strawberries and basil

March 7, 2012 § 6 Comments

This recipe is really very special, so much so that I was almost tempted not to share it. I used to make it when I worked at Friendly Beaches Lodge – indeed I even served it to the Prime Minister of Australia, but thats another story.

Recipe for strawberries and grapes with macerated basil sauce (serves around 6)

500g fresh strawberries
300 – 500g green grapes
3 tsp raw sugar
I cup fresh basil leaves loosely packed
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves loosely packed
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup raw sugar

Cut strawberries into quarters and grapes into halves. Place in a bowl and sprinkle 3 teaspoons sugar over the top (for an extra tangy end result drizzle 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar over the fruit as well). Cover with a plate and leave to marinate for a couple of hours.

In the meantime combine the basil, mint and additional sugar in a mortar and pestle. Grind and pumice into a paste. Alternatively, use a food processor or coffee grinder.

Add the lemon juice to make a moist smooth mixture. Allow to sit until sugar dissolves.

Divide the marinated fruit into serving bowls and top with basil mixture.

Serve with pouring cream and be glad I shared it. xx

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harissa

February 26, 2012 § 5 Comments

Im a little tired of late, and pulling my thoughts into words seems to get stuck somewhere far back in my brain, unable to reach the nerve endings of my fingers to type anything audable  or useful. So I am keeping this simple… just the recipe and a few photos. I know it has been a bit of a trend of late – perhaps some quite moments when life slows down will solve this problem and my thoughts will be inspired to carry themselves to my limbs. Until then, here is a recipe for Harissa. I was dreaming of this all winter, waiting for capsicums to come into season, it is a delicious spicy sauce great on curries, fried tofu, burgers, lamb cutlets….


Recipe for Harissa

2 red capsicums
2 tsp cumin seeds roasted
2 tsp coriander seeds roasted
5 small bullet chillies de seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp salt
100 ml oil

Roast the red capsicum in a hot oven until black. Place in a bowl with a plate on top in the fridge until it cools. Once cool, peel off the skin, remove seeds and finely dice.

In a hot saucepan toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Roughly crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle before adding roasted capsicum, chillies, garlic and salt. Grind and pumice until smooth. Stir in the oil.

This will keep under a thin layer of oil in the fridge for up to a week.

not your average poached pear

November 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

Not your average poached pear – well, average in that everyone does them, but not so average in that this one is particularly good. Coming from a friends mother, you can tell this recipe is from a gourmet trend passed not quite long enough ago to be trendy in a retro way. But over done and ‘so last decade’ is half the charm. Its sweet and intense, simple but very good. These pears come poached in a thick and syrupy red wine sauce with a gentle taste of star anise. This is also a recipe I served at friendly beaches lodge.

Recipe for Red Wine Poached Pears with Star Anise

6 firm pears
40 g butter
2 cups red wine
1 cup brown sugar or honey
4-6 star anise

Peel the pears and cut their bottom flat so they will stand upright when served. Heat the butter in a medium sized saucepan (you want a saucepan that the pears will sit in snug), and lightly brown the pears in the butter. Add the red wine, sugar and star anise and bring to the boil. Simmer with the lid on for abut 45 minutes or until the pears are soft and cooked through. During this time you should turn the pears and spoon over the sauce to keep them moist on all sides. Finally, remove the lid and simmer until the sauce reduces and turns syrupy. Serve with cream.

And there you have it, not so average red wine poached pears with star anise.

Labna and Whey

May 27, 2011 § 3 Comments

Traditionally eaten in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Jordan  labna is a wonderful and easy way to make your own soft white cheese. Labna is creamy and delicious and works equally well with savory or sweet things. For example, spread it on toast with honey or alternatively garlic, olive oil and tomato. Eat it with stewed fruit or next to curries and so on.

To make Labna, you need to separate the whey from yoghurt. You are then left with a beautiful soft cheese and whey.

Whey is incredibly nutritious. Sally Fallon notes in her book, Nourishing Traditions, that whey has been used to cure a variety of human ailments since the time of the ancient Greeks. It is full of minerals and one teaspoon taken in a glass of water is said to help digestion. It is also said to help keep your joints, muscles and ligaments young and movable.

So to separate your whey from your yoghurt, you will need to place your yoghurt in a muslin cloth.

And suspend over a bowl either in a sieve or hanging from a wooden spoon and leave in a cool place for 24 hours.

You should then be left with a good layer of whey in the bottom of your bowl and lovely soft white cheese. Store your whey in a glass jar in the fridge.

To store your labna you can roll it into balls and cover with olive oil (obviously not if you want to use it for something sweet).

Labna

watermelon salad

April 16, 2011 § 5 Comments


It’s a bit sneaky of me to squeeze this very summery recipe in mid April amidst the figs and soups, but I had an end of season watermelon and there is still plenty of basil in the garden so I thought I could just get away with it before it becomes really wintery and inappropriate. It did go down quite well with a crusty slice of bread and the afternoon Autumn sun shining in on the kitchen table. Its beautifully fresh and light.

what you will need
About 1 kg of watermelon cubed
3 – 4 handfuls baby greens
100 g fetta
Handful basil leaves roughly broken
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp lemon rind
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and serve with crusty bread.

