Crispy oven-baked Cauliflower Bites

Serve these delicious, crunchy cauliflower bites as an aperitif or light meal. The ones in the photo are larger florets which we had as a light meal. I served smaller ones with Christmas drinks and they were a great success. All the preparation can be done several hours ahead.

1 small to medium cauliflower or half a large one
Batter:
2 Tbs Besan (chickpea) flour
1 Tbs cornflour (corn starch)
1 tsp each of turmeric, salt, oregano and paprika
2 eggs and a little water
Coating:
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbs sesame seeds
Dipping Sauce:
½ cup mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
¼ cup sour cream or plain yoghurt
1 Tbs tomato sauce
A little chilli sauce such as Tabasco or Sriracha, to taste (optional)
Paprika

Cut cauliflower into florets – one or two bites in size. Mix the batter all together in a bowl with a fork, adding enough cold water to make a coating consistency. Add the cauliflower florets and toss well until thoroughly coated. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper.

Mix the coating ingredients in a shallow bowl. Remove cauliflower, one or two pieces at a time and toss in the crumbs, patting them on. Arrange in a single layer on the baking tray. Can be prepared in advance to this stage.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until tender (test with a skewer or sharp knife), golden and crispy. Smaller florets will take less time. Mix sauce ingredients together, sprinkle with paprika and serve with the cauliflower.

Makes 36-40

Note: feel free to use different herbs and spices such as dried basil, cumin etc

Curry Dip

I’ve been making this dip since I was at school, which is quite some time ago. Served  with a colourful array of raw vegetables it makes a healthy accompaniment to drinks. Make it the day before serving, for the flavours to develop.

250g cream cheese
1 cup thick Greek-style yoghurt
4 Tbs mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
4 tsp curry paste or powder
1 Tbs grated onion
¼ cup raisins or sultanas, chopped finely
1 tsp sugar
Paprika to garnish

Have the cream cheese at room temperature. Mix with remaining ingredients and refrigerate, covered, overnight, for the flavours to develop. Sprinkle with paprika and serve with raw vegetables or crackers.

White Bean Soup with Anchovy Butter

This recipe from English food writer Simon Hopkinson uses two tins of white beans to create a delicious, creamy soup worthy of any restaurant menu.

I haven’t tried it, but he says that if you don’t have a can of white beans, such as Cannellini or butter beans, you can use chick peas. The soup is rich and creamy, so I’ve cut back a little on the butter and the cream.

50g butter
2 large onions, chopped
4 sticks celery, chopped
1 Tbs fresh rosemary leaves pulled off the stem
2 x 400g cans white beans (eg Cannellini)
750ml (3 cups) vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
100-150ml cream (keep a little for garnish)
Anchovy Butter:
120g butter at room temperature
1 Tbs rosemary leaves pulled off the stem
1 clove garlic, crushed
50g anchovies, drained
Juice of half a small lemon
Pepper to taste
To Serve:
Cream
Black Pepper
Croutons

Heat butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan and cook onions and celery for 5-10 minutes, until soft and lightly coloured, stirring from time to time. Add rosemary and stir for a minute to release the aroma. Add beans, including the juice and stock and simmer for 30 mins. Cool then blend in a blender or food processor until smooth and put back into a clean pan. Add cream and season to taste. Not too much salt as the anchovy butter is salty.

While soup is cooking place all ingredients for the anchovy butter in a food processor and mix till smooth, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. You can at this stage pass it through a fine sieve to remove any bits of rosemary, but I didn’t bother. Scrape into a small bowl or container.

Reheat soup and serve garnished with a blob of anchovy butter, extra cream, black pepper and some croutons.

Serves 4

To make croutons: cut a couple of slices of bread into cubes then mix them in a bowl with a little olive oil. Spread onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake at 180°C until golden and crunchy.

Zucchini Fritters with Corn and Bacon

This recipe, from one of my favourite recipe websites called Mind Food, makes a delicious light lunch or dinner.

400g zucchini, washed and coarsely grated
½ cup self-raising flour
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
50g feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 rashers bacon, rinds removed
1 Tbs olive oil
1 cob fresh corn, kernels removed (or substitute frozen)
1 Tbs snipped chives
1/3 cup sour cream
Extra virgin olive oil to garnish

Sprinkle a good pinch of salt over the zucchini, mix through then leave to drain in a colander for 20 minutes or so. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can then place in a large mixing bowl with the flour, two cheeses, egg and seasoning to taste. You probably won’t need any salt having salted the grated zucchini.

In a large non-stick frying pan fry the bacon until crispy on both sides then drain on paper towels and keep warm. Place the corn in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Wipe out the frying pan then heat the tablespoonful of oil and fry the fritters for about 3 minutes each side, using about a quarter of the mixture for each fritter. Just scoop it out using two or three big spoonfuls for each. If the pan is large enough make all four at the same time. If not make two and keep them warm while you make another two. Drain well on paper towels, then arrange one on each of 4 warmed serving plates.

Drain corn and mix it with the chives, then divide amongst the four fritters. Top each with a dollop of sour cream and a folded slice of crispy bacon. Drizzle a little olive oil around each serving.

