filo

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spanakopita

Spanakopita [from the Greek spanos – spinach, and kopita – pie] it pretty easy. Lightly blanch a couple of bunches of spinach and chop up. Chop up a few field mushrooms, a clove of garlic and some spring onions and sautee in a little olive oil. Mix it all in with three free-range eggs, a grated block of feta cheese and a handful of chopped herbs – coriander, marjoram, dill, and parsely. Butter a baking tray, place three sheets of filo pastry brushed with butter on the bottom. Add the mix and then top with three more sheets of filo. Cook at 180C for about 40 minutes.

Jo’s moussaka added gravy like goodness with near dissolved eggplant.

Buggered if I can get a single sheet of filo pastry to not tear before just chucking the rest away in scrumpled digust. Is there a trick to this?

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Lamb Rack with potato salad, slow roasted tomatoes, onion jam, and jus


Fucking great, really great. Yes it was.

There’s not anything particularly original or new here but I liked how a lot of different things came together making it a very personal dinner party menu for two good friends from England. Tasty too.

dhufish in phyllo


This is the dhufish wrapped in phyllo pastry. Jo gets Gourmet Traveller and didn’t know what dhufish, which is a great shame, so I chose this for the entree. I like it with just butter but this recipe fancies it up without overwhelming the fresh sweet taste. The recipe is pretty much taken straight out of the Second Simple Cookbook by Athol Thomas. The book has been a great help in cooking Western Australian seafood.

Make a herb butter out of 125gm of butter with one tablespoon of green peppercorns and the juice of one lemon. Place the butter on each fillet and wrap each one with a sheet of phyllo pastry, sealing underneath with some melted butter. Put in a well buttered baking tray and cook for 15 minutes at 200C.

The sauce is a reduction of white wine with a tablespoon of tarragon and then whisked some cream in. I’d made a bisque earlier that day (like you do) and added a tablespoon to the sauce and then added a few small pieces of butter.

Lamb Rack with potato salad, slow roasted tomatoes, onion jam, and jus


I revisted this recipefor the lamb rack. I left out the mushrooms as being summer something cooler would be nice. To accompany it I made a warm pea and potato salad with a tarragon, parsley, and chive two yolk mayonnaise. Thinking of bernaise sauce, I briefly boiled the vinegar for the mayonnaise with a tablespoon of tarragon before adding it to the egg yolks. Once the mayonnaise was made I added a tablespoon of the parsley and the chives. The kipfler potatoes were cut into small cubish shapes, they do this at Jacksons with a higher order of precision but it’s a good idea. Several smaller pieces will have more surface ares than one larger area [I'm sure there's some way of working out how much more but ermm help - no wait if it was four cubes it would be the existing area plus the addition of two sides of area for the horizontal and vertical cut so additional area=a x (n-2) where a=the area of one of the original sides and n=the number of new pieces] and this means more area for the mayonnaise to rest on. The size also balances nicely with the peas. Peas are in season at the moment so I shelled and cooked them until cooked without being soft and refreshed under cold water. [ Slight digression I made a nice pasta sauce for rigatoni the other night with freshly shelled peas, pancetta, EVOO, asparagus, garlic, and plum tomatoes] Alll Mixed together with a couple of chopped spring onions.

Instead of cooking the red onions with the lamb, I made a relish out of it. Cook the onion until golden and add 3tbs of raw sugar and 3 tbs of white wine vinegar and cook, stirring, until thick.

The cherry tomatoes were cooked with EVOO, salt, and rosemary in a 200C oven for 10 minutes and then cooked at 150c.

The sauce is a mix of beef stock, red wine, and a little cream whisked in for colour.

For cooking the rack, sear the sides in duck fat and then roast in an oven at 180C for 12 minutes on each side. This allowed it to be cooked evenly through but cut back to maybe 20 minutes for a rare finish. Allow to rest in foil for 10 minutes.

Watermelon Mojito Sorbet


A break from ice-cream due to non dairy dessert preferencing guests. Get about four cups of watermelon, puree it and take a cup and heat it with a third of a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of basil. Heat until the sugar had melted and strain. Add to the rest of the puree with the finely chopped rind and juice of two limes and a third of a cup of white rum (I’m not sure how much exactly – just what was left in the bottle). Popped in the ice-cream maker until nice and frosty. You can alternatively use the freeze stir and bash method. The alcohol is what gives it a bit of mushiness, maybe a little too, no just right.

