Thursday, 9 February 2017

Homemade Chocolate Paddle Pops

Chocolate Paddle Pop Recipe | salt sugar and i

So I'm thinking I should re-name the blog 'the weather and i' as I seem so damn obsessed with it lately. With two fans and a small portable air con working their little butts off, it's still too hot to even think about turning the oven, my motivation to cook is crashing and I think I'm loosing my marbles.

In this mad heat wave, the only things I want to eat are ice based - ice coffees, lemon cordial full of clanking ice cubes, freezer cold watermelon, frozen fruit sticks and paddle pops. So on Sunday, when it was stinker of a day my options were: one, leave the somewhat cooler than outside apartment and drive in my steamy car to the servo or two, spend 15 minutes in the kitchen, watch Netflix for 4 hours with icepacks and eat homemade chocolate paddle pops. I chose option two, just like any sane person would... right?

Chocolate Paddle Pop Recipe | salt sugar and i

Ok I'll admit it, my first thought while stirring the mixture over the stovetop for three minutes while feeling beads of sweat were - you are a mad women! I could've been on my way back from the servo, paddle pop in hand by now but noooooo here I was using heat for goodness sakes! But then the yoga-ess of making food to eat kicked in and maybe some of you will still think I'm mad to make my own paddle pops but it was kind of fun making my favourite childhood icey pole from scratch.

Chocolate Paddle Pop Recipe | salt sugar and i

They were easy to make and well worth the freezer wait. Just whisk everything together, cook it until it starts to thicken, then pour it into your moulds and freeze. I used moulds that I bought years ago that were still in the box and original packaging until last weekend but if you don't have ice block moulds in the back of your cupboard gathering dust, tip the bearded hipster at your local coffee shop and ask for some extra takeaway cups and stirring sticks (or buy paper cups from the supermarket) and use them instead. Different shape but still just as tasty!

So next time its bearable enough to stand by the stove for a few minutes whisking and you're patient enough to wait for them to freeze, give these a go! Seriously, I think you'll impress the fanciest of foodies with these, they'll bring back memories of Aussie Summers - saggy rashies, sticky fingers, chocolate drips and salty skin. Take me back!

Chocolate Paddle Pop Recipe | salt sugar and i


Chocolate Paddle Pops

makes about 10

3 cups milk
3 tablespoons dutch cocoa, sifted
6 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornflour
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

- In a medium sauce pan, combine your sifted cocoa, sugar, cornflour and salt. Whisk just enough milk into the the dry ingredients to form a smooth paste, then whisk in the remaining milk.  It should look like a chocolate milkshake with everything blended evenly.

- Place the pan on medium heat, stir gently with a whisk - constantly scraping the sides and bottom of the pan. Once small bubbles start to appear around the edges of the pan, continue whisking for 2 minutes. The mixture should thicken up at this stage to a light custard.

- Pour the mixture into a bowl and whisk in vanilla essence off the heat.

- Fill your moulds (or cups) making sure you leave a little space for expansion and place into the freezer. These will take about 4-6 hours to set.

- To de-mould pops, let them sit at room temperature for a few minutes and use the heat of your hand* to release each one. Wrap them individually in baking paper and storing in a zip-lock bag back in the freezer.

*I found when de-moulding the pops and sitting them in warm water bath, they melted too quickly and lost their shape, although in say that I did make these on a 40C day.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Green Chicken Meatballs

Ok where did January go? Who ate him?

and can it please be winter already??

For the past two months I've done nothing but complain and whinge about the weather. It's been sooo hot, muggy, sticky, stifling, hot, hair frizzingly awful, sweaty, coffee must now always contain ice, hot and have I said sticky yet? I wrote an entire post (then deleted it) about how I hate the hot weather and cooking in it. BORING!

So instead dreaming of our Sydney summer away which I have a tendency to do (right now Victoria and Tasmania are looking like a lovely place for a sea change) I thought I'd share a recipe that does not require an oven, great to share and so delicious that it'll change they way you eat chicken meatballs forever, or at least in 2017.

Green Chicken Meatballs from Bon Appetempt/Amelia and Teddy in the Kitchen.

