It’s hard to believe it’s November already. For me, November heralds the start of the party season and the count-down to Christmas. As your calendar starts to fill up, it’s handy to have some tasty recipes for entertaining.
I actually “borrowed” this recipe from a friend who recently purchased a thermomix. Now I love my kitchen gadgets, but haven’t been able to make the commitment to purchase one, but I’ve heard they are fantastic and she was excited to be experimenting with new recipes. I’ve added my own twist to the ingredients and come up with the below version (no thermomix required). I used a store-cupboard standby with the roasted peppers, but you could roast your own fresh red capsicum if you desire. If you would like a chunkier version of this dip, process the ingredients without the cashews first, then add the cashews and pulse the food processor until you achieve your desired texture. If your dip is a little to thick, you could add a bit of the drained oil that the tomatoes came in to help in getting the desired texture.
Serve your dip with your favourite accompaniments – crackers or vegetable crudités.
What I was cooking this time last year: Passionfruit and Strawberry Gum Bavarian
Cashew and Tomato Dip
- 100g semi-sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 birds eye chilli
- 50g roasted red peppers or roasted red capsicum, drained
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 120g raw unsalted cashews
- 30g parmesan cheese
- Add the tomatoes, peppers, cashews, garlic, chilli, lemon juice and parmesan cheese to your food processor or thermomix bowl.
- Blend until you have achieved your desired texture.
- Transfer your dip to a bowl and serve (or refrigerate until ready to serve). Enjoy.
What is your favourite stand-by recipe when friends drop by? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Beetroot are in abundance at the moment, and are the inspiration for this recipe. Ingredients that compliment beetroot include cumin, walnuts and feta, which produce a vibrantly coloured purple dip – what’s not to love. This recipe makes quite a large batch, so feel free to halve if you aren’t cooking for a crowd or don’t want to be eating it for the next week.
To toast and grind your cumin seeds, cook them without any oil in a fry pan over a low to medium heat – be careful to keep the spices moving so they toast evenly and only cook until lightly toasted and the aroma is released, don’t let the spices burn, then grind to get maximum flavour into your dip. The cumin seeds can be ground in a blender, coffee grinder or a with a pestle and mortar.
Serve your dip with your favourite biscuits or rice crackers, and / or vegetable crudités.
What I was cooking this time last year: Chocolate Beetroot Cake
- 1 bunch of beetroot, approximately 1 kg
- 200g feta
- 2 garlic cloves
- 50g toasted walnuts
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 lemons, zest and juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Turn the oven on to 180°C.
- Peel the beetroot and chop into pieces.
- Lay beetroot pieces on a baking tray, add the garlic cloves (with skins intact).
- Put the beetroot into the oven to start roasting while you prepare the walnuts.
- Put the walnuts in a heat proof dish and put in the oven for 10 minutes or so, until the nuts are toasted and fragrant.
- Set aside the walnuts to cool.
- Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, stirring occasionally to ensure they cook evenly.
- Grind the cumin seeds.
- Roast the beetroot until it is tender, then remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Add the roast beetroot, feta, ground cumin, peeled garlic cloves, walnuts, lemon zest and juice and olive oil to your food processor bowl or blender.
- Blend until smooth and everything is combined.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and blend to combine.
- Transfer your dip to a bowl and serve (or refrigerate until ready to serve). Enjoy.
What is your favourite dip? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Many varieties of tomatoes are available at the moment in abundance, so I’ve used them as the basis for my recipe this week. Flavours that match well with tomatoes include oregano and garlic, but you could of course experiment with whatever flavours inspire you. The tomatoes have been roasted before adding to the tart to intensify their flavours. I used roma or egg tomatoes, but feel free to use whatever looks good when you are shopping. This tart can be served hot from the oven, warm or cold.
I’m lazy with my pastry making these days, and don’t roll out my pastry. I prefer to push it into shape in the tin then let it rest in the freezer 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.
For the pastry case
- 125g butter, softened
- 250g plain flour
- 1 x generous pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 50g parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
- 1 egg
For the tart filling
- 500g tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- 1 red onion
- 2 eggs
- 100mls cream
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Turn your oven on to 180°C to pre-heat.
- Chop the tomatoes into thick slices, for my roma tomatoes I chopped each into 3 long ways.
- Peel and finely chop the garlic and onion.
- Lay your tomato slices on a baking tray and sprinkle with the garlic, onion, cayenne pepper and sumac.
- Drizzle over the oil.
- Put your tray of tomatoes in the oven to roast for 40 minutes while you make your pastry.
- In a food processor mix the butter, flour, a pinch of salt, oregano leaves, parmesan 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 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 freezer to rest and chill.
- After your tomatoes have been baking for 40 minutes, transfer them to a lower shelf in the oven and bake your pastry case until cooked and light brown. The time will vary depending on what sort of tart tin you are using, but as a guide allow approximately 20 minutes.
- Separate an egg, reserving the egg white and mix the egg yolk with a pastry brush. Brush egg yolk to glaze the inside of your pastry case, then cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Remove your tomatoes and pastry case from the oven.
