ham and gruyere latkes with green apple sour cream

ham and gruyere latkes with green apple sour cream

Latke, rösti, placki - call it what you like, there's no denying grated, fried potato is the greatest thing on the planet.  Hungry Jacks is in on the secret, whacking potato pancakes on cheeseburgers like they're going out of fashion.  Frankly, I'm surprised KFC hasn't jumped on the bandwagon and replaced their buns with röstis yet (you heard it here first, folks).

I felt a bit like a PG-rated version of The Vulgar Chef as I stuffed ham and cheese into a food that would already use up your entire day's worth of calories in a single bite.  I had every intention of making an apple sauce to cut through the richness of these fritters, but I ended up just grating some fresh, Granny Smith apple into sour cream which actually provided the freshness and zing I was looking for and saved a sh!tload of time.  

ham and gruyere latkes with green apple sour cream
Makes 8

3 cups peeled, coarsely grated potato
1/2 brown onion, peeled, coarsely grated
150g coarsely grated gruyere
100g shaved ham, rolled and cut into thin strips
4 eggs
1/4 cup plain flour
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup peanut oil

GREEN APPLE SOUR CREAM
1 Granny Smith (green) apple, peeled, coarsely grated
300g sour cream

To make latke, place potato inside a muslin cloth (or Chux) and wring tightly over a sink to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.  You might find it easier to do this in three batches.  Pop squeezed, grated potato into a large bowl.

Add onion, cheese, ham, eggs and flour to the bowl.  Use your clean hands to mix well.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Heat peanut oil in a heavy-based frypan (it's best not to use non-stick for this recipe if you can) over medium-high heat.  Divide latke mixture into 8 equal portions.  Fry in batches, pressing down the wet mixture with a spatula to form a flat pancake about 12cm in size.  Once the pancake has browned on one side, carefully flip and fry the other side until brown.  Drain on paper towel and then repeat with remaining mixture.

To make green apple sour cream, combine ingredients in a small bowl.  Serve with hot latkes.

shaved asparagus pasta with crispy prosciutto crumb

shaved asparagus pasta with crispy prosciutto crumb

Every now and then you make something so laughably simple yet totally delectable that you instantly know has scaled the ranks to become a quick, reliable mid-week meal (yes, I have those too).

Last week my folks came down from sunny Queensland to chill out with us (ie. clean up after me in my virus-ridden, pregnant state - not that being pregnant is a virus, relax single ladies, it's just that while being a human incubator one has a tendency to become more susceptible to catching the cold - FACT).  Working my way to a Guinness World Record breaking attempt at Most-Tissues-Used-In-A-48-Hour-Period, my grand plans for corn and lobster soufflé and fancy sh!t like that fell to the wayside and instead I just made this lazy pasta dish and begged my Mum to cook for the rest of the week.  Thanks for the chicken and noodle soup, Mum xx

shaved asparagus pasta with crispy prosciutto crumb
Serves 4

500g spaghetti
2 bunches asparagus, shaved very thinly with a vegetable peeler
12 slices prosciutto
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp finely chopped oregano
1/2 loaf ciabatta, processed in food processor to a course crumb (you'll need about 2 cups)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 tbsp extra
Grana Padano, to serve
Freshly cracked black pepper

Heat a non-stick frypan to medium-high.  In batches, fry prosciutto on both sides until crispy (about 2-3 mins, but watch closely as it burns quickly!).  Remove from pan, drain on paper towel then use your fingers to break up into large shards.

Add olive oil to pan, heat over medium heat.  Add ciabatta crumbs and stir constantly, frying until light golden brown and all the bread has soaked up the oil (about 3-4 mins).  Remove from the heat and stir through oregano.

Cook spaghetti according to packet instructions.  Before draining the water, throw in the shaved asparagus, turn off the heat and allow to sit for 1 min until asparagus becomes bright green.  Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water.

Add reserved cooking water, mustard, lemon juice and 1 tbsp olive oil and toss to coat pasta.  Serve topped with prosciutto shards, fried breadcrumbs and shaved Grana Padano and a grind of freshly cracked black pepper.

frankenstein non-vegetarian zucchini slice

zucchini, kale and sausage picnic slice

Friday is market day in our house, which means Thursday night I have the rather unceremonious task of cleaning out our fridge.  I'm really ashamed to admit that I'm ruthless when it comes to throwing things out, which is disappointing really as I have a bit of a reputation for magically throwing together a meal from very random ingredients (basically, if I was a superhero, Masterchef Mystery Box would be my superpower).

