Bacon, Tomato, Comté, Cheddar, Spring Onion and Pickled Mustard Seeds Toasted Sandwich

Serves: 4

Already two late-night toasties down over the Christmas holidays, we decided to toast a third, closer to the classic “ham, tomato, cheese”.

However this recipe – from the excellent Chefs Eat Toasties Too – completely dials up the classic in a number of important ways.

Firstly, bacon.

🐖

Which, with all due respect to ham, is a clear checkmate move.

Then, there is the Comté (We substituted Gruyère) AND the cheddar.

Another checkmate, especially with the thinly sliced spring onions.

The real cracker however are the pickled mustard seeds which take the sandwich to restaurant-level.

You will forever look down on the ho-hum ham, tomato, cheese after toasting this late-night toastie.

Ingredients

8 slices white sandwich loaf
140gm unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp hot English mustard
12 cold-smoked bacon rashes, cooked
4 small ripe truss tomatoes, thinly sliced
Salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
160gm Comté (Gruyère), grated
100gm cheddar, grated
2 spring onions, white part only, thinly sliced

For the pickled mustard seeds

100gm yellow mustard seeds
50gm caster sugar
2 tsp salt flaked
150ml Chardonnay vinegar (we used white wine vinegar)

Method

For the pickled mustard seeds

  1. Place the mustard seeds in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat. Drain the seeds and discard the water. Refresh the seeds in cold water and return to the saucepan. Repeat the previous step three times and reserved the blanched seeds in a bowl or jug.
  2. Heat 75ml of water and the sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the salt and stir until dissolved. Stir in the vinegar then strain the pickling liquid over the seeds. Place in the refrigerator, covered, for a minimum of 1 hour.
  3. The seeds will last for 2 months.

For the sandwich

  1. Butter four slices of bread and scrape a thin layer of English mustard on each slice. Place three rashes of bacon on each and add tomato slices on top and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Combine the grated cheeses in a bowl with the spring onion and evenly distribute this mixture on top of the tomato.
  3. Spread butter on the remaining slices of bread and spread the pickled mustard seeds on the other side. Close the sandwich with the buttered side of the bread on the outer.
  4. Toasted in a sandwich press, buttered sides on the hot grill, until golden brown and crispy.

Curtis Stone’s Corn and Bacon Muffins (with Herb Butter)

Makes: 12

I am a sucker for savoury muffins though apart from my popular Spinach and Feta Muffins, it would seem the house has a sweet tooth.

Therefore your decision to cook this particular muffin recipe really will come down to whether you like savoury muffins or are all-in the sweet camp.

If you are like me – and Curtis Stone – you should pass GO, collect $200 and have these baking tonight.

Because if you’re like me, you’ll agree they are really great, savoury muffins.

(Like muffins should be.)

Ingredients

350gm smoked bacon, coarsely chopped
2 ½ cups self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 ¼ cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup fresh yellow corn kernels (cut from a cob)
⅓ cup coarsely chopped fresh chives

For the herb butter
115gm softened unsalted butter
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c.
  2. In a large pan, cook the bacon over a medium heat for about 8 minutes until brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels and reserve the bacon drippings.
  3. Grease 12 muffin cups/tins with some of the reserved bacon drippings.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cayenne pepper to blend. In a separate large bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and the remainder of the bacon drippings to blend; stir in the bacon, 1 ½ cups of the cheese (leaving ½ cup), the corn kernels and the chives. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just blended.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the greased muffin cups and sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese.
  6. Bake for about 18 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
  7. For the herb butter: combine the butter ingredients. Use immediately on the muffins or form into a log on some baking paper, roll and twist and refrigerate.

Basic baked Mac and Cheese with Crispy Breadcrumbs

Serves: 6

We had dinner at a great friend’s place a few week’s back, both as a long overdue catch-up and as a test of his new kitchen.

Matt undersells himself in the kitchen though I secretly think he knows he is pretty good. And he is.

Which is all sort of funny.

He is the most true-blue Aussie I know, being a member of the Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club, able to crush tinnies on his head and definitely driving a bogan, 1999 Commodore. Not much to see there and definitely not what should be a food guy.

