Fish Fillets with Miso, Soba Noodles & Asparagus

This recipe Which came from a Coles supermarket magazine is quick, easy, tasty and healthy. What more could you want?

Fish Fillets with Miso, Soba Noodles & Asparagus

4 boneless, skinless, white fish fillets (about 150g each)
2 Tbs miso paste
3 Tbs orange or lemon juice
2 tsp honey
2 tsp soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
180g dried soba noodles
2 bunches asparagus, cut into 2
150g snow peas, sliced
2 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Place a large saucepan of water on to boil and turn the grill on high. Line a baking tray with foil, spray with oil and place the fish fillets on top. Mix miso paste, orange or lemon juice, honey and sauce sauce. Brush both sides of the fish with this mixture and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place fish under the gril and cook for 8-10 mins or until cooked.

Meanwhile cook noodles for a minute or two, then add the asparagus and snow peas and cook for another 2 mins or until vegetables and noodles are cooked. Drain well and mix in half the remaining miso sauce. Divide noodles and vegetables among 4 serving plates. Arrange fish on top and spoon over remaining miso sauce. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and spring onions.

Serves 4

Mango and Prawn Salad with Honey & Walnuts

This lovely summery salad was in a supermarket recipe hand out. I’ve made a few changes as I always do. Perfect for the warmer weather when mangoes are in season.

Mango and Prawn Salad with Honey & Walnuts

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup boiling water
About six cups mixed salad leaves
1 mango, peeled, stoned and thinly sliced
1 red capsicum (pepper) thinly sliced
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
300g cooked, peeled prawns (weight after peeling)
100g feta or fresh goat’s cheese, crumbled
½ cup walnuts or pecans
1 Tbs honey
Dressing:
¼ cup red wine or cider vinegar or lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs honey
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place onion in a small bowl. Add salt, sugar, vinegar and water. Mix well then leave to macerate for half an hour or more. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well.

Arrange salad leaves in a large shallow bowl or four individual serving plates. Use small leaves or break larger ones into bite sized pieces. Top with the mango, capsicum, tomatoes, prawns, feta or goat’s cheese and the drained onions. Place walnuts in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted. Add honey, stir to coat, then arrange over the salad. If you do this ahead and let them get cold they will stick to the pan, so you will need to turn the heat back on briefly to loosen them. Drizzle salad with some of the dressing.

Serves 4

Variation: use peaches or nectarines instead of mangoes.

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Tim Tams

This chocolate fudge cake has been our family’s birthday cake for decades. Twice it was promoted to the status of a three-tiered wedding cake – once covered with dark chocolate ganache and shaved chocolate and the second time with white chocolate ganache. It continues to be the preferred celebration cake in our family.

For the unenlightened, a Tim Tam consists of two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by chocolate cream filling and coated with a thin layer of chocolate. These biscuits have become something of an Australian icon since their launch by Arnotts in 1963. Over the years new flavours and fillings have been introduced to keep up with modern trends. Tim Tams now come in dark or milk chocolate and with fillings such as salted caramel and peanut butter.

Matthew is a staunch Tim Tam fan so I decided to use them to decorate his birthday cake this year. Unfortunately white chocolate ends up rather yellow as you can see in the photo – but it tasted good! Make the cake the day before the birthday as it’s much easier to ice next day.

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Tim Tams

2/3 cup cocoa powder
½ cup hot water
125g butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1¾ cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup buttermilk (for substitute see below)
Pinch salt
Chocolate Ganache:
300ml thick cream
250g chocolate (dark, milk or white)
To decorate:
2 x 200g packets Tim Tams
1 packet Maltesers (optional)
3 Tbs cream and 50g white chocolate, melted, to drizzle over

In a small bowl, mix hot water with cocoa until smooth. Preheat oven to 180°. In a fan-forced oven it’s best to lower the temperature to 170ºC so cake doesn’t rise too fast. Grease a 20-22cm round cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper. Alternatively use two shallow sandwich tins and line them both.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla, lastly chocolate mixture and buttermilk alternately with sifted dry ingredients. Give the mixture a good beat for 30 seconds to remove any lumps. If preferred you can do all the creaming and mixing in a food processor.

Scrape mixture into cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for 35-45 mins in the centre of the oven, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Don’t overcook as you want the cake to be moist and fudgey. Two thinner cakes will take less time, around 25 mins. Cool 10 minutes in tin. Turn out and cool on a cake rack.

Make Chocolate Ganache – see below. Either ice cake just on the top and sides, or if you’ve cooked it in two sandwich tins use some of the ganache in the middle to stick them together. You can also cut one large cake in two horizontally with a serrated knife. If cake has risen into too much of a domed shape shave a bit off with a serrated knife and eat it for morning tea!

