Friday 28 September 2007

spelt fettucine w hazelnuts & goats curd

First, I want to say just how disappointed I was when I saw how my photos came out. My friend was playing with my camera settings and I was too stupid to think to reset them before I snapped away last night. When I downloaded them this morning I saw my mistake! Too grainy.

But onto the food!

This idea came to me when I was flicking through a magazine and misread the pages, amalgamating two recipes into one. Genius!

Hazelnut and goats cheese seem to go so well together. I used Woodside Cheese Wright's goats curd, but you could use a soft chevre instead if you wanted a bit more kick. Curd tends to have a milder flavour.

I decided to use wholemeal or spelt pasta and spinach to add some colour and make it a bit more healthy.

Spelt (also cutely known as dinkel) is a very old grain used by Europeans from the Bronze Age until the Medieval period. There's even evidence of spelt being used 5000 BCE. It's low in gluten so it's a good substitute for those with mild intolerances, although not those with wheat allergies ie coeliacs because it still contains gluten.

Overall it's a mild dish, but it's creamy and nutty in flavour. It would be nice as the start to a summer meal.

Spelt Fettucine w Hazelnuts & Goats Curd
Anna's very own recipe. Serves 2.

1/3 cup crushed roasted hazelnuts
200g spelt fettucine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
baby spinach leaves, washed
250g goats curd
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1. While the pasta water is boiling, gently heat the olive oil and garlic in a pan. The idea is to heat the oil and infuse it with a gentle garlic flavour so you don't want to deep fry the slices into garlic chips or they'll impart bitterness into the oil.
2. When the oil is warm and taken on a garlic flavour, remove the garlic slices (although I guess you could keep them if you want).
3. You'll probably need to add the pasta into the water at this point.
4. Add the crushed hazelnuts and heat them up too. Watch them carefully as they brown but don't let them burn.
5. Add hazelnut oil. Keep warm but not sizzling.
6. Drain pasta when ready and return to pot.
7. Add oil and nuts. Stir through.
8. Add spinach and stir through. Spinach will wilt in the heat of the pasta so no need to precook.
9. Season with plenty of salt and pepper then divide into serving dishes.
10. Add dollops of goats curd on top of pasta. Guests can mix it through themselves.

This is my contribution to Presto Pasta Night, which it seems I only manage to join every second week.

Fridays are my busy day. Too much fun, fun, fun.


Saturday 22 September 2007

kimchi jjigae

In Korea, jjigae are stews made in much the same way as a western-style stew. The main difference is that most Korean stews carry a mean chilli kick that will knock your socks off.

A while back I found a Korean restaurant near my office (Full House) that had lunch specials of tuna kimchi jjigae and I absolutely adored it. It has become one of my all time favourite means and I eat it at least four times a month.

Sylvia, a colleague with a Korean background, since put me onto another Korean restaurant in the city (Haemil) that serves great kimchi jjigae, but with pork rashes instead of tuna. Sylvia also shared her mother’s recipe which I plan to test soon enough.

The below recipe is not authentically Korean because I invented it from my poor knowledge of Korean ingredients and from memorising the flavours of the various kimchi jjigae that I had eaten.

I used gochujang paste, which is quite sweet as well as spicy, and I chose to use kimchi made from nappa cabbage.

I think I got pretty damn close to the real thing and after making it a few times and refining my recipe, I’m now proud enough to share it on my blog.

Please give it a try!

Kimchi Jjigae
Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4.

600g baechu kimchi (nappa cabbage)
425g canned tuna (optional)
300g baby spinach
200g silken tofu, broken into bite size pieces
1 litre vegetable stock
1/3 cup (85ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chilli paste)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 spring onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Hot steamed rice, to serve
1. Heat sesame oil. Fry onions and garlic until soft.
2. Add gochujang and tomato paste and fry until thickened.
3. Add kimchi and combine.
4. Add vegetable stock and soy sauce then simmer for 5 minutes.
5. If using, add tuna to stew then simmer a further 5 minutes.
6. Add tofu and spinach and allow spinach to wilt (1-2 minutes).
7. Remove from heat. Divide between bowls then serve immediately with hot rice.
Note: for vegetarian version simply omit the tuna or you can easily cook the soup then add warmed tuna into serving bowls for those who eat seafood. Also, if you look in Korean grocery stores you’ll find canned tuna especially for kimchi jjigae.

