Tomato and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Semi-dried tomatoes, sold in the deli section of most Australian supermarkets, were the inspiration for this colourful recipe.

If you can’t buy them where you live make your own by slicing some Roma tomatoes in half lengthwise and putting them on a rack, cut side up, over a shallow tray in a low oven (about 140°c), sprinkled with a little salt, pepper and sugar, for 3-4 hours. When they look somewhat shrivelled and semi-dried remove and drizzle with a little olive oil. You don’t want too much moisture left in them or the tart will be soggy.

As we ate this delicious tart we agreed that toasted pine nuts would be a good additional garnish for next time.

1 sheet bought puff pastry
2 large onions, sliced
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp sugar
good pinch of salt
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
½ cup water
300g semi-dried tomatoes from the supermarket Deli
110g soft goat’s cheese
To garnish:
Fresh basil leaves
Toasted pine nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll out pastry and use to line a large metal tart tin. Prick all over with a fork then bake blind (without filling) for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile heat oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions gently for about 15 minutes or until soft. Add the sugar, salt and balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes longer. Add half the water, stir well then continue cooking, stirring often, until it has evaporated. Repeat with the rest of the water. Turn off heat.

Spread onions over base of tart. Top with tomatoes and arrange the crumbled cheese in between. Bake for 25-30 mins or until pastry is golden brown and the cheese and tomatoes are starting to brown.

Cool tart for 10 minutes, then serve garnished with fresh basil leaves (and pine nuts if using) accompanied by a simple green salad.

Serves 4-6

Substitutes: use feta instead of goat’s cheese

 

Vanilla Ice Cream with Toasted Macadamias and Caramel Sauce

I was inspired to create this recipe after eating nut ice cream with caramel sauce at Pomegranate Restaurant in Canberra.

Ice cream made with glucose (corn) syrup is alleged to be softer and smoother, so I decided to see if it was true. It was one of the best vanilla ice creams I have made with a very smooth and creamy texture. I didn’t use an ice cream machine but you can if you prefer.

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup glucose (corn) syrup
1½ cups cream
1½ cups (unsweetened) evaporated milk
2 tsp arrowroot
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ tsp salt
1 cup whipping cream (extra)
Caramel Sauce:
½ cup cream
½ cup brown sugar
50g butter
To serve:
Macadamia nuts, lightly toasted then roughly chopped

Place eggs, sugar, glucose/corn syrup, cream and evaporated milk in a heavy-based saucepan and mix well with a balloon whisk. Place over medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly until you have a custard which coats the back of a spoon. Be careful it doesn’t burn or get too hot. Mix the arrowroot with 1 tablespoonful of water and mix into the custard with the vanilla and salt. Remove from the heat and pour through a fine sieve. Cool then chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight. Whip the extra cream until soft peaks form and fold into the chilled custard.

Churn ice cream in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions, then scrape into a container and store in the freezer. If you don’t have an ice cream machine, pour into a shallow container and freeze until almost frozen but not rock hard, scrape into a food processor and process very briefly till smooth, then freeze again.

Caramel Sauce: place cream, brown sugar and butter in a saucepan and heat over moderate heat, stirring till dissolved. Allow to simmer for about 3 minutes then cool and serve at room temperature.

Remove ice cream from freezer and place in the fridge for 15-20 mins before serving, to make it easier to scoop. Serve the ice cream with the toffee sauce and the toasted macadamia nuts.

Makes about 1.5 litres

Variations:

  • use 3 cups cream and omit the evaporated milk.
  • use 8 egg yolks instead of 4 whole eggs. This makes the ice cream richer.
  • If preferred, fold the toasted nuts into the ice cream when you mix in the whipped cream.
  • use toasted walnuts, pecans or almonds instead of macadamias

Korean Beef

I haven’t posted any mouth-watering desserts of late. I’m trying to avoid them at the moment in an attempt to make some headway in the battle of the bulge. I always seem to be on the losing side in this battle, which I guess is par for the course when you love cooking and eating as I do. Anyway I like to think that this blog provides inspiration for subscribers wondering what to make for dinner tonight. Quick and easy, everyday dishes are the mainstay of Café Cat.

