Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tasty, fresh Indian Cuisine

Indian plate

How can it be that each week I come away from our cooking class and think “that was my favourite so far”? We eat Indian food regularly as it ticks all the boxes of gluten free, tasty and nutritious. The fact that you can add your own spice by the way of chutneys and pickles is also handy when you’re cooking for children.

Cooking a big batch of DHAL is not only easy but saves time in the kitchen. The recipe freezes really well and with some basmati rice and a quick salad of cucumber, onion and tomato makes for a quick midweek meal. Add some hard boiled eggs, RAITA and pappadums and everyone is happy!

I use frozen chopped spinach in my PALAK PANEER recipe. If you have plenty of fresh spinach available and the time to wash and chop it feel free to use that instead. Paneer is a fresh curd cheese made with lemon juice as a curdling agent, perfect for vegetarians as it doesn’t contain any animal rennet. The texture is a between a solid ricotta and haloumi. You’ll notice this recipe is much fresher and lighter than the dishes you are served in a restaurant where it is often dressed with extra clarified butter, cream or pureed paneer to make it richer and more satisfying.

My favourite movie is Bend it Like Beckham and whenever I make ALOO GOBI I’m reminded of the line “Anyone can cook Aloo Ghobi, but who can bend it like Beckham?”. It really is a simple dish if you follow some rules, just like soccer! Use a wide, heavy based pot with a tight fitting lid and taste the dish and adjust the seasoning before you serve it. You probably do that anyway…

Two side dishes that pair well with this meal are the tangy KACHUMBER and cooling RAITA.

For dessert we made delicious CARROT HALVA. A strange concept if you’ve never eaten carrot for dessert before but you’ll be a convert for this luscious sweet pudding once you’ve tried it. If you’ve read Madhur Jaffrey’s Climbing the Mango Trees you’ll know this is a very comforting dish similar to rice pudding.

Like I said earlier a very tasty lesson, here are the recipes. Enjoy!

Dhal pot


This Indian “stew” can be prepared with lentils, split peas or chick peas but a combination provides a wider range of nutrients and variety in texture.

Serves: 8 (as part of a meal)

Preparation: 10 minutes (yellow split peas and dry chick peas require soaking)

Cooking Time: 40 minutes


knife, chopping board, garlic press, large saucepan, measuring cup, wooden spoon, small bowl for rubbish, mortar and pestle to crush whole spices, fine grater for ginger.


1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated

¼ cup olive oil

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

1teaspoon coriander seeds

1teaspoon cumin seeds

5 cardamom pods (green/ black)

1teaspoon turmeric powder

Fresh or dried chilli flakes to taste

Salt and pepper

1cup yellow split peas (channa dhal), soaked overnight

1cup red lentils

1 tin chick peas (or 1 ½ cups cooked chick peas)

1 tin chopped tomatoes (or 4 fresh chopped tomatoes)

3 litres Vegetable stock or water

To serve:

¼ cup coriander, chopped

1 lemon, juiced


1. Gently fry onion and garlic in oil in a large pot. Add grated ginger.

2. Pound the spices in a mortar and pestle or with a heavy knife and add to the pot.

3. Fry spices gently to release their aromas, if they catch on the pan add a little water.

4. Add tomatoes, stock and lentils/ split peas/ chick peas.

5. Cook gently for 30 minutes or until all pulses are soft. Stir occasionally.

6. Just before serving stir through chopped coriander and lemon juice.

Serve with: steamed basmati rice, naan or roti bread to soak up the juices.

This recipe freezes very well without the coriander and lemon juice.

It recipe can also be thinned with more stock to a soupy consistency.

palak paneer


A mild spinach and Indian cheese dish.

Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes


knife, chopping board, wok or large saucepan, measuring spoons, wooden spoon, , small bowl for rubbish, garlic press, grater, mortar and pestle or food processor.


350 grams Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) cut into 2 cm cubes

½ cup Oil for frying

500 grams spinach, chopped and frozen

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1” piece fresh ginger, finely grated

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 green chilli, chopped (optional)

½ cup water

Salt and Pepper to taste


1.Shallow fry cubes of paneer in oil till slightly golden, drain and set aside.

2.Pound the coriander and cumin seeds together till well crushed

3.Gently fry onion and garlic till translucent, add spices and chilli and fry gently 1 min.

4.Add spinach and water. Cook till wilted/ defrosted. Don’t cover spinach.

5.Place in a food processor and blend till combined (optional)

6.Return to pan, check seasonings, add salt or pepper to taste

7.Add paneer cubes, warm through and serve.

