burnt toast

Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

Remember bruschetta? The summery entrée that nobody seems to be doing anymore because most of us can’t be fucked dicing that many – mostly very mediocre – tomatoes. And then when you do make it, and you’re actually kind of proud of yourself, because it is delicious, half of the tomato falls off as you try to take a bite. Also, unless you’re one of those ridiculous people who spends their summers swamped in sweet and fragrant tomatoes (please be my friend), you know good tomatoes are a rare commodity to come by. Well, I’ve put an end to this nonsense. While I’m not here to tell you how to put tomato on toasted bread, I’d like to give you a few pointers in how to get a perfectly crunchy-yet-juicy, non-fall-apart-y bites of bruschetta. All you need is a food processor and a bunch of cherry tomatoes (and garlic and olive oil and a baguette of course). Cherry tomatoes are an obvious (and tasty) all-year-round available alternative to the Mediterranean tomato dream most of us can only fantasise about. The processor takes out the chopping, but also increases the likelihood of tomato on bread permanence. Basically you’re making a chunky-ish tomato soup, then scooping that onto toasty, garlicky olive oily bread. 

A word on the blending situation – if you have a food processor, that’s ideal. Somehow the slightly longer blade chops the tomatoes more evenly without immediately turning them into juice, which you often can’t avoid with the shorter blade of the handheld blender. If a hand held blender is all you have though, you can still use that. But just make sure you keep the tomato blitzing to a minimum.

Cherry tomato bruschetta

makes one baguette’s worth of bruschetta

 60-70ml extra virgin olive oil

1 fat garlic clove, roughly chopped

pinch of salt

500g cherry tomatoes, washed and halved

½ tsp salt

1 baguette, either sliced into rounds or halved lengthways and cut into 5-8cm squares (especially handy if they mightn’t be eaten immediately)

Combine the olive oil and the garlic clove in your food processor. Pulse a few times until the garlic has dissolved. Transfer to a jar – this can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days, just be aware of its potency! Alternatively, if you can’t stand the flavour of raw garlic, warm the blended garlic oil in a pan until it begins to sizzle. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

Don’t worry about rinsing the blender – add the cherry tomatoes and salt right in and pulse a few times until they’re chopped into an even salsa (but not fully pureed).

Assembly time!

Drizzle the baguette with the oil an toast in the oven at 200°C for a few minutes or until golden at the edges. Alternatively, if you’re like me and can’t be bothered turning on your oven, toast your baguette slices in the toaster, two to four at a time, then schmear with the garlic oil using a brush or a teaspoon. Get a spoon and scoop some of the cherry tomato mixture out of the blender and right onto the bread. You might want to drain some of the juices on the side of the bowl as you scoop, but also bear in mind that the juices are really tasty – you might want to keep it on hand and drizzle a little extra over your bread as you go.

Tahini Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Chocolate Soil, Sesame, and Orange

I’m not much of a dessert person. But damn, I most certainly am a dessert person for this little number. The tahini and buttermilk come together beautifully in this very delicate panna cotta. There’s less gelatine in it than in a usual panna cotta, because I never understood the appeal of a bouncy dessert. Soft and almost fall-apart delicate is what we want. This soft, not too sweet panna cotta is nicely complemented with the crunch of chocolate soil, and is lent a nice savoury kick from the salty sesame seasoning. Finally, the orange offsets the dessert’s richness and brings satisfaction to even the most dramatic “I’m too full for dessert, especially if its panna cotta” guests.

Tahini Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Chocolate Soil, Sesame, and Orange

Makes 6-12 servings

2 sheets gelatine

250ml double cream

½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped

40g white sugar

2 Tbsp tahini

250ml buttermilk

Chocolate soil

35g white sugar

35g almond meal

20g flour

15g cocoa powder

pinch of salt

15g butter, melted

Salty sesame seasoning

2 Tbsp sesame

2 pinches salt

2 oranges, segmented – this yields about 20 orange filets

Place the gelatine sheets in a bowl of water and set to the side. Combine the double cream, vanilla, and sugar in a small saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer. Stir in the tahini and stir for half a minute. Squeeze out rehydrated gelatine sheets and add whisk into the mixture. Pour in the buttermilk and stir until well combined. Pour into prepared cups, glasses, or bowls, or whatever tiny vessel you have hanging around. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours until set.

Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate soil. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then stir in the melted butter until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture looks mealy. Spread over a lined baking tray and bake for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Cool, then store in an airtight container.

