Archive for the ‘dairy’ Category

h1

Baker’s delight

June 22, 2010

How I love winter.

Well actually I don’t love winter, at all; I hate the cold. Ugh. Awful. But I do love winter food, specially the long-cooked, rich, stick-to-the-ribs decadent weekend variety.

And this potato bakey number, which I proudly invented on the weekend and then discovered to be an aeons-old classic called pommes boulangère, is my new favourite thing in the world. It’s got stock. It’s got spuds. My version’s got cream, and it’s got leek. If you can name one thing that’s not to love in this dish, I will personally come to your house and take it off your hands. It is also possibly the simplest potato gratin you’ll ever make, and your dinner guests will get down on their hands and knees and kiss your little toes for it.

I learn the origin of the name (‘baker’s potatoes’) from Damien Pignolet’s lovely book , French: “Tradition has it that one assembed the gratin at home and took it to the baker for cooking in the residual heat of the oven when the day’s baking was finished.”

Quantities and times are a little loose here and will depend on your oven,  the dish and the spuds, but the idea is that the spuds slowly absorb the creamy stock and brown to a lovely chewy crisp on top while remaining soft and creamy beneath.

Pommes boulangère a la Marrickville  (serves 4-6 greedy people)

  • 1kg potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups (ish) chicken stock
  • ½ cup thickened cream
  • salt & pepper
  • small sprig rosemary
  1. Layer the potatoes and leek & garlic mix in a shallow, oven-proof glass dish.
  2. Pour the stock and cream over the top, and push the rosemary sprig into the middle of the dish till hidden. The liquid should be just enough to come up to the top layer of potato – don’t drown them.
  3. Season (but be careful with the salt, depending on the saltiness of your stock as it’ll intensify as reduces).
  4. Cover with foil and bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and check whether spuds are too dry – add more stock and press the potatoes down into the creamy stock if needed.
  6. Return to the oven without the foil and bake for around 1 hour, or till golden on top, occasionally pressing the spuds into the liquid if necessary.

Remove the bubbling, golden, glistening joy of it from the oven, rest for a few minutes while you carve your roast lamb or chook and pour the wine, and serve hot from the dish at the table.  Then swoon.

h1

Secrets of a corn star

February 22, 2010

Every time I opened the fridge door on Saturday I was accused by three shrinkwrapped corn cobs bought two weeks ago. Food waster! Abandoner! they cried, in their tiny little corny voices.

They were a teeny bit worse for wear, and it was lunchtime, and I was home alone. The thought of eating three corn cobs there and then didn’t appeal. But corn fritters did. I checked a recipe and then made my own version according to what I had in the house – using yoghurt instead of ricotta cheese and rice flour instead of ordinary flour. And they were pretty darn good! I ate several and froze the rest.

Then Sunday morning, when Senor was hankering for something luxurious, I whipped up the most fab breakfast in minutes (I was sooo Bill Granger – shame about the non-matching teeth): into the pan went the corn fritters, a few shreds of proscuitto; half a chorizo sausage, thinly sliced; leftover roasted tomatoes. I think it may have been the best breakfast I have ever made.

Corn fritters

  • 3 cobs corn kernels
  • 4-5 tablespoons rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon yoghurt
  • 1 handful each finely chopped basil, parsley, chives
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • salt & pepper

1. Shuck the corn (don’t you love that word?) by standing the cob on its end and running a knife sharply down the side.

2. Mix everything in a bowl, adjusting the flour if it gets too watery (it does look unnervingly runny, but that doesn’t really matter in the end).

3. I threw two-thirds of the mix in the food processor and pulsed just a couple of times to get a rough blend, then returned to the bowl.

4. Heat some oil in a non-stick pan over med-high heat and cook the fritters in batches. Depending on the amount of oil you use and the runniness of your mix, the texture tends more to the pikelet than fritter, but either is delicious.

