Drain well.  Add potatoes back to the pan with duck fat, pop a lid on the pan and gently shake to melt the duck fat and rough the potatoes up a bit on the edges while coating in the fat.  Place potatoes onto a baking sheet then pop into the oven for the final 40 mins of the chicken cooking.

To make the white truffle and tahini drizzle, combine tahini, water, truffle oil, garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl, whisking together until emulsified.  Season with sea salt flakes.

Once chicken is done, remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 mins before carving and serving with crispy duck fat potatoes.  Drizzle with white truffle and tahini sauce just before serving.  

lamb souvla with celeriac slaw

lambsouvlawithceleriacslaw

You'd be hard pressed finding a food more ugly than the celeriac.  With the appearance of an oversized potato covered in warts, this one is not exactly winning any beauty pageants.  I'm not entirely sure what gave someone the balls to attempt to consume this unattractive root veggie in the first place, but I'm sure glad they did - oh, how looks can be deceiving!  

This knobbly, ugly duckling could be your new favourite too, with the delicate, refreshing crunch of apple crossed with the earthy, herbal taste of celery (minus the vom-worthy, stringy bits) it might just be the best warty root you've ever had. 

lamb souvla with celeriac slaw
Makes 4 large wraps

2 x 200g lamb loin (backstrap) fillets, trimmed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Juice from 1 lime
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup light olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
4 large flatbreads, warmed

CELERIAC SLAW
1 carrot, peeled, julienned
1/2 celeriac, peeled, julienned
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mayo
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

To make the marinade, heat a small frypan over medium-low heat.  Add coriander and cumin seeds and gently toast, tossing regularly, for about 1 min or until fragrant.  Pour seeds into a mortar and pestle with cinnamon, salt and pepper and grind until find.  Add to a small bowl with oil, lime juice and honey then whisk to combine.  

Put lamb fillets into a non-reactive container (small enough so that the fillets sit snug), then pour the marinade over the top, turning to coat.  Cover container then pop into the fridge to marinate for 6-8 hours.  

To make celeriac slaw, toss carrot, celeriac and onion in a bowl.  Whisk together mayo, lime juice and Dijon with 2-3 tbsp water (you want a runny consistency) then season with salt and pepper before tossing through celeriac mixture until well coated.  

Heat a BBQ or grill pan over medium-high heat.  Drain lamb from marinade, then cook for 2-3 mins each side.  Remove from pan and rest for 3 mins before slicing very thinly.  

To serve, top each warmed flatbread with 1/4 of the celeriac slaw and 1/4 of the sliced lamb.  

the cloud pizza

thecloudpizza

At first glance the title of this post may lead you to think that this is some kind of Apple-inspired pizza.  Or maybe you saw some kind of similarity of the cauliflower florets to fluffy, white clouds.  Truth be told, I've kind of pinched the idea for this pizza from Melbourne superstar restaurant, Cumulus.  I like taking something super fancy and dumbing it down a bit, so when I read about Cumulus' roast chicken, almond cream, pancetta and heirloom carrots I was all over that flavour combo like Gabi Grecko on Geoffrey Edelsten.  

the cloud pizza
Makes 2 pizzas

400g cauliflower florets
1 skinless chicken breast, tenderloin removed
1/2 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (for those who failed maths, that's 200g)
4 middle rashers bacon, rind removed, cut into batons
2 pizza bases
2 tbsp tomato pasta whisked with 3 tbsp passata
50g grated tasty cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
Watercress, to serve

ALMOND CREAM
6 tbsp almond meal
4 tbsp mayo
4 tbsp water
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Sea salt flakes

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 220ºC.  

Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water, season with salt.  Bring to the boil over high heat.  Once boiling, add cauliflower florets and cook for about 5 mins or until soft.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large, heavy-based frypan over medium heat.  Add bacon, turn heat to low and allow to cook until ALMOST crispy and brown (don't forget, we'll be popping this on to the pizza and finishing it off in the oven, so taking it all the way to crispy now will result in burnt bacon = sacrilege).  Once done, pour bacon from the pan onto a plate lined with paper towel.  Set aside.

