27 March 2015



1.08 Tips #2 – Getting to Know Your Cookware



I hope you’re enjoying the recipes so far, but alas the time has come once again for some more unsolicited advice.

To make good food you need to have cookware you can trust to do the job. Whether it be frying, stewing, baking etc. each pot and pan has its own role in the kitchen, and using the right cookware should ensure the best result. I will share my thoughts on what I consider to be the ideal cookware that each kitchen should have.

If you feel that you can sit this one out, I will be back with another recipe next week. For everyone else, please watch the video at https://youtu.be/lko6QyV4Kh8.

If anyone would like to share their own tips, or even if you just have a question, please do not hesitate to email me.

20 March 2015


1.07 Crab Ravioli w/ Creamy Tomato Vodka Sauce – Advanced – Rice & Pasta



This was the starter I devised for my very first dinner party. Back then I did everything by hand and ended up feeling exhausted by the time it came to eat it. Now I’ve revised it so that every part of the recipe begins in a food processor, and you’ll thank me for that as it cuts down on a lot of the work.

If you are not making your own pasta, then this is probably an Intermediate grade recipe.

PART A – FRESH PASTA



Ingredients:
175g Grade 00 white flour (plus some extra for kneading and dusting)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Pinch of salt

These ingredients should be enough to make a starter for at least 4 people, otherwise you could probably get a generous main for 2 people out of it.

You would not find extra virgin olive oil in most traditional fresh pasta recipes, but I find that it alters the texture and makes it hold a shape better. Plus, you get a bit of extra flavour, and that’s never a bad thing!

You will need a pasta roller as well as a food processor for this recipe.

Method:

1. In a food processor, blend the flour, olive oil, 2 of the eggs and a pinch of salt until combined.

2. Add in the extra egg, and maybe a splash of lukewarm water if necessary, then blend again. (TIP: It’s always better to be too wet than too dry as the dough will absorb more flour while you are kneading it.)

3. Dust a clean bench with some of the additional flour, then remove the pasta dough from the food processor and knead it until it forms into a ball and all ingredients are fully incorporated. (This shouldn’t take very long as the food processor will have done most of the work.

4. Wrap with cling film and place into the fridge for 20-30 minutes. (This allows the glutens in the flour to relax and makes it easier to roll out.)

5. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge, and cut into quarters.

6. Roll or shape one quarter of the dough into a rough rectangular shape.

7. Starting on the widest setting, roll the dough through the pasta machine. Fold over twice, then pass through the machine again, and then fold and roll it through for a third time. (Have some extra flour on hand in case it starts to stick.)

8. Repeat Step 7 for each setting of the pasta machine until you are left with long, thin sheets of pasta. (As it gets thinner you’ll need to fold it more than 3 times. It may become a 2 person job by the end!)

9. Dust both sides with flour, semolina or polenta and cover with a damp kitchen towel, then place aside until needed. (Try not to take too long as it could absorb some water from the damp towel and become sticky again.)

10. Repeat Steps 6-9 with the remaining quarters of the pasta dough.

11. The pasta is now ready for filling. (Or whatever else you want to use it for.)

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/_7Knsmra62M.

PART B – CRAB RAVIOLI



Ingredients:
250g cooked white crab meat
200g ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
1 egg white
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp fresh dill, roughly chopped (optional)
1 tbsp cold water
Salt and pepper

I suppose since this is ‘Advanced’ you can feel free to pick the crab meat yourself (or make the ricotta, it’s not as difficult as you’d think), but really, I wouldn’t bother. Most fishmongers or even supermarkets will sell pre-picked crab meat separated into white or brown. If you can’t get only white meat, then get some brown too. Just try not to use tinned crab meat unless you have no other choice.

Dill and I have a somewhat tumultuous relationship. Most of the time I hate it with a passion, while at other times I don’t mind it at all. Sometimes I’ll use dill in this recipe, sometimes I won’t. It’s all a matter of Food vs Mood.

