29 November 2015

3.09 Seared Scallops w/ Saffron Risotto & Salsa – Advanced – Rice & Pasta

Every so often I get into a “cheffy” mood, and end up with recipes like this. I’m not really a seafood person, but occasionally I make exceptions.

This dish can either be a starter for 4 people, or a main for 2 people.


250g baby Roma tomatoes, deseeded and diced finely
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt

It might seem odd to start with the quickest and easiest element. I have presented this recipe in order of how each component should be made. The salsa needs time to sit and allow the flavours to mingle. The risotto takes approx. 30 minutes from beginning to end. The scallops take around 5 minutes altogether.

This is a very basic salsa which is just there to add some colour and acidity. I use baby Roma tomatoes mainly because it’s easier to cut something into small pieces if it’s already small to start with, but they also can sometimes have a bit more flavour than regular Roma tomatoes. You can also use cherry or grape tomatoes.


1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Cover, and set aside until needed. (How’s that for Advanced?!)


1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and sliced into crescents
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
800ml vegetable stock, warm
100ml dry sherry
½ tsp saffron threads (or a good pinch)
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tbsp cream
Zest of ½ lemon
30g butter
Salt and pepper

Unlike most of my recipes, this is fairly traditional. It is fairly adaptable, just change the type of stock and experiment with different herbs and spices. Be warned, there is quite a lot of stirring involved!

Leeks have a milder flavour than onions, and they take less time to soften. If you want to swap the leeks for onions, there should be no real issue.

I use Arborio rice as it’s more readily available, but you can use any type of risotto rice you like (i.e. Carnaroli, etc.).

The stock can be fresh, powder, tablet, concentrate, out of a carton, it doesn’t matter to me. It just needs to be warm so it doesn’t change the temperature too much when you add it to the rice.

Sherry provides a deeper flavour than wine, but if you prefer to use white wine instead, go for it.

If you cannot find saffron threads… well I’m not really sure why you’d make this recipe. I’ve never used imitation saffron, but as far as I know it’s just a colour and not a flavour.


1. Add the saffron threads to the sherry and stir together, then place aside until needed. (This allows the colour to begin to seep out.)

2. In a pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and fry the leek and garlic with a pinch of salt until soft.

3. Add the rice to the pan and stir until it is coated in the butter.

4. Add the sherry and saffron threads and stir until mostly evaporated. (The colour does not change right away, but gradually changes as you continue with the recipe.)

5. Turn the pan down to medium-low and add a splash or ladle full of stock.

6. Stir the pot gently until the liquid has has almost all evaporated, then add another splash/ladle full of stock. (This will take 3-5 minutes.)

7. Repeat Step 6 until the last of the stock is gone. (Should take approx. 20-25 minutes for this to happen.)

8. Test a piece of rice to check whether it is cooked to your desired consistency. If necessary, add ½ cup of boiling water and stir until almost evaporated. (As with pasta, the grains of rice in a traditional risotto are meant to be al dente, which basically means they should still have a bit of bite – as a matter of face the translation of al dente is “to the tooth”. If you want your rice completely soft, then you’ll need to add more liquid and cook it for longer.)

9. In a small bowl or jug, whisk together the egg yolk, cream, parmesan, lemon zest and a pinch of pepper. (You can also add a pinch of salt if you like, but the stock has probably added enough salt already.)

10. Stir the egg mixture through the risotto until combined, then remove it from the heat, cover, and place it aside until assembling. (I wouldn’t recommend leaving it for more than 5 minutes.)


12 large scallops, roe removed
50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cayenne Pepper

You can leave the roe on the scallops if you must, but it sort of grosses me out for some reason. Plus it wouldn’t look right with the way I serve it.

Sumac, for those that are still unfamiliar with it, is a middle-eastern spice that adds a hint of citrus tang. It goes really well with seafood and chicken.

I like the spice of cayenne with seafood also, but it can be very potent, so use as little or as much as you like. You can replace it with regular white or black pepper if you’re a bit unsure.


1. Rinse the scallops and pat dry on some kitchen towel.

2. Sprinkle some sumac, cayenne pepper and salt over the scallops. (However much or little is completely up to you. You don’t have to add any if you don’t want to.)