Add remaining oil back to the pan and heat over medium-high heat.  Use a heavy, glass jar (or flat meat mallet) to pound the thicker end of the chicken breast until the breast is an even thickness through the whole fillet.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.  Pop chicken breast into the pan and fry for 1 min.  Flip chicken over, reduce heat to low immediately and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid.  Set the timer for 10 mins and walk away.  Do NOT lift the lid, just trust me that your chicken will be cooked perfectly if you follow these instructions and don't be tempted to peek!  Once the chicken has been on for 10 mins, turn the heat off (if you have an electric stove you will need to actually remove the pan from the stove) leaving the lid on allow the chicken to sit in the pan for a further 10 mins before removing and allowing to rest for 5 mins.  Slice thinly, set aside.

To ensure a nice, crispy base, pop pizza bases onto a pre-heated pizza stone or do what I did and pick up some nifty pizza trays like this.  To assemble pizza, spread tomato paste/passata blend evenly over two bases.  Divide sliced chicken between two pizzas, followed by cooked cauliflower, chickpeas, bacon and cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Slide into the oven and cook for around 8-10 mins or until base is nice and crispy.

Meanwhile, to make almond cream combine mayo, garlic and lemon juice in a bowl.  Whisk in almond meal, 1 tbsp at a time, until combined, then add water (you might want to start with 3 tbsp and see how the consistency is - you want it to be runny like a thickened cream).  Season with salt before drizzling over the pizzas.  Top with watercress before serving.

antipasto patties

antipastopatties

In the wee hours of Friday morning I dragged my sorry @rse out of bed and hit up my old stomping ground - Queen Victoria Market.  Somewhere in between getting up to go to the toilet 50 times a night and hogging every single pillow on our bed to try and get comfy I had forgotten the simple pleasures of the World at 5.30am.  

Pulling on a pair tights and a loose, mismatched top I tiptoed down the stairs, taking every precaution not to wake our extremely efficient, little guard dog (anybody who has ever owned a dachshund will attest to this).  I hop into the car, pop on some nattering morning radio and cruise down Sydney Rd at a miraculous 60km per hour (anybody who has ever driven down Sydney Rd will attest to this).  When I arrive at the market I easily park my car in the closest possible carpark, for free, feeling like today the fresh produce Gods must be smiling down upon me.  

I push trusty nanna trolley through the rows, strolling along and catching up with the gossip from my favourite stall holders who I have come to know quite well over the years, it feels like catching up with old friends (anyone who I can tolerate at 6am, pre-coffee, is an absolute champion as far as I'm concerned).  Filling my double-decker trolley with a rainbow of fresh Spring fruit and veggies, in a state of post-market bliss I dream up this beautiful recipe for the yummiest veggie burgers ever.  No matter how hard it is to get out of bed at the crack of dawn, nothing beats the rush of inspiration from a trip to the farmer's markets.

antipasto patties
Makes 6 large patties

1 small butternut pumpkin, peeled and de-seeded, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 red capsicum, top and tail cut off and removed, de-seeded and cut into quarters
1 zucchini peeled and quartered horizontally
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup rice bran oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
250g cottage cheese, drained
2 eggs
1 x 400g can lentils, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp capers, chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1/4 cup basil leaves, shredded
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
4 cups panko breadcrumbs
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
Toasted ciabatta, baby spinach leaves and mayo, to serve

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 180ºC.  Pop pumpkin, capsicum and zucchini into a deep baking tray, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with dried basil and thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Toss well to coat evenly then bake for 40 mins or until veggies are soft.  

Place roasted capsicum in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Set aside for 5 mins then carefully peel the skin and discard.  Put the capsicum flesh in a food processor with roast pumpkin and zucchini and blitz until smooth.  Pop into the fridge for 30 mins to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine cottage cheese, eggs, lentils, capers, spring onion, basil leaves and chilli.  Season then stir well to combine.  

