easy meal

We all scream for ice-cream

Summer days are meant for ice-cream. Cool taste sensations and flavours that delight the tongue, what could be more exciting?

Sometimes though, store bought ice-cream can reveal a whole lot of interesting additives, flavours, extenders (water, vegetable shortening, wheat starch) which I prefer to leave on the shelves, not in my stomach. So how you get your ice-cream fix without the stress? The joy that is no-churn ice-cream!

That’s right, no longer do you need to pull your mix out of the freezer and bend your beaters (a lesson I learnt all too well…use the heavy duty paddle next time Luisa…). With this recipe you just mix, whip, fold and freeze. Easy. I will include the traditional recipe as well if you do own a churner as these are also fabulous and a churner does make life a lot easier when creating fantastic ice-cream creations!

So why use sweetened condensed milk in these recipes? The ingredients of condensed milk are just milk, milk solids and sugar. When making traditional ice-cream you use milk, cream, sugar and eggs so this is great for those with egg allergies and there are no thickeners, additives, colours or preservatives. The condensed milk stabilises the ice-cream mix the way eggs do in the traditional recipes allowing you to have the same smooth texture without the fuss. The only difference for me was it is quite rich so a couple of spoons will do.

When creating your own mix, don’t be afraid to get creative with flavours for exciting combinations. Here are some of my favourites:

Hazlenut and chocolate – add a generous scoop of nutella to the mix. If making no churn stir into the condensed milk, if making custard add to the milk and cream mix

White chocolate and passionfruit – for no churn add 100g melted white chocolate and 100ml of passionfruit puree. For the churn, double the amount and add the chocolate to the milk when heating and passionfruit at end.

Strawberry – to make puree blend 150g strawberries with 2 tbsp of icing sugar and strain – add to mix

Malt – for the no churn dissolve 2 tbsp malt in 5tbsp of the pure cream warmed and add to the condensed milk. For the churned add the malt powder to the milk and cream mix when heating

Stay tuned for further recipes teaching you how to make praline mix in’s, fun serving ideas and home made toppings. Yum!

So without further ado, the no-churn ice-cream:

No Churn Vanilla Ice-Cream

Ingredients
  1. 1 can condensed milk (340g)
  2. 300ml pure cream
  3. Splash of vanilla essence
Instructions
  1. Combine vanilla and condensed milk
  2. Whip cream to soft peaks
  3. Fold through cream and milk mixture softly until well combined

And if you’d like to churn your own vanilla ice-cream?

Vanilla Ice-Cream

Ingredients
  1. 560ml cream
  2. 188ml milk
  3. 210g sugar
  4. 6 egg yolks
  5. 1 vanilla pod
Instructions
  1. Bring the cream, milk, vanilla and half of the sugar to a simmer
  2. Whisk the yolks with the remaining sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Mix through the cream and milk with the yolks
  4. Place back on stove in clean pot over low heat and stir until mixture thickens
  5. Strain and allow to cool and chill
  6. Place into churner and follow your machines instructions
Cooking out custard can be a bit tricky so here are some troubleshooting tips
  1. 1. It looks like scrambled eggs – your stove was too hot and the egg yolks cooked too quickly. Never fear, the solution is to allow the mix to cool a little, then add it to a blender and whiz until smooth and strain through a fine sieve. Make sure the mixture is cooled before blending otherwise it can overflow and cause burns
  2. 2. It looks watery and you’ve been stirring for quite a long time – you may need to increase the heat of your stove – a low to medium heat works well for induction and electric, gas should work quickly on low
  3. 3. I need to churn the ice-cream in a hurry – To cool the custard quickly, place the bowl of custard over another bowl filled with ice and water and stir the custard mix until cooled and churn

Ask Luisa – have a cooking question? Just Ask!

Apologies for the bad ghost busters reference, it almost had to be done. The inspiration for this blog is thanks for a lovely friend asking about what to cook for dinner based on the ingredients she had. I realised that this is not uncommon for me as I have family often calling for a quick chef questions – i.e. How long should this take to cook? When would I know if this is ready? What cut of meat would suit this? And my favourite, It has turned a funny colour but smells ok, should I cook it?

I love these sorts of questions. It stimulates my cooking brain and allows me to delve into my knowledge to produce my version of what I would do in these circumstances. Just as I call my builder brother for advice on what to do when my shower screen comes off or a tap is leaking, so too do I give the cooking solutions.

