family cooking

Moroccan Filo Rolls with Fattoush Salad – Dinner sorted

Moroccan lamb filo 

Prep Time:  30 minutes    Cook Time:  40 minutes   

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 brown onion finely chopped

500g lamb mince

3 garlic cloves crushed

1 carrot grated

6 dates chopped

1 tbsp Moroccan spice mix

200g baby spinach leaves

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 cup plain yoghurt

1/8 cup bread crumbs

2 tbsp parsley chopped

2tbp mint chopped

1 box filo pastry

Method

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan over high heat
  2. Add onion to pan and cook until softened and golden, add garlic to pan and cook
  3. Add mince and brown
  4. Add spices and cook, add vegetables and cook until softened
  5. Stir through yoghurt, bread crumbs and herbs
  6. Place into a bowl and allow to cool
  7. Preheat oven to 180 degrees – line a baking tray with baking paper
  8. Place one sheet filo onto paper, brush with butter, Top with another sheet and repeat with five more sheets to create a stack
  9. Spoon mince mixture along the long side, roll up to enclose the mince mix
  10. Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds
  11. Repeat with remaining sheets and mince mix until finished
  12. Cut each roll into four. Back for 20-25 minutes until golden

Lebanese Fattoush Salad

Ingredients

Salad

1 large pita bread cut into triangles

3 tablespoon olive oil

 salt to taste

Freshly cracked pepper to taste

1 large head of cos lettuce chopped

1 large vine-ripe tomato diced

1 cucumber quartered and chopped

1/2 a large green capsicum diced

5 radishes diced

2 green onions chopped

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Dressing

3 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon lemon juice

2 garlic cloves pressed or grated

1 teaspoon sumac – substitute grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses substitute balsamic glaze

1/2 teaspoon mint fresh or dried

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions

In a large pan, heat 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on medium heat. Add the pita bread and season with salt and freshly cracker pepper

Fry the pita for 5-7 minutes until the pieces are crispy and golden in colour. (Alternatively, bake the pita bread at 200° for 5-10 minutes.) Set the fried bread aside.

In a large bowl, add the salad dressing ingredients: olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, sumac, pomegranate molasses, mint, salt and pepper. Whisk together until the dressing is emulsified and well blended.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss.

Add the fried pita bread to the salad immediately before serving and gently toss again.

Serve chilled or at room temperature

AMERICAN STYLE APPLE PIE

A classic recipe for dessert delicousness

INGREDIENTS

  • 400 g butter (cold, divided)
  • 520 g all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 1 egg yolk ½ tsp salt
  • 170 g sugar
  •  60 ml water
  • 8 apples
  •  ½ lemon
  •  ½ tsp cinnamon
  •  ¼ tsp nutmeg
  •  100 g brown sugar
  •  1 egg white

Utensils: stand mixer, plastic wrap, oven, rolling pin, pie dish, pie weights, parchment paper, cutting board, knife, large bowl, cooking spoon, pastry brush

METHOD:     

360 g butter – 500 g flour – 1 egg yolk – ½ tsp salt – 120 g sugar – 60 ml water

Cut butter into large pieces and add to a stand mixer with most of flour, egg yolk, salt, and sugar.

Beat for approx. 2 – 3 min. until crumbly. Then, slowly add water, reserving a small amount for the final step, and continue to beat for another 1 – 2 min. until dough is smooth and uniform in consistency.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator. Allow to set for approx. 1 h. 40 min.

 Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Cut dough into two even rounds. Then, flour work surface, place dough on top, and roll out, one at a time, using a rolling pin until rounds are larger than your pie dish.

Flour both sides of dough and transfer to pie dish. Press evenly into all edges of dish and then remove excess dough. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of dish and fill with pie weights.

Place in preheated oven at 180°C/350°F and blind bake for approx. 10 min.

Peel, core, and quarter apples. Then, cut crosswise into medallion-sized pieces.

 In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together apple, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, sugar, and brown sugar.

Transfer apple slices to pie dish and spread out evenly. Cut remainder of butter into pieces and place on top of apples. Cover pie with rest of dough. Make a small hole in the middle, so air can escape.

Mix together egg white and water and brush on top. Return to oven and bake at 180°C/350°F for approx. 50 – 55 min. until golden brown. Enjoy

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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Of all the jobs you could choose! Food for thought as to why chefs do what they do

IMOK_collage chef

I love reading. Nothing scandalous about that but I can become lost in the words and world printed on a page to the point where reading about food makes my tummy grumble. I was reading the newish Jodi Piccoult book “The Story Teller” which tells the story of a concentration camp survivor, her granddaughter and an SS officer who has escaped to America. Much of the book is centred on baking and food as the survivor’s dad was a baker and her granddaughter is too. Reading the story and the evocative images of food eaten, food shared and food dreamed of when starvation was a part of daily life, had me considering how much a part food plays in our life. For the majority of the world food is not consumed purely for survival. We are aware that our body requires food as nourishment and energy but food also plays a part in many other ways. Food can be the love story we weave from when parents feed children to ensure their thrival and growth, to the food lovingly prepared by one for another. Food tells of family traditions, recipes born of necessity, it reveals the meshing of cultures and the complexities of flavours that have developed through travel and exploration.

