Saturday, April 26, 2008

Goats curd crostini with walnut pesto

Hello everyone, I mentioned the book written by my friend Virginia Lloyd recently, The Young Widow's Book Of Home Improvement (A True Story Of Love And Renovation). I started reading it during the week and really I can't put it down. I think I will finish it this weekend. I highly, highly recommend it, Virginia is a beautiful writer and the story, about the early death of her husband and the aftermath for her, is fascinating. Nearly enough to tear me away from the kitchen....

I could spend hours poring over my recipes and there are just so many that I want to cook. If only I had a house full of people for whom to whip up all these lovely roasts, crumbles, soups, pies, pastas...I have spotted a recipe for a pear and chocolate crumble which sounds irrestible, so I'll have to find someone on whom I can unleash that and report back via this blog.

Anyway, this week's recipe, which I cut out from the SMH's Good Living supplement a couple of years ago, is something that I do very regularly to take to parties or picnics. In fact, it would also go well with soup, just like the ricotta toasts with last week's recipe. Ordinarily I don't approve of any kind of deviation from the traditional ingredients in pesto, but this works. Do bother to make your own pesto, I have only ever tried one commercial one that I liked, and that was in fact home made by someone to sell through their shop.

Have a great week, love from Jane xx

Goats curd crostini with walnut pesto

What you need:

  • 1 baguette, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
  • 150g goats cheese curd (or cheese if you can't get curd)

Walnut pesto
  • 1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

What you do:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180.
  2. Lightly brush each side of sliced baguette with oil and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, turning once during cooking time, or until golden and crisp.
  4. While the toasted bread is warm, rub one side of each slice with the cut garlic clove.
  5. To make the pesto, process the walnuts, garlic, parmesan and parsley until well blended.
  6. With the motor running, add the olive oil a little at a time until the pesto reaches a smooth consistency.
  7. Season to taste.
To serve, pile the crostini on a serving platter. Place the goats curd and pesto in serving dishes and allow guests to top the crostini with curd and a little pesto.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spicy tomato and fennel soup

Hello everyone, with all the rain and cold weather around in Sydney my thoughts have been turning to soup. I love soup chiefly because it's so comforting, but also because it's such an easy way to eat lots of vegetables. And then I can justify having some chocolate to follow!

Every winter I make several batches of this soup, it is such a favourite of mine. It freezes really well so you can make a big batch to take to work during the week. The first time I made it I realised that vegetable soups work very well without the addition of stock - you just get the beautiful strong flavour of the vegetables. The recipe comes from Bill Granger, it is in his book Bill's Food.

Have a good week, love from Jane xx

Spicy tomato and fennel soup

Serves four

What you need:
  • 2 kg vine ripened tomatoes
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1/2 small fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
To serve: (optional, probably not practical if you are taking small containers of soup to work)
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Slices of bread spread with fresh ricotta and grilled

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200.
  2. Place the vegetables in a roasting tin.
  3. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Cover with foil and roast for 1 1/2 hours, then remove the foil and roast for another half hour, or until the vegetables are well cooked.
  5. Allow the vegetables to cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor or blender and blend until well combined. It is up to you whether you want a completely smooth texture or to leave it slightly chunky.
  6. Return the soup to a saucepan to heat and then serve in soup bowls, topped with basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and the ricotta toast if you wish.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cold salmon with watercress aioli

Hello everyone, it's been a very eventful week. On Tuesday night I attended the launch of the first book by my friend, Virginia Lloyd. It's called The Young Widow's Book Of Home Improvement - A True Story Of Love And Renovation. Virginia is a fantastic writer and I highly recommend this book.

As many of you know, I have been hosting a colleague from an American community foundation at the SCF for the last four weeks. Sadly and all too soon we are at the end of his visit, so to mark the occasion, he very generously took me to dinner at Rockpool (fish) last night. It was sensational! We had a really beautiful meal, the service was excellent, and it's such a lovely restaurant. I felt very lucky to have this treat and now I can't wait to return!

So, inspired by the gorgeous seafood at Rockpool (fish), this week I have a cold salmon recipe to share with you. It's maybe a little unseasonal now that the weather is cooling down, although the watercress is good right now. I found the aioli was just beautiful, really pairing well with the flavour of the salmon. I hope you enjoy it too. It's from a very sweet American cookbook I have had for years called Heart Of The Home. I'm suggesting a particular way to cook the salmon that I find works perfectly every time.

Lots of love, Jane xx

Cold salmon with watercress aioli

Serves six

What you need:
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable/sunflower/nut oil (macadamia oil works nicely)
  • 1/2 cup picked watercress leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill (I substitute mint as I prefer it to dill)
  • Freshly ground pepper and sea salt, to taste
  • 6 fresh salmon fillets

What you do:
  1. Place the egg, yolks, lemon juice, mustard and garlic into the bowl of a food processor and blend for one minute.
  2. Combine the two oils, then, with the machine running, pour the oil in a slow but steady stream into the egg mix.
  3. Add the watercress and dill/mint and whiz one final time to blend well to a pretty light green shade.
  4. Add the salt and pepper to taste and chill the sauce.
  5. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees (yes, I know that is very high but this works brilliantly, trust me).
  6. Brush the salmon fillets with a little olive oil and place in a baking dish, skin side down. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  7. When the oven comes to 250 degrees, place the salmon in it and turn off the heat.
  8. Leave the salmon in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes and they will cook perfectly.
  9. Remove the salmon from the oven and leave to cool, then chill until you are ready to serve.
  10. Serve the salmon with the aioli spooned over each fillet.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Pear, pistachio and chocolate cake

Hello everyone, I'm very excited as I have just booked a bundle of tickets for the Sydney Writers Festival which takes place next month. I attended the launch of the program on Thursday night and was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of the program, so have now been through it and picked out about ten events I plan to attend. Many are free, some you have to buy tickets, but they are not expensive at all and it's such a great way to enjoy books, writers and reading!

Apologies to those of you who have asked me to sign you up for automatic delivery of my postings where this isn't working. I am obviously doing something wrong and need to find some time to work out the problem.

In the meantime, here is a recipe for a delicious cake that would be perfect for morning or afternoon tea. I do find it takes quite a long time to cook whenever I bake it, I guess because it's so dense with the fruit and the nuts and the chocolate. But well worth it and delicious served with thick cream! It is inspired by the beautiful home grown pears given to me yesterday by my darling friend Gianni.

Have a wonderful week, love from Jane xx

Pear, pistachio and chocolate cake

Makes one loaf

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and flour a 22cm x 11.5cm x 7cm loaf tin. Put 150g plain flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 150g caster sugar, a pinch of salt, 150g softened unsalted butter and 3 eggs in the bowl of a food processor and process until just combined (about 1 minute – do not over-process). Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl and stir in 200g good quality chopped milk chocolate, 1 peeled, cored and diced pear, ¾ cup pistachio nuts and the finely chopped zest of 1 orange until evenly distributed. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean (I found it took quite a bit longer in my oven). Allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.