Japanese Meatballs

According to No.1 son, this easy mid-week recipe is the way to get kids to eat broccoli. Well it worked with his two sons who are ten and eight. If you can’t be bothered with the Ponzu sauce just serve the meatballs as they are, or with some soy sauce drizzled over.

1 large head broccoli cut into florets
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs miso paste (see note)
1 Tbs butter
1-2 tsp honey, to taste
2 cups corn (canned or frozen, thawed)
Meatballs:

500g pork mince
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 spring onion, finely chopped
½ cup breadcrumbs (preferably Panko crumbs)
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 egg
1-2 Tbs grated ginger (to taste)
Salt and pepper
To serve:
Steamed rice
1 spring onion, finely sliced on the diagonal
Ponzu Sauce (see note)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Mix all ingredients for meatballs and form into 2-3cm balls.

Mix broccoli with half the oil, salt and pepper. Line a tray with baking paper, arrange broccoli in one layer then roast for 20 mins. Heat remaining oil in a large non-stick frying pan and brown meatballs all over. Place them on another paper-lined tray and bake them for 5-10 minutes. Broccoli and meatballs should be ready at about the same time.

Wipe out frying pan then add the miso paste and butter and heat to dissolve. Add the corn, broccoli and meatballs and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until coated with the sauce. If mixture seems a bit dry add a couple of tablespoons of water.

Serve the meatballs with steamed rice, garnished with the spring onion. Pass the Ponzu sauce round separately.

Serves 4

Note: Miso paste is a Japanese ingredient available in some supermarkets and Asian shops. If you can’t find Ponzu sauce make your own by mixing 2 Tbs soy sauce, 1 Tbs each lemon or lime juice and mirin (sweet rice wine), 1 tsp sugar and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Little Edna’s Eccles Cakes

My mother’s best friend Edna was affectionately known as Little Edna because she was so tiny.

She loved to bake and watching friends and family eat what she had made gave her a great deal of pleasure. You rarely saw Little Edna eat anything herself, which is one of the reasons she was so tiny. My mother was always trying to shed a few kilos so we would avoid calling in at afternoon tea time. This wasn’t easy, as time-wise afternoon tea was a movable feast. Any time visitors popped in was an excuse to put the kettle on and get the cakes out. Edna was what is known as a “feeder” and saying no thank you wasn’t an option.

Edna and Stan kept a caravan on one of the beaches in northern France. They went there for a month each summer, often taking their grandchildren with them. One year Edna was on the beach, holding hands with two of her grandchildren as they ran in and out of the waves, laughing and splashing. Suddenly Edna’s false teeth shot out and into the sea. Despite a long search, they were nowhere to be found.

Driving back to England to get a new set wasn’t an option – they had only just arrived. So poor Edna spent a miserable two weeks feeling embarrassed and avoiding conversation. One day as she was strolling along the beach feeling glum she looked down and lo and behold “There they were, laffing up at me” she explained, with her broad Yorkshire accent “so I picked them up and put them straight back in again”.

Eccles cakes are traditional British pastries named after the town of Eccles and they were one of Little Edna’s specialities. I always thought her method of cutting the pastry into squares rather than circles (which is quicker and avoids any off-cuts) but still ending up with round cakes was pretty neat.

2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry, approx 25x25cm
Filling:
1 cup mixed dried fruit or half sultanas and half currants (see note below)
25g butter, melted
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs jam or marmalade
Pinch of nutmeg
Grated rind of 1 lemon
To finish:
1 egg white, beaten with a fork
Sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Cut each square of pastry into six even pieces – down the middle, then into three cross-wise. Mix filling ingredients and put a heaped teaspoonful or so in the middle of each square. Draw up the sides of each square into the middle and pinch the ends together firmly, to form a little round purse.

Turn each one over and press firmly with the palm of your hand, so you have a neat round cake, or roll over each one lightly with a rolling pin. Cut two or three slashes with a sharp knife on the top of each cake. Brush each one with egg white, then dip in some sugar and shake off the excess. Arrange cakes on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or cold. Best eaten the same day.

Makes 12

Note: if preferred, make the cakes smaller by cutting each sheet of pastry into 9 instead of 6 – as shown in this photo.

Currants are dried small grapes not dried blackcurrants. If unavailable use more sultanas or some chopped raisins.

 

Bruschetta with Goujons of Fish, Peaches & Buttermilk Dressing

This recipe was inspired by a bruschetta we ordered while we were in Chicago last year. I remember it was topped with homemade fish fingers – otherwise known as “goujons”- peaches, tomatoes, cucumber and a creamy dressing. The rest I had to invent.