Becoming a chef was almost like an extension of a role I already enjoyed. Cooking for me has always been fun and I have always loved sharing stories at the table and bringing together friends and family for a meal. I am sometimes asked if I enjoy having other people cook for me or do I find it hard as I would lean towards the criticising what they have cooked. For me, if I am not paying another professional to cook for me i.e. eating out, I cannot fathom why I would ever criticise someone sharing their food with me. Even if it is a toasted cheese sandwich, if the person making it has made it with intention and care I cannot help but enjoy it as it far surpasses just being a food item and becomes a statement of their intent to care for and about me.

Food evokes so many different memories of meals eaten and times celebrated.

When I think of my Polish grandparents I think of many food items

– my grandfather’s Sunday pork roast and apple sauce

– my grandmother’s chicken curry made from shredded chicken out of the stock pot

– my grandmother’s periogi which we used to fight over

– warm jam donuts from the polish church canteen

– poppy seed stollen and other cakes whose names I forget

When I think of my dad i think of

– A garden groaning with vegetables

– Green beans which he ate by the bowl full and boiled eggs

– Pasta in all forms

– Loaves of bread ripped apart to be dunked into the leftover sugo

– Percolated coffee and numerous biscuits for dunking

My mother evokes

– Handmade pasta and biscuits

– Apple tea cakes

– Crostoli and donut balls

– Spaetzle and chicken broth when we were unwell

– Pickled cucumbers and grilled vegetables

– Margarine containers of home made brawn which made me recoil in horror

When I hear of these foods or eat them the memories of those that nurtured and cared for me are evoked and recalled. These are the stories and memories of those that came before me that I hope to share and expand upon with those that will come after me.

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It can be argued that we place too much emotional emphasis on food and that can certainly be the case, but we can have enjoyment from food and evocative memories without shovelling the meal down. There is no reason that a small version of one’s favourite dish can’t be made to celebrate an occasion or just because. What if we could create easy and enjoyable meals that become part of our family’s story? I have my mother’s recipe books from high school, carefully hand written and graded accordingly. I love that I have this part of her history with me, tangible evidence of foods she cooked and shared with her parents and siblings and then it turn the family she create with my dad, us. Two recipes from that book feature here, the pumpkin scones and jam drops. Two old fashioned favourites that I recreated and shared, a little part of my mum, a little part of me. We can’t help but be influenced by those around us at the best of times, but to me it is delightful when that influence is the sharing of ideas and stories from which we can choose what we take from it and create as our own. To me the most interesting and enjoyable recipes are the ones in which a chef or cook or just you or me have taken an idea, an example and had some fun creating it for enjoyment and tweaked it to suit the individual palate.

As a chef it is always the objective to create food that is stimulating and interesting. Flavour combinations and techniques are akin to a painter’s tool box, they are the colours and textures we use to tell a story or create an experience.

One of my favourite catering jobs was for a previous co-worker that was in the finance department. She asked if I could create a surprise five course menu for her and her husband as an anniversary present. Her only guidelines were he likes Asian style food. This was so much fun to prepare and I scoured my cook books and dialogued with her the ideas and a menu was born. Five courses from light (soup) to heavy (curry) from mildly spicy to something with some kick. Each dish was only three to four mouthfuls but each was created to be full of flavour. Her husband arrived home from work to find us in the kitchen, the table set and me in my uniform and a look of puzzlement on his face. ‘Surprise’ she said, ‘Welcome to your anniversary dinner’. The fact that I could create an experience for these two, memories and enjoyment at home created in their kitchen was the beginning of the idea that this could be how people choose to eat more often. What if we could create fun menus to celebrate or just enjoy? What if your wedding menu consisted of your favourite meals shared through your dating years?

Recently I made baked stuffed apples for my brother and sister in law. My brother smiled fondly as he recalled how my mother used to make this very dessert for us all. It created a space of quiet contemplation as a lovely memory was recalled. What if the mere consumption of the food was only half the story? What if the act itself of creating the meal was half the fun? 99% of the food I create professionally I don’t eat myself. Well except for some sneaky mouthfuls. So what’s in it for me? What drives us chefs to create meals we never eat? I believe it’s the knowing that those that come and choose to dine at our tables enjoy sharing that which we create. They enjoy the experience of eating well prepared food and the expertise and experimental flair of those that love to create with food. ? A part of me smiles as I recall all the beautiful meals I have made, all the near misses I have salvaged and the team work that has created a successful food service. Why indeed? Are we crazy? Are we silly? Or do we just know that for us, creating food, sharing food and talking about food is just a part of who we are. We couldn’t imagine it any other way. Nor would we want to.

What are your favourite foods to make for yourself or loved ones? Are there items you make when it’s just you as the other doesn’t like it as much? Do you have a family recipe that has been handed down for generations and is part of your story? I would love you to share these ideas with me as I have with you.

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