Sunday 27 February 2011

February 2011 - Chicken, Cashew & Mint Salad

I have been trying to write this blog post, or any blog post, for a couple of days but I just seem to have a bit of writers block at the moment. It is so frustrating when I have so many things to post about. It doesn't help that I am still not feeling very well. I am so tired all the time and cannot seem to concentrate for any length of time. I hope that things pick up soon. I am really sick of not having the energy to do anything. Perhaps when it starts to cool down a bit. I am getting pretty sick of the days being over 30 C. It really seems to have affected me more this year than any other. It is hot and sticky again tonight. It looked so much like it was going to rain all day but nothing has come of it. We really do need so again very soon. I am sure that all the farmers are getting pretty desperate for some too. Unfortunately it never seems to be just right. Things were looking so good last year and then we got so much rain during harvest and which wiped out crops, not we are getting rain to keep the newly seeded crops growing. Can't seem to win. 

I struggled to find something in this issue of Delicious to make. There were plenty of nice looking things, some of the "Aussie" dishes geared towards Australia Day celebrations looked nice but none really caught my fancy. I really wanted to make one of Matthew Evans' recipes. I really like him and what he is doing. The prawns with roasted cauliflower sounded really good but cauliflower isn't in season here yet. I might give it a go when they start to come in though. The picture of the Banana & Macadamia Sour Cream Pie looked so inviting but I just didn't want to make any more sweet things. Since being unwell I seem to have put back on some weight so I am trying to limit the amount of sweets I eat, especially when I don't have people around to eat them. 

In the end I decided to go with the one recipe that really grabbed me, Bill Granger's Prawn, Cashew & Mint salad with Sweet Chilli Dressing. I had been trying to avoid making Bill's recipes from Delicious given that I am already making everything from Sydney Food. However, this really was the one recipe that grabbed. When I went to make it I couldn't get any decent prawns so I decided to make it with chicken instead. It was very nice. The dressing was particularly fantastic. Although I did reduce the amount a bit. I also only used about half of the noodles. I think that the whole 200 g would be way too much. I still ended up getting 2 main meals and 2 lunches out of it so no shortage. I grated the carrot instead of fiddling around with cutting into matchsticks, I think it would have been much better if I had of cut it into matchsticks. After marinading in the rice vinegar the grated carrot seemed to stick together in clumps rather than disperse through the salad well. I would also cut the cabbage a bit more finely. Some of it was find but some was a bit chunky. Overall, it was excellent and I will definitely be making this one again. 

Chicken, Cashew & Mint Salad with Sweet Chilli Dressing

  • 2 tbsp caster sugar 
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar 
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks 
  • 100 g dried vermicelli noodles, soaked 
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil 
  • 1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
  • 1/4 small red cabbage, shredded 
  • Large handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped 
  • 1/3 c cashews, lightly toasted, chopped 
  • Combine sugar, vinegar & carrot and leave to marinate for 20 minutes. 
  • Toss noodles with sesame oil. 
  • Drain carrot and add to noodles with the chicken meat, cabbage, mint, nuts & dressing (recipe to follow). Toss to combine, then serve. 
 Sweet Chilli Dressing

  • 2 tsp chilli paste (or 1 long red chilli finely chopped) 
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 c caster sugar 
  • 1/4 c rice vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp lime juice 
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce 
  • Combine chilli, garlic, ginger, sugar and vinegar in a saucepan over a medium heat. 
  • Stir until sugar dissolves.
  • Simmer until reduced by half. 
  • Cool then add lime juice and fish sauce. 
  • Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. 

