Ready to escape.

4 Sep

So the counting down has finally stopped, there’s only one more sleep to sleep…

I just wanted to send a shout out to my loyal (and totally awesome/wonderful) followers. Mostly because you’re amazing and keep me inspired to cook food and share my experiences, but also to apologise for the radio silence – I’m off to explore the States for an entire month with my favourite boy tomorrow. But don’t stress – there will be plenty of Instagram action (follow me at datewithaplate_) and a wrap-up of food stories when I get back – I solemnly swear to live out all your American food dreams as we road trip across California, get lost in New Orleans, get our BBQ on in Texas and finish up our trip living it up in New York City.

From tacos to in-n-out burger, beignets to bagels – this is going to be one hell of a holiday. Au Revoir.

photo

Gnocchi with braised beef sauce

20 Aug

Just a short post today, it has been a rough couple of weeks battling the ever complicated onslaught of flu, work, personal life and trip planning – my upcoming trip to the United States is possibly the only thing keeping me sane at the moment. Counting down the days until we jet off for a month long adventure keeps me working hard through everything that’s been thrown at me lately.

Sick at home, bored out of my mind (yes, there’s only so much day-time TV one can watch) and desperate for something to do…

Gnocchi with braised beef sauce seemed like a good idea for dinner, and I am so glad I tried out this Jamie Oliver braised beef sauce recipe because it is amazingly tasty (I made a couple modifications to suit but kept pretty well to his recipe)! Pulling apart the larger pieces of braised beef into smaller pieces made the sauce rich, thick and deliciously moreish – my serving size for dinner was more appropriate for two people, but I just couldn’t stop eating it! The addition of the pearl barley was also fantastic – it helped give the sauce another level of texture and added extra complexity to what is a very humble beef sauce.

I seem to have become rather obsessed with gnocchi lately (also made this batch up a few weeks ago)….and it’s easy to understand why. Gnocchi is perhaps one of the easiest things to make, yet it also seems so utterly impressive when its served. I am always pleasantly surprised when it works for me and I am able to perfect the little parcels of fluffy goodness.

Serves 6 – 8

 

Gnocchi with braised beef sauce

Gnocchi with braised beef sauce

The list:

Beef sauce
850gm casserole beef
Olive oil
1 handful each fresh rosemary and fresh thyme, stems discarded and leaves finely chopped
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery, finely chopped
1 cup Chianti (or similar variety of wine)
1 can of tomatoes
400gm pasata
2 Tbs pearl barley
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Gnocchi
500g floury potatoes, peeled and cooked in salted boiling water until soft
200g plain flour, plus a little extra to dust
1 egg, lightly beaten
pinch of salt

The method:

Sauce:

  1. Season the meat with salt and pepper, then cut into 3cm chunks
  2. In a hot casserole-type pot, fry your meat in a little olive oil until golden brown on all sides. Add your herbs, onions, garlic, carrot, and celery. Turn the heat down and continue to cook for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened
  3. Add your red wine and continue to simmer until the liquid has almost cooked away
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, pasata, pearl barley, and just enough water to cover the meat by 1/2 inch. Make yourself a cartouche of baking paper (a piece of baking paper that fits on top on the sauce). Wet it with a little water, rub it with a little olive oil, and place it over the pan. Put a lid on the pan as well, as this will retain as much moisture as possible while cooking. Cook over really low heat for about 2 hours. It’s ready when you can literally pull the meat apart in tender strands, do so using a pair of tongs (breaking apart the meat chunks into smaller pieces of meat).
  5. Season the sauce carefully with salt and pepper to taste and allow to sit while you make your gnocchi

Gnocchi:

