Coriander/Cilantro Pesto

DSC_9914I think that it may have been a bumper coriander harvest back at home in Sydney that prompted playing with this recipe. It is a riff off the Taste.com recipe, and is a zingy, fresh version of traditional pesto. We are harvesting the greens from our tiny, very-late-fall garden now, trying to make sure we do not lose the lovely leaves to the creeping cold. Once again, Asher’s coriander thrived and there was just enough to make a batch of this. We tossed it through pasta, kale, zucchini and broccoli for a quick dinner this week, topped with a touch more parmesan. Hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

Ingredients:
2 cups fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup (approx 55g) toasted cashew nuts
1/3 cup (approx 35g) finely grated parmesan
1/4 cup (60ml) light olive or peanut oil, plus extra as needed for desired consistency
zest and juice of a small lemon
salt to taste

Method:
1. Add the coriander, garlic, nuts and parmesan to the bowl of the food processor, blend till just combined, still a little chunky is good.
2. Add in the lemon, turn on the machine and gradually add the oil till the you reach a glossy, spoonable consistency.
3. Taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Store in a glass jar, top with oil to seal the pesto off from the air.
5. Enjoy through salad and pasta, or perhaps spread over a pizza base!

Shake-up (mexican?) salad

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Flicking through a Womankind magazine dad bought as a treat for mum and I, one of the authors shared about a mexican salad with grilled corn and radishes she’d started making. It sounded good. Inspired, I decided to come up with a variation on the green salad that graced the table at my growing-up house most nights. Asher took the photo, isn’t it beautiful? The white and pink of the radishes and feta cheese find their colour-wheel balance in the deep green of the baby spinach. As much as I realise that when you take the trouble to upload a recipe it should be complete I find it hard to keep really detailed notes, salad recipes particularly seem to evolve as I chop and add and mix. I hope there is enough information to tempt you to try something similar and that it turns out just as beautifully for you.

Ingredients:
A box of baby spinach
2 red capsicum
1 green capsicum
2 cucumbers
1 punnet of grape tomatoes
2 cobs of corn
1 pkt of feta cheese
1/2 bunch radish
2-3 spring onions (or shallots)

Dressing
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Method:
1. Chop the capsicum into a rough dice (squares 1.5-2cm), halve the grape tomatoes, slice the cucumber into quarters lengthways, then across-ways into small pieces. Halve and slice the radishes. Slice the spring onion finely and the feta into small squares.
2. Grill the corn cobs on the bbq or on a char grill plate. The quick and sneaky way that I discovered works quite well is the bench top contact grill/sandwich press! Slice kernels off carefully, trying to keep some pieces honey-combed together.
3. Toss the salad ingredients well.
4. Make up the dressing, feel free to add seasonings slowly and adjust to taste.

Warm in side and out: Chicken tagine

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While I have a lot to learn regarding the finer points of Middle Eastern Cookery, I am definitely inspired to try more recipes in that style after making this warming, satisfying dish. It was not to hard to make and was full of interesting, complex flavours that seemed to nourish us deeply at the end of a big day. The recipe is originally from the Women’s Weekly Slow Cooker book – here I have included some of the variations I made while I was cooking it at home. The olives were our addition – I had used them in the past for another tagine recipe and remembered how well they worked. And they did again! I would probably add 100g to the sauce while it simmers next time and then serve with another 100g that are still ‘fresh’ from the jar.

On another note – this dish was my first time using saffron for its flavour and colouring in a dish. Knowing only a very little about it beyond a few details of its very expensive production method, I think I would like to do some more investigations its use and history in both food and textiles – so stay tuned!

