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Hazelnut, Labneh and Honey Toast

Hazelnut, Labneh and Honey Toast

Oh wow – how time flies. My poor neglected blog. It’s been nearly a year since I wrote anything and somehow I feel like I have to give you an excuse for the silence… The reality is life got in the way. New passions (Yoga! Running!), work, travel and I started trying to be healthier too. Somehow, it didn’t make sense for me to cook the same rich and heavy food I used to. I didn’t have time to make long and complicated recipes anymore… So the blog took a long break.

Sometimes people would ask me if I still updated my blog and I would always shrug it off and say “I’m too busy” but at the back of my mind, I knew I would one day revive it and maybe today’s the day? Who knows… I have good intentions and great (mostly healthy) recipes to share but I’ve also been there before where I’ve resurrected this blog with a few posts for a month or two… so let’s see. Hopefully this is a new beginning – a simple new beginning.

This is not so much a recipe but a guide to make pretty amazing toast. I don’t even need to write the recipe down – it’s that simple.

Start with some homemade labneh. Get some full cream Greek yogurt, and place it in a muslin/cheese cloth. Place the muslin over a strainer and the strainer over a bowl which will allow the whey to drain from the yogurt. Wait 24 hours before serving.

The toast some hazelnuts, in an oven at 160c for 15 minutes, and chop. Get some good quality sourdough (I used soy and linseed) and spread the labneh, then the roasted hazelnuts and finally some honey (I used honeycomb) and a pinch of salt. Bon Appetit, where I got the recipe from, also suggests some olive oil and a few turns of pepper which sounds lovely as well.

Homemade Labneh

Homemade Labneh

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Chicken and Egg

Chicken and Egg

I’ll be the first to admit, I am a gadget junkie.  This weekend I stepped inside the mall and stepped out with an electric groom tool and a soft serve ice cream maker.  It really didn’t matter that even the salesman tried to dissuade me to get the groom tool or that I had previously bought two ice cream makers (which I had each used once).  My desire to have a soft serve ice cream party during the summer (only six months away) was enough to cloud my normally better judgement.  The truth is, most of the gadgets would be lucky to be used twice… Like my coconut grater, express pizza oven, and smoker (oh actually, that was only used once!).

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Raspberry and Cream Cheese Brioche

Raspberry and Cream Cheese Brioche

We were once asked to fill out a questionnaire at work that was meant to assess our strengths and weaknesses.  The survey had over 150 questions and we were meant to share our results with our group when done.  After the 10th question, I gave up, there was simply no way I was going to sit through the remaining 140.  I decided instead to ask my husband what he thought my strengths were, and what areas I could improve on.

“On the positive side,” he said “you are resourceful, always wanting to learn new things and you get along well with others.”

“But…” I asked.

“Well, you’re impatient” he told me.  “Impatient?? I’m not impatient!” I protested.

“You are – you can’t even sit down long enough to fill out a survey!” he answered.

Point taken.

When I want something, I want it right NOW.  The smallest hint of delay can frustrate and exasperate me.

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White Chicken Adobo

White Chicken Adobo

I remember the exchange of emails just like it was yesterday.  A couple of Filipina friends exploring the possibility of starting a cooking club that would promote Filipino food.  We talked about designing a banner and spent a few days coming up with an “introduction” to our club.  We talked about having monthly themes which we would then post our own version of on our blogs.  So in November 2009 a group of three friends decided to officially kick off the the Kulinarya Cooking Club.  I’m proud to say that twenty dishes later, the group still continues to celebrate the wonderful flavours of the Philippines. In fact, the group today numbers over 50 members!

This month, Kulinarya does “White Food”, chosen by Adora from Adora’s Box and Diona from Tita Flips.

I’ve chosen to share my version of one of the Philippine’s well known and most loved dishes…adobo.   Now,  you must realize that Filipinos take their adobo very seriously.  Almost everyone seems to think that their version is the best.  Well,  this version is sure to rival the best of the best.  Seriously.

A more common version of adobo is cooked with vinegar and soy, this recipe eliminates the soy sauce, which makes it the “white” version of adobo.  Adobo is essentially a stew, usually made with chicken and pork, where the meat is simmered over and the dish is finished by pan frying the meat before serving.  Quite different from  most stews where the meat is seared and then simmered over a long time.  As for me, I’ve pan fried the meat before and after simmering – a little extra step but I do love the resulting crispiness of the chicken skin in this recipe.

Adobong Puti (White Chicken Adobo)

Serves 4

  • 8 chicken thighs, de-boned (with skin on)
  • 6 tablespoons oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 125 ml white vinegar
  • 6 pieces black pepper corns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt  to taste
  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large pan. When hot, add the chicken in batches to brown the skin, around 3 minutes. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan.
  2. Remove the chicken pieces and take out some of the oil in the pan and put the pan back on the heat.
  3. Add the garlic and saute, then add the white vinegar, peppercorns, bay leaves and chicken. Allow the vinegar to come to a boil then add enough water to cover the chicken, around 500 to 750 ml.
  4. Allow the chicken to simmer, around 30 minutes until cooked. When done, remove the chicken from the pan and allow the sauce to simmer further until the sauce thickens to almost a syrup, around 20 minutes. When ready to serve the chicken, heat the rest of the oil in a separate pan and crisp the skin once more. Serve the sauce on the side and some white rice.