  1.  Bring a large pot of slightly salted water to the boil
  2. Using a potato ricer, squeeze your potatoes into a large bowl and season with a pinch of salt. Allow to cool slightly before pouring over flour and gently combining
  3. Pour potato mixture out onto a clean, dry bench that has been lightly floured. Gently start to knead the dough, then pour over the egg and work the dough into a smooth ball of potato mixture. It won’t take much effort to get to this stage, and your bench shouldn’t have much excess dough stuck to it – use a little more flour if necessary
  4. Divide dough into quarters, rolling each ball out into a long sausage shape (re-flour bench slightly if necessary), then cut rough 2cm pieces and pinch gently in the middle to form your gnocchi – place onto a clean dry tea towel while you continue to make the remaining gnocchi
  5. Cook gnocchi in your pot of boiling water in small batches for roughly 2 minutes – or until the gnocchi rises to the surface. Scoop out with a large slotted spoon (gently shaking off excess liquid) and place in serving bowl, covering with a generous spoonful of sauce and top with grated Parmesan to serve

Enjoy!

I made ample gnocchi, and I am so glad I did

I made ample gnocchi, and I am so glad I did

The gnocchi and sauce also freeze really well together if you want to save some for later as we have

The gnocchi and sauce also freeze really well together if you want to save some for later as we have

Marron with celeriac puree, truffles and asparagus

4 Aug

I don’t often cook with such glamorous ingredients, but since my Dad brought me two ginormous marron from his friend’s farm I felt I should splash out on the other ingredients – well really just the truffle I bought which cost me $30…but you get the gist.

Marron are the largest freshwater crayfish in Western Australia – and the third largest in the world. They are endemic to south-west WA and they are one of my all-time favourite proteins. In the shops, as big as the sizes we cooked on the weekend, would cost around $40 each. So it goes without saying that I was pretty excited when my Dad dropped them over. Since they were covered in mud (after living in a dam for the past three or so years – given the size of them), we let them hang out in our bathtub over night to get the fresh, clean water running through them – they subsequently woke me up about three times during the night in their futile attempts to escape.

To humanely kill the marron, we put them in our freezer to fall asleep. After about 25 minutes they were motionless and we finished off the job with a sharp knife through the head. It might sound a bit gruesome, but part of understanding food is understanding where it comes from and how to slaughter it, whether it be a cow, pig, sheep or fish – animals deserve respect when their life ends.

So early Sunday morning I sourced a local Manjimup black truffle and some other accompanying goods and set to work on our Sunday feast. Despite Ollie’s hangover, he managed to roll out of bed for lunch when I told him what I was making. To his credit though, I did make him get up to transfer the marron from bathtub to freezer. I am what you would say petrified of them…well at least when they are alive!

So if you ever come across a marron and want to know what to do with it – well, this recipe was pretty darn good. You could also substitute lobster or crayfish (or even scallops would go nicely) seeing as marron are a local West Australian thing…

Serves 2

Marron with celeriac puree, truffle and asparagus

Marron with celeriac puree, truffle and asparagus

The list:

2 large marron

1 medium sized celeriac, peeled and cut into cubes

1 cup milk

75g butter

3 asparagus, cut thinly on the diagonal

Black truffle, you will need about 4/5 slices per dish

Dill, to garnish

Salt and pepper

The method:

  1. Into a pot, put your celeriac and milk, cook gently for ten minutes (or until the celeriac is tender). Drain the celeriac, but keep the milk. Blend the celeriac and 50g of the butter, adding a little milk until consistency is smooth and creamy. Keep to one side.
  2. Into a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water, place your marron. Cook for 5 minutes – or until they are red. Remove immediately and plunge into iced water.
  3. Remove the claws from the marron, and the tail meat in one piece by twisting off the head and gently removing the outer shell. You will also need to make a shallow incision along its tail to remove the intestinal track – gently rinse with water to remove any grit.
  4. In a non-stick pan heat remaining butter and gently cook marron tail and claws for a further minute, in the last thirty seconds add the asparagus. Remove from the heat.
  5. Plate the dish by layering celeriac, then marron and top with asparagus, shaved truffle, dill and finally a drizzle of the butter the marron cooked in.

Enjoy!!