These little morsels are so delicious and fresh, they are exactly what you crave in a meatball when it's hot and you want something light but still full of flavour. They use blitzed up chicken thighs instead of chicken mince so you don't get that loafy texture which means you can make them as chunky or fine as you like but also they don't have any additional bread crumbs in to stodgy them up, keeping them delicate. But it's the parsley, onion and parmesan that really make them delicious and summery and to be honest, completely moorish.

Green Chicken Meatballs | salt sugar and i

I cooked these in a frying pan and served them with a tomato pasta sauce and brown rice but these would be great by themselves or even as chicken patties on the BBQ with a salad, just be wary they are on the soft side and until sealed feel like they might fall apart on you.

If you're only going to make one meatball in 2017, make these them. You will thank me (and Amelia) for the advice - they are seriously good green chicken meatballs.

What's your go-to summer recipe for when it's too hot to eat but you can't curb your appetite for home cooking?

Green Chicken Meatballs

recipe by Amelia Morris from Bon Appetempt/Amelia and Teddy in the Kitchen

500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup loosely-packed, chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
tomato pasta sauce - store bought or homemade (see below)

Cut the chicken thighs into 2cm chunks and place them on a plate in the freezer for about 30 minutes, give or take.

Place the parmesan, parsley and onion in the food processor and blitz until everything is finely chopped. Add the egg, chicken, salt and pepper, and continue to blitz until the chicken is coarsely ground — not as fine as chicken mince as you don’t want chicken much, but until everything is about ½ a cm roughly.

Using a large heaped tablespoon as a guide, shape into approx. one-inch meatballs.

In a large non-stick frying pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. One by one, dredge the meatballs in the flour and add to the hot oil. Cook until brown on all over, turning as necessary for about 15 to 20 minutes.

When the meatballs are almost cooked, heat up the tomato pasta sauce ready to serve.

Serve these Green Chicken Meatballs with the tomato pasta sauce and a crunchy side salad/ brown rice/ pasta.

tomato pasta sauce -
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely diced
2 clove garlic, crushed
splash of dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh herbs eg. basil, parsley or oregano (optional)
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan, add your onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and fry until onions are translucent and fragrant.

Add your splash (or two) of wine, let it bubble for a couple of minutes then add your canned tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a simmer and let bubble away for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Taste and season with salt, pepper and fresh herbs.

Friday, 23 December 2016

short but sweet - vanilla & almond crescent cookies

Last week I turned my apartment into a sauna. I guess you could say it was my way of doing a pre-Christmas detox.

For some idiotic reason I thought it'd be a genius idea to bake cookies and mince pies in my little kitchen on the hottest night in Sydney in 159 years. Am I mad? I'm starting to think so. It was so unbearably hot that I slept with an ice pack and Arthur didn't leave the bathroom tiles unless it was to play with the ice cubes I gave him to cool off. It took a good 2 days to finally feel the cool change... oh how I miss summers best friend - the afternoon southerly!

But amongst the heat I baked: what felt like batches and batches of Christmas mince pies - homemade mincemeat and all, panforte - which I've come to realise, I don't actually like eating but wish I could turn it into a scented candle, WP chocolate cookies - delicious but unexpected, gingerbread snowflakes - on the crispier side, vanilla and almond crescent cookies from Classic German Baking and also almond toffee that is my absolute weakness covered in dark chocolate.

A little late but I guess better then never, I thought I'd share a Christmas cookie recipe with you for any keen bakers out there wanting a last minute christmas gift or like me, have a shortbread christmas breakfast tradition. These little crescent shaped cookies are drowned in icing sugar and melt in your mouth. Perfect on Christmas morning with a cuppa in pyjamas.

I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and hope their day is full of all the best things... good company, great food and lots of laughs. Stay safe my lovelies x

vanilla and almond crescent cookies | salt sugar and i

vanilla and almond crescent cookies

recipe from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss (ever so slightly adapted)

175g plain flour
120g butter, at room temperature
250g icing sugar
100g blanched ground almonds or almond meal
2 tablespoon vanillezucker/vanilla sugar * (or super fine caster sugar + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 egg yolk
pinch salt

- Put the flour, butter, 50g of icing mixture, 1 tablespoon of vanillezucker/vanilla sugar (or caster + extract), ground almonds, egg yolk and salt in a bowl of a stand mixture with the flat paddle attachment and beat until all ingredients are combined. If making by hand, place above ingredients into a medium bowl and combine using a had mixer on low and then bringing the dough together with a wooden spoon at the end or mix entirely with a wooden spoon.

