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Category Archives: Lunch

Pear and Sour Cherry Loaf

What to do with a couple of over ripe pears? Put them in a loaf of course and add sour cherries for a tangy flavour. And almond extract goes really well with both these ingredients!

A couple of things to say about this loaf. First, it’s an all-in-one loaf, and made in the food processor too. So it’s super simple. Believe me, the all-in-one method produces great results!

Secondly, I have been very interested in the Queen of Baking Mary Berry’s advocacy of baking spread, rather than butter, in cakes. I’ve used baking spread in Mary’s Victoria Sponge recipe and it produced a lovely textured sponge. So I have used baking spread in this recipe. But by all means, use butter if you prefer, but make sure it’s super soft.

Ingredients

125g caster sugar

125g baking spread (I use Nuttelex here in Australia)

2 free range eggs at room temperature

125g self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 very ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

100g sour cherries

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Butter a 21cm x 10cm loaf tin, or similar size.

Put everything except the cherries into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz until everything is combined. Don’t overdo it or the mixture will be tough.

Stir in the sour cherries.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Cool completely in the tin before turning out as the loaf is quite fragile while warm.

Serve sprinkled with a little caster sugar. A dollop of cream or yoghurt would be nice – I had some passionfruit curd on hand so I smothered the loaf with a few spoonfuls!

Hearty Beef Pie

I’m on my way back to Sydney from sunny Cairns in far North Queensland. From temperatures of 30 degrees C to a lot less than that in autumnal Sydney!

So here’s a pie recipe that suits colder climes. A hearty pie that is not that difficult to make, with beef and tomato and puff pastry.

This pie has my go-to beef filling, a lovely casserole of slow cooked beef and tomato. And to make it easy, a simple crust of shop bought puff pastry – all butter if you can get it.

It’s rustic – no need to be too fiddly in the presentation!

Ingredients
Beef Filling

500g shin (gravy) beef or chuck steak or blade steak if you can’t get shin
1 dessertspoon plain flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium brown onions, chopped
2 – 4 shallots (more or less depending on the size of the shallots), chopped
2 x 400g tins whole peeled tomatoes
I large tomato, roughly chopped
200 mls red wine
1 tinful of water
1 tablespoon molasses
1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt, black pepper
A bay leaf
A few springs thyme
Few sprigs rosemary

For the pastry – 2 sheets of all butter puff pastry + free-range egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry

Method
Filling

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.

Place the beef into a ziplock bag with the flour, close and shake the bag to coat the beef pieces in the flour. Heat a heavy based cast iron casserole on the stovetop. Add two tablespoons of oil to the casserole.

Add half of the beef pieces and cook for a minute or two to brown the meat, turning to make sure all sides get the heat. This is just to caramelise the meat. Remove the pieces from the casserole and set aside. Add the other half of the beef and caramelise in the same way, removing from the casserole once browned.

Add the other tablespoon of oil, and add the the chopped onions and shallots. Fry over a medium heat until the onions and shallots are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Return the meat to the casserole.

Add the tinned tomatoes, roughly breaking up into the casserole. Add the chopped fresh tomato. Stir in the red wine, and using one of the tomato tins, add a tinful  of water. Stir in the molasses and Worcestershire sauce. Season with a sea salt and black pepper. Tie up the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary with an elastic band or a piece of string, to make a bouquet garnis, and put into the casserole mixture.

Making sure the mixture is simmering, carefully remove the casserole to the preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours, or until the beef is tender and almost falling apart. You should check after 2 hours, just in case the casserole has cooked a bit dry. If so, you can add some more water. As a general rule, it’s pretty hard to overcook this cut of beef, so 2 1/2 – 3 hours is usually about the right time.

Remove the casserole from the oven, remove the bouquet garnis,  and cool to room temperature.

Making the Pie

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Remove bought puff pastry from the fridge. You will need a pie dish, tin or mould, 18cms or 20cms in diameter. Cut the pastry from each sheet, into two pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. The bigger round should be at least big enough to fit into the pie dish, covering the base and sides. The other round will need to cover the top of the pie.

Ease the bottom pastry round into the dish. You can trim off any excess from around the edge.

Now it’s time to fill the pie. You won’t need all the filling – fill with enough of the meat mixture to fit comfortably into the pastry. Brush the edge of the pastry with the beaten egg.

