Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Soup’s the thing if you’ve lost your bling

In Recipes on January 7, 2013 at 1:50 am

My daughter worked quite solidly over the Xmas and New year period.  This, combined with a cold, left her with laryngitis.  I’ve never had laryngitis myself but I felt for her as she attempted to communicate in a whisper over the phone.  Clearly, what she needed was a good restorative soup and a mother to make it of course.

Most cultures around the world have a soup or porridge that they serve to invalids.  There is the famous Jewish chicken soup alternatively known as ‘Jewish penicillin’,  there is the Italian brodo and the Vietnamese pho (for recipe see March 2011 It’s so good pho you).  In China there is also the nourishing soupy rice porridge known as congee (for recipe see December 2010 Congee Love).   These recipes take time and some specilaized ingredients.  The soup I made was quick and easy and used Asian ingredients that are readily available in the supermarket these days.

When I arrived the poor thing was in a bad state, barely able to talk – a frustrating condition for someone who is fond of the practice. A visit to the doctor confirmed the worst and she was ordered to refrain from talking for two days.  Fortunately, by this time the soup was ready and I served her a big steaming bowl.  She communicated her appreciation via pad and pen.  A couple of hours later I left her with plenty of soup to heat up, some poached chicken and a bunch of cheeky housemates determined to take full advantage of her temporary inability to answer back.

Quick Asian Broth with Poached Chicken Breast

Restorative broth

Quick broth with Asian flavours


1 litre chicken stock

1 litre water

5oo g free range chicken breast fillets (skinless)

1 thumb sized piece of ginger (sliced)

2 cloves garlic (peeled)

2 long red chillies

3 or four spring onions

2 tbs light soy sauce

2 tbs shao hsing wine

1 – 2 star anise

1 carrot (julienned)

200 g shitake or button mushrooms (thinly sliced)

1/2 bunch bok choy, choy sum or any other Asian green

1 tin bamboo shoots (drained)

sesame oil

200 g snow peas

rice vermicelli noodles


Pour water and stock into a large pot.  Place on a medium heat.  Add the sliced ginger, garlic, 1 sliced chilli, the white parts of the spring onions, star anise, shao hsing wine, soy sauce.  Trim and halve the chicken fillets.  Add to the pot and bring to a gentle simmer, do not boil as this will make the poached chicken tough.  Cook gently, uncovered, for 15 – 20 mins or until the fillets are white and firm to the touch.  Turn the heat off and cool the chicken fillets in the broth.  When almost cool remove the fillets and set aside.  Strain the broth and place back in the pot.   Bring to the boil and add the carrot, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and sliced bok choy.  Cook for 5 mins.  Put a small amount of rice vermicelli noodles in the bottom of each bowl.  Top with some slices of poached chicken and pour over the hot broth and vegetables.  Finish each bowl with a few drops of sesame oil.  Serve with sliced snow peas, sliced chilli and extra soy.

Note: Poached chicken is a versatile ingredient and this method will work with any flavours be they Asian or European.

Lovely Lebanese

In Recipes on December 6, 2012 at 12:10 am

I have been reading Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen, a comprehensive book on ‘homestyle’ Lebanese cooking with many interesting recipes.  One that caught my eye was the Meat and Pine Nut Pastries.  Abla uses a Lebanese pastry but I used fresh filo as that is what I had.  I also added some chopped mint and parsley from the herb garden to freshen it up a bit.  The pastries could be served as part of a mezza (a meal of many small dishes and salads that often precedes another meal though it can be a meal in itself) or as a lunch dish with some Lebanese dips and salads.

Meat and pine nut pastries

Meat and Pine Nut Pastries


olive oil for greasing

1 x 375 g packet fresh filo pastry

For the filling:

2 tbs olive oil

1/4 cup pine nuts

250 g coarsely ground lean lamb

1 onion (finely chopped)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground sumac

1 tbs fresh parsley (finely chopped)

1 tbs fresh mint (finely chopped)


Toast pine nuts gently in a dry pan until a light golden brown (keep an eye on them as they burn easily).  Set aside.  Put a little oil in the pan and fry the meat until all the moisture has gone and the meat is lightly browned.  Add chopped onion and fry for a further three or four minutes or until the onion is translucent.  Add the salt and spices and fry for a further two minutes or until fragrant.  Turn off the heat and stir through the chopped herbs and toasted pine nuts.  Allow to cool.

