Spicy Lamb Mince Jaffas with Labne

Serves: 4

Let’s work backwards on this cracker of a toasted, late-night sandwich.

Labne.

Once you make this – and it could not be simpler – you will never do yoghurt again.

Take 500gm of Greek-style yoghurt and mix through a teaspoon of salt flakes. Pour it into a sieve lined with a muslin (or a Chux cloth) and set it over a pot. Leave it to hang over night.

Discard the liquid in the pot and store the thick Labne in a container in the fridge until needed.

Think of it like yoghurt spread.

For curries. For mince. For toast at breakfast.

A-mazing.

This toastie – which is pretty equally a-mazing – is from the cookbook Chefs Eat Toasties Too. (As someone working on a whole new category for this cooking blog titled Saturday Night Drunk, I recommend this cookbook highly. With a bit of afternoon preparation, that 11pm Saturday night “what’s in the fridge” craving will be well catered and everyone will think you are a genius.)

Either way, please give labne a go at a minimum.

It is awesome and so easy to make!

Ingredients

500gm Greek-style yoghurt
1 tsp salt flakes
1 brown onion finely diced
1 bird’s eye chilli, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50ml light olive oil
500hm minced lamb
1 tbsp tomato paste
500ml chicken stock
50gm pine nuts, toasted
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp allspice
3 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
80gm unsalted butter, softened
8 slices white bread

Method

  1. Make the labne a day ahead. Mix the yoghurt with the salt and pour it into a sieve lined with a muslin (cheesecloth) set over a plastic container. Leave to hang overnight to extract all of the whey. Transfer the thick labne to a plastic container and store in the refrigerator until needed. Discard the whey.
  2. In a large heavy-based saucepan, gently fry the onion, chilli and garlic in the oil for a few minutes over medium heat until translucent.
  3. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the lamb; brown it off until all the juices have evaporated. Add the tomato paste and fry for another minute or so. Add the chicken stock to deglaze the pan; reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Add the pine nuts, spices, herbs and mix well.
  4. Preheat a jaffle maker. Butter one side of each of the slices of bread. Assemble the sandwiches directly in the jaffle maker. Place a bread slice, butter-side down in the jaffle maker and add 3-4 heaped tablespoons of the lamb mixture. Spread to just inside the edges of the bread and top with a bread slice, butter-side up.
  5. Cook until the sandwiches are golden brown and sealed and serve with the labne as a spread.

Southern Indian Lobster Curry

Serves: 4

This Christmas has been a decidedly Lobster affair.

Lobster Thermidor. Lobster with a basil mayonnaise.

And this wonderful curry from – Gourmet Traveller – where the lobster does all the talking.

It’s a classic, light, seafood curry with the genius of fried mustard seeds and a just a hint of heat.

Add a beer or a cold glass of wine and this is an amazing, post-Christmas dinner where the ham and turkey is a thing of the past.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
3 dried long red chillies
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 onion thinly sliced
2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
3 garlic gloves, finely chopped
36 fresh curry leaves
3 tsp ground turmeric
1 tomato, coarsely chopped
375ml coconut cream
50gm tamarind
750gm lobster meat cut into 5cm pieces
Basmati rice, coriander leaves and lime wedges to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over a low heat, add the mustard seeds and sauté until they pop (20 – 30 seconds). Add the chillies and fenugreek seeds and sauté until the chillies turn brown (20 – 30 seconds).
  2. Increase the heat to medium, add the onions and sauté until softened. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute or two until aromatic. Add the curry leaves and turmeric and cook for a further 30 seconds and then add the tomato and cook until soft. Stir in the coconut cream and tamarind and warm, season with salt.
  3. Add the lobster meat and slowly simmer for 15 minutes until cooked through.
  4. Serve with basmati rice, coriander leaves and lime wedges.

Curried Lobster Sandwich with Mango Chutney and Potato Chips

Serves: 4

It’s three days after Christmas.

We have lobsters in the fridge.

We are staying in a wonderful AirBNB in Newcastle, sleeping in, swimming at the beach and opening Champagne by 1pm.

