Delicious Spinach Gratin the Easy Way

Best Ever Spinach GratinAs much as I love eating spinach I don’t like all the tedious washing involved to ensure it’s grit and sand free. My normal method for washing spinach is to fill the sink with plenty of cold water, take all the spinach leaves off the stem, place them in the water and give them a good swirl around for a few minutes. Then I turn on the tap and rinse them through the running water as I take them out, squeezing as much excess water from the leaves as I can. I’m tired just writing about it! I maybe the last person on earth to discover this, but frozen spinach is an amazing product! Right up there with frozen peas in my opinion, and sure there are some applications where frozen chopped spinach is not going to be able to replace fresh leaves but in something like this gratin, frozen spinach is perfect and dare I say it even better than fresh. The amount of fresh spinach you would need to make a gratin like this would be ludicrous and you can never really chop the spinach in quite the same way. So finally a spinach dish that can feed a crowd, goes perfectly with a any grilled or roasted meat/poultry, especially steaks, and won’t have you washing, blanching and chopping for hours on end! I can see myself making this very regularly and it would be especially good for holiday meals when you need numerous side dishes that can feed a lot of people.

Ingredients – Serves 4  Adapted from Ina Garten

2 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely diced
1 heaped tablespoon flour
Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup cream
1 cup milk
750g frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (3 x 250g packages)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes – you want the onions to be very soft. Add the flour and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Add the cream and milk and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Best Ever Spinach Gratin

Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach and add it to the sauce. Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix well. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.Transfer the spinach to a baking dish and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and the Gruyere on top. Bake for 20 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve hot.

Ultimate Spinach Gratin

Chinese Red Cooked Chicken with Shiitake Mushrooms

Chinese Red Cooked ChickenRed Cooking in Chinese cuisine, Hong Shao, refers to food  (normally pork, chicken or duck) that has been braised in a mixture of soy sauce, Chinese rice wine and whole spices. The soy sauce and long braising imparting the meat with a lovely mahogany hue. It’s a wonderful warming and comforting dish that’s great for colder weather. I like to use thigh fillets for this recipe but you can also use whole chicken thighs or thigh cutlets with the bone in. You can leave the skin on or off, my preference is for the chicken to be skinless – if you can’t have crisp skin I don’t see the point and braising in liquid means the skin goes limp so might as well save the calories. One important ingredient in this dish is the rock sugar which is available at most Asian grocers. You could replace it with normal sugar which will give you the necessary sweetness but it won’t impart the same glossy finish to the sauce. If you’re doing an Asian themed dinner and want to serve a few main courses this would be an ideal dish to include on the menu as it can be prepared in advance and re-heated just before serving. I accompanied the  chicken with szechuan green beans with spicy mince (which I’ll post shortly) and lots of steamed rice to mop up the delicious braising liquid.

Ingredients – Serves 4 generously or 6 as part of a shared meal

1 kg chicken thigh fillets cut in half or thirds depending on size – you can also use whole chicken thighs/cutlets or any mixture of chicken pieces. You can leave the skin on or off – I prefer the chicken skinless
1 cup shoaxing Chinese rice wine – you can substitute with dry sherry
½ teaspoon salt
4 spring onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces- plus extra, finely sliced, for garnishing
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices (not chopped)
3 tablespoons peanut oil or any other vegetable oil
8 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
3 whole star anise
2 long red chillies, cut in half – you can leave this out if your cooking for children but cutting the chilli in this way doesn’t impart any heat to the dish
1 x 3 inch cinnamon stick
1 piece dried tangerine peel, optional  – available in Asian grocers
⅓ cup dark soy sauce
¼ cup light soy sauce
3 tablespoons roughly chopped Chinese rock sugar or substitute with plain sugar
8-10 fresh shiitake mushrooms cut into thirds
2 teaspoons corn flour

Method

In a bowl, combine chicken, rice wine, salt, spring onions, and ginger. Leave to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving chicken, spring onions, and ginger.

Heat a wok or a deep sided fry pan over high heat. Swirl in the oil and add garlic, star anise, chillies, cinnamon, and tangerine peel and cook for 1 minute. Add reserved chicken, spring onions, and ginger and cook until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Add soy sauces and cook for another couple of minutes. Add 1½ cups water and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add sugar and shiitake mushrooms, stir well and cook uncovered for a further 15 minutes, by which time the chicken will be cooked through and tender.