On the other hand, he owns and lives in an extraordinary mansion in Newtown, his beautiful wife Hannah is super beautiful, sophisticated and cosmopolitan and Matt loves his food and fine wine. Cooking, eating and drinking it.

This is a wine tour guy if ever you met one.

Genuinely, there are few people I enjoy a meal more than with Matt and a highlight was when Nat and I had lunch with Matt and Hannah (and her parents) at the Ledbury in London a few years back, one of the world’s best restaurants.

So, here we are for dinner and Matt – as usual – delivers.

Though it wasn’t the chicken-pot-pies (with homemade pastry) that blew our socks off.

It was this Mac and Cheese.

Ask anyone that knows me and Mac and Cheese would be my last meal.

And it could seriously be this one.

Lordy.

We love you Matt and Hannah. You guys are brilliant and this Mac and Cheese keeps me smiling.

This is his recipe and you should cook it.

Ingredients

3 cups whole milk
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
250gm dried elbow pasta
1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
½ cup panko

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta in cold water.
  3. Heat the milk over a medium heat until it starts to bubble but not boiling for 3 – 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  4. Heat the butter over a medium heat in a separate pot. When the butter has melted add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown; around 3 minutes. Remove from the the heat.
  5. Slowly pour the warm milk – about 1 cup at a time – into the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly. (It will get very thick when you first add the milk and get thinner as you add milk.)
  6. Once all the milk has been added, set the pot over a medium-high heat and continue to whisk for 2 – 3 minutes until the sauce becomes silky and thick. (If the sauce sticks to the back of the spoon, you’re done.) Add the salt.
  7. Add the sauce and both the cheeses to a pan and cook over a medium heat until the cheese is barely melted; around 3 minutes. Add the cooked pasta and continue cooking whilst stirring continuously until the pasta is hot and steaming; another 5 minutes.
  8. Place the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 5 minutes or until they are lightly brown, toasted colour.
  9. Fill your baking dish or ramekins with pasta mixture. Sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Beef and eggplant moussaka

Serves: 6

Based on a recent cooking show Nat and I watched, I gather that moussaka is regarded as a bit ho-hum in the UK.

Just like Pad Thai is for us in Australia.

In Australia however, Greek food isn’t a mainstream staple and moussaka isn’t something you pick up from the corner store. Greek food is a treat.

The Ashes family introduced me to moussaka. It is one of their staples and they take it seriously.

To satisfy the breadth of palates in the family, the last time I did this en masse (there were eight of us eating), I did a turkey mince and beef mince number. Genuinely, the turkey mince was the slightly more interesting of the two, though either way, you cannot go wrong.

Live the good life, plan to go for a run tomorrow and find a bottle of red to open.

And cook this.

Ingredients

2 large (1kg) eggplants
Sea salt
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 kg minced beef
1 x 400gm can tomatoes
½ cup tomato paste
¼ cup white wine
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 tbsp chopped pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp sambal oelek
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground hot paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
¼  cup grated parmesan cheese

Cheese sauce

100g, butter
½ cup plain flour
3 cups milk
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Cut eggplants into 5mm slices, place on wire rack, sprinkle with salt, stand 20 minutes. Rinse slices under cold water, drain, pat dry with absorbent paper. Brush slices with oil, add to pan in batches, cook until browned on both sides; drain on paper towel.
  2. Heat extra oil in the same pan, add onion and garlic, cook, stirring, until onion is soft. Add beef, cook, stirring, until beef is browned. Stir in undrained crushed tomatoes, paste, wine, herbs, nuts, sambal oelek and spices, simmer, covered, about 25 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  3. Cheese sauce: Melt butter in pan, stir in flour, stir over heat until bubbling. Remove from heat, gradually stir in milk, stir over heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat, stir in cheese; cool 5 minutes.
  4. Place one-third of the eggplant over base of a greased shallow ovenproof dish, top with half the beef mixture. Repeat layering with remaining eggplant and beef mixture, ending with eggplant. Spread cheese sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 180°C for about 45 minutes or until lightly browned.

