food for thought

by michelle

zucchini, parmesan and basil soup

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Do you keep those rinds from parmesan?  Here’s a truly delicious way to use them and to eat your greens.

The first step for this soup is to make a stock from the parmesan rinds. A pressure cooker helps to shorten this process. Cut 4 -6 pieces of rind into small pieces and cook them in 1 litre (1 quart) of water until they are almost melted away. This will take 20-30 minutes in a pressure cooker and 2-3 hours in a pot and may need more water. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan sauté 1 chopped onion and 4-5 chopped zucchinis in some olive oil. Season to taste. When you’re satisfied that you’ve extracted the most out of the parmesan rinds, strain the stock into the saucepan and continue to cook until the zucchinis are just soft. Purée the soup with a stick blender or food processor until the mixture is emulsified then add fresh basil leaves and process again. Check the seasoning before serving with a drizzle of olive oil.


Written by michelle picker

October 25, 2017 at 12:08 am

greek lemon chicken and potatoes

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Looking for a simple meal that’s enticing and delicious? Here is a wonderful version of this Greek classic from Chef John at Food Wishes.

Preheat your oven to 220ºC (425ºF). Cut a chicken into 6-8 pieces (I left the breasts whole as they cook more quickly) and place them in a large bowl. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add 1 teaspoon each of dried rosemary and oregano, some cayenne pepper to taste, 6 cloves of minced garlic, and ½ a cup each of freshly squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. Peel and quarter 3 large potatoes and add them as well. Mix well to coat everything with the marinade then place the chicken pieces and potatoes into a lightly oiled roasting pan, reserving the marinade. Pour ⅔ of a cup of chicken stock around the chicken and potato pieces then spoon the marinade onto the top of each piece. Roast in the oven until the chicken pieces are golden brown and cooked through, turning in the marinade now and then but leaving the skin side facing up. When the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken pieces to a serving platter. Toss the potatoes in their marinade again. Turn the oven to high or transfer to a grill (broiler) and finish the potatoes until they are golden brown and the marinade is a little caramelised. Remove the potatoes to the platter and deglaze the roasting pan with a little more chicken stock to loosen it. Taste for seasoning and pour it over the chicken and potatoes (you can strain it if you prefer).  Serve with a salad of greens and feta with a simple lemon and olive oil dressing.

Written by michelle picker

October 18, 2017 at 12:18 am

torta di cioccolata

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This Italian-style flourless chocolate cake has a crisp crust, a wonderful rich dark chocolate flavour and a light, moist, melt-in-the mouth centre. I prefer my cakes not too sweet so I reduced the sugar in this recipe which comes from one of my favourite cake books, Bake your cake & eat it too! by Tamara Millstein.

Preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and prepare a 22cm (8″) springform tin by greasing and lining the bottom with baking paper. In a heat-proof bowl over a bain marie, melt 350g (12⅓ oz) of good quality chocolate pieces and 100g (3½ oz) of chopped butter until smooth and glossy. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of dutch cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon of instant coffee and set aside. In another bowl beat 5 large eggs with 220g (7¾ oz) of caster sugar until thick and pale. Add 5 tablespoons of ground walnuts and 100g (3½ oz) of walnut pieces. Gently fold in the chocolate mixture until well combined. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 40 minutes. Switch off the oven and leave the cake in the closed oven until completely cool. When cool, remove from the pan. Combine 1 tablespoon each of cocoa powder and icing sugar and dust the top of the cake to serve.

Written by michelle picker

October 11, 2017 at 12:26 am

black truffle

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When in France I spent some time in the Dordogne, the home of the Périgord Black Truffle. I felt compelled to bring one home and here’s what I did with it.

60º eggs on potatoes fried in duck fat with shavings of black truffle.

Actually, these were really 62.8ºC (145ºF) eggs as I prefer my whites a little opaque. They need to be cooked in a water bath at this temperature for at least an equal number of minutes to their metric weight. That means an 58g (2oz) egg will take 58 minutes to cook. While the eggs are cooking, dice some potatoes and cook them very slowly in some duck fat until they are golden brown then season with salt. When the eggs are ready, place the potatoes down first then very carefully peel the eggs and place onto the potatoes. Season to taste and top with shavings of black truffle. A truly delicious combination!

How about a truffled cauliflower gratin?

Preheat your oven to 190ºC (375ºF). Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauce pan, then stir in 3 tablespoons of flour. Stir and cook for a few minutes making sure there are no lumps. Whisking constantly, slowly add 2 cups of heated milk. Bring to boil and cook until it thickens. Remove from the heat and add 1 teaspoon of salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, ½ a cup of grated Gruyère, ½ a cup of grated parmesan, some shaved black truffle to taste and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Mix thoroughly and set aside. Cut the cauliflower into florets and cook them in some boiling salted water until just al dente. Butter your oven dish, spread the cauliflower evenly on the bottom and cover with the sauce. Finally, top with a mixture of grated Gruyère, grated parmesan and breadcrumbs. Bake until golden brown.

