Asian Chicken & Mushroom Croquettes with Baby Cos

Serves: 4

Wow, this is an absolute weekday cracker.

And it is Bill Granger. A man I have doubted but am now totally buying into!

I suspect that our addition of the chilli flakes was a necessary addition – and don’t hold back on the hot sauce if you like it hot – though the rest could not be doubted. Great flavor, moist and so easy to prepare.

And healthy. Seriously healthy.

Wow.

Bill, you won me over with this one. The doubt is gone – your simple cooking is a real winner!

(Double this recipe as we did; you will have the best lunch at work the next day! He claims it served 4 though it is so good and so healthy, just keep going.)

Ingredients

4 tbsp canola oil
250gm button mushrooms, stalks removed, finely chopped (or food processed as we did)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500gm chicken mince
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger (do 1 tbsp and you won’t look back)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chilli flakes
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 heads of cos lettuce, leaves separated
1 small red onion, sliced into thin rings
Small handful of coriander leaves
Hot sauce

Method

  1. Heat a large frypan over a medium-low heat, add 1 tbsp of the oil and cook the mushrooms and garlic until nearly all the moisture has evaporated; remove the mushroom mixture from the pan and cool.
  2. Combine the mince, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, chilli flakes and mushroom mixture and mix well. Use 2 tbsp of the mixture at a time to role the small, football-shaped croquettes.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the croquettes, turning occasionally for 5 – 7 minutes or until golden all over and cooked through.
  4. Serve the chicken in the lettuce leaves with a few onion rings, a small handful of coriander and a good squeeze of hot sauce.
  5. Thank me later!

My Arrabiata

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So hot. So good.

Serves: 4 – 6

This dish has real significance for me.

It was the first meal I cooked when I moved out of home, a recipe I adapted from Neil Perry and adapt every time depending on what is in the pantry and the fridge. Try it with torn basil, a pinch of sugar, freshly chopped chilli, whatever you want.

The key is in the length of cooking. The longer you can sweat the onions and the more slowly you can reduce the sauce, the better and better it will be. Forget that stuff from the local pizza shop, add lots of chilli and two hours over the stove and this takes on a new dimension.

Add this recipe to your repertoire and know it like the back of your hand. It will make clear to your lady friend that you can turn a pack of bacon and a few things from the cupboard into an amazing, hot and smoky pasta: it worked for me!

Ingredients

Extra virgin olive oil
2 red onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 good pinches chilli flakes
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, halved (half a punnet)
1 can tomatoes
1 tbsp capers, drained
2 tbsp black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
Good handful of ham, roughly chopped
10 rashers of bacon cut into lardons
Salt and pepper
Penne, spaghetti, whatever
Ground parmesan
Chopped Italian parsley

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan over a low heat and add the onions, garlic, chilli flakes and good pinch of salt and sweat as slowly as you can without letting stick to the bottom of the pan; around 20 – 30 minutes.
  2. Separately, cook the bacon in a pan until golden. Drain and set aside.
  3. Add the tomatoes, ham, capers and olives, combine with the onion mixture and cook for a minute. Add the bacon and can of tomatoes as well as a can of water.
  4. Bring to the boil and then drop to a low simmer.
  5. Cook for an hour to an hour and a half and longer if you can. The key is to removing as much liquid from the sauce as slowly as you can.
  6. Check the seasoning and chilli and adjust as necessary.
  7. Cook the pasta, drain and combine with the sauce.
  8. Serve with plenty of grated parmesan and parsley.
  9. Enjoy your reward.

Goan Pork Vindaloo Curry

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Lordy!

Serves: 4

What happens when you bring together a spicy curry with flaking pork shoulder?

Everything and anything that is good about food!

This is a cracker of a curry. Really distinct and rich flavour, incredible texture of the pork, especially after the effort of really browning it off, great spice from the chillis. Yum!

Cooked at Nat’s parent’s place where we were dog-sitting, we served this with a chutney and some rice with coriander and it seriously hit every spot.

Ingredients

1kg pork shoulder cut into 3cm pieces
15 dried long red chillis
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
5 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp ground turmeric
⅓ c white vinegar
¼ c vegetable oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp finely grated giner
1 fresh bay leaf (or 2 dry)
2 c chicken stock
Chutney to serve

Method

  1. Place the chillis in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 10 minutes or until softened. Drain, discarding the stems and seeds.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, grind soaked chillis, cumin, mustard seeds, fenugreek and cardamom until fine: better still, if you can outsource this part of the process! Transfer to a small bowl, then stir in the coriander and turmeric.
  3. Heat a small frying pan over a low heat and add the spice mixture and cook, stirring for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the vinegar and set aside.
  4. Heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Season pork, then, working in batches, cook until the liquid evaporates and the pieces are browned all over. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Reduce heat to medium, add the onions and cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until softened.
  6. Add garlic and ginger, stirring for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add reserved spice mixture, bay leaf and chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low, return pork to the pan, cover and cook for 1½ hours or until pork is tender.
  7. Serve immediately with chutney.

