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

Foie Gras with Rocket, Beetroot & Caramelised Onions

Whenever we’re In France I buy a few tins of Bloc de Foie Gras de Canard. We declare them as we go through Customs and have never any problems getting them into Australia. Saved for special occasions, six cans last us a year or more.

This salad makes a light lunch or a substantial starter and is a good way to make one can of foie gras serve four or even six at a pinch.

1 can (150g) bloc de foie gras de canard
2-3 small beetroot
1 large onion, halved then thinly sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
4 handfuls rocket, washed and spun dry
Salad dressing
2 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted
To serve:
Hot buttered toast

Preheat oven to 180°C. Peel beetroot, then thinly slice using a mandolin or slicing attachment on food processor. Mix about 30 slices with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt and arrange on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper. Place in the oven and immediately turn temperature down to 100°C. Cook until they are crisp. This shouldn’t take long as they are so thin, but keep an eye on them.

Heat a Tbs oil in a frying pan and cook the onion for 15 mins over low heat until soft but not brown, stirring often. Add balsamic and continue to cook for a few minutes until caramelised. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the pan. Cut the rest of the beetroot slices into julienne strips. Heat a Tbs oil in the frying pan and stir fry the beetroot for 10 mins or until al dente. Cool.

Mix rocket with a little salad dressing or some oil and vinegar and arrange on four serving plates. Divide the onion between the plates, then the stir-fried beetroot (you may not need it all) and the beetroot crisps.

Divide the foie gras, cut into thin slices, between the plates, top with a few toasted pine nuts, then drizzle a little oil around the edge of each plate. Serve with hot buttered toast.

Serves 4

Variations: instead of beetroot use fresh or dried figs, or marinated/preserved figs; instead of pine nuts use walnuts or pecans.

 

 

Den Bosch Lemon Pudding

Den Bosch is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. We spent a couple of days there recently and one night had tapas for dinner at a wine bar.

The food was very good and the waitress was kind enough to give me the recipe for the dessert. I have a cheesecake recipe which is very similar to this, but the addition of a little vinegar really makes a difference. The method is also slightly different.

1½ cups (375 ml) whipping cream
1 can condensed milk
Grated rind and juice 2 large lemons
2-3 tsp white wine or cider vinegar, to taste
4-5 plain or ginger biscuits
slivers of lemon rind to garnish

Whip cream with electric beaters until thick then continue whipping while you add the condensed milk, lemon rind and juice and vinegar. I used a Kenwood standing mixer, but you can use hand held beaters.

Spoon into 8-10 small glasses. Chill several hours or overnight. Garnish with crushed biscuits and lemon rind.

Serves 8-10

Variation: Fold through the pulp of 3-4 passionfruit before spooning into glasses.

Chicken with Fresh Corn Salsa on Toast

Leftovers on a slice of buttered toast is one of my favourite quick meals. What might not be quite enough for one or two can be stretched (as my mother used to say) by serving it on a slice of toast. Leftover spag bol sauce for example.

This recipe uses a slice of toast to create a light but satisfying mid-week dinner or weekend lunch for two. Use two small chicken breasts, one large one, or buy the small strips called fillets.

 

350g chicken breast or fillets
Marinade:
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp hot English mustard
1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or a pinch of dried
½ tsp salt
½ clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp honey
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pinch chilli flakes (optional)
Fresh Corn Salsa:
1 ear fresh corn
1 tsp vinegar
½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs olive oil
½ clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or a pinch of dried
To serve:
2 tsp olive oil to fry chicken
2 slices buttered toast
Something red (capsicum, tomato, sun dried tomato)
1 avocado, sliced
2 sprigs thyme

If using whole chicken breasts cut them into chunky slices like fillets.

Mix all ingredients for marinade with the chicken in one bowl. Remove kernels from corn cob by slicing downwards with a sharp knife. Mix with remaining salsa ingredients in another bowl.

Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry chicken for 4-5 mins each side or until golden brown and cooked through. Serve chicken on toast, topped with the salsa and avocado. Garnish with something red for a bit of colour and a sprig of thyme. If liked drizzle a little olive oil around the plate.

