Peanut Caramel Slice

If you have a packet of miso paste in the fridge, bought for a recipe which only required a tablespoonful or two and you’re wondering what to do with the rest, this is the recipe for you. If not, go and buy some.

Miso paste keeps for weeks in the fridge and is a useful addition to all sorts of dishes, both sweet and savoury. It adds an intensity of flavour known as umami, the fifth taste sensation after sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Try adding a tablespoonful to your next casserole or bolognese sauce.

This yummy slice has miso in the shortbread base where it combines with the other ingredients to make a very moreish snack. If you like peanut brittle you will like this slice which is totally addictive. If you don’t have any miso you could just leave it out.

Shortbread base:
125g butter at room temperature
5 Tbs sugar
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs miso paste
1 cup flour
2 Tbs cornflour
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
Caramel:
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs honey
50g butter
Good pinch of chilli powder (optional)
250g salted roast peanuts
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line the base of a 9″ (22cm) square cake pan with baking paper and grease the pan. Place butter and sugar in food processor and mix till creamy. Add egg yolk and miso then lastly the flour, cornflour, salt and baking powder. Mix well, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Put blobs all over the base of the tin, then press it to a uniform thickness with slightly damp fingers. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile, heat brown sugar, honey and butter in a saucepan until melted, stirring. Add chilli powder, peanuts and salt and mix well. Put blobs all over the shortbread base, then spread evenly with a knife. Put back in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Cool for 20 minutes, then cut into about 20 squares while still warm. Keep in an airtight tin. If kept in the fridge the slice will be more chewy. As an after dinner nibble cut the pieces in half again so you get 40.

Makes about 20 pieces

Variations: use slivered almonds, roughly chopped macadamias or a mixture of nuts instead of the peanuts.

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

Hummus

Hummus is available in every supermarket, but when I first learnt to make it, while we were living in Israel in the late 1970s, that wasn’t the case.

This recipe is quick and easy and, like anything homemade, much cheaper than the bought variety. With tahini and canned chickpeas in the pantry you can whip up a batch any time, as the other ingredients such as lemon juice, garlic and olive oil are part of most people’s everyday supplies. I’ve been using canned chickpeas for quite some time. They’re so convenient but, if preferred, by all means soak and cook some dried ones.

While hummus makes a delicious dip to serve with drinks, it’s also good as a spread in sandwiches, instead of butter, or as a component in several of the recipes on this blog, such as Roasted Veggies with Hummus or Baked Eggplant with Hummus Lentils and Pine Nuts.

Hummus keeps in the fridge for up to a week, but if preferred why not make half the recipe first time.

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 cup tahini paste, stirred
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Garnish: (optional)
Chopped parsley
Toasted pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Paprika

Place chickpeas in food processor with remaining ingredients. Process, adding enough water to give the consistency of a dip. Keep in the fridge, covered, until needed.

To serve, add a little water if Hummus has become too stiff, then spread in a swirl onto a shallow dish and decorate with chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts, paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. The garnish is optional, but it looks and tastes great. Serve at room temperature with pita bread, crackers or raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumber and cauliflower.

 

Makes about 3 cups

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

Five Favourite Sandwich Fillings

Everyone likes a good sandwich made with good quality bread and a tasty filling. When offered a mediocre sandwich – the sort you get in hospitals or on planes – I would sooner say no thanks.

I don’t eat a lot of bread, so when I do it has to be worth it. While I’m usually a grainy bread kind of person, I think some sandwich fillings go better with white bread. Egg sandwiches for example. For those who are gluten-intolerant there are quite a few gluten-free options available in supermarkets and bakeries.

These are my five favourite sandwich fillings. They’re not OMG, amazing, wow recipes. Just old-fashioned  fillings I’ve been making for decades to serve at weddings, christenings, funerals, birthdays and other gatherings. Put a plate down at a party and see how fast they disappear. I haven’t put quantities because it depends on how many sandwiches you’re making.

The salami sandwich is a bit more rustic and harder to eat delicately while continuing to make polite conversation, so it’s probably best reserved for family lunches. I have a few more favourite fillings – rare roast beef with cold roasted veggies, smoked salmon with cream cheese, capers and onion and prawns with mayo and lettuce. But these five are the ones I make the most. For the family leave the crusts on the bread. To make them daintier for entertaining cut them off and cut the sandwiches into fingers, triangles or squares.

Homemade mayonnaise is a staple in our fridge.  I use it instead of butter when making sandwiches and it forms the base of other delicious sauces such as Seafood and Tartare. But if preferred, butter the bread before filling the sandwiches. All the fillings are mixed except for the Salami and Cheese, which is layered. Garnish the plates with some fresh herbs or nuts. In the tuna photo the bread has been lightly toasted.

