Monthly Archives: May 2018

Quick “Pantry Brownies”

These are so called because the ingredients are ones I pretty much always have in the pantry.  So I can whip them up at a moment’s notice – and do very frequently – when I need a quick and easy treat for the Small People and their friends, or for a school bake sale or an unexpected visitor.  One pot, one baking tray and a whisk makes it all even easier.   They would probably keep for a few days in an airtight container but they never ever last that long.  Using a rectangular baking tray of approximately 23x33cm, I cut these into 24 brownies. You could probably jazz them up with nuts of your choice or chocolate chunks if you have them on hand.  Try and use good quality Dutch process cocoa.

brownies

Ingredients
300g unsalted butter, cubed
500g caster sugar
150g Dutch process cocoa
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 eggs, lightly beaten
150g plain flour
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making them

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees fan forced.

In a pot on medium heat, place the butter, sugar and cocoa, and whisk gently until butter is all melted and it is well combined. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and salt and combine. Add the eggs and combine well. Finally add the flower and whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Line your tray with baking paper and tip the mixture into the tray, giving it a gentle shake so that it is evenly spread.

Bake until just set (check after about 15 minutes).

Remove from oven and using the baking paper lift onto a wire rack to cool. Cut using a serrated knife to desired size and dust with icing sugar.

Devon Café, North Sydney

I had heard good things about Devon in Surry Hills for the longest time, but never managed to get there.  But now I don’t have to, as they have – wisely! – crossed the bridge. North Sydney, for a long time a concrete jungle ghost town outside of 9 to 5,  is slowly but surely coming to life with the spate of new apartments, and places like Devon are well placed for this.  Unlike Surry Hills, the northern sibling is also open for dinner.

On a few visits, I’ve made my way through tasting a fair bit of the unique breakfast/brunch menu – with help from the Marito, Small People, and friends, I didn’t eat this all myself!  There are a lot of bold and gutsy flavours, not much shyness here.  And I love the generosity of their serves, none of this teensy tiny business. A breakfast here accompanied by one of their good cups of coffee and I’m full for the day,

The Marito was a big fan of the Devon Fish Cake and had it two visits in a row – the cake was salmon and potato with a nice crisp to the outside, served with a poached egg, a full bodied yuzu aioli and a watercress and cabbage slaw.

Devon (2)

Salmon is on show again with “Breakfast with the Sakumas” (named after the politician I’m guessing?) – salmon grilled with miso, an eel croquette, a 63 degree egg, radish and kewpi mayonnaise. Delicious but very rich.

Devon (1)

The Croissant St Denis is pure morning indulgence.  An omelette with lobster, prawn and caviar, served with a very punchy seafood bisque.  Soak up the bisque with the flaky, buttery croissant and you’ll have a very good day indeed.

Devon (3)

Get some pork on your fork with Piggy Banc –  free range pork belly,  pork + fennel sausage, hasselback potato, roast fennel and peas

Devon (6)

If it’s something of the more “straight up” variety you’re after, that is not an issue.  Good old scrambled and fried eggs are on offer, and they are huge – they even satisfied my bottomless pit Small People.

Devon (4)

Devon (5)

Plenty to choose from on the lunch menu too.  I love the playful take on Italian in the name of “ragu alla Sichuanese” – coriander tagliolini, chilli mince pork, peanuts, burrata, slow cooked egg. Silky noodles with a good kick.

Devon (8)

For something lighter try the poke bowl, and again a very generous serve. Sashimi king salmon, brown rice, avocado (get your mortgage in order), salmon caviar, seaweed, edamame beans, cucumber and kale
Devon (7)


Devon Café North Sydney, 36 Blue St North Sydney. Ph 02 8971 0377

http://www.devoncafe.com.au

Orecchiette with chickpeas, capers and olives

My friend Francesca over at Almost Italian (my “blog Mother”) has been doing a lovely  “Pasta della settimana” series – pasta of the week – so I thought I’d get in on the action and give her one to try.

This particular pasta dish was actually inspired by Ottolenghi, who does a spiced up North African influenced version where the chickpeas are fried off in cumin and caraway.  I ditched both and “Italianafied” the concept.  I really liked the end result – you have the smokiness of the paprika, the sweetness of the tomatoes, the saltiness of the capers, the zing of the touch of lemon and the freshness of the herbs.  If you don’t like smoked paprika you could use standard ground or sweet, or if it came to it, omit it entirely. They can be harder to find, but I much prefer capers in salt than vinegar, so that’s what I have used here (Italian Zuccato brand, but I think Sandhurst also does them now if you want to go local), and I’m a fan of Sandhurst’s green olives too. I used Molisana orecchiette which were great, it has become one of my favourite dried pasta brands.  Serves 4.

orecchiette

Ingredients
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 medium brown onion, diced
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp. capers, well rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 tsp lemon zest
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pitted green Sicilian olives
500ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
400g orecchiette
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup coarsely chopped basil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped continental parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Making it

In a large deep frying pan on medium heat, add the oil and onion with a pinch of salt and fry off until the onion softens. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir occasionally gently, until the tomatoes just begin to soften. Add the paprika, lemon, capers, olives and combine and then add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the orecchiette and two cups of water as needed (you’ll need to regulate the amount of water and add a little as the pasta cooks if it is looking too dry) and simmer gently until the pasta is cooked to your taste. When the orecchiette are almost cooked, add the chickpeas and simmer for another couple of minutes. Season as desired. Finally stir through the basil and most of the parsley, reserving a little parsley to sprinkle on top for serving. Delicious.