Easy to make but expensive to source, this is not your everyday Sunday brunch

Easy to make but expensive to source, this is not your everyday Sunday brunch

Not the prettiest of beasts, but certainly the tastiest

Not the prettiest of beasts, but certainly the tastiest

Granny’s Apple Bircher

28 Jul

One of the reasons I most love blogging is becoming part of a community which encourages your ideas and champions the strength it takes to put yourself out there – leaving the fear and anxiety of potential judgement behind. When I first began this little blog, it was pretty daunting, but over the past couple years I have found a real sense of enjoyment and escape as I get lost in creating beautiful food and writing in a capacity which allows me to share my thoughts and experiences. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers (mostly other bloggers) who believe in my recipes as much as they do my stories – offering up words of encouragement to me along the way.

I love to read how other people ended up at a recipe, I love to know where it comes from, why its special to them and how its impacted on their life. Blogging for me isn’t some selfish ambition to become internet famous – its about self-expression and enjoyment. It gives me an outlet to use my creativity and love of writing, which in a very corporate job is often overshadowed. So when a friend – or a complete stranger – let’s me know they recreated one of my recipes or just enjoyed one of the stories I told – I am always at a loss for words, which for me is an uncommon situation.

So when I stumbled across Australian website Tucker, I immediately fell for their honest food and easy recipes, and their goal to “encourages great home cooking” – it really resonated with me. Here is a couple of people who are just doing what they love and encouraging others to do that same along the way. I find it really inspiring.

So over the course of a couple months I have tried a few of their recipes and am yet to have anything but complimentary words to say about them. In particular, we’ve fallen head over heels for their Granny’s Apple Bircher recipe, which has since become a staple on our household’s breakfast menu. So thanks to the team for encouraging me to become more of a morning person – with the effort of making breakfast eliminated by having a big bowl of bircher ready to go in the fridge for me when I stumble from my slumber. Now I have no excuse for missing breakfast.

This bircher keeps for a good couple days and is perfect to make ahead of time – being prepared in the morning with breakfast ready made is a real advantage to yourself by starting the day full and satisfied – ready to take on the world.

So here’s to sharing, cooking and inspiring – let’s hope the trend continues!

Serves 4

Granny's Apple Bircher

Granny’s Apple Bircher

The list:

2 cups rolled oats
½ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp sesame seeds
¼ cup golden sultanas
¼ cup buckwheat kernels
1 tsp maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt

½ Granny Smith apple, grated
1½ cups water
½ cup natural yoghurt

¼ cup pistachios, shelled, roughly chopped
Lemon zest
Extra yoghurt to serve
Green apple, sliced, to serve

The method:

  1. Combine the oats with cardamom, cinnamon, sesame seeds, sultanas, buckwheat, maple syrup, salt, grated apple, water, and yoghurt. Place in the fridge to soak overnight.
  2. In the morning, add the zest of ½ a lemon to the Bircher and mix well. Divide muesli between serving bowls, top with an extra spoonful of yoghurt, some crushed pistachios and slices of apple.
An easy way to prepare for a busy week

An easy way to prepare for a busy week

*Recipe sourced from the good folk at Tucker

Homemade Italian sausages

10 Jul

You know you’ve got a keeper when your boyfriend buys you a meat grinder with sausage making attachments for your birthday – I mean really, doesn’t every girl want her own sausage maker? But seriously, I was pretty freaking excited to be handed this beast of a Kenwood attachment! The boy knew I had just bought myself Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery by Jane Grigson, knowing all too well that I was eager to flex my meat skills and delve into the wonderful world of Charcuterie. Making our own sausages was probably the best possible introduction, not only it is fun but it is incredibly rewarding.

There’s times when I look at recipes and think to myself “don’t even bother with that one, it looks way too hard” – then I doubt my ability and never make it. Sausages was one of those moments, but having the support of my number one fan, we managed to produce a batch of amazing pork sausages without any arguments, stuff-ups or tears. All together, it was a completely rewarding experience and I am ready to do it all over again.