- Split the dough into three equal portions and roll reach piece into 2.5cm thick cylinders. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

- Preheat oven to 165C/325F and line 2 baking trays with baking paper when you are ready to bake.

- Remove logs from the refrigerator and slice each log into 12mm slices. Roll out each slice until it's about 5cm long and the ends are tapered but not pointy. Place on prepared trays and repeat with remaining dough. Space the cookies about 2.5cm between them on all sides.

- Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes or until ever so slightly browned on top.

- While the cookies are baking, mix together the remaining icing sugar and vanillezucker/vanilla sugar (if using) in a shallow bowl. When the cookies come out of the oven, let them cool for only a minute or two and very carefully dredge them completely in the sugar. Cool the dredged cookies on a wire rack and if still sticky, dredge a second time in the sugar to get an extra powdery coating.

- The cooled cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

*vanillezucker/vanilla sugar
2 cups granulated white sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut into quarters

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blitz until the vanilla bean is finely ground and well distributed, the sugar should be powdery/very fine. Store in an airtight container indefinitely.

Monday, 28 November 2016

kimchi fried with sesame spring onion salad and a fried egg

I have finished night school and can now do the books and process your IAS and BAS if you wanted to open a small business. Will take payment in the form of eating - you must let me cook for you and you must leave needing to be rolled out of my apartment. Dish drying optional but welcomed.

For the past 11 months, 3 nights a week I've been eating dinner at about 9:30 but more like 10 o'clock at night and it's been a smorgasbord of terrible rice bowls, mystery frozen sauces on microwaved rice, potatoes and canned baked beans nooked and nutella from the jar. I am now done and in desperate need to cook. Something. Anything new - that does not involve a microwave or packet rice.

Ok ok I'm being a little dramatic - I had Thursday and Friday right? Wrong. I was mentally done and couldn't contemplate the thought of doing the dishes after eating so there was a lot of MonkeyKing Thai - they know us a little too well now. Saturday and Sunday you say? Filled with assignments, homework and horrific hangovers because at 27 I still do not know what moderation is. Maybe 28 year old me will be a little more sensible and not spend most Sundays wishing the food fairy would bring me a burger and painkillers. Hmmm we'll see in a few weeks I guess.

kimchi fried with sesame spring onion salad | salt sugar and i

One recipe that I had planned to cook at least a month a go but never ended up getting around to it was Kimchi Fried Rice. I'd found the ingredients at the asian supermarket nearby where I had previously asked for help on other occasions and they just looked blankly at me as I was clearly butchering the pronunciation and they had no clue what I was after. gochujang (Korean red pepper paste). Most recipes say it's optional which I guess it is if you can't find it but it's like a challenge in a recipe when I see the word 'optional' in little brackets. Like a test. Giving up on the workers in the asian supermarket store and leaving Tristan sitting on the couches outside, I walked up and down the isles and looked at every kind of jar, sauce, dried mushroom and shrimp imaginable and ended up finding it in the back of the store with all the other Korean and Japanese ingredients. Ha - I win!

kimchi fried with sesame spring onion salad | salt sugar and i

But like I said before, this was about a month a go, at least and the gochujang paste along with the kimchi stayed in my fridge, glaring at me every time I opened the door 'KIMCHI FRIED RICE! KIMCHI FRIED RICE!' until I finally made it the other night. It was everything I ever wanted and more. Topped with a soft fried egg and sesame spring onion salad the sweet, spicy and sour fried rice was out of this world delicious. Something happens to the kimchi when you fry it, it looses the nose scrunching cabbage smell and becomes sweet and sour but still spicy and moorish. I ended up merging two recipes to make my version below which I'd have to say will become a regular in our little apartment. I used the basic recipe from Julia Turshen's new Cookbook 'Small Victories' and put an Amelia Morris from Bon Appetempt & In the Kitchen with Amelia and Teddy spin on it with the additional gochujang paste and the fried egg. Perfection.

