Mietta’s Rigatoni with Cauliflower

Serves: 6

Mietta (O’Donnell) was a bit ahead of my time.

She was one of those 80s and 90s doyens that drove food and fine dining in Australia out of the dowdy 70s and much closer to the amazing foodie place we have now; first by opening an Italian restaurant of the kind Australia had never seen: then, by starting Australia’s first serious review of restaurants.

Her contribution to Australian food cannot be overstated, certainly by everything I have read.

Sadly, Mietta was killed in a car accident in 2001.

Last Mother’s Day, I purchased Mietta’s book for Nat and gave her the back story.

We have been meaning to cook something from it since then and geez, I wish we had done so earlier.

I’ve said that unique, restaurant-quality pastas really excite me.

This is one of them.

The quality of food – at home and out – is remarkable in Australia. My mother occasionally talks about how expensive chicken was 30 years back.

It was people like Mietta that laid the foundations for such extraordinary change in the culinary scene in Australia over the last 20 years and this pasta really sums up how the simple things she introduced us to led to the amazing foodie place we live in today.

Ingredients

1 medium onion, sliced and soaked in milk
30ml olive oil
1 medium cauliflower, cut into flowerets
100gm pancetta or bacon, julienned
A little chilli
90ml tomato sauce
500g rigatoni
Parmesan, grated

Tomato sauce

300ml olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
80gm ham, chopped
12gm flour mixed with 5ml oil
800gm canned Italian plum tomatoes, drained
Pinch of sugar
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. For the tomato sauce: Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and add the chopped onion and ham and brown over a fairly high heat for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix well; turn down the heat to moderate and add the canned tomatoes.
  2. Season with the salt, pepper and sugar; add the thyme and bay leaf.
  3. Cook for about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  4. For the rigatoni: fry the onions in oil and add the cauliflower flowerets.
  5. Put the lid on the pan so that the cauliflower can cook through the add the pancetta or bacon and then a little chilli. When the cauliflower is just cooked, add the tomato sauce.
  6. Boil the rigatoni until cooked and strain. Toss the cauliflower mixture through the pasta and serve, sprinkled with plenty of grated Parmesan.

Peking Noodles

Serves: 4

Ding Tai Fung is a Taiwanese noodle and dumpling chain.

The food is outstanding and they won a Michelin Star in Hong Kong for one of their outlets. The food is clean, cooked with consistent precision and always two steps ahead of what you’d expect from what is after all, a chain restaurant.

They do this wonderful dish of freshly made egg noodles and minced pork. It is saucy with a hint of spice and I order it every time.

Well, these Peking Noodles reminded me of that dish.

It is super clean. Hot. Saucy. Completely moorish.

As with all these sorts of dishes, the hotter you can get the wok, the better. Also, I have varied the sauces and oil in the ingredients below; I dialled it up, though once the vegetables are cooked and as you are adding the noodles, have a taste and adjust.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

200gm egg noodles
1 – 2 tsp sesame oil
500gm pork mince
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp finely grated ginger
1 bunch baby choy sum, finely shredded (or other leafy Chinese green)
4 green onions, sliced diagonally
1 – 2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 – 2 tbsp Sambal Oelek
Good handful of coriander leaves to serve

Method

  1. Cook the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water for 1 – 2 minutes or until tender. Drain and refresh.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a wok over a high heat. Add the pork and stir-fry, breaking up the mince for 5 minutes or until mince starts to brown.
  3. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute or until aromatic.
  4. Add the choy sum, green onion, soy sauce and sambal and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the choy sum begins to wilt. Taste and adjust accordingly.
  5. Add noodles and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until well combined and heated through. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with coriander leaves.

Slow-cooked Karnataka Pork Curry

Serves: 4

This great curry is from the I Love India cookbook by Anjum Anand.

I’ve written up a few of her recipes and nothing I have cooked hasn’t been a success. It is also a beautiful cookbook.

This particular curry has a really nice depth of favour and warmth about it. It is incredibly likeable and if you had to pick a curry to fill a baguette the next day for lunch, this is definitely it.

