Thursday, November 1, 2012

This Week's Recipe: Panfried Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi

Why Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi?

My first memories of eating potato gnocchi are a series of Italian tragedies. Potato bullets smothered in a pasty tomato passatas, dry dumplings overtaken by pungent blue cheese sauces, and gnocchi that seem to transform from dumplings into lumpy mash.

I know making potato gnocchi by hand, following tips from generations of Italians, will give tender dumplings, however, I find myself apprehensive to make them myself.

My love affair with ricotta gnocchi is no secret. Pillow like dumplings gently tossed in a simple sauce is my comfort food. They are simple to make, using a few ingredients and a gentle touch.

For a variation I have used a common technique used with potato gnocchi of poaching and then panfrying in butter and oil to give these spinach and ricotta gnocchi texture and extra flavour.

A labour of love, gnocchi should never be doused in an overpowering sauce. I like to serve my pan fried gnocchi with roughly chopped ripe tomatoes and basil.

150g baby spinach leaves
300g fresh ricotta
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tbs finely grated parmesan
1 egg, lightly beaten
150g (1 cup) plain flour, sifted (plus extra to dust)
2 tablespoons olive oil
40g butter
4 vine ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
micro basil leaves, to serve

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Place spinach in a colander and rinse with water. Transfer spinach to pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, tossing, or until just wilted (the water on the spinach will create steam and help cook the spinach). Place cooked spinach in a colander and leave to drain and cool.

In a bowl combine ricotta, lemon zest, parmesan and egg. Season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible from spinach and roughly chop. Add spinach to ricotta mixture and mix. Add flour and mix until just combined.

Divide gnocchi into 4 batches. On a lightly floured surface, working one batch at a time, roll gnocchi into a log 3 cm wide. Dust a sharp knife with flour and cut gnocchi into 1 cm wide pieces and set aside. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and reduce heat to medium heat. In 4 batches cook gnocchi for 2-3 minutes, or until gnocchi float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a lightly oiled tray. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Cook for 1 minute, or until butter is foaming. Add gnocchi and cook, turning for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve gnocchi tossed with tomatoes and basil leaves.

Serves 4-6.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

This week's recipe: Shaved beetroot, buffalo mozzarella and white anchovy salad

Why beetroot mozzarella and anchovy salad?

As a food editor, I am often asked where do you get your inspiration for recipes? The answer is easy. I'm constantly inspired by what I see around me.

I can be at the local supermarket, walking past a little old ladies shopping trolley and I may get an idea simply from her weekly list. It can be from reading a new menu at a restaurant and most often from produce itself.

This salad is inspired after finding beautiful baby golden beetroot at the markets. I love the earthiness of beetroot, especially baby beetroots raw. They are best pared with a delicate balance of flavours. Beetroots love the tartness of lemon and the saltiness of white anchovies. I have tied all these flavours together with one of my favourites, creamy buffalo mozzarella.

1 bunch each baby golden and regular beetroot
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 quarter preserved lemon, flesh discarded
1 cup mint leaves picked
250g buffalo mozzarella

10-12 white anchovies

Scrub beetroots, removing any dirt and blemishes and trim off stalks leaving 2 cm. Using a peeler or mandolin thinly shave beetroots. Place red beetroot in a bowl of cold water and golden beetroot in a separate bowl of water. Leave to sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile finely chop preserved lemon and combine in a small bowl with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

To serve, drain beetroot and arrange on a platter. Tear over buffalo mozzarella and scatter with mint leaves and preserved lemon dressing. Lay anchovies over the top and serve.

Serves 4-6.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

This week’s Recipe: Gluten Free Banana and Nut Cake

Why Banana Nut cake?

I like a challenge, especially a recipe related one.

I have a friend who often sends me text messages with intriguing recipe questions, and I often find myself researching late into the night trying to answer them.

Some are simple to answer - can one make a meringue without sugar? The answer is no. While others leave me so interested enough to test it out myself.

Her latest question; can nuts be ground and used instead of flour? This is not a simple yes/no answer, however I wanted to personally test my theory and ended up with this moist, gluten free, nutty banana cake.

The mixture of cashews and almonds not only adds texture, but flavour to this banana cake. This cake is moist yet crumbly and best eaten within 3 days of baking.

220g ground almonds
150g raw cashews, ground in a food processor
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup honey
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup Greek-style yoghurt
½ cup rice flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 25cm round cake tin (I used a vintage octagon one) and set aside.

Place the ground almonds and cashews on a baking tray and roast for 5 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the butter and honey in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6 minutes or until soft and creamy. Add the cooled nuts, rice flour, baking powder and bicarbonate to the butter mixture and beat until just combined.

Add the bananas, eggs and yoghurt together and beat until just combined and add to the cake mixture. Beat until just combined..

Pour into lined baking pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Serve warm with extra honey to drizzle.

Serves 8
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

This Week's Recipe: Coconut Miso Chicken Karaage

Why Coconut, Miso Karaage?

Karaage is the Japanese answer to Kentucky Fried Chicken. JFC (Japanese fried chicken) what could one want more?

Imagine mixing 'chicken fried goodness' with a miso soup and a katsu curry... now that is just too tempting.