Variations: Restaurants sometimes add ghee/ butter/ cream to palak paneer to make it creamier. Alternatively you can add a paste of roasted cashew nuts.

Another alternative is to add chopped tomatoes.


If you are making various Indian dishes it may be faster to mince all the ginger and garlic in batches in the food processor, leftovers will freeze well. Likewise chop up all the onion at the same time.

aloo gobi


A popular Punjabi “dry” curry of potatoes and cauliflower.

Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes


knife, chopping board, garlic press, large saucepan with lid, mortar and pestle, wooden spoon, small bowl for rubbish, plates and spoons for service.


½ cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon ginger, finely minced or chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

¼ teaspoon mustard seeds

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

½ bunch coriander; stems chopped for frying, leaves for garnish

1 teaspoon salt

1 small green chilli, de-seeded and chopped

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets c.5cm

3 potatoes, washed and cut into c.3cm cubes


1. Gently fry onion in oil till translucent.

2. Add garlic, ginger, coriander stems and all the spices and gently cook for 1 minute

3. Add the chilli and the potato, cook for 5 minutes letting it catch a little on the base to brown the potatoes.

4. Add the cauliflower and stir gently for 5 minutes. Put a lid on the pot.

5. Cook, covered on a low heat for 15mins. Occasionally check the bottom isn’t burning; add a little water to prevent this.

6. The dish is cooked when a potatoes are cooked through, it should be dry and slightly coloured. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Serving suggestions: This dish is best served alongside a wet curry and rice or as a filling for Indian breads.

Each family has their own preferences and can alter the level of spice, add tinned tomatoes for more “gravy” or use paprika instead of chilli.



A cool yoghurt and cucumber side dish to serve with curry.

Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 0


knife, chopping board, bowl, measuring cup, wooden spoon, small bowl for rubbish.


2 cup Greek or low fat plain yoghurt

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

1 cucumber, deseeded and grated

1 ½ tablespoons mint leaves, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste


1. Gently roast cumin seeds in a dry pan, set aside to cool.

2. Mix all ingredients together and adjust seasoning to taste.

3. Chill till ready to serve.



A tangy fresh salad to accompany a rich spicy curry.

Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 0


knife, chopping board, bowl, measuring cup, wooden spoon, small bowl for rubbish.


2 ripe tomatoes, finely diced

1 cucumber, seeded and finely diced

½ white onion, finely diced

1 green chilli, finely chopped (optional or add more to taste)

1 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice


1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and chill.

 Cooking Carrot Halvacarrot halva

GAJJAR KA HALVA (carrot halva)

This is a very rich dessert traditionally served at celebrations.

Serves: 8

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes


Large wide based shallow pan, grater, wooden spoon, measuring cup, measuring spoons


1 kilo carrots, grated (preferably a thicker width)

5 cups full cream milk

6 cardamom pods, pounded to crack the casing

30 grams butter

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon golden syrup

½ cup sultanas or raisins

½ cup flaked almonds

To garnish:

Chopped almonds, sultanas and unsalted pistachios


1. Melt the butter in the large pan

2.Add the grated carrot and stir

3.Add the milk and cardamom pods

4.Simmer over a medium heat for around 20 minutes stirring frequently so it doesn’t “catch”

5.When the milk has almost evaporated add the sugar, sultanas and almonds

6.Stir well for a further 5 minutes till mixture begins to clump together

7.Add the tablespoon of golden syrup and cook again till mixture is dry.

8.Finished halva is a lumpy, bright orange dry mix

To serve warm: place a couple spoonfuls into bowls and serve with a little sprinkle of nuts and sultanas

To serve chilled: place into a greased mould and refrigerate till needed.

Alternatively: smooth mixture onto a flat dish and decorate the top before serving

NOTES: This is an amended recipe. Traditional halva has much more fat often incorporating up to 200 grams butter, cottage cheese and oil into this recipe! The original recipe also calls for much more sugar. I find that this recipe is sweet and rich enough for Australian palates. If you would like a richer dessert serve a scoop of vanilla ice cream along with chilled halva.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Week 5: Some Chinese dishes…

Pot stickers with sauce

The hit of the Chinese Cuisine night is always the POT STICKER DUMPLINGS, I think that’s because the name is intriguing and they look way more complicated than they actually are. Sure, there are a number of steps to get lovely crisp bottoms on those soft steamed dumplings but it’s not had once you know how… the filling is really easy too. What are you waiting for? Go and pick up some gow gee wrappers from the local Asian grocery store and make some this weekend!

There are lots of videos on YouTube that show you how to fold the dumplings. I prefer to use the method shown at 2:15 in this video. Really, you could use any method that keeps the filling inside whilst you cook the dumplings. It will still taste the same!

