Maple syrup and butter baked pumpkins/delicatas with walnuts and crystallised ginger

December 2, 2014 § 2 Comments

pumpkins and squash

I spent the most part of September off the east coast of Maine on a small Island called Deer. The home of two very very dear friends who I had come to visit and celebrate with in their wedding. I slept in an old combi van parked in the little clearing made in the birch and cedar forest where the newly weds were building their house. I woke each morning to smoking white breath, a body just warm enough under a pile of thick blankets and my ears slowly attuning to the sounds of the morning; – the distant fog horn; the creep of the mist through the bays and forested islands; the sun unfurling the slender fern fronds. There my heart grew a certain happy glow from sipping on 44 north coffee, swimming in icy waters, eating my fair share of apricot pie, AND freshly picked homegrown delicatas baked with butter, maple syrup and crystallised ginger (thanks to new friends for teaching me just how good this could be!). This is the recipe I am sharing with you today, straight from the oven it shines gold like a piece of heaven itself –  and it is all of that and more in your mouth.

Because I had never heard of delicatas before going to America and I am guessing you might not have either, I have substituted delicata for pumpkin which, without sounding as exotic, tastes almost as good. But if you can get your hands on some I suggest giving them a go. A note to those in the Norhtern Hemisphere – this is the time to look – that is – autumn to early winter.

Delicatas

Maple syrup and butter baked pumpkins with walnuts and crystallised ginger

Enough organic grown pumpkin (or delicatas) to cover a large backing tray (about ½ – 3/4 of a medium sized pumpkin)
2 – 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons roughly chopped walnuts
1/3 cup crystallised ginger pieces chopped to the size of your liking
Salt and Pepper to taste

Pre heat your oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F.
Chop your pumpkin/delicatas, skin and all, into big bite sized chunks (I always leave the skin on as it helps hold the flavour and the juices).
Spread on a lightly greased backing tray.
Gently heat the oil, butter and maple syrup in a saucepan until the butter is just melted. Drizzle over the pumpkin.
Sprinkle with the walnuts and ginger, season with salt and pepper and give a light toss.
Pop in the oven and roast, stirring once or twice, until tender and beginning to brown. About 30 minutes.

A beautiful display

snake beans

July 15, 2013 § 2 Comments

chilli coconut snake beans

The Tropical Garden Spectacular  was on a few weeks ago. At the botanical gardens under trees with impossibly huge canopies I watched some local food cooking demonstrations. Lined up on straw bales with the green grass at our feet, some glimpse of paradise on the warm breeze, the chef Selvam Kandasamy from Saffrron, taught a small group of us how to make snake beans, sautéed in spices with coconut and curry leaves. And this my dear friends is a dish to be celebrated.

Snake beans are the lanky tropical equivalent of the green bean and you would be forgiven for thinking them somewhat tough and woody with little flavour. This recipe however  does them justice. It is full of flavour, crunchy, slightly sweet, bright green and turmeric yellow. The coconut and chili melts on your tongue. The intermittent curry leaves are bright in your mouth. The beans are cooked hot in a wok for just the very right amount of time making them softly crunchy and fluorescent.

I have made this recipe many times since then and each time I have continued to love it.  It is similar to the original made by Selvam Kandsamy except I have used coconut oil instead of peanut oil.

Spicy Snake Beans with Coconut and Curry Leaves

Serves: 4 – 5 as a main or 6 – 8 as a side dish.

Note: If you are in distant and cooler parts wanting to use something more locally appropriate I am sure green beans would also make a good substitute.

3 Tbsp pure coconut oil
2 flat tsp brown mustard seeds
2 flat tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1 red onion finely diced
1 whole fresh red chillis (you can also use 1 tsp dried chilli flakes instead)
1 Tbsp Split yellow lentils (optional)
4 cups chopped snake beans
1/2 cup shredded coconut
A good handful fresh curry leaves
Extra salt to taste

chopped snake beans and white bowl

Prepare all your ingredients before hand. Once you start cooking it all happens fast.

In a wok heat the oil on a medium to high flame until hot. Add the mustard seeds, turmeric, onion, and salt. Stir until the onions turn just translucent, then add the chilli and lentils. Continue stirring and add the beans and coconut stirring until the beans are just cooked through but still have a crunch and are bright green. Add the curry leaves and remove from heat.

It is lovely served as a side to fish or on its own with brown rice.

I hope you like it as much as I do.

ingredients for snake bean stir fry

pho

May 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Chilli flower

Its been two and a half months since we moved to Darwin. In that time, I have started making a basket out of scrap material collected over my 29 years, made huge amounts of pickled cucumbers, watched far to many murder mysteries, tried to commit myself to balancing on my head at least once a day, finally got a job, and consumed large quantities of pho. AND pho could just so happen to be the very best thing that has happened to me since I arrived. A traditional Vietnamese soup, it’s so easy to make, and so so tasty.

As I have learnt, there are a few things you need to consider when making pho. The first is your stock. I always recommend people make their own stock out of organic meat, rather than buying it from the store. Not just because it tastes so much better but because homemade stock is very very good for you.