So what was the prompt for the initial cooking question? Well J and I have been taking turns making dinner for each other each Monday and I had whipped up the fresh pasta with tomatoes and olives and other goodies as found in my cooking for a crowd blog. J wanted to replicate a similar dinner with a slight variation on ingredients that she either had on hand or had picked up from the supermarket.

My Advice?

1. Don’t bother with the bottled tomato sauce – if you have delicious fresh tomatoes on hand, don’t bother with bottled sauces – whilst they can seem like an easy and simple option they totally kill the freshness of the other ingredients

2. Forget the carrot – I only use carrot and celery when making bolognaise – i saute this off before adding the mince and allow it to cook out. If you’re not using mince, don’t bother with carrot – it won’t add anything

3. Grill the eggplant and zucchini – pan fried eggplant can be a bit, well blah. To me the smokiness of a bbq or even a grill caramelising it brings out the sweetness and subtlety of it. Same with the zucchini. Technically they are fruits so applying that sort of heat allows for a lovely golden caramel which creates gorgeous flavours. I would do the same when making a vegetable lasagna instead of just layering the raw vegetables.

4.  Use the oil from the semi dried tomatoes to coat the vegetables before grilling if you’d like some extra herby punch. I always keep those sorts of oils at they have infused with the tomato and generally have a herb mix in them so creates all sorts of delicious.

5. Saute the onion and add the tomato – by caramelising the onion and adding the tomato you get that brilliant sweetness and tartness together. Good balance means you don’t need to add sugar as some sauce recipes do. Allow the tomato to saute a little and bring out it’s own juices. Help it along a little with some water and you have a fresh yummy sauce.

6. To finish, add the grill vegetables to the tomato mix, stir in the olives and semi-dried tomatoes, top with torn up bocconcini and fresh basil if on hand. Buon appetito!

So who do you call when you don’t have a chef as your sister/friend/partner? Well, me. I am more than happy to answer any and all cooking queries be it simple or complex. If I don’t know the answer then I will try and find out for you. After all I have many chef friends on call too so if I can’t help, I’ll test their skills to see if they can.

So how can you enlist my help? Just ask: on my facebook page or email me at [email protected]

What sort of questions can I answer? Hopefully anything. If you have baked a cake that hasn’t quite worked let me know what ingredients you used, the pan size and oven temp and we can nut it out. Something too salty, sweet or spicy? Check the forum for reference material.

Not sure what to do for dinner with what you bought? Either check my recipes page for inspiration or upload a pic of the ingredients to the facebook page or email me, I’ll give you a recipe if you’ll let me share the yummy finished product. How easy right?

So what’s the catch? I hear you say. None at all. I love to share my foodie knowledge and stretch my chef brain. If you’d like me to come to you and hash out a variety of recipes or recreate some of your more epic disasters to see where you went wrong then we can arrange for a lesson at cost. But the simple questions and advice? Happy to help.

Love to enlist my help with some cooking lessons? Check out my services page to see if we can find a match to fit.

Happy cooking!

The cheek of it all! – Morrocan style beef cheeks

The saying goes ask and you shall receive. My sister in law asked for beef cheeks and she received them – slow cooked with Moroccan style spices until fork tender and served with a side of roast cauliflower and chickpea salad. Clearly she knew who to ask! B;D

Braised meats are a delicious and simple way to create family favourite meals. Whilst they require time to cook, they are not in fact time consuming to prepare. After sealing the meat and creating the liquid for the beef to cook in, beef cheeks are a great meal that can be left to cook whilst you go about your day.

I have cooked beef cheeks a variety of ways over the years they have come back into vogue – from a carmelised sticky deliciousness as a result of being braised in stout beer to a lighter red wine braise to my version with the Moroccan style spices.

Beef cheeks become a beautiful braised meal when left to stew in their own juices – jokes aside, they do really benefit from a long slow cook as the muscle itself is quite tight and when braised whole keep their shape quite well for presentation. You can also use the cooked cheeks for a ravioli or cannelloni filling – just fork shred the tender meat, mix through some leftover braising liquid to moisten and stuff your cannelloni shells or fold into your silky pasta dough. Easy and delicious. If you’re not up to filling your pasta, just fork shred the beef, add some liquid as before and toss through some pappadelle pasta for a lovely ragu style sauce. Topped with some shaved pecorino (a hard goat’s cheese similar in style to Parmesan) it’s definitely a winner for entertaining guests or just enjoying at home.

