Honey, treacle, golden syrup, glucose….all a bit of a pain to measure out for a recipe without making a sticky mess or losing half of it to the sides of your cups. So how do you make sure you have all your measured ingredients into the mix without fuss? Running the cup or spoon under hot water or spraying it with some cooking oil will allow it to be measured and pour with ease. This way your ingredients will flow easily and you will end with the mix in the bowl not in the cup! Wonderful 🙂
Don’t worry, this isn’t a personals ad or even a rendition of that song, it’s my tongue in cheek intro to the very in vogue fruit of the moment, the Pineapple. From kitchen to decor, this versatile fruit has a lot going for it.
The cool chill in the air doesn’t exactly conjure images of tropical paradises but there is one fruit that can give you a little slice of beach life and that is our spiky friend the pineapple. Pineapples are a great dessert treat but many are put off my having to tackle the less than appealing hard spiky skin. My advice is to clean up the pineapple as soon as it comes home in your market bags to ensure that when you are after a quick snack it is ready to go and doesn’t become neglected.
Pineapples are also able to be dried easy and their sweetness is intensified for a surprisingly different garnish and dried fruit snack.
My favourite way to enjoy pineapple in winter is to pan roast them with a little butter and sugar as a compliment to ice-cream or even as the offsider to a panna cotta. Of course, a little blended into a pina-colada cocktail never hurts either! The combination of coconut and pineapple is a tropical party combo just waiting to cheer up your winter blues. I have two recipes below, one for a really easy egg free pina-colada ice-cream and the second with a coconut panna cotta and roast pineapple. Take your pick and enjoy them whilst dreaming of sunnier days with your toes in the sand. Enjoy!
700g sour cream
250g icing sugar
440g crushed pineapple (drained)
250ml coconut cream
100ml coconut liquor or essence
150g shredded coconut toasted
Whisk sour cream, coconut cream and icing sugar until well combined
Fold through pineapple and essence/liquor
Lightly fold through 100g of the toasted coconut
Place in bowl and freeze, taking out every hour or two and giving a stir to aerate
After stirring twice, place in loaf tin lined with glad wrap or a brownie tray and freeze until firm
To serve, cut into slices and roll edges in remaining coconut and plate with some fresh diced pineapple and mint or fruit of your choice
NB: If you have an ice-cream churner, follow method as above but fold through the pineapple and shredded coconut at the end before freezing to avoid damage to churning arm
Coconut Panna-cotta with Roasted Pineapple
Now, I have to admit, I went a little retro on this one with my choice of moulds. I have some old school jelly moulds rolling around in the cupboard but they work a treat. They have a seal to stop them from leaking when putting them in the fridge to set and a removable bottom to help poke them out if they are a little shy. As is often said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! and these little babies certainly do the trick to behold my slightly retro version of the panna cotta.
300ml coconut cream
1 cup icing sugar
5 gold gelatine leaves (see packet for quantities if not sure) soaked in ice water to soften
1 pineapple cut into rounds
1 tbsp sugar
Place cream and coconut cream in a saucepan with sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer
Remove from heat and add soaked gelatine, whisk well
Pour into moulds and allow to cool slightly before refrigerating for at least four hours or overnight
For pineapple, warm a frying pan on a gentle heat, add butter and sugar and allow to caramelise, add pineapple to pan and colour on both sides, leave in pan and remove from heat and allow to cool
Serve cooled pineapple under pannacotta and top with dried pineapple and mint leaves
NB: I used a sunbeam food dryer for my pineapple. I just sliced in finely and dried over night. You can use an oven but it needs to be a very low heat and overnight.
An easy way to prepare the pineapple is to cut into the rounds and use an apple corer to remove the hard centre whilst keeping the circular shape
According to the old saying, lemonade is the prominent use of lemons when youre handed a glut of them. I personally dont mind freshly squeezed lemon juice but there are many and varied ways to utilise seasonal fruits and vegetables.
I recently held a class showing attendees how to make their own tomato passata. Simple enough for sure, but being able to create your own base for dishes and knowing what to do with fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables can become the skill set your kitchen has been missing.
Why preserve food items I hear you ask? Can’t you just buy products off the shelf already done? Well yes, of course. I tackled this question in my class as I showed my students the different between store bought pasta and home made passata cooked up with onions and garlic. It does not compare. The depth of flavour and the freshness you can taste from your own bottled items doesn’t compared to the chemical and preservative laden varieties found in a supermarket.
