Monthly Archives: November 2012

Just peachy

As the Northern Hemisphere is gearing up for the cold weather, Australia is heating up. Peaches are just starting to come into season in Sydney. A tip for selecting perfect peaches, follow your nose. If it smells peachy, chances are it will taste great. With peaches, you won’t necessarily find the perfect looking peach on the outside, there may be a few scuffs and marks on the skin, what counts is what is underneath – the flavour, and aroma will give you a clue to what the peach will taste like.

I’ve used a biscuit base crust in this recipe. If you are catering for anyone gluten-free (like my sister-in-law) it is easy to use gluten-free biscuits so that they don’t have to miss out. A good rule of thumb with your base is to use a ratio of 1:2 with your butter and biscuits. I also added whole roasted almonds, but if you prefer you could use ground almonds.

Peeling peaches: Set up a saucepan of water boiling and a bowl with water and ice cubes on standby. Cut a little cross x shape into the base of your peach. Drop your crossed peach into the boiling water for 1 minute, take out of the hot water and place straight into the cold water to stop the peach from cooking. Allow to cool for 30 seconds or so. Peel the skin away from the flesh underneath. If your skin does not peel easily, place back into the boiling water for another 30 seconds, then straight back into the iced water. Try peeling again. Repeat this process until all of your peaches are peeled.

Peach Tart

Makes 6 tarts, with extra peach curd left over

Ingredients

  • 250g sweet biscuits
  • 50g whole almonds
  • 125g butter, softened

Peach Curd

  • 4 medium peaches, peeled
  • 3 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 150g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100g butter
  • zest and juice of 1 small lemon

Method

  • Roast the almonds in a 180°C oven for 15 – 20 minutes until fragrant and roasted (don’t let them get too much colour or burn)
  • Remove the almonds from the oven and allow to cool

  • Add the biscuits and almonds to your food processor and blitz into crumbs
  • Add the softened butter and blitz again to combine, the mixture should look like wet sand
  • Divide your mixture between 6 individual tart tins, and using a glass that has had the bottom dipped in water, press the biscuit base into your tins and up the sides (the water helps limit the mixture sticking to the bottom of the glass)

  • Refrigerate your bases until firm
  • To make the peach curd, add 300g worth of the peaches to a heat proof bowl and crush
  • Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter and lemon juice and zest in with your peaches

  • Sit the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water
  • Stir your peach curd mix until thick, this process takes approximately 25 minutes so settle in and make yourself comfortable while you are stirring
  • Once thickened, remove the bowl of curd from the saucepan, and blitz using a stick blender until smooth
  • Allow your peach curd to cool (you may want to transfer some to a sterilised jar to use another time)
  • Remove the tart cases from their tins, and spoon in peach curd
  • Cut the rest of the peaches into slices and use to decorate your tarts and serve. Enjoy!

What is your favourite stone fruit? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Baking, Peach, Recipes, Sweet, Vegetarian

Caramelised onion and feta tart

This tart is great for a Sunday brunch, or served for lunch or dinner accompanied with a salad. The addition of mustard gives a bit of extra savoury flavour to the pastry, and the caramelised onion and feta provide a nice contrast to the crumbly case. When you first put the onions in the pan it will look like an awful lot of onions, but they do collapse down after cooking. It is up to you if you use whole grain or smooth mustard, I happened to have whole grain this time so that is what I have used, but I have also used smooth mustard and even mustard powder and they all work really well in savoury pasty.

The pastry for this tart is extra short and buttery, so rather than rolling out the pastry to fit my long shaped tart tin, I tip the pastry mix into the tin and press it into shape, then rest the pastry before baking. This gives it a rustic, un-uniform edge but I quite like that. You can of course rest the pastry, roll it out and fit to your tin if you prefer. How many tarts you get out of this recipe depends on how big your tart tin(s) are and how thick you want your pastry, or you could use a muffin or cupcake pan to create mini tarts. Any leftover uncooked pastry can be frozen for use at a later date.

Caramelised Onion and Feta Tart

Ingredients

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 x generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 4 medium onions (approximately 650g worth)
  • a generous bunch of thyme
  • 2 fresh or 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon powdered vegetable stock (I used Vegeta brand)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oil (I used rice bran oil but you can use whatever cooking oil you have to hand)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 200g feta
  • Finely slice the onions.

  • Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the sliced onions, garlic, most of the thyme (reserve a couple of  springs to garnish before serving), bay leaf, stock powder and water, cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 20 – 30 mins or until all the liquid has evaporated and the onions are golden brown and caramelised.

  • In a food processor mix the butter, flour, a pinch of salt and mustard until it resembles fine breadcrumbs [or you could do this by hand by rubbing small cubes of cold butter into the dry ingredients].

  • Add the beaten egg and combine until the mixture just comes together as soft dough. If the mixture is still a little dry after adding the egg, add a little cold water until the mixture just comes together into a ball.
  • Tip the pastry into your tin and press into shape, and place in the fridge to rest and chill.

  • Bake pastry in a 180°C oven until crisp. The time will vary depending on what sort of tart tin you are using, but as a guide allow approximately 20 minutes.
  • Remove the bay leaf and thyme stalks from the onion mixture, then the crumbled feta and lightly mix with the onions
  • Tip the onion and feta mixture into your tart case, and place back in the oven for 10 minutes until the filling is heated through.
  • Scatter the top of your tart with the extra thyme and your tart is ready to serve. Enjoy!