We also made STIR FRIED EGGPLANT AND SNOWPEAS, a colourful VEGIE FRIED RICE and cute little ALMOND COOKIES to finish.

I hope you attempt at least one of this week’s recipes!

pleating pot stickerpot sticker ready to cookpot stickers cooking


Serves: 8 as part of a meal

Preparation: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes


Chopping board, food processor, large fry pan with lid or electric fry pan


1 x 2 inch piece ginger, peeled

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

100 grams Chinese cabbage, finely shredded

125 grams silken tofu

25 grams dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes

80 grams mushrooms, wiped, stalk removed and finely chopped

1/2 carrot, grated

1 green onions, finely chopped

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon mushroom oyster sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

½ tablespoon Shao Hsing wine (or dry sherry)

1 packet gow gee pastry wrappers

1 cups water

1 tablespoons plain flour

1 tablespoons vegetable oil

Dipping sauce:

¼ cup soy sauce

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 x 1 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated

1 chilli, thinly sliced (optional)


1. Combine the first list of ingredients in a food processor and pulse gently.

2. Lay out the gow gee wrappers and brush edges with water.

3. Place a tablespoon of mix on each wrapper.

4. Fold into little parcels and place on a tray and set aside.

5. To make dipping sauce combine all ingredients and set aside.

6. Combine water and flour in a jug and set aside.

7. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large sauce pan with a well fitting lid.

8. Place as many dumplings in the pan as will fit snugly, cook 1 -2 minutes.

9. Add 1 cup water and flour mixture and cover immediately.

10. After 2-3 minutes remove lid and let the rest of the water evaporate and brown the bases.

Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

fried rice


Harder vegetables will need to be precooked for this quick meal.

Serves: 6 as part of a meal

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes


Chopping board, large knife, wok, chan, small bowl.


1/3 cup canola oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons canola oil, extra

2 tablespoons ginger, finely grated or minced

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 onion, finely diced

2 cups mixed vegetables*, chopped into bite size pieces and pre cooked if necessary.

1 teaspoon white sugar

2 tablespoons Shao Hsing wine (Chinese cooking wine)

5 cups cooked medium grain rice

2 tablespoon vegetarian oyster sauce or mushroom soy sauce

½ teaspoon sesame oil


1 cup spring onion (shallots), finely sliced on the diagonal

¼ cup light soy sauce

1 chilli, thinly sliced

*Carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, beans and sugar snap peas -precook for 2 minutes.

Zucchini, cabbage, peas, snow peas, bok choy, capsicum and baby corn -are OK raw.


1.Heat 1/3 cup oil in the wok till it shimmers; lightly scramble the beaten eggs for c. 1 minute.

2.Lift out with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3.Wipe wok with paper towel and heat remaining oil.

4.Add garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute without burning.

5.Add onion and stir fry for 2 minutes being careful not to over brown.

6.Add vegetables and stir through to warm for 2 minutes.

7.In a small bowl combine the sugar, shao hsing wine, oyster or mushroom sauce and sesame oil.

8.Add rice to the wok and stir fry for a minute or so till warmed through.

9.Add the egg and combined sauces and stir fry a further minute.

To serve: Spoon desired quantity onto plates and garnish with finely sliced spring onion and a little bowl of chilli soaked in soy sauce.

eggplant & snowpeas


The smoky eggplant is delicious with crisp snow peas.

Serves: 8 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Equipment: Chopping board, knife, wok with lid, chan, measuring cup.


500gm Japanese eggplant, cut into 2” lengths

500 gm snow peas, washed and trimmed

1/3 cup canola oil

2 large red chillies, washed and cut into thick slices

3 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised with a heavy knife

50 ml water

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon white sugar


1. Heat oil in a wok till it shimmers

2. Add chilli and garlic cloves and cook for 20 seconds. Don’t colour the chilli.

3. Remove the chilli and set aside.

4. Add the eggplant pieces and gently stir fry for 2 minutes.

5. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time till you have used half the water.

6. Add the snow peas, stir in dark soy sauce and the sugar, stir well.

7. Add remaining water and cover with lid on for 1 minute.

8. Uncover, add reserved chilli and toss for 30 seconds before serving.


almond cookies


These cookies are great with tea & coffee. They are also wonderful for gifts!

Serves: yields 25 – 30 cookies

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Equipment: large bowl, small bowl, fork, 2 x knives or pastry cutter, small jug, pastry brush, 2xbaking paper lined cookie trays.

