Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 Retrospective

Nupur from One Hot Stove came up with a great idea in which we look back over the year and pick out our favourite dishes. It's a hard thing to do but I've given it a go and come up with a list of sorts, offered in no particular order I've selected a baker's dozen for good measure.

1. Tomato and Basil Cleanser

tomato and basil cleanser

This is really two recipes in one dish and is a play on that classic combination of tomato and basil. A ball of basil ice cream sits in a bath of cold-pressed tomato soup. This was one that was a given in my list as I think it not all satisfies your palette it also satisfies your other senses.

2. Scrambled Eggs with White Truffle

scrambled eggs with truffle

There isn't much of a recipe but this something that I could never tire of and being able to share the experience with family in Italy made it all the more special.

3. Jewelled Amaranth

jewelled amaranth

This could be classed as my beautiful mistake. It's a dish that started one way and ended up some place totally different. This highlighted the point for me, that we should always be open to the unknown and just go with the flow and see where it takes you.

4. Ajo Blanco

ajo blanco

What can I say about Ajo Blanco that hasn't been said before? It's an insanely simple recipe that produces the most amazing soup you'll ever taste. It really is a dish you have to make yourself to truly understand the reaction it instils.

5. Cocoa Nib and Glacé Orange Cookies

cocoa nib and glace orange cookies

We've all had the chocolate and orange combination before but not quite like this. This is a cookie for the adults in the family, the flavours are a little more mature, a little more intense but are wrapped in a buttery cookie dough.

6. Purple Congo Gnocchi

purple congo gnocchi

For a variety of potato I wasn't very found of I was more than pleasantly surprised to find they were perfectly suited to make the most eye-catching and tasty gnocchi.

7. Ginger and Lemon Barley Water

Ginger and Lemon Barley Water

It may be old-fashioned but with Summer well and truly taking hold at the moment, something refreshing is needed and it's hard to go past this.

8. Stewed Rhubarb and Coconut Sago

stewed rhubarb and coconut sago

This is a recipe that changes according to the seasons - in summer substitute berries and stone fruit and in winter this provides a different way of serving stewed rhubarb

9. Gnocchi alla Romana

Gnocchi alla Romana

A classic dish from Lazio that defies any alterations.

10. Black Genoa Figs with Buffalo Mozzarella "a la Pearl"

black genoa figs

I had this at a restaurant and enjoyed it so much I had to go home and make it myself. Hats off to Pearl.

11. Pineapple Upside Down Cakelets


A sure way to Paalo's heart is this favourite of his - individual pineapple upside down cakes.

12. Salmon and Caviar Timbale


A favourite during summer - it's quick to prepare but looks a million dollars.

13. Toffee Coated Marzipan Walnuts

toffee coated marzipan walnuts

These are just evil...pure evil. You don't need chocolate when you have these.

I hope you've enjoyed this walk down memory lane, it certainly has brought back some good memories for me.

Here's hoping that 2008 will bring even more delights to enjoy.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas

Seasons Greetings to all - from my family to yours - have a safe and very happy Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Jasper Coffee Christmas Cup

Last Year, Jasper Coffee came up with their special Christmas Star Blend and for this year they have their Christmas Cup


Unlike the previous blend, there's no indication of the varieties used in this but it is made with 100% Arabica beans and if you believe the label, they come from the North Pole.


To drink, it's full flavoured with a touch of sweetness, smooth with no bitterness. If you're looking for something seasonal to have with your Christmas pud then perhaps this is worth a go.

Unfortunately it's only on sale until Christmas and then it magically disappears.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #113

Astrid from Paulchen's Food Blog is our host for the last edition of Weekend Herb Blogging for this year. Fear not, it begins again in the New Year when Kalyn will be hosting.

This week I have potatoes on my mind, or more particularly, a certain potato on my mind.

Blue Catriona Potato

This is called Blue Catriona and it is best used to make baked potatoes. Now I don't remember the last time I made baked potatoes but this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to rectify that situation.

It also provided me with an opportunity to try out this smoked pancetta from the Barossa Valley.