If anyone comes over next week for dinner, this is what I will serve them. Sorry not up for discussion.

What have you lot been cooking? What have I missed? Any genius recipes I need to know about? Please spill!... I've awoken from the night school slumber and I'm hungry.

kimchi fried with sesame spring onion salad | salt sugar and i

kimchi fried with sesame spring onion salad and a fried egg

adapted from Julia Turshen's Small Victories and Amelia Morris's In the Kitchen with Amelia and Teddy recipe.
Serves 3

for the kimchi fried rice (and soft fried egg):
2 tablespoons vegetable (or any neutral) oil
1 small brown onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
300g kimchi
1 tablespoon gochujang paste (optional)
4 cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 eggs (1 per person)

for the sesame spring onion salad*:
4 spring onions, white and light green parts only
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
salt

- If you don't have cooked rice, start there and cook your rice - I never have enough cooked rice so this works fine with freshly cooked rice.

- Next start your sesame spring onion salad. Slice up the spring onions into thin strips but cutting each spring onion into three then into two length ways then finely slice them to get skinny match stick like pieces. Stir in the sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and sesame seeds an season with salt. Set aside.

- Next, drain your kimchi reserving it's liquid and roughly dice.

- Heat a large saucepan (everything will end up in here so make sure it'll fir your rice) over medium heat and fry your onion and garlic until translucent and fragrant. Then add the diced kimchi and cook until the edges start going crispy or it start to stick to your pan. Add the reserved kimchi liquid and the gochujang paste and cook for 2 minute more.

- Right now is a good point to get your eggs frying in a skillet with a lid on low heat. Add a little oil to the pan and crack the eggs in once the pan is hot, turn the heat right down, cover with a lid and cook for about 4-5 minutes or how ever long long to your preferred yolk runniness.

- While your eggs are slowly cooking away, add the cooked rice to the kimchi pan and mix thoroughly until the rice is coated in the sauce, the kimchi is mixed through and everything is steaming hot. Add a good splash of soy sauce and taste - season if needed.

- Serve the kimchi fried rice topped with the sesame spring onion salad and soft fried egg.

* if you do not want to make the sesame salad I would advise stirring a teaspoon of sesame oil in with the soy at the end and sprinkling the rice with sesame seeds to serve.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Sushi Sandwiches from 'The Zen Kitchen' by Adam Liaw

Sushi Sandwiches. Yes they are a thing. Yes they are amazing and delicious and sooo much easier for sushi noobs like myself who can never, I mean never make a sushi roll successfully without the entire thing splitting and getting sticky rice everywhere.

The Zen Kitchen by Adam Liaw | sushi sandwiches | salt sugar and i

The Zen Kitchen by Adam Liaw | sushi sandwiches | salt sugar and i


These miracle little sushi bundles, actually called onigirazu in Japan are from Adam Liaw's new cookbook 'The Zen Kitchen' which is full of Japanese recipes you can make in your own kitchen. The recipes are a great mix of easy and simple but also don't lack the Japanese food we all know and love from our local restaurants. I've never been to Japan so can only judge on what I know from here and some recipes I recognise, some I don't and others I cannot wait to try! Theres are a few odd ingredients here and there that you can't get in the generic supermarkets but would be easy to find in any asian grocery store. A little planning before you spontaneously crave Japanese food to stock your store cupboard and you'll be set for any mid-week Japanese craving you may have. Since the only take-out that delivers to us is pizza, Thai and Indian. I'm stocking up this weekend to get some miso paste, bonito flakes, sake and mirin.

More about these sushi sandwiches you say.. ok ( or just want to watch Adam make them? )

The Zen Kitchen by Adam Liaw | sushi sandwiches | salt sugar and i

The Zen Kitchen by Adam Liaw | sushi sandwiches | salt sugar and i

As soon as I finished clearing up our ikea dining table that I'd turned into a little sushi sandwich making bar I sat and wrote this. I needed to share. I need others to know how great homemade sushi is with little technique, you won't feel like a total failure when making it and I can assure you the amount of sticky rice in your hair at the end is reduces dramatically.