Instead of marinating the chicken in soy and garlic, in this version I have used coconut milk, white miso and curry powder.

The result, heaven from chopstick to mouth.

3 tablespoons white miso
270ml coconut milk
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs curry powder
600g chicken thigh, cut into 4cm pieces
Vegetable oil to deep fry
½ cup potato flour (or corn flour)
Kewpie mayonnaise, to serve

Combine miso, coconut cream, soy sauce and curry powder together in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add chicken. Toss to coat, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (over night is best).

Next day, fill a wok or saucepan 1/3 full with oil and heat to 180C.

Working in three batches, remove chicken from marinade and lightly dust in potato flour.

Lower chicken into oil and cook for 6 minutes, turning, or until chicken is golden and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate covered with kitchen paper.

Repeat with remaining chicken.

Serve on small plates with kewpie mayonnaise on the side.

Serves 6 as main with Japanese rice, or 8 as a starter or snack.

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

This week’s recipe: Coconut lemon ice

Why coconut lemon ice?

Coconut ice, just the name brings back sweet memories of childhood, where enjoying a sugary treat made all problems of the world disappear.

Now as an adult, if I close my eyes and take a bite of this coconut treat I am 6 years old again, at a Sunday afternoon birthday party, wearing my favourite dress, ribbons in my hair without a worry in the world.

I have added lemon to this classic. The balance of teeth aching sweetness, coconut creaminess and the fresh tartness of lemon make it worthy of adult innocence.

125g coconut butter*
250g desiccated coconut
400g icing sugar, sifted
2 egg whites, whisked until frothy
zest of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 drops yellow food colouring

Line a 14 x 20cm rectangular lamington tin with baking paper and set a side. Place coconut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes or until cooled to room temperature.

Combine the coconut and icing sugar in a large bowl. Add the coconut butter and egg white and stir until well combined. Divide mixture in half. Press half the coconut mixture over the base of the prepared pan (I use the bottom of a jar to make sure the surface is flat and well compressed).

Add lemon zest, juice and yellow food colouring to the remaining coconut mixture and stir until well combined and evenly coloured. Press the lemon coconut mixture over the white coconut mixture and smooth the surface. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour or until set.

Remove the coconut ice from the pan and leave for 15 minutes. Use a sharp hot and damp knife to cut into 2cm squares.

Coconut lemon ice will keep refrigerated for 2 weeks.
*Coconut butter is available from health food stores.

Makes 18.
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Monday, July 23, 2012

This Week's Recipe: Caramel Salt Toffee

Why Caramel Salt Toffee?

Salted caramel are the hottest flavour couple of 2012. Smooth bitter-sweet caramel, delicate crystals of salt and buttery creaminess when put together will never go out of style.

This recipe is for a hard toffee as opposed to the chewy kind. Personally, I prefer the hard type because as you suck it, salt crystals start to dissolve surprising you with new flavours and the best part is the sticky chewy texture the toffee gets just before it is finished.

3/4 cup (180 ml) thickened cream
60g butter, chopped
½ cup (125ml) corn syrup

1 cup (220g) caster sugar
11/2 tbs salt flakes

Line the base and sides of a 20cm square baking tin with baking paper and set aside.

Place cream, half butter in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Set aside and keep warm.

In a separate medium large saucepan combine corn syrup and sugar over medium heat and cook, stirring until the sugar just dissolves. When the sugar has dissolved cook, untouched (swirling the pan occasionally) for 20 minutes, or until a sugar thermometer reaches 155C.

Remove from heat and carefully stir in warm cream. Return to medium heat and cook mixture until it reaches 130C. The timing will vary on how warm or cold the cream is.

Stir in half salt and pour into the lined tin. Scatter over remaining salt. Leave to set for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a board and while still warm, cut into cubes with a lightly oiled knife.

Wrap in plastic wrappers or baking paper.
 Caramels will keep in airtight containers between sheets of baking paper for up to 1 month. 
Makes 40
Bon Appetite.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

This Week's Recipe: Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes

Why Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes?

Some like it hot, some like it sweet. Others like is rich and others like it decadent. I like all of the above.

What is better than a chocolate cake? An individual rich chocolate cake (no sharing!) spiced with cinnamon and given a kick with chilli.

250g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
250g unsalted butter, chopped
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
5 eggs
110g (½ cup) caster sugar
120g self-raising flour, sifted

Chocolate chilli ganache
100g thickened cream
½ tsp ground cinnamon
200g dark chocolate, finely chopped
dried chilli flakes, to serve

Preheat oven to 160C. Place 12 paper cases in a cupcake tin.

In a medium bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water, place chocolate, cinnamon, chilli and butter. Stir until melted. Take off heat and set aside.

Meanwhile beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick. Fold in sifted flour and add melted, cooled chocolate. Mix until combined and smooth.

Spoon batter into cases and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out with wet crumbs.

Leave to cool while you make the ganache.

For the ganache, place cream and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and take off heat. Add chocolate and stir until combined and smooth. Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until spreadable.

When cupcakes are cool, spread ganache over the surface of each. Scatter with chilli flakes.

Makes 12.
Bon Appetite.

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