Monday, 26 March 2012

Seared Tuna with Pepper-Dhania Crust on a Salad with Chinese Rock Sugar Dressing

The first cookbook I ever bought myself was Provocative Cuisine by Kitchenboy (aka Braam Kruger). Yes, that is an AGE RESTRICTION on the cover. That's how you know it's a good one.

This is the first recipe in that book. I hasten to add that this is also the first recipe book I read all the way through. It is more than just a bunch of recipes, it is a work of art. You should buy it. Go, now.

In the meantime, let me tell you about this amazing tuna.

You start with the dressing. Melt 50g chinese rock sugar in 50ml rice vinegar and 50ml white wine vinegar. Add 50ml rice wine (if you have it, which I didn't). The recipe does everything in slow steps, but I was in a hurry, so I just threw everything in. So, throw in a dash of soy sauce, 15g fresh ginger (or, if you're me, a chunk, chopped up into pieces), an onion, 2 cloves of garlic, a spring onion and 15ml dhania (which google tells me is coriander). The recipe then says "infuse for 3 hours", which of course, I didn't have time for because I was not that organised. I just left it there while I made the rest.

Then, in a bowl, mix two tablespoons of black pepper, 4 tablespoons of chopped basil, 1 tablespoon of chopped dhania (coriander). I will say I just used the dry stuff, which is probably a travesty, but it was still delicious. Roll the tuna around in it.

The recipe has a complicated thing involving shaping the tuna into discs. I didn't bother with that.

Season with salt, and sear in a hot hot pan. He says, "Aim for the thinnest possible whitening of the crust, remaining raw inside". He's right. NOM.

The salad is just cucumber chopped into sticks, some blanched snow peas and a handful of bean sprouts.

Make a pile of salad, dribble the dressing over it and around the plate, pop the tuna steak on top, and dot the plate with some wasabi.

This is what mine looked like:

Pretty delicious looking huh? 

Pretty delicious tasting too, I tell you what! The flavours marry beautifully. It was incredible. 


Basic Chocolate Sauce

It doesn't get much more basic than this, guys.

About half a cup of water. A tablespoon of castor sugar. And 50g of good dark chocolate.

Melt the sugar in the water. Add the chocolate, and stir till melted. Take off the heat and serve immediately over icecream or chocolate sponge cake.

It's not as thick as I like my chocolate sauce usually, but it does the trick.

Talk about basic.

Anchovy butter

The thing about starting at the beginning of all the books is that you end up doing a lot of those initial things - you know, sauces and basics and whatnot.

This book, though, needs an introduction. It's called Ouma's Cookery Book, and is a collection of traditional South African recipes. Many of them terrify me! But the first one is easy and simple and DELICIOUS.

You take 125g butter, softened (in the microwave, if you live in Dunedin), a couple of teaspoons of what we call fish paste (available in the international section of New World, if you're here), a generous pinch of cayenne pepper and a few drops of lemon juice. Mix it together, and serve spread on hot toast.


It is, basically, anchovy toast dressed up fancy. The cayenne bite and the citrus honestly do knock it up a notch though. It's really good. My kid even loved it. :)

Sambal Belacan

This is one of those recipes that makes me do this face: o.O

What do you DO with it? I assumed it was like a condiment, a side dish served with curry. So that's what I did. But now I think it would probably work best as a base for stir fry or curry or suchlike.

Basically, it's a chilli paste. Or at least that's the idea.

Okay, so here's the recipe.

Blend 12 large red chillis in a blender with 2 tablespoons of dried roasted shrimp paste (which I found in the "Asian" section of our local supermarket (All of Asia!)), 150ml water and 4 tablespoons of limejuice.

That's it.

A couple of observations: I think there was too much water. Maybe when they say "12 large red chillis" they mean dried ones? I dunno. The whole thing came out way runnier than I think it was meant to be.

Also, WOAH that shrimp paste is POTENT stuff. My whole house smelt of it for HOURS. It is strong. If you don't like fishy things, you're not going to be keen on this. It actually doesn't taste as strong as it smells, but the smell was enough to nearly put me off trying it.

I am glad I tried it though, because it tastes quite different to how it smells. I am still not wildly convinced, but I can see that it would make a good base, as I said. Anything you might use fish sauce for, I expect this would work too.

Anyway, we now have a big jar of it in our fridge. Which, you know, I guess we'll use up. Over many months.

