Cookbook

Pea and ham soup

This is Grandma’s recipe.

Ham bones, or a combination of ham and bacon bones
2 onions, quartered
A few sticks of celery
3 or 4 large fresh carrots, grated
Several packets of split peas, green or yellow, or a combination of both (the colour of the peas doesn’t affect the flavour of the soup, only its colour)
1 teaspoon prepared hot English mustard
Additional ham, finely chopped

Remove any good ham that may be left on the bones, and set aside. Place bones in a large saucepan or stockpot with the onions and the celery. Cover with water, and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum that may form on the surface. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 4 – 5 hours, skimming when necessary. When you are happy with the colour and depth of the stock, strain it into a clean container and refrigerate so that fat can be easily removed.

Soak peas in cold water overnight, removing any black ones that will float to the surface when the peas are stirred.

Return the stock (with fat removed) to a heavy based casserole which has been greased on the bottom to stop the peas sticking during cooking. Add the strained peas, grated carrots and hot English mustard. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer slowly until the peas have lost their definition and soup has become thick. Take care that it does not burn on the bottom as the burnt bits will affect both the taste and the appearance of the soup. Lastly, add the chopped ham and stir in well. The soup should be thick, so don’t stint on the peas.

Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Moussaka

Moussaka

If, like me, you thought moussaka was a Greek dish, you were wrong. It originated in Rumania, but is widely cooked in Greece and Turkey. So there is your piece of trivia for today!

Just a word about cooking aubergine, or eggplant. I had been brainwashed by cookery books to do one of two things to aubergine before cooking: either slice it and soak it in milk for an hour to remove any bitterness, or sprinkle it with salt, leave for an hour, then wash. I do not like the salt method, as no matter how much you wash the aubergine, it still tastes salty. Turkey, (where almost everything contains aubergine), was an eye opener. They do absolutely nothing to their aubergine, except wait until the very last minute to peel and slice them. Since I went to Turkey, I have not soaked an aubergine in milk, nor have I salted one, and the results have shown such precautions to be absolutely unnecessary. Don’t peel and slice the aubergine until you are ready to use it. To cater to tradition, I have included the usual instructions in the recipe. If you trust me, forget them.

Moussaka is a combination dish of layers of cooked lamb mince and aubergine topped with a white sauce flavoured with Parmesan cheese. Do not be tempted to use beef mince. The combination of lamb and aubergine was made in heaven, and beef does not come even close.

Meat Sauce:
1 kg lamb mince
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Oil for cooking
1 cup chopped, peeled tomatoes, or equivalent amount of Italian tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup white wine
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 large aubergine or several small ones
Oil for grilling

Sauté the onion and garlic in oil if a heavy based frying pan until transparent. Remove from pan and set aside. Increase the heat and brown the lamb mince, stirring well. Return the onions to the pan and add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, brown sugar and cinnamon. Season to taste. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. If you feel the meat needs thickening, make a roux of flour and butter, add some of the liquid to the roux, stir well, ensuring that there are no lumps, then add to the sauce. Stir in the chopped parsley last.

Peel the aubergines and slice into 5mm slices. Sit them in a shallow dish containing milk for about half an hour. Drain off milk, wash aubergine well and dry with paper towels.

Spray a baking dish with oil, add a layer of aubergine and spray with oil. Place the aubergine under a hot grill, and lightly brown. Turn and repeat on the other side. Repeat with the remaining aubergine. Alternatively, the aubergine may be shallow fried in oil, but they will absorb a lot of unnecessary oil this way.

Grease an oven dish (approx. 33cm by 23cm by 5cm) and place a layer of aubergine slices in the base. Top with half the meat mixture. Add another layer of aubergine, then the remainder of the meat. Finish with a layer of aubergine.

Cream Sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (more if you like a very cheesy sauce)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Make a thick white sauce using the butter, flour and milk. Add the grated nutmeg and half the grated Parmesan. Stir the beaten egg into the sauce.

Spread the sauce over the top layer of aubergine. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 180C and bake Moussaka for 1 hour. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting it into squares and serving.

Many thanks to Nadine from Feast Photography for the photo.

Poached eggs with smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce

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If you asked ten people what Eggs Benedict was, I am sure nine and a half of them would tell you it was poached eggs sitting on smoked salmon with hollandaise sauce.

Which is what happens when restaurants (and some food writers) are sloppy with their naming. A similar situation exists with Eggs Florentine.

Nevertheless, I just love eating this, whatever it is called.

4 thick slices of sourdough bread
Olive oil
1 clove of garlic (optional)
A generous quantity of smoked salmon
8 poached eggs (these can be poached in advance and reheated, as they would be in a restaurant situation)
Hollandaise sauce
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A sprig of dill or tarragon, to garnish

Brush both sides of the sourdough slices with a little olive oil and place under a hot grill for 1 – 2 minutes each side, until crisp and golden. Rub one side of each slice with the garlic clove.

Top each slice of sourdough with a generous quantity of smoked salmon, top the smoked salmon with 2 reheated and well-drained poached eggs. Spoon hollandaise sauce over the eggs.