I attempted standing on one of the chairs to get some sort of photo series to actually show you how easy this is, and get some shots from above (not on a blue bench) but I was firmly spoken to by 'hanger' to sit down and stop taking photo's so we could eat. And boy was it good. We wolfed them down and I didn't get sticky rice on my elbows (or hair!) this time making sushi at home.

The Zen Kitchen by Adam Liaw | sushi sandwiches | salt sugar and i

The Zen Kitchen by Adam Liaw | sushi sandwiches | salt sugar and i

The Zen Kitchen by Adam Liaw | sushi sandwiches | salt sugar and i


Here's the thing, I actually can't believe someone didn't tell me about this earlier or I didn't figure it out. I mean I've made myself thousands of sandwiches before... it just seems logical now you think about it. Or is this some secret Japanese secret that Adam Liaw just told the whole of Australia/the world?! If it was, thankyouthankyouthankyou and I'm sorry if your grandmother scalded you for sharing it but again, thankyou for this genius way of making sushi at home.

Next on the list to make is the agedashi tofu - my favourite!

Sushi Sandwiches

from 'The Zen Kitchen' by Adam Liaw (ever so slightly adapted)

1 cup cooked rice per sandwich (see recipe for sushi rice below)
1 sheet nori per sandwich
your favourite sandwich or sushi fillings (see below for my favourites)
soy sauce and wasabi to serve - optional

- Place a sheet of nori on a piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board with the shiny side facing down. Spread 1/2 cup rice in a 10cm square at a 45 degree angle to the nori. Top the rice square with your choice of filling and cover with the remaining 1/2 cup rice.

- Fold the corners of the nori sheet into the centre to create a square with the filling inside. Gather the plastic wrap around the sandwich and leave wrapped for at least 10 minutes for the seaweed to soften and stick to the rice if you can wait that long... I couldn't.

- Use a sharp knife moistened with a little cold water to slice through the centre of the sandwich to reveal the filling, and serve.

Favourite fillings:
Tuna & onion mix (recipe below)
Avocado
Carrot cut into match sticks
Cucumber
Teriyaki chicken
Cooked prawns

Sushi Rice

adapted from 'The Zen Kitchen' by Adam Liaw

4 cups short-grain rice (or sushi rice)
125ml rice wine vinegar
30g caster sugar
5g salt

- Rinse the rice thoroughly and cook according to the packet instructions/rice cooker/this link.

- Place vinegar, caster sugar and salt in a saucepan and stir over low heat until all the sugar and salt is dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature. 

- Transfer rice to a large bowl to cool slightly and gradually sprinkle over the vinegar mixture a little at a time stirring the rice using a spatular. Give it a little taste and see if you need to add more if unsure. 

Tuna & onion mix

This is not only great in these sushi sandwiches but is probably one of my favourite regular sandwich fillings too. My mum used to make this for me as a kid and to stop my sandwich going soggy she'd put it in a little container to add to at school. This will also keep for 2 days in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

180g can tuna in spring water
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 heaped tablespoons mayonaise
salt and pepper

- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Taste to see if you need more or anything listed above. 

- Place in between your favourite bread or in a sushi sandwich.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Pane Cafone - Neapolitan Peasant Bread from Gennaro's Italian Bakery

I get food envy. I see home bakers post photo's of homemade sourdough bread and sourdough starters overflowing and my question to these lovely people is... 'how have you found that extra few hours in the day that I am somehow missing? Whats the secret?!?' I can hardly keep my pot plants alive let alone attempt sourdough these days.

If you're like me and also get these envious feelings because of homemade bread then I have a recipe for you, it's going to fulfil your sourdough eating and making cravings but doesn't have the responsibility. It's perfect for all those fellow sourdough dreamers out there. You get the same crusty, chewy homemade bread but it's all in a nights work. No feeding a starter or keeping anything alive. It's the no commitment needed, faux sourdough loaf... the single girls sourdough AND it's midweek friendly. You read that right. Freshly baked bread on a Wednesday. Yep.

