27 June 2015

2.04 Spotlight #1: Chilli (a.k.a. Some Like it Hot)

I hope you’re enjoying the recipes so far, but now it’s time for the first of this season’s Spotlights!

This month, I will share my knowledge on chillis, and how to use them. Be it red, green, fresh, dried, preserved or powdered, there is always a time and a place for chilli. I’ll also show you a few ways to preserve fresh chillis at home, which was more fun than it looks. Plus, a BONUS Chile con Carne recipe for those of you who maybe can’t take too much heat!

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/dWQ7SL_AD3I.

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

19 June 2015

2.03 Fettucine Boscaiola – Low-Fuss – Rice & Pasta

My spin on this pasta, usually made with field mushrooms and bacon.

Fairly simple, fairly quick, and definitely delicious.

300g fresh fettucine
200g prosciutto, shredded
200g swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
500ml thickened or double cream
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

As you can see, I've changed the bacon to prosciutto, which is usually sold pre-sliced in most supermarkets. To shred it, simply roll the slice into a cigar, slice it lengthways, then slice it into chunks. It will unfold while cooking. You could also use a pair of kitchen scissors.

Feel free to use pancetta instead of prosciutto, as this is probably the traditional way, but sometimes I find that pancetta can be a bit chewy and tough.

For the mushrooms, I use (the clearly un-Italian) Swiss Brown, as I think it has a good flavour and keeps a decent texture. You can still use field mushrooms if you like, or portabella and button mushrooms are also great.

As with my Prawn & Chorizo Linguine recipe from Season 1, fresh pasta is preferable to dried as it cooks faster. If using dried pasta, I’ll leave it to you to decide at what point to cook it.


1. Place the oil and prosciutto into a pan over a high heat.

2. Once the prosciutto has begun to crisp up, add the mushrooms.

3. Reduce the heat to medium-high and sauté the mushrooms and prosciutto until browned and any liquid has evaporated.

4. Increase the heat back to high, pour in the cream, and stir until it begins to bubble.

5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

6. While the sauce is simmering, bring a pot of lightly-salted water to the boil for the pasta.

7. Add the parmesan cheese to the sauce, stir until melted through, then leave to simmer for another 5 minutes or until thickened.

8. When the sauce is almost ready, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook as per directions on the packet. (Usually 5-7 minutes for fresh or 11-15 minutes for dried.)

9. Taste the sauce. You may need to add some salt and pepper to balance the seasoning.

10. Drain the pasta, then add it to the sauce and stir until coated.

11. Serve as is, or with some extra parmesan cheese and pepper.

Serves 3-4, depending on serving sizes.

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/1vS8OS-ECSI.

12 June 2015

2.02 Lemon Meringue Tart – Advanced – Baking & Desserts

This is quite possibly my favourite dessert of all time. Something about the zing of the lemon combined with the smoothness of meringue and the crumbly base just seems to tick all the boxes for what I want in a dessert.

I know that this isn’t a ‘proper’ Lemon Meringue Pie, but as you should know by now, I do things my own way. I suppose this is the illegitimate child of Lemon Meringue Pie and Key Lime Pie.

It is worth noting that this also requires NO BAKING, which is an advantage over the traditional Lemon Meringue as it means you can probably eat it sooner. Isn’t that what cooking is all about?

There is some blowtorch work at the end though, so make sure that you’re up to it!


350g Digestive biscuits
175g unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp icing sugar

The easiest part of the recipe, and can also be used as a base for cheesecakes, etc.

I suppose the type of biscuits doesn’t really matter a huge bunch. Try it with chocolate biscuits instead for an extra degree of flavour!


1. Place biscuits into a food processor and blend until fine crumbs. (You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your food processor.)

2. Add the butter and icing sugar and process again until combined. (Do this in a bowl if your processor is too small.)

3. Press the mixture into a tart dish (or loose-bottomed cake tin), ensuring that it is distributed evenly and that it comes up the sides.

4. Place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, or until the filling is ready to be added.

A video of this part of the recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/yIA_cu__oeM.


4 large lemons
200g chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup caster sugar
2 whole eggs
6 egg yolks
50ml cold water
2 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch

This is a fairly basic lemon curd that I’ve tweaked here and there. Because it is already cooked on the stove, it does not require any additional baking. It has quite a strong lemon flavour, which is what I prefer. If you would like it sweeter, add an extra ½ cup of caster sugar, but keep in mind that there’s already sugar in the base, and the meringue is also quite sweet.

You could also use this to replace the store bought lemon curd used in my Lemon & Raspberry Tartlets recipe from Season 1.


1. Zest and juice the lemons. (You should end up with a couple of tablespoons of zest and approx. 250ml of juice.)

2. Add the zest, juice and caster sugar to a medium-sized pot and place over a medium-low heat until the sugar has melted and it just begins to bubble.

3. In a jug, whisk together the water and cornflour until combined, then add the eggs (all of them) and whisk again until combined.

4. On the stove, slowly pour the egg mixture into the lemon mixture while whisking constantly. (Unlike crème patissiere you need to keep a close eye on this as the bulk of the mixture is eggs.)

5. Continue to whisk until the mixture has thickened to a custard-like consistency (approx. 2-3 minutes) and then remove from the heat.

6. Whisk in the butter a few cubes at a time, adding more only when the previous cubes have melted. (I would add it in 5-6 batches.)

7. Once all of the butter has melted in and been combined completely, pour the filling into the chilled tart base and return to the fridge for approx. 30 minutes or until set.

8. Once set, it is time to add the meringue topping.

A video of this part of the recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/FVqQ_2M9Ah4.


