Claudia Roden’s Spelt and Tomato Salad

Serves: 6

Nat and I love farro; an ancient Mediterranean wheat species.

And it is definitely back in vogue based on the number of salads featuring farro we have cooked the last few years.

As with many (all?) of her recipes, this salad is simply a charming honesty of ingredients. Entirely satisfying to the point that I kept reaching for spoon after spoon.

There is a suggested variation which, whilst I have not cooked, I’ve listed below. It’s the next farro adventure.

Variation

Omit the tomatoes; instead, mix in 50gm raisins (soaked in water for 30 minutes), 50gm lightly toasted pine nuts and the shredded leaves of 3 basil sprigs and 3 mint sprigs.

Ingredients

250gm pear farro or spelt
200gm baby plum tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon, to taste
Bunch of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Soak the farro or spelt in plenty of cold water for 30 minutes. Rinse, drain and put it in a pan with plenty of water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender, adding salt towards the end. Drain and put it in a serving bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

Serves: 4

There was furious debate after I served this sauce and pasta in a pasta cook off with Nat.

Nat served the wonderful spinach ravioli and certainly, taking into account effort, presentation and overall yum factors, it nailed the brief and took out the day.

Except that it was a reluctant and technical tie.

Because the absolutely classic Marcella Hazan tomato sauce is simply so simple and classic, it is pretty much impossible not to give it the nod for doing so much more with so much less.

With a sprinkling of Parmesan. What on earth is not to love. It’s just not fair.

P.S. I did give the nod to Nat because hey, it’s 2022 and not 1962. Though Marcela sauce is no lemon at a knife fight.

Ingredients

2 cans of tomatoes and their juices
5 tbsp butter*
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt
Pasta and Parmesan to serve

Method

  1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  2. Place over the medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
  3. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with the pasta. Toasts through 500gm of cooked pasta and serve with Parmesan.

* Use a great butter like CopperTree Farms.

The most delicious healthy (cheats) seafood bouillabaisse

Serves: 6-8

This recipe is a no-brainer. It doesn’t take long and doesn’t involve making your own fish stock but you wouldn’t even know.

It’s healthy, hearty, warm, and delicious. A provincial stable from humble beginnings; the undisputed king of fish stews just got a whole lot easier.

Ingredients

For the stock

6 c fish stock
1tsp aniseed
2 bay leaves
1tsp saffron threads

For the base

8 tomatoes cut into small cubes
6 cloves of garlic minced
2 onions thinly diced
2 salmon fillets (no skin) cubed
2 white fish fillets (no skin) cubed
handful of raw and peeled prawns
1 large bunch parsley chopped

Method

  1. Add the fish stock ingredients to a pan and bring to a boil.
  2. On medium heat, paint olive oil on the bottom of a heavy-based pot and put in tomatoes, garlic and onions.
  3. Lay the seafood on top of the tomatoes, garlic, and onions and leave for about 3 mins (enough to heat up the pot).
  4. Ladle the boiling fish stock into the pot and cover the seafood.
  5. Sprinkle half the parsley on top and cover. Bring to a soft boil for about 10 mins until seafood is cooked.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining parsley on top and serve with warm crusty bread.

Paneer Koftas in a Creamy Spiced Tomato Curry by Maunika Gowardhan

Serves: 4

Any vegetarian curry with potato and paneer koftas is going to win your heart, add in a cashew creamy sauce to coat the koftas and boom! The sweetness of the raisins gives the dish a beautiful edge.

It takes a little while but its not complicated and its definately worth it.

We air fried the koftas and would definately do it this way again.

(Read about this dish as part of a grand thali we recently served.)

Ingredients

For the koftas

300gms peeled potatoes boiled
200gms paneer finely grated
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp ground cardamom powder
2.5cm piece of ginger finely grated
1 birds eye green chilli finely chopped
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp coriander leaves finely chopped
3 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp raisins

For the sauce

1/2 c cashew nuts
6 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
2.5cm ginger roughly chopped
1 birds eye green chilli
3 tbsp vegetable oil
6 cloves
1” cinnamon stick halved
1 green chilli slit lengthwise
1 white onion roughly chopped
1 tomato roughly chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
½ tsp chilli powder (mild or Kashmiri chilli powder)
200mls water
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp garam masala powder
2 tsp mango powder (amchoor)
Salt to taste
Coriander for garnish