Ingredients:
8 chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
2 brown onions
400g can diced tomatoes (or several chopped tomatoes and a tbsp of tomato paste)
125mL (1/2 cup) chicken stock
165g (1 cup) dried apricots
1 cinnamon stick (1 tsp of ground dried cinnamon worked fine too!)
Roughly chopped pistachio kernels, to serve
Fresh coriander sprigs, to serve
Sicilian green olives, to serve
Steamed cous cous to serve (we used wholemeal pearl cous cous)

Chermoula ~
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh continental parsley
1 long fresh red chilli, halved, deseeded, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
large pinch of saffron threads
1 tbsp cumin seeds (1-2 generous tsp of ground cumin was my successful substitute here)
1 lemon, rind and juice

1. The chermoula mix is prepared as a marinade mix for the chicken pieces. The fresh herbs, chilli, garlic are mixed with the dried herbs in a glass bowl. The chicken thighs then need to be let soak up all those flavours for at least 2 hours.
2. Ideally this would be prepared a tagine, the Moroccan cooking vessel this dish is named after, however a large frypan will produce a tasty result too!
3. Heat the oil in your chosen piece of crockery or pan and cook the chicken in batches till all pieces have been browned and have a golden crust.
4. Remove chicken and sauté the onion in the same pan till soft.
5. Add the tomato, stock, apricots and cinnamon. Increase the heat till the mixture is simmering and then add the chicken, nestling it in the thick sauce in tidy chicken-thigh bundles.
6. Cover the pan and allow the dish to cook for about 25 minutes or thereabouts – by this time the chicken should be cooked right through.
7. Remove the lid and allow the dish to continue to cook for another 15s or so till the sauce thickens.
8. Serve with cous cous and vegetables (we chose broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potato) and garnish with more coriander, the olives and pistachio.
9. Enjoy this delight to the senses!

A little party

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A little friend turned two. We celebrated with tea, tarts, cakes and cookies. A bunting lined room was mirrored in the cake decoration. The party design credits need to go to her lovely (and quite creative) mum – we helped with cooking and I made a little bag as a present. I thought I would share the recipe for the little tarts and some of the pictures from the day. The tarts were based on the Taste.com recipe linked here. I however, made a few changes recommended by other readers. The quantities made enough for 24 mini tartlets.

Ingredients
3 sheets of frozen, sweet short-crust pastry
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup caster sugar
4 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
4 tablespoons lemon juice
100g butter, chopped
finely grated lemon rind, to serve

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Line the muffin cups with frozen short crust pastry. Use a cup/cutter to cut rounds of pastry that fit the tray you are using. Press the pastry rounds into the muffin holes and ‘dock’ (use a fork to make holes in the base of each tartlet).
3. Freeze for 15-20 minutes (till pastry is firm).
4. Make the lemon curd by whisking egg, egg yolk, sugar, lemon rind and juice in a small saucepan with a heavy base. Add butter and place saucepan over a medium heat. Keep whisking till butter is melted through. Keep string till mixture coats the back of a spoon (it can be easier to swap to a wooden spoon to check this after the butter has been mixed in!).
5. Pour into a small bowl allow to cool.
6. Fill the tartlets and sprinkle with some remaining lemon rind.

Homemade Ice-cream sandwiches

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With the ice-cream and inspiration straight from the Deceptively Delicious cookbook, these are very yummy! I used this recipe from the Chocolate Covered Katie blog for the graham crackers (something we don’t have in Australia!) to make the cute little sandwiches … but the ice cream is pretty delicious on its own! It made me want to try some other flavours using the buttermilk and yoghurt as a base. This works well even if you do not have an ice-cream maker!

Ingredients:
Ice-cream –
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups low fat thick greek yoghurt
1 cup sugar
The juice and rind of a lemon

Graham Crackers –
1 cup and an extra 2 tbs whole-wheat or wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp and an extra 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp and an extra 1/8 tsp salt
3 tbs sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbs maple syrup
1 tbs sunflower oil
1/4 cup and an extra 1 tbs water

Method:
Graham Crackers –
1. Preheat the oven to 175oC.
2. Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and mix till a dough forms.
3. Roll the dough out between two layers of baking paper and then cut into shapes using either a knife or biscuit cutters (a square one works well for cracker saving you measuring accurately!).
4. Bake biscuits for about 12 minutes … depending on how crispy you like them!
5. Allow to cool and save till you have made the ice-cream!
Ice-Cream –
5. Combine all ingredients and allow to begin freezing.
6. When the ice cream is of a spreadable thickness sandwich between two biscuits and place in the freezer (ideally wrapped up in baking paper) to harden.
7. Enjoy!

