Category Archives: Food

Perfect Blueberry Pancakes

Makes about 10 of the most delicious side-dish sized pancakes

This is a modification of a Neil Perry recipe from his book “Good Food”. Neil Perry is one of Sydney’s gods of food and amongst many other things he owns and runs two of Sydney’s better restaurants, XO and Rockpool. I’ve tried several of Mr Perry’s recipes and they are superb.

The pancakes in this recipe are similar in taste and texture to the buttermilk pancakes that are in Neil Perry’s book. I found the original pancake recipe took too long to cook and the middle was still a little too moist for my taste, even when I spread around the dough during the pouring. In his cookbook Neil Perry says that his recipes are a starting point. So I started, and changed things a little.

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Ingredients
150g (5 ½ oz or 1 cup) fresh of frozen blueberries
150g (5 ½ oz or 1 cup) plain (all purpose) flour
2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder
2 eggs
500ml (2 cups) thick natural Greek style yoghurt
80g  (3oz) unsalted butter melted

Method
Sift all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. In another smaller bowl beat the eggs until they are frothy. Add the yoghurt and eggs to the dry ingredients and mix well. Then stir in the melted butter.

Pour out enough dough for a pancake into a heavy based frying pan over medium heat (I use an electric grill plate). Spread the dough around a little so the pancake isn’t too thick and place several blueberries on the cooking dough. Cook the pancake until the formed bubbles have broken and the top has started to look a bit dry. This is the time to turn the pancake over and cook for 2 more minutes.

Serve with maple syrup and butter.

Guacamole

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Ingredients
2 ripe* avocados
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes** or 1 small ripe tomato, diced into small pieces
1 small Spanish onion diced into small pieces
1 lime (about the size of a ping pong ball)
1/3 cup fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
Chili, to taste. I use 3 or 4 slices of my own pickled chili, minced
Season with a little salt

If you want the Tex-Mex version, add 1 teaspoon of cumin

Method

The first thing to remember about making guacamole is that “less is more”.  If in doubt, use less of the onion, lime, chili and coriander, as all of these can overwhelm the delicate flavour of the avocado. Be particularly careful with the coriander (cilantro) if you are making this for guests, you might love it but many people who are used to plain food can be turned off it for a lifetime if they have too much of it in a dish. Slowly, slowly catchy monkey.

If you are in doubt about the ingredients, halve everything but the avocados and add the remains a little at a time to suit your taste. If you screw up, just add another avocado.

The second thing to remember is that there are NO DAIRY products in traditional guacamole. This recipe is for the real deal; so don’t go wrecking it with sour cream.

Also resist the desire to puree the ingredients in a food processor.  Guacamole tastes way better if it is left chunky.
Just mix the ingredients in a bowl with a fork until the avocado is in chunks.

Serve with corn chips. For an interesting variation, serve with prawn chips (shrimp crackers like you used to get in Chinese restaurants in the old days). I first tried this variation in Bali and I was surprised how well it went with guacamole. The pastel pink of the crackers is a pleasing contrast to the light green of the guacamole.

*The way to tell when an avocado is ripe is to press one’s finger gently into the top of the avocado (where the stem was) to feel if it is yielding but not too soft. DO NOT go around squeezing the middle of the avocados in stores as you will damage the fruit for future buyers. If you buy avocados that aren’t ripe you can hasten the ripening process by putting them in a plastic bag with a banana.

**I recommend cherry tomatoes because they have a much better flavour than the rubbish masquerading as tomatoes that are commonly available in supermarkets. 

Razzbuffnik with his own home grown tomatoes

Needless to say, if you have access to home grown tomatoes then use them. Once you grow your own tomatoes there is no going back to buying them from supermarkets.

Tapenade

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Ingredients
1 teaspoon of salted capers, rinsed
1/2 cup of pitted and drained green Spanish olives
1/3 cup of sun dried tomatoes, drained of excess oil
2 marinated red capsicum (bell pepper)*
1 clove of garlic

Method
Make sure the capers and olives are well rinsed and drained or the tapenade will be far too salty. Puree all ingredients in a food processor.

