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Conchiglioni with Roasted Tomato, Caramelised Onion & Chorizo

When I saw these conch-shaped pasta shells in the supermarket, I actually stopped in the middle of the aisle, eyes wide like saucers, oblivious to the muttering woman behind me who had almost run her trolley up my rear end.

As I stood in the aisle mesmerised by all the things I could picture myself doing with this pasta, I realised I hadn’t had these for the longest time- and certainly had never cooked them myself. I had enjoyed them at my grandma’s house, dripping in home-made tomato sauce or baked under a lovely sprinkle of mozzarella crust as  pasta al forno.

This large, shell shaped pasta is perfect for soaking up delicious sauces or being stuffed with tasty ricotta based fillings. Think of it as a shell shaped cannelloni. Even though before they are cooked the shells have a wide, deep scoop, when cooked, they curl up on themselves, nestling all the flavours in their shell. It’s like a big pasta hug.

I chose to do a slow-roasted tomato, caramelised onion and chorizo accompaniment for this pasta because I knew it would soak up those flavours perfectly. Of course you could have this sauce with your penne or fettuccine as well.

This is an easy after work dinner- simply pop the sauce ingredients on a baking tray for about 40 minutes while you catch up on housework or unwind from the day- then just cook the pasta and toss it all together.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of conchiglioni pasta
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 3 mushrooms, whole
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 red capsicum, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 chorizo sausage, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup Basil leaves, roughly chopped (or dried basil)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C (fan forced). Arrange tomatoes, onion, garlic, mushrooms and capsicum on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook in the oven for about 40 minutes to an hour.You want the tomatoes to be soft, slightly browned and collapsing. Don’t fret if there’s a bit of colour on your onions or capsicum- it adds to the flavour, but if your onions have burnt, peel off the outer few layers.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water with a generous amount of salt and olive oil to prevent the pasta sticking together. When cooked, drain (retain 3/4 cup of the pasta water in a separate cup or bowl for later) and set aside in the same saucepan, covering it with a lid.
  3. Once the tomato mix has cooled somewhat, cut the tip off the garlic cloves and squeeze out the roasted garlic. With a wooden spoon, squash the tomatoes down- it’s not about perfection, it’s going to look ‘rustic’ (translation: sloppy)- don’t stress about it! Slice the mushrooms thinly.
  4. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil and the sliced chorizo and cook for a few minutes until it has picked up some colour. Add the tomato mix to the pan with the tomato puree and pasta water, stir it around until the sauce begins to thicken and emulsify.
  5. Add the pasta to the pan, toss through the sauce and add your spinach and basil leaves until they wilt. Season to taste.
  6. Serve with Parmesan and some crusty bread.

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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Delish Dinners

 

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Strawberry & Pistachio Tarts

I hate making pastry. If I can get it from the frozen food section at the supermarket, why would I bother with the mixing, kneading, rolling, blah, blah, blah, right?

But sometimes, you just NEED to make pastry from scratch otherwise the recipe just isn’t the same. This is one of those recipes.

If you are lazy pressed for time, then I’m sure this delectable tart will be pleasantly acceptable with some pre-made frozen shortcrust pastry. But if you want a va-va-voom, toe-curling, eye-rolling explosion in your mouth, make it from scratch. I promise I will never force you to do it again.

I used Ina Garten’s recipe. Ina’s recipe calls for pretty, shelled and halved pistachios. I pounded the crap out of mine in a bag with a rolling pin for a little more texture. Between the sweet berries, crumbly buttery pastry and crunch of the pistachios, this is a great recipe for when you want to impress and worth the extra effort.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cold shortening (recommended: Crisco)
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 2 cups Pastry Cream, recipe follows
  • 2 pints whole strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1/3 cup apricot jelly
  • 3 tablespoons shelled pistachios, halved, optional

Method

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and shortening and pulse about 10 times, or until the butter is in the size of peas. Add the ice water and process until the dough comes together. Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Roll out the dough and fit into 4 (4 1/2-inch) tart pans with removable sides. Don’t stretch the dough when placing it in the pans or it will shrink during baking. Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of each pan. Line the tart shells with a piece of buttered aluminum foil, butter side down, and fill them with dried beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, prick the bottom of the shells all over with a fork, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
  4. Before serving, fill the tart shells with the pastry cream. Arrange the berries decoratively on top of the cream. Melt the apricot jelly with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the top of the tarts. Sprinkle with pistachios, if using, and serve.

Pastry Cream:

  • 5 extra-large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups scalded milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Cognac
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.
  2. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Don’t be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, Cognac, butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.
 

Slow Cooked Steak & Bean Tacos

Today’s recipe is going to be a big cluster of photos because I felt like doing a step by step post today. If you’re on a slow internet connection or a download limit….my bad.

I haven’t decided if I like this format or not, but sometimes a visual does make explaining things a little easier.