The accompanying salad was inspired by some very delicious cauliflower combinations I have discovered in cafe’s and health food shops recently. I must admit cauliflower was a vegetable I studiously avoided for much of my adult life. As a child I absolutely hated it. No matter if mum tried to dress it up with creamy sauce and golden melted cheese – underneath was still the dreaded cauliflower florets. What I realised was I really don’t like boiled cauliflower unless it is then pureed into a soup. I tried cauliflower as an adult again in said salads and found myself really enjoying it. It was because the cauliflower was only lightly cooked and still had some crunch. Then I discovered roast cauliflower. Now we were talking. I didn’t assume this could be done – roast a vegetable that is usally steamed or boiled?! But you can and let me assure you, it is delicious.

You can coat the florets with some olive oil and salt and pepper to ensure a nice even golden colour and if you like a bit of spice, add some chilli powder to the salt blend before sprinkling on. The cauliflower takes about 30 mins at 170 degrees to cook to a tender but still firm texture. I popped some baby tomatoes I had rolling around the fridge in and a salad was born.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match salad ingredients to suit your tastebuds either. I added chickpeas, spinach, coriander and flaked almonds to the mix. The dressing? A lovely avocado dressing I found in the local fruit shop – something a bit different to the usual but you could easily whisk up some orange juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil and seasoning for this combo.The dressing just caught my eye so I decided to go with it!

Feel free to experiment and let me know how you you went with your own recipe variations and happy cooking!

 

 

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8 Easy hints and tips for dinner party success – the food!

Following up from my last blog of tips and tricks for dinner party success comes the most important part. The food!

More often than not this is the part that brings the most stress to the host’s planning. What to cook. How will it look. Will there be enough. Will everyone like it. Or will I have blue soup a la Bridget Jones?

Fear not though, I have compiled a simple list of eight tricks and tips that will have you trotting out the good china and stemware in no time!

1. Cook what you know

Now this may seem like it defeats the purpose of a dinner party when you bring out a new recipe and claim ‘ oh this? it’s just something I whipped up’. Yes we may all long for those moments but if you are a newbie to the dinner party scene, it’s best to start simple and build your way up. A chef doesn’t suddenly know how to make a twice cooked cheese souffle. They learn how to make a roux, a bechamel, how eggs work and then, then they learn the souffle.

In the world of “here’s one I prepared earlier’ it is easy to become disillusioned with cooking at home and making food you love. The best tip I learnt from my first head chef was to ‘cook what you know’. I used to do a lot of cooking competitions as an apprentice and they were about as stressful as a dinner party can get.

My head chef was adamant though that I chose menu items I knew from the restaurant or family favourites and he would help me take them to the competition level with either a bit more sophisticated plating (more time in a competition vs restaurant service) or more sophisticated ingredients if it was a family recipe. This meant going into the competition I knew what I was doing, how long it would take and having practiced, what may go wrong and how to fix it. Now you are not going for medal with a dinner party but you still don’t want to spend time making food for it to be a bit average because it took a wrong turn.

imok_confused.jpg

2. Keep it simple but take it up a notch

Simple doesn’t have to be boring. Sometimes the most complicated looking foods are actually a series of quite simple steps put together elegantly. Many a time I  have looked at a recipe book and thought, ‘how on earth do you make that?’ to be pleasantly surprised when I have read the methods and thought “I can do that, and that and that’, it’s just a case of doing many small steps for an elegant meal.

My advice? Hunt down recipes that are foods you make yourself but done a little differently. Sometimes there will be a garnish or method that changes one aspect to go from eh, to wow!

Consider using egg rings to plate risottos and create a neat circle on the plate, experiment with cutting ingredients a little differently to look a little special, instead of mince for a Shepard’s pie consider diced lamb for a little something something. It doesn’t have to be a big effort to make an impression.

Even something as simple as making your own ice cream to go with an apple pie will elevate it up a notch. Also consider making individual portions of an item for more elegant plating. There are so many lovely ramekins, pots and cups just waiting to hold casseroles, puddings and pies for a dinner party twist.

