Monthly Archives: May 2012

The cheats guide to: Homemade ravioli

A while ago I read an interesting recipe that said you don’t have to have a pasta machine to make your own ravioli. My flatmate and I both agreed that this was quite obviously a giant, spiky lie. However, since the recipe writer is a professional chef and I am merely someone who is too critical of professional chefs, this ravioli business niggled at me for weeks. That was until Sunday when I got out my rolling pin, measuring spoons, fancy flour and olive oil and set to making my own pasta dough sans pasta machine. I am not going to bore you with details of and a recipe for the two semi-successful batches that followed, just suffice to say that it was a few hours well spent for two reasons: I made a delicious dinner that could have been better and I added to my list of ‘things I would like to improve on in the kitchen’.

But that was not the end of the matter. The filling was SO good and so expensive that I could not be content using a fraction of it then giving up. So last night post-knitting circle I stopped by my local supermarket to pick up fresh sheets of pasta. It turns out this was very naive. However I did come across, and eventually settle for, wonton wrappers, thinking these could act as a worthy pasta replacement.

Internet research suggested that I was in for a watery, disgusting excuse for a meal. In reality I had delicious pasta parcels that cooked in less than 2 minutes and lost nothing in taste from not using real pasta. I would seriously suggest it as a quick and easy meal, especially as these ‘ravioli’ freeze really well.

Homemade ‘ravioli’ parcels

*150g grated cheddar cheese
*200g ricotta cheese
*50g finely grated parmesan cheese
*1 beaten egg
*2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
*1 packet of wonton wrappers
*string

For the filling:

*mix together the egg, cheeses and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the ‘ravioli’/parcels:

*take a wonton wrapper and place a small spoonful of the filling in the middle. Dip your finger in water and wet around the sides then twist up the sides to look like a little moneybag dumpling (in the pictures below they are tied with string but this isn’t necessary)
*repeat this step until you are out of filling. Make sure you don’t use too much so that it spills out the top, and drain it if it is too wet or it may soak through the wrappers
*place into boiling, salted water and cook for 2 minutes or until tender (no longer than 3 minutes should be necessary)

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I ate these with basil pesto and another time with red onion, garlic and sliced tomato cooked briefly (4 mins). The great thing about them is that the filling really goes with any kind of pasta sauce you can dream up.

You can also see why I called them ‘ravioli’ not ravioli. You could make them into a traditional ravioli shape with the wonton wrappers but this seemed to work better for me and despite there being a lot of pastry at the top they cooked evenly in the 2 minutes.

So I encourage you to try these out, especially as a handy stand-by freezer meal. And as always I especially encourage you to let me know if you have tried the recipes or if you have any you would like me to try!

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KFC ain’t got nothin’ on me: Fried chicken

Maybe I’ve been listening to too much folk music, maybe its because my flatmate just left to eat her way around the Bible Belt of the U.S of A. I don’t know what it is but lately I have been craving fried chicken an unusual amount for someone who has not only never made fried chicken but also doesn’t really eat much fried chicken. So last night while feeling particularly beaten down by living in the city I threw on ‘O, Brother Where Art Though’ and cranked out the chicken drums I had been reserving for such an occasion, only to find that they needed to be soaked overnight. Pretty disappointing but I wanted to do this thing right so boiled up some salted water and waited my patience.

Tonight I rushed home excitedly, threw open every door and window in the place and started frying up 400g of lard on the skillet. And because when I do things right I do them right I then went ahead and threw the briny chicken that had been soaking for 24 hours into a paper bag with flour and seasoning and gave it a good scare. While the chicken cooked I realised maybe it would be ‘healthy’ to accompany it with something and whipped up some spicy mashed potatoes (recipe featured a few weeks ago) and cooked up a few carrots (so HEALTHY!). I was trying not to get my hopes up but something told me this chicken was going to be special. And not just because it was black before it even went near the skillet (I ran out of sea salt so used black lava sea salt for the brine).