Kimchi isn’t for everyone. Being a chilli and a pickle lover, I find it delightful, but I do understand why it can be very overwhelming to the uninitiated. It also carries quite a strong odour, which can turn people off before they even taste it. Don’t be fooled by the smell, it’s wonderful!

As far as I understand, and trust me I’m no expert on this subject, kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish. The core ingredients are seasonal vegetables mixed with brine, garlic, chilli and onions. Other common additions could be ginger or dried fish. In the old days kimchi batches would be buried underground to ferment in time for winter meals.

It seems there are records of people making kimchi almost 3,000 years ago, although the recipes were much similar and certainly didn’t use chilli until Europeans opened trade routes with the Americas.

Nappa or Chinese cabbage became popular in Korea in the 1800s and ever since a spicy, garlicky napa cabbage kimchi called baechu kimchi has been the most common version you’ll find.

But there are so many more kinds of kimchi and there’s even a kimchi museum in Seoul which recorded 187 varieties. Some of these could include:
Dongchimi (동치미) - white radish without chilli, eaten in summer
Kkakdugi (깍두기) - cubed radish
Ohee-sobae-gi (오이소배기) - stuffed cucumber
Kkaennip (깻잎) - perilla leaves with soy sauce

Apparently kimchi from the cold north is less salty, a little more watery and doesn’t contain as much chilli whereas the southern Korean varieties use salty fish and chilli. For instance, the coastal region of Hamgyeongdo uses oysters and other seafood to add saltiness to their kimchi, whereas Gyeonggi-do is famous for elaborated decorately kimchi.

In the summer, when eating fresh produce is preferable to fermented, mild kimchi vegetables such as radish and cucumber are eaten. Winter calls for heartier and more numerous varieties.

One fact I did find interesting is that Koreans say “kimchi” instead of “cheese” when they get their photo taken. This makes sense since both words contain the phoneme /i/, which stretches lips to resemble a smile.

Wow, that’s just way too many facts to digest. So get a big bowl of kimchi jjigae and digest that instead!!!

WHB is being hosted by Myriam from Once Upon a Tart so be sure to visit her round up.

If you’re interested in learning more about Korean food I can recommend two great blogs:
My Korean Kitchen – Sue, a Korean now living in Australia, demystifies Korean cooking
Zen Kimchi – Joe MacPherson’s extensive food adventures in Korea

Kimchi photo



Monday 17 September 2007

poire & prosecco

To be honest, I wanted to come up with something much more exciting for this month’s fizz themed Mixology Monday, but time got away from me and I had to resort to the staid and easily accessible aka boooriiing (but I don't mean boring flavours, the flavours are good it's just the inventiveness that's lacking here).

It’s a bit disappointing because just like our host, Gabriel at cocktailnerd, fizzy cocktails are amongst my favourite, particularly champagne cocktails.

My contribution is this Poire & Prosecco, an amalgamation of the usual Poire William Champagne and (peach) Bellini cocktails.

Poire & Prosecco
Serves 1:

1 part pear nectar, chilled
1 part Poire William, chilled
Prosecco, chilled
Add nectar and liqueur to champagne glass then top, carefully, with Prosecco.

Check out cocktailnerd’s round up of all the other bubbly cocktails. I can’t wait to tickle my noise with the multitude of bubbles.


Monday 10 September 2007


Meggyleves is a traditional Hungarian cherry soup made in summer, when the cherries are abundant, and usually eaten as an entrée (starter). It’s served cold.

Ever since I first heard of this dish from one of my Hungarian relatives, Ákos, I have been fascinated and eager to make it. I found it difficult to imagine eating this as an entrée, since it seemed so sweet in nature, but the important factor is the type of cherries.

In Hungary they use Morello cherries to ensure a sour-tart flavour, however you could use any sour cherry such as Montmonrency (most common sour cherry in North America) or Early Richmond.

If you can’t get your hands on any sour cherries, you can use sweet cherries but then you’ll need to serve the soup as a dessert because it won’t have the required acidity. It will still taste wonderful, but it will be much sweeter and therefore serves a different purpose.

