Rhubarb Tart

With everyone in coronavirus lockdown, some of us are finding more time to cook. And eat.

I highly recommend you find a sunny corner in the garden to plant some rhubarb. It doesn’t take up much room and keeps on fruiting for most of the year. Ours only dies down a bit for 2-3 months in the coldest part of winter. When there’s virtually nothing else in the veggie garden, there’s usually some rhubarb.

This pastry recipe from chez Panisse via Rick Stein is deliciously buttery, reminiscent of a Parisian croissant, fresh from the oven. The oven needs to be nice and hot to get that lovely French glaze. Serve the tart as it is or with some whipped cream or sour cream, which is my preference.

Pastry:
225g plain flour
Good pinch of salt
170g butter, cold from the fridge
About 4 Tbs cold water
Filling:
500-600g rhubarb
½ cup sugar, or more, to taste
2 Tbs fortified wine such as port, but any will do
Grated rind of an orange or lemon
To finish:
Extra sugar
About 2 Tbs butter
Apricot Jam (optional)
To serve:
Whipped cream, sour cream or creme fraiche

To make the pastry, place flour and salt in food processor. Add butter cut into large chunks. Process carefully, preferably using the pulse button, until the butter is in small pieces. You don’t want it to be completely fine like breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water through the feed chute, processing briefly with the pulse button, until just combined. You don’t want it to be too wet, but it needs to start sticking together. Tip out, form into a flat disc using floured hands, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an  hour or up to 2 days. It can also be frozen.

Preheat oven to 220°C. On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the pastry thinly and line a tart tin, preferably metal. Mine is rectangular, but any will do. Wash and trim the rhubarb. I had plenty, so used only the red ends. All the trimmings and greener ends were made into a compote which is great for breakfast with yoghurt or as the base of a fruit crumble. I cut the rhubarb into the exact width of the tin and lined them up in the uncooked pastry case, so I knew exactly how many I needed. If you want more fruit in the tart you could cut up all the green bits and put them in first, then arrange the bigger pieces on top.

Place rhubarb in a bowl and mix with the sugar, port and citrus zest, then arrange in the tart shell. Drizzle over any remaining sugary juice. Sprinkle with the extra sugar, then dot all over with small pieces of butter.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until pastry is golden and rhubarb is starting to blacken in places – see photo. If liked, brush the surface of the tart with some apricot jam (just the non-chunky part) when it comes out of the oven.

Serve warm or at room temperature with cream, sour cream or creme fraiche.

Serves 10

Variations: use peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots instead of rhubarb.

Black Rice Pudding with Jaggery and Toasted Nuts

On a recent trip to India we dined at a fantastic restaurant in Mumbai called Burma Burma. It serves only vegetarian food and no alcohol – a formula which is really taking off. The Maitre D said they were about to open their sixth restaurant in Calcutta. I assured him they would do well in Australia too. Vegetarianism is a growing trend worldwide.

The black rice pudding garnished with Jaggery and Toasted Almonds was superb, so I decided to try and recreate it, using macadamias. Jaggery (also known as Gur) is made from sugar cane and is a popular sweetener throughout Asia.  Dark brown in colour, it’s sold in solid blocks. Most Asian grocery stores sell Jaggery, but if you can’t find it substitute a drizzle of treacle, which will provide the sweetness and colour, without the crunch.

2 cups black rice, rinsed
4 cups water
pinch salt
2-4 Tbs sugar, to taste
1 can coconut cream
To serve:
Lightly toasted slivered almonds or coarsely chopped macadamias
2-3 Tbs Jaggery, chopped
Fresh mango (optional)
Extra coconut cream or thick cream or sour cream (see note below)

Place all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer, covered for 45 minutes or until tender, adding more water as necessary and stirring often to prevent sticking, especially towards the end. The rice pudding should be thick and the grains should be tender, but with a slight bite. Cool then chill.

Serve the rice pudding chilled, garnished with the toasted nuts and the Jaggery, in one large dish or individual dishes. If liked, serve with a bowl of fresh cubed mango and some cream.

Note: traditionally served with extra coconut cream. I prefer it with a dollop of thick fresh or sour cream. It’s also perfectly nice on its own.

Roasted Cauliflower and Prawn Salad

This delicious salad was served by friends who have a house in Mittagong. It’s from Janelle Bloom, guest cook at The Cook’s Cooking School in Bowral and was published in the Oct/Nov 2018 edition of the Southern Highlands of Australia magazine Highlife.  A perfect lunch on its own or as part of a buffet.