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Oh boy! The end result was beyond special. I never knew chicken could be so crispy, tasty and glorious. I have never been huge on chicken, especially on eating it from the bone but I swear I stripped those drumsticks so thoroughly you would be hard pressed to find any meat left on there. And lucky there was no-one around to share/compete with because they would have lost a hand had they tried to get a hold of one of those precious pieces of chicken. I cannot even describe how tasty this chicken was, so I guess you’ll just have to go off and make it for yourself so you can find out

Fried chicken
recipe adapted from http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com.au/2007/07/anniversary-served-with-fried-chicken.html

*4 cups water
*1/4 cup salt
*4 chicken drums
*400g lard (you can also use oil, and you can use less, as long as it covers the skillet well, rising up about an inch on the sides)
*1/2 cup flour with salt and pepper to taste

*bring water to boil and add salt, stir till dissolved, let cool then add chicken pieces and soak for at least 8 hours
*put flour mixture and chicken into a paper bag and shake it like you mean it
*heat lard in a skillet for about 5 mins on high, until you can put a ball of flour in and it floats to the top and starts to fry
*turn down heat to medium and add chicken pieces skin side down, fry pieces for about 10-12 minutes until golden brown
*turn over and fry other side until golden brown
*allow chicken to rest on some paper towels or drain on a rack for 10 minutes before serving

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A few notes on this recipe:
– Always use tongs, that lard spits like nothing else
– Keep in mind that this recipe is only enough for one person. I halved everything from the original recipe.
– I served this with a whole lot of Coriander and it was an amazing combination. But what else do you expect from Coriander.
– I also added the last dregs of some Louisianan Cajun spice from a local shop Gewurzhaus to my flour mixture. It probably wasn’t enough to truly make a diiference and you’d be shocked how flavoursome this chicken is as a result of the brine but I’d say it is worth looking into making up a bit of a spice mix. Go on, give KFC a run for their money.

I hope you enjoyed today’s installment, I’m off to rest my arteries.

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Cold days, cold nights, where would I be without my soup?: Chicken brodo and Mulligatawny

The other day I made soup. No, sorry not soup. Brodo (fancy soup). Today I made soup again. All the grey skies and waking up in the dark to go to work will do that to you. Even though it is not technically winter yet, there’s nothing like soup on a dreary day, especially when you have made it in advance and frozen it, then you can continue on in a lazy mood with minimal effort. Although making these soups can be just as enjoyable. I have to agree with my dad when he says nothing beats the smell of onions cooking and both of these soups combine that greatest of cooking smells with oregano and thyme, and curry respectively. Both smells that are not to be sniffed at. Unless it is a good, long, savouring sniff.

Chicken and vegetable brodo
*cover 500g chicken with 2 litres stock and 1 litre water, bring to the boil then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes until cooked through
*shred chicken and retain liquid
*heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in the largest pot you have, add 2 chopped onions, 4 cloves chopped garlic, 4 sprigs oregano, 4 sprigs thyme and 1 bay leaf for 2 minutes
*add 1 bulb of chopped fennel, 2 chopped carrots and 1/2 bunch celery and cook for 10 minutes
*add chicken meat, reserved stock and 1/2 cup of arborio rice. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes
*add 1/2 cup frozen peas, 2 chopped zucchini and 1/2 bunch parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes or until rice is cooked
*add 1 Tbsp olive oil and serve

Mulligatawny soup
*chop 2 large brown onions and heat in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat for 5 minutes until soft
*add 1/4 cup of curry paste and cook for 1 minute
*add 500g chopped chicken, 2 finely chopped zucchini, 1 finely chopped carrot and 2 Tbsp of tomato paste and cook for 10 minutes until chicken is browned
*add 6 cups of cold water and 1 Tbsp chicken stock powder and bring to the boil
*add 1/3 cup of rice, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes until chicken and rice is cooked through
*serve while hot with some crusty (in a good way) bread

I couldn’t find curry paste when I went out on my ingredients hunt so decided to make my own. I would definitely recommend it, not only is the recipe below easy but it makes exactly 1/4 cup, must be fate!

