Roasted Green Beans & Tomatoes

Side Dish to Feed a Crowd - Roasted Green Beans & Tomatoes

I’m always on the look out for new side dishes, especially ones that don’t require any last minute preparation and can feed a large number of people without dirtying all the pots and pans in the cupboards or using up all the stove burners. This roasted green bean and tomato dish delivers all of the above along with great flavour. Green beans are such a versatile vegetable and one of the few that can be both slow cooked and quickly blanched. Slow cooking concentrates their flavour and makes them very tender without losing their shape or becoming mushy. The key thing to note in this recipe is that the beans and tomatoes need to be put into a cold oven, unlike most recipes you shouldn’t pre-heat the oven first but only turn it on once the beans are in there. This allows the beans and tomatoes to cook through first and then crisp up. This is half way between a warm salad and a side dish and you can choose to serve it hot straight from the oven or at room temperature. What I normally do is make it a few hours in advance, place it on a serving platter and leave it out at room temperature and then give it a very quick blast in the microwave before serving which just makes it slightly warm.

Ingredients – Serves 6 – recipe can be easily doubled or halved

500g green beans, trimmed
2 punnets cherry or grape tomatoes, I like to leave some whole and cut some in half
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

Place the beans and the tomatoes on a shallow rimmed baking sheet (if you’re dish is too deep the vegetables will steam rather than crispy up). Add the oil and vinegar and season well with salt and pepper. Toss the beans and tomatoes making sure they are nicely coated with the oil and vinegar and spread them out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Place pan in a cold oven (see note above) and set temperature to 220C.

Perfect Side Dish to Feed a Crowd - Roasted Green Beans & Tomatoes OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After 15 minutes give them a stir and then check them every few minutes until the beans are cooked through and a little crisp and the tomatoes have collapsed. You need to watch them carefully as they can get charred very quickly. Remove the pan from the oven and place the vegetables on a serving platter. Pour any remaining pan juices over the vegetable (sometimes I add a little more oil and balsamic to the hot tray if there isn’t enough left) and serve either straight away or keep un-chilled and serve at room temperature.

 A Side Dish to Feed a Crowd - Roasted Geen Beans & Tomatoes

Fideuà – The Other Paella

Prawn, Chorizo & Squid Fideuà

Fideuà is a wonderful dish originating from Catalan Spain and is very similar to it’s better known cousin, paella. The main difference being that instead of rice, thin vermicelli noodles are used, and unlike Italian pasta dishes the noodles here are cooked in only a small amount of liquid just as the rice would be cooked in a traditional paella. And just like paella there are many different ingredients you can choose from to make fideuà. I chose chorizo, squid and prawns as the main components and made a fish stock using the prawn shells. Using a very flavourful broth can make the difference between a good fideuà and a great one. This is one of those moreish dishes where you think you’ve made far too much but it’s so good you can’t stop eating it. Fideuà would make a great meal for informal entertaining, where the dish it is cooked in can be bought straight to the table for everyone to dig in and help themselves. You don’t have to use a paella pan, any round  shallow skillet or frypan that is oven safe will do, but something without long handles is best. I found fideuà easier to make than a traditional paella and I also found the noodles to be somewhat lighter than rice, making this a great dish to serve in warmer weather.

Ingredients – Serves 3-4

 6-8 large uncooked prawns, heads and shells removed and reserved
Olive oil
200g squid, sliced
1 cup thinly sliced Spanish chorizo
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup tomato passata
750ml best quality vegetable or chicken stock
Large pinch of saffron
Salt & pepper
250g angel hair pasta broken into 1 inch pieces

Method

To make the stock, heat a about a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium size saucepan and when hot add the reserved prawn shells and heads. Cook stirring and pressing down hard on the shells and heads for a good few minutes. Add a pinch of salt, some freshly ground pepper and the saffron. Stir again then add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes.

   Fideuà Prawns for Fideuà

To make the fideuà,  preheat the oven to 180C. Heat a large shallow skillet which is oven proof over medium heat and add a small splash of olive oil. When hot add the prawns and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a minute on each side, until just lightly seared. Remove and set aside. To the same pan add the squid and a little more oil if required, season and cook for a couple of minutes flipping them around to evenly colour them. Remove and set aside. Add the onions, along with a little more oil if the pan is dry, and cook until the onions are slightly soft. Add the chorizo and garlic to the onions and cook stirring until the chorizo start to release their oil and have browned a little.

