50 new recipes

I decided not to make resolutions for the new year, and instead decided on a few projects (from small to somewhat ambitious) that I would try and complete in the next twelve months. One of those was making 50 new recipes, with the goal of making different things to my usual recipes – not just 50 cakes, for examples, although a cake has already featured.

I’m up to 9 recipes so far:

1/50: Beef Biryani – adapted from a chicken biryani recipe here. I simply used leftover steak instead of chicken, and it was lovely – I’m a fan of one pot meals.

2/50: Spicy African Chicken Stew – adapted from this recipe. I do wonder how this dish can declare itself to be from an entire continent. Presumably African cuisine varies. It also contains an entire jar of peanut butter, but it does make a rather large quantity – so possibly a bit questionable health-wise, but delicious.

3/50: Carrot Soup with Tahini & Roasted Chickpeas – from a Smitten Kitchen recipe. This was fantastic – a beautifully spiced soup, but the things I loved most about it was the lemony tang of the tahini mixture, stirred into the soup, and the crispy chickpeas. The roasted chickpeas were amazing, I’m going to make them on their own as a snack when we have guests.

4/50: Braised Pork Shoulder in Apple Cider – adapted from this recipe, using carrots instead of parsnips. Braising is my new obsession. Talk about transforming cheap cuts of meat. I don’t particularly like pork, but thought it was really transformed by the cider. The Husband: “best pork I have ever eaten”.

5/50: Pumpkin, Bean & Lentil Stew – from this recipe. This was a lovely spicy stew, and the fig raita, whilst it sounds a bit odd, goes wonderfully with the sweetness of the pumpkin.

6/50: Braised Leg of Lamb – made from this recipe. I neglected to take a photo of it (not a big loss. Braised meat is not terribly attractive). It was fantastic – sweet and fruity and falling off the bone. The Husband: “This is even better than the pork.”

7/50: Fig & Prune Bliss Balls. I looked at a few recipes for these, then hurled things into the food processor until they came together. Starting with a cup of almonds, then when they’re pretty well pulverised, adding a cup of figs, a cup of prunes, and half a cup of pepitas. Form into balls, roll in coconut, put in fridge. Tasty little healthy snacks.

8/50: Honey Cake -from a recipe in The Joy of Cooking (which someone has set out here. Dense and moist, with an intense honey flavour. I’d like to figure out if you could make it sugar free, but I imagine it would make the texture more gingerbread-like.

9/50: Lentil Salad – adapted from this recipe. It claims to be the best lentil salad ever, and it is pretty damn good. I baulked a bit at the mixture of spices, but it is lovely – spicy and slightly sweet, and the lentils and currants go beautifully together.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

This chicken from Smitten Kitchen is far more delicious than this rather yellow photo makes it out to be. The chicken pieces are marinated in the fridge overnight in a buttermilk mixture, and then baked at a nice high heat, crisping the outsides. The marinade makes the chicken beautifully tender, and given that most of the preparation time involves the chicken sitting peacefully marinading, it’s a nice fast meal to put together.

ingredients:
2 cups buttermilk
5 crushed garlic cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
Around 1.2 kg chicken pieces (breasts, legs or thighs)

Whisk up the buttermilk with the garlic, salt, sugar, paprika, and a generous seasoning of pepper in a bowl. Put the chicken pieces in a ziplock bag, or a large container, and pour the buttermilk mixture over them, making sure they’re fully covered. Chuck the bag or container in the fridge and leave for 24 hours, or up to 42 hours.

On the night you’re going to cook the chicken, whip it out of the fridge, feeling terribly organised, and heap up the oven to 220C. Pull the chicken out of the buttermilk mixture and into a bowl to drain a little. Either line a baking dish with foil, or grease it lightly, and pack the chicken into the dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with paprika. Bake for roughly 30 minutes for legs, and 40 minutes for breasts, until the meat is nice and browned. Serve with whatever takes your fancy – potatoes and steamed vegetables, rice and salad. The chicken is also lovely cut up cold on sandwiches or in salads the next day.

