the mexican table

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A couple of Sundays ago, Aaron and I got together with Matt from Inspired Food and Jemima from Feed Your Soul, Perth for the continuation of our ‘Table’ series, i.e. a sequence of themed long-table dinners with several dishes per course prepared by each blogger (and in this case, some talented family and friends).

As per our Moroccan and Spanish Table posts, you’ll find my recipes from the dinner below, alongside links for recipes prepared by Jemima, Matt, Lexi and Jamie (Lexi being Jemima’s sister and Jamie being a friend of the group who also happens to cook at Co-op dining).

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As per usual, it was a pretty epic afternoon filled with incredible food, abundant beverages (lots of beer and Mexican cola) and the best of company. A big thanks goes out to Matt and his partner Alyssa for hosting this year’s Table dinner at their gorgeous new(ish) home alongside their hero puppy Max (who has recovered from some massive medical complications over the past twelve months. So good to see him running around again).

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Props also go out to Aaron aka ‘the dog whisperer’ who managed to both create art and keep Max and Loki occupied whilst the rest of us prepared tostadas, guacamole and street corn. Serious skills right there.

Just look at these little faces:

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Without further ado, here was our menu for the day:

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We did learn slightly from our last feast (emphasis on slightly) and created less dishes per person, however after hours of snacking on leftover guacamole, we were rather stuffed by the time dessert appeared.

But with something as epic as this masterpiece by Jamie (below, containing layers of brownie pieces, lime curd, pureed avocado, chocolate mousse, chocolate soil, candied and fresh finger lime and candied chilli; no I am not joking) we all took to the last course with gusto.

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The only one to scrape the glass clean was Aaron, who had paced himself through the main courses due to an erroneous belief that we had ‘about five more things to come’ (after his Spanish Table experience). Maybe I should try and do the same next time.

I hear we’re cooking Indian.

chillies sauce

Salsa de Chile Rojo

Makes 1.75 cups

  • 3ox (85g) dried chillies – I used a combination of 70% smoky chipotle and 30% mixed arbol, ancho and pasilla (be aware that the combination of chillies you use directly affects the heat level of this sauce. I went a little overboard – as in mindblowingly hot but incredibly delicious – you might want to ‘up’ the ancho and pasilla content to 50%)
  • 1.5 cups hot water
  • 1/8 cup (2 tbsp) tomato sauce
  • 1/8 cup (2 tbsp) olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp crushed sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cumin seeds

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Spread the dried chillies in a single layer over a heavy baking tray, then transfer to the hot oven. Toast for 3-4 minutes, turning if necessary, until fragrant (do NOT allow your chillies to blacken or burn as they’ll become incredibly bitter). Allow to cool.

With a sharp knife, remove the stems, seeds and membranes/pith from the chillies.

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Discard. Place the remaining chilli flesh into a large bowl and cover with the hot water (add a little extra if they are not completely submerged). Soak until softened (about 45-60 minutes).

Process the soaked chillies in a food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer into a medium saucepan with the garlic, oil, remaining water, salt, oregano and cumin.

Simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use straight away or transfer into a sterilised jar or bottle for later use.

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Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

Based on this recipe from Serious Eats with reference to Sam Ward’s Esquites recipe published in Recipes and Ramblings Volume II (Beaufort St Network)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 ears fresh corn, shucked
  • 2 tbsp whole-egg mayonnaise + 1 tbsp to serve
  • 1/3 cup (100g) feta or cotija cheese, finely crumbled
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced spring onions
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers (to taste), seeded and stemmed, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • zest and juice from 2 limes + extra lime wedges, to serve
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp arbol chilli powder

Heat a char-grill or barbecue to high heat. Ensure all strands of husk are removed from the corn, then grill on each side until you achieve a ratio of about 30% very dark to 70% lightly charred corn (if you don’t have a barbecue, feel free to do this over a gas flame. Just be very careful!). Allow the corn to cool completely, then remove the kernels with a sharp knife.