Certainly feel free to dial up the spice and we add an additional 300gm of pork shoulder.

Otherwise, this is perfect for a lazy Sunday evening with a big bowl of rice and a bottle of red.

Ingredients

For the curry

1 tbsp roughly chopped ginger
7 large garlic cloves
1 tomato, quartered
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
15 curry leaves
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 – 3 green chillies, stalks removed, pierced with a knife
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
500 gm pork shoulder, cut into 3cm cubes
4 tsp white wine vinegar
Handful of coriander, leaves and stalks to serve
Rice and Indian breads to serve

For the spice mix

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
3 small cloves
5mm cinnamon stick
1 tsp fennel seeds
10 black peppercorns
Pinch of brown mustard seeds

Method

  1. Blend the ginger, garlic and tomato until fine, adding a little water to help the blades turn. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and, once the popping calms down, add the curry leaves, onions and 1 – 3 green chillies (depending on how many you are using; I recommend 3). Cook until really well browned, ensuring the mixture doesn’t burn.
  3. Add the blended paste, the turmeric, salt, cumin and chilli powder and cook well until all the liquid has reduced and the remaining masala releases oil, around 10 – 12 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, dry-roast the spices for the spice blend for a minute: immediately grind to fine powder.
  5. Add the pork to the masala in the pan and brown a little in the paste. Add 3 tsp of the spice blend and the vinegar as well as a few splashes of water. Bring to the boil, then cover add simmer really slowly, stirring often and checking to see if you need to add any water.
  6. Cook for 1 – 2 hours or until the pork is really tender. Taste, adjust the seasoning adding more of the spice mix if you like, stir in the coriander and serve on rice with Indian breads.

Brussel Sprout Salad with Bacon, Apple and Buttermilk Dressing

Serves: 4

As far as slaws go, this is a total winner.

You’ll reach for more and more.

Served along-side really anything that benefits from a slaw – chicken, pork, whatever – it is just wonderful.

Our favourite party trick is serving salads at BBQs that blow people away.

With little effort, this slaw is definitely part of that party trick and one I would commend to you, any night – or BBQ or lunch or whatever – of the week.

Don’t be fooled. It is excellent.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

2 tsp olive oil
4 bacon rashers (about 280gm) rind removed and roughly chopped
12 large Brussels Sprouts
3 golden shallots, thinly sliced
2 Granny Smith apples, cut into matchsticks
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 bunch chives, finely chopped to serve
Shaved Parmesan to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the bacon and fry, turning occasionally, until crisp: 6 – 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  2. Shave Brussels Sprouts with a mandolin into a bowl. Add a good pinch of salt, shallots, apples and half the lemon juice. Toss to combine and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the mayonnaise and buttermilk, remaining lemon juice and season: drizzle over the salad and toss well. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  4. Scatter the bacon, chives and Parmesan. Season again and serve.

BLAT Salad

Serves: 6

I am a complete sucker for a BLAT.

Bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato on toasted Turkish bread any Saturday morning and you’ve won me. Eggs have no role here.

Which of course means that if you can have a BLAT salad… at dinner… with a steak.

Well, that is sort of that mind-blown territory.

So without further adieu, this is not only a BLAT salad, but a seriously cracking great salad you must try with any steak, pork or chicken you are considering this week.

Amazing.

Ingredients

200ml Olive Oil plus extra
200gm rindless smokey bacon
200gm white bread cubed
Handfuls of cos lettuce, torn
500gm cherry tomatoes, halved
4 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 avocados cut into wedges
2 tsp garlic powder

Buttermilk dressing

130ml buttermilk
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 small lemon, juiced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp finely chopped chives

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 100c. In a large frypan, cook the bacon until crisp. Break into pieces, transfer to a baking tray and place in the oven to keep warm.
  2. Strain the bacon fat, wipe the pan clean and return the strained fat to the pan and bring to a medium-heat. Combine the cubed bread with the garlic powder and a few splashes of olive oil and fry in the bacon oil until golden and crispy.
  3. Drain the bread on paper towels.
  4. For the buttermilk dressing, combine the ingredients.
  5. Combine the lettuce, tomato and avocado in a bowl. Add the bacon and fried bread and lightly toss to combine. Drizzle with the buttermilk dressing.

