buttermilk and fig prosciutto-wrapped chicken with picked cauli

buttermilkchickenpickledcauli

The countdown is ON!  Just 7 sleeps until the wedding - that's right folks, this time next week I'm going to be faffing around getting my face slathered, my hair teased, curled and everything else completely unnatural to my stubborn, lifeless hair and will then probably spend the next 3 hours trying to get my pudgy, pregnant arse into control underwear.  

You may have noticed things have been a bit busy around here lately - I'm just loading you guys up with plenty of Hungry Babushka goodness before I disappear for a few weeks.  If you really miss me when I'm gone feel free to pop back as much as you want and reminisce on the good times we've had together HERE

Last week I got my Martha Stewart on and made a whole heap of stuff in advance to lighten the load a little bit this week.  I made lychee jam for this week's lamb dish (it was a fail, don't ask) and these delicious pickles, which I probably would have made a billion times over had I realised how friggin' easy it would be.  When I get back from our honeymoon watch out folks, imma gonna pickle ERRYTHINGS.

buttermilk and fig prosciutto-wrapped chicken with pickled cauli
Serves 2
You will need to begin this recipe about a few days before to make the pickled vege

500ml buttermilk
1 long, red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
1/4 cup fig jam
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
2 chicken breasts, tenderloin removed, cut in half lengthways to form long strips
8 slices prosciutto
2 tbsp olive oil
Pickled cauli and baby carrots (I used this awesome recipe but left out cucumber, spring onions, and beans and added baby carrot instead)

In a large, non-reactive container combine buttermilk, chilli and jam.  Season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.  Nestle in the chicken strips, making sure they are all covered then cover container and pop into fridge to marinate overnight.

When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat a fan-forced oven to 175ºC.  Drain chicken from buttermilk mixture, pat dry with paper towel then wrap 2 slices of prosciutto tightly around the chicken strips.  The chicken will still be a tad wet and sticky, helping the prosciutto to stick.

Pop a baking rack on top of a baking tray and then lay prosciutto-wrapped chicken strips on top (this will allow the strips to cook and be crispy all around).  Bake for 15 mins to until prosciutto is crispy and chicken is cooked through.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 mins before serving with pickled carrots and cauli.

grilled swordfish with tomato olive salsa

swordfishtomatosalsa

After eating my own body weight in Reece's PC cup espresso brioche and butter pudding* yesterday I was pretty much in a complete food coma and spent the entire day planted on the couch with a snuggly, black wiener dog to keep me company.  

Feeling a little bit guilty, I arose at about 2pm and made this.  As I'm usually working during the day most of my cooking and photographing takes place at night (*GASP* yes, I use a flash for food photography).  I really enjoyed the complexities of working in different light and my thoughts wandered back to a conversation I had with our wedding photographer, Richard Grainger, last week about the downsides of the flash (for lighting, that is, though I doubt flashing at your own wedding would produce favourable results either).  I had never really thought about my lighting in this way before, only worshipping it as the enabler it is, allowing me to do the things I love at the only time of the day I actually have to do it.  

For the first time in months I tinkered with the settings on my trusty camera - when you have such a constant and reliable light source when people mention ISO you just assume they're talking about the International Organisation for Standardisation.  Opening up my images on Photoshop I went into autopilot, running through the stock standard makeover steps, but then I took a step back and compared the edited version to my original and noticed how flat and lifeless this new image was.  For the first time in a really long time my shot straight from the camera looked nicer.  

I don't pretend to be an expert on the matter of food photography, hell, I learnt how to do it from a downloaded version of "Digital SLR for Dummies".  I could probably do a course or watch more You Tube videos on the subject but I'm really enjoying the slow and steady approach, sometimes moments like yesterday spent experimenting result in the most rewarding learning processes.  

*the Reece's PB cup espresso brioche and butter pudding has been my most popular recipe on The Hungry Babushka to date, with skyrocketing traffic to this lil' blog.  BREAK THE MOFO INTERNETS!!!  OK, so maybe not quite break-the-internet worthy, but if you do have too many servings of it there is a good chance you will end up with an arse like Kim Kardashian's.

grilled swordfish with tomato olive salsa
Serves 2

2 swordfish fillets
1 middle rasher bacon, rind removed, finely chopped
250g punnet cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 tbsp olive tapenade
2 tbsp olive oil
A dozen basil leaves, shredded
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Heat a small, non-stick frypan cook over medium-high heat.  Fry bacon pieces until crispy (about 3-4 mins).  Drain on paper towel and allow to cool.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frypan over medium heat.  Season swordfish generously with salt and pepper then fry for around 4 mins each side or until cooked through (if you've never cooked swordfish before, do note that it is really different than other fish and feels a lot more firm when cooked.  Don't worry, you haven't overcooked it!).