Place a large heavy based frypan or pot over medium heat and add the oil. Sweat the the spring onions, jalapenos and garlic until translucent. Add the corn, lime juice and a good splash of water (about 1/2 cup) then bring to a simmer.

Cook for about 10 minutes or until the corn is cooked and the mixture is fragrant. Add in the lime zest, mayonnaise, cheese, coriander (reserve a little to serve), about half the arbol chilli powder and a good dash of salt and pepper (to taste). Mix well and transfer to a large bowl.

Dollop over the reserved tablespoon of mayo, garnish with coriander and dust with the remaining arbol chilli powder. Crack over some black pepper and serve with lime wedges on the side.

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Until next time, keep track of Matt (aka Inspired Food) via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and say hello to Jemima (aka Feed Your Soul, Perth) right here: Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

barbecued chilli con carne with beer

Chilli Con Carne-2074

In case you missed my last post, Aaron and I are now three days into a European adventure which began in Paris on Wednesday 9th July, 2014. To keep the blog running during my absence, a few wonderful blogger friends have offered to contribute guest recipe posts for your reading (and cooking) pleasure over the next few months (yes, the blogger network is amazing).

First off the block is my talented friend Matt, a mutual Mexican food and beer lover who blogs over at Inspired Food. As he mentions below, we met last year at the Eat Drink Blog conference hosted by Perth City Farm and ever since, we’ve maintained a passionate dialogue about everything food and beer related (yeah, you could say that the post below perfectly encapsulates our foodie friendship!).

I’ll be posting a travel update soonish (with plenty of photographs of golden croissants, warm brioche, soft white cheese and wild strawberries… don’t hate me) but for now, it’s over-and-out as I hand over to Matt! Enjoy!


It’s mid afternoon. The sun is hidden behind an army of clouds, occasionally peeking its head through the cracks. The wind has a cold sting as it brushes past my face and I take comfort in the warmth radiating from the charcoal barbecue. Smoke fills the air as a cast iron pot simmers away, filling my soul with joy about what’s to come…

You see, I’ve been sitting here for over three hours watching the barbecue and tending to that cast iron pot of goodness (ensuring I don’t burn down the backyard!). Thankfully I’m sitting with good company and an Esky full of cold beer (I’m sure Laura would agree that it is never too cold for beer, especially when there is a barbecue involved! Yes, Laura does!).

That is all it takes: a little time, a little fire, a little beer and some of your favourite people.

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Hi, my name is Matt. For those of you who haven’t noticed me stalking this page, I too run a little recipe blog over at Inspired Food. Laura and I have known each other for quite some time now, initially coming across each others blogs in cyberspace and eventually meeting up at the Eat Drink Blog conference in 2013. Since then, there have been a number of awesome dinners (The Moroccan Table and The Spanish Table) with Laura and her husband Aaron, Jemima (from Feed your Soul, Perth) and her sister Lexi, Alyssa (my beautiful girlfriend) and of course myself. I’m sure there will be many more to come.

When Laura asked for contributions from guest bloggers while she travels the northern hemisphere, I jumped straight in and volunteered to spend some of my time rambling. This was more of a natural instinct to help a friend out and I hadn’t actually given much thought as to what I would post about. After many late nights trawling the internet, searching through my cookbooks and watching reruns of Jamie Oliver (ok, yes that is just a regular occurrence but shhh!) I finally came up with the perfect post.

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You see, Laura and I share some common interests: we both love beer, we both love Mexican food and we both love Jamie Oliver’s style of cooking. Naturally, once I realized this, all I had to do was combine these three things and I’d be onto a winner.

Combining beer, Mexican and a ‘Jamie approach’ to cooking was really easy once I came to that conclusion. I had just watched episode two of Jamie’s American Road Trip (you know, the one where he hangs out with the cowboys and makes his cowboy chilli?) and that was my inspiration for this post. I wanted to feel the heat from the barbecue, drink beer and cook something amazing.

