Snapper with coconut, ginger and coriander

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When Ewen and Elissa Macpherson of Symphony Hill wines asked me to create a recipe to go with their Moscato Giallo I was both flattered and excited. They are a couple who have lived out their passions and dreams, and make spectacular, award winning wines with great style and panache. Matching a wine to a dish is a real art, and this variety is both unusual and unfamiliar. I wanted to design a dish that would bring out its highly aromatic tones and not overwhelm its complexity. Moscato is often associated with sweet or dessert wines, but this amazing wine challenges stereotypical pairings. It is quite special with this dish of snapper, with coconut, ginger and coriander. I’d love to hear what you think of it, especially if you pair it with the Moscato Giallo.

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Serves 4

4 skinless snapper fillets, about 180g each
1 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon plain flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves with the tender stems attached
¼ cup alfalfa sprouts
2 tablespoons shredded coconut, lightly toasted
1 small dried red chilli, finely diced

Coconut Sauce:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small peeled brown onion
2 fresh garlic cloves
1cm piece peeled fresh turmeric
1cm piece peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 large vine-ripened tomatoes, with seeds and core removed, very finely diced
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
3 teaspoons fish sauce
½ teaspoon garam masala

First make the sauce. Heat vegetable oil on a low temperature in a medium sized heavy-based saucepan. In a small food processor combine the onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger and salt and process until finely minced. Add this mixture to the pot and cook slowly on a low heat until caramelised (this can take up to 30 minutes – don’t rush it, or the sauce will taste burned and bitter). Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the mixture from the pot and then return 2 heaped tablespoons into the pot, setting aside the remainder. Add coconut cream, sugar, fish sauce, and garam masala. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, cook the fish. 

Season the fish on both sides with sea salt. Combine the fennel seeds and flour and lightly coat the fish pieces with the flour mixture, dusting off any excess. Heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Cook the fish on one side for 6–8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Turn and cook on other side 30 seconds. Divide the sauce between four bowls, place a piece of fish gently on top of the sauce, and top firstly with a little of the remaining tomato mixture, and the fresh coriander, sprouts, toasted coconut and dried chilli.

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Huevos rancheros – for Sunday breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner

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Huevos rancheros, or “ranch eggs” are Mexican in origin, and a simple and quite humble dish. But they taste terrific, especially with lots of delicious accompaniments such as dollops of sour cream, sprinklings of fresh coriander, chunks of smooth avocado and rounds of soft tortillas. They are also, we decided at our place, the perfect Sunday meal at any time of the day. One pan, quick and easy, lots of punchy flavours, and loved by all. If you are feeding more than two, just double the recipe and use a bigger pan, or two smaller pans. If dining solo, then halve the ingredients and luxuriate in a dish that you can eat straight out of the pan.

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Serves 2

1 medium onion, finely diced
1 small red capsicum, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 long, fresh red chillies, finely chopped (if you like lots of heat then by all means add more, or add some dried chilli flakes)
400g cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 bunch fresh coriander
4 eggs
sour cream, sweet chilli sauce, freshly diced avocado, fresh coriander leaves, and soft tortillas, to serve

In a medium sized frying pan heat the olive oil and then saute the onions, capsicum, chillies and garlic until softened. Finely chop the stems of the coriander, and add to the pan, reserving the leaves for garnish. Add the tomatoes, a tablespoon of water, and cook over medium heat until the tomatoes have broken down somewhat and become quite soft. Season well with sea salt and a little black pepper. Using a spoon make wells in the tomato mixture for the eggs. Gently crack the eggs into the pan, lower the heat and cook the eggs to your liking. Take the pan to the table and serve straight away with the garnishes on the side for everyone to add to their taste. For breakfast and brunch have with orange juice then coffee. For lunch, a Corona, and for dinner, a crisp white wine.

Summer rice salad

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone.

Lin Yutang

A week’s holiday in the middle of summer has been an opportunity to rest and relax before the busy year really begins in earnest. It’s been stiflingly hot in my part of the world, so hot that a very fit man in his early thirties died of heat stroke over the weekend while biking in a nature reserve just north of Brisbane. So outdoor projects have been taken off the agenda, besides keeping the garden alive by watering in the late afternoon. Instead, I have been reading, finishing a quilt and spending lots of time in the kitchen. Creating new recipes is something that relaxes me, and this season has been one of trying to incorporate more seeds and nuts into my diet, both for the health benefits and for their taste. This rice salad was today’s experiment. The fresh peas, asparagus and zucchini sit atop a bowl of brown rice, seasoned with rice wine vinegar and a little olive oil, and stirred through are pepitas, sunflower seeds and black sesame seeds. I ate it on its own, but this salad would also be delicious as a side with grilled salmon.

