Getting back into cooking since 2009.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Coca is a spanish kind of pizza/open tart type thing that apparently often has a thick leavened crust, but author of the book (Cocina Nueva by Jane Lawson - good book!) I went from specifies that she prefers a thin and crispy base and that suits me fine. She also says that Coca isn't topped with cheese but if you can't go without, recommends some grated Manchego or crumbled goats cheese.

The pastry base is definitely my favourite part of this, I wish I'd taken a photo of it untopped because it is real pretty with the seeds and lemon zest, but nevermind. It is really quick to make and I think it would work pretty well with other toppings, or if it was rolled out even thinner could be broken up as crackers.

1. Mix together 250g flour, 1tsp lemon zest, 3tsp cumin seeds, 3tsp chopped thyme, 1 tsp salt in a bowl.

2. Make a well in the centre, and add 80ml olive oil & 100ml water and mix thoroughly to combine.

3. Bring the dough together in a ball, knead for a few minutes, wrap in gladwrap and stick it in the fridge for at least an hour.

4. When read to bake, preheat oven to 220, roll out dough to ~5ml thick and bake for around 8 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before topping with ingredients.

Top it with a very thin spread of watered down tomato paste mixed with some paprika, cayenne and finely chopped garlic. Then a layer of caramelised red onions (caramelised in olive oil, sugar and sherry vinegar). Then a mixture of ripped up slices of proscuitto, some rinsed and dried capers, roughly chopped up anchovies and a vague approximation of 'pimientos del piquillo' as I couldn't find any in shops (grilled some red capsicum until a bit charred and soft, left in some olive oil and sherry vinegar overnight).

Then back into the oven set to 190, for 20 minutes or so. 

A nice touch is to serve with some chopped up flat-leaf parsley scattered over (which I forgot in the rush to pack it up and take to the cricket) and a squeeze of lemon juice to lighten the flavour a bit if you need.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Beans on toast for dinner

Beans on toast for dinner! The rib eye "flintstone" steak I'd planned to cook for dinner was still frozen solid, so a plan B was needed.

I like to have cupboards well stocked with basic supplies like beans, tinned tomatoes, coconut milk, etc. This came in handy, as we didn't have a hell of a lot else.

I used the small amount of supermarket crab (note: pretty bland) and some cannelini and borlotti beans to make a nice version of beans on toast. The beans are canned; I know that is a bit slack, but this is not the sort of meal you plan 24 hours in advance, giving you time to soak dried beans.
I just sweated a couple of shallots and a clove of garlic in some olive oil with a few sprigs of thyme, added the beans and a good glug of water, reduced til thick and creamy. Stirred in some red wine vinegar, good olive oil and salt and pepper.

On top I put some cold crab into which I'd mixed half a deseeded red chilli, some parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. The whole thing was placed on top of some bread that I'd brushed with oil and baked at 150c for 10 or 15 minutes and then rubbed with garlic.

I was quite surprised by how well this came out, I was kind of expecting it to be lacking something or be just generally bland, but it all worked. Monday night experimentation!


These were super easy and delicious! The recipe is from the latest Delicious magazine (Feb 09)  but instead of doing a Lamington cake as is suggested I went for the traditional style (what is the point really if they are not iced all over?) and though not perfectly square I think they came out pretty good! I did end up making some mini lamington cupcakes with the leftover batter.. which proved popular with my favourite three and eight year olds which is really the sign of a win, I think?
Happy Australia Day!
(26th Jan)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Brioche! (with Lemon Butter)

Today I have conquered my #2 Kitchen Fear, yeast! (Number one was egg whites.)

I don't recall where exactly I got this recipe from, but it was named 'Simple Brioche Loaf' and aside from the amount of flour seeming waaaay too low (I ended up adding almost an extra cup), it stayed true to its name. I'm not going to repeat the recipe here, mostly because I can't be bothered. Maybe has not risen as much as it should (is that due to too much flour?) but still came out fluffy and delicious. Especially fresh out of the oven, spread with some home made lemon butter..
Yeast! You are not as scary as I thought. Thanks science!

Update: on second/third eatings, this is not as fluffy as first thought. Still tasty though and holds together in a toaster so that is good enough for me. Probably should stick to the recipe better next time and maybe it will work better.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chicken with Peperonata and Corn and Bacon Salad

This is the sort of dish to cook when you can't be bothered doing anything too strenuous: a tender (read: fairly boring) cut of meat rubbed with spices and grilled, served with a salad and a sauce.

