Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ricotta and spinach pasta shells

Hello everyone, it's very late for me to be blogging - nearly 10.00 on Sunday night! Way past my bedtime. I have to front up for jury duty tomorrow so I will need to be at my best. I am desperately hoping to be excused as I have been called for a six week case! Six weeks away from work would make my life impossible. Anyway, I will just have to have a good night's sleep and see what happens.

This week's recipe is something that I cooked recently when there a few hungry young boys around and they all loved it! I was besieged with requests for the recipe, so I figured it might be something that would be useful to my blog readers. It is so simple you could make it with your eyes closed (unless you actually do go the big shells, so you'll need to have your eyes open to fill them very carefully). You really do need to cook the pasta in the stock as outlined in the recipe, otherwise you'll find it gets a little dry. See, I have made all the mistakes first to save you doing the same!

Have a great week. Think about me dispensing justice.

Jane xx

Ricotta and spinach pasta shells

Serves four

What you need:
· 24 (200g) large pasta shells (or you can use little shells)
· 500g frozen spinach
· 250g ricotta
· 375ml (1 ½ cups) tomato pasta sauce
· 250ml chicken stock

What you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water for three minutes and drain.
3. Thaw the spinach and squeeze out all the excess water.
4. Combine the spinach and ricotta.
5. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the pasta shells (or if you are using small shells just mix it all together).
6. Combine the sauce and stock in a baking dish.
7. Place the shells in the sauce.
8. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until the pasta is tender.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Chicken rice

Hello everyone, I was in Melbourne for a few days this week and had the enormous joy of visiting the Queen Victoria Markets early one morning. They are amazing! (Of course I am talking about the food part of the markets). As well as a number of different fishmongers and butchers with so much amazing seafood and meat, to say nothing of the gorgeous fruit and vegies on display (just the colours were amazing), there were so many specialty food stores as well! I don't think I have ever seen so much cheese for sale under one roof! The deli items were many and varied, and even for someone like me who prefers to make everything from scratch, I did think that if I lived there I would probably buy a lot of ready made food for entertaining. It was all truly spectacular and made me wonder why we don't have food markets like that in Sydney. It would be great to be able to shop for such fresh food nearly every day of the week!

Anyway, back to normal life very quickly. Now the recipe I have for you this week was another one I dredged up out of the memory bank recently. I had someone coming for dinner the day after Chinese new year, so in a salute to that calendar event, I put together what must be one of the easiest meals there is. It is another one I found in Simply Lite magazine, the Winter 1999 version, and once I had done it the first time it featured on my menu quite frequently for a while. You will find cooking the rice in the stock gives it a luscious flavour. You will find this one is equally good for cooking just for yourself for a quiet night in, or for feeding the hordes.

Have a happy week.

Love from Jane xx

Chicken rice

What you need:
  • One half breast of chicken per person
  • Whole garlic cloves
  • Piece of fresh ginger
  • A quarter cup of rice per person
  • Sauces for serving - whatever you have in your cupboard: soy sauce (mixed with mirin if you have it); sweet and sour sauce, hoi sin, sweet chilli sauce

What you do:
  1. Place the chicken breasts in a saucepan and cover with water.
  2. Add a couple of peeled whole garlic cloves and a lump of fresh ginger.
  3. Simmer the lot on a medium heat for about twelve minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Remove the chicken and keep in a warm oven.
  5. Bring the water in which you have cooked the chicken to the boil, retaining the garlic and ginger if you wish. You may need to top up the water. Add the rice and cook as usual, then remove the garlic and ginger before serving.
  6. While the rice is cooking prepare your sauces in little bowls.
  7. To serve, put the rice in a big bowl, cut up the chicken pieces and place on top of the rice.
  8. Everyone can serve themselves and dip the chicken in their favourite sauces.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chocolate mousse + chocolate crisps

Hello everyone, I had a funny experience last night. I thought I was running late for a party that started at 5.00 when I arrived at the front door of my host's place at 5.45. Turned out that she had changed the start time of the party to 7.00, and had told everyone else but me! So I was put to work immediately and to my great delight I got to help the caterer when she arrived. I also spotted some beautiful home grown cherry tomatoes in the kitchen, sitting by a lovely looking jar of home made pesto, so I made myself useful by cutting off the tops of the tomatoes, scooping out the flesh and turning them upside down to drain before delicately filling them with the pesto. That's a really easy and effective plate to take next time you are wondering what food to contribute to a party!