IMOK_panna cotta finished

3. Plan ahead

Planning ahead is a chef must do. Every day there is a list with a rewrite and scribbles and plans. A function on Saturday? On Monday we will chat about what needs to be ordered, what needs to be done a few days before, the day before and on the day. Think we do it all in the hours beforehand? Think again! There are many items that can be prepared in advance without compromising flavours. Curries, casseroles and stews are sometimes better the day before, vegetables can be topped and tailed, meat can be cut, potatoes peeled, pastry made ready to roll, ice-cream churned all in the days before the guests even arrive.

imok_signature-dish.jpg

4. Check portion sizes

Serves Four. Serves Two. Serves Six. All a good guide but who are these serving sizes for? Children, people on a diet, hungry guests? There is nothing worse that thinking you have enough food for everyone and realising that plates are a little sparse. Weighing your protein and sides and allocating a decent amount per person can go a long way to esnuring each guest have a decent amount of food on their plate. I have gone into detail with this Undercover Chef Tip Post about Weighing the Sides

IMOK_weigh the sides

5. Keep it easy on the day

I am aware the reason most people don’t like to host is the feeling you will be in the kitchen more than out with the guests. So how to tackle this problem? Choose dishes that can either be

– plated in advance i.e antipasto platters, salads without dressings

– kept warm in the oven i.e roasts, pies, lasagnas, some puddings

– don’t take long to assemble i.e bruschetta mix can be made ready to spoon onto crusty bread when guests arrive, fish can be pan fried whilst it’s vegetable casserole accompaniment is warming in the oven, a steak bbq whilst the plates of salad are ready in the fridge

The idea is to have as much ready as possible before your guests arrive to ensure you get to enjoy the night as much as they do

If you are wanting to use something like a pork or eye fillet consider pre sealing it so all it needs is a flash in the oven to be plate ready in no time.

Have water already boiling but sitting at a simmer so if you need to cook pasta it is ready to go. –

The more you can have planned ahead the more confident you will feel on the day

IMOK_me and finished lamb

6. How do it look when plated?

I am horribly guilty of this one. I have made a meal, had the idea in my head then gone…hmm…that looks really sad. Nothing is worse than this feeling especially when you have hungry guests waiting.

Again, chefs don’t always go with the first version in their head. Sometimes a colour is off, it needs a different shape, a different burst of flavour or something to make it pop.

How to fix this? Do a test run of sorts. Take your raw ingredients as best you can and try assembling them on the plate to see how it will work. Are the colours exciting or will you need a green herb garnish or some well placed salad leaves? Does the dessert need a puddle of sauce or would a spoon of whipped cream be better? Do the berries need to be cut smaller or are larger pieces ok?

Again, it all comes down to planning and what works for you. Sometimes you will find the dishes you thought would work to serve with don’t really. So you can either borrow new ones, buy some or change up how you present the meal. If you can tackle these questions in advance it can save a lot of heart ache later.

pinacolada icecream

7. Decide if each course will be plated or shared

Share style meals have become more and more popular as hosts have realised that it can take a lot of the stress out of a first time dinner party by creating share style meals that can be put down along a beautifully set table and the guests help themselves.

Of course, plated dining can be an experience in itself but if you are not confident just yet plating up individual meals for 4 or more people start simple and work your way towards this if you choose.

There are so many lovely serving platters and bowls on the market that can be served at the table without detracting from the dinner party vibe. Don’t be afraid to mix and match serving platters for a quirky feel. Match everything if you love it but don’t do a dinner party style for the sake of it, go with what works for you when you have the time to do it and it will feel joyous and fun for everyone.

antipasto

8. Have fun

Having a dinner party is about sharing meals and sharing a space around a table with friends and family. Host a dinner party and have fun and enjoy yourself. It’s not a reality tv competition, everyone is there to enjoy your food and company and enjoy themselves so join in the vibe.

family cooking collage

Love these tips and want to put them into action with a little more help? Send me your ideas and feedback to [email protected] and we can create a fun and easy packages to have you hosting dinner parties in no time.

