Penne with spicy eggplant & tomato sauce

This spicy eggplant & tomato pasta sauce is mouthwateringly good!

Penne with spicy eggplant & tomato sauce

Although they are a wee bit spendy, I prefer caper berries over capers, which are the flower buds. I find they’re less acid in taste so I tend to be quite generous with them in sauces like this. Add as many as suits your tastes, naturally. Fresh tomatoes instead of canned would work really well here, too.

Serves 4 hungry adults

Ingredients

2 small eggplants (aubergines) – about 500g (about 1 lb) total
1 large red onion, quartered lengthwise and sliced crosswise
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 caper berries (or 12 capers), roughly chopped
2 x 400g (14 oz) cans chopped tomatoes in juice
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 sprigs parsley, leaves finely chopped
olive oil
500g (about 1 lb) penne rigate (or other short pasta)

Directions

Trim the tops and bottoms of the eggplants, cut across into thirds then lengthwise into sticks about 1.5cm (about 1/2″) thick.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and fry the eggplant until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with several layers of paper towel to drain, trying to leave as much of the remaining cooking oil as possible in the skillet. You may need to cook in two batches, depending on the size of your skillet.

Reheat the skillet, adding just a drop more oil if necessary, and cook the onion on low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and caper berries and cook a further 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes, chilli flakes, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper and cook on very low heat until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to packet directions so it’s ready at about the time the sauce is done.

Stir the eggplant and parsley through the sauce and serve over the drained pasta.

Top with a bit of grated parmesan, if desired.

Posted in italian, pasta | 2 Comments

Piña colada macarons

Coconut (nut-free) shells with a rum-spiked pineapple curd filling. Serve these up at your next cocktail party!

Piña colada macarons

Made with coconut, these are bordering on macaroon status… but the prep is the same as a macaron so I’m torn…

I read a blog post on one of the Australian daily newspaper websites recently about food trends that the author thinks are past their use-by date. Top of the list were macarons and this line jumped out at me:
And can we please stop wildly experimenting with flavours for the macarons?
My first thought was “why should we?” It’s acceptable to make pies in all sorts of flavours, so why not macarons? The possibilities are endless because the basic recipe is so adaptable, and who wants to eat the same vanilla macs filled with chocolate ganache every day when there are so many possibilities? So I’m here to fight back against this negative attitude to my favourite cookie!

Makes 30 filled macarons

Ingredients

The shells

140g desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
140g powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
100g egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
100g granulated (white) sugar
40g water

The filling

This recipe will make more than you need, so you can halve it if you like, or use the remaining curd over ice cream or in shortbread shells for a tasty dessert. Can be made several days ahead.

1 x 425g (15 oz) can pineapple in juice (270g or 9 1/2 oz drained, according to the can)
2 tsp rum (I used Bacardi Black because that’s what I had)
1 tbsp corn starch
100g (1/2 cup) granulated (white) sugar
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
30g butter (2 tbsp), diced, room temperature

Directions

The shells

Prepare 2 parchment lined baking sheets.

Mix the desiccated coconut and powdered sugar together then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture.

Sift into a large bowl, re-grinding as needed.

Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the coconut mixture. Set aside.

In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C (244°F).

While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm (you should get a beak when you lift the whisk) and shiny.

Scrape the meringue onto the coconut mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula until you have a homogenous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm plain tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 4cm, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.

Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. This batter is quite thick, so you may need to push any beaks down with a damp fingertip. Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C (300°F).

Bake the macarons for 18 minutes, one sheet at a time, turning the sheet half-way. These macarons brown more than nut-based ones, I guess it’s just something about the nature of coconut.

Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.

The filling

Drain the pineapple (reserve the juice for another use… I have something coming up soon!) and purée the flesh in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Combine pineapple, rum and corn starch in a small saucepan, then add the sugar. Heat on very low, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves.

Remove saucepan from heat and add the beaten egg yolks while whisking, then return it to the heat, increase heat to medium-low and stir continuously until the mixture thickens and the whisk leaves a trail, about 4 – 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and beat in the butter.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, allow to cool, then cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface and refrigerate until ready to use.

Pipe or spoon a generous blob of filling onto the flat side of half the shells, top with the remaining shells and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for at least 24 hours before eating.

Posted in biscuit, cookie, dessert, macaron, sweet | 4 Comments

Tahini yoghurt sauce

Another dressing I made for last month’s Daring Cooks challenge… but forgot to post! And yes, I’m late for this month’s, but I’m hoping to get it done soon! Disorganisation is the theme of my week.