What is your favourite pastry tip? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Baking, Cheese, Pastry, Recipes, Vegetarian

BBQ season

Australians love a barbie, and barbecues seem to have evolved a lot over the years. My first memory of a barbecue is one made of bricks by my dad in the backyard with a hot plate suspended above the wood-fueled coals. In the 80s, our family progressed to the Webber kettle, fueled by heat beads. Nowadays, most people have gas barbecues, but there are still some devotees that think flames or coals are best for an authentic smokey flavour.

There is something communal about catching a whiff of the smells of other people’s dinner cooking away outdoors. I lived in London for a several years, and the Brits are jealous of the Australian good weather and outdoor lifestyle, so any glimpse of a sunny day in would trigger off a barbecue breeding season. Barbecues multiplied at an amazing rate in the unit complex I lived in. The discarded barbecues were then stored in an area of the car park, which during the winter months resembled a barbecue graveyard.

If you are looking for something a bit different to cook on the barbecue from your standard sausages and steaks, you could give these sumac spiced prawns a try. Sumac is a middle eastern spice that comes from the berries of the Rhus tree. I tracked down my latest batch of sumac at the David Jones food hall, only to discover later that my local green grocer also stocks it. Sumac gives a citrus or sour flavour to dishes, and its pretty reddish purple colour adds extra visual appeal.

The prawns are delicious served with some tzatziki dip or my Watercress and Pomegranate Tabouli from an earlier post to continue with the middle eastern inspired theme.

I used rice bran oil in this recipe, which is perfect for barbecuing because of its ability to withstand high temperatures and its neutral taste.

If you don’t like the taste of coriander, don’t be put off by the use of ground coriander seeds. Herbie’s spices describes ground coriander as an amalgamating spice, meaning it helps tie all the other flavours together, and it does have a different taste to fresh coriander.

A tip with chillies is that they freeze well. If you have bought a pack from your green grocer or grow your own, it helps prolong the life of the chillies.

Sumac Spiced Prawns

* This recipe was inspired by one that appeared in the November 2003 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 or 2 birds eye chillies finely chopped, depending how hot you like things
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon thyme or thyme leaves
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, ground
  • 500g of raw peeled prawns
  • 2 tablespoons of oil (I used rice bran oil)
  • Salt & lemon wedges to serve

Method

  • Add sumac, garlic, chilli, paprika, lemon zest, thyme, cinnamon and coriander seeds to a bowl. Stir to combine.

  • Add your prawns and stir to coat the prawns in the spice mixture.
  • Add the oil and stir again to coat the prawns.

  • Soak your wooden skewers in water to prevent them burning while cooking.
  • Leave to marinate (overnight is great, if you don’t have the time, a half an hour or more is great).
  • Heat your barbecue or hot plate.
  • Thread the prawns onto the soaked wooden skewers.

  • Cook your prawns on the barbecue or hot plate, turning when the prawns start to appear opaque and slightly charred.

  • Serve your cooked prawns with a scattering of salt and lemon wedges. Enjoy.

What is your favourite barbecue recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Lemon, Prawns, Recipes, Savoury, Seafood, Spices

Sage corn cakes

I had friends staying this weekend and I wanted to treat them to a cooked breakfast. These corn cakes are super quick to make and are ideal for a weekend breakfast or brunch. I’ve used a basic pancake recipe and added a few twists. The creamed corn and egg provide enough liquid to bind all the ingredients without the need to add milk or other liquid. Cayenne pepper adds some heat and interest to the batter.

Sage is a pretty, versatile herb, that adds an extra depth of flavour to the corn cakes. Sage is relatively easy to grow, I have a plant growing on my kitchen windowsill, so that it is close by to add to dishes as I am cooking.

For tips on how to prepare an avocado, refer to my earlier post on Guacamole.

You could serve these corn cakes with some smoked salmon or bacon. I like mine with salsa, a dollop of sour cream and a drizzle of hot chilli sauce.

Sage Corn Cakes with Salsa

Ingredients

  • hot chilli sauce, to serve
  • sour cream, to serve
  • Smoked salmon or bacon, to serve (optional)

Sage Corn Cakes

  • 25g butter, plus extra for frying the corn cakes
  • 1 cup of self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 20 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 420g tin creamed corn
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Salsa

  • 2 small or 1 large avocado, diced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped, or 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped

Method

  • To make your corn cake batter add the self-raising flour, bi-carb soda, creamed corn, egg, cayenne pepper, chopped sage, chopped spring onions, lemon zest and salt and pepper to a bowl. Stir to combine.

  • Heat the 25g of butter in a frying pan, and add to the corn cake batter. Stir to combine.
  • Heat the oven to 120°C and use the oven to keep your cooked corn cakes warm.
  • Add spoonfuls of batter to the frying pan.

  • Cook in a similar way to pancakes or pikelets, cook until golden brown on one side, then flip and cook on the other side.
  • Transfer your cooked corn cakes to the oven.
  • Add a little more butter, then repeat cooking spoonfuls of batter in the frying pan until you have used all the batter.
  • Make the salsa while batches of corn cakes are cooking. Add the avocado, tomatoes, parsley, chopped spring onion or shallot and lemon juice to a bowl. Stir to combine.
  • Once the corn cakes are cooked and your salsa is prepared, you are ready to serve. Top your corn cakes with salsa, sour cream, chilli sauce. Enjoy.

What is your favourite breakfast recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Breakfast, Lemon, Recipes, Salsa, Savoury, Spices, Vegetarian