¼ cup skinned hazelnuts
2 cauliflowers
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fennel seeds, bruised
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1kg king prawns, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dressing:
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Small clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp caster sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place hazelnuts in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted. Roughly chop. Slice cauliflowers about 2 cm thick and place in a large bowl. Add the oil and spices, salt and pepper and mix to coat well. Arrange in one layer in a roasting pan lined with baking paper. Bake for 15-20 mins or until golden brown and just tender, turning once during cooking time.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well. Cut the cauliflower slices into smaller fork-sized pieces and arrange in serving dish. Scatter with the spring onions and hazelnuts. Drizzle with the dressing, then toss gently to combine. Top with the prawns and parsley and sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper.

Serves 4

Coconut Meringue Tart

I love anything with coconut in it. Unfortunately Matthew doesn’t so I only make coconut desserts for events he’s not attending. I served this scrumptious tart at one of my Spanish conversation lunches. Guess who ate the leftovers.

1 22cm (9″) sweet pastry case, cooked till golden
Coconut Filling:
1 can coconut milk plus enough milk to make 2¼ cups
½-¾ cup sugar (depending on how sweet a tooth you have)
3 egg yolks, beaten
1/3 cup cornflour
1 cup desiccated or shredded coconut
Meringue:
3 egg whites
6 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1-2 Tbs extra desiccated or shredded coconut
To Serve:
Thick pouring cream

Mix about 2 Tbs of the milk mixture with the cornflour to make a smooth paste. Place coconut milk, milk and sugar in a non-stick pan and heat to boiling point. Add the egg yolks and the cornflour mixture, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Add coconut, then tip into the pastry case.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Whip egg whites until stiff then gradually add the sugar, beating until you have a thick, glossy meringue. Beat in the vinegar then dollop all over the coconut filling. Use a knife to spread meringue evenly all over, then sprinkle with the extra coconut. Bake for 8-10 mins or until golden brown. Watch the coconut doesn’t burn. Chill in the fridge. Serve with cream.

Serves 8

Roast Lamb with Anchovies Mustard and Herbs

Some people hate anchovies and to be honest I’m not mad about them eaten just as they are. But when pulverised into a dressing or marinade they provide a powerful Umami boost. I reckon most anchovy-haters wouldn’t even know they are there. The dressing for a Caesar Salad for example wouldn’t be the same without anchovies.

The combination of anchovies, garlic and mustard in this recipe makes it a real winner. Serve with a green salad and a crusty loaf for a Mediterranean-style feast. Or serve with more traditional accompaniments such as roast potatoes and peas or beans. Or try this recent post for Green Bean Salad.

2 Tbs Dijon mustard
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 anchovy fillets, drained
2-3 tsp grated lemon rind
1.5 to 2kg leg or shoulder of lamb, bone in
To serve:
Chopped or whole fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, marjoram or whatever you have)
1 lemon cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 180°C. Combine mustard, garlic, anchovies and lemon rind, using a mortar and pestle, or blitz in a small food processor. Adjust quantities according to the weight of the lamb. Smother the lamb with this mixture, on both sides. Place in a roasting pan and oast for about 1½ hours, or until lamb is cooked as you like it, basting from time to time. A 1.5kg piece will take a little less time than a 2kg one and a boned joint will take longer than one with the bone in. If you like your meat fairly well done it may take up to 2 hours.

Remove lamb from pan and leave to rest, covered loosely with foil, for 15 mins. Carve lamb, drizzle with pan juices and serve garnished with herbs and lemon wedges. Roast potatoes and a salad or green vegetable go well with the lamb.

Serves 6

Chicken Livers with Fennel, Quinoa, Hazelnuts & Mushroom Purée

This recipe is from a book called Savour: Salads for All Seasons by Peter Gordon. The recipe was shared by an online cooking friend in Germany called Michael.

Having made it I think the quinoa is optional – you could easily leave it out – and I have increased the amount of mushroom purée because I don’t think there was enough for four. With the quinoa this makes a light but satisfying main course for 4 or it would serve 6 as an unusual starter. If you don’t have fresh sage or tarragon feel free to substitute other fresh herbs.

If you like chicken livers you will love this. If not please delete!

2 heads fennel, trimmed and thinly  sliced downwards
2 cloves garlic, crushed
8 fresh sage leaves, shredded
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Generous ½ cup quinoa, cooked and drained (optional)
Mushroom Purée:
20g butter
1 tsp grated ginger (I used a bit more)
250g mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup creme fraîche or thick sour cream
Sour Cream Sauce:
1 Tbs fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1/3 cup creme fraîche or thick sour cream
Chicken Livers:
40g butter
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
500g chicken livers, trimmed and halved
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup skinned and toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 190°C. Keep some of the fennel fronds to garnish. Mix fennel slices with garlic, sage, oil and season to taste. Tip onto a shallow oven tray lined with baking paper and spread out. Bake for 30 mins or until golden, stirring halfway through. Mix in the cooked quinoa (if using) and keep warm.

