Jamie Oliver’s Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie with a Puff Pastry lid

Serves: 6

This pie is a real winner.

I pulled it from Jamie at Home, one of Jamie Oliver’s excellent books and it is a serious cooking homerun. It is so rich, with the stewed meat and the pastry all around – not just on top – and then there is the cheese.

I have done this pie twice, both times with a mash and peas.

Winter can stick around a bit longer if it means pies like this!

Ingredients

Olive oil
3 medium red onions , peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 carrots , peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery , trimmed and chopped
4 field mushrooms , peeled and sliced
1 kg quality brisket of beef or stewing beef , cut into 2cm cubes
A few sprigs fresh rosemary , leaves picked and chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
440 ml Guinness
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
150 g Cheddar cheese , freshly grated
340 g ready-made all-butter puff pastry
1 large free-range egg , beaten

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190c.
  2. In a heavy saucepan on a low heat, heat some olive oil and then add the onions and gently fry for 10 minutes, trying not to colour them. Turn the heat up and add the garlic, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Stir together well before adding the beef, a pinch of salt and a level teaspoon of pepper.
  3. Fry fast for 3 to 4 minutes and then pour in the Guinness, stir in the flour and just enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in the preheated oven for about 1 ½ hours.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven and stir. Return to the over for another hour or until the meat is tender and the stew is rich, dark and thick; you want a thick gravy.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in half the cheese, season and set aside to cool.
  6. Grease a casserole and lay pastry on the bottom and walls, ensure that there are no gaps. Tip the stew in, even it out and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover with the remaining pastry and criss-cross it lightly with a sharp knife. Brush the top with beaten egg and then bake the pie in the oven for 45 minutes until the pastry is golden and puffed.

Neil Perry’s Sweet Black Vinegar Pork Belly

Serves: 4

Nat cooked this dish from Neil’s book Balance and Harmony as part of a long Sunday lunch and it was just so good.

This is not your local Chinese “sweet and sour”. Not by a long shot.

It isn’t a complex dish either. Just start the night before and with a bowl of rice, some sliced spring onions and roasted sesame seeds…

Lordy.

Ingredients

500gm boneless pork belly cut into 3cm thick pieces across the grain
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp shaoxing
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 1/2 tbsp peanut oil
1/3 c soft brown sugar
4 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
Finely sliced spring onion and roasted sesame seeds to serve

Method

  1. Mix together 1/4 tsp of the sea salt, sugar, shaoxing, soy sauce and 1/2 tbsp of the peanut oil, add the pork and leave to marinate for at least2 hours, or overnight. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Heat a wok until smoking. Add the remaining oil and, when hot, stir fry the pork in batches for about 4 minutes, turning occasionally, until well coloured on all sides. Return all the pork to the wok and add the brown sugar vinegar, remaining salt. And 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until the pork is very tender. If the sauce is a little thin, remove the pork from the sauce and return the wok to the heat. Boil until it has a syrupy consistency, then pour over the pork. Sprinkle with the sliced spring onion and sesame seeds.

Sophie Wright’s Steamed Sea Bream with Ginger, Chilli and Spring Onion

Serves: 2

Sophie Wright was a star on the British food scene about 10 years ago with two highly regarded cookbooks launched within a few years of each other.

This is one of the recipes from her second book.

Nat served this for lunch and wow did the conversation pivot to why we were not steaming enough Asian fish in our lives.

This is a classic recipe. The ginger, the chilli, the spring onions, the soy and sesame oil… classic.

The only change I would make would be to use a thicker fish such as barramundi, though the subtlety of the sea bream is definitely a thing, especially if serving as part of a banquet.

Monday night, Sunday-lunch banquet, either way… serve this with some rice, lemon wedges and Chinese greens and you will win the night… or the lunch.

Ingredients

2 sea bream fillets, pin-boned
3cm piece of ginger sliced into very thin strips
1 large green chilli, seeds removed sliced at an angle
6 spring onions, trimmed and shredded
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
Handful of coriander leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges
Steamed rice and green vegetables to serve

Method

  1. Place a wok or saucepan with a steamer on the stove and half fill the wok with boiling water. Cover with a lid.
  2. Lay the fish fillets, skin-side down on a plate that fits in the steamer. Sprinkle the ginger chilli and half the spring onion over the fish. Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and vinegar in a bowl and pour over the fish.
  3. Place the plate in the steamer and cover with a lid. Leave to steam over a medium heat for about 6 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
  4. Serve the fish with all the ginger chilli and spring onion on top and sprinkle with coriander leaves and remaining spring onion. Pour any juices that are on the plate over the fish and serve with a wedge of lime, steamed rice and green vegetables.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s One-Pan Crispy Spaghetti and Chicken

Serves: 4

You have to give it to this guy. He is so clever.

