A mid-week BBQ

Some neighbours have sold their house and are moving, so we invited them round for a farewell BBQ dinner. With drinks I served Tuna and Avocado Spoons, drizzled with a Wasabi dressing. Invented by my daughter Catherine, these delicious mouthfuls make the most of sashimi grade tuna and are made in a jiffy.

For the main course we barbecued some Chicken and Chorizo kebabs and served them with Crispy Potatoes with Bacon and Rosemary (Delicious magazine February 2012) and Shaved Fennel and Zucchini Salad topped with crumbled feta – another winner from Catherine. For dessert a crustless Lemon Tart with cream. The weather has suddenly turned wintry so we had to eat inside. A week ago we were able to sit outside until eleven when some other friends joined us for dinner. It’s been a very strange summer weather-wise.

Tuna and Avocado Spoons with Wasabi Dressing

200-250g piece of sashimi-grade tuna
1 or 2 avocados, halved and thinly sliced
Fresh Coriander leaves
Lightly toasted sesame seeds to garnish – black ones look good
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs soy sauce
1½ Tbs sesame oil
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs brown sugar
¼ tsp wasabi paste, or to taste

Slice tuna thinly. This is easier to do if the tuna has been frozen and is only partially thawed. Arrange a piece on Chinese spoons, top each with a slice of avocado and a coriander leaf. Drizzle with dressing, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve when the tuna has thawed – it will only take a few minutes.

Dressing: Place all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously.

Makes 16-20 spoons

Chicken and Chorizo Kebabs

1kg boned and skinned chicken thighs
About 1.5kg raw chorizo sausages
1 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp smoked paprika (or ordinary paprika is fine)
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp brown sugar

Soak about 16 wooden skewers in cold water for 20 mins or so. Place marinade ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Trim chicken to remove any fat or gristle and cut into 2.5cm cubes and add to marinade. Stir to combine – chicken will pretty much absorb it. Cut the sausages into 1cm slices. Thread chicken and chorizo onto skewers, alternating them. Leave aside in a dish to continue marinating. Can be made ahead and kept covered in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Cook on a medium-hot barbecue for 8-10 minutes each side or until cooked through.

Makes about 16 kebabs

Shaved Fennel and Zucchini Salad with Dill and Feta

1 or 2 zucchini depending on size, sliced very thinly
1-2 bulbs of fennel, depending on size, sliced very thinly
2/3 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
½ cup toasted pine nuts
100g feta cheese
4-5 handfuls rocket leaves
¼ cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
salt to taste
1 tsp honey

The quickest way to cut the zucchini (courgettes) and fennel is through the slicing blade of a Magimix or using a mandoline. Place in a bowl with dill and rocket. Place dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously. Mix dressing with salad then pile into a shallow flattish serving dish. Sprinkle the pine nuts and crumbled feta over the top.

Crispy Potatoes with Bacon and Rosemary

1 kg potatoes cut into 3cm cubes (I used kipfler from the garden)
2-3 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked off
1/4 cup + 1 Tbs olive oil
3 rashers bacon, finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbs chopped parsley

If liked peel the potatoes or just scrub them well and cut into cubes. Line a roasting pan with baking paper and set the oven to 180°C. Mix potatoes with 1/4 cup olive oil, rosemary leaves, salt and pepper to taste. Tip into the roasting pan and roast for about 40 minutes, or until golden, stirring once or twice during cooking time.. Meanwhile heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a frying pan and cook bacon for 2 minutes, stirring, then add onion and garlic and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes until soft. Add onion and bacon to the potatoes, mix through then continue to bake for a further 10 mins. Mix in the parsely and serve.

Crustless Lemon Tart

120g butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
250ml cream
1/2 cup lemon juice
finely grated rind of 2 lemons
120g self-raising, sifted

Preheat oven to 170°C. Lightly butter a ceramic quiche or similar round dish and line the bottom with baking paper. With electric beaters, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. In another bowl with the same beaters, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolks, cream and lemon juice and rind. Fold in the sifted flour and lastly the egg whites, in two batches. Tip into the dish and bake for about 25-35 minutes or until set to the touch and golden. Turn off the oven, open the door and leave the tart to cool in the oven.

When cool, refrigerate until serving time. Dust with icing sugar and serve with thick cream.

Serves 8-10

Note: the reason for whipping the egg whites first even though you add them last is simply to save having to wash the beaters. Egg whites must be whipped with clean beaters.,

Lamb on the BBQ

With a growing family, we had two Christmas lunches this year.  With visitors from overseas, it was simply impossible to do everyone on one day.

For the second family gathering I decided to barbecue a boned leg of lamb, using a recipe from the December edition of Delicious magazine.  It’s one of the best food magazines on the market and I have a subscription.  Always full of inspiring ideas.  Here is my slightly adapted version which was delicious.  Boning a leg of lamb is not as hard as it looks – just keep cutting the meat away from the bone at one end, then start on the other end and eventually you will meet up and be able to pull it out!  The magazine suggested serving the lamb with a cucumber, tomato and spinach salad, with a lemony dressing, topped with toasted sesame seeds, which went very well.  The recipe called for Harissa, which I didn’t have, but Sambal Oelek was a perfect substitute.

