Blue cheese, apple, bacon, and caramelised onion empanadas

These are not true empanadas, but I started calling them that because of their shape. They take on the shape simply because the apple doesn’t fit in, otherwise! I made these specifically to be paired with whisky at a private whisky tasting party. The whisky it went best with was The Chita Single Malt by Suntory Whisky.

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Ingredients

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large granny smith apple
150g blue cheese
3 rashers of bacon, diced

Caramelised Onion
1 red onion, sliced thinly
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar, really)
Salt to taste

Method

Preheat your oven to 180C

1. Peel the apple and slice thinly – 5mm thick or less. You don’t want it to be very thick at all. Put into acidulated water (a splash of vinegar will do) and set aside.
2. Put a small fry pan onto low heat and add a splash of olive oil. Add the onion, sugar, vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt. Cook the onion down over low heat, stirring occasionally. It will take about 15 minutes, but you should eventually get that ‘caramelised’ smell. Take care not to burn it, as it will turn bitter. Set aside to cool.
3. Roll out your block of puff pastry to about 3mm thick. You may need to sprinkle some plain flour on it first. I used Careme Puff Pastry, which is a bit expensive, but so worth it.
4. Using a 12cm round pastry cutter, or bowl of a similar size and a knife (that’s what I used), cut your rounds from the pastry. If you are short of space, to prevent them from sticking together, place a square of baking paper between each round. If you have offcuts, roll them back together and roll them out to 3mm thick again, using the same process to cut the rounds out.
5. Assemble your pastries by placing two slices of apple across the centre of the pastry, slightly closer to one side than the other. Pile approximately 5 cubes of bacon, a wad of blue cheese, and half a teaspoon or so of caramelised onion on top.
6. Fold the pastry over the top of the filling, so that it meets the opposite edge and completely covers the filling.
7. Crimp the edges of the pastry together with your fingers, empanada style. Ensure there are no holes (the filling will explode out of the holes, otherwise).
8. Bake the empanadas at 180C for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. Ensure they cool before eating – the filling is HOT!

Makes approximately 16 empanadas

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Beetroot and Blue Cheese Brown Rice Risotto

This is definitely a cheat’s risotto. Brown rice doesn’t cook down properly with the usual stock-ladling method, so you have to use the absorption method. Still tastes just as good.

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Ingredients

3 whole beetroot, grated
2 cups of brown rice
1 medium brown onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced finely
150g blue cheese (the stronger, the better)
50g butter (or to taste)
100g parmigiano reggiano (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

1. Cook the onion on medium heat until translucent in a wide, heavy based fry pan. Add the garlic and fry until fragrant.
2. Add the rice to the pan and coat it with the olive oil. Allow it to toast slightly, without burning. Add some salt at this stage.
3. Add 6 cups of water to the pan and cover. Bring to the boil, then simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked. If it ends up slightly overcooked, that’s fine – risotto is meant to be slightly gluggy.
4. Once the rice is cooked, add the beetroot. If there is still water left in the pan, this is a good thing. You might need to add a splash of water to get the whole thing moving, if not.
5. Once the beetroot is incorporated, cover the pan again and cook on low heat for about 5-10 minutes, until the beetroot loses its rawness.
6. Add the blue cheese and stir thoroughly. The blue cheese should melt into the risotto and help make it more moist.
7. Add the butter and parmigiano reggiano. Stir until mixed through. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper accordingly.
8. Serve in bowls, topped with more parmigiano reggiano to taste.

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Picky Eater Friendly Tuna Fritters with Hidden Veg

I made these for my picky eaters, aged 8 and almost 2. They gobbled them up and asked for more. I can’t guarantee the same success, but they are also very satisfying for grown ups, too.


Ingredients

400g tin of tuna in brine
1 small zucchini, grated
1 small carrot, grated
1 cup self raising flour
1 egg
1/2 cup yoghurt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon mild german mustard
Salt to taste (don’t be afraid of salt)
Sunflower oil for cooking

Method

1. Mix together the tuna, zucchini, and carrot in a large bowl.
2. Mix the wet ingredients together in a bowl.
3. Sift the flour in. If you don’t have the time to sift, sprinkle it in a bit at a time, mixing in between each sprinkle.
4. Heat about 1-2cm of oil in a medium heat in a wide fry pan.
5. Mix the wet ingredients into the tuna flour mix. Mix well.
6. Test the oil with a tiny amount of tuna batter. It should sizzle around the edges.
7. Fry fritter-sized portions of batter (about a large tablespoon’s worth) until the bottom is browned. It will be tempting to fiddle with it to make sure it’s cooking. Don’t do that. After a few minutes, you’ll see brown edges.
8. Flip over and fry on the other side.
9. Repeat until the batter is used up.
10. Serve with any veggies your picky eaters will consume. Mine will eat it with mashed potato (occasionally with cauliflower added in).

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The Best Mulled White Wine Ever


Who needs red wine? Mulled white wine is where it’s at.

Ingredients

1 bottle of cheap (but not nasty) white wine
1 litre cloudy apple juice
1 large granny smith apple, cored and sliced thickly
1 large pear, cored and sliced thickly
6 fresh figs, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves
6 cardamom pods

Method

1. Chuck everything into a large pot.
2. Simmer on super low heat for about 30 minutes.
3. Pour into glasses using a soup ladle and drink away those winter chills.
4. When you get to the end and have more fruit than mulled wine, strain and put in a smaller pot.

