Category Archives: Starters

100 recipes: Zucchini flowers

Best recipe
Crispy Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta and Mint – Jamie Oliver

About

Italian: Fiori di zucchini ripieni (stuffed zucchini flowers)

I’ve chosen this recipe as a bit of quirk – for something different. I’ve always wanted to try them but I’m yet to see them on a menu.

Zucchini flowers  are usually stuffed with a ricotta and herbs, dipped in a light batter and fried.

If you’ve ever grown zucchinis, you’ll know how quickly they multiply and so cooking the flowers or blossoms is a kind way of slowing production down. Pick flowers in the middle of the day, when they are fully open. If they’re male flowers it will have a stamen, whereas the females produce the fruit on the vine and they have pistils. Blossoms need to be eaten the same day they are picked or bought from the market (within hours is best).

To remove the stamens from the zucchini blossoms carefully insert your thumb and index finger into the flower without tearing it and pinch off the stamens
- Meera Freeman, Cooking Class

The batter should be the consistency of pouring cream.

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100 recipes: Dolomades

Best recipe
Dolomades – George Calombaris

About

Dolomades are stuffed vine leaves served as an appetizer – originating from Greece and Turkey. The filling is usually rice and herbs, sometimes with minced lamb, pine nuts or currants. Also known as dolmades.

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Pumpkin and apple soup

Before the drought, my aunt and uncle used to have a lush native rainforest in their backyard. Unfortunately with the water restrictions it has since been cut back and only the hardy plants remain. Over the autumn, they  found two different pumpkin vines growing from their compost heap. They harvested over  30 pumpkins and my aunt made soup, bread, and curry. We gratefully received one golden nugget and one jap.

I try to keep my soup recipe simple and let the pumpkin shine. Having said that, some pumpkins taste much better than others, so try a different kind if you think you don’t like them. If it’s a special occasion and you have the time, you could roast the pumpkin and apples first (and then follow the rest of the recipe cutting down on the simmering time). The apple and nutmeg give this comforting pumpkin soup a flavour lift.

It’s also worth using a decent stock as there are so few ingredients in this recipe. If you boil the kettle, you can top up with more hot water as you go and the soup won’t lose heat.

1 red onion, chopped
2 apples, peeled and chopped
½ pumpkin, peeled and chopped
2 cups of vegetable stock + hot water
½ tsp of nutmeg

  1. Brown the red onion in some oil in a pot.
  2. Boil the kettle for your stock. Make up stock and add to the pot.
  3. Add the pumpkin, apples and nutmeg. Add more hot water to cover all the ingredients.
  4. Gently simmer until the pumpkin and apples are soft, about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and blitz well with a hand blender or food processor. Add more stock until you have the consistency you want.
  6. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

Tomato twinkies

tomato-twinkies

I predict that heirloom tomatoes will become a food trend some day soon, similar to how sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar were a few years ago. A couple sells heirloom tomatoes at the local markets and that’s where we were introduced to all the different flavours and colours. They can range from peachy yellow ones to ugly black flecked sweet ones.

Tomato twinkies are a family favourite and something I fondly remember eating with my dad after school. I haven’t a clue if anyone else calls them that. It’s important to use real butter and home-grown tomatoes. A few years ago, I changed the version slightly to Jatz biscuits with mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes and torn basil. Either way they’re still the best snack.

Sao biscuits
butter
tasty or cheddar cheese
tomato
salt and pepper

  1. Butter sao biscuits
  2. Top with sliced cheese and a slice of tomato.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.

Baba ghanoush (Greek)

We are currently growing a beautiful Italian heirloom variety of eggplant called Listada de Gandia – the best thing about them is that they are a really good size (not too big or small) and you don’t need to salt them.

The first way I learnt to make baba ghanoush was to simply roast the eggplant, remove the skin and place it in a food processor with a little olive oil. I hadn’t really liked eggplant until then.

To jazz up your eggplant (aubergine) dip try this recipe with a few more ingredients. Tahini is made from sesame seeds, which makes it very high in calcium, and like sesame oil it can have a strong taste. You could roast the garlic with your eggplant for a milder taste.

1 medium sized eggplant
1 clove of garlic
½ lemon, freshly squeezed juice
1 tbsp tahini
extra virgin olive oil
spray oil

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Lightly spray oil on the outside of the eggplant and place on a prepared baking tray. Roast, turning occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until very tender. Remove the skin.
  3. Place the eggplant flesh and the other ingredients into a food processor. Process until you have a smooth paste.

Serve warm or cooled with Turkish or pita bread.

Written for Daily Tiffin’s Grow Your Own 2009 May #28 challenge.

Antipasto

An antipasto platter is one of the easiest dishes to make for entertaining. Every so often, we use up whatever we can find in the fridge and have it for lunch. You could also raid your home-grown preserves or vegetable patch. I’ve found it’s best to keep within one cuisine.

Italian antipasto

artichokes, marinated
capsicum, marinated char-grilled
mushrooms
olives
tomatoes, semi-dried
zucchini, sliced length-ways
grissini or ciabatta bread
boccochini, pecorino, provolone, mozzarella
prosciutto, parma ham, or salami

Greek mezze

cucumber, ribbons
eggplant, marinated char-grilled
dolmades
olives
tomatoes, semi-dried
pita bread
hommus
feta, cubed

French hors d’oeuvre

anchovies
vegetable crudites
olives
french loaf
tapende
fromage frais aux fines herbs

Spanish plate

caperberries
olives
peppers – pequillo or padron
manchego cheese
chorizo, jamon serrano

The ingredients listed are only suggestions – select a couple for less people. Arrange all ingredients on a large serving platter or individual small bowls. To make a more substantial meal serve with crusty bread.