It's basic, rustic, and all kinds of flavourful.

I rubbed a chicken breast with some cracked fennel seeds, chilli flakes, lemon zest and salt and pepper, then grilled it on the BBQ. Beautiful spice rub, but I should've butterflied the chicken. I hate thick, uninteresting chicken breast.

The salad is just corn, bacon and mint. Fantastic flavour combination! Grilled a couple of cobs of corn on the BBQ, tossed through four rashers of bacon chopped and sauteed, then ripped up a small handful of mint.

The chunky sauce is peperonata, an Italian capsicum and tomato quick stew of sorts. Sweat half an onion in olive oil, add a couple of cloves of garlic, then a couple of chopped up capsicums. Cook with the lid on for around 15 minutes, then add three or four chopped tomatoes and some pepper, cook for another 5 minutes or so, then take the lid off and reduce 'til it's thick enough. Add a couple of splashes of red wine and serve! I half-followed Stephanie Alexander's recipe, but this is a pretty standard sauce.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chilled Corn Soup

Top Chef has given us many things: reasons to hate sommeliers, Padma, 'plate' as a verb, regular infusions of Anthony Bourdain into our loungeroom. It has also given us this chilled corn soup with mint and chilli oil.

It's very refreshing and has just the slightest kick from the chilli oil.

The recipe comes from a competitor in season five of Top Chef, Jamie Lauren. 

Chilled Sweet Corn Soup with Mint and Chili Oil
3 ears corn, cleaned and cut off cob
2-3 sticks celery, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
50g butter
200ml cream
1 small bunch mint, tied with a string, plus extra mint leaves for garnish
salt to taste
1 potato, peeled and roughly chopped
/2 tablespoon dried chilli flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Heat your butter in a large pot over a low-medium heat.

2. Add garlic and sauté till softened but not browned, season with a pinch of salt.

3. Add your onions and another pinch of salt. 

4. Cook till soft but not browned over a medium heat. 

5. Add the celery and cook til semi-soft. I like to partially cover the pot with a lid during all the sautéing. It helps your ingredients to keep their moisture, so that they soften without drying out and browning.

6. Add potato, corn, the bunch of mint and cover with stock.

7. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and cook till potatoes are soft (around 20 minutes or so, depending on how chunky you cut your potatoes).

8. Meanwhile, make your chilli oil. Add the oil and chilli to a small pan, bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat once it starts to simmer slightly, and let it steep for 20 minutes. Strain it and reserve it. Beware: this will be very hot, so use it extremely sparingly.

9. Remove the bunch of mint.

10. Puree in your pot using a stick mixer, adding the cream a bit at a time, till it’s a nice smooth consistency. Alternatively puree the soup in batches in your blender.

11. Strain through a fine strainer and allow to cool. You might want to strain it a couple of times, especially if you don’t have a particularly fine strainer. Once this is cold you want it to be velvety smooth, not chunky at all. If in doubt, strain again.

12. Taste your soup, add more salt if needed. Thin it out with a bit of stock if you think it’s too thick.

13. Serve it in shot glasses, topped with thinly slice mint leaves and tiny (TINY!) drops of the chilli oil.

A great little starter for summer.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mini Dogs, Chilli Fries & Strawberry Shakes

Sorry to bring down the tone here.. Perhaps not the finest culinary delight but these dogs sure were mini, and trashy food was entirely the point, to go with an afternoon of Gossip Girl viewing. Chilli Fries (oven baked, just with olive oil & chilli salt sprinkled over) were too spicy for some but the homemade faux aioli (roasted garlic, sour cream, lemon juice, salt) always goes down a treat with these guests I guess and saved the day/their tastebuds from burning too much. I don't know that I'd actually ever "cooked" hot dog sausages before, they're generally just something served up at kids parties and not something I think about. The only instructions being to "heat in warm water" is a little disturbing I think. But on with the show. The mini, delicious, show..
Those mini "bake at home" rolls from woolworths are such an excellent size for these. I suppose one thing I could be happy about is the shakes, which although unimpressive skill wise, were tasty as hell, made of purely blended strawberries and icecream. A++ would make again.
9th January 2009.