Curry paste
*combine 1/3 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil
*finely chop 2 red chillis and 4 cloves of garlic
*combine all of the above and add:
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp mustard powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp ground coriander seeds
3 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp black pepper
*done! Unless it is too moist (uck), in which case put it through a sieve like I did

I will leave you now, no doubt with a craving to make soup. But also with this musing: even though the brodo recipe is from an expensive cookbook (Karen Martini’s ‘Cooking at Home’) and the Mulligatawny recipe is from a cheap food magazine (June 2011 ‘Super Food Ideas’), I preferred the Mulligatawny. The brodo was quite bland when following the recipe to the letter and next time I’ll try to make it taste a bit more interesting. Plus I just love the name Mulligatawny (Yay Colonialism! Right guys?! Guys?).

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Beer and food that rolls: NZ cheese rolls and chicken flautas

There are so many things to update on and so little time! Today I’ll have to be satisfied with describing my weekend of beer and roll-y food.

Friday night’s last minute decision to attend The Great Australasian Beer Spectapular was a definite winner, if you count drinking watermelon beer, coconut beer, chilli-chocolate beer and smoky beer (from NZ’s own Mussel Inn) as a win. Which I do. Not only was it a great event but it seemed to have an unintended but pervasive effect on the rest of my weekend by bringing out my beer and pub food side.

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Saturday was the day my flatmate finally decided I was a lost cause. Not because I came home at 1am and singed all the hair off my hand and arm trying to light the grill in our oven (which I did do, but she doesn’t know that. I was stone cold sober I might add). No, she lost her faith in me because of cheese rolls. For anyone outside of New Zealand (or the South Island apparently), I am sick of explaining a cheese roll so see more info here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheese_roll. The look of utter disgust on her face while she watched me whip up these delicacies was absolutely hilarious to behold and her hesitant approach to trying one even more so. But trust me make this recipe, toast some up when you’re hungry, freeze some for when you want to toast them up, and you’ll never look back.

Cheese rolls
*400g-ish tasty cheese
*1 packet Maggi Onion Soup mix
*1 can evaporated milk
*1 small onion, chopped finely (optional)
*1 tsp mustard powder (optional)
*3 loaves sandwich bread

-Mix the evaporated milk, soup, onion and mustard powder in a pot over a medium heat
-Add the cheese slowly till it is all melted in and the mixture is thick
-Spread a bit of mixture quite thickly on a slice of bread then roll up using 2 rolls so it is a cylinder shape (terrible explanation but you get what I mean). Stack with the seam side down to keep its shape
-Keep going until you’re out of mixture. It’ll usually get you about 2 and a half loaves worth. But work fast because the mixture sets quickly. If you have a handy helper this part is WAY better as a two person job

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My second major culinary effort this weekend stepped it up a notch, creating a glorious union of beer AND cylindrical food. If you’re a good multitasker you’ll like this one

Poached chicken Flautas (adapted from http://healthy-delicious.com/2012/03/baked-chicken-and-spinach-flautas/)
*1kg chicken breasts
*one 375ml bottle of beer
*2 cups of water (slightly more than the beer)
*a few handfuls of spinach
*1 jalapeno
*1 packet of tortillas
*1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp chilli flakes
*handful of cheese

*add the beer, water and chicken into a pot. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked
*pour out all but 1/3rd of the beer and water mixture and add the spinach and chopped jalapeno, heat on a low temperature until the spinach is wilted
*cut the tortillas directly down the middle and grate the cheese
*after the chicken is cool, shred it and sprinkle over the spice mixture
*place some mixture (enough that you can still roll it up) along the long edge of one of the half tortillas and roll it up, place seam side down on a baking tray
*repeat, adding the spinach to every second or third roll
*lightly coat flautas in oil and bake at 220 degrees celcius for 10 mins either side

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I hope you enjoy these recipes! But I suggest doing so in moderation if you have a healthy respect for your coronary arteries.

