Onion Jam

Onion Jam (or relish or marmalade or whatever you would like to call it) is a staple in our house. We get a bit panicky when we look in the cupboard to find there’s a only a couple of jars left. It’s slathered on everything from toasties and pizzas to dainty canapes and cheese platters. Onion jam is decidedly ugly but if you can get someone to try it, they never look back. Jars of this sticky brown goodness are given to close friends only. The reason being that the recipe requires slicing an absolute shitload of onions. And I could never do that for someone I only liked a little bit.

image

The following is a basic guide to making six jars for your nearest and dearest this Christmas. You can tweak it to your own taste and add extra things like ginger or other spices. Up to you. One hot tip: if you don’t have a wide-mouthed funnel suitable for filling jam jars, then get one. Without it, spooning warm onion jam into glass jars and not making a huge mess, is impossible. You’ve been warned. Maybe ask Santa for one.

Ingredients  (makes 6x 500g jars)

4 kg brown onions (peeled, halved and sliced)
1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups brown sugar
Small bunch fresh thyme (or one tablespoon dried thyme)
4 cloves
10 ground pepper corns
1 teaspoon salt
Wine – red or white – to drink while you stir and also to top up liquid levels if they get a bit low

To make

There’s no getting around this: you have to peel, halve and slice 4 kilos of brown onions. Just do it and get it over with. Listen to some music. It won’t take as long as you think. Keep the slices on the thickish side. Say around 1cm. No need to get too fussy, you just want some of them to retain a little shape when they’re cooked.

image

Heat the olive oil on a medium-high heat in a thick bottomed stock pot. Add enough onions to fill a quarter of the pot. Fry the onions for about fifteen minutes or until softened and then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir for another ten minutes and then as the mixture collapses and makes more room in the pot, you can start to add the rest of the onions slices. Stir constantly until all the onions have softened. There should be plenty of liquid at this point. Turn the heat down and simmer for the next 2 hours. Stir every now and then and check that there’s enough liquid. This is where you can add some wine if it looks like it’s getting dry.

After 2 hours the onions should be dark, sticky and jammy.

image

Divide into your six sterilised jars (hopefully you’ve been collecting jars for this very reason all year). Tie some tags on them with cute string. And then decide who has been good enough to get one. Merry Christmas.

image

Advertisements

Banana Pancakes with extra happiness

For six languid days we shared a house in Ubud with our friends, Lozzie and John. The house was perched precariously on a steep slope above a rivulet that was so far down we couldn’t see it. The surrounding gardens clung to the slope and and were full of the soothing ribbiting of frogs and birds and geckos. Once I’d grown accustomed to the worrying amount of steep stairs and my (completely rational) fear that the house would slide off the slope if it rained, it was wonderful. I gave up wondering how on earth they had built any of it in the heat and settled in.

This was the part of our holiday where we forgot what day it was.

image

There was a cooked breakfast every morning served by our hostess, Ketut. Hotels that we later stayed in, tended to serve a blander, rolled version of bananas pancakes. But Ketut’s were the ones that Lozzie and I raved about. They were deliciously lacy, served flat and topped with freshly grated coconut mixed with a little salt. Even Glenn, who doesn’t care much for pancakes for breakfast, succumbed to their buttery banana goodness.

image

Ingredients (makes 8 pancakes)
For the batter:
2 large eggs
1  1/4 cups plain flour
3/4 milk
1 pinch salt
1 tbsp melted butter

To serve:
2 bananas thinly sliced
1/2 cup of fresh grated coconut mixed with half a pinch of salt
Honey (for drizzling)

Method
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the rest of the batter ingredients and mix til smooth. Cover and rest for at least 30 minutes.

To cook, have your banana slices ready. Stir up the rested batter. If it seems too thick, add some more milk. It needs to be thin enough to spread in the pan when poured. Use a non-stick frying pan over a moderate heat. Add 1/2 tsp of butter. When the butter foams, use a serving spoon to pour mixture into the pan. Let it spread a little, then place 6 – 8 slices of banana evenly across the pancake. When you can see that the mixture is just about cooked through, use a large spatula to flip the pancake over. Let the banana side sizzle for a minute and then remove.

image

Serve banana side down, topped with the grated coconut and drizzled with runny honey.

image

 

Floral Sparkling Apple Jelly

w_fajelly 2 shots p

Watching Nigella ooze “curiously pleasurable” gooey gelatine leaves between her fingers, seductively describing the clarity of jelly instantly inspired me to create towers of delicate boozy jellies. In reality every time I felt the urge to make a stunning wibbly wobbly castle, the mysteriousness of using gelatine has made me instinctively reach for a packet of Aeroplane. A decade later, I’m finally making my attempt at this curiously pleasurable act and am pleasantly surprised at how easy it is. Unfortunately, as this jelly is in preparation for Boo’s second birthday party, there’s a distinct lack of booze. With or without the pretty fruit and flowers, the fizz in the sparkling apple juice adds a delicious zing to this jelly. Of course, by all means substitute the sparkling apple juice with Prosecco if you can’t handle your jelly without the booze.

w_fajelly 1 shot fruit flat

w_fajelly 6 shot flatlay h

w_fajelly 1 shot clear h

Ingredients

8 leaves gelatine (approx.13g)
140ml elderflower cordial
425ml sparkling apple juice (chilled)
250g blueberries or other berries
Edible petals/flowers

Glass serving dishes (individual serving size or a larger single mould)

w_fajelly cooking shot h

Divide the fruit and petals (if using) into your serving dishes and refrigerate. If using individual dishes, placing these on a tray makes it easier to move them around.

Soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water as per the instructions (for McKenzie 5-7 minutes).

Place the cordial in a bowl over a saucepan on medium heat. For this recipe, I’ve used my homemade clementine elderflower cordial which results in a deeper colour than plain elderflower.

Drain the gelatine leaves and stir into the warmed cordial until combined into a smooth syrup and remove from the heat. Let sit at room temperature for a few minutes.

Very, very slowly pour in the sparkling apple juice and stir gently. Scoop the froth off the top and discard.

Remove the dishes from the fridge and slowly pour in the jelly mixture. Use a skewer to manoeuvre the fruit and petals so they look pretty through the glass.

Refrigerate until set.

w_fajelly 1 shot fruit h

Szechuan Tomato Prawns

My relationship with Chinese cuisine has been one I’ve taken for granted. Our Australian-born Chinese mum was a passionate and naturally superb cook. We grew up with whatever style of food Mum decided was her latest obsession and Chinese food was just one of many cuisines that had just always been a part of my life. Until I left home, it wasn’t ‘Chinese’ food to me. It was just food.

w_tomato prawns on dish

When I moved interstate away from my family (and Mum’s cooking), I had to not only learn to cook better, but try and understand what it was I was cooking. Family favourite dishes had become my substitute for time with my family. I’d grown up surrounded by Mum, my Aunties and Grandmum who were all excellent cooks. Sure I’d helped prepare meals and certainly helped eat them, but I hadn’t paid enough attention to how they were created and often my first attempts at making them failed miserably.

Szechuan Tomato Prawns, or Tomato Prawns as we know it by, was one of the first dishes I tried to re-create. My Aunty gave me the basic recipe over the phone while I was standing in the Chinese grocery store trying to decipher random cans. I’m not sure if I was disappointed or relieved to hear that the magic ingredient was actually plain old tomato sauce, but regardless of its simplicity, this dish has wowed many of my friends into thinking I am a much better cook than I am. I’ll also add here for the purists freaking out that real Chinese cooking would never have tomato sauce – as with many home cooks, Mum’s cooking was always a version of something else and she would add random things as she felt like it. Her Chinese food was no exception.

w_tomato prawns ingredients

300g whole king prawns
4 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp tomato ketchup
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tsp cornflour
1 red chilli finely diced
½ Tsp honey
A slice of fresh ginger
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 spring onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
Salt and pepper to taste

A few notes before you get started…

  • The dish is cooked quickly on a high heat, so make sure you have everything prepared ready to go. Its also best made just before you’re ready to serve it.
  • This recipe is for king prawns, but if your husband comes home with tiger prawns like the day I made this to take pictures of, just roll with it.
  • Mum always kept the prawns whole saying the head and shell gave the dish extra flavour. I still prefer the dish this way, but if you’re like my siblings and don’t like getting their hands dirty to eat them you can substitute with peeled prawns.
  • If your fresh chilli isn’t a hot one, add a small pinch of dried chill while you’re frying up. For children, I find the fresh chilli adds flavour without the heat.
  • I’ve used walking onions instead of spring onions. No biggie, it’s just what we had growing in the garden.

Slice your spring onions across the round for the white part, then length ways up the green in about 5cm lengths.

In a small bowl, whisk together the water, tomato ketchup, soy sauce, cornflour, honey, chilli and ginger.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok or frying pan over a high heat. Test the heat with a bit of spring onion. If it bubbles quickly, its ready to go. Add the spring onions, chilli and garlic and fry off gently for a minute.

Add the prawns to the pan and toss a little, coating with the oil until they are starting to turn pink. Add the sauce to the wok and heat gently until the sauce thickens and the prawns are prink all over and cooked through. Very large prawns take a little longer to cook and if your sauce starts to dry up, add a little more water but not too much.

Serve immediately with a good helping of freshly cooked rice and Chinese broccoli.

w_tomato prawns in pan

Lemony Pasta

w_lemony pasta birds eyeMy twenties were spent working and socialising. Probably in the opposite order.  Until I met Dave, my dinner menu usually consisted of beer, chicken and sweet corn soup, dumplings, pub meals, wood-fired pizza or a drunkenly-made pasta dish I call ‘Lemony Pasta’.

I would make my way home after a lovely evening of playing pool and perhaps a beer or two, fumble about my tiny 50’s kitchen which consisted of a bench with sink and a fridge shorter than me, and voila Lemony pasta would appear. I would always make extra thinking I’d take it to work the next day. But somehow all that was ever left in the morning were the sticky dishes I’d forgotten to rinse before falling into bed. Don’t worry…it was just a phase we’ve all been through right?