Pane Cafone - Neapolitan Peasant Bread from Gennaro's Italian Bakery

This genius recipe that does all the work while you sleep is in Gennaro Contaldo brilliant new cookbook Gennaro's Italian Bakery. The Pane Cafone, Neapolitan Peasant Bread. It's a traditional Italian recipe for a no-knead bread from Naples originally baked in a wood-oven. It has a 24 hour slow rise then a little folding and resting, then its just baking your little loaf in an extremely hot oven in an extremely hot cast-iron pot. It's changed my bread making days forever.

Pane Cafone - Neapolitan Peasant Bread from Gennaro's Italian Bakery

This little loaf was so delicious and simple. The crust was satisfyingly crunchy and chewy with the inside having more flavour then other homemade breads as the slow rise gives it that almost sourdough taste. It was a seriously good loaf of bread and even kept well the next day, just needed a little reheat in a warm oven and it was just as good as straight out of the oven smothered in salty butter.

The recipe calls for fresh yeast but unless you know someone in the industry or want to buy a large amount of it, the dried stuff you get in the supermarkets works fine. I used roughly half the amount in dried yeast which worked out to be just under a 1/2 teaspoon - I've made a note in the recipe below. Also make sure you have the sharpest knife you own ready at hand to score the top once you place the dough in the hot pot. I fumbled and didn't have a sharp knife ready so didn't get a nice pattern or lift on top of my bread but thats just being picky now and I'm so stoked with the recipe, sharp knife or not. It's going to taste delicious.

Pane Cafone - Neapolitan Peasant Bread from Gennaro's Italian Bakery

There are so many more recipes in Gennaro's new cookbook that I cannot wait to get stuck into like the olive oil soaked focaccia, traditional Italian pizza dough, Calzone, Sicilian Brioche filled with gelato and beautiful fruit and jam tarts. If these other recipes are anything like the Pan Cafone, they are going to change the way you work with dough. Everything looks so beautiful in this cookbook, a little rustic but it has home and tradition all over it. My advice to you my lovely readers is; go now and get your self some dried yeast (or fresh if you're lucky) and start the recipe below because in 24 hours you could have a little loaf just like mine. No food envy, just 24 hours of dreaming of the best home made bread you'll make.

I know I'm off to put together another batch of Pan Cafone so I can have a freshly baked 'faux sourdough' little loaf tomorrow night.

Pane Cafone - Neapolitan Peasant Bread

recipe from Gennaro's Italian Bakery by Gennaro Contaldo
(adapted ever so slightly - with notes)

3g fresh yeast - or just under 1/2 a teaspoon dried yeast
250ml lukewarm water
375g strong bread flour - plain all purpose flour works too
1 teaspoon salt

- Dissolve the yeast into the lukewarm water and set aside. Place 300g of flour in a large bowl, add the yeast mixture and mix in gently with a spoon (this will look like a shaggy mess, thats ok). Combine the remaining flour with the salt in a bowl, then add this to the flour and yeast mixture, gently mixing until all ingredients are amalgamated (you may need a little more water, so add it carefully). Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest in a warm place for 24 hours. Small bubbles will appear and this is normal.

- After 24 hours, place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and gently fold over a couple of times to form a ball. Cover with a clean tea-towel and leave to rest for a further 2 hours.

- After 1 hour, preheat the oven to 220C/450F and place an empty cast-iron pot (without the lid) in the oven.

- Remove the pot from the oven and carefully place the bread inside. Make a couple of incisions on the top of the dough using a very sharp knife, cove with the lid and place immediately back into the hot oven on the bottom shelf.

- Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes.

- Remove from the oven, leave in the pot for 10 minutes, then turn out of the pot onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely - if you can wait that long! Slice and enjoy.

