Roast Sweet Potatoes, Pears and Chick Peas with Prosciutto

Regular Café Cat readers will know that I’m a great fan of roast vegetables and love trying new combinations. This dish using sweet potatoes and pears, combined with chick peas and topped with crispy prosciutto is a real winner.

Roast Sweet Potatoes, Pears and Chick Peas with Prosciutto

1 large or two smaller sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large thick wedges
3 large pears, unpeeled and cut into six or eight, lengthwise then cored
1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
About ¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
100g thinly sliced prosciutto (I used Aldi Black Forest Ham)

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Place all ingredients except prosciutto in a large bowl and mix well. Line a large shallow baking tray with baking paper then spread the vegetables over the tray in one layer. The paper is to make washing up easier but is optional. Bake vegetables for about half an hour or until cooked and starting to brown around the edges. Re-arrange them halfway through cooking time, so they cook more evenly.

In a non-stick frying pan put a tiny bit of oil then cook the prosciutto until crispy. Serve on top of the vegetables.

Serves 3-4

Variations: use pumpkin instead of sweet potato, apples instead of pears, thinly sliced bacon instead of Prosciutto. To make the dish more substantial serve it on a bed of lightly dressed rocket and scatter some crumbled feta or goat’s cheese over the top. Vegetarians can just leave out the prosciutto.

Mushroom Tarte Tatin

The French are famous for an upside down apple tart called Tarte Tatin. Apples are cooked with sugar and butter in an oven proof frying pan, topped with puff pastry, baked in a hot oven, then inverted onto a serving plate, so the apples are on top and the pastry is underneath.

This is a mushroom version. As you can see in the photo, I only had ordinary button mushrooms in the fridge. It would be even nicer with a few exotic ones thrown into the mix, but it was still scrumptious.

Use bought puff pastry or Nigella’s quick food processor version as I did. Serve with a lightly dressed rocket salad.

40g butter
1 Tbs olive oil
500g sliced mushrooms (preferably a few different kinds)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2-3 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (or Nigella’s quick version)
To serve:
Chopped fresh parsley or thyme
Crème fraîche or sour cream
Rocket salad

FullSizeRender (1)Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Thaw pastry if frozen or make Nigella’s..

Heat butter and oil in a 20-25cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan. Make sure the handle is ovenproof too.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring for 5 minutes until softened. Add garlic, thyme and seasoning and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until mushrooms are golden and liquid has been absorbed.

Roll out pastry thinly if you are not using a ready-rolled version. Cut out a circle a bit bigger than the circumference of the frying pan. Place pastry on top and tuck the edges in all the way around. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Cool for a few minutes then invert onto serving plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with fresh herbs, a dollop of crème fraîche and a rocket salad.

Serves 6

Curried Eggs

I like eggs cooked any way at all – boiled, scrambled, poached, coddled or in an omelette or frittata.

Many years ago when we were living in Malaysia we were served some delicious curried eggs. The memory has stuck in my mind, so I decided to recreate this quick, easy and delicious dish. If there are just two of you the quantities are easy to halve.

Curried Eggs

8 hardboiled eggs, cut in half
3 Tbs oil
2 onions,finely sliced or chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs of your favourite curry paste (more if you like things spicy)
2-3 tsp sugar
1 tsp turmeric
1 can coconut milk
1 can water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander or parsley
Steamed rice
Fruit chutney
Indian bread such as chapatis, roti or papadums

You want the eggs to be hardboiled, but don’t overcook them or they won’t be nice and creamy. About 12 minutes should be perfect.

In a large frying pan cook onion and garlic in the oil until soft, without browning. Add curry paste, sugar and turmeric and cook, stirring for a minute or so. Add coconut milk and water and simmer until liquid has reduced and sauce is slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the hardboiled egg halves, cut side up and let them warm through. Garnish with coriander or parsley and serve with rice, Indian bread and chutney.

