Feta and Spring Onion Bouikos

The Middle East’s answer to cheese straws, these feta and spring onion bouikos are delicious. The recipe, slightly tweaked, came from a UK restaurant called Honey & Co.

Bouikos can be prepared ahead and left in the fridge until just before guests are due to arrive. They are at their best served warm, not quite so good at room temperature and should definitely be eaten on the day they are made. I doubt very much that you will have any leftover, but if you do please send them round here.

I’ve made them twice and used feta and cheddar both times, but I plan to try using other cheeses, such as a blue cheese and ricotta. You could even try adding some finely diced bacon.

2 spring onions
50g cold butter cut into four
40g grated sharp cheddar (about ¼ cup)
40g feta (about ¼ cup)
¾ cup plain flour
Good pinch salt
¼ cup sour cream
Nigella or Poppy seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C unless you are making these ahead and planning to refrigerate them till serving time. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place spring onions in a food processor and process to chop. Add remaining ingredients and process until mixture forms a ball, then stop the motor. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface then pat out or roll out to a rectangle with a thickness of about 1 cm. If using, sprinkle with Nigella or poppy seeds. Cut into 12 squares, then cut each square into two triangles. Arrange slightly apart on baking sheet then bake for about 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through to ensure even colouring.

Makes about 24

Chocolate Brownie

Delicious as a snack with a cup of tea or coffee, or as a dessert with cream and berries, everyone needs a good chocolate brownie recipe. The last time I made this with my granddaughter Natalia, we swapped the chocolate chips for M and Ms, at her suggestion. She rushed off on her bike to buy a packet.

½ cup butter (125g)
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1¾ cups self raising flour (or plain flour and 2 tsp BP)
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips or chopped nuts (e.g. walnuts, macadamias, pecans) or a mixture

Preheat oven to 180°C. Butter a 9 inch or 22cm square tin and line with baking paper. Or use a silicone pan which doesn’t need greasing.

Place butter and sugar in food processor and mix well, scraping down the sides halfway through. Or use electric beaters in a bowl. Add eggs, mix, then gradually add the sifted flour, salt, vanilla and cocoa, scraping down the sides again halfway through.  Add chocolate chips or nuts and process very briefly, just enough to mix them in.

Scrape into tin and smooth the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Don’t overcook as it’s better undercooked than overcooked.

Cut into 16 squares

Roasted Peas with Brown Butter & Garlic

Yotam Ottolenghi has taught me that all vegetables taste better roasted rather than boiled in water, the way our mother’s and grandmothers cooked them. Maybe not yours, but certainly mine. They knew how to roast potatoes, parsnips and pumpkin, but anything green went into boiling water. Roasting Brussels sprouts, asparagus and cauliflower takes them to a whole new level.

This recipe didn’t come from Mr Ottolenghi but from Pinterest, where you can find quite a few versions. I’m not going to give exact quantities. I used less butter than the recipes called for, so I’ll leave it up to you. Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic because the roasting makes it soft and sweet.

I served the peas with salmon topped with a mixture of finely chopped ginger and Thai sweet chilli sauce, baked in the oven on a tray lined with baking paper for for 8-10 minutes at 200°C.

Frozen Peas
Butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peeled cloves of garlic (about a dozen?)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the peas in a sieve and run hot water from the tap over them, drain and put in a bowl. Heat a large knob of butter in a saucepan until it turns golden brown. How much butter is up to you and depends on how many peas you are doing.

Add the butter, garlic cloves and seasoning to the peas. Line a baking tray with baking paper and tip the peas onto it, spreading them out into one layer. Bake for 10-20 minutes, turning once or twice. Time will depend on the size of the peas.

Variations: add some finely diced bacon or frozen corn kernels.

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 lightly greased 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
1 very large or two small cauliflowers
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fennel seeds, bruised in a mortar and pestle
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1kg king prawns, peeled and deveined
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. Cut cauliflowers into 2-3cm florets (some may need to be halved) 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. Arrange cauliflower 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 6 or more as part of a buffet

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