Stir together the corn flour with 1 tablespoon cold water in a small bowl. Raise heat to high and pour in the corn flour mixture while stirring constantly. Cook, stirring, until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes, if you still feel there is too much liquid just cook uncovered at a high simmer for a little longer. Remove from heat and let rest for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with finely chopped spring onions and serve with steamed rice.

Chinese Red Cooked Chicken with Shitake Mushrooms

 

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

These little sausage stuffed mushrooms make a great canapé to serve with drinks. The best thing about them, apart from being delicious, is that they can be prepared well in advance and baked just before serving. There are so many variations you can make with these. Sometimes I leave out the sausage and just make them with bread crumbs, peppers, herbs and cheese and sometimes I use crumbled chorizo to replace the Italian style sausage which is also delicious. To serve as a canapé I like to find mushrooms that are on the small side – not button mushrooms as they’re too hard to fill, but cup mushrooms that are about an inch and half in diameter are perfect, keep in mind they do shrink down a little when they cook. I normally aim to make at least 3-4 per person as they’re very moreish and disappear fast!

Ingredients – Makes about 20 – 24 mushrooms depending on size

Olive oil
20 mushrooms, about 1½ inches in diameter, I always buy a few extra just in case I have filling left over
1 large shallot, finely diced
½ red capsicum, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1-2 Italian sausages (depending on their size), you can substitute with any of your favourite sausage – a spicy one works well
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 cup fresh bread crumbs – you can also do half fresh and half panko
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup white wine
½ cup chicken stock

Method

Preheat oven to 200C. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frypan or skillet. Add the onion, pepper and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until they are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Take the sausages out of their casing and crumble them into the pan. Cook, breaking up the sausage with a spoon until it’s cooked through and starting to brown.  Remove and set aside to cool.

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Place the breadcrumbs, parsley and parmesan cheese into a bowl. Add the cooled sausage mixture and stir to combine. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine. Take your mushrooms and remove the stem from the cup. I sometimes peel back some of the skin on the mushrooms if they are thick, this also makes more room for filling as it removes some of the flesh from the sides of the mushroom. Place some baking paper on a baking sheet. Pour the white wine, stock and 2 tablespoons of olive oil on the paper – there should be enough liquid to thinly cover the base, if your baking tray is large just add a little more stock. Take a mushroom and add enough filling in the exposed cup to fill it generously, I like to fill them quite high as they do shrink down a little. Place the mushroom on top of the stock and wine mixture and repeat with remaining mushrooms. Drizzle the tops of the mushrooms with a little olive oil and place in the pre-heated oven and cook for 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is golden brown and crispy. The mushrooms can be prepared in advance and kept refrigerated until you’re ready to bake them, just take them out of the fridge 30 minutes before so as they come to room temperature.

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Osso Buco Ragu with Pappardelle

Traditional Osso Buco with Tomatoes Osso Buco Ragu with Pappardelle

Sometimes you just feel like pasta and nothing else will do. My plan was to cook osso buco one night last week, which I love with a passion, and I had all the ingredients ready to go but when the time came I just felt like pasta. I didn’t want to team up the osso buco with the traditional risotto, polenta or mashed potatoes – I wanted nice thick slippery strands of pasta. So I decided to turn the osso buco into a ragu and it was a decision that really paid off. Some people would protest that the time and effort of cooking an osso buco and then tearing the meat into shreds would be a waste, but they would be wrong. This was one of the best pasta sauces I’ve ever made. I used to think the ultimate ragu was one made using slow braised beef short ribs or ox tail but they pale in comparison to this osso buco ragu. Traditionally veal shanks are used to make osso buco, and I do always use them if I’m making a white osso buco (osso buco bianca) where the veal really gets to shine through in the more subtle sauce of white wine, herbs and stock. But I find this osso buco, which is the hearty tomato based cousin of the white version, is best made with beef shanks which can stand up better to the gutsy flavours. This is the sort of slow cooking that I love when I’m in the mood to be in the kitchen for a few hours and the long braising means not only succulent, fork tender meat but a wonderfully reduced and complex tomato sauce that fills the house with the most amazing aromas. If you don’t want to serve this as a ragu then just skip the shredding of the meat and serve a shank per person alongside some risotto or mashed potato. Whichever way you decide to serve this it would be wonderful topped off with gremolata (finely minced garlic, lemon rind and parsley) which is the traditional finishing touch for osso buco.