A great ingredient to form part of a stuffing, along with onion and capsicum and the baked potato interior. Add some cheesy goodness in the form of Bocconcini and you've got a tasty dish for all seasons.

Baked Stuffed Potato

Baked Stuffed Potato

blue catriona potatoes or choose those ones that are best suited to baking
1 red onion, finely sliced
pancetta, cut into fine cubes
1 red capsicum, sliced finely
bocconcini, torn into small pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bake the potato:
Pierce the potato evenly and then rub in a little oil into the skin. Season with freshly ground salt and then bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven until cooked through. The time needed will depend on the size of the potato. Do remember to turn the potato over half way through the cooking time.

You can set the baked potatoes to one side as you make the stuffing.

Make the stuffing:
Heat up a little olive and butter in a pan over a medium-low heat and when the butter has melted add the onion and pancetta. Sauté this slowly until the onions have coloured - add the sliced capsicum and continue cooking until they have softened. Taste and then season if required.

Assemble the Baked Stuffed Potatoes:

Cut each potato in half and scoop out the flesh leaving a thick rim around the skin. Add this potato flesh to the cooked filling. Place a little ripped bocconcini into each potato case and add some to the filling. Give it a gentle stir as you don't want to mash up the potato flesh too much before placing this filling into the potato cases.

Mound the stuffing generously into each case and then top with a little more cheese.

Return to the oven and cook until the potato has heated up and the cheese has melted.

stuffed baked potato

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Presto Pasta Night #42

For this week's Presto Pasta Night I find myself back in Italy. As I work through all the photos from our trip I've uncovered yet another dish that I just seemed to have forgotten. Once again, the pasta is from the Florence market and this time it's ravioli.


These are your basic meat filled ravioli, you could also use a spinach and ricotta filled variety if you so desire. I've kept the sauce quite simple but with good clean flavours. At the time the market was full of unbelievably wonderful zucchini flowers

zucchini flowers

so it was a given that they would be used in some way. I teamed them up with another ingredient in season, cherry tomatoes to give me what I think is, spring on a plate.

Ravioli with Cherry Tomatoes and Zucchini Flowers

Ravioli with Cherry Tomatoes and Zucchini Flowers

fresh ravioli
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
cherry tomatoes, halved
zucchini flowers, stamen removed

Heat a little oil and a knob of butter in a pan over a medium-low heat and when the butter has melted add the onion. Let this cook for a few minutes before adding the sliced garlic. Sauté this gently until the onion has softened and is only starting to colour.

Tumble in the cherry tomatoes and toss them through the onions - cook these enough so they just start to break down. Add in the zucchini flowers, stir and when these have begun to wilt you can add the cooked ravioli and toss again.

Season with a little freshly salt and pepper, toss again and then serve at once.

Rather than sprinkle over grated cheese, to keep it fresh, just a light drizzle of some good fruit extra virgin olive oil will be the perfect finishing touch.

ravioli with cherry tomatoes and zucchini flowers

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

I've got (Italian) mail


I'm totally surprised but the packages I mailed from Italy beat me home!

Well, almost all of them. I'm still waiting on one I sent from Venice, oddly enough I have the other two I sent with it. I do hope it didn't get lost on the way.

They arrived in fairly good condition except for the largest package.


Its corners are now gaping holes. On opening we discovered the cause of this. Somehow half of the bottom of the box ended up in water (I know I posted it sea mail but that is taking it a little too far). You can see the tell tale drying mark in the cardboard. A couple of my magazines are a little water damaged but other than that the rest of the contents survived.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Not a Niçoise Salad

This is most definitely not a Niçoise salad. It does indeed have some of the ingredients you might find in a Niçoise but as I am not from Nice nor do I live in Nice and don't want to get on the wrong side of the Niçoise purists, this is just a salad that happens to have tuna in it.

fresh tuna© by haalo

Not canned tuna but some of this lovely fresh tuna fillet. It will be simply seasoned with salt and pepper and then quickly grilled to leave it still pink in the middle.

The next major ingredient is potato

baby potatoes© by haalo

now these aren't your average baby potatoes, these are beyond small. To give you an indication of size, I put one of the larger ones into a tablespoon

potato© by haalo

See, they are small. These are great, just give them a good wash, then boil and steam until tender and that is it - no need to peel. You can find these at Mow's Potato Stall at Prahran Market.

