Monday, September 28, 2009

Smackin' ze chops - braised lamb chops with a rich zesty kick

Gourmet Inspired Tip: My boyfriend's mother offers her children (in a joking manner) a smack in the chops; "Can I get you anything else? A smack in the chops?" Consequently, we've picked it up in our usual banter. But I always wanted to create an enticing "smack in the chops" that you just couldn't say no to!

I've made a similar grape jelly and chili sauce with meatballs before but had never tried it with lamb. The flavour of chili with lamb in the rich thick sauce was sensational and I served it up with some "fancy chips" (I'll put that recipe up later) and wilted spinach. The only thing I think is that sauce was a little too thick this time around, but the extra 1/2 cups of stock should help that.

Can I get you anything else? How about some "smackin' ze chops"?


2 lamb forequarter chops
1 tbs chili powder
1 tbs rosemary
1 tsp harissa or other Middle Eastern spices
1 cup grape jelly (about 250 ml) Australia has no grape jelly, so blackcurrant jam worked instead.
1 cup hot chili sauce (250 ml)
1 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock


Spread chili powder, rosemary and harissa evenly over chops. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. In a saucepan, heat the hot chili sauce, grape jelly and stock until well combined. Allow mixture to gently bubble on low heat while you prepare the chops.

Heat oil in frying pan. Sear chops on all sides to seal, about 1-2 minutes on each side.

In a baking dish, arrange your chops. Pour hot jelly mixture all over chops. You should have about 1-2 cm of liquid coming up the sides of the meat.

Cook in oven for 2-3 hours, until meat is falling off the bone. Add more stock if the sauce starts to look too thick.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sausage and Mushroom Stack

Thank you Briyah for being my guinea pig!


Gourmet Inspired Tip: Who doesn't love a good sausage link, but it may not scream elegance on the plate. Buying a single link of your favourite sausage for this recipe is an easy way to make a good gourmet impression. After all, there is nothing that looks quite as impressive as "stacked" food - if it's stacked well.

My first attempt at this didn't work as well as I hoped as the "pattie" formation didn't stay together. Throwing an egg into the
meat mixture, as indicated below, will help avoid the semi-lopsided contraption pictured.

Mushroom and Sausage stack

Serves 2


2 large portobella mushrooms, destemmed
2 tbs butter
200 g spinach leaves, washed
100 g zucchini, thinly sliced
100 g leek, sliced
200 g mushroom, chopped
1 sausage link, any flavour
50 g tinned water chestnuts
1 egg
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Coriander to dress


Preheat grill to high. Pat butter on the bottoms of the mushrooms and place under grill, tops down, butter side up. Let cook for 10-12 minutes.

While the mushrooms are cooking, in a food processor, combine the leek, chopped mushrooms and water chestnuts until well processed. Move to mixing bowl.

Using a knife, cut a hole in the sausage link and extract meat from the skin and add to mushroom leek mixture. Add egg, and use your hands to combine the meat and mixture until it is thoroughly mixed through. Shape into patties about the size of your portobella mushrooms. Fry in hot pan until meat is cooked, about 3-4 minutes.

In a colander, wilt the spinach leaves by slowly pouring about 2 cups of boiling over the leaves. Do the same for the zucchini slices to cook them slightly.

Remove mushrooms from grill and place on plate. Add a layer of wilted spinach leaves on top, then a layer of the zucchini slices. Pour balsamic vinegar over these layers to taste. Top off the veggie stack with your mushroom and sausage patties and add a sprig of coriander on top.

Hint: If you're still having issues making the patties stick, add some breadcrumbs or flour to the mixture.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Seafood Paella & Spanish Chicken Rice

This is a two part entry, enjoy!


Gourmet Inspired Tip: A few months back, my boyfriend gave me a fantastic paella recipe that I tweaked for some outstanding results. Really, when it comes to paella, it's all about the bottom crusty part of the rice, called socarrat. Really, the key to getting a really good caramelised crust is a good quality non-stick pan (I have a Scanpan) and a lid that's big enough to cover it.