For the sesame seasoning, toast the sesame seeds in a small pan over low heat until golden. Cool, then grind roughly with the salt. Set aside. For serving, either leave the panna cotta in the cups / glasses / bowls or upend them onto dessert plates. If you’re into those half-moon shapes I made, simply run a knife through the middle and around the edge of each panna cotta-filled glass and gently scoop each half out with a tablespoon. You can wodge any bits you missed under the panna cotta – you won’t see them after you’ve had a go with the chocolate soil. Nestle two orange filets next to each and sprinkle a teaspoon of chocolate soil between the two. top off with 1/3 of a teaspoon of the sesame seasoning. Serve.

Pumpkin Soup – two (of one million and a half) ways

It is pumpkin season and it is time to cook those suckers up before you realise you’ve had enough pumpkin to last you another decade. There are many, many ways of making a successful pumpkin soup, and these versions I’ve offered here are just two of them. The first is inspired by the flavours of the eternal crowd pleaser known as butter chicken, or murgh makhani. However, since it contains neither chicken nor butter, and for lack of a better name, I’ll call it my Indian-inspired pumpkin soup for now. Close on the heels of the first, the second soup is a nod to one of my other all-time favourite flavour combinations, the zingy hot and sour tom kha soup, which, if not for tradition’s sake, will be known as the Thai-inspired pumpkin soup in this series. Enjoy.

Pumpkin Soup – two ways

Serves 4

Pumpkin base

A splash of neutral-tasting oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

8cm of ginger, finely grated

½ – 1 small chilli, thinly sliced 

1.5 kg pumpkin

1 litre of veggie / chicken / beef stock

Indian

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

8 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground

2 Tbsp tomato paste

200ml thick cream (plus extra, if needed)

soy sauce / salt

To serve

200g Greek yoghurt

50g roasted cashews, chopped

sweet paprika, to sprinkle

Thai

3 lemongrass stalks, bruised

8 kaffir lime leaves

200ml coconut milk (plus extra, if needed)

1-2 fresh limes, juice, to taste

1 bunch coriander, chopped

Fish sauce / soy sauce / salt

To serve

A few extra tablespoons of coconut milk

A few extra coriander leaves

A few extra slices of chilli

To start off, add the oil and the onion to a big pot and fry on medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir for a minute.

Indian

Add all the spices and the tomato paste, and stir for another minute. Add the pumpkin and the stock, and bring to a boil. Simmer until the pumpkin is soft. 

Remove from the heat, adding the cream, and puree with a hand-held blender. Season to taste with the salty substance of your choice.

To serve, ladle into bowls, swirl with some Greek yoghurt and scatter with some cashews and a few pinches of paprika.

Thai

Add the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, along with the pumpkin and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer until the pumpkin is soft. 

Remove from the heat, adding the coconut milk and coriander , and puree with a hand-held blender. Season to taste with the salty substance of your choice.

To serve, ladle into bowls, swirl with some coconut milk and scatter with some coriander leaves and chilli rings.

Serve either soup with bread or rice or whatever you’d like to have it with.

Lentil and Cherry Tomato Rasam

IMG_8144.jpeg

Ever felt like soup in spring? Yeah, maybe not. But maybe you totally do? Maybe you really love soup, especially now, around Easter, when you can’t bear to look another chocolate bunny in the eye. Then my dear friend, this tangy and aromatic tomato and lentil soup might just be the thing for you. It’s wonderful on its own, but I especially love it with some crusty bread  slathered with some cream cheese.

As with most recipes, this is more of a blueprint than anything else. As long as you have the rasam powder, you can add and subtract whatever your stomach desires. However, make sure you don’t leave out the toasted coconut – it really completes it.

IMG_8159.jpg

Rasam powder

Make sure you either have a pestle and mortar or a solid spice grinder to make the rasam powder. The lentils brought my usual grinder to the brink of cracking, so if you’re unsure whether yours will make it, stick to pestle and mortar.¼ cup/ 50g split chickpeas

¼ cup / 50g yellow lentils (or whatever other lentil you have around)

1 cup / 60g coriander seeds

2 Tbsp / 20g cumin

2 tsp black pepper corns

1-2 tsp chilli flakes (go easy on those- remember, you can always spice things up later)

½ tsp asafoetida

2 Tbsp ground fenugreek

2 Tbsp ground turmeric

small handful dried curry leaves

Toast the pulses in a pan until golden and smelling nicely nutty. Cool for a moment then grind with a pestle and mortar or if you’re more one for speed and convenience, a strong blender.