*If you want to use fresh red capsicums, cut them in half, take out the seeds and place the halves, skin side up, under a hot grill. Grill until the skin begins to go black and starts to smoke and burn. When skins are mostly black and blistered, place the capsicum in a plastic bag and tie the bag closed and allow it to sit in the unopened bag for about 10 to 20 minutes, to sweat. Take the capsicum out of the plastic bag and peel the skin off. The skin should just lift off quite easily.

Serve with soft goat or sheep cheese on pumpernickel rounds; thin slices of sourdough baguette or your favorite crackers. This tapenade also goes surprisingly well with German sausages.

The butcher of Casablanca

For some strange reason, I never went shopping for meat to cook myself when I was in Morocco. I always felt more comfortable eating my meat over there as anomolous charred lumps on sticks from stall holders.

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As a matter of fact, if I had to buy meat like this every day, I’d probably be a vegetarian. It’s a bit too “real” as one can still see how the meat was once an animal, not like the way the meat is packaged in plastic like here in the west. On reflection I find it amazing how quickly things have changed in the western world. A scene like the image above would’ve been common in 19th century Europe. No refrigeration, no plastic bags, just a cloth sack you brought your self. At least you’d know that the meat was fresh.

This photo was taken in 1982 on Kodachrome 64.

Chickpea salad

This is a sure fire winner by my wife. This salad goes very well with just about any Mediterranean dish and is particularly good with grilled fish or lamb.

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Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
1 marinated roast capsicum (red bell pepper) chopped into 1cm (1/2 inch) squares
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 small Spanish (red) onion, diced
2x400gr (14oz) cans of chickpeas
1/2 cup Italian (flat leaf) parsley, chopped
2 lemons juiced
1/3 cup of virgin olive oil.

Combine ingredients in a bowl and serve.

If you want to use a fresh red capsicum, cut it in half, take out the seeds and place both halves, skin side up, under a hot grill. Grill until the skin begins to go black and starts to smoke and burn. When skins are mostly black and blistered, place the capsicum in a plastic bag and tie the bag closed and allow it to sit in the unopened bag for about 10 to 20 minutes, to sweat. Take the capsicum out of the plastic bag and peel the skin off. The skin should just lift off quite easily.

Artichoke dip

This is a quick and easy recipe that is always popular with my dinner guests.

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Ingredients

1 small jar (170gr or 6oz) of marinated artichokes, drained
1 400gr (14oz) can of cannellini beans, drained
1/2 of a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon (or more to suit taste) fresh basil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Method

Puree all ingredients in a food processor.

Serve with either crackers or pide (Turkish bread)

Breakfast today. Set and setting

At breakfast this morning I found myself counting my blessings. So I took a picture of the moment. It’s hard not to feel so lucky when I’m faced with such a scene. This is the breakfast that I eat nearly every day in my back yard (weather permitting) as I ready myself for another peaceful day, working from home.

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The only thing missing is my wife who is on her way to work in the city (as an engineer). Both my wife and I like to have our breakfast together in the backyard on her days off. On such mornings it is even more blissfull as we read the newspaper and do the crosswords together.

John Lennon once said “life is what happens to you when you are planning for the future”. I think that the Buddhists are onto something with the “be here now” thing.

My version of Baba Ghanoush

This is a very quick easy dip that is always a hitiat any diner party I hold. This recipe is my own and I’ve strayed quite far from traditional baba ghanoush.

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Ingredients

1 300gr jar of grilled eggplants (I use the brand “Always Fresh” here in Australia)

1/2 a cup of yoghurt (I use a Greek style one with S. Thermophillus and L. Bulgaricus cultures)

2 cloves of crushed garlic

1 tablespoon of tahini (be careful to not put too much in as it can over power the whole dip)

1/2 a cup of almond meal (this isn’t essential but it helps soak up the moisture of the yoghurt and gives the dip body)

Juice of one lemon (start of with half the juice and then add more to suit your taste)

Pinch of pimenton (smoked paprika). It’s not essential but the smoky flavour and colour do add a nice touch.