And we have a new cookbook: Chefs Eat Toasties Too by Darren Purchase.

All of which means we have nothing to do, no diet to follow, plenty of lobster to get through and a recipe.

A couple of years ago, Nat and I stayed at The Sanderson, one of the hippest hotels in London. And on our first day, we sat at the bar – surrounded by hip people – and had a lobster sandwich and Champagne.

We’ve been chasing the moment for years.

And now… here it is with this sandwich.

Lobster. Kewpie. Curry Powder. Mint, Celery and Cucumber. Mango Chutney. Potato Chips. Toasted Brioche Bun.

(And Champagne.)

Incredible. Just incredibly good.

(I have adapted the recipe.)

Ingredients

Extra virgin olive oil
4 seeded brioche buns (we used a brioche loaf)
500gm cooked lobster meat cut into chunks
Salt flakes
Freshly ground pepper
120gm Kewpie mayonnaise
2 tsp curry powder
2 celery stalks, sliced thinly
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into a 1cm dice
1 tbsp finely shredded fresh mint leaves
8 cos lettuce leaves, shredded
4 tbsp mango chutney
Potato chips, to serve

Method

  1. Combine the mayonnaise with the curry powder, celery, cucumber, shredded mint and salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the lobster chunks with a good pinch of salt and pepper until warmed through.
  3. Combine the warmed lobster with the mayonnaise mixture and mix well.
  4. Toast the brioche buns. Stuff with the shredded lettuce and then a dollop (1 tbsp) of mango chutney on each bun. Spoon the lobster filling evenly into the buns and push it in well. Finally, stuff potato chips into the buns and serve.
  5. With Champagne.

Jamie Oliver’s Portuguese Fish Stew

Serves: 4 – 6

We’re all told that the answer to long life is in the Mediterranean diet.

We all also know that being middle-aged means an endless battle with calories: that is, don’t waste your calories during the week. Leave the bread and pasta for Saturday night.

And finally… if you’ve cooked Jamie Oliver’s recipes, you’d be across that pretty much everything he publishes is fun and a cracker.

Back to our diet, we decided to make it interesting by only cooking Jamie’s recipes for the week. At 312 calories a serve, this Portuguese Fish Stew was the first up.

A quick scan through the ingredients and you’ll probably have an idea of how this will taste: simple, clean and amazing for it. Right.

Our go-to, simple weeknight dinners are tray bakes with fish or chicken and lots of vegetables.

This dish goes a level above with the sliced potatoes. Use a mandolin for the slicing of it all if you have one, or pour a glass of wine and get your sharpest knife to work.

Add in a few cloves of fresh garlic like we did and a side of sautéed broccolini and you’ll have yourself have a wonderful weeknight dinner.

Setting you in good stead for when the Spaghetti Carbonara and red wine rolls in on Saturday night!

Ingredients

2 onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
2 medium potatoes, skin on, thinly sliced
3 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
Olive oil
500gm white fish fillets, cut into 2cm pieces
1/2 bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, stems and leaves finely chopped
500gm white fish, cut into 2cm pieces
1 pinch dried chilli flakes
5 fresh bay leaves

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190c.
  2. Prepare the vegetables and heat oil over a low heat in a 30cm heavy, oven-proof pan. Add the onions, garlic and a good pinch of salt and slowly fry until light golden. Meanwhile, parboil the potatoes in a pot of boiling salted water and then drain well.
  3. Remove half the onions from the pan, spreading the remaining onion out into a nice layer. Top with a layer of half the tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Next, layer the fish and season.
  4. Sprinkle most of the chopped parsley on top with the chilli flakes. Drizzle with oil and repeat the layering of the vegetables – onion, peppers and tomatoes – finishing with a neat layer of the potatoes.
  5. Poke in the bay leaves, season and drizzle with a bit more oil.
  6. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, and place under the grill for 5 minutes or until the potatoes are golden and crisping up.
  7. Sprinkle over the remaining parsley and enjoy.

Tuna with caponata

Serves: 4

We love a piece freshly cooked tuna or swordfish, dressed with diced tomato, olives, some balsamic and olive oil. Super simple, super quick, foolproof.

