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This dish could also be called “How to Make Your Kitchen Smell Totally Drool-worthy”. It also makes your car smell rather appetizing if you have to transport it anywhere. I found this keema recipe on the BBC Good Food website and knew that my search for a truly excellent minced meat curry recipe was over… for now, at least! This is really easy to make and mild enough for anyone to eat while the depth of flavour is truly outstanding. It’s one of those dishes that you just can’t stop eating and find yourself craving after a few days without it. If you’d like to make this spicy then add chopped chillies to your taste along with the tomatoes; for once I actually like this without the extra heat. The cumin-coriander mixture makes around double what you need for the recipe, but make that amount anyway and store the extra as I reckon you’ll want to cook this curry again very quickly. Home made garam masala is tops in this dish if you have some on hand.

Unless you really dig unexpectedly biting into a clove (I am still scarred from a tragic clove-in-baked-apple experience as a child), I strongly recommend removing them before serving. I recently came across a great shortcut for doing this – rather than throwing the whole spices straight into the dish, first put them in one of those ball tea strainers. You’ll still get all the rich, fragrant flavour but at the end you can just fish out the strainer rather than go scavenging for spices. Genius!

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Jamie Oliver is tops in my book. I can’t help but respect and admire anyone who is that passionate about issues that are important to him and puts his money where his mouth is. He goes out on a limb for what he believes in – sometimes that pays off and sometimes it doesn’t, but the important thing is that he doesn’t give up just because something doesn’t work. He’s one of the few celebrity chefs out there who I’d love to meet as a person, not just for the great food he makes. How many young twenty-somethings suddenly achieve huge fame and fortune and promptly start a foundation to help young people in a bad place turn their life around? Big respect.

And have I mentioned his food yet? Simple, good ingredients, recipes that are heavy on the fun and light on the fussing; perfect for a Friday night. This comes from one of his biggest selling books in Australia, Jamie’s Italy. It came together quickly and was so damn yummy! The chilli flakes are my addition and they were just perfect on yet another freezing Melbourne winter night! It’s a simple pasta that’s done in the time it takes to cook the pasta itself; a delicious basil almond pesto lightened with the addition of fresh cherry tomatoes.

Serves 2

200 gm dried spaghetti

salt & cracked black pepper

good pinch of chilli flakes

75 gm almonds

1 clove garlic

2 large handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked (1 supermarket bunch)

75 gm freshly grated parmesan

good olive oil

1 punnet cherry tomatoes

Put the spaghetti on to cook in plenty of boiling salted water.

Meanwhile, warm the almonds in a dry frying pan and then whack them in a food processor. Process until they are finely chopped. Add the basil, garlic, parmesan, chilli flakes and a good glug of olive oil. Process again until the mixture comes together. Remove to a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.

Squish the cherry tomatoes with your hands and add them and their juices to the rough pesto; taste again and adjust seasoning as necessary with some extra olive oil to loosen the mixture if needed.

Drain cooked pasta and return to saucepan; toss through the pesto tomato mixture and serve.

Greek Walnut Pie

In honour of the trashily fabulous Eurovision I will be spending my weekend watching the multicoloured glory from Oslo and eating delicious European flavours. This pie tastes like baklava but with a fraction of the time and effort involved – perfect to whip up before abandoning yourself to key changes, wind machines, gratuitous saxophones and unnecessary violins. Recipe is originally from the Pillsbury website. Enjoy!

2 sheets of short crust pastry (home made or frozen)

2 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup butter, melted & cooled

3/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Grease a round pyrex pie tin and line with first sheet of pastry.

Mix the walnuts, sugars and cinnamon together.

Pour 1/4 cup melted butter over the pastry in the pie tin; spread walnut mixture over this and drizzle over another 1/4 cup butter. Top with the second sheet of pastry, cut large slits in the pastry and top with the remaining 1/4 cup of melted butter.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, cook honey and lemon over a medium heat in a small saucepan until it has a watery consistency.

Remove pie from oven. Carefully pour over the hot honey mixture, letting it seep into the slits. Cool before serving with ice cream or cream.

This pasta is so easy to make and is perfect for winter; texture is provided by sage leaves and crumbled pork sausage. It’s one of those dishes where the simplicity of the ingredients leads to full and lingering flavours. This could be made vegetarian by leaving out the sausage and substituting with some toasted pine nuts.

