Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Caper Gemolata

Serves: 6

Anything that successfully dials up potatoes is a win for me.

Indeed, in our always-dieting house, we need an excuse to be pairing potatoes and this recipe is one such excuse.

It’s luxurious, it’s bursting with flavour from all the vinegar capers, anchovies and herbs.

And it looks wonderful plated.

You can see the effort and the effort is worth it.

Ingredients

1.5kg potatoes
Salt
4 tbsp olive oil plus more for the pan
1/4 c sherry vinegar
3 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
1 tbsp anchovy paste
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 c flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes until tender and drain.
  2. Heat the oven to 240c and arrange the shelves high. Oil a baking sheet on a baking pan and place each potato down, gently pressing until crushed though still intact. Brush the tops of the potato with 1 tbsp and roast for 25 minutes.
  3. Brush the potatoes with 1 tbsp more oil and then grill until golden brown: 4 – 7 minutes. Sprinkle with salt.
  4. While the potatoes cook, combine in a bowl the vinegar, capers, anchovy paste, garlic and remaining 2 tbsp oil and 1/2 tsp salt: drizzle over the potatoes and serve immediately.

Lara Dunson’s Burmese Coconut Rice

Serves: 4

Lara Dunston is a Cambodian food and travel writer: she also makes a solid coconut rice, something Nat whipped up to accompany a great Burmese Chicken Curry we had last weekend.

Nothing says you’ve made an effort than a rice that has colour, or additional elements, or both.

This is one such rice, perfect for any Southern Asian curry.

Ingredients

3 c jasmine rice
1 c coconut milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
4 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves

Method

  1. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear then transfer to the rice cooker. (We cooked in the microwave).
  2. Pour coconut milk into the rice cooker and then water until it reaches the 3 cup measure.
  3. Add vegetable oil, shallots, salt, spices and bay leaves and combine well.
  4. Cook until the rice is cooked through and then rest for 10 minutes.

Crispy North Indian Style Aloo Tikki with Stuffed Green Peas

Serves: 6-8

Aloo tikki is a popular Indian street food snack made with boiled potatoes, aromatic spices and herbs.

These patties are crispy on the outside and soft and aromatic on the inside. The peas stuffing really adds to the dish though often you find recipes that don’t include the peas.

Do not cut this corner.

They are absolutely moorish and your guests will have smiles all over.

Ingredients

Green peas and potatoes

4 to 5 large potatoes
1/2 c frozen baby peas
2.5 c water

For the stuffing

1/4 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp coriander powder (ground coriander)
1/2 tsp fennel powder (ground fennel seeds)
1/2 teaspoon dry mango powder or ¼ to ½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp finely chopped green chillies
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
2 pinches black salt
Salt as required

For the potato mixture

1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dry mango powder or 1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp black salt
Salt as required
1/4 c bread crumbs or add as required
1/4 c cornstarch (or as required)
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
4 to 5 tbsp oil for frying the tikki or as required

Method

  1. Cook the potatoes and the peas: I cooked mine together with the potatoes boiling under a trivet holding the peas in a metal bowl. This got a bit complicated so I would recommend peeling the potatoes and boiling them in a pot until soft.
  2. Steam the peas in the microwave safe dish until soft. About 4 minutes.
  3. Green pea stuffing: Take the peas in a bowl and mash them to a coarse texture.
  4. To the peas, add red chilli powder or cayenne pepper, coriander powder, fennel powder, dry mango powder, finely chopped ginger, green chillies, coriander leaves, black salt and regular salt as per taste.
  5. Potato mixture: Meanwhile drain the water from the potatoes and let them become warm.
  6. When the potatoes are warm, mash or use a ricer. Let mashed potatoes cool completely.
  7. Add chilli powder, Garam Masala, coriander powder, dry mango powder, black salt and regular salt as per taste.
  8. Next add bread crumbs and cornflour and mix very well.
  9. Stuffing and shaping: Divide the mixture into small or medium shaped patties with a hollow center or cup shaped discs. You can apply some oil on your palms when making the patties or tikki.
  10. Place the green peas filling in the center.
  11. Bring the mashed potato edges on the top and seal them.
  12. Frying: Heat 2 tbsp oil on a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) or frying pan till it is medium hot. Gently place the tikki and begin to pan-fry them
  13. When the base is crispy and golden, gently flip each tikki with a spatula.
  14. Fry the second side till crispy and golden. You can gently flip once or twice more till the aloo tikki are golden and crisp evenly.
  15. Remove and on paper towels. Fry all tikkis this way. Add 2 tbsp more oil when frying the second batch.
  16. Serve with coriander, chutney and yoghurt.
Stuffing the peas into the potato mixture before sealing.

