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Pork with Walnuts

We didn’t often eat pork – mainly cause I didn’t know how to cook it without it tasting dry. One day I discovered this recipe which leaves the meat moist and fall off the bone with a rich delicious sauce. It’s a great winter dish suitable for a dinner party or a delicious treat for the family.

Serves 6-8.

8 lean pork loin chops with the rind removed
2 large onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1.5 cups canned pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
3 Tablespoons vinegar
2 Tablespoons soya sauce
1.5 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
3-4 strips lemon zest – approx from half a lemon
1 cup chopped walnuts
parsley or chopped sultanas to serve with rice (optional)

  1. Dust chops with flour and brown in a little olive oil. Remove.
  2. Brown sliced onions and garlic over low heat until onions are very brown and add remaining ingredients excluding the walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  3. Place pork chops in a casserole dish in a single layer. If using a Le Creuset casserole dish, use the same dish you used for browning to save on the washing up.
  4. Pour onion mixture over top of pork chops.
  5. Cover casserole dish and bake for an hour in a moderate over at 180 C (350 F).
  6. Serve with rice sprinkled with parsley and/or sultanas and extra chopped walnuts.
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Poached Pears in Red Wine

Poached pears are a lovely light dessert for spring and summer – red wine results in a glorious colour and they taste delicious – nothing like the canned variety you buy – and it’s so easy. The only real work involved is peeling the pears. I made poached pears for a friend’s recent party and the guests recalled memories of childhood when their granny used to do this. I realised that in our modern world we are depriving the next generation of many of the simple food pleasures of life. So here it is – a simple version of pears in red wine that you can introduce and share with your family and friends. This keeps in the fridge for a a few days. If you want to get a little more specialised you can add a vanilla bean and whole aniseed stars. 

Serves 6-8.

12 firm pears – its best if they are not yet ripe
2 cinnamon sticks
lemon zest strips from half a lemon or orange
1.5 cups sugar
3 cups red wine (one bottle)
1 cup water
2 vanilla beans, optional
3 aniseed stars, optional

  1. Peel pears with a potato peeler, leaving them whole with the stalk attached. Remove the eye at the bottom.
  2. Put all ingredients except pears into a pot with a 27cm (11inch) diameter.  Heat gently until sugar is dissolved and syrup boils. Boil for 1 minute.
  3. Add peeled pears, trying to submerge them in the syrup as much as possible. I lie them on their side. Bring back to the boil and poach gently for about 20minutes. Turn pears over so that other side is submerged in the syrup and poach a further 20 minutes.
  4. I then leave the pears in the syrup overnight turning after a few hours so that they can absorb the deep red colour of the wine. This is of course optional but it does look good.
  5. Remove pears and place in a wide white bowl. Boil syrup rapidly till it thickens to a coating consistency. Pour syrup over pears. Cool.
  6. Serve cold with creme fraiche, yoghurt or whipped cream.
  7. Yum.

Liz’s Apple and Almond Tart

Ok, it takes a while to peel and slice the apples. To get the best results you do need to do this by hand as a food processor does not get the thickness quite right… but the tart is to die for.  The tang and freshness of the apples topped with just the thinnest of ground almond toppings works so well. I have no idea if the tart keeps well as it is always eaten so fast – definitely a way to win friends. My painter, Ted, painted my outdoor walls in return for a slice!!!  Omit ice cream or cream. Serve at room temperature – not warm. This tart needs no embellishment –  perfect just as it is.

8-10 Servings.

750 g cooking apples (about 6 medium-sized Granny Smith variety)
¼ cup honey
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon brandy

  1. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Slice each quarter lengthways into 4.
  2. Make a syrup by boiling the honey, butter, cinnamon, lemon peel, and juice and brandy together in a large frying pan.
  3. Add the apple wedges and simmer for 10 minutes. Marinade overnight.
  4. Spoon into a 25 cm (10 inch) pie dish.

Almond topping:
125g(5 ounces) butter
125g(5 ounces)  castor sugar
2 eggs, beaten
125g(5 ounces)  ground almonds

  1. Cream the butter and sugar in a Kenwood mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs and beat well.
  3. Fold in the almonds.
  4. Spoon over the apples in the pie dish. The topping will be very thin.
  5. Bake at 180°C (350°F) for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
  6. Serve at room temperature – NOT WARM.

Arroz de Marisco – A seafood hybrid to wow your guests

I have not discovered a dish like this anywhere outside of a small fishing village in Portugal – a hybrid between a paella and bouillabaisse with an added touch. The combination of perfectly cooked seafood in a spicy broth with a rice base is soooo good. You need to serve nothing much else with this but some crispy French bread to mop up the sauce. The dish is expensive to make with all the seafood and the need to visit the Fish Market to get the necessary ingredients.  Cook just before eating and don’t let it stand else the rice will absorb the broth which is the best part. Many friends tell me this is the best dish I cook.

