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

What to Eat in the Heat

The only place to be during a heatwave is inside, with the air conditioning going full blast.

While most people don’t feel as hungry when the weather’s stinking hot, you still have to eat. But who wants to turn on the oven or the hotplates with the temperature soaring over 40°, as it is in Canberra this week?

Here are a few ideas for delicious sustenance which involve minimum effort and no cooking.

Gazpacho is one of the ways they cope with hot weather in Spain. This is a cheat’s version which is made in a jiffy.

Or try this unusual Chilled Almond Soup which also comes from Spain and involves no cooking.

Buy a couple of salmon fillets (boned and skinned) and make Gravlax which “cooks” in the fridge and is absolutely delicious served with sweet mustard sauce, dark brown bread or blinis. I buy my salmon at Costco because you can be 100% sure no bones have been left. Once made you can cut each salmon fillet into 2 or 3 pieces and freeze what you’re not using immediately.

Splurge on some lobster tails and make this divine Lobster, Mango and Avocado salad to enjoy with a glass of Riesling as the sun goes down.

I grew up in England where it never gets as hot as it does in Australia. Summer Pudding is the dessert they make in the height of the UK summer, when the berries are all in season. One of my all time favourites.

And while they’re in season and cheap why not make Mangoes in Ginger Wine. The perfect way to finish dinner on a hot summer’s evening.

If you’re still looking for inspiration for dessert have a look at this article Seven Quick Desserts where you’ll find several ideas, including Blueberry Parfaits which can be put together quickly from ingredients bought at the supermarket. Instead of blueberries, try using raspberries or strawberries.

Time to go back to my book and crank the aircon up another notch.

Mid-week Pork Stir-Fry

Try this delicious mid-week stir fry. Easy peasy and adaptable. I forgot to put the chilli on top for the photo. Leave it out for kids or anyone who doesn’t like things spicy. I’ve made this once a week for the past month and each time varied the recipe a bit. It’s always good. If preferred, leave out the noodles and serve with steamed rice.

 

600g pork, thinly sliced
2 Tbs brown sugar
1½ Tbs soy sauce
½ tsp Chinese five spice
2 tsp fish sauce
200g dried Asian noodles (e.g. rice noodles)
2 Tbs oil
1 red or white onion cut into eighths
1 Tbs grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
1 carrot, halved and sliced
200g snow peas, trimmed
¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup oyster sauce
¼ cup roasted cashews or peanuts or a mixture
1 small red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)

Combine pork, sugar, soy sauce, five spice and fish sauce in a bowl. Cook noodles according to packet instructions and drain well. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a wok or large frying pan and stir-fry the pork over high heat in two batches for 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add remaining 1 Tbs oil to the wok and over high heat stir-fry the onion, ginger, garlic, capsicum and carrot for 5 minutes. Add pork, snow peas, stock, oyster sauce and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Mix in the noodles and a dash of water if it’s a bit dry. Serve garnished with the nuts and the chilli.

Substitutions:
– beef or chicken thighs instead of pork
– broccoli florets, green beans, spinach, asparagus or bok choy instead of snow peas

Crispy Skin Salmon with Green Papaya Salad

On a recent trip to Europe we caught up with quite a few friends and family in Denmark, England and France. It was so nice to return to Copenhagen (12 years after we lived there) and find that our old friends still wanted to hang out with us. As we walked in the door the cork would pop off the first bottle of champagne, then we’d have a lovely time eating, drinking and being merry. Just like we’d never been apart. When we left a couple of days later they went back to their normal, more sensible, regime, while we moved on and started all over again.

This is why we like to spend a few days on the way back to Australia at a resort in Thailand, to recover. A week of swimming, reading, massage and early nights, with no wine and just the occasional beer or cocktail means we get home looking and feeling like we’ve had a holiday.

For the past few years we’ve stayed in Khao Lak, a 75 minute drive north of Phuket airport. It’s relatively quiet, the way Phuket was 20 or 30 years ago. I send an email to a taxi company called “Cheaper than Hotel” and when we walk out of the airport there’s our driver waiting.

Breakfast at the Chong Fah resort where we’ve stayed two years running is substantial, so we skip lunch and go out for dinner after a Happy Hour cocktail at sunset. The nearby resort named Casa de la Flora (which in correct Spanish should be Casa de la Flor) serves delicious modern Thai food. We dined there twice and both times ordered this dish which I have done my best to replicate. The recipe serves 4 as a light main course or 8 as a sharing plate.

4 salmon fillets, skin on
Salt and pepper
1 Tbs oil
Salad:
½ a small green papaya (about 200g), or 1 green mango
2 carrots (about 200g)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
6 green beans cut into 2.5cm lengths (or use snow peas)
½ cup dried shrimp (from Asian stores) (optional)
1-2 dried chillies, chopped, or chilli flakes, to taste
8-10 cocktail tomatoes, halved
Dressing:
1 Tbs Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce
1 Tbs lime or lemon juice
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar or palm sugar
To garnish:
1 lime
2-3 Tbs toasted peanuts

Pour boiling water over the dried shrimp. Leave for 15 mins then drain. Cut the papaya and carrots into julienne strips. Mix all ingredients for salad. Mix dressing and add to the salad.

Season salmon then place in a non-stick frying pan, skin side down. Turn on the heat to moderately hot and cook for 3-4 minutes, until skin is crispy, then turn over and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until done to your liking.

Divide salad between 4 serving plates. Top with the salmon and garnish with the lime, cut into cheeks or wedges and the peanuts.

Serves 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caramelised Chicken Kebabs

 

If you like sticky Asian chicken dishes you’ll like this one. I used less than half the amount of sugar in the original recipe (which I thought was a bit over the top) and it worked well.