Jake Cohen’s Chicken Matzo Ball Soup recipe

Serves: 6 – 8

Halfway through Sydney’s Covid lockdown, instead of being negative and talking of boredom, restrictions and homeschool, Nat and I reflected on what we had learnt and what we would take away from lockdown.

A big part of the answer was around family traditions that were forged because we had no choice but to all spend lots of time together.

One tradition that popped out of nowhere was Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).

We went all out: we found an old Menorah on Facebook Marketplace that we promised to dust out every year: played hide the Matzo and did the full spread. Apple and honey, many things with matzo, brisket, potatoes with capers and a great challah bread.

And we dressed up.

I usually only make the Jamie Oliver Matzo Ball Soup. I’m sorry to say Jamie, I will only ever be making Jake Cohens going forward.

It is so delicious, it will sway even your most sceptical customers.

Matzo balls

2 c matzo meal
1/2 c schmaltz, melted (I used 1/4 c duck fat and 1/4 c ghee)
2 tbsp minced fresh dill
2 tsp kosher salt plus more as needed
6 large eggs, beaten
2/3 c fizzy water

For the soup

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs
4 medium carrots, scrubbed and cut into 2cm pieces
4 large parsnips, scrubbed and cut into 2cm pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 c chicken stock
1/4 c minced fresh dill
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Method

  1. For the matzo balls: In a large bowl, stir together the matzo meal, melted schmaltz, dill, salt, and eggs until smooth. Gently stir in the seltzer until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Scoop the chilled matzo mixture into 1/4-cup balls, using wet hands to roll them until smooth. You should have about 14 matzo balls. Gently add the matzo balls, one at a time, to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until fluffy and tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes, then keep warm until the soup is ready.
  3. For the soup: While the matzo balls cook, preheat the oven to 230°C.
  4. On a half sheet pan, toss together the chicken legs, carrots, parsnips, onion, olive oil, and a heavy pinch each of salt and pepper, then arrange the legs skin-side up on the pan. Roast for 30 minutes, until the vegetables and chicken are lightly golden.
  5. Transfer the vegetables and chicken to a large pot and cover with the stock and 4 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium- high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook until the chicken is extremely tender, about 30 minutes. Using a ladle, skim off any fat from the top of the liquid and discard. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
  6. Transfer the chicken legs to a bowl and let cool slightly. Once they are cool enough to handle, use two forks to shred the meat and discard the skin and bones. Stir the shredded chicken, dill, and lemon zest into the soup, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Mix the matzo balls in with the stock, chicken and vegetable mix.
  8. Ladle a matzo ball and soup into a serving bowl and enjoy!

Elizabeth David’s Onion Tart with Green Pea Sauce

Serves: 6

To mark the first day out of Sydney’s lockdown, we did a lengthy, Provincial French lunch.

Nat’s parents came over armed with Champagne and a cracking French red: and our great mate and builder, a man who finishes off all my half-arsed projects and kindly looks after the dogs when we are away.

(Only costs a case of beer or two for that service!)

There was a lot of talk about how I had butchered our big teak outdoor table with a belt sander, or the time I blew something else up.

Acknowledgement, I am not handy.

So I needed to prove that I had at least one passing skill (with laughter in the background about the time I broke a wheelbarrow or the time I installed a swimming pool upside down).

This tart was a wonderful starter and put the needle back in my court. Subtle, simple, elegant, the onions sweated for hours and hours.

