Sunday, December 8, 2013

Grilled Chicken & Bresaola Salad

I was sent some chicken. Lilydale chicken to be exact. Somehow they knew exactly how bare my cupboard, fridge and kitchen in general was, and perhaps just how hungry I felt. The few edible things I had in my fridge included a few olives, some bresaola, butter lettuce and a sad half of avocado. So I thankfully accepted the chicken, grilled it and practically inhaled this salad. Yes Lilydale sent me chicken but NO this is not a sponsored post or one of those things. I'm posting because of a delicious salad and also because I believe quite strongly in their approach to doing as much as they can to ensure a "happy chicken"and how they are prepared to put their entire product and brand behind it - that means they believe it, and most importantly that they practice what they preach.  You may have read recently that egg producers have been under fire for claiming organic and free range, charging us more for it and basically not telling the truth to consumers for their financial gain - really horrid, underhand behaviour that has an impact on of course on the welfare of chickens and the quality of life provided for them, and us as consumers placing trust in what we purchase from supermarket shelves. Anyway back to this salad. It took five minutes to put together, and the chicken and bresaola with tangy feta and bright cherry toms really was delightful. I added a few additions to the recipe suggestion that came with the chicken - basically the use of bresaola, butter lettuce, avocado, some finely sliced red onion and a quick vibrant squeeze of lemon juice.

2 chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
20g butter
400g cherry tomatoes or mixed small tomatoes
Marinated feta crumbled
Half an avocado, sliced
Small butter lettuce, rinsed, leaves coarsely torn
Quarter red onion, finely sliced
Salt and pepper to season

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Brush the chicken breasts with a little of the oil, season with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the butter; cook the chicken breasts for 4-5 minutes each side or until cooked through. Set aside.

Add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and toss to combine. Slice the chicken and scatter pieces over the top of the salad. Just before serving, combine the dressing ingredients then pour over the salad.

Chocolate Candy Cane Melting Moments

I become pathetically happy at Christmas time; the decorating, eating and drinking frenzy is what I live for. It is actually difficult to explain the sensation of joy I feel by being reunited with the likes of fruit mince, copious amounts of ham, brandy butter, prawns and even sickly sweet candy canes. For a grown up version, I’ve combined the peppermint zing of canes with the perennial favourite – melting moments with a chocolate truffle style filling. I make mine the size of golf balls on steroids, utterly supersized, meaning that after just one you feel quite content. These are surprisingly easy to make, and they'll keep for a couple of weeks without refrigeration, although given the Christmas heat that can often strike, I’d store them covered in the cool just to be safe.

250g butter, softened
75g icing sugar
200g plain flour, sifted
50g cocoa powder, sifted
50g potato flour, sifted*
180g white chocolate, finely chopped
160ml pouring cream
50g candy canes, crushed (plus extra to serve)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Beat the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder with electric beaters until creamy and thick. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the flours until combined. Knead the mixture gently on a lightly floured work surface until smooth, then cover in plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes in the fridge. Slice 26 pieces of mixture and roll into balls, flattening the balls with the back of a fork. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until crisp. Stand for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
For the peppermint filling, place chocolate in a bowl and set aside. Bring cream to the simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour over chocolate, set aside to melt chocolate (5 minutes), then stir until smooth. Add peppermint extract, set aside to cool to spreading consistency, then stir in crushed peppermint. Spoon a little of the peppermint filling onto half the biscuits, sandwich with remaining biscuits, set aside to set (15 minutes) before gently rolling in the additional crushed candy cane.

  • Available from health food stores and some supermarkets or alternatively you can use tapioca flour.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Apple cider and fennel roasted pork shoulder

I’m wondering what we did with our pork before it was cooked at a snails pace – long and luxuriously before being pulled into a great big tasty shredded mess of slow cooked goodness. The great thing about this recipe is you can’t get it wrong, just the sort of sentiments we need heading into Christmas and the requirements of putting food on the table. You do need time on your side though as it requires a solid 6 hours in the oven and a few hours before this to dry out (although you can skip this step). You could even put it on the night before and cook it overnight at about 140C if you are the sort who loves a solid bit of pre planning.

My only tip is to ensure you use an apple cider with a good balance of sweetness and acidity. You want it to add to the flavours at play rather than take all the attention like a bully in a schoolyard.