Tuna
Canned tuna, drained
Finely chopped celery
Finely chopped red onion
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salami and Cheese
Sliced salami
Sliced Swiss cheese
Rocket Leaves
Sun dried tomatoes
Red onion, thinly sliced (optional)
Mayonnaise to “butter” the bread

Curried Chicken
Cold roast chicken, diced
Fruit chutney, chopped a bit if too chunky, bought or homemade
Finely chopped spring onion or chives
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Curry paste or powder to taste (mix into the mayo)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Chicken and Walnut
Cold roast chicken, diced
Finely chopped celery
Finely chopped walnuts
Finely chopped spring onion
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Egg and Chive
Hard boiled eggs, roughly mashed with a fork
Finely snipped chives (lots) – use scissors
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Spinach Dip in Cob Loaf

This is an old-fashioned recipe from the 1970s which still works today.

450-500g round Cob loaf, plain or covered in sesame seeds
250g cream cheese, at room temperature
300ml sour cream
1 packet French Onion Soup Mix
250g frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed
Chopped fresh herbs

Preheat oven to 170°C. Remove 3-4 cm from the top of the loaf. Remove the bread from the centre of the loaf leaving a 1.5 cm edge. Cut this into pieces suitable for dipping and cut the “lid” up also.

Mix cream cheese with sour cream, onion soup mix and spinach. Fill the bread shell with the dip and place on a baking tray. Place the bread pieces all around in one layer. Bake for 20-30 mins or until bread pieces are golden and the top of the dip is also golden. If bread pieces are ready earlier than dip remove them from the oven.

Serve while warm, garnished with the chopped herbs.

 

Layered Fruit Jelly

This dessert can be made with fresh or frozen fruit, or a mixture of the two and is popular with all ages. Quantities will depend on the size of your mould. Mine holds 1½ litres and I used raspberries, mangoes, blueberries and kiwi fruit.

1-2 cups green fruit, such as seedless grapes or cubed kiwi
1-2 cups purple fruit, such as seedless purple grapes or blueberries
1-2 cups cubed orange fruit, just as mango or peaches
1-2 cups red fruit, such as raspberries, stoned cherries or strawberries
2 packets of jelly mix (I used yellow but you could use red or orange)
1 rounded tsp gelatine powder

Layer the fruit in the jelly mould, starting with a layer of green fruit, then purple and so on until the mould is completely full of fruit. My jelly mould holds 1½ litres or 6 cups. The jelly will fill in the gaps.

Make up both jelly mixes, using slightly less than the packet says and mixing in the powdered gelatine. My jellies each called for 450 mls of water (half boiling and half cold) which makes a total of 900 mls of liquid. I mixed the two packets with a total of 750 ml boiling water and mixed in the gelatine.

Pour jelly carefully into the mould, filling to the top. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, dip the mould briefly in very hold water then invert onto a large serving platter.

Serves 8-10

Green Bean Salad

This is an adaptation of a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi called Four Lime Green Bean Salad.

His original recipe (which you can easily find online) is no doubt delicious, but I didn’t have any kaffir lime leaves or Iranian ground lime. I increased the amount of broad beans and peas to make equal quantities of all three vegetables.

A perfect addition to the New Year buffet or to accompany leftover Christmas Ham and Turkey.

500g fresh green beans
500g packet frozen broad beans (or use fresh, shelled)
500g frozen peas
Dressing:
Zest and juice of 1 lime or ½ lemon
3 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic
½ cup fresh coriander leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 long green chilli, deseeded
1 tsp salt
Garnish:
Black sesame seeds
2-3 tsp Za’atar spice mix
A few coriander leaves
1 long green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

Top and tail beans then cook in boiling salted water for 3 mins. Drain, refresh with cold water and drain again. Cook broad beans in boiling water for 2-3 mins then drain and remove the outer shells and discard. Cook peas in boiling water for 2-3 mins then drain. Place both beans and the peas in a large serving dish.

Place all ingredients for the dressing in food processor and process till smooth. Pour over the beans and mix well. Garnish with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds, spice mix, coriander leaves and, if liked, the extra green chilli.

Serves 6

Substitutions: if you don’t have any Za’atar spice mix, experiment with a few of your favourite spices or spice blends

Cooking for the Festive Season

With just a week left until Christmas here are some suggestions for sweet dishes to prepare ahead or make on the day. There are a few more options including savoury dishes for Christmas and New Year entertaining here.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a happy holiday season and a healthy, happy and successful New Year.

Traditional Christmas pudding.
Gluten-free Christmas pudding.

Quick individual Christmas puddings.

Traditional Christmas cake

Labneh with Summer Berries.

Raspberry and Peach Trifle.

Berry Meringue Ice Cream Slice.

Pavlova. 

Quick individual “cheat” pavlovas. 

Roasted Pears with Goat’s Cheese, Honey, Rosemary & Pecans

This is a delicious way to serve pears as a savoury side dish or light lunch.

4-6 ripe pears
Goat’s cheese (the soft variety)
Olive oil
Honey or Maple syrup
Chopped pecan nuts
Rosemary sprigs
To serve:
Green salad leaves
Salad dressing
Maldon salt flakes

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Slice pears vertically – don’t peel or core. Arrange on baking sheet, then drizzle with a little olive oil and honey or maple syrup. Sprinkle with a few rosemary sprigs. Bake for 20-30 mins or until golden around the edges.

Serve on a bed of lightly dressed salad leaves. Top the pear slices with the goat’s cheese and nuts.

Serves 4-6