Ingredients – Serves 4-6 and freezes well

4 large beef osso buco (beef shanks) about 1.2kg
4 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 large onions, finely diced
1 stalk celery, very finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled and very finely diced
3 strips lemon peel
2 bay leaves
1 piece parmesan rind, optional
Generous pinch of saffron
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 400g tin diced tomatoes
½ cup white wine
Beef stock, about 1 – 1½ cups
Salt & freshly ground pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 150C. Season beef well on both sides and lightly dredge in flour. Heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large heavy bottom pan (use one that is shallow sided, can fit the beef in a single layer, has a lid and is oven proof). Add the beef and cook on both sides until golden brown. Remove and set aside.  Lower the heat to medium, add onions along with a pinch of salt to the same pan and cook until soft. Add celery, carrot, garlic and another pinch of salt and cook until lightly golden. Add white wine and cook, stirring to release any sediment on the bottom of the pan, until reduced and almost all evaporated. Add lemon peel, bay leaves, saffron, and tomato paste. Cook for a few minutes, stirring the tomato paste into the vegetables and letting it caramelise slightly. Add the diced tomatoes, bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Place beef back into the pan in a single layer along with the parmesan rind. Add enough beef stock to come almost to the top of the beef and bring it back to a simmer. Place in the preheated oven for 3-4 hours until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone. Half way through the cooking time turn the pieces of beef over. If you think the liquid in the pan is reducing too much, cover the meat with a sheet of crumpled baking paper before covering with the lid.

      Meat for Osso Buco Osso Buco Vegetables

       Osso Buco Osso Buco Ragu

When the meat is cooked and very tender remove it from the oven and let it cool slightly. Remove the parmesan rind, bay leaves and lemon rind. Then take each shank out of the sauce and tear the meat from the bone, shredding it into bite size pieces. This is best done with your hands and wearing food safe disposable gloves makes it much easier. As you remove the meat, add it back to the pan making sure that you dislodge any of the marrow in the shank back into the sauce. When all the meat has been taken off the bone, stir your sauce and place it over medium heat to warm through. At this stage you may want to add a little more beef stock or water to the pan if you feel your sauce is too concentrated or dry. When the ragu has heated through serve it with pappardelle or fettucini topped with gremolata (see note above) or freshly grated parmesan.

Osso Buco Ragu with Pappardelle

Veal Chops Stuffed with Taleggio & Broccoli

Lidia's Veal Chops Stuffed with Taleggio & Broccoli

This recipe comes from Lidia Bastianich an Italian American chef who owns several restaurants in the States, has written countless cook books and made a number of television shows – she’s sort of the Barefoot Contessa of Italian food. I find her recipes to be very approachable and totally authentic, despite her many years living in the States Lidia’s recipes have stayed true to their Italian roots. I’ve made this dish on numerous occasions and I’m always blown away by it’s amazing flavour. Every mouthful packs a punch, from the tender veal to the cheesy goodness of the taleggio stuffing which seeps into the tomato sauce making it rich and creamy. This dish is deceptive in appearance, it may look like a simple veal chop braised in tomato sauce but once you start eating it you realise you’ve been duped and that this is veal chops and tomato sauce like you’ve never had before. I teamed the veal with soft polenta but you could also serve it with mashed potatoes or even pasta. If you can’t find good sized veal chops you can substitute with free range pork chops instead which are sometimes easier to find than veal chops.

Ingredients – Serves 4  Adapted from Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen

1 cup broccoli florets, cut into small in pieces, no larger than ½ inch
Salt
1 cup best quality Italian tomato passata
150g taleggio cheese, cut into small thin pieces
4 slices Italian Prosciutto, sliced thin
4 bone-in veal chops, each about 280g and 1-inch thick
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Plain flour
⅔ cup dry white wine
8 fresh sage leaves
freshly ground pepper
1⅓ cups chicken stock

Method

Cook the broccoli florets in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water until tender but still bright green, about 4 minutes. Drain the broccoli and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain thoroughly. Place the broccoli and the cheese into a small bowl and mix to combine. Taleggio cheese is quite soft so it will become sightly mashed up with the broccoli which is fine.

