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

Mexican Chicken Lasagne

My Chilean friend Pia made this for one of our Spanish conversation monthly lunches. It’s similar to an Italian lasagne, but with Mexican flavours.

1 large onion diced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red capsicum, deseeded and cut into strips (optional)
250g mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 Tbs butter or oil
500ml cream
1 packet soft tortillas
Meat from 1 cooked chicken, diced
2-3 Tbs chopped fresh herbs of choice
2 cobs fresh corn (or use canned or frozen kernels)
1 tin tomatoes, chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped, or 1 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 cups grated cheese e.g. cheddar

Preheat oven to 180°C. In a large frying pan gently fry onion and garlic with mushrooms or capsicum, or both, in oil or butter until softened, but not browned. Remove kernels from fresh corn, or drain off the liquid if using canned. Add to pan with cream, herbs, chicken and tomatoes. Add chilli if using and season to taste. Cook, stirring for a few minutes to thicken a bit, but not too much as you need the liquid which will soak into the tortillas.

Cover the base of a greased lasagne-type rectangular, oval or round dish with one layer of tortillas, cutting to fit. Spoon half the chicken sauce over and sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Then arrange another single layer of tortillas, followed by the other half of the sauce and another third of cheese. Finally arrange a third layer of tortillas over the top. The top can get a bit dry and crunchy so I suggest you dip the final layer of tortillas in water or milk to moisten them before arranging on top, then top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 30-40 mins or until golden and bubbly. Stand for 10 minutes then cut into squares or wedges and serve with a salad.

Serves 6-8

Marti’s Smoked Salmon Lunch

My friend Marti who lives in Paris served a delicious cold lunch when we were visiting, the centrepiece of which was smoked salmon.

It was such a good combination I made a note of what she served, so I could repeat it for one of my Spanish conversation lunches. It’s a great way to serve a crowd with minimum fuss. Marti managed to fit everything apart from the potatoes and the cottage cheese on one fish platter. I have a similar dish, but unfortunately mine is smaller so I had to put the salad, eggs, avocado and tomatoes in another dish.

Quantities will vary according to how many people you’re serving.

Sliced Smoked salmon formed into rolls
Garnish such as onion rings, capers, pink peppercorns
Lemons cut into wedges
Avocados cut into quarters
Mache or rocket or other small lettuce leaves
Soft hard boiled eggs, cut into halves
Cherry tomatoes
Baby new potatoes
Knob of butter, snipped chives
Cottage cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped or spring onions
Baguettes (home made or bought) or any nice crusty loaf and butter

Cook the potatoes and mix with butter and chives. Place in a serving bowl. Mix cottage cheese with onion or spring onions, finely chopped and place in a small bowl. Slice bread. Arrange everything on serving platters.

 

Tandoori Marinade & Tandoori Chicken Salad

This marinade is great for chicken, fish or lamb you are going to cook on the barbecue. It’s also a main ingredient in Tandoori Chicken Salad. The marinade keeps for up to a week in the fridge.

Buy a cooked chicken and the remaining ingredients at the supermarket and you have a quick and easy meal for the warmer weather. Quantities are flexible.

300ml plain Greek-style yoghurt
1 knob fresh ginger, size of a walnut
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 Tbs oil
1 tsp hot English mustard
1 Tbs lemon or lime juice
1 tsp turmeric
2 Tbs peanuts, cashews or pine nuts
1 tsp Garam Masala
2 Tbs fresh coriander
2 Tbs sweet chilli sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth. Keeps in the fridge for about a week.

Makes about 2 cups

Tandoori Chicken Salad

3 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup thinly sliced spring onions
3 cups bean sprouts
1½ cups finely sliced celery
1 cup roughly chopped coriander
1-2 cups cooked small pasta (optional)
1-2 cups Tandoori marinade (see recipe above)
To serve:
Lettuce leaves
Thin slivers of red capsicum or red chillies

Mix all together, adding more salt if necessary. Use as much marinade as you need to moisten everything. Serve in a mound on lettuce leaves, garnished with red capsicum or chilli.

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.

 

Pasta with Pesto and Avocado

After all the rich food of the festive season you’re probably ready for some simple but satisfying recipes to please the whole family. This pasta dish hits the spot.

500g pasta (shell or penne)
2 ripe avocados, roughly mashed
1 cup pesto (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain then mix in the avocados, the pesto and salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of oil.

Serve with a simple green salad.

Serves 3-4

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

Deux Baguettes S’il Vous Plaît

When he was eleven I asked our eldest son James to go into a bakery in a ski resort in France and buy “Deux baguettes s’il vous plaît” while I was double parked outside. I had been round the block twice and there was absolutely nowhere to park.

We sat outside the bakery for what seemed like a very long time with me saying come on you can do it and James saying he really didn’t want to. His more outgoing younger sister wanted him to hand over the money so she could go. But she didn’t need a confidence booster and I wanted him to do it. Eventually James went into the bakery and came out, beaming from ear to ear, one baguette under each arm.

I had completely forgotten this incident until James (now married with kids of his own) reminded me. He says he remembers it whenever he has to do something challenging, like speaking in public.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to use the No Knead Bread recipe to make deux baguettes instead of the usual round loaf you make in a Le Creuset pot. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but decided to give it a go. Well the baguettes were amazing and I’ve made them three times since. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, the recipe makes two small baguettes or one very large one, which probably wouldn’t fit in my oven.

3 cups plain flour
1 heaped tsp salt
1 Tbs olive oil (optional)
¼ tsp dried yeast
1½ cups very hot water from the tap
Extra flour
Sesame seeds (optional)

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with the blade of a knife. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel and leave for a few hours. The amount of time you can leave it is flexible and varies a bit according to the weather. In the middle of summer it will be ready to go to the next stage in about three hours, but it’s okay if you leave it longer. When ready the dough will have doubled in size.

Sprinkle extra flour on work surface and scrape out the dough. Using a little extra flour as necessary, form dough into a non-sticky round, then cut in two and form each into a sausage shape about 30cm or 12″ long. Place side by side on a lightly greased oven tray, sprinkle with sesame seeds if liked, then leave aside while the oven heats up.

Heat the oven to 220°C. Bake bread for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and crisp all over. Cool on a cake rack. Bread freezes well.

Makes 2 small loaves or 1 large