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Monthly Archives: October 2019

Pasta with Pesto and Spring Greens


This is a super easy pasta dish that you can make in a few minutes, including the pesto!

As its spring in Sydney, there are lots of lovely greens about, and nothing feels better than a bowl of pasta with a zingy pesto and just cooked green veggies.

The dish is versatile – you can choose your own pasta and selection of greens – even the pesto can be varied according to what you fancy.

My version has risoni pasta, sugar snap peas and asparagus, with a rocket (arugula) and walnut pesto. 

Spaghetti, fettuccine or penne for the pasta, broccolini or kale or any other greens for the veggies and traditional basil and pine nut pesto are all alternatives.

Lunch, dinner or supper, it’s a lovely bowl of fresh flavours.

Ingredients

Pesto 

50g walnuts

80g rocket 

50g parmesan

2 garlic cloves

150ml olive oil

1 cup risoni pasta

1 bunch fresh asparagus 

1 ½ cups sugar snap peas

Method 

For the pesto, place the walnuts, rocket, parmesan, garlic and olive oil in a food processor and blitz. I like my pesto still a little chunky, so I don’t over blitz. Season to taste with salt. 

This pesto is quite oily, so, if you’re not an oil fan, perhaps add ¾ of the oil at first, then add more if you think it needs it.

Cook the risoni pasta in a saucepan of boiling salted water, for 8-10  minutes or until al dente.

Trim the asparagus ends. String the sugar snap peas, and slice some of them horizontally so that the peas are revealed.

Pile the risoni onto a plate. Spoon over some pesto, and scatter the asparagus and sugar snap peas on top. Drizzle a little more pesto over the veggies.

I don’t think the dish needs additional parmesan, but feel free to add if you like. 

NB I added some beautiful roast garlic from last week’s visit to the Spring Harvest Festival.

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Fish Pie

I’ve been experimenting with fish pies recently, with the memory of a great fish pie cooked for me by an Englishman who clearly knows his pies and his fish. Thank you Ken, for your inspiration!

My version is quite simple – smoked fish fillets and poached fresh fish, with some braised leeks, in a white sauce. Topped off with creamy mashed potato and a liberal scattering of grated cheddar. Great on the day, and even tastier reheated the next day, too, when the flavours have developed.

These quantities make a very substantial pie for two, or would serve four with smaller portions too. Double the quantities for a really big pie!

Ingredients 

4 large potatoes, good for mashing

3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon butter

300 mls full fat milk

1/2 tablespoon olive oil 

2 leeks

100g white fish

150g smoked mackerel 

150g hot smoked salmon

1 tablespoon plain flour 

75g cheddar cheese, grated 

Method

Wash the potatoes thoroughly and place whole into a large saucepan. Cover completely with water. Bring to the boil and cook on a medium heat until the potatoes are cooked through. Be careful not to overcook – you don’t want the potatoes breaking up. Remove from the heat and strain in a colander.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel quickly and place the still warm potatoes in a bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons butter and 50 mls of milk. Season with salt to taste. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes really well with the butter and milk, making sure there are no lumps.You can of course adjust the butter and milk amounts to personal taste and because potatoes do vary, requiring more or less butter/milk to get the right consistency.

Cover the mashed potato bowl with aluminium foil to keep warm.

Wash the leeks well and slice into ½ cm rounds. Heat 1 teaspoon butter with the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the leeks and cook over a low heat until the leeks are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Just make sure temperature is low and the leeks don’t brown. Once cooked, remove from the heat.

Heat the remaining 250 mls milk in a wide saucepan until just at a simmer. Place the white fish fillet into the milk, and continue to simmer and let the fish cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Check if the fish fillet is cooked by putting a skewer into the thickest part of the fish. If the skewer goes in easily and is also easy to remove, it should be cooked. 

Remove the fillet carefully with a slotted spoon. Roughly break into chunks. Strain the poaching milk into a bowl or jug.

There’s no need to cook the mackerel and salmon, just break into chunks.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

To make the white sauce, melt 1 tablespoon butter, over a low heat, in the saucepan in which you poached the fish. Add the plain flour, and mix together to a smooth paste, making sure to use a wooden spoon. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add the poaching milk, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, combining the paste with the milk. Turn the heat to medium, bring to the boil, then reduce to low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened, stirring regularly. Season generously with salt and cracked pepper.

To assemble the pie, place the leek slices and fish chunks in a baking dish. Gently stir through the white sauce. Top with the mashed potato, roughing up the potato with a fork for a little artistry. Scatter the grated cheddar over the pie.