Lay a veal chop flat on a cutting board. Make a horizontal cut through the meat all the way to the bone. With the smooth side of a meat mallet gently pound each side until the veal is about half a centimetre thick. Place a slice of prosciutto over the butterflied veal chop, then place a quarter of the cheese and broccoli mixture over the prosciutto, smoothing it down to cover the veal. Fold the other side of the chop over the filling, press down the edges to seal slightly and fasten with a couple of toothpicks. Don’t worry too much about getting a perfect seal – some of the cheese will ooze out into the sauce regardless and this is what makes the tomato sauce so tasty. Press the stuffed chops gently to flatten them slightly. Repeat with the remaining chops. Season the stuffed chops with salt and pepper, then dredge them in flour to coat all sides lightly.

 
Stuffed Veal Chop

Heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until the butter is light brown. Add the chops to the pan and cook until the underside is golden, about 4 minutes. Turn the chops, scatter the sage leaves around them and cook until the second side is golden, about 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato passata, bring to a boil, then pour in the stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat so the sauce is simmering and cook, covered, until no trace of pink remains near the bone and the sauce is syrupy, about 12 minutes. Turn the chops and baste them with the sauce several times as they simmer.

Stuffed Veal Chops Braised Stuffed Veal Chops

The chops can also be cooked in the oven: Preheat oven to 180C. After adding stock to the pan, set the uncovered pan in a hot oven and bake, basting periodically for 15 minutes.

Transfer the chops to warm plates and spoon some of the sauce over each.

Veal Chops Stuffed with Taleggio & Broccoli

Khoresht Bogoli – Persian Lamb & Broad Bean Stew

Khoresht Bogoli - Persian Braised Lamb and Fava Bean StewThis is another one of my favourite khoresht. I adore broad beans and Persian food uses them in a number of different applications. In this slow braised stew the broad beans have been teamed with dill which is just one of those natural pairings and a match made in heaven. As far as Khoresht go this one is pretty easy to make in that there’s no tedious frying of vegetables, although the dill is gently sautéed for a few minutes before being added to the stew. My mother always sautés  her herbs when making khoresht which ensures the sauce has a lovely vibrant colour. The other tip for khoresht bogoli is to not cover the pot after the herbs and broad beans have been added. Covering the pan at that stage will give a murky colouring to the khoresht with the broad beans losing a lot of their vivid green colour. As with all khoresht, gentle, slow and long cooking is the key but your preparation time will be significantly reduced if you use frozen broad beans. If you’re lucky you may even be able to find podded frozen broad beans – some Middle Eastern stores carry them but frozen broad beans from the supermarket will need defrosting and de-podding, but it’s still much less time consuming than using fresh broad beans. If broad beans are in season and you wish to use them buy enough to give you 600g after they have been taken out of their main shell. You’ll then need to blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes and then de-pod them from their second skin. As with all khoresht the only accompaniment required is plain basmati rice.

Ingredients – Serves 6 generously and freezes well

4 medium sized onions, finely diced
Neutral tasting vegetable oil or ghee
½ teaspoon tumeric
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
700g diced lean leg of lamb – pieces should be roughly 2cm in size
1 cup finely chopped dill
600g frozen broad beans, defrosted and podded – see note above if you wish to use fresh broad beans
Juice of half a large lemon

Method

Heat a generous amount of oil or ghee in a heavy based saucepan over medium heat (make sure you use enough as there are a lot of onions and you don’t want the onions to stick to the pan or burn). Add the onions and a large pinch of salt and sauté until the onions are golden brown. Take your time with this stage and moderate your heat so as the onions cook slowly and achieve a nice caramelisation. Add the turmeric and cook for another couple of minutes. Increase the heat, add the meat and cook, stirring occasionally until the meat has changed colour. Add a heaped teaspoon of salt and a good few grinds of black pepper. Stir again and add enough boiling water to just cover the meat, with only the tips of the meat poking through the water. Bring to a simmer then cover the pan, lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook for about 1- 1½ hours or until the meat is tender.