Chermoula Lamb with Yoghurt Dressing

1 large leg of lamb, boned
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
A handful of fresh coriander
A handful of fresh mint
2 Tbs Harissa or Sambal Oelek (both are chilli pastes)
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbs olive oil
250g thick Greek-style yoghurt
A handful of chopped fresh mint
2 preserved lemon quarters
A few fresh coriander sprigs
A few slivers of preserved lemon, extra

After removing the bone from the lamb, cut through the part where it’s still joined, so you can open the meat out flat.  Place in a ceramic dish.  Place dressing ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.  Pour over lamb, turn to coat thoroughly.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Next day remove meat from marinade and cook on a medium to hot BBQ until done to liking.  If you leave the meat spread out some parts will be quite thin, so they will be rather well done by the time the thicker bits are cooked.  So if you prefer your meat medium-rare, use some kitchen string to form it back into a round shape with the skin on the outside.  As the meat is cooking, baste regularly with remaining marinade.  If the meat has been left spread out it will take 15-20 minutes each side.  If reformed into a round shape with string, it will take about an hour.  A meat thermometer is a good investment for getting it right.

Let the meat rest, covered loosely with foil, for about 10 minutes then slice thinly and arrange on a serving platter.  Garnish with the coriander and a few slivers of preserved lemon.  Serve yoghurt dressing separately.

Dressing:  Rinse the lemon quarters, discarding the pulpy part.  Finely chop the skin, then mix into the yoghurt with the mint.

Serves 8-10

No-Knead Bread

My son in law makes this “no-knead bread” all the time and says it’s so easy I thought it was time I had a go. The time involved in making it is less than five minutes, plus baking time – although you do need to start the dough the day before you need it. Minimum mess, quick and easy and tastes fantastic – just like a shop-bought ciabatta. If you look on Google you will find that there are heaps of variations of this recipe, though I believe it was first published in the New York Times. Here’s our version.

3 cups plain flourphoto
¼ tsp dry yeast
1 heaped tsp salt
1 Tbs olive oil (optional)
1½ cups very hot water from the tap

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until you’re ready to bake the bread. In summer anywhere will do, but in the middle of winter it’s probably a good idea to put it somewhere cosy like the microwave or the oven, making sure you tell people not to switch it on! Recipes on Google vary on how long the dough needs to rise, so I reckon it’s fairly flexible. Anywhere between 12 and 24 hours you can go to the next stage.

At this stage, i.e. after the 24 hour rising period, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3-4 days and this time in the fridge actually improves the flavour of the bread.

Place an iron pot with a lid in the oven – a le Creuset-type pot holding 6-8 litres – and turn the oven on to 250C or as high as it will go if it doesn’t go that high. Meanwhile tip the bread dough out onto a floured surface. Fold and flip it over on itself a few times, then form into a ball with the seams underneath and place on a piece of baking paper. Turn on the oven and let the bread rise a bit while it comes up to temperature. This could take around half an hour. If the dough has been in the fridge for a couple of days then give it 2 hours to come to room temperature and rise before baking.

When the oven is up to temperature use the paper to put the bread into the pot on the paper and make two slashes in the top with a pair of scissors. Cover with the lid and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove lid and bake for a further 5-10 minutes or until nicely browned. It depends on your oven how fast it browns, so keep an eye on it. In such a hot oven it browns fast. Remove and cool on a rack.

Chicken Satay

When we lived in Kuala Lumpur in the early 1980s, The Pink Tablecloths, our favourite street cafe, gave me their recipe for satay with peanut sauce – a dish which is popular in both Malaysia and Indonesia.  I haven’t made them for quite a while, but a week in Bali has reminded me how tasty they are.  You can use any meat you like, but I prefer chicken.  The original recipe used all peanuts, but I have substituted half for peanut butter, which I find gives a creamier result.

Chicken Satay The Pink Tablecloths

1 kg chicken meat (thighs are best)

3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small to medium onion, grated
1 heaped Tbs palm sugar or brown sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs tamarind juice or paste
3 Tbs soy sauce

Cut meat into cubes or strips and thread onto wooden skewers which have been soaked for half an hour in cold water, so they don’t burn. Mix marinade and pour over the meat. Leave for at least 30 minutes then cook over a charcoal grill or under a grill. Serve with Satay Sauce, steamed rice and a small side salad of sliced cucumber and onion.

Serves 4-6

Note: beef, lamb or pork can be used instead of chicken in this recipe.

Satay Sauce
½ cup salted peanuts
½ cup peanut butter
1 small onion, peeled
1 can coconut cream
2 Tbs palm sugar or brown sugar
1-2 smal red chillies, seeded and chopped (to taste)
2 tsp lemon peel, or lemon grass, chopped
Soy sauce to taste
Juice of half a lemon or lime

Process all ingredients together in a food processor until you have a thick, slightly chunky sauce. Heat until thick in a small saucepan.  Serve at room temperature.  Any leftover sauce can be frozen for next time.