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
- Heat oven to 220 C.
- Tear mushrooms and place in 20cm diameter metal baking dish.
- Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs of your choice. I like thyme or continental parsley.
- Dot with a few little knobs of butter – you need very little.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- 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.
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.
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
- Remove and discard tip of chicken wing. Chop remainder of chicken wing into two parts.
- Place chicken wings in a single layer in a baking dish(36cmx20cm)
- In a food processor, process sliced lemon grass until fine. Then add chillies and process again.
- Add remaining ingredients to food processor excluding the chicken wings. Process until fine.
- Pour marinade over chicken wing and marinade overnight.
- Roast in oven at 200°C(400°F) for 30minutes and turn over.
- Just before serving finish under the grill until nicely browned.
- Sprinkle with a little fresh coriander to garnish (optional).
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
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.
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
- 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.
- Strain and store in fridge till well chilled.
- Blend olive oil, tobasco, lemon juice and tomato juice.
- Stir into refrigerated mixture and add 1 cube ice.
- Serve cold with little bowls of finely chopped tomato, onion, capsicum, cucumber and croutons.
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.
Very thinly sliced smoked beef(bresaola)
Quality olive oil
French stick or woodfired bread
- Layer rocket on sliced bread – no need for butter.
- Top with smoked beef. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
- 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
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
- Put the beef mince, finely chopped onion and herbs into a mixing bowl.
- Cut crusts from bread and put into separate bowl. Pour over enough warm water, just to cover. Stand 5 minutes.
- Drain water from bread. Squeeze bread gently to extract water.
- Add bread to mince mixture. Mix well. Bread absorbs any excess fat and helps to prevent meat shrinkage inside pastry during cooking.
- Cut each sheet of puff pastry in half. Put meat in piping bag without nozzle or use a plastic bag with end cut off.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cut rolls into 5cm pieces, separating slightly.
- Pre-heat the oven to 250C (475°F). Bake 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to 180C (350°F). Bake a further 15 minutes.
- 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
- Place all ingredients except capsicum and bread in food processor and process until smooth.
- Slice roasted capsicum into thin strips.
- Just before serving, grill the bread.
- 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”.
Makes 24 tartlets
Mock Puff Pastry:250g butter refridgerated
½ cup boiling water
2 cups flour
- Grate butter into a large mixing bowl
- Add boiling water and stir quickly with a fork until mushy
- Add flour, mix and chill in clingwrap overnight
Filling:175g grated cheddar cheese
1 small onion, chopped 2ml mustard powder
- Heat oven to 220°C.
- Sauté onion until soft.
- Beat eggs and add all the other ingredients.
- Roll out pastry, cut into rounds and ¾ fill each pastry shell with cheese mixture.
- Bake for 15-20minutes till pastry is brown and filling is firm to touch.
- 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.
250g cream cheese
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
- Chop parsley in the food processor and set aside.
- Clean processor, add remaining ingredients and process till well mixed.
- Take two sheets of foil and sprinkle a layer of the chopped parsley over each.
- Halve the cheese mixture, rolling each half into a log.
- Place cheese log in centre of foil and carefully roll foil around it so that parsley entirely covers log, adding a parsley outer coating.
- Refrigerate in foil until ready serve – at least 2 hours for flavours to mix.
- Turn out onto plate and serve with plain biscuits like water crackers.
Innovative Finger Food: Sweet Potato Wedges with Lemongrass Dip
At my recent Cocktail Party this was the most popular finger food enjoyed by both vegetarians and carnivores alike. Inexpensive, easy(amazingly for Ottolenghi), and innovative it is a hit as a side dish or finger food. Adapted from Plenty by the very talented Yottam Ottolenghi who is participating in the Good Food Month in October.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, 300g each
- olive oil to drizzle, about 1 tablespoon per sweet potato
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- sea salt
- coriander leaves and 1 long fresh red chilli, finely diced to garnish (optional)
DIPPING SAUCE: Whisk together:
- 1/4 lemongrass stick, VERY finely chopped
- zest and juice of 1 lime
- 20g(1 ounce) fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 100g(4 ounces) low fat plain yoghurt
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- Wash sweet potatoes and cut each lengthways into eighths.
- Toss wedges lightly with oil, cumin and salt.
- Place on a baking tray covered layered with baking paper.
- Roast for 20 to 25mins till golden and soft.
- Cool and sprinkle with chilli and coriander leaves
- Eat warm or room temperature. Serve with Dipping sauce.
- It’s a little messy, so have a serviette at the ready