fresh egg noodles with coriander, chilli and toasted peanuts. with hippy vic

noodlesbetter

It’s been a while since my last joint post with my beautiful friend Vicky (otherwise known as Hippy Vic). Four long months, to be exact. In a simple recollection I would’ve guessed it as being weeks, not months; however we’ve just celebrated Christmas and in a few days, we’ll be rolling over to 2014. Time flies.

Last Sunday, Aaron and I had the privilege of spending a sunny afternoon with Vicky, her husband Mark and their two children. We drank Peroni near the pool, sharing tales from the week-that-was as the sun slowly dropped below the horizon.

peroni

In the cool evening air, Vicky took me on a tour of her flourishing edible garden. Fat heirloom tomatoes hid amongst sprawling vines, dappled with the last of the weekend sun. Tiny strawberries sat nestled against blackened earth, dotted with seeds and awaiting their splash of crimson. We picked tiny peaches and fragrant herbs, eagerly discussing the intricacies of pie as sticky juice flowed down our chins.

heirloomtoms strawberries4Mark decided to make fresh pasta for dinner; after a quick flip through Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals he decided upon fresh egg noodles with coriander, chilli, sesame oil and soy from a ‘meal set’ including satay chicken and fruit in mint sugar (for the uninitiated, 30 Minute Meals is a recipe book that is divided into ‘meal sets’ containing main, side and dessert).

One hour later, we were sitting on Mark and Vicky’s verandah eating piles of fragrant noodles topped with crunchy toasted peanuts and soft coriander. We washed it down with Mango beer from Matso’s Broome Brewery; a perfect summer combination for a balmy night in Western Australia.

pasta limeskins

We ended the night with a game of street tennis (on bikes, nonetheless) and a collaborative fresh peach pie made from the freshly harvested peaches.

Just think cinnamon-encrusted shortcrust pastry, piles of soft, fragrant fruit, drizzled caramel and crunchy toasted almonds. You’ll get the recipe, eventually. It was definitely good enough to share.

peaches

The recipe below has been adapted from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (refer to page 112 if you have a hard copy, or follow this link if you don’t). We’ve made a couple of minor changes, exchanging peanuts for the specified cashews and fresh egg noodles for dried. Vicky and I also doused our noodles with a squeeze of fresh lime for extra tang.

If you’d like to make this recipe more substantial, feel free to add 200g sliced chicken thighs, pork fillet or prawns (double the chilli paste, marinate the meat in half of it for 20-30 minutes. Drain then fry in hot peanut oil whilst your egg noodles cook. Toss with the noodles and the rest of the chilli paste just before serving; top with fresh coriander, toasted nuts and some fried Asian shallots of you have some handy).

noodledish

Fresh Egg Noodles with Coriander, Chilli and Toasted Peanuts

Adapted from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals

Serves 4 as a light meal, 6 as a side dish

  • 400g fresh egg noodles (or 300g dried medium egg noodles; one nest per person)
  • 1/2 a medium-sized red Spanish onion
  • 1-2 fresh long red chillies (to taste)
  • a small bunch of fresh coriander
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 fresh limes
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp honey
  • peanut or olive oil, for frying
  • 100g toasted unsalted peanuts or cashews, crushed
  • fried Asian shallots, extra sliced chilli and sriracha to serve, if desired

For ingredients and instructions on how to make fresh egg noodles, follow this link (you can make the noodles by hand with a rolling pin, however we used Mark and Vicky’s pasta machine for convenience).

pastamachine

If using dried noodles, place them in a large bowl and submerge in boiling water. Cover the dish with an upturned plate, then leave to soak for 6 minutes or until tender. Drain and refresh briefly under cold water, drain again and toss in some peanut or olive oil. Set aside.

To make the curry paste: peel and roughly chop the red onion. Place it into the food processor with the chilli (roughly chopped, stalk removed) and the roots and stalks from the coriander.

herbsPulse until finely chopped. Add in the soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, honey and the juice of one lime. Taste and adjust flavourings as necessary.

paste paste2

Heat a small splash of peanut oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Toss in the noodles and chilli paste. Fry gently until fragrant, then add in half of the toasted peanuts and another squeeze of fresh lime.

Divide between four bowls, top with the rest of the toasted peanuts, coriander leaves and extra fresh chilli and lime, if desired. Enjoy with an ice cold beer and summer sunshine.

noodlesbetter

I hope that you all enjoyed a peaceful and merry festive season, filled with food, generosity, laughter and other good things.