Below are two recipes. The first is my original paella recipe featuring paprika dusted blu
e cod. I took out a lot of the non seafood elements of the original dish (chicken and chorizo) and replaced the green beans with peas for plating purposes.

The second recipe is what I call, "poor man's paella", which is basically chicken rice with vegetables. Again, t
he rice is done in the same style of the first paella to give it that great crusty bottom that is sure delight. Enjoy!

Seafood Paella


- 2 cups Spanish or Risotto rice
- 500 g Blue Cod fish, cut into cubes
- 1 tbs paprika
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 red capsicum, cut into cubes
- 200 g prawns
- 16 mussels, approx
- 5 1/2 cups chicken stock, heated

- 1 tsp saffron, for best results
- 1 tbs cayenne pepper, to taste
- 200 g peas or green beans
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup white wine, if desired


- Dust fish pieces in paprika and saute lightly in high quality non-stick pan until sealed. Remove from heat.
- Lightly saute prawns until sealed and remove
- In the non-stick pan, lightly fry onion, chili and garlic to release the flavours. Add dry rice and mix until rice is coated thoroughly.
- Spread rice evenly so it coats the bottom of the pan and layer fish pieces evenly on top, followed by the capsicum and peas. Add most of hot stock (save a little in case you need to add more liquid later) and follow with wine, if desired. Top with sealed prawns and let simmer on low for 10 minutes. DO NOT STIR.
- Add mussels one by one on top and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Mussels should begin to open an
d you'll notice the caramelised crust forming along the edges.
- Try to see if the rice is cooked. If it is still crunchy and there is no more liquid, add the leftover stock and cook for an additional 5 minutes. If you can, cover the entire pan with a lid or a bit of aluminium foil to help the rice cook.

Hint: Once you have the crust you're more than halfway there. It's better to start with too little liquid than too much and to add more at the end. Once you have the crust, it's just a matter of cooking the rice through.

Spanish Chicken Rice

Similiar to paella, but with cheaper ingredients. Again, if you can get the crust, the results will be desirable and impressive. Basically replace the cod pieces with chicken.


- 500 g chicken thigh fllet, diced
- 1 tbs paprika
- 1 red capsicum, cut into cubes
- 200 g green beans
- 5 1/2 cups stock, heated
- 1 tbs cayenne pepper, to taste
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup white wine, if desired
- 1 onion, minced


- Dust chicken pieces in paprika and saute lightly in high quality non-stick pan until sealed. Remove from heat.
- In the non-stick pan, lightly fry onion, chili and garlic to release the flavours. Add dry rice and mix until rice is coated thoroughly.
- Spread rice evenly so it coats the bottom of the pan and layer chicken pieces evenly on top, followed by the capsicum and green beans. Add most of hot stock (save a little in case you need to add more liquid later) and follow with wine, if desired. DO NOT STIR.
-Simmer for an additional 15 minutes. You'll notice the caramelised crust forming along the edges.
- Try to see if the rice is cooked. If it is still crunchy and there is no more liquid, add the leftover stock and cook for an additional 5 minutes. If you can, cover the entire pan with a lid or a bit of aluminium foil to help the rice cook.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Aussie Creme Brulee

It actually worked! Hurrah!

Gourmet Inspired Tip: I love creme brulee, and have always wanted to try making it. But after a bit of thinking and reading, I decided to give it an Aussie twist.

Aussie creme brulee is basically creme brulee with an Anzac bikkie base. It gives the dessert a little bit more substance, and I think the crumbly texture and sweetness of the bikkie really takes the custard and caramelised sugar flav
our to a new level.

I've been super stoked to try this idea and it actually worked the first time around, well base was a little soggy as I was overly excited and didn't think to "bake it blind" first. The method below rectifies my error, but even with the sogginess the flavours were definitely there.


