food for thought

by michelle

huevos rancheros

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Here’s a great wake-up breakfast – fried eggs served the Mexican way.

If you want to make your own fresh tortillas (and there’s nothing better!) see how to do it here. These ones were made with blue corn masa which is a little coarser than white corn masa and therefore results in thicker tortillas.

To make refried beans, a classic accompaniment for all Mexican meals, 1 cup of beans and 4 cups of water will produce 2½ cups of cooked beans. If you remember, you can soak them overnight but a quicker method is to boil them for 4 minutes and then soak them for 1 hour. Next they need to be cooked for 45-60 minutes (or 10 minutes in a pressure cooker) until tender. Drain, retaining the liquid, and set aside. In a saucepan, heat a generous amount of vegetable oil and sauté 1 finely diced onion and 1-2 cloves of garlic until translucent. Add any or all of the following dry herbs and spices to your taste: cumin, oregano, chilli, smoky paprika, cayenne pepper. Add the beans and fry over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Now add some of the liquid and salt to taste.

For the ranchero sauce  place 4 large tomatoes and 5 fresh serrano chillies over an open flame, on a barbecue or under a hot grill until you see some charring. Place them in a blender with 2 cloves of garlic and process to a textured sauce consistency. Heat some vegetable oil in a saucepan and add a small finely diced onion. Cook gently until translucent then add the blended ingredients and ½ a teaspoon of sea salt (or to taste). Cook over high heat until slightly reduced and thickened, stirring from time to time.

Now all you need is fried eggs. When they’re cooked to your liking, place them on the tortillas, top with some sauce and garnish with coriander (cilantro). On the side, refried beans and avocado lightly salted and drizzled with lemon juice.


Written by michelle picker

August 15, 2018 at 12:10 am

slow-cooked calamari

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Cooked long and slow in the Provençal style, calamari becomes amazingly tender with a rich and deep flavour. Enjoy  it with a crusty baguette, a fresh green salad and a crisp white wine.

This recipe, from PROVENCE Gastronomique by Erica Brown, also works with squid, cuttlefish or octopus. If you intend to clean your own calamari, do this first and cut them into rings. In a saucepan heat some olive oil and fry 1 finely diced onion until it becomes soft and translucent. Add 1kg (2¼ lbs) of calamari and 3 large peeled and diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer then add 350ml (12fl oz) of dry white wine, 350ml (12fl oz) of boiling water, a bay leaf, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the saucepan and simmer over very low heat for 2 hours or until the calamari is very tender. Remove the calamari to a covered bowl with some of it’s liquid and reduce the rest of the liquid by half. Return the calamari to the liquid to reheat. If necessary you can thicken the sauce with a slurry of equal parts cornflour and cold water, making sure to cook the starch. In the last minute or so add 2 minced cloves of garlic and a handful of chopped fresh parsley.


Written by michelle picker

August 8, 2018 at 12:10 am

honey walnut cheesecake with figs cooked in ouzo

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Here’s a deconstructed cheesecake which celebrates Greek flavours. A simple and elegant way to serve cheesecake as a dessert for a dinner party.

At least a few hours before or even the night before, strain 500g of Greek-style yoghurt. Place in a piece of cheesecloth or fine linen, tie together and hang over a bowl or sink, allowing the liquid to drain.

For the figs trim the hard stem from 16 whole dried figs and place them in a saucepan. Cover with 2 cups of hot water and leave to soak for 1 hour. Add ½ a cup of ouzo, 1 cinnamon stick and a large strip of orange zest. Bring to boil over high heat then reduce to medium and cook until the figs are plump and soft. Remove from the stove and allow to cool.

For the crumb preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Combine ½ a cup of oats, ½ a cup of almond meal, ½ a cup of walnuts, ⅓ of a cup of dark brown brown sugar, 4 tablespoons of butter and (if using unsalted butter) ¼ of a teaspoon of fine grain sea salt. Process everything in a food processor until you have a medium crumb. Spread onto a baking tray and bake until golden brown. Set aside to cool. 

For the cheesecake blend 250g of cream cheese, 1 cup of the strained yoghurt, ¾ of a cup of honey, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch sea salt. The consistency should be firm enough to pipe. 

To assemble, place 2 tablespoons of crumb into the bottom of each glass. Pipe in the cheesecake mixture then top with some figs, either whole or in segments. 

Written by michelle picker

August 1, 2018 at 12:19 am

greek tomato soup

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This Domatósoupa is a creamy, slightly sour tomato soup with an amazing depth of flavour. The recipe can be found in Susie Jacobs’ Recipes from a Greek Island. 