Thanks to every one of you for your friendship, humour, inspiration and support over the past twelve months. Here’s to a wonderful start to 2014!

rosemary lights

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alfajores payes – TSP christmas cookie week

stackbutton2It’s 1.23am on Friday 20th December, 2013. Instead of getting ready for bed, I’m kneading a batch of cinnamon shortbread dough. Why? Well, firstly because I promised you a recipe for alfajores payes in this post from almost a fortnight ago. Secondly, because I kinda like my friend Erin from The Speckled Palate.

Erin’s hosting a Christmas Cookie Week this week and today’s the deadline for adding to the gorgeous stack of delights including salted caramel thumbprint cookies, vanilla bean shortbread cookies and classic coconut macaroons (all recipes available via the Christmas Cookie Week link). As abovementioned, by contribution to this week’s cookie goodness is a recipe for alfajores payes, chocolate-coated Argentinean shortbread cookies filled with thick salted dulce de leche caramel.

spreading dish

The recipe I’ve included for alfajores payes was originally sourced here from The Gourmet Traveller. After completing a trial batch, I made some minor changes including a reduction in the diameter of the cookies (my first batch were 6.5cm but I found them to be a little too large, so I’ve reduced the measurement in the recipe to 5.5cm), doubling the amount of cinnamon for spiced goodness (from 1/4 to 1/2 tsp) and adding a sprinkling of sea salt atop the dulce de leche before sandwiching the cookies together (the little ‘pop’ of sea salt flakes adds a gorgeous layer of complexity to this already divine Argentinean biscuit).

I also chose to make the shortbread dough by hand rather than with a food processor, because… well, I’m a bit like that. Floured hands, cold butter and a wooden bench make me feel like I’m doing good in the world.

setup

You may also notice that I’ve dipped my sandwich biscuits into the tempered chocolate rather than spreading it with a pastry brush. This was mainly due to being time poor, however I have included both techniques in the recipe text below. The advantage of brush application is that the top and bottom layers of chocolate set independently, creating a neater finish. Dipping each biscuit is far more efficient but will likely create a ‘foot’ of chocolate that pools as the liquid sets.

As this will likely be my last post before the Christmas arrives, I’d like to wish everyone a blessed, merry and peaceful Christmas week. Thanks for the Christmas wishes and inspiration over the past month!

two

Alfajores Payes (cinnamon shortbread with caramel filling)

Makes 24 sandwich biscuits.

*Begin this recipe one day ahead.

Biscuits:

  • 2 cups (300g) plain flour, sieved
  • 1/4 cup (40g) pure icing sugar, sieved
  • 250g cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Dulce de leche filling:

  • 395g can sweetened condensed milk, unopened
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes

To serve:

  • pure icing sugar, to dust, or
  • 150g tempered melted dark chocolate (65% cocoa solids), to coat

For the dulce de leche: Place the can of condensed milk in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then cook, covered with a weighted lid, over low heat for 3 1/2 hours. Do not uncover or touch the can whilst it cooks as it may explode.

Turn off the heat, then leave to cool completely (for at least 2 hours) before removing the can. Ensure that the can is completely cold before opening it. Transfer the caramel to a bowl, add in 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes and stir to combine completely. Cover and refrigerate whilst you make your biscuits.

For the shortbread biscuits: Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and 1/4 tsp fine sea salt in a bowl. Dice the butter and add it to the dry mixture gradually, rubbing it in until the mixture comes together. Knead until a dough forms, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.

Roll the dough out to 5mm thickness on a floured work surface, then cut into rounds using an upturned glass or a 5.5cm diameter cookie cutter (re-roll the scraps). Transfer to flat, even baking trays lined with baking paper, then refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Remove the biscuits from the refrigerator once chilled, and transfer directly to oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Cool for 5 minutes on the tray, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

To serve: Spread half of the cookies with dulce de leche. Sprinkle on a few flakes of the extra sea salt, then top with the remaining biscuits. Place onto a wire rack.

spreadcircle

Temper your chocolate (I’m not going to go into the finer details here, see David Lebovitz’s guide or my friend Trixie’s blog for instructions), then brush one half and sides of each biscuit with melted chocolate.

dip dipped

Tempered chocolate cools fast, so if you’ve processed your chocolate properly the coating should set within the hour. Turn over and brush the other side with melted chocolate, stand until set (as explained above, I placed all of my melted chocolate into a shallow bowl and dipped half of each biscuit into it. After allowing excess chocolate to drain, I placed the biscuits onto lined trays to set).

chocolate

Store your biscuits in an airtight container in a cool place for up to four days.

the-speckled-palate-blog-banner-MOVING

A huge thanks to the gorgeous Erin also for the opportunity to participate in the event that is Christmas Cookie Week. Make sure you check out The Speckled Palate‘s official link for much more cookie goodness!

spiced redcurrant and onion relish

window

As of today, it’s exactly one week until Christmas. I have no idea how that happened; in the corner of my brain it seems like yesterday was the start of November.

