Monday, April 30, 2012

Cauliflower Cheese with a kick...

Cauliflower Cheese with a kick...
One of my favourite dishes... a family favourite comfort food.
  • Steam your cauliflower and place in a shallow oven proof dish... for the kick (metabolism starter)I add a very light dusting of cayenne pepper to the top of the cauliflower before adding the cheese sauce... this step can be left out if the kids don't like the kick.
  • In another saucepan you will need to make a white sauce to which we will add cheese to turn it into a cheese sauce by bringing to the simmer about a litre of milk, about 50 grams of butter, fresh cracked pepper and salt. Just before boiling point very gradually add about 6 teaspoons of cornflour that you dissolved into a slurry with a little cold milk. Stop adding when your sauce has reached a nice thickness... continue to stir for about one minute while cooking the cornflour through and then remove from the heat.
  • While still hot add about a cup full of grated cheeses of your choice... I have used Parmesan, tasty and a little mozzarella.
  • Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the top of the cauliflower making sure to cover it all completely... sprinkle the top with a little good quality breadcrumb and more of the grated cheeses and bake until golden brown.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Choc Tops"

"Nikki made Choc Tops"

Ok so the best part of going to the movies is most likely the choc tops... here is your big chance to make your own at home for those movie nights with the family... Add some pop corn and the event is complete.
This is your opportunity to get creative and make your own ice cream from scratch (not difficult but it is a little time consuming) or you can buy a nice base flavour and add your own bits and bobs...
  1. Vanilla with crushed violet crumble bar...
  2. Vanilla with chopped cherry ripe bar...
  3. Caramel choc honeycomb ice cream...complete with bits...
  4. Strawberry wave with chopped glace cherries...
  5. Any flavour with mini M&M's...
  6. Chocolate with chopped pistachio nuts... you get the idea...
  • Choose the ice cream flavour and add your bits and bobs by first softening it slightly out of the fridge for a while and then evenly mix through the chopped or crushed additions and place it back into the freezer to reset it overnight prior to making the choc top cones.
  • Next day scoop into cones with flat bottoms so they will stand up for you...put back into the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up before attempting to choc coat them.
  • Melt over a double boiler (glass bowl over simmering water) 40 grams of copha and 100 grams of a good quality dark chocolate until melted... set aside for a few minutes to thicken and cool slightly.
  • Finally spin the ice cream cone gently until it goes hard which is almost instantly set aside for 1 minute and repeat this because you can't beat double dipped choc tops ... freeze for as long as the family will permit before devouring... this amount of chocolate is probably enough for about 6 cones.
"Poppin" Microwave popcorn... 2 minutes and the job is done and done with "Tripple butter flavour explosion"... what more can I say nothing could be simpler so why complicate life...


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs
What can I say... family favourite... without admitting to taking a simple path I have used a bottle of tomato puree that I purchased for this recipe and in the past I have been known to enlist the assistance of Paul Newman and his famous sauce selection. Meatballs are so simple though and they add a flavour to the sauce that makes this dish your own... 

  • In a saucepan put a bottle of your choice of sauce... if using a plain tomato puree you can fry off some minced garlic and finely diced onion first for additional flavour then add your bottle of sauce and a couple of cups of water. Bring to the simmer and add a dash of vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. 
  • In a bowl place about 500 grams minced meat(I like to use a mixture of pork and beef or you can chose chicken or even minced fish).
  • Add some finely diced onion, lots of chopped fresh herbs, a cup full of freshly grated Parmesan and an egg ...season with salt and pepper.
  • Roll into golf ball sized balls and place them into the simmering sauce. Cook gently until the sauce thickens and the meatballs are cooked through.
  • Serve the meatballs on top of spaghetti or the pasta of your choice that has had a little sauce mixed through it and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Parsley

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Parsley
This home made soup can be made from scratch and served in about 20 minutes ...
Delicious and nutritious ... If you love mushroom you will love this...
  • In a saucepan melt a large knob of butter and gently fry off until golden either a couple of spring onions, some diced shallots or maybe half a sweet red onion finely chopped.
  • Then add 500grams of sliced mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes until they have softened and  then stir in about a tablespoon of flour and cook this for a further 2 minutes.
  • Gradually blend in 1.5 litres of nice stock of your choice... I have used vegetable because I wanted a vegetarian dish however either chicken or beef would be great... season carefully with salt depending on the stock you have used, fresh cracked black pepper and I have added a large handful of chopped parsley as I love and use fresh herbs in everything I create... it may change the colour of the soup slightly green but a very yummy and nutritious choice.
  • Finally remove from the heat and add 30ml of cream which has been blended with an egg yolk and the juice of 1/2 a lemon and serve.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Roast Vegetable Pizza

Roast Vegetable Pizza
Home made Pizza is the best ... topped with all the family favourites... everyone is happy.
Rye bread flour crusty pizza base made from scratch
You can use a purchased pizza base or pita/mountain breads make a great crunchy alternative... or make your own also very simple...

