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I confess, I like a chili con carne. After trying one or two, I kind of invented my own recipe and riff off that each time I make it.

Chipotle Chili Con Carne served on top of roasted sweet potato wedges

My chili con carne always includes oregano (or Herbes Sauvage, which is basically a blend of rosemary, oregano and thyme), coriander, ground cumin and ground chili.

In the recent years I’ve added chili flakes (instead of ground chili) and achiote to the standard repertoire.

Dependent on how I feel, I might add garlic, roasted red capsicum, or dice carrots and celery to fry off with my onion, but those are all variations dependent on what I feel like at the time.

I bought a tin of chipotle chili in adobo sauce that I’ve been aching to experiment with in my chili con carne.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: even the small tins of chipotle chili in adobo sauce are too much for a single meal, but it freezes quite well! So I now have a stash of chunks of frozen chipotle chili in adobo sauce that I can dip in to when the occasion calls for it.)

I usually serve my chili con carne with rice, and cheese and greek yoghurt, but for this version I decided to try serving it on top of roasted sweet potato wedges. VERY good, do recommend. Still filling but without the heaviness rice tends to bring post-dinner.

Ingredients

This makes servings for about 6, with some left overs or second helpings 🙂

  • 1 tsp achiote
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp chipotle chili in adobo sauce
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp oregano (if you don’t have a deluxe tin of Herbes Sauvage)
  • 1 brown onion, I cut mine into slices rather than a dice
  • 1 jar of passata (700mL)
  • 1 tub of tomato paste (140gm)
  • 250gm beef mince
  • 1 tin red kidney beans
  • Seasoning: salt and pepper
  • Stock: vegeta stock powder to hand
  • EVOO

Heat a tbsp of EVOO in your saucepan, and add the onions. Fry them until they are almost translucent, then add in the chili flakes, coriander, cumin and continue cooking. Add in your beef mince and brown.

When the mince is browned, I add in some hot water and vegeta stock powder and stir (you don’t want it too wet, so 1/2 a cup to a cup of water). Cook for a couple of minutes, then add in your tomato paste and stir thoroughly to combine.

At this point add in your achiote, oregano and cinnamon, and stir again. Then add in your jar of passata and the chipotle chili in adobo and stir.

Bring the mix to a simmer and then turn it down to a low simmer. At this point, check your seasoning and add some salt and pepper if required. You can also add stock powder if you want a more flavoursome sauce.

Dependent on how “wet” you want your chili, you can simmer with the lid on or off your saucepan for about 40 minutes to an hour to let the flavours infuse. Remember you will be adding kidney beans before serving, so don’t reduce it too much.

5 minutes before serving, add your beans and stir. And do a final taste of your flavours.

Super super good!

As you can see, I ate it with quite a bit of greek yoghurt: I made this for the Amazant Monsieur H and his palate is a lot hardier than mine (think: asbestos). So it was slightly spicier than my normal, but still LOVELY.

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Full disclosure: this is a photo of a half measure of the recipe

Risotto is super nice, super economical, can stretch to feed many (this recipe makes enough for 6) but it’s rarely a dinner party go to because you have to stir it so much. Well: enter the oven baked risotto, where once you’ve done the prep, you can chuck it in the oven, and all you need to do is check it occasionally to top up the stock.

And a red wine risotto is quite unusual! With the contrast of the dark red of the wine staining the rice and the bright orange of the pumpkin, this is one of the easier WOW moment dishes you can make for a dinner party!

Ingredients

This makes servings for about 6, with some left overs or second helpings.

  • 800gm of pumpkin cut into wedges with the skin on
  • 4 tbsp cup olive oil
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup Merlot
  • 100gm butter diced
  • 3 shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups medium grain rice
  • 1L stock (I use 2 tsp vegeta stock powder to 1L boiling water)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan plus 1/2 cup more to serve

Preheat oven to 180°. Toss pumpkin with 1 tbsp olive oil and rosemary and roast until pumpkin and skin are tender (~40 minutes). Set aside.