Add remaining oil to tapenade and stir to combine.  In a bowl mix together cooled bacon, cherry tomatoes and basil, then dress with tapenade mixture.

Serve grilled swordfish fillets topped with a generous amount of the tomato olive salsa.

reece's pb cup espresso brioche and butter pudding

pbcupespressobriocheandbutterpudding

Some people dedicate songs to the people the love.  Others write stories or poetry.  Well, I'm dedicating something very dear to me - DESSERTS.  This recipe was created with a very special friend in mind, a person who has been there since the dawn of time, well not quite that long but playing in the school ground together, sporting our uber trendy legionnaires hats at the callow age of 6 seemed like that long ago now.  

Debbie, I don't think I could possibly top your Mum's blog post that made you cry.  I'm still pissed at you for not buying me that bridle I specifically allocated to you as your gift to me one Christmas (despite me not owning a horse and my parents having absolutely no intention of buying me one no matter how convincing my argument was for an eternally-mown back yard).  

When I think back to my earliest experiments in the kitchen you were a steady influence, from the time I made George's Marvellous Medicine and brought it to school in a Chinese takeaway container (it was swiftly confiscated) to experimental cocktails in our teenage years, which were likely just as dangerous and equally revolting looking as the aforementioned.  Nevertheless, crème de menthe, blue curaçao and Baileys cocktails never deterred me from pushing the boundaries in the kitchen - after all, what's the worst thing that could happen apart from a few wasted ingredients or projectile vomiting and getting stuck underneath a coffee table?

We've broken into an abandoned mental asylum on Good Friday in search of ghosts and I never thought I would be more petrified in my life, but now there's big, scary, adult things going on for both of us - you're moving a billion miles away and I'm about to push something out of my vagina the size of a watermelon and then be legally responsible for it for the next 18 years.  I can only hope like hell she doesn't spend her entire teenage years begging us for a miniature horse.  

For this I used the Reece's Peanut Butter Cups yourself and Howen so kindly gifted to us for Christmas this year.  Hand delivered all the way from the USA I felt they were deserving of something a bit more special than just being thrown into my gob.  

Thank you for being my friend xx

reece's pb cub espresso brioche and butter pudding
Serves 4-6 (it's super decadent, you've been warned)

4 small brioche rolls, each sliced into 4 (about the size of a tennis ball)
500ml milk
300ml thickened cream
4 eggs
50g caster sugar
2 shots espresso 
40g unsalted butter, softened
10 mini Reece's peanut butter cups, quartered (they will crumble a bit, that's OK)
2 tbsp demerara sugar
Vanilla ice-cream, to serve

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 160ºC.  Use butter to grease a 23x13cm loaf tin.  

Butter brioche slices on both sides.  Layer half the brioche slices into the base of the loaf tin.  Sprinkle with half the PB cup pieces.  Top with remaining brioche slices and PB cup pieces.  

Combine milk, cream, eggs, caster sugar and espresso in a large bowl then whisk well to combine.  Pour mixture over the brioche layers then sprinkle with demerara sugar.  Pop into the oven for 55-60 mins or until golden and crispy on top and egg mixture has cooked and set.

Serve piping hot with a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

mini crab cakes with naked asian salad

minicrabcakesnakedasiansalad

This week will be fully-loaded with The Hungry Babushka recipe goodness - I'm giving you a full dose of it as from this weekend I will officially be on holidays for super important business namely GETTING MARRIED TO THE MOST AMAZING MAN EVER.

These cutsey, little crab cakes were our dinner last night.  My hubby-to-be gives me really good practice for when it comes to having kids because there's heaps of stuff he just won't eat.  Much to my dismay, seafood is one of those things (I know, when he was first on the scene I really had to consider if this was a deal-breaker or not).  Luckily, I've learned to find ways around this, including every parent's ingenious of hiding things inside other things that their kids (or husband-to-be) actually DO like.  Mashed potato is my trojan horse.  

