Saturday, June 27, 2009

Crispy cumin and paprika wedges

Hello everyone, I had the joy of attending a class conducted by Alex Herbert of Bird Cow Fish this week. BCF is one of my favourite restaurants (yes, I know I have a long list) and I love Alex's approach to food. I made sure that I arrived in plenty of time so that I actually scored a seat in the front row which made it very easy to pepper Alex with questions. She started us off with a lovely little winter salad made with venison. I don't really eat meat outside the mainstream ones with which I grew up, so it was my first taste of venison. I don't think it's something I'd order in a restaurant but it worked well in the salad. Next up was roasted salt marinated duck with potato and apple galettes. Delicious. For me (you won't be surprised) dessert was the highlight - steamed ginger pudding served with creme anglaise. Mmmmm, I love puddings, especially steamed ones. It has really tempted me to buy a steamer although where I would store it I don't know. Alex had these two massive old steamers into which she was able to stack 35 puddings. It was a very delicious and fun demonstration.

And yesterday my beautiful Iranian volunteer, Sara, presented me with a dainty container of Iranian saffron, which her parents had brought with them when they arrived in Sydney during the week. She was stunned that I knew what it was and queried "Do you know how to use it?" I assured her that I do and use saffron regularly. Later in the day one of the IT boys came past, and he is also Iranian. I proudly showed him the saffron (and nougat) that Sara had given me. Same question! Same doubtful face! Clearly Australians haven't impressed with their use of saffron!!!

Today's recipe for potato wedges is just perfect for this cold time of year. You cook them in the oven so they are guilt free and just the most divine flavour. If I have nigella seeds handy sometimes I sprinkle them on as well. The recipe comes from Belinda Jeffery's Tried And True Recipes.

Have a lovely week. Love from Jane xx

Crispy cumin and paprika wedges

Says it serves four, I'll leave that to your judgement

What you need:
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 kg Desiree potatoes, peeled and sliced into generous wedges
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

What you do:
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C.
  2. Line a large baking dish with foil and then a layer of baking paper. This will save on a really hard to clean dish later.
  3. Sprinkle the cumin seeds into a small pan on top of the stove and warm them over a medium heat until they are fragrant. Do stir them constantly as they burn easily.
  4. When the cumin seeds are ready, pour them into the baking dish and add the potato wedges.
  5. Drizzle the oil over the potatoes and sprinkle them with the salt, pepper and paprika. Mix everything together so that the wedges are well coated.
  6. Spread the wedges into a single layer and put in the oven.
  7. Roast the wedges, turning once or twice, for 50 to 60 minutes, or until they are a lovely golden colour with crisp edges (of course you will need to try one or two to check).
  8. Devour!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cheese custards

Hello everyone, this week has been a non event for me on the cooking front. I just seem to have had a combination of after work events to attend or late nights at the office, meaning very little cooking (and really not great eating). Thankfully I made up a full quantity of a nice pasta dish last Sunday so that gave me some lunches during the week to keep me going. And this week I intend to make the full quantity of a couple more dishes so that I have some dinners waiting for me in the freezer for the nights I'm home late!

Now today's dish might seem very indulgent, and it is, but believe me, it is luscious and something that is very easy to whip up if you have friends coming around, or for a nice little supper for yourself. It's also easily transportable - I took some to work one day when I was going to an after work event and wanted to have dinner before I went. The recipe comes from my very reliable SOS (Autumn/Winter) book. It's served with a red capsicum sauce which you can whip up while the custards are cooking. Now I am someone who for years has slaved over a hot stove roasting capsicums so you can then peel away the skin. At a cooking class recently Valli Little pointed out that you can now buy jars of roasted, peeled capsicums at the supermarket. Who knew? Certainly not me, but I have some now in my cupboard and they are perfect for this sauce. Very time saving.

With the rain pouring down outside today it's definitely hot chocolate weather. I'll be heading to my favourite cafe as usual for my top-up! Have a happy week. Love from Jane xx

Cheese custards
(Serves 8 as an entree)

Combine 25g melted unsalted butter, 200g brie, 200g cream cheese, 100g sour cream and 3 eggs in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add freshly ground pepper to taste and a little salt only if you think the mix needs it.