Written by michelle picker

October 4, 2017 at 12:16 am

snapper with beetroot and olives

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David has a way with fish. This amazingly colourful dish was not only stunning to look at but absolutely delicious too.

In a medium bowl combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil with 2 crushed cloves of garlic, a 5cm (2″) piece of finely grated fresh ginger, the finely grated zest of 1 lemon and the crushed seeds of 15 cardamom pods. Mix to a rough paste, then add 6 snapper fillets and coat them with the marinade. Cover and allow to marinate for at least an hour. Meanwhile bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add 3 beetroots and cook for 40 minutes (15 minutes in a pressure cooker) until soft. Drain and when the beetroot is cool enough to handle, peel and discard the skin, then chop the flesh into 1cm (⅓”) dice. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large fry pan over medium-high heat and fry one large finely diced shallot until it’s soft and caramelised. Add 6 cardamom pods and 1 teaspoon of ground cumin and fry briefly. Add the beetroot, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 10 pitted and halved black olives and ¼ of a teaspoon of salt. Combine well then remove from the heat and set aside in a warm place. Place 85g (3 oz) of flour in a bowl and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove the fish from it’s marinade, discarding the marinade, and toss it in the flour to coat it on all sides, shaking off any excess. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 30g (1 oz) of butter in a large fry-pan over medium-high heat. When the butter starts to foam, fry the fish flesh-side down for two minutes. Turn and fry for another two minutes until cooked through. Remove the fish from the pan and place it on a serving platter. Season with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Spoon the beetroot mixture over the fish and garnish with parsley to serve.

*Adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe.

Written by michelle picker

September 27, 2017 at 12:21 am

baclava cheesecake

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My friend Deborah made this for a recent celebration. What a brilliant combination of two delicious cakes!

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350ºF). Place ⅓ of a cup each of blanched almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 5-8 minutes until toasted. Meanwhile, make the honey syrup by combining ½ a cup each of caster sugar and honey, ⅔ of a cup of water and a cinnamon quill in a saucepan. Place over medium heat until the sugar dissolves then simmer without stirring for approximately 15 minutes until syrup thickens slightly. Discard the cinnamon and set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C (320ºF). Butter a 22cm (8″) springform pan and line the bottom with baking paper. Finely chop the almonds and hazelnuts plus ¼ of a cup of walnuts in a food processor and transfer to a large bowl. Add ½ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Now add ¼ of a cup of the honey syrup to the nut mixture and stir to combine. Clean the food processor and add 500g (1 lb) of cream cheese (at room temperature), 300g (10½ oz) of sour cream and ¾ of a cup of caster sugar. Process until smooth. Add 3 eggs and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla essence and combine. To assemble you will need approximately 10 sheets of filo pastry and melted butter. Brush the first sheet with some melted butter then fold it in half. Place it in the pan allowing it to overhang slightly. Repeat with the remaining filo and melted butter, turning and overlapping each sheet slightly to line the pan completely. Pour half of the cream cheese mixture into the pastry and top with the nut mixture. Pour in the remaining cheese mixture then fold the edges of the pastry over the top of the filling. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the centre is just set. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and leave cheesecake inside until cooled completely. Chill in the fridge for 6 hours and serve with the remaining honey syrup.

* This recipe is from

Written by michelle picker

September 20, 2017 at 12:17 am

home-made pastrami

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As a gift I was given CHARCUTERIE The Craft of Salting Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Bryan Polcyn. It’s packed full of excellent recipes. This is how our home-made pastrami turned out.

To make this you will need some beef brisket with most of the fat removed. For a 2¼kg (5 lb) brisket make a brine of 4 litres (1 gallon) of water, 1½ cups of kosher salt, 6 teaspoons of pink curing salt, 1 cup of sugar, ½ a cup of dark brown sugar, ¼ of a cup of honey, 5 minced cloves of garlic and 1 tablespoon of pickling spice. Place the beef in the brine with a plate on top so that it is completely submerged and refrigerate for 3 days. Next, remove the beef, rinse and dry it and discard the brine. In a spice mill or mortar and pestle grind 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns and 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds. Coat the beef evenly with this mixture. Now the beef needs to be hot smoked, or cooked very slowly over a charcoal barbecue with some wood chips for extra smoke. The internal temperature should be 66ºC (150ºF) when it’s cooked. The final step is to steam the pastrami. Heat your oven to 140ºC (275ºF) and place the beef on a rack over a tray with 2.5cm (1″) of water in it. When the water is simmering, cover the pastrami and steam it in the oven for 2-3 hours. Now it’s ready to serve.

Try it in a Pastrami Reuben, a classic American sandwich served hot on toasted rye bread with pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing.

Written by michelle picker

September 13, 2017 at 12:40 am