In a frypan, fry shallots and garlic in remaining oil under fragrant and tender. Add in rice and cook stirring until rice is well coated and starting to turn white. Decant the frypan into a good sized baking dish (a large ceramic rectangular one is perfect: mine is about 23cm x 33cm) and pour over the merlot and stock (if all the stock doesn’t fit in, leave to the side as you can top up when cooking). Mix well to combine, dot the risotto with the butter cubes, season and pop into the oven.

Full disclosure: this is a photo of a half measure of the recipe

At about 15-20 minutes, take the risotto out of the oven and stir. Add any remaining stock at this point and stir in half of the pumpkin. Return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes (check seasoning and if the rice is cooked and adjust the cooking time accordingly).

Then take out, stir in the parmesan and then while that is incorporating strew the rest of the pumpkin over the dish. Have extra parmesan at the table, and let everyone serve themselves.

 

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Fancy jam jar serving bowls.

Ingredients

Makes 4.

Pannacotta

  • 850 mL milk (I use a hilo milk with extra iron and calcium, but a full cream or creamy milk would work if you want a richer panacotta)
  • 6-8 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2.5-3 tsp gelatine powder
  • 1 sachet of dried coconut milk powder (one sachet makes one cup of coconut milk but keep it in powder form)

Lime “Caramel” Glazed Pineapple

  • 1/2 a sweet pineapple, peeled and diced
  • Zest and juice of a lime
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

For the pannacotta: Split the milk into 2 saucepans and bring to just before boil, whisk the gelatine powder into one pan (you will need to whisk it pretty quick to ensure no lumps form) and whisk the sugar into the other pan. Make sure both sugar and gelatine are dissolved in each pan. Take pans off the heat, then combine the two sets of milk into one large bowl and whisk well to combine. Now tip in your sachet of dried coconut milk power and whisk again making sure there are no lumps.

Decant your bowl into a jug to make it easier to pour (if you are worried about lumps, decant it through a sieve into the jug). Then pour equal portions into your pannacotta receptacles (you won’t be unmolding these which is why you can get away with less gelatine). Cool the pannacotta and then refrigerate to set (best done the night before).

Check out this bad boi
Flecks of lime, a glaze of brown sugar “caramel”…100% delicious.

For the Lime “Caramel” Glazed Pineapple topping: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well until the sugar is dissolved by the lime and the pineapple juices and coats each piece of pineapple. Stir every hour/so to make sure everything is infusing and being coated. Can be made the night before or the morning of your dinner. Spoon over each pannacotta when you are ready to serve.

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Recipe: Adult Fanta

My mouth is watering…

Warning: if you’re expecting the mild taste of fanta with vodka in it, this drink is not for you. This drink combines the blessed bitterness of aperol with simple flavours so that you really savour that bitter orange taste and don’t get too tanked (if you want to get tanked on Aperol, try the Aperol Spritz which has the double whammy of Aperol and prosecco and give up the rest of your afternoon because those babies creep up on you).

This recipe is dedicated to another other aperol fan: BigG (technically she’s TallG, but BigG sounds more gangsta).

Ingredients

  • 1-1.5 shots of Aperol
  • 0.5 shots of lime cordial (experiment, you may find you only like a splash of the cordial)
  • 6-7 ice cubes
  • Soda Water to top (I recommend getting a soda stream so you are never without soda water, and you can help do your bit not trashing the planet…)

Pop your shot(s) of aperol in your closest jar (all class), pop in your cordial, add your ice cubes and top with soda water. Watch your beautiful drink turn into layers of bitter sunset flavoured goodness, then stir a little to blend. Then grab your glass, swirl it so the icecubes clink, bring glass to lips and drink that delicious, delicious flavour.

#YOUREWELCOME

After a few of these aperolly need a nap…boomTISH

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I freely confess that I had two agendas for planting nasturtiums in my backyard:

  1. I do love the flowers, and their leaves, and the fact that they spread everywhere each year…enroaching a little bit more on each part of my tiny back garden
  2. I’ve always wanted a source of edible flowers on tap, and boy do I have that this year.