Saturday 19 February 2011

Bill's Ricotta and Tomato Tart

I woke up one morning 5 days ago with a large red mark on my face. It looked rather strange so I got squeezed in at the doctor. She wasn't really sure what it was but thought probably some kind of infection so put me on antibiotics. I ended up having to go home from work early that day. Luckily the next day was Wednesday and my day off work. I was okay in the morning but slept most of the afternoon away. I did manage to work the next day but it looked like it was spreading so I toddled off to the doctor again but she didn't want me to change anything but to come back the next day. By the end of the work day I was completely wrecked and my boss told me not to come in the next day. It was a relief not to have to get up and go to work yesterday. I went back to the doctor. Some of the redness had gone down and there was a clear lump so she thought that perhaps I had been bitten by a spider during the night. No change to the medication, just keep on with it and I should be okay. I, again, slept most of the afternoon away. It has been an unpleasant experience and I am still feeling pretty awful. I hope I am okay by Monday.

This is one of my catching up on things long past made. Part of what I love so much about this cook book is that it is divided up into breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although most of the lunch & dinner recipes can be flipped around easily. I was in the supermarket one day and came across a 1 kg package of fresh ricotta reduced in price and remembering Bill's fabulous looking Ricotta and Tomato Tart I decided to get it and make it. Bill gives a recipe for a rough puff pastry but being short of time and tired on the day I really didn't feel like making pastry so I used some frozen sheets of puff pastry. Since I was using these I decided that it was best to put it all in a pie dish rather than attempting a free-form pie. I really enjoyed this. It was a lot lighter than a traditional quiche but still substantial enough to make a main meal. It would be rather plain without the tomato, I think that the addition of some sautéed onion to the mix would make a real difference. I did actually use the rocket, I decided to put aside my normal aversion to it as I knew that the peppery taste would help. It was lovely hot for dinner but just as good cold for lunch the next day. This one will definitely be going into the rotation for lunches. 

Ricotta and Tomato Tart 

  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes, finely sliced
  • 2 c ricotta
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 c cream
  • 1/4 c finely grated Parmesan
  • 1 c rocket, finely shredded
  • Pre-heat oven to 200 C. 
  • Line greased pie dish with two sheets of thawed puff pastry, overlapping so completely cover the dish. 
  • Mix together ricotta, eggs, cream, parmasean and season with salt and black pepper.
  • Fold in the rocket and then spoon mixture into prepared pie shell. 
  • Layer the thinly sliced tomatoes over the cheese mixture, overlapping them slightly. 
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes (or until crust is golden and middle is set).
  • Allow to rest for about 15 minutes before slicing.
  • Serve with a green salad. 

Strawberry Mousse Cake

There was a quickly organised night at a friend's place last night. We had a good friend coming home for the weekend for a quick visit and decided to get together last night for dinner. I was charged with bringing dessert. I wanted to try something a bit different. I wanted to make something fruity. I considered making something from Bill's Sydney Food but none of the desserts really grabbed me. Nothing that would really suit adults as well as young children anyway. I had seen a couple of recipes for a strawberry mousse cake but none of them were exactly what I wanted so I decided to get a little bit creative. Thankfully, it all worked out. and everyone really enjoyed it. It all held up and and tasted great. Lovely and fresh and light. I will definitely be making this one again. 

First I made a genoise sponge using a recipe from The Australian Women's Weekly Cook. It was a really easy sponge to make. It collapsed a bit on me towards the end of the cooking time, so would reduce that slightly next time. Although I did put the mixture into a 23 cm springform instead of a 20 cm one as I couldn't find my 20 cm one.  Plus that was the size I wanted for my final product.