Which means that caponata and fresh tuna – with, let’s say, three-times the effort of the abovementioned – really is where you need to be for that special, healthy, weeknight dinner.

It’s worth the extra effort.

Add some steam greens or a green salad – and definitely a bottle of white wine – and this is an awesome meal for you and friends.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
4 tuna steaks
Extra-virgin olive oil to serve
Lemon wedges to serve
Steam beans or a green salad to serve

Caponata

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small red onion, cut into 2cm pieces
1 large eggplant, cut into 2cm pieces
200gm grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
12 black olives, pitted and halved
1 1/2 tbsp capers in vinegar, rinsed
1 birdseye chilli, thinly sliced

Method

  1. For the caponata, heat half the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add onion and stir until golden and softened (5 minutes). Remove from pan.
  2. Add the eggplant and remaining oil to the pan and stir to coat; add 1/4 cup of water and then cover with a lid and steam until tender (5 minutes). Remove the lid and cook, stirring occasionally until golden (5 minutes).
  3. Return onions to the pan, add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally until tomatoes soften.
  4. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Season tuna and add to the pan and sear, turning once until cooked medium rare (2-3 minutes each side).
  5. Cut steaks in half and serve with caponata, lemon wedges, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil… steamed beans or a salad and definitely that bottle of white!

Pear, Rocket and Parmesan Salad

Serves: 4

Nothing compliments pizza and pasta better than a salad.

This rocket, pear and Parmesan salad is right down the line and reasonably healthy.

You may actually eat it when the pizza runs out!

Ingredients

2 pears (Beurre Bosc if you can), cored and thinly sliced
2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
125gm baby rocket leaves
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Combine the oil, vinegar and a good squeeze of lemon juice, season and whisk well.
  2. Lightly toss together the pear, rocket and Parmesan, drizzle over the oil combination and toss once more.

Ajoy Joshi’s Chicken Dhaniwal

Serves: 4

Ajoy Joshi is the genius behind Nilgiris, a bit of an Indian institution on the Lower North Shore of Sydney.

He also runs a smaller, quite intimate restaurant – Tellicherry – which serves wonderfully contemporary Indian cuisine. Small plate after small plate and even more wonderfully, completely BYO.

It is one of our favourite restaurants and a real treat on the few nights a week it is open.

Anyway, I recently hit the big 40 and Nat organised the best present of all: a long lunch (my favourite), Indian (my favourite) and 30 of my best friends (my favourites):

And she convinced Tellicherry to open especially for it!

As we left – after a cracking meal with cracking service – Mr Joshi gave me a copy of his cookbook (Regional Indian Cooking) – and the next night we did our first curry.

Hands down, it was one of the best curries we have cooked. (It reminded us of the amazing Christine Mansfield 100 Almond Curry.)

In the boy, Ajoy says: “I first tried this dish at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi. I knew instantly that if I ever wrote a book, this recipe would definitely be in it.”

No question.

Enjoy!

(And here is to being 40. The new 30, right?)

Ingredients

1kg chicken thighs, cut into pieces
2 brown cardamom pods
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
3 whole cloves
5 green cardamom pods, crushed
2.5cm piece cinnamon stick
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt, whisked until smooth
1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
Leaves from 1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Steamed Basmati Rice to serve

Method

  1. In a saucepan, combine chicken, brown cardamom, turmeric and water. Place over a low heat, bring to simmer and cook until the chicken is almost tender, almost 20 minutes. Remove chicken from stock and set aside. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve and reserve.
  1. In a wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat oil over a medium-low heat. Add onions and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are dark golden brown, 20 – 25 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.
  2. Reheat oil remaining in pan over medium heat. Add cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon, yogurt and garlic. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens: 10 – 15 minutes. Sauce may appear curdled at this stage, but will be fine after further cooking.
  3. Add chicken to sauce in pan and cook, stirring, until sauce coats chicken. Add 1/4 cup reserved stock and cook over low heat until chicken is cooked through and tender: about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in fried onions, coriander and pepper. Serve immediately.