Prawns for Fideuà Squid for Fideuà Chorizo for Fideuà
Fideuà Fideuà Prawn & Chorizo Fideuà

Add the noodles, stir and cook for a few minutes until all the noodles are coated with the oil and slightly toasted. Return the squid to the pan along with the passata, tomato paste and some salt and pepper and stir well. Add enough stock to just cover the noodles. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat, uncovered, until almost all the liquid is evaporated. At this point the noodles should be almost completely cooked. Place the prawns around the dish and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes by which time the noodles will be soft and the top will be slightly golden and crunchy. Serve straight away with a green salad.

Paella made with Noodles

Malaysian Beef Satay with Peanut Sauce

Poh's Malaysian Satay

Satay would have to be one of the most popular and well known South-East Asian dishes. I think the main draw, apart from being delicious, is that it’s mild enough to appeal to almost anyone and the accompanying peanut sauce is both exotic and comfortingly familiar. There are two main versions of satay, Indonesian and Malaysian with the difference being most apparent in the peanut sauce. Indonesian satay uses coconut milk and is milder in flavour whereas the Malaysian version is thicker and richer with more spices. I love them both but I’ve eaten more of the Indonesian variety which is why I decided to try this recipe by former Masterchef contestant Poh Ling Yeow. Poh hails from Malaysia so I was confident that the recipe would be authentic and none of her recipes I’ve tried have ever failed me, and this one was no exception. I used beef fillet which I know may sound extravagant but with fillet you can get away with more time on the grill without running the risk of tough meat and I like the marinade in the satay to develop and little bit of char. You could of course use other cuts such as rump, sirloin or chuck, or even opt for chicken or pork. I served the satay as a main meal with steamed rice, fresh pineapple and cucumbers, but you could also serve them on their own as an appetiser or as finger food with drinks.

Ingredients – Serves 4 generously   Adapted from Poh Ling Yeow

20-25 bamboo skewers soaked in water for 1 hour
1 kg beef fillet/tenderloin, cut into 1 x 2 x 3cm pieces, you can also use other cuts of beef or chicken thighs (see note above)

Marinade
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
5 small shallots or one medium spanish onion chopped
2 cloves garlic sliced
1 tsp ground turmeric or 2 cm fresh, chopped
4 stalks lemongrass, sliced finely (pale part only and remove any dry outer layers)
1 cm galangal chopped
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dark sweet soy
4 tablespoons oil

Homemade Satay Sauce – makes double the amount of sauce required but freezes well
15 small shallots or 2 medium spanish onions, chopped
15 dried red chillies (don’t use fresh and make sure the dried ones are large chillies as the smaller finger size ones are too hot), stalks discarded, deseeded, soaked in boiling water until soft and drained
8 cloves garlic
2 cm piece galangal, chopped
2 stalks lemongrass (pale part only and remove any dry outer layers)
1 – 2 tablespoons tamarind paste (from jar or you can use extract from pulp)
⅔ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoons salt
150ml vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 tablespoons lime juice
500g salted, roasted, crushed peanuts

 Method

For the marinade, place the lemongrass, shallots, galangal and garlic in a food processor and blitz until it forms a fine paste. Remove and place into a bowl and add the rest of the marinade ingredients. Stir well to combine. Add the meat and stir throughly so as all the pieces are coated. Marinate the meat overnight (or as long as you can) in a snaplock bag making sure all the air is pushed out first or even better still if you have a crivac machine as the marinate will further penetrate the meat with no air pockets surrounding the meat. Skewer the meat and barbeque or grill, continually turning so it doesn’t burn, until the meat is just cooked.

     

To make the peanut sauce, place shallots, garlic, galangal, rehydrated chillies and lemongrass into a food processor and blitz to form a fine paste. Don’t be tempted to add water as this will make the paste difficult to caramelise. You can also use a mortar and pestle but you must add only small amounts of the ingredients at a time, ensuring you have a fine paste before you add more ingredients. Set aside.