I absolutely love the sweet version as a summer dessert. It’s divine.

It’s an old recipe and therefore there are as many versions as there are Hungarian families. In fact it’s so popular Knorr even sell it as packet soups!

Some traditional recipes reserve the cherry pits, wrap them in muslin then crack them a little before putting them in the soup. The kernels have a delicate almond flavour which adds an additional complexity to the flavour. Nowadays you can add a dash of almond essence instead.

For a slightly thicker soup the old recipes blend half the cherries with the soup liquid or add egg yolks to the cream, while I noticed many North American versions used potato or corn flour.

The North American versions also seemed to omit the wine (a dry red, preferably from Eger) and reduced the cream too. I suppose this was to make the recipe quicker and more cost effective.

Here’s my version:

Meggyleves (Hungarian Cherry Soup)
Anna’s adaptation of Anne Sheasby's recipe. Serves 6 for starter.

1kg sour cherries, pitted
750ml (3 cups) dry red wine
250ml (1 cup) water
250ml (1 cup) pouring cream
125ml (½ cup) crème fraîche
½ cup sugar
1-2 cinnamon sticks
1. Combine in a large pot water, cherries, sugar, red wine and cinnamon.
2. Bring to the boil then lightly simmer for approx. 20 minutes until cherries are tender. Remove from the heat.
3. In a separate bowl, combine pouring cream and crème fraîche to create a smooth mix.
4. Stir mixture into the soup and then refrigerate until serving.
5. Serve with a little crème fraîche on top.

This is my entry to the annual Super Soup Challenge, hosted by Tami from Running With Tweezers. A great event since it celebrates one of my favourite things to eat: soup!


Sunday 9 September 2007

garlic scape pesto

This is my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging, but it also happens to be one of my Recipe Road Tests.

Fittingly, I found the original recipe on the website of WHB’s creator: Kalyn.

Last year, during the northern hemisphere summer, I noticed all my fellow bloggers were using an ingredient I’d never seen before: garlic scapes. Everyone seems to be indulging and so, by the time summer rolled around to Sydney and the garlic scapes hit the shelves, I knew what they were and was ready to dabble.

The stores here called them garlic spears or garlic stems, but I had already known them through cyberspace as garlic scapes and that’s the name that stuck for me!

Kalyn picked an interesting recipe and, since I’d read they could be strong, I decided my first attempt to use them should be guided.

The result was delicious, but quite strong and I definitely had horrendous garlic breath for what seemed like days. This could have been due to the fact that I gave Jonas no instructions then went into another room and came back after he’d added more garlic scapes than Kalyn suggested.

I think if you stick to her recipe and also add in some toasted almonds you should adore it.

Garlic Scape Pesto
Recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen.
½ cup garlic scapes, finely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
3 cups grated parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
1. Put garlic scapes and lemon juice in bowl of food processor with steel blade, and process until scapes are very finely chopped.
2. With food processor running, add oil through the feed tube and process 2-3 minutes.
3. Remove lid, add half of parmesan cheese and process 2 minutes, then add the rest of cheese and salt and process 2-3 minutes more.
Anna’s variation: I used around ¼ cup of toasted slivered almonds, in lieu of pinenuts, and this added counter balance to the strong garlicky flavour, as well as a sweet nuttiness.

Garlic scapes are the stalks that grow out of the garlic head. They curve as they grow but when they get a bit older they start to straighten out. They can form a flower as well.

They are picked when young and tender and are milder than the bulbs. I suppose you could use them sparingly in lieu of leeks or asparagus and they would be a great addition to a stir-fry too.

This WHB is hosted by the lovely Katie from Thyme For Cooking. She is based in the Vendée which, Jean-Baptiste assures me, is no where near Andorra.


Friday 7 September 2007

trahanas, τραχανάς

Whenever Jonas and I find a new grocery store I scour the shelves for ingredients I’ve never seen before. I manage sneak them into the shopping trolley but at the register I’m caught out and barraged with exclamations of “what’s that! what are you going to do with that? will you even use it?”

Unfortunately, or fortunately, Jonas knows I will use it.

Such was the start of my recent affair with trahanas: tiny Greek pasta which came in two mysterious versions, sweet or sour. I opted for sour.