Nigella’s smashed avocado

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Oh yeah! 

Serves: 2

I type this recipe up on Valentine’s Day morning and so you can guess what I have just eaten and been made for breakfast!

This is better than any Hallmark card. In fact, it is better than any smashed avocado and tomato number that you’ll likely get at your local breakfast haunt, what with the addition of the chilli, ginger, dill, a squeeze of lemon and the radish sprinkled on top.

I added a few slices of tomato to my plate as well.

This is my new healthy breakfast favourite. Except for Nat’s incredible Mexican Eggs, reserved for my once-a-year birthday.

Happy Valentine’s Day turtle. You are the one.

(Thanks also Nigella!)

Ingredients

1 avocado
Juice of half a small lemon
Half a bunch of dill, chopped
Good pinch chilli flakes
2 good pinched of grated ginger
Rock salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
2 thinly sliced radishes
2 – 4 slices of toasted soy and linseed bread
1 tomato, sliced 

Method

  1. Mash the avocado together with the lemon juice, dill, chilli flakes, ginger and salt and pepper.
  2. Spread the avocado mixture liberally on the toast.
  3. Throw a few radish slices on top and the tomato if using.
  4. Enjoy!

Whole Fish with Roast Capsicum and Chilli Butter

 Serves: 4

I typed this recipe up a few years back though haven’t made it since.

Next weekend, I will right that wrong.

Using whole ocean trout as your fish – truly the most beautiful fish in the world – and cooked in foil on the BBQ, when fish meets chilli butter and with perhaps some greens and potatoes on the side, something special happens.

Sure, it isn’t quite restaurant fare though it’s certainly bistro fare and it is a great recipe to dip your toe into the ‘cooking whole fish on the BBQ’ trick.

Of course, you could cook the fish in the oven by laying them down on baking paper, cutting two or three slashes into the thick flesh and baking, though I think the BBQ adds to it.

Ingredients

4 whole ocean trout
2 tbs olive oil, plus extra to brush
1 roasted red capsicum (or a jar of chargrilled capsicum, drained)
100gm unsalted butter
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
1 small red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Method

  1. Heat the BBQ to medium-hot. Brush the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. By all means, stuff lemon and coriander and garlic and butter and whatever else your grandpa included into the cavity of the fish. Wrap in foil and cook for 10 – 12 minutes, turning once.
  2. Meanwhile, very finely chop the capsicum then place in a small saucepan with the olive oil, butter, lemon zest and juice, coriander, chilli and garlic. Season. Stir over a low heat until butter is melted and well combined. Keep warm.
  3. Serve the fish with the capsicum and chilli butter drizzled on-top.

Turkey chilli

Serves: 6

For the past few months, I’ve cooked this at least once a month with plenty left for freezing until the next batch of cooking.

It is so good.

To the extent that I feel excited all day about getting home, heating it up, slicing in some avocado and mixing through some Greek yogurt. Some coriander and maybe even a chopped tomato.

It is healthy – 270 calories a cup – and it is hot.

And it’s mince! The final word in why you really should be whipping up a batch at least every month and drip-feeding the excitement when you need it most.

Lordy.

Ingredients

1kg turkey mince
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can, crush tomatoes (no salt added as if you didn’t know!)
1 can, baby tomatoes (yes, you can get them at Coles if you look)
3 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp hot/chilli sauce
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 red capsicum (pepper), chopped
1 green capsicum, chopped
2 jalapenos chopped (you can get these in a jar, I substitute a big red bullhorn chilli)
½ tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp chilli powder (3 makes it explosive, though sure, why not if you are so inclined)
2sp dry oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan/pot and sauté the onions and garlic until fragrant – 3 or 4 minutes. Add the turkey and cook until browned and crumbled and the excess liquid has cooked off.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients – boom – and cook for an hour or more until you can’t hold out anymore!

Dau Hu Rang Muoi (Salt and Pepper Tofu)

Serves 2 as a starter

I pulled this recipe from Secrets of the Red Lantern by Pauline Nguyen (recipes also by Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen).

Red Lantern is a Surry Hills Vietnamese restaurant, with almost a cult following; the food is modern and brilliantly executed, with great service and a dark, red atmosphere.

Indeed, my mother took me to a Fish Market Cooking School around 2003 held by Mark Jensen and we cooked a prawn dish that really marked a turning point in my passion for cooking. Subsequently, I’ve eaten at Red Lantern at least a dozen times since.

This dish is very satisfying, both from the perspective of cooking it, and eating it. Tofu is one of those ingredients you cook just not quite enough to be completely confident; and yet once you’ve finished deep frying it and the smell of the spring onions, chilli and garlic in the oil hits, you know you’re onto something fabulous.

This could be done as part of a Vietnamese feast or a starter as part of a dinner party, possibly served with other interesting starters. It really is a unique, sharp and tasty dish.