Smoked Salmon and Camembert Quiche

This recipe from Taste fit the bill when I was looking for a quick quiche to make for lunch. “Oh wow,” said my guest, “you made your own pastry.” Actually, I didn’t, but apparently I’m skilled at manhandling frozen pastry until it looks homemade. Good to know.

This was wonderful, but I think that’s easy to do when smoked salmon and camembert are involved. More importantly, it was simple, and I still had plenty of time to put it together despite running a litte behind time before my lunch guests arrived.

ingredients:

1 large sheet of ready-rolled shortcrust pastry, thawed (I found a special large size that said it was for quiche)
1 tbs olive oil
1 leek, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 4cm pieces
100g smoked salmon
100g camembert, thinly sliced
2 eggs
1/2 cup cream
1/3 cup milk
1 tbs chopped fresh dill
salt & freshly ground pepper

First, let’s deal with the pastry. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a 23cm quiche tin (if it doesn’t have a removeable bottom, grease it well beforehand) with the pastry. Either pierce the pastry with a fork a few times, or line the pastry with baking paper and fill with rice to weight it down. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and rice. Reduce the oven to 180°C and cook for 10 minutes or until golden and crisp.

While that’s cooking away, you can put together the leek mixture. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add leek and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the asparagus pieces and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs and dill, and add some salt and pepper if you like.

OK, you’ve got your golden pastry base, the cooled leek mixture (it doesn’t matter if it’s still fairly hot) and the cream mixture.  Spread the leek mixture over the pastry. Top with the sliced camembert, and then the smoked salmon.  Pour the cream and egg mixture over everything else. The liquid will probably sit below the smoked salmon – don’t worry, it will puff up.

Pop the quiche into the oven for 30 minutes, or until set and golden. Set it aside and let it cool for 10 minutes, before slicing and serving.

Chicken Diane

I’m not sure how the delicious magazine I took this recipe from managed to make the chicken look so attractive. I really enjoyed this, but unfortuately it didn’t photograph particularly well. The amounts are for 4 people.

ingredients:

700g potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
30g butter
2 tbs olive oil
4 chicken breast fillets, with skin (I couldn’t find any fillets with skin, so I used skinless, which worked fine)
3 eschalots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 chicken stock
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup thickened cream
2 tbs chopped parsley
2 tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180C. Spread the potato in a baking tray, drizzle with 1 tbs oil, and toss with salt and pepper. Place in the oven while you brown the chicken.

Heat the butter and remaining oil in a frypan over a medium heat. Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. (If your fillets are thick, cook for a little longer). Place the filllets, skin side up, on a seperate tray in the oven, give the potatoes a stir, and roast both for a further five minutes or until cooked and golden – mine took a good deal longer than 5 minutes, as I don’t think I cooked the chicken well enough in the first stage.

Return the frypan to a medium heat, add the eschallots and cook for a minute, add the garlic and cook for a further minute, stirring all the while. Stir in the stock, mustard, sauce, brandy and cream (I omitted the brandy, and used Carnation milk instead of cream – this seemed to work fine, but I’d like to try it with the brandy). Bring this mixture to a boil then simmer on medium for 2-3 minutes to reduce by half. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Serve with the potatoes, and wartercress (I went with some steamed vegetables rather than watercress. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten watercress, actually.)

Imam Bayildi

It’s a pity that I can’t photograph cooked eggplant and make it look pretty, because this is one gorgeous tasting dish. I’ve always wanted to try imam bayildi – that description of the imam fainting when he ate it made it sound pretty fabulous. And so it is, probably because of all the oil – there’s a lot of oil in this dish, but it results in a meltingly delicious eggplant.