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Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

I had a friend who was visiting for a few days and I found out that she had stopped eating meat since the last time I saw her.  On a whim, I told her that I too would give up meat.   If you read my blog, you’ll notice that I’ve always loved cooking/eating meat and there are a considerable number of recipes penned here.  So while the decision to do this was initially born out of curiosity to see if I could last a few days, I knew lasting more than a week wasn’t going to be easy.  I don’t know how long this will last – a few more weeks?  Months perhaps?  Forever?  I’m not really sure but for the meantime, I’m starting to enjoy the challenge of making tasty and meatless dinners.

This is one of those meatless dishes that I could happily eat everyday.  Think layers of creamy pumpkin puree and ricotta in between sheets of homemade pasta – believe me – it’s enough to convert any carnivore.

A little note about the recipe – it’s very simple to put together – unless you’re like me where you want to complicate things and make your own pasta (it’s worth it though) – but if you’re pressed for time, use store bought lasagna sheets.  Also, the pumpkin puree is delicious as a side dish too.

“I’m vegetarian!” I told proudly told a  work colleague during drinks one day.

“Since when?”  he asked.

“Wait a second,” another friend interrupted.  “Didn’t you just put that pate in your mouth?”  She asked.

“Ahh… actually I still eat chicken… and sesafood.” I clarified.

Vegetarian… almost.

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna with Sage, Hazelnuts and Burnt Butter Sauce

Serves 4

  • 1 kilo Pumpkin
  • 150 grams unsalted butter plus 50 grams butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 400 grams ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 recipe pasta (see here)
  • 100 grams parmesan cheese
  • 10 sage leaves
  • 20 grams toasted hazelnuts
  1. To make the pumpkin puree, peel the pumpkin and diced into 2 inch cubes. Heat the 150 grams of butter in a pan and add the pumpkin once the butter is melted. Add the vanilla bean and scraped seeds and cook the pumpkin until soft enough that you can cut it with a spoon, around 20 minutes. Stir the pumpkin once in a while to make sure that the pumpkin doesn’t catch to the bottom of the pan. Once the pumpkin is soft enough, blend or process the pumpkin until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Mix the ricotta, egg and nutmeg together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside
  3. Grease a baking pan with some olive oil and lay sheets of cooked pasta to cover the bottom of the pan. Layer a third of the pumpkin puree and top with more of the lasagna sheets.
  4. Top with a third of the ricotta mixture and the cover again with more lasagna sheets.
  5. Now add half of the remaining pumpkin puree and cover with the lasagna sheets. Add half of the remaining ricotta and again, more lasagna sheets. Finally, spread the remaining pumpkin puree and on top of this add the rest of the ricotta. Top with parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake the lasagna in a pre-heated oven at 180c (fan forced) for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown.
  7. Heat the remaining butter along in a small sauce pan until it goes nutty brown. Add the sage leaves and to crisp them up. Top with the toasted hazelnuts.
Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

On another note, the Council of Italian Restaurants Association (CIRA) has just posted their latest class schedule for June/July/August.  If you are interested in attending any of their classes, email cira@cira.com.au or follow @italcira on twitter for more details.

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Filipino Pork Barbecue

Filipino Pork Barbecue

The truth is, many blogs come and go,  sometimes things just get in the way – whether it be work, family, or sometimes it can’t be explained and the eagerness just fades away.  In the two or so years I’ve seen it happen many times and so it is always a happy occasion when a blog grows another year older.  Which is why I am extremely honoured to help Asha from Fork Spoon Knife celebrate her third year anniversary.  Since I first started reading Asha’s blog – I’ve been hooked.  From her Farm to Table Series where she cooks based on produce provided to her from her CSA basket, to her engaging travelogues and beautiful photography, she woes her audience and truly, you just don’t want to leave her site.  Truth is, once or twice when I’ve been stuck with my own blog – I’ve gone on to her site to have a browse through old recipes and stories for inspiration.   Ah yes, of course and her recipes…  she can whip up many varied cuisines but I especially love her take on Indian cuisine.  Check out her Pulled Tandoori Sandwich which she made to celebrate her third year in the business – it will leave you drooling!

To celebrate – Asha has asked some of her friends to contribute to her Street Food Series. I’d like to thank Asha for the wonderful opportunity.  I’m certainly in good company considering the other lovely dishes I’ve seen so far.   I’ve made my take on the quintessential Filipino Street Food – Pork Barbecue.  Please head over to Asha’s site to join the party!

Happy Third Anniversary Asha – wishing you more success!