Take the second, smaller round of pastry, cutting or stretching to the size of the top of the pie, making sure you have enough pastry to overlap the top of the pie. You can always trim the excess. Place over the filling, making sure the top pastry meets the bottom pastry all around the pie. Seal the the top and bottom of the pastry by pushing down around the edge with the prongs of a fork.

Brush the top of the pie all over with beaten egg, before putting the pie into the hot oven. Cook for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven.

Serve in big slices with a green salad, your sauce of choice and some crusty bread.

Mary Berry’s Caponata

I recently acquired Mary Berry’s Love to Cook – a beautiful book, with delicious and no nonsense recipes written with Mary’s trademark common sense.

I also recommend from this book Mary’s Victoria Sponge Sandwich – it is gorgeous and a doddle to make!

But this post is all about Caponata, a Sicilian vegetable dish based on eggplant – well that’s what we call them in Australia – Mary of course refers to them as aubergines.

A simple dish that takes about half an hour to make on the stove top.

I wouldn’t presume to alter Mary’s recipe, so here it is. However I did make a half size version in the photos, as I was cooking for one – me! But this size would do two easily.

I also used green olives rather than black, as I prefer them.

Quantities below are for the full size recipe.

Ingredients

8 tablespoons olive oil

2 aubergines (eggplants) cut into 2cm cubes,

2 onions, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into 1 cm cubes

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

500g passata

100g pitted black (or green) olives

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons capers

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1½ tablespoons caster sugar

Method

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add half of the aubergine cubes and fry until browned. Remove the aubergine from the pan and set aside. Heat another 3 tablespoons of the oil and fry the remaining aubergine. Set aside with the rest.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the onions, celery and pepper and fry over a high heat for 3–4 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds. Return the aubergine to the pan, add the passata, olives, vinegar, capers and sugar. Season with salt and black pepper, cover with a lid and bring up to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20–25 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another 5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and the vegetables are soft but not mushy.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty bread, couscous or as a vegetable side dish.

Lemon Chicken Traybake

I love a simple recipe that’s quick to prepare and doesn’t take much effort. Well this is a no-brainer.

Everything in a baking dish and cooked for an hour. That’s it. Simple. And very tasty!

Writing this recipe has actually taken me longer than preparing it. Simple.

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic

8 shallots

4 new potatoes

4 chicken thigh fillets, on the bone

8 artichoke hearts in brine

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 2 lemons

1 generous tablespoon pomegranate molasses (you can substitute balsamic vinegar)

Rock salt and black pepper

1 teaspoon honey

1 lemon finely sliced

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced.

Peel the garlic and slice into chunky slivers. Peel the shallots and half the larger ones, leave smaller ones whole. Chop the new potatoes into quarters.

Place these ingredients into a large bowl. Add the chicken thigh fillets and the artichoke hearts. Pour over the olive oil, the lemon juice and the pomegranate molasses or balsamic vinegar. Grind rock salt and black pepper liberally over everything. Stir the whole lot to make sure everything is well coated with the oil, lemon juice and molasses.

Put everything into a large baking dish. Make sure the chicken pieces aren’t covered with the vegetables. Drizzle the honey over the chicken thighs. Scatter the lemon slices over the dish.

Bake for about an hour in the preheated oven, turning the temperature down to 180 degrees after 10 minutes, and at 30 minutes do a quick baste with the pan juices.

After an hour the chicken should be brown and sticky. Give it another 5 minutes if you think it needs it.

Take out of the oven and you’re ready to serve! Because you’ve got potatoes inside the tray bake you don’t need any rice or pasta! Just a lovely green salad. And maybe some crusty sourdough bread.

Dukkah Crusted Salmon with Asparagus and Vine Ripened Tomatoes

This dish is an easy one to make for a light lunch or dinner. While there are a few steps, there is nothing really challenging, and it’s definitely not time consuming!

And you can always buy dukkah from a health food store or specialty grocer, rather than make your own.

Ingredients

Dukkah

30g skinned hazelnuts

6 cardamom pods, seeds removed

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon white sesame seeds

1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

The dish

1 bunch asparagus, about 6-8 spears

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 spring onions, tops trimmed

2 salmon fillets, skin on

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4-8 cherry tomatoes on the vine if possible

Method

To make the dukkah, put the hazelnuts in a heavy bottomed frying pan and lightly toast for a couple of minutes.