4 large egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
¼ cup water

Italian meringue is one of the 2 types of “stable” meringue. Basically, boiling sugar syrup is whisked into egg whites, which cooks them, meaning that no further baking is required. It is similar to the first few steps of my Basic Macarons recipe from Season 1.

I will touch on the other meringues at a later time to explain why I have used this particular one here.


1. In a small pot over medium-high heat, bring the sugar and water to the boil, and allow to bubble until reduced slightly. (You don’t have to stand there and watch it like a hawk, but don’t be too far away, and check on it regularly.)

2. Using a benchtop/stand mixer, whisk the egg whites to a soft peak.

3. While the mixer continues to whisk, slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup.

4. Leave the mixer going for approx. 10 minutes, or until the mixer bowl is cool to the touch.

5. Your meringue is now ready to be piped, so transfer it into a piping bag fitted with whatever nozzle you think looks nice.

6. Pipe the meringue on top of the lemon curd in any design you like, then place the tart into the fridge for 10-15 minutes. (This will allow the meringue to form a slight skin, which makes is easier for the next step.)

7. Using a kitchen blowtorch, colour the meringue as much or as little as you want. (COLOUR GUIDE – White: No colour (or hardly any). This is fine, but a bit of colour adds visual appeal, as well as a hint of extra flavour and texture. Light Brown: Ideal colour for this type of meringue. Overall, a combination of browns is best. Dark Brown: Still okay, but approaching too much colour. Ease off a bit or you may burn it, and you can’t really undo that without replacing the meringue and starting again. Black: You burned it. As mentioned, there’s not really much you can do here, either leave it or do it again.)

8. Share the love. Or don’t. Both are good!

Serves as many as you let it.

A video of this part of the recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/PjmH9t1i394.

5 June 2015

2.01 San Choy Bow – Intermediate – Meat & Poultry

***DISCLAIMER: There seems to be a large number of ways to spell the name of this dish, so I’ve used what seems to be the most commonly used. Sorry if it’s incorrect!***

I’ve loved San Choy Bow for as long as I can remember. Tasty hot mince wrapped up in crispy lettuce, how could you go wrong? And actually not too unhealthy!

When I was fairly young (maybe around 9), my mother decided to try to make it at home, rather than order it from a restaurant. I don’t really recall how it turned out, but I guess that’s how things go! I didn’t really think much more on it until a few years ago when I was on a ‘low-carb’ kick and wanted something that tasted Asian but didn’t come with rice or noodles.

The only problem was, the only ingredient I remembered from the recipe was water chestnuts. I suppose that’s not bad for a dish that was only cooked once over 15 years previously, however as you can imagine, it didn’t really give me much to go on. Determined to get it as close as I could, I hit the local supermarket and spent a bit of time in the Asian Foods section grabbing items that seemed like they belonged in the dish.

As it turned out, I did have some idea what I was doing, and I’ve never seen fit to change the recipe I cobbled together that day. It may not be very traditional, but then again this is an Asian dish and I’m a half-Italian Australian, so I did my best!

500g chicken mince
12 shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 large white onion, diced
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
4 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
½ cup water chestnuts, julienned (cut into matchsticks)
1 red birdseye chilli, deseeded and chopped roughly
½ cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped roughly
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp black vinegar
2 tsp rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
Peanut oil (for frying)
Lettuce leaves (to serve)

When I was first planning the recipe in my mind, I was adamant that it should be made with pork mince (a remnant of that forgotten recipe from my youth perhaps?). When I went to buy the ingredients, however, the supermarket butcher was suspiciously out of almost every type of pork. With deep regret, I grabbed the chicken mince instead. As the resulting dish was so tasty, I’ve never even really considered trying it with pork since then.

If you can find tinned shitake mushrooms, go with that. Otherwise, go for fresh ones. If you have no other option, go for the dried ones, but they seem to take forever to rehydrate, and then there is still some residual rubberiness in the texture later.

I’ve never seen fresh water chestnuts in stores, so I can’t even begin to guess what they look like (basically, I just picture chestnuts sitting in some water). Buy the tinned ones, it’s just easier. If you can get sliced water chestnuts in a tin, then that means less prep work for you!

I realise that the amount of garlic and ginger may seem extravagant to some, but this dish is about big flavour. And don’t chop them up too much, as the dish is also about texture and crunch.

For the lettuce: I would recommend Iceberg, but Cos could be used too. You’ll want something that can hold its shape and keep some crunch. To remove the leaves intact (or as close to it as you can get), cut out the core, place the lettuce in a bowl of icy water, and gently peel away the leaves. They will change size, shape and texture as you get closer to the middle, but who cares?


1. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, rice wine and sesame oil. Set aside until needed. (TIP: If you want a thicker sauce, also add 1 tsp of cornflour/constarch, but I don’t think it’s necessary.)

2. In a pan over high heat, fry the onion in some peanut oil until softened. (You still want to keep some texture in it.)

3. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Fry until browned.

4. Add the mushrooms and water chestnuts and fry until the mushrooms are cooked. (If you are using tinned mushrooms, this should not take very long.)

5. Add the chicken and fry until browned.

6. Add the bowl of sauce and stir until it has reduced and coated everything. (This only takes about 60 seconds.)

7. Stir through the coriander and remove from the heat.

8. Serve immediately. (I would recommend serving it ‘communal style’ with the meat in the pan and all the lettuce leaves in a bowl for people to serve themselves.)

Serves 2-3 as a main or up to 5 as a starter.

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/vfxfLvrs-50.