Ricky’s Herb Vinaigrette

Serves: 4

A few weeks ago, we spent a weekend in Noosa – sans kids – and it was just marvellous.

Day after day of late lunches, lying on the beach, reading, walking it off. Some very memorable dinners too.

When in Noosa, the beach is a must… before lunch. (And a diet after all these lunches!)
Nat. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

A good mate recommended Rickys which really was a highlight.

If in Noosa, Rickys is a must.

It is a beautiful restaurant on the river. A modern, relaxed interior of wood and glass, opening onto the water.

Friendly, incredibly professional service. A wonderful wine list. The ferry pulling alongside every half hour or so.

It was just a great lunch, though perhaps ironically, it was the greens and herby salad that stood out for me.

And thankyou to the kind chef who jotted down the recipe for me, which I have adapted below:

Because we have recently been chasing the best vinaigrettes to serve with leaves: convinced that after a beautiful piece of steak, pork, chicken or fish, a wonderfully simple salad of greens just mops it up.

This is one of the best, for three reasons: it is so simple, it hero’s herbs, a key signature of Neil Perry’s brilliant vinaigrette and finally, it isn’t sweet.

Not that there is anything wrong with a sweet vinaigrette, though the muted flavour of the canola oil and white balsamic (substitute white wine vinegar) really does blunt the whole thing down to almost the best, simplest paring you could ask.

Safely back in Sydney, we did a wonderfully simple seafood lunch, accompanied by this excellent Iceberg’s pea and farro salad as well as the Ricky’s salad:

How good is a seared tuna. And only a seared tuna.

It had 1-hat genius written all over it.

Try this vinaigrette. It is the best of all the vinaigrette worlds we have been trying.

Ingredients

100ml canola oil
50ml white balsamic (or white wine vinegar)
A handful of basil leaves
A handful of tarragon leaves
A handful of Italian parsley leaves
Salt
Green leaves

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the green leaves in a blender until well emulsified.
  2. Stir well through the greens and serve immediately.

Damien Pignolet’s Grilled Tuna with Pistou & Tomato Aioli, with Fennel and Kipfler Potato Salad

Serves: 6

This very much 80s, very much Southern French dish is still absolutely in vogue.

Mayonnaise (aioli) and fish has never, ever dated.

Especially in the warmer months.

The whole thing is just sublime. The olives and fennel with the potato.

The wonderful tomato aioli with the tuna and pistou.

You would knock people’s socks off with this dish and it isn’t that hard to prepare.

Indeed, other than the salad and cooking the fish, the rest could be done in advance.

This is lux, 80s, 1-hat eating.

Just add sunshine and a good, cold white.

I just love it when a dish like this works just so, so well.

Ingredients

6 x 200gm portions tuna fillet
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Pistou

2 small cloves garlic, pelled
20 large basil leaves
3 – 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Tomato aioli*

3 ripe tomatoes, quartered
A drizzle of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 egg yolks
100ml extra virgin olive oil
60 – 80ml grapeseed oil
A little lemon juice

Fennel and kipfler potato salad

8 – 10 medium kipfler potatoes
60ml extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-sized fennel bulb
A touch of aged balsamic vinegar
24 Ligurian olives (we used half this amount)

Method

  1. Make the pistou: finely chop the garlic, then work to a paste with a pinch of salt, using the flat of a knife. Transfer to a mortar and then add the basil and grind to a paste, adding a few drops of oil. When smooth, work in the remaining oil and season to taste.
  2. For the tomato aioli, preheat the oven to 250c. Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a shallow dish until the tomatoes are scorched and very soft, then pass through a fine sieve and set the juice aside.
  3. Cover the garlic with cold water and bring to the boil. Drain and repeat, cooking this time until the cloves are tender when pierced with a small knife, then drain the garlic, remove the skin and crush with a small spoon in a small mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks and a pinch of salt and gradually add the oils in a thin stream, just a few drops to begin with, whisking constantly. The aioli should be very thick; if not, work in a little more oil.**
  4. Work in enough of the reserved tomato puree to flavour the aioli but retain the consistency of thick cream. Adjust the seasoning, adding lemon juice to taste.
  5. Next, make the salad. Peel the potatoes, cut intp 1cm thick slices then steam until tender, about 15 minutes. *** While the potatoes are still hot, dress them with the oil and vinegar, add the olives and season to taste.
  6. Trim the the base and top of the fennel. Shave the fennel bulb into 2mm-thick slices, preferably with a mandoline, then combine with the warm potatoes and olives. Mix well and do not worry if the potatoes break up – this is meant to be rustic food.
  7. Using a thin paring knife, cut a pocket in the side of each piece of tuna and work in the pistou.
  8. Heat a cast-iron grill or a large, heavy based frying pan until very hot but not smoking then lightly brush with olive oil. Brush one side of each tuna portion with oil and season this side only. Sear for about 2 minutes or until the edges of the fish just begin to change colour. Brush the raw side with oil, season, then flip over and cook for another minute or so. Transfer the tuna to warm plates, coat with the tomato aioli and garnish with the salad.