Despite it's name, the salad does not contain naked Asians.  It's actually a naked salad which is just a fancy term I made up to describe an undressed salad because sometimes when you get the balance of ingredients just right they can be enough on their own (and sometimes I really can't be arsed making a dressing).  

mini crab cakes with naked asian salad
Serves 2-3

3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled, quartered
200g cooked crab meat (I used blue swimmer crabs)
1 eggwhite
2 tsp cornflour
1 stalk lemongrass, white section only finely chopped
1 long, red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 red eschalot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup rice bran oil

NAKED ASIAN SALAD
Flesh from 1/2 pomelo (these can be really hard to find - try Asian supermarkets or farmer's markets and if all else fails substitute grapefruit)
4 large lychees (or 6 small ones), peeled and seeds removed, sliced (try to reserve juice if you can)
1 sping onion, finely sliced
1/3 cup mint leaves, larger leaves torn
1/3 cup coriander leaves

Add potato to a medium-sized saucepan, fill will enough water to cover and add salt.  Bring to the boil over high heat, then continue to cook for about 20 mins or until potato is very soft.  Drain and allow to cool completely before mashing until smooth.

In a large bowl combine cooled mashed potato, crab, lemongrass, chilli, eschalot, garlic, cornflour and egg white and mix well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pop into fridge for about half an hour to harden up a bit.

Heat rice bran oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat.

Divide mixture into tablespoon-full size blobs (you'll probably get around 14-16 out of this amount of mixture).  Use your hands to roll into balls, then gently roll in flour, dusting off any excess.  Arrange on a non-stick tray, then use your fingers to gently press down on the balls to make them into little disc shapes.  

Fry discs in hot oil, about 2-3 mins each side or until golden and crispy on the outside.  Drain on paper towel.  

Meanwhile, to make the salad, combine all ingredients in a large bowl, toss to combine.  If you managed to save some of the lychee juice when you were cutting them, scrape this into the salad as well.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

To serve, put a generous handful of the salad onto a plate and top with a few mini crab cakes.  

honey-grilled haloumi burger

honeygrilledhaloumiburger

Babaganoush is my absolute, favourite word.  It's just so fun to say - go on, try it.  You know you want to.  BABAGANOUSSSHHH.  We once had a competition at work to see who could be the first person to use the word babaganoush in a conversation with a client.  Hilarity ensued as we all tried to weave such a random word into a seemingly unrelated topic of conversation.  In the end someone ended up getting an out-of-towner and one thing lead to another and the convo kind of went down like this:

Customer:  Can you guys recommendation a good place to go for dinner tonight?
Staff #1:  Do you like Lebanese?  
Customer:  Yeah, it's pretty good!
Staff #2 (cutting in):  Oh!  I know the place you're thinking of, they have the best...
Staff #3:  BABAGANOUSH!
Customer:  OOOK, where is this place?
Staff #4, a bit slow on the uptake, races out from the staffroom:  OH!  Are you talking about Tibas?  They have the BEST babaganoush!  
Staff #1:  Babaganoush babaganoush babaganoush babaganoush babaganoush babaganoush babaganoush babaganoush babaganoush babaganoush babaganoush babaganoush!!!

Customer leaves the store thinking "F*ck me, those guys really love their babaganoush".  

Guess you had to be there.  

nyway, I like making my own babaganoush - it's so simple and I always think you can get a better flavour making it fresh yourself.  I had a "There's Something About Mary" moment tonight when I used a stick blender to get the consistency of my babaganoush smooth and creamy - discovering a big blob of eggplanty-goodness in my fringe a few hours later.  Yummo.  I also whipped up some tabouleh to compliment this gorgeous, sweet honey-grilled haloumi.  Smack it all on some grilled Turkish bread and you've got yourself a tasty mezze burger to rival the best Lebanese restaurants in town.  BABAGANOUSH!

honey-grilled haloumi burger
Makes 2

2 x Turkish bread rolls
250g block haloumi, cut into 6 slices
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
Freshly cracked black pepper
Olive oil
Babaganoush (I'm not going to re-invent the wheel here people, just use this recipe here)
Tabouleh (same again, it's not rocket science)

Combine lemon juice and honey in a shallow container.  Crack some black pepper into the mixture then whisk to combine.  Lay haloumi slices in marinade and leave for about 30 mins, turning halfway.

