Saturday 30 July 2011

crispy brussels sprouts w bacon & garlic

This was the recipe I used to convince Jonas that brussels sprouts are delicious, eaten with pan-fried duck.

Apart from being ridiculously cheap and oh-so-pretty (have you seen the way they grow!), brussels sprouts are very healthy too. If you like to eat them, you’re one of the luckiest people in the world.

Photo source:
Until recently, Jonas and I were not those people.

We wanted to like brussels sprouts, but every time we tasted them we’d screw up our noses and look at each other in disappointment.

Back in late 2010, Jonas and I ate a tremendously earthly lentil and crispy brussels sprouts dish at Porteño and suddenly I knew there was hope for us.

Jonas was yet to be convinced. It’s one thing to eat brussels sprouts prepared by a professional chef, it’s another to try and develop the taste for them at home.

But then we made this.

The brussels sprouts are given a go-around in a frying pan to ensure they’re crispy and flavoursome, while garlic and bacon add an extra, convincing oomph.

And, as Jonas has started to say almost weekly, “everything tastes better with bacon”.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts w Bacon & Garlic

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 2.

10 small brussels sprouts
2 bacon rashers, minced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ cup (60ml) olive oil
2 tablespoons rock salt, sea salt or "Kosher" salt
Salt and pepper


1. Peel off any bad leaves from the brussels sprouts

2. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add rock salt.

3. Blanch brussels sprouts for 4 minutes then drain and refresh in cold running water.

4. Cut sprouts in half lengthwise.

5. Heat olive oil on high. Add bacon and cook 1 minute.

6. Add Brussels sprouts and fry until they start to brown around the edges and the bacon crisps.

7. Add garlic slices and fry 1 minute until softened.

8. Drain brussels sprouts to remove excess oil. Serve hot.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

marzipan & grand marnier truffles

Soft almond paste flavoured with orange zest and a burst of orange liqueur, smothered in dark chocolates. Yummy.

And just what I need, because I’ve had a rough week.

Jonas and I came home from a wonderful weekend in hinterland of the Sunshine Coast, where we celebrated Ms Correct and B-Rad’s tres chic wedding (if you are ever in that part of the world, I highly recommend spending some time in the cute mountain village of Montville: it’s just lovely).

When we came home our houseguest / adopted son, Fabio, had left us a note saying he’d run away with the circus.

So the house was all ours again.

I was keen to do some cooking, write some posts and begin the painful, tedious job of reloading all my old images to the blog after I’d accidentally deleted THEM ALL a few weeks ago. Don’t ask.

But then I caught the flu. Not some common floozy cold but nasty Madame Influenza herself.
That progressed into a chest infection and here I am, six days later, only just crawling out of bed and still decked out in head to toe fleece.

Jonas has turned out to be a regular little Florence Nightingale, bolstering my health with delicious dinners and a regular supply of chocolate and mandarins, a craving of my current state.

He loves marzipan, and so this little truffle recipe is a shout-out to my lovely hubby who nursed me back to health.

Another 2011 Food Challenge, to make more candies, ticked off.

Marzipan & Grand Marnier Truffles

Anna's very own recipe. Makes 6-10 truffles.

100g marzipan
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
100g dark chocolate

1. Knead marzipan, orange zest and Grand Marnier together.
2. Roll into balls then refrigerate for an hour or so to harden up.
3. Melt the chocolate then allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes (depends how warm your kitchen is).
4. Roll the balls in the chocolate then allow them to cool further for 20 minutes before refrigerating them.
5. Remove from fridge just before eating.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

fisherman's rouille

There’s something romantic about any dish that’s described as a fisherman’s meal, and this is what drew me towards this cuttlefish and potato salad, which I cooked as part of Murdoch Book's 365 Challenge to cook every recipe from Stéphane Reynaud's 365 Good Reasons to Sit Down to Eat.

Rouille is from the Carmargue area, in the south of France, and gets its name from its colour: rouille = rust.

The seafood was perfectly tender and the honey-sweet saffron was so flavoursome in the garlic-laden mayonnaise. Overall, a wonderful little side dish for a lunch on a warm afternoon.

Fisherman’s Rouille

Recipe from 365 Good Reasons to Sit Down to Eat by Stéphane Reynaud. Serves 6.

1kg cuttlefish hoods or octopus, cleaned
3 onions
200ml olive oil
700ml white wine
800g potatoes
3 garlic cloves
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon mustard
150ml sunflower oil
Salt and pepper
1 pinch saffron threads

1. Cut the cuttlefish into wide strips.
2. Peel and slice the onions.
3. Sauté the onions with a little olive oil in a flameproof casserole dish
4. Add the cuttlefish and moisten with white wine.
5. Cook, covered, over a low heat for 1 hour then uncover to allow the wine to completely evaporate
6. Peel the potatoes, cut them in large cubes cook them for 15 minutes in boiling water.
7. Peel and chop the garlic, combine it with the egg yolk and mustard, add the sunflower oil to make a mayonnaise
8. Season then add the saffron threads.
9. Combine the potatoes and cuttlefish. Dress with the garlic mayonnaise in the dish.
10. No more vampires!

