Mazza’s Ceviche Dip

Ceviche originated in Peru, as a means of keeping fish before refrigeration was available. Some people don’t like the idea of eating ceviche, because the fish is not cooked. In fact the lemon or lime juice “cooks” the fish without heat and softens the texture, so it doesn’t taste raw.

This delicious recipe from my dear friend Mazza has been known to convert quite a few people who didn’t think they liked ceviche or have never tried it. Served with corn chips, it’s great to pass round with pre-dinner drinks. If preferred, skip the corn chips and serve it on Chinese spoons. With the addition of tomato ketchup it’s not a traditional ceviche recipe, but a good crowd pleaser.

Choose best quality white fish and give it a few hours in the fridge before serving.

500g firm white fish fillets, cut into 1-2cm cubes
2 Tbs chopped spring onions
½ red onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1lime
1 large tomato, skinned, seeded and chopped
¾ cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
2 tsp oregano
1 small red chilli, including seeds, finely chopped (leave out the seeds if preferred)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbs chopped lemon grass
Lots of chopped fresh coriander
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Corn chips

When you cut up the fish discard any stringy bits. Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for a few hours.

Serve with corn chips.

Note: if you don’t have any lemon grass, remove the peel from half to one lemon with a potato peeler and chop it very finely. Other possible substitutions: lemon instead of lime juice, white instead of red onion and parsley instead of coriander.

Spicy Roast Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Spinach

Woolworths supermarkets publish a free recipe magazine every month and I sometimes pick one up when I’m doing my weekly shopping. This recipe appealed to me, so I tore it out.

When I came to make it I couldn’t believe how complicated the method was. Using exactly the same ingredients, but a completely different method, I created this version which was delicious.

1 large cauliflower
Water
1 tsp vegetable or chicken stock powder (or ½ a cube)
25g butter
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs Za’atar (spice mix)
2 tsp sumac
2 Tbs tomato paste
¼ cup red wine or cider vinegar
¼ cup currants
1-2 Tbs maple syrup, to taste
1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
2 cups baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut cauliflower into large florets and place in a large mixing bowl. Place any small bits of cauliflower, as well as the stalk and any leaves, cut up, in a saucepan. Add enough water to barely cover and the stock powder. Bring to the boil, then simmer until tender. Cool for 10 minutes then puree in a food processor or with a stick blender, adding the butter and salt and pepper to taste. If making ahead, scrape the puree back into the saucepan, so you can reheat it at serving time.

Preheat oven to 200°C. To the cauliflower florets add the olive oil, Za’atar, sumac, salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Line a large shallow baking tray with non-stick baking paper and spread cauliflower over in one layer. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until al dente and starting to brown on the edges.

While cauliflower is cooking place tomato paste, vinegar, currants, maple syrup, chickpeas and half a cup of water in a frying pan and cook, stirring often for 5 minutes or until reduced and thickened. Just before serving mix in the spinach and remove from the heat.

To serve, spread cauliflower puree over one large serving plate or several individual plates. Top with the roasted cauliflower, then spoon over the chickpea mixture. If liked drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil around the plate.

Serves 6

Note: if you don’t have any Za’atar or sumac, make your own spice mixture with cumin, coriander and dried thyme or oregano. If you don’t have any currants, use sultanas, raisins or dried cherries.

Apricot and Almond Cake

Suzanne, a fellow-subscriber to a Facebook cooking site for fans of Yotam Ottolenghi, kindly sent me this recipe.

With a dollop of thick cream it doubled as a 90th birthday cake and dessert at a celebration lunch I hosted recently. The original recipe was made in a 7 inch square cake tin and as I used a 9 inch one, I increased all the ingredients. It worked out perfectly.

The recipe uses canned apricot halves (or peaches), but I am pretty sure you could use fresh apricots, peaches or plums. As the fruit contains quite a bit of moisture I would tend towards overcooking this cake, rather than undercooking. The more cooked edges were chewy and tastier than the middle of the cake.

This cake is gluten-free and if you want to make it dairy-free use margarine instead of a dairy spread.

250g icing sugar
5 eggs
250g soft spreadable butter (or margarine)
250g shelled almonds (blanched or un-blanched)
2 x 400g cans apricot (or peach) halves (or one 800g can)
½ cup flaked or slivered almonds
1 Tbs sugar
To serve:
Icing sugar (optional)
Thick cream or whipped cream

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 9 inch (22cm) square cake pan. Place one piece of baking paper one way, covering opposite sides and the bottom and leaving a bit extending above the cake pan to make it easier to lift the cake out after cooking. Then use another rectangle of baking paper to cover the other two sides and the base. So the base will have two layers. Spray or brush with a little oil.