Broad Beans/Fava Beans for Khoresht Meat & Onions for Khoresht Bogoli

Whilst the meat is cooking, place a few tablespoons of oil or ghee in a small skillet or fry pan and place over low heat. When the oil has heated add the dill and sauté gently for a few minutes until the dill has softened and the oil in the pan has turned a light green colour. Set aside. When the meat is tender add the broad beans, the dill – along with the oil in the pan, and the lemon juice. Stir gently to incorporate the dill and broad beans. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. I always find that at this stage I do need to add a little more salt. Bring the pan to a simmer and cook uncovered for about a further hour until the meat is fork tender.

Khoresht Bogoli Khoresht Bogoli

By the time the meat has reached this stage the sauce should have reduced sufficiently and the broad beans cooked through – nice and soft but not mushy. You want the  khoresht to be quite thick with not too much liquid so if you need to reduce your sauce more just cook it for a little longer. Make sure that during this time your heat is nice and low and that the khoresht is only just lightly simmering and stir it occasionally (very gently) to make sure it’s not sticking. If your stove is quite fierce use a simmer pad and conversely if during the cooking time you find that your sauce is too thick just add a little bit of boiling water. Serve hot over basmati rice.

Khoresht Bogoli - Persian Lamb & Fava Bean Stew

Caramelized Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Caramelized Rhubarb Upside Down CakeWhen I was growing up it was compulsory to take home economics in the first two years of high school. I used to love those weekly lessons with Mrs King who was tasked with teaching us the basics of cookery. And by basics, I mean basics. Grilled tomatoes and lemon delicious pudding made from a packet were some of the recipes that come to mind. However on one occasion we were given a recipe and a demonstration of how to make a pineapple upside down cake. I thought it was a thing of beauty – especially the maraschino cherries proudly adorning the centre of each canned pineapple ring! It’s a retro throwback now but It was the first “serious” cake I ever made on my own and boy was I proud of it. Upside down cakes back then were all the rage but they went out of fashion for a while which was such a shame, luckily they’re making a comeback and this caramelized rhubarb version shows just how far the upside down cake has come. Making a caramel for the rhubarb slices to sit on not only makes it easy for the pieces to be strategically placed without moving around but the sweetness of the caramel contrasts beautifully with the slightly sour tang of the rhubarb. The cake portion is more or less a classic cake batter but the addition of sour cream ensures a lovely moist and dense crumb. If you’re a fan of rhubarb you’re going to love this cake and if you’re not then simply replace it with your favourite fruit – pears, apples, plums would all work well or stick to good old fashioned pineapple rings, maybe minus the cherries.

Ingredients

Caramel
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
40g unsalted butter, cut into large dice
680 g fresh rhubarb, trimmed and cut into ¾-inch slices – about 1 large bunch

 Cake
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
130g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs

Crumb Topping
60g cold unsalted butter, diced
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch-diameter, high round cake pan (don’t use a springform pan as the caramel might leak out during baking). Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper, cut to fit, and grease the paper.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring; increase the heat to high, and cook, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystallization, until the mixture turns into a golden caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately whisk in the butter, one piece at a time (be careful: the mixture will bubble up furiously). Carefully pour the hot caramel into the bottom of the prepared pan. Arrange a circle of rhubarb slices around the outer edge of the pan, on top of the caramel. Arrange the remaining slices in the centre, covering the caramel completely.

To make the crumb topping, place all the ingredients in a bowl and and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Set aside.

To make the cake batter, preheat to 180C. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and vanilla extract and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat at high speed until the mixture is lightened in texture and color. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. At low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the sour cream mixture in two additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix just until blended. Spoon the batter in large dollops over the rhubarb. Smooth the batter into an even layer.

Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the batter and bake for about an hour, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan. Using pot holders, very carefully invert the cake onto a cake plate or platter. Peel off the parchment paper, if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Caramelised Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Milk Braised Pork Ragu with Fresh Fettuccine

Milk Braised Pork Ragu with Fresh FettucineAs I was typing the title to this post I realised I had published a similar recipe not so long ago. Both are pork dishes that are braised in a dairy based sauce and yet despite the essence of  two dishes being similar they actually taste quite different. This is a really divine pasta sauce – comforting and moorish in the way that all creamy pastas are but with the benefit of using milk to create a rich sauce instead of cream. The milk, onions and garlic that have been used to braise the pork are cleverly blended at the end of the recipe to create a thick and creamy sauce that is packed with flavour. If, like me, you struggle to find pasta recipes that veer away from the usual tomato based ragus then this recipe needs to go into your “to make” file. If you have the time and inclination making your own fettuccine would be well worth it for this ragu but a good quality store bought fresh pasta is just fine.