Method

  1. Add the cashew nuts to a bowl with 50mls warm water and soften for 30 minutes. Blend the garlic, ginger and chilli (only 1) with a splash of water to a smooth paste. Set aside.
  2. Use the same blender to blitz the drained cashews with about 3 tablespoons of the soaking water to form a smooth paste. Set aside.
  3. Add the onion to a blender and blend to a smooth fine paste with 50mls of water. Set aside. In the same blender add the tomatoes, blend to a fine puree and set aside. (At this point you will have four seperate bowls of blended things: (1)Garlic/ginger/chilli, (2)Cashews, (3)Onion, (4)Tomato.
  4. For the koftas; Coarsely grate the potatoes and mash well to a smooth mix. To this add all the kofta ingredients except in a large bowl. Knead lightly to a dough like consistency. Cover and cling film until ready to fry. You can sit them overnight.
  5. To cook the gravy; heat the oil in a heavy bottom saucepan. Add the cloves and cinnamon stick and fry for a few seconds. Add the slit green chilli followed by the onion paste and fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir well making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan as the moisture begins to evaporate.
  6. Add the ginger garlic and chilli paste and fry for 2 minutes. Stir and add blended tomatoes along with the blitzed tomato and tomato puree. Mix and cook for 6-7 minutes. The sauce will begin to reduce and go a deeper red colour
  7. At this stage add the chilli powder and the cashew nut paste. Stir well and cook for a further 2 minutes, lower the heat and add water. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Add the sugar, garam masala and mango powder. Season to taste and garnish with coriander. Turn the off and keep warm.
  9. To cook the koftas; Divide the kofta mix into equal portions about a large tablespoon. Take a portion in the palm of your hand and roll into cylindrical shape. Make sure they are shaped well or else they will fall apart while frying so pack them tightly.
  10. Put them in an air-fryer or oven for about 10 mins. Flip them after about 8 mins. (alternatively you can shallow cry them for about 3-4mins in oil).
  11. Add the koftas to the warm gravy to a serving dish and steep the koftas just before serving.

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.

Josh Niland’s Gurnard Soup

Serves: 4 – 6

This is a remarkably good dish, though it is from Josh Niland and so no suprises there.

Check out that skin!
Beyond elegant. Clearly restaurant.

The bisque (soup) would be the best I have had, with the addition of lemon juice at the end dialing it up a further notch. The crispy skin fish combined with the bisque is just so, so good.

Worth absolutely every bit of effort.

Big grins.

We ended up using flathead instead of gurnard for both the fish and the bisque and Josh is fine with this.

The most interesting part of the process of this recipe, was really exploring how to achieve an optimal crispy skin, something we have never particularly focused on.

We still have a ways to go though after a few attempts, we are close. (N.B. that in the photos on this recipe, you will note that we have scored the skin, something we have heard a few people recommend, though we’ve arrived at don’t score the skin.)

Anyway, our best results:

  • Heavy, cast iron skillet over a medium-high heat.
  • Lot’s of quality ghee, with the addition of more ghee halfway through. (Josh says to discard the first quantity of ghee though to date we have not done this.)
  • Utilising a fish weight. (Thanks to our mate Josh D for ours.) You could also use a small pan.
  • Not flipping the fish and cooking skin-side down only.
  • After 1 minute, moving the fish with an offset palette knife (an absolute must instrument in your kitchen).

Ingredients

100gm ghee
4 x 80gm boneless red gurnard fillets, skin on (substiture leatherjacket, red mullet or flathead)
Sea salt flakes

Soup base

4 x 300gm whole red gurnard (or substitute), gills, cuts and gall bladders removed
120gm ghee
Large pinch of sea salt flakes
2 onions, finely sliced
8 garlic cloves, crushed
3 small fennel bulbs, finely sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 bunch thyme sprigs
5 lemon thyme sprigs (optional)
2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted
2 star anise
Generous pinchof saffron threads
200ml white wine
1 tbsp Pernod
freshly cracked black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Method

