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.

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.

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.