Meanwhile for the mushroom purée, heat butter in a frying pan and add the ginger and mushrooms. Cook, stirring from time to time, until soft and mushrooms are starting to brown. Tip into food processor (don’t wash the frying pan), add the sour cream and blitz. Season to taste and keep warm.

For the sauce, in a mortar and pestle, pound the tarragon leaves with a pinch of salt, then mix in the sour cream.

For the chicken livers, place half the butter in the pan where you cooked the mushrooms and add the onion. Cook, stirring until soft and starting to caramelise, then tip them out. Add remaining butter to pan and cook the livers, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until all the pink bits have gone brown. Return onions to pan and cook for a further minute, stirring. Add vinegar, nuts and season to taste.

To serve, divide mushroom purée between 4 warm serving plates, spreading it out into a neat circle. Top with the fennel mixture, then the chicken livers and any pan juices and finally top with the sour cream and tarragon sauce. Garnish with fennel fronds.

Serves 4

Labneh with Summer Berries

I made this delicious Ottolenghi dessert when we were in Vancouver for my brother’s wedding in August, when the Canadian berry season was in full swing. Friends who saw the photo on Facebook thought it was a pavlova. In fact the base is strained yoghurt, known as labneh in the Middle East. Much healthier.

For subscribers in the southern hemisphere this could become your go-to dessert for the holiday season. For those living in the north, you’ll have to wait until summer or perhaps try using frozen berries. Ottolenghi doesn’t use the orange juice in this recipe, but I’ve made the recipe twice, once with and once without the juice. Much more orangey with.

1 kg thick Greek-style yoghurt
A good pinch of salt
1-2 Tbs icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
100ml Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 orange
A few sprigs of thyme or lemon thyme
800g to 1 kg fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, stoned cherries)
1-2 Tbs caster sugar

The day before serving make the labneh and the orange oil. Place a sieve over a bowl and line it with muslin or similar fabric. I use a man’s handkerchief which I keep especially for this purpose. Scrape yoghurt into the sieve, cover and refrigerate overnight. Next day discard the liquid – my dog loves it. Mix icing sugar and vanilla into the yoghurt.

Remove the peel from the orange with a vegetable peeler, then remove the juice and heat it in a saucepan for a few minutes, or until reduced by half. Add the olive oil, the thyme and leave to infuse overnight.

At serving time spread labneh onto a large serving platter. Place about half the berries in a food processor with the caster sugar and pulse a few times to chop roughly. Spoon on top of the labneh. Top with the remaining whole berries, slicing the strawberries if large. Drizzle with some of the orange oil and garnish with the orange zest and some fresh thyme sprigs – the original ones will have gone a bit brown.

Serves 8-10

Variations: use other fruit combinations, such as bananas and passionfruit; kiwi fruit and strawberries

Crispy Pork Belly with Mashed Pumpkin & Wilted Spinach

Osteria Francescana, a restaurant in Modena with three Michelin stars, was named best restaurant in the world in 2016 and again in 2018. We were in the neighbourhood in late summer 2018, but you need to book months ahead and we hadn’t.

Chef-owner Massimo Bottura also runs a bistro in Modena called Franceschetta 58, so we decided to try and get a reservation for their three course 25 Euro lunch. We arrived in Modena late Sunday morning and while Matthew double parked I dashed in to book a table for one o’clock. There were only two spaces left, at a long thin table for eight where patrons sit on bar stools with other guests. Perfecto, I said, in my best Italian.

A couple of hours wandering around the Sunday markets allowed us to work up an appetite. As we were finishing our meal, which was excellent, a lady sitting next to Matthew, whose son was next to me, asked where we were from and how we had ended up at the restaurant. By her accent she was obviously American. I told her I had watched a Netflix documentary called Chef’s Table and one of the episodes was on Massimo Bottura. Actually, I said, his wife is American. Yes I know, she said, that’s me.

Lara told us a bit about her life in Modena and maintaining the high standards of a world-renowned restaurant. Then she recommended some places to eat well in the region. Today’s blog is my take on the main course we had that day. Simple, but a great combination of flavours.

800g-1kg boneless pork belly with skin
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp each cumin and fennel seeds
½ cup water
500g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
1 packet baby spinach leaves
Butter, salt and freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic glaze

Pour boiling water over the pork, then pat dry with paper towels and leave in the fridge overnight, uncovered, to dry out.

