Tuesday, January 31, 2012

West African Chicken Soup with Okra

I know, I know, it's summer. But where we live there has been rain, lots of it, and some days have been cool. With an abundance of homegrown okra from our garden I promptly made this yummy soup before the sun came out again.

I love okra. I think I first fell in love with it when I made my first gumbo. I was nineteen years old and going through a 'Southern Food' phase, cooking gumbo, jambalaya, smothered chicken, southern fried buttermilk chicken, black-eyed peas, and cornbread. Okra was, and still is a hard ingredient to find.

I started cooking other things with okra when I moved to Brisbane about 12 years ago. Many African families lived in a neighbouring suburb, in the suburb were I shopped for my fruit and vegetables. I remember seeing beautiful west African women, clad in vibrant coloured dresses, leaving the store with boxes full of okra. I knew then, that it was okra season and I had to be quick or else the entire supply would soon be sold out. This is a recipe I came across at that time.

Our okra plants are one of the few surviving plants left in our garden after the heat of early summer. We are picking more each day. I'm sure there will be more okra recipes coming soon.

West African Chicken Soup with Okra

serves 4-6

make in march

• 1 x 1.8 kilogram chicken (cut into pieces)

• 1 large lemon

• 6 cups chicken stock

• 3 tomatoes (diced)
• 1 onion (sliced)

• 2 cups okra (sliced 1 cm thick)
• 1/3 cup uncooked basmati rice
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 teaspoon ground turmeric powder

• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Wash the chicken well and then rub over the juice of the lemon. Drain and add to a large stockpot. Pour over the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 12 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and return to the boil. Reduce and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken pieces and de-bone and shred the meat. Return the meat to the pot and serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fettuccine ai Funghi

Getting back to school after such a long break can be a little difficult.

Dinners this week have been and will be easy. Last night I cooked a favourite Jamie Oliver pasta dish, adapted only slightly from 'The Naked Chef'. I love to make this when the new season mushrooms start appearing at the farmers markets.

(You will see from the pictures, we had only spaghetti in the cupboard and button mushrooms in the fridge. Sometimes we don't eat as glamorously as we would like)

This is a delicious and simple meal, especially if you make it with a mixture of wild mushrooms and serve it with homemade fettuccine or pappardelle, just as I have written below. But if you don't have that, it makes a very yummy Tuesday night meal out of spaghetti and button mushrooms that can be found at the corner shop.

Fettuccine with Wild Mushrooms

Fettuccine ai Funghi

• 350 grams mixed wild mushrooms (sliced and torn)

• 3 tablespoons olive oil

• 2 clove garlic (finely chopped)

• 1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes

• salt and pepper

• 1/2 lemon (juiced
• 455 grams fettuccine, pappardelle or spaghetti

• a handful grated parmesan cheese

• 1 handful parsley (roughly chopped)

• 55 grams unsalted butter

to serve

• 2 tablespoons parsley (roughly chopped)

• grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente.
When the pasta is almost cooked, heat the olive oil in a frying pan to very hot. Add the mushrooms and let them fry fast, tossing once or twice, add the garlic and chilli with a pinch of salt, it is important to season the mushrooms to bring out the flavor. Continue to fry fast for 4 to 5 minutes, tossing regularly. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Season to taste.

Drain the pasta and add it to the mushrooms. Add the Parmesan, parsley, and butter and toss gently. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the
extra parsley and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sri Lankan Love Cake

I first come across a recipe for this cake years ago. I was intrigued. At first by the name and then buy the list of ingredients. I found the recipe again recently. I had remembered reading that it is often cooked for Christmas, so I added it to my very long list of Christmas cooking.
This cake is not called love cake for nothing. I love it. With one small bite you instantly taste honey, semolina, lime, rosewater, nuts - subtle and delicious.
We ended up with way too much food at Christmas time (no surprises there) When I made this I sliced it up and put the cake straight into the freezer. We have been enjoying it over this last week with friends and strong coffee.

Sri Lankan Love Cake

makes 20 - 30 squares

• 6 large eggs (separated)

• 500 grams caster sugar

• 150 grams unsalted butter (softened)
• 2 tablespoons honey

• 2 tablespoons rosewater

• zest of 1 lime (finely chopped)

• 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 250 grams raw cashews (finely chopped)

• 250 grams semolina

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Grease a 21 x 30 cm slice tin. In a large bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Add the butter, honey, rosewater, lime zest, spices nuts and semolina and mix well. Beat the egg whites until they form peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour or until pale golden on top. Leave the cake in the tin to cool. Cut into small squares to serve.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shepherd's Salad

With the weather so very hot in Queensland right now, we have been living on barbecues (meat or fish) with lots of fresh salads.

This is a recipe I tried for the first time just before Christmas. I have made it about four times since. It is very similar to Fattoush, it is the Hairy Bikers version of a Turkish salad called Coban Salatasi (Shepherd's Salad). It is from this book. Whatever it's origins (Turkish or the Middle East) or whatever you want to call it (Shepherd's Salad or Fattoush) it is YUM!