  1. To make the soup base, use a sharp cleaver to chop each gurnard into approximately eight small pieces, including the liver and roe.
  2. Heat 100gm of the ghee to a light haze in a large, wide, heavy-based saucepan over a high heat, add the chopped fish and salt flakes and cook for 10 minutes until coloured all over. Transfer to a bowl. Using a wide barbecue scraper, scrape off any caramelised fish from the base of the pan and add to the bowl.
  3. Heat the remaining ghee in the pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes until softened, then increase the heat to high and cook the garlic and fennel for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, then return the cooked fish to the pan, align with all the remining ingredients except the salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  4. Pour in enough water to cover, then put the lid on and bring to the boil. As soon as it’s boiling, remove the lid and simmer over a medium heat for 20 minutes, or until thickened slightly and the taste is well rounded. Pass the stock through a mouli (or pulse in a food processer), then strain through a fine-mesh sieve, disgarding the pulp. Return to the pan, season well with salt, pepper and lemon juice and keep warm.
  5. To cook the gurnard fillets, heat 75gm of the ghee in a large cast-iron frying pan over a medium-high heat to a light haze. Place the fillets in the centre of the pan, skin side down and making sure they are not touching each other, and put a fish weight or small saucepan on their thickest side. Keeping the pan temperatures quite high, cook for about 1 minute, or until you start to see the colour around the edges of the fillets. Use an offset palette knife to lift the fillets, then reposition them to take on new colour. Now place the fish weights in the centre of the pan, covering the majority of the fillets. This will aid in setting the fillets gently from the rising heat. Cook for another 2 minutes and then remove the weights. Discard the ghee and replenish with 45gm more fresh ghee. (This is just to help temper the pan as at this stage it is important to keep the pan heat high but not so high that the skin burns, leaving the flesh on top raw.) If the flesh still seems cool to the touch at this point, position the weight on top for another 1 – 2 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets.
  6. If you find the fillets exceed your pan size, either use two frying pans or cook them in batches, and double the quantity of ghee.
  7. Once the fish is 75 per cent on the way set, the top of each fillet is warm and the skin is crisp from edge to edge, transfer them directly into warm soup bowls, skin side up and season the skin with salt flakes. Pour a generous amount of soup around the gurnard until the sides of the fish are completely submerged though the skin remains dry (and therefore crisp). Serve immediately.

Nigel Slater’s Pork Belly with Peach Salsa

Serves: 4

Cudos where cudos are due.

My mother strongly suggested we cook this recipe, what with the narrow window where beautiful, ripe peaches are in season.

And we almost didn’t do it.

The fact that you’re reading it here would hopefully indicate that is was a win.

The spice rub and the salsa work so well together, especially if you get the crackling, really crackling. Leaving the belly in the fridge overnight, uncovered is a great way to achieve this, before adding the rub.

With a simple bowl of steamed rice and some Asian greens on the side, this was a wonderful, wonderful dinner and one which you should definitely try this summer.

While you can!

(Note: I did the salsa in a food processor and I am not sure why you wouldn’t.)

Ingredients

Pork belly, skin finely scored*
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp peanut oil
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp Chinese five spice
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped with seeds
3 peaches, peeled and finely chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 small bunch coriander, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
3 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Method

  1. Crush the garlic to a paste and combine with the soy sauce, peanut oil, salt, chilli flakes and five spice and spread over the skin and flesh of the pork and allow to marinate for at least 4 hours or ovenight.
  2. Preheat the over to 220c and roast the poek, skin-side up, for 20 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to 200c and continue roasting for another 40 – 50 minutes, or until the skin is dark and crisp.
  4. Toss together the spring onions, chilli, peaches, tomatoes, coriander, lime juice and olive oil, season and serve with the pork.

* Leave the belly in the freezer until it is starting to freeze and at this point, scoring is a much easier task.

Grace Parisi’s Pappardelle with Veal Ragù

Serves: 8

The most viewed recipe on my blog is consistently Gordon Ramsay’s Slow Braised Beef Ragù with Pappardelle.

An amazing dish as I wrote up 6 years ago.

Recently we have cooked this Ragù twice and it is just as wonderful.

Simple like Ragù is, though just as rich as an amazing Ragù is and should be.

For me, a long Italian lunch in the sun – one white pasta, one red pasta – is the absolute definition of heaven.

I commend this Ragù to your next such session.

Have a medium-bodied Chianti Classico ready to go and it is bliss.

Ingredients

2kg boneless veal shoulder, cut into large chunks*
Salt and freshly ground pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground fennel
1 1/2 c dry red wine
4 c chicken or veal stock
1 1/2 tbsp minced rosemary
1kg fresh pappardelle
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to serve
Chopped, fresh Italian Parsley to serve

Method

  1. Season the veal with salt and pepper and dust with flour, tapping off the excess. In a large, heavy casserole, heat 1/4 of the olive oil. Add the veal and cook over a moderately high heat until browned all over. Transfer the veal to a plate and do in batches if need be.
  2. Turn the heat down to low, add the remaining 1/4 c oil to the casserole. Stir in the onion, garlic, coriander and fennel and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the wine and boil until reduced to 1/3 c. Add the tomatoes and cook over a moderately high heat for 5 minutes. Add the stock and rosemary and bring to a boil. Add the veal, cover partially and cook over a low heat until falling apart and thickened. 3 – 5 hours.
  3. Cook the Pappardelle in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain, add the Ragù and toss over a low heat until the pasta is coated. Serve with the cheese and parsley.

