Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pie pie pie..... A perfect Moroccan Lamb Shank Pie For Winter

Pie pie pie. Is there much else better in this world than pie? Nope. Perfecting pie, or at least the consumption of pie throughout winter is what it's all about. #lifegoals. As part of my recipe contributions to the seriously excellent Urban List, I get to make pies. Spectacular "winter is coming" kind of pies like this Moroccan lamb shank number. You see life requires a tremendous amount of pie. Pie like this that has slow cooked goodness oozing from its pores, encased in a hug of buttery light pastry that hopefully finds its way to your belly via a dinner table surrounded by your best of mixed tape of family and friends. And preferably bucketloads of wine.

I've filled it with dates and chickpeas as well which do a wonderful job of soaking up the juices and thickening the pie insides to perfection.

Serves 4-6


¼ cup olive oil
4 lamb shanks, frenched
2 brown onions, peeled, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 x 330ml bottle of golden ale style beer (I used James Squire Chancer)
1 cup veal stock
1 celery stalks, peeled, chopped
1 cup pitted dates
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly
2 x 400g tinned cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp ras el hanout spice blend
1 tsp dried mint
1 x sheet Careme puff pastry or other excellent quality puff pastry


Preheat the oven to 180C
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Cook the shanks, turning often until well browned all over. Remove and set aside. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook for 3 minutes or until soft. Return the shanks to the pan with the beer and stock.
Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add the celery, dates, chickpeas, tomatoes and spices and simmer, covered for 45 minutes until the shanks are tender and the liquid has reduced. If not continue cooking until thick. If unsure just think – is this going to make it a sloppy pie? – no one likes a sloppy pie. Shred the meat into the sauce, stirring to combine and reserve the shank bones. Pour the mixture into a pie dish. Stick a few of the bones in the centre of the mixture – these will pop through the pastry creating the perfect vent for steam. Fit the pastry over the dishes, cutting a hole for the shank bones. Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Chicken meatballs in yoghurt and Aleppo pepper butter. Perfect Winter Fodder

While the other side of the world gets to enjoy the starting heat of summer with watermelon and peach Caprese salads poolside, we're freezing our asses off, donning ugg boots, and finding small pleasures in the culinary opportunities this kind of weather provides. Like meatballs. Get-in-your-face meatballs, like these spiced chicken and hot yoghurt meatballs that are comforting and soul-fortifying in a way that stops you in your tracks. Something about them enables you to recollect and reconnect, and I find them as therapeutic to make as pie - it must be all the smooshing and rolling.
These spicy meatballs are swimming in yoghurt sauce and you can serve them with a simple salad, warm greens, or a nice nutty pilaf. The opportunities and options with a good plate of meatballs are endless. With pasta. With salad. On a toastie. Cold from the fridge at midnight. Frozen for a later date. Meatballs. You know you are onto a good thing.
Serves 4 to 6
500g excellent quality chicken mince
1 egg
½ cup sourdough or brioche breadcrumbs
½ red onion, finely chopped
3 tsp oregano, finely chopped
3 tsp tarragon, finely chopped
Pinch salt flakes
1 tsp toasted and ground cumin
½ tsp dried mint
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock

2 cups plain yoghurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup dill, leaves pulled, finely chopped plus more to garnish
¼ cup mint, leaves pulled, finely chopped plus more to garnish
1 tbsp butter, melted
Generous pinch ground Aleppo pepper
Pinch toasted cumin seeds

To serve
Hot fluffy pita bread

Preheat oven to 180C.
For the meatballs, combine all ingredients - except the olive oil and chicken stock - in a bowl and mix well using your hands to thoroughly incorporate and combine. Roll and shape the mixture into about 20 balls. If you need to, dip your hands in cold water to stop the mixture from sticking to them.
Line a tagine bowl or baking dish with a generous lug of olive oil. Place the meatballs in the dish in a single layer and gently turn them to coat in oil. Place in the oven and cook until brown - about 15 minutes. During cooking time, try to turn them a few times so they achieve an even colouring all over.
Remove from the heat and pour over the chicken stock. Return to the heat and cook for 10 minutes; you want the meatballs to continue cooking in the liquid at a gentle simmer.
Remove from the heat, then gently transfer meatballs to a plate, reserving the cooking liquid.
In a large bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, egg, garlic, dill and mint. Slowly add the hot chicken stock, about ¼ cup at a time - you will probably only need ½ a cup in total but this can vary with the liquidity of the yoghurt used. Pour the mixture into a frying pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sauce very obviously thickens and is just beginning to bubble and simmer. Season. Add the meatballs to the yoghurt sauce to warm through and turn to coat in the yoghurt sauce.
To make the Aleppo pepper butter, add the butter to a small frypan and place over medium heat. Cook until the butter just starts to foam and add the pepper, swirling constantly so the butter doesn't burn.
Divide the meatballs and yoghurt between serving bowls. Add some tabouli and then spoon over the Aleppo butter. Top with freshly chopped herbs and serve with warm pita.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Perfect Buddha Bowl