 

 

 

Undercover Chef Tip – You say potato, i say keep it fresh

Do you ever wonder how restaurants have the time to make mashed potatoes, fries, wedges, frittata’s and all forms of potatoey goodness in one day? Well here’s a little secret. We get the potatoes ready ahead of time. Peeling and cutting them and storing them in water allows potatoes to retain their clean white colour. This time saving tip means you can have your potatoes peeled and cut in the quiet times so all you need do is grab them from the bucket and them chop or slice them for a recipe in the busy times. The same idea can be applied to a dinner party. Guests coming over on Sunday? Peel and cut up your potatoes on Friday or Saturday so come Sunday all you need do is drain them, cut them how you like and cook away. Simple!

Buying your pumpkin and eating it too! How to make sure you make the most of pumpkins in your fridge

When the weather turns cold you can’t but help to think of warming dishes such as stews, casseroles and roast meats. The usual suspects also feature – roast vegetables. I am a big fan of roast vegetables as to me it brings out the sweetness and flavour of the root vegetables giving them a satisfying and unique flavour.

Alas not all vegetables for roasting are root vegetables and pumpkins are one of the exceptions. Their inviting orange flesh can be used for sweet or savoury dishes and it is very universal vegetable (fruit if we are being particular with the seeds/flowers and all) to prepare.

One pumpkin can be a task to get through for a single person or even a couple, so what do you do when you have a whole or even half a pumpkin rolling around in your crisper?

As mentioned, the most popular choice would be roast pumpkin closely followed by the sweet counterpart of pumpkin scones. Again, these tackle some of the pumpkin’s offerings but how do you utilise it without having an array of pots and pans?

I roasted my pumpkin two ways. One features garlic salt whilst the other is given a spicy kick with a chilli and lime salt. You can roast all the pumpkin at once, but create some different flavours to keep the leftovers interesting. No one really enjoys eating the exact same thing three days in a row and this is a way of mixing up the flavours whilst not wasting your crisper contents.

Another advantage of the roasted pumpkin is that it can easily be transformed into soup and frozen for later. I actually prefer to roast my pumpkins and blend with stock for soup as I feel that just simmering the pumpkins doesn’t bring out the depth of flavour they achieve with roasting. If you have some chicken stock ready to go in the freezer as featured in my last blog, it can be as simple as giving the stock a simmer, blending in the pumpkin and dinner is served. Pretty simple right?

Try also pureeing some of the pumpkin after giving it a steam to keep the water content down and have it frozen ready for scone making or thin it down with the chicken stock as soup for more versatility too.

Roast pumpkin is fabulous tossed through leafy green salads or even in a potato salad for a splash of colour and a kick of flavour. They can also be mashed up and folded through a potato mash for a bit of different side to your roast, sausages or casseroles.

However you like your pumpkins they are great vegetable to keep on hand. Have a go at some of the recipes below and tell me how you went. Happy cooking!

salmon salad

Recipes

Creating your own flavoured salts doesn’t need to be a task. Having a mortar and pestle or even a decent small blender/spice grinder can have your creating fabulous concoctions that bring your dishes alive.

lime salt

Lime and Chilli Salt Roast Pumpkin

Ingredients:

2-3 tbsp rock salt or course salt for grinding

½ tea spoon chilli powder (adjust according to your spicy preference)

Finely grated zest of 1 lime

Method

Place all ingredients into a mortar and pound with pestle until salt is broken up and flavourings are mixed through. If blending, same method applies

NB: You can use the lime juice to pep up the pumpkin once it is roasted. By using the zest you’re releasing all the fragrant oils into the salt

herb salt

Garlic and Herb Salt

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp rock salt

1 tbsp dried garlic

1 tbsp dried herbs – I used my own dried rosemary

Method: Place all ingredients in mortar and pound with pestle until combined

NB: I use dried garlic and herbs as the oils from fresh garlic can make it hard to sprinkle as it will clump together. If you are basting a meat with blend, use fresh garlic as you can then rub it in. The same applies for the herbs. I dried my own rosemary by handing it upside down in a cool area until the leaves became brittle and is stripped them from the stalk and store in an airtight container

pumpkin on tray

Roast Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

½ roast pumpkin

1l chicken or vegetable stock

4 cloves of roast garlic (if you like, add these with the pumpkin when roasting)

Method

Bring stock to a simmer, blend in pumpkin with stick blender and garlic and season to taste

NB: If you are using an upright blender please do not blend boiling hot stock as it will pop the lid and you can burn yourself – in this instance just ensure your stock is full defrosted if using from freezer or just pour in from the fridge and blend – bring the soup to a simmer once blended.

soup

Buying a large vegetable – how to make the most of a whole cabbage

Admit it. We have all done it. Impulsed shopped when we are hungry, rushed or just out of ideas. A mad scramble in the vegetable section and you have done your shopping only to come home, unpack the grocery bags and think, now what do I do with all this food?