Serves 4

Fried Egg in a Bagel

This recipe from a website called Food52 is so simple you hardly need a recipe. But it’s such a novel idea and so delicious I had to tell you about it.

You simply fry an egg in the hole in half a bagel.  Serve for breakfast or lunch, accompanied by bacon, ham, smoked salmon or on its own. The recipe makes two servings, but you may decide to eat them both! They go very well with leftover ham from Christmas.

Fried Egg in a Bagel

1 bagel split in two horizontally
1 Tbs butter
2 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the holes in the two halves a bit bigger using a serrated knife or a small scone cutter. Heat butter in a non-stick frying pan and swirl around. Place bagel  halves in the pan, cut side down, break an egg into each and season with salt and pepper. It doesn’t matter if it spills out a bit.

Cover and cook until the eggs are just set. Serve alone or with crispy bacon, ham or smoked salmon. If serving with bacon cook it in the pan first, then remove and cook the bagel so it gets a nice bacon flavour.

Serves 2

Wild Mushroom Salad with Parmesan and Prosciutto

We recently spent a week in Slovenia – two days in the capital Ljubljana and 4 days in Bled. If you haven’t been to this part of the world I recommend you put it on your list. Amazing scenery with dominating mountains, crystal clear turquoise blue rivers and majestic forests. The neat little houses each had a neat little woodpile and a well kept veggie garden. Everything was spotlessly clean and well-maintained. A good way to see some of this beautiful scenery is to arrive in Ljubljana by train from Vienna, which takes between 5 and 6 hours.

In late summer and early autumn farmer’s markets in continental Europe sell a variety of wild mushrooms – porcini and ceps to name two that I am familiar with. One of the culinary highlights of our stay in Slovenia was a salad made with wild porcini and garnished with shaved parmesan and crispy bits of prosciutto. In Australia you can’t find wild porcini (well that’s what I thought, see below) so I used a mixture of shitake and enoki mushrooms to recreate it back home. It was not the same but still delicious.

After doing some research on the internet I discovered that wild porcini mushrooms have recently been found growing in parts of South Australia and Victoria. Their location is a well kept secret and any that are sold are snapped up by top chefs for between $60 and $120 a kilo. They apparently like similar growing conditions to truffles and can be found under pine and oak trees.  I have thought about blitzing some dried porcini in the food processor and sprinkling the powder under a large oak tree in our garden. Might work?

Wild Mushroom Salad with Parmesan and Prosciutto6 handfuls rocket and/or baby salad leaves
Olive oil and lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 tsp honey (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
400g wild porcini (I used enoki and shitake)
olive oil and 1 clove garlic, crushed
200g shaved Prosciutto
100g shaved Parmesan cheese
Toasted pine nuts (optional)

Lightly dress salad leaves with a simple dressing made with olive oil, lemon juice or white wine vinegar, a little honey and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on four serving plates. Slice or cut  up the mushrooms and mix them with a little olive oil and crushed garlic. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Pan fry the mushrooms in a non-stick pan over high heat, stirring, for 3-5 mins or until lightly browned. Divide mushrooms between the four serving plates. Cut Prosciutto into small bits (I used scissors) and add to the pan. Cook over high heat, stirring, until crispy. Divide amongst serving plates, top with Parmesan and pine nuts if using – I didn’t in the photo but they would make a nice addition. Drizzle some olive oil around the salad and sprinkle with some coarsely cracked black pepper.

Serves 4

Millefoglie di Melanzane

We recently spent a week in Sicily where we hired a car and drove from Palermo to Patti, Taormina, Syracuse and back to Palermo. We spent a couple of days in each of these cities, soaking up the history and visiting some amazing churches and ancient monuments in the area. I won’t go into details of where to stay and what to do – there’s plenty of information on Trip Advisor and we found most of our accommodation on Airbnb.