Hello, hi. Yep remember me. Sorry for the lax updates - have been pretending I am one of those jetting off types, actually jetting off to Hong Kong and Boracay for a sneaky and much needed getaway. I'm in the throes of putting together a bit of a must eat list for Hong Kong and downloading photos which I'll put up asap. In the meantime I suggest you get your laughing gear around this buddha bowl. Such a great filling and delicious winter style salad. I'm completely addicted.

 I'd like to introduce your insides to the Buddha bowl. It's multiple downward dogs and soul rectifying therapy in a few mere mouthfuls; a plate of deliciousness zinging with the good stuff that's come from the cold-weather-still should-eat-salad-part-of-my-brain to yours. It's hearty, sweet and spicy, salty and crunchy, and durable enough to last a few days in the refrigerator to be eaten cold or warm, whichever your persuasion. Oh and the obligatory kale has made an appearance so that's an even bigger win for some. There is a bit of chopping and spice blending involved but the resulting hits of ginger, panch phoran and coriander make it all worthwhile.
I like to think eating this and eating donuts would equal out in some kind of real life eating pyramid universe although if you are anything like me you'll end up shoving all of this down your throat in one day sending all pyramid sentiments right out the window. Things like that happen. All the time. I call it life.  And it's just a salad. A really damn tasty one.
Serves 4 
3 organic sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced lengthways
5cm knob ginger, peeled, coarsely grated
2 tsp honey
2 tsp coconut oil
2 tsp soy
450g tin chickpeas, thoroughly rinsed
1 tbsp sultanas
1 tsp each Cumin, Brown Mustard, Fenugreek, Nigella and Fennel seeds dry roasted and combined (panch phoran)
1 avocado, seeded, chopped
2 tsp black sesame seeds
½ red onion, very finely chopped
1 bunch coriander, leaves pulled, roughly chopped
1 cup brown rice cooked according to packet instructions
1 handful kale, parsley, lettuce – whatever greens you can get your hands on, chopped
Greek yoghurt to serve
1 green chilli, seeded, finely sliced
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Toss the sweet potato pieces, ginger, honey, coconut oil and soy in a large roasting tray and roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes until cooked through and the ginger mixture has begun to caramelise.
Toss the chickpeas, sultanas and panch phoran spices in a bowl then quickly fry in a frypan over a low temperature until warmed through.
Toss the avocado, sesame seeds and chopped red onion in a bowl.
Place all the salad elements in a large serving bowl and serve warm topped with the yoghurt and green chilli.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Margherita Pizza Bombs

Margherita Pizza Balls

Margherita pizza would be on my list of five foods to take to a desert island. When done well with the appropriate thin crust, beautiful quality mozzarella and a sprinkling of freshly torn basil, everything seems right with the world. This is a pizza pocket version of the margherita – an ode to the good old days of a few coins taped to a brown paper bag for the pizza pop tart at tuckshop.

The pizza dough here is very much a hands off affair. Add the ingredients to a bowl, use your hands to briefly combine then an overnight nurse is all thats required. Low maintenance – just the way we like it. The end result is crisp and airy despite the filling. And what emerges from your oven is this fantastic molten mess of mozzarella, cooked down tomato goodness and of course the fragrant basil. Its heaven. Baked heaven. One of those hard hitting numbers that makes your house smell amazing and trust me when this emerges from the oven it is on for young and old.

