The Cupboard Is Bare Pasta

cupboard is bare pasta

I moved house this week. In the midst of the packing and unpacking chaos, there was a point where the kitchen was bare, save for a few dry store ingredients, and as my fridge hadn't arrived from Sydney, it became an exercise in cooking from shelf stable ingredients only. Hard? Not really, so long as you have a few handy staples with you. So this recipe also doubles as a list of shelf stable foods you should never live without. 

This recipe is kinda-cabonara in style (minus the pork component) and is proof that you can cook something delicious with just a small handful of ingredients, whether you're on a shoestring budget...or the cupboard is just bare!

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Good quality dried pasta (I love Martelli)

2 egg yolks (that's right, eggs don't require refrigeration!)

1 tablespoon olive oil

A good few pinches sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon store bought fried shallots (from the Asian grocery aisle in any supermarket)

Method:

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Once cooked, drain MOST of the water (you will need about 1/4 cup of that starchy water to bind the pasta sauce together). Pour the olive oil into the pasta and reserved water and toss to combine. Whisk the egg yolks and pour them into the pot, tossing again to combine everything. Add in a few good pinches of sea salt and a few grinds of pepper and toss everything again. Taste, for seasoning and once happy, divide between two plates or bowls. Garnish with fried shallots and a little more pepper and you're done! 

 

 

Pozole Verde

pozole verde

Every now and again, I become obsessed with a certain dish I'm introduced to. Case in point, Melbourne restaurant Mamasita's hugely underrated menu item, pozole. For the uninitiated, it's essentially a spicy Mexican soupy stew, usually made with maize grits (hominy), meat (chicken or pork) and flavoured with jalapeños, garlic, coriander and served, poured over shredded lettuce, avocado and radishes - so it's kind of like a soup and a salad in one bowl.

Mamasita's pozole sits there on the menu, largely overlooked in preference for more sexy and conspicuously Mexican dishes such as their delightful tacos de lengua (ox tongue tacos), but that's our loss. It's rich, soothing, spicy and basically the perfect warming soup for the cooler months, that maintains that bright, spicy, savoury, earthy flavour profile we love about Mexican cuisine. 

Here is an admittedly not-so-authentic (however delicious) version of pozole verde (this dish also comes in a red, or rojo version, aromatic with ancho and arbol chillies). It's at once light, bright and spicy flavours, but also rich and comforting. 

Ingredients

1 organic chicken

1 brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons dried oregano

1 lime

2 green capsicums

2 fresh jalapeño chillis, tops trimmed

2 long green chillis, tops trimmed

1 tablespoon of chipotle in adobo (any good Latin or gourmet grocer will stock this)

1 x 400g tin cannelini beans, washed and drained (a substitute for hominy, mainly to thicken)

2 bunches coriander, washed thoroughly

1 tbs pickled jalapeños, drained

200g  tin tomatillos (if you can't get these, just use more cooking liquid from the chicken)

1/2 a ripe avocado, sliced just before serving

1/4 head of iceberg lettuce, shredded

3 red radishes, mandolined into thin slices, set aside in a bowl of water

1-2 tbs Greek yoghurt

A handful good quality tortilla chips (or you can fry corn tortillas in a little oil). I like the ones by La Tortilleria

Sea salt

Black pepper

Olive oil

Method

Wash the chicken inside and out, pat dry and set aside. In a large, heavy based pot on a medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, then the chopped onions and garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and oregano and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add the chicken and enough water to cover it. Cut the lime in half, squeeze in the juice and throw in the squeezed fruit. Cover with a lid and bring the water to the boil. Remove the lid and reduce to a simmer, skimming any scum from the surface regularly.

pozole verde vegetables

Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 180c and line an oven tray with baking paper. Cut the top off each green capsicum and discard, along with the seeds. Place the capsicums cut side down on the tray, along with the green chillis. Feel free to throw in any random green vegetables as well - we added peas and cavolo nero. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and salt and the chipotle in adobo and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft but have still retained their greenness. 

While the vegetables are cooking, place the drained beans onto a baking paper-lined baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and salt, place them in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Remove the green vegetables from the oven and place them into a blender along with the coriander (reserving a few leaves for garnish), pickled jalapeños and tomatillos. Blitz into a smooth paste, adding a little stock from the cooking chicken to thin out the puree. Season with salt to taste, then set aside to cool. 

Turn the oven up to 200c and once the chicken joints start to feel loose when you tug at them (about 45 minutes), carefully remove the chicken from the pot and place it on a baking paper-lined tray. Season with salt (and a little chipotle in adobo if you like), and roast for 15 minutes or until the skin is golden. Sift out and discard the limes.