I used a Rick Stein recipe I found in the September 2007 issue of delicious magazine.

ingredients:

6 small to medium eggplants (I used two large eggplants, and didn’t change any of the other ingredients, so I ended up with rather a lot of sauce.)
200ml extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped (optional)
(I skipped it)
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
4 very ripe tomatoes, skin removed, chopped
1 heaped tsp harissa
(Again, skipped it)
2-3 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup tomato juice
1 tsp caster sugar
Juice of one lemon

Use a potato peeler to peel away roughly 1cm wide strips lengthways along each of the eggplants. I couldn’t find the nice peeler my brother gave me and so was stuck using my crappy $2 peeler, which did an awful job – you can’t see the stripes in the photo because they were so ridiculously large and uneven. Not that it matters, really – the stripes are for presentation purposes, I think.

Cut a long, not too narrow wedge out of each eggplant, making a fairly deep pocket, taking care not to cut through to the bottom. Sprinkle a little salt into the pockets, and leave the eggplants to drain upside down on a plate for 30 minutes.

While they’re draining away, heat 1/3 of a cup of the olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat. Add the onions, and fry gently for 10 minutes until they’re soft, but not too browned – you want them to absorb lots of the oil. Add the garlic, chilli (if you’re using one) and chilli powder, and fry for a further 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the chopped tomatoes (I didn’t bother to peel them – what a bothersome task, and I think a little unnecessary), harissa, parsley and seasonings.

Spoon the filling into the pockets in the eggplants – as I only used two eggplants, I had plenty of the filling left over. Put the eggplants side by side and pocket up in a wide saucepan (I ended up using a big soup pan). Mix the tomato juice, sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and pour it over the eggplants, followed by the remaining oil. Given my two lonely eggplants, I shied away from using much more oil, and only used a splash more. I also surrounded my eggplants with the leftover filling.

Cover the saucepan and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, or until the eggplants are tender. Let cool, and serve at room temperature, with some couscous perhaps, or rice.

Nigella's Meatballs

I’m not a big fan of pork, so I was a bit suspicious about these meatballs from a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat. However, the husband’s sister had raved about the recipe, and I thought I could probably bear the taste of pork if mixed in with the beef mince. I’m glad I tried them – while I think I’d prefer them made with just beef mince, they are delicious, with a lovely thick sauce, and a gorgeous accompaniment to spaghetti or fettucine.

For the meatballs:

250g minced pork
250g minced beef
1 egg
2 tbspns freshly grated parmesan
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
3 tbspns semolina or breadcrumbs
good grind black pepper
1 tspn salt

For the sauce:

1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tspn dried oregano
1 tbspn butter
1 tbspn olive oil
700g bottle tomato passata
pinch sugar
salt and pepper
100ml full fat milk

Dump all the meatball ingredients into a large bowl, mix with your hands (not something I enjoyed doing – I’m not crazy about raw meat, especially when it’s minced), and then shape into small balls, using approximately a teaspoonsful of mince (although it’s not necessary to actually measure it). This is a little time consuming, but not fiddly. Place the meatballs on baking sheets or plates that you have either lined with gladwrap or lightly oiled, and put in the fridge as you finish them.

Nigella recommends blitzing the onion, garlic and oregano in a food processor – I didn’t bother, and just finely chopped it all together. Heat the butter and oil in a deep wide pan, add the onion-garlic mix and cook over a low-medium for about 10 minutes, letting the mixture become soft. Add the bottle of passata and then fill the empty bottle half full with cold water. Add this to the pan with the pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper, and cook for about 10 minutes.

Stir the milk into the sauce, and then carefully drop the meatballs in one by one. Don’t stir the pan until the meatballs have turned brown to avoid breaking them up. Cook everything for about 20 minutes, with the lid only partially covering it. Add any additional seasoning necessary, then serve over pasta.