Please ignore the photo that has rocket it the salad, this was taken the last time I made this salad and it was the only lettuce we had in the house. I just wanted to get a photo so I could post this recipe. Everyone should be eating this, this summer!

Shepherd's Salad

serves 6

• 1 small (lebanese) cucumber (chopped)
• 1 small red onion (thinly sliced)

• 2 big tomatoes (chopped)

• 1 red chilli (de-seeded and finely diced)
• 4 cloves garlic (crushed)
• a big bunch flat-leaf parsley (chopped)

• 1 tablespoon dill (chopped)

• 1 tablespoon mint leaves (chopped)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

• 2 teaspoons sumac
• 2 pita bread (toasted and broken into small pieces)

• 1 baby cos lettuce
• assorted olives

• pomegranate molasses

Combine the first 11 ingredients together and let sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. When ready to serve, arrange the baby cos lettuce onto a large serving platter. Sprinkle the pita bread and olives over the lettuce and spoon the cucumber/tomato mixture and the dressing into the center of the platter. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and serve immediately.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Zucchini and Feta Fritters

Last night I made zucchini fritters. I can not tell you how much we love these at our house and I can't believe that I haven't posted this recipe before. It is so inspiring when you have your meat loving children skipping around the kitchen excitedly yelling:

"Yay! we are having fritters"

"I loooove fritters Mum"

"Guess what Dad, we are having fritters for dinner, Yipee, fritters!"

And at the dinner table:

"Mum I just can't get enough of these fritters!"

Many recipes that I have for zucchini fritters use more oil, you can if you want, but I am trying to keep them a little healthier by cooking them in a non stick pan with just a little bit of oil.

Whatever you do, don't skip the first step, it is very important that you get as much of the moisture out of the grated zucchini as possible. The last time I made these I tried cutting corners because I was in a rush. I didn't drain the zucchinis and the fritters just fell apart. It was a disaster.

Zucchini and Feta Fritters

serves 4

makes 14-16 fritters

• 500 grams zucchini (grated)

• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 spring onions (finely sliced)

• 2 garlic clove (crushed)
• 2 eggs

• 150 grams feta cheese (coarsely crumbled)

• 2 tablespoons parsley

• 2 tablespoons dill
• 1/3 cup plain flour

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• salt and pepper

• olive oil for frying

to serve

tzatziki or yoghurt dip
• lemons wedges

Put the grated zucchini into a colander and sprinkle with the teaspoon of salt. Leave to drain for 1 hour.

Rinse the zucchini and squeeze out any excess water. Put the zucchini onto a clean tea towel and squeeze tightly over the sink to remove as much liquid as possible.
Add the zucchini to a large bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients.

Heat about a tablespoon oil in a frying pan to medium heat and spoon in the fritters. Use one tablespoon of mixture for each fritter. Flatten slightly. Cook for 2-3 minutes each side until golden brown and the mixture is cooked through.


Last night we ate our zucchini fritters with a simple tomato salad, a green salad from the garden and this yoghurt dip.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Spaghetti with rocket, feta and tomatoes

The leftovers have finally ran out in our house.

Last night I made an easy pasta dish from simple ingredients at hand. Spaghetti, feta and tomatoes are staples at our place, the herbs and rocket were from the garden.

This is a recipe that I always used to cook in our first house in Brisbane. This was a popular mid week dish, sometimes shared with friends (in the days when we had impromptu mid-week dinner parties) or sometimes just us. But always with a bottle of red wine and always outside under the stars. I was reminded of those days, long ago, as we ate this outside last night. I was amazed, as I often am, of how one mouthful of a particular food can transport you back in time to a place and a meal that had almost been forgotten.

Spaghetti with rocket, feta and tomatoes

serves 4

• 400 grams spaghetti

• 200 grams feta cheese (crumbled)

• 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

• 2 small chillies (seeded and finely chopped)

• 2 tablespoon basil leaves (torn)

• 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley (roughly chopped)

• 3 cloves garlic (crushed)

• 3 tomatoes (deseeded and roughly diced)

• 250 grams rocket (roughly chopped)
• salt and pepper

Bring the water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Meanwhile in a bowl mix half of the feta with the remaining ingredients. Toss the tomato mixture through the hot pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining feta and serve.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I have been cooking and eating way too much over the last week and have recipes to share. I just need to find some time to write them up for you.

White chocolate cheesecake with sour cherry sauce, some old barbeque marinades rediscovered and some new salads and dressings discovered. I have made some new cakes and some simple pastas. I am dying to play around with yeast cookery, but that won't be for another week or more, when things quieten down around here, sometime after the 9th.

Hopefully you are enjoying the simple entertaining of the season and having fun with family and friends.

(The image above is from here. Nothing to do with New Years Eve at all. The mini champagne bottles are to be given out as wedding favours. I could just get lost in wedding styling blogs some days - so gorgeous)
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