The last few weeks have passed in a flurry of work commitments, family events, end-of-year parties and early Christmas gatherings; all beautifully rich and memorable (except work, of course) but tiring just the same. Last weekend, my friend Miriam and I spent over seven hours cooking an Asian-inspired tapas feast as an early Christmas party for our friends; we rose with the birds, measuring clouds of wheaten flour and kneading potsticker pastry to the soundtrack of summer cicadas.

Thick beef ribs were smothered in a mixture of sticky black vinegar, palm sugar and star anise before being wrapped to slow cook for three hours under foil. We julienned carrots, spring onions, green mango and cucumber, some to be flash fried whilst others were marinated in lime juice, sugar and sesame oil.

mason stalks2

It was an absolutely beautiful day; fat with friendship, food, laughter and celebration. As seems to be my trend these days, I brought the camera but deliberately failed to use it.

Don’t get me wrong, there were endless opportunities for worthy photo capture. However, I’ve come to think that some moments are too beautiful, too immediate and real to be marred by the obstruction of a camera lens.

redcurrantbowl scales2

The purchase of ingredients for last Saturday’s Asian feast necessitated at least three trips to markets around Perth city for meat, vegetables, oriental groceries and bamboo steamers. During one such trip, I spied a punnet of translucent red jewels, fat and delicate against their woody green stalks. I immediately recognized them as redcurrants and being the food nerd that I am, my heart skipped a happy beat.

Needless to say, I squirreled the punnet home in a calico bag with some fresh limes, various leaves, organic peaches and two green mangoes. It took me a few days to work out what to do with them (as I’ve never used fresh or frozen redcurrants before) but after some internet trawling I discovered this relish recipe from BBC Good Food.

currantssilhouette closeup2

As an English ex-pat, I grew up eating various types of condiments with my Christmas meat; cranberry sauce, redcurrant jelly, chunky apple sauce and booze-spiked gravy. As I’ve grown older, our Christmas fare has transitioned slightly from traditional turkey to cold seafood and summer pudding; however, I still love a thick slice of roast ham or turkey with a dollop of piquant fruit relish.

This particular relish is all kinds of beautiful – glossy, dark and sticky, sweetly acidic and crimson-stained. I dolloped it over beef burgers last night with fine cheddar, creamy avocado and spinach leaves (it’s the Australian summer, after all) however it would be equally good as an accompaniment to your turkey or ham on Christmas day.

Wishing you all a wonderful festive season; may the final week before Christmas be beautiful, calm, organized and memorable in the best of ways.

stalkscloseup

Spiced Redcurrant and Onion Relish

Adapted from this recipe from BBC Good Food

Makes approximately 1 cup (250ml)

  • 100g redcurrants (fresh or frozen), stripped from stalks
  • 1 red Spanish onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 medium red chilli, chopped (remove seeds if you’re not fond of chilli heat)
  • 1/2 red pepper (capsicum), de-seeded and diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small knob (about 1.5cm) fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100ml red wine vinegar
  • 70g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder

Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add in the onions and peppers, fry until charred and softened. Remove from pan and set aside.

cook ooked

In the same pan, add half your vinegar, the chilli and garlic. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the aromatics have softened, return the onion and pepper mixture to the pot, adding in the rest of the vinegar, spice, sugar and 1/2 tsp salt.

Simmer until the mixture thickens to a syrupy consistency. Add in the redcurrants and simmer on low-medium for five minutes or until some of the berries burst and the liquid becomes syrupy.

boilingaddcurrants endboil

When sticky and aromatic, pour the mixture into a sterilised jar (process the jar in a boiling water bath if you intend to keep the relish long term). Seal and store for up to 1 month unprocessed (in the refrigerator) or 12-18 months if processed (in a cool, dark place).