Chilli Con Carne-2005

I have always wanted to cook something with beef brisket but it’s quite difficult to find here in Australia. Supermarkets tend to favour corned Silverside. I’d suggest you give your butcher a call a few days before to make sure they carry it (and if they don’t they will have time to get it in). Brisket is the perfect cut of beef for slow cooking; granted there is a little preparation involved but it is well worth it. The beer adds a lot of body to the chilli and depending on the type of beer you choose, the options are endless.

Below you will find my recipe for a Tex-Mex style ‘Beer Chilli Con Carne’. Inspired (of course) by Jamie Oliver’s cowboy chilli (‘Chilli Con Jamie‘).

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Barbecued Chilli Con Carne with Beer (of course)

Serves 6-8 hungry people

What you’ll need:

  • 2kg beef brisket, cut into 3 cm cubes
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 5 gloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 fresh long red chillies, chopped
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (add more if you like it hot)
  • 1 bottle of beer (pick your favourite, I used about 500ml of India Pale Ale)
  • 4x 400g tins of tomatoes 
  • 1 square of dark chocolate
  • 400g tin of red kidney beans (or your favourite bean) 
  • 2 capsicums (bell peppers), sliced
  • a handful of chopped coriander (cilantro) roots
  • sour cream, to serve
  • coriander (cilantro) leaves, to garnish 
  • rice and flat bread to serve

Now What?

This couldn’t be easier to make, simply get your barbecue started, add a splash of oil, add the onions and chillies and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.

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Add the spices and cook for another 2 minutes.

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Then add the beer and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.

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Add the tomatoes, mashing up any whole ones with the back of the spoon. Add the chocolate, coriander (cilantro) roots and meat.

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Mix well, cover and cook for 3 hours or until the meat pulls apart with a couple of forks.

Add the beans and capsicums (and more chilli if your game). Then cook for a further 30 minutes.

Remove the lid, add the sour cream, coriander and start eating. This is best served with rice and flat bread (like warm tortillas) with plenty of cold beers. 

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Thanks again Matt for an incredible guest post… I am definitely trying this recipe as soon as I get home! For more inspiration from Matt, please check out his blog (Inspired Food) and associated facebook, Instagram and twitter!

Chilli Con Carne-1998

the spanish table

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Last weekend, I traveled to the coast of Andalucia. Well, at least in a culinary sense. The air was crisp and cool, the table strewn with colourful plates, glasses and embroidered fabric. I feasted on unctuous pork belly, spicy chorizo, smoky chicken wings, crisp broad beans and fried potatoes in spicy tomato sauce… tapas plates, all in aid of the second installment of what’s becoming a bi-monthly ‘feast’ tradition between myself, Jemima (Feed Your Soul, Perth) and Matt (Inspired Food).

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If you missed the first installment of the series, take a look at our Moroccan Table feast here. It was a night of giant proportions; incredible food, delicate cocktails, compulsive photo taking and great conversation. We had so much fun that we and our significant others (Aaron, Jemima’s sister Lexi and Matt’s girlfriend Alyssa) decided that we just had to do it all again. So last Saturday, we arrived at the same venue, readily equipped for a second round of cooking and feasting. That brings me back to my introductory point, tapas plates.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, tapas is the Spanish term for small, snack-style grazing plates that are served alongside beverages with ample conversation. I can’t quite remember how we decided on the the tapas theme. It was most likely the joint realization of three ambitious cooks who had just produced enough food to feed an army.

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Back to last Saturday afternoon. We arrived at Jemima and Lexi’s house in the late afternoon with ingredients, enthusiasm and multiple glazed dishes (presentation is everything, right?). We started eating at around 4.30pm and finished up about five hours later. Yes, five hours of eating. But to be fair, there was a lot of cooking, drinking and conversation in-between.