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Blue cheese sauce

I’m Australian. I know fuck all about blue cheese sauce. But this is one I cobbled together after scouring the Internet and putting together what tastes good.

Please bear in mind this recipe makes fuckloads. I love this sauce. Halve or quarter the recipe if you do not want gallons and gallons of this delicious sauce (what is wrong with you).


Ingredients

300mL sour cream
300mL pouring cream
200mL buttermilk (you are probably using the rest for something like deep fried pickles)
100g blue cheese
1 tbs mild German mustard
1 tbs Cholula hot sauce (use Cholula. Trust me on this)

Method

1. Dump it all in a saucepan.
2. Put the saucepan on low.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Stir occasionally until you have the best sauce imaginable.

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Umami Bombs

I used to be a food purist. I would never use pre-made sauces or stocks in my cooking. It all had to come from the meat, vegetables, or grains I was cooking. If it didn’t, I just added more salt.

But then I discovered umami bombs.

I discovered it largely through an American food website called Serious Eats, particularly The Food Lab. I first started following them because of their dedication to determining recipes for the best of the best of junk food. Then I discovered the Managing Director, J.Kenji Lopez-Alt and his dedication to boosting umami in his All-American dishes. This recipe helps illustrate what I’m talking about. I thought there was a whole post talking about umami, but Google is coming up with nothing.

What is umami? No one fucking knows. No one. Alright, maybe it’s glutamate, which is an amino acid, but it’s more than that. People say it’s savoury, but it’s more than just that. It’s that combination of salty-sour-sweet-tiny-bit-bitter-wait-is-that-a-bit-off-check-the-use-by-date. It just makes everything better.

Anyway. To my ‘umami bombs’.


Pictured are my go-to umami flavours. I will try to describe how best to use them, but remember there are really only two rules, in my book:

1. Use your own instinct and, most importantly, sense of taste.

2. You must wait.

The second point is just as important as the first. You cannot rush umami (unless you are cooking Asian food, then, by all means, go nuts). If you are cooking Western style stews, soups, and braises, you must wait for the umami to develop. You can’t rush it, or you’ll end up with a beef stew that tastes mainly of soy sauce. Or worse, Vegemite.

Anyway! In order of (my) preference:

German mustard: It says it’s hot, but it’s not hot. American mustard is a good substitute. It’s got the sourness and saltiness a number of dishes need, without the in-your-faceness of fish sauce or Vegemite. I use it in vegetarian stews and in fish chowder. Use it where a light touch is needed.

Soy sauce: This is mainly salty with a touch of bitterness. It’s useful for all meats, except creamy fish dishes, but definitely use it in robust fish and vegetable dishes that use tomatoes.

Vegemite: I use with all dark meats, especially kangaroo. I have also used it in my Tofurkey recipe, to give the tofu a more meaty flavour. Beware – I believe using Vegemite in my Tofurkey was a gateway drug to using umami bombs.

Fish sauce: But not just any fish sauce, Red Boat brand fish sauce. It comes from Phú Quôc Island in Vietnam, where, I have heard, the anchovy fish are put in a barrel, fresh, with a heap of salt, and nothing else, and just left to ferment. The sauce is the liquid that comes out of the funnel at the bottom of the barrel. Apparently other fish sauces are not as pure. Use it sparingly, when your dish needs a big kick in the pants, like a hearty beef stew or the like.

I don’t think I’ve ever used one type of umami alone. All of my dishes use a combination of two or three, four if I’m feeling lucky. I usually start with mustard or soy sauce and build from there. It’s not like adding salt. There are layers. It’s almost an art form.

Also, remember to season with salt and pepper well after your umami has been built. Don’t do it at the same time, or it will be too overpowering.

There you have it. Go forth and make flavourful dishes!

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Savoury ‘protein’ muffins


I’m not actually sure of the amount of protein per muffin, only that they have a lot of protein-y ingredients. I put this together as a breakfast food I could grab out of the freezer of a morning and pop the microwave at work. I also accidentally found it they are popular with 18 month olds who refuse to eat their dinner.

Makes 12 large muffins.


Preheat your oven to 180C

Ingredients

3 cups of self raising flour
2 teaspoons of salt
6 eggs
1 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup quinoa, cooked
2 cups kale, finely chopped
200g feta, crumbled

Method

1. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl, and make a well in the centre.
2. In the well, crack in the eggs, and add the milk and yoghurt. Mix until just combined. It will be a wet mix. That’s a good thing.
3. Mix in the kale, quinoa, and feta.
4. Line two 6 cup muffin trays with baking paper.
5. Distribute the batter evenly between the cups of the muffon tray, filling each to about 4/5 full.
6. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 25 minutes, testing with a skewer. Remember when testing that the feta cheese might coat your skewer and look like uncooked muffin batter. Use your eyes and your noggin to determine whether they are cooked enough. If in doubt, just cut one open. You can always put it back in the tray if it isn’t cooked through.


The muffins will be dense, thanks to the quinoa and number of eggs used. They should come out very moist, but not sticky in the middle. 

If freezing, I recommend using resealable sandwich bags.

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