Serves 8.

2x300g(3/4 lb each) swimmer crab, halved – cooks in 5 mins if halved
1kg (2lbs) clams or pippis
800g (2lbs) mussels
2-3 prawns per person, peeled. I use medium tiger prawns.
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed or to taste
chilli to taste, I recommend 2 long red chillis, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons tomato paste or to taste
Arborio or paella style rice, 1/2 cup per person
3 cups stock for every 1 cup rice
1/2  Bunch chopped parsley or coriander to garnish

  1. Sauté onions and garlic till limp in a large Le Creuset or Chauseur casserole pot.
  2. Add chilli and tomato paste and sauté for another 5 minutes to release the flavour.
  3. Then add rice and stock and boil for 15 minutes.
  4. Now add seafood – crabs  and after a minute add the mussels, then clams or pippis and lastly prawns.
  5. Cook till rice is tender but has not absorbed all the liquid and seafood is heated. This should take no more than 5 minutes MAXIMUM from when crabs are added. Seafood will continue to cook when the dish is taken off the heat.
  6. Add extra stock if necessary, sprinkle with chopped herbs and serve immediately.
  7. It is important to ensure the rice does not soak up all the broth which will happen if you let the dish stand.

 

Stock

Make stock by blanching shellfish, then adding prawn shells and boiling for another 5 to 10 minutes

Gazpacho – A Lovely Starter for Summer Days

There is nothing quite as good as gazpacho to start to an outdoor meal on a hot evening. It’s summer time and the tomatoes have so much flavour. Based on Robert Carrier’s original recipe from the 1980’s this combines the smooth tomato based puree with the crunch of finely chopped vegetables – so good. Swirling the olive oil mixture through at the end adds a sheen to finish the soup. Do take the time to chop the vegetables very finely. I serve them on a black platter which shows the colours off to perfection. Gazpacho can also be served in shot glasses scattered with chopped vegetables as an ideal finger food for cocktail parties.

Serves 6

1 small clove garlic
6 large vine ripened or truss tomatoes
1 spanish onion, the purple ones
1 large green capsicum
2 lebanese cucumbers
420ml(1 pint) tomato juice
6 Tablespoons olive oil
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon tobasco sauce
2 slices bread, diced and fried in butter to make croutons

  1. Blend 5 tomatoes, garlic, ½ the onion, ¼ capsicum, and 1 cucumber till very smooth. Remaining ingredients will be finely chopped and scattered on top.
  2. Strain and store in fridge till well chilled.
  3. Blend olive oil, tobasco, lemon juice and tomato juice.
  4. Stir into refrigerated mixture and add 1 cube ice.
  5. Serve cold with little bowls of finely chopped tomato, onion, capsicum, cucumber and croutons.

Liz’s Signature Hot Chocolate Sauce

This is so good that you can easily serve it at a dinner party. I have seen grown men and women closing their eyes to absorb the sensuous taste as they slowly lick the sauce off their spoons. The secret is the dark chocolate which keeps it from being too sweet and the slight taste of coffee. There is no significant difference between using instant coffee or espresso as the coffee base.  The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to a week if you can ensure little fingers don’t get in there to finish it off. I serve it with Blue Ribbon or Peter’s Vanilla Ice Cream.

Serves 4-6

200g(8 ounces)  Nestle’s Original Albany chocolate or any Dark Chocolate
1 espresso coffee (or 1 teaspoon quality instant coffee like Moccono dissolved in 2 Tablespoons hot water)
150ml(6 ounces) cream
Vanilla Ice Cream to Serve

  1. Break chocolate into small blocks. Place in a heatproof bowl and add the coffee.
  2. Melt together over a low heat in a bowl over simmering water or use defrost on the microwave. Melt until soft. Do not overcook as the chocolate burns easily – you want it soft not boiling.
  3. Stir in cream and heat slowly till hot. You can store at this stage. Reheat to warm – not boiling – just before serving.
  4. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Nougat Tartufi – An Ice Cream Dessert that has it all

This ice cream dessert is one of my family’s favourites – something extra special with the textures of the nuts, the chewy nougat and the velvety chocolate that tastes like more.  Don’t store in freezer for more than a week as the nuts do go soft and then it is not quite so good.

Serves 8-10

3L softened – not melted – vanilla ice cream
75g slivered almonds, toasted
75g hazelnuts, sliced
200g dark chocolate, melted
270g nougat, finely diced
4T honey

  1. Fold nougat and nuts gently into ice cream. Swirl melted chocolate through.
  2. Place in individual serving dishes. Alternatively place in two small loaf tins(25cmx8cm) or one larger loaf tin.
  3. Unmould and serve sliced as is or with mixed berries.

Coconut Meringues with Berries – Refreshing, Modern finish to Christmas

Who doesn’t like meringues? And berries are a reminder of hot summer days and look so christmassy. If you’re looking for an alternative to the usual christmas desserts, this one is a winner. Make the meringues a day ahead and store in an airtight container. Prepare berries in the morning.