Sprinkle with a little cayenne pepper if using, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Garnish with a sprig of dill or tarragon and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Variation: Cook some spinach in a little butter to wilt, then chop finely. Transfer the spinach to a sieve and, using the back of a spoon, press out as much water as possible. Season the spinach with salt and freshly ground pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Top each slice of sourdough with the spinach, add the smoked salmon, the poached eggs, then the hollandaise sauce. Garnish as above.

Almond Christmas Wafers

christmas almond wafers

185g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs
250g plain flour, sifted
100g ground almonds

Beat butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add the flour and almonds and mix to a firm dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until very firm.

Divide dough into 4 portions, roll out one portion 5mm thick and refrigerate the remainder until required. Using biscuit cutters in Christmas shapes cut out the dough (Christmas trees, angels, stars, etc.). Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake on a greased and lined baking tray at 180C for 10 – 12 minutes, or until golden.
Store in an airtight container. Dust some of the shapes with icing sugar before serving.

Salmon Mousse

Salmon Mousse

This is definitely the best salmon mousse recipe ever. It is from Beverley Sutherland Smith’s wonderful old (1975) book, ‘A Taste for All Seasons’.

2 x 220g tins of best quality red or pink salmon
1 tablespoon gelatine
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon horseradish cream
1 tablespoon home-made mayonnaise
1 cup finely diced celery
2 teaspoons chopped capers
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped bread and butter cucumbers
½ cup cream, lightly whipped
Drain the salmon and reserve liquid. Remove any bones and dark skin.

Mash, or put the salmon into a food processor for a few seconds and process until it is well broken up. If a food processor is used, a little of the reserved liquid may be added so that the salmon is not too dry.

Add gelatine to water, (not the other way around) and stir to dissolve the gelatine over hot water. Mix the dissolved gelatine with sugar, mustard powder, salt, horseradish cream and mayonnaise and stir this into the salmon. Add the celery, capers, green onions and bread and butter cucumbers. Lastly fold in the whipped cream. Put into a lightly oiled mould to set.

Cover and refrigerate. Mousse will keep well for several days.

Serve with cucumber salad.

 Photo by: http://lindaraxa.blogspot.com.au

Bundaberg Rum Balls

Traditional and choc & hazelnut coated Bundaberg rumballs

Bundaberg Rum is a very Queensland spirit and not to everyone’s taste. Dad of course won’t drink any other kind of rum. It’s not even served in a lot of places south of the Queensland boarder. You can always use another rum, but use “Bundy” if you can.

These are very easy and quick to make (no baking required!), make great Christmas gifts and are perfect for when friends drop round during the silly season.

Recipe makes approximately 30-40 balls (depending on size of balls). I usually make double (or triple) quantities, as they go so quickly!

1 packet plain sweet biscuits – similar to Arnott’s Nice
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted to remove lumps
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons Bundaberg rum (more if you like a bit of a kick)

1 cup extra desiccated coconut or 1 block of 80% Cacao chocolate and crushed hazelnuts

Finely crush biscuits in a food processor. Add cocoa powder, desiccated coconut, sweetened condensed milk and rum to crushed biscuits. Combine all ingredients well (you should end up with a stiff mixture). If it is a particularly hot day, or your mixture isn’t quite stiff enough for the balls to hold their shape, put the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes or so before rolling.

Take large teaspoons of mixture and roll into balls using your hands, then roll balls in extra coconut to coat. Alternatively, you can melt chocolate in a double boiler then dip the balls in chocolate and roll in finely chopped hazelnuts.

Place in a single layer on a baking sheet or shallow plastic container and put in freezer. Once frozen, put into a container and keep in the freezer until ready to use.

Peach and Mango Chutney

Peach and Mango Chutney

This experimental recipe was inspired by the fact that Margie was hanging out for another batch of Spiced Peach Chutney and that Brisbane has had a bumper crop of mangoes due to the dry season in 2000. I simply could not bear to see all those mangoes at the top of Dublin Street rotting in the gutter.

Peaches, peeled, stoned and chopped
Green mangoes, peeled, stoned and chopped

For every 500g of combined peaches and mangoes, add:

125g brown sugar
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground allspice (pimento)
1 onion, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lime
Chopped flesh of 1 lime, all skin, seeds and pith removed
2 fresh long red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
100g ginger, peeled and either grated or finely sliced
½ – 1 teaspoon sea salt

Heat olive oil in a heavy based saucepan over moderate heat. Add chillies, ginger and garlic and sweat until soft. Add onion and cook until onion is soft.
Grate the zest from limes. Remove all peel, pith and seeds, then roughly dice the flesh.
Add to the pan with the peeled, stoned and chopped peaches and mangoes
In a separate saucepan, combine brown sugar and white wine vinegar and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
Add sugar and vinegar to the other ingredients, add allspice (if using) and sea salt. Simmer for 1 hour or until mixture becomes quite tacky and has a chutney consistency.
Spoon hot mixture into sterilized jars and seal whilst hot. Store in a cool dark place until opened and then store in the refrigerator after jars are opened.

Photo by: Feast Photography