5. Drain on kitchen paper before serving.

h1

The Vine Intervention, pt 1

February 19, 2010

Till now, my appreciation of Vitis vinifera has been limited to a lifelong (and let’s admit it, rather passionate) love affair with the grape. I’ve admired the leaves from afar – on the plant – but cooking with them has never appealed. I know everybody loves dolmades, for example, but their vineleaf wrapping has always been way too slimy for my liking. Frankly I’ve found eating dolmades too often to feel like popping a big fat slug in the mouth. So the idea of using those vine leaves packed in oil – ugh.

But joy of joys, these reservations are in the past, because this week I have discovered the joy of cooking with fresh vine leaves, and there ain’t no turning back. I love them. And now I’m plotting to somehow grow a vine here, for our own supply.

This new affair began when Mr & Ms Melba offered me some leaves from their gorgeously lush and laden vine, and mentioned a turkish vine leaf ‘pie’ Ms M had made. I had to check that out. And then the stars aligned, with Karen Martini’s incredible looking vine leaf recipes in last week’s Sun Herald.  Both these dishes are the business. I urge you to pluck a big handful of leaves next time you are in the vicinity of a vine, and try them. One other great thing about the leaves is, as I discovered by leaving a sealed plastic bag full of them in the fridge and then forgetting them for a whole two weeks, that they keep incredibly well. When I opened the bag it was as if they were picked minutes before. Amazing.

This post I’ll share the Karen Martini recipe, which I now understand is a variation on a traditional Greek dish (JMo, if you’re out there, can you confirm?), but was a revelation to me.  Next time, the pie.

Now the recipe below used packaged vine leaves, but was perfect with fresh. The only preparation I did was soak the leaves in boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain and press dry in a tea towel, and cut out the hard stalk. We used nectarines in place of peach and it was delicious. Having never heard of saba, I used vin cotto as suggested. Di-vine.

Karen Martini’s vine-leaf wrapped haloumi with peach

1 large bulb garlic

olive oil

1 packet haloumi cheese, sliced into 8 pieces

8 vine leaves (rinsed, if packet, or fresh prepared as above)

2 ripe peaches (or nectarines), cut into wedges

1/2 lemon, juiced

3 tbsp saba, a grape must reduction (or vin cotto, or balsamic vinegar)

1. Cut the top off the garlic bulb, drizzle with oil, wrap in foil and roast in a moderate oven for 40 minutes or till soft. Allow to cool.

2. Smear each haloumi slice with the roasted garlic, then wrap tightly in a vine leaf.

3.  Heat 80ml olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and cook haloumi for 1 minute each side, till the cheese starts to melt, but not burning the leaf.

4. Arrange on a plate, scatter with the nectarine or peach and drizzle with the lemon juice and vin cotto / saba .

h1

Living in the seventies: Fondue, baby!

November 29, 2009

The topic of fondue arose recently, as it does now and then among friends when drink has been taken.

Everyone in the room recalled their parents’ fondue set and its occasional outings along with the funky pantsuits and false eyelashes of yore. But there was general disagreement about what fondue actually involved – some purists insisted that only cheese and bread was called for, while others of us recalled boiling oil and lumps of meat.

Serendipitously, the day after this conversation my beloved spied this book at a market and swooped. I suspect we will never actually use it, but it does make an entertaining conversation starter if you leave it on the coffee table. Published 1971, and in mint condition, Fondue and Table Top Cookery by Marion Howells runs the gamut of things-cooked-at-table, from your trad cheese fondues to your Oriental Fondue (meat in stock) to some rather desperate inclusions such as omelettes and dubious-sounding desserts (Apricots Jubilee, anyone?).

On fondue, Marion tells us that:

This popular dish originated in Switzerland. Many stories are told of the villagers being isolated in the long winter months, and supplies of food becoming short, they were forced to rely on local produce like cheese, wine and home made bread. As the cheese became dry they melted it in their wine.

So there we have it – a yicky gloopy mix borne of near-starvation becomes a classic fad for ‘entertaining of the more intimate type’, and into the bargain produces perhaps the earliest example of Fusion Food. As evidence, I leave you with the list of ingredients for my favourite recipe in this collection.