Remove the chicken from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes and then carefully shred the meat. Set aside the bones to make stock (waste, not, want not). Reserve some of the shredded chicken for serving, then add the rest of the chicken meat, skin and cartilage back to the pot with the cooking liquid. Add the roasted cannelini beans, then using a stick blender, carefully blitz the stock, chicken and beans into a smooth puree. Bring to the boil and reduce, if you want a thicker soup consistency. Otherwise, add the green puree to the blended chicken soup and stir well to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, assemble the reserved shredded chicken, lettuce and sliced avocado in a soup bowl. Pour the hot pozole on top, and garnish with radishes, coriander leaves, a dollop of yoghurt and the tortilla chips. Serve immediately. 

Pasta-free Lasagne with XO

Pasta free lasagne

My Italian mother-in-law would probably have a heart attack for calling something 'lasagne' that contains no pasta, but seeing as my husband made this particular recipe with me, we'll let it slide. We decided to replace the pasta sheets with layers of eggplant and zucchini on account of coming home from the Australian Financial Review Top 100 Restaurant Awards in Sydney after an epic 4 days of eating everything in sight (we went to Sokyo, Billy Kwong, Icebergs, The Dolphin, Hubert, Hubert again, Fratelli Paradiso, Automata, Ester and Din Tai Fung, just so you get the picture) and wanted to eat healthier without feeling like we were missing out on life.  Everything else about this dish is legit though, including the very handy Italian mama kitchen tip of using leftover charcuterie bits and pieces to add depth of flavour to sauces and stews (we used njduia). Add to that the not-very-Italian-mama tip of adding a little XO into sauces that aren't necessarily of Asian influence, and you have one rich, complex sauce that works well on pretty much anything. 

Ingredients

Red sauce

1 leek, washed and finely sliced

3 brown onions, peeled and finely sliced

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced

50g njduia (or any leftover pieces of salami, pancetta or bacon fat, finely chopped)

1/2 bottle of red wine

2 tins crushed tomatoes

1 strong tablespoon of XO paste

Salt &  pepper.

 

The rest

1 large eggplant, mandolined lengthways into 5mm sheets

2 large zucchinis, mandolined lengthways into 5mm sheets

200g fresh ricotta

1 handful parsley leaves, finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, sliced

Sea salt flakes

Freshly cracked black pepper

Olive oil

Method

Preheat an oven to 180c. For the red sauce, heat a large saucepan on a low to medium heat, then add a good slug of olive oil. Add the leeks, onion and garlic and cook until softened but the vegetables haven't taken on any colour. Take this opportunity to season the base. Add in the njduia (or chosen salumi) to the pan, burying it amongst the vegetables. It'll begin to break down and render the fat out. Once this happens, mix everything vigorously to combine. After another 2-3 minutes, add the wine. Cook over medium high heat until reduced by two thirds and the mixture is glossy and thick. Add the tinned tomatoes and stir to combine. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer the sauce until reduced by about half and starts to take on a thick spoon-coating texture. Season with salt, pepper and XO to taste (this gives the sauce an umami punch and an extra dimension of flavour), then remove from heat and carefully transfer to a heatproof blender. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender on it's highest setting. Blitz the mixture on high into a smooth puree, then set aside to cool slightly. 

Meanwhile, prepare the ricotta filling by combining the ricotta with the chopped parsley in a bowl, mixing well. If the mixture is too thick, add a little olive oil to the mix. Season well with salt and pepper, then set aside. 

Line a baking dish with baking paper. Spread a few spoonfuls of the red sauce into the dish, then top with a layer of eggplant. Top with an even layer of ricotta, then more red sauce, then a layer of zucchini. Continue to alternate layers of eggplant, red sauce, ricotta, and zucchini, finishing with ricotta on top. Lay the fennel slices on top and cover with a layer of baking paper. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the baking paper, turn the oven up to 200c and continue to cook for a further 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly. 

Remove the lasagne from the oven and allow to cool and set before slicing, otherwise the whole thing will collapse. Serve the lasagne topped with Parmesan or pecorino, microplaned over the top, and a few basil leaves.

Lemon Delicious Tart

Lemon Delicious Tart

It's always useful to have a couple of handy dessert recipes in your arsenal for when you really need to impress...even if the person you're impressing is yourself! A great lemon tart is the perfect combination of zesty, lemony sunshine and buttery richness - a refreshing way to end a meal that's still a little bit indulgent too. This recipe was shared with me by my extremely talented husband; who was a chef at Melbourne pastry gem Chez Dre, somewhere between being a touring guitarist in a metal band and a bar owner. It's been his trusted never-fail-to-impress dessert for many years, and I hazard a guess that if you give it a try, you'll see why.

