Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nicoise Salad

Nicoise salad is one of those wonderfully robust French salads that can be a complete meal, rather than just a bit of decorative greenery on the side of your plate. You know, next to the 300g slab of beef, the barbequed sausages or the chicken kebabs.

This is my take on a Nicoise salad. Traditionally, the salad contains tuna and anchovies and never contains any leaves (such as lettuce or baby spinach leaves). I prefer mine slightly untraditional.

Nicoise Salad
(Serves 4-6)

6 baby potatoes
150g fresh green beans
1 packet of washed leaves (lettuce or spinach) from the supermarket
1 punnet of cherry or grape tomatoes, halves
4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1 cup of black olives (preferably pitted)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tspn dijon mustard

Boil the baby potatoes (whole - no need to peel them either!) until they are tender. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Briefly blanch the green beans and also rinse them under cold running water.

In a large salad bowl combine the salad leaves, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, eggs and olives.

If you have a small container with a lid, use that to make the salad dressing by tipping in the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and some fresh cracked black pepper and shaking the whole lot really well until it's combined. (If you don't have a little container with a lid, put the ingredients in a jug and whisk until emulsified.) Dress the salad then enjoy as a main meal or a side dish.

Note: If you'd like to add tuna (or even smoked salmon or chicken) to this salad, then I would suggest using approximately 500g.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beerenberg Berry Buttercream

Two days ago there was a knock at my front door. By the time I'd wrestled Henry the Sausage (dog) into submission so I could open the front door without him bolting away, my friendly Australia Post neighbourhood delivery man was already rushing back to his van to get on with his deliveries. As always he gave me a cheerful wave and a cheeky grin before driving away.

At my doorstep was a welcome sight. A nice large package. It was from Beerenberg, a wonderful South Australian company who make gorgeous jams, preserves, sauces and condiments. Cue a few excited squeals.

I got the package inside, unleashed the hound (so he could have a quick bark at the front door so everyone knows this is HIS territory and no one is allowed to cross the threshold without receiving a good old lick) and tore open the package.

Inside, I found love. JAM! Glorious fruity sweet jam. It's no secret that I always (seriously, ALWAYS) have a jar of Beerenberg or my local WA Lavender and Berry Farm raspberry jam in my pantry - it's my favourite berry! But Beerenberg have sent me blueberry jam. It's their newest product and I'm chuffed to have received a jar before it hits supermarket shelves.

My first thought (after the initial excitement wore off) was: What can I do with it? Obviously, I'll be eating it on toast, crumpets, muffins, pikelets and just about every other breakfasty type food. But I did have a few other ideas, and the one that stuck out the most: Beerenberg Berry Buttercream.

Beerenberg Berry Buttercream

24 cupcakes (preferably vanilla)
50g butter
3 tbsp milk
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup Beerenberg blueberry jam

With an electric mixer, beat the butter for a minute or two then add the milk, vanilla and half of the icing sugar. Beat for 3-4 minutes, then add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3-4 minutes until the buttercream is light and fluffy. Add the jam and beat briefly until combined.

Lightly spread a small amount of the buttercream onto the cupcakes. (Trust me, unless you're a hardcore sweet-tooth or catering for a children's party, you will only need a small amount of buttercream per cupcake - this buttercream is quite sweet.)

Next, sit back with a large cup of tea or coffee and enjoy a cupcake. Or two.

Note: If you'd like to use raspberry or strawberry jam, add a tiny amount of pink food colouring (when beating in the jam) to really bring out the colour.

Disclaimer: Whilst Beerenberg sent me some products for free, they in no way asked me to write about their products in a public forum. All opinions expressed are my own. (And my love of jam is real, just so you know...)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Anzac Biscuits

Here in Australia, Anzac biscuits are a popular oat and coconut biscuit. The name originated back in World War I when wives and girlfriends of soldiers would send their loved ones these oat biscuits.

The biscuits have always been made without eggs (which, during WWI, were difficult to get as many farmers joined the war effort) and did not spoil during the long trips overseas, hence their popularity at the time.

Anzac Biscuits
(Makes 24)

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup coconut
3/4 cup caster sugar
150g butter
3 tbsp golden syrup
1/2 tspn bi-carb soda
1 tbsp boiling water

Preheat your oven to 160C and line two baking trays with baking paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flour, coconut and caster sugar.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and golden syrup over low heat. In a small cup, mix together the bi-carb and water, add it to the melted butter mixture then straight away tip it into the flour mixture and stir it all really well.

Roll spoonfuls of the mixture into balls and put them on the baking trays. Flatten them with a lightly floured fork then pop them into the oven. If you like your biscuits chewier, cook them for 18-20 minutes. For a crunchier biscuit, bake them for 22-25 minutes.

Leave the biscuits to cool on the trays for about 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: This recipe is very adaptable. You can make large or small biscuits; crunchy or chewy; add crushed peanuts or macadamia nuts, chocolate chips, chopped glace cherries or any variety of dried fruit. However, I have kept this recipe very traditional and think nothing can improve the original biscuit.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Spiced Prawns

Spiced Prawns
(Serves 2 adults as part of a main meal)

350g peeled and deveined prawns
4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tspn paprika (not hot or smoked, just the normal stuff)
3/4 tspn ground cumin
1/2 tspn ground ginger
1/2 tspn ground turmeric
1 small bunch coriander leaves (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a wok and stir fry the prawns until they are half cooked and starting to pink up. Add the garlic and ground spices and continue to stir fry until fragrant. Add a 1/4 cup of hot water and leave the prawns to simmer until the sauce has thickened and the prawns are cooked through. Season with salt and mix through the coriander.

Serve with warmed Turkish bread, salad and lemon wedges as part of a main meal.

These prawns can also be served as an entree to a dinner party or you can leave the tails on the prawns (as little handles) and fry up a large batch as finger food for a small party or family gathering.