Trahanas is a mixture of cracked wheat that is fermented with yoghurt and then dried and sieved into tiny pellets. Sounds charming, doesn’t it. But trust me it tastes wonderful!

Apparently the fermentation process generates lactic acid which creates its particular sour flavour while low pH levels during drying mean milk proteins aren’t destroyed.

Apart from Greece, it is eaten in Turkey (tarhana), Egypt (kishk) and Iraq (kushuk), while in Cyprus it’s almost a national dish, but in all locations it is usually eaten as a thick soup or as a stuffing.

Traditional Greek and Cypriot recipes seem to call for a rustic, no fuss combination of olive oil, water and feta while a few adventurous folk added parsley or tomatoes.

I wanted to enrich the dish more so I added garlic, tomatoes, white wine and swapped the water for vegetable stock.

It’s perfect comfort food, hearty in body yet light in flavour, and would make a wonderful substitute for noodle soup.

Anna’s very own recipe. 4 as entrée, 2-3 as main course.

1 cup trahanas (sour)
4 cups water (or very good vegetable stock)
¼ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
½ cup crumbled feta
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat olive oil in pot then sauté garlic until softened.
2. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until tomatoes begin to break down.
3. Add wine and cook off alcohol (1 min).
4. Add water/stock and bring mixture to the boil.
5. Add trahanas and cook, as per packet instructions, until tender.
6. When cooked, remove from heat and stir in parsley.
7. Ladle into serving bowls and top with crumbled feta.
Note: if you want a runnier soup consistency, add 1-2 cups water/stock.
You could use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock.
Some people peel the tomatoes before cooking.
You may want to add more feta. We did, of course!

This is my contribution to Presto Pasta Night #28, a blogging event I wish I could join more often but work/life somehow get in the way! Well today is a public holiday thanks to the invasion of Sydney by multitudes of world leaders for the APEC summit (ie, George W, Vladimir and Hu Jintao) so I had no excuse!


Sunday 2 September 2007

green olive crusted veal

I know everyone loves Donna Hay, but I’m not totally convinced.

Her food photography is lavish and the props are always impeccably stylish, but I don’t feel like the recipes are as well thought through as the photographs.

For most food bloggers, all we need is a photo of a gorgeous dish and most of us can take that inspiration and create our own recipe replicating the basic theme. But for people who rely on recipes, I feel that Donna might be letting them down.

Maybe my Donna-doubts stems from my love of strong sensations and most of Donna’s recipes seem to ere on the side of caution when it comes to big flavour hits.

In Donna Hay’s Aug/Sep 07 (Issue 24), I found a recipe which was wonderful, but does need an extra lift if you’re like me and want to be knocked out by flavour.

I bought my veal from AC Butchery and it was exquisite. I hadn’t bought meat from a butcher in a while (lots of vegetables lately) so I decided to get it from a butcher I know and trust. The meat was flavoursome and tender and well worth the price ($31.99 per kilo).

Green Olive Crusted Veal
Recipe from Issue 24 Donna Hay (Aug/Sep 07). Serves 4.
35g (¾ cup) fresh breadcrumbs
50g (1/3 cup) chopped green olives
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
50g unsalted butter, melted
4 x 150g veal cutlets
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Freshly milled salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 200’C (390’F).
2. Place breadcrumbs, olives, parsley, butter, salt and pepper into a bowl and stir to combine.
3. Brush the veal cutlets with mustard
4. Press the breadcrumb mixture firmly onto one side of the cutlet.
5. Place on a lightly greased oven tray and bake for 12-15 minutes of until breadcrumbs are golden and meat is cooked through (when pierced with a knife, juices should run clear).
Note: I’d add a little more olives, chopped capers or even some finely grated lemon rind to give it an extra kick.

I served this delicious veal with a yummy feta mash (as suggested in the magazine) and my favourite side dish: Wilted Spinach w Lemon & Olive Oil.

Feta Mash
Recipe from Issue 24 Donna Hay (Aug/Sep 07). Serves 4.
1 kg starchy potatoes, peeled and chopped
¾ cup milk
¼ cup olive oil
150g feta cheese
½ cup chopped kalamata olives
1. Place the potatoes in a pot of salted, cold water.
2. Bring to the boil and cook for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
3. Drain well, return to the pan and mash until smooth.
4. Add the milk and oil and stir to combine.
5. Stir in the feta, olives, salt and pepper then serve.