Serves 8

4 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
2 punnets strawberries, each sliced into 4
1 punnet blueberries
1 punnet raspberries
2 Tablespoons fresh orange or lemon juice
plain yoghurt to serve, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 100°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Draw four 10cm circles on each tray.
  2. Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl using a Kenwood mixer until soft peaks form.
  3. Then whilst whisking, use the 1 cup of caster sugar to add one tablespoon at a time to egg whites, mixing well after each addition. Whisk until mixture is thick and glossy.
  4. Gently stir in coconut – do not whisk.
  5. Spoon the meringue evenly onto the circles you have drawn on the baking trays.
  6. Bake for 90 minutes or until crisp. Cool meringues on trays.
  7. Combine berries in a bowl and add orange or lemon juice. Cover and marinade up to 90minutes.
  8.  To serve, place a meringue on a dinner plate. Gently press a cavity on top with a spoon. Top with a dollop of yoghurt. Spoon over berries.
  9. Serve immediately so that meringues retain their crispness.

Peaches Poached in Champagne for New Year’s Brunch

The peaches look sensational as a table centrepiece in large white shallow bowl with their glorious colours. Use as a starter for New Year’s brunch instead of fresh fruit, or as a dessert for a summer lunch or dinner.  The key element for flavour is the vanilla bean and to use only champagne – no water. An option is to use pink champagne which will add a glorious colour to the syrup. Don’t keep dish for too long as peaches will lose their shape and become wrinkly after about 18hours – it will still taste fine. I used to make the night before the brunch and leave elevated overnight over a basin of water so that the ants couldn’t get in.

Serves 12

20 small peaches or 12 large peaches – do not use cling peaches
1 bottle champagne or sparkling wine
1.3 cups caster sugar
Rind and juice of 2 oranges
1 vanilla bean

  1. Place caster sugar and champagne in a large saucepan with orange juice and rind, and vanilla bean.
  2. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  3. Add unpeeled peaches. Cover and simmer over low heat for 8-10 minutes until just tender. When skin starts to split, they are ready.
  4. Remove peaches with slotted spoon – skins should just slip off easily.
  5. Simmer liquid over medium heat without lid until reduced to 2 cups. It will be thick and syrupy.
  6. Remove vanilla bean. Pour syrup over peaches.
  7. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Garlic Prawns – Ideal Start to a Festive Meal

This is our traditional family starter – Christmas is the time to splash out on expensive ingredients like prawns and indulge. The secret to this recipe is to get the amount of cooking for the prawns just right – rather undercook than overcook as they will continue to cook by themselves. The biggest workload is peeling and deveining the prawns, which can be done ahead of time and delegated to another member of the family.
 
Serves 4

500g green king prawns (4 per person)
1 cup canola oil
60g butter
4 large cloves garlic
1 birdseye chilli, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley

  1. Shell prawns, leaving the tail intact, and remove the back vein.
  2. Place all ingredients except the prawns in a saucepan. Heat until butter has melted and oil is very hot.
  3. Add prawns
  4. After 1 minute (no longer) remove from heat. The prawns will continue cooking in the residual heat.
  5. Serve in individual soufflé dishes or ramekins with wholemeal bread to mop up the sauce.

Pappa al Pomodoro – Tomato Soup with Attitude

A lovely starter for summer days when the tomatoes are full of flavour. Use the best quality tomatoes you can find, serve immediately and you will find this soup, with it’s pure flavours and no added liquid, is the best tomato soup you have ever tasted.  This would also be a superb festive season starter for vegetarians. Serve hot or cold. Adapted from Cafe Sopra.IMG_0617

Serves 8

2kg vine ripened or truss ripe tomatoes
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch basil
125ml olive oil
1/2 loaf day old Italian Bread
40g Parmigiana Reggiano

  1. Cut a cross at the bottom of each tomato. Then blanch tomatoes in boiling water for 20seconds. Place in iced water.
  2. When cool enough to handle, remove tomato skins, cut in half – scoop seed and juice into a separate bowl. Chop tomato flesh roughly. Strain seeds and juice.
  3. Remove and discard crust from bread. Tear into 1 inch chunks.
  4. Remove basil leaves from stalks. Chop stalks finely.
  5. Heat olive oil over a low heat in soup pot. Add garlic and simmer for 1 minute. Do not allow garlic to colour.
  6. Now add tomatoes, basil, and strained juice from seeds. Simmer 15 minutes or until tomatoes are pulpy.
  7. Process till a puree. Reheat gently. Add see salt.
  8. Divide bread into bowls. Scoop over soup. Decorate with Parmigiana Reggiano. Eat immediately.
  9. Make as close to serving time as possible. Does not keep well – the flavour reduces considerably if made ahead of time.
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