Ricotta is a staple in my house. I use it mixed with crushed fruit or topped with jam over toast or muesli. I mix it with spinach and fetta for pies, make a quick 15 minute start-to-finish gnocchi or add it to roasted vegies in a salad. And that’s all before I use it in pancakes, desserts, or cakes.
As easy as it is to buy it, it’s even easier to make and takes just 30 minutes. If you don’t fancy a trip to the supermarket just so you can make some pancakes, try this next time. Continue reading Day 12 – How to Make Ricotta
There are two types of bread in this world. There is the sort that gets stale. And then there’s the sort that goes mouldy.
You can do a lot of things with stale bread. In fact it’s something to be desired, as any devotee of bread and butter pudding will tell you. Or you can make croutons, bread sauce, a garlicky skordalia to have with vegie sticks or crackers and that’s all before you make breadcrumbs. Continue reading Day 11 – Savoury Bread Pudding
It’s the acid test of any newbie starting out in a commercial kitchen – use your palate to tell you when to add an ingredient or when to restrain yourself.
I served blue cheese to friends as part of my birthday lunch, but am not a massive fan of it normally so was stuck with ways to use it up because to throw it out would be criminally wasteful. If you don’t have blue cheese, use any soft stinky cheese. Brie or camembert works well, even more so if you can bring it up to room temperature before you throw it into the soup.
There are thousands of recipes for this much-admired soup, but really, the less you do to it, the better. Don’t play around with lots of cream or thickeners or anything else that will detract from this beautiful result. It must be green thick, gooey and so fragrant you want to bathe in it. It’s the perfect weekend supper dish. Continue reading Day 3 – Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup
You know you’re truly settled into Melbourne when you join in and blame the weather for disrupting your enjoyment of the day.
In my case, plans were made to attend the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in a concert at the Myer Music Bowl. In eighteen months of living here, I have not been to the Bowl, a fact duly noted by the friend who suggested I might like to go. Plans were made, rugs and cushions were corralled, a picnic was prepared.
And then the weather ramped up. After 45 minutes of sitting in stultifying humidity and oppressive heat, we abandoned our plans. Never mind, my friend observed, there was always another concert we could go to later in the week. We ate the picnic in air-conditioned comfort instead.
Three days later and I prepared another picnic in remarkably different conditions. To begin, the weather was balmy and gentle. However it was now midweek and a day before shopping and the fridge was bare. It yielded scraps of cheese, half a tub of sour cream, some cherry tomatoes. Using Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry as a base, I came up with this tart and together with cushions, rug and some Prokofiev, it provided everything we needed for a truly lovely evening.
Melbourne, you dazzle. Continue reading Day 6 – Brie and Tomato Tart
There is something about comfort food which compels me to return to it again and again during times of stress. I know ultimately these potato cakes are not the healthiest for me, but the day I made them I was in a mood for reflection, for being methodical and, most importantly, for not over thinking the to-do list in my head.
Instead, as I worked the mash through corn, onion, spice and ham, my brain fixed on a mantra-like, “And now … and now … and now…” approach to gentle, quiet preparation.
Certainly there is a production line element to making these tasty morsels but oh my goodness they satisfy so much more than hunger. For me, on a day that involved the pressing questions of ‘if not now, then when?’, it was a way to keep my feet on earth and to be grateful for small kindnesses and tender mercies. These are insanely easy to make but are best eaten slowly, if nothing else for the redemptive powers of soothing what ails you.
Continue reading Day 1 – Potato and Corn Cakes
They are big, badass and utterly sinful and have long held favour wherever food is required to be accompanied by hard liquor and weak beer.
Take a plain potato, bake it whole, scoop out the contents and fill the gap with whatever the hell you want.
Perhaps because it’s so unapologetically blokey food, or perhaps because of its origins in the dens and drinking halls of east-coast America, there is something particularly take-me-as-I-am about these tasty bites that makes you forget, if only temporarily, that these spuds are loaded with far more than just flavour.
Surely they must be the last word in Sometimes Food.
