Main Meals

Herb and Orange Chicken with Pineapple and Capsicum served with Pomegranate, Orange and Baby Spinach Salad

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

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We are so lucky in Australia with our beautiful range of lovely, fresh fruit and vegetables. The pineapples this year have been spectacularly sweet and perfect. I haven’t been able to go past them in the supermarkets or fruit shops.

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Then there is the trouble of trying not to eat an entire pineapple between two people in one sitting! It’s so tempting and lovely, the only reason I am able to stop myself is because I know I’ll want some the next day too!

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Pineapples go well in fruit salads and a lot of sweet dishes and desserts, although surprisingly goes perfectly well with a fruit inspired, partly savoury, main meal.

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One particular reason for my trial of this dish was to broaden the variety of salads I will eat, along with using some pomegranate seeds, which I haven’t really experimented with that much.

All in all, the flavours work beautifully together and this is a lovely summer dinner. It tastes like a wonderfully healthy main meal with great textures and flavours.

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Herb and Orange Chicken with Pineapple and Capsicum served with Pomegranate, Orange and Baby Spinach Salad

Recipes by me – Anita @ Leave Room for Dessert

Herb and Orange Chicken

Serves: 4

2 chicken breasts (cut through or left whole)
1 orange, juiced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs parsley, chopped
6 chives, chopped
3 oregano leaves, chopped
18 leaves basil, chopped
1 tablespoon honey

Place all ingredients in a bowl and marinate overnight.

Heat a non-stick pan on medium/high and cook the chicken on both sides, until cooked through. (Slice the chicken through the middle, if you would prefer to make the cooking easier and quicker)

Pomegranate, Orange and Baby Spinach Salad

Serves: 4

2 handfuls baby spinach
1/2 pomegranate, seeded (60 seeds juiced or popped to get 2 teaspoons)
2 orange (1 segmented, 1 juiced)
1 teaspoon caster sugar

Place the washed baby spinach on a plate. Mix the sugar with the juice of half the orange and the teaspoon of pomegranate juice for dressing. Place the orange segments and pomegranate seeds on the spinach. Pour dressing over salad.

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Pineapple and Capsicum addition

Serves: 4
1 red capscium, diced
2 slices pineapple diced
1-2 slices pineapple, cut into quarters (optional – for cooking with the chicken to get caramelised pineapple)

Place combined capsicum and pineapple on the cooked chicken.

If you are caramelising some pineapple, add it to the pan with the half cooked chicken (so it’s not cooking in raw meat juice), or cook separately on medium heat until both sides of the pineapple are caramelised.

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Pork and Fennel Sausage Pasta and Chocolate Fudge Cakes with Coffee Syrup – Cooking Class 13

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

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Trying new dishes is one of the best parts with our family cooking classes. I don’t think either of these recipes would have been at the very top of my list of dishes to make. Although after trying them I feel like making it again – and I will. (It’s been quite a while since this class – so I’m definitely craving the pasta right now…)

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There wasn’t much hassle with either of these meals and both resulted in a great taste. I have been wondering if there is another way to get the same flavours, without having to buy so many pork and fennel sausages (as this gets a bit expensive if cooking for a large number of people).

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BTW – I’ve been very busy intently reading through the Twilight series. I’ve just started “eclipse” (the 3rd) and am enjoying them thoroughly. If you’ve read them – did you enjoy them? (obviously without giving away any info 🙂 )

Pasta with Pork and Fennel Sausages

Serves: 4

6 Italian pork and fennel sausages (about 550g/1 lb 4 oz)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp chilli flakes
300g (10 ½ oz) field or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
800g (1lb 12 oz) tinned diced tomatoes
1 tbsp finely chopped thyme
500g (1lb 2 oz) penne rigate
grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Split the sausages open, remove and crumble the filling and discard the skins.