To make this soup you must first make a herb stock. Measure 1.2 litres (40fl oz) of water into a saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped thyme, 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped marjoram, 2 bay leaves, 1 sprig of parsley, 2 strips of lemon zest, 1 small peeled and roughly chopped onion, 4 garlic cloves, 1 dried red chilli, 10 black peppercorns, 1 whole clove, a small piece of cinnamon bark and salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes then strain and set aside. In a pot with a heavy base heat some olive oil and gently fry 1 large diced Spanish onion and 1 finely chopped leek until soft and translucent. Add 600g (1¼ lbs) of skinned and chopped tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of tomato paste and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes then add 1 clove of finely diced garlic, the finely grated zest of ½ an orange and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint. Continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes then add the herb stock. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 30 – 45 minutes. In a medium bowl beat 350ml (12 fl oz) of thick Greek-style yoghurt and 1 tablespoon of flour. While still beating, slowly add 1 ladleful of the soup to the yoghurt. Repeat this one more time then slowly pour all of the yoghurt into the soup pot, stirring constantly. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to stir and cook over very low heat for a few minutes more. Don’t allow the soup to boil or it may curdle. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread.

Written by michelle picker

July 25, 2018 at 12:14 am

ribeye with mushroom sauce

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For you meat-lovers out there.

We brined this steak with leftover dill pickle brine. This can be from store-bought pickles or home-made. The pickle brine not only salts the meat but imparts some delicious flavour. Marinate for at least a few hours. Brush the steak with oil and cook it on the barbecue, not directly on the heat, until it’s done to your liking – you can do this by feel or with a thermometer. Rest the steak before cutting across the grain to serve.

To make the mushroom sauce use tasty mushrooms such as Swiss Browns. Finely dice a brown shallot and fry in some butter and oil until translucent. Add sliced mushrooms (more than you think you need), a sprig or 2 of fresh thyme, a sprinkling of porcini powder (an invaluable pantry ingredient to boost mushroom flavour and add umami) and salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook slowly until the mushrooms are quite reduced in size then add red wine and rich beef stock. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until the the sauce is reduced by up to half. Adjust the seasoning, add some butter and add cream or sour cream to taste.


Written by michelle picker

July 18, 2018 at 12:16 am

chocolate and brandied prune terrine + walnut tuiles

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Rich with dark chocolate and with a good hit of brandy, this was the perfect dessert for a French menu. The addition of a walnut tuile added some buttery crunch.

I always keep a jar of brandied prunes – a jar filled with pitted prunes and topped up with brandy. The prunes taste better and better as they age and the brandy becomes a gorgeous syrup. If you don’t yet have any brandied prunes, place 300g (10½ oz) of pitted prunes in a bowl or jar. Gently heat ⅓ of a cup of brandy (this will slightly speed up the process) and pour it over the prunes. Allow them to steep overnight. To make the terrine you will need a terrine or an oblong container to make a long narrow loaf shape. Lightly oil it and line it with cling wrap. In a double boiler over simmering water (or on low power in the microwave) melt 180g (6⅓ oz) of chopped dark 70% chocolate and stir it until smooth. In another bowl beat 90g (3 oz) of butter and 45g (1½ oz) of sugar by hand until light then add 3 tablespoons of sifted cocoa powder and mix well. In a separate bowl beat 3 egg yolks with another 45g(1½ oz) of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate to the butter mixture then fold in the egg mixture and finally fold in 225ml (7 fl oz) of thick cream. Add the prunes (I chopped mine into smaller pieces) with any remaining brandy and fold everything together until well combined. Transfer into the prepared mould, cover the top with overhanging plastic and chill until firm. To serve, use a hot knife to cut into thick slices and serve with crème fraîche. For the tuiles, preheat your oven to 180℃ (350ºF). Combine 200g (7 oz) of sugar, 45g (1½ oz) of flour, 135g (4¾ oz) of melted butter, 30g (1 oz) of finely powdered walnuts and 100g (3½ oz) of finely chopped walnuts. Spread the batter onto a silicone mat or baking paper in small disks (they will spread) and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the edges are browning. Lightly grease a rolling pin, carefully remove the hot tuiles with a palette knife and lay them over the rolling pin to set into a curl. Cool and store in an airtight container. 

*adapted fro this recipe

Written by michelle picker

July 11, 2018 at 12:13 am

chèvre omelette

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A simple dish of eggs and cheese might only take 10-15 minutes to prepare but it can still impress. This omelette highlights light and fluffy just-melted goats cheese.

Break up 1 cup of fresh chèvre, mix through 1 tablespoon of finely chopped chives and set aside. In a small frypan heat some butter with a little oil and fry 10 -12 sage leaves until crispy. Drain them on a paper towel and set aside as the garnish. Whisk 4 eggs with a little milk or cream, making sure to season them well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Over medium heat, melt a generous amount of butter and oil in a large frypan. When it’s sizzling, pour the eggs into the pan. Break any bubbles that form in the omelette and allow the egg to run through. When the egg is nearly cooked, place the chèvre onto one half and carefully fold the other half over the top. Continue to cook just long enough for the cheese to melt before sliding the omelette onto a serving plate. Garnish with the crispy sage leaves.

Written by michelle picker

July 4, 2018 at 12:29 am