Ingredients – Serves 6  Adapted from Chow.com

2 kg  pork neck/pork scotch fillet or boneless pork shoulder (also known as pork butt) – if your piece of pork is too big to fit into your pan comfortably you can cut it in half
½ tablespoon salt, plus more as needed
½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
4½ cups whole milk
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 good size onion, cut into large dice
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
600g fresh fettuccine
A few fried sage leaves to garnish – optional

Method

Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels and season with the measured salt and pepper; set aside. Place the milk, garlic, onion, thyme, and bay leaves in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, add the pork, cover with a tight fitting lid, and cook for 75 minutes. Turn the pork over and continue cooking for another 75 minutes. Uncover and cook until the pork is fork-tender and easily shreds, about 30 minutes more. Transfer the pork to a cutting board.

Milk Braised Pork

Increase the heat to medium high and cook the braising liquid, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot to release any browned bits that have accumulated, until the liquid has reduced by half, about 25 minutes. (The sauce will look lumpy and curdled.) Meanwhile, prepare the meat and pasta. Using 2 forks, shred the pork into bite-sized pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat; set the meat aside. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water, and set aside. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf from the reduced braising liquid and transfer the liquid to a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth or alternatively, use an immersion blender.

Shredded Meat Braised Pork Milk Braised Pork Ragu

Return the sauce to the pot, add the shredded pork and stir to evenly combine, adding the reserved pasta cooking water as needed. When the sauce has heated through, taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir the cooked pasta through the sauce and serve immediately, garnished with the fried crispy sage leaves.

Milk Braised Pork Ragu with Fresh Fettuccine

Black & White Angel Food Cake – How To Use Up A Lot of Leftover Egg Whites

Black & White Angel Food Cake

Angel food cake originated in the United States and is basically a very light and airy sponge cake made mainly from beaten egg whites. It couldn’t be more aptly named as it certainly tastes like something angels would eat! I came across angel food cake when I was trying to find a recipe that would deplete my freezer of the many many egg whites I have stored there from making ice cream, custards and sauces. Pavlova would be the obvious choice but they only really use about 4 egg whites and that wouldn’t even make a dent in my supplies. But angel food cakes use a dozen egg whites, yes a whole dozen – perfect!

This particular recipe is from Ina Garten and incorporates grated dark chocolate, hence the black and white reference. It’s also topped with a chocolate ganache icing which is heavenly too. You don’t need to necessarily include the chocolate if you don’t want to – most angel food cakes are made plain with maybe some grated lemon or vanilla extract as the only flavourings. As an alternative topping to the ganache you can just spread over whipped cream or make a berry sauce. Angel food cakes are easy to make as long as you don’t have to whip the egg whites by hand. You also need to bake it in a tube tin. Tube tins are made specifically for this kind of cake and can be purchased from any good kitchenware shop. They are metal and not coated with any tefal or non stick coating, otherwise the egg whites won’t rise and in keeping with that same principle you should never grease the pan. This is a lovely light dessert and perfect after a heavy meal or on a hot day and if you have diet conscious guests they’ll be pleased to know that it contains no fat (other than the little in the chocolate, but as I said above, you can leave that out). You’ll definitely feel virtuous making this cake- you not only use up leftovers that would normally be thrown away but it’s healthy too!

Ingredients – Serves 8  Adapted from Ina Garten

2 cups sifted caster sugar
1⅓ cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising) – or you can use plain flour and replace 2 tablespoons with corn flour and sift them together well
1½ cups egg whites at room temperature (10 to 12 eggs)
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup coarsely grated dark chocolate

For the glaze:
250g dark chocolate
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon cream

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C – not fan forced. Combine ½ cup of the sugar with the flour and sift them together 4 times. Set aside.
Place the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the eggs form medium-firm peaks, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the remaining 1½ cups of sugar by sprinkling it over the beaten egg whites. Beat on high speed until thick and shiny. Add the vanilla and continue to whisk until very thick, about 1 more minute. Scrape the beaten egg whites into a large bowl. Sift quarter of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold it very carefully into the batter with a rubber spatula. Continue adding the flour in 3 equal additions, sifting and folding until it’s all incorporated. Fold in the grated chocolate.

