thai red curry lamb soup

thai red curry lamb soup

With deep regret, I am now going to talk to you about the weather.  I do try to avoid talking about the weather at all costs because, frankly, it's the boring back-up plan when you have nothing else to talk about, and although this is not the case today, there is really nothing more lame than talking about talking about the weather.  Let's just get to the point, shall we?

Yesterday Melbourne weather threw us a curve ball and it was sunny.  And warm.  People were trudging around wearing their standard winter uniform of heavy winter coats and scarves, sporting puzzled looks for what was this weird, burning ball in the sky - could it be, sun? *gasp*

Of course, this completely ruined my dinner plans as I'm still in the thick of slow cooking and warm, winter stews.  I mean yes, technically it's spring next week, but we all know Melbourne Winter likes to overstay her welcome and hang around until early February like an annoying houseguest you can never get to leave.

Anyway, apologies for being seasonally misaligned.  Lately I've been feeling a bit "under the weather" (yeah, I went there) and there is something so appealing about throwing some lamb shanks in the oven and laying on the couch for a few more hours knowing that dinner is taking care of itself.  

thai red curry lamb soup
Serves 4-6

4 lamb shanks
2 tbsp rice bran oil
1 brown onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
800g tin crushed tomatoes
1 tsp ground coriander
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

1.5L vegetable stock
2 cups cooked, brown rice
3 vine ripened tomatoes, cubed
1/2 carrot, diced
3 stalks celery, finely sliced
4 stalks Tuscan kale, shredded
1 clove garlic, crushed
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup each chopped parsley and coriander leaves
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 180ºC.  

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large, ovenproof saucepan over high heat.  Add shanks and cook, turning, for 3-4 mins until all sides are browned.  Remove from pan.

Drop temperature to low-medium heat, add remaining oil and throw in the onion and garlic and sauté 2-3 mins until translucent.  Add curry paste and coriander and stir, cooking until fragrant (about 1 min).  Remove pan from the heat.  Add shanks, then pour in tinned tomatoes.  Fill tin with water then pour that in as well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover with lid (if you do not have a lid, cover with a few layers of foil, ensuring it is wrapped tightly so no air can escape.  Pop into the oven and cook for 2-2 1/2 hours until meat is falling off the bone.  Use a fork to shred the meat from the bones, discarding fat and bones.  Reserve 1 cup braising mixture.

To make the soup, add vegetable stock to a clean saucepan over high heat.  Add carrot, celery and garlic and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 20 mins until carrot is soft.  Add tomato, kale and herbs.  Add reserved cup of the braising mixture and cooked brown rice, then heat through a further 5 mins before seasoning with salt and pepper.  Stir through the lemon juice then top with shredded lamb to serve.

chocolate chilli con carne with coriander-spiked yoghurt

chocolate chilli con carne with coriander-spiked yoghurt

I'm gearing up preparations for our CHOCOLATE themed bloggers get-together this weekend.  This week I've been testing chocolate in savoury dishes, just for something a little different (or maybe just a thinly veiled attempt to get more chocolate into my day).

In this dish I've played on the traditional Mexican mole flavours to put a spin on everyone's favourite - chilli con carne.  Don't be freaked out by the addition of chocolate in this recipe - it's not nearly as decadent as it sounds with only the teeniest bit of dark chocolate added (certainly not enough to worry the waistline watchers out there).  If it makes you feel any better (especially if you made my chocolate fried chicken last night) I've loaded this recipe with veggies and super-seed quinoa so don't feel bad about taking the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  Also, did you know chocolate is an aphrodisiac?  As for the beans, well, maybe not so much...

chocolate chilli con carne with coriander-spiked yoghurt
Serves 4-6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 long, red chilli, finely chopped
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 large, red capsicum, finely diced
1 tsp Shichimi Togarashi (available from Asian supermarkets, substitute chilli powder)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp raw, organic cacao powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
20g chilli dark chocolate (I used Gewürzhaus Chipotle Dark Chocolate)
2 x 400g tins crushed tomatoes
400g can mixed beans (kidney, lima, cannellini and chickpeas etc.), drained, rinsed
500g good quality beef mince
2 cups white quinoa seeds, rinsed well
1/3 cup natural yoghurt
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
3/4 cup grated tasty cheese
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large frypan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, red chilli, carrot, celery and carrot and gently sauté until soft (about 5 mins), stirring regularly.  Add beef mince, breaking up any lumps with a fork.  Stir well to combine, cooking until mince has browned.  

Add Shichimi Togarashi, cumin, cacao and cinnamon and stir to combine, cooking until fragrant (1 mins or so).  Season with salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes and 1 cup water, stir to combine.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 25 mins, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture has thickened, add another 1 cup of water and allow to simmer for a further 20-25 mins.  Stir through the beans and cook for 5 mins just to allow the beans to heat through.  Remove from heat, add the chilli chocolate and allow to melt completely before stirring through.  Check flavour and season with more salt and pepper, to taste.

Add 1L water to a saucepan.  Bring to the boil.  Add quinoa, then allow water to come back to the boil before dropping heat to medium, covering saucepan with a lid and cooking for 12 mins or until quinoa absorbs all the water and becomes fluffy.

Stir coriander through the yoghurt.  To serve, divide quinoa between bowls.  Top with a generous amount of the chilli con carne, followed by a sprinkle of grated cheese and a dollop of coriander yoghurt.  

chocolate fried chicken

chocolate fried chicken

There's a craze that's recently struck the Land of Opportunity which has really intrigued me.  CHOCOLATE CHICKEN.  Yes, you read correctly - two of the greatest things in life combined.  While the concept may conjure up disturbing images of our feathered friends being force-fed blocks of Dairy Milk, rest assured no chocolate was harmed in the making of this dish.

Our chicken drumsticks get bombarded with chocolate on three fronts -

1) during an initial brining, which adds moisture to your chicken because science (osmosis and diffusion, to be precise);

2) during cooking, bathing in a scalding chocolate milk before;

3) being double-coated in a spiced chocolate flour mix and plunged into cackling, hot oil to produce the crispiest and most tender chicken you've ever eaten.

chocolate fried chicken
Makes 8 drumsticks
This recipe will need to be started 8 hours before 

8 chicken drumsticks
2L full cream milk
1/2 cup raw organic cacao powder, 1 tbsp reserved
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
2 eggs whisked with a splash of water
2L canola oil

2L cold water
1/2 cup sea salt flakes
1/3 cup raw organic cacao powder
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp Cayenne pepper

To make the brine, combine all ingredients in a blender and blitz until it resembles a frothy milkshake (you could also use a stick blender to do this).  Pop drumsticks into a large, plastic/glass bowl and pour brine over the top, ensuring chicken is all submerged in the brine (you may need to place something heavy on top to ensure it is covered).  Cover with plastic wrap and pop into the fridge for about 8 hours.

