Lizcooksinthekitchen – Lyon edition!

Bonsoir reader,

This post comes to you from Lyon, the world’s food capital. As you can imagine, I’m in heaven. But it’s not all about eating out at Lyon’s classic bouchons and cafes (although I’ve done that!) I’ve embraced the chance to cook with outstanding ingredients.

Today I visited Les Halles de Lyon – Paul Bocuse. It was overwhelming! So much amazing food from patisserie, meats, cheeses and Lyonnaise delicacies (mmmm tripe).

I chose duck breast, dates, new potatoes and salad greens. Oh and some red burgundy.


So here’s my pan fried duck breast with date/red wine/orange sauce, served with sautéed new potatoes and salad.


Ingredients:

  • 450-500 duck breast (serves two)
  • Five large dates, pitted and diced
  • Juice of half an orange and a couple of strips of peel
  • Two glasses of red wine
  • Butter – lots
  • Two cups of new potatoes, cooked, skin on
  • Lightly dressed salad leaves

Method:

  • Salt the duck on both sides. Heat a frying pan on the stove and once hot, add the duck, skin side down. Cook for about 8 minutes. Turn over, add a knob of butter to the pan, baste the duck and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Remove duck from the pan and leave to rest.
  • Pour half the fat from the duck pan into another frypan and toss the cooked potatoes through with some salt. Continue cooking over a medium to high heat until crisp. Don’t be afraid to add butter if need be. Actually, just add some.
  • Meanwhile, add chopped dates, orange peel, juice and red wine to the first pan with the remaining duck fat and cook to a thick sweet sauce.
  • To finish, slice the rested duck, pour over the sauce, and serve the crisp potatoes and dressed leaves on the side.
  • Best with a glass of Beaujolais, Cote du Rhone or red Burgundy!

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Wednesday is cantina night

Last year, I was lucky enough to be a guest at the Maui Country Club, where every Wednesday is cantina night. I’m not talking about Star Wars (although it’s eight days and counting). I’m talking tex-mex food, and sometimes drink, to spice up the middle of the week.

I’ve tried to bring Maui’s excellent cantina night tradition back with me to Melbourne.

Tonight’s menu was a tex-mex take on lasagne, using a quick beef chilli as the bolognese sauce, corn tortillas instead of pasta, and hard cheese in place of bechemel.

Best served with a fresh salsa and some mashed avocado, and maybe some mid-week margheritas!

To make a quick chilli:

  1. Fry off half a diced onion in some olive oil for two minutes. Add a teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander and smoked paprika and one clove of minced garlic. Add fresh or dried chillies to taste. I added fresh rocoto and dried Carolina reaper. Be careful with the latter – it’s seriously hot.
  2. Once fragrant, add 300 grams of minced meat (any kind) and brown.
  3. Add a can of rinsed, drained blackbeans, a can of diced tomatoes, and half a can of water. Stir, then leave to cook gently on low heat for 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

To assemble, start your baking dish with the chilli, top with tortillas (corn or wheat), then more chilli, then cheese. Continue layering tortillas, chilli and cheese, finishing with just tortillas and cheese for the top layer. You’ll need about six to eight small corn tortillas, and 150 grams of grated hard cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, jack) for the amount of chilli described above. This will feed four people with sides.  To make a bulldog approved salsa, dice or finely slice a mixture of any of the following veggies – tomato, capsicum (peppers), radishes, or cabbage. Add some torn coriander (cilantro), squeeze over some lemon juice, and add a splash of pickling liquor from any pickles you have sitting in the fridge. Yum!  Also, it is Wednesday, so don’t forget to wear pink!

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Lamb loves mint loves peas loves feta

Even, like now, when I’m laid up in bed with a bad cold, I still need to eat. But with really low energy levels there’s no time to mess about with complicated food. That means pasta and simple flavour combinations that we all know will work well.

Simple lunch perfection - pasta with lamb, peas, mint, and feta

Simple lunch perfection – pasta with lamb, peas, mint, and feta

Today I put pasta on the boil (100-150 grams per person depending on greediness). While it cooked, I pinched sausage meat out of the skins of lamb sausages (one per person), and fried off the little sausage meatballs with garlic and chilli in a little oil.

Once the meat was almost done, I added a generous handful of frozen peas per person with a squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the fatty lamb. Then I turned up the heat and splashed in some white wine. Once the meaty-peaey-winey mixture had sizzled away for a few minutes, and the pasta was cooked, I drained the pasta, keeping back half a cup of cooking water.