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Spicy side dishes: special mashed potato and chipotle mashed cauliflower

It’s not often that I quote lyrics from 90s pop songs (although I still probably do it more than is socially acceptable) but sometimes you really do need to spice up your life. So here I am folks to tell you how to make your boring meals more exciting, your life more interesting and how to lose 12kgs in 3 days!!*

*Some or all of these results are not guaranteed, and are in fact unlikely, to occur. But you will have a great side dish to keep you warm as winter slowly closes in.

Spicy mashed potatoes
*chop 1/2 a red onion, a few cloves of garlic and 1 red or green pepper (or use a pinch of dried chillis). Fry up on medium heat for about 5 minutes,or until everything is cooked through and smells fragrant
*peel and chop 4 potatoes (or as many as you want), boil in salted water until tender but not overcooked
* add everything in to the same bowl then mash with grated cheese, milk and butter

Chipotle mashed cauliflower (recipe adapted from http://kristaandjess.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/chipotle-mashed-cauliflower/)
*steam or boil 1 head of cauliflower (chopped) until well cooked and soft
*add cauliflower to a bowl with 30-40g butter, a handful of grated cheese and 1 Tbsp finely chopped chipotles (this is about 1 – 1 and a half chiptoles) and mash

Notes on the above:
*you should be able to buy chipotles in adobo at a mexican/spanish friendly food shop
*don’t be tempted, as I was, to use more chiptoles than suggested. They are HOT
*you’ll quickly realise you have a ton of leftover chipotles, luckily they freeze fantastically, just chuck them in a container or freezer bag and defrost when needed
*the recipe I used also suggested grilling the mashed cauliflower with extra butter and cheese until golden brown. It is a good suggestion, I was just so hungry I didn’t even see it. I’m trying it next time

You may have noticed that both of these recipes are for mash. Therefore another appropriate pop song reference in this case is: do the mash. Although I don’t know how Bobby Picket would feel about being compared to the Spice Girls. Or vice versa actually.

If you try any of my recipes let me know how they go, I’m interested to find out!

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Shepherd’s Pie

Tonight is the perfect night for Shepherd’s pie if you are in Melbourne. Which I am. The rain outside + a good blanket + Shepherd’s pie + a good book = a great Wednesday night.

As much as I wish I could be one of those amazing people who just cooks – you know the ones, they just do it and make everything look so easy – I’m a recipe follower at heart. Shepherd’s pie is one of the things I am happy to just completely make up as I go, as it is practically impossible to screw up. But I tried really hard to focus tonight so I could relay this one back to you…

Shepherd’s Pie

*cook 1 onion chopped, 2 cloves of garlic finely diced, 2 chopped sticks of celery, 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped eggplant and any other veges you want to add over medium-high heat for 5 mins
*add 500g of mince (or 1kg if you wish) and cook till browned
*meanwhile…peel and chop 5 potatoes, boil in salted water until tender but not overcooked, then mash with (lots if you’re like me) of cheese, milk and butter. Those with an intolerance to dairy turn away now and try not to think about this delicious, delicious part of the meal
*add 2 cups of your choice of stock and Worcestershire sauce, red wine, tomato sauce (or paste), salt and pepper to taste to the mince and veges, bring to the boil then reduce for 10-20 minutes
*pour mince mixture into a casserole dish, top with the mashed potato and grated cheese then cook at 200 degrees celcius for 10-20 minutes or until crispy

The wide time frames given above are because I know that I personally find it impossible to wait after a long day of work for food to cook, which is why I never come home to make risotto or a roast, and why my Shepherd’s Pie is always enjoyed un-crispy and with not-very-thick sauce. However, I understand that many people have more self restraint and can wait longer for a slightly better result. I admire you, you mysterious creatures.

The only next step after the ones listed above is to enjoy your food then snuggle into a blanket/a willing companion and turn your attention to a good book/the TV remote/a board game.

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