So my Kenwood Chef has a pretty amazing range of attachments from meat grinders and pasta rollers to blenders and fruit juicers – this thing is my best friend. The only negative is that the attachments can be expensive – I think $200 per accessory would be the average price, so you have to pick and choose a little. Having a powered meat grinder and sausage maker was a real win though – I don’t think I would ever attempt to do this by hand.

And just a warning – if you’re the squeamish type and don’t like touching meat or the thought of playing with intestines, then sausage making might not be for you. My local butcher was so helpful when I went in on a busy Saturday morning, getting me sorted with natural casings, pork fat and the meat (and even gave me a few little tips) – it made the process of getting the fat/meat ratio all that more reassuring!

So the actual grinding of the meat is easy, a little time consuming when you go through the finer grinding process, but overall it was very therapeutic. It’s the filling of the casing and the actual making of the sausage that is a little more tricky – and you 100% need a friend to help you with this bit – don’t risk turning a wonderful experience into a regrettable one. The filling process was made easy by having one person push the ground meat through, and the other ensuring a consistent thickness of meat was filing through into the casing at the other end. Don’t try and be a hero and do both.

So next time you’re considering a BBQ, or even a bangers and mash type of dinner, give these sausages a go, it’s honestly such a fun experience (and your friends will think you’re super amazing and talented).

Makes roughly 25 sausages (process takes roughly 90 minutes)

Homemade sausages

Homemade Italian sausages

my homemade Italian sausages served up with some delicious roasted vegetables

My homemade Italian sausages served up with some delicious roasted vegetables

The list:

1.8kg of pork shoulder
500gm of pork fat
36 grams of salt
30 grams of sugar
10 grams of fennel seeds
10 grams freshly cracked black pepper
1 gram of nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup white wine, chilled
Pig casings

The method:

  1. Cut the meat and fat into chunks you can fit into your meat grinder.
  2. Mix together the salt, sugar, fennel seeds, black pepper, nutmeg and oregano, then mix this with the meat and fat until every piece has a little on it. Put in the freezer until the meat and fat are very cold (almost frozen). Put your grinder parts (blades, etc) in the freezer, too, and put a bowl in the fridge.
  3. Grind the mixture through the coarse die on your grinder, and then again through the medium die. If your meat mixture has warmed up, you need to chill everything back down.
  4. Once the meat is cold, put it in a large bowl and add white wine and parsley. Mix well with your (very clean) hands until well combined — a good indicator of temperature is that your hands should ache with cold when you do this. You want to mix until the meat binds to itself.
  5. Change the settings on your meat grinder to allow for sausage making – use a thicker nozzle to make fat Italian sausages.
  6. Carefully slide the casing along the nozzle for the sausages, ensure you have a couple metres worth backed up and ready to fill – you can do this in stages if your sausage nozzle doesn’t allow you enough room.
  7. With one person feeding the meat mixture in and the other person managing the flow of meat into the casings, stuff the links well but not super-tight, as you will not be able to tie them off later if they are too full. Don’t worry about any air pockets yet. Stuff the whole casing, leaving lots of room on either end to tie them off.
  8. To form the individual links, tie off one end of the coil. Now pinch off two links of about six inches long. Rotate the link between your hands forward a few times. Look for air pockets. To remove them, set a large needle into a stovetop burner until it glows (this sterilizes it), then pierce the casing at the air pockets. Twist the links a little and gently compress them until they are nice and tight. Repeat this process with the rest of the sausage.
  9. Hang your links on a wooden clothes rack for at least an hour. This lets the links cure a little, filling their casings and developing flavour. Once you’ve taken the links off the hanger, they can be refrigerated for up to 3 or 4 days, or frozen for up to a year.

These sausages can be cooked anyway you like – by BBQ or pan seared and then finished in the oven, the choice is yours.

Enjoy and have fun!