Italian inspired Lemon Biscuits

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Well, because we made Lemon Meringue Pie and had some left over lemon rind I decided to get creative so we could use it up! I love almond meal in cooking, baking with almond meal is always so dense and delicious. I knew that there were some Italian biscuits that used almond meal and egg and icing sugar (my friend Julia had made me some one year for Christmas) and I googled till I came up with this recipe from Best Recipes.

Ingredients:
5 egg whites
500g almond meal
300g caster sugar
the rind of 1 1/2 lemons (you could probably do this to taste, 2 would be fine I think)
150g icing sugar

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Separate eggs and keep yolks for another recipe.
2. Zest the lemon (grate the rind off the skin).
3. Combine egg whites, almond meal, caster sugar and rind in a large mixing bowl, stir with a spoon till combined.
4. Roll tablespoons of mixture in your hand to make a ball and then roll these balls in icing sugar.
5. Place on tray and bake for 10-15 minutes or till golden.
6. Enjoy now or freeze for later.

For just such an occasion

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Sometimes we celebrate occasions, and sometimes we make an occasion by celebrating. Dessert is a lovely thing, especially when its been made by friends, with friends and for sharing with friends.

This weekend Sonya and I got baking, this is a tried and true Women’s Weekly recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie. My mum was very delighted that when she made it for the first time she truly felt her pie was as beautiful as the one in the cookbook. She has continued to make it in a similar manner and I was pretty excited to be able to accomplish the same this weekend!

Ingredients:
2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoons icing sugar
185g butter (room temperature)
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons water

Filling:
4 tablespoons plain flour
4 tablespoons corn flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups water
90g butter
4 egg yolks

Meringue:
4 egg whites
3/4 cup caster sugar

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C.
2. Sift flour and icing sugar into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
3. Chop the butter into cubes and rub through the dry ingredients with your finger tips till a texture similar to that of fine breadcrumbs is achieved.
4. Add the lemon juice and water and stir through till a smooth dough forms.
5. Roll into a ball and cover. Put in the refrigerator to make it easier to work with (ideally 30 minutes, we did about 10 and it was okay, probably 15-20 would be good!).
6. Roll the pastry out on a floured bench or between two layers of baking paper till it is about 6-7mm thick. Transfer (with paper or rolling pin) to the pie dish (the ones with a push through base are great but just watch you don’t push through too early!). Ensure you press the pastry into the corners and don’t cut it off too low (it does not shrink much but its nice to have a full crust of pastry).
7. Dock with a fork (make little holes in the base of the pastry) and bake for 8-10 minutes or just cooked and golden. Do not over cook as you will be cooking it again later!
8. Set aside and allow the pastry to cool in the tin.
9. Zest the lemon (grate the rind off the skin) and then juice the flesh.
10. Place the flour, corn flour, lemon rind, juice, water and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan, blend well while the mixture is cool so as to avoid lumps later on.
11. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring all the while. It must boil to activate the thickening power of the cornflour!
12. Once it has boiled, reduce the heat and continue stirring the mixture for another 2 minutes.
13. Remove the saucepan from the heat, continue stirring and add the butter … stir it into the hot mixture and it will melt and turn the mixture a slightly darker shade of yellow.
14. Add in the egg yolks one at a time, ensuring that each has been thoroughly combined into the mixture.
15. Allow the filling to cool slightly before pouring into the pastry case, ensure it is evenly distributed and smooth on top (use a pallet knife or spatula).
16. To make the meringue, the egg whites need to be beaten in a medium-large mixing bowl. They should be beaten till they form soft peaks, then the sugar can be added gradually, continue beating the mixture till sugar dissolves after each addition and a thick meringue is produced!
17. Spread the meringue attractively over the filling and bake till lightly browned (about 8-10 minutes for me).
18. Cool and then refrigerate for serving later on.
19. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or cream, some strawberries would also be delicious!