* A dish like this calls for a homemade mayonnaise/aioli, though I also very much get the merits of cheating. Simply follow the tomato step, do this cheat aioli and voila.

** Hats off if you whisk mayonnaise and aioli by hand, though seriously, consider a food processor as has been the norm since the 70s.

*** Microwave container. Splash of water. 8 minutes. Job done.

Pasta Genovese

Serves: 4 – 6

This classic pasta really is brilliant.

Nat found it in my mother’s collection of recipes and alongside a focaccia Nat cooked, nobody ate a better lunch in our part of town that day.

I love the cooking of the potatoes with the pasta. Which together with the wonderfully simple pesto and the prosciutto, it just so wonderfully rustic.

Just add plenty of Parmesan, open a bottle of white and there you have it… classic.

Ingredients

Dried linguini or tagliatelle
6 small baby potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
100gm baby green beans, trimmed
Grated Parmesan
Thinly sliced prosciutto
2 c tightly packed basil leaves
50gm pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
150ml olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Method

  1. Process the basil, pine nuts and garlic to a paste, stir in the olive oil and 100gm Parmesan: season.
  2. Cook the pasta in salted water and 5 minutes before the cooking time is done, add the potatoes.
  3. Just before draining, add the beans and cook briefly. Drain, retaining 100ml of the pasta water.
  4. Add a generous amount of the pesto to the pasta water together with some additional Parmesan, toss together all the ingredients and serve with prosciutto slices draped over.

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.

Beef Mince with Chilli, Basil and Snake Beans

Serves: 4

There is something so appealing – and so comfortable – about Thai mince on rice, beef or pork.

Fish sauce, plenty of chilli, a fried egg on top.

Perfect mid-week dinner territory.

I’ve typed up very similar, though this one is really quite simple and the addition of the snake beans is always a neat touch.

Ingredients

6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bullseye chillies, sliced and deseeded
4 tbsp vegetable oil plus extra for frying the eggs
750gm beef mince
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp castor sugar
2 cups Thai basil leaves
1 bunch snake beans, cut into 5cm batons
4 eggs
Steam Jasmine rice, to serve

Method

  1. Heat a wok over a medium heat until hot and ad the oil. Add the garlic and chilli and stir-fry for about two minutes until fragrant. Add the beef and stir fry until the beef is browned and cooked through.
  2. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce and castor sugar and stir fry until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the snake beans and cook for a minute or two.
  3. Add the basil, stir through and remove from the heat.
  4. Fry four eggs in a separate pan.
  5. Serve the mince on steamed rice, topping with a fried egg.

Thai Basil Beef

Serves: 4

Looking back on it, every blog here that is mince based, starts with something like: mince is the best, mince is our favourite, mince is our last meal, etc.

Because its true.

Any which way, we love it and Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai minces are up there as our favourite weeknight meals.

You’ve been at work, it’s raining, it’s on Monday and yet… you’re having spicy mince for dinner!

This Thai Basil Mince is super easy and you can’t overdo it on the basil front.

It is also healthy, even if you do have it with a cup of boiled Jasmine rice which… because it is Monday… you should.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 tbsp sunflower oil
500gm ground beef mince
2 shallots, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 birds eye chillies, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 lime, juice and zest
1 cup basil (Thai basil if you can)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced, to garnish
Chopped peanuts and crispy fried shallots to garnish
Jasmine rice to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil over a medium-high heat in a heavy saucepan or wok and cook the beef mince and shallots until the meat is cooked and browning; about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the capsicum, garlic and chillies and cook until fragrant; another 2 – 3 minutes
  3. Add the fish sauce, sugar, lime and basil and cook until the basil starts to wilt; about a minute. Taste test to make sure the balance of salty, sweet and sour is right.
  4. Garnish with the sliced spring onions, chopped peanuts and fried shallots. Serve with rice.

Italian Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Serves: 4

I’m not sure how you couldn’t love meatballs and I’m especially unsure how you couldn’t love these ones: with the herbs, the cheeses, the pine nuts (and some extra pistachios we added) and more grated Parmesan to serve, they’re awesome.

Prepare the meat mixture in the morning, head out to lunch and come Saturday night, open a bottle of red, put some music on and enjoy some truly excellent meatballs and sauce.

Seriously, they’re excellent.