And this dish is just that. Like, screw you clever. Like, why didn’t I bloody think of that clever.

Like one-pot-pasta clever, though cleverer than the first batch of one-pot-pastas we were all inundated with five years back.

It’s the simplicity. The rusticity. And the various textures of the spaghetti, from soft to crunchy: the caramelised chicken.

Look at that spaghetti!

And it is fun to dish and eat.

Screw you clever.

It is a weeknight meal though served on a Saturday night with friends, it would absolutely not look out of place.

It is just that fun… and good.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1kg skin-on chicken thighs (4-6)
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1cm dice
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 c boiling water
230gm spaghetti, broken into thirds
1/3 c lightly packed finely grated Parmesan
3 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 c finely chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 220c.
  2. Add 1 tbsp oil to a large, ovenproof lidded skillet and heat over high. Season the chicken with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, then add to the hot oil, skin down. Cook for 7 minutes, without turning, to brown well.
  3. Turn down to medium-high, stir in the onion and turn over the chicken; cook for 5 minutes until the onion has softened and is slightly browned. Add the tomato paste, garlic and 1 tbsp thyme and cook, stirring the paste into the onions for 2 minutes or until fragrant and all browned.
  4. Add the boiling water, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, then add the spaghetti, stirring to submerge and evenly distribute. Lift the chicken pieces so that sit on top of the spaghetti, skin side up. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 30 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, lemon zest and remaining thyme.
  6. After the pasta has baked for 30 minutes, remove from the oven and turn the oven to its highest setting and get the grill on. Sprinkle the Parmesan mixture evenly over the chicken, drizzle with the remaining oil and grill for a few minutes until nicely browned and crisp. Set aside for a few minutes and serve straight from the pan.

Kay Chun’s Coconut-Miso Salmon Curry

Serves: 4

This curry I found on NYT’s Cooking had 7k+ 5-star reviews so… it had to be done.

Add one more 5-star.

What a mild, moorish dinner.

The caremalised miso with the coconut milk, the lime and then the fresh herbs. Wow.

I used a premium coconut milk and the difference was obvious. Don’t cut this corner.

And it’s so simple. Monday-night home date-night sort of stuff.

You could add fresh chilli at the end, though whatever you do, get that lime juice in and a solid handful of those herbs.

Note: I used two cups of water and not three and I would do it again.

Ingredients

2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium red onion, halved and sliced 5cm thick
1 10cm piece fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 c white miso
1/2 c coconut milk
750g salmon, cut into large pieces
5c baby spinach
1 tbsp fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
Steamed jasmine rice for serving
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
1/4 c chopped fresh coriander

Method

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and season. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the miso and cook, stirring frequently, until the miso is lightly caramelised: about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the coconut and 3 cups of boiling water and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes until the liquid is reduced slightly. Lower the heat and add the salmon and simmer gently until just cooked through. Turn off the hear and stir in the spinach and lime juice until the spinach is wilted.
  3. Serve with rice, topped with the fresh herbs and lime wedges for squeezing.

Neil Perry’s Vietnamese Chicken and Prawn Coleslaw

Serves: 4

This is such a classic Vietnamese dish.

Pops of flavour, could be had as a main or a side.

Very hard to get it wrong. Very hard to complain.

Ingredients

1 small roasted or barbecued chicken
6 cooked large prawns, peeled and deveined
1 carrot, julienned
200gm shredded cabbage
1 small red onion, cut into thin rings
40g mint and coriander
1 1/2 tbsp crispy fried shallots, plus 2 tsp to serve
1 1/2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts, plus 2 tsp to serve

Nuoc Cham Dressing

2 long fresh red chillies, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar
60ml fish sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice

Method

  1. To make the dressing, pound the chillies, garlic and sugar in a mortar and pestle. Add the fish sauce, rice vinegar and 60ml water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes for the flavours to infuse. Stir in the lime juice, taste and adjust as necessary.
  2. Pull the chicken meat off the bones, tear into bite-sized pieces and add it to a large bowl. Cut the prawns in half lengthways and add them to the bowl.
  3. Add the carrot, cabbage, onion, herbs, fried shallots and peanuts to the bowl. Pour over the dressing, mix well and transfer to a salad bowl. Serve immediately with the extra fried shallots and peanuts.

