Tasting

For the foodies

Super Slutty Spaghetti alla Puttanesca


Good news folks! My urge to play in the kitchen has returned, and, given the blog needs a top up of tasty coupled with a spot of scintillation, here's the perfect combo - Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. It's my 'when' dish. When there's a chill in the air, when time is poor, when a robust red deserves a tasty counterpart, when loved ones suddenly lob and need feeding. Been a number of 'when's lately. Wins too. A friend recently exclaiming 'this recipe's going straight to the blog'! Right said I, for who can resist a quick and tasty, easy on the waistline dish that can be knocked up in 10 minutes from mere pantry staples when one's too lazy to trawl the supermarket?

'Slut's Spaghetti', 'Working Girl's Pasta', 'Prostitute's Pasta' - so what's in a name?

Puttanesca has a sauce base of capers, olives and tomatoes and is usually served with spaghetti in a dish known as 'whore-style pasta'. Nigella calls her version 'Slut's Spaghetti', Jamie's recipe titled 'Working Girl's Pasta'. 'The name 'Prostitute's Pasta' originating from folk-law claiming the savvy Puttanas (prostitute in Italian) made the quick and easy pasta sauce to minimise down time between clients. Others say the robust aromas of the dish were designed to entice clients into the house of ill repute. A less audacious version indicating the sauce was created by a chef who had a volume of guests arrive at his restaurant late one night just as he was about to close and, not having enough of any one ingredient to make a meal for them all, pulled everything from the kitchen together to make this legendary Italian pasta sauce.

My favourite theory? Tongue in cheek, LV Anderson (Prostitutes have nothing to do with it) says Italians use puttana (and related words) almost the way we use shit, as an all-purpose profanity, so pasta alla puttanesca might just have originated with someone saying, “I just threw a bunch of shit from the cupboard into a pan.”

The origins of its name might be debatable but one thing's for certain - it really does make an easy, quick, cheap and delicious pasta sauce! And seriously, who can resist a dish with such a shady title? Here's my version. Enjoy!

Need:

  • 400 g dried spaghetti (or linguini)
  • olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced (avoid using a garlic crusher for finely crushed garlic will burn before absorbing the aromatics)
  • 3 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
  • 1 small Chorizo sausage, roughly chopped (optional)
  • tablespoon tomato puree
  • a small handful of salted capers, rinsed and drained; or brine version, drained
  • 1-2 fresh red chillies, sliced (seeds in if you like it hot, hot, hot, out if you like it mild)
  • a small handful of black and/or green Sicilian olives, de-stoned
  • 2 handfuls very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
  • a small bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked
  • Parmesan cheese, to serve

 Do:

  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, then add the spaghetti and cook according to packet instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, place a large frying pan over a medium–high heat. Add a good lug of olive oil, followed by the garlic, anchovy, chorizo, capers, chilli and tomato puree. Tear in the olives and stir for 2 minutes, or until the garlic starts to turn golden and the anchovies start melting.
  3. Add the cherry tomatoes, a good splash of pasta water and cover with a lid. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the cherry tomatoes start to cook down slightly.
  4. Drain the pasta, reserving a cupful of the cooking water.
  5. Add the basil to the sauce along with the pasta and a splash of the reserved cooking water, to loosen.
  6. Taste and season if needed.
  7. Transfer to a serving platter and top with a good shaving of fresh Parmesan and Basil leaves.
  8. Reap accolades while smiling to self 'prostitutes be damned'
Recipe based on Jamie Oliver's Gennaro's Spaghetti Alla Puttnesca

Wanna be dessert queen?

Want to be front and centre hero at your Christmas soirées this year? Here’s a perfect poser dessert that will reward your ego with grateful accolades, a champagne toast or two (or three) and requests for the formula.

My friend Jen presents this fabulous dessert at her Christmas luncheon to the delighted applause and plate licking pleasure of her guests. I picked up the baton and posted the recipe several years ago, had fun playing with the formula recently and, for the requesters, here’s an update. Plus a variety of options. Perfect for entertaining 8 to 10 of your nearest and dearest any time of year and ever so easy to knock up between those pesky household chores the day before serving.