Breakfast scones

These are out of one of the Eating for Sustained Energy books, to which I have linked before, because they are so completely wonderful.

Preheat your oven to 200C.
Sift 1.5 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, a teaspoon of bicarb (although I discovered we didn't have any so I left this out, and it didn't cause any huge difference) and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Add half a cup of oatbran, a grated apple, a handful of sultanas, and about 8 halves of dried apricots. Mix it all together.

Then add a beaten egg to 3 tablespoons of melted butter and half a cup of skimmed milk together and add them to the dry ingredients. (The skimmed part is important for the low GI thing, but I used full-strength milk.)

Mix with a fork till it's combined and doughy. Spoon into a greased muffin tray and bake for 15-20 mins or until you can skewer them cleanly.

These are really delicious. The recipe says either the sultanas or the apricots, but I did both, cos that's how I roll.

Great, yummy, healthy snack for taking on the road with you or grabbing with one hand when you have a crying baby in the other. ;)

These books are amazing. Seriously, if you're GI conscious for whatever reason, you should get your paws on them. I mean it.

Me: Thumbs up
Husband: Thumbs up

Monday, 19 March 2012

Butternut soup with Rosemary and Pine Nut Bread

I have been making butternut soup for years. YEARS. I have a tried and tested recipe.

This, ladies and gentlemen, may have to become my new go to butternut soup recipe. It is THAT GOOD.

It is accompanied by Rosemary and Pine Nut bread. This is also completely amazing. Here, look:


So, you make the bread as follows:

Mix 15g dried yeast with 300ml warm water and a pinch of sugar. Blend. (I expect you could do this part however you normally would when making bread (in my case, throw the yeast in with the flour) but I was following the recipe out of curiousity, so I did it this way.) Leave for ten minutes to get all frothy.

Mix in a bowl 450g flour, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of chopped rosemary. (In the absence of fresh rosemary, I used the dry stuff.) Make a well in the centre, and pour in the yeast mixture and about 45ml olive oil. Mix to a soft dough. Knead for at least five minutes. Add 50g pine nuts. (I used 70g because that was the size packet they came in, to no apparent ill-effect.) Knead until the pine nuts are incorporated into the dough. Leave to rise for 40 mins. (Cover bowl with damp cloth)

Bash it back, then shape the dough into whatever shape you want. As you can see from the picture, I went for the "pull off roll sized bits for soup" shape. But whatever floats your boat. Brush with olive oil. Leave to rise for another 20 mins, then stick in a 220C oven for 40 minutes.

This bread is so tasty. Yum.

Okay, now the soup.

Peel and chop up a butternut, a potato and a carrot. I left out the carrot, because we didn't have any. Also an onion.

Melt 25g of butter in a large saucepan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Throw in the onion, and some bacon. The recipe says: "125g best-quality smoked bacon, derinded and finely chopped". I used what we had in our fridge. I don't know how much it was, but I did chop it fine.

Cook till the onion starts softening, then throw in the butternut, potato and carrot (if you use the carrot) along with half a teaspoon of chopped marjoram. This I did have fresh, and I used significantly more than half a teaspoon, cos that's how I roll.

Cook for five mins.

Add 750ml chicken stock, some Tabasco sauce (how much depends on your taste, really - I like it SPICY, so I put in more than the recipe asked), a pinch of nutmeg, and some salt and pepper. Give it a stir, bang a lid on and cook it until the butternut is soft. About half an hour to 40 minutes.

Let it cool a bit, then puree it. Add a cup of cream. (We didn't have a cup of cream, we had less, so I put in what we had.)

Serve with the bread.

Seriously, guys, this soup is SO good. The sweetness of the butternut perfectly compliments the smoky bacon undertones, and the bite of the tabasco. OMIGOD. So delicious. I'll be having it for lunch today too!! And the bread is gorgeous too.

HIGHLY recommended. And EASY!

Weren't you paying attention?
Thumbs up all round. :)

Monday, 12 March 2012


This was a crazy involved and complicated recipe, but omigod delicious!

Especially the rouille. Which requires harissa, so let's start there:

To make harissa, get about 115g of dried chillies. This is more than you think it is: dried chillies are light. Soak them in boiling water for half an hour or so. Then fish them out, but don't throw away the water. The recipe says destem and deseed them, but I didn't bother. I just chopped them up and threw them in the blender. But if you want to do it the proper way, go ahead. I'll wait.