To thank my host I made a batch of these chocolate crisps. Again, this is a really quick and easy thing you can whip up to take to a dinner party to go with coffee, or as a gift for someone wrapped in clear cellophane. The recipe comes from the September 2007 edition of delicious magazine, in which they are paired with chocolate mousse. Chocolate mousse you ask? I'll also give you my favourite chocolate mousse recipe this week. It has been around for years so I don't know its provenance. It's the kind of recipe that people pass around to each other as it's so delicious and always a hit whenever I make it.

Have a lovely week, love from Jane xx

Chocolate crisps

What you need:
  • 3 tablespoons Nutella
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups cornflakes, crumbled into rough crumbs

What you do:
  1. Carefully melt together the Nutella and white chocolate in the microwave (do it on medium heat in one minute bursts, so you don't burn the chocolate)
  2. Stir in the cornflake crumbs.
  3. Pour the mixture onto a 30cm sheet of baking paper, top with another sheet of baking paper and use a rolling pin to gently roll out the mixture until it's quite thin (about 2-3mm thick).
  4. Place on a tray in the fridge to harden for two hours and then break into shards.
  5. If you like, you can carefully warm up some more white chocolate and some cream in a saucepan on top of the stove, and when it's runny, drizzle over the crisp to decorate. Return to the fridge so it can harden before breaking into shards.

Chocolate mousse
Serves four (and can easily be doubled or tripled)

What you need:

· 2 eggs (separated)
· 200 ml/1 cup whipping cream
· ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
· 1 x 100g Toblerone

What you do:

1. Melt Toblerone in the microwave – be careful not to burn it.
2. Mix in the egg yolks and the vanilla. Let it cool slightly.
3. Whip cream until stiff. Fold into chocolate mixture.
4. Whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into mixture.
5. Set in the fridge – overnight if possible.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Yellow prawn tortillas

Hello everyone, did you notice how relieved everyone was to reach Friday this week? We had a shorter week because of the Australia Day holiday, but everyone was still very worn out by the end of the week. It must be the shock of life resuming its normal pace, with everyone back at school and work and other activities starting up again.

Yesterday I took my nieces to see the Diana exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum, which was excellent, but more importantly, on our way we had lunch at a great little Malaysian restaurant right near the Museum called Kopitiam. The girls loved the roti bread which soaked up the sauce from the chicken curry. Best of all we had leftovers to take home with us, although I had to hand our foodbag in with my umbrella when we reached the Museum entry. Fortunately all our goodies were still intact when we collected them on the way out!

This week's recipe is really delicious and another great one for children, or for adults if you are entertaining, as the diners can put the dish together themselves after you have prepared the prawns. It was featured in the Summer Living section of the SMH during January, and I have just modified it slightly. I found mini and jumbo sized tortillas at the supermarket when I was shopping for these, so depending on the size of those for whom you are cooking you can provide the size of the food to match!

Yellow prawn tortillas

Serves four

What you need:
  • 1 packet soft corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable/sunflower oil (sounds a ridiculous amount, I know, but when I first made this in a small amount it seemed right proportionately so use your judgement)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 120g (or to taste) fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 3 tablespoons turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (or to taste) chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup tap water
  • 24 green medium tiger prawns, peeled
  • Put out on the table small bowls containing chopped tomato, finely diced shallots, chopped chillies, chopped mint, brown sugar, salt and quarters of limes

What you do:
  1. Heat one cup of oil in a pan on the stove over a medium heat and cook the onion until it is translucent. Cool slightly.
  2. Place the cooked onion and its cooking oil into a blender with the ginger, garlic, spices, salt, 1/2 cup water and pulse until smooth. I did this in my bamix which is now bright yellow from the turmeric!
  3. Combine the mix with the remaining water and cook over a low heat for five minutes or until thickened. Allow to cool.
  4. Add the peeled prawns to the mix, toss to combine and refrigerate for two hours.
  5. Heat the remaining 1/2 cup of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
  6. Add the prawns and marinade and cook until the prawns turn bright orange.
  7. Serve the prawns with the tortillas and your diners can mix and match the ingredients you have placed in bowls before wrapping up the tortillas and eating.