Apparently in England, if you hit an animal with your car you can’t claim it, but the following car can.

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Bastani Akbar-Mashti on Baklava


It is, sadly, not enough to just have ice-cream anymore. There has to be an extra carbohydrate bit so I thought I’d lump the Middle East together in one handy package and use a baklava as a base for this Persian variation on vanilla ice-cream.

I almost stuffed the ice-cream completely by just giving the ingredients a quick glance and not looking at the instructions. To clarify, the stages are
1. Heat milk with split vanilla pod
2. Whisk sugar with eggs
3. Pour hot milk slowly into sugar and eggs while stirring
4. Add cream when cooled.

and not pour all the ingredients except the eggs into a saucepan and start heating and then wonder that the eggs looked a little lonely in the bowl and have another look at the recipe. But, as Mark at work kindly pointed out when my line of tapenade had a slick of olive oil around it making it look like an overexcited black slug – ‘all can be fixed.’

There was nothing I could do about the getting the cream or the sugar out of the milk, so I just added a little sugar to the eggs and whisked, and then just poured the milk/cream slowly in as if nothing had happened. I then added two teaspoons of rosewater, as part of my quest to finish the bottle, which was to taste. It is strong so advance a little at a time. I also added two teaspoons of honey, which I regretted as it provides an overly harsh note of sweetness. Put in the fridge to cool, before adding it to the ice-cream maker. You can then chuck little neatly cut cubes of turkish delight in as it goes around and marvel as they get drawn into the icy vortex.

Place in three dariole moulds, smooth over the top and leave in the freezer until ready. If you had some kind of tube thing, that would be quite good too.

Baklava is easier than it looks and is no harder than making a lasange, a tricky dagwood, or a voltaic pile. Phyllo pastry can be a bit fiddly but if you work with small amounts, it shouldn’t give you too much trouble. I wanted it to match the ice-cream so I cut rounds out of a similar size to the dariole moulds three or four sheets at a time by using a cutter ring and giving it a good whack with a rolling pin. I used (buttered) ramekins for each individual one and you stack it like this. You’ll need to brush each round of pastry with butter as you stack them. A lovely assistant is a boon.

4 rounds of phyllo pastry
nut mix nut mix nut mix
3 rounds of phyllo pasty
nut mix nut mix nut mix
3 rounds of phyllo pastry
nut mix nut mix nut mix
5 rounds of phyllo pastry


Heat sugar the sugar syrup over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the allow to simmer uncovered without stirring for five minutes to get it syrupy. Pour over the baklava and then bake for about 30 minutes in an 180C oven or until goldened. Allow to cool in the fridge – time does help the flavours.

Assembly:
Remove the baklava from the ramekin, heat the dariole’s in warm ater briefly and place carefully on topon the baklava, top with a little of the nut mixture, decorate with turkish delight and serve.

Well it was fantastic, really fantastic. Ice cream makers are the best. Admittedly I wanted it a little sharper than a slighty tilting truncated pine tree but not to be. I’m convinced Keiko has some kind of robotic lathe that she picked up from an outsourced Japanese precision engineering firm, it defies my competencies. Nevertheless project Become Quite Good at Dessert progresses well.

Bastani Akbar-Mashti:
250ml of full cream milk; 100gm sugar; 2 eggs; 400ml of thick cream; one vanilla pod; 2tsp of rosewater.
Baklava:
packet of phyllo pastry. Nut mix: 1 cup of chopped cashews and walnuts; 1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon, allspice, and cloves; 100gm butter (plus extra for the pastry). Sugar Syrup: 1/2 cup of caster sugar; 1/3 cup of water; juice and finely grated rind of half a lemon.

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lapindinner

Rabbit as meat evoke a number of different responses but my position is this, they are furry vermin and I have no qualms whatsoever about eating them. In fact, I looked forward to it.

The opportunity was number four (previously: Cassoulet de Castelnaudary; Bouillabaisse; Canard laqueau miel)of our reasonably regular French Dinner Party series on Saturday. I was to make the main again and Veronique would do entree and dessert. I chose a rabbit and tapenade recipe from Provence in the Culinaire Francais. The accompanying vegetables were left a little later being distracted and all by afternoon adventures with Robbie with a quick-cut saw and a sledgehammer. At the mercy of the half an hour til closing supermarket, working through budget shoppers, I had a rough idea and it obliged. Baby carrots, stuffed zucchini, and mushroom pouches.