Serves 4

Variation: top with a slice of smoked salmon or trout instead of the bacon.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Shallots with Grapefruit

Adapted from one by Yotam Ottolenghi for Brussels Sprouts with Pomelo, this recipe may sound like a weird combination, but it works. He uses 100g of sugar, which I’ve swapped for a tablespoonful of honey because we found it too sweet.

Pomelo is a citrus fruit which looks like a large grapefruit with one pointy end. Like grapefruit, pomelos come in yellow or pink varieties and are interchangeable in recipes.

Asians love them and when we lived in Malaysia the locals looked forward to each new season and cleared the shelves. Asians who have moved to live in Australia also look forward to the arrival of the new crop of pomelos. I’ve tried them a couple of times and decided that they are overrated. I’d sooner have a grapefruit as they are available all year round and considerably cheaper.

500-600g Brussels sprouts, trimmed
250g shallots, or small onions, peeled
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large grapefruit
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs water
1 Tbs honey
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick, broken
3-4 Tbs chopped coriander or parsley to garnish

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the sprouts and shallots in a saucepan. Cover with water, bring to the boil, then drain thoroughly. Cut the sprouts in half vertically and the shallots in halve horizontally. If using onions cut them into quarters. Mix the sprouts and shallots or onions with 2 Tbs of the oil, salt and pepper, then spread out on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until everything is golden brown.

Meanwhile peel the grapefruit and remove the segments. Remove the membrane and any seeds and cut each segment into 3 pieces. As you cut up the grapefruit keep any juice. Heat the lemon juice, water, honey, spices and any juice from the grapefruit in a small frying pan for 2-3 minutes, until you have a sticky syrup. Turn off the heat, add the grapefruit, stir gently to coat each piece, then leave to cool.

When the sprouts and shallots are cooked, gently mix in the grapefruit and syrup, discarding the spices. Tip into a serving dish, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil and top with coriander or parsley.

Serves 4-6

Chinese Sesame Noodles with Eggplant

These Chinese Sesame Noodles with Eggplant always leave me thinking that if I had to be a vegetarian, this is one of the dishes I would make often. Some vegetarian dishes are satisfying and others just don’t hit the spot.

The original version came from Australian cook Belinda Jeffery, cooking presenter on the TV show Better Homes and Gardens for many years. I’ve been making it for over 20 years and yes I’ve tweaked it slightly (I know, I’m incorrigible) and added the optional pine nuts which were suggested by Matthew.

Served at room temperature it’s perfect for a shared buffet or as a light family dinner. Also great for lunch boxes.

This week’s recipe is especially for Moya and John and my brother David.

2 large eggplants, cut into 1cm thick slices
3 spring onions, sliced finely on the diagonal
125g bean sprouts
A good handful chopped fresh coriander
450g fresh noodles (Hokkien or Singapore)
Lightly toasted pine nuts to garnish (optional)
Basting mixture:
2 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (with or without seeds, up to you)
2 tsp finely chopped or grated fresh ginger (I tend to use more, like double!)
1 large clove garlic crushed

Cook noodles according to packet directions and drain. Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix basting ingredients. Arrange eggplants on two large shallow baking trays lined with baking paper. Brush both sides with the basting mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tender, brushing them again about halfway through the cooking time.

When eggplant is cool enough to handle cut into quarters, halves or thick slices and mix with remaining basting mixture. In a large shallow serving dish mix the eggplants with the noodles, bean sprouts, spring onions and coriander, keeping a little for decoration. Taste and add some extra olive oil or soy sauce, if necessary. Garnish with the reserved coriander and a few toasted pine nuts (optional, but they do add a nice bit of crunch) and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4

Spicy Roast Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Spinach

Woolworths supermarkets publish a free recipe magazine every month and I sometimes pick one up when I’m doing my weekly shopping. This recipe appealed to me, so I tore it out.

When I came to make it I couldn’t believe how complicated the method was. Using exactly the same ingredients, but a completely different method, I created this version which was delicious.

1 large cauliflower
Water
1 tsp vegetable or chicken stock powder (or ½ a cube)
25g butter
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs Za’atar (spice mix)
2 tsp sumac
2 Tbs tomato paste
¼ cup red wine or cider vinegar
¼ cup currants
1-2 Tbs maple syrup, to taste
1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
2 cups baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut cauliflower into large florets and place in a large mixing bowl. Place any small bits of cauliflower, as well as the stalk and any leaves, cut up, in a saucepan. Add enough water to barely cover and the stock powder. Bring to the boil, then simmer until tender. Cool for 10 minutes then puree in a food processor or with a stick blender, adding the butter and salt and pepper to taste. If making ahead, scrape the puree back into the saucepan, so you can reheat it at serving time.

Preheat oven to 200°C. To the cauliflower florets add the olive oil, Za’atar, sumac, salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Line a large shallow baking tray with non-stick baking paper and spread cauliflower over in one layer. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until al dente and starting to brown on the edges.