In order to be efficient, I usually start this part of the recipe while the pasta dough from Part A is still chilling in the fridge. That way the timing should match up when you need it to.

Alternatively, it seems to be all the rage lately to use wonton wrappers to make ravioli instead of pasta. I don't consider it to be the same thing at all, but if you want to do it, I can't stop you!

Method:

1. Place the crab meat, ricotta, garlic, dill, egg yolk, and a pinch of salt and pepper into a food processor and blend until combined. (If you want to leave the crab chunky, just mix these ingredients in a bowl instead.)

2. Cover with cling film and place into the fridge for 20-30 minutes to chill.

3. Once chilled, place spoonfuls (up to 1 tbsp) of the filling onto your rolled pasta sheets, leaving intervals of approx. 5 cm (or 2 inches).

4. Whisk the egg white with the water until combined.

5. Brush the pasta around each spoonful of filling with the eggwhite mixture.

6. Cut the second pasta sheet into squares and place a square over the top of each spoon of filling, and press down to seal. (TIP: Press out as much air as possible as otherwise it will expand while cooking and may burst the pasta.)

7. Cut the pasta into round parcels as symmetrically as possible. (I use a round cookie-cutter or something similar.)

8. Dust pasta parcels with some flour, semolina or polenta to prevent sticking and place aside until needed. (They seem to freeze fairly well, just add a bit of extra time to cooking.)

9. To cook the ravioli, place them gently into a pot of bubbling salted water and cook for 3-5 minutes. (If the water is boiling too rapidly, it could break the pasta. To salt the water, just add approx. 1 tbsp of salt per 1 litre of water. TIP: You should not cook the ravioli until the sauce is cooked and you are ready to assemble the dish.)

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/JX-TGEi_NbQ.

PART C – CREAMY TOMATO VODKA SAUCE



Ingredients:
1 large red onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled
6 large roma tomatoes
50g unsalted butter
90ml vodka
300ml double or thickened cream
Olive oil (for frying)
Salt

This sauce is actually fairly low-maintenance thanks to the food processor.

You can use Spanish red onion or Tuscan red onion, they are both fairly similar in flavour, just make sure it’s large.

As the olive oil is just for frying the onions, you do not need to use Extra Virgin. If you still choose to do so, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Although this is a cream sauce, it doesn’t seem to split when reheated. I’m not a scientist, but I think it has something to do with the starch in the vodka. This means that you can make it in advance and reheat it when you need it. If you do this, I would recommend that you do it slowly over a gentle heat just in case.

Method:

1. In a food processor, blend the onion and garlic. (You can puree it or leave it with a bit of texture, but it doesn’t matter as it will be sieved out of the sauce at the end.)

2. In a large pan over a high heat, fry the onion and garlic with some olive oil and a large pinch of salt until all liquid has evaporated and it begins to brown.

3. While the onions are frying, place the tomatoes into the food processor and blend to a puree. (In order to catch any leftover onion or garlic, you do not need to rinse the processor first.)

4. Add the tomato to the pan and fry until the liquid has evaporated.

5. Add the vodka and allow to simmer for at least 30 seconds. (You probably can’t flamb√© it as the tomatoes will still retain some moisture which will dilute the alcohol.)

6. Add the butter and stir until melted through.

7. Stir in the cream, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

8. Pour the sauce into a small pot through a sieve and return to the heat. (You can either discard the strained onion, garlic and tomato, or store it to have with some grilled ciabatta later. Nobody’s judging you here!)

9. Allow the strained sauce to simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until thickened. (TIP: This is an ideal time to cook the pasta. You should also try a spoonful of the sauce to see if any further seasoning is required.)

10. The sauce should now be ready to serve with the pasta. (Don’t be surprised that by the end you are only left with approx. 250ml of sauce, it is very concentrated and a little bit goes a long way!)

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/wMUxm-DeWtg.