Serves 2

Eggplant, Nuts & Seeds with Labneh Dressing

 

When I do my weekly shopping I often buy a couple of eggplants with a view to making some kind of vegetarian dish. Inspired by a photo in a recent QANTAS magazine I created this colourful dish which was delicious. There was no recipe, just a photo, so there was a lot of guesswork!

2 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise about 1cm thick
olive oil
1 cup plain Greek yoghurt
1 Tbs lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Seeds from 1 pomegranate or ½ cup dried Goji berries
1 Tbs each pine nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pepitas
2 tsp black sesame seeds (optional)
A few green leaves such as rocket, spinach (I used pea shoots from the garden)
Extra Virgin olive oil

To make the Labneh, strain the yoghurt for a few hours or overnight in a sieve lined with muslin or a man’s handkerchief, in the fridge. Discard the liquid.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Arrange eggplant slices on two large shallow baking sheets, lined with baking paper. Brush both sides with olive oil then bake for 20-30 mins or until cooked and golden brown. Arrange in a serving dish in overlapping circles.

Meanwhile heat the nuts and seeds in a dry frying pan over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly toasted. Remove seeds from pomegranate, or if using Goji berries, cover them with boiling water, then drain after 2-3 minutes.

Mix labneh with the lemon juice and season to taste.

Garnish eggplant slices with the pomegranate seeds or Goji berries, the toasted nuts and seeds and the labneh dressing. Add a few green leaves for colour. Drizzle a little Extra Virgin olive oil around the plate.

Serves 4

Roasted Vegetables with Spinach and Haloumi

 

Flying home from Canada I walked through the galley kitchen during the night, on my way to the loo. A flight attendant was eating something from a foil container which looked delicious. Not like aeroplane food at all. She told me it was roasted veggies with quinoa, spinach and halloumi. I made a mental note and here it is.

1 recipe Oven Roasted Vegetables
1 cup quinoa or couscous, prepared according to packet directions
1 packet baby spinach leaves
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Balsamic Glaze
Lemon Juice
1 packet Halloumi cheese

Make the vegetable recipe you can find by clicking on the link and prepare the couscous or quinoa. In a large salad bowl mix the vegetables with the quinoa or couscous and the baby spinach leaves. Add oil and lemon juice to taste.

Slice halloumi cheese about half a centimetre thick. Dry well with paper towels then fry on both sides in a frying pan in a little olive oil until golden brown. Arrange the halloumi on top of the vegetables, then drizzle with the lemon juice and balsamic glaze.

Serves 4

Variations: use the larger Israeli couscous, cooked according to packet directions. Top the salad with cubes of feta cheese instead of halloumi.

Asparagus with Caper & Egg Dressing

Asparagus is delicious served hot with melted butter or cold with mayonnaise. This sauce goes a step further, being a Hollandaise sauce with a few extra additions. The sauce also goes well with ham or poached eggs.

4 egg yolks
4 Tbs white wine vinegar
2 Tbs water
1 tsp hot English mustard
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp smoked paprika
2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
100ml cream
2 Tbs capers, drained and chopped
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley
5 or 6 asparagus spears per person
Extra parsley leaves and Extra Virgin Olive oil to garnish

Place egg yolks, vinegar, water, mustard, salt and paprika in the top of a double boiler, or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Using electric beaters, whisk the sauce until it doubles in volume. Remove from the heat and fold in the hard boiled eggs, cream, capers and parsley.

Meanwhile, cook the asparagus in shallow boiling water in a frying pan, for 4-5 mins or until al dente. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the sauce warm over the asparagus. Any leftover sauce goes well cold with ham or cold asparagus.

Serves 4-6

 

Fried Halloumi with Lemon and Olives

I first ate halloumi cheese at my brother’s house when he was living in the UK in the 1980s. He cooked it on a barbecue and the kids decided to call it squeaky cheese, because of the noise it makes against your teeth when you eat it.