Rabbit:

lapin filletWorking with a whole rabbit, the challenge is to get it into four fillets and a sheet of thin torso meat to wrap them in. The remaining bones become stock. I can only advise what I did and that is to work under the meat in the parts closest to the bone, popping bones at the joint to work the meat out. You should eventually get four largish pieces of meat from the hind legs and the side (the saddle). The sheet of meat around the torso require care so it doesn’t tear or pierce. Trim at the front and back and slowly work it off. It became two sheets as I couldn’t detatch it cleanly from the spine. It slow and fiddly, the bones are tiny and the sinews are like parcel twine. Any meat left will flavour the stock and you can also add small pieces to the fillet roll.

Season the sheets with salt and pepper and spoon tapenade over them (I used a local Wyening Mission Farm kalamata olive tapenade). Place the fillets inside and roll it up and secure with string.

The rabbit stock is much like any stock with carrots, leeks, and celery as the aromatics and a bouquet garni of bay leaf, rosemary, thyme wrapped in the green part of a leek. In this a glass of white wine is added to the ingredients, reduced and then water is added to just cover. Cook for 20 minutes and then strain. Reduce to taste, this will become the sauce.

sofacentral

Vegetables:

The stuffed zucchini were based on a recipe in the Cordon Bleu at Home and making an effort for visual presentation, they added a vertical element. Slice the zucchini into 5cm lengths and hollow out a tunnel that leaves about 7mm of wall. Keep the leftover bits for the stuffing and the ends to top. I made the stuffing by cooking finely chopped bacon, leek, parsely, chives and celery with the leftover zucchini and pumpkin seeds in butter and mixing it with fresh breadcrumbs and an egg. Parboil the zucchini in salted water for 5 minutes, rinse under cold water, and fill with the stuffing. Place vertically in a buttered bread pan and cover with foil.

The carrots were part elgiacally inspired by Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn:

Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet,

and part me being a vindictive bastard. Peeled with a few cm of the the greens left on. Traditionally cooked in Vichy water, I susbsituted with a suitably interesting Italian sparkling mineral water.

The mushrooms pouches are flash and easy. They would have to be considering the state I was in when I successfully made them at The Dinner Party that was a Complete Shambles about 12 years ago. Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in warm water and then mince with field/portobello mushrooms. Cook in butter with chopped chives and drain out the excess moisture. This will prevent the pouches from breaking. Cut filo/phylo/phyllo pastry into bread plate sized rounds. I used three sheets to get the required amount of strength. Fiddly stuff, my kitchen looked like writer’s block circa 1950. Place a spoonful of mix in the middle, gather the edges around, and tie with string. The string will be replaced with the green part of chives quickly softened in boiling water. Liberally brush with melted butter and place on a baking tray.

Bundle everything into the car with camera and tripod and off you go

Cooking:

The times all fit together nicely for minimal stress
-Bake the zucchini for 45 minutes, removing the foil to baste and finally brown.
-The rabbit is quickly seared on all sides in olive oil and then roasted for 15 minutes at 190c, basting regularly, and allowing to rest for 10 minutes.
- the mushroom pouches cook in the oven in 15 minutes
- the carrots take about 10 minutes to cook in the boiling mineral water.

Slice the rabbit into equal portions, place on the plate with the vegetables and pour the stock over.

Dining:

cheese-BEFORE-dessertVery civilised. Seemed to be a much shorter aperitif time so the poonk CDs stayed in their cases. I really enjoyed Veronique’s entree of pesto of flat leafed parsley and roasted garlic on toast. Should get the recipe. I was very proud of my mains. The vegetables rewarded me for the attention I paid them and after my misgivings about the doneness of the duck at the last dinner party, I was thrilled that the rabbit was cooked to juicy perfection. Given it takes about 30 minutes to get from bench to plate, it’s a good choice for a low stress dinner meat. Cheese followed, as is the custom I was told, then finally Veronique’s pear cooked in a vanilla sauce with double cream. My only regret was the Barwick Estates Pinot Noir, only made it as far as the entree. Light and tasty, it would have made for a great pairing with the rabbit. Ah well, I’ll just have to do it all over again.

poirelapin

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