PART D – ASSEMBLING THE DISH



Ingredients:
Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Finely chopped dill (optional)

As a starter, 4-5 ravioli should be sufficient for each person.

Some purists will be shocked to see a seafood pasta served with parmesan, but the filling already has ricotta in it, so who really cares? For me, a pasta isn’t quite right unless there’s parmesan on top.

Method:

1. Place a large spoonful of sauce in the bottom of each plate/bowl.

2. Place 3-4 ravioli onto the plate in a circle. (Albeit a squarish or triangular “circle”.)

3. Spoon more sauce over the ravioli. (As much or as little as you think is appropriate.)

4. Place one more ravioli on top.

5. Spoon some more sauce over the top.

6. Sprinkle over the parmesan and/or dill, or leave in bowls for your guests to use as desired.

7. Enjoy thoroughly.

Makes 4-5 starters or 2 mains.

13 March 2015


1.06 Lemon & Raspberry Tartlets – Low-Fuss – Baking & Desserts



I stumbled onto this one day while in one of my “let’s see what’s hiding in the cupboard and fridge” cooking moods. It’s so simple that it’s actually not even cooking at all!

Whether you’ve optimistically offered to make something for a morning tea at work and then realised that you can’t really be bothered, or if you’re just in the mood for a quick pastry fix, then this recipe is for you.

Ingredients:
200g extra thick cream
200g lemon curd
12 mini tart shells
Fresh raspberries

I believe wholeheartedly in using pre-packaged products when the occasion calls for it. This recipe bears testament to that.

By extra thick cream, I mean cream that is thick enough to dollop. Maybe clotted cream or mascarpone would also work here, but I haven’t tried them yet so don’t quote me on it!

If you can be bothered making your own lemon curd, go right ahead. But this is a Low-Fuss recipe, so just use whatever brand you like. I will probably end up making lemon curd for another recipe sometime further down the track for those who want to know how to make it. For now, just be pleased that somebody else has already done all the hard work for you.

The same goes for the tart shells. Sweet shortcrust pastry isn’t really a hassle to make, but then there’s the rolling out, shaping, blind-baking, etc… Just face it; it’s not exactly “Low-Fuss” by the time that this recipe calls for it. You could also make a larger tart with this amount of filling.

Raspberries look more visually appealing to me, but any other berry can be used. Maybe even try it with some diced mango and passionfruit!

Method:

1. In a bowl, whisk together the lemon curd and cream. (You don’t need to be too rough, the citric acid in the lemon curd will start to thicken the cream almost instantly.)

2. Once the mixture is thick and lightly whipped, cover and place into the fridge to chill for approximately 30 minutes.

3. Remove from the fridge and either spoon or pipe the mixture into each of the tart shells.

4. Top each tartlet with a raspberry. (You can dust them with icing sugar too, so people are REALLY impressed with the amount of effort you've put into this!)

5. Try to save some for the others!

This recipe makes 12 (duh), although as long as you keep the proportions right you can get any number of serves out of it.


A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/j86UKhNoqa8.

6 March 2015


1.05 Spiced Chicken w/ Sweet Potato Mash & Spinach Aioli - Intermediate - Meat & Poultry



I developed this recipe a couple of years ago after one of my friends and his fiancé decided to switch to the Paleo Diet (a.k.a. the Caveman Diet or the Stone Age Diet). This is a diet that is based around ingredients that Paleolithic man might have consumed, and can be quite difficult to cook around as dairy, sugars, flours, and a whole bunch of other ingredients are completely off the menu (literally).

As I haven’t yet had the chance to make this for my friend, maybe they can make it for themselves, and hopefully everyone enjoys it.

Don’t let the fact that this was “diet inspired” scare you away, as it’s actually a really great dish and I make it fairly often.

As with all Paleo Diet recipes, it is worth adding that this is both Gluten Free and Lactose Free.

