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

 

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

These scrumptious bruschettas make a perfect weekend lunch for four, or two if you’re feeling a bit peckish.

Well-known cook, food blogger and author David Lebovitz makes his own cheese from goat’s milk yoghurt for this recipe, which features in his book “My Paris Kitchen”. He calls them Crostini. To speed things up I used a packet of Aldi goat cheese and a bit of feta.

Roasted Tomatoes:
650g cherry tomatoes
3 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Handful fresh herbs (whatever you can find), roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Herbed Goat Cheese:
125g soft goat’s cheese (see note below)
Cream or plain yoghurt
1 Tbs chopped fresh herbs (eg chives, parsley, thyme)
1 Tbs finely chopped shallots (I used 2 spring onions)
1 clove garlic, crushed
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Toasts:
4 thick slices sourdough or other country-style bread
Olive oil
1 clove garlic
Fresh herbs to garnish

Preheat oven to 180°C. Mix tomatoes with remaining ingredients and tip into a baking dish where they fit snugly in one layer. Roast for 30-45 minutes or until wilted and starting to brown a bit. Stir once during cooking time. Remove from the oven and cool. Can be made several hours and up to a day ahead.

Place cheese on a plate and mash with a fork, adding enough cream or yoghurt to achieve a thick spreading consistency. Mix in remaining ingredients. This can also be made ahead of time.

Brush bread on both sides with olive oil then bake in a hot oven for 5 minutes or until golden. I used a sandwich press which is much quicker and avoids having to turn the oven on again. If liked rub a cut clove of garlic over the toasts.

Spread herbed cheese thickly onto each slice of toast, top with the tomatoes and garnish with fresh herbs.

Makes 4 bruschettas

Note: I used a 115g packet of Goat’s cheese from Aldi and made it up to 125g with some Danish-style feta. Any soft creamy cheese will do. In South America you could use “queso fresco”.

Ricotta Cheesecake

I’ve made a lot of cheesecakes over the years and this one ticks all the boxes. The recipe was given to me by my daughter Catherine who said it was easy peasy and delicious.

Instead of topping with marmalade, you could serve the cheesecake with sliced strawberries, macerated with a little sugar and perhaps a splash of orange liqueur or brandy. Instead of marmalade I used about a cup of pureed fresh apricots, which I had frozen during summer, mixed with some home-made cumquat jam and heated to combine, then cooled. Use your imagination – this cheesecake would go well with any jam, marmalade, fruity sauce or fruit compote. Or just some fresh berries.

Use half the amount of biscuits, butter and cinnamon if you prefer a thinner crust.

Crust:
200g plain sweet biscuits
100g butter at room temperature
1 tsp cinnamon
Filling:
250g ricotta cheese
250g cream cheese
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup cream or sour cream
2 Tbs grated lemon rind
Topping:
½ cup marmalade
¼ cup water
Icing sugar

Grease and bottom line a 22cm springform pan. Preheat oven to 170°C. Blitz biscuits in a food processor with butter and cinnamon to make fine crumbs. Tip into cake pan, spread evenly and press down. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

Place ricotta, cream cheese and sugar in food processor and process until smooth. Add egg yolks, cream and lemon rind and mix thoroughly. In a large mixing bowl whip egg whites with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Scrape mixture from food processor into the egg whites and mix gently with a rubber spatula until combined. Scrape into the cake pan, then bake for 45-50 mins or until set, but still slightly wobbly in the middle. Remove from the oven, cool then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake, then remove sides from pan and dust top with sifted icing sugar. Heat marmalade and water in a small saucepan until combined, then cool and spoon over the top of the cheesecake, or serve separately in a jug.

Serves 10

Variations: use orange rind instead of lemon. Serve with fresh fruit or fruit compote of choice.

Fresh Coriander Chutney

Serve this delicious fresh chutney with curries, roast meats, fish, samosas, or in sandwiches and wraps. Or simply as a dip with fresh crusty bread. There’s no end to its uses.

1 large bunch coriander
1 cup roasted peanuts
4 Tbs lemon juice
2-3 green chillies, seeds removed
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp turmeric
2 heaped tsp brown sugar

Place all ingredients in food processor and process till it looks like pesto. Scrape down the sides, add a little water if necessary, then briefly process again.

Keeps in the fridge for several days.

Makes about 1½ cups

Variation: use cashews or pine nuts instead of peanuts

Pear and Fig Chutney

Last week we flew to Queenstown with Air New Zealand for a wedding. We flew Economy class, but fortunately Gold points status with Star Alliance gave me access to the business class lounge. I was also able to take a guest, which was just as well as Matthew only has Silver status.