After 8 hours, remove chicken from brine.  Discard the liquid.  

Preheat oil in a deep fryer to the highest temperature setting.  If you don't have a deep fryer  you could also do this in a deep saucepan (you will need a kitchen thermometer to bring oil to 200ºC) but be REALLY careful if using a gas stove as this can be quite dangerous.  

Pour milk into a large saucepan.   Add the cacao (but not the reserved 1 tbsp) and whisk until combined.  Add the drumsticks, bring to boil over a medium-high heat, then immediately drop the temperature down to low-medium and allow to simmer for about 20 mins or until the drumsticks are cooked through completely (70ºC on your meat thermometer).  Transfer the cooked drumsticks to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 5 mins before patting dry with paper towel.  Discard the milk (don't be tempted to drink it.  Seriously).

Combine flour, reserved tbsp cacao, Cayenne pepper and salt in a zip lock bag.  Seal closed and shake to combine.  One drumstick at a time, add chicken, seal bag then shake to coat.  Dust off any excess flour before dunking in the egg wash, then returning to the flour bag and shaking again to double coat.  

Cook coated drumsticks in the deep fryer, two at a time, for 1-2 mins or until the coating is crispy.  Drain on paper towel, sprinkle with sea salt flakes to serve.

seafood squid ink pasta with goji pangritata

seafood squid ink pasta with goji pangritata

The goji berry is coveted in Chinese medicine as it is said to boost life force or "chi" energy.  I've been lacking my trademark energy lately and will take any I can get, short of drinking the remaining bottles of Red Bull concentrate in my cupboard (saving them for another batch of my famous Red Bull Beef Curry Pies).

For this recipe I've used dried berries, which are easy to find in the healthy isle of your local supermarket.  The dried berry chops up really well into a breadcrumb-like consistency which is just tossed through some breadcrumbs and fried with a  generous glug of olive oil and a kiss of seasoning to make a tangy sprinkle to dress this sexy, black pasta.  

seafood squid ink pasta with goji pangritata
Serves 2-3

12 large, green prawns, peeled and deveined, with tail intact
1 thick fillet Blue Eye Trevalla (about 250g), skin removed, deboned, cut into 3cm cubes
250g packet squid ink fettuccine
1/2 brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 long, red chilli, finely chopped
60g butter
3 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

1 tbsp dried goji berries, very finely chopped to form crumbs
3 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Cook pasta according to packet instructions.

To make pangritata, heat oil in a small frypan over low heat.  Toss goji and breadcrumbs, then season and add to frypan, stirring constantly over a low heat until the crumbs soak up all the oil and become crispy and golden in colour.  Immediately remove from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, add butter and olive oil to a large frypan over a low heat until butter melts and becomes frothy. Add onion, garlic and chilli and allow to sauté very gently for 3 mins.  Add fish cubes and fry for around 2 mins or until fish becomes opaque, then add prawns and cook for a further 2 mins, turning the seafood to ensure it is cooked evenly.  You will know when it is ready when they turn opaque.  You can flake a piece of the fish with a fork to ensure it is cooked through.  Remove fish and prawns from the pan, leaving the oil mixture.  

Once the pasta is cooked, drain then pop back into the saucepan.  Pour the oil mixture over the pasta and gently toss to coat the pasta.  To serve, divide pasta between 2-3 bowls.  Place seafood on top, then sprinkle with goji pangritata (you may not use all the pangritata, that's OK).  Enjoy!

vanilla miso butter rib eye with eggplant chips

vanilla miso butter rib eye with eggplant chips

Now I'm no restaurant reviewer but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the steaks at Rockpool are F!@#ING AWESOME.  Last week I was lucky enough to go for the very first time, THBBF and I were celebrating our recent engagement (which reminds me, he's probably due for a title upgrade to THBF - The Hungry Babushka Fiancée).  

When you pay $115 for a steak (no sides, just the steak) choosing the condiments (if any) is a decision not to be taken lightly.  I skipped the béarnaise in favour of some dijon mustard, but even then I only committed to spreading it on 1/4 of the steak ($28.75 worth, to be exact, or the equivalent of 2 pub steaks).  When at home I'm a bit more adventurous with my seasonings, and even though I only buy Cape Grim Australian beef, which isn't exactly chump change, I feel a bit more comfortable going a bit crazy.  Sorry Neil Perry. 

vanilla miso butter rib eye with eggplant chips
Serves 2

2 x 350g rib eye steaks, at room temperature
1 large eggplant, halved then cut into 2.5cm wide batons
1 cup plain flour, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper
1 egg, lightly whisked with a splash of water
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 truss of vine cherry tomatoes
1 tsp miso paste
120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Heat a deep fryer to highest temperature setting.

Add miso paste and vanilla extract to butter.  Mix well, then spoon onto a piece of alfoil and roll up into a tight log.  Pop into the freezer to harden while you prepare the meal.

Season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Preheat a fan forced oven to 200ºC.  Pop tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 20 mins or until tomatoes start to soften and collapse.

Meanwhile, roll eggplant batons in flour (dusting off any excess), then dip in egg and roll in panko breadcrumbs.  Deep fry, 3 at a time, for 3-4 mins or until golden and soft and creamy inside.  Drain on paper towel, season with salt.

Cook steaks on a screaming hot grill pan for 3-4 mins each side, then remove from heat, set aside on a clean plate to rest 5 mins before serving topped with slices of the vanilla miso butter, roasted tomatoes and eggplant chips.

prawn burger with blackberry mayo

prawn burger with blackberry mayo

Mild white fish
Calamari (rings only)

The above lists reads like a celebrity rider, but in actual fact is a list of seafood that THBBF will eat, in descending order.  Notice that salmon is definitely off the list and squid will only be accepted in crumbed form.  Seafood just isn't his thing, which means when it's on my cooking agenda I usually have to try and hide it in things and hope that he won't find it (I'm yet to get away with it once).  