Preheat oven to 150°C. Pat pork dry again with paper towels. Using a very sharp knife, score skin all over. Place pork in a roasting pan, rub oil over the skin, then sprinkle with salt and seeds. Pour water around the pork, cover with foil, then roast for two hours. Check from time to time and add a dash more water if it dries up.

Turn oven up to 220°C, remove foil and continue to cook for about half an hour, or until pork skin is crispy. If liked, add some parboiled potatoes drizzled with a little oil, to the pan for this last half hour. Cut pork into portions and serve with the pumpkin, the spinach and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Pass the potatoes separately.

Pumpkin: cook in boiling, salted water for 15-20 mins or until tender. Drain then mash thoroughly, adding butter and seasoning to taste. A shake of ground nutmeg goes well. For a more intense flavour roast the pumpkin rather than boiling it.

Spinach: place in a small frying pan with a knob of butter. Stir fry until wilted, then season to taste.

Serves 6

 

 

Pan-Fried Fish with Baba Ganoush & Caper & Olive Salsa

Baba Ganoush is a delicious Middle Eastern dip to serve with pita bread or pita bread toasts. It also goes well with some starters or main courses. Try it with smoked salmon. Or with today’s pan-fried fish.

The recipe makes more Baba Ganoush than you will need for this recipe which serves 2. Keep the rest and serve it as a dip. For a gluten-free version of this recipe leave out the flour.

Baba Ganoush:
500g eggplants (2 or 3)
1 large or 2 smaller cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs olive oil
lemon juice and salt, to taste
Pinch of ground cumin
2 Tbs mayonnaise
1 small pot Greek-style plain yoghurt
Fish:
2 portions of firm-fleshed white fish
2 tsp plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Good pinch ground cumin
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp butter
Salsa:
1 Tbs capers, drained
1 Tbs chopped green or black olives
1 Tbs chopped parsley
1-2 anchovies, chopped
½ small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
Lemon juice to taste
To serve:
Extra Virgin olive oil

Baba Ganoush: If possible, barbecue the eggplants over charcoal which gives the dip a distinctive, smoky flavour. Or cook them under a hot grill on both sides, until they collapse and the skins are black and blistered. You can also cook them in an oven at 180°C for about half an hour.

When cool enough to handle, cut in  half lengthwise and scrape out the flesh, discarding the skins. Chop flesh finely by hand, then add remaining ingredients. Using the food processor makes it too smooth, so best done by hand. If there’s time you can chill it for several hours or overnight for flavours to develop.

Fish: Mix flour with salt, pepper and cumin and coat the fish. Heat oil and butter in a frying pan and cook fish till golden on both sides.

Salsa: Mix all ingredients together.

To serve, place 2-3 Tbs Baba Ganoush in the middle of 2 serving plates (you will have some left over to use as a dip). Place a piece of fish on top. Top with the salsa, then drizzle a little oil around the edge.

Serves 2

 

Fiona’s Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

My friend Fiona follows a gluten-free diet. I love the nutty texture of her Gluten Free Chocolate Cake which keeps her sane when she’s studying for law exams.

Today’s recipe is adapted from Fiona’s. I’ve adjusted the quantities slightly, adding less sugar and a bit more chocolate and nuts. I’ve also added a topping of unsweetened cocoa powder, an idea from one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s chocolate cake recipes.

I served the cake as a dessert, with whipped cream and some cumquats I preserved a year ago, but it’s perfectly delicious just as it is, with a cuppa. As a dessert you could also serve it with berries or a ball of coffee ice cream.


250g dark chocolate
250g butter
250g almond meal*
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
To serve:
About 2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
Candied oranges or cumquats or fresh berries
Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat butter in a saucepan and when melted add the chocolate, broken into squares and turn off the heat. As chocolate melts, stir to combine. Mix in egg yolks, then sugar, almond meal, salt and baking powder. In a large bowl whip egg whites with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Scrape in the chocolate mixture, in two lots, gently using a spatula to thoroughly combine.

Scrape mixture into a greased and bottom-lined 22cm round cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes. When ready cake will feel firm on top and a skewer inserted in the middle will come out clean. If you have a fan-forced oven you may find the cake is ready in just over half an hour, as mine was. Chocolate cakes are best under-cooked rather than over-cooked.

When cool, remove cake from tin and cover the top with cocoa powder, using a sieve. Serve cake with berries and whipped cream or just as it is.

Serves 12-16

* buy almond meal or make your own by blitzing nuts in food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs. I used half bought and half I made using unskinned almonds. If you don’t have any almonds substitute walnuts, pecans, pine nuts or even a mixture.