2.5kg pork shoulder, bone in
2 tbsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp brown sugar
Pinch sea salt flakes
600ml cheeky rascal apple cider
600ml chicken stock
4 apples, halved, cored
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled, bruised

Apple slaw
2 green apples, slices on a mandolin
Bunch mint leaves, coarsely torn
2 Fennel bulbs, sliced on a mandolin
1 red onion, sliced on a mandolin
Juice of 1 lemon

Dry-roast the fennel, coriander and mustard seeds in a frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Crush in a mortar and pestle. Combine with the brown sugar and salt and massage into the pork skin. Refrigerate, uncovered, for the flavours to develop – at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place pork on a rack over a roasting pan, add half the  apple cider and half the stock in base and roast until pork starts to colour (30 minutes). Reduce heat to 150C and roast until tender, adding extra cider and stock as required (up to 6 hours). Add the apples and garlic, carefully stir to combine and continue to roast for 30 minutes or until meat is very tender. Set the pork aside to rest, reserve the apples and strain the juices into a saucepan. Place saucepan over medium heat and reduce for 20 minutes or until a thick sauce consistency. To make the apple slaw, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to combine. Prepare just before serving for maximum freshness. Slice/shred/pull the pork and serve with pan juices and roasted apples.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Flourless chocolate and butterscotch bites

Despite the weird weather, we are meant to be heading into party season – that time of year where soirees abound and food is given the recognition it yearns for during other times of the year. Christmas dinner and holiday themed food is a major affair, bringing with it the sort of preparation it takes to raise a small child – fruit puddings made months in advance and hams, turkeys and proteins ordered from gleeful butchers the country over. For some reason, every year people fear a global shortage of ham. I don’t think there has been one since the depression but there they are in October ordering big for fear of a celebration sans ham.  I adore the frenzy, and I love that food goes bite-sized. Miniature delights are the perfect way to eat. The ones you don’t like can be artfully spat into a napkin or swallowed whole; while the ones you love, you can have six of as long as you stand in a direct line to the source of catering and spend the rest of the event hovering nearby. These chocolate and butterscotch bites are exactly that – decadent tastes to be enjoyed more than once. The use of almond meal also prolongs their life – they taste just as good a few days in if kept in the fridge as they do straight from the oven.

200g butter
300g dark couveture chocolate
4 eggs
100g brown sugar
100g almond meal
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
100g butterscotch chips *
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 160C.
Melt dark chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs and sugar on high until thick and creamy. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Gently stir through the almond meal, baking powder and butterscotch chips until just incorporated.
Spoon into greased mini muffin tins or tins of your choice. Bake for approximately 20 minutes – the middle should still be ever so slightly soft like a brownie. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Butterscotch chips can be purchased online at or some specialty confectionary stores.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Berries with meringue,vanilla yoghurt and musk syrup

This is my new favourite dessert. Meringue, musk, yoghurt and berries –my ultimate food flavour pyramid would be built on these food groups. Musk might seem like a strange childlike choice but it is heaven mixed with fresh summer berries and meringue, and besides there is nothing like adding a Willy Wonka-esque element to dessert. 

While you can serve this with ice cream or cream, the flavours are a little mouth cloying – the slight sourness and lightness of the yoghurt really does make the fruit and musk syrup zing.  Make sure you compile the dessert just before serving – it tastes its best when just combined.

Serves 6

4 eggwhites
250g caster sugar
½ tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp cream of tartar
Musk syrup
100g frozen raspberries and strawberries
100g caster sugar
70g Lifesaver musk lollies
To serve
1 tsp vanilla bean extract
¾ cup good quality yoghurt
Icing sugar to dust
125g fresh raspberries
125g fresh strawberries, hulled
125g fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 140C.
Add the eggwhites and caster sugar to a food processor and beat on medium-high for ten minutes. Add the white wine vinegar and cream of tartar and continue to beat for a further 5- 10 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved and you have firm peaks.
Line a baking tray with baking paper. Turn out the meringue mixture and using the back of the spoon flatten out until about 5cm thick, but smear at will – this doesn’t have to be precise – the more adulations and peaks the more pretty the meringue in my book.
For the musk syrup add the musk lollies, frozen fruit, caster sugar and 200ml water in a saucepan. Place over low heat and cook for 15 minutes or until sugar and musk lollies have completely dissolved. Set aside to cool. Blitz quickly in a food processor and strain through a fine sieve. Set aside.
Break the meringue into medium-sized pieces. Place in a serving bowl.
Combine the yoghurt and vanilla in a small bowl then pour over the meringue.  Add the berries, dust with icing sugar then spoon over the musk syrup to taste.