For pho, I have made and used stock from chicken, beef and fish. All work well, just adding a slightly different flavour. Just remember that fish stock can be quite strong, so adjust the quantities as needed.

The next thing you need to consider is the herbs you garnish your pho with. My favourite by far is Thai basil, but you can also use coriander, mint and traditional basil or combinations of each.

light in out backyard

How to make stock

To make stock, I usually use the leftover bones and carcass from the previous nights roast dinner (about 1 – 2 kg). If I haven’t had a roast in a while, I will sometimes use 4 chicken drumsticks instead. I will place them in a large pot with one or two bay leaves and a good pinch of salt. Some people add vegetable scraps too and you can if you want. This is then covered with water, (about 4 – 6 litres) and brought to the boil before leaving to simmer for 3 – 4 hours, skimming the scum as needed. This can then be frozen into serve size portions (say two cups each) and used when needed. It will keep in the fridge for about 4 days and in the freezer for 3 – 4 months.

Pho (serves 4)

For the broth

4 cups stock
4 cups water
4 star anise
1 – 2 cinnamon quills
1 inch piece of ginger cut in half
1 onion cut into quarters
4 cloves garlic peeled
1/3 cup fish sauce

To serve
375 g flat rice noodles
Roughly 300 g organic beef very thinly sliced
2 limes cut into quarters
A bunch of fresh Thai basil
About 200 g beansprouts
2 fresh chillies cut into strips
Chilli sauce (optional)
Hoisin sauce (optional)
Additional fish sauce

Method

Place, stock, water, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, onion, garlic and fish sauce in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover and allow to simmer for around 30 minutes.

In the meantime, cook rice noodles as per package suggestions, and arrange limes, basil, bean sprouts, chilli and sauces on a serving plate in the middle of your table.

Divide the cooked noodles into 4 bowls. Place the raw beef strips on top and cover with steaming hot broth. The hot broth will cook the meat as it makes its way to the table. Allow people to add the additional ingredients in the centre of your table, as per their liking.

pho with condiments

Jamie’s baked fish

April 19, 2013 § 1 Comment

Tomatoes

I am currently elbow deep in a pot of pho broth which I will share with you all very soon. But before I do I wanted to draw your attention to Jamie Oliver’s delicioius baked fish recipe that I was making a lot of before I left Melbourne. I love it! And am despertate to squeeze it in here before tomatoes and basil are completely out of season for all you southern people. Strange as it may seem, April is the time Territorians plant their Solanaceaes. Its the time when the air changes texture. The moisture relents. The blessed dry is around the corner.

So here it is. Jamie Olivers incredible baked fish. Perfect for summer evening dinner parties. Lick your plate good. In his recipe Jamie suggests using Sole, but I used Trout. Any whole flat fish will work.

On another note, I also started baking just the vegies and herbs, prepared as he suggests below but without the fish. This made for a delicious pasta sauce.

Serves 4

Ingredients for Jaimie Oliver’s Baked Fish

4 whole lemon soles, from sustainable sources, ask your fishmonger
2 handfuls red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 handful fresh oregano or basil, leaves picked
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
zest of halved 2 lemons
extra virgin olive oil
1 handful black olives, destoned and chopped
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Method

“This is really simple. First of all give your fish a wash, then with a sharp knife score across each fish down to the bone at 2.5cm/1 inch intervals on both sides. This allows flavour to penetrate the fish and lets the fish’s juices come out.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Get yourself a bowl and add the tomatoes, garlic, oregano or basil, spring onions, balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper and the zest and juice of 1 lemon to it. Loosen with a couple of good tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and mix well, then spread over the bottom of a large roasting tray. Use one that will fit all 4 fish quite snugly (or you can use two smaller trays). Place the fish on top – top to tail.

Now add the olives, parsley, juice and zest of the second lemon to the bowl that the tomatoes were in. Loosen with a little olive oil and then divide this mixture between the fish, placing an equal amount on the centre of each. Cook in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. To check whether they’re done, take the tip of a knife and push it into the thickest part of the fish. When done, the flesh will easily pull away from the bone.

Once cooked, remove the fish from the oven and allow them to rest for 3 or 4 minutes while you get your guests round the table, serve them some wine and dress your salad. Then you can come back to the fish. Divide them up at the table on to 4 plates, making sure that everyone gets some tomatoes and juice spooned over the top of the fish. ”

Enjoy!

The above recipe was taken word for word from here.

summer bounty

The two photos in this post were taken last year around this time. Here is what I posted on then.

spiced roast eggplant and zucchini salad

January 13, 2013 § 1 Comment

DSCF5262

It is hot! Stinking hot! The kind of heat with thick hairdryer winds. The kind of heat you feel like you are swimming in rather than walking in. The air is viscous, your arms almost float in it.

I never feel like eating much in this weather other than ice cubes, salads and smoothies. Not all at once of course but spaced between episodes of gasping on the couch with a wet towel on my head and the fan on high no less than two feet from my face.

Eggplant

The recipe below for an eggplant and zucchini salad spiced with paprika, cumin and mint, is both light and rich. The dried figs, walnuts and fetta add a lovely texture to the softness of the roasted vegies.