Extra virgin olive oil

1/2 butternut pumpkin, peeled and diced into 2cm cubes

1 bulb fennel, outer leaves removed and chopped

1 head garlic, cloves separated and chopped into halves or thirds

2 tsp sugar

salt & cracked black pepper, to season

1 Italian pork sausage, skin removed and flesh crumbled

40 sage leaves

400gm egg fettucine or papadelle pasta, cooked al dente

Parmesan, grated

1. Pre heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. In an oven tray, toss together the pumpkin, fennel and garlic with the sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Add a good drizzle of olive oil and toss again. Roast for 30 minutes or until pumpkin is starting to caremelize and is lovely and brown outside.

2. Put pasta on to cook in a large pan of salted water.

3. Meanwhile, heat a generous couple of glugs of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausage mince; once this is starting to brown, add the sage leaves and turn the heat down to low. There should be enough oil in the pan for the leaves to fry and crisp up nicely. Once sage is crisp and sausage is browned, remove from the heat.

4. Drain pasta and return to pan over low heat. Tip the frying pan with the sausage and sage gently so that the oil pools down one end and can be spooned up and added to the pasta. Toss through. Add the roasted veggies and toss through with a handful of grated parmesan. Add salt & cracked pepper to taste.

5. Serve pasta and top with the pork and sage mixture and more parmesan, if desired.

Pad Si-Iew or Pad See Ew

Yes, ok, I’m fully aware that the dish photographed is actually Hokkein Si-Iew but I do normally make this recipe with the proper wide fresh flat rice noodles, I promise! As this will be on our soup kitchen menu next week I needed to test it with noodles that I can just chuck in the wok without any prior preparation besides a quick soak, and I must say that it tastes almost as good as with the proper noodles. I know this looks like a long list of ingredients but since the first 13 are just for the marinade and you make that the night before, you actually come home to a 5 minute dinner of deliciousness with the most sweetly delectable sauce. All hail the pad!

Marinade

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

1 spring onion, chopped

1 shallot, sliced

1 tablespoon cornflour

1 tablespoon shao xing rice wine

1 tablespoon fish sauce

3 tablespoons kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 birds eye chilli, finely chopped Continue Reading »

Thai basil, or Holy Basil, is the most deliciously aromatic herb I have ever come across. Often served pungent and raw with Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, it is capable of making my car smell amazing for hours after transportation. I always buy this fresh on the day I’m cooking with it and choose it by smell – the Vietnamese grocer I buy it from sells many herbs, all packaged in opaque plastic and mixed up together so I’m grateful that this basil is so easy for my nose to spot with its notes of aniseed and licorice.

I’ve been looking for ages for a recipe that truly replicates the delicious gai pad graprow dish common in Australian Thai restaurants and this is it. It’s from chef Chanrat Karantna and I could eat at least the two servings that it makes all on my own. ‘Nuff said.

Serves 2

3 tablespoons peanut oil

3 large cloves garlic

1 long red chilli, seeded if you want to be cautious about the heat

200gm chicken breast, sliced

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup Holy Basil leaves

rice or noodles, to serve

cashews or peanuts, to garnish

Mix together the sugar and sauces in a small bowl and set aside. Mince or finely chop the garlic and chilli together – use a mini food processeor if you have one or finish with a mortar and pestle.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat; add the garlic and chilli mix and stir fry for 15 seconds. Turn the heat up to high and add the chicken; stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the sauce mix and stir thoroughly; add the basil leaves and stir through again until they are just starting to wilt.

Serve on rice or noodles, garnished with nuts.

This is without doubt my favourite lamb marinade recipe – I’ve done it with chops, backstrap and best of all with a leg of lamb, boned and butterflied by the butcher. You take all the fat and skin off so the meat is lovely and lean and then grill it to medium-rare while having a wonderful charring on the outside of the meat. I cook this on our electric health grill at home – I can only imagine how fabulous it would be on a barbeque. The cooking times below are for a butterflied leg of lamb; you’ll need to adjust these if you’re using a different cut of meat. Whack the meat in to marinate at least 24 hours before cooking for best results.

Serves 4 (generously!)

1 – 1 1/2 kg leg of lamb, boned & butterflied

For the marinade:

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

1/2 tablespoon seeded mustard

1/2 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

5 garlic cloves, minced

Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Trim any excess fat from the lamb; then add the meat to the marinade, massaging in well with your hands. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours, turning a couple of times.

When you’re ready to cook your meat, take it out of the fridge to let it come to room temperature while you pre-heat your grill to high heat.

Grill the lamb on each side, turning once, for 15-18 minutes per side; baste it as you go with the remaining marinade.

Cover with foil and set aside to rest for 10 minutes in a warm oven before carving.

Delicious served with mashed sweet potatoes, caramelized onions and pea puree.

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