The tomato is often thought of as a vegetable, but in fact it’s a fruit. If you don’t like fruit with savoury dishes, you won’t like this recipe, but I love the fresh flavour combination. If liked leave out the bread. Leftover dressing is delicious served with any salad.

4 slices of baguette, cut on the diagonal (I used sourdough)
Olive oil to brush onto the bread
500g white fish fillets (I used Basa) cut into fat fingers
3 Tbs plain flour, seasoned
1 egg, beaten
1 cup or more breadcrumbs (preferably Panko)
1 small cucumber, sliced on the diagonal
A few cherry tomatoes, halved
2 peaches or nectarines, peeled and sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
25g butter
Fresh herbs such as mint or coriander
Buttermilk Dressing:
¼ cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
3 Tbs buttermilk
1 Tbs chopped chives
2 tsp cider vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed

Coat fish fingers (goujons) with the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess, then with the beaten egg and lastly with the breadcrumbs. Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan and fry them for 2-3 minutes each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well. Brush the bread on both sides with the olive oil (if liked mix in a crushed clove of garlic) then grill till golden. I toasted mine in an electric sandwich press which works well and avoids having to turn on the grill.

Arrange toasted bread slices on 4 plates. Arrange the fish on top then garnish with the cucumber, the tomato halves and the peach or nectarine slices. Drizzle with some of the dressing and garnish with fresh herbs.

Makes 4 bruschettas

Coleslaw with Carrot Dressing

This is an unusual coleslaw because it doesn’t contain any mayonnaise. If you have a food processor with a grating attachment it’s very quick to make, but you can of course do the grating by hand.

½ large white cabbage or 1 small one
1 head broccoli or half a cauliflower, coarsely chopped or sliced
6 sliced spring onions
½ cup pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
½ cup sliced almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
Carrot dressing:
2 carrots
1 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed  (optional)
1 Tbs sesame oil
½ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the thinly shredded cabbage in a large salad bowl with the broccoli or cauliflower (I used cauli in the photo, but broccoli would have been more colourful) and the spring onions. Stir the seeds and nuts over a medium heat in a dry frying pan, until lightly toasted and add to the bowl.

Using the grating attachment of your food processor, grate the carrots. Then, leaving the carrots in the bowl, switch to the metal mixing blade, add remaining ingredients and mix until you have a bright orange dressing. Add to the salad bowl, mix well then scatter the dried fruit over the top.

Serves 6-8

Variations: add some shredded red cabbage or strips of red capsicum.

 

Little Cauliflower Cheeses

This recipe makes 12 delicious little cauliflower cheeses. Instead of flour it uses breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together. Serve as a side dish, snack or healthy addition to school or office lunch boxes.

It’s a very adaptable recipe. Use broccoli or asparagus instead of cauliflower. Grated Parmesan or crumbled feta instead of cheddar.

1¼ cups breadcrumbs, preferably Panko
500g cauliflower florets
1 egg
250ml light cream or evaporated milk or half cream and half milk
¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
2 rashers bacon, finely chopped (or use ham)
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or use another fresh herb)
25g butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a 12 hole one-third of a cup muffin pan. Keep half a cup of cauliflower florets. Place the rest in a food processor and process till finely chopped. Place in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, egg, cream and half a cup of the grated cheddar. Mix well and season to taste, then divide among the muffin pan holes.

Slice remaining cauliflower thinly and mix with the bacon, thyme, melted butter and remaining cheddar. Top the muffins with this mixture. Bake 20-30 mins or until risen, golden and firm to the touch. Don’t overcook as they will be dry if you do. Cool 10 mins in pans then run a knife around to remove. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with some fresh thyme leaves.

Makes 12

Variation: for a vegetarian version leave out the bacon and add some chopped pitted olives.

Easy Chicken with Pesto

Jamie Oliver has a lot of recipes where you arrange all the ingredients in a shallow baking tray, stick it in the oven and Bob’s your Uncle. He calls them tray bakes.

This recipe was inspired by that idea and by the fact that I still have quite a bit of pesto which I froze in ice cube trays last summer. I want to use it before summer starts and the fresh basil in the garden is ready to use. Frozen pesto is useful in winter to spread on pizza bases (instead of tomato), to mix into pasta dishes or to garnish soups

This recipe really is easy, quick and delicious. The first photo shows the dish ready to go in the oven and the second one ready to serve.