In a stand mixer or using electric hand held beaters whisk the eggs and sugar until thick, creamy and doubled in volume. Add the butter and continue mixing until combined. Place shelled almonds in food processor and process until fairly fine. Add almonds to the egg, sugar and butter mixture and carefully combine. Scrape batter into cake pan and smooth the top.

Thoroughly drain the apricots and pat them dry with paper towels then arrange over the top of the cake, pushing them in slightly. Mine were small and I used 5 halves each way, 25 in total, with 3-4 left over. Sprinkle flaked or slivered almonds over the cake and lastly the sugar.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Test with a skewer in the middle – when cooked it should come out clean. Cook the cake for a bit longer rather than risk undercooking it in the middle.

When completely cool lift cake from the pan onto a serving plate using the paper, then carefully peel or cut it off. You may have to leave the paper on the bottom. If liked, dust a little icing sugar over the top. Serve as it is or with cream. This cake is best served the same day.

Serves about 12

Note: if. you want to make a smaller cake using a 7 inch (18-20cm) cake pan, use 4 eggs and 200g of icing sugar, spreadable butter and almonds instead of 250g.

Ham and Pea Bruschetta with Mint

A perfect weekend lunch which can be made in a jiffy with ingredients you probably have on hand.

1 cup frozen peas
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 Tbs smooth ricotta or creamy goat’s cheese
A handful of mint leaves
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil + extra to serve
4 slices sourdough bread
150g smoked ham, thinly sliced
50g feta cheese, crumbled (or use goat’s cheese)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place peas and garlic in a small saucepan. Cover with water then simmer for 3 minutes. Drain and place in food processor with the ricotta, about a tablespoonful of mint leaves and 1 Tbs of the oil. Process until almost smooth then season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile heat a chargrill pan over medium-high heat, brush both sides of the bread with olive oil then cook for 2 minutes each side, or until golden and slightly charred.

To serve, place one slice of the toasted bread on each of 4 plates. Top with the pea mixture, some ham, crumbled feta and a few mint leaves. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, drizzle with extra olive oil and serve.

Serves 4

Variations: use smoked trout or smoked salmon instead of ham.

 

Flatbreads with Minted Yoghurt and Roast Vegetables

This recipe is adapted from one by Yotam Ottolenghi. The flatbreads are easy to make, but you could buy some Naan bread or wraps and use those instead. Any leftover flatbreads can be frozen. Just thaw and reheat briefly in a frying pan.

Flatbreads:
400g plain flour (see note below)
½ cup plain yoghurt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried yeast
180ml warm water
1 tsp sugar
Ghee (or oil and butter) for frying
Oven-Roasted vegetables
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Mint Yoghurt:
2 cups plain yoghurt
2 Tbs chopped mint
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbs olive oil
Good pinch of salt

Place flour and salt in food processor and add yoghurt. In a small bowl, mix yeast with warm water and sugar and leave to stand for 10 minutes until frothy. Add to the food processor and process until mixture forms a ball. If it seems too dry to form a ball add a bit more warm water, a tablespoon at a time with the motor running. Once dough has formed into a smooth ball, tip onto a lightly floured surface and form into a sausage shape. Cut into 8 even-sized pieces, then knead and roll each into a ball and place on a tray. Cover with a tea towel and leave for an hour and a half, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile prepare the oven-roasted vegetables according to the recipe link, seasoning them before roasting with the cumin and paprika, as well as the oil, salt and pepper. Any mix of vegetables will do. You might like to add some tomatoes as in the photo.

Line a sieve with a piece of muslin or similar cloth (I use a man’s cotton handkerchief I keep for this purpose), scrape in the yoghurt and stand over a bowl so the liquid drains out. Leave for an hour or two or overnight in the fridge. Blitz mint, lemon juice, oil and salt in a mini-blender, spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle. Mix this paste into the strained yoghurt.

At serving time, on a lightly floured surface, roll out each flatbread ball thinly to form a circle about 25cm in diameter. Heat some ghee (or a drizzle of oil and a small piece of butter) in a large non-stick frying pan and cook flatbread on high for about 2 minutes each side. Keep warm in a low oven covered with a tea towel while you cook the rest, adding a little more ghee or oil and butter as required.