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Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes, or until fragrant and transparent. Add the garlic, chilli flakes, mushrooms and crumbled sausage meat. Cook over high heat, stirring gently to mash the sausage meat, for 4-5 minutes, or until the meat is evenly browned. If necessary, use a tablespoon to remove any excess fat from the pan, leaving about a tablespoon of oil. Continue to cook, stirring once or twice, for 10 minutes.

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Stir in the tomato and thyme, then bring the sauce to the boil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Meanwhile, cook the penne rigate in a large saucepan of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain well, then add to the sauce, stirring to combine. Serve with parmesan.

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Chocolate Fudge Cakes with Coffee Syrup

Makes: 12

½ cup of cocoa powder
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup boiling water
85g dark cooking chocolate, finely chopped
2 egg yolks
¼ cup almond meal
1/3 cup wholemeal plain flour (we used plain flour)
4 egg whites

Pre-heat oven to 170°C, lightly grease 12-hole muffin pan (use 1/3 cup muffin pan).

Combine sugar and sifted cocoa, blend in water, then chocolate, and stir until smooth. Stir in egg yolks, almond meal, and flour.

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Beat egg-whites until soft peaks form.

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Fold into chocolate mixture in 2 batches. Divide mixture among pan-holes. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Make syrup.

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Stand cakes in pan for 5 minutes before serving with coffee syrup.

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Coffee Syrup:
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¾ cup water
1 tbsp coffee powder

Stir sugar and water in small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered without stirring for 15 minutes or until syrup thickens. Stir in coffee, strain into small heat-proof jug and serve.

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Chicken Curry with Blueberries and Goji Berry Pilau

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

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I know a number of people will have started this new year with the aim to eat healthier, so I thought I should post this recipe early as it has claimed to be the “world’s healthiest meal” (by it’s creator – check out the link). Even though it may not be the lowest in fat (which many people will be trying to reduce), it is quite high in antioxidants which are very important in a healthy diet.

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Everyone who I trialed this dish out on (including me) was very skeptical – blueberry and curry don’t sound like two words that really go together. I got even more skeptical when I tried the dried goji berries we had bought. I’m not a big fan of them dried and by themselves. Although I still thought we may as well give the dish a go.

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It was quite easy to cook and prepare. The blueberry and youghurt mix is a gorgeous bright purple and the dish remained like this for half the time it was cooking. Once it was finished cooking it looked like a normal beef curry – yes, just looking at it, it does look like beef. The flavours worked fabulously together and the goji berries plumped up a bit in the pilau. I even enjoyed a few thawed blueberries with the dish.

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This may even be a good dish to try on someone who doesn’t eat enough fruit and vegetables (hahaha, my trick worked and my culprit ate all the sauce (pureed blueberries) and goji berries). We will be eating this again (time to go look out for some specials on blueberries, goji berries and spices). Perhaps in a few years I will be able to use some from my own blueberry bush:

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Chicken Curry with Blueberries and Goji Berry Pilau

Recipe by Mr Bains

Serves: 4

20g coriander, chopped
200g fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
500g low-fat Greek yoghurt
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon chilli powder (I used 1/2 teaspoon medium chilli powder)
500g of chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 teaspoon garam masala

For the Pilau Rice
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 grated carrot
1 cup Basmati rice
1 3/4 cups of boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
50g goji berries
Handful of peas (I poured boiling water over some frozen peas before using)

Blend the chopped coriander, blueberries, ginger and salt with 500g of low-fat Greek yoghurt, and set aside.

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Place the chopped garlic into a saucepan with the olive oil and heat on a low-medium flame until the garlic starts to turn brown – this should take no longer than one or two minutes. Add the turmeric, mix well and heat through for 20 seconds. Mix in the ground cinnamon and chilli powder and cook for a further 20 seconds.

Add the chopped chicken breast, and seal, stirring frequently – this should take no more than five minutes. Now slowly pour the yoghurt mixture, mixing into the chicken, and bring to a simmer on a low heat. Simmer for 10 minutes uncovered, stirring from time to time. Mix through the garam masala and garnish with extra coriander.