Once vegetable mash has cooled, add to the other ingredients, mixing well to combine.  Gradually stir in the breadcrumbs, 1 cup at a time, until evenly incorporated through the mixture.  Divide mixture into 6 even portions (about 1 cup each) then form into patties.  Pop into the fridge for a further 30 mins which will help patties to hold their shape while frying.

Heat rice bran oil in a deep frypan over medium heat.  Turn heat down to low, then cook patties (you may need to do this in a few batches, depending on the size of your frypan).  Patties will need about 3-4 mins on each side, or until golden brown and crispy.  Drain on paper towel before serving on top of toasted ciabatta topped with mayo and baby spinach leaves.

zucchini and lemon arancini

zucchiniandlemonarancini.jpg

Last night was my first ever experience at cooking risotto sober.  It's not like I need the wine to put my brave pants on or anything (some people really are THAT terrified of making risotto, likely because they watch too much Masterchef) but it was kind of a weird experience to skip the step that I've been loyal to for many years - some wine for the risotto, some wine for the chef.  Regardless, it seems to have worked out for me - in between adding water and stirring I just had to bide my time scoffing Cadbury's Favourites instead.  Thank God I didn't have to give up ALL my vices ;-)

zucchini and lemon arancini
Makes approx 18 balls
You will need to begin this recipe about 5 hours before

2 medium-sized zucchini, coarsely grated
1 lemon, finely zested (juice reserved)
300g arborio rice
1 brown onion, peeled, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 vegetable stock cube
100g block Emmental cheese, cubed (you'll need 18 cubes)
150ml white wine
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 cup plain flour
2 eggs lightly whisked with a splash of milk
Cooking oil, for deep frying

Fill a kettle with water (you'll need about 1.2L) and boil.

In a large, deep frypan heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion, celery and garlic and gently sauté, stirring regularly, until onion becomes soft and transparent (about 3-4 mins).  Add rice and stir to coat, cooking for a further 1 min.  Add wine and crumble in the stock cube, stirring until the wine is absorbed.

Season with salt and pepper, then add about 1 cup of boiling water, stirring into the rice mixture.  Keep an eye on the mixture, adding 1 cup of boiling water at a time and stirring into the rice, waiting for the water to absorb before adding a further cup.  After about 15-20 mins of this process you will notice the rice becoming plump and taking longer for the water to absorb.  Test the rice by tasting a couple of grains - they should be soft in texture but still a little bit firm to the bite (not crunchy or hard though).  Once you've gotten the rice to this point, add the lemon juice and stir through until combined.  Remove pan from heat then stir through the zucchini.  Spread rice out on to a baking tray and pop into the fridge for 4 hours or overnight to cool completely.

Once rice has become sticky and cool, roll into 18 balls (about 2 tbsp of rice each).  Use one hand to hold a ball, then use your thumb to carefully make an indent into the middle of the ball, pressing a little cube of cheese inside then moulding the rice around so that the cheese is in the centre and the ball is round again.  Repeat with remaining rice and cheese.

Carefully roll each ball in flour, dusting off any excess.  Dip into the egg/milk mixture, then roll into breadcrumbs.  Repeat with remaining balls.  Pop balls onto a tray and back into the fridge for 30 mins to 1 hour to firm up.

Heat oil to 190ºC (I like to use a deep fryer as it's safer and more accurate, but you could do this in a large, deep saucepan also).  Cook balls for 4-5 mins, turning regularly, until golden and crispy.   Drain on paper towel and serve piping hot, sprinkled with sea salt flakes.

mango, peach and ginger bread with cardamom cream

mango, peach and ginger bread with cardamom cream

Mangoes are my currency.  I used to go batsh!t crazy for things like stationary and edgy jewellery but these days give me a good mango with it's sweet, intoxicating scent and I'm done (you can take the girl out of Queensland but you can't take the Queensland out of the girl).  

