Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rainy days and prawn soup

It's been raining quite a bit in Sydney - and unfortunately Sydney, or maybe Australia in general isn't really well equipped for rain. There aren't pubs with warm fires to cosy up to or warm grog to drink. NY, Japan - these other places seem to lend themselves to some sort of winter entertainment - here girls are still hitting the cross in mini skirts.

We were at the fish shops thinking about making mussels but they were all out. I caught sight of some fresh green king prawns with heads still attached. I remember my dad has always said that when it comes to seafood, the heads are the sweetest part of a crustacean. Being cold and rainy, I thought it would be the perfect time to try and make a warming seafood soup.

500 g green prawns, unpeeled with heads attached
1 large ling fillet, cut into pieces
250 mL fish stock
1 cup white wine
water, as needed
1 tin diced tomatoes
4 cloves garlic - peeled crushed
2 small garlic shoots
1 red onion chopped
1 tbs grated ginger
1/2 red capsicum chopped
150 g enoki mushrooms
1 tomato diced
1 bay leaf
1 small tin sardines in olive oil - DO NOT STRAIN
salt to taste
coriander to taste


In a large pot, add the fish stock and garlic and bring to boil.

Separate the prawn heads from the bodies. Leave the bodies to shell and devein later, add the prawn heads to your stock and bring to boil. Add onions, tin tomaties, garlic shoots, bay leaf, ginger, white wine and oil from the tin of sardines. (I served the sardines as finger food with some red capsicum dip and water thins). Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, adding water and liquid as needed. You can shell and devein your prawns and prepare your other ingredients during this time.

Remove the soup stock from the heat and strain. Return liquid to stove over a medium flame and add diced fresh tomatoes, capsicum and enoki mushrooms. Let simmer for 5 minutes or until capsicum is soft. Add ling pieces and prawns and continue to simmer until fish and prawn meat are cooked through (2-3 minutes). Serve with coriander and salt to taste.

For an extra bit of kick - add a few slices of fresh ginger to the strained soup. I would also consider sauteeing the prawns separately in garlic and serving over the soup instead of cooking it in the stock.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Homemade gnocchi with garganzola spinach sauce

Garganzola is an amazing cheese - succulent and packed with taste. We had some great homemade gnocchi at il baretto last week - again a great italian joint in Surry Hills. It came with a delightful garganzola sauce. In this version, I've spruced up the sauce with a bit of spinach for colour.


1 kg potatoes, washed but not peeled
1 egg
250 mL flour plus more to flour surface
2 tbs grated parmesan
Pinch of salt

125 g garganzola cheese
1/2 cup milk
20 g butter
100 mL cream
100 g spinach, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


To make the gnocchi:
Place the potatoes in a saucepan with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. Insert a skewer to test.

Peel the potatoes and mash well - I used a stick blender. Combine with flour, egg and cheese and mix well.

Flour surface and lay out small amount of potato dough. Carefully roll in flour to create a 1.5 cm roll. Cut into 1 cm pieces and lay out on a baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the potato dough, then set aside. Put a saucepan with water on the range to boil while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce:
In a large frying pan, combine garganzola, milk and butter until creamy. Reduce heat and add cream and spinach and simmer for 5 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering and once the water boiling, you're ready to cook the gnocchi. I cooked it in small batches, adding about 10 pieces at a time. Scoop them out as soon as they start floating - think of it as rescuing survivors from a ship wreck (ok - maybe that's just me. =P)

Stir the gnocchi through the garganzola sauce and serve immediately.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Curry Mussels

This particular dish is inspired by Luke Nguyen from Red Lantern in Surry Hills. I have always loved mussels - the meat is so sweet, juicy and succulent and the local mussels in Sydney are always plump and beautiful. You could - and probably should - make your own curry paste with chilli and shrimp paste etc. But in a pinch, the red thai curry paste from coles (get the paste not the sauce form) will do well. This is a superb winter dish.



1 kg fresh mussels
1/2 stick lemon grass - cut in 3
250 mL coconut milk
155 mL coconut cream
2 tbs thai red curry paste (add more to taste)
2 bunch baby bok choy chopped
1 chilli - chopped
2 cloves garlic - minced
Fresh parsley to taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 cups cooked rice for serving


In a large wok or sauce pan, fry the garlic to release the aroma. Add stock and bring to a simmer.

Add curry paste, baby bok choy, chilli and lemon grass and let simmer 3-4 minutes. Add coconut milk and cream and bring to boil. Reduce heat.

Add mussels and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes. Mussels should just be starting to open. Add sprouts and let cook for additional 3 minutes until all of the mussels have opened. Remove from heat.

Dress with fresh parsley and stir through. Serve in bowls over fluffy cooked rice.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Master Chef Inspired Pavlova

Marshmallowy Goodness.

For Anzac Day - I decided to try and make a Pavlova, having seen Donna Hay's recipe on Masterchef. I mean what better way to celebrate a great Australian public holiday than with a great Australian dessert?

The only problem - small tiny problem - was that I didn't own a beater. And when I saw those dreaded instructions: "whip egg whites to glossy, satiny peaks" I knew I was in trouble.

About 30 minutes of hard core whipping later - I had my glossy peaks and my pavlova in the oven. Feeling quite proud of myself, I went on to read about the topping.

"300 mL cream, well whipped"


(turned out okay, but definitely investing the $30 in a mixer!)



4 egg whites
300 g caster sugar
1 tsp vinegar
3 tbs corn flour
1 tsp vanilla
-- and if you don't have a mixer - a fork and some strong forearms!

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Lay out a piece of baking paper on a baking tray and draw a 20 cm circle, if desired.

Whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly sift in sugar and continue beating until the peaks are stiff and satiny. Mix in corn flour. Fold vanilla and vinegar into the mixture.

Mound your mixture into the centre of your baking paper and bake for 25 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow pavolova to cool in the oven.

For the topping, use about 300 ml of well whipped cream and seasonal berries, kiwis, passionfruit etc.