Filipino Pork Barbecue

Filipino Pork Barbecue

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Chicken Pie - inspired by Maggie Beer

Chicken Pie - inspired by Maggie Beer

My home is located at the bottom of a very hilly area. Each morning, I get up and take my dogs for a walk up and down a series steep inclines to reach the peak. The task is arduous and always leaves me out of breath. But it’s worth it since I know that once I reach the bottom at the other side, lies the most amazing view of the harbour and the city as the sun greets Sydney good morning. The first time I climbed the hill was torture and even worse when I had reached the bottom knowing I had to climb the same rolling hills to get back home. If I miss a few days, I still find myself out of breath and need to stop along the way for a rest. My lack of fitness is a far cry from years back when I managed to run eight kilometers without breaking a sweat.

Early on, I would see runners pass me by, easily scaling the inclines that leave me gasping for air thinking “One day… I’ll get back into shape and run all the way up and down like they do!”

That was more than two years ago. For some reason, I always had an excuse not to follow through – I was too tired, too lazy, No time, maybe after Christmas, maybe after Easter… and then I stopped bothering to make excuses and decided to keep walking.

And then one day some one told me to stop with the excuses and “just get over it”.

So the next day, I put on my running shoes and ran.

I stopped to rest eight times that day. My legs felt like lead and my chest like it was about to burst. Halfway through I contemplated walking home but somehow I managed to make it home swearing I would never do it again.

The next day, I ran again.

Tomorrow – rain or shine… will be day five.

I am sure we all have our demons holding us back but sometimes we just have to “get over it” and put on our running shoes, climb those hills, knowing that the view on the other side will be worth it.

Chicken Pie inspired by Maggie Beer

Chicken Pie inspired by Maggie Beer

Chicken Pie inspired by Maggie Beer

This chicken pie was one of those dishes that I needed to “get over” as well. This dish is influenced by Maggie Beer’s Pheasant Pie which I had been meaning to make months ago after watching her on Masterchef.  I finally, managed to make it over the weekend.  I’ll be upfront – this dish takes a lot of effort, the pie crust, roasting the chicken, making the filling, baking… but I have never ever tasted a better pie.  My husband says he can’t eat any other chicken pie after this.   Toasted walnuts, fresh herbs folded through a creamy chicken and mushroom filling lifted by hints of orange is unforgettable!

Also, the pastry is quite easy to work with and tastes amazing.  I am already thinking of other fillings to go with it!
For the chicken and marinade

  • 1.2 to 1.4 kilo whole chicken
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • Juice of one orange (separate the zest for the pie)
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 4 bay leaves

For the filling

  • 60 grams butter
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 350 grams portobello mushrooms, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 40 grams flour
  • 200 ml hot chicken stock
  • 80 grams creme fraiche (or fresh cream)
  • 40 grams walnuts, toasted
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange (see above)

Sour Cream Pastry

  • 200 grams unsalted butter, chilled
  • 250 grams plain flour
  • 125 ml sour cream

Glaze

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tablespoon milk
  • good pinch salt

To make the sour cream pastry

  1. To make the sour cream pastry, pulse the butter and flour in a food processor until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough starts to incorporate into a ball. Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
    Roll the pastry to desired thickness and cut 2 circles, 1 for the base of the pie, at approximately 27cm , and 1 for the lid at approximately 21cm. Line a pie tin with the larger dough then rest both in the refrigerator.

For the pie

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C. To prepare the chicken, with a sharp knife, cut the tips off the wings. With the chicken breast up, make a small cut on each side in between the leg and the breast and dislocate each leg at the socket by bending them back. Then to break the back of the bird, hold the ‘parson’s nose’ end of the bird and apply pressure to snap the backbone. Twist the legs 180 degrees, so the breast of the chicken and the skin side of the legs are facing up. Separate the legs from the body of the chicken.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the chicken (skin side up) and the marinade ingredients in a roasting pan and allow the mixture to marinate for at least 10 minutes (I let mine marinate for 30 minutes).
  3. Place the chicken in the preheated oven for around 40 to 45 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, debone the chicken.
  4. Increase the oven heat to 230 c.
  5. In a large frying pan, melt the butter, then gently fry the garlic, rosemary and then add the mushrooms. Sauté until mushrooms are soft and have reduced by half in size. You may need to add some extra virgin olive oil for frying. Season with salt. Add the flour to the pan and cook out for around 3 minutes, then pour in the hot chicken stock. Bring the mixture to the boil, then stir in the crème fraiche and reduce to a simmer. Cook the mixture for 15 minutes until it has thickened, check the seasoning
  6. Add the chicken and walnuts, lemon and orange zest, land allow to cool for at least 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
  7. To make the glaze, beat the egg yolk, milk and salt together.
  8. To assemble the pie, remove the pastry from the refrigerator, spoon the filling into the pie tin and cover with the pastry lid. Crimp the edges to seal and brush with the glaze. Take a sharp knife and score the top of the pie into a criss cross pattern.
  9. Place the pie back into the refrigerator and allow to rest for a further 10 minutes.
  10. Place the pie in the oven and allow to cook for 5 minutes at 230 c (fan forced), drop the temperature down to 220 c and allow the pie to cook until golden and cooked through. If the top is browning too much, cover with some foil until the dough is cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to rest while you make the jus.
  11. To make the jus, take the temperature down to 180 c and place the roasting pan back into the oven with 500 ml stock. Cook in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and strain into a sauce pan and cook until further reduced to a nice sticky glaze.

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