The occasional kitchen flop can sometimes be a blessing in disguise on several fronts. Most likely it helps to ensure that the same mistake won’t be made again in the future… and it can also serve to get those creative juices working to find ways of improving upon a particular recipe that didn’t turn out so well. Continue reading →
Hopefully by now you have all heard of my other blog ‘The Dinner Party Collective’ which is a collaborative project with 13 other Food and Wine Blogging friends. Every season, we release 2 new menus, giving you recipes, wine pairings, tips for being organised and hopefully a little inspiration to create your own Dinner Parties with friends and family. Continue reading →
Our evenings have begun to cool off. Evidence that Autumn is well and truly on it’s way. Rain in it’s various shapes and forms has been welcomed, regardless of whether it bucketed down like there was no tomorrow or drizzled finely in silver threads (as it’s doing right now). It’s brought a shade of green back to the landscape that is so much more pleasing to the eye than the brittle straw-brown that we’re all too used to in this part of the country. Summer has been harsh, as usual, yet we’ve made it through and slip fluidly into the delights of Autumn, without even a second thought.
During this change of seasons (welcomed perhaps in both hemispheres), a warm appetiser such as the one to follow can be a truly wonderful thing. Full of flavour and the perfect size for nibbling on between sips of chilled white wine. Or beer… they would certainly go well with a pale ale as well.
My offering for Angie’s Fiesta Friday extravaganza this week are these scrumptious Thai-infused appetisers – the perfect party food to share with friends at The Novice Gardener… or nibblies for a family of four on a cool drizzly afternoon!
75g/¾ Cup (Seaweed or Plain) Rice Crackers (crushed in the food processor)
1 Large Clove of Garlic (finely chopped)
1 Thumb-size Piece of Fresh Ginger (finely grated)
2 Shallots/Scallions (finely chopped)
2 Tablespoons Fresh Coriander (finely chopped)
1 Small Red Chilli (finely chopped and seeds removed)
1 Free-Range Egg White
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
¼ Teaspoon Sesame Oil
A few good grindings of Black Pepper
¼ Teaspoon Sea Salt
Vegetable Oil (for frying)
Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and using a spoon (or your hands) mix until well combined. Roll mixture into balls (approximately 3cm in diameter).
Place enough oil into a medium-sized frying pan to be able to shallow fry and place the pan over medium heat.
When the oil is hot enough, fry the chicken meatballs in batches, turning them all the time for even cooking. When they are golden brown (and cooked through), remove to a plate lined with some absorbent paper to sit for a few minutes.
Serve while warm/hot with some sweet chilli sauce for dipping.
Notes on Cooking:
The crushed rice crackers can always be substituted with bread crumbs (panko would be my preference).
The school which my children attend has a wonderful canteen that offers an extensive array of healthy and delicious lunch options. Though a couple of days ago when I stopped by to chat with the lovely lady who runs the canteen, she mentioned that there were 3 items on their menu that she would love to see removed, due to them being overly processed and shipped in, packed frozen in boxes ready for re-heating.
She asked whether I might help by coming up with a couple of home-made replacements that we could get the kids to sample over the next two weeks, with a view to adding them permanently to the menu when school goes back next year.
So this week, I’ve started playing around with a recipe for home-made Chicken Sausage Rolls, packed with a flavoursome range of veggies, to keep those dear little bodies and minds as healthy as possible. My fingers are crossed that the kids will all give them the thumbs up when we pass around some samples at lunchtime next week! I’ll be sure to let you know if they are a success… or if it’s back to the drawing board.
Chicken & Vegetable Sausage Rolls | Gather and Graze
Egg Wash (1 Free-Range Egg beaten together with 1 Tablespoon Milk)
Sesame Seeds (optional)
In a food processor (or by hand), very finely chop the onion, garlic, carrot and leek. Place into a large mixing bowl with the chicken, breadcrumbs, egg, herbs and seasonings and mix until well combined. Separate mixture into roughly 6 portions.
Cut each sheet of puff pastry in half and using hands, form a long sausage of mixture lengthways down the middle of each piece of pastry. Roll the pastry around the sausage mixture and use a little egg wash to help seal the seam. Cut each roll into about 6 smaller rolls and then place them (seam-side down) on baking trays lined with baking paper/parchment. Allow the un-cooked sausage rolls to rest in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
At this stage, pre-heat your oven to 200°C.
Just before placing in the oven, cut a couple of slits in the top of each roll (to avoid filling bursting from each end) and brush with a little egg wash. Bake at 200ºC for the first 15 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 180°C for a further 15 minutes, or until golden brown and fully cooked through.
The onion, garlic and leek can be gently fried in a little olive oil and then cooled before adding to the rest of the ingredients. I find that this isn’t necessary if all vegetables are very finely chopped – a simple task with a food processor.