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To cook the pilau place the cumin seeds and olive oil into a saucepan and heat on a low-medium flame until the seeds begin to pop – about three minutes. Fry the onion and cook until soft. Then add the turmeric powder, stir and heat for 20 seconds and add one grated carrot. Cook for two minutes.

Place the onion mixture, basmati rice, pinch of salt and the 1 3/4 cups of boiling water into a large microwaveable bowl and mix with a fork. Cook uncovered in the microwave for 4 minutes (700W), 3 1/2 minutes (800W) or 3 minutes (900W). Mix and cook for a further 4 minutes (700W), 3 1/2 minutes(800W) or 3 minutes (900W). Finally cover and continue to cook for 4 minutes (700W), 3 1/2 minutes (800W) or 3 minutes (900W). (For the rice, I left the onion mix in the saucepan, added the rice, salt and boiling water and when it came to the boil, turned it down to really low. I cooked this for 10 minutes, then added the goji berries and peas, turned the heat off and left for another 10 minutes covered before serving)

To finish add the goji berries and peas and let stand covered for 10 minutes. Fluff the pilau with a fork, and serve.

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Gammon

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

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What is Gammon?

This is the first question asked by almost everyone when I mention we are cooking gammon (also called jambon). Gammon is a wet cured ham, rather than a dry salt-cured ham, this results in a less salty, sweet and subtle flavoured ham. Sounds good already.

Although the cooking of the gammon requires quite a bit of time, it is very, very easy. We just asked our butcher for a gammon and they gave us a 4.4kg gammon removed from the bone, rolled and netted. All that is involved is boiling and simmering then baking. (Make sure you ask for it to be not dry salt cured, otherwise you can’t enjoy the lovely flavours from the apple cider and glaze it’s cooked in).

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It tasted FANTASTIC! The bits that fell off after removal from the large pot were great. We have made it a few times and it is on our menu for Christmas this year, as it looks so festive with the lovely pineapple and glace cherries checked pattern with cloves. I would recommend giving it a try!

Gammon

1 gammon (uncooked ham, de-boned, rolled and netted) (appox 4.4kg)
2 x 700ml Apple Cider
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
2 carrots, peeled and cut in three
10 peppercorns
4 bay leaves
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Whole cloves
1 packet (100g) glace cherries
400g sliced pineapple (in juice), cut into small wedges or pineapple pieces
Tooth picks

Glaze
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons mustard powder
4 tablespoons honey (optional)
1 tablespoon ginger, grated

Place gammon in a very large saucepan. Add apple cider, onion, carrots, peppercorns, bay leaves, mustard powder. Add water until gammon is covered. Turn heat up to medium high and when it comes to the boil reduce to a simmer.

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Cook for 4 – 4.5 hours (around 30 minutes per 500g). Preheat oven to 160°C towards the end of cooking.

To make glaze, mix all ingredients together.

Remove from water and remove netting from gammon (the skin should come off with the netting). Remove any excess fat, but leave a layer on. Score the fat and top layer of gammon with a knife, and make a diamond pattern.

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Stick whole cloves in the points of each diamond. Using toothpicks, stick pineapple and glace cherries alternatively in the middle of each diamond.

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Spoon half the glaze over the gammon. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes. Spoon remaining glaze over the gammon once or twice during cooking.

Remove the gammon from the oven and remove cloves. Either leave the cherries and pineapple on the ham while you carve the meat, or serve beside cut gammon.

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Moroccan Meatballs with Chickpeas

Monday, December 7th, 2009

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Firstly, I’d like to thank Rilsta from My Food Trail for the lovely Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker I received from her 100th post competition! I was very happy to hear I had finally won something, especially something food related. Although this recipe does not use the flavour shaker, I have a few recipes I think could make good use of this and will hopefully be able to make and post them in the new year. Please visit Rilsta’s food blog, it has a great reviews of places to eat around Melbourne and some lovely recipes too! Thanks again Rilsta.

