Friday, February 29, 2008

Presto Pasta Night #52

Get ready with the streamers and toot those horns - Presto Pasta Night turns 1! This makes the fifty-second time pasta lovers have banded together to celebrate that most humble ingredient and every week Ruth has lovingly collated the posts to form a mouth-watering display.

This week I'll be using this - Spaghetti alla Chitarra


it is a square cut spaghetti and it's made on a special device called the Chitarra. As these are an egg noodle and will cook in less than 5 minutes I'll be teaming them with another quick cooking ingredient - vongole


Vongole is the name given to a small clam, though these are much larger than the vongole I've seen in Italy.

Naturally enough, there's only one dish I could make - Spaghetti alle Vongole!

spaghetti alle vongole

Spaghetti alle Vongole
[Serves 2]

spaghetti alla chitarra
500 grams Vongole, cleaned
1 red onion, sliced finely
3 garlic cloves, sliced finely
1 long red chilli, sliced finely
4 tomatoes, roughly diced
fresh parsley, chopped

Make the sauce:

Heat some olive oil and a knob of butter in a large pan (it needs to be big enough to hold the vongole and the pasta when it is cooked) and when the butter has melted add the onion, garlic and chilli - cook slowly over a very low heat as you don't want the colour the ingredients, you just want their flavours to infuse into the oil/butter mix.

When the mixture has softened add the diced tomatoes - continue to cook over a low heat until the tomatoes break down.

You can make the sauce up to this stage in advance.

Assemble the dish:

You need to time the dish so that the vongole will have opened up by the time the pasta has cooked. The vongole are only going to take a minute or so to open - actual time will depend on their size.

Turn up the heat on the sauce so that it is simmering and then add the vongole - toss them through the mixture and place a lid on the pan. The lid will help trap the steam and this aids in their opening. Keep jiggling the pot to allow for an even distribution of heat.

When you see that the clams have opened, add the cooked, drained pasta and a handful of parsley and mix it through.

Serve immediately with an extra sprinkling of parsley and a grinding of black pepper.

spaghetti alle vongole


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mixed Tomato Salad

Andrew is back hosting this edition of Waiter, There's something in My... and selected the theme of Seasonal Salad.

Since in this part of the world we're still in summer I'm taking my inspiration from this colourful basket of tomatoes fresh from the farmers market


I don't remember all the names of the different varieties I've got here but the most striking surely is this - the Green Zebra tomato.

green zebra tomato

My philosophy with produce as good as this is to just keep it simple - the different varieties will provide all the interest you need and I'll just be adding fresh basil and a basic vinaigrette made with lemon-infused olive oil and white wine vinegar.

mixed tomato salad

Mixed Tomato Salad

variety of tomatoes
fresh basil leaves
lemon-infused olive oil
extra virgin olive oil
white wine vinegar
freshly ground sea salt flakes
freshly ground pepper

Besides using the various varieties of tomatoes, I also cut each variety a little differently according to their size, taste and texture to provide another point of interest.

Make the vinaigrette:
I normally use a ratio of 4 parts oil to 1 part vinegar - in this case I am using 3 parts extra virgin olive oil, 1 part lemon-infused olive oil and 1 part white wine vinegar. I whisk them together with a little salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble the salad:
Place the tomatoes into a bowl and sprinkle over with ripped basil leaves and a little of the vinaigrette. Toss gently to amalgamate and then arrange on your serving platter.

Finish with a little ground pepper and salt if desired and a garnish of basil leaves.

mixed tomato salad

The many colours of summer in an alluring salad that just bursts with freshness.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Potato

Alex from Eating Leeds announced she was celebrating the International Year of the Potato with a blog event, I knew I just had to take part - especially since my photo of the kipfler potato is actually part of official website.

So when it came to choosing a potato to use I couldn't really go past the kipfler


Kipflers are a waxy potato that are best used in salads or roasts - for this event I've gone for the salad route.

One of my all time favourite potato salads is a super simple parsley potato salad so using that as my inspiration, rather than make a parsley vinaigrette, I've made a parsley pesto and incorporated some crispy slices of chorizo to add some bite to dish.