This tahini sauce goes beautifully on salad, in a wrap, drizzled over falafels and roasted vegetables or as a dip. It’s high in protein, smooth and creamy and full of flavour.

tahini yoghurt sauce

The consistency you get after you add the lemon juice and olive oil will depend very much on the tahini you use – mine listed sesame seeds as the only ingredient, no emulsifiers, so when I added the lemon juice it became very thick. If you use one with added ingredients, you may not need as much yoghurt, so don’t add it all at once.

Ingredients

1/2 cup tahini
2 large gloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup lemon juice (2 medium lemons)
2 tbsp olive oil
180g (3/4 cup) Greek yoghurt
1 tsp finely chopped parsley

Directions

Whisk together garlic, tahini and salt.

Whisk in lemon juice, then olive oil. Whisk in yoghurt by spoonfuls until you have the desired consistency.

Stir in parsley.

Serve immediately or refrigerate – it will keep in an airtight container for about a week.

Posted in dip, dressings&sauces, general, salad, spread | 2 Comments

Sesame seed & honey macarons

Sesame seed shells and honey buttercream filling.
Amazingly different and wonderfully tasty.

Sesame seed & honey macarons

As I was planning these, I thought the biggest hurdle would be grinding the sesame seeds fine enough without just making tahini. My first thought was to try toasting them to dry them out, but the moisture in them is oil, so I realised that wouldn’t work. Then I remembered an instruction I read for making marzipan that talked about pulsing the almonds so as not to release too much oil. Why not try pulsing the sesame seeds? It worked like a charm. They aren’t quite as fine as ground almonds, but they still have a smooth shell, a preference for which is one of my personal macaron quirks.

If you missed my last macaron post and would like copies of my piping templates, you can find them here.

Makes 30 filled macarons

Ingredients

The shells

140g sesame seeds
140g powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
100g egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
100g granulated (white) sugar
40g water

The filling

115g (1 stick or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
80g dark liquid honey
100g (3/4 cup unsifted) powdered (confectioners) sugar

Directions

The shells

Prepare 2 parchment lined baking sheets.

Mix the sesame seeds and powdered sugar together then pulse in short bursts in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture.

Sift into a large bowl, re-grinding any bigger pieces of sesame seed.

Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the sesame seed mixture. Set aside.

In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C (244°F).

While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm (you should get a beak when you lift the whisk) and shiny.

Scrape the meringue onto the sesame seed mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula until you have a homogenous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon and a trail in the batter melts back into itself within 20 seconds. This batter will get thin far more quickly than an almond one, so watch it carefully.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm plain tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 4cm, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.

Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C (300°F).

Bake the macarons for 18 minutes, one sheet at a time, turning the sheet half-way.

Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.

The filling

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add honey and beat to combine well, about 2 minutes.

Add powdered sugar and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated, then beat on high until smooth, another 2 to 3 minutes. Add a bit more powdered sugar or a few drops of milk to adjust consistency as desired.

Pipe or spoon a generous blob of filling onto the flat side of half the shells, top with the remaining shells and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for at least 24 hours before eating.

Posted in biscuit, cookie, dessert, macaron, snack, sweet | 5 Comments

Potato, leek & spinach soup

One last soup for the season. We love leek and potato soup, but I needed to clear out the freezer to defrost it, so the frozen spinach had to go. It makes a fantastic addition to this soup, bringing a whole new depth of flavour and making the soup lighter and fresher. Perfect spring fare.

Potato, leek & spinach soup

The US measurements are approximate, but the ratios are good – they are all just a tad under the metric but close enough not to matter. Feel free to adjust the quantities to suit your own tastes, though.

Serves 8

Ingredients

40g (3 tbsp) butter
30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts, roughly chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1kg (2 lbs) floury potatoes, roughly chopped (peeled if desired)
300g (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 litres (2 quarts) vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
250ml (1 cup) light cream (optional)
sour cream for serving (optional)

Directions

Heat the butter and oil together in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the leeks and garlic and cook until the leeks are soft.

Add the potatoes and toss to coat well in butter/oil. Cook over medium heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the spinach and stock and bring to a simmer.

Season to taste and let the soup simmer on low heat, covered, for 30 minutes.

Use a stick blender or normal blender to purée until smooth.

Stir through the cream, if using, and bring back up to simmering.

Serve with freshly ground black pepper and a swirl of sour cream, if desired.

Posted in potato, soup | 2 Comments

Lemon curd muffin tin rolls with yoghurt glaze

Lemon curd muffin tin rolls

Another lunch box or afternoon tea treat. Not too sweet, nicely tangy, full of fresh spring lemon flavour.