I love Mexican food, love the flavours of beans, mouth watering shredded meats, tart lime juice, corn, avocado- yum, I drool just thinking about it.

I’m not trying to pretend to be some super awesome authentic Mexican cook, because I’m not. Let’s be real, for the first 18 years of my life, any Mexican food I ate was made from an Old El Paso burrito kit or in a food court, made by a pimple-faced teenager who couldn’t even pronounce jalapeno.

This is how we make it in my house and this is how we like it. Authentic or not, the flavours are good and everything tastes that much better when you make it yourself. You know what’s in it and you appreciate it more when you know what you went through to make it.

You can substitute chicken for the beef in this recipe and it’s just as delish.

My favourite part of this recipe though is the handmade soft corn tortillas. The meal looks a little more ‘rustic’ (my tortilla making technique isn’t the best without a tortilla press), but the taste is worth it!

With the guacamole, I believe the traditional recipe calls for chopped coriander. I personally hate coriander so have avoided it in this recipe.

As usual, my measurements are approximate. I go by taste and feel most times, but I’ve done my best to be accurate. We had leftovers for lunch.

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Posted by on February 2, 2012 in Delish Dinners, Luscious Lunches

 

Challah French Toast with Blueberry Compote

Lazy weekend breakfasts are my thing.

It took me a while, but I’ve learned to love breakfast. It should be special and I think that people don’t celebrate it enough anymore. It should be the highlight of the weekend, a time to congregate around the table with your loved ones, reflect on the week and unwind while enjoying scrumptious food.

Our Saturday morning breakfast was messy, runny and ever so delish. The Challah was the perfect bread for these thick slices of French Toast- soft yet absorbent, it mopped the cinnamon-scented egg and milk mixture right up and even after the frying process, it was beautiful and soft and melt-in-your-mouth.

 

INGREDIENTS

For the French Toast:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Challah or Brioche loaf, cut into 6-8 thick slices
  • 3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter

For the blueberry compote:

  • 2 cups frozen blueberries
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

METHOD

  1. First, get your blueberry compote started. Combine 1 cup of the blueberries, water, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan.
  2. Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the blueberries and cook for 8 minutes more, stirring frequently. Cover and keep warm until you’re ready to serve it over the French Toast.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large, shallow bowl.
  5. Dip each slice of bread into the mixture, ensuring that both sides have soaked up the liquid.
  6. Heat a large frying pan on medium heat and melt a tablespoon of butter.
  7. Cook the bread in batches until both sides are golden. Transfer them to a baking dish and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining slices.
  8. Serve the French Toast with a few spoonfuls of the warm blueberry compote. If you’re feeling extra naughty, a scoop of ice-cream or whipped cream and maple syrup would be perfect too.
 

Chocolate Peppermint Log

This was an old post originally published in August 2010, however I have had a few friends ask me about it so I thought I’d edit the post, put some new more recent pictures with it….and promise to start my diet tomorrow.

The original post continues below.

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When I go out to eat, I always, without hesitation, order the fanciest, most overdone, pretentious, bordering on ridiculous dessert I can find on the menu.

A part of me takes joy in the destruction of such works of delectable art. It’s a power trip of epic proportions. I break the desserts apart, burrow through them with my spoon like I’m digging for long lost treasure and smoosh everything together on the spoon while trying to get a bit of every single flavour into my mouth at once (always attempted in a lady like fashion, of course). That is part of the fun of eating out.

So when I’m home it’s quite the opposite. I don’t have the time, energy or patience for intricate desserts. Rough and dirty baby, that’s how I like ’em. Unlike the awful things I do to the pretty restaurant desserts, mine look ravaged prior to being served up. Cue recipe for the Chocolate Peppermint Log.

I like to think of this one as an Aussie Christmas tradition- someone will undoubtedly bring one to every Christmas lunch. Now, we can turn our noses up at the chocolate biscuit and whipped cream creation and act like we’re way above it all, but deep down, we’d all happily sit down and demolish a slice of this log without hesitation. I’ll keep your secret if you keep mine.

The chocolate peppermint log may not be ostentatious, it may not take half an hour to plate up or present as delicately and intricately as some of the other desserts out there, but it’s flavourful, quick, easy and the kids love to help make it. See, that’s what I’m all about. Bringing the family together. For sugary, chocolately, fat-laden treats. That’s me. I’m going to be a great mother one day….