Easier than you think it will be, have fun making your own

Easier than you think it will be, have fun making your own

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Cooked up and served simply with mustard and some homemade piccalilli

*Recipe adapted from Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery by Jane Grigson and honest-food.net

Sticky rice dumplings

8 Jul

Exploring Asian supermarkets is always an adventure for me, I absolutely love getting lost in the aisles of foreign products and adorable servingware. I go in for a packet of dried shiitake mushrooms and somehow leave with new plates, steaming baskets, packets of deep fried shallots, aloe vera juice and anything else that sparks my interest. My lack of self-control is apparent, and a little bit fantastic. Who doesn’t love a Sunday night dumpling feast?

Exploring the pages of my Gourmet Traveller, I found a recipe for sticky rice dumplings and couldn’t resist dog-earring the page – a sign to myself that something delicious lies on that page and needs to be returned to at a later date (inevitably more than half the magazine ends up with folder corners to await my return). If I ever finish all the marked recipes I’ll let you know – but for now, I wouldn’t hold your breath…it’s a work in progress.

So let’s talk dumplings.

I love Chinese food and having an extended family member who owns his own Chinese restaurant has given me an incredible eye-opener to the very traditional side of this cuisine. I remember one Christmas he closed his restaurant and opened only to his family for a feast of some thirty or more dishes. I was so full at the end of the six hour affair I wasn’t sure that I could move…no joke. It was everything you didn’t expect and I loved every moment of that day.

Having a member of my family who is Chinese has given me a very good insight into the world of Yum Cha (or Dim Sum to others). He always knows the best dumplings to pick and makes me try all manner of things, from chicken feet to red bean buns. I always cherish my time spent with him and his family.

Dumplings are like individual works of art, they shouldn’t just be scoffed down without at least a short moment of appreciation to realise the amount of care taken to select amazing ingredients for the filling and the time and skill taken to create each piece – you need only spend a brunch at a Yum Cha restaurant to appreciate the variety of dumplings there are. My abilities are nowhere near that of the delights you’ll find covering the bountiful trolleys of your local Yum Cha restaurant – but I’ve given it a go anyway.

I love sticky rice parcels – anytime I see them in the trolleys at Yum Cha I immediately order two – one for me and one for the rest of the people on my table. My version isn’t necessarily traditional, but it is delicious. We ate it as a main meal and I couldn’t be happier with the result. These little parcels of sticky rice goodness would go great at a dinner party as part of a larger dumpling feast – they can be made smaller than I have made them and therefore split across more people. Give them a go – I doubt you’ll regret it!

Serves 6

Prep time 40 minutes, cook time 1 hour 10 minutes (plus soaking)

 

The list:

6 banana leaves (or lotus leaves)

400gm glutinous rice, soaked in cold water for an hour

1 Tbs peanut oil

15gm ginger, finely grated

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

4 skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite sized pieces

60g lap cheong, thinly sliced

20gm dried prawns, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, drained and coarsely chopped

40gm dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, drained, stalks trimmed and coarsely chopped

2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine

2 ½ Tbsp dark soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp caster sugar

6 spring onions, finely sliced

 

Roast chilli vinegar:

2 Tbsp each grapeseed oil and rice vinegar

1 Tbsp soy sauce

3 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tsp each sesame oil and caster sugar

 

The method:

  1. Drain rice, spread in a large steamer basket lined with muslin, cover with a lid and steam over a saucepan of simmering water until tender (40 – 45 minutes). Transfer to a bowl, and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally with a flat wooden spoon to break up clusters
  2. Heat oil in a wok over high heat, add ginger, garlic, chicken, lap cheong and prawns and stir-fry until chicken is opaque (2 – 3 minutes). Add shiitake and Shaoxing, and stir-fry until liquid evaporates (1 minute). Add rice, stir, then add soy, sesame oil and sugar, and stir-fry until combined. Remove from the heat and add spring onions, season to taste with white pepper
  3. Place banana leaf on a clean surface, then take a sixth of the mixture and, with wet hands, shape into a rough 5cm x 10cm rectangle, place on the leaf and wrap, folding in sides to enclose, and secure with kitchen string. Repeat to make 6 bundles. Place in a large steamer over a large saucepan of simmering water and steam until fragrant and soft to touch (20 – 25 minutes)
  4. Combine all ingredients for the roast chilli vinegar, drizzle over open parcels to serve

Enjoy!