Kipfler Potato Salad with Parsley Pesto and Chorizo

Kipfler Potato Salad with Parsley Pesto and Chorizo

kipfler potatoes, boiled/steamed until just tender
chorizo, sliced and cooked until crisp
Parsley Pesto
1 garlic clove
sea salt
20 grams parsley leaves
lemon zest
blanched almonds
freshly ground pepper
finely grated parmesan cheese
olive oil

Make the Parsley Pesto:

As I've said before, I prefer to make pesto using a mortar and pestle but you can use a food processor - it's your choice. If you don't like raw garlic, then replace it with some slow roasted garlic.

Pound the garlic clove and lemon zest with a little sea salt until it becomes a smooth paste and then add the parsley leaves, continue working to break down the leaves.

Add the pinenuts and almonds (you can just use pinenuts if you prefer) and work the mixture until it resembles a thick paste - drizzle in the oil a little at a time as you continue to pound the mixture, breaking any large pieces of nuts.

Finally sprinkle in a few tablespoons of parmesan - taste and then adjust the seasoning. Add enough olive oil to make a spreadable paste.

This can be stored in the fridge under a layer of oil to stop the pesto from oxidising.

Assemble the salad:

Peel the kipflers when still hot and slice along the vertical to form long pieces.

Place them in a bowl and add some of the pesto - tossing well.

Sprinkle in half of the chorizo slices and toss briefly before tumbling the potatoes into your serving dish.

Top with the remaining chorizo slices and serve at once.

kipfler potato salad with parlsey pesto and chorizo

This salad is best served warm and naturally enough, you can leave out the chorizo if so desired.

kipfler potato salad with parlsey pesto and chorizo


Monday, February 25, 2008


Ani from Food Chickie is hosting this edition of Weekend Cookbook Challenge and has us seeking out the domestic goddess within - the theme for this month is Nigella Lawson.

Considering the number of cookbooks I have, I surprisingly only have one Nigella book - Nigella Bites. Searching its pages I came upon the perfect recipe that I just had to make. When you think Nigella, there really isn't anything more "Nigella" then her cupcakes and no that has no alternative meaning.

Like most of her recipes these are incredibly simple to make and taste pretty good too. You can dress them up for more special occasions or just enjoy them as is - a satisfying taste of vanilla flecked through the delicate cake.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging #121

Lia from Swirling Notions is hosting Weekend Herb Blogging and this week I have something that's very colourful


Fresh from the farmers' market there was no way I could just walk past these multi-coloured carrots and not get myself a bunch or two.

Though they may look a bit odd to our modern eyes, it wasn't always that way. Purple and Red are the original carrot colours, the orange not taking hold until the 16th century when the Dutch created a carrot in honour of their royal family, the House of Orange.

We all know that orange carrots due to the presence of beta carotene makes them an excellent source of Vitamin A but what about the other colours?

The white carrots are pigment free so apart from the innate healthy properties associated with vegetables they don't have any other properties.

Yellow carrots have Lutene which help to keep your eyes healthy - it is also thought to help in the prevention of some forms of cancer and hardening of the arteries.

Red carrots contain Lycopene - it's useful in the fight against heart disease.

Purple carrots are a bit unusual as you'll see because they are orange on the inside and the skin colour comes from Anthocyanics, a type of antioxidant.

With all these good elements contained within their colourful package, the last thing I want to do is boil the goodness out of them. So for this weeks recipe, I'm simply going to roast them in the oven.

roasted carrots

Oven-roasted Carrots

assorted carrots
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
garlic cloves
orange-infused olive oil, optional

Wash the carrots well and trim the tops. I've only peeled those that had blemishes. I've also cut the larger ones in half lengthways to even out the size and make sure they will all cook in roughly the same amount of time.

Drizzle them in a little olive oil, then grind over with salt and pepper - toss them well and then lay them out on a lined tray. Stud unpeeled garlic cloves amongst the carrots - these will caramelise in their skins as the carrots cook.

carrots ready for the oven

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F until slightly softened - turn them after 20 minutes to make sure they cook evenly. I like to keep a bit of a bite to the carrots but you if you like them softer, just cook them for longer.

roasted carrots©

You can serve them straight from the oven but I like to add an extra touch - a light drizzle of orange-infused Olive oil just lifts the flavour and adds an appealing citrus note.

roasted carrots©


Friday, February 22, 2008

Sugar High Friday #40

For this edition of Sugar High Friday hosted by Rachel from Vampituity, we've been asked to indulge our sweet cravings for a cause (you'll find more details of this at the end of the post) - in fact the theme is to "cook up a pie that evokes personal dreams".