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of Chocolate Ripple biscuits (plain chocolate biscuits can also be used)
  • 450ml thickened cream
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 Peppermint Crisp chocolate bar, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 Cadbury Flake chocolate bar, finely chopped (I also use Peppermint Aero instead of Flake)

Method

  1. Combine cream, caster sugar and cocoa in a large bowl. Mix with electric beaters on med-high setting until  peaks form and cream is whipped enough to spread with a knife. Add half of the chopped/grated Peppermint Crisp chocolate.
  2. Take a chocolate biscuit and spread thickly with whipped cream. Repeat with a second biscuit. “Glue” the biscuits together and repeat the process, spreading whipped cream on one side of each biscuit and gluing together to form a log shape.
  3. Once you’ve formed the log, take the remaining whipped cream and smother all over the log, covering it generously. You dont want to see any of the biscuits peeking out. Make sure you smooth the cream down the sides and all the way to the bottom.
  4. Sprinkle remaining Peppermint Crisp chocolate down the middle of the log and top with Flake chocolate. Refrigerate for 6 hours.
  5. To serve, slice the cake on a diagonal angle so you can see all the lovely layers of chocolate and cream.
 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Devilish Desserts

 

Banana & Pineapple Pancakes

Pancakes are a weekend ritual in our house and now that summer has arrived, I found myself becoming uninterested in pancakes and wanting fruity, tropical flavours for breakfast. This may have also had something to do with the remaining bottle of pineapple juice in my fridge and the bananas in the fruit bowl begging for mercy.

These pancakes were a nice change and perfect for a warm, sunny summer brunch. Next time, I’ll do just pineapple and coconut. It will be like a pina colada pancake! Ok. I’ll stop.

You can put the pineapple chunks or ring into the batter if you like, but I couldn’t be bothered. Maybe next time!

INGREDIENTS

  • 225g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 overripe banana, mashed
  • 35g (1/3 cup) desiccated coconut
  • 2 tbs caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 40g butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • extra butter, for greasing
  • Vanilla ice-cream, to serve
  • Maple syrup, to serve

METHOD

  1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in the coconut and sugar. Make a well in the centre.
  2. Whisk together the pineapple juice, milk, butter, vanilla and eggs in a bowl. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture. Whisk until just combined, don’t over-mix or they’ll be too tough and chewy.
  3. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat. Grease the pan with a generous amount of butter.
  4. Ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and spread to form a 12cm-diameter pancake. Cook for 2-3 minutes each side or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.
  5. Repeat with the remaining batter, greasing with butter between pancakes. You should get about 8 pancakes from this recipe.
  6. Top with ice-cream and drizzle over maple syrup.

Recipe adapted from Taste.com.au

 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Beautiful Brekkies, Sinful snacks

 

Brandy Snaps with Orange & Ricotta Cream

I’ve always wanted to make brandy snaps. For years, they’ve been a Christmastime treat, but they always struck me as too difficult, too fiddly, too poncy to make.

So this year I decided I am going to make them myself for next Christmas, but knowing me, I’d need a bit of practice because they just seemed too hard, so I propped myself on the couch and watched an hour of Youtube videos on how to shape them. That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back, but it gave me some confidence to try it!

Mine are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, some were deformed and I struggled a little with consistency, so next time I’ll try to perfect those things, but overall, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be! I recommend you giving it a try if you’ve been reluctant like I was. It totally opened up a new door to me once I did it and I got excited thinking about all the possible future recipes I could create after learning such a simple technique.

For a spin on the traditional whipped cream filling, I chose an orange and ricotta cream- orange and brandy seem to go well together and I chose to halve the whipped cream intake by adding ricotta… I’m not sure if a dietician would approve, but it sounded good in my head. And tasted even better on my lips! MM MMM!

 

INGREDIENTS

For the brandy snaps:

  • 1 stick of salted butter (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup golden syrup (or molasses)
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 tbsp brandy or cognac

For the filling:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tbsp orange juice or Cointreau

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. To start on the brandy snaps, place butter, sugar, syrup and brandy in a medium saucepan over low heat; cook and stir until butter is melted. Stir in flour slowly and mix until it’s smooth.
  3. To ensure consistency, use a measuring spoon for 1 tbsp of batter. Drop the batter about 3-4 inches apart on a lined tray. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.Keep an eye on the oven because everyone’s oven is different and these can go wrong so fast…I should know!
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to touch- about a minute or so. Gently peel the ‘biscuit’ from the tray and quickly wrap it around something with a tubular shape- a fat wooden spoon or cooking utensil, etc. If they get hard and uncooperative, pop them back in the oven for about 10 seconds and they’ll be pliable again.
  5. Allow the biscuit to cool around the mould and then gently remove and set aside.
  6. While the biscuits are cooling, start on the filling. Beat together butter, ricotta, cream, caster sugar, orange zest and orange juice/Cointreau until it’s smooth and glossy and beautiful. You want the cream to be light and fluffy.
  7. Get your piping bag ready! Pipe the filling into cooled brandy snaps just before you’re ready to serve them.
  8. Sit back and enjoy praise from husband while telling him how difficult they are to make and hinting you need a foot massage.
 
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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Devilish Desserts, Sinful snacks

 
 
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