A few tips - the gelatine leaf literally sets this recipe up for success, don't leave it out. Gelatine leaves can be found in all good food stores and are graded in strength, with titanium giving the firmest hold. Make sure when you zest and juice your lemons that you keep these two separate. Zest is best kept as fresh as possible, so adding it in at the last minute will give you that extra 'pop'. Serve this chilled with a little spoon of creme fraiche or double cream to complement the zing. 

Ingredients

Pastry

2 cups plain flour

150g butter, chilled and cubed

2-3 tablespoons iced water

Curd 

5-6 lemons (you'll need 250ml juice and the zest, but we'll get to that)

250g caster sugar

200g eggs (about 4 medium sized eggs)

200g butter, cubed and chilled

1 sheet titanium strength gelatine

Method

Preheat an oven to 180c. In a food processor, mix together the flour and butter until you achieve a fine crumb texture. With the motor running on low, gradually add the iced water until a smooth dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead briefly and then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once chilled, roll out pastry onto a lightly floured surface to about 3-4mm thick. Lay over the rolling pin and gently transfer the dough onto pastry tin. Line the case with baking paper and fill the case with blind baking beads (you can also use lentils or rice if you don't have baking beads). Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the weights and continue to bake for another 5-7 minutes or until the inside of the case is light golden in colour. Set aside to cool completely before filling. 

For the lemon filling, zest and juice the lemons. Reserve 250ml lemon juice and the zest separate. To make the lemon curd, place the juice, sugar and eggs in a Thermomix bowl. Cook at 90c for 9 minutes on speed 3. If using a double boiler set up, whisk the lemon juice, sugar and eggs constantly for 10-12 minutes or until the consistency is thick and smooth. Meanwhile, soften the gelatine leaf in iced water for 5 minutes.

When the curd is thick, pour it into a clean bowl, then set it over another bowl filled with iced water. Whisk in the chilled butter, a few cubes at a time until complete combined. Squeeze out the gelatine leaf and add it to the mixture. Continue to whisk until the leaf is completely dissolved. Once the curd has cooled to about room temperature, pour into the pastry shell and set aside in the fridge for one hour. Keep refrigerated until serving. 

THE BEST Turmeric Latte

IMG_1370.JPG

Let me start by saying that I am NOT an advocate of jumping on the superfood bandwagon. There are of course, ingredients that we know are better or worse for us, and as a food writer, identifying trends or the prevalence of a theme, ingredient or technique is part of the job and what makes something newsworthy (deservedly or not..ahem *cloud eggs*). 

Lately, turmeric has become a huge point of fascination in the western world, though anyone of Indian or South East Asian background might find it comical that this fantastic rhizome has reached 'superfood' status...we knew that already!

Whether fresh or dried, then powdered, this golden-hued wonder can be used in curry pastes, skincare preparations (a mixture of honey, greek yoghurt and turmeric powder makes a GREAT face mask) and gives rice a fragrant scent and a vibrant hue. Its benefits can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways, including soothing inflammation in the body (from arthritis to skin irritation), as a potent antioxidant as well as being anti-bacterial, anti-fungal. Turmeric also has a positive impact on cholesterol (any excuse to validate duck fat in my diet) and aids in digestion and gut health. 

This turmeric recipe is an excellent thing to make and store in your fridge as a paste - add a teaspoon of it to boiling water with a little honey to drink as a tea, brew it with almond milk as a latte, add it to your morning oats, you can even use it as a curry paste! PSA: speaking from personal experience, I would highly advocate wearing black when you cook with turmeric - it stains like crazy.

 

Ingredients

3-4 pieces of fresh turmeric (about 50g)

1 large knob of fresh ginger, peeled (about 40g)

1 cinnamon quill (or 2 tsp ground)

1 tbs whole black peppercorns

4-5 green cardamom pods

1 tbs ground ginger

1 whole nutmeg (or 1 tsp ground nutmeg)

4-5 whole cloves (or 1/2 tsp ground)

1 tbs honey

3 tbs melted coconut oil

A pinch sea salt

Method

In a high speed blender or Thermomix, add the fresh turmeric, ginger along with the spices. Blitz on high to form a uniform paste (if you don't have a blender, a mortal and pestle is a great old school way to get the job done). Transfer the paste to a small saucepan and add 1 cup water, stirring to combine. Heat on medium low and bring to a simmer. Simmer the mixture for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove the saucepan from heat, stir in the honey, coconut oil and salt. Store in a sterilised jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 

Gluten Free Berry Crumble

IMG_1229.JPG

A lot of the food I cook for myself at home happens to err on the side of 'healthier'... simply because when I eat out, working on food shows or testing recipes, I'm not exactly going to not the pasta special, spit when judging cheese soufflé, or say no to the foie gras parfait.