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Here’s the menu:

Chorizo and olives in cider sauce
Marinated peppers with fresh herbs and goats cheese

Spiced cauliflower with chilli yoghurt dressing
Patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce)
Broad beans with chorizo and lemon
Paprika chicken wings
Cider braised pork belly with apple and fennel puree
Cheese and chorizo croquettes
Churros with warm chocolate sauce
Snickers brownie with chilli chocolate sauce
Dulce de leche ice cream

Yes, there were only six of us, and by the end of the night we were in literal food comas. That brought on a fair whack of delirium… and the byproduct, a mini-series pitch for ‘The Adventures of Gherkin Girl’. By the end of the night, we had decided on 1) Aaron as lead animator and 2) Mr Suave Potato Head as a love interest. Both neither agreed nor disagreed. Watch this space.

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Anyway, we’ve decided that the second and third installments of our ‘feast’ series will be Indian and Mexican respectively, so get ready for more epic posts over the next few months. But in the meantime, please scroll down for three of my four recipes from our Spanish Table. The fourth recipe, marinated bell peppers with herbs and goats cheese, is available here (for reasons which may become obvious as you keep scrolling).

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Patatas Bravas

Adapted from this recipe by Mary Cadogan, BBC Good Food

Serves 8 as a tapas dish

For the spiced tomato sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red (Spanish) onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped (remove the seeds if you’d like less heat)
  • 1 pinch raw sugar
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • chopped fresh Italian parsley and finely grated lemon zest, to serve
  • Manchego Viejo (aged Spanish sheep milk cheese), to serve (optional; substitute Parmesan)

For the potatoes:

  • 900g blue or red potatoes (I used Royal Blue)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed slightly (leave skins on)
  • fresh herbs (optional as this is non-traditional, I used sage, rosemary and thyme)
  • smoked sea salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, for frying

For the spiced tomato sauce: Heat the oil in a large pan or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add in the garlic and chopped chilli, fry for another minute before adding the tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock, smoked paprika, sugar and salt. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until reduced and fragrant. Season to taste. Set aside for up to 24 hours for the flavours to develop.

For the potatoes: Fill a large saucepan with water, then place over high heat. Cut the potatoes into 2x2cm cubes, add to the water with a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until just cooked through. Drain well in a colander for 10-15 minutes (or until still warm but dry on the outside).
Heat the 2 tbsp of oil in a large heavy-based pan over medium-high heat with the garlic and herbs. When sizzling, toss in the potatoes and sprinkle with smoked sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Fry, turning regularly until the potatoes are crisp and golden on all sides. Drain on paper towels before tipping the potatoes into a serving dish.

Reheat your tomato sauce if necessary. Serve, either atop the potatoes or in a separate serving dish, sprinkled with the parsley, cheese (if using) and lemon rind.

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beans

Broad Beans with Chorizo and Lemon

Serves 8 as a tapas dish
  • 250g frozen or fresh double podded broad beans
  • 1 chorizo sausage, skinned and roughly chopped (I like to crumble mine into rough chunks by hand)
  • 1/2 long red chilli, finely sliced (remove seeds if you wish)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • finely grated zest from 1 lemon
  • a dash of sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • handful of fresh parsley, washed, leaves picked
  • lemon wedges, to serve

Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oil starts to separate and the meat starts to crisp up. Add in the crushed garlic, chilli and broad beans. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broad beans are slightly golden and crisp.

Pour over a little sherry vinegar and sprinkle over the parsley leaves and lemon zest. Mix well and season to taste.

Transfer into a serving dish and top with the lemon wedges. I like to eat these broad beans with a squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the rich oil of the chorizo.

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icecream

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Adapted from this recipe by Mariana Crespo, Epicurious

Makes 1.5 litres

  • 2 cups full-cream milk
  • 1 cup pure cream (not whipping cream)
  • 350g dulce de leche (Argentinean caramel, I used El Asador brand)
  • 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract

Add the milk and cream to a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Allow to boil, then immediately remove from the heat. Add the dulce de leche and whisk continuously until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla. Taste and add a little salt if desired. Transfer into a bowl or airtight container, then refrigerate for 3 hours or preferably overnight.

When completely chilled, pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any lumps. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to directions. Transfer into an airtight container and place in the freezer until ready to serve.