The problem with this obsession is that it requires one to be on an income of approximately $200,000/annum to sustain, of which I am not (surprising, I know).  As mangos are considered a rare and precious commodity in this household, I don't usually "waste" them on anything that doesn't involve me peeling the skin off and devouring their flesh, face-first like a possessed demon-zombie.

Never-the-less I decided to sacrifice two today as I was pondering if banana bread could be tasty with anything else other than banana (that's me, always asking the hard-hitting questions).  Turns out my suspicions were right - this tropical fruit bread is to die for, and with a generous blob of cardamom whipped cream on the side you'll find this one hard to share with family members.

mango, peach and ginger bread with cardamom cream
Makes 2 small loaves

2 mangoes (I used Kensington Pride), peeled and de-seeded, flesh mashed
1 large peach, peeled and de-seeded, flesh mashed
30g young ginger, peeled, finely grated
265g self-raising flour, sifted
40g plain flour, sifted
140g coconut sugar, sifted
125ml milk
2 eggs, lightly whisked
50g butter, melted and cooled (plus a little extra to grease tins)

CARDAMOM CREAM
600ml thickened cream
1 tbsp raw caster sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom 

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 160ºC.  Lightly grease two 25x8cm loaf tins and line with baking paper.  

Combine both flours and coconut sugar in a large bowl, making a well in the centre.  

Combine mango and peach flesh, ginger, eggs, milk and melted butter in a large bowl, mixing well until all combined.  Add to the flour and mix gently until JUST combined (do not over mix).

Spoon mixture into the prepared tins and bake for 35-40 mins or until bread springs back when gently pressed in the centre, or a metal skewer inserted comes out clean.  Allow bread to cool in tins for 10 mins before removing from tins and transferring to a cooling rack.  

Meanwhile, to make cardamom cream, combine cream, sugar and cardamom in a medium-sized bowl.  Use an electric beater to whisk until firm peaks form.  Serve mango bread with a generous dollop of cardamom cream.

chicken, leek and goat's cheese pasta

chicken leek and goat's cheese pasta

Scrolling through my iPhoto library I unveil a rather disturbing theme.  EXTREME CLOSE UP PASTA SHOTS.  I never noticed it until now, but when I shoot pasta I like to get up close - reeeeeeal close, it's a foodie fetish that kicks in when I'm around carbs and I just can't control myself.  I'm no psychologist but I'm assuming my intimate proximity is due to the fact that I really, really want them in and around my mouth.  Whip up this simple pasta dish and you'll see what I mean ;-)

chicken, leek and goat's cheese pasta
Serves 4-6

2 skinless chicken breasts, cooked* and sliced thinly
500g shell pasta
200g button mushrooms, sliced
150g chèvre (goat's cheese), broken up into smaller pieces
3 middle rashers bacon, rind removed, cut into thin batons
2 tbsp chopped chives
1 leek, white section only, thinly sliced
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Cook pasta according to packet instructions (make sure your water is salted!).  Once done, reserve 3/4 cup cooking water then drain well, return pasta to saucepan then set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy-based frypan over medium-high heat.  Add bacon and cook until almost crispy (about 3 mins).  Throw in the mushrooms and cook for an additional 2 mins until mushies are looking... well, mushy.  Add the leek and cook for a further 1-2 mins or until leek becomes soft.  By this stage bacon should be nice and crispy.  Season with salt and pepper then set aside.

Add bacon, mushroom and leek mixture to the pasta.  Add the chèvre then the reserved cooking water and stir well until the cheese melts and the pasta is covered in the sauce.  Stir through the sliced chicken and chives, serve in large bowls with a generous grind of black pepper.

*OK guys - I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  I have discovered THE best way of cooking chicken breasts so that they stay super moist but are perfectly cooked through and you can find the instructions from the clever folks at The Kitch here.  I recommend cooking your breasts using this method and I guarantee you'll be bookmarking this one - dry breasts be GONE!