Fans of sweet sticky Asian meat dishes will like this one. Adjust the amount of brown sugar to suit your taste. The recipe doesn’t contain any chilli (though you could always add some) so it’s a good way to introduce young kids to Asian food. If you (or the kids) don’t like mushrooms leave them out and increase the meat.

2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
250g mushrooms, wiped and sliced
450g lean beef (fillet or Scotch fillet) or leftover rare roast beef, in thin strips
¼ to ½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs sesame oil
To serve:
Steamed rice
Chives or spring onions, sliced
Toasted sesame seeds

Heat oil in a large frying pan or wok and cook the onion until soft, then add the mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms are starting to brown. Remove from pan.

Add a tiny bit more oil to the pan with the beef strips and stir fry until browned. If you are using leftover roast beef this won’t take long. Add the brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic and sesame oil and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, or until sauce is thickening and glazed.

Return mushrooms and onions to the pan. As soy sauce is salty you probably won’t need to add salt to this dish. If the mixture is a bit dry, add 2-3 Tbs water and stir to combine. Serve beef with steamed rice, garnished with sliced spring onions or chives and a few sesame seeds.

Serves 4

Vietnamese Roast Chicken

If you’re bored with the usual roast chicken, try this easy alternative with Vietnamese flavours.

Instead of cooking it in the oven you could use a barbecue. If you prefer boneless, skinless chicken pieces it will also work, though the chicken might be a bit dry, so I suggest you add a tablespoonful of oil to the marinade. Leftovers are nice cold or reheated for lunch next day.

6-8 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
Marinade:
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup Asian fish sauce
¼ cup palm sugar or brown sugar
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
2 tsp Sambal Oelek (or other hot chilli paste)
Juice of 1 lime or ½ lemon
1 tsp finely grated lime or lemon zest
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs finely chopped coriander (including some of the stalks)
Garnish:
Lime wedges
Coriander leaves
Steamed rice

Mix marinade ingredients and pour over chicken pieces in a dish. Mix well then cover and marinate for 1-2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge. Turn chicken over from time to time.

Preheat oven to 210°C. Place a rack over a baking tray to catch the drips. You can line the tray with baking paper to make washing up easier. Drain chicken (discarding marinade) and arrange on the rack. Bake for 35-45 mins or until cooked through when tested with a sharp knife.

Transfer to serving platter, garnish with lime wedges and coriander and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4

 

Zucchini and Cheese Fritters

Our two zucchini plants have produced a steady crop over summer. There are a number of my favourite zucchini recipes on this blog which you can find under Vegetables in the index, but I’m always looking for new ideas.

The original recipe for these fritters (from Delicious magazine) uses Halloumi cheese, which is what I used and they were delicious. But some of my readers, living in South America for example, can’t buy Halloumi and even Feta is not easy to find. I reckon pretty much any cheese would work and I look forward to readers’ comments telling me what they used.

I would be lost without my Magimix which has a large 0.5cm grating disc that makes quick work of the grating. It didn’t come with the standard attachments – I had to buy it separately – but it’s proved to be invaluable.

About 700g zucchinis (see note below), coarsely grated
1 tsp salt
100g ham (preferably smoked) chopped (optional – leave out for vegetarians)
250g coarsely grated or crumbled cheese (Halloumi, Feta, Goat’s cheese, Cheddar)
2/3 cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup plain flour
2 eggs
½ cup chopped dill (use parsley if not available)
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 Tbs olive oil plus extra for frying
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Green Goddess Dressing
1 cup each of mint, dill, parsley and tarragon leaves (see note below)
1 Tbs lemon juice
½ cup sour cream
½ cup thick Greek yoghurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Salad leaves and sliced radishes

Place zucchini in a colander with the salt, mix it through with your hand then leave to stand in the sink for half an hour. Squeeze out as much of the liquid with your hand.

In a large bowl place zucchini, ham, cheese, flours, eggs, dill, chilli flakes, pepper and the 1 Tbs oil and mix thoroughly.

Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the fritters, 3 or 4 at a time until golden brown on both sides, flattening slightly with the spatula. Drain on paper towels and keep warm while you cook the rest. Add a little more oil for each batch and use about 3 Tbs or so of mixture for each fritter.