This prawn burger had him finishing the whole thing and licking the plate clean.  WIN!  The sweetness of the prawns gets a jab from the tartness of the blackberry mayo and the crispy freshness of iceberg lettuce.  Omit the blackberry at your own peril, it's a game changer ;-)

prawn burger with blackberry mayo
Makes 2

500g green prawns, peeled, deveined (to yield about 250g meat)
2 white bread rolls
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup plain flour
1 egg, lightly whisked with a splash of water
1/2 tsp black sesame seeds (optional)
Iceburg lettuce leaves, to serve
4 tbsp good quality mayo
110g frozen blackberries (I picked them out of the mixed berry box)

Preheat oven grill to high.

Place blackberries in small saucepan with a splash of water.  Bring to the boil, then strain through a fine sieve, reserving the liquid and using a spoon to press the juices through.  Discard the seeds.  Add 1 tbsp of the berry juice to the mayo and stir well to combine.  Pop into the fridge until needed.

Mince prawns using a knife (do not use food processor as it will become a paste!  You still want it to be a little bit chunky).  Divide prawn mixture into two even portions, form each into a patty and pop into the fridge for 10 mins to firm.  Once firm, roll each patty in flour (dusting off any excess), then dip into egg mixture, then roll in panko breadcrumbs.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frypan over medium heat.  Cook patties 3-4 mins each side (and if you are confident, use a pair of tongs to hold the patties on the side and fry the edges all the way around) until cooked through.  Remove from pan and allow to rest on paper towel.

use a sharp, serrated knife to cut buns in half horizontally.  Put tops of buns, dome up, on a baking tray.  Brush with remaining oil, sprinkle with black sesame and grill for 1-2 mins or until light golden.

To serve, place a generous dollop of the blackberry mayo on the bottom roll, topped with lettuce leaves and the prawn patty.  Top with burger top and enjoy!

red velvet chouxwich

red velvet chouxwich

Step aside cronut, the CHOUXWICH has arrived!  Half profiterole, half ice cream sandwich, the chouxwich is a fluffy, scarlett pastry hugging a creamy orb of cream cheese flavour homemade ice-cream.  

Don't be afraid of choux - it's actually super easy to make!  Filled with custard cream you can have an impressive dessert on the table in under half an hour.  But if you've got a bit more time, make my cream cheese ice cream the night before and you will be rewarded with a tangy but rich scoop that's hard to resist just eating on its own.  

red velvet chouxwich
Makes 12
You will need to begin this recipe the night before
This recipe requires an ice-cream machine and a thermometer

100g unsalted butter
150g plain flour
4 eggs
1 tsp red gel food colouring

2 cups full cream milk
1 cup thickened cream
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
350g cream cheese, cubed, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

To make cream cheese ice cream, add milk and cream to a large saucepan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the temperature reaches 80ºC.  Remove from the heat.  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Set aside for 10 mins to cool slightly. 

Prepare an ice bath by filling your sink with cold water, then popping a few trays of ice into it.

Add a splash of the milk mixture to the eggs and whisk gently until combined.  Add egg mixture back to the heated milk and place over a low heat until temperature comes back up to 70ºC.  

Remove from heat, add the cream cheese quickly stir until the cheese has melted, then immediately transfer the saucepan to the ice bath to quickly stop the cooking process.  Stir through the vanilla extract.  Allow saucepan to sit in the ice bath for 2 mins, then remove and cover surface of the mixture with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours to cool.

Once cooled, pour mixture into the frozen bowl of your ice cream machine and churn for 25 mins.  Transfer to a clean, shallow airtight container and freeze until firm.

To make red velvet choux, preheat a fan-forced oven to 210ºC.  Combine 1 cup of water, food colouring and butter in a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat until butter has completely melted.  

Add flour and stir really well with a wooden spoon until all combined.  You will notice the paste will start to come away from the sides of the pan when ready (after about 1 min).  Remove from heat and allow to cool (about 10 mins).

Add eggs, one at a time, beating really well with a wooden spoon between each addition.  

Spoon dough into a piping bag fitted with a 15mm plain nozzle.  On baking paper, trace 12 x 6cm circles.  Turn paper over, place on a baking tray and pipe mixture on top of the circles. 

Bake for 15 mins, then open oven door, quickly prick each profiterole with a skewer then close oven door, drop temperature to 170ºC and bake for a further 5 mins.  Remove from oven, transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before cutting in half with a  sharp, serrated knife and filling with a generous scoop of the cream cheese ice cream.

kimchi aglio olio

kimchi aglio olio

Kimchi seems to be all the rage lately, Dan Hong's sticking it on his burgers, Paris Hilton named her pomeranian after it and in Korea when they take a photo instead of saying "CHEESE" everybody says, you guessed it, "KIMCHI!"

Admittedly, I have been a bit resistant to this fad as (1) health fads aren't my thang (2) something about "fermented" turns me off my eats, but I reasoned with myself that it's essentially just Asian sauerkraut (which I could practically live on) and decided to give it a whirl.  And I'm SO glad I did, because not only is it really, really good for you (maybe not so much drowned in butter and spaghetti like this recipe), but it's also bloody delicious.

In this recipe I've replicated the classic flavours of the Italian dish aglio olio - garlic and chilli, but used kimchi to deliver this pungent flavour punch.  Top with some grated parmesan just before serving to take it to another level.

You can make your own kimchi (I tried but it was an epic fail) or you can pick it up in the refrigerated section of Asian supermarkets.  Have you tried kimchi yet?  How do you enjoy yours? :-)

kimchi aglio olio
Serves 4

400g spaghetti (I used 50/50 fettuccine and bucatini, because it's all I had left in the pantry)
100g butter
80ml good quality olive oil (Pukara Estate is a fave)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
200g kimchi, finely sliced
6 stalks silverbeet, stalks removed, leaves shredded
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
Parmigiano reggiano, finely grated to serve

Cook spaghetti according to packet instructions.  Drain.

Heat oil and butter in a large frypan over low heat.  One butter has completely melted, add the silverbeet and cook 3-4 mins or until wilted.  Add the kimchi and stir together, cooking until just heated through.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Add to the cooked pasta, stirring to coat the spaghetti with the mixture.  Serve with grated parmesan and a little extra pepper, if you like.

metaxa lamb shanks with sencha couscous

metaxa lamb shanks with sencha couscous

Those who know me will tell you that I'm a pretty multicultural person.  I'm a half-Ukrainian, half-English Aussie with an Irish first name, a Chinese Aussie fiancé and a German dog.  I like my food the same, a bit of a mix of everything.  Sweet or savoury, anything goes.  