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 *Recipe from Gourmet Traveller

Fennel, orange and rocket salad

1 Jul

Even though it’s cold and miserable outside, I feel like if I eat something that reminds me of Summer then I can pretend those grey oppressive skies are full of light and warmth – even if it only lasts a few glorious minutes.

Despite oranges and fennel being readily available in Winter, they still remind me of much brighter days – perhaps it’s their vibrant flavour or that pop of bright orange among luscious greens, I’m not too sure – but I like it.

When that sweet, juicy orange is teamed up with the subtle anise flavour of the fennel bulb and a touch of peppery rocket, I am reminded that classic flavour combinations are often the best – tried and tested, they prove themselves time and time again. You honestly can’t go wrong with this popular combo.

I also love that this salad isn’t busy – it’s a handful of fresh, seasonal ingredients and not a lot more. And really, it doesn’t need any more. So it’s cheap, healthy, fresh and delicious…pretty much perfection on a plate.

Another great little benefit is it requires minimal assembly – so no matter how you throw into on your serving plate, it’s bound to look good – ‘rustic charm’ you might say. That effortless plate of goodness that always looks presentable no matter your ability, or lack thereof, in the kitchen. Even if it’s a bit all over the shop and your orange segments turn out a little uneven or your fennel slicing went from Michelin-star to something a lot less consistent and formal – it will still look great.

Serves 4 – 6

Fennel, orange and rocket salad

Fennel, orange and rocket salad

The list

For the dressing:

2 oranges, zested

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbs canola oil

2 tsp seeded mustard

1 shallot, finely diced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

 

For the salad:

1 large fennel bulb, cut in half and finely sliced

3 oranges, segmented

4 cups fresh rocket

 

The method:

  1. Cut off the stems and feathery fronds of the fennel bulb and remove any bruised or discoloured outer layers. Reserve any of the delicate fennel leaves for the salad. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise and finely slice the white of the bulb.
  2. Working with 1 orange at a time, cut a slice off both ends of the orange to reveal the flesh. Stand the orange upright on a cutting board and thickly slice off the peel and pith in strips, following the contour of the fruit. Hold the orange in your palm and cut on the inside of each segment (in between the thin layer of skin that separates each segment). Repeat with the remaining oranges.
  3. Place the orange, fennel and rocket in a large serving bowl.
  4. When ready to serve, drizzle over the dressing and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Easy to make and even easier to eat

Easy to make and even easier to eat

Serves well alongside pork or chicken

Serves well alongside pork or chicken

Fish stew Ancona-style

23 Jun

We don’t eat seafood nearly as much as we should, but on Sunday afternoon we spoiled ourselves with a trip to a local fish market – scoring some awesome treasures for a Sunday night feast. Oysters, fish, prawns, pipis and scallops…..I was seriously excited to get home and get cooking!

Recently I bought Antonio Carluccio’s book, The Collection, and was continuously drawn to his Fish stew Ancona-style – no matter how aimlessly I thought I was skipping through the pages, I always ended up at the same spot. So I took it as a sign – and I’m glad I did because this is one of the best seafood recipes out there – just wonderful. I despise it when people do too much to seafood, really it’s at it’s best when the produce is left to speak for itself.

This stew recipe allows you to pick and choose what you like when it comes to the seafood – we used trevally as our fish because its a firmer white fleshed fish and kept its shape when cooked, some amazing tiger prawns, scallops and pipis (a mollusc with a smooth wedge-shape with a cream to pale brown shell). You could also use whole small fish, mussels, clams, baby octopus or anything else that takes your fancy.