    

Heat oil in a heavy based saucepan or wok over medium heat and pour paste in. Fry, stirring continuously to make sure the bottom isn’t catching, until there is very little steam rising from the sauce and you can definitely see it caramelising and smell it getting fragrant. Be patient with this step as it’s vital for the onions etc to be well cooked and golden before proceeding. Add water and bring to boil. Add tamarind, lime, sugar, salt and half the peanuts. Bring to boil again, and simmer until thickened. remove from heat and set aside till required. When you’re ready to serve, re-heat and stir through the remaining peanuts.

Poh's Malaysian Satay with Peanut Sauce

Zia Sonya’s Gnocchi

Easy Foolproof Gnocchi

As I mentioned in my last post my brother-in-laws aunt makes wonderful gnocchi and at a recent family dinner she kindly taught me just how she does it. Gnocchi has always been something I’ve found hard to master, they either  turn out like rubber bullets or are so soft they break apart in the water. Zia Sonya’s method produces perfectly textured gnocchi – just the right amount of density whilst still remaining lovely and light. There are a lot of different techniques for making gnocchi which can make things even more confusing. Some recipes call for the potatoes to be steamed and not boiled whilst others insist that the potatoes have to be riced or mashed whilst still hot. Zia Sonya does neither and they were perfect, turns out gnocchi aren’t that scary after all. We served the gnocchi with this beef short rib ragu but they would be wonderful with any sauce, from a  simple tomato to a decadent creamy gorgonzola. If you want to freeze the gnocchi, place them spread apart on a baking sheet or plate and place in the freezer. When the gnocchi have frozen transfer them to a freezer bag.

Ingredients – Serves 4-6

1kg unpeeled medium-sized potatoes (try to make sure they are all roughly the same size) – we used desiree
1½ cups plain flour, plus extra as needed
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Method

Wash the potatoes well and place in a large pot. Cover with cold water, put on the lid and bring to the boil. Simmer potatoes until they are tender all the way through. Depending on the size and type of potato this could take anywhere from 20-30 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked take them out of the water straight away and drain them well. When they are cool enough to handle peel them and using a ricer or a mouli  mash them into a large bowl.

Potatoes for Gnocchi

Add the egg and egg yolk and lightly work it into the mashed potatoes. Flour a work surface well and dump the potato and egg mixture out. Add the flour, about a half a cup at a time and using your hands lightly incorporate it into to the potatoes. You don’t want to overwork the potatoes or the flour too much – if you do you’ll activate the gluten in the flour and the starch in the potatoes which will toughen the gnocchi.

Dough for Gnocchi Dough for Gnocchi

Your dough when it is ready should be smooth, not sticky or wet and should look similar to the second photo above. Depending on the type of potatoes you’ve used you may need to add more flour, sometimes a lot more, there are a lot of variables so just judge it by feel and add more or less until you get the right consistency.

Cutting Gnocchi Foolproof Gnocchi

To shape the gnocchi, take a portion of dough and using your hands roll it on a well floured surface into a long roll about 1½ cm’s thick. Using a knife cut the gnocchi into short lengths, making sure they’re all roughly the same size. Place on a floured tray or plate and repeat with the remaining dough. If you wish to make ridges on the gnocchi, roll them on the back of a fork but I don’t think it’s necessary. To cook the gnocchi bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Gently add the gnocchi and cook, stirring them around very lightly. Once they rise to the surface cook them for another minute then gently lift them out using a slotted spoon. You want to dress your gnocchi pretty quickly so have some sauce standing by that you can add them to or else place them on a serving platter and gently combine them with some sauce. If you want to prepare your gnocchi ahead of time place them into a large baking dish, add some sauce making sure all the gnocchi are coated. Cover the dish with foil and place into a low oven. When you’re ready to serve, plate the gnocchi and add extra sauce on top.