Fondue Bengali

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1.5 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 cups grated Gruyere cheese
  • 2 cups grated Emmenthal cheese
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 3 tablespoons Kirsch
  • white pepper, cayenne pepper
  • mango chutney
  • French bread
h1

In love with labneh

August 31, 2009

labna2Inspired by the happy coincidence of my friend Ms Melba’s recent gift of her incredibly good homemade labneh – that creamy, unbelievably smooth yoghurt cheese – and Miss J’s birthday gift of the gorgeous Saha: A chef’s Journey through Lebanon & Syria by Greg & Lucy Malouf, I decided on the weekend to have a stab at making some labneh myself.

Oh, and the third inspiration was driving past a humungous and ghastly Spotlight outlet, whereupon I could dive in and grab myself a thousand metres of muslin (I later sent some of that Ms Melba’s way, and she said that while she longed to drape it about her person for running through damp fields towards Pemberley,  she  promised to use it for cheese-related purposes).

Anyway, after tasting Melba’s labneh and gobbling it all in a week, I asked for her recipe, and then compared it with Greg Malouf’s in Saha which, by the way, is the most beautiful book. (I have just lent it to the Empress, who – prepare to bite out your own veins with envy – is planning a culinary trip through various Middle Eastern countries including Syria. Argh. We can only hope she comes back with some fine recipes to share, but I may find it difficult to speak to her for a while…)

Anyhoo.

Labneh, it turns out, is so easy peasy to make that I am never again buying that gorgeously silky Yarra Valley Dairy Persian Fetta in the black tin, because my labneh (while texturally probably quite different and probably-not-even-remotely-comparable-because-it-isn’t-feta), turns out to be just as delicious. And costs very little. The amazing thing about this stuff is the texture – so silky and creamy, but with excellent body and, depending on your marinade, a lovely soft and herby tang.

Greg Malouf’s recipe is here, and it’s the one I used, except I followed Melba’s lead and formed it into the little balls rather than just spreading over a plate topped with oil as he’s done. Anyway it’s hardly a recipe at all really – take a kilo of natural yoghurt, hang it for 48-72 hours, and then do as you wish with it. Melba hangs hers for anything from three hours to overnight, and it’s beautifully light. I did as GM says though, and hung it for 48 hours. The longer you hang it, the firmer it gets, and lots of whey comes out of it. Here’s what I did.

1. Take a good half-metre of clean muslin and line a colander with it over a bowl. A fine cotton tea towel would probably do just as well, but perhaps take longer.

2. Mix up a kilo of full-cream natural Greek-style yoghurt with a good teaspoon of salt and pour it into the muslin.

3. Tie up the  corners of the muslin any old how, and find a way to hang it. Easiest for us was get a large deep saucepan, tie the muslin bag to a long wooden spoon and rest the spoon over the top of the pot. Do tie it tight and hang as high as possible, as it does hang lower over the hours and ours eventually touched the bottom of the pot, necessitating re-tying half-way through. No big deal though and gave us a chance to drain the whey out halfway through.

labna14. Bung it in the fridge for anything from three hours to 72 hours. We did 48 and it resulted in easy-to-form, nice firm labneh.

5. Remove and form into balls, keeping your hands moistened with olive oil – stops the labneh sticking to your hands and the balls to each other.

6. Lay the balls in a jar or container, cover with oil and add some dried chilli flakes, dried thyme, fresh rosemary and a clove of garlic. Any dried herbs or spices you fancy would do, I reckon.

Use it spread on biccies as a dip; on toast or a sandwich instead of butter; plonk a ball in your spicy veg soup (that’s where almost all of M’s batch went – thicker and more delicious than a yoghurt dollop); toss on to steamed green vegetables, or just use anywhere you would sling a blob of yoghurt, I reckon.

This amount made three full medium-sized deli takeaway containers’ worth. The oil is obviously the costly bit of this, but given that one would never chuck away such lovely herby olive oil, instead keeping it for pasta sauces, salad dressings or whatever, I reckon this recipe is a contender for the frugal food post as well as just being a beautiful thing. And great to take to a friend’s when you’re turning up for dinner – they will be tres impressed with your domestic goddessness as well as gobbling it up in a flash like I did.