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Serves 2 as a meal, or 4 as an accompaniment

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pepitas
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup peas
1 large zucchini, sliced into thin strips, long-wise
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into short lengths
2 tablespoons soft feta cheese

Bring the water to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. when boiling add the rice and stir gently. Cover and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes until the rice is cooked, but still retains some bite. Check the rice occasionally and add a little more water if it begins to stick to the bottom of the pan before it is cooked. Drain the rice and turn into a medium sized glass bowl. Stir through the rice wine vinegar and olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, rinse out the saucepan and bring more water to boil. Add the zucchini, asparagus and peas, and cook for 1 minute, until tender crisp and bright green. Stir through 1/3 of the vegetables into the rice and then place the rice into a serving dish. Top with the remaining vegetables and scatter over the feta. Best eaten warm or at room temperature.

It’s hot in Brisbane but it’s Coolangatta – summer salads for celebrations

It’s so hot here – unreasonably hot for November, and as my thoughts turn towards upcoming end-of-year and Christmas celebrations, I’ve gathered a collection of my salad recipes for inspiration and to help me to keep cool in the kitchen. There’s something here for all tastes, and each one has a little twist to lift it above the usual fare. I hope there’s some inspiration here for  you too.

And if you are wondering about the title of this post – It’s hot in Brisbane, but it’s Coolangatta – it is the title of a real song, popular in the 1950s. You can read about it, see the fabulously kitsch sheet music and listen to the original recording here.

Rice 2 resizedCranberry and wild rice salad

Potato salad 2 resizedPotato and pea salad with hazelnut dressing

Carrot salad 2 resizedCarrot salad with coriander, chili and sesame

apple salad5 resizedRocket salad with apple and parmesan

nectarine salad3 resizedNectarines, prosciutto, mozzarella and mint

brie salad1 resizedBrie and rocket salad with pomegranate dressing

farro with pumpkin1 resizedMaple roasted pumpkin with farro

Fassifern tomatoesTomato and bocconcini salad with a beautiful basil dressing

Spiced carrot and brown rice salad

I’ve been having an enforced rest following some surgery, but today felt like some creative cooking – reading the recipe books and magazines given to me by my very thoughtful colleagues the inspiration. Our oldest is back at home with us for a time and as he is a coeliac, gluten free cooking is required at our place. So this combination of nutty brown rice with warm spices, sharp, fresh coriander and sweet carrots makes an excellent salad that is healthy and filling and delicious for all of us. I’d recommend serving it with some grilled chicken, Greek yoghurt or labne, and a crisp white wine.

 Serves 2- 4

1 bunch Dutch carrots, tops trimmed, and washed (or use 5 – 6 carrots, peeled, and sliced in half lengthwise)
finely chopped coriander stalks, from 1 bunch of coriander
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup brown rice, rinsed
2 cups water
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup mixed seeds (I buy mixed seeds from the health food store)
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
1 bunch coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Lemon dressing
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 200C. Place carrots, coriander stalks, olive oil, cumin, smoked paprika, honey, and 1/2 teaspoon turmeric in a bowl, season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and mix well. Spread out in a single layer on a baking tray lined with silicon paper and roast for 25-30 minutes, turning two or three times, until and tender. I wanted to serve the salad in the roasting tray so as not to lose any of the pan juices, so I used a white enamel tray that could go straight to the table. Set aside to cool.

While the carrots are cooking place the rice, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and 2 cups water in a saucepan, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, 30 – 40 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Check it now and then to make sure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Leave for 10 minutes with the lid on before uncovering to cool to room temperature. To make the lemon dressing, put all the ingredients in a small glass jar and shake well. When the rice is a t room temperature pour the dressing over and stir through. Add the currants, seeds and fresh coriander and mix well. Push the carrots to one side in the roasting pan, if you are serving from it and add the rice mixture. It will soak up any of the spiced juices in the pan. Alternatively place the carrots on a serving platter and drizzle over the juices, and pile the rice on the side.

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Spring vegetables

“It is a very beautiful day. The woman looks around and thinks: ‘there cannot ever have been a spring more beautiful than this. I did not know until now that clouds could be like this. I did not know that the sky is the sea and that clouds are the souls of happy ships, sunk long ago. I did not know that the wind could be tender, like hands as they caress – what did I know – until now?”