As I was making tonight's dinner I was thinking about how we can tend to confine certain ingredients to specific cuisines, for example, sencha green tea = Japanese) but when we carefully consider flavour combinations, why should we limit a dish to one "cuisine"?  So I present to you a truly multicultural dish - featuring the flavours of Greece, Japan and the Middle East all working together in perfect harmony.  Now, if only Russia would get on board...

metaxa lamb shanks with sencha couscous
Serves 3-4

6 lamb shanks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sea salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup flour
2L chicken stock
1/3 cup Metaxa (available from Dan Murphy's)

1 1/2 cups instant couscous
1/2 cup small mint leaves
1/2 cup coriander leaves
3 sencha green tea bags
3 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 tbsp currants
1/2 tsp cumin
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lime juice
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a fan forced oven to 160ºC.  

Combine cinnamon, salt and pepper on a large plate.  Rub spice mixture all over shanks, then roll in flour, dusting off any excess.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Working in two batches, brown the lamb shanks, turning every few mins, for 8-10 mins. 

Reduce heat to low-medium.  Add remaining 1 tbsp of oil, then add onion and garlic and gently sauté until onion becomes soft and opaque (about 3-5 mins).  Add the Metaxa, increase heat to high.  Add the lamb shanks, using a spoon to pour the liquid over the shanks, ensuring they are all coated.  Cook for 5 mins, just enough to bring the liquid to a boil and reduce a bit, then add chicken stock and season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat.  Cover with a tight-fitting lid (if your lid is not tight fitting you might want to use aluminium foil to trap the heat in).  Pop into the oven and cook for 2 1/2 hours or until meat is meltingly tender and falling off the bone.

To make couscous, steep the teabags in 1 1/2 cup boiling water for 2 mins.  Discard tea bags.  pour green tea into a bowl of couscous, season with salt and pepper then cover and allow to absorb for 5 mins.  Remove cover and fluff couscous with a fork.  Add herbs, sesame seeds and currants.  Whisk together oil and lime juice with cumin to make a dressing.  Season with salt and pepper, then pour onto couscous and toss to combine.  Serve topped with the shanks.

white chocolate agave muffins

white chocolate agave muffins

"Muffins are just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast" - Google

I've caught the baking bug, it seems.  There's something about baking that's just so calming, and I need a bit of calming this week as on Tuesday night the most EXCITING THING EVER happened to me.  THBBF took me out to ROCKPOOL for dinner!!!  And if that wasn't enough, he POPPED THE QUESTION - WOO HOO! :-)))

I spent the next day telling everyone and anyone about how amazing my gold-leaf fed, aged, billion dollar steak was, they were all like "ENOUGH ALREADY - show us the ring!!!".   And may I just say, the RING (you can tell I'm pretty excited, right?  The excessive CAPS is a dead giveaway).    

I baked these muffins to celebrate the best week of my LIFE.  It's got all my favourite things - white chocolate, five:am dark caramel yoghurt for moistness and a bit of agave for sweetness and just to boost the caramel flavours.  These are super quick to make, why not score some major brownie points with your co-workers and whip up a batch to celebrate the end of the working week.  Cheers!*

*best cheers-ed with a glass of ice-cold milk

white chocolate agave muffins
Makes 12

150g unsalted butter, melted
160g caster sugar
2 eggs
140g five:am dark caramel yoghurt (available at Woolworths)
1/4 cup raw agave syrup (I used Loving Earth - Light)
225g self raising flour
125g white chocolate chips

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 140ºC.  Line a standard sized muffin tray with muffin liners.  

Combine butter, sugar, eggs, yoghurt and agave in a large bowl.  Whisk to combine.

Add the flour and whisk until combined.  Fold through the chocolate chips.

Spoon mixture evenly among the 12 muffin liners.  Bake for 35-40 mins or until they spring back  when gently pressed in the centre (or if a metal skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean).

Remove muffins from the pan and allow to cool on a baking rack for 5 mins before serving warm.

beef and kumara croissant pie

beef and kumara croissant pie

Feeling a bit of the winter blues at the moment - as I write this I'm curled up on the couch cocooned in a huge blanket, sipping a cup of piping hot herbal tea and and my favourite accessory - a snuggly dachshund - to keep me warm.  You guessed it, I'm battling the dreaded flu *boo*.  

I'm usually quite resilient in the chilly months, I like to think it's because of my Ukrainian x English blood.  When it starts to heat up I'm a complete mess.  Any more than 10 mins in the sun results in a rather unfashionable beetroot look and temperatures in excess of 35ºC have me feeling a bit wobbly.  

My favourite part about winter is not the snuggly jackets or the fact that I can wear my Doc Martens without looking like a complete goth, but the amazing produce that we get in Winter - a glut of sweet potato, Jerusalem artichoke, rhubarb *swoon* the list goes on and on.  Everything that inspires cosy, winter cooking - creamy mashes, soul-warming soups and braised meats.  A lot of winter cooking is slow and steady, but this recipe is a nice one for a quick, healthy mid-week meal.  Well, almost, the croissants are a bit naughty but I like to think all those nutritious veggies cancel that out, right? ;-)

beef and kumara croissant pie
Serves 4

500g really good quality beef mince
500g kumara (sweet potato), peeled, cut into 3cm cubes
300g potato, peeled, cut into 3cm cubes
3 large butter croissants, halved lengthways
3 tbsp pine nuts
6 baby zucchini, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander 
Pinch of saffron threads
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Heat grill to 220ºC.  Lay croissants on a tray in a single layer and grill for 2-3 mins each side or until golden.  Set aside (leave your grill on, making sure the oven door is ajar).

In a large saucepan, add kumara and potatoes.  Fill with enough cold water to cover, season with salt, then bring to boil over a high heat, then cook for 15-20 mins or until kumara is very soft when poked with a fork.  Drain.  In a small bowl, add the saffron threads.  Add 1 tbsp boiling water and allow to soak for 5 mins.  Remove the saffron threads and pour the saffron-infused water into with the boiled kumara and potatoes.  Mash well until really smooth.  Season with salt.

Heat olive oil over a low-medium heat in a large frypan.  Add onion and garlic and sauté 3-5 mins or until onion is soft and opaque.  Add beef, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon.  Add coriander, stirring to combine.  Cook until your mince is completely browned, then turn off the heat, throw in the pine nuts and baby zucchini and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drain off any excess liquid so that your mince is really dry (there shouldn't be much, if any).

