food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘vegetables’ Category

rack of lamb + peas with feta and mint + roasted red peppers

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Rack of lamb coated with mustard, garlic and rosemary and blushing inside – classic but still fabulous.

Season each rack generously with salt and allow it to permeate for at least an hour. Meanwhile, crush some garlic with a mortar and pestle or a mini food processor and add plenty of fresh rosemary, some mustard of your choice, freshly ground black pepper and a little oil to make a paste. When you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to 180º (350ºF). On the stovetop heat a large cast iron or heavy skillet, add some oil and brown the racks fat-side down for 5-10 minutes. Remove the racks to an oven tray with the browned surface facing up and coat all the meat with the mustard mixture. Roast for 15-20 minutes or, if you have a thermometer, until the temperature in the middle of the meat reaches 50ºC (120ºF). Remove the lamb from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. During this time the temperature should continue to rise to a perfect medium-rare 55ºC (130ºF). Cut and serve either single or double chops.

As a side dish try these peas with feta and mint. Cook the peas in salted water until just cooked. Drain, place them in a bowl and add crumbled feta, plenty of fresh mint, freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of good quality olive oil;

And these roasted red peppers. Simply slice into long strips, toss with salt, pepper and olive oil and roast in a hot oven until slightly charred.



Written by michelle picker

April 25, 2018 at 12:10 am

shiitake mushrooms

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Shiitake mushrooms are used widely in Asian cuisines and considered to have many health benefits. They are widely available in their dried form but are a little harder to find fresh, although Asian stores are a good place to try. We decided to attempt to grow them. This a lengthy procedure with some inherent difficulties for those of us living in urban areas. The first problem was finding living branches from a suitable tree. This took some time but we finally found some fairly large oak branches without any signs of fungus or mould. Shiitake are grown by drilling holes into the branches and hammering in dowels impregnated with the mushroom spores – we ordered these online. The holes are covered with beeswax and the logs then need to be kept damp and in a nice semi-dark place, similar to a forest floor. We waited approximately 18 months before we induced the first crop by soaking the logs for a day and then dropping them to shock them into fruiting. This can be done in Spring, Summer or Autumn. Hopefully they will now fruit twice a year. Although our first crop wasn’t very large it was exciting to finally see the mushrooms growing and they tasted amazing!

This recipe for a Chinese-style omelette is perfect for featuring shiitake mushrooms. Begin by slicing some medium to firm tofu and fry it in a little vegetable oil. Season with soy sauce and honey and set aside. Remove the stems from the mushrooms (Shiitake stems don’t soften when you cook them) and slice the mushrooms. Heat a pan and add some finely shredded ginger into the dry pan until it is fragrant. Add some sesame oil and the mushrooms, season with a minimal amount of salt and cook them until they are just softening. Add the tofu to reheat it along with some spring onions. Keep this mixture warm while you make the omelette. Whisk 3-4 eggs with a little water and a drop of sesame oil, and season them with soy sauce and white pepper. Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a wide frypan, add  the eggs and allow them to cook, without turning, until almost firm. Place the mushroom and tofu mix onto one half of the omelette and, using a wide turner, flip the other half over the top. When the omelette is cooked carefully slide it onto a serving plate and garnish with spring onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Written by michelle picker

April 11, 2018 at 12:33 am

new potatoes

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Thomas recently harvested this year’s crop of potatoes.

He planted Dutch Cream, a variety known for it’s creamy texture in mash but also excellent for roasting. When they’re this fresh, though, there’s nothing better than boiling or steaming them.

We served them with sour cream mixed with plenty of chives and some salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Other accompaniments: smoked trout with sliced onion, cucumber salad with dill and vegetables sautéed in olive oil.

Written by michelle picker

February 28, 2018 at 12:19 am

warrigal spinach

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Warrigal spinach, is a bush food native to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile and Argentina. Captain Cook ate it aboard  the Endeavour to prevent scurvy and Joseph Banks took it back to England to cultivate.

The plant is drought resistant, thrives on neglect, self seeds and grows so fast that it can be harvested in a few weeks. It’s flavour is similar to spinach and it can be used in much the same way as it’s namesake. Like spinach it contains oxalates which can be removed by blanching. Try it in a pie with feta, in fritters, cannelloni, dumplings or a pesto. Here is a simple stir-fry for an Asian meal.