Individual serving sizes ... Vegetarian dish
  • 220 grams of Pizza or bread flour (I have have used a Rye bread flour), 1 teaspoon of dry yeast, a pinch of salt and about 150 ml of water ... dust with a little flour knead lightly and place in a bowl covered with a tea towel for the proofing process to happen...when doubled in size, knead lightly again and then form into your pizza base ... keeping it thin and pricking with a fork will mean a crispier base, thicker will be more bread like. 
  • While waiting roughly chop, uniform in size, all the veggies you like to roast I have used zucchini, pumpkin, capsicum, mushroom, cherry tomato and onion... drizzled in olive oil and chopped fresh herbs of rosemary, thyme, mint, salt and pepper. Bake these until just cooked through because the cooking process will be finished when on the pizza base.
  • Spread your choice of either a pizza tomato sauce or creamed cheese or maybe a basil pesto over the base and cover with the roast vegetables and a little grated mozzarella cheese.
  • Fresh greens used here are baby spinach and bean shoots
  • Finish off the cooking process in a 180 oven until the base is cooked through and crunchy on the bottom... serve topped with some fresh greens of your choice and a drizzle of olive oil.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kofta with Saffron Dressing ... Mars Bar Slice...

Beef/Pork Kofta with Saffron Yoghurt Dressing
School Holidays... cooking class activity held with our local Youth Group. Everyone enjoyed preparing, cooking  and eating these yummy Kofta along with a tossed salad and Mars Bar Slice for dessert... nothing left over is a good indication of success and now the kids have been skilled in the art of cooking these themselves at home. So simple even the kids can do it!

  • Into a food processor place 1 roughly chopped brown onion, 1 cup of loosely packed fresh herbs such as coriander, continental parsley and mint... finely process.
  • Next add 1kilo of minced meat... we used 50/50 pork and beef... process again quickly.
  • About 100grams of crumbled feta and two eggs.
  • Finally 1 teaspoon of ground coriander, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice and some salt and pepper.
  • Pulse this mixture to a paste like consistency and then form into sausage shapes around bamboo sticks using about a tablespoon or so of the mix on each. (This mix produced about 17 as pictured)
The Kofta can either be grilled or cooked on a BBQ and the kids did this also.
BBQ time
Saffron Yoghurt Dressing and tossed salad

Saffron Yoghurt Dressing

  • Take 10 threads of saffron and soak them in a tablespoon of hot milk until the milk goes cold.
  • Add this along with a couple of tablespoons of fresh chopped coriander to a 250 gram tub of Greek style yoghurt and there you have it.

Mars Bar Slice
This went so fast I didn't get a photo of the cut pieces... also a huge success... also easily made by the kids at home.

  • Take 75 grams of butter, 1 tablespoon of golden syrup and 4 chopped Mars Bars and gently melt using a double boiler over a low flame until smooth.
  • Add this mixture to 3 cups of rice bubbles and mix quickly.
  •  Place the mix into a lined and greased slice tray and cool while making the topping.
  • Topping is a 200gram block of chocolate and a large knob of butter which is also melted  using a double boiler over a low flame until smooth and then spread across the top of the slice. Set in the refrigerator until the top is hard.

Thank you kids and Lyn the Youth Officer for inviting me to conduct cooking lessons with you. I hope you all found the day as inspiring as I did. I Hope to see you all attending the next planned cooking lessons for this coming term. Excellent effort kids you made the mutual learning a pleasure to be a part of.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spiral Pasta with a simple Zucchini Sauce

Pasta with Zucchini Sauce
Spiral Pasta with a simple Zucchini Sauce
I love the simplicity of this dish both preparation and flavours... such a healthy option and so quick to make.
  • Cook 200 grams of spiral pasta while preparing the so so simple zucchini sauce.
  • In a large pan heat up plenty of olive oil and fry off 3 or 4 cloves of crushed garlic and a half dozen whole anchovies along with a large pinch of sea salt.
  • When the anchovies have softened sprinkle in some chilli flakes to suit your taste and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Finally add 2 large grated zucchini and a dash more olive oil to the sauce(I have also added about 100 grams of chopped pistachio nuts which is an option)and stir while cooking for another couple of minutes.
  • To serve this dish... toss the pasta through coating it in the sauce and plate it served with freshly chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese. Mine is topped with a few pistachio because they were added to my sauce.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Vanilla Poached Salmon with Borlotti and Butter Beans

Vanilla Poached Salmon with Borlotti and Butter Beans
I have removed the skin to use skinless salmon for this recipe because I want to lightly poach the fish so that I can use the poaching liquid to enhance the flavour of the beans and create a coating sauce.