Along with tomatoes, lettuce, onion, green beans, olives, anchovies and boiled eggs, these all get tossed together with a light dressing to give you this

not a niçoise salad© by haalo

Not a Niçoise Salad

tuna fillet
baby potatoes, boiled/steamed until tender
green beans, boiled/steamed until tender, sliced
salad onion, finely sliced
iceberg or cos lettuce, roughly sliced
olives, stoned and halved
anchovy fillets, chopped finely
baby roma tomates, halved
eggs, 1 per person, boiled and quartered (I like to leave the yolks a little soft)
Vinaigrette made from 1 part vinegar and 3 parts olive oil, seasoned with salt to taste

Drizzle the tuna fillet with a little oil, then season with freshly ground salt and pepper. Heat up a non-stick pan or grill and when hot, add the tuna. Cook until just browned and then turn immediately, brown the other side and then remove from heat. This shouldn't take more than a minute to do but if you like your tuna well-done then continue cooking until it's at preferred level of doneness. Set it aside to rest while you assemble the salad.

Place the lettuce, onion, olives, anchovies, tomatoes, green beans and potatoes in a large bowl and toss well. Drizzle over with the Vinaigrette and then toss again. Scoop this out onto a serving platter. Place the boiled egg quarters around the edge.

Slice the tuna - slice it fine or thick or as I did in this case into mid sized cubes and place it over the top of the salad. Drizzle over with a little more Vinaigrette and serve at once.

Once all the prep work is done it really does make for an easy lunch or dinner option.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #112

Simona from Bricole is our host for this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and this week I'll be using spinach


Funny looking spinach but I was a very bad blogger and while in Italy didn't post nearly as much as I thought I would which means I do have some things left over to write about from my time there - this spinach is one of them.

Whether it be in the market or some little shop, you would see these balls of boiled spinach or cime di rapa or chard available. I'm not really a person that buys pre-made things but when in Italy, do as the locals do.

We all know that spinach is good for us, full of Vitamins and antioxidants I decided to make a rather nourishing Spinach risotto. Now instead of doing the traditional "mantecato" of butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano I thought I'd take a different approach and use this instead


It's called Stracchino and it is a soft and creamy cows milk cheese with a rather mild flavour, you see it used in Piadina in Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. Added at the end it gives the risotto a wonderful creamy texture - it's cheesy without feeling heavy and with the spinach, I thought it made a perfect match.

spinach risotto

Spinach Risotto with Stracchino

1 onion, chopped finely
1 carrot, chopped finely
1 stalk celery, chopped finely
Aquerello Rice or your favourite Risotto Rice
chicken or vegetable stock
cooked spinach
salt and freshly ground white pepper
olive oil

Heat a little oil and a good amount of butter in a deep pan over a medium heat and when the butter has melted add the onion, carrot and celery - sauté until softened but not coloured before adding the rice.

Cook the rice off until the grains are glossy and have become a bit translucent.

Add a ladle of bubbling stock - it should evaporate pretty quickly and when it has, add another, remembering to stir the rice as you do to keep it fluffy.

Once this stock has been absorbed, continue to add stock, you can increase the quantity of stock you add each time but remember to keep an eye on the pot and to stir the rice well. About half way through the cooking time add in the cooked spinach.

When the rice is just about ready and the last of the stock has been absorbed add in the Stracchino stirring it vigorously into the risotto - taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve at once.


If you have any leftover, then this makes a great base for arancini.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Rice Paper Rolls with Chicken

For this edition of Presto Pasta Night I'm really focusing on the presto part and using these rice noodles, called Vermicelli

rice vermicelli

These noodles are great and just need soaking to soften and when the weather is warming up, anything that keeps the temperature down is a winner in my eyes.