Flowers…not just for decoration

This salad is just a simple riff on an italian salad, which I jzuzzed with my nasturtiums.

Too pretty to eat? I think not.

Ingredients

  • Several large handfuls of rocket
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced (go for a Beurre Bosc or a Golden Pear)
  • Shaved parmesan (you know it has to be freshly shaved)
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbps Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Nasturtium flowers, as many as you think your guests will eat

Arrange layers of your rocket, pear and parmesan on a platter. Mix up the balsamic with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad and then artfully (has to be artfully) arrange your nasturtium flowers around the platter. Serve!

Serves 4.

Additional options:

  • Serve individual plates of salad with a poached egg or two on top for a light dinner, or quartered soft boiled eggs
  • Sprinkle capers in the salad for a tangy bite (goes really well if you are including the egg)

Super pretty

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Recipe: Elderflower Spritz

I apologise in advance for not having the best photos of this drink. For some reason I keep forgetting to take a photo of it when I serve it. And I serve it at almost every dinner party, because it is a non-alcoholic winner of a drink for the non-drinkers, and the skippers and the responsible amongst us.

Elderflower spritz to the right, gravy to the left

It’s a bit of a fave amongst the non-drinking dinner guests, and so easy to make.

Alcoholic drink to the left, Elderflower Spritz to the right

Ingredients

  • 250mL Apple Fruit Drink (it’s 30% Apple juice and you can get it in convenient 6 packs)
  • Elderflower cordial, you’ll use a couple of good slugs of this
  • Lime cordial (one slug of this)
  • Soda water or mineral water (I use my sodastream)
  • Slices of lebanese or continental cucumber (say 10 thin slices)
  • 1 lemon, cut into 8ths or 1 lime cut into quarters
  • Sprigs of mint

Pop about 1cm of elderflower cordial at the base of a jug, add in your lime cordial and apple fruit drink, add icecubes and then fill up with soda water but don’t fill to the brim. Add your cucumber and your lemon/lime (squeeze these into the jug as you add them), and your sprigs of mint (squeeze these to bruise them just before you add them). Stir and serve: simples!

You can keep topping it up with soda water and elderflower cordial throughout the night…

Elderflower spritz hiding behind the pear and rosemary cocktail, also in a jug.

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2018 is all about the canapes. When I have a dinner party now, I don’t do a starter or an entree: I do a canape or two. So refined 😉

…even vegetarians can have a yorkshire pudding canape

I’ve been on a quest to redeem myself since I first tried to make Yorkshire puddings: they ended up being more like Yorkshire pikelets. They were still delicious…but they definitely didn’t pud.

I had my first Yorkshire pudding in 1996 (yes I am very old), when I visited the UK. Yorkshire puddings were the responsibility and specialty of my English grandpa (who otherwise didn’t actually cook). And boy did he make a good Yorkshire Pudding: it’s probably a good thing I didn’t have a working oven and the idea of heating oil scared me, because these are not low cal delights!

So I know I have the Yorkshire Pudding Making gene in my family, even though my first attempt was…flat. Very, very flat:

You can see them trying desperately to curl themselves up into proper Yorkie shape, bless their flat little souls

No amount of filtering can change the fact that they were disappointingly flat. Disappointingly albeit deliciously flat:

Yorkshire Pikelets, a new food trend?

I did some investigating, and decided that where I went wrong was following the oven temperature instructions for the recipe I’d found. All ovens are different, so rather than choosing a temperature, the rule of thumb with yorkies is to turn it up as high as it will go (turn it up to 11). That and weighing all your ingredients. Those are the two secrets!

Armed with this new knowledge, I attempted to make them again. I did a first test run of 12 (apparently if I had a mini muffin tin, I could have made 24…but a muffin tin still gives a good size):

Victory at last

I was so successful, that I may have accidentally eaten the Yorkshire puddings I was planning on using as canapes in the evening…as both breakfast and lunch. So I had to make a second batch #oops.

Ingredients

For puddings

You’ll need a muffin pan.

