March 27, 2008

pasta weather

A major heatwave in Melbourne last week, a wintry 11 degrees last night! A warming dish of high-carb pasta was definitely appropriate. This is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe from....??. The thing is, when you work in a public library (or used to), you see all the lovely new cookbooks come in. You rush out and buy the ones you just have to have, but the rest you photocopy a few dishes from and stash the pages away with the rest of your (enormous collection of) loose recipes. This one might be from his latest book Jamie at home but I'm not sure...

Zucchini carbonara (serves 4)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 small zucchini
500g penne
4 large free-range egg yolks
100ml cream
2 good handfuls grated Parmesan cheese
12 thick slices pancetta or bacon
small bunch thyme, leaves picked

Place egg yolks in a bowl with the cream and half the parmesan and mix together with a fork.

Add bacon to a large cold non-stick frying pan, place over high heat and cook until brown and crisp. Remove, drain on paper towels and roughly chop.

Wash and dry zucchini and slice thinly. Add to the hot pan containing the bacon fat with 2 large pinches of black pepper and sprinkle in the thyme leaves. Fry until golden on both sides and slightly softened.

Meanwhile cook pasta in plenty of salted boiling water and drain, reserving a little of the cooking liquid. Tip pasta back into the pot with the zucchini and bacon and stir over the heat for a few seconds to reheat the bacon. Remove from the heat (no more cooking or the eggs will scramble)and add the egg yolk mixture together with a little of the reserved pasta water. Stir together quickly and serve topped with remaining parmesan.

March 22, 2008

good friday birthday dinner

Georgie cooked a fantastic dinner for the 6 of us last night for Jeff's birthday. First course was king prawns with chilli and oregano :

Main course was baked flathead with roast potatoes and oregano :

and for dessert, strawberry granita with double cream :

It was the usual restaurant-standard fare we are used to since G. came to stay. All the recipes were adapted from Karen Martini's new book Cooking at home.

King prawns with chilli and oregano

16 very large raw king prawns

sea salt and pepper

150ml extra virgin olive oil

1-2 small red chillies, chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced

1 bunch oregano, leaves only

1/2 bunch flat-leafed parsley, leaves only

2 t grated lemon zest

lemon wedges to serve

Preheat oven to 220C or the grill to high. Cut prawns in half lengthwise leaving heads and tails intact, and devein. Place on a baking tray, season with s. and p. and drizzle with a little olive oil. Combine chilli, garlic, oregano, parsley, lemon zest and remaining olive oil in a food processor, season well and process to a paste. Bake or grill prawns for 6-7 mins. or until just changed colour. Top with the herb paste and serve with lemon wedges.

Baked flathead with roast potatoes, lemon and oregano (serves 6)

18 kipfler potatoes, very thinly sliced

9 golden shallots, finely sliced

9 cloves garlic, finely sliced

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 T olive oil

300ml white wine

juice of 2 lemons

6 flathead fillets

Oregano dressing :

finely grated zest of 3 lemons

bunch oregano, leaves picked

1/2 bunch flat-leafed parsley

6 small red chillies, finely chopped (or to taste)

100 ml olive oil

2 cloves garlic

pinch sea salt

lemon juice to taste

Preheat oven to 185C and line a large baking dish with baking paper. To make the oregano dressing, combine all the ingredients exept the lemon juice in a food processor until a smooth paste. Stir in lemon juice. Combine the potatoes, shallots, garlic, salt and pepper and 3 T olive oil and arrange in the baking dish. Pour over the wine and bake for 20 mins. Rub the lemon juice and remaining olive oil over the fish, then season with salt and pepper. Place fish on top of potatoes and bake for 20-30 mins or until fish is just cooked. Serve drzzled with oregano dressing.

Strawberry granita with double cream

130g caster sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split

350 ml water

handful basil leaves

400g strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 lemon, juiced

125 ml double cream

6 large strawberries extra, hulled and sliced

Combine sugar, vanilla bean and water over heat in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then boil for 5 mins. Add the basil leaves, remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool. Strain, discarding the solids. Puree the strawberries and lemon juice in a blender then strain through a fine seive. Add to the cooled syrup, mix well and pour into a shallow wide metal tray. Freeze for 2 hours, remove from freezer and drag the frozen ice crystals from the edges with a fork. Return to freezer for about 1 1/2 hours until set. Remove and scrape/smash the crystals again. Divide the cream among serving dishes, then spoon in granita. Top with a layer of sliced strawberries to serve.

March 21, 2008


Last night we had dinner at Trunk after reading John Lethlean's great review in Epicure in The Age a couple of weeks ago. What a great space. It was too dark to take a photo of the interior but this is what it looks like in daylight :

The picture above accompanied the Age review. For starters I had salt cod and green chilli fritters:

Jeff had crostini with agrodolce anchovies :

and Georgie had porcini and taleggio arancini :

For the main course I had the special barramundi :

Jeff had the Thursday special - zuppa de pesca:

and Georgie had the rabbit pasta :

We all thought the food and service was very good. However, because the adjoining bar was packed, the noise from there made it very hard to carry on a normal conversation which kind of spoilt the evening.
p.s. the floor tiles in the funky ladies' room spell out the words "without trunk". Puzzling until you learn that the men's spells out "with trunk". Cute.