Routine, stress and busy day can dampen our desire to try something new and think outside outside the square to create dinner. It doesn’t need to be that stressful though. After many years cooking at home and professionally I do have quire  repertoire of recipes and ideas of what to do with certain ingredients. But I am always open to discovering new flavours, new techniques and ideas about creating with food.

One of the most creative aspects of my professional chef years has been any aspect of menu planning. Creating dishes from ingredients that are seasonal, affordable and appeal to the general public can be quite a challenge. It is easy to create a fanciful menu when you don’t need to consider the time it will take to make the recipe, how quickly it can be made on a busy night and how long it will last. There is no point creating a dish that takes two days to prepare, an hour to make it to the plate and only yields a few serves if you a small suburban restaurant as opposed to a fine dining city one.

The same applies to choosing and making recipes at home. Unless you are in the mood for a whole day of cooking or are able to buy daily serves of fruit and vegetables a little bit of meal planning or at least a few ideas of what to do with certain ingredients can go a long way to ensuring you don’t through out half of your produce at the end of the week.

When I shop I usually have ideas in mind of what I will do with the produce I buy. Tomatoes are almost always destined for salad or sliced on a cruskit as a quick snack. most fruits I eat as is and vegetables will be either roasted, steamed or chopped for salad. But what if you’re sick of the same old preparation? Over the next few weeks I am going to endeavor to bring to you a couple of different quick and easy ways to enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables. Winter is coming (that’s a very Game of Thrones reference I know, apologies!) and with it a smaller selection of seasonal fruits and a change in the variety of vegetables. Fear not though, with a little tweak your grocery list can reflect a combination of staples and surprises to keep dinner time fun and enjoyable. Who wants to eat boring? Certainly not me!

Last weekend I took a trip to the farmers markets to restock our fridge after a few weeks away. As I mentioned the seasonal vegetables for Autumn and Winter are very different to Summer and Spring. The cooler weather heralds the arrival of Broccoli, Cauliflower, Dark leafy greens and Root vegetables. Melons, citrus, apples and pears bring the fruit to the table. In Australia we do have some fruits and vegetables available year round but if you ever wonder why some months the same produce is considerably cheaper than others it is because when they are in season there will be a large availability of them thus the cheaper price. Makes sense doesn’t it?

So what to cook when the weather outside turns cold?

This week it’s all about the humble cabbage. I don’t know about you but my earliest memories of cabbage is the smell of my grandparents house as we came over for Sunday lunch and they were cooking Golabki, a Polish stuffed cabbage dish. They certainly tasted better than they smelt but for a long time I just assumed that was how cabbage was prepared. Either that or shredded and coated in mayonnaise for coleslaw.

So what to do if you’re not a fan of either? Don’t despair and don’t pass over out little cabbage friend. Coleslaw doesn’t need to be synonymous with the sickly sweet mayonnaise laden version you get from the supermarket deli. Nor is that the only way to use a cabbage. Below are three easy recipes with cabbage all set to reintroduce you to this hearty friend and warm your winter bellies. Feel free to adjust as you like with herbs, spices or seasoning as you desire. These are just some simple suggestions so the next time you find a cabbage rolling around your fridge you have some idea of what to do with it. Bon Appetit!

Recipe One: Asian Style Coleslaw

Ingredients (for two)

1/2 sugarloaf cabbage

1/2 cup of picked coriander leaves torn up

1/2 cucumber grated

1/2 carrot grated

1/2 cup mayonaise

2-3 tbsp of thai seasoning mix (Gourmet garden brand)

2-3 tbsp chilli sauce

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Sprinkle of fried shallots (available in Asian food aisle of most supermarkets)

Method

1/ Grate carrot and cucumber on large side

2/ Finely slice cabbage either by hand or on a mandolin

3/ Combine mayonnaise, seasoning and chilli in a bowl. Mix well and adjust seasoning to taste. Add lemon juice and stir

4/ Combine all ingredients in a bowl, coat with dressing and serve as an accompaniment to grilled prawns or chicken as desired. For extra crunch sprinkle with fried shallots or crunchy noodles

Recipe Two: Colcannon (Serves Two)

This Irish potato based dish is delicious with stews or casseroles or with a hearty grilled steak and gravy. Whichever way you like it, it’s sure to warm your belly on a cold night.