To ice cake in the middle as well as top and sides you need to make one and a half times the Ganache recipe. You need plenty to avoid cake crumbs coming off as you work and it’s very annoying to run out.

While the cake is perfectly nice without any adornment, if liked stick Tim Tams around the sides, cover the top with Maltesers and drizzle with melted and cooled white chocolate mixture. Cake keeps for 3-4 days in a tin.

Chocolate Ganache: Heat cream in a small saucepan until boiling then remove from the heat and add chocolate, broken into squares. Stir to dissolve then cool until thick enough to spread over cake.

Substitute: if you don’t have buttermilk use ½ cup plain yoghurt and ½ cup milk or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tsp vinegar and left to stand for an hour.

Serves 14


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Pickled Ginger Slaw

This is an unusual variation on the usual coleslaw. It doesn’t contain any mayonnaise and has a bit of zing with the addition of lots of ginger. The slaw will still taste good the following day.

Perfect to serve with cold ham and turkey over the holiday period.

Pickled Ginger Slaw

About 5 cups finely sliced white cabbage,
About 2 cups finely sliced red cabbage
About ½ cup finely chopped red onion or sliced spring onions
3 coarsely grated or shredded carrots
1 red pepper finely chopped
Dressing:
1 large clove garlic
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs grated or finely chopped ginger
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar or Mirin
½ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
Freshly ground black pepper

Place all the shredded vegetables in a large bowl. Place all the dressing ingredients except for the lime juice in a saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer 2 mins. Mix into the vegetables, refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to an hour. Add the lime juice and pepper just before serving.

Serves 4-6

Quick Individual Christmas Puds

Everyone is busy at this time of year. Despite best intentions it’s easy to run out of time to make puddings, cakes, mince pies and all the other traditional Christmas fare.

Adapted from a recipe published some years back in Delicious magazine, these individual Christmas puds, which were called Cheat’s mini Christmas puddings in the magazine, are very quick to make. The original recipe makes four one cup puddings, but I think half that amount is enough. I served them at a ladies Christmas lunch and we concluded that they were so small we could pretend they didn’t have any calories at all!

Puddings:
600g shop bought Christmas cake or dark fruit cake, crumbled (I used Aldi’s)
½ cup milk
4 eggs
⅓ cup mincemeat (fruit mince)
¼ cup sherry
Glace cherries to decorate
Custard:
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
2 tsp vanilla essence
4 egg yolks
1 Tbs cornflour
¼ cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease 8 half cup (125ml) dariole moulds or ramekins. Chinese tea cups (see photo below) are ideal. Place cake, milk, eggs, sherry and fruit mince in food processor and pulse a few times just to combine – you want it to remain chunky. Divide among the moulds and place in a large baking dish. They should be almost full to the top. Pour boiling water to come halfway up sides of moulds. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake 45 mins or until firm and slightly risen.

Individual serving dishes for Quick Individual Christmas Puds

Meanwhile make custard. Heat milk, cream, sugar and vanilla to boiling point, but do not allow to boil. Mix egg yolks and cornflour in a bowl. Tip some of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture and stir to combine, then tip back into saucepan. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula, until thickened. Do not allow to boil. Pour custard through a sieve to remove any tiny bits of cooked egg white.

When puddings are cooked remove moulds from dish, rest 10 mins, then tip onto individual serving dishes. Serve with custard (warm or cold) and decorate with glace cherries.

Serves 8

Sticky Asian Lamb in a Slow Cooker

Our friend Juliette recently posted a recipe for Slow Cooked Sticky Asian Lamb on Facebook. It looked delicious so I saved it.

The recipe uses a whole leg of lamb, but the other day I was in the supermarket when they decided to mark down all their one kilo packs of forequarter lamb chops to $2 a packet. I couldn’t resist buying a few for the freezer as they were almost giving them away. I decided to make the Sticky Lamb using 2 kilos of chops instead of a leg. It was delicious and would makes a great dish for a large family or casual entertaining.

Sticky Asian Lamb in a Slow Cooker

1 whole leg of lamb, bone in, or 2kg lamb chops
1-2 Tbs oil
Sauce:
½ cup Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce)
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
3 star anise
8 cm piece of ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
2 sticks lemongrass, cut into two and bruised with a meat hammer
4 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
To serve:
1 packet rice noodles
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs toasted sesame seeds
6 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Asian greens such as Bok Choy, steamed

Trim meat, discarding any fat which is easy to remove. Heat oil in a large frying pan and fry meat all over until nicely browned and caramelised. If using chops you will need to do them in 2-3 batches. Place in slow cooker.

Mix all ingredients for the sauce and pour over the meat. If you’re using chops rather than a leg of lamb you will need to add a bit more liquid, so add a cup of water. Cover and cook for 5 to 6 hours on High. Every couple of hours turn meat over to make sure it’s well-covered with the sauce.