Done? Cool.

Throw into a food processor, along with a clove (or two or three) of garlic, chopped.

Toast up a tablespoon of coriander seeds, half a tablespoon of caraway seeds and a tablespoon of black peppercorns. Then grind them up and throw them in the food processor too. along with half a tablespoon of salt, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 3 tablespoons of vinegar. Whirrrrrr it till it becomes a paste. Add some of the chilli water if it's too thick.

Now you have harissa! Well done. It's really good on cheese sandwiches. I tell you this, because you will have leftovers!

Right, now make the rouille.

Pour two tablespoons of boiling water over 10 saffron threads. Leave for 15 minutes. Beat two egg yolks, and slowly dribble part of 300ml of sunflower oil in until it binds. When it starts to thicken, add a tablespoon of dijon mustard and the juice of a lemon. Mix what's left of the sunflower oil with 300ml of olive oil. and add it slowly and steadily while blending until you have a good thick mayonnaise. Add the saffron strands and its water, and as much harissa as you wish (depending on how hot you want it).

This stuff is so good. Seriously. NOM.

Next bit: make some crouts.

Cut a bagette into 1 cm slices brush with olive oil, and bake in an oven. Check them often, because they burn quickly!!

Do some prep:

Peel some prawns, bash up a crab. Peel and fillet some white fish (or just deskin some fillets). Peel and chop some onion and garlic, dice up a fennel head, Trim and chop celery and leek. Peel and chop some carrots, and dice up some peeled potatoes. Chop up some parsley.

Got any room on your kitchen surfaces? Well done! I hadn't, at this point.

Now, finally, we get to the soup part!

In a very large saucepan, saute the onions and garlic. Add the bashed up hen crab, and any fishie bits you have leftover - prawn shells, crab shells, fish skin, the works. Throw it all in. Add all the vegetables, and a can of tomato. Also some thyme, parsley, bay leaves and orange peel (I used grated zest). Pour in half a bottle of dry white wine. Yes, really. And 1.5 litres of boiling water. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for half an hour.

Drain through a sieve, leaving all those veggies and fishy bits behind. You only want the liquid. Don't be afraid to squeeze the liquid out of the bits. Taste and season.

This stock is totally amazing, though it hurt my heart to throw out all those veggies. But I said I'd follow the recipe, so I did.

Anyway. Finally, cut up some tomatoes and throw them in the broth. Add 16 saffron strands, and a tablespoon of some sort of anise alcohol. The recipe says Pernod, Pastis or Arak, but we just soaked some star anise in vodka for a day or two, and that worked just fine.

Add fish fillets and prawns. Cook just long enough for them to be done.

Still with me? We're nearly there.

To serve:

Ladle the broth and fish into bowls. Scatter on some parsley. Spoon the rouille onto the crouts and float them on the broth. Add some grated gruyere, and be amazed.

This recipe is really high maintenance. It was a MISSION to make.

But wow. Totally frikkin' amazing. SO tasty. NOM.

(We really enjoyed this. ;)

Honey Spice Duck on Soybeans

Doesn't that sound great? *sigh* I thought so too.

So, we go and buy a duck. Frozen, because, to the best of my knowledge, unless you actually know someone who shoots ducks, that's the only way to get one in Dunedin.

The recipe calls for four duck breasts. But the only duck we can get is a whole roasting one, so I painstakingly cut it apart while my baby screams on the kitchen floor. (Not because of the duck - he was just having a cranky day.)

Recipe says to prepare the spice mixture, so I mix together the coriander, ginger, nutmeg and black pepper. Mmmm.

I score the skin of the duck pieces as best I can. Breasts are easy, but legs less so. Then it says to brown in a frying pan for 4-5 minutes. Which I did. Except the recipe calls for deboned breasts, and I have boned pieces (due to my dismemberment of a whole duck), so I kind of have to wing the timing a bit.

Reduce the heat and sprinkle spices on. Okay, this part is fine. Then baste honey, turning the duck frequently. Once cooked, remove and slice into pieces.

I didn't slice into pieces. (See above about bones).  We just ate them as pieces.

Warm soybeans through in the pan remnants. Then serve duck on bed of beans with sesame oil drizzled over it all.

But you see... I overcooked it. *WOE* I was so scared of it not being cooked because of the bones, that it ended up overcooked. And also, the duck really tasted kind of stale. I guess there's not a lot of call for duck in Dunedin. Who knows how long it had been sitting in that freezer.


