Monthly Archives: June 2012

Mediterranean Roasted Mushrooms

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Many years ago a guy I knew from school appeared in a series of ads for mushrooms, and the catch phrase was “Mushrooms – meat for vegetarians”.  The ads were a bit cheesey and therefore kind of funny, but the idea was spot on.  Mushrooms have wonderful texture and body and offer enough substance to satisfy the most dedicated carnivore.

Mushrooms are marvelously versatile; they are compatible with so many flavours and cuisines, and they can hold their own as the main event in a meal, as they are in this recipe.  This is another adapted from Australian Good Taste magazine competition recipe selection. It makes a wonderful mid-week winter meal.

Recipe

  • 8 lg flat mushrooms, stems removed
  • olive oil spray
  • 400 g fresh ricotta (cottage cheese would also work)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 60 g semi-dried tomatoes
  • 25 g pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/4 c fresh basil leaves
  • 3 T pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 lg egg
  • 3 largeherbed  turkish buns

Preheat oven to 150C. Cut stems off mushrooms, spray lightly with oil spray, and place cut side up on lined baking tray. Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until filling is ready.

Combine remaining ingredients. Press onto mushrooms.  Increase oven temperature to 200C.  Cover mushrooms with foil and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until mushrooms are cooked through.

Cut turkish buns in half crosswise and spray lightly with oil.  Place on another lined baking tray and add them to the oven until crunchy and bronzed.

 

Sweet Potato Soup

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When I was little sweet potato was an uncommon vegetable on Aussie dinner tables – none of my friends would have recognised one. It was one of those foods that confirmed my status of ‘hippy kid’.  Sweet potato  became a regular feature in our kitchen when our bohemian pantry was at its most dreary – I think of that time as the Era of Culinary Austerity.  No extras on hand to spice up a meal so our cooked sweet potato was bland, and yet often the tastiest element of the meal.  Sad days.

This recipe has been adapted from one in the latest Woolworths Australian Good Taste magazine. Woolworths is running a promotion which involves inviting readers to cook specified recipes and upload to the www.taste.com.au website.  Since I am always on the hunt for inspiration, I thought I might as well give this challenge a go, and try to break my bad attitude towards the humble sweet potato.

I don’t think I would have tried this recipe if it weren’t for the promotion because I wasn’t convinced about using red curry paste in this kind of recipe.  I also thought there was a risk that the sweet potato would be too heavy a flavour for the soup. However, the result was a delicious and filling dish, and one that even the sprogs enjoyed.  We ate it with a crunchy crusted hot sour dough bread with lashings of butter, and it was a fabulous winter night’s meal.

Recipe

  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1.2 kg sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 lg brown onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 t Massel  chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • 6 c boiling water
  • 2 t fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 t brown sugar or honey
  • 1/2 c light sour cream
  • 2 T chopped fresh coriander or parsley
  • 1 fresh red chilli, very finely chopped (optional)

Saute onion, celery and curry paste in oil for 4 minutes. Add carrots and sweet potato and saute for another 2 minutes.  Add boiling water and chicken or vegetable stock. Bring soup to boil for 2 minutes and then reduce heat to simmer soup for 30-40 minutes.  Cool slightly.

Blend soup until smooth.  Heat gently on low for 4-5 minutes. Add lime jiuce and sugar.

Combine sour cream, chilli (if using) and coriander or parsley.  Serve soup with hot bread and sour cream.

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Carrot Cake with Chocolate and Dates

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I don’t make cakes very often, partly because they get eaten so quickly in this house.  However, when the in-laws come for an extended visit, you have to observe as many of the social niceties as you can manage, including serving a proper dessert after dinner. Wal loves carrot cakes, so I have many carrot cake recipes, but this one is a favourite with the sprogs because I put chocolate bits in it.

Recipe

  • 3/4 c plain flour
  • 1 1/4 wholemeal SR flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 c raw caster sugar
  • 1/2 t freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 c grated carrot, firmly packed
  • 1/3 c slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 c dried dates, finely chopped
  • 150 g dark chocolate bits
  • 1 c macadamia oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

Line 24 cm springform cake tin.  If you use a different style of tin as I did this time (in this case a small Angel Food Cake tin) you may need to use the old fashioned method of lining your tin: a thin layer of butter over the tin’s surface followed by a thin dusting of flour.