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Now onto the dish – the aromas coming from the kitchen when these meatballs were cooking in the oven could tempt any passer-by.

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I loved that the base of this dish was with chickpeas too. I was trying to find something other than potatoes, rice or pasta to serve with meatballs – and the chickpeas were very complementary.

Moroccan Meatballs with Chickpeas

Recipe from Cuisine

Makes 16 to 18 meatballs, Serves 4

Meatballs
2 thick slices white bread, crusts removed
100ml milk
500g lean minced lamb
1 small onion, grated
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, halved and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 x 400g canned tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water
400g canned chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 200C. Soak the bread in milk for five minutes then squeeze out excess milk. Mix the bread with the meat in a bowl. Add the onion, parsley, coriander, cumin, cinnamon and salt and knead it with your hands until well mixed. Roll the meat into golf ball-sized balls, place on a lightly oiled baking tray and bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned.

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To make the sauce, heat oil in a frypan and cook onion for five minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, water and bring to the boil. Add chickpeas, parsley, coriander, cumin, paprika, ginger and salt, stirring, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add meatballs and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt, if desired.

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Baked Tomato Meatballs with Fresh Homemade Parpadelle Pasta – Cooking Class 12

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Please disregard the following code, it is so I can claim my blog on Technorati
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I reckon these meatballs are pretty great – especially that you just need to mix the ingredients together, roll in a ball then place in the oven and when they’re browned pour on some diced tomatoes.

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The pasta on the other hand was a bit of a handful… To be exact, we had a few problems with my pasta machine – catching the pasta and delaying the already time consuming activity. The other problem was the fact we were making fresh pasta for more than 12 people (including lunches).

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Apart from the ordeal with the pasta, this cooking class went extremely well and everyone was pleased with the result.

Homemade Pasta

Served 12-14 in this dish

700 – 750g plain flour
7 -8 eggs
3 egg yolks
3 pinches salt
a few glugs of olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until it is crumbly. (With this quantity it was quite difficult and the bottom ingredients clumped quite a bit). Turn out onto a lightly floured clean bench and knead with the palm of your hand until it’s come together. Cover in plastic and refrigerate for 30mins to 1 hour.

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Remove from fridge and divide into 8 portions. Keep unused portions covered in plastic. Using one portion at a time, roll out with rolling pin until thin enough to go through thickest setting on pasta machine. Make sure you flour both the pasta and the rollers in the machine. Once rolled, fold over and roll with rolling pin again, continue to roll through the pasta machine for a few times. Then reduce the thickness setting on the pasta machine and pass though. Continue to reduce the setting by one each time and once the pasta is as thin as you’d like (one of the last few settings), dust in flour, slice into thick strips and continue with other pasta portions.

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Once all the pasta is almost finished being prepared, boil a very large pot of water. Add some salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta (in batches if need be) until al dente (this won’t take very long with fresh made pasta).

Baked meatballs and tomato sauce

Recipe from the Donna Hay section in the Sunday Magazine

Serves: 8

4 slices white bread
¾ cup milk
500g pork mince
500g beef mince
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 x 400g cans diced tomatoes

finely grated parmesan cheese, extra, to serve

Preheat oven to 220C. Place the bread in a bowl and pour over milk. Stand for 5 minutes to allow the milk to be absorbed. Tear the bread into pieces. Place bread in a large bowl with the pork mince, beef mince, eggs, parmesan, half the parsley and 3 garlic cloves. Mix well to combine.

Roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls, place in two baking dishes and drizzle with oil.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned. Add 2 cans of tomatoes and 1 garlic clove to each dish and stir to combine.

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Bake for a further 5-8 minutes or until the sauce in warmed through. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and parmesan to serve.