Toast the coriander, cumin, pepper and chilli flakes until a shade darker. Let cool, then grind with the asafoetida, fenugreek, turmeric, and curry leaves.

Combine with the ground pulses and transfer into a lidded jar.

Will keep for a couple of months.

 

Tomato rasam

5 Tbs desiccated coconut

1-2 tbs ghee or butter

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

3 garlic cloves, sliced

6-10 dried curry leaves (less if fresh, more if dried)

500g cherry tomatoes, chopped

100g lentils (whatever you’ve got on hand. Just remember they’ll vary in cooking time. I tend to use red lentils for a speedy soup, yellow if I have more time)

1.5 litres of stock

6 tsp rasam powder

half a bunch of coriander, chopped

1 tsp tamarind concentrate, or more to taste

1 tsp brown sugar, to taste

salt, more chilli

In a big pot, toast the coconut until golden. Transfer to a bowl and keep for later.

Melt butter and add mustard and cumin seeds. Let them bubble around until the seeds starts to pop. Add the garlic cloves and the curry leaves, and leave to fry a little longer until the garlic takes on a little bit of colour.

Add the tomatoes, cooking them until mushy.

Add the lentils and the stock, along with the tamarind and rasam powder and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook until the lentils are done. Again, this time can vary from 20 minutes to over an hour. If you’d prefer, you can pre-cook the lentils and add them as the same time as you would the dried ones.

When the lentils are cooked (preferably on the completely soft side, rather than al dente. Who even eats al dente lentils anyway), add the coriander, tamarind, sugar, salt and chilli to taste. Let all of it bubble for about 10 more minutes.

Serve!

Toasty Brown Butter and Maple Old Fashioned

IMG_8116.jpg

…And what a ridiculously long and pretentious title that is. But really, if you love whisky, and you love the toasted, malty flavours of browned butter and maple, do go make this. However, keep in mind that you need to let the whisky infuse for three days before making this – so if you hurry, you’ll have some by the weekend.

Also makes for an excellent gift.

IMG_8129.jpg

Brown Butter and Maple Old Fashioned

taken and adapted from this wonderful site.

60ml brown butter infused whisky (recipe below)

2 tsp maple syrup

2 shakes bitters

1 strip of orange rind

ice

combine the whisky, maple syrup, and bitters in a tumbler. Squeeze the orange rind over the top and drop it in, giving it a bit of a stirry-smash to release some more of its orangey goodness. Add the ice and give it one last stir.

Yum.

 

Brown Butter Infused Whisky

makes about 500ml

 

100g butter, cubed

500ml whisky (go for something that’s drinkable on its own, but not sinfully wasteful if mixed into a drink – I used Red Label here)

One 600ml jar with a lid

A coffee filter, a clean tea towel or muslin of some sort

a 500ml bottle, to store the whisky in

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat and let it sizzle gently until it smells deliciously nutty and has gone a nice shade of hazelnut brown. This will take a moment or two, but be sure to keep an eye on it, because it can go from brown to black in an instant. Remove from the heat and let it come to room temperature (otherwise it’ll sizzle when it gets into contact with the whisky, and you lose precious alcohol percentage for nothing). Pour the butter and the whisky into the jar, screw on the lid, and give it a good shake. Then, place it into the fridge for three days.

Once those three days are up, filter the whisky into a bottle, using the coffee filter or tea towel. I regretfully don’t like whisky flavoured butter, so I usually discard it. If you’re a fan, please use it. But basically, once you’ve transferred the whisky into the bottle, you’re done! Keep it in the fridge between cocktail – making.

Gazpacho

IMG_8172.jpg

Gazpacho has always reminded me of  that one summer in Spain – of cripplingly hot days, late meals on the terrace, and of thick, creamy gazpacho, made of mostly tomatoes, torn tufts of fluffy white baguette, and masses of olive oil. Every gazpacho that came after that was a disappointment. They were either too chunky, too watery, and always lacking enough salt. All everyone was doing was blending up salad and I wasn’t impressed.