  • 115gm plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 145mL (I actually weight 145gm) milk
  • Olive oil

Pop your flour, salt and eggs into a bowl and stir to combine. Add in the milk and stir until the batter is smooth. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes on your counter (you can make the toppings while you wait), then pour it into a measuring jug.

Preheat your oven as hot as it will go (mine goes to 260°C).

Pop about 2-3mm of olive oil in each muffin hole. When the oven is hot, pop the tin in the oven and heat for about 5 minutes (the tin will be smoking hot). Carefully take out the tin (you do not want to spill smoking boiling oil anywhere) and pop it on a counter (I put mine on a chopping board so I don’t burn the laminate). Working quickly, pour equal amounts of your batter into each muffin hole. There should be enough to mostly cover the bottom of each muffin hole.

Carefully manoeuvre the muffin tin back into the oven, and cook until puffed and golden (about 12-20 minutes). Leave to cool in the tin.

So beautiful

You can make these ahead and reheat later in the day (just pop them back into the muffin tin, at the bottom of the oven for about 5-10 minutes tops).

For toppings

  • 3 button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig rosemary, chopped finely
  • 1 small piece of fillet beef
  • Creamy Dijon mustard
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper for seasoning

In one frypan, melt butter. Add clove of garlic and rosemary, when fragrant add in the mushrooms. Stir to coat with butter, fry until soft. Set aside.

In another frypan, pop some olive oil and heat. Add your small piece of fillet steak, and cook until rare/medium rare. Let rest and then slice into thin strips.

To assemble: put about a tsp of dijon mustard into each Yorkie, then top with either the beef or the mushrooms.

Serves 6 (or 4 very hungry people).

Delicious, delicious, delicious.

An alternative topping:

  • Mix 1 tsp horseradish with 2-3 tbsp thickened cream and season with salt and pepper. Dollop that into the Yorkie pudding, then top with slices of fillet steak. Then sprinkle with chopped chives, because you’re fancy.

 

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Recipe: Hot Smoked Salmon Cocktail

This recipe came about because one of my friends had depleted adrenals. I didn’t actually know that one could deplete your adrenals until she told me 😮 (don’t try it at home, it’s not recommended). As she comes over for dinner regularly, and I do like a culinary challenge: I went on a hunt for recipes that will help replete (if that’s even a word) her adrenals.

After some googling, I discovered that the following foods are good to help replete adrenals (can we just make replete happen, because I can’t be bothered typing restore even though they are the same letter count and #ironically I just typed it):

  • Foods high in vitamin B, e.g. tuna, oats, Brazil nuts, bananas, potatoes, avocados and legumes.
  • Foods high in vitamin C, e.g. citrus fruits, berries, peaches, mangoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spring greens and tomatoes.
  • Foods high in tyrosine, e.g. fish, chicken, pork, whole grains, oats, dairy, avocados, bananas, legumes, nuts and seeds.

And you should avoid white flour, sugar, sodas, refined foods, caffeine, alcohol, smoking and environmental toxins PLUS learn to relax, avoid stress and exercise regularly; moderate exercise helps stimulate the adrenal glands. (Sources are my good friend Gwyneth, and a health coach in Vancouver.)

Now I generally don’t include environmental toxins or exercise in a dinner plan,  but I felt I could put together a “Restoring Your Adrenals” menu as part of my CHALLENGE ACCEPTED dinner.

I did include some smoking in this recipe, but since the fish was smoking and not us (and fish are high in tyrosine), I felt this was an acceptable form of smoking…?

Looking into the distance

Hot smoked salmon is more like a chunky salmon fillet, than the very thinly sliced cold smoked salmon you are probably used to. It normally has the skin on (you take that off for this meal).

Ingredients

  • 2 fillets of hot smoked salmon (take the skin off, cut it up and feed it to your cat; flake the rest into chunks about 1-1.5cm in size and do not give that to your cat no matter how much they insist they should have it)
  • 2 avocado diced
  • 1 handful of fresh rocket
  • 1  handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1-2 tbsp mild olive oil
  • couple of drops of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sushi vinegar
  • 1-1.5cm squeeze of wasabi (yes: the green one, in the tube #notfancy)
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

Pop the olive oil, sesame oil, sushi vinegar, wasabi and some salt and pepper into a jar, attach lid and shake until everything is combined and emulsified. Set aside.