Remove meat from slow cooker when it’s very tender and falling off the bones. Using two forks shred the meat, discarding bones and lemongrass. If there’s a lot of fat in the sauce, put it in the freezer until the fat sets on top and can be easily removed and discarded.

Place sauce in a small saucepan and boil to reduce a bit. You want a thickish sticky sauce, but don’t over-do it or you will end up with too little. I didn’t need to reduce my sauce, but this will depend on your slow cooker because they vary a lot in temperature. I shredded the meat and put it back into the sauce in the slow cooker and left it there on Low for an hour, until I was ready to serve.

Cook noodles according to packet instructions, drain, season and add the sesame oil. Pile noodles onto a large serving platter or divide among individual plates. Top with the meat and sauce then garnish with sesame seeds and spring onions. Serve steamed greens in another dish and let people help themselves.

Serves 6-8

Bruschetta with Ricotta & Roasted Grapes with Rosemary

This recipe is from Silvia’s Italian table, a cooking programme currently showing on the ABC. I substituted ricotta cheese for the home-made curd cheese and balsamic glaze for the vino cotto. The result was absolutely delicious.

Make up a double or triple batch of the grapes and serve over the holiday season with cold ham, turkey or duck.

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4 cups seedless grapes (red, black or green or a mixture)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs vino cotto or balsamic glaze
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs fresh rosemary, pulled off the stems
1 cup ricotta cheese
1-2 Tbs cream if necessary
Toasted baguette slices or rolls (I used English muffins)

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Remove grapes from stems and spread onto baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and balsamic glaze, season with salt and pepper and scatter with rosemary. Use your hands to thoroughly coat the grapes and crush some of them a bit. Bake for 20 minutes or until glazed. Remove from the oven and cool a bit.

Meanwhile toast the bread and top each piece with a thick layer of ricotta. If the ricotta is a bit dry as mine was, mix in some cream to make it nice and creamy. Spoon the grapes over the ricotta and serve.

Variation: South Americans can substitute Queso Fresco for the Ricotta

Warm Rocket and Caramelised Mushroom Salad

There seem to be a lot of lunches to attend at this time of year. After a substantial lunch it’s nice to make something light but tasty for supper.

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2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
3 shallots, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
About 400g fancy mushrooms (shitake, oyster, porcini) or ordinary mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 cups rocket (or baby kale) washed and spun dry
¼ cup dry sherry
100g fresh goat’s cheese, crumbled
3-4 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted (optional)
Dressing:
3 Tbs sherry vinegar (or another kind
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1/3 cup olive oil

Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook shallots over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until softened. Add sliced mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5-10 minutes or until starting to brown. Add sherry, season with salt and pepper then cook, stirring often, until liquid has evaporated.

Meanwhile shake dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid. Mix rocket with enough dressing to lightly coat and place in a large serving dish. Arrange the mushrooms and shallots on top of the rocket and top with the cheese and the pine nuts if using – I didn’t in this photo.

Serves 4

Roasted Cauliflower with Anchovy Pesto

Until a couple of years ago I had never roasted cauliflower. Now it’s my preferred way of cooking this vegetable.

Those who don’t like anchovies might be put off this recipe. But they lose their fishy taste and don’t really taste like anchovies once they’re mixed into a sauce. A lot of anchovy-haters aren’t aware that the dressing which goes with their favourite Caesar Salad includes anchovies. If preferred just leave them out or use less.

Matthew declared this recipe was “Extra Good” and he’s not one to give out accolades easily. Serve as a side dish or light lunch.

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1 whole cauliflower
olive oil
salt
Pesto:
6 anchovies in oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large handful fresh herbs (parsley, mint, coriander, tarragon, basil or whatever you have)
1/3 cup nuts (blanched almonds, pine nuts or macadamias)
½ cup or more Extra Virgin Olive oil
2-3 tsp vinegar or lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180°C. Drain anchovies and place in a small bowl. Cover with tepid water and leave for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Remove stalk and leaves from cauliflower, but leave whole. Turn it over and with a small sharp knife remove some of the core, being careful not to cut into any of the florets. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place cauliflower on tray and drizzle with olive oil on both sides, then season with salt. Use your hands to rub it in all over. Bake cauliflower for a good hour, turning over and drizzling with a bit more oil halfway through cooking time. When ready cauliflower should be nicely browned all over and tender when pierced with a sharp knife.

Meanwhile make pesto by placing all ingredients in food processor and pulsing until you have a chunky pesto sauce. Add more oil if necessary. Add vinegar or lemon juice to taste at the end.

Serve cauliflower with the pesto.

Serves 4-6

Christmas Cake and Pudding

I make my Christmas cake and puddings in November, so they have at least a month to mature.  As they both include similar ingredients I make them on the same day, so I can weigh out the fruit and nuts into two big bowls, one for each recipe, which saves time.