The lunch buffet at Queenstown airport when we were flying home included a selection of salads which we enjoyed with a glass of Esk Valley Estate chardonnay. Afterwards we had  cheese and biscuits, accompanied by a delicious Pear and Fig Chutney, made by a New Zealand company called Barkers. On return I decided to have a go at making this chutney, while the memory was still fresh in my mind. Today’s recipe is an adaptation of one I found online. It has the addition of walnuts, which aren’t in the Barker’s version. They give it a nice crunch, but leave them out if you prefer.

Removing the seeds from the cardamom pods was a fiddly job, so if preferred add a different spice such as a teaspoon of chilli powder, cayenne pepper or ground cumin. Most chutney recipes call for fruit, onions, brown sugar and vinegar, but they all vary and are very adaptable when it comes to the spices. Add whatever takes your fancy.

I’ve been on flights where you have to pay for any drinks or food. And I’ve been on flights where they give everyone a meal. This was somewhere in between. When it came to lunch time we were all prepared to say “No thank you” as the flight attendant handed us a tray. Much to our surprise she looked at our seat number, glanced at her clipboard, gave a tray to the guy sitting next to us on the aisle and headed off. Clearly we’d bought the Absolutely No Frills tickets and he hadn’t.

1 kg ripe pears, peeled and chopped
375-400g dried figs, de-stemmed and chopped
375g sharp apples such as Granny Smiths, peeled and diced
375g onions, peeled and diced
Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
350g brown sugar
500ml cider vinegar
1 Tbs ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbs toasted cardamom seeds, crushed
125g walnuts, chopped

Place all ingredients except the walnuts in a preserving pan or very large heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to the boil then simmer for about an hour or until thick. If it gets too thick before the apples and onions are cooked, add a little water.

Place 8 clean normal sized jam jars or more smaller ones in the microwave, without their lids and zap on High for 2 minutes.

Lightly toast the walnuts by stirring them for a few minutes in a non-stick frying pan over moderate heat. When the chutney is ready stir in the walnuts and tip into the hot jars. Use a wide funnel or a small jug. Go all round the edge of each jar with the blade of a knife, hitting the bottom, to remove any air bubbles. Seal, label and store in a dark cupboard. Refrigerate after opening.

Makes about 8 jars

Note: if available use Bramley apples which are common in the UK but hard to find in Australia unless you grow your own.

Vegetarian Paella

I was inspired to have a go at making this delicious Vegetarian Paella after lunching with friends at Muse Cafe, located at the East Hotel in Canberra. When you’ve eaten something in a restaurant, but don’t actually have the recipe, you have to use a certain amount of guesswork, but the end result was delicious.

Muse calls this dish Calasparra Paella – calasparra being a variety of rice especially suited to making paella. It’s not sold in any of my local supermarkets, but if you look online you can find a couple of specialty grocers who sell it.

Arborio rice is a good substitute, but you need to use less liquid and stir it less, so it doesn’t go creamy and start to break down. Calasparra needs three times the volume of liquid to rice, whereas Arborio only needs about twice the volume.

As you can see in this photo, I roasted the tomatoes with the other vegetables. They ended up a bit overcooked, which is why I have amended the recipe to add them halfway through the cooking time. I also roasted the beans and asparagus with the other vegetables, which unfortunately meant they lost their vibrant green colour. So again I have amended the recipe to cook the green veggies in water rather than in the oven. Either way works, it’s just about the colour.

1½ cups Arborio rice (or Calasparra)
3 cups vegetable stock (4½ cups if using Calasparra)
2-3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of saffron threads or powder
Knob of butter (optional)
About 12 cherry tomatoes
About 6-8 asparagus spears
About 12 green beans
1 onion
1 small red capsicum
1 small sweet potato
Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
To serve:
2 avocados cut into cubes
Micro herbs or any small fresh leaves (basil, marjoram etc)
4 Lime wedges
Extra Virgin Olive oil

Heat half the olive oil in a heavy-based large saucepan, add the rice and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the stock, letting it be absorbed before adding more. Stir from time to time, but not too often or too vigorously. You may need slightly more or less stock as rice varies. When al dente add the saffron, chilli flakes and salt and pepper to taste. If liked, add a knob of butter, then cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile roast the vegetables. Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut the onion, sweet potato and capsicum into 1-1.5cm squares and place in a bowl with the rest of the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well then spread out on a shallow oven tray lined with baking paper. Bake for about half an hour, or until cooked. Halfway through cooking time give them a stir around and add the tomatoes. Meanwhile cut the asparagus and beans into 1.5cm lengths and cook in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes then drain and refresh under cold water.