Serve flatbread spread with Mint Yoghurt and topped with warm roasted vegetables.

Makes 8 servings

Note: if available use half plain flour and half strong bread flour

Crispy Chicken Tray Bake

A perfect dish to serve at a family gathering. Adjust the quantity of ingredients according to how many people you are serving.

Make a big salad and buy some fresh crusty bread to soak up the juices. A tub of ice cream served with this quick and easy chocolate sauce and Bob’s your Uncle, as they say in the classics. Dinner’s served.

10-16 chicken pieces, bone-in, skin on
½ to 1kg small chat potatoes
1-2 large onions, halved then sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
150-200g rindless bacon, chopped
1-2 Tbs chopped fresh thyme (or 1-2 tsp dried)
½-¾ cup chicken stock
150-200ml cream
1-2 Tbs Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Sprigs of fresh thyme

Trim chicken pieces of excess fat. Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut potatoes in half and arrange over the base of a large shallow baking dish or tin. Spread the onions, garlic and bacon evenly over the potatoes. Sprinkle with the thyme. Arrange chicken pieces over the top, skin side up and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.

Mix stock, cream and mustard and pour evenly over the chicken. Return to the oven for a further 30-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked and crispy and potatoes are tender.

Serves 8-12

Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes

A wet Saturday in early autumn seemed like a good time to make some cupcakes for afternoon tea. These decadent little chocolate brownie cupcakes hit the spot.

Cakes:
80g butter
180g dark chocolate, broken into squares
¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour
2 Tbs cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
Good pinch of salt
100g ground almonds (see note below)
Icing:
200g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
2 Tbs cocoa
100g dark chocolate, melted
To decorate (optional):
Chocolates or chocolate almonds

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place cupcake liners in a 12 hole muffin tray.

Cakes: place chocolate, butter and sugar in a bowl over simmering water and heat until just melted, stirring from time to time. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, the vanilla, the ground almonds and finally add the dry ingredients through a sieve and fold in thoroughly. Divide mixture between the cupcake liners and smooth the tops. Bake for 12-20 minutes or until risen and firm on top, but still a bit moist inside. Ovens vary and it’s best to err on the side of undercooking. Cool.

Icing: mix cream cheese with sifted icing sugar and cocoa, then lastly mix in the cooled, melted chocolate. Once they are cold, pipe or spread icing onto cakes and decorate as desired.

Makes 12 cupcakes

Substitutions: use butter or mascarpone instead of cream cheese in the icing.

Note: you can either buy the almond meal or make your own, which allows you to make it coarser than what you buy. Just blitz almonds, with or without skin (I used with) until fairly fine.

Two days and three nights in Orange

The town of Orange is three and a half hour’s drive north of where we live in Canberra. It has a pleasant climate, lots of good restaurants and is somewhere we’ve been meaning to visit for some time.

We recently booked a pet-friendly B & B, so we could take our golden retriever, Serek, and headed off for a long-overdue catch-up with friends who joined us from Sydney. The drive from Sydney to Orange, driving west, also takes about three and a half hours.

The first night we dined at the Peacock Room at the Oriana Motel. As we walked through the garden to the entrance we were greeted by the owner, a tall friendly Norwegian called Espen Harbitz, who has made his home in Orange. He invited us to make the most of the balmy summer weather and join some guests who were enjoying an aperitif at tables set out under the trees.

The meal was excellent, especially Espen’s Gravlax, so I emailed after we arrived home and asked if he was willing to share his recipe. He did so with alacrity. It’s the same as mine, but with one addition: a cup of Aquavit. So I ordered a side of salmon online from Huon Salmon (which has great colour and flavour) and a bottle of Aquavit from Nick’s Wine Merchants and the result was delicious.

To make Espen’s Gravlax follow my recipe but add a cup of Aquavit (or vodka) to the mixture of salt, sugar, pepper and dill used to cure the fish. In the photo below I served it with sweet mustard sauce (recipe is with the Gravlax recipe) and toasted sourdough, as an aperitif.

Next day we enjoyed an excellent lunch accompanied by superb wines at Sister’s Rock restaurant at the Borrodell Vineyard.

There are plenty of interesting things to do in the region, including a wander around the picturesque heritage town of Millthorpe and a visit to the Orange Botanic Gardens.