Pork and Cabbage Gyoza

Makes: 24

This David Herbert gyoza number is right on the money.

It is exactly what you would expect from a Japanese noshery and the gyoza are dead simple to make.

So simple, we made an extra batch, formed the gyoza and froze them as an easy weeknight meal for the boys.

Rather than heating store-bought mini quiches, do these next time people come around for an afternoon beer.

So good.

Ingredients

Gyoza

150gm pork mince
1 cup finely shredded Chinese cabbage (wombok)
2 spring onions, trimmed, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp Japanese soy sauce
2 tsp sake
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp caster sugar
Pinch ground white pepper
24 gyoza or gow gee wrappers
Cornflour

Dipping sauce

3 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup low-salt soy sauce
1/2 tsp finely chopped chilli
1/3 cup rice vinegar

Method

  1. To prepare the dipping sauce: mix all of the ingredients and set aside.
  2. For the gyoza, combine the all of the ingredients except the gyoza wrappers and cornflour. Mix well.
  3. Place a gyoza wrapper on a clean surface or in the palm of your hand. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of pork mixture onto the centre of the wrapper. Brush the edge with a little water. Fold to enclose filling; lightly press edge together to make a semi-circular parcel. Use fingertips to pleat the edge 4 or 5 times, keeping the filling in the centre. Place on a plate dusted with cornflour and repeat with the remaining pork mixture and gyoza wrappers.
  4. Heat half the peanut oil over a high heat in a large non-stick frying pan that has a lid. Remove from the heat and arrange half the dumplings over base of the pan. Return to the heat and cook for 3 – 4 minutes or until the bottom of the dumplings is golden. Sprinkle 1 – 2 tablespoons of water evenly over the gyoza. Place the lid on the pan and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked through and the water is evaporated.
  5. Take off the heat, remove the gyoza and set aside whilst you repeat the process with the remaining gyoza.
  6. Serve with the dipping sauce or Japanese soy.

Five-cheese and ham triple-decker toastie

Serves: 2

It’s Easter and we are on holidays on the beautiful South Coast of NSW.

A few unstructured days of walking along the beach, sleeping in and opening a Champagne every afternoon around 2.

(Even Max the 10-month old seems to be getting into it, sleeping in until 7.45 and then going back to bed with a bottle.)

With such a theme of relaxation and “who cares?”, it seemed appropriate to have this toastie one evening for dinner. A extraordinary toastie that on every level, tells you to sit down, shut up and just eat it.

For there are plenty of times for chicken breast and salad and abstaining from wine and life.

But Easter isn’t that time.

Which is why, right now, it’s five-cheese, toastie time and nobody here felt guilt or apologised for it*.

(The recipe is from the always reliable, Gourmet Traveller.)

Ingredients

200gm firm ricotta
75gm cheddar, coarsely grated
75gm provolone, coarsely grated
75gm Parmesan, finely grated
200gm buffalo mozzarella, thickly sliced
6 slices, pane di casa bread**
Dijon mustard
Leg ham slices, off the bone
40gm butter, diced

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Stir the ricotta, cheddar, provolone, and Parmesan in a bowl to combine and season to taste. Spread two of the bread slices with the cheese mixture, then top each with another bread slice.
  3. Spread with mustard to taste, top with slices of ham and the mozzarella. Season to taste and sandwich with the remaining 2 slices of bread.
  4. Melt butter in a large, oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat, add sandwiches and fry until browned on the base: 1 – 2 minutes. Carefully turn over and brown the other side, then transfer in the pan to the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbling: 3 – 4 minutes.

Carefully remove from the oven and spoon the remaining butter in the pan over the top of the toasties and serve hot.

* Once you have done this sandwich, please try Matt Preston’s amazing toasted sandwich, something we unironically cooked one NYE evening!

** A rustic, thick crust white Italian bread cooked on a stone. Or try sourdough.