So last night the I stared down at a rather sad looking, wilted bunch of kale (I buy it for green smoothies, and also for the admiring glances I get from other shoppers at the market), a packet of sausages and some zucchinis which, to be honest, could have been in the bottom of our vegetable crisper for the last 2 years for all I know - those things have a half life of about a billion years.

My original plan was to make a vegetarian zucchini slice, hence the substitution of savoury yeast flakes for bacon, but then I didn't want to waste the sausages so I fried them up and popped them on top, kind of defeating the purpose of the yeast flakes in the first place.  So here it is, my frankenstein non-vegetarian zucchini slice - enjoy!

frankenstein non-vegetarian zucchini slice
Serves 6

350g grated zucchini
35g finely shredded kale leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
70g grated emmental 
3 tbsp savoury yeast flakes
170g self-raising flour
6 eggs
2 good-quality beef sausages, fried, cut in half lengthways
Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
Butter, to grease pan
Truss cherry tomatoes, to serve

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 160ºC.  Lightly grease a slice tray with butter (I used a round, shallow tin but in hindsight a slice tin would have been far easier to serve from).

Combine zucchini, kale, onion, emmental, yeast flakes, flour and eggs in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, stirring well until all ingredients are combined.  Spoon the mixture into tray, smoothing out the surface so that it is even.  Press cooked sausage halves down into the surface of the mixture, cover with foil then pop into the oven for 25 mins.  

Remove foil and pop cherry tomatoes on top, then return to oven for a further 10-15 mins until tomatoes are soft and top of slice becomes lovely and golden.  Allow to cool slightly (about 10 mins) before slicing and serving.

kataifi prawn tropical cups with coconut dressing

kataifi prawn tropical cups with coconut dressing

Truth be told, I've been a bit of a gypsy most of my life.  Having lived in practically every state of Australia, some days I really have to stop and think about where I currently am (not to mention filling out the postcode squares on the SENDER section of Australia Post satchels, this really requires my full concentration).  

These days I call myself a Melbournite - my wardrobe is *almost* exclusively black and I get huffy if the cafes I go to don't serve artisan coffee lovingly crafted by people with beards.  Despite this, there is a small part of me who will never shake my Queenslander upbringing.  There are moments, no matter how hard I try to repress, that I find myself really enjoying NRL (though I suspect it could be for the fellas more so than the scrums).  I also cringe every time I am forced to part with $4.20 when a mango craving strike.  Growing up my best friend had a mango tree looming over her backyard and they were in such abundance the rotten fruit was used as stinky hand grenades tossed between siblings, but these days buying this luscious fruit is a huge financial commitment.

It seems this little person inside me has a penchant for exotic fruits too, and all I seem to be craving lately is fresh, tropical fruit which, frankly, I find quite disturbing as just about every iPhone baby app keeps comparing the size of my tummy traveller to the relevant piece of fruit. This week she's a peach, though our recent ultrasound would suggest she is something more like a scary alien-fetus.

kataifi prawn tropical cups with coconut dressing
Makes 20

20 large, green prawns, peeled and deveined but tails intact
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 ripe mango, peeled, cheeks removed and thinly sliced
1 avocado, peeled, seed removed, thinly sliced
1 butter lettuce, leaves carefully removed and rinsed
40g kataifi pastry (a popular Middle Eastern shredded pastry - I like Antoniou brand)
Vegetable oil, for deep frying

COCONUT DRESSING
1/4 cup coconut milk
Juice from 1 lime
1 tsp light agave syrup (you could also use honey)
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 stick lemongrass, inner white section only very finely chopped

Fill a deep saucepan with vegetable oil, to come up about 1/4 of the way.  Heat the oil to 200ºC (use a candy thermometer or if you don't have one, throw in a small cube of bread and if it becomes golden in 10 seconds it will be ready).  I generally prefer to use a deep fryer as it is a lot safer (especially if you have a gas stove) and it keeps the oil at a constant temperature - a worthy investment IMO.

Meanwhile, place pastry in a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel.  It dries out pretty quickly so we'll just work with a small section at a time.  Take a section of pastry, about a tablespoon full size, and lay it out on a flat surface, forming the strands into a line about 15cm long.  Dip a prawn in the egg, draining off any excess before placing the prawn at one end of the pastry and rolling it along, wrapping the pastry around the prawn.  Repeat with remaining prawns.