Ingredients

3/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2/3 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
40gm parsley, roughly chopped
5g basil or rosemary, roughly chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra to serve)
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 egg
500gm minced pork or beef

Sauce

2 x 400gm tinned tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine

Method

  1. Heat half the olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and pine nuts over a low heat until the onion is soft and the pine nuts are golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more and then set aside to cool.
  2. Put the herbs, fennel seeds, breadcrumbs, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest and egg in a bowl and add the mince. Add the cooled onion mixture, season well with salt and freshly cracked pepper and mix until all the ingredients are combined. Set aside the mixture to rest in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
  3. Roll the meatballs about the size of a walnut and flatten slightly to make it easier to cook on both sides.
  4. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the meatballs until golden on both sides; do two batches if necessary in order to avoid overcrowding. Remove and set aside.
  5. For the sauce: Add the tinned tomatoes and wine to the saucepan over a medium heat, breaking up the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. Gently add the meatballs to the sauce and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
  6. Serve with a good sprinkling of Parmesan and some fresh basil leaves.

Banc’s Sweet Corn and Basil Soup

Serves: 4

This is a truly sublime soup and one we have served plenty of times at the beginning of a dinner party.

It is from the famous Sydney restaurant, Banc.

We have served it both hot and cold and plenty of times, we have been asked for more. Indeed, we had a cook-off with a mate a few years back where we both did three courses each and this soup was a comprehensive point-scorer in my favour.

Here’s what the prep looks like when you’re cooking it for 31+ friends (!!!) at our long lunch/wedding:

Prepare it beforehand and chill in the fridge.

And seriously blow them all away.

Ingredients

4 fresh corn cobs
200gm diced onions
50ml cream
50ml diced butter
1 small bunch fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. The stock: Peel and remove all the outer stalks from the cobs. Using a knife, remove all the corn kernels from the cobs and reserve. Cut the cobs in half.
  2. In a heavy-based pan, melt half the butter and add half of the diced onion. Sweat the onion for 5 minutes on a medium heat without allowing it to colour. Add the cobs and a good pinch of salt and cook for a further 5 minutes without browning.
  3. Add 1.5 litres of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the stock to infuse for a further 30 minutes before passing it through a fine sieve, discarding the cobs and onions
  4. The soup: In a heavy-based pan melt the remaining butter and add the remaining diced onion. Sweat the onion for 5 minutes on a medium heat without allowing to colour. Add the corn kernels and a good pinch of salt and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Add the corn stock and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes until the corn kernels are tender. Pour in the cream and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and blend the soup in a blender until smooth. Add roughly chopped basil and season with salt and pepper. Leave the soup for at least an hour – ideally overnight in the fridge – to allow the flavours to infuse, before passing the soup through a fine sieve, pressing hard on the corn to extract as much flavour as possible. Season once more and serve hot or cold.

Thai-style Chicken Meatballs in Broth


Serves: 4
Another simple, successful, David Herbert weekday number… healthy too.

Keep the calories for the weekend.

Ingredients

  • 500gm chicken mince
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 small chilli chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer leaves discarded, soft inner core finely chopped
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • Vegetable oil

For the broth

  • 1.5 ltr chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 100gm thin egg or rice noodles
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped Thai basil
  • Soy sauce to taste

To garnish

  • 1 small red chilli, sliced
  • Coriander and mint leaves
  • Lime wedges

Method

  1. For the broth: bring the stock to the boil and add the fish sauce, star anise and ginger and gently simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the meatball ingredients; season and shape into walnut-sized balls.
  3. Heat a little vegetable oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the meatballs for 5 minutes until golden brown. When they are almost cooked, add the noodles to the broth and cook for one minute and then add the spring onions, Thai basil, soy sauce and meatballs. Simmer for 2 – 3 minutes.
  4. Garnish with chilli, herbs and lime wedges.

Pad ka prao (minced pork, fried egg and rice)

Serves: 2

Read the ingredients and don’t over think it.

This is Monday done: street-style Thai.

Ingredients

1 tbsp sunflower oil
500gm pork mince
3 cloves garlic
3 birds eye chillies
1 small brown onion
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp kecap manis
1 tbsp oyster sauce
5 sprigs Thai basil leaves
2 eggs
Jasmine rice to serve

Method

  1. Cook the rice and set aside.
  2. De-seed the chillies and finely chop with the garlic and onion.
  3. Heat the oil in a medium-hot wok and fry the garlic, chillies and onion for 2 minutes. Add the pork and break up, working through until almost cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, fry the eggs until they have a slightly crispy base.
  5. Back to the pork, add the fish sauce, soy sauce, kecap manis and oyster sauce and stir through; reduce the sauces slightly and add the basil leaves. Stir and remove from the heat.
  6. Serve on rice with the fried egg on top.