Unica Zürn

There are so many things I love about spring. The gradually lengthening days; gardening; cloudless skies, with warmth but not yet heat or humidity; flowers and strawberries and new honey and asparagus and the palpable sense of rejuvenation and re-invigoration all around. Today at the fruit shop I found the first asparagus of the season, along with some baby zucchini, snow peas and sugar snap peas, crisp and sweet and inviting. Cooked until just tender and tossed with a little butter and a sprinkle of sea salt, they were delicious and representative of all that is wonderful about spring vegetables. Any combination of new vegetables is beautiful cooked this way – the only thing to be aware of is not cooking them for too long – tender crisp is how they are best, and brings out their sweetness and delicate flavour.

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Serves 4, as an accompaniment

2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut in half
250 g baby zucchini, halved lengthwise
125 g sugar snap peas
125 g snow peas, trimmed
1/4 cup snow pea sprouts
20 g butter
sea salt

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Cook the asparagus, zucchini, sugar snap and snow peas for 3 – 4 minutes until just tender. Drain and immediately toss in the butter and season to taste with the sea salt. Scatter over the sprouts and serve. Delicious with fish, or chicken, or just with chewy bread smeared with goats cheese or ricotta and herbs.

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Butter-braised fennel

There is something deeply satisfying in this super simple dish which enriches the anise flavoured fennel with butter and earthy thyme. It takes a surprisingly long time to cook, but the wait is worth it as the fennel melts in the mouth and the natural sugars caramelise beautifully in the butter, adding gentle charred notes. It is wonderful with fish or chicken or pork; or topping bruschetta that has been rubbed with garlic and spread with ricotta. Before the warm weather comes we’ll be feasting on this dish at our place at every opportunity.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment

2 medium-sized fennel bulbs
50 g butter
sea salt
1/2 lemon
fresh thyme and fennel fronds

Preheat oven to 180 C. Place a 20 cm square ceramic or glass oven-proof dish in the oven with the butter until it is melted. Meanwhile, trim the stalks of the fennel bulb and cut the bulbs into 6 – 8 wedges, depending on the size of the bulbs. Take the dish out of the oven and place the fennel in a single layer, turning over to ensure each wedge is covered with a light coating of the melted butter. Season well with sea salt and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until the fennel is very soft, and golden brown, carefully turning over a couple of times during the cooking. Place the fennel carefully in a serving dish and scatter over some fresh thyme leaves and fennel fronds. Squeeze about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice into the buttery juices remaining in the dish and mix well. Drizzle over the fennel and serve.

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Lamb with cumin and sweet chilli

Mary had a little lamb… and it was delicious!!

unknown genius

Today we departed from our usual Anzac Day tradition of making and eating Anzac biscuits in favour of these most delicious lamb cutlets with cumin and home made sweet chilli sauce. Having been up and about quite early for my youngest who was marching in the local Anzac Day service, we were ready for a hearty lunch. The combination of great quality meat, and some of lamb’s best buddies – cumin, chilli, hummus and loads of fresh herbs, makes this recipe a delight to prepare and eat. The secret is to have the pan or grill really hot and to cook the lamb for only a couple of minutes each side, brushing on the sweet chilli sauce in the last minute of cooking and then liberally sprinkling with fresh herbs. I used home made sweet chilli sauce, because we have been inundated with chillis in the vegetable garden, but good quality store-bought sauce will also give an excellent result.

Serves 4

1 .2 kg lamb cutlets
1 teaspoon ground cumin
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
2 tablespoons good quality sweet chilli sauce
4 tablespoons roughly chopped herbs – oregano, mint, chives and flat leaf parsley work well
hummus, flat bread, and salad greens, to serve

Heat a large frying pan of grill until it is very hot. Meanwhile drizzle a little olive oil over the lamb and rub it in with your fingers. Sprinkle with the cumin and season well with salt and pepper. Cook in the hot pan or on the grill for 2 minutes per side, brushing with the sweet chilli sauce in the last minute of cooking. Place on a serving platter and sprinkle over the herbs. Serve with hummus, flat bread and a green salad for a delicious lunch or dinner.

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Cherry tomato tarts with mascarpone and herbs

It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.

Lewis Grizzard

For my friends in the northern hemisphere winter is ended and spring is bringing with it the promise of picnics, long sunshine filled days and new season fruits and vegetables – asparagus, baby peas, tiny new potatoes and strawberries. I’m sitting here listening to rain on the roof, recovering from a particularly nasty virus, feeling the unaccustomed chill of autumn in the air and contemplating all the things I love about winter; snuggling under the blankets at night, soup for dinner, sipping steaming hot chocolate, and sitting in front of the fire drinking a glass of red wine and watching the flames.