To assemble the pie, lay croissants along the base of a 24cm round loose-base flan tin (you could also use a well-greased springform pan) making sure any gaps are filled.  Place a dinner plate on top and press down to compact the croissants.  Top with mince mixture.  Spread the kumara mash over the top of the pie, then pop under the grill for about 8-10 mins to heat through before serving.

chicken cashew coriander nachos

chicken cashew coriander nachos

Lazy dinner tonight.  

I'm currently concentrating all my energies on creating the BEST CAKE EVER for THBBF's Mum who will be celebrating her 60th birthday over the weekend.  I'm planning a double-layer lemon cake with the base layer being a super light, fluffy Japanese lemon cheesecake and the top layer a vanilla sponge.  It will all be sandwiched together with a lemon buttercream and eclectically decorated a-la Katherine Sabbath styles (my current girl crush).  I've been a little bower bird for the past week - gathering anything that fits the following criteria: white, yellow, sparkly, tasty.  Keep an eye out on Instagram for my masterpiece (fingers and toes crossed).

chicken cashew coriander nachos
Serves 4 as a snack

230g white corn tortilla strips (I used Mission brand from Woolworths)
500g chicken mince
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin powder
1 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped plus extra leaves to serve
60g gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
1/3 cup raw cashews
Natural yoghurt, to serve
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 170ºC.

Heat oil in a frypan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is opaque and soft.  Add the chicken mince, breaking up lumps with a spoon and stirring until browned.  Add the cumin and tomato paste, cook for 1 min or until fragrant.  Add the canned tomatoes, season then bring to the boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer 10-15 mins or until liquid reduces and the mince becomes quite dry.  

Scatter tortilla strips across a baking tray.  Top with chicken mixture, then sprinkle with cashews and then the cheese.  Bake for 5-7 mins until cheese becomes lovely and oozy.  Top with dollops of natural yoghurt extra coriander leaves.

apple cider wild rice with caramelised cabbage and crispy bacon brussels

apple cider wild rice with caramelised cabbage and crispy bacon brussels

People say that going platinum blonde is a life-changing event.  I would have to agree with this, since going albino yesterday I've scared the shit out of myself at least 6 times - every time I walk past a mirror I am reminded that I now look like Khaleesi's (Game of Thrones) older, chubbier sister.  You know, the one that used her dragons to make toast and then blogged about it instead of overthrowing the King?

My poor hair has been through a lot of shit.  There once was a time people used to mistake me for Ella Hooper from Killing Keidi, these days I'm just Heidi.  It's THAT WHITE.  I've permed (no joke), stripped and straightened.  As a natural blonde I've been to black and back with all the shaded in between (red-engine red, anyone?).  To be honest, it's a miracle of nature that I even still have hair.  So please forgive me for being a bit distracted this week, I have been focusing more of my time in the bathroom than the kitchen, mixing toners and carefully applying them for 3 mins, 30 seconds and 3/4 of a second to ensure I don't end up looking like Dame Edna.  I know, I know, I should go to a hairdresser.  The truth is I'm a risk-taker in more rooms than just the kitchen.  Well, that and growing up with a family mantra of "I could have made it cheaper myself" is a hard one to shake.  

So, speaking of "I could have made it cheaper myself" - I've been trying to replicate the Miss Chu wild rice for a while now.  Every time we eat there I marvel at how perfectly chewy yet soft the texture is and did I mention the flavouring?  I DIE.  Aaanyways, I think I've finally nailed it.  Much like bleached white hair and toner, just a few minutes overdone and it's a soggy, purple mess.  See my tips for the rice below.  As for the hair tips?  Let's leave that one to the beauty bloggers ;-)

apple cider wild rice with caramelised cabbage and crispy bacon brussels
Serves 2

1 cup wild rice, rinsed once
1/2 small sugarloaf cabbage, cut in half lengthways (to make 2 wedges)
8 brussels sprouts, leaves carefully removed
2 rashers bacon, cut into very thin strips
330ml apple cider
2 tbsp plum sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp Sriracha
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cornflour, sifted
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Add wild rice to rice cooker with 3 cups water.  Cover and cook until your rice cooker flicks to the "keep warm" setting. Immediately remove inside bowl from the rice cooker and drain excess liquid off.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, pour cider into a small saucepan, place over high heat and allow to reduce down to half (about 150ml).  Remove from heat, add 1 tbsp plum sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, Sriracha and ginger and whisk until combined.  Add back to a low heat, add cornflour and quickly whisk until all incorporated, ensuring there are no lumps.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Allow to simmer about 5 mins to thicken up.

Meanwhile, heat a chargrill pan on high.  Brush the cabbage wedges with the remaining plum sauce.  Press the cabbage wedges onto the piping hot grill, cooking each side for about 3 mins to ensure the sugars from the sauce caramelise and create those lovely char marks.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a frypan over med-high heat.  Add the bacon and sizzle for 3-4 mins or until strips are lightly brown and becoming crispy.  Throw in the brussels sprouts leaves and gently toss 30 seconds or until they turn bright green and become slightly soft.  Remove from the heat.  

To serve, toss sauce through the rice to coat.  Divide into two bowls, top with cabbage wedge and bacon brussels.  Sprinkle with a little extra salt and pepper, if desired.

tuscan kale pasta bake with pretzel pork meatballs

tuscan kale pasta bake with pretzel pork meatballs

Last night I experienced first-hand the schnozzle that is trying to get into one/two of Melbourne's top restaurants for dinner.  

I have often joked that I would buy the Chin Chin recipe book as it was the only way I would ever get to experience Chin Chin food.  Having lived in Melbourne for 2 1/2 years now, last night would have been the 5th time (yes, I'm counting) that we've tried to get in to Chin Chin.  For those of you who like maths, that's one attempt every 6 months (I then spend the next 6 months bitching and moaning about how hard it is to get into Chin Chin.  Let's see how many times I can say Chin Chin in one post - which is not in any way sponsored by Chin Chin, by the way, of course that would involve me ACTUALLY EATING THERE).

Whether you go to Chin Chin at 3pm or 8pm it really doesn't matter, you can expect upwards of a 2 hour wait.  They do not take reservations.  Getting in to Chin Chin is probably up there on the same difficulty level as meeting Justin Bieber in person and the ideas has crossed my mind that the only way to possibly get in might be to set up a sleeping bag outside and wait until they open - kind of like trying to get a new iPhone on the day they release.