A variety of other vegetables could be added to this recipe – I’ll be trying some grated zucchini/courgette next time in lieu of the leek.
If the mixture feels too sticky, add another tablespoon or two of breadcrumbs.
Good things come in small packages! These days, I find myself so incredibly partial to Tapas, finger food, hors d’oeuvres and the like. Both sweet and savoury… as long as it’s bite-size and can be nibbled on intermittently while sipping on a glass of wine or champagne. A relaxing, happy way of eating. Summery and festive, with Christmas and holidays on the horizon!
A savoury, spice-infused shortcrust pastry recipe that can be topped, so easily, with all manner of deliciousness.
1 Teaspoon Fennel Seeds (bashed up a little using a mortar and pestle)
¼ Teaspoon Sea Salt
80g Cold Unsalted Butter (cut into small cubes)
1 Free-Range Egg Yolk (beaten together with 2 Tablespoons Iced Water)
In a food processor, pulse together the flour, fennel seeds and sea salt. Add the butter and pulse a few more times until it becomes the texture of course breadcrumbs. Now pour in the egg yolk/water mixture and pulse until the pastry just comes together in a ball. Refrigerate the pastry (wrapped up in cling wrap) for about 30 minutes.
Roll the pastry out onto a board dusted with flour, to a thickness of about 3mm. Using a round cookie cutter (approx 5 cm in diameter), cut discs of pastry and press them into mini-muffin trays. Chill the prepared trays in the freezer for 10 minutes, before baking.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden. Allow the shells to cool in the muffin trays for a few minutes, before carefully removing to a cooling rack.
The tartlet shells are now ready for you to dress up with your chosen fillings – the options are endless, however I’ve listed a few possibilities at the end of this post.
The photo above, shows some shells filled with Goat’s Curd and topped with some roasted red peppers/capsicum, fresh thyme leaves, a drizzle of E.V olive oil and a little grinding of pepper and salt.
Notes on Cooking
If the filling you intend to place in the tartlets requires baking as well, par-bake the shells for only about 12 minutes, before adding the filling and then return to the oven until cooked.
Consider using other herbs and spices to bring a little life to your pastry – cumin seeds, caraway seeds, thyme leaves, rosemary and lavender are a few to try.
Ideas for Fillings
Creme Fraiche, topped with thin strips of smoked salmon and a caper or two.
Boursin Cheese, topped with a roasted cherry tomato and some torn fresh basil.
Goat’s Curd, topped with some chopped (pitted) kalamata olives, fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
(Persian) Feta Cheese with caramelised onion and fresh oregano or thyme leaves.
For years I avoided any recipe that involved the making of choux pastry. It always seemed like it had ‘catastrophe’ written all over it. Eclairs and profiteroles were to be enjoyed fresh from authentic French patisseries… Continue reading →
It was with something of a heavy heart that I went out to pick the last remaining tomatoes from the garden this morning. They have provided us with such beautiful and bountiful fruit right the way through summer and autumn, however the time has finally come to clear the beds and tidy up before winter hits… and from the forecast I’ve just seen, it appears that winter will rear it’s frosty head tomorrow. Give me a day or two and I promise that my melancholic mood will give way to much eagerness for all the delicious soups, roasts, casseroles and heart-warming puddings yet to come… however today shall be dedicated purely to the tomato.
Back in very late October I nestled our six little tomato seedlings into their rather large pots and commenced tending to them as if they were my own children. Often questioning whether they were hungry or thirsty, getting enough warmth and light from the sun and making sure their ever-growing limbs were supported and nurtured in the right directions. Our season hopefuls included two Romas, two Cherries, a Green Zebra and a Black Russian – an attractive mix of colours, sizes and flavours to adorn the salad bowls of summer.
The following simple idea for an appetiser brings together five of my all-time favourite ingredients, into one luxurious mouthful. Perfect as they are, accompanied with an aperitif, or perhaps as part of an antipasto platter; I hope you’ll agree that the flavours intermingle superbly and leave you craving for more.
Boursin Cheese (80g will fill approx 16-20 halved tomatoes)
16-20 Fresh Basil Leaves (small to medium sized)
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Using a sharp knife, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and gently scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Scoop a little Boursin onto the tomato halves and top with a basil leaf. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Consider doubling the quantity… these are very moreish!
Use a good quality EV Olive Oil and if possible an aged Balsamic Vinegar – they really make a difference when used to dress a dish such as this one.
Perfect served with a chilled white wine on a sunny day.
I have categorised these under ‘Italian’, as although the cheese is decidedly French, I feel they ooze ‘italiano’ with their mix of tomato, basil, olive oil and balsamic…