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.

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.

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.

The Boathouse: Salmon Roe & Potato Blinis with Wasabi and Crème Fraiche

 

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Amazeballs.

Serves: 8 – 10 as a starter

The Boathouse – that wonderful restaurant right on the water at Blackwattle Bay in Glebe, Sydney – is famous for its snapper pie.

And it is a truly wonderful dish; sweated onions, cream, truffle oil, snapper and amazing pastry served with a smoked tomato and a simple mash. Yum.

Though they have another classic and one that Nat and I have ordered the two times we have had lunch there: the Salmon Roe & Potato Blinis with Wasabi and Crème Fraiche.

They are just awesome. And the presentation is like theater.

A bowl of the roe, chilled on ice; the small blinis, fluffy pancakes, served hot to allow the crème fraiche to melt. The wasabi and then the roe.

Eaten whole, the sensory experience is everything. Ditto the taste experience.

So set the task of doing the amuse bouche for a lunch at my parent’s place, I asked Nat what she thought we should do and immediately she answered this recipe.

Easier said than done right?

I pushed back on the basis that we didn’t have a recipe etc. though I should have known that it wouldn’t be that simple.

Shortly thereafter – pretty much on schedule – Nat had tracked down the blini recipe on some chef’s recipe organiser website and the rest was pretty straightforward.

It is in fact a simple dish and I promise that the recipe below perfectly recreates the dish at The Boathouse. Stunning.

You should make around 40 or so blinis and then factor in a teaspoon of crème fraiche and roe for each, with just a dash of wasabi.

Casually pull these out at your next dinner party and people will think you’re some kind of cooking prodigy.

Ingredients

1.2kg potatoes
3 whole eggs
500gm crème fraiche
175gm plain flour
175gm egg whites (whipped to a firm peak) (about 7 – 8 eggs in my experience)
100gm wasabi
300gm salmon (or trout) roe
4 lemon halves, tied in a muslin cloth to serce

Method

  1. Peel and cook the potatoes. Puree, ideally through a ricer and allow to cool.
  2. Whisk the whole eggs and 100gm of the crème fraiche into the potato puree.
  3. Once smooth, fold in the flour.
  4. Gently fold in the firm egg whites.
  5. Heat a non-stick pan (you don’t really need to oil it and you don’t want your blini to be greasy) over a medium heat. Form the blini into small discs – small pancakes – around 4cm in diameter. Cook for three minutes each side and then set aside.
  6. When ready, heat the oven to 180c and reheat the blini so that they are hot through.
  7. In separate bowls, serve the wasabi, the remaining crème fraiche and roe and then serve a dollop of each  on the blini. A dash of lemon juice and serve to your amazed guests.

Crudo of Kingfish with Campari dressing

Serves: 4 – 6

This is a really elegant dish. Light, subtle and incredibly presentable.

Nat and I prepared this a few weeks ago with some sashimi-grade kingfish from the markets and as a starter as part of a larger meal, it is a great way to kick-off.

Ingredients

1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced (beards reserved for decoration)
3 baby beetroot, thinly sliced
½ c white wine vinegar
¼ c sugar
2 oranges
1/3 c Campari
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
1 x 250gm sashimi grade kingfish fillet

Method

  1. To pickle the fennel and beetroot, place vinegar and sugar in a saucepan of a medium heat. Simmer for 1-2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Divide the liquid into two bowls and add the fennel to one bowl and the beetroot to the other. Allow to pickle for at least 20 minutes and up to a day.
  2. Peel 1 of the oranges and segment the flesh. Cut 2-3 segments into very small pieces. Juice the remaining orange.
  3. Mix the Campari, olive oil and 2 or 3 tbps orange juice in a bowl. Season and set aside.
  4. Slice the fish into 4mm slices. Arrange on a large platter and pour over the Campari dressing. Top with picked fennel and beetroot, the orange segments and the fennel beards.

Nigella’s Pea Risotto

Serves: 4

How can you not love Nigella?

She is everything in food we want but dare not eat: butter, lard, bread, chocolate and cream.