I'll be using them as part of a filling for Rice Paper Rolls - rice paper being another godsend that just requires a little soaking in tepid water before they can be used. You really can use whatever you have sitting around to go into the filling, in this case I'm using sautéed chicken breast and spring onions and some good crisp lettuce to give the rolls a little crunch as you eat them.

rice paper rolls

Rice Paper Rolls with Chicken

rice paper sheets
rice vermicelli, soaked until tender
sautéed chicken breast, sliced
sautéed spring onions
cos lettuce, shredded
salt and freshly ground white pepper
sweet chilli sauce

In a bowl, mix together the cold rice vermicelli, sliced chicken, spring onion, lettuce, salt, pepper and some sweet chilli sauce to taste.

On a softened rice paper sheet, lay some of the mixture near the bottom edge. Fold over to just cover the filling, turn in the sides and then continue rolling until you reach the end of the sheet. Place this on a dish and continue until all the filling is used.

You can store the rolls covered for a little while in the fridge before eating. Serve with some extra sweet chilli sauce on the side.

rice paper rolls

Simple, quick and tasty, there isn't much more to ask for.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New Knives

I hate to admit this but I lost my Chef's knife (insert dramatic sting)

My beautiful and faithful servant, I remember just how long it took to find it, testing countless knives before one felt just right, perfectly balanced, it was a perfect fit.

What's worse is that it isn't the first knife I've lost. I can't exactly explain how I lost it, let's just say it ended up in the bin. First I "lost" my utility knife and just before I went away I "lost" my Chef's knife. I had thought I could just replace it with another but currently none of the stores that had them are stocking them anymore.

While Paalo stopped over in Tokyo he happened upon a knife stall in the Tsukiji Market and knowing my predicament he purchased for me a most beautiful knife.

sugimoto wrapping

Sugimoto started in the 1830's, back then they made swords and knives and as time progressed they developed their skills to what they are today, true craftsmen. If you go to their stall in the market you will see that the knives are all hand forged and hand made.

Deba Knife

Inside its wooden sheath is a traditional Japanese style knife - it is called Deba and it is used for fish filleting and slicing of meats and fish

Sugimoto Deba Knife

The difference between this and a Western style knife is that it is single sided - it is sharpened only on one side and this allows for a very fine edge.

sugimoto deba knife

sugimoto deba knife

Just perfect as a sushi knife.

As Paalo was so impressed with Tokyo he decided that I just had to see it for myself, so on the way back to Australia we stopped over for 3 days where I managed to add another two knives from Sugimoto

sugimoto chef's knife

Both Western Style, I finally have my new Chef's knife and

sugimoto utility knife

utility knife.

The balance has been restored and I will do my best not to lose these!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cheese: Yarra Valley Dairy

During this festive season there are many functions happening that you might well be looking for something for your cheese plate and I suppose that it is appropriate that I resume this cheese series with a cheese from my home state.


Cheese Maker: Yarra Valley Dairy
Cheese Name: Persian Fetta
Location: McMeikans Road, Yering, Victoria
Open Daily: 10.30am - 5.00pm

Inside this can is a silken prize and one of my favourites - cows milk fetta marinated in a blend of extra virgin olive oil, herbs and spices.

Persian Fetta

Open the lid and a wonderful aroma wafts up - a mix of herbs with just a touch of garlic to round it off.


The fetta itself is incredibly creamy, some fetta can be a little dry but this just dissolves and clings to your tongue. This is a cheese you can gladly eat just with some good crusty bread, it really doesn't need anything else. Beware, once opened one of these cans will disappear quickly so you might well need to get two!

If you must you could add it to salads, sandwiches or bake it in a savoury tart or pie. Don't throw away the oil, use it in salad dressing or toss vegetables through it before roasting them for extra flavour.

Related Posts
Yarra Valley Dairy Gemello
Yarra Valley Dairy Grabbetto
Timboon Farmhouse Marinated Fetta
Marinated Fetta

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Take the Long Way



I still don't think I have all my senses intact, some are floating in the air over Vladivostok but I'm sure they will soon return to me.

A big Thank You to all that have written while I've been away and for your many well wishes, it's been so lovely to receive them. I hope to get back into the swing of things in the next few days and will finally finish those last 10 days of the trip now that I've got working internet and am not falling asleep in mid-sentence.

I do think the worse of the jet-lag is over...I hope.

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