Ingredients 
3 potatoes  suitable for mash (desiree potatoes are a good all rounder) peeled and cut into large chunks
1/4 finely sliced sugar loaf cabbage or curly kale as desired
1/4 cup of finely sliced chives or shallot onions (use the green of the shallots as well)
1 cup milk or cream
2 Tbsp butter

Method

1. Put the potatoes into a pot, cover with water and season the water with salt. Place on stove and bring to a steady simmer and allow to cook until fork tender. Usually 15 minutes

2. Drain the potatoes and reuse the pot and return to the stove. Add the butter to the pot and saute the cabbage until softened, season with salt and pepper. Add the shallots or chives, stir through. Fork crush the potatoes in a bowl for a more rustic texture or crush with a masher until at desired consistency.

3. Add the milk or cream, mix well, and add the potatoes. Mix well and add more butter if desired. Check seasoning and adjust if desired. Serve and enjoy

Recipe Three: Braised Red Cabbage 

Braised red cabbage can take on a sweet flavour with the addition of red wine and little brown sugar. It’s a lovely accompaniment to gamey red meat such as duck or kangaroo.

Ingredients: (serves about 4) 

1 medium brown onion, thinly sliced
1 Small head of red cabbage finely sliced
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup red wine
1 cup water
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 Granny smith apple grated on large side

Method

1. Heat a medium saucepan, add oil and stir in onion. Sweat the onion until translucent. Add the cabbage  and wet ingredients to the pan and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium-high, cover, and cook  for 5 minutes.

2. Reduce the heat continue to cook the cabbage covered, stirring occasionally. Leave to simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir the apple into cabbage and cook, covered, until cabbage and apples are tender, approximately another 25 to 35 minutes. When the cabbage and apple are tender, remove from heat and allow to sit for about five minutes before serving. 

Daily decadence doesn’t mean you’re a slave to the stove

 

 

Creating and preparing food is a part of my life. I’ll admit, some days when I get home from work buttered toast is about as bothered and I feel like being. It all comes down to one question though.

What to have for dinner? Everyone has lamented this question at least once. More often than not the answer to this question is to make the usual go to meal. Busy lives, limited time and other things to do can take you away from the stove and experimenting with something new.  Not to mention the cost of new ingredients and the risk of it not working. Time and money wasted.

What if the decision could be made easier by changing up the favourite dishes you have to create a new take on the skills you already have? Trying something new doesn’t have to mean creating a whole new dish. You know what you, your partner or possibly the family  like to eat. These are the keys to a fabulous meal. Fresh ingredients can lend themselves to all sorts of meals. Bolognese sauce can be teamed with spaghetti, made into lasagne or rolled into arancini. A whole chicken can be broken down into pieces to create stock, breast pieces for schnitzel, the thighs for stir fry. With a little know how creating new meals can be easy.

This week I had the pleasure of creating a meal for my friends and of course comes the question – What to cook? Roast chicken pieces came to mind, a Greek salad and some potatoes. A simple meal really. What can make the difference is the way it is cooked and prepared. Greek salad can be fancied up with a few simple tricks. Instead of cutting everything into cubes you can mix it up. Slice the tomatoes, make cucumber ribbons, thin strips of capsicum and crumbled fetta, all of a sudden the simple salad is a worthy side dish. Roast potatoes? Cut them into uniform wedges and they will happily sit on the plate below the pride of place roast chicken pieces. Set the table with cutlery, napery and a water glass and suddenly the meal becomes an elegant dinner without taking more than an extra ten minutes to bring some care and attention to your meal.