So, not nearly as good as I had hoped. Alas. But hopefully if you try it you will learn from my mistakes, and it will be spectacular!

Me: Meh.
Husband: Thumbs up. (I think he was being nice to me though.)

Pumpkin Soup with beer bread

This recipe is the first in A Kitchen Safari. This book is gorgeous, and a one-way trip to homesickville for me.

The recipe is very straightforward. Cut up a pumpkin. Simmer in chicken stock.

I will admit that I roasted it first, whole, for about an hour in a medium oven. Softens it up, makes it a lot easier to cut up. I also think it adds to the flavour. Anyway.

Add leeks and a couple of potatoes. And then, the recipe says, "For fun, add any or a combination of the following:" and lists a whole big bunch of things.

I added curry powder and cumin.

Puree, season, eat.

I'm not putting the recipe for beer bread, because we know from experience that the one in the book doesn't work, and because husband made it and it was fabulous just like his bread always is. Mostly, though, because I don't know the recipe he used off the top of my head. :)

So, um, serve with your best homemade bread! ;)


Strawberry Porridge with Oatbran, Honey and Sunflower Seeds

What it says on the tin, basically.

This is one of those recipes that hardly needs to be a recipe, really, but what the hell, I said every one, so I am doing every one.

And it was exceptionally tasty.

Cook up some rolled oats with some oat bran mixed in. Transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and drizzle with honey. Throw on some chopped strawberries and some milk and eat.

Simple simple stuff.

The oatbran makes it a little more GI friendly, I guess.

I will admit it is very tasty. But I am not sure I couldn't have worked it out without a book. ;)


Me: Thumbs up
Husband: Thumbs up.

Low GI Oat bran and banana muffins

These are really tasty, and great if you're diabetic, or have other low GI needs. Or just want a healthy alternative!

Warning though that this is from a book that has a tendency to use every bowl you have.

Turn the oven onto 160C

Sift a cup of flour, two teaspoons of baking powder and half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda in some countries) into a bowl. Add in a cup of oat bran. (In Dunedin, the only place where I have found it is that Indian supermarket just off Moray Place? If you're a Dunedinite and you don't know about that place, it is also the only place in Dunners you should ever buy spices, fyi.)

In a second bowl combine a quarter of a cup of sugar, a tablespoon of canola/sunflower oil 2 small grated apples and a mashed banana. Oh, and two egg yolks.

Add the dry ingredients gradually into the wet ones, mixing with a fork until combined.

In a THIRD bowl (I warned you!), beat the egg whites into soft peaks. Fold them into the mixture.

Put in muffin trays, bake for 30-40 mins or until you can skewer them cleanly.

NOM. Delicious.

Me: Thumbs up
Husband: Thumbs up.
Fussy teen: Thumbs up.

Roast pepper terrine

This was not a success. I'm going to admit that straight out of the gate. But I think it was my fault. Let me explain.

I have never made a terrine before.

The recipe says to roast 8 red or yellow peppers. I did so. They went all black and crinkly. I peeled them, discarded the peels and seeds, as requested. So far so good.

Sliced them up, and set one aside, as instructed.

Then it says to put 3 cups of mascarpone in a bowl with 3 egg yolks, some herbs (I used basil and parsley) and a clove of garlic. I used more than one clove, because I always do. Then it says "Beat well".

I think this is where I failed, because I did not beat it as well as I perhaps should have, so I don't think the cream thickened up as much as it should have. So, BEAT WELL, dear reader. ;)

Then you whisk the egg whites into soft peaks (which, again, I probably didn't do as well as I should have) and fold them in.

Layer the cheese mixture and the sliced peppers in a loaf tin. Cover with foil. Put it in a roasting pan, with boiling water poured in up to half way up the loaf tin. Bake in a 180C oven for an hour. Leave to cool in the water, then chill overnight.

There's a salsa too, which is just the remaining roasted pepper, two more raw ones, some garlic oil and vinegar, whirred in a food processor.

When I turned the terrine out, mine went FLOP. :( It didn't set. I suspect it was because I didn't beat as well as I should have. It tasted okay, but not great. I will say the salsa was completely amazing though. And the easiest part. Go figure.

Ah, well, can't win 'em all right?

Me: Meh.
(Everyone else was nice, but I think they were lying. ;)