Indeed, if you want to co-opt them to an Australian table, I suggest you make these a barbecue side dish, or part of a tapas-style meal of many small dishes, shared amongst many under spring or autumn skies (for me, the danger of eating them in cold weather is that I’ll simply eat too many).
That said, they are worth the risk. Moreish, packed full of flavour, incredibly versatile, they will always be popular with your family and friends. Deploy them at your own discretion.
Continue reading Day 2 – Loaded Potato Skins
I’m in the middle of the markets on Saturday morning, eyes deep in the last of the winter produce, eyeing off some local fresh walnuts when a Sydney-based friend messages me. We made it and are now settling into our hotel room. Where do you suggest we meet?
And that’s when I realise I had completely forgotten that she would be here and we have planned to meet for afternoon tea.
My heart sinks a little as I start going through my mental to-do list. Like most days it’s a long one, but it’s been a helluva week with all sorts of distractions and I’m running behind schedule. I had planned to go to the markets in the morning, with cooking in the afternoon. As it is I’m also heading out to the movies in the evening with a friend …
“Hi, it’s me. Question: If I come round and cook a meal and photograph it before we eat, can we go to the late session instead?” At the last moment, as if he might need further persuasion, I add the kicker: “It includes blue cheese.”
Which is how I came to have afternoon tea in the city in the late winter sunshine with a bag of sweet potatoes, blue cheese and walnuts (and a secret stash of movie-going Maltesers) at my feet.
In this case the blue cheese is very mild – it has to be if you’re to include everyone at the meal. Those who crave a stinky over-ripe cheese will find this a little too mild, but I loved it. Go for a creamy blue cheese (I bought a half-circle blue foil wrapped version in Aldi) rather than a Roquefort or Gorgonzola piquante. If you taste-test it as you make it and find it to strong, remember that the potato in the gnocchi really will even things out. The nuttiness of sweet potato is the perfect partner.
Continue reading Day 9 – Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Blue Cheese and Walnut Sauce
I love roasted vegetables and if they were not snarfed in this house like crack cocaine and demolished within hours, I would probably find them very versatile the following day.
Not everyone has this happy set of circumstances however and many parents have difficulties convincing young people to have a larger variety away from the usual favourites. If you are going to go to the trouble of masking them by grating them into meatballs and bolognese sauce, you could do a lot worse than putting them into a cheesy sauce and serving it up as a side dish.
True, little ones may pull out certain vegies and refuse them, but overall this is a glorious mixture of the familiar and the new. Continue reading Day 7 – Roast Vegetable Gratin
It wasn’t exactly a windfall, but it was treated like one. A cache of fresh ricotta was in my fridge because I had ignored my own advice and did NOT check a recipe before shopping. I bought ricotta but hadn’t needed it for the cheesecake I had planned for it.
Ricotta is loveliest when fresh, sweet and mildly scented and able to carry the flavours of whatever is paired with it. That said, some flavours can overwhelm which is why parmesan or cheddar is so often added to it to bolster the cheesiness. So when I tell you that you can take this basic recipe and add anything you want to it, do give it some consideration first. Mild cheese should be matched with mild flavours – chives or thyme rather than rosemary, a pinch of this, a dash of that. Put the bigger flavoured accompaniments on the side with some crusty bread or lavash crispbreads, such as roasted capsicum or smoky eggplant, some olives or hot salami.
Continue reading Day 2 – Herbed Baked Ricotta
From simple snack to something more substantial for dinner, boreks, that wonderful street food from Turkey and surrounds, are the perfect way to fill pastry with all sorts of tasty additions. Cheese and spinach are the usual fare, but you can also include lamb and spinach, diced and spiced vegetables, or in this case, a mixture of cheeses.
Which cheese do you use? Most traditional recipes begin with ricotta or cottage cheese but I had neither when I began this recipe. Instead I used up the nubbins of several varieties that seemed to be leftover from other recipes through the week and I oven-baked the pastries rather than frying them. Sensational.
Continue reading Day 2 – Cheese Borek