Preheat an oven grill.  Cut Turkish rolls in half lengthways and lay cut-side up on an oven tray.  Grill until crispy and golden around the edges.  Turn and repeat on the top and bottom of rolls.

Meanwhile, heat a chargrill pan on high.  Brush with oil then when super hot drain haloumi from marinade and grill for 2-3 mins each side or until crispy and golden.  

To assemble the burgers, spread each roll base with about 2 tbsp babaganoush.  Top with about 4 tbsp tabouleh and 3 slices of haloumi.  Top with Turkish roll top to serve.  

ikea soup

ikeasoup

Sooo, this was a bit of an accident.  For those of you tuning in for the first time, my name is Brodie and I like to take really random ingredients and make them work together.  Think of it as a self-imposed mystery box challenge since I missed out on Masterchef this year (but that's a story for another day).

Tonight's mystery ingredients were: butternut pumpkin, blueberries and a steak.  For some reason whenever I buy pumpkin my brain roadblocks at pumpkin soup (which explains why there are about 600 variations of pumpkin soup on this blog).  Tonight was no exception and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that pumpkin and beef soup tastes a lot like a pre-masticated version of Ikea meatballs.  Teamed with some blueberry coulis (the closest thing an Aussie can get to lingonberry jam, short of a trip down to our favourite Sweedish design house) and you pretty much have Ikea in a bowl right there.  Next time I'd just finish it off with a side of fries.

ikea soup
Serves 4

1kg cubed butternut pumpkin
1L beef stock 
400g cubed beef steak (I used sirloin which was probably a bit of a waste - rump would have been fine)
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
50g butter
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup milk

BLUEBERRY COULIS
250g blueberries
50g raw caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter over low heat in a large, heavy-based saucepan.  Once melted, add the onion and beef and fry 3-4 mins until onion has softened (but not browned).  Add pumpkin and beef stock, season with salt and pepper, increase heat to high to bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 25 mins or until pumpkin is very soft.  Use a stick blender (or pour into a blender) and blitz until very smooth.  Return to clean saucepan, stir through the milk and then warm gently over a low heat.  

For the blueberry coulis, in a small, heavy-based saucepan combine blueberries and sugar with 100ml water.  Bring to the boil, the reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5 mins or until blueberries have softened.  Stir through vanilla extract then set aside to cool slightly before passing through a fine sieve (discard solids).  

To serve, divide hot soup between bowls, then top with blueberry coulis.  

parmesan popcorn chicken with fried thyme and meyer lemon salt

parmesanpopcornchicken

Yes, I do see the irony in the fact that I'm about to launch into a full-scale whinge about how pants-shittingly terrifying it is to be stacking on the weight at a rate of half a kilo per week in the countdown to your wedding day but in the same breath be posting recipes like this.  Yes, we ate deep fried chicken for dinner last night, not exactly shredding for the wedding.  

When you're growing another human being inside you, while it is lovely to be pummeled with compliments from every direction about how glowing you are and how cute your bump is the truth is the glowing is from the constellation of zits which cover every, square millimetre on your face (hello, Rudolph?) and your cute bump is more like a sad, deflated basketball rather than that cute, perky shape you imagined when you were young and shoved a beach ball down your top to see what you'd look like preggo.  

Then I think about how sad it is that at this most beautiful time in life when you're body is doing something so friggin' amazing, that as a woman it's still hard to let go of that niggling voice telling you that you look like a beached whale.  So you pick up a packet of Tim Tams on the way home and shut that son-of-a-bitch up.  

parmesan popcorn with fried thyme and meyer lemon salt
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized cubes (about 1.5cm)
1 cup plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 egg lightly whisked with a splash of milk
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked, very finely chopped
8 sprigs thyme, leaves picked, plus 2 extra sprigs (whole)
1/2 tsp dried meyer lemon peel (I got mine from Williams-Sonoma)
1 tbsp sea salt flakes
Lots of oil, for deep frying

Heat oil in a deep fryer to the highest setting.

Spread flour onto a large, flat plate.  Pop egg wash into a bowl.  Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan, rosemary and thyme in a plastic bag, shake well to combine then spread out onto a large, flat plate.  Set up your crumbing station so that the flour is on the left, the egg wash in the centre and the breadcrumb mixture on the right.