There is a pie that with just its name has me dreaming of Italy and reminiscing of my time spent there. Torta della Nonna was something I first tasted in Florence and from the very first bite, it was love. Served still warm from the oven, the combination of buttery pasta frolla and lemony semolina and ricotta filling proved utterly irresistible.

Having scoured many sources to find the secret to the filling I think I've found something that comes close to those I've had - it is based on Ursula Ferrigno's Grandmothers Pie from her book La Dolce Vita.

torta della nonna

Torta della Nonna (Grandmothers's Pie)
[Makes one 20cm/8inch Pie]

Pasta Frolla or you can use your favourite shortcrust pastry
1 cup/250mls milk
100 grams semolina
1 lemon, zested and juiced
300 grams ricotta
2 eggs
100 grams caster sugar

Make the Filling:
Heat the milk in a saucepan until just warm - rain in the semolina, stirring as you do to stop any lumps forming. Add the lemon zest and continue to stir until the mixture thickens and comes away from the side of the pan. Take it off the heat to cool.

Push the ricotta through a fine sieve - this just helps to lighten the mixture. Place the sieved ricotta into a large bowl, add the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and cooled semolina mixture and using an electric mixer, beat until thoroughly mixed.

Prepare the pastry case:
Divide the dough into two - 2/3rds for the base and 1/3rd to form the top.

Roll the larger piece out to line the base and sides of a loose-bottomed 20cm/8inch round sandwich pan. Make sure the pastry overhangs the lip to make joining the top easier.

Pour the prepared filling into the case, smoothing it out to level the surface. It will rise when it cooks so don't worry if it doesn't reach the top of your pie case.

Roll the smaller piece of pastry to form a circle a little larger than the tin.

Brush the lip with a little milk before placing the pastry top - press down to make sure the dough sticks and then trim to size.

Lightly brush the top with the milk and a sprinkle of caster sugar.

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F for about 30-35 minutes or until the pastry is golden and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing it to a wire rack.

Generously dust it with icing sugar.


While it's wonderful cold, I heartily recommend eating it warm.

torta della nonna

The combination of lemon and semolina gives the filling a lovely lemon colour to it - the ricotta makes it wonderfully creamy without being heavy - you'll certainly be lining up for seconds!

torta della nonna

Sound delicious?
Make a contribution to a non-profit helping to transform the world of food through pie- Pie Ranch.
Please specify "Pie Ranch/Green Oaks Fund” in the "Designation" field of the online donation form (Pie Ranch is fiscally sponsored by the Rudolph Steiner Foundation) at:


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Presto Pasta Night #51

For this weeks Presto Pasta Night I'm trying a different type of pasta

wholemeal spelt pappardelle

These are Wholemeal Spelt Pappardelle - using spelt imparts a nutty flavour to these wide pasta strips.

Using this type of pasta does make the dish more filling so rather than use a heavy sauce which it can handle I went for a lighter approach.

At the market I found some lovely fresh calamari and from there the dish evolved - a slowly simmered infusion of garlic, ginger and chilli would form the base of the sauce. At the last moment, finely diced tomatoes and parsley are added as well the seared calamari and then it's all tossed through the pappardelle.

Wholemeal Spelt Pappardelle with Calamari

Wholemeal Spelt Pappardelle with Calamari
[Serves 2]

Wholemeal Spelt Pappardelle
1 calamari tube
garlic, finely sliced
ginger, finely sliced
1 long red chilli, finely sliced
3 tomatoes, finely diced
fresh parsley, finely sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper

Prepare the Calamari:
Slice the Calamari tube along its length to create one flat piece and then on the inside, create a crisscross pattern on the flesh making sure you don't cut all the way through.

Slice this into finger sized strips - toss in a little olive oil and some finely diced chilli and allow to infuse.

Make the sauce:
Over a very low heat, add some olive oil and a good knob of butter to a pan and allow to slowly melt. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and being careful not to allow the mix to colour, cook it for about 10 minutes. You should end up with a lovely aromatic base. You can make the base up to this stage ahead of time. Just bring it back up to temperature as you are cooking the calamari.

Cook the calamari:
The calamari should be cooked around the time the pasta is just about cooked.