Preheat oven to 160C


2 ¾ cups plain flour

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons almond extract

225 grams cold butter, cut into small cubes

25 – 35 whole blanched almonds

Egg wash (1 egg yolk + 1 teaspoon water)


1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl combine eggs and almond extract.

3. In a small jug make the egg wash and set aside.

4. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients till it resembles small peas.

5. Add the egg & extract mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon till just combined.

6. Take tablespoons of the mixture and quickly roll into 1” balls.

7. Place on a lined cookie tray spacing them out well as they expand a little.

8. Press an almond into the centre. Don’t squash them!

9. Coat with the egg wash using a pastry brush.

10. Bake for 15-20 minutes till lightly golden.

11. Cool well before serving or storing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Middle Eastern Madness

Well, it was an ambitious attempt of eight dishes in two hours but we pulled it off! We're halfway on this trip around the world and we're getting into the swing of things. The kitchen was busy but this meal was declared the favourite so far, yet again!
An amazing range of flavours and textures from around the Middle East.

Three dips: creamy HOMMUS, smokey BABA GANOUSH and soothing CACIK.

With some warm Lebanese bread and gorgeous fresh FALAFEL, this was a real feast.

We didn't really need the DATE & WALNUT PASTRIES, but we had them anyway. They were yum!

An Arabic chick pea (hummus) dish perfect for vegetarians.

Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)
Preparation: 20 minutes
Refrigeration: 30 minutes (minimum)

knife, garlic press, measuring cup, food processor, medium bowl, juicer.


1 ½ cup chickpeas, canned or soaked and cooked chickpeas
1 clove garlic, crushed
50ml olive Oil
1tablespoon tahini (sesame paste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper to taste

Virgin olive oil
Sweet paprika

1. Blend the chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, tahini, cumin and lemon juice in the food processor till just combined
2. Whilst the motor is running add the water till the desired consistency is reached.
3. Add more water for dressing a salad or serving with falafel etc
4. Cover and chill till required

To serve:
Scoop into a dish, make a small well in the center and pour in a little olive oil.
Sprinkle with the sweet paprika.

A smoky eggplant dip, sometimes known as “eggplant caviar”

Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)
Preparation: 20 minutes
Refrigeration: 30 minutes (minimum)

knife, garlic press, measuring cup, large bowl, tongs, juicer, whisk.

Oven: set oven to 180C to roast eggplants.
A gas flame is required or alternatively, use a char grill or BBQ for best results.


1 eggplants (large) washed and dried
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
½ lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

A sprinkle of chopped parsley, sumac, toasted sesame seeds or cumin,

1. With a sharp knife cut skin of each eggplant about 4 times and place directly over a flame with tongs or skewered on a fork
2. Turn till charred on all sides. This gives the eggplant smoky flavor
3. Place eggplants on a baking tray and bake for 20 to 30 minutes till soft
4. Set aside to cool
5. Once cool peel away the skin
6. Place flesh in a large bowl with the garlic, tahini and the lemon juice and oil
7. Using a whisk beat until the eggplant is mashed and ingredients are combined
8. Taste and season with salt and pepper

To serve:
Scoop into a bowl and sprinkle with garnish.

LUBYI BI ZAYT: Green Beans in Olive Oil & Tomato
A classic Lebanese recipe that can be eaten hot or cold.
Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)
Preparation time: 10 minutes.
Cooking time: 30 – 40 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, boiling pot of water, saucepan with lid, measuring cup

1 kilo green beans, washed, topped and tailed and cut into 5cm lengths
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled* and sliced
1 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon paprika
Hot water to cover

1. Heat the olive oil in a pot and sauté the onion for 2 minutes till softened
2. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds
3. Add the green beans, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes
4. Add the paprika, tomato paste and the tomatoes.
5. Stir and cover with hot water
6. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 30-40 minutes till beans are tender
7. Sauce should have also thickened.

To serve:
Serve as a side dish with Lebanese pitta bread.

* To peel tomatoes cut a cross into the base and plunge for 30 seconds into boiling water. Remove, cool slightly and peel away the skin. Cut tomatoes over a bowl to reserve the juices. Incorporate the juices into the dish.


Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time 45 minutes

Equipment: knife, cutting board, baking tray lined with baking paper, oven, large bowl, blender

Oven: 200 C (hot)

1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons medium-coarse sea salt
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
¼ cup tahini paste
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (approximately 1 lemon)
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1. Heat oven to 200C degrees.
2. Line a baking sheet with baking paper
3. In a mixing bowl, toss cauliflower with oil, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper until well coated.
4. Spread in a single layer on 2 baking sheets and roast, stirring and turning once or twice
5. Roast until cauliflower is tender and crispy brown in spots, about 45 minutes.
6. Puree tahini paste, water, lemon juice, garlic and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth.
7. Remove cauliflower from oven and immediately transfer to a serving bowl.
8. Pour tahini sauce over the cauliflower, toss to combine.
9. Serve warm or let stand at room temperature.