Olives (Olea europaea) are native to coastal areas in the Mediterranean, Asia Minor and northern Iran, near the Caspian Sea.

Olives are the most cultivated fruit in the world and increasing demands for olive oil have seen the production levels triple over the past 50 years. In 2005, the top olive producing nations were Spain, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco and Portugal.

Based on evidence from a site in Jordan, it is believed olives were first cultivated in the Chalcolithic Period (Copper Age, before the Bronze Age). They are certainly one of the most citied foods in history, being mentioned by the Greeks, Romans, the Bible and the Qur'an (Koran). Homer had Odysseus crawling under olive shoots, Horace claimed they gave him sustenance and olives were a symbol of the Greek goddess of war and wisdom, Athena.

Back in the 1st century, Pliny the Elder claimed a Greek olive tree was 1,600 years old which isn’t impossible given that ring testing has proven that a tree on the isle of Brijuni (Brioni) in Croatia is 1,600 years old and still bears fruit. Several trees in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem are thought to be from the time of Jesus and another on Crete was confirmed to be over 2,000 years old!

Fresh olives have phenolic compounds and oleuropein, making the fruit almost inedible when fresh. They need to be processed in order to leach out the bitterness: soaked in water, slit once, then add to a pickling pot of salt and vinegar, weighed down and left for at least a month. Afterwards they can be flavoured with herbs and spices, or stuffed with pimento, anchovies or cheese.

In 2006, I visited Sol, Italy’s premier olive tradeshow. Knowing Italians are so proud of their olive oil, I was surprised to hear that some of Italy’s boutique oil producers rated Australian olive oil as highly as they rate their own. In fact some Italian companies were in technology and process knowledge sharing agreements with Australian olive oil producers.

Olive farming in Australia dates to the early 1800s, probably in Parramatta in Sydney. The colonies in South Australia and Victoria were planting the largest groves and by the 1830s South Australia was leading the production. Aussie oil won accolades at the London Exhibition of 1851 and by 1911 we were exporting oil to Italy!

There are thousands olive cultivars and it’s said that in Italy alone there at least three hundred!

This is direct from Wikipedia and explains some of the cultivars
Frantoio & Leccino – These cultivars are the principal participants in Italian olive oils from Tuscany. Leccino has a mild sweet flavour while Frantoio is fruity with a stronger aftertaste. Due to their highly valued flavour, these cultivars have been migrated and are now grown in other countries.
Arbequina – A small, brown olive grown in Catalonia, Spain. As well as being used as a table olive, its oil is highly valued.
Empeltre – A medium sized, black olive grown in Spain. They are used both as a table olive and to produce a high quality olive oil.
Kalamata – A large, black olive (named after the city of Kalamata, Greece), used as a table olive. These olives have a smooth and meaty taste.
Koroneiki – Originates from the southern Peloponese, around Kalamata and Mani in Greece. This small olive, though difficult to cultivate, has a high oil yield and produces olive oil of exceptional quality.
Pecholine or picholine – Originated in southern France. It is green, medium size, and elongated. The flavour is mild and nutty.
Lucques – Originated in southern France (Aude département). They are green, of a large size, and elongated. The stone has an arcuated shape. The flavour is mild and nutty.
Souri – Syrian but originated in Lebanon and is widespread in the Levant. It has a high oil yield and exceptionally aromatic flavour.
Nabali – A Palestinian cultivar also known locally as Baladi. Along with Souri and Malissi are considered to produce among the highest quality olive oil in the world.
Barnea – A modern cultivar bred in Israel to be disease resistant and to produce a generous crop. It is used both for oil and for table olives. The oil has a strong flavour with a hint of green leaf. Barnea is widely grown in Israel and in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Australia and New Zealand.
Maalot – Another modern, disease-resistant, Eastern Mediterranean cultivar derived from the North African Chemlali cultivar. The olive is medium sized, round, has a fruity flavour and is used almost exclusively for oil production.
Mission – Originated on the California Missions and is now grown throughout the state. They are black and generally used for table consumption.

Our Weekend Herb Blogging host this week is the herb goddess herself, Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen.


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