Friday, 9 September 2016

eggplant parmigiana from The Dinner Ladies

For the past two weeks I've been cooking for one, or should I say cooking for six and eating the same thing all week while still filling my freezer. I've also eaten a lot of random rice bowls. Not the lovely vibrants looking ones which are all over instagram where these amazingly organised people keep dressings and sauces and roasted vegetables just lying around ready to make a rice bowl on demand. The kind of rice bowls I've been eating start with those 90 second rice packets, a hard boiled egg, a can of tuna and a random mix of anything else leftover from the previous nights dinner or a can of beans on top. And let me tell you they are not instagram worthy at all... I sit watching trashy tv after night school and am so hungry that I could eat anything which is why I can stomach my random rice bowls which lack flavour and texture but do a great job at filling a hole.


So when the lovely cookbook The Dinner Ladies by Katherine Westwood and Sophie Gilliatt arrived in the mail I was only too happy to start cooking from it. I mean it promised to fill my freezer and it is all about doing the prep work in advance and enjoying midweek dinners rather then being the headless chook most of us are when trying to complete these trendy 15 minute meals. The only catch is you need to be organised and prepared. Something I am somewhat good at and others times I envy everyone who manages to look like they have their stuff together.



Flicking through this book the are pages full of feasts just waiting for a family to dig in like twice cooked master-stock pork belly, three-bean chilli, lasagne, sausage rolls and also lighter dishes for the warmer nights like sesame prawn stir fry. The book comes with all the tricks to make feasts happen without the stress. It shows you it possible to eat a delicious, substantial dinner (that isn't a dodgy rice bowl) midweek. A couple of these cook ups in the freezer and my weeknight dinner disaster is sorted.


The recipe I chose to make first from this book was the eggplant parmigiana. I'm not the biggest meat eater when I cook for one and I LOVE eggplant and tomatoes and mozzarella so this was a perfect option. The fragrant bunch of basil in the local greengrocer also caught my eye or should I say nose as the smell was incredible. Summer is coming!!

It's starts with thickly slicing the eggplants and roasting them in a hot oven with salt and olive oil while you cook your basic tomato sauce. Once they are both done it is time to start assembling. If you are making it ahead, wait until everything is cooled before assembling but if you are going to cook it straight away start assembling the roasted eggplant and the tomato sauce with generous amounts of fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese making sure you end with a cheese layer on top. Bake it in the oven until cooked though and bubbling at the sides. The recipe suggests to serve it with a green salad but I couldn't help but add some buttered pasta to mine too... I'm a carb lover what can I say.


The eggplant parmigiana from The Dinner Ladies will definitely start becoming a regular midweek dinner for me. Especially if I can make it over the weekend then just bung it in the oven midweek and dinner is done. So easy, so delicious and I think it's going to make the BEST filled baguettes for lunch the next day too. YUM.

The Dinner Ladies by Katherine Westwood & Sophie Gilliatt is published by Murdoch Books, September 2016 (RRP $39.99)


eggplant parmigiana

recipe adapted ever so slightly
from The Dinner Ladies by Katherine Westwood and Sophie Gilliatt
serves 4-6 as a side dish or 2-3 as a main

2 medium eggplants, about 1.25kg
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium brown onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
3 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped (I used a pinch of dried thyme)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 very large handful basil leaves
150g fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced or torn roughly
50g parmesan cheese, grated

Make ahead: The whole dish can be assembled up to 3 days ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge. Bake it on the day you mean to serve it and serve warm or allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

- Preheat oven to 180C/350F.

- Line two baking trays with baking paper. Cut the eggplants into slices about 1.5cm thick, sprinkle with salt, lay them on the baking trays and brush with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. If not making ahead, leave the oven on.

- Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium-low heat and cook the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt for about 10-15 minutes until soft and sweet, stirring occasionally. When completely soft, add the tinned tomatoes, thyme and a splash of water and continue to cook gently, partially covered, for about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar and taste for seasoning - you may need to add a pinch of salt and/or sugar if the tomatoes are particularly sharp. Set aside to cook.

- Now to start the assembly. In an oven proof dish, place a layer of eggplant on the bottom. Top with one-third of the tomato sauce, then half of the basil, a third of the mozzarella and a sprinkling of parmesan. Repeat until you have three layers of eggplant, finishing with mozzarella and an extra snowing of parmesan on top.

- Place in the centre of your oven for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling at the sides. Serve warm or at room temperature with a mixed leaf salad and/or some buttered pasta and/or a crusty baguette.