Vanilla Poached Salmon

    Borlotti beans, Butter beans, carrot, celery, leak

  • In a large pan prepare your poaching liquid by adding a cup of white wine, 1 cup of water or fish stock, 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste, knob of butter, a few cardamom pods crushed and husked removed, 1 cinnamon quill, 1 tablespoon of honey,1 teaspoon of saffron threads and salt and pepper. Bring this to the boil and pop in your salmon pieces and turn the heat down to a very soft simmer and poach them for about 6 minutes or until the fish is just cooked... remove the fish and set aside while continuing to reduce the liquid by about half.
  • In another large fry pan heat a 50/50 olive and vegetable oil mix and fry stirring constantly until softened, about 5 minutes, the following tiny diced vegetables, 2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery, a leak and a clove of garlic.
  • Add a can of Borlotti beans, a can of Butter beans and the reduced poaching liquid and continue to cook stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost evaporated and you are left with a coating sauce.
  • Remove from the heat stir in another knob of butter and a handful of roughly chopped fresh parsley.
  • Plate up and top with the flaked salmon to serve this delicious healthy meal.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sweet Potato and Avocado Salad - Pan fried Snapper

Sweet Potato and Avocado Salad
I love the creaminess of this salad as an accompaniment to fish, however you could put it with anything.
Prepare the salad in advance so that the meal is ready to serve as soon as the fish is cooked.
  • Dice some Feta cheese and cover this with a vegetable oil and pop in a tablespoon of fennel seeds and 1/2 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns... if you do this the day before this infused oil can be used in your dressing, a truly stunning flavour... I love it and always have infused feta in my fridge on hand... trust me you will wonder how you ever survived without these little seeds in your life before.
  • Dice your sweet potato and coat in a little olive oil and bake in a 180 oven until just cooked, then cool.
  • Chunky dice a couple of avocado and toss them in a little lime/lemon juice.
  • Wash and dry some mixed salad leaves and a large handful of coriander leaves.
  • Dressing: Whisk together 1 egg yolk, 2/3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of a seed mustard and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar ... add to this while whisking about 125 grams of an infused oil of some kind such as avocado oil or try making your own as suggested above... 
  • Layer some mixed salad leaves on a platter top with cooled sweet potato, feta, avocado and coriander leaves. Drizzle with dressing and continue to layer.
Pan Fried Snapper
This is my favourite way to prepare fish... everyone in the family will enjoy this especially the kids... not batter so much better for you... shhh! don't tell them it's good for them and they will eat it. 
Quality white fish is essential preferably fresh and not having already been frozen... this is a quick, shallow fry method for cooking fish and in my opinion is best when eaten immediately cooked and straight from the pan.
  • Pat dry your fish with paper towel and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Lightly coat in cornflour and then in a lightly beaten egg... one of my dad's favourite ways... gives a really light batter look which pan fries to a wonderful golden colour... it's that simple so don't be tempted to complicate the process.
  • A minute or two of cooking on either side until "just" cooked through... always remember that the cooking process continues during the resting time between pan and plate.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vicki Sponge Cake

 If you squint you can make believe that this feather-light, no flour sponge cake is low calorie... every bite brings back feelings of nostalgia... there is no other sponge cake like this one.

Custard Sponge Cake
This was the first ever sponge cake I made at the age of 13 and my family still talk about it to this day... Mine then had a base section on each layer of a greenish rubber with holes in it, resembling today's (sponge) dish clothes. The egg mix ended up on the ceiling and up the walls and to add to this epic, the rubbery section bounced when dropped onto the floor. We all have to start somewhere... 

Thank you Mum (Dulcie Valenti) 
for your understanding and patience...