- Scatter the oregano leaves over the base of the pastry case.
- Assemble your cooked tomatoes in the pastry case.
- Add another egg to your separated egg white, then add cream and salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
- Pour the egg mixture over the tomatoes in the pastry case.
- Return your tart to the oven and cook for 20 minutes or so or until the egg mixture is set (doesn’t wobble when you give the tart a shake).
- Your tart is ready to serve. Enjoy!
What is your favourite pastry tip? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
In Australia Christmas falls in the middle of summer, so many of the foods that are traditionally associated with a European Christmas feel strangely out-of-place in the heat. When I was living in the UK and celebrated Christmas in Scotland, finally these food traditions started to make a lot more sense. In Australia, a lot of cooler weekend destinations such as the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands celebrate Christmas in July, when you get to snuggle up in front of a log fire and enjoy Christmas pud, mulled wine and roast dinner.
Stilton cheese is one thing that is associated with Christmas in the UK, where it is normally served with port. Stilton has achieved protected designation of origin status, meaning only cheese produced in a specific region can lay claim to the name Stilton (similar to only wine produced in the champagne region can be called champagne). I was unable to track down authentic Stilton cheese, so substituted with an excellent Australian produced blue cheese, Berry’s Creek Tarwin Blue. You could of course, use your favourite blue cheese.
I made my own pastry cases from a sheet of frozen puff pastry, but if you wanted to take a shortcut you could use pre-bought pastry cases or that seventies canapé favourite the vol-au-vent. If you are lucky enough to be able to track down fresh figs, use them. Fresh figs are in short supply in Sydney at the moment, so I resorted to dried figs.
What I was cooking this time last year: Spicy Bean Soup
Blue Cheese and Fig Tartlets
- Cooking oil spray
- 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted
- 4 dried figs
- Cranberry sauce
- 100g blue cheese
- Turn the oven on to 200°C.
- Spray a baking tray with cooking oil spray.
- Cut the sheet of pastry into quarters, then each quarter into quarters again.
- Cut a smaller square inside each piece of pastry square.
- Flip the outer corner of the pastry square to the inside corner, and repeat with the opposite corners to create a tartlet.
- Push down the ends, and repeat until all of your pastry squares have been converted into tartlets.
- Cook for approximately 10 minutes.
- Take the pastry tartlets out of the oven and push down the center of the tartlets.
- Return the tartlets to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes or until golden.
- Once the tartlets are golden, add some chopped fig, blue cheese and a small dollop of cranberry sauce to each tartlet.
- Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
- Your tartlets are ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite canapé? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Most muffin recipes are for sweet muffins, but you can of course make savoury muffins. I am going for a walk tomorrow to Barrenjoey Head and wanted to bake something to take to snack on. If you are a bit scared of baking, muffins are a great way to build your confidence. With muffins, the less mixing and work you do the better and it is simply a matter of measuring and mixing then baking.
Continuing with my Australian native spices experimentation, I used Ajydhyra or Bush Tomato in this recipe, which I tracked down at Herbie’s Spices. The akudjura gives the muffins a lovely roast tomato flavour. You can order Herbie’s Spices online, or they are stocked in many delis and gourmet food stores. I also used dried greek oregano, which is normally sold with the stems still intact – to separate the dried oregano leaves, you give the bunch a bit of a shake or a rub to separate the dried leaves.
What I was cooking this time last year: Watercress and Pomegranate Tabouli
Tomato and Cheese Muffins
* This recipe’s base ingredients were inspired by a Pear and Ginger Muffins recipe that appears in Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, Nigella Express. I have modified and adapted Nigella’s recipe to come up with the below reincarnation.
Makes 12 muffins.
- 300g self-raising flour
- A generous pinch of salt
- 80g pine nuts
- 1/2 tablespoon ground akudjura or bush tomato
- 1/2 tablespoon dried greek oregano
- 200g feta cheese
- 100g grated parmesan cheese
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
- 125mls natural low-fat natural yoghurt
- 125mls vegetable oil [I used rice bran oil but any neutral tasting oil is fine]
- 2 large eggs
- 1 small red onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon oil
- Cooking oil spray
- Peel, quarter and finely slice the onion.
- Crush the garlic cloves.
- Heat the teaspoon of oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are soft and just starting to brown, stirring occasionally.
- Set the onions and garlic aside to cool.
- Heat oven to 200°C.
- Line a cupcake / muffin pan with muffin cases. Spray the cases lightly with cooking oil spray.
- Measure the flour, salt, akudjura, dried oregano, pine nuts and grated parmesan into a bowl.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl.
- Crumble the feta and add to the bowl.
- Add the cooled onion mixture to the bowl.
- Stir the ingredients in the bowl until everything is well combined and coated in flour.
- Measure the oil and yoghurt into a jug.
- Add the eggs to the oil and yoghurt and stir to combine.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined – the less mixing you do the better.