We served this ice cream alongside warm churros, brownies, plentiful chocolate sauce and peanut praline. Absolute bliss.

brownies dipThanks again to Jemima, Lexi, Matt, Alyssa and Aaron for being wonderful cooking, drinking, cleaning, inventing and dancing buddies over the past two feast nights. It’s been grand.

Check out Matt’s photos from the feast night and his and Alyssa’s recipes for chorizo and olives in cider, paprika chicken wings and churros with chocolate sauce here.

Follow this link to see Jemima’s post and her and Lexi’s recipes for spiced cauliflower, cider-braised pork belly, croquettes and snickers brownies with chilli chocolate sauce.

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pork carnitas with lime and chilli guacamole

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There’s something about Summer that makes me crave Mexican food. As blistering days melt into hot, blackened evenings, my mind starts drifting towards cool guacamole, spiced brisket, fragrant coriander and salt-rimmed margaritas.

It’s an obsession that I share with my good friend Matt, who recently blogged about his Mexican New Year’s feast over at Inspired Food. Pork carnitas, home made tortilla chips, pineapple salsa and chunky guacamole… now, that’s my idea of Summer culinary heaven.

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Over the past month, I’ve revisited Matt’s post more than once to drool over his carnita recipe. Despite cooking Mexican at least once per week, I’ve historically gravitated towards brisket, chicken and black beans rather than smoky, slow-cooked pork shoulder. Though I have made carnitas, they’ve never been to the specifics of Matt’s recipe.

Last Sunday, everything changed. I woke early, arriving at the market with carnitas in mind. Negotiating the aisles, I chose pork, garlic, onion and oregano alongside items for guacamole, esquites and salsa. I checked out, drove home and ascended three flights of stairs to our apartment.

I turned on the air conditioning and started unpacking each bag of groceries. Bag one, no oranges. Bag two, limes… but no oranges. Bag three? Darn it. No oranges.

I glanced at the window, my eyes narrowing in the glare of the blazing sun. Sweat dripped from my brow as I contemplated another insufferable dash to the local store. No oranges equals no pork carnitas; well, not according to Matt’s recipe. But out of desperation (and encroaching heat stroke) I decided to improvise.

panI rummaged around in the fridge, desperately unearthing lemons, limes and a bottle of The Cidery’s still apple cider. As pork goes naturally with apple, I decided to douse the shoulder in the cider whilst exchanging the oranges for a lemon. In the back of my mind, I hoped that the sweetness of the cider would balance the lemon’s extra acidity. I had no idea if it would work.

After removing the rind from the pork, I decided to score the flesh before making small incisions to house slivers of peeled garlic. Much like my technique for slow-roasted lamb, the idea was for the garlic to slowly infuse during the cooking process, melting down into sweet, sticky goodness. As an afterthought, I grilled the crackle alongside the meat, crumbling it into pieces to add to the carnitas upon assembly.

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After recently sampling Brookfarm’s fragrant lime and chilli infused macadamia oil, I decided to substitute it for vegetable-based oils in both my pork carnita and guacamole recipes.

In my mind, the gentle heat, nuttiness and tang of the infused oil would add a beautiful layer of complexity to both dishes. The golden hue of the oil also looked spectacular against the creamy guacamole and vibrant splashes of paprika.

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Six and a half hours later, five boys and one girl sat around a table to eat succulent, slow-roasted pork, crispy crackling, tomatillo salsa, esquites, pickled cabbage and creamy guacamole. Piles of warm tortillas were claimed with eager hands from their nest of aluminium foil.

After sampling the meat, I’m pleased to report that the Brookfarm oil certainly added an extra layer of smoky complexity. Each bite was soft and delicious, contrasting beautifully against the pop of crackling, sweet kernels of corn, acidic cabbage and cool guacamole. In absence of required oranges, the proxy lemon and cider worked effectively to add both sweetness and tang to the meat. I was well pleased (and so were the boys, judging from their seconds… and thirds).

So; despite yet another failure in my history of following recipes, I have to admit that this was a beautiful improvised success. But next time, I’m stockpiling oranges. For Matt’s carnita recipe, of course.