Lots of windy roads and a few crazy drivers made the driving something of a challenge. The weather was considerably hotter than we had expected for mid-September, so we avoided sight-seeing in the middle of the day. Nonetheless we had a great time and would definitely recommend a trip to this part of Italy.

On the whole, the food in Sicily is good, especially if you’re a fan of pizzas and pasta. Finding good places to eat other dishes was more of a challenge. Everything we ordered which involved eggplants (aubergines) was delicious – stuffed eggplant, capponata (an Italian version of ratatouille with eggplant as the main ingredient) and eggplant fritters to name a few.

Our favourite city was Syracuse, especially the old city located on the island of Ortigia. Our favourite restaurant in Syracuse was Notre Dame where we ate outside enjoying the balmy evening weather. This bistro is run by an enthusiastic young couple and serves an interesting menu including this delectable Millefoglie di Melanzane – a layered Eggplant Terrine. It was so good we went back twice and on the second occasion the chef gave me the recipe.

Millefoglie di Melanzane

Canola or a mild-flavoured olive oil
2 large eggplants or 3 smaller ones
400g red capsicum (peppers)
2 eggs
2 sheets gelatine, soaked in water or 3 tsp powdered gelatine
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut capsicum into quarters and remove stalks and seeds. Cook in boiling, salted water for 15-20 mins or until soft. While still hot place them in a food processor with the eggs, gelatine, salt and pepper and process until smooth.

Meanwhile slice eggplants thinly lengthwise, discarding the first cut which is just skin. Heat some oil in a large frying pan and fry the eggplant slices, about 3 at a time, until golden brown and cooked on both sides. Add more oil as required. Drain on paper towels.

Choose a silicone loaf pan which doesn’t need to be lined, or line a metal one with non-stick baking paper. Starting and ending with a layer of eggplant slices, layer the eggplant and red capsicum puree in the loaf pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Using a serrated knife, cut terrine into 4-6 thick slices and serve with some lightly dressed rocket leaves.

Serves 4-6

No-Bake Raspberry Cheesecake

We were staying with Catherine in Newcastle for a few days when she said “Oh by the way, we’re invited to a BBQ lunch tomorrow and we’re taking a dessert. What shall we make?”

We found cream cheese, cream and 2 punnets of raspberries in the fridge and a few other ingredients in the pantry. The result was this delicious no-bake cheesecake which was popular with the adults and kids alike.

Make this the day before serving.

IMG_0695300g white chocolate
500g Philadelphia-style cream cheese (at room temp)
300ml thick cream
3 Tbs caster sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) raspberries
½ cup red jam (preferably raspberry)
About 12 sweet biscuits or sponge fingers
To serve:
1-2 cups fresh raspberries
Honey to drizzle

Melt chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. In another bowl, with electric beaters, beat cream cheese, cream and sugar until smooth. Add melted chocolate and mix well.

Line a loaf tin with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang. With a fork, mash 1 cup raspberries with the jam on a plate. Spread half the cream cheese mixture in the loaf tin. Spread the berry mixture over the top. Then spread the rest of the cream cheese mixture over the jam mixture. Arrange a single layer of biscuits or sponge fingers over the surface, pushing them in slightly – this will be the base. Rectangular or square ones are easier than round ones. Bring excess plastic wrap over the top to cover, then refrigerate overnight.

No-Bake Raspberry Cheesecake

To serve, tip cheesecake onto serving plate and remove plastic. Arrange raspberries over the top and drizzle with honey.

Serves 12

Variation: use strawberries instead of raspberries

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Thyme

I’m always looking for new recipes which use pearl barley – a much under-used grain in my opinion. Basically you can use it in any recipe which calls for rice – it just takes longer to cook. This recipe is slightly adapted from one which appeared recently in Delicious magazine.

