Greek, Side, Starter, Vegetarian

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.
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Starter, Vegetarian

Matt Preston’s Toasted Cheese Sandwich with ‘Quickled’ Onions

Matt Preston’s Toasted Cheese Sandwich with ‘Quickled’ Onions

Serves: 1 – 2

It is the night of New Year’s Day and that pretty much means toasties in a fry-pan.

It’s hot, you’re exhausted, you’ve had your wine and BBQ quota for the year and all you want is to curl up on the couch – with a beer – and watch Seinfeld.

The boys got their usual, plain-Jane toastie and loved it, though we had been saving this Matt Preston toastie for just a night like tonight.

And it killed it.

It is really special. It is simple to prepare assuming you have the right cheeses – which you really do need on account of their ideal melting points. The cheese melts like in a pizza ad.

And the ‘quickled’ onions leave a wonderful aftertaste.

Wow. What a way to start the new year!

Ingredients

1 leek, dark outer leaves removed
½ garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely grated parmesan
½ cup grated Gruyere
½ buffalo mozzarella ball, torn
25gm soften unsalted butter
2cm-thick slices white bread
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

‘Quickled’ onions

1 red onion, thinly sliced
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbs red wine vinegar

Method

For the quickled onions

  1. Toss onion, salt and sugar in a bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes to pickle slightly. Stir through vinegar and set aside for 2 minutes or until needed.

For the toastie

  1. Clean and trim the leek. Place in a microwave-safe container and microwave uncovered on a high-heat for 4-minutes or until the leek is just tender. Split lengthways, remove the soft inner layers (discarding the outer layers) and chop.
  2. Stir through the garlic and cheeses and season well.
  3. Preheat a frypan over a medium heat. Line with a piece of baking paper.
  4. Butter one side of each slice of bread and place 1 slice (per toastie) on the baking paper.
  5. Spread dijon over the slice and make a slight indent in the slice and fill with the cheese mixture. Place the other slice of bread on top, adding more dijon if you can juggle and ensuring the buttered side is facing outwards. (I know that you know how to make a toastie; I am writing this for our young boys so that when they start properly cooking, they have a few recipes and instructions to fall back on).
  6. Cook for 2 minutes each side until melted or until golden and the cheese is melted.
  7. Serve toastie with the quickled onions.
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French, Side, Starter, Vegetarian

Baked Brie

Baked Brie

Serves: Starter/Side

Pretty simple, pretty awesome this one.

You need a more wow starter than your usual cheese and crackers; so bake it; and there you have it?!

You just won 15 points for effort and genius

Ingredients

Brie
Butter
Thyme sprigs
Red wine
Grated lemon rind

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c and butter a small baking dish.
  2. Push thyme sprigs into slits in the brie, pour over some wine, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. 3. Sprinkle with the lemon rind and some thyme leaves.
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French, Seafood, Starter

Crab Canapes

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Served compulsorily at a recent Moonlight Cinema picnic. OMG.

Crab Canapes

Serves: Plenty

This is a canape my mother used to serve whenever anyone came over for a lunch or a dinner, a quintessential 80s-style French number that I used to hoover down every time it was presented.

Indeed, I warmly remember going out on my parent’s boat – Whatthehell – and chowing down on dozens and dozens of these as we back-anchored to the beaches of Middle Harbour. I’m not sure if it was noticed that I consistently ate a third of them though if I had noticed I would have been annoyed. They’re that good.

The memories.

Bring forward the mid 2010s and they’re back, courtesy of Nat’s complete love for them and our collective agreement that no picnic is a picnic without this wonderful crab number.

You will never look back if you prepare these. Seriously… never… look… back.

(I seriously recommend you double the recipe which I have never not done!)

Ingredients

1 cup crab meat
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce to taste
Pepper to taste
Melba toast

Method

  1. 1. Combine all the ingredients (except the toast).
  2. Spread on the toast and serve immediately.
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Indian, Starter, Vegetarian

Paneer Chilli Fry

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If you tell them you made the cheese, who knows how they’ll react. Because who the hell just makes cheese for dinner?!

Paneer Chilli Fry

Serves: 4 as a starter

Nat and I did the Nilgiri’s cooking class last Saturday and it was excellent.

The class, run by Indian restaurateur Ajoy Joshi, is pretty famous in Sydney and it wasn’t hard to see why. As a restaurateur, Ajoy has been very successful and we have eaten at all his restaurants including Tellicherry which serves upmarket, really clever Indian food backed by personable service.

In terms of the class, we learnt new techniques and gained a greater appreciation of the use and background of different spices and ingredients.

Case in point was this Paneer Chilli Fry, only the second time we have made cheese as part of a dish.

A combination of the cheese, the spices and the buttermilk, it is just wonderful. Really special in fact and definitely something you would look like a genius presenting as part of an Indian feast.

The cheese (Paneer: homemade Indian Cottage Cheese) component requires a little concentration at the beginning, though it isn’t tricky and I’ve written the instructions to keep it as foolproof as possible.

If you, like me, are on a never-ending quest to find better and better Indian food to cook, this is absolutely something you must try.

Just ensure that you don’t try and use anything but full-fat milk. Cheese needs an 8% fat content, with the addition of the cream in this dish making up the 4% fat content of the full-fat milk. Skim milk simply won’t leave you with anything but wasted milk.

