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Monday, December 29, 2008

Flower Ice Bowls

Flower ice bowls are very beautiful things and are the ultimate container for a very special occasion. If only they lasted more than 30 minutes! I have made individual bowls here today to serve chilled soup, but one large bowl looks very dramatic filled with prawns, sorbet or ice cream scoops – or anything that needs keeping cold.

I have used flat-bottomed jelly and pudding moulds to keep the job simple. Round moulds are more common but require an ice stand to prevent tipping (see below). Choose your favourite flowers and foliage BUT nothing poisonous, like Oleander! I used blue Plumbago and the turning leaves of our Manchurian Pear trees.


Two round bowls, one two thirds smaller than the other. An extra bowl for the stand, a sharp knife, crushed or shaved ice for joining.


* Two flat-bottom bowls, one two thirds smaller than the other

* Small flowers and foliage of your choice

* Ceramic baking beads or a heavy weight for the smaller bowl in the freezer

* Ice cubes to weigh the flowers and foliage down


Pour about a cup of water into the bottom of the larger bowl and freeze. Remove from freezer and place the smaller bowl on top of the frozen ice. Fill the small bowl with ceramic baking beads or something heavy to weigh it down. The tops of both bowls should be level with each other.

Pour a little cold water down between the sides of the two bowls, add some flowers and foliage, hold these in place with ice cubes to prevent them rising to the surface (you may have to smash the cubes to fit them down the sides). Put the two bowls back in the freezer.

Repeat the process in several stages (depending on the size of your bowl) until you have reached the top. Freeze for 24 hours until solid.

Round bottomed bowls need a stand:

Freeze about a cup (250ml) of water in an extra bowl, un-mould it, up-turn it and use the top as the base. Attach the stand to the bottom of the bowl by scratching the two surfaces with a sharp knife, dipped in boiling water then join them with some crushed or shaved ice.

To un-mould:

Lay out a large serving plate or individual plates with a napkin in the centre of each to soak up the water and provide stability. White linen would be very attractive and looks so much nicer than paper.

Remove the weight from the smaller bowl and pour a little warm water into it. It will lift out immediately – do not waste time here – you do not want your ice bowl to start melting! Dip the bottom of the large bowl into a dish of warm water and carefully prise it from the ice. Repeat with your stand (if applicable), slash with the knife and connect the two pieces with the crushed/shaved ice.

Check for cracks or thin ice before filling – just in case and particularly if you are using the bowl for soup! Serve immediately.

Note: line the ice bowl with a piece of foil if serving ice cream or sorbet scoops.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Weights, Measures & Temperatures

All my recipe measurements are in Metric with a tablespoon equivalent: 15ml (three teaspoons) and not the Australian tablespoon: 20ml (4 teaspoons)

Imperial liquid/dry measures to Metric liquid/dry measures:

2 fl oz = 60ml
3 fl oz = 80ml
4 fl oz = 125ml
5 fl oz/ = 160ml
6 fl oz = 180ml
8 fl oz = 250ml
10 fl oz = 310ml
12 fl oz = 375ml
14 fl oz = 425ml
16 fl oz = 500ml
20 fl oz = 625ml
32 fl oz = 1000ml/1 litre

Imperial to Metric dry measures:

½ oz = 15g
1 oz = 30g
2 oz = 60g
3 oz = 90g
4 oz = 120g
5 oz = 155g
6 oz = 185g
7 oz = 220g
8 oz = 250g
9 oz = 280g
10 oz = 315g
11oz = 375g
13 oz = 410g
14 oz = 440g
15 oz = 470g
16 oz = 500g
24 oz = 750g

Spoon measurements:

1 tablespoon = 15ml
1 dessert spoon = 10ml
1 teaspoon = 5ml
½ teaspoon = 2.5ml


It is safer to weigh ingredients especially if you are converting from metric to imperial. It is very easy to forget that ingredients vary in weight, i.e. one cup of sugar is not the same as 1 cup of flour!

(In baking, it is critical to weigh accurately no matter what system you use)

Ingredient conversions:

8 oz flour = 300g = 2 x (250ml) cup
8 oz sugar = 220g = 1 x (250ml) cup

1 oz flour = 30g = 3 x (15ml) tablespoons
1 oz sugar = 30g =2 x (15ml) tablespoons

1 0z butter = 30g * 8 oz butter = 250g

Conversions are pre-determined in my posted recipes. I have listed the above few for information only.

Ovens and temperatures:

I cook on Ilve, Gaggenau and Lacanche ranges – all three are superb cookers but despite their accuracy, I like to use an oven thermometer. This is especially important for the fan-forced oven when the stated temperature must drop by 25ºF or 20ºC.

Approximate temperature equivalents:

Very slow: 250ºF 120ºC
Slow: 300ºF 150ºC
Moderately Slow: 320ºF 160ºC
Moderate: 350ºF 180ºC
Moderately Hot: 375ºF 190ºC
Hot: 400ºF 200ºC
Very Hot: 450ºF 230ºC

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Terrine

Have a change from leftover turkey and ham and liven up your plate with this brightly coloured terrine! This is my adapation of a Donna Hay recipe published in her magazine, Celebrate.

Preheat oven: 180˚C
Equipment: 7x9x6 terrine lightly greased, baking pan, tea towel

475g coarse chicken mince
475g coarse pork mince
2 rashers bacon, rind removed and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves, chopped
1cup dried cranberries
½ cup raw pistachio nuts
½-tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoons Jamaican all spice
½-cup port
2 eggs

Line terrine with overlapping slices of proscuitto.

Place chicken, pork mince, bacon, garlic, tarragon, cranberries, pistachios, salt, allspice, port and eggs in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Press mixture into the terrine and close proscuitto flaps to cover.

Place a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the terrine then the lid (if there is one). Place a folded tea towel in the baking dish and place the terrine on top. Boil the kettle and fill baking dish with boiling water to about half way up to the sides of the terrine. Place in the pre-heated over.

Cook for 1.5 hours or until firm. Test after the first hour with a fine skewer to see how it is doing. Remove from the water bath, weigh down and refrigerate overnight. Unmould and slice with a hot knife to serve.

Serves: 8-10

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fennel and Oyster Soup

Hot or Cold Climate Soup…………

Come what may this sumptuous soup goes on my Christmas menu! It is simple and elegant and its smooth velvety texture compliments oysters superbly. Creamy Pacific’s from Tasmania would be perfect but they are very rich, two each would be adequate. Depending on your hemisphere serve this soup hot, the warmth of the soup takes the chill off the oysters, or icy cold, then sit back and enjoy the accolades!

Serves: 6

2-3 large fennel bulbs, finely chopped, cores removed, frond tips chopped and reserved for garnish
1-bunch spring onions, whites only, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1ooml olive oil
1.5L fish stock
Salt and white pepper
150ml double cream
50ml double cream for garnish
24 freshly shucked oysters or 12 if using Pacific’s


Heat oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté onions until translucent. Add fennel and garlic, toss to coat well with the oil, add fish stock and bring slowly to a simmer. Cook approximately twenty minutes until the fennel has softened. Purée stock and vegetables in a blender (this gives the soup a smoother finish than a food processor) then pass through a fine sieve to remove excess fibre. Return soup to a clean saucepan, season with salt and pepper and stir in double cream.

To Serve: ladle into hot/cold bowls, float two-four oysters on the top, swirl a little cream over them and garnish with fennel fronds.

* This is my adaptation of an original recipe published by Maggie Beer

Variation: Use scallops instead of oysters. Quickly sear them in a little oil, 1-2 minutes each side before adding to the soup

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Weekly Post!

Some good news if you live in Sydney from Stiggy who tells me the berry man at is fantastic for great deals on fresh/frozen berries (especially blueberries) and he home delivers!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Making Verjuice/Verjus

Today we had to drop a little fruit from our Sangiovese vines so I took the opportunity to make a quick batch of verjuice. It really is simple to make, finding the grapes may be less so!

You will need 1.5kg of green (unripened) grapes picked just before veraison (the stage at which the colour turns - generally 2 months before harvest).

Remove the berries from the storks, wash and drain them thoroughly.
Whiz in batches in a food processor then press through a fine sieve to remove the pulp and seeds. Pour extracted juice into a jug and fill ice-cube trays.

Try to get them into the freezer quickly to avoid oxidization. Defrost and use as required.

Yield: 700ml = 40 cubes

I mainly use verjuice to deglaze the pan after cooking fish or chicken or as an alternative to lemon juice but it has many other uses. It is both acidic and tart without being harsh and when heated it gets very sticky -great for an instant sheen! Verjuice is available commercially but it is fun to make your own if green grapes are available.

If you have ice-ball trays try freezing verjuice in those instead of cubes and use them as a garnish in Ajo Blanco (White Gazpacho). Do not serve ice-balls to children.
(recipe to be published under Soups)

Learn more about verjuice from Maggie Beer's facinating book: Cooking with Verjuice

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Advertising Links

The links on this blog are non-profit advertising. They are included as additional information for the reader. I am happy to mention your site/business link if applicable.

Pass it on....The Weekly Post

I thought it might be fun to have a food related, information exchange - a gossip box, on my blog.
The success of a recent email recipe exchange got me thinking about the value of sharing information. I made a mental list of all the people I know, around the world, who love to cook/talk/eat food and came up with almost too many to mention!

I would like to hear what you are up to in your food world.
Email me: with your news, name and where you are from. Here are a few subject ideas for starters.

hot tips
new products
cooking schools

Friday, December 5, 2008

Summer on a Plate - Risoni with Pancetta, Tomatoes and Fresh Herbs

Risoni came to my attention about a year ago after we had driven the 160km journey home from our weekly shopping trip! Packing my groceries away I discovered I had bought the wrong box of pasta. I shall be eternally grateful for my mistake however otherwise the following recipe would not have been born.

Mint stars here giving the dish a particularly fresh taste and an overwhelming feeling that summer has well and truly arrived!

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes


4L chicken stock or water
400g Risoni
1-tablespoon grape seed oil
20g butter
1 small onion (about half cup)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
100g pancetta, chopped
250g cherry or baby roma tomatoes, whole
375g peas, fresh or frozen
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Basil, purple or green, leaves only
Mint, leaves only,
Italian parsley, leaves only
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan, grated


Wash fresh herbs and spin dry. Put water or stock on to boil and cook risoni 7 minutes to al dente - strain and set aside. Cook fresh peas until tender in boiling salted water, strain and set aside.

Heat a large frying pan on medium heat, add butter and oil and cook onion and garlic until translucent. Add pancetta to the pan and heat through. Add cooked peas, cooked risoni, the lemon zest and juice. Mix gently making sure everything is well coated with oil. Add salt and pepper and turn off the heat.

Just before serving add all the herbs to the pan and thoroughly mix them through. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Baked pears in Sangiovese and Caramel

I often find myself wondering what to make for dessert and think by going shopping inspiration will come. I should know by now that usually it doesn't! Having gone about this same old routine year in year out I think it's time I had a better system! I should be able to remember or to check one of my umpteenth lists to remind myself that pears are it!

The beauty of this recipe apart from the magical combination of wine and caramel is its stretch ability factor! If unexpected visitors appear or you just fancy some extras, add another couple of pears to the pot - there always seems to be enough sauce!

I have adapted this from an original recipe published by the River Cafe (Book Two), London.

Preheat oven - 180˚C
Serves: 4-8
Preparation time: Pears 5 minutes - Caramel 15 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes


4-8 cooking pears, any variety in season
4-8 wide pieces lemon zest
Juice 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
200 ml Sangiovese – or any light red wine


300g caster sugar
120ml water


Wash pears and slice the bottom off each one, retain storks. Hollow out the cores using an apple corer. Put the vanilla seeds or a little vanilla paste into the cavity of each pear and close opening with lemon zest. Stand pears upright in an oven to table dish. Squeeze over lemon juice, cover with a piece of foil and place in the oven for 10 minutes.

Gently melt the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil without stirring. Boil on a low heat for 15 minutes. Critical point: the moment the sugar starts to darken and smells bitter remove it from the heat immediately. Take the saucepan to the sink for safety and add the wine - it will splutter furiously! Pour the caramel over the pears and return pears to the oven for 40 minutes. Baste pears half way through the cooking time. Remove pears from the oven, they will look all shriveled and crinkly and test if cooked with a fine skewer.

Cool pears down before serving. I love them served warm or cold when the caramel has thickened and the flavours have developed. They are quite delicious!


Vanilla paste is a new product and is a very good substitute for the real thing!

1 teaspoon = 1 vanilla pod - can’t be bad!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some great new products!

Maggie Beer's Burnt Fig Jam, Honeycomb & Caramel Ice Cream

Far Meadow's Wild Baby Figs in syrup

Patrice Newell's home grown garlic

Pastilla Nash Prune and Walnut log is not new to Oz but is now available in the UK, USA, Russia, Dubai, Japan and Asia

A Christmassy Affair!

Goat's Cheese Log

I love the month of December when cooking takes on a whole new meaning. To herald in the season this easy starter symbolizes the colours of Christmas and looks especially beautiful on a plain white plate.


Setting time: 24 hours Serves: 4

2 x 120g packets goat’s cheese
1 red pepper, chargrilled, skinned, deseeded, sliced
12 capers
1 leek, top used only


Lay a piece of foil on the workbench, about 30cm x 30cm and put a piece of baking paper, the same size, on top.

Cut all the white part off the leek in one piece and set aside for later use. The left over-piece of dark green fronds should be about seven inches long. Cut down the full length of the fronds in order to peel each one away separately. You should have about seven or eight large widths depending on the size of your leek. Wash thoroughly. Blanch in boiling water for 60 seconds, refresh in ice water, drain and pat dry.

Lay out the leek fronds onto the foil and baking paper, short ends nearest you and overlap each width slightly as you go. Place half the goat’s cheese across the bottom of the leek fronds nearest to you and top with pepper then the capers and then the rest of the goat’s cheese. With the aid of the papers roll up into a sausage shape and twist both ends to create a bonbon (torchon). Wrap again in cling film for extra strength and place in the fridge overnight to ‘set’.

To serve: Slice into approximately eight rings with a hot knife wiped clean and reheated between each slice. Serve with a few micro herbs scattered over the top and a little balsamic vinegar.

Tip: Buy pre-cooked peppers in jars or from the deli counter - they are just as good!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rabbit with Prunes and Armagnac

Pau in South West France is a city we love to visit - it's close to where we live, small enough to see in a few hours, the shops are chic, places to eat and drink plentiful and the view of the nearby Pyrenees is breathtaking. On a recent visit we tried the lovely Basque treasure, Le Goxoki. It is an elegant, upmarket, bistro style restaurant with clean green decor. We were excited to be trying somewhere new and held our breath in anticipation of the food to come. We were not disappointed! The following dish was the plat du jour minus the Armagnac! This is my version:-

Preheat oven to 180C Serves: 4


4 rabbit hind legs, boned - (substitute chicken thighs if necessary)
12 prunes, pitted
flour to dust
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
150ml double cream
150ml Armagnac
Salt & pepper
Parsley to garnish


Soak prunes overnight in Armagnac. Drain prunes and reserve Armagnac.

Use a medium sized hob to oven pan so precious flavours are not lost in the otherwise transfer.

Bone each rabbit leg, stuff with drained prunes, tie up with cooking string and perhaps use some toothpicks to help keep the prunes intact. The boned, stuffed rabbit should resemble small parcels. Lightly dust with seasoned flour. Melt butter and oil carefully, do not allow the fats to burn. Gently brown rabbit parcels on all sides until golden and place in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the rabbit to another plate and keep warm and return the pan to the hob. Reheat pan but do not degrease it (there will not be very much fat left). Deglaze the pan with the reserved Armagnac then add the cream. Gently bring to the boil and reduce to a thick consistency. Return rabbit to the pan for a few minutes and turn so it is well coated with sauce.

To Serve: Remove the rabbit from the pan with a slotted spoon, strain the sauce and spoon it over the rabbit. Garnish with parlsey.


  • The Food Vine's Cooking Tips
  • Anchovy fillets: add half to one fillet to a jus for a meaty flavour. If you have no fish stock, add an anchovy fillet to water.
  • Alligators: come in various sizes and are a great kitchen instrument for minute cutting - taking the pain away.
  • Almond Oil: is perfect to use for moulds - prevents sticking and is tasteless.
  • Bain Marie: always use boiling water and place a folded tea-towel on the bottom of the pan.
  • Butter: If your butter is too hard for creaming hold it in a dish over a flame for 30 seconds then use your hand to work in the sugar - your hand is hot too and helps the softening process.
  • Beurre Blanc: If it splits add a little cream and bring up to the boil and whisk in.
  • Crème Anglaise: let the milk almost boil then pour it onto the eggs on the side so it thickens straight away. Return eggs and milk to the pot and stir briefly – it’s ready!
  • Croutons: Add to soups that contain no fat; they give it some! Add a little parmesan to your almost cooked croutons for a great flavour!
  • ChillingPlates: Wrap plates in cling film and place in fridge. The wrap prevents moisture on the plates so no last minute wiping.
  • Chocolate for dessert: Serve with a fortified wine like Muscat or Toquay.
  • Is chicken cooked?: Rotate a leg or check the juices run clear.
  • Carrots to line a terrine: After slicing blanch briefly to make them more pliable.
  • Carrots Julienne: Slice first on a mandolin or electric slicing machine then cut into julienne.
  • Consommé: Veal makes the best consommé due to the high protein content. Chilled it turns to guaranteed jelly! Place two brown onion halves (skin on) down the sides of the saucepan once it's on the continual simmer. The consommé when cooked will have a lovely honey colour!
  • Celery: in dishes like Pot au Feu where the celery is served in the dish (not discarded) use the root end up to the first seven inches. Make several cuts down to the root itself but not through it, Shape the bottom to a point, quarter so you have 4 bundles. Tie each bundle with string. Remove each bundle when it is cooked, keep hot and untie before serving. The object is so each quarter cooks as a whole, keeping its shape during cooking and looks good at the end!
  • Deep Frying: Choose oils with a high smoke point like soybean, sunflower, corn and peanut.
  • Duck Fat: render down pieces of duck fat for later use. Great to cook potatoes in.
  • Eggs: Never cook them longer than 9 minutes otherwise the sulphur releases and they will go black once cold.
    Eggs: Cover with cold water and slowly bring to the boil uncovered. Immediately take off heat, cover and leave 12 minutes: PERFECT!
  • Flour: sifting it removes impurities and the air makes it lighter!
  • Flour Self-Raising: add two level teaspoons baking powder to every cup of plain flour. Saves buying two flours.
  • Fish Quenelles: put mixture twice through your food processor then scrape through a drum sieve so it is as smooth as possible. A good test is to hold a filled spoonful upside down - it must not drop off the spoon!
  • Foil: Use shiney side out to speed up cooking process.
  • Frying Pans: to have a completely moisture free pan place enough salt in the bottom to cover the surface, thickly spread. Place on a VERY low heat (the pilot light if you have one) until the salt turns grey. Discard salt, wipe out pan and oil lightly. Repeat as and when necessary. To use:
    Step 1: Heat the frying pan on medium
    Step 2: Add fat – heat, as soon as it bubbles it’s ready
    If a pan is seasoned well and water free, heated first then fat heated: food will release easily and not stick, it also ensures food starts cooking at the correct temperature giving better control and even cooking throughout. If your fat burns because the heat is too high, wipe out the pan and start again.
    Sauté: means you always use the cooking juice. Pan Fry: means you throw away the fat.
  • Garlic: blanched in a flavouring like milk or cream depending on the sauce is better than using raw garlic!
    Garlic: Crush to a creamy paste using the back of a medium size table knife and a little salt to provide abrasion.
    Glazing: Use apricot or red currant jelly. It must be boiling hot.
  • Glazing: Egg and cream together gives a better shine to pastry.
    Garnish: For Asian food, use the finely sliced green rings of spring onion tops.
  • Garnishing Plates: Use only 5 pieces of garnish - never any more and spray the pieces lightly with vegetable oil. Shiney looks great!
  • Herbs: freeze fresh coriander in brown paper bags - it keeps for ages.
  • Herbs: wash fresh herbs and pat dry. Wrap in a damp tea towel and store in the fridge.
  • Jus: When reducing a jus use a wide container to evaporate the steam quickly.
  • Kitchen Shop Paris: E. Dehillerin, is the best in the world
  • Limes/Lemons: heat 20 seconds in the microwave or roll on the bench to make them juicy.
  • Lobster: Put to ‘sleep’ in the freezer first before killing with a knife through the brain or placing in boiling water. Lobster is better undercooked than overcooked. Cut tail into medallions at joints, torso in two halves lengthways, remove lungs and sac. The coral is considered a delicacy. Males have narrow hips, female’s wide hips to hold their eggs.
  • Meat: If a recipe calls for whole rump in a casserole or stew use chuck or blade to economise!
  • Meat slicing: Cut across the grain unless you live in France where Magret (duck breast) is cut along the grain in lengths.
  • Marrow: to extract marrow from bones place the bones in a dish of ice water for a few minutes. The marrow will shrink and pop out of the bone. Add marrow at the end of the cooking time to a stew, gravy, meat sauce etc.. it melts quickly and gives a truly delicious flavour.
  • Oil: It is best to use oils with little flavour in cooking. Once heated the flavour dissipates. Canola oil has no flavour, peanut a little, grape seed a little. Olive oil is expensive and better used for dressings. Preferred cooking oil is grape seed it has a high temperature tolerance.
    Onions: blanch briefly prior to use in a salad or any cold dish.
    Onions in a stock: that is to become a jus or gravy benefits from cooking the skin too. This helps to darken the finished sauce and gives a strong flavour. Remove skin prior to serving.
  • Pastry Cases (baked blind): spread jam or melted chocolate onto the base then add fruit - this helps to keep the pastry moist and gives a third dimension.
  • Persillade: is a mixture of parsley and garlic finely chopped together and sprinkled over potatoes at the end of cooking for a truly French flavour.
  • Pastry (rolling): roll pastry under plastic or between sheets of silicone or baking paper then use the paper to line the tin!
  • Plates for serving: Make sure they are hot for hot food and very cold for cold food. See: Chilling Plates
  • Poach: then roast pears for tarts if unripe.
  • Potatoes: par boil from a cold water start so the heat penetrates. Only add salt at boiling point if they are to be served whole. For mashed, pureed or sauteed potatoes add salt at the last stage of cooking.
  • Potatoes: do not like to be whizzed in a food processor - the starch becomes elastic giving an awful result.
  • Potatoes steamed: is a foolproof way to partly pre-cook them prior to roasting or pan frying. No moisture in the spuds will change your life and its!
  • Potato Starch: also known as Fecule - when adding this ingredient or any thickener for that matter it must come back to the boil so you can see how thick it is!
  • Pomegranite Seeds: harvest and freeze to use all year. Nature's jewels!
  • Prawns: make only a small incision in the middle of the back to remove the digestive tract when butterflying. They look better in the finished dish. Large incisions do not look as neat.
  • Pastry brushes: are great to use to paint a sauce onto a plate for presentation
  • Potato peelers: are great for creating avocado petals.
  • Plastic rings: excellent substitutes for ring molds - make your own!
  • Praline: a quick way is to make this is to blend almonds and olive oil - lovely with fish or sprinkled on salad.
  • Quince Paste: Melt down and use to glaze ham or brush over peeled pears or apple on tarts.
  • Quenelles: Make cream quenelles by dipping the spoon into hot water, take a spoonful of cream and roll it on the side of the bowl. This saves using the two spoon technique which is hard to master.
  • Quail Eggs: Excellent for canapes, floated on soups, cracked over on pizza, boiled and eaten with celery salt or used for just about anything you can think of in the egg garnish department.
  • Raspberry Coulis: is better made with frozen berries than fresh and used straight from the freezer - do not bother to thaw them.
  • Rice, the Asian way:use any long-grain rice. Wash up to five times until the water is clear. Cover with enough water to go halfway up your thumb nail. Add salt. Cover and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to its lowest setting, leave for 15 minutes. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID. If the heat is hard to control, leave only for 10 minutes then remove from the heat and leave on the side for another 10 minutes with the lid on. A pilot light is best to put the saucepan on if there is one, for 25 minutes. To cook rice in the oven from scratch, cover with a wet cartouche, then foil and cook at 180C for 16 minutes.
  • Strawberry Huller: use this little gadget to remove the stalk on a tomato. Makes life much easier.
  • Slicing smoked salmon: To make life easier and save time, precut your salmon , store in layers covered with cling film between each layer and keep in the fridge until ready to use. Makes it easier and faster to handle at the last minute.
  • Salmon blood line: If preparing sashimi or using any cured salmon either remove the blood line or hide it when rolling fish for presentation. The blood line is not a good look.
  • Skim stock: stir the stock anticlockwise first then clockwise and catch the scum with a ladle as it comes back around.
  • Sausages, homemade: a little egg white is better than a whole egg as a binding agent if you need one. If the meat is VERY fresh you probably won't need one. After making sausages keep them in the fridge overnight. Next day blanch them from a cold water start and remove them the instant the water boils. Drain. Now grill or BBQ or fry and they will not split. Do NOT prick them.
  • Steak - whole fillet: Slice fillet into individual steaks and tie each steak with kitchen string. This holds the steak together, keeps them all the same shape and makes for more even cooking and they are easier to turn. Presentation is number one and steaks cooked this way look professional and uniformal.
  • Salmon - spray a fish kettle: with oil from a tin - nothing worse than a whole expensive salmon sticking to the kettle and getting wrecked in the removal process.
  • Steam potatoes first: before you saute, roast, fry etc. The less water in them the better the result of the next cooking process. This is one of the best cooking tips to learn.
  • Salad Dressing test: drag a leaf through the dressing not the dressing over the leaf. The dressing must lightly coat not swim!
  • Tomatoes: go even better with tarragon than basil!
  • Tempering: Wine, herbs and spices all get lost in the cooking process. Add a little more of each of these to your dish at the last minute, just prior to serving, so a real taste of these flavours to be easily identified.
  • Torchless!: If you don't own a blow torch for cooking - wear a thick oven-glove, heat a fork over an open flame then burn the fork onto the creme bruleé top or other similar dish.
  • Vegetables: Blanch green vegetables to al dente stage then drain and refresh in ice water. This arrests the cooking process and helps to maintain colour. Reheat later in a little butter so they are shiney and hot.
  • Vegetable timings for a stew: providing all are cut the same size: celery takes 25 minutes to cook, carrots and leeks 20, potatoes 15, turnips 8. Place them in the pot in this order.
  • Verjuice: Excellent to deglaze the pan for fish or chicken.
  • Water: Use boiled water immediately - don't keep reboiling it or leave it sitting around. This maintains oxygen levels and keeps vegetables green.
  • Watermelon in dressings: brings out the flavour in seafood especially on finely sliced raw fish.

    ©Cheryl Stevns-2009-2010

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quail with Duck Liver & Olives

I love the succulent taste and delicate flavour of quail but for me it has to be partially boned. This simple procedure maximizes the yield and enhances the pleasure. Alain Ducasse served pigeon with duck livers and olives on his show last week so in the absence of pigeon and his recipe which was not revealed this is my version!

Boning: Take some game scissors, they are easier to manoeuvre than a knife. Cut the quail through the backbone from bottom to top and splay the bird flat out. Do not snip off the neck, it must remain intact to help keep the stuffing in place. Cut the neck pre service. Crack the breastbone with your hands then put your fingers under the ribs and very gently remove them on both sides. Slip your fingers down and around the breastbone and remove that too but take care not to split the skin. Remove any other obvious bones carefully using a small knife or just pull them out by hand. The wings and legs must remain as they are. Carefully wash the quail and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 180°C Serves: 4


4 large quail
250g duck livers
2 small French onions finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley chopped
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons mixed (stoned) olives
2 teaspoons brandy
A little butter and oil for browning


Process the above expect the quail using the pulse button on a food processor. Do not overwork. Divide mixture equally between four quail and sew up with kitchen twine. Place in fridge to 'set' for no less than 30 minutes.

Brown birds gently in butter and oil, remove and microwave on low for 6 minutes. Place in oven for 5 minutes. Allow to rest briefly before serving.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Orange Blossom Cordial

Capture the intoxicating perfume of orange blossom.

Take equal parts of sugar and water and heat gently to boiling point. Add 3og citric acid and 30g tartaric acid. Remove from heat and add washed and dried orange blossoms…. use as much or as little as you can manage to harvest – the greater the quantity the stronger the bouquet. Let syrup cool down and refrigerate over night. Strain and transfer to sterilized bottles. It keeps for months. Dilute with water for a refreshing, delicious drink. Serve with edible flowers frozen in ice cubes for colour and visual appeal.

Edible flowers: borage, nasturtiums, pea, heartease, calendula and corriander.

Tip: the cordial can be made without citric and tartaric acid but must be kept in the fridge
and used within one week.

Tip: add a shot of vodka and a few orange segments!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Micro Herbs & Greens

If you can't buy them, grow them!

This summer in France I had great success growing my own micro herbs and micro greens. Now back in Australia I'm all sown up and harvesting daily!

Take a very good, preferably organic, seed raising mix and fill shallow trays to just below the surface and top up with a fine layer of vermiculite. Scatter seeds onto vermiculite but do not cover them just keep moist with a light spray of water, daily. Harvest approximatley seven days later with scizzors. The trick is to start another batch a few days after the first to ensure a constant supply. You could just use vermiculite and omit the seed raising mix but it is more expensive! Do not use the same growing matter for the next batch. Put spent matter in the composte and start again.

Micro herbs for garish: red amaranth, sweet basil, purple basil, chervil, parsley, corriander, purple radish, red mustard, baby beets, nasturtiums, celery, rocket, snowpeas, fennel, mint and thyme ... there's an endless list but best to grow what you'll use e.g. make Borscht, grow baby beets!

Micro greens for the salad bowl: cress, mesclun, mezula, buckwheat, swiss chard, watercress etc... plant the same way but give plants a longer life before harvesting. Ideally these should be larger if used in a salad.

Micro herbs and greens are an excellent source of essential vitamins, minerals, amnioacids, protein and calcium.