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Baked Mushrooms

I recently discovered baking mushrooms maintains the earthy taste and deep flavours of mushrooms far better than any other cooking method. This dish is simple, quick, versatile and tastes – oh so good.

Brown, Swiss or Portobello Mushrooms have the most flavour
30g butter
fresh herbs

  1. Heat oven to 220 C.
  2. Tear mushrooms and place in 20cm diameter metal baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs of your choice. I like thyme or continental parsley.
  4. Dot with a few little knobs of butter – you need very little.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Serve as is as an innovative and healthy snack or starter. Alternatively makes a great breakfast or lunch dish if you spread sourdough toast with goats cheese and serve mushrooms on top of the goats cheese with a few extra herbs sprinkled on top.
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Jeanette shares her Bean and Avocado Dip

Jeanette is a neighbour from Northbridge that makes this mean dip with a ‘mexican’ twist ideal for any barbecue or party. It’s large, made with wonderful ingredients like avocado, sour cream and kidney beans, and so easy to put together – ideal for a crowd. Thank you Jeanette.

Serves 10-12.

Layer the following:

  • 1 tin red Kidney beans, well mashed
  • 3 avocados mashed with lemon juice, garlic and pepper
  • carton sour cream mixed with 1/2 pkt taco sauce
  • Top with 2 finely chopped tomatoes and half a bunch of chives

Serve with lebanese bread, corn chips or water biscuits.

Spicy Chicken Wings – Devine. There are never enough.

These chicken wings are loved by everyone from 8 years to 80; baked, not fried; spicy, not hot. In my experience they are so popular that I allow at least 4 per person.  It’s the perfect finger food for a barbecue or cocktail party where preparation can be done ahead of time – just finish under the grill before serving.

Makes approx 40.

8 cloves garlic
5-6 red birds eye chillies, finely sliced – it won’t be too hot
2-3 stalks lemon grass, finely sliced
4 coriander plants, root and leaves
4 Tablespoons grated ginger
6 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 Tablespoons sugar
6 Tablespoons oil
2kg(5lbs) large chicken wings

  1. Remove and discard tip of chicken wing. Chop remainder of chicken wing into two parts.
  2. Place chicken wings in a single layer in a baking dish(36cmx20cm)
  3. In a food processor, process sliced lemon grass until fine. Then add chillies and process again.
  4. Add remaining ingredients to food processor excluding the chicken wings. Process until fine.
  5. Pour marinade over chicken wing and marinade overnight.
  6. Roast in oven at 200°C(400°F) for 30minutes and turn over.
  7. Just before serving finish under the grill until nicely browned.
  8. Sprinkle with a little fresh coriander to garnish (optional).
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Smoked Beef Sandwiches – Simple and Delicious

Smoked beef is something my grandmother always used to buy when I was a child. I didn’t discover it in Sydney until the kids were teenagers and we loved it for Saturday lunch dressed up like this. It also makes great finger food when using small rounds of baguette. In many countries smoked beef is also known as Bresaola.

Rocket
Very thinly sliced smoked beef(bresaola)
Quality olive oil
French stick or woodfired bread

  1. Layer rocket on sliced bread – no need for butter.
  2. Top with smoked beef. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
  3. Serve as an open sandwich. Yum.

Sausage rolls – Make your own to delight friends and family

These homemade sausage rolls are always a hit.  The secret is using a quality lean beef mince. Serve them for afternoon tea, at a cocktail party or put them in lunch boxes or a picnic – so easy to put together and so versatile and popular. 

Makes approx 24

750g beef mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs or one tablespoon fresh
4 slices bread
warm water
1xpacket of 2-3 quality puff pastry sheets 30cm square, at room temperature
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water to brush pastry
Tomato sauce, optional to serve

  1. Put the beef mince, finely chopped onion and herbs into a mixing bowl.
  2. Cut crusts from bread and put into separate bowl. Pour over enough warm water, just to cover. Stand 5 minutes.
  3. Drain water from bread. Squeeze bread gently to extract water.
  4. Add bread to mince mixture. Mix well. Bread absorbs any excess fat and helps to prevent meat shrinkage inside pastry during cooking.
  5. Cut each sheet of puff pastry in half. Put meat in piping bag without nozzle or use a plastic bag with end cut off.
  6. Pipe meat mixture down one side of  halved puff pastry sheets. Turn edge of pastry over filling then turn again so that filling is enclosed completely and pastry join is on underside.
  7. Place pastry with meat filling on a baking tray. Flatten slightly with back of a large knife. Brush with egg wash of 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water.
  8. Cut rolls into 5cm pieces, separating slightly.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 250C (475°F). Bake 10 minutes.
  10. Reduce heat to 180C (350°F). Bake a further 15 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven and rest 10 minutes before serving with tomato sauce.

Sourdough Toasts with Feta and Herb Spread and Roasted Capsicum

Serve these versatile toasts for brunch or with drinks. They even make a light lunch. Buy some marinaded capsicum or make it a few days ahead of time as it is time consuming and fiddly. I serve these on my large black Alessi platters and the colours look stunning. Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet Traveller many moons ago.

Makes 16 toasts.

200g Danish or other soft feta
¼ cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 spring onions, finely sliced
2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons basil, chopped
2 red capsicum, roasted. Select here for recipe select -> Roast Capsicum
1 loaf long sourdough bread cut into rounds

  1. Place all ingredients except capsicum and bread in food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Slice roasted capsicum into thin strips.
  3. Just before serving, grill the bread.
  4. Spread bread thickly with cheese spread and garnish with 2 strips of capsicum and a little extra drizzled olive oil.