In two low tumblers, assemble your Hot Smoked Salmon cocktail: layer avocado, rocket, salmon chunks, cherry tomato quarters until each tumbler is full. Drizzle the dressing all over it, and serve!

Serves 2.

Smoking Hot Smoked Salmon Cocktail.

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Canape close up

For those days when you don’t have a baguette handy, so you can’t make crostini canapes with cottage cheese, how about cucumber canapes with cottage cheese? This one is a cold recipe, so great for spring and summer. It’s also very quick to assemble, but looks very impressive! You could assemble it 5 minutes before your guests arrive!

Ingredients

  • 12 slices of continental cucumber
  • 5 tbsp of cottage cheese (say about 100mL of your 500mL cottage cheese tub)
  • the green parts of 2 small spring onions, finely cliced
  • 2 sprigs of dill, finely sliced
  • 2 slices smoked salmon
  • 2 radishes, top and tail them then finely slice them
  • Salt and pepper to season

Pop your cottage cheese in a bowl, mix in the dill and spring onion. Season with salt and pepper, then pop in the fridge to infuse until you’re ready to serve.

When you are ready to plate up, slice one side of the radishes off to give you a base to stand each slice up and tear up your smoked salmon into 6 strips that you can artfully place on your canape.

Pop your slices of cucumber on a platter and dollop a high teaspoon of the cottage cheese mix onto each. For the salmon ones: arrange the pieces of salmon on top of 6 of the dollop of cheese. For the radish ones: stand the radish up, cut side down, in the dollop of cheese.

Et voila! Serves 4 people, or 3 very hungry people.

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Mushrooms to the left, tomatoes to the right…stuck on a platter for you

I have to confess that I am one of those people who can’t be trusted with a tub of plain cottage cheese: I like it. No: I really like it.

Cottage cheese is more savoury than ricotta (which I also like, but not quite as much). You can eat it straight from the tub, have it on salada crackers for lunch (when your boss might ask you if you are dieting, to which you reply: no I just like cottage cheese), you can add it in place of ricotta to many savoury things….and I have started using it in place of cream cheese (contentious I know) when I make canapes.

There are a couple of rules around cottage cheese:

  • Never, ever, ever buy pre-flavoured cottage cheese. Buy it unadulterated and add any flavourings you want after the fact…if there is any cottage cheese left over once you’ve attacked the tub with a spoon.
  • Always buy 500mL, never the 250mL. You will always be able to eat more of it than you think
  • Don’t leave me alone with a tub of it, if there is a spoon in easy reach

Beginnings of a nice high tea

I invented this recipe when I had Les Chicas over for high tea: it’s a great one for vegetarians and very cheap and simple to make.

Ingredients

  • 8 slices of baguette bread
  • Spray olive oil
  • 8 tbsp cottage cheese (let’s say about 150mL of your 500mL tub)
  • a selection of fresh herbs, finely sliced: I went with parsley and chives from my garden
  • 6 cherry tomatoes sliced in two
  • 3 button mushrooms sliced thinly
  • sprig of rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Pop the cottage cheese in a bowl, mix through your finely sliced fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper. Pop in the fridge to infuse until you are ready.

Spray olive oil onto each side of your baguette slices, and toast until both sides are golden under your grill, leave to cool.

Oil a small baking dish, place your cherry tomato halves in it and pop in the oven to bake until they are slightly dried and charred (takes about 15-20 minutes at the most). While the tomatoes are baking, heat olive oil and rosemary in a small frypan and fry your button mushroom slices until they are luscious and softened.

To serve: top each crostini with a tbsp of the cottage cheese mix, then place either mushrooms or cherry tomato halves on each crostini. You will end up with 4 of each type of crostini. Grate some salt and pepper over your crostini and challenge anyone who says cottage cheese is only a diet food.

Serves 4 🙂

Artful crostini

 

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