1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup baby tomatoes
½ to 1 cup pitted olives, black or green
About 10 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
½ to ¾ cup pesto (home made or bought)
125g creamy goat’s cheese or feta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil
A few sprigs of thyme (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Trim chicken thighs and cut them in half. Arrange in one layer in a shallow baking dish tin. Arrange the tomatoes, olives and garlic evenly, tucking them in between the chicken pieces. Put blobs of pesto and small chunks of cheese evenly over the dish, season with salt and pepper, add a few small sprigs of fresh thyme (if available) and drizzle with some olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes, turning chicken over halfway through the cooking time.

Serve with couscous, rice, mashed potatoes or crusty bread, to soak up the juices and a mixed salad.

Serves 4

Variations: use chicken drumsticks or thighs with bones and skin.

Baked Eggplant with Hummus, Lentils and Pine Nuts

We eat a vegetarian dinner at least once a week. Our favourite vegetable is eggplant – it’s very filling and leftovers are always good for lunch.

Many eggplant recipes include tomato and cheese, so this one’s a bit different. I used a can of lentils to speed things up. If you prefer to use dry lentils you will need to add more stock and cook it for longer. The lentils will be ready at about the same time as the eggplant comes out of the oven, so everything will be hot and you can serve the dish straight away. If one or the other has got a bit cold, just put the dish in the oven to heat through, before topping with the hummus, herbs and nuts.

If you’re making your own hummus half the recipe (one drained can chickpeas) is more than enough.

For the eggplant:
2 large eggplants
4 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary sprigs
For the lentils:
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can lentils, drained and rinsed
2 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
To serve:
¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Hummus (preferably homemade)
Chopped fresh coriander or parsley
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper or foil. Cut eggplants in half horizontally. Lay them on the tray then score the flesh in a criss-cross pattern with a sharp knife. Brush all over with the olive oil, going back over so you use it all.  Season and sprinkle with the rosemary. Bake for 25-35 mins or until tender and slightly charred. Discard the rosemary.

While eggplant are baking, heat oil in a large frying pan. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until softened but not brown. Add the lentils and stock, then simmer until thick. Add the balsamic vinegar and check seasoning.

Spread mixture in a shallow baking dish and arrange the eggplant halves on top. If necessary put the dish into the oven to heat through.

Taste the hummus and, if necessary, add a bit more lemon juice and/or crushed garlic to give it a bit more zing and make it less thick. Serve the eggplant drizzled with hummus and sprinkled with the pine nuts and fresh herbs. If liked drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 4

Variations: use a drained can of chickpeas or kidney beans instead of lentils. Add a can of chopped tomatoes when adding the stock.

Reuben Sandwich

Fermented food is really good for maintaining healthy gut bacteria.

I have just made my first batch of sauerkraut and as it’s an integral ingredient in the famous American Reuben Sandwich I decided it was a good way to try it.  The origins of this sandwich are not entirely clear, but according to one version, a man called Reuben Kulakofsky ordered a corned beef and sauerkraut sandwich in a hotel in Omaha USA in 1928. A young chef by the name of Bernard Schimmel came up with the rest. So I guess it should have been called a Schimmel sandwich!

If you don’t have Thousand Island dressing and can’t be bothered to make it, mix two parts mayonnaise with one part tomato ketchup and add a dash of Tabasco or Worcestershire Sauce to give it a bit of bite. The photo shows two sandwich halves stacked one on top of the other.

Corned Beef (or Pastrami), sliced
Swiss cheese, sliced
Light Rye Bread, sliced
Sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained (bought or home-made)
Thousand Island Dressing, bought or home-made (see below)
Butter
To serve:
Dill pickles
Radishes
Potato crisps/chips

Make sandwiches using rye bread spread with Thousand Island Dressing, filled with generous amounts of corned beef or pastrami, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, then topped with a second slice of bread.

Butter the outsides of both slices of bread and cook in a sandwich press until nicely toasted. You can also cook them in a frying pan, with a weight to flatten them down a bit, but a sandwich press is the best solution and a worthwhile investment if you’re a fan of toasted sandwiches.

Cut the sandwiches in half and garnish with dill pickles, radishes and potato crisps.

Thousand Island Dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup tomato ketchup
1 slice onion
1 slice red or green capsicum
A few celery leaves or half a stick
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbs parsley
1 hard boiled egg
¼ cup fruit chutney or pickle relish
few drops Tabasco

Place mayonnaise, ketchup and onion in food processor and mix till smooth. Add remaining ingredients and pulse briefly so you end up with a slightly chunky dressing. Keep refrigerated and use within 5 days.