Pizzas in the BBQ

One of my favourite flavour combinations is sage and anchovies, with the intense saltiness of the anchovies mingling with the uplifting, fragrant sage. I became hooked on this combination by eating Jamie Oliver's sage and anchovy fritters, in which you make a little 'sandwich' with sage leaves on either side of an anchovy fillet, then batter it in a light soda-water batter and shallow fry. All kinds of delicious.

I've thought for a while that this combination would work well on a pizza, so recently I decided to put my theory to the test. In keeping with my resolution to try new things in the kitchen (or out of the kitchen in this case), I decided to try cooking pizzas on the BBQ with the help of the roasting hood.

This worked incredibly well. Soda has taken to calling these pizzas "salt bombs", and I think she means it in a good way.

I placed a pizza stone on a little wire rack support on top of the hot plate, then turned all burners on full and closed the lid. It pretty quickly got up to about 240c, so I turned off the burner immediately underneath the pizza stone. I wanted the stone to absorb the heat, but didn't want a direct heat underneath it when the pizza was cooking, so once it was up to temperature I turned that burner off and left the other three on full.

The whole thing cooked very quickly on the hot stone, with the bases crisping up yet keeping that beautiful chewiness of fresh bread. In five or six minutes the whole thing was done.

I've now done the BBQ pizzas three times, and they're only getting better. I recently tried an artichoke, cacciatore and parmesan pizza with a pesto base, to which I added gremolata after it came off the heat. Very good, though it can't top the anchovy, sage and prosciutto winners.

The pizza pictured below is a caramelised onion, chorizo and mozzarella pizza with an olive oil base. A little plain perhaps, but still good.

7th January 2009

Crab Capellini

As part of Operation: Cook Food Appropriate for 37c Days I decided to try a simple crab pasta, with fairly middling results.

Sauteed a bit of garlic and some chilli flakes, added some white wine, reduced a little, added pre-cooked crab meat, stirred through some cooked capellini (angel hair pasta), some chopped butter, lemon juice and zest, mint.

This needs a very small amount of chilli in order to avoid overpowering the subtle crab meat, and I failed that particular test. Too much chilli, not enough salt. Also it could do with a more substantial pasta like a linguine in order to have it a bit more al dente for some textural contrast. Still, the concept is good and I'll try this again sometime.

6th January 2009

Friday, January 9, 2009

Chicken & Chorizo Burritos

One of my main goals for 2009 as far as cooking goes is to expand my skills at both end of the spectrum: hopefully I will cook more elaborate and interesting dishes using unfamiliar techniques and ingredients (the "high end"), but I also want to develop a more diverse repertoire of everyday meals (the "low end"). This dish fall decidedly into the second category, but it's nevertheless tasty as hell and something I'd be happy to serve to any visitors to our house.

Mexican, Tex-Mex and faux-Mex (the category to which this dish belongs) are all favourites at the Palace. I call this faux-Mex because it's derived from no particular recipe and may in fact not be very Mexican at all. I don't really care. Cooking without any recipe is much more satisfying when it works, and I'm more bothered about flavour than culinary authenticity.

I cracked a few cumin seeds and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle, added a bit of cayenne pepper, a touch of turmeric and some salt and pepper, and rubbed two chicken breasts with the spice mix. I then rubbed the breasts with oil and cooked them on the grill bars of the BBQ with the lid closed, turning often. When they were done, I shredded the meat with forks.

I then added the shredded meat to a little chunky salsa thing I had bubbling away on the side burner. Fried a few slices of chorizo, softened half an onion, added about 7 or 8 chunkily chopped tomatoes, a slug of red wine vinegar and some salt. When the chicken was mixed with this 'sauce' the flavours melded beautifully and the chicken sucked up the moisture.

Meanwhile I had roasted a couple of green capsicums and a few green chillies, and Sod took them inside and made this hella flavourful green sauce. It consists of the aforementioned capsicums (capsica?) and chillies, peeled and deseeded, blended up with some coriander leaf and stem, lime juice and salt. I have no idea if this bears any relation to a Mexican salsa verde, but it was the perfect complement to the chicken and chorizo; quite light tasting, but with a citrus tang and slight chilli bite.

We ate these as burritos, with some roasted corn, cheese and sour cream joining the green sauce and chicken and chorizo mix. I could not have been more happy with the results!

4th Jan 2009