Take a sheet of filo pastry and brush it gently with olive oil.  Place another filo pastry sheet on top and slice the the two sheets length ways down the middle.  Put a little of the filling in the top corner of one of the pastry sheets, fold the other corner over to form a triangle, keep folding up the pastry sheet from corner to corner until you have a neat parcel.  Place on a greased tray.  Brush pastries with olive oil and sprinkle on some cumin seeds (optional).  Bake in a preheated 220° C oven for 20 mins turning once.  Reduce heat to 180°C and cook for a further 10 – 15 mins until golden brown and crispy.

This sage likes saltimbocca

In Recipes on November 6, 2012 at 4:29 am

My daughter and I were looking for something to cook for a quick lunch recently.  When I spotted a prolific sage plant in her garden my thoughts immediately turned to the famous and very simple Italian dish veal saltimbocca.  This dish, as its name suggests, is usually made with veal but I have done it many times with chicken and it works just as well.

On this day we had some free range chicken breasts so I made this one with chicken.  Meanwhile my daughter made a side dish of green beans in a mildly spicy tomato sauce.  I cooked the saltimbocca at the last minute  (it is quite fast to cook) and in no time we were sitting down to a satisfying lunch.

Chicken Saltimbocca

Chicken Saltimbocca

Quick and easy Chicken Saltimbocca


2 large skinless free range chicken breasts

4 slices prosciutto (thinly sliced)

8 – 12 fresh sage leaves (depending on size)

freshly ground black pepper


Divide each chicken breast into two pieces.  Butterfly each piece and place on a board.  Put a piece of cling wrap over the top and gently beat out with a meat mallet until the chicken is about 1/2 – 3/4 cm thick.  Season each piece of chicken with pepper but no salt as the prosciutto is salty enough.  Place 2 – 3 fresh sage leaves on each piece, cover with a slice of prosciutto and set aside.  Heat a heavy based frypan and when hot add some olive oil and a little butter.  Place the chicken, prosciutto side down, in the pan and cook until the prosciutto is lightly golden at the edges and has stuck to the meat.  Turn over and cook the other side until lightly golden, remove from pan and set aside to rest for a couple of minutes.  Serve drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice.

Green Beans in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Green beans in spicy tomato sauce

Green beans in spicy tomato sauce

400g green beans (trimmed and washed)

1 onion (finely chopped)

1 long red chilli (seeds removed and finely chopped)

2 – 3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 can diced tomatoes

1 tbs fresh oregano (finely chopped)

2 tbs flat leaved parsley (finely chopped)

1 tbs sugar

splash of balsamic vinegar

olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Heat some olive oil in a heavy based frypan and fry the beans for 2 – 3 mins.  Remove and set aside.  Add onions, chilli and garlic to the pan and fry gently until the onion is translucent.  Add the tomatoes and fry for a further 2 – 3 mins.  Add the sugar and green beans, simmer gently for 10 – 15 mins or until the beans are tender.  Add balsamic vinegar and fresh herbs, stir through and simmer for another 1 – 2 mins.  Serve.

Everything old is new again

In Recipes on October 11, 2012 at 5:55 am

In recent years ‘retro’ has been a consistently popular buzzword in areas ranging from furniture to fashion to food.  Jargon aside the rediscovery and often reinvention of food classics has generally been a good thing.  I have touched on this topic before on the post entitled ‘Living in 70’s or the theory of eternal recurrence’ from March 2011.  The other day I was reading a book called Recipes My Mother Cooked which includes recipes from the mothers of well known food identities including Maggie Beer, Damien Pignolet, Ian Hemphill and Jill Dupleix among others.  I had just returned from my parents’ place in the country with some beautiful freshly laid eggs that they had given me so it was the recipe for ‘Old-fashioned Egg and Bacon Pie’  from Jill Dupleix’s mother, Rosemary, that caught my attention.  I kept the recipe pretty basic but I added some shredded spinach, finely sliced spring onion and freshly grated Parmesan just to give it a bit more colour and flavour, these additions are optional.  I also made my own pastry but it is fine to use frozen puff pastry sheets if you wish.

