Saturday, March 28, 2009

Potato and gruyere gratin

Hello everyone, last week I was having dinner at Young Alfred in Customs House with my American friend Chris and I commented to him that despite this being about my twentieth visit to YA, I had not yet persuaded any of my companions to choose the Surprise pizza on the menu (and I have certainly never been brave enough to try it myself). Chris being the courageous and daring person that he is promptly replied "Well, let's order it as a starter". Now up until then I hadn't realised that if you order it, although they won't tell you what is on it, you can declare any items you don't like and if by chance that day's surprise pizza does happen to be covered with your unfavourite ingredients the staff will steer you away from it. So we ordered it with the proviso no mushrooms (me) and no anchovies or mussels (Chris). Well, was I glad we took the plunge! It was beautiful. YA make the best pizza bases, they are very thin and crispy, and our surprise pizza had a lovely garlicky tomato sauce, thinly sliced ham, caramelised onion, goats curd and flat leaf parsley. I was so glad we did it! Now I'm going to order it whenever I go there! (Although who knows what the combination will be next time, I think it's whatever takes the chef''s fancy that day).

Now I know that I gave you a vegetable gratin dish last week and here is another one. This one is far more decadent and is an ode to my favourite vegetable, the potato. With a dish like this I tend to be quite generous with the quantities - if you think you need more cheese, for example, use more cheese. Or potato, or cream. Now that the evenings are getting cooler it's excusable to eat potatoes with cream.

Have a fabulous week. Love from Jane xx

Potato and gruyere gratin

Serves four as a side dish

What you need:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 100g gruyere cheese, grated and divided into two portions
  • 1 1/2 cups hot chicken stock
  • 1 cup cream

What you do:
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Grease a medium sized baking dish with the butter.
  3. Cover the base with the potato slices and season well, then sprinkle on some of the cheese.
  4. Gradually build up layers of potato and cheese until you have used all of the potato slices and one of the portions of cheese.
  5. Pour the hot stock over the potato and cheese and bake for 40 minutes.
  6. About ten minutes before the potato is due to come out of the oven, gently warm the cream but don't allow it to boil.
  7. Remove the potato from the oven and pour the warm cream over it.
  8. Sprinkle on the other half of the cheese and bake for a further 20 minutes, or until the cheese topping is lightly browned.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fennel, tomato and garlic gratin

Hello everyone, I seem to be going through one of those times where I am eating out nearly every day. In the last two years I caught myself in the habit of going back to just a small number of really good reliable places, which is always good, but this year I'm trying to actually go to all the places I read about and think "That sounds good, I should try there some time". Thankfully I have friends willing to be bossed around and told where we are eating!

So this week just gone I finally got to La Locanda in Bronte which has been on my list for about three years (not that Bronte is that far away, it was just a matter of finding an occasion to go out with my Eastern suburbs dwelling friends) (and it was beautiful, well worth the wait), and then I was lucky enough to be taken to Cafe Sydney the next day, where I had the most luscious home made gnocchi. It was heaven. Tonight I do get to go back to an old favourite (Young Alfred, Customs House) as I'm going to see a play at the Opera House, and then next Friday I'm lucky enough to be going to lunch at my current absolute favourite, Catalonia in Kirribilli! So I guess I haven't completely let go of the old reliables....

Of course all this restaurant gallivanting does mean less time for cooking. And no matter how good someone else's cooking is, it does calm me down to cook something for myself. This week's dish is something I did just recently and was beautiful. I love fennel and it's really just coming into the best time of year for it. The recipe comes from my lovely Growers Market book.

Have a great week, love from Jane xx

Fennel, tomato and garlic gratin
Serves 4, and you can either serve it as a side dish to a main or with something simple like some good bread and cheese.

What you need:
  • 2 bulbs of fennel, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 450g ripe tomatoes

Gratin topping:
  • 60g fresh white breadcrumbs (you get a really good effect if you keep the crumbs large and chunky)
  • 65g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspooons grated lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

What you do
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Grease a 22cm square gratin dish.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
  4. Cook the onion for a few minutes until softened.
  5. Add the garlic and cook briefly, then add the fennel and cook for seven minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and golden brown.
  6. Cut a cross at the base of each tomato and place them in a bowl. Pour over boiling water and let stand for 20 seconds and then cool with cold water. Peel the skins off the tomatoes and discard.
  7. Chop the tomato flesh roughly and add to the fennel. Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes, or until the tomato is softened.
  8. Season the vegetables well and pour into the gratin dish.
  9. Mix together the gratin ingredients, sprinkle over the vegetables and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
  10. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chilli salmon noodle salad with lime and herbs