Burmese Lemongrass Chicken Curry

Serves: 2

Last Saturday night, Nat did this curry with a coconut rice.

We wanted something quick, easy and healthy: we were already up to our eyeballs in cooking prepping for Sunday.

Neither of us had high expectations, though wow. It was awesome.

It is the spice that really does it. Hard to put my finger on it, though the heat was so focused and simple. The aromatics from the lemongrass immediately followed.

One mouthful in, Nat said I wouldn’t type it, though two in, I challenged this. Three mouthfuls and we both agreed that it was traditional, wonderful and needed to stick around.

Just make sure you accompany it with the coconut rice.

Ingredients

250gm chicken breast cut into 4cm pieces
3 sticks lemongrass, bruised
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 tomatoes finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1cm ginger, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp palm sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large wok and add the shallots and garlic and fry until translucent.
  2. Add half of the tomatoes and cook over a medium-high heat until soft. Add the remaining tomatoes and repeat.
  3. Add the ginger and lemongrass. Stir fry until the sauce becomes a richer, deeper red colour. Then add the chilli powder, turmeric, fish sauce and palm sugar and stir.
  4. Add the chicken pieces with 1 1/2 c water and mix. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, The cover and simmer on a medium heat for 10 minutes. Finish the curry by removing the lid and allowing the sauce to cook down and thicken (approximately another 15 minutes).
  5. Remove the lemongrass pieces and serve with steamed rice.

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.

Nomad’s Roast Pork Shoulder with Ajo Blanco

Serves: 6 – 8

Goodness gracious, this is an extraordinary pork by Jacque Challinor of Nomad (a great Sydney restaurant) fame.

One of the best porks I have had and even better than the pork shoulder in milk my kids ask me to cook at least once a month.

No question, the brining over night plays a big role here. Ditto the spice rub and Ajo Blanco which just adds another layer of special.

Brining.
And twining.

Though I served it warm on wonderful, light and crunchy bread rolls, French butter, a good dollop of the Ajo Blanco, rocket and a good piece of crackling.

The whole thing is a bit of a labour of love, though everyone at the picnic where I served this up agreed: it was the best they had ever had.

Let’s agree that this is the new gold standard.

Ingredients

375ml sea salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns, toasted
1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
1 head garlic, halved
1 bunch parsley stalks (reserved from the spice rub)
4 fresh bay leaves
1 bunch thyme
1 boneless pork shoulder (about 3.75kg), skin on and scored
250gm flat pancetta, thinly sliced

Ajo Blanco

25gm crustless sourdough bread
90gm blanched almonds
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tsp sherry vinegar

Spice Rub

1 tbsp celery seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
5 black peppercorns
6 garlic cloves
1/2 c (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 c (loosely packed) sage
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind

Method

  1. Stir salt in 3.75 litres water oil a large saucepan over a high heat until it dissolves (15 – 20 minutes). Remove from the heat, add the spices, garlic, parsley, bay leaves and thyme, cool and then refrigerate until chilled. Transfer to a large non-reactive container, submerge pork in the brine (keeping the skin above the brine) and refrigerate over night.
  2. For Ajo Blanco, soak bread in 125ml water for 2 – 3 minutes, then squeeze out excess. Process almonds in a food processor until finely ground, add bread, garlic and oil and blend to a paste. With motor runnings, slowly add 250ml cold water and process until smooth. Add vinegar, season, strain and chill. Make this a day ahead.
  3. For spice rub, dry-roast spices until fragrant. Crush with a mortar and pestle, add garlic and herbs, crush to a paste and stir in the olive oil and lemon rind.
  4. Preheat oven to 180c. Rinse the pork (not the skin) under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Pull out the flesh ready to truss and rub the spice all over. Roll in a cylinder, ready to truss and wrap and flesh in the pancetta. Tie at intervals with kitchen string, place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 3 – 3 1/2 hours.
  5. Increase oven to 225c and roast until skin crackles. Remove from the oven, rest for 30 minutes, then carve and serve with the Ajo Blanco.