Serves 4

Pizza dough
200g bread flour
200g plain flour
1 tbsp sugar
Generous pinch salt
2 tsp (7g sachet) active dried yeast
300ml warm water, approximately
250g buffalo mozzarella
Basil leaves
Olive oil to coat
Margherita Sauce
1 x 400g Tin cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 small red onion, peeled, roughly chopped
pinch salt
generous pinch of sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
small handful of basil leaves

To make the pizza dough mix the flour, sugar, salt and instant dry yeast evenly in a large bowl.  Add the water and mix together with a wooden spoon until a wet dough forms. Let the dough sit for the flour to hydrate then with your hands pull the dough up then fold it over itself. Repeat this once or twice – you just want everything to come together but you are not kneading the dough as such, just encouraging the elasticity of the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap then let proof overnight at room temperature. In the current weather I left mine inside the oven overnight.
To make the tomato sauce, add all ingredients to a blender and blitz until relatively smooth. Pour into a saucepan and simmer for about ten minutes over medium heat until the sauce thickens and reduces slightly and the garlic cooks out.
Preheat the oven to 250C.
Generously oil a baking dish at least 25 x 25cm in size.
Lightly flour your work bench. Pull small handfuls of dough at a time and roll out to 5mm thick. Place about a heaped teaspoon amount of mozzarella in the centre. Spoon over a dessertspoon of tomato sauce, top with a fresh basil leaf then bring the dough together to enclose it into a ball/pocket shape and place in the baking dish. Dont worry, the more rustic looking the better and they puff up so much it really doesnt matter what it looks like as it goes in. Repeat with remaining dough, mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil until you have filled your baking dish. Set aside for thirty minutes for the dough to rest again. Brush generously with additional olive oil and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and puffed in appearance. Keep an eye on it as you dont want the top to burn. If it looks like it is burning, turn the oven down straight away. Once cooked, remove and scoop over any few spoonfuls of left over tomato sauce and sprinkle with a few basil leaves. Season and serve piping hot straight from the oven.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

An Easter Egg Ice Cream Sandwich

Easter, other than an excuse to indulge in overpriced bits of chocolate covered in foil, is also our last gasp opportunity at chasing the sun before the seasonal changes are truly upon us.  So of course we must eat an Easter egg riddled ice cream sandwich because it combines a love of chocolate with a love of cold churned dairy. What's more to love? Wack in a touch of the obligatory salted caramel, some sable for the biscuits and you have got yourself a sweet, salty, soft, crisp chocolate and more chocalety dessert. Perfection.

Salted caramel
200g caster sugar
60g salted butter, coarsely chopped
125 ml (½ cup) pouring cream
Chocolate sable
125g soft unsalted butter
125g sour cream

scant 1/2 cup caster sugar
175g plain flour
50g dutch-process cocoa
Combine the ice cream and smashed easter eggs in a bowl and stir to combine. Turn into a deep-sided freezer proof tray lined with plastic wrap. Cover with wrap and place in the freezer to set.
For the chocolate sable, using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sour cream and sugar until light and fluffy. Sieve over flour and cocoa and stir to combine, then turn onto a lightly floured surface, form dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Don't be alarmed if it seems quite sticky and wet – it firms up a lot in the fridge.  Roll out to 3mm thick and using a 10cm cookie cutter, cut rings from the piece of dough. If it gets to warm, return to the fridge and repeat the process until you have about 16 rounds.
Place rounds on a baking paper lined oven tray and bake at 180C for 15 minutes, then cool completely.
For the salted caramel, stir sugar and 60ml water in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and cook until caramel (4-5 minutes). Add butter, whisk to combine, then add cream (be careful, mixture will foam up) and 1 tsp sea salt or to taste and whisk to combine. Set aside to cool slightly.
Remove the ice cream mixture from the freezer and working quickly, gently stir through the caramel – you don't want it to be uniform. Cover and return to the freezer to harden completely, for at least four hours.
When ready to serve, put a chocolate round on a plate. Top with a generous scoop of easter egg ice cream and top with another chocolate round. Repeat with remaining chocolate sable rounds and ice cream.

Monday, March 23, 2015

And we are workshopped!

Last Friday was such a great day! After months of planning, Sneh and I held our first workshop. We combined forces for a food writing, styling and photography workshop at the Cook Republic HQ. Of course the day flew so it felt like we ran out of time but I think that is the sign of a good day. Our group was a fabulous bunch, all interested in working together and hearing each others ideas. I loved it. Normally when you do writing exercises (and I have done my time with writing courses trust me) no one ever wants to read out their work. I'm normally one of them. Not this time! People were so willing to share and it really made the day. I also am a little blown away by the quality of the writing.

We were lucky enough to have some great sponsors help us out including Pressed Juices and Salt, Meats Cheese as well as Breville Australia who generously gave us a Nespresso machine to give away to one of the workshop participants. Meet Ange - she won the machine and I have a feeling it will be put to great use!

For lunch we had a delightful vegetarian pasta dish, one that Sneh cooked for her family Christmas - it is satisfying, colourful and easy. What more could you want? Here is the recipe.