Gnocchi with Beef Short Rib Ragu

Beef Short Rib Ragu

Beef Short Rib Ragu

Just before Christmas we had a family dinner at my brother-in-laws Aunt’s house. Zia Sonia is an amazing cook and when I heard she was making her famous gnocchi for dinner I volunteered to bring along the sauce and asked if I could come early to learn how she makes her pillow-soft gnocchi. I’ll share her technique and recipe in my next post but for now here is the ragu I made. The recipe is from Australian Gourmet Traveller and it’s a real keeper. Whilst it’s not difficult to execute it does take a lot of inactive cooking time – six hours to be exact but it’s worth it for the depth of flavour the sauce develops. I also like the quite unusual method of adding the stock in small batches and letting it cook down between each addition, creating layers of intense flavour. If you can, try to make the sauce a day in advance of when you’re going to serve it, not only will the flavours develop more but it’s also easier to skim off the fat once it’s been cooled in the fridge overnight. Gnocchi is a great accompaniment for this ragu but it would also be very good with pappardelle or fettucine.

Ingredients – Serves 8 generously & freezes well   Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller
You’ll need to start this recipe the day before

1.8 kg beef short ribs
2 cups red wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
onions, finely chopped
garlic cloves, minced
1 each carrot and celery stalk, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 cups beef stock
800gm canned whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
rosemary sprigs
bay leaf

Method

Place beef ribs in a non-reactive container that fits ribs snugly, add wine, cover and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 150C. Heat oil in a casserole over medium heat, remove ribs from wine (reserve 1 cup), pat dry on absorbent paper and cook, turning occasionally, until golden (5-7 minutes). Remove ribs and set aside, reduce heat to low, add vegetables and tomato paste and stir occasionally until tender (12-15 minutes).

     Beef Short Ribs for Ragu Beef Short Ribs for Ragu 

Add reserved red wine and cook until reduced by half (5-7 minutes), scraping residue as you go, then add half the stock one cup at a time, reducing completely after each addition (10-12 minutes).

                Beef Short Rib Ragu Shredded Beef Short Rib for Ragu

Add tomato, rosemary, bay leaf, remaining stock and ribs, cover and roast in the oven, turning ribs occasionally, until meat is falling from the bone (4-6 hours). When cool enough to handle, coarsely shred meat with a fork (discard bones, fatty sinew and herb stalks), season to taste and serve tossed with gnocchi (or papparadelle/fettucine) and scattered with freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese.

Perfect Easy Roast Duck

Easy Roast Duck

A lot of people think of duck as a difficult cut of meat to cook at home and roasting a whole duck in particular seems to cause a lot of anxiety. But in actual fact roasting duck is very simple and straight forward and given  its high fat content very forgiving as far as cooking times go. Speaking of fat, this seems to be the other reason that many may steer away from duck, and sure it’s not something to indulge in every week, but if cooked correctly most of the fat seeps away during the cooking time leaving you with very moist, tender meat and lots of lovely duck fat for the next time you’re roasting potatoes.

Easy Roast Duck

There are a lot of different methods and techniques for roasting duck with the most popular being the twice cooked method where the duck is first steamed then roasted. In my opinion there isn’t enough difference in the end result to warrant the extra effort. This easy one step roasting method is much easier. The only things to make sure of are that your duck is at room temperature, that it’s super dry and that the skin is lightly pricked all over with a fine skewer. Follow the steps below and you’ll be guaranteed crispy skin and succulent meat every time.

Ingredients – serves 3-4

1 whole duck weighing approx 2kgs
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Variations
Five spice powder for an Asian flavour
Half and orange and some thyme or sage leaves for stuffing into the cavity of the duck

Method

As soon as you bring your duck home from the market remove it from its packaging, pat it dry, place on a plate and leave it in the fridge uncovered. Leaving it overnight is best but if that’s not possible then for as long as you can.

Take the duck out of the fridge an hour before you need to roast it and preheat the oven to 220C. Once again pat it with paper towels to ensure it’s very dry. Cut away any large fat deposits near the cavity of the duck and with a fine skewer prick holes all over the skin, not deep enough to penetrate the flesh, just the top layer of skin. This will help the duck release it’s fat as it cooks.