This variation of roast eggplant is flavoured with warm spices and a hint of lemon.

Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)
Preparation: 30 minutes
Chilling time: 30 minutes +

Equipment: knife, cutting board, colander, kitchen paper, baking tray lined with foil, oven, tongs, wooden spoon, large frypan, serving plate

Oven: 200 C (hot)

500 grams carrot, coarsely grated (about 4 cups)
¼ cup olive oil
4 tablespoons orange juice or lemon juice, freshly squeezed
¼ cup parsley leaf, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon harissa paste (or chopped fresh green chilli to taste)

1. In a large bowl combine all ingredients and taste
2. Adjust salt, spice and juice as required and cover
3. Chill and marinate at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.

To serve:
Serve chilled or at room temperature as a side dish.

For a more substantial dish add toasted slivered almonds, raisins or toasted coconut.
Add slices of peeled orange segments for a sweeter salad.
Delicious chick pea “fritters” perfect for snacks, rolls or as part of a mezze meal

Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)
Preparation: 30 minutes (not including soaking time)
Cooking time 20 minutes

knife, garlic press, measuring cup, large bowl, small bowl for rubbish, food processor, saucepan, absorbent paper, slotted spoon, frypan, wooden spoon


1 cup chick peas soaked overnight
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, ground
2 teaspoons coriander seed, ground
½ cup sesame seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
½ bunch parsley leaves, washed and chopped
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons self raising flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1 green chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1 litre oil for frying

Pita bread to serve.

1. Dry chick peas well and place in the food processor.
2. In a frypan fry the onion, garlic, spices and sesame seeds in a little oil for 2 minutes
3. Add to the food processor with the parsley baking powder and chilli if using.
4. Pulse till mixture is well combined and green!
5. Tip into a large bowl and mix through baking powder and self raising flour.
6. Roll walnut sized balls of the mix and place on a tray till ready to cook.
7. Heat oil so that when a falafel ball is dipped it begins to bubble straight away.
8. Place enough falafel balls in oil leaving enough room to turn them, do not crowd.
9. Using a slotted spoon, move them to colour lightly.
10. Lift them and set aside whilst you par cook the remaining falafels * see note
11. Place the first batch back in the hot oil to finish cooking, repeat till all are golden brown
12. Drain onto plenty of paper towels.
13. Keep them warm in the oven or microwave before serving.

Serving suggestions: Falafel are great in rolls with tabbouleh/ salad and hummus.
They can be served with couscous and vegetables as part of a main meal and make great snacks.
* NB par cooking ensures they do not burn on the outside before the insides are cooked!

These sweet, cigar shaped pastries are perfect with coffee or as a dessert.
Serves: 8 (as a dessert)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, food processor, pastry brush, paper lined baking tray.
Oven 180C to toast walnuts and bake pastries

1 cup Medjool (fresh) dates, pitted
1 cup walnuts, toasted in the oven
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon orange peel, finely grated
½ teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

8 sheets filo pastry
50 g unsalted butter, melted

1. Combine dates, walnuts, orange peel, cardamom and 1 tablespoon of honey in food processor
2. Blend until a rough paste forms
3. Divide the mixture into 8 and form into even cigar shapes, set aside
4. Cut the stack of filo pastry in 2 lengthwise (making two long rectangle stacks)
5. Cover filo stack with a tea towel to stop it drying out
6. Take one piece of filo, brush with melted butter and top with a second sheet. Brush with butter.
7. Place a cigar shaped log of filling 2 cm away from the edge and roll into a log
8. Place on tray and brush with butter
9. Repeat till you have completed 8 logs
10. Bake until golden (about 20-25 minutes)
11. Cool on baking sheet before serving

To serve:
Serve each log with a dollop of yoghurt drizzled with honey for dipping. (optional)

Roll bananas cut in half with crushed macadamias, sugar and cardamom

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

kali sas orexi!

Google translate says that's bon appetit in Greek... my Greek cooking student says that's correct and in fact it's a very polite form of the term. I like polite. I'm also impressed that she shares her name with a famous Greek philosopher and mathematician, she sadly never learnt to cook Greek food. But she does remember her mother and grandmother's cooking fondly.

Now on to the food we cooked, cause as we know "it all comes down to the dish you cook today".

Lovely, tasty and sumptuous Greek food.