Makes about 2 cups

Individual Black Forest Trifles

In 1915 Josef Keller, pastry chef at the Café Ahrend in Bad Godesberg in south-west Germany, invented the Black Forest Cake, using a local liqueur made with sour cherries to produce a distinctive flavour. His winning combination of chocolate and cherries went on to become famous around the world.

Here I’ve used the same ingredients to make a quick and easy dessert, layered in a glass. For an authentic flavour it’s worth investing in a bottle of cherry brandy, but a dash of ordinary brandy or your favourite liqueur will do.

I wanted to decorate each trifle with a fresh cherry, but tried three supermarkets and there wasn’t a fresh cherry to be had, it being mid-winter here.

You can also make this trifle in one large glass dish.

Chocolate cake (bought or homemade)
Cherry jam (I used Hero’s Black Cherry)
Preserved cherries in a can or jar (I used a 680g jar of Aldi’s pitted Morellos)
2 heaped tsp arrowroot
Cherry brandy or brandy (optional)
Chocolate Ganache:
350ml cream
50ml milk
200g dark chocolate (I used Cadbury’s Old Gold 70%)
To decorate:
250ml cream, extra
Fresh cherries
Grated chocolate

Slice cake horizontally and fill with a generous layer of cherry jam, then stick the two halves back together. You will need a third to half a jar of jam. Cut slices or chunks of cake and arrange a piece in 8 glass tumblers. If liked, drizzle each with a tablespoonful or two of cherry brandy or brandy.

Place cherries in a saucepan with most of the juice and heat to boiling point. Mix arrowroot with the rest of the juice until smooth, then add this to the cherries and cook, stirring, until thickened. Spoon cherries over the chocolate cake.

Place cream and milk in a small saucepan. Add chocolate, broken into squares, then heat to boiling point, stirring until chocolate has completely dissolved. Spoon chocolate ganache over the cherries and shake glass to spread evenly. Desserts can be made ahead to this point and kept in the fridge, covered, for several hours or overnight.

Whip extra cream until soft peaks form, then place a large dollop on each trifle. Decorate with a fresh cherry on its stalk (if available) and some grated chocolate.

Serves 8

Variations: Use fresh pitted cherries, stewed with a little sugar, in season. Use milk chocolate instead of dark. Use a different red fruit jam. Arrowroot is available in the cake ingredients section of the supermarket.

Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Orange and Garlic

Learning a language is hard work and keeping it going can be a challenge.  As the saying goes – if you don’t use it you lose it. I started French at school in the UK when I was 11 and have managed to keep it going, helped by 3 years in Geneva in the early 70s and 4 years in Paris in the late 90s, ever since.

In Canberra I belong to a group called Accueil which meets once a month to speak French over lunch. We take it in turns to host and everyone brings a sweet or savoury dish. This inevitably results in a spectacular spread.

Last month Gabrielle brought a delicious sweet potato dish from one of my favourite chefs Yotam Ottolenghi. Since then I’ve made the recipe three times – the first time with sweet potatoes, the second time with carrots from the garden and the third time with a mixture of the two. They were all delicious.

A bottle of Angostura Bitters has been sitting in our drinks cabinet for years. Apart from an occasional dash in a gin and tonic or a splash on top of a pisco sour it rarely sees the light of day. It’s probably been there for a decade, but having made this dish three times I had to buy another bottle. Any good liquor store should stock it.

Ottolenghi serves the sweet potatoes sprinkled with goat’s cheese, but I think it’s perfectly nice without.

1½ cups orange juice (preferably fresh)
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup red wine or apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Angostura bitters
2 Tbs olive oil
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
4-6 sweet potatoes
2 small red chillies (optional)
3 sprigs sage
10 sprigs thyme
2 heads garlic, unpeeled, cut in two horizontally
100g goat’s cheese (optional)
Fresh herbs to garnish

Place orange juice, brown sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then boil steadily for about 20 minutes or until reduced to one cup. Add Angostura Bitters, oil and salt.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into thick wedges – see photo. Place in a bowl with the chillies, herbs and garlic. Pour in the orange juice mixture and mix well to coat, then spread out over a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper if liked, to make the washing up a bit easier.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, turning the vegetables every 15 minutes or so. The sweet potatoes should be nicely glazed all over when done, so if they are looking a bit dry add a dash more orange juice or water to the pan.

Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with goat’s cheese if using and garnished with some fresh herbs.

Serves 6