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Pork Carnitas

Serves 8-10

  • 2kg boneless pork shoulder, rind removed
  • 80ml Brookfarm lime and chilli infused macadamia oil
  • 1 red onion, roughly diced
  • 4 garlic gloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ancho chilli powder
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 500ml (2 cups) dry apple cider
  • 200ml water
  • 1 jalapeno chilli, halved (seeds left in)
  • sea salt flakes
  • freshly cracked black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano and ancho chilli powder. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, then mix well.

Place the pork into a shallow dish that will fit in your refrigerator. Cut a few shallow slashes into the surface of the meat, then rub in the spice mix (ensure that you massage the spices well into each slash and crevice). Using a sharp knife, make eight 1-cm incisions over the surface of the meat; stuff half a garlic clove into each.

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Cover and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Place the pork into a large pan or ovenproof dish, then add in the lemon zest and juice, cider, water, sliced jalapeno chilli and diced onion (add a few extra garlic cloves if you like). Drizzle over the Brookfarm lime and chilli oil, then grind over some more salt and pepper.

pan2Cover tightly with foil and place into the preheated oven; immediately reduce the oven temperature to 150 degrees C (300 degrees f).

Cook the pork for 5 1/2 hours or until the meat falls apart when poked with a fork. Uncover and cook for another 30-45 minutes, basting with the cooking liquid until the sauce reduces and the pork starts to brown.

Remove from the oven, place the pork onto a heat-proof plate and cover it with foil. Drain the sauce into a small pan and reduce it over medium heat until thickened. Shred the pork with a fork and pour over the reduced sauce. Mix well and add a little more lemon, salt or pepper according to taste.

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Serve the pork on a large platter, accompanied by warm tortillas, lime wedges, guacamole (recipe to follow), salsa, esquites (or blackened corn salad), sour cream and extra cheese if desired.

guacamole

Lime and Chilli Guacamole

  • 2 medium ripe avocadoes, peeled, stones removed
  • 1 tbsp of chopped ripe tomato (you can leave the seeds in)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped Spanish onion
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp Brookfarm lime and chilli infused macadamia oil, plus extra to drizzle
  • sea salt
  • white pepper
  • smoked paprika, to serve
  • coriander leaves, to serve

Coarsely mash the avocadoes onto a chopping board (or in a bowl, if you prefer). Squeeze over the lime juice and season well with salt and pepper. Make a well in the centre, then add in the chopped onion, tomato, macadamia oil, lime zest, garlic and cumin.

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Mix well, taste and add a little more salt and pepper or lime juice if required. Serve in a small bowl, drizzled with some extra macadamia oil, garnished with coriander and/or dusted with smoked paprika.

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Disclaimer: Brookfarm supplied me with a sample of their lime and chilli infused macadamia oil for the purpose of this recipe post. However, I was not compensated and as always, all opinions are my own.

the moroccan table

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Blogging is a funny thing. When I first began Laura’s Mess back in May 2012, it was predominantly intended as a personal record of my scribbled recipes, photographs and stories. Twenty months later, I’ve produced eighty six posts, learned how to use photo editing programs and formed friendships all around the world that are predominantly based on a mutual passion for home cooking, writing, local produce and nourishing those we love.

In recent months, one of the most precious benefits of blogging has been the formation of new friendships with a group of talented Perth bloggers, most of whom I met at the Eat Drink Blog conference in November 2013. To name just a few, there’s Laura (Laura Moseley), Bryton (Food in Literature), Whitney (Dine Whit Me), Matt (Abstract Gourmet) and Ai-Ling (Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse).

However, among the crowd of eighty-odd people, there were two bloggers that I instantly hit it off with: Matt (Inspired Food) and Jemima (Feed Your Soul, Perth). Since the conference, we’ve kept up a continued foodie dialogue whilst also meeting on occasions for good eats and company.

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APPLEMINT

I expect it’s something to do with our youthful enthusiasm, a mutual love of food (evidence below) and our growing cookbook collections. Whatever it is, I feel blessed and inspired to be part of it.