3. Heat the butter and oil in a pan over medium-high heat until bubbling.

4. Place the scallops into the bubbling butter/oil and fry for 30-45 seconds on each side, occasionally spooning some of the butter/oil over the top of each scallop.

5. Remove the scallops from the pan, and slice in half through the side. (You should now have 24 thin discs of scallop.)

6. Assemble the dish right away.


Baby basil leaves (optional)

When I say that the basil is optional, I kind of really mean it's totally necessary! Although it doesn't really add anything more that a bit of flavour and aesthetic appeal.

I suppose I’m being a bit fussy with this, but that’s what Advanced recipes are all about, right?

You could just throw it all on a plate, but if you’re already come this far…


1. Using a couple of stacked egg rings (or something similar), place a circle of risotto in the middle of each plate. (Not too little, not too much.)

2. Leave the rings in place and arrange 5-6 of the seared scallop halves on top of the risotto in a circle, overlapping slightly.

3. Remove the egg ring gently, so the risotto and scallops stay in place.

4. Drizzle some salsa around the outside of the risotto, and then a small amount on top of the scallops.

5. Place a basil leaf on top of the salsa in the centre of the scallops.

6. Serve immediately.

As I said, serves 2-4 people depending on whether it is a starter or a main.

A two-part video of this recipe is available - https://youtu.be/Cpnl6j0aqKM & https://youtu.be/kdZCnZ61ZTI.

22 November 2015

Tips #5 - Food & Alcohol

I hope you’re enjoying the recipes so far, but it’s time for another Tips video.

There can be some confusion when it comes to using alcohol as an ingredient, or even just pairing an alcohol to your food. I'll give you a rough guide on beers and wines, what goes with what, as well as some general information that may come in handy. Plus there’s a BONUS Steak & Stout Pie recipe!

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/d3AXVmNzd48.

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

13 November 2015

3.07 Deep-Fried Chai Ice-Cream w/ Spiced Lychee Syrup – Advanced – Baking & Desserts

Ahem. Yes, this is quite a mouthful, isn’t it? In more ways than one!

This recipe is the direct result of me setting out to challenge myself. That’s right, I threw down the gauntlet, picked it up again, then went into the kitchen to use it as an oven mitt.

Admittedly needlessly complicated for a dessert, but if it turns out properly, the immense sense of relief and accomplishment is a high all on its own.


A lot of people don’t like lychees as they can sometimes taste like they’ve been soaked in perfume. If you would like to make your own syrup using a different fruit, or just buy something ready-made, that’s completely up to you. As this dessert was part of an Asian-inspired dinner party menu, I went with lychees.

2x 400g tins of lychees in syrup
1 cup boiling water
1 cup caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise

Yeah, you caught me using tinned fruit already in syrup. Big deal. Fresh lychees just didn’t work properly, and believe me I tried!


1. Place all ingredients in a pot over medium-high heat and bring to the boil.

2. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until deep amber and viscous. (Viscous means ‘syrupy’, but I think I’ve already said syrup too many times. And now I’ve gone and said it even more!)

3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

4. Pour the syrup through a sieve to remove the lychees and spices. (Keep these in a container if you want, they’re basically preserved. You just want that precious, precious syrup.)

5. Place the syrup into a jug, cover and refrigerate it until ready to assemble the dish.


For the Icecream:
200ml coconut cream
200ml sweetened condensed milk
250ml pure/single cream
2 tbsp loose green tea leaves
1 tbsp dried ginger
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
3 green cardamom pods
4 cloves

For the Batter:
1 cup white self-raising flour
1 cup chilled water
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder

I’m cheating again here aren’t I? Sure, I’m not making a custard base for the ice cream, but with the amount of fuss still to come, a bit of a shortcut is very handy here! The ice cream itself is a bit dense, but as you’re deep frying it, that should work to your advantage as it’s less likely to melt quickly.

Feel free to take out any of the above spices that you don’t like, just ensure that you replace them with something else so that you don’t end up with something that tastes too plain. If you can’t get dried ginger, then just use ground ginger instead as it’s the same thing, just powdered.

You’ll want to use a green tea with a strong flavour. I’ll recommend ‘gunpowder green’ as it’s pretty potent.


