food for thought

by michelle

tomahawk steak

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Fifi turned up with this enormous steak for a barbecue dinner. We rose to the challenge and produced a melt-in-the mouth medium/rare steak with just enough char and smoke.

The steak was marinated in soya sauce, mirin and garlic for about an hour, or the time it took to get the fire going and the charcoal ready. We used the reverse sear method – we placed the steak on the grill as far away from the charcoal as possible and cooked it very slowly. The steak was turned only once and when it had some good colour but still felt quite rare, we placed it directly over the hot coals, cooking each side until it looked and felt perfect. And it was!


Written by michelle picker

March 27, 2019 at 12:05 am

Posted in meat

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pistachio and lemon bundt cake

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This lovely moist cake is full of of flavour and good-looking to boot!

Preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF)  and generously grease a bundt pan. In a bowl combine 3 cups of flour with ½ a teaspoon of kosher salt. In a food processor pulse 2 cups of shelled and roasted pistachios until they are very fine and stick together when pinched. Now beat 290g (11oz) of butter with 1½ cups of sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the pistachios, 1 tablespoon of lemon zest and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract then add 4 large eggs, incorporating them one at a time. Finally, mix in the flour and salt alternately with ¼ of a cup of white rum until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared tin and bake until the cake tests clean. This might take 60 minutes or more. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then finish cooling on a wire rack. In a small saucepan combine ¾ of a cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt. Simmer over medium heat for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved then add ½ a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Allow to cool a little before brushing onto the cooled cake. 

adapted from this recipe


Written by michelle picker

March 20, 2019 at 12:23 am

Posted in cakes & desserts

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warm vegetable and quinoa salad

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Here’s a quick, delicious and satisfying meal.

Rinse some quinoa allowing approximately ½ a cup per person. In a medium saucepan bring some water to boil. Add the quinoa and cook until it still has some texture but is no longer crunchy. Meanwhile prepare the vegetables of your choice – I cooked leeks, pumpkin, parsnip, turnip and okra. If you use okra, wash and trim them and place them in some acidulated water before using. In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil until hot then add the vegetables. If some vegetables are quicker to cook than others then you will have to add them in order of cooking time. Season the vegetables with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add some herbs – I used sprigs of thyme and fresh bay leaves. Cover and continue to cook over high heat, stirring the vegetables only occasionally so that they become a bit charred. When the quinoa is cooked place it in a strainer, rinse under cold water to cool and leave to drain. When the vegetables are ready put them in a serving bowl with the drained quinoa and some crumbled feta. Dress with lemon juice and more olive oil and toss well to combine.

Written by michelle picker

March 13, 2019 at 12:17 am

red-cooked whole chicken + mushroom and kangkong stir-fry

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This is a popular cooking method in China where it is used for all kinds of meats and hard-boiled eggs. Served either hot or cold, the remaining stock is reused as a master stock. Ingredients vary from cook to cook but usually include soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, rock sugar and whole spices such as star anise and black cardamom.

Place your chicken into a pot which is not too big. Add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce, some large slices of ginger, a few cloves of garlic, 2 star anise, a black cardamom pod and some cassia bark (or a small cinnamon quill). I don’t usually add rock sugar. Fill the pot with cold water until the chicken is just covered and bring to a boil very slowly. Simmer, turning the chicken at least once, until it is cooked. You can tell when the chicken is cooked if the juices run clear when you cut into the thigh. If you have a meat thermometer it should read 74ºC (165ºF). Remove the chicken from the stock and drizzle with a little sesame oil before serving. Serve with steamed rice.

Here’s a lovely simple stir-fry to serve with the chicken.

Trim and slice a few king oyster mushrooms, wash and chop a bunch of kangkong (also known as water spinach or morning glory) and peel and lightly crush a clove of garlic. Place your wok over high heat and when hot, add some peanut oil. Fry the clove of garlic until just beginning to brown and discard it. Now add the oyster mushrooms and cook for a minute or two before adding the kangkong. Finally add a little salt, sugar and white pepper and toss well to combine.