Add the spices and toast for a further 2 minutes.

Put this mixture plus the salt into a food processor and blitz. Don’t overdo it- you don’t want a powder, you want small chunks of nuts.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan-forced.

Cook the asparagus in the microwave for about 2 minutes just until slightly softened.

Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a baking dish. Lay the spring onions on the bottom. Place the salmon fillets, skin side up, on the spring onions. Scatter over some salt and ground black pepper. Place the asparagus spears and the cherry tomatoes around the salmon in the dish.

Place in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, and carefully peel the skin from each fillet. Scatter the dukkah over the fillets, put back in the oven and cook for 3 minutes longer.

Remove from the oven. You can serve as is, but I like to arrange the asparagus on top of the salmon. Sometimes I serve the tomatoes separately too.

Great with crusty bread, a green salad and a glass of wine!

Salmon, Asparagus and Tomato Buttermilk Quiche

Quiche is always a popular lunch or supper dish, winter or summer, served indoors by the fire or alfresco on a sunny day.

Great with crusty bread and a green salad, and a glass of wine!

This quiche is super easy as it’s made with filo pastry. I suppose it’s more like a traybake, cooked in a square dish, and it cuts into hearty slices.

This recipe calls for buttermilk in the custard, for a tangy flavour. But make it with full fat milk instead – it will still taste great.

Ingredients

8 sheets filo pastry

6-8 asparagus spears, trimmed

50g butter, melted

100mls cream

150mls buttermilk

4 free-range eggs

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

50g cheddar or feta

2 spring onions, trinm

1 large cooked salmon fillet*

6-8 cherry tomatoes

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter a 20cm – 22cm square baking dish or pan.

Remove filo pastry from the fridge.

Lay a sheet of filo pastry in the dish or pan. Take the next sheet and lay at right angles to the first, to ensure even coverage. Liberally brush with the melted butter. Lay another 2 sheets in the same way, brushing the second sheet with melted butter.

Layer the next 4 sheets, brushing with melted butter after every second sheet.

Take the asparagus and microwave for a couple of minutes on low to medium to just cook. Alternatively stick the asparagus spears top side down in a pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes until barely cooked.

Refresh asparagus under cold water.

To make the custard, combine cream, buttermilk, free-range eggs, salt, pepper and half the cheese, in a bowl, and beat with a fork or a whisk until thoroughly combined.

Pour the custard into the dish or pan. Lay the asparagus and spring onions on top of the custard. Break up the salmon fillet into chunks and put into the dish. Scatter the cherry tomatoes, whole, in between the other ingredients. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until the custard is set looking, but not hard or cracked.

Remove from the oven to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, with the previous mentioned bread and a green salad.

* cook the salmon fillet on baking paper for 10 minutes with a little oil in a 180 degrees C oven.

Fig and Almond Tart

It’s mid March and the last of the figs are still available in the markets. This is a tart I made in another summer, when figs were plentiful, so I thought I would share the recipe again to maximise the last of the fig bounty.

The figs are baked on an almond frangipane base in shortcrust pastry. Figs and frangipane go well together, the lovely almond cream complementing the juicy sweetness of the figs.

The shortcrust pastry is based on Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry but any good shortcrust would do.

Ingredients

For the shortcrust pastry base:

200gm chilled unsalted butter

250gm plain flour

1 tsp caster sugar

135gm sour cream

For the Frangipane:

100gm butter

100gm caster sugar

100gm ground almonds

1 free-range egg

10 fresh figs, quartered

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan forced, (180 degrees C non fan forced).

Butter a 23cm (9 inch) fluted flan tin with a removable bottom.

To make the pastry, pulse butter, flour and caster sugar in a food processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough starts to incorporate into a ball. Using your hands, shape pastry into a ball. Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
 Roll the pastry out and place into the buttered flan tin.

To make the frangipane, cream the butter and sugar in a food processor or you can use an electric mixer. Add the ground almonds and egg and mix well.

Spoon the frangipane over the tart base. You may not need all the mixture – the idea is to have a base on which to sit the figs. Arrange the fig quarters in a circular pattern over the frangipane. You needn’t be too precise. The figs should be sitting on top of the frangipane. If they sink in, you probably have too much frangipane and may need to take some out.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the frangipane is set and the pastry looks cooked round the edges. Don’t overcook so that the pastry edge burns.

