Tuesday 30 March 2010

povidlyanka - ukrainian semolina pudding

Povidlyanka (Повидлянка) is an ultra-sweet Ukrainian pudding that's a quick and simple dish to make on a cold evening.

I prefer the flavour of sour cherry jam, but you could use any preserve you like (blackberry, apricot or fig would also be delicious).

Povidlyanka (Повидлянка)
Based on a recipe from www.RussianFoods.com. Serves 2.

150g cherry jam
100g semolina
10g rum or Madeira
1 egg
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 180’C. Grease ramekin with plenty of butter.
2. Beat egg.
3. Whisk in jam and rum.
4. Fold in semolina and all but a few almond flakes.
5. Pour into greased ramekin, sprinkle top with sugar.
6. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining flaked almonds on top.

Monday 22 March 2010

gỏi mực bắp chuối (banana blossom & squid salad)

This recipe was part of a big Vietnamese feast I made in 2009.

I cooked up a storm using a beautiful cookbook by a Vietnamese- Australian family who run some very famous restaurants in Sydney.

Their food in the restaurants is fresh and exquisite, the flavours actually dancing on your tongue, and their cookbook truly helps you relive those memories at home.

This recipe is a combination of two separate recipes, but I wanted to combine squid and banana blossom so this was the result: tangy, spicy and fresh.

Gỏi Mực Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom & Squid Salad)
Combination of two recipes from Secrets of The Red Lantern.
Serves 2 as main or 6 as part of banquet.

1 calamari tube, sliced into strips
Juice of 2 limes
1 banana blossom
1 small handful Vietnamese mint, roughly chopped
1 small handful coriander, roughly chopped
1 spring onion (scallion), finely sliced
2-3 tablespoons Nước Mắm Chấm (dipping fish sauce)
1 tablespoon roasted peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons deep fried shallots
1 birds eye chilli, finely sliced
White vinegar, for soaking
1. In a small bowl, add the squid strips to the lime and allow to marinate for 1 hour.
2. Fill a bowl with water and add 2-3 tablespoons of cheap white vinegar. This water will prevent the banana blossom from oxidising and turning dark brown.
3. Remove the dark, tough outer leaves of the banana blossom to reveal tender white leaves inside. Quickly slice, then immediately immerse in the acidulated water to prevent oxidisation.
4. Cook the squid over a very hot griddle until tender (2-5 minutes).
5. Combine the squid, banana blossom, Vietnamese mint, coriander, scallion, nước mắm chấm, chilli and roasted peanuts. Toss salad well.
6. Top with deep fried shallots and serve immediately.

The banana blossom is the gorgeous, crimson, tapered bud at the end of a cluster of bananas.

The petals (or bracts) are tightly wrapped and purple-red, concealing rows of frilly male flowers and a pale, tender heart that is eaten as a vegetable. It can be boiled or stewed, often in coconut milk, or it’s served thinly sliced into salads.

The blossom is slightly astringent, like banana peels, so when raw it’s best served thinly sliced and in spicy-sweet-sour sauces, such as this recipe.

The red bracts are so pretty cleaned and used to serve the final dish.

The banana blossom is my Weekend Herb Blogging ingredient, this week hosted by Graziana from Erbe in Cucina. Be sure to visit her blog to read the round-up.

Other recipes from the internet:
Banana Blossom Curry
Banana Blossom Salad w Chicken & Asian Pears
Banana Flower Vadai (patties)
Filipino-Style Banana Blossoms in Coconut Milk
Banana Heart Salad
Banana Blossom Stir Fry
Prawn & Banana Blossom Salad
Spicy Banana Blossoms

Tuesday 16 March 2010

irish soda bread

It’s St Patrick’s Day, so I have to honour my Irish pals (especially M.E.) with an Irish recipe.

Can you believe more than 10% of Australians have Irish ancestry, and in New Zealand that figure doubles to 20%! Those Irish sure got around!

Jonas made this bread last night and it was superb. The outside was crunchy and almost sweet while the interior was dense and crumbly and simply wonderful.

It was the first time I have ever swooned over bread.

On this St Patricks Day I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a special lunch by some Irish government contacts (and at one of Sydney’s finest restaurants no less).

So Happy St Paddy’s Day to all the Irish out there! There may be only 4 million of you in Ireland but there's millions and millions more around the world.

Irish Soda Bread
Based on a recipe from allrecipes.com. Serves 4.