Dinner on our last evening was at The Schoolhouse restaurant in the old Union Bank building. Inspired by my light beetroot starter, I created the dish you can see in the photo below, using macadamia hummus as a base (use macadamias instead of cashews and soak them longer), topped with wedges of cooked and pickled beetroot, thin slivers of radish, a few toasted macadamia halves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. A thin lengthwise slice of a home-grown zucchini (use a vegetable peeler), some parsley, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a grind of pepper completed the plate.

Watermelon Sorbet with Olive Oil & Maldon Sea Salt

This recipe is easy to make and never fails to impress. Serve it in shot glasses as a palate cleanser between courses or a very light starter. The combination of sweet watermelon sorbet, fruity olive oil and salt flakes is amazing.

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1½ kg watermelon, rind removed, cubed
Juice of half a lemon (or more, to taste)
1 egg white
To serve:
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt flakes

Place water and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to the boil and boil for 5 minutes.  Cool.  Puree the watermelon cubes in a food processor.  Push through a fine sieve, pressing hard on the solids.  You should have at least 600ml juice.

Add syrup and lemon juice to watermelon juice and mix well.  Tip into a shallow plastic container and freeze for 4-5 hours, covered, or until almost solid.  Scrape sorbet into a food processor, add the egg white and process until smooth.  Return to the plastic container, cover and freeze again.

Serve a scoop or two per person in a shot glass.  Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a few salt flakes.

Serves lots and keeps for up to a month in the freezer

Chicken with Coconut Pilaf

We recently hosted a 60th birthday dinner on a balmy summer’s evening, for a friend who follows a gluten-free, dairy-free diet.

Watermelon and Feta squares went down well with drinks on the verandah, then we started the meal with Gin-Cured Salmon with Kewpie Mayonnaise and Pickled Grapes and finished with Big Mary’s Mexican Bombe. I replaced the dairy cream with Organic Coconut Whipping Cream, made by The Tender Table and sold in some specialty shops. With six candles, one for each decade, this dessert doubled as a birthday cake.

For the main course I served this chicken dish which was given to me by my daughter’s friend Mel over a decade ago. Mel is a fabulous chef and now makes special cakes to order in Canberra.

A chicken supreme is a boneless breast with the skin and first section of the wing left on. If you’re not sure what it looks like watch this video. There’s a shop in a nearby shopping mall that specialises in chicken. They didn’t have supremes on display, but the butcher knew what I wanted and prepared them for me.

Chicken:
6-8 chicken supremes (boneless breasts with skin & first piece of wing attached)
Grated rind 1 lemon
1-2 small red chillies, very finely chopped
2 Tbs finely chopped coriander
2 Tbs olive oil
S and P
Pilaf:
2 Tbs  butter (or olive oil to keep it dairy-free)
2 cups basmati rice
1 x 400ml can coconut milk or cream and about 2 tins water
Juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salad:
2 cups beansprouts
2 cups coriander leaves – broken off, not chopped
2 cups Vietnamese mint leaves (or ordinary mint)
2 cups purple basil leaves (or ordinary basil)
Dressing:
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs vinegar
To serve:
toasted shredded coconut

Trim any untidy bits off the chicken and if you think they look a bit too big, remove the fillets and keep them for a stir fry another day. Mix the chicken with the marinate ingredients and leave for several hours, or overnight if possible, in the fridge. Arrange chicken on a shallow baking tray (lined with baking paper if liked) and bake for 25-30 mins at 180°C, or until cooked and tender. Be careful not to overcook it, or it will be dry.

For the pilaf melt butter, add rice and stir to coat. Add coconut cream or milk and stir over low heat until the rice starts to thicken. Add water, lime juice, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover tightly and cook on a very low heat until liquid has all been absorbed. You may need to add slightly more or less water, so don’t add it all at the beginning and see how it goes, stirring and adding more if necessary. You can also do the rice in a rice cooker, just putting all the ingredients in together and adding a bit more water towards the end, if necessary.

Remove any stringy bits from the beansprouts. For the salad dressing, heat vinegar and sugar in a small pan, bring to the boil. Boil for a minute then cool. Mix all the salad ingredients together and at the last minute add the dressing, mixing gently using your fingers, so you don’t bruise the leaves.

To serve, divide rice among six serving plates. Place chicken on rice, top with the salad and finally the toasted coconut. I used large dried coconut from Aldi, stirred in a dry frying pan over moderate heat until lightly browned.

Serves 6-8