To begin we cooked FAKES a GREEK LENTIL SOUP, cleansing and packed with lots of vegetables. The recipe is enough for 8 large servings so you can either make less or freeze half if you only want to feed a few people. I think this would be lovely cooked up on Sundays and served as a quick meal during the hectic work/ school week.

Then we moved on to making SPANOKOPITA, we decided to make the triangles instead of the deep dish pie so that we could make some egg free. I have such clever students, they did a wonderful job folding the triangles and keeping all the filling from oozing out on the tray. It really is worthwhile taking the time to make sure you do this step correctly.

To accompany the Spanokopita we made a GREEK SALAD, sharp with red wine vinegar, salty with kalamata olives and Greek Dodoni fetta. Top it all off with a slurp of virgin olive oil and sprinkled with lots of Greek oregani. You can find this at your local deli sold on the stalk in a plastic bag, it really does taste very different from the stuff in little glass jars. It keeps for longer too, probably because of the stalks. Use good kalamata olives, if you must have pitted ones try and find ones that are pitted after they are brined. They retain much more flavour this way.

To finish off we made a simple but delicious sweet called SOUROMENOS BAKLAVA or Bird's Nest Baklava. Each sheet of filo is buttered and sprinkled with walnuts and pistachios before being pleated and rolled into rosettes. They are then baked and drizzled with an orange flavoured syrup before they cool. These are perfect with strong coffee after dinner.

I hope you try some of these recipes, they are very achievable and you'll be surprised with the results.

This rich lentil soup is traditionally served with a drizzle of red wine vinegar and olive oil.
Serves: 8
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45- 60 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, vegetable peeler, garlic press, large pot and ladle.

375gm lentils, washed and picked over
½ cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery, stalks and leaves –chopped
½ red or green capsicums
1 tin whole peeled tomatoes
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoon oregano
3 litres vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

2 tablespoon parsley, chopped to garnish
¼ cup virgin olive oil, extra for drizzling
Red wine vinegar for drizzling (optional)

1. Place lentils in a pot, just cover with water and boil for 10 minutes whilst preparing the other ingredients.
2. In a large pot heat oil and gently fry the onion, carrot, celery, capsicum and garlic for 5 minutes .
3. Add the bay leaves, oregano and pepper.
4. Drain lentils and add them to the vegetables along with the stock, tinned tomatoes and tomato paste.
5. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 30- 40 minutes or until lentils are tender.
6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve:
Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley and drizzle with a splash of olive oil and a dash of good red wine vinegar.

Accompanied with bread, fetta and olives it forms a satisfying and complete meal.

Popular as a pie or as individual pastry triangles.
Serves: 8
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour

Equipment: chopping board, knife, grater, large mixing bowl, pastry brush, 20cm x 30cm baking tray
Oven 180C

2 bunches English spinach or silverbeet (or a combination)
2 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
4 green shallots, chopped
400g Greek feta cheese
150g ricotta cheese
½ cup finely grated kefalograviera, parmesan or pecorino cheese
6 eggs
2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon black pepper
50 ml olive oil

16 sheets packet filo pastry
150 g butter, melted

1. Trim spinach/ silverbeet removing the stalks. Wash well and chop finely. Dry and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine feta, ricotta and hard cheese. Mash well with a fork.
3. Add eggs, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, pepper, oil and mix well.
4. Add spinach mix through and set aside.
5. Grease a 20cm x 30 cm baking tray.
6. Take filo pastry from box and cover with a clean tea towel.
7. Take one sheet of filo pastry and place on the bottom of the tray making sure all sides are covered.
8. Using a pastry brush lightly spread some melted butter on the pastry.
9. Place the next sheet on the tray and brush with melted butter.
10. Continue till roughly half the sheets are used.
11. Pour in spinach and cheese mix, spreading the filling till it is level.
12. Place a sheet of filo pastry on the top, brush with butter.
13. Continue with the remaining filo pastry and butter.
14. Make sure final layer is well buttered.
15. Trim and tuck in the top into the sides.
16. Using a sharp knife cut through the top layer of pastry into diamond shapes.
17. Bake in 180C oven for 45- 50 minutes till golden brown and cooked through.
Alternatively: Brush 3 sheets of filo with melted butter and cut into thirds lengthwise. Place a spoonful of the filling at one end and roll up into a triangular package. Brush with melted butter and bake on a greased tray till golden and crisp. See photo above.