While cauliflower is cooking place tomato paste, vinegar, currants, maple syrup, chickpeas and half a cup of water in a frying pan and cook, stirring often for 5 minutes or until reduced and thickened. Just before serving mix in the spinach and remove from the heat.

To serve, spread cauliflower puree over one large serving plate or several individual plates. Top with the roasted cauliflower, then spoon over the chickpea mixture. If liked drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil around the plate.

Serves 6

Note: if you don’t have any Za’atar or sumac, make your own spice mixture with cumin, coriander and dried thyme or oregano. If you don’t have any currants, use sultanas, raisins or dried cherries.

Ham and Pea Bruschetta with Mint

A perfect weekend lunch which can be made in a jiffy with ingredients you probably have on hand.

1 cup frozen peas
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 Tbs smooth ricotta or creamy goat’s cheese
A handful of mint leaves
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil + extra to serve
4 slices sourdough bread
150g smoked ham, thinly sliced
50g feta cheese, crumbled (or use goat’s cheese)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place peas and garlic in a small saucepan. Cover with water then simmer for 3 minutes. Drain and place in food processor with the ricotta, about a tablespoonful of mint leaves and 1 Tbs of the oil. Process until almost smooth then season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile heat a chargrill pan over medium-high heat, brush both sides of the bread with olive oil then cook for 2 minutes each side, or until golden and slightly charred.

To serve, place one slice of the toasted bread on each of 4 plates. Top with the pea mixture, some ham, crumbled feta and a few mint leaves. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, drizzle with extra olive oil and serve.

Serves 4

Variations: use smoked trout or smoked salmon instead of ham.

 

Flatbreads with Minted Yoghurt and Roast Vegetables

This recipe is adapted from one by Yotam Ottolenghi. The flatbreads are easy to make, but you could buy some Naan bread or wraps and use those instead. Any leftover flatbreads can be frozen. Just thaw and reheat briefly in a frying pan.

Flatbreads:
400g plain flour (see note below)
½ cup plain yoghurt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried yeast
180ml warm water
1 tsp sugar
Ghee (or oil and butter) for frying
Oven-Roasted vegetables
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Mint Yoghurt:
2 cups plain yoghurt
2 Tbs chopped mint
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbs olive oil
Good pinch of salt

Place flour and salt in food processor and add yoghurt. In a small bowl, mix yeast with warm water and sugar and leave to stand for 10 minutes until frothy. Add to the food processor and process until mixture forms a ball. If it seems too dry to form a ball add a bit more warm water, a tablespoon at a time with the motor running. Once dough has formed into a smooth ball, tip onto a lightly floured surface and form into a sausage shape. Cut into 8 even-sized pieces, then knead and roll each into a ball and place on a tray. Cover with a tea towel and leave for an hour and a half, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile prepare the oven-roasted vegetables according to the recipe link, seasoning them before roasting with the cumin and paprika, as well as the oil, salt and pepper. Any mix of vegetables will do. You might like to add some tomatoes as in the photo.

Line a sieve with a piece of muslin or similar cloth (I use a man’s cotton handkerchief I keep for this purpose), scrape in the yoghurt and stand over a bowl so the liquid drains out. Leave for an hour or two or overnight in the fridge. Blitz mint, lemon juice, oil and salt in a mini-blender, spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle. Mix this paste into the strained yoghurt.

At serving time, on a lightly floured surface, roll out each flatbread ball thinly to form a circle about 25cm in diameter. Heat some ghee (or a drizzle of oil and a small piece of butter) in a large non-stick frying pan and cook flatbread on high for about 2 minutes each side. Keep warm in a low oven covered with a tea towel while you cook the rest, adding a little more ghee or oil and butter as required.

Serve flatbread spread with Mint Yoghurt and topped with warm roasted vegetables.

Makes 8 servings

Note: if available use half plain flour and half strong bread flour

Potato Cakes with Smoked Salmon

Our potato crop has just started so I put these delicious potato cakes on the menu for a light lunch last weekend. They originate in Scandinavia and when we were living in Copenhagen we ordered them quite often in restaurants.

They don’t contain any flour making them gluten free, which is good news for readers who avoid eating wheat and other grains.

500g potatoes
1 small onion, grated (optional)
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive or vegetable oil to fry
To serve:
Smoked Salmon or Trout
Sour Cream
Snipped chives

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand or using a 0.5cm attachment on your food processor, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes for a couple of minutes then drain well in a colander. Spread potatoes on a tea towel and roll up. Twist towel tightly over the sink, to remove as much liquid as possible.

Transfer grated potato to a bowl and mix in the grated onion (if using), egg, salt and pepper. Heat ¼ cup oil in a large nonstick frying pan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of four, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per potato cake into frying pan, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook for 4-5 minutes, until undersides are browned. Turn over and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season lightly with salt. Add more oil to pan as needed. Keep potato cakes warm on a wire rack over a shallow baking pan in a low oven. Leftovers can be reheated in a low oven.

Serve potato cakes with smoked salmon or trout, sour cream and chives and cracked pepper.

Makes 6-8 cakes serving 3-4