Garden tomato and basil soup

Our tomatoes are starting to pick up the pace in our garden. We need to pick them early to stop the caterpillars having a feast before we do. Soup is a great way to hide any less then perfect tomatoes. I used some that had split from the fluctuating rain and my half-hearted attempts at remembering to watering. I recommend using a tomato peeler – it makes the job ultra easy with it’s special serrated jaws. Add some milk to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Make a big batch if you like, and then freeze the leftovers. You could use this recipe as a basis for passata for pasta sauce or a stew base.

Garden Tomato and Basil Soup

1 onion, chopped
1 garlic, minced
1 cup tomatoes, cored, peeled and chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tbsp soy milk or milk
1 tbsp sugar
½ lemon, juiced
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped

  1. Saute the onion and garlic in some canola oil for several minutes.
  2. Combine the tomato, stock, soy milk, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Take off the heat and add some basil leaves.
  5. Puree in a blender or food processor.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with basil.
  7. Serve with toasted cheese sandwiches or a crusty bread roll for a easy dinner or quick lunch.

Variation: Use a tin of tomatoes or a cup of tomato juice (e.g. V8) instead of real tomatoes.

Serves 2.

Peperonata

This is recipe I used to cook when balsamic vinegar was fashionable. In a nutshell, it’s a sauteed capsicum side dish. I love to use a yellow, red and green capsicum to show off my favourite vegetable. The only recent change I’ve made is to use red onions to add even more colour. Some versions add tomato, but I like to keep it simple.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, cut into strips
1 garlic cloves, crushed
3 capsicums, cut into strips
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  1. Cook the onion and garlic in some olive oil. For 5 minutes or until browned.
  2. Add capsicums and the vinegar, and stir in the mixture.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30-45 minutes or until capsicums have softened slightly.
  4. Serve warm or cold with meat.

Written for Maninas Eating with the Seasons February challenge.

Best guacamole

We have one young avocado tree but it’s showing no signs of fruiting. They can take up half the backyard, but ours is a dwarf. Avocados are high in good fats and are great for your skin.

We often have guacamole on Sunday afternoon as a snack. After lots of trial and error this is currently my favourite combination. Big M doesn’t like any type of onion so I leave it out for his half. We like to serve the dip with Byron Bay corn chips as they aren’t covered in fake flavouring and let the guac shine through. I only season with pepper as the corn chips are usually salty enough.

Best Guacamole

1 avocado
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lime or ½ lemon, juiced
1 large tomato or a small handful of cherry tomatoes
1 spring onion or onion chives
pepper

  1. Cut avocado in half and remove the seed. Then gently dice the flesh in a cross-hatch pattern, taking care not to break through the peel.
  2. Squeeze avocado out into a bowl. Mash the avocado and mix in the olive oil.
  3. Add the juice of a lime (or lemon) for zing.
  4. Then whisk vigorously with a fork to combine. You could use a blender if you wanted a really smooth texture.
  5. Cut up the tomato and add.
  6. Finely slice the green part of one spring onion, or dice a few onion chives. Add and just mix to combine.
  7. Season with pepper.

Optional: If you like add diced coriander and/or chili for a more authentic taste.

Tapas (Spanish)

lamb

Cooked for the Spain entry in the Euro Cup and Plate challenge.

Cordero al limon – Lamb with Lemon

250g lean lamb, chunks
225g canned pineapple slices
10 cloves
1 lemon, halved
5 garlic cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
a sprig of rosemary
½ small onion, finely chopped
sweet smoked Spanish paprika, pinch

  1. Cut the lamb into 2cm cubes, put in a bowl, cover with the pineapple slices and let marinate overnight, covered, in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
  3. Stick the cloves into the lemon and put it in a roasting dish. Add the garlic, oil and rosemary. Remove the lamb from the pineapple and rub in the onion and paprika.
  4. Add the lamb to a roasting dish and cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the dish from the oven, cover with foil and set aside for 10 minutes.

Patatas bravas – Potatoes in Tomato Sauce

3 tbsp olive oil
600g potatoes, cut into 2 cm cubes
1 small onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp sherry
125g canned chopped tomatoes
½ tsp freshly grated orange zest
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

  1. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan, add the potatoes and mix well. Cook in batches for 8 minutes until golden brown.
  2. Add in batches the potato back to the pan for another 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in another frying pan, add the onion, and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sherry, then simmer for 1 minute to burn off the alcohol. Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes, orange zest, sugar, parsley and bay leaf.
  4. Cook for 10 minutes. If required, add some water to stop the mixture thickening too much.
  5. Transfer the cooked potatoes to a serving bowl, pour over the tomato sauce and mix well.

VARIATION – Add ½ tsp dried chili flakes to add more heat to the dish.

TIP – This dish can be made a day in advance and reheated before serving.

Pisto manchego – Courgette, Tomato and Capsicum Stew

2 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 courgette, chopped
2 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
1 red capsicum, deseeded and chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
sweet Spanish paprika, pinch
salt and pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, courgette, tomatoes, capsicum, oregano and paprika.
  2. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

VARIATION – Add 50g jamon serrano, finely chopped and cook with the onion.

TIP – This dish can be made a day in advance and reheated before serving.

All dishes serve 2.