Here's a cute little extract from the book:

Garlic is a great friend of cooking but a great enemy of the mouth. It permeates the body like a colony of ants in a packet of sugar – you breathe it, you sweat it and it clings to your skin.

What can I do, I hear you say, so that the pleasure of the palate doesn’t turn you into a walking garlic clove?

1) Find a special friend who, like you, adores garlic, good conversation, maybe even more . . . it could become a true tale of Marseille, putainnn con!
2) Stop eating it. Unbearable.
3) Remove the digestible sprout inside, eat a coffe bean ro cardamom pod to offset some of the odours.
4) Stop talking for six hours, what’s more, that’ll give us a break!

Sunday 10 July 2011

caramelised fig baked custards

At a PR event for the Game Farm at Bitton Gourmet, I was discussing with Helen from Grab Your Fork as to why Asians (both Aussies and the original gangsters) love a good old crème brûlée. I’m not a big fan myself, but Helen theorised it’s the eggs and the creaminess that attracts the Asian palate.

Good theory. Makes sense.

Let’s go with it.

On cue, some petit four size crème brûlées appeared, and so we both tucked in.
In the words of Rachel Zoe, I die.

This tiny cup of creamy goodness undid the last 10 minutes of my blathering and protestations about how dull and pointless crème brûlée is.

This crème brûlée was magnifique!

With David Bitton’s cookbook in my goodie bag (merci!) I was determined to recreate this baked custard treasure at home, only I wanted to do something with dried figs.

For some people, the joy of the crème brûlée is the silky custard texture so adding figs would ruin the entire experience. If you are that person, do not read on.

If you are not sure, you might consider straining the custard after you purée the figs through, but I think that would be a waste of delicious fig.

Fig seeds have such a nutty, crispy texture to them and this baked custard can handle that. It’s strong and gutsy. It’s brave.

I used the Bitton cookbook as a guide on technique but used my own measurements and ingredients to create this sweet baked custard.

I’m pretty proud of the results, and rate this as one of my best inventions ever.

I’ll let you judge for yourselves.

Caramelised Fig Baked Custards

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4.


50g brown sugar
60ml dark rum
2 cinnamon quills
8 dried figs, stalk removed & quartered
60ml water

3 egg yolks
50g brown sugar
200ml cream
100ml milk

1. First prepare the figs by melting the sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat. Be careful not to let it burn.

2. Next add the cinnamon quills and rum, allowing the alcohol to sizzle off. The sugar will seize and harden, but don’t worry about it.

3. Next add the water and figs and cover the saucepan. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer for 4 minutes.

4. Ensure the figs have softened and all the toffee pieces have dissolved, creating a thick syrup. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Preheat oven to 180’C.

6. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and brown sugar until pale and creamy.

7. In a large saucepan, put cinnamon quills from the fig mixture (don’t worry if they bring some fig over with them), milk and cream.

8. Heat mixture almost to boiling point then strain into egg mixture, whisking rapidly the whole time to prevent eggs from scrambling. Discard quills.

9. Return to saucepan and heat on medium, stirring continuously until mixture thickens into custard.

10. In a blender, purée half the fig pieces (reserving syrup) and all the custard.

11. Pour into four 200ml ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking dish, lined with a tea towel (to prevent bases from overcooking) then pour boiling water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

12. Bake in oven for 40 minutes. You may wish to start checking a little earlier, depending on your oven, but the custards will be ready when set and an insert knife or skewer comes out pretty clean.

13. Either chill for 2 hours or serve warm. Top with remaining fig pieces and rum syrup.

Thursday 7 July 2011

polish pickle soup

Almost two years ago, Jonas and I found a great little Polish restaurant and enjoyed a tangy soup made from pickles: Zupa Ogórkowa.

I’d never heard of such a wonderment, but it combined two of my favourite things: pickles and soup.

In fact, zupa ogórkowa doesn't event feature on the SoupSong site - one of my all time favourite resources for unique and interesting soups.

Despite loving it at the restaurant, I'd put off making it myself for so long, imagining it wouldn’t be as good at home.

Turns out to be so easy and incredibly tasty, and frankly I think our homemade version was better.

The broth is clear, but there are so many vegetables and herbs floating through it that the soup still feels hearty and filling.

It’s a perfect winter flavour and reminds me of my family in Slovakia, but it could easily be served cold in summer, perhaps with a little more cream stirred through it and topped with smoked salmon.

This is another tick off the 2011 Food Challenge list!

Zupa Ogórkowa (Polish Pickle Soup)

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 2 as a main or 4 as an entrée.


