Potato Focaccia

Serves: 6

If there is a gap in my cooking, it is baking.

Especially bread.

Enter Nat.

This focaccia is just a cracker and supplied as a recipe from my mother.

It is just wonderful. Focaccia usually is, though warm and home-cooked?

Call me!

Ingredients

200gm floury potatoes
3 tsp dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
200gm flour
100gm strong flour
Olive oil
10 cherry tomatoes, halves
2 tbsp marinated olives, chopped
2 tbsp chopped rosemary (and/or fresh oregano)
Sea salt

Method

  1. Microwave the potatoes until soft, put through a ricer and allow to cool.
  2. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 125ml water, mix with a fork and allow to froth.
  3. Mix together the flours, add the potatoes, yeast, 50ml olive oil, and enough water to make a dough that isn’t sticky.
  4. Either knead by hand (boring) or use a dough hook to knead for 5 minutes.
  5. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place for an hour of more until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat the oven to 220c and liberally oil a 28cm round pan.
  7. Place the dough in the palm add 1tbsp of olive oil on top and stretch it to fit to fit the bottom.
  8. Press the tomatoes into the surface, scatter over the olives and herbs and sprinkle with salt.
  9. Bake for 25 – 35 mins or until golden.

`

Iceberg’s pea salad recipe

Serves: 4

We have had some just excellent, long lunches at Icebergs which at its best, is much more than a must-try Eastern Suburbs joint for the well heeled.

If you have ever been, you will know the famous pea salad. This is legit the recipe.

We didn’t have enough time to drain the ricotta salata so we crumbed it on top; at Icebergs, it is shaved and the effect is just great.

Ingredients

Salad
1 cup farro
1½ cups cooked peas
5 leaves basil, chopped
5 leaves mint, chopped
1 shallot, finely diced
½ Lebanese cucumber, diced
½ stick celery, diced
25ml vinaigrette (see ingredients below)
Salt and pepper to taste

Vinaigrette

25ml lemon juice
35ml sherry vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
¾ tsp salt
200ml extra-virgin olive oil
Ricotta salata (salted ricotta) to serve (this is hard to find. We mixed a tub of ricotta with salt and let it drain over a fine mesh sieve sprinkling with salt. It takes at least 2 days for the liquid to drain away – see here)

Method

  1. Cook the farro in plenty of lightly salted water for 20–30 minutes or as per the packet instructions. Drain and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. To make the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt and lemon juice and then the oil. Do not emulsify.
  3. Combine the herbs, peas, farro, cucumber, celery, shallot seasoning and 25ml vinaigrette. Place the dressed salad in bowl, coat with a fine grating of salted ricotta and serve. Store excess vinaigrette in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Ranch, Iceberg Lettuce Salad

Serves: 4 – 6

As soon as Covid hit Sydney, we purchased a Kamado BBQ.

They’re brilliant and I cannot recommend enough.

An ancient form of cooking in a ceramic egg, the heat retention is extraordinary. A pile of charcoal can last several BBQs.

You can cook at 60c, smoking away for a day or take it up to 450c to blast a tomahawk steak in literally minutes.

We’ve cooked pizzas and slapped naan on the roof. We’ve done amazing skewers of chicken tikka. Slow cooked ribs, slow cooked pork shoulder. Lordy.

It takes practice and I recommend one of the many WiFi/Bluetooth heat thermometers, though the theatre, the fun and of course, the incredible flavours make this a very good – and long-term – investment.

Being us, we have recreated a number of memorable meals we have had out. And being Covid, with so many of our favourite restaurants – and countries – closed, we had no choice.

One of our favourite Sydney restaurants is Gowings in the QT.

It is just a great dining room. Warm, buzzing, swift service, down-the-line great mains and great sides.

Nat served this salad from Gowings on one of our Kamado nights and it won the show.

It looks the part, it pairs perfectly with a steak, grilled chicken or a pork schnitzel: and you can prepare it ahead of time.

A bit of extra effort makes the restaurant. And restaurant-quality this is.