Your guests will know a special afternoon is on the menu.

Maybe the addition of gruyere or bacon lardons would have added to it, though its simplicity is all you need to make the point.

The green pea sauce is a wonderful addition.

Even our mate conceded it made up for the poor table sanding job.

Note: I used store bought shortcrust pastry which worked fine. Also, I softened the onion as slowly as possible – 4+ hours – and I know that this makes such a difference if you have the time.

Ingredients

210gm plain flour
Pinch of salt
125gm unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten
60gm butter, plus extra for greasing
1kg onions, thinly sliced
Sat and freshly ground pepper
6 egg yolks
300ml cream

Green Pea Sauce

20gm butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
500gm baby (frozen) peas
1 1/2 c chicken stock

Method

  1. To make their pastry, save the flour and salt. Chop the unsalted butter through the flour. Make a well in the centre and add 20 – 30mls of cold water and the egg.
  2. Carefully bring in the flour mixture from the outside until the dough comes roughly together. Push the dough outwards with the palm of your hand too roughly blend the butter – you should be able to see large streaks of butter in the dough. Shape into two discs and wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate for one hour.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the regular butter over a low heat. Add the onion to the butter. Stir until well combined.
  4. Cover and cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes or until soft and golden. (As per the absolutely genius Boathouse Snapper Pie, cooking the onions longer and slower is where the best tastes come from, though leave that to you.) Season and set aside to cool.
  5. Whist the egg yolks and cream in a bowl. Add the cooled onions and stir until combined.
  6. Heat your oven to 200c.
  7. Grease six 12cm fluted tart tins with removable bases or one 24cm flan tin.
  8. Roll the pastry out and line the prepared tins, trimming any excess. Place tins onto a baking tray, line each with baking paper, fill with baking beans all the way to the top and blind bake for 20 minutes.
  9. Remove the baking beans and paper, then return tunas to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes until the base is golden.
  10. Remove from the oven, turn the oven to 180c, fill the tart shell(s) with the onion mix and return to the oven.
  11. Cook for 25-35 minutes until golden on top and set. Remove from the oven.
  12. Meanwhile, to make the pea sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until soft.
  13. Add the peas and stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 – 2 minutes or until the peas are just tender. Strain the peas, reserving the liquid.
  14. Put the peas and one cup of the reserved liquid into a food process and process until smooth, adding more liquid if required.

Rockpool’s Salad with Palm Sugar Vinaigrette

Serves: 4

Nat and I have both come to understand the importance of a green salad to accompany so many of the mains we plate.

Because a brilliant green salad, clarifies; it mops up and gives you time to talk about the main; it refreshes and brings the end to the savoury part of the meal.‘

It’s the time where the big wines are poured.

This green salad by Neil Perry is probably the best I have had. I genuinely struggle to think of how it could be improved. Sure, Rodney Dunn’s Leaf Salad with Anchovy Cream is absolutely knockout.

And the addition of caramelised pancetta and fennel in this Giant De Laurentiis salad is genius.

Though if its green leaves you need. And the wonderful freshness of herbs. And a vinaigrette.

I commend to you the best.

Ingredients

1 heads of radicchio, leaves separated, washed and dried
2 heads of baby cos lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
2 heads of witlof, leaves separated, washed and dried
8 sprigs of watercress, tough stalks removed
6 chives, cut into 2.5cm lengths
Large handful of coriander leaves
Handful of dill fronds
Handful of tarragon leaves
Handful of chervil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Palm Sugar Vinaigrette

3 tbsp grated palm sugar
2 tsp sherry vinegar
2 coriander roots
1 garlic clove, peeled
5 tsp red wine vinegar
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Method

  1. To make the palm sugar vinaigrette, put the palm sugar into a small pan and heat until melted and caramelised. Add the sherry vinegar and let it cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the coriander roots and garlic with 1 tsp of salt until you have a fine paste, then add the cooked sugar mixture. Whisk in the olive oil and coriander.
  3. To serve, put all the leaves and herbs into a large bowl. Pour over the dressing band toss very gently. Season, arrange on four plates and serve immediately.