Toss chicken pieces in flour, shaking off any excess.  Dip floured chicken into egg wash (you may wish to do this in batches), then roll in breadcrumb mixture.

Deep fry chicken, 8-10 pieces at a time, for about 2 mins or until golden and cooked through.  This won't take very long at all as the pieces are so small.  Drain on paper towel.

Once you have finished cooking all the chicken throw in the extra thyme sprigs and allow to sizzle (about 30 seconds), then fish them out - you will notice they are lovely and bright green and a bit crunchy.  Gently break off the leaves and sprinkle all over the cooked chicken.  

Combine lemon peel and salt in a small bowl and sprinkle over chicken just before serving.

mango, melon and kaffir lime mocktail

mangomelonkaffirlimemocktail

☆*☆*☆ HAPPY NEW YEAR ERRYBODY!!! ☆*☆*☆

2015 was my first New Year of not being completely plastered.  It was a weird sensation actually but I was grateful to wake up on New Years morning without 50 random numbers in my phone, a raging headache and vague memories of terrible things I ate at the McDonalds drive-through (without a car) at 3am.  

Instead I spent the day lingerie shopping for our wedding day, which is coming up in less than THREE WEEKS.  Undies shopping is always depressing, and especially so when you're almost 6 months pregnant.  On the plus side, my newly-inflated boobs can now finally fit into Marlies Dekkers.  On the downside, it took me about an hour to work out how to put the bloody thing on.  Since when does one need an engineering degree to put on a bra?  I actually took so long trying to work out where to put my arms and head amongst all the straps that I missed THBF calling me 10 times to find out if I was still alive in the change room.  He was about 3 more calls away from sending in a search team.

I've been pretty good during my pregnancy, sticking to the strict guidelines of what I can and cannot eat (with the exception of Froyo once or twice... OK at least 4 times).  Things I really, really miss in descending order include alcohol, salami, sashimi and soft cheeses.  GOD, do I miss alcohol.  I've come up with this cheery summer cocktail for all my preggo ladies out there.  It may not get you tanked, but it will at least keep you refreshed over these sweltering Summer days ahead.

mango, melon and kaffir lime mocktail
Makes about 2L

1/2 rockmelon (cantaloupe), deseeded, peeled, cubed
1 large mango, flesh removed
3 kiwi fruit, peeled
1.5L soda water
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Mint sprigs, to serve
Crushed ice, to serve

KAFFIR LIME SUGAR SYRUP
3 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
10g finely grated ginger
220g caster sugar
250ml water

To make sugar syrup, combine water, caster sugar, kaffir lime leaves and ginger in a small saucepan.  Heat over low heat for about 2 mins or until sugar dissolves.  Turn heat to high, bring to the boil then boil for 2 mins.  Remove from heat, pop into fridge for about 4 hours to cool and allow flavours to infuse.

Combine rockmelon, mango and kiwifruit in blender, blitz until smooth. 

To make the mocktails, fill a large jug (or two small jugs) half full with crushed ice.  Pour over kaffir lime sugar syrup, then follow with the fruit puree.  Stir with the handle of a wooden spoon to combine.  Top with soda water, then poke in lemon slices and mint sprigs to serve.  Bottoms up!

scotch fillet with greek mojito salsa

steakwithgreekmojitosalsa

I braved Australia's most popular farmer's market on Christmas Eve to bring you this dish.  Yup, I'm a real modern-day hunter-gatherer.

As I write this it's 4.30am on Christmas morning.  There are several reasons for this unlikely scenario - (a) THBF (The Hungry Babushka Fiancee) and I are heading up to Brisbane very shortly to celebrate the festivities with my family (b) I really, really wanted to open my Christmas presents (c) They say people are at their most creative in the wee hours of the morning, which I somewhat agree with as some of my funniest comments have been made whilst stumbling home, drunk at 2am.

So here I find myself again, stumbling home in the first flush of morning.  But this time under completely different/more responsible circumstances - my stumble is more like a pregnant waddle and if someone doesn't get me a coffee pronto someone a gonna get a hurt a-real bad.  

scotch fillet with greek mojito salsa
Serves 2

2 scotch fillet steaks, at room temperature
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
1 Lebanese cucumber, finely diced
1 green apple, cored, finely diced
2 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
Juice from 1 small lime
1 tbsp Metaxa
1/2 tbsp white sugar

Season steaks well with salt and pepper.  Heat a chargrill pan until screaming hot.  Place steaks onto the pan and cook for 3 mins each side (for medium rare).  Remove steaks from pan and allow to rest for 2-3 mins.