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Where there’s food, there’s us.

A few weeks ago, Matt, Jem and I decided that it was time to hold a joint dinner party for our favourite long-suffering taste testers: Matt’s girlfriend Alyssa, Jem’s sister Lexi and my Aaron. After some initial brainstorming, we decided on a loose Moroccan theme packed with spices, nuts and grains.

The date was set for Sunday, 19th January 2014. Matt and Jem chose mains whilst I volunteered for appetizers and dessert. The excitement grew. And we waited.

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The day finally arrived in a flurry of heat, sweat and activity. Matt and I completed most of the food preparation at our respective homes before arriving with Alyssa and Aaron at Jem and Lexi’s in the late afternoon. The evening was warm, sticky and bright. We sipped on apple and gin cocktails, waiting for the sun to set whilst chatting about our dishes, food blogging and life in general.

Aaron, Lexi and Alyssa chatted too; mostly about the shared pains of living with a food blogger (and the benefits, thank goodness!).

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As the night continued, we cooked, laughed and consumed a beautiful array of dishes ranging from spiced chicken tagine to delicate orange salad. Jem and Lexi’s home smelt like a Middle Eastern market, rich with cinnamon, vine fruits and orange blossom.

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It was a privilege to see my friends ‘in action’, cooking and styling their dishes for service and photographic presentation. After cooking together, I’ve been even more inspired by their natural talent, culinary knowledge and genuine love of food.

I’ve included the full menu from our night below. As the appetizer and dessert recipes were mine, you’ll find them attached at the base of this post. For main dish recipes (and to say hello to Jemima and Matt) please click on the hyperlinks below.

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Drink:

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Appetizer:

  • Split pea bessara dip with smoked paprika
  • Burnt eggplant with tahini and pomegranate
  • Moroccan flat bread (khobz) with za’atar

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Mains:

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Dessert:

  • Pistachio and rose ice cream
  • Cardamom and orange blossom ice cream
  • Almond pistachio shortbread cookies

As you’ve probably guessed by now, this is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written, containing five recipes in detail. However, after reading through and following the hyperlinks, I assure you that you’ll have everything you need to throw a Moroccan-themed dinner party just like we did.

I do hope you enjoy our recipe link-up as you join us around our virtual shared ‘Moroccan Table’. Thanks again to Matt, Alyssa, Jemima, Lexi and Aaron for the beautiful company, conversation, foodie inspiration and wonderful, fragrant dishes that entice the senses.

breaddips

Split Pea Bessara Dip

Adapted from a recipe by Hassan M’Souli

  • 125 ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 250g dried green peas, rinsed
  • 45g harissa (Moroccan chili paste)
  • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • sea salt

Place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in the olive oil and crushed garlic, cooking for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add in the peas and cumin; cook, stirring regularly, for 3 minutes. Pour in 2 cups (500ml) of water and bring to the boil.

Cook for 10 minutes or until the mixture starts looking dry and the peas have absorbed most of the water. Add in another 2 cups (500ml) of water and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the peas are soft and easily pressed between your fingers.

Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes. At this stage, you can puree the dip if you’d like it smooth. Otherwise, return the pan to medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the peas start to split and completely soft. Stir in the harissa, then season to taste.

Cool slightly before serving, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with smoked paprika.

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Burnt Aubergine with Tahini and Pomegranate

This recipe was made exactly from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem cookbook. I’m not going to rewrite it here, however many other bloggers have including Brian Samuels (see link here). It’s a beautiful, bold and piquant dip. If you’d like a tutorial for something similar, see my baba ghanouj post.

Moroccan flatbread (Khobz)

This is a slightly bastardized version, seeing as I’ve never been to Morocco. It’s been adapted from several recipes around the web, including this one.

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 7g envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 4 cups bread flour flour
  • 2-3 tsp flaked sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds, toasted and crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • optional: 1 free-range egg + 1 tbsp water, to brush
  • optional: 1 tbsp za’atar, to sprinkle

In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of the warm water and the raw honey. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes, or until foamy.