Enjoy generously dolloped onto burgers, with cold meats, spiced sausages or slathered over fresh crusty bread with butter and English cheddar. This would also make a delicious condiment on a cheese platter with wholemeal crackers and oozing ripe brie.

spreadaccompaniments dollop burger

summer

freosheds

Its almost half past ten on Saturday morning. I’m sitting, bleary eyed, in a pool of white light flooding through our kitchen window. The warmth feels good against my tired eyelids; a nourishing, incandescent balm. I can smell the earthy fragrance of my herb seedlings toasting in the morning sun. Not ideal, but comfortingly ambrosial.

We went to the most beautiful of Christmas gatherings last night. It was hosted by my friend Alex, with a Spanish Feliz Navidad theme. We sat under a canopy of weathered tree branches and fairy lights, drinking sangria and spicy Tempranillo from patterned glasses. I neglected to bring a camera, so I’ll attempt to build a picture with words: imagine a balmy night, soft air drifting through tree branches as fairy lights gently dot the sky. Flamenco plays in the background as candles flicker against metal and glass.

We sit at a long timber table, plates generously heaving with orange scented chicken, spicy chorizo, beef meatballs and patatas bravas. Blistered broad beans rub shoulders with lemon zest, chilli and fried jamon as fragrant orange segments marry with blackened olives and red onion. Sweet juices are eagerly mopped up with woodfired bread. It’s a merry dance of food, music and conversation.

Towards the end of the evening, as the candles burned down to their wicks, we sat quietly drinking strong tea and the last remnants of sangria. Spoons scraped against earthenware bowls in a gentle rhythm, retrieving cold bites of vanilla bean ice cream, Pedro Ximenez soaked raisins and Alfajores Payes: chocolate dipped Spanish cinnamon cookies sandwiched with homemade salted caramel.

It was my plan to give you the recipe for Alfajores Payes today as part of the pre-Christmas weekend celebration; however, as I failed to bring a camera to last night’s event I have no photographs of the finished product. Here’s a mid-stage image of the cookie sandwiches to whet your appetite (post is now up via this link):

sandwiches

For the rest of this post, I’m going to share an eclectic range of images from the past few weeks as we’ve bid farewell to sweet springtime. Mornings now breathe a rhythm of heat and humidity, dappled sun and steaming bitumen. Dry grass crackles underfoot.

Summer has begun.

shade

Towards the end of November, we attended the Beaufort Street Festival in Mount Lawley. Public art, live music, scorching heat, dog shows, food vendors and sweating Australians in wife beaters and thongs.

Highlights for the foodie in me were spiced, Mexican cream slathered elotes and ice-cold Espolon Tequila slushies from El Publico. Incredible salted caramel ice cream sandwiches from Cantina 663 sold like hot (cold) cakes. frozenmargarita dinos biketable

We also played beer stack’ems at The Flying Scotsman beer garden. Plastic cups, many hands, torn coasters and a camera. We’re creative like that.

stackemscoasters

For some reason there were stormtroopers, who must have been baking in their costumes. Seeking shade was a wise choice.

troopers2 kidsdrawings

Last weekend, we attended the very similar Leederville Carnival on Oxford Street, Leederville. The day was slightly cooler, softened by a cool breeze.

We drank strawberry lemonade at Duende whilst feasting on mushrooms and haloumi. We hunted for four-legged friends amongst chutney vendors, buskers and crowds of hipsters. I played I-Spy through pieces of fresh ciabatta.

leedystreet mushys breadglasses dogbin2Aaron and I also travelled to Fremantle for a day trip, in celebration of our second anniversary. We spied lovers on railway boomgates whilst feasting on ice pops from La Paleta at the Urban Locavore market, MYRE Perth. I chose cucumber and chilli, Aaron chose the rich, creamy coconut. So delicious.

photopole cucumberpop coconutpop

fence1We drank coffee at Ootong and Lincoln, home of the famous lentil burger that I mentioned in this post. You can spy the menu on the right hand side of the second picture.

ootongwall ootongcounterThe season of pavlova with thick Greek yoghurt (this one was made by my friend Erin), fresh-picked mint, plump berries and cider has begun…

HAPPY SUMMER to my Southern Hemisphere friends. Until next time (there shall be a recipe, I promise).

berries erinspav

spiced date and almond cigars with saffron honey

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Those of you who regularly read this blog would be aware of my long-standing obsession with Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s something to do with the fragrant mix of spices, delicate florals, bleeding saffron and the earthy crunch of nuts, occasionally punctuated by sweet bursts of pomegranate or quince. It’s breathtaking art, both on the plate and the palate. I doubt that my adoration will ever wane.