This salad is best made just before serving using fresh ingredients.
Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, large bowl

6 ripe yet firm tomatoes, chopped into 1” pieces
3 Lebanese cucumbers, chopped into 1” pieces
1 red onion, halved and then sliced into rings
1 red capsicum, halved seeded and chopped into 1” pieces
200g kalamata olives
220g Greek fetta, cubed
1 tsp dried Greek oregano
½ cup olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

60 ml red or white wine vinegar (optional)
Iceberg lettuce (optional)

1. Place tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, onion and fetta in a bowl.
2. Sprinkle over fetta, oregano, olives and olive oil and mix till combined.
3. Place into serving bowl and sprinkle with oregano and pepper.
4. Taste and if desired add the vinegar and salt.

In Australia this salad is often served with crisp iceberg lettuce and crunchy bread.

These are a coiled Greek version of the popular baklava.
Serves: makes 20-24 coils
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife or food processor, pastry brush, greased baking tray, tea towel
Oven 200C

1 box Fillo pastry
½ cup melted butter or olive oil
¾ cup walnuts, finely chopped
½ cup pistachio nuts, unsalted finely chopped

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 orange, peel only
A little extra melted butter or oil to grease the baking tin

1. Prepare all ingredients and grease baking tray well before taking fillo out of the box
2. Lay fillo in a stack on your clean work surface and cover with a clean tea towel
3. Working on the top sheet first, brush lightly with melted butter or oil
4. Sprinkle surface with nuts. Remember these nuts have to go on all the sheets, a tablespoon is fine
5. Starting at one of the short edges, gather up the fillo like a loose fan fold
6. Don’t worry if fillo tears
7. Scroll the strip of gathered fillo and place in the baking tin
8. Continue until you have used up all the fillo and nuts and scrolls are packed in tightly into the baking tin
9. Bake at 200C for up to 40 minutes till golden and crunchy. Let cool for 10 minutes in tin
10. Whilst they are baking make the sugar syrup by boiling all ingredients and stirring till sugar is dissolved
11. Pour syrup over the pastries and let sit 4 hours or overnight to absorb the syrup.
12. Serve pastries at room temperature.

For a more fragrant syrup you can add a little rosewater, cinnamon, cardamom or cloves to the syrup whilst it boils.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

cucina italiana

Our second class this term was based around Italian flavours and ingredients. This is the food I was brought up on and luckily easily available when we came to Australia. Italian food is a staple in many Oz households, I think the stir fry and noodle combos will quickly take over...

To start we had a hearty MINESTRONE, packed with veggies, beans and pasta. This is a pretty simple soup which relies on presentation and a good balance of flavours. You really can't go wrong with this recipe.

As a main we cooked CRISPY EGGPLANT & OLIVE BALLS served with POLENTA and SIMPLE TOMATO SAUCE. These are gutsy winter flavours that are comforting yet interesting enough to serve to guests.

As a side dish we served ROASTED BROCCOLI w/ PINE NUTS AND LEMON. If you've never roasted broccoli this will surprise you. The baking brings out the sweetness and intensifies the nutty flavour of the broccoli. A squeeze of lemon juice livens this dish up.

Finally, an egg free dessert, TIRAMISU. I'm always surprised by how much restaurants get away with charging for this simple assembled dessert. Coffee, liqueur, savoiardi biscuits and mascarpone never tasted so good.

The class voted for Greek food next week... here are this week's recipes, ENJOY!

A hearty Italian soup made with seasonal vegetables.
Serves: 6
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, vegetable peeler, garlic press, large pot and ladle.

¼ cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 celery stick, cut into ½ cm thick slices
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
200 gm pumpkin, peeled and cubed
2 zucchini, chopped
1 cup green beans, cut into 1” lengths

1 tin borlotti, cannellini or red kidney beans
1 tin Italian tomatoes
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
2 bay leaves
2 litres water
1 stock cube, vegetarian
1 cup small pasta, e.g. macaroni, shells or risoni
Salt & pepper

½ cup Italian parsley, chopped
½ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup virgin olive oil, extra for drizzling

1. In a large pot heat oil and gently fry the onion, carrot, celery and garlic for 5 minutes till softened.
2. Add the potatoes, pumpkin, mixed herbs, tinned beans, tinned tomatoes, water and stock cube.
3. Cook for 10 minutes till carrots have softened.
4. Add the pasta, zucchini and green beans and simmer till pasta is cooked.
5. Season with salt and pepper

To serve:
Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley and grated parmesan, drizzle with a splash of olive oil.
Minestrone is a complete meal that can also be served with chewy Italian bread and a dollop of pesto.
It keeps well in the fridge for a few days and freezes well.

There is no set recipe for Minestrone, feel free to use vegetables in season and whichever beans are available.
A cup of shredded spinach or kale can be stirred through towards end of cooking for an interesting flavour.