Sift dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and mix til fully integrated. Spoon into prepared tin and spread evenly.  Cook in moderate oven for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning cake out of tin.

 Once completely cool, ice with vanilla icing.

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Char Siu Chicken

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I have a friend who is Chinese, and who knows all the best places to buy Chinese barbecue pork.  If you happen to pop by on a day when he has brought some home he will always share.  There is no pretense of incorporating it into a meal, he’ll just pull it out and you all, dig in and bliss out.

Barbecue pork is one of my favourite Chinese dishes and the only other place that I tend to have it is at yum cha – which I don’t do often enough! A key ingredient in this pork dish is Char Siu sauce, which is used to marinate the meat.

I have stolen the Char Siu marinade idea to use with chicken to make a super fast super easy and super tasty meal – usually served on a soccer training night, when the older sprog comes home cold, ravenous and impatient.

You can make home made char siu sauce, but because I am going for super quick, I usually cheat and buy the sauce.

Recipe

  • peanut oil for stir frying
  • 850 g chicken thighs, cut into thirds
  • 120 g Char Siu sauce
  • 1 t five spice powder
  • 7 shallots, chopped
  • 1/3 bunch corinder leaves, finely chopped
  • juice 1/2 lemon

Place chicken, sauce, five spice powder and shallots into bowl to marinate for minimum of 30 minutes.

Heat oil in wok or large non-stick frying pan, and add chicken mixture.  Cook on high heat until meat changes colour, then reduce heat to finish cooking.  Add coriander and lemon juice when you reduce the heat. Serve on rice or rice noodles, with steamed greens on the side.

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Shortbread Creams

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These cookies are pure indulgence!  Buttery crunch on the outside, and sweet vanilla on the inside. Very moreish.

Recipe

  • 175 g butter, softened
  • 100 g raw caster sugar
  • 75 g custard powder
  • 175 g plain flour

Pre-heat oven to 185C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add custard powder and mix well. Stir in flour until mixture forms a soft dough. Roll dough into small balls place on tray.  Press into cookies with cookie press or fork.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until slightly browned and set.  Leave on tray to cool.  Once completely cool, put cookies together with icing.

Recipe adapted fromBiscuits and Slices/ Country Women’s Association. Camberwell : Penguin, 2009, p52.

Icing

  • 1 c icing sugar
  • 2 T soft butter
  • 1/2 t vanilla essence
  • enough milk to blend into thick smooth consistency

Blend all ingredients together until smooth.

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Date Bran Muffins

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I have a sister, I’ll call her Salsa, whose diet has become very restricted.  She has cut so many things from her diet: most meat, all sugar, anything processed, anything with preservatives, etc.   So many delicious things gone. Hers is actually a diet many of us would like to follow, or aspire to, but just can’t  acheive due to the level of sacrifice required.  Salsa changed her diet for health reasons, which is a powerful motivator, and because of this she very rarely cheats.

Sugar is one of the biggest no-no’s in Salsa’s diet. Such a big thing to rule out – sugar is in so many foods.  So many delicious indulgent foods.  Because Salsa doesn’t have the time or the inclination to bake sweet treats just for herself (and because I am so impressed by what she is doing),  I always make an effort to bake something sweet for her when I see her.  I always use as many organic ingredients as I can find, and I only use 100% pure Mimosa Honey direct from the producer in country NSW.

Using honey in baked goods can be tricky.  It is denser than sugar and moist so you need to counter those factors when baking muffins or cakes so they don’t turn out heavy and gluggy.  These muffins are very light, and the dates and blueberries offer some delicious extra sweetness and texture.

  

Recipe

  • 2/3 c wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1/2 c plain white or spelt flour
  • 2 1/2 c bran
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 4 T butter
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c milk
  • 2/3 c dried dates, chopped
  • 2/3 c fresh blueberries

Line 12 muffin capacity muffin pan with muffin cases.  Preheat oven to 190C.

Sift flours and baking powder into large bowl.  Add bran and mix well.  Measure milk into small bowl. In small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and honey together.  Pour butter mixture into milk and whisk. Add egg and whisk again.  Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and add dates.  Mix slightly.  Add blueberries and mix gently until just combined.

Spoon into muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes or until skewer inserted into muffin comes out clean.  Best served immediately with butter and honey.