1 white onion, finely chopped
½ carrot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1 litre rich chicken broth (or vegetable)
4 pickled cucumbers (polskie ogórki) , coarsely grated
1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
2 tablespoons (40ml) pouring cream
¼ fresh parsley, chopped finely
Salt and pepper, to taste
Butter, for frying
Olive oil, for frying
Sour cream, for serving


1. Heat butter (and a little olive oil to prevent butter browning) in a saucepan.

2. Sauté onions and carrots until translucent, around 2-3 minutes.

3. Add grated garlic and potatoes and fry for another 2 minutes.

4. Add chicken stock and bring to the boil. Cook for around 7 minutes until potatoes begin to soften.

5. Add grated cucumbers and dill, and continue boiling for another 7 minutes. Test to make sure potatoes are completely cooked but be careful not to overcook.

6. Add pouring cream, adjust seasoning and then add parsley. Mix through.

7. Serve hot with dollops of sour cream.

I'd like to enter this into Weekend Herb Blogging with dill being my ingredient. After all, the dill pickles are what made this soup and the dill is what made the pickles.

Our WHB host this week is Astrid from Paulchen's Foodblog. Check back at the end of the weekend to see her round up of all the recipes.

Monday 4 July 2011


Happy Fourth of July!

Many years ago, an ancestor of mine, a German immigrant to Pennsylvania, helped fight a war that led to the creation of the United States of America.

I think that’s something to be proud of.

So let’s celebrate with a hot dog of sorts, Argentina’s choripán.

The word is a portmanteau of chorizo and pan: spicy sausage and bread.

What could be better than a bread roll stuffed with grilled chorizo sausage and chimichurri sauce?

I’ll tell you what’s better: a bread roll stuffed with grilled chorizo sausage and chimichurri sauce PLUS piquillo peppers, cheese, sour cream and fried onions.

Oh yeeeeeeeeeeeah!


Anna’s take on Argentina’s hot dog.


Grilled or fried chorizo sausages
Thinly sliced piquillo peppers
Finely grated parmesan (or queso freso)
Chimichurri sauce
Sour cream
Hot dog rolls or mini baguettes
Fried onions


Build your sandwich from the above ingredients and enjoy!

And how about a tropical fruit shake on the side, Cubano style?

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Saturday 2 July 2011

pan-fried duck breast

A while ago I attended an event hosted by Bitton Café for Game Farm, a company producing predominantly chicken (corn-fed and spatchcock/poussin), quail and duck.

Since their farm is in Galston, an rural-like area on the northern outskirts of Sydney (and also where I spent the first seven years of my life) I was keen to try their products.

It was interesting they felt the need to promote their products to Australian consumers in this way, primarily because they were concerned people saw ducks and quail as something exotic and difficult to cook with. They wanted people to understand how easy and tasty they are (and cook/buy more).

I think duck is pretty easy to cook. It's certainly no harder than chicken.

For dinner, I knew I had some pretty delicious sides dishes (potatoes roasted in duck fat, crispy brussels sprouts with bacon, sautéed apples and sage) so I just wanted a simple duck breast recipe.

No-nonsense, pan-fried duck breast. As every chef and their dog says these days “I wanted the ingredients to speak for themselves”.

To test the mettle of Game Farm, I decided to use the recipe on the inside of their duck breast packaging.

It was fantastic, and just as easy as cooking a steak.

A quick rendering in the pan, to give it colour, and then gently finished off in the oven for a few minutes.

This could be a dinner party favourite, for when you want to put on a bit of a show, but better still it’s easily a meal Jonas and I would enjoy during the weekday, even after a hard day at work.

You could serve it sliced into a salad, or as a slab with awesome sides. Too easy.

I served mine with a little cabernet wine jelly I bought on our Easter road trip to Mudgee.

Pan-fried Duck Breast

Game Farm packet instructions! Serves 2.

2 duck breasts


1. Preheat oven to 200’C.

2. Score or prick the skin of the duck with a sharp knife - this will allow the natural juices under the skin to render during cooking.

3. Season with salt & pepper, or your favourite spice mix. Heat a non-stick frying pan to a low heat. Do not grease the pan.

4. Place the fillet skin-side down and cook for 3-4 minutes to crisp the skin, turning and cooking for a further 1 minute.

5. Place into a hot oven, skin side up, and cook for a further 7-10 minutes or until cooked through.

Note: Appliance temperatures can vary. You may need to adjust cooking times accordingly.

If you're interested in more duck, quail and chicken recipes, Game Farm has a pretty extensive online library.

I've also made:

Armenian Yoghurt Soup w Dumplings
Buffalo Wings & Blue Cheese Dip
Coq Au Vin
Creole-Spiced Chicken
Duck w Cherries
Hungarian Chicken Paprikas
Kentish Pigeons w Plums
Moroccan Chicken Tagine
Palestinian Chicken w Sumac, Za’atar & Lemon
Portuguese Chicken
Senegal Chicken
Walnut & Pomegranate Spatchcock
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