In My Kitchen, May 2018

A new month has rolled around and with it a new edition of the IMK global monthly link up, currently hosted by Sherry’s Pickings.   Here’s what has been happening in the Napoli kitchen the last few weeks.

In my kitchen is a new – and very appropriate – sign above the pantry.  The Small People have no sooner finished a meal when they are sticking their head in the pantry or fridge looking for “a little snack”.  Having been premmie twins, they have always literally been very skinny Small People and friends and family are left agog when they see the staggering quantities of food they are currently putting in those tiny frames.  A growth spurt is due methinks.

imkmay2018 (1)

A darling friend who is Greek Orthodox recently bought me over a batch of her koulourakia, Greek Easter biscuits.   They were absolutely delicious, I’ve asked her to translate the recipe for me.

imkmay2018 (4)

In my kitchen is a fresh yuzu!  Yuzu is a Japanese citrus often used in sauces, dressings and desserts, which is now starting to be cultivated locally (usually it’s just imported from Japan in concentrate form).  A lovely friend has a gorgeous farm in the Blue Mountains where she is growing them.  Her harvest is eagerly sought after by Tetsuya, Rockpool and Sake (“our Yuzu Lady is here”, cry the Japanese chefs). But with very little rain this year, it has unfortunately not been a great crop, so I felt very special when she gave me one! It’s incredibly fragrant.  I made a little Japanese style dressing for a salad.

imkmay2018 (5)imkmay2018 (6)

Also on the Japan theme, I love a lot of the little Japanese gadgets at Daiso.  It’s been a very handy place over the years to find stuff for many of the Small People’s school projects, craft, special theme days and for their stationery.  But they have a lot of great kitchen gadgets too.  I saw this mini mandolin and thought I’d give it a whirl.  If I need consistent very thin slices for just one onion or one cucumber, this little version is great and much handier than getting out my large full scale mandolin, as well as quicker and easier to clean. For $2.80, it’s a win.

imkmay2018 (7)

A #kitchenfail (which we don’t often share on IMK!).  I’m a bit obsessed with Puglia at the moment, and I thought I’d try to make one of the region’s popular dishes called a Tiella Barese.  It’s basically onion, tomato, aborio rice and mussels baked in the oven.  I was wondering how the rice would cook with the small quantity of liquid suggested, and I was right it didn’t.  So I probably did something wrong.  It did look and smell awesome so it’s a real shame it didn’t work out!

imkmay2018 (2)imkmay2018 (3)

In some sad news, one of our chooks, Lily, passed away recently.  The girls were scratching around the yard and some kind of disagreement went on between them and Lily was knocked over.  I scooped her up and held her but she was clearly stressed and breathing heavily and not long after I think her little heart gave out.  The Small People took it badly.  It’s strange going to the coop every day and only seeing five of the girls, it will take some getting used to; they were very quiet in the days that followed. You were a good little chicken Lily.

imkmay2018 (8)

I hope you are having a lovely autumn, or spring for my northern hemisphere readers. And wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

 

 

 

Torta della Nonna

tortadellanonna (2)

I don’t like chocolate ice cream.  I couldn’t care less if I never had a piece of chocolate cake for the rest of my life.  Mars Bars, Snickers, Milky Way, please don’t bring them anywhere near me.  But hand me a bowl of custard, and I know that any attempts at resistance will be futile.

The custard urge came upon me this weekend, so I thought I’d make this popular Italian dessert, Torta della Nonna.   Word has it that it wasn’t actually made by anyone’s Nonna at all, but it was put on a restaurant menu in northern Italy many many moons ago and named such, and has since become an Italian staple in many a bakery.   It’s a simple tart with a classic custard with a  hint of lemon and adorned with pine nuts.

If you’re like me and can’t avoid the temptation of custard, also check out my attempt at Pasticciotti Leccese and Limoncello Custard. Oh, and if you’re wondering to do with all the leftover egg whites, try a batch of almond bread or amaretti.

For the pastry
400g Tipo 00 flour
150g caster sugar
200g chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Combine the dry ingredients and the butter in a food processor until it starts to look like breadcrumbs. Add the vanilla extract and the eggs and process until it starts to come together. Turn out onto a floured surface and kneed until almost smooth. Shape into a disc, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for one hour. While the pastry is resting, you can make the custard filling.

Custard
8 egg yolks
200g caster sugar
80g plain flour
1 litre full cream milk
Rind of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place milk, vanilla extract and lemon rind in a large saucepan over low heat and bring to just before boiling point. Remove from heat and allow to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Remove lemon rind from milk.

While the milk is infusing, whisk using an electric mixer the egg yolks, sugar and flour in a bowl and combine well.

Add milk a cup at a time to egg mixture while whisking until all milk has been added. Pour the combined mixture back into saucepan over low heat and whisk constantly until mixture has thickened. You always need to be very attentive with custard, it’s one of those things where it looks like nothing is happening and then thickens in a split second.

Once thickened, remove from heat, and pour into a large bowl. Place cling wrap directly over custard to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Assembly
50g pine nuts
Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C (fan forced). Grease a 25cm tart tin with removable base (or you could also do this in a normal springform cake tin). Divide the pastry into pieces in a ratio of 1/3 to 2/3.

Roll out the 2/3 piece on a lightly floured bench and place into tin. Pour in the custard (you may not need to use it all). Roll out the remaining pastry large enough to form a lid and cover the tart, gently pressing the edges to seal.

Rinse the pine nuts with ice cold water (this can help stop them burning), sprinkle them on top of the tart and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden. Allow to cool, remove from tin and dust with icing sugar to serve.

tortadellanonna (1)