Cooking is so different in the winter; the seasonal ingredients respond to long, slow cooking and have a richness that warms from the inside. I love creating recipes with winter fruits, vegetables and spices, making casseroles, pies, and tasty puddings. But before I let go of light, summery food I wanted to make these delicious roasted cherry tomato tarts – a last taste of summer for me, and perhaps, a first taste of spring for my friends. They would be perfect for a springtime picnic, and they are still delicious in my world, to show off the last of the summer’s tomatoes. I hope you enjoy with a salad of soft herbs and peppery rocket.

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Makes 8 tarts

2 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry
250 g mascarpone
750 g mixed cherry tomatoes
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon raw caster sugar
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs

Preheat oven to 180 C. Cut 8 rounds of pastry, 10 cm in diameter from the 2 pastry sheets. Prick all over with a fork, place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and bake in the oven until lightly browned and crisp. Take out of the oven and cool to room temperature. Slice the tomatoes in half and place sliced side up on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season well with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the dried oregano and sugar. Cook in the oven at the same time as the pastry, but for 25 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft, and look a bit shrunken and wrinkled. Take out of the oven and cool slightly. When ready to serve spread about 1 tablespoon of the mascarpone on each pastry round and top with the tomatoes. Scatter over the herbs and serve.

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Maple roasted pumpkin with farro

There is something very satisfying about autumnal food and this maple roasted pumpkin with farro has a richness and depth that is just right for cooler nights and warm days –  the essence of my favourite season. Summer has had a very long tail this year, and I am very much enjoying the cooler weather we have recently been experiencing. My vegetable patch is still producing late summer vegetables and herbs (there will be a Japanese eggplant recipe in the near future!), and salads are still firmly on the menu, but this dish is a foretaste of the pilafs, casseroles, tagines and soups I will be making in the coming months.

There’s a dissertation in the waiting regarding farro, freekeh and spelt, and how these ancient grains, which were commonly eaten in the past, lost popularity, and then, in the beginning of this century, rose again in the popular consciousness as healthy, delicious, and worthy of eating. Richard Cornish, from Good Food gives a condensed version of this story better than I ever could.

He says: “Centuries ago, Western civilisation had a midlife crisis and dumped a whole lot of wholesome and dependable grains for a newer, more glamorous species from the same genus – namely, wheat. We mostly stopped growing grains such as einkorn (Triticum monococcum), spelt (Triticum aestivum spelta) and farro (Triticum turgidum dicoccum) in favour of modern wheat varieties such as durum (Triticum durum). Freekeh is made from modern wheat varieties that are harvested green then roasted. Einkorn is still grown in parts of Europe on poor soils. In France, it is called petit epeautre, or ”little spelt”, and in Italy, it is called farro piccolo or ”little farro”. It can be cooked in a chewy pilaf or tossed through a salad with beans and tomatoes. Farro, sometimes called emmer, can be cooked as one would steam brown rice and added to salads, but is delicious made into farrotto, similar to risotto, or simmered in chicken stock with sauteed carrots and celery to make soup. Spelt is high in protein and quite commonly ground into flour and used in baking. Depending on how the grains are processed, they may require soaking before cooking.

I love the flavour and the texture of farro and really like cooking with it. I can usually buy farro from a good deli or some health food stores. If you can’t buy it, you could easily use brown rice as an alternative. Also, if you have a coeliac in your home it’s important to know that farro is not gluten free, so brown rice would be an excellent subsitute in this case.

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Serves 4
1 kg pumpkin, de-seeded and cut into 8 wedges. I recommend Kent or jap pumpkin, but butternut pumpkin will also work.
2 red onions, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup farro
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
1/3 cup currants
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley and/or chives
100 g baby spinach leaves
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180 C. Line a flat baking tray with silicon paper. Lay the pumpkin wedges, onion wedges and garlic cloves in a single layer on the baking tray. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle over the maple syrup and return to the oven for 5 – 8 minutes, or until the pumpkin is well cooked and is a bit crispy and caramelised from the maple syrup. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile bring 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock to the boil and add the farro to the pot. Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the farro soft, but with some bite still remaining, about 20 minutes. Tip the farro into a medium sized bowl and pour over the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice. Stir gently but well to combine. Add the pistachios, currants and herbs and mix well. To serve, place two wedges of pumpkin on 4 plates. Divide the onion and garlic among the plates. Toss the spinach with the farro and place to one side of the pumpkin. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and a little extra virgin olive oil, if desired. Serve as a vegetarian meal, or as a heart accompaniment to grilled lamb or chicken.

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