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Feta and Ricotta Stuffed Tomatoes and Asparagus, Bacon and Parmesan Pasta – Cooking Class 11

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

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Another cooking class, another new recipe (or two, possibly three – in this case).

Trying to fit quite a number of people in a small kitchen, all trying to find something to help with and space to actually do it, is quite a spectacle. Luckily the dessert for this cooking class was not too involved, as you will find out later…

Not being a fan of asparagus or raw tomatoes, I was a bit concerned when I saw what we were making. Fortunately, both these dishes were great and most of us are looking forward to eating them again, either as separate dishes or together.

The pasta bake was lovely and flavoursome with the bacon, cheese and even the asparagus (I guess I do like asparagus). The stuffed tomatoes had a great combination of olives, pinenuts and herbs and of course the feta and ricotta.

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Dessert was described as a Jamie Oliver tried and tested, fantastic recipe. We were told it may take a while and could be quite involved… I was so intrigued as to what it could be and could not help but laugh when I saw the so-called “recipe”.

On the page was something I have made and eaten plenty of times before. At one stage I was eating it almost every night… it was…

Maltesers on Ice cream!

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I kid you not. It was in Jamie’s book, with an understandably short recipe. Something like:
Ingredients: Ice cream and a bag of maltesers
Method: Crush maltesers, place on ice cream and serve.

Feta and Ricotta Stuffed Tomatoes

Recipes from Party & Snack Perfection

Serves: 6

6 large firm tomatoes
105g feta cheese, crumbled
150g ricotta cheese
60g pine nuts, chopped
10 black olives, pitted and chopped
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
3 tablespoons wholemeal breadcrumbs
freshly ground black pepper
6 block olives to garnish
extra oregano leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 180C.

Cut a lid off the top of each tomatoes and set aside. Carefully scoop the centre of each tomatoes into and large bowl. Combine half the tomato mixture with the feta, ricotta, pine nuts, olives, oregano, breadcrumbs and pepper. Beat mixture together and spoon back into the cases (piling the tops high). Discard left over tomato flesh.

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Place in a lightly greased shallow oven-proof dish and bake 20-25 minutes.

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Garnish with an olive and oregano (we left this bit out) and serve.

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Asparagus, Bacon and Parmesan Tortiglioni

Recipe from The Australian Women’s Weekly Eating in

Serves: 4

500g tortiglioni pasta (or another tube-pasta, if you can’t find this)
500g asparagus, chopped coarsely
2 teaspoons olive oil
5 bacon rashers, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, crushed
100g butter, chopped
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ cup (40g) grated parmesan cheese
½ cup (50g) grates mozzarella cheese

Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water, uncovered, until just tender. Drain and return to pan.

Meanwhile, boil, steam or microwave asparagus until just tender, drain.

Heat oil in large frying pan, add bacon, cook, stirring, until crisp. Add garlic, cook until fragrant.

Add bacon mixture to drained pasta with butter, asparagus, parsley and a quarter of the combined cheeses, toss gently

Preheat grill to hot. Transfer pasta mixture to shallow 2.5 litre ovenproof dish. Sprinkle top of pasta with remaining cheese. Place under grill until cheese has browned. (Alternatively place the dish in a moderate oven [180C] for 10-20 minutes until the cheese has browned)

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Bacon, Mushroom and Baby Spinach Pearl Couscous and Orange and Pistachio Cinnamon Pearl Couscous

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

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I was intrigued when I first saw pearl couscous and surprised by the lovely pearl shapes it formed. I was sent a packet of Blu’s pearl couscous soon after, and spent a bit of time looking for recipes that I thought would show off it’s shape.

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First of all, I wanted to make a pretty dessert. Although finding good desserts or sweet dishes with couscous was a bit difficult, but after a bit of research I came up with a recipe that would hopefully work.

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The second recipe I chose was a quick mushroom, bacon and spinach pearl couscous and sounded perfect for a lazy Friday night. (It’s funny how my second recipe was really our first dish… but as you probably already know – I always think about dessert first).