 Egg Whites for Angel Food Cake  Tube Tin for Angel Food Cake

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, smooth the top, and bake it for 35 to 45 minutes, until it springs back to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan on a cooling rack. When cool, run a thin, flexible knife around the cake to remove it from the pan.

Black & White Angel Food Cake Black & White Angel Food Cake

For the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate and the heavy cream in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate melts. drizzle the chocolate over the top of the cooled cake and allow it to drizzle down the sides.

Chocolate Angel Food Cake

Braised French Onion Chicken with Gruyère- An Amazing Winter’s Meal

Braised French Onion Chicken with Gruyere

This dish is built on the same principles as a traditional French Onion Soup but with the addition of chicken. It’s half soup and half stew – the inclusion of chicken and a thicker sauce making it substantial enough for a main meal. This has fast become one of my favourite warming winter meals. It’s utterly delicious and comforting with just enough effort in the cooking to make it satisfying to prepare but not so arduous that you think twice about whipping it up. As with French onion soup, the careful cooking and caramelising of the onions is really important and is what binds the whole dish together, giving it that amazing rich brown colour that all good French Onion soups have. The differences are of course the inclusion of boneless skinless thigh fillets (breast fillets just wouldn’t be as good here) and the fact that it lacks the usual bread and cheese topping. Instead, just grated Gruyère cheese (and lots of it please) is placed on top of the finished dish and then grilled until beautifully melted and golden. Crusty bread served alongside is a must and I also like teaming it with a warm green bean salad dressed with lots of chopped tarragon and a thick dijon mustard vinaigrette. This is a must make knock out of a dish.

Ingredients – Serves 4-6  Adapted from The Kitchn

3 tablespoons butter
1 kg onions, sliced into thin half-moons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 small sprigs thyme, leaves only
1 sprig rosemary
2 cups best quality beef stock, divided
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
1.5kg boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup finely grated Gruyère cheese

Method

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted completely and foams up, add the onions. Stir as you add the onions to coat them in the butter. Sprinkle lightly with salt and black pepper. Cook the onions for about 40 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.

When the onions have developed an evenly light beige color throughout, add the garlic, thyme leaves, and whole rosemary sprig, and cook for a few minutes more, stirring frequently. Turn the heat up to high and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring frequently. You want dark, slightly burnt spots to appear on the onions, and for them to develop a rich mahogany color. When the onions get quite dark, add 1 cup of the beef stock. Add it slowly, stirring and scraping the pan vigorously to scrape up any burnt or stuck-on bits. When the liquid has been added, bring it back up to a simmer and simmer lightly for 5 minutes, or until it is somewhat reduced.

Take the onions off the heat and pour them into a oven-safe dish with a lid. (If you don’t have a Dutch oven or another oven-safe dish with a lid, you can use a baking dish. Just cover it tightly with a double layer of foil.). I prefer to use a shallow dish which gets a better result in the final step when you come to grill the cheese on top of the chicken.

Heat the oven to 160C. While the onions are cooking, brown the chicken. Heat a skillet or fry pan over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken thighs dry and season lightly with salt and black pepper. Add the olive oil to the skillet and when it’s hot, add the thighs and brown for about 3 minutes on each side, 6 minutes total. When they’ve developed a golden-brown crust, remove from the pan and set on top of the caramelized onions in the baking dish.

Add the remaining 1 cup stock to the pan. Stir vigorously, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until reduced by half. Pour this sauce over the chicken and onions, and put the lid on the baking dish. The chicken and onions will look quite saucy; there will be plenty of liquid in the baking dish.

(At this point you can refrigerate the dish for up to 48 hours. Let it sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before baking, or else add about 5 minutes to the bake time.)

Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn on the grill element. Take the lid off the baking dish, and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top of the chicken. When the griller has heated up, return the dish to the oven and grill for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden on top. Serve hot with plenty of crusty bread on the side.

Braised French Onion Chicken with Gruyere