Vicki Sponge Cake  (not Victoria)  with cherry jam, whipped cream and icing sugar
  • Butter and dust (cornflour)two sandwich cake pans.
  • Sift all of the following dry ingredients together 3 times...1/2 cup custard powder, 1 heaped teaspoon of cream of tartar, 1 level teaspoon of bi-barb soda, 3 rounded desert spoons of corn flour.
  • Beat with an electric beater 4 Large Eggs and a pinch of salt until stiff and then gradually add 3/4 cup of caster sugar.
  • Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and make sure they are blended completely.
  • Bake in a moderate 180 oven for about 20 minutes... watch closely in the last few minutes as it will burn quickly... cool on a wire rack... decorate with jam (pictured is home made cherry), cream and icing sugar for dusting.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nikki's favourite Simple Carrot Soufflé

Carrot Soufflé 

Delicious is just one of the words I use to describe this dish... Simple is another and absolutely delicious... don't be frightened by the word soufflé it will finish wonderfully soft and fluffy. The kids and non carrot lovers alike will love this dish. It does have a slight zing so adjust the cayenne to suit. Preheat the oven to 180 while preparing.
Simple Carrot Soufflé 

  • Boil 1kilo of diced carrots in salted water until cooked and then process them to a puree and place them in a large bowl.
  • Add to the puree 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of saltine cracker crumbs, 1 cup of grated tasty cheese, 1/3 cup of finely chopped onion, a knob of butter, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and some salt and cracked black pepper.
  • In a separate bowl, using an electric beater whisk 3 large eggs until frothy and then whisk this into the carrot mix until just combined.
  • Place the mixture into a buttered greased shallow baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown and puffed.
Red Carrot Soufflé
As a variation on the original post I have made this with red carrots ... equally as wonderful as the orange version and so simple to make it is sure to become a family favourite ... deliciously sweet and by far the best way to get the family to love cooked carrot, everyone will want a second helping.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cabbage and Noodle Salad

Cabbage and Noodle Salad with Tofu
I have to share with you all that this recipe is a borrowed one that I am sure you will all enjoy... Developed by the Chang's people I give credit where credit is due... this is yummy and cannot be passed by... 
Once tasted it is sure to become a family favourite...

  • Use either a 1/2 savoy cabbage or Chinese cabbage and this needs to be shredded very very finely. I use a machine because I like the cabbage at it's finest as it is eaten raw.
  • add a half dozen or so sliced spring onions to this...
  • 100 grams of lightly toasted pine-nuts... you can use slivered almonds or any nuts you prefer but I think the pine-nuts are my favourites in this instance.
  • finally a packet of Chang's original fried noodles available in most supermarkets.
  • Dressing: in a saucepan place 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup caster sugar, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sesame oil and 1/2 cup of olive oil... stir this over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and then cool before adding it to the salad. 
Eat this immediately as it will loose its crunchy aspect as the noodles absorb the dressing. Adapt it to suit your family any way you like or by adding some shredded cooked chicken, BBQ Pork, diced or scrambled tofu or serve it as is with a piece of salmon or at a BBQ with steak and sausages.
Our tea tonight is served with pan fried firm tofu which has been lightly dusted in seasoned flour.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tomato Tart Puff

Tomato Tart

This puff pastry tart is a great idea alternative to home made pizza... making tonight's tea or tomorrows party finger foods both simple to make and tasty to boot.
Depending how many you are feeding will decide how big the pastry sheets that suit... for single serves cut a pastry sheet into four, for two people cut a sheet in half into a rectangle (as pictured), for bite size finger food use a large cookie cutter...

  • Which ever size you require you will need two of each with the centre cut out of the second one. Egg wash the two together which gives you a frame/crust around the edge which is double thickness, egg wash the top of the frame also.
  • Mix together enough of a soft cheese such as spreadable Ricotta mixed with some Dijon mustard for flavour and spread this onto the base working inside of the frame.
  • Add slices of thickly cut tomato onto the top of the cheese, still within the frame.
  • Finally add some chopped olives and anchovies,a light sprinkle of some grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of salt and pepper or lemon pepper.
  • Bake in a 180 oven until golden and crunchy... the baking time will vary depending on the size so you will need to watch them closely to avoid burning.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Breakfast tomatoes with sour-dough toast

Breakfast Tomatoes with fresh herbs, rocket and sour dough toast with butter 
Labelled breakfast tomatoes because that is usually when we have this quick snack, however it is also eaten just as often for lunch or dinner on that relaxed Sunday evening.
Once again I can't emphasise enough the simplicity with which this healthy meal is delivered... 
Faster than fast food and far fewer fat cells... 