2 cups (250g) plain flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
65g margarine, softened
1 cup (250ml) buttermilk
1 egg
2 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing
40ml extra buttermilk, for brushing
1. Preheat oven to 190'C. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine.
3. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and the egg.
4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet.
5. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 40ml buttermilk then brush loaf with this mixture.
6. Use a sharp knife to cut an cross into the top of the loaf.
7. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.

Sunday 14 March 2010

taste of sydney festival

The Taste of Sydney took place in Centennial Park from 11-14 March this year and was designed as a showcase of Sydney restaurants and food/wine distributers.

I was lucky enough to get two tickets from the organisers for free entry (usually $30pp), so I dragged Jonas along and set out to see what new and exciting products are around.

Poor Jonas was a real trooper. Not only was it a hot day (which makes him grumpy at the best of times) but he was actually suffering from concussion after being hit on the head with a rolling pin on Friday night. No, this was not the result of a domestic dispute and nor was he taking part in a French slapstick comedy. The poor boy was at work when a huge metal rolling pin (that one of the chefs cleverly decided to store on the top shelf of the staff locker!) came crashing down on his skull.

My little sister, Stinky, also joined us which pepped up the mood from Mr Concussion (yes, I’m a harsh mistress on my poor injured Swede).

The stalls were full of interesting products and sample dishes. I was keen on the cocktails and spotted some interesting and tasty liqueurs.

Domaine de Canton was a popular colonial drink in French-ruled Vietnam and is made from cognac, ginger, vanilla beans, honey and ginseng. It had the strong fiery taste of ginger and would make a great thirst-quencher with soda and ice.

I tried it mixed with into a luscious and refreshing Indochine Caipirinha ($10) while Amy did a Pomegranate Caipirinha ($10) based on PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, which was an alcohol with an unpleasant medicinal aroma but a good, tart and uniquely pomegranate flavour. The pomegranate caipirinha was sweet and definitely tasty too.

I tried another delicious beverage: Le Pere Jules Poire ($6), a French pear cider from Le Pays d'Auge in Normandy. It was moreish and sweet-dry, with a strong pear flavour. I wish I could get my hands on a case!

With his concussion, Jonas couldn’t drink anything so he bought a tasting pack from Otway Estate so when he recovers he can trial six of the microbrewery’s products including a stout, pilsner, wheat beer and a couple of ales.

It was also really great to see all the chefs at their restaurant’s stalls, talking happily to the hungry hoards. I spotted Matt Moran (Aria), Mark Best (Marque), Guillaume Brahimi (Guillaume at Bennelong), Armando Percuoco (Buon Ricordo)and Matthew Kemp (Balzac). And I hear Jamie Oliver was showing up later in the evening for an exclusive dinner event.

Each restaurant tent produced interesting dishes and I managed to try two:

Yellow-fin tuna with sweet pork crackling and ruby grapefruit from Flying Fish ($10)

Fagottini di Carne (home-made sausage) with parmesan and truffle egg from Buon Ricordo ($10)

Unfortunately there were a couple of other dishes I wanted to try but just didn’t have the $$:
- Alba White Truffle Popcorn from Jonah’s at Whale Beach ($8)
- Beef ribs smoked in watermelon with watermelon and avocado salsa from Danks Street Depot ($12)
- Sydney rock oysters with Vietnamese dressing, crispy shallot and baby coriander from Assiette ($10)
- Strawberry Jelly w Champagne Foam from Aria ($8)

My three most interesting discoveries of the day were:

Gorgeous retro Smeg dishwashers and fridges in vibrant kitsch colours. Now all I need is a home to renovate and install them into!

Sexy Cat, a lurid pink marshmallow liqueur. Unfortunately they weren’t giving out free samples so I didn’t try it, but it looked and sounded wonderful.

Diamond Salt which is supposedly fossil sea salt crystals from Himalayan Khewra, an area of the Pakistani Kashmir. These pretty pink crystals come with a grater to season your food.

It was a lovely day, with wonderful weather, and I forgot how pretty Centennial Park was.

I was glad I got the tickets for free entry, since it would have been a very expensive day otherwise. Instead I had a lot of fun and we spent about $30 per person on food and drinks.

caipirinha: two ways

Here are two delicious cocktails Stinky and I enjoyed while visiting the Sagabita Cachaça tent at the Taste of Sydney festival.