Ingredients

Paneer

1 liter cream milk
100ml fresh cream
½ cup white vinegar
Muslin cloth (for straining)

Marinade

1 tbsp fresh ginger, crushed
1 tbsp fresh garlic, crushed
1 ½ tbsp fresh green chillis (including the seeds)
4 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tbsp chilli powder
Salt to taste

To prep/serve

2 – 3 tbsp vegetable oil
300ml buttermilk
Juice of one lemon
Chat Masala to taste
1 bunch fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Method

Paneer

  1. Place a saucepan over a medium-heat and add the milk and cream. Stir in a figure of eight, ensuring that you are scraping the bottom of the pan to ensure none of the milk/cream sticks.
  2. When steam starts to come off of the milk, stop stirring. Continue to heat until it starts to boil. Take off the heat and ensure that it doesn’t overflow and spill; this likely means blowing on it to cool it.
  3. Tip in some of the vinegar and the substance will curdle. Add enough vinegar until this is happening.
  4. Scoop the curdled milk pieces into the muslin cloth using some sort of strainer or slotted spoon. Discard the whey from the saucepan.
  5. Tie the cloth reasonable tightly and place the cloth/curdled milk in a colander to allow additional whey to drain out; place the saucepan on top of the cloth and weigh down so that you have an inch-thick compact disc. Allow to drain and compress for at least 20 minutes to allow all the whey to drain out.
  6. Cut/shred into dices and set aside.

Marinade

  1. For the marinade, mix the ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander seeds, chilli powder and salt.

To serve

  1. Heat the oil in a pan until it smokes. Add the marinade to the pan, reduce the heat and cook until the marinade caramelises. Add the buttermilk and reduce until well heated and slightly thickened.
  2. Add the diced paneer and toss until coated in the marinade.
  3. Sprinkle with the freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste) and fresh coriander leaves.
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Italian, Starter

Anne Burrell’s Gnocchi

Serves: 4 – 6

This is an exceptional dish.

Visually beautiful, restaurant quality.

My mother gave me the recipe and we cooked it last weekend; my mother said it was the best gnocchi I would ever cook and hands down, she was right.

An essential key to it is the gnocchi, where instead of mixing through the flour when the gnocchi is hot, in this recipe, you allow the gnocchi to cool completely. The result is a light and fluffy gnocchi, completely unlike the hard, floury gnocchi we are so used to eating.

It is almost as if they are not there.

The sauce is fabulous; rich, warm, filling.

With some shaved pecorino to serve, this is a dinner party keeper where everyone will ask you for the recipe only a few bites in. It just comes together.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

5 large baking or mashing potatoes
2 eggs
Grated parmesan
2+ cups flour
Salt and pepper
1½ cups frozen peas, defrosted
Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed
Pinch of chili flakes
125gm prosciutto, cut into lardons
2 cups Swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
½ bunch chives, chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C and bake the potatoes for 1 hour or until tender.
  2. While the potatoes are still hot peel and pass them through a ricer or food mill on to an oven tray lined with baking paper, and then refrigerate until very cold.
  3. Beat together the eggs, ¾ cup grated Parmesan and 1+ tbsp salt and pour on to the potatoes. Cover the potatoes with 2+ cups flour and mix all together with fingers until the dough is homogeneous and slightly moist, adding more flour (and salt) if necessary.
  4. Form the dough into long ropes about 3cm thick, cut into 2 cm lengths, cover generously with flour, place in a single layer on paper dusted with flour and either use or freeze immediately.  [NB: once frozen the gnocchi can be stored in plastic bags indefinitely, and can go directly from the freezer into salted boiling water.]
  5. Sauté the garlic and chilli flakes in some olive oil and then discard the garlic when it becomes golden brown.
  6. Add the prosciutto and sauté until it begins to become crispy.
  7. Add the mushrooms, sauté, and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Add the stock and simmer until it has reduced by half.
  9. Add the butter and peas and correct the seasoning.
  10. Drop half the gnocchi into boiling salted water and cook until they float and become puffy. Drain the gnocchi and add to the sauce.
  11. Add 4 tbsp grated parmesan and the chives, and serve with more grated parmesan or pecorino if you have it.
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Italian, Soup, Starter, Vegetarian

Italian-style Zucchini and Parmesan Soup

Serves: 4

Wow this is a good soup!

Like, wow.

Neil Perry of course and reasonable quick to whip up, Nat and I cooked this for a Saturday lunch as part of a weekend of cooking and we were blown away.

We used a very good and aged parmesan and shaved it in; not the yellow stuff you get in the supermarket. Some warmed, crusty bread and wow.

We were warm and completely satisfied for the entire afternoon.

You must do this!

Ingredients

750gm green zucchini, cut into 1cm-thick pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch basil
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
1½ liters chicken stock
125ml pure cream
40gm unsalted butter
40gm parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve

Method

  1. Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-based sauce pan over a medium heat and add the zucchini, garlic, basil and a good pinch of sea salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the zucchini starts to soften.
  2. Add the stock, bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 8 minutes.
  3. Pour the soup into the blender and pulse until well pureed though still with a bit of texture; not completely smooth.
  4. Return to the saucepan and stir in the cream, butter and the parmesan.
  5. Serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan and a good ground of fresh pepper.
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