I don’t know what it is about cooking with seafood, but it always feels a bit glamorous, possibly for the simple fact that its not cheap to buy. We spent about AU$53 on everything we got (including a half dozen oysters to snack on before the main course) – so while it wasn’t a bank breaker, it’s still a lot to spend on two people. Although I should probably warn you that we ate like kings and had to have a small lie down post seafood feast to regain normal functionality – it was a lot of food, but I’m so happy we decided to splurge – what an indulgent (yet healthy) way to end a weekend!

Serves 4 – 6

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The list:

1.2kg mixed fresh fish

500g mixed fresh shellfish (clams, mussels, opened scallops, prawns)

5 Tbs olive oil

1 large onion, finely sliced

3 garlic cloves, finely sliced

5 tomatoes, chopped

Pinch of dried chilli

Salt and pepper

3 Tbs fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

2 Tbs white wine vinegar

4 – 6 thick slices Sourdough

 

The method:

  1. Fillet the fish if necessary and cut into bite-sized pieces, or leave them whole if small. Scrub the shellfish and clean as appropriate.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and garlic, and fry gently to soften. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of chilli. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Start to add the large pieces of fish to the sauce first, followed by the shellfish and then by the small fish. Cook gently for 5–8 minutes, or until the fish is cooked and the mussels and clams have opened, then add the parsley and wine vinegar. Toss gently to mix.
  4. Serve with toasted bread, which you either put at the bottom of the plate or offer separately. Drizzle over some extra olive oil to serve.

Enjoy with a beer or two and good company…

Fish stew Ancona-style

Fish stew Ancona-style

A lovely dish that respects the fish and shellfish

A lovely dish that respects the fish and shellfish

A few oysters to start off the evening

A few oysters to start off the evening

Gnocchi with pancetta, tomato & basil sauce

16 Jun

Lazily wandering through our local grocer yesterday, the boy asked me if I could make gnocchi for dinner – considering he bought me a potato ricer months ago and I haven’t used it yet, I figured it was a decent request. Two potatoes, a small block of pancetta and a handful of basil later we were pretty much set for dinner.

Gnocchi is deceptively easy to make and requires few ingredients – perfect. I think the key to a good gnocchi is not to overwork the dough – you need to treat it gently and with respect. The reward of perfectly plump, soft and velvety dumplings is well worth the effort, trust me. Also, go for a simple sauce and let the gnocchi be the star of the dish rather than the support act.

There are so many different ways to do gnocchi, they are such versatile little dumplings and I adore that about them. I always use Antonio Carluccio’s basic recipe for gnocchi and it turns out perfect every time. It also makes a lot more than you would expect it to – so don’t be tempted to double the amounts, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you have enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

Also, I love plain potato gnocchi and I suggest that this is the best way to pop your gnocchi cherry if you’ve never made it before. Once you’ve perfected the dough and understand the desirable consistency, you can always move onto making gnocchi with pumpkin, semolina, nettle etc – the options are almost endless and I doubt you will struggle to find willing taste testers.

Also, making gnocchi just makes me feel good. It’s satisfying to make, almost soothing. As I gently knead the dough, cut the gnocchi into perfect cloud-like squares, cook them and serve them up with a good helping of sauce – I feel as though I have achieved something a little bit wonderful, but the very best part for me is sharing it with my most loved person.

Serves 4 – 6

Potato gnocchi with pancetta, tomato and basil sauce

Potato gnocchi with pancetta, tomato and basil sauce

The list:

Gnocchi

500g floury potatoes, peeled and cooked in salted boiling water until soft

200g plain flour, plus a little extra to dust

1 egg, lightly beaten

pinch of salt

Sauce

1 onion, finely diced

1 small block of pancetta roughly diced, 150gm worth

splash white wine

1 can chopped tomatoes

small handful of basil

Olive oil

salt and pepper

Parmesan cheese, to serve

 

The method:

  1. In a medium sized pot, pour in a little olive oil and then gently fry onions and pancetta until the onion is translucent, de-glaze pot with a little bit of wine, then pour in tomatoes and cook gently for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, stir through basil, season and then place lid on the sauce and allow to sit until gnocchi is ready.
  2. Bring a large pot of slightly salted water to the boil.
  3. Using a potato ricer, squeeze your potatoes into a large bowl and season with a pinch of salt. Pour over flour and gently combine.
  4. Pour potato mixture out onto a clean, dry bench that has been lightly floured. Gently start to knead the dough, then pour over the egg and work the dough into a smooth ball of potato mixture. It won’t take much effort to get to this stage, and your bench shouldn’t have much excess dough stuck to it – use a little more flour if necessary.
  5. Divide dough into quarters, rolling each ball out into a long sausage shape (re-flour bench slightly if necessary), then cut rough 2cm pieces and pinch gently in the middle to form your gnocchi – place onto a clean dry tea towel while you continue to make the remaining gnocchi.
  6. Cook gnocchi in your pot of boiling water in small batches for roughly 2 minutes – or until the gnocchi rises to the surface. Scoop out with a large slotted spoon (gently shaking off excess liquid) and place in serving bowl, covering with a spoonful of sauce and topping with Parmesan cheese to serve.

Enjoy!

Simple, delicious and easy to make

Simple, delicious and easy to make

Potato gnocchi is perfect winter warming food

Potato gnocchi is perfect winter warming food

Quince & yoghurt cake

11 Jun

Just for the record, a quince is a fruit. A delicious, fragrant and golden yellow fruit. Don’t be fooled into thinking this little gem is just some purple sticky blob served alongside cheese – it’s so much more than that. In fact, it’s scent is a portal to my childhood – my Grandparents used to cook quinces whole to serve alongside breakfast. I used to watch as they slowly turned from a vibrant yellow to the a deep ruby red. My Mother however has always made quince jams. So when she bought me some the other day, I was a little perplexed as to what to do with them…..

Eventually I convinced myself to invent some sort of cake to put them in, but I didn’t want to use whole pieces – which lead me to the puree idea. Quinces need a long time to cook. It took me one and a half hours to get  them to transform from tough and woody to soft and deliciously sweet.

I love quinces versatility. I often use the puree to enhance a gravy – especially when serving pork or venison roasts. It adds a wonderful sweetness and vibrancy to rich, gamey meats. Even baked and then used in a dark chocolate cake is another family favourite.

So if you ever stumble across these golden yellow, knobbly and tough unknowns, make sure you give them a good home. Treat them with the love and time that they deserve and they will reward you with a wonderful, if somewhat forgotten, flavour.

Serves 10

Quince and yoghurt cake

Quince and yoghurt cake

The list:

2 – 3 quinces (small, or 1 large)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, split

Yoghurt cake
1 1/2 cups full-fat Greek yoghurt
2/3 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 – 4 cups icing sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter

 

The method:

  1. Peel and quarter your quinces, removing the seeds.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add in your cinnamon stick and vanilla bean pod. Once boiling add the pieces of quince and cook for 1 1/2 hours, or until soft.
  3. Heat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 24cm spring form pan lightly with baking spray or oil, and line the bottom with parchment.
  4. Puree you pieces of quince until smooth and creamy, reserving the liquid they cooked in.
  5. Boil down a couple ladle fulls of the quince cooking liquid until it becomes more syrup like.
  6. Whisk together the yoghurt, olive oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Sift the flour and salt into the liquids and stir until no lumps remain.
  7. Pour the batter into the cake pan and then pour over roughly 1 cup of your quince puree, then gently stir through. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean, transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan.
  8. Poke a few holes in your cake with a skewer and pour a a few tablespoons of the reserved quince liquid over the cake.
  9. Using a bench-top mixer, beat butter and incing sugar until creamy and pale, then add a tablespoon of the quince puree. Once cake is cooled, spread icing over the cake.

Enjoy!

Quince

Quince

Easy and quick to make, this cake has a wonderful point of difference

Easy and quick to make, this cake has a wonderful point of difference

A lovely little cake perfect for afternoon tea

A lovely little cake perfect for afternoon tea

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