Simple strawberry cheesecake

Simple strawberry cheesecake

Serves: 12

We had a request in the house for cheesecake last week.

Not one made by me, but a limited-time cheesecake at Woolworths from the veritable Cheesecake Factory folk; the people behind the US restaurant chain and some pretty great and outrageous cheesecakes.

Problem was that when I asked an attendant at Woolworths, he drew a blank. And a good walk past the refrigerators also drew a blank.

Plenty of apple pies and orange juice and sushi rolls, though no cheesecake.

Social media was too fast for our local Woolies.

So here is a simple cheesecake alternative.

Nothing like the ‘Factory’ would produce, though a very good – and very simple – cheesecake nonetheless.

This could become a habit.

Ingredients

250gm digestive biscuit
100gm butter, melted
1 vanilla pod
600gm soft (cream) cheese
100gm icing sugar
300ml double cream

Topping

400gm strawberries, halves
25gm icing sugar

Method

  1. For the base: butter and line with baking paper a medium-to-large loose-bottom round baking tray.
  2. Put the digestive biscuits in a large plastic food bag and crush to crumbs using a rolling pin.
  3. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and pour over the butter.Mix until the crumbs are well coated. Transfer to the baking tray and press down firmly to make an even, firm base/layer. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour to set.
  4. For the filling: Remove the vanilla seeds from the pod.
  5. Place the soft (cream) cheese, 100gm icing sugar and vanilla seeds in a bowl and beat with an electric beater until smooth.  Add the cream and continue beating until fully combined.
  6. Spoon the mixture on top of the biscuit base. Smooth the top and allow to set in the fridge overnight.
  7. When serving, puree the strawberries and 25gm icing sugar and sieve.
  8. Un-mould the cheesecake, throw on some berries, sprinkle with more icing sugar and pour over the strawberry puree.

Matt Preston’s Toasted Cheese Sandwich with ‘Quickled’ Onions

Matt Preston’s Toasted Cheese Sandwich with ‘Quickled’ Onions

Serves: 1 – 2

It is the night of New Year’s Day and that pretty much means toasties in a fry-pan.

It’s hot, you’re exhausted, you’ve had your wine and BBQ quota for the year and all you want is to curl up on the couch – with a beer – and watch Seinfeld.

The boys got their usual, plain-Jane toastie and loved it, though we had been saving this Matt Preston toastie for just a night like tonight.

And it killed it.

It is really special. It is simple to prepare assuming you have the right cheeses – which you really do need on account of their ideal melting points. The cheese melts like in a pizza ad.

And the ‘quickled’ onions leave a wonderful aftertaste.

Wow. What a way to start the new year!

Ingredients

1 leek, dark outer leaves removed
½ garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely grated parmesan
½ cup grated Gruyere
½ buffalo mozzarella ball, torn
25gm soften unsalted butter
2cm-thick slices white bread
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

‘Quickled’ onions

1 red onion, thinly sliced
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbs red wine vinegar

Method

For the quickled onions

  1. Toss onion, salt and sugar in a bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes to pickle slightly. Stir through vinegar and set aside for 2 minutes or until needed.

For the toastie

  1. Clean and trim the leek. Place in a microwave-safe container and microwave uncovered on a high-heat for 4-minutes or until the leek is just tender. Split lengthways, remove the soft inner layers (discarding the outer layers) and chop.
  2. Stir through the garlic and cheeses and season well.
  3. Preheat a frypan over a medium heat. Line with a piece of baking paper.
  4. Butter one side of each slice of bread and place 1 slice (per toastie) on the baking paper.
  5. Spread dijon over the slice and make a slight indent in the slice and fill with the cheese mixture. Place the other slice of bread on top, adding more dijon if you can juggle and ensuring the buttered side is facing outwards. (I know that you know how to make a toastie; I am writing this for our young boys so that when they start properly cooking, they have a few recipes and instructions to fall back on).
  6. Cook for 2 minutes each side until melted or until golden and the cheese is melted.
  7. Serve toastie with the quickled onions.

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.