All that was left to do was to mix together the pasta, sausage and pea mix, chopped mint leaves, a sprinkling of feta and the pasta water. Delicious and done!

Now back to bed!

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Kangaroo paprika stew

Kangaroo, like most game meats, is highly underrated. For those that think the flavour of the meat will simply be too strong, this stew recipe, inspired by rich red Hungarian Goulash, will hopefully change your mind!

The lawyer in me feels the need to add a disclaimer – in no way is this stew purporting to be Goulash! But it turns out that paprika is an excellent flavouring for game meat. You’ll see from the method below that I’ve followed a typically French method for stewing.

I used kangaroo steak from Gourmet Game, which is readily available in Australian supermarkets. As you cook this dish, it may seem like the meat will never get tender, but cook it low, slow and have patience.

A daggy plate is essential to serve this dish

This amount will serve two. Scale up or down as required:

  • 300 grams kangaroo steak, diced in large chunks
  • One small diced onion
  • One diced carrot
  • Two stalks diced celery
  • One clove garlic, finely sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Two tablespoons plain flour
  • One level teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Half teaspoon smoked paprika
  • One small glass red or white wine
  • Beef stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 100 millilitres sour cream to finish

Method:

  1. Place diced meat, flour, salt and pepper in a bag. Shake to coat the meat in the seasoned flour. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in an ovenproof casserole dish, and brown the meat in batches on a medium heat. Set the meat aside.
  2. Add more oil to the dish if needed, then cook the onion, celery and carrot for a few minutes until softened. Add the garlic and paprika, cooking for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Return the meat and its juices to the dish.
  3. Turn up the heat, and add the wine. It should really sizzle at this stage. Scrape any meaty, veggie bits from the bottom of the dish. Once most of the wine has evaporated, add enough beef stock to just cover the meat and veggies. Place the casserole into the oven, with a lid on and cook ideally for three hours at 140 degrees Celsius fan forced, or about 160 degrees Celsius without a fan.
  4. Check the stew occasionally during the cooking time, stirring and turning the meat over to ensure it is immersed in liquid. Kangaroo steak has no fat, so the meat will dry out unpleasantly if too much liquid evaporates. If the liquid level is getting too low, just top it up with stock or water.
  5. When the stew is ready, the meat will be super tender. Remove the casserole from the oven, taste for seasoning and stir in the sour cream. Serve with your carb side-dish of choice, be it mashed potato, polenta, pasta, or my personal favourite, Eastern European style bread or potato dumplings. I’ve served it with steamed green beans here, just to up the veggie factor and make sure I hit my five a day.
Apologies for the fluorescent light photo - I took this pic in the office. But you still get the (tasty) idea!

Apologies for the fluorescent light photo – I took this pic in the office. But you still get the (tasty) idea!

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Roasted pumpkin gnocchi, seasonal autumn goodness

Well hello there!

Recently I’ve been doing a whole lot of cooking, but unfortunately I haven’t had the energy to do much writing. However, I really want to share my recipe for roasted pumpkin gnocchi with you guys because it’s just that good.

Roasted pumpkin gnocchi - side

It’s autumn in Australia, which means pumpkins (that’s squashes to you Northern Hemisphere folk) are in season. Seasonal cooking is not only best for getting maximum flavour from your fresh ingredients, but it also helps the environment when we eat seasonal locally grown produce with less food transportation miles. So it’s with some glorious bright orange Kent pumpkin that we begin.

Roasting pumpkin is really the very best way to prepare it and extract the most of its sweet flavour, especially for those who love a good pumpkin soup. For this particular recipe, roasting the veggies also ensures that moisture is extracted from them, meaning that when it comes time to blend in the flour and form the dumplings, the mixture won’t be gluggy and your gnocchi won’t have an unpleasant gluey texture when cooked.

Some people are put off by making their own pasta, assuming that the effort required may be more than its worth. But gnocchi is not like that. There is no machine rolling, drying, stuffing, etc. It’s essentially cheating in the homemade pasta game.

This is how you do it. Serves four, perhaps with a nice crisp green salad on the side.