Ingredients

1 cup Greek yoghurt
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tbsp chopped spring onions or chives
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp vegetable stock powder (you can grate or chop a stock cube)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp yellow or Dijon mustard
6 rashes streaky bacon, cubed
Iceberg lettuce or 3x cos lettuce

Method

  1. Fry bacon until crispy.
  2. Whisk all dressing ingredients in a bowl to combine.
  3. Cut lettuce into 4-6 pieces and lay on a flat plate.
  4. Sprinkle bacon and dressing on top of lettuce.

Crispy Roast Potatoes

Serves: 4

Truth is, I am not that enamoured by roast potatoes.

Which puts me in the minority because so often I hear from people just how much they love roast potatoes: also, that they are a treat?

It could be because I had them so often at boarding school, though what is amazing about a dry piece of roasted potato?

Mash with cream and Parmesan. Of course.

Colcannon. Most definitely.

Hasselbacks. Any day.

So there we are a few months back and Nat proposes a Sunday night roast. With roast potatoes.

“Sounds great” I gulp. “Can’t wait.”

Though Nat being Nat, she does her research. Plain old boarding school roast potatoes these will not be.

If you’re into your cooking, you have possibly come across the website Serious Eats. It’s a great site and a great service, where they take different recipes, pull them apart and rebuild them – using science – to create the very best version of that recipe.

It’s very cool.

And so here is… as they put it… “The Best Crispy Roast Potatoes Ever Recipe”.

And to their credit and Nat’s, these are the best I have ever eaten.

Cook them and tell me they’re not.

(The recipe specifically asks for two types of American potatoes that we cannot get in Australia. Through reading etc, the potatoes to use here in Australia are Dutch Cream, Desiree, Coliban or Sebago.)

Ingredients

Kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2kg potato (see note above), peeled and cut into large, 5cm chunks
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or duck fat
Small handful picked rosemary leaves, finely chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Small handful fresh Italian parsley leaves, minced

Method

  1. Adjust the oven rack to be centred and heat oven to 230c.
  2. Heat 2 litres of water in a large pot over a high heat until boiling. Add 2 tbsp salt, baking soda and potatoes and stir. Return to a boil and then simmer until knife meets little resistance when inserted into a potato chunk: about 10 minutes after returning to a boil.
  3. Combine the olive oil (or duck fat) with rosemary, garlic and a few grinds of pepper in a small saucepan and heat over a medium heat. Cook, stirring and shaking pan constantly, until garlic just begins to turn golden: about 3 minutes.
  4. Immediately strain oil through a fine-mesh strainer set in a large bowl. Set garlic/rosemary mixture aside and reserve separately.
  5. When potatoes are cooked, drain carefully and let them rest in the pot for 30 seconds to allow excess moisture to evaporate. Transfer to bowl with infused oil, season to taste with a little more salt and pepper and toss to coat, shaking bowl roughly, until a thick layer of mashed “potato-like” paste has built up on the chunks.
  6. Transfer potatoes to a large rimmed baking sheet and separate them, spreading them out evenly. Transfer to oven and roast, without moving, for 20 minutes. Using a thin, flexible metal spatula to release and stuck potatoes, shake pan and turn potatoes.
  7. Continue roasting until potatoes are deep brown and crisp all over, turning and shaking them a few times during cooking: around 30 – 40 minutes.
  8. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl and add the garlic/rosemary mixture and minced parsley. Toss to coast and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Delia Smith’s Asparagus with Quick Hollandaise

Serves: 4

Nat’s parents come over every few weeks for a meal (and several bottles of wine) and it is something I always look forward to.

I am always told by Nat’s mother – Deb – to keep it simple.

Which this easy little starter I served at our most recent meal, certainly is.

It is really elegant, super classic and foolproof if you pressed for time.

Which means more time for drinking champagne and catching up.

Ingredients

2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1 bunch rocket

Hollandaise Sauce

1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 tsp cornflour
2 egg yolks
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
40gm unsalted butter, softened

Method

  1. For the Hollandaise Sauce, place the creme fraiche, cornflour, egg yolks, white wine vinegar and lemon juice in a saucepan over a low heat. Cook, whisking gently for 1 – 2 minutes until thickened and combined.
  2. Remove from the heat and set aside. Whisk in the butter until combined, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Steam the asparagus for 2 – 3 minutes until tender.
  4. Divide the asparagus and rocket among serving plates, then drizzle with Hollandaise Sauce and serve.