 Fat from Roasting Duck Easy Perfect Roast Duck

Generously season the duck both inside and out with salt and pepper. Place the duck on a rack in a baking tray – it’s important to use a rack so as air circulates around the duck and also so the duck doesn’t sit in the fat it releases as it roasts. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. After this time reduce the heat to 180C and continue to cook for a further hour. Your basically cooking the duck for 45 minutes per kilo (so adjust according to the weight of your duck) with the first 30 minutes being at a higher heat. Halfway during the cooking time I like to remove the fat in the bottom of the tray. I use some of it to baste the duck and the rest I put aside for roasting potatoes (duck fat keeps well in the fridge for a number of weeks). When the duck has finished cooking remove it from the oven and allow it to rest uncovered for 15 minutes before carving.

 Perfect Easy Roast Duck

Chinese Braised Eggplant with Garlic, Ginger & Chilli

Fuchsia Dunlop's Fish Fragrant Eggplant

I adore eggplant and can’t get enough of it any shape or form. A particular favourite is this Szechuan side dish which is normally referred to as eggplant with fish fragrant Sauce. Not the most appealing of titles but rest assured the recipe does not include any seafood; the term “fish fragrant” referring instead to the style of sauce that is most commonly served with seafood dishes. And what a sauce it is, full of strong flavours and aromas which make the eggplant really come alive. One key ingredient in the recipe is the Chilli Bean Paste or sauce. It really makes a difference and whilst you can substitute a different type of chilli sauce and still produce a memorable dish I recommend you go to your nearest Asian grocer and buy a jar of this as it imparts a wonderful vibrant red colour and a rich savouriness which is hard to replicate. Some recipes call for minced meat to be added to this braise but to be quite honest it’s savoury and full flavoured enough without it. Traditionally the eggplant is deep fried and if you use a wok you actually don’t need too much oil but you can also shallow fry the eggplant, although it may not hold its shape quite so well or retain it’s texture. Whilst I don’t like deep frying at home I find with eggplant it really is an easier option than shallow frying. Eggplants are like a sponge when it comes to oil and I find you use an awful lot of it when you shallow fry, with all the oil being absorbed by the eggplant whereas when it’s deep-fried I find the eggplant absorbs much less oil.

Ingredients – Serves 4 as a side dish  Adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop

600g eggplant
Salt
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying  (if you are using a round-bottomed wok you won’t need much oil but you can also shallow fry, see not above)
1½ tablespoons Szechuan chilli bean paste
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
⅔ cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons sugar
1 scant teaspoon corn flour mixed with one tablespoon cold water
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar (Chinese black vinegar, you can substitute with young balsamic vinegar)
4 tablespoons finely sliced spring onions, green and white sections

Method

Cut the eggplant lengthways into three thick slices, then cut these into evenly sized batons. Sprinkle them with salt, mix well and leave in a colander for at least 30 minutes to drain.

In a wok, heat the oil for deep-frying to 180˚C. Add the eggplant in batches and deep-fry for three to four minutes until slightly golden on the outside and soft and buttery within. Remove and drain on paper towels. If you prefer you can also shallow fry the eggplant until golden.

Fried Eggplant

Drain the deep-frying oil, rinse the wok if necessary, then return it to a medium flame. When the wok is hot again, add 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the chilli bean paste and stir-fry until the oil is red and fragrant, then add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir-fry until you can smell their aromas. Take care not to burn these seasonings; remove the wok from the heat for a few seconds if necessary to control the temperature (you want a gentle, coaxing sizzle, not a scorching heat).

Chinese Braised Eggplant Eggplant with Fish Fragrant Sauce

Add the stock and sugar and mix well. Season with salt to taste if necessary. Add the fried eggplant to the sauce and let them simmer gently for a minute or so to absorb some of the flavors. Then stir the corn flour mixture, pour it over the eggplant and stir in gently to thicken the sauce. Add the vinegar and spring onions and stir a few times, then serve.

