Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rhubarb and strawberry crumble

Hello everyone, I took my nieces to the Sydney Writers Festival last weekend which was fun. It was a freezing cold day though and we were right on the water, so when we came out of the first session we headed straight to the cafe to order three hot chocolates. I'm often wary of cakes and sweets on offer at big events as they invariably taste mass made, but this place had beautiful plates and tiered stands displaying what looked to be very home made goods - as if it was a fete! The girls quickly settled on a moist and chewy looking square of chocolate brownie to share (they are very small eaters), and I was particularly intrigued to see a plate of afghans, the chocolate biscuits that my Nana used to make and which I make regularly too. They were enormous, much bigger than I make them, and delicious. Very authentic and home made. So well done to that little cafe at Wharf 2/3!

Now I was going to give you a completely different recipe today but I heard on the radio this morning that there are some beautiful strawberries about, and rhubarb is very good at this time of year too. Early subscribers to my recipe service already received this recipe last year, but it didn't come over in the transition to the blog so here it is for everyone. I'm not quite sure from where I found the recipe - it is one that I cut out and stuck into my recipe scrapbook. It could well be from Good Living in the SMH. If you have never cooked rhubarb before, now's the time to try it. It's easy and delicious and is also great cooked up with pie apple or apricots to have with porridge and yoghurt for breakfast.

Have a lovely week, love from Jane

Rhubarb and strawberry crumble

Serves 4 to 6

Admittedly when I first made this luscious crumble I quadrupled the quantities as I was cooking for a crowd, but I was a little alarmed at just how much butter and sugar there was and I did find the crumble quite sweet. I have kept the original quantities from the recipe I used here but will probably reduce the butter and sugar next time I make it. So bear that in mind when you cook it for the first time.

What you need:
· 75g butter
· 165g caster sugar
· 1 large bunch rhubarb (about 600g), leaves chopped off, stems chopped into 3cm pieces and washed
· 1 punnet strawberries, hulled and halved

For the topping:
· 75g self raising flour
· 100g brown sugar
· 45g rolled oats
· 40g flaked almonds
· 100g butter, chopped

What you do:
1. Melt the butter and caster sugar in a large, heavy based saucepan.
2. Add the rhubarb and cook over a low heat for five minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Remove from the heat, stir in the strawberries and cool.
4. Combine all the topping ingredients except for the butter in a bowl.
5. Rub the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
6. Spoon the rhubarb and strawberries into a medium, lightly oiled ovenproof dish and spread the crumble mix evenly over the top.
7. Bake at 180C for 20 to 30 minutes or until the crumble is golden and bubbling.
8. Serve with homemade custard or thick cream or icecream. Or all three.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pasta with fennel, ham and potatoes

Hello everyone, my friend Rob mentioned to me recently that he loves a good pasta. I was really happy that he said this because I adore pasta and eat it several times a week, so I have been very, very conscious of not putting up too many pasta dishes on this blog (and looking back I think I went to the other extreme). Anyway, I was pleased because I thought good, that's a good reason to go back and cook one of my favourite winter pasta dishes during the week and share the recipe with you.

The recipe comes from one of my most used and treasured cook books, which used to belong to my darling Dad, and he cooked lots of recipes out of it too. It's called "Trattoria Pasta" and it's by Loukie Werle. I haven't ever spotted it in a book shop but if you do ever see it I suggest you grab it - I have never had a failure out of it, and I have made three quarters of the dishes in it!

This is a great dish for winter as it's quite hearty. I love potatoes in pasta dishes as I find the combination very soothing. I usually substitute verjuice for white wine and did when I made this dish this week. Verjuice has the same effect in cooking as does white wine, but I prefer the flavour, I think it can really lift a dish. You can buy verjuice pretty well anywhere these days, certainly in delis and good green grocers that have deli items.

Have a fabulous week. Love from Jane xx

Pasta with fennel, ham and potatoes

Serves four

What you need:
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, finely sliced
  • 185g ham (preferably in chunks rather than the usual thin slices)
  • 2 medium waxy potatoes, boiled in their skin, and cut into cubes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or verjuice)
  • 500g pasta
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

What you do:
  1. Put the water on to boil for the pasta.
  2. Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the onion and fennel.
  3. Cook until the onion is soft, stirring frequently, for about five minutes.
  4. Add the ham and potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook for another five minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the wine or verjuice, cover and simmer for five minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta.
  7. Have a heated serving dish ready.
  8. Drain the pasta, turn into the heated dish and add the ham and vegetables.
  9. Sprinkle over the parsley and Parmesan.
  10. Toss well and serve immediately.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bill Granger's dhal

Hello everyone, I had dinner at one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to during the week. It is a tiny jewel of a bar/restaurant in Darlinghurst called Almond. The fit out is so pretty, and for people like me who love detail there are endless bits and pieces to catch your eye, like the beautifully made menus, the lights and the plates. The food is also stunning and comes with a smile so what more could you want?

I am giving you a Bill Granger recipe this week. I love Bill's cooking (who doesn't?) as it's easy, tasty and imaginative. I particularly like this one as it is great comfort food and gives me an excuse to pick up some naan bread from my local Indian restaurant as an accompaniment. You could serve it on its own or alongside meat or vegies.