Click here for Recipe

Need:
2 x 220g bottles chocolate Ice Magic

2 litres Cookies & Cream ice cream

1 litre Vanilla ice cream

2 packets Oreo Cookies

Oil spray

500g Strawberries for decoration

Do:
1) Spray a 22cm springform pan with oil spray then line the sides and base with a double layer of baking paper, extending 6cm above the rim of the pan

2) Squeeze one bottle of Ice Magic over the base of the pan and spread to cover surface. Tap on bench to settle then pop in freezer until set

3) Scoop 1/2 the Cookies & Cream ice cream into a bowel and stand at room temperature or until slightly softened

4) Spoon the softened Cookies & Cream ice cream over the Ice Magic layer and press into an even layer with the back of a spoon

5) Freeze for one hour or until firm

6) Gently pulse one packet of the Oreos until coarsly crumbled

7) Sprinkle Oreo crumbs evenly across the layer and return to freezer

8) Soften Vanilla ice cream in the same manner and spoon over Oreo crumb layer

9) Freeze for one hour or until firm

10) repeat steps 6 and 7

11) Spoon remaining  1/2 of the Cookies & Cream ice cream over the Oreo crumb layer

12) Cover and freeze over night, until ready to serve

13) Remove the side of the pan and carefully transfer cake to a chilled platter or cake stand

14) Top with strawberries and drizzle with the remaining Ice Magic

15) Serve immediately to the grateful hoards

Enjoy!

PS: Have fun experimenting with different flavours! A few to get you started:

  • Substitute Cookies and Cream for Caramel or Chocolate ice cream
  • Substitute Oreo Cookies for Maltesers or crushed choc mint biscuits
  • Substitute Strawberries for tempered chocolate shards and Maltesers or mint cookies

Choices, choices!

 

20140111-084054Thank you Australian Woman’s Weekly for the concept.

 

Classy Burratas darlinks?

Drop that recipe book and listen up fellow foodies! Here’s an elegant, visually appealing dish guaranteed to scintillate your guest’s tastebuds – brought to you by a classy lady who knows how to knock ’em dead with her culinary expertise – Jane. No not this Jane, the other Jane. You know – the one who, in an effort to round up her wayward Dinner en Blanc wannabe guests, enticed us all to participate in a gentle afternoon soiree fueled with laughter, a menu to die for, a wine or six and all under the guise of a practice run for the actual event. Seven sighs of satisfaction, a joyous chorus of ‘This one’s going straight to the Blog!’  and here it is…

Burrata with Blood Orange, Coriander Seeds and Lavender Oil 

Need:

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 11/2 tsp clear runny honey
  • 3/4 tsp dried lavender
  • 1/2 small garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted
  • 2 blood oranges (320g) or 2 medium oranges
  • 4 burrata* balls (440g)
  • 5g basil or micro-basil leaves
  • coarse sea salt

(more…)

Mahi Mahi delish…

Hmmm…seems we’ve a bit of a food focus going on here. Something to do with snuggly winter nights hibernating with good friends, wine, food. 

Now you saw that Triple sec Trifle right? The one I promoted in my previous post? The desert lovingly presented by the gorgeous Reuben that scintillated taste buds to the point of share and brag? Well in that post I also discreetly hinted for the main dish recipe and the dear man came through. Was it the prospect of fame based on the blog’s ever increasing followers? Or the sheer pleasure of sharing the methodology with a fellow aspiring chef. Suspect a little of both so let’s test drive Reuben’s recipe then take ownership for the resulting accolades with a nod to the man, just as he did to Alasdair McLeod.  

From Reuben’s pen:

Reuben's Mahi Mahi recipePan fried Mahi Mahi, Kipfler potato salad and Mandarin on a Cress nest (GF). This dishisheavily influenced by my favourite chef, Alistair Mcleod. The dish serves four people.  It’s really easy to do but quite the read.  As usual I’ve done the ingredients like a shopping list. 