To make the sauce, place all ingredients in food processor and whiz till smooth.

Serve fritters garnished with some salad – I used rocket and radishes but you can use anything you have available. Pass the sauce in a jug.

Makes at least 12 fritters serving 4-6

Notes:
I used one large zucchini which weighed around a kilo. I cut it lengthwise into four and then removed and discarded all the seeds. With smaller zucchini there’s no need to do this.

If you don’t have all 4 herbs for the sauce, use more of the ones you have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salmon, Prawn and Avocado Sushi

In the past 10 years or so sushi have taken off around the world, providing a healthy fast food solution for people who are fed up with burgers, fried chicken, pizza and tacos.

We’ve eaten sushi in all sorts of unlikely places. The most unusual place was Quito, capital of Ecuador, where we found a fabulous sushi restaurant through Trip Advisor called Shibumi. The owner/chef is a local who learnt to make sushi while living in Denmark. He also learnt Danish, married a Dane and had a son. The son is now grown up, the owner got divorced and moved back home to open the restaurant with his son.  We sat at the bar right in front of where they were making the sushi and as you can see we got the full story. There’s only enough room for 8 diners in this “hole in the wall” so it’s very intimate.

Our daughter Catherine and her husband went to a sushi restaurant some years ago and sat next to the open kitchen where they were able to watch the sushi-maker doing his thing. In fact I think they went back three nights in a row. In our family, when it comes to food, we like to be where the action is.

Catherine and Sacha are now the family sushi experts and I have to admit that I didn’t roll the ones in the photos. But having watched how it’s done I feel confident to have a go next time. A sushi mat is not essential but makes the rolling easier.

There are some excellent Japanese restaurants in Bangkok and while passing through recently we ordered these delicious sushi, garnished with crispy fried vermicelli. I made a note of what was in them – as I do when I’m travelling – and we re-created them on a recent trip to Newcastle to see Catherine & Co.

In Bangkok the sushi had an additional garnish of salmon caviar which was delicious, but we didn’t have any when we made the ones in the photos.

1 cup Sushi rice
1½ cups water
2-3 Tbs rice vinegar, to taste
5 sheets of Nori (seaweed)
1 salmon fillet (180-200g)
10 cooked prawns, halved lengthwise
1 large avocado, halved then cut into thin slices
To serve:
Japanese sweet soy sauce (it’s thicker than normal soy sauce)
Pickled ginger
Wasabi paste
1 cup rice vermicelli noodles
Oil to fry vermicelli

Place rice in a sieve and rinse thoroughly with cold water from the tap, until water runs clear. Place rice in a saucepan with the 1½ cups of water. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer on as low a heat as possible, until rice is cooked but still has a bit of bite. This takes about 10 mins and water will have all been absorbed.

Tip rice out into a shallow bowl and spread it out so it cools quickly and doesn’t continue to cook. After about 10 mins mix in the rice vinegar and allow it to cool completely.

Prepare prawns and the avocado. Slice salmon into thin slices downwards, discarding skin. Lay first sheet of nori on a sushi mat (if available – you can do it without) and spread about a fifth of the rice over. Rice should not be in a thick layer, there should be some small gaps. Arrange about a fifth of the avocado and four prawn halves in a row across one side of the nori sheet, then roll up tightly into a cylinder. Repeat with remaining nori sheets, rice, avocado and prawns.

Heat 2-3 cm of oil in a small frying pan and deep fry the vermicelli noodles until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

To serve, slice sushi into 2cm slices and arrange on a serving dish on their sides. Place a slice of salmon on each one and garnish with crispy fried vermicelli. If you don’t have enough salmon pieces to do them all, arrange the ones without salmon, cut side down, as shown in the photo. Drizzle a little soy sauce here and there then put some in a small dish and, if liked, mix in a little wasabi paste.  Arrange a small pile of pickled ginger near the soy sauce. Serve as finger food or with chopsticks.

Serves 4 as an aperitif or finger food

Note: if you can’t find them in your local supermarket, nori sheets, sushi rice, wasabi, pickled ginger, rice vermicelli noodles, Japanese soy sauce and rice wine vinegar are sold in Asian specialty shops.