This berry crumble recipe came about one recent cold night when I felt like something warm and comforting without wanting to go OTT on the indulgence factor. I like to keep frozen berries on hand for smoothies, and quick snacks because they're a great way to get a sweet hit without reaching for the chocolate every time (not to mention, they're a great antioxidant and vitamin boost).

This recipe happens to be gluten free, but if that doesn't bother you, you can always substitute with your favourite sweet biscuits (milk arrowroot or shortbread would be ACE!). If you're dairy free, feel free to replace the butter with coconut oil, but work quickly with your hands, so it doesn't melt completely.

Serves 1

Ingredients

2 gluten free biscuits, bashed up

2 tbs almond meal

A good knob of butter

1 pinch ground cinnamon

1 pinch sea salt

 

1 cup frozen mixed berries

A drizzle of honey

Method

Preheat your oven to 180c. In a bowl, rub together the biscuits, almond meal and butter with your fingers until it comes together as a coarse crumb. Add in the cinnamon and salt and lightly combine. 

Pour the berries into an oven proof ramekin. Drizzle with honey and top with the crumble mixture. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the top is golden and the berries are bubbling and juicy around the edges of the ramekin. Serve with Greek or coconut yoghurt...or a little double cream if you're feeling like taking it there.

Beef Rendang

Everyone has at least a couple of comfort food dishes that will, without fail make you feel better when you're sad, sick or just needing the gastronomic equivalent of a hug. Many of mine are deeply connected to my family's Singaporean roots, and include things like pork and century egg congee (with plenty of crunchy, fried wonton chips on top), pork and prawn wontons...and my mum's aromatic, spice-laden, fork-tender beef rendang. 

Beef Rendang mise en place

When I moved out of home during my university days, this recipe became a much called on heirloom for when I was homesick. Despite being a very basic cook at the time, I learned that 1. Making curry paste is a lot easier than you'd think to make. 2. Fresh curry paste tastes SO MUCH better than store bought (though there is no shame in using a good one in a pinch).

Equipment-wise, you will need:
1. A blender/food processor
2. A heavy based, oven friendlysaucepan with a tight fitting lid (a cast-iron pot like a La Creuset is perfect)
 
 

 

Ingredients
Paste
1 tbs coriander seeds
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh turmeric
1 generous knob of galangal, coarsely chopped
2 red eschallots, peeled and halved
3 bird's eye chillis (de-seeded if you prefer a milder heat)
1 thumb-sized piece of young ginger, 
1/2 stalk of lemongrass, coarsely chopped
2 green shallots (scallions), topped and tailed
1 tsp white mustard seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 candlenut

The rest
500g beef oyster blade, chopped into large chunks (beef chuck, lamb neck or shanks also work)
200ml coconut cream
1 tbs kecap manis
1 medium eggplant, cut unto large chunks
                                                                                                                                         
To serve
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 kaffir lime leaf, very finely sliced (chiffonade, like this)
4-6 Brussels sprouts, finely shaved using a mandoline
Olive oil
Sea salt flakes
Fried shallots (they come in jars in the Asian aisle at the supermarket, or any Asian grocer)
Brown rice, cooked


Method
Preheat an oven to 180c. Blitz the paste ingredients in the blender until you achieve a rough paste. Add a small amount of water to the paste if it has issues combining. In a heavy based pot on a medium heat, add a slug of olive oil and stir fry the paste for 2-3 minutes, until aromatic. Stir the mixture continuously to prevent it catching on the bottom. Remove the paste from the pot and set aside while you brown the meat. 

Add a little more oil, then in batches, brown the meat on all sides. Once all the meat is browned, return all of the meat to the pot, along with the paste and stir to combine. Add in the coconut cream and ketchup manis and combine well. Bring the curry to a simmer, then season with salt and ground white pepper to taste and place the lid on the pot. Place the pot in oven and reduce the temperature to 120c for 4 hours. At the third hour, add the eggplant pieces and stir to combine, replace the lid and return to the oven. 

When the time is up, remove the pot from the oven and check the meat. The meat should be soft enough to break apart with a spoon. If the meat is still a bit tough, place back in the oven for another half hour until tender. If the meat is done, place the pot on the stove on high heat with the lid on for 15-20 minutes to thicken the sauce. Once thickened, taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary, then set aside to cool slightly.

To serve, combine the sprouts and kaffir lime leaf, then dress with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lime juice and season with salt, to taste. Serve the curry with brown rice, the sprouts and garnish with fried shallots and a lime wedge.