 Ingredients: 
The
Fish

  • 4 fillets Mahi Mahi- approximately 180- 200 grams each. You could also use Yellowtail Kingfish.
  • Garlic salt (my guilty secret)

For the Potato salad

  • 1 jar Cornichons- you’ll use about a third of the jar
  • 1 jar Baby Capers- you’ll use about half the jar
  • 8 good sized Kipfler potatoes. If you can’t get Kipflers find another grocer. They’re everywhere.
  • 2 pieces Celery. Fennel if you love it.
  • 1 jar whole egg mayonnaise (make your own if you want but it is largely  unnecessary as Hellman’s whole egg is so good!)
  • Dill (fresh, fresh parsley if there is no fresh dill).

 The Garnish

  • 1 mandarin (peeled and segmented, with the white pith removed)
  • 1 bunch watercress.  Not mustard cress, but snow pea vines are ok.

 And the Dressing/Reduction

  • 6 lemons
  • 100 ml olive oil, but you will need more for oiling the pan.  You should always have a reasonable amount of it in your pantry.
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preparation/Presentation:

  • Start by boiling the Kipflers.  Leave the skin on because it’s delicious, good for you and adds another flavour dimension – quite earthy.  Put them in cold water onto high heat, and test them by stabbing them with a cake skewer after the water boils.  Once they can be easily penetrated take them out and cool in a colander. Once coolish, cut them into bite sized pieces- discs are aesthetically pleasing. 
  • Dice cornichons, dill and celery (about a cup full in total) and add to potatoes with baby capers and mayonnaise (enough to coat potatoes but don’t make it too wet). 
  • Season with salt and pepper conservatively.  Serve warm, so don’t chill it after you make it or microwave it if pre-prepared.

Dressing/ Reduction

  •  Combine the juice of 4 lemons with 100 ml cold pressed olive oil.  Shake in glass jar and add salt and pepper minimally.  Taste it when you are done and make sure you are happy with it.  It shouldn’t be too oily or acidic.

 Garnish/ Plating

  •  Trim watercress and soak in cold water for 10 minutes. 
  • Heat a hot pan with 1 tablespoon oil and slightly char mandarin segment’s skin- don’t cook segments but a nice dark colour on the skin is good. 
  • Arrange watercress in nest on plate with one cup of potato salad in the centre.
  • Add mandarin segments to plate artistically. Feel clever.

 Cooking the fish

  • Heat pan to medium/high.  Add two tablespoons olive oil. Place Mahi fillets in pan (I season with a pinch of Masterfood’s Garlic Salt and cracked black pepper)and cook on one side until coloured.  Baste with olive oil and lemon dressing- fish loves moisture but don’t steam it and remember to save at least half of the olive/lemon mixture. 
  • Turn fillets once (ideally) and cook until both sides have a slightly golden sear.
  • Remove fillets from pan once cooked (you can test by cutting into a fillet- if it’s a dinner party, use the one you intend to eat yourself). 
  • Put the rest of the olive oil/ lemon dressing in the pan and reduce it until it changes colour- it should go slightly darker to a light brown colour. 
  • Place the Mahi Mahi fillets in the centre of the nest on top of the potato salad and dress with the lemon juice and olive oil reduction. 
  • Wipe the edges of the plates once you’re done.  Serve to stunned
    guests.

Oh and…..

  • Accept accolades graciously and acknowledge Reuben. Enjoy!

Tipsy on Triple sec Trifle…

Was it the Champers? The delightful company I was in? The carefully selected menu lovingly prepared and exquisitely presented? Suspect a little of all for tipsy I was…but I’m putting the blame squarely on the Triple sec Trifle. Oh yes I am! So delish I begged Reuben for the recipe and he kindly obliged. I’m sharing his email word for word for you can just feel the love he puts into this dish…or should I say jar:

From Reuben’s pen:

These trifles can be prepared the night before- just make the cream fresh before serving. Serve in individual glass jars for a visual treat!

Ingredients:

(enough for 4 large individual trifles)
• Sponge cake (enough to line the bottom of your jars to about an inch thick).
• Strawberry jam (to put in between the sponge slices).
• Triple sec (just buy the bottle – it’s great to have around. If you’re flash you could use Contreau).
• Berries – your choice, but I love raspberry, blueberry and strawberry and 3 punnets should do the trick.
• Jelly- a nice bright red flavour – port wine is ideal, but rose jelly is a nice delicate flavour that also works.
• Custard – make your own if you’re a smartie, or use a good quality store bought one if you’re rushed for time.
• Vanilla essence
• Mint – a few leaves for each trifle and a sprig to garnish.
• Thickened cream – 500 ml

Preparation/Presentation:

• Start proceedings by making the jelly. If you’re super organised making it the day before is an excellent idea.