To make the salsa, whisk together mint leaves, lime juice, Metaxa and white sugar until sugar dissolves.  Season with a little bit of salt.  Combine cucumber and apple then pour over the dressing and toss to coat.  Serve immediately on thickly-sliced steaks.

caramelised chorizo, apple and radish baguettes

caramelisedchorizoappleradishbaguettes

For those of you that do not know, blogging is not my full-time gig (yet).  To pay the bills I also work in retail, of which specific industry I will keep under wraps as to not reveal my secret identity.  

OK, it's really not that exciting, I work in jewellery.

In a quiet, pre-Christmas rush moment of reflection yesterday I was thinking about how I have impressed the crap out of myself this year by surviving the ridiculousness of working in a shop, surrounded by a lot of people, sooo many people, completely unaided by my usual sanity-maintaining vices of caffeine or alcohol.  It actually really hit home when I casually strolled past a Red Bull promo car parked right outside our shop and, for once in my life, completely kept my cool.  Rewind 6 months and I would have not stopped short of carjacking to make those precious, taurine-treasures mine... all mine... *evil laugh*

Anyway, I'm sitting here sipping a green smoothie that I woke up extra early to prepare which is making me feel somewhat better since weighing myself this morning and discovering I have put on an entire kilo since last week.  I know I'm pregnant and all but I'm not entirely convinced it's all bubs, especially as I forgot to eat lunch yesterday and my entire day was sustained entirely by sherbet lollypops (preggo craving #231).  

I've also just realised that I didn't really make anything "Christmassy" for the blog this year, so sorry about that guys.  I am now going to try pass off some red and green coloured foods as a piss-poor attempt at festive foods.  Enjoy.

caramelised chorizo, apple and radish baguettes
Serves 2

2 spanish chorizo, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp vincotto
2 tsp caster sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 large, green apple (I used Granny Smith), peeled and julienned
4 radishes, thinly sliced on a mandolin
2 mini baguettes 

Heat oil in a medium-sized frypan over medium-high heat.  Add the chorizo and fry, tossing regularly, for about 2-3 mins or until golden.  Add garlic, turn heat to low, and fry for another minute or until aromatic.  Add vinegar, vincotto and sugar and stir well to combine.  Allow to simmer for about 2-3 mins or until the liquid reduces and becomes syrupy.  Remove from the heat, squeeze in the lemon juice and toss to combine.

To assemble, split the baguettes vertically.  Stuff with caramelised chorizo, apple sticks and radish slices.  

black tea and red pepper risotto

blacktearedpepperrisotto

I just friggin' LOVE rice, I'm not going to lie.  At one point (today) I thought about opening my own rice restaurant dedicated to serving all forms of rice - sushi, risotto, rice salads, sticky rice desserts... somebody stop me or I'll go on about this all afternoon.

I could just live on the stuff, literally, and some research from a very reputable source, Wikipedia *cough* backs me up on this touting rice to the most important grain with regard to human nutrition, with more than 1/5th of calories consumed by peeps all over the World coming from this humble grain (wheat comes in at a very close second).  

The abundance of risotto recipes on this site probably gives away the fact that I'm a bit obsessed with the dish.  Everything about it from the process of lovingly preparing it right through to the end result - curling up on the couch with a big, oozy bowl of it and a spoon to shovel it in,  is comforting.  Risotto is exciting because every attempt is a blank canvas for flavours, only limited by your imagination (and the braveness of your dinner guests).  Hope you enjoy my latest ideas :-)

black tea and red pepper risotto
Serves 4

1 x 450g jar fire roasted red peppers (red capsicums), drained (oil discarded)
1 small onion, peeled, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups hot, strong black tea
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups arborio rice
30g finely grated parmesan cheese
Splash of olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
Goat's cheese and fresh basil pesto, to serve

Heat oil in a large, heavy based frypan over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté gently until onion becomes opaque and soft.  Add rice and wine, stirring to coat and frying for 1 min or until wine absorbs.  