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Although I loved the look of my dessert using the pearl couscous, it didn’t really work… the flavours and textures just didn’t work terribly well (so I won’t be supplying the recipe). I really did enjoy the savoury meal, the textures were quite interesting and the couscous itself was very filling. I would recommend using this pearl couscous for savoury foods, I would like to try and make a nice slow cooked lamb with a tomato and red wine flavoursome thick sauce on top of the couscous. It would look great and match perfectly.

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Bacon, Mushroom and Baby Spinach Pearl Couscous

Serves: 2-3

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped finely
4 slices of bacon, chopped
12 mushrooms, sliced
2/3 cup Pearl Couscous
1 cup hot chicken or vegetable stock
a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves (I didn’t have as much on hand as I wanted)
4 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to serve

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium/high heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes until caramelising and becoming translucent.

Add the bacon and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the bacon has started to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the couscous, stir well and then add the hot stock. Bring to the simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the couscous is cooked.

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Add the spinach leaves and cook until wilted. Stir in cheese and serve sprinkled with some extra cheese.

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Spanakopita

Monday, October 19th, 2009

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I have quite a good memory when it comes to foods I want to cook.

After watching an episode of Food Safari a year ago, we still hadn’t made one of the lovely Greek dishes we watched being made. Finally, we had the ingredients and I am so happy to have tasted this great dish.

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With layers of crisp filo pastry and melted butter, filled with feta, ricotta and spinach it was marvelous! Even for those who dislike spinach, I would suggest giving this a go.

We had a few problems with the filo pastry getting stuck together, as we used the frozen pack of filo pastry, which just doesn’t pull apart as easily as the fresh packs. Although, once cooked, we couldn’t notice the tears of pastry in the layers.

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We’ve already made this again, and just a note – even if your spinach is a bit old and wilted, still use it – it still tastes great!

Spanakopita

Recipe from Food Safari

Serves: 8

1 bunch (about 320g) English spinach or silverbeet
2 sprigs fresh dill, chopped (optional, I use it when I have it)
4 green shallots, chopped (if I don’t have green shallots, I use a small onion, chopped finely)
300g feta cheese
100g ricotta cheese (sometimes I just make it half/half for ricotta and feta, or more ricotta, either way it tastes great)
40g (½ cup) finely grated hard cheese like kefalograviera, parmesan or pecorino
5 eggs
2 tbsp dry breadcrumbs
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
60ml olive oil
Melted butter or olive oil for greasing dish
375g packet fresh (not frozen) filo pastry
185ml melted butter, approximately

Trim the roots from the English spinach, or if using silverbeet, remove leaves from tough stems. Wash leaves and drain well. Coarsely shred the leaves and tender stalks of the spinach and set aside.

Place the feta in a large bowl and coarsely mash with a fork. Add the ricotta, kefalograviera, eggs, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, pepper and oil. Mix with the fork to combine. Add the spinach and set aside while preparing the pastry case.

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 20cm x 30cm x 5cm deep baking dish.

Lay the filo out on a bench. Cover with a dry tea towel then a damp one to keep it from drying out. Line dish with a sheet of filo and butter the filo. Top with another sheet of filo and butter and continue until about half the sheets of filo are used.

Using your hand or a large metal spoon, gently mix the spinach filling until thoroughly combined. Pour into the prepared pastry base and spread evenly. Top with remaining filo, buttering each sheet, ensuring the final sheet is well buttered. Trim any overhanging pastry and tuck in the sides.

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Use a sharp knife to mark pastry top into diamonds, allowing the knife to pierce the pastry once or twice to allow air to escape during baking. Sprinkle lightly with water and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until well browned and set. Gently shake the pan and the spanakopita will slide easily when cooked. Cover with foil if over browning. Cool on rack for 15 minutes before cutting to serve.