• Cut the sponge in half and spread liberally with strawberry jam, making a sandwich. Push into the bottom of your jar to about an inch and a half – don’t press too much and compress the sponge. Soak in triple sec liberally.

• Add berries next with shredded mint leaves, then cover with cold custard.

• Place jelly over custard so that layers can be seen through the glass.

• Whip cream with Triple sec and vanilla essence to flavour and add just before serving.

• Trifles will keep for a day in the fridge without cream.

• Remember to tell your guests these trifles are boozy! 

Enjoy!

IMG_9252.JPGPS: If I’m really, really sweet Reuben may even share his recipes for the complex yet beautifully balanced Quail with Mushroom broth and the delicate MahiMahi with Mandarin. Both dishes causing a mini tastebud meltdown and necessitating a desire to share imagery below. Provided he doesn’t get snapped up by Marco Pierre White et al beforehand!

Thank you Ben and Reuben for your gracious hospitality and Jane for your fab presence at the tastiest ‘picnic’ yet!

The mighty annual bakeoff…

Or…how a MixMaster may have saved my life…

The mighty annual office bakeoff. Competition fierce…always has been, always will be and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Hashtag game on!

Oh yes! While I’m busy Googling ‘re-purpose’ options for my batch of timer traumatized chocolate brownies, they in their frilly aprons with matching china bowls and candy stripe cupcake papers will be comparing the fruits of their labours to their Donna Hays with smug smiles of satisfaction.

Uh huh! The fabulous five (my gorgeous colleagues), between moving house, dance, gym, soccer runs and end of year school mayhem, still somehow find the time to knock up exquisitely presented, scrumptious fare that would make Adriano Zumbo blanche. Oh the pressure!

Time to put ’em in their place I mutter while wiping the sticky (but glossy) meringue massacre splatter of my new attempt off the kitchen walls. With what’s left in the bowl I will impress. Oh yes I will. After I dissolve this glob attached to my brow. And pour a large wine. And Google a substitute for white vinegar. I want my Mom.

Here’s the result. And the recipe. And you will need a BIG bowl. For the mix not your wine. And probably one of those MixMasters my colleagues are so fond of rather than hand held beaters.

Caramel Filled Pistachio Meringues

Need:
• 4 free range egg whites
• 220g caster sugar
• 2 teaspoons corn flour
• 1 teaspoon white vinegar
• 40g pistachios, roughly chopped

• For filling – caramel in a can

Do:
• Preheat fan forced oven to 140 degrees centigrade (160c conventional/gas2-3)
• Line 3 baking sheets with baking paper
• Put egg whites in clean, grease free bowl and using stand electric mixer or electric hand held mixer, beat them until soft peaks form
• Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each edition. Whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy
• Fold in the cornflour, vinegar and 3/4 of the pistachios
• Put mixture in piping bag with no tube (or glad bag with corner snipped off)
• Pipe small rounds onto the prepared trays, allowing a little room for expansion, and sprinkle the remaining pistachio
• Reduce oven temperature to 130c (150c conventional/gas 2) and bake for 40 minutes
• Turn off oven and leave meringues inside to cool completely
• Scoop caramel out of tin whisking briefly to soften it then use it to sandwich meringues together

Serve: 

Pile on a platter and present.



PS: After the collective outcomes were presented, Instagrammed and consumed amidst deep sighs of sugar high, the vote was in. Hard to top a magnificent raspberry stuffed brownie topped with shards of white chocolate and dried raspberries thought I, as I graciously smiled at the winner punching the air with glee. A worthy adversary that Maree. But you just wait sweet pea! I’ve 11 months to perfect a perfect comeback…now somebody buy me a goddamned MixMaster?

The Rogue is mine, all mine!

I’m always on the hunt for a fabulous nosh and will happily brunch, lunch and munch all the way through to an evening’s post dessert soirée with mates and with nary a care for time and deadline. Cool breezes in summer a must, cosy brasseries and snuggly blankets for when the chill sets in, our temperate climate perfect for year round al fresco dining.