Failing to get into Chin Chin (9), we thought we'd give Movida Next Door a go.  Not Movida (one would be a fool to expect to just waltz on in to Movida without a booking 10 years in advance) Movida Next Door sounds promising - like popping in on the neighbour uninvited, they'll always have a cuppa and a nice biscuit ready for your unannounced arrival.  NO.  Even at 6pm on a Sunday night one can not get into Movida Next Door.  

We ended up going to a pub just around the corner for my customary chicken parmigiana consolation prize.  I should start a food blog reviewing Melbourne chicken parmis, it seems to be the only thing I can get when we dine out...

tuscan kale pasta bake with pretzel pork meatballs
Serves 6

500g Lumaconi pasta (I used Simon Johnson)
2 x 400g cans crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 stalks Tuscan kale, centre vein removed, leaves roughly torn
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1 cup emmental, grated
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

500g pork mince
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle
Leaves from 4 sprigs thyme
3/4 cup roughly crushed pretzels 
1 egg
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat a fan forced oven to 160ºC.  

For the meatballs, combine all ingredients in a bowl, using your hands to mix really well.  Form tablespoon-full sized meatballs from the mixture.  Pop into the fridge to harden.

Cook pasta according to packet instructions.  Drain, reserving some of the cooking water.  Put about 1/4 cup of the cooking water back into the pasta, throw in the kale and set aside.

To make the sauce, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a heavy-based frypan over low-med heat.  Add onion and garlic and sauté 2-3 mins until onion is opaque and soft.  Add the spices, cooking for 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add the tinned tomatoes, season to taste.  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer 10-15 mins.  Stir pasta sauce through the pasta, set aside.

Clean your frypan.  Heat remaining oil over low-med heat.  Cook meatballs for 10 mins, turning every 2-3 mins to ensure they are evenly browned all over.  Gently toss the meatballs through the pasta, spoon into an ovenproof dish (about 2.5L capacity).  Sprinkle with grated emmental, then bake for 25-30 mins until the cheese is golden and oozy on top. 

bourbon salted caramel and choc peanut butter bite ice cream

bourbon salted caramel and chocolate peanut butter bite ice cream

You know you're getting old when your idea of a perfect Saturday night involves ugg boots over high heels, hot chocolates over vodka Red Bulls and the couch over a heaving dance floor .  

Last Saturday night THBBF and I parked our arses on the couch and sat through the latest ROMCOM - That Awkward Moment.  I'm not entirely sure what the movie was about, because Zac Efron.  One of the things that I do remember about the movie (apart from the glaringly obvious) was a scene with a man mourning over the discovery that his wife was cheating on him.  He was consoling himself with a tub of Ben and Jerry's "Peanut Butter Cup" in one hand and a bottle of Bulleit in the other, which made me think - perhaps peanut butter and bourbon would be an awesome flavour pairing?  Zac Efron didn't let me down...

bourbon salted caramel and choc peanut butter bite ice cream
Makes about 1L

250ml full cream milk, chilled
150g caster sugar
500ml thickened cream, chilled
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g smooth peanut butter
200g 70% dark chocolate

225g caster sugar
60ml water
125ml thickened cream
2 tbsp bourbon
Pinch of sea salt flakes

Spoon peanut butter into a piping bag with a 1.5cm nozzle.  Line a baking tray with baking paper, then pipe the peanut butter onto the paper in blobs (about the size of a 10c piece).  Your blobs will probably have points tops, like Hershey's Kisses - that's fine.  Once you have piped all the peanut butter, pop into the freezer for 2 hours to harden.

Meanwhile, to make the bourbon salted caramel, combine sugar and water in a medium size saucepan over medium heat.  Cook for 15 mins or until the toffee becomes a golden colour, carefully swirling the pan regularly (NOT STIRRING WITH A SPOON!  Sorry, I didn't mean to alarm you, but using a spoon will stuff it up.  Just swirl it people).  

As soon as the toffee becomes golden, remove from heat and carefully, slowly pour in the thickened cream, stirring as you add it (be careful as it will foam up at this stage).  Once the cream has been incorporated, add a pinch of sea salt flakes and set aside to cool.

To make the ice-cream, combine milk and sugar in a large bowl and use a hand mixer on low speed to blend until the sugar has dissolved completely (about 2 mins).  Stir in the cream and vanilla.  Pop into fridge while you finish off the choc peanut butter bites.

Break the chocolate up into small pieces in a plastic/glass bowl.  Pop into the microwave and heat on MEDIUM for 1 min.  Take the bowl out and give the chocolate a stir with a plastic spoon/spatula (do not use metal).  There may be a few chunks left in there - you may find that stirring will melt them down or you may need to pop back into the microwave on MEDIUM for another 10-20 seconds.  Always microwave in very small time increments as chocolate can easily burn.  

Prepare another baking tray with baking paper.

Remove peanut butter blobs from the freezer.  Working very quickly, place one blob at a time on top of a fork, submerge in the chocolate, then use a skewer to carefully push the chic-coated peanut butter blog onto the new baking tray.  Repeat with remaining blogs, working quickly as the peanut butter melts quickly and needs to be hard to work with.  Once you have finished, pop the completed tray into the freezer and allow to harden (about 30 mins should be fine).

While you are waiting for the choc peanut butter bites to set, pour your ice cream mixture into your ice cream maker and begin to churn for about 25 mins.  In the final 5 mins, pour in the bourbon salted caramel.  Once the churn has completed, pour into an air-tight container, swirl through the choc peanut butter bites and then seal the container, popping it back into the freezer for 12 hours to harden before serving.  

duck gravy poutine with la luna

duck gravy poutine with la luna

The Heston-hype is really getting to me lately and I seem to have duck on the brain.  You may remember last week I roasted Daffy in a cocktail of mandarin, Cointreau and Angostura Bitters and I had all these lovely pan juices left over which I scraped up and have had stashed away safely at the back of my fridge.