Remove from the oven, and after 10 minutes, when the tart has cooled slightly, carefully remove the outer ring of the flan tin.

Serve at room temperature on its own, or with cream or yoghurt.

Molasses Soda Bread

Want bread in a hurry? Can’t be bothered making sourdough or even a standard yeast loaf?

Then soda bread, specifically Irish soda bread, is for you! I make a lot of sourdough, and I love it – both the bread to eat and the whole lengthy process of making that delicious crusty loaf.

But we all need a quick fix and soda bread is just the thing when you want to make a loaf from start to finish in under an hour.

Delicious fresh from the oven, slathered in melting butter, or eaten with cheese and quince paste, and finally, toasted the next day with luscious jam.

My version of soda bread includes a tablespoon of molasses. While I include the molasses to give the bread a slightly caramel flavour, it also produces a nice brown colour.

Here’s the recipe, it’s super easy.

Ingredients
340g plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ -1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
290mls buttermilk
1 tablespoon molasses

Method
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Place flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture, and pour in the buttermilk and molasses, mixing quickly to form a soft dough.

Once the buttermilk and molasses have been incorporated, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.

Form into a round then place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm, fresh or toasted!

Sourdough Wholemeal Loaf

Sourdough in all its forms is the best bread and I continue to add to my store of great stand by bread recipes. I don’t make as much wholemeal as I should – something I should do something about!

This is a lovely wholemeal sourdough loaf that is great for just about anything – fresh with butter or dipped in olive oil or toasted.

But it really makes great sandwiches. I’m particularly fond of an egg and mayo sandwich, as pictured here. But choose whatever filling you fancy.

It can be shaped as a batard in a proving basket and then baked in a pot, or equally baked in a loaf tin to make it easier to slice for the aforementioned sandwiches.

The recipe is based on my go-to sourdough method, with some tweaks for wholemeal. I have given instructions for both the batard in a cast iron pot and the loaf tin versions.

Ingredients

150g strong wholemeal flour

300g strong white flour

150g wholemeal sourdough starter 

325g tepid water

2 teaspoons honey 

10g salt

Method

Weighing, mixing, autolyse
Weigh both flours into a large bowl. Weigh the sourdough starter and add, followed by the water. Add the honey. Mix everything together very roughly, in order to incorporate the ingredients.

Cover the bowl and leave for 30 minutes to autolyse.  I use a clear plastic shower cap as a cover, as it fits nicely over most sized bowls. A plastic bag is fine too. The autolyse is an important step to activate fermentation. 

After the autolyse add the salt to the mixture. Now you can choose to knead the mixture using a dough hook in an electric stand mixer, knead by hand or use the stretch and fold method, essentially a no knead way of developing gluten in the dough. I strongly advise using a dough hook in a stand mixer – I have a KitchenAid which I swear by. You can really develop the gluten in the dough, which makes the dough much easier to pre-shape and then shape. *

Kneading and proving 
Using a mixer, mix the dough for 6 minutes on the lowest speed, then 4 minutes on the next speed up. The dough should be lovely and stretchy, and pass the windowpane test. If you pull and stretch a small section, it should be translucent. Cover the bowl again and leave the dough in a warm place to prove for about 4 hours. I usually do a couple stretch and folds too – one straight after mixing, and one half way through the prove. 

After the first prove of 4 hours the dough should have increased in size by about 50%.

Pre-shaping
Carefully remove the dough from the bowl with the help of a dough scraper onto an unfloured work surface. Definitely no flour needed! I use an oversized wooden board, but a bench top will work too. The dough will be stretchy, and shouldn’t be too delicate, but don’t be too rough! Slide the scraper underneath the dough, lifting it from underneath. You will feel the scraper catch the dough as it lifts it up. I try not to remove the scraper, just move it round all of the dough in a circle. Sometimes the scraper sticks, and you need to pull it out, remove the sticky dough, and then go under again, but the more you move around the dough, the tighter the dough becomes and the less likely to stick. Do this circular movement with the scraper a few times until the dough forms a round, wobbly ball that roughly holds its shape. Leave for 20-30 minutes to let the gluten relax.

Shaping
This is where you can shape for a batard in a proving basket to be baked in a pot or for a loaf tin. It’s important that you are super careful with the shaping as you don’t want to damage the dough you have worked so hard to develop.

