Friday, December 20, 2013

Red Cabbage Salad - Japanese Style

Tired of the same old salads?  Try this fresh and healthy Japanese style salad.  The red cabbage and dressing have to stay, but it is the kind of dish that's very adaptable to the inclusion of all sorts of other ingredients - like chopped green chilli, finely sliced cucumber, mint, coriander, crumbled seaweed sheets, pieces of barbecued corn sliced off the cob...................................................

2 cups finely shredded red cabbage. This is where a mandolin slicer comes into its own.  (You could use 1 cup of red and one of green Asian cabbage).
1 cup grated carrot.
1 cup bean sprouts.
1 tbs spring onions OR chives, finely sliced.
1 tbs sesame seeds, toasted.
1tbs pepitas, toasted.
(this time I also added a desert spoon of pickled ginger - optional)

1/3 cup light olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbs tamari (or light soy sauce)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 rice wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste, freshly ground

1.  Lightly toast the sesame seeds and pepitas in a heavy based frying pan until they begin to pop - be careful not to let them burn.  Leave to cool.
2.  Mix all the salad ingredients together with the cooled, toasted seeds.
3.  Combine all the sauce ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
4.  Pour the sauce over the top of the salad when you are ready to serve.

We had this with some barbecued fish, steamed brown rice and my pineapple oil pickle.  Very, very yummy and healthy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ricotta Cheesecake-Italian Style

This is a fabulously easy recipe that  doesn't require a pastry or biscuit crust - it sort of makes one itself!  I use ricotta that I have either home made, or you can but in bulk at a very reasonable price - so it's a very economical dessert that is great with all kinds of summer fruit, and a real winner for holiday picnics and Christmas lunches.

It's a traditional recipe in the Italian repertoire, but you will find variations on this theme all over the Mediterranean from Sicily to San Sebastian to Santorini and Sardinia.  I had a variation on this for my birthday on the Greek Island of Skopelos in the wonderful Adrina Hotel - made with the local curd cheese - myzithra and decorated with callendula petals (now where was I?)

750 g ricotta
2 tbs Greek style yoghurt
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup plain flour
good pinch salt
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 eggs

Optional extras 1/3 cup sultanas that have been soaked in orange liqueur.
Flaked almonds, toasted to decorate

1.  Preheat oven to 150oC
2.  Grease 23 cm springform pan and cover the bottom with non-stick baking paper (how on earth did we manage before this stuff was invented?).
3.  Lightly grease the base and sides of the pan with butter and roughly coat with a spoonful of flour - this helps to make the crust.  This is not an exact science and rough is fine!
4.  Cream ricotta in food processor until smooth.
5.  Add yoghurt, sugar, vanilla, flour, salt, citrus zest and eggs and 'whaz' (I think I've been watching too much Jamie Oliver?) until smooth - about 30 seconds.
6.  At this point you can fold in the alcohol soaked sultanas - this makes more of an 'adult' dessert. and decorate the top with toasted almond flakes - both optional.
7.  Pour into your prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for about an hour.  The top should be lightly golden and cake firm to touch.

This cake will normally rise quite a bit and then sink and crack - get ready for the rustic look!  Great with poached or fresh summer fruit and a little extra cream.  This has to be one of the easiest and yummiest cakes to make - enjoy.
Adrina (dreamer!) Hotel, Skopelos, Greece. Most fabulous place and great food in their restaurant.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pineapple Oil Pickle

I am very fortunate to have Belinda Jeffery as a friend and neighbour - she is my 'go-to' cooking guru.  This recipe is from her wonderful cookbook 'The Country Cookbook'.  When I was commenting to her that the ingredients were redolent of southern Indian or Sri Lankan cuisine she said that she had, in fact, first tasted this in Sabah (north Borneo) and made by a Malay/Chinese cook in the house where she was staying - oh, the wonderful world of food and cooks!

This fantastic pineapple oil pickle is one that I have had dog-eared for a while in Belinda's book, just waiting for the pineapples to come into season again.  It is an extremely pungent and fragrant pickle and, if I could have bottled the aroma of it spreading through the house while I was making it, I think I would be a wealthy woman!

A jar of this would make a fantastic Christmas gift!
21/2 cups white vinegar
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 very large, very sweet pineapples
6 large or 10 medium cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup cumin seed, freshly ground
1/2 cup coriander seed, freshly ground
21/2 cups light olive oil
2 tbs mixed black and yellow mustard seed
36 fresh curry leaves
11/2 tbs fennel seeds
1 tbs ground turmeric
1 tbs chilli flakes
350 g caster sugar
3-4 small red chillies (or more if you like it hot)
11/2 tbs sea salt flakes (or more to taste)
Bella and Kashmir's fantastic roadside stall with great homegrown and local produce - cheap and fresh.  It's pineapple pickle time!

1.  Pour the vinegar into a food processor and stir in the fenugreek seeds.  Set aside while you prepare the pineapple.
2.  Sit a large colander over a bowl.  Peel and core pineapples and chop finely, scooping the chunks into the colander as you go.
3.  Place a plate over the top of chopped pineapple and weigh it down with something heavy (cans of tomatoes!).  Press down on the cans every so often and leave for 30 minutes or so.  Enjoy the strained juice while you're making the rest of the pickle - you don't need it for the pickle.
4. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, and coriander to the vinegar mixture, and blend together until everything is well pureed.  Set it aside.
5.  In a large stainless steel pan heat the oil.  Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, fennel seeds, turmeric and chilli flakes and stand back - there will be a lot of spitting and heady pungency rising up from the pan. 
6.  Carefully pour the pureed vinegar mixture into the pan - down the side of the pan is a good idea (you know the thing about adding fluids to hot oil - be careful!) - mix together and cook the mixture for a couple of minutes.
7.  Now add the the drained pineapple, sugar, chopped chilli and salt.  Increase the heat and bring the mixture to the boil, reduce the heat and let it bubble gently for about 30 minutes until the oil floats to the top. Scoop a little into a cup, let it cool and check for salt and chilli heat. 
8.  Remove from the heat and pour into hot, sterilized jars.  Make sure the oil covers the top of the pineapple in each jar.  Cover with a clean tea towel until cool.  Once they are completely cool, seal the jars tightly - will keep for 6 months or so in the fridge.  Improves with time and Belinda refers to the golden oil in this pickle as 'liquid gold'.

NOTE:  I had friends over for the dinner on Saturday and we had this pickle with duck salad and rice.  It was a huge hit and a whole jar disappeared on the left-over rice - just yummy!