This coming class is all about preserving your own lemons. Why bother? I hear you ask. Preserved lemons in salt can add a delicious and surprising texture to simple sauces, dressings and dishes without fuss. It’s addition to Moroccan style dishes is prevalent and for good reason. It tastes delicious. As for the sweet tooth’s amongst us, who doesn’t enjoy a lemon meringue pie? Getting that buttery tart centre right is simpler than you think. Don’t believe me? Book a ticket to the class and you will never wish to crack open a supermarket jar again. Unless you’re desperate. Which you would have to be. Because my lemon curd recipe is amazing 😉
Preserving food in the height of it’s seasonality makes sense. It’s cheaper, riper, tastier and available. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t each peaches. Not fresh ones, I understand but bottling your own means you can crack open a jar and slice up delicious peaches and serve with ice-cream. Friends coming around and you need a dessert? Bake some sweet pastry in a tart shell, crack open you jar of lemon curd and serve with whipped cream and entertaining has never been so easy.
Cooking classes with me are created to be fun and informative. This in not high school home economics. You will not be quizzed to see if you are paying attention, you won’t have to answer questions and most importantly you are invited to taste everything as I cook it. This is your class. Does you body love to cook but your brain keeps over thinking it all? Book your ticket today and the only decision you will have to make next is what to cook from what you learnt!
Come join me as I teach you how to preserve the seasons and it may just change the way you cook in your kitchen. At the very least you will sample some tasty recipes!
The nitty gritty:
Where: Wandering Cooks, 1 Fish Lane, South Brisbane
When: Wednesday 21st May 2014, 6.30-8pm
How to book?: Click here: events and follow the paypal prompts or email [email protected] to reserve your spot and pay via direct deposit or on the door
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!
As a lover of food, chef and blogger extraordinaire *tongue in cheek* I am always on the lookout for recipe inspiration. There are some go to favourites that allow you to know what’s in vogue/season/trending which is always interesting to read if not inspirational. Gourmet traveller and Vogue Food and Travel are great monthly mags that keep me up to date and Donna Hay and delicious are great for everyday recipes, but what about recipe books?
Spending $4-$10 on a magazine doesn’t seem quite the hefty investment an $80-$100 recipe book is. So how do you choose? How do you literally choose a recipe for success, a book of go to ideas that are sure to impress your guests? I have five different components to look for when finding a recipe for success
1. Method in the madness – How is the dish cooked?
Whilst the photos will draw you in, I always read the methods. If I as a chef can sense complex methods and too many ingredients in more than one recipe, I have to either a) really enjoy the author’s food having made a recipe before or b) have found a book in a genre I’d like to learn so I am prepared to spend the time creating the dishes.
Taking notes on recipes and methods that work for me and had worked for my mum
2. Inspiration and Food Porn – Does it look great and does it make you want to cook it?
My problem is that despite being a stickler for the methods, I don’t always follow the exact rules. It’s a habit that pertains to other areas of my life. Sewing and following a pattern? Some of the time. I usually do my own little thing to it. Paint by numbers? Not a chance. But then this is how I create food that is authentically mine. I like a good and clear method so I can clearly grasp the concept of the dish, the reasons for adding something or making it just so. From there I can alter to suit my tastes, palate and preference. Beautiful photos give me a sense of the dish and how it comes to fruition from the ingredient list. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and photo that makes you drool is worth its weight in culinary inspiration and success. A word of warning though – food styling is full of tricks so what you see may not always be the whole truth – as with the method use it as a guide and don’t judge yourself for the finished product – it is made by you therefore fabulous by default!
Two of my favourite cookbooks both for the actual food and the stunning images
3. Watching the clock – How long will this really take?
The lament I have often heard from my family and friends is how long it took to make something. The fact that Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meals have been a roaring success is a no brainer. The marketing almost does itself. Dinner is a half hour or less? Yes please! Now I know he makes sure certain elements are in place like a hot oven, a boiled kettle and utensils ready, but really, this is what chef’s do every day to make sure creating the delicious food you enjoy doesn’t take three hours to get to your plate after ordering. Realistically though it shouldn’t take you any more than an hour to create one of those dishes. Dishes that are labour intensive can be tedious and remove the joy from the final outcome unless you are truly in the mood. Check how long the dishes will take and whether they are the type of time frames you like to worth within.
Jamie – making dinner quick and easy
4. Kicking it Old School – Tried and Tested recipes
My favourite recipes and recipe books are more often than not the old school traditional ones. Great sauces, jams, chutneys, relishes, mayonnaises, dressings are the building blocks to a great meal. These are the final touches that can elevate a piece of lettuce to the piece de resistance! A slight exaggeration perhaps but you get my drift I’m sure. The great thing about recipe books such as those from Australian Women’s Weekly and Marie Claire is that they test and test and test their recipes before release. This ensures the recipes are tried and true and able to be replicated in a home kitchen. There is nothing worse than getting halfway through a recipe and realising you need a special piece of equipment that you don’t have.
One of the most comprehensive guides to ingredients and what to do with them from Stephanie Alexander. Fabulous stuff. Australian Women’s Weekly making entertaining easy. Just like it should be.