Fo the batard shape, put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the dough is sort of square shape. Take the two sides of the square shape that are opposite each other and gently stretch away from each other. Fold these stretched bits over each other in the centre of the dough. Turn the dough round 90 degrees and do the same with the other two sides of the square. Now that you have folded the 4 sides of the square, fold 2 of the opposing corners in the same way, and then fold the other opposing corners. Now roll up the dough like a Swiss roll, it doesn’t matter which side you roll up. Press the seam to seal.

If using a proving basket, carefully move the dough into a batard shaped proving basket, with the smooth side of the dough on the bottom and the seam side on top.

If using a loaf tin, butter a large loaf tin generously. Move the dough and place seam side down, into the tin. 

Second proving
While you can prove your dough for 2-3 hours at room temperature, I advocate the retarded or fridge prove, and this method serves me well. Leave the dough at room temperature for an hour then place in the fridge for 8-12 hours. Doing this at night works well as it allows you to bake your bread first thing the next morning.

Baking
For the pot method, pre-heat your oven to really hot – 250 degrees C fan-forced. Put the pot in when you begin to pre-heat, and leave for 20-30 minutes.

Turn your dough out of the proving basket onto a thin flat baking tray or peel, well dusted with semolina. The pretty side of the dough is now on top. Open the oven and carefully take the lid of the pre-heated pot off. You can then slide the shaped dough into the hot pot.

At this point you can score the dough using a lame or a very sharp serrated edge knife. For a batard, score with 1 or 2 long cuts down the length of the dough. Put the lid back on the pot. Turn the oven to 220 degrees C fan-forced. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20-30 minutes with the lid off. I have experimented endlessly with this latter baking time, and have come to the conclusion that the longer baking time gives a richer, browner loaf, which is what I prefer.

If baking in a loaf tin, pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees C fan-forced 30 minutes prior to baking. If you have one, use a baking or pizza stone. Place this in the oven at the time of pre-heating. Once the 30 minutes is up, to add steam to the oven, put a cast iron pan or a baking dish with water in it in the bottom of the oven. Put the loaf tin in the oven onto the heated stone.

Turn the oven to 220 degrees C fan-forced and bake for 45-50 minutes. The loaf should be dark brown on top.

For either the batard or the loaf, once cooked, remove from the oven, take out of the pot/tin and leave to cool for an hour.

Slice for sandwiches. Of course like any good sourdough, lovely with plenty of butter and home made jam!

*If you don’t have an electric mixer, I recommend the stretch and fold method – see previous post on Sourdough, Ultimate Bread here for how to do this. As for traditional kneading, there is plenty of information on the internet to guide you.

Oven Baked Chicken Risotto

I posted this recipe from Australia’s wonderful Bill Granger during lockdown the year before last. It seems so strange to be talking about lockdown in 2020 when we are still dealing with the pandemic…

It’s quick and easy because it’s an oven baked risotto. It makes sense to let the oven do the cooking rather than spend all that time stirring on the stove top.

Recently, a friend told me that this dish is her go to recipe for risotto, as it’s so much easier than cooking risotto the traditional way.

So I thought it’s about time I posted it again, to encourage reluctant risotto cooks to give it a go!

Bill’s recipe has leeks and asparagus as the veggies. You could replace the leeks and/or asparagus with whatever you fancy – zucchini, peas, broad beans or even tomatoes for a red hued risotto.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
500g chicken breast or thighs, cut into thin strips
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
250g Arborio rice
500ml chicken stock
250ml white wine + extra if needed
1 bunch of asparagus, sliced on the diagonal
A handful of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus extra to serve
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large casserole dish on the stove top over a high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining olive to the pan, then the onion and leek, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the onion and leek are soft. Add the lemon zest and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat the grains in the oil. Add the chicken stock and white wine, and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.

Cover the casserole and put in the oven for 20 minutes. At this point, if the risotto seems to have absorbed all the liquid, add a splash or two of white wine. Add asparagus, return the chicken to the casserole and bake for a few minutes or until the asparagus is just tender, the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Bill says to do this for 3-4 minutes, I found it took more like 10 minutes to fully cook the rice.

Stir in parmesan or pecorino and season with salt and pepper. Serve with extra cheese.

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