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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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Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach roasted pork belly with charcutiere sauce rhubarb ice cream with ginger peach compote

I love this book. Le Gavroche is the London restaurant started by the Roux brothers and now run by Michel Roux Jr. After a couple of months staring googly eyed at it, I thought it would be a good candidate for a straight up no messing about recipe following. It’s good to experiment but it’s also good to find out how things are meant to turn out.

Saturday dinner for my sister, who’s batching with her husband away in Quebec, and my neighbourhood doctor, who keeps me supplied with anti-reflux pills and Papua New Guinean savoury biscuits. Seafood and meat. Albany mussels were looking great, I’m always happy to have pork belly, and I was keen to try a new ice-cream. So,

Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach

Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach

A good way to fancy up mussels. A step up from the shells and the finger bowls – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s a shame to see a food typecast as casual.
Cooked in white wine, cooking liquid gets added to a finely chopped onion sauteed in butter with two teaspoons of marsala curry powder and bouquet garni herbs. Reduced by a third. Double cream is then added and then reduced to a “light sauce”. It’s always very important to taste. For some reason the sauce was very salty so I added a little more cream to adjust.
The spinach gets washed carefully and dried – I cut out all the stems. Softened in olive oil and seasoned.
The Mille-feuille is an easy way of stacking. Stab a sheet of puff pastry all over with a fork and then cook until golden in a hot oven. The stabbing will stop the sheets puffing up. You then just cut them up into equal rectangles.
No picture in the book so I made the stack with two layers of mussels and spinach and then made a ring around the stack with the extra mussels and poured source on the layers, on top of the stack and then over the mussels.

roasted pork belly with charcutiere sauce

Roasted Pork Belly with Charcutière sauce

It’s actually for a rack of pork but I didn’t read the recipe carefully before I headed off to the butchers. Ah well.
The pork is roasted with potatoes, whole garlic cloves, thyme, and bay leaves. I used kipfler potatoes and cut them into bevelled rounds for practice. The pork belly is scored, rubbed down with butter, and jusy before it’s put in the oven, given a rub with sea salt. Leaving it to the last minute will stop the salt drawing out the moisture and then not crackling properly. At least this is what I was led to believe, the book recommends leaving the salt on for 90 minutes and brushing excess salt off. Another thing realised after the deed.
The cooking sequence is interesting, 30 minutes at 190C; 15 minutes at 150C; and then rested for 45 minutes.
The pan is deglazed with white wine and a little vinegar and then cooked with veal stock, shallots, and cracked pepper. Reduce by two thirds and then finish with whisked in butter and mustard and diced peeled and deseeded tomatoes.
Again no picture in the book so I placed the pork belly in the middle and had the potato and garlic kind of loitering around it.
Instead of the traditional cornichon, I fried up some scallops in the roasting fat and placed one on top of each serve of pork belly.

Rhubarb Ice-cream with Ginger Peach Compote

This has nothing to do with the cookbook but just a thought that since ice-cream is just frozen custard, and rhubarb and custard is a a classic combo, then rhubarb ice-cream would be good. It turned out there was a recipe for Rhubarb Parfait with Ginger Apricots.
The ice-cream was the standard recipe for vanilla ice-cream and the rhubarb was a compote. To make a compote, you chop up 5 stick of rhubarb (the leaves are poisonous so, no) and then add it to a fully dissolved cup of water, half a cup of sugar, and the juice and zest of one lemon. Bring to the boil and allow to cool, covered. Add as much to the ice-cream maker to get the ice cream as rhubarby as you think you’d like it.

Ginger apricots, became peeled and finely diced peaches, enough white wine to cover, sugar to taste and because I didn’t have any preserved ginger, four slices of peeled fresh ginger. I left it to simmer in the mix until there was the right amount of ginger tatse.

Nothing fancy. Ice-cream in the middle, and the excess rhubarb compote and ginger peaches around.


Mussels were great, although the appeance of the mille-fieulle reminded me a little of when I’d have smoked oysters on crackers as a kid. No bad thing. Toni liked the stack and the spinach with it. The curry was very mild.

The pork was typically tasty and crackled up nicely. The garlic mellowed and the potatoes were crisp. The sauce looked a little thin, actually near translucent. I should have reduced it by the recommended two thirds, but the taste was robust enough as I’d already reduced the stock I used.

Dessert was great. Nice matching with the ginger apricots. Adulty.

Could I live with a car like this?

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scrambled eggs

The reward of being interested in cooking is not so much in doing the ambitious things as it is in doing simple things better. Omlettes are are vexatious candidate for this, seemingly impossible to get just right. Scrambled eggs however.

Use free range eggs. If we’re going to harness sentient creatures to our own benefits we may as well pass a bit of humanity their way. If this sounds like animal rights by noblesse oblige, well yes it is. Crack half a dozen of them, pick some chervil and flat leafed parsley from the garden, a gentle whisk, not quite smoothing over the distinctions between yolk and white and let it sit for half an hour; adding a splash of milk and a sprinkle of pepper.

Heat a heavy fry pan and then switch to a very low heat. A heavy pan will distribute the heat evenly. Another slower alternative is to use or make a bouble boiler. Melt some butter in the pan. Add the eggs and keep scraping the base of the pan with a spatula, regularly turning and flipping. The goal is to have little grains of doneness in an otherwise cream like consitency. Don’t be afraid to just turn the heat off and let it coast. It should pour.

As a side boil some spinach for a minute and then strain. Cook up some sliced ham in butter and add the spinach to it with the pepper.

Very softly cooked scarmbeld eggs are marvellous and travel well in the mouth. Creamy, warmy, tasty. The only chew should come from the accompanying bread. The spinach is there for the colour and the iron.

[insert segue later]

A couple of things of import for Cmdr. Peter Quincy Taggart. One. I’ll be writing for and setting up a website with a new food mag coming out in Perth called Spice. Familiar yes. Entirely coincidental, although I like to imagine a kind of localised Rupert Sheldrake vibe slowly seeping out. It will be good. People starting it up are sharp, earnest, and dedicated. Opposites attract. Two. Thanks to Crafty and Chris I get to have a go working in the kitchen at Jackson’s Restaurant this Thursday. It’s a brilliant restaurant, best in Perth, I’m not worthy of removing the peel from their potatoes.

Go play your hand, you big talking man,

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Ongoing omlettes.

6 free range eggs; bunch of spinach – chopped; feta cheese – cubed; garlic clove -sliced; butter; pepper

Eggs separated with the whites whisked to whiteness, and then the yolks folded in. Peppered. Rested. Garlic softened in butter and followed by the spinach and then the the feta added to get it a little melty. Put aside. Cooked in some more butter with the spinch feta mix added while the top is still runny. Folded into thirds.


The execution was botched leaving a less than happy looking omlette but rather tasty I’d have to say.

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