Hello everyone, I had a fantastic day yesterday doing a Spanish Gourmet Safari We went all over Sydney and tasted all sorts of beautiful Spanish foods and drinks including jamon, olives, cheese, chorizo, sherry (which I had never tasted before but once I tried the Pedro Ximinez...I was hooked). I knew the day was off to a good start when we began in a tiny cafe in Kings Cross with beautiful thick Spanish hot chocolate and churros. From there we went to Yagoona, then back to McMahons Point, then Glebe and finally into the Spanish quarter in Liverpool street in the city. Who knew there were so many sources of fabulous Spanish things? We finished mid afternoon with some tapas and sangria. I have to say the potatoes in alioli were the best I have ever eaten. All in all an outstanding day, so if you like your Spanish I highly recommend you do this tour, it is excellent.

Now for a completely different taste I'm giving you a recipe for a Thai style salad which truly stands the test of something delicious and easy at the end of a long, hard day. I left work on Friday night at 7.00 and was determined that I was going to make this salad. Only problem was that I had left my shopping list at home and didn't know what I needed for it, and by that time of night my shopping options were limited. I took a punt that delicious magazine, from which the recipe comes (in fact it's this month's cover recipe so you can see it), is sold in Woolies and happily found it there. I bought a copy and then whipped around the shop and managed to obtain all the ingredients that I didn't already have at home. (Including buying the salmon at Woolies which I have never done before but I was surprised at how good and fresh it was, just like buying from a real fishmonger!)

So you can imagine, by the time I got home it was around 8.00. Well, I had dinner made within 15 minutes and it was beautiful. So hopefully a good one for you too when you're in the same situation - just remember to take your shopping list with you!

Have a happy week. Love from Jane xx

Chilli salmon noodle salad with lime and herbs

Serves four

What you need:
  • 500g salmon fillet
  • 1-2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, or a light olive oil
  • 200g rice vermicelli noodles
  • 1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 avocado, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup each mint, coriander and Thai or regular basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Dressing (I found the given quantities perfect but you can adjust to suit your taste)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, plus lime wedges to serve
  • 2 tablespoons each fish sauce and sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons caster sugar

What you do:
  1. Coat the salmon fillet in the sweet chilli sauce.
  2. Heat the oil in a frypan over a medium-high heat.
  3. Sear the salmon for 2-3 minutes each side, leaving it a little pink in the middle.
  4. Place the salmon on a plate, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest while you make the salad.
  5. Prepare the noodles by pouring boiling water over them, then drain and set aside.
  6. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a large bowl until the sugar dissolves.
  7. Add the cherry tomatoes, avocado and sliced red chilli to the dressing and toss gently to combine.
  8. Add the noodles and herbs to the salad and gently toss again.
  9. Divide the noodle salad among four plates.
  10. Break the salmon into chunks with your fingers and gently tuck the pieces into the salad.
  11. Scatter with the peanuts and serve the salad with the lime wedges.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Flourless peach cake

Hello everyone, this was one of those weeks when once again I was reflecting on sandwiches and puzzling yet again over why it's so hard to get good ones. This was prompted by the fact that for three days in a row I happened to have lunch provided in an office in the city (different ones each day) and the sandwiches varied in quality (and none were to die for). I guess the fact that they are done in bulk doesn't help, plus they are probably made some time in advance of being served so inevitably start to sag. I'm also intrigued at some of the combinations of fillings you see. Not all of which I find appealing! Happily today I can go and have the perfect sandwich made up freshly for me at my favourite cafe, accompanied by a beautiful cup of hot chocolate. Thank goodness there are some places that know how to get the basics right!

Today's recipe is for a wonderful cake that I baked recently and brought into the office to share. It is so moist you won't believe it and it went down really, really well, in fact I'd say it's the most popular one so far - the boys in particular really went for it. It's yet another from my favourite Epicure Chocolate book. It doesn't have an icing so I just served it with some thick cream.

Have a happy week. Love from Jane xx

Flourless peach cake

What you need:
  • 225g ground almonds
  • 225g brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons really good quality Dutched cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 1/2 cup milk soured with the juice of one lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • One handful of chopped dried peach

What you do:
  1. Preheat the oven to 175C.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm round baking tin with baking paper.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together.
  4. Add the milk and eggs to the dry ingredients and mix well to combine.
  5. Stir in the chopped peach.
  6. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 45 minutes.
  7. Cool in the tin and turn out very, very carefully, then use a second cake rack to flip over so it's the right way around. Because this cake is so moist it's liable to break very easily so be as gentle and careful as you can!