Aussie Creme Brulee


- 400 ml pure cream
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar (raw or white)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups Anzac biscuits, crumbed (about 6 biscuits)
- 3-4 tbs butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- pinch of salt


- Preheat oven to 180⁰C.
- In a mixing bowl, using your hands, mix the Anzac biscuit crumbs and the butter until the crumbs stick together.
- Layer the mixture evenly across the base of four small (5 oz) ramekins. I didn't have any, so I used short flat tea cups (pictured). Just make sure whatever you use is small and shorter than it is wide, as you will have to fill it to the brim with your custard. Cover the entire base and flatten it as much as you can, should be about 2 mm thick.
- Bake in oven for approximately 10 minutes, until the bases are set. Remove and let cool.
- In a pan or pot, heat the cream until it is hot but not boiling.
- In another mixing bowl, gently combine egg yolks and sugar, but do not whisk. Slowly add hot cream, stirring constantly until sugar and eggs are completely dissolved. Add vanilla and salt and mix thoroughly. Strain out any remaining solid bits.
- Pour custard into bases, filling the cups all the way to the top. (If you don't, it will be very difficult to caramelise the sugar on top at the end).
- Place cups in a deep baking dish and fill the dish with hot water so that it comes about halfway up the cups. Bake in oven (still at 180⁰C) for about 30-40 minutes until the custard is set.
- Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled.
- Sprinkle brown sugar on tray lined with baking paper and dry in oven for a few minutes. Remove and break up the clumps of sugar using a rollin pin or the base of a cup. Set aside.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle brown sugar generously on top of custards. Place under hot broiler for 3-4 minutes to caramelise the sugar. Alternatively, use a torch. Remove and serve. :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Quick creamy salad dressing

Mission tomorrow - make Aussie Creme Brulee!

In the meantime, here's a quick recipe for a simple creamy salad dressing.

Gourmet Inspired Tip: Old dry bread (obviously not mouldy) can get a second life as croutons in a simple "Caesar" Salad.
Mine was cos lettuce, egg, parmesan, bacon bits and week old sourdough as "croutons"


- 1/3 lemon, juiced
- 3 tbs mayonnaise
- 1 tbs brown vinegar
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1/2 tsp garlic


Mix all ingredients together and drizzle over "Caesar" type salad

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Honey glazed grilled turkey sandwich

$6 turkey steaks at Bi-Lo got me thinking…

A Gourmet Inspired Tip: Sandwiches are the classic lunch staple, from Subway to the gourmet gargantuans you can get at the deli. It is also one of the most popular bag lunch options but you might be uninspired by the dry lunch meat options. Not to mention the “soggy” sandwich dilemma when you finally arrive at work. Try this simple, delicious – and hopefully drier option.

This method works with chicken or turkey. If using chicken breast fillets, slice thin fillets about 1 cm thick.


- 200 grams chicken or turkey fillet, approximately 1 cm thick
- 3 tbs honey to taste
- At least 2 leaves of cos lettuce
- 1 tbs mayonnaise
- 2 slices crusted bread, sourdough works well since it is more resistant to sogginess

NB: By avoiding tomatoes, you’re decreasing the soggy factor


- Glaze the turkey or chicken fillets liberally with honey.
- Place under hot grill and grill each side for 2-3 minutes. Don’t overcook.
- Butter the bread. Make sure the cos lettuce is dry and place on both slices of bread. Spread mayonnaise on top of lettuce. The lettuce acts as a barrier to keep the mayonnaise from seeping through to the bread.
- Put chicken in between the pieces of lettuce. Hopefully, if packaged properly you’ll have a delicious gourmet sandwich, as if it had been freshly made.

Seafood Spaghetti with clam sauce - and how it all started

My boyfriend had recently taken me to a Surry Hills restaurant favourite, Il Baretto on Bourke Street where we were served an excellent dish of spaghetti and clams that was to die for (apparently called Spaghetti al vongole - thanks George!)