I have been making these old family recipes since I was at school.  While the original versions came from my paternal grandmother, both have evolved over the years with slight modifications.  For example, I now use melted butter in the puddings instead of the traditional suet, but you can use suet if you prefer.  In the British tradition, I used to cover the cake in marzipan and ice it with royal icing to look like snow, the way my mother did.  But most of my family don’t like marzipan and we’re all trying to cut down on sugar, so nowadays I don’t bother and I think it’s even nicer “au naturel“.

Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake250g butter at room temperature
250g brown sugar
6 large eggs
300g plain flour
2 Tbs black treacle
450g currants
300g sultanas
175g raisins
125g glacé cherries
125g slivered almonds
125g mixed peel
1 orange (zest and juice)
3 Tbs Brandy or dark Rum
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
75g ground almonds
200g whole almonds (blanched) or hazelnuts, shelled, roasted and
skins rubbed off, for the top

Soak fruit and nuts in brandy overnight, or if you’re in a hurry, for at least an hour. Line a 25cm round or square cake tin with a double layer of baking paper. Place the tin on a baking sheet on which you have placed 4 thicknesses of newspaper. Wrap a band of newspaper of the same thickness around the outside of the tin, using a stapler to join the ends. Preheat oven to 150°C. If you have the option to use your oven in conventional mode, without the fan, the results will be better. If you have to use the fan the cake will cook more quickly than without.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy in a large mixing bowl. A Kenwood mixmaster or Kitchen Aid makes easy work of this. Beat in eggs, one at a time. If mixture curdles, add 1-2 Tbs of the flour before the next egg. Gradually fold in sieved flour, fruit and remaining ingredients.  You may need to switch to a larger bowl in order to add everything.

When thoroughly mixed, spoon into tin and smooth the top. Cover the surface evenly with whole blanched almonds or hazelnuts, pressing them in a bit with your hand. Bake for 3 to 3½ hours on the middle shelf of the oven. Test with a toothpick after 3 hours.  If the top gets too brown before the middle is ready, place some foil loosely over the top of the cake.  This will stop the nuts from burning.  When it’s ready the top of the cake will have an even colour, feel firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.  If the nuts on top of the cake start to brown too quickly, before the cake is ready, cover it loosely with foil.

Cool thoroughly then store in an airtight tin in a cool, dark place. If liked, halfway through storage time pierce all over the top with a skewer and sprinkle with a little extra brandy which will soak in.

Keeps for several months in a tin. If you live in a warm humid climate you should probably keep it in the fridge.

To serve, tie a wide red ribbon around the outside of the cake and decorate the top with some holly leaves and berries – real or plastic!

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding and Brandy Butter125g currants
200g dried figs, sliced (remove stalks)
200g sultanas
200g raisins
60g mixed peel
60g blanched almonds, slivered or roughly chopped
60g glacé cherries
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and coarsely grated
125g plain flour, sieved
½ tsp salt
½ tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves
200g brown sugar
400g brown breadcrumbs
4 eggs
1 orange, grated rind and juice
4 Tbs Brandy or dark Rum
1 Tbs black treacle
250g suet or melted butter
¾ cup beer
1 tsp bicarb of soda

Weigh out all the fruit and nuts into a large bowl. Make the breadcrumbs in the food processor. If you have a grating attachment grate the apples in there too.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Place mixture in two buttered pudding bowls or one larger bowl. Mixture should come about level with the top of the bowls – as it cooks it will rise slightly but not much. Cover with buttered baking paper, butter side down and tie with string. Steam for about 5 hours, or until puddings are evenly dark brown all over the top. I use a very large saucepan, place a metal trivet in the bottom to lift the pudding off the bottom, then place one pudding, then an upturned plate on top of that, then the second pudding, then the lid. If you don’t have a pan large enough to do this (needs to be high enough to put the lid on) you will have to use two pans, or make half the recipe and just one pudding. You need to have enough water in the pan to come about a quarter to half  the way up the bottom pudding and keep it simmering. Be careful to keep topping up the water, so it doesn’t boil dry. (I speak from experience!)

When cold store in a cool, dark cupboard or in warmer climates, in the fridge. To serve, steam again for 2-3 hours. Tip the pudding out onto a serving dish. Heat some brandy then set it alight and pour over and bring to the table while still burning.   (Not easy, it usually goes out!)  Serve the pudding with cream or brandy butter.

Makes one 2kg or two 1kg puddings.

Brandy Butter

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
2-3 Tbs Brandy
Grated nutmeg

In a small bowl with a wooden spoon, beat butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in vanilla and brandy. Pile into a small dish and sprinkle with grated nutmeg. Chill well and serve with Christmas pudding or Sago Plum Pudding.