* I’ve found it increasingly hard to source veal, which could be in-line with questions about the ethics of its consumption. I persevered and got there in the end. One butcher told me the issue is that he wouldn’t sell veal if he couldn’t verify it. Not sure what the answer is. We used veal chuck which broke down beautifully after 5 hours, twice.

Nigella Lawson’s Involtini

Serves: 6

We were booked for lunch at Alberto’s Lounge, a totally hip Italian joint in the middle of the Sydney CBD.

No kids, long-lunch, no deadlines. A perfect Saturday lunch.

And then the text lobbed in on Friday night. I was a casual contact at my new gym: get tested and isolate until you have a result.

Bugger.

So Nat said Alberto’s was coming to our place and whilst I was getting tested, Nat was procuring veal shoulder for a ragu and all the ingredients for this wonderful involtini.

The last time I had involtini, Nat also cooked it though with veal and during a long weekend in the Hunter Valley. I really wish I had typed that dish up; a mistake I was not going to make with this involtini.

I mean, thousands of 5-star reviews on NYTimes Cooking are unlikely to be wrong.

Open the Champagne and decant some solid wines!

In fairness, I don’t really know if this is what Alberto’s would have dished up, though if it was to be excellent, home-cooked Italian, then this involtini would have been on the cards.

Ingredients

3 eggplants, about 500gm each, trimmed and cut into 1cm thick slices; about 16 slices
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
225gm feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 c pine nutes
1/3 c raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes until plump, then drained
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
2 tbsp (fresh) breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp dried mint
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley leaves plus some to serve
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 c canned crushed tomatoes
1 large ball fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180c. Place a ridged cast-iron skillet over a medium-high heat and working in batches, brush eggplant slices on both sides with extra virgin olive oil and cook, turning until soft and crisscrossed with grid marks. Set aside and allow to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine feta, pine nuts, raisins, 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon zest, mint and parsley. Mix in egg and season well.
  3. Spread eggplant slices on a surface and divide stuffing evenly among them, placing 1 to 2 tbsp at one end of each slice. Roll up slices tightly to secure filling and place in a baking dish large enough to fit snugly in a single layer.
  4. Pour crushed tomatoes on top of the eggplant rolls and arrange the mozzarella slices in a line lengthwise down the centre of the pan. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil evenly over the pan and season well.
  5. Bake until the cheese has melted and eggplant is bubbling and fragrant; about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, stand for 10 minutes and serve hot.

Rick Stein’s Lightly Curried Crab Mayonnaise with Lamb’s Lettuce

Serves: 4

We’ve booked our first holiday since the the government announced we could travel within the state: Rick Stein’s Bannisters at Port Stephens.

And we’re excited for plenty of reasons.

It is out first holiday since February. And we love holidays.

It’s Bannisters. We have loved staying at the two Bannisters at Mollymook and based on recommendations from friends, Port Stephens is just excellent.

We’re leaving the kids in Sydney. Love ya kiddies, though don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

And finally… Rick Stein. Enough said.

Obviously, first thing we did after booking the room was to book the restaurant. Because you just can’t beat Rick Stein at his best: fresh seafood, simplicity, from Indian to French.

So, for lunch today we chose a Rick Stein theme and kicked off with this number.

I was a little suspicious because a quick scan of the ingredients tells you it is possibly a little too simple, though the incredible simplicity is the point.

As we ate it, we couldn’t stop talking about just how wonderful it was. How simple, how French.

You could do a whole lot worse than whipping this up as a quick Saturday lunch. Or as a starter to a longer weekend lunch.

Ingredients

3 – 4 truss tomatoes
5 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise
1/2 tsp mild curry powder
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
500gm fresh white crabmeat
50gm lamb’s lettuce (I used Cos though much closer substitute is baby spinach)
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh wholemeal bread, to serve

Method

  1. Skin the tomatoes by plunging them into boiling water for 20 seconds. As soon as the skins split, remove and cover with cold water to prevent further cooking. Peel off the skins, slice off the top and bottom and slice thinly.
  1. Put the mayonnaise in a bowl and stir in the curry powder, lemon juice and Tabasco. Fold this mixture lightly through the crab meat and season with a little salt.
  1. Overlap a few slices of tomato into the centre of 4 small plates and season them lightly with salt. Spoon some of the crab mayonnaise on top. Toss the lamb’s lettuce (or substitute) with the olive oil and a small pinch of salt and pile alongside.
  1. A crack of pepper and serve with some wholemeal bread.