Fuchsia Dunlop's Fish Fragrant Eggplant

Rockpool’s Date Tart

Lorraine Godsmark Date Tart

The iconic date tart served at legendary Sydney restaurant Rockpool was originally created by Lorraine Godsmark and whilst Lorraine has long since departed Rockpool to start her own Patisserie (where she also sells this date tart) it’s still on the menu at Rockpool and I couldn’t imagine ending a meal there without it. There’s a good reason why this tart has gained such culinary cult status – it’s unbelievably delicious and if you’ve ever tasted it you’ll know that it’s one very special tart. Trying to fathom the recipe is no easy feat as it’s a closely guarded secret and whilst this version may not be the exact recipe Lorraine created it’s pretty darn close. The list of ingredients and the concept is pretty simple but I think the real trick is in the cooking time and temperature. In order to achieve the incredibly silky, just set custard, of the original you need to really monitor the oven heat. After various attempts I found that starting in a pre-heated oven at 180C and then lowering the temperature by 10 degrees every 10 minutes produced the best results. The one thing you don’t want to do is to overcook it or cook it at too fierce a heat. It should be taken out of the oven whilst it’s still wobbly in the centre as it continues to firm as it cools. This tart is prefect on its own and doesn’t need any accompaniments but if you need to make the tart stretch out to feed a large number of people, like I did a few weeks ago, then I can highly recommend pairing it with coffee ice cream – I made a batch using a David Lebovitz recipe and it was amazing, I’ll post the recipe shortly.

Ingredients – makes one large (28cm) tart, serves 8-10

Pastry – this makes slightly more pastry than you need for a 28cm tart shell but you can freeze the leftovers or turn them into cookies
270 g cold butter, cut into cubes
35g caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
375g plain flour, sifted
Pinch of salt

Filling
10 – 12 fresh soft dates, halved, stones removed
6 egg yolks
60 grams sugar
600 ml single/pouring cream
The seeds of one vanilla pod

Method

To make the pastry, place the butter, sugar, egg and milk in a food processor and pulse until the butter is in small pieces, then add the flour and process until the pastry just comes together. Remove from the processor onto a lightly floured surface and bring together into a ball. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Roll out the dough on a floured surface or between 2 sheets of baking paper until large enough to fit a 28cm tart tin. Place the pastry into the tin and lightly press it in to the base and sides. Trim off any excess and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. I often make the pastry a day or two in advance and place it covered in cling wrap in the freezer. Once the dough has rested in the fridge, cover it with some baking paper and fill with pastry weights or rice and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake for a further 10-12 minutes until the pastry is lightly golden. Set aside to cool.

To make the filling, Place the halves of the dates around the perimeter and centre of the pastry.   Press the dates down so they squash a little to ensure they don’t poke out of the custard later.

Pastry for sweet tart Lorraine's Date Tart

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Use an electric beater or stand mixer to cream together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the cream and vanilla and beat to combine. Pour the filling into the tart, making sure the dates are covered. I find it easier to place the tart on a baking sheet in the oven and the pour in the filling. Make sure you don’t let the filling over flow.

Rockpool's Date Tart

Bake for a total of 30-40  minutes, reducing the oven temperature by 10 degrees every 10 minutes until the tart is golden brown but still has a slight wobble in the centre, it will become firmer as it cools and it’s important not to over cook the filling. If you feel that it needs more time it’s safer to turn the oven off and leave it in the oven for a little extra time. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.
Lorraine Godsmark's Date Tart

Thai Grilled Pork Neck with Spicy Dipping Sauce – Ko Mu Yang with Jaew

    Thai Grilled Pork Neck Thai Spicy Chilli Dipping Sauce for Grilled Meats

If you’ve had your fill of Christmas fare and can’t face leftovers of ham or turkey then this is a delicious punchy dish to try that is as far removed from festive-season food as possible. Thai cuisine has some amazing grilled meat, poultry and seafood dishes. Simple marinades bringing out all the sweetness of the meat and the accompanying spicy chilli dipping sauce making every bite explode with flavour. Jaew is a northeastern Thai dipping sauce that is made using dried chilli flakes rather than fresh chilli giving it a wonderful smoky aroma which is very addictive, I could slather it on anything! Pork, and pork neck in particular, is a great cut for this type of grilling as it remains moist and tender, don’t be tempted to try tenderloin or fillet as it would dry out too much. I like to buy a whole pork neck and cut it into thick slices to marinade. After it’s been grilled I cut it up into more manageable size pieces, ensuring even more moistness. This is great served with rice (coconut rice in particular is very good) and sliced cucumbers.