Old-Fashioned Egg and Bacon Pie

Egg and bacon pie

Egg and Bacon Pie is a great picnic food


1 quantity pastry (see May 2011 ‘Easy Chicken and Leek Pie’ for the recipe) or 4 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

4 rashers streaky bacon (rind removed)

10 free range eggs

100 ml milk

3 tbs flat leaved parsley (chopped)

3 or 4 spring onions (green part only, finely sliced)

1 tbs freshly grated Parmesan

spinach leaves (finely shredded)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

grated nutmeg

1 extra egg (beaten)


Preheat the oven to 190°C.  Line a lightly buttered 22 or 23cm pie dish with pastry, patching to fit as necessary and allowing it to overlap the edges.  Chop the bacon and fry in a dry frypan until lightly cooked.  Set aside to cool.  Whisk 6 eggs with the milk, parsley, nutmeg, Parmesan, spring onions, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Arrange half the bacon and half the shredded spinach on the pastry and pour on the egg mixture.  One by one, crack the remaining eggs into a cup and gently slip into the mixture.  Top with the remaining bacon and spinach.  Brush the pastry rim with the extra beaten egg and lay the remaining pastry over the top.  Crimp the edges with your fingers or the tines of a fork and trim off excess pastry.  Brush the top with beaten egg and bake for 15 mins. then reduce the heat to 170° C for a further 25 – 30 mins or until golden brown.  Leave in the dish to cool for 30 minutes before removing.  Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Egg and bacon pie

The addition of whole eggs makes the pie look pretty when you slice

Note: if using the home made pastry you will probably only need about 2/3 of the quantity made.  Save the other 1/3 for something else.

I’m not mincing words – pork gets skewered!

In Recipes on September 21, 2012 at 4:08 am

The pork mince from Footscray market is cheaper and of a better quality than anything you might find on a plastic tray in the supermarket meat display.  I find, when buying meat from the market, that it pays to have a quick look at all the stalls from a distance first, comparing prices and quality as you go, before returning to your stall of choice to make your purchase.  This way you avoid being accosted at every stall when you are only looking.  I bought 1/2 a kilo of pork mince for a couple of dollars and gathered some Vietnamese aromatics and flavorings from the vegetable and grocery stalls.  With this I made these tasty skewers.

Vietnamese Pork Skewers

Tasty Vietnamese pork skewers


500g pork mince

1 tbs fish sauce

1 tbs light soy sauce

1 tbs shao hsing wine

1 tbs fish sauce

1 large or 2 small stalks lemongrass (white part only, finely chopped)

2 birds eye chillies (finely chopped)

2 tbs fresh coriander (finely chopped, roots, stalks and leaves)

2 pink shallots (finely chopped)

1 tbs grated palm sugar

16 bamboo skewers (soaked in warm water for an hour)

For dipping sauce:

2 tbs fish sauce

2 tbs lime juice

1 tbs grated palm sugar

1 tsp chilli flakes


Combine pork mince with all other ingredients in a large bowl.  Using clean hands, mix until all ingredients are incorporated.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 mins.  Take small amounts of the meat mixture and mold onto skewers.  Grill until nicely browned and cooked through.  Combine dipping sauce ingredients and adjust to taste remembering to check the balance of hot, salty, sweet and sour flavours.  Serve pork skewers with iceberg lettuce for wrapping, dipping sauce and jasmine rice.

Pork Belly Futures

In Recipes on September 5, 2012 at 1:12 am

No, I haven’t suddenly started gambling on the stock exchange, the investment I made was of a more humble nature – it was a 1.5 kg piece of  beautiful, meaty pork belly from Footscray Market.  I was eager to try the twice cooked method, where the meat is either steamed or braised for a couple of hours and then finished off on a roasting tray in the oven.  I wasn’t aiming for the skin to be too crispy as this is not how the Chinese serve it, the texture is more gelatinous and a bit chewy.  If you wanted to crisp the skin a little more you could put it under a grill briefly being  careful not to burn it.  The result I achieved was meltingly tender and very tasty, I served it with rice and braised Pak Choy but you could serve it with and an Asian ‘slaw’ or sliced with condiments and coriander on a white roll like the famous Vietnamese pork baguettes.