Lemon curd muffin tin rolls

This recipe will make more lemon curd than you’ll need for the rolls, so you can halve it if you like, but it will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for at least a week. It’s great on toast, over ice cream or even just with a spoon!

Lemon curd muffin tin rolls

Makes 24

Dough

500g (4 scant cups) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 x 7g sachet (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
80g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
1 tsp salt
100g (7 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
240ml (1 cup) plain greek yoghurt, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Filling

zest of 1 medium lemon
juice and 2 medium lemons
1 tbsp corn starch
100g (1/2 cup) granulated (white) sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
85g butter (6 tbsp), diced, room temperature

Glaze

125g (1 cup unsifted) powdered sugar
approx. 80ml (1/3 cup) plain greek yoghurt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Filling

Finely grate the zest of one lemon and juice both, straining the juice well through a tea strainer.

Mix the lemon zest and juice and corn starch in a small saucepan then add the sugar. Heat on very low, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves.

Add the beaten eggs to the saucepan, increase the heat to medium-low and stir continuously until the mixture thickens, about 4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and beat in the butter.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, allow to cool, then cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made several days ahead.

Dough

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, yeast, sugar and salt, then rub in butter with your fingertips until it has the texture of soft breadcrumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk the yoghurt, eggs and vanilla together and add to the dry mixture, stirring to combine.

Either fit the mixer with a dough hook or turn dough out onto a clean work surface and knead until soft and elastic. It will be quite soft and sticky.

Transfer dough to a large buttered bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, about an hour, up to two, depending on ambient temperature.

Grease or line two 12-hole muffin tins.

Gently push down the dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead together briefly, cut in two equal pieces and roll each out to a rectangle about 25 x 30cm (10 x 12″).

Spread each rectangle generously with about 4 heaped tablespoons of lemon curd. Take a sharp knife and cut the rectangles in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 6 equal pieces crosswise. Roll the strips of dough from the short edge then arrange them in the prepared muffin tins.

Cover rolls loosely with lightly buttered plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 – 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).

Bake rolls one tray at a time in centre of oven for 18 – 20 minutes, until puffed and golden.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

Glaze

Sift powdered sugar and add vanilla then yoghurt a little at a time until desired consistency. Drizzle over cooled rolls and allow to set.

Posted in cake, muffin, snack, sweet | 3 Comments

Barbecue marinated tofu steaks

I’ve been experimenting to get myself out of a tofu rut lately, stepping away from the usual Asian flavour profile, and decided to try something completely new to us. I don’t recall having eaten barbecue sauce for many, many years so, for this recipe, I just looked at half a dozen lists of ingredients and went from there, tweaking quantities until I got something that I liked. It’s slightly sweet, slightly tangy, slightly spicy, definitely mouthwatering! Kid approved, too!

Barbecue marinated tofu steaks

We had these barbecue marinated tofu steaks baked for dinner with salad, then we had the leftovers fried and stuffed into a baguette with salad for lunch the next day. Both cooking methods work really well.

Barbecue marinated tofu steaks

One important thing to remember when marinating tofu is that, even after draining and pressing, it still has a high water content, so any oil in the marinade will prevent it from being absorbed as efficiently.

Ingredients

100g (3 1/2oz) firm tofu per person
salad of choice

Marinade

(makes about 2 cups – enough for 600g (21oz) of tofu)

240ml (1 cup) ketchup
120ml (1/2 cup) water
50g (1/4 cup, packed) brown sugar
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Drain, dry and cut the tofu. Place in a single, flat layer on several layers of paper towel, cover with more layers of paper towel, place a heavy cutting board on top and put some cans or jars on top to weigh it down a bit. Let it sit for about an hour.

Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a small, heavy based saucepan, bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Place the tofu in a single layer in a baking dish, pour the marinade over the top and make sure the pieces are coated all over. Let marinate for two to three hours (I just left it on the bench).

Baked

Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).

Bake tofu in the marinade for 20 – 25 minutes, turning once or twice.

Serve tofu with remaining marinade brushed over the top.

Fried

Preheat oven to 150°C (°F).

Heat a large skillet with a dash of peanut oil until oil is shimmering, then fry the tofu in batches until hot. Place on a plate in warm oven while continuing to fry batches.

Return any remaining marinade to saucepan or microwavable bowl and reheat.

Serve tofu with remaining marinade brushed over the top.

Posted in lunch, tofu | 2 Comments