Duck fat gravy has been on the agenda for quite a while.  Such a divine thing, in all its glory, deserves to be the star of the dish, so the Canadian dish poutine was the logical conclusion.  Sounds fancy, but it's really just chips drowned in gravy.  I've fancied mine up even more by using the heavenly La Luna goat's cheese by Holy Goat Cheese.  Mebournites, you can get your hands on some from my friends at Bill's Farm at the Queen Victoria Markets.

duck gravy poutine with la luna
Serves 2

8 Sebago potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1cm-thick chips
2L canola oil
100g La Luna goat's cheese
Pan drippings from 1 roast duck*
2 tbsp plain flour

4 duck carcasses
1 1/2 brown onions, skin on, quartered
3 cloves garlic, skin on, bruised
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped (throw the leaves in too!)
2 large carrots, yucky bits removed, roughly chopped
6 stalks Tuscan kale
12 peppercorns
Sea salt flakes
3 stalks parsley
2 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs thyme

Place duck carcasses into a large saucepan.  Fill with cold water until the water level just covers the bones.  Place over a high heat and bring to the boil.  Drop heat to low, then skim off and discard any scum that's floating on the surface.  

Add all of the other ingredients except the parsley, rosemary and thyme.  Allow to simmer very gently (lowest setting of your stove) for 3 hours, checking the stock every now and again to remove any scum that rises to the surface (there shouldn't be too much after your initial skimming).  After 2 1/2 hours use kitchen string to tie together the parsley, rosemary and thyme, then pop into the stock and allow to simmer for the final 30 mins.

Use tongs to remove the bones and large vegetables from the stock, discard solids.  Line a fine strainer with muslin or Chux cloth, then strain stock through, reserving the stock and discarding the solids.  

Taste the stock and adjust seasoning (salt and pepper) as you like.  Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the stock for the gravy (you can freeze the remaining stock and use in place of chicken stock for future recipes).

Heat canola oil in a deep saucepan (be very, very careful if you're using a gas stove).  Or if you're a big chicken like me, use a deep fryer (it's a LOT safer).  

To make the gravy, heat 2 tbsp of the pan drippings in a heavy based saucepan.  Add the flour and whisk constantly until the flour absorbs the fat, cook for 1-2 mins.  Slowly add the warm stock, little by little, whisking as you go to ensure the gravy is smooth and has no lumps.  Continue until all the stock is added.  You may wish to strain your gravy if it is a little lumpy (I did, but I have OCD issues so it is not a vital step).  Season to taste, then keep gravy warm over a low heat while you cook the chips.

Make sure your potatoes are really dry, this is the secret to super crunchy chips.  If you have soaked them in water, dry between sheets of paper towel to ensure they are not wet on the outside.  Add your chips to the deep fryer and cook for 3-4 mins or until golden and crispy.

Serve chips topped with a generous pouring of gravy and sprinkled with the goat's cheese.

breakfast baguette

breakfast baguette

GOOD MORNING ALL!  OK yes, I've had far too much coffee already today.  

I don't mean to brag or anything, but green smoothies in the morning are my thang.  Green smoothies and coffee, actually.  You might not know about my green smoothie habit because I don't post it all over Instagram all day, every day.  Despite the lack of social media evidence, it does actually happen and for those of you wondering, it doesn't happen in a ball mason jar.

Some days though, I just really can't be bothered drinking green sludge, and on those days, this happens.  Well, this or I eat half a packet of Arnott's Spicy Fruit Roll biscuits for breakfast and then spend half the day reasoning with myself that they are virtually fruit anyway.  

breakfast baguette
Serves 2-3

1 sourdough baguette
2 tbsp romesco (get my recipe here)
100g cream cheese, softened at room temp
8 eggs
60g butter
1/3 cup thickened cream
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
3 good quality beef sausages
1 tbsp rice bran oil

Preheat a fan forced oven to 150ºC.

Heat rice bran oil over a low-medium heat.  Cook sausages, turning every few mins, until browned and cooked through.  Set aside.

Make a vertical slit into the bread (along the top), being careful not to cut all the way through.  Open the bread up, pop into the oven and bake for 10 mins or until it becomes lovely and crispy again. 

Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together eggs, butter and cream.  DO NOT SEASON!  Adding salt at this point will result in tough eggs - for scrambled eggs always, always, ALWAYS season right the end ;-)

Heat a frypan over medium heat.  Add the egg mixture, use a whisk to constantly move the mixture, ensuring any egg that cooks on the bottom/sides of the pan is immediately pushed back into the uncooked mixture.  You will know when the egg is ready at the point there is no more liquid - the eggs should still be loose and fluffy though.  At this point take the frypan off the heat IMMEDIATELY (sorry for all the CAPS, I am not shouting at you - OK, I am getting a bit Gordon Ramsey on yo' asses here, but these are the secrets for perfect scramble, EVERY TIME!).  Season with salt and pepper.

Combine cream cheese and romesco.  Spread inside the baguette.  Fill with scrambled egg, top with sausages.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, then cut into 2-3 serves.

biryani chicken en papillote

biryani chicken en papillote

Chicken is awesome.  I mean, who doesn't love it?  The only problem is dry breasts - nobody likes a dry breast.  I'm carrying on the French theme tonight using en papillote (in parchment) which basically involves roasting the chicken in a pocket made out of baking paper.  The baking paper seals in the moisture, resulting in juicy and moist meat. 

You know what else is awesome?  Chicken biryani.  The only problem is it takes like a billion hours to make.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  So here's my solution - mix up a bunch of biryani spices, throw them into some yoghurt, let your chicken boobies have a soak in there for a few hours and then bake them en papillote, served up with a side of saffron rice and a sprinkle of fresh herbs.  So it may not be 100% legit biryani but for a dinner ready in under half an hour (like really half an hour, not a Jamie Oliver half an hour) I'll pay that.

biryani chicken en papillote
Serves 2

1/4 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 cardamom pods
3 cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp finely grated ginger
Sea salt flakes
300g natural yoghurt, plus extra, to serve

2 chicken breasts
1 cup basmati rice
Pinch of saffron threads
Coriander leaves, mint leaves, sliced green chilli, fried shallots and lemon wedges, to serve

In a small frypan combine peppercorns, cumin seeds and coriander seeds.  Heat over a high heat until fragrant (about 1-2 mins).  Crush in a mortar and pestle until a fine powder.

In a large non-reactive bowl combine 2 tsp of the ground peppercorn/cumin/coriander powder with the remaining marinade ingredients.  Mix well to combine, season with salt.  Add chicken breasts, turning to ensure they are coated in the mixture.  Cover and place into the fridge to marinate for a minimum of 8 hours.

When ready to cook, preheat a fan-forced oven to 160ºC.  Remove chicken from the marinade and prepare the baking paper parcels (here is an awesome visual how-to guide).  Bake for 20-25 mins or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook rice according to packet instructions, putting the saffron into the cooking water while the rice is cooking.  