Things needed to change guys. And finally, they did. This summer, in Ardèche, at the local supermarket.  France, with their carton-encased gazpacho from the chilled product isle, had all the answers to the questions I didn’t even know I had. It was delicious. And we had it nearly every night. Before you roll your eyes at me and tell me that you’re not a gazpacho sort of person anyway, focus those eyeballs of yours back on my face and listen. I’ve spent the past week trying to recreate that bottled soup at home and I know what its secrets are now. No, not bread. I don’t want blended bread in my gazpacho. I do want bread with it though, whole and crusty, to dip into the soup at the end. No, the silent winner of this recipe is the tinned tomato. The flavour is so much more well rounded than that of fresh (and at times acidic and watery) tomatoes. The second part to this recipe’s success is the comparatively small amount of cucumber. You only need a small hit, enough to add a hint of refreshing watery coolness, not a whole plate of it.  Finally, make sure you salt it well. This seems like an obvious instruction, but because the soup is cold, and because people tend to think of it as juice, they tend to under-salt it. So go on, give it a try. You might even love it a little bit.

 

Gazpacho

Unless you have a vitamix, you will have to do this my way with a hand held blender. Make sure you peel and de-seed the cucumber and the capsicum, because there’s nothing worse than having capsicum skin stuck in your teeth.

And just a suggestion for those still weary of this whole gazpacho business – don’t overdo it when serving it. A small bowl or even glass of it will do. Think of gazpacho as more of an amuse bouche than a full-on course, as something to dip your bread into and whet your appetite before you head on to your main dish.

You can either serve it immediately, at room temperature, or one or two days after making it. Just remember to take it out of the fridge at least half an hour before you intend to serve it.

Enough as an entrée for 4 people

 

A 400g can of whole plum tomatoes

One red capsicum

One shallot

1/3 of a cucumber

100ml water (or more)

4 – 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1 – 1 ½ salt, to taste

 

To serve

More olive oil, cracked black pepper, chilli flakes, maybe some green leafy herb, cherry tomatoes, and crusty bread

 

If you’re using a hand-held blender, do this in batches, one or two vegetables at a time. This ensures that you don’t have a chunky texture of different-textured veggies.

Get out your blender and two jugs. Start off with the plum tomatoes. Empty them into one of the jugs and give them a good blend. Add a few splashes of the water if you need to loosen it a bit. Once smooth, pour into the second jug. Quarter and de-seed the capsicum. With a vegetable peeler, peel away the skin. Yes, this may seem a little fiddly, but you’ll get the hang of it. Squish the capsicum towards the peeler and you’ll get all the more tricky bits, too. Add the capsicum to the jug and while you’re at it, finely chop the shallot and add it as well. The two are sort of similar in toughness, so they blend quite well together. Blend until smooth, adding a little of the water again to loosen it and make it easier to blend. Once completely smooth, add to the tomatoes. Finally, peel and core the cucumber, chop and chuck in the blender. Add a little more of the water and, surprise, also blend until smooth. Add the cucumber to the other blended veggies and add the olive oil, vinegar and salt (start with half a teaspoon, then add to taste), and give it all another blend. Add more water if you’d like it a little more liquidy.

Now pour into glasses or little bowls and decorate with a dribble of olive oil, some pepper, maybe some herbs and some deliciously crusty bread.

 

Also, surprisingly delicious mixed with tequila for a bloody Maria.

Potato Gratin

IMG_8137

I love this recipe. I know you probably make your own version of this and probably more frequently than me. But if you have the time to give this one a try, then do, because to me, it’s the best I’ve ever had. Here, instead of chucking everything into a baking dish and waiting forever till it’s done, you pre-boil the potatoes in the cream mixture, which not only makes it nice and creamy, but also cuts down the baking time considerably. If you’re not sure whether you should go for a medium / deep dish or a large / shallow one, go for the latter. Maximise that surface area to get the most of that caramelised cheesy goodness you get in the end.

IMG_8131

Potato Gratin

Adapted from here.

Serves 4-6 people

 

500ml milk

250ml cream

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 tsp vegetable stock powder

a few gratings of nutmeg

1 kg waxy potatoes, peeled and finely sliced

salt and pepper

80-150g gruyere (or more), grated

chopped parsley (if you can bother)

 

Combine the milk, cream, garlic, stock powder, and nutmeg in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the potatoes and bring to a simmer, cooking them until they just start to soften. Remove from the heat. See if it needs any more salt, and add a few grindings of pepper.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°C. Transfer the potato and cream mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle over the 80 grams of grated cheese. Now, side note here – If you LOVE cheese, feel free to stir extra into the sauce before transferring it into the dish, and then layering more of it between the layers of potato. I swear I love cheese too, but here I don’t think it’s necessary. But you do you, k? Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

Cinnamon Old Fashioned

IMG_8103

The third cocktail in a row – am I on a roll or what? Look – nah, I won’t even. You don’t need convincing anyway. Drinks are always front page news in these parts. I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for a few years now, but only a few months ago did I discover the ultimate version of the Old Fashion by adding cinnamon syrup. The cinnamon doesn’t punch you in the face, which is what I like and need in my life. The world is way too oversaturated with cinnamon-spiced things as it is.

