food for thought

by michelle

oat cakes

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Quintessentially Scottish, these savoury oat cakes are equally good served with a cheese platter or with butter and jam. A coating of dark chocolate works too. Read more about the art of oat cakes here.

Preheat your oven to 190ºC (375ºF). Mix 225g of instant oats, 60g of flour, ½ a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, ½ a teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt (less if your butter is salted). Rub in 60g of butter then add 60-80ml of fairly hot water bit by bit until you have a thick but pliable dough. Sprinkle some extra flour on a work surface and roll out the dough to approximately ⅔ cm (¼”) thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut out rounds. Place them on a baking tray and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. 

*recipe from BBC Good Food


Written by michelle picker

June 20, 2018 at 12:25 am

miso grilled tofu and vegetables

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Here’s a lovely way to eat tofu and should appeal to both vegetarians and omnivores.

You will need a firm tofu for this meal. For the vegetables I used butternut pumpkin (squash), zucchini (courgettes) and whole Swiss brown mushrooms but the choice of vegetables is flexible as long as they keep their shape reasonably well. Combine white miso paste with some sesame oil, a little brown sugar and enough water to make a paste which is thin enough to spread and thick enough to stick. The amount of ingredients here are flexible as miso paste varies quite a lot and you must taste this mixture to make sure it’s not too salty or too sweet. Cut the tofu and vegetables to the size you wish to serve and coat them all with vegetable oil. If you don’t have a griddle or barbecue you can roast the vegetables in the oven. Cook them first until they are a little brown and softening then brush them with miso paste and continue to cook until coated and delicious. Watch them carefully at this stage as the miso and sugar can burn quite easily. Serve garnished with finely sliced spring onion and toasted sesame seeds.

Written by michelle picker

June 13, 2018 at 12:04 am


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Rabbit is such a dense and lean meat that it’s difficult to keep moist and tender. David’s rabbit-cooking technique is a work in progress but he usually gets it right and here is one of his recipes.

Joint 1 fresh rabbit into 6 pieces. Heat butter and olive oil in a heavy casserole dish and very, very briefly seal the rabbit pieces. Remove them to a covered container. Sauté 1 diced onion, 1 diced celery stick and 1 chopped carrot until the onion is soft and translucent. Add ¼ of a cup of wine (red or white) and allow it to evaporate before adding 1 cup of chicken stock. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Now add the rabbit pieces, 2 pieces of bacon, 1 bay leaf, a few sage leaves, 2 diced cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and 1 finely chopped fresh tomato. Make sure everything is well dispersed. Cut a cartouche (a circle or baking paper) and lay it directly over the rabbit. Place the lid on the casserole and cook in a low oven for 1 – 1½ hours or until the rabbit is just tender. Rabbits do vary so the cooking time will also vary. During the cooking, turn the rabbit pieces once or twice, making sure there is enough liquid – the rabbit pieces should be almost immersed. Remove the pieces to a closed container to keep warm. At this stage, depending on how much sauce you have, you can either reduce the sauce or thicken it with a little cornflour dissolved in an equal amount of cold water. The amount of cornflour needed will vary depending on the amount of liquid and it’s acidity. Stir the cornflour slurry into the simmering sauce and continue to simmer briefly. Season again to taste and return the rabbit pieces to the sauce before serving.

Written by michelle picker

June 6, 2018 at 12:02 am

yoghurt honey cheesecake

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I agree with Yotam Ottolenghi about cheesecakes – baked is always the best. So when he described this set cheesecake in glowing terms, he piqued my interest. He wasn’t wrong – absolutely delicious!