Serve saffron rice topped with chicken, fresh herbs, chilli, fried shallots and a dollop of natural yoghurt. 

romesco soufflé with herbed cauliflower steaks

romesco soufflé with herbed cauliflower steaks

So I know I've been a bit off my game lately - I missed Waffle Appreciation Week and came dangerously close to completely forgetting about International Chocolate Day last week (probably because every day is International Chocolate Day in my world).  One thing I am right onto this week is Bastille Day.

I don't know much about French cooking, but one thing I do know is that cheese makes everything better, and that snails aren't nearly as bad as you would imagine (as long as they are swimming in garlic).  I also feel really excited about the fact that if you own an apple device you can hold down the "e" button, then press 2 and get "é".  Very French - soufflé, béchamel, Pokémon... wait, scrap that last one.

Don't be freaked out by soufflé.  It really isn't as scary as you would think - the key is to use room temperature eggs and to be light handed when folding the béchamel through your pillowy egg whites.  A word of warning - if you're not a garlic lover this recipe probably isn't for you.

romesco soufflé with herbed cauliflower steaks
Serves 4

250ml milk, heated to warm temperature
1 tbsp unsalted butter, plus a little extra to grease soufflé dishes
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
4 room temperature eggs, separated
2 large cauliflowers
6 large sage leaves
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked, stalk discarded
4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked, stalk discarded
1/2 cup olive oil
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

2 large, red capsicums
4 cloves garlic
1 vine tomato, quartered
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 long, red chilli
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Finely chop sage, rosemary and thyme.  Combine with olive oil in a baking tray, then season with salt and pepper.  Cut cauliflower vertically into 1cm-thick slices.  Some of the florets will break off, this is OK, just reserve these for another use.  You are aiming for about 8 "steaks" which will come from the core of the cauliflower.  Place the steaks into the herby oil mixture, turning to coat.  Set aside.

To make romesco sauce, preheat oven grill to 250ºC.  To prepare capsicums, cut off the tops and bottoms and discard.  Cut the capsicum in half lengthways, remove and discard seeds and membrane.  Flatten the capsicums and place onto a baking tray with tomato.  Grill for 8-10 mins or until the capsicum skins blacken.  Remove from oven, place into a bowl and cover with cling wrap, allowing to steam which will make removing the skins easier.  After about 5 mins, remove the capsicum and carefully peel the skin off and discard.  Place capsicum flesh and tomato into a blender.

Add all other romesco ingredients to the blender and blitz until it becomes a smooth sauce.  Set aside.

Drop the oven temperature down to 160ºC (fan-forced).   

Melt butter in a heavy-based saucepan over low-medium heat.  Add the flour and stir to combine, cooking until dark blonde in colour (about 1-2 mins).  Slowly add the warmed milk, whisking in a little bit at a time, making sure the milk is incorporated and that the mixture is not lumpy.  Once you have added all the milk you should have a thick, smooth sauce.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Whisk egg whites until soft peaks form.  Once your béchamel sauce has cooled, whisk in the egg yolks and 3 tbsp of the romesco sauce.  Gently fold the romesco béchamel through the beaten egg whites.  I find the best method is to spoon the béchamel down the sides of your egg white bowl (not just dumping it in directly on top) and then using a spatula to work the béchamel in, concentrating on the sides of the bowl always.

Lightly grease 4 x 300ml soufflé dishes with butter.  Spoon the mixture into the dishes, then place into a large, deep baking pan and very carefully fill the pan with boiling water until the water level comes up to about half way of the soufflé dishes. 

Place the tray of cauliflower steaks on to the bottom rack of your oven.  Place the tray of soufflé onto the middle tray.  Bake for 30 mins or until the soufflés are golden and puffy and the cauliflower steaks are soft.  Serve 2 cauliflower steaks per soufflé and a dollop of the extra romesco sauce on the side.

lamb and strawberry sausage rolls

lamb and strawberry sausage rolls

So I had planned a super easy dinner tonight, I was aiming to get this out in time to be able to sit down and watch Masterchef, in the hope that I would catch a glimpse of the back of my head on TV (if you watched it, I was one of the 200 in the crowd at the Asian Street Food Challenge).  

Whenever it rains our TV won't play Channel 10, which is more than mildly annoying as I have been counting down the sleeps since April (not to mention that I banged on about it for months to everyone and anyone who would listen).  Thankfully, our bedroom TV doesn't channel discriminate during bad weather, so on our bed I sat, carefully balancing my sausage rolls on a trusty Stable Table, with my sausage dog sidekick joining me (though I suspect she was more interested in my sausage rolls than Masterchef).

About half way through my signature blonde topknot flashes up on the screen and I am inundated with texts from excited friends and family.  I'm FAMOUS!  While I am madly typing replies, reassuring everybody that yes, I will be available for autograph signing tomorrow, I miss a FULL FRONTAL SHOT of me, grinning like the cat that got the cream (technically, the coconut cream, as I had just tasted the blue team's Thai dish) and clapping with all the grace and co-ordination of Milhouse from the Simpsons.  Thank God I didn't get a speaking role.

lamb and strawberry sausage rolls
Makes 4 jumbo sausage rolls

500g lamb mince
4 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
3 1/2 tbsp strawberry jam
1 small, brown onion, very finely chopped
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
Sea salt flakes and freshly crackled black pepper
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 tsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp dehydrated strawberry powder (optional)
4 tbsp good-quality tomato chutney

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 230ºC.

Combine mince, 1 tbsp jam, onion, paprika and Cayenne pepper in a large bowl.  Season with salt and a little black pepper.  Use your hands to mix really well, making sure the mixture is combined.  Divide into 4 equal portions, rolling each into an even log (about the length of your puff pastry sheet).

Place the sausage log at the edge of the puff pastry, then roll to enclose the log in pastry.  Cut off any excess pastry and discard.  Repeat with remaining sausage logs and pastry.  

In a small bowl, place 1/2 tbsp jam with 1 tbsp boiling water.  Whisk well to combine.  Allow to cool slightly, then whisk in the egg.  Brush over the top of sausage rolls, then sprinkle the rolls with strawberry powder (if using) and sesame seeds.

Place the sausage rolls on a lined baking tray, then bake for 10 mins before reducing the oven heat to 160ºC and baking for a further 15 mins.

Combine the remaining jam with tomato chutney, stirring well to combine.  Serve the sausage rolls with the strawberry-tomato chutney.