Braised and Roasted Pork Belly

Pork belly

Tender and delicious pork belly


1.5 kg piece of pork belly

sea salt

For the marinade:

2 tbs Shao Hsing wine

2 tbs Hoisin sauce

3 tbs light soy sauce

1 tbs dark soy sauce

1 tbs peanut oil

1 tsp honey

2 tbs chopped coriander root

1 knob ginger (roughly sliced)

2 cloves garlic (sliced)

1 tsp Chinese five spice powder

2 whole star anise


In a ceramic baking dish, mix together all ingredients for the marinade.  Combine well.  Place the pork fat side down in the marinade and then turn it over making sure the whole piece is well coated.  Turn over again so that it is fat side down and spoon some marinade from the sides over the piece of meat.  Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Pre-heat oven to 180°C.  Remove cling film from dish, turn the meat over again so it is fat side up.  Pour a half a cup of water or chicken stock into the dish  and cover with aluminium foil.  Place on the middle shelf of the oven and roast for 2 hours turning the baking dish occasionally.  Remove from the oven and transfer the meat, fat side up to a metal baking dish with a cake rack in the bottom.  Sprinkle the skin of the meat with some sea salt.  Turn the oven up to 200-220°C (depending on your oven) and place the meat on the top shelf.  Roast for a further hour turning the baking dish occasionally and checking to see that the skin does not burn (the skin will be quite dark due to the marinade).  Slice and serve with your choice of Asian side dishes.

Here’s looking at you kid!

In Recipes on August 19, 2012 at 3:30 am

Apologies to fans of Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and the classic movie Casablanca but I couldn’t resist.  We have been making bad ‘kid’ jokes in our house all week – ever since I went to Western Halal Meats in Leeds St., Footscray and purchased a leg of what they tastefully labelled as ‘baby goat’.  After marinating the leg for four hours in the largest receptacle I could find, I roasted it for three hours and rested it for a further half hour.  The resulting meat turned out to be very tender and much more flavorsome than your ordinary leg of lamb.  For those who have not tried goat I would recommend it, here’s my recipe.

Roasted leg of kid (or baby goat) with garlic, orange and herbs

Roasted goat

Mouth watering roasted baby goat


1 cup dry white wine

zest of an orange

juice of 1/2 an orange

2 tsp chilli flakes

sea salt

3 tbs olive oil

2 tbs each of chopped mint, parsley and coriander

3-4 large garlic cloves cut into slivers


Place the leg of kid in a large dish.  Make holes at random in the flesh and insert slivers of garlic.  Pour over the wine and the olive oil.  Season well with sea salt and sprinkle with the chilli flakes.  Sprinkle with the orange zest and fresh herbs, pour over the orange juice and cover.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, longer if you wish.  Remove  meat from fridge and transfer to a large baking dish, pour over the marinade.  Heat oven to 220c and place the leg on the top shelf, roast for 1 hour, turning the pan around once and basting with the juices.  Reduce heat to 180c and move leg down the middle shelf, roast for a further 2 hours, basting and turning the pan occasionally.  Remove from the oven and rest under foil for a further 1/2 hour.  Carve and serve with a gravy made from the juices.

Cold Comfort Farm

In Recipes on August 8, 2012 at 2:52 am

In spite of the freezing weather we have been having my parents’ vegetable garden is still producing.  Leeks, fennel, red cabbage and winter herbs like Italian parsley.  The chickens are still laying eggs and there is a store of pumpkins and apples, along with other things, in the back room.  Winter in the country does not produce the bounty that is harvested in the warmer months but there is still plenty going on.  The lunch we ate on the north facing veranda was made almost exclusively with ingredients produced on the property.  Mum made some of her excellent potato and leek soup which we ate with some of their own toasted sourdough.  This was followed by a frittata made with vegies from the garden and eggs from the chickens.  To take home, Mum gave me some fennel and red cabbage.

Potato and Leek Soup

Comforting potato and leek soup

Comforting Potato and Leek Soup


2 large leeks (washed and thinly sliced)

1 onion (chopped)

3 medium potatoes (peeled and roughly chopped)

600ml chicken stock

150ml thick cream

25g butter

sea salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)


Sweat the onions and leeks in the butter without browning, add stock celery and potatoes.  Season to taste and simmer until the potatoes are soft.  Blend with a stick blender until smooth.  Can be eaten hot or cold (served cold it is vichyssoise).  Top with a teaspoon of cream and some chopped chives.  A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg can also be added to each bowl.