Which is probably why it has been years since I last cooked this particular recipe, though memorable enough that it beat hundreds of recipes in the backlog to make it online.

The pea puree component is on another planet and you will be strong not to eat it in isolation.

Also, adding the oil to the butter apparently stops the butter from melting though in this buttery, cheesey, gooey mess of goodness, you’re not seriously going to pull back from a drop of oil?

Open a beer, cook this and stay warm one winter’s weekend lunch.

It is worth every calorie.

60gm butter
150gm frozen peas
1l chicken stock
Grated nutmeg
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
1 small onion, finely chopped
Drop of oil
200g arborio rice
80ml white wine or vermouth

Method

  1. Melt 1/3 of the butter and add the frozen peas. Cook for 2 minutes until defrosted then remove 1/2 the peas and add a ladle of stock to the remaining peas. Pop on the lid and boil for 5 minutes until soft. Puree this with 1 tbsp parmesan, 1 tbsp butter and a pinch of pepper and nutmeg. Check the seasoning and dial up the nutmeg if you so desire.
  2. Turn the heat down and melt the remaining butter and the drop of oil. Add your onion and cook for 1 minute. Don’t let it brown. Add the rice and stir to coat, turn the heat down and add a ladle of stock, cooking down until absorbed. Repeat for 10 minutes, adding a splash of wine or water if and as need be.
  3. Add the reserved peas and continue to cook for another 5 – 10 minutes, continuing to add the stock and reducing slowly.
  4. When the risotto is cooked, beat in the pea puree and the extra tbsp. of parmesan and serve.

Parmigiano Sformato with Piquillo Peppers and Almonds

Serves: 8

Wow these are good!

This recipe by Anne Burrell is awesome and was one of the dishes we had when our parents – Deb and Rob/Ellen and Bill – met for the first time. A dish, awesome in not just in how elegant and sophisticated it all looks but in the nutty yet beautifully creamy textured taste.

(The meeting of the parents was a complete success for what it’s worth!)

People will know you’re a cooking star and you’ll put the leg-of-lamb-rosemary-garlic crowd to shame when you show them some real preparation, cooking and style.

Move over braised meat. This is preparation and sophistication and it shows.

Do it as a starter and start it right!

(Tip: the cayenne is the zinger here: don’t overdo it though it is the zinger…)

Oh… fast forward two years: we cooked this for our long lunch/wedding and it was THE standout dish. Well. Done. Ellen.

Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups heavy cream
4 eggs
1 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt
1 pinch cayenne
1 jar piquillo peppers, julienned
1/4 c sliced almonds, toasted
2 c arugula or mesclun
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp chopped chives

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180c. Spray your ramekins with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the heavy cream, eggs and Parmigiano and whisk to combine. Season with salt and cayenne. Divide the egg, cream, cheese mixture between the ramekins.
  3. Place the filled ramekins in a baking dish and fill halfway with hot tap water. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on racks.
  4. Place the cooled sformato in a warm oven for 10 minutes to reheat.
  5. While the sformato is reheating toss the peppers and almonds with the greens and a sprinkle of oil, vinegar and salt.
  6. Arrange some of the pepper mixture on individual serving plates. Unmold the sformato on the serving plate and arrange the peppers against the sformato. Drizzle with olive oil.
  7. Sit back and observe your slightly stunned guests.

The Best Green Salad with White Wine Dressing

Serves: 4 – 6

Doesn’t any lunch – pasta, BBQ, seafood – just say its Saturday when there is a big green salad on the table?! It says pour a glass of wine, grab a piece of bread and relax.

This is my go-to green salad. It is a Valli Little recipe and you can of course adjust the dressing with say Dijon mustard or maybe some diced shallots.