Ingredients

250g tofu pillows (Chinese-style pressed firm tofu)
Oil
2 spring onions (scallions), sliced
1 bird’s eye chilli, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper seasoning mix (Combine 1 tbs salt, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tsp ground ginger, ½ teaspoon five-spice)
Lemon

Method

  1. Cut the tofu into 4x2cm cubes and place on a cloth to dry; in a standard tofu pack, this makes 6.
  2. Put enough oil in a wok to deep-fry the tofu, and heat to 180c. This will cook a brown a bread cube in 15 seconds.
  3. Deep-fry the tofu for 5 minutes or until golden and very crispy. Remove from the wok and reserve the oil for later use.
  4. Add 2 teaspoons of the reserved oil to the wok and place over a high heat.
  5. Add the spring onions, chilli and garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the tofu and salt a pepper seasoning and toss.
  6. Serve with salt, pepper and sprinkle of lemon.

Smoky Chipotle Salmon & Coriander Dressing

Serves: 2

This is seriously, so good. Like, so good.

You’ll know it off by heart the first time you cook it. It is incredibly healthy, especially when served with cauliflower rice. It looks great. The fish can be marinated in-advance. It’s hot and filling and the contrast of the cold yogurt with the hot, smoky salmon and the rice is just awesome.

This is why it is seriously so good. So good, I have cooked it twice in two weeks and I won’t feel bad cooking it a third time. There is no shame. This should be a staple.

Thank you to Suskizzled where I sourced the original recipe…)

A quick note on the dry rub.

Unlike in the States, Chipotle Chilli Powder is not a staple of our stores. I sourced it from Herbies though only because I was in the area. There would be reasonable substitutes and as an alternative, I saw a chipotle dry rub in Coles which essentially had the same ingredients and would probably be alright also.

Ingredients

2 salmon fillets (skin off)
1tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chipotle chilli powder
1 tsp garlic powder
pinch of salt and pepper

Coriander Dressing

4 heaped tbsp fat free Greek yoghurt
1 Habanero chilli, finely chopped
Large bunch of coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Combine the dry-rub ingredients in a small bowl and rub all over the salmon. Set-aside or refrigerate if using later.
  2. Heat a heavy pan and pan cook the fish on both sides until still slightly rare and flaking.
  3. Mix all the dressing ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Serve the salmon with the coriander dressing drizzled on-top; serve with cauliflower rice and a small side salad of greens, sliced shallots, avocado and a squeeze of lemon.

Jamie Oliver’s Mexican Breakfast: Chilli tomato stew, eggs and cheese wrapped in tortillas

Serves 6

I am not usually very adventurous with breakfast. Scrambled eggs and bacon or an Eggs Benedict is my go to in pretty much any hotel or café; occasionally an omelette as long as it has ham, cheese and mushroom.

I do cook pancakes from time-to-time, though with some chopped parsley, milk and garlic powder, scrambled eggs and few slices of buttered toast are my regular offering to the boys and Nat on a Sunday morning; boring perhaps, comfortable yes.

I had these eggs cooked for me for my last birthday and with a flute of good French, this dish reminded me of why being adventurous can come with such reward.

Are these the best eggs ever? My mother thinks Kylie Kwong has this honour stitched up whilst my father thinks Roger Verge’s Fried Eggs with Wine Vinegar wins.

For me – this Mexican breakfast – is way up there and a fabulous way to celebrate someone’s birthday; if you’re celebrating the birthday of someone my age, it will definitely be the best present they get.

Go Jamie Oliver. Go Nat!

Ingredients

Olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
2 red peppers, deseeded and finely sliced
2 fresh red or orange chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
1 large dried chilli
3 fresh bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2x 400gm tins chopped tomatoes
2 large tomatoes, sliced
6 large eggs (free range Nat!)
6 tortillas
150gm grated cheddar cheese, to serve
Method

  1. In a large fry pan (with a fitted lid) or a tagine (which we used and is far more dramatic for purposes of presentation), heat the oil to a medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, pepper, both the fresh and dried chillies, bay leaves and a good pinch of salt and pepper; stir and cook for 15 minutes to soften and caramelise.
  3. Add the tinned tomatoes and try to break them up/mash them a little as they combine and cook; bring to the boil and then reduce and simmer for five or so minutes as the sauce thickens and reduces slightly.
  4. Check the seasoning and then layer the fresh tomato slices over the sauce.
  5. Make six wells in among the tomato slices and sauce and crack the eggs into the wells; try to crack them as quickly as possible so they cook consistently.
  6. Season the eggs and cover the pan for 3 – 4 minutes or until the eggs are poached to your liking.
  7. Whilst the eggs are cooking, warm the tortillas in the oven or microwave.
  8. At the table, sprinkle some of the cheese on a tortilla and add an egg with the sauce and tomato; wrap it up and enjoy with Champagne.