Ingredients – Serves 4-6

1kg pork neck (pork collar), cut into wide slabs about ½ inch thick

Marinade
3 tablespoons grated palm sugar (or 2 tablespoons brown sugar)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons whisky, optional

Jaew Dipping Sauce  Adapted from She Simmers
¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon galangal powder, optional
⅓ cup fish sauce
Juice of one lime
2 teaspoons grated palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon of toasted rice powder, optional
1 tablespoon of dried red chilli flakes

Method

Place all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well to combine, making sure that the sugar gets dissolved. Add the pork slices and mix to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 – 6 hours.

To make the jaew, mix everything together in a bowl. Adjust the taste with more fish sauce, lime juice, or sugar, if necessary. The sauce should be predominantly sour and salty.

Pork Neck for Grilling Thai Grilled Pork Neck

 

To cook the pork, Remove the pork from marinade and lightly pat dry with paper towels. Grill the pieces of pork over a medium heated grill/barbecue, until meat is tender and the surface is charred, about 30 minutes, turning the pieces regularly and basting with a little of the marinade. You could also cook this on ridged grill pan indoors. Let rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve with the jaew on the side.

 Thai Grilled Pork Neck - Ko Mu Yang

Sausage Meatball Lasagna

Ultimate Comfort Food - Sausage Meatball Lasagna

Cooking a classic lasagna can be a real labour of love – making a ragu, making béchamel, boiling lasagna sheets and then layering everything together can take a lot of time and effort. Sure it’s delicious but due to the amount of time it takes it’s not something I cook very often. When I crave lasagna but don’t want to spend a day in the kitchen preparing it this is the recipe I like to make. The meatballs are made using Italian sausages so there’s not meat mixture to prepare and I use a mixture of ricotta and parmesan to replace the béchamel sauce. I also use fresh lasagna sheets so there’s no pre boiling. The sausages are braised in a very simple tomato sauce which doesn’t need to be simmered for hours to develop great flavour. This lasagna has a slightly different flavour profile to a classic Bolognese lasagna but it’s just as flavourful and quite substantial with those cute little meatballs really packing a punch.

Ingredients –  Serves 4 generously

1kg Italian sausages, or any well flavoured sausage (beef or pork)
Olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 x 400g tins Italian diced tomatoes
1 heaped tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt, pepper
½ cup roughly chopped basil leaves, as well as 1 cup of whole basil leaves
300g ricotta
¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
250g grated mozzarella
1 egg
Fresh Lasagna sheets

Method

Remove the sausages from their casings and roll the meat into small meatballs. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a heavy based saucepan. Add the meatballs in one layer and cook turning until they are slightly golden. Remove and repeat with remaining meatballs, adding more oil as necessary, until they are all browned.

      Sausage Meatballs  Sausage Meatball Sauce

To the same pan add the onions and cook until they are soft, about 8 minutes. If you find the onions are catching add a little water. Add the garlic and cook for a another minute. Add the tomato paste and stir it through the onions well then add the diced tomatoes, plus one can of water, the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the simmer and add the sausages back to the pan along with any accumulated juices.  Bring to a simmer again and cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes on low heat. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

       Sausage Meatball Lasagna Sausage Meatball Lasagna

Preheat oven to 180C. Whilst the tomato sauce is cooking place the ricotta, 1/2 cup of parmesan, the egg and the chopped basil into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix until well combined. To assemble the lasagna, pour a few spoons of the tomato sauce, without any meatballs, onto the base of a rectangular oven proof dish and spread it out. Add a layer of the fresh lasagna sheets, cutting them if need be to fit and cover the pan snuggly. Add a small amount of the ricotta mixture and spread to cover the pasta. On top of the ricotta mixture add a layer of meatballs with some sauce, a few basil leaves and a handful of the grated mozzarella. Repeat the process until the pan is filled, pressing down lightly after each layer. I like to finish with the ricotta on top followed with just a small smear of tomato sauce and then cover the top with a scattering of grated mozzarella and the remaining parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is bubbling and golden. Rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Ultimate Comfort Food - Sausage Meatball Lasagna