Pour the mix into buttered 1/2 cup moulds. Place the moulds in a baking dish and pour in boiling water to come half way up the sides of the moulds.

Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the custards are set. Remove the moulds from the oven and allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

While the custards are cooking, place the capsicums from a jar into the food processor with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, the finely grated zest and juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons olive oil and some sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Once you have a smooth puree, transfer the sauce to a saucepan and just before serving, warm over a low heat.

Turn each custard out onto a plate and serve with the warmed red capsicum sauce spooned all around it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Spanish Minestrone

Hello everyone, I haven't been doing so much cooking this week as I have been quite immersed in the Sydney Film Festival. I managed to get to eight films overall and saw some really good ones. My most outstanding award goes to a film shot here in Sydney called Cedar Boys, which is about three young Lebanese men who get caught up in the drug trade. It is the most fascinating story and held the attention of the entire cinema right up to the end. It has gone straight to the top of my list of best films and I really recommend it - it's due for a general release on 30 June.

This week's recipe is another lovely warming soup that I made when winter was just starting to set in and I had some chorizo kicking around in the fridge. It comes from that wonderful book I always have to hand, 3 Ways With Stale Bread... by Ross Dobson, and is very yummy and filling.

Have a fabulous week. Love from Jane xx

Spanish Minestrone

Serves four

Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a saucepan and stir-fry 1 chopped onion with 1 finely cubed chorizo for a few minutes on a medium heat, to soften the onion and bring out all the spices in the sausage. Add 500ml chicken stock, 400g chopped tinned tomatoes, 400g tinned chickpeas (rinsed and drained) and one cubed potato.

Bring the soup to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, until the potato is nicely soft. Stir through a handful of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley and serve topped with some crumbled feta or manchego cheese.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lemon curd bread and butter pudding

Hello everyone, I was lucky enough to have two group get togethers during the week over dinner at two restaurants I love, both of which have a multiple dishes to share style of dining, so I was able to taste lots of different things! On Wednesday night I went back to Kika Tapas in Darlinghurst. There were eight of us and it felt as if we ordered a huge number of dishes, but we managed to eat it all (and fit in dessert!) and still pay a reasonable amount.

Then on Thursday night I organised my book club to meet at Kuali, a Malaysian restaurant in Lane Cove, to meet my friend Fiona Higgins and discuss her recently published memoir, Love In The Age Of Drought. Fiona brought along the main character, her husband Stu, and we enjoyed a fabulous banquet with the best roti bread I have ever eaten. These two feasts can make up for this weekend when I will be immersed in the film festival instead of being out eating.

Now that it's winter we have the perfect excuse to consume puddings, and this recipe is luscious. I can't remember what prompted me to try it the first time because I am phobic about mass produced white sliced bread, and have never been a huge fan of lemon curd. I think I actually tasted it at a cooking demonstration by Valli Little and loved it, so tried it out at home myself. You can get really beautiful lemon or passionfruit curds these days, and the bread, well, it just works. Try it and see.

Have a happy week. Love from Jane xx

  • Lemon curd bread and butter pudding

    Serves 6-8

    What you need:
  • 14 slices Tip Top white bread, crusts removed
  • 50g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 jar lemon or passionfruit curd
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 6 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups thin cream
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

    What you do:
    1. Butter the bread and then spread with curd.
    2. Cut each slice into halves and layer, overlapping, in a large baking dish.
    3. Beat together the eggs, cream, sugar and lemon zest.
    4. Pour custard over the bread and leave to rest for half an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170C.
    5. Place the pudding in a roasting tin and pour in enough water to come half way up the sides of the baking dish.
    6. Cover the pudding loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
    7. Remove the foil and cook a further 5-10 minutes or until the top turns golden and puffed.
    8. Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream, icecream and berries.

    The leftovers are really yummy warmed up for breakfast!