Genoise Sponge 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 110g (1/2 c) caster sugar 
  • 100 g (2/3 c) plain flour, double sifted
  • 60 g butter, melted and cooled 
  • Pre-heat oven to 160 C (fan-forced).
  • Put eggs & sugar in a large bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and beat continuously using electric beaters until thick & creamy, about 10 minutes. 
  • Remove bowl from the heat and continue beating until the mixture reaches room temperature.
  • Sift over half the flour and fold in, add remaining flour and fold though. 
  • Quickly fold in the butter. 
  • Pour mix into pan and bake for 15 - 20 minutes. 
  • Turn out immediately. 
  • Once cool refrigerate until required. 
Strawberry Mousse
  • 500g strawberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 6 leaves gelatine (gold strength), softened in cold water (I think this would be about 4 or 5 tsp of gelatine) 
  • 250ml (1 cup) Greek yoghurt
  • 250 ml (1 cup) double cream
  • Place the strawberries and lemon juice in a food processor and process until smooth. 
  • Heat the purée and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat. 
  • Squeeze water from the soaked gelatine and add to the strawberry mixture. Stir well until dissolved, then cool.
  • When cool whisk in the yoghurt and cream, chill in the fridge until slightly thickened. 
To assemble: 
  •  Line the base of the clean springform tin with glad wrap. 
  • Carefully slice sponge cake in half and place one half in the cake tin. 
  • Spoon over half of the strawberry mousse (a ladle worked really well).
  • Top with the other half of the sponge cake and then the remaining mousse. 
  • Refrigerate overnight or until set. 
  • To unmould, run a knife under hot water, dry completely and run around the inside of the tin then quickly remove the outer ring of the tin and slide onto a serving tray. 
  • Top with a punnet of sliced strawberries combined with the pulp of one passionfruit and 1 tsp of caster sugar. (The sugar is optional, if your strawberries are sweet enough don't worry about it) 
  • Refrigerate until serving. 

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Wednesday 16 February 2011

Jamie Oliver's Mechoui Lamb & Moorish Crunch Salad

Well, that post scheduling works well. I will have to keep that in mind for when I get the urge to do some posts and I can do a couple at a time. I have quite a few things that I have made from Bill's Sydney Food that I haven't blogged about yet and I really should get those cleared so that I can start posting as I make things again. Although I suppose I could just post the older ones in between new stuff. 

I promised myself that I would at least get one new post done today. Yesterday I woke up with a rash on my face and feeling like I had been hit by a truck. I went to the doctor and was prescribed some heavy duty antibiotics as the doctor thinks it is an "infection", no idea what kind or why. I ended up coming home from work early yesterday as I was feeling so awful. I normally have Wednesdays off work so today is okay. I was feeling okay this morning as I got up and got my nails done and did a couple of other things however I have crashed since lunch time. I had a nap but not sure that it really helped. Perhaps I should have turned the air conditioning on before I laid down on the lounge as I woke up all hot and achy.
At the same time as cooking every single recipe from Bill's Sydney Food. I have also been trying to use more of the rest of my cookbook collection. I have a large number of them that just seem to sit there and look pretty. I had purchased Jamie Does... after watching a couple of episodes of the show and was pushed over the edge by the recipe for the Sexy Swedish Buns (which everyone should make by the way). There were also a couple of other recipes from the show that caught my attention. I was particularly taken with the episode that he did in Morocco. The lovely combinations of spices. His enthusiasm in the markets and showing us all about it. His excitement at actually making the recipes. Now, of course, there are going to be ingredients that I cannot get. Although for his Mechoui Lamb the only thing that I was unable to get was the smen which I understand is some kind of fermented butter. This dish was so lovely. When I went to purchase a shoulder of lamb my butcher asked what I was making. When I told him he suggested trying it with a boned out leg next time. I think I will give that a try, although it will be more expensive, it will be less fatty and less wastage. The only thing that I would then have to watch for is that it doesn't dry out. All the fat on the shoulder would have contributed to keeping the meat as moist as it was. It also would have helped with the way that the meat just fell apart after cooking. However I think that I lost some of the spice flavour with it being removed from the meat with the large amount of fat before serving. It was still amazing though and made some incredible lunches over the week afterwards with some more in the freezer for use at a later date. Definitely a nice change from a traditional roast dinner on a Sunday night.

I wanted to make something a bit more substantial than the carrot and orange salad to go with it so went with Jamie Oliver's Moorish Crunch Salad which I had made previously. It went perfectly with the lamb and was also excellent inside wraps and pitas for lunches. In fact I have made this salad a couple of times since I first made it in November last year. It really is a great side. 