Roasted pumpking gnocchi - top

Ingredients:

  • 600 grams peeled pumpkin, cut into large chunks. Choose Kent or Butternut, or similar.
  • 300 grams, thin-skinned potatoes, cut slightly smaller than the pumpkin chunks. For a smoother effect, you can peel the potatoes, but it’s really not necessary for this rustic recipe.
  • Two cloves of garlic, crushed with the flat of a knife, but skin kept on.
  • A sprig or two of rosemary, or similar herb, chopped roughly.
  • Olive oil.
  • Salt and Pepper to your taste.
  • One to two cups of plain flour – more on this later.

Method:

  1. Heat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius, ensuring you preheat the tray for roasting the vegetables. Meanwhile, place the pumpkin, potato, garlic, herb of choice, and salt and pepper into a bowl. Pour in a glug of olive oil, enough to coat the veggies and stir it all together. Tip the veggies onto the preheated tray in a single layer. Roast in the middle of the oven for about an hour until they turn a lovely golden colour. All of that caramelisation will flavour our little dumplings.
  2. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and place them back into the bowl. Ensure you squeeze the sweet roasted garlic flesh out of their skins as you do this, and of course, discard the garlic skins Allow the vegetables to cool completely.
  3. Mash the cooled roasted vegetables until smoothish. You will have chunks from the caramelised bits of potato and pumpkin, not to mention the crispy crunchy rosemary. This is okay, we are going for a rustic (read, lazy) effect.
  4. Just rolled roasted pumpkin gnocchiBegin adding flour to the mashed vegetables, about 1/2 cup at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon to begin with. As the mixture starts to come together, add smaller amounts of flour at a time and if you feel more comfortable, you can start to bring it together with your hands. You are looking for a firmish dough that you can roll into logs with the palm of your hand. If it’s too wet and sticky, keep adding small amounts of flour until it rolls without sticking to your hands or work surface.
  5. Split the finished dough into four portions. One at a time and on a floured surface, roll each portion of dough into a log shape about an inch across in diameter. Then with a sharp knife, cut 1cm wide pieces from the log. Continue until you’ve rolled and chopped all the dough. You can lay the prepared pieces on a baking sheet or floured board to ensure there is no dreaded sticking.
  6. Boil a large pot of water. Carefully lower half the gnocchi into the water using a slotted spoon. As the gnocchi cooks, the pieces will rise to the top of the pot. Let them cook for a minute or two more, before removing with the slotted spoon to drain in an oiled colander. Continue with the second batch until all the gnocchi is cooked.

And you’re done. Serve the gnocchi with your favourite sauce and some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for an umami kick to complement the sweet gnocchi. I had a matriciana sauce (tomato, chilli and bacon) last night and the sweetness of the bacon really complemented the sweet pumpkin. A creamy pesto would be quite wonderful here too, as would a traditional sage and burnt butter sauce. Saucy options galore!

Wine:

Thanks to www.bordeauxshippers.com.au for the picture

Thanks to http://www.bordeauxshippers.com.au for the picture

My choice last night was an elegant red Bordeaux blend, containing Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Light, yet heady on the nose and with spicy hints. On the palate there’s lovely soft tannins, delicate red fruit and a smooth as silk finish. Difficult not to guzzle! A savoury wine, it paired perfectly with the sweet pumpkin gnocchi, and the spicy yet sweet matriciana sauce.

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Roasted baby eggplant, stuffed with minced lamb, pine nuts, onions and spices

I took a writing course a while back that encouraged bloggers to post ‘current’ material, appealing to what readers want at the time. It’s January – the month of guilt trips, gym memberships, green smoothies, you get the picture. I’m sorry to say I won’t be posting a January-friendly recipe, but rather a super delicious recipe, which should be indulged in as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

I present roasted baby eggplant, stuffed with minced lamb, pine nuts, onions and spices

Lamb stuffed eggplant and side dishes

This recipe came about like many of mine do; by buying what’s in season and blending classic flavours. I shop at the local fruit and veg shop every week and have learned not to go with a shopping list, but instead buy what looks terrific at the time. That’s what happened with the simply stunning baby eggplant that forms part of this classic eggplant/lamb combo recipe. The amount below will serve four people, with side dishes.