Chicken Teriyaki

This chicken recipe is easy and delicious. Perfect for a family dinner but also perfect for a BBQ with friends – just double the quantities and arrange on a large serving platter, with the rice underneath and the chicken arranged over the top.

The spring onion slices in the photo are huge because they’re from the garden and everything seems to grow huge at the farm! Any leftovers are good cold.

 

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1kg)
Marinade:
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup sugar
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbs lemon juice
¼ cup water
To garnish and finish:
Extra water
1 Tbs cornflour
Thinly sliced spring onions
Toasted sesame seeds
Steamed rice

Place trimmed chicken pieces in a heavy-duty sealable plastic bag. Place all ingredients for marinade in a saucepan and heat until sugar has dissolved, then cool. Pour into bag with chicken, close the bag and leave in the fridge overnight. Best to put the bag into a bowl just in case it leaks.

Drain chicken and set aside. Pour marinade through a sieve and discard the cinnamon and other bits. Place marinade in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Mix cornflour with 2 Tbs extra water and add to the marinade, stirring until sauce thickens. Sauce should be the consistency of heavy pouring cream. If it’s too thick add a tablespoon or two more water.

Preheat a grill or BBQ. Lightly brush chicken on all sides with the sauce and cook for 4-5 mins each side, or until cooked through and nicely glazed. Reheat sauce.

Slice chicken and serve on a bed of steamed rice, drizzled with some sauce and garnished with spring onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Serves 4

 

Fish fillets with Curry Sauce

A quick and easy recipe for two, which can easily be doubled for four. You can use any kind of white fish fillets or steaks, or salmon fillets if you prefer. The sauce turns something ordinary into something quite tasty.

2 fillets fish (I used Basa)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs butter
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
½-1 tsp curry paste or powder
2 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbs finely chopped thyme leaves (or another fresh herb)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
To serve:
Lemon wedges
Fresh herbs

Preheat oven to 220°C. Line a shallow baking tray with foil and turn up the edges to catch the juices. Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper then arrange on the foil.

Melt butter in a small pan then mix in the garlic, curry, ginger, thyme and lemon zest. Spoon evenly over the fish. Bake for 8-10 mins or until cooked to liking. Serve garnished with lemon wedges and herbs. Broccoli goes well with this.

Serves 2

 

Anchovy Butter

This Anchovy Butter is amazing.

Serve it on steaks or fish, on steamed vegetables, on toast under scrambled, soft boiled or poached eggs or mixed into pasta. It keeps for up to a month in the fridge.

125g butter at room temperature and cut into pieces
About 6 tinned anchovies, drained from the oil
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
Shake of paprika

Place all ingredients in food processor and mix until smooth. Place in a small bowl and dust with paprika. Keep refrigerated.

Makes about 1 cup

Zucchini Salad with Mint Dressing

When we go to our farm in summer we pick all the zucchinis before we return to Canberra. As we only go every second weekend this means we bring back some huge ones, which have grown since our last visit – actually they are more like marrows – and some small ones which we pick in order to stop them growing huge before our return.

The big ones are good for soup or for Zucchini with Tarragon and Sour Cream, one of our all-time favourite recipes for this versatile vegetable. The small ones are good for recipes such as Mustard-Glazed Salmon with Zucchini Ribbons or Zucchini Bake, another family favourite.

This salad with its vibrant green dressing is another good way to use smaller zucchini or as Matthew calls them, the ones that haven’t got away. It’s absolutely scrumptious and very healthy. If you have some zucchini flowers to garnish this salad they look quite spectacular. Unfortunately I didn’t have any for this photo.

6 zucchini (courgettes) about 6″ or 15cm long
60g grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dressing:
1 cup mint leaves
½ cup olive oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon and the grated rind of half
To garnish:
2 Tbs seeds such as sunflower, sesame, pepitas
A few zucchini flowers (optional)

Wash zucchini and trim off the ends then slice them horizontally with a mandoline. Place in a salad bowl with the grated cheese and season with salt and pepper. Place all ingredients for dressing in food processor and process till you have a vibrant green dressing. Place seeds in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted.

Drizzle some of the dressing over the zucchini and parmesan and mix well. Garnish with the toasted seeds, the zucchini flowers (if available) and drizzle with a bit more dressing.

Serves 4-6