Cook the fish pie in the preheated oven for a 20-30 minutes or until the potato is brown and the mixture underneath is bubbling.

Serve with a green salad and chunky sourdough, or just on its own. I had some beautiful young garlic from a spring harvest market, so I roasted those with the pie. Really delicious!

Ruby Sunrise Marmalade

My last two posts have incorporated marmalade because once I’ve made a batch I just have to use it in my cooking! My Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding and Blueberry and Marmalade Tea Cakes are more delicious because of the addition of Ruby Sunrise Marmalade.

I’m a huge fan of marmalade, and I’m always willing to try different citrus fruits in search of something a little different. I have to admit though, that my traditional marmalade using seville oranges, is not as good as some of my other marmalades and jams. Seville orange marmalade is clearly a work in progress..

Ruby Sunrise Marmalade is so named because of its rich orange-red hue, a little like a beautiful Sydney sunrise. It’s surprisingly simple – just three different kinds of fruit – blood orange, ruby grapefruit and mandarin. I only make small quantities at a time, so this batch was made with one each of the blood orange and grapefruit and two mandarins.

Great with toast, or adds a touch of tangy citrus to desserts.

Ingredients

1 blood orange 

1 ruby grapefruit 

3 mandarins (thin skinned preferable)

Water to cover fruit

Sugar

Method

Cut the fruit in half. Chop into segments, peel and pith included. Remove as many pips as you can. You want strips of citrus so that your marmalade is chunky. Put the fruit into a heavy bottomed saucepan.

Cover the fruit generously with water, making sure you have enough in the pan so that the fruit does not boil dry. Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit is tender. This should take from between 30-45 minutes.

Measure the pulp and the remaining liquid. Return to the pan adding 1.5 cups of sugar for every 1 cup of pulp. Bring to the boil, making sure the sugar is dissolved. Cook until setting point is reached  – 20 to 30 minutes. I use the saucer test* to check for setting point. Leave for 10 minutes before stirring gently. Pour carefully into sterilised jars and leave to cool.

* Testing for setting point
Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the bubbles to subside. Take out a small saucer previously placed in the freezer, and spoon a little liquid onto the saucer, then return to the freezer for 1 minute. Push the marmalade along the plate with your finger. If setting point has been reached then the marmalade surface will wrinkle slightly and the marmalade won’t run back straight away. If it’s not at setting point, return to the heat and boil again for  a few more minutes (maximum 5 minutes) before re-testing. Repeat until setting point is reached.

Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding

Everyone likes bread and butter pudding. It’s not difficult to produce, so long as you have the requisite bread or a richer equivalent like panettone or croissants. Pouring a custard mixture over the bread/panettone and baking is about it. Adding yummy things like fruit, marmalade and rum makes for a delicious pudding. And yes, there is butter in it too! 

I make this version with my own marmalade, a combination of blood orange, ruby grapefruit and mandarin, but any good marmalade works. The raisins and sultanas drenched in alcohol are great too. You can do a quick soak, but I usually use my supply of raisins and sultanas that have been macerating in rum for a few months… the rum soaked fruit is delicious served over ice cream too! 

Ingredients  

50g raisins and sultanas 

2 tablespoons rum or an orange liqueur 

50g butter + extra for buttering the dish 

1/2 panettone – approximately 10 slices 

5 tablespoons marmalade 

2 large free-range eggs 

2 tablespoons caster sugar 

300mls full fat milk 

2 tablespoons Demerara sugar 

Method  

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan forced or 180 degrees non fan forced.  Put the raisins and sultanas into a small bowl with your alcohol of choice and leave to soak for half an hour – or longer if you have the time.  

Butter a baking dish big enough to hold all the panettone slices snugly. 

Make 5 sandwiches with the panettone, butter and marmalade, being pretty liberal with the filling. Place the sandwiches side by side in the baking dish so they fit snugly into the dish. If some of  the sandwiches are too big, cut them in half.  

Scatter the raisins and sultanas and any of the alcohol rum that remains in the bowl. 

Whisk the eggs together with the caster sugar. Pour in the milk and stir well. Pour the mixture over the panettone sandwiches and leave  to soak up the liquid for 10-15 minutes.  

Scatter the Demerara sugar over the sandwiches. Place the baking dish onto a baking tray, and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the custard has puffed up and the sandwiches are golden brown. 

Remove from the oven and sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

Serve with more of the marmalade and something creamy – I like Greek yoghurt – whipped cream, custard or ice cream are all good too. And a few blueberries also goes well.

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