Wash and dry the Warrigal spinach and finely dice 2 cloves of garlic. Heat some oil in a wok until very hot and briefly add the garlic before adding the Warrigal spinach. Cook, stirring, until the stems are cooked and not too tough. Add some dried chilli flakes to taste and season with salt and ground white pepper. Serve hot.

Written by michelle picker

February 7, 2018 at 12:53 am

turmeric chilli squid + belacan asparagus

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Fifi cooked up a storm when she stayed recently. This Malaysian squid dish includes ingredients popular throughout South-East Asia such as turmeric and kaffir lime leaves.

Place 700g (1½ lbs) of fresh squid rings in a non-reactive bowl and add 1½ teaspoons of ground turmeric, 1 tablespoon of chilli flakes, 1 finely minced clove of garlic, 3 finely sliced kaffir lime leaves, 1 tablespoon of grated palm sugar, 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine or dry sherry, the juice of ½ – 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper and 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Allow the squid to marinate for at least a few hours before cooking in a hot wok until just cooked through and still tender. Serve with steamed rice. 

Roasted shrimp paste or belacan is a common addition to Malaysian dishes. Here it adds amazing flavour to asparagus and zucchini.

Soak 1-2 tablespoons of dried shrimp to soften them a little. Wrap a small piece (approximately 2 teaspoons) of belacan in foil and roast it over a flame or in the oven – it’s done when it smells roasted. Chop a few brown shallots, a few cloves of garlic and some fresh red chillies and place them in a mortar and pestle (or a small food processor) with the shrimp and shrimp paste. Pound (or process) to a rough paste (rempah). Cut the asparagus and zucchini into similar sized pieces. Heat some oil in a wok until very hot and add the rempah, cooking until fragrant. Add the vegetables and stir constantly until just cooked. This dish shouldn’t require any seasoning as the belacan and dried shrimp are salty but check the seasoning just in case and serve hot.

Written by michelle picker

January 10, 2018 at 12:34 am

christmas 2017

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This year our Christmas lunch was a lovely eclectic mixture of food. Our guests brought the entree of antipasti.

For the main course we roasted butterflied chickens over charcoal with a garlic, sage and rosemary butter under the skin. We added oak chips from Chardonnay barrels to the fire for a smoky flavour. Our gravy was Chef John’s turkey gravy recipe made with chicken wings instead.

Side dishes included potatoes and heirloom carrots cooked in duck fat, a lovely fresh salad,

and a wonderful stuffing following this recipe.

My next post will be dedicated to our Christmas dessert.

Written by michelle picker

December 27, 2017 at 12:18 am

sichuan braised eggplant

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The province of Sichuan (Szechuan) in southwestern China has a bold, pungent and spicy cuisine. It’s known for it’s liberal use of garlic, chillies, vinegar and sichuan pepper. Here’s a great example of Sichuan braised eggplant from Serious Eats.

Trim ¾ kg (1½ lbs) of small Asian eggplants and cut them into quarters lengthwise then into 10cm (4″) lengths. Pour 2 litres (2 quarts) of water into a bowl and add ½ a cup of kosher salt. Add the eggplant pieces, skin-side up, and soak for 10 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, slice 2 birds-eye chillies and place them in a small bowl. Heat 3 tablespoons of white or rice wine vinegar in a small saucepan until simmering and pour it over the chillies, allowing it to steep for 5 minutes before adding 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of Chinkiang vinegar (if you can’t get this use a cheap balsamic vinegar). When completely cool add 1¼ teaspoons of cornflour (cornstarch) and stir until dissolved. Set this sauce aside. Now drain the eggplant, pat dry with paper towels and set aside. Finely mince 4 teaspoons of fresh ginger and 4 cloves of garlic and slice 4 spring onions (scallions), the white part thinly and the green part into longer pieces. Roughly chop some coriander (cilantro) for garnish. When you’re ready to cook, make sure you have all the prepared ingredients ready as well as some Doubanjiang (a chilli and bean paste available from Asian grocery stores). Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Reduce the heat to medium and add the eggplant. Cook until softened and well browned on all sides. Push it to the sides of the wok, turn up the heat and add the ginger, garlic, and scallions. Cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant then add 2 tablespoons of Doubanjiang and cook for a further 30 seconds. Stir the chilli sauce you prepared earlier and add it as well. Now toss and continue to cook for 1-3 minutes until the sauce is thick and glossy and is coating the eggplant pieces. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the coriander (cilantro). Serve hot with steamed rice or as part of a banquet with other Sichuan dishes.

Written by michelle picker

November 15, 2017 at 12:10 am