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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Date and Pecan Cake

Two week ends ago the weather was so beautiful perhaps the best summer week end we have had for the last few years, not one drop of rain ! A group of us were guests of my great foodie friend Viki and her husband at their Whale Beach house. Bindy is a fabulous baker and true to form bought a date and walnut cake with her. Absolutely delicious, the girls said the recipe was from an old country friend.
The cake is such a traditional country afternoon tea addition. One would normally think cooler weather with cakes but it went down a treat. We lounged on the beach until 3pm, a slight offshore breeze not too hot, umbrellas and chairs and lots of chat and laughter. After packing up and walking up the track, we were a little peckish. I couldn't resist a plate of cake with a little butter, whilst we prepared a very late lunch, with a little glass of French bubbles of course. I attempted this but with pecans because I didn't have any walnuts in the pantry. Just as yummy I thought!
A great one for the school lunch box as well.

1 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 175C
Grease a loaf tin or line with baking paper
Sift into a bowl self raising flour, sugar, bicarb of soda, nutmeg and salt.
Melt in a saucepan the butter, water and the dates. Bring to boil and continue boiling for a further minute. Stand aside and let cool slightly.
Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well. lastly add the egg and mix in. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for approx 30 minutes.

Someone just had to have a bite!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Chicken Involtini with Sweet Potato and Ginger Puree

I love this little chicken dish and the fact that it can be made the night before or well ahead is a bonus.
It is fabulous for a large group and I have often served it when entertaining a group of women. It is tasty and light goes a long way and never ceases to please. I usually serve it with a kumera mash but you could do a pumpkin, green pea, even  garlic potato. The last time I tried it with a cannelli bean and garlic mash and whilst it tasted great it didn't have a lot of plate appeal. The chicken looks better on a contrast colour. A green salad is all you need for an accompaniment and serve it with a drizzle of thickened stock or a veal demi glaze.

6  half chicken breasts { 2 breasts will feed 3 people even 4 if serving to women or small eaters so 6 breasts could potentially feed 18 but assume it will feed 12 and then there could be some left for seconds
18 pieces of prosciutto approx 3 pieces of a good prosciutto per breast
3 cups fresh breadcrumbs
90 grams toasted slivered almonds
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 cup chopped chives
1 cup parmesan cheese grated
1/2 cup pecorino grated
Glad bake


4 sweet potato
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup cream
2-3 tablespoons finely grated ginger

Boil the potatoes until tender. Mash with all the ingredients and set aside until serving. You can add more ginger if you like, more stock or less cream which will make it thinner.

Toast the almonds. Use a food processor to turn the bread into crumbs. Place in a bowl and mix in the herbs and cheese and toasted nuts.
Place a breast between two sheets of baking paper . Pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin. The paper stops it getting shredded to bits. You will end up with a flat quite large piece of chicken.
Lay three pieces of prosciutto on a sheet of paper or a board the same way to how you are going to roll it. Place a breast on top and spread some of the breadcrumb mixture on top leaving a little room free at the outer edges. Carefully roll the breast up as tightly as you can like a huge pinwheel. When you are finished secure it with toothpicks. You could also use cooking twine. It doesn't have to look really neat as it will be fine when cooked.
When finished all the breasts  wrap each one in a clean piece of baking paper  and roll the ends like a bon bon and put into a baking dish.
If not eating until later  place in the fridge.
Remove from the fridge about half an hour before you are ready to cook it. Heat the oven to 180C . Cook for about half an hour in the glad bake and then open the parcels  cook for a further 15 mins. This keeps the meat moist and gives it a bit of colour

Serve will a green salad of baby spinach, mint rocket and a bunch of cress. Toss the salad with lemon and olive oil and sea salt.
Flattened breast

Rolled with the prosciutto before securing with toothpicks

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Lumpfish Caviar Pate

Caviar is the roe from the fish or sturgeon of the Caspain and Black Sea. Beluga is the most commonly known very expensive and sort after for those who can afford it. So lumpfish caviar is the poor mans caviar from an actual lumpfish. It can also be a generic term for the roe from a variety of fish including salmon. Never having had the pleasure of eating Beluga, I am content with the lumpfish caviar.
This dish never fails and everyone loves it. A very old one, but a good one. For some reason I usually only make it at Xmas, not sure why. As my children have gotten older the whole thing is devoured pretty quickly as they love it too. I decided to make it recently when entertaining. Simple quick and easy and light enough not to spoil the dinner.
I serve it with the pita toasts ( see blog from 5/7/12) or just a simple water cracker if you don't want to be bothered with making the pita.

8 hard boiled eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons butter
1 small red onion
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
carton sour cream
1 jar of black caviar
1 jar of red caviar
Salt and pepper

Once the eggs are cooled peel them and put into a bowl. Mash them with a fork and add the mayonnaise, butter, salt and pepper to taste.
Layer this mixture in a dish.
Chop the red onion finely and mix with the sour cream.
Cover the egg mixture with the sour cream.
Chop the parsley finely.
Finally, spread the red caviar down one side of the sour cream and the black down the other side leaving a space in the middle. Fill the space with the finely chopped parsley.
It tastes as good as it looks!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Spinach and Feta Pie

I have just spent another day touring Greenacre and sampling the delights of Middle eastern food.
I enjoyed some little pastries called borek, which is really the generic term for Turkish pastries that come in a variety of shapes from triangles, semicircles, cigars and squares. They are filled with cheese, herbs and greens and are made from phyllo, short crust, puff or the Turkish version of phyllo, yufka.
They are found all over the Mediterranean sea board countries and are called brik, boregi, empanada, pittas, pastillas and spanakopitta depending on their origin. All are delicious as a meal in themselves or as finger food for entertaining.
The day of food tasting reminded me of my travels to Greece and Turkey in my younger years. These yummy little parcels we ate all the time as they were so cheap and of course we had very little money.
We would hang outside the pastry shops and wait until they came out of the ovens and pounce on them devouring them in minutes.
I make this spinach and feta pie a lot, probably because it reminds me of those carefree days in the Greek Islands, when time stood still and we didn't have a thing to worry about !

My version is a large pie to feed the crowd as a meal. You can make the same recipe in small triangles or cigars shapes for party food. It is a bit of a fiddle but worth the effort. After you have made this a few times,you may find you like more of one cheese than the other, or a little more chives. I am sure mine is different every time I make it. Remove your phyllo pastry from freezer to fridge overnight to thaw.

250 grams feta cheese
4 tablespoons parmesan cheese grated
80 grams ricotta cheese
1 egg 
4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
500 grams spinach frozen or a bunch of fresh spinach
2 tablespoons  chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
pinch of nutmeg
10 sheets phyllo pastry
6 tablespoons melted butter

If using fresh spinach, chop and discard stems,  steam  until wilted and drain very well, squeeze excess water out. The same applies to frozen, after cooking the excess water must be squeezed out or your pie will be watery.
Mash the cheeses together and mix with all the other ingredients in a large bowl.
Cover the phyllo with a slightly damp tea towel, as you work, as it will dry out and become brittle.
Brush a sheet of the pastry with melted butter, and layer into the pie dish one at a time until you have five layers..
Fill the dish with the spinach and cheese mixture. Cover with five more layers of pastry buttering each as
you go. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake in 175C oven until pastry is golden.