Place the flour into a large bowl and stir in the salt and caraway seeds. Make a well in the center and pour in the oil and yeast mixture.

mix

Start mixing the dough together, adding small amounts of the remaining water until you have a smooth, soft dough that can be easily handled (I had about 1/4 cup water left over).

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Return the flour to a clean, oiled bowl before covering with a wet tea towel. Place in a warm, draught-free position and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

rest

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (356 degrees f) and heat two flat, heavy-based oven trays. Deflate the risen dough before dividing it into two equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten into an oval that is about 2cm thick. Use a butter knife to draw three slashes upon the top of each loaf.

If glazing your loaves, quickly beat together the egg and water in a small bowl. Brush each loaf with the mixture and sprinkle with za’atar.

Splash each hot tray with a little oil, then carefully transfer your loaves onto the trays. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the loaves are shiny and golden brown. Serve warm with the above dips or some good-quality olive oil for dipping.

baked

Pistachio and Almond Shortbread

Makes about 16 cookies

  • 115g butter, room temperature
  • 110g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
  • 1 pinch flaked sea salt
  • 165g plain flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup toasted mixed pistachios and almonds, crushed coarsely

Place the plain flour into a bowl with the icing sugar, cinnamon and salt. Rub in the butter until you have a firm dough. Mix through the toasted nuts.

dough2

Shape the dough into one long log (about 8 inches long) and tightly wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (365 degrees f). Line a heavy-based baking tray or cookie sheet. Cut the dough into 1cm thick slices and transfer each slice to the lined tray.

cut

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until set and slightly golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks before serving, sprinkled with a little extra cinnamon if desired.

Pistachio and Rosewater Ice Cream

Adapted from this recipe by The Food Network

Makes about 1 litre

  • 150g shelled, toasted pistachios, crushed finely
  • 450ml whole (full fat) milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g sugar, divided into two
  • Pinch of flaked sea salt
  • 1 tbsp rosewater
  • 4 free-range egg yolks

Place the pistachios, milk, cream, half the sugar and salt into a large saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to the boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute before removing the pot from the heat and covering it with a lid. Allow the mixture to infuse for 30-60 minutes, or until the milk clearly tastes like pistachio nuts.

Pour the mixture through a fine strainer and discard the nut pulp.

drain2

Place the milk mixture back into the pan over medium heat. Bring to the boil. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks into a medium bowl with the sugar and whisk until pale and thick.

When the milk starts to boil, take it off the heat and slowly add about half of it to your egg mixture, whisking continuously. Add the egg and milk mixture back into the rest of the milk in the saucepan, whisking well until combined. Return the pan to the heat, continually whisking until thickened slightly (the mix should coat the back of a spoon). Allow to cool, then add in the rosewater.

Chill well (preferably overnight) before processing the custard in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve topped with some more crushed, toasted pistachios and crumbled dried rose petals.

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Cardamom and Orange Blossom Fleur de Lait Ice Cream

Adapted from this recipe by Food 52. ‘Fleur de Lait’ is ice cream with custard that is made from cornflour instead of egg yolks.

Makes about 1 litre

  • 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (250ml) whole (full fat) milk
  • 2/3 cup raw honey
  • 1 pinch sea salt flakes
  • 3-4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water
  • 1 tbsp Cointreau, Grand Marnier or another triple sec (substitute another tbsp of orange blossom water)

Combine the cream over medium heat with the honey, salt and cardamom pods.

honey
Whisk the cornflour into the milk until well dissolved, then add to the warmed cream. Heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to coat the back of a spoon. Strain into a bowl and leave to cool. Add the orange blossom water, then chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour or preferably overnight.When adequately cooled, process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If using alcohol, add the triple sec to the mixture just as the ice cream begins to freeze.

Store in the freezer or serve immediately (be aware that this ice cream melts much quicker than those made with egg yolk custard. Don’t leave it out for too long).

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