Method

Drain the grilled eggplant (if you like lots of oil, pour some of the oil on the dip when it’s complete). Place all the ingredients with the exception of the pimenton in a food processor and puree. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with the pimenton.

Serve with fresh hot pide (Turkish bread). If you can’t get the Turkish bread, barbeque rice crackers or sesame water crackers go well with the dip.

Easy!

If you’re a bit of a purist and want to use a fresh eggplant, here’s what you do. Prick an eggplant all over with a fork and stick it in a very hot oven for about 45 minutes until is starts to smoke and burn. The next step is to take it out of the oven and cut it in half. Scoop out the insides of the eggplant. At this point some people squeeze out the excess moisture. Then just follow the recipe above, substituting the fresh eggplant for the bottled eggplant.

What to do with your excess chillies

Each year I harvest far more chillies than I can use at one time. I have only two small chilli plants and each year I’m amazed at how productive they are. One of the problems that so many chillies pose, is that they are so hot that one only needs to use a few at a time and the majority will rot before you can put them to use. As a consequence, you don’t have any home grown chillies when you want to use them in the future.

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I overcome this glut of chillies by pickling them. Pickling is extremely easy.

The first thing to do is get some jars, of a suitable size (I like using the smaller, wide mouthed salsa jars), wash them and then heat them up (with the lids, detached from the jars) in an oven for about half an hour at about 120 degrees C (about 250 degrees F).

After washing and rinsing the chillies, slice them (discarding the stems), complete with the seeds. A note of caution here, if you have sensitive skin wear rubber gloves. Needless to say, keep you hands away from any mucosal membranes afterwards, or you’re going to be in for a character building experience.

Pour enough apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar that you have on hand) to cover the sliced chillies into a pot. Then add olive oil equal to about 20% of the volume of the vinegar, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the vinegar and oil is at a rolling boil, carefully add the chillies. Boil the chillies in the mixture for about a minute or two.

As a variation to this recipe, you can slice up some garlic and add it to the chillies at this point.

Take the jars out of the oven and put them in a dry sink. While constantly stirring the pot contents, ladle the chillies and vineger mixture into the warm jars, leaving about 1.5cm (about half an inch) space to the top of the jar. When you have no more chillies left, top up the jars with the remaining oil and vinegar mix, making sure that you completely cover the chillies and then take the warm lids out of the oven and screw them onto the jars.

The remaining oil and vinegar mixture can be kept as a condiment chilli oil. When the jars have cooled down to room temperature wash the jars in soapy water, to removed any residual chilli oil.

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Store the chillies in a cool dark place. I’ve used chillies preserved like this, one and a half years after I’ve pickled them, with no ill effects. Always store the opened jars in the refrigerator after use. When the pickled chillies have been refrigerated, the oil solidifies, but don’t let that worry you as it doesn’t affect the flavour.

I use my pickled chillies in cooking and I’ve noticed that the oil and vinegar take up a lot of the chillies “heat” so keep that in mind when you cook. Just add more of the oil and the “heat” goes way up.

A cake to have with coffee

This is a fairly dense moist cake that is perfect with coffee and it’s very easy to make.

The recipe here, is my modification of the “5 cups cake” recipe I found at http://peasoupoftheday.blogspot.com/
via http://asiya2.wordpress.com/

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Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of self raising flour

1 cup of shredded coconut

1/2 cup of sugar

1 cup of coconut cream

2 eggs

1/2 cup of dried cranberries

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1 teaspoon of vanilla paste

1 teaspoon of coconut flavouring.

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F. These temperatures are for fan forced ovens.

Mix the ingredients and then pour into a greased, round 185cm baking tin (spring form if you have one). Bake for approximately 45 minutes (a little longer if your oven isn’t fan forced)