Homemade Spicy Wedges with Aioli

February 26, 2011 § 3 Comments

I have had quite a few requests for this recipe, firstly at Friendly Beaches and then at our wonderful garden gig we had for the Luscombe street Community Garden last sunday.

To make these wedges you have to be prepared to go a bit wild in the spice cupboard. They are usually different every time I make them. This is probably depending on which spices aren’t too far back and hard to reach in the cupboard, but I will do my best to give you something to follow. I would also like to stress here that there is definitely room for personal touch. Sometimes I have made them with lemongrass, sometimes not, sometimes with cumin, sometimes not, sometimes with turmeric, sometimes not, sometimes with garam masala, sometimes not and so on. However, I think the lemon juice, zest and cinnamon are great ingredients to add an intriguing flavour.

I have provided an aioli recipe to go with the wedges but they are just as good with chutney or the like.

Spicy Wedges (Serves 4 – 5)

2 kg potatoes

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp whole cumin seeds

2 tsp ground coriander seeds

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1 1/2 tsp salt

Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

80 ml oil

1 stalk lemongrass beaten with the back of a knife and chopped finely

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Wash the potatoes and cut into wedges.  Place the potatoes and all the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until the potatoes are coated evenly.

Place the potatoes on two large baking trays making sure all wedges are touching the tray. Bake for 1 hour if using a fan forced oven, a bit longer if not.

Aioli

2 egg yolks

1 cup light olive oil or a combination of stronger  olive oil and sunflower oil

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp mustard

1 tsp lemon zest

2 cloves crushed garlic

A big handful of fresh herbs. I used parsley, oregano and thyme.

Place the egg yolks and 2 Tbsp lemon juice on a large plate and stir well with a fork. Add the olive oil very very slowly, stirring well with the fork after each drop.

Once all the olive oil has been added, stir in the remainder lemon juice, zest, garlic and mustard. Finely chop the herbs and add these too.

(If you want to cheat and buy a good quality mayonnaise and add garlic lemon juice, zest and herbs to make your aioli, I promise I won’t tell anyone. I have been guilty of this too).

Serve in a bowl alongside the wedges.

Enjoy!

What it Means to be Perfect: Chocolate coated dried plums marinated in white wine and a hint of thyme

February 11, 2011 § 9 Comments

Chocolate coated dried plums

When in Belgium I went to visit my great aunty and uncle Yvonne and Jos in the small town of Bellingen. Oom Jos just turned 90 and Tante Yvonne isn’t far behind. We ate cake with a fork and knife before a dinner of witlof wrapped in ham and baked in snowy white sauce. This is a very traditional Flemish dish. As a child I was always glad witlof was so hard to find in Australia so it rarely ended up in my mother’s kitchen. But now I enjoy it in small amounts provided there’s plenty of ham and sauce to go around.

During the Flemish conversations around the dinner table I mostly daydreamed at the paintings on the wall and marvelled at the young spirit of my aunt and uncle gossiping and laughing about the local goings on. At one point, the conversation briefly turned to English and my uncle proclaimed,

Tante Yvonn and Oom Jos

‘No one is perfect.’

Then after reflecting on this statement for a while he continued,

‘Except for my wife! She is Perfect. She cleans and cooks all day. She is perfect… only problem is she has no time for making love. She is too busy. She never has time to kiss me.’

I am always struck when I see an old relationship full of humour, love and adoration like this one, a little reminder that life can indeed be great, full of warmth and happiness.

So because the conversation here is about love and perfection and because it is almost Valentines Day and because I am sadly alone with my darling still in Africa, I have decided it is most suitable I share this recipe so perfect and delicious it will make you weak at the knees and your heart melt. Well at least I hope so.

I got the idea of chocolate covered prunes from Stephanie Alexanders book The Cooks Companion. She stuffs them with almonds and soaks them in brandy. I have adapted it some by using white wine and adding a few little bits and pieces for extra freshness. I think the thyme and lemon zest brings something unique and light to the richness of the chocolate. I also changed the terminology a bit because for something with a valentine spirit ‘prunes’ doesn’t really have the right um… connotations in regards to some of its well known uses. Dried plums on the other hand….

Recipe for Chocolate Coated Dried Plums

You will need

30 pitted prunes

30 almonds

3/4 cup white wine

Juice of an orange

Sprig of thyme

Zest of 1/4 of  a lemon

200g dark cooking chocolate

Stuff an almond into each prune where the pip would have been and place in a bowl along with the white wine, orange juice, thyme and lemon zest. Allow to soak for 1 – 2 hours then drain well.

drain well

Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

Melted chocolate

Dip each prune into the chocolate. Allow to cool in the fridge on a tray covered with baking paper until the chocolate sets.

Allow to cool on baking paper

Serve on a pretty plate and eat with someone special.

Enjoy!!

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