Friday 11 February 2011

Bill's Scrambled Eggs

So, I am going to try out the post scheduling thing. Set for a week and see what happens. I should probably set it for a shorter length of time but I really want to test it out. Perhaps I should do a couple of posts and schedule them...hmmm, will see how I am going at the end of this one.  Things keep on keeping on here at the moment. Hope that in a week I will be feeling better but in case I am not then at least there will be a post popping up.

I decided to make another of Bill Granger's breakfast recipes, in fact I made this quite a while ago. I had a glut of eggs so decided to make Bill's famous scrambled eggs. I had heard quite a lot about them and just had to find out what the fuss was. I am quite partial to scrambled eggs. I do make them for breakfast on weekends quite often. So nice on a lovely piece of wholemeal or grainy toast. Having said that, Bill's version packed full of cream and butter is not for every day, nor even every week for me. No more than once a month for me. It was a fabulous version and an excellent way to cook the eggs. I did cook mine for a bit longer than Bill suggested. I am not keen on scrambled eggs that are too soft and oozy so tend to cook them until they are a bit firmer. I served it on some lovely toast topped with chilli relish. A wonderful breakfast on a weekend. 

Scrambled Eggs 

Serves 1

  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 cup Cream
  • 1 Pinch of Salt
  • 10 g Butter
  1. Place eggs, cream and salt in a bowl and whisk together.
  2. Melt butter in a frying pan.
  3. Pour in egg mixture and cook for 20 seconds, or until gently set around the edge.
  4. Stir the eggs with a wooden spoon, gently bringing the egg mixture on the outside of the pan to the centre.
  5. Leave to cook for 20 seconds longer and repeat the folding process.
  6. When the eggs are just set turn out onto a plate and serve with hot toast.

Saturday 5 February 2011

Bill's Goat's Curd and Lentil Salad with Roasted Beetroot

I mentioned before that I was struggling along. Things seem to have taken a little turn for the worse and I am definitely fighting depression again. I have done it before and certainly been in a lot blacker of a place than I am at the moment but it still makes life difficult. I have fought it back previously and will do so again. So far I have been managing to do the basics. Washing clothes and most importantly cooking decent food for myself. This is really important as food really does influence my moods and it is so easy to slip into poor eating habits. I remember eating large amounts of macaroni and cheese full of bacon and onion, home made at least, but still quite bad in large amounts without much in the way of colour to go with it. Most days I almost have to fight myself to get up and cook food. Once I force myself into the kitchen and get cooking I do enjoy the process and results of my effort. 

I have been so pleased that most of the recipes in Bill's Sydney Food are very quick and easy to make. There are a few that involve a bit more effort, although most of those are more winter fare and by the time I get to those I will be feeling much better. I was able to get some lovely small to medium beetroot from the green grocer recently so I decided to make Goat's Curd and Lentil Salad with Roasted Beetroot. It was so very good. Bill's introduction to the recipe commented on the curd being lighter and less pungent than goats cheese. I was unable to get goats curd and it wasn't until a couple of days later that I realised that I could have bought some goat's milk and made the curd myself. Instead I just used cottage cheese and think that it worked perfectly. This was a very filling dish and perfect for a summer meal. I roasted the beets earlier in the day. The lentils probably could have been cooked a tad longer but it was still a wonderful dish. I also think that it would be excellent made from quinoa or farro too. 

Curd and Lentil Salad with Roasted Beetroot

Serves 4


4 medium beetroot, roasted, peeled and sliced into thick slices 
1 cup lentils du Puy (I used French-style), cooked until tender
1/4 c diced Spanish onion 
1/4 c seeded and diced tomato
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp finely chopped mint
1/4 c finely chopped parsley 
8 asparagus spears, blanched and cooled 
200g cottage cheese (or goat's curd)


Combine lentils, onion, tomato, oil, vinegar, parsley, mint and season with salt and pepper. 
Divided between plates, top with asparagus, curd and finally sliced beetroot.