1. Place the green tea and spices into a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder) and crush slightly. (You can grind it to a powder if you like, but I just want the release the flavours and strain the spices out later to keep the ice cream smooth.)

2. In a pot over medium-high heat, bring coconut cream to a simmer along with the green tea and spices.

3. Allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave aside to cool. (Don’t worry about the tea going bitter, the overly-sweet condensed milk will even it out later.)

4. Pour the cooled coconut cream through a sieve to remove the spices, then mix in the condensed milk until combined.

5. Whip the cream to soft peaks, then fold into the coconut cream/condensed milk mixture a bit at a time until smooth.

6. Pour the mixture into a dozen 6cm hemispherical moulds. (I use a silicone mould as it’s easier to pop out the ice cream, but if you can only find a metal tray, simply place a sheet of cling film over it and pour onto that. You can probably get ice cube trays with the right shape too, or even a full sphere to make things easier.)

7. Pour any leftover mixture into a container and place it into the fridge for use in Step 9.

8. Place the filled moulds into the freezer and allow the ice cream to freeze solid.

9. Place a dollop of the unfrozen mixture onto the top of half of the hemispheres, then place the remaining hemispheres on top to make spheres.

10. Repeat Step 9 until you have at least 6 spheres.

11. Place back into the freezer and leave them until you are ready to coat them in batter. (The longer they freeze, the less likely they will melt while frying. You can make these up to a week beforehand to save time.)

12. In a bowl, mix together all of the batter ingredients until combined. (Try to remove as many lumps as you can, but don’t get too pedantic as lumps usually turn into crunch when they fry.)

13. Roll the spheres in the batter, and return them to the freezer for at least 2 hours.

14. Trim off any batter that may have puddled around the ice cream spheres, and then give a final coating of batter followed by more time in the freezer.

15. Once you are ready to serve, heat the oil in your deep fryer to 190°C (or 375°F).

16. Fry the frozen spheres for approx. 30 seconds or until golden brown. (Do this a few at a time, each sphere will reduce the oil temperature and you don’t want to overcrowd the fryer.

17. Serve immediately with some mixed diced fruits. (I’ll suggest dragonfruit, as they are still considered exotic by most people and can come in a range of bright colours. Otherwise, things like mango, kiwifruit and pomegranate are just fine.)

Serves at least 6, but you may have enough leftover ice-cream mixture and batter to make 8 or more serves.

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

6 November 2015

3.06 Bruschetta – Low-Fuss – Starters & Sides

Bruschetta (which my mother is constantly reminding me should be pronounced "bru-sketta") is a much-loved classic Italian starter that shows even something that is basically tomatoes on toast can still taste great.

I know I don’t usually go down the traditional route, but this time I’ll make an exception. I’ve seen many a would-be "modified bruschetta" which just didn’t compare to the real thing.

And maybe this could redeem me in the eyes of my Italian relatives after some of my previous deviations? (as well as those yet to come!)

8 large Roma tomatoes, deseeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped roughly
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 loaf fresh Ciabatta bread, sliced thickly
1-2 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
Extra virgin olive oil (extra, for brushing)

Not really much to it, is there? Perfection in simplicity.

If you can’t get Ciabatta, then Pana di Casa or any other type of artisan bread can probably be substituted.


1. Mix together tomatoes, basil and olive oil in a bowl with a generous pinch of salt, cover and place aside for at least 15 minutes. (Simple enough, right?)

2. Brush both sides of each slice of Ciabatta with the extra olive oil.

3. Fry the bread in a grill pan over a high heat until both sides are crunchy and show grill bars. (You could do this on a BBQ, or just use a regular toaster and skip Step 2.)

4. Once the toast has cooled slightly, rub each piece with garlic (sliced side down) on one side. (You’d be surprised how much garlic each slice can take, so if you’re serving this to some poor, sad person who doesn’t like a lot of garlic, be a bit careful.)

5. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the grilled bread. (Seriously, just pile it on. Most of the time it's served to you in a restaurant or cafe it's almost impossible to eat without dropping the tomato everywhere!)

Serves 1-12.

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/IpJoDBMKqA0.