Ingredients

1 small frisee lettuce (curly endive)
2 baby cos lettuce
2 cups wild rocket leaves
1 handful chervil sprigs (Harris Farm your best bet)
2 handfuls of baby green beans, blanched for 1 – 2 minutes in boiling water
Bunch of chives
1/3 c white wine
¼ c lemon juice
1 tsp honey
¾ c extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Remove the outer leaves from the frisee and cos. Wash the inner leaves with the rocket and dry in a salad spinner or with paper towel.
  2. Pick the chervil leaves and place in a serving bowl with the lettuce and the beans. Hold the chives over the bowl and using kitchen scissors, finely snip half the chives into the bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the wine, lemon juice and honey and season with salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil until you have an emulsified dressing. Toss the salad and dressing together, then garnish with the remaining (long) chives and serve.

Bobby Flay’s Grilled Eggplant Dip

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Handsome and a good cook. Both things I aspire to!

Serves: 8 as part of a share platter

Bobby Flay isn’t a household name in Australia though the reverse is true in America where he is a superstar of cooking.

I first heard about him on Iron Chef America and despite his good looks and cool swagger, this is not a man you want to challenge in the kitchen. From memory, he never lost a challenge.

Anyway, this is his eggplant dip and whilst there is a little effort to it, it has a subtle, sophisticated and really fine flavour to it. I grilled some Turkish bread brushed will olive oil and served that with the dip and that Oliver had five in quick succession tells you volumes.

Impress your mates and serve this up fresh next time they’re around. Better still if you have good looks and cool swagger.

P.S. I didn’t oil the vegetables to cut down on calories and I saw no downside. Except less calories! Oh, and really do try to serve this fresh or if refrigerated, allow time to come back to room temperature and give a good stir to combine.

Ingredients

1 red pepper (capsicum)
¼ c canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large or 2 medium eggplant, ends trimmed and sliced lengthwise, 2cm thick
2 cloves garlic
¼ c tahini
¼ c Greek (fat-free) yoghurt
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp chopped, fresh oregano
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
¼ c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pita breads or Turkish breads, brushed with olive oil, heated on the grill to serve

Method

  1. Heat a grill to medium. Brush the red pepper with some of the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with more of the canola oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill the eggplant until charred on the first side; around 3 minutes. Turn and continue grilling until tender; around 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a chopping board.
  3. Grill the red pepper, turning occasionally until charred all over and tender; around 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly with cling wrap and let steam while you make the eggplant puree.
  4. Smash the garlic cloves, sprinkle them with salt and mash and smear them to a paste using the side of a knife.
  5. Remove the skin from the eggplant and transfer the flesh to a food processor. Add garlic paste, tahini, yoghurt, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the lemon zest, oregano and smoked paprika. Process until smooth and thick. Add salt to taste and transfer to a serving bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.
  6. Peel, seed and dice the red pepper.
  7. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the dip (I gave this a miss), top with the diced peppers and chopped parsley and serve with the warm pita, lavash or grilled Turkish bread.

Oliver’s Guacamole

Serves: Oliver

In a cooking blog that is meant to discover and inspire, it might seem a little odd to put up a guacamole recipe. According to Google, there are 2.380 million of the recipes out there and so it is safe to say that we don’t need another.

Except that it wasn’t until recently when I had a fresh guacamole and then made my own batch at home that  I remembered just how awesome guacamole is. It is so spirited and exciting and fresh. And so healthy that the top result about guacamole in Google describes it as almost ‘superfood’.

I’ll run with that!

Also, this blog being for my boys so that they have a bunch of tested recipes to cook for their friends and family, Oliver (8), the eldest who is really picky and plain about food, demolished this guacamole. By itself, he would never touch avocado, red onion or coriander… or any of the ingredients.

He would just eat the corn chips and be done with it.

But he will eat this guacamole by the bucket and that is a great way to get great foods into him.

It is also why it’s called Oliver’s Guacamole.

Enjoy it like he does and go all in with the flavour!

Ingredients

Avocados
Red onion, minced
Garlic, mashed with salt
Lime Juice
Cumin
Tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
Salt
Coriander leaves
Plain corn chips

Method

  1. Mash the avocados roughly with the lime juice.
  2. Mix through the remaining ingredients except the coriander and correct the seasoning.
  3. Garnish with the coriander.