Sunday, November 30, 2008

Really fabulous pesto

Hello everyone, I am very excited to reveal that I have been published twice this month! One contribution appears in a book called "One Thing In Common" which is published by Cansupport, a support service for cancer patients and their carers at Royal North Shore. Until earlier this year I volunteered with Cansupport, and as part of that wrote a piece about my experience of both my darling Dad's cancer and that of my youngest sister. The book was a VERY long time in production so they are quite old stories now and certainly experiences I am glad to have behind me.

My second contribution (funny how both have been published at the same time) is in a book by the ABC called "Homecooked Feasts". It is a recipe for my Nana's afghan biscuits, which most of you who know me have sampled. I have to say that I feel quite disappointed with the book - there clearly wasn't much of a budget for production and it's very ordinary looking. They have also cleverly but annoyingly packaged it up with a similar book and you have to buy both, which put me off buying multiple copies for everyone for Christmas! I decided to just buy a copy for Mum instead. If you see the book and just want my recipe, let me know and I'll email it to you.

This week's recipe is inspired by the life saving pesto I found in my freezer on Friday night when I arrived home late and wanted something soothing for an easy supper. I had forgotten that I had this pesto made by my middle sister using her own home grown basil! I am convinced that you can't buy a decent commercial pesto and have to make your own, so this is the recipe I use which is from Matthew Evan's book "Kitchen Basics" - it's easily the most delicious pesto I have ever made.

Have a lovely week, Jane xx

Really fabulous pesto

Makes three mustard jars

What you need:
  • 80g pinenuts (even better if you toast first in a 180 oven for about 8-10 minutes)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 70g (about 1 1/2 cups gently pressed) basil leaves
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (use your judgement, I never use this much)
  • 80g really good Parmigiano-Reggiano parmesan, finely grated (Matthew uses 40g plus 40g mature pecorino - if you don't mind having that much cheese hanging around in the fridge you can do so too)
  • Salt and pepper

What you do:
  1. In a sharp bladed food processor, blend the nuts and garlic until paste like.
  2. Add the washed and carefully dried basil leaves, then pulse, scraping down the sides regularly to make a paste.
  3. Add half the oil, then continue pulsing.
  4. Add the cheese and as much more of the oil as you please to just combine. You want the pesto to remain bright green.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Scrape into sterilised jars and store in the fridge. You should make sure that the surface of the pesto is always covered with oil. Best eaten within a few days.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Prawn and mango salad with maple creme fraiche

Hello everyone, every Saturday morning I listen to Simon Marnie's program on ABC radio while I'm doing my weekend chores. My favourite segment is when he has three providores talking about the best meat, seafood and fruit and vegetables that are in season. Then a chef comes up with a three course meal using the ingredients suggested. They are all great recipes that are given, but as dessert is always based on the fruit that is listed, there is never a chocolate dessert, and in my view if there's no chocolate then it's not a proper dessert. So in desperation this morning I sent Simon a text pointing out this omission and guess what? Today's chef came up with a gorgeous sounding Black Forest confection using cherries AND chocolate. Now, that's a real dessert!

This week's recipe is not dessert, but a sensational prawn and mango salad that is perfect for hot Summer nights (I am pretending that we are experiencing fabulous Summer weather and hoping that eventually it will come good). It takes no time to whip up this one. It is the November recipe from the 2006 delicious calendar which had some really good recipes.

Have a great week. Love from Jane xxx

Prawn and mango salad with maple creme fraiche

Serves four

What you need:

  • 50ml olive oil
  • Grated rind and juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 long red chilli, seeded, finely chopped
  • 100ml creme fraiche (you can buy this most places now) or sour cream
  • 4 cups baby salad leaves
  • 1 mango, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 500g cooked prawns, peeled and with tails intact

What you do:
  1. For the dressing, whisk together the oil with 2 tablespoons lime juice, then season with salt and pepper.
  2. For the maple creme fraiche, in a small bowl whisk together the remaining lime juice and rind, maple syrup, chopped chilli and creme fraiche/sour cream.
  3. Toss the salad leaves with the dressing and divide among four bowls.
  4. Top with mango slices and prawns and serve with a dollop of the maple creme fraiche.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jam cake

Hello everyone, I was inspired to make this cake because I had a big jar of jam sitting in the pantry and I knew it would take some very dedicated toast eating to get through it otherwise. I made this cake when I got home quite late one night. It's so easy as you just throw everything into the food processor and then whack it into the oven. I tried out the cake on the boys in the office the next day (always willing to be my guinea pigs!) and they loved it. It doesn't have an icing, but I'm sure served with a big dollop of thick cream it would only be enhanced. The recipe comes from a very handy book called "3 Ways With Stale Bread" by Ross Dobson. It's a really handy book, I do recommend it.

Have a fabulous week. Love from Jane xx

Jam cake

Serves 10 very generously

What you need:
  • 185g softened butter
  • 185g brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g sour cream or creme fraiche
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 1 cup any jam you like

What you do:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180.
  2. Butter or oil spray a bundt tin (they are the ones that have fluted sides and a kind of column in the middle so you get a doughnut shaped cake).
  3. Place the butter and brown sugar in the food processor and blend till smooth.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and blend for a few seconds between each addition.
  5. Add the sour cream or creme fraiche and the flour to the food processor and blend until you have a thick batter.
  6. Transfer the batter to a big bowl (it makes a big quantity) and stir through the jam.
  7. Spoon the batter into the cake tin and bake for about 40 minutes. Do watch it - all the sugar in the batter makes it cook quickly so keep an eye on it from 30 minutes onwards.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature with cream, icecream, custard or all three.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Green olive and almond tapenade

Hello everyone, last night I attended a cocktail party at Government House, which was lovely, of course. The finger food was spectacular - all these tiny little morsels that were beautifully made and arranged. I think my favourite was the crispy parmesan shell that contained a goats cheese and parmesan flavoured mousse. It was all spectacular. They did feature heavily the Chinese spoons containing miniature dim sims. I really don't think there is a place for the Chinese spoons in finger food as you just can't eat from them elegantly. Still, obviously lots of people don't agree with me as they seem to feature at every cocktail function.

Today's recipe is a really nice mix that can be used in all sorts of ways. I love green olives and if you buy them from a good deli you will be bowled over by the spectacular taste. You can serve this as a robust kind of dip, or spread it on crusty bread, either toasted or not, or use it to accompany grilled chicken or fish. It would also be good with roasted vegetables or even on a pizza - it's very versatile!

Have a fantastic week, love from Jane xx

Green olive and almond tapenade

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

What you need:
  • 250g whole green olives (to yield about 170g when pitted)
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

What you do:
  1. Cut the olive flesh so that you can discard the pits.
  2. Toast the almonds in a 180 oven until golden brown (around 5-8 minutes, watch closely).
  3. Blend the olives, almonds, parsley, lemon juice, garlic and anchovies in a food processor.
  4. Drizzle in the olive oil and blend again until combined but still coarse.
  5. Season to taste.
  6. Serve at room temperature.