Indochine Caipirinha

Recipe from ThinkSpirits.com flyer. Makes 1.


45ml Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
15ml Sagabita Pura Cachaça
10ml sugar syrup
3 lime wedges
3 kaffir lime leaves


1. Squeeze limes into a Boston shaker.
2. Add kaffir leaves and sugar then muddle.
3. Add Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, Sagabita Pura Cachaça and ice.
4. Shake and pour into an Old Fashioned glass.

Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur was a popular colonial drink in French-ruled Vietnam and is made from cognac, ginger, vanilla beans, honey and ginseng. It has the strong fiery taste of ginger.

Pomegranate Caipirinha

Recipe from www.pamaliqueur.com.au. Makes 1.


15ml PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
15ml Sagabita Pura Cachaça
22.5ml Simple Syrup
4 lime wedges


1. Muddle limes and simple syrup thoroughly.
2. Add Sagtiba Pura Caçhaca, PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur and ice.
3. Shake vigorously. Pour entire contents, including ice, into a rocks glass.
4. Garnish with a lime wedge and pomegranate seeds.

PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur has a slightly unpleasant medicinal aroma but a lovely, tart and uniquely pomegranate taste.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

sage, apple & gorgonzola risotto

Ten years ago, in a room decorated with images of Winnie the Pooh (don’t ask!) my husband and I shared our very first kiss. Three years ago on this same day, we were married.

Love isn’t easy. There are a lot of things we have to suffer through.

He puts up with my insatiable curiosity, my requests for him to fetch me things and my tendency to tell complicated, exaggerated stories. Repeatedly.

I have to put up with his forgetfulness regarding domestic responsibilities, his fondness for all things XBOX and the fact that he’s a vegetarian. (Sorry veggo friends, but it’s tough to love a veggo).

But one thing we both share is a love of food and wine, and for Valentine’s Day we cooked this vegetarian risotto from a Jamie Oliver cookbook that my little sister, Stinky, gave us for our wedding gift.

Jonas has a bit of a man-crush on Jamie Oliver, and frankly I think he could do a lot worse.
In fact, for the record my Dad also has a man-crush on Jamie.

So when Stinky, who had spent some time waitressing at Fifteen when she lived in London, gave us this cookbook for our wedding gift, both Jonas and Dad were giddy as school girls when they opened it up and saw Jamie's own words scrawled across the pages.

It’s a nice full circle, to get a special little token from family, on a subject we both adore and from a chef we both admire for his imagination and yet simplicity.

So who was better placed to “cook” our Valentine’s Day dinner than Jamie?

As Jamie described in his book, this risotto is almost like a Waldorf Salad. The apple is fresh and sweet against the strong cheese and the walnuts provide perfect roasted crunchy texture. And while Jamie uses marjoram in his recipe, I switch to fragrant, sweet sage to combat the spiciness of the gorgonzola.

Sage, Apple & Gorgonzola Risotto

Anna’s adaptation of
Jamie Oliver’s recipe. Serves 8.


1 knob of butter, for frying
2 tablespoons olive oil, for frying
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
400g/14oz risotto rice
2 wineglasses of dry white wine
700ml/1¼ pints hot vegetable or chicken stock
100g/3½oz butter
1–2 small handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus a block for grating
200g/7oz gorgonzola cheese, diced
2 crunchy eating apples, cored, halved, and finely chopped, tossed in lemon juice
a small bunch of fresh sage, leaves picked and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a handful of walnuts
extra virgin olive oil


1. Heat the stock.

2. In a separate pan heat the olive oil and butter, add the onions and garlic, and fry very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring.

3. When the onions have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat. The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent.

4. Add the wine and keep stirring — it will smell fantastic. Any harsh alcohol flavours will evaporate and leave the rice with a tasty essence.

5. Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt.

6. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and almost massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes.

7. Taste the rice — is it cooked? Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don’t forget to check the seasoning carefully. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.

8. Turn off the heat, beat in your butter, Parmesan, gorgonzola, chopped apple and sage. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

9. Put a lid on the pan and leave the risotto to rest for a minute so the cheese can really ooze into it.

10. While you’re waiting, gently heat the walnuts in a pan. Then either take the risotto to the table and let everyone help themselves, or divide it between individual serving plates. Put a block of Parmesan on the table for grating over. Sprinkle with the walnuts and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil before tucking in.

Jamie used marjoram instead of sage.

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