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Note: The spinach can be prepared a day ahead. It must be as dry as possible to ensure the spanakopita does not become soggy.

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Chicken and Chorizo Paella (Risotto) and Churros – Cooking Class 10

Monday, October 5th, 2009

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I have wanted to try churros for so long. I have only once tried them at a Spanish restaurant and was absolutely disappointed. The churros were very soggy and the dipping sauce tasted like a bottle of cheap chocolate sauce used for ice cream.

Such high expectations and such a horrible dish – and what’s worse is one of the staff said it was their favourite dish – and she was Spanish!!! I am waiting patiently to try some at another Spanish restaurant, hopefully this time I will have a better experience.

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So for my second cooking class I chose a non-seafood paella and churros! I had a few problems with both dishes… The first was the quantity of paella we made. It is difficult to cook something properly when you are cooking for 12 or more people (we take lunches to work). One very large stockpot doesn’t really allow the amount of water evaporate as it should. None-the-less it turned out a lovely risotto. 🙂

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Then came the churros. These were quite nice and I would love to try them again. Our biggest problem was controlling the temperature of the oil, too hot or too cold and the churros didn’t cook properly. I also think they were a little thick – I used the biggest star nozzle that came in the piping pack I bought. This seemed to be the perfect size until they doubled (or maybe tripled) in size whilst cooking – although while cooling they did reduce in size a little. All-in-all it was fun and I would definitely make these again.

Chicken and Chorizo Paella (Risotto)

Serves: 8

2 chorizos, halved lengthways and sliced
8 large chicken breast or thighs, cut into large chunks
Olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
600g paella or risotto rice
2-2.2 litres hot chicken stock
2 red capsicums, de-seeded and sliced or cut into chunks
1 green capsicum, de-seeded and sliced or cut into chunks
1 cup peas, frozen peas should be thawed in some boiling water while preparing
6 large, ripe plum tomatoes, cut into chunky pieces
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Lemon wedges, to serve

Heat a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add chorizos and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, until turning golden and the oil has been released. Remove and set aside.

Add the chicken in a few sets and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring, until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, then add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and paprika to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice, stir to coat in the oil and then add 2 litres hot stock. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Return the chicken to the pan and add the capsicum, peas and tomatoes. Stir and cook for 5 minutes, adding a little more stock or hot water if necessary. Season and stir the chorizo and parsley into the pan.

Continue to cook for 5 minutes or until the rice is just tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve with lemon wedges.

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Churros and hot chocolate

Recipe from Karen Martini on Better Homes and Gardens (I watched the video and wrote down the instructions)

100ml milk
100ml water
80g butter
1½ tablespoons caster sugar
Pinch salt
120g plain flour
3 eggs, lightly whisked

Vegetable Oil, for frying

Hot chocolate
250g dark chocolate
800ml milk
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa

Icing sugar mixed with cinnamon, to dust on top of churros

Place vegetable oil in a large pot and start it heating up on medium/hot heat (eventually to 180ºC).

Bring milk, water, butter, caster sugar and salt to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add flour and stir to combine. Once combined, stir hard to form a thick dough and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes to cook the flour and remove lumps.

Put mixture into a food processor while still hot and turn food processor on. Add whisked eggs and process for 30 seconds until a smooth sticky paste is formed. Scoop out and put into a piping bag with a star nozzle ready for frying.

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For the hot chocolate, place a large metal bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Place 250g dark chocolate in the bowl. In a separate saucepan, place milk, caster sugar and cocoa and whisk together, bring to a simmer, then pour over the melted chocolate, whisk until smooth. Keep chocolate mixture over water to keep hot, until ready to serve.

To fry the churros, either pipe a figure 8 on a oiled spatula and slide carefully into the hot oil (180C), or pipe a line and cut with a knife and fry for 2-3 minutes until golden, they will double in size. Remove from oil and place on paper towel for a bit, then heavily dust with cinnamon icing sugar mix and serve with hot chocolate.

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