This is one of the easiest and quickest drinks to have around – everyone should have bitters at home anyway, and a jar of maraschino cherries doesn’t take up much room in the fridge either. All you need to do is go out and buy a juicy (and preferably organic – you’re getting a bit of the rind smooshed into the drink, kay?) orange and make that cinnamon syrup. YAHM.

IMG_8106

Cinnamon Old Fashioned

Makes 1 glass

1/2 slice of orange, plus another half for decoration

1 maraschino cherry, plus another for decoration

3 shakes of Angostura Bitters

2 tsp (10ml) cinnamon syrup (recipe below)

ice

60ml whiskey (I used Red Label)

 

In a jug, combine the orange slice, the cherry, the bitters and the syrup. With a muddler or even a spoon, mash everything together until you feel certain that the orange oils and cherry juices have done the best they can. Add about 3 ice cubes and the whiskey, and give it all a good stir. Fill a pretty tumbler with a few more cubes of ice (or a fancy big one if you have it) and sieve the delicious golden liquid right over the top of it. Add the additional orange slice and cherry to garnish. Done.

When I feel lazy (which is mostly) I skip the sieving and the additional cherry and orange slice and just pour that into my glass. Do whatever your level of lazy requires of you.

 

Cinnamon Syrup

Makes about 130ml

110g raw sugar

125ml water

1 big pinch salt

1 cinnamon stick, or 1/2 big chunky one

 

Combine everything in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and darkened in colour. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Remove the cinnamon by sieving the syrup into a glass jar.

Keep it in a jar in the fridge – it’ll last quite a long time there.

The Barcelonian (G&T)

IMG_8096

I like myself a good G&T as much as the next aficionado, but I do get bored with it pretty quickly. I need some pizazz. The current favourite around here is the cucumber and black pepper combination, which is wonderful in its own right. And after two of those, crunching on a diluted strand of gourd, I have often wondered what other fridge ingredients could be added to amp up the next phase of the evening… and this is what I found. A lovely friendship of flavours, somewhere between a martini and a gin and tonic, with enough goodies thrown in to keep you satisfied till the end.

 

The Barcelonian (G&T)

Inspired by this recipe

 

Ice (at least 5 cubes)

30ml gin

a squeeze of lemon juice

a lemon twist

one big green olive (preferably Sicilian)

one caper berry

a sprig of rosemary, smacked with the back of a spoon to release some of the delicious oils

60-80ml tonic water

a pinch of Maldon sea salt

Get yourself a glass and add the ingredients one by one until you’ve topped everything up with tonic water. Finish everything of with the salt. Donesies.

Cyclone

IMG_8069.jpg

As warmer weather approaches (hahahah), people are once again slowly opening up to the idea of drinking something a bit more refreshing than wine, yet a wee tastier than yeasted bubble water (why humanity, why). Granted, this is more of a summer drink, but I recently discovered Bundaberg Ginger Beer, the one and only ginger beer, in Bern. And lord knows I need to make the best of it.

I last had this drink at the Beaufort in Carlton, Melbourne (another excellent place to visit if you’re in the neighbourhood). There they called it a Hurricane, but since I’m only using one type of Rum, I’m settling for “Cyclone” – the tame, tasty sort that limits itself to small glass vessels. You get a hint of vanilla from the rum, an extra punch of ginger from the syrup,  all zingily balanced by the lime. What more is there to say.

IMG_8080.jpg

Cyclone

 

Makes 1 drink

ice, rather more than less

60ml Sailor Jerry Rum

15ml ginger syrup (recipe below)

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

2 lime wedges

120ml Bundaberg Ginger Beer

 

Get yourself a tall glass and fill it with ice. Add rum, syrup and bitters. Squeeze over the lime and fill up with ginger beer.

 

Ginger Syrup

makes about 180ml

220g white sugar

250ml water

100g ginger, thinly sliced, then roughly chopped

1 pinch salt

Combine everything in a small pan. Bring to the boil, then let simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes until syrupy. Let it cool, then pour into a jar through a fine mesh strainer. Will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

%d bloggers like this: