Monday, November 28, 2011

From Russia with Love

Last night we were invited to Anya and Trevors home to have a delicious five course Russian meal cooked by Anya. Flavours and inspiration from her home and family's heritage Tajikistan, Siberia and Russia.

The menu

'Shuba' - Herring under a fur coat
Sel'd' pod shuboy (or Shuba, from Russian шуба (fur coat)): also known as "dressed herring" is chopped salted herring under a "coat" of shredded cooked beet, sometimes with a layer of other vegetables. This was very moreish and very nice cold entree on a hot day. I would have had thirds but I knew there were 4 more courses to come...! I didnt take any photos but the picture I found above is to show how it is served.

Crab Stick Salad - Салат из крабовых палочек
Salad with rice, boiled eggs, sweet corn and diced crab stick meat, mixed in mayonnaise. We had this with the beetroot and herring and it was like little jewels in your mouth. Anya's brother Serj joined us for dinner and this is his favourite food.

Stuffed Peppers
This dish was capsicum stuffed with beef, onion, duck fat, poached in vegetable broth with fresh herbs (dill, parsley, shallots). This Russian recipe has so many textures and flavours. I love the generous amount of fresh herbs.

Beef stroganoff with mashed potato
Beef Stroganoff or Beef Stroganov (in Russian: Бефстроганов Befstróganov) is a Russian dish of sautéed pieces of beef served in a sauce with smetana or cream, originating in 19th-century Russia. Anya made a very nice version we enjoyed with red wine.

Russian Tort Prazhskogo cake
This is a two-layer walnut cocoa cake. Anya said they make it for special occasions like birthdays, so we felt very happy to try it. Delicious.

We did eat a lot last night! It was so lovely and slow though, I loved having so many courses and enjoying wine and interesting, funny conversation all night. It wasn't till after midnight we realised we should go home because we had to get to work in a few hours. I could have stayed, I feel like there is so much more to learn about Europe, the culture and the recipes, the people and the customs and the mountains.

We learnt that they love another dish, that I am keen to try on our BBQ; Lamb Shashlik.
Shashlyk or Shashlik (Persian: شیشلیک,Hebrew: שישליק‎, Russian: шашлык meaning skewing meat and -lik, a noun-making suffix' [1][2]), is a form of Shish kebab popular throughout Israel, Lithuania, former Soviet Union, Iran, Mongolia, and parts of central Europe. Meat for shashlik (as opposed to other forms of shish kebab) is usually marinated overnight in a high-acidity marinade like vinegar, dry wine or sour fruit/vegetable juice with the addition of herbs and spices.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Persian Baklava

Ingredients for syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup rosewater
Ingredients for layers
1/2 cup light brown sugar
500g pistachios
500g blanched almonds
2 tbsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
15 frozen phyllo pastry sheets
1/2 cup melted butter, plus more

Make the syrup first. It needs to be cold when the Baklava is removed from the oven after an hour of baking. The rule is - cold syrup on hot baklava or hot syrup on cold baklava. We wanted the pastry to be hot! We also wanted to eat it as soon as it was done so if you agree I reccomend the cold syrup version.

Place 1 cup sugar, 1 cup honey, rosewater in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes then remove from heat and cool. When cool refridgerate to make cold.

Place 1/2 cup sugar, pistachios, almonds, cardamom, and cinnamon in food processor and pulse till mixture is like breadcrumbs with some larger pieces of nut. You can see from the picture that ours was quite coarse, which was nice however it did fall apart more easily than I imagine a finer crumb would. Nevertheless, I wouldnt change what we did.

Butter a large baking tray with edges. Lay down 5 sheets, brushing butter each sheet.
 Sprinkle over a layer of the nut mixture.
Follow this with another 5 buttered sheets. Repeat until all used up or until you reach the height of the tray.
Brush the last layer with butter and then using a sharp knife cut the pastry diagonally into diamond shapes.
You can press it down - that will help it hold together later anyway.

Bake for 180 degrees C for 1 hour.
Pour sugar syrup over top and enjoy!
Garnish with rose petals

Thanks Sal and Eliza for being such good cooking buddies.

Persian Lentil Soup and Abgusht

My friend Eliza recently gave me a book to read called 'Pomegranate Soup' by Marsha Mehran. It contained many delicious Persian recipes within the story of the personal journeys of three sisters who escape Iran on the eve of the revolution and eventually make their way to Ireland. This book was not hard to read so is a nice one to relax to and let yourself imagine the tastes of the warm Persian meals. It was magical and enchanting... with the village people smelling the sweet spices of cinnamon, cardamom and rosewater wafting down their main street as they walked home from work or school. The recipes are quite different from any I have encountered before, so we decided to have a Persian night to cook three of them. Sal, Eliza and I cooked together. Eliza made the Red Lentil Soup for our starter the night before so we would have enough time. We chose "Abgusht" a lamb dish and "Baklava" a sticky aromatic pastry for dessert. We found them to be delightful.

Red Lentil Soup

2 cups dry red lentils
7 large onions, chopped
7 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp turneric
4 tsp cumin
olive oil
7 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
salt and pepper
2 tbsp nigella seeds

Cover lentils with water and bring to boil. Cook for 9 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Fry 6 onions, garlic, turmeric and cumin in some olive oil till golden.
Add lentils, broth, water, salt, pepper and nigella seeds. Bring to Boil
Simmer gently for 40minutes.
Meanwhile, fry remaining onion in some olive oil till crisp for garnish.
Serve soup with fried onion and some natural yoghurt sprinkled with more nigella seeds.
Coriander also tastes really nice as a fresh garnish.


5 large onions, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 2kg boned leg of lamb, save bone
10 cups of water
1 cup yellow split peas, rinsed twice
1 tsp paprika
4 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
5 large potatoes, peeled, quartered
7 fresh ripe tomatoes, sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 dried lime
pinch of saffron in 7 tbsp hot water
2 tsp advieh*

* equal amounts of crushed organic rose petals, cardamom, cinnamon and cumin

In a large stockpot (cast iron enamelled pot works well) add olive oil, onion and turmeric and fry for a few minutes, then add the lamb and brown all over.
Add water, split peas, paprika and bone. Bring to boil. Lower heat (or place in overn at approximately 165 degrees C) and simmer covered for 2 hours.
Add remaining ingredients. Simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.
Remove bone. Remove all meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place into a separate bowl for mashing. This allows some lentils to remain in the broth.
Mash the vegetables with the meat and serve each person a scoop of mash and a separate bowl of broth.
We served the mash on top of a little broth.
Garnish with yoghurt and coriander or tarragon leaves.
We had ciabatta I made with nigella seeds (see olive oil bread recipe) to wipe our bowls clean!

Go to recipe for Baklava.

Thanks Eliza and Sal for cooking with me, it was such a delicious meal.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Leek and Zucchini Quiche w/ nigella seed crust

Many of these ingredients are from the garden*

Ingredients for pastry
60g butter
3/4 cup flour
pinch salt
1 egg
1 tbsp nigella seeds

Ingredients for filling
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
6 medium leeks* chopped
4 large eggs (mine were from Renee's Mum Louise and all different colours!)
2 small yellow zucchini* chopped finely
1 large green zucchini* chopped finely
12 sage leaves*
2 tbsp ricotta
2 tbsp feta
1/2 a small sweet potato chopped finely

Saute leeks in olive oil and add water when catching the pan
Caramelise for 20 minutes till soft, adding sugar towards the end. set aside.
Meanwhile, pulse flour and butter in the food processor till you get broad bean - green pea sized crumbs. Then add the salt egg and nigella seeds. Pulse a couple more times. Wrap and put in fridge 30 minutes.
Roll out pastry and press into a greased pie dish.
Blind bake for 20 minutes on 180 degrees C with pie weights.
Meanwhile, Finely chop half the sage leaves and add to this the beaten eggs, ricotta, feta, and cooled leeks.
Put filling in pie crust and cover with zucchini (layered) as pictured above and the sweet potato. Place extra sage leaves on top, grind over some pepper and salt, and spray with olive oil.
Bake pie for approximately 25 minutes. poke a cake skewer in if you are unsure whether it is set.
Serve with green salad* and balsamic dressing, and a coleslaw*

Lemon Thyme Chicken w/ soba noodles & stuffed zucchini flowers

1 lemon
handful of thyme
1 chicken breast, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp chicken stock powder
4 tbsp water
1/2 a packet of soba noodles
4 zucchini flowers
14 kalamata olives
2 tbsp ricotta
1 tbsp feta
1 tbsp bread crumbs
handful of basil, chopped
1 tsp butter
1/2 cup parmesan

Finely chop the flesh off 6 olives. Combine with ricotta, feta, basil, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.
Use this stuffing to fill the flowers. Twist the tops to seal the petals together.
Heat a small frypan and add 1 tsp margarine or butter. Place flowers in and cook, turning occasionally while you prepare the rest of the meal. You are warming the inside and slightly browning the outside.
Combine chicken, thyme, water, stock and olive oil in a medium frypan and cook on medium heat for 6-8 minutes till just done.
Meanwhile boil a saucepan of water and cook the soba noodles for 4 minutes. When done, toss with the ready chicken, and add the lemon zest and juice.
Assemble in bowls, sprinkle over parmesan and garnish with basil and zucchini flowers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

First Time - Home Grown Vegies

My first home grown red cabbage
First home grown purple carrots
First home grown parsnip! Parsnips in fact need well drained soil with little or no fertiliser or manure otherwise they form octopus parsnips (above) where they send out many roots instead of just one.
First Broad Beans, and Cos Lettuce

First Californian Red and Brown Onions!

First Zucchini and flowers! Also one of the first batch of beetroot and more basil.

Sage crust Salmon w/ Udon noodle & spring vegetable soup

It has been raining in Dubbo and I made this lovely warming dinner with many nice flavourings from the garden.

half a salmon tail fillet
1 tsp flour
6 sage leaves
1 small green zucchini, chopped
1 small yellow zucchini, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
1 baby leek, chopped
half a tomato, chopped
1 tsp chicken stock powder
freshly cracked pepper
handful of dried udon noodles

Boil 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Add the stock powder, vegetables and the dried udon noodles.
Boil for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, sprinkle flour, salt, pepper and chopped sage over salmon.
In a hot pan place a tsp nuttlex and a tsp olive oil. Sear the Salmon for 4 minutes on each side.
Serve soup in bowl with salmon placed on top and some more freshly cracked pepper.
Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil, and some parmesan is nice.

Whole Wheat Banana, Amaranth and Cranberry Cake

This is one of the nicest cakes I have made. It is wholesome and earthy, it has a caramel crunch on the crust, it is warming and naturally sweetened, and it has healthy ingredients.

Dry Ingredients
1/2 cup organic whole wheat flour
1/2 cup organic plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt

Wet ingredients:
1/4 cup olive grove margarine
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup organic demerara sugar
1 1/2 medium size mashed bananas (about a cup)
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup organic amaranth

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C
Whisk the wet ingredients together, adding the amaranth after they are combined.
Sift the dry ingredients into the wet bowl.
Fold together.
Pour into a cake tin that is greased and floured. Sprinkle over some extra demerara sugar and cinnamon.
Bake for approximately 30mins (depends so much on your oven and size of tin).
Remove when golden and a skewer comes out clean.

Eat some while its hot and sticky. Its so delicious and not too sweet which is how I like it with a cup of tea.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Change in the Garden: Before/After Winter

Garden Bed 1

April 2011: Making the garden beds

July 2011: Plants growing and worm farms working well

November 2011: Winter Vegies going to seed, time for a makeover.

Garden Bed 2

August 2011
November 2011

Vegetable Garden Jungle

Spring has woken the spirits of the garden fairies and the summer warmth has brought astounding growth to the multitude of vegetables I have planted in our patches. A month has gone by since I left, and the tomatoes alone have grown at a rate of 15cm per week here in Dubbo.
The Silverbeet (!) is higher than my head. Same with the Fennel (unfortunately...I wasnt here to pick it while it was low and plump) and the broccoli which have gone to seed in a very big way. See pics below.

First bed - winter vegies going to seed - from front: purple Kale, Onions, Fennel, Silverbeet, Baby Spinach, Parsnips.

Yellow zucchini with flower still attached from second bed.

Second bed has on the left from front: Yellow and Green Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Rocket, Cos Lettuce, Mesculun Lettuce, Frisee Lettuce, Red Beetroot, Golden Beetroot. On right from front: Butternut pumpkin, Japanese Pumpkin, Corn and String beans as runners, Broccoli, Red Cabbage and Alfalfa Sprouts as well as Garlic.

Third Bed - Tomatoes, Carrots and Green Manure.
Ten types of Tomatoes - these were a mere 5-10cm tall a month ago. Varieties include Beams Yellow Pear, Red Currant (smallest in world), Red grape, Red Roma, Red Cherry, Spanish Cherry, Green Tiger, Tigerella, Yellow Drop, and Black Russian. Basil and Nasturtium seeds have sprouted amongst the tomatoes to deter fruit fly and aphids.  

I picked these for dinner as well as 6 leeks, 1 spring onion and some varieties of lettuce. Zucchini, Purple and Orange Carrots. I made fettucini with zucchini, lemon, chicken and caramelised leeks. We had a salad of roasted carrots and spring onion mixed with fresh lettuce. I ate another slug.