March 20, 2008

vegan cupcakes

For the past week we've been living in the front (carpeted) half of the house while the timber floor in the back half has been sanded and polished. The combination of the extreme heatwave, the fumes from the floor and having no kitchen or computer have made for a pretty hellish week. All back to normal now so was finally able to make Katie some vegan cupcakes as a thank-you for the the farewell song!
I sat and copied out a recipe in Borders (which I reckon is a far lesser sin than taking the book into the cafe which you are allowed to do) from The joy of vegan baking. I wanted a recipe which didn't have egg substitute in it, which I've heard is difficult to use successfully.

Here's my adaption of it :

Vegan Coffee Cake(s) (makes 12)

Preheat oven to 185C.

235ml soy milk
78ml canola (I used Nuttelex), melted
15ml apple cider vinegar
125g plain flour
100g sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t bicarb soda
2 t cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
¼ t salt

Combine wet ingredients. In a separate bowl sift together dry ingredients. Mix together and pour evenly into a paper-lined muffin tin.

Crumble topping:

94g plain flour
50g brown or white sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
¼ t salt
115g sliced pecans
78 ml canola (Nuttelex), melted

Work ingredients together with hands, spoon evenly over batter. Bake for about 20 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.

The nuts sank in most of them - no idea why. In the picture in the book they were stting beautifuly on the top, but I tasted one and it was pretty good. Hey, it even tasted like a normal cake!

And while we're on the subject of give-away cupcakes...I saw this post on Confessions of a food nazi's blog - how funny! Should I copy this idea when we sell the house?

March 6, 2008

tv cake 2

Just watched Patrice Newell on morning tv talking about her olive oil book.

What a great close-up of my cake...

and they seemed to like it ok!

March 5, 2008

tv cake

Penguin Group has just published Tree to Table : cooking with Australian olive oil by Patrice Newell, which features a collection of olive oil recipes by twenty Australian chefs and cooks. Patrice is going to be on morning tv tomorrow to publicise her book, and her brave publicist (who is a friend of Georgie's) asked me to make this cake to take with them. The recipe is by Philip Johnson - owner and chef of e'cco bistro in Brisbane.

There were a couple of worrying moments during the preparation but it all came together in the end. Here's the recipe :

Philip Johnson's Lemon & Olive Oil Cake

3 egg yolks
550g caster sugar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups milk
grated rind 2 lemons
juice 3 lemons
300g SR flour
1/2 t bicarb soda
pinch salt
5 egg whites
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 170 C. Grease a 26cm springform tin and line with baking paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. (I was a bit worried here. No amount of beating was ever going to turn this much sugar and 3 yolks into anything that could be described as thick and pale. It was just dry and crumbly. I pushed on regardless.)

Whisk in oil, milk, lemon juice and rind, mixing well to combine.

Sift together the dry ingredients. In a clean bowl, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold flour mixture into egg yolks and sugar mixture, then fold in beaten egg whites. (Now the mixture looked like scrambled egg. I mixed it for a few seconds with the electric mixture and thank heavens it smoothed out.)

Pour mixture into prepared tin. Bake for 1 1/4 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Dust cake with icing sugar if using, and serve with creme fraiche or whipped cream. It's also great served with fruit - for example, oranges poached in caramel.

Serves 10 - 12

I realised I was not going to be able to taste the result so cunningly made 2 small cupcakes to test.

The cake tastes great, very moist - almost like a steamed pudding in texture, and with a lovely flavour. Now I just have to decide whether to dust the top (top photo - nicely browned but a bit cracked) or the bottom (photo below - not as evenly coloured and a bit damp-ish) with the icing sugar.

March 3, 2008

design wall

Our house will be going up for sale soon so I needed to come up with a solution to making my sewing room look more presentable. I usually have my quilt-in-progress spread out on the double bed...not very satisfactory as it not only looks messy but gets very dusty. I remembered reading about how to make a design wall in a Kaffe Fassett book. I found it the other day in Passionate Patchwork and used it as a rough guide. I bought two pieces of "foil board" from Bunning's, each measuring 107cm x 212cm, and taped them together at the back(so they're hinged) with masking tape. I covered the whole thing with white flannelette sheeting (bought by the metre at Lincraft) by just taping it on at the back. According to KF you can fold the whole thing up and slide it under a bed if you want it out of sight. Mine does stand up by itself but it's inclined to be a bit "bendy" with the weight of the current quilt on it. So I've pinned on a couple of fabric strips at the top and drawing-pinned them to the top of the picture rail.

I googled "design wall" and there are some great ideas on there, including hemming a sheet top and bottom and running 2 pieces of dowel through and suspending these from hooks.

My little room looks SO much better! I wish I'd got around to this years ago.