Spiced roast eggplant and zucchini salad

2 – 3 large eggplants
1 large or 2 small zucchinis
Salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
4 cloves garlic chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Juice of half an orange
1/2 Tbs tamari or soy sauce
1 cup fresh mint leaves roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried figs roughly chopped
3/4 cup toasted walnuts roughly chopped
1 cup roughly chopped crumbled fetta

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Preparation

Preheat oven to 200°C /400°F

Cut the eggplant and zucchini into 1-inch cubes and put in a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside for about 15 minutes or until juices start to come out of the eggplant. Rinse in cold water, drain and pat dry.

In the meantime, combine olive oil, vinegar, honey, paprika, cumin, lemon zest, half the lemon juice and chopped garlic. Stir into the salted and washed eggplant and zucchini.

Spread the mixture onto a large baking paper lined baking dish and roast in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until very tender and browned. You will need to check on them and give them a toss halfway through the cooking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

Place roasted veggies in bowl and add tamari, orange juice and the last half of the lemon juice. Toss. Stir in the mint, figs, walnuts and feta and enjoy.

Serves 4

DSCF5263

the way I like it

December 12, 2012 § 5 Comments

flowers

I have always taken on a rather flippant character in the kitchen and I have always been very hopeless at following recipes. It’s a bit like an uncontrollable desire to not do as I am told. But I think this also comes from being an impatient kind of person – I can never be bothered to measure things properly, I can’t stand all those different sized measuring spoons, and never seem to be able to find the measuring cup in our chaotic and unruly cupboards.  I’m also impatient enough to forget that it is this very nature that is the reason for unruly cupboards in the first place. Things get thrown on shelves with doors slammed and a quick prayer that nothing will come tumbling out when displaced by the new object that has descended upon its turf.

I admire those people, who don’t seem to notice the things that slow them down, those that can measure flour down to the milligram, who level a cup with the scrape of a knife, who follow a recipe methodically.

The recipe below for beef rendang is one I first ate at my friend and colleague Noel’s house. Noel and his wife Jenny are amazing cooks. The recipe came out of an old and battered book, with pages yellowing and crinkled at the sides. They picked it up when they were in Indonesia, perhaps more than 30 years ago, and they have been cooking out of it ever since. It is very much my kind of recipe – humorously vague with a few Indonesian words for ingredients thrown in here and there. It leaves much to the imagination. But it is also an absolutely beautiful recipe. The meat becomes lovely and tender with hours spent cooking and the flavours are rich and creamy.

Below I have written the recipe directly from the book, but with some added notes in honour of people who like things more precise, and in an attempt to be more like that myself.  I hope you enjoy.

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Rendang Padang

1 lb steak (I used 600g)
2 – 4 tsp chilli
1 scant tsp laos (galangal powder – I used fresh)
1 medium onion grated
1 small clove garlic crushed (I used 2)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
3 cups thick santan (coconut cream)
1 knob ginger (I used about 1 inch)
½ tsp turmeric
1- 2 stalk/piece lemon grass pounded (and chopped)
Asam (juice of half a lemon)
(I also added 2 small potatoes and a small sweet potato)

Cut the meat into serving size pieces and place in a wide saucepan (with hot oil – brown the meat).
Crush Ginger and add, with onion and garlic and other spices (stir until fragrant).
Add Santan (coconut cream).
(Add potatoes and sweet potato)
Bring quickly to the boil, stirring frequently to prevent catching until the oil comes out.
Continue the slow cooking until the oil is re-absorbed. This can take 2-3 hours told, even up to 8 hours (I cooked for about 2 hours, being impatient offcourse).
The dish should be completely dry when served (I think they mean thick here).
(Serve with rice)
Note: New potatoes, red beans (previously soaked over night), or pieces of young jackfruit, can be added to this dish when the santan has come to the boil.
Instead of beef – can use chicken, prawn, duck, liver, egg, goat, or kangaroo meat.

DSCF4875

Osso Bucco

June 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

Here is a simple recipe for a hearty stew, perfect for winter evenings. The carrots we have been getting lately, have been so sweet which I think is important to make this stew work. So try and use organic ones if you can.

Marinade

4 pieces of osso bucco (try and get smaller pieces if you can)
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp coriander seeds ground
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp sea salt
Juice and lime of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp oil

Stir spices, lemon and oil into a smooth paste and coat over the meat. Allow to sit for half an hour before searing on both sides in a hot oiled pan.

For the Stew

1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
a few good sprigs fresh thyme
4 carrots sliced
4 – 5 celery sticks
1 ½ cups chicken stock
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 can tomato or one cup tomato puree
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

Pre heat oven to 190 °C/374 ºF. Saute onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Turn down the heat and add the thyme, rosemary, carrots and celery. Pop on the lid and allow to sweat for 5 – 10 minutes stirring every now and again as needed. Add all other ingredients minus the meat and bring to the boil. Add the meat and bring to the boil again. Transfer to an oven proof pot with a lid and place in preheated oven for 1 hour. Alternatively you can continue cooking on the stove top for an hour.

Serve with brown rice and enjoy.

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