Mix all the vegetables into rice and arrange on 4 serving plates, using a large stacking ring if you have one. Garnish with avocado, herbs, olive oil and lime wedges.

Serves 4

Note: I made a large main course sized stacking ring by cutting the top and bottom off a large can of tuna with a can opener. Place in the middle a dinner plate. Fill with the paella and press down the top, garnish with avocado and herbs, then lift off carefully and serve.

Variations: use eggplant, zucchini or peas instead of one of the vegetables.

Roasted Beetroot with Avocado

At this time of year we have lots of vegetables in the garden, including tomatoes, zucchini, beetroot and basil. So Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes, with their strong bias towards veggies, are perfect.

We’ve been eating so many of his amazing recipes lately that Matthew says he wouldn’t be surprised to walk into the kitchen and find the man himself.

This week I made his Roasted Beetroot with Yoghurt and Preserved Lemon which I served for lunch with avocado. We sat in the garden under the olive tree sipping a glass of chilled white wine and enjoying this delicious, not to mention healthy, combination.

If you don’t have any preserved lemon, just leave it out or add some grated lemon rind. I used fresh marjoram instead of dill, but you could also use fresh basil or chives.

1 kg beetroot
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 small preserved lemon, chopped, seeds discarded
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs chopped fresh dill (or use marjoram, basil or chives)
1 Tbs Tahini
¾ cup Greek style plain yoghurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe avocados

Preheat oven to 200°C. Wash and dry beetroots, but leave skin on. Wrap each one in foil then bake for about an hour or until tender. Test with a sharp knife or skewer. When cool enough to handle, peel and slice into a large mixing bowl.

Heat olive oil and cumin seeds for a few minutes in a small frying pan, until seeds start to pop, then tip over the beetroot. Add the onion, preserved lemon, lemon juice, half the herbs and season to taste. Mix well then transfer to a shallow serving dish.

Mix the Tahini into the yoghurt then put blobs all over the top. Peel and dice the avocados and arrange around the edge of the plate. Garnish with the rest of the herbs.

Serves 4

Fig and Ginger Jam

While figs are in season, don’t forget to make some jam. We like ours with the addition of fresh ginger, but if preferred leave it out. You can use green figs or purple figs.

This jam is delicious on crusty bread or toast, or dolloped on plain Greek yoghurt. It also goes well on canapes with a chunk of creamy blue cheese, or as an addition to a cheese board.

1 kg fresh ripe figs
4 Tbs lemon juice
Grated zest of one lemon
2 heaped Tbs grated fresh ginger, or to taste
½ cup water
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
2 cups sugar

Chop figs into quarters or eighths, discarding the stems. Place in a preserving pan or heavy-bottomed large saucepan. Add the lemon juice and rind, the ginger, water and cinnamon stick. Cook gently for 20 minutes or until figs are tender Add the sugar, boil until setting point has been reached, remove cinnamon then tip into hot sterilized jars. Seal while hot and store in a dark cupboard.

Makes 4 small jars

Baked Figs with Prosciutto and Goat’s Cheese

Fresh figs are in season for a very short time, but now is the time, if you live in Australia.

One of my favourite ways to serve fresh figs is with smoked salmon. It may sound like a strange combination, but give it a try – I think it’s delicious. Another favourite recipe is this one where they are wrapped in Prosciutto, stuffed with goat’s cheese and then baked. The recipe serves two as a light lunch but is easy to multiply.

4 fresh figs
2 slices Prosciutto or Jamon Serrano
40-50g goat’s cheese
1 tsp balsamic glaze or vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Rocket
Chopped walnuts
Simple oil and vinegar dressing
Balsamic glaze

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove stalks from figs then cut a cross on the tops. Squeeze gently from the bottom to open them up a bit. Cut each slice of ham in two lengthwise so you have 4 long strips. Wrap one around each fig, secure with a toothpick, then place in a small shallow baking dish. Stuff the cheese into the tops of the figs.

Mix the balsamic, oil and honey and drizzle over. Season with S and P then bake for 15-20 minutes. Serve with a rocket salad with some walnuts added and a simple oil and vinegar dressing. Garnish the plate with balsamic glaze.

Serves 2

Variations: use a creamy blue cheese instead of goat’s cheese