Sixpenny’s Mushroom Lasagne

Serves: 8 – 10

Sixpenny is a Sydney institution – 3 hats no less – and their head chef Dan Puskas is clearly a genius.

We have only eaten there once, though it was an entirely memorable and particularly impressive meal.

So when the head of Sixpenny puts out a lasagne recipe and it is based on mushrooms with a celeriac thrown in, time to listen up.

Simply put, this is mushroom greatness.

Yes, being a lasagne helps, though the mushroom is is the clincher. It is so moorish, so satisfying, so endless, it’s as I said, mushroom greatness.

I was wrong footed on the porcini powder, though simple blitz dried porcini mushrooms in a spice grinder and voila.

Also, I used instant lasagne sheets which seems to me a fine cheat. No doubt, fresh would be even better and the next time I do this dish, I’ll make the effort.

Live like they do at Sixpenny and mushroom it up the next cold Saturday night you can.

Ingredients

50gm dried porcini mushrooms, broken into small pieces
1kg button mushrooms, finely chopped
2/3 cup olive oil
100gm butter
1 medium celeriac, peeled, coarsely grated
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp coarsely chopped sage
1/3 c porcini powder
100gm tomato paste
200ml red wine
4 c vegetable stock
Lasagne sheets

Béchamel sauce

125gm butter
125gm plain flour
5 c milk
165gm Parmesan, finely grated
1 1/4 tsp white pepper
1 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Method

  1. Soak porcini mushrooms in 3 cups boiling water until soft (30 minutes); drain, reserving liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, working in batches, use a food processor to finely chop the button mushrooms.
  3. Heat half the olive oil in a deep frying pan over a high heat. Cook half the button and porcini mushrooms, stirring until browned and tender; transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining oil and mushrooms. Set aside with the cooked mushrooms.
  4. Add butter to the pan, reduce heat to medium and use a wooden spoon to scrape the pan of any caramelised bits. Add celeriac, celery, carrot, onion, sage and porcini powder; cook, stirring until softened. Add the tomato paste and mushrooms and mix well. Add wine and simmer until almost evaporated.
  5. Add the reserved porcini liquid and 2 cups of the stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until well reduced. Add remaining stock and simmer until the consistency of a meat sauce.
  6. To make the béchamel sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add flour and stir until bubbling. Remove from the heat, gradually whisk in milk until combined. Simmer over a low heat stirring until thick and smooth. Add 125gm of the Parmesan, pepper and nutmeg. Season with salt. Set aside until needed.
  7. Preheat oven to 180C. Great a large ovenproof dish. Spread 1/4 of the mushroom mixture in base of the dish. Top with pasta sheets and then a layer of béchamel. Repeat, finishing with béchamel. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until golden and bubbling.

Antonio Carluccio’s Salsa di Funghi (Mushroom Sauce)

Serves: 4

How good is Northern Italian food?

And how good is simplicity?

Which when combined, begs the question, just how good was Antonio Carluccio?

I absolutely love mushrooms and cooked down slowly, with just a bit of olive oil and rosemary; the addition of the porcini stock, butter and then Parmesan. My word.

Toast me something and pile those mushrooms on that! Polenta equally so!

Again, it’s simple, though cook those mushrooms as slowly as possible and live the Northern Italian life.

(We did the white sauce… which is not what you might expect.)

Ingredients

25gm dried porcini mushrooms
150ml water
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
400gm fresh mushrooms (mix it up!)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan to serve

For white sauce

15 butter

For red sauce

2 – 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp tomato pulp (passata)
1 tbsp tomato paste

  1. Soak the dried porcini in tepid water for 30 minutes and squeeze dry, reserving the soaking liquor.
  2. Heat the oil and fry the rosemary and garlic for 20 seconds. If you are making the red sauce, add the extra virgin olive oil at this point. Add the fresh mushrooms and soaked dried mushrooms and continue to slowly cook for no less than 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. (I cooked for 45 minutes and wow!)
  3. Cook your pasta, reserving a small amount of pasta water for the sauce.
  4. For the white sauce, stir in the soaking liquor and the butter and cook for another 15 minutes. Add some of the pasta water and check the seasoning.
  5. Serve with the pasta and a good amount of Parmesan.