Almond and Broccolini Salad

Serves: 6

Yum.

Our eldest boys, Oliver and Tom made us dinner the other night.

Meatballs with halloumi and pine nuts… and this dish on the side, found by Oliver after some very diligent online research.

It’s really good and definitely something for a summer BBQ.

Well done boys.

Ingredients

2 bunches broccolini, ends trimmed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup currants (or raisins)
2 tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp slivered almonds, toasted
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Method

  1. Blanch the broccolini in boiling water until the stems are tender-crisp; 2 minutes or so. Refresh in ice water and set aside.
  2. Transfer broccolini to a serving platter. Drizzle with oil and lemon juice; sprinkle with currants, Parmesan cheese, almonds and lemon zest.

Chimichurri

Chimichurri is one of our favourite sauces for beef – or chicken or pork – and this classic recipe is right down the line.

As well as serving as a side, there is something quite wonderful about marinating a piece of rump steak in this before you grill.

With more Chimichurri by the side of course.

If you haven’t made/had this before, read the ingredients and please consider!

Ingredients

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 eschallot, finely chopped
1 red jalapeño finely chopped
1/2 cup minced fresh coriander
1/4 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Combine the ingredients.
  2. If marinating meat, marinate over night.

Braised Peas with Cos Lettuce and Mint

Serves: 4 – 6

This classic French dish is from Karen Martini and swaps out iceberg lettuce for cos.

It makes the lettuce a bit more a feature and the result is just awesome.

It is rich and warm and a wonderful accompaniment: roast chicken or lamb or some chargrilled steaks we served with a herb butter and a onion rings.

It just shows how well peas and lettuce and work.

If you can make the effort, make the effort. It will dial up any meal into a memorable one.

Ingredients

80gm unsalted butter
1 large garlic clove< sliced
2 ½ cups frozen peas
2 baby cos lettuces, trimmed and cut into 1cm pieces
5 sprigs mint, leaves torn
1 tbsp sea salt (or to taste)
2 tbsp castor sugar

Method

  1. Melt half the butter in a very large frying pan over and medium heat and cook the garlic for 2 minutes. Add the peas, lettuce and ¼ cup hot water, simmer and stir for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the mint, salt, sugar and remaining butter and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the sauce is glossy and syrupy.

Eggplant dip (baba ghanouj)

Eggplant dip (baba ghanouj)

Serves: 10

Fresh Baba Ganoush is the bomb.

Served with some oiled and grilled Turkish bread, you have heaven.

This straightforward recipe is about as traditional as I can find and we served it across a few days including a family dinner where it was a hit.

The effort is worth the reward.

Ingredients

3 medium eggplants
1 ½ tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 – 2 garlic clove
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sweet paprika
Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Finely diced tomato
Oiled, grilled Turkish bread slices to serve

Method

  1. Grill the eggplants whole over a gas flame, turning with tongs until the skin is evenly blistered and the flesh is soft. Soak in cold water for 10 minutes to cool.
  2. Peel the eggplants and leave to drain for 15–20 minutes.
  3. Place the eggplant in a food processor with the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and process until well combined and creamy. Add extra tahini, lemon juice or salt to taste.
  4. Scoop into a serving bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the oil into the well and sprinkle paprika, parsley and tomato on top.

Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Serves: 4 – 6

Haven’t brussel sprouts come into vogue?!

They’re the go to as a side in every second Sydney bistro at the moment, especially the sauteed kind with any number of accompaniments including bacon, pistachios, cranberries and of course, lots of garlic.

See you later rocket, pear and shaved Parmesan salad!

This simple take on them is as good as anything you’ll get dining out.

Indeed, experiment with a few additions and make it lunch. Or as a simpler side to pretty much any chicken/pork/whatever dish and you really do have a winner on your hands.

Just make sure to give them the occasionally stir so they don’t char too much on top whilst cooking.

Ingredients

1 kg fresh Brussels sprouts, cut in half (or quarters if sprouts are large)
6 garlic cloves, rough chopped
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180c.
  2. In a baking dish, carefully combine all the ingredients and shake the dish until the brussel sprouts are even.
  3. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes.