Saturday, December 27, 2008

Blue cheese and sage pasta

Hello everyone, I hope you had a happy and peaceful Christmas. On Christmas Eve I went to Melbourne for the day with one of my sisters so that we could take out our aunt to lunch. I anticipated it as the day from hell. I was quite sure that the flights would be massively delayed, the traffic to and from the airport would be horrendous and the time spent with my aunt consequently telescoped into about twenty minutes. I armed myself with a good breakfast and plenty of reading material.

Well, to my surprise, the flights were running pretty close to time (and in fact we made up time on the way down and landed ahead of schedule) and the traffic was extremely light. We were astounded at how polite Melbourne drivers are - there we were, driving along, being VERY mindful of sticking to the speed limit on an unfamiliar route, with a great big map spread out and visible to everyone who drove past, vigorously pointing and waving our arms around every time we stopped at traffic lights and had a minute to consider how to proceed. And to top off it all, the restaurant we visited in Yarraville was lovely! Very Melbourne (my code for dark and enclosed) with a nice fit out and great food. Sadly I was unable to squeeze in dessert, not having a lot of time to sit around and let my main settle before we took off back to the airport again.

So, with all that rushing around in the lead up to Christmas and of course a busy day on the 25th, I am put in mind of this soothing pasta dish that is the easiest thing in the world to whip up - perfect for lazy summer evenings. Now I know that lots of people think they don't like blue cheese, but really there are so many different varieties and you can get some really nice creamy ones. There is a very nice King Island blue you can buy at the supermarket which comes in a roll, and Milawa Blue is also one of my favourites. I also love the flavour of sage but find it's best used carefully as it can be a little overpowering if you use too much. This recipe comes from my SOS Spring/Summer book.

Have a happy new year! Love from Jane xx

Blue cheese and sage pasta

Serves any number of people - the quantities are flexible

Toss any pasta (gnocchi works well) with some cultured butter, grated parmesan or pecorino, crumbled blue cheese and chopped sage. Let the heat from the pasta melt the butter and cheese. It's divine.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lamb cutlets with mint pesto

Hello everyone, well here we are the week before Christmas and I am going to be up to my elbows in chocolate today as I am making various chocolate slices, sauces and ice-creams (yes, last week's Christmas bombe) to take to parties and to give as gifts to people. I am actually dangerously close to never wanting to see chocolate again I am using so much of it but I'm sure that will pass.

This week's recipe is prompted by a discussion with my sister this morning about the menu for Christmas day. To my delight we are all having all my favourite things on the BBQ, including lamb cutlets. Not this recipe, but one that has been around in the family for years. This one is a great summertime lamb recipe and you do the cutlets on the BBQ. The pesto is made with mint which is really refreshing. I often do these when I have people over, they are a great one for a group. Having said that, I am not a fan at all of serving lamb cutlets as finger food as there is just no way you can eat them gracefully and I always decline them regretfully in that situation, but who wants lamb and pesto all over their face at a party? So serve them when guests have plates and cutlery, OK?

Have a very happy Christmas, eat well and enjoy the festivities in whatever form they take place. Love from Jane xxx

Lamb cutlets with mint pesto

What you need:
  • 20 lamb cutlets
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 2 bunches mint
  • 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil

What you do:
  1. Remove the bulky stems from the herbs.
  2. Lightly toast the pine nuts in a preheated 200C oven, taking care to not let them burn.
  3. In a food processor blend the herbs with the nuts, parmesan and lemon juice and, with the motor running, slowly add the oil. Season to taste.
  4. Season both sides of the cutlets and grill on a BBQ for a few minutes on each side, to the way you like them.
  5. Rest the cutlets for a few minutes, then arrange on a platter, drizzle with pesto and serve.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice-cream bombe

Hello everyone, I must admit that I haven't done very much cooking at all in the last week as I seem to be eating out for lunch and dinner every day in that final mad whirl in the lead up to Christmas. One of the best meals I have ever had took place on Wednesday night at a restaurant in Surry Hills called Pazzo. My friend Ron is a waiter there and his Italian mum makes a lot of the pasta for the diners there. I had a truly stunning meal and can't wait to go back.

This week's recipe is a great one for Christmas so if you are still wondering what you are you going to serve for dessert on the big day, this could be it. I found this recipe in the 2006 delicious calendar (and can't wait to hang up my 2009 calendar and see what recipes it contains!) and made it two Christmases ago and it was such a hit I am planning to do it again. You make the bombe in a pudding bowl so that it is the perfect shape - just a bit cooler than the usual pudding, and so pretty!

Have a great week. Love from Jane xx

Ice-cream bombe

Serves 6

What you need:

  • 75g dried cranberries

  • 1/3 cup orange juice

  • 500g mascarpone

  • 100g caster sugar

  • 300ml thickened cream

  • 2 slices candied orange peel, chopped into small pieces

  • 100g nougat, chopped into small pieces

  • 120g good quality chocolate drops (or chunked up chocolate)

  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (optional)

  • Rosemary sprigs dusted with icing sugar, to decorate

  • Silver cachous, to decorate (you can buy these at the supermarket in the cake decorating section)

What you do:

  1. Spray a 1.5l pudding basin with oil and line with plastic wrap.

  2. Place cranberries in a saucepan with the orange juice and simmer over a low heat for five minutes, then cool.

  3. Beat together the mascarpone and sugar until the sugar has dissolved.

  4. Add the thickened cream and fold into the mascarpone, then add the cranberries, orange peel, nougat, chocolate and the Grand Marnier, if using.

  5. Spoon the mixture into the pudding basin and freeze overnight.

  6. Thirty minutes before serving, transfer the ice-cream to the fridge to soften.

  7. Turn out the ice-cream and decorate with the cachous and icing sugar dusted rosemary sprigs.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Buttered spinach with pine nuts and sultanas

Hello everyone, I am having a lovely annual leave day today. I am going to be apartment- and cat-sitting in the inner city for the next five nights, so thought it would help to have the day at home today to all my housework so I can then enjoy my weekend kind of away. I must say it was a great relief waking up and knowing I didn't have to go to work - it's so ridiculously busy right now!

I'm happy with the timing of my weekend away as it's the weekend that the Growers Markets are on down at Pyrmont and I'll be within walking distance, so I can stock up on all sorts of lovely goodies there. I'll also be close to the fish markets, so can have a wander down there as well.

This week's recipe is one of those great little vegetable ones that you can cook up and serve with roast meat, lamb chops, tossed through pasta, on top of a pizza or even just by itself. It's very good with gnocchi. The way you use it will determine how many servings you get from it. It is quite luscious and every time I cook it I wonder why I don't make it more often. I hope you like it too.

Have a great week, love from Jane xx

Buttered spinach with pine nuts and sultanas

Blanch 400g of spinach in boiling water for 2 minutes (you know that frozen spinach is perfectly fine). Drain the spinach and while still hot, press as much water as you can out of the spinach, through the sieve.

Transfer the spinach to a warm mixing bowl. Add 80g of butter in pieces, 50g grated parmesan, 3 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of sultanas and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix well - the butter and cheese will melt in the heat of the spinach and the warmth of the bowl.