Red cabbage

Red cabbage in the garden

I cooked the red cabbage with a couple of apples, a tablespoon of sugar, a dash of vinegar, some all spice and some caraway seeds.  You could omit the caraway seeds and add star anise instead.

Freshly cut red cabbage

Freshly cut red cabbage


Fennel just pulled from the ground

In praise of the humble quiche

In Recipes on July 27, 2012 at 5:32 am

In the 1970’s there was a catchphrase that did the quiche’s reputation quite a bit of harm.  ‘Real men don’t eat quiche’ some wag said and the phrase quickly became a cliche.   I’m not quite sure what the saying was meant to imply but it certainly does pose many questions the most obvious one being what is a ‘real’ man?    Quiches may have suffered some bad public relations in the last couple of decades and this could simply be attributed to the fact that many people did not know how to make a good quiche.  Recipes vary but they are all quite simple and you can use frozen pastry if you don’t feel like making your own.   The hardest parts are cooking the pastry and making sure the filling is set – I would also recommend layering ingredients with the egg mixture as this ensures a more even distribution in the finished quiche.

The classic quiche is of course, Quiche Lorraine.  This is a rich, creamy quiche with bacon being the main flavour.  The one in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking uses a ridiculous amount of cream so I have lightened it up over the years by using more eggs and milk to replace some of the cream.  You don’t have to use bacon, the one I have made here is a cheese and leek quiche but you can use any ingredients you like as long as you follow the same basic method.

Cheese and leek quiche

Quiche is the ideal picnic food

Cheese and Leek Quiche


2 sheets frozen pastry or make your own*

8 large free range eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup cream

1 large leek

1 large onion

1 cup grated tasty cheese

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbs chopped flat leaved parsley

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)


Line a greased flan or quiche dish with pastry.  Blind bake on the middle shelf in a 200°c oven for 10-15 mins.  Meanwhile, place eggs in a bowl with the milk, cream, nutmeg, parsley and seasonings, whisk together lightly and set aside.  Finely slice the well washed leek and the peeled onion.  Saute in a preheated pan until translucent.  Set aside.  Remove pastry shell from oven and allow to cool slightly.  When cool, pour a little of the egg mixture in the bottom.  Put a layer of the leek and onion mixture on next and sprinkle with some of the cheeses.  Pour over more egg mixture and repeat.  Finish by pouring over the remaining egg mixture and sprinkling with the remaining cheese.  Bake on the middle shelf in a 180°c oven for 30-40 mins or until the filling has set (be careful not to burn the pastry).  Serve warm or cold.

* For pastry recipe see May 2011 “Easy Chicken and Leek Pie’

Fabulous finocchio

In Recipes on July 2, 2012 at 5:49 am

Fennel and orange salad

Finocchio or Florence fennel is a different variety to the fennel plants we see growing around railway sidings and creeks.  While this wild fennel still yields seeds, fronds and flowers that are edible, Florence fennel forms a bulb-like growth at the bottom and this is the part that is eaten.  Here in Australia fennel is in season in winter so look for cheap, fresh fennel bulbs then.  Fennel is surprisingly versatile though some people find the anise flavour to be a bit of an acquired taste.  It works well roasted or fried and it is good finely diced and fried along with celery, carrot and onion at the beginning of a ragu or bolgnese sauce.  It can also be eaten raw with a citrus dressing.  Served in this way, it is a fresh accompaniment to all those heavy winter dishes.

Fennel Salad


2 small or 1 large bulb fennel

1 Spanish onion

2-3 oranges

8-10 kalamata olives

3 tbs olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)


Using a sharp knife, halve the fennel bulb and remove the core.  Finely slice the fennel and place in a large bowl.  Pour over the lemon juice and gently toss.  Segment the oranges and place them in the bowl with the fennel.  Add the Spanish onion, finely sliced and the olives, pitted and halved.  Pour over the olive oil, season and toss.  Reserve the fronds from the fennel bulb to garnish.

It’s the crunch that is so good