This recipe makes a good side dish for lunch or nibbles with drinks.

2-3 Tbs olive oil
250g halloumi cheese
2 Tbs flour mixed with some salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon
½ cup olives, stoned and sliced (green or black)
1 Tbs chopped fresh marjoram, oregano or parsley
1 birdseye chilli, seeded and finely chopped
Extra olive oil

Slice cheese a bit more than half a centimetre thick and cut into manageable sized pieces. Dust with seasoned flour. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and cook the cheese slices on both sides until golden. Drain on paper. While cheese is cooking remove peel from the lemon with a vegetable peeler then chop finely. Remove juice from the lemon.

When cooked, place halloumi in a small serving dish. Mix lemon juice and rind, olives and herbs and sprinkle over. Top with the chilli, if using. Drizzle with extra olive oil and serve as a snack or part of a mezze with fresh bread.

Roasted Eggplant with Saffron Yoghurt

Another Yotam Ottolenghi recipe I tried recently. As you can see, I rather overdid the saffron, which made the yoghurt sauce a rather lurid yellow, but it was still delicious. Pomegranate seeds add a lovely splash of red, but if you don’t have any use chopped roasted red peppers or perhaps a few dried goji berries, soaked briefly in hot water, then drained.

3 medium eggplants, cut into 2cm slices or wedges
Olive oil for brushing
2 Tbs toasted pine nuts
A handful of pomegranate seeds
A few basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sauce:
A pinch of saffron strands or powdered saffron
3 Tbs hot water
180g thick Greek-style yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
2½ Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Make sauce by infusing saffron in hot water for 5 minutes, then whisking in the remaining ingredients. Sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 220°C. Place eggplant on an oven tray, brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool. Eggplants will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Arrange eggplant on a serving platter, slightly overlapping. Drizzle with the sauce, sprinkle with the pine nuts and pomegranate seeds, then scatter with a few basil leaves.

Serves 4

EQ Grilled Chicken Salad

My friend Dawn can’t eat gluten or dairy products, so the Gluten and Dairy-Free Grilled Chicken Salad at EQ Cafe and Lounge in Deakin caught her eye when we had lunch there recently. I decided to join her. It was delicious, not to mention healthy, so I was inspired to have a go at making it at home.

Goji berries are native to Asia and have recently become available in dried form in mainstream Australian supermarkets. The cheapest I could find were from Aldi, which sells 150g of Organic Chinese goji berries for $5. There is currently no clinical evidence that these berries are going to lower your cholesterol or cure you of anything, but they do add a nice splash of red to this salad. Substitute diced red capsicum or halved cherry tomatoes if you don’t have goji berries.

Quantities are approximate. I bought a 120g pack of rocket from Aldi and used about two thirds in the salad and one third in the pesto.

About 80g rocket, washed and spun dry
1 cup finely shredded red/purple cabbage
1 endive (witlof) cut into 1cm wide lengthwise strips
16 sugar snap peas
¼ cup dried goji berries
¼ cup red wine (or if preferred use water)
¼ cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted
200-250g chicken tenderloins trimmed and dried on paper towels
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rocket pesto:

1 small clove garlic
About 40g rocket, washed and spun dry
2 Tbs pine nuts
2 tsp lemon juice
100 ml olive oil (approx)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon Vinaigrette:
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place vinaigrette ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake.

Place red wine in a small saucepan and heat to boiling point. Add goji berries, turn off the heat and leave to cool, then drain thoroughly.

Make pesto by placing all ingredients except oil in food processor. Process for 30 seconds, then gradually add the oil with the motor running, until you have a thick pouring consistency.

Mix the rocket and red cabbage with the lemon vinaigrette. In two shallow salad bowls arrange the salad in layers. First the rocket and red cabbage, then the endive, sugar snap peas, goji berries and hazelnuts. Brush chicken with oil, season, then grill or pan fry until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Slice each fillet into 2-3 pieces, arrange on top of the salad. Drizzle the salad (especially the chicken) with the pesto – you won’t need it all.

Serves 2 as a main course