4 Tbs olive oil
500g white or brown mushrooms, wiped and quartered
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1¼ cups pearl barleyDSCF1115
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves (or 2 tsp dried)
1 cup white wine
4 cups (1 Litre) chicken or veg stock (or water and cubes)
Extra water if necessary
2-3 cups baby rocket leaves washed and dried
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To garnish:

½ cup grated parmesan cheese, extra
Extra Virgin olive oil
2 Tbs chopped walnuts or pecan nuts

In a large heavy-bottomed pan heat 2 Tbs of oil and fry mushrooms for 4 mins or until browned. Remove from pan. Heat remaining 2 Tbs oil and cook onion and garlic until soft. Add barley, mustard, thyme and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add wine and stock, bring to the boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 40 mins or until barley is tender. Add more water, a little at a time, if necessary – I didn’t need any extra.

When barley is cooked the liquid should have all been absorbed. Season to taste then mix in the cooked mushrooms, rocket and parmesan cheese. Serve garnished with the extra parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil and the chopped nuts.

Serves 4


Spicy Baked Eggs in Avocados

My cousin Ricky who lives in Los Angeles posted this recipe on Facebook and I couldn’t wait to try it. Eggs and avocados are two of my favourite ingredients, so what could be better than a recipe combining the two?

Choose large avocados and small eggs. Even so, you will need to scoop out a bit of avocado flesh after removing the stone to make the hole a bit bigger. This recipe will serve 4 as a starter or light breakfast or 2 as a more substantial lunch, brunch or supper.

Spicy Baked Eggs in Avocados2 large ripe avocados
Hot sauce (Tabasco or another brand)
Salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
Chilli flakes (optional)
4 small eggs
Extra Virgin olive oil
4 slices sourdough bread, toasted and buttered

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Halve avocados and removes stones plus a bit more flesh (about 1 Tbs) to increase the size of the hole. Place them in a greased baking dish where they fit snugly so they don’t fall over. I used four of those avocado serving dishes which were popular in the 70s and 80s and which you often see in second hand shops. Grease them well.

Season avocado halves with salt and pepper and drizzle a little hot sauce into the cavity. Break an egg into each then drizzle with a little olive oil Bake for 10-15 mins or until eggs are done to your liking – whites set and eggs still a bit soft is ideal. Remove from the oven, season with more salt, pepper, hot sauce and chilli flakes, to taste. Serve with buttered toast.

Serves 2-4

Variations: serve with a dollop of pesto on top. Serve with some crispy bacon.

Caramelised Eggplants with Miso & Tahini

This recipe came from and was recommended by son David. Eggplants are one of our favourite vegetables so I immediately added two eggplants to my shopping list. The rest of the ingredients are ones I have in the pantry.

David added the final drizzle of tahini and described the dish as “num nums” which, according to the Slang Dictionary, is Australian slang for tasty food. It has always been a favourite adjective in our family when we’re talking about food, which we do quite a lot.

Miso paste is sold in Asian shops and some supermarkets. It keeps in the fridge for quite a while and is useful in Japanese-style marinades, adding both flavour and texture. Try spreading a little on salmon fillets before you cook them.

Caramelised Eggplants with Miso & Tahini2 eggplants (aubergines)
1-2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs mirin or rice wine vinegar
1 Tbs sake or dry sherry
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs Shiro miso (white miso paste)
To serve:
Toasted sesame seeds
Spring onions, thinly sliced lengthwise
Tahini paste (optional)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and brush cut sides with sesame oil. Place cut sides down on the baking paper and bake for 15-20 mins or until quite soft when squeezed. Time will vary according to size of eggplants.

Meanwhile place mirin or rice wine vinegar and sake or sherry in a small saucepan. Turn on the heat and add the sugar and miso paste, stirring to combine. Simmer for a few mins then turn off.

When eggplants are done remove from the oven and switch on the grill. Divide miso mixture between the cut surfaces of the eggplants then grill for 1-2 mins or until caramelised. Be careful they don’t burn.

Serve garnished with toasted sesame seeds, spring onions and a drizzle of well-stirred tahini paste.

Serves 2-4