Ham & Onion Spaghetti

This dish is one of the boyfriend’s creations – a fragrant mixture of spices, herbs and ham tossed through spaghetti, and served with plenty of cheese – inspired by a rather bare refrigerator.

dried spaghetti (this is also great with fettucine – I’ve been using Barilla pasta recently, which is really nice, and I like the boxes it comes in)
100 grams ham slices
1 onion
small tin of crushed tomatoes, or several cubed fresh tomatoes
mountain pepper berry
(a native Australian spice)
fresh thyme
fresh oregano
olive oil

Put the water onto boil for the spaghetti, and at the appropriate time pop it in to cook. I generally snap my spaghetti in half – dreadful, I know – to make it easier to fit into the saucepan.

Chop the ham and onion, and pop them into a gently heated and oiled frying pan. While they’re cooking, grind the mountain pepper berries in a mortar and pestle, adding several good pinches of fresh thyme and oregano and a slosh of olive oil to make a peppery pesto-type mixture.

Add the tomatoes to the ham mixture, followed by the ground herbs. Stir well. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain it, and add it to the frying pan. Using tongs, carefully mix the sauce through the spaghetti (this is a rather delicate procedure in our small frying pan), and continue mixing over the heat for several minutes. Serve immediately with a nice sharp cheese grated over the top.

Baked Mangrove Jack

Baked fish is such an easy weekday dinner – very quick and simple. We grabbed two reasonably sized fillets of mangrove jack from the supermarket and baked them with shallots, chives and pepper.

2 fillets fish (roughly 500-600g)
butter
shallots
red onion
chives
pepper
salt

Finely slice the shallots, red onion and chives. Place the fillets of fish on some tinfoil, and sprinkle the chopped herbs over them. Season the fillets with salt and pepper, and then if you wish place some lumps of butter on top of them. Place a second sheet of foil over the fish, and carefully fold in the edges, so that the fish is in a sealed packet.

Place the foil packet on a baking tray, and put in a 180C oven for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how thick the fish is. Fish cooks surprisingly quickly, so don’t overdo it.

Serve the fish on a bed of rice, with a drizzle of the butter over the top. I’d like to try this with a dill and lemon topping as well.

Wok – Beef Stir Fry

Thanks to the generosity of several people giving us gift vouchers to celebrate our engagement, we recently bought (among other things) this gorgeous stainless steel wok, which has enabled us to whip up quick stir-fries for dinner during the week. While we unfortunately have an electric stove, our barbecue has a gas burner, which means we can relax out on the verandah and create as much smoke from the wok as we like.

First we quickly brown the meat (mostly strips of beef, although we’ve also tried chicken) in a mixture of canola and sesame oil. Sesame oil is gorgeous – it gives everything a delightfully nutty flavour. When the meat is browned, we pop that into a bowl, and then pour the vegies into the wok. Our favourite vegies to stir fry at the moment are fresh beans and snow peas. I enjoy broccoli as well, but steam it for a couple of minutes beforehand so it doesn’t need as long in the wok.

When the vegies are cooked to our satisfaction (we like them fairly crunchy), we remove them as well. Some fresh sesame oil goes into the wok, along with some finely diced shallots and garlic, and several sloshes of soy sauce and hoisin sauce. We play around with the amounts until we’ve got a reasonable amount of sauce, then add the meat and the vegetables back into the wok. We fry it around briskly for a minute or two, until the meat is completely cooked and everything is coated in sauce, then remove the wok from the heat and serve it immediately with rice. Gorgeous.

Weekday Lunch – Pumpkin & Feta Scroll

This simple scroll is a pleasant alternative to a traditional sandwich, made on flat bread. If I wasn’t having anything else with it, I would add more vegetables, but it’s much easier to roll and transport with minimal ingredients inside.

1 large circle of flatbread
2 big spoonfuls roasted pumpkin
pesto
feta cheese spread
avocado

In the morning, lie out the round of bread, and spread it lightly with the pesto, feta spread, and avocado. Sprinkle the roast pumpkin pieces generously over 2/3 of the bread.

Tightly roll up the bread, squashing down the pumpkin inside the scroll, and then wrap in sandwich paper. Before lunch, slice into small pieces, both for ease of consumption and pretty presentation.