  • Prepare lots of chunky chopped  fresh herbs along with a couple of spring onions if you fancy...also pre chop, again chunky, the very best selection of tomatoes you can find. Vine ripened home grown are my favourites in a mixture of colours and types or rich red Roma's or maybe some Truss... quality is everything as tasty tomato is what makes this dish such a success.
  • Melt a mix of 50/50 oil and butter (lemon infused olive oil is wonderful if you have it) in a large pan with lots of room to enable you to toss the tomato gently without stewing. 
  • Toss in your onion first fry for a quick minute then add a about a teaspoon of smoky paprika or any flavourings you may love with tomato... then the tomatoes and toss for a couple of minutes, only until just warmed through finally all of the fresh herbs, a teaspoon of sugar or a dash of maple syrup, a splash of balsamic vinegar, lemon pepper and salt.
  • Final step is a handful of either rocket or baby spinach leaves... serve as soon as these have wilted onto buttered, toasted sour-dough or speciality bread of your choice with a final light drizzle of lemon infused olive oil and some cracked black pepper (tomatoes are in love with pepper and salt).

    Sour-dough toast with lashings of butter
I promise you will want this over and over again once you have enjoyed it with your own home grown tomato and herbs. A nice variation is some crumbled feta on top.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pistachio topped mushrooms

Pistachio topped mushrooms

No egg or cheese in these yummy mushy's...

Take any size mushrooms you prefer... the ones pictured are field mushrooms and will be served as a main meal with a side salad. Equally nice as finger foods would be cup mushrooms. 
  • Melt a large knob of butter in the fry pan and then soft fry some chopped spring onion... when softened add a small amount of ground marjoram or oregano and chopped fresh parsley. 
  • Finally into the pan add some fresh made breadcrumbs and a large quantity of finely chopped pistachio nuts.
  • Spoon this mixture into the mushrooms and place them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with some salt and drizzle with a little olive oil.
  • Bake in a 180 oven for about 10-15 minutes and serve immediately. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Simple Chinese Omelette - anyone can do this

Chinese Omelette
Why buy omelette's from the Chinese restaurant when you can make it as good if not better than the bought one and in less time than it takes to place the order and pick it up...

  • Thinly slice a handful of spring onions (save some for decoration, some garlic, ginger and chilli... fresh for all of these is best if you have it.
  • Make a dressing for the top from 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil... just stir to combine. 
  • Crack six eggs in a bowl and gently whisk together with a couple of tablespoon of light soy sauce.
  • In a wok heat some peanut or vegetable oil as these oils can take a higher heat than olive oil... add your chopped onions, garlic, ginger and chilli and fry these off quickly to release their flavours...  after a couple of minutes pour in the egg mix and as it sets on the bottom gently flip with a spatula allowing more of the liquid egg mix to hit the bottom until all the egg mix has gently set.
Simple Chinese Omelette served with steamed green veggies
  • Serve with steamed green veggies of your choice (quartered boc choy is my favourite), drizzled the sauce over the omelette with sprinkle with the remaining spring onions.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Leek, cheese and spinach in filo pastry

This dish is my version of a Greek tradition and is so yummy... One of my absolute favourites however it is best eaten straight out of the oven while the filo pastry is hot and crunchy... serve as is or with a side salad. If you are lucky enough to have left overs reheat in the oven not in a microwave.
  • Remove your frozen filo pastry from the box and defrost it for a couple of hours I think its easiest to work with when its at room temperature.
  • Meanwhile soft fry either lots of onion, one or two sliced large leek or a whole  bunch of spring onions in some butter along with a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and a tablespoon of chopped parsley and chopped dill... when softened drop in and wilt a large bag of baby spinach. Place in a large bowl to cool before adding the rest of the ingredients.
  • When the onion/spinach mix has cooled add a 250 gram tub of ricotta and about the same quantity of crumbled feta along with 4 lightly whisked eggs... salt and pepper and mix well to combine.
  • Melt 150 grams of butter and using a medium baking dish start by greasing the bottom ... use 5 sheets for the bottom buttering every second sheet allowing them to hang over the edges on all sides of the baking dish...  Add the spinach, cheese and egg mix and continue with the rest of the sheets of filo pastry still buttering every second sheet... roll the sides into the pan and finish the top and rolled edge with melted butter.
  • Bake in a 180 oven until golden and crunchy all over (about 30 minutes)... enjoy on its own or with a side salad as a meal. 
A touch of indulgence would be if you added some chopped dill to the left over melted butter and warmed this through and then drizzled it over the top when serving. Yummmo!!

Crunchy, cheesy Spanakopita
There is a "fasting" or vegan, version of spanakopita, that traditionally is eaten during Lent and other religious fasts, and is composed of spinach, onions or spring onions, other green herbs like dill, parsley or celery, olive oil and a little wheat flour, but without eggs or dairy products and oven baked until crisp.