- Add spoonfuls of the mixture to the muffin cases.
- Place muffins in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when touched in the middle.
- Remove muffins from the oven and either eat warm or when they have cooled. Enjoy.
What is your favourite baking recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Next Sunday (the 2nd Sunday in May) is Mother’s Day in Australia, and lots of kitchens will be preparing breakfast in bed as a special treat for mum.
I first got the idea of using cottage cheese in pancakes from a Cheesecakelets recipe by Nigella Lawson, in her book Feast. Nigella’s recipe calls for separating the eggs and whisking the whites. This does produce lovely light pancakes but I think facing a whisk first thing in the morning is a bit much, especially if you have little helpers assisting with the cooking.
Cottage cheese is an under-utilised ingredient, it is a great alternative to ricotta cheese in cooking if you are trying to watch your fat intake. I am not using cottage cheese in this recipe because of it’s low(er) fat properties, but because the cottage cheese retains its curds, and once cooked, they melt and give a delicious oozy texture to the pancakes.
If you haven’t tried strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar you may be skeptical, but the acid from the vinegar draws out the strawberry juice and you end up with a sweet sauce. You could add a little sugar to the vinegar and strawberries if the strawberries are especially tart, but I don’t find it is required. My only tip is to not leave the strawberries marinating too long (I wouldn’t leave them overnight) or they will continue to break down. Preparing the strawberries just before you start making the pancakes is sufficient time to allow the flavours to develop. Strawberries are expensive in Sydney at the moment, so if you wanted to skip them you could serve your pancakes with maple syrup, lemon and sugar or other fresh or defrosted berries.
What I was cooking this time last year: Bircher Muesli
Pancakes with Marinated Strawberries
Serves 2 – 3
- 1 cup self-raising flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- 250g cottage cheese
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 100mls milk
- 20g butter (plus extra for frying if you don’t have a non-stick frying pan)
- 1 punnet of strawberries
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- Wash then hull your strawberries and roughly chop. Add your chopped strawberries to a bowl and add the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Set aside to marinate.
- Measure out the flour, sugar and cottage cheese into a bowl.
- Add the egg to the bowl with the flour.
- Zest the lemon peel into the bowl.
- Juice the lemon and add to the bowl.
- Add the milk and stir everything to combine.
- Melt the butter in a frying pan over low heat. Add the melted butter to the pancake batter and stir to combine.
- Heat your frying pan over a medium heat and add spoonfuls of the pancake batter to the pan.
- Cook on one side, your pancakes are ready to turn when bubbles start to appear on the top of the pancakes.
- Flip your pancakes and cook on the other side until golden brown.
- Dish up straight from the pan or place in a low oven to keep warm until all of the pancakes are cooked.
- Top the pancakes with marinated strawberries. Enjoy.
What is your favourite breakfast in bed? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
This is a pescetarian twist on the comforting classic carbonara classic recipe. The traditional carbonara generally consists of eggs, cheese, bacon (or similar) and black pepper. I’m not sure what it is about the creamy richness of the sauce, smokiness from the fish combined with the zesty tang from the lemon, but this is my ultimate (savoury) comfort food.
When adding the lemon juice to your cream and egg mixture, add a little juice at a time and stir as you go to combine and prevent curdling (and don’t try and add cream to lemon juice or you really will end up with a mess).
I used hot smoked trout which has a texture similar to cooked fish, but with the delicious smokey flavour. You could also use regular smoked trout or smoked salmon to similar effect. This is to substitute for the bacon flavour in the original carbonara recipe.
Regarding your herbs, feel free to experiment. I used lemon thyme and tarragon because that is what I happened to have growing and both go well with seafood. I added the spinach in a feeble attempt to inject some healthiness into the recipe.
I love the slurpiness of spaghetti, but feel free to use your favourite pasta.
What I was cooking this time last year: Thai Curried Pumpkin Soup
Creamy trout pasta
* This recipe was adapted from a Lemon Linguine recipe in “How to Eat” by Nigella Lawson. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.
- 2 egg yolks
- 150mls cream
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons of chopped herbs (I used lemon thyme and tarragon)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 spring onions
- 100g hot smoked trout
- 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
- salt and plenty of black pepper
- Pasta for 2
- parmesan cheese, to serve
- Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil to cook your pasta.
- Finely chop the spring onions and crush the garlic.
- Heat the olive oil in another saucepan over a low heat and add the garlic and chopped spring onions.
- In a measuring jug add the cream and egg yolks. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine.
- Zest the lemon and add to the cream mixture.
- Juice the lemon and add a little juice at a time, stirring to combine.
- Add the cream mixture and herbs to the garlic and onions and stir to combine.
- Put your pasta on to cook in the boiling salted water.
- Flake the trout and add to the cream sauce, stir to combine.
- Add the baby spinach and stir to combine and wilt the spinach.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the cream sauce.
- Stir to combine.
- Serve, garnished with parmesan cheese. Enjoy.
What is your favourite pasta dish? Has this post inspired any new ideas?