To make dressing, combine all ingredients in a small jar or container with lid.  Shake vigorously until all ingredients are well combined.

Arrange lettuce leaves on a large platter.  Top each leaf with a slice of mango and a a slice of avocado.  Spoon about a teaspoon of the dressing over each.

Deep fry pastry-wrapped prawns, 5 at a time, for about 1 min each or until pastry becomes golden and crispy.  Drain on paper towel.  Top each lettuce cup with a prawn before serving.

dill chicken schnitzel with lychee summer salsa

dill chicken schnitzel with lychee summer salsa

Some of you may have caught my big announcement this week... *drum roll* I'M PREGNANT!  "Ahhh" I hear you all chorus, "that explains why you went AWOL for the last three months".  Truth be told I've been struggling to get off the couch for the last quarter, soaking in all this terrible daytime TV and going through box after box of tissues because anything sets me off from the "Bringing Sexy Back" advertisement (that's right, not the show, just the ad had me in hysterics) to a photo someone posted to FB of a homeless man hugging his dog (well, at least I think it was his dog.  It was heart wrenching regardless).

Other things that have had me balling lately include:

-  tears of frustration because I desperately wanted a cheeseburger and Maccas is whole 5 mins drive from our house;

- tears of sorrow because I couldn't eat a piece of the $3 Woolworths cheesecake I bought I week before finding out I was preggers;

- tears of happiness after Googling "can I eat cream cheese while pregnant" and realising that I could have the cheesecake after all;

- tears of anger because Woolworths delivered broccoli when I DISTINCTLY ordered broccolini.  Followed promptly by a stern email to customer service.

To say it's been an emotional roller coaster in our house lately would be a bit of an understatement.  Think a roller coaster that has become completely derailed causing the injury to dozens*, would probably be a more apt description.

Anyway, one thing that HASN'T made me upset during my pregnancy (yet) is chicken.  Can't seem to get enough chicken, it seems to be the only animal I'm not biased against right now.  After a terrible struggle with violent morning/all day sickness I'm easing myself back into the kitchen gently with a twist on a classic schnitzel and a bright, zingy salsa using soon-to-be-in-season lychees.  I used canned lychees so I had some juice to use in the dressing.  The salsa would also work beautifully with a fillet of grilled, white fish.

It's GREAT to be back guys - I've missed you! :-))

dill chicken schnitzel with lychee summer salsa
Serves 2

2 skinless chicken breast fillets, tenderloin removed
1/2 cup plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 egg
Splash of milk
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill 
30g butter
3 tbsp vegetable oil

LYCHEE SUMMER SALSA
4 lychees, peeled, seeds removed and discarded, flesh roughly torn
1/2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 tbsp finely chopped dill
1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely diced red capsicum
1/4 cup finely diced yellow capsicum
1/2 vine ripened tomato, seeds removed and discarded, flesh finely diced
2 tbsp lychee juice
1 tbsp grapefruit juice (substitute lime or lemon juice)
Salt and pepper

To make schnitzels, place seasoned flour on a large plate.  In a deep bowl combine egg, dill and flour and whisk to combine.  On a second large plate spread the breadcrumbs.  

Place chicken between two sheets of baking paper and use the flat side of a meat mallet (or a heavy rolling pin) to bash the fillet evenly until it is about 1cm thick.  Repeat with remaining fillet.

Coat each fillet in flour, dusting off any excess.  Dip into egg mixture, then into breadcrumbs, pressing down gently to ensure crumbs stick and that the coating is even.  

Heat butter and oil together in a large frypan over medium-high heat.  Once the butter has melted and becomes foamy, add the crumbed chicken and cook 4-5 mins each side or until golden and cooked through.

Meanwhile, to make the salsa combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well to coat.  

Once chicken has cooked, drain on paper towel before serving topped with lychee salsa.

 

*no people were severely harmed during my first trimester. 

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

SOUP
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

CHOCOLATE BRINE
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

GOJI PANGRITATA
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

Prawns
Lobster
Crab
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

CREAM CHEESE ICE CREAM
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)

SENCHA COUSCOUS
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

PRETZEL PORK MEATBALLS
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

BOURBON SALTED CARAMEL
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.