The next week, with $10 in my pocket, I trudged up to the local Coles thinking of how to scrounge up some decent ingredients for dinner – but all I could think about was that spectacular Il Baretto pasta. Clams of course, were not at Coles and would have cost too much if they were even there. But I did happen upon a tin of baby clams for $3.68. After some more considered thinking and smart buying, I went home and threw together a “gourmet inspired” seafood spaghetti with clam sauce.

And unlike at the restaurant, my boyfriend could help himself to seconds.

Seafood Spaghetti with clam sauce (inspired by Il Baretto’s that started it all)

Note: final ingredients and proportions are still being tried, but I would love your comments and feedback! Thanks

A Gourmet Inspired Tip: The clams in the original dish tasted amazing and fresh, but the perfectly cooked pasta stirred through what was a very simple sauce with the strong flavour of clams was what won me over.

The tin clams obviously don’t compare to the taste of fresh clams but they do manage to give the pasta that delicious clam flavour. To give the dish some substance and a “seafood feel”, basa fillets are cheap but they taste like nothing. A little bit of paprika married with the basa fish texture helps flush out the essence of the dish. Top with a couple of prawns if you feel like splurging. :)


- 250grams spaghetti
- 1/2 brown onion, finely sliced
- 1/2 red capsicum, finely sliced
- 1 basa fillets, cut into chunks
- 2 tbs paprika
- 1 tin baby clams
- Parsley to taste, finely chopped
- 3 tbs olive oil
- ½ cup white wine (cheap chardonnay works fine)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 5 cooked peeled Tiger prawns (optional)


- Follow instructions to cook pasta. Try and get it as “al dente” as possible, do not overcook.\
- Add the paprika and basa chunks into a small baggie and shake to lightly dust fish with paprika
- In a non stick pan, lightly fry the pieces of fish until they are slightly charred on the outside and almost cooked through. Remove from heat.
- In a sauce pan over medium heat, add the olive oil garlic and fry until garlic brown on the edges. Add onions and capsicum, cook until onions become translucent. Add baby clams and white wine. Turn down heat, cover and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Use the clam tin to add water if the liquid level gets low.
- Add cooked pasta and parsley and stir through, cooking it for another 1-2 minutes to ensure eveness of temperature. Remove from heat. Add the cooked basa chunks and tiger prawns if desired, cover and let sit for 1-2 minutes before serving.

HINT: Oil and salt in the water before it boils will help keep your pasta from sticking. (Thanks Kez!)

Thoughts? Comments? Am I completely insane? All feedback much appreciated thanks! x

Gourmet Inspired - leave the professional tricks to the professionals, let the professionals inspire us.

Introducing Gourmet Inspired

The professionals all agree, when it comes to gourmet restaurant quality meals, you have to get your ingredients right. This means, the freshest herbs, picked from your backyard, the best cuts of meat and of course, organic in-season produce from your local farmers’ market.

Garden? Farmers’ Market? HELLOOO???

I’m sorry, but the professional chefs may have the time to trawl through the markets and drop by the wharf to pick up the fresh catch of the day. But for the rest of us, “fresh” means the mad dash to the supermarket aisles in a suit straight after work, desperately trying to scrounge together the ingredients for tonight’s meal - if you manage to remember exactly when you bought that last carton of eggs. Organic means picking up the saran wrapped package with the green seal instead of none. Not to mention with today’s economy, exquisite cuts of meat may not be particularly wallet friendly.

But does that mean we can’t enjoy our favourite seafood pasta and tartine tarts at home?

Gourmet Inspired is a new way of looking at home cooking. We all know about home style roasts, spaghetti bolognaise and stir fry out of a packet. This collection of recipes has been developed to be simple and budget friendly, “inspired” by the tastes of your restaurant favourites, perfect for the amateur chefs in all of us.

Leave the professional tips and tricks to the professionals, but let the professionals inspire the rest of us.

Coming up: Seafood Spaghetti with clam sauce