Serve as finger food or with pasta and fresh tomato sauce as a main course.
Serves: makes around small 32 balls
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Large pot of boiling water, knife, chopping board, wooden spoon, colander, large bowl, small bowl, fork, frypan, tray, paper towel

450 grams eggplant cut in 3cm cubes
1 tablespoon salt
100 grams breadcrumbs, fresh or “Panko”
25 grams pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated
50 grams kalamata or green olives, finely chopped
200 grams mushroom, finely chopped
1 large egg
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for frying
50 grams fine dry breadcrumbs, for frying

1. Salt 4 litres of boiling water and add the eggplant
2. Boil uncovered for 10 minutes, pushing the eggplant occasionally under the water
3. Drain eggplant in colander, cool and squeeze out excess water
4. Chop finely and place in a large bowl
5. Fry mushroom in a little olive oil till dry
6. Combine eggplant and mushroom
7. Add in parsley, fresh breadcrumbs, egg, garlic and cheese
8. Blend with a fork and season with salt & pepper
9. Cover frypan with a 2cm of olive oil and heat gently
10. Fry a little of the mix to check the seasoning, adjust if necessary
11. Roll remaining mix into 1” balls and set on a tray
12. Roll balls in dry bread crumbs till evenly coated
13. Fry the balls in hot oil, turning till golden brown all over
14. Drain on absorbent paper and cool slightly before serving

A satisfying yet gluten free alternative to pasta.
Serves: 6
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, garlic press, large pot with lid, frypan, wooden spoon, baking dish

4 cups water
1 ½ cups polenta
1 teaspoon salt
1 quantity Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
250gm Mozzarella cheese, sliced (optional)
100 gm Parmesan cheese
6 basil leaves, torn (as a garnish)

1. Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid and add salt.
2. Whilst stirring the water, pour in the polenta in a thin stream.
3. Simmer and continue to stir with a long handled wooden spoon for 5 minutes.
4. Place on lid and sit at the back of the stove top whilst you prepare the sauce.

Simple Tomato Sauce
¼ cup olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400gm tin Italian tomatoes, whole
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt & black pepper

1. In a frypan, gently heat oil and fry the onion and the garlic till translucent and without colour
2. Add tinned tomatoes squishing them with your (clean) fingers.
3. Add oregano and cook for 10 minutes.
4. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve:
Stir polenta well and pour into an oven proof serving dish.
If using mozzarella, place slices on top and place under grill to melt till golden and bubbly.
Serve spoonfuls onto plates topped with tomato sauce, a sprinkle of parmesan and garnish with torn basil leaves.

Variations: Polenta goes very well with roasted vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant.

This dish elevates humble broccoli to a delicious zesty dish.

Serves: 6
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Chopping board, sharp knife, large bowl, large shallow baking tray, lemon zester
Oven 180C

2 large heads of broccoli (c. 1 kilo)
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
Salt and Pepper
¼ cup pine nuts
1 lemon
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated (optional)

1. Cut the broccoli into medium size florets
2. In a large bowl toss broccoli, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts
3. Spread evenly on baking tray and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper
4. Roast for 20 minutes till stems are tender
5. Just before serving, sprinkle with cheese (optional), lemon zest and lemon juice.

The cooked broccoli is great tossed through penne pasta.

Broccolini or cauliflower can also be cooked this way.

This coffee based dessert is a simple and popular treat.

Serves: 8
Preparation: 10 minutes
Refrigeration time: 2 hour minimum

Large bowl, whisk, metal spoon, spatula, glass or ceramic dish, grater or vegetable peeler, sieve

250 gm mascarpone cheese
300 ml cream
4 tablespoons pure icing sugar
2 tablespoons marsala/ brandy/ sweet sherry (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup strong coffee
3 tablespoons Kahlua or Tia Maria (optional)
18 savoiardi biscuits or sponge cake layers

50 gm dark chocolate, frozen
Cocoa powder


1. Whisk together mascarpone, brandy and ¼ cup coffee till well combined
2. Whip the cream and icing sugar together till soft peaks form
3. Gently fold the cream into the mascarpone mix
4. Pour the remaining coffee and Kahlua into a bowl
5. Dip half of the savoiardi biscuits into the coffee mix
6. Arrange to cover the bottom of the glass dish
7. Spread 1/3 of the mascarpone mix on top of the biscuits
8. Layer with another layer of dipped savoiardi biscuits
9. Spread with another layer of mascarpone mix
10. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours
11. Grate chocolate on top of the Tiramisu before serving
12. Dust lightly with cocoa powder using a sieve and serve.

Cut out individual circles from sponge and layer as above in a glass serving dish.