PART A – “MIDDLE-EASTERN-INSPIRED” SPICED CHICKEN



Ingredients:
3 large chicken breasts
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ground sumac
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper

Sumac, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a Middle Eastern spice which is made from dried berries and has a tangy citrus-like flavour. Cumin, by comparison, has a strong earthy flavour. Together, I think they make a very good combination.

You could also use these fillets for burgers if you want to, but at that point it’s probably not going to be part of the Paleo Diet!

Method:

1. Slice the chicken fillets in half lengthways. (Try to keep them as even as possible. If you can get a butcher who will do this for you, or find a store that already sells them like this, then that would be just fine.)

2. With a meat mallet, flatten each piece of chicken until it is roughly 1/2 cm (or 1/5 inch) thick. (TIP: If you’ve never done this before, try not to hit it too hard, and start at the thickest point.)

3. In a bowl, mix together the garlic, sumac, cumin and olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper until combined.

4. Brush each chicken fillet with the spiced oil and place aside to marinate for at least 15 minutes. (Overnight is better.)

5. Place a grill pan over a high heat and grill the fillets for approx. 2 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. (You could also do this on a barbeque.)

6. Remove from the pan/grill, cover with foil and place aside until ready to assemble the dish.

PART B – SWEET POTATO MASH



Ingredients:
500g sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/3 cup Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

This is just a really basic mash. Keep in mind that this is also Paleo Diet safe. If you want to start adding butter and/or cream then it’s no longer part of the diet.

Method:

1. In a pot, bring some water to the boil with a generous pinch of salt.

2. Add the sweet potato and cook for 10-15 minutes or until soft.

3. Drain the sweet potato and place into a bowl.

4. Add the oil, salt and pepper and mash together until the preferred consistency is reached. (Some people like it chunky, some like it smooth. Either way is good! The amount of oil used will also change the end consistency.)

5. Taste it, and add any extra oil, salt and/or pepper as preferred.

6. Place aside until ready to assemble.

PART C – SPINACH AIOLI



Ingredients:
25g baby spinach leaves, chopped, steamed and cooled
3 large egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper

As there’s already garlic in the chicken marinade, the last thing I wanted to do was add more here. Well, that’s not entirely true, I LOVE garlic! But the people around you will probably thank you for leaving it out.

After considering the colours of the final dish, I decided that something green would look best, so I settled on spinach. It all seems to work well altogether, but if you’d prefer to make a traditional aioli, just remove the spinach and add in 1 clove of minced garlic and 2 tsp cold water.

For this recipe, I think a fruity olive oil works better than a peppery one. For those of you who didn’t know that extra virgin olive oil came in different flavours, I encourage you to look into this and experiment a bit. Varietal olive oils (such as pictual and hojiblanca) can be a fair bit pricier, but the flavours are worth it in my opinion.

On the other end of the spectrum, I use grapeseed oil specifically because it has little to no flavour of its own. Using only olive oil can result in a bitter aioli, so you just want to mellow the flavours that are already there. You could use canola or sunflower oil instead of grapeseed oil if you can’t find it.

Method:

1. Place the egg yolks, spinach, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper into a deep bowl or a jug.

2. Using a stick blender, blend these ingredients until combined and the spinach is mostly shredded.

3. Pour the oils into another jug and mix together.

4. While continuing to blend the egg and spinach mixture, slowly pour in the mixed oils until it is all incorporated and the mixture is thick and creamy.

5. Cover and place into the fridge until assembling the dish.

PART D – ASSEMBLING THE DISH



In all honesty, you can do this however you like. I find that this way seems to look visually impressive and appetising.

Method:

1. Place a generous dollop of the sweet potato mash into the middle of a plate.

2. Add some kind of green vegetable to the plate. (I usually steam or boil some asparagus or broccolini.)

3. Place a fillet of the grilled chicken on top at an angle.

4. Spoon over some of the spinach aioli.

5. Eat!

Serves 3-6 (depending on how Caveman-like your Paleo friends really are!).

A video of this recipe is also available - http://youtu.be/gd2-caexsEE.