Recently, my love of Israeli food has translated to an obsession with Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. Two months ago, I purchased both Plenty and Jerusalem; both have subsequently been pored over at least once per week. I’ve made a few of his vegetable recipes, from this green herb salad to an adapted version of braised artichokes with freekeh. However, prior to last weekend I was yet to attempt one of his fragrant desserts.

pistachios

pistachiosmpCue last Saturday. Aaron and I had invited some friends over for dinner in a ‘Moroccan feasting tent’ (a.k.a an abstract tent of sheets, blankets and rough twine that had initially been assembled for the entertainment of our nephew and nieces who had stayed over the previous weekend). Here’s a small snapshot of the ‘roof’:

sheetceiling

I lovingly planned the menu: slow cooked lamb in spices and preserved lemon, flatbread with za’atar, split pea dip, beetroot with labneh, marinated sweet peppers and roasted carrots with pistachios, pomegranate and mint.

After some consideration, I decided to attempt an adaptation of Ottolenghi’s sweet pastry cigars with almond and cinnamon filling for dessert.

filo

For personal reasons, I drastically reduced the sugar in Ottolenghi’s recipe, omitting the saffron icing and exchanging most of the sugar in the filling for chopped Medjool dates. When cooked, the dates formed a beautiful soft caramel that intermingled beautifully with the chopped nuts and spices.

Before serving with vanilla bean ice cream, I drizzled over some saffron and orange blossom infused raw honey, scattering over sweet crushed pistachios and dried rose petals.

deansbeesrosecrush

The finished dish was a beautiful marriage of textures, colours and flavours. Each bite provided the crunch of fried pastry, the soft complexity of the date and nut filling, sweet fragrant honey and floral rose petals.

We enjoyed the cigars alongside creamy vanilla bean ice cream, however for those of you who avoid dairy, these cigars are perfectly beautiful when eaten on their own. Their natural sweetness would be a perfect pick-me-up on a dreary afternoon.

eating2

Spiced Date and Almond Cigars with Saffron Honey

Adapted from this recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi

Makes 8 large or 16 small cigar pastries

  • 40 g finely chopped walnuts
  • 60 g finely chopped almonds
  • 60g Medjool dates (about 4), stoned and chopped
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 20 g raw caster sugar
  • 75 ml water
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  • 3 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 medium egg, separated
  • 16 filo pastry sheets (12 cm x 18 cm)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) sunflower oil (approximately), for frying

To serve:

  • 2 tbsp raw honey (I used Dean’s Bees unprocessed honey from Urban Locavore)
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 1/4 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1 tbsp roasted, coarsely crushed pistachios
  • unsprayed dried rose petals (optional), crushed

Place the walnuts, almonds, dates, cinnamon, sugar, water and salt into a medium pan.

fillingpotGently heat over a low flame, stirring regularly for about four minutes or until the sugar has dissolved and the dates have softened and broken down. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Whisk in the lemon rind and the egg yolk (place the white into a small bowl, you will require it to roll the pastries) to create a thick, sticky mixture like this:

mixture

Set the filling aside. Place 1 filo pastry sheet onto a clean, dry surface with the longest edge facing you. Spread about three tsp of the nut mixture (15-20g) (about 3 tsp) in a long, thin strip along the edge closest to you (leave a 1cm gap on the right and left sides).

fillingspread

Fold the two sides in, sticking the pastry down over the paste to hold in the filling. Roll the pastry forwards (away from you) to create a compact cigar.

rollingBrush the last 1cm of the pastry with egg white, then fold to seal the end. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling.

Pour enough oil into a medium, heavy based frying pan to reach 2cm up the side of the pan (note: I actually added much less oil that this and they cooked beautifully, so use your discretion). Heat to 190 degrees C (375 degrees f) or until a cube of bread sizzles and cooks, turning gently brown in about 20 seconds.

Gently add the cigars to the pan, in batches if necessary, cooking for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden and crisp all over (reduce the heat if they start to blacken or burn).

frying

Remove each cigar with a slotted spoon. Drain on some paper towels.

fried

To make the infused honey: gently heat the honey in a small saucepan over low heat until warm and fragrant. Turn off the heat and add in the pinch of saffron, leave for 5-10 minutes to infuse. Splash in a little orange blossom water to taste. Mix well.

Slice each cigar on an angle into two or three pieces to serve. Drizzle with infused honey and scatter with pistachios and rose petals, if desired.

aerialeatingfinish

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