Method

Hubert’s Kimchi Gratin

Serves: 4

Every Saturday during this endless Sydney lockdown, we treat ourselves to a food kit from a Sydney restaurant.

We keep it local week one to support local business and then dial it up week two to support ourselves.

Restaurant Hubert is a brilliant French, Sydney institution. The chef is Daniel Pepperell.

Last week, we did their food kit and based on eight weeks of lockdown, it was the best we have had. The theatre of adding a link to their playlist, dimming the lights, decantering a cracking wine, putting the kids to bed… and then thoroughly enjoying a two course, absolutely cracking French meal.

Days blur into weeks, wines like these are starting to blur into days…

I could get used to this lockdown. (And I guess I am 😕.)

Anyway, this kimchi gratin was a pearler. We merely heated it, though here is the recipe and as an alternative to a potato gratin, wow it’s great. Sure, there are plenty of cabbage gratins out there, though this is the one I am typing.

Give it a go. Steak, fish, just give it a go.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1kg onions, thinly sliced
500gm cabbage kimchi, thinly sliced
200ml pouring cream
20gm panko crumbs
100gm finely grated Gruyère cheese
Finely grated Parmesan to serve
15gm butter

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté onions, stirring often, until softened and lightly caramelised: about 25 – 30 minutes.
  2. Add the kimchi and cook, stirring occasionally until warmed through: about 5 minutes. Add the cream and reduce until the mixture thickens slightly: about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Whilst warm but not hot, stir in 3/4 of the Gruyère and transfer to a baking dish or individual shallow gratin dishes.
  3. Heat grill to high. Combine panko crumbs and remaining Gruyère and Parmesan in a bowl, then sprinkle evenly over kimchi, dot with butter, then grill until gratin is golden and bubbling: 2 – 4 minutes, Serve hot.

Lucas Hollweg’s Spinach Gnudi

Serves: 4 as a starter

Geez I wish I took a photo of this cracker of a starter plated by Nat as part of a long Italian lockdown lunch we felt we needed.

(We needed it.)

There is a little time in it, though it’s worth it.

Ricotta and parmesan, burnt butter and more parmesan?

Yes please!

Reminds me of a very similar dish I had at Otto Restaurant on Sydney’s Woolloomooloo Wharf with a cracking bottle of Italian white and the sun dancing on the water.

If only…

Ingredients

250gm ricotta (we used smooth)
Olive oil for frying
200gm baby leaf spinach
1 small garlic clove, crushed
50gm parmesan grated, plus extra to serve
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 nutmeg, freshly grated
250gm fine semolina for dusting
50gm butter to serve

Method

  1. Place the ricotta in a fine plastic sieve over a bowl and let it drain for a few hours.
  2. Heat a splash of olive oil in a saucepan and add the spinach and garlic. Stir over the heat until the leaves are completely wilted. Set aside to cool and then squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can with your hands. Very finely chop and then squeeze again.
  3. Put spinach in a bowl with the ricotta and parmesan. Season, add the nutmeg and mix well. Taste and add more seasoning/nutmeg if needed.
  4. Spread half the semolina over a large plate or tray. Shape the the ricotta mixture into 16 – 20 balls, rolling them between damp hands. Place on the semolina and carefully roll until coated on all sides. Cover with the remaining semolina, then chill (don’t cover with anything else) overnight. This creates a semolina ‘skin’ that holds he gnudi together.
  5. To cook, bring a large saucepan of water to a gentle boil. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and slightly brown/burn. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Drop the gnudi into the boiling water, turn down the heat and gently cook for 3 minutes or until the gnudi float to the surface. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon, drain off the excess water then toss in the butter.
  7. Divide the gnudi among 4 bowls, drizzle the butter over and shave over plenty of parmesan to serve.