1.2 kg skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 Tbs Asian fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
Glaze:
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs Asian fish sauce
3 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
To serve:
2 Tbs white sesame seeds
2 Tbs black sesame seeds
2 Tbs flaked almonds
Thinly sliced spring onions, or chives
or chopped parsley

Cut chicken into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks. Mix with the fish sauce, brown sugar and lemon juice and marinate for an hour or two.

Place all ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer for a few minutes to thicken.

Thread chicken onto 8 bamboo skewers which have been soaked in cold water. Cook on a grill or BBQ for about 8 minutes, brushing regularly with the glaze, or until cooked through. Cook for about 2 minutes on each of the four sides.

Place sesame seeds and almonds in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat for a few minutes or until golden.

When kebabs are cooked place on serving dish and brush again with the glaze. Sprinkle with the sesame seed mixture and the spring onions or herbs. Serve with steamed rice and a cucumber and onion salad.

Serves 4

Berry Nice Jam

This recipe makes about two and a half cups of delicious, fresh berry jam. It’s not cooked, so it will only keep for a few days in the fridge. Serve with fresh scones, croissants or Greek yoghurt. It also makes an amazing filling for a cream and jam sponge cake.

It works on the principle that when chia seeds are mixed with liquid they swell up and thicken the liquid. Have you ever tried chia seeds for breakfast? Soak them overnight in milk or juice, then add to your usual muesli and fruit mix.

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (or other berries)
3 Tbs honey, sugar or a sweetener such as Stevia
4 Tbs chia seeds
¼ cup water
1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)

Thaw the berries if frozen and crush them a bit with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. The jam will thicken as the chia seeds swell. This will take several hours or overnight. Keep in the fridge and use within a few days. Can be frozen, so you might like to freeze half and use half.

Makes about 2½ cups

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce

When the kids were growing up I used to make a quick and easy chocolate sauce with a recipe from my mother in law. It goes well with ice cream, waffles and pancakes and disappeared faster than I could make it.

On a recent trip to Denmark  we spent a delightful weekend with our dear friends Vickie and Frants on the island of Fyn. Vickie served a delicious chocolate sauce with ice cream and when she explained the recipe I realised it was almost identical to mine, which I hadn’t made in ages.

Last weekend I went on a bit of a cooking spree and made a few things for the fridge and freezer, including peanut butter ice cream and chocolate sauce to serve with it. For Matthew, not the kids who are long gone. The recipe makes about a cup of sauce, so if you have a house full of kids you might like to double it. If you can’t find golden syrup, honey or maple syrup should work. The ice cream is very quick to make and you don’t need an ice cream machine.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream:
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
A generous ½ cup of sugar
600 ml cream
125 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
A pinch of Maldon salt flakes
Chocolate Sauce:
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
4 Tbs cocoa powder
2 Tbs Golden Syrup
A piece of butter the size of a walnut
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the ice cream, use electric beaters to mix the peanut butter with the sugar until smooth. Gradually beat in the cream and milk and continue beating until thick. Add the vanilla and salt, then scrape into a plastic container and freeze.

For the sauce, place all ingredients except the butter and vanilla in a large saucepan, as it tends to bubble up. Heat, while whisking until smooth, then boil at a steady boil without stirring for 4-5 mins. Remove from the heat, add the butter and vanilla. Serve immediately or store in the fridge, covered and reheat in the microwave for about 30 secs. If it gets a bit thick add a tablespoon or so of water before heating. And if it’s too “dark” add some cream.

Serve ice cream topped with the sauce.

Makes about 1 litre of ice cream and 1 cup of sauce

 

 

Parmesan Chicken with Asparagus and Lemon

Asparagus season is here again and I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use this delicious vegetable.

Making an asparagus bed is a long term project. The bed can’t be used for anything else and for the first two years experts advise you resist picking and let the asparagus die down. The plants need to concentrate on establishing deep roots. But if you have the space an asparagus patch is a very worthwhile investment in time. Once up and running it will continue to produce asparagus every year for up to 20 years. Harvesting where we live in eastern Australia starts some time in October and runs for a month or two. Cut the spears just below the level of the soil with a sharp knife when they’re about six inches or 15cm long.

There is nothing quite like home-grown asparagus, but if you don’t grow your own, take advantage of local asparagus available in Australian supermarkets now. The rest of the year it’s mostly imported from South America.

We like our asparagus served hot with melted butter or cold with vinaigrette or mayonnaise. It’s also delicious roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper or sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and grilled.

This week’s recipe teams it with chicken and Parmesan. If you have a big enough tray put the chicken and asparagus all on one and serve from the tray, to save washing up. I had to use two.

For the chicken:
2 large chicken breasts (3 if smaller)
2 Tbs flour
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 Tbs melted butter
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lemon, thinly sliced
For the asparagus:
About 500g asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
1 Tbs melted butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven 180°C. Line a large shallow baking sheet with baking paper. Place flour in a bowl. In a second bowl mix the panko crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. In a third bowl mix the lemon rind, butter, lemon juice and garlic. Cut the chicken breasts into thick strips. Coat with flour, then the garlic/lemon mixture and lastly the panko crumbs. Place on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with any leftover panko mixture over.

Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and cover with lemon slices. If there’s enough room, place the asparagus on the same tray. If not line a second tray with baking paper. Mix the butter, oil and garlic and brush all over the asparagus, then drizzle the rest over. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and asparagus is cooked. If liked serve with a drizzle of olive oil. Steamed new potatoes go well.

Serves 3-4