Savoury Cheese Tartlets – Heavenly Cocktail Snacks

These are a bit fiddly – you really do need to make the pastry yourself and serve them freshly made, but the pastry is quick, easy and made the day before.  The filling sounds simple but is absolutely delicious – I tried more exotic fillings but always came back to this one.  Adapted from “Cooking with Myrna Rosen”.cheese tartlet

Makes 24 tartlets

Mock Puff Pastry:250g butter refridgerated
½ cup boiling water
2 cups flour

  1. Grate butter into a large mixing bowl
  2. Add boiling water and stir quickly with a fork until mushy
  3. Add flour, mix and chill in clingwrap overnight

Filling:175g grated cheddar cheese
1T flour
125ml yoghurt
125ml cream
125ml milk
1 small onion, chopped 2ml mustard powder
2 eggs

  1. Heat oven to 220°C.
  2. Sauté onion until soft.
  3. Beat eggs and add all the other ingredients.
  4. Roll out pastry, cut into rounds and ¾ fill each pastry shell with cheese mixture.
  5. Bake for 15-20minutes till pastry is brown and filling is firm to touch.
  6. Serve immediately.

Carrot Log – A Delightful Addition to a Cocktail Party

None of my guests ever guess that the basic ingredient to this dish is carrot – they always believe it is something exotic. It is certainly much tastier than the average dip and serving it as a log that you slice adds to the mystery. Everyone loved carrot log and I don’t make it nearly often enough. It remains something extra special that my family look forward to when there is a party or guests to entertain. It keeps for a few days in the fridge or you can freeze it. There is certainly no reason this cannot be a regular family snack.Cocktail

250g cream cheese
60g butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (about 100g)
2 gherkins, finely diced
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 cup grated carrot
2T(30ml) tomato sauce
bunch of parsley
Water crackers to serve

  1. Chop parsley in the food processor and set aside.
  2. Clean processor, add remaining ingredients and process till well mixed.
  3. Take two sheets of foil and sprinkle a layer of the chopped parsley over each.
  4. Halve the cheese mixture, rolling each half into a log.
  5. Place cheese log in centre of foil and carefully roll foil around it so that parsley entirely covers log, adding a parsley outer coating.
  6. Refrigerate in foil until ready serve – at least 2 hours for flavours to mix.
  7. Turn out onto plate and serve with plain biscuits like water crackers.

Pesto

Today we are such consumers and tempted to buy everything. Pesto is  a matter of putting all the ingredients into the food processor and tastes so much better than the bought variety. Try it and see. Weigh everything up carefully as it is important to get the measurements just right in this recipe. The pesto needs to be eaten within a few days which shouldn’t be too difficult because it is so yummy. It was always a favourite that my children enjoyed on toast for afternoon tea after school.

4 cloves garlic
100g fresh basil leaves, one generous bunch
50g slivered almonds or pine nuts
4T parmesan cheese, grated
200ml olive oil

  1. Process garlic, basil, almonds and parmesan till well chopped.
  2. While processor is running slowly pour in oil a little at a time until pesto is fairly smooth but still has some texture.
  3. Serve with crackers or sourdough toast.

Chicken Liver Pate – An Old Favourite

Today we go out and buy 200g of some exotic pate at an exorbitant cost to serve with drinks. Chicken liver is high in protein and a rich store of folate. They also have a healthy dose of  iron, B vitamins and Vitamin A. Pate makes a great snack for the family after school or to keep the hungry tummies at bay while preparing dinner.  In addition it is ideal for big parties. This pate is inexpensive to make, delicious and goes a long way – do try to find the best quality chicken livers that you can. Whilst the recipe calls for 100g of butter and 200ml of cream, the recipe does result in a kilo of pate so its relative. I did the catering for my own wedding and this pate is what we served with pre-dinner drinks. Pate

100g butter
750g chicken livers
200g sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic
1 onion, chopped
2t(10ml) mixed dried herbs
60ml brandy
2T(30ml) lemon juice
200ml cream

  1. Melt butter in a large frying pan or french oven over a medium heat and sauté onion and garlic.
  2. Add chicken livers, mushrooms and mixed herbs and cook 4 to 5 minutes until chicken livers are just cooked through.
  3. Remove from heat. Add brandy and lemon juice. Cool.
  4. Blend in batches with cream.
  5. Pour into containers. I usually use 4x1cup containers.
  6. If you like you can melt a little unsalted butter and pour over the top of the finished pate. To decorate add a sprig of parsley and a few peppercorns. Let it solidify. I usually omit this step as I don’t need the extra butter just to make it look prettier.
  7. Freeze what you don’t need for the next week.
  8. Serve with wholemeal toast for afternoon tea or with water crackers if serving with drinks.

Marinated Feta

One of my inventions – so easy, delicious and very inexpensive to make cause you can keep reusing the olive oil. Serve with crackers, cracked black pepper vitawheats work well,  as a snack or crumble over salads.

400g Danish feta
1 spanish onion, sliced
sprigs rosemary or thyme, about  bunch
1-2 cups light olive oil to cover, I use Bertolli’s

  1. Slice the feta into about 5x2cm rectangles.
  2. Layer tightly in a container.
  3. Top with sliced onion and herbs using this to plug gaps if necessary.
  4. Repeat layers.
  5. Cover with olive oil.
  6. Refrigerate for about 10 days till well marinated.
  7. Enjoy.
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