5. Step Back in Time – Retro and classic cooking to remind you just how much food has evolved
Sometimes too it is fun to scour for retro and vintage cookbooks. There is certainly a large selection of microwave cookbooks in second hand stores. Microwaves were initially seen to be the time saving life savers busy people who love to cook were looking for. People were poaching eggs, steaming veg and making microwave cakes like it was going out of fashion. Thankfully it did as I don’t feel you can really recreate conventional cooking methods in a microwave. Other amusing finds in retro recipe books are the ingredients that are used and the way they were presented. Curly parsley, paprika, lemon wedges were food items elevated to pride of the dinner table. Liver, onions, tinned asparagus and pastry encrusted items filled the pages. Now foams, gelee , sous-vide poaching and spherification are all the methods a home cook needs to master to emulate restaurant style food. Or so it would seem.
The best ever recipes, classically retro and stylish
So how do you create a recipe for success in your own home without trotting out the same meatloaf that your grandmother made and seeming behind the times? Take it up a notch of course. Recipes can recreate classical combinations and ideas in a way that is more current, clean and interesting. You can take the elements you are familiar with and present them in a way that looks like it was lifted out of the pages of the latest foodie magazine.
It can be very easy to fall into a cooking rut, thus dishes which are simple and easy to make become high on rotation. It doesn’t always have to be so though. It can be remarkably easy to tweak minor components of a dish to make a major change and that’s the beauty of recipe books, research and inspiration. You see something in a new light and all of a sudden you’re eating interesting again.
Need a hand updating your culinary skills? Feel free to throw a challenge my way to update a family recipe to a new dish or a new way of presenting it and I will blog it here.
Otherwise enjoy the hunt for a great recipe book and I hope the recipes I feature here become favourites too. Happy eating!
Here at Casa Toaldo we love fish and seafood. Nothing excites me more than a bowl of steaming mussels cooked with tomatoes and plenty of heat from chillies or squeezing lemon over freshly peeled prawns. It is also hard to go past a piece of well cooked fish. It is a source of pride for me to cook lovely fish that is neither under done nor dry and horrible. How do you achieve this? I hear you ask. Despair not I will reveal some chef secrets:
1. Have your pan hot – not guns blazing hot but medium to high heat so you can give the fish some nice colour without burning it or cooking it too fast. Place it in the pan on the presentation side – this is the side you can see has come off the skeleton – it is rounder than the flat side where the skin has come off – and allow it to colour lightly and cook half way through, then flip and lower the heat to finish the process
2. Skin on? Not a problem – again pan hot but not too much and a bit of oil in the pan – let it cook and it should come away from the pan easily – don’t be tempted to flip too soon – it will stick and rip
3. Fish cooks quick – make sure everything else is ready – fish is a fast and easy meal so ten minutes max is all that is required – make sure your salad or vegetables are ready to go at the same time
4. Fish can be steamed – steaming fish allows for delicate cooking and flavour infusions – steam on a bed of ginger, garlic, shallots and chilli for a fragrant dinner
5. Parcel it up – wrap fish in foil with butter, lemon juice and herbs and grill for about 8 minutes – it will almost poach in the juices and butter and create a lovely flaky finish
The fish I chose for our weekend dinner was whole Snapper – there were slim pickings in the seafood section for fillets as a matter of personal preference I look for Australian fresh fish not frozen imports and preferably from sustainable sources – this time a little 1 kg snapper caught my eye – enough for 2-3 and not too big that it is hard to handle – perfect
You could easily fillet the whole fish yourself but for me why bother? Snapper has large bones that are easy to spot when taking the cooked flesh from the frame.
To make it yummy I marinated the fish for about an hour with a mixture of the following:
– lemon juice
– lemon grass paste
– salt and pepper
The addition of the lemon juice can start the ‘cooking’ of the flesh due to the acidity – fish marinades usually only require an hour or two due to their delicate flesh as opposed to longer for beef or chicken – don’t use lemon juice if you need to leave it overnight – it will cook the flesh; use lemon rind instead for a citrus kick
Whizz these together until well combined. To prepare the fish I sliced some lemons and placed them in the cavity so they can steam and add fragrance and moisture to the fish during cooking. I put some baking paper on top of the alfoil before wrapping to ensure the fish didn’t stick to the foil and as extra insulation keeping the juices in whilst cooking
With the fish on the foil wrap, pour over the marinade and wrap the fish tightly. Place on hot bbq and cook about 10 minutes on each side until cooked through or in a hot (200 degree) oven for 8-10 minutes each side.
Allow the fish to sit for a minute or two before unwrapping to ensure no steam escapes and burns you. Carefully unwrap the fish and either serve at the table as is or remove the fillets as shown the demo below:
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.
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.