Lemony Pasta came into my life from watching a Nigella DVD during a stint of house sitting and so the recipe has been adapted from the original through the countless times being made from memory. The best part of my version of this dish is the creamy ultra- lemony flavour. I purposely don’t add extra salt or pepper to the sauce to keep it soft and let the butter round out the tartness of the lemon juice.

w_lemony pasta ing

Ingredients

500g spaghettini
Salt
3 egg yolks
½ – ¼ cup cream
Juice of 1 small lemon
A large knob of butter
Grand Padano
Roughly chopped flat leaf parsley

Get your pasta water boiling in a large pot and add a big spoonful of salt.

In a bowl, gently whisk your egg yolks then add the cream and lemon juice. Gently whisk until combined.

w_lemony pasta egg

Now add your pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and put back into the pot. Stir through the nob of butter until the pasta is thinly coated, then stir through the creamy egg sauce.

Serve garnished with finely grated Grand Padano and flat leaf parsley. Devour. And don’t forget to rinse your dishes.

w_lemony pasta bowl

Crispy Chicken Strips

w_crispy chicken on plateI’m particularly partial to finger food and delicious little morsels like these crispy chicken strips, made on the pretence they’re for my  kids make me very, very happy.

We don’t own a deep fryer. Mostly because I’m afraid it’ll unleash my not-so-secret desire to deep-fry the fuck out of everything and anything. And in this instance, shallow frying doesn’t achieve the balance between cooking the chicken thoroughly and keeping the outside crispy enough for my liking. So oven baked it is. They’re probably healthier this way too if that makes you feel better. In this recipe, the kefir milk adds a slightly creamy sour flavour and can be substituted with yoghurt or buttermilk.
w_crispy chicken ingredients
500g chicken thighs
2 eggs whisked
1-2 cups kefir milk or natural yoghurt
2 ½ cups bread crumbs
2 tsp finely chopped thyme
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil
Baking trays
Baking sheet

Preheat the oven to 200ºC

Trim any excess fat off the chicken and slice into diagonal strips. Place the chicken in a bowl and pour over the kefir milk. Gently mix the milk through until the chicken is thoroughly coated. Add more kefir milk as needed and leave to marinate for about half an hour.

Pour the flour and eggs into separate bowls and set aside.

Mix together the bread crumbs and thyme, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little olive oil and mix through until all the crumbs are very lightly coated.

Line your baking trays with baking sheets. I like to use the reusable silicone ones as I find they let the strips cook through without the bottom burning, but if you have a ‘cool’ oven, you may need to adjust the oven temperature up a little to make sure the strips still get crunchy.

One by one, dip the chicken strips into the flour, then the egg and then into the crumbs for the final coat. Make sure each strip is covered all over at each step. Lay the strips on the tray leaving a small gap between each.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.

Serve up straight away. If you must, share them with the little ones, but otherwise they’re perfect with beer and mayo.

w_crispy chicken with beer

Dave’s Slow Roasted Lamb

w_lamb shoulder

Dave’s slow roasted lamb is so delicious it had party-goers at a recent birthday we went to licking the juice off their fingers instead of politely wiping off with a napkin. That’s our kind of party guest and definitely our kind of meat. I’m probably supposed to put something in here about the weather turning cold and it being the time for warming comfort food. But to be honest, you’d find this at our dinner table at anytime during year so don’t wait for a cold day, just cook it.

w_seasoning

2kg shoulder of lamb on the bone

1 Tbsp cumin seeds

2 Tbsp paprika

½ Tbsp salt

½ Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp fresh oregano finely chopped

1 Tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped 

Olive oil

Roasting pan and rack

w_lamb marinated

Dry roast the cumin seeds in a small fry pan over a low heat, then mix with paprika, salt, and sugar in a mortar and pestle, crushing the seeds gently. Combine the dry seasoning with the fresh herbs and garlic. Score the fatty side of the lamb and drizzle generously with olive oil. Run in the oil with the seasoning all over the fat and meat. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 100°C. Lay the lamb over the rack (in the roasting pan). Put the pan into the oven and roast for 8 hours, basting several times. The meat will shrink, but should pull beautifully away from the bone when ready. Drizzle with the meat juices and wrap neatly with foil before leaving to rest for at least half an hour.

 

At this party it was amongst a mouth-watering smorgasbord of potatoes 3 ways, foraged salads, vegetables, local cheeses, homemade coppa, cultured butter, Pigeon Hole bread and a haunch of home-grown roast pig. Yes. Home grown roasted pig accompanied Dave’s slow roasted lamb. By a bonfire. With a live band. It was a good night.

 

At home we keep it much simpler and like to serve it with creamy mash and seasonal vegetables. For our dinner guests the other night, we swapped mash for cous cous and added a side dish of home-grown red cherry and mini yellow pear-shaped tomatoes that we drizzled with meat juices and popped in the oven to roast with for the last half hour.  If you’re lucky enough to have any, lamb leftovers are perfect for cold lamb and salad sandwiches and when shredded, it makes a great pizza topping.

w_lamb dinner