Enter Rogue Bar + Bistro…

This dear little gem is tucked into a crevice right here in my industrial hood! In my street! Given the thrill of a fab nosh chase, why had I not yet graced the friendly foodie hosts at Rogue with my presence? Have now…and I officially declare Rogue Bar + Bistro mine! My new waterhole, the place to take guests for a tipple and a nibble, a breakfast feast, a fine dine or simply a quick takeout coffee. Nice!

Astroturf clad exterior bar complimenting a lush wall garden, inside/outside dining, slouchy lounges, said brasseries and blankies, a beer tap rising like the Phoenix slap dab in the middle…the place is intriguing. As is the food.

My spiced mince pot hiding a soft poached golden yolk egg and sharing the platter with a lush avocado salsa stack, creme fraiche smear and thick sourdough soldiers was rich and flavorful. My companions’ truffled scrambled eggs with fat mushrooms and side of crispy bacon; free range eggs with tomato relish and avocado and chorizo stack equally so. Hearty dishes settled with delightfully creamy mocha coffees as the breakfast affectionardos slowly made way for lazy lunch time dwellers. Can’t wait to try the midday menu, the afternoon share plates, the evening dining offers.

All in good time though, after all, Rogue Bar + Bistro is right here. Mine! Along with all the other local folk who’ve also staked claims. That’s ok though for there’s room for all.

In my neighborhood? Drop in to Rogue Bar + Bistro
14 Austin St, Newstead QLD
(07) 3257 0227
Open Mon to Sunday lunch.

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Now where’s your fave Brekky spot?

On Italians, Tiramisu…and Grappa

This time last year…

I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, freshly plucked sweet crimson cherries in hand, gazing at sun sparkles shimmering across a breathtakingly azure ocean and clear blue sky, and squinting to identify where the two actually meet. Grappa impaired vision.

The small terra cotta and mustard hued fishing village surrounded by heavy grape vines and silvery olive trees below looks to relinquish its tenuous grip on the valley and tumble into that ocean. A number of villas actually did in the Autumn of 2011when flash flooding tore through the township consuming everything in its path to the sea. You’d never know it today though. Stoic folk these Ligurians…good thing that Grappa.

Behind me, nestling beneath a burgeoning Cherry tree, sits il Ciliegio (‘il Ciliegio’ translates to ‘the cherry tree’), a quaint little restaurant lovingly tended by a welcoming family who’ve just taught me how to cook five delectable Ligurian dishes. Each course consumed with great gusto and washed down with Prosecco, Frascati, Chianti, Sciacchetra (a delicate sweet wine from the region) and finished with a rich espresso….and Grappa.

As the last sediment of city deadline driven tension dissolves I smile and whisper to myself…’girlfriend you’ve made it!’ The Italian Riviera. The Cinque Terra. Monterosso al Mare…your new home! My gracious hosts are chortling for I’m also squealing ‘bello! magnifico! splendido!’ Damn Grappa mouth. Here’s one of those recipes…Grappa optional!

Tiramisu (the Ligurian way)

Need:

500g mascarpone cheese
4 eggs
Zest – thick strips of the surface of one lemon
4 tablespoons sugar
Coffee
Savoyard (lady finger) biscuits
Cocoa or shaved dark chocolate for dusting

Do:

• Separate eggs
• Beat the 4 yolks with the sugar and strips of lemon zest until light and fluffy (the zest removes the ‘eggy’ taste, remove it and discard after beating)
• Add mascarpone and incorporate well
• Beat egg whites until soft peaks form
• Fold egg whites into the mix, stir gently
• Prepare strong black coffee
• Reserve six of the Savoyard biscuits
• Break two Savoyard fingers each into the bottom of six individual glasses
• Soak the biscuit in each glass with two tablespoons of coffee
• Top with the mascarpone cream
• Liberally dust with cocoa or shards of dark chocolate
• Insert the remaining Savoyard finger
• Serve with espresso and dessert liqueur of choice.

Grappa – an alcoholic beverage, fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy of Italian origin that contains 35%–60% alcohol by volume. (Wikipedia) Damn Grappa!

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