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July 2009

28 July 2009

Bacon & Egg Tarts


Sydney is a breakfast city. It does lunch well and perhaps dinner even better, but breakfast best fits its collective psychology.

When the weekend arrives cafes spill out on to the pavement with hungry customers vying for tables in anticipation of breaking their fast.

While I love going out for weekend brekkies, I can't stand the thought of lining up. It's been over 12 hours since my last meal. It can go one of two ways. One -- I faint. Two -- I turn violent.

For me, and those poor souls around me, hunger and queues are a potentially lethal mix. So the safest bet is to whip up something at home.

Last weekend I made these dainty little bacon and egg tarts spiked with a little Parmigino Reggiano for a sharp bite. The tarts are easy to make and are delicious served hot or cold. They're also quite nice with the addition of little baby spinach or wild rocket (arugula). 

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17 July 2009

Sauteed Silver Beet with Chickpeas & Fried Bread


When I think of a chickpeas I think of hummus, falafels, healthy salads and nourishing soups. The last thing that I’d ever associate with it is sex. But don’t let this modest little legume fool you. It once had quite a reputation as potent aphrodisiac.

The chickpea was a medieval form of Viagra. However instead of gulping down a small blue pill, you’d wash down copious amounts of chickpeas with a mug of honeyed camel’s milk... Makes me wild just thinking about it.

If, however, you happen to run out of camel milk, I have a great back-up plan which I am almost as wild about: Sauteed silver beet with chickpeas and fried bread.

This dish works well as a side or as a main. I usually eat it for lunch and if I have any left over it's a brilliant addition to soup. For the fried bread, I prefer ciabatta for its crunchy texture however you can use whatever type of bread is at hand. 

Just before serving I sprinkle on a little smoked paprika. While I only use a small amount, the paprika imparts a sweet, full-bodied smoky flavor and also adds a spicy kick to the dish. I use the La Chinata brand. It's divine and it's my magic ingredient in many recipes.

A note on the chickpeas, for this recipe I use the dried variety which require soaking followed by about an hour of boiling in salted water with garlic. Also, if you're wondering what silver beet is, it's that leafy green vegetable with white stalks and large crinkly leaves. It's sometimes called spinach.

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05 July 2009

Gordon Ramsay's Minestrone with Blue Eye Cod


On Friday I attended the 2009 Sydney Good Food & Wine Show. The main event of the day was bad boy Gordon Ramsay’s live cooking demonstration.

Ramsay bounded out on stage to greet the curious crowd with black masking tape over his mouth – was this promise not to offend after his recent comments about TV presenter Tracy Grimshaw? Or the more likely scenario -- an enforced gagging.

Whatever the case, Ramsay was funny, charming, a little crude perhaps but nonetheless, he delighted the crowd with his amusing quips and cooking tips.

I’ve only ever seen snippets of Ramsay’s infamous Hell’s Kitchen. Frankly I got anxious, and finally, bored watching him shout at and belittle quivering chefs.

After seeing him live though I can see why people are fascinated by him. He’s charismatic, he’s confident and he exuded a potent energy that spilled over into the crowd.

In the 30 minutes Ramsay was on stage he prepared three meals; a minestrone with blue eye cod, Tasmanian salmon on a bed of sautéed spinach and radishes and finally, some luscious looking poached pears served with caramelized figs.

There were no cooking measurements given. It was the case of “a touch of this and a touch of that”. So I've done my best to recreate the minestrone. It’s a delicious and nourishing dish with plump pearl barley, fresh herbs and succulent blue eye cod. Ramsay encouraged the use of celery leaves – something I do regularly in soups, salads and stir-fries. The often over-looked leaves add a fresh and subtle sweetness to whatever dish they're added to.

A note on seasoning with salt – say a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of salt – I try not to add the whole teaspoon all at once. Instead, I sprinkle ¼ of a teaspoon or so here and there throughout the cooking process. This method of staggered seasoning allows for layers of flavour to develop and gives the dish more depth.

Finally, let me introduce you to Malcolm the magpie.

Malcolm lives nearby with his posse of feathered friends and is becoming increasingly more confident and curious as the days go by. I had just ladled the minestrone into the bowls and decided that they needed some more cheese. I went inside the house to fetch it and then came around the corner to find Malcolm with his beak in the bowl! I shouted and shooed him away. He eyed me grudgingly and took several steps backward and proceeded to watch me take photos. He even made several rather lyrical comments. Compliments to the chef I hope.


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