Have a wonderful week - if you are in Sydney make sure you experience the Writers Festival which starts this weekend!

Love from Jane xxx

Bill Granger's dhal

Serves four

What you need:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 2.5 cm piece of fresh ginger (seriously, who measures these things?), peeled and grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 large green chilli, finely chopped (as little or as much as you like)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup red lentils (really, I use whatever lentils I have to hand)
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice, to serve
  • Chopped mint, to serve
  • Naan bread, to serve

What you do:
  1. Heat a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat and add oil.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the onion, and cook, stirring, until translucent.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli, some sea salt and the cumin.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft.
  5. Add the lentils and three cups of water and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes over a medium to low heat until the lentils are nice and soft.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir through the lime or lemon juice.
  7. Serve topped with the mint and accompanied by the naan bread.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ocean trout winter salad

Hello everyone, I was so excited this week as I had cleverly arranged to eat at my two favourite pizza restaurants in Sydney in one week! I can never decide which one I prefer, as I adore the pizza at both of them. They are both run by Italians and have slightly different styles of pizza. In the end I was saved from making a choice as I only went to one of them. The pizza was as sensational as ever, although I suspect that the wine and the company may also have enhanced the experience, making it the clear winner!

This week's recipe, which was written by Lynne Mullins in Good Living a few weeks ago, is a great example of one of my favourite food concepts, the winter salad. It is also proof that it is possible to get home late from work and (as long as you have had time to pick up the ingredients on the way home) still whip up a fabulous dinner for yourself that tastes a lot better than take away. It combines many of my favourite salad components, except potato, although now that I re-examine it I think potato would go very well in it. I made this while I was also cooking up some sweet onions and some chocolate truffles to give to my Mum, it is that easy.

Have a lovely week, lots of love, Jane xx

Ocean trout winter salad

Serves four

What you need:

  • 500g cooked ocean trout fillets, skinned, boned and flaked (just throw in a 180 oven for about 15 minutes or until cooked to your liking; allow to cool a little as you don't want the fish to be hot in the salad)
  • 1 red grapefruit, peeled and segmented
  • 1 bulb fennel, halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 bunch watercress, leaves picked
  • 1/3 cup light tasting oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

What you do:

  1. Gently combine the trout, grapefruit, fennel, avocado and watercress in a large bowl.
  2. To make the dressing, whisk together the oil, juices, sugar, salt and pepper. I usually find the quantity of dressing given in a recipe is way too much and so it was with this one, so I actually halved the quantities and it was just fine. Up to you.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently.
  4. You can top the salad with some salmon roe if you wish.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Carrot cake

Hello everyone, I've had some interesting chats with people during the week about restaurants. Yesterday over afternoon tea with my friend Simon he told me about a restaurant that he had been to last year (which had been very well reviewed) and at which he had an absolutely appalling experience. I was very interested to hear this, as I had been to the same restaurant and similarly, was very unimpressed with the food and the service. Unlike me, Simon did something about it, firing off a letter to the manager of the restaurant the next day setting out his complaints. In return, he received a very apologetic letter from the manager with a voucher to spend on his next visit and encouragement to give them another go. He did, used the voucher, and found the experience the second time round much improved. Just goes to show that it pays to complain!

When I have a bad experience in a restaurant, I go the other way - I badmouth it to everyone I know and then never go back. Of course, if it's somewhere I like (like Catalonia at Kirribilli, where the food and wine are incredibly delicious, the service is outstanding and the fit out beautiful), I tell everyone and go back repeatedly. Which led to another conversation last night in which I suggested to another friend that we have dinner at a place in the city where I have been about ten times. He asked if I'm not sick of it, but the food is so good there that I don't think I'll ever tire of it! If you can find somewhere you love, it's great to be able to keep going back and enjoying it.

I made this cake just the other day for a birthday. It's one I have been making for years and years - I was given the recipe originally by my friend Clare, in 1989! It has stood the test of time. One of its best features is that the pineapple in it keeps it really moist, so you can make it the night before it is eaten.

Have a great week, love from Jane xx

Carrot cake

Grate young fresh carrots to give one full cup. (I throw the carrots into the food processor and process until very finely chopped).
Strain the juice from a 200g can of crushed pineapple.
In a bowl, mix one cup of plain flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¾ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon each of cinnamon and salt and ¾ cup of caster sugar.
Add two eggs and 5 tablespoons of a light tasting oil.
Mix very well.
Stir in the grated carrot, crushed pineapple and ¼ cup chopped walnuts.
Bake the cake in a moderate oven (180) for 35-40 minutes or until cooked right through (it is a very moist cake, so depending on your oven, might take quite a while to cook).
Cool before covering with topping.

To make the cream cheese topping, place in a bowl 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons cream cheese, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and 250g icing sugar and beat well. If it is too thick, add a small amount of milk to give a smooth consistency.

When I made the cake just recently I did think you could probably cut down the amount of icing sugar used as it is quite sweet and you end up with more icing than you can possibly get on the cake. So you might want to experiment with the quantity - just remember to write down the quantity you use so you know for next time!