 

Simple ingredients for a delicious meal

We easily assume that a decadent meal must include ingredients such as truffle, expensive wine, wagyu steak and more. Perhaps for some, but not always. What if decadence is just sitting at a table, savouring each bite and enjoying the fruits of your labour. What if decadence is about just stepping it up a notch from your usual repertoire with a tweak that has your family clamouring for more. Or just you licking the bowl for seconds 😉

Stepping it up a notch can be easier than you think. Remember your favourite childhood meal? I used to love when my mum cleaned fresh squid from the fish monger and sauteed it with garlic and parsley. So simple. Stepping it up a notch? Grill it on a bbq, squeeze on some lemon and create a herb salad with some cucumber ribbons, roast cherry tomatoes, pickled red onions and suddenly you have a bistro esque meal all in the comfort of your own home.

Where to find your inspiration? Books, magazines and cooking shows can give you inspiration for different meal ideas. Chefs often look at other menus, current magazines and online forums for new trends and methods. Food has seen so many trends come and go. What remains though are the skills and techniques behind the dishes. Like a helping hand in the kitchen from someone who has many a meal under their belt? Drop me a line and I can show you how. Happy eating!

Easy Peasy Lamb Burgers

Creating interesting and nice dinner options can be a bit of a chore when you really aren’t sure what you feel like and the thought of opening a recipe book seems too much like work. Well for me it’s a lot like being at work but that’s another story! I decided burgers were on the cards and to ramp up the fanciness and exclamations of oh la la’s I decided to make lamb mince patties.

To me the secret of a good burger pattie is some spice, some herbs and something to create moisture when you are cooking the meat so you don’t end up with a round pattie of well…mince really. Some may argue with me but I don’t believe that mince in inherently tasty unless perhaps you make your own but not many people have a mincer these days nor the inclination to fire it up. So how to make mince tasty I hear you ask? And why is moisture important?

Salt and pepper are a good start as a seasoning but think of complimentary flavours. For lamb, morroccan style spices work well, or fresh herbs and garlic are always easy. I went with a morroccan spice blend, thrown together from the spice rack in my cupboard. Why moisture I hear you ask? Some minces have a lot of fat, some not so much. As fat melts is creates flavour and moisture which in turn help create plump and juicy burger patties as opposed to dry and crumbly ones. If you lean towards the well, lean side of mince you need something else besides fat to create moisture and flavour. I used grilled eggplant due to their high water content (they are like a sponge, trust me) and some breadcrumbs soaked in milk. This is a little chef secret. If you are gluten free by all means use gluten free breads crumbs, they are more a medium to absorb the liquid and then release it as the temperature rises and it turns to steam. Lactose free, just use water, it will work just as well.

Im all about fuss free cooking so I grilled my eggplant in rounds with the onion and then added it to the blender with some extra spices, the milk soaked breadcrumbs, gave it a whizz and added it to the mince. I formed the patties and let them sit for about and hour to firm up before grilling. I used grilled capsicum and zucchini, bbq sauce, some of the grilled onion and spinach leaves to top the bun. I also toasted the bun on the BBQ for some extra zing. Feel free to use what you wish, hommus or yoghurt dressing would be lovely, rocket or plain lettuce, sliced tomato and cucumber, the freedom to choose is yours! These burgers can also be made in advance and frozen, or made, eaten and the leftovers frozen for another scrumptious meal. You can make smaller meatball style for a canape or to fill a wrap as well.

Ingredients:

– 1 Packet of lamb mince (usually 500g)

– 1 eggplant

– Two carrots

– 1 Capsicum

– 1 red onion

– 1/4 cup chopped parsley

– Moroccan or otherwise seasoning of your choice

– 2-3 slices of bread or one bread roll

Method:

1. Soak bread in just enough milk to cover

2. Slice eggplant and onion and season with spices and brush with olive oil. Split open capsicum lengthways, remove seeds and brush with olive oil.

3. Grill eggplant, capsicum and onion until softened. Set capsicum aside for burger topping, place eggplant and onion in a food processor.

4. Chop carrot into small enough pieces for processor, add to eggplant and onion mix with bread and seasoning to taste, blend until smooth paste

5. Fold through mince until well incorporated

6. Form into patties or meatballs and set in fridge for at least one hour NB: The larger the patties the longer the cooking time so ensure the patties are of reasonable thickness so as to not burn before cooking through – approx 2cm would suffice

7. Grill or pan fry the patties until golden and cooked through

8. Assemble burgers or wraps with toppings of your choice

9. Assume burger grip and tuck in