Before you start this cake, place 500g (17½ oz) of Greek style yoghurt in a clean cloth, tie it together and hang it over a bowl or sink. Allow it to drain until it’s about ⅔ of it’s original size – this will take at least a few hours, ideally overnight. Next, line a 23cm (9″) springform cake tin with greaseproof or baking paper. The original recipe calls for Hobnob biscuits (a kind of digestive made with oats) but since they’re not available in Australia I went local and used Anzac biscuits. They are probably a lot sweeter and crunchier than Hobnobs but they worked brilliantly. Finely crush 200g of your chosen biscuit either in a food processor or by putting them into a plastic bag and bashing them with a rolling pin. Mix them with 60g of butter and 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves and press this mixture into the base of the cake tin. Chill in the fridge while you make the filling. Whisk together 400g (14 oz) of full-fat cream cheese, the strained yoghurt, 40g (1.4 oz) of sieved icing sugar and 1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest. Melt 150g (5.3 oz) of white chocolate in a double boiler. Make sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the simmering water below and that you don’t get any moisture into the chocolate – white chocolate is very temperamental. Whisk the melted chocolate into the cream cheese mixture then spread it evenly on the biscuit base. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours or even overnight to set. Warm 60g (2.1 oz) of honey with 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves until just runny. Remove the cake from the fridge and the tin and drizzle the honey over the top of the cake.

Written by michelle picker

May 30, 2018 at 1:04 am

mini breakfast frittatas

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Here’s a great breakfast for a crowd that’s easy to prepare ahead. These were simple ham and cheese but there are endless ingredient choices for mini frittatas and they’re excellent party food too. Try mushrooms, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, chillies, olives and truffle to name just a few. Let your imagination run wild.

Generously butter some muffin trays (silicone works really well) and place some chunks of good quality free-range ham and some shredded tasty cheese into each opening. Whisk all your eggs (1 per frittata) adding some cream, sour cream or just milk and seasoning to taste with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Divide the eggs evenly into the muffin trays then top each frittata with chopped fresh chives and some more grated cheese. Bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes or until set.

And while the oven is on, why not roast a tray of tomatoes? Cut the tomatoes into wedges, sprinkle with chopped fresh basil, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Written by michelle picker

May 23, 2018 at 12:20 am

spicy prawns + vegetables in coconut

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These two dishes use Belacan, a shrimp paste pressed into a block and sun-dried. It’s an essential ingredient in Malaysian cooking which adds a unique depth of flavour. Pre-roasting, a necessary step, reduces it’s very strong smell and flavour. Wrap a piece in foil and roast it over an open flame or in the oven until it has a pleasant roasted aroma. Now you can add it to your rempah, a paste which functions like a wet curry paste to begin your dish.

For the spicy prawns make a rempah of 1 onion, 6 dried chillies, 2 fresh chillies, 2 large cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of laos (galangal) powder, 1 teaspoon of belacan and 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric. You can make this into a paste with a mortar and pestle, a small food processor or blender – add a little water if necessary. Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large pan or wok and fry the rempah until it’s fragrant then add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of sugar and ¾ of a teaspoon of salt. Add 450g (1lb) of whole, unpeeled prawns, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or so until the prawns are just cooked. Garnish with fresh coriander (cilantro).

Vegetables in coconut are a sweet and mild foil for the spicy prawns. Make a rempah of 1 onion, 1 clove of garlic, 1 or 2 fresh green chillies, ½ a teaspoon of belacan and ½ a teaspoon of ground turmeric. Fry the rempah in a little oil then add 1½ cups of coconut milk, 2 strips of lemon rind and ¾ of a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer then add 3 or 4 cups of thinly sliced vegetables (I used cabbage, carrots and bok choy) and cook until tender. Remove from the heat and add lemon juice to taste.

*Adapted from recipes in The Curry Cookbook by Charmaine and Reuben Solomon.

Written by michelle picker

May 16, 2018 at 12:12 am

pandan chiffon cake

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Here’s a wonderful Asian treat.

This amazingly green and fantastically light sponge cake is popular throughout South-East Asia. Pandan leaf is often used to flavour desserts and, as in this cake, is often paired with coconut. I’ve bought excellent versions of this cake at Asian grocery stores but for a while there was a shortage and, in desperation, I bought a packet mix. I do like to make everything myself but I cheated with this one and the result was excellent! Maybe I’ll try a recipe next time…..

Written by michelle picker

May 9, 2018 at 12:33 am