Written by michelle picker

March 6, 2019 at 12:15 am

dutch cookie ice cream

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Speculaas (or speculoos) are a spiced and browned shortcrust biscuit. The spices used were popular in Europe in the days of the Dutch East Indies spice trade – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper. These days you can buy a spreadable paste of these cookies called Biscoff or Cookie Butter. I bought a jar and decided to use it to make an ice cream.

Measure 2 cups of milk, 1¼ cups of heavy cream, ¼ of a cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup into a saucepan. Add a cinnamon quill and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 3 minutes then add ½  a cup of cookie butter. Stir until dissolved and continue to simmer until thickened. In another bowl whisk 3 tablespoons of softened cream cheese with ⅛ of a teaspoon of salt. Pour the hot mixture over the cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Cool the mixture down over an ice bath and when the mixture is quite cold churn it in an ice cream machine, sorbetiere or over ice and salt. I decanted my ice cream into flexible silicone moulds before freezing then served them finely julienned green apple and a crumb made from breadcrumbs fried with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon.

Written by michelle picker

February 27, 2019 at 12:19 am

home-made pasta with home-made pesto

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Pasta isn’t really too difficult to make, but somehow I hardly ever get around to it. Having just made a pesto, though, it seemed fitting to have a home-made pasta with it. The result was definitely worth it!

For the pesto wash a bunch of basil and make sure it’s as dry as possible. This is the secret to keeping your pesto green – too much water will make it a very dark colour. In a food processor combine the basil with ½ a cup of lightly toasted pine nuts, ½ a cup of dry-roasted cashews, a finely diced clove of garlic, ½ a cup of good olive oil and a pinch of salt. Process to a consistency you like. Remove the pesto to a bowl and add ¼ of a cup of grated Parmesan, mixing by hand. For the pasta, I chose to use my stand mixer with a dough hook. Slowly combine 350g (12½ oz) of finely milled “00” flour, ¼ of a teaspoon of salt, 2 large whole eggs and 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Mix until the dough forms into a ball. If the mixture is too dry add an egg yolk. Continue to mix on low for 10 minutes or so until you have a soft and smooth dough. Roll pieces of the dough through a pasta machine, folding the dough a few times and rolling it out before setting the machine to a thinner setting. As the pasta becomes thinner, it’s not necessary to keep folding it. Depending what sort of shape you intend to make, it’s also not necessary to make the pasta too thin. If you intend to make spaghetti, it will cut better a little thicker. As you cut your pasta, toss it in a little flour to keep it separate. When you’re ready to cook, make sure you generously salt the water and when it’s boiling, drop the pasta in and cook for 2-5 minutes depending on the thickness. When the pasta is al dente, strain it and retain some of the cooking liquid. Place the pasta in a bowl, add the pesto and some of the cooking liquid and toss to combine. You will have to judge how much cooking liquid to add to get the desired consistency. The pesto should be sticking to all the pasta. Finally, serve topped with some freshly grated Reggiano parmesan.

Written by michelle picker

February 20, 2019 at 12:17 am

Posted in pasta & grains

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steamed whole snapper with ginger

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This recipe, from Thai Food by David Thompson, is for ginger lovers! Make sure your ginger is young and fresh or you might want to reduce the amount in this recipe.

Clean and score the fish and place it on a plate which you will use for steaming. Pour over 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar and top with ½ a cup of shredded ginger. Place over boiling water, cover and steam. This fish weighed 600g (21 oz) and took about 30 minutes to cook. When it’s nearly done, strew with another ½ a cup of shredded ginger and 4 shredded spring onions. Garnish with coriander (cilantro) and serve with rice.

Written by michelle picker

February 13, 2019 at 12:10 am

Posted in fish & seafood

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