Lamb stuffed eggplant and side dishes - side view

Ingredients

  • Four to six small eggplants, halved lengthways (don’t cut them until you’re ready to cook them, or they’ll oxidise and turn brown)
  • 500 grams minced lamb
  • One red onion, diced
  • Two cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • A generous handful of pine nuts
  • Olive oil
  • One teaspoon ground coriander
  • Half teaspoon cayenne pepper (omit or add less if you don’t like heat)
  • Half teaspoon sweet paprika (try not to substitute with smoked paprika, as it’s too strong here)
  • Half teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Place the eggplant cut side up on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and salt and bake in the preheated oven at 180 degrees for 20-30 minutes until the flesh is soft and melting. Keep the oven on once the eggplant is done.
  2. Meanwhile, gently fry the onions and spices in some olive oil for about five minutes. Add the pine nuts and toss through for another two minutes. Add the garlic for a final minute, then remove from the heat.
  3. Add the spiced onion and pine nut mix to the minced lamb, season with salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly with your hands. Filling done!
  4. Remove the eggplant from the oven and squish down the flesh inside each cut half, pressing the soft flesh into the skin to form a tasty container. Take a handful of the mince mixture and press it into the waiting eggplant vessel.
  5. If you’re feeling indulgent, drizzle the stuffed eggplant with olive oil before placing in the oven. Personally I didn’t bother, as lamb mince is fatty enough to stay quite moist on it’s own. Bake at 180 degrees for around 30 minutes, until golden and cooked through.

Call me crazy, but I really do think the little stuffed eggplants look like tiny boats carrying precious, meaty cargo. So cute!

Lamb stuffed eggplant

I served these babies with a green salad, and cucumber and herb adorned natural yoghurt. They’d be brilliant with flat bread.

If you are keen to reduce the calorie load of rich minced lamb, I would advise going half-half with a leaner mince, such as beef or turkey. Or you could just eat the lamb and go for a walk after dinner.

Wine time

This is a new section of the blog I’m trying out to share some of the knowledge I gained during the fabulous wine and spirits course I took last year. I have an interest in food and wine pairing, so from now on, I’ll be recommending a wine to go with the recipes I post.

Scion Durif Viognier

For this tasty lamb and eggplant number, I recommend Scion’s unusual and amazing Durif Viognier. For what is described as a medium bodied wine, it’s got a lot of guts, which stands up well to the spices in the dish. It’s a particularly dry wine, which for me worked really well with the fatty lamb and creamy eggplant. If you get a chance, give Scion Vineyard in Rutherglen a visit. They put on a pretty good tasting, and you’ll come away with boxes of wine to get you stocked up for 2015.

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Looking for a mid-week, meat free meal? Make it mushrooms!

First off, let me apologise to you all for the long hiatus. You see, I’ve been on something of a health kick and stupidly thought that no blog readers would be interested in the low calorie meals I’ve been making lately. After all, it’s my cake posts that get the most online love.

But it’s time to stop over-thinking this blogging business. It’s time to start cooking, photographing, and writing!

Where better to restart lizcooksinthekitchen than with tonight’s dinner – ricotta stuffed mushrooms, served with garden salad.

Ricotta stuffed mushrooms 2

This quantity will serve two people, but up or downsize as needed.

Ingredients for the stuffed mushrooms:

  • 4 large field mushrooms
  • 250 grams light ricotta cheese
  • 100 grams light feta cheese, diced or crumbled
  • Half an onion, diced
  • One clove of garlic, diced
  • Grated zest of half a lemon
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Small handful of chopped herbs (e.g. thyme, parsley)
  • Four tablespoons of breadcrumbs
  • About 25 grams of finely grated Parmesan cheese (or any hard cheese)
  • Two teaspoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Half a teaspoon of dried chili flakes (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Prepare the mushrooms by removing the stalks and dicing them. You should have a large cavity in the mushroom ready to hold the cheesy filling,
  3. Heat the oil in a pan, and when hot, add the diced onion, mushroom stalks and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until soft, but don’t let the mixture burn. When softened, add in the chopped herbs, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and chili flakes (if using). Turn off the heat and leave to cool.
  4. As the onion and mushroom mixture cools, mix the ricotta, feta and lemon zest in a bowl. Stir in the cooled veggie mixture.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the four mushrooms. Top with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is hot. If you want them crispier on top, move the mushrooms to a grill for the last few minutes of cooking.
  6. Serve with a garden salad. Tonight I used rocket leaves, tomato, capsicum, cucumber, and avocado, with lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to dress the salad.

Ricotta stuffed mushrooms 1

So what do you think of this blog turning somewhat healthy?

I promise I will still bake the occasional treat!

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