Combine tea and vegetable stock in a jug.  Pour about 1/3 cup of the liquid into the rice, stirring constantly until absorbed.  Continue to add 1/3 cup at a time, ensuring the liquid absorbs before adding the next.  Stir constantly.  Add, stirring, until you have about 1 cup of the liquid remaining.  

Place half the peppers into a blender with remaining 1 cup stock/tea liquid.  Blitz until smooth.  Finely chop the remaining peppers and set aside.  Pour the blended mixture into the risotto, stirring to combine, then add the chopped peppers and stir through.  Heat until liquid has almost all absorbed and the rice is soft but still a little firm to the bite, then remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and add parmesan and stir through until melted and combined.  

Serve with a dollop of goat's cheese and fresh basil pesto to stir through at the table.

saffron sweet potato gnocchi with pistachio and elderflower pesto

saffronsweetpotatognocchi

A marshmallow scented candle has been burning in our kitchen for the last 12 hours after I played Russian Roulette with a tray of eggs and lost - that's right, the last egg in my tray of 30 was rotten.  I don't know if you've ever had the joy of cracking a rotten egg before, but if you haven't think of the worst fart you've ever smelt and then times that by about a billion.  My nostrils quiver at the mere mention of the rotten egg incident.

This dish was really determined not to be, frankly it's a miracle it was even finished.  Firstly I ran out of potatoes (wog fail) so had to half my scripted recipe.  Good thing I did as my original plan called for 2 eggs, the exact number I had left until the aforementioned incidents.  I try to maintain composure as it continues to unravel - a bag full of mouldy, grated parmesan and then hot saffron-oil spits up into my eyeball, leaving me to complete our dinner half-blind.  I reflect back upon my week in the kitchen, trying to recall what I could have possibly done to piss off the Cooking Gods so much?  I know I really shouldn't have drunk that UHT milk directly from the carton, but come on guys, this is a bit excessive.  The struggle is real people.

saffron sweet potato gnocchi with pistachio elderflower pesto
Serves 2
You will need to begin this recipe one day before

1 large sweet potato (kumara)
1 large desiree potato
1 cup rock salt
20g finely grated parmesan
150g plain flour, plus extra to knead
1 egg yolk
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

SAFFRON OIL
1/4 tsp saffron threads
1 tbsp hot water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

PISTACHIO ELDERFLOWER PESTO
1 cup basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 tsp elderflower syrup
Sea salt flakes

To make saffron oil, in a small saucepan add saffron threads and hot water.  Allow to steep for 5 mins before adding the oil and heating over a very, very low heat until bubbling.  Remove from heat and allow to infuse overnight.

To make gnocchi, preheat a fan forced oven to 200ºC.  Spread salt across the bottom of a roasting tray then place whole sweet potato and potato on top and roast for 1 hour or until very soft when pierced with a fork.  Allow to cool enough to handle.  Cut potatoes open and scoop out the roasted flesh.  You will need 100g desiree potato flesh and 300g sweet potato flesh for this recipe.  Mash the roasted potato until very smooth, then stir through parmesan and flour until well mixed.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the egg yolk until the mixture comes together like a soft dough.

Lightly flour a work surface, then turn out the dough onto the surface and knead for about 1 min or until soft.  If the mixture is sticky you can add a little more flour but be careful not to add too much as too much flour makes your gnocchi like tough pellets (gross!).  Cut dough in half, rolling each half into an even rope about 3cm thick.  Use a sharp knife to cut pieces off the rope (about 1.5cm wide).  It doesn't matter if you flatten the dough while cutting, it will just give your gnocchi a more rustic shape ;-)

Fill a large saucepan with water, add a generous amount of salt then bring to the boil.  Cook gnocchi in batches (about 8 at a time) for 3-4 mins or until they float to the surface.  Transfer cooked gnocchi to a tray lined with baking paper and repeat with remaining batches.

To make the pesto, add garlic clove, pistachios and basil to a mini food processor (or mortar and pestle) and blitz/pound until a dry paste forms.  Gradually add half the saffron oil, keeping the motor of your processor going so that the oil incorporates into the mixture.  Once half the saffron oil is added, stir through the elderflower syrup then season to taste with salt.

To finish, heat remaining saffron oil in a large frypan over medium heat.  Add the boiled gnocchi then fry until crispy on the outside and heated through.  Toss pesto through the fried gnocchi and serve immediately.

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.