Season them with freshly ground salt and pepper and cook them quickly in a very hot pan so they sear rather than sweat - you could do this over a grill as well.

Due to the criss-cross pattern the calamari develops a rather attractive curl as they cook.

Complete the dish:
Add the finely diced tomato and parsley to the base - stir them through to mix and then add the just seared calamari and drained pasta. Season well with salt and freshly ground white pepper, give it another toss through and then it's ready to serve.

Wholemeal Spelt Pappardelle with Calamari

This would work equally well with prawns and scallops or you could leave out the fish altogether and replace it with a good grating of pecorino or parmesan.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No Croutons Required

No Croutons Required is a new blog event focused on celebrating soups and salads and for the first edition the theme selected by Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen is Vegetarian Soup.

I do quite like serving soups as "sips" especially during summer when you don't really want to face a full bowl.
To keep it seasonal I'm using fresh asparagus and potato to help with consistency. Rather than using vegetable stock or water, I've used milk - this helps give the finished soup and luxuriously creamy texture without using any cream.

I've also stayed away from adding too many extraneous ingredients as I just want to focus on the flavour of the produce - it is just simply seasoned with salt and white pepper.

As a final touch, a stick/immersion blender is used to foam up the soup resulting in a lovely light texture.

asparagus and potato soup©

Asparagus and Potato Soup

200 grams Asparagus, cut into pieces
100 grams Potato, cut into small dice
sea salt
freshly ground white pepper

Place the asparagus pieces and potato in a small pot and pour in enough milk to cover the ingredients.

Gently simmer until the asparagus and potato are soft - remove from the heat and blend until to smooth - taste and then season with salt and white pepper.

If you want an ultra smooth result, strain the soup through a fine sieve.

Add a little more milk to slacken then mixture and then place it back on the heat to warm to serving temperature.

Just before serving, use the stick blender to fluff up the soup and then pour into small glasses.

asparagus and potato soup©


Monday, February 18, 2008

Cheese: Red Hill

If you are a fan of washed rind as I am, then you'll be most interested in this next cheese.

red hill bushranger gold ©

Cheese Maker: Red Hill Cheese
Cheese: Bushranger Gold
Location: 81 William Road (Off Arthurs Seat Road), Red Hill
Cellar Door: Open daily Noon-5pm (except Christmas, Boxing Day & Good Friday)

red hill bushranger gold ©

Bushranger Gold is a washed rind, goat cheese and that warning sticker is really unnecessary as your nose will immediately tell you that is one of those delightfully stinky cheeses. While taking these photos, even through the wrapper those heady mushroom scents kept wafting up to tease me.

red hill bushranger gold ©

Bushranger Gold is described as
A wild washed-rind goat-milk cheese with a delectable, complex cauliflower flavour, lingering on the palate. Mild when young; sticky and pungent with an explosive flavour when fully mature.
It is also made using vegetarian rennet.

red hill bushranger gold ©

I must include a caveat that the "best by date" for this particular cheese is March 15th - so at this early stage of maturation, the flavours are all very mild. It will be very interesting to compare another specimen closer to its best by date.

red hill bushranger gold ©

I would imagine that the interior would become a bit more runnier along with an intesification of flavours and aroma. Currently the skin is highly edible and though the interior is firm, it still is quite creamy in the mouth.

red hill bushranger gold ©

Paalo thought this had similar characteristics to a Taleggio and can vouch for its delectability.

If you are unsure of washed rinds then this would be a really good place to start and perhaps built up to a more matured version.

Other Red Hill Cheese:
Red Hill Indulgence
Red Hill Sorrento Picnic


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging #120

Erin from The Skinny Gourmet is hosting this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and I have one of the more deliriously delicious fruits on offer, Mango


The cultivation and use of mango spans over 6000 years and is a native plant of India and South-east Asia. It belongs to the same family as pistachios and poison ivy.


Vitamins A, B5, B6, C, E and K, Folate, Niacin, Riboflavin and Thiamine as well as Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorous, Potassium, and Selenium. Just from its colour alone you can see that it is high in Beta-Carotene. It also has enzymes that help with digestion and the health of your intestinal system.

As a nod its rich tradition in Indian cuisine and its benefit as an aid to digestion, I'll be using mango to make my version of a Mango Lassi - it may not be traditional but it still tastes good.

mango lassi©

Mango Lassi

1 mango
1 cup yoghurt
handful ice cubes
fresh mint leaves

I should make mention of the yoghurt I've used in this Lassi

shaw river buffalo yoghurt©

It's a bit unusual - this is Shaw River Buffalo Yoghurt and it is produced here in Victoria from a herd of Italian Buffalo that are also used for the production of buffalo mozzarella. The yoghurt has a pure white colour with a gentle tang - it is also enriched with acidophilus and bifidus cultures.

To make the Lassi:

Slice the mango into two halves as close as you can to the pit. Scoop the flesh from each cheek using a spoon. Cut the flesh away from the pit and then remove it from the skin.

Place all the mango flesh into a blender along with the yoghurt and generous handful of ice and fresh mint leaves.

Blend until smooth and creamy.

Serve immediately.

You don't need the excuse of a hot curry to enjoy this drink - it's also good to have with breakfast.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Presto Pasta Night #50

It just seems like yesterday that Ruth came up with the whole concept of Presto Pasta Night and here we are celebrating the 50th edition and in two weeks time it will be its first anniversary. It certainly has been a showcase for the versatility of pasta.

This week I have some fresh angel hair pasta

angel hair pasta©

With its finer cut, this pasta really cooks in a flash so I thought my recipe should also very quick to put together.

I've whipped up a tarragon-parsley pesto - I've used parsley as I find tarragon can be a bit too overpowering and parsley lightens the taste of tarragon and adds a freshness to the dish. I've also used a mix of pinenuts and blanched almonds to give it a bit more character.

I'll be using this pesto to compliment some beautiful Hervey Bay Scallops - these will be quickly seared at the last moment and tossed through the dressed pasta.

Once again, as I am using seafood, the pesto won't contain any cheese.

Angel Hair Pasta with Tarragon-Parsley Pesto and Scallops

Angel Hair Pasta with Tarragon-Parsley Pesto and Seared Scallops

fresh angel hair pasta
fresh scallops

Tarragon-Parsley Pesto:
fresh tarragon leaves
fresh parsley leaves
1 garlic clove
sea salt flakes
blanched almonds
extra virgin olive oil

Make the Pesto:

I like to use a mortar and pestle rather than a processor - it's virtually just as quick but gives a much nicer texture to pesto - you can get a sense of the different elements rather than it being a textureless paste.

Place the garlic clove and a little sea salt flakes into your pestle and begin pounding it - when it has become a smooth paste add the parsley and tarragon leaves. Continue working to break down the leaves.

Next add the pinenuts and almonds and when you have a thick paste add the oil, a little at a time. Continue to break down any larger pieces of nuts.

Taste and adjust the seasoning if required.

If you aren't going to use it straight away, store it in the fridge - make sure you add a little extra oil over the top to stop the pesto from oxidising.

Prepare the scallops:

Drizzle a little olive oil in a dish and add the scallops, turning them to coat. Season with a grinding of sea salt and white pepper.

I cooked the scallops just before I drain the pasta - searing them in a hot pan for about 30 seconds each side.

Assemble the dish:

Toss the barely drained hot pasta through the pesto - mixing well to combine and then drop in the scallops. Gently toss them through and then serve.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cheese: Meredith Dairy

Meredith Dairy is a sheep and goat farm situated in South-western Victoria that has been producing cheese since the early 90's. Their aim is to produce "farmhouse" style cheese using both French techniques and cultures.

Meredith Dairy Woodburne

Cheese: Meredith Dairy Woodburne
Cheese Maker: Meredith Dairy
Location: Camerons Road, Meredith 

Meredith Dairy Woodburne

Woodburne is made in a French farmhouse style (Camembert) - it is a white mould, surface ripened cheese. It is sold at between 2 and 4 weeks of age and reaches full maturation at 8 weeks. You'll find that as it matures the flavours will develop and the interior will break down into that gorgeous runny ooze that is so loved.

Meredity Dairy Woodburne

With this particular cheese you can see the cheese closed to the rind has begun to break down - this is still 2 weeks away from reaching full ripeness. It also hasn't been out of the fridge for too long so you will see, as it comes up to room temperature that it will tend to become runnier